In singer/songwriter Freedy Johnston’s hometown of Kinsley, Kansas, there’s a sign which says that it’s 1,561 miles to New York City and to San Francisco. In pursuit of a career in music he took the first option, eventually selling part of his family’s farmland in Kansas to finance his acclaimed second album, 1992’s Can You Fly. A couple years later he released This Perfect World, which featured the single “Bad Reputation” and resulted in him being named songwriter of the year in 1995 by Rolling Stone magazine, ahead of some guy named Kurt Cobain. Other well-regarded albums followed, most recently this year’s Neon Repairman.
This interview was for a preview article for Johnston’s 8/15/15 concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by email, with answers received on 8/6/15. (Dina Regine photo)
By combining it with dubstep and dancing, Lindsey Stirling has shown that violin playing doesn’t have to be stuffy and stodgy. And there’s a lot of people that like what she’s doing, with her YouTube videos regularly receiving tens or even hundreds of millions of views – for example, check out her video for “Crystallize”. She has also released two acclaimed albums, and will be starting on her third one very soon.
This interview with Stirling was for a preview article for Stirling’s 8/15/15 concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl. It was done by phone on 7/24/15. (Photo from lindseystirling.com)
The Cowsills were the family band who served as the real-life inspiration for The Partridge Family. Their hit songs included “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” (think “I love the flower girl”), “Indian Lake”, and “Hair”, and they made multiple appearances on TV shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Johnny Cash Show. Today’s Cowsills consist of siblings Bob, Paul, and Susan.
This interview was for a preview article for the Happy Together Tour concert at the Chumash Casino on 7/23/15, which also includes The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie, The Buckinghams, The Association, The Grass Roots, and Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was done by phone on 7/10/15.
Eddie Money’s musical career launched with his 1977 debut album, bringing us the timeless hits “Baby Hold On” and “Two Tickets to Paradise”. And thanks in part to his clever videos on MTV, the next decade gave Money even more hit songs including “Think I’m in Love”, “Shakin'”, and “Take Me Home Tonight”. At 66 years young he’s still out there touring, presently with three of his children.
The following mile-a-minute interview was for a preview article for 7/15/15 concert at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria. It was done by phone on 7/10/15.
There are only a handful of bands/artists that performed at both the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Ravi Shankar, David Crosby (in The Byrds and filling in for Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield at Monterey, then in CSN at Woodstock), Stephen Stills (in Buffalo Springfield at Monterey, then in CSN at Woodstock), and Canned Heat.
Larry “The Mole” Taylor played bass for Canned Heat during their prime years, including at Monterey, at Woodstock, and for the hits “Go Up the Country” and “On the Road Again”. He has also had a fascinating musical history outside of Canned Heat, having played on early surf rock recordings by The Gamblers, as a session bassist for The Monkees, with John Mayall, with Tom Waits, and much, much more.
This interview was for a preview article for the Canned Heat concert on 7/10/15 at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 6/29/15.
David Lowery is the singer and co-founder – along with Johnny Hickman – of the alt-rock band Cracker, whose well-known early 90’s songs include “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, “Low”, and “Euro-Trash Girl”. In 2014, the band released its 9th studio album, Berkeley to Bakersfield, with the Berkeley disc featuring the band’s original line-up for the first time in ages and drawing on their punk rock influences, and the Bakersfield disc in a California country vein.
Lowery is also a founding and continuous member of the eclectic alternative rock band Camper Van Beethoven, to which he contributes vocals and guitar. Camper Van Beethoven’s first album, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, came out in 1985, and includes such classic songs as “The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon”, “Where the Hell is Bill?”, the Black Flag cover “Wasted”, and “Take the Skinheads Bowling”. They released four more acclaimed albums before burning out, the independently-released II & III and self-titled Camper Van Beethoven, and the major-label albums Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and Key Lime Pie. The band reformed at the end of the end of the 1990’s, and has released several more albums.
This interview was for a preview article for Cracker’s concert at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo on 7/6/15. It was done by phone on 6/25/15.
