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

Six Degrees Of Separation – Marc Ferrari, Oni Logan and Rowan Robertson

Did you know that Marc Ferrari featured on Pantera’s “Power Metal” album that came out in 1988?

“Proud To Be Loud” was written by Marc Ferrari  and it was originally intended for Keel’s 1987 self-titled album. The song didn’t get used, however the Pantera guys heard the song back in 1985 when Keel was in town for a live performance and wanted to record it. Ferrari then went to Texas to produce the vocal on that track and he ended up playing rhythm guitar on the song and also lead guitar on another song called “We’ll Meet Again”.

Marc Ferrari then left Keel in February 1988, after the touring cycle ended for the self-titled album. After the tour, the band were about to change labels from MCA to Atlantic Records. With anything that is record company related, the band started getting pressure from the label to get that hit single like Bon Jovi. Ron Keel’s vision for the band was much different from Marc Ferrari’s vision and when a keyboard player was brought in, Marc Ferrari stepped out.

Then Ferrari discovered Oni Logan who at the time was working in Florida. Logan moved out to California to do some demos and showcases. The band was originally called Ferrari, then Crying Shame until they were told that they couldn’t use the name. Since they had a cool logo with the C and S intersecting, they tried to keep within the C and S theme and Cold Sweat came out of that.

Enter George Lynch.

Being a higher profile guitarist than Marc Ferrari, Logan was made an offer he couldn’t refuse and left Cold Sweat on the day they either entered the studio to record their debut album / or were meant to sign their major label contract (there are differing stories). Logan for his departure more or less slowed down the Cold Sweat project, nevertheless, he went off to create the excellent “Wicked Sensation” album with Lynch Mob that came out in 1990 on Elektra. The funny thing is that Cold Sweat’s debut “Break Out” which came out on MCA Records also came out the same year. However, the Lynch Mob album did far better than the Cold Sweat album.

Marc Ferrari then started working on another project called Medicine Wheel who recorded three records and had a decent following in Japan. The records were issued on a number of small independent labels in Germany and Japan. All of this happened between the years of 1992 and 1999.

Logan on the other hand was out of a job by 1991.

Enter Wendy Dio who suggested that Logan work with Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. The “Lock Up The Wolves” era of Dio was put on hold while Ronnie James Dio reconnected with Tony Iommi for the “Dehumanizer” album that came out in 1992. The writing sessions between Logan and Robertson spawned the band Violets Demise.

Violets Demise managed to get a major record deal with Atlantic, however by the mid-nineties, the label money makers considered hard rock music not a commercially viable product, so the album that Violets Demise recorded with Alice In Chains producer Dave Jerden never saw the light of day officially, until 2002, when it was released as Logan/Robertson Revisited on Oni Logan’s website.

After disbanding Cold Sweat and while working with Medicine Wheel, Marc Ferrari started to get some of his songs placed in films and on TV, so he developed a business called MasterSource which is a music catalogue company that licenses its music primarily in films and on TV shows. And that gig along with the work that he does for Universal is still Ferrari’s main thing. Rather than waiting for things to happen Ferrari made things happen for himself.

So by the mid-nineties, while Logan took the big offer money deal from the Lynch camp to jump ship, it was actually Marc Ferrari that had a stable source of income and in general was better off. Just goes to show that the instant payola might be gratifying when it happens however in the long-term not so much.

Then by 1998, Logan was back with Lynch Mob and recording a demo (that ended up being released as the Syzygy EP on Lynch’s website) for the sole purpose of shopping to record labels to listen to and decide whether or not they wanted to sign the band. Meanwhile, Marc Ferrari also got back together with Ron Keel to finish and complete some of the unfinished tracks the band had lying around in the vault for the “Back In Action” album however his main gig was and is the MasterSource business. While Logan was involved in an EP to obtain a deal, Ferrari was involved in a full album release on an independent Canadian label.

