A Tribute To John Lennon Benefits Local Families Living with Disabilities

Imagine John, a benefit concert for Lift Disability Network, will be performed Saturday, May 21st at 6:00pm on the lawn of The Bear Club at Keene’s Point in Windermere, FL.

Lift Disability Network’s desire is to elevate life in the disability family. Their passionate mission is to inspire individuals and families living with disabilities to discover a new vision for their future. They do this through camps, community events and groups and family care. The Imagine John benefit concert, hosted by Promoting People, will raise funds to help Lift Disabilities provide a permanent home for their outreach and service activities in the West Orange County community.

The artist, Carm Castiglione is a versatile singer and songwriter. He was been performing in cover bands for over three decades, and has impersonated artists such as Maurice Gibb (Bee Gees), John Lennon and Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) across North American venues. He writes and produces audio for film and licensing placements as well as arranges and composes Classical sheet music. Castiglione is also a secondary school music educator in Canada.

Tickets are available for $40.00 online at liftdisability.net/imagine-john/ or at the door the night of the event. Attendees are encouraged to bring a blanket or lawn chair. Light hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be available for purchase.

Come enjoy a great evening of music and fun and elevate life in the disability community at the same time.

When:              Saturday, May 21, 2016 | 6:00 PM
Where:             The Golden Bear Clubhouse at Keene’s Point
Tickets:            General Admission:  $40      
https://liftdisability.net/event/imagine-john/

Reserve your tickets: (407) 228-8343 at the door May 21, 2016.

 

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Howie Fields and “Big” John Wallace discuss music and Harry Chapin

As much as I admire many of the actors, musicians, ball players and others that I’ve grown up watching, I’ve only cried at the death of four of them:  John Lennon, because it was so senseless; Roy Scheider, because he was my friend; Ron Santo, because he was my first “idol” and Harry Chapin… just because.

When I was 13, Chapin’s song Cats in the Cradle came out.  It struck a chord in me that I never forgot.  It was almost like Harry was singing about my father and me.  My son is going to be 31 later this month, and that song still rings true.  Where I was once the little boy that wanted to spend more time with his dad, now I’m the father who has to accept that my son now has a family of his own.  As I got older I became a fan of Harry Chapin’s music and I was crushed when he was killed 34 years ago today, July 16, 1981.

Today, Harry’s music is still being played, the torch being carried by his brothers Tom and Steve and the members of Harry’s band.  I recently asked drummer Howie Fields and bass player “Big” John Wallace a few questions about Harry Chapin and his music.

Mike Smith:  What were your musical backgrounds before joining up with Harry?
Howie Fields: Drum lessons at age 15 followed by a parade of teenage basement and garage bands playing Beatles, Stones. Rascals, Dylan, Kinks, Hollies, Who, etc. Better bands WITH PAY in my college years leading up to my entry into Harry’s band in 1975.
John Wallace:  I started out as a vocalist in the Grace Church Choir in Brooklyn, New York, where I met Harry and the other Chapin brothers.  I dabbled with the bass guitar in my teen years and my first public appearance on bass was in my teens when Harry asked me to perform his songs with him in people’s homes in Brooklyn. Fast forward approximately 10 years when he asked me to join his band.

MS:  When did you join the band?
HF: 1975
JW: I was a founding member, 1972.

MS: How was Harry to work with – was he open to collaboration when working out his songs with the group?
HF:  That ran the gamut. Sometimes Harry would run down a new song or two and ask us to come up with some ideas during concert sound checks (which he rarely attended) and at other times he would come in with a song and have very precise ideas. The rest of the time it would be pretty equitable collaboration in the recording studio.

MS:  Is there a favorite song you enjoyed playing live?
HF:   “Mercenaries,” “Odd Job Man,” “The Mayor Of Candor Lied”
JW:  Too many to choose from.

MS:  Do you have a favorite memory you’d like to share?
HF:   Quite notably for me, within the run of the show (NOTE – in early 1975 Harry and the band performed on Broadway in a show titled “The Night That Made America Famous” with words and music by Harry.  The show went on to earn two Tony Award nominations), was the night of March 1, 1975. Both Saturday performances were completed and Harry entered the band dressing room and asked Big John if he would come with him to attend the Grammy Awards ceremony at The Uris Theater for which he had one extra ticket and for which he had been nominated as Best Male Vocalist for “Cat’s In The Cradle”. He was also performing the song that night but John politely declined. Harry then put the ticket up for grabs and only after it appeared no one else was taking, I found myself in a cab with Harry, his wife Sandy, and his dad Jim, rushing over to the Grammy’s which had already begun. We entered the building and as we approached the doors leading from the lobby into the actual theater, a young usher (about 20) noted that Harry was overburdened with a guitar (not in its case), a leather bag, and one or two other items. He offered to take the guitar which Harry gladly gave up and then, somehow, as the usher was holding the guitar and at the same time attempting to open the door to the theater for us, he simultaneously dropped the instrument and tripped in such a way that one of his feet came down right on the guitar. So…there the guitar lay…smashed on the ground. It happened in a nano-second and it wasn’t pretty. All I remember at that point was Harry putting his arms around this devastated and horrified kid, saying “Don’t worry about it bro”. He could be like that.

