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Interviews in chronological order of publishing top to bottom

Ben Kuzay - Shred Bassist
Interviewed by Michael Meade
Posted 1/20/2010 9:00PM EST

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Photograph Courtesy Ben Kuzay - Photographer: Noah Rothering

TLR!: Hi Ben, thanks for doing this interview with us.

Ben Kuzay:
Glad to be here!

TLR!: How long have you been playing bass guitar?

Ben:
17 years.

TLR!: Why the preference for the bass?

Ben:
I don’t know, honestly.  It’s a preference I’ve had ever since I first picked it up, but I can’t pinpoint a reason.  I find the keyboard and guitar (as well as some other instruments which I don’t play) to be equally as expressive, but I favor the bass.

TLR!: Who or what got you playing bass and into metal?

Ben:
I was inspired to play metal early on by Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Ozzy, etc.  I mistook the rhythm guitar on “...And Justice For All” for the bass (since the bass is non-existent yet credited on that album), and I was completely uneducated on the respective sounds of the different instruments.  Once I started playing the bass, I realized which instrument it was within my first couple months.  The first piece I set out to play was Cliff Burton’s “(Anesthesia)- Pulling Teeth”, which I play live at every Ben Kuzay concert to this day.  I believe that that lead-bass approach Cliff displays in that song helped to shape my view of, and approach to, the bass guitar.

TLR!: What led you to applying shred guitar techniques and speed to the bass?

Ben:
It is arguable whether or not I use shred guitar techniques.  I do not see what I’m doing as being influenced in any way by shred guitar.  Rather, my lead bass is influenced by guys like Stuart Hamm and David Harbour.  My more rhythm-oriented fills are influenced by Geezer Butler, Geddy Lee, Harbour, Steve Digiorgio, etc.  I think I have my own style, but I definitely and happily give credit where credit is due.  Whether or not my influences were influenced by shred guitar is another question; but I know that I wasn’t.  Another common misconception about my playing and approach is that I was influenced by Billy Sheehan and Steve Harris.  I was not influenced by either of these bassists at all!  I respect both of them, but have never been influenced in the slightest by either.

TLR!: Speaking of technique, when performing, given the speed you're playing at, do you slap, finger pick, or use a pick?

Ben:
I finger-pick and tap, primarily.  I occasionally slap, but quite seldom.  I never use a pick.  I don’t look down on bassists who use one as much as most people do- but I steer clear of picks, myself.

TLR!: There's only one thing in the liner notes of Perpetual Reign, the phrase "where there is compromise, there is no art." I share that philosophy with you, the past two years creating and building TLR! has ingrained it in me; any experiences you'd like to share that helped lead you there?

Ben:
No, no experiences.  My philosophy of life is a product of my reflections and observations, and yes, sometimes experiences (and subsequent reflections thereof).  This particular aspect of my philosophy is one that is inborn in me and needed no cultivation. 

TLR!: Ben you get some really cool sounds out of your bass on the songs "Vortex", "Fantasy Girl", and "Ascension", what type of pedals and effects do you use?

Ben:
In the studio, I just have Joel show me a bunch of different EQ settings, and we throw one on that sounds good.  We use this primarily for the leads, to bring them more to the forefront in the mix. 
Live I use a pedal in, I think, only two songs.  I don’t even use any compression live.  I plug straight from my instrument into my amp.  I have never used a pedal in my life, in any of the bands I’ve played for.  The pedal I use is a guitar pedal: a Digitech rp5.  I actually use this for both bass and guitar live- but like I said, only a couple of songs.

TLR!: Since we're on gear and tech specs, are you a four, five, six or more string guy?

Ben:
I use a four-string bass on both of my albums.

TLR!: Given that shred bass isn't a common subgenre of shred metal, Ben could you describe your creative process while writing new material?

Ben:
I think that I’m the only person ever to create a bass-shred cd.  If I am wrong, I hope someone tells me, because I am advertising Perpetual Reign as the first album in the history of recorded music to feature as its format lead bass with metal accompaniment.
My writing process is based upon spontaneity and emotion.  I write many different genres of music, shred bass being one of them.  When assembling an album, I want to make the album flow smoothly and sensibly from beginning to end.  This particular album called for continuity, due to my desire to create a bass-shred cd.  I did not, however, ever contrive to create this type of music; rather, it was all the result of the natural process of mental abandon and emotional outpouring.

TLR!: How long did the production of Perpetual Reign take?

Ben:
I would say that I was going to the studio, on average, once per month for a three-day session.  This took place from the middle of September, 2008 through the beginning of May, 2009.

TLR!: Run into any hold ups or problems during the production process?

Ben:
Yes, but I’m not going to badmouth any of this album’s participating characters, so I won’t elaborate. (laughing)  I may have caused some hold-ups myself.

TLR!: I know this is like asking a parent to pick their favorite child, but if you do have a song or couple of songs that stand above your other compositions on Perpetual Reign, which are they and why?

Ben:
No, I don’t have any favorites.  I love every song on this cd.

TLR!: Out of curiousity Ben, every area seems to have a particular flavor among original bands that marks it, TLR's immediate area for example is marked by hardcore metal and rap/metal fusion; what genre is favored in your part of Wisconsin?

Ben:
I’m pretty out-of-touch with the local scene.  I live out in the country-side, where I’ve resided for almost three years, now.  I don’t go to nearly as many concerts as I used to, and I like it this way.
I spent a number of years playing in local bands, sometimes as a member, sometimes as a session musician, and I don’t miss it.  Being the object of the uneducated sound-guy’s condescension, promoter’s greed, and drunks’ simplicity is not my idea of a “good time”.  Nor is being forced by my band-members into playing a half-hour set alongside a bunch of other groups of ne’er-do-wells who are unprofessional enough to be incapable of playing a real set if their lives depended on it.   
Nowadays I set up my own shows at a university.  At these events, we are the only band, we play for 90 to 120 minutes, and no alcohol is served.  People can argue with me all they want, insisting that my approach is wrong, but I don’t see my peers who are still trying to make it in the bar scene doing better than I am.  The only difference is that someone is making a lot of money off them, and no one is making a penny off me.

TLR!: Ben you're currently unsigned if I'm not mistaken, are you in the market for a label or staying independent?

Ben:
I would love to be signed, if a company would offer me a good deal and stick to it!  But like the previously spoken-of local scene, the record companies do not seem to even operate in a way which I find desirable.  I have friends in signed bands.  The commonality between them and me is this: we make no profit.  The difference between them and me is this: someone is making a ton of money on them, while no one is making any money on me.  I prefer my situation.

TLR!: Any big plans in the works for 2010?

Ben:
No.  I will consider my options as a session musician, and continue pushing Perpetual Reign and playing live with my four-piece band.

TLR!: Ben, thank you again for taking the time for Tastes Like Rock and our readers.

Ben:
It’s been a pleasure chatting with you!

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Photograph Courtesy Ben Kuzay - Photographer: Noah Rothering

For more from Ben Kuzay visit www.benkuzay.com and www.myspace.com/benkuzay.
 

Toby Knapp - Master of Metal
Interviewed by Michael Meade
Posted 1/27/10 9:22PM EST

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Photograph Courtesy Toby Knapp

TLR!: With us today is Toby Knapp, an undeniable master of shredding, thanks for sitting down with Tastes Like Rock Toby.

Toby Knapp: Thanks for having me here for a chat!

TLR!: Toby, you're a bit of an enigmatic legend in the metal scene, at least to casual fans, care to introduce yourself to the uninitiated?

Toby: Well, I've been playing making music and playing guitar for quite awhile, sometimes in high profile situations, sometimes not. Alot of my past is inconsistent, way too long between releases. Also some don't piece the puzzle together, just because there hasn't been solo albums doesn't mean I wasn't still making records, but in the 90's it was like every 3-4 years, the nineties were tough.

