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Catching Up With… Graham Bonnet

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Graham, let’s talk about the release of your first Live Album/DVD in 33 years Live..Here Comes The Night.  It was recorded in April 2016 in Milan Italy as part of the Frontiers Rock Festival.  Was the intent to record that night for a live record or did the idea of releasing this come later?   

We were told in advance that this performance would be a filmed live recording for a CD/DVD package.  What’s interesting about this show was that we had just come off a boat, literally had been travelling on a ferry to get to Milan.  We had been up for a whole day.  Actually, a little more than 24 hours and we had this damn show to do.  When I watched the footage for the first time I could not believe how worn out I looked.  We were all so damn tired but in the end I think the results are what counts and it sounds terrific.  I could not watch the entire show because I look like I’m about to drop dead.  

Was it tough picking a set list from your years as a solo artist along with your work with Rainbow, MSG, Impelleteri & Alcratrazz?

It sort of is but it isn’t.  What happens is as a band we all bring to the table what we feel we would like to perform from my catalog.  By the time everybody has their input we sometimes have upwards of two full sets of material so we try and whittle down a bit and get the list down to a working set.  There are so many songs to choose from for the set because I’m been lucky enough to have a reasonably successful career and a lot of the songs are known by a lot of people all over the world, which is really cool.  So we pick from not only my solo releases but all of the other band projects that I’ve been a part of which you have already mentioned.  Two or three songs from each band and then we plan to change it up again for this coming tour and revisit some other songs from the same eras.  Eventually I’d like to promote more of the newer material and less of the old stuff as the band gets more comfortable with it.         

I’d like to go back a few months to the release of The Book also out on Frontiers Records.  Talk about the writing process for those new tracks and what it was booklike to revisit some of your older material to be re-recorded?

Well, to be honest, revisiting the older material was horrible.  I always believe that the original recording is the best. Period.  Even when I was in the bands like Rainbow and suddenly we were out on tour and listened to songs like “All Night Long” I’d be like oh my god it’s not like the record at all.  It would be something different about it.  It might be better sometimes but often it wouldn’t quite meet the expectations I wanted it to.  It’s kind of difficult because I’ve been singing these songs for 30+ years and they do become a bit stale.  But for the audience at a show the tendency is to bring the song to life again like a new baby because they are all singing it with you. In other words, if your singing your heart out then maybe I should too.  But aside from the live experience, to go back into the studio to recreate that sound or that energy it took a bit of rethinking.  There is no reaction from anyone.  It’s just you and a microphone alone in a room.  Not quite the same buzz.  It seems easier live than recording.  I simply can’t listen to those recordings because I always think back to the originals and how I felt at the time recording them.  Whether it was a happy time or sad time it doesn’t matter.  Most of them were happy times because we were creating something new.    

As far as the new material goes we worked from a clean slate in terms of the arrangements and such but several of them I had been knocking them around for a bit.  To be honest, I never thought I’d be recording an album of new material.  My last solo effort was about 16 years ago and these new tunes have been in my head for the better part of that interim period.  I played them to the band and we all took it from there.  They added their parts and did the best we could do take an old-fashioned song and make it sound new.  I tend to write in different veins and styles and the band could take several jazzy parts and make them into a rock tune.  I’ve always sung different types of music all my life.  From rhythm and blues to pop to reggae to comedy tracks; you name it, I’ve done it.  If I have a song that’s somewhat light and play it for them on acoustic guitar eventually it becomes a band song and turns electric once we all plug in.  I hate calling it The Graham Bonnet Band because it truly is an effort of all involved.            

grahambonnetbandjoey_638You have some dates booked in Europe in July with your band playing some festivals and you are also going to be playing with The Michael Schenker festival again.  What has it been like to reconnect with Michael at these festival shows?

It’s been amazing. Given the circumstances based upon my initial departure from the band it’s nice to see Michael smiling across at me after my three songs in the set during these festival dates.  We did it after all these years.  We actually played live on stage when not drunk and wanting to kill each other.  It was very special and Michael was very, very pleased and so was I.  I know we have the show in Europe in July and again starting next March this may life as a full N American tour the details of which are being worked out. As long as I’m invited and available I’ll be there.  Michael truly is one of the greatest guitar players ever and I love playing with him.     

Are there any plans for your band to tour in North America at all in 2017/2018?

We are trying to get dates in North America but trying to book them is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It’s just not that easy.  We are what I like to call a “B” band.  We are getting to be an “A” band but we are not quite there yet!  But nobody seems that interested and moreover nobody wants to spend reasonable money which is a huge factor in this.  We have had offers to play here but the money is shit.  May as well stay at home and work on a session for the next record which is under way.  We do need to make a name for ourselves here Stateside there is no doubt about it.   

Will your touring band include the same lineup as you have or have there been any changes at all?

Actually, there have been a few changes.  We are adding Joey Tafolla on guitar and Mark Banquechea on drums while retaining Beth-Ann Heavenstone on bass and old friend Jimmy Waldo on keyboards.  It’s a much more powerful line-up for sure.  Bigger sound and I think people are going to like it.      

