Guitarist K.K. Downing Discusses His New Book “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest”

 

Picture by: Pauli Juppi

Ken “K.K.” Downing is a founding member of the heavy metal band Judas Priest. He was active with the group from its inception in 1969 to his departure from the group in April of 2011. Downing has recently released a book via Da Capo press title “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest”. Media Mikes had a chance recently to speak with Ken about the creation of the book and where he plans to go next

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background behind the writing of the book?

Ken Downing: Since my departure from the band eight years ago lots of people have been asking me if I would like to do a book. Year after year I just kept saying no and then finally last year I decided to finally do it. I sort of had three basic ideas for doing this. I thought it would be a good opportunity for fans to get to know me a little bit better. That probably sounds a bit ridiculous after having been around for so long now but, there is always another story to tell. I wanted to share how I started off in life and ended up playing some of the biggest stages in the world. Lastly I wanted to bring some sort of closure to the banter which was being thrown about across the internet related to my position within the band.

AL: How did you go about selecting what memories or stories you wanted to include in the book?

KD: That was really the difficulty part as I didn’t have a plan or anything. My ghost writer Mark Eglinton helped quite a bit with this side of things. He helped me dig a bit deeper along the way as we approached things chronologically as one lives life. As we moved along we paid attention to what would come to the surface and tried not to dwell on certain topics too long as we wanted to keep the book moving. If I had elaborated too much on things this would be a very thick book. (Laughs) It was difficult at times as I wanted to keep things honest and after forty years in rock and roll there were a couple stories we had to leave out. (Laughs)

AL: How did you get connected with Mark (Eglinton)?

KD: Mark came to me through my website which is run out of Helsinki, Finland. I had been approached previously by a bunch of other people about doing a book but Mark was in the UK and he made a couple trips down to see me where we just talked and got to know one another. I felt that worked well and we went from there. We did things in chunks based on a certain amount of years. That let me focus on one specific time period at a time. Mark and I would just basically talk. Every now and then he would prompt me to elaborate more on certain periods of the band. Both Mark and his brother have been rock fans for a very long time so he had a fans perspective of what other fans might want to know more about.

AL: Was it hard revisiting some of your earlier years growing up?

KD: It was. I had always kept a lot of those memories be it good or bad to myself. My childhood was very personal to me and I had never shared my experiences with anyone. To have someone hear them and then in turn document them for others to read was something I really had to think about. To keep things transparent we went ahead with it. I may have skirted around a couple things or been less descriptive but it’s all there. When you are born in to a dysfunctional family things are going to be a bit different so I didn’t have to go into too much detail.

AL: Had you let any of the people included in these stories know beforehand that you were releasing a book on your life?

KD: No not really. I had talked to my mom as I was a bit concerned she might get a little emotional about me telling the family story. As it happened when I spoke with her she told me she was not worried and she also mentioned she had read Ozzy Osbourne’s book and loved that one. (Laughs) When she did get the chance to read my book she affirmed that that’s how things were so I was pleased with that.

AL: Now that people have had a chance to read the book, are there any pieces you feel you should not have included or been so detailed with?

KD: I feel a little relieved now that it’s out and that I have not received any real adverse repercussions. The general feedback has been much better than I was expecting. Every now and then I think about other things I would have mentioned but didn’t. That seems to happen though be it with this book or records you always want to turn out the best product so you keep working and working at it. Eventually you just have to stop and turn it in. I wanted to put out something that people could get their heads into and find it just as enjoyable as watching television or something.

AL: With the completion of the book are you looking to now shift your focus back to music?

KD: I am thinking with the coming winter here in the UK I am going to disappear into my music room and just see what happens next. I have a few ideas I might want to play about with but this game for me is all about getting that chance to jump back into Judas Priest. If I am not doing that then the name of the game is creating new material.

For more in on Ken you can visit his official website at www.kkdowning.net

Be sure to check out our review of “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest” here.

Positron’s Voyager VR Chair Takes Off with First Man

Positron CEO Jeffrey Travis

It’s safe to say I will try anything when it comes to new theatrical experiences. I’ve always loved Lincoln Square’s IMAX screenings, I’ve seen entire Broadway plays done in binaural audio (that’s “3D” sound) and even shelled out extra ticket money to see a favorite film in 4DX once or twice. So I was excited to try out Positron’s Voyager Chair, a VR experience which is being deployed to several theater celebrating the release of Universal’s First Man. Guests heading out to several AMC locations across the nation have not only the chance to just see the Damian Chazelle film, which is released on October 12th, but to take a small excursion to the moon themselves.

I got to try out the Voyager chair on Tuesday both with the First Man VR experience as well as a seasonally-appropriate horror short called “Night Night” and was really impressed with the level of immersion, from the spatial audio to truly being able to look in all directions within my headset. My First Man mission even had an animated co-pilot! Best of all, the Voyager chair itself, whose design looks straight out of Men In Black, was actually pretty comfortable and even after these two shorts I felt no sort of motion sickness, which I was wary of considering 3D films can give me a headache.

Positron’s CEO Jeffrey Travis was in New York this week with the Voyager to talk about the potential that this technology presents to cinematic VR experiences.

Lauren Damon: Was this pod created just for First Man?

Jeffrey Travis: No, we created this to be a platform for cinematic VR in general. So the first kind of wider public experience was we did The Mummy with Universal. So we’ve done three experiences with Universal–The Mummy, Jurassic World and First Man. It was all really cool. But there’s a lot of other studios and places that we use these with. The idea is to create ultimately VR cinemas.

LD: Is the goal here to get whole theaters of these?

JT: Yeah! So we can do theaters with this. Mini ones of twos or threes and we actually set that up here at Pod hotels here in Brooklyn. It’s open to the public. We have pairs of chairs at AMC theaters here in New York at Lincoln Square, San Francisco, DC, LA, but eventually we’re going to be putting this in permanent installations and creating VR theaters of 30-40 chairs and people could buy a ticket and come for an experience that’s either like something of what you’ve just experienced or longer. Somewhere from a half hour to an hour.

LD: Yeah because how long can you view it without feeling it too much?

JT: Yeah we talk about that. I think the ideal length is about half an hour for cinematic VR. I think longer than that, the headsets can get a little heavy on some people. But those are being made by companies like Facebook and Samsung and Microsoft and HP and they’re getting better all the time. So I think we will be able to have 90 minute VR experiences. But right now a half hour feels like a very full meal.

LD: What would the price point be in terms of ticketing?

JT: So probably around—it depends on experience—but probably averaging around $30.

LD: That price is actually similar to they have those “4D[x]” theaters here, what are your thoughts on those?

JT: We do get asked about that. I think it’s still fundamentally different. You know, to me the 4D movie theater, you’re adding some sensory effects that compliment the 2D screen experience. Which is fine and good, but what we’re trying to do here is really bring VR to where you forget about the screen, you even forget about the motion…So it’s almost like you don’t notice it’s happening. You should just feel like you’re actually in the story. That’s kind of the goal, not just a little enhancement but something that’s integrated.

LD: How much testing goes into something like this? How much time does it take to produce?

JT: It really depends on the piece but it goes through a lot of testing. Several months. This next piece that we’re working on is called “Shady Friend,” a VR comedy starring Weird Al Yankovic. It’s a psychedelic comedy that uses scent as well and it’s about a guy that accidentally takes this latest designer drug and goes on this crazy LSD trip. So we’re using motion, haptics and scent and it’s in post-production right now, we shot in July, and it will probably be ready by January. About six months.

LD: When did you start working on this particular First Man experience?

JT: First Man, so that was produced by Ryot and CreateVR and they started actually just two months ago. It was a very accelerated schedule. Which is a little more unusual.

LD: Was all that footage created for this VR?

JT: So obviously the stuff you’re seeing in Mission Control and on the screens is from the film, but then everything else for the VR experience had to be created from scratch. The films assets are mostly 2D and we needed to create these 3D volumetric environments like the moon.

LD: Are you going to get Ryan Gosling to try this out?

JT: I hope so! We had them at the premiere of First Man in the space there. So he was there, I didn’t get a word whether he did it or not. I know the producers of First Man got in there.

LD: There’s definitely a push to add more to theaters considering how much is available for home streaming, do you see this as adding to that?

JT: That’s the idea. I think that movies are certainly in the US and North America, struggling with people going to the box office because they’d often rather stay at home and stream on Netflix. So I think part if the appeal for this is that hey, this is an experience you really can’t get at home. At least not yet. And this brings people out to the movies or at least out to our locations and experiences.

LD: What other films will be having similar tie-in experiences like this?

JT: I mean there’s some coming we can’t really talk about, because they’re not really announced yet. But we’re working working with several other studios besides Universal on some titles and we’ll be announcing as we can.

