Guitar Great Yngwie Malmsteen Shreds on Guitar Gods Tour
Braun’s Concert Cove
Akron, New York
Sunday, June 15, 2014
When Yngwie Malmsteen announced that he would be hitting the road with friends such as Uli Jon Roth, Gary Hoey and Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, guitar players all across the country got excited. Initially, I thought I'd have to miss the tour due to the closest stop being in New York City, but luckily a closer date was added. Yesterday, Sunday June 15th, the tour stopped in Akron, NY at Braun's Concert Cove. Unfortunately, due to issues getting a work visa approved, Uli Jon Roth was forced to step off of the tour and let the other three continue on without him.
As a special treat to fans, Guitar Center partnered up with the tour and held a special Meet and Greet at their store in Buffalo, NY. I got to Guitar Center around 11:15 A.M. to only find a few other devoted fans waiting out front. When the store opened at noon there were around 30 or so fans. We were all brought into a room that was set up with a table and chairs for a Question and Answer session. When the special guests arrived, fans were very happy to get a up close and personal experience with them. Fans were given approximately 15 minutes to ask questions before they were allowed to take pictures with the artists and have things signed.
After the Guitar Center Event, I did some sight seeing before returning to the venue. This venue is located behind Braun's Bar & Grill. When I arrived, I went inside the restaurant to grab a bite to eat. While walking in, I recognized some familiar faces sitting down eating. Those faces were none other than Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal and Gary Hoey, along with their bands. These guys were incredibly humble and stood up while eating to greet fans and shake hands. The food and service at Braun's was great and would definitely recommend going there to eat and for a show as well.
After my meal, I headed to the back where there was a giant deck with a staircase leading down to the stage area. The stage was set underneath a giant overhang which is a great idea so fans don't have to worry about the crazy New York State weather. Security let fans down to the stage area right around 6 P.M. and an opening instrumental group took the stage. After a handful of songs, the opening band was done and soon after Bumblefoot came on stage. He greeted the crowd and wished a Happy Father's Day to all of the dads in the audience. Bumblefoot's set did not seem to last any longer, which some people believed would because of Uli dropping off the bill. With it still being early in the night, the crowd was still filling in gradually throughout both Bumblefoot and Gary Hoey's sets. Both guitarists played about 9 songs each. Bumblefoot played fan favorites such as 'Guitars Suck' and closed the show with his version of the Pink Panther Theme Song. Gary Hoey played an awesome cover of Lunatic Fringe made famous by Red Rider. Hoey also played some tunes off his latest blues record as well.
Shortly before 9 P.M. the guy everyone was waiting for came on stage. Yngwie Malmsteen was joined on stage by his backing band which included a drummer, bass player and a keyboard player who handled vocals. Before talking about Yngwie, I'll say that the keyboard player had his work cut out for him, filling in for past vocalists for Malmsteen such as Tim 'The Ripper' Owens. This guy could sing and sing well! I couldn't see Yngwie being satisfied with anything less than perfect though. The set was opened with 'Rising Force' and then followed by other Malmsteen classics. During these songs, Malmsteen showed so much energy and enthusiasm that got the crowd into the show even more. Classic Yngwie moves were on display with kicking his guitar picks into the crowd, tossing his guitar in the air, and playing behind his head. I expected to lose interest throughout the 2 hour set, but it was the complete opposite. Malmsteen is a great showman who knows how to keep the audience's attention.
At the end of the set, Malmsteen was joined on stage by Bumblefoot and Hoey for a cover of Deep Purple's 'Burn'. This was incredible to say the least. The three guys traded vocal and solo duties throughout the song. Unfortunately this trio jam only lasted for 'Burn' and Yngwie closed the show with one last song. After the show was over, Bumblefoot came back out on stage to help load the gear and took some times to greet even more fans.
Overall, this was a great concert experience. With a mixture of some of the best guitarists alive, nice weather, fantastic food and a great venue, this was not a show to miss. If you're a guitar player or just a fan of live music, this tour has a lot to offer.
Be sure to check out http://www.yngwiemalmsteen.com/yngwie/guitar-gods/
for upcoming Guitar Gods dates.
Winger Scores big with Better Days Comin’ and Stellar Live set
Live in Dallas, Texas
Thursday, June 5, 2014
By Wendy Jasper-Martinez
If you were a teenager in the ‘80s it was unlikely you could escape Beavis and Butthead. It was also highly probable that you knew they were morons; funny, but morons just the same. It can be said that they focused their buffoonery on one band in particular; a band that truly did not deserve their idiotic wrath.
That band was Winger. Reb Beach has been featured amongst the pages of various guitar magazines more than the average player and Kip himself has a long history of playing musical genres other than rock. These guys aren’t chumps; they were just cursed with being better looking than the average band and were constantly made fun of by guys who could never, ever score. Contrary to popular belief, I do occasionally have a lighter side and Winger fits right into that nostalgic, hair-metal princess personality that sporadically rears her overly teased and AquaNet layered head.
However, let’s peel away those layers and get right down to one solid fact; Winger’s band members are outstanding musicians, songwriters and performers. Kip Winger (Lead vocals/Bass), Reb Beach (Guitar), Rod Morgenstern (Drums) and John Roth (Guitar), are a tightly knit unit that delivers catchy yet technically robust heavy rock music. They were lumped into the hair band genre based on looks alone but that was not a fair assessment of the band’s musical ability.
Winger rolled through Dallas on June 5th and the crowd was not disappointed. The band is touring in support of their newest Frontier’s Records release Better Days Comin’. This is a diverse album that certainly delivers the goods regarding ferocity, technicality, and radio friendly sounds. Critics have called it the “most anticipated album of 2014” and once it hit airwaves, there was no stopping the upward mobility of tunes like the title track, “Storm in Me,” “Out of this world,” and the album opener “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine.”
Incidentally, the album opener was also the show opener. Once the first strains of music filled the air, the initially mellow audience turned into a screaming monster. Fans singing along is a huge compliment to any act and this was the tone for the entire show.
The band easily morphed into “Easy Come, Easy Go,” and then kept up the frenetic pace by moving straight into “Hungry.” Both songs were hits for the band and they sound just as good today as they did twenty-five years ago. Up next was “Pull Me Under” and then “Down Incognito” and it is unfortunate that these songs didn’t get the wide airplay they should have upon their initial release. It has long been understood that the band was technically better than most of their genre yet the grunge scene wiped Winger out of the picture just as easily as it did their contemporaries of that bygone eighties era. Fortunately, the band’s fan base has carried them all these years and we still have the opportunity to hear these great songs.
Winger released the album, Karma, in 2009 and it yielded some catchy tunes, but none as noticeable as “Deal With the Devil.” The crowd had clearly anticipated hearing this song live and the band exceeded all expectations. Live, this song delivers the listener to a time and place where music is king and it leaves you wanting more.
“Stone Cold Killer”, “Rat Race”, and Morgenstern’s drum solo segwayed into the band’s most popular power ballads, “Miles Away”, and “Headed for a Heartbreak.” It was gratifying to be at a show where the vocalist can stop singing, hold out the microphone, and allow the crowd to carry to tune for several bars of the song. It proves that good music is timeless.
“Can’t Get Enough”, “Madalaine”, and the obligatory guitar solos kept the fans happy for the next several minutes and then it was that time…what everyone had been waiting for. The first strains of “Seventeen” was enough to set the crowd on fire and you could hear the entire audience singing in time with Kip and they kept up the pace for the entire song.
The show was nicely rounded out with a few guest appearances; Former Danger Danger guitarist and hometown Dallas artist, Andy Timmons, joined the band for the encore cover tunes of “Helter Skelter,” “Purple Haze”, and “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love.”
All in all, it was easily the best show I’ve been to in some time. It took me back to a time in life when things were fun, simple and loud. It is the music of my past, present and future. It was also clearly a joyful event for so many in the audience and it is gratifying to find that good music outlasts trends.
Kip and company are fun; they give it their all and they want to please the audience. His voice is as strong as ever and his stage presence is still so very dominant. And their sense of humor is also not lost on us…just check out their merch booth at the upcoming shows and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. In the meantime, get your tickets and also check out their latest video for “Rat Race”. You’ll be glad you did.
Wayne Static Live in Houston, Texas
by Becky Dorsett, Contributor
When I arrived for the show the bus was parked out front and there were people mulling around in hopes to sneak a peak at Wayne before they went inside. The parking lot was filling up quickly and the energy was starting to build.
There were four bands prior to Wayne taking the stage and each one was entertaining in their own way. But it was quite obvious that ninety percent of the people there that night were there to be a part of a Wayne Static experience.
