Much has been written about Yoko Ono over the years and, sadly, not all of it positive. However, if you look back over the 50 years that she has been in the public consciousness, she has always been a force for good. A superhero of sorts. From being a positive light that guided John Lennon out of his darkness to being an outspoken advocate against gun violence, Yoko has lent her name, her money and her time to many great causes over the years. Yet, the press has dragged her name through the mud so many times that their personal agendas have been adopted by the public as facts. While I’m sure it has been hurtful and confusing to Yoko, she has stood tall and continues to be a strong force in activism and art.
So, what do you do if you create music that is completely in step with what should be popular but is apparently out of step with what is actually popular? Playing great music that reaches a specific audience is definitely admirable but it can be frustrating – for the band and their fans – if a talented act continually releases outstanding albums that don’t immediately race to the top of the charts. Sadly, this type of situation is quite common. For example, for nearly 30 years, St. Louis’ The Bottle Rockets have released a series of albums that embrace the heart of American music while reinterpreting it in fresh, new ways. BIT LOGIC is their 13th album and might be the album that finally connects them with a larger audience.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: TPC is just about to be released. How are you feeling about how the album turned out and the reaction to it so far?
DAVID MONKS: I’m only just beginning to get perspective on it now and it’s been done since May. As always, things turn out differently than you expect but I still like it. The fact that we made it was really a turning point for our band and it kinda already feels like a success in that respect. The reaction has been good, it’s my parents’ fave Tokyo album!
If you go to Wikipedia and look up ‘Honky Tonk’, you’ll find the following description: “A Honky Tonk is both a bar that provides country music for the entertainment of its patrons and the style of music played in such establishments. In the 1950s, Honky Tonk entered its golden age, with the popularity of Webb Pierce, Hank Locklin, Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, Faron Young, George Jones, and Hank Williams.” So, given that description, it’s no wonder that singer/songwriter J.P. Harris is often referred to as one of the finest purveyors of Honky Tonk music in America today. As ‘modern’ Country takes up space on the charts, it is refreshing – and dare I say it, exhilarating – to experience an artist so in tune with the roots of the genre’s pioneering artists. Harris ain’t no Americana bandwagoneer – he is as Country as Country Music gets.
Amy Ray is best known as one-half of Indigo Girls, the Grammy-winning Folk duo she formed with Emily Saliers. Formed in 1985, the duo released an EP before signing with Epic Records and becoming one of the most popular Folk-Rock duos of all time. Although they have remained active for over three decades, Amy would use her downtime between projects to follow her own path. Beginning with her 2001 solo debut, STAG, Amy has pursued a slightly different path than that of Indigo Girls. Her voice may be instantly identifiable but her solo releases tend to travel down different musical paths that eventually converge onto the same road that she travels down with Indigo Girls. HOLLER, her 2018 album, is no exception…
DAVE RAYBURN: Gearbox Records is much more than a record label. As the founder, how would you describe the range of the company’s capacity and its dedication to the music?
DARREL SHEINMAN: The label was created from a sonic technical angle. Initially we were vinyl only, so the studio I built has a collection of the best vintage and modern mastering and lacquer cutting equipment. As the label has grown, we now do all formats, so we have taken our digital side up to being able to handle 192 khz on 64 channels simultaneously too! I also wanted to be able to offer all products from creation to playback, so we built a turntable packed with tech and with great sound at a sensible price point. My belief is that if the sonic quality is excellent, one will hear excellence in the music regardless of the genre and whether or not it is your thing.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: AUTOBIOGRAPHY (MUSIC FROM WAYNE MCGREGOR’S AUTOBIOGRAPHY) is about to be released. How are you feeling about the project and the reaction you’ve had so far?
JLIN: I am very pleased with the reaction so far. It’s truly an honor. Composing the score for AUTOBIOGRAPHY was a life changing experience for me.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: BAD MOUTHIN’ is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction you’ve had to it so far?
TONY JOE WHITE: You know….it has been really amazing. I honestly didn’t know what to expect but when we were cutting the album, I knew it felt right.
The YouTube stars of today don’t understand the meaning of ‘paying your dues.’ Before American Idol and YouTube became the springboards for success, the artists of yesteryear rehearsed, played nightly in smelly clubs, and drove from city to city in a rickety van to build their audience. They wrote songs from the heart. They lived those songs before they even laid them down on tape. And the chance of them getting a record deal and achieving any level of success was slim to none. For many of them, sharing their music and baring their soul was the reason they created music. Fame was just a reward for their hard work. However, hard work doesn’t guarantee success without a little bit of luck thrown into the mix. Then again, there’s a long list of talented artists that never caught a break and have sadly faded into obscurity. Country/Americana singer/songwriter Blaze Foley spent many decades in in that sea of obscurity but now, nearly three decades after his death, this underground legend is finally getting the attention he has deserved since his humble beginnings in the mid- ‘70s.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: OUT OF MY HEAD is about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
PAUL COLLINS: I’m very happy with the entire process of making this record. Usually, the making of a record is a lot more difficult – for some reason all the aspects of this recording came together relatively easy. The music, the recording and mixing, the artwork, we were so lucky to get Bob Gruen for the photos, and then, of course, our label Alive did a superb job of bringing it all together! The reaction has been great so far but as always there is a lot to do to promote a record.