I had the chance to speak with Joe Lynn Turner recently and he indicated that at one point there was a Rainbow reunion tour in the works that would have included not only JLT but you and Doogie White as well.  As it turns out Ritchie decided to go in another direction and tour with an all new Rainbow lineup consisting of no members from past incarnations. Based on everything that Schenker has done recently to instill an appreciation of the history of MSG, consistently inviting past members of his different lineups to play with him, is Blackmore disappointing his fans in your opinion by not opting for inclusion of past members?

Absolutely.  But you know why he did, don’t you?  I spoke to JLT fucking years ago when the first wave of Rainbow being reunited (1995) and he (JLT) told me that I should be the singer because I had the most hits with the band.  Do you really think so Joe?  It should be Ronnie (then still alive and well fronting his own band Dio) who should be the singer and as many of the original members who are still around.  Not me and not you and not anyone but that original core lineup.   I was surprised when Ritchie went out doing these shows last year and again this year given his 20+ career in Blackmore’s Night.  I think  personally that he was chucking spaghetti against the wall to see if it stuck.  To see the Rainbow name on the marquee and see who would show up.  To be honest I have not watched or listened to any of the shows.  To me it won’t be Rainbow.  Almost anyone I have spoken to who was watched in person or who have watched or listened to it said that same thing.  It’s a shame.  Russ Ballard got up and played him very recently and I heard that didn’t go that well either.  “Since You’ve Gone” was written by him and that’s what made Rainbow into the radio friendly band it became into the JLT years.    

Your longtime fans were thrilled that Cherry Red Records not only released the first Blackthorne album Afterlife with a new expanded edition but also the never before released 2nd album Don’t Kill The Thrill.  What do you remember most fondly about that period of your career? 

Well I think leaving the band was a good one!!!  That was probably my happiest day.  It was so much work in the studio getting that thing recorded.  I was away from home for almost 8 months and we were doing gigs here and there.  By the time I got home the kids didn’t even recognize me.  It was very difficult also due to the fact that family was living in Australia at the time.  The songs were wonderful and the end result was great but the agony of making that first record was diabolical.  Endless disagreements and numerous confrontations over how the songs should sound to lyric content.  I disagreed with everything and Bob Kulick didn’t like anything I did and I would often ask him what am I doing this band then? Things have changed a lot since those and he reached out to be very recently wishing me the best of luck with all of my new endeavors.  It wasn’t just me that had issues with Bob during the making of that first record.  He criticized everyone from Frankie Banali on his drumming to Chuck Wright on his bass playing and Jimmy Waldo on keyboards.  Nobody was off limits.  It’s a shame really because he’s such an amazing guitar player but he just couldn’t help himself and had to rip everyone during the process.  Everything wasn’t quite right.  He would say “No, No don’t sing it like that.” I’d be like what? I know he wouldn’t mind me saying this now because it’s all blood under the bridge and I know he’s all happy now because he released the second album which is a bunch of songs we recorded in between gigs and the first album.   We recorded something almost every day just in case a second album would see the light of day and it indeed has and hearing a lot of good things about it.                

You must get asked all the time amongst the amazing guitar players you have played with over the course of your career do you have a favorite? Is it Blackmore, Schenker, Malmesteen,or Vai?  

I’d have to say Steve Vai just because of his versatility alone.  However, I will say that Richie Blackmore did revolutionize and originate a style of playing that Yngwie Malmsteen copied and took just a little bit further. He became much better than Ritchie I think but when I worked with him he was just a kid and was very difficult to work with, an ego that couldn’t fit in a room.  I knew he would become a big success because he always wanted to be in the spotlight and the star would stop at nothing to get it.   I have ever lasting gratitude to Blackmore for asking me to join Rainbow because it was a huge turning point in my career.  I didn’t originally want to do it but I’m glad I did.   But Vai is my favorite.  More inventive.  He thought more like me.  Instead of just writing a song and do the obvious he takes it somewhere else.      

Besides touring, what do you have scheduled for the remainder of 2017 in terms of any new music or collaborations?

Well the GBB is writing new music and with the inclusion of Joey and Mark we can start working on songs as a unit while we start to tour.  If you liked the original material from The Book then you will enjoy the new material.  We are starting to develop our own sound and that’s important.  It’s not a copy of something I’ve already done but it does have elements from the past.    

What message do you have for your enduring fans  as this brand new CD/DVD gets released on July 7? 

Please go to your local promoter and request the band!  We are now being seen as old man rock or old white guys rock and it’s tough to get gigs here in the states.  I know there is an audience out there we just have to find it.  I’ve always enjoyed playing the East Coast and can’t wait to get back there.  I miss playing in America.  This has been my home since 1979 and now I find myself flying back to Europe for work.  

For more info, visit:

http://grahambonnetband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/grahambonnetmusic/

 

 

Catching Up With…Joe Lynn Turner

Scrap Metal Perform at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 5, 2011

Scrap Metal Perform at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 5, 2011

You have three upcoming shows in the New England area from May 3-5 what can your longtime fans expect from these performances?

