Guitarist Gus G Discusses His New Solo Album “Quantum Leap”

Gus G is the guitarist for Greek power metal band Firewind. Gus has also played with Kamelot, Arch Enemy and Ozzy Osbourne. Gus’s latest release is an instrumental solo album titled “Quantum Leap”. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Gus about the creation of the album and his progression as a guitarist.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the creation of “Quantum Leap”?

Gus G: This is my first fully instrumental record. I had the idea to do an album like this in the back of my mind for awhile however just never decided to do it until now. With all the lock downs I knew I was going to be stuck home for a while. I was doing press for the latest Firewind record and we were gearing up to start touring and then everything got cancelled. In between all of those interviews I started writing down different thoughts and ideas. Before I knew it, I had seven or eight new ideas. This was around springtime and I knew it was still going to be awhile until we could do any live shows. I figured now was the time do a solo record on my own. My plan was to not have any outside collaboration. I spent all of last summer working on this record.

AL: Did the effects of the pandemic help mold this material in any way?

GG: It could be! I think it had a lot to do with it. To me when you are making albums it’s like a snapshot in time of where you are at. The material reflects my psychology and where I was at during this time. Like everyone dealing with this I had a lot of ups and downs where some days I had a lot of energy while others I had none. This is not your typical metal album as there are a lot of different styles and vibes.

AL: Do you have a different approach for working on an instrumental record compared to one with vocals?

GG: It is a different process. Making music without vocals in general is a whole different process in because you must fill that gap. I wasn’t really used to that. It was an interesting learning experience. I had made instrumental music in the past, but I never really dug deep into that. With this I wanted to find a balance. I wasn’t interested in making a shred album as I wanted to make an album that had cool songs with good music. I wanted there to be a musical statement instead of just a collection of guitar licks and riffs.

AL: Did you build the songs around vocal melodies, or did you add those passages later?

GG: It usually starts with riffs. This part of the process was the same for me as when I am writing for Firewind as it all starts with the riffs. The big difference was where to go after the initial riff starts. You could go any where be it a melody or certain key change. Those are the things I had to find out and build from scratch. At the end of the day, it was about balance as well as the hooks and melodies. At the time I didn’t really have vocal ideas but now looking back maybe I did have ideas about big vocal melody parts that would grab the listener.

AL: What was your process like for producing and editing being it was just you working on the record?

GG: That’s one of those things where how do you really know when something is done. A track is done when you have listened to it enough times through that you are happy with it and you send it on for mixing. There were a few tracks that went through many re-writes and edits. You just get a feeling when you are writing something that it is done. This can be a double-edged sword though because you can always think it could be better. I try and keep a little bit of a distance with the music I make. When I think something is finished, I will not listen to it for a few days and then come back to it with fresh ears. That’s when if I need to, I will make changes. It’s really all a feeling.

AL: Was this all newly written material or did you have some of the material prior to deciding to make the record?

GG: It’s both. I always have riffs laying around. I keep a file of different ideas. Some stuff I didn’t use for other projects and other ones are ones that I came up with at that moment with no specific place for them in mind. I never know what these will end up being used for, but I do go back and listen through them for ideas. Sometimes its weeks or months later that I go back but that folder tends to be a great starting point. I might use things as they are or completely start from scratch.

AL: How do you decide what material to keep for yourself and what to use for other projects?

GG: Sometimes it is hard to do that. It is all my writing and my style. There are times I set out to write something specifically for Firewind or for my solo stuff and during the process that material goes the opposite direction and ends up on something it was originally intended for. Firewind has a certain sound and style so I am less likely to experiment with that material but like I said things have a way of working their way into places they were not originally intended for.

AL: You worked by yourself and provided all the instrumentation for this record. Is that how you prefer to work, or do you prefer the more traditional route of recording with other musicians?

GG: I have always done things on my own for the most part. Firewind actually started out as a file exchanging band in the early 2000’s. I have become very used to putting together a complete and good sounding demo that it was a pretty natural process for me when it came time to record the parts for “Quantum Leap”.

AL: Looking at your guitar playing do you feel it has progressed more naturally or have you taken conscious steps to ensure it has progressed in a specific direction?

GG: I think I am sort of somewhere in the middle. The last few years I don’t think I have practiced as much as I would have liked to. When I do go into practice mode, I really get into it. I try and learn or develop new techniques and licks. Then there are times where I don’t pick the guitar up as much. I don’t allow myself to get sloppy, so I am on top of things, but I am not putting in ten-hour practice days like I did as a teenager.

AL: Now that “Quantum Leap” is out have you started thinking about your next project yet or are you giving yourself a little breathing room?

GG: I did a side project with Rob Chapman from Chapman Guitars and Youtube. It’s called “Criterium” and we did a three song EP. We are not sure when its going to be coming out, but we have been recording and Rob is getting ready to do the vocals for it very soon. I have known Rob since 2006 or 2007 so it has been great working with him on music after being friends for so long.

For more info on Gus G visit www.gusgofficial.com or on Instagram and Twitter @gusgofficial

Singer Malia J Talks About Her Cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Her Upcoming Debut EP “Reflections”

Malia J is a singer, songwriter with nearly 2 million views on YouTube and an astounding 3 million streams on Spotify. Malia J’s works have appeared in series such as “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer” and most recently Marvel’s “Black Widow” starring Scarlett Johansson. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Malia J recently about how she got her start in music, the idea behind her style and her upcoming debut EP titled “Reflections”.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on how you first became interested in music?

Malia J: When I first got involved with music goes back to about the time, I was four years old. My mom heard me singing in the car and thought that I had a voice like an angel, so she immediately put in voice lessons. As I got older, I sang in choir and in middle school I took up the oboe. During this I got scholarships to go to Interlocken Arts Academy during the summers and continued to sing at my local church. While I was doing that, I met a touring artist by the name of Paul Wilbur. I was singing and playing oboe and he asked me to go on tour with him. While on tour I realized that I just didn’t want to only do singing and oboe. During the tour one of the lead singers had gotten sick and that’s when I realized how much I enjoyed singing lead. When I got home that’s when I made the decision that I wanted to be a professional musician.

AL: At what time did you start writing your own material?

MJ: I had started writing while I was out on tour. About halfway through the tour I started opening for Paul Wilbur. Paul gave me the opportunity to choose a guitarist to come along with me, so I invited this guy I really like but when it came time to head to Italy this guy didn’t end up going. I was very upset that I had gotten stood up. I started writing about my feelings towards these events and ended up picking up the guitar since this guy didn’t show up.

AL: Were you writing primarily based off your orchestral experience?

MJ: I would say a lot of it came from me journaling. I wanted to make what I was writing down into music and add melody to these entries and poems. I think being classically trained gives you an extra layer of knowledge when it comes to music. During the time you are training you spend many hours working on music. I think that training certainly helped me with my song writing.

AL: At what point did the idea of re-working popular songs into your own style come about?

MJ: That came around the same time as when I was covering these songs. I was living in Los Angeles and writing pop songs. I knew I wanted to be an artist and write songs. These pops songs were the typical kinds you hear on the radio but, they just weren’t clicking with the labels or people I would show them to. From there I started covering songs with a darker production style and that really started coming together when I met Think Up Anger. At the time he was just doing sound effects for different productions and we decided to do a song. I laid the song out in this dark way and he produced it so that’s how the sound was created.

AL: How does the writing and arrangement process work for you?