Positron’s Voyager Chair is offering First Man experiences through October 14th at AMC Theaters in NY’s Lincoln Square, DC’s Georgetown 14, San Francisco’s Metreon 16 and LA’s Universal Citywalk locations

“CGI just doesn’t cut it for me, man!” Blindspot’s Heidi Schnappauf Speaks About Stunt Work

Heidi Schnappauf at Sword Class NYC

When Blindspot enters its fourth season this Friday on NBC, it will of course be bringing the action that has garnered the series multiple Emmy nominations for Outstanding Stunt Coordination. While last year burst onto the scene with, amongst other things, Jane Doe and Co in a tank, this year’s premiere has taken Jane (Jaimie Alexander) to Tokyo where she engages in some impressive swordplay with a new adversary. Behind Jane’s hardest hits is Alexander’s stunt double, Heidi Schnappauf, who has been with the show from the first season. Speaking with me at New York Comic Con*, Jaimie Alexander said of Heidi: “Just the hits she takes, the body slams…I don’t know how she’s OK. Half the time I’m terrified for her because she does a lot of the heavy lifting in the fights…And she’s just incredible, she’s an incredible lady.”

Besides Blindspot Schnappauf has an impressive credits list that includes Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Broad City and Orange is the New Black. I was lucky enough to speak with Heidi about her action-packed job this past weekend when Warner Brothers sent us along with her and Jaimie to, fittingly, a beginner Kendo sword lesson!

Lauren Damon: How long have you been with the show?

Heidi Schnappauf: I’ve been with the show all the four seasons, however, I came in toward the end of the first season. I think episode twenty. So right at the end kind of filling in for her old double [Ky Furneaux].

LD: What are your favorite types of stunts?

HS: I love to fight. My main background was fighting. This, sword fighting, was not something I grew up with, but definitely something I picked up on the way and trained a little bit. But fighting, which includes all the falling that we do—getting thrown around—I started at such a young age that I got thrown around a lot when I was in karate as a kid, moving into college years. But I really do love all the hard hits and driving. I’ve been doing stunts driving now for about eight years. So yeah, anything where I’m maybe flying through some glass or getting thrown out of a car, I totally dig it! Any of that.

LD: Have you ever had any major injuries?

HS: I’ve had a few. Biggest injury was not on Blindspot, actually it was right before I got on Blindspot. I was recovering from my biggest injury which was I was doing a high fall and there was faulty landing equipment, it was nobody’s fault, just a one in a billion chance I ended up injuring my neck pretty badly. I was out for about ten months from work, which was a really big bummer actually. And the doctor—I was in the ER from that injury and with you know, on morphine and valium and a neck brace and tears coming out of my eyes—the doctor’s like ‘Oh I guess this is gonna put a damper on your career’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, I really know what I’m going to do next time so I don’t hurt myself’ and he’s like ‘Next time?! Are you nuts?!’…I’m like ‘Well, yeah, I’m just bummed that it’s gonna be a while!’ So that was my most devastating injury. Everyone wanted to cut me open, everyone wanted to do surgery, they wanted to replace my disc, or fuse my spine and all this stuff…I kind of basically talked to doctors until I got the answer I wanted and then I found more doctors to support that.

LD: As a viewer, what are some of your favorite films or tv shows for stunts?

HS: Um…Blindspot? [laughs]…Oh, I really like Supergirl, is that WB? I do like Supergirl. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t watch a lot of TV because I work and I sleep and I try to watch Blindspot. But I do, actually, this new season of Iron Fist is probably my favorite bit of action on tv or Netflix…Blacklist, I love Blacklist. They just have such a variety of stunts on that show. And Game of Thrones. Come on, man, you can’t deny that setting like seventy five stunt people on fire is NOT cool. From a DRAGON. It’s insane.

LD: There’s a faction out there that is pushing for a Best Stunts category at the Academy Awards, how do you feel about that?

HS: I think that’s a good idea since like every other category is out there. I mean, I don’t know how you’d delegate that but I think that’s a good start to just recognizing it. I don’t do stunts, obviously, to be recognized. I love it because I get to kind of be the magician of the action world of film and tv. You don’t really want to give your tricks away, you want to make it an illusion…most, some people I know anyway, don’t do it for the glory. It’s not really about that. It’s about making good work. I would love to see it so it’s recognized as an art and as you know, that magical things that happens isn’t actually magic. It’s people that are putting their bodies and their lives on the line to bring everyone a cool product. CGI just doesn’t cut it for me, man!

Blindspot season 4 premieres Friday October 12th at 8pm on NBC.

*Check back here this weekend to see our full chats with Blindspot stars Jaimie Alexander and Sullivan Stapleton!

Guitarist Phil Palmer Discusses Dire Straits Legacy Tour

Phil Palmer is a legendary session guitarist who has performed on countless albums for acts such as Robbie Williams and George Michael and Bob Dylan. Palmer has also had the distinction of being a member of both Eric Clapton’s band and 80’s hit makers Dire Straits. Palmer is currently on the road touring with Dire Straits Legacy (DSL) a group made up of former Dire Straits members wanting to pay tribute the bands amazing catalog. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Phil recently about the group’s formation and the bands first tour of the United States in ten years.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some history as to how you initially became with Dire Straits?

Phil Palmer: I was part of the band during the group’s last world tour between 1991 and 1992. I think we did something around 270 shows. Prior to joining Dire Straits I had been in Eric Clapton’s band for about three years. That time period was quite busy for me as Eric’s group was very active and then I went right over to Dire Straits to play over 200 shows.

AL: What was it like transitioning stylistically from Eric Clapton to Dire Straits?

PP: The main difference I guess was for Eric’s tour we did around three days of rehearsal. It was all very much by the seat of your pants. At that time I think he had the best band in the world. The situation was very fluid and the arrangements would often evolve as we began playing as the environment was very free. When I joined Dire Straits we rehearsed for three months prior to the tour starting. There were quite a few complicated sections and the arrangements were very important to Mark. That was probably the biggest difference. To be in Dire Straits you have to be regimented. Half of my job was to make sure that when Mark decided to be spontaneous with his playing that I stayed out of his way while still providing a supportive role. This was much different than where I had just come from. As a session player those are the types of things I am good at so after the three months of rehearsal and we started playing shows things lightened up a bit. The real important thing was the dynamics which tended to be the hardest thing to get everyone in sync to.

AL: Now how did the Dire Straits Legacy project start out?

PP: This group was born out of a chance meeting really. I had not seen any of the other Dire Straits guys in about ten years or so. There was an idea for us to get together and play the Dire Straits music presented so we all met in Rome and at the start we weren’t really in to the idea. After a nice dinner and a few bottles of wine everyone loosened up to the idea. After that a small show was set up for us just outside of Rome. With very little rehearsal we showed up to a field filled with around ten thousand people waiting to hear us play. We realized then that there was a lot of life left in the Dire Straits band and the only person who was not there that should have been was Mark Knopfler. Most of the original Dire Straits personnel from the tour in 92’ came out for this show and had fun.

AL: With Mark not being involved in the project was there any trepidation on your part to do the project?

PP: Yes. We weren’t sure people were going to accept it without Mark. The surprising thing is it’s the music that shines through. Marks songs and arrangements are so good that people still love it and even after twenty five years of being away the shows go over great! The music is just so interesting that people really love it.

AL: Can you tell us about the current DSL line up?

PP: Steve Ferrone and I have known each other since the Eric Clapton days. He is such a great drummer and to have him involved in this is very cool. His history with Tom Petty speaks for itself. Trevor Horn is a guy who I have worked a lot with over the years and, one day I mentioned to him that we were going to be doing this tour. He said he was interested in being a part of it and jumped on board. It’s interesting to look at the resumes the guys in the band have. It’s just extreme! There so much material that we could pull from each of our careers. The other day we were playing “Owner of a lonely Heart” which Trevor wrote and produced for Yes. That’s a great song to listen to and play. It also gives a slight diversion from the Dire Straits stuff. We really wanted to explore everyone’s talent even if it was outside of Dire Straits. We plan to add a few other songs outside of the Dire Straits set as time goes on.

AL: It has been awhile since the group has been to the United States. Can you tell us about the upcoming shows here and possibly why you have been absent from the U.S. market?

PP: We like playing in the States however this project can be a bit hard to promote. We are playing the music of the Dire Straits however we are not the Dire Straits. We can’t legally use the name so it’s hard for us to explain to people what they are buying tickets to see. That’s really been our main issue. We have a showcase booked in Nashville for all the American promoters and it was basically brought us to the States. We are doing some other gigs because we want to play but everything sort of revolves around this showcase which we hope will generate gigs for 2019. By coming over to the States now in late 2018 we are hoping to get the foot hold we need to make a solid presence for next year.

AL: In 2017 DSL release “3 Chord Trick”. Are any of the songs from that album going to be featured in the set for this run of U.S. shows?

PP: We are going to play a few tracks from that album. We had a lot of fun recording that record. The idea was to record the old way where the band was all in one room and not use any modern equipment. It was a lot of fun and I think the album has a depth that you just don’t hear today. It is quite diverse. There are some Dire Straits moments in there as the nucleolus of the band (Alan Clark and myself) we were inspired by Mark’s music but we didn’t deliberately go out and try to produce a Dire Straits album. We like to think that “3 Chord Trick” is the next stage of our development rather than Dire Straits.

