The Melvins have been dishing out their sludgy heavier-than-Black-Sabbath sounds for over three decades, and show no signs of compromising or slowing down. Their latest album is Hold It In, an awesome, diverse set of songs which feature founder/singer/guitarist Buzz Osborne, drummer Dale Crover who has been with the band through almost its entire existence, and guest guitarist Paul Leary and bassist Jeff Pinkus from fellow cult rockers The Butthole Surfers.
This interview was for a preview article for the Melvins concert at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo, California on 10/22/14. It was done by phone on 10/16/14.
Review of Dave Rawlings Machine at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, 10/5/14.
Matisyahu, which means “Gift of God”, is the Hebrew/stage name for Matthew Paul Miller, a (formerly Hasidic) Jewish reggae superstar. And although this might seem like an unlikely combination, Matisyahu is the real deal, with his talent and musical vision winning him the adoration and respect of fans across the religious and cultural spectrum.
Matisyahu’s career took off with the release of his 2005 album Live at Stubb’s, which captured a magical night for him and his band. He has since released a half dozen or so albums, and his musical style has continued to evolve within and beyond the realm of reggae, including 2012’s Spark Seeker that was more pop-oriented without pandering to the club crowd. This year he released Akeda, which is regarded as his most personal album to date and mostly features a less-is-more musical approach.
This interview was for a preview article for Matisyahu’s concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 10/21/14. It was done by phone on 9/8/14. (Steve Kennedy photo)
Hall & Oates have been described as the most successful musical duo of the rock era, and if you think for a minute about who that puts them ahead of, that’s quite an impressive accomplishment.
Daryl Hall and John Oates first started making music together in the early 1970’s, and that decade saw hits for them including “Sara Smile” and “Rich Girl”. But things really took off for the duo in the 1980’s, with songs like “Kiss on My List”, “You Make My Dreams”, “Private Eyes”, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)”, “Maneater”, “One on One”, and “Out of Touch” tearing up the charts. In recognition of their artistic and commercial success, Hall & Oates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame earlier this year.
This interview was with guitarist John Oates, who co-wrote many of the duo’s songs and even sang lead vocals on a few. It was done by phone on 10/3/14 for a preview article for the Hall & Oates concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 10/19/14. (Juan Patino photo)
Photos of Dave Rawlings Machine concert, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barabara, California, 10/5/14. (L. Paul Mann photos, copyrighted and all rights reserved)
Review of Big Star and Friends at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, 9/27/14.
Photos of Big Star benefit concert, Wilshire Ebell Theatre, Los Angeles, California, 9/27/14. (L. Paul Mann photos, copyrighted and all rights reserved)
In 1990, Jane’s Addiction told us that “The world is loaded / It’s lit to pop and nobody is gonna stop”, which in retrospect might be viewed as presaging the explosion of exciting music in the early 90’s. Grunge was launched in 1991 with Nirvana’s Nevermind and Pearl Jam’s Ten, a year that also saw the release of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and Slint’s Spiderland. Hot on the heels in 1992 were the amazing debut albums by Rage Against the Machine, PJ Harvey, and Liz Phair. One could go on and on.
An album that belongs in this rarefied company is Nowhere by the band Ride, released in 1990 and regularly hailed as one of the quintessential albums of the shoegaze genre typified by whooshing distorted guitars and hypnotic vocals. Ride went on to release several more albums before imploding in 1996. A key component of Ride’s sound was the guitar and vocals of Mark Gardener, who answered the following questions by email, received on 9/26/14. This served as the basis for a preview article for Gardener’s “solo acoustic loop show” at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 10/9/14.
Al Jardine was a founding member of The Beach Boys, and apart from a year off in the early days, he was a key member of the band up until 1998. He was also part of the 50th anniversary reunion tour that visited the Santa Barbara Bowl in the summer of 2012.
You can hear Jardine’s harmonies and/or playing on many classic Beach Boys recordings including “Surfin’ Safari”, “I Get Around”, “California Girls”, “Barbara Ann”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “Good Vibrations”, and many more. His best-known lead vocal is on the Number One hit “Help Me Rhonda”. He also brought the song “Sloop John B” with Brian Wilson’s attention, and helped to arrange The Beach Boys’ version. His songwriting credits include “California Saga: California” and “Susie Cincinnati”.
