Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Talkin' Trash with Tryg Littlefield (Fall From Grace)

Fall From Grace's lead singer and guitar player, Tryg Littlefield, took the time to Talk Some Trash with me recently, about life on the road, music, the Dealiest Catch, and the misunderstood and majestic norwhal.  Read on to find out what else this open, honest, and funny guy had to say while he was Talkin' Trash...

Glitter2Gutter:  Tryg, first, I want to thank you for taking time out from your tour schedule to chat with us here at Glitter2Gutter...

Tryg:  Thank you...thanks, man...                          

G2G:  I have to tell you, Tryg is a pretty unusual name.  I don't think I've ever met or talked to another Tryg...

Tryg: (laughing)  Well, good!  I actually met my first "other" Tryg in St. Pete, Florida, last week and that was kind of weird because I've never met another Tryg, either. 

G2G:  It looks like your summer is pretty well booked up with shows.  Let's see, you're currently out with Saving Abel, Red Light Kings, and Aranda, correct?

Tryg:  Yeah.  Well, actually, Aranda dropped off the tour a couple weeks ago, but its been the rest of us, yeah.  It's been a great tour, man.

G2G:  I was just going to ask how the tour had been going so far, but yuou beat me to it.

Tryg:  Yeah, man.  It's been fun.  I mean, we did a month with Eve 6 and then joined this tour with Saving Abel and its been great.  All the bands' guys are great and Jared, the singer of Saving Able, he and I have become pretty good buddies, and...just all of the guys have been great.  I'm actually singing with Saving Abel every night when they do their song "New Tattoo", which is great.  Everybody looks happy out there...we're just a big, happy tour family.

G2G:  Any horror stories from the road yet on this tour?

Tryg:  No, not yet...well, I take that back, there is one.  Our trailer caught on fire.  We had a wheel bearing that spun off or something and it caught on fire and the inside of our trailer caught on fire.  We were actually in eastern Texas, literally on the side of the freeway, pulling gear out of our trailer and onto the side of the road as it burned to the ground.

G2G:  That's never good!

Tryg:  Well, it was a complicated couple of days, but, uh, it could have been worse.  Nothing keeps us down and we are back up and running.

G2G:  (laughing)  On a positive note, you should be eating fairly well.  I saw on your webpage that your Kickstarter account for food has been fully funded, so that has to be nice.

Tryg:  (laughing)  Yeah, the Kickstarter got funded, so that gives us food and gas to get home!

G2G:  And you don't have to worry about where your next meal comes from...

Tryg:  That's right, absolutely.

G2G:  Do people take pity on you and bring food out to the shows for you to feed the starving artists?

Tryg:  Actually, yeah, we had a lady in Dallas...a really good friend...bring us two plates of enchiladas and about three dozen oatmeal cookies.  We've had other people give us food as know, sandwiches, smokes for the guys who smoke in the band, beef jerky, you know, it's been great.  People have been surprising us.

G2G:  You guys just recently released The Romance Years, which I think is just an incredible record and easily one of the best records I have heard so far this year, but nobody seems to know who Fall From Grace is, at least yet.  How has the record been doing at radio for you?

Tryg:  Um, radio has been good, you know.  We've been put on Cagefight, Cockfight, local stations, things like stations have been spinning "18 And Out" here and there, so it's been pretty good, you know.  We're not doing a full radio campaign push right now, because we're just trying to do a grassroots , organic build-up of the band.  We took about three years off, so we're just trying to rebuild, but in the next year, I think, people can definitely plan to start hearing more, and maybe satellite radio is a good place for that and then maybe more active rock stations will pick up on that, you know.

G2G:  Can you tell our readers a little about Fall From Grace, where you got your start, things like that, because I know you guys have actually been around a lot longer than some people might think.

Tryg:  Yeah, I'm glad you asked that question.  Um, we formed in May of 2004, so we just had an eighth birthday a couple months ago.  Actually, in the beginning version of Fall From Grace, we were kind of a supergroup.  We came out about the same time Velvet Revolver did, and we were kind of considered the "Velvet Revolver of Seattle", you know.  We all came from three other bands and we were the best performers from those bands, so we threw some songs together and recorded them in our practice space, then released an EP called Rise From The Ashes, and then, before we knew it, we were working on a full-length, we had all quit our jobs, and we were touring full-time, and I was booking all the shows.  They were just smaller shows, but we were getting into different venues across our region and people were taking care of us, and it was great.  As we started to blow up, we entered this contest, which turned into a TV show, called the Bodog Music Battle of the Bands.  We did that in '06, and then in '07 it graduated into a television show and we started doing the TV show.  Then, long story short, we won the whole thing and in '08 we recorded a record with Greg Norei, who has worked with Sum 41, and Terry Date, who everyone knows since he did all the Pantera records and has worked with Soundgarden, Ozzy, Perry Ferrell, he's worked with a lot of people and phenomonal acts.  So, we did the record with him and as we closed out 2008, we buckled down for a tour in 2009, where we toured the U.S. three times, Canada twice, Europe, and the U.K.  Then we came home and started working on The Romance Years in September of 2009.  Two guys had quit the band by this time, our drummer and bassist, because of the intensive touring.  You know, being in a band is one thing, but being in a "touring" band is another thing all together.  It's a hard lifestyle, it takes you away from home, and, uh, you know they couldn't do it anymore, and nobody blamed them or anything, and we're all still very close.  So then Bryan and myself worked on The Romance Years with our buddy Mike back home, and we spent over a year making the record, and its during that time that we fulfullied the contract with Bodog, and they let us go, and then we signed with an indy called Road To Hell Rekkids in Seattle, and um, while all that was happening, my good childhood buddy, Jesse Smith, joined up, along with Ty and Justin McDonald.  We have now been a line-up for about a year and a half and this is who is out on tour, so...
Tryg (center) with Justin McDonald (left) and Ty McDonald (right)

G2G:  So Justin and Ty are brothers?

Tryg:  Yes, they are...

G2G:  So, who is the boss between the two?  Any sibling rivalry there?

Tryg:  (laughing)  I think they switch roles.  They flip a coin in the morning...

G2G:  Just to see who is going to beat up on the other one...?

Tryg:  Exactly (laughing)...No, they're good, man.  They are both accountable individuals and professional, but we all are, right?  (laughing).  It works out well, we've matured as a band and maybe appreciate things a little bit more than we did when we were younger, so it's all good.  The fact that we are still doing this is remarkable, and the connections that we have with our audience is absolutely incredible.

G2G:  Now, you stated that you came from the Seattle region, which everybody equates with grunge and Nirvana and that scene, but you guys actually do a really good job of straddling the modern hard rock sound and the, I wanna say, big, bombastic sound of the 80's.  Did you grow up with that 80's sound, in spite of the region where you grew up, or how did that sound come to be a part of Fall From Grace?

Tryg:  Well, I mean, I grew up in the thick of it.  Brian literally grew up crowd-surfing to bands like the Butthole Surfers and Tad, and you know, early Nirvana, Screaming Trees, and stuff like that.  He was really part of the scene.  I was, uh, brought up on a little island outside of Seattle, that is, like, literally two miles from Seattle, and so I didn't get out much but I was completely affected by grunge.  I mean, I was brough up more on the hair know, I got into Motley Crue, Bon Jovi, Skid Row, you know, Warrant...that was the stuff that I was into.  Guns N Roses, man, that was like everything to me.  Then, when that genre literally died because grunge came out, I changed with it, especially because I was like, "hey, I'm from Seattle and this is my scene and I wanna be a part of this", not just because it was like the popular thing or anything.  I went to my first concert when I was, I think, 18, and I went to go see Danzig and Filter, and it was incredible, but I'm a huge Danzig fan, you know, from back to the Misfits and stuff like that.  But, I got more into the punk scene; from the hair metal and grunge, I drifted towards punk.  When it came to writing, I was more influenced by, like, the Dead Kennedys and stuff like that because I just loved punk, and I loved the speed of punk.  And, you know, the reason I think I loved Nirvana so much is because they actually were a punk band.  Grunge was just a term that was...I don't know if you know this...grunge was a term that was created by Tad, because somebody was like, "what's the sound coming out of Seattle these days," and Tad was like, "it's grunge, man"...they just made it up as a joke and it stuck...

G2G:  They should've copyrighted that!

Tryg:  Right?!  Actually, I'm sure he did!  (laughing) 

G2G:  Well, for me, it's really cool to hear the art of the guitar solo coming back, and you guys have some ripping solos in several of your songs.  Is that something you consciously write towards, or is it just something that kind of flows?