As the last band finished and started to move their gear from the stage you could see the excitement begin to grow more than earlier in the night. The crowd began to get as close to the stage as they could and it was wall to wall bodies. I could hear people chanting for Wayne to take the stage, thirty minutes later Wayne took the stage. That's right, the crowd waited thirty minutes waiting for Wayne to take the stage, they became a little restless and I heard a few say, "must be nice to be a rock star and make your fans wait" at which point they went to the bar.
When Wayne took the stage you could tell that what might have taken him so long was his very tall spiked hair. Each spike was strategically place in an upright position and didn't move a bit. He engaged the crowd immediately and started playing Sweat the Bud. Talk about a front man who can command a crowd! He raised his fist and the crowd raised theirs and the moment that he bounced they bounced and didn't stop until he did.
As the night went on you would see Tera Wray dance her way across the stage and back to the sample pad toward the back of the stage. Within the set there was a moment that Wayne introduced his beautiful wife Tera. As the band started the next song Tera began dancing and as many expected became topless and completed her dance. The crowd went wild while she was dancing her dance and I believe most of the male audience forgot that Wayne and the guys were even on the stage.
I had high hopes he was going to play mostly Pighammer but he chose to do Static-X songs and only gave us two Wayne Static songs.
The Defiled and Madlife were the direct support acts to Wayne who are touring with him. Both bands were strong and entertaining. Looks wise they both reminded me of the 80s and sound was more that of the late 90s early 2000s. They fit very well with Wayne.
Wayne Static Set List:
1. Sweat The Bud
2. Black and White
3. Bled for Days
4. The Only
7. Assasins of Youth (Wayne Static Song)
10. Static Killer (Wayne Static Song)
11. Destroy All
13. This Is Not
14. Push It
15. I'm With Stupid
1. I Am
2. Get to the Gone
Novella, "The Revel Without A Cause Tour"
Macy Erzebeth November 2013
Friday evening November 15th, Houston's popular 20's era venue Warehouse Live located at 813 Emmanuel St. illuminated their 20 ft. vintage Marquee with the "The North American Revel Without a Cause Tour". "Revel" consisting of a trio of National and International acts made Houston a must stop on their musical and theatrical pen to stage show. Seattle based "William Control" known for its controversial lyrics and dark themes headlined the tour. William Francis aka bassist for goth band Aiden, created William Control in 2008 as an American electronic side music project. The band went on to produce many popular albums such as "Hate Culture", "Noir", "Silentium Amoris" and in early 2013 the album and video "Live In London Time". "The Revel Without A Cause Tour" is designed as the supporting act for their first edition of the Novella series titled "Revalator".
An addition to "The Revel Without A Cause" tour is the Los Angeles band Davey Suicide fresh off the Rob Zombie "Great American Nightmare" red carpet. Davey Suicide's bandmates are Drayven Davidson (drums), Needlz (keyboards) and Brent Ashley on bass. Davey Suicide is best known for his self titled debut album and the first single "Generation F*** Star". He is also notorious for his sexual appetite and being quite the ladies man. Davey Suicide is a perfect match for the tour's "revel" theme with its raw music, theatrics and visually stimulating performances.
Fans lining up for tickets received the ultimate surprise when Davey Suicide appeared out of nowhere dressed in his signature style similar to a character straight out of a Mad Max movie. Suicide eventually made his way to the box office window to straighten out a minor snafu with my press pass. Once he appeared the small problem was quickly resolved and a set of passes were put into my possession. Unfortunately for this reviewer the worst case nightmare was at hand. A bad case of the Texas crud complete with laryngitis prevented a perfect opportunity for quick chat. I whispered my thanks, shook his hand and asked for an interview raincheck. Suicide took time to mingle with the crowd and then disappeared around the corner back to join his comedian friend who was performing next door.
Inside fans started to gather finding their way close up to the stage. Some patrons went all out with their attire as if wanting to be part of the show. Ladies fashionably dressed in gothic pin up style dresses complete with fishnet stockings, garters and heels. Fans also dressed in retro 80's and 90's styles such as goth, punk and yes even polyester and plaid. T-shirts on display, some with up side down crosses, skulls and bones. All ages, sexes, beliefs, and ethnic groups were represented including a loyal, long time William Control fan named "Derrick". The 19 year old high school senior, was willing to share with me his past history as troubled black youth. He had a strict Mother who did not approve of his petty criminal activities nor his musical choices such as Aiden which he cranked up loud to tune her out. "Derrick" went on to say that he no longer gets into trouble and has turned his life around with a focus on his love music and in particular the band "William Control".
On their first ever U.S. run British band "The Fearless Vampire Killers" opened the show. TFVK, got the crowd's immediate attention with their choreographed moves and musically dressed theatrics. Showing approval of the band's alternative rock/post punk pop style the crowd joined in with arms in the air, claps, and whistles. The band’s original songs were filled with lyrics of love, loss, addiction, monsters and crazed revolutionaries. Their fast punk pace had a slight undertone of bands like "Weezer" and "Green Day". They also had a hint of bands "My Chemical Romance" and "Queen" in their dramatic melodies. TFVK also had a unique style of stage dress which is self described as "turn of the century France, short waistcoats and lots of old eyeliner". They describe their musical style as "Danny Elfman Diarrhoea and Halloween in a roast dinner". This theme is also noticed in the band's choice of a name which is derived from the 1967 Roman Polanski comedy horror which starred murdered actress Sharon Tate. In a thick English accent the band gave their appreciation to Control and Suicide for being part of the tour. They also went on to thank the Houston crowd for attending and for their generous hospitality. The British accent was noticeably popular with the ladies.
So what does one say about the next act Davey Suicide except get ready to be seduced! With Davey Suicides arrival you know that you are in for a pounding musically and visually. Multi colored stage lights syncopate as fog creates a colorful haze with flames sparking as the band begin their heavy metal and punk anthems. Lead singer Davey Suicide towers above the crowd with a carved staph in hand. Very physical in his performance the "Generation F***Star", he moves around the stage like a caged lion. Numerous times he jumps above the crowd with his arms outstretched. A voice like a deep roar, Suicide belts out songs full of stories of his life evolving from a rebellious youth to a man comfortable in his own skin. Equally mesmerizing are bassist Brent Ashley and drummer Drayven Davidson with their brutal backbeat. Davey Suicide takes many opportunities to talk to the crowd between songs. Suicide notorious for his thoughts on religion is quoted as saying "religion is a facade" begins to talk about the importance of having faith. He goes on to say "It doesn't matter what your faith is even if you wear upside crosses, if you have faith then its all good". The tour's 2nd chapter comes to a conclusion and Suicide invites the crowd to stay around for a meet and greet. Band members mingle with fans, offering up many photo opportunities and autographs until the final act.
William Control takes to the stage to finish out the final chapter in the "Revel Without A Cause" Novella. The trio William Control takes the crowd in a different musical direction. Quoting band member "Ian" the William Control sound is like "Depeche Mode meets Frank Sinatra". With the persona of William Control, Francis with his well quaffed hair, suit, red tie, and neck tats perfects the look and sound of a modern day "crooner". The band's trio treats the crowd with tunes from William Control album favorites such as "New World Order (A New Kind Of Faith)", "The Velvet Warms and Binds" and "Razors Edge" just to mention a few. With cigarette in hand Francis tells the fans "I hope that's Ok?". You could see the fans familiar with the songs singing along with the band's lyrics of prose and poems. William Control ended the show with a new tune "Illuminator" fresh off of their new album, "The Neuromancer" which is set for release on December 3. Receiving an encore the band finished out the show with "London Town" and "I'm only Human" completing the final chapter in this tour.
Dallas Act Takes New Metal Generation in a Darker Direction
An Interview with Vocalist and Guitarist Norman Matthew: Part I
By Wendy Jasper-Martinez
It must be hard being the darlings of the Hot Topic generation, but that may not be a bad thing. Dallas area rockers Murder FM have verve, ooze sex appeal, and have introduced their fans to a hauntingly well-orchestrated set of tunes that have the potential to propel them to super stardom.
The band has had the opportunity to open for Korn, Theory of a Deadman, Lacuna Coil, Black Veil Brides, and on March 4th, they will share the spotlight with Orgy, Davey Suicide and Vampires Everywhere at Trees in Dallas.
Singer and guitarist Norman Matthew gave birth to the brainchild that is Murder FM after stints in bands in his hometown of El Paso before moving to Dallas. Joining him in the band are bassist J6, Guitarist Matt X3r0 and drummer Brandon Arpin.
“I define my musical style as dark, edgy, sleek,” Matthew said. “That’s due in huge part to being influence by so many great artists like Nine Inch Nails, the Cure, Depeche Mode, KISS, Guns n’ Roses, and Motley Crue. I just kind of put them all into one pot, threw in my own ingredients and out it came!”
Matthew’s enthusiasm is contagious and his musical goals haven’t changed despite the hardships of the music world.
