Tuesday, March 31, 2009

"Never Take Us Alive"

Yay, for Madina Lake! The Chicago pop-rock-electronica band is moving up the alt-rock chart with their current single, "Never Take Us Alive" -- No. 43 at the moment. The guys recently played Michigan, and I had the opportunity to interview bass player Matthew Leone about the band's latest full-length, "Attics to Eden."

Here's the story/interview (originally published in the Gannett Lansing State Journal and on LSJ.com):

Madina Lake goes eclectic on new album: 'We finally became who we always meant to be,' says bass player

By Anne Erickson, Gannett Lansing State Journal

Never mind that they're best buds with Linkin Park and My Chemical Romance. Never mind that they're signed to Roadrunner Records, the same label as Nickelback and Slipknot. And never mind that they're one of the most coveted alt-rock acts out there.

As soon as Madina Lake bass player Matthew Leone answers the phone, you get the sense these guys are down to earth.

Matthew is humble, spontaneous - and darn funny.

"We haven't played a show in five months, and we don't know where anything is or how to sound check anymore," he said, laughing. "But we're in Nashville and its 45 degrees here, and we're from Chicago so we're used to, like, negative 4,000. So this is great!"

Matthew and his twin brother, Nathan, started Madina Lake in 2005. The two won some cash on the reality show "Fear Factor" and put it to good use - by financing a demo. Pretty soon they were touring the U.K. with pop-punk band Paramore.

Matthew is quick to point out that reality TV wasn't a priority. See, it was more of a fluke.

"We never planned to fuse the two, and it was never our ambition to catapult off that acclaim," he said. "The only reason we did that was to make fun of that culture. We thought our friends would think it was funny to see us go on and get (beaten) by girls. When we won, we never believed it."

Madina Lake has spent much of the past few months in recording mode - writing, working with producers, etc. At the moment, they're gearing up to release a new album on April 28 that Matthew says will truly represent what Madina Lake is about.

"Musically, we finally became who we always meant to be," he said. "I think for most bands, their first record is younger, more inexperienced and more energetic, and that was the case with us. But after being on the road and learning more about ourselves and each other, we grew and evolved, and this record shows that."

Devoid of genres, the disc - titled "Attics to Eden" - jumps from 3,000 beats-per- minute dance-metal anthems to double-fuzzed electronia to mainstream pop-punk. It's hard to pinpoint. Kind of like Madina Lake.

Matthew elaborated on the album's sound, confirming that the band is moving away from its initial punk-pop impressions to something heavier and more complex.

"If we're lucky, people who wrote us off on the last record because we were classified in such a niche will give us a second chance. We would love for them to see that we're not who they thought we were."

The point is, Madina Lake is not your run-of-the-mill modern rock band.

"We listened to Bruce Springsteen, Guns N' Roses and Paul Simon when we were recording this album," Matthew said. "Those guys create an undeniable image around the music. It whisks you away to this beautiful mythological world. And that's always been our goal: To grab the listener and to take them on a journey and to have them walk away somehow affected."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"Year of the Spider"

Last week's adventures involved a trip to the Machine Shop in Flint for post-grunge/alt-metal band Cold's reunion tour. The show took me back to 2003, when I first played the then-ubiquitous "Stupid Girl" on alt-rock radio. The show was amazing. I was really blown away by the strong vocals, tight riffing-- everything! Word is the guys are doing more shows through the fall. Then, maybe a new album?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pearl Jam reissues "Ten"

Pearl Jam, most would agree, is one of the most influential Seattle bands to come out of the '90s grunge/alt-rock movement. Tomorrow the band reissues it debut album, "Ten," remastered, remixed and loaded with more goodies, including a DVD of Pearl Jam's 1992 "MTV Unplugged" performance. Fans should be delighted with the package.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

New Silversun Pickups

The new Silversun Pickups single, "Panic Switch," sounds like the best of The Smashing Pumpkins (notably Billy Corgan's raspy vocals) mixed with the atmospheric textures of My Bloody Valentine. Good stuff! Hear it: www.myspace.com/silversunpickups.

"Swoon" is the L.A. indie rock band's new full-length, out April 14.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Excitement over Slipknot, of all things

Earlier this year, I had the chance to interview Chris, the percussionist from Slipknot. I was completely honored to do the interview, since they're really at the top of the metal game and pure innovation. Today I learned the guys landed their first Active Rock No. 1 hit, "Dead Memories." For a band that's been together 10 years, that's a testament to their talent and determination.

Here's my Q & A (originally published in the Gannett Lansing State Journal and on LSJ.com):

Slipknot hits one decade: Alt-metal act's percussionist says future is bright
Anne Erickson Lansing State Journal

Known for pulsating percussion, chunky riffs and intense theatrics (i.e. those creepy masks), Slipknot quickly rose to the top of the alt-metal landscape in the late-'90s, and soon after broke into the mainstream. Now a decade later, the surging 9-piece is still tough. The guys have a No. 1 album (2008's "All Hope Is Gone."). They have a best metal performance Grammy. And now they're going on a full-scale, U.S. arena tour. (That hits the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday.)

There's no doubt: Slipknot doesn't mess around.

We chatted with percussionist Chris Fehn, better known as No. 3, during a tour stop in Kansas City, Mo.

• NOISE: This tour marks the 10th anniversary of Slipknot. Congratulations! What's your secret to longevity?

Fehn: I think our music is really strong, and without the music first and foremost, nothing else would be possible for us, so I have to say the music.

• You've all been a part of Slipknot for so long. Do you feel like family at this point?

• Yeah, definitely. We fight like family; we love each other like family. And we've had the same nine guys in the band for 10 years, so I think that's a real testament.

• On your new album, "All Hope Is Gone," do you think you went in a different direction musically?

• I think the only direction we really go in is to try to make good music. We never start out with a plan or any kind of preconceived notion of how we think the record should sound.

• You guys are on the road a lot. What's your favorite thing about touring?

• Playing the live show, without a doubt. The rest is really rough - living on the road and being away from friends and family.

• About your masks: Where do you have those made?

• There are usually a couple of artists who we work with. We get our heads cast and then they'll draw them out.

• When you put on your mask every night, do you feel transformed?

• Not at this point, because I'm just so used to it. But I can remember back when we were first doing this that it was definitely more of a transformation. But now it's kind of like putting a football helmet on to play a game.

• Do you think Slipknot will be around a while?

• Yeah, definitely. We understand that we have a lot of fans and we mean something to the world, so I think that continues to drive us.

• Any last thoughts?

• With the economy the way it is, we really appreciate people taking the time to come out and see us with their hard-earned money, because it means a lot to us to be out there, too. So thank you.