Monday, July 19, 2010

CAVO video interview: Hard rock band readies for new tour

I recently sat down with the guys of CAVO to talk about the band’s new single, "My Little Secret," and their upcoming headlining club tour with SHAMAN'S HARVEST, BLACK SUNSHINE, ATOM SMASH, and BROOKROYAL. The stint kicks off July 29 in Little Rock, Ark., and wraps up through September 25 in Peoria, Illinois. The St. Louis, Mo., hard rock band spent much of last year on tour with DAUGHTRY, SHINEDOWN, LIFEHOUSE, and PUDDLE OF MUDD.

As for the new single, lead singer Casey Walker says, "‘My Little Secret,’ is an incredible song that I think will touch people, and it’s a general story people can relate to. It’s got good melodies and lyrics, and I think it sonically sounds good."

Cavo’s current album, "Bright Nights, Dark Days," was produced by David Bendeth (BREAKING BENJAMIN, PARAMORE) generated the rock hit "Champagne," which reached No. 1 on the active and mainstream rock charts last year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Guitar Edge Xclusive: Taddy Porter

As the lead guitarist of Stillwater, Oklahoma-based Taddy Porter, Joe Selby seems bent on updating ′70s Southern rock n’ roll for the new millennium.

On the band’s self-titled debut, out June 29 (digitally released on June 22), Selby makes a dirty racket with scruffy, riff-driven, hard rock tracks. Produced by Memphis-based Skidd Mills (Saving Abel, Saliva), the album wanders stylistically from gentle acoustic blues to vertiginous up-tempo rock. And it’s working: The album’s single, “Shake Me,” is scoring with mainstream radio, and it sits at No. 30 on the active rock chart right now.

“‘Shake Me,’ was a unique experience for us,” Selby said. “We were fiddling around with ideas, and we ended up writing and recording ‘Shake Me’ in one day. I think we spent eight hours on it, which was pretty crazy. We blinked, and it was there. The next thing you know, it’s our single, and it’s taken us to where we are now.”

Guitar Edge caught up with Selby backstage at the hot, sweaty Rock on the Range 2010 to talk gear, the new album and his take on the Southern rock revival.

What music influenced you growing up?

When I first started listing to music, I was all about The Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Under the Bridge” was my favorite song as a kid, so John Frusciante was a big influence before I even picked up guitar. Early ′90s rock like Soundgarden, Nirvana, The Chili Peppers—that’s the first stuff I really remember getting into. Then later, when I started playing guitar and listening more to music, it was more of the classic stuff like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and all of the bands in the late-′60s, early-′70s rock era.

Who are some of your favorite guitarists?

The first guy I really liked was Kirk Hammett. I was in seventh grade, so I was really into Metallica when I first started getting into guitar. But after that, my mom got me into Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page. Eric Clapton is one of my top guys now, and I also like Freddy King. All of the blues players. Jeff Beck is amazing. But if I had to pick my top few, they’re Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and Freddie King.

How did coming out of Stillwater, Oklahoma, affect your sound?

For one thing, there’s not much to do in Stillwater besides play in a band. [laughs] As far as the musical influence, there’s a big country scene there. I’m not into it so much, but that kind of rubs off on me, because I’m around a lot of top-notch guitar players who play that style. There’s also a really good indie scene, and even though we’re a rock band, we really like some of the bands on the indie circuit. The first band I remember us all getting into was The Black Keys. There’s a big following for bands like The Black Keys, The White Stripes, and The Raconteurs in Stillwater, so that influenced who we are as a band.

Do you think there’s a resurgence of Southern rock, with bands like The Black Keys and Kings of Leon paving the way?

Yes, definitely. The more we travel around, the more I think the classic sound is coming back. We see more and more bands that are in the same vein as us. I think that’s the next step for music. I think things are coming around full circle, and the evidence is seeing all of this new music coming out that sounds classic from bands like The Black Keys.

Let’s talk about your upcoming self-titled album. How did the ideas come together for the release?

We were a fairly new band when we started writing this album. I was teaching guitar lessons at a guitar shop [Daddy O’s] in Stillwater, and Andy [Brewer, vocals/guitar] came in for a lesson, and we started jamming together. We just started playing everyday, and we didn’t have a set thing we were going for. We were just playing what we liked: little riffs and different ideas like that. It just happened. We just wrote some songs we liked, we started playing and recording them, and we started seeing this pretty awesome reaction from people.

How did you get the distorted tones on the album?

My main amp is a Rivera Quiana 2x12. It’s 60 watts, and it’s a combo amp. That amp is really awesome in that it has awesome distortion, so the dirty channel sounds really good, and if you click it to the clean channel, there’s another distortion on that channel. So, you can have the clean sound and mix that dirty, or you can click it to the dirty channel. I don’t like using distortion pedals; I like using amp distortion, so that’s what I really like about this amp. On the album, I got most of the tones with the Rivera, and then we mixed it with a Marshall head—the Silver Jubilee reissue, which is my Holy Grail of amps right now, if I can ever get an original. We used those amps for most of the sounds.

So what’s your most trusted guitar, and why?

Definitely my 1960 Classic Reissue Les Paul. I play almost every song with that, and it has a tapered neck on it, which I love. It’s light, which is good for me, because I’m not a big guy. It’s my favorite guitar I’ve ever owned.

Do you have any playing advice for our readers?

My biggest tip is to always try to have an equal balance between learning other guitar players’ material and writing your own stuff. It seems to me like it’s a teeter-totter. There are some people who write a lot of their own stuff but don’t play as well, and then there are other guys who work on the technical stuff but aren’t amazing songwriters. You should find a balance. And practice, practice, practice.

By Anne Erickson, Guitar Edge

Interview: Saving Abel rocks USO tours

Many fans credit Saving Abel's music with helping them get through tough times. They relate to personal lyrics in songs like "18 Days," "Drowning (Face Down)" and "Addicted."

Saving Abel's rock songs speak to the men and women in the armed forces, too. The Mississippi guys just wrapped up an USO tour of the Persian Gulf in February, in which they visited eight military bases, playing seven concerts for soldiers in Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq.

Now back in the states, Saving Abel just released its sophomore album, "Miss America," out last Tuesday, choc full of crunchy, post-grunge rock and soulful, Southern-fried ballads.

Saving Abel headlines the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series aftershow on Sunday, June 13, at the Michigan International Speedway.

Bass player Eric Taylor checked in with NOISE about the band's new album and the USO Tour.

NOISE: You just wrapped up a USO tour in the Persian Gulf. How was that?
Taylor: It was really fun getting to hang out with the men and women of the military and seeing how they live. We slept in the same place as them, ate the same food - it was a really great experience.

NOISE: Do you feel like it's your duty as musicians to give back by entertaining the troops?

