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.
Photos of 2nd Annual Rock Against MS, Whisky A Go Go, West Hollywood, 3/26/14. (L. Paul Mann photos, copyrighted and all rights reserved)
Con Bro Chill‘s publicist describes the band as “LMFAO meets Cobra Starship”, and even if that doesn’t mean anything to you, you owe it to yourself to check out their infectious music and hilarious videos. Start with their latest, “Partied Out” or “We Should Hang Out”.
This interview was done by email for a preview article for their concert at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on 3/6/14. The answers, from frontman Connor Martin with a little help from his brother and bandmate Sam, were received on 3/3/14.
Guitarist Jeremy Spencer was one of the original members of Fleetwood Mac, bringing a style heavily influenced by Elmore James that complemented the fretwork by the band’s other guitarists Peter Green and, later, Danny Kirwan. Spencer’s recorded contributions to Fleetwood Mac albums included their self-titled debut, Mr. Wonderful, Kiln House, and various compilations from that period. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 for his role in Fleetwood Mac.
While on tour in Los Angeles with Fleetwood Mac in 1971, Spencer disappeared before a gig, and several days later it was discovered that he had joined the religious group Children of God. Since then, he has remained devoted to this organization, which is now known as The Family International.
Spencer had planned to tour the United States for the first time in 43 years, in support of a new album Coventry Blue, but had to cancel at the last minute reportedly because of illness. This interview was for a preview article for the scheduled show in Santa Barbara on 2/16/14; although the show was canceled, we believe that the interview is still of interest. It was conducted by email, with answers received on 2/6/14.
Pat Metheny brings brilliant technique, versatility, innovation, and overall musicality to his playing and his compositions, making him one of the most accomplished jazz guitarists out there. Up to this point, he has received an astounding twenty Grammy awards, most recently 2013’s Best Jazz Instrumental Album award for the album United Band, which also features the talents of Chris Potter (saxophone), Ben Williams (bass), and Antonio Sanchez (drums). Just a few weeks ago, the Pat Metheny Unity Group (the United Band members plus multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi) released the album Kin (←→), which debuted at Number One on the Billboard Jazz Chart.
Metheny has also collaborated with a diverse set of artists, including Jim Hall, Chick Corea, John Scofield, Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, Joni Mitchell, and Derek Bailey.
The following was for a preview article for the Pat Metheny Unity Group concert at the Lobero Theatre on 2/26/14. It was done by email, with answered received on 1/23/14.
Review of Gardens & Villa at SOhO (2/8/14), Chris Thile at the Lobero Theatre (2/11/14), Matisyahu at Velvet Jones (2/12/14), and Richie Furay and Jim Messina at the Lobero Theatre (2/15/14).
Review of Alan Parsons talking about working with The Beatles, plus screening of first appearance of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, 2/9/14, Carpinteria Plaza Playhouse Theater.
Those of us who like to read the liner notes to musical releases often see the same names popping up over and over. Such is the case with the legendary jazz drummer Jack DeJohnette, whose credits include seminal albums with Charles Lloyd (Forest Flower) and Miles Davis (Bitches Brew), and who has also worked with the likes of Bill Evans, Sonny Rollins, Keith Jarrett, and Chick Corea in addition to leading his own bands over the years.
This interview was for a preview article for the 2/18/14 show at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara by The Spring Quartet, which also features the talents of Joe Lovano (saxophone), Esperanza Spalding (bass, vocals), and Leo Genovese (piano). It was done by phone on 1/24/14.
Jim Messina is best known for the duo Loggins & Messina, which gave us songs like “Danny’s Song”, “House at Pooh Corner”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”. But by the time he and Kenny Loggins got together, he had already acquired quite an impressive musical resume, including the following highlights. He was the recording engineer for the album Buffalo Springfield Again, which ultimately led to him joining the band and producing their final album Last Time Around. Then, with Richie Furay from Buffalo Springfield, he co-founded the seminal country-rock band Poco, whose classic first albums he also produced. Next up was Loggins & Messina, which has been described as the most successful pop/rock duo in the first half of the 1970’s.
This interview was for a preview article for his 2/15/14 concert with Richie Furay at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 2/7/14.
The Santa Barbara-based band Gardens & Villa has taken off in the American Riviera and beyond with their intelligent synth-driven indie pop. Career highlights so far include their acclaimed 2011 self-titled album and a coveted spot at the Mojave Tent at Coachella in 2012. Their second album, Dunes, will be released on February 4, 2014. The band’s lead singer, Chris Lynch, answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 1/30/14. This was for a preview article for Gardens & Villa’s performance at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 2/8/14.
John Batdorf has worn many musical hats over his career. In the 1970’s, he was part of the acoustic rock duo Batdorf & Rodney, which released three albums and toured with some of the era’s biggest names. He went on to write commercials and music for television shows, and has in the last few years has returned to releasing material under his own name, most recently the album Soundtrax 2 Recovery with Michael McLean.
This interview was for a preview article for Batdorf’s concert in Goleta, California on 2/8/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/20/14.
Guitarist/vocalist Paul Barrere joined the legendary band Little Feat in time for their classic 1973 album Dixie Chicken. Other acclaimed Little Feat albums followed, including Feats Don’t Fail Me Now and Waiting for Columbus, but things came to a halt when bandleader Lowell George passed away in 1979. Little Feat, including Barrere, returned with 1988’s album Let It Roll, and most recently released the album Rooster Rag.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert by Barrere and fellow Little Feat bandmember Fred Tackett on 1/31/14 for The Rhythmic Arts Program (TRAP), an educational program founded by drummer Eddie Tuduri that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing, arithmetic, and life skills for children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/23/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Kevin Barnes is the mastermind behind the indie pop band of Montreal, which got its start as part of the Elephant 6 collective that spawned other notable bands including Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and The Apples in Stereo. The latest addition to the band’s diverse catalog is last year’s Lousy With Sylvianbrian, which tilts in a more straightforward rock direction, making it arguably one of the band’s most accessible recordings.
