Formed in 1996, Decapitated is a Technical Death Metal band founded in Krosno, Poland by brothers Waclaw ‘Vogg’ Kieltyka (guitar) and Witold ‘Vitek’ Kieltyka (drums) along with vocalist Wojciech ‘Sauron’ Wasowicz. The group – which has had numerous lineup changes over the years – released their first demo, CEMETERIAL GARDENS, in 1997 and followed that a year later with their second demo, THE EYE OF HORUS. In 2000, Decapitated released their debut album, WINDS OF CREATION, which was followed by NIHILITY (2002), and THE NEGATION (2004). After the release of their third album, vocalist Sauron left the group and was replaced by Adrian ‘Covan’ Kowanek. However, a year after the release of the band’s 2006 fourth album, ORGANIC HALLUCINOSIS, Vitek was killed in an auto accident that left Covan seriously injured. With the loss of his brother, Vogg chose to bring this chapter of Decapitated to a close…
After two years, Vogg decided to revive Decapitated and began searching for new members. The next album by the group, CARNIVAL IS FOREVER (2011), was their first full length in five years and was their first to appear on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, landing at #11. Their next album, 2014’s BLOOD MANTRA, was an even bigger success, climbing to #11 on the Polish charts and #5 on the U.S. Heatseekers chart. Decapitated continued to gain traction internationally and became one of the most revered Technical Metal bands in the world. 2017’s ANTICULT was their most successful yet, reaching #4 on the Polish Albums chart and #2 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. The band spent several years touring and preparing for their next album, which was delayed because of legal issues in the U.S. and the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Five years after the release of ANTICULT, Decapitated returns with their 2022 album CANCER CULTURE. On this album, Vogg is joined by vocalist Rafal “Rasta” Piotrowski, bassist Pawel Pasek, and drummer James Stewart. The album starts off rather tame with “From the Nothingness with Love,” a song that quickly reveals itself to be a battlefield march into the pits of Death Metal. The opener then thrusts you headfirst into the title track, which is truly the beginning of this rollercoaster ride through the pits of uncompromising Metal. From one end of the Death Metal spectrum to the other, CANCER CULTURE’s highlights include “Hello Death,” “Just a Cigarette,” and “Hours as Battlegrounds.” With guest appearances from Jinjer vocalist Tatiana Shmayluk and Machine Head front man Robb Flynn, CANCER CULTURE is a reminder that Decapitated remain one of Technical Death Metal’s finest – and most exciting – bands.
STEVE SCHNEE: First off, TREMONTI SINGS SINATRA is an immensely enjoyable and joyful release filled with love and reverence to Frank and his music. Admittedly, I never knew this side of you, and it makes me rethink everything that I’ve ever known about Mark Tremonti. Is this an album that will surprise your most hardcore fans?
MARK TREMONTI: I think this album will definitely surprise my fanbase if they haven’t heard of it already. That was the whole point of Take A Chance For Charity. I wanted to start Take A Chance For Charity to challenge people to do something that their fanbases would never see coming to raise money for charity.
STEVE: All proceeds from the sales of this album are going to be donated to the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). Can you tell us a little about that?
MARK: NDSS is the largest organization to help those with Down syndrome and families with family members with Down syndrome. It helps them see their full potentials through programs which helps them live independently and helps them get job placement. It also helps them with placement into speech therapies, occupational therapies, physical therapies and many more things.
STEVE: Obviously, the first thing the listener hears is your love of the source material. However, as the album progresses, you begin hearing your voice and it becomes a more thrilling listening experience. Was it exciting to set aside the guitar – the instrument that you are best known for – and focus all your attention on being a vocalist?
MARK: It was definitely nice to be able to set the guitar down and focus just on vocals. It allowed me to be sure all the vocals were done correctly without any kind of distractions.
STEVE: What inspired you to record a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra? And was it easy to pick the songs that you were going to record?
MARK: I decided to do it in Frank Sinatra’s name because I was such a huge fan of his and his music. Also, a lot of people are unaware of the fact that he helped raise over a billion dollars for charity. He recorded over 1400 songs, so it was tough to figure out just the right songs to choose. I spent a lot of time filtering through those songs to figure out the right ones for me to record.
STEVE: You collaborated with surviving members of Frank’s band. How easy was it to get them involved in the project?
MARK: It was difficult at first to organize the group of folks that were going to record on this record because this isn’t a world I’ve ever lived in. These weren’t connections that I’ve had previously. I was lucky enough to have a manager who was taught guitar at a young age by Frank Sinatra’s touring guitar player, Dan McIntyre. He was able to make the introduction to Frank’s bandleader Mike Smith who then organized the group of people you hear on the record.
STEVE: The album packs an emotional punch – you clearly love the music you are performing. How did you discover Sinatra’s music in the first place?
MARK: I discovered it like most other people. It was playing around the house, watching movies, hearing it in commercials. During Christmas time, you couldn’t get away from it where I grew up in Detroit, MI. Frank Sinatra was all over the place.