Taylor: Absolutely. What we feel - and we don't shove it down anybody's throats - but we feel they're over there fighting for our freedom. We're just asking for people to support them, not the war. (They) are sacrificing so much.

NOISE: You're playing the Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 13. Excited?

Taylor: We're lucky - we've had the opportunity to do a lot with NASCAR. We've met a bunch of the drivers, so every time NASCAR calls, we jump on it. It should be fun to hang with fans and watch some good racing.

NOISE: Let's talk about the album. Why did you choose the title, "Miss America?"

Taylor: Well, we chose that title when we were overseas. We have this song, "Miss America," and it's a soldier writing home to his mom and dad and wife. While we were over there, we said, "Let's finish this up." We all agreed it should be the title, and it's the first time all five of us have agreed on something that quickly. In the song, it's, "I miss America." America is also known as the lady, so that term can be used different ways.

NOISE: When you listen to the album, what stands out to you most?

Taylor: We pinned down our sound. On this album, you can really hear the Southern rock. It shows Saving Abel isn't afraid to get up and play some rock and roll. I'm most proud that we've grown as writers and musicians, and we can sit back and listen and think, "Wow, we've constructed that. We've improved that much."

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ

Monday, June 7, 2010

Interview: Jade Puget, guitarist in A.F.I.

East Bay punks AFI (A Fire Inside) entertain with energy, fire and breakneck speed.

"When we go out there, we each give it our all," guitarist Jade Puget says, chatting from a Providence, R.I. gig. "I could never imagine just standing there, playing songs. It's just not what we do."

AFI has been a significant part of the underground hardcore punk scene since 1991, but it wasn't until 2003 that the band struck gold - literally - with the gold-selling, "Sing the Sorrow." The album painted a dark, gothic portrait, deflecting strains of rock, punk, hardcore and metal, plus enough catchy melodies to make a few pop hits. Next came 2006's "Decemberunderground," which hit No. 1 on Billboard.

Now following the release of 2009's "Crash Love," AFI is as busy as ever, with a summer that packs Lollapalooza (August 6-8 in Chicago) and a tour with Green Day in August. On Thursday, June 3, the band headlines Grand Rapids' Orbit Room.

NOISE caught up with Puget to talk "Crash Love," Lollapalooza and Green Day.

NOISE: AFI is one of the major acts on Lollapalooza this year. Are you excited?

Puget: Yeah, we're definitely looking forward to Lollapalooza. Davey (Havok, vocals) always says one of the first concerts he ever went to was Lollapalooza in '91, and a lot of what he was inspired by was that first Lollapalooza.

NOISE: What are you most looking forward to at Lolla?

Puget: Just playing, really. There's a lot of history with that festival, so it's just going to be fun. We just played a series of festivals in Australia with Jane's Addiction (Perry Ferrell of Jane's Addiction founded Lollapalooza), so it will be cool seeing those guys again.

NOISE: You're on tour with Green Day in August.

Puget: Yeah, we've known those guys a long time. We came from the same scene they did - both bands started in the East Bay scene. From their very first record, when they were still a small local band, I listened to them. So, I've been a fan for almost 20 years now, so for me, it's exciting. I think musically we don't sound the same necessarily, but I think we're coming from the same place.

NOISE: What was the defining moment, when you knew AFI was going from an underground punk band to something bigger?

Puget: There was a certain moment when we started stepping outside of the underground world we lived in. All of a sudden, we were signed to major label, our record (2003's "Sing the Sorrow") came out and was No. 5 on the charts, we won an MTV VMA and we had a hit song on the radio. All these things we never expected all happened on the same record. It was a whirlwind.

-Anne Erickson, Gannett NOISE

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Interview: John Cooper of hard rocker Skillet

In the song, "Hero," Skillet vocalist and bass player John Cooper sings about losing faith in the world.

"Every time I turn on the TV, it's like, 'Really? Another sex scandal?'" he said. "This is absurd, from wars to violence going on all the time to the earthquake in Haiti. It's a scary time to be alive, and it's an easy time to lose your faith."

Skillet makes no secret of its faith. It's rare when a Christian rock band can cross over to the mainstream, but Skillet has done just that: charted on rock radio without denying the roots that got it there in the first place.

The Grammy-nominated band brings its "Awake & Alive Tour" on Friday, May 21, to the MSU Auditorium in East Lansing. Joining Skillet are fellow faith-based hard rockers RED and The Letter Black.

Cooper was kind enough to chat with us about the band's No. 2-selling album, his faith and how Skillet's song landed on WWE.

NOISE: Is it true music was forbidden in your house growing up?

Cooper: Not all music, but anything with drums. Drums and guitar were the devil's instruments. My mom was a piano teacher and voice teacher, so she loved music, just a certain kind. Classical, hymns and opera were okay. When I first heard Christian music, I felt vindicated, like, "It's not the drums that's evil."

NOISE: You're one of the few Christian rock bands that didn't abandon the genre after getting mainstream success.

Cooper: Thanks. I think I'm so adamant about not wanting to get rid of my Christian stance because it helped me so much in my early life. I'm not embarrassed about it, and I'm not silent about it in interviews. If people ask, "Are you a Christian band?" my response is, "Yeah. I love it."

NOISE: Your 2009 album, "Awake," debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart. Why do you think so many fans relate to this album?

Cooper: I think it's because Skillet has a lot more fans than just Christian music fans. We are a Christian band, but we work very hard at writing songs about issues that, in my mind, everyone can relate to: atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims. I see that in bands like U2 and Switchfoot. Those bands have done a good job of having positive and hopeful messages, without alienating certain people.

NOISE: What's it like being in a band with your wife Korey (keyboard, guitar)?

Cooper: It's awesome. She's my go-to person to lean on when it comes to making the set flow and making songs sound better. She'll do keyboard programming and songs will come to life. Personally, it's nice on the road, because it makes the whole band feel more stable. We have our kids on the road, and it feels like a big family traveling and loving each other and having fun.

NOISE: Your song, "Monster," was No. 4 on the active rock chart last year and featured on WWE wrestling. How cool was that?

Cooper: It was awesome. "Monster" is a song a lot of stations said they would never play because it came from a Christian band. But the song kept doing better and better, and eventually, most of those people ended up playing the record.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Interview: Sevendust 'reestablishing' itself on new album

More than a decade and a half into their career, with dozens of rock radio hits and top 20 Billboard albums under their belts, the members of Sevendust finally feel like they've reached a place where they can make the kind of music that's truly, well, Sevendust.

And that appears to be the driving force behind their eighth studio album, "Cold Day Memory:" complete, hard-won artistic expression and freedom.

"The goal with this album was to reestablish ourselves as a band," said Clint Lowery, lead guitarist of the Atlanta, Ga.-based band. "The original lineup is back together, so we made this album using what we believe has always been our best assets: heavy, really heavy melodic music and sincere stuff. And that's what we do, naturally."