MS:  Harry was killed on his way to perform at a benefit concert.  Did that show ever go on?
HF:  No, that show did not occur but one year later the band plus Tom Chapin did a memorial show on the same stage in Eisenhower Park in Long Island.

MS: Are you amazed that, three decades after he passed away, Harry’s music continues to gain new fans?
HF:   I am, as it’s pleasantly remarkable to me that Harry’s music has endured AND in many circles/families has been passed down to younger generations. The variety of age groups are evident at many of our concerts.

Rock and roll fans take notice:  I first “met” Howie when I was working on a screenplay about Harry’s life.  I contacted Howie and asked him if he had any idea what the set list was at Harry’s last show.  He sent me a copy of it.  Not a list of the songs, but a copy of the actual set list.  Howie runs a web site called “Rock Paper” and I’ll let him tell you about it:

HF:   Rock Paper is a business I have had going for over 20 yrs. It’s an archives of rock music and its two main entities are a complete archives of Rolling Stone magazine, whereby ANY article, record review, concert review, advertisement EVER published in the magazine can be located. Rock Paper has over 10,000 back issues o the magazine going back to the issue #1 (1967). There are also thousands of other back issues available of other classic rock magazines….Crawdaddy, Circus, Creem, etc, etc, etc,

It also has an archive of concert ads cut from newspapers from NYC & the UK.

You can search for whatever you’re looking for at www.RockPaper.net.

All photos copyright www.harrychapin.com

 

Director John Maclean and Stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn talk about “Slow West”

Slow West held its New York premiere on April 19th at the SVA Theater during the 14th annual Tribeca Film Festival. Writer and director John Maclean joined stars Kodi Smit-McPhee and Ben Mendelsohn in speaking with me about the Michael-Fassbender-lead western on the red carpet.

Ben Mendelsohn is a renowned Australian actor who in Slow West takes on the larger-than-life role of Payne. Payne, in his oversized furry coat, is the leader of a vicious gang that Fassbender’s character Silas used to run with, and like his character, Mendelsohn seemed a bit bitter at the abandonedment of his gang-mate…

Lauren Damon: Can you discuss the relationship of Silas and Payne
Ben Mendelsohn: Okay, so Silas and Payne rode together back in the day and Silas essentially decided he was gonna go his own way–you know, he’d had enough, like ‘Yeah yeah, I’ve got what I wanted, I’m off doing my own thing’ Which, when you think about it is sort of a really punk move, you know? Because essentially Payne you know, gave this guy A LOT. Now, I’m not saying Silas isn’t a talented man, he is. But basically, he packed up and he got his tail between his legs and off he ran. And you know, time’s come now where our paths  have crossed again and [Silas]’s got this fine little bounty he’s traveling around with and really I just wanna know what’s up with that? Are we gonna share this spoil? Or are you gonna TRY and take it all for yourself? Or are you gonna try and be “a good boy”? So that’s a lot of what that’s about.

 

LD: And how did you all develop the look of Payne?
Ben: Oh the coat is genius. The very talented wardrobe lady [Kirsty Cameron] had it made and showed me all the pictures of trappers and what not from that period with these massive coats on. So once you put that coat on and that hat and you’ve got the tattoos, the rest of it’s a cake walk.

 

LD: How was it to shoot in NZ and with that wardrobe?
Ben: It was…yeah, it’s really crazy open wide spaces. It’s very desolate, it’s harsh. It’s a harsh sort of enviroment but very beautiful too. New Zealand’s a great place to shoot, it’s really got an extraordinary array of you know, locations and looks and feels…it’s all there. It’s a beautiful place to shoot.

 

LD: What attracted you to the film? I mean for a western it had a sense of humor about it too that I didn’t expect at all.
Ben: Yeah, I wasn’t sure how that would go. Michael Fassbender had started with John Maclean and they’d done a couple of short films and essentially the fact that you know that Michael Fassbender had sort of backed this to the degree he did was a very good sign. I’d seen his short films that John Maclean had done and they had something. You know, you could feel there was something there, western, it felt pretty cool. It felt like a good bit of fun with a decent chance of it working.

 

Director John Maclean had previously worked with Michael Fassbender on the short film Pitch Black Heist, which was shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Fest.
LD: Can you talk about how you initially came to work with Michael Fassbender, what drew you to him or him to your work?
John Maclean: I think it was around the time that he was shooting with Tarantino [on Inglourious Basterds], I knew his agent. And his agent had given Michael some of my early short films I was making on my own. Michael saw something in them, came to me and said you know, if you want to do something, I’ll give up a day. So we started working together there.

 

LD: And when you approached this script, there’s a lot of dark humor in it—did you primarily come at it as a comedy or a western first?
John: I think, like my favorite films—I mean you look at a film like Fargo and it’s not a comedy, it’s not a thriller—I think some of the films I’m interested in, I think you just have to try and be truthful. And like life, comedy comes in to sad moments and sadness comes in to comedy moments.

 

LD: And it’s unconventional that your young romantic lead, his love interest doesn’t actually like him like that back!
John: I think “spoilers” here!

LD: I know, I’m sorry, my review says he’s been friend zoned
John: I just I mean, maybe that was from personal experience (laughs) when I was younger. But that’s what happens with young boys, I think. I guess it was for personal experience actually but um, I think he was never right for her. I think she was always more practical and he always too much of a dreamer. So from the beginning, I guess it’s doomed.

