Wednesday, April 22, 2015

An EXCLUSIVE interview with SECRET AFFAIR's Ian Page and Dave Cairns!


Ian Page and Dave Cairns

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

   With a kick to the pretentious groin of corporate Rock, the Punk movement changed the musical landscape in 1976 and 1977. Within a few years, Punk had inspired a new generation of bands intent on knocking down Rock’s barriers and creating something new out of the rubble. While Rome burned, new musical scenes started catching the attention of the press, including two genres that blended Punk’s youthful energy with an abundance of melodic hooks – Power Pop and the Mod Revival. In the U.S., the Power Pop scene tried very hard to take flight when The Knack hit big with Get The Knack and the single “My Sharona.” In the U.K., the Mod Revival scene took hold when The Jam refined their Punk edge and were adopted by loads of sharp dressed kids who rode scooters and worshipped ‘60s Soul and classic British bands like The Who and The Small Faces. Like Power Pop, the Mod Revival’s commercial popularity didn’t last that long but it did give us some of the era’s finest bands, including The Lambrettas, Squire, The Chords and Secret Affair.
   While most of the Mod bands tended to focus on snappy guitar-fueled Rock, Secret Affair – vocalist Ian Page, guitarist Dave Cairns, bassist Dennis Smith and drummer Seb Shelton – took it to the next level by adding a huge chunk of Soul to the mix, creating a distinct and timeless sound that could have existed at any time in the last 50 years. Their balance of Rock and Soul allowed the band to explore different musical ideas and avenues, and they ended up recording three of the era’s finest albums: Glory Boys (1979), Behind Closed Doors (1980) and Business As Usual (1982). Splitting shortly after the third album, the band’s reputation grew over the next two decades, prompting the band to reform for a few select gigs in 2002 and 2003. Following another lengthy period of inactivity, Ian Page and Dave Cairns formed a new version of Secret Affair and took the band out on the road. Over the next three years, they toured and worked on material for their fourth studio album Soho Dreams, finally released in 2012. Since then, the band has continued to tour and play their music for a whole new generation of fans – and for their devoted followers.
   In celebration of their 35th anniversary, British label Captain Mod (a subsidiary of Captain Oi) has released Est. 1979, a four CD box set containing their three original albums (with bonus tracks) plus the critically acclaimed reunion album, Soho Dreams. Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to track down the elusive Ian Page and Dave Cairns and send them a laundry list of questions about the box set and the band’s history, of which they graciously answered…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: The four CD box set EST. 1979 has just been released as you celebrate the band’s 35th Anniversary. How are you feeling about the reaction to the box and your recent anniversary tour?
IAN PAGE: We're obviously very pleased with the box set. The design and packaging looks very classy and well thought out.
DAVE CAIRNS: I’m very proud of the box set as it not only contains the first three albums going back to 1979/80/81 but also our fourth album Soho Dreams released back in 2012. It was important to Ian and I in getting back together again that we could demonstrate that we still had the passion and drive to make a new album after such a big gap, and it seems to have been very well received. Personally, I didn’t want to reform the band (back in 2009) and be seen as just a nostalgia act on the circuit, but actually go out and play tracks from a new album too, which have gone down very well live. So a 35th anniversary but with a new album too.

SPAZ: What inspired you to put together this set? Did you go to Captain Oi with the idea or did they come to you?
DAVE: Mark Brennan at Captain Oi came to me with the proposal for a box set plus some John Peel radio sessions but this didn’t include Soho Dreams, which I felt very strongly wouldn’t be complete without it, but Mark Brennan fortunately persuaded Sony/BMG (who own the first three albums) to agree to the package including Soho Dreams. I think it’s a real milestone and achievement for any band to have a box set release, and it’s a credit to our long standing fans too.  
IAN: Dave and I gave as much feedback and support as we could to ensure the look and feel of it was just right.

SPAZ: The music and fashion style of the Mods may have been adopted by pockets of fans here in the U.S., but there was a whole history and culture behind it. For those who may not be familiar with its roots and ideals, what did Mod mean to you?
IAN: Whew! That's a really broad question which would require a dissertation to properly answer. For me, the Mod culture that first emerged in the ‘60s represented the opportunity for the young working class to embrace the new-found affluence that finally came to post-war Britain after years of austerity, as the nation tried to recover.
The emergent culture embraced a style and look that raised themselves above any perceptions of class or status. I think it’s no coincidence that Berry Gordy's Motown sound was so eagerly adopted since I think Gordy was doing something similar with Black American R&B presenting it with class and style and daring to aspire beyond the limits others wanted to place on it.
DAVE: Mod culture for me was a mixture of music and fashion at the time. I’d missed the overhyped ‘60s days of Mod versus Rockers, which the British press whipped up themselves with front page headlines about battles taking place at seaside towns over bank holidays. So my reference points were my brother’s old LPs which featured The Small Faces, early Who and of course Pete Townshend’s homage to Mod, Quadrophenia which I bought as a schoolboy in ’74, I believe. The fashion at school was Suedehead which was a mixture of Mod garb (button down shirts, loafers, silk scarfs) and skinhead gear (Crombie coats, sta pressed trousers and Levi jeans, monkey boots). Musically and guitar-wise, I was rooted in all the classic ‘60s guitarists, so my playing at the time and the look Secret Affair adopted I guess you could say I had Mod style, but not by design.  

SPAZ: Briefly going back to the beginning, the seeds of Secret Affair were sewn when you both were the musical driving force behind the band New Hearts. What led to the dissolution of that band and the birth of Secret Affair?
DAVE: New Hearts was a learning curve for Ian and I, but in a negative sense in that many of the classic things that could go wrong for a band went wrong. Signing to a major label like CBS had the music press turned against us for ‘selling out’ and then we were produced by completely the wrong people on so many different levels, as CBS A&R tried to turn us from a raw new wave band into a teenybop boy band, with awful results. Despite signing the old fashioned several album deal locking you in potentially for 10 years or more, they declined to release an album when the first two singles failed to chart, but wouldn’t release us from our contract either (it was great to see the New Hearts album finally released on Cherry Red a few years ago). Ian and I got a new drummer and bassist, and changed our name to Secret Affair and continued with our booking agent playing support slots up and down the UK. We wrote the Glory Boys album in my parent’s garage and demo’d the tracks at CBS studios before being pulled out of our CBS contract by our new publisher and signed to Arista Records. Within a few months we had a hit single with ‘Time For Action’.
IAN: Like many of their contemporaries, CBS Records who signed New Hearts and many other New Wave/Punk bands never really grasped what the New Wave was, and why it had happened. We allowed ourselves to be pushed and pulled in different directions by people overly focused on the band’s youth and 'pop' appeal. Having been paired with a bubblegum pop style producer for our first single, we ended up with a record that unsurprisingly sold few copies in the climate of the time.