AL: Are there any other projects you are currently working on outside of the Dire Straits Legacy project?

PP: Alan and I have been working with Trevor on a project called “The 80’s Reinvented”. It’s a bunch of classic tracks from that era done in Trevor Horn’s signature style. That’s been a lot of fun! We have been working with a full orchestra and a lot of very special guest performers. Trevor being who he is able to call up just about anyone and ask them to be on his record and they more than likely will do it! It’s great fun.

For more info in Dire Straits Legacy visit www.dslegacy.com

 

A Light Divided Vocalist Jaycee Clark Talks About the Bands New Album “Choose Your Own Adventure”

Jaycee Clark is the vocalist for the Winston-Salem NC based rock band A Light Divided. The band is set to release a brand new album on October 5th titled “Choose Your Own Adventure”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Jaycee recently about the band, their new album and their latest single/video “Fear of Heights”.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some history on A Light Divided and how the band came together?

Jaycee Clark: About ten years ago I started the band with our drummer Adam Smith and a few other people who are no longer in the band. Adam and I have always had our eye on the prize and after a few years we found some other guys who had the same passion we have and who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the band to the next level. Staying out on the road and all that can be a lot to ask somebody so having a group of guys who are down for that just as much as I am is really awesome.

AL: The new album comes out Oct. 5. Can you give us some background on that?

JC: We have worked with producer Kile Odell on all of our releases. When we went in to start work on “Choose Your Own Adventure” things were a little bit different as we had some new members this time around. Things were much more collaborative between the five of us and it wasn’t just one person writing music and another writing lyrics. Everybody had their own say and influences reflected in the process which was great. Ultimately I think this record came out better because of all that. We bounced a lot of ideas off one another and if everyone thought it was cool we went with it. At the end of the day everyone was super stoked with what we had done.

AL: Aside from the collaboration aspect of this album was there anything else that happened differently this time around during the writing/recording process?

JC: I think this record is a lot different than our previous works. Prior to starting work on the record we were sort of feeling boxed in as to what A Light Divided was supposed to sound like. We decided to throw all of that out the window so that we could have a fresh start. We really took our time making something that all of us could be proud of.

AL: Can you tell us about the album’s title “Choose Your Own Adventure”?

JC: There was a little bit of nostalgia we wanted to capture from the book series we grew up reading. With those books you had decisions to make which resulted in different outcomes. I liked that sentiment and related it to real life. For me “Choose Your Own Adventure” means to not be afraid to just take life by the balls and go after the things that make you happy. Every song on this record is about making a choice from removing negative people in your life to stop fighting your inner self. We really took the ideas behind the book series and applied it to real life.

AL: You recently released a video for the song “Fear of Heights”. Can you tell us about that?

JC: It was really important for us to showcase our live performance and who we are as a band. We are very high energy basically all of the time. We love getting on stage and showing the emotion behind each of the songs. We also feel if we are not having fun on stage how will anyone else have fun? We wanted to showcase the type of band we are visually right off the bat. “Fear of Heights” is such an upbeat song that it was a no brainer for us to pick that song as our first single. It is a very guitar driven song with a super catchy chorus. The song gives me a very summer type vibe that makes me think of going to the beach and blasting songs with the windows down. “Fear of Heights” is perfect for that!

AL: Are there plans in place for the band to tour behind the albums release?

JC: We are going to be doing a south east run called the “Chapter 1” tour (laughs). We are very excited about this new album and want to hit the ground running once it is released. This first run is going to be just us headlining the shows as we felt it was important for us to go out alone to show who we are and then let things grow from there. This tour is going to be a game changer for us as before when we toured we could only go out for about ten days or so before we had to get back. With this upcoming run we are going to be out a bit longer and most of us will probably lose our jobs (laughs). We are choosing our own adventure on this run and it is do or die so we are going out there to really do this.

For more info on A Light Divided you can find them on facebook.com/alightdivided and check out the video for “A Fear of Heights” here.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post Red Carpet Interviews

Desiree Ahkavan’s new film, The Miseducation of Cameron Post hits theaters this week after both winning the Grand Jury prize for drama at Sundance Film Fest and screening at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The film, an adaptation of Emily Danforth’s 2012 novel, stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Cameron Post, a high school girl who is caught making out with another girl on prom night. Cameron is subsequently sent to a religious gay “conversion therapy” camp called God’s Promise by her conservative American family. From there, Ahkavan’s touching and honest film follows Cameron as she encounters her fellow campers coping with their sexualities and the camp counselors (Jennifer Ehle and John Gallagher Jr.) who may have their own inner reservations about the work that they do. It is a challenging film for its young stars that’s deftly led by Moretz with support from Sasha Lane, and Forrest Goodluck.
I got to speak with some of this talented cast at their Tribeca red carpet premiere about how they came to be in the film and the message believers in these controversial camps could take away from Cameron’s story.

Tony winner John Gallagher Jr. plays Reverend Rick, himself a former camper turned youth counselor who outwardly is a God’s Promise “success” story but clearly deals with suppressing his true emotions.

Lauren Damon: Your character has so much going on under the surface, how did you work on playing him?

John Gallagher Jr: Yeah! A lot of it was just trusting the script and trusting Desiree. You know it was a very complicated role who’s living right on the edge of something. And I just really looked to [Desiree] to kind of be the leader and to be my guide throughout all of it. And to just try and kind of tell the truth as we had deemed it fit for the film.

LD: What was the most difficult part of working on this?

JGJ: I think, you know living on that edge…of like really preaching something that, I think you start seeing throughout the film, that the character may or may not actually even believe. And that kind of crisis of faith, and that doubt and that second guessing. And really like the guilt that comes with that…I think he’s a guy that really is struggling to do what he believes is the right thing. And I think that his awakening in the film is that he doesn’t know what the right thing is.

LD: I watched this in an admittedly liberal NYC screening room and I think the reactions to a lot of what happens in the camp was that it was ridiculous, but both in the film, and in these real places, it’s really not…

JGJ: It’s not. There is no spin on it, that is their earnest belief. And as I can’t even fathom having that kind of opinion on matters of sexuality, that’s a very real thing. And people do have those exact kind of beliefs.

LD: What would you tell someone with these kinds of beliefs if you could speak to them?

JGJ: Gosh. I would tell them to watch this film and think it over a second time, you know?

Quinn Shephard plays the small but crucial role of Coley Taylor, the girlfriend who Moretz’s Cameron is caught with before she is sent for conversion.

LD: Your role isn’t big in terms of screentime, but it’s so pivotal to the film, how was it to know that going in?

Quinn Shephard: It was great! I was very happy to be a part of the film in any way possible. I keep saying, I just wanted to be a part of the movie because I really believed in it. I think it’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read and I wanted to be in it. And I’m excited that I got to play this role.

LD: As in actress in this film, if you could get a message to people who believe these camps are effective, what would it be?

QS: Oh man. I think it’s like…I mean, look–Some people I think have a lot of fears and they justify things like conversion camps out of fears. But I think that if you come at something from a place of love, it’s impossible to justify. I think if you’re really someone who feels love in your heart and you challenge yourself to love someone who’s gay and imagine…putting that person through that and telling them that they’re not okay, I think it’s impossible to justify. I think people get caught up in their rhetoric and they get up in religious justification. But when it’s human and it’s in front of you, it’s very hard to agree with, you know? And I think that if somebody sits through this movie who believes in it, they’ll change their mind.

LD: How did you go about preparing for the intimate scenes between Coley and Cameron?

QS: I read the book, I read about my character…I’m somebody who’s very comfortable with who I am and it was just about creating a place in myself where I was very happy for what was happening, but at the same time very ashamed of it. I think that’s who [COLEY] is, she’s that duality and that was a difficult place for me to go. It was a very sad place. But it was something that was very important to her. There was a fragility to the relationship because she is not okay with it yet. And then I think as far as the actual intimacy of the scene, we just went into it was a sense of humor. And Desiree was very accommodating and she made us very comfortable and we had fun.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post opens in New York on August 3rd and expands to LA and other cities on August 10th.

Nothing More Guitarist Mark Vollelunga Talks About the Bands Recent Single “Just Say When”.

Mark Vollelunga is the guitarist for the Texas based rock band Nothing More. The group’s latest single “Just Say When” (which is a bit of a departure from the bands heavier style) recently rose to number 16 on the Billboard Charts for main stream rock songs. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Mark recently about the release, the bands current tour with Five Finger Death Punch and the bands plans for the remainder of 2018.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on the band’s latest single “Just Say When”?