Tryg:  Well, I have to say it's something that kinda flows.  I mean, if the song calls for it, you know...I mean, we don't write a song and go "hey, we need to put a total searing guitar lead here", but it's just kind of proprietary to what it feels like each song needs.  Like the song, "The Resurrection", there is a harmonizing guitar solo, so we have three guitars in the band now and two of them are harmonizing with each other.  That, to me, is like Lynyrd Skynyrd crap, you know what I mean? (laughing)  That's fantastic stuff.  The last time I heard dual guitar solos was that and the Eagles...

G2G:  ...and Iron Maiden... 

Tryg:  Well, yeah, of course Iron Maiden, but there's only two guitars in Iron Maiden, and they are always harmonizing.  But, yeah, that kind of stuff is fantastic and you know, certain songs call for certain things, you know what I mean?  If something doesn't call for that searing guitar lead, if its simple and melodic, you know, even I could probably play it (laughing), which I'm not a very good guitar player, so I just thank God that I'm surrounded by great guitarists (laughing).

G2G:  It's got to be a pretty big thrill for you guys to have a company like Harley Davidson pick up your "18 & Out" video to play in stores around the country.  How did that come about?

Tryg:   Uhhh...I don't know!  (laughing)  I would like to just give credit to our video promoter, Caprice Camoda (spelling?) for anything that she is able to do...she's like a ninja with that stuff!  (laughing) You giver her something and she makes it happen.  I have no idea why they picked us up, but I love that they picked us up.  Our drummer, Jesse, has a beautiful custom built Harley and has been a Harley rider for years, and now he's sending out promo pictures of himself with this bike, and it's really cool.  I mean...I'd buy a motorcycle, but I'd die (laughing)...

G2G:  I would too; that would be a bad thing...

Tryg:  Right?  (laughing)

G2G:  I know some of the songs on The Romance Years have some deep, personal meanings to them.  Can you share a story or two about any of the songs on this album?

Tryg:  Yeah.  "18 & Out" was a song that was about my childhood.  Like I said, I grew up on a small island...amongst our friends, I wanted to move out of our community and get out of there and make something of myself.  I was, like, out for glory, and that is exactly what I did.  It's kind of that coming of age song with that teen angst of "I'm going to be somebody".  I had just graduated high school, and then I went up to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and I went crab fishing for a year.  You know...I did that, and then I came back and worked on tugoboats, I bought a house when I was 21, then sold know, I wanted to do big things.  I'd always played music, but when Fall From Grace came together in 2004, it organically started to blow up.  I could tell things were going to happen for us, and they sure as hell did.  We've just kind of been surfing the wave ever since.

G2G:  So you chose to go the music route rather than "The Deadliest Catch" route...

Tryg:  (laughing) It's funny, I actually have friends who are on "The Deadliest Catch:, you know, guys that I grew up with.  I, uh, I had no desire to be in a bitter wasteland around the Aleutians, you know, killing as much crab as I can (laughing)...but I've done it...I just don't think I need to do it again...

G2G:  Hey, give me and the readers three words that describe Fall From Grace...and Fall From Grace doesn't count as the three words...

Tryg:  Three words that best describe Fall From Grace, know "independent rock band" is pretty good, but I'd say "really fu**ing awesome", how's that? (laughing)

G2G:  (laughing)  Hey, that works for me!  How can people stay in touch with you guys in Fall From Grace?

Tryg:  Check us out on Facebook at or on our website,  We like to take long walks on the beach, we love unicorns, and the norwhals are very misunderstood animals!

G2G:  Aren't they though?!  (laughing)  Can people order merchandise from your Facebook page or do they have to go straight to the website to get your music?

Tryg:  Both, you can get to our merch from the Facebook page and our site as well, and we've got some pretty cool stuff on there.  Our music is on iTunes and, also.  I also highly encourage people to check out our tour dates and come out and check us out on the road if we come to your town or close by, because we have cool merch with us, as well.  We have vinyl with us, we have picture discs, so, yeah, come check us out...

G2G:  Is the vinyl kind of a nod to the Seatlle scene, which really started bringing vinyl back?

Tryg:  Kind's really more...I just grew up with vinyl, you know, and I think they sound better, and picture discs are definitely really can listen to them, you can hang them on your wall, whatever...and I always wanted to do that.  You know, it's just really, really cool; this is our fourth record that we've released and we finally did vinyl, and I've just got to say, when you put a record that's yours on your own record player, and you drop the needle on it and hear the crackle of it for the first time, and then you hear your's mind-blowing.  Because, you know, it's like the experience you feel when you make your very first CD, although you can plug your guitar into your computer and make a CD; you can't do that with vinyl.  For vinyl, you know, dude, that sh*t's legit.  (laughing)  There's a process that you have to go through to make a vinyl record and it's more like the process you have to go through to be creative.  It was just a really cool experience and, like I said, I'm a collector and I have all my father's vinyl and I just...I love records. 

G2G:  Well, man, I wanna just thank you again for taking the time to talk to me, and it's been fun.  I really hope that people get out to see this tour and get behind this album because I really do think The Romance Years has to be in my early Top 10 for modern hard rock records.  I'm really impressed with what I heard and, I'm in the process of trying to track down the older stuff now...

Tryg:  (laughing)  Well, good, man.  Cool.  You know, if you hit me up on The Book and get me an address, I'll toss our older stuff in the mail for you, how's that?

G2G:  You've sold that idea now!  It's gonna be in your in-box as soon as we hang up!  (laughing)

Tryg:  (laughing)  All right, brother!  Thanks for the opportunity and have a great day!

There you go folks...proof that A) not all music that came out of the Seattle scene was crap, and B) if you start your own website and do some work you might get cool stuff in the mail!  Thanks to Tryg for taking the time to talk to us at Glitter2Gutter!!

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

VARIOUS ARTISTS "Rock Of Ages" Soundtrack

(c) 2012 Watertower Music

  1. Paradise City (Tom Cruise)
  2. Sister Christian/Just Like Paradise/Nothin' But A Good Time (Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin)
  3. Juke Box Hero/I Love Rock N Roll (Boneta, Baldwin, Brand, Hough)
  4. Hit Me With Your Best Shot (Catherine Zeta-Jones)
  5. Waiting For A Girl Like You (Boneta, Hough)
  6. More Than Words/Heaven (Hough, Boneta)
  7. Wanted Dead Or Alive (Cruise, Hough)
  8. I Want To Know What Love Is (Cruise, Malin Akerman)
  9. I Wanna Rock (Boneta)
  10. Pour Some Sugar On Me (Cruise)
  11. Harden My Heart (Hough, Mary J. Blige)
  12. Shadows Of The Night/Harden My Heart (Blige, Hough)
  13. Here I Go Again (Boneta, Paul Giamatti, Hough, Blige, Cruise)
  14. Can't Fight This Feeling (Brand, Baldwin)
  15. Any Way You Want It (Blige, Constantine Maroulis, Hough)
  16. Undercover Lover (Boneta)
  17. Every Rose Has Its Thorn (Hough, Boneta, Cruise, Blige)
  18. Rock You Like A Hurricane (Hough, Cruise)
  19. We Bult This City/We're Not Gonna Take It (Brand, Zeta-Jones)
  20. Don't Stop Believin' (Hough, Boneta, Cruise, Baldwin, Brand, Blige)

Adam Anders--Electric and Acoustic Guitar, Bass
Peer Astron--Drums, Keyboards, Bass
Michael Landau--Guitar
Josh Freese--Drums
Tim Pierce--Guitar
Kevin Randolph--Piano
Brandon Fields--Saxaphone

...and too many background singers to list...

Okay...  There are three ways to look at this soundtrack...and the movie...and even the broadway musical, for that matter.  You are going to have purists who are going to HATE this, and there are people who are on the fringe who FREAKING LOVE IT because it sounds like Glee on steroids (and with bigger hair), and then there are going to be people like my wife who can't stop smiling when she hears these songs because they are familiar, comfortable, and given new life with new singers and new interpretations, sometimes created by "mashing up" multiple tracks into one song.  Where do I stand?  We'll get to that in a moment...

For those who are unfamiliar, Rock Of Ages is the story of an aging rock star (Cruise), a midwestern girl chasing her dreams on the Sunset Strip (Hough), a barback (Boneta) who works at a rock club owned by two shady businessmen (Baldwin and Brand), and the ultra-conservative wife of the city's mayor (Zeta-Jones), who is trying to shut down the club.  I'm not going to get into any plot details or anything like that, because they have little to do with the review of the music here.  However, it is key to understand that the setting for the musical/movie is 1987, and every single song here is from that era, and there are movie cameos from Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Kevin Cronin (REO Speedwagon), Nuno Bettancourt (Extreme)...and Debbie Gibson.

