Saturday, July 28, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH... Dan Chandler (Evans Blue)

What do Eric Church, baseball, Canada, and a chemical dye all have in common?  Dan Chandler, the lead vocalist for Evans Blue, was cool enough to give us a ring recently and gives us some answers to these questions as he gets his turn to speak his peace with Glitter2Gutter and to Talk a little Trash...



G2G:  Dan, thanks for giving us a ring...

Dan:  Oh man, I appreciate it...good talking to you, too.


G2G:  Dan, I'm gonna put you on the spot maybe, but I have to ask you...there's no one in the band named Evans, and there's no one named Blue, so what gives with the name?

Dan:  (Laughing)  The name came from a medical dictionary.  Evans Blue is actually a dye that a long time ago they used to inject into your body to determine...I don't know...something. (Laughing)  You know what, I didn't invent the name, so we'll say it has many meanings, how about that?  (Laughing)  I know that they quit using it because it was known to cause cancer, so...


G2G:  (Laughing) So your band is carcinogenic, is that what you're telling me?  Listening to Evans Blue could cause cancer?

Dan: (Laughing) Well, I'm trying not to say that, but... (laughing)...

G2G:  ...but that may be how it comes out...

Dan:  You never know!


G2G:  Now, you are the newest member of the band, correct?

Dan:  Yeah, I've been in the band for about three, going on four years now.


G2G:  Did you know the guys in the band beforehand, or how did this all come about?

Dan:  No, I didn't know them, actually.  I was in my own band for quite a long time, umm, and I had heard a couple of singles by Evans Blue, like I knew "Cold" and "The Pursuit", and I also had some friends of mine who were fans of the band.  So, a friend of mine pretty much just told me that the band was looking for somebody to be the new singer, so I went to MySpace at the time, and just asked them what they needed from me.  They sent me some tracks over and we ended up writing a lot of tracks together, before I even met the guys, and, umm, I flew out to Toronto and we got to know each other and we played together live, and the chemistry was really good, so...it pretty much went from there.


G2G:  You guys seem to have a kind of Spinal Tap drummer situation going on.  Do you have a current, permanent drummer on tour with you now, or are you still kind of winging things?

Dan:  (Laughing) Spinal Tap....(laughter)  Yeah, well, we have a drummer for this tour, but, you know, I think that it's just going to take time to make sure that whoever we have is the right guy.  We're going out with a guy by the name of Dusty Saxton, and he's an awesome drummer.  Dusty was referred to us by Jason Pierce, who is on the new record.  But yeah, you know, when it fits and it feels right I think it's going to be good, but I don't think anyone is in a huge hurry to just establish that fifth member yet. We just kinda want to see where things are going, you know.

G2G:  All right.  Now, as you said the band has been together for several years, and there was some success in the past and, as you said, you even knew some of their stuff before you joined the band.  But it seems like, at least to me, things really seemed to start clicking when you came on board in 2009.  Is there a more solid writing chemistry now that has led to some success?

Dan:  Well, its flattering for you to say that, but it's like...it's very painless, which is weird because of the distance between us, but you know, it's easy.  They send me tracks, you know.  We all click when it comes to the same style of music.  After being in the band for a while, you know, obviously the second record has really jumped up a couple of notches because we have a comfort level there and we know what each others' expectations are, and the chemistry is just right.  So...it's, like I said, it's easy, it's painless, it's fun, so yeah, man, we couldn't be happier with it.


G2G:  How bizarre is the world now when you can be in a band and not even live in the same country as the other members?  Isn't that kind of a weird situation, or is it just something that feels normal now?

Dan:  You know, it's definitely weird. The only band, obviously, that I've had this situation with is Evans Blue, but I didn't know exactly how this was going to work.  You know, there's a lot of things that can happen when you're in the same room writing with somebody as opposed to just sending tracks and riffs over the internet.  But, I mean, when we do go out for tours, or when we're hitting the studio, we make sure we have  a couple of weeks where we have a chance to sit down and really tap into the ideas that we have ready to go record or to take on tour.  So, yeah, we do get a little bit of that weirdness, but I think there's pros and cons to our situation.  I mean, one thing, everybody has their own time with the songs without everybody else butting in and trying to change it while you are still working on it.  Sometimes when that happens the song doesn't get anywhere, which I've experienced as well, because everyone wants to go with their own vision of how the song goes, but this way, we are more alone with the song and can get our own stuff out.  Everything just seems to be very...I don't know.  It works, that's all I can say.


G2G:  Have you noticed if there's any difference in the perception of the band or the success level of the band between the Canadian side and the American side?

Dan:  Umm, you mean like as far as the fans' perception?


G2G:  Right...

Dan:  You know, as weird as it might sound, we don't play Canada.  For one reason or another, we haven't been up there since I've been in the band.  I know the guys didn't really tour much up there before me, either, but the U.S. to us is really awesome.  I mean, we've toured a lot of different cities, obviously, and when we return to a city the crowds are getting bigger, our fans are incredible and are friends to us as well.  You know, it's what we call the "E-B Nation", because we have a lot of the same people coming out in support of us all the time.


G2G:  I've noticed that satellite radio has really started to embrace Evans Blue a lot, but it seems like a lot of traditional rock stations aren't as solidly on board yet.  Any thoughts as to why, or do you think that's more of a regional thing?

Dan:  Um, well, Sirius/XM has always been awesome to us and even more so now, like you said.  They just really get behind us, they believe in the band and what we're doing, whereas terrestrial radio, we have our markets where we get some great play and some good spins, and there are a lot of stations that are behind us.  But you know, the whole dilemma would be that there's a lot of bands out there that can get on radio stations through label support, or in a lot of different ways, but where we're independent, there's only so many slots for the playlist, you know, and we might not have the ties to some stations that the label bands do.  So, we either wait our turn to try to jump in front of some others as much as we can, but radio is generally pretty good to us, and I think it's just a different world now as far as radio and music goes, and we have to adapt to it and do what we can with what we are given.


G2G:  Changing gears, how has your summer been going, Dan?  I know you guys are gearing up for another tour now...

Dan:  Yeah, we're heading out and this tour will be the biggest production we've ever had as a band.  We're going all out with this one, and we really want to bring this new record and the theme of the record and present it the right way on tour.  So, I think we're all really looking forward to this new tour...