“I learned a hard lesson being shelved on a major label at a young age,” he said. “Everything I have accomplished since then I am overly thankful for. It has been amazing that we have been invited to open for so many big acts. We are also showcasing at SXSW 2013!”
Murder FM has also had success on YouTube with music videos for “Machine Gun Kisses”, “The Breaking,” and the psychotically infused “Twisted Love Story.” The band’s first full length CD, Anthems for the Used did well domestically but was a big hit internationally.
“The first CD did amazing in the UK and propelled us to two top ten videos on SCUZZ TV. The single have outsold the CD and YouTube has been integral, but I see that the live shows and social media are probably the two biggest factors in our existence besides our amazing fans.”
Using the internet to promote the band has been essential to their marketing strategies and their videos have had thousands of hits in the past year, particularly “Twisted Love Story”, which Matthew says is loosely based on the concept of the cable TV hit, Dexter.
“The song is pretty much about the psycho girlfriend that takes it just a little too far and swears if she can’t have you, no one can,” Matthew laughs. “It has by far been our biggest video hit and fans love the conceptual nature of it. It was the first song where instead of taking a page from my personal life, I wrote from a fictional perspective. The scary part is that the topic is probably all too real for someone out there!”
The video depicts the song lyrics aptly and has been included for viewing.
In addition to all that Murder FM has planned, Matthew also has an educational project that he devotes much time to. He has opened his own “school of rock” called The Sound Foundation and it is located in the Deep Ellum music district in downtown Dallas. It focuses on artist development, music and recording instruction and rehearsal space. Currently more than one hundred musically aspiring young people are enrolled and there are seven full time bands rehearsing for live performance. Matthew is the founder and chief instructor at the foundation.
“I have a few bands in pre-production and just had some of the bands perform at “Artopia” for the Dallas Observer.”
Matthew is also part of a super group project called Valor and Vengeance that features members of Prong, Bleeding Through, No Use for a Name, and Insolence.
With all that is currently in the works, there is one more big event on the horizon for Murder FM. A new single will hit the airwaves at the end of February called “We the Evil” and will be debuted live at the March 4th performance.
For more information on Murder FM, check out www.murderfmmusic.com. They can also be found on ReverbNation, Facebook and YouTube. You can also check out the Sound Foundation at www.thesoundfoundationdallas.com.
By Wendy Jasper-Martinez
The Evil have landed and they are called Murder FM. This Texas based band are burning up the airwaves and video channels with a hauntingly well-orchestrated set of tunes that have the potential to propel them to super stardom.
The band has had the opportunity to open for Korn, Theory of a Deadman, Lacuna Coil, Black Veil Brides, Orgy, and Davey Suicide and plan to launch more shows on a national level as the year wears on.
Singer and guitarist Norman Matthew gave birth to the brainchild that is Murder FM after stints in bands in his hometown of El Paso before moving to Dallas. Joining him in the band are bassist JSixx, guitarist Matt Xero and drummer Brandon Arpin.
“I define my musical style as dark, edgy, sleek,” Matthew said. “That’s due in huge part to being influenced by so many great artists like Nine Inch Nails, the Cure, Depeche Mode, KISS, Guns n’Roses, and Motley Crue. I just kind of put them all into one pot, threw in my own ingredients and out it came!”
The band has been wrapping up a video to accompany the single “We the Evil” that was released on February 26th and it appears that the video debut is slated for next month. The video was recorded at The Sound Foundation in Dallas, a school of rock founded by Matthew. The song was debuted this spring during the band’s live shows and is already slated for video play on Scuzz TV in the United Kingdom. The song is already selling quite well on iTunes and is proving to be yet another successful vehicle for the band.
“What is the story behind ‘We the Evil’?” Matthew said. “We have analyzed this quite a bit. It stems from the old saying "we the people". It seems like in rock music there is no more "we", but the narcissistic "I", so I wanted to bring to the table my own version of a rock anthem, hence "We, the Evil". This is one for the dark side!”
The Sound Foundation focuses on artist development, music and recording instruction and rehearsal space. Currently more than one hundred musically aspiring young people are enrolled and there are seven full time bands rehearsing for live performance. Matthew is the founder and chief instructor at the foundation. It also provides a place where Murder FM can work toward their production for music and videos.
“We have all the elements for recording and video that a label would provide to us,” said Arpin. “Everything is available on YouTube or iTunes these days. Internet exposure has helped. We are doing well in the United Kingdom and we have top ten videos there.”
The band has relied on internet marketing considerably since the release of the band’s first album. Anthems for the Used did well domestically and was a big hit internationally.
“The first CD did amazing in the UK and propelled us to two top ten videos on SCUZZ TV. The subsequently released singles have outsold the CD and YouTube has been integral, but I see that the live shows and social media are probably the two biggest factors in our existence besides our amazing fans,” Matthew said.
“Media exposure and fan assistance is a huge help. Everything is on social media now and street teams have become fan pages. It’s so great to see the young people in the audience, dressed up, faces painted. Seeing fans and aspiring young artists is so inspiring to me as a musician,” Said Xero.
Using the internet to promote the band has been essential to their marketing strategies and their videos have had thousands of hits in the past year, particularly “Twisted Love Story”, which Matthew says is loosely based on the concept of the cable TV hit, Dexter.
“The song is pretty much about the psycho girlfriend that takes it just a little too far and swears if she can’t have you, no one can,” Matthew laughs. “It has by far been our biggest video hit and fans love the conceptual nature of it. It was the first song where instead of taking a page from my personal life, I wrote from a fictional perspective. The scary part is that the topic is probably all too real for someone out there!”
Matthew’s enthusiasm is contagious and his musical goals haven’t changed despite the hardships of the music world.
“I learned a hard lesson being shelved on a major label at a young age,” he said. “Everything I have accomplished since then I am overly thankful for. It has been amazing that we have been invited to open for so many big acts!”
The shows the band has opened have had amazing fan response and has made them a popular option for larger tours coming through Texas. Since the band is considered a national recording artist, it increases the viability of any touring bill to have them open and they are able to work all areas of the state into their traveling options.
“We opened the Black Veil Brides show in San Antonio and it was sold out,” said JSixx. “We are also called quite a bit by Trees (Dallas) when they have a touring act coming through. We also get out a lot and support local music in our hometowns of San Antonio, Dallas and El Paso. Music and the fans are our life and a piece of advice we give to fans and up and coming musicians is to get out and support local music.”
“Exactly,” said Xero. “And once you have the formula you are looking for you have to get out there and get in front of the people. I love to watch the fans just lose their mind with such raw energy at the shows!”
The band continues to work closely on building their success and are constantly writing and working on setting up tour dates.
“We’ve grown as friends and musicians,” Matthew said. “The work we do together and how we use our influences is what Murder FM encapsulates and we want to give our best to the fans.”
Other songs available on the band’s YouTube channel and available on iTunes are “The Breaking,” “Machine Gun Kisses,” “As Beautiful as You Are,” and live vlogs and concert excerpts.
For more information on Murder FM, check out www.murderfmmusic.com. They can also be found on ReverbNation, Facebook, iTunes and YouTube. You can also check out the Sound Foundation at www.thesoundfoundationdallas.com.
Marilyn Manson’s ‘Hey Cruel World’ Tour marks a comeback for the Man that You Fear….
Openers: The Pretty Reckless and The Heroine
May 12, 2012 at the Sunken Garden Theater, San Antonio, Texas
by Wendy Jasper-Martinez
My love affair with a newer generation’s biggest shock rocker began long ago. Many years past, I surprised even myself when, instead of scoffing at the idea of interviewing someone so far from my usual musical tastes, I accepted an invitation to sit down with goth’s “next big thing.” Those who know me well also know that I am an 80’s “hair metal” girl who hung out at Backstage and had no interest in black nail polish. Yes, I also love many other forms of metal and have even been known to cover bands like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide; but industrial age Goth? Nope, it wasn’t ever my thing.
However, in 1994 a group of Spooky Kids came to Houston on their first national tour and it was then that I had the pleasure of interviewing a cynical yet wise young man named Brian Warner. Tall, thin and pale, with long black hair and tattoos, Warner, who bore the stage moniker Marilyn Manson, was the poster boy for the vampire generation. Grotesque humor, witticisms, and analytical commentary directly related to his personal life colored his controversial lyrics. What was he trying to say? And would anyone buy it?
“I wanted to put together two of the most famous cultural figures of the 60’s and it amazed me that media would put Marilyn Monroe on the same level as Charles Manson and it was that dichotomy of good and evil that most adequately represented the character I was trying to portray,” he told me during that long ago interview while explaining his stage persona, and thus, the fascination with Marilyn Manson began.
Incidentally, not only did people buy it, they devoured it worldwide. As Marilyn Manson was touring for their debut release, Portrait of an American Family, they were garnering attention from the media with their wild stage antics and gritty musical style. The album propelled them into the national spotlight and by the time their second release, Smells Like Children spawned a hit in the form of a cover of “Sweet Dreams (are made of this)”, the band had become an MTV standard.