SPAZ: Secret Affair seemed to possess the same ideals as the then-burgeoning Mod Revival scene, but would it be safe to say that the scene adopted you as one of their own, as opposed to you actually declaring yourself as a Mod band?
IAN: The Secret Affair style and look matched mod culture extremely closely, and I was very happy to embrace this renewal in one of the great youth phenomena of the ‘60s.
DAVE: We were wearing old mohair suit jackets, button down Brutus shirts and ties, but with drainpipe jeans and converse baseball boots in New Hearts. So with Ian’s concept of our look for Secret Affair to look like the London gangsters in the film Performance, all we had to do was add the suit trousers and some loafer sand brogues, and we had the look. And that’s how we went out on the road, Feb 1979. By then a Mod scene was developing (in fact I don’t think it ever went away from the ‘60s days), and we began to pick up a very loyal following. So it was just a natural progression. Some of our detractors in the music press at the time accused us of jumping on the Mod bandwagon following the release of the film Quadrophenia, but that wasn’t released in the UK until October of ’79, by which time we were already selling out clubs like the Marquee.

SPAZ: The band’s sound didn’t rely solely on the guitar-fueled Power Pop elements of The Who and Small Faces but also incorporated a heavy Soul influence as well. Were you intentionally trying to create a sound different from your contemporaries or was this purely organic and instinctual?
DAVE: I brought the Rock element to the partnership with my guitar style, that in many respects was based on being able to play on my own in a band as a rhythm and lead guitarist, and not tucked away behind a lead guitarist noodling away all night (seeing The Who in 1975 taught me that). Ian brought the Soul in his love of Tamla Motown and Stax.
IAN: I was heavily influenced by Motown and the Atlantic/Stax sound and it was very deliberately combined with a high energy, hard R&B guitar to create the 'Secret Affair sound'.

SPAZ: What inspired you to set up your own record label even before releasing your debut?
IAN: It was a tool for retaining as much creative control over our look and sound as possible.
DAVE: This was really driven by Ian and welcomed at the time by Arista Records as a means to create a stable of acts, and we released new material by Laurel Aitken, Eddie Floyd and Squire.

SPAZ: Dave, who inspired your distinctive guitar style and sound?
DAVE: My older brother had an amazing vinyl collection so I was inspired to play by ‘60s British Blues guitarists like Peter Green and Eric Clapton when they were playing with John Mayall, the sheer genius of Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and of course Pete Townshend, but the list is endless.

SPAZ: Your debut album, Glory Boys, is still regarded as a classic British album, Mod or otherwise. The musical vision far exceeded anything else happening at the time. Do you remember what your frame of mind was at the time? Did you feel that you had to adhere to any type of restrictions when recording?
DAVE: We were still angry at how the music press at the time had trashed New Hearts, because if you weren’t part of their clique of favored Punk/New Wave bands then you stood little chance of success. Ian produced Glory Boys and had his own vision of combining our songwriting and musical skills into a cohesive Rock/Soul hybrid, and I think he achieved that.
IAN: In production terms Glory Boys was something of an homage to the dynamics and production techniques of the great records of the ‘60s.

SPAZ: Looking back at Glory Boys, are there any particular memories that you associate with the recording and release of the album? Are you still pleased by what you were able to accomplish with the album?
IAN: I remember creating the ethereal droning piano sounds in the Glory Boys intro by recording backwards piano. This required turning the multi-track tape back to front...listening to the song play backwards and learning the cues the opposite way around and recording the piano. Turn the tape the other way round and hey presto backwards piano. I remember the looks of fear of some onlookers as I reassured them that it really did work.
DAVE: After feeling like we were stuck in glue with CBS and their old ‘70s permed hair and satin bomber jacket view of the record industry, with Arista Records everything went so fast we barely had time to stop and think. We were on the Top Of The Pops with a hit single, made an appearance on the album show The Old Grey Whistle Test (which I grew up watching acts like Bowie and Free), and selling out all our tour dates. So it’s what you dream of as a musician.  

SPAZ: Ian, do you feel that your lyrics were often misinterpreted by fans and critics, or did you find their different perspectives refreshing?
IAN: Initially, I'm not sure people took much notice of the lyrics people only began to understand there was something interesting going on later.

SPAZ: “My World” remains a defining single, not just for Mod but for British Pop in 1980. It also paved the way for the equally exciting Behind Closed Doors album. When you wrote the song, did you realize that it was going to be one of those songs that would transcend the genre and become a classic?
DAVE: No, it came to me very quickly and finished in about half an hour, and I guess influenced in no small part by Pete Townshend’s ability to write powerful anthems. But I was just a typical 18 year old embarking on life and excited about what I and we could all achieve in life. It’s great to see the audience all these years later singing along and that they could identify with the sentiment both then and now.
IAN: “My World” was one of our oldest songs, deliberately held back because we knew there was something a bit special about it.

SPAZ: When recording Behind Closed Doors, did the band have more freedom to expand upon your musical ideas? A few tracks (“Streetlife Parade”, “What Did You Expect?”) were certainly far more imaginative and advanced than anything your contemporaries were releasing.
DAVE: Ian’s “Streetlife Parade” in particular is a masterpiece, but despite being given a free rein as to the material for the album by Arista Records I didn’t think we’d been given enough time to put the album together compared to Glory Boys, so we fell into that classic second album syndrome and I certainly wasn’t happy about my contribution to it in some respects. Ian may disagree but if we’d been given another two or three months to write and rehearse and I think we would have made an even better record.
IAN: Songs like “What Did You Expect?” etc., confused the hell out of people rather ironically, it wasn't what they expected.