TLR!: Your name has been known in the industry since Guitar World Magazine profiled you at the age of 18, and you've been shredding around the world since both solo and with a number of different outfits, in that time has performing ever gotten to be old hat for you or is it still as exciting as when you were first coming up?

Toby: I'm still absolutely excited about it, really I feel there is so much more to do, so much to conquer. Playing around live in a really good band is a great feeling, unfortunately I don't have that at the moment. Two albums come out this year and I really need a proper touring situation. I love playing for those that want to hear me play.

TLR!: Toby your style is without question your own, and that is a complement, have you found your style largely on your own or have you been specifically influenced by any guitarists over your years playing the guitar?

Toby: Thanks! I am very influenced by so many. I love Jimmy Page, Robert Fripp, Blackmore, Malmsteen, Jeff Beck, Friedman and Becker and many more.Through years of mixing these influences up I believe I may have found my sound, a rather crazy one, but I don't feel like a clone anymore. I've seen my name used as a point of reference in the press if a journalist is trying to describe another player's sound. "So and so has that Toby Knapp sound"......that's a great feeling.

TLR!: You've also played some of the biggest metal festivals around, including Chicago's ProgPower, the Abrasive Rock Fest in Seattle, November to Dismember, and Ultrasound for a sampling; were there any favorite stops for you or were they all "just another gig"?

Toby: They were all very important for me, every show has something unique about it. I remember being very nervous at the Milwaukee Metal fest thinking my band Onward were not "Heavy" enough to go over well. So when I dared look at the audience after the first song, all I saw was several hundred smiling faces, fists in the air and applause. At another show in L.A. the audience would actually stand up and give each guitar solo a round of applause before the song was even finished. That was when we opened for the great Symphony X.

TLR!: When it comes to touring, do you prefer the big festivals or smaller venues?

Toby: Anything we can get really. Usually a tour of someone at my level is going to be a series of small clubs and than a few big fests along the way, I like it all. Festivals are cool because maybe you'll get to see Nile, Acheron or Jag Panzer on the same bill!

TLR!: Last year you toured with Darkane in Canada, how was that? Any good road stories from that trip?

Toby: Canada was really cool, the people that came out to those shows were very cool and I hope to get back there. I actually had my own fans going to those shows and they just wanted to see me play, but they were not so happy it was with Darkane. I was sitting in an empty auditorium just watching the soundguy set stuff up and Darkane's bass player walked in and just kicked my guitar cases over, not realizing I was there of course. Man did those guys love themselves. Ironically the most down to earth individuals were Warbringer and Swallow the Sun who are by now, much more popular than Darkane. Good for them!

TLR!: Toby, this is often a hard question to answer, some would find it too personal I suppose, but what has been the hardest part or at least the biggest roadblock in your career to date?

Toby: Some record companies whose royalty statements lie, illegal downloading and an oversaturated scene. I've said before, Metal and Shred became popular, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and it will be pushed underground once again were it is survival of the fittest, and I will be there doing my thing like I have all along. I've seen 'em all come and go.

TLR!: Toby you've worked with a wide spectrum of labels, including Shrapnel Records, Sony, Roadrunner, and a number of indie labels including our friends over at Shredguy Records. Given the option which do you prefer, the "big guys" or the indie labels?

Toby: Well, I can honestly say right now is the coolest time I have had in label dealings, that being Shredguy, an indie label, and when you break it down, a man named Mike that invests in music that he likes. That's the way labels used to be. Shredguy is an indie, so indies that give a fuck rule.

TLR!: Speaking of Shredguy Records, your latest full album, also your tenth full album, The Campaign just dropped with them this past week. Tell us a little about the album.

Toby: It's fuckin' great. It's very diverse and there are four guest vocalists; Attila Csihar (Mayhem) Tom Cline (Noise Auction) Dean Sternberg (former Into Eternity) and Jeff Gruslin (former Vital Remains/Godless Rising). The album is half vocal with a stellar group of guests, the other, more guitar oriented Metal instrumentals. Other guitarists are ripping off this idea for their albums, but The Campaign shall make short work of them.

TLR!: Did touring with Darkane affect the production of The Campaign at all?

Toby: Yes, to avoid sounding like Darkane at all costs.

TLR!: How did working with Shredguy Records compare to past experiences with labels?

Toby: Up to the minute updates on every facet of the project mutually shared. Ideas thrown around, lots of productive dialogue. An artist who wants the label to succeed and a label that wants the artist to succeed. Never an "us against them" type of stance. Shredguy gives the artist the final decision, with that in mind, I have always heeded Mike Mcdowell's advice.

TLR!: How was it working with vocalists Tom Cline, Jeff Grushlin, Attila Csihar, and Dean Sternberg on your compositions?

Toby: An absolute pleasure, they all kicked ass..... a dream come true to have such talents working with me. They all gave 100% and I damn well would love to work with all of them again!!

TLR!: I remember another publication saying, I'm paraphrasing but this was the general point, that you're reinvigorating black metal, has that been your intention with your compositions and performances, or are you creating to create as it were?

Toby: Oh no, I said I found certain BM reinvigorating, not that I was reinvigorating the genre. I have done two BM albums; Darken's self titled mcd in 1997 and Waxen's Fumaroth in 2006 for the Metalbolic label, I love that God Damn cd. You will definitely hear waves of BM throughout The Campaign.

TLR!: Toby you're also the guitarist and chief songwriter for the Death Metal outfit Godless Rising, what do you have coming up with them in the year ahead?

Toby: We have the album Trumpets of Triumph scheduled for release on Moribund Records in early February. We hope to get it together and do some small tours in the coming year, but myself and Jeff Gruslin remain the core and we are having some problems getting touring musicians to commit. At this point we may end up making records only, we shall see!

TLR!: Finally, while I was looking over your Myspace page to do some extra research for our interview, I noticed the photograph of you and your Stratocaster collection. Definitely an incredible instrument, but what brought on your love of the Strat?

Toby: Richie Blackmore, Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Moore, John Norum, Uli Roth, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, David Gilmour, Robin Trower, etc. Hell, even Jimmy Page used a stock Lake Placid Blue Strat in later Zeppelin stuff and with The Firm as well! My first strat was a stock Lake Placid Blue over 20 years ago and the main instrument on The Campaign.

TLR!: Thanks for being here today Toby!

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Photograph Courtesy Toby Knapp

Swirl - California Rockers set to Conquer the World
Interviewed by Michael Meade
Posted 7/12/10 12:30PM EST

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TLR!: Thanks for being here today guys, for our East Coast readers that may not be familiar with Swirl yet, introduce yourselves.

Alfred: Alfred "You can call me Al" Ramirez, lead vocals

DT: Duane "DT" Jones, Guitar and Backing Vocals.

Brian: Brian "Bam Bam" Jones, Drums.

Shane: Shane Carlson, Bass and Backing Vocals...and drink most of the beer!

TLR!: DT and Brian, you both formed Swirl and then brought Al and Shane in, how long did it take the four of you to pull it all together?

DT: I was already working in another project with Al and Shane when the opportunity to go back into the studio and record a few new tracks for Swirl came about. Al and I went in with Cinderella drummer Fred Coury to write and record "Adrenaline" and "Sleepwalker". When it came time to put the live band together Shane was the obvious choice on bass given our history.

Bam Bam: After just a few rehearsals it was time for us to take the stage and let people see that not only was Swirl back, but better than ever.

TLR!: Shane how long have you been playing bass? And what or who got you into it?

Shane: I've been playing bass for about 15 years. What got me into it was the groove of the instrument. I think that, as killer as the sound is of a shredding guitar, you just can't beat a killer bass groove!