However, it was not until the 1996 release of Manson’s concept album, Antichrist Superstar that he truly became a household name. With hits like “The Beautiful People”, “Tourniquet”, and “Irresponsible Hate Anthem,” the band was on the cover of every magazine, vilified by protesters and on heavy rotation with both video and radio play. The 'Dead to the World' tour sold out worldwide and whether you loved him or hated him, you would certainly never forget him.
Manson followed up with albums like Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood to worldwide acclaim and in 2003 he released his most industrial piece, another concept album called The Golden Age of Grotesque. In addition to these works, Manson released his autobiography, appeared in movie cameos, directed and produced other artists, and achieved artistic fulfillment with several paintings that were positively reviewed.
In the last six years, however, Manson changed artistic direction and while his albums Eat Me, Drink Me and The High End of Lowdid not have the sales figures enjoyed by their predecessors, die-hard fans continued to purchase them with reverence. Manson attributed the dark direction of both releases to his personal struggles at the time, but he put that all behind him with the May 2012 release of his ninth studio album, Born Villain.
Born Villain is a return to the Manson of old and is being hailed as his comeback album. He has a new label, Cooking Vinyl Records, whom he partnered with his own label, Hell Etc., and has started his tour to sold out crowds. He attributes his split with his former label, Interscope Records, as part of a return to the inventiveness he enjoyed with earlier releases, citing that Interscope had become creatively stifling with attempts to control the direction of his music.
“It takes a lot to humble yourself and admit that you’re making a comeback, but that’s what it has to be described as when you’ve gone through a period where you’ve not been everything you’ve supposed to be. Not ‘I’m not what I’m supposed to be’, because I don’t want to retrace the past, but more ‘I’m not what I need to be’,” Manson said in a recent interview with Metal Hammer Magazine.
The weekend kicked off with a bang as the “Hey Cruel World” tour swung through Texas, starting with Dallas on Friday, May 11th, San Antonio on Saturday, May 12th and Houston on Sunday, May 13th. I attended the show in San Antonio, which was sponsored by 99.5 KISS FM and held at the historic Sunken Garden Theater.
The local opener, The Heroine, is fast becoming a staple on the San Antonio music scene. They had an interesting blend of punk, rockabilly, and metal. They gathered a decent crowd in the late afternoon though most fans were still trickling through the gates.
Following The Heroine was national recording artists The Pretty Reckless, fronted by actress turned singer Taylor Momsen. Who knew Cindy Lou Who (from Jim Carrey's How the Grinch Stole Christmas) could rock so hard? She is a fledgling artist without much touring experience, but she has great potential. She was on point throughout her performance and her tunes “Hit Me Like a Man” and “Make Me Wanna Die” are gaining popularity in today’s new glam genre.
Finally, the crowd got what they had eagerly been awaiting. As the black curtain went up, the more the anticipation built until the man himself appeared. Opening the set with the new album’s first track, “Hey Cruel World” an older yet still antagonistic Manson took the crowd by storm. Without breaking stride he launched into older favorites like “Disposable Teens”, “Love Song,” and “Mobscene”. Another nice element to this tour that pleases Manson enthusiasts is the return of longtime band member Twiggy Ramirez. Twiggy showcases his talent on guitar rather than bass this time around. Rounding out the act are bassist Fred Sablan and drummer Jason Sutter.
The first single off Born Villain, a straightforward rock tune called “No Reflection” is not only climbing the charts but also managed to whip the crowd into a frenzy. He also shared two more songs from the new album; “Slo-mo-tion” and “Pistol Whipped” both have just the right amount of Manson sex appeal. Raucous renditions of “Rock Is Dead” , “The Dope Show” and “Personal Jesus” had the crowd singing along.
But what about the songs that garnered him worldwide adoration? He didn’t disappoint when the first strains of “Tourniquet” filled the air. All of the angst that infected a generation of disaffected youth was still evident as he screamed his way through “Irresponsible Hate Anthem”.
As he turned down the lights to spook the crowd with “Sweet Dreams” I once again felt like it was 1994, crowded against the stage inside the small confines of Instant Karma in Houston or The Back Room in Austin. I was reminded of how far he had come from those days as the road crew set the stage for the encore. As the gargantuan pulpit was rolled out onto the stage and he started to rise amid flashing lights, the audience coordinated into one large fist pump as the strains of “Antichrist Superstar” filled the air. Like a flopping marionette he revisited his 1990’s era stage show with vigor.
The final song of the evening was undoubtedly the most anticipated. Fans of all ages sang along with “The Beautiful People” and it was surprising to see the generational differences of the fans in attendance.
In all of my years of covering Manson on his trips through Texas, this is the best I have seen him in ages. The last two tours were rife with his personal pain and it showed in his performance. He is now back in fine form and ready to take on the world and I enjoyed every minute of it. While the crowd was not stadium capacity, it was a full house and I can only imagine that with his star once again on the rise that we will see him again headlining the largest of venues and continuing to startle us with his brand of disturbingly horrific fun.
Adam Ant Proves That He Is Still One of Life’s Most Decadent Pleasures – 9/21/12
There are some things one really must experience in order for life to be complete. This means something different for each of us, and as you grow, priorities change. When I was a teen in the 1980’s, I had one non-metal musical interest, and to be able to say I saw him live on one of his few trips across the pond from England was of the utmost importance. I may have aged, but musically, I haven’t changed much, and Adam Ant still does it for me. Turn on “Goody Two Shoes” and I become an instant FanGirl!
Albums like Dirk Wears White Sox, Prince Charming, and Kings of the Wild Frontier brought Adam and The Ants to the pinnacle of pop-music success. He would later go solo and release Friend or Foe and Strip, both of which spawned his two biggest hits in the U.S.; “Goody Two Shoes” and “Strip.” You couldn’t turn on MTV without one of these videos being in rotation.
His next solo albums, Vive le Rock and Manners and Physique would achieve the critical acclaim Ant deserved and he recorded those while building a respectable career as an actor. In between tours he would go on to appear in television shows like Northern Exposure, Tales from the Crypt and The Equalizer, as well as feature films like Trust Me, Nomads, Love Bites and World Gone Wild. Many more acting roles followed before Ant went into the studio to record his last solo album, Wonderful.
I interviewed the pop icon in 1995 when he toured the USA on the Wonderful Tour and it was the highlight of my journalism career. Then, upon his return to England, a beleaguered Ant experienced personal and professional problems that affected recording, touring and his creative process. Whether or not he would ever return to our shores was anyone’s guess. His much anticipated follow up to Wonderful, entitled Persuasion, is still unreleased…Shhhh…don’t tell, but I have a copy of it and it’s…well…fabulously persuasive. Maybe one day fans worldwide will be able to hear it.
Ant virtually disappeared from public view in the mid-90s and was stalked relentlessly by Paparazzi who wanted to capitalize on what he has recently disclosed as a diagnosis with Bi-Polar Disorder. Ant delves deep into himself with his personal autobiography, “Stand and Deliver” and explains what kept him out of the limelight until recently.
So, what has come of his personal struggles? A sharp new stage persona, the re-vamping of his seminal hits, and new music that is very much Ant’s particular brand of pop-rock, that’s what! After recent start-up tours in the United Kingdom and Australia, MTV’s Sexiest Man Alive (circa 1983) decided it was time to recapture America!
Ant has kicked off his first U.S. tour in seventeen years and he rolled into Dallas, Texas to take over a sold out crowd at the Granada Theater on Friday, September 21, 2012. Touring as Adam Ant and the Good, the Mad and the Lovely Posse, Ant’s BlueBlack Hussar Tour capitalizes on his new stage show centered on the upcoming release of “Adam Ant is The Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter.” The album is expected in January 2013 and Ant plans to tour well into next year in support of the new music.
The outside of the Granada Theater looked like a Renaissance Faire, complete with pirates and highwaymen. I suddenly didn’t feel so out of place in my Christian Dior Prince Charming replica frock coat and silk pants. The air of excitement was contagious as (f)ants of all ages waited to enter the theater.
Once inside, (f)ants had an array of merchandise to purchase and a desirable viewing area to find, as the Granada is an all general admission venue with no seating for large events. The show sold out several days in advance, so the room filled up quickly. The venue also had two large screens on each side of the stage that flowed with the Theater’s Twitter feed and the (f)ants were busily texting their locations and commentary about Ant himself.
The local opener, the Justin Kipker Show was an interesting blend of vampires and cowboys that the promoter must have thought would mesh well with the crowd at hand, but while they were technically good, they didn’t appear to be as well received as one would think. They apparently have an album release called Voodoo Vampire + Cowboy Spy and they have a theatrical stage show that one audience member aptly described while Tweeting “Why is Abraham Lincoln Vampire Slayer on stage?” Funny.