Though Lowery rejoined Sevendust two years ago, the new album, out last month, is the first Sevendust album he's written on since 2004's, "Seasons." Any Sevendust fan will tell you something was missing when Lowery stepped away, and Lowery couldn't be happier to be back writing fresh songs with his musical soulmates. The album features singer Lajon Witherspoon's soulful, R&B-influenced vocals amid dark, melodic guitars and brutal rhythms.

This time around, Lowery was heavily involved with recording.

"I wanted to have a part in all the songs," he said. "Since I haven't done a Sevendust record in three albums, I wanted to make up for lost time."
He says a good rock song has both edge and heart.

"If it's a heavier song, it needs to have a sincerity," he said. "You need to be talking about something that's real.

"It also needs a really good beat and a great guitar riff. It needs an edge to it; something that makes people want to cut loose."

Producer Johnny K (Disturbed, 3 Doors Down, Staind) worked with the band on the release. He helped perfect the album's hard-driving rock single, "Unraveling," No. 9 on the active rock charts at press time.

"It's a father and son theme," Lowery said of the song, which is Sevendust's most successful single to date. "It's about any relationship where you needed someone to be there and they let you down."

Sevendust is touring the U.S. right now, and the band's on the road a lot. But that's okay with Lowery. The guys take life on the road in stride.

"If you party a lot and drink, it's going to get hard, but if you can take care of yourself, it can be a lot of fun," he said. "It depends on how you handle yourself.

"People say it's hard, but it's only hard when you make it hard. It depends on where you're at as a person. For us, we enjoy playing, meeting our fans and seeing everybody. So, for us, it's good times."

By Anne Erickson, Gannett NOISE

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

EXCLUSIVE: Video interview with Drowning Pool

Hard rock band Drowning Pool is No. 4 on the Active Rock chart with their single, "Feel Like I Do." Here's my video interview with the guys. Rock!!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interview: Andy Brewer of Taddy Porter talks the 'Southern sound'

Andy Brewer embraced the "Southern sound" early on.

"I remember as a kid driving to go fishing with my dad and hearing Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, and loving it," said the singer for Stillwater, Okla.-based rock band Taddy Porter.

"I remember the songs sounded pretty and explained what we were doing at the time. I was just fishing with my dad, and it all fit together. I like holding onto the nostalgia of that."

He's not alone. Southern rock is entering a new era of appreciation. Just look at the upswing of Southern-flavored bands on the radio: Kings of Leon, Blackstone Cherry and the Black Keys.

Soulful groups like Taddy Porter are hotter than ever.

"I think Southern rock has been around for awhile, but it wasn't really prevalent in today's music, except for country," he said. "But now, I hear lots of bands coming up that have a Southern sound. It's great."

Taddy Porter, which plays shows in both Grand Rapids and Flint this week, has a fuzzy-warm success story that starts with the guys playing tiny, 10-person shows in Oklahoma and ends with them landing a tour with major-label rockers Saving Abel.

That tour was a turning point.

"When we were out with Saving Abel, they brought big crowds," Brewer said. "We were the opening band and didn't think we would get a positive reaction because we're a different genre. But they dug us."

MySpace plays and Facebook fans went up. Way up.

"After that, we realized this was something special and that we could get to a point where we could hold the crowd in our hands a little bit," he said.
On the agenda now: Finishing up the band's yet untitled full-length, due out in April or May.

The album's debut single, "Shake Me," harnesses a close-to-the-bone, gritty blues-rock sound with heart.

Also on the horizon: Rock on the Range this May. The two-day hard rock, alternative and metal fest is held every year in Columbus, Ohio, and the 2010 lineup includes the Deftones, Slash, Limp Bizkit, Rob Zombie and, yes, Taddy Porter, among others.

It's an honor. Even for a Southern guy.

"I had actually never heard of the festival until I found out we were on it, because we're not from around there," he said, laughing. "But I researched it, and the acts that play it are major. Plus, it's just a huge show."
By Anne Erickson, Gannett NOISE/LSJ

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview: 'Addicted' to Saving Abel

After Saving Abel first recorded the hard-hitting song "Addicted," the Corinth, Miss., guys thought it was good, but set the demo aside because it didn't seem to fit the band.

"If you go back and listen to our initial indie release, we sound more like a Matchbox 20-meets-Wallflowers band - really poppy," guitarist Jason Null said, chatting by phone from a Nashville recording studio. "So when we came up with this bit of heavy rock, we couldn't use the song."

When Saving Abel started getting serious label interest, Null remembered the song and brought it back. And it's a good thing he did. "Addicted" climbed to No. 2 on the Mainstream Rock chart last year, breaking the band on the national scene and landing the guys tours with major players like Nickelback, Hinder and Papa Roach.

Null says "Addicted" shaped the direction of Saving Abel's sound and the route the guys took musically. Now their mindset is heavier and edgier - full of brash lyrics, catchy melodies and seismic guitar riffing.

"I can remember Skidd (Mills, the band's producer) playing the song for us after we had tracked it, and we just kind of looked at one another and were confused for a second," Null said, laughing. "We were like, 'Is this really us? Is that where we're going as a band?'

"We really thought that song was going to be great for us from the beginning."

Hard rock, by its nature, is a tough, in-your-face genre, and Saving Abel's music is no different. Part pop metal, part fist-pumping rock, the group connects with heavy music fans and adds enough ballads ("18 Days") to go co-ed.

Saving Abel got together in 2004 with Null, lead singer Jared Weeks, guitarist Scott Bartlett, bassist Eric Taylor and drummer Blake Dixon. In typical rock-story fashion, the guys held day jobs while recording music on the side and promoting the group one hole-in-the-wall gig at a time.

"The last job I held right before I signed the record deal was a manager for K-Mart stores," Null said.

Even after the guys recorded tracks and booked shows, they still needed a name. Null finally came up with "Saving Abel" during a late-night reading of the Bible.

"I was up working on some band stuff, and I was online, and it must have been a line from some sort of Christian magazine, but I can remember it read, 'There was no saving Abel from his brother Cain.' And those two words together just jumped out at me," he said.

As Saving Abel's members can surely attest, being in a platinum-selling rock band has its obvious advantages. But it's also a lot of work.

That said, Null says all the touring, all the late nights and early mornings, all the press demands, all the head-numbing pressure - it's all worth it.

"I think I can speak for everybody in the band when I say that this is what we've always wanted to do: tour and play music for a living," he said. "It's like in anything that you do: You get tired sometimes, but I'd much rather be tired and be playing music for a living."

The common thread of Saving Abel's 2008 self-titled debut is the lyrics, which come straight from the guys' personal experiences. That includes "Addicted."

