Friday, May 29, 2015

Ballin' with BESSIE: Music from the HBO Film starring Queen Latifah!

Bessie (Music from the HBO Film)


An HBO Films presentation, Bessie stars Oscar® nominee Queen Latifah ("Chicago") in the title role and focuses on legendary blues singer Bessie Smith's transformation from a struggling young vocalist into "The Empress of the Blues," one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and an enduring icon today. Throughout the years, Bessie Smith has served as an inspiration for such illustrious singers as Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin and Nina Simone, among others.

An evocative collection combining historic and contemporary recordings, Bessie (Music from the HBO Film) debuts seven new Queen Latifah performances including"Young Woman Blues," "PreachinThe Blues," "Long Old Road," "Down Hearted Blues," "Work House Blues," "Weepin' Woman Blues" (a duet with vocalist Pat Bass) and "Gimme A Pigfoot and A Bottle Of Beer (2015 Remix),”a postmodern reworking of Bessie Smith's original recording featuring newly recorded vocals, ad-libs and raucous banter by Queen Latifah set to enhanced instrumentation remixed and produced by Adam Blackstone and Queen Latifah.  "Gimme A Pigfoot and A Bottle Of Beer (2015 Remix)" is a dream collaboration between the Empress of the Blues and Queen Latifah that exemplifies the brilliance of each of the artists while celebrating the musical soul that unites their eras and generations.

The album features modern performances of blues, jazz and swing classics including "Prove It On Me," performed by Carmen Twillie; "See See Rider," performed by Tamar-Kali; "Laugh Clown Laugh," performed by C├ęcile McLorin Salvant; and two new instrumental arrangements from Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks: "I've Got What It Takes (But It Breaks My Heart To Give It Away)" and "Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight."

Bessie (Music from the HBO Film) is rounded out with authentic period recordings from Fats Waller & His Rhythm ("A Good Man Is Hard To Find"), Louis Armstrong & His Orchestra ("[What Did I Do To Be So] Black And Blue"), Sippie Wallace ("I'm A Mighty Tight Woman") and Kid Ory's Creole Orchestra ("Ballin' The Jack").

THE WAKING DEAD! NFD 'Return To Dust' with new video and album Waking The Dead!


"Return To Dust"

From the album

Waking The Dead

NFD release their full album follow-up to the 2013 mini-album ‘Reformations’.  It’s their first full-length album since 2006 and features amongst others Cradle Of Filth guitarist James McIlroy and Fields of the Nephilim’s Tony Pettitt.

NFD are a London and now part LA-based hybrid Goth/Rock band formed by singer, guitarist and songwriter Peter ‘Bob’ White just over 10 years ago out of the ashes of The Nefilim and Sensorium, by teaming up with Simon Rippin (Sensorium/Nefilim) and founding Fields of the Nephilim member Tony Pettitt.  

Long serving and integral member Chris Milden maintains rhythm guitar duties while his Lahanya bandmate Luca Mazzucconi (Drums) & Cradle Of Filth’s James McIlroy (Lead Guitar) both of whom joined the ranks in 2009 complete a formidable line up of some of the best musicians on the scene.

Now they've produced 'RETURN TO DUST' one more in a brand new whole series of videos now being crafted in Hollywood!

NFD have issued four albums: ‘No Love Lost’ (2004), ‘Dead Pool Rising’ (2006), ‘Deeper Visions’ mini-album (2008) and following their 5-year break, the mini-album ‘Reformations’ (2013).  Conceived alongside Reformations was this full album, ‘Waking The Dead’, recorded in London, Malibu and Hollywood.

Now NFD are set to stir things up again with their own brand of rocket fuelled Goth Rock, never afraid to mix things up a bit while remaining true to their roots!   BACK WITH A VENGEANCE!  SO LET IT END… SO LET IT BEGIN.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Love Reign O’er Pete:


By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

   Pete Townshend is legend. He is not only the guitarist, songwriter and occasional vocalist for The Who; he is the man who single-handedly orchestrated their ‘sound’. With the melodic flair of The Beatles, the confident and tough swagger of The Rolling Stones and the Rock ‘n’ Roll crunch of The Kinks, The Who became the most dangerous Rock band of the ‘60s. Their antics – on and off stage – are legendary and a quick Google search will tell you all you need to know about Pete and his bandmates Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon. However, it was Townshend’s musical vision that brought the band to life. From their 1965 debut album, My Generation, to the final album by the original quartet – 1978’s Who Are You – Pete never stopped growing as a writer and visionary. There were projects that were scrapped because his musical ideas were too advanced for their time. Townshend is credited with creating the first ‘Rock Opera’ in 1969 with Tommy. Now considered one of the greatest Rock albums of all time, people often forget how ambitious the project was when the band recorded it over 45 years ago. Most artists don’t attempt to make more than one project like Tommy in their careers, but Pete Townshend isn’t like most artists. Just four years after Tommy was released, The Who unleashed their second double LP concept album Quadrophenia. This opus caught listeners off guard in 1973, but soon became one of their most beloved albums. A movie based on the album – starring Phil Daniels – was released in 1979. The film’s popularity in the UK spawned a Mod Revival movement and solidified the album’s importance in British culture.  
   Now, 42 years after the Quadrophenia album was originally released, Classic Quadrophenia is hitting the shelves with Townshend’s approval and 100% involvement. Recorded with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at London’s legendary Air Studios. The recording was conducted by Robert Ziegler and features British tenor Alfie Boe on vocals, with Townshend on electric guitar and performing cameo vocal roles along with special guest vocals from Billy Idol and Phil Daniels. More importantly, Classic Quadrophenia was orchestrated by Rachel Fuller, a professional composer, orchestrator and singer/songwriter in her own right and also the partner of Pete Townshend.
   Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to fire off a list of questions to Pete, who graciously took time to answer them in the midst of The Who’s 50th Anniversary tour. He was even kinder to answer a handful of questions from Facebook fans!