After their five song set the crowd was settled in and waiting. As the lights started to dim and the intro began, people started screaming in anticipation. And then it was time. The band entered the stage through the backdrop and lead into “Plastic Surgery”. And then the man himself appeared. I never heard such a deafening swell of screams and the audience literally became a sea of movement because of all of the people jumping up and down.
“Dog Eat Dog,” “Beat My Guest” and “Kick,” were run through in rapid succession and the 57-year-old Ant has never looked or sounded better. The 28-song set list offered an outstanding combination of songs from all eras of Ant’s career and I’ll certainly list the highlights. He careened into “Car Trouble,” “Ants Invasion,” and “Stand and Deliver” without missing a beat and the audience sang along with every song.
A high point of the show was when Ant kicked off “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and then slowed things down by leading into “Wonderful.”
Ant took a few moments to chat with the crowd and talk about his new album while moving into a song from the anticipated January release entitled “Vince Taylor.” This new music is reminiscent of the music from Vive le Rock andManners and Physique and has a heavier guitar sound than Ant’s early music. It shows that Ant has embraced more guitar-driven rock and he even played lead on several of the songs during the show.
As the opening strains of “Strip” filtered through the air, more than one female fan swooned with delight. Ant danced, and yes, he stripped off the Hussar jacket. “Desperate but not Serious,” “Antmusic,” and “Goody Two Shoes” had the room in motion and a pounding rendition of “Vive le Rock,” and “Christian D’or” saw the band exit the stage before the encore.
Chants of “more” filled the air as the band slowly made their way back to the stage to wrap up the night. Ant’s cover of T-Rex’s “Get it On” was fabulous and then the screaming began as he leapt into “Prince Charming.” He rounded out the night with “Physical (You’re So)” before telling the audience how much he loved them and that he would see them again soon. Well, we certainly hope that is the case!
There are truly no words to adequately describe the feeling one has after and Adam Ant show. My Ant-Friend Ray and I will be talking about and re-living this show for years! However, the fact that I was able to share it with my 9-year-old son, Jenssen, was the most “Wonderful” experience of all. He knows he got to see and hear something very special. Life is complete.
Roger Waters: The Wall Live
Toyota Center, Houston TX 5/01/12
by Andrew C
Is this how grown-ups get down with concerts these days? I mean, really. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been to a Big Rock Show, the sort of traveling extravaganza carnival production that plays arenas and stadiums around the world, so it may be that I am a little out of touch. Or perhaps it was the demographic at this particular show, leaning rather heavily towards the older end of the spectrum, which made the difference. It could be that my pre-set expectations were unrealistic in the first place. But this show was supposed to be enormous, a veritable throwback to my youth, so large in scope that the stage of ToyotaCenter could barely hold the whole thing. Anticipated as the most epic performance that I had ever witnessed in my life, truly, I have to say that what I saw did indeed measure up to what I had prepared myself for. Roger Waters is a professional at his craft, and laid down a flawless presentation of 1979’s Pink Floyd release The Wall complete with video clips from the accompanying film, grotesquely over-sized manifestations of Mother and the Schoolmaster, a graffiti-tagged floating pig, a children’s chorus, and some of the most stunning state-of-the-art visual effects available today. The entire thing was captivating from beginning to end, Waters hit note for note and word for word the exact album that I’ve been listening to for over 30 years now, but there was still something else lacking from the overall experience.
I’m sure it was the crowd.
Now, far be it from me to be critical, but the people in attendance at this show were ‘adults’ in the truest sense of the word. There were some younger people in the audience, of course, but if I were to approximate the average age of a ticket-holder at this concert it would be somewhere more or less in the mid 40s, just a little less aged than I. Even at 48, though, I can still stand for two or three hours at a time, so why was everybody in the place seated throughout almost the entire performance? Nobody stood, except during particularly well-known songs like ‘Comfortably Numb’ or ‘Run Like Hell’ and again at the end for the ovation to Roger and the band members. Truly, it was more like 20,000 people watching a good film together rather than seeing a rock concert. I may even go so far as to say 20,000 people filming a rock concert, as at least half the crowd sat motionless in their seats, moving not at all nor tapping their foot even once, as they pointed their cellphone video cameras steadily at the stage. And that sweet smell in the air that I remember so well from the concerts of my youth? Almost entirely absent now. Only twice did the slightest little whiff waft its way towards my hungry nostrils, whereas in the old days you could have walked out of pretty much any concert with a contact high even if you didn’t smoke. I guess its okay. We’re all older nowadays. I get that. Most of us are parents; some of us are even grandparents. We ain’t gonna be out doing the same reckless crazy shit that we did back in the 80s, and we ain’t gonna let our kids do it, either. Besides, all these venues are totally non-smoking these days anyway. But seriously, did you have to simply sit there with you cellphones in your hands? Don’t you know how many cellphone videos of this show are already up on YouTube? Have some damned fun! Makes me feel old just being around y’all. Just because you’re 50 don’t mean you have to act like it!
More than one reader probably picked up this article expecting to read a concert review. There’s one here, but before I get into the excellence of Roger Waters there is one more dis to drop, that being against the heinous customer service at the Jack Daniel’s Bar & Grill there inside Toyota Center. I didn’t get the names of these two clowns posing as bartenders, but they suck, and they know why they suck. Half an hour for a beer my ass, and rudeness beyond any acceptable limits of civility. Not exactly what I would expect from the staff of what is supposedly an establishment of some class. Okay, that’s enough. Now, finally y’all, let’s get on to the review!
So what was it like to see The Wall performed live after all these years; the closest version to a Pink Floyd concert I’ll ever get to see in this lifetime? All the standard tag-line-press-release adjectives apply here; words like ‘awesome’, ‘historic’, ‘incredible’, ‘mesmerizing’, and perhaps even ‘gargantuan’ come to mind. Nothing was spared from the production of this magnificent show, and Waters led his band through the entire mind-blowing opus with the other half of the crowd, those not glued to their cellphones watching on their tiny little screens instead of in front of their very eyes, singing every single lyric of every single song back to him. What an amazing feeling that must be, and it happens to him around the world, wherever he goes, at any venue and in any country that he performs in; this show kicked off the North American leg of the tour they’re currently on. It could be reasonably argued that The Wall is the album that brought about the end of Pink Floyd, that The Final Cut was just a postscript to an otherwise amazing run as a band, and that anything either Waters or David Gilmour has done since is a mere shadow of their earlier grandeur. It is just as reasonable to say that no other title in Pink Floyd’s rather extensive anthology had the same overall effect on its generation as The Wall did, nor does any other album with the possible exception of Dark Sidedefine the band so precisely as this. I remember, more or less, where I was on that day in 1980 when the now-legendary lyric “we don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control” was heard for the first time across the schoolyards and spread-out subdivisions of Spring, Texas. And now, here in the 21st century, I am privileged, and have paid an obscene amount of money, to see the original author of this expansive production do it live, and do it perfectly. Crossed another one off the list! There aren’t too many left on the list, I’m sad to say. Most of those who were on the list at one point are either dead (such as Layne Staley and Wendy O.) or irrelevant by now (Ozzy, Aerosmith, KISS, and the like). If I’d known, I would have worked harder on this list when both I and these great bands of yore were all still alive.
There are more than a few observations about this show that a responsible critic must make if this review is to be complete. As in the olden days of Floyd, a Roger Waters concert is more akin to a grand operatic presentation than a standard stand-there-and-shred rock performance. There is always something to be seen out of the corner of your eye, always something to be heard out of the corner of your ear. The wall itself was employed throughout as a largely incomplete (since it was under construction for the first half of the show) movie screen upon which any number of abstract or pointed images was presented. Waters maintains his commitment to protesting against global corporate greed and pushing his message of resistance to the status quo which, although this reviewer generally abhors the mixture of music and politics, are ideologies far too often underrepresented in today’s society. A little anarchy never hurt anybody, and Waters presses this point well. The evening was peppered with statements decrying and ridiculing the government and the corporate world (Toyota included, I am wryly pleased to observe) and mocking the mainstream public for their blind, unquestioning consumerism and endless demands for more and more frivolous crap. I don’t know if anybody got it, though. The sheep don’t like to be reminded that they are sheep. Waters’ sense of civic responsibility, so often either lacking or totally over-done amongst upper-echelon rock stars, also found its way to the stage in the form of the children’s choir brought on for ‘Brick pt II’ which he had recruited from youthful beneficiaries of the local Houston Meals on Wheels program, and he took a touching moment to introduce that program’s director to the crowd. Those kids sang their little hearts out!