TLR!: Al who would you say is the biggest influence on your vocal style?

Al:
That’s a tough question for me to answer . My influences span across all musical genres . I would have to say at the top of my list would be Freddie Mercury, Billy Idol, Steve Perry, Robert Plant and Layne Staley.

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L-R: Bam Bam, Al, Shane, DT. Courtesy Swirl

TLR: Swirl has toured pretty frequently over the last few years, break down the list and share some stories from the road.

DT: Metal In America XXX Mas Tour w/ Stephen Pearcy/ Britny Fox Nov/Dec 2008- This was our first tour and it really got the ball rolling in a big way for Swirl as Stephen Pearcy really took a liking to the band. Stephen has a real "family" vibe about him when he goes out in as much as he wants the bands on tour to look out for each other to make each show as successful as it can be. He really took care of us on that tour in making sure we didn’t get our set time adjusted for venue "production issues" and on a few occasions even went so far as to get the band a hotel room when we didn’t already have one. Stephen told us then about a possible 2009 summer tour for RATT.
Road To Nowhere Tour w/ Bullet Boys Feb/ March 2009- Our first go round with one of the more cliche` rock all night/ party all day bands from the 80s. Everyday was a new experience and we experienced every range of emotion touring with them over those 5 weeks. One night in Dallas, Swirl bassist Shane Carlson had to sub in on bass with them, but hey that`s rock n roll.
Rocklahoma 2009- Swirl’s first festival show. We opened the day on a side stage and RATT closed the night on the main stage (somewhat like the tour we did with thm over the `09 summer) East Meets West Tour `09 w/ Ratt and Extreme July/ August 2009- The highlight of the touring year for me personally as I was on tour with two of my all time favorite guitar players from the 80s in Warren DeMartini and Carlos Cavazo with the Extreme-ly talented Nuno Bettencourt on tour as well. RATT drummer Bobby Blotzer is a big supporter of Swirl and he, along with Stephen were instrumental in getting Swirl involved on that tour. It was the biggest tour for Swirl to date. George Lynch’s Souls of We September 2009- What better way to follow up a summer with Warren, Carlos and Nuno than spend the fall with "Mr. Scary" (another of my all time favorites). George is a very funny guy who was never once to "rock star" to answer any questions about his playing or touring stories from years past.
Road To Nowhere Tour w/ Bulletboys Oct/ Nov 2009- The last tour of 2009. We started on Halloween night and were home just in time for Thanksgiving. More of the same touring with them, but we had really established ourselves after the previous tours in certain markets here in the US. Swirl developed its own draw and we could really see the pay off for our 2009 efforts in attendance and audience reaction to the band on this tour.

Shane: We toured with Ratt and Extreme and I'll not soon forget all the help we got from their road crews. We're out there on our own and there were a couple of nights where the crews really stepped up to help us out. One night in particular my bass was having a problem. A couple of Extreme's crew really stepped up and did a quick repair.

TLR: How is playing out in California compared to other states you've had gigs in?

DT: Playing is fun for me no matter where we are. I like playing California because it is the home base for Swirl. In the midwest they tend to not hold back with their enthusiasm like they do initially in California. I call it that "being sure to look too cool for the room" vibe. [laughs] Almost like everyone is looking around at everyone else to make sure it is ok show their enthusiasm. It doesn’t really matter though because we love that kind of challenge as well and in the end we always win over the audience.

Bam Bam: Playing in Cali is always fun and with so many bands crammed into this state, it's highly competitive. The crowds here really support there own, whereas the other states seem to hang for all the acts (especially touring bands). That's the reason why we love to tour so much.

TLR: Where are you each hoping to take the band over the rest of 2010?

DT: Swirl will support Cinderella at the Viejas Casino on July 30. Swirl has been notified that we are one of 10 finalists in the Band Slam 2010 and will be performing August 19 at the Music Box Theater in Los Angeles. Both of those events aside we are working on getting back on tour again in the US and over seas.
We have spent the beginning of 2010 promoting our successes in 2009 to the general rock n roll public and the music industry. In fact Swirl attracted the interest of manager Sean Hadley. As an independent band we have to do handle every aspect of the Swirl machine to this point and there is just never enough hours in the day. Now we have a partner who shares our vision that will allow us to focus on performing and writing more songs.

Shane: I'd love to make it over to Europe to see how we're received over there.

Al: In 2010 I hope to take The Swirl experience to the masses. I want to give people what they want in the studio and especially live show experience. I want bring back the days of big anthem rock concerts where you and your friends would talk about what a great show and how much fun you had.

Bam Bam: To more and more places through radio and touring. With any luck both here in the states and overseas. Just continue to get the name out there through as many media outlets that are willing to jump on board the Swirl train.

TLR: Brian, you and your brother grew up in Alaska, did those formative years have an affect on your playing? Meaning what kind of music scene was there in the area you lived in?

Bam Bam: Alaska is not exactly the music capital of the world, but I wouldn't change where I grew up for anything. I was a teenager playing in cover bands and wasn't old enough to play the local bars. So my music scene or outlet was MTV. I think that because there wasn't as much to do up there as say Cali, it really gave me the time to study and practice on the drums. I grew up watching a lot of "Head Bangers Ball' on MTV and that fueled me for what I'm doing now.

TLR: DT share your equipment preferences with us, you know favorite guitar model, hardware preferences etc.

DT:
Currently have 19 guitars! One Hohner Les Paul copy (first guitar I ever owned), a `65 Fender Strat and 17 either Jackson or Charvel guitars of various wood combinations including an `82 Randy Rhoads, 3 Phil Collen models, a Charvel model 6 as well as replicas of my heroes that have been Charvel players at some point in their career. I have 2 Warren DeMartini Charvels and one white Charvel strat that is very reminiscent of the Jake E Lee Bark at the Moon guitar. That guitar is used every night and is one of my favorites for sure. The guitars have various Seymour Duncan pickups in them. Lately, I am very partial to the alder body strats with the Warren DeMartini signature pick up or the Duncan Custom, but every guitar is different. My amps are Mesa Boogie Tremo-verbs with 6L6 tubes.

TLR: How was it for you guys to work with Fred Coury on "Adrenaline" and "Sleepwalker"?

DT: Fred is such a great hang. He has such a wealth of knowledge and experiences he was willing to share. Al and I went into the studio to do pre-production and just clicked. I had previous experience working with Fred from some remixes he did for me in 2004. When it was time to go into the studio to work on the ideas that became "Sleepwalker" and "Adrenaline" he was at the top of the list of producers.

TLR: Again, Swirl has toured a lot lately, individually and collectively what has been the best Swirl show so far?

DT: Fortunately there have been way too many good shows and honestly very few bad shows with this band. I am very pleased with the talents of every member of Swirl not only on their given instrument, but with their ability to engage any audience.

Bam Bam: Truthfully there really has been some memorable shows, but I know for me it was playing in Texas at Dos Amigos on the Ratt/Extreme tour. The crowd didn't know what to expect from us and by the third song they were going crazy. Hearing the chants of Swirl still gives me goosebumps to this day. I think the beauty of this question is that we all have different answers and that just goes to show how well the shows have gone.

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Courtesy Swirl

TLR!: Do the four of you prefer large venues or smaller shows?

DT: Playing is playing and I love it no matter where we are. I always say there are just two things we need...Electricity and Interest! As long as we have those things I am happy.

Bam Bam: They both have there advantages. The smaller shows are more intimate and you can really connect with everyone that's in the crowd. However the larger places allow for you to be seen by so many more people and the more people the greater the energy in the room. That's why we are always out with our fans after we play whether it's a smaller or larger place, because to us it's the same.

TLR!: Al, DT, Shane, and Brian thanks for sitting down with TLR! It’s been great.