"Jared, our singer, wrote that about his high school sweetheart in Corinth," Null said. "They had broken up and got back in touch after a few years had passed and just hit it off.

"I can remember he came in one night and was excited that he ran into her. Evidently, they had a good night together, because he sat down and was like, 'Man, I have this melody in my head.' "

Null considers the band's current single, "Drowning (Face Down)," a personal song, as well.

"'Drowning' was one of those late nights with the band writing in the basement, and at the end of the night we were winding down and playing some stuff. The guitar lick intro you hear on that song is something I've been playing since I was a kid and never did much of anything with it," he said.

"But in all, the song is about life's up and downs."

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Concert Review: Muse sells out the Palace in Detroit

English alternative rock trio Muse played a theatrics-filled show to a sold-out crowd of 12,000-plus at The Palace of Auburn Hills last weekend.

Muse entered at 8:30 p.m. with a stage show that had the band performing on gigantic, elevated video platforms, amid a sea of laser lights. Frontman Matthew Bellamy oozes talent. He seems at one with whatever instrument he's playing, whether it's his Red glitter Manson guitar, piano or keytar.

The guys of Muse, who have been together over a decade, are longtime rock icons in the U.K. The band's popularity is spilling over to the states, and this is their largest-scale tour yet.

From ambient harmonics in "Undisclosed Desires" to fiery, blues-y guitar soloing in "Unnatural Selection," the night packed variety. Bellamy, hugging his six-string, has a way of delivering volatile, razer-edged guitar solos that are spastic, yet controlled. With confidence and charisma, he donned pinkish-red pants and glittery silver shoes, at times sliding across the stage and falling to his knees during guitar solos.

During the hour and a half performance, the crowd - sometimes standing mesmerized, sometimes pumping their fists - cheered for hits, "Uprising," "Supermassive Black Hole" and (closer) "Knights of Cydonia."

Muse uses pedal effects and techno-beats to color its sound, but it's doubtful anyone at the Palace would deny the members' artistry. Other highlights: classically-leaning piano soloing from Bellamy ("United States of Eurasia") and a meaty, rhythm section duet between bass player Christopher Wolstenholme, who favored a red-toned Fender jazz bass for the night, and drummer Dominic Howard.

With a mix of Brit-pop and neo-prog, some call Muse a new, amped-up Radiohead-- just more accessible and digestible.

Los Angeles alt-rocker Silversun Pickups opened at 7 p.m. The group is best known for its 2009 No. 1 alternative hit, "Panic Switch," and singles "Well Thought Out Twinkles," "Lazy Eye" and "Substitution." Lead vocalist Brian Aubert, bass player Nikki Monninger, drummer Christopher Guanlao and keyboard player Joe Lester fashioned an amalgam of rock, pop, folk and psychedelia and, judging by the between-act chit-chat, won over new fans.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Exclusive: Tool frontman chats comedy, new project

To say Puscifer - the side project of Maynard James Keenan - is a departure from anything the Tool and A Perfect Circle frontman has done before would be an understatement.

As Keenan describes it, Puscifer is not a rock band. Not even close.
"This has more in common with SNL or the Adult Swim network than it does Metallica," he said, chatting by phone last week.

Needless to say, gone are the dark, menacing aesthetics that permeate Keenan's work with Tool and A Perfect Circle. Instead, Puscifer is a comedy troupe. The production meshes music, videos and sketch comedy to create a very unique, very un-Tool like experience.

Puscifer reaches the Royal Oak Music Theatre on March 23 and 24, so I checked in with Keenan about the project and his new documentary, "Blood into Wine." To listen to the interview, click here.

Anne: Puscifer is comprised of a revolving door of performers. Who will be playing with you in Detroit?

Keenan: Each night will be different. I would guess one night will be Tim Alexander (Primus) and Matt Mitchell (Tool guitar tech) for the rhythm section, and the other night will be Matt McJunkins and Jeff Friedl from ASHES dIVIDE.

Anne: What's the vision behind this project?

Keenan: It's mostly that we had some ideas we wanted to express that were impossible to express in 1995. Some of the stuff we're trying to do would have been cost-prohibitive back them. Some of the videos we've been able to do because of technology. Back in '95, it would have been a half-million dollar video. Now we can do it for five, ten or fifteen grand.

Anne: When did the idea come about?

Keenan: In the mid-'90s, when we were doing sketch comedy at local comedy clubs (in L.A.). We wanted to expand it to film sketch, animation and various other elements including stage performance.

Anne: Do you think there's a comic side to you that people haven't seen?

Keenan: They've seen it, just didn't get it. I mean, come on: "Stinkfest?" If someone can't see the humor in some of those songs, then they're not listening or just choosing not to.

Anne: You have quite a few back-to-back dates on this tour.

Keenan: Yes, and those are always two completely different shows. Each night is a different performance with different sets and videos.

Anne: Cool. And this is not a rock concert, right?

Keenan: Exactly. This is not a band; this is a troupe. This is a performance, not a concert.

Anne: Cool. Let's talk about your documentary, "Blood into Wine." The film shows you living in a small town in Arizona and working at your vineyard. What inspired you to move to Arizona?

Keenan: I'm from a small town, so L.A. was kind of getting under my skin. There are a lot of great people and great opportunities out there, but there's also a lot of zombie-vampire activity. There are a lot of energy suckers and at some point, you see what people are really concerned about - things that they shouldn't be concerned about - and it kind of takes you back.

Growing up in Ohio and Michigan, you have to shovel the snow. That's a real problem. If you don't shovel snow in your driveway and get to work, then you won't have a job. In L.A., it's traffic and you miss your hair appointment. It's just kind of silly. So I moved to Arizona to get away from some of that disconnected feeling.

Anne: Are there any plans for a Michigan screening of the film?

Keenan: I would imagine at some point. It is a documentary, so theaters aren't going to be beating down the door to get the film on their screens. It's definitely not as visually stimulating as "Avatar." There won't be any 3-D "Blood into Wine" versions. But I would expect to have showings on some of the more local, independent theaters. The best thing to do is to go to and for new screenings.

Yours truly on TV

I just shot this commercial for Noise Magazine and had to share!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Exclusive: Silversun Pickups bass player talks 'Panic Switch,' women in music

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Silversun Pickups makes alternative indie rock, dripping with dream pop textures and catchy, sing-along melodies. Simply put, this is music that's less from the brain and more from the gut. Fans of My Bloody Valentine and the Smashing Pumpkins - you'll dig it.

The Los Angeles-based group's current full-length, "Swoon," scored it a No. 1 hit in the single, "Panic Switch," and a Grammy nom this year. Now it's on tour with alt-rock band Muse, which stops by the Palace of Auburn Hills on Saturday, March 13.

