Drummer Anton Fig talks about re-release of solo album “Figments”

 

Drummer Anton Fig has been performing both live and in the studio since the mid 1970’s.  He has worked with artists such as Bob Dylan, Madonna and most notably as the drummer for David Letterman’s house band the CBS Orchestra. Anton released his first solo album “Figments” in 2002 and recently re-released it in 2015. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Anton recently about the albums re-release and its creation and also about his impressive session work.

Adam Lawton: “Figments” was originally released in 2002. Can you tell us about the decision to re-release the album?
Anton Fig: When the album was initially released there were a few people who heard it however at that time the transition from retail to online sales was just starting to take place. Stores were closing up and the stuff on the web was still just starting to happen. Things weren’t the way they are now with social media and everything so it was hard for people to access the album. I felt the album still sounded fresh and vibrant and with there being a number of ways to get the word out about it re-releasing the album seemed like a good thing to do.

AL: Thinking back to when you first started working on the album what do you feel was the driving element in releasing your first solo album after being in the music business for quite some time prior?
AF: I always had said to myself that once it became easier to record and digital recording was more available that I would put out a record. Going into a traditional studio is quite expensive so being able to record from your home and not have to travel and all that made things much easier. I did travel a little bit to work with some of the people on the album and I did my drums in a studio but all the mixing and overdubs I did at home which was relatively inexpensive. In 2002 home recording was still new. Nowadays everyone has the ability to record digitally from just about where ever. By doing things the way I did back in 2002 it was more affordable at the time. All the songs that make up the album were ones that I had sort of saved up over time. From there I went about putting the right people to each of the songs.

AL: How far back in your career did you actually start writing some of this material?
AF: I was in a band in the 80’s called Spider. We were managed by Bill Aucoin who had managed Kiss and we were always encouraged to write in that group. After that group ended I just kept writing. Over the years I had built up a group of songs that I wanted to get out there. I picked the songs I liked the best and just went from there with finding the right combination of players for each one.

AL: Do you find it hard for people to really take notice of an album like this being you are mostly know for your drum work?
AF: I think what surprised people most was the fact that “Figments” isn’t really a drum record. This is a song record along the lines of a Phil Collins album or something like that. There aren’t drum pyrotechnics or anything like that as it more about song production. That’s the record I wanted to make. I feel it adds something because it has a bit of a surprise element to it based just on that score.

AL: Did you creative process differ any on this album as opposed to some of the others you have appeared on?
AF: When I am working on someone else’s project generally my main concern is the drums. They are the ones in charge of the overview of things and how they want the song to sound. I am there to try and help them realize that vision as quickly as possible. When you are doing your own record you have to have that overview. Once I had the drum sounds down I sort of forgot about them and had the big picture more on my mind. It actually helped my drumming a lot as I was forced to look at the big picture as opposed to only the drumming.

AL: When you are approached with session work opportunities what is it that you look for in a project prior to agreeing to work on it?
AF: I think mostly it’s if I am the right person for the session. I look at if it’s something that I can be mostly myself in. If they are asking me to do something that I am not really suited to do you almost want to tell them to get so and so to do it but, I generally try to do all of the projects I am asked to do. Nowadays I have a set up where I can do drums remotely as I have my own studio. In a situation like that you are not in a room with a producer or artist so you have to decide what the best way to approach things are and how much of yourself you can put into that session. It can be a bit harder working that way at times.

AL: One of the groups you have been involved with over the years was with Kiss and later on Ace Frehley. How did that relationship come about?
AF: At the time I think Peter Criss had broken his arm or something like that and wasn’t going to be able to drum on the upcoming album “Dynasty”. I worked on that album and from there I got asked to do another album with them titled “Unmasked”. With Ace I was playing in my band Spider at the time and we were auditioning bass players. One of the guys who came in was friends with Ace and mentioned he was looking for a drummer for his solo project. He got me an audition with Ace and from there I ended up doing the record and becoming friends with Ace. Right after that is when I got the gig with the Late Night Show so that’s where things ended with the band. I have played on a good majority of Ace’s stuff most recently “Anomaly”.

AL: Up until recently your work with Kiss was done as a ghost writer. Is it hard going into projects like that where you know you will not to be credited?
AF: With Kiss I knew upfront that I wasn’t going to be credited. They told me I would be paid well however I could not talk about it. That was always my understanding with them so I never talked about it. Gene Simmons mentioned it in a book of his recently and my name was also added to the liner notes of the re-issued “Dynasty” album. Once they started talking about I also started talking about it. It was over 20 years or something like that where I didn’t say anything about my involvement. I knew we had an agreement and I stuck to it. Today it’s hard to do something like that as there are no secrets.

 

AL: Are there plans to tour behind “Figments”?

AF: I would like to but with every song having a different line it would be quite difficult. The album is almost like a playlist that you would put together. It would be hard to fully recreate the albums line up. I suppose I could put together a band and do some of the songs. I think if a song off the record gets a lot of attention and people are asking for it then I will think more about taking it out on the road. For now though I am out with Joe Bonamassa and have be selling the album at the shows so I am out there with it.

 

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The Runaways’s Cherie Currie talks about latest solo album “Reverie”

Cherie Currie got her start in the music business while still in her early teens fronting the iconic all girls group The Runaways. Though the group only lasted a short time Currie went on to become a successful solo performer and chainsaw artist. Cherie’s latest solo album titled “Reverie” is her first in 35 year’s and features collaborations with former Runaways manager Kim Fowley and former Runaways guitarist Lita Ford. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Cherie recently about the albums creation, what it was like working with Kim and Lita again and her thoughts on a Runaways reunion.

Adam Lawton: What made now feel like the best time to for you to release a new solo album?
Cherie Currie: I started performing again in 2010 when The Runaways movie came out. I had the chance to open for Joan at the Pacific Amphitheater and I found it nice to not be covered in gas and oil for once as being a chainsaw artist for the last decade that happened quite often. (Laughs) The reception from that show was a great one and things just started rolling from there. I had Matt Sorum drumming for me and he also was the one who put the band together. We ended up going in and doing a record for Joan’s label Blackheart. Someday I hope for that record to see the light of day. From there I decided to put myself on the road without management as I just wanted to get out there and play. I did about 4 tours in the US and Canada. When that was over Kim Fowley reached out to me after hearing I might be interested in working with him again. I jumped at the chance to work with Kim again despite knowing he was very ill. The whole idea of letting go of that bad blood I had towards him as a kid and to be able to re-experience him as an adult was absolutely a treasure to me. Getting to have my son be a part of this process was also really great. The experience was just amazing.

AL: Besides working with Kim on this project you also worked with Lita Ford. How did that opportunity come together?
CC: Lita and I had become friends for the first time in our lives actually about three years ago. She had asked me to do a duet with her a couple years ago titled “Rock This Christmas Down”. I actually flew in mid tour to do this session. The single turned out great and after Kim reached out to me to do this album I called Lita and asked if she would be a part of it. Lita had hurt her hand prior to the session so she wasn’t able to play guitar however she did sing on a couple tracks. It was a lot of fun to be able to work with her again.

AL: What was it like working with both Kim and Lita now as compared to when you were in The Runaways?
CC: When you are 15 years old, never sang in a studio before and you have this tall man towering over you and yelling things can be a bit tense. It was a totally different experience this time. I have always thought about those times but now being a parent myself I can understand where Kim was coming from a little better. Kim didn’t have a great childhood so it’s hard to imagine him in his 30’s knowing what to do with 5 teenage girls. He did the best he could. Years ago he and I spent hours on the phone burying the hatchet. He apologized to me but he also knew that we were going out in to this big bad world and that we needed tuff skin. He did things in the only way he knew how. I look back now and wish I had the brain then that I have now but I just didn’t. I think I would have laughed a lot more than cried. Kim was just such a character which he was up until the day he passed away.