Mark Vollelunga: Personally I am really stoked and happy with how the song is doing. It is a bit of a different color for us. It’s nice to have something that is a little more bare bones and that is all about the lyrics and melody. The song really came about after having toured so much on our self titled release. Touring takes a strain on your personal life and it had started to cause some division for Johnny and myself. What I poured into the song was the idea of co-existing. Sometimes you use that spark or connection which can cause a point of staleness. It can be sad when you just co-exist with the love of your life. Not to be a complete dreamer and say that is completely realistic as we all go through dry spells. This song hits at that pinnacle point when you are not sure whether to hold on or let go.

AL: Was this song actually created while you were out on the road or was put together after you were back home and in the studio?

MV: It started when we were still on the road. I was listening to a lot more folk jam songs at the time and I came up with this start of the start and showed it to Johnny. We clicked on it right away and started putting melody to it pretty quickly. After that the song sat for awhile until we were jamming together one day. After that we finished it to the point of what you almost here now. When we were done we weren’t sure if the song really fit with the rest of what we had put together and it almost didn’t make the record. The song emotionally fit but sonically we just didn’t know if it was in the same vein. At the eleventh hour we thought it would be cool and different to include it and I am so glad we did.

AL: Being that this track was much different from your other material did you approach the initial writing process any differently?

MV: Writing for me is different every time. If I have a guitar part or lyric thing happening or Johnny has a wacky programming idea or interesting spiritual thought it all just depends. Other times it comes out us all sitting and jamming together. We try not to limit ourselves in any way. I think if you go through the same process every time things can get stale. Even though we are approaching the same thing we try to come at it from different angles in hopes of inspiring something neat and unique.

AL: At what point was the decision made to release this song as a single?

MV: Generally you try and go with a more emotional song on your second or third single. This song really appealed to everyone and the feedback we got from people was great. I think a lot of people have been at the point that the song talks about and they can relate to it.

AL: There is also a video for the song as well. Can you tell us a little about that?

MV: We got to do something different once again with this as well so it’s been another great experience. My wife recently got me interested in to contemporary/lyrical dance. She loves a lot of the dance shows which are on television right now. At first I thought they were kind of cheesy and I didn’t really get them but the more I watched them I learned to appreciate them. What I like is when the choreography matches with the emotion and mood of the song. That’s kind of what we tried to do with “Just Say When”. We some professional dancers come in and we made this great piece which is sort of out of our genre but we try to tie everything in through our lyrics. The others guys may have been a bit skeptical at first but after showing them some pieces that moved me and were very compelling they became interested in the whole thing.

AL: Can you tell us about the tour that the band is currently apart of?

MV: We are coming off of doing three festival shows with a bunch of different bands. We got to play with Stone Temple Pilots headlining one and Incubus headlining another. I hadn’t seen Stone Temple Pilots with their new singer yet and being able to do that was really cool. It was a trip down memory lane for sure. Currently we are out on the road with Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch. We have toured with both of these groups before and they are seasoned bands that have a lot of wise words they can pass on to us. We definitely try to be sponges when it comes to stuff like that. We will be going all over the United States from now until September. After that we will be doing this great self help festival that A Day to Remember puts on in Detroit. After that we go back to Europe for a run with Of Mice and Men and Bullet For My Valentine. To end the year we will be touring Canada with Three Days Grace. All these tours are going to a lot of fun.

AL: What is it like being able to play with such a diverse group of bands on all these different tours?

MV: It’s awesome! I love that we can cater to our audience. If you are a metal fan, a rock fan or just an alternative pop person I feel there is a lot in our music that touches on all of those genres and it can be appreciated. At the end of the day a good song is a good song. I feel our society puts too much importance on the style of songs and where it needs to be lumped into. If you think about bands like The Beatles and Led Zeppelin who had so many different genres of music within their own sound I am proud that we can do that as well.

AL: Was it difficult for you starting out being that you were trying to be very diverse?

MV: Absolutely! It was difficult. In 2011 I think we had our first label interest. We did some showcases and I remember hearing back from one label on my birthday that we weren’t left of center enough. We were just too much in the middle of the road for some people. To us it’s always been if the song is good then that’s what we go with. It has been hard to gain belief and understanding at times from the music industry because of that. Put us in front of any crowd though and we will win people over.

For more info on Nothing More visit www.nothingmore.net

An Interview with Music Legend Peter Asher

 

If I mention the name Peter Asher I’m going to guess that the first thing that comes to mind is his musical career as half of the popular 1960s British duo Peter and Gordon.  Teamed up with schoolmate Gordon Waller, Mr. Asher, who already had success as a child actor, placed 10 songs in the US TOP 40, including the #1 hit “World Without Love.”  Other hits include “I Go to Pieces,” “True Love Ways” and “Lady Godiva.”

Mr. Asher’s sister Jane, also an actress, had a boyfriend who was also a musician and even wrote “World Without Love” for Peter and Gordon to record.  His name was Paul McCartney and for a time Macca lived with the Ashers, sharing the second floor with Peter.

Peter Asher (r) and Gordon Waller

When Peter and Godon stopped recording in 1968, Mr. Asher became the head of A&R for the Beatles‘ record label, Apple.    It was here that he signed an unknown singer/songwriter named James Taylor, also agreeing to produce his first album.  Though the album was not a success, Mr. Asher believed in Taylor’s abilities so much that he quit his gig at Apple and moved to the United States, where he became Taylor’s manager.   For 15 years he would produce Taylor’s albums, including “Sweet Baby James,” “Mudslide Slim and the Blue Horizon” and “JT,” the latter helping him win the Producer of the Year Grammy Award in 1977.

In the early 1970s he took another young singer under his wing;  Linda Ronstadt, who would go on to sell over 30 million albums in her career.  While managing both Taylor and Ronstadt, Mr. Asher also produced classic albums for artists like Cher (“Cher,” ” Heart of the Stone”), Neil Diamond (“Lovescape,” “Up on the Roof: Songs from the Brill Building”) and soundtracks for such films as “The Land Before Time,” “The Mambo Kings” and “Armageddon.”  He also won two more Grammy Awards.  One was for Producer of the Year for Ronstadt’s “Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind” album in 1989.  He also took home the award for producing the Best Comedy Album of 2002 – “Robin Williams: LIVE.”

These days you can catch Mr. Asher on Sirius Radio’s Beatle Channel, where he hosts a weekly show called “From Me to You.,” where he spins some of his favorite records (from the Fab Four and others) and shares some amazing stories from his almost six decade career in music.

I recently had the great honor of speaking with Mr. Asher about his career.

Mike Smith:  Most music fans remember you as half of the popular duo Peter and Gordon…

Peter Asher:  The old ones do. (laughs)

MS:  How did you two get together?

PA:  We met in school.  We both played the guitar together and sang.  Gordon was more of a rock and roll fan and I was more of a folkie.  I was singing Woody Guthrie songs while he was singing Eddie Cochran songs.  So we tried singing together to see what it sounded like.  It coincided that we were both huge fans of the Everly Brothers.  They were our original idols and that’s who we were trying to sound like.

MS:  You were an early champion of artists like James Taylor and Linda Rondstadt.  How do you know, as a producer, when you’ve found that rare talent?

PA:  I think you just do.  I mean, when I first heard James, everything about him was remarkable.  He had great songs, he was a terrific guitar player with a unique style all his own.  He combined a sort of folk style of guitar playing with some jazz chords.  An amazing combination.  And he was a great singer.  And the songs he sang to me, the ones he wrote, were just amazing.  I don’t know HOW you know.  You just kind of do.  It’s the same now.  When I hear somebody brand new.  I think it’s just an instinctive thing.  When they’re original and great and a pleasure to listen to.  “Who’s this?  What’s that?”  It’s great.

MS:  Some great music trivia is that both James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt appear on Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.”  Did you have a hand in that?

PA:  i know Neil Young and I’m friends with his manager but I think that was just Neil asking James and Linda to come and sing.  They all knew each other.  I think James also played banjo on one cut.  (he did).

MS:  One thing I always took notice of growing up in the 70s is that the majority of Linda Ronstadt’s hits were covers of previous hit songs.  “That’ll Be the Day.”  “Blue Bayou.”  “Heatwave.”  Was that something that was intentional?

PA:  As a producer we look for great songs everywhere, and that includes songs that other people had done before as well as brand new songs.  And we did some of each.  But, yes, quite a few of them became cover versions.  People seemed to like them and they became hits.  We didn’t shy away from a song just because someone had already done it.  But basically we would look at all songs equally.  And if we found an amazing song that was brand new, something like “Heart Like a Wheel,” or a favorite song from out past, like a Buddy Holly song, we did it.  We look everywhere for great songs, old and new.

Mr. Asher still performs today.

MS:  You’ve also produced a few film soundtracks.  Are they easier to produce as opposed to a musical group’s album?

PA:  It’s very different.  I’ve produced some tracks for a soundtrack that Hans Zimmer has been working on.  Working with Hans is a particular pleasure because he’s brilliant.  But it’s very different then making a song with an artist.  In Hans’ case sometimes it’s a song that I will fit into a soundtrack.  I will work with Hans.  One time he was recording 12 drummers all at the same time.  I was there to just help the session go smoothly and that Hans got what he needed.  But you can’t guarantee which sessions (a soundtrack or a musical group) are going to be easy or hard.