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Classic Quadrophenia is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the journey it took to create this piece of work?
PETE TOWNSHEND: I am delighted with the album. I was never certain this would be recorded let alone released with such a fanfare by a premiere classical music label like Deutsche Grammophon. I’m sure that The Who’s 50th anniversary must have helped DG to make the final decision to take this on, but they are now incredibly enthusiastic and positive about the project. Q began for me back in 1972, with one or two of the songs emerging before I’d decided to collate another rock opera for The Who. Anyone who is interested in the back story of Q can search for my ‘Director’s Cut’ released a few years ago which contains songs that got away, demos and a lot of background about the recording.

SPAZ: Was this an idea that you presented to Rachel Fuller or did she come up with the idea? I’m sure you’ve probably thought about something like this for years…
PETE: I am at an age now when a lot of what I do is about archiving. I have been writing songs and stories throughout my career with The Who, and because the band had such a long hiatus from 1982 through to 1996 (when we regrouped to tour Quadrophenia as a set piece) there is a log-jam of music – not all good, but certainly worth taking care of.
In particular I am keen to make sure that my most serious compositions are properly archived and notated (scored) in an accurate way. I want to make sure that musicians in the future can access these scores, and adapt them to various purposes, so that the music will continue to be played into the future. And of course what I want is for it to be played live in front of living audiences. I want the scores to enable performance from the top down, as-it-were: a full symphony orchestra with choir at the top, right down to simply piano-vocal charts, so that if a music teacher at a school wanted to get students to perform any of my operas, they could. Starting with full orchestra scores is a big project, especially as I can’t read music. (I can write it, using computers, but I have never been trained).
I started this work about 17 years ago. Mainly looking at my rock operas and mini-operas. Billy Nicholls, Sara Loewenthal and Rachel Fuller were the main protagonists in ‘Angelic Ceilings,’ a group I put together to begin this work. Our first joint project was Lifehouse Chronicles in 2000. Finally, in 2012 I decided to commission someone to start on Quadrophenia. I didn’t have to look far because by this time Rachel Fuller and I had lived together for a long time. Rachel was keen to take this on. By a coincidence, I had first met Rachel when The Who were rehearsing at a London studio for the 1996-1997 tour of Quadrophenia that grew out of the charity performance I organized in Hyde Park for the Prince’s Trust, of which I had been a patron and activist since 1982. On that occasion my very old friend Billy (Nicholls) had asked Rachel to orchestrate some of his solo work, and that’s how the connection was made.

SPAZ: In this day and age, how difficult was it to get a label to agree on such an ambitious project?
PETE: I never really tried. What made this project evolve from one that would have ended up with me holding a ‘folio’ (a book of written music) to a fully fledged recording, was that Rachel decided to do demonstration recordings as she went along, so I would be able to comment and approve what she was doing. I asked my friend Hans Zimmer if he could guide Rachel in setting up a composition studio (of the kind Hans uses to write his film scores), and he gallantly invited Rachel to use some time in his London studio. The first track she worked on was “Love Reign O’er Me,” and it sounded spectacular. The conductor Robert Zeigler heard this synthesized demo track. He invited us to perform it with Jeff Beck and the BBC Concert Orchestra for a special event at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Suddenly what had merely been notes written on a score began to take a life as real music. Later, when Mark Wilkinson, the President of the classical label Deutsche Grammophon, heard it, he gave us a deal and recommended Alfie Boe to take the lead role.

SPAZ: The orchestration is quite lovely and brings out little nuances of magical beauty that sometimes get obscured in a standard ‘rock’ setting. As a songwriter, do you often hear all of these elements in your head as you write and arrange the song…perhaps even more than what you have been able to get down on tape in the past?
PETE: I was one of those strange children that heard stuff when I was young, right through to the age of 12. I heard orchestral music that my friend the poet Ted Hughes said could have been what he called the music of the spheres. Literally: the sound of outer space resonating in some way. We lose the ability to hear this when we lose our innocence. Indeed, on one occasion I heard such music on the river Thames, which inspired some of the plot of Q. For me, when I listen to music – particularly my own recordings – I tend to hear something different to anyone else. Now this is probably not uncommon. I know quite a few songwriters who never feel the recorded version of the song they wrote really nailed it. That could be why some artists (Bob Dylan might be an example) like to reinvent and revise their songs over and over again in live performance.
Rachel and I have worked together on songs ever since we first met. Indeed, she is the only person I have ever co-written with in the same room. I’ve collaborated with other writers, but never in the moment. So she has a real sense of the harmonic and rhythmic style I prefer, and the essence of what it is I always try to achieve when song writing. So when she did stretch out a bit I was always pleased and inspired by the way she worked. Generally she was faithful to what The Who did on the 1973 album, but when she – and her assistant and collaborator Martin Batchelar – took license to be inventive, they were true to the original music. Although I love hearing a proper classical singer like Alfie (Boe) interpret these songs, when I first heard each arrangement in demo form (without vocals), I found myself feeling it would one day make the most wonderful classical ballet score.

SPAZ: Was it an emotional experience standing in the midst of all these musicians breathing fresh, new life into one of your most beloved musical creations?
PETE: Of course it was. It was tough for me to remain humble, and to sit quietly, but I was not really involved in the recording or arranging. I simply commissioned the orchestration and then sat back in wonderment. The most wonderful surprise was seeing the way musicians from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra threw themselves into playing this music. The last orchestral sessions I had done had been a while back, and so much has changed now for orchestras. They are challenged all the time, not only by the demands of the usual repertoire like Brahms, Beethoven and Wagner, but also by complex and highly rhythmic and explosive film scores written by the likes of Hans Zimmer. So they only needed a few takes to get the music right. Indeed, it sounded right the first time.