MJ: I generally start with deciding what song we are going to cover. I will then lay it out on the piano or guitar. From there I will take it to a producer, and they will start adding all the eerie sounds. I like to experiment as much as I can but the key to the song is very important. I always want to make sure that I am staying true to the meaning of the song.

AL: How do you go about selecting a song?

MJ: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” started out as an experiment. We had already done a couple other songs in this style and I had the idea to try this Nirvana song. It’s one of my favorite songs and Think Up Anger thought it was a good idea. That choice came out of loving that song so much. Other times Think Up Anger and I choose songs based on if we think they could be creepy or not. (Laughs) With music lyrics can be dark and emotional yet have fun production behind them. I tend to lean toward songs that are cool and beautiful that even after we make them creepy people will still recognize them.

AL: When did the option to have these songs submitted for film use come along?

MJ: When we started doing these Think Up Anger and I both agreed that it could be fun to send these songs out for use in films and television. We sent them first to a couple different companies and trailer houses. The first one I ever got was for Discovery Channels “Racing Extinction” which is part of Shark Week. What’s cool is I think we were one of the first people to experiment in this way. We like to call it “Cine-Pop”.

AL: I know you are working on releasing your debut EP. Can you tell us about that?

MJ: Having been creating now for many years I believe these are the best songs I have put together. Lots of things inspire me. From heartbreak and anxiety to female empowerment those are all topics I cover. The most recent song written for the EP was done after learning about black widows and that’s titled “She’s the One”. The production is very similar to that of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. There are songs some songs that have more pop elements to them as well. I worked with an incredible song writer named Charlie Midnight. He wrote the song “Living In America” that James Brown sang. I met him on the Sunset Strip one day and we decided to work on this song “If You Had Me”. I am very excited about that one.

AL: Aside from the upcoming EP release do you have any other projects in the works that we can be watching for?

MJ: I have two music videos’ coming out one of is for “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. That one is being edited as we speak. Everyone is working hard to get this video out. The other video is going to be for the single I choose and that will be an original song. I also have a livestream with Amazon that is scheduled for August 10th at 2pm PST. I am very excited for that.

For more information on Malia J you can visit @Maliajmusic across all social media platforms and at her official website at www.maliajmusic.com

Drummer Tommy Clufetos Talks About His Debut Solo Project “Tommy’s RockTrip”

Tom Clufetos has been behind the drum kit for some of rocks biggest acts including Rob Zombie, Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper. Tommy’s newest project is a solo effort titled Tommy’s Rocktrip. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Tommy about the debut solo album “Beat Up By Rock N’ Roll”, what it was like starting his first solo project and his plans once Covid-19 restrictions are finally lifted.

Adam Lawton: Where did the desire to do a solo project originate from?

Tommy Clufetos: Because of so much being closed due to the pandemic there really has been nothing to do. Especially on the music front and for the first time in my life I had sort of a break. I got an offer to do a record and thought “why not”. It was something I had never done before I wanted to give it a shot and see if I could actually do it. I have always loved playing for other people and helping them be the best they have ever been. I am one hundred and ten percent fulfilled by doing that but this open block of time came up and decided to experiment. I decided on trying to make a cool rock record of things I liked and hope other people will like as well. That was the basis. There was no master plan or anything like that. (Laughs)

AL: Was doing a solo album something you had ever thought of doing before?

TC: No. I had never thought about doing a solo record. I had never written music or produced prior to this. I always just played drums for other people. That’s why I saw it was an “experiment”. I guess you can call me a crazy, middle aged rocker. What you hear on this album is exactly that.

AL: How did you go about putting the band together?

TC: I have known our singer Eric Dover since we worked together in Alice Cooper maybe 15 years ago or more. I knew he would be an excellent singer as he has a very versatile voice. Most of the material on the record is straight ahead rock and roll. Eric knows how to go on the wild side which is how I like my music to be played. I didn’t want this to be a bunch of people from other bands as I was shooting for  more of a group effort. I was looking for younger guys who I could sort of shape them into the way I wanted the music played. Sometimes when you are playing with guys from other bands, they may not be completely into what you are doing, or it may be a little more difficult to get out of them what you are looking for. I wanted more of a unified band sound and I think I was successful in doing that.

AL: Did you have a preconceived sound you were going for prior to putting the group together or did the style we hear on the record happen organically once you all started working together?

TC: When I decide something I definitely know where I am going. Even though it may look like I am loose with things once I know where I am going, I turn on that switch and go into hyper mode. I knew exactly what I wanted and was very hands on with this. It is my material so no one was going to tell me how to play my music. It is not that I am not open to suggestion but there was a certain style and attack I was going for. I need both precision and looseness so this thing would rock. Another thing I wanted was this to recorded totally live. We recorded in a barn, set up facing each other with no headphones. All of my favorite albums were recorded that way and they have a certain feel. It can certainly be a lot more work doing things that way but that was the approach and I stuck with it.

AL: Did you have help with the writing of the record or was that all you?

TC: I had never written a song in my life and, then I had to write twelve! I did not know what was going to happen but once I turned that switch, I went the only way I knew. I do not play a lot of instruments so at times I was yapping licks to the guitar player or giving them instructions to try and get out what I was hearing in my head. There was a lot of arduous work but I grinded it out. I did not do demos or anything like because I didn’t want to go too deep into things. I wanted to keep things fresh and on the fly. I had a very strong idea of I wanted everything to be.

AL: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make being you were responsible for more than just drums on this record?

TC: I don’t really think about that. I just tend to go. You have to come up with parts which then need to be recorded so for me I go in there and work things out. There is a lot more grunt work when you do a project like this but there are always elements of grunt work which comes with every album. One thing I have learned from playing with people is that when they are really good you don’t have to say much. When I am playing the drums, I think about the vibe of the music and what people will want to hear and I try to go there and give it to them. Usually that works out for me.

AL: As things start to reopen have you started planning to tour behind the release?

TC: I wouldn’t say there are plans but I also wouldn’t say there are not plans. I am open to whatever present itself. Even though things are starting to open up I think its still to early to think about getting back out there. I am not going to say we won’t tour as this music lends itself to being played live but, we will just have to wait and see.

AL: Do you have anything coming up with any other projects you are involved with?

TC: I just started working with The Dead Daisy’s again and we have a few gigs scheduled for mid-July. I am really looking forward to getting back on some stages and playing loud. I had played with these guys back in 2015 for a couple gigs and they must have liked me because they called me back when they were in of a drummer. I am super happy and looking forward to playing.

For more info on Tommy’s Rocktrip and their album “Beat Up By Rock N’ Roll” click here

Staind Guitarist Mike Mushok Discusses New Live Album “Live: It’s Been Awhile”

The rock group Staind is back on May 7th with their first release in nine years titled “Live: It’s Been Awhile”. Accompanying the album’s release is a two-night streaming event titled “The Return Of Staind: A Two Part Global Streaming Series”. Media Mikes had the chance recently to talk with Staind guitarist Mike Mushok about the release, the set of streaming performances and the bands plans for going forward.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the decision to release the bands new album now amidst the ongoing pandemic?

Mike Mushok: If this were a record with new material, we would be holding on to it like a lot of other bands are. This was a chance for us to get some material out there as we were trying to put a couple things together at one time. We had filmed the show where we got back together in 2019 at the Foxwoods Casino. We put a lot more than normal into that show and we wanted to capture all of that. Starting May 1st fans can stream that show. The album will come out May 7th and then on May 8th we will be doing another stream celebrating the 20-year anniversary of “Break the Cycle”.