Released in 1981 and clocking in at under a half hour, the debut album by The Adolescents – affectionately known as “The Blue Album” – helped to lay the groundwork for the emerging Southern California hardcore and skate punk scene. The teenage band that recorded The Blue Album didn’t stay together for long, but their influence was felt strongly in SoCal and beyond. Several reunions and albums followed, and although their ages are no longer in the adolescent range, The Adolescents continue to record and tour. Today’s band includes original singer Tony Cadena and bassist Steve Soto, who was also in the original incarnation of Agent Orange.
This interview was for a preview article for the concert by The Adolescents and The Weirdos at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara on 7/9/15. It was done by email, with answers received on 6/24/15.
Singer Peter Murphy is often called the “Godfather of Goth”, and although he doesn’t seem to like that label it is undeniable that his singing helped to make the Bauhaus song “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” one of the seminal songs of the goth rock genre. Other notable Bauhaus songs from their first active period of 1978-1983 include “Dark Entries”, “Terror Couple Kill Colonel”, “She’s in Parties”, and a smoking cover of David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust”.
After Bauhaus folded and the short-lived band Dali’s Car, Murphy launched a solo career that has brought us songs including “Cuts You Up” and “The Sweetest Drop”. His latest album, 2014’s Lion, came out of sessions with Killing Joke’s Martin “Youth” Glover.
This interview was done by Skype on 6/5/15 – fittingly, Murphy was speaking from a cafe in Istanbul during a storm – and was for a preview article for his 6/13/15 concert at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo.
There’s an element of truth to Wayne Campbell’s declaration in the movie Wayne’s World 2 that “Everybody in the world has Frampton Comes Alive! If you lived in the suburbs you were issued it. It came in the mail with samples of Tide.”
Frampton Comes Alive! was the smash live double album released by Peter Frampton in 1976, which sold millions of copies and established him as a superstar. And while that album was the high point of his career, he has also had other notable successes – before “coming alive”, he had hit songs with The Herd (the UK hit “I Don’t Want Our Loving to Die”) and Humble Pie (“Natural Born Bugie”, “I Don’t Need No Doctor”), and afterwards he released the Grammy Award winning instrumental album Fingerprints and has been on many successful tours, including the Frampton Comes Alive! 35 tour that stopped at the Santa Barbara Bowl in 2011.
This interview was for Frampton’s concert on 6/7/15 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara for the 5th Annual Notes For Notes Benefit Concert. Notes For Notes has the admirable mission of providing musical instruments, instruction, and facilities to young musicians. It was done by phone on 5/15/15. (L. Paul Mann photo)
The music of The Waterboys has evolved over the years, from their early-80’s “Big Music” era which gave us the hit song “The Whole of the Moon”, to the later-80’s Irish/Scottish Raggle Taggle band era which recorded the acclaimed Fisherman’s Blues album, to later visits to various points on the Celtic-folk-rock spectrum. The one constant throughout the band’s history is singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Mike Scott, who poetic lyrics and willingness to explore different musical styles has always kept things interesting.
This interview was for a preview article for the 5/16/15 concert by The Waterboys at the Majestic Ventura Theater. It was done by email, with answers received on 4/29/15. (Dara Munnis photo)
Herb Pedersen has contributed his instrumental and vocal talents to recordings and performances by a wide range of artists over the years, including John Denver, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, and many, many more. His band memberships have included bluegrass powerhouse The Dillards in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and the Desert Rose Band with ex-Byrd / ex-Flying Burrito Brother Chris Hillman.
This interview was for a preview article for the 5/3/15 performance by Hillman and Pedersen at the Plaza Playhouse Theater in Carpinteria, California. It was done by phone on 4/22/15.
Folk music icon Janis Ian first made her mark with the hit song “Society’s Child” about the challenges facing an interracial couple. Remarkably, this was written when she was only 14 years old, and became a hit in 1967 after it was featured on a TV special hosted by Leonard Bernstein. An even bigger hit for Ian came in 1975 with “At Seventeen”, a song about not fitting in that almost anyone who was a teenager can relate to. Other acclaimed recordings have appeared over the years.