SPAZ: Is there a certain moment during the recording or playback that moved you more than others?
PETE: The opening piano on “Love Reign O’er Me” was so accurately transcribed by Rachel that I could hardly believe it wasn’t me playing, but from there on it explodes into the most romantic and moving string writing, very much in the ‘English’ style. Alfie’s vocal is astonishing, I think. But the songs I love the most are the ones that prove that it isn’t only Rock ‘N’ Roll that can Rock: “I’ve Had Enough” and “Dr. Jimmy” are both huge blockbuster performances with every instrument in the orchestra getting in on the act, and the effect is literally stunning. The RPO can really rock when they choose to.

SPAZ: Were there any musical ideas or flourishes, big or small, that you added to Classic Quadrophenia that you always felt should have been incorporated years ago? Or did you leave that all to Rachel?
PETE: I left most of this to Rachel. I tried hard to give her completely free rein, but my experience with The Who has taught me that when you change music that fans have lived with for many years you may do so at a cost. When a song is licensed to help sell soap it may ever after smell of cheap scent! I do sell songs when I feel my music isn’t being played enough on the radio, and was one of the first to do it – often getting a lot of criticism. But it’s my music, and fans have to accept that I may want to do all kinds of things with it. This album is an example. But, with respect to our fans, I asked Rachel to try her best to retain the flourishes and details from the original album, and because Keith Moon and John Entwistle were so dramatic and orchestral in their methods, I believe it worked. With Q it also helped that she had the very simple blueprint of my analogue synthesizer emulations of strings and brass.

SPAZ: On the other hand, was there something that you asked to remove since you didn’t think it ‘felt’ right?
PETE: This happened a few times. But once Rachel got moving along, there were less and less doubts on my part.

SPAZ: This release is called Classic Quadrophenia for a reason – it is a separate entity that should be judged on its own merits. Are you hoping that fans and listeners are able to separate this new interpretation from The Who version that they are more than familiar with? Each of the interpretations project different emotions to the listener and in turn, the listeners react differently…
PETE: In a sense it is merely a new performance of a well-known opera. In the future this version may well be performed more often than The Who’s’ version. But that version has now been notated and archived as well, thanks to a series of music directors who have been involved in helping The Who to perform the 1973 album on stage, and of course there have been a number of theatrical shows, with more to come.

SPAZ: Your participation obviously links this to the original recording. Phil Daniels starred in the movie version of Quadrophenia and appears here. How did you come to choose Alfie Boe –and Billy Idol – for this classical interpretation?
PETE: Alfie was suggested by Mark at DG. Rachel and I were unsure a classical voice would work, but the minute we heard him we were convinced. He is a towering singer. I chose the other two reprobates! I knew Billy would do a great job, like Phil, he has been a part of the Q story all the way.

SPAZ: Is it the ultimate reward when an album that went against the grain over 40 years ago is still as vital and relevant today as it was then? And that many contemporaries who chose NOT to take chances have seen their albums become more dated and less relevant over time? Quadrophenia seems to have a heartbeat that never fades…
PETE: I think if it does still connect in any way it will be because the story is so simple. It’s about a few very difficult days in the life of a young person. We’ve all been there. What is unusual in this case perhaps is that the difficulty becomes a conduit for an explosion of passion, sexual frustration, anger and awkward love. My music seems to be especially good at expressing all this, and The Who band members were great at performing it. Audiences respond according to their ability (or need) to reconnect with this part of their growing up. Or they might simply look back sadly or fondly to the way they got through it all. In literature there are many examples of this kind of inconclusive story. Catcher In The Rye is maybe the most well known.

SPAZ: Does recording a new and refreshing take on your classic album offer you a new perspective on this piece of work that has been a part of your legacy for over four decades?
PETE: I feel lucky to have been able to record Rachel’s entire score. I had told her I could probably record five tracks at the most – it’s a very expensive thing. I feel especially happy for Rachel who has lived in my shadow for a while. She is a brilliant orchestrator and a very clever and often amusing and ironic songwriter. I know she already has a commission for a film score, so she will be busy in the future.

SPAZ: Do you hope that Classic Quadrophenia will open up this piece of work to a whole new audience who may hot have heard the original?
PETE: Yes, I hope classical music buffs will be able to enjoy it. But I also hope that it will get rock fans to go and listen to orchestras and real opera. Rock and Pop fans are not snobs about music, but they can be close-minded – they are willing to experiment and be challenged but only by what they perceive to be ‘cool’. So hearing a posh person singing in the operatic style is quite a barrier to break through. But I know Who fans, if they like what I do, would love Purcell, Britten, Elgar, Percy Grainger, Bach and Mozart – not because my writing is similar but because I was so inspired by these composers.

SPAZ: What did you walk away with from this experience and what do you want the listener to walk away with?
PETE: Because Alfie’s voice is that of a grown man, and he doesn’t pretend in any way to be singing on behalf of a punk kid, I reconnected with this music as an adult. Roger Daltrey and Alfie are friends, and have enormous mutual respect, and both use their own techniques to perform this very difficult music. But Roger will always be battling with his younger self when he sings this – something Alfie doesn’t need to do. It feels like Q has grown up. This could be Jimmy looking back, walking through the entire story one more time, as a much older man, with his troubles behind him. But as he revisits the music, the old feelings return.

SPAZ: What is next for Pete Townshend and the Classic Quadrophenia project?
PETE: I perform it with the RPO at the Royal Albert Hall in London in July. I play guitar on a couple of things and take the role of the Godfather. Then I believe it will probably tour with Alfie taking in some real opera houses around the world. For me, I played opera houses with The Who when Tommy was released in 1969, this will feel like the closing of a circle.