Bass player Nikki Monninger was kind enough to chitchat with me about the band's Grammy nomination and what it's like being a girl in the rock world.

NOISE: How did the tour with Muse come about?

Monninger: We played with them once before in Los Angeles, and we're just a big fan of them. I'm not quite sure the mechanics of arranging this tour, but we feel lucky to be a part of it.

"Panic Switch" was a huge hit last year. Did you know that song had something special?

Monninger: It's always nice to hear and experience that kind of success, but it's definitely not something we expected at all. It was a very nice surprise.

What was it like being nominated for Best New Artist at this year's Grammys?

Monninger: It's definitely something that came out of left field. We've been together almost 10 years now, so it was funny to be nominated for Best New Artist. But I understand that it takes a while for a band like us to get under their radar, and it was a real honor to be nominated. We had a great time, and then it was back to normal the next week.

What's your favorite memory from the Grammys?

Monninger: I thought it was really cool to see Lady Gaga just a couple of rows in front of us and Beyonce a row ahead of us. It's so surreal being around all those people you're so used to watching on TV. We also went to a Kings of Leon after party, so getting to meet those guys was nice.

What's it like being a female musician on the national level?

Monninger: I definitely think it's geared more towards guys. Backstage there aren't many women-specific places. The woman's bathroom is usually turned into a guy's bathroom, and it's pretty lopsided. We're from Silver Lake (Calif.) where there are many girls in the music scene, and I always assumed that's how it was on every level, but I do find there are only a couple girls working in production or backstage. When we play at festivals, when I go onstage, people might say, "Oh, you can wait over here," and motion offstage. They assume I'm a (talent scout) or a girlfriend.

That's funny!

Monninger: Yeah, it happens all the time. I joke about it, and then it happens again. I laugh it off.
What will you remember most about this whole experience with Silversun Pickups?

Monninger: It's so nice to travel to different cities and get to meet everyone that comes up to us after shows. Just getting to see more of America and the world than we had a chance to see before is amazing. We're very fortunate.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Interview: Maynard James Keenan from Tool, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle!

Maynard James Keenan, the man behind Tool and A Perfect Circle, sums up his newest project, Puscifer, like this:

"This has more in common with SNL than it does Metallica," Maynard said, chatting via phone from Arizona. "This is not a band; this is a troupe. This is a performance; not a concert."

Fair warning! The production, which meshes music, videos and sketch comedy, hits a handful of US cities this spring, including Royal Oak Music Theatre in Royal Oak, Mich. on March 23rd and 24th.

This the the convo I had with Maynard last week. We talked about Puscifer, plus his new documentary, Blood Into Wine.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Free music: Soundgarden, the Pumpkins

In the midst of the free music fad, a few '90s alt-rock bands are releasing new stuff.

The Smashing Pumpkins
Deets: Billy Corgan is releasing all of the songs from his new series, Teargarden by Kaliedyscope, in a series of free music downloads and physical EPs. The first EP of the collection, containing four songs, will be available on April 20th.

That being said, the latest Smashing Pumpkins song, "A Stitch in Time," is now available as a free download:

Deets: Soundgarden is giving away a free download of a live version of "Spoonman," recorded in November of 1996 in San Diego, Calif.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Interview: Wilco's John Stirratt talks melody

Wilco bass player and founding member John Stirratt has an affinity for good melodies, so it makes sense Paul McCartney is one of his musical icons.

"I'm always just absolutely in awe of his playing," Stirratt said, chatting from his hometown of Chicago, Ill. "You can always find new things in the Beatles catalog that are just beautifully expressive and rocking. He was able to do some wonderful harmonic touches with that band."

Stirratt's other bass playing idols?

"I also like these soul-bass guys from the '60s," he said. "Tommy Cogbill, who played in Memphis, was a fantastic player and super funky. In that same era, Joe Osborne was a southern guy who went to Los Angeles and played on a million tunes. He was a big session guy. And the Motown scene was great, especially James Jamerson."

Judging by that list, it's easy to see why Wilco brings so many diverse musical influences into their sound. The Grammy Award-winning band is on a 2010 world tour that takes the band through the United States, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Wilco's music is characterized by subtle, tuneful embellishments, and Stirratt says the biggest challenge of playing is knowing when to hold back on bass.

"With where Wilco is right now, there's so much melodic information going on and, and there's so much atmosphere with Nels (Cline, guitarist) and Patrick (Sansone, guitarist/multi-instrumentalist) doing really fantastic melodic stuff on top, so there are so many options," he said.

"I think that's the main challenge: Trying to find spaces in the music. Luckily, we don't have to talk about it very much. It just kind of happens."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Interview: Shinedown vocalist Brent Smith

Singer Brent Smith knows how to make a solid rock hit. After all, his band Shinedown has scored nearly a dozen chart-toppers since 2003: "Second Chance," "Fly from the Inside," "Devour," "Save Me," and "The Sound of Madness," to name a few.

Shinedown's latest, "If You Only Knew," sits No. 3 on the active rock chart (at press).

The band, who has appeared at Common Ground Music Festival in Lansing twice, headlines the Fillmore in Detroit on Friday (sold out) and Saturday, with Puddle of Mudd and Skillet.

Shinedown got together in the early '00s in Jacksonville, Fl. Post-grunge was exploding, and Shinedown's sound fit well: chunky guitars, melodic vocal lines and Alice In Chains-style layered harmonies.

Smith always knew he wanted to be a singer.

"When I was 14 years old, my father gave me a tape that changed my life: Otis Redding," he said. "Lots of people are surprised when they learn that my biggest influences are Etta James and Ella Fitzgerald.

"After I started listening to that, I got more into rock, like The Doors, Metallica, Soundgarden. Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave) is a huge influence."

Like many musicians, Smith writes from a very personal place. Take, for instance, the track, "Save Me."

"'Save Me' is a song about how people will take on everyone else's problems and issues," he said. "When they put that much pressure on themselves, they're going to hit a wall eventually. A person in my life saw me go through the darkest times in life. They picked me up. Eventually they had that dark time and I had to pick them up."

When Smith think about his journey with Shinedown, what really stands out is meeting the hardcore fans.

"They've been with us from day one," he said. "Us and Them [the band's 2006 CD] was written about our fans. The title was a 'thank you' to all of them, because when you're on the road for years, you meet a lot of people with inspiring stories."

~Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine's Day Mix: Love Songs, Breakup Ditties

In celebration of Valentine's Day, here are some songs of love and loathing. If you have a favorite love song or breakup ditty, please post it below!