DT: Thank you Taste Like Rock. We are always appreciative of the support and grateful you asked Swirl to share our story with your readers.

Bam Bam: Thanks for showing us some love and for helping us along the climb to the top.

Al: Thank you

Shane: Rock on TLR readers!

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Courtesy Swirl

For more on Swirl visit their website www.swirltheband.com.


Michael Abdow - Shredding Storyteller
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 9/13/10
Posted 10/4/10 10:05PM EST

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Courtesy Michael Abdow - Photo: Jeremy Saffer

TLR!: Thanks for sitting down with us today Mike, for our readers that don't know you yet, care to give a little background on yourself?

Michael Abdow: Thanks Mike. It is a pleasure to be here! I’m a solo artist/guitarist/composer from Massachusetts who plays for Boston’s progressive metal band Frozen and New England’s premier 80s cover band Aquanett. Shredguy Records released my debut solo album entitled Native Alien in April of 2010.

TLR!: What was it like studying with Tom Kopyto?

Michael: Tom is that rare type of teacher who can explain the most complex topics and techniques in the simplest way (AND demonstrate them) while including instruction and philosophy that resonate for years after. I have fond memories the quest to play while under his guidance.

TLR!: This past April you released your solo album, Native Alien, on Shredguy Records, and before that you were featured on their first two Shredding Across The World compilations, how has it been working with the gang at Shredguy?

Michael: Mike McDowell at Shredguy Records is a class act. He runs the label with genuine integrity, puts great support behind his artists and is one of the driving forces in shred-based guitar music today. Aside from all he’s done for me and Native Alien, it’s been an honor to be associated with his label and the other players on it.

TLR!: On Native Alien you had several incredible guest musicians including Tom Kopyto, how was it jamming with them?

Michael: Tom was killer. He came over to my place and jammed on the track he was to play on for a few minutes then cut his solo in maybe three takes. We kept the best one. . . he’s a ridiculously great musician. Both Colin Conway and Mike Lamagna nailed my drum parts and then added their own intensity and creative flair. Drake Descant gave me an incredibly original and terrifyingly virtuosic piano solo. Jon Morency took the bass parts I wrote to another level and really made the record special. I tip my hat to him for bringing all seven of the songs he played on to life. Kenny worked autonomously on his vocals and blew my mind. He’s an incredibly original vocalist; one of my favorites. Tony wrote his vocals parts and we collaborated on writing the harmonies. He’s also a fantastic singer. Unfortunately, none of us ever jammed! Everything was recorded to a click track with my real guitars and programmed instrumentation. There is a completely improvised drum solo that Mike played at the end of “Bleeding Dry”. Jon improvised a bass part to it about a month later. . . sounded to me like they were jamming in the same room!

TLR!: Mike you produce some very emotive songs, most would think that's not an easy thing to do with instrument only shred guitar compositions, where do you draw your inspiration?

Michael: I usually try to write the song first, then incorporate the guitar. I draw most of my inspiration from those players/bands/composers who provide invigorating nostalgia that hits me hard every time I listen to them. Never do I try to replicate what they do but only the feeling that I get when I listen to their music.

TLR!: Are there any of your songs that are telling a certain story in their notes?

Michael: Every song tries to tell its own story. I try to figure out exactly what those stories are after I write the songs. Each of the song titles on Native Alien attempts to describe what I think the given song means to me. I usually never write with intent but only with unrestrained openness; having then only to reflect and attempt to assess.

TLR!: You've also got an album out with Frozen this year, what do you have going on there?

Michael: Frozen is my progressive metal band out of Boston, MA. The group is comprised of myself and five other musicians whom I have the utmost respect for and feel fortunate to have the opportunity to play under one banner. Think of it as Faith No More meets Dream Theater meets Nevermore meets Cynic; a relatively crude analogous comparison. We’re ready to take the group as far as possible!

TLR!: Speaking of Frozen, back in '07 when you joined them, you got to open for Sonata Arctica, Within Temptation, Moonspell, Katatonia, Scar Symmetry, and Seemless; how was it sharing the stage with those bands? Any interesting backstage stories from those gigs?

Michael: Unfortunately there aren’t any really far out stories to tell. I’m a big fan of Scar Symmetry with the Christian Alvestam line-up and happened to catch him and Per (great guitarist) outside of the club we played at in NH. Despite them being able to speak English well, I was a little nervous and speaking quickly so I’m not sure they were following everything I was saying. I laugh at myself in retrospect.

TLR!: This one gets old I'm sure, but you've been studying and playing guitar since high school, what drew you to guitar above and beyond other instruments?

Michael: In middle school I played drums and piano. In wanting to start a band, I began playing guitar because no one else I knew at the time played the instrument. Ironically enough there are so many more guitar players and it is difficult to find drummers and pianists!

TLR!: Instrument junkie that I am, I'm always curious what brand and model guitars do you prefer and why?

Michael: That is an awesome question because I’m a wicked gear geek. I mainly play Carvin guitars. I own a DC127 and DC727. They are by far the finest instruments I’ve ever played. Both have almost identical personalized specifications. The Carvin pickups have an extremely wide frequency range and sound very multidimensional despite being slightly compressed; a favorable attribute for high-gain tones. My main amplifiers are my Bogner Uberschall Twin Jet and Bogner Ecstasy. Both provide pure, unadulterated distortion tones which are extremely responsive, dynamic and organic while still retaining either high or low gain integrity. My Ecstasy was used for all of my lead guitar tracks/solos on the forthcoming Frozen record. My Twin Jet was a recent acquisition and so has only seen live use. I feel it is one of the best rock/metal amps on the market. I also use pedals from Wampler and Butler Audio which both make unbelievable products.

TLR!: 2010 was a busy year for you Mike, as 2011 gets closer now that fall is here, what's coming up for Mike Abdow in the New Year?

Michael: Still to come in 2010 is Adrian English’s Inner Planetarium album to which I contributed three guitar solos. The songs he wrote are awesome and his playing speaks for itself! Look for it on Shredguy Records! In 2011, I hope to have my instrumental band in full swing. Recently I’ve been working on a lot of more exploratory music for this project which will include a fresh line-up of musicians to record an album and perform the music in a live setting. New Frozen music is in the works as well!

TLR!: Thanks for being here today Mike, it was a blast!

Michael: Thanks to Tastes Like Rock and to you Mike! It was a privilege to answer your questions and be a part of the TLR Community!


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Hollis Mahady - Courtesy HOLLIS

Hollis Mahady - NYC Rock Chick to LA Rockstar
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 9/24/10
Posted 10/6/10 10:57PM EST
 
 
TLR!: Hollis, for those that unfamiliar with your history and achievements would you give us a quick rundown of your musical career?

Hollis Mahady: Sure. I've been singing in bands for over 7 years now. I played in cover bands and original bands in Pennsylvania. Then I moved to NYC to continue my orginal project HOLLIS.
I've literally played hundreds of shows from NYC to LA and played with bands like Quiet Riot, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and The Queers ..along with other artists like
Alexa Ray Joel and Brett Scallions and Kevin Miller from Fuel. Now I currently live in Los Angeles where I am getting a new line up of HOLLIS together which includes the legendary
bassist of Fishbone Norwood Fisher.

TLR!: Besides vocals, you're also a talented multi-instrumentalist, including guitar, piano, harmonica, and keytar; share a little background on what and how you got started playing and performing.

Hollis: I started playing the organ when I was 7 years old. I've taken voice lessons as well. Over the years I picked up the guitar and harmonica. I started playing the keytar because it's a mobile piano. Keyboard is my main instrument and a keytar is great because I can play it and still move around and not be confined behind it.