I know a lot of people are going to cringe as soon as they see that the actors are singing these songs and that this is NOT the typical movie soundtrack with the original bands performing their own songs.  Keep in mind, however, that this is a MUSICAL; the actors are going to be singing.  That's how it works.  Now, does that mean it works on all levels all the time?  Nope, not even close.  There are a few cringe-worthy moments here, but there are also some rather pleasant surprises, as well.  So, let's break this project down in that fashion:  pleasant surprises and cringe-worthy moments.

The pleasant surprises:

  1. Tom Cruise can sing.  There...I said it.  But it's true.  I was as shocked as probably anyone, but the guy does a more than credible job on the microphone, having put in a reported 5 hours per day on vocal lessons.  He is particularly good on "Paradise City" and "Pour Some Sugar On Me".  In fact, Def Leppard gave Cruise high marks for his performance of their megahit, which is a huge endorsement.
  2. Russel Brand can also sing.  I was really surprised here, but much like Cruise, it is obvious he took his singing seriously on this soundtrack and he really pulls off some solid performances, particularly.on the REO Speedwagon track and the Starship/Twisted Sister mash-up of "We Built This City/We're Not Gonna Take It". 
  3. Mary J. Blige is surpisingly convincing on her vocal contributions, especially since this is obviously not her musical genre.
  4. The musicians, especially the guitar players, are very faithful to the original compositions (except where some guitar solos are completely eliminated...see Cringe-Worthy Moments).
  5. Some of the "mash-ups" are pretty interesting to hear and very well done.  I was really surprised at how well the "We Built This City/We're Not Gonna Take It" combination worked, especially when both choruses are being sung at the same time. 

Cringe-Worthy Moments:

  1. Julianna Hough.  There is no doubt she can sing, but her voice sounds like a child made out of sugar and syrup...just too sweet for most of these songs.  In some places it's not overly bad, but as a general rule, it's almost like fingernails on a chalkboard to hear her overly-sweeten some of these classic tracks.  Her takes on "Sister Christian" and "Rock You Like A Hurricane" are particularly painful for me.
  2. Diego Boneta doesn't have any edge to his voice at all, which really sticks out on a song like "Jukebox Hero", which is one of the few songs I think is given a truly bad treatment here.
  3. Some song choices really made me shudder. What in the world is "Undercover Love" doing here?  I've also never been an REO Speedwagon fan of any shape or sort, but I guess the song makes sense here.  I also don't understand why Quarterflash's "Harden My Heart" shows up twice on the soundtrack, once as a full song and once as a medley.
  4. The exclusion of song lyrics (sometimes entire lines), solos, and specific song parts really bugs me, although it may make sense for the movie/musical.  It just makes it hard for me to sing along in my car...and that's frustrating.
So, after getting through all of that, where do I stand?  With which group do I side?  I tend to side with my wife and fall mostly in the "smilers" category, because it is fun to hear different takes on many of these songs.  There are moments, however, when I fall into the "haters" category, mostly when Hough steps up to the microphone and my ears fill up with saccharine and Jell-o due to the insane sweetness she liberally applies to each of her vocal takes.  (I still shudder when I hear her kicking off "Sister Christian", and I have to...I mean HAVE TO...skip it...).  The soundtrack is not going to be a frequent player for me, but I'm not going to throw it out or trade it off, either.  Take it for what it is and you will likely be fine; go in looking for killer new renditions of your all-time favorite songs and you will be sorely disappointed.  And, to the Glee fans...I can't help but think you're going to love this completely...

For you purists, keep an eye out, because I have a feeling there will be a second sountrack released (I could be wrong and have NO inside information regarding this, but it seems likely), as there are several songs performed by the original artists in the movie as well.  I know that Quiet Riot and Skid Row are both featured in the film, for example, among others.  That disc might be more to some folks liking...
I can't wait to see the movie, by the way...and I am not a fan of musicals, in general.

Rating:  I say rock this at a 6, but it could be borderline crankable without most of (not all of) Hough's work, here. 

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

CONCERT REVIEW: Jack Russell's Great White at Sculley's Shooters (6/19/12)

On June 19, 2012, North Platte, NE was the scene of a modern day pirate sighting as Jack Russell's Great White rolled into town on their tour bus and then proceeded to rock the house at Sculley's Shooters.  This show was a rare Great White-only show as the band is currently out on the America Rocks Tour for the summer and, after enduring some sound problems, Jack and Company rocked the house with spot-on renditions of classic Great White favorites that left the hot and sweaty crowd yelling for more!

Earlier in the day, I met up with the band at their hotel and hopped on the bus to say a quick hello.  I had my two sons with me at the time; Jaxon, who is just 4 months old, slept through the whole thing, while Jaydon, who is nearly five, just wanted to know why the band lived on a bus.  Then, at the club before the show, I got the chance to chat with Derrick Pontier, the drummer for Jack Russell's Great White.  We reminisced about a Great White show from about ten years ago in Kearney, NE, where it was equally as hot as it was in North Platte on this day. Derrick told me that the Kearney show was where the band met Dario, who was playing for Firehouse on the same bill (which also featured LA Guns), and that the foundation for the band playing tonight was really built at that Kearney show. 

Things got started about an hour late as problems with the mixing board and monitors pushed back the opening band's set.  Once these problems were alleviated, local band Preferred Method took the stage at about 9:20 PM, warming up an already hot crowd (temperatures had soared to 100 degrees earlier in the day) with a set of mostly original material.  I don't know/recall any of the original songs, but I do know that one rather obscure cover song was played, as Preferred Method ripped into a pretty good rendition of "Loco P.D." by midwestern rockers, Zwarte.  The crowd really picked up steam at this point, more than happy to sing along to a song that they were familiar with.  All in all, Preferred Method did a plausible job of opening up for a band of Great White's stature and status.

A little over an hour later, Jack Russell's Great White took the stage, immediately launching into "Call It Rock & Roll", much to the pleasure of the more than 400 people in attendance.  A quick greeting by Jack propelled the band into their next song, "Desert Moon", with Jack sounding like he had turned back the clock on his voice as he was nearly note-perfect on this track, reaching all the higher parts with seemingly little effort. 

At this point, Jack introduced his band, consisting of Great White veterans (from before the original band reunited), Matt Johnson on guitar and Derrick Pontier on drums.  Dario Seixas, formerly of Firehouse, is the bass player in the band, and Robby Lochner rounds things out, also on guitar. 

Unfortunately, problems with the mixing board (not the band's equipment, mind you...) again reared their ugly head just as the band was kicking into "Rolling Stoned".  Guitar player, Matt Johnson, had his microphone go out and there were some feedback problems at this point, but Jack and the rest of the band maintained their professionalism throughout the 10 to 15 minute debacle, with Jack asking the crowd if they knew any good jokes.  The band broke into a little, spontaneous jam session for about five minutes while Johnson's mic issues were being solved.  Jack then went on to explain to the crowd the situation between his band, Jack Russell's Great White, and his former bandmates and their version of Great White.  Jack quipped that there had been a divorce "and we're still fighting over who gets the kid (the band name)".

Matt riffing away as Jack holds court during "Mista Bone".
With the sound issues solved, the band skipped over the abandoned "Rolling Stoned" and jumped into the oldest song in the set, "Down On Your Knees", which got the crowd rocking once again.  At this point, Jack again addressed the crowd, discussing his recent health issues, including being in a coma at one point, before launcing into the first ballad of the night, "Save Your Love".  "Mista Bone" ramped things back up, with Dario's bass thumping away at the bottom end of things and the dual axe attack of Johnson and Robby Lochner bringing the track to life.  From here, Lochner broke into his guitar solo, wowing he crowd with some flashy fret work before bringing the band back together into "House Of Broken Love", which again found Jack absolutely nailing this powerhose of a ballad, not missing a note. 

(L to R) Robby Lochner, Derrick Pontier, Jack Russell, Matt
Johnson (above), me, Dario Seixas, on the tour bus after show.
Matt Johnson got his time to shine next, although he didn't settle for just a solo, as the entire band (minus Jack) performed Johnson's very bluesy number, "Saved Me".  Despite the fact that no one in the crowd knew the song, this very good song was well received and the fans showed their appreciation with whistles and cheers.  Jack came back on stage for "Can't Shake It", and then a heavy rendition of "Rock Me", before wishing the crowd a teasing "good night".  Of course, the band returned to the stage to tear up their biggest hit, "Once Bitten, Twice Shy", which had the crowd singing along as Jack taunted them with the microphone, then left them yelling and screaming for more by the time the song drew to a close. 