This interview was for the performance by musical genius Brian Wilson and Al Jardine on 9/27/14 at the Vina Robles Amphitheatre in Paso Robles. It was done by phone on 9/16/14, and has been edited slightly for continuity.
Jason Scheff joined Chicago at age 23 when singer/bassist Peter Cetera left the band in 1985 for a solo career. The band continued their winning streak with songs including “Will You Still Love Me” and “What Kind of Man Would I Be?”, both co-written and sung by Scheff, who has remained with the band ever since. Most recently, Scheff co-wrote the title track of the band’s new album Chicago XXXVI: Now. He also co-wrote the 1988 hit Boz Scaggs song “Heart of Mine”.
This interview was for a preview article for the Chicago concert on 9/14/14. It was done by phone on 9/3/14.
Scott McCaughey (pronounced Mc-Coy) is the leader of The Young Fresh Fellows, an often humorous alt-rock band that formed in the 1980’s, and the pop collective The Minus 5, an often more-serious venture which formed in 1993. From 1994-2011 he also played with R.E.M., both live and in the studio.
McCaughey is also a member of The Baseball Project with Peter Buck, Steve Wynn, and Linda Pitmon. This interview was for the Baseball Project show at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on 9/7/14. It was originally scheduled to be at the Lobero Theatre, which is why there are several references to that. The interview was done by phone on 8/27/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Airto Moreira is widely regarded as one of the greatest living percussionists. He is best known for playing on several groundbreaking jazz fusion albums including Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, Weather Report’s first album, and Return to Forever’s first two albums. He has also contributed to recordings with Cannonball Adderley, Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola, Keith Jarrett, Stanley Clarke, Stan Getz, Carlos Santana, Paul Simon, Mickey Hart, his wife Flora Purim, and many others. Add to all this a couple dozen solo albums and numerous live performances, and you can begin to appreciate the mark that Airto has left on music.
This interview was for a preview article for Airto’s performance with Eyedentity on 9/4/14 at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 8/8/14. (Janis Wilkins photo)
Billy Vera is best known for his song “At This Moment”, which became a Number One hit in 1987 after it was used in the TV show Family Ties. But there’s much more to the Billy Vera story than just that song. By that point, he had already been writing songs for over two decades, including a bona fide garage rock classic and songs recorded by Ricky Nelson and Dolly Parton, who had a Number One hit with “I Really Got the Feeling”. He has also acted in various movies and TV shows, and even won a Grammy for Best Album Notes for a box set of Ray Charles singles.
This interview was for a preview article for a concert by Billy Vera & the Beaters at Yolie’s in Ventura on 8/29/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 8/10/14. (Barry Druxman photo)
Mike Finnigan has been a part of an amazing amount of rock and roll music over the last four-plus decades. A big highlight was playing organ on the tracks “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” on Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland album. He has also played organ and/or sang with many other artists including Crosby, Stills & Nash, Etta James, Dave Mason, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Eric Burdon.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert in Santa Barbara on 8/22/14 for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP), an educational program that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as life skills, with children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. It was done by phone on 8/12/14.
Stu Cook was the bassist for Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose songbook includes classics such as “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Green River”, “Down on the Corner”, “My Back Door”, “Fortunate Son”, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”, “Travelin’ Band”, and “Up Around the Bend”. Creedence also did smokin’ covers of “Susie Q” and “I Heard It Through the Gravevine”. The band broke up acrimoniously in 1972, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1995, Cook and Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the name change reflecting the absence of singer/songwriter John Fogerty and his late brother Tom. This band, which not coincidentally also abbreviates to CCR, plays the hits we know and love from their days with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
This interview was done by phone on 7/25/14 for a preview article for Creedence Clearwater Revisited’s concert at the Ventura County Fair in Ventura on 8/8/14.
Harry Wayne Casey is better known is as “KC” from KC and the Sunshine Band, which he founded in 1973. KC co-wrote and sang the band’s smash hits “That’s the Way (I Like It)”, “Shake Your Booty”, and “Get Down Tonight”, plus “Boogie Shoes” which appeared on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Enjoying immense popularity in the 1970’s and beyond, the band has sold over 100 million records and won three Grammy Awards.
This interview was for a preview article for the KC and the Sunshine Band concert on 8/7/14 at the Chumash Casino. It was done by phone on 7/22/14.
Review of Don Felder, Styx, and Foreigner (Soundtrack of Summer tour) at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 7/20/14.
