William Mark McCullough and Alexis Nelson discussing what it was like shooting the movie A SAVANNAH HAUNTING in a real haunted house! A SAVANNAH HAUNTING delivers a dread-filled supernatural drama about a mother grappling with her guilt stemming from the tragic drowning of her youngest daughter. When the family moves to Savannah to distance themselves from the tragedy, the mother slowly grows to believe she is being haunted by her dead daughter.
If you are curious at all about this film, check out a quote from their website below, which should seal the deal: “With the sexy undertones of AMERICAN HORROR STORY; the creeping dread of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and the slow descent into madness of THE SHINING, A SAVANNAH HAUNTING will resonate with audiences who enjoy a thoughtful supernatural thriller.”
MediaMikes had a chance to chat with writer/director Damien Leone and star David Howard Thornton of the new movie “Terrifier 2”, which will be in theaters on October 6, 2022 from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.
From Writer/Director Damien Leone (All Hallows’ Eve, Terrifier), the highly anticipated, ultra-gory slasher sequel Terrifier 2welcomes back David Howard Thornton as the demonic killer, Art the Clown, and introduces Lauren LaVera as Sienna, who is bound to become an instant fan favorite as the next Final Girl. Also returning is Samantha Scaffidi who reprises her role as Victoria Heyes, with horror icon Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and professional wrestler Chris Jericho also making appearances.
SYNOPSIS: After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to the timid town of Miles County where he targets a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night.
John Petrucci is the guitarist for the Grammy Award winning Progressive-Metal band Dream Theater. In support of his most recent solo album “Terminal Velocity” Petrucci has announced a multi date tour which will feature bassist Dave Larue and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Mike recently about the album, reuniting with his former drummer and what we can expect from the upcoming tour which kicks off October 5th.
Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about your most recent solo album “Terminal Velocity”
John Petrucci: I did my first solo album “Suspended Animation” back in 2005. That album came about after performing on the “G3” with Joe Satriani and having to write songs to perform on that tour. Those songs ended up becoming the first album. Being so busy with Dream Theater I never really put much emphasis on doing a follow up record despite getting asked quite often about it. As years went by, I just never seemed to have the time but when the pandemic hit and all touring stopped, I knew there was going to be some time. I had been stock piling ideas and riffs since my last record, and I knew if I didn’t do this now it was probably never going to happen. I put all the material I had together and recruited Dave Larue and Mike Portnoy to play on. It was a lot of work, but I think it turned out really cool.
AL: What was it like going back and revisiting this material that you had been collecting for so long?
JP: A lot of these ideas were not full songs. When I am playing guitar and something hits me, I will just hit record. The quickest way is usually through my iPhone. I am pretty organized, and I keep everything in a folder, so I had the seeds of songs to start with. From there I was able to go back through my collection and pick out different things that I thought would work. I started with idea number one and just began working from there re-learning what I had while also adding to it.
AL: What led to you asking Mike Portnoy to play on the album?
JP: I like to keep my solo stuff separate from what I do with Dream Theater. Even though I had played live with both Mike Portnoy and Mike Mangini on “G3” outside of Dream Theater I really wanted to keep things with the solo album totally separate from the band. I wanted the album to be just about guitar and given the fact that Mike Portnoy is no longer in Dream Theater this followed the rule I set for myself. Mike’s a very busy guy and because of the Pandemic he also had some free time so when I asked him if he would be interested, he said yes.
AL: Did you have what you wanted laid out for both Mike and Dave or were they able to bring in their own ideas?
JP: While I was writing and recording the guitars my engineer James Meslin would program drums. Either he or I would then play the bass so even before Dave and Mike were involved the songs existed as completed pieces. We could have released the album just like that, but it is so much better having these guy play on there. When they came in they basically just had to learn compositions. At one point Mike asked me if I wanted things exactly as they were, and I told him these were basically just a guide and that he could do what he felt would make the song work. With Dave it was the same way. The two of these guys really brought the album to life and I was very happy with the end result. Even though we recorded the parts separately I think the album has a live energy and feel to it.
AL: Being very much a “tone” guy when it comes to guitar, how did you approach that aspect of the record?