This interview was for a preview article for her concert on 4/29/15 at the Maverick Saloon as part of the Tales From the Tavern concert series. It was done by phone on 4/15/15. (Lloyd Baggs photo)
If you’re a parent, you know that a lot of children’s music gets old much more quickly than your kids do. But thankfully there are some children’s music artists that keep the kids happy while keeping the parents sane. One such artist is Laurie Berkner, who has been singing about dinosaurs, doodlebugs, chickens, bumblebees, songs in tummies, and the like since the 1990’s, with songs full of clever lyrics and catchy melodies. She has also branched out into videos, books, and musicals, and also makes many TV appearances.
This interview was for a preview article for Berkner’s concert on 4/19/15 at Campbell Hall at UC Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 3/25/15. (Steve Vaccariello photo)
Multi-instrumentalist Fred Tackett officially became a member of Little Feat in 1988, but he had worked as a session player on earlier albums by the band including the classic album Dixie Chicken.
But that was far from his only gig – Tackett has also recorded with an amazing collection of notable artists including Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Jackson Browne, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Kris Kristofferson, Barbra Streisand, Bonnie Raitt, Lionel Richie, Joan Baez, Jimmy Webb, The Allman Brothers Band, The Carpenters, Tom Waits, Rickie Lee Jones, Curtis Mayfield, Kenny Loggins, The 5th Dimension, Johnny Rivers, Van Dyke Parks, Bob Seger, Carly Simon, Harry Nilsson, and more.
This interview was for a preview article for a benefit concert for Safety Harbor Kids on 4/18/15 at the Lobero Theatre by Tackett and fellow Little Feat guitarist Paul Barrere. It was done by phone on 3/26/15. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Maria Muldaur has had an amazing musical journey, from her early days as part of the 1960’s jug band revival, to solo stardom in the 1970’s with her sultry hit “Midnight at the Oasis”, to membership in the Jerry Garcia Band and many guest appearances with other artists, to her ongoing explorations of the blues.
This interview was for a preview article for Maria’s concert at the Ventura Beach Club in Ventura on 3/20/15 – tickets are available here. It was done by phone on 3/15/15, with Maria full of energy – “I’m all caffeinated up!” – and insight while talking about the upcoming show and her life in music.
Preview of Rock Against MS Benefit Concert at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, 3/4/15.
Review of Kansas: Miracles Out Of Nowhere documentary at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival at the Lobero Theatre, 2/2/15.
Eleanor Friedberger first made her mark singing in the quirky, eclectic indie rock band The Fiery Furnaces, a duo with her older brother Matthew formed in 2000. After seven always-interesting albums that explored a variety of musical styles and ideas, The Fiery Furnaces went on hiatus in 2011. Since then, Friedberger has released two solo albums with clever, thoughtful lyrics and a wonderful indie pop sound, and another solo album is in the works.
This interview was for a preview article for Friedberger’s concert at Velvet Jones on 2/28/15. It was done by phone on 2/12/15.
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 two original members: Phil Ehart on drums and Richard Williams on guitar. This interview with Ehart was for an article on the documentary film Kansas: Miracles Out Of Nowhere that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on 2/2/15. It was done by Skype on 2/14/15.
Singer/songwriter Nell Robinson’s latest CD, Rose of No-Man’s Land, is inspired by her family’s rich family history, particularly their involvement with every major American war dating back to the Revolutionary War and reaching up through modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The album weaves stories and songs together into a multi-faceted exploration of war and its impact, with guest contributions by Kris Kristofferson, John Doe, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
This interview was for a preview article for Robinson’s show on 2/13/15 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, with special guest Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. It was done by phone on 1/28/15.