AL: Is the material that makes up this album stuff that you have been working on for some time or is it newly written material?
CC: “Inner You”, “I’m Happy”, “Dark World” and “Queens of the Asphalt Jungle” were all written in one afternoon at Kim’s apartment. Two days later we were in the studio and shortly after that Kim became so ill that he couldn’t continue. Kim turned the record over to my son Jake and he and I started writing together. The track “Believe” is one I wrote about 19 years ago. I am really happy that we recorded that song as it has just been sitting around. “Shades of Me” I wrote with Jake and it’s a duet which Jake sort of went into kicking and screaming. He was bit unsure about doing a duet with his mother. (Laughs) He ended up sounding so good that I told him to just keep singing. The two Runaways songs were ones that I had been performinglive. I used my band to record those along with Lita. The song “Reverie” was a song that was originally done 3 years ago for a film. That never ended up happening and we used that song as we felt it was a cool tune. We really rushed to get this album done before Kim passed but we ended up just shy.

AL: Describe the working/creative relationship like between you and your son?
CC: We have done 4 tours together now and while out on the road we are roommates. We have spent a lot of time together both on the road and on stage. Since he was 13 I have always drug him along with me. His very first radio show was Jonesy’s Jukebox. There was my son playing guitar with Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. I knew then he had something and was very talented but I had no clue he would go on to be as good as he is. He is such an amazing writer, producer and musician.

AL: Have you set up any plans to tour in support of the release?
CC: Eventually. I am going to be picking up the chainsaw again. I had to put it down to make this record and I have quite a bit of work for clients along with another pretty substantial carving that needs to be completed. I am going to focus just on the chainsaw for a few months and then I will be putting the band back together and see what happens.

AL: With all the recent collaboration amongst former Runaway band members are there any talks of all of you getting together for a project?
CC: I always did and it was something I always wanted to believe would happen but I don’t think that anymore. I was the last one standing again saying that this thing was going to happen but I just can’t anymore. I am always the optimist but it just doesn’t seem to be something Lita or Joan are interested in doing. For years I was always the one telling people not to give up but sometimes you just have to admit it and walk on. From there you can move on with your life. I can’t miss out on things in my life because I am constantly wishing for the band to get back together. I just really had to let it go. I have been blessed recently in that I have got to work individually with Joan, Kim and Lita. I am very happy with that.

Robben Ford talks about new solo album “Into the Sun”

Robben Ford is a highly accomplished guitarist who has collaborated with everyone from Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, George Harrison and Kiss. He was also named one of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of the 20th Century” by Musicians magazine. Robben recently released a new solo album titled “Into the Sun” and Media Mikes had the chance to speak with him about the album, its creation and Robben’s roots in music.

Adam Lawton: You have a bunch of guest performers on your new album “Into the Sun”. Can you tell us about those and what you feel each artist brought to the tracks they performed on?
Robben Ford: The whole notion of having guests on the album really came from my management. I just started working with new management and when they first brought this idea to me it was something that I didn’t really want to do. I am a little precious about my work as it’s sort of like a painting you do and then someone comes along and adds something else to your work. It may not always feel like that but it can. I decided to listen to them and it turned out to be really great. I am so pleased with the result. The first one’s that come to mind are Keb’ Mo and Warren Haynes. I have known both of those guys for many years now and had the chance to work with them both on several different occasions. Both are great guys and easy to work with so having them be a part of the project was a no brainer. Sonny Landreth was another great one and someone who I had actually already planned to have on the album. We have known each other for quite some time but never had the chance to really spend a lot of time with one another and I saw this as the chance. I actually played on one of his records in the past. Also on the album are Robert Randolph, Tyler Bryant and ZZ Ward. The song Robert does with Keb titled “Justified” is great! The two of them sound great on there. Both Tyler and ZZ I checked out on YouTube after they were suggested by management and I liked them both. ZZ was the one person who came in and recorded live with us in the studio. Everyone else we sent the music to. My only instruction to them was to just play. All of the collaboration was really successful. I was afraid that having so many guests might break up the continuity of the album but that wasn’t the case.

AL: Did giving those guest performers such simple directions provide for a lot of back and forth collaboration?
RF: I really just let them play to the tracks. From there we did whatever editing was necessary. It did take a little finesse on my part though in order to balance to the two guitar parts out. I had asked everyone not to play to me as I had already laid down my guitar part for each song. I sort of said give it a listen then go through with my part off and just play. Again everything worked out and I am really happy with it.

AL: Where does writing a song start for you?

RF: No matter what I think in the beginning things always end up turning out differently. I think that is true with any creative process really. It has to change. I tend to just sit down and start writing songs. In this particular case I wrote with my friend Kyle Swan. Kyle is really out there and at the same time really good. It is hard to pin down exactly what he does but it is super creative. I like his energy and where he is coming from. I found out recently that jazz music is our common thread. He went to school for jazz and in to a lot of the greats. Even though jazz isn’t what you’re hearing that background is there. Jazz has always been an undertone for my music. Kyle also helped me break through some lyric barriers as I am sort of a traditionalist in the way I write. I like to be clear and for a story to have a beginning, middle and end. I am also a little bit of a perfectionist as well.

AL: Is it hard to let another artist in during the writing process?
RF: When it comes down to it I want my material to be really good. I am always up for collaborating with other artists to get a song to where I want it. It’s one of those things where I am not actively searching for people to work with but it is something that I think about quite a bit. I have worked with a variety of people over the years in different ways but a really successful collaboration I would have to say is the one Michael McDonald and I had for a few years. Michael is the only other person I have written with a lot. We did quite a bit of material a lot of which has never been heard. I was really happy to find Kyle Swan as I like to see his creativity. Kyle thinks way outside the box so much so that sometimes I have to reel him in.

AL: Looking at things from a gear perspective you are sort of traditionalist in that you predominately use vintage equipment. Is it hard to stay true to those vintage roots with the constant progression of technology?
RF: I don’t find it difficult at all. I find it more difficult to change. I haven’t found any good reasons to change to new equipment. I am using Dumble Amps which do everything I need. I have actually used the same amplifiers on all my recordings since 1983. I like vintage guitars so I really have no interest in modern guitars what so ever. Pedals and such I just see them as the salt and pepper of my sound. They just add a little bit here and there however they are not my sound.

AL: Looking back on your career is there point in time that you felt was most beneficial to your career as a whole?

RF: Probably the two years I spent with Joni Mitchell. When I joined that group I was 22 years old with very little experience. I had practically none when it came to playing with experienced players. Up to that point I played in small bands with my friends. When I joined that band suddenly I was playing with people who had far more experience. They were all very kind to me and I was able to learn from them during that time. Joni was probably nevermore brilliant or beautiful as an artist as she was at the time I joined her band. It was a completely unbelievable and rewarding experience working with her. I would do it all again if I could.

AL: Is it fair to say that this experience was what made you want to go further in your career as a musician?
RF: Had I not had that experience I am not sure what would have happened. It’s hard to say because the trajectory I had in my mind was that of a blues guitarist trying to learn jazz. Entering into the “Pop” world and being around a group of people who were very supportive certainly affected me. Had I not been around that I probably would have gone the way of many of my contemporaries and been more of a jazz oriented player with blues as my background.

AL: What type of plans do you have in the works for the coming months?
RF: I am going to be out on the road the next couple of months. For a full list of dates people can check out my website at www.robbenford.com but I start touring in April here in the States and then I will be over in Europe for a couple weeks before heading back to the States for some shows on the west coast. People can also check out Robben Fords Guitar Dojo for a variety of guitar related lessons and material. I partnered with a great company that helped put this out and it’s a lot of fun to do. I will also be doing another guitar camp in the Catskill Mountains this year at the end of August so that’s another thing I am really looking forward to.