 

LD: How do you describe the back story between Payne and Silas?
John: Yeah, I think that’s the hard thing with wanting to make a shorter film—you can’t branch out into too many of the backstories but…I just imagined that the wild west, there wasn’t that many people at that time. So people sort of crossed paths much more often than you’d expect. I imagine they travelled together and [Silas] was part of Payne’s gang and then didn’t like the senselessness of some of the violence and left and went to go alone and Payne’s trying to draw him back into it.

 

Kodi Smit-McPhee was recently cast as Nightcrawler in next year’s X-men: Apocalypse, seeing as his previous film co-starred Nicholas Hoult (“Beast”) and this one he shared the screen with Fassbender (“Magneto”) I had to ask about joining them as mutants.

Lauren Damon: Have you contacted your past coworkers here for advice on joining the X-Men?
Kodi Smit McPhee: I haven’t contacted them yet. So we got Nicholas Hoult, Ty Sheridan and Michael Fassbender whom I know well. And I really can’t wait to get on set and work with them. And I haven’t said a word to them.

 

LD: What’re you most looking forward to about playing Nightcrawler?
Kodi: I really love the warmth that comes with the passion behind his character. And the novelty within just the tradition of him. I don’t necessarily have a desire to bring new things to it, but just show the world that they love.

 

LD: And are you familiar with Alan Cumming’s take on it from X2?
Kodi: Yes, absolutely. Usually, I mean if I don’t need to–like for Let Me In, I didn’t look at Let the Right One In–but for something like this, I thought it  was right to just find all the roots, you know, see how Nightcrawler evolved into who he is now.

 

LD: If you could choose your own X-power what would it be?
Kodi: I would love to physically, and within my own body, be able to travel back and forth and time. See how the history and the future plays out.

 

LD: Back onto Slow West, I was rewatching The Road recently and I saw your character there sort of as the young optimist to an older guide, like Jay in this film, did you feel that connection there?
Kodi: Absolutely and maybe in fact this whole story itself and the concept of a western story, it was very much like that. Like desolate and moving towards something hopeful. So yeah I really loved that idea and that was never intentional, but I guess it’s something that I’m just great at expressing and hopefully with Nightcrawler, I can move onto other things.

Next week: A more in-depth discussion with John and Kodi, meanwhile, you can check out my review of Slow West here.

Jamie Bamber talks about new role in “John Doe: Vigilante”

Most audiences are familiar with actor Jamie Bamber from his role as Apollo on the acclaimed television series “Battlestar Galactica” and its accompanying films. I was a huge admirer of his work on the UK version of “Law and Order.” This week Mr. Bamber appears as a man on trial for 33 serial killings in the new film, “John Doe: Vigilante.” While taking a break at home (with his dog) we spoke about the film and the change of pace casting.

Mike Smith: Hello and a belated Happy Birthday (Mr. Bamber recently turned 42 on April 3rd)
Jamie Bamber: That’s very kind, thank you.

MS: “John Doe: Vigilante” is such a change of pace role for you. What drew you to the project?
JB: Definitely it was the script. I just thought it was such an unusual script. It definitely addresses the view of the audience…without hitting them over the head and railroading them into having an outraged, bloodthirsty, justice-seeking mob opinion. I found the subject to be very threatening to society and civilization and goodness and everything like that. But then it shifts on you. Just as you’re being pulled into this mob response and losing your faith in justice, it changes your view on what that view is. It makes you feel reprehensible for going there. And I think it really does do that. When you watch the film… (Mr. Bamber’s dog starts barking) Sorry (more barking and whispering). Sorry. It was that very unusual script that drew me to the story.

MS: You’ve played quite a few likable characters in the past. Was the kind of character John Doe is part of your decision in taking the role?
JB: Definitely. You’re quite right. I’m often offered roles that are the decent guy in an extraordinary position. Actually, when I looked at this, I thought “this is an opportunity to do something very different.” And I thought that the guy was fundamentally a decent guy who ended up going on a very unusual journey. Some awful things have happened to him in circumstance and he has lost his moral anchor. But the places he goes to – the dark places – the extreme isolation he experiences behind the mask and when he’s in prison – those are the opportunities to play things I hadn’t played before. And I greatly enjoyed the challenge.

MS: You’ve done quite a bit of both film and television work, do you have a preference? Do you prepare differently as an actor for a film role as opposed to a television role?
JB: They’re both so wonderfully different and yet so wonderfully the same. They both use cameras and the cameras help tell the stories but there’s something about television where you get to watch the stories unravel and go on and become more and more complex. And that also applies to the people you’re working with, too. You become a family. I mean I consider “Battlestar Galactica” one of the greatest experiences of my life. So that side of television is certainly a wonderful thing. The longevity and the continuation. And yet there’s also something amazing about telling a story from beginning to end, from A to Z, in two hours of screen time. I mean you go into the project knowing how it ends. So it may be a bit more demanding in the acting choices you make. You have to be able to tell a story in ninety minutes.

MS: You’ve also voiced a few video games. Is that another “type” of acting as well?
JB: I love doing voice work. I love doing that, it’s great. I love trying to communicate the scene only through the spoken voice. I’d like to do more. I’d like to do a motion capture game, I think that would be interesting.