SPAZ: Was it difficult to recreate the songs live?
DAVE: Ian played piano on tour with an additional keyboard player to recreate the second album tracks.
IAN: A few of them used orchestral strings, which was a little tricky. But when we play songs like “My World” nowadays, I think people kind of hear the strings in their head anyway.

SPAZ: Any particular memories about this period in the band’s career?
DAVE: We were playing a lot of concert halls in the UK mixed in with club shows, and I recall playing Hammersmith Odeon which was a pretty big deal at the time and we’d sold out.
IAN: Only that certain things were starting to go wrong and a sense that Dave and I were losing control of how the band was handled and presented.

SPAZ: It took another two years for your third album, Business As Usual, to be released. Did you purposely take a breather after recording, releasing and promoting your first two albums in short order?
IAN: I always thought we rushed into the release of the second album too quickly. We also embarked on an arduous and lengthy tour of the US prior to making the third album. Also, Dave and I needed some time to write fresh material.
DAVE: We actually spent several months in the US trying to break the US release of Glory Boys on our US label, Sire Records, and played at one point 65 shows with just Sundays off. And by road too, which was an amazing experience so we didn’t take a breather, we just kept rolling. Back in the UK we had to start the third album songwriting and rehearsing process and then spent the whole summer in a residential recording studio in Cornwall, so that’s why it took so long!

SPAZ: The songs were certainly some of your best, but the sound of the album was more refined, edgy and direct than your previous albums. Did you purposely move away from the more expansive sound of the previous albums?
IAN: The failure of a couple of singles to achieve high chart positions meant that our record company significantly cut the recording budget, hence a more direct sound, utilizing hammond organ and layered horns to achieve that Secret Affair 'bigness'. So we wrote and produced according to the limitations placed upon us.

SPAZ: The band broke up after the release of Business As Usual. Looking back, do you think it was the right time to take a break or do you feel that the split was a bit premature?
IAN: The split was completely premature and certain people didn't realize how much had been achieved, and what was being thrown away.
DAVE: We’d run out of gas with Arista Records because the original A & R and promotional team had all left. The people coming in are only going to want to work their own acts, so it was time to call it a day. The music press who had been behind us at the beginning had trashed the Mod Revival and ridiculed Mods, and backed Two Tone acts instead, and by now had moved onto the ‘80s synth acts. I couldn’t see a future for us and I was also fed up with so many things that bands are all about. If the internet had existed then we probably would have carried on but back in the day without a record label and the press behind you, then you have no way of reaching out to your fans to see if they are still out there for you.  

SPAZ: There was a 20 year break before the band briefly reformed for some gigs in 2002 and 2003. Did you try to get Seb involved with the reunion or did you prefer to pick up where the band left off when Paul was on the kit?
IAN: I don't think Seb ever expressed any interest in playing with us again. And besides, I always thought Paul Bultitude was a superior musician.
DAVE: It was only ever going to be Paul Bultitude, having toured the States with us, played on the last album and final tour.  

SPAZ: Why did it take another 10 years before Soho Dreams was released? Had you been working on the songs during that time as you brought the current line-up together?
DAVE: We had recorded five new songs at our publisher’s own studio in London back in 2006, so when we had the funds to re-launch I-SPY Records, we went back into the studio and finished the other six tracks and got it into production once we’d got the distribution deal set up.
IAN: We just didn't have the money and resources to make another album. We are forever grateful to our current music publishers, Peer Music who allowed us to use their recording studio, and piece by piece grow the album over time. Half of the album was recorded with them. The other half was entirely self-financed made possible by gradual growth in live work.

SPAZ: Was it easy to find your musical groove again? And were you a bit nervous to release music that would inevitably be compared to the music you created 30-35 years ago?  
IAN: It was surprisingly easy. There's always been enough creative chemistry between Dave and I for us to very quickly settle into our normal roles within the creative process. Nerves? No – it’s the best thing we've ever done. We had complete confidence in Soho Dreams.
DAVE: Ian and I just picked up from where we’d left off but with more maturity and depth in our approach. It sounded like a Secret Affair record to me so I knew most of fans would probably like it.

SPAZ: Soho Dreams is certainly another jewel in the band’s legacy. How are you feeling about it now, three years on?
DAVE: It’s done us a lot of good all around, and it’s been great to have given something new to the fans and followers who come to our shows year after year.

SPAZ: What is next for Ian Page, Dave Cairns and Secret Affair?
IAN: Another album, one even better than Soho Dreams would be nice. And for as long as people keep coming to our live shows, we will eventually be able to make it.
DAVE: And maybe we’ll get back to the US in the next couple of years.

Thanks to Dave Cairns and Ian Page

Special thanks to Mark Brennan, Paul Bevoir, Daryl Smith, Jocelynn Pryor and Nick Kominitsky.



Available NOW!


GUMBY- and his pony pal POKEY, too - is coming to DVD... and this time, they will be the original episodes!



NCircle Will Launch the Brand on DVD with
“The Gumby Show: The Complete 50s Series” on September 22, 2015

DALLAS, TX – April 21, 2015 – NCircle Entertainment, the largest independent studio for children’s non-theatrical DVDs, has acquired North American home video and digital distribution rights for all 209 episodes of The Adventures of Gumby, the iconic stop-motion clay animated series from Premavision/Clokey Productions.  NCircle will launch the brand on September 22, 2015 with the DVD release “The Gumby Show: The Complete 50s Series.”

“For the first time, we’ve re-mastered these classic episodes from their original camera rolls.  The color and texture are amazing in these imaginative fun filled stories.  You’ve never seen Gumby like this before!  My parent’s vision of a kind-hearted everyman hero continues to touch people of all ages today,” said Joe Clokey, President of Premavision/Clokey Productions.  “With Gumby now in his 60th year, I’m thrilled that NCircle will be distributing this truly evergreen icon across multiple home entertainment platforms in the years to come.”

“We’re honored to be joining Joe and the team at Premavision/Clokey Productions to distribute the entire catalog of The Adventures of Gumby episodes to audiences across the U.S. and Canada,” said Mary Flynn, VP of Sales, Content and Acquisitions of NCircle Entertainment.  “Nostalgia and loyalty to Gumby runs very deep for older audiences, and younger viewers respond with the same sense of wonder and fascination as their parents did.”