STEVE: How did you record the project? Did you perform live with the band at all?
MARK: We recorded the record live up in Chicago. What you hear on the recordings are one take from the band from start to finish. The only exception was for the layering we had to do with the saxophones, because we couldn’t fit everybody in the room at the same time. The vocals I would then record after the band was through. We’d do a few takes so I could be in the same room and have that sound that Frank Sinatra got back in the ‘60s recordings.
STEVE: Out of all the songs on the album, is there one that you are particularly close to? And which song was the most difficult to perform as a vocalist?
MARK: I think “The Song Is You” is probably the most important song to me on this record because that’s the song that made me want to do Frank Sinatra. It is also the song I sing to my daughter Stella every day to put a smile on her face, but I have many favorites on the album. The most difficult song to perform would have to have been “Wave.”It has an extremely low note – I think it’s an E flat – when I say “together.” That note only comes out at certain times of the day for me. It is usually early in the morning I can hit that note, but not later at night.
STEVE: While not assuming you are going to record more Sinatra songs for a future project, does this give you more confidence to explore more unexpected musical avenues?
MARK: This made me comfortable with using my lower register. I’ll definitely dive deeper into using that in the future.
STEVE: Are you hoping to introduce a new generation of listeners to this classic music?
MARK: I would love to introduce a lot of people to specifically Frank Sinatra’s huge catalog because it’s not all “My Ways” and “New York, New Yorks.” There’s a lot of great songs in there that a lot of people aren’t aware of that I absolutely love.
STEVE: Can you tell us a little about the album cover? Apart from the title, it doesn’t reveal what you are about to hear, but it certainly reflects what you are about to feel.
MARK: The album cover was inspired by my good friend Kevin Chiaramonte. He also happens to be my publicist. He said to me Frank Sinatra’s an artist and you are an artist; it would be great if you could try and do the artwork for this record. My wife had bought me an art book on Frank Sinatra and his works, and I just loved it. A lot of his stuff is kind of abstract and modern art, so I took that route on the cover art. I had a great time doing it.
STEVE: What’s next for Mark Tremonti?
MARK: Next for me is finishing recording the new Alter Bridge record which comes out October 14th.It will be called PAWNS & KINGS. I’m headed to Europe on May 27th – the same day the TREMONTI SINGS SINATRA record comes out – to do a five-week tour of Europe. Then back to Europe later this winter when the Alter Bridge record comes out. Hopefully, we can pepper in some Sinatra shows along the way.
Special thanks to Mark Tremonti
Additional thanks to Mike Donohue, Kevin Chiaramonte, and Dave Rayburn
When worlds collide, they can often create a universe that is greater than the sum of both worlds… and so much more. So, using that analogy when talking about music, the end results are either glorious and inspiring or insipid and dull. To be honest it all depends on chemistry and how naturally things fall into place. To make things work, they cannot be forced. The 1986 collaboration between rockers Aerosmith and rap trio Run DMC was inspired. The Beach Boys and The Fat Boys collab in 1987’s “Wipe Out”, not so much. More recently, modern Country music has been infiltrated by Hip-Hop and Rap artists, creating a new organic musical movement that may not make sense on paper but sounds great on the radio. And why does Country Rap work? Because the artists – and the audience – grew up on both genres. And that is the same reason why CARRY ME HOME by Mavis Staples and Lavon Helm works so well.
Mavis Staples is one of the most respected Gospel and R&B vocalists in the world. For over 70 years, she has followed a musical path yet has gladly taken detours and embraced many other musical genres along the way. Her many musical reinventions have added to her longevity in the music business. As the only surviving member of the legendary Staples Singers, she carries with her a musical legacy that has inspired legions of fans across many different genres. Levon Helm, on the other hand, came to prominence as the drummer of iconic Rock group The Band. Levon and the rest of the group were raised on everything from Folk and Country to Rock, R&B, and every other form of music born alongside the dusty roads that made their way across America. And many of those roads intertwined with the same ones that Mavis Staples’ traveled. So, when Mavis Staples appeared at The Band’s final concert in 1976 – captured on film as THE LAST WALTZ – her world collided with Levon’s and a friendship was born.
That friendship became the collaboration that is CARRY ME HOME, a live performance from 2011 that is finally seeing a release in 2022. The album was recorded in Woodstock, New York, as part of Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble series. Helm had initially started the Midnight Ramble gatherings in 2003 in order to raise money and keep his house out of foreclosure. By 2011, the Midnight Ramble had become a celebration of music, art, love, and faith. So, when Mavis Staples joined Levon and his band, two worlds collided, aligned, and danced across the sky. A concert that feels like a tent revival, CARRY ME HOME lives up to every expectation… and exceeds all of them. While Staples and Helm were unaware that this was the last time that they would perform together – Levon died in April 2012 – this set contains performances filled with excitement, joy, and a love of making music. While there are many highlights, CARRY ME HOME ends with a passionate take on The Band’s “The Weight”, the song that Mavis performed in THE LAST WALTZ. It is the perfect ending that feels like a celebration. Of love. Of life. Of Levon.