DAVE CAIRNS: I was inspired to play guitar professionally after seeing you perform at Charlton FC in 1974 at the age of 15. Having immersed myself in Quadrophenia earlier that year, I went out and bought my first guitar – a 1962 Fender Telecaster – and began my career recording at Ramport Studios and ended up headlining The Rainbow Theatre within months of The Who, so a teenage dream come true. The band was Secret Affair and leaders of the much maligned 1979 Mod Revival. As 18 year old Mods we didn't see ourselves as a revival (which was just an invention of the music press) but just a continuation of Mod culture that had never gone away. Would you agree with that, and did you ever anticipate the enormous effect the film Quadrophenia was going to have on youth culture at the time? (We just played to over 2000 Mods at a Bristol venue at the weekend, so it's as strong as ever!) 
PETE: Hi Dave. Great to hear you are still so active. There have been a number of ‘echoes’ of what was most important about the Mod days in the early ‘60s. It was the music, and the dancing. The fashion became important, but that crazy Chubby Checker song “The Twist” allowed men to dance on their own. So when Mod came along soon after, young men were able to put a lot of machismo behind them and be who they really were. The 1979 revival was the most significant echo and your band, like The Jam, played a huge part.

JORDAN OAKES: You reputedly invented the term “Power Pop”. What does the term mean to you? And are you aware of The Who's great influence on the genre, specifically in bands like the Raspberries and Cheap Trick?
PETE: I suppose what I wanted to hear was pop music with some teeth, some edge, some passion. Power Pop is music that I think I’d describe as tight, hard and well organized as against Punk or Grunge. Cheap Trick are certainly that.

JUSTIN FIELDING: Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share about the Power Pop genre (from then to now)?
PETE: Well I still like it as a medium. The song I just wrote for the Who (“Be Lucky”) falls into that category I think.

PETER SKIP BEAUMONT-EDMONDS: What was the working dynamic between yourself and Kit Lambert as a producer/mentor, versus Kit managing the band and his crazy excesses?
PETE: He was a vital driver for me, encouraging me to work outside The Who prior to submitting my songs to them (so that they would stand being interpreted by such a wild musical gang). He inspired me to take chances, and to be what some critics call ‘pretentious’. He wanted me to be audacious and anarchic, to respect no traditions or boundaries and not to end up writing the same kind of song over and over again. In his management of the band he was delightful, and lived dangerously. He practiced what he preached to me, that’s for sure.

PETER JACHIMIAK: In what ways does your Art School background still influence your musical creativity?
PETE: I suppose having seen so many of the wildest predictions of my art school lecturers come true, I look to art lecturers and radical thinkers in the arts to predict what happens next. A lot of people look back at someone like Yoko Ono for example and fail to understand that in the mid-‘60s she was an agitator, a revolutionary, who used peaceful techniques to shock us into a reaction. Her message has always been about saving the world. Gustav Metzger was the same in the early ‘60s. Smashing a guitar may seem as pointless as singing inside a bag, but the point is that art itself has to find new ways of shaking people out of their stupor. I know a lot of people don’t agree, and I understand why, but they are wrong in my view. Art must shock, agitate and even irritate. It isn’t for putting on the wall. That is decoration, equally valid, but a very different thing.

JEFF CORP: Tommy or Quadrophenia? Which is your best "rock opera," from your current perspective?
PETE: Quadrophenia is better, but Tommy is probably more of a real opera. Neither are operas in the true sense; they don’t have recitative to help advance a story, but I am still working in this medium. Maybe the next one will crack it.

BOB BELL/DAVID WIRTH: There are a number of tracks amongst your demo compilation releases (The Scoop albums), that have (mainly) full Orchestral String arrangements behind them. Are they part of a themed project that never came to fruition? It seems it would be an expensive endeavor to arrange and record demo songs randomly with an orchestra!
PETE: You’re right. My ex-wife Karen Astley’s father was Edwin Astley, who was a film and TV composer. Very much like my own musician father and Kit Lambert, he was against any kind of snobbery in music – especially the classical world where the snobbery tends to be in the audience rather than the musicians and conductors. One day we decided to start a project together. Edwin had scored “Street In The City” for me, for the Rough Mix album I did with Ronnie Lane in 1977, and that was the style we were shooting for. Kit Lambert was meant to be producing. I’m afraid to say that Kit’s condition was even worse than it had been when I invited him to co-produce Q with me in 1973, so the project stuttered to a halt. Max Hole, now Chairman of Universal Records in Europe, has been pressing me to do an album like this, and I may consider it.

Thanks to Pete Townshend
Special thanks to Kim Kaiman, Mark Bodien, Juan Arrazola, Charmelle Gambill, Ashley Wildman and Nick Kominitsky



Deluxe CD/DVD


DAWES' Taylor Goldsmith: An EXCLUSIVE interview!

To Be Completely Honest:

An EXCLUSIVE interview 
Taylor Goldsmith

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

Los Angeles has such a rich musical history. From Jazz and Folk, to Rock and Soft Pop, to Punk and Metal, so many genres were born and cultivated in Hollywood and the surrounding areas. No matter what style of music you prefer, L.A. has molded it in some way. In regards to today’s Americana scene, L.A. has been just as influential as any sprawling, drawling Midwest mecca. It all began with the Los Angeles Folk scene of the early ‘60s, feeding into the Folk Rock movement that came later that decade via The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield (amongst others). Once that scene died away, the very same musicians forged the Country Rock movement – Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, etc. – before morphing into the Soft Pop and Laurel Canyon sound, which included Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and other talented singer/songwriters chasing the hippie dream. However, it didn’t stop there. Many more artists from the area gained worldwide attention in the ‘70s, including Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon, The Eagles and the transplanted former Brits Fleetwood Mac. Today, all these artists are now considered icons, remaining hugely influential. Even today, the city continues to give us artists that embrace Los Angeles’ esteemed past while creating something that feels both new and exciting.  
In a few short years, L.A.’s very own Dawes has created a small but significant body of work that is often compared to Roots Rock/Americana bands such as Wilco, The Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo. While those comparisons can be fairly accurate, Dawes’ music owes more to the bands that cultivated the Southern California music sound over the last 50 years. Then again, they are much more than that. In Taylor Goldsmith, Dawes has a singer/songwriter that blends the heartbreakingly beautiful melodies of Neil Finn with the earthy, spacious stomp of Neil Young, and the eye-opening honesty of Jackson Browne. Their 2015 album All Your Favorite Bands is not only their finest full-length to date, it is also one of the best albums of the year. There are very few bands that can successfully balance absolute joy and devastating sadness within the same song, but Taylor and the Dawes boys – Griffin Goldsmith, Wylie Gelber and Tay Strathairn – defy the odds and present us with an album of musical gems with so much depth, they will drag you in and pull you under. This is not an album you want to listen to repeatedly – it is an album you NEED to listen to repeatedly.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Taylor Goldsmith about the album and much more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: All Your Favorite Bands is about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction so far?
TAYLOR GOLDSMITH: It’s been exciting. When you make a record and then sit on it for a handful of months before other people hear it, your relationship with the record is informed by that experience, and that can be strange. You hear stories of certain writers that walk through a bookstore and take their book off the shelf and start editing even though it’s already been published. Sometimes I feel like that. But the single “Things Happen” has been received really well. I feel like up until now every time a single of ours has come out, it’s always seemed more like a taste of the next Dawes record – whereas in this case, it’s the first time where it felt like it was functioning as a single. I’m not saying that I have any expectations of it becoming a hit song, but it does feel like it’s something that people are excited about for itself, rather than a marker for this upcoming record.

SPAZ: This is one of the most honest and pure albums I’ve heard in a long time. What inspired this particular batch of songs?
TAYLOR: There are some artists that I feel just naturally do a good job with having some larger design for where they are in their lives when they’re making a certain record. I think that’s really amazing buying records like that – “Oh, this is the divorce record,” or whatever. I’d like to think there is a thread, conceptually, with each of the records we’ve made. They seem to be coming from a guy in the same place at the same time in his life. I think that stuff takes care of itself. It’s not something I have ever been very good at thinking about or planning. It’s really always just been a matter of trusting the material to make a record on its own. I think that is what happened. The first two songs written were, “I Can’t Think About It Now” and then “Right On Time.” I didn’t know if these fit together, or if this was a good starting point, or what. It’s hard to see how they’re all going to fit. We recorded eleven, maybe twelve songs, but it was so clear to us what the nine track album was going to be.  That’s always just taken care of itself.  

SPAZ: The album has a lot of layers and doesn’t cater to one particular genre. Who are your inspirations, musical or otherwise?
TAYLOR: Well, that’s always shifting around and always changing. That can be a very impulsive experience too. It can be something as simple as heading to the airport and a Cyndi Lauper song comes on and I’ll think, “I want to do that. That’s what I want.” It’s so different from anything I could do. Sometimes I love how those very left-field ideas manifest themselves within the context of the band. I was on this big kick listening to The Blue Nile. They became one of my favorite bands. Hats is such an incredible album. I was listening to that over and over and over – I couldn’t even understand why I loved it so much. It was this real ineffable, visceral experience that was just making me feel so good without me knowing why. And then I wrote, “Don’t Send Me Away,” and I feel if you were to dress up that song in a Blue Nile-like costume, then it would sound a lot like The Blue Nile. I really love knowing that my efforts to be in Blue Nile for a song ends up sounding just like Dawes. And I think that goes for all artists. I’m speculating – I don’t really know – but when I listen to “Tell Me Why” by Neil Young, part of me thinks, “I bet he was just trying to be Bob Dylan,” and then he came out on the other side of it sounding just like Neil Young. I like how influences can show up in those kinds of ways and just be yet another route for you to take back to sounding like you already did.   
SPAZ: Like The Beatles. They thought they were playing R&B on those first few albums, but they ended up sounding like The Beatles.   
TAYLOR: Exactly. I think a big thing for us with this album – we finally started trying to embrace what’s weird and quirky about ourselves. There’s been a lot of solos that I’ve taken as a guitar player where it’s very much like, “How do I do what Jerry Garcia did?” or “How do I do what George Harrison did?” With this record, it was really like I don’t want to think about that ever again. We’re just going to play. I think by adopting that mindset, we all sound more like ourselves than we ever have.  

SPAZ: You are the band’s main songwriter, but how much input do the other guys have with the arrangements?
TAYLOR: I try to keep it as open as possible. Whenever I write a new song, just the mere strumming of the guitar will imply a certain tempo, but I really try to leave it open to them to interpret however they want. If they hear it as a quick shuffle that’s really loud and fast, then I’d love to try it that way. Or if they hear a song as a very slow, sensitive kind of ballad, then I want to follow that, too. I trust them with their interpretations on their instruments much more than I trust my preconceived ideas of what someone should do on an instrument I don’t know how to play. This is a band – it’s not a singer/songwriter with some players. It’s something where these guys take such pride in their respective instruments and my brother Griffin – he’s such a gifted drummer. He has a lot to do with helping me know what’s good and what’s bad, just as a songwriter. But more than that, his personality comes out so much in the way he plays. I would never want to stifle that by trying to arrange something before he’s even had a chance to get ears on it.  