G2G:  Now the new album is called Graveyard Of Empires.  Is there some sort of special meaning behind that title?

Dan:  Yeah, you know, Graveyard Of Empires, to me, doesn't necessarily explain what's going on in the album, but it more or less explains a position in the music industry itself.  It's like, you know, the way that the world is, and things are collapsing, and the music industry is making drastic changes, and it just seems like...you it's kind of like a level playing field now with everything being torn down and everybody is starting to get an equal opportunity and a chance to rise up.  And if that means we have to come up with a new way to do things, then that's what we've got to do.  It's more or less tearing something down to rebuild it.

G2G:  Let's jump subjects again, Dan, and I'd like to know what Dan Chandler was like as a kid.  Did music come naturally to you, was it a priority in life?  What was young life like for Dan?

Dan:  Well, I grew up wanting to be a baseball player.  You know, pretty much as long as I can remember, from elementary school and throughout high school, I was just surrounded by baseball, and I thought that was what I wanted to do.  My dad, obviously pushed me in that direction because he was a ballplayer, but my sisters were all very musical.  They can all sing really well, but I never thought of myself as a singer or a musician, even though I liked to mess around with music.  I just never took it seriously until I picked up a guitar and made a couple of friends who played, and they showed me some chords and, you know, I wrote a song.  Now, that song is probably the most horrible thing I've ever done, but it was a starting point for me to fall in love with music, and once I did that, it just seemed like it wasn't a chore, it was something that I did because I wanted to.  And that's huge.  That's the one thing that I can say that stands out to me, you know.  I've never been forced to do this, or felt like it was a chore or a burden, you know, I love to play.  It's one of the things that I choose to do that nobody has to tell me to do.  So, you know, it stuck.  Once I chose to do it, it stuck with me.

G2G:  Who did you grow up listening to?

Dan:  I grew up on a lot of country music believe it or not.  I still like country music.  I grew up on country, but I like music from every genre, really.  I like some hip-hop music, I like rock...  You know, I think that Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20, when I was younger, was a really big influence to me as a songwriter, and there was always this passion in his voice.  Then, when I got a little older, I really got into Incubus, and I completely fell in love with that band with the album, Science.  That right there, to me, was the turning point for my thought process on music.  From there to Rage Against The Machine to Tool to...you name it...man, I just fell completely into all kinds of hard rock, and that is just what I was all about after that.

G2G:  How about any current favorites, or do you even have time to listen to music other than the music of the people you are touring with?

Dan:  Um, no, I listen to a lot of stuff, man.  Like I said, you know, depending upon who I'm with, I'll go from some of the new country, like Eric Church's stuff, then I'll go over to stuff like Three Doors Down, Three Days Grace, Breaking Benjamin, you know...  It's weird, you know, because you become friends with these bands you've been out playing with, and if you grew up listening to their stuff and now you're out playing with them...it's weird sometimes, but it's cool.  I don't know if it's bias or what, but you hear them differently once you know them, and you end up finding something new in them all, you know what I'm saying?

G2G:  Do you ever worry that listening to other stuff is going to influence you, or is that something you embrace rather than concern yourself with?

Dan:  I don't think I ever worry about it.  I think you've got to get your influence from somebody, and for me it's not really a riff or a topic, but it's more of a mood, you know what I mean?  A vibe.  Those are the things that I think can kind of influence you.  A lot of these tracks the guys send me, it's really just the mood that will bring the lyrics out for me.  I don't know exactly where I'm heading with it when I start to write a song, but then it's like when you go back and re-read what you've written, it's like the song is telling you something, you know.  It's very strange, but...  I don't know man, I think influence is awesome wherever you can get it.

G2G:  If you had to pick one song out of the Evans Blue catalog that you've performed on, what would you say your favorite is and why?

 

Dan:  Well, I think the one song that would stay with me forever will be "Erase My Scars".  I wrote that song...that was on the last record, but it was the last one that we added to it and it's kind of like a prelude to this record...it's staying with me for a long time.  We made a video for that one and my nephew, Chase Franklin is in it.  The song was written about my nephew who passed away from brain cancer, so it's something that I think I'll be the most proud of in the end, because it's something that I have that will last forever and it really meant something to me and my family.  You know, that kind of thing...real honest lyrics...to me, that is something that has longevity and will last forever.



G2G:  I totally agree with that.  Dan, how do people stay in touch with Evans Blue?  Are you guys big Twitter and Facebook junkies like so many other self-promoting bands now?

Dan:  Yeah, we are man.  We are constantly...well, I know me and Parker are constantly on Twitter and Facebook.  We're constantly replying to everybody and staying in touch with everybody.  It's cool.  You get to go around the country and meet new people all the time, but they're not necessarily new because you've visited with them before but now when you're visiting again it's face-to-face and stuff.  We want to meet everyone, and I, personally, would like to stay in touch with all the fans that want to stay in touch, because when this is all said and done, I might want to come visit Phoenix or Toronto or wherever, and I might need a place to crash or something!  (laughter)


G2G:  So you guys actually run your own accounts then?

Dan:  Yeah, definitely.  We run everything we've got, man...


G2G:  Do you think that social media has been a big part of your success, especially since you are an independent band?

Dan:  Yeah, I do.  I think that being in such close contact with the fans where a lot of artists can be unreachable and don't necessarily respond to their fans, I think that makes us more real to people and if you acknowledge them the way they acknowledge you, which is the way it should be as far as I'm concerned, then they're going to get your back, you know.  They're going to support you because they get to know YOU, not just your songs, and that's important.


G2G:  Do you have any problems with a lack of privacy, or have you reached that level of recognition yet?

Dan:  No, no, man...you know, if I'm playing in a city, um, that we have a good following in, sure, you'll run into a couple of people that know you, but its never to where it's too much.  In my hometown, you know, I usually hit the same spots, you know, and people that are friends of mine know that I'm in a band and it's pretty rare that anyone around me invades my comfort zone, you know what I mean...


G2G:  So Dan can still just be Dan?

Dan:  Oh yeah, absolutely.


G2G:  Awesome.  That's good to hear.  Dan, I want to thank you for taking the time to call me.  I wish you all the luck in the world with this new album and the tour.  I wish you safe travels, my friend, and I hope to catch you guys out on the road this summer.

