Nearly 40 years after the release of their debut album, Liverpudlian quartet A Flock Of Seagulls is still best remembered for Mike Score’s aviation-approved hairstyle. While it earned the band plenty of attention back in the heady days of MTV, it ended up hurting their musical legacy in the long run. And THAT is a shame because for a few years there, AFOS was one of the finest Pop bands of the era. Mixing mood-inducing synth work with delay-laden guitar licks, A Flock Of Seagulls straddled the line between the cool coldness of early OMD and the bold bravado of U2, bringing both worlds together while adding a bit of sci-fi imagery and immediate commercial pop hooks. When the single “I Ran” was released (before Score’s hair grew wings), the timing was perfect and AFOS’ career began to soar. But apart from that big hit, did the band have much else to offer? Oh, yeah. Much, much more. With their self-titled album, Mike, his brother Ali Score (drums), Frank Maudsley (bass) and Paul Reynolds (guitar) set the bar extremely high, both for themselves and for their contemporaries. The band may have been lumped into the ‘Synth Pop’ category, but Reynolds’ guitar work was just as important to their sound as the keyboards and Score’s voice and futuristic lyrics. Take a listen to the glorious “Space Age Love Song”, for example. It’s a guitar and synth instrumental that just happens to have vocals. These four musicians created their own musical world and for a few years, they were untouchable. Oh, and did I mention that they won a Best Rock Instrumental Performance Grammy for “DNA” from their debut album?
When Punk Rock raised its mischievous head in 1976, the Rock ‘n’ Roll landscape was forever changed. Just as important as the birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the ‘50s (Elvis, Buddy, Chuck, Jerry, etc.) and the rise of The Beatles, the Punk Rock movement deconstructed the myth of Rock music and built something new and raw from its foundation. While the movement had a definite ‘look,’ it was really a movement driven by emotion. It was rebellion with feeling. Fueled by frustration and anger, the music came with a message. From overtly political to painfully personal, the Punk Rock classes of 1976 and ’77 – Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones, etc. – inspired a new generation of musicians to form bands and make their passions and presence known. One of those bands was San Francisco’s Dead Kennedys.
Why isn’t Fischer-Z one of the most popular bands in the universe? Since their debut album, WORD SALAD, was released in 1979, band leader/singer/songwriter John Watts has continued to grow as a songwriter, often switching gears during his musical journey while still maintaining artistic integrity. Perhaps even more importantly, his lyrics are always honest and relevant, which is often reflected by the musical arrangements that surround them. Watts is not a man who continues to recycle the same musical ideas that initially brought the band to the public’s attention four decades ago. F-Z’s catalog is not filled with carbon copies of “So Long,” the band’s most recognizable hit from 1980. Instead, Watts has continued to move forward, adding new layers to songwriting while thoughtfully stripping other layers away. In some ways, he’s constantly reinventing himself without abandoning what drew people to his talent in the first place.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Now that HANDFULS OF NIGHT is released, how are you feeling about the project and the reaction to it so far?
ARTHUR JEFFES: I’m really happy with how its turned out. there are a few quite out-there ideas going in to the album and I’m a bit relieved that it seems to make sense to people if I’m honest. There’s a bunch of personal history here for me so it’s great that the idea is coming through – which doesn’t always happen especially with instrumental records…
Artists and their art evolve. The youngster that strummed their first chord into a four-track recorder decades ago has matured in so many ways since then – physically, emotionally, and artistically. However, without realizing it, their audience refuses to let the artist grow – they want them to stay the same as when they first connected with them. While we all know better now, there was a time when teens all over the world were dismayed when The Beatles grew facial hair and served up “Strawberry Fields Forever” to the masses in 1967. The kids wanted the same band that Ed Sullivan introduced them to three years earlier. Thankfully, audiences quickly adapted to the Fabs’ growth as a band. The same can’t be said for so many other artists over the years. Audiences can be so fickle sometimes…
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: Your long-awaited album PLAYING FAVORITES is now released. How are you feeling about the way the album turned out and the reaction so far?
LOUISE MANDRELL: I’m very proud of PLAYING FAVORITES. I recorded songs that were special to me. My biggest surprise is how many people have reached out with their stories and memories relating to these songs.
STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: DESERT DOVE is just about to be released. How are you feeling about the album and the reaction to it so far?
MICHAELA ANNE: I’m feeling really grateful and excited! The response so far has been really positive. I’ve also been seeing a lot of feedback that makes me feel like people are already “getting” what I’m trying to put out there. This record feels different for me and the closest thing I’ve made to feeling like “me” internally so it’s exciting but vulnerable and nerve-wracking to share.
For decades, Rock supergroups have been embraced by music fans and derided by critics. In general, the whole idea of a supergroup has been misunderstood. Sure, there are those that come together strictly because it makes financial sense for each of the band members… and their management team. However, there are still plenty of supergroups that do it for the right reasons – artistic expression. Just because musicians are in successful bands doesn’t mean that they are always able to funnel all their ideas and energy onto their main band’s records. Sometimes, they have to turn to solo or side projects in order to release creative steam. In the process, they call on their musician friends and, before they realize it, they are a supergroup. This phenomenon has been going on for decades – including legendary jams by The Dirty Mac (John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Mitch Mitchell) and commercially successful bands like Asia and The Traveling Wilburys. You can add KXM – featuring Dug Pinnick, Ray Luzier, and George Lynch – to that list…
Before the collapse of print media, every kid in the UK followed music rags like NME and monthly magazines like Q and Record Collector. However, British music critics took great pleasure in building an artist up before pulling the stool out from under their feet and watching them fall from grace. It seemed to happen almost monthly – a band’s debut single was voted ‘best song of the year’ and by the time their first album was released, the critics would savage it before moving on to the next victim. Thankfully, by 2006, their critical power wasn’t as strong because the internet was giving the audience more choice and more power. It was then that both critics and music lovers became enamored by Bat For Lashes, a new artist that appeared – fully formed – seemingly out of nowhere. For once, everyone seemed to agree that this artist was something unique and special.