MS: What do you have coming up?
JB: I just finished a film in Canada called “Numb.” It’s a film I’m very proud of and I can’t wait to see. I also just finished “The Better Half,” which is a romantic comedy which should be out later this year or early next year. I’m keeping busy with different things. No long-running TV show at the moment but I’m keeping busy.

DVD Review “John Doe: Vigilante”

Starring: Jamie Bamber, Lachy Julme and Sam Parsonson
Directed by: Kelly Dolen
Rated: R
Released by: ARC Entertainment
Release date: April 14, 2015
Running time: 1 hour 33 mins

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 4 out of 5 stars

Vigilante films have been around for many years. The most popular, “Death Wish,” made Charles Bronson a star and spawned four sequels over 2 decades. Even more subtle films, like “The Star Chamber,” made the question of whether vigilantism is acceptable. Now a new film takes on that question, and your answer may not be what you think it is.

John Doe (Bamber) has been put on trial, charged with killing 33 people. The trial is over and the verdict is about to be read when suddenly an explosion rocks the courthouse area.

A violent film with a compelling message, “John Doe: Vigilante” is a well made, thought provoking film that asks viewers to put away their black and white definitions of right and wrong and truly ask themselves “what would you do?” The film begins with John Doe sitting down with a journalist to answer any questions he may have. John’s first crime was killing a pedophilic former priest. He videotapes the killing and sends it to the mainstream media. They run it, but edit it, so it looks like John killed an innocent old man. No mention is made of the crime or the fact that the tape contains an image of the man giving piano lessons to a young girl with his fly literally open. A woman who’s boyfriend abuses her refuses to leave him. After another horrific beating John Doe beats the man to death. Murderers who’ve escaped justice. Abusers. Rapists. Anyone who has committed a horrific crime and escaped punishment, be it by no prosecution or being released with a slap on the wrist by the court, is told to watch their backs.

Eventually John Doe grows a following, calling themselves “Speak for the Dead.” This faction begins imitating John Doe’s actions, though not as successfully as the real thing. As the interview progresses we see how the media also had a hand in promoting John Doe. A station manager says he was against running the footage supplied at first, but agreed when assured it would be exclusive.

The film is well written and well cast. Bamber, who I’m very familiar with through “Battlestar Galactica” and the UK version of “Law and Order,” steps out of the proper comfort zone he’s been in and gives a dark, yet enlightened performance. He’s an even more crafty Clyde Shelton, Gerard Butler’s character from “Law Abiding Citizen.” The direction is first rate as well, with filmmaker Dolen mixing up the source materials (film, surveillance camera, hand-held video) cleanly.

The EXTRAS are also enjoyable, featuring (2) audio commentaries by the director and screenwriter as well as one by Jamie Bamber, three “behind the scenes” featurettes and cast and crew interviews.

Concert Review: John 5 and the Creatures, Montage Music Hall, Rochester, NY

John 5 and the Creatures
Date: Saturday, March 7th 2015
Venue: Montage Music Hall, Rochester, NY

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Guitarist extraordinaire John 5 slid into the frozen tundra of Rochester, NY on March 7th to perform at the intimate Montage Music Hall. John is currently out on his first ever solo tour which coincides with his latest solo release titled “Careful with That Axe”. Though the crowd wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the guitarist who has worked with everyone from Kd Lang and David Lee Roth to Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie all were quickly wiped away.

The trio who along with John 5 includes bassist Ian Ross and drummer Roger Carter hit the stage basked in rays of red and green light before instantly launching in to the song “Flight of the Vulcan Kelly”. As the set progressed through songs like “Sin”, Jiffy Jam” and “Six Hundred and Sixty Six” 5 and company seemingly became more comfortable with the Rochester crowd and paused briefly to thank them for their support before closing out the night with John’s instrumental rendition of the Michael Jackson classic “Beat It” for closing out the night with a medley of songs ranging from AC/DC’s “Back in Black” to Iron Maidens “The Trooper” to White Zombie classic “Thunder Kiss 65”. This little medley alone made the night worth the price of admission and then some.

Though this may be John’s first tour as a solo artist he’s certainly no stranger to the stage as his 20 plus years of experience in music certainly showed as he worked the audience like a true veteran of the stage. He often signaled for crowd response or sending his guitar into the audience for them to play. Later on in the set he even brought up a fan play his guitar while he passed out high fives to those in the front row. If John 5 and the Creatures are making their way to your time in the coming month or two definitely make it a priority to get to the show as you won’t be disappointed. For those looking for something a little extra out of the night John is offering special VIP packages through www.John-5.com where you can attend sound check, meet the band along with getting some other really cool limited edition swag.