Mike Love has been a Beach Boy since the band began way back in 1961, and wrote the lyrics to some of their best-known songs including “Fun, Fun, Fun”, “California Girls”, “I Get Around”, and “Good Vibrations”. And that’s him singing lead vocals on the recordings of the first three of these, plus “Surfin’ U.S.A”, “Little Deuce Coupe”, “When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)”, and more. Overall, The Beach Boys have had three dozen Top 40 hits, and they were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.
This interview was for a preview article for The Beach Boys concert at the Ventura County Fair on 7/31/14. It was done by phone on 7/28/14.
Michael McDonald is a 5-time Grammy winner who sang for a time with Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers, and has also had a notable and successful solo career. Highlights of his catalog include “I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)”, “You Belong To Me”, “It Keeps You Runnin'”, “Minute By Minute”, “What A Fool Believes”, “Takin’ It To The Streets”, “Yah Mo B There”, “Sweet Freedom”, and his cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert on 7/27/14 in the Funk Zone of Santa Barbara for the organization Youth Interactive. It was done by phone on 7/21/14.
Don Felder joined the Eagles as the band’s lead guitarist in 1974, and helped to push them from their country rock roots to a harder rock ‘n’ roll sound. He remained with the Eagles until the band broke up acrimoniously in 1980, and along the way he wrote the music for the Eagles megahit “Hotel California”, which is regularly ranked as one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written. This song was on the 1976 album Hotel California, which has sold over 32 million copies, a number bested by only a dozen other albums including the Eagles Greatest Hits (1971-1975), which includes some songs on which Felder played guitar. Felder also co-wrote the Eagles song “Victim of Love”.
After the break up, Felder did session work, recorded a couple of songs for the movie Heavy Metal, and released a solo album in 1983 which included the minor hit “Never Surrender”.
In a shock to pretty much everyone, the Eagles, including Felder, re-formed in 1994, touring and releasing a live album called Hell Freezes Over, a reference to Don Henley’s statement that the band would get back together when hell freezes over. The Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the first year they were nominated.
The Eagles had many disputes over the years, and Felder was fired from the Eagles in early 2001. In 2008, he released a book called Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001), which became a New York Times bestseller. Both his termination and the book led to lawsuits. In fact, since he was fired, Felder’s interactions with some of his former bandmates have reportedly only been through lawyers.
In 2012, Felder released his second solo album Road to Forever, which was written in response to his termination from the Eagles and the break up of his marriage. The album included contributions from some notable guests, and has received a positive response from fans and critics.
This interview was for a preview article for the Soundtrack of Summer Tour concert with Don Felder, Styx, and Foreigner at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/27/14. It was done by phone on 6/23/14.
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Johnston is a founding member of The Doobie Brothers, and wrote a number of their best-known songs including “Listen to the Music”, “China Grove”, “Rockin’ Down the Highway”, and “Long Train Runnin'”. He also sang the band’s hit cover song “Take Me in Your Arms”.
Johnston’s role in the band was reduced in the mid-70’s while he recovered from a stomach ulcer, and he eventually left the band. However, when they re-formed in 1987 he was back in the game, and he has stayed with The Doobie Brothers ever since.
This interview was for a preview article for The Doobie Brothers concert on 7/25/14 at the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles. It was done by phone on 7/3/14.
Review of Richard Thompson at the Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, 7/11/14.
There are a number of musicians who might not be household names, but have been instrumental (pun intended) to the music that we have known and loved over the years. A great example is Chris Pinnick, who from 1980-85 played guitar with Chicago, an era that included monster hits like “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”, “You’re the Inspiration”, “Hard Habit to Break”, and “Stay the Night”. And lest we think that Chicago went completely soft during that time period, check out this YouTube clip from 1984 with Pinnick on guitar.
Pinnick describes himself as semi-retired, but he still plays at times with the band Pockets, which is made up of other amazing musicians whose resumes include stints with America, Oingo Boingo, The Black Crowes, Rick Nelson, and others. This interview was for a preview article for the the Santa Barbara County Frack Free Music Festival with Pockets and other bands on 7/20/14. It was done by phone on 7/7/14.
Review of Joan Baez and The Indigo Girls at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 7/2/14.
In the 1970’s, Kansas arguably achieved a level of popularity that was unmatched by any other American progressive rock band, thanks to radio-friendly songs like “Dust in the Wind”, “Carry On Wayward Son”, and “Point of Know Return”, songs that still regularly show up on the playlists of classic rock radio. Their notable albums include their 1974 self-titled debut, 1976’s Leftoverture, and 1977’s Point of Know Return.