SPAZ: Is there ever a time when you have an idea that changed drastically from the way you had originally envisioned it to sound? For example, you thought, “Oh yeah, this is very Oingo Boingo-like,” but then it ended up sounding more like a Mike Nesmith song?
TAYLOR: Oh yeah. It happens every time, actually. And it happens through the record. I feel like we’re getting closer and closer to all of our songs just sounding like Dawes songs. On our second record, I wrote this song, “Fire Away” because I was just listening to so much Lucinda Williams. I wasn’t trying to write a Lucinda Williams song by any means, but I could feel her influence because I’d been listening to nothing but her for the last four months at the time. Then after I brought it to the band, it sounded more like a Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen song. It definitely does happen where I go in thinking one thing and then it comes out a totally different thing. On the new record, “Now That It’s Too Late Maria,” I wrote it as a finger picking Folk song with a lot of words in it, and then when the guys heard it, they were doing this really cool, bluesy shuffle, and it was fast and it was really fun to play, but I was having to motor mouth the words to get them all out. When we got into the studio, Griffin went in and he sat down at his drums and started playing this slow mid-tempo, laid back kind of feel, and then I just started playing the chords over it, and the guys fell in, and I started singing it. (Producer) Dave Rawlings kind of came in from the control room to let us know that it was sounding really good. We actually didn’t go back and listen for like a week or so. We just kind of kept moving and playing other songs, but by the time we heard this slow version, we knew that this is the way it’s supposed to be and then it felt really good.

SPAZ: On “Waiting For Your Call,” it’s almost a complete juxtaposition of emotions. There’s the sadness of the lyrics mixed with a church-like organ, which adds a Gospel vibe that you associate with joyfulness. It reminds me that there’s not really that much difference between the power of those two emotions – sadness and joy…
TAYLOR: Yeah, that’s always something that’s fascinated me with songs. Maybe it’s just this mutual understanding. Maybe that’s what it comes down to. There are so many heartbreak songs by other people – they bring me back to a time in my life. They’re not necessarily thoughts that I enjoy revisiting, but maybe it’s the fact that these songwriters are putting words to an emotion that makes it that joyful experience at the same time. So I’m recognizing that it’s sad, but I’m also recognizing a connection with another human being that wasn’t really there before. I think that maybe that’s a big part of why songs can mean so much to us. It’s not because we like getting dragged through the mud all the time, but it’s just hard to connect with people, and if you feel understood or if you feel compassionate for someone else’s experience through a song, that can be such a relief despite it being a little bittersweet.

SPAZ: Whey you decided on the track list for the album, did you think of it as one whole piece, or did you arrange the tracks for an LP with two distinct sides?
TAYLOR: Definitely both. That was something important to us this time around. Our three records before this ended up on four sides because the albums were just too long. I was really excited to try to make sure that it all fit on two sides because I think there’s nostalgia there. There’s a romance there. When someone specifically talks about Side B of Tattoo You by The Rolling Stones, that certain collection of four songs means so much and sometimes can give you a perspective on a record. I’ve always felt like Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait has been this huge thing that I couldn’t really wrap my head around. Once I owned that record on vinyl and every section of it was broken up into four or five songs, all of a sudden I fell more in love with it than I’d ever been. I’d always loved the record, but it just always seemed gargantuan – just by the simple act of breaking it up into four sides. All of a sudden it was meaning more to me. For us in the past, the fact that they were broken up into four sides – it was really just a byproduct of just us making too long of a record and not thinking about it. I’m psyched about the way those sound on vinyl – I don’t think it’s a big deal to have to turn over a record every three songs instead of four or five. I do love that, with this one, it’s just two and I feel like its two movements. I feel it’s easier to wrap your head around it. I’m really glad we edited ourselves in that sense on this record.  

SPAZ: I know this album isn’t even out yet, but I’m already anxious to hear the next one. I understand you had a few songs left over from this album. Any plans afoot for another Dawes album anytime soon?
TAYLOR: I’ve already been writing new stuff. I know that we live in a different time and record cycles are a different thing – bands have to tour twenty times more than they used to, we all live on our phones and there’s so many distractions every step of the way. I really admire those days when an artist would put out a record every year. You look at David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson or Bob Dylan and these guys were putting out records so fast. You look back and they have a serious body of work over just a decade or however long it was. With us, it’s always been a record every two years and we work as hard as we can. We’re on tour all the goddamn time and we love it, but it’s just that we’re busy. I write as fast as I can, but it’s still only so quickly. This record did something to us and it opened us up to really trying to continue to tap that vein. We’re starting to feel more comfortable with ourselves, more confident and more aware of what we are as a band. With all that, we are inspired to continue to keep making music. It would be so fun to go right back into the studio tomorrow and get started on the next one. Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do, but we want to start turning out things a little quicker if at all possible.

Thanks to Taylor Goldsmith

Special thanks to Brant Weil, Anna Pandorf, Joe Bucklew, Scott Bergman and Nick Kominitsky




LP (180gm)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

LIFEHOUSE's Jason Wade: An EXCLUSIVE interview!

Meet Me On The Wastelands:

An EXCLUSIVE interview 


Jason Wade

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

When a successful band goes on hiatus, they seldom return. If they do decide to give it another go, it tends to be a long while before they get back together, intact and ready to rock. So, when the band Lifehouse announced, in July of 2013, that they had left the comfort of a major label – Geffen Records – and were on temporary hiatus, many felt the band might have split for good. Looking back, you couldn’t really blame them – with six studio albums (five of them charting in the Billboard Top 20) and more than a dozen charting singles, the band had certainly achieved more success than they could have ever imagined since the release of their debut album No Name Face, in 2000. Perhaps the band’s core members – singer/songwriter Jason Wade, bassist/vocalist Bryce Soderberg and drummer Rick Woolstenhulme – felt it was time to move on. However, Lifehouse has decided to buck the ‘hiatus’ trend and now, less than two years after their announcement, the band is back and firing on all cylinders with Out Of The Wasteland, their seventh studio album and their most inspired since their debut a decade and a half ago. (For the record, lead guitarist Ben Carey, who had toured with the band since 2004 and became a full-fledged member in 2009, has officially parted ways with Lifehouse.)
The break in the band’s never-ending schedule of recording and touring has given the members a chance to breathe and focus on their love of songwriting and creating again. Tracks like “Hurricane,” “One For The Pain,” “Flight” and “Stardust” are filled with top notch hooks that will sound great on Modern Rock and Top 40 radio. The songs on Out Of The Wasteland are filled with the same wide-eyed wonder that fueled their early recordings, but the band’s maturity has added extra depth to their musical approach. This is most apparent on the cinematic sweep of album closer “Hourglass,” a song penned by Pop meister Jude Cole, film composer James Newton Howard and Jason Wade.
Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to chat with Jason Wade about the band’s new album and more…

STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Out of the Wasteland is just about ready to be released. How are you feeling about it and the reaction so far?
JASON WADE:  We’re very excited about it! Very optimistic and feel like we’re returning to our roots, which is an amazing feeling. A lot of the songs off of the record are reminiscent of our first record, No Name Face... so it’s nice to return to a sound and a songwriting style that’s not only familiar to us, but familiar to our fans as well. 

SPAZ: Were these songs specifically written for this album? Or were they songs you had written over the last couple of years that you felt were right for this project?
JASON: Well, I feel like the backbone of the record are songs like “Hurricane” and “Flight,” but there were some stragglers.  A song called “Wish” that we just released as an exclusive for the iTunes preorder was written, I want to say, in 2002-2003 and the song never really felt like it had a home. The mindset was writing 65 to 70 songs in a two year span and collectively we picked the 12 strongest, and a couple of them were from around 2007, but most everything came out of that two year hiatus we had. We needed a break. So burned out… touring for over a decade non-stop, so just to come home and have a fresh perspective…I went into the studio with such a healthy mindset of wanting to get back to an inspired place and really recharge the batteries. I think that being on a major label for over a decade, you can get lost a little on the creative end. I feel like you’re always sensing that you’re going to turn in a record and they’re going to tell you that you don’t have a single. So, to be on our own right now and make everything about making the best album that we can make was, I think, a n extremely healthy place for us to be. 

SPAZ: Did leaving a major label and taking the independent route make the recording process a lot more rewarding than maybe the last couple records?
JASON: It did, and at the same time it made it more challenging too. To take two years on an album was unusal for the band. We, historically, would go in and make a record in about a four or five month period. To have no pressure when it comes to writing singles or making hits, or all of that white noise that you try not to think about when you’re in the studio, we held ourselves to a high standard. A couple of times, we thought that we were finished with the record, and we started over completely. So, we didn’t phone it in. We were trying really hard to make something that we could stand behind and be proud of after being together for 15, 16 years.

SPAZ: Has your songwriting process changed at all over the years?
JASON: It has, absolutely. I started as just anacoustic guitar player/writer. I’d write a song on acoustic guitar and then play it for the band. We would arrange it and produce ourselves more into a live, Rock mentality in the studio – just guitar, bass, drums recorded live a couple times and then  some overdubs – which is the classic way of doing things. On this album in particular it felt like every time I picked up an acoustic guitar or sat down at the piano, I would just go to the same chord changes over and over again. The same melodies were coming out, and so I needed to jolt my creativity. This time I’d bring in an engineer and just use the studio as a canvas, throwing different sounds down on tape – different rhythms, keyboard sounds...anything that would allow a different vantage point. So I would make the tracks sound a little bit different and then bring the band in, then we'd record on top of the demos. But anything I could do to come up with something that was just a little different, because let’s face it, you’re never going to reinvent the wheel, but you can change your method a little bit so you don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over. 

SPAZ: There are some particularly great tracks on the album including “One For The Pain” and “Stardust,” which is just immediately accessible...
JASON: Yeah, that’s Bryce’s song and his vocal on it. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the record. He wrote a great song.

SPAZ: You’ve collaborated with other vocalists and writers in the past. What about on this record? 
JASON: The last record, we had Natasha Bedingfield featured on a track and we had Peter Frampton featured on a song. There’s no real features on this particular album, but there was a song, “Hourglass,” co-written by myself, Jude Cole, and James Newton Howard, who is one of my favorite composers. I’m a huge fan of film music in general and of James in particular, and this song – James and Jude wrote over 20 years ago and it just laid dormant with this unfinished demo. Jude showed me the demo and I got inspired and just really wanted to collaborate with James Newton Howard and I helped them finish. We spent two days arranging the strings and watching James work his magic. So that was a highlight for me personally – to get to work with one of my film heroes.

SPAZ: You’ve achieved a great amount of success in the past, but when you went into the studio, was there pressure to live up to that? Or were you able to separate yourself from that and just make a record that you’re proud of?
JASON: I think there was. There was a time – I want to say like 5 or 6 years ago – where it was really hard not to pay attention to those things. In the very beginning, I had no idea what I was doing. Everything was written almost out of necessity – I just needed to write those songs at that time in my life. On this record, I wanted to get back to that. I wanted to find that 17-year-old kid that was in awe of the creative process and being in a studio, crafting or channeling songs from another place. That’s where my head was at this time. It was not, “Let’s write three or four singles.” The business stuff was all white noise – as soon as I closed the door in the studio, that was all outside stuff and everything else was just a pure creative cocoon.

SPAZ: As a songwriter, are you able to go into the studio and allow the other guys to offer some kind of creative input when recording?
JASON: Oh, absolutely. Rick and Bryce do their thing and they always have great ideas, and it feels like Lifehouse as soon as their instruments are on the track. It’s an open forum for everybody to have their opinions and their creative outlet. 