In Love ♥

•Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody"
•A Perfect Circle, "The Nurse Who Loved Me"
•The Foo Fighters, "Times Like These"
•Saving Abel, "Addicted"
•BeyoncĂ© feat. Jay-Z, "Crazy in Love"

Out of Love ♥

•Alanis Morissette, "You Oughta Know"
•The Ramones, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow"
•No Doubt, "Ex-Girlfriend"
•Green Day, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
•Kanye West, "Heartless"

Friday, February 12, 2010

Killswitch Engage frontman leaves tour

No waaay! - Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones has left the band’s current US headlining tour due to "unforeseen circumstances." All That Remains vocalist Phil Labonte will temporarily take his place. Read more here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Music News: Rock on the Range '10

Rock on the Range is an annual, two-day hard rock, alternative and metal fest held in Columbus, Ohio. It's road trip-worthy, if you dig that kind of music.

The 2010 line-up was announced today and includes the Deftones (yay!), Rise Against, Seether, Slash, Papa Roach, Theory of a Deadman, Anberlin, Janus, Taddy Porter, Cold and...Limp Bizkit?? Yes, Limp Bizkit.

Click here for ticket information.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spring/summer concert announcements...

  • Paramore has announced a handful of spring tour dates, and it includes a show at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids on May 4.
  • Slayer, Megadeth and Testament have rescheduled the American Carnage North American Tour. The line-up reaches the Joe Lous Areana in Detroit on August 19.
  • The Dave Matthews Band, one of the highest-grossing touring acts in the world, has announced a summer tour. It hits DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston on June 23.
  • The 2010 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival features Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Chimera, Hatebreed and other heavy players. The tour reaches DTE on Aug. 6. Please click here for the official website.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Kings Of Leon, Green Day, Phoneix take home 2010 Grammys

The 2010 Grammy Awards, in a nutshell: Beyonce becomes the first female artist to win six Grammys. Taylor Swift takes home four. But Kings of Leon also have reason to smile, with a sleeper win for Record of the Year for their single, "Use Somebody." Leon also won Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a duo or group. Green Day picked up Best Rock Album for their album, "21st Century Breakdown." Alt-rock group Phoenix won Best Alternative Album.

Read the full list of Grammy winners here.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

'American Idiot' - the Musical

If you caught the 2010 Grammy Awards, you got a taste of Green Day playing a new version of their single, "21 Guns," with the cast of Berkeley Rep's American Idiot. The show, which is composed of production songs from Green Day's American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown albums, opens on Broadway April 20.

Here's a video of the performance:

Saturday, January 30, 2010

2010 Grammy Awards on Sunday

The 52nd annual Grammy Awards ceremony takes place on Sunday, Jan. 31. One of the most intreguing categories is always "Best New Artist." This year's nominees are as follows:

  • Zac Brown Band
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Ting Tings

My fingers are crossed for Silversun Pickups. The band made major headway in the alternative rock format with their 2009 album, "Swoon," and they also had the No. 1 alt-rock song for weeks with, "Panic Switch." See Silversun Pickups open for Muse at the Palace of Auburn Hills on March 13.

For a full list of Grammy nominations click here.

Here's the music video for "Panic Switch":

Monday, January 25, 2010

White Stripes release first live album

Detroit garage rocker the White Stripes will release their first live album on March 15 on both CD and vinyl as part of the limited edition box set release of their new documentary, "Under Great White Northern Lights." The album will include 16 songs from the band's 2007 Canadian tour. For more information, visit the band's official website.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Rothbury for 2010

Festival organizers for the ROTHBURY music festival have announced that they will not host a 2010 event. According to event planners, the major factor in the decision is that "due to various artists’ recording and touring schedules, timing will not allow them to assemble the cutting edge roster that has been associated with ROTHBURY." Despite the postponement, organizers insist that plans for ROTHBURY 2011 are under way.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rising up the charts, Janus experiments in hard rock

The guys of hard rock band Janus have faced a few obstacles.

Like the time they were on tour and almost weren't allowed into the U.S.

"We were driving from Syracuse to Flint, and we route everything with our phones," guitarist Mike Tyranski said, chatting from a gig in Johnson City, Tenn. "The route took us through a tiny portion of Canada, and we didn't think it would be a big deal. We had no problem crossing over to Canada. But when we tried to get back into Michigan, we only had drivers' licenses.

"They pulled us off to the side of the road, searched our van, searched our trailer and searched us," he said, laughing. "It took hours. We almost missed our show in Flint."

They made it on time. And the show went on.

Of course, Janus - who plays Small Planet tonight - has encountered bigger obstacles than misguided mapping. After fighting to get noticed amid the massive Chicago music scene, the guys finally inked with Warner Bros.' Independent Label Group last year. They re-released their self-produced album, "Red Right Return," and the disc's single, "Eyesore," has been climbing up the active and alternative rock charts.

"Once the song started doing well in some key markets as far as radio goes, a lot of people started getting excited and other stations came on board," Tyranski said. "It's all pretty surreal."

Musically, Janus brings something unique and experimental to the table. Between a melange of U2 atmospherics, neo-prog angst and metal guitars, the band floats in and out of different genres.

"Red Right Return" is kind of a concept album. You don't need to listen to the whole thing at once to get the full effect, but a theme runs through the tracks.
Next up: a tour with fellow Chicago natives Chevelle.

"I think playing shows is the best part of this whole experience," Tyranski said.

"The best is when we're playing with bands like Sevendust and all the shows are sold out," he added. "It's playing to a packed house and meeting people who have never heard of us before and that are excited about us. It's great just connecting with people."

By Anne Erickson, Gannett NOISE

Linkin Park, more donate songs for Haiti

Linkin Park, Slash and a slew of other bands and artists have donated unreleased material to raise funds to help with the Haiti relief efforts. All of the proceeds benefit the cause. To download tracks and donate, please visit the Music for Relief website.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

STP is back

Stone Temple Pilots have finished recording their yet-to-be-titled new release. The album is the first since the band's 2001 effort, "Shangri-La Dee Da." Can't wait!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Pumpkins post new song

The Smashing Pumpkins just posted a new song to their MySpace page and website, "Widow Wake My Mind." This is the second track from the band's new, 44-song concept album, "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope," which will be released on the Internet for free, one track at a time. For more, check the band's official website:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Blink-182 release exclusive Haiti charity T-shirt; all proceeds go to the Red Cross


Blink-182 have just released an exclusive Haiti Charity T-shirt. All proceeds from the sale of this shirt will go to the Red Cross. Each shirt is $15 and is only available on the band's official online store.

Purchase it here

Interview: All-American Rejects guitarist loves Twitter

The band name picked by the All-American Rejects makes no sense. C'mon- there's nothing about these guys that makes them so-called "rejects."

The Oklahoma-based rock group makes classic power-pop, both charming and fresh, and they guys have sold over two million albums since 1999.

We chatted with guitarist Mike Kennerty, who had a hand in writing hits like "Dirty Little Secret," "Move Along" and "Swing, Swing."