The band’s current line-up includes three original members: Steve Walsh on vocals, keyboards, and percussion, Phil Ehart on drums, and Richard Williams on guitar. This interview with Williams was for a preview article for the band’s 7/11/14 concert at the Santa Barbara County Fair. It was done by phone on 6/25/14.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been together as the Indigo Girls for nearly three decades. Their career took off with their 1989 self-titled second album, with key songs like “Closer to Fine” and “Kid Fears” reminding us that music can be simultaneously beautiful and thought-provoking. Both Ray and Saliers are amazing songwriters, with some additional song highlights being “Strange Fire”, “Secure Yourself”, “Prince of Darkness”, “Galileo”, “Least Complicated”, “Power of Two”, and “Shame on You”. Over the years their music has evolved – perhaps most notably they started plugging in their guitars more often – but their wonderful lyrics and harmonies have always continued to shine. Their most recent album is 2011’s Beauty Queen Sister. The Indigo Girls are also politically active, and have long supported environmental, Native American, and gay rights causes.
This interview with Amy Ray was for a preview article for the Indigo Girls concert on 7/2/14 at the Santa Barbara Bowl, which they co-headlined with folk music legend Joan Baez. It was done by phone on 6/25/14.
Neal Casal is the lead guitarist for The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, fronted by singer Chris Robinson of Black Crowes fame. The CRB has played over two hundred live shows since forming a few years ago, and has three studio albums out, including 2014’s Phosphorescent Harvest.
Before joining the CRB, Casal played with Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, including on the albums Easy Tiger and Cardinology, plus Willie Nelson’s 2006 album Songbird. Casal has also released a number of solo albums, most recently 2012’s Sweeten the Distance.
This interview was for a preview article for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 7/3/14, for which they shared the bill with Bob Weir & RatDog. The interview was done by phone on 6/19/14. (John Margaretten photo)
There aren’t many musicians who, from the 1960’s to the present day, have consistently released first-rate material that’s always worth a listen. One of the few who belongs in this category is guitarist/singer/songwriter Richard Thompson.
Thompson got his start with the British folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, playing on their early albums including the 1969 landmarks What We Did on Our Holidays for which he wrote “Meet on the Ledge”, Unhalfbricking for which he wrote the lead track “Genesis Hall”, and Liege & Lief for which he wrote “Fairwell, Fairwell” and co-wrote “Crazy Man Michael”.
Thompson went on to record a series of albums with his then-wife Linda, with notable releases including 1974’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight and 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights. After the latter, he has primarily pursued a solo career, with releases including 1991’s Rumor and Sigh with fan favorite “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and, most recently, 2013’s Electric. And coming soon is an album Acoustic Classics, which revisits songs spanning his entire career in an acoustic format.
This interview was for a preview article for Thompson’s concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 7/9/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 6/10/14. (Pamela Littky photo)
When I interviewed punk rock bass guitar hero Mike Watt a couple years ago, he referred to guitarist Nels Cline’s musicianship by saying, “He has no fear”. And when you consider Cline’s diverse discography, that seems like an apt description.
Cline is best known for being the lead guitarist for Wilco, a position he has held for the past ten years. He has also performed and/or recorded with a variety of other artists including Watt, Thurston Moore, Charlie Haden, and his wife Yuka Honda, in styles including jazz, free improvisation, and avant rock.
In a new project, Cline and Honda will be composing the soundtrack for an upcoming documentary called Almost Sunrise, which follows the healing journey of two veterans who don’t want to become part of the shocking statistic that 22 former American soldiers commit suicide every day. Almost Sunrise is directed by Michael Collins, who also directed the award-winning film Give Up Tomorrow, and recently received $100K in support from a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the editing of hundreds of hours of footage.
Cline graciously took part of a rare day off to talk about the Almost Sunrise project, plus his former job at Rhino Records and making music with Wilco and Mike Watt. The interview was done by phone on 6/10/14.