MS:  You’re now hosting your own show on the Beatles channel.  As someone that has been in the business for as long as you have, can you explain their continual appeal?

PA:  Not in any way that adds anything new to the equation.  They’re just better than any other band, before or since.  That’s why.  It’s pathetically simple, I know.  But their songs are amazing.  Their singing is amazing.  Their playing is amazing.  What they came up with as a group was greater than the sum of its parts.  The answer to your question lies in listening to it.  If you listen you know not to turn away from that channel because you know the next song is going to be another song that you love.

MS:  You often mention on your show that you used to share the 2nd floor of your parent’s home with Paul McCartney.  Any housekeeping secrets you can share?  Did he make his bed every morning?

PA:  (laughing)  I don’t really remember.  Sadly, I have no intimate domestic details.

 

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“Cargo” Creators Discuss Their Australian Zombie Drama

The Australian-based zombie drama Cargo was released on cinemas down under this month and is currently streaming internationally on Netflix. It follows Andy (Martin Freeman, read his interview here) a father facing down a viral plague outbreak and journeying across the Australian wild to get his baby somewhere safe. Along the way he encounters both natural and human foes and joins forces with Thoomi (Simone Landers), a young indigenous girl who saw her own father taken by the virus. The film was based on a short that debuted at Australia’s Tropfest in 2013. I sat down with directors Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke as well as producer Kristina Ceyton (The Babadook) to discuss expanding their unique zombie take to a feature.

Lauren Damon: What made you approach a zombie film from this father-daughter angle?

Yolanda Ramke: I guess, I mean for us that really was sort of the heart of the short film— was this relationship between the father and the child. And I think we felt like with the response that the short got that that was the theme, like the vibe that was really resonating with people. So we knew that that was something that we wanted to hold on to in sort of a longer form story. And then it was just a case of you know, fleshing that out. And how do you expand that from a seven minute thing to a hundred minute thing? And then also yeah, how do you bring something kind of that you feel might at least have some element of freshness to it within that genre. For us, it was going Aussie and thinking about our culture.

LD: With such a populated genre, you know, “The Walking Dead” would have already been on a couple seasons when you made the short—do you watch other content out there or try to avoid it?

Ramke: Well I think when the short kind of came out, it was maybe the “Walking Dead” was in season 2?

Ben Howling: End of season two.

Ramke: So it was still sort of like at its zenith and it was—but yeah, we were keeping tabs definitely. I think it’s good to know what other projects are doing and just to make sure that you’re conscious of that. And pushing away from it where you can.

LD: Do any of you have small children that influenced this story at all?

Ramke: We don’t, no.
Howling:No. We have fathers though!
Ramke: We have parents!

LD: Parents who would combat zombies for you?

Ramke: [laughing] Yeah, exactly. That’s it. I think they would.

Kristina Ceyton: ‘Dad, can you carry me on your back?’
Howling: We’ve actually both got fathers who are kind of like engineers, mechanic engineer types, so I guess that kind—the ingenuity of that, we’d be fine—
Ramke: Yeah, I think we both think they probably could do something like that.

Cargo Directors Ben Howling, Yolanda Ramke and producer, Kristina Ceyton

LD: Kristina, you also produced The Bababook which had that heavy mother-son theme front and center, was this project like a funny coincidence to go to a father-daughter?

Ceyton: It is. It’s funny, like initially I didn’t make that connection at all on that level because I just gravitated to the story and you know, was really moved by it. I think it is a genre movie that is surprisingly emotional and has a lot of deep layers about exactly the, you know, parent to child dynamic…but yeah, I suppose there’s parallels, but it’s a very different beast in this instance. I think it’s a lot less psychological and this is about survival and about transcending death. And I think what you would do, you know, the length you would go to to sacrifice yourself for love and family and also community on a more broader level. Yeah. I think it’s those things that really resonated.

LD: When expanding from short to feature, what was the decision making process like on how much more to reveal about the nature of this virus? Because the short was obviously very sparse on details.

Ramke: I think we were really interested in the idea of just throwing the audience in the middle of it. And just personally because we love films that do that. And that make the audience work a little bit to kind of put things together. And I think we just also felt within this genres, we’ve seen a lot of stories that were about finding the cure or that sort of thing and we just thought, ‘well that’s been done really well by other films.’ It just didn’t interest us to go there. I think we just thought, how can we carefully deal out bread crumbs and details for people to put the world together and work out what’s going on. And then just let them go on this journey with this father and this baby and this indigenous girl.

LD: Yeah, that indigenous element is very unique to this film, did you outreach to people in those communities to get their perspective?

Howling: Yeah, in script development, we brought a script consultant on, Jon Bell—who is an indigenous writer from back home and he was able to kind of walk us through. We had some ideas which we’d researched but then we’d discuss with him—‘is this feasible? Is this practical?’ Indigenous culture is very sensitive back home because you could never make a blanket statement like ‘everyone would behave like this.’ There’s all these micro-communities that have these different cultures and values and practices. So he was able to help us navigate those waters in terms of what would be the appropriate response. And then on top of that, just with his own experience. Talking about ways that you can use indigenous hunting techniques and things like that.

Ramke: And then from there, once we knew where we were shooting, which was South Australia, it was a case of conversing with local elders in those communities as well. Just to make sure that we were sort of tailoring things to that region. And giving them the script and making sure that they were comfortable with what was happening. Seeking formal permission to use language in the film. And just trying to basically approach it as respectfully as possible.

LD: How did you go about casting Thoomi?

Ramke: She was a find. Our casting director Nikki Barrett had put a call out. So that had gone to a load of very regional communities across Australia and we had kids filming themselves on their phones, having their parents like read the lines off camera in these very monotone voices. It was just super cute. And yeah, we got down to four girls who we did sort of a workshop with and we just felt like Simone from day one was sort of the standout. And yeah, she really killed it.

LD: How did you get in touch for casting Martin Freeman? Had he seen the short?

Ceyton: No he didn’t so we approached his agent. It was just basically the traditional way of approaching his agent and the initial response was ‘I don’t think that Martin likes genre films’ [laughs] But luckily he read the script and really loved it and fell in love also with the story of this dual kind of father-daughter relationship and survival. And I think for him, it was never really a ‘genre film.’ So luckily he was available at that time and just all the pieces fell into place.

LD: Did his casting change anything within the film seeing as he is basically THE whole film?

Ramke: It would have been just very small things. I think at the point that he had come on we were in the process of doing another draft anyway. So just subconsciously as a writer once you know who the actor is going to be and you’re familiar with their work, you can kind of hear their voice a little bit. So when you’re writing dialogue, there’s an element of writing it with that person in mind. But I think also once we knew that we were going to be casting a British actor, which is something we had hoped to do from quite an early on—that also informs some of the more thematic threads of the story, in terms of Australia’s colonial history. And that just absolutely put more meat on the bones I guess.

LD: Can you talk more about Australia’s past in terms of this story?

Ramke: Absolutely. Just in terms of Australia obviously being, a long way back, colonized by the British and there were a lot of ramifications that kind of linger. In terms of social issues and Australia has some work to do, I think, in terms of acknowledging that past. And you know, it hasn’t been handled in a way that some other nations like, I believe, Canada and New Zealand, where there are treaties with their indigenous people. It’s all been quite overlooked. So I think there is still a lot of collective pain that exists in indigenous Australia. And we just didn’t want to ignore that, I suppose. But we also didn’t want to get too preachy about it either. So it was something we could just let sit in the story, just by nature of being English and coming into contact with this indigenous—

LD: And him requiring their assistance.

Ramke: That’s right. That’s sort of like the reversal of the sort of historical context, I guess in a way.

LD: How did you go about developing the other Australians in the film? The human villains, who weren’t present in the short.

Howling: I think in early drafts we just explored a variety of like different antagonists. And then we just kind of blended them together into one kind of more fleshed-out three dimensional kind of person…It was nice to have somebody as a bit of a contrast to the indigenous response which was to go back to the land and traditional ways. And this is somebody who is very attached to western living and can’t let go of it. So it was just in terms of creating that, that split between the two of them and learning his motivation and fleshing it out from there.

LD: When you make a zombie-apocalypse film like this, do you find yourself considering what you would do in this worst-case scenario?

Ramke: Ohhhh…have you ever thought about what you’d actually do?
[laughter]
Howling: That makes you cocky…
Ramke: No, but I think ultimately it would always come back to family though. It would always be about ‘Are my family safe? How do I re-connect with my family?’ and make sure that we’re together if this was to go down.
Howling: But what if they’re already infected??
Ramke: [Gasps] Oh! Well I just can’t even deal with that idea, that would be heartbreaking.

LD: Your zombies are unique in that they’ve got a different design, this orange slime rather than regular blood and gore, what was the thought behind that?

Ramke: Yeah, we didn’t want to do the gory bloody thing. And I think that that just came from this approach that we tried to take to the whole film which was to just to try and keep it as sort of grounded as we could. And as subtle as we could. And that idea of that design aesthetic coming out of the natural environment. The idea that this sort of toxicity in the environment and that it sort of literally affecting the land and that is spreading to the people. So the influence for that was like tree sap was like a visual reference. That more organic kind of reference.

LD: Are you excited that this film with be hitting the Netflix audience?

Ramke: Yeah we are!

LD: Are you guys the Netflix binge-watch types, do you have favorites?

Howling: Yeah, definitely.
Ramke: I loved “The OA”. “The OA”, “Stranger Things”, I feel like there’s some other really great shows that I’m completely neglecting!
Howling: There’s really not much that I don’t binge on.
Ramke: Yeah, you’re a really good binge-er.
Howling: “Dark”, “Requiem”.
Ramke: “Requiem’s” cool, yeah.
Howling: Just recently, actually just the other day I smashed out “Lost in Space.”

LD: Do you have personal favorite zombie or horror films?

Ramke: Shaun of the Dead is my favorite zombie film, actually. But I think in terms of reference points for this film, oh my goodness, we were looking at more sci-fi stuff. So like Children of Men, District 9 and I guess The Road as well is sort of comparable.

Howling: And also Frank Darabont’s “The Walking Dead” season one was out. That’s what really kind of like ignited us back into the zombie thing…he only did season one. That was like a six-part, it’s very different to the rest.

You can watch Cargo now on Netflix.

 

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Motograter Vocalist James Anthony Legion Talks About the Bands New Video For the Song”Daggers”

The heavy metal band Motograter are currently out on the road in support of their most recent release “Desolation” which was released early in 2017 and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with the bands singer James Anthony Legion about the tour, the bands current lineup and their most recent video for the track “Daggers”.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info the bands current tour and if you will be hitting new areas this time out?

James Anthony Legion: This is a short two week run that we set up to help break in some of our newer members. We will be hitting places like Seattle, Fresno, and Hollywood at the Viper Room which is place we really enjoy playing at. I don’t think we are hitting any new places this time around.

AL: Can you tell us about the bands new line up?

JAL: We have Aeon Cruz playing bass. She is the first ever female member of Motograter. Nuke had met her in Los Angeles and she is a really good bass player with a great look so we brought her in to the fold. We have never had a female in the band before and most of the time we are shirtless covered in body paint. Bringing a female into that situation obviously posed some issues (Laughs). We were able to figure something out and it looks really cool. We have also added Ryan Ramirez on drums. He is just a super sick player!

AL: With this being just a short run what are the bands plans after this leg wraps up?

JAL: We are trying to get a new album put together. In the mean time we are going out and doing a couple short tour runs here and there. We have another one set up with the guys from Terror Universal. That one will start after a festival show we have booked with Mushroomhead. We have a few other things in the works however we can’t announce those just yet.

AL: You just released a video for the song “Daggers” can you tell us about that?

JAL: That song is a real favorite of mine and one that I very much believe in. I think it has a great hook and the lyrics will speak to a lot of people. We are hoping this song will makes its way on to the radio much like “Dorian” did. We want to push this song the same way. It felt good having a song on the charts next to ones from bands like Korn and Stone Sour. With the look of the video we had ideas but Matt the director was really the guy behind that. We shot some stuff that in the end didn’t fit and we kept things to a pure performance type of video.

AL: Do you find it hard selecting one song to stand out above others you have a close relationship to?

JAL: For me it has a lot to do with the meaning behind the song and whether or not it strikes a chord with me. When I am writing I try to think about what is really on my mind and what is important. I try and transfer that to my lyrics. I feel if you are writing lyrics that mean something to you then chances are people will pick up on that and in turn they will mean something to them as well. If I feel I did a really good job getting my thoughts across and things are resonating then that’s a track that’s going to stand out.

AL: Where is the band currently in relation to the release of a new album?

JAL: We work in sort of a unique way. I am based in North Carolina while the majority of the band is in California. With me being a vocalist it’s a little easier for me as I don’t have to necessarily be there jamming on instruments. Nuke generally comes up with song ideas and then will send things over to me to add my stuff. He will then send something that is a little more finished and that’s when I add vocals. We have started working a little bit on things already but in between these two tours is when we plan to really start going.

For more info on Motograter you can visit their official website here.

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Sumo Cyco’s Skye “Sever” Sweetnam Talks About the Bands Current Tour and Plans For A New Album.

The Canadian hard rock group Sumo Cyco first burst onto the scene in 2011 with their debut release “Lost in Cyco City”. A short time later the band released their second full length “Opus Mar” and have been out on the road in support of that ever since. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with the groups lead singer Skye “Sever” Sweetnam about the group’s formation, her transition from pop to rock music and, the bands current tour with Nonpoint and The Butcher Babies

Adam Lawton: Can you give us a little background on the band an how you all came together?

Skye Sweetnam: Sumo Cyco is a four piece band based out of Hamilton, Ontario. I first met Matt who plays guitar in the band when I was fourteen. I was auditioning guitarists for my solo project and we started working together through that and from there we decided to start Sumo Cyco.

AL: Having come from a successful pop career what was that interested you about doing Sumo Cyco which is very much a rock orientated project?

SS: Matt was a big influence on that as he is always giving all sort of different music to check out. When I was younger I had the chance of being the opening act for Britney Spears and after getting off stage all my band mates would be blasting music like Metallica and Pantera. I soaked all that in and when changes started happening with my pop career and as I transitioned from a teenager to a young woman I felt I wanted to try something a little bit different. I really enjoyed working with Matt and felt like this type of project would be a good collaboration for us. From the outside it might look like a really drastic change but during my career as I pop singer I actually got to work with people like Tim Armstrong from Rancid, Mark Hoppus from Blink 182 and a bunch of other great people. For me it was more of a natural progression as I always loved rock and heavy music.

AL: The band has an impressive YouTube following and is putting out some very high quality pieces independently. Can you tell us about your process for that?

SS: I grew up watch B and C movies and it was always a goal to try and find the weirdest movie you could from one of those truck stop bargain bins. (Laughs) I have always loved film and the idea of being able to make a piece that went along with our music without be told from an outsider of how it should look or be. I love being able to come up with these ideas and add something visual to our music. I enjoy turning the music and videos into just one big project. This is another passion of our and we are self taught when it comes to all of it. We knew we could save a lot of money by doing things ourselves and with so much content being released each day this is a fun way for us to attract new fans.

AL: Is this something you see yourself doing more of?

SS: For sure! There have been talks of one day doing a film and there are just so many projects I want to do but right now the band is taking precedence. We have a lot of great opportunities and we are going with the flow of that. We will be expanding things as time go on.

AL: Can you tell us about the bands current tour with The Butcher Babies and Nonpoint?

SS: We first met the Butchers in the UK when we toured with them over there about two years ago. The same thing goes for how we first met Nonpoint. When our name came up for the tour they knew who we were and what we could bring. The tour has been great so far and a lot of fun so far and we still have a bunch of shows left as the tour runs through mid June.

AL: What are the bands plans after this tour wraps up?

SS: We have been working our album “Opus Mar” for about a year and a half now so we are looking to head back in to the studio to record some new material. We did release a single at the beginning of the year titled “Undefeated” but we are getting hungry to back in the studio and record some new material. We are always coming up with new ideas so I think that is our next step. We just started working with a new management and are putting together a lot of new stuff for the upcoming year.

For more info on Sumo Cyco you can visit their Official Facebook page here

 

Martin Freeman on Carrying Netflix’s CARGO

Martin Freeman was last seen on screen this year providing comic support to Wakandans in the blockbuster Marvel smash, Black Panther but this Friday on Netflix, he jumps to the forefront of a very different sci-fi landscape in Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke’s Cargo. This fantastic zombie plague story sees Freeman playing Andy, the father of adorable baby Rosie, who is unfortunately bitten by zombies and is racing against the clock to carry Rosie to safety across the Australian outback.

Cargo made its stateside premiere last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, after which I got to speak with Martin by phone about working in the horror genre, and of course what tech he’d like to lift from Shuri’s lab!

Lauren Damon: Before the Tribeca premiere had you seen the film?

Martin Freeman: I had, yeah. But only a long time ago on a laptop.

LD: I imagine it was more effective with other people around…

MF: [laughs] Yeah, it went down very well actually, yeah. It was very well received. It was late and people need not hang around for questions but they did. I think it seemed very positive, yeah.

LD: With the film going to Netflix next, are you excited? Are you a big Netflix user yourself?

MF: I am a frequent Netflix user, yes, very much so. I think when you make a film initially, you always envision it having a theatrical release. But maybe generations now don’t envision that. But my generation envisions a theatrical release and it’s gets that in Australia. The rest of [the world] is on Netfilx, that platform, and you think ‘ok, well fair enough.’ But then you actually think it’s more than fair enough because way more people are going to see it on Netflix eventually than would do in a theatrical setting. Just the accessibility of it, the ease with which you could see the amount of things you could see, yeah, I’m more than happy about it.

LD: With Cargo filming mainly being outdoors and with your character carrying the baby everywhere, what was the hardest part about shooting?

MF: Probably just getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. That was pretty challenging. Holding babies on my back was kind of alright. Sort of felt like free gym work, really.

LD: So you lost weight by shooting the film?

MF: I probably did. I probably did. I ate sort of reasonably healthily…but yeah I was constantly carrying a backpack.

LD: I assume there were multiple babies to rotate through?

MF: Yeah, two sets of twins. One pair of twins turned out, quite quickly, to be the more amenable pair. And the other pair was used more for in sort of wide shots.

LD: When you’re acting in an apocalyptic film or a zombie film, do you start thinking about the choices your character is making and whether you’d agree with Andy?

MF: Yeah, I think he did everything he could really. Part of what makes it relatable for me is that his actions seem very human.

LD: Do you think about if a zombie plague broke out what you—as Martin—would do?

MF: I haven’t thought about that a lot, no. No, not a lot. I don’t really fear zombies…but when the shit really hits the fan, whatever form that’s gonna come in…No, I guess like everybody else I’d panic [laughs]. Most people just hole up…

LD: Meanwhile, you’ve also just appeared in Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories. If you don’t fear zombies, what about ghosts and the supernatural?

MF: Not really. I mean I kind of…I’m open to belief in the supernatural if it can’t be empirically disproved or proved. But no, I haven’t ever seen a ghost. I’ve had, you know, the occasional spooky night. Once you hear something that goes bump or bang and you start making up your own narrative for it. And I’ve been rooted to the spot a few times on my stairs thinking ‘is that a ghost or is it a burglar?’ And fortunately it was neither.

LD: Do you have any favorite horror films or ghost stories?

MF: I don’t know if they count it as horror…The first one I saw as a young child was Psycho. So that was when I was about seven and that was—it really affected me a lot. That first experienced of being very very frightened.

LD: In some sequences of Ghost Stories you get to play sinister, which I’m not used to seeing you in that way, was it fun to go there?

MF: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I loved it. It’s just always nice to lean into another part of your personality and be able to perform in a different way. Because I think as the film goes on and what I’m doing goes on, it was allowed to get a little more heightened and theatrical. You don’t always, in front of the camera, get the license to be that theatrical and that slightly camp. Your job in front of the camera is usually to be very real and not do any acting at all. Or at least that’s the job I give myself. But to do something a little bit more arch—you know, he becomes a function of the story then, as opposed to a three dimensional character. He becomes the function of the story to do something to Professor Goodman he has to have an effect on [him]. And I really enjoyed, yeah, just having to fuck with Andy Nyman. That was really good fun, yeah.

LD: Between Ghost Stories and Cargo, you undergo some pretty heavy makeup prosthetics, is that fun to get more into it? Or something more challenging?

MF: It is a bit of both, really. It is fun, because I’ve not done loads of it so it’s still—it doesn’t feel too much like the day job for me. It isn’t boring yet to do prosthetics. But yeah, the challenges are just the time it takes and the relative discomfort of it. Just there is a layer between you and the outside world that you’re not used to. There’s a layer between you and the other actors that you’re not used to. I guess with Cargo it was meant to be uncomfortable. And as I say, where we were filming at that time was quite hot…

LD: Yeah and then I imagine being under a bunch of zombie makeup in the hot sun…

MF: Yeah, just getting eaten by mosquitoes and I didn’t get on very well with the contact lenses. I didn’t get on very well with those [laughs]

LD: It looked good!

MF: Good. Yeah, then it’s for a good cause.

LD: Between Cargo and Ghost Stories, which order did you shoot them in? Was it close together?

MF: They were quite close together actually. Yeah, I shot Cargo first and then about a month later I shot Ghost Stories. The month after I came back from Australia, I went up to northern England and shot Ghost Stories.

LD: So you were in like horror genre mode.

MF: Kind of yeah, it sort of worked out like that. And of course it, you know, as far as the actor’s concerned, that’s never The Plan. Because you very rarely have any plan at all other than, you know, be able to pay the rent. It’s just what comes to you that you respond to for whatever reason and I’ve got pretty poor taste in what I like—what I like as a viewer. And what I like doing as an artist….I guess there’s more genre around now than there was twenty years ago. There’s more genre around now. And I’m still from the old school of ‘hey it’s the story’. It has be as story that I like. That I would like to participate in totally regardless of genre. I never give a single second thought to genre.

LD: Speaking of being able to pay the rent—congratulations on being in Black Panther, only the highest US grossing movie ever right now, that’s pretty exciting!

MF: Yeah. Yeah, very exciting.

LD: I am just a giant Marvel nerd, so I’m also wondering, if you could have any of the tech from Shuri’s lab in real life, what would you pick?

MF: Hmmm. Well…anything involving the black sand so it could move around and make shit. If you can picture it, if you can envision it, then the black sand would make it to be like that, that would be very helpful.

LD: What would you use it for?

MF: I’m not sure. Probably just furniture. I like the idea of that. Furniture and shoes.

LD: Just have a nice chair to sit on when you need it…

MF: Yeah, exactly. [laughs] A very nice chair.

Cargo starts streaming on Netflix on Friday May 18th

Black Panther was just released on digital and blu-ray

The Damned’s Pinch talks about the bands latest release “Evil Spirits”

The Damned, easily the greatest surviving British punk band, bar none – are back with their first new album in a decade titled “Evil Spirits”. Where their peers either burnt out, or faded away into mediocrity The Damned continue to fire on all cylinders and breaking all the rules along the way. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Pinch (Damned Drummer since 1999) about the new album, the bands recent video for “Look Left” and about the bands upcoming touring plans.

Adam Lawton: With a 10 year lapse between albums, what prompted the idea/creation to go ahead with a brand new full length release?

Pinch: It was the Pledge campaign, which after launch, was so successful we could see there was the demand for a new record that we all knew was there. To see that demand become real was very satisfying and we have to heartily thank our incredible fans for that. After our last (self funded) record, we knew we had to have Dave V fully on board with this one and he stepped up admirably, committing both musically and promotionally, whereas previously he had seemed somewhat reticent to launch himself fully into the project. The record really needed Dave’s touch and I’m happy that he dusted off the cobwebs and got songwriting again. His tunes and vision really drive “Evil Spirits” nicely and I think the mix of song styles by all contributing writers underlines the Damned’s ability to pleasantly surprise both fans and new listeners.

AL: How did the writing process go for “Evil Spirits”? Do you work separately from one another or collectively?

Pinch: It was a funny chess game leading up to this album. Captain seemed to be holding back his contributions, encouraging Dave to feel he had the freedom to create whatever took his fancy. It seemed at one point that everyone was too scared to offer up demos for fear of the wrong direction being taken. Thankfully, when push came to shove and we had a producer and studio time locked down, the songs were popping into the dropbox thick and fast. We ended up with at least a couple of records worth of songs from all writers, and it was decided to let someone else choose the final songs for “Evil Spirits”. I think the record works really well as a collection and perhaps some of the songs that didn’t make it would sound great together too, but as a band, sometimes you are too close to the art to make that call clearly. Captain likes to deliver fully finished demos, very well produced I may add, whereas the rest of us offer up a mostly completed song that benefits from all members adding their personalities. Sitting in a room together with a blank notepad is not the way any of us work best, as the years of pharmaceutical inspiration are thankfully long gone. However, working under the gun, with deadlines looming, seems to drag out inspiration by the bucket full.

AL: You recently released a video for “Look Left”, can you tell us about the story behind that and what made you choose that song for a video treatment?

Pinch: I had the bones of that song kicking around for a few years, hoping that it would eventually develop into something The Damned could use. The phrase- “while everybody’s looking left, what the hell is happening right?” seemed to really sum up where I could see the programming of humanity taking us. Whilst we are being distracted by some nonsensical celebrity twaddle, there would be a vote on a crucially important social issue that would sneak its way into law. Today’s media really have fine tuned the craft of distraction to the point of perfection. When perfectly true, well researched articles are labeled fake news to fit nefarious agendas, AND everybody swallows it, where does that leave the truth? Other than being just another opinion. Ultimately, whose opinion is right and whose is wrong are things we all currently have the liberty to discuss, but with increasing media censorship, I fear for our future ability to make any kind of disagreeable statement without some kind of social punishment. It was the label that chose “Look Left” as a single to have a video, and I really had to leave the interpretation to the video director, as these guys don’t like you stepping on their visions. Also, it was nice to see someone else’s take on my lyrics and sentiment. Ultimately, Radio declined to get on board with the song, stating some kind of half baked excuse about it not fitting the listenership they were “moving toward”. If the most commercial, hooky single the Damned have ever released can’t make a daytime radio playlist, with the album sitting at number 7 in the charts, you have to wonder if that age old Damned phobia hasn’t simply moved through the decades of radio producers and makes me ultimately think- Why Bother? Let’s just go back to the biff boom crash that the band are known for and screw any notion of radio success. Sad really but it’s an unfortunate reality.