JP: Dream Theater recently built a new facility to accommodate all of the bands needs. This included a studio space. My solo album was the first album that was recorded there. It was a little bit new however the guitar recording approach was very similar to how I do it with Dream Theater. I am a purest and have been playing my signature Ernie Ball Music Man guitars for 20 years now. I plug that into my signature Mesa Boogie head and then let the engineer mic up my 4×12 cabinet and we are off to the races. After we finished the solo record we went and did “Liquid Tension Experiment 3” in the same studio as well as Dream Theater’s “A View From the Top of the World” which we won a Grammy for! Having recorded guitar for those three very different projects the guitar stayed consistent from one thing to the next. We do experiment with different microphones and such but its basically me plugged straight into my amp. I like to keep things as pure as I can and capture that sound as it is.
AL: When did the idea to tour behind the release present
JP: That was always something I wanted to do. I had done a lot of “G3” tours but never an actual solo tour. Once I put the record out everyone started asking if I was going to tour behind it. When things started to open back up my priority was Dream Theater, so we got back into our cycle so once again I was left with no opportunity to tour solo despite wanting to. I generally know five or six months out what my schedule is going to look like and I saw that there was going to be a small window in the fall that I was going to have free. I asked my booking agent if we could get something scheduled and he was on it.
AL: Were Mike and Dave onboard with touring right away?
JP: Dave has been touring with me since 2001. He has done all the “G3” tours and of course both my solo albums. We had this running joke about if we were ever going to do an actual solo tour. Prior to that I think the joke was if I was ever going to do a second solo album. (Laughs) Dave said he would be there when the time came and he we are. With Mike we hadn’t played together live since he left Dream Theater twelve years ago. It was in my mind right away to ask him and when I did ask him, he said Yes.
AL: You are bringing out the reunited Meanstreak with you on the run. Can you tell us how that came together?
JP: The history there is the Dream Theater guys met the ladies from Meanstreak many years ago. My wife and I have been married 29 years. Both my wife and Mike Portnoy’s wife played guitar in Meanstreak while John Myung’s wife Lisa played bass. We all kind of got married and had families around the same time. We have been this big family for quite some time. Meanstreak’s disbanded and haven’t played for some time so when I started thinking of doing the solo tour, I mentioned to my wife about the ladies getting back together and opening for me. I am very excited for this. In all the years my wife and I have been together we have never toured together. We have played together a few times but never anything like this. This tour is going to be fun for fans on a few different levels as not only will they get to see Mike and I play together again but a lot of people will be getting to see Meanstreak for the first time as well.
AL: Any other projects or releases you might want to mention?
JP: There have been a lot of big things that happened for me personally over this last year. I have a new line Ernie Ball Majesty and JP15 guitars that came out in June. I released a Neural DSP plug-in that was a lot of fun as well. We just released out first video from the record for the song “Temple of Circadia” it’s an animated “Wayne’s World” meets “Indiana Jones” type story. (Laughs) Dream Theater will be touring next year and will be releasing more info on that later on but the biggest thing right now is this upcoming solo tour which kicks off October 5th in Providence, RI.
“Worldwide icon of melodic rock Stan Bush is best known for his song “The Touch,” made famous by Transformers: The Movie (1986). An anthem for Transformers fans around the world, “The Touch” was remixed in 2013 by High Moon Studios for their hit video game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. It has also been featured on ABC’s The Goldbergs, NBC’s Chuck, FOX’s American Dad, in RBN’s Guitar Hero, Deep Silver’s Saints Row IV and in the motion picture Boogie Nights. In 2014, Stan was inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame.”
Visit stanbush.com to check out great merch and autographs! Also if you are located in the Florida area, Stan will be attending Hero Convention in Fort Myers during the weekend of November 18-20!
Tia Carrere played Cassandra Wong in the films Wayne’s World and Wayne’s World 2; Juno Skinner in True Lies; Nani Pelekai in the Lilo & Stitch films and TV series; In addition to acting, Carrere has won two Grammy Awards for her music. Her new film Easter Sunday with Jo Koy comes out August 5, 2022 and is a ton of fun, check out our interview!
Robby J. is the Co-Lead vocalist for the band “Sicksense”. The band recently released their debut EP titled “Kings Today” which is a fresh and blazing mix of rock and metal stylings which harkens back to the sounds of the late 90’s Nu Metal movement. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Robby about the formation of the band, what its like to work with your significant other and the bands ominous bear mascot.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the formation of Sicksense?