This interview was done by phone on 1/9/14, and was for a preview article for the of Montreal show at The HUB at the University of California, Santa Barbara on 1/24/14.
Merle Allin is the bass player for the Murder Junkies, a punk rock band best known as the last group to back Merle’s younger brother GG Allin, who died of a heroin overdose in 1993. With GG, they recorded the album Brutality and Bloodshed for All, and toured whenever GG wasn’t in prison. A snapshot of the feces- and violence-filled chaos brought on by GG Allin & the Murder Junkies is captured in the acclaimed documentary Hated, which isn’t for the light hearted.
In the post-GG era, the Murder Junkies have continued their punk rock mayhem with 1995’s Feed My Sleaze, 2011’s Road Killer, and 2013’s A Killing Tradition. This interview was done by phone on 1/9/14 for a preview article for the Murder Junkies show at Muddy Waters Cafe in Santa Barbara on 1/16/14. Merle had just arrived in Las Vegas for a gig that night.
The following is a list of some of the notable musicians who passed away in 2013, including a few who performed in the Santa Barbara area in recent years. Some are well-known, many are not, but all are worthy of our respect. R.I.P. — Rock In Peace.
Dick Dale is known as the King of the Surf Guitar, and for good reason. He basically invented the surf music genre with his reverb-drenched distorted-Fender-Strat-through-Fender-amps gloriously-glissandoing staccato-picked guitar instrumentals.
Dale had his first heyday in the early 1960’s in Southern California, and roared back into popular consciousness when his signature song “Miserlou” was used to great effect in the 1994 movie Pulp Fiction. Now in his seventies, Dale still has the fire that he showed in his early recordings, and gives awe-inspiring concerts like the one from 2009 reviewed here.
The following interview was for a preview article for Dale’s scheduled concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 11/10/13, which unfortunately was canceled. But the interview is still worth reading. As you’ll see, it turned out not to be a standard Q&A; instead, after a shaky start on the part of the interviewer, Dale spoke at length about his life in music and beyond. This was done by phone on 10/16/13.
DJ Bonebrake is the drummer for the band X, whose 1980 debut album Los Angeles was produced by Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and ranks as one of the best punk albums of all time. This was followed by other acclaimed X albums. He was also a member of The Knitters, Auntie Christ, and The Flesheaters, and currently drums for a number of other bands.
This interview was for a preview article for the X concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 12/5/13. It was done by phone on 11/26/13, except for the “advice” question which was asked in person on 11/8/13 (L. Paul Mann photo)
Review of Brian Setzer Orchestra, 12/19/13, Chumash Casino, Santa Ynez.
Singer Mike Muir has been the only constant member of the band Suicidal Tendencies during its three decade existence. The band started out as a SoCal hardcore punk rock band featuring an aggressive sound and Muir’s raging lyrics that resonated with the era’s disaffected youth. Along the way, the band gained notoriety from frequent violence at their shows and alleged gang affiliations, later denied by Muir.
Suicidal Tendencies’ first, self-titled album came out in 1983, and the song “Institutionalized” received significant airplay on MTV, the first hardcore punk rock song to do so. Over time, Suicidal Tendencies evolved in a thrash metal direction, but they always retained a connection with their hardcore roots. Their latest album, 13, was released in March.
Muir is also the singer for the funk metal band Infectious Grooves, and has released solo albums as Cyco Miko.
This interview was done by phone on 12/16/13, and was used for a preview article for the Suicidal Tendencies show on 12/21/13 at the Majestic Ventura Theater.
Photos of Jeff Tweedy at the Granada Theatre, Santa Barbara 12/13/13, with opener Scott McCaughey. (L. Paul Mann photos, copyrighted and all rights reserved)
Review of Notes For Notes Benefit Concert, 12/6/13, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara. With Slash, Robert Randolph, Alan Parsons, Don Felder, and more.
When Jackson Browne assembled the band for his 1977 landmark live album Running on Empty, he chose some of the best musicians in the business. For backing vocals he chose Rosemary Butler. The rest, as they say, is history.
By that point, Butler already had a notable career in music. She was in the all-female band the Ladybirds, which opened for The Rolling Stones in 1964. She later joined the all-female hard rock band Birtha, which released two albums in the early 1970′s. And she had sung backing vocals for Bonnie Raitt and Warren Zevon. She went on to sing backing vocals for many other notable artists including Linda Ronstadt, Ringo Starr, James Taylor, Little Feat, and many more. Butler just released a new album You Just Watch Me.
This interview was done by email for a preview article for her concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 12/1/13, with answers received on Thanksgiving Day, 11/28/13. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Review of Bonnie Bramlett with Rosemary Butler, Tata Vega, Carl Graves, Eddie Tuduri, Edward James Olmos, and more, 9/28/12, Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara.
Review of the Meat Puppets 11/8/13, Quasi 11/14/13, and Bill Callahan, 11/15/13, all at SOhO, Santa Barbara.
Photos of Quasi at SOhO, Santa Barbara 11/14/13. (L. Paul Mann photos, copyrighted and all rights reserved)