AL: The band has a number of live performances booked starting in May. Can you tell us about the upcoming UK run, the few stops you have scheduled in the States and your plans for the remainder of the 2018 tour season?

Pinch: Due to the recording of the album being pushed back, we were kind of scrambling to lock in a good live touring plan. Only WE could release a record with ZERO live dates either side of release but, that is where we find ourselves. We head off to Europe next week starting in Germany and ending in France, by way of Switzerland, Italy and Holland. A short Arena tour of the UK with Hollywood Vampires is set for June, where Mr. Vanain and Mr. Depp can compare hair style notes and the benefits of a fine snifter no doubt. Then another short Pacific North West and Canada run in early July, including Burger Boogaloo in Oakland, which we are all excited to play. It sounds like a whacky thing that we would all enjoy, AND I get to see Devo the night before which is never a bad thing. October sees us embarking on another coast to coast U.S run, starting in Boston and ending in San Diego, before coming back to the UK for our traditional winter tour to wrap up the year. Hopefully we will debut some more songs from “Evil Spirits” at some point on these dates, it’s always good to see how they translate live.

AL: Each of you tends to have a number of projects going on at one time. Can you tell us about some of those and where we can keep up to date with everything?

Pinch: Not sure what the other guys have going on at the moment, but when I am not touring, I work a production gig in the United States that sees me working with a mind bending array of legendary artists that constantly makes me chuckle. Did I ever think I would be attending to the needs of Mr. Englebert Humperdinck when I was living in a punk squat in Grantham all those years ago? Well, anything can happen with an open mind, and often does. Think! It’s not illegal …..YET.

For more info on The Damned you can visit www.officialdamned.com

Interview with SUPERCON director Zak Knutson

 

Fans of Kevin Smith’s View Askew Universe may be quite familiar with Zak Knutson.  The co-writer and director of the new comedy “Supercon” worked for a decade for Smith, often producing and directing Smith’s independent video projects.  To honor his friend, he named Seth Rogen’s character “Zack” in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”  And his face will be familiar to anyone that saw “Clerks II.”  He was “the Sexy Stud,” the purveyor of “Inter-species Erotica” – better known as “the Donkey Show,” at the end of the film.

Promoting his first feature film as director, Zak took some time out to chat with me about being in charge and why Clancy Brown is actually a funny guy.

 

Mike Smith:  I’ve worked behind the scenes at enough conventions to know that you have too!  What was your inspiration to make “Supercon?”

Zak Knutson:  I worked for Kevin Smith for about 10 years so naturally I was exposed to the con culture.  And then I started going to them with my friend Dana Snyder, who does the voice of Master Shake on “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,.”  I went with him down to Florida to the actual SUPERCON and I really got see all of the people and the different things going on.  I realized we hand’t seen a movie set in that place before.  In that kind of culture.

MS:  A brilliant stroke of genius in casting Clancy Brown as Adam King.  Most people wouldn’t think of him when doing a comedy.  How did you settle on him for the role?

ZK:  I have always been a huge fan of Clancy Brown, going all the way back to “Bad Boys.”

MS:  Viking!

ZK:  Exactly…Viking.  But if you notice, the one thing that Clancy does in almost every single one of his performances, even though they weren’t comedic, he was funny in them.   He would find that humility, that human side of the character, even if he was being the most evil of guys.  He could just have a delivery on a line that could be funny.  And I just thought, “this guy would be funny in a comedy.”  He knew when somebody else was being funny to sit back.    He just had everything.  I was so excited to be able to ask him.  And he said, ‘I’m not really a comedy guy,’ and I said, “but you are.  You are.”  And it worked out.  He is one of the best things in the movie.

 

Clancy Brown as Adam King in SUPERCON

MS:  The same with Malkovich?  How were you able to get him?

ZK:  Malkovich was a strange one.  He actually ended up getting a hold of a script.  I thought he was going to be Adam King, because he hadn’t been cast yet, or he was going to be Gil Bartell (the convention promoter, played in the film by Mike Epps).  But he had read Sid and he wanted to play Sid.  We got a call that said ‘John Malkovich wants to play a part.’  How do you say no?  So we went back and scaled the character down to his age, because it was originally written for a Stan Lee-95-year old kind of guy.  We scaled it down.  But the hair and the bow tie, those are all John.  He came ready to have a good time.

 

Zak Knutson, the “Sexy Stud” of CLERKS II

MS:  Any plans on showing the film at conventions?

ZK:  I think we’re going to take it to Florida in July, to the actual SUPERCON.  Clancy’s coming with me.  We’re all going down for a big SUPERCON to-do.

MS:  What do you have coming up next?

ZK:  Next up is a documentary that we’re getting ready to announce that is pretty awesome.  And I sold a script to a couple of people and it looks like later on this summer we’ll be able to shoot it.  Time is going to tell with the money on that one.  But next up is the doc.

MS:  On the script you sold, will you be attached as director?

ZK:  Yes, I am.  But again, it’s kind of all up in the air right now.

Dean Devlin talks about directing David Tennant in “Bad Samaritan”

Dean Devlin went from starting out chauffeuring for Al Pacino in the early 80’s to writing/producing some one of the biggest films including “Stargate”, “Independence Day” and “Godzilla (1998)”.  Dean stepped into the director’s chair for the first time last year with the big-budget “Geostorm”. He is back again directing and producing a new film starring David Tennant and Robert Sheehan called “Bad Samaritan”. We had a chance to chat with Dean about this new movie and how was it shifting in scale from big studio to independent.

Mike Gencarelli: “Bad Samaritan” has been in development since at least 2013, can you tell us how about you became involved with it?

Dean Devlin: What happened is, back then I got a call from writer Brandon Boyce, who I have been a fan of since “Apt Pupil” and “Wicker Park”, and he said he just finished a new script but before he sent it out to the world he asked if I would make some notes. I read the script and I only had one note for him…and that was not to show it to anyone else because I was going to make this movie. I was in love with it and bought it immediately. Right after, I went on did two other projects, so I had to wait till I was done with those to get back to it, but I was desperate to make the picture from the moment I read the script.

MG: You directed, produced and wrote “Geostorm” and with “Bad Samaritan”, you produced and directed; how was your experience differ between the two?

DD: Well, the experiences were night and day. The difference is doing a movie in a studio or independently. All of my best work has been from projects where it was independent or we had the creative freedom we needed. This was night and day, the best experience that I have ever had making a picture.

MG: Yeah I would agree, the scale is very different; what was your biggest challenge on this film?

DD: It is so out of what I have ever done before. I have never done this dark tone before. For me it was top to bottom, I had to rethink everything I would do like framing a shot for example or approach music. It was a terrifying task to take on but at the same time, it was thrilling. I have an amazing team of people. We spent a lot of time doing our homework and making sure the thrill and tone were set effectively. It was so exciting to do.

MG: How did David Tennant and Robert Sheehan come on board?

DD: Again, because this was an independent movie I didn’t need anybody’s permission to cast the film. If you do a studio film, that the process can be ridiculous. This was the case were I could just cast simply best actors we could get. My dream cast was to get Robert Sheehan and David Tennant in these roles. I felt like so blessed when they both said “yes”, because I really didn’t have a second choice for either part [laughs]. You get somebody in your head and it’s really hard to rethink it. When I did “Independence Day”, we wrote that part for Jeff Goldblum. If he had said “no”, we would have had to rethink the entire part.

MG: Tell me one film that is your “go-to” film to watch? …for me it’s “The Shining”.

DD: It really depends. I would have to say there are three and if they are on television I can’t turn them off. It doesn’t matter if I catch one scene…the first is “Enter the Dragon”. Another is “Tombstone”. I have to at least stay on until he says “I’m your Huckleberry” [laughs]. The last one has to be “E.T”. Those films are the ones that I can’t get enough of.

MG: What would be a dream project for you to direct?

DD: Listen, I have been so blessed in my life that once I have a dream project in mind, it becomes my next film. I approach this whole business like a fan. I never try and figure out what is going to be a success, I think that is a mistake. For me, it is like a fan boy, what do I want to see? And if no one else is making it then I try and go make it. I have been blessed from being able to make “Independence Day” and that I got the script of “Bad Samaritan” from Brandon Boyce. Each time out has been a dream come true.

MG: I am impressed to see that an independent film like this is getting a decent theatrical release.

DD: Well you know, the new Avengers saw that we were on their date…and they knew…they knew they needed to get out of our way. Run Avengers! [laughs]. I am going to throw this out for your readers: What is the thing that is in both in the new “Avengers” and “Bad Samaritan”? Let us see if readers can figure this out. (Leave comment below!)

All Photo Credit: Courtesy of Electric Entertainment

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