Bumblefoot talks about latest solo album “Little Brother is Watching”

Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is a guitarist/songwriter/producer who has been making his way in music since the late 1980’s. He is probably best known for his work with Guns n’ Roses on the long awaited “Chinese Democracy” album and from the bands recent live film release “Appetite for Democracy 3D”. Bumblefoot’s latest solo release (his 10th to date) is titled “Little Brother is Watching” and features 11 tracks which delve in to a variety of unique sounds and subject matter. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Bumblefoot recently about the new album, his creative process and his other plans to stay busy throughout 2015.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on “Little Brother is Watching”?
Bumblefoot: This is my latest solo CD. It has 11 songs which if I had to describe it I would consider it melodic rock. I think it’s going to appeal to guitar players. The album took about 9 months to complete which seems to be how long all of my albums tend to take. From the time I hit record to the time they hit the merch table at my shows its 9 months. The weird thing about it is that during those 9 months I always gain exactly 8 pounds. No matter what I do or don’t do its always 8 pounds that I gain during those 9 months. After the album comes out those pounds just sort of disappear. It’s just weird. I just sort of noticed this happened one day. It’s like I was having these invisible babies every time I went in and made a new album. (Laughs)

AL: Where do you generally start when you begin work on a new album?
Bumblefoot: It usually just starts in my head. Even before that there is usually something that happens where I get an idea for a song like walking into a wall. Something in life happens and then I start putting things together in my head. I don’t play a note or anything. I am just hearing things between my ears and putting it all together. I do this for each song. The first time I actually play them is when I go in with my drummer Dennis and we play them acoustically. From there we will talk about things, lay down scratch tracks and build things from there.

AL: Have you always worked this way or has it been sort of a progression?
Bumblefoot: It has sort of become that way. When I am working with other people it tends to be different but for my solo stuff it usually happens all in my head before anything else. If it sounds good in there then hopefully it will sound good once it all comes out. I think it works good for this way because the ideas can sort of simmer and I can get familiar with before going in to the studio.

AL: Are you the type of musician who is always coming up/working on new material or do you have to set time aside away from touring and such?
Bumblefoot: I have never been able to force myself to write and while I’m out on the road I have never been able to write either. For me touring has always been about giving yourself to everybody else. Everyone else gets your attention so when you are writing music you need to put all that attention inwards. The two have never meshed for me prior to this album. With this new record I forced myself to do it. It definitely hurt. (Laughs) In March/April of last year I was in South America doing shows and started coming with things for the new album. I was a bit of a nut case. We actually figured out the drums in May and then I went back out on the road. After that run was over I jumped on a bus for the Guitar Gods tour for 5 weeks where I did a lot of writing.

AL: Can you tell us about the addition of having fans play on the record?
Bumblefoot: There are 6 songs on this album where I have 100 people singing. When the album was almost done we decided to have a listening party and invited 100 people. We would play a song, do a brief Q&A and then I would play a section of the song and have those in attendance sing on those parts. We did that for each of the 6 songs. I took those tracks with me into the studio and mixed them into the album. I think it came out sounding really good. I wanted to have these songs have parts where the audience was part of the song they were hearing.

AL: Do you find being a solo artist to be as equally rewarding as when you are working in a band setting?
Bumblefoot: Everything is going to have its own set of likes and dislikes. The goal is to have diversity in life. You want to make sure your doing enough things to where you always feel refreshed and you don’t get bored or wore out. You have to keep things interesting. One thing can’t be your everything so it’s great to be able to do a variety of things. For me being just a guitarist in a band is one thing, signing and writing is another and producing and engineering is one more. Everything is different so when I put it all together I am very musically complete and gratified.

AL: What type of tour plans do you have in place to support the release?
Bumblefoot: I don’t have a tour booked just yet. I want to take some time to get the word out about the album. I want to make sure there is time for interviews, videos and all that stuff before I go and book a tour. By giving the album some time I can then figure out exactly where we should go and set up shows. You have to have a strategy when putting out an album. I would love to go and play every place possible but the cost of doing something like that can be quite high. I really like the idea of doing residencies where I can set up and play the same venue over a couple nights. Doing shows like that makes things a lot easier on everyone and it’s a bit more affordable for everyone.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the other things you have going on/coming out this year?
Bumblefoot: Art of Anarchy which is sort of a super group featuring Scott Weiland, John Moyer, Jon and Vince Votta and I is something I have been working on lately. Our first album should be out sometime in May. I have known Jon and Vince for a long time and they approached me about doing this. They had Scott already in mind as the vocalist and then we brought in John on bass. Besides playing guitar I also worked as producer and engineer. Outside of that I have also been doing some production work for the band Generation Kill and I have been doing some guitar stuff for Darryl McDaniel’s from Run-DMC.  At the end of March I will be at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp in Las Vegas with Michael Schenker, Glenn Hughes and a bunch of other really cool people. I also have my own line of guitar cases and hot sauces that people can check out. There is a lot of fun stuff going on over the next few months.

 

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The Rods’ Dave “Rock” Feinstein and Carl Canedy talks about new song “Great Big Fake Ones”

Media Mikes had the great pleasure recently to speak to not one but two legendary heavy metal musicians. Dave “Rock” Feinstein and Carl Canedy make up 2/3rds of the band The Rods a band which has been carrying the flag for heavy metal and hard rock since the late 1970’s. Both members have new solo albums out along with a newly released Rods single titled “Great Big Fake Ones” and we spoke with the guys recently about these new releases and their plans for the coming year.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us about the decision to re-issue “Heavier Than Thou” and
“Hollywood”?
Dave “Rock” Feinstein: “Heavier than Thou”, and the “Hollywood” albums have been albums that wanted by the fans for a long time.  We felt that now was a good time to re-issue them.  They are both slightly different than a traditional RODS album, so I think that’s what makes them so interesting to the fans.
Carl Canedy: We’ve been in the process of re-issuing a lot of our back catalog that we own the rights to. These two CD’s in particular were something the fans had not had a chance own in a re-issued, re-mastered format. Fans have been emailing us for years asking when they’d be available. So like Dave said it simply was time.

AL:  What can you tell us about the newly recorded Rods track “Great Big Fake Ones”?
DF: There are many words that have been used to describe the song, but when Carl brought the song in, the three of us just felt that it was so funny, and just different enough to make the fans want to hear it.  You have to take it for what it is.  It’s not a traditional RODS song, but it is a very catchy tune that should make you laugh.
CC: The guys have been really cool about doing a song this since I initially brought it to them. It’s clearly a “one-off” type of song. The fans who’ve heard love it. I think as long as you realize it’s “tongue-in-cheek” you can enjoy it for what it is. Personally I love it and think it’s quite amusing. I gave it to the guys and when it came time to record it was done quickly. Rock and Garry really nailed the vocals.

AL: You both recently released new solo albums. Can you tell us about those and some of the guests who appear on the albums?
DF:  “Clash of Armor” is my forth solo release now and was done mostly by myself and Nate Horton. On my previous releases I have had quite a few guest performers. In the past guys like John West, Michael Butler, Jeff Howell and Matt Barnes have all come in to help me on various tracks as has Nate. On the song “Bitten By the Beast” from my 3rd solo release I had Carl and Garry come in. I played guitar and Ronnie James Dio did the vocals.
CC: On my CD, I have John Hahn, a Leviathan artist who is a Mike Varney discovery. I’ve known John for quite a few years as I played on his first solo CD in the “90’s. Mark Tornillo has 3 vocals, Joe Comeau has 2 vocals and David Porter has 2 vocals. Chris Caffery came in and did some soloing on 2 tracks as well as several other artists who graciously brought their talent to this project.

AL: With a career spanning multiple decades what do you find these days to be the most rewarding part of being a musician?
DF: It’s rewarding to still be able to create new music.  Of course playing live is the ultimate rush, and to know that there are still fans around the world checking out our music and wanting more.

AL: Are there any plans to perform this new material live and what type of
plans do The Rods have in place for 2015?
DF: I think I can speak for the three of us that we love to perform live, and if a song of ours merits being performed live, then we will do so.  Right now for us we take every request to perform seriously, and try to do as much as we can to make these live appearances happen, For us and for the fans as well.
CC: We do have a few dates in the works that are not yet confirmed and we have confirmed the Defenders of Old Festival in March with Exciter. We’re excited about this show as it’s the first time in years we’ve been to the NY area. Also, I love the band and the guys in Exciter so I’m looking forward to the reunion.