John5 Set List
1.) Flight of the Vulcan Kelly
2.) Villisca
3.) This Is My Rifle
4.) Sin
5.) El Cucuy
6.) Jiffy Jam
7.) Portrait of Sidney Sloan
8.) Guitar Solo
9.) Six Hundred and Sixty Six
10.) Mad Monster Party
11.) Young Thing
12.) First Victim
13.) Feisty Cadavers
14.) Beat It
15.) Medley

 

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John 5 talks about latest album “Careful with that Axe”

John 5 is probably best known for his work with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie however he is also a successful solo artist who recently released his 8th solo album titled “Careful with That Axe”. The album blends a multitude of styles and sounds making the album impossible to ignore. Media Mikes spoke with John recently about the album creation, his backing band The Creatures and what fans can expect from his first ever solo tour.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about your latest solo album?
John 5: The latest album is titled “Careful with that Axe”. The album was recorded live so there are no punch ins or anything like that. I had an amazing band which consisted of Rodger Carter on drums and Matt Bissonnette on bass. Everything just went together real well which led to the idea of taking things out on the road. The songs all sounded really great and Rob was going to be working on a movie so the timing also worked out. The album has everything from western swing guitar to Spanish style guitar. There are also a couple Jerry Reed songs on there as well. This is really my favorite record from the ones I have done.

AL: What made you decide to cover some of Jerry Reed’s material?
J5: Everything is from childhood. Jerry Reed was someone whose music was always being played in my house. My father loved “Hee Haw” and was into guys like Chet Atkins and Jerry. One of my favorite pickers is Jerry Reed so I wanted to pay a little tribute to him and maybe educate a few people along the way about who he was.

AL: What type steps did you take during pre-production to ensure you could record each song live?
J5: I would sit with a metronome and really work at the songs to get them as tight as I possibly could on my own. I would then go in and rehearse with the guys. It was sort of like training for a fight as after those rehearsals we would go in and record it. It only took a couple hours for each song and then I would go back and mix things. It was a pretty fast recording process however preparing and getting to that point took some time. It was a challenge doing things the way we did but it I like that and it was a lot of fun.

AL: Can you give us some info on the upcoming tour?
J5: This will actually be my very first solo tour. This is a tour that is going to be very special for me. For the fans we are doing a special meet and greet package where people who purchase these will get to come to sound check and meet the band along with all the standard photos and such. You also get the super rare John 5 soda. People have been driving hundreds of miles for this stuff! We are going to be everywhere with this tour and I am very excited to get out there. We also have plans to record a live album during this tour which should be a lot of fun as well.

AL: Are you going to have the same backing band that played on the album out on the road with you?
J5: Rodger Carter will be on drums. I have known him for quite awhile and he is just a really great player. However Matt will not be out with us due to his commitments with Elton John. To find a replacement I had to go to the Musicians Institute to find someone who could play this material. I found a guy buy the name of Ian Ross who is just a monster. This band is just phenomenal.

AL: Are there plans to change any of the song arrangements for the live shows?
J5: They will pretty much have the same formula. When I would go see bands and they wouldn’t play songs the way they were on the albums it sort of bummed me out. I loved going to see bands like Rush that played exactly what you heard on the record. I just found that so cool. I tend to take that same approach and keep things pretty close to the records.

AL: You also have a new live album with Rob Zombie coming out. Can you tell us about that?
J5: This album is a completely live album. There are no overdubs what so ever. We captured the material over a couple different shows. This record really shows just how tight of a band we are. I am very proud of that fact. Rob has done an amazing job and this album came out really great. I personally enjoy live albums especially ones like that this that are true live albums. You can go back and listen to that live performance time and time again.

AL: What other projects do you have in the works for this year?
J5: We just finished work on a new Rob Zombie album. I’m not sure when it’s going to be out just yet however it’s probably one of the best Zombie albums to date. I was a big Zombie fan even before I was in the band and I feel this new album is the best one by far. I also will be working with Rob on the score for his next film “31”. Another thing I have out is a new set of signature guitar strings which are being put out by Dean Markley. I have used their strings since I was a kid so to have my own signature set is pretty cool.

CD Review: John 5 “Careful with That Axe”

John 5
“Careful with That Axe”
60 Cycle Hum Records
Tracks: 10

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Careful with That Axe” is the latest solo release from guitarist John 5. The 9th solo release from the former Marilyn Manson guitarist and current Rob Zombie guitarist the 10 track instrumental album covers immense musical ground as 5 and his cohorts are unleashed on your ears like bees exploding out of a freshly broken hive.

Tracks like the albums opener “We Need to Talk about John” feature Zombie like overdubs which gives the album a familiar feel right off the bat while the guitar virtuoso meticulous shreds in the back ground making you well aware of what you are in for with the following 9 tracks. The album quickly gives way to a diverse make up of material like the rockabilly tinged “Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell” and the in your face “Flight of the Vulcan Kelly” before traversing to the flamenco like styling’s of “El Cucuy” and the hauntingly down tuned “Portrait of Sidney Sloan”. Combine all that with two signature Jerry Reed songs “Jerry’s Breakdown” and “Jiffy Jam” which showcase John 5’s impressive picking skills and you have a very unique listen.

You don’t have to be a guitarist to enjoy the over the top instrumentation, eerie overdubs and/or crunching heavy metal rhythms as John 5’s “Careful with That Axe” speaks to everyone. The only downfall I could find worth noting with this release was that there were only 10 tracks as John 5 and company left me wanting more.