The band stuck around and posed for pictures, signed autographs, shook hands, and generally let the crowd know they appreciated their attending the rare Tuesday night show (Sculley's Shooters is not usually open on Tuesdays).  I got a chance to see the original set lists and it appears that two, maybe three songs, were sacrificed due to the sound issues that pushed back the start of their set and then interrupted the set later on.  While unfortunate, there were no major complaints from the crowd which was really into the show from the first note of "Call It Rock & Roll".  The band did ask me for the chance to come back "and do things the right way to make up for the problems", which I hope to make happen in the not-too-distant-future, possibly after Jack Russell's Great White has a chance to record their new album.

If there are any questions as to Jack's vocal abilities, or the talents of this band, they need to be laid to rest.  There is no doubt that Jack Russell is back and that Jack Russell's Great White is the real deal, regardless of who owns the band name.  If these rock n roll pirates are rolling into your town, or anywhere close by, do yourself a favor and make sure not to miss the show!  These guys are fully prepared to bring it live every night as they embark on the America Rocks Tour, which also features Pretty Boy Floyd, Lillian Axe, Faster Pussycat, and Bulletboys.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

XANDER DEMOS "Guitarcadia"

(c) 2011 Xander Demos Music
  1. Right Angles
  2. Nothing Major
  3. Under A Darkened Sky
  4. White Knuckle Driving
  5. Guitarcadia
  6. Woodshed Sonata
  7. Boys Of Summer
  8. Chase The Sun
  9. Metagalactic
  10. Lady In Red
Xander Demos--All Rhythm and Lead Guitars
Adamy Heusey--All Keyboards and Sequencers
Chris Batton--Drums on 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9
Mike Stover--Drums on 1
Dean Minerva--Drums on 7
Matt Williams--All Bass Guitars
Kevin Rasel--Vocals on 3
Mike Sciulio--Vocals on 7

I honestly had no idea that shred albums were still being released today.  Seriously.  Oh, sure, Malmsteen, Vai, and Satriani all release albums from time to time, but I don't know that any of their discs would be considered "shred" records, at least in the sense of the 80's material released on labels like Shrapnel, Roadrunner, and their kin.  I thought shred was...well, dead.  Boy was I wrong...

Xander Demos (pronounced "de-mus") self-released mostly instrumental masterpiece in 2011, but it wasn't until I found out he would be appearing on Liberty N Justice's upcoming Cigar Chronicles release that I had any idea he even existed.  How a man of this musical talent has remained hidden from someone who has such an extensive collection of hard rock and metal (and a lot of label and promoter connections, to boot) is a mystery to me.  This man has talent just bleeding out of his hands, whether ripping through a modern-day shredfest like "Right Angles", the updated, metallic take on Don Henley's "Boys Of Summer", or even the more laid-back remake of Chris DeBurgh's "Lady In Red".  The diversity of the songs, coupled with the progressive song structure, incredible speed and precision of Demos' playing, and the overall musicality of this project floored me, as I had not heard a record of this style that felt this...complete...since Malmsteen's Rising Force or the Speed Metal Symphony album from Cacophony (Marty Friedman and Jason Becker's project). 

While "Nothing Major" was a bit too keyboard heavy for my liking, the rest of the album was just one pulse-quickening scorcher after another until we get to the album's closer.  "White Knuckle Driving" sounds like it should be on every driving video game out there, and the title track, "Guitarcadia" has a big, progressive feel to it, with all sorts of space-noise sounding guitar pieces intermixed throughout the musical landscape that paces the rest of the song.  However, it might be the monstrous "Under A Darkened Sky" that really steals the show as far as Demos' original material goes (the overall show-stopper is probably the surprise "Boys Of Summer"), as this epic, 8 minute long musical journey features some very dark, moody playing at the outset, with some excellent drumming helping to get things started, followed by some 80's-inspired rhythm playing that will remind a lot of people of old Malmsteen, a la Rising Force or Marching Out.

Speaking of 80's inspired, the inclusion of "Boys Of Summer" and "Lady In Red" both had me feeling like I was back at homecoming or prom again!  While "Boys..." is given a truly shredded update, "Lady In Red", complete with a totally 80's keyboard and drum track, feels a lot like the original, albeit with a guitar doing the "singing" instead of Mr. DeBurgh.  It's an odd, quirky track choice, but it doesn't damage the project.  Younger guitar fans who have never heard the original are going to miss out on the nostalgic feeling "Lady..." is going to drum up in us older fans, but that's okay, as it is certainly fun to hear an artist tackle something a bit off the beaten path rather than re-hash the same beat-to-death cover songs everyone else plays.  Kudos on your boldness, Xander!

Now, I am not a guitar player, and terms like appregio, chord progressions, hammer-ons, pick-ups, etc., hold very little meaning to me.  I just know what I like and I can spot talent when I see (or hear) it, and Demos has plenty of that.  He demonstrates a wide skill set with a variety of sounds and styles and some very precise, error-free playing in today's world of sloppy, down-tuned chugga-chugga riffing that passes for guitar playing in so many bands and on so many records. 

It should also be noted that his "band" complements him well here, as all the players deliver spot-on performances, especially his rhythm section and the singers he chose for the couple of vocal tracks here.  So many times you can tell that a drum machine and programmed "players" are being used on albums such as these, but the live feel of the music here never left me feeling like I was listening to a processed record of nothing more than strung-together Pro-tools edits.  Everything flows musically and each player here feeds off of the others very nicely resulting in a full, complete feeling to the recording. 

While you can hear such influences as Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, Vai, Satriani, Freidman and Becker, Demos never comes off as a clone, preferring to carve his own path rather than go back over territory already covered by others.  Sure, there are going to be comparisons...I've made some myself...but these are as more for reference as to style than they are to how the project sounds as a whole.  Fans of neo-classical metal, shred metal, or heavy guitar progressive metal, should find plenty to like about Xander Demos Guitarcadia album.  I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of Liberty N Justice's Cigar Chronicles to hear what Demos lends to that project, as well!

In the end, this is a complicated, yet enjoyable project, that can be a lot to take in all in one sitting, as there is so much going on.  It should be noted that CJ Snare of Firehouse mixed the project and did an amazing job of keeping the music crisp and clear sounding, which greatly benefits a project of this magnitude, but can still be almost overwhelming, at least for someone like me who is used to a little more ebb and flow in style and tempo.  However, Guitarcadia is pulled off very professionally, performed extraordinarily well, and a thoroughly enjoyable listen if you have about an hour to spare to run it from start to finish.  If not, I highly suggest programming your CD player, iPod, mp3 player or computer to play "Right Angles", "Under A Darkened Sky", "White Knuckle Driving" and "Boys Of Summer" so you can get your shred on in a shortened session!

Rating:  Man, what a crankable treat this is!  Crank it to 8.5 and be prepared for the sonic meltdown that will soon follow!


SAINT "Desperate Night"

(c) 2012 Retroactive Records

  1. Crucified
  2. The Key
  3. End Of The World
  4. Let It Rock
  5. The Fray
  6. Inside Out
  7. Desperate Night
  8. Zombie
  9. Judgement Night
  10. To Live Forever
  11. Escape From The Fire
Josh Kramer--Lead & Backing Vocals, all guitars on "Zombie"
Brian Miller--Lead Vocals on "Desperate Night"
Richard Lynch--Bass, Lead & Backing Vocals, Producer 
Jerry Johnson--Lead & Rhythm Guitars
Jared Knowland--Drums, Producer, Engineer

Christian metal legends, Saint, have returned with yet another set of metallic, hard rocking material featuring the piercing wail of Josh Kramer on vocals, Jerry Johnson shredding away on guitar, and Richard Lynch and Jared Knowland thundering away on the bottom end of things (Lynch also sings lead vocals on one track here).  For a few years now, Saint has struggled with maintaining a consistent line-up, first with the departure of long-time guitar slinger, Dee Harrington, and then with Kramer relocating to a different part of the country.  Fortunately, technology has allowed Kramer to remain the "voice" of the band, and new axe master, Jerry Johnson, who joined the band with 2004's In The Battle, has brought a fresh sound and style to the band without sacrificing the classic sound Saint is associated with.  The drum stool has been a revolving, almost Spinal Tap-ish situation, with a different drummer on each of the last three albums, but this has not kept the band from releasing solid album upon solid album, peaking with 2009's Hell Blade.    