Markéta Irglová talks about her latest solo album “Muna”

Photo by Hordur Sveinsson

Markéta Irglová is known best for her work with the band, The Swell Season with Glen Hansard. The two also starred in the film “Once”, which these also took home the Oscar for Best Song from the film. Markéta released her first solo album “Anar” in 2011. Her latest solo album “Muna” is a continuation of that album. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Markéta about the album and her music.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us about where you pulled your inspiration for your latest solo album “Muna”?
Markéta Irglová: I usually draw inspiration for my work based on experience and what is going on in my life in terms of what resonates. I find that I am not able to write about something that I can’t connect with from an emotional place. So it ends up being things that I am drawn to at that time. It could be things that I am reading or stories that I heard. At the time for “Muna”, I was having an introspective journey and asking myself a lot of questions about life in general. In the past, I would have written songs about relationships because that was how I was learning to relate to the world. This album was a lot about widening my relationship with the world and looking for my own sense of spirituality and outlook on life. In that searching, I came across a lot of material that actually helped me in my own life as well.

MG: How did you come up with the title “Muna”? (Icelandic for “remember”)
MI: For me this is part two of a trilogy of records, which “Anar” was the first. When I finished making “Anar”, I knew that it had to be the first of these three records. It would be connected to the others and be a continuation and extension of each other. I wanted there to be a synchronicity between these three records. I wanted each record to also have a title of one word and consisting of four letters. When I was recording “Muna” in Iceland, I was wondering what it would be called and I was looking for a word. I was thinking that remembering is sort of a theme for this record. The idea of remembering something that you forgot a long time ago and trying to chase that memory again. So I asked my engineer/producer, “How do you say remember in Icelandic?” He said “Muna” and I said “Perfect, that is the title”.

MG: Can you compare your recording experiences of “Anar” and “Muna”?
MI: I recorded “Anar” in Chicago and I didn’t have a huge budget for it. I liked the idea though of keeping it simple anyway. I wanted to go in for a couple of weeks and have the recording sessions with local musicians and my friend Aida (Shahghasemi), who I have been playing with at the time. I originally went in to record an EP and ended up having way more material than I needed for an EP, so it turned into a whole record. When I was making “Muna”, I wanted to build on the experience of “Anar” and wanted to have a more lush sound with string arrangements. At the time when I was looking for a studio, I was recommend to a recording studio in Iceland. I knew it was a long way to travel but we decided to do it. Again a lot of local musicians got involved and it developed a more structured lush sound for this album.

MG: The album has religion overtones throughout, especially including part of “The Lord’s Prayer” in the track “Without a Map”; tell us about spiritual influence for this album?
MI: Yeah, I was reading a trilogy of books called “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsch. It happened by accident really, I was visiting a friend of mine and while she was making me some tea, I was going through her books and I just came across these books. I didn’t understand how someone could be having a conversation with God. Was he actually having talks with God or did he make it all up? I didn’t know the answer but I liked what I was reading and ended up getting stuck into these books. At the same time, I was allowing myself to ask all these questions as well. So that was one of the main influences for me. There is also a musical called “Jesus Christ Superstar” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, which is something that I saw when I was four years old. It really inspired my entire musical journey through my life and even now it still resonates with me with the songs and performances. It is a musical, so the story is told with song and there is this sort of call and answer between them. I think my approach to song writing is very similar. I have these conversations within these songs, I ask questions and answer them through the music. I ended up reaching through myself and finding out answers to questions that I realized that I already knew the answers to.

MG: “The Leading Bird” is easily one of my favorite tracks on the album; can you talk a little bit about how it was born?
MI: “The Leading Bird”, I actually co-wrote with my friend Aida. She is a friend of mine that I met when I moved to New York. She is a daf percussionist, which is like a Persian drum. She is also a vocalist. She first wrote a poem and then was writing music to it and she told me she was having an issue finishing it. She asked if she could play it for me and maybe I could help her. She played me this idea which was the verse and the bridge of what became “The Leading Bird”. She didn’t know where to take it. We forgot about it for some time and was both working on other things. I was writing this piece a while later on the piano, which I was really liking. It would become the cord progression of the chorus for “The Leading Bird”. When working on it, it occurred to me that it was perfect for Aida’s song. I thought if we joined these two songs together it would be perfect. When I saw her again, we joined the melodies together and put her lyrics over my parts and it was like it was always meant to be. It was a really incredible experience and I have never written a song like that before in my life. It was very inspiring to have this song born in this way.

Photo by Hordur Sveinsson

MG: My other favorite is “This Right Here”; any story behind this one?
MI: “This Right Here” is a very traditional love song with piano and vocal. It was actually written, the entire thing, music and lyrics within one afternoon. I had just sat at the piano and the song just appeared to me. That doesn’t happen very often. Usually an idea will appear and then I put a lot of effort in in order to crystalize the lyrics and music. But this song just kind of appeared, finished in a way. I don’t know how but it did [laughs].

MG: Was there any plan to the order of the songs on the album?
MI: Yeah, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to approach the track list. Mio (Thorisson), my partner, and I had been doing a lot of the post production on the album ourselves. We would burn CDs and listen to them in the car when we went on drives. We would then go back and fix different parts. We also burned them with the tracks in different order. Over the course of listening to these songs together and in different environments, it started to become really clear as how they should be arranged to showcase the gradual growth of the record over the 50 minutes.

MG: Tell us about your upcoming North America and Europe tour?
MI: It is going to be five of us on stage. Aida, who plays the daf and sings with me. Rob Bochnik and Joe Doyle are the bass player and guitar player, who were also part of The Swell Season and also in The Frames. The four of us have done some shows together before when we went to Asia last summer and it worked out really well. I am really excited that they are in for this tour. Also Rosi Golan, a Brooklyn-based singer/songwriter is joining us as a support act and also will be on stage for our set as a vocalist as well. So it is going to be a lot of fun.

Weston Cage talks about music and solo album “Wes Cage”

Weston Cage is no stranger to the entertainment business. The son of Hollywood heavy weight Nicholas Cage, Weston has dabbled in everything from acting and soundtrack scoring to fronting his own underground metal band “Eyes of Noctum”. Weston’s newest project is his first solo music effort simply titled “Wes Cage”. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Weston recently about the project which he describes simply as “Ghost Metal”.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about your new single?
Weston Cage: “Tell Me Why” is one of those songs that is very different from the rest of the tracks on the album. The record was written with a specific formula in order to have traditional ghost metal sound. It is true to the essence of what I was going for. “Tell Me Why” has a lot of classic roots as it’s a little thrashy while the chorus sticks out. We used a detuned piano in the background along with a lot of industrial elements. My wife wrote the lyrics which are sort about this tortured individual. What’s amazing about the interpretation of the song is that the lyrics can be taken in any way that the listener wants.

AL: What was it like working with your wife on the song lyrics?
WC: It was very refreshing. It was easier for me as the lyrics I write tend to be a bit wordy. Sometimes we have to go in and sort of Frankenstein up my lyrics to make them a little more workable. Having Danielle come in for this track was really great.

AL: Can you tell us about the decision to shift from being in a band to being a solo artist?
WC: I definitely wanted to cater to a larger audience. I also wanted to experiment with some things that are disliked in the black metal genre. I wanted to add more industrial elements and draw on some of my world influence. I wanted to be able to just explore a little more. The other tracks on this new album have more of a symphonic/industrial element to them. Again I just really wanted to be free to explore my influences.

AL: What type of process do you take creatively when working on new material?
WC: It’s a pretty interesting process actually.  I am very unorthodox. I meditate and, during meditation I go so deep that I start to hear things which stem from the unknown. I might hear a melody or something and then elaborate from there. Before I know it I have two or three riffs and the rest of the song starts to come together. I use a variety of instrumentation while creating.