Dan:  Thanks, man...I really appreciate the time...


Well, there you go, folks.  Apparently it is not required that you have a medical terminology background to be a member of a hard rock band...and it is okay to listen to country music, also.  Who knew?!  Thanks again to Dan Chandler for playing along and talking some trash with us!

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

JOSHUA "Resurrection" (Collector's Edition)

(my Collector's Edition version)

(standard edition version)
(c) 2012 Majestic R&P
  1. Divine Intervention
  2. Where Eagles Fly
  3. The Voice Of Reason
  4. Blood On The Nile (long)
  5. World At War
  6. The Darkside Of Man
  7. Behind The Walls
  8. Live Out A Lie
  9. Miracles
  10. Promises
  11. Blood On The Nile (single)
  12. Sing Hallelujah
  13. Dirty Games (bonus)
  14. Secrets (bonus)
Joshua Perahia--Guitars
Mark Boals--Vocals
Scott Warren--Keyboards
Dino Maddalone--Drums
Bryan Fleming--Bass

Additional Musicians:
Rob Rock--Vocals on "Secrets"

Guitar virtuoso, Joshua Perahia, returns with his first album in over a decade with Resurrection, a nearly flawless record that combines power metal, melodic metal, and AOR into one smoking package!  There are going to be numerous comparisons to Yngwie Malmsteen's early work, which is made seemingly even more inevitable since former Malmsteen vocalist, Mark Boals, handles microphone duty on this album as well. 
Despite the fact that he has released several albums over the years, it is not uncommon for most people to immediately reference his 1988 album, Intense Defense, when talking about this talented musician's work.  In a lot of ways, Resurrection sounds like it could have been the logical follow-up to that masterpiece, as many of the same styles and tones are incorporated in this new album.  In fact, if you are one of the 888 people who ordered a copy of this album in Collector's Edition form (mine is number 33), you get to hear a bonus track, "Secrets", which was actually recorded for the Intense Defense album, and features Rob Rock on vocals (more on that in a bit).  A couple of other songs sound like they could have fit well on that classic album, as well, including the AOR-leaning trio of "Divine Intervention", "Voice Of Reason", and "Live Out A Lie".  "Promises" also has a very distinct 80's feel to it, although in more of a metallic, less-AOR fashion.  However, as good as these songs are, to me they are not the strength of the album.  That distinction falls on the heavier, more purely guitar-driven tracks that are sprinkled throughout this album.

Fans of heavier, more power metal-styled material are going to instantly salivate over "Blood On The Nile", especially the album cut as opposed to the single version which is also included in this collection.  "World At War" may be my favorite track here and is likely the heaviest on this disc, as well, with Boals really adding an edge to his voice that works well to convey the angst and urgency of the message incorporated in the song.  "Darkside Of Man" will also cater to the power metal crowd with its huge guitar riffs and some of the best drumming on the album.
The inclusion of Boals on vocals gives Perahia the opportunity to explore some more blues-based material on this album, also.  Nowhere is this more apparent or effective than on the gritty, heavy blues of "Behind The Walls" or "Miracles", both of which are among the very best songs on an album full of excellent material.  I, personally, could listen to an entire Joshua record of nothing but this style of hard, heavy rock, and be thoroughly satisfied, even if Perahia never completely let loose the blazing speed that he is often noted for.

There are a couple of lesser moments for me...not bad, just not the same high-quality material as the rest of the disc.  The almost praise-and-worship style of "Sing Hallelujah" doesn't really fit the flow of the rest of the album, and I think most people could have done with just one version of "Blood On The Nile", with the full album version (almost two full minutes longer) being the preferred version for me.  Of course, the radio edit is only found on this Collector's Edition, so I shouldn't complain...I actually paid extra for it!  I am also a bit suprised that I am writing this, but the little instrumental, "Where Eagles Fly", while nice, doesn't really do much for the overall feel of the album, although it does give the listener a chance to hear this project's keyboard player, Scott Warren, take a moment in the spotlight without Perahia's prodigious talent overshadowing him.  (Good for you, Scott!  Take a short bow...but pardon me if I skip this track most of the time...).    

As to the Collector's Edition version of this project, purchasers are treated to bonus tracks, "Dirty Games" and "Secrets" on this special edition, and both are nice glances at the past of the band.  "Secrets" was recorded during the Intense Defense sessions and features Rob Rock on vocals.  "Dirty Games" was recorded in 1991 and features that incarnation of the band, with, I believe,  Robyn Kyle Basuri of Red Sea fame, on vocals.  Both of these are excellent songs of suprisingly good quality, especially considering both are LIVE REHEARSAL RECORDINGS with no overdubs or edits!  Both fit the overall feel of this project fairly well, especially the more AOR-styled material here, and are welcome additions, in my opinion. 

If you ordered this special Collector's Edition, you are treated to an autographed CD, a hand-numbered and autographed die-cut cover (which frames the standard-edition cover), and a separate "thank you" type of card which has a Resurrection guitar pick affixed to it.  Pretty cool stuff for just a few additional dollars...or at least the collector in me says so!  Full credits, song lengths, and lyrics for the songs found on both editions are included here, and I am guessing that the full band photo found on the Collector's Edition is unique to this set as it is part of the die-cut cover I mentioned earlier.  Very cool, very professional packaging!  The only things I wish were included were the lyrics to the bonus tracks and the band line-ups for "Dirty Games" and "Secrets".

Regardless of the version you manage to get ahold of, one thing that is consistent OUTSIDE of the excellent musicianship is the lyrical message being delivered.  Perahia is a devout Christian and has always incorporated his faith in his lyrics, and the lyrics on Resurrection are not an exception.  With the exception of the previously mentioned praise-and-worship stylings of "Sing Hallelujah", however, the lyrics are never preachy or beat-you-over-the-head in their approach. Instead, Perahia uses various type of imagry to paint a portrait of his faith and beliefs and encourages the listener to seek out the Truth for themselves.  No one should find themselves offended by the words Boals sings over the music performed by Joshua and his bandmates.

All in all, an excellent return from a man, and project, that really has spent too much time away from the hard rock/heavy metal scene.  Let's hope that Joshua and Company return to the studio much sooner than this last time and don't make us wait another decade before unleashing an album of this quality!

Rating:  Crank this up...way up...to 9!  Welcome back, Joshua!

Monday, July 16, 2012

XFactor1 "Famous.Last.Words."

(c) 2012 Megaforce Records/XNation Records
  1. Bring It On
  2. It's My Life
  3. Over & Out
  4. The Stroke
  5. You Suck
  6. Shadow Of Desperation
  7. Tragedy
  8. Parasite
  9. Hope For Tomorrow
  10. Break You
  11. Live Another Day
  12. Never
  13. Miss Me Now
C-Lok Watkins--Guitars
Chris Crum--Drums
QBall Wolf--Vocals
Cody Joseph--Bass
Jesse Randolph--Guitars
A few weeks ago, I previewed this album for you when I checked out the two-song promo the band had sent to me.  Now, I have the enitre XFactor1 album, Famous.Last.Words. in hand and have had some time to get comfortable with things.  Much as I stated in that promo review, XFactor1 is a band that is somewhat hard to nail down with a singular description of style and sound.  Sure, they are definitely a modern hard rock band with some metallic hints , but they are not a band that is going to be mistaken for a clone of anyone else, thanks in large part to QBall's vocal style.  I am not going to say he is the best singer out there, because he is not, but I will say that his presentation is unique and definitely gets your attention.  As a band, XFactor1 has garnered quite a bit of attention themselves, as they spent a few weeks on Billboard's Heatseeker's chart and were also listed as a Red Bull band to watch in 2010.  So...did they live up to that promise?

Can I say maybe?

Inconsistency seems to be a problem on this album, at least to my ears.  Just when I think the band has a sound or style locked in, they switch gears almost completely and throw me for a loop.  Now, that isn't always a bad thing with an album, but here the stylistic changes are almost distracting.  When they are at their rocking best, such as on the ripping album opener, "Bring It On", the equally thumping "Parasite", or even on their cover of Billy Squire's "The Stroke" (yes, I said Billy Squire!), XFactor1 really grabs your attention in a positive way. "Over And Out" is another solid rocker which borders on metal, as do "Break You" and "Live Another Day".  If the entire album sounded like these songs, and still included the 80's sounding "Miss Me Now" (which actually sounds more 80's than their cover of an ACTUAL 80's song in "The Stroke"), I think I could have really gotten into this record.

The problems, for me, at least, lie in when the band does something seemingly to be unpredictible.  For example, when they pull something out of nowhere...like the acoustic "Never", or the Type O Negative-ish "It's My Life", it just throws everything out of whack.  The songs aren't terrible, but they don't seem to have any real reason for being here and don't even really sound like the same band.  The middle of the disc bogs down quite a bit with "Shadow Of Depression" and "Tragedy" going back-to-back, and this also serves to disjoint the flow of the album as well.  The lyrics to "You Suck" are also so cheesey and, dare I say moronic, that they tarnish what I think would otherwise be a pretty decent song.

Having never heard their previous album, which is the disc that garnered them the national attention they enjoyed a couple of years ago, I don't know if Famous.Last.Words. is a step forward or a step back.  I do know that XFactor1 has a pretty strong fanbase that is constantly sending me emails and links to videos, wanting me to get on board with this new album, which I have tried really hard to do.  I just can't say with 100% honesty that I am fully convinced of...nor am I totally opposed to...the hype that these guys have received.  As I said, if nothing else, they are unique in their style and sound...and appearance, for that matter...and I have heard they put on one heck of a live show, so if you get the chance, definitely check them out.  I can also say that they have a VERY good drummer, as Chris Crum's skills really help to bring to life the more metallic sounds of the material here.  As to the album, it is one that grows on me a bit more with each listen, but it's not going to be a threat to make the Top 15 at the end of the year, either.

Rating:  Spotty, but not bad.  Rock this at 6. 


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Talkin' Trash With Louis St. August (MASS)

Today, we shine the spotlight on the front man of one of the most underappreciated...yet still active...bands of the whole 80's scene, MASS.  Louis St. August was kind enough to give us a ring, so let's give him a chance to Talk Some Trash...  Oh, and if you want this to sound REALLY authentic in your head, read his comments with a Boston accent!


G2G:  First, man, I have to ask you...do you go by Louis or Louie?  Your email says "Louis" but the albums say "Louie".  I just don't want to call you the wrong thing...

(Louis is the one with shades...)
Louis:  (Laughing)  Not a big deal.  Yeah, I go by Louis.  I know some of the records say Louie, but that's just the stage name, you know, something the record company came up with back in 1982 or 1984 that I've been using ever since.  But either one is fine, really...

G2G:  Well, Louis, thanks for taking the time to call us and talk to Glitter2Gutter.  How have things been going in the MASS camp recently?

Louis:  Things have been going great, Arttie.  We've just been so busy.  It's just been a great roller coaster ride for MASS over the years.  We're just happy to still be doing what we're doing, but you know, lately, things have been so busy it's been kind of crazy for us.  MASS is working on our 9th album, we've been writing songs, you know.  The last album came out over two years ago, with Sea Of Black, so we've been working on new music, and between doing interviews like this one, and working on some publications, it's just been so busy.  Now that we're older, we all have families and children...in fact, I just had my daughter's twelfth birthday party this weekend, and that's crazy...and, you know, it's just...there's always something, always something happening with MASS.

G2G:  That's good to hear.  Now, Louis, I'm going to put you on the spot immediately with this next question, but I know a lot of people want to know:  why isn't...or wasn't...MASS bigger than they were?  You guys had the look, the sound, the songs...was it just bad luck, bad timing, what do you think it was?

Louis:  I think, well, I think you're absolutely right on a lot of those things.  I think it was definitely bad timing, but we've also had some bad problems in the past with management contracts, I mean, our first contract was so bad I think it hurt us right from the beginning when we signed with A&M Records.  I think if that record had came out when it was supposed to come out, things would've changed for us.  It just seems like we were tied up in legal situations in court for three years, then we finally got out of that contract via bankruptcy, then we signed with RCA Records three years later.  That went well, actually, and our record with RCA, called New Birth, was set to take off and we got dragged  back into court for using a couple of songs that our first management had a piece of, so that kind of put a stall on us again.  Then, when we got that resolved, umm, RCA was bought out by General Electric...  It's just...it just seems like a lot of bad things happened to us so early on, but we somehow managed to roll with the punches and go with the times and just continued doing what we were doing.  Everybody asks me this question or tells me, "you guys shoulda been a lot bigger, you're a lot better than so-and-so," and, you know, that's great, but its just all about timing and being who you are and, you know, that's what I think it's all about...being at the right place at the right time, and unfortunately I guess we weren't sometimes.  I really can't put my finger on one specific thing, though, so I think that we do have the songs and the music, but it just didn't work out like we hoped.  And, you know, it's tough..it's really, really tough to say what went wrong, if you want to look at it like that. 

