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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
In one of the more memorable scenes from the 1992 movie Wayne’s World, Wayne and Garth get to hang out backstage with Alice Cooper, to which they respond by bowing down and telling him, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”
Cooper commands such respect, fictional or otherwise, both for his music and pioneering dark theatrics involving guillotines, snakes, twisted makeup, and much more. His efforts have earned him the honorary (or is it dishonorary?) title of the “Godfather of Shock Rock”, plus well-deserved election to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The Alice Cooper saga began in the late 1960’s when the band, at that time itself called Alice Cooper, released the psychedelic-tinged album Pretties For You, which Frank Zappa reportedly agreed to produce to get the band to leave his house. Early notoriety came when Alice Cooper, the singer, threw a live chicken from the stage which was subsequently attacked and killed by the audience, an incident exaggerated by the press. The classic Alice Cooper sound was born when producer Bob Ezrin came on board, and the band’s profile grew with hits like “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, and “No More Mr. Nice Guy”.
Alice Cooper, the singer, launched a successful solo career with his 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare, and since that time he has released multiple albums and played countless concerts which push the boundaries of what a rock and roll show can be.
This interview was done for a preview article for Alice Cooper’s concert on 11/21/13 at the Chumash Casino. It was done by phone on 11/5/13.
Sam Coomes sings, plays guitar, keyboards, and whatever else might be laying around for Portland-based indie rock veterans Quasi, who have been cranking out remarkable music, that has unjustly flown under the radar, for two decades. Back to their roots as a two-piece – Coomes with Janet Weiss on drums – they recently released an adventurous double album called Mole City which straddles the pop, indie, and avant rock universes.
While Quasi has been active, both principals have also made marks on other projects, Weiss as drummer for riot grrrl notables Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, and Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, and Coomes as a guest with Built to Spill and with the late, great Elliott Smith both in the alt rock band Heatmiser and in his solo career. Along the way, Quasi backed Smith on some of his tours.
This interview was done for a preview article for Quasi’s long overdue Santa Barbara debut at SOhO on 11/14/13. It was done by email, with answers received on 10/28/13.
Passion Pit has come a long way since Michael Angelakos recorded a set of modern electronica songs on his laptop in his dorm room as a Valentine’s gift to his then-girlfriend. Those songs ended up getting released on an EP that included the additional song “Sleepyhead”, which became a minor hit.
Since then, Passion Pit has released two popular, critically acclaimed albums of well-crafted electronic pop, the latest of which, 2012’s Gossamer, includes “Take A Walk”, their biggest hit to date. In its full-band touring configuration, Passion Pit has appeared on Saturday Night Live, played at Coachella, and much more.
This interview with Passion Pit’s bassist Jeff Apruzzese was for a preview article for their concert on 10/26/13 at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
Although the word “virtuoso” gets used a bit too generously at times, it truly applies to guitarist Steve Vai. But don’t just take my word for it: he was called the “little Italian virtuoso” by no less an authority than Frank Zappa, who hired the young Steve Vai to transcribe his guitar solos and play in his band.
After his time with Zappa, Vai played with David Lee Roth at the dawn of Roth’s solo career – that’s him doing the talking guitar at the beginning of “Yankee Rose” – and with Whitesnake. He also released various solo albums including 1990’s Passion and Warfare and 2012’s Story of Light, has been a guest artist on recordings by many artists, and has toured with fellow guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and others as part of the G3 concert series. You might also remember him as the Devil’s guitarist Jack Butler in the movie Crossroads.
The following interview was for a preview article for Vai’s 10/18/13 concert at the Majestic Ventura Theater. It was done by email, with answers received 10/10/13.
There have been teen idols throughout the history of rock and roll, dating back to the young Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson, and continuing up through Miley Cyrus (in her pre-twerking days, at least) and One Direction.
One of the most popular teen idols of all time is David Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge on the 1970’s TV show The Partridge Family, and at the same time also enjoyed a successful pop music career including the smash No. 1 hit “I Think I Love You”. Since that time, he has continued to record music and act on television and in musical theater.
The following interview was for a preview article for The World’s Greatest Teen Idols show at the Chumash Casino on 10/3/13, featuring Cassidy and fellow idols Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees and Peter Noone from Herman’s Hermits, who together have sold over 250 million records. It was done by email, with answers received on 9/30/13.
Dr. John, aka The Night Tripper, has released over thirty albums which draw from the music of his native New Orleans and beyond, bookended by his 1968 voodoo psychedelic masterpiece debut Gris-Gris and last year’s wonderful Locked Down, produced by Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys.
Although not the sort of artist who had big hits – his only one was the funky “Right Place Wrong Time” – Dr. John has been hugely respected in the music world for decades. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, not just for his solo career, but also for his contributions to recordings as a member of the group of Los Angeles session musicians now known as The Wrecking Crew, and later contributions to recordings by an incredible set of musicians including The Rolling Stones, Ringo Starr, B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, Rickie Lee Jones, Carly Simon, Joe Cocker, and many more.
The following interview was for a preview article for a concert by Dr. John at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on 9/20/13. It was done by phone on 9/11/13.
by Paul Mann
Peter Hook (known as “Hooky” by friends and fans alike) may be one of the most fascinating figures in modern electronic music. He created a new music sound born out of punk rock roots, in a working class neighborhood of Manchester in the mid 1970’s. He was a founding member of the pivotal rock group Joy Division. His unique signature bass sound, invented out of economic necessity, became an intricate part of dance club music, in the early 1980’s. As Joy Division morphed into New Order, after the untimely passing of iconic singer Ian Curtis, his music became part of mainstream pop culture. But maybe, even more importantly, that sound led to a whole new type of electronic dance music, that evolved into today’s world of massive EDM pop culture.
Although Boz Scaggs is best known for the slick R&B hits “Lowdown” and “Lido Shuffle” from his breakthrough 1976 album Silk Degrees, his career in music has spanned much, much more.
Scaggs first made a mark as a member of the Steve Miller Band during their early psychedelic rock phase, playing guitar plus writing and singing a few songs on the band’s first two albums.
His first solo album after leaving Miller’s orbit was recorded at the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, and featured a young Duane Allman on guitar shortly before Allman reached guitar god status. This has been ranked in the Top 500 albums of all time by Rolling Stone Magazine.
Subsequent solo releases were also well regarded, hitting a peak with the aforementioned Silk Degrees which sold millions of copies and won Scaggs a Grammy for Best R&B Song for “Lowdown”. Scaggs has continued to release acclaimed albums over the years, most recently the covers-heavy Memphis.
This interview was for a preview article for Boz Scagg’s concert at the Chumash Casino on 9/12/13. It was done by phone on 8/28/13.
Ann Wilson is the lead singer for the band Heart, which was recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Ann and sister/guitarist Nancy Wilson have formed the core of Heart since the 1970’s, when they recorded hits including “Magic Man”, “Crazy on You”, and “Barracuda”. They struck gold again in the 1980’s with help from MTV and songs like “What About Love”, “Never”, “These Dreams”, and “Alone”.
This interview was done by phone on 8/7/13, and was for a preview article for Heart’s concert at the Santa Barbara Bowl on 8/27/13, with opening act Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. (Norman Seeff photo)
Booker T. Jones has had an astounding career in music, as part of Booker T. & the M.G.’s and beyond.
With the M.G.’s, he had hits in the 1960’s with instrumentals including the timeless “Green Onions”, “Hang ‘Em High”, and “Time Is Tight”. The band also backed an amazing collection of artists on the legendary Stax Records, such as Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and Albert King.
Jones also co-wrote notable songs for other artists including “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “I Love You More Than Words Can Say”, and “I’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do)”. Moreover, he produced records by Willie Nelson, Bill Withers, and Rita Coolidge, and he played with musicians including Stephen Stills and Bob Dylan. Booker T. & the M.G.’s were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and Jones received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2007.
This interview was done by phone on 8/8/13 for a preview article for the Memphis Music Fest at the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara on 8/23/13. (Piper Ferguson photo)
When Cherie Currie joined the all-girl jailbait rock band The Runaways, whose classic line-up also included Joan Jett and Lita Ford and whose manager was the legendary Kim Fowley, it was 1975 and she was a teenage David Bowie fanatic.
Over the next few years, the white-corsetted Currie and the rest of the band made a mark in the burgeoning punk rock scene with infectious songs like “Cherry Bomb” and “Queens of Noise”, ultimately becoming an important influence on all-female bands like The Go-Gos, The Bangles, and The Donnas, and various male rockers as well.
A well-publicized 2010 biopic brought The Runaways back into the popular consciousness, and Currie now has a new album in the works. She answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 8/16/13; this was for a preview article for her concert at San Luis Obispo on 8/18/13. (Donna Santisi photo)
David Freiberg was a co-founder of 1960′s psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service, which was known for extended jams as captured on their classic album Happy Trails. He toured with Jefferson Airplane toward the end of that band’s existence, and stayed on when the band evolved into Jefferson Starship. He was a co-writer of Jefferson Starship’s 1979 hit song “Jane”. Both Freiberg and Paul Kantner quit the band as its sound became more commercial, in particular before the recording of “We Built This City” as Starship.
Freiberg answered the following questions by phone on 7/16/13 for a preview article for the Jefferson Starship performance at the Chumash Casino on 8/1/13.
Mike Palm is the singer, songwriter, and guitarist for Agent Orange, a skate punk band from Orange County which plays a potent combination of punk and surf rock. The band first gained attention for the 1979 recording of the song “Bloodstains”, which was included on DJ Rodney Bingenheimer compilation album Rodney On The Roq. Their brilliant first album, Living In Darkness, came out in 1981 and features punk originals and smokin’ covers of surf rock classics. The band has released several more albums and EP’s over the years.
This interview was done by email, with answers received on 7/17/13. It was for a preview article for the Agent Orange show at SOhO in Santa Barbara on 7/19/13.
Belle and Sebastian’s early days are legendary. The Scottish indie pop band quickly recorded their first album Tigermilk in Glasgow in 1996 as part of the yearly project for a music business course at Stow College, pressing 1000 vinyl copies which they could barely give away.
But the law of supply and demand kicked in as interest in the band grew, thanks to the popularity of their follow-up If You’re Feeling Sinister which had a much wider release, and copies of Tigermilk started commanding prices in the hundreds of pounds. Meanwhile, the band laid low, with singer and main songwriter Stuart Murdoch refusing to do interviews for years. But the buzz continued to build, and the band cracked into the American market.
Fast-forwarding to the present, Belle and Sebastian has by now released eight albums and loads of EPs and singles, with their music drawing favorable comparisons to notables such as The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, and Nick Drake.
The following interview was done with Belle and Sebastian’s keyboard player Chris Geddes by phone on 7/8/13 for a preview article for the band’s concert on 7/17/13 at the Santa Barbara Bowl, the only California appearance of its tour.
Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was the drummer 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, Clifford and Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook 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 7/3/13 for a preview article for Creedence Clearwater Revisited’s concert at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria on 7/13/13.
Chuck Negron was one of three lead singers for Three Dog Night, which had a whopping twenty-one Top Forty songs between 1969 and 1975. Three of these hit Number One – “Mama Told Me (Not To Come)”, “Black and White”, and “Joy to the World”, the latter featuring Negron’s vocals and the familiar opening line “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”. He also sang lead vocals on “One”, “Eli’s Coming”, “An Old-Fashioned Love Song”, and “Easy to be Hard”. These, like most of Three Dog Night’s songs, were covers, often in very different arrangements from the originals.
Negron went through a period of serious drug addiction, which he finally overcame in the early 1990’s. His book Three Dog Nightmare is a harrowing account of his rock and roll excess, and starts with the line, “I should be dead.”
This interview was for a preview article for the Happy Together Tour show at the Chumash Casino on 7/11/13, for which Lindsay is one of the featured performers. (Mac O’Brien photo)
Mark Lindsay was the lead singer for Paul Revere & The Raiders, one of the most popular bands of the 1960’s. Their songs include “Kicks”, “Steppin’ Out”, “Hungry”, “Good Thing”, “Him or Me, What’s It Gonna Be”, and “Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)” which was a Number One hit in 1971. Their early songs, in particular, have a raw sound that was influential on punk rock a decade later.
Paul Revere & The Raiders appeared regularly on television, including being the house band for Dick Clark’s show Where The Action Is. They typically played in American Revolutionary War costumes, giving a visual gimmick to go along with their rockin’ music. It has been reported that Lindsay is the most televised American lead singer in history.
Lindsay also had success as a solo artist, with “Arizona” selling over one million copies.
The punk rock band The Dwarves has taken the “Sex & Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” mantra to heart, with nearly three decades of decadence under their belts.
Formed in Chicago and now based in San Francisco, The Dwarves gained early notoriety for ferocious 15-minute shows that often degraded into violent brawls, and at times included onstage sex-acts. They also raised eyebrows with controversial song and album titles and artwork, including the 1990 album Blood Guts & Pussy which shows nude women (and a midget) drenched in animal blood.
The core of the band is singer Blag Dahlia and guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed, the latter the subject of a death hoax which got the band dropped from their record label Sub Pop. Dahlia was himself in the news when he was assaulted in 2004 by Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme.
Blag Dahlia answered the following questions by email, with answers received on 5/29/13. This was for a preview article for the show by The Dwarves on 6/6/13 at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara.
John Mayall has been called “The Father of British Blues”, with good reason. As bandleader and songwriter for John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, he was instrumental in launching the British blues boom in the 1960’s.
Mayall is probably best known for the landmark 1966 album Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (the “Beano” album), which brought Clapton to “Clapton is God” status. Mayall’s Bluesbreakers band was also an early incubator for other notable talent including guitarists Peter Green (who along with other Bluesbreakers alums John McVie and Mick Fleetwood formed the early Fleetwood Mac) and Mick Taylor (who went on to join the Rolling Stones).
Mayall has recorded dozens of albums over the decades, and at 79 years old continues to tour extensively. The following interview was for a preview article for his 5/22/13 concert at SOhO in Santa Barbara. Answers were received by email on 5/6/13.
Arlo Guthrie is a beloved folk singer best known for his talking blues epic “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” and his Top 40 hit “The City of New Orleans”. But this is just the cream of the crop from dozens of albums that he has released and songs he has performed over decades of touring since the late 1960’s. He also starred in the 1969 movie Alice’s Restaurant, and made a “far out” appearance in the Woodstock movie, which used his song “Coming Into Los Angeles” as accompaniment to footage of some serious reefer gladness.
Guthrie is also the son of folk music legend Woody Guthrie, who wrote hundreds of notable songs including “This Land Is Your Land”. The family’s musical legacy continues with Arlo’s children.
The following interview was for a preview article for Arlo’s concert at the Lobero Theatre on 4/15/13. He answered the questions by email, with answers received on 3/26/13.
Morris Day is the frontman for The Time, a band which is known for funky songs like “Jungle Love”, “The Bird”, “Jerk Out”, and “777-9311″.
From the beginning, The Time enjoyed a close association with Day’s childhood friend Prince, who contributed significantly to their early albums – 1981’s The Time, 1982’s What Time Is It?, and 1984’s Ice Cream Castle. The combination of Day’s spirited vocals and Prince’s funky grooves led to some of the finest R&B of the decade. The band’s early association with Prince culminated in an appearance as the rival band in the film Purple Rain.
The Time returned in 1990 with the well-regarded album Pandemonium, recorded with less input from Prince. The original band also released the album Condensate in 2011, where the band was called The Original 7ven because Prince owns the recording rights for the name The Time.
The following interview was for a preview article for the concert by Morris Day and The Time at the Chumash Casino on 4/11/13. It was done by phone on 4/3/13.
Raffi has been called “the most popular children’s singer in the English-speaking world”. It all started with his 1976 album Singable Songs for the Very Young, which includes songs “The More We Get Together”, “Down By The Bay”, “Willoughby Wallaby Woo”, and “Going to the Zoo”, and which was notable for bringing the highest quality in recording and production to children’s music. He went on to release many other hugely popular children’s albums, and along the way wrote classics including “Baby Beluga” and “Bananaphone”.
Raffi is also a passionate advocate for children, and co-founded the Centre for Child Honouring which works to restore communities and ecosystems by addressing the universal needs of children. He has been honored as a recipient of the Order of Canada and the United Nations’ Earth Achievement Award.
The following is from a phone interview on 3/26/13 for a preview article for his concert in Santa Barbara on 4/7/13.
Stephen Pope plays bass guitar for Wavves, a noise pop / sunshine punk band whose profile has been on the rise over the past few years with their awesome 2010 album King of the Beach, 2011’s Life Sux EP featuring the song “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”, and now their new album Afraid of Heights. Before Wavves, Pope played with the late Jay Reatard, including on his last album Watch Me Fall.
It must be mentioned that Wavves has also made headlines for frontman Nathan William’s chemical-induced onstage breakdown at the 2009 Barcelona Primavera Sound Festival, and for Pope getting kicked out of the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards for pot possession.
The following interview was done by phone on 2/20/13 for a preview article for the Wavves concert on 3/23/13 at Velvet Jones in Santa Barbara.