AL: Coming from a family mostly known for film what do you think it was that sparked your interest in music?
WC: Music has been a passion of mine from very early on. When I heard some of my great grandfather and great uncles music I got inspired. Some of that music from “The Godfather” really sparked my interest. As a kid there was always music playing in the background. Everything from Enya to Nine Inch Nails along with other music that had these vast array of sounds. Those definitely planted the seeds in my blood.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you have in the works?
WC: I have quite a few films lined up right now. I have one that will be shooting Portland that is sort of like a grittier version of “Harold and Kumar”. There are a few others that will be quite interesting as well. One film is dealing with Babylonian/Sumerian history. Musically has been pretty focused on this new solo stuff. On average I have been writing about 15 songs per month. Right now I think I have enough material for 4 more albums.  It will be the gnarly reduction process that I have to get myself through to get rid of the songs that maybe aren’t the best.

 

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Choo Choo Soul’s Genevieve Goings talks about first solo children’s album “Do You Know”

Genevieve Goings is best known for her work with Disney Junior’s Choo Choo Soul. You might also know her as Miss Hugs from Fisher-Price’s Little People product line. She just released her first solo children’s album called “Do You Know” with amazing and fun new music for kids (and parents) to enjoy and learn from. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Genevieve (again) to discuss the album as well as her new role at Disney Junior.

Mike Gencarelli: This is your first solo children’s album; tell us about the evolution of “Do You Know”?
Genevieve Goings: Yes it is, I am just so happy that it is finally out! It started when I was working with Fisher Price. It sparked something inside me. When we came to the end of that project, I felt like I had more creativity left in me. It is more important with programming and corporations not to stuff the education aspect down kid’s throat, so to speak. There is more of a storyline with magic and the discovery. So none of my clients are looking for those straight educational songs but I have had so many ideas for these songs. I thought how about if I put out the educational album and I can stick with the magical storytelling songs for them. I think when I completed the song “How Many Fives Around The Clock?”, that was when I knew I had something special. That song is so cool, catchy and fun. So it all started with that.

MG: How does these songs differ from Choo Choo Soul?
GG: When I was working on the songs, I had a white board up jotting down ideas and putting different pictures up on a cork board. I was looking at photos for Choo Choo Soul and I was thinking who that person would be if is she wasn’t in that costume. I was making a list of my favorite parts of Choo Choo Soul, like the fact that I have a costume and not showing any skins. I wanted to find the places where I can push the boundaries. Some of those are just being really super silly and not following any of the rules for songwriting, especially in the song “Aeiou”, which is just completely ridiculous and I love it [laughs]. I think a lot more humor came out in this album as well. It still really pulls from my roots in R&B and soul music though. I discovered myself also while making this album. I have been and still am the train conductor, but I got to find out who is Genevieve by herself.

MG: “My Telephone Number is…” is one heck of catchy song and honestly can’t get it out of my head; tell us about how the song came to be?
GG: I thought it encompassed the idea of what “Do You Know” is. I couldn’t find any other songs like this out there. I did that with the whole album. I wanted to see what was needed out there. I also went out and asked parents what song topics they wanted. I feel like that melody is so catchy and fun. I even got responses already from parents that their kids were learning their own number due to it. So that is so amazing to hear.

MG: The video for “My Telephone Number is…” was very fun; what future videos do you have planned for this album?
GG: “Inside Voice” was just released, which I just love. It is such a fun video to shoot. I also have a video “How Many Fives Around The Clock?” and “Rainbow Colors” coming up but they were shot on a green screen and are just waiting to be animated. So that is very exciting.

MG: Congrats on being named the new host on the “Radio Disney Junior” hour on Radio Disney! Tell us about this new gig?
GG: Thanks! They are really pushing the new Watch Disney Junior app. They added a radio function to the app. I am hosting that whole radio station for that app. It is a loop that plays throughout the day. There is a “Pirate and Princess Hour”. There is a “Storybook Hour”. There is a “Magic of Disney Hour”. So it started with me working with the app and then I guess they thought, “Why we don’t bring her over to the real radio station”. So I have been recording for that as well now. I have been doing voice over so long that I expected a script but it is a free formed thing and I am able to talk with just the kids and it has been so amazing.

MG: Tell us about the PSA you recorded for Disney Junior as well?
GG: I love this PSA! When you purchase Disney Junior branded products that say “Give a book, Get a book” on it, you get a code and go online to enter it. You select a region you want to give a book to and they really are delivering actual book. Then you also get a digital copy of a book yourself. I have always been into literacy and teaching, so this is really great.

MG: With these two new Disney Junior projects; any plans for new videos or songs in the works for Choo Choo Soul?
GG: We don’t have any planned right now but I have been doing some other new songs with Disney Junior’s “The Power of Doing Good”, which is their new initiative now. I have been doing some commercial voice work for them. It is definitely promising that they are keeping me around and using my voice. It is such a production to put on for Choo Choo Soul with the cast of kids, the costumes and the animation. We are also trying to share Disney Junior with so countries around the world. So you take a show like “Sofia the First”, it is easy to translate into 36 different languages but not so much for myself and my voice. But I wouldn’t say the door is completely closed for Choo Choo Soul. Like the way that the PSA was, there could be more opportunities that way. I guess as long as I can fit into the costume [laughs].

Click here to purchase “Do You Know” on CD

Click here to download “Do You Know” on iTunes

Guns N’ Roses’ Gilby Clarke talks about solo tour with Quiet Riot and Faster Pussycat

Gilby Clarke is a guitarist/producer best known for a 3-year tenure as the rhythm guitarist of Guns N’ Roses replacing Izzy Stradlin in 1991. Following his departure from the group, Clarke began solo career as well playing guitar with a number of groups such as Slash’s Snakepit, Heart and Nancy Sinatra, Clarke recently announce he will be heading out on the road this summer for a solo tour along with Quiet Riot and Faster Pussycat. Gilby spoke with Media Mikes recently about the upcoming tour as well as his new single and the new video for his song “Tijuana Jail” which was originally released in 1994.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some info on your new single?
Gilby Clarke: I had been trying to put a record together however I just wasn’t happy with things. In the past I always put a record out when I felt I had 10 or 12 strong songs that I would be happy listening to. I just didn’t have that and to put something out that I ‘m not happy with was not what I wanted to do. I decided that I am just going to release singles now. I have a couple tours lined up so I figured I would put out one good song and then follow it up with another a couple months later.

AL: Did the music industry and how music is distributed these days have any impact on your decision to release only singles?
GC: I think the industry being the way it is now allowed me to do things this way. (Laughs) It didn’t drive me the decision but it did allow me to do things this way.

AL: You also recently released a video for an older song of your “Tijuana Jail” correct?
GC: Yes. Before I dropped the new single I wanted to put out a few other points of interest. “Tijuana Jail” is an older song as it came out in 1994 but it’s the most popular song when I play live. We play the song differently now than we did 20 years ago so I wanted to do a video for the song and put a new touch on it. When I originally recorded the song Slash played the solo so to go all these years with a song I didn’t play lead on was something I wanted to fix. (Laughs) We worked on the song at my home studio and it’s really just a recording of our rehearsal of how we do that song live.

AL: Can you tell us about your upcoming summer tours?
GC: Over the past 10 years or so I have been playing as a trio. When I first started doing my solo stuff I always had another guitarist with me. As the years changed it started to become more fun to just do things by myself. I like the challenge of makes a multi guitar song in to a single guitar song. I am having a lot of fun doing things this way and that’s really what it’s all about. For my solo tour I’m going to be going overseas for some shows including a show in Hungry which is a country I have never been to before as a solo artist. We also will be hitting Spain which is another place I haven’t been to in awhile. After that wraps up I will back in the states for a summer tour with Quiet Riot and Faster Pussycat.

AL: What do you find to be the biggest difference in performing overseas as compared to here in the states?
GC: The biggest difference I have noticed performing overseas is that a lot more people come out to the shows. In the states the rock market is sort of fashionable and it goes through phases of being cool or not. Right now big bands like Black Sabbath and Aerosmith are doing great but smaller bands like mine are having a tough time unless you do a multiband line up. My solo band is more of a club band and right now clubs are rare in the states. Things are the complete opposite overseas as there are tons of clubs to play and the scene is thriving.