SPAZ: As the songwriter, was there a particular song – or songs – that you wrote that really solidified the direction that the album was going to take?
JASON: Probably the two songs, “Hurricane” and “Flight.” Those were the ones that really got me thinking that it was time to get the band back together, and these two songs were the catalyst for letting all the other songs come in. Especially “Flight.” As soon as “Flight” was mixed and finished, it just felt like one that only comes around every two or three years where you just happen to be in the room while the song is taking shape in front of you. Those are the moments, as a songwriter that you live for and that keeps you coming back for more, trying to figure out what that magic is.

SPAZ: What is next for Jason Wade and Lifehouse?
JASON:  Some promotion. We’re in the circuit right now. We’re doing various radio station visits with our acoustic guitars, playing three or four songs to the radio listeners, and then we’re starting the Nickelback tour June 19. That’ll go for a couple of months, then we want to go back to Europe and play for the fans over there.  After that we'll come back and do a full headlining run in the states. So, we’re going to be fairly busy for the next year and a half.

Thanks to Jason Wade
Special thanks to Jeremia Miller, Ashley Lanaux, Fiona Frawley, Shari Segalini, Ivan Brailsford, Danielle Czesniewski, Dana House and Nick Kominitsky.





Sunday, May 10, 2015

NAZARETH: Ten Reasons why you should love them!

Most rock fans in the U.S. of a certain age know Scottish rockers Nazareth by their bona-fide American hit single “Love Hurts.” Like many other Classic Rock tunes of the era, “Love Hurts” became an evergreen hit, one that people turn up their radios to listen to because it reminds them of the days when they could take risks, hang out with some questionable friends and party. Yes, “Love Hurts” was the perfect party song if you were with a fine lady who liked to make out during this song. As a matter of fact, “Love Hurts” was one of the first ‘power ballads’ in Hard Rock history. The guys could listen to it because the band still rocked, but the girls would swoon because these tough rockers were showing their sensitive side.  Yeah, “Love Hurts” was – and is – a fucking ace tune. (FACTOID: “Love Hurts” was written by Boudleaux Bryant and was originally recorded by The Everly Brothers in 1960!)

 However, Nazareth was much more than that one song.  The track was released on the American version of the band’s 1975 album Hair Of The Dog, which was their sixth full-length overall. Their five previous releases helped to build the band a solid fan base before Hair… sent their career into overdrive. Sadly for rockers in the U.S., the spotlight of fame didn’t linger on Nazareth for long. The band’s next few albums did chart in the U.S. but the arrival of Punk and New Wave changed the musical landscape and bands like Nazareth were overlooked in favor of the ‘80s Pop generation. To their credit, Nazareth never gave up and they deserve your love and respect for that alone.

If you are familiar with any Nazareth studio album, you already know that the band never tried to knock out the same old Hard Rock anthems on every record. Sure, they had the ‘Nazareth sound’ firmly in place by 1973’s Razamanaz but they didn’t stick to that formula throughout the album. The band was confident enough to try different things in the studio. Has every Nazareth album been great? Well, that is up to the listener to decide. However, every album has songs that really stand out and honestly stand the test of time. I could easily go through each album in their catalog and point out some great songs if you ever have a few hours and want to come over and listen to some prime Nazareth. Though their catalog is lesser known, I’d say that Nazareth are in the same league as Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, Aerosmith, Thin Lizzy and other like-minded melodic Hard Rock heroes.

In Dan McCafferty, the band had a vocalist who could scream, growl and croon his way through a tune. Personally speaking, I’m not a fan of most ‘screamers’ out there, but McCafferty was different. This was a wild man who let loose and wailed on the rockin’ tunes, then scaled it all back and got lost in the emotion of the melody. He didn’t scream because he could – he did it because that is what the song asked for. Just listen to “Love Hurts” – that is the wail of a broken man.  The music is powerful and emotional and it draws out the inner anguish of a man in the throes of utter sorrow.  It isn’t just a scream - it is a cry for help.  The band has had many great moments like that along the way, but they didn’t receive much airplay on U.S. radio, which is our loss.

Since Hair… was released in ’75, the band has soldiered on with changes in their line-up but always with McCafferty front and center. In 2014, they released their 23rd studio album, Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone. Sadly, McCafferty has had to retire due to health reasons (COPD) although the band is continuing with his blessing. I was honored to interview Dan last year for the release of that album and you can find the interview HERE.

Over the past year, I’ve sat down to review the band’s catalog but I’ve been so overwhelmed with other projects, work and life in general and have not been able to devote the necessary time to create such an article.  But it has kept nagging at me and although sharing the occasional video on my Facebook page has helped, it hasn’t satisfied that Naz urge. So, I decided to pick 10 songs that I felt were great examples of Nazareth’s catalog and share them with you.  Are they the best Nazareth songs ever?  Not exactly... these are just SOME of them: they have plenty more great ones to choose from.  I just decided on these at the moment because I want to share them with folks who may not be that familiar with the band apart from “Love Hurts.” If I were to post this tomorrow, it might be a whole different set of songs!  I don’t claim to be an expert on Nazareth, but I am one of many devoted fans. My view of the band comes from a ‘melodic’ view point.  Some love the riffs while others love the band’s Hard Rock crunch. Personally, I love their hooks and the power in McCafferty’s voice – a unique instrument that has defined the band’s sound since they released their debut album in 1971.

So, here are 10 reasons why you should love Nazareth.  You’re already familiar with the first…but I thought I'd include it to ease you into things.  Many FM radio fans are familiar with the second as well...

Click on the song title if you'd like to peruse the album info... and don't hesitate to purchase it!



3. "STAR"








This has been a presentation of SPAZ on the NAZ,
By Stephen SPAZ Schnee