Being an Independent Artist or Signing with a Label – Which Option is Better for You?

If you want to get into the music business, two main options are open to you. You can start as an independent artist and build your own name, or sign with a major label. Each option has its pros and cons, and you shouldn’t assume that one is automatically better than the other. For instance, a lot of artists seem to think that record labels are obsolete when they could actually benefit from them. On the other hand, some people think that signing a deal is the only way to go when it could severely hinder their career. Let’s take a look at whether signing a deal or staying independent would be the best option for you.

Record Labels Can Stifle Creativity

If you’re a true artist, you might suffer under a record label contract. This is because the record company will eventually have the final say on what kind of work you can release. Not only that, but they may pressure you to create music when you don’t feel like it or simply aren’t ready.

You have to remember that you will become a commodity once you get signed, and one of the things record labels like to stress is that you have to remain fresh in the public’s mind. This is why you will have to be prepared to release work regularly or they might stop supporting you, and this is when bad things start to happen.

Not being able to release the tracks you want can also be very frustrating. Even if you create an absolute masterpiece, the record label may tell you that they don’t want it on your project. And the worst thing in all of this is that you may never be able to release the song. This is enough to send some artists into a deep depression. So, if creative license is extremely important to you, think twice about signing a deal.

A Record Label Can Give You a Mainstream Push

One thing you have to know, however, is that signing with a major label is still the only way to reach international superstardom. This is because major record labels have a level of access that independent artists and labels will never be able to get.

Some companies are under huge international conglomerates and can get you everything from TV show appearances, to interviews on major radio stations, sponsorship deals, and more. If you feel like you have the total package and the potential to be a big star, staying independent may limit your potential.

Independent Artists Often Make More Money

If your main goal is making money, however, then starting a label could be a much better option. Not only will you be able to release your music when you want and have complete artistic license, but you’ll also keep a much bigger slice of the pie. Not to mention that you’ll be able to sign other artists that you like and feel would fit with your brand.

You have to know that starting a record label is hard work and that you’ll need to have certain things in place first. First of all, you’ll need to hire a good entertainment attorney and an accountant. They are probably the two most important people as one will help you draft and understand contracts while the other will ensure that you always stay on budget.

You will also need to start your search for a good studio. Here, we would suggest that you look at a music studio like PIRATE. They have locations all over the country and offer tons of freedom to independent labels and artists. You can go in for a studio session at any time of the day and bring your own engineers without having to spend on equipment. They also have some of the best prices compared to any professional studio you’ll find out there. If this sounds appealing to you, you can click here to book a session and see what the experience is like firsthand.

Independent Artist Often Struggle with the Business Side of Things

You cannot build a record label and expect it to be successful if you don’t understand business. So, if you don’t have at least a basic formation, you will need to consider getting one right away if this is the path you want to take. You don’t have to get an MBA or anything, but you should at least complete a course that will teach you the basics of the music industry.

These are all things that you will need to consider before making your decision to sign or stay independent. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from people in the industry and take the time to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of both options.





Black Label Society have released a new music video today for their song “Spoke In The Wheel” from their upcoming LP due out this spring. Directed by long-time director and collaborator Justin Reich, this is the first music video we’ve seen from the band since ”Trampled Down Below” was released last year from the Grimmest Hits LP. Black Label Society will release Sonic Brew – 20th Anniversary Blend 5.99 – 5.19 on May 17, 2019, via Entertainment One (eOne). “Spoke In The Wheel” is available as an iTunes instant gratification track, meaning fans who pre-order the album on iTunes will receive that single as an instant download. “Spoke In The Wheel” is available on all streaming services today.  Pre-order bundles including teeshirts, posters, vinyl, and even a turntable are available now. Click here for more.

Thanks to a new arrangement with record label Entertainment One (eOne), the band’s back catalog is now all in one place, uniting the band’s earlier work with their more recent output. The “re-blended” version of their classic debut is resurrected bigger than ever without sacrificing its familiar kick. Plus, there are two bonus cuts: a full band/piano version of “Spoke in the Wheel” and an acoustic take on “Black Pearl.”