AL: You recently performed with Guns n’ Roses minus Axl at the Rock Hall inductions can you tell us a little about that?
GC: Most of the Guns guys still play together quite often. The hard rock scene is relatively small and we all know each other fairly well. What was different about the Rock Hall show compared to the other times we have gotten together was it was specifically Guns n’ Roses tunes. It was a little strange playing some of that material as I had never performed it with some of the other members. I had played with Steven Adler before but we never did any Guns material. It was both interesting and fun as Steven has a completely different feel than Matt Sorum who I played with more often. Personally I had the time of my life and I think we did a great job under the circumstances. It’s something I will never forget.

AL: What were the rehearsals like leading up to the performance?
GC: We really only decided to do the show a couple days before. Duff had called me I think the Thursday before the induction he told me they had decided to play and they wanted me there. I couldn’t refuse my friends. I know Izzy is the guy’s first choice and I get that as I am a fan of the band myself. Knowing Izzy wasn’t going to be there I was happy they asked to be a part of it.

AL: Was there any animosity leading up to or during the event?
GC: We all knew that Axl wasn’t coming. We all got the same information as everyone else. There was no extra phone call or anything like that. In a way that sort of lifted what could have been a black cloud over everyone’s head. I do think however that if Axl had shown up things would have been fine. It’s been a lot of years and this was a celebration of the band and the fans that supported it. I don’t think there would have been any problems but that black cloud was there. We just all went about our business and didn’t really mention his name. Duff did a show in Cleveland the night before and I think it was about 1 or 2 in the am when we all finally got together. We did a few songs with Matt and a few with Steven and then went and did the show. I think we kicked ass and it turned out well.

 

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Stryper’s Michael Sweet talks about new solo album “I’m Not Your Suicide”

Michael Sweet is best known as co-founder, writer, lead guitarist, lead vocalist and front man of the Christian rock band Stryper which were synonymous with their over the top black and yellow stage attire in the 1980’s. Michael was also co-lead vocalist and guitarist for the band Boston from 2007-2011. In the past couple of years Michael has been busier than ever releasing a new Stryper album in 2013 and more recently a solo album titled “I’m Not Your Suicide” and an autobiography titled “Honestly: My Life in Stryper Revealed”. Media Mikes spoke with Michael recently about his recent body of work and what he feels has contributed to his and the bands recent re-surge.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on your new solo album?
Michael Sweet: A lot of people often wonder why I put out these solo albums. I am always writing songs and sometimes some of those songs don’t fit in with the Stryper material. I listen to all different kinds of music and I like to be able to go and express myself and show people the other side of myself. The material on this new album is still edgy however they wouldn’t exactly fit on a Stryper album. I tried some different things with this album and it was a lot of fun. I tried some country music as my dad had written a #1 country song in 1979 so I wanted to show my roots a little bit.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest appearances on the album?
MS: I took everything with this album song by song. For instance I was working on the song “This Time” and though Kevin Max would be great to have in there. He has a unique quality in his voice and he fit perfectly with that song. Then for “Taking on the World Tonight” Tony Harnell was a no brainer. All of the people on the album are dear friends of mine. I had never done an album that incorporated guests but it was something that I had always wanted to do. This was the album where it finally happened. I have Doug Aldrich and Chris Jericho on a track, Robert Sweet and Timothy Gaines on a track and Dave Mustaine’s daughter Electra sings with me on Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold”. Everyone brought something to the table which took each song to the next level.

AL: Did you have an idea as to what you wanted each guest to do on their tracks or were they free to experiment?
MS: I had an idea for some of the parts. For example the song Doug Aldrich appears on I knew he was the guy I wanted to play the solo. I sent him the song and he sent it back and it was just perfect. It was so simple of a process. The same thing happened with Electra’s performance. I had been thinking about having a female voice on that song and I had become good friends with Dave Mustaine over the years and mentioned the idea to him about having his daughter sing on the track. She has such a pure and angelic voice. They both thought the idea was great and Dave produce Electra’s vocals and it sound great! It was like clockwork as everything went as planned.

AL: Can you give us a little bit of background on your recent autobiography?
MS: I needed to write this book for myself. There is a lot of healing still taking place within my heart and my soul. There have been a lot of things that have happened in my life. There were a lot of questions from throughout my career that were still getting asked today so I wanted to answer all of those at once. That’s what I did with this book. There was a fine line I had to walk between being brutally honest and not hurting people. I’m not sure if that is totally possible. Anytime you talk about someone in a different light than what they want to be talked about in your going to offend or hurt them.  That is certainly the case with some of the stories in the book. I think I did a good job of not going down some of those dark paths that purposely hurt people. I didn’t want to hurt anyone and that’s not what the book is about. I cover everything from when my mom managed Stryper to the choice we made that led us to bankruptcy. The book is my take on the situations as it’s told from my perspective.

AL: Was it hard revisiting some of the more painful memories?
MS: It definitely was. As I was sitting there rethinking these stories part of me was revisiting those emotions while another part was saying that I had moved on but obviously I really hadn’t as there was still some pain and emotion there. This book was a big step in the right direction as I come clean with the mistakes I have made be it good or bad.

AL: Within the past couple of years Stryper has started to make a resurge. What do you feel has contributed to that?
MS: I think for the most part it’s been hard work. The band has worked very hard. After I finished the album with Stryper I went immediately back in and started work on this solo album. After that recording wrapped up I went back in the studio again but this time with Michael Sweet and George Lynch. It’s a constant evolution of continuing on and growing. I couldn’t have it any other way.

AL: Can you tell us a little bit about the project you have going on with George Lynch?
MS: This was a project I co-wrote with George and it was one I got to produce as well. The group has Brian Tichy on drums and James LoMenzo on bass. It’s really a great band and album that I am super excited about. That should be coming out in early 2015. We plan to tour around this release as well.

AL: Do you have other projects you would like to mention?
MS: Stryper has a bunch of shows planned for the rest of this year before we take off most of next year to work on the new album. I will also be out doing some solo shows as well. Right now I have my schedule booked through the end of 2016. There’s just so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Maybe by 2020 I can start to think about retiring. (Laughs)

Creed’s Scott Stapp talks about new solo album “Proof of Life”

Scott Stapp is probably best known as the singer for the Grammy award winning rock band Creed who’s music dominated the airwaves in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. In 2005 after Creed’s initial breakup Stapp began a solo career with the release of “The Great Divide” which was certified platinum within a month of its release. Scott is back with his second solo album titled “Proof of Life” a very dark and personal record that reflects on Scott’s life over the past few years. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Scott recently about the album and his thoughts on the future of Creed.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some of the background that led up to the recording of this album?
Scott Stapp: This album to me symbolizes the next chapter in my life. It concludes the first half of my life and opens up the next. A lot of life was lived in between “The Great Divide” and now. I went through some of the darkest days as a human being between these two albums. I battled depression which led to fighting a battle with drugs and alcohol. That stuff was like a tornado that wrecked a lot of things in my life. This album really symbolizes me coming to grips with those things, understanding them and finding my way out. The school of hard knocks and life had to happen in order to get me to place to where I could write this record. I had to come out of the fog to be able to write this record. I had to realize that the stuff that happened in the past wasn’t going to happen again.

AL: What was it like revisiting some of those more painful memories while writing the album?
SS: It was very cathartic. It was part of the process of getting through and coming out of those periods. It was party of making peace with that and developing incite and an honest reflection on that so I could grow and mature. All though there were things I wish didn’t happen or wished I could forget I was able to repurpose those experiences and see that those things didn’t happen for nothing. There was purpose in those things so that I could pay it forward and share how I made it through. This added a deeper purpose to my life both in and out of rock and roll.

AL: Can you tell us about the song “Break Out” which you wrote with your son?
SS: Jagger actually wrote the first three lines of the chorus a few years ago however we never got around to finishing the song. I just kept challenging him to work on it and finish the song as he was working on being in a band with some friends of his. During the writing process this song kept coming in to my head. I was connecting with the theme and the words so I went to Jagger and told him I was going to finish the song he started. Part of me working on the song became an exercise and instruction to him on how to turn his ideas in to songs. He has some really great ideas and it was definitely a bonding experience for the both of us. When it came time to finish the song I worked with Julia Michaels which was really great. I liked seeing that we could connect over similar emotions.