TLR!: Until recently Hollis, you were living in New York City, what were some of the high and low points of being a musician in the Big Apple?
Hollis: The high point of NYC was definitly the city itself..there was always something going on. Music everywhere..shows every night of the week. It was very cultural and had so much to offer. The low points are that it is uber goober expensive... and it is cold as fuck in the winter .

TLR!: Do you think an artist has a better shot at building a strong, loyal following playing gigs in major metro areas or rural towns and minor cities?

Hollis: Hmmmm I think no matter where you are the formula is the same..you have to build a following and get out there and play. I think in a larger city like NYC or LA..where there are so many people in the industry ..you have more of a chance to run into someone in the industry who might be able to help you....

TLR!: Speaking of major metropolitan areas Holly, you've been living in California since June; how has the West coast been treating you?
Hollis: I couldn't have asked for things to possibly go any better. I've always wanted to move out here and now that I finally have I know that it is the best decision I have ever made. I love that it's hot and I can wear shorts everyday.
I think our music has more of a west coast sound and fits in here better then the nyc scene. I love it here so much. NYC had a lot of hipsters and snobby musicians and that whole attitude just pissed me the fuck off. music is music ..rock is rock..just stop talking about it and play.

TLR!: What have you been up to in the California music scene?

Hollis: Well since I got out here I've been meeting so many great people and connections in the music industry. My old drummer from NYC flew into LA a few weeks ago and since then we have put together a new line up of Hollis which included guitarist Jeff S Kraft AND NORWOOD FISHER FROM FISHBONE. It's really an honor to be playing with such talented musicians..esp Norwood who pretty much invented the ska bass sound that you hear in our music.

TLR!: You've got the new line up for Hollis locked in and it is definitely an exciting time for you, what's the immediate plan of action?

Hollis: Well we just booked our first show which is coming up in a few weeks on Friday October 22 at 7pm at the Roxy on Sunset. Next we will be doing a live acoustic broadcast on October 29 from Redrock Bar which is also on sunset. After that we will be booking shows throughout California and making our way down to San Diego etc..

TLR!: What are your goals for the rest of 2010 into 2011?

Hollis: My main goal is to do a European/Asian tour. I really think we would do well outside of the United States...and my dream has always been to travel the world playing with HOLLIS.

TLR!: Hollis you have a quite a resume both solo and in bands, what have been some personal pros and cons to both routes?

Hollis: Well the solo thing I belive is a lot easier .... mainy because you only have yourself to rely on. You don't have to deal with flakes ..you don't have to wait around for others. You can just play. Obviously tho I have always come back to doing the band thing. ...the hardest part has always been finding people on the right page. It's damn near impossible..but if you keep at it you eventually will find the right people.

TLR!: Now for the lightning round! Favorite gig you've played? So far at least.

Hollis: Garfields in Pennsylvania somewhere and the Whiskey A go go in LA.

TLR!: Which artist or band made you fall in love with music?

Hollis: No doubt. I always loved Gwen cuz she was just such a good entertainer. she had balls... not a lot of chicks I see today or since have fucking balls. It's like their boobs and ass needs to be hanging out for people to pay attention to them. I hate that. I get the whole sex appeal thing..but you can also be sexy and be good too and have something to say.

TLR!: Beyond that, who are some of your major influences in the industry?

Hollis: Since I write most of my stuff on piano. I have been influenced a lot by chick piano players and chicks in general. I have to say one of my favorite artists of all time is Tori Amos. I love her!

TLR!: Large or more intimate venues?

Hollis: Thats a tough one.... but I would have to say Large. I love a huge crowd. Theres nothing else like it. I like to crowd surf.

TLR!: Visit Jim Morrison's grave in Paris or check out Graceland for a closer at the King's home?

Hollis: King's home in graceland!

TLR!: In closing, where would you like to see yourself in five years?

Hollis: Either on tour or in between a tour at my house in California somewhere that was paid for from my music royalties [smiles and laughs].
 
TLR!: [Laughs] Thanks for taking the time for us today Hollis, it's been a pleasure talking with you.
 
 
 
 
For more from Hollis Mahady and HOLLIS check out www.myspace.com/hollisrules.


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L-R: Dave Musser, Dave Case, Jon Cox, Joe Rubino - Photo: Courtesy The Jett Blackk Heart Attack

The Jett Blackk Heart Attack - Bringing the Groove back to Rock
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 10/15/10
Posted 10/18/10 5:15PM EST


TLR!: Alright guys thanks for being here today with Tastes Like Rock! Let's introduce The Jett Blackk Heart Attack to the uninitiated...

Dave Case: Vocals.

Jon Cox: Guitar.

Joe Rubino: Bass.

Dave Musser: Drums.

TLR!: How did Jett Blackk Heart come together?

Jon Cox: I feel that at the core of this band is a conversation about music that started well over 20 years ago. Joe, Dave M and myself, we're old friends- Joe and Dave M are basically cousins, and I was the kid who lived down the block. Growing up- we'd hang out and talk music. We started jamming way back then- and have been in a few really great bands together over the years. Then back in 2007- we began life as The Jett Blackk Heart Attack. I had known Dave Case Since the mid 90's, he and I were in a band together as well. Case decided to come down and check out what we were doing in Jett Blackk one day- and the rest is history. He was the piece we had been missing for so long.

TLR!: Joe, you're the man on bass, how did you get your start with the low end?

Joe Rubino: My father got me a bass for christmas when I was in 6th grade... he is also a bass player... and had a band back in high school... so I think he wanted to see me follow in his footsteps with it... most parents wanna see their kids play sports... mine always wanted me to rock out... so I been playin' ever since.

TLR!: Guys as a whole how do you work the writing process? Is it "go team" from start to finish, or solo missions coming together to form the big picture?

Joe Rubino: Jon, Dave M., and I have been playing music together since we were kids... so we know each other so well musically. It kinda comes together like its instinct. Its definitely a team effort... Jon and/or I will come down with riff ideas but we all let each other play what we feel works best for the song. As we start molding a tentative structure, I'll be hashing out the song melodies and lyrics in my head... then I'll bring the lyrics and melodies to Dave Case and he'll make any changes and help cut the fat out of the song if need be. He is also a bass player so we kinda tag team the bass and vocal department together during the writing process.

Jon Cox: We have really good chemistry as musicians. With us, the songs write themselves and it's usually when we start to over-think the process, that we get into trouble.

TLR!: Johnathan, which guitarist pulled you down the rabbit hole into the six string world?

Jonathan Cox: Like Joe- my own father was a flamenco guitarist- so there was always a guitar around the house. I would listen to my dad play for hours, he was incredible. He taught me the basics of proper technique, but also how to play with feeling. So that was the very beginning. But one of my earliest memories of having the burning desire to become a rock guitarist was when I was 5 years old. I have an older brother (8 years older than me), and I remember him coming home from the record store with my mom, and in his hand- he had a copy of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" on vinyl. I remember feeling a combination of awe, wonder and downright fear, because the music was so energetic and amazing, but also dark and ominous. I knew right then I wanted to create music that made people "feel" something. Tony Iommi is a true guitar god in every sense of the word- his riffs are immortal. 1000 years from now, dudes will still be cutting their teeth on "Iron Man" and "Electric Funeral".

TLR!: 2010 is fast running out on us, what's on tap for The Jett Blackk Heart Attack for the remainder of the year?

Dave Musser: Promoting the hell out of The Jett Blackk Heart Attack, we have an amazing publicist and great experienced people helping us out. We are also writing some new tunes. We'll play a show or two in November and around the holidays to get ready for the really big push in 2011.

TLR!: Alright guys, let's put together Jett Blackk Heart Attack's dream tour... who's on it? Alive, dead, or disbanded.

Dave Musser: Led Zeppelin and Cream.