G2G:  Do you think that possibly part of the problem was that people didn't know how to approach MASS?  There was some confusion among a lot of people at the time, you know with the name, the association with Michael Sweet of Stryper, the imagry, as to whether or not you guys were a "Christian" band.  What's your take on that situation?

Louis:  Absolutely.  I mean, the fans were a little bit confused on that take.  When we first...let me say this...we've always just been a melodic rock band from Massachussetts.  So, originally, people thought we called ourselves MASS because it was short of Massachussetts, but, you know, not really.  We came up with the name because we always thought the band had a really big sound, you know, a massive type of sound.  So, when we were coming up with names and I heard that, I thought it sounded really cool. 
Umm...I didn't really mind the church influence at all, I thought it would make for good talk or gossip, which never hurts.  And then, when we became friends with Michael Sweet and the rest of the guys in Stryper after doing some shows with them here in Boston, he approached us and said he loved the band and that he'd like for us to talk to his band's label, so we ended up going to Enigma Records back in '87 after we left RCA.  We ended up doing a couple of records with them, and of course Michael produced Voices In The Night, so, yeah, I think some of the bands started thinking we were a Christian band, the label started trying to shop us as a Christian band...our album cover for Take You Home, if you saw that cover it had a big cross on it, and we kind of chuckled and said what the heck, go with it, because it also reminded us of the Madonna, this big cross up in the hills around Boston...so yeah, that all kind of fed into that Christian band marketing which did confuse some people.  But, I want to say...we've always been believers in God, maybe some of the members more than others, but we've always believed in God and we've always been Christians as people, but we just never considered ourselves to be a "Christian band".  A lot of the songs that I write, you know, my lyrics are very positive and uplifting, and they do reference God at times in a subtle way, so I guess...  You know, we gained the Christian fans and we gained non-Christian fans, so I don't think its hurt us a bunch.  I think that maybe, if anything, it helped us to get to the level of success that we have managed to get to, if you think about it, so...

G2G:  Well, I want to say that I think it's refreshing to hear you not shy away from the fact that you're Christian, and while this isn't specifically a Christian website, we do review a lot of Christian bands.  I just think it's cool to hear you say, "I am a Christian, and I'm not ashamed of it, but that's not necessarily where we were trying to go with this"...

Louis:  Absolutely...absolutely....

G2G:  You guys have managed to maintain a very consistent line-up through the years.  In fact, unless I missed a change somewhere, you've only changed bass players, and just the one time, correct?

Louis:  Correct...

G2G:  Where do you think your consistency comes from?  I mean, so many band out there now have just one or two original members left...

Louis:  Umm...well, you know, we're from a small town called Revere.  Me and the guitar player grew up across the street from each other.  He actually wanted to become a drummer and I said, no, you're gonna be our guitar player, and we stole his Confirmation money and we went down and bought him an electric guitar!  Now, neither one of us could play the guitar, but we got the $50 or $75 or whatever it was, bought this little guitar, and we taught ourselves, you know, "Smoke On The Water" and a few other songs, you know, and that's really how the band started.  We got a drummer and turned him into a guitar player, and I was the singer and could play some guitar, and then we got our drummer a couple of streets away, and our first bass player another street past that.  So...you know, we all went to school together and grew up together like brothers.  Yeah, we fought a lot sometimes, but we all had the same goal and I think that's what kept us together like a family, and has kept us basically all together for all these years.

G2G:  Now, despite that band consistency, you guys actually went a long time without putting out a new album...ten or twelve years, or something like that...what was going on for MASS during that time?

Louis:  During that time, you know, the guys were getting married, having children, and of course there was a big decline.  You know we lost the...well, Enigma, our record company when Voices In The Night came out in the late 80's, and then into the early 90's...around 1991 or so, Enigma went bankrupt and they folded, so we didn't have a record company or contract anymore, and music started to change.  You know, the grunge started to come in, umm, and our style of music...you know, I hate to put a label on it, because I don't really consider our music to be "hair metal" or "80's metal", but I guess that's what it is, because that's the era we grew up in...so, there was a change, so we actually tried to sit down and go about writing our songs a little bit differently.  We thought about changing the name because times were changing and we were considering trying to shop our new music to a different label, and we did all of that for about three or four months and, you know, it just didn't feel right to us; it just wasn't coming from our heart because it wasn't music that we were meant to play and record.  So, a producer friend of ours who worked on our Take You Home record, flew us out to Jersey, and we did some demos that eventually became our 2007 release, Crack Of Dawn.  Anyway, this producer said, "guys...just stick with MASS and play it from your heart like you always do", and you know, he was so right.  So that's really what we were going through...we were growing up, there was a change in the music, and we didn't have a record label or contract to do our thing, and we didn't know if we even wanted to continue as MASS or go in a more aggressive direction.  But, I will say, I am very glad we stayed true to ourselves and our roots because even though none of the labels in the United States were looking for our type of music, I started shopping our stuff around in Europe and overseas, and I got about four or five record companies that were interested in us and we eventually signed in 2006 for a three album deal, and put out Crack Of Dawn, Sea Of Black, and we're writing the new one now.  So that's what we did...but you know, we continued the whole time to write and perform locally, and we added a few songs to some compilation albums that came out, and stuff like that, but pretty much, yeah, we didn't have a major album out through that lapse in time.

G2G:  Speaking of performing, does MASS continue to play out or have you become more of a studio band now?

