A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

Metal Evolution – Glam Metal Episode

I watched the Metal Evolution Glam Rock, Thrash and Grunge documentaries a few nights ago. When you play “The Trooper” as your intro riff to the series, how am I not going to like the documentaries. That alone classifies it as a winner to me. The documentaries are great viewing and I recommend them to all fans of the rock and metal genres and also to any other fan who is interested in a good narrative.

YouTube Link

I think the Glam Rock/Metal movement doesn’t get the respect it deserves. If it wasn’t for “Sonic Temple” from The Cult and “Dr Feelgood” from Motley Crue there would be no such thing as the “Black” sound and the millions of metal bands that the Metallica album spawned. Yet this is not mentioned, even though Lars and James have gone on the record to state that the sound of “Dr Feelgood” is what they wanted for the “Black” album and that is why they went with Bob Rock.

However, in the Thrash documentary, Sam Dunn tells Lars he felt betrayed when the Black album was released and Lars responds by saying that it would have been a betrayal if Metallica did Justice Part 2. Brilliant interviewing. Since Sam Dunn is a fan, it was a fan question that a lot of Metallica fans from the first four albums wanted to ask. And Lars actually gave a great response back.

But back to the Glam Metal episode first.

I couldn’t stop laughing at Sam Dunn’s assessment of “Glam Metal”. To him he felt “they were boy bands put together by record label execs”.

There is a good history on the L.A Hard Rock scene and how it goes back to the original pioneers “Van Halen”. It set the style that bands needed to have a real showman for a lead vocalist, a real hot-shot guitarist and a rhythm section tighter than a G-string.

Franki Banali the drummer from Quiet Riot cracked me up with his assessment of Edward Van Halen “the name sounds like a painter”.

It’s good to see Spencer Proffer get recognition for his idea of trying to find a band to record “Cum On Feel The Noize” from Slade. It was a game changer for Quiet Riot even though they resisted it.

Then you have the big heavy metal day on the 1983 U.S festival. It was a game changer for the LA scene and for metal in general.

Randy Rhoads was always a big influence on the LA Glam strip with his guitar playing in Quiet Riot before he joined Ozzy.

MTV also had a perfect vehicle in Glam Metal as all the bands where all about the image and the performance. And MTV was the catalyst for getting bands that would normally sell a hundred thousand albums into the multi-million ranges. The seventies bands that became part of the movement re-invigorated their career and also replenished their fan bases.

John Kalonder was fucking hilarious. When he spoke, I couldn’t stop laughing. He sounded like that baddy voice over dub in the movie “Kung Pow”.

And it was a time of excess. If Tawny Kitaen is to be believed, then the 1987 Whitesnake album cost over $2 million dollars to record and produce.

One thing that is very rarely mentioned in the press is all the gear enhancements that took place during the Eighties era. Rock guitar players were customizing amps and guitars and they were always seeking new sounds.

As a musician it would be great to see how producers and technology shaped each genre. We all love a narrative and we all like to see unsung heroes get their time in the sun. The rise of Mesa Boogie and their Rectifier amps. Tom Werman, Bob Rock, Keith Olsen, Andy Johns, Bruce Fairbairn, Mike Clink and so on, also deserved to be recognised. The polished sounds from the Eighties records played a huge rule in the evolution in the metal and rock genres. The whole Grunge movement used producers that cut their teeth engineering on metal and glam rock albums from the 80’s.

Look at some of the stuff “The Edge” did with Digital Delays and Phasers. Eddie Van Halen is a classic that comes to mind with his innovative “Brown” sound. Warren DeMartini from Ratt had a hot rodded amp that everyone wanted to use.

As a fan of the genre, there needs to be another documentary that brings to light some of the unsung heroes of metals evolution, those guys that altered and enhanced the sounds.

Because in the first episode that covered the origins of metal Dunn touched on the sound aspects and about how a speaker was cut with a razor blade to get a distorted sound and how the invention of the first Marshall amp paved the way for a new style of sound.

Dunn’s reporting of the “Guns N Roses Effect” on glam rock spot on. That is the argument I have had with many people. I always said that Glam Rock died because it got over saturated with inferior bands, along with Gunners showing up the movement with their nod to Seventies classic rock. So when Grunge came along, it offered an alternative to the clichéd glam rock styles and lyrics.

To me the documentaries are also trying to change the culture of the metal fan, you know, get all the elitist judges to be more relaxed and appreciate the different aspects rather than seeing themselves as part of a niche. Get them to appreciate and open their mind and feel united as one big diverse family, to inspire evolution, a Metal Evolution

“Bang you Head…”

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories, Unsung Heroes

The Music Careers of the “Young Guns” from Guitar World September 1991

So I am flicking through an old issue of Guitar World that goes back to September 1991 and there is a D’Addario ad with the title “Young Guns II”. Pictured on the ad are the following guitar players;

Gary Hoey
John Axtel and Atom Ellis from Psychefunkapus
Tommy Bolan from Freight Train Jane
Gerard Zappa and Adam Holland from Valentine
Black Eyed Susan guitarists
Tristan
Matt Prudoehl

So what happened to these “Young Guns.”

Gary Hoey auditioned for Ozzy Osbourne in 1988, during the search for Jake E.Lee’s replacement. We all know that Zakk Wylde got that gig. He also auditioned for Def Leppard, which ended up going to Vivian Campbell. Then he teamed up with a few LA vets in “Heavy Bones” who released one album in 1992 and when it did nothing, they broke up shortly.

Good musicians never quit. He went solo and had a hit with “Hocus Pocus” a cover of the Focus hit. This led to some chart success, some soundtrack work and a monthly column in Guitar World called “Hocus Pocus” which I found informative and helpful to my guitar playing.

Although Extreme became famous for the funk rock in the early nineties, Hoey broke it down to a teachable lesson called “Get The Funk Out” from Guitar World June 1994 issue. But the best lesson for me was “Arpeggio Acrobats” that appeared in the November 1994 which involved playing string skipping arpeggios. Since then he has more or less released an album each year.

A true warrior of the music industry and a diversified artist. He doesn’t have the world-wide recognition but he has what a lot of musicians that had world recognition wish they had. A career in the music industry.

John Axtel (guitarist) and Atom Ellis (bass) from Psychefunkapus got together in 1986 and by 1992 it was all over. Two albums came out on Atlantic. 1990’s self titled debut and “Skin” in 1991. Then it was all over.

John Axtel has been around the scene with various projects and the same for Atom Ellis.  They also have shown their diversity and that is why they have been around in various bands and different genre’s.

Tommy Bolan was part of “Warlock” and then joined the solo band of “Black N Blue” vocalist Jamie St. James, which in the end became “Freight Train Jane”. “Mitch Perry” was the first choice however he was unavailable. Then Tommy Bolan auditioned and St.James had his “guitar guy”.

The band got together around 1991 as the ad for the “D’Addario” strings shows. The album “Hallucination” didn’t come out until 1994 and it did nothing.

Everyone is quick to blame “Grunge” however the decline of glam rock and hard rock bands has a lot to do with the songs and their messages just didn’t connect with the new generation of kids. For example, “You” from the album is great song musically but lame vocally. And when you compare it to another song called “You” from Candlebox, you would understand why connected and one didn’t. Tommy Bolan for all of his talent has been hit and miss. His most recent execursion was an instructional video/book out called “Metal Primer”.

This is one person that should have achieved more however for some reason didn’t.

Valentine started with Adam Holland (guitarist), Craig Pullman (keyboardist) and Gerard Zappa (bassist) in 1986. Once all the other band members joined they moved to LA and did some demos. Columbia Records came knocking only to see a record label re-shuffle put the band in a tough position which then turned out okay as their original A&R rep took the band with him to Giant Records who then released Valentine’s debut CD in 1990.

They they became Open Skyz, a new label deal with RCA eventuated and another self-titled album came out in 1993. Another label re-organisation meant no label and compounded with fatigue after almost a decade of music industry ups and downs, they called it a day.

However they have all remained in the music business and to this day continue to have a career in the music business. A new album called “Soul Salvation” came out in 2008 after a positive response to their Firefest appearance. Adam Holland is also the guitarist in the Steve Augeri Band (former Journey lead vocalist).

Blackeyed Susan had Dizzy Dean Davidson on vocals/guitar, Rick Criniti on guitar and Tony Santoro (RIP) also on guitar. Critini and Santoro both did time together in the band “Rage” while Dizzy Dean Davidson was fresh from his “Britny Fox” stint. Criniti also worked as a live keyboardist for Cinderella.   This band was talented and they had pedigree, however it wasn’t to be. The band split after their label Mercury pulled the plug and stopped the touring support dollars from filtering down in late 1991. However all three have had a career in the music business that lasted decades, even Santoro until his untimely death at 40 due to a heart attack.

Tristan and Matt Prudoehl I haven’t even heard off. Not back then and not now. Probably a reason why they failed to have a music career.

 

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Music

Cry For Freedom

White Lion had the balls to tackle the subject of apartheid when all the other bands in 1989 didn’t. That was a long time ago. 1989. The Hard Rock, Glam Rock, Blues Rock, Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal movements where all riding high, at the peak of their mainstream successes.

It is unfortunate that the Eighties degenerated into a state of generic and clichéd derivative lyrical themes and subjects involving sex, partying and drugs.

When bands branched away from that, it was very hit and miss.

White Lion fell into that crowd of misses as the label “Atlantic” would still push the pop metal or pop rock edge of the band. The tours and marketing had White Lion sandwiched amongst bands like Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Whitesnake, Alice Cooper, Blue Murder and Badlands.

Of course, Motley Crue, Skid Row, Kiss, Alice Copper all had big wins in 1989. Whitesnake released a great album however it didn’t get traction. Call it karma for David Coverdale killing off the promotion on the John Sykes, Blue Murder album.

Actually, Blue Murder and Badlands released timeless and serious albums that in 2013 are seen as cult albums.

Music culture was built by artists taking a stand on a subject. The history of rock and metal is littered with bands that made big statements.

It’s the guitar sound. The way it swells and hallucinates with each shifting chord change. You cant help but be drawn in.

“The fire is burning
We lay our weapons down to rest
This war ain’t over
‘Till all the people will be free”

Growing up in democracy it was hard to fathom how people could be suppressed and denied rights for such a long time. South Africa was never in the news in Australia. It was like a decision was made from the powers that be that South Africa will not be reported at all costs.

Despite the song having a thread of hope, there is still desperation and the idea that freedom was still far away.

“So stand up and cry for freedom
And keep the dream alive”

“Cry For Freedom” is the kind of track that can be played when any uprising to oppression happens. It could have been played during the Arab Spring, the fall of the Berlin Wall or the Syrian Civil War. It never loses its power.

“Our brothers in prison
But no crime was ever done
I call it racism
Ashamed i face my fellow man”

“The children are taken away
And families destroyed
And millions have died from starvation
We can’t go on this way”

And the way it ends, it just makes you want to play it all over again.

Credit Michael Wagener, who produced it and still captured a sound that was rock enough to satisfy the rock community. In the end it makes the track connected to the rest of the album.

The “Cry For Freedom” video has 730,603 views on the 80s Classic Metal channel.

White Lion really tried hard to depart from the rock clichés however the public at that time didn’t want to be reminded about the world. All we wanted back then was to let our hair down and escape from the working week.

Vito Bratta mentioned in his 2007 Eddie Trunk interview that the songs from “Big Game” didn’t really work in a live setting, especially in a rowdy hard rock setting.

It was a concert at the Wembley Arena on Wednesday 01 November 1989 that decided the fate of the album and the rest of the tour.

Mötley Crüe where the headliners with White Lion and Skid Row supporting.

Sandwiched between a wild and energetic Skid Row and a newly sober but still dangerous Motley Crüe, White Lion didn’t have a chance.

Skid Row sang about belonging (“Youth Gone Wild”), sex (“Big Guns”, “Sweet Little Sister”, “Rattlesnake Shake”), street violence (“Piece Of Me”, “18 & Life”) and relationships (“Can’t Stand The Heartache”, “I Remember You”).

White Lion sang about Greenpeace (“Little Fighter”), broken homes (“Broken Home”), organized religion (“If My Mind Is Evil”) apartheid (“Cry For Freedom”), broken romances (“Wait”), sex (“Dirty Woman”, “Hungry”), life on the road (“Radar Love”, “Goin Home Tonight”), a mystic healer (“Lady Of The Valley) and the state of the world (“When The Children Cry”).

All important subjects however the majority of the rock crowd didn’t want to hear heavy themes in 1989 from a rock band. Those kind of heavy themes were coming from thrash metal bands. With the death of Nelson Mandela, this song is back in my life.

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Bullet For My Valentine

I have been cranking Bullet For My Valentine lately. I started off with the new “Temper Temper” album released this year. “The Poison” album was next. I then went back to the “Hand of Blood” EP. Then “Scream Aim Fire” and “Fever”. On top of all that I have also seen the band perform live.

The music that BFMV creates is very reminiscent to the hard rock / heavy metal music created between 1981 and 1986, before Bon Jovi released Slippery When Wet and then the majority of bands started chasing the pop metal / pop rock “pot of gold”. It is the same music that I grew up on.

Metallica – CHECK
Iron Maiden – CHECK
AC/DC – CHECK
Slayer – CHECK
Megadeth – CHECK
Judas Priest – CHECK

Modern influences like Machine Head, Pantera and Metallica “Black” album period are also found in the songs. That is why I probably connected with the band.

As I have mentioned previously, all artists are a sum of their influences. No one creates art in a vacuum, waiting for that spark of super originality to come. Sometimes, a band takes all of these influences and creates something original, however in most cases, bands fall into an evolutionary category.

Bullet For My Valentine as a band have an unbelievable chemistry. The drumming is sensational. Just listen to how the drums build the intro in “Waking The Demon”. The guitar leads are very Randy Rhoads like, the riffs are melodic and the bass playing is solid.

“The Last Fight” is a classic example of the band nailing it. Listen to the rock version and then listen to the acoustic version, with the piano and violin. Dealing with addictions is difficult and this song captures it. The lead break in the rock version is classical heaven to start off with and then harmonised in the vein of Iron Maiden.

“Breaking Point” from the new album is a dead set classic opener. I don’t know why they went with “Riot” and “Temper, Temper” as the lead off tracks to promote the album. It should have been “Breaking Point” all the way.

Who can forget the punch and groove of “Your Betrayal”? Another perfect song to get the body moving into high gear.

Then you have the speed metal style of Slayer and Machine Head in “Scream, Aim, Fire” and “Waking The Demon”?

The Iron Maiden influence is heard in “Alone” while the Judas Priest influence is heard in “Eye Of The Storm”.

Add to that the slower songs like “Hearts Burst Into Fire” and you have a band that is varied and influenced by a lot of great styles.

This band still hasn’t written their “Blackening” or “Dr Feelgood” or “Back In Black” or “Black” album. They are working towards it. Great albums come from experience. Great songs come from having lived. The band (provided that they stay together) is on its way to achieving this.

They have hooked in Terry Date for the upcoming album, so it is a step in the right direction for album number 5. Matt Tuck even mentioned that the music is no holds barred metal, unlike the previous two releases.

I didn’t think I liked BFMV to start off with. Then I heard their cover of “Sanitarium” from a Kerrang tribute album to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of “Master of Puppets” from Metallica. That tribute album was also my first introduction to Trivium and their unbelievable cover of “Master Of Puppets”.

The modern paradigm of success is to create great music and reap the benefits later. “The Poison” came out in 2005 and by 2009, it had a GOLD certification in the U.S. market.

So I purchased “Scream, Aim, Fire” when it came out without hearing a song and I suddenly realised that I liked the band.

Just like Pantera had to emerge from the shadows of the inferior hard rock / power metal scene in the late Eighties, Bullet For My Valentine had to do the same. The metalcore movement has committed the same sin as hard rock and glam rock committed. Too many derivative bands are doing the rounds and there is no substance. With the release of “Scream, Aim, Fire”, BFMV showed that they are a metal band in the true sense. With “Fever” and “Temper, Temper”, they have showed that they can rock with the best of them.

The Bullet For My Valentine VEVO account shows that “Tears Don’t Fall” has been viewed 55,738,093 times.

“Your Betrayal” has been viewed 17,391,181 times.

“Waking The Demon” has been viewed 23,947,044 times.

“Hearts Burst Into Fire” has been viewed 13,500,316 times.

“The Last Fight” has been viewed 3,232,789 times.

“Temper Temper” has been viewed 2,254,641 times.

“Breaking Point” has just been released and it has been viewed 686,885 times.

“Hand Of Blood” has been viewed 12,069,227 times.

The above figures are from the official BFMV account. Those same songs have been circulated on other user accounts with high view counts as well.

Spotify has the following top 10 songs for BFMV. For some insane reason, the “Scream Aim Fire” album is not on Spotify.

“Tears Don’t Fall” is at 18,297,766 streams.

“All These Things I Hate (Revolve Around Me)” is at 9,878,085 streams.

“Your Betrayal” is at 8,335,370 streams.

“The Last Fight” is at 5,337,727 streams.

“Fever” is at 3,696,842 streams.

“Bittersweet Memories” is at 2,673,920 streams.

“Temper, Temper” is at 1,187,795 streams.

“Tears Don’t Fall (Part 2)” is at 1,030,904 streams.

“Breaking Point” is at 884,423 streams.

“P.O.W.” is at 670,708 streams.

I am sure that if the songs from “Scream Aim Fire” could be streamed, the above list would be a touch different.

So what is this saying about the band.

They have a reach that a lot of other bands do not have in metal. Kirk Hammett said that there isn’t any new bands coming out on the scene because of the internet and social media. Tell that to BFMV and their fans. Michael Poulsen said that bands can’t live off record sales alone. He is right, they can’t, however a band can live off record sales, iTunes downloads, streaming fees, YouTube views, licensing, merchandise and live revenue. You just got to be prepared to put in the hard work.

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A to Z of Making It, Influenced, Music, My Stories

The Song Needs To Be A Song First – Words of Wisdom from Zoltan Bathory

“Every one of us can play. We are technical players. When it comes to songs, there’s a difference between just shredding and showing of or writing songs. That’s a different talent. First and foremost, the song has to be a song then you start to think about yeah, let’s add a guitar solo.”

(Zoltan Bathory from Five Finger Death Punch in a recent interview with Loudwire.)

I remember towards the end of the Eighties, hard rock and glam rock bands are getting signed up left, right and centre by all the record labels. The greedy labels over saturated the market with diluted quality. They got talented musicians and sold them the dream of fame and fortune. Once they had their signature on paper, they told them to go and write songs like Cherry Pie.

Have you read or heard what Jani Lane (RIP) said about Cherry Pie. He wishes he never wrote the song. The album was done, it was going to be called Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The label wanted a hit song or they wouldn’t release the album. Jani had two options, tell the label to go F themselves and by doing that he knew that his songs will never be heard or he could comply with their request, write them a sugar pop song and get the album out.  We all know how the story goes?

Writing songs and playing technical are two different things and it’s good to see Zoltan make that distinction.

Would people still be interested in Dream Theater if they just played technical passages, without having a real song as the springboard. Pull Me Under is the song that you can say broke Dream Theater to the masses. It is the most simplest Dream Theater song to learn and play, however it was written by musicians who have great technical ability. The second track, Another Day is another Dream Theater  song that is simple to play and again it is from the same well. Of course Images and Words has Learning To Live, Metropolis, Take The Time and Under A Glass Moon and the reason why those songs have become cult songs in the progressive genre, is because they are songs first and technical masterpieces second.  The bottom line is, you need a great foundation.

When Ozzy relaunched his career with the Blizzard Of Ozz band (that then became the Ozzy band when the record was released), it was on the back of great songs and great technical guitar playing from Randy Rhoads. A simple catchy AC/DC style song like Flying High Again, had a dazzling tapped lead break. The Crazy Train solo is one of those songs within a song guitar leads, however who would have cared if it was there, if the song it was on is terrible.

The bottom line for both Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne is; if you take away the progressive instrumental breaks and guitar leads from the songs that we love, you still have a great song and that is the essence to everything.

When the Whitesnake album exploded in 1987, it was on the back of great songs and great guitar playing from John Sykes. Listen to his lead break on Crying In The Rain. John Kalodner, the A&R rep that signed Whitesnake to Geffen, knew that was a great song. It just need to be re-done in a way that it could get massive exposure. The song was a song already as it already did the rounds on the Saints and Sinners album from 1982 and by adding the one minute plus tour de force lead break by Sykes to it, it made the song even more dazzling and a product of the times. However, as I mentioned above, if you take away the lead break, you still have a great song.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity

Is Having Mike Portnoy in your band a good thing or a bad thing these days?

Mike Portnoy is a hard worker. There is no doubt about that. However, the question needs to be asked. With so many projects running, where is the quality control?

Of course, I know that quality is in the eye of the beholder and since Portnoy is just a drummer, the quality is in the music.

Music comes from the guitarists/keyboardists he chooses to work with. The guitar player in the band has the same value as a Number 1 draft pick for a losing team. You build a championship winning team around a great guitar player.

In Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy had the Michael Jordan of guitar players in John Petrucci. When Portnoy left the DT team, he committed career suicide in my view.

In Adrenaline Mob, he had the wild card roughie, Mike Orlando, who in my view is getting really close to the greatness of Iommi and I seriously believe this band is capable of producing a classic album like Heaven and Hell from Black Sabbath.

In Transatlantic he has a minor league player in Roine Stolt on guitar and another minor league/division two songwriter in Neal Morse. (Anyone remember Morse, Portnoy, George project, it was a deadest joke). If you want to hear quality spread thin, listen to Neal’s solo albums.

In Flying Colors he has the veteran superstar in Steve Morse, who has done his victory lap already and is now also spreading himself too far and too thin with Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs, Flying Colors and the Steve Morse band.

And that brings us to The Winery Dogs. For this project to be special, it needs to bring something different to the table, so that it stands out amongst the noise.

Richie Kotzen is a good guitar player, however there is nothing special about him. If I keep with the sporting analogies, this player wouldn’t win any trophies for you. He wouldn’t be a bad player to have on your team, but he is not the champion that you need. As a draft pick he would be way down the order.

When Kotzen came out with his first self-titled solo album in 1989 and with Fever Dream in 1990, he was just another shredder on the Shrapnel label. I have both of those albums and I can’t really remember much from them. I even purchased the Mr Big album he played on after Paul Gilbert left and that was also forgettable.

Just like Hard Rock and Glam Rock killed itself by cloning itself over and over again, the same thing happened to the Shred Movement.

Kotzen was a clone of the shred heroes that came before him like Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, Paul Gilbert and Jason Becker (who also produced Kotzen’s first album).

There was also a Jimi Hendrix/Stevie Ray Vaughan blues influence, however that part of his playing didn’t really come out until he joined Poison. Maybe he was told to conform to the shred sweep picking style. The point. He is a clone of the shred era. He got his deal, because he could shred. Yes, he had talent. Yes, he practiced. Does he have the songs? No.

Even in his vocal delivery he clones Chris Cornell. There is nothing different or special about what he does and he is the centrepiece of the band as the guitarist and vocalist.

The point I am making is that there is no signature sound from Kotzen and since he is the frontman and the main songwriter, it is a troubling fact.

Which brings me to Mike Portnoy. Dream Theater success is because of the music. The musical instruments in the band are the guitars, keys and bass. Drums are a percussive instrument. If Mike Portnoy had never met John Petrucci, he would be just another talented drummer trying to make it.

Is Portnoy a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to write a great song on his own? My answer is NO.

Billy Sheehan is the bassist, and as good as he is, all good bassists need great guitar players. With Talas, Sheehan was the man, and that band was a product of its time, where it was cool to be a different and a leader and that is what Billy Sheehan was, a leader. However that band never really had success.

Then he found commercial success with two supergroups. First with David Lee Roth and then with Mr Big. In both of those bands, he had two monsters on the guitar. With David Lee Roth, he had Steve Vai (at one stage Yngwie Malmsteen was considered for the DLR slot) and with Mr Big, he had Paul Gilbert.

However is Billy Sheehan a great songwriter? Does he have the ability to great write a song on his own?

In DLR’s band, he had one song writing credit in Shy Boy, which is from his Talas’s days. In Mr Big, his name is over a lot of songs, and they are okay songs, however the main hit songs (which gave Billy Sheehan a career) are not written by him.

James Hetfield once said that he is anti-side projects for a very good reason. It dilutes the quality of the main product.

And in the end it is quality that the people want. That is the reality.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times

Influences/Inspiration

Nobody exists in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from what you read, watch and experience.  Inspiration is the merging of these experiences and influences into something new. When Metallica came on the scene they were inspired and influenced by the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. They were influenced by Punk. They were inspired and influenced by Classic Rock. They were excited and this made them nervous. Nerves made them play faster.

When Black Sabbath came on the scene they were originally influenced by the Blues. Just another blues band among the many blues bands doing the rounds at that time. Then they applied their gloomy industrial upbringing and the rest is history.

Experience

Inspiration doesn’t take place in a vacuum. All day long you are experiencing.

Could Nikki Sixx have written Kick Start My Heart if he didn’t experience death and life? Could James Hetfield have written The Unforgiven if he was brought up in a wealthy household that didn’t have Christian Science beliefs? Could Richie Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi have written Wanted Dead Or Alive if they never toured? Could Dee Snider have written We’re Not Gonna Take It, if he was rich?

If you think you can write a hit song with no prior experience, you’re dreaming.  Our whole life is information. Be ready to reference it.  Trust your first initial feeling.

Sign Of The Times

Don’t get caught up in doing things in the old way. Today’s medium is the Internet. No one wants to hear new music from their favourite artist every two years. We surf the net each day, looking for new music and information.  If there is a demand for your music, you should create and distribute constantly.

The days when we used to have very little music are over. The days of saving up to buy an album and the playing the same album over and over again are also gone.  Now, we’ve got the history of recorded music at our fingertips. YouTube has everything that you want, Spotify has almost everything that you could want and if all of that fails cyber lockers and The Pirate Bay fill the void.

Product Of The Times

The old rock star is dead. Its time to create a new rock star that is a product of the times. Keep innovating.  Embrace the new reality that is being born. Stop playing by the rules of the Classic Rock artists.

Look at the band Heartist. When they formed, they decided that they would not play by the old rules of playing as many gigs as possible just to get noticed.  They decided to not play by the old rules of guaranteeing promoters 50 presales for each gig (which more or less meant, the band either had to beg people to come to their show that didn’t want to be there or they basically paid to play).  They decided to write songs.  They decided to keep on writing. They started posting demos on YouTube. They started building a buzz. The songs had quality. People started to spread them, share them, talk about them. They played ONE gig and got signed by Roadrunner and management.

What Does Music and Success Mean These Days?

Music is for the fans. Music is for the people. Music is not for a record executive to make billions so that they can compete with the Forbes 100 Rich List.  If you want to be in the music business, you need to focus on what music means. Be inspired! Create!  You have to practice, be original and wait for your moment, when you have to deliver.

Def Leppard’s Hysteria was out for over a year before it exploded on the back of the Love Bites single. A sleeper hit that no one saw coming. If the song is really damn good it will get people’s attention.

If you want success, you need to get people’s attention. If you want success you need to work hard and don’t plan for it. If you want success, practice and be ready to turn that inspiration into a product.  If you want success, you need to know that you have no control over what spreads and what doesn’t. Don’t judge the success of your project straight away. Success is always ten steps behind. It takes a while for it to happen.  Don’t just the success of your project in dollar terms. Success is about laying a solid foundation and building on it.

Your music has to be accessible. It needs to make an instant impact. Fans do not have the time to spend on letting an album sink into our brain like the old ways. These days there are so many options and people don’t endure that which is not pleasing to them, They move on. Repetition is not an artist’s friend in the current times. The life span of a song is different these days.

Most of the time you get one shot for each new fan. It is that one time when people will hear what you have created. One time where you need to satisfy them, so that they can respond and share.

Today, you need to have that one unbelievable cut, that makes the people need to hear it over and over again. That one cut that makes the people want to go and find out more about you.

Whether it be Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, Dio’s “Holy Diver”, Ozzy Osbourne “Crazy Train”, Kiss “Lick It Up”, Shinedown’s “Second Chance” or Metallica’s’ “One”. It works in every genre of music.

Connections

Artists can go straight to their audience, there are no restrictions. Artists by now should know that their career depends on building a loyal relationship with as many fans as possible. In order to build relationships, you need to get people’s attention. You need to find a way to be heard over all the noise.

Standing Out – Visuals and Music

You want to be remembered. You want to be talked about. How can you achieve that? Society is a visual culture. That is why we watch TV shows, movies, take pictures and film ourselves.

Why do you think, when you see a preview for a new movie coming out, the studio marketeers have music with it? Why do you think TV shows and movies have soundtracks? They are re-enforcing the visuals with music, as people take more notice when that happens. If people notice they will talk about.

Putting your music with visuals is a big step forward to getting people’s attention. How many times have you walked out of a movie, thinking, what a tough score. I just watched World War Z and I loved the track that Muse did for it.  Man Of Steel had an unbelievable score by Hans Zimmer, that captured the emotion in each scene. It was also inspiring and uplifting. I still remember the preview to the Captain America movie, where they had the music (46&2) from Tool playing and that was almost three years ago.

Standing Out – Opinions

No artist can please everyone. So don’t try. All artists stand for something. If you write a song that is anti-(insert topic here), you will alienate some, and connect more with others. When people get fired up (via positive or negative feelings) they pay attention.

Standing Out – Different = Success

If you look at all of your heroes, they are there for a reason. They are different. When they came on the scene, they were different. Twisted Sister was different to all the other bands in the Eighties in how they dressed and looked. Their style was a combination of AC/DC style rock, mixed with Judas Priest metal, with a dose of punk chucked in. Metallica was different to all the metal and rock bands when they came onto the scene. Motley Crue was different to all the new wave music that was popular at the time. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden were all different to the Eighties Glam Rock movement. Black Sabbath was different to all the hippie folk music at the time.

Different also includes doing cover versions of popular songs. Take jazz songs and turn them into rock songs. Take pop songs and make them into rock songs.  The original artist’s fans will be curious to hear these versions.  Led Zeppelin did a lot of covers, Metallica the same. Van Halen had cover songs on their first five albums. Motley Crue did Smokin In The Boys Room and Helter Skelter.

What Does It Mean to be an Artist Today?

You don’t want to be an artist that becomes who others want them to be. You don’t want to be an artist that whores themselves out to make money. You don’t want to be an artist that does what they have to do to keep the status quo.

It’s okay to not be liked by everybody.

Real artists don’t believe in conforming. Real artists stay true to who they are. Real artists play to their fans and allow the fans to talk about them. Do not change for all the new people that could tag along to your success train, that’s death. You need to keep playing to the hard core fan base. A great artist is someone who leads us into the unknown who we can’t help but follow.

Dream Theater is one artist that comes to mind, that did it their way or the hard way. Signed as a progressive band, they released When Dream and Day Unite, which the label ignored and then went on a long search for a vocalist. When Pull Me Under got traction on MTV and Radio, the band was then a commercial prospect for the label. So the label now wants more crossover songs, and this lead to the issues with the label around the Falling Into Infinity project. After that the band stayed true to who they are and they have grown with each album and are more successful now than ever.

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