AL: What was it like putting together the “Break the Cycle” show

MM: It is definitely different going out there and performing with no audience. It is almost like a rehearsal that is being filmed. It’s different but, you just get into what you are doing and do the best you can. I thought the venue we chose to film at was great and the lighting looked great as well. I don’t remember how many different cameras were being used but some of what I have seen is really exciting. To go along with the performance is a short documentary which takes fans back to where we were when the album initially was released. I also went back and found a ton of old footage from around that time is well. When I was going through all this stuff, I actually found the footage from our first gig ever in 1995.The cool thing about that was it was filmed about three blocks from where we shot this new performance There’s a lot of other things that fans will get to see besides us performing the record.

AL: How was it as a band revisiting this material?

MM: It was great to be able to go back and revisit such a good time in our career. This was our most successful record and it really changed everything for us. It was cool going back listening to things and relearning that material. There are a few songs that we had never played lived from this record so that was another that was really cool.

AL: The band had plans to go out and tour in 2020 but due to the pandemic those shows were unable to happen. Have there been any talks about trying to reschedule?

MM: We are trying to figure that all out right now. We had originally planned to go out with Disturbed as part of their 20-year celebration of “The Sickness”. That tour was recently cancelled but we are looking at some festival shows in July that we are booked for as well as some shows later in the summer. We are still waiting on confirmation of those so there is still a chance that we will be out there later this year. I think everyone is still just trying to figure stuff out as every place is different which makes things challenging.

AL: How much of an effect did the Pandemic have on the band personally being that you had just gotten back together after some time?  

MM: We had a great plan in place, and it was disappointing. I was definitely looking forward to getting back out there. I can’t complain though as other people have gone and continue to go through way worse things. During that first part of things when I was home, and you couldn’t go anywhere it was nice to be able to be with my family and not have to worry about other obligations. It was great to just be together and now things are starting to get back to the way they were and that is nice also. For the band we are looking to regroup and get things back on track. 2021 seems like it is going to be this feeling out period as more and more things change and open.

AL: Your involved with a couple other projects can you give us an update on those?

MM: I have the band Saint Asonia with Adam Gontier who used to be in Three Days Grace. We are working on some new music and hope to have an EP out sometime soon. Staind is also working on some new material as well. Aaron is finishing up a country record at the moment and once that is done, we can start digging through some of the material we have. I am part owner of the Six String Grill and Stage in Foxboro; Massachusetts and we are starting to look at being able to book shows there again later this year. Combine all of that with being a dad and a husband I am pretty busy (Laughs).

For more info and updates on Staind be sure to visit www.staindofficial.com

Sonny Vincent and Bobby Liebling Discuss Their New Band The Limit and The Album “Caveman Logic”

The Limit are a newly formed heavy rock band that is set to release their debut album “Caveman Logic” on April 9th. Consisting of Bobby Liebling (Pentagram), Jimmy Recca (ex-The Stooges), Sonny Vincent (Testors), Hugo Conim (Dawnrider) and Joao Pedro (Dawnrider) the bands five members combine their diverse talents to craft a unique sound which is equal parts punk and doom. Media Mikes had the chance recently to speak with Bobby and Sonny about the group’s formation and their new album.

Adam Lawton: How did the group initially come together?

Sonny Vincent: We didn’t know each other really at all. Bobby and I have a mutual friend who was my tour bus driver on a couple of tours. He played Bobby my music and after that he gave me a call. We started talking over the phone and got to know each other pretty well. After awhile we started to get serious and thought we should make an album

Bobby Liebling: After talking for awhile we decided to give Jimmy Recca a call as he was a guy, we both knew. Sonny had worked with Hugo Conim previous and he had just gotten a new drummer (Joao Pedro) that he was going to bring along as well to start recording in Maryland. That ultimately didn’t work out and we ended up traveling to Portugal to make the album.

SV: None of us new each other well. Aside from meeting briefly over the years and talking on the phone that was really it. Now Bobby, Jimmy and I were flying to Portugal to meet these other two guys. It was sort of “Lord of the Flies” at first because Bobby and I are used to running the show in our other projects. Add in Jimmy, Hugo and Joao and everything but the music at first was this weird nightmare. We had a killer engineer and the music turned out better than we had expected.

AL: What was the writing process like?

SV: Bobby and I had written a bunch of songs together. I would have the riffs and song structures and then Bobby would come in with the melody. We had some songs together prior going to Portugal but there were some lyrics that still had to be finished.

BL: We still had to do the arrangements once we got there with the whole band. There was some switching around and extending certain parts we did in order to make them all fit.

SV: I had sent the songs to Jimmy prior to leaving so he could get all his parts down. He actually got a little mad as he had learned the songs the way they were originally sent to him then we ended up changing a bunch of parts, so he had to go back and learn them again but with all the changes.

BL: He was pretty pissed. I do remember that.

AL: Was this how you have worked in your previous projects?

SV: We both approached this in different ways. Sometimes you start with the lyrics and then add the music or its the other way around. I know Bobby has done things differently as well. In fact, he told me about one album where he virtually played everything but drums.

BL: When we go in to do a Pentagram album, I am used to the whole band being there in the same place. We then take a good three to six months to play and plan everything out that way when you get to the studio you can bang out each song pretty quickly. We sort of stumbled our way through things with this project.

SV: I know that was one of the things that was pretty difficult for Bobby being in the past he has always worked in a very methodical way. I don’t do that.

BL: Sonny has worked with a lot of different people where I have worked in a more stabilized environment. Yes, Pentagram has switched members, but we have been together for fifty years so of course you’re going to have some member changes. Not many guys are going to dedicate half a century to a project. Sonny has a much bigger network of people that he has worked with. He has worked more as a solo artist per say where he reaches out to well know players for an album and after that he moves on.

SV: Early on I wanted to have a group with a solid lineup, but something was always happening where members couldn’t stay. I knew I wasn’t going to break up with myself, so I just decided to skip the whole band thing.

BL: I have always been opposite where I am the guy continually waving the Pentagram flag and bringing in new members to keep the band moving.

SV: With us coming from such different styles there was a good amount of stress at the start for sure. We got passed it and we found that we generally did agree on how things should go.

BL: We knew this was for the cause of making each song our child. You then groom that child to have certain traits which each person feels is best for them.

AL: How did you go about choosing the first three singles that have been released?

SV: The first two released were “Black Seas” and “Kitty Gone”. Those were both quite popular and the label asked us to do one for “Death of My Soul”. They felt this song really showed the scope of what we do. For the video I knew a guy in Canada who is a professional film maker. I was originally going to give him some guidance as to what we were looking for but decided not to as I wanted to let him come up with what he thought fit the song. He shot it and sent it back and then I took it to the label and they really liked it, so we were all happy.

BL: We had a lot of artistic freedom when it came to picking songs. However, our label has a staff of nine people who have to arbitrate over decisions and of course not everyone is going to think the same thing.

SV: The singles were a bit difficult especially the first one. Hugo and I worked for about a month on that when I looked at it there was something missing. It just didn’t have the emotion to tie everything together. Even though we had made it ourselves I just wasn’t happy. We ended up sending that to the record company and they had some who worked there that took parts of what we did and mixed it with some new things and that helped a lot. The final version made you feel things as you were watching and that’s what I was going for. With “Kitty Gone” we used the same guy at the label, and we shared ideas and that one turned out much better.

