STEPHEN SPAZ SCHNEE: VINYL TAP has just been
released. How are you feeling about the
album and the reaction to it so far?
JAY BECKENSTEIN: I have felt great about this record since the days
when we first started rehearsing it. The band responded to the challenge of
doing alternative covers, really, I think quite brilliantly, and I’m really
proud of this record. Reactions have been excellent. I think that people really
responded to us doing some material other than ours. I also think that they
responded to how much we changed the material and how the material was
inspiration for more creativity.
Back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, the
U.S. charts very rarely embraced blatantly retro bands like the U.K. did.
Sometimes, a band like The Stray Cats would defy the odds and connect
with a large commercial audience in the States but that was a rarity. Bands
like Sha Na Na were considered a novelty act by the critics and would
generally be ignored. At that time in America, the ‘oldies’ were so in the past…
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.
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…