• LSJ: What was it like breaking out of your small town of Stillwater, Oklahoma?

• Kennerty: It was very cool. We were just some kids content on playing shows and getting by as meagerly as we could, so getting to this point is awesome. It was just a crazy experience to be thrust into the music world and to play huge venues and get on TV shows, and we wouldn't trade it for anything.

• What's your favorite thing about this whole experience?

• My favorite part, honestly, is just getting to do it. Getting to make music and play live over and over for your job is the most amazing feeling.

• You guys have a good amount of staying power in a genre that isn't always known for that.

• I think we lucked out in that a lot of bands get big and more popular for their fame more than their music or talent. We're not a tabloid band. You're not going to see us on the cover of every magazine in a scandal. We're being judged solely on the music and I think that had helped make us last for three records.

• I see you're big on Twitter (@mikeaar).

• Yeah. (He laughs) I try to save it for when I have important stuff to say or if I have a picture to post. There's this Web site called and it rates your Twitter page, and I got an A-, so I thought that was pretty good.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A rockin' zombie calendar with yours truly

So, I usually stick to purely professional posts on this blog: band interviews, music news, etc. But, I'm making an exception today. I was asked to model for a zombie calendar, of all things, this year. This morning, the photographer and I were interviewed on WQTX-FM (92.1) in Lansing, Mich. about the release, and we had a blast.

Here's the creepy pic.
It doesn't get more rock 'n' roll than this.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview: Framing Hanley's Kenneth Nixon makes tasty tracks

Within a span of just a few months, Framing Hanley went from being a bunch of random kids with amazingly cool-looking haircuts to chart-climbing rockers.

And it's all thanks to the band's cover - ironically - of a hip-hop song.

Lil Wayne's smash "Lollipop," to be specific.

Not surprisingly, this wasn't the plan. If you ask lead singer Kenneth Nixon, he'll tell you the song was supposed to be played only once, during a gig in the band's hometown of Nashville. And even that almost didn't happen.

"I'm a huge Lil Wayne fan, and I heard the song on the radio on the way to rehearsal last summer. I was like, 'We should totally cover this song at our hometown show,' and the band laughed it off at first," he said. "But 20 minutes later, Ryan (Belcher) was playing it on the guitar, and an hour later, we had our version."
That same cover - the song the guys took as a joke at first - eventually climbed in the Top 25 on the modern rock chart.

So, yes, the success came as a shock to the band. A good one.

"When we first played 'Lollipop,' we never knew it would become anything," Nixon said. "Just the fact a rock crowd has been so receptive to a hip-hop song is an awesome thing."

Listening to Framing Hanley's current full-length, "The Moment," it's hard to believe Nixon is at all influenced by hip-hop. You might guess Chevelle or Breaking Benjamin. Hard-edged guitars, thick, melodic vocals and post-grunge anthems make up the post-hardcore band's sound. Truth be told, Nixon listens to everything from Kanye West to Merle Haggard (his father was a country musician). And Guns 'N Roses is the reason he got into rock in the first place.

The guys of Framing Hanley first got together in 2005. Success came early, thanks to the band's MySpace demos getting discovered by Brett Hestla, former Creed bassist and frontman of Dark New Day. Hestla recorded their two-song demo, and Silent Majority Group (Candlebox, Tantric) picked them up.

Nixon is loving every minute of the band's newfound fame.

"It's great getting to meet people every night who are fans of rock music and of music in general, and who appreciate what bands like us are doing," he said. "The fact is, we're five fans of music who got lucky, and now we get a chance to play our music. It's awesome that people our there care to listen to it."

Wilco on tour in 2010

It's been a busy year for the guys of Wilco. Between the release of their live performance DVD/documentary, "Ashes of American Flags," in April of 2009 and a new, self-titled release in the fall, they're going through guitar picks like water.

I'm interviewing Wilco bass player John Stirratt this Friday. The band kicks off a North American tour in February, and they play Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich. on February 21st.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Groovy news: Flea unveils line of bass guitars

Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea has released his own line of affordable basses. The musician says he felt called to do so because, "I wanted students to have an instrument that they could fall in love with, and I wanted them to be able to do it with the limited means that most of them have for acquiring one," says the release.

The two-tone model, named the Fleabass, is modeled with a solid maple neck, a rosewood fingerboard and a smooth satin finish. Each bass comes pre-set up with low action for easy playing for beginners. Each also comes with an instructional DVD with Flea, a gig bag featuring the Fleabass logo, input cable and adjustment tools.

The Fleabass retails at $499 and can be found at a variety of music stores, including Elderly Instruments.

American Carnage Tour postposed

The much-anticipated American Carnage Tour, featuring thrash greats Megadeth, Testament and Slayer, has been postponed while Slayer bassist/vocalist Tom Araya undergoes back surgery.

The official release states that the bands hope to reschedule the American Carnage Tour for sometime this summer. Those who already have tickets for the tour should hold onto them until further notice.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Breaking Benjamin tours in 2010, opts for low guitar tuning

The chorus of "I Will Not Bow," the debut single from Pennsylvania quartet Breaking Benjamin’s latest album, sounds like it comes from a band determined to stay true to their beliefs, no matter what: “I will not bow/ I will not break/ I will shut the world away/ I will not fall/ I will not fade/ I will take your breath away.”

It’s a deep message, and a hopeful song. And, like many of Breaking Benjamin’s singles, it’s doing really well. “I Will Not Bow” reached No. 1 on the Active Rock chart last year. The song is also on the soundtrack for the sci-fi film, “Surrogates.”

Since 2002, fans have embraced Breaking’s Benjamin’s post-grunge/alternative metal sortie. Front-loaded with singles like “So Cold” and “The Diary of Jane,” the band’s music is uniquely dark, with cool riffing and heavy power chords. Tuning-wise, Breaking Benjamin really stands apart. While many metal bands use drop-d tuning, Breaking Benjamin goes two more steps down, to A# (or Bb). That makes for the uniquely dim sound that is, Breaking Benjamin.

Breaking Benjamin is on tour right now with Three Days Grace and Flyleaf. They play Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena on Jan. 16. They tour with Nickelback and Shinedown this Spring.

By Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Friday, January 8, 2010

Janus mixes alternative, neo-prog, metal

I had the chance to interview Mike Tyranski from Chicago-based hard rock band Janus yesterday. I'll post the interview soon! Here's their video for "Eyesore."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interview: Chevelle's 'Letter from a Thief'

If Chevelle had any particular goal with its latest release, "Sci-Fi Crimes," it was to make a record that represents how the band sounds live. And drummer Sam Loeffler says, thankfully, that plan came together.

"We didn't use auto tone on the vocals; we didn't use samples of the drums; and we recorded the whole songs through," Sam said, chatting from his hometown of Chicago. "We wanted it to sound like we sound onstage."