AL: Can you tell us about the upcoming tour you have planned?
SS: We just wrapped up our first run of US and European shows which went really good. This will be the second round of shows in the states and I am really excited to be able to bring this music and performance out on tour. It’s a rock and roll show that also encapsulates our journey as human beings. I am very connected to that. The stage performance and my connection with the emotions in each song and how I connect with those things are very important to me. I want the audiences to not only feel the power of rock and roll but also feel the spirit and emotion that each song represents.

AL: You had a number of musicians perform on the CD. Will some of them also be a part of the live band?
SS: I was fortunate that in the studio I got to use the best of the best. I was able to use guys like Josh Freese and Kenny Arnoff to Tim Pierce and Phil X among others. There was a lot of chemistry during those studio sessions and it was important for me to capture that with the live band as well. I am really excited with the group of guys I have behind me. I have Andy Wood on guitar, Chad Szeliga former of Breaking Benjamin on drums, Travis Colmer is my second guitarist and then I have Andy Waldeck on bass. Andy is a really talented guy that has worked with Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and a bunch of others. These guys have such a desire and passion for this band and project. These guys have rekindled that fire and drive to perform. Its great working with like minded guys with that same passion for what they are doing.

AL: Do you feel this new found passion will transfer over to new Creed material?
SS: It’s always there. The door is never closed and we are still together. When the time is right and that fire and organic desire is all there I am sure we will make another record. Until then I don’t think it would be worth it as it would be a disservice to the fans.

Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach talks about new solo album “Give’ Em Hell” and TV show “Sing Your Face Off”

Sebastian Bach is probably best known as the lead singer of the band Skid Row a band that were catapulted to success during the age of videos on MTV with such classic songs/videos as “18 and Life”, “I Remember You” and “Monkey Business”. Bach left the group in 1996 and went on to appear on a number of television shows and enjoyed several successful stints on Broadway in plays like “Jekyll & Hyde”. Along with his other ventures Bach has continued to record and release solo albums with the latest being titled “Give’ Em Hell”. Media Mikes spoke with Sebastian recently about the album and if he plans to someday return to Broadway.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us a little info on the new album?
Sebastian Bach: I started working on the album about a year ago. I had quite a few of my friends help out and be a part of as well. I have Duff Mckagan on there along with John 5 and Steve Stephens. The album I think came out really cool. I also did videos for the songs “Temptation”, “All My Friends Are Dead” and “Taking Back Tomorrow” which I think all turned out great.

AL: Is the material on this album older material you have been holding on to or is it all brand new and how did you go about choosing the guests who appear?
SB: This is all brand new stuff that I put together. When it came to picking out musicians I just went and asked my friends if they would be interested in playing. John 5 actually did a song on “Kicking and Screaming” which was my previous solo release. He was an obvious choice to ask again.

AL:  What are your tour plans for the release and who will you be bringing out with you as part of your band?
SB: This time around I’m going to have Jeff George and Johnny Chromatic on guitars, Bobby Jarzombek on drums and Jason Christopher on bass. We are always adding more shows so people can check out www.sebastianbach.com for a full list of those.

AL: Can you explain a little more about your recent statement regarding Facebook likes and how they relate to album sales?
SB: When you are doing interviews it can be similar to walking in a mine field. You never know what people are going to respond to or make a big deal out of. I was never talking about my album. I was talking about how the number of “Likes” you have on your Facebook is really a meaningless number. I’m not really sure what Facebook totally is as it’s not very meaningful to my career. (Laughs) I never complained about fans not buying my record but I was more wondering why they were on my page.

AL: What is it that keeps you writing and recording new music when a lot of bands from when you first broke on the scene have been content playing their back catalogs and not recording anymore?
SB: I am a big fan of music. Music is what I like so that is what I want to keep doing. It’s that simple.

AL: Do you think we will see you returning to musicals and television anytime soon?
SB: I have a new television shows premiering on ABC called “Sing Your Face Off”. That will debut on May 31st 9pm. As for Broadway that is definitely something I want to do more of. I have actually been talking to a number of people lately about getting back in to some productions but nothing has been totally locked in yet.

AL: When you first started appearing on Broadway did you notice a big difference in how you performed as compared to when you are on stage with as band?
SB: It quite a bit different. For one thing you don’t have the band up there with you which makes the stage quite a bit different. Each production is very different so you have to be very prepared for each performance.

Social Distortion’s Jonny Wickersham talks about debut solo release “Salvation Town”

Photo by Erika Harding

“Salvation Town” is the debut solo release from Social Distortion guitarist Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham. Produced by David Kalish the album is an interesting departure from Wickersham’s previous body of work as the album is packed full of acoustical performances. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Jonny recently about the album and what it was like working with Jackson Browne.

Adam Lawton:Can you give us a little background on your new solo album?
Jonny Wickersham: I started recording the album awhile back and it’s probably been 3 years now since we first started working on it. At the time when I started Social Distortion was very busy promoting and touring behind the “Hard Times and Nursery Rhythms” album. I didn’t initially have a lot of time to work on things. When I went in to record the first track it ended up being more than just working on the song but it was a chance for me to work with one of my idols, Pete Thomas who was Elvis Costello’s guy on drums. Once we finally got started things moved along pretty well and the whole experience was just great. I was really inspired by all the people who were willing to work with me on this album.

AL: What do you think was the main reason you waited until now to release a solo album?
JW: My good friend David Kalish who produced the album was always on me about doing a solo record. I kept putting it off because I didn’t think it was something I could do. I had always written songs however I never had any other vehicle to do them other than with the bands that I was in. I would write material and whether it was Mike Ness or the Cadillac Tramps or Duane Peters they would take what they liked from what I had brought in and then add their own parts especially, when it came to lyrics. I had never really learned to sell one of my songs or perform it. There’s a big difference between being in the recording studio and singing a song and being up in front of a crowd and playing. Then those two things are completely different from me sitting in my living room with an acoustic guitar performing for my cat. (Laughs)

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest performers that appear on the record?
JW: The guest performers were something I didn’t put a lot of thought in to beforehand. Things just sort of happened off the cuff. I was certainly a fan of everyone involved and really worked out on a song to song basis. We did this record differently than what I am used to. I am used to working up songs as a band, demoing them and then going down to the studio to record the tracks. The bass and drums lay down a foundation and then everything else is built on top of that. There is a process to the whole thing. With “Salvation Town” it was much different. We laid down some acoustic guitar to a click track and then usually just Dave and I would go back and add a simple drum beat and bass line. From there we would try and think ahead of what the song could be. We would just have these ideas of about who might be able to add something really cool to the tracks. We ended up getting David Hidalgo from Los Lobos and his two sons David Jr. and Vincent, Gaby Moreno who was just so great and of course Jackson Browne. The song Jackson appears on is one that I have had for quite some time. It started out as straight ahead punk sounding song but with this being a different record I wanted to give it a different style. As we were working on it I said to David that I thought it could be Jackson Browne song. I never thought Jackson would be a possibility but David called me the day after mentioning and said that Jackson was down for it. I couldn’t believe it when a few weeks later Jackson came in to do his parts. Everything happened very organically. Having Jackson Browne and David Lindley on my album is just gnarly! (Laughs)

AL: Was there any point during the three years of working on the album that you got discouraged?
JW: There were so many discouraging times that I can’t even count. I am a stickler and very detail oriented. I am also one of those guys that have to exhaust every possibility so I was driving David crazy with this thing however; I think we balanced each other out perfectly in the studio. I wanted to make a good record that shows where I am at in my life while reflecting my influences. I didn’t want things to be over produced but at the same time I didn’t want it to sound like a demo. There were times where I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. That’s when I would get sketchy. It was all new to me. Fortunately over the years I have learned that you have to let things take their course.