Robby J.: The band first started with our guitarist and drummer back in 2017. They were in another band at the time that had recently parted ways with their singer. They were holding auditions and a former guitar player of mine suggested to me about auditioning. I ended up contacting them and they sent me three tracks which would subsequently become Sicksense songs. While I was working on those, I was asked what I thought about having a second vocalist. I was completely fine with that, but I did say that I would like creative control of the lyrical direction and storytelling. They agreed and I knew I had the right person in mind for the job. It ended up being my wife Vickie and the rest is history. Shortly after that decision was made, we started working on more songs and once we had those all down, we recruited our bassist Sam, and the lineup was complete.
AL: How do you and Vicky balance your band/home relationships?
RJ: Not to get cheesy with it but it’s all about being entirely supportive of one another. Being in a relationship of this nature you must be willing to work with each other. Over the last few years, we have gotten to the point where we have really built each other up. We are fortune in that we both work from home and behind the scenes I do a lot of work on Vicky’s social media for her own stuff as well as for her other band The Agonist. It’s very cool and easy to work with your significant other in this capacity especially if you are so supportive. We are at the point where even while we are working on other projects, we can at the same time bounce ideas for Sicksense off one another. It’s great having each other right there as a lot of times in bands you must schedule a time and place to meet which takes time. In our situation we are right there and can instantly start working on something the moment an idea hits. As long as there is balance and no egos involved, I think something like this can be a beautiful thing.
AL: Were some of those early songs that band first worked on what we are hearing on the new EP?
RJ: Two of those three demos that we first worked on in 2017 are on the “Kings Today” EP. When the pandemic happened, we got together and wrote and recorded a full lengths album worth of material. We then decided to split that in to two separate EP releases. The song “Make Believe” is one of those first songs and one that I did with Vicky in mind. The song “Soul Snatcher” was the other song from the 2017 demos we included. We have one other song that was from those demo sessions that will be on the following EP.
AL: When you are writing are you doing so with Vicky in mind or do you adjust what you had already written after the fact?
RJ: I try to base my work around what is going on with the instrumentation. I will either follow along with what the instrument is playing, or I will try to come up with something different to make things less monotonous. I tend to write my parts first. What sometimes will happen is I write a specific piece with me in mind but then Vicky will take it. I wrote a lot of the music for these EP’s with myself in mind but if I ever got stumped on something, I would let Vicky take control. That goes back to our understanding of each other and her knowing where I am trying to go with a song while at the same time adding her own twist to it. We have some songs coming out in the future that were entirely written by Vicky. For the “Kings Today” release I feel the material is very Robby heavy.
AL: Can you tell us about the decision to release these songs as two separate EP’s rather than one full-length album?
RJ: That was an easy decision actually and It really came down to Vicky and I living in Chicago
and it was during the early stages of the pandemic that we finished recording. It was becoming difficult to travel back and forth to Canada, so we decided to wait until we travel a little easier. We started to get a little tired of waiting and eventually bit the bullet and made the trip to Canada where we ended up having to quarantine for almost a month. After all of that and being a new band, we just wanted to get our music out for people to listen to. We decided it would easier to get things going if we split the ten songs in to the two separate five song EP’s along with three music videos for each. This gave us a lot of content to put out which helped our exposure.
AL: You also have a new video for the song “Forgotten Days”. Can you tell us about that?
RJ: The idea for this video was something that had been suggested at the last minute by our PR team to help support the EP release. Vicky and I reside in Chicago, IL while the rest of the band members are spread out in Eastern Canada, so it was a little challenging to come up with a concept so quickly and having to work remotely. We worked with the director who did our previous videos, and he had a concept based around the song and shot everything remotely with each member which ended up working out really well.
AL: Some of your other videos as well as a few social media posts feature a yellow bear. What is the story behind this guy?