Joe Rubino: I'm gonna go with Bon Scott era AC/DC and Ozzy's Black Sabbath.
Jon Cox: Deep Purple (MKII- the Gillan and Glover era), Jimi Hendrix, and The Sonics.

TLR!: Dave what types of music did you grow up on and does it still influence your drumming?

Dave Musser: I grew up on all the bands we consider classic rock now. I started off taking lessons in blues/jazz when I was 9. I learned to play my kit by throwing on some headphones and playing along with all the Zeppelin and Sabbath albums I could get my hands on. Then later I got into all the great metal of the 80's and early 90's. Metallica, Megadeth, Exodus, Slayer, Nuclear Assault to name a few. Then I was all about hardcore and punk. I loved The Misfits, Sheer Terror, Killing Time, Rudimentary Peni, Integrity... and so many other great bands. I guess the heavier stuff doesn't influence me as much any more. John Bonham and Bill Ward are the biggest influences on me overall.

TLR!: "Needle To the Groove" is definitely a groove laden album, why the choice to go for a more groove centered rock, while rock in general seems to be shifting to the two extremes of heavy, pissed off, almost metal and FM friendly hard pop?

Joe Rubino: Because we play the music that we want to hear, what we want to play. Not what's "cool" to play. And those styles of music aren't what we are about... if we dont feel it. We dont play it... [laughs] maybe its my age showin'. But I can't feel whats goin' on in the music thing these days. I always look for new bands to dig but I always find myself reverting back to older music. But there are a few exceptions. Where we come from. There are some really good bands forming right now.

Jonathan Cox: I totally agree with Joe. When we write music, it's because there's a song in our heads that's trying to get out. This music is our life's blood. If we are fortunate, and people get it, and like it- then it's a double blessing.

TLR!: Mister David Case, favorite thing about being the vocalist?

Dave Case: My favorite thing about being a vocalist is hearing the band from a listener's point of view, and being able to assess things, musically, in a way that I hadn't previously been accustomed to, getting a new perspective on a song in progress. Its a constant learning experience.

TLR!: We spoke about plans for what's left of '10, but what's coming down the pike for 2011?

Dave Musser
: We definitely have some lofty goals for 2011. Now that we have a solid foundation, it's time to branch out. We'll hit the road a bit. Maybe put out another album. We certainly will be trying to reach that "next level" we've been hearing so much about. Definitely keep an eye on us at www.thejbha.com. You can check out our video, find us on facebook and myspace or book us for shows.

TLR!: Thanks so much again for sitting down with us today guys, it's been a pleasure interviewing you.


For more Jett Blackk Heart Attack check out www.thejbha.com and www.myspace.com/thejettblackkheartattack.  


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T.C. Tolliver - Photo: Donatella Lavizzari

T.C. Tolliver - Drum Legend for The Plasmatics and Beyond
Interviewed by Michael Meade on 10/17/10
Posted 10/22/10 3:02AM EST
 
 
 
 
TLR!: With us today is T.C. Tolliver, thanks for sitting down with TLR! today T.C.

T.C. Tolliver: Cool to be here.

TLR!: T.C. you've had a varied and interesting career, everyone tends to focus on your days with the Plasmatics and the late, great Wendy O. Williams; which produced some great music to be sure, but would you mind taking a few minutes and enlightening our readers on your other career high points pre- and post Plasmatics?

T.C.: Yes, playing with bands in high school, while honing my career, I joined a band called "THE CHERRY PEOPLE" Punky Meadows was the guitarist, who later became a member of the glam-rock group "ANGEL"... (in which I was the original drummer) because of image, I was replaced by Barry Brant... Cherry People disbanded, Punky and I, were in a band called "BUX". Again, the band went seperate ways, lead singer Ralph Mormon became the singer for "The Joe Perry Project". Changing my musical direction, I joined a legend R/B Duo, called Peaches & Herb, which lead to my first international tour, Finland (Helsinki) Caribbean Island (West Indies) Canada and the United States... After the tour, I joined a D.C. recording band called "SYMBA" with a mild hit song called "Hey You"... and wanting to get back to my Rock Roots, I moved from Washington D.C. to New York in '82, and auditioned for the "Plasmatics". After recording and touring for several years, after all the mayhem and chaos and the passing of Wendy O. Williams, times were changing, and so was music. I met a renowned bassist T.M.Stevens (Vai, James Brown, Miles and so on) formed a band called "SHOCKA ZOOLOO" recorded an LP called "BOOM", toured the United States and Europe several times.Once again returning home and back to Europe, I toured with a blues rock group "Twin Dragon" and also Eric Martin (Mr.Big) after that tour I played with "Joe Lynn Turner" (Rainbow). Being an Independent Contractor... (sworn to have fun, loyal to none), I perform with many different legendary jazz artists, such as Norman Connors, Michael Henderson, Angela Bofill, Jean Carn, the late Ollie Woodson,(Temptations) Tom Brown (Jamaican funk), Bobbie Humphrey (fleutist),(flute player) Lonnie Liston Smith, Marion Meadows and a host of others. At this present time, I've recorded with a New Jersey band called C4 experience, with a release date this spring. I will be recording with Joe Hassalvander (Raven) solo project, another release this spring following it up with a European Tour, Italy, Germany, France, and Russia, if the climate is right, seems like the world is in chaos.

TLR!: Your lineage is African American and Native American, has your cultural background influenced your playing style?

T.C.: Yes being an Afro/American Native, has influenced me a lot, after knocking someone out, I'm pretty much thinking about scalping their azz... [laughs]. Seriously... anyway, just having that natural rhythm (drums) and being influenced by my parents when I was growing up, they played all types of music, jazz, soul, fusion, rock, R/B, show tunes all had a great impact on my style of playing.

TLR!: Plus you were raised primarily in in the Washington D.C. area, which has always had a pretty intense music scene more so once punk hit it, has the D.C. area played a role in your performing as well?

T.C.: Yes, I was born and raised in S.E. Washington D.C. Living in Washington D.C. the home where GO-GO music was born, Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown, E.U. Experience (Doin' The Butt) fame just to name a few, the groups I was exposed to; Rock, Soul groups like, Bad Brains, Horn groups and also the Funkadelics, home of the P-Funk. Playing and feeling that kind of diverse music enabled me to play in the style that I play.

TLR!: Your thoughts on the direction the music industry has taken as a whole in the 15 or so years with the end of the original alternative rock boom of the 90s which led to the pop princess, boy band, and rap domination from 1997 until the Rock Revival of the first few years of this decade; and the advent of digital media.

T.C.: The music industry has taken a toll for the worst. Greed has taken over by the big corporations, nothing against rapp!! It's all about the quick buck and what's popular at the time, talent has nothing to do with it anymore... all the passion has left the building, so it's about image like your Lady Gagas, boy bands like Justin B. and your Rapp artists, and fly by night artists, with no substance..... videos are like mini porn movies, negative lyrics, and just fashion... but soon there will be an end to record companies. You can do the same thing they're doing, at home in your own studio, you don't need a record company, be the C.E.O. of your own company. Rock and Metal is very strong with the kids in Europe, it's back with a vengence, I was surprised to see fans from the Plasmatics era with LPs vinyls. Very cool and the world of digital media, I think it's great, to have a choice of listening to some great rock music, punk and metal groups from all over the world.

TLR!: Now for the typical “lightning round” questions… favorite venue ever played?

T.C.: My favorite venues were the arenas we played (Plasmatics) with "KISS" in the south west area,Texas, new Mexico and around the bible belt.

TLR!: Preferred type of venue, arena or intimate?

T.C.: Personally... I like the intimate settings, makes me feel like we're a part of each other, very personal like, and the heart felt warmth of their appreciation. Arena is like me playing to the monitors, no real interaction with each other, for the most part.

TLR!: MP3 or classic vinyl?