For fans who pre-ordered Desperate Night, a pre-release download of the album was made available, which this review is based upon.  I have been told there is an intro and an outro to the album that is not included in this download, so I will possibly amend this review once the disc arrives in my mailbox.  Regardless, I don't see what an intro or outro could add to, or take away from, this album, as Desperate Night comes out swinging from the start, doing its best to equal the greatness that is Hell Blade. 

The first track here is one that really reminds me of classic 80's-era Saint material, as the crunchy, metallic edge of "Crucified" reminds me of material from albums like Time's End or Too Late For Living.  Kramer's vocals, which often get compared to those of Rob Halford, are in fine form here and show no signs of weakening with the passage of all those years of screaming, and Johnson launches into the first of many blistering solos on this album at about the two minute mark on "Crucified" then slides easily back into the chugging, almost breakdown styled rhythm of the rest of the song.  "The Key" quickly follows up with Richard Lynch taking a turn at the lead mic stand (Kramer slips into backing vocals mode on this track). Lynch has nowhere near the range of Kramer, but his gritty delivery style is not dissimilar from the approach Josh employs at times.  Again, this is a solid, crunchy track with another excellent, classic sounding guitar solo that I wish was at least a tad bit longer as I felt a bit cheated out of spending some time with Jerry and his guitar.

More classic Saint sounds follow, with "End Of The World" harkening back to the the Too Late For Living sound once again and tackling a favorite subject of the band as end-times prophecy is the topic of this excellent number.  To me, a song like this one is EXACTLY what I think of when I think of Saint, and it is a real treat to get to hear these guys take something that sounds so familiar and still manage to keep it fresh and current sounding at the same time.  By the way, Johnson gets a nice, long solo to assault your ears with on this track, so shred-heads pay close attention!  

Without breaking down every single song, let me just say that the rest of the album is consistently and unmistakably Saint, with one exception.  "Let It Rock" sounds like a collision between Saint and Accept as far as style and pacing goes, and "Judgement" and "Desperate Night" both bring the goods as far as approach and substance, although "Desperate Night" features Brian on vocals, rather than Josh or Richard, which I found a bit odd; I realize he is the "future vocalist" of Saint, as Josh has moved and can't easily participate in recording, but why throw him into the mix here?   It should be noted that Brian does a credible job, by the way, and this is not an indictment of his talent.   As to other tracks, "The Fray" and "Inside Out" are both pure classic-sounding Saint songs that feel like they could have come from the Hell Blade recording sessions, especially with "Inside Out" using more Obama speech excerpts to help drive home Saint's political stance and views of the country's current state in much the same way "New World Order" did on the Hell Blade release.

One song I have heard a lot of people rave about is "Zombie" (some call it "Zombie Shuffle" for obvious reasons once you have heard the chorus), but I can't say that I find this song to be all that appealing, at least upon the first ten or twelve listens.  I don't skip it, but I think it disrupts the flow of the rest of the album with its chunky delivery, sparse sound, and odd time structure, although the ghoulish background laughter is entertaining.  To my ears, this is just not a Saint song, for lack of a better description.  Fortunately, this is the shortest song on the album and the next track, "Judgement" gets things going back in the right direction in short order with another chugging number that Saint fans will likely cling to as one of their instant favorites.

The album's closer, "Escape From The Fire" is possibly the pick of the litter here, as it is a full-on metallic assault that reminds me of Painkiller era Judas Priest musically.  Josh spits and snarls his way through the lyrics and tossing in some of his signature, piercing screams for good measure, all over a ferocious rhythm guitar, pounding bass, and some very solid drum work from the new kid on the block.  This is a great way to bring an impressively solid album to a close.

Stand out cuts are definitely "Escape From The Fire", "End Of The World", "Let It Rock" and "Inside Out".  Weaker moments, at least for me, are the previously mentioned "Zombie" and the re-recorded (and little known) "To Live Forever", which appeared on the 1999, Josh-less Perfect Life album.      

While not quite on the same level as the fantastic Hell Blade, no fan of Saint or this style of metallic hard rock will walk away from Desperate Night disappointed, as this is still one of the best records I have heard so far in 2012 and head-and-shoulders above what so many younger, supposedly-hungrier bands are putting out.  Saint is still at the top of their game and they still bring it nearly 30 years after their first release!  Here's hoping we don't have another three year wait before the next Saint record!  Also, I truly hope that the band figures out how to continue to utilize Josh at least part time on all future records, because while Brian is good, Josh IS the voice of Saint, at least to me!  Long live Saint!

Rating:  Definitely a crankfest worthy of a thunderous 9! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

TIM MARTIN "Exploring New Horizons...Live 1993"

(c) 2012 LnJ Records

  1. Follow Me
  2. I Will Follow
  3. Desperado
  4. Tear Stained Eyes
  5. Don't Believe It
  6. Devil Is A Liar
  7. When He Said I Love You
  8. Friends
  9. Run To Me
  10. The Invite
  11. More Than Jesus
Tim Martin--Acoustic Guitar, Vocals

The odds are strong that you have never heard of Tim Martin unless you are one of those people that reads the liner notes of every album you ever get...and even then, you probably don't recognize his name as being a co-writer of a handful of Liberty N Justice songs.  He also performed on the first "all star" project for LnJ, singing the song "Foolish Child" on the Welcome To The Revolution release, so the connection between Tim and Liberty N Justice is strong and maybe a handful of people will dig out their LnJ albums to look for his name.  Even if you don't, I encourage you to check out this release, which will be made available digitally on June 12.  Featuring Tim and his acoustic guitar, this project was recorded live in 1993 and is being given new life on LnJ Records as a tribute to the man who Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice considers a "good friend and spiritual mentor".  Sadly, Tim was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2011, prompting Murr to give people the chance to hear the music of this man who was silenced too soon. 

I don't want to use the word "warning", but I can't think of any other thing to call the following statement:  some people are going to be immediately turned off by this album due to the very up-front, unashamed manner in which Martin talks about God and Jesus.  This album is a pure praise and worship album featuring eleven songs of just Martin and his guitar recorded in a live setting.  It never "rocks", it's never "heavy", and it is filled with songs that Martin admits during his opening monologue "none of you are going to know because I wrote them".  That shouldn't take away from the fact that Tim Martin had a couple of obvious gifts.  First, the man has a very strong voice with a solid tenor range.  Second, the man could craft songs, and it is apparent why Justin Murr of Liberty N Justice wrote with Martin on several occasions (Murr co-wrote some of the songs on this album, also).  Martin is also a good acoustic guitar player--not flashy, but solid with no glaring mistakes or string squawks--and, as such, this is a very well performed album filled with songs about Martin's faith and love of Christ. 

It would have been interesting to hear several of these songs in a full band setting, or perhaps handled by Murr and Company, as I think there is some definite "rock possibility" with some tracks, especially "Devil Is A Liar".  I also think "Desperado" could me a killer power ballad-type of song with a big, soaring guitar solo in the middle.  "Tear Stained Eyes" is a powerful song as it stands, but I think with just a little electricity added to it, a whole new audience would be rattled by the message about a homeless child. 

You are going to have to be in the right frame of mind, or right mood, to listen to Exploring New Horizons, as the full acoustic setting is not for everyone.  Even I could not just pick this disc up, pop it in, and listen from start to finish without being in the right mental state, and that's okay.  I can say the same thing about hundreds of albums in my collection.  Some people also will not like the dialogue that introduces every track here, as Martin tells about where the song came from or tells a story that introduces the track to follow.  That doesn't take away from the fact that Martin was a man of talent, conviction, and faith and someone who obviously loved the music he made almost as much as the Subject he chose to write about. 

Rating:  Crank much as you can crank an acoustic a solid 7.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

FALL FROM GRACE "The Romance Years"

(c) 2012 Road To Hell Rekkids

  1. Your Majesty
  2. 18 & Out
  3. Heart Attack Road
  4. The Resurrection
  5. A Train Leaves London
  6. Fade 2 Gray
  7. God Of War
  8. Stand Alone
  9. The Romance Years
  10. Great Expectations
  11. So Long For Now
  12. Maybe I'm Outa My Head
  13. Untitled Hidden Track ("Fade 2 Gray" remix)

Tryg Littlefield--Lead Vocals, Guitar
Brian Olson--Guitars, Vocals
Ty McDonald--Guitars
Justin McDonald--Bass, Vocals
Jesse James Smith--Drums, Vocals

Fall From Grace is a Seattle-based band, but don't for a second let grunge, Nirvana, Sub-Pop Records, or anything of the like enter your mind because these guys have NOTHING in common with those things.  With The Romance Years, Fall From Grace has far more in common with the melodic, power-pop sound of a band like Marvelous 3, for example, mixed in with the huge backing vocals common in the "hair metal" genre, mixed with a tad bit of pop-punk, a la Blink 182, all with a modern hard rock overtone that really creates a sound that feels comfortable to the modern rocker, but doesn't really sound like anyone in particular.  It sounds complicated, but it is actually very simple; Fall From Grace plays an incredibly catchy brand of modern melodic hard rock that will hold wide-spectrum appeal for a variety of hard rock fans.