Louis:  We play out.  We've done...well, we do about ten or twelve shows a year.  We've done shows around the New England area a lot, we've done the M3 Festival, we've also done the Rocklahoma Festival twice, umm...we've done quite a few shows.  We've played with Stryper and Cinderella.  We've got shows coming up with Tesla.  So, yeah, we've been busy playing, so we're not stuck to the studio or anything, we're just more choosey now, more picky now, at our age with what we've accomplished and what's going on in our lives...we're not 18 any more and we can't just jump in a van and go to New York for a night and play there, and then go somewhere else.  When we have offers from promoters we look at them as a band, see what makes sense for us or if its something that would help us or if it's something we want to do, like Rocklahoma or some festival out in California or something, we see if it's something that would be the best for MASS to make an appearance.  So, as a group, if we say "yes", then we'll do it.  So...

G2G:  Now, I know that you guys were always "hometown favorites" and that you guys had big, BIG radio support back in the day.  Does Boston and the surrounding New England area still take care of MASS as sort of local celebrities?

Louis:  You know, the WAAF's still play MASS pretty well, ummm...the local college stations do, but you know, that whole scene has kind of died here.  With some of these stations now being bought out by the big corporate stations, it just...it's just not like it was, that's for sure.  So, yeah, we still get some airplay, but it's definitely not like it was back in the day or anything.  You know, the stations that do still play rock up here do still play MASS, but we're not getting the play on the KISS108's or stations like that that now play the more poppier-type stuff.  I don't know if that's because we don't have a record label behind us that is pushing for that stuff or if it's just a change in the times or what.

G2G:  On an individual note, you recently did some work with Justin Murr and Liberty N Justice, correct?

Louis:  Yes, yes we did.  Justin approached me and asked me if I would do a song.  I actually did a song called "Stretch Armstrong" on the album that just came out (Hell Is Coming To Breakfast) and I just recorded a song for the upcoming Cigar Chronicles, which I believe will be coming out next year, which will be called "Daddy Long Legs".  That song has Timmy Gaines from Stryper playing bass, and JK (Northrup) playing guitar, and I do the lead vocals and backing vocals as well.  That's a fun song...

G2G:  While we're talking about vocals, that's actually where I was going to go next...do you do anything special to maintain your voice?  You've managed to keep your range intact through all the years, which I think is amazing.  Do you have a special regimen you go through?

Louis:  Thank you, first of all.  Umm...well, I just try to keep in shape the best I can.  I do breathing exercises that I've learned.  When I was 16 and 17 years old, I studied with an opera singer and I, to this day, still do those exercises before I perform or before I go to the studio to sing a song or something.  Even if I just have some free time I try to do some of those exercises to continue to keep my voice strong.  Ummm, I don't smoke, so maybe that's helped.  I try to eat right and exercise as much as I can...so...I'm also just blessed, I guess.  (laughing)  I just thank God that I can still do it.

G2G:  Do you have any MASS horror stories, of maybe I Spinal Tap moment that you could share with the readers?

Louis:  Oh, God.  (laughing)  Do you have like, about a year or so?  It just depends on the year or the era.  Gosh...there's so many, Arttie.  I guess one of the ones that's pretty funny now, it wasn't then, but we were doing an East Coast tour for RCA Records, we were going up and down the east coast, and for one of the stops we were playing The Ritz, and it was us and Kix and a band called Rodinelli, and things were going really well.  So anyway, we were getting ready to load in and our guy goes out to  get the equipment, and our whole truck was stolen with all the equipment...our guitar rigs and our special white Marshall stacks, and drums, and stuff like that...you know, they just took the whole truck and everything in it.  And, the funny thing is, our roadies, our guys, had even removed the battery from the truck, you know, to make it harder to steal, but still these people were able to get into the truck, get a battery into it, and then take off with it.  Ummm...luckily, the next day, RCA ended up buying us new equipment so we could continue with the tour.  That's one...you know, there are just so many, from being in court and going through litigation...you know, here's another one.  We were up on stage and a sheriff came in and made us stop playing because we had a TRO, a temporary restraining order, put on the band, and we had to stop performing, which meant we had to go back into court and take care of that.  We had to declare bankruptcy at one time to get ourselves out of some terrible contracts....just many, many things like that go along with the crazy stories from the road and stuff...

G2G:  You have to definitely love what you are doing to continue to perservere through all of these problems, correct?

Louis:  Absolutely, Arttie.  That's what it was always about.  It was never about a big paycheck or making that big, big rockstar lifestyle come true...it was always about the music and the love of the music.  It still is.  I mean, I still get excited to go perform, whether it's in front of a hundred people or five, ten, fifteen thousand people, whatever it is I still get that excitement and that love to go into the studio and create new music.  You know, once the guys have gone in and laid down the basic tracks, I just can't wait to get in there and create and do my vocal tracks and start adding the harmonies and start "layering the cake" as I call it. It's always been a love and that passion has never left myself or the other guys.  I actually feel like the passion has grown at this stage in our career.  Umm...I see a resurgence of MASS fans, from the older fans who are in their late 30's and 40's now to the younger kids who are coming to the shows at ten, eleven, twelve years old sometimes, and they're learning about MASS from their parents or the internet, and we're seeing a whole new generation of MASS fans, which is exciting for me and for us as a band.  I just having a ball now, and with the re-releases of all our old albums, like Take You Home, and our EP, and our Fighter album, which were never available on CD before, you know our music is getting out there to people again that couldn't get it before.  It's just been great.

G2G:  How long do you envision MASS continuing on?  Is there an end-goal of some sort for the band or are you going to do this for as long as your voice holds out and you have stories to tell?

Louis:  (Laughing) You know...that's a good question.  I guess if I get tired of it, or if I can't sing anymore and I can't perform the way I think I should be able to anymore, then, you know, I think we'll call it a day and walk away and give it up.  But, ummm, I think we still have another ten years left in MASS if the people still want it.  I see a lot of musicians that are a lot older than me that are still doing it and having fun and sounding great.  But once we aren't doing the best that we can any longer, you know, our goal is always to make the next album better than the last one, so if we can't do that any longer, I don't see why we would continue to do this.  And, you know, I think Sea Of Black has done that, and I am very proud of that record, but I think we can take the band to another higher level still, up another notch.  If we can't, then maybe it's time to sit back and think about it and see if it's the end of our time, but for now, I think we still have things to do.

G2G:  I saw on your website that you are just a general fan of music of all styles and types.  Is there anything that you are listening to now that you are really getting into?