Meanwhile Rowan Robertson fell into a slump after the demise of Violet Demise. However by 1998, he got an audition for a band called VAST. If you haven’t heard the excellent song “Touched” from the also excellent “Visual Audio Sensory Theater” that came in 1998, then you need to give it a listen.  The best way to explain VAST is Enigma meets Metallica meets The Beatles. Even though VAST was seen as Jon Crosby’s project, it was also seen as Robertson’s entry back into the music industry.

Comparing all three, by 1998, Marc Ferrari was way better off. He didn’t have the high-profile gig as Dio’s lead guitarist, nor was he as high-profile as George Lynch however what he did do was create for himself a position in the music business. He created opportunities when they didn’t exist and he diversified, focusing on licensing opportunities and music for television, films and games.

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

Kamelot

I don’t mind my fix of metal that is now known as a whole separate genre called power metal or symphonic metal. Back in the Eighties it was just metal. Pure and simple. I think that the press at that time just needed something to define certain styles of metal. So they started to come up with different names like Pop Metal, Thrash Metal, Hard Rock, Glam Metal, Death Metal, Power Metal and so on.

In relation to Power Metal here is my own 10 second wrap up of a whole genre beginning from the Seventies.

It started with Deep Purple, Rainbow and Iron Maiden. Then Yngwie Malmsteen and Helloween came along. They both increased the tempos and Yngwie Malmsteen exaggerated the classical elements which led to the current Power Metal movement which is just a higher tempo version of the beast that Yngwie Malmsteen and Helloween inspired.

The thing with power metal at the moment is that there are so many acts out on the market that are just not good enough to be there. They think by playing at break neck speeds it makes them good enough. They think by having a hot female opera singer in the band makes them good enough. Basically if the song is shit, then the whole band is shit. Like in Sport, you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Kamelot is not one of them. Because Kamelot is not all about higher tempos. There is more variation in their music.

Symphonic – CHECK
Progressive – CHECK
Groove – CHECK
Classic NWOBHM – Check
Hard Rock – CHECK
Classical – CHECK

Credit Thomas Youngblood, one of the bands original founders. In 1991 he along with drummer Richard Warner founded a band steeped in technical guitar playing. He stayed with that style during and after the Grunge wave. Eventually in 1995, Kamelot released their first album on the German Record Label “Noise”.

Yep, it’s that same label that specialised in melodic speed metal and they also had Helloween on its roster. It’s also the same label that took Helloween to court and won a seven digit payout in their favour when Helloween broke ranks and went to the majors direct.

So I’m listening to “Silverthorn”, Kamelot’s tenth studio album and their third concept story.

It’s the song “Veritas” that connected with me. And the connection comes in the form of a band called Savatage, who I am a big fan off, especially the era of Criss Oliva. Because it sounds like something that could have been recorded for a Savatage album. And the song is not even well-known. YouTube has a few fan audio videos with numbers less than a thousand. Spotify doesn’t even rate it in the Top 10.

The next song that appeals to me is “My Confession” and its the Within Temptation and In Flames connection that hits home. On YouTube, the video to “My Confession” is at 1,176,127 views. The other single from the album, “Sacrimony (Angel of Afterlife)” is at 1,141,127 views. Actually, the bands YouTube numbers are way better than their Spotify numbers. If I was the band’s manager I would be taking note of this. The fans like the clips and the visuals that go with it.

I can’t say that I like everything that Kamelot has put out, however they have done enough on each album to keep me interested to come back and invest my time to hear each new album. And that is what matters today.

Are people listening to your music on a daily basis?

That is more important than how many first week sales are achieved.

One final note, when the cover by Stefan Heilemann reminds me of a cover that Gustavo Savez did for the last band I was in. I just found it bizarre that the styles are so similar.

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Music Isn’t Just About Record Sales

Change is hard and in the end it is always worthwhile. There is a cliché that goes that after being fired or rejected or dumped one door closes and a million other doors open that will lead to a better place. It is true, however the main part that nobody talks about is how long it’s going to take to get to that better place.

The highs of success and fame are brief. It begins to fade and then what are you going to do next?

Vince Neil

On July 6, 2013, Vince Neil played a solo show in Mexico City. The venue was Jose Cuervo Salon. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 64 people. That’s right, less than 5% of the total venue size. Total Gross sales for the night was $2,286. There was only one ticket price at $35.72. So does anyone really care about Vince Neil outside of Motley Crue? Based on the ticket sales, Mexico sure don’t.

What a hard truth that is? Music is a tough business and this is what happens when you go out every night with Motley Crue and sing out of tune. Also why is he touring. He hasn’t released anything new recently. Also when he does tour, all he does is play Motley Crue songs. No one wants to hear Vince Neil do Motley again. I don’t know why, as there are some great songs in the Vince Neil catalogue that fans would love to hear live.

His debut album “Exposed” celebrated 20 years this year. He should have commemorated that release? It is a great album and there is an audience for it. It might mean he plays smaller venues that fit a couple of hundred. However he needs to sing in tune to get people to come back time and time again.

It is a good thing he is getting into the restaurant business and the Tequila/Wine business.

Classic Rock and Southern Rock Rule in Gilford, New Hampshire

On July 3, 2013, the Gigantour tour hit Gilford, New Hampshire. The venue was Meadowbrook. The capacity of the venue is 6,657. The attendance was 1,308. That’s right, 1,308 people turned up to watch Megadeth, Black Label Society, Device and Hellyeah. Total Gross sales for the night was $49,860. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $42, $33 and $23.75.

My first opinion was that the low attendance is due to the poor recent albums put out by the bands involved. Don’t get me wrong, all of those albums are worthy of a listen, but there is nothing really engaging to go back for seconds.

This show should have been a sell-out. The Gigantour tour has never hit Gilford, New Hampshire before. So it is not a market that has seen the Gigantour tour before. However, if you take just the town of Gilford and its population of 7000, then you see it is a small market and the attendance of 1,308 people is not a bad result. Add to the mix that other rock shows are playing the same venue in the weeks leading up to the Gigantour show and in the weeks after, you start to form a different viewpoint.

With most shows a lot of people come from surrounding towns as well. I know in Australia that Sydney is the place that most bands play, however the audience is derived from places in NSW that are a decent hour or three or five away from Sydney.

On July 9, 2013, Daughtry, 3 Doors Down, Halestorm and Bad Seed Rising also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 2,718 in a venue that fits 6,219 (for this shows the capacity was reduced due to the stage size). Total Gross sales for the night was $142,431. There was four tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50, $49.50, $39.50 and $29.50.

Again not even half full. Daughtry is a platinum selling major label backed super star. 3 Doors Down are also in the same league, although they haven’t reached the same heights as the early two thousands and Halestorm are Grammy award winners. So what’s gone wrong. Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company is what went wrong.

On July 26, 2013, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bad Company also played the Meadowbrook at Gilford, New Hampshire. The attendance was 6,671 in a venue that fits 6,671 (that’s right people, classic rock and southern rock sold out the venue). Total Gross sales for the night was $407,641. There was three tiers of ticket prices ranging from $79, $59 and $33.25.

Classic rock and southern rock trumped everyone. Lynyrd Skynyrd released “Last of a Dyin’ Breed” in August 2012 however that album was dead and buried by the July 2013. Bad Company on the other hand haven’t released anything worthwhile for a long time. However when you combine the two acts, put a 40th Anniversary name to the tour and you have people from that era interested. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first album release and Bad Company’s formation happened 40 years ago. To prove my point, I am going to watch Bon Jovi in Sydney, because I want my kids to experience it.

Classic Rock Rules Part II

On July 19, 2013, Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band played a show in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The venue was the MTS Centre. The capacity of the venue is 8,397. The attendance was 8,397. Total Gross sales for the night was $724,948. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $107.15 and $63.31.

Talk about turning the page. What a comeback from the man with the golden voice? Thank Metallica for their cover of “Turn The Page” in 1998. The Metallica version made Bob Seger cool with the metal community and who can forget the Metallica clip with Ginger Lynn.