AL: Do you have any plans to tour behind the release?
JW: Yes! As much as possible. We just recently played at South by South West. With the exception of the aweful tragedy that happened outside of the venue where we were playing the show was really great. It was trip being out there front and center. Every night I am always worried about how I am going to sound. (Laughs)

Matt Sorum talks about solo project Fierce Joy and album “Stratosphere”

Matt Sorum has been the drummer for such legendary bands as The Cult, Velvet Revolver and Gun’s N’ Roses. Matt’s newest musical endeavor is a solo project titled “Matt Sorum’s Fierce Joy”. The album simply titled “Stratosphere” comes out of Matt’s desire to give back while also addressing his past with startling insight and maturity. Media Mikes had the pleasure of speaking with Matt recently about the creation of the album and his evolution as a musician and person.

Adam Lawton: Can you give us some background on how you started working on this new album?
Matt Sorum: I have always been a fan of acoustic guitar. I will generally sit down and write a song when I am having some sort of emotional feeling. That is my outlet. I have acoustic guitars all around my house. I will just pick them up and start playing. A lot of this record was compiled from cassette tapes I had made as I used to keep a cassette player around to record these ideas when I had them. When I got ready to put this album together I knew I wanted it to be around my other love of music that is a bit separate from my love of rock and roll. I love artists like Tom Petty, Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. I have this whole other set of music that I love and I wanted to do something in that vein. When I started putting everything together I noticed that my style was geared more towards that type of Americana writing. I grew up on progressive music and that is another influence that came out on this record. I spent a week out in the desert with these riffs and ideas and wrote 8 or 9 of the tracks. I didn’t have any distractions and I was able to just write. Things worked out well and I had this great channel of energy. I stumbled on to a way of writing which allowed me to really flow. In the past I had a collaborator help me with the writing but on this new record I did most of it myself. It felt really good to be able to do that. When it came time to put the record out I knew I could record it at my home studio and I could bring in musicians but there was more a lot more to it. I ended up starting my own label with an investor friend of mine and we called it Rok Dok Recordings. We did everything ourselves and it was a lot of fun. This was just a great experience all the way around. Having total control of your music is a great feeling.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the musicians who played on the album?
MS: I knew stylistically where I wanted to go with this and it was going to be in a different wheel house so to speak. If I wanted to make a rock album that would have been pretty easy but with the sound I was going for with “Stratosphere” things were a little different. I picked the drummer because I didn’t play drums on the album. That was probably the hardest thing for me. I started with Paul Ill on bass. He has played with everyone from Tina Turner to Linda Perry. Paul was very instrumental in putting the band together. He brought in some really great players that have played with tons of people and appeared on a lot of great albums. The guys who played on the record are going to be the same group I take out on the road with me when that time comes. These guys put their hearts and souls in to this record I really appreciate that.

AL: Can you tell us about the webisodes you created to document the creation of the album?
MS: I was trying to come up with a way to get the material out there and make people aware of it. Even before I did the album I knew I was going to shoot all of from the rehearsals to the actual recording. I have seen this idea done before and I know people want to be invested in a project or have a part of it. I ended up doing a series of 5 episodes that will be released over a period of time prior to the album release. After the album comes out there will continue to be new episodes being released. We want to be able to just keep building momentum. We have a tone of stuff recorded that we want to share with the fans.

AL: What do you feel is going to be the biggest challenge in getting fans to see you outside of your normal “rock” element?
MS: I could have easily sat back and made a rock album. I know rock and roll very well so that probably wouldn’t have taken very long. It’s easy for me to write rock songs but it never feels as satisfying to me. I like rock and roll as an energy and a feeling that is separate from what I felt when I was writing the material on this new record. I don’t feel I could have written rock songs that go as deep in to my psyche as these songs do as it’s a different energy. I hope fans look at it as either being good music or bad music. They don’t know me as a singer so I just hope they like the different style and notice that I can sing. I hope people who have known me or have been a fan of me for a long time will sit down and give this record a chance. I want people to be able to see me in a different light.

AL: Do you feel you are past the point now of ever doing Gun’s N Roses again?
MS: I think you have to be past it. I have been past it for a long time now. The expectations will just kick your ass if you don’t move on. There’s not a day in my life that I don’t get asked about the band. I look at that as two fold. It’s sort of a blessing and a curse. (Laughs) It’s really more of a blessing. Being a part of that legacy for the time that I was a part of it was a blessing. That time really paved the way for the rest of my life. That was a great experience in my life and was one of the greatest rock bands ever! I have to look at it with respect and thank the fans and the other band members for including me. I will look back at the height of things with the band which I was there for and say “I did it”. That might be the way it should be left. We all have other things going on outside of Gun’s N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver that we are very happy doing.

AL: What other projects to do you have in the works?
MS: I really need to get this stuff with Fierce Joy out there. This project is where I can really show my artistic roots. It’s a cathartic thing that you have to do. Some people write in a book or diary or maybe go to a shrink. (Laughs) For me I chose to do that with this record. My band Kings of Chaos are going to be going out on the road and were set to break off a bunch of new stuff for this summer. We are going to be doing something called “The Celebration of Rock and Roll”. This will be with guys I have known for 25/30 years. We are going to be in a lot of different places with that. I am going to try and do all of this.

Firewind’s Gus G. talks about new solo album “I Am The Fire”

Gus G. is probably best known as the guitarist for heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne and for his own band Firewind. Gus can no add solo artist to his impressive list as in early March he will release his debut solo album titled ”I Am The Fire” via Century Media Records. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Gus recently about the new album and its creation.

Adam Lawton: What can you tell us about your new album “I Am the Fire”?
Gus G.: This is my first solo album and it features a lot of different collaborations with a variety of musicians. There are guest bass players, singers and drummers. It’s a bit of a different approach this time around especially if you compare it to what I have done with Firewind.  This solo album I wouldn’t even classify as heavy metal. I think it’s definitely more of a hard rock album. There a mixture of styles and it showcases a different side and background of my playing. You will hear a lot of acoustic and instrumental type sounds on this record.

AL: What made now the best time to release a solo album?
GG: We were on a break from Ozzy because he was out working with Black Sabbath and after our singer left Firewind in 2012 I had some ideas that I wanted explore however they didn’t really fit Firewind. After completing some prior commitments we decided to take a break while we searched for a new singer. This time off from both projects gave me the time to start working on these ideas while I was at home.

AL: Can you tell us about some of the guest appearances on the album?
GG: The main singer on the album is Mats Leven from the band Candlemass. He and I wrote 5 songs together and he sings on 4 of those. I did a song with the band Devour the Day which is actually the first single off the record titled. I also worked with Michael Starr from Steel

Panther and David Ellefson from Megadeth. There were a lot of people involved in the creation of this album. Jay Ruston who produced the album was very instrumental in bringing a lot of these guys in to the project. I took things track by track and Jay guided me through things.

AL: How did you go about putting the songs together for the record and did you make any adjustments to your guitar tone or playing?
GG: I mainly write the music. I will start from there and then go back and work on lyrics. I wanted to have people co-write with so I may have had a song title or something like that but for the most part I would send the tracks out and just tell whoever to surprise me. That’s really how we did things on this album. For the tone side of things I pretty much used all the same gear I normally use. I did experiment a little but you can still hear my sound and style on the record. I tried some new tones on this one and also id some acoustic guitar playing as well.

AL: Can you tell us why you chose “My Will Be Done” to be the first single release?
GG: I thought that track was going to be pretty suitable for radio. It has a sound that I think would fit well in to that format. I had hooked up with Devour the Day through my label and when I first heard their material it blew me away. When we started writing the song I knew it was going to one that was very strong and could be a single.

AL: Have you started to plan out any touring to help support the release?
GG: Yes. I will be starting out with some shows in Greece and then in May I will be tour with Marty Friedman called “Guitar Universe”. There have been talks about hitting some of the festivals this summer and I would love to tour the States as well.

AL: Has there been anything mentioned as to when you and Ozzy will start working together again?
GG: There has been nothing official yet. He is pretty busy with Black Sabbath and there is nothing I can really confirm. I don’t know a lot about that stuff. (Laughs) I know when he is ready we will all be there with him.