Gumby’s pure spirit and engaging antics offer timeless entertainment value for the whole family.  Created by clay animation pioneers Art and Ruth Clokey in 1955, Gumby premiered on television in the U.S. in 1956 and since has aired in 146 countries. The Gumby character has attracted a huge global base of devoted fans spanning all demographics and generations, from Baby Boomers, to millennials, to kids today. 

About NCircle Entertainment
NCircle Entertainment specializes in the sales, marketing, and distribution of children and family entertainment, and is a trusted brand for high-quality, age-appropriate content.  As the largest independent studio for children’s non-theatrical DVDs, NCircle’s portfolio includes many of the most loved and best-selling children’s brands.  Key brands currently in NCircle’s vast library include Disney Jr.’s Octonauts, PBS’s The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! and Sid the Science Kid, Nick Jr.’s Mike the Knight and Pocoyo, as well as the Academy Award nominated short films The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. For more, please visit

NCircle is a subsidiary of Alliance Entertainment. 

About Premavision, Inc./Clokey Productions, Inc.
Founded by Art and Ruth Clokey, Premavision/Clokey Productions stop motion animation studio is best known for creating the iconic character Gumby – the world’s original clayboy. The studio has produced over 200 Gumby TV episodes and The Gumby Movie, as well as the popular Davey and Goliath show. The company’s productions have aired worldwide for nearly 60 years, and the legacy continues under the direction of Joe and Joan Clokey. For more, please visit

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

SPAZ reviews THE CORNER LAUGHERS' Matilda Effect!

     Remember that scene in The Wizard Of Oz when, right after the ‘twister’ takes her house for a spin, Dorothy slowly opens the door and her black and white gloom suddenly comes to life as the beautiful colors of Munchkinland permeate her world?  Well, prepare yourself for the aural equivalent to that beloved celluloid moment when you listen to Matilda Effect, The Corner Laughers’ long awaited 2015 album. Bringing together elements of Power Pop,  Americana, the sounds of ‘60s girl groups, New Wave, Twee Pop and children’s music,  Matilda Effect is nothing short of a melodic minefield of absolute joy. This is a band who has clearly found their sound and are not afraid to have fun with it.  Vocalist Karla Kane possesses a voice that is sweet and innocent yet smart and confident. Khoi Huynh, KC Bowman and Charlie Crabtree lift her voice up to the stars with ace chops and a keen sense of when to cut loose and when to hold back. They make magic on Matilda Effect. With flawless production, expertly arranged songs and melodies that seem to have dripped down from heaven, this is an album that will wipe your black and white gloom away.  It is quirky, warm and inspiring.

     “Fairytale Tourist” mixes a Motown beat with a Kirsty McCall-like melody as interpreted by Belle & Sebastian. “The Girl, America” has a gorgeous girl-group feel to the vocals. The recurring guitar lick on “Sophie In The Streets Of Stockholm” is as infectious as the vocal melody and will pop up in your head randomly during your day (trust me on that one). “Octavia A” has a bit that mixes an Abbey Road-era Beatles guitar riff with child-like ‘la-la-la’s’ to great effect.  “Go Fly Your Kite” is Power Pop glory with handclaps and a few nice vocal hooks, some ‘ba-ba-ba-ba’ bits and great backing vocals. “Martha (Cincinnati 1914)” is a jaunty little number that just happens to have a Queen-like guitar solo that may sound weird on paper but totally works. Speaking of which, there are some great understated guitar solos on this album that reveal themselves with repeated listenings. And you will definitely be spinning this album numerous times a day.  And each day, you’ll find a new favorite.

     Matilda Effect is an album that doesn’t date itself and will remain fresh and invigorating years down the line.  Yes, there are a few more ukuleles on this album than you’re going to find on your average pop album, but who knows?  The Corner Laughers could kickstart a whole new Uke Pop movement.  And you know what?  If every Pop band learned to write hooks as memorable as these, the world would be a much better place.  And certainly a lot more colorful...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

ALAN JACKSON/Angels And Alcohol: NEW album released July 17, 2015!

Alan Jackson
Angels and Alcohol


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (April 9, 2015) – Country superstar Alan Jackson will release, Angels and Alcohol, his first studio album in three years of all new music on Friday, July 17. Jackson wrote seven of the ten tracks on the album including the self-penned track. Angels and Alcohol, his 15th studio album, comes 25 years after his debut landmark album Here In The Real World. Since the release of Here In The Real World, Jackson has released 22 albums including two Christmas albums, two gospel albums, three Greatest Hits collections and a Bluegrass album which included standards and eight original songs written by Jackson. The new album was produced by Jackson’s long-time collaborator and friend Keith Stegall who has produced every one of Jackson’s 23 albums over the past 25 years with the exception of one album - Like Red On A Rose (Alison Krauss).

Jackson brings his highly successful 25th Anniversary KEEPIN’ IT COUNTRY TOUR back to his hometown of Nashville, TN on Saturday, April 11 to a sold out crowd for the exclusive Tennessee performance.

Jackson’s tour and the release of Angels and Alchohol is an extension of the already year-long 25th anniversary celebration which kicked off last summer with the opening of his exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum, Alan Jackson: 25 Years of Keepin’ It Country, which has been extended by popular demand through June 21, 2015. The multi-platinum selling Grammy winner played two record-breaking sold out shows last October at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater making him the first simultaneous artist-in-residence and major museum exhibit subject.

Alan Jackson’s 25th Anniversary KEEPIN’ IT COUNTRY TOUR, sponsored by Kubota Tractor Corporation, continues to be a memorable celebration for his longtime fans as well as legions of new fans who are discovering his music through the many songs that have withstood the test of time and influenced many new artists of today like the tour’s special guests Jon Pardi and Brandy Clark. Fans are hearing the songs they love from the man who wrote them and made them famous – from his massive debut hit, “Here In The Real World” to “Chattahoochee,” “Drive,” “Gone Country,” the summertime party-anthems “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” and “Good Time,” and many, many more.