Another turning point for Bob Seger’s comeback was 3 Doors Down and heir song “Landing In London” that Bob Seger sang on.

Once “Landing In London” came out in 2005, interest in Bob Seger was renewed. It was followed by a new album in 2006 and a few Greatest Hits / Live packages in between.

Guess what else is happening in the world of Bob Seger? A new album is on its way. Isn’t that like the old guard. He is hot at the moment so let’s release a new album. Why don’t the people that advise Seger release a new song first and see how it resonates with the public before dropping a slab of them.

Classic Rock III

On July 2, 2013, Alice Cooper played a show at South Bend, Indiana. The venue was Morris Performing Arts Center. The capacity of the venue is 2,552. The attendance was 1,662. Total Gross sales for the night was $77,967. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $69.50 and $39.50.

This is Alice Cooper fresh from his run with Marilyn Manson that ended in June. This show was billed as “An Evening With Alice Cooper” and it was his first show in South Bend in 4 years. There is still juice in the tank of a cultural icon.

On July 28, 2013, Ted Nugent and Laura Wilde played a show in Nashville, Tennessee. The venue was the Ryman Auditorium. The capacity of the venue is 2,037. The attendance was 1,254. Total Gross sales for the night was $67,893. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $59.50 and $39.50.

Just like Alice Cooper, Ted was coming off a Classic Rock run with REO Speedwagon and Styx. As with Alice, there is still life left in our favourite gun toting / wildlife hunter.

Wish they would take a leaf out of the Black Star Riders playbook? Their album, “All Hell Breaks Loose” is a great slab of classic rock songs. I was always a fan of Rick Warwick from The Almighty days so it was great to hear him rocking out again with a Phil Lynott swagger this time around, instead of a Brian Johnson swagger.

What Does A Grammy Award or Nomination Mean in 2013?

Halestorm (along with Age Of Days) played a show on June 26, 2013 at Edmonton, Alberta. The venue was the Starlite Room. The capacity of the venue was 700. The attendance was 492 and the total gross sales for the night was $12,778. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $27.61 and $24.76.

Halestorm are still paying their dues. The Grammy win means nothing to today’s music public. The record labels that pay the entry fee are the ones that can compete. It’s got nothing to do with public opinion.

Hell, Dream Theater and Megadeth were nominated for Grammies last year and their current albums can’t move past the 100,000 mark in sales. If the music is great it will sell itself.

Both Dream Theater and Megadeth should look up the Wikipedia entry of “Instant Karma” from John Lennon.
“It ranks as one of the fastest-released songs in pop music history, recorded at London’s Abbey Road Studios the same day it was written, and arriving in stores only ten days later. Lennon remarked to the press, he “wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch, and we’re putting it out for dinner.”

This is what both bands need to be doing. Writing some new material ASAP. Forgot about the next album or the tour coming up and go back into the studio and churn a couple of songs out. Surprise us for Christmas.

Alice In Chains is still powerful

On July 11, 2013, Alice In Chains played a show in London, Ontario, Canada. The venue was Budweiser Gardens. The capacity of the venue is 5,248. The attendance was 4,801. Total Gross sales for the night was $237,558. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $56.57 and $30.90.

I can’t say I am a fan of the new Alice In Chains album. It’s pedestrian. However the fans are there. If they are there because of the old or the new or both, it doesn’t matter. The band is a quarter of a million per show band.

Power Metal Rules In Europe

On April 18, 2013, Helloween, Gamma Ray and Shadowside played a Power Metal feast in Hamburg, Germany. The venue was the Docks. The capacity of the venue is 1,500. The attendance was 1,171. Total Gross sales for the night was $51,299. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $52.52 and $43.33.

You have German bands playing in Germany. Enough said. The thing with power metal bands is that they know the size of their audience. You won’t see them playing venues larger than the above size. Maybe 3000 max. it is a niche and it has a hard core and devoted fan base. They even have power metal outdoor festivals where fans even get dressed up in medieval clothing and enact sword fights and so forth.

This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where they have no promotion in the large US market. This is a good indication of bands still carving out a living in a time where people download music illegally or stream it legally.

The Black Crowes still do good business

On July 19, 2013, The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and The London Souls played a show in Nashville, Tennesse. The venue was the Woods Amphitheater at Fontanel. The capacity of the venue is 4,056. The attendance was 3,273. Total Gross sales for the night was $215,641. There was two tiers of ticket prices ranging from $115 and $49.50.

I watched The Black Crowes at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre on April 1, 2008. The venue had less than a thousand people in attendance in a venue that has a capacity of around 10,000, so the stage was moved heaps forward to accommodate for the smaller audience.

It was the best show I saw. They jammed, they extended songs and just had fun. Rich Robinson was the sheriff. He was the one they all looked too for when the jam starts and when the jam ends.

That is a sign of a true champion. The night before, they played to a sold out Sydney audience 70 minutes away. They could have chucked a hissy fit at the small turn out for the Wollongong show, however they didn’t. They came out and they rocked.

There is plenty of money available in music and the more people that have access to your recorded music means more fans that could turn into customers.

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

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival (with Machine Head and Twisted Sister)

There is an interview with Jay Jay French that is doing the rounds at digiday. In the first question, he is asked what tips he would offer young bands today.

“Alter your expectations, because people make the wrong expectations. We adapted our expectations over the years, consistently, and that’s how we survived.”

Classy words and very simple.

Expectations (Alter + Adapt) = Survival

So what do all of our favourite bands/artists keep on doing? They keep on spending a lot of time writing and recording 10 to 15 songs, just so they can group them together and release them as an album. This “expectation” worked once upon a time. However it is not working today. Metal artists are lucky that metal fans are loyal and that we still purchase the “album.”

Of course exceptions exist, and it only works if all the songs are undeniable.

Machine Head hit the nail on the head with “Unto The Locust”. Seven tracks that will stand the test of time.  For the new album, 5 song titles have been made available and a few more are in progress. So I think it is safe to assume that we will be getting another 7 to 8 tracks as a long player. Instead of providing an album with the “expected” 10 to 12 tracks, Machine Head are focusing on quality instead of quantity. Altering and adapting.

Did “Unto The Locust” set the sales figures alight? Of course not. It did what it needed to do. It satisfied the hardcore audience of Machine Head. Now if metal bands want to reach the 500,000 to 1,000,000 sales targets then they need to have that undeniable crossover song.

Imagine if Machine Head comes out with their own Crazy Train, Enter Sandman, Symphony Of Destruction or Holy Diver. A song like that will satisfy their hard core fan base and it will also satisfy a lot of other people in the hard rock, power metal, heavy metal, progressive and even pop rock genres.

Check out the following comment from Anita Elberse and her book “Blockbusters: Hit-Making, Risk-Taking, And The Big Business Of Entertainment”. It is probably the best advice that any artist will get.

“…out of a total of 870,000 albums that sold at least one copy in 2011, 13 album titles sold more than a million copies each, together accounting for 19 million copies sold. That’s 0.001 percent of all titles accounting for 7 percent of sales. The top 1,000 albums generated about half of all the sales, and the top 10,000 albums around 80 percent of sales. Deep in the tail, 513,000 titles or nearly 60 percent of the assortment, sold fewer than 10 copies each, together making up half a percent of total sales.”

513,000 album titles sold fewer than 10 copies each. So if you are one of those 513,000 bands that sold less than 10 copies, what do you do?

You obviously expected a better return on your investment. A lot of artists will give up, a lot of bands will break up and then there will be a small percentage who will adapt and alter their expectations. Remember, I have always said that in order to be successful, you need to outlast the competition.

What about singles? I have been saying for a long time to anyone who listens that we live in a single world. As soon as fans got the option to cherry pick what they like, the “tracks” became the rock stars instead of the album. The below is from the same book written by Anita Elberse.