Jimmy Webb’s songwriting credits are quite remarkable. He is most closely associated with Glen Campbell, who sang the definitive versions of Webb’s songs “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and more. (A lesser known gem and Music Illuminati favorite is “You Might As Well Smile” from Campbell’s 1974 album Reunion: The Songs of Jimmy Webb.) Other songwriting credits include “Up, Up and Away” (The Fifth Dimension), “MacArthur Park” (Richard Harris, Waylon Jennings, Donna Summer), “All I Know” (Art Garfunkel), and “Highwayman” (The Highwaymen). Other artists who have recorded and/or performed his songs include Linda Ronstadt, Barbra Streisand, and Frank Sinatra. Webb has also released his own wonderful albums over the years, most recently 2013’s Still Within the Sound of My Voice.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Webb and Karla Bonoff at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/21/14. (Jessica Walker photo)
Karla Bonoff is arguably best known for having several of her songs covered by Linda Ronstadt, including “Someone to Lay Down Beside Me,” “Lose Again” and “If He’s Ever Near” from Ronstadt’s 1976 album Hasten Down The Wind. But to call Bonoff a “songwriter” doesn’t do justice to the fact that she has also released her own wonderful albums over the years, including her 1977 self-titled debut that included the aforementioned songs and had quite a cast of supporting musicians, plus the hit song “Personally”. Before her solo career, she was a member of the folk-rock group Bryndle.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by Bonoff and Jimmy Webb at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 6/7/14. It was done by phone on 5/20/14.
The Beatles invaded America fifty years ago, and The Animals weren’t far behind, with their definitive version of “House of the Rising Sun” spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1964. Other hits followed for The Animals, including “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place”, with the only constant bandmember during their 1960’s run being singer Eric Burdon.
After The Animals disbanded, Burdon continued to make great music, with War (“Spill the Wine”) and in a notable solo career. His latest album, 2013’s ‘Til Your River Runs Dry, shows that he’s still got it as a seventy-something.
This interview was for a preview article for Burdon’s birthday performance on 5/17/14 at the Libbey Bowl in his current hometown of Ojai, California.
(Marianna Burdon photo)
Husband-and-wife songwriting team Alan and Marilyn Bergman have been nominated for an incredible 16 Academy Awards, winning twice for Best Song (“The Windmills of Your Mind” and “The Way We Were”) and once for Best Original Score (“Yentl”).
Other notable songs that they co-wrote include more for the big screen (“In the Heat of the Night”, “How Do you Keep the Music Playing”, and “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”), some for the small screen (the theme songs to the TV shows “Good Times” and “Maude”), and other musical gems (“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”, “Nice ‘n’ Easy”).
This interview was for a preview article for Alan’s 5/17/14 performance at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara.
Bill Frisell is an acclaimed, eclectic jazz guitarist whose playing has graced a number of solo recordings including the Grammy Award winning album Unspeakable, plus many recordings for the jazz label ECM Records where he served as “house guitarist”, and with the band Naked City with John Zorn.
This interview was for a preview article for Frisell’s 5/16/14 concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, a concert focused on the music of John Lennon, which inspired a Beatles-related focus to the interview.
Review of The National and Portugal. The Man at the Santa Barbara Bowl, 4/25/14.
Mike Campbell is the lead guitarist for Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, and is known for tastefully playing exactly what the songs call for – no more, no less. You’ve no doubt heard him on a number of Tom Petty songs, some of which he co-wrote including “Refugee”, “Here Comes My Girl”, “You Got Lucky”, and “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ latest album, Hypnotic Eye, will be released in summer 2014.
On the side, Campbell is the frontman for The Dirty Knobs, which plays lots of cool cover songs by the likes of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, and JJ Cale, plus plenty of amusing obscurities and original songs.
This interview was done by phone on 4/9/14, and was for a preview article for the 4/18/14 concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara by The Dirty Knobs (L. Paul Mann photo).
Review of Rock Against MS at the Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood, 3/26/14.
Dishwalla is best known for their alt-rock hit “Counting Blue Cars” – you might remember it from the lyrics “Tell me all your thoughts on God / ‘Cause I would really like to meet her”. This was off their 1995 debut album Pet Your Friends, which sold over a million copies. They released several more albums over the next decade.
Dishwalla’s drummer, George Pendergast, is also the co-founder of the Rockshop Academy, which has been fostering Santa Barbara’s next generation of aspiring musicians since 2009 through afterschool sessions, summer camps, and more. This interview, done by email with answers received on 3/24/14, was for a preview article for the 4/5/14 benefit concert for Santa Barbara teen Sam Osterhage. Be sure to join the Team Samo Facebook page for updates on how Sam is doing, and information on ways to contribute to his health expenses.