(Lizzy Hale of Halestorm)
Louis:  Ummm...let's see.  Like you said, I love every type of music.  The latest CD that I bought was the new Halestorm album...Lizzy Hale, I think she's great.  I've been trying to get ahold of the Poodles, I don't know if you've heard of the Poodles, but their lead singer, who I think is great, just came out with a solo album I'm wanting to get, but it's not available on iTunes yet, so I'm waiting on that one.  It's available in Sweden, but I haven't been able to get it here yet.  I've been listening to a lot of Winger lately, I like Kip's solo albums, especially his new one, the name escapes me now.  I know that when I hang up with you I'll say, "why didn't I say that album or that one or that one". (Laughing)  My library is so big, its so huge, I just listen to whatever I'm in the mood for.  But, you know, currently, its Lizzy and the Halestorm album...oh, and I've been listening to the remix I just received from JK of the "Daddy Long Legs" song for Liberty N Justice.  And, I just sang on a good friend's EP called "Scottie Dunbar, In A Mellow Mood", I sang a duet with him on that record which just came out on Down Boys Records, the label from the Warrant guys, so I've been listening to that stuff.

G2G:  On a closing note, Louis, how do fans stay in touch with you and the band?  Are you Twitter Tweeters and Facebook fans?

Louis:  Yeah, basically that's what it is.  I'm on Twitter and on Facebook.  Of course people can email us through our website, our personal emails are on there, and we do our best to respond to everyone.  You know, the internet, it's ummm...it's been great for MASS because we've reconnected to a lot of people.  A lot of people didn't think we were together anymore, you know...some people didn't even know there was anything after  Voices In The Night.  And, you know, in that lull there that we talked about, a lot of people thought MASS was done or broke up.  Then, with the internet, especially Facebook and MySpace when it was going strong, we reconnected with old fans and also established a lot of brand new fans.

G2G:  Louis, it's been great getting a chance to talk to you.  I've been a fan since Voices In The Night, and it's been a lot of fun for me.  Thank you for taking the time to call us and I hope we get to do this again when the new album goes gold or platinum for you!

Louis:  You got it, Arttie!  Thank you very much, man...thank you for taking the time to talk to me and thank you for all you do.  Thank you so much....


Well, folks, if you thought MASS was dead and gone, it is obvious they are not!  I believe everything MASS has ever recorded has been reissued and made available on CD now, so if you are wanting to upgrade your collection, are looking for some stuff you've missed in the past, or want to check out what MASS sounds like now,...or if you want to contact them...check out their website at www.massrocks.com .

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Monday, July 9, 2012

LITA FORD "Living Like A Runaway"

(c) 2012 SPV Steamhammer
  1. Branded
  2. Hate
  3. The Mask
  4. Living Like A Runaway
  5. Relentless
  6. Mother
  7. Devil In My Head
  8. Assylum
  9. Love 2 Hate U
  10. Song To Slit Your Wrists By
Lita Ford--Lead & Backing Vocals, Guitar
Gary Hoey--Lead & Bass Guitars
Matt Scurfield--Drums

I'm pretty sure I am not alone when I say that I had completely written Lita Ford off after the ATROCIOUS piece of industrial crappiness that was 2009's Wicked Wonderland.  The ironic thing, at least for me, is that I was actually looking forward to Wicked Wonderland after the less-than-stellar Black, which found Ford going...*gasp*...almost grunge on us!  Imagine my horror when ...Wonderland was even worse!  In fact, that album is so bad I haven't even bothered to review it...and it darn near kept me from picking this disc out of the review pile as well.  I'm glad I managed to retain at least a bit of my "professional" interest, however, as Ford has managed to at least partially redeeem herself with her latest effort, Living Like A Runaway.

Don't let the album title fool you, because this album sounds nothing like a Runaways album...not even close.  Instead, what the listener is treated to here is a disc that reminds me a lot of Ford's best-selling album, Lita, with hints of Dangerous Curves and hints of her harder-edged past, a la Dancin' On The Edge. 

To bring her career back on-line a bit, Ford brought Gary Hoey on board to help out with the songwriting and lead guitar duties, as well as all of the bass work.  Smart move.  Hoey adds a little extra oomph to the guitar playing on this album, but Lita manages to get her fair share of licks in as well, proving that while she may not be the greatest female axe-slinger of all time, she does have a certain level of skill in that department and is not exactly a slouch.  Her vocals remain very recognizable on this album, although she does tend to get a bit monotone in spots, especially when she seems tempted to be dragged back toward the dreck that was her last album (which I will get to in  a moment).  Hoey also did the production for this record and the sound of the project is overall pretty tight, somewhat polished, a little bombastic in places...in other words, pretty much what 80's Lita Ford fans would be looking for.

As far as the songs themselves, they run the gamut from the very strong rockers "Devil In My Head" and "Relentless", the punk-tinged "Branded" and the pop-rocker, "Living Like A Runaway", to the almost too-honest ballad "Mother" (more on this track in a bit), to the not-so-good "Love 2 Hate U" to the outright bad "Hate" which has elements that remind me too much of Wicked Wonderland.  "The Mask" would be pretty cool, I think, if it wasn't using a drum loop and if all of the song was performed vocally like the chorus, but for much of the song Ford slips back into that industrial-styled vocal delivery that just makes me shudder.  "Asylum" is a decent ballad, but not spectacular, although it is FAR better than the album closer, "Song To Slit Your Wrists By".  I have to seriously question why Ford chose to cover this song which was, of course, originally recorded by Nikki Sixx's side-project band, 58, and wasn't exactly a great song to begin with.  It is an odd choice, to say the least, and I am glad to see it slapped on at the end of the record so that it doesn't disrupt a fairly solid mid-section from tracks 4 through 7.

I mentioned that Ford has to fight the temptation to backtrack to the industrial sound she mistakenly dabbled in on her last album, and I think it is pretty obvious where she struggles to stay true to her original sound.  "Hate" is one such song where Ford's vocals become more monotone, her delivery is more stilted, and the song just doesn't flow well at all.  Her industrial take on "...Slit Your Wrists..." again shows that while Lita understands what her fans want, she can't help but mess with the formula, even if the product is not really worthy of being included on this album.

Lyrically, Ford seems to be taking chunks of her life and painting a broad, semi-autobiographical story throughout much of the effort.  While the title track is more of a nod to her past band than it seems to be a story of her own life, there is no doubt where the inspiration for "Mother" comes from if you have followed the storyline of her bitter divorce from Jim Gillette (lead singer of Nitro) and their custody battle over their children, whom Ford claims have physically attacked her due to Gillette's mind-controlling actions (her words in several interviews).  Incidentally, Ford also says that Wicked Wonderland  was as much Gillete's fault as her own and she has distanced herself from that album, as well as Gillette.  Not taking sides here, as I have no clue as to what really happened, but it is obvious from the lyrics to "Mother" that Lita is EXTREMELY angry about the situation, very hurt, and, it seems, also cares very deeply about her children.

While not as raw as her first couple of solo records, and not as poppy or hit-filled as her most popular albums in the late 80's/early 90's, Living Like A Runaway is likely to be very popular with her hardcore fans.  There is no big, "Kiss Me Deadly" or "Close My Eyes Forever" here, but several tracks are among the better half of the material Ford has ever released as a solo artist.  She has even returned to her signature style and look with the ripped jeans, the boots, leather jacket, and, of course, the long bleached-blonde hair.  While there may not be an MTV to strut her stuff on now, she is out on the road with Poison and Def Leppard this summer, and I am sure Lita Ford will be determined to show that she has as much substance as she does style when she hits the stage.  The new album gives here a couple more pices of ammunition to back up that claim.

Rating:  Rock this to an inconsistent 6.5, but there are several crankable moments here...

Monday, July 2, 2012

L.A. GUNS "Hollywood Forever"

(c) 2012 Deadline Records
  1. Hollywood Forever
  2. You Better Not Love Me
  3. Eel Pie
  4. Sweet Mystery
  5. Burn
  6. Vine St. Shimmy
  7. Dirty Black Night
  8. Underneath The Sun
  9. Queenie
  10. Crazy Tango
  11. Venus Bomb
  12. I Won't Play
  13. Requiem (Hollywood Forever)
  14. Arana Negra (Black Spider)
Phil Lewis--Lead Vocals, 6 & 12 String Guitar
Steve Riley--Drums, Backing Vocals
Stacey Blades--Lead Guitar, 6 & 12 String Guitar, Theremin, Backing Vocals
Scotty Griffin--Bass, Vocals

The debate over which is the "real" LA Guns can now come to a conclusion, as Hollywood Forever, without a doubt, proves that Phil Lewis and Steve Riley have the definitive version of the band.  Taking a large chunk of their first three albums, mixing in doses of their last two, and thowing in just a smidgen of a modern sound, LA Guns has crafted an major contender for Top Ten albums of 2012, and definitely one of the top five albums of the band's storied career.  This album is exactly what I was hoping it would be when I heard they were recording a new disc, and it actually exceeds my expectations despite the fact that I really enjoyed their last two studio records, Waking The Dead and especially Tales From The Strip.  What caused my trepidation was the atrocious Rips The Covers Off effort, which I honestly can't say that I ever listen to now. 

When I say that the band has gone back in time a bit to the sound of their first few albums, I am not exaggerating.  The title track, "Hollywood Forever", and other stand-outs such as "Vine St. Shimmy", and "Venus Bomb" would all have fit on the debut or on Cocked And Loaded, in my opinion.  "Crazy Tango" a mid-tempo, bluesy number, has a lot of that early attitude as well.  What makes these songs even better is the fact that they feel like early LA Guns material, even though Tracii Guns is no longer with the band; Stacey Blades does just an incredible job of incorporating his own personality into the LA Guns sound, ripping off some fabulous solos, such as the soulful lead found in the previously mentioned "Crazy Tango".  "Queenie" is another bluesy sounding number that would have been right at home on earlier LA Guns albums.

The minor hints at modern sounds I mentioned earlier come on a couple of excellent songs.  "Burn" is one of my absolute favorites here, but there is no questioning a bit more of a modern feel here.  The equally cool "Dirty Black Night" also has a quasi-modern feel without losing its sleaze-sensibilities, and is another track that I absolutely dig.  Just really cool stuff here, with LA Guns maintaining their classic sound but also stepping into 2012 at the same time. 

Vocally, Phil Lewis hasn't sounded better, in my opinion, even going all the way back.  I don't know what he has done to keep his voice in such great shape, but I can state with no reservation that all of these songs will nestle alongside classic stuff on your CD player without anyone being able to tell a difference in Lewis' voice.  The rest of the band is just as solid and tight, giving this album a full, cohesive sound that a lot of "reunion" acts seem to be lacking on newer efforts.  Perhaps some of the credit for this should also go to producer Andy Johns who seems to have coaxed the best out of this band.

There is only one song I don't overly care for, and that's "Requiem (Hollywood Forever)"; I just don't think it serves any real purpose on this album.  It's a decent enough ballad, I suppose, but the rest of the album is pretty much mid-tempo to full-speed ahead, and this major slowdown right before the end doesn't do a lot for me.  I guess that, at the least, they buried this so that the rest of the album flows pretty well, and the overall performace is strong. 

I have read/heard that a lot of people don't like the closing track, "Arana Negra", which Lewis sings entirely in Spanish.  I guess I don't understand why people don't like it unless it is because they can't understand it.  This song is performed with as much LA Guns' swagger as any track they have recorded over the past several years, and Lewis does (as far as I can tell, anyway) a very credible job on the Spanish lyrics.  Sure, I would like to know what the heck he's saying...he could be casting a voodoo spell on me everytime I play this song, for all I know...but I don't think it is any kind of distraction or detraction from the rest of the album.  If anything, I find it cool that the band is reaching out and trying different things at this stage in their career.

This is an excellent album from a classic band that has really found their stride once again over the past couple of studio albums.  There were some wobbly steps being taken for a couple of albums, but this version (and I have to say the REAL version) of LA Guns is on strong, steady legs now, and I see no signs of slowing down or stopping from Lewis, Riley, Blades, and Griffin.  Old fans and younger fans of the 80's Sunset Strip scene should find plenty to be happy about with Hollywood Forever!


Rating:  Crank this to a remarkable 8.  LA Guns not only has returned, it sounds in many ways like they never left!

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