T.C.: Ahhhh... vinyl will always be my choice, because of the sound you get. Digital too clean. Besides the d.j.'s got to have them... [laughs]... I love the analog sound, just a matter of taste... like a watch that has hands, or a clock tells you the time in numbers, just a preference.

TLR!: More of a bitch when it breaks, bass drum head, snare head, or tom head?

T.C.: I rarely break a bass drum head, it'll be a real big bitch if you break one. It's like, your groove maker (bass drum) left the states, as opposed to a snare or tom head... break a snare head you can use the toms, briefly....

TLR!: Favorite album of all time? And yes it is cool if you played on it [laughs].

T.C.: My favorite album of all time would be "ARE YOU EXPERIENCED" (Jimi Hendrix, "Earth Wind and Fire"(any album), Prince & the N.P.G.

TLR!: T.C., feel perfectly safe to plead the Fifth on this one, but drummers always get the bum rap of being moody and the hardest member of the band to deal with; but from your perspective as a drummer who’s, to generalize, the more fitting holder of that rap?

T.C.: No doubt, the "Singer". We drummers (besides Buddy Rich) can release all that tension by playing harder and imagining that their faces are on the snare drum... or their ass is!!!! the bass drum etc...[laughs]... so, having said that... we're pretty mellow...

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The Plasmatics, T.C. Tolliver center foreground - Photo: Rod Swenson

TLR!: Since I'm personally curious as a fan more than a journalist, what were some of the high and low points of your time with the Plasmatics and later drumming for Wendy O. Williams on some of her solo tours and albums?

T.C.: My high points with the PLAS. actually was the audition for the 2nd. time, with Dan Hartman being there (as if I needed more pressure) and also recording the best record, that the Plasmatics holds today. My low point was when the band broke up... what a chemistry that was. Staying on board with Wendy, really meant a lot to me. Breaking down to a 3 piece band was quite awesome, fantastic musicians (Greg Smith) on bass (Michael Ray) on guitar... a force to be reckoned with for sure. Touring in England through out London, playing the (HAMMERSMITH ODEON) opening act for "MOTORHEAD" was quite memorable and playing "Camden Palace" in London was awesome. Recording with Wendy, she made it so easy to record with, we all were into the one mind one soul attitude.

TLR!: As the end of the year draws closer T.C., what did 2010 hold for you?

T.C.: 2010 in the beginning was great seeing my son Jason Michael Mullan, for the first time in 30 some odd years but that's another story, and working on many projects kept me quite busy, until the economy went to hell, less touring, fewer gigs etc. But things are looking up very high for me, I'm looking forward to this spring of 2011...

TLR!: After having done so much and accomplished so much in the music world T.C., where do you want to see your career go from where you’re standing right now?

T.C.: I'm very happy of what I'm doing and being blessed to do what I'm doing, recording, touring will begin soon, and in between time, teaching and playing to the little kids in school and to inspire them to become what ever they dream of becoming and showing and teaching them the right path to follow, to have a fulfilled life.

TLR!: That being covered, what do you have lined up for 2011 that you can share with us today?

T.C.: For 2011 looks very promising, Joe Hassalvander and I are putting back the "HOUNDS of HASSALVANDER" we're recording next month to tour Italy's "DOOM Fest" early spring, also Germany and Russia... booking venues as we speak... so look out for a few releases this spring with me on a few projects I'm working with......"C4 Experience" and "HOUNDS OF HASSALVANDER".

TLR!: Thank you for taking the time to chat with TLR! today T.C., it’s been great!


AchronicA - Rocking The Whiskey A Go Go
Interviewed by Melissa Anderson on 12/10/10
Posted 12/17/10 4:31PM EST
 

Outside the iconic Whiskey A Go Go just before hitting the stage AchronicA took time out to talk with Taste Like Rock. It was an oppurinty to meet up with the whole band Tyler Hartsook (vocals), Derek Hartsook (drums), Nic Hultman (guitar), Jeff Sills (guitar), and Josh Wilson (bass).

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AchronicA outside the Whiskey A Go Go - Photo: Rockwell Anderson Media

TLR!: Thanks for being here.

AchronicA: You're Welcome.

TLR!: Who are you?

AchronicA: We are AcronicA from Temecula Valley California.

TLR!: How long have you been playing music?

AchronicA: Nic:
I have been playing guitar 15 years.

Josh: I have been Playing bass 10 years.

Derek: I have been playing 15 years.

Tyler: I have been doing vocals for 3 years.

Jeff: I have been playing for 15-16 years.

TLR!: Who writes the lyrics for the band?

AchronicA/Nic:
Mainly Tyler, we tag team on a few songs but mostly it’s Tyler.

TLR!: What bands have influenced you most?

AchronicA/Nic: The bands that influenced me most; Black Sabbath, Tool, Mudvayne.

TLR!: What is your practice schedule like?

AchronicA/Tyler:
3 days a week minimum for about 2-3 hours. We have busy scheduled with work we are busy guys, but we force it in.

TLR!: How often do you go into the studio?

Achronica/Nic: we have only been a band for 5 months but we have been in the studio twice. We are trying to finish our new CD called 6 Days. It should be out sometime in February.

TLR!: Where are you tonight?

Achronica/Nic:
we are at the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood tonight.

Tyler: The Infamous Whiskey.

Nic: We are in Fresno, California tomorrow night at Club Fred.

TLR!: What are your goals as a band for 2011?

AchronicA/Nic: Our goals or to seriously kick some ass we have a long big tour planned. We are going to hit other states besides California.

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Nic Hultman - Photo: Rockwell Anderson Media

TLR!: So do you plan on doing anymore acoustic songs?

AchronicA/Nic: We will be doing a venue of just acoustic set.

Tyler: For the ladies.

TLR!: What separates you guys from other bands?

AchronicA/Tyler: probably our good looks, other than that we just work really hard and we are all pretty good at what we do I have to say.

TLR!: What drives your sound?

AchronicA/Nic:
Raw emotion and aggression that is what drives AchronicA. We try to be a true original band and not follow what the scene is at the time we try to go our own direction.

TLR!: How do you get so many bookings in such a short time?

AchronicA/Nic: Josh is really good after shows going around bumping elbows and gets phone numbers. I am busy at home booking shows out of town and staying busy.

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Jeff Sills - Photo: Rockwell Anderson Media

TLR!: Do you prefer a special instrument brand, if so what?

AchronicA: Nic:
I prefer Jackson guitars.

Jeff: I am the lover of anything nice and if it is hand made in the USA I will take it Thank you very much.

Tyler: I’ll take anything that’s free.

Josh: I have always played on the Dean so that has always been my favorite.



Derek: As long as it is a good quality maple kit and the symbol crash good that is my main thing.

TLR!: Who would you most like to perform with and why?

AchronicA/Nic: Ah that is a big question there. There is so many bands we would like to play for. The first one to come to mind is Slipknot but that won’t happen. Mudvayne or Tool would be a good one, Lamb of God would be a choice and Slayer. Those bands are influences and they have stayed true to their sound from the beginning.

TLR!: How and when did the band form?

AchronicA/Nic: I met Derek in the gym. He was playing air drums at the time and I asked if he really played the drums. He said he did but he did not have a drum set at the time. So we made sure he got a drum kit. We just went from there. Me and Derek were the back bone of AchronicA to start with. From there we brought in Jeff. I was in a past band with Josh so I kind of already had a bass player in store. Once we had the band together Derek mentioned his little brother sang. We listened to a side project that he (Tyler) had called Alter Of All. Tyler played all instruments and vocals. So Tyler is really a multi-talented individual and we were really stoked to have him part of AchronicA.

TLR!: How did you come up with the name?

AchronicA/Derek: I got a phone calling saying we got a name its 2 verses 1 so I said whatever sounds cool ok.