BL: That one is fantastic as far as I am concerned. You can actually watch it and lyrically follow it as if you are watching a film where people are talking to one another. You can really follow it from scene to scene. It has a screenplay type feel.

AL: Prior to COVID-19 were there plans to tour and, if so, are you still planning to do so when possible?

SV: We didn’t put any barriers up against doing things at first. We went in to do the album and while listening to the rough mixes we thought it could be cool to play these for people. When we heard the final mixes, we got really excited. There are offers for the band to perform and we are interested but things are still very uncertain due to COVID-19. We just have to wait and see what is going to happen.

AL: Do you see The Limit as a one-time thing or are you interested in working more together as a group?

SV: We want to do another album. We all know each other more now and at the start of this record there were things that moved in a negative way. We had a thirty-four-hour travel time to Portugal, during that trip Jimmy had lost his wallet at one point and was back tracking his steps trying to find it. He asked Bobby and I to watch his bag. We got talking and accidentally walked away from the bag. We saw Jimmy at a coffee shop, and he asked where his bag was. He of course got mad and thought that we didn’t care about him enough to even watch his bag. That set things off in the wrong direction.

BL: That layover in the London airport was fourteen hours by itself. We were already ten to fifteen hours into the thing prior to this layover and then we had another flight to get to Portugal. It was a pretty rough start to say the least.

For more info on The Limit and their debut album “Caveman Logic” click here.

Singer/Actor Lizzy Borden discusses his role in the new film “Die Influencers Die”

Lizzy Borden burst on to the Los Angeles heavy metal scene in the early 1980’s with their debut EP “Give ‘Em the Axe” and subsequent full-length release “Love You to Pieces”. The band also appeared in Penelope Spheeris rockumentary “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years”. Media Mikes had the chance recently to talk with Lizzy about his newest movie titled “Die Influencers Die” where he plays a dark and sinister character known only as Otherworld-Coyote.  

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us how you got involved with the film “Die Influencers Die”?

Lizzy Borden: I was good friends with the director Gary Orona.  We both were moving to Las Vegas around the same time and he mentioned he was thinking of doing a move. He had asked if I would be in it and I said yes but, I was heading out on touring. While I was out on the road, they contacted me about the part and said that they were going to be doing table reads. I missed all of those and only had gotten the script about a day and a half before I was set to film. Everything just sort of happened while I was out with the band.

AL: What can you tell us about your character?

LB: It’s kind of weird because when I first got the script was trying to figure out how this character was involved with everything. There was no backstory for him, so I tried to figure out what his motives are. This character literally has no name and appears out of nowhere. I had to try and figure out how to really play this character. I thought of things like “Othello” and made this guy a real instigator. We have actually talked about doing another film that would explore this guy’s back story. There is just this unexplained nature about this guy that made it a lot of fun.

AL: Being there wasn’t a lot that was known about the character were given creative freedom or did the director have you stay within certain parameters?

LB: We knew this was going to be a supernatural character so I kind of knew where to take things, but I still didn’t know even what he was going to look like. On the first day of shooting, I had about five or six different looks we could go with for this character. Gary came in and the one you see is what he picked. When I then went into hair and makeup, they suggested I should just put a ton of gel in my hair. They put probably a half gallon of gel in there and it really sold the character and took it in another direction. We were kind of improvising. As far as the acting went when I looked at the lines it always seemed to me that he was screaming and very angry. I thought back to all of the great scenes where someone has portrayed being angry and those were usually done in a very calm way. I wanted to bring his presentation down to a whisper and if he did get angry, I wanted whoever else was in the scene to feel his intensity without me having to scream at the top of my lungs. I remember the first thing we shot with everyone there Gary asked to do a practice. We did the scene and he ended up getting really mad. I asked what was wrong and he was mad that he didn’t film it because it was so good. From then on, he filmed everything.

AL: At what point did the option to have a song in the film come up?

LB: That was an afterthought. The film was finished however it was taking awhile to release. It was originally supposed to go to either Netflix or Amazon Prime but there were some paperwork problems. We couldn’t even promote the film. Then Covid-19 hit. We had planned to do a red-carpet event in Las Vegas where we showed the movie and then my band would play. We had it booked and set up but then COVID-19 happened. We had done a soundtrack video for the film “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” that turned out really good and a lot of people got to see clips of the movie through that video, so we started with that same idea. It came down to a matter of picking the song and the scenes and we landed on “My Midnight Things” which is the title track from our last album.

AL: Can you tell us a little bit about the video for the song?

LB: The whole point of the video was to make a commercial for the movie. I really wanted to do something interesting and asked how could we do some new shots of me singing the song while also incorporating the scenes from the film. We talked about a lot of things and a bunch of those were unrelated to the movie. I wanted for the video to look like it was another part of the movie. We ended up using the same studio we filmed in and we also brought in green screens which was a lot of fun. Ultimately, we needed something to promote the film and help tap into people who might not normally go see a movie like this. Through the video they can get a good representation of the film through the four-minute video.

AL: When you perform with the band it is very theatrical. Did you notice any similarities in how you prepare for a live show and how you prepared for the film?

LB: It was almost identical. Other than memorizing lines that was the only thing. I had the lines, but it was all about the delivery. That is where my focus was. I do the same thing backstage when I am working on the show. I think about the previous night’s performances and what I liked or didn’t like and how I can make those things better. I do a lot of pacing. (Laughs) They gave me my own spot at the studio and I just wandered around between shots until they were ready for me.

AL: Having now done the movie do you think you will take what you learned from there and apply it to your live performances?

LB: I think so. There is a subtlety to it as my live shows are pretty over the top. What I got out this character is that there was nothing flamboyant about him in any way. I tend to try and pull out all of the stops with my shows but, maybe if I am in a support slot where I am not able to do that by having played this character, I know I can go out there in a stripped-down format and still deliver a highly theatrical and interesting show.

AL: In 2020 you released “Best of Lizzy Borden” Pt. 2 which included two newly recorded cover songs. (Blue Oyster Cult’s “Burnin’ for You” and The Ramones “Pet Sematary”) How did you go about selecting those songs being they are quite different from one another?

LB: Almost all of my influences are set in the 1970’s. They are all established, big bands which I saw when I was a kid, so they are just imbedded in my brain. I could have chosen two hundred songs! There are just so many good songs. Blue Oyster Cult is one of my favorites and definitely one of the top ten best song writers that I love. On an earlier record we recorded a cover of their song “This Ain’t the Summer of Love” as we had been playing it at our live shows. I originally wanted to do “Burnin’ for You” for the album but was out voted by the producer so that was a song I have been wanting to do. I am a huge Ramones fan and love all their work. I thought about all of their songs and a majority of them have to be done in a punk a style. “Pet Sematary” is one that you really don’t have to do that. We did a Halloween show at the Whiskey in Los Angeles and I had the band learn the song prior to the show and people loved it. That’s ultimately how it ended up getting chosen.

AL: With the uncertainty of 2021 are there any other projects that you are currently working on or have coming up?

LB: I am almost halfway completed with a new album. It is coming along but it is very slow. I can imagine this being one of the most favorite albums I have ever done. I still see myself doing four or five more but this one is coming together in a really fun way. I have never had more fun putting a record together. I am not sure how that will translate over to people responding to it but as far as making it I am really enjoying it. I have been doing one song at a time and am about halfway done. I have been getting show offers as well but it doesn’t make sense to me to book shows only to have them cancelled. I see others starting to get out there, so we have to just wait and see. Everyone is ready to go we just don’t want to book something and have to cancel.