It’s been a long time since I’ve been up there so I think that they are going to hear some Rainbow, some Deep Purple, some original material maybe a cover or two possibly Hendrix or something like that.  They are really going to see and hear a power-packed show because we got a super band and we are going to deliver for sure.

Who is in your current touring line-up?

That with lineup will be Jules Radino on drums (Blue Oyster Cult since 2004), Angus Clark on guitar (Trans- Siberian Orchestra, Rock of Ages) Rob De Martino on bass (Virgin Steele, Rondinelli) and Dr. Gary Gerber on keyboards.  All have played with me and with many other projects over the years so it’s like playing with friends.  It’s a killer band.   Read more

Catching Up With Stephen Pearcy

Smasher777_HI_RESimage_copyIt’s been awhile since the last Stephen Pearcy solo offering Under My Skin (2008) and almost as long since the last RATT release Infestation (2010).  Needless to say, Pearcy fans have been not only very patient but also very confused with everything that has been going on in the RATT camp in the last few years.  Well, the wait is over. 

On January 27, direct from Frontiers Records, comes Pearcy’s fourth solo release Smash.  A 13-track collection of exactly what you would expect from Stephen: great hooks, solid songwriting, veteran backing band and even a little Beau Hill.  I had a chance to catch up with Stephen and get a little clarification on the current state of his solo band, Smash and all things RATT.

Interviewed by: Roger Scales Read more

Getting to Know: Grizfolk

July 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Music News

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Getting to Know: Grizfolk
Interviewed by: Jinx

Roll call! State your name, your role in the band, and how long you’ve been playing your current instrument.
Fredrik: I’m Fredrik, I play the guitar. I started playing when I was 9.
Brendan: I’m Brendan, I play bass. I started a little later, at 14.
Sebastian: I’m Sebastian, I play the keys. I started when I was 4, maybe?
Bill: I’m Bill, I play the drums. I started playing when I was 9.
Adam: I’m Adam, I sing. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 8. I started trying to sing at the same age.

grizTwo of you are from Sweden (Fredrik and Sebastian), one of you is from Florida (Adam), one of you is from Pennsylvania (Bill), and one of you is from California (Brendan). How in the world did you wind up together, and what was it about L.A. that led you to base your band there over some other major music scene?
Sebastian: At the time we met, we all lived in Los Angeles. So that’s where we met, and that’s where we started a band. We were all friends before, and we had played in different bands. Fredrik, Adam, and I sat in a studio and we wrote a couple songs and we started a new band called Grizfolk, and we brought in Brendan and Bill. Read more

Catching Up With Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob

adrenalinemobdearlydepartedcdCatching Up With Russell Allen of Adrenaline Mob
Interviewed by: Roger Scales

Before we get started with my questions I wanted to let you know that rated “Men of Honor” my #1 favorite release of 2014. My short summary was simply explained in this formula: tight band + aggressive style x melodic chorus= enjoyment. Well done sir.

Thank you. Thanks for all that you do for us and for all the other bands that you are championing because without you doing that we just don’t stand a chance in this modern era of over saturation of media frenzy over-hyping of any new band that comes down the pike.

Now let’s get into the new release Dearly Departed being released through Century Media on Feb 10. In a departure from the first covers EP Coverta this new disc will feature in addition to 4 cover tunes, an unreleased track from the Men of Honor sessions, 3 acoustic renditions of songs from both Omerta and Men of Honor, and an edited version of the Men of Honor track “Dearly Departed”. Sounds like it has something for everyone? Read more

Getting to Know: Ragdoll

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Australia and rock n’ roll have gone hand in hand for decades – AC/DC, Jet, and Wolfmother (among countless others) have all hailed from the land down under. And the continent has another hard rocking contender on their hands, Ragdoll. Comprised of members Ryan Rafferty (lead vocals, bass), Leon Todd (guitar), and Cam Barrett (drums), the trio has a new album, ‘Ragdoll Rewound’ that was released on May 23rd, and also recently had a successful performance at Rocklahoma on May 25th on the Retrospect Records Stage, which was part of a string of dates mostly in the Midwest and south.

Ragdoll Rewound is a compilation of Ragdoll’s first two releases (Ragdoll Rock and Here Today) plus four live recordings, one of which is a new composition, “Rewind Your Mind.” The trio revisited the first EP and had it remixed and polished the way they had always wanted to hear it. Any issues the band may have had with the original Here Today master have been fully rectified here too; while the new master of “Tell Me” in particular is a lot more dynamic and more true to the original mix. I caught up Leon Todd recently and got the full lowdown.

Interviewed by Roger Scales

For those unfamiliar with Ragdoll can you give our readers a little bit of a history lesson about how and when the band started and who came up with the name?