Nic: AchronicA is an original word made up to define who we are. AchronicA means repetitive really it is just constant repetitive loud metal.

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Tyler Hartsook - Photo: Rockwell Anderson Media

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AchronicA - Photo: Rockwell Anderson Media

TLR!: Who does the logo and art for the band?

AchronicA/Nic: We work on our own art we stay busy on that with stickers and logos and merchandise.

AchronicA/Nic: This is Leon Murphy, he is the one who has invested the most in the band. He believes in the band.

Murphy: I know he (Nic) was talented I have seen it his whole life and saw it when I first met him. I got a call from him that said I have something you need to check out. So I heard Derek on the drums and I was blown away. He actually tested on my kids drum set and he blew me away. Then I heard Tyler on vocals and I said lets do this.

TLR!: Thanks guys and have a great show.

AcronicA: You bet.



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Tricksy - Photo Courtesy of Tricksy

Tricksy - Putting Rock in Roller Derby
Interviewed by Shannon Rowlands on 12/18/10
Posted 12/28/10 4:00PM EST
 
 
 
TLR!: Thanks for taking the time to hang out with TLR! today. Introduce yourselves to our readers.

Tricksy: Hey, TLR! Tricksy is a small (sometimes changing) collective of musicians who LOVE ROLLER DERBY! We are:
Tricksy D'mar (Julie Clark)- guitar, vocals, bass, writer/arranger
Lance Boil (Micheal Smitherman)- bass, vocals
Effen A (Amy Rollinson)- guitar, vocals
Bam Bam (Mark Trouse) - drums, guitar, nerdy tech stuff

I, Tricksy, write all of the songs, pay most of the bills (with some help from Lance), play all the instruments on the demo and basically have my neck out on the chopping block! The band was my concept and I get to either steer the thing up the hill or off the cliff…! 

TLR!: What sparked your interest in derby and whats your favorite thing about it?

Tricksy:
It's hard to see Roller Derby and not fall madly in love! I love that Roller Derby is not just a sport - it is a lifestyle, a subculture! It engenders many of those things (and people) on the fringes of the mainstream. It's loud! It smells! It's mildly violent! It's raw! ….sounds like rock'n'roll to me! Tricksy tries to capture a lot of the energy in roller derby in our songs.

Eff'n A: My friend Kelly (a.k.a. Maim West) got me into roller derby. She plays for the Detroit Roller Derby. My favorite things about it is seeing the two opposing teams beat the crap out of each other, and then everybody all goes out for beers afterwards. There's a great sense of sportsmanship.

TLR!: If you played derby, what would your positions be? 

Tricksy: Tricksy would TOTALLY be a Jammer!!! I know by the way I drive [laughs and winks]. 

Eff'n A: If I played derby I would want to go for it and be a Jammer!

TLR!: What would your derby names be?

Tricksy: Tricksy would probably be… Fighty Mouse!

Eff'n A: My derby name/Tricksy name is Eff'n A.

TLR!: Who is your favorite derby team?

Tricksy:
Well of course, being from Atlanta, I like the Dirty South Derby Girls. Other than those loyalties…I like any team that Suzy Hotrod is on (Philly?!?!)

Eff'n A: I'm a big fan of the Atlanta Roller Girls.

TLR!: What is the most memorable derby bout you've been to?

Tricksy: My first one! Manhattan Mayhem vs. Queens of Pain. I fell madly in love and have been obsessed since. Thanks, Suzy Hotrod [smiles].

Eff'n A: The most memorable derby I went to was in Tallahasse. It was my 30th birthday, and I got a shout out from the announcer. Tricksy played that derby, and the energy was high and mightly that day. Can't think of a better way to turn 30 than rockin' out on stage at the roller derby.

TLR!: How did the band form and come to be what it is now?

Tricksy: The band formed after I saw my first derby bout in 2008. I started writing songs that kept turning out to be about roller derby/roller girls. I did a video for one of my songs (Roller Derby Star) that was starting to get some attention from the roller girls. After I finished the video I thought I better put a band together to play live and feed the roller girls with some rowdy ass music to skate to!

Eff'n A: I still have the email saved from Tricksy with the subject: "Wanna be in a Roller Derby band?" It's been history ever since!

TLR!: Biggest musical influence for each of you?

Tricksy: Joan freakin' Jett!

Eff'n A: My biggest musical influence is Brody Dalle from Sourpuss/the Distillers/Spinnerette.

TLR!: Does one member do the majority of the writing or is it more of a collective effort?

Eff'n A: Julie (Tricksy) writes all of the songs, but once we come together as a band we are able to "tweak" with structures and such to make it feel like all of ours.

Tricksy: I write all the songs… apparently I am the most diseased/obsessed/neurotic/insane! The band helps with live arrangements.

TLR!: What are your favorite parts about touring as a band?

Tricksy:
Hanging out as a group and getting to know each other.

Eff'n A: My favorite part about touring is getting to get out of Atlanta and rocking out in other cities.

TLR!: Least favorite or hardest parts of touring?

Tricksy: Carrying equipment!!!! Why do you think I made sure to get some guys in the band?

Eff'n A: My least favorite part about touring is the expense.

TLR!: What do you like to do in your down time?

Tricksy: Write songs. Play with my recording software, blips and bleeps in the studio, going to roller derby bouts.

Eff'n A: In my down time, I love hanging with my little weener dog Daisy Mae.

TLR!: Where's the best place for fans to access your music?

Eff'n A:
Best place to hear Tricksy is Facebook.

Tricksy: Either Facebook or reverberation.
www.facebook.com/tricksyrox, www.reverbnation.com/tricksy  

TLR!: Any memorable show moments from 2010?

Tricksy: Playing for the Tallahassee roller girls was probably the best as far as crowd response. I think I sweated off about 8 pounds but it was worth it! The Atlanta show was memorable because it rained and my amp shorted out… I played air guitar for the entire show!

Eff'n A: One of my most memorable show moments was playing at the Earl for a benefit for Sully. Tricksy played in front of the Indigo Girls!

TLR!: What upcoming things can fans look forward to with the band in the next year?

Tricksy: Right now we are focusing on getting some songs recorded in a professional studio with a real producer, Rob Gal. I am very excited to get some polished recordings ready. After that… I'm not sure what we will do. We will probably play some shows here in Atlanta. Playing the derby circuit turned out to be challenging on many fronts (venues are not good venues for sound, no PA equipment…). We are still open to doing some derby shows but they will have to be more "strategic".
We are also excited to have two of our songs featured on the upcoming Wii Ware game called "JamCity Rollergirls". It is the ONLY roller derby video game. The game is scheduled for a January 10 realease. The guys at Frozen Codebase were a dream to work with and if they end up getting licensed by a bigger company and can add more memory to the game…maybe more songs! I real want to get our song, "Suzy Hotrod" on the game's soundtrack because Suzy is one of the featured characters in the game (hell yeah!).

TLR!: Goals for the band in 2011?

Tricksy:
Tightening up and improving our live show. Bringing an awesome cd to the marketplace. Expanding our exposure to the roller derby community and the music community at large. Writing some more songs! Selling some more t-shirts!

TLR!: Any plans for ever stopping through Pennsylvania on tour?

Tricksy: AH!! PA! Love PA! Love the Steelers! Love the Steel City Roller Demons! Betty BoneCrusher is featured in our music video on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhpOj3v4EM4). I also will never forget my first big show with my previous band, Lift, opening for the Indigo Girls and Penn State…AWESOME!!! We'll see what the future holds and what travel opportunities might present themselves…. You just never know.

Thanks to Tricksy for sending their video for "Roller Derby Star" along to wrap up the interview! Enjoy!


Video courtesy Tricksy