AL: When you are writing do you do that all your self or is it a more collective effort?

LB: I do it differently for every record. I have done records in the past where I record everything myself. On this new album I am having the musicians replace what I have already put down with their performances. I will play all the parts then have Joey Scott add in drums and then we build from there. Usually, my vocals are done as well so we kind of work backwards. I like to hear how it sounds in my head rather than putting just a scratch track out there for everyone. A lot of time when you do that a song can change quite a bit and when you are all done its not what you had envisioned. This way I get my idea out there the way I want it and if someone adds something really great to what I have already played we will keep. So far with this record things have stayed pretty much the same as I wrote it.

For more info on Lizzy Borden, you can check out www.Lizzyborden.com

Queensryche Vocalist Todd La Torre Talks About His New Solo Album “Rejoice In The Suffering”

Todd La Torre is the lead vocalist for the heavy metal band Queensryche. On February 5th Todd released his debut solo album titled “Rejoice in the Suffering” via Rat Pack Records. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Todd recently about the albums creation, working his friend Craig Blackwell and what it’s been like working on and releasing and album during the pandemic.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “Rejoice in the Suffering”?

Todd La Torre: This is a record I have wanted to do now for many, many years. Due to the rigorous touring schedule I normally have things keep getting moved to the back burner and shelved. Once the pandemic hit and touring was officially shut down I called my friend Craig Blackwell who co-wrote the album with me and who also plays guitar, keys and bass to help me get this done. We wrote and recorded the album in about four months. We wanted to write songs that brought us back to our roots as fans of heavy metal and something we could listen to while cruising around in our cars.

AL: Being this was something you had wanted to do for some time now how much of the album was written prior to getting together with Craig?

TL: We had the title track which was written around 2015. That was the only completed song at the time. Craig had a few other ideas and some riffs but we never really sunk our teeth into everything until March of last year. Other than “Rejoice in the Suffering” and maybe a verse for “Pretenders” that was all we really had to start with. The majority of the record was really crafted from scratch when we first got together last year.

AL: Was your writing process for this record similar to when you are working with Queensryche?

TL: For me it was very different. In Queensryche you have five guys in the band. All the guys will have different things that they have written that they then bring to the group. They may have ideas or songs that are different from what I might do and there are a lot more people involved with the process. With this it was just myself and Craig. We were able to move along pretty quickly being it was just the two of us. A lot of these were written in less than a couple days. For instance “Crossroads to Insanity” Craig gave me the music and I had all the lyrics in about a day and a half. “Vanguards of the Dawn Wall” was another one that was written in two days. A lot of these songs were done in a similar amount of time. Queensryche can take a very long time as it’s a totally different process.

AL: How did you keep yourself from going too far into the creative aspects of the record being there were just two of you working on it?

TL: I wanted things to be groove oriented. Craig is a great player and I was able to build on that and really craft the drums around his playing. He would sit down work out everything for his solos as opposed to just noodeling. No page was left unturned by any means but we defiantly didn’t want to over think things either.  

AL: Given the lack of touring and promotion options right now due to the pandemic what made you decide to go ahead and release the album when you did?

TL: The release of this was never contingent on touring live. This was just an artistic expression with me and my friend writing songs and putting them out there for people to listen to. If I am able to do some shows around the album later on in the future that would be awesome. I don’t earn a living as a solo artist as Queensryche is my priority. The timing of this release had no bearing on when I could tour or support the record like I would with a Queensryche release. By putting the record out early and ahead of others I think it’s going to get a little more hang time and I can enjoy it being out there for a whole year. Another plus of releasing the album now is that generally when you release an album you start touring the next day. You are then playing brand new material that not everyone has heard yet and the response might not be that great because of that. With this having extra time to get out to fans due to both the pandemic and my work with Queensryche I think when/if I get to do a solo show its going to make it that much better as people will have had ample time to absorb the music.

AL: What was the reception like from the other Queensryche guys when you told them you were planning to do a solo record?

TL: They have heard me talking about this for quite a few years now. When the pandemic hit we were all trying to figure out what that meant and what we were going to do. Up until that point we had been working our asses off for 9 years since I joined the band. This was a much needed break for everyone. The guys were very receptive and thought this was a great time to be able to do it. I knew if I didn’t do it now that quickly things would be starting up again with Queensryche. This could not have come at a better time for me. Things are done, the record is out and I can go on and only have to focus Queensryche. The guys were very happy for me to be able to show other sides of myself as a musician.

AL: Do you see yourself doing another solo album when time allows?

TL:  I will do another record. I already have three songs written that are much heavier. I have other riffs and ideas that aren’t yet fully completed but those will most likely be on the second record as well. I am going to let this first one get some legs and traction and then once the new Queensryche album is done and out I will start making plans to get this second one out and then once the dust settles from everything I will release another one.

For more information on Todd La Torre and Craig Blackwell visit:

www.toddlatorre.com

www.facebook.com/official.toddlatorre

www.facebook.com/craigblackwellartist

A Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Nicholas Meyer

It’s hard enough establishing yourself as one of the best in one field.  Nicholas Meyer has achieved this goal in several.  His first novel, “The Seven Per-Cent Solution,” introduced a new generation of fans to the exploits of Baker Street’s best known sleuth, Sherlock Holmes. 

Following the enthusiastic greeting of the film version of the novel, for which Meyer wrote the script, he made his film directorial debut with 1979’s time-travel classic “Time after Time.” For his next project he simply created the greatest “Star Trek” film in the series when he took the helm on “Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan.” 

Mr. Meyer then proceeded to frighten everyone living in the Midwest with the television film “The Day After,” which told the story of the town of Lawrence, Kansas dealing with the devastating effects of a nuclear bomb. Twenty years after the film aired my son went to the University of Kansas, which is in Lawrence, and the first thing I thought of was this film. 

His other films include “Volunteers” with Tom Hanks and John Candy; “Company Business” with Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov (which he also wrote) and the final adventure for the Original Series cast, “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

Stepping back from directing after his wife passed away from breast cancer at the age of 36, Mr. Meyer has continued to write, not only novels but for both the big and small screen.  Mr. Meyer recently took some time out of his schedule to talk about his career, past, present and future. I should note that I am posting this on Christmas Eve, Mr. Meyer’s 75th birthday. Happy birthday sir!

Mike Smith:  You graduated from Iowa State with a degree in filmmaking and drama.  You also wrote film reviews (hope for me to yet to become successful).  What was your career goal upon graduation?  Acting?  Directing?

Nicolas Meyer:  My motives were doubtless inchoate.  All I knew was I wanted to “Make Movies” (I’m guessing I meant Directing), but hadn’t much of any idea how to go about it.

MS:  Your first success was the Sherlock Holmes novel “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.”  Did you have to get approval from the Conan Doyle estate before you began writing?

NM:  “Where ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise.”  I had – typical – no idea the difficulties I would encounter with the avaricious and totally mismanaged Conan Doyle estate.  Had I known what I was in for, I doubt I would have written the novel.

MS:  You’ve written three additional Holmes stories.  Was this a favorite character of yours when you were younger?

NM:  I fell in love with Holmes around age 11 when my father gave me “The Complete Holmes” to read.