The first thing I want to point out is that if this band didn't grow up with the big, layered "whoas" and "ahs" of Skid Row, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and Warrant cranked on the stereo, someone needs to explain to me how the heck they came up with their sound on tracks such as the opener, "Your Majesty", or the album's absolute sonic treat, "Heart Attack Road",, which is easily one of the top ten songs I have heard this year (so far, anyway)!  Bombast is definitely a word that needs to be included in any description of this track, or any of the other over-the-top hard rockers here, because that word best describes the throw-back approach used by Fall From Grace on their more anthemic tracks.  Think of Bon Jovi's "Let It Rock" and the backing vocal approach and you will have a good idea of Fall From Grace's approach here.  Awesome!

The band is unusual in its make-up, particularly for bands of today, as they feature three guitar players, which is virtually unheard of in today's modern hard rock world.  Fall From Grace utilizes the three-axe-attack to their benefit, getting a huge, full sound on the majority of these twelve tracks.  The previously mentioned "Heart Attack Road" is a perfect example of this big sound, as is the killer rocker "Stand Alone", which is one of the tracks that dips its toe in the punkish waters I hinted at previously, or the very 80's-inspired build-up of the instrumental, "God Of War".  "A Train Leaves London" is another up-tempo rocker with more than subtle hints of Poison-esque glam to its sound, albeit with just a bit of that pop-punk sound and a decidedly more modern approach to the production.  "18 & Out" has a more 80's radio rock feel to the main part of the song (think Bryan Adams or Kenny Loggins), but again, the big vocals and thick guitars really bring this song about escaping small town existence to life.

There are a couple of more laid back moments, but these are more opportunities for the listener to catch his/her breath than they are weak points.  One such moment is the poignant "The Resurrection", a song Tryg wrote about his mentally ill mother.  This more down-tempo rocker (I can't truly call it a ballad) is still filled with the big vocals, sweeping power chords, and crashing drums that made for so many great songs in the 80's and early 90's.  "Fade 2 Gray" is another rest-point for this album and is the closest the band comes to a true ballad, although, once again, a big modern rock chorus and some pretty crunchy guitars keeps this track from becoming a slip-into-sleep type of track.        

Now, on to my moans, groans, and gripes.  First...and I say this so often it has to become a bore to read, but I want to get my point out there...I HATE DIGIPACKS!!!! that we are past that...  I don't have any real use for the hidden track here (again, a pet peeve of mine), as it is an elctronica mix of "Fade 2 Gray" which doesn't fit this album AT ALL.  I will go so far as to say this is a bad track that, had it been in the middle of the album rather than tagged on at the end, would have done some damage to this album's overall rating; as it is, here at the end, it doesn't disrupt the flow of the album and just becomes the only true skipper here.  I'm also not a huge fan of the title track, "The Romance Years", as it sounds kind of disjointed to me for some reason, although it does have a GREAT guitar solo in it that might be the best on the album.  I don't skip it, but I don't skip TO it, either.  "Great Expectations" is the only truly down moment for me on the main portion of the album (I don't count the "bonus" track), as the stripped-down, acoustic approach is a let down after hearing so much, well, bombast throughout the rest of the disc.  This song takes on the more plaintive, almost whiny sound that some of the post-grunge alternative bands of the mid-to-late-90's adopted when grunge faded away.

Overall, this is an EXCELLENT effort from a band who has been through a lot in its seven years of existence.  However, with perserverence, an obviously positive attitude (pretty much all of these songs are very upbeat and positive), a fresh approach to the modern rock scene, and an obvious love of the music they are playing, Fall From Grace have managed to craft one of the best modern hard rock albums of the first half of the year and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up in my personal Top 10 for the year.  Strong songwriting abounds on The Romance Years and makes this an album that I feel very confident in recommending to the Glitter2Gutter audience.

Rating:  Definitely crankable...give it an 8.5!

Monday, June 4, 2012

TALKIN' TRASH WITH...CJ Snare of Firehouse/Rubicon Cross (Interview)

Today, CJ Snare, the lead vocalist for one of the last truly successful "hair bands", Firehouse, and now the frontman for Rubicon Cross, takes his turn Talkin' Trash with us at Glitter2Gutter...

G2G:  Hey, CJ, thanks for taking the time to talk to us here at Glitter2Gutter today.  I know you have been hard at work with the new Rubicon Cross album, right?

CJ:  Yeah, actually I was just doing a vocal here for one of the songs for the CD.  I was working on a bunch of vocal takes, doing a vocal comp(ilation) for the lead, so yeah, we've been busy...

G2GNow how did Rubicon Cross come about? Were you on some sort of hiatus from Firehouse or how exactly did this new project start?

CJ:  Well, it started off, back a long time agon in the career of Firehouse, people used to ask me, "hey, man, when are you gonna do a solo project?  When are you gonna do something on your own?" and my answer was always, hey, I'm able to get all of my artistic ideas out through Firehouse, you know.  Well, that changed and I wasn't able to all of my things or all that I wanted to do or go the direction I wanted to go, stuff like that.  So, in 2003, we (Firehouse) toured in Europe and there was this band called Pride, which was Danny Vaughn's band after Tyketto, and they were opening up for Firehouse.  So, we were on this tour and I met Chris Green who was then the lead guitarist for Pride.  We just had a really good chemistry, and we started writing together, and I was going back and forth to England and we became fast friends.  In fact, we were best men at each other's weddings; I was at his and he was for me.  We've been through a lot of tough times in each other's lives and good times in each other's lives, so not only did we develop this really cool writing chemistry and were on the same page for a band, but we also developed an amazing friendship that went along with it.

G2G:  Wow, that's cool...

CJ:  Yeah...  So, it started out it was going to be a CJ Snare solo project, but the more I wrote with Chris and worked with Chris I was like, "man, this is as much your baby as it is mine...let's give it a brand name, let's call it something."  So, at that point, he was just moving to the United States and getting married, and, one of the things he used to always say was, "well, you've crossed the Rubicon now,", you know, his being English.  Now, I don't know if people know what that means, but it's kind of like the point of no return...

G2G:  And it's a great Journey song!

CJ:  What's it called?

G2G:  "Rubicon"'s on the Frontiers album.

CJ:  Oh, okay.  Cool.  It's also a river in northern Italy, actually, and when Julius Caesar crossed it to take back control of Rome, at that point in his campaign there was no turning back.  So for us, we just kind of switched it around from crossing the Rubicon to Rubicon Cross, and it gave us some opportunities for some great artwork and everything like that.

G2G:  That's cool.  Now, Rubicon Cross, at least on the EP, seemed to be a little bit edgier, maybe even a little bit darker, some would say, than Firehouse.  Was that intentional?

CJ:  Oh, absolutely.  As I said to you earlier, I was trying to get other things out of my system that weren't necessarily Firehouse.  In 1991, we won the American Music Awards for best new hard rock/heavy metal act, and that's kind of where my roots were and what I liked.  And, through the years, we kind of experimented and deviated a little bit.  Sometimes we got soft because people knew us for our ballads because that's what the record companies always pushed and played, and I actually wanted to do some of the heavier stuff and more modern stuff.  Now, what's really fortunate is people like yourself at Glitter2Gutter, and all of the other press that we've gotten around the world, has kind of snatched me and some others from the classic rock or "hair band" genre and given us a new, more modern hard rock genre, and that's cool because I was able to jump ship, basically, not because I'm out of Firehouse or anything, because Firehouse is touring heavily, but it was nice for me to have a different musical outlet. 

G2G:  You know, you brought up the "hair band" tag, so I want to run with that a bit.  Firehouse was one of the last bands to have any real success with that fact, I read somewhere that you guys had the last charting single of any of the "hair bands" in the 90's.  What do you think about all of the comebacks that so many of these bands are making?  Do you think it's just a nostalgia thing or do you think "hair metal" falls into that "everything that's old becomes new again" category and is actually making a comeback?