RJ: (Laughs) That guy has become a little bit of a cult figure for us. I guess its our version of Iron Maiden’s “Eddie”. He has sort of become our mascot. The idea for him originated when we were shooting the food fight video for “Kings Today”. We wanted to have an even number of people at the table we were sitting at, so we created this character who we now call “Deli the Bear”. It ended up being played by our friend who has the same nickname just spelled differently. The idea behind him in the music video is that he has multiple meanings for us. We encourage our listeners and watcher to come up with their own interpretation of him. For me personally he represents that elephant in the room or “bear” in this case. He is this problem that no one wants to talk about or acknowledge that its there. He can also be an interpretation of social media in that there are people arguing amongst themselves and there could be these strangers/outsiders you are not aware of that are looking in. Deli is/can be anything we want him to be. We have adopted him as our mascot, and you will probably be seeing more of him in the future.
AL: The genre or term “Nu-Metal” is a moniker that seems to be closely associated with Sicksense. What are your feelings on this?
RJ: I think this goes back to a couple of the founding members previous band which was shamelessly Nu-Metal. I loved that about them! I feel like its sort of a taboo thing to be proud of in the music scene, but I love/loved a lot of Nu-Metal bands. This is what we sound like and we are just running with it. Being branded as “Nu-Metal” is fine with me.
AL: I know the band just finished up a run of live shows. What do you have planned next?
RJ: We have some more content based around the “Kings Today” EP that we want to still get out but just as we were releasing this EP, we were finishing up a new video for a song that will appear on our next release. We hope to have that out in early 2023 with the EP release shortly following that. The rest of this year will be just wrapping up things such as graphics and what not related to our next release. We are planning to release a vinyl version of the 2023 EP which will be on one side of the record with the “Kings Today” EP being on the other. That might be out a little later than the EP, but I think that’s going to be a cool thing for fans to be able to get. We have also already started working on what we want to release after the 2023 EP so will be working on that through out the summer as well.
Jaret Reddick is the lead vocalist and guitarist for the Pop-Punk band Bowling For Soup. The group has been turning out tongue and cheek hits like “Girl All the Bad Guys Want” and “1985” since the early 2000’s. On April 22nd the band released their 11th studio album titled “Pop Drunk Snot Bread”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jaret recently about the album, what it was like working with WWE Superstar Alexa Bliss and how he balances both performance and production roles.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us background info on the new album “Pop Drunk Snot Bread”?
Jaret Reddick: Our last studio album came in 2016 which is crazy that it’s been that long. We did do a greatest hits and a couple live records between now and then, but it’s been a while since we went into the studio. Honestly are plan was never really to release or make a record now. When quarantine hit this album ended up becoming a reaction to not being together with everyone. We thought the best and safest way for us to all get together was to create our own bubble and make this record. In August of 2020 we took a tour bus to the Pocono Mountains and stayed in an Air B and B which was only about a mile from the studio we were recording in. This album came out of all that. There is a lot of reflection in this material which I feel has to do largely with how it was all conceived.
AL: The album’s first single “Alexa Bliss” was released in 2020. Can you tell us about that?
JR: “Alexa Bliss” was originally intended as a bonus track for our second greatest hits album which is still not out. When the new record came to be, we felt this song fit the vibe of that well. It’s funny because this song existed long before there were any talks of a new album.
AL: Alexa also appears in the video for the song. How did that relationship come to be?
JR: My son is a big wrestling fan. I was a fan in the 80’s but I wasn’t really up to date with any of the new stuff. I didn’t know anything about her, but I had been sent some photos of her wearing a Bowling For Soup shirt. I told my son about the photos and he told me that I should send her a message. I ended up sending a message and she replied and from there we became good friends. When we were talking, I told her she needed a pop-punk song as most of the other wrestlers have these cock-rock type songs which is great as it fits the brand. I didn’t write the song with intentions of it being her walk out song. It’s just a tribute to her being a cool individual and great character on the show. She’s a great friend.
AL: Was it difficult working with the WWE to make all this happen?
JR: Alexa helped navigate those things quite a bite. This was something she really wanted to do. I would have never asked her to be in the video as much as she. That was all her. I was cool with just getting a look alike and have this be more of a dream for the kid. She loved the project so much that she walked it into Vince McMahon’s office and got me hooked up with all the right people. Whenever I would hit a snag, she would help me out. The WWE was very gracious and happy. There were a few rules with what we could and couldn’t have in the video but for the most part it was simple. WWE ended up sending out one of their digital media staff to film a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff which was cool.
AL: “Alexa Bliss” was the first of four singles you have released from the new album. How does the band go about selecting which songs will be released as singles?
