Interview with Noel Herbert

Noel Herbert

photo by Zane Johnson; photo courtesy of Noel Herbert

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Noel Herbert is a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and composer located in Los Angeles. He is one of those rare artists that have the ability to deftly bridge the gap between personal introspective pieces and singles-savvy Top 40 fare. The prodigious songwriter and composer recently sat down with us to discuss his family, educational background, making it as a working musician in Hollywood, and the power of music as a vehicle for healing.

Eric Harabadian: Can you talk a bit about your background growing up?

Noel Herbert: I grew up in Farmington, Michigan. The very first groups that I listened to on my own were The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel. The only music that was heard in my parents’ house was classical music and Irish Celtic music from my father’s side.

When I was seven years old, my father had a stroke and was severely disabled. It was definitely rough on me and my mother. I went from Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel into darker music like Marilyn Manson, System of a Down, Lamb of God, and stuff like that. But I always thought of myself as a folk singer, though. The first instrument I played was the glockenspiel. I always liked to sing and made up melodies. I started guitar lessons at 10 years old. Within the first three months of lessons I wrote my first song. At first, this was an outlet for me being a caregiver, with me and my mother taking care of my father.

EH: When did you get into performing music?

NH: Right before I turned 18 I had a group of friends who were all musicians. And we all sat around and thought we’d try and put some kind of thing together just for fun. I was the only folk singer out of a group of hip hop artists and rappers. So, that was particularly interesting and I started writing lyrics for them. I was also playing acoustic shows at this time. But, at that age, I was interested in becoming a rock star. I never thought about getting into electronic music whatsoever.

Around 19 or 20 I put together my first band which was me and a friend who played guitar and drums. He would alternate between the two for live sets. That band was called Illumination. And that lasted mid-way through my attending the Detroit Institute of Music Education (D.I.M.E.). Actually, I went to Boston for a while and attended the Berklee School of Music before I went to D.I.M.E. I released a single while I was there. At this time I stopped playing live because I was going to college to hone my skills as a songwriter. I started looking at what kind of songwriter did I see myself as. Did I see myself as writing commercial pop music or more on the artistic side? And I really struggled with this until I figured why couldn’t I do both?

EH: Is that a question you posed to yourself or was that something your college instructors would ask?

NH: It was a question one of my instructors asked me. I was supposed to come back with an answer the following week. But I really didn’t have a good answer to that until two months later. And at that point I had already written my first single with my project called Grass Bat. The song was called “Cigarette Showers.” So, I could do pop songwriting and do Grass Bat which was an artistic outlet where I could express how I felt. Grass Bat was very much like MGMT, Animal Collective, with sounds drifting into ‘80s rock like Depeche Mode, The Cure, and New Order.

EH: You graduated from D.I.M.E. in 2018. Was your plan to move to L.A. right away? Did you have work out there?

NH: I live in East Hollywood and I was considering coming out here a year before I did. I was dating somebody in Detroit at the time but really wanted to move to California. I decided to move shortly after graduating. I had this plan to come out here prior to dating this person so I wanted to stick to my plan. I was also contacted by a filmmaker that wanted me to work on a score for his film out here. That ended up falling through but was a little more of a push for me coming out here.

Noel Herbert - Favorite Worst Enemy

image courtesy of Noel Herbert

EH: So, tell me about your group and your latest single.

NH: It’s not even a group, it’s just me. Sometimes I’ll work with other songwriters, but mostly I’m doing all the lyrics, production, engineering, and instrumentation. This latest single “Favorite Worst Enemy” was a different song for me to release. I actually finished the song about six months to a year before I decided to release it. I was thinking about releasing it on an EP with other songs. But there was the challenge of what the song meant to me. At the time I was writing it I didn’t know what it was about. It was kind of stream of consciousness. It wasn’t until later that I figured out what was going on in my head at the time. I had fallen into a pretty depressive state that had been creeping along for some time. And that’s what that song is about. Having a favorite worst enemy is really just my own struggles within myself. It’s more of a dance-y type song compared to my previous releases. That has to do with really coming back to the Detroit techno scene. But also the only time I felt free from myself was going out and having a good time dancing; pretty much anything to get my mind off the fact that I wasn’t feeling very good. So, it’s a song about escapism, but holding onto those feelings very close to me.

EH: Without getting too personal, did you find this was coming from a certain place, perhaps an incident from the past?

NH: As far as something particularly from the past, not really. It’s very much a song dealing with me in the present.

EH: Well, mental health is certainly a relevant and timeless issue that manifests itself in different ways.

NH: Yeah, many people do deal with mental illness and depression. I started opening up to family and friends about what I was dealing with. It had only been a month and a half since I released the song that I started opening up to people about what I was dealing with. And once I started opening up to people, I realized they had their own stories. And they had similar issues and not feeling comfortable talking about it with people. I guess the campaign of this song, if you will, is to be open about your mental illness because it really de-stigmatizes the way people view it. People deal with anxiety, depression and all sorts of things. It’s much more common than anyone would think. So, I’m hoping by putting myself out there it will help at least one person to open up to others. And maybe it will make their life easier because I know it has for me.

EH: That’s excellent, man! Good advice. Being located in L.A. and Hollywood, are you currently playing live shows?

NH: Currently, not right now. At this point I’m strictly a recording artist and songwriter. I’m writing songs for Grass Bat but also synch licensing songs for corporate videos, television, and movies and submitting them to music house catalogs. I am also working on an independent film score that’s coming up fairly soon. And I should start working on that in a couple months. I also do side gigs and record other artists in my studio and host songwriting sessions to help people with their songwriting. All these little things you do to be able to live in Los Angeles.

EH: Well, you’re making it happen, man! A lot of people talk about quote, unquote “making it.” But, you know what, you are making it! You’re doing everything in your artistic and musical realm to make a living. And you’re following your passion. Not everything is always built around a hit single, if you know what I mean.

NH: No, not necessarily. Going back to what I said earlier, do I see myself as an artist or a Top 40 songwriter? I see myself as doing both. But I appreciate you saying that. There are different levels of making it. I’m 25 years old and I’m living in L.A. and getting by. That’s more than a lot of people can do out here.

EH: And you being from the Detroit area and involved in electronic music, there is a rich history of that coming out of Detroit.

NH: Yeah, Detroit and Berlin were where techno really took place. And I think there are arguments on both sides which one actually started electronic music. But I’m not gonna get into that. People know where I stand considering where I’m from.

EH: Tell me about your songwriting and composing process. You said you were gonna be working on a independent short film. Are you working with the director on that?

NH: You definitely work very closely with the director. In this case he is also the writer of the film. I’m gonna be on set with him later this month seeing how the film is being put together. I’ve seen some scenes and already know the storyline so I can start to wrap my head around what sounds would work best for the different sections of the film.

EH: And with songwriting you like to write for other artists, correct?

NH: When I write indie electronic stuff I usually know that will be for me. But if I’m writing more of a top line where melodies, lyrics, and chords are written on piano or guitar, it generally is inclined to be a song for somebody else. Generally co-writes are either for the other person or to pitch to another artist or A&R person.

EH: What kind of keyboard and audio gear are you using in your studio?

NH: I work a lot with my Roland 88. I take a lot of sounds that are on there and add different sorts of effects. My primary DAW that I used on “Favorite Worst Enemy” is Ableton Live and Push. I also use a multitude of in-computer synthesizers. While I mostly record with digital gear I do have experience with analog synthesizers too.

EH: Well, that’s something I’ve noticed about your Grass Bat music. You are a well rounded musician, and I hear that in what you do. Your stuff doesn’t sound synthetic or antiseptic like some electronica can be.

NH: Yeah, and also knowing how analog synths sound compared to digital synths. Digital synthesizers can sound really really pure. That sounds more synthetic to me. I’ve been trying to create more of a lo-fi tone to my synthesizers where it tends to be a little more distorted live.

EH: So, is there anything you have going beyond what we talked about?

NH: I’m working on a largely collaborative project, with multiple producers, songwriters and instrumentalists. I’m not sure if this will be an EP or an album. There will be a number of different people I know on it, but I still will be doing a lot of my own writing and production.

EH: When are you looking to release this new recording?

NH: Probably sometime within the next six months. There’s a lot of funding, marketing, and branding that has to happen first.

EH: Finally, what’s your take on the state of popular music today?

NH: Well, being an independent musician today, it is easier than ever to get your music out to anyone. It’s all about if you have the knowledge to reach the right people. It’s about finding your fan base and who wants to listen to your music. But there is such an influx of music on the internet that, in some ways, it’s never been easier and also never been harder to reach people.

Contacts: Instagram: @no_lmusic Facebook: www.facebook.com/noel.herbert.7902 Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/noelherbertmusic . You can also find his music through all the usual online sources: Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Prime.

Single Review: Debbie Hennessey – “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey

photo by Matt Gendal; photo courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Debbie Hennessey: “True Me”

Debbie Hennessey - True Me Single Cover

photo by Matt Gendal; image courtesy of Debbie Hennessey

Debbie Hennessey is an award-winning singer-songwriter, with many television and film credits. She has also released three full-length albums and seven singles. Her latest single is called “True Me.” It’s a heartfelt ballad that seems to draw from personal experience. Trying to put thoughts and feelings into words is, perhaps, quite challenging for most, but Hennessey does it in a plaintive yet uplifting manner. She sings with seemingly effortless phrasing that hits you where you live. The singer-songwriter’s vocals are full, rich, and dynamic, supported by Jonathan Haynes’ ethereal and somewhat bluesy guitar. “True Me” is a stellar tune in the vein of Bonnie Raitt or Sheryl Crow but remains totally unique in style and substance.

Live Performances

Debbie has a performance scheduled for February 20th Petie’s Place in Tarzana, CA. Check the calendar page of her website periodically for additional dates as they’re added.

Album Review: Dan Israel – Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Album Review of Dan Israel: Social Media Anxiety Disorder

Believe it or not, Social Media Anxiety Disorder is the 15th release for this Minneapolis-based singer-songwriter. Heck, there are many major label artists that can’t claim that accomplishment! So, what’s the prodigious Minnesota troubadour been up to? Well, hot on the heels of his 2018 record You’re Free, Dan Israel climbs out of his songwriting comfort zone a little bit in favor of some clever production manipulation and playful arranging. He worked with two different producers in Jon Herchert and Steve Price, resulting in a cross-pollination of inventive ideas.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album cover

image courtesy of Dan Israel

Israel kicks things off with the horn-driven pop/rock of “Be My Girl.” It’s a strong single, with terrific airplay potential. The uptempo spark of the rhythms are complemented by Israel’s emotive Elvis Costello-like twang and a good time feel.

“125” shifts gears entirely placing the listener in a pseudo-psychedelic state. The dreamy flowing lead vocals and fuzzed out lead guitar are stellar. “Just Can’t Take It” features little quirky production ear candy bolstered by a catchy chorus and lush bridge. “Still I’m Lost” returns to that semi-psychedelic spacey kind of vibe. It’s a nice blend of thoughtful experimentation and melodic pop. It sounds like something Bowie would do.

“Might As Well Be Me” features a country-folk element. It is the closest to pure Americana you’ll probably find here. There is some tasty acoustic guitar soloing, and Israel’s vocals kind of remind me of something by John Sebastian.

Dan Israel - Social Media Anxiety Disorder album back cover

back cover; image courtesy of Dan Israel

“Another Day” is more catchy upbeat pop that this artist is known for. The slide guitar breaks here are very nice as well.

“Just Can’t Take It (Revisited)” is kind of a vocal reprise montage. Through musical snippets from the original track and spoken word, Israel slyly comments on the impinging stresses of modern society and the expectations of those involved in social media. It’s a mind-bender, for sure.

“Tired” prominently features organ and has an overall gloss similar to The Wallflowers and Crowded House. “Alright” follows and ushers in a kind of rockabilly swing. Its upbeat and bouncy groove is infectious. “Here for Today” has a simple and pragmatic message toward life of “trying to take a little and leave a little behind.” The dense guitar work here really rocks and provides a wall of sound.

Dan Israel

photo by Steven Cohen; photo courtesy of Dan Israel

The concluding two tracks “Out of My Hands” and “Out of My Hands” (Reprise)” sort of combines the spirit of the Rolling Stones album Exile on Main Street with a gospel touch. It’s a fitting way to wrap up the festivities and sends a poignant and pensive message of acceptance and soldiering on.

They say music is a healer and Dan Israel brings to light songs that can address serious topics of personal challenges and societal anxiety and present them in an entertaining and uplifting fashion.

Looking Ahead

Per the “Shows” tab on Dan’s website, he has a packed schedule of performances ahead. Currently lots of gigs in and around Minneapolis, some shows in northern Minnesota, and a January 31/February 1 house concert in Wilmington, North Carolina. So keep an eye on his website for performances in your area.

[Publisher’s Note: Geoff Wilbur’s Music Blog has reviewed each of Dan’s last three releases. I reviewed Dan’s album Dan. James Morris reviewed You’re Free. And now Eric Harabadian has reviewed Social Media Anxiety Disorder. – GW]

Interview with Claudio Simonetti and Live Review of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin at the Crofoot Ballroom

photo by Larry Fritzley

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Interview with Claudio Simonetti and Live Review of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin at the Crofoot Ballroom, Pontiac, MI, October 14, 2019

Claudio Simonetti and the band Goblin are synonymous with the horror and suspense film genre. The Italian Brazilian-born keyboardist and composer Simonetti began his career in Europe in the early ‘70s playing in a band called Cherry Five. That initial group eventually morphed into what became the progressive rock powerhouse known as Goblin. The band’s partnership with famed Italian film director Dario Argento led to a flourishing career creating soundtracks for his suspenseful crime dramas and supernatural horror films like Deep Red/Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, Tenebrae, and a host of others. Both with Goblin and as a solo artist, Simonetti went on to compose soundtracks for many other directors such as Ruggero Deodato, Umberto Lenzi, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, and Sergio Martino.

photo by Larry Fritzley

Just in time for Halloween, we bring you an up close and personal conversation with Claudio Simonetti, as the band is currently on tour for its third U.S. leg since 2013. We also offer a recent show review from their stop in the Detroit area that was a rare occurrence indeed. So, sit back and enjoy a few moments with one of the legends of progressive rock and the global horror and suspense genre.

Eric Harabadian: Can you clarify the significance behind the band’s title?

Claudio Simonetti: After many member changes over the years I have my own band doing Goblin music.

photo by Eric Harabadian

EH: So, after various personnel changes, it’s back to you leading the band. How long has your current lineup been with you?

CS: My guitar player Bruno Previtali has been with me 20 years. My drummer Federico Maragoni has been with me six months, and our bass player Cecilia Nappo a year and a half. This is the band that recorded our new album.

EH: Can you tell me about the new album?

CS: The album is called “The Devil is Back” and has 10 brand new songs. At the same time we did a “Best Of” album which contains some of the most important songs taken from films like Zombi/Dawn of the Dead, Profondo Rosso, Suspiria, and Tenebrae. They were released for our U.S. tour but are available on Spotify and all the streaming services. Physical copies of the albums will be released everywhere in November of this year.

photo by Larry Fritzley

EH: How did you meet and work with director Dario Argento?

CS: I met Dario Argento in 1975 when he finished the film Deep Red/Profondo Rosso. He was looking for a band to score his picture. We had recorded one album under a different name but with the same members. And we worked with a producer that was already working with Dario. So, when Dario asked the producer for a band, he first wanted to contact Pink Floyd or Deep Purple. But the producer said, “No, I’m producing these Italian guys, and would you listen to them?” And so Dario came by the studio and listened to our music, loved it and decided to have us do the music for Deep Red. That was our first film with Dario, followed by Suspiria. We were very lucky because we were very young, but it worked out, too, because the soundtrack sold 4 million copies. It was incredible. This was especially weird for a prog band like us in Italy. Pop music was mostly big there then.

EH: And, of course, you’ve done a lot of music that goes beyond just horror films. Can you briefly talk about your process when you write for a movie?

CS: In the beginning I talk to the director, and I see the film. And I start to write some of the music for the scenes. Sometimes the director has suggestions, or they give me the freedom to do what I want. But I work watching the film, never before.

EH: Who are some of the biggest artistic influences that have figured into what you do?

CS: The big progressive bands from England like King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Deep Purple, and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

photo by Larry Fritzley

EH: How long has it been since you last toured with Goblin, and what has been the focus of this current tour?

CS: This is our third tour here. The first was in 2013 with different members. It was two from the original band and two from my band Daemonia. We did a second tour last year as Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin. Last year we played Suspiria, and this year Deep Red.

EH: In addition to this fall U.S. tour, you’re gonna be a part of “Cruise to the Edge” in April 2020, correct?

CS: Yeah, that will be a really good experience with a lot of big names. The band Yes is the main organizer of these gigs on a boat. I’m a big fan of Yes and grew up with them. It will be fantastic to be there. And we will be one of two Italian bands on the cruise. The other is Le Orme, another popular prog band from the ‘70s.

EH: You also worked with George Romero didn’t you?

CS: Actually, no. We did the soundtrack for Dawn of the Dead because Dario Argento asked us to change the music for the European version. I also did a vampire movie for Romero called Martin. But, again, I never did meet Romero directly. I finally did meet him in 2016, a year before he passed away. He was a very nice person.

photo by Eric Harabadian

EH: Your music encompasses so many different elements. How would you describe what you do?

CS: Now, my music is progressive like the ‘70s, but with new sounds. Maybe there is more energy too. I had this band in 2000 called Daemonia that was the same stuff but heavy metal. Now I’ve turned back to the original music. I’ve done a lot of film music for Dario like Phenomena and Opera; that was just me without Goblin. So, when I play live I play Goblin stuff and my stuff.

EH: You’ve played all around the world. Where are some of your favorite places to play and why?

CS: Well, the United States, of course. But we’ve had a lot of success in Japan. I go there every year. We will be going to Japan soon for two concerts where we will play the score to the film Tenebrae.

EH: What has the response been from fans to what you do?

CS: Every show is different. But you know what surprised me more was that young people know this music. I thought only my generation would remember, but there are 20- and 30-year-olds that come with the records and want my autograph. It makes me give thanks to the internet, you know. I don’t think there is nothing special with a lot of new music. I think young people find something new in our vintage music. There is some great new music but the vintage bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are still the best.

EH: Well, I always felt your music has a timeless quality that spans generations.

CS: Yeah, many generations. My audience goes from 20 to 60 years old.

EH: So, is your emphasis now on performing live?

CS: Yes. I don’t work much with soundtracks now. I think it’s a bad period for films, especially horror because they tend to be low budget. I prefer to play live with my new and old stuff. It’s better for me now.

photo by Larry Fritzley

Capturing Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin live is a rare and cinematic experience. You certainly get your money’s worth. The band, in the midst of a multi-state U.S. fall tour, stopped in Pontiac, Michigan at the Crofoot Ballroom for a three-hour-plus extravaganza. The first two hours found the members of Goblin poised on stage, each with instruments in hand, as they diligently watched the screen tracking live the score to Dario Argento’s Deep Red. The 1975 murder/suspense/horror hybrid holds up all these years later, and the original soundtrack performed along with it adds to the film’s vibrancy. From the opening plotline development to the closing credits, watching Simonetti and the Goblin crew in action was a true joy to behold. It was a rare glimpse into the studio process where sound-to-picture aligns and comes alive. Deep Red’s story of musician and amateur sleuth Marcus Daly’s (played excellently by David Hemmings) search to find a psychic’s killer is advanced by the band in three dimensional audio. A lot of the music had a jazz-fusion quality to it that never sounds dated, even though Simonetti is performing music he originally scored for the picture over 40 years ago. During many of the set pieces, Previtali’s tasteful wailing guitar, Nappo’s hefty and lithe bass lines, coupled with Maragoni’s syncopated beats elevated the film’s images to greater heights.

One aspect of the first section of the concert with the film that was truly phenomenal was a scene where main character Marcus Daly is in a haunted mansion and looking for clues to a murder. As he begins striking a wall and attempts to bust through the plaster, drummer Maragoni fervently eyes the screen, matching drum hits to each strike of Daly’s hammer to the mansion wall. At that moment, one really felt like they were in the recording studio laying down the music cues to the film with the band.

photo by Larry Fritzley

After the film portion was done, Simonetti and company played another hour of various instrumental pieces from a host of other Argento films like Demons, Tenebrae, and George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. They also performed some brand new tunes from the album The Devil is Back. Smiles on stage lit up all around as Simonetti, Previtali, Nappo, and Maragoni locked in place and bounced all over the landscape, driving their unique brand of progressive rock and electronic-laced rhythms undeniably home.

Claudio Simonetti is truly one of the original masters of Italian rock and world class film scoring. Along with the new Goblin they bring a classic sound that should keep thrilling horror film fans, and just solid music fans, for some time to come. For more information on the band just go to www.goblinsimonetti.com.

Looking Ahead

Per the “tour dates” page on the band’s website, Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin will be in Kawasaki, Japan on October 25th and 26th and Berlin, Germany on October 31st, followed by gigs in Italy: November 1st in Lodi, November 14th in Pistoia, November 15th in Milano, and November 16th in Bologna. And they’ll be performing on Cruise to the Edge 2020, departing from Miami on March 27th, 2020.

Film Review: Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene

image courtesy of Mark Engebretson

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Film Review of Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene

Produced, Written & Directed By: Mark Engebretson; Associate Producer: Jeff Baustert; Associate Producer & Assistant Editor: Tim Beaufoy (Running Time: 92:40)

The Hypstrz; photo by Paul Shambroom; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene is the debut full-length documentary for musician-journalist-media professional Mark Engebretson. The film focuses on the long-lamented Minneapolis, Minnesota-based nightclub that emerged in the late ‘70s as a harbor and safe haven for the then-burgeoning punk rock and new wave movement. From the club’s inception June 1st, 1977 through 1982, everybody who was anybody eventually wound up at this landmark venue.

Suicide Commondos; photo by Danny Amis; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

As depicted in the film, the Minneapolis rock scene was dominated by cover bars where bands were relegated to four sets a night of standard radio fare. It was akin to an assembly line, and there was no margin for creativity or deviating from the norm. Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene deconstructs the tale of how a group of local music journalists, musicians, and music fans struck out for creating an individualistic music scene where artists could rise up and do their own thing.

NNB; photo by Paul Shambroom; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

This story is meticulously and intricately told through the many personal accounts from the folks who were there. And it is a celebrated list of Twin Cities’ natives and national celebrities who tell the story: Peter Jesperson (former manager of The Replacements and Jay’s Longhorn DJ), Andy Schwartz (former editor/publisher of the New York Rocker), The Suicide Commandos, Flamingo/Flamin’ Oh’s, Danny Amis (Los Straightjackets), Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar), Fred Schneider (The B-52s), Curtiss A, Jay Berline (founder/owner of Jay’s Longhorn), and many others.

Curtiss A; photo by Paul Shambroom; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

While Jay’s Longhorn was a regional venue, to a certain extent it was also quite influential to changing tides in music on a global scale. Elvis Costello, Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, The Clash, Iggy Pop, The Plasmatics, The Police, Blondie, Talking Heads all were featured or frequented the club when on tour. It was the place to be! And that fact is lovingly portrayed in this film.

Suicide Commandos; photo by Danny Amis; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

When Jay’s Longhorn finally hung it up and changed hands in 1982, its legacy was immediately felt by a number of other Twin Cities area venues that rose in its wake. Perhaps Robert Wilkinson of the band Flamingo said it best in his encapsulation of what the club meant to him and so many other up and coming musicians at the time: “You need that stage, you need that place. Everybody has something inside of them that they need to say. Whether you’re a painter or a guitar player or a songwriter, it’s important to have a place to go where you can say what’s inside of you. To have that outlet, that’s what we needed and that’s what we created. And you never wanna stop that.”

Suburbs; photo by Paul Lundgren; photo courtesy of Mark Engebretson

Jay’s Longhorn was that outlet for so many musicians and fans. And this fantastic film drives that message home in a respectful and well crafted manner. For more information on DVD purchasing and streaming go to the Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene website and the Jay’s Longhorn: Let’s Make a Scene page at Vimeo.

Interview with Carmine Appice and Album Review: Camine Appice – Guitar Zeus

photo courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Interview with Carmine Appice interspersed with Album Review of Carmine Appice: Guitar Zeus

Carmine Appice is a true living rock and roll legend. His credentials are practically unparalleled when it comes to accomplishments in modern music. He’s a drummer, vocalist, songwriter, author, educator, storyteller and, overall, raconteur who has done it all. Beginning his professional career in the ‘60s with Vanilla Fudge, Appice created the template for contemporary rock as we know it. Predating and paving the way for Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and a number of guitar and theatrically-based bands, Appice almost single-handedly forged the genre known as “stoner rock.” The drummer-vocalist was also a founding member of the bands Cactus and worked with Jeff Beck and VF bassist Tim Bogert in Beck, Bogert & Appice. Perhaps one of Appice’s most commercially significant musical stints was as a member of Rod Stewart’s band. It was there that he also wrote one of Rod’s biggest hits to date, “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” and the follow up “Young Turks.” During the ‘80s, Appice worked with Ozzy Osbourne, Ted Nugent, Edgar Winter and led his own groups King Kobra and Blue Murder.

image courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

Currently, Appice is on the promotion trail discussing the re-release of a major recording project he began in the mid-‘90s called Guitar Zeus. In it, the drummer/producer brought together some of the finest guitarists of all time to collaborate on a multiple original song project that brought various genres of hard rock to the forefront.

“Actually, this idea started in ’95 and ’97 when I was working in a band called Mother’s Army with Joe Lynn Turner and Bob Daisley,” explains Appice. “I was doing searches for band names because it had been ten years since I did a solo album and I wanted to do something new.”

It took Appice a couple years to get a record deal for his new project, but, as fate would have it, he did a clinic at a music store with guitarist Brian May. At that time Appice came up with the concept of guest guitarists from various genres appearing on his solo album, so May ended up being the first artist he asked. Ted Nugent was also invited as well as the members of Kings X and many other artists.

“I finally got this deal out of Japan and I recorded it,” says Appice. “I did two records, and it cost me $100,000. I paid everyone who played on it the going rate and Guitar Zeus was released in Europe and Asia. It sold over 150,000 records worldwide. It was finally released in the U.S. in 2005 with a European label that eventually went out of business. I decided I wanted to re-release these albums because everybody that’s on it is big again.”

And there is a virtual who’s who of rock guitar on Guitar Zeus. The list will surely make any serious music and guitar fan salivate profusely. On-board are Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Richie Sambora, Steve Morse, Brian May, Ted Nugent, Slash, Neal Schon, Yngwie Malmsteen, dUg Pinnick, Pat Travers, Vivian Campbell, Jennifer Batten, Warren DeMartini, Elliot Easton, Bruce Kulick, Dweezil Zappa, Paul Gilbert, Leslie West, and many others.

“Of course, Brian May is huge now with all the movie stuff as well as Neal Schon with Journey,” says Appice. “But back in the ‘90s, grunge was big, and we were all dinosaurs. I spent most of the ‘90s working in Japan because a lot of folks didn’t wanna hear from guys of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and even ‘80s. I also had a bunch of tracks that never really made it to the American version of this project.”

Brian May and Carmine Appice; photo courtesy of Anne Leighton Media

Guitar Zeus features over 30 original tracks all digitally re-mastered by Stephen DeAcutis and executive produced by Carmine Appice himself. The core band on each track consists of all stars Tony Franklin on bass; Kelly Keeling on vocals, keys, and rhythm guitar; and, of course, Appice on drums. Highlights of some of the tunes include Brian May’s wah-wah guitarwork on “Nobody Knew,” Steve Morse’s dark proggy Jeff Beck-like licks on “4 Miles High,” Ted Nugent’s inspired feedback-drenched fretwork on “Days Are Nights,” Pat Travers’ re-make of “Do You Think I’m Sexy,” and many other performances too numerous to mention. It’s a very special digital release that will be available on all platforms along with special vinyl and CD editions.

“A lot of people will finally get to hear this that never heard it before,” says Appice. “There is a Soundgarden meets Blue Murder kind of vibe with the tunes that has a lot of guitar playing and jamming like the ‘70s. Each song has its own tuning and is unique. And there is a lot of ear candy on here where the mix moves the music around the speakers like in the days of The Beatles’ Revolver or Sgt. Pepper where sounds would move from left to right in your head.”

For all the information on Guitar Zeus and Carmine Appice, just go to www.guitarzeus.net and www.carmineappice.net.

This Weekend

On Saturday, March 30th, Appice will be teaching a Drum Master Class at the Trilogy Lounge in Seymour, CT. On June 29th, he’ll be performing as a member of Vanilla Fudge at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore, NY. Watch Carmine Appice’s website for additional dates, and be sure the double-check with the venue to confirm.

Single Review: Jimmy Lee Morris – “What It Is”

by Eric Harabadian, Contributing Blogger

Single Review of Jimmy Lee Morris: “What It Is” (Producer: Adam Hanington)

Jimmy Lee Morris - What It Is

image courtesy of Jimmy Lee Morris

The latest release from British singer-songwriter extraordinaire Jimmy Lee Morris comes in the form of a tight, nifty single entitled “What It Is.” Morris has previously released fine independent acoustic-based folk and pop that has always put the emphasis on wordsmithing and strong melody. This latest single adds an infectious beat to his resume that recalls everything from the Beatles and the Kinks to Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello. The song is a pure collaboration of Morris’ ever present acoustic guitar as an anchor, with the addition of Hanington’s production gloss of synthesized keyboards and bouncy rhythms. The result is a tune that is extremely catchy and fun, with a nod to the ‘60s as filtered through a mid-‘80s lens. If you don’t start tapping your feet and gyrating in some form or fashion upon the song’s first downbeat, then you better check your pulse!

Looking Ahead

The “live” page of Jimmy Lee Morris’ website shows several dates coming up in 2019, including three in March: Friday, 1st March at Napoleon Inn, Boscastle, Cornwall (9:00 pm); Saturday, 23rd March at Crowhurst Park, Battle, East Sussex (8.30 pm); and Saturday, 30th March at The Jolly Sailor Inn, West Looe, Cornwall (8:00 pm). For dates April and beyond – and to check for additional gigs to be added – be sure to check the website.