Angels and Alcohol Track Listing:

1) “You Can Always Come Home” (Alan Jackson)

2) “You Never Know” (Alan Jackson)

3) “Angels and Alcohol” (Alan Jackson)

4) “Gone Before You Met Me” (Michael White, Michael Heeney)

5) “The One You’re Waiting On” (Adam Wright, Shannon Wright)

6) “Jim and Jack and Hank” (Alan Jackson)

7) “I Leave A Light On” (Alan Jackson)

8) “Flaws” (Alan Jackson)

9) “When God Paints” (Troy Jones, Greg Becker)

10) “Mexico, Tequila and Me” (Alan Jackson)

About Alan Jackson
The man from rural Newnan, GA, who claims he is just a “singer of simple songs,” has sold nearly 60 million albums worldwide and ranks as one of the 10 best-selling vocalists of all-time in all genres. He has released more than 60 singles—registering 50 Top Ten hits and 35 #1s (including 26 Billboard #1s). He has earned more than 150 music industry awards—including 18 Academy of Country Music Awards, 16 Country Music Association Awards, a pair of Grammys and ASCAP’s Founders and Golden Note Awards. Jackson received the first-ever ASCAP Heritage Award in 2014 having earned the title of most performed country music songwriter-artist of ASCAP’s first 100 years. He is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.

Alan Jackson is one of the most successful and respected singer-songwriters in music. He is in the elite company of Paul McCartney and John Lennon among songwriters who’ve written more than 20 songs that they’ve recorded and taken to the top of the charts. Jackson is one of the best-selling artists since the inception of SoundScan, ranking alongside the likes of Eminem and Metallica.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

THE PROCLAIMERS/Let's Hear It For The Dogs: New album available May 5, 2015!



"Emotional honesty, singalong raucousness, and political fire... A true gift to the stage."
–The Guardian

(Nashville, TN) April 7, 2015– Best known for the hit singles “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and “Sunshine on Leith,” the identical Scottish twins known as The Proclaimers are anticipating the release of their 10th studio album, LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DOGS, out May 5th on Compass Records. The album follows a banner year for the duo that included the Toronto Film Festival debut of Sunshine on Leith, a musical film written around and featuring Proclaimers' songs, and the inclusion of their song "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" in the 2015 Superbowl ad, Budweiser's 'Last Dog.' 

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE DOGS shows The Proclaimers to be craftsmen of gloriously catchy songs who are simultaneously unabashed romantics. The album was recorded at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Wales and was produced by Dave Eringa, (The Who) and features their live band: Stevie Christie (keyboards), Garry John Kane (bass), Zac Ware (electric guitar) and Clive Jenner (drums) with additional guitars by Sean Genockey and an appearance by the Vulcan String Quartet. 

Track Listing for Let's Hear It For The Dogs: 

1. You Built Me Up 

2. Be With Me 

3. In My Home 

4. Tuesday Afternoon 

5. Then Again 

6. What School? 

7. If I’m Still Around 

8. The Other Side 

9. Forever Young 

10. Ten Tiny Fingers 

11. Through Him 

12. Rainbows and Happy Regrets 

13. Moral Compass 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

SPAZ reviews VANITY FARE and WHITE PLAINS reissues!

Known as ‘one hit wonders’ here in the U.S., England’s White Plains and Vanity Fare achieved more success in their homeland, although not as much as they deserved. Both bands certainly had more coulda-been-hits in them as these releases showcase. However, the ever changing line-ups and the public’s attention span ensured that they were already yesterday's news by the time they were able to enjoy their first taste of success. Critics often dismiss these bands and write them off, but there really is a lot of Pop to love on these two most excellent releases.



Vanity Fare, best known in the States for the uber-catchy “Hitchin’ A Ride,” was a band always on the move, musically.  Perhaps knowing that the record buyers were always fickle and moving on to the next popular thing, Vanity Fare attempted to stay one step ahead of them but wound up a step or two behind.  From their first UK hit, “I Live For The Sun” (a cover of The Sunrays’ U.S. hit) to their final bow roughly a decade later, Vanity Fare dabbled in Psychedelia, Glam, Funk, Bubblegum, Chamber Pop, Sunshine Pop, and just about any other brand of Pop that they fancied. This constant change didn’t encourage an audience to latch on to them since the band never settled on an definitive 'sound.'  However, if the band had remained the same from beginning to end, they probably would have worn out their welcome a lot sooner than they did (i.e.: there is just no pleasing anyone). In my opinion, this constant change was actually a plus since the band kept things interesting. There are so many musical twists and turns on this double CD release that you may want to wear a seatbelt to ensure your safety! Their hit version of “Early In The Morning” is pretty glorious Pop, the equal to “Hitchin’ A Ride,” which wasn’t released that much later. To their credit, there is no blatant rip off of their biggest U.S. hit here, which is commendable since it was a common occurrence for a band to revert to their hit’s formula in order to garner a second hit. Vanity Fare were not known for writing their own hits although they did pen some of their own material as well as record covers and songs by contemporary songwriters. It’s nice to hear their take on Ian & Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds” here, although my favorite version is Neil Young's '78 reading of the song. All of the band's releases are included here including a pre Vanity Fare single and a few solo sides - with hardly a duff track out of 47, this is a surprisingly strong collection for these so-called ‘one hit wonders.’



White Plains’ singles collection is another surprising revelation. Kicking off the set with their ‘hit’ “My Baby Loves Lovin’” – here in a different and slightly shorter mix than the version that has appeared on numerous ‘70s collections – is a delicious slab of ‘70s Pop that sounds joyful 45 years later.  Contrary to popular belief, vocalist Tony Burrows did NOT handle the lead vocals on this track, although he does help out with the choruses.  Instead, Ricky Wolff handled the lead, as he did on many of the tracks over the next year. Or did he?  The singles’ sleeves would often picture a completely different line-up of the band than the version that actually performed on the record.  If you thought turnover in Menudo was alarming…
Anyway, the line-up was ever-revolving but the quality of their commercial ‘70s pop stayed strong. That is more than likely because White Plains were essentially a vehicle for songwriters Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. There are a few tracks that mirror the “My Baby…” formula as well as the formula of any of the other ‘70s Pop gems that were penned by Cook & Greenaway. Other great tracks include “Gonna Miss Her Mississipi,” “Noises (In My Head)” “I Can’t Stop,” “Step Into A Dream” and the wonderful “A Simple Man’ with its proto-Power Pop guitar lick. White Plains' version of the Bobby Sherman charmer "Julie Do You Love Me?" is definitely punchier and a smidgen more likable than Bobby's. This single disc collection is a perfect intro to the band, the songwriters and catchy - and endearingly cheesy - ‘70s Pop. 