Despite its title, "Sci-Fi Crimes" isn't an album that deals solely with aliens or supernatural encounters. Instead, the title started out as a joke and ended up inspiring the song "Roswell," which lead vocalist and guitarist (and Sam's brother) Pete Loeffler came up with after reading a story about a woman who claims a spaceship took off from her backyard.

"It's a really interesting story, but that's not so much the theme of the album," Sam said. "It was hard to name the record because the songs all have different themes."

Chevelle's first single, "Jars," has nothing to do with aliens. The deep, down-tuned rock ditty is actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to "wanting to save the world."

"It's like you're trying to put the whole world into jars for safe keeping," Sam said. "So it's kind of about recycling and the green movement. Which of course is a great thing; it's just taking it to the extreme.

Like "The Red" and "I Get It" before it, the album shot up the rock radio chart and was the most added song on rock and active rock radio when it was released.

Nobody is more surprised by the single's success than Chevelle.

"We were surprised that song was picked as a single because we really didn't think that it was the strongest song on the record," Sam said, laughing. "But everyone was sort of attracted to it. We played it to friends and people at our label and they'd be like, 'Oh, that's the single.' "

The next single, "Letter from a Thief," is going strong, too.

Overall, the band hopes fans will dig the variety on the album.

"I imagine people will be surprised by the fact we did an acoustic song again," Sam said, referring to the downscaled "Highland's Apparition."

"I don't know if I can say it's our best record, because we're pretty close to the records, but I certainly hope it's our best record," he added. "And if it is I think it's because we developed as songwriters."

The guys - Sam, Pete and their brother-in-law Dean Bernardini on - started Chevelle in Chicago in 1995. Since then, the band has released five studio albums, and Sam says he thinks the group is coming full circle.

"I think if you go long enough in a progression, you'll sort of turn around and come back," he said. "This record is probably closest to point No. 1 than any other record we've done."

And what's it like being in a band with your brother 15 years and counting?

"I can't image what it would be like to be in a band without my brother," Sam said. "My main reason for playing music when I started was because I was fan of what he was doing. I love playing drums and I'll always be a drummer, but I don't know that I would have the drive if I didn't have his music to drive me."

-Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ/NOISE

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interview: Cavo frontman talks about his love for grunge

Cavo lead singer Casey Walker always knew he had a knack for music. But it wasn't until he saw Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder onstage that Walker felt called to be a singer.

"When I saw Eddie singing, I was floored," he said, speaking from a tour stop in Oklahoma City. "My whole world changed. You can just tell that what he's saying is important to him. He puts his heart and soul into every song."

When you hear Cavo, the Pearl Jam influence makes sense. On the St. Louis-based band's major-label debut, the guys make it clear they don't want to be a pop band; instead, they delve into straight-ahead, post-grunge rock with catchy, brisk riffs and raspy vocals.

Cavo is currently on a 75-date tour, and they don't plan to stop anytime soon. First, there was Crue Fest 2 in August. Then a tour with Shinedown and Sick Puppies. And now, the band is on its first arena tour, opening for Daughtry and Theory of a Deadman.

Despite the exhaustion that naturally follows so much time on a tour bus, Cavo remains wide-eyed and excited about performing every night. Even if it means playing their hits singles "Champagne" and "Crash" over, and over.

"The best thing about the journey of being in this band is getting to play our music," Walker said. "These songs are all snapshots of periods in our lives, and when you see people appreciate that, it's the best feeling.

"When a person says, 'Your song got me through the hardest part of my life,' that means so much to the whole band."

-Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ

Interview: Shaun Morgan of Seether

Being different has never bothered Shaun Morgan.

"We don't really follow trends," said the lead singer of South African hard rock band Seether.

"We're not underground, we're not emo, we're not punk rock, we're not metal. We don't really have a place."

Not having a place seems to work for Seether. With three chart-topping albums since 2002 and numerous No. 1 radio hits including "Fake It" and "Rise Above This" off their current full-length Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces, Seether is one of the biggest modern rock bands on the planet right now. Loud guitars, murky riffs and aggressive-yet-introspective lyrics characterize the group's Nirvana-inspired sound.

Speaking enthusiastically from a concert stop in the U.K., Morgan wasn't taking interviews at press time, but made a special exception to talk with us.

"Fake It" is huge. (The track, which criticizes materialism, reached No. 1 on the Billboard rock charts.) I heard the song started out as an experiment.

(He laughs.) Yeah, I was having one of those days where I was kind of in a weird mood, and I had this drum beat with this swing to it, and I was like, "Man, that's kind of weird, let's see what I can do with it." So, "Fake It" originally started off as just being a complete joke to amuse myself.

Dating and breaking up in the public eye must be rough. You took the high road when Amy Lee (of Evanescence) put your personal relationship out there with "Call Me When You're Sober."

Yeah, I did write some songs that were complete lash backs, but those I knew were never intended to be used, they were just for me, personally. I'm not going to say that some songs don't touch on that subject, but not in an obvious fashion. I'm never going to air out anybody else's dirty laundry. That's not who I want to be. And I think that was the route she felt she needed to take. ... But I'm telling you, as much as you've just given me accolades, it was a tough decision to make.

Your current single, "Rise Above This," comes from a very private place. (Morgan wrote the song for his brother who has since taken his own life.) Do you have mixed emotions about its success?

I think it's a positive thing. If you consider it to be a tribute to somebody, then you'd rather it was successful than it wasn't. It's weird having my diary on the radio, but I couldn't do it any other way. It is the way I write music, and it is very personal to me. I don't think it's more important than other songs we've done, but it helped me through a rough time, and that's really what its intention is. That it can help other people.

-Anne Erickson, Gannett LSJ

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saturday, January 2, 2010

And the top act of the decade is...

The Dave Matthews Band. Yep.

According to Pollstar, the guys grossed nearly $530 million over the last decade, beating out the Rolling Stones, U2 and Madonna. Congrats, guys, on being the top act of the 2000s.

Here's a list of the top 10 touring artists of the decade (click here for the full story):

Friday, January 1, 2010

Top concerts of 2009

Going to concerts is like paradise to me.
And a lot of other people seem to feel the same. According to Pollstar, the concert business had an up year, and the number of tickets sold in 2009 increased over 2008. Sweeeet!

Here's Pollstar's Top 10 Concerts for 2009 (click here for the Top 50):

1. U2
2. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band
3. Elton John / Billy Joel
4. Britney Spears
5. AC/DC
6. Kenny Chesney
7. Jonas Brothers
8. Dave Matthews Band
9. Fleetwood Mac
10. Metallica

Other notables: Nickelback (No. 11), Coldplay (19), No Doubt (24), Motely Crue (39) and Kings of Leon (43).