Soul music changed when Prince came on the scene. Right before his arrival, there were only a handful of artists that were being taken seriously as ‘artistes.’ The Soul, R&B, and Funk music that had been so dominant in the ‘60s and early ‘70s had given way to Disco. And while the genre itself was uplifting and invigorating, Disco was so popular that everyone jumped on the dance bandwagon. Within a few years, Disco’s innovators were pushed aside in favor of one-off cash-in releases by labels, musicians, and performers, essentially draining the heart and soul from the music. But when Prince came along in 1978, he recalibrated Soul, Funk, and R&B, taking control of the musical narrative and putting the artist/artiste out front. And by doing so, he kicked open the gates and encouraged future generations of artists to do the same.
While not comparing him to Prince from a musical standpoint, Kyle Dion is the direct result of Prince’s musical breakthrough more than four decades ago. By taking the ‘music’ back from the ‘business,’ he has managed to create music that is unique to himself yet is easily accessible to a larger audience looking for a good time. Kyle Dion became interested in music at a young age, writing his first song at the age of 9. By the time 2014 rolled around, he was releasing his first mixtape, SIXES & SEVENS. Over the next several years, Kyle Dion released a series of Soul and Hip Hop-influenced singles and EPs before finally issuing SUGA, his debut album, in 2019. The critically acclaimed album brought him to the attention of a wider audience. Ever since the release of that album, audiences and critics alike have been awaiting his next move…
SASSY, Kyle’s sophomore album, has arrived to unanimous acclaim. Combining Soul, R&B, and Hip Hop influences with a modern twist, SASSY is the album fans wanted… and so much more. Rather than revisit the sounds of SUGA, he has restructured his ‘formula’ and reinvented himself. Far more experimental than his debut, SASSY sees an even more confident Kyle Dion take control of his musical narrative and steer it in any direction that suits his fancy. And unlike so many current Soul, Rock, and Pop albums, he realizes that the best tactic in songwriting is to ‘leave the audience wanting more,’ with no song on the album exceeding the three and one-half minute mark, and most of them timing in at less than three minutes. Kyle Dion knows what he’s doing and he’s definitely feeling comfortable as he controls his own musical journey. Highlights include “I Could Be Your Girlfriend,” “Fix Vision” (featuring Chanel Tres), “Placebo” (featuring Ja Rule), “Cookie,” and the first single, “Parmesan.”
Formed in Los Angeles, California in 2009, AWOLNATION was founded by singer, songwriter, and musician Aaron Bruno. His career began when, while still in high school, he formed the Punk band Insurgence. By 2000, he had founded the band Home Town Hero, who released two albums during their four-year career: HOME TOWN HERO (2002) and BITCH CITY (2004). After Home Town Hero dissolved in 2004, Aaron and bandmate Drew Stewart formed the band Under The Influence Of Giants (UTIOG). Between 2004 and 2008, UTIOG released the EP HEAVEN IS FULL (2006) and their self-titled album (2008) and several singles before splitting up. Never one to remain idle for too long, Aaron Bruno set his sights on his next musical project: AWOLNATION.
While AWOLNATION is a band, Aaron Bruno remains the singer, songwriter, and sole constant member since their inception. AWOLNATION made their recorded debut with the release of the BACK FROM EARTH EP in 2010. A year later, their album MEGALITHIC SYMPHONY (2011) was an international hit, charting in the US, Canada, Austria, the UK, and other countries. 2012’s RUN was even more successful, climbing into the Top 20 in the US, Austria, and Canada. AWOLNATION’s next two albums – HERE COME THE RUNTS (2018) and ANGEL MINERS & THE LIGHTNING RIDERS (2020) – were also hits in several different countries, proving that AWOLNATION were here to stay. With a series of hit albums, EPs, and singles in their back pocket, Aaron and AWOLNATION were up for a new challenge…
2022’s MY ECHO, MY SHADOW, MY COVERS is an album that finds Aaron and his bandmates collaborating with guest artists on a series of surprising cover versions. Instead of knocking out faithful retreads of the originals, these songs get a fresh AWOLNATION spin to them and end up sounding both comforting and exciting at the same time. The songs don’t lose their original charm as Aaron and Co. take them apart and put them back together with a modern twist. Highlights include Midnight Oil’s “Beds Are Burning” (featuring Rise Against’s Tim McIlrath), The Alan Parsons Project’s “Eye in the Sky” (featuring Beck), Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” (featuring Midland), Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” (featuring Incubus’ Brandon Boyd and Portugal. The Man), Madonna’s “Material Girl” (featuring Taylor Hanson), Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” (featuring Nothing But Thieves’ Conor Mason) and The Cars’ “Drive.” An uplifting experience from start to finish, MY ECHO, MY SHADOW, MY COVERS is new nostalgia at its finest.