MS:  You received an Academy Award nomination for your adapted screenplay of “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.”  Was it easy to convince the studio to allow you to write the script?  Did they try to pair you with another writer?

NM:  It was very easy as I refused to sell the rights to the book unless I got to write the script.

MS:  Do you have a favorite story about the making of “Time after Time?”

NM:  I was amused when my producer’s wife, Nel Jaffe, suggested that Malcolm McDowell and his leading lady, Mary Steenburgen, were falling in love.  “Nonsense,” I thought, I’m simply a brilliant director.  (NOTE:  McDowell and Steenburgen married shortly after the film was released and were together for a decade).

MS:  Were there any “rules” you had to follow on “Wrath of Khan?”  Did you ever have an idea that was nixed from above because it wasn’t something “Trekkie?”

NM:  I was pretty much left to my own devices writing and directing the movie.  Sometimes the film’s producer, Harve Bennett, would reel me in.  I remember at one point Carol Marcus warns her son against killing Kirk – “You’ll be a parricide!” I wrote.  Harve said, “Nick, no; you’ll be killing your father.”  That sort of thing.  Occasionally the cast would offer corrections: “This isn’t the way so-and-so talks” and I’d make those kind of adjustments. 

MS:  You are the only director to pull what I considered an award worthy performance from William Shatner.  Every time his voice cracks when he describes Spock’s souls as the most….human it brings a tear to my eye.  Much more emotional.  How did you address the character with Shatner?

NM:  I found the trick with Mr. Shatner was to make him do scenes several times.  He would get bored and stop attitudinizing.  He’d stop “acting” and start “being.”  That said, Shatner’s performance is his own and all credit for it belongs to him.

MS:  A favorite memory from working on “Wrath of Khan?”

NM:  Really a post film memory.  I was talking with my friend John McNamara (NOTE: Mr. McNamara’s credits include the television series “The Magicians” and the feature film “Trumbo”) and I mentioned that my favorite shot in the film is the pullback in the torpedo bay as the torpedo is lowered and makes its way towards the audience.  I said, “I know it’s an anachronism from old Pirate movies but I couldn’t resist.”  Whereupon John protested, “what do you mean ‘anachronism?’ The weapon’s electronics were all out of commission.  They had to go that way!”  To my way of thinking this is a perfect example of the imaginative contribution of the audience, essential for successful artistic experiences.  You want people’s imaginations engaged.  Or, as Shakespeare puts it in “Henry V,” “On your imaginary forces, work!”

MS:  This is a question inspired by my friend Andrew Armstrong, who is the biggest“Star Trek” fan I know and who is quick to point out little things that most people would never notice.  Did you ever get scolded by a fan about Khan recognizing Mr. Chekov, even though Chekov wasn’t in the “Space Seed” episode that inspired the film?

NM:  Yes he was, but on a different deck!

MS:  You have a bit of matchmaker in you.  Shortly after “Time After Time” Malcolm McDowell  and Mary Steenburgen were married and Tom Hanks met Rita Wilson on the set of your next feature, “Volunteers.”  Could you see then the career Hanks had in front of him?

NM:  I confess I could not.  I thought Tom was (and is) a terrific actor and a wonderful human being.  I was delighted he and Rita fell – and remain – in love.  I knew he’d have a career but couldn’t dream how big it would get.

MS:  I imagine if was a fun set working with both Tom Hanks and John Candy.  Do you have a favorite memory from “Volunteers?”

NM:  The scene where they are sitting next to one another on the plane and Candy talks about Albert Speer’s quote that fear is victory’s fuel.  No matter how many times we rehearsed this, Tom couldn’t keep a straight face – and I’m talking MONTHS between rehearsals and shooting.

MS:  Apparently DeForest Kelley did not want to direct (I joke – I actually think Shatner did a competent job with TREK V, especially when you read his book about the experience)  and you were brought back to close out the Original Series portion of the “Star Trek” film legacy with “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”  How did you manage to squeeze Christian Slater into a cameo?

NM:  Christian’s mother, Mary Jo Slater, was my casting director.  She mentioned that her son was a big fan. 

I highly recommend Mr Meyer’s book detailing his amazing career.

MS:  Are you working on anything currently?

NM:  I co-created (with Frank Spotnitz) the Italian television series “Medici, Masters of Florence.”  I’ve published my fourth Sherlock Holmes novel, “The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols.”  The paperback edition just came out November 10th and the fifth novel, The Return of the Pharoahm” will come out next fall.  I’m also working with Frank Spotnitz on a new television series. 

If you want a more in-depth look at Mr. Meyers work, you can visit his official website HERE

Clutch Frontman Neil Fallon Discusses “The Obelisk” and Virtual Shows.

Neil Fallon is the vocalist for the rock band Clutch. The group which has been churning out its own unique brand of riff heavy sludge rock since 1991 just release  a very special, limited edition 16 LP set titled “The Obelisk” As part of wave three of 2020’s Record Store Day . Media Mikes had the chance to talk to Neil recently about the collection, the bands label Weather Maker Music and, the group’s recent series of live stream concert events.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the band’s latest release “The Obelisk”?

Neil Fallon: We had wanted to do something for Record Store Day and things kept getting shifted around and staggered due to the pandemic. What we did was put together a collection of all the full length vinyl releases that Weathermaker Music has put out. We are always getting asked about putting things out such as “Elephant Riders” but we do not own the masters to that stuff. Weathermaker Music is our label and we own all of that material so we can release it however we want. “The Obelisk” is a beast of a collector’s piece which weighs about 12lbs. There are twelve records each symbolized on the cover and that equates to about 16 or 18 discs.

AL: What is the bands process for selecting what will be released on a compilation like this?

NF: You can’t give it all away at once. We know there will be another Record Store Day event next year and we are unsure if we will have new material recorded by then. I think with the collectors mind set you want to make something special that is limited. The limited availability of a piece is what drives that collector to go out and get it. Yes you can go out and get the records individually but you are not going to get the box or some of the other stuff that is included. Some of the stuff included has been really hard to get such as the picture disk for “Earth Rocker”. It’s a hard needle to thread as you want to get this stuff out but you also want to make sure that you are keeping an eye on releasing new material as well.

AL: Has the band always been conscious of saving material for special releases like this?

NF: Every time we write a record we have this conversation. It used to be with a major label you would record 15 songs and only 10 or 12 would make the album. You then had the remaining tracks to use for B sides or whatever. For our last album “Book of Bad Decisions” we recorded 15 songs with the intention of putting 12 on the album and having three other versions of the album going to different areas of the world. We ended up not going that route and just included all 15 (Laughs).

AL: With vinyl making this resurge over the last few years is that something the band has always been in to or is that something that occurred more recently?

NF: I am not really a vinyl guy. I often just use Spotify to listen to my own music. I am very modern. Then again I do understand the appeal of vinyl. With the pandemic I know vinyl has even taken off more. When it comes to vinyl a label like ours tends to have to get at the back of line for pressing as we generally aren’t pressing 50 thousand copies at a time. I like the tangible qualities of vinyl when in this day and age so many things are non-tangible. I listen to so much music that having to constantly get up to flip and change records is just not something I think I have time for in the day.

AL: The band has also been releasing cover material under the “Weathermaker Series” moniker. Can you tell us a little bit about that group of songs and your plans going forward?

NF: We wanted to see what would happen if we started doing just digital releases. To test that out we started with some re-records and a bunch of cover songs. We weren’t sure if it would piss off our fans or behave different and we didn’t want gamble on it with new material. It’s hard to sell physical records and you have to be very accurate with how much you press. This was sort of a protective play. A lot of those old songs we can play a lot better and I hate to say it but, in between albums you have to stay engaged and let people know you are not dead(Laughs). We would just record a bunch of these and release them every six to eight weeks as a way to bridge the gap between albums. That would have worked had the pandemic not occurred. The plan for all of these is to be put together for a vinyl release and probably CD as well in the near future.

AL: Having been in the music industry since the 1990’s what has been the biggest change in the business to impact the band?

NF: File Sharing. You could wrap that in a bigger box and say the internet as a whole. We enjoyed the patronage of major labels all through the 90’s and our shows were numbering in the hundreds here in the states and a couple dozen overseas at this time. After people started illegally sharing music and getting the word out all of a sudden our shows became much, much bigger. Would we have liked to have been paid for every time someone listened to us? Sure! However those listens get parlayed into someone buying a ticket and then a t-shirt. People then become fans and maybe begin buying merchandise even when you are not on tour. It was a marathon and not a sprint but this was certainly a watershed moment for the band. It was word of mouth on a global scale.

AL: What can you tell us about the bands recent virtual concerts and are there any plans for more in the future?

NF: That was really a baptism by fire. Around the end of March, Early April when it became apparent that touring wasn’t going to be able to happen until the Fall at the very earliest. We had a bunch of festivals booked and like most bands a majority of our income comes from touring and merchandise sales. Yes, we own our own record label but you can only put out so many records and it’s not something you can do every night. There was a little bit of a panic mode as to what we could do but we knew we had the means and where with all to stream via You Tube so we started there. From that our booking agent got us connected with some people at Live From and we learned how to put things together. We didn’t go to a sound stage or use a bunch of cameras we just used Face Time and people seemed to enjoy the do it yourself approach we took. It is weird singing to a camera or laptop and I am very grateful that we had around 7 to 8 thousand people buy tickets. Once this all came together we were able to breathe a sigh of relief in knowing we could bridge the gap between then and whenever we are able to go back out on tour. It’s never going to be as satisfying as smelling an audience (laughs) but with the band all living within close proximity to one another we are able to do these as some bands have members all over which doesn’t allow something like this. As far as a third live stream that’s something we are in the process of scheduling right now.

AL: Going in to your third stream are there things you know ahead of time that you want to change or add that you weren’t able to do with the previous shows?

NF: I think the main thing is trying to make the sets different from one another.  I don’t think people would be too stoked about paying for the same set every time. Thankfully we have a pretty long discography. The last stream we let a fan choose the set which was a fun exercise. I think there is a sweet spot between the DIY and production value side of things as you want to make it better each time you do it but at the same time I think people like a certain amount of grit.

AL: What are the bands plans going into 2021 and where is the best place fans can go to keep up with everything related to the band?

NF: I think come January we have decided not to think about anything other than the next record, with the assumption we can go back out on tour. I’m not sure how sustainable streaming shows are for ones mental health (Laughs). It’s going to be a slow curve to get back to touring but then we can look back and be glad this is behind us. Fan’s can check out Clutch official on Instagram and Twitter. Those are usually our main outlets for showing people what’s going on. If people are looking for merchandise they can check out Clutchmerch.com.   

Ben Brainard talks about his sketch comedy series Welcome to the Table

Ben Brainard is a comedian with a natural ability to make any crowd laugh. Originally from Daytona Beach, and now living in Orlando, Ben has toured across the country. He’s also produced several shows for Army Reserve units. During quarantine, Ben found viral success producing “The Table,” a sketch comedy series about how the various states of the US are handling current events.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Ben about his sketch comedy and also his upcoming tour dates and secret upcoming project!!!

Clive Barker talks about Hulu’s Books of Blood, Candyman and Hellraiser

Clive Barker is an English playwright, novelist, film director, and visual artist. Barker came to prominence in the mid-1980s with a series of short stories, the Books of Blood, which established him as a leading horror writer. He has since written many novels and other works, and his fiction has been adapted into films, notably the Hellraiser and Candyman series.

On October 7th, 2020, Hulu is premiering the new horror anthology film, BOOKS OF BLOOD, which takes audiences on a journey into uncharted and forbidden territory through three uncanny tales tangled in space and time.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Clive about the new movie and how 2021 will be the year of Clive Barker with his upcoming books and the new Candyman film being released.

Musician J.D. King Discusses His New Album “Moon Gardens”

Musician, Songwriter, Producer and Artist J.D. King has just released a new album titled “Moon Gardens”. Painstakingly recorded over three years on reel to reel analog equipment the album showcases Kings multitude of talents while being backed by an impressive stable of musicians all acting as intricate pieces within this audiophiles dream. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with King recently about the creation of the album, his decision to use only analog equipment and his plans for performing this material live.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the work that went into “Moon Gardens”?

J.D. King: After I had come off of the Olms project I was doing with Pete Yorne I started really getting in to the use of analog equipment. I wanted to make a 60’s style record the way they did back then. I was studying how album like the Beatles “Revolver” was made and albums like that. We did all the recording via analog and mixed it on tape as I wanted everything to sound just as it would as if it were recorded in the 60’s. I was meditating around eight hours a day and during that time I came up with all these song concepts. I had a good amount of vintage gear to start but then I acquired some more and found a few engineers who could mix on tape in the style that I was going for. We mixed everything live so that was another challenge we were working with as someone basically had to be turning knobs as we were performing. On the song “The Wooden Man” there is a panning part where the engineer was working the panning effect while I was turning some other knobs. With this record I wanted everything to come from the best place it possibly could. Every ingredient had to be the very top. From the musicians, the gear and the performances themselves I wanted the best.

AL: What was it about the 60’s era of recording that captured your interest?

JDK: I am a huge record fan. Even before all this quarantine stuff I would sit with a stack of records and just listen to music all day. I would even listen to some stuff on reel to reel. I never got a good feeling from digitally recorded music. It is less biological to me. I enjoy hearing over tones in music which is something generally missing from digitally recorded music. Honestly I think engineering from those eras was so much better and the standards were much higher.

AL: Working with older equipment did you run into any issues?

JDK: Sometimes we would have gear go down and it wouldn’t just be a simple fix like going to the store and getting a new one. Some of the gear we were using was from as far back as the 1930’s. When a pre-amp or something would go down during the middle of a session we would have to stop and take the time to find someone who was skilled in working on that type of equipment. This did cause some challenges from time to time.

 AL: You worked on this album for three years. Did the writing process take up a majority of that time or was it more from the high level of production you were going for?

JDK: I would generally get my group of session’s guys together once a month to jam and record. The rest of the time I was learning and experimenting with the engineering process as well as writing. I was working basically non-stop. I was wearing a lot of different hats and just had to figure all that stuff out. I think for the most part the time between the two was pretty equal. There were a lot of new things with this record both musically and technically. I wanted to expand and try some new things.

AL: At what point in time did you decide that the record was completed?

JDK: I think right around when I had twelve or thirteen songs. I felt things were rounded out and was happy with what I had. I think when people listen this in an album format it is going to really click. I am an album rock fan and I think that’s was I was able to do with this.

AL: Being that you play quite a few instruments how did you decide which ones you would play and on which tracks?

JDK: I would put the bones of each track down first. From there we would start rehearsing it and bringing the track to life. While doing that I would hear these things that I wanted to add as did the guys I was playing with. Stuff tends to happen in the studio while you are working.

AL: Did you find your creative process changed at all over the course of this record?

JDK: Things stayed pretty much the same for me as they always have been. If you listen to my first record I had a pretty big hand in the production of that record even though it was my first one. Every band I was playing in I always had this ear towards production. Pete (Yorn) is the same way. I learned a lot from him. We tried to work very fast over the course of this record. I have to give to those guys in the sixties as they had to bring their A games. You didn’t want to miss a take as you were recording directly to tape which was expensive. We had a couple tape issues which caused us to have to scrap a couple really good takes. I learned my lesson from that.

AL: With the current pandemic changing a lot of the way things are being done what are your plans to help get this music out to the public given the traditional in-person/live element of music is indefinitely on hold?

JDK: I am kind of lucky in that I learned so much about performing in a studio during this record. It was something you had to do. Having a background in photography I know about lighting and all those things as well so production comes simple for me. Being essentially a one man production crew I can throw up a few cameras and lights and I am set to go. I did a lot of painting over the winter so I can throw those up in the background as well and showcase a lot of my different talents. You can see a lot of what I have going on through my Instagram @mrjdking

Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer Discusses His New Book “Wicked Words and Epic Tales”

Photo Credit: Tim Tronckoe

Iced Earth founder, songwriter, guitarist and producer Jon Schaffer has announced the release of his first ever book, “Wicked Words and Epic Tales”.The book is the debut release from Schaffer and his new publishing company Wicked Tales, LLC and is the first of many original concepts planned for future release by Schaffer. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jon recently about the books creation, the accompanying music and his plans for future releases.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us where the idea/opportunity to do this book came from?

Jon Schaffer: The idea for the book came to me around Christmas of 2019. I was at home with my family and I all of a sudden had this idea to do an anthology of all my lyrics. I have always been a big fan of comic and graphic novel art. It’s actually something I have been doing for years on the Iced Earth album covers. We have so much bad ass art that has been done for us over the years and have made contact with a lot of great artists that I thought I could commission a bunch of new material and put something together for the die-hard fans. I had never really seen anything like what I was thinking of doing but I know that if Steve Harris, Geezer Butler or Roger Waters put out something like this as a fan I jump on it. I ended up deciding to use Kickstarter to get things going because it allowed me to gauge the interest and figure out how many copies to make. After I decided I was going to add new art I thought it might be cool to do some spoken word audio tracks to go along with it. What ended up happening was I decided to create some new music as well. What we ended up with is this something in between an audio book and a soundtrack. I call it a narrative soundscape and that comes as a bonus with the book.

AL: Is this all new musical content?

JS: No. These songs have been written over the course of my career specifically with Iced Earth. I think the oldest song is “Angels Holocaust” which was written around 1991. With the exception of the song “Wolf” all the material is based off of the original compositions. What I did was instead of the album being this loud, ripping heavy metal work I took verses and choruses and turned them into string and keyboard pieces. I did play some guitar but not that much and we programmed in some theatrical drum loops to give things dynamic. For the spoken pieces I really tried to get into character and make things dark an eerie or very emotional depending on what each piece called for.

AL: Will a reader/listener be able to put the music on and have it match up with the book chapters?

JS: It’s broken up a little differently. The book has over 250 pages. The lyrical content alone is well over 100 songs and features lyrics from more than just Iced Earth. The music portion is 15 tracks picked from just my Iced Earth works. If a reader wants to match things up they will just have to go to the index and find the page number for each song to make that happen.

AL: How did you go about selecting the artists who have work featured in the book?

JS: Some of those guys like Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo I have worked with in the past on Iced Earth album art so I knew them. All of the artists who I have worked with through all my projects and career are credited. I worked with an additional 15 new artists specifically for this book. I just started reaching out to people. I reached out to Jim Balent on Instagram and he came on board I then reached out to Jonboy Myers and he was interested. Richard Ortiz did four pieces of art which are killer homage pieces. Roy Young who was in charge of the layout of the book is a guy I met when I was working with Todd McFarland in 1994. Roy has been very instrumental in this. There is tons of great stuff in this book.

AL: We the artists given free reign or did you have specific pieces you wanted each person to do?

JS: I went to each of them with a specific plan. From there the artists will generally take that idea and run with it. If it ends up being something I am not happy with we make edits and changes until it’s where I want it to be. Each artist put their own unique spin on “Set” who is kind of Iced Earth’s mascot. They all had their own interpretation of the character which is something I really loved. You could tell it was Set but the Set character does not have one specific look or logo like Batman or one of those other superheroes. Everyone added their own style which made this part a lot of fun.

AL: The book features two different covers. Does each of the books feature something different that the other does not aside from the alternate cover art?

JS: The books will all be the same on the inside. There are actually four covers in all. Two main covers were done and then did two nude variations of Jim Balent’s cover. Those covers are limited to 100 and 150 copies. The slip case for each book is the same but inside is where you will find all the virgin art aside from the spine which has to include an identifiable marker denoting what the work is. I had a chance recently to see some of the test and it looks amazing! It’s all printed on nice heavy paper with lots of colors. Even the text pages are predominately color.

AL: “Wicked Words and Epic Tales” is the first book to be released via Wicked Tales LLC which you own. Can we be expecting more books from you in the future?

JS: This was my first step in to learning how to self publish. There will be more books however they will not be lyric books. Going forward the timing will depend on what happens with the music business as it relates to what is going on in the world right now. My band is international and I am not sure when or if we will be able to travel freely again. With the members being spread out and living in various places putting together or planning an Iced Earth tour production just can’t happen right now. My plan since 1997 when I first created the “Something Wicked” universe was to always end up being in comics and graphic novels once I retired the band. It’s a killer story with a lot of potential to dive in to so that’s always been my plan. This book was a test and something I started before the world went in to lock down. When that I happened I just continued to work. There will be more things coming out however I don’t have a specific date as it will be after Iced Earth retired. I am getting close to that time but I still want to do one or two more records before that day comes.

AL: If someone did not pre-order the book via Kickstarter will fans still be able to get a copy?

JS: We will have some extra copies available through the Iced Earth merch store. We are in negotiations with Plastic Head who handles our merchandise in Europe about our options. Shipping an item this heavy is quite pricey so we are trying to figure out a way to get to more than just the United States where a majority of the sales have occurred. We hope to have that figured out very soon. In the future we may release a digital and/or trade paperback. There also could be a second printing if the demand is there.

To find out more about “Wicked Words and Epic Tales” click here                  

Tommy Chong talks about new Cheech & Chong dispensary and video game “Bud Farm”

Iconic actor, best-selling author, Grammy Award-winning comedian, activist and America’s sweetheart of Cannabis Tommy Chong is legendary for his invaluable contribution to American counter-culture as part of the iconic comedy duo Cheech & Chong, and with a name synonymous with cannabis, has entered into dispensary license with Five Point Holdings Inc. and partnered with Cheech Marin to develop a five state dispensary chain. Media Mikes had a chance to chat about the dispensaries with Tommy as well as his new video game “Bud Farm”.

Ross Hull reflects on his role in “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” & his work as a Meteorologist

Ross Hull is known best for the role of Gary, aka the leader of the Midnight Society, from the TV series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”.

Ross is also currently a Meteorologist for Global News in Canada.

Media Mikes had a chance to chat “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” with Ross and also his work as a Meteorologist.

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