Black Label Society has also announced their 20 Years of Sonic Brewtality Tour,” a brand-new batch of 2019 North American tour dates in conjunction with the new release. The band will play two shows in each market – the first night will feature Sonic Brew played in its entirety, while the second night will see the band play a set of greatest hits. Support will come from Conan and The Atomic Bitchwax. Black Label Society will also participate in U.S festivals Sonic Temple, Epicenter, and Welcome to Rockville on this run.

Dates begin April 24 at The Oriental Theater in Denver and wrap up in Los Angeles at the famous El Rey Theater for two nights ending on May 23. Tickets are on sale this Friday, February 1, 2019. 

Apr-24 Denver, CO The Oriental Theater
Apr-25 Denver, CO The Oriental Theater
Apr-27 Dallas, TX Canton Hall
Apr-28 Dallas, TX Canton Hall
Apr-30 Chicago, IL Concord Music Hall
May-01 Chicago, IL Concord Music Hall
May-04 Jacksonville, FL Welcome To Rockville
May-06 New York, NY The Bowery Ballroom
May-07 New York, NY The Bowery Ballroom
May-11 Rockingham, NC Epicenter
May-14 Toronto, ON Opera House
May-15 Toronto, ON Opera House
May-17 Columbus, OH Sonic Temple
May-18 Clarksville, TN O’Connors
May-22 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre
May-23 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre

Sonic Brew – 20th Anniversary Blend 5.99 – 5.19  is nothing like the infamously awful, failed experiment of New Coke. This is the original formula, like Coke Classic, but spiked with Viagra, the Captain America super soldier serum, and triple the caffeine. 

It’s less of a floor to ceiling remodel than it is a fresh coat of paint, in preparation for another crazy house party. Zakk Wylde and crew were careful not to mess with the magic captured on the long lost two-inch tape. Instead, they blessed the master with some note-for-note enhancement, spicing up /Sonic Brew/ with a perfected recipe.  

“I don’t want to hear Led Zeppelin II redone, with the band just replaying the whole record,”notes the charismatic frontman and gregarious guitar icon. “The performances and everything is a snapshot in time. We just added on top of what was already there on the original recordings. It’s like we went in and did surgery on this thing. We took the original CD master and added things that made it stronger.” 
The Black Label Society studio discography is like an instruction manual on how to expertly craft heartfelt, no holds barred, heavy metal infused American hard rock. “’Sonic Brew’ was the beginning. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years,” Zakk marvels.  

Wylde’s powerful pipes, mayhem-inducing charisma, mischievous humor, and instantly recognizable shredding have made him a beloved figure to rock audiences the world over. One part invading-horde, one part traveling carnival party, Black Label Society continues to engage and inspire, powered by caffeine and cacophony. 
Zakk Wylde – Vocals/Guitar / John DeServio – Bass / Dario Lorina – Guitar / Jeff Fabb – Drums

Track List:
1. Bored To Tears

2. The Rose Petalled Garden

3. Hey You Digital

4. Born to Lose

5. Peddlers of Death

6. Mother Mary

7. Beneath the Tree

8. Low Down

9. T.A.Z.

10. Lost My Better Half

11. Black Pearl

12. World of Trouble

13. Spoke In The Wheel

14. The Beginning At Last

15. Black Pearl (Bonus Track)

16. Spoke in the Wheel (Bonus)

Jason Becker and Music Theories Recordings/ Mascot Label Group to Release “Triumphant Hearts”

The album features Marty Friedman, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Neal Schon, Steve Morse, Paul Gilbert,
Joe Bonamassa, Uli Jon Roth, Richie Kotzen, Gus G., Jake Shimabukuro, and many more.


Pre-Order Here:

Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group are extremely excited and honored to present the new album ‘Triumphant Hearts’ from Jason Becker, which will be released on 7th December 2018.