Peace, love and Pop,
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

An EXCLUSIVE Q&A with THE LEATHER NUN's Jonas Almqvist!

All Those Crazy Dreams:

Jonas Almqvist

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

   Every album has a story to tell. Sometimes, that story could manifest itself as a lyrical ‘concept’ album that Prog Rock bands are so fond of making. Sometimes, ultra-privileged Pop artists live their fabulous lives in the spotlight and end up sharing their ‘hardship’ stories – we can all relate to a lover’s quarrel while spending a month in Saint-Tropez – with their slickly-produced radio hits. However, Sweden’s The Leather Nun is neither Prog nor Pop and their 2015 album, Whatever, has a true story behind it filled with so many disappointments that it would destroy the soul of a lesser band. Yet, here they are, 24 years after their last studio album and nearly 40 years after their inception, releasing their most focused album yet.

   Led by singer/songwriter Jonas Almqvist – the band’s sole original member and visionary – The Leather Nun have never followed the strict guidelines of the music business. Truth be told, it is near impossible to confine the band to one genre. Since they formed in 1978, The Leather Nun has successfully dabbled in so many musical styles that they have attracted a wide cross section of fans over the years – hardcore followers of Punk, Goth, Industrial, Garage, Alternative, Rock and New Wave probably own at least one record by The Leather Nun. Their early singles were released on Genesis P. Orridge’s Industrial Records label. They’ve had albums produced by Kim Fowley (1988’s International Heroes) and Mick Ronson (Nun Permanent from 1991). Grammy-winning video/film director Jonas Akerlund is a lifetime fan and has used their music in several of his projects. And to top it all off, they inspired loads of Garage, Industrial and Rock bands who still namecheck them in interviews (and nick some of their pioneering musical ideas on record). However, the band had been silent for over 20 years until its recent revival by Almqvist, after a long journey to reclaim his position as one of Sweden’s most innovative musicians.

   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to fire off some questions to Jonas as he prepared for the next step in The Leather Nun’s long-awaited return to the music scene. Jonas was kind enough to share his thoughts on the new album, the band’s past and their future…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Whatever is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the journey you took to create it?
JONAS ALMQVIST: It’s been a great journey and we’re all really pleased. If I never get to record another Leather Nun album, I’d still be pleased. It’ll stand the test of time as the best Leather Nun album. Originally, Whatever was to have been produced and mixed by Alexander Hacke, a longtime friend and sound-wizard of Einst├╝rzende Neubauten, but we ran out of funds as well as time, as Alex was approaching the pre-production of Lament (their 2014 album). We spent five months recording Whatever working long hours in the studio. It was intense, hard work but very creative and satisfying.

SPAZ: Why did it take so long between albums? And why did you feel that now was the right time to release Whatever?
JONAS: When our then record company was swept away in a bankruptcy in ’92, everything was shattered. Everything we’d built up over the years by constant touring and record releases was demolished. We’d just released a studio album produced by Mick Ronson, outselling every Leather Nun record ever released combined. We were to embark on the biggest European tour ever and with all shows sold-out in advance. Major label executives were queuing up on the guest lists. We were about to take a major leap forward. Then suddenly, there was this big silence. Phones stopped ringing, people didn’t call back. And then we got word of the bankruptcy. We had no management, no record company and a publishing company that decided not to act. We were back to square one with little or no possibilities to continue. In ’95 we decided to disband for the time being. I started working full time as an editor for the Swedish music educators’ journal. Apart from myself, no one in the band was interested in taking care of business. They were pretty pissed with the consequences of the bankruptcy.
In my spare time, I built an ambitious LN website, to at least keep Leather Nun alive on the fastly growing internet. And I wrote songs. I wrote about 250 – 300 songs between 1996-98. Not Leather Nun songs the way we’d been writing songs during the latter part of the ’80s. It was more like blending old school Leather Nun with influences from both contemporary art music as well as the Drum ’n’ Bass scene in the UK. Swedish publishers BMG got very interested in my songwriting and wanted to pair me with young UK producers, but it all fell through. I know BMG were talking to people in the hip Metalheadz and Logical Progressions communities in the UK, but they considered the music either too avant-garde or potentially too commercial! Hahaha!
After a few years, I was approached by the UK label Easy Action. They were then working with three acts: The Stooges, Fred Sonic Smith’s Rendezvous Band and Brian James of The Damned. With the blessings of Iggy and the Asheton brothers, Easy Action was releasing bootleg recordings (that’d been circulating as cassettes) as official records, allowing the former Stooges members to collect royalties and eventually reform and start touring as Iggy & The Stooges. Anyway, Easy Action loved Leather Nun. They wanted to have us as the fourth act on the label and rerelease old albums as well as live recordings that had been circulating on the bootleg cassette market. And I thought, “That would be awesome!” So I started to trace old master tapes. But halfway through, I got a call from the label. Their distributor Pinnacle was about to close business due to the sudden dramatic drop in record sales, and Easy Action had to shelf their business for the time being until they could find another distributor.
It was a bit of a let-down but on the other hand, I’d just been approached by Bunny Lake, an Electronica band from Austria. They were signed to Universal Music Austria and had just won the Austrian Grammy Awards. Bunny Lake and the CEO of Universal Austria were big fans of Leather Nun and they wanted to make an Electronica version of a Leather Nun song as a duet between me and their female vocalist. We got as far as recording a demo version, but then the project got cancelled and Bunny Lake eventually split up.
In ’10 Leather Nun was suddenly invited to play the biggest, most important festival in Sweden. We turned down the offer basically because I don’t believe in nostalgia and I didn’t want to be part of a then growing trend with reuniting bands playing old hits. But it made me think - could Leather Nun offer anything vital and relevant to the current rock scene? So I started writing songs for Leather Nun, for the first time in almost 20 years. And we played the material to a small group of selected people working in the music biz (major label A&R’s, DJ’s, journalists, etc.) and it was all ‘Thumbs Up.’
From then on, it was three years of hard work. Digging out all the old contracts, securing the name of the band, negotiating and finally reversing all the publishing rights back to the band, preparing for a legal battle to regain the masters to the old recordings which had wound up with a sub-label to Universal Music by mistake due to the mess surrounding the bankruptcy.
By the end of ’13, I’d cleared all the necessary rights to be able to shop the old publishing rights, shop the publishing rights to the new songs, shop the merchandising rights, shop for the rerelease of the oldest (and the formative) Leather Nun songs. By then, we were finally ready to go about recording a possible new studio album.
It’s been a long journey. I knew it would be a long and uncertain journey when I took it on. But the way the new songs turned out and the reception they received, it was worth the three years of legally clearing the way for a new Leather Nun studio album.

SPAZ: The Leather Nun has always been hard to pigeon-hole, musically. Do you purposely try to avoid classifications? The new album really takes a lot of stylistic twists and turns…
JONAS: No. Yes, Hahaha! Good question. I try to write interesting music for interesting people. Interesting music works long-term. Interesting music educates the listeners. Interesting music inspires the listeners. Interesting music sustains and nourishes the ecosystem of the music-business. I remember visiting the Manhattan penthouse of a Warner CEO in the late ’80s. He’d seen Leather Nun live and he said, “I love the band and I’d love to sign the band but I need to label the band in order to sell it. Can I label you as Punk Rock? Alternative Rock or what?” And I said, ”No, we’re not Punk Rock and we’re not Alternative – we’re just Rock ’n’ Roll.” Interesting music doesn’t need labels, because it works outside the box. And every now and then, there’s a Mark Lanegan, a Trent Reznor, a Gibby Haynes or whoever, who picks up on the music and makes use of it. If I can write, arrange and produce songs that differ from the mainstream conception of Rock, I add to the eco-system of Rock. I prove that you can go about Rock in a slightly different way. I guess I sort of act out, musically, the theories of Stephen Hawking about the necessity of imperfection for the development of the universe. I don’t strive for smooth perfection. I enjoy dynamics and clash of elements.

SPAZ: Were the songs on Whatever written for this particular project or were they tracks that you’ve been accumulating over the years?
JONAS: They were written for this album.

SPAZ: Is the opening track, “All Those Crazy Dreams,” autobiographical or is it more of a nod to everyone’s childhood dreams?
JONAS: It was autobiographical and the first song I wrote for this album. Then I played the demo of the song to a friend – the guitar player of Swedish band Hardcore Superstar who was just about to sign an international solo contract with EMI. And he just looked at me and said, “I want that song. That song is about me.” So I guess the song is kind of universal. Lots of people can probably relate to it.

SPAZ: There are many layers to The Leather Nun’s sound. Songs like “Just Like A Dream” has some pretty heavy percussion yet the music is quite lovely. Do you find it more challenging to mix these different emotions into your songs?
JONAS: Yes. It’s challenging in a good way. It’s like the band name Leather Nun – the dynamic of opposites. That’s what makes music and life vivid and interesting. That was one of the things Mick Ronson and I spent hours talking about: what happens if we bring this element in? What happens if a harmonica plays the saxophone part? What happens if strings play the guitar part? What happens if…
With “Red Hot Gwen” for example, I wanted to put this “what if?”-thinking to the test. I wanted to write and arrange a song in the New Orleans Jazz tradition – but with guitars playing all the different horn parts. I did all the guitar/horn parts on the demo and it was great fun it sounded awesome. The challenge in the studio was to get the guitarists to grasp the idea and make them think and play like a trombone player, a clarinet player, a flugelhorn player – which is kind of tricky as guitarists are brought up to think and voice like guitarists.  

SPAZ: Was recording Whatever a positive experience for you? And how did recording the album differ from what it was like when the band first started their journey?
JONAS: Absolutely. And challenging on all accounts. In the old days, songs were rehearsed and then recorded live in the studio with a few guitar overdubs. This time, every song was under the looking glass throughout the project. What’s the song about? Can this be expressed in a different manner or with another instrument? And I wanted to use real live strings instead of fake digital ones. Real instruments carry not only real sounds and overtones, but also the sound of living musicians, their personalities, their personal history, etc. That’s what makes music vivid.
No one believed in the project, no one believed in the way we were going about with the project. Even we had moments when we doubted that we’d be able to carry this project to the end. We spent five months in the studio, working 10-12 hours each day. But every minute and every penny was worth it. This was not just another album recording project. It was a boot camp to reboot Leather Nun. An opportunity to work ourselves into the core and essence of what Leather Nun was and is about.

SPAZ: Do you prefer to work with the darker or lighter side of music, or maybe somewhere in the middle? Has that changed over the years?
JONAS: It hasn’t changed over the years. Probably just got worse. Hahaha! As long as the music seems interesting, I don’t care if it’s darker or lighter. But I guess I’m ruled by the dynamic of opposites. Back to Stephen Hawking again! I guess I’m mainly driven by curiosity, trying to learn the essence of music. And the essence of music is beyond good, bad, light, dark…

SPAZ: Do you have any particular favorites on the album at the moment?
JONAS: Actually, no. This is the first Leather Nun album where every song brings a content smile to my face. It’s a nice collection of short stories, orchestrated like a concert.

SPAZ: In the early days, you played porno films and had strippers perform at your gigs. Do you see yourself continuing that trend now that the internet has made all of that more accessible?
JONAS: No, it would be quite pointless. We never used porno films or strippers for sensational purposes as cheap effects or whatever. At those shows, we wanted to move beyond music. To stress points we were trying to make. And we felt awfully embarrassed when our record company, unbeknownst to us, hired two strippers for a sold-out show at Hammersmith in London, UK. That was just cheap. I still have several friends from back in the early days of Leather Nun, who were then working as strippers or porn actresses. It wasn’t like Motley Crue. We could sit in the early hours of the morning having professional talks being young men and women working different sectors of the entertainment industry. We were bonding rather than going for flamboyant excesses. And the first time we used a stripper, we flooded the stage with backlights so people could hardly see her. We were not exploiting the act of stripping or her nudity – we were teasing the audience.  