We are from Australia and we all grew up listening to Led Zeppelin, Rush, Whitesnake and those types of bands. We have been together a little over three years now as this lineup. The name Ragdoll doesn’t have a particularly cool rock n roll story attached to it. Cam came up with Ragdoll after his cat walked into the room when we were tossing around ideas for the name of the band. We kind of all agreed and just stuck with it. Fans kept asking us “Hey, did you take the name from the Aerosmith song?” That was just a nice coincidence. I guess it would be an easy transition if ever wanted to start an Aerosmith tribute band! Just learn a few songs and practice a few moves, oh and add two members!

Has the band always been a power trio?

Essentially yes. I’ve been playing with our drummer Cam for about 8 years now. We had always been on a quest to start that ideal band. Playing in other bands previous we had never really been satisfied. The three of us have been playing with lineups for 4 or 5 years but it wasn’t until about 2011 that we meshed as Ragdoll.  

Let’s talk about your newest release Ragdoll Rewound a bit. Great idea to give new fans that may have missed your earlier recordings a chance to hear your first two EP’s which are virtually unavailable at this point?      

Yea. That was the general idea. When Ragdoll Rock was first released back in 2011 it was a promotional only recording. There was never really any intent to release that we pretty much gave them out at our early shows. We were unaware what the market for our band would be at that point. That EP ended up in the hands of a promoter here in the US. He loved it and wanted to promote us here in the states. We put out another release at that point called Here Today to coincide with that tour. Ragdoll Rewound is a collection of those two EP’s. We had recorded a third EP in 2013 called All I Want Is Everything which pretty much put us on the radar with rock fans in America so than rather go back and record a whole batch of new songs we wanted to revisit the two EP’s that basically got the ball rolling for us. I think we really found our sound on the All I Want EP so we wanted to essentially update the first two and get it in line with that release. Also do have a definitive Ragdoll package for newer fans like yourself to have and hopefully latch on to it.          

Now you have been touring in the US since early May correct?

Correct. We are currently finishing up the “Rewind Your Mind” tour that started on May 16 in Ventura CA and ending on June 13 in Las Vegas. We were lucky to get an opening spot opening for Skid Row at The Whisky A Go Go in LA. That was a great show. Love those west coast crowds!  

Looks like the dates in 2014 are all mid west and west coast. Why no east coast dates?

Funny because a lot of the bands we have been playing with here in the US that originate from there keep telling us ‘you have to get up and play on the east coast. You play music that angry people will enjoy and those areas have a lot of angry people!’ Next time we play in the US we will make sure we try and hit the east coast. There are so many iconic venues up there I have only read about and seen in videos that I want to hopefully one day play.      

What was playing Rocklahoma like this year?

This is our third time playing this festival. We got invited by the promoter right after the release of Ragdoll Rock who basically told us about 6 weeks prior to the gig that if we could get on a plane and get here he promised us a good spot on that bill. That really got the ball rolling for us then and generated a lot of buzz. For us coming from one of the most isolated cities in the world where we would play a single show every two to three months playing to such a captive audience at Rocklahoma who don’t have to paid to be convinced that they like rock music that was really huge for us. We planned this tour around that one great big gig and I think we will always look at that show as a turning point for us as a band.      

Now you have a new video for the song “Tell Me” which almost makes you guys comic book characters. Tell me who came up with that concept?

Basically as we travel and we are essentially strangers in a strange land we take a lot of photos when we are on the road. When you let loose three young guys in a van touring America we basically look at this country as the land of plenty. Walmart to us is fascinating. We wanted to share that with the fans a lot of the photos that we took across the country. We wanted this video to be more lighthearted and had some humor with it. We wanted to push the song “Tell Me” as the first single and get it some exposure. How do we take all of these photos with the song and make it something fun? Cam came up with the idea of the comic strip style approach and throw all the photos together and see what happens. We approached a good friend of ours, who also happens to be a kick ass drummer in his own right, Chris Reeve to come up with something based on our idea. Within a week he had it 80% finished. We made a few little suggestions and basically not long afterward had the finished product. The feedback we have received so far the fans all seem to love it and I’m glad.        

Are you working on new material currently for a new album?

We are playing a few new songs on this tour that we decided to roll out and get a real live feel to them. It looks as if the industry is changing and evolving to the point where bands are not always touring to support a new release but are now starting the reverse process. Having the opportunity to play them live gives us the opportunity to mold the songs into shape while taking the fans reactions to them during the show as part of the creative process. When I’m home I have my own small studio where you will often find me creating and writing new music. Not everything gets put out on a Ragdoll record but I have it. We plan to go home and continue promotion for the “Ragdoll Rewound” release and do some more touring. I mean even back home not everyone had the chance to own our first two EP’s so they are also getting the opportunity to pick them up as well. Hopefully by early 2015 put together another tour package for here in the states and play some different places as well.

 

For more on Ragdoll:
Website
Facebook

 

 

 

Catching Up With Ethan Brosh

1493247_10152331980466779_1280893659_nEthan Brosh is a guitar player of extraordinary talent. His heart and soul lie with such greats as Lynch, MacAlpine, Becker, Freidman and Vai. “Live The Dream” will prove to the world what Brosh has to offer and trust me it’s a shredder’s wet dream. I caught up with Ethan prior to his CD release party at the Hard Rock Café in Boston on May 31, check out what he had to say below.