Jason Becker’s story is one of brilliance, talent, determination, adversity, and, ultimately, triumph. A child prodigy on guitar, Jason rose to prominence as a teenager when he was one half of the technical guitar duo Cacophony, with his great friend Marty Friedman. In 1989, at only 19 years old and after wowing audiences all over the world, the young virtuoso became the guitarist for David Lee Roth, following in the huge footsteps of Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai. He wrote and recorded on his 3rd solo album ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’ and was poised for superstardom when a nagging pain in his leg was diagnosed as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). A fatal condition with a life expectancy of maybe five years. Maybe.

That was 29 years ago. He lost the ability to play guitar, walk, talk, and breathe on his own. But never lost his will to live or his desire to create music. Communicating through a series of eye movements with a system developed by his father, Jason spells out words as well as musical notes and chords. He imparts his musical vision to his team who then can input the notes into a computer, edit the parts to his exacting standards, and then generate charts for session musicians. His inspiring music and life story have been the subject of countless news articles, magazine cover stories, and an award-winning documentary, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

The album’s 14 tracks showcase Jason’s gift for melody and his deep knowledge of classical composition and orchestral arrangement. Many of the guitar parts are performed by a who’s who of 6-string gods including Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Neal Schon, Steve Morse, Paul Gilbert, Joe Bonamassa, and many others. And, in what will absolutely delight his fans, Jason’s amazing guitar playing—recorded in the ’80s and ’90s—features throughout.

The first song to be released from the album is the beautifully mesmerizing 9 minute and 5 second instrumental ‘Valley of Fire’ that features The Magnificent 13 – Steve Vai, Joe Bonamassa, Paul Gilbert, Neal Schon, Marty Friedman, Michael Lee Firkins, Mattias IA Eklundh, Greg Howe, Jeff Loomis, Richie Kotzen, Gus G, Steve Hunter and Ben Woods. A phenomenal cast to feature on a single song.

The album opens with the title track, featuring Jason’s old bandmate Marty Friedman and an astounding violin performance. “I wrote ‘Triumphant Heart’ and it made me feel triumphant,” says Becker. “When Marty found out I was making this album, he told me he would play anything I needed. I sent him this, and his wife, Hiyori Okuda, who is a cellist, also offered to play on it. The great violinist, Glauco Bertagnin, recorded my violin parts in Italy. That fast solo section I wrote is way too hard; I don’t know how Glauco pulled it off. He put so much soul in the whole song.”

‘Hold on to Love’ is the first vocal song on the record, although it didn’t start out that way. “It was going to be an instrumental,” explains Jason, “but after I wrote the chorus with lyrics, I knew I had to tell my story, to explain how I can continue living without feeling hate. I hadn’t written many lyrics before.” In addition to its beautiful, gospel-tinged choir, the heartfelt song features Bay Area singer Codany Holiday on lead vocals.

‘Fantasy Weaver’ displays the 4-string magic of world-renown ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro and harp arpeggios that were written back in his Cacophony days. ‘Once Upon a Melody’ not only features two Jason Becker guitar solos from his Cacophony era, but also audio of him as a three-year-old. The full-circle nature of having little boy Jason, guitar virtuoso Jason, and modern-day composer Jason all on the same song is a breathtaking accomplishment while ‘We Are One,’ features soulful Flipsyde vocalist Steve Knight, and more Jason Becker guitar delights.

Uli Jon Roth appears on ‘Magic Woman,’ along with ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick who counts both Uli and Jason as big influences. Fans of Jason’s work with David Lee Roth will be thrilled by the inclusion of two previously unreleased outtakes from the ‘A Little Ain’t Enough’ sessions, the hard rocking ‘Taking Me Back’ and the blues-infused ‘Tell Me No Lies.’ There are also performances by Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, Steve Morse, Trevor Rabin, and many others.

“Some people feel sorry for me,” he concedes, “and I understand that. I really feel lucky though. I don’t miss playing guitar anymore. I’m sure that’s out of necessity, but I am grateful for so much more. I am surrounded by loving people, and I can still make music.”