JR: “Getting Old Sucks” was the next track we chose to release. We picked that one because the song is about us and I had already had the video made. I found this guy on Instagram by the name of Mike Roche whose daughter made these cool little puppets. I always wanted to do a puppet video for the band, and these were just perfect. I didn’t want the puppets to be so good that it wasn’t funny anymore. I do voice over work and some of those puppets are insanely good. That’s good for that type of platform but for it to work in this context where we are singing about getting old the beards had to be stringy and they had to bring some humor to this thing. Mike’s daughter nailed the puppets. I think at the time she was around 13. Her and her family ate up six weeks of their quarantine working on this project for us. They all appear in it and they knocked it out of the park. For the next single which was “Killin’ ‘Em With Kindness” it was getting close to the time of the album’s release before being pushed back a third time. The band has a character called “Super Rob” and he is featured in that video. We have a comic book centered around the character that is coming out as well. That video was made almost entirely by Rob and his brother. They shot most of it around where they live in the Pocono’s and then came out and shot some band footage where we are located. Our fourth and most recent single is titled “Brad Pitt”. We took more of a traditional route with that as we hired a director and then flew out to the location to shoot which was a lot of fun.
AL: Do you think big budget production Music Videos are making their way back around in popularity?
JR: I don’t think its that they are coming back around more as they have been around and never really left. The viewing platform has shifted. You used to see music videos on television now you watch them on YouTube. Every video released doesn’t need to be a professional quality video but there needs to be a visual representation of your music this day and age. Video is king! Its starting to get to be where places like Instagram which weren’t originally video based are now predominantly videos. I miss when you had different apps for different things like Vine was for mainly video and Instagram was just a quick snap of what you were doing in that moment. Those big budget videos only really disappeared for a couple years as you still have artists like Taylor Swift putting big budget material out and getting millions of hits.
AL: You mentioned that the album was pushed back three different times. When that keeps happening does it affect the bands mindset at all?
JR: Luckily for us we were on a major label for nine years. During those years we got used to these types of things as nothing ever happened on time. It’s always hurry up as there are deadlines which need to be made and then when you meet those you are told things are getting pushed back for some reason. For this record and for the first time since 2009 we let our managers and distribution company have some input on the release. The record just came out on the 22nd so we will have to see if it worked.
AL: Being that you also produced the record how do you go about balancing your production duties and your musician duties?
JR: From the beginning I have always co-produced our stuff. I think a lot of that comes from when you are working through the songs and arranging that’s all considered production. I take my songs in pretty much done. From the standpoint of when is it done? I am the worst. Once I have something recorded and I get it back and say that’s fine then I am good with it. Unless something completely horrible jumps out at me I tend not to want to make any changes. Thankfully I have been working with Linus of Hollywood for the last thirteen years as it takes having another person to help me with these types of decisions. He is the guy that decides if it needs more bass or treble. I am usually ready to move on to something else by that point.
AL: Now that the album is out what are the bands plans going forward.
JR: We just got back from the UK and I will be heading back there again soon to do some make up shows for an acoustic tour which never was able to happen because of the pandemic. Once we wrap those dates up, we will be mostly caught up except for one or two dates. This summer we will be out in the United States with Less Than Jake and then in October I will be heading to Hawaii for a solo show there.
Chloe Trujillo is a visual artist, fashion designer and musician. Her latest solo release titled “Mothers of a New Nation” blends a variety of styles and influences some of which are pulled directly from her art works while others pay homage to her experiences as a young woman growing up around the world in places such as New York City, Paris, and Berlin. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Chloe about the new album, what it was like working with veteran Producer Tommy Daughtery and how she balances her work on so many different projects.
Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the new album “Mothers of a New Nation”?