Interviewed by: Roger Scales

Tonight (May 31) is the CD release party for your new album Live The Dream out now on Carmine Appice’s new record Label Rocker Records. Tell us a little about the record itself and how you found a home with Rocker Records?
The record took me two years to complete. I had been writing this material for quite awhile now. Some of the music was from years ago and I just had to complete certain tunes. I had some ideas and I just had to actually just finish them off, which is really the hardest part. But I’d say the actual writing process from the time I got on it and to finish recording it, then mastering it and getting the packaging completed took two years. Another year and a couple of months before it found a home on Rocker Records. Being on tour with Yngwie (Malmsteen) in 2013 distracted me from focusing in on the release of “Live The Dream”. It ended up working out just fine because Carmine Appice started his own brand new record label (Rocker Records) and it was just perfect. In fact I believe I’m the first artist on his new label. It was through my connection with my publicist that I came to the attention of Carmine’s business partner and somehow I was the type of artist they were looking for.              Read more

Steve Blaze of Lillian Axe

June 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

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Lillian Axe released their 13th CD/DVD, the acoustic, live, One Night In The Temple on May 27, 2014 via CME Records/Sony Music (RED). We recently had a chance to catch up with guitarist and founding member Steve Blaze about the new record and what is happening with Lillian Axe moving forward into 2014.        

Interviewed by: Roger Scales

One Night In The Temple was filmed in a Masonic Temple in the Bayou last year. How did this show originally come about?

Well it’s kind of weird because at first what I really was looking at was trying to do something that was very small, maybe just a few people sort of like a campfire thing. Just me, our singer Brian and one other guitar player. Twenty fans attending tops. We would talk, the fans could ask questions about the songs and we would play them acoustically and make it just a very unique experience. I was looking at from the beginning as possibly just a DVD project. It kind of took on a life of its own.

It started out by adding the rest of the band and then it just went from there. As the show got bigger the details surrounding this event got bigger. It took a lot of work to get this done. We ultimately became one with the crowd by the end of the night. It was a night that ran with tons of emotions from laughing to crying while still having a ton of fun. The setting of the event had a lot to do with how fans were responding throughout the night and it became a very emotional journey. It allowed me to talk a lot about the songs and perform them in a very different format. It wound up being one of the most incredible moments in my musical career. It was really like a religious experience. The DVD really captures the moment and the emotion of the night. I was really concerned that was going to be a difficult task but the folks filming and working on this project just did an amazing job.           

So it’s fair to say that this show was a celebration of 25 years of Lillian Axe as much for you and the band as it was for the fans?

Yes, you’re right about that. We were playing songs from every record. We were celebrating the chemistry of the band with the fans all night long. We had a violin player there. The crowd was singing along to “Nobody Knows” to the point where we recorded two different versions, one had just the crowd singing the lead vocals. We had a ton of unique interactions with the fans all night long.   The song that I wrote called “Bow Your Head”, the family whose little boy I wrote the song about, they were there. When we played that song it was VERY emotional. We have clips of them reacting to the song. It was a very spiritual uplifting night and we all walked out of there like we really accomplished something.    

Did you have a tough task in picking a set list?

Not really. You go through the list and you know there are certain songs you have to play and if we didn’t play them our fans would follow us home and behead us. There were a few surprises we added in that we had not played in a very long time. We didn’t really have to over think it, we didn’t have to sit and create new and elaborate arrangements. Just play the songs close to what we did on the records just with acoustic guitars. There are some solos I couldn’t do but I still riffed out and stayed as close to the original as possible.      

This performance is being released in a standard 2 CD/DVD combo and also a 2CD Blue-Ray set. What are some of the special features fan can expect on each?lillianaxetemplecd

It will be released as 3 disc set (2CDs/1DVD and 2CDs/1Blu-Ray), housed in an elaborate digipack. Filmed in high definition, the Blu-Ray will contain the acoustic performance, fan question and answer session, videos for the songs “Caged In” and “Death Comes Tomorrow”, featuring 3 songs live in concert from their July 4, 2013 performance at the Paragon Casino and behind the scenes footage while the DVD will contain 1 song from the Paragon Casino and the video for “Death Comes Tomorrow”. I didn’t have a Blu-Ray player until this came out but I do now.

Playing acoustic in not a real stretch for Lillian Axe as a band because I recall promotion for Poetic Justice in 1992 in the Boston area when you would do a CD signing in Strawberries Records and Tapes and then play a few tunes for the fans.

You’re right, we have always had that element within the band from the beginning. It stems from the fact that from about the age of six I would play classical acoustic guitar. On that note if you listen to Deep Red Shadows (2010) we have five acoustic songs on that record. That recording has some of the best acoustic sounds I have ever heard on any record period. I was amazed how well that guitar recorded for that album. Getting back to around that Poetic Justice period Ron (Taylor) and I went out and did weeks of promotional stops throughout the states and Europe with just his voice and my acoustic guitar. Everywhere from music stores, to radio stations to label branches. Anywhere and anyone who would have us. When I see other bands do that it really is a reflection of how sincere they are and also are they really as good as they sound on the album? It really is an intregal part of the Lillian Axe history with the acoustic work.      

Are there touring plans specific to perform in support of this record and will these shows attempt to recreate that set list and acoustic vibe?

No, we were talking about playing a few different cities to play just acoustically but I’ll be honest with you it’s a lot of work almost more difficult than us playing our regular show. It’s hard for me to sit in chair for that long anyway during these shows. We will be going out and doing some regular shows for sure. If it was fiscally possible we would be playing a lot more on the east coast and just touring a lot more in general. We have a brand new booking agent and they plan on booking us starting in September. That gives them ample time to get started and also gives us time to attend to a few items as a band as well. People also don’t go out as much when they can stay home and watch shows on YouTube. To me it’s just not the same as walking into a stadium or theater or even a club and feeling the band live. Some of the greatest memories of my childhood were watching Rush, Yes and Queen live and in person. I think a lot of kids miss out on that today.  

As the sole original member left in a band whose first album was released in 1988 what keeps you going and what keeps you wanting the spirit of Lillian Axe to continue?

One of the things for me is every time I put on one of our records and listen to it that’s when I know. You go through so much as an artist all the ups and all the downs. You go through periods where you are all over the place and you are on every radio station and everybody is talking about you. Then you go through periods when you say to yourself where the hell is everybody? We have been through is a lot like a roller coaster through our whole history. When I do listen to those records there isn’t a single song that I’m not proud of and in my eyes isn’t fantastic. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way because I feel that are a lot of bands that should feel the exact same way. My goal on this planet, outside of my family, is to touch people and make their lives better. I was given a gift to play guitar and write. I can’t change a tire or fix an engine or even cook a meal but I can play guitar. It’s not any more important than anybody else’s job but it’s my gift. I have a responsibility to not waste this gift that God gave me.

When you look back to the start of Lillian Axe and all the effort that went into getting signed to a major label and all the strain that a label can create for you as you record I’m sure that was very tough and had its difficult moments. Now it’s 2014 you have more freedom as an artist to have greater creativity and less label interference yet today we have illegal downloads, file sharing and YouTube. Which era do you prefer and why?

As far as the creativity is concerned I guess I was lucky I never had any extended periods where I had someone looking over my shoulder trying to tell me what to do. Tons of bands back in the day followed a certain format and created radio friendly music and were very successful, so it does work. I always felt in the early days to follow certain rules, like keeping a song under seven minutes for instance because I knew otherwise it wouldn’t get any airplay. Then as my career moved on I started to realize that if I can’t make my statement in three minutes then it might be seven or eight minutes long. What’s funny is that we had our most success just as the grunge moment took over in the early 90’s. We had the best label support when we were on Grand Slam IRS from 91-95. The label went defunct, grunge went into high gear and things started a downward spiral for Lillian Axe and that took a while to get out from.

In the early days, the learning part was the most fun for me because you are traveling with the guys in a van and we were just buddies. We knew something would happen for us and that it was just a matter of time. None of us had huge families, mortgages, kids and major responsibilities. It was all about where we were going to eat and sleep. It was a different kind of fun. I was so driven by my focus and my desire to make this band succeed I don’t think I appreciated it as much as I should have.   Now I have a blast onstage and appreciate it much better now we just don’t have financial support any longer from any major label like we did. One of the biggest reasons why the shift today away from label support is how easy it is to get music anytime or anywhere. We talked about this already. People have gotten lazy and people don’t realize that bands don’t tour as often because they are not paying for the music like they once did. What’s 10 bucks for an album when it’s really not much more than a combo meal at your favorite fast food restaurant. When you think about the time and effort that went into making it and you buy something you will have the rest of your life it’s a small price to pay.                                

Even though Lillian Axe has had periods of inactivity you remained quite busy with Near Life Experience and also part of a reunited Angel lineup as well. Can you talk a little about how both of those bands got started and the status of each?

Near Life Experience is probably on hold in defiantly. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to doing that again. It was a great thing at the time but all of the songs I write now are for Lillian. It would be very tough for me to try and go write just for Near Life and separate the two bands. They were written in the moment of that time. I’m just not there any longer. As far as Angel goes, Frank DiMino is basically just bummed out about the music industry in general and how difficult it is for a band like Angel who had some success to even get noticed now.   If he ever calls and I’m available I’m there. I do have another project I’m happy to announce I will be playing with Joey Molland and Badfinger. We will be touring. Also I have a side project with Zebra drummer Guy Gelso called “Sledgehammer”. It’s a power classic rock band playing covers with everything from King Crimson to Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath. Guy is a great drummer and great person.   In June I also start filming a Ghost Hunting show that I’m the host of here that will air regionally. “Circle of Light” my other original project as some shows coming up in August as well.        

Your last studio album XI: The Days Before Tomorrow got several positive reviews and I thought although extremely heavy sounding was still quite melodic. Do you agree and you have already started to write for the next record?

That’s a perfect assessment of that record. It was a very heavy record but melodic. For me, melody and power are the greatest two elements of any great song. Not how loud the song can get but the power of the melody. I’m writing the next one right now and if it comes out how I envision it will be the best thing we have ever done. Hopefully we can start to record by year’s end. I’m really excited about it and cannot wait to get started.    

Last year you released a very limited edition box set called Convergence which contained all 11 albums plus a bonus disc containing unreleased material. Is this still available and who’s idea was this to put together?

It was my idea to it. It stems from my desire to put the complete works that Lillian Axe had done into one box. I felt that fans would appreciate that patricianly given how difficult it is to even get some of our older records. We did it in limited edition and it sold out right away. We hope to put out another set in the next few months. It costs about $50.00 to make one so we are not looking to make big bucks by doing this. It is very expensive to produce. I think to truly understand our band you need to take in every album. Some live and die with the first four albums and others only the last few. It’s like a story and you need to read all the chapters to understand the book.  

Is it a unique accomplishment knowing that you are the only hard rock act ever to be inducted into the Louisiana music Hall of Fame?

The only other rock band is Zebra. For me it’s just knowing that it’s something that can never be taken away from me. We were the first ones and Zebra came next. Lillian Axe never really got the push in the local press I thought we deserved. It’s not a huge rock area to begin with its more a blues based state. I’ve got a bit of a chip on my shoulder about that but now it doesn’t matter because I have this honor.

What does the future hold for Steve Blaze and for Lillian Axe?

More music until I cannot pick up a guitar anymore. I’ll keep playing until I’m dead and even then I’m sure I’ll be playing somewhere else hopefully with wings.

More on Lillian Axe:
www.lillianaxe.com 
www.facebook.com/lillianaxe

Artist Profile: A Q&A with Guns N’ Roses’ Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal

May 20, 2014 by  
Filed under Interviews

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On a recent assignment, I had the opportunity to meet Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, a guitarist, songwriter, recording artist and producer – and since 2006, lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses.

Ron is not just a prolific artist – he’s also a terrific guy, intensely committed to philanthropy and non-profits, supporting a broad range of causes including multiple sclerosis, autism, burn victims, diabetes, cancer, blindness, and victims of natural disasters such as earthquakes, drought, and hurricanes.

And when not writing/performing with GNR, Bumblefoot has a rich solo career; he collaborates with other artists; has a multitude of song-writing projects for TV, movies, video games; produces music; conducts music workshops and clinics worldwide; has done television acting; and is an entrepreneur with a line of hot sauces and guitar cases.

Check out what he had to say in our Q&A.
Interviewed by: Ilya Mirman

 
You have quite an eclectic body of work – are there some common threads that connect your various projects, compositions?
One common thing I see when looking at it all is a tendency to take a light-hearted look at life’s difficulties. Like pointing out a funny face in a storm cloud. I guess its my own way of taking power away from the dark side by twisting it into something that lifts the spirit. On the surface someone may see ‘funny lyrics’ but it’s often touching on deeper subjects that we all deal with in some way. Instrumentally on the guitar, I might do the same, adding moments of technique or intellectuality to a simple form. I like the contrast, but it’s really the completion, a balance of duality.

 
Aside from touring with GNR, what music projects do you have going on in parallel now?
I’m working on my next Bumblefoot album. It’s been long-overdue, but creativity happens when it’s meant to. That can be an easy way out, so keep in mind that sometimes you have to force yourself into the zone, and when you do this it’s also because you were meant to at that moment. I’ve always found it difficult to write while touring, I don’t get the down-time needed to re-charge the creative batteries and build momentum. On the most recent South American tour with GNR I forced myself to find a way, I’d be wandering the stairways of hotels for hours staring into space and writing words. Digging deep into yourself and allowing the needed emotional free-flow for songwriting, while being on the road where everybody wants your time and attention…   the two conflict each other, volatility and patience, it was torment. But that’s where the good stuff comes from, you need to feel, and that’s not a smooth road.
I have an upcoming US solo tour in June/July. It’s part of the “Guitars Gods” tour, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Hoey, Uli Jon Roth and Bumblefoot. I’ve been touring around the rest of the world for 17 years but this will be my first full US tour. I have info on tour dates as well as special VIP meet-n-greet packages at www.bumblefoot.com

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You do a lot of various workshops and clinics around the world – how did that start, and what about this is particularly rewarding for you?
It’s become my favorite kind of performing. What I like about performing is connection and interaction. There’s something a little awkward to me about the separation between the audience and stage, it sometimes feels like I’m a movie being watched, and that can lead to a disconnected robotic performance. At Bumblefoot shows I like to have people sing along, strum my guitar, I’ll come play in the audience, that’s what I like, being face-to-face and making a show together. And with workshops, it’s the most spontaneous and interactive of all performing. Audience Q&A leads the events in different directions, we all get to meet, we’re taking photos, signing merch, chatting, it’s very personal and sometimes go for over 6 hours, I have to be forced to stop, haha, prying the guitar from my hands… these events are not just for guitar players, it’s a personal performance with backing tracks, sometimes including a jam with a live band and audience members get to jam with us, sharing experiences and the things I’ve learned along the way. Teaching is the most gratifying, to inspire others, to give what you’ve received.