Track Listing:
1.) Triumphant Heart- (feat. Marty Friedman, Glauco Bertagnin, Hiyori Okuda)
2.) Hold On To Love- (feat. Codany Holiday)
3.) Fantasy Weaver- (feat. Jake Shimabukuro)
4.) Once Upon A Melody- (feat. Steve Knight)
5.) We Are One
6.) Magic Woman- (feat. Uli Jon Roth & Chris Broderick)
7.) Blowin’ in the Wind- (feat. Joe Satriani, Aleks Sever, Guthrie Govan, Steve Morse)
8.) River of Longing
9.) Valley of Fire- (feat. The Magificent 13)
10.) River of Longing- (feat. Trevor Rabin)
11.) Taking Me Back- (feat. Codany Holiday) [Chuck Zwicky Remix]
12.) Tell Me No Lies
13.) Hold On To Love
14.) You Do It

CD Review: Black Label Society “Catacombs of the Black Vatican”

Black Label Society
“Catacombs of the Black Vatican”
eOne Music
Produced by: Zakk Wylde
Tracks: 11

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Black Label brethren rejoice as the latest release from Zakk Wilds Black Label Society is finally here. “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” is the follow up to the groups 2010 release “Order of the Black” and is set to prove to everyone that it was well worth the 4 year wait. The album is being released via eOne Music and features 11 all new tracks which were produced by Zakk Wylde and mixed by Black Label alum Adam Klumpp.

Hardcore fans of BLS myself included have been waiting for this album now for quite some time so allow me to be the first to say that I wasn’t at all disappointed and neither will you be. “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” features a much more scaled back production which harkens back to some of the bands earliest releases. Songs such as “My Dying Time” and “Beyond the Down” features Wylde’s signature sound and squealing style we all know and love while tracks like “Angel of Mercy” and “Scars” are acoustical throwbacks to the Pride and Glory days, something I found to be really cool! The album is certainly heavy yet has a relaxed feel making it one of those albums you can throw on while hanging and throwing back some cold ones.

Wylde and his crew of hooligans are by no means reinventing the wheel with the songs found on “Catacombs of the Black Vatican” however they are revisiting their deep seated roots while expanding musically. Zakk’s voice has never sounded better and his guitar playing isn’t too shabby either. Flanked by bassist John “JD” DeServio and former Breaking Benjamin drummer Chad Szeliga the group seems to be at the top of their game and their latest release does a great job of proving that.

Track Listing:
1.) Fields of Unforgiveness
2.) My Dying Time
3.) Believe
4.) Angel of Mercy
5.) Heart of Darkness
6.) Beyond the Down
7.) Scars
8.) Damn the Flood
9.) I’ve Gone Away
10.) Empty Promises
11.) Shades of Gray

Steel Panther New Album “All You Can Eat” Slated for Release April 1st on Open E Records via Kobalt Label Services

Band Celebrating New Release By Sending the Famous G
rill ‘Em All Truck Around Los Angeles Today Giving Out Free Burgers: “The Fat Girl” and “Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’ Cheeseburger”

Pre-order All You Can Eat online January 14th

(January 13th, 2014 – New York, NY) The Sunset Strip’s hottest export, Steel Panther, is back and ready to unleash their third full-length album, All You Can Eat, on the world. The 12-track masterpiece is slated to hit stands April 1st in the United States on Open E Records via Kobalt Label Services (KLS). The album will be available for pre-order on January 14th at From the opening acoustic riff of album opener “Pussywhipped” to final chord hit in the album closer “She’s On The Rag,” it is clear Steel Panther is back and better than ever. Songs like “Gloryhole,” “Gangbang At The Old Folks Home” and “BVS” all showcase Steel Panther’s incredible musicianship and ability to write memorable and sometimes educational songs. The band, comprised of Michael Starr on vocals, Satchel on guitar, Lexxi Foxx on bass and Stix Zadinia on drums, have made a name for themselves as one of the most entertaining acts out today. The debut single “Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World,” was released in November with a star-studded video directed by Rob Riggle that has been viewed over 660,000 times. The explicit video for the song can be seen at Longtime Steel Panther producer Jay Ruston produced All You Can Eat.