Track Listing:
1.) We Need to Have a Talk about John
2.) This is My Rifle
3.) Flight of the Vulcan Kelly
4.) Jerry’s Breakdown
5.) Six hundred and Sixty Six Pickers in Hell
6.) Portrait of Sidney Sloan
7.) Jiffy Jam
8.) Villisca
9.) El Cucuy
10.) The Dream Slayer

John O’Hurley talks about his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago”

Television fans know John O’Hurley as the popular J. Peterman, Elaine’s boss, on the long running show “Seinfeld.” But it is performance on another show that helps bring him to Kansas City. As a contestant during the first season of ABC’s popular “Dancing with the Stars,” O’Hurley finished in second place, losing to Kelly Monaco, an actress whose show just HAPPENED to be on ABC. Fans of the show cried foul and demanded the two have a “dance-off,” with only the fans voting for the winner. In the rematch, O’Hurley and his partner, Charlotte Jorgensen, were declared the winners, raising over $125,000 for the charity Golfers against Cancer.

Since then, O’Hurley has split his time between the stage and screen. He played King Arthur in “Spamalot” during the show’s production in Las Vegas and has played shrewd lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago,” both on Broadway and on the road. Well known for his voice you can hear him in such cartoons as “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,” “Duck Dodgers,” “Phineas and Ferb” and “Spongebob Squarepants.”

This week Mr. O’Hurley reprises his role of Billy Flynn in the touring production of “Chicago.” Before opening night he took time out to talk to me about the show and his career.

Mike Smith: Welcome to Kansas City.
John O’Hurley: I feel welcome. Thank you.

MS: If the Internet Broadway Database is to be believed you literally just walked off the stage of the Ambassador Theater in New York City, where you played Billy Flynn for the last six weeks, to travel here to take the part on the road.
JO: I closed on Broadway Sunday night. I had a great time there, especially during the holidays.
MS: Wow, when they say the road shows are “direct from Broadway” they’re not kidding.
JO: (laughs) Not at all. I think I still have the same socks on.

MS: You’ve played Billy Flynn over 1500 times on stage. Do you get comfortable in a part or do you try to bring something new to your performance when you can?
JO: Every night! Every night something different will happen. I say one prayer every night before I go on stage and that is “God, let me be surprised.” And every night something different happens. If I’ve done the role 1500 times I assure you that the role is 1500 times richer since I started playing it in 2005.

MS: You are, of course, best known for your work on “Seinfeld.” Was it your appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” that led to your work in musical theater?
JO: I’ve done King Arthur in “Spamalot” over 1000 times and, of course, Billy Flynn over 1500. I think a lot of my success came about because of that show. It gave me my name back. Prior to that I was known as J. Peterman. But after 2005 I was known as John O’Hurley.

MS: You do a lot of voice work. Do you have to prepare differently as an actor for a cartoon voice as opposed to a full live performance?
JO: Right now I’m involved in about fifteen cartoons…”Spongebob,” “Fineas and Ferb” and others…but it’s a lot of fun because I have an eight-year old son and it’s nice to be able to develop a body of work that is somewhat successful to him. As far as preparing, not really. The roles are already larger than life. It’s a medium that’s very BIG. The characters are larger. Subtlety is not a part of animation.

MS: How long to you plan to stay on tour with “Chicago?”
JO: I started the tour late last year, in October and I’ll continue through the end of it, which is the end of March.

MS: Do you have anything else coming up?
JO: Yes, I have a new television series with Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad” that we’re working on now. We’ll be shooting later in the spring. I have a movie to do in Greece. And I’m hosting a dancing tour this summer, which will be sporadically through my vacation time. And I’m sure there will be another tour of “Chicago” next year.

 

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“The Dukes of Hazard” star Tom Wopat talks about his new Christmas album with John Schneider

It’s been a “Dukes” kind of year here at Media Mikes. Earlier this summer I spoke to John Schneider about his feature film directorial debut, the tongue-in-cheek horror film “Smothered.” This week I got to speak with the other Duke boy, Tom Wopat, who recently teamed with Schneider for an album of Christmas music entitled “Home for Christmas.” Being familiar with Mr. Wopat’s work in musical theater, as well as on country radio, I was well aware of his pipes. When we chatted before the interview he was as proud as a new parent. Rolling Stone magazine recently named “Home for Christmas” one of the ten-best holiday albums released this year and the album DEBUTED in the top 10 on Billboard’s Traditional Jazz chart. It didn’t climb to #10…it opened there! In fact, as I write this the album is “sold out” on Amazon.com Don’t fret, though. They’ll make more!

Mr. Wopat recently took some time out to talk to me about the album, further collaborations with John Schneider and his musical future. You can read my interview with John Schneider HERE

Mike Smith: How did this project come about with you and John?
Tom Wopat: We’ve always enjoyed singing together and in the past 20 years or so we’ve done a few shows. We’ve talked a lot about recording together. I had started producing as well and this just made sense. We cut a couple of songs together last December and then we finished the rest this past August.

MS: Both you and John have been very successful in the theater and in country music. Was there a reason you decided to do a Christmas album?
TW: Well, for one thing it’s kind of a perennial. You’d like to think that it will sell for a while. Another part is that we can go out and do a series of concerts every year with that material so it just made sense to do that.

MS: You’ve done a few shows already this year haven’t you?
TW: We did several. We did a show in New York, then we did a show for about 500 people in John’s barn in Louisiana and we just did one in Atlanta.