CJ:  I think it's probably a combination of both, really, but I think there's also something that you didn't mention.  You know, our last hit in the United States was in 1995, with "I Live My Life For You", which was another ballad, and it really surprised people because it came out in the center of the grunge movement and everything, Nirvana was going strong, Pearl Jam was going strong, and here comes Firehouse with a Top 40...Top 20, know, Billboard certified hit.  And that launched us around the nation and internationally, too, as it became a hit around the world, and that helped perpetuate our career.  So, I think some bands, like Firehouse, maybe actually never really went away, they just went other places, you know.  Now, regarding the other half of your question, you know, about comebacks or whatever, I think that a lot of the guys from our genre set out to be career musicians.  I think that they wanted to do this their whole lives, and they saw where other bands influenced them, and they said, "that's what I wanna do.  I'm going to get serious about this and make it my career," and certainly that was the case with Firehouse, and that's why we're still here doing this.  It's not so much a comeback as us still doing what we love to do and what we chose to do as a career.  You know, now, sometimes people's tastes wax and wain, and sometimes we end up in different places, but the fact that there's a return to this style of music, it doesn't matter to me if it's nostalgic or, whatever the reason it is for it, we're just happy to have always had an audience somewhere around the world that's ready to listen to Firehouse or, now, Rubicon Cross.

G2G:  Speaking of around the world, you guys, as you mentioned, tour very heavily, and Firehouse is actually huge in Asia, is that correct?

CJ:  Yeah, I mean we...let's see..back in the 90's...the mid-90's...we had a record come out called Firehouse 3 that Don Levinson produced, and that's the one that had the chart hit "I Live My Life For You".  Now, that album really got us some strong momentum going overseas, especially in the Southeast Asian market.  That was followed up by our album Good Acoustics and they (Asian fans) fell in love with that record.  They brought us over there and we toured all through Indonesia, Malasia, Singapore, the Philippines, know, we've been to India, Korea, Japan, everywhere, you name it, except China.

G2G:  That had to be an amazing experience.  I know that Japan and the Japanese market has always really favored a lot of the American hard rock and "hair metal" bands.  Have you found that to be true with Firehouse?

CJ:  I think moreso in the past, really.  Now the Japanese people are more into pop, but they are also extremely into heavy metal, which is popular there, also.  Now, some of the more "legacy acts" or "classic acts" are not necessarily as popular as they once were over there, however, I do find that Korea is a big supporter of us.  We are slated to go over there and headline the Busan Rock Festival, which we did in 2010 and had over 20,000 people there for us headling.  The same goes for India...we'll sell out a stadium of 40,000 people.  We just did two shows back-to-back a few weeks ago where we were in northeaster India, and we had over 20,000 people at each show there.  In 2010, we were in Singapore and had like 15,000 people there, and that's just for us; sometimes we'll be the only band.  We're scheduled to go back to Nepal, to play some more Indian dates, some more Indonesian dates, umm...we're going to Vietnam and Ho-Chi Min there's lots of work out there for us in that market.  Of course, we probably have about four or five more "hits" over there than we do in the United States, so it makes for a really good set where we can just play hit after hit after hit after hit in that market. 

G2G:  Now, you were mentioning a lot of work for you, but you don't seem to be lacking for work anyway.  I know you've done some session work, you've done some production work, and, of course, you've gotten yourself involved with Justin Murr and Liberty N Justice as well, correct?

CJ:  Yeah, he (Murr) approached me a couple of years ago, and gave me a song called "Do What You Believe", or actually, "What Do You Believe" and I kinda changed it around (laughing).  I asked Justin, "can I have poetic or artistic license here?", and he said yes, so I basically re-wrote it with him and some other musicians, and then I sang on it, and that was kind of the beginning of my association with him because they liked the way that it sounded.  Now, I just mastered the whole Liberty N Justice project, and then Justin really started working with me.  He's got a few key people he really likes to work know, JK Northrup being one of them...and he's a very talented individual.  You know he has a new project coming up called The Cigar Chronicles which I'm mixing in it's entirety..and it has 24 tracks...and it has tons of people on it.  I mean, it has Kip Winger singing on one song which JK played the guitar on, um, I've got Chris Green , my guy from Rubicon Cross, playing on one song, I've got Gunnar Nelson singing on one of the songs..and then I sang on one with George Lynch and Jeff Pilson playing bass...

G2G:  The "Dokken guys"...

CJ:  Yeah, the "Dokken guys"...well, not anymore...but it was an honor to get to play on a track with George Lynch, and that was all through Justin.  Now, he's got me working on the second half of the project and, like I said, I'm also sitting in the studio right now working on the Rubicon Cross project, which will be coming out in the fall of this year.  We got a lot of buzz from the EP, and we have a single that just hit iTunes and's only at download outlets, we don't have a hard copy of it...but it's timed to coincide with a new Codemaster video game which is called "Dirt Showdown"'s a very popular driving game, especially in the U.K.and over in Europe....and they chose our song to be on the soundtrack, which is very cool.

G2G:  I didn't know about that...that's very cool!

CJ:  Yeah, we're very excited about it.

G2G:  Hey, jumping back to Liberty N Justice for a minute, did you get to tackle one of the many cover songs that Justin chose to do for the second half of the project?

CJ:  Absolutely.  That's the side I have pretty much completed now, and, man...there are just so many singers on that.  You have Stevie Rachelle from Tuff singing "I Can't Dance", the old Genesis tune, but it's heavy and industrial sounding like nothing you would imagine.  Then again, I've got Kip Winger doing "Staying Alive" which is not disco or anything you would think it would's stripped down, bare-bones acoustic guitar.  The song I was just mixing that George and Jeff played on, and I sang, is "Pride (In The Name Of Love)"...

G2G:  Ah, the U2 classic...

CJ:  Yep, but it's really heavy and a rocked up version.  There are just so many great songs and so many artists..and it's been a labor of love.  It's just an incredible collection, but we've been working on it for so long, I was like, "Justin, I sang that song two years ago!  I told you to just release one record at a time!" (laughing)  But he's a know, Justin...

G2G:  Oh yeah!  (Laughing)  Well, he calls it his "opus" and he says he can't let it go until it's perfect.  He told me something just the other day about adding Jack Russell from Great White in to do yet another track that he added here at the last minute...

CJ:  He's ALWAYS adding stuff at the last minute!  (laughing)  He calls me up and is like, "hey, want to mix another tune?" and I'm like, bring it on, buddy, I'm ready!  (laughing)

G2G:  So, when this is all done, is Rubicon Cross going to tour, and if so, who is with you?

CJ:  Well, at this point the core is Chris Green and myself.  It was our baby, it was our brainchild, the music is ours, we recorded it in my studios here...  Now, we do have another English guy, Simon, who is the bass player, and we will tour if necessity dictates.  We have such a positive foundation from everyone, including yourself and Glitter2Gutter, you gave us a very nice review of the EP, and we've had nothing but positive feedback.  We haven't had any haters out there, which really surprised me, and also everyone at modern hard rock has embraced us, including the people at "Dirt Showdown", you know the game, because we're on there with all sorts of modern rockers, and I'm liking that.  It's along the lines of what Ozzy did when he brought out all these hot shot young guitar players and reinvented himself...

G2G:  Right...

CJ:  Well, that's kind of what happened with Rubicon Cross and with me...our music isn't real Firehouse-y stuff, and it's not meant to be.  If you like the melodic side of Firehouse, if you like the sound of my voice, um, and you like heavy guitars and groove, but with more of a modern ilk, then you will definitely like Rubicon Cross.

G2G:  I was going to mention thing that you can't get away with is the sound of your voice.  Were you concerned at all that people were going to get confused between Rubicon Cross and how they sound with Firehouse and how they sound just because of your voice?  Were you concerned there may be come negative feedback just due to that?

CJ:  Well, we set out from the start to make Rubicon Cross something different from Firehouse.  A long time ago when I finally decided that I was going to do something on my own, I spoke to the A&R guy in Japan at our record label...he's now the head of Disney Records over was Pony Canyon at the time...and anyway, he said to me, "you've got to do something that deviates from the mothership because we already do have Firehouse and you are the singer of Firehouse, so if you just release something that sounds like Firehouse people will get confused."  So, we...that's exactly what I wanted to do...I wanted to show my heavy roots, I wanted to show that I still had some relevant sounds and songwriting capabilities that I wanted to showcase in this record, and the feedback from this little teaser, limited edition EP, kind of gave us the confidence to move forward because that's exactly how people reacted to it.

G2G:  Well, that's cool because like you said it is two completely different projects and if people give Rubicon Cross a chance, other than your voice and some melodic sensibilities to it, they (Rubicon Cross and Firehouse) are not really that similar, at least in my opinion.  Like you said, Rubicon Cross sounds a lot more modern, a lot edgier, and it's something that I think could fit very well into the modern hard rock market and into the satellite radios and things like that.  Are you catching any airplay with the new single?

CJ:  Yes we are, and while it just came out, the momentum is just starting to build.  As a matter of fact, press releases have just gone out to coincide with the release of the "Dirt Showdown" video game.  And this is kind of like the final teaser before the full CD hits the market this upcoming late summer/early fall.  You literally caught me right here, in the studio, as I was just finishing up working on it for the day.

G2G:  Before I let you go, you said Firehouse is going to be out and about, so who is with you now?  I know Bill is obviously still with you, but who else is in the group now?

CJ:  Well, we have Bill Leverty, the guitarist, we have Michael Foster, who is the drummer, and we have Allen McKenzie who is the bass player now.

G2G:  Now,  Allen is the only new member, right?  He replaced Dario, correct?

CJ:  Well, yeah, we had a kind of revolving bass player position.  Perry Richardson was the original bass player, and he's now playing bass with Trace Adkins, the country star.  You know, he had a little rough spot and we had to go our separate ways, but I'm so happy for him.  You know, I played with him since he left, you know, and he's doing well and he's really, really happy.  Um, then we brought in a guy named Bruce Waibel who is probably one of the most incredible musicians I've ever worked with apart from Chris Green.  Bruce, we had a similar situation with him as we had with Perry, so he left, and then Dario Seixas stepped in, and I think he's playing with Jack Russell from Great White now.  But Allen has been with us for eight or nine years now.

G2G:  So you kind of had the Spinal Tap situation going on with your bass players, but nobody spontaneously combusted...

CJ:  (laughing) Exactly, that's right, nobody spontaneously combusted and now Allen's been very permanent, so he's like a "new original".  But all the other guys, are the same guys, including myself, right from the start, and still touring.  Here pretty soon we're going to Portugal, then we've got the tour with Warrant and Trixter which is kind of a reminiscent thing of the "Blood, Sweat, and Beers Tour" we had in 1991 with those guys, which was one of the top grossing tours that year according to PollStar.  And, like I said, we're going to Korea and a lot of southeast Asian and Indian and more things coming up.  So, it's going to be a busy year with Liberty N Justice and Rubicon Cross and Firehouse doing the touring...I'm staying pretty, pretty busy...

G2G:  Being so busy, do you have any time to listen to anything right now?  Who is CJ Snare listening to?

CJ:  I've been listening to Rubicon Cross right now (laughing)...  Over and over again during the editing!  We're also still continuing to write, so lots of Rubicon Cross.  I did just get the new Shinedown record, and I got the new Halestorm, which I thought was pretty cool.  How about you?  What are you listening to?

G2G:  (laughing)  I've got those that you mentioned, but I also listen to a lot of new bands that people send to me for review.  I like the Zeroking record, for example...but the new Shinedown record I think is amazing, I also think the new Halestorm is really good.  The new Slash album with Myles Kennedy is excellent.  I've also been listening to a lot of old stuff as some people have been asking for classic reviews, so I'm kind of drawing a blank on new stuff right now.  I have been reading, though, and you have to get Dee Snider's autobiography, which just came out...excellent book...

CJ:  Oh, I know Dee...yeah...I'll have to check that out on your recommendation...thank you for that.  Also, Justin (Murr from Liberty N Justice) sends me stuff all the time to listen to, so I'm working on his stuff, so between his stuff and the Rubicon Cross stuff, Firehouse touring, there's just not much rest here for me to just sit and listen to new stuff...which is fine, I like it like that.  I like being busy.

G2G:  It's better being busy than being bored, right?

CJ:  That's right!  Well, I'm certainly not bored, I can say that!  (laughing)

G2G:  Now with Rubicon Cross, are you going to be label-supported or are you doing it independently when the record comes out?

CJ:  Well, we have some label interest right now and we are just kind of playing the field, here...when we have the final record in hand we're gonna try to see what we want to do, if we want to license it, if we want to go to a particular all depends on what we think is going to be the most beneficial to getting the music out there to the most people.

G2G:  Right, I can understand that, I guess.  I would be remiss if I didn't ask about Firehouse...are we going to hear any new music from Firehouse?  I know you had your re-recorded album, Full Circle, not too long ago.  Anything new on the Firehouse front?

CJ:  Well, no, not right now, and one of the reasons for that is we watch a lot of the other bands like, you know, you mentioned Journey a while ago, and they have a new record, and they are one of the rare exceptions of bands that put out a new record and might have charted with it.  But, for bands of our genre, while it's kinda cool to put out new music, and while there is a small core audience that still wants to buy it, it's not like it used to be when we first started.  The face of the music industry has changed a great deal, and I'm not sure that our demographic supports the bands as much by purchasing their new music as they do by going out and supporting them live and seeing the show.  You know, that's something that can't be replicated or pirated or anything like that.  Even on YouTube, it's not the same vibe as that live feel.  I notice that a lot of bands from that genre, not Firehouse in particular, are doing the same thing..I mean a lot of them are getting back together and doing a "last hurrah" tour OR they are taking a stab at putting out new music.  But I'm not so sure what kind of success the new music meets with as far as sales or how much the fans want to hear the "latest and greatest...that they just wrote"...ummm...I'm not sure how much success there is in new music for those bands.  What do you think?

G2G:  I tend to agree to a point.  For example, you can look at a band like Skid Row who was at the top of the heap for a while then changed lead singers and did some damage to their fan base, but they continue to try to put out new music and I don't think they are having great sales success.  However, some bands are releasing new stuff and are having at least marginal success; for example, Trixter just put out a new album, which is pretty good by the way, if you haven't heard it, and Tyketto just put out a solid new album, and at least initially I think some of this stuff is doing pretty well, especially in Europe.  But you're right, a lot of these bands seem to be putting out new music solely to have a reason to tour, and I think if you're a big enough band the fan base wants to hear the hits, they don't necessarily want to hear new stuff, at least at a concert venue. 

CJ:  Right, right, I agree...

G2G:  I mean, how long has Cinderella still successfully toured without anything new? 

CJ:  Yeah, well, I mean, new music does give you something to sell at the show, and that's good.  And I think some bands are still putting out good, new material, but I don't think a whole lot of people are running out and buying it or downloading it...I could be wrong...but that's what I've seen by looking at the charts.  If you just track retail you can see that Warrant and Skid Row and everyone like that, they aren't at the top of the charts right now and aren't selling like gangbusters on records right now, you know, or Whitesnake, or other examples of bands who put stuff out on, for example, Fronteirs Records label...we don't want to just jump on that bandwagon, ourselves.  We know that when we go out there people want to hear "Reach For The Sky", "Don't Treat Me Bad", "All She Wrote", "Overnight Sensation", "Love Of A Lifetime", "When I Look Into Your Eyes"...stuff like know, "Shake And Tumble"...and when we do expose them to something newer, they're receptive, but it's like "come on, come on, get back to something we know" (laughing), and, you know, we're like, "okay...gotcha...".
CJ with hair...

G2G:  Speaking of the "old stuff", are you happy to not have to deal with all that hair any longer? 

CJ:  (laughing)  Well, I got used to that a long time ago.  I mean, I'm a Florida guy, so for the longest time I would just always wear my hair back in a ponytail.  But then I just went "snip", you know, and cut that off...(laughing)...and it was not a big deal, you know.  It was cool, at the time, know, I still find myself on stage at times flipping my hair, or trying to...

G2G:  (laughing)

CJ with MUCH less hair!
CJ: know...they say amputees can still feel like their arms or their legs, and sometimes I feel like my hair is still there, and I'll flip my head to toss my hair back and I'll be like, "whoops...there's nothing there!  Okay...".

G2G:  (laughing)  I just wish I had hair of any kind sometimes!  Even in the 80's I didn't have much, but now...sometimes I just wish I had some...

CJ:  (laughing)  It's nothing that I worry about.  Now, if my voice was gone THEN I would be upset.  The hair...not so much...(laughing)...

G2G:  Alright, CJ, thanks so much for hanging with me for a bit.  The new Rubicon Cross is looking to be out late summer/early fall, and I can't wait to hear it, and I hope we get to do this again soon when we have big, big news to talk about how great it's selling for you.

CJ:  (laughing)  Well, I hope so, too, Arttie.  And you know, that's a big thing, the fact that we haven't been categorized in the hair band thing, and yet we still get positive press from people like yourself and Glitter2Gutter, that's so super helped us because there's a new audience taking a look and taking a listen, and we're blessed, I think.  Thanks for the's been fun.

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