The track listing for All You Can Eat is:

1. Pussywhipped
2. Party Like Tomorrow Is The End Of The World
3. Gloryhole
4. Bukkake Tears
5. Gangbang At The Old Folks Home
6. Ten Strikes You’re Out
7. The Burden Of Being Wonderful
8. F@#king My Heart In The Ass
9. BVS
10. You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk
11. If I Was The King
12. She’s On The Rag

Steel Panther has also partnered up with acclaimed LA food truck Grill ‘Em All for a promotion to coincide with the announcement of the release date of All You Can Eat. Grill ‘Em All was the winner of the first season of the Great American Food Truck on the Food Network and is known for their heavy metal themed burgers. The band unveiled the album cover of All You Can Eat on the Grill ‘Em All truck and the truck will roam around Los Angeles giving away “The Fat Girl” and the “Eatin’ Ain’t Cheatin’ Cheeseburger” for free to all Steel Panther fans in Los Angeles. Here is the schedule for the locations of Grill ‘Em All today:

11:00AM – 12:00PM – Origami (1816 Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026)
1:00PM – 2:00PM – High Fidelity (1956 Hillhurst Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90027)
3:00PM – 4:00PM – The Record Parlour (6408 Selma Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90028)
5:30PM – 7:00PM – The Rainbow (9015 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069)

Steel Panther was, for a long time, rock’s best-kept secret: a cult legend on the LA scene. But in recent years due to the success of their albums (both debuted at #1 on the Billboard Comedy Album Charts), and live shows, the band has enjoyed huge acclaim from fans and peers alike. Steel Panther has been joined on stage by rock and roll icons such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Paul Stanley of KISS, Corey Taylor of Slipknot, Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine/Audioslave, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park and Green Day to name a few. Steel Panther has also been seen on Dancing With The Stars, Bad Girl’s Club and most recently in a national web campaign for Warner Brothers Pictures hit film, Rock Of Ages.

Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde talks about new album and “Evening with Zakk Wylde” tour

Zakk Wylde is a name that needs no introduction. From his legendary work with heavy metals “Prince of Darkness” Ozzy Osbourne to his signature pinch harmonic filled works with Black Label Society, Zakk’s mark on music is certainly present. Starting in February of 2014 Zakk will be hitting the snow covered roads of Canada as part of his “Evening with Zakk Wylde” tour. The shows will feature a mixture of music and readings from Zakk’s 2012 book titled ”Bringing Metal to the Children: The Complete Berzerker’s Guide to World Tour Domination”. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Zakk recently about the tour, Black Label Society’s upcoming album and about the recent departure of long time Black Label guitarist Nick Catanese.

Adam Lawton: What can we be expecting from the upcoming run of “An Evening with Zakk Wylde” shows?
Zakk Wylde: Aside from a lot of pyro, concussion bombs and the launch of the Black Label Society winter collection of men’s lingerie it’s going to be us up there jamming.(Laughs) I am going to be doing some solo stuff with the guitar and singing and then with the piano as well. Along with the music I will be doing some readings from “Bringing Metal to the Children” and doing Q and A sessions with the fans. We will be talking about everything from what gear I use to Ozzy stories to how many times a day I get prostate exams. (Laughs)

AL: Will a lot of the music resemble what we saw/heard on the recent “Unblackened” release and can you tell us about the special VIP packages that are available for the shows?
ZW: Yes, totally. I think some of the stuff we will we doing is even more stripped down than the “Unblackened” stuff. For the VIP packages again I want to make sure everyone is healthy and regular so they get the free prostate exam as well. (Laughs) There’s only 25 available for each show and along with a meet and greet fans who purchase these will also get some other cool Black Label Society goodies.

AL: The shows announced thus far are all in Canada. Will there be more happening later on in the States?
ZW: We did two short runs on the East and West coasts with this type of layout. I thought it would be cool to take it to Canada as we always have a blast when we are up there. It worked out that there was some time before the new album coming out that we could put these shows together. Everything has worked out great scheduling wise before we roll out the new album in April.

AL: You also will be out as part of the Experience Hendrix tour and as part of the Metal All Stars tour. How did you get involved with being a part of those tours?
ZW: The Hendrix thing is going to be really great. I am a fan of everyone who is playing on those shows and it’s going to be cool to see what they all bring. A lot of these guys I have never met before so it will be a cool experience that I am really looking forward to. The Metal All Star stuff is another batch of shows that are going to be really cool as well. Whenever I get invited to do these things it always ends up being a good time.