There were a variety of ways in which Waters was able to update this presentation of The Wall to a more 21st century audience. ‘Bring The Boys Back Home’ became a tearful experience for many as images of our own troops engaged in modern desert combat blended with those of civilian activists lost around the world and antique photographs of World War II veterans, including that of Waters’ slain father, which itself was one of the primary traumas inspiring the creation of this original masterpiece of a concept album. He put a very interesting twist on ‘Mother’ as well; strapping on his acoustic and presenting footage from the 1980 Wall concert at Earl’s Court in London, playing the song live alongside it, essentially in a click-tracked duet with his much-younger self that was entirely successful! There was a brief moment, though, when I had to wonder what Roger was thinking as he offered up a very short and heinously country-fried version of ‘Brick’ from which, perhaps, only the banjos had been overlooked. There may have even been banjos, I don’t remember. Other than that, though, the entire theatrical presentation was without doubt the most immense spectacle that I have ever seen, unmatched in its grandeur. Young people in the crowd were wearing the crossed-hammer symbol right along with us old folks; proof that The Wall is trans-generational, and stands today just as meaningful and relevant as it did in its debut all those years ago. This material is timeless, and possibly without equal in the entire history of recorded rock music.
Waters was supported on stage by a superb cast of musicians, including Snowy White, who has played a key role in many live Pink Floyd productions going all the way back to the Wish You Were Here days. It used to be that David Gilmour would give the second solos to White; this evening those solos were passed to him by Dave Kilminster, whose own guitar expertise was well showcased as he matched Gilmour’s licks masterfully on every song. Not a single note was missed. Graham Broad held the percussion steady, and many other contributing musicians and backing vocalists rounded out the event and made it complete. A great nod of appreciation must go out to the road crew on this particular traveling show. They are the ones who spend laborious hours setting the stage and props just right, and they too are the ones who work tirelessly in the dark throughout the first half setting the bricks of the Wall into place just so, they run the video projectors, they guide the remote-controlled pig through the air with such smooth seamlessness that one does not even notice the appearance of the pig until its already there, nor do you ever watch it disappear to anywhere, it is simply gone the next time you look up. So well skilled and adept they are at this that a well-placed, informed friend advises me that the Roger Waters road crew sets up The Wall in the span of a single day, and tears it down for transport to the next town in less time than that.
Any review of a modern-day stratosphere-level rock show must at some point bemoan the high price of tickets these days, and this review is no exception. Although the face value of my ticket was marked at only $99 (did I just say only $99?) and I bought it directly from the Toyota Center Online Box Office, the convenience fee, service fee, and assorted other tacked-on fees jacked that amount up to a whopping $245. I’m not complaining, per se, so much as I find myself prompted to ask who the real scalpers are here. The ticket agencies who can legally get away with selling a hundred dollar ticket for two and a half times that amount, or the guy out in the street trying to flip an extra ticket for fifty bucks more than he paid for it?
On the two-disc CD set, The Wall runs for more or less an hour. On film, it’s an hour and a half. Live on stage, with the intermission break after ‘Goodbye Cruel World’ and incorporating all the effects, additional music, and filler material not included on the CD set, it stretches to almost three hours long. This is a show of epic dimension and broad, wide-ranging effect. There were no opening acts presented at all, the night was Roger’s alone and rightly so. I would like to have seen Pink Floyd when they brought The Wall through back in 1980, but they only played a couple of North American shows, and those were in places very far from Texas. Last Tuesday night, I got to make up for that lack. I may be a grown-up by now, but I still ain’t no adult and I still don't need no education or thought control! Thank you Roger Waters!
Rockstar Mayhem Festival - 7/11/12 - Cynthia Woodlands Pavilion
It was a very hot Wednesday night here in Houston Texas but I must say that it was worth being in the heat. The excitement in the air was crazy as people were wearing their favorite band shirts and screaming band names while waiting in line to get through those metal gates and storm the seating to ready them for a night to remember.
With their being two stages it was hard for me to cover all the bands that I wanted to cover so I had to make a choice. Stay at the main stage for all my favorites or wander to the second stage to see the newer bands that you hear on the radio today. I had to choose the main stage as I couldn’t bear to miss a single one of what I consider the “heavy hitters”.
Anthrax started out the night with all the favorites. It was nice seeing Joey Belladonna behind the drums, the man never ceases to amaze me with his playing. He and Scott Ian have always been a wall of thunder together. I have to say that these two were the highlight for me watching Anthrax start off the night.
Next up the MIGHTY Motorhead! This was my first time seeing this band live. They did not disappoint me at all. Lemmy is definitely God as many have said through the years. He stands tall and strong as the front man and bassist. His stance was one of “here I am Houston... take that” and boy did we take it. The screams for the metal God were strong and loud and never ending.
During the set change from Motorhead to Slayer I ventured off to the Dimebag Hardware area where Rita and Chad Lee were selling Dimebag t-shirts as well as many other Dime related items. One of the coolest things they were doing was selling raffle tickets for a chance to win a guitar. The proceeds from the raffle are going to a charity helping children, in the memory of Ronnie James Dio. I visited with Rita for a bit, it had been a while since I had last seen her in 2005 at NAMM in California. She is going strong and kicking ass as expected.
It was time for Slayer to start and once again the rain started to fall. How appropriate is it that Reign in Blood was amongst their many songs of the night. As always Tom, Kerry and Lombardo aimed to please. The crowd went wild and the mosh pit started to flow and the mayhem continued on.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stay for Slipknot but have had many reports that they were amazing as always.
Overall, the night was an amazing time. I met some amazing fans of the bands, hung out with some great people and experienced fantastic metal!!!
Until the next Mayhem Fest my friends keep it metal \m/ \m/.
Steve Blaze and Brian Jones talk music, history and the future
Rob “The Metal Master” Mcnees
Forward by Wendy Jasper-Martinez, Senior Staff Writer
In the past thirty years there has probably not been a bigger supporter of the Houston metal scene than Rob “The Metal Master” McNees. It is only natural that he would transition from fan and supporter, to reporter. Accompanied by his wife, photographer and journalist Amy, the couple has provided this stellar debut interview with the band that has always been a staple on the Texas metal circuit; Louisiana Music Hall of Famers Lillian Axe.
Rob and Amy sat down with band founder and guitarist Steve Blaze and vocalist Brian Jones on March 16, 2013 when the band rolled into Houston to take over the Concert Pub North.
-Wendy Jasper-Martinez. Senior Staff Writer, Rivethead Magazine
Rob: What made Steve Blaze decide that he was going to be in rock and roll? What was the thing? Everybody has a defining moment, something that you saw or something you heard. What was it?
Steve: My parents gave me a guitar for my sixth birthday. So I was kind of, you know, coerced into doing that against any knowledge that I was going to do anything like that. They bought me a guitar and I started guitar lessons right away. I was doing classical and flamenco for a while. I think as far as what made me really knew I wanted to be in a hard rock band was when I saw Alice Cooper on TV. When I was a kid my dad and I saw him in concert. Now I liked music and I started listening to AM radio top songs.
Rob: That is all there was for the longest time. I mean…
Steve: When I started listening to the radio in the 70s is where I really learned about song writing. It was bands like the Bee Gees, Bread, Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot, Elton John that were song writers. It wasn’t really hard rock bands. The only hard rock bands were like Sabbath and Zeppelin. I started really getting into just songs and the craft of writing songs, the melody and what not, before I actually really wanted to be in a hard rock band. When I first learned about bands like Sabbath and Priest and bands like that, that were doing heavy stuff, they were applying those melodies from these songwriters to a harder edge sound. I would listen to the Sabbath Paranoid album. In my kitchen we had a stereo system. I would put a record on in the living room and the speakers were in the kitchen. So my mom would be in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and I would be in there singing Electric Funeral to her while she was making pot roast. That is when I really decided, and so the first thing was trying to translate my classical guitar playing and reading and knowledge of how to write and read and all that into learning how to feel and develop my ear and write songs. The first part of that was really like mimicking Kiss and Sabbath with the way they look and the way they sing. Alice Cooper was really the first with how they took melody and basically what I was listening to, classical music, in just a whole different way to present it to people. Melody is melody period, you know. You can take the same melody line and make a country song, a jazz song, a pop song, a rap song…maybe not a rap song but a metal song, a hard rock song, out of any melody just with placing the right things around it. I just really got into that when I was like seventeen and started the guitar club in my high school. I started getting into Rush and stuff like that and got in my first band when I was 18. I started learning covers and playing gigs and then developed into writing my own stuff and in ’83 started Lillian Axe. The rest was all history, a giant bible of events.
Rob: How about you, Brian? What was your defining moment?