SPAZ: The late great Kim Fowley produced your second album. Was he as crazy to work with as everyone says?
JONAS: Kim Fowley was a great personality. I knew of him pre-punk, pre-Runaways. When his name came up as a possible producer, I thought it was really nice. Leather Nun was running blind at that stage, musically. Anything that would add craziness, might spark off the kind of outside-the-box creativity in the band that we’d lost down the road. Kim was a really great guy but on his creative downfall we didn’t realize till we came to the US to record. He spent most of the time in the studio, answering female penpal adverts in HM magazines. We’d have to redo lots of stuff on the recordings when we got back to Sweden, due to it being so poorly recorded. Apart from a song we co-wrote, naming the album after one of his songs and having his name on the album cover, Kim didn’t add much to the album. But he became a good friend and someone we met on and off while touring. When Jonas Akerlund received his Grammy Award for the Paul McCartney video last year, I texted a greeting message to Jonas. A few minutes later, Jonas was on the phone from the Grammy after-party, thanking me and chuckling: “Guess who I am talking to right now? Kim Fowley! And all he wants to talk about is Leather Nun!” We stayed in touch up until mid-Fall last year, having the last conversation in late September. We were talking about the whereabouts of the two teenage Catholic sisters that were hanging around the studio at the time of the International Heroes recordings. Then he went silent. I spoke to Jonas Akerlund shortly before Christmas and he was telling me of Kim’s physical condition and then sent me a message at Kim’s death.  

SPAZ: In the past, you’ve toured the U.S. and elsewhere. Do you like touring?
JONAS: I love touring. It doesn’t wear me out. Traveling, new cities, new clubs, new shows and meeting new people every night. To me, it’s a good way of living. What wears you out when touring are the drugs and the drinking. Your body never fully recovers in-between gigs. I learnt that after the first European tours and have stayed off drugs and excessive drinking ever since. On the other hand, I easily fall in love. That’s my buzz, instead of drinking and doing drugs.

SPAZ: What’s next for The Leather Nun?
JONAS: We’re working with United Stage, the second biggest booking agency in Sweden next to Live Nation. With the album release comes gigs and touring in Scandinavia and Europe. Jonas Akerlund wants me to come over to LA. That’s where we met the first time, backstage at the classic Scream club in Feb ’88. Jonas had been a fan for years and decided to do a US coast-to-coast road trip with some friend. The road trip ended in LA at the time of our show. Jonas was just an unknown video director then, learning the trade. But that night at the Scream, he got to meet backstage with Ian Astbury (The Cult), Lars Ulrich (Metallica), people from Guns N’ Roses, etc. We had a nice celeb turnout that night. And I guess that night ignited his video director ambitions as it connected him with all these people that he’s been hanging with ever since. Jonas been a good friend, who’s been playing Leather Nun tracks on the radio, using Leather Nun songs for his first movie Spun. Leather Nun has been a common denominator in the crowd he hangs with. And Jonas is keen on directing a Leather Nun video. It all depends on what happens with the album in the U.S. And we have a number of artistic collaborations in Europe in the year to come. Side projects within the Leather Nun framework. For instance, we’ll be doing a 40 minute Industrial Noise-rock show based on the oldest Leather Nun songs. Material and ideas we worked on during the early Industrial Records days. Shows that will incorporate European and US artists, as well as live strings. It’s gonna be like a string quartet playing on top of the burning ruins of the world. And hopefully there will also be dates set up in Europe with our old buddies in Einst├╝rzende Neubauten during the Fall.
Apart from that, we’re preparing for the next album. Writing songs. We’ve already demoed a handful of songs during the winter. That will give us the opportunity to pre-plan and pre-produce the next album well in advance, in order to develop and further the musical ideas and layers that we bring to the table on the Whatever album.
Rock music is such a great genre. There is so much that can be done within this genre. Endless musical possibilities.

SPAZ: What are you currently spinning on your CD, record, DVD and Blu-Ray players?
JONAS: Actually, I don’t listen to new music that much on CD. Most of the Rock music put out today is pretty uninteresting. Few young bands/artists can produce an album’s length of material, ideas and visions. Compared to a single (or single track), an album is a journey with a beginning and an end. It’s like a movie. Lots of bands and artists can make interesting videos, but few of them can carry the length of a full movie.
In the ‘old’ days, there were singles bands and there were album bands. And that was great. Problems started when singles bands started to make albums. Artists and labels pushed the development together. Albums were more prestigious than singles and with a greater profit margin. And with CDs, you could cram another 2 to 4 songs onto the album, with the logic that more music meant better turnover. But the record buyers didn’t follow that logic. “Why would I pay good money for a piece of plastic containing 14 songs but only 3 or 4 of them worth listening to?” Instead, the record buyer went for bit-torrent sites like Napster, where they could review music and pick the cream of the crop free of charge.
People still love to form bands were they can bang out three-chord songs for better or worse. Few bands go beyond that primitive stage of just knocking out new songs few bands have musical visions and ambitions.
For the past 20 years, we’ve been force-fed by media that Rock ’n’ roll is dead. But if you review the figures last year, Rock music is the biggest genre as for the turnover of digital and physical sales. It’s bigger than Hip Hop, R&B, Country and other genres. Kanye West and Pharell Williams may go down better with radio, but Rock is where the consumers are. And Rock is so much more than AC/DC, U2 or Foo Fighters.
Personally, I’d rather spend time listening to young unsigned bands and artists on websites like Soundcloud or watch them live, than buy CDs by artists that cannot produce an album’s length of songs and ideas. In that respect, I’m pretty old school. I enjoyed the late ’70s/early ’80s with bands focusing on putting out 7” singles. If you found an interesting 7” single, you’d go and watch them live. And if you liked the gig, you’d be on the lookout for the next 7” single. And everything built from there. Whereas today, bands and labels focus on albums that rarely go down well in the streaming world, which is mainly built around consuming individual tracks.

Thanks to Jonas Almqvist
Special thanks to Johan Haller and Nick Kominitsky