Chloe Trujillo: I started the writing of this album years ago. I am always writing and recording ideas. A lot of times I start by just recording them into my phone. Things started piling up as I wasn’t really doing anything with all these ideas. I always had this feeling of dependency on the need for a producer or engineer who knew how to use recording software. I could do some basic recording with Garage band but that was really it. I had been working on another project with an artist who introduced me to a producer by the name of Tommy D. I showed him the song “Light & Love” which was mostly finished but still needed some instrumentation and mixing. This was all just prior to the pandemic. Every week that I met with him we kept moving forward and sharing ideas. He helped me bring all of those to life and get them on Pro Tools. I had always been a little reluctant to use technology because I enjoy the physicality of all that and working on a computer was just not appealing to me. When the pandemic hit, and things were at a stand still I got to the point where I couldn’t take things not moving. I ended up getting a good microphone and recording interface and learned how to use logic pro which is the program I use now. The title of the album itself “Mothers of a New Nation” signifies in a way a new birth for me creative wise. I wrote an entire second album which I am holding on to for now. Learning all this has really sparked my creativity.
AL: Have you ever pulled musical inspiration from one of your art pieces or possibly an artwork idea from your music?
CT: Both ways totally! Most of the time when I paint, I have lyric ideas or melodies come to me. The same when I am working on music and I get a visual idea. The two work very much together in that a song can inspire a painting and a painting can inspire a song.
AL: With this being your second solo album were there certain things you wanted to accomplish that you maybe weren’t able to do on the first record?
CT: I usually let my creative flow lead me to where I am going. With the second record I wrote that’s not out yet which I am calling “Spell Book” I learned to do so much on my own that there is very little outside influence. On my very first album “Ivresse” I worked with a really nice producer who loved instruments. Every time I would go into the studio there were new instruments for me to try and I just recorded everything. That album has a gypsy vibe because of all that was added.
AL: Were you aware of Tommy Daughtery’s background prior to working with him?
CT: Yes, I was aware of his work, but I didn’t know what to expect. Tommy worked with Death Row Record artists like Tupac, Snoop Dogg, and NWA. He had all these great beats and I thought it ended up being a cool combination. I had a lot of fun working with Tommy. “Light and Love” was the first song I showed him, and I had written that with heavy bass and a hip-hop beat in mind. He took that and ran with it.
AL: Can you tell us about some of the musicians you were with on the album?
CT: I originally would have never asked my husband (Robert) in any way to help me out as we both are very busy and independent; however, He came in and recorded all the bass for me and had a great time doing so. It was cool to have him play on the record and he complimented some of the bass lines I had demoed. My son Tye played some guitar on a couple tracks as well which was great. Tommy D had suggestions to bring in other artists such as Chris Poland who I knew from Megadeth and OHM. Stephen Perkins (Jane’s Addiction) was another mutual friend who we had come in and do some drums on a few tracks. A lot of the time Tommy would be working on a track and there would be any number of artists coming through the studio and he would just ask them. Everyone was always more than happy and excited to help.
AL: Was it difficult balancing the role of artist along side Wife/Mom when working with Robert and Tye?
CT: It wasn’t that difficult really. We are all musicians or artists and everyone in our house is very creative and doing their own things. We have respect for each other and are independent. Tye has been a professional musician since he was 9 years old and we have always let him do his thing which came very naturally to him. It is the same with our daughter who is an awesome drummer. She is a little bit more shy but great. When I needed something, it wasn’t difficult to work with Tye and Robert. I would show them the usually badly played riff and they would take it from there. The only real trouble I had was actually asking for help. Robert is always very busy and at the time was doing stuff for Ozzy Osbourne, Infectious Grooves and of course Metallica so I didn’t want to bother him. I needed a bass player and knowing I had two amazing bassists at home rather than going to look for someone I finally asked for help. Robert and I did a lot of recording at night after the kids went to bed. I didn’t feel like the wife asking but more so the artist asking for a bassist. That’s just how we are with one another.
AL: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you have been working on lately?
CT: I have been working on a few different art shows for the Tracy Park Gallery who represents me. I just had some art appear at Art Basel in Miami. During a charity event last year, I met Mark Dalbeth from the band Bellusira and he and collaborated on a single titled “Mana”. We now are working on a couple EP’s and have plans for a full-length release as well. The name of the group is Chloe Trujillo and Rev Medic. I released an EP just prior to the pandemic with Dan Stein and Chris Westfall titled “What Are We” and the group is called Chloe Trujillo’s Mystery Ride. We all live near one another, so we just got together and worked on a bunch of ideas I had. That was a lot of fun. There is also a bunch of newly designed “Mothers of a New Nation” merch which is based off some of my artwork.
For more information on Chloe Trujillo, you can follow her on Instagram at @chloetrujillo
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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.
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: