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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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Some Thoughts On The Music Business

YouTube

YouTube allows you to go directly to your audience whenever they want and you get paid in the process. It might be small now, however it will grow with time. And surely that is better than having your video on MTV and getting squat.

Longevity

The truth is you get wiser as you get older. You learn from experience and life. Artists done need to tell us how great they are or how great the new album is. The fans are smart enough to decide what is great and what isn’t. In the end, you need to have stayed in the game long enough to win.

Music Is Not Scarce Anymore

The days of growing up at the record store and budgeting what album to buy are gone and have been for a long time. Today our favourite artists release new music and we check it out. If we like it we give it a few more spins and then move on. If we don’t like it, we move on straight away. If we really like it, we commit to it.

Back in the day, music was a commitment. After having laid down our cash on a record, we took it home, dropped the needle and spent months digesting it. But today, music is everywhere.

You Survive On Your Audience

You want to be in their consciousness 24/7 and the majority of albums today just don’t hang around long enough. Sure there are exceptions to the rule. Volbeat has been selling their new album since April 2013. Yep, that is almost 20 months ago. Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch are in the same league. Bands like Trivium and Dream Theater had albums that came, got lapped up by the core audience and then disappeared from the conversation. The audience wants to always talk about you, so give them a reason to talk about you.

Information Overload

People are overloaded with information so they’ve only got time for the best and they want more and more of it on a regular basis.

Start With Your friends

They actually know and care about you. If you’re good, they’ll tell their friends, and some of them will eventually be friends/trusted filters of others and people will hear about it that way.

Overnight Sensations

Overnight sensations are a decade plus in the making.

Timing

The timing was right for metal and rock acts to go multi-platinum in the Eighties. MTV was rising. The disenfranchised youths were looking for a voice, something to attach too. They found it in “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Shout At The Devil” and so on.

Rock Bands Were Never Supposed To Last

The Beatles had about eight years before going solo. Led Zeppelin had about 12 years before calling it quits after the death of John Bonham. Kiss’s original line up had about 8 years before they ended. Motley Crue had 10 years before they fired Vince. Twisted Sister had about 8 years from when the core line up was formed. Rage Against The Machine had 9 years before they split. Soundgarden had about 12 years before calling it quits. That is about the average of a band keeping its original line up in tact before other life events impact the dynamics.

Promote The Why and Not the What

Evergrey went all “why” for the promotion of the “Hymns For The Broken” album. We know the story about how the band was almost over and how the return of two former members gave Englund a new belief to continue. And the fans resonated with this belief.

Protest The Hero sold the why. That is why they the fans pledged over $300,000 to them for “Volition”. We understand as fans why they needed to go down the fan funding route. We understood how the record labels had ripped them off. We believed in their story and wanted to be a part of it.

People will do the things that prove what they believe. We don’t don’t buy what our artists do, we buy why they do it.

Personality

The truth is long-term careers are based on being unique and staying true to who you are.

What seems to happen is that artists try to appeal to everybody and in doing so they rub off their rough edges which is the X factor that makes them unique.

We don’t want fake heroes to believe in. We want real heroes with real personalities.

That is why rock and metal took off in the early Eighties. They represented the working class and the youth that lived under iron fists. The metal and rock got all polished up and all of its uniqueness was planed off.

That is why grunge and alternative took off in the early Nineties. They trail blazed their own path by not sounding just like everybody else. While the metal and rock acts lost their edge and started to sound the same towards the end of the Eighties, the Seattle scene was not afraid to go their own way. They didn’t care if radio didn’t play them and they didn’t care if the media wouldn’t write about them. They forged their own path and made everyone follow them in the process.

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

The Goal Is To Get People To Believe What You Believe

Ask any artist why they didn’t get more recognised, or signed and the answers are variations of the same three things;

– Lack of support
– Didn’t have the right people involved
– Wrong place, wrong time

Ask any record label A&R rep why the act they signed didn’t achieve worldwide domination and you will hear the same three things. If the three excuses for not making it sound familiar, then they should as they are derivative versions of Simon Sinek’s failure reasons from his TED talk. The music world is littered with these kinds of examples. Let’s go back to the Eighties.

Steve Howe left ASIA at the peak of their commercial success to form GTR in 1984. It was a big budget band that Clive Davis from ARISTA touted as the next big thing. It had all the right people in place. The band was well-connected and they had access to funds and support. Apart from Steve Howe on guitar, the band also had Jonathan Mover on drums, Steve Hackett on guitars, Phil Spalding on bass and Max Bacon on vocals. The market conditions were favourable and the timing was perfect. After spending millions on the over produced debut album, it was a commercial disappointment when compared to ASIA’s multi-platinum success.

Nobody knows, anymore, that a band called GTR even existed.

What about Steve Stevens Atomic Playboys?

He had the big backers in Warner Bros Records. He had a talented front man in Perry McCarty. All the right people were in place. Ted Templeman and Beau Hill assisted with the production. Thommy Price and Anton Fig drummed on the album. The market conditions in 1989 suited hard rock music to a tee. The album comes out and disappears as quickly as it was released. Steve Stevens later would refer to this band as an expensive project. Personally I think the album is very good, however the general public at large just didn’t connect with it. Another commercial failure.

What about the band Tangier?

So the story goes something like this. Jon Bon Jovi after his multi-platinum success convinces Polygram to sign Cinderella. Cinderella also strike it big and Tom Keifer then convinces Derek Schulman from ATCO to sign Tangier. Super producer Andy Johns (RIP) was on hand to produce. They had a good band and in Doug Gordon a very compenent and underrated guitarist. They delivered a classic rock AOR album in “Four Winds”. I loved it. The market conditions suited. The funding was there. And it failed commercially.

What about Lynch Mob?

Like Steve Stevens before him, George Lynch left the band that brought his name to the masses. In this case it was Dokken. Elektra bidded to retain his services and proceeded to pay over a million dollars to first get the band members in place and then to get “Wicked Sensation” written, recorded and distributed. So the band had the right support and the funding. George Lynch said in the October 1989 issue of Guitar World that the toughest thing about forming Lynch Mob was finding a great lead singer because that either makes or breaks a band. So it is safe to say that all of the right people were in place within the band. They had a super experienced producer in Max Norman. The songs were perfect. A bit more blues based than the Dokken output but still of high quality. I loved the album. The market conditions suited them. Hell, it was 1989, the era of Hard Rock. And the band still failed commercially.

What about the band Nitro?

Michael Angelo Batio had the endorsements, the quad guitars, instructional videos, a plethora of support  and a banshee vocalist in Jim Gillette. Check out the Guitar World review from October 1989 by Joseph Bosso.

“This album is a wonder – a wonder that anybody thought these guys could play or sing, that they looked good, that they deserved a gig, studio time or worse yet a record deal (with Rampage/Rhino). Utter trash. The worst.”

And of course that band also failed. And yes, I agree totally with the review. That album was pure garbage.

The thing is this. The people who believed in the artists above did it just for the pay check. And it failed to pay off.

While in Seattle, a movement was growing who didn’t have any of the ingredients for success. They had a small local independent record label that supported them and that was it. But those artists were not driven by the RICHES. And we found out years later about the Seattle scene when everyone jumped on its bandwagon.

And to show that so many artists/record label execs of the Eighties were not in the music business for the right thing, the day that Grunge broke out to the masses so many rockers got dropped or just quit. Music is more than just the song. It is about the lifestyle as well. The heavy metal movement morphed into the hard rock movement and its roots/fan base came from the industrial heartlands of the developed economies. At one stage it was a lifestyle to be a metal head. The record labels took that lifestyle away with their overproduced pop metal bullshit and of course we watched it die a horrible death from over saturation.

Be in the game to create masterpieces. That is how you build a body of work. One song at a time. Don’t over analyse what you do as there is no formula for what connects and what doesn’t. You just need to have to right reasons to be in place for why you want to be a musician.

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Music

All I Want Is That Wicked Sensation

Towards the end of 2013, I started going back to the Eighties/early nineties bands I was into. That meant bringing out albums from Blue Murder, Badlands, Lynch Mob, Whitesnake and Dio. I call the Blue Murder, Badlands and Lynch Mob albums as “The Three Kings”. Each band had a guitar player that either left (or was fired) from a bigger band. Blue Murder had John Sykes post Whitesnake, Badlands had Jake E Lee post Ozzy and Lynch Mob had George Lynch post Dokken.

Dokken didn’t get much traction in Australia so you rarely saw them on the music television shows in Australia. So my first introduction to Dokken was a movie called “A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” released in 1987. I rarely stayed to watch the end credits of movies, however when that Am power chord to tri tone riff started I remained seated.

“Dream Warriors” is written by George Lynch and Jeff Pilson. That is why Dokken worked and in the end that is why Dokken imploded. They had a trio of great songwriters in George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Don Dokken. They had two guitar players in George Lynch and Don Dokken. Listen to the live recording “From Conception: Live 1981” to hear Lynch and Dokken trading licks. Jeff Pilson was a multi-instrumentalist, playing bass, guitar and piano, as well as being a very competent singer.

I found the single and purchased it. Side 1 had “Dream Warriors” and as B-sides there was a song called “Back For The Attack” and “Paris Is Burning”. Then I saw George Lynch on the cover of Guitar World. Guitar God was a term used a lot in the Eighties. In 2014, it doesn’t have the same weight as it used to have back in 1987. So I purchased the “Back For The Attack” album and then I went looking for their back catalogue.

So just when Dokken had the world in their hands, unresolved internal conflicts made the members part ways. The internal conflicts stem back from the beginning of Dokken. This is how drummer Mick Brown summed up the conflicts;

“I ran into George Lynch in Northern California. I was real serious about becoming a professional musician, a famous musician a ROCK STAR if you know what I mean and George went along with it. Now George was originally from Southern California and he moved back down there and said “If you really want to do it, this is where you gotta be”. So as soon as I finished High School I raced down to LA and we started chasing our careers there.”

“Then running into Don Dokken, and a few years after that he took some material that George and I had wrote and took it to Germany and pretty much put his name on it, you know what I am saying (laughing) and he got a recording contract. So he called me up to play. I looked over at George and I said George, this guy’s got our music and he’s got a record deal and we were pretty upset about that because he’s got our songs. But then we also thought, it’s kind of an open door so we went along with it. I think probably when people talk about the turmoil in Dokken, that was pretty much the moment where it all started. I remember Don asking us to, if he could take some of our songs over there to try and get something going in Europe and we said “No” (laughing) but he did anyway.”

“So there became the problem right away, but even in spite of that, in spite of the difficulties of the inner workings of the band, we never really had problem making music it was always the personality issues that we seemed to fail at.”

So Dokken ends up imploding and George Lynch formed “Lynch Mob”. This is how bassist, Anthony Esposito words it, in an interview on the Metal-Rules website;

“Everybody picked sides when Dokken broke up; Elektra said “We’re going to stay with George. Don, we’re letting you go, we don’t care.”, so Don went to Geffen. The management company Q Prime said “We’re going to stay with Don. George, you’re free to go.” because they figured Don would get to keep the name Dokken, which he didn’t because the other three guys sued him. When the sides were picked up, Elektra was like “We think George has got something more to offer than Don does, so we’re going to go with him.” and we made “Wicked” and it went gold and Don’s record didn’t do nearly as well, so I guess Bob Krasnow did the right choice. That label was brilliant back then, they had Metallica, Mötley Crue, us, Faster Pussycat, there was like five gold, platinum bands. It was a good label.”

In relation to Elektra being a good label, I am sure Dee Snider and Joe Lynn Turner would have different viewpoints.

If there was any doubt to Lynch’s guitar god status, “Wicked Sensation” cemented it. As good as Lynch is, I always saw Lynch Mob as a band. Oni Logan on vocals steals the show on the recording. He was the perfect voice for Lynch’s first project post Dokken however rumours persisted that his lifestyle got in the way of the live show.

I didn’t even know that Lynch Mob had a new album out or that George Lynch had a new band. It was a school friend of mine that was a mad Dokken fan that told me, because he had older brothers, who had more money, who could afford to buy magazines and so forth. That is how we found out our musical information in 1990. If we had the funds, we would purchase the expensive music magazines or we will stand in the newsagent all day reading them. If we didn’t have funds, then the information was passed down from people who had funds.

In an interview on the Liberty and Justice website this is what Oni Logan said on how he got the gig;

“So here’s the truth, believe it or not: “I wished it.” That’s right, I’m not kidding. You see when you want something so badly, the power and energy that you release has its way of working for you. Thoughts about the recording: I love it! It was probably one of the most exciting times to be in a rock n’ roll band. Think about it. America was rocking.”

By jumping ship to Lynch Mob, Logan walked out on his “Cold Sweat” bandmates who had just secured a major label contract and were so close to recording the debut. “Cold Sweat” was the band that former Keel guitarist Marc Ferrari started up once Keel broke up. The industry at the time was controlled by gatekeepers and Logan’s decision to jump to the Lynch Mob camp made a lot of people angry.

This is what Marc Ferrari had to say on Oni Logan’s departure in an interview on the SleazeRoxx website;

“George Lynch was obviously a higher profile guitarist than me. Oni was promised the moon by George and it was a decision that he made. Yeah it was rather unfortunate for us because he left our band the day we went into the studio to record the debut album. I can’t say that it was the proper thing or the right thing to do because he put a lot of people’s careers on hold while he made that decision. Things have worked out though, I have spoken with Oni since then and I’ve had the opportunity to hang out with George, so everything’s good between us now.

I discovered Oni, not like Columbus discovered America or anything, but he was putting up dry walls in Florida when he came to my attention. He moved out to California with me and he did his first professional demos with me. We did a handful of shows around here showcasing the band. He felt he needed to make that move for his career, obviously Lynch Mob made a great record.”

Another key factor was the addition of a new bassist. During a recent concert performance in 2012, Lynch told the audience that the first bass player in Lynch was Robbie Crane. This is what the actual bass player Anthony Esposito had to say on how he got the gig in an interview on Metal-Rules.com;

“They (Beggars and Thieves) auditioned like 70 bass players and it was down to me and Phil Soussan. He had played with Billy Idol, Jimmy Page and Ozzy and I was 19 at the time and hadn’t played with anybody, so they went with him. And then I got Lynch Mob right after that. That was how I met the girl at Atlantic, because Beggars and Thieves was on Atlantic, so she got me like seven auditions in seven days, it was Lynch Mob, it was Don Dokken, it was Ronnie James Dio, it was like Alice Cooper, There was something like seven top options to choose from.”

“I got everyone and the only one that wasn’t a salary, that was a band member, that was partnership percentage was Lynch Mob, so I went with Lynch Mob. So I did that and we made “Wicked Sensation”. That was a really great time in my life, we released WICKED, my son Tyler was born and we did the first world tour, all in the same year. I knew that we were making a special record and I just kept saying in the back of my head “If this record came out three years earlier, this band would be huge.”, but because we released it the same year that Nirvana, it was done. If that would have come out like Whitesnake’s “1987”, if it had come out three years earlier, Lynch Mob would have been huge.”

Actually Nirvana released “Nevermind” in September 1991 and Lynch Mob released “Wicked Sensation” in October 1990, so that comparison from Esposito is incorrect.

It is a common theme within the hard rock circles that grunge killed off the hard rock movement. That is just an easy way to look at it. The bottom line is this; hard rock was killing itself off. By 1990, the hard rock market was saturated with so many bands, it was overkill. The supply was there, however the demand was shifting. Society was changing. Originally there was Heavy Metal. That then diverged into different genre’s like glam metal, thrash metal, pop metal, hard rock, pop rock, soft rock. Then those genre’s got diluted even more and some merged with other genres. Fans started to gravitate to certain styles of music. In my area there was a split, between the thrash/death metal heads and the rock heads. Once upon a time we where all together, united as the metal militia. Now we had taken up arms against each other.

“Wicked Sensation”, “All I Want”, “Hell Child”, “No Bed of Roses”, “For A Million Years” and “Through These Eyes” steal the show in my opinion.

“Wicked Sensation” and “Hell Child” had Lynch writing the music with Logan the lyrics. “All I Want” had Lynch writing the music with Logan, Esposito and Brown writing the lyrics. “No Bed Of Roses” had Lynch and producer Norman writing the music with Logan the lyrics. “Through These Eyes” had Lynch writing the music, and Logan, Lynch and Esposito writing the lyrics. “For A Million Years” had Lynch writing the music, and Logan and Lynch writing the lyrics.

The credits mentioned above are written against each individual song, however in another area of the CD sleeve after all the production credits finish and just before the thank you’s start it states; “All compositions written and arranged by Lynch Mob.” So who gets credited for what on this album.

This is what Anthony Esposito had to say on the writing of the album;

It was all new material, none of that was ever going to be a Dokken record. George plays the way George plays and there are always little turnarounds that he’ll always throw in. Oni [Logan] is a genius at taking little things, like “Do that little lick, George. Give me that.” and making that the verse or… you’ll hear it in VIOLET’S DEMISE when he did it with Rowan [Robertson]. Oni’s very talented with that; you can hear what Oni did to George. My argument is that George goes around telling everybody that he wrote all the music, listen to every record George did after that and it doesn’t come close. WICKED SENSATION was completely a band effort and the reason why it came out so great is you had [Wild] Mick [Brown], Mick is like the king of the chorus, he writes these big choruses, these hooks, he’s like a Beatle guy. It was all of our colours and I’m the dark guy, I was always like the punk rock guy. I think I brought in the dark textures like “For a Million Years” and “Hell Child” that are like dark, you know, because Dokken wasn’t dark, Dokken was “foofoo”, with a great guitar player. Lynch Mob had none of that, it’s all the elements of the four of us and that made that record so awesome because it wasn’t just one guy writing it all.

Producer, Max Norman was Dimebag’s original choice to produce Pantera’s major label debut and Norman was actually offered the Pantera production gig, however he turned it down to work with Lynch Mob instead. As history would show, Terry Date produced “Cowboys From Hell” and Max Norman produced “Wicked Sensation”.

”Wicked Sensation” is a blues metal boogie with Mick Brown delivering a rattlesnake drum beat over a sleazy tri-tone boogie in C#minor. Oni Logan delivers a sleazy vocal line, dripping in innuendo and continues it was “River Of Love”.

“All I Want” is a real stand out on the first side. It’s got that bluesy 12/8 boogie laid down by Brown and Esposito and a ballsy arena rock chorus that puts Bon Jovi to shame. When the lead break kicks in, its shredalicious. It’s got trills, taps, legato, open string licks, string skipping and a lot of feel.

Side 2 has a few gems. “No Bed Of Roses” is up there as one hell of good melodic rock song. Everything about it is perfect.

The stand out is “For A Million Years”.

In 1990, I was in a rut in relation to my guitar playing. “Wicked Sensation” re-awakened my desire and showed me new ways to play chords, create rhythms and structures. Much in the same way that the “Randy Rhoads Tribute” album became my bible, “Wicked Sensation” was next in my evolution.

http://www.libertynjustice.net/gettoknow_oni.php

http://www.sleazeroxx.com/interviews/marcferrari.shtml

http://www.metal-rules.com/metalnews/2008/05/13/anthony-esposito-part-ii-ace-frehley-band-ex-lynch-mob/

http://dbgeekshow.blogspot.ca/2012/11/wild-mick-brown-talks-t.html?m=1

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A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

The Gremlin Day, Generic Metal & Protest The Hero’s “Underbite”

You ever had a gremlin day. I have. You know one of those days when conventional wisdom falls over. One of those days when things that always worked ceased working the same as they always have for no real reason.

It makes you question everything. It makes you feel paranoid and you start to believe that everything you have done up until that point is rubbish.

From my perspective, I work in IT and I have been working on a project since August. We implemented successfully over the weekend, however on Thursday before the weekend implementation I questioned everything and I was about to pull the plug on it.

This is what normally begins to happen when you spend so much time on the one piece of work. This is why Top 40 sounds so bland and processed. Using I.T. speak “the Top 40 has been tested to death.”

The songs go through so many rewrites it’s not funny. That is why you have as many names as “The Last Supper” listed as songwriters of the generic and lifeless Top 40.

However Heavy Metal and Hard Rock music is generally written “in-house”, meaning that most of the material is written within the band. So why are we getting a similar generic output as the Top 40. Why are we getting lifeless and soulless songs that mean nothing and say nothing and to be honest if I heard them live I would probably yawn. The artists that created something great always lived on the edges, merging various influences and styles. However, when one artist sees another artist strike a pot of gold, they follow suit, believing that the same pot of gold would come to them if they replicated what the other artist did.

For example, every band wanted to be like Bon Jovi in 1987 and by 1988 every band wanted to be like Guns N Roses and by 1989 every band wanted to be sober like Motley Crue and by 1991 every band wanted to be Metallica and by 1992 every band started to incorporate grunge influences.

I started thinking about the above, after listening to the song “Underbite” from Protest The Hero and after watching the hilarious puppet clip. The Protest The Hero channel is showing that the clip has had 112,436 views. Not bad for a fan funded band that was told by their record label that are washed up.

Underbite means the projection of the lower teeth beyond the upper teeth. Protest The Hero have taken that term and twisted it up to include the rock n roll show. They are focusing on the generic mediocrity of artists who go out there and fake it. They are focusing on artists and labels that couldn’t care less about the fan experience. They are focusing on artists and labels that care about maintaining the status quo and the profits that came with that.

Jon Bon Jovi is one such artist that comes to mind. Eventually the shows sell out on this tour however for the first time ever, Bon Jovi concert tickets got the reduced treatment on Living Social and other web outlets. If he tours again next year and charges the same high prices, he will be in for a shock.

The Rolling Stones is another.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same marketplace again and again since 2008’s “Saints Of Los Angeles” and with each re-iteration they are getting less and less to the show.

Metallica needs new music to come out. It has been a 5 year victory lap for Death Magnetic and with 2014 approaching, that will make it 6 years.

Black Sabbath is another. Watching Ozzy sing live was a joke and he had the balls to say in interviews that Bill Ward couldn’t perform live because he was old, overweight and he had to use post it notes to remember his drum tracks. Well Ozzy is old, out of key and he never strayed too far from the prompts as he struggled to remember the lyrics.

The song Underbite also focuses on artists who see themselves as gods and their fans as stupid kids who are expected to consume every piece of music they produce regardless if it’s good or not. It has lyrics like “An understanding between you and I that the ground that you stand on is somehow less than mine” and “Now you comprehend our complex relationship—consumer/consumed, You’re just some stupid kid and I’m a megalomaniac.”

The part in the film clip where the fan goes to purchase the merchandise is so spot on. I could relate as it happens to me all the time.

First, the merchandise stand rarely has the size that a person wants. Good luck to all the ones that rush in and get it early and bad luck to the fans who get their later or the fans who just want to purchase merchandise later.

Then the prices are ridiculous. So as the clip shows, you end up forking out a decent amount of cash for a band t-shirt that doesn’t fit or is too large.

I really like the lyrics about “You’re disgracing your effort by conforming to textbook performance of music to fill in the gaps.” This is about going through the same motions and the same dialogue and the same songs day in and day out.

“Let’s not repackage the same old performance, Original content is so much more rewarding.”

While I love Twisted Sister, I don’t agree with the viewpoints put out by them, that there is no need for them to create new music. Dee Snider has mentioned that there is no motivation to write any new songs while Jay Jay French and Mark Mendoza have talked about giving the fans what they want in the live show and how if a new song is played these days from the classic rock bands, the fans see it as a toilet break. While each performance is unique due to Dee Snider’s banter, the songs however don’t stray too far from the first three albums era.

How many times can Iron Maiden revisit their past and repackage past tours as current ones. “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” and “Maiden England” are two that come to mind in the last 4 years. While the “Caught Somewhere Back In Time” tour broke box office records, the “Maiden England” tour not so much.

Their show at the San Manuel Amphitheater, Devore, California on September 13, Iron Maiden got 27,000 fans in a venue that fits 41,000. Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament and Sabaton also appeared on the bill. Of course 27,000 is a massive attendance however the venue is just over 50% full. Iron Maiden needs new content and great content at that.

Listen to the song. There are some hard truths in there and Protest The Hero try to cover them all.

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

The Good Way and The Bad Way

So if I pay $120 for a Spotify Premium account, it means that i can listen to a lot of songs. If I pay $120 worth of songs from iTunes in Australia, I can only listen to 70 songs. In Australia, we are charged $1.69 for a track. As a fan of music what is the better option.

However, for the artists that were doing well under the old record label controlled system, then Spotify and iTunes is probably not for them and they should retire.

For the larger group of artists that didn’t have the six winning lotto numbers in the record label lottery, then Spotify is the leveller. Spotify is changing the distribution of wealth within the music business. 

For the artists that don’t like the new way they can then go back to releasing their albums with the following advertising from the Nineties;

 

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Scott Ian from Anthrax can get his fans to go to all of the stores mentioned above. I trust that none of them are around anymore. It wasn’t piracy that killed them off, it was new technologies and bad business models.

The major chains all could have innovated, however they didn’t. Steve Jobs and Apple did. Daniel Ek and Spotify did.

In relation to the record labels. Imagine all the poor artists that were on Geffen Records in 1992. Talk about Geffen hedging their bets. That flyer is promoting Guns N Roses and Roxy Blue (Hard Rock) vs Nirvana (Grunge) vs White Zombie (Industrial Groove Metal). Guess we know who was the loser overall. Hard Rock.

The internet has enabled artists to reach out to wider and different communities than they could in the past. Previously, artists had to connect with people nearby and wait on the record label to spread the word.

However in 2013, many more artists are able to connect and build a fan base by finding and bringing together a unique fan base that is right for them and them alone.

Protest The Hero just did it with “Volition” and their Indiegogo campaign.

Coheed and Cambria did a great job with “The Afterman” releases.

Digital Summer is doing a great job at it as a DIY artist.

Marillion started it off in 2001. With everything there has to be a leader and for fan funding, that leader was Marillion.

The purpose of music is not to make people rich. It was always about the social bonding. If an artist can accomplish the bonding part, then the artist is giving the fan a reason to buy. It is human nature to reciprocate, to acknowledge value.

All those artists complaining, that they are losing, is because they are obsessed with the money they are losing. They have no one to blame but themselves. They are losing money because they no longer are making connections. They are just offering a piece of music up for sale without any connections and relationships. That is the bad way.

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A to Z of Making It, Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Influenced, Music, My Stories

Vito Bratta: A Rock N Roll Technician That Got Lost In All The Noise

Vito Bratta is one of the most searched artists on the internet, especially around what he is doing right now. Like me, thousands of other people that visit this blog, can’t believe that a talent like Vito, just walked away from it all.

In order to understand why Vito Bratta walked away from it all and stopped writing music, I went back into the past and I started re-reading a lot of the interviews I have from him.

THE STATE OF SONGWRITING

In a “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito had the following to say on the state of his guitar playing vs. song writing.

“A weird thing happened to me this year I started thinking less in terms of guitar and more about song writing. I’ve never been the kind of player to showboat, but more and more I’ve been concerning myself with structuring and orchestrating.

On the last record, everyone commented on my playing, but hardly anyone said anything about the songs. That really bothered me. This year people have been saying. “Man, that song killed me.” which I prefer. When I heard the last Van Halen record, my comment was. “It’s not Eddie any more, but the songs sure are great.” That’s the way it should be.”

Vito thought he needed to change to accommodate the expectations of the fans and the label. In the end, the fans didn’t want him to change. We loved him exactly as he was. His guitar playing made the songs.

So Vito changes the way he thinks around songwriting. The results don’t generate into sales. In 1991, success in the music business was relative to the sales of the record. The confidence and the self-doubt that comes with disappointment is enough to kill a career.

Brad Tolinski, the person who was conducting the interview mentioned to Vito that it seemed that he made a conscious effort to play differently on “Mane Attraction” and that there are less broken arpeggios and other styling’s that Vito is renowned for.

Vito answered that with the following words;

“I don’t play like myself on this record. My sound is much heavier. For example, the lead break on “The Warsong” marks one of the first times I really explored what I call those “Zakk Wylde Pentatonic’s” and “Ace Frehley Bends”. It was just a mood I was in. While on tour with Ozzy last year, we started feeling like we weren’t the hard rock band that we used to be. On this record I just wanted to rock out.”

Remember back in 2007, when Vito appeared on the Eddie Trunk show. One of the comments he made on that show, was that he realised during the “Big Game” tour, that White Lion need heavier songs that worked more in a live setting. So instead of having a mindset about writing songs, Vito now has a mindset that he needs to write better songs, heavier songs, rockier songs and songs that work in the live show.

Vito’s whole thought process is now putting unwanted pressure on the song writing process, which to me should be natural and not forced.

In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito also said the same when Brad Tolinski mentioned, that he could understand why Vito is frustrated as the tonal subtleties of his best work, like the solos in “Wait” and “Little Fighter,” tend to get lost in an arena.

Vito responded with the following; “Yeah, I agree. But I think “The Warsong” will kick ass in any situation. The real subtle tasty stuff seems to get lost outside the studio, and that’s a real problem.”

This is an important distinction to make between bands that have gone through the stratosphere and bands that stagnated.

On the Justice tour, it was noted that Metallica fans were seen yawning during the longer complex songs from the Justice album. So what did Metallica do next? They released the monster known as the “Black” album. Shorter songs, less complex and songs that rocked hard.

All the Classic Rock bands used to perform their songs live before they recorded them. That is why all of those albums from the Seventies had songs that rocked hard in the studio and in the live arena. In the end a musician’s level of success depends on their ability to entertain. It is never about their level of technical proficiency. Bands like Kiss, Motley Crue, Metallica, Van Halen and Bon Jovi are mega successful in the business because they can entertain. Are they the most virtuosic bands out there. Of course not, however they have had a career at a level that the most virtuosic artist out there dreams to have.

THE PROBLEM WITH OVERTHINKING

Brad Tolinski mentioned that the “opening track, “Lights And Thunder,” is interesting. It’s epic in length and structurally complex, yet the solo is relatively simple and minimal.”

Vito responded with the following;
“The lead part is simple, but I think it fits. When I was listening to some of our old records, I noticed a few lead breaks that struck me as being inappropriate. It’s not that they were bad; in fact, most of them were melodic and performed well. But in retrospect, some of them struck me as being too busy or ornate. When I first played the lead to “Lights And Thunder,” I thought, “God, I can’t play that. It’s bullshit. It’s too easy.” But everybody in the studio loved it and told me to sleep on it and listen to it again when I was fresh. The next day I came in and thought, “It still doesn’t sound like anything I would play, but it sure fits the bill.”

He is not sure and he is doubtful. He is over analysing his past work. It is all counter-productive. The interview with Guitar World was in the issue from July 1991. By September 1991 it was all over. When you overthink things too much, you second guess everything you do and in the end, you lose your fire, the motivation that kept you hungry.

THE STATE OF HARD ROCK MUSIC

In the June, 1989 issue of “Kerrang”, Vito states the following on his views of the current state of hard rock;

“I know a lot of bands who’ll write a song and their guitar players will say I’ve got to do a lead break here, I’ve got to let rip there. It’s an ego thing. When I write, I say well, the song will sound better if I have an acoustic here or a clear sounding guitar, maybe no lead. I think it’s really annoying when a melodic song is ruined by a guitar player blasting away, it grates on my nerves.”

In an issue of “Guitar World”, dated July, 1991, Bratta more or less stated the same view point as he did a few years ago.

“You can see the guitarist thinking. “Forget the song, forget the band, I just want to get my name in Guitar World.” That’s not where it’s at anymore. Everybody can play these days.

While I was living in L.A. last year, I went into a local music store to pick up an issue of your magazine, and I heard this incredible guitar player. It turned out to be some little kid with his dad! I mean, he had twice the chops I had. He came up and asked for my autograph, and I said, “Sure, one minute.” Then I snuck out the back door before he had a chance to ask me to jam.

I’ve run into kids that can play “Wait” better than I can, but what’s the point? Being a technician is only part of the equation, and I’m trying to study the other half: song writing.

I hate it when people say things like, “I know you write songs that are heard by millions of people, but are you really happy?” I mean, yeah. Don’t be absurd. I want as many people as possible to hear the band. I’m convinced that the reason people like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton and the reason why they have endured is that they have composed memorable songs as well as solos.”

I have always said that Grunge didn’t kill the hard rock / glam rock movement. The rock movement killed itself. Hard Rock in the Eighties started off with the first wave of L.A bands. Then the second wave of L.A bands came along with the Classic seventies rockers who started to rebrand themselves to fit the scene. Then the third wave came and the fourth and the fifth further diluting the pool. Every two years, new cities got identified as the next big hub. So the Record Labels swarmed and so many inferior derivative bands got signed, that in the end, it all imploded. The real good acts couldn’t be heard from all the noise of the crap acts.

The current state of affairs in the music business bothered Vito. It played on his mind. He was a technician trying to find out how he fitted into the current climate. Should he write they way he also had or should he change and adapt so that he can meet expectations placed on him.

Unfortunately, Vito gave in to the expectations. He gave in to all the leaches that made multiple millions from his hard work.

VITO BRATTA RIG 1991

The “Mane Attraction” record was done with his trusty Steinberger guitar. In the “Guitar World” interview from July 1991, Vito said that he was planning on using something different when White Lion goes on tour as the Steinberger was starting to bother him because it was almost too easy to play.

“I’m not fighting for the notes anymore and I miss that tension. This may sound bizarre, but if you give me a Les Paul or a Strat I’m lost, and that bums me out. Lately I’ve been using an old ESP Strat that I’ve had laying around, just to get me back in shape.”

His amplification was basically the same system he has used for the last few years. The heart of Vito’s rack consists primarily of three units: an ADA MP-1 preamp, a BBE 422A Sonic Maximizer and a Digitech DSP 256 multi effects processor. The system is powered by a Carvin FET Series amplifier, and a Rocktron Hush keeps the lid on any excess noise.

“It’s a relatively simple rig, but it’s very effective. I put it together with Michael Wagener, who produced Pride and Big Game.”

THE GUITAR WORLD REVIEW

Mane attraction is Top 40 stuff, for sure. But not quite as gooey as the usual radio fare more like what the Baby’s used to do. Except White Lion has Vito Bratta. Though you have to wade knee-deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn, when he does cut loose it’s worth turning up the volume knob a decibel or three. But in bands where song writing is the chief concern, really exceptional guitarists always end up getting be shrouded like a lace covered end table. Your little sister is gonna buy it, so borrow it when she’s watching Dance Fever. And try to figure out how Vito manages to retain his credibility.

It’s funny reading the Guitar World interview first and then the review (They both appeared in the same issue). In the interview, Vito is talking about how he wants people to say that the song knocked them out, and then you have the reviewer saying that you need to “wade knee deep through patently clichéd arena rock-ioms for that Bratta burn.”

TRIBUTE TO SRV

In the same Guitar World interview from 1991, Vito commented on his tribute to the late Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“”Blue Monday” was my way of paying tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’m not really a lyricist, but I figured I could try to express my gratitude to him through my guitar. To this day I can’t even figure out why Stevie meant so much to me. He was just a guitarist, but his playing destroyed me. He was probably my favourite. You don’t really hear him in my playing, but I could listen to him night and day. I wasn’t trying to show off my blues chops. It was just a simple memorial to someone I admired very much. I don’t care if people think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever heard. It was my tribute to a great man.”

FINAL WORDS FROM MIKE TRAMP

Mike Tramp had the following to say on Vito in an interview with the website Metal Sludge; http://www.metalsludge.tv/?p=36727

“I had made a public statement that I was not willing to talk about all this anymore, and I don’t know what he is doing, but as far as Vito the guitar player and Vito the songwriter and musician, he was in a calibre all by himself. It shows in his great solos, and so many people love the way he played like Eddie with the hammer-ons and all that stuff like the Van Halen solo on “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.” I just love the way Vito played solos on “Wait” and “Little Fighter” and some of the others. He was like Mozart.

We tried to do new White Lions with Warren DeMartini and Paul Gilbert and all these others, and no one wanted to do Vito. He was unlike anyone else, he had his own way of doing thing, and plus he was a great songwriter. Had he remained in the business, Vito would have been bigger than Steve Vai and all those types of guys. With him the melody came before anything else, and that’s nothing but the highest praise. I loved the sound of his guitar and I loved writing songs with him and stuff like that, but we had nothing else in common, unfortunately. There isn’t any bad blood between us. It’s just frustrating that I’ve had to carry on White Lion all by myself 100 percent. I just want to set in on record once again: We were White Lion once, but never again. But as for Vito, I am surprised he isn’t a million percent bigger in the music business. I don’t have an answer. No one ever will.”

Could you imagine White Lion with Warren DeMartini on guitar or Paul Gilbert? Great players, however as Mike said, they wouldn’t touch Vito. He was better then all of them and the above words from Mike prove that. The difference between them is the mindset. Vito confused thought process with what was expected of him, instead of what he expected of himself. That is the difference between followers and leaders.

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