Brian: Listening to bands like Thin Lizzy, Steppenwolf, bands my dad raised me on, Alice Cooper…that came later on. I just remember my dad always playing them. I guess I was 7 or 8 when I started playing guitar, listening to bands like Steppenwolf and Thin Lizzy. That’s all I ever wanted to do. I was just inundated with music. I couldn’t think of anything else. Everybody else wanted to be a fireman, a policeman or what not. I always wanted to be a musician. I started at the age of 14. I started gigging for money. That’s all I ever did and here I am now. I started in music kind of like Steve said. He obviously has more of a classical background in his playing and stuff. I was trained somewhat on guitar and my parents were very supportive, so I just kind of took that road and I couldn’t ever stop. I never really saw myself doing anything else. I mean I went to college and I have a college degree in information business systems, which is networking, but this is what I have always wanted to do.
Rob: Think of all the athletes in the world who give up everything to pursue sports and they flunk out and then it’s like the end for them.
Brian: I was always the kid that just came home from school and just stayed in their room, you know, just practicing guitar and listening to music. It is always what I wanted to do. I kind of sacrificed my friendships when I was younger, kept to myself, and played music.
Rob: It’s weird, you know. We live in a digital age now. I don’t know how old you are. I’m almost 50, so I remember staying up late on Friday nights watching Midnight Special. I remember Saturdays waiting for Don Kersh’s rock concert.
Brian: That’s what I saw Alice Cooper on.
Rob: That’s what I’m talking about. I mean, maybe rock wasn’t nearly as visual. I mean you had Kiss and Alice Cooper. That’s what I remember growing up seeing, and I don’t think the kids today have that.
Steve: They don’t.
Rob: They have YouTube and this and that.
Steve: They’re inundated with everything so they become numb to the special, but you know they are missing out on the excitement of even seeing that on TV or even going and finding a magazine with one picture of Alice Cooper in it.
Rob: So you plastered him all over your wall.
Steve: Absolutely. I bought every copy they had in the place you know; and going to the record store and finding that one copy Billion Dollar Babies left. They don’t understand that. They are spoiled and they get everything. Everything is thrown at them and that’s why I think the music business is in the tank right now.
Amy: I had the pleasure of taking our daughter a couple of years ago at the rodeo here in Houston and she dressed the part. She put on the wig and the Paul Stanley makeup. She actually got second place at school in her costume contest.
Steve: Oh really?
Amy: Yes she did.
Steve: I am amazed any schools let them do that.
Amy: Nobody knew who that was (Paul Stanley) except her teachers. They were like, “Oh wow! Kiss! That’s so cool!”
Steve: Isn’t that sad?
Amy: Very sad. Kids these days are so deprived. I grew up in the 80s watching MTV when it was MTV and not the garbage it is now. That’s why I try to keep her into that kind of music. Too many kids these days are infused with the pop culture garbage.
Steve: It’s horrible.
Amy: I hate it. I hate it.
Steve: The Rihannas and the Chris Browns and the Beyonces and all that kind of stuff?
Amy: Beyonce who?
Brian: I do like Pink, though. Pink writes her own stuff.
Rob: So, I was reading your blog about your European tour. I actually had the pleasure to go to Europe one time in my life. The passions that the Europeans have for music is unbelievable. I mean, the South Americans have it too. Everybody except our country. There are a few people like us who have the passion but it is few and far between. When you get to go to Europe, what does that do for you, the artist, to have people just screaming the lyrics in a room full of people as opposed to a handful of people?
Steve: You know, I got an email today from a guy from Bangladesh and then I got one the other day from a girl from Tehran.
Rob: That could actually be detrimental to their health!
Steve: It seems like it could be risky for them. The way that they feel music…you know, when you go over there and you see the people coming after the shows and how much it means to them. We were in Amsterdam and we were doing an acoustic show and this guy got up and sang Bow Your Head with us. He was like, almost in tears. It’s an emotional song anyway. People overseas tell you how much music means to them. It’s a different nerve than when people tell you that over here because like I said before, we’re very spoiled and we take a lot of things for granted, especially the younger generation. At that age we did too, but it’s different. We weren’t with things media-wise. We weren’t bullshitted and lied to like the media does to everybody now. I know some kids that are so ridiculously spoiled and it has turned them into little assholes. A lot of it has to do with a lack of parental skills
Rob: That’s a big factor in this day and time.
Steve: I am not going to let my kid do that. I’m already teaching him what not to do. Of course he’s spoiled as shit but that’s a really big problem that we have to do with. People ask, “Why do you think the music industry is in the tank?” There is nothing special. Sure there are ten million bands. There weren’t ten million bands when I was a kid. I was lucky to find four or five that I cared about but I was looking all the time. Record labels didn’t just put out 50 records and just throw the shit out there. They believed in an artist. They nurtured them and built them. It’s not like that anymore. It’s a shame. We have had to write our own rules. We’ve done it and we’ll keep doing what we feel is best for us.
Rob: As an artist I know you’re married and have a young son and we touched on that a minute ago. Is it hard? How do you deal with that and explain that and make it work?
Steve: It is what I do. When my son was first born I had to go out a couple of times, and we keep it to 3 to 4 weeks tops. You notice most tours work like that. Not only is it financially stressful and I don’t care if you’re doing arenas or clubs. It’s stressful financially period. The bigger place you go the more expenses you have and nobody is going home like they used to. We try to keep it where we’re not killing ourselves. On the personal side if you don’t have your family and your family life and your personal life it affects everything else. Last tour we went out to Europe and did the America Rocks tour. We were gone for a good bit and that was really hard because it was getting to the point where my son was talking a lot. That was a hard thing, especially Europe, because they charge you to pick up the phone. You’re lucky to be able to get a phone signal in some places and the roaming rates everywhere…I had a $1,200 phone bill for three weeks just from a couple of minutes a day. But that is part of what we do you know, all the years and years of it when we first started going out on the road and being away from girlfriends and family…that kind of sets you up now where you know how to handle it a little bit better. It is not necessarily easy.
Brian: It’s never easy. He and I are the only fathers in the band. Of course he’s got Jude, who is three. I have three which are 5, 3, and 2 so needless he and I shared a few tears on the tour. Like today, for instance, my daughter was in the ER. That hit home for me because I’ve never had to deal with it.
Rob: Is everything okay?
Brian: Yeah, she’s fine. Her white blood cell count was a little up. I went up to Steve crying about it. That was very stressful.
Steve: Well the fact of the matter is we like our families. A lot of people are like, “Oh go on a vacation for a little while!”
Brian: Steve’s a home body with his children and his wife. I am the same way. When I’m not gigging I’m home. He is the same way, and we love spending time with our families. We’re already family but on the road we are all we have.
Rob: Well as a fan I think it keep you, the artist, more grounded as opposed to the Axel Rose thing. You have families and you more or less live the same lifestyles that we live.
Steve: When you have a responsibility that goes that deep to the core it teaches you how to be responsible with what we’re doing out here. If someone came up to me and said, “Hey, have a cocktail,” I would feel guilty about it because all I would think about is not wanting my son to see me drinking, even if it’s harmless. I mean that’s a little over the top, but that’s just how I feel.
Brian: I have not had a sip in several years. We’re the only guys who don’t drink.
Steve: I’m a control freak too and I have a lot of responsibilities from this band so if I would up doing that I shouldn’t be doing not only would I be letting my family down but I would also be letting the band down. There is too much to do. The older you get, the more you get through that. I mean we had all that fun when we were younger. Now we have fun coming and doing this. We have more fun playing now. Before it was like everything around it was so much more fun, you know.
Rob: I knew you guys had the record deal, right? So young guys…
Steve: (Laughs) We’ve had eight record deals!
Rob: So you guys went to L.A., right? You did the whole thing, you left Baton Rouge so you guys could go to the big California…sex, drugs, rock and roll, right?
Steve: Yeah there was a good nine to ten years of all that.
Brian: But you never did the drugs part?
Steve: No I never did it. It was always around, and some of the other guys at the time did that. I was pretty much doing the next thing for the band, making sure everything was taken care of business wise and that we were growing. I never liked drinking. I never liked what it did to me. I’m thankful for that because if I liked it, it might have taken me another direction.
Rob: Explain how you got the Angel gig. In 1979 was my first concert, with Angel and Ted Nugent at the Summit in Houston. Angel was the first band I ever saw live. I went by myself. I don’t have any siblings or anything. I’m intimidated and freaked out going in this place. I walk in and there’s a fog floating around. People are smoking. The lights went out and then Angel showed up, you know, and to this day I am still a huge fan. How did that happen for you? I mean, I know you guys…I don’t know if there’s anything still going…I mean, it never officially stopped. I know Fred lives in Vegas and he does stuff there.
Steve: In ’95 we took a break with Lillian Axe. I was writing for what would have been the next record, and a lot of songs wound up showing up on Waters Rising seven years later. We had just finished touring for Psychoschizophrenia. I was really finding my path writing and where I was taking the band for the next album. I think it freaked a couple of the guys out a little bit because for lack of better term it was a little darker.
Brian: Yeah it was a lot different from She Likes It On Top.