MS: It’s obvious that you and John have a great rapport. I listened to you both this past week when you were hosting on Sirius Radio. Is there anything else you two want to collaborate on in the future?
TW: We’ve talked about doing a movie. John has a lot of projects he’s developing…he’s putting together a movie studio in Louisiana…so hopefully he’ll give me a call one of these days and I’ll go down there and do something with him. And I’ve got some ideas for future albums. We finance them ourselves so hopefully this one will do well so we can finance others.

MS: I actually spoke with John this summer to promote his horror film “Smothered.” If Catherine Bach sings I’ll be able to talk to all of the Duke cousins!
TW: (laughing) There you go!

MS: What do you have coming up? Are you going back on stage soon?
TW: Those things just come along suddenly…I very rarely get much lead time on that. The only thing I can plan on is some upcoming dates with my band. We’ll be on Long Island in April and in Indiana in August. But I’m sure between next Thanksgiving and Christmas we’ll have ten or fifteen appearances planned. I’m also getting ready to do another solo record and there’s talk of myself, two women and a little jazz group going out on tour and performing the music of Woody Allen films…pretty much some great standards.

MS: Really? That would be right in your wheelhouse.
TW: Yeah, that would be a good one.

Enter to Win Blu-ray “Reclaim” Starring John Cusack And Ryan Phillippe [ENDED]

To celebrate the release of “Reclaim”, starring John Cusack And Ryan Phillippe, hitting Blu-ray and DVD, we are happy to be giving a Blu-ray from the film. If you want to win one of these great prizes, please leave us a comment below or send us an email with your favorite John Cusack film. This giveaway will remain open until November 21th at Noon, Eastern Time. This is open to our readers in US and Canada only. One entry per person, per household. All other entries will be considered invalid. Media Mikes will randomly select winners. Winners will be alerted via email.

When the newly adopted daughter of American couple Steven (Phillippe) and Shannon (Lefevre) goes missing while the family is abroad, they quickly discover that all is not what it seems with the adoption agency – and find themselves in a fight for their lives when they encounter Benjamin (Cusack) and Reigert (Weaver), the culprits behind a high-stakes human-trafficking ring. To expose the truth and save their daughter, Steven and Shannon will have to risk everything…including their lives.

Film Review “John Wick”

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Michael Nyquist and Alfie Allen
Directed By: David Leitch and Chad Stahleski
Rated: R
Running Time: 101 minutes
Summit Entertainment

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

An east coast kingpin by the name of Viggo (Nyquist) is furious. He’s just learned that the owner of a body shop struck his only son in the face. He’s called the owner to fume. He inquires about why the lowly proprietor would even think about laying a hand on his son. The man quickly retorts, “Your son stole John Wick’s car and killed his dog.” Viggo’s face quickly turns from anger to one of ominous regret and he quietly says, “Oh…”

John Wick (Reeves) is an unstoppable, former assassin, whose reputation is known throughout every little nook and cranny of the criminal underworld. Thing is though, he retired from his position as a contract killer, to settle into a normal life. Sadly that’s just not his destiny. His wife has recently passed, but before she died, she left Wick a memento of their love, an adorable puppy. The somber Wick quickly takes a liking to the pup that licks at his face and jumps with joy at the very sight of him. Wick also has another love in his life, his muscle car. He’s a complex man with simple pleasures. Before attempting normalcy with the love of his life, he was known as the guy you hire to kill the Boogeyman. So you can see why Viggo is less than thrilled that his numbskull son would even think about laying a hand on Wick, much less kill the last thing he had to remember his wife.

“John Wick” is slick, cool and fun as hell. It’s such a crowd pleaser, you would have suspected that a shoot-em up that’s so self-aware about its own gimmick would have been released against more tame summer action movies like the “Expendables 3”. The plot is alert to the fact that Wick is a larger than life character whose life and exploits exceed the length of the movie. That’s why were given so many verbal and visual cues that he’s a relentless machine that doesn’t stop until all the necessary blood has been spilt.

Leitch and Stahleski have spent their whole life performing stunt work and that really helps add to the craft of filming some of the more intimate hand-to-hand combat scenes. Writer Kolstad would appear to be an avid comic book/video game fan since his script relies so heavily on very little plot and first person shooter invincibility for Wick. I mean, he does get injured, but no real human being could shrug off a gaping wound and continue to tumble around like an acrobat. If there’s any marks against Kolstad in his fairly young career, it’s that he has an inability to find a correct time to wrap things up and allowed couple of lulls in what was a brute force adrenaline fueled movie.

There’s so much blood and violence, that the Reeves affable qualities make the more gruesome scenes light hearted in its own regard. Wick isn’t really a hero, but any time some Russian thugs senselessly kill a puppy, you’re going to have a lot of audience members eagerly awaiting revenge. What makes Wick pleasant is that he also doesn’t appear to take any kind of joy from killing, but views it as a way to rectify a universal wrong. Instead of shooting carelessly into a crowd, he waits for a clear shot, as to not harm any innocents. He also doesn’t want to kill anyone he doesn’t have to. If you’re looking for a sick, but pleasurable viewing experience, “John Wick” is your best bet.

 

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John Waite discusses his new album “Best”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Schneider talks about his new horror/comedy “Smothered”

What is the first thing you think of when you hear the name John Schneider? People my age usually say “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Others remark on his country music career. Still others remember his as Pa Kent on “Smallville.” Well, as of today, you can add successful writer/director to your list.