You’re a self-professed huge KISS fan. Can you tell us about KISS as an influence, and the all-star tribute band you helped form recently?
It all began with a KISS tribute album A World With Heroes launched by journalist Mitch Lafon, with proceeds going to a cancer hospice. I sang and played guitars on a cover of the song “Detroit Rock City”, with Rex Brown on bass and Brian Tichy on drums. Rex Brown sang and played bass on a cover of the song “Larger Than Life” with Mark Zavon on guitar and Brian Tichy on drums. After the album was released promoters began to ask, “So when are these guys gonna play live?” We started getting offers and we formed a band called “A.L.I.V.E.” where we’d play KISS songs from the albums Alive! and Alive II. We did a few shows in LA and Vegas in July 2013, just for the fun of it, as fans. I don’t know if we’ll do more shows, tricky to get all our schedules sync’d up. For me, being a KISS fan started at age 5, when I first heard the Alive! album. My first concert was KISS at Madison Square Garden NYC in 1979. They inspired me, along with many others, to do what I do. I only hope I can do the same for others.

Regarding your philanthropic endeavors: how do you decide which causes to back, and what motivates you?
Making music solely to entertain people has never been enough for me. Music can motivate people to do good things for one another, and it seems wrong to not act on this potential. I do what I can, when I can. It’s important to pick the right organizations and situations. I’ve seen too much failure in small charities where a lot of people’s time, effort and money are wasted on events that are unable to deliver proceeds where they’re intended and needed. I’m becoming more selective, I have to, the time just isn’t there and I have to make choices.

 
You’ve recently become a cultural envoy for the United Nations. What does that actually mean, and how did you get involved?
There’s a wonderful organization, theHDI.org with U.N. humanitarian and diplomacy programs, we work with U.S. Embassies around the world to make events that bring people together through music. I simply go, be myself and do what I do. I’ve had the pleasure of making music with fantastic local musicians playing rock, traditional cultural music, and have made good friends. I’ve been to Albania, Malaysia, Indonesia and Belarus over the past year, integrated as part of my own tours, with more plans for the near future. It’s been a blessing to have these experiences.

 
You have several entrepreneurial projects in the works – can you tell us about them? How did they come about, where are you seeing success? Are there things in the works?
I have a line of hot sauces with Cajohns Fiery Foods ranging from mild Bumblicious to extremely hot BumbleF**KED. I love to eat. Haha, who doesn’t? I love spicy food, often to the extreme, and when you’re passionate about something, you want to share the passion.   I had lots of ideas, flavor profiles and simple recipes for hot sauces, the good folks at CaJohns turned it into reality. We have more products we’ll be rolling out. I have some unusual ideas sometimes, haha.

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I also teamed up with Eastsport, makers of gear bags and backpacks, to launch a line of signature guitar cases.  We started with twelve custom cases in the collection, with my personal favorite the Deluxe Electric Roller Case.  I thought about all the years of lugging guitars around airport terminals, carrying gear to gigs, and anything that could have made it more practical, and put it all into a guitar case. Extra padding, deeper pockets, wheels, an attachable/detachable gear bag with dividers and cable ties, and a clear window to put your flyer in to advertise your band, gig, teaching. And now we just launched the BumbleBabe line of acoustic guitar cases . We’ll continue to expand on both lines of cases with different designs and materials.

The next goal I have is to create a worldwide music festival that will bring attention to indie artists all over the world in a unique way. There’s so much talent out there that deserves to be recognized and nurtured, I want to help make that happen.

 
Any television work on the horizon?
I was born with a natural cartoon voice, haha. I’ve looked into doing voice-overs and would like to pursue that. I’ve done some acting in indie films, been a guest on TV shows over the years, but mostly have provided music for TV and film. To quote one of my songs, (“Rockstar For A Day” from the “Normal” album) “I’ve got a face that’s made for radio, and a voice that’s made for I don’t know…”, haha.

For more info on Bumblefoot, check out:
www.bumblefoot.com
www.twitter.com/bumblefoot
www.facebook.com/bumblefoot
www.instagram.com/bumblefoot
www.youtube.com/bumblefoot
www.reverbnation.com/bumblefoot

Getting To Know: Varga

Varga group shot hi resDan Fila of Varga
Interviewed by: Roger Scales

Dan could we get a quick lesson on the history of Varga for metal fans that may be not quite familiar with the band?   

It was founded in 1989 by bassist/vocalist Joe Varga and myself (drummer Dan Fila).  We had been friends since elementary school.  Joe and I started our first band together in grade 7 and we called it “The Golden Phoenix”.  Our first gig we stole shopping carts and brought all of our equipment to school in shopping carts. Adam (Alex-guitars) joined the band by grade 9.  Sean (Williamson-guitars) joined a few years later.  Read more

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