Milo Greene is a band blessed with four lead singers and songwriters – Robbie Arnett, Graham Fink, Andrew Heringer, and Marlana Sheetz. Their self-titled debut album came out in 2012, and featured folk-pop songs with plenty of beautiful harmonies. Their second album, Control, expands their sound into a brighter, more rhythmic (and danceable) direction.
This interview with Robbie Arnett was for a preview article for the Milo Greene concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 2/10/15. It was done by email, with answers received on 2/6/15.
Brenda Russell has had a long, notable career as a singer and a songwriter. She is best known for the songs “Piano in the Dark”, which was a hit for herself in 1988, and “Get Here”, which was a hit for Oleta Adams in 1991. Other songs by Brenda include “If Only For One Night”, which was a hit in 1985 for Luther Vandross, and “She Walks This Earth (Soberana Rosa)”, for which Sting won a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2000. She was also nominated along with Allee Willis and Stephen Bray for a Tony Award for Best Original Score the Broadway musical The Color Purple.
Her songs have also reached the next generation through samples by Flo Rida (who samples “Piano in the Dark” for “I Cry”) and Kayne West (who samples “Think About You” by Brian and Brenda Russell for “See Me Now”).
This interview was for a preview article for a concert in support of The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP) on 2/6/15. It was done by phone on 1/23/15.
For over four decades, one of the best ways to “get your motor running” when you’re “looking for adventure” is to crank up “Born to Be Wild” on the stereo, the timeless first hit single from the band Steppenwolf. The voice that calls you to action in that song is that of singer John Kay. Steppenwolf went on to have other hits in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, including “Magic Carpet Ride” and “Rock Me”, and their music has been used in seemingly countless movies and TV shows starting with Easy Rider, which featured “Born to Be Wild” and “The Pusher”. The band broke up in 1972, but has been active off and on since then in various incarnations.
In addition to musical pursuits, Kay and his wife Jutta devote much of their energy these days to the Maue Kay Foundation, which works to protect wildlife, the environment, and human rights.
This interview is for John Kay’s concert on 1/30/15 at SOhO in Santa Barbara; also performing is The Dirty Knobs, a band which features Tom Petty’s longtime guitarist Mike Campbell. (An earlier interview with Mike Campbell is here.) It was done by phone on 1/15/15. (Jutta Maue-Kay photo)
Patti Smith and her band first rocked the world forty years ago with her fusion of poetry and primitive three-chord rock. Their 1975 debut Horses is regularly ranked as one of the most influential rock and roll albums of all time, and Smith went on to release other acclaimed albums – and to continue to thrill audiences – throughout the decades, all the while growing as an artist.
Smith’s secret weapon throughout most of her musical journey has been guitarist Lenny Kaye, who provided accompaniment at her first public poetry reading in 1971, was in Smith’s band during her 1970’s heyday, and rejoined when Smith returned to action in the mid-1990’s. In a parallel life, Kaye also put together the well-regarded Nuggets compilation which rescued a smokin’ set of 1960’s garage rock gems from obscurity.
This interview with Lenny Kaye was for a preview article for the Patti Smith concert on 1/27/15 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 1/22/15.
Paul Williams has had an amazingly fruitful career as a singer, songwriter, actor, and author.
Williams’ songs include “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Rainy Days and Mondays” (best known as hits for The Carpenters), “Rainbow Connection” (sung by Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie), “Evergreen” (sung by Barbra Streisand in A Star Is Born, a winner of an Oscar for Best Original Song), “An Old Fashioned Love Song” and “Out in the Country” (hits for Three Dog Night), “You and Me Against the World” (a hit for Helen Reddy), and “Fill Your Heart” (covered by David Bowie). More recently, he co-wrote two songs for Daft Punk’s 2013 album Random Access Memories.
His acting roles include parts in Smokey and the Bandit and Phantom of the Paradise; he co-scored the latter, and also did the music for the film Bugsy Malone and the aforementioned The Muppet Movie and A Star is Born. He also made multiple TV appearances during the 1970’s on shows such as The Tonight Show.
Williams is currently the President and Chairman of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), and is a notable recovery advocate, co-authoring the book Gratitude and Trust.