Born in New York state 54 years ago, Schneider rocketed to stardom when he co-starred opposite Tom Wopat as Bo Duke on television’s “Dukes of Hazzard.” His star burned brighter with the release of his first album, “It’s Now or Never.” The title track hit #4 on the country charts and became the first of his ten Top-10 hits, including four that hit #1. But even fans of his music, as I was, were amazed when he took to the Broadway stage as Baron Felix Von Galgern in the Tony award winning musical “Grand Hotel.” I’ve been very fortunate to have seen many great performers in great shows, from Jerry Orbach in “42nd Street” to Michael Crawford in “The Phantom of the Opera” and I would put Schneider’s performance in “Grand Hotel” in my top 5 of greatest stage performances. Schneider’s old “Hazzards” partner, Tom Wopat, has also found success in musical theatre. May I be the first to suggest here a revival of “Guys and Dolls” starring the both of them!

Schneider’s latest project puts him behind the scenes. As writer/director of the new horror/comedy “Smothered” he puts another successful feather in his cap. Schneider took time out from promoting his latest film to not only answer some questions but to help me win a three decade old bet!

Mike Smith: What was your inspiration in creating the story?
John Schneider: Years ago a friend of mine said that he was sick and tired of all the movies where the big titted co-eds got killed by the sickos in the masks. He thought someone should make one where the guys ins the masks got killed by the big titted co-ed. I thought that was a cute idea but couldn’t see what device could possibly cause a group of “sickos in masks” to go on a camping trip together. That all changed in Dusseldorf when I realized I could get a Winnebago full of icons to go just about anywhere with me for a grand apiece because the show was not making them any money.

MS: You’ve pulled double duty on feature films before (“Collier and Company”) but this is your first foray into horror. What was it about that genre’ that intrigued you?
JS: I like movies that make me feel. By feel I mean scare me, make me jump, cry, shiver and anticipate stuff coming down the pike both good and bad. Horror movies are the best at manipulating these emotions because of the personal nature of what’s happening to the people and where it’s happening. Everyone has been in a dark basement… attic or..in a campground before… right?

MS: What is YOUR favorite horror film?
JS: There was a film in the early 70’s with Don Stroud called “The House By The Lake.” I haven’t seen it since I was a kid but remember it scaring the shit out of me. It made me feel very uncomfortable. I’d love to see it again but can’t find it on a list anywhere.

MS: You work consistently in both film and television. Do you have a preference?
JS: I prefer film because there is more time to get it done right. In film you shoot a script. In television you shoot a schedule.

MS: This year marks the 35th Anniversary of “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Are there any “reunion” plans in the works…not necessarily a television show but a convention appearance or two?
JS: Cathy Bach had a wonderful party at her house that many cast and crew attended. It was private and a blast. I think that was the best way to celebrate. When we do “events” non of the cast ever gets to hang out. After 35 years I believe it’s our turn.

MS: What else do you have coming up soon?
JS: We start shooting the 2nd film at the studio here soon. It’s called “Anderson Bench” and it is a very twisted love story.

MS: Finally, you can win me five dollars (or lose it) from a bet I made about 30 years ago. Can you put to rest the rumor that you have a brief role in the 1979 film “Hardcore,” starring George C. Scott. I say that, even though the young man resembles you, that it isn’t. Have you had this question before?
JS: Never. And nope… wasn’t me. William Katt maybe? Go collect your $5. (NOTE: The Internet Movie Data Base says the actor’s name is Will Walker, who appeared in a few things in the late 70s, with his work in “Hardcore” being his last performance. Time for me to get my money!)

Film Review “John Schneider’s Smothered”

Starring: Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley and Dane Rhodes
Directed by: John Schneider
Not Rated
Running time: 1 hour 34 mins
Fairlight Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

People of Louisiana get ready. Voo-Doo Con is coming and it’s bringing some of the biggest horror film names of all times with it. My advice: run.

The second feature film written and directed by actor John Schneider, “Smothered” is a tongue in cheek look at the world of fan-driven conventions conceived by a man who has been there and done that. The film tells the story of a group of horror film stars who, in order to make a few extra bucks, decide to spend their weekend at a local trailer….er, excuse me….RV Park at the request of the owner. The idea is that the special guests will scare the visitors and make the weekend extra special.

A few things really stand out in this film. First, the script has obviously been well researched and is well written. Full of “fan-speak,” Schneider has captured the dialogue of the movie geek like no one since Kevin Smith. And he has put those words in the mouths of some of the surprisingly funniest actors around. Kane Hodder, who is probably best known to film fans as fictional bad guy Jason Voorhees and real life killers Ed Gein and Dennis Rader, has an amazing talent for comedy. Hodder is joined by such horror film royalty as Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman and John Kassir.

The film is well paced, with the mood changing repeatedly….from slapstick silly to downright scary….without missing a beat. Schneider has clearly spent some time behind the camera (from the final episode of “Dukes of Hazzard” to “Smallville” to made for television films) and that experience and confidence, especially in a genre’ that’s fairly foreign to him, allows him a free eye (and hand) in his story telling. Hopefully it won’t be eight more years before his next film.