AL: With the Hendrix material being a bit different from what you’re known for have you been doing anything special to get ready for these shows?
ZW: I have done covers of people’s material as bonus tracks and such on previous albums so Black Label-izing songs is something I am familiar with. Whenever you get to cover an artist or a song you really like it’s always a good time. With the Hendrix material things will be no different. I am going to probably pick a couple more obscure songs to do as I’m sure songs like “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Chile” will already be in the set. I’m just going to pull out some of my favorites and jam them out. I think it’s cool when you hear someone else’s take on a song. The Hendrix song that Stevie Ray Vaughn did as well as Sting’s version of “Little Wing” are both slamming.

AL: Can you give us an update on the new Black Label Society album?
ZW: We are just finishing mixing and plan to release it in April. This new album is one that it going to be back to the heavy riffs that the band is known for. I can’t believe that it’s been 4 years since our last studio album “Order of the Black”. We have been really busy since that release so time has passed quickly. For a while we were putting out an album a year which was fun as I love being in the studio just as much as I like being on stage. Some guys like one over the other but I love them both equally. They are different as when you are in the studio it’s a controlled environment and live is live. You have one shot and that’s it. With the studio you can sit back and look at things and add stuff here and there.

AL: With Nick Catanese recently leaving Black Label Society how do you feel the band dynamics will change seeing that Nick had been with the band for 15 plus years?
ZW: Nick played with me on the “Book of Shadows” tour before there was Black Label Society. We were driving 20,000 miles crammed in an Astro van playing to 10 people every night. I will always love Nick as he is a family member. When he came to me and said that his new project was something he felt he had to do I totally supported his decision. I want the guys who I play with to go on and do well. I wish him all the best. We have a couple contenders in the running for that spot right now and I am either going to have them come out with us on the Canadian run or have them with us at this year’s NAMM show which we have to have a second guitar player for. The short list we have are all great players. Nick is a rock so not having him around after 17 years of being together will be different. The thing about Black Label is that everyone who has been involved with the band has been unique and brought their own thing to the group. Once this new guy is in they are in till they decide to leave. If Nick wanted to come back and do a run with us some time our doors are always open. That’s just how things are with this band. We are all buddies.

AL: Being an artist who is always releasing new signature music gear do you have anything planned for release at this year’s NAMM show?
ZW: As far as the signature stuff goes I have the new Gibson Moderne of Doom that was released recently. With that I took an old classic and updated it. This guitar now has more of a Les Paul type neck which comes with an ebony fret board. This is one of those guitars that is so ugly it’s awesome! That’s why I love it.


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Blu-ray/CD Review: Black Label Society “Unblackened”

Black Label Society
eOne Music
Tracks: 23

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society is back with a new two disc live offering titled “Unblackened”. Recorded in stunning high definition during the band’s 2013 appearance at Club Nokia in Los Angeles, CA, the two disc CD/one disc Blu-Ray album showcases the bands reworking of some of Black Label Society’s most iconic tracks in a way they have never been performed before.

Along with Zakk Wylde on guitar/piano, bassist JD DeServio, long time BLS co-guitarist Nick Catanese, drummer Chad Szeliga, singer Greg Locascio and Derek Sherinian on keyboards/piano “Unblackened” is probably the best release to come out from The Doom Crew since the early 2000’s. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the lighter approach to songs that have been ingrained in to my head since I first started listening to Zakk however in my opinion this should have been the band’s sound from the start. Each track seems to breathe much better which also allows the rich instrumentation to remain clear and articulate (something that is often overshadowed by the group’s standard sludge like sound). Wylde’s voice on tracks like “Sold My Soul”, House of Doom” and “In This River” renews my faith in him as a front man as he showcases a unique vocal range that is quite a bit different than the Viking like gargling he has become known for.