This interview was for a preview article for his curation of The Elmer Bernstein Memorial Film Series at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara, with a focus on the movie The Great Escape which screened 1/26/15. It was done by phone on 1/7/15.
By any measure, Kenny Loggins has had an amazing career in music. Early success came from his partnership with Jim Messina as the duo Loggins & Messina, which gave us songs including “Danny’s Song”, “House at Pooh Corner”, and “Your Mama Don’t Dance”.
Loggins went on to become the King of the Movie Soundtrack with songs like “I’m Alright” (from Caddyshack), “Footloose” (from Footloose), “Danger Zone” (from Top Gun), “Meet Me Half Way” (from Over the Top), and “Nobody’s Fool” (from Caddyshack II). He also co-wrote the hits “This Is It” and “What a Fool Believes” with Michael McDonald, and had other hits including “Whenever I Call You ‘Friend'” with Stevie Nicks and “Don’t Fight It” with Steve Perry.
This interview was for a preview article for a concert by Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald on 1/18/15 at SOhO in Santa Barbara. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/13/15.
Guitar legend Kim Simmonds founded British blues rock band Savoy Brown 50 years ago, and has been the only continuous member throughout the band’s notable career and frequent line-up changes.
The first Savoy Brown album Shake Down came out in 1967, and is credited with helping to spark the British Blues Boom with its covers of songs by the likes of Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker. The band’s later releases mixed up covers with smokin’ originals, with classic albums including 1970’s Raw Sienna and Looking In, and 1971’s Street Corner Talking. Their most recent release is 2014’s Goin’ to the Delta, which shows that in Simmonds’ hands the blues are still alive and well.
This interview was for the Kim Simmonds & Savoy Brown shows at the Ventura Beach Club in Ventura on 1/16/15 and at SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo on 1/22/15. It was done by email, with answers received on 1/13/15.
Multi-instrumentalist David Lindley’s musical resume is simply incredible. He was a key member of the 1960’s eclectic psychedelic band Kaleidoscope, which was described by Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page as “my favorite band of all time – my ideal band.” He is arguably best known for his fretwork for Jackson Browne – for example, on the classic albums Late for the Sky and Running on Empty – and he also contributed to music by David Crosby and Graham Nash as part of The Mighty Jitters band, Warren Zevon, Linda Ronstadt and many, many others. Somehow he also found time for his own project, El Rayo-X, in the 1980s.
When you hear Lindley in concert, it’s easy to get the impression that he could pick up any stringed instrument – a saz baglama, a bouzouki, an oud, or a plain old guitar – and his magical fingers would make it sound great. And while he is best known for playing with other artists, his amazing talent particularly shines through when he is on his own.
This interview was done for a preview article for Lindley’s solo concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 1/16/15. It was done by phone on 1/9/16.
A tribute to the famous and not-so-famous musicians who passed away last year
The following is a list of some of the notable musicians who passed away in 2014, 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.
Handsome Dick Manitoba is the singer for The Dictators, now known as The Dictators NYC, a seminal New York City proto-punk rock band whose huge influence was sadly never matched by huge record sales. The band’s first album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!, released in 1975, is a brilliant mix of irreverent lyrics and youthful energy. Two more albums followed – 1977’s Manifest Destiny and 1978’s Bloodbrothers. Their last studio album was 2001’s D.F.F.D. (“Dictators Forever Forever Dictators”), which is arguably their strongest album after their debut.
The Dictators NYC are headlining the mini-fest of almost a dozen bands at Billy O’s in Ventura on Sunday, January 11. This interview with Handsome Dick Manitoba was done by email, with answers received on 1/5/15. (GravelRoad76 photo)
Bill Champlin first made his mark in The Sons of Champlin, a San Francisco band which created a heady, horn-driven mix of R&B and psychedelia. Their 1969 album Loosen Up Naturally is considered by many to be a lost classic. The band continued into the 1970’s, reunited in the late 1990’s as a live band, and released a couple of albums of in the 2000’s.
Champlin also did session work with a number of artists during the 1970’s and 1980’s, including Patti LaBelle, Lou Rawls, Elton John, Boz Scaggs, Donna Summer, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Jimmy Smith, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond and Kenny Rogers. He co-wrote “After the Love Has Gone”, a hit for Earth, Wind & Fire, and “Turn Your Love Around”, a hit for George Benson, and sang the theme song for the TV Show “In the Heat of the Night”.
Finally, for nearly three decades Champlin was a member of the band Chicago, joining in time for the album Chicago 16. He shared lead vocals on the hit “Hard Habit to Break”, and sang the vocals on “Look Away”, Chicago’s first Number One song after Peter Cetera left the band. He left Chicago in 2008 to focus on his solo career.
This interview was for a concert by The Songs of Champlin on 1/3/15 at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, a show co-billed with his son Will Champlin. It was done by phone on 1/12/14. And if you haven’t heard The Sons of Champlin before or just need a refresher, the first song “1982-A” from their classic 1969 album Loosen Up Naturally is a good place to start – click here.
Johnny Hickman is the lead guitarist and co-founder – along with David Lowery – of the alt-rock band Cracker, whose well-known early 90’s songs include “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)”, “Low”, and “Euro-Trash Girl”. Earlier this month the band released its 9th studio album, the very fine Berkeley to Bakersfield, with the Berkeley disc featuring the band’s original line-up for the first time in ages and drawing on their punk rock influences, and the Bakersfield disc in a California country vein.
This interview was for the 12/29/14 concert by Cracker at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, with Lowery’s previous band Camper Van Beethoven also on the bill. It was done by email, with answers received on 12/25/14. (Brenda Yamen photo)
Willie Watson co-founded Old Crow Medicine Show, a band known for blending traditional folk and bluegrass sounds with rock and roll energy. While busking on the street in North Carolina, the band caught the attention of bluegrass legend Doc Watson, which led to appearances at the Grand Ole Opry and other high-profile gigs. Their career took off with the release of the album O.C.M.S., which was released in 2004. Several more albums followed before Watson left the band in 2011.
Watson’s debut solo album Folk Singer Vol. 1 was released in 2014, featuring his revivalist treatments of various folk songs of yesteryear. He has also been touring with the Dave Rawlings Machine, whose namesake produced Folk Singer Vol. 1 and two early Old Crow Medicine Show albums.
This interview was for a solo show by Willie Watson at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 12/18/14. It was done by email, with answers received on 12/16/14. (Photo by monkeybird)
In 1977, while Fleetwood Mac was spreading Rumours, Jackson Browne was Running on Empty, and Eric Clapton had a Slowhand, musicians with an edgier aesthetic were taking a different path, the path of punk rock.
That year, a group of such musicians in Los Angeles formed The Dickies, who by now are one of the longest-running punk rock bands that ever was. The Dickies’ first release was a 1978 single featuring a hyper-speed cover Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, and other early singles included covers of the children’s TV show theme song “Banana Splits (Tra La La Song)” and The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”.
In addition to their masterful punk rock interpretations of others’ material, The Dickies also wrote loads of smokin’ originals, often with twistedly amusing lyrics and themes. Their classic albums are usually considered to be The Incredible Shrinking Dickies and the follow-up Dawn of The Dickies, both released in 1979, but that’s not the end of their story, with various additional releases by the band over the years.
This interview with founding guitarist Stan Lee was for the Dickies concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 12/12/14, for which they shared the bill with Pennywise. It was done by email, with answers received in the early morning hours of 12/6/14.
Tower of Power’s axis – Emilio Castillo (tenor sax) and Stephen ‘Doc’ Kupka (baritone sax) – first joined forces way back in 1968. The band’s debut album East Bay Grease was released in 1970, and notable follow-ups were 1972’s Bump City, 1973’s Tower of Power, and 1974’s Back to Oakland. Castillo and Kupka co-wrote most of the band’s songs including funk workouts like “What Is Hip?” and “You Got to Funkifize”, and soulful ballads like “Time Will Tell” and “So Very Hard to Go”. In addition to giving us their own hits, the Tower of Power horn section has appeared on recordings by numerous artists over the years, including Little Feat, Elton John, Huey Lewis and the News, Aerosmith, and many others.
This interview with Emilio Castillo was for a preview article for Tower of Power’s concert at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on 12/6/14. It was done by phone on 11/26/14.
Singer Chris Robinson and The Black Crowes seemed a bit of an anachronism when they burst onto the music scene nearly twenty-five years ago, when hair bands were on the verge of being swallowed up by grunge, and the Crowes being in neither camp. Their sound instead was reminiscent of the Faces, or Exile on Main Street-era Rolling Stones, but with a dose of soulful Southern attitude. Their first album Shake Your Money Maker featured songs such as “Jealous Again”, “She Talks To Angels”, “Twice as Hard”, and a smoking cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle”. They went on to release other well-regarded albums over the next two decades, and built a reputation as a solid live act.
When the Chris Robinson Brotherhood (CRB) came along in 2011 during a Black Crowes hiatus – here’s a review of one of the first CRB shows – it wasn’t clear what the future held. Fast-forwarding to the present, it’s safe to say that the CRB is where Robinson’s heart and soul is at. The band now has three albums out, most recently this year’s Phosphorescent Harvest, and they’re still doing what they arguably do best – playing live shows full of cool original and cover tunes.
This interview was for a preview article for the CRB’s concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on 11/29/14. It was done by phone on 11/14/14. (L. Paul Mann photo)
Christopher Cross is best-known for his Grammy Award winning song “Sailing”, the Oscar winning song “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” co-written with Burt Bacharach and others, and his hit “Ride Like the Wind”, all of which came within a short span at the beginning of the 1980’s. In fact, in 1980 he won Grammys for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist, a feat that has not ever been duplicated.
While he wasn’t able to maintain that incredible initial string of success, Cross has continued to release new music since that time, most recently his well-received new album Secret Ladder. This interview was for a concert on 11/22/14 at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara in support of this new album. It was done by hpone on 11/19/14. (Ethan Hill photo)
Allen Toussaint has left an incredible mark on music over the years. As a songwriter, he has penned classics like “Working in the Coalmine”, “Southern Nights”, and “Fortune Teller”. As a producer, he has brought his magic touch to noted recordings by the likes of Dr. John (“Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Such a Night”), The Meters (“Cissy Strut”, the Fire on the Bayou album), and Labelle (“Lady Marmalade”). He has also recorded several acclaimed solo albums, done horn arrangements for The Band and Paul Simon, and has worked with Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Lee Dorsey, and many, many more. His honors include being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and receiving the 2012 National Medal of the Arts.
This interview was for Toussaint’s 11/25/14 concert with fellow New Orleans legends The Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara. It was done by phone on 11/11/14. (Glade Bilby II photo)
In the synthpop world, there aren’t many artists who have enjoyed the artistic and commercial success that songwriter/synth wizard Vince Clarke has. As a founding member of Depeche Mode, he wrote the early singles “Just Can’t Get Enough”, “Dreaming of Me”, and “New Life”, and spearheaded the band’s 1981 debut album Speak & Spell before making a quick exit. Next came the short-lived band Yaz(oo) and songs including “Only You” and the dance masterpiece “Situation”.
In 1985, Clarke joined forces with singer Andy Bell to form Erasure, a band that has been going strong ever since. They have sold over 25 million albums, and have an amazing list of hit singles including “O L’amour”, “Sometimes”, “Victim of Love”, “Chains of Love”, “A Little Respect”, “Blue Savannah”, and “Always”. Just over a month ago, they released their sixteenth studio album The Violet Flame, which has been getting favorable comparisons with their recordings of decades past.
This interview was for a preview article for the Erasure concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater on 10/26/14. It was done by phone on 10/15/14. (Joe Dilworth photo)
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)