Steve: But you know what? I don’t know about that because it was the next chapter but I mean I was getting a craftier style poking inside of me. Everybody always throws that term out there, if that makes sense. You know, the tongue and cheek stuff and the innuendo stuff I was more or less like…spiritually digging into things that other people would not normally write about. I think some of the other guys wanted to be more poppy Stone Temple Pilots kind of thing.
Rob: It was the 90’s.
Steve: And I was like, okay, everybody wanted to go and do different things so I went off and did Near Life Experience, which was really crazy stuff. I did that for a few years and then started feeling like, you know, we gotta get Lillian back. The fans wouldn’t let up on us. So we went to Japan, we put out a B-side album Fields of Yesterday, and kind of got the band back together again. We started doing shows, more or less like reunion shows, and people were really liking it a lot. I was talking to Gordon Gebert who was playing keyboards at one time and he was writing a book on rock & roll war stories. He wanted me to give him a story for his book. We started talking and he said, “Yeah, I’m playing in Angel.” I was like, “What?!” I have loved listening to Angel since I was a kid. I had all their records and posters in my room. I liked them better than KISS when I was a kid. I was like, “You’re in Angel? Are you serious? I didn’t even know if they were together anymore.” He said, “Actually, we’re looking for a guitar player. Would you be interested in auditioning?” I said, “Is the pope Catholic? Absolutely!” So they flew me over there and I auditioned. At two songs into it I could tell there were like…you got the gig, you got the gig. I knew the stuff better than they did. After they had other guys come and audition the manager came up to me and told me to just hang out, you got the gig. I was like, “Okay, great, let’s do it!” We rehearsed, we did several weeks of shows, and then we drove back. A year later we did some more shows…but it got to the point where Frank was really bummed out at the way the industry was going, how hard it was. I guess he wanted to be jumping back into the auditorium again, and it just doesn’t work like that, not anymore. I kept suggesting to go ahead and do a new record of the best of the old things, re-record them with the new band. As much as I loved the old recordings, sonically they were terrible. Let’s go ahead with new technology and put the new recording with the new band on a new label. They tried to put out a new album that was horrible. I told them to get the band solidified first. Then let the kids of today hear the old stuff recorded edgier, louder, and fuller, and we’ll take it from there. He didn’t want to do it. Randy Gregg was out playing in another band. I was doing Lillian. Gordon was playing keyboards and then we got Michael T. Ross. We actually did some Angel shows without keyboards. Gordon just could not “gel” with everybody so we got Michael T. Ross to take over. We have not done anything in years. If they called me up and wanted to do it and I had the time I would be glad to but Lillian takes up all my time.
Rob: As a member of the Louisiana Rock & Roll Hall of Fame of Music, I am going to say that was probably very unexpected.
Steve: We never even thought that they even had one. To be honest with you, the city of New Orleans and the state never supported rock bands. They don’t ever give anybody any respect, even to this day, so when it came down that we were told by a friend of ours who knew the president and they wanted to induct us, I was like, “Really?!” I did my research and saw that there were no hard rock bands in it, so we were the first hard rock band to be in there with Fats Domino and Louis Armstrong, and the list goes on. That was one of those vindicating moments where you feel like all the bullshit you put up with from everybody and the lack of respect from your own state..now the fans…that’s a different story. The fans have always been great. Our fans are great worldwide. They get it and they feel what we are doing. That has been the one accolade that we have received that has really meant a lot. It shows that you are being appreciated on a larger level than by the local radio stations that don’t play it, the local newspapers that don’t give a shit, so that’s a great thing. We’re humbled.
Rob: You actually have a new album out on AFM records.
Steve; In the states it’s actually called CME records. It’s distributed through Sony Red, and we’re part of Megaforce. We have a new record coming out in the summer time. It’s a live unplugged album, and a DVD and Blu-Ray that goes along with it. We did a contest a month ago and 60 contest winners got to come to New Orleans to the studio where we record. We had 100 chairs, a stage, lighting, and seven cameras. We recorded an unplugged show, an hour of questions and answers, and two one-hour shows with material from every record in a storyteller format. I talked about the songs. The crowd got to ask us all questions. It was a 5 and a half hour long thing. It was a religious experience for everybody. We had it catered. Everybody was really amazing. From what I heard we did a real good job of capturing the moments that night. We had a violin player come in. We had Johnny Vines, our very original singer, sing a song, the whole crowd sang Nobody Knows by themselves, we had a song called Bow Your Head I wrote about a little boy that passed away. His whole family was there, including his mother. It was a really emotional night. It was great to do all these songs unplugged. It took about three months of careful planning to pull this off.
Rob (to Brian): Your story is your dad took you to see Lillian Axe, right? And you became a fan. Tell us about that.
Brian: I ended up going to the Lillian Axe to the Max show. It was one of my top 3 favorite bands. For no rhyme or reason I just loved Lillian Axe. At the time they were playing a lot in Houston. This was right after Steve signed his deal with MCA. I started going to shows when I was 11. Steve was always real gracious and always talked to me. I was that little kid asking a bunch of questions. I know I had to get on his nerves but he was always took his time with me. I probably saw him a good 14 or 15 times. We maintained a good friendship over the years. I would call him and keep in touch with him. After he got married to Julie I spoke with him prior to him having Jude, his son. We just kept in touch and it came about. Like I said, this is music I grew up on. Today when I still talk about it, it is very surreal, even for my friends, even more so than me. I am with them all the time. I don’t take it for granted. I mean, sometimes I get frustrated at myself at not doing as good as I want to do. And I don’t mind saying this and Steve wouldn’t mind either, but with someone like Ron, who is an amazing singer, is someone I look up to. It’s hard to step in someone’s shoes like that. I try not to necessarily emulate what they do but keep the integrity of the song and bring your own perspective in it. Inevitably, Steve wrote these songs and they just put a voice to it. That is always a hard thing to do and you always have it in the back of your mind. Steve warned me that some fans will be more warming to you than others because you are the new guy. Luckily I have been very blessed. I am very thankful to God because I really haven’t had any issues. Everyone has been very welcoming to me. But to answer your question, I had heard that Derek left the band, I think he wanted to stop touring. He wanted to gig but to do it more locally. I called Steve and put my name in the hat. At the time I had a cover band called Papercut Massacre on Windup records and we had just been dropped. I was kind of down in the dumps. It was the latter part of 2009, and I believe we spoke in mid-2010. I sent him some stuff, he sent me some stuff. I got an audition, and it was very nerve-racking and scary. I played in front of thousands of people with Papercut Massacre, but I had never been so scared in my life. I was totally freaked out that day. He kept me wondering for about eight months.
Steve: When you are working on your third singer it is the most difficult element to replace.
Rob: Well that is the recognizable thing. That is what everyone knows and hears.
Steve: No matter what anybody says, that really is the most crucial element. Can you take the band to where it is going for the next chapter? I have dealt with plenty of great singers and talented musicians. It is the personal side of them that always seems to be the fault of me. I wanted to make sure I knew him as a person and find out if he was going to be able to handle himself in certain situations and be here for the long haul. When you audition for a band, you should know everything about it. Once you join a band it’s a family, it’s not a job. It should be an integral part of your life. To me it’s God, family, and my band.
Rob: The interesting thing is you guys did something that as far as I know has never been done before. You got together with your original band, but instead of getting rid of the band you have now you all came up with a new name, Circle of Light, and put out music. As far as I know I have never heard of any band doing a reunion of original members and basically starting as another band.
Steve: It was a weird situation because what happened is when MCA signed me, they just signed me. They pretty much put me in a situation where you either sign with a new label and you can reform the band or see you later, you can go back to your band. For whatever their reasons were they wanted me to do a whole new band. Whether or not I agreed with it, those were the cards that were dealt to me. It was a pretty heavy decision to make. At the time there were things going on with the original lineup. We were not going to last very long because there was way too much stuff going on inside. Do I take the opportunity and move on or do I stay and in three months we could be dissolved? I made the determination and we went on. Twenty-something years later I was able to mend the fences and get them back and say, “Hey look, there’s a bunch of songs that we were playing in the very early days that I never used on any Lillian Axe records. Let’s reform them, get together, call the band Circle of Light, which is one of the songs, and go do a record. And we did. People love it.
Rob: I just think that’s amazing because like I said, as far as I know I have never heard of that happening before. It’s a great story.
Steve: Not only musically is it great but on an emotional and spiritual level it is great too. These guys have been my friends for several years and it was great to have them back. They were hurt by the situation. Everybody was. You take situations, you make the best out of them, you make the best decisions, and try not to hurt other people. I had to weigh a lot of things out.
As you can see, not only has Lillian Axe maintained the fan base that they have enjoyed for so many years, but they are reaching out to new audiences and building a larger base with each show. This band is a family and they consider their fans a big part of that family; and who better than The Metal Master and company to pull such honest and forthright answers out of one of the South’s most popular bands!