Don’t let the idea of songs like “House of Doom” and “Stillborn being reworked into more acoustic renditions sway you from picking up a copy of this album as those songs along with the other 20 plus are equally crushing and still every bit Black Label Society. Though I appreciate the original recordings of each song which were reworked for “Unblackened” I can safely say that I like the new versions that much more. Another great thing about this release is that it is being released in a couple different formats some of which feature additional material and bonus tracks so no matter if you’re a devout vest wearing, chapter member of the Black Label Society or simply a music fan in general you will surely want to make some room in your collection for “Unblackened”.

Disc 1 Track Listing:
1.) Losin’ Your Mind
2.) The Blessed Hellride
3.) Sold My Soul
4.) Road Back Home
5.) Spoke In the Wheel
6.) House of Doom
7.) Queen of Sorrow
8.) Machine Gun Man
9.) Sweet Jesus
10.) In This River
11.) Throwin’ It All Away

Disc 2 Track Listing:
1.) Takillya (Estyabon)
2.) Won’t Find It Here
3.) Rust
4.) Speedball
5.) I Thank You Child
6.) Stillborn
7.) Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone
8.) Lovin’ Woman
9.) Queen of Sorrow (unplugged)
10.) Song For You
11.) Won’t Find It Here (unplugged)
12.) Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Tribeca Film Festival Review “Off Label”

Directed by: Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher
Producers: Anish Savjani, Vincent Savino
Tribeca Film Festival
Running time: 80 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

“Off Label”, a new documentary from Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, draws its power from getting personal with those most affected by the pharmaceutical industry’s usage of humans as guinea pigs. For some, it’s a financial choice, while for others it’s as a last ditch effort when other means have failed them.

With subjects spanning across the country, some of the most devastating accounts come from Andy Duffy, a 22-year-old army medic stricken with PTSD from being stationed at Abu Gharib, and Mary Weiss, the mother of a man who killed himself while in a medical study. At 17, Duffy could not believe that he was being deployed as a medic to one of the war’s most notorious locations and Off Label’s directors rightly make no effort to shield its viewers from the horrors he faced there. Understandably Duffy returned to the country in a real need of psychiatric help. What he found was doctors giving him a plethora of medications for various symptoms and off label prescriptions that fit under their medical plan better than more expensive, perhaps more appropriate, drugs. They’re basically throwing anything at him to see what works. In any case, Duffy is the not the only interviewee who presents a massive stock pile of little orange pill bottles in this doc and that’s the trouble. “I don’t need medication. I need help,” Duffy says. This loss of humanity in the search for the most effective drug mixture is at the heart of the problem examined in the doc. Duffy ultimately turns to other war veterans for more effective support, but other subjects lack such groups.

For me, the film’s most powerful figure is Mary Weiss. Weiss committed her 26-year-old son, Dan Markingson, for psychiatric help. Though he was committed, his personal consent to be put into a closed clinical study for anti-psychotics was irreversible by Weiss as he was not a minor. What resulted was Weiss being incapable of pulling her son from the drug study even though she could tell he was much worse off and eventually he committed a grisly suicide. Weiss became dedicated to fighting corruption within the drug testing system and in the film she is a striking and passionate interviewee. When she speaks to the filmmakers she is composed but the rage she has felt since losing Dan is palpable. Her account of her son’s death is haunting and I suspect will have many viewers rally to her cause. She is truly remarkable.

To counter the stories of those directly affected by prescription abuses, Palmieri and Mosher have also smartly included an ex-pharmaceutical rep, Michael Oldani, to detail the mechanics of getting various drugs into the public’s minds. Reflecting on his past occupation, Oldani dubs the role of drug reps as shady and some of the tactics he reveals to get a patient to prefer one drug over another are eye opening in their simplicity.

Besides Weiss’ fight, Off Label isn’t so much about directly confronting the rampant drug marketing in the United States as examining the human cost of such a culture. Beautifully shot footage of each of their interviewees in their day to day lives—Duffy practicing with his rifle, two of the “human guinea-pigs” celebrating an unconventional wedding— contribute to an intimate look at a massive problem.

Interview with Black Label Society’s John “JD” DeServio

John “JD” DeServio is the bass player for the heavy metal group Black Label Society. The band is currently on the Epitaph tour which is also featuring Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy. Media Mikes had a chance recently to talk with JD about the tour and what the band has in store for the rest of 2011 and into 2012.

Adam Lawton: How did you originally get involved with Black Label Society?
John DeServio: I had known Zakk before he joined Ozzy Osbourne. We have been brothers for a long time and we were always jamming and hanging out. I came in back on the “Pride and Glory” tour which was with Aerosmith were we got to tour Japan. That was just amazing. Zakk put Black Label Society together in 1998 and he asked me to do it. I was there until 2000. I had decided to split and do my own music for a bit. I was playing in wedding bands and doing whatever to make money but I just really wanted to make my own music and get better at playing. I also played with Richie Kotzen for about 6 months prior to rejoining Black Label Society.

AL: What were your initial thoughts when it was announced you would be touring with Judas Priest?
JD: It was awesome! We were totally blown away. I grew up listening to those guys and I never thought I would be getting the chance to play with them every night.

AL: How have the shows been thus far?
JD: The shows have been great and everything has been really good. We play an hour a night and the fans have been awesome. This tour has exposed us to some new fans which is always good for us.

AL: have there been any highlights of the tour so far?
JD: I think every day has been a highlight. Being on stage and getting to listen to Judas Priest has been pretty cool.

AL: What can you tell us about the Black Label Society Christmas EP?
JD: The EP has a few Christmas songs played by Zakk and I think it’s a cool idea. We just love to play and Zakk did something similar to this on our last EP which had “The First Noel” on it. This EP has a full Christmas motif to it.

AL: What can you tell us about the upcoming tour with G N’ R?
JD: That will be coming up right after our run with Judas Priest ends. The shows are going to be mostly arenas which are always a lot of fun.

AL: What do you think your greatest musical accomplishment has been thus far?
JD: Tour all this time with Zakk has been an accomplishment in itself. (Laughs) It’s all been great. When I was younger I had the chance to play Madison Square Garden which for me growing up in that area was a big deal. I was playing with Vinnie Moore back then and we opened two nights for Rush. There have been so many great things that have happened over the years.

AL: Is there any place that you haven’t played yet that you want to get to?
JD: I would love to make it over to Israel and the holy land. I have had friends go over there and play who have said it was an experience they couldn’t explain. I think Egypt would be really great as well. China would be another place that I would like to play as well

AL: What other projects do you guys have coming up this year and into 2012?
JD: I have a few bass clinics scheduled for this year. I generally try and schedule those during every tour we do. I went to Berkley College of Music where I learned a bunch of stuff outside of just Heavy Metal. It’s cool for me to get to show off on some other types of music. Hopefully the clinics will open up some ears and inspire a few people. On this run of clinic I have been doing some stuff with Thin Lizzy’s bassist Marco Mendoza and our new drummer Chad Saliga who used to play for Breaking Benjamin. Those guys have been playing along with me so it’s been great. My band Cycle of Pain who released an album back in 2009 is currently writing a new album and we hope to get that out as well.

CD Review: Black Label Society “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” EP

Black Label Society
“Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” EP
eOne Music
Tracks: 3

Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars

“Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” is the Newest EP by the Zakk Wylde fronted group Black Label Society. The EP consists of 3 classic Christmas songs performed by Zakk and his band. The album is being released via eOne Music and available today via iTunes.

I found this CD to be somewhat of a letdown. The tracks feature minimal performances of 3 Christmas Classics by Zakk Wylde and company. I really struggled to find something that stood out and was different. I am a huge Zakk Wylde fan and have quite a collection of his material however the only thing that was somewhat interesting about this EP was the ridiculously long title.

Black Label Society’s “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” is nothing that hasn’t been done before. However for those BLS chapter members looking for something to listen to during the holiday season the 3 tracks contained on “Glorious Christmas Songs That Will Make Your Black Label Heart Feel Good” should help get you in the Christmas mood.

Track Listing:
•    I’ll Be Home For Christmas
•    Oh Little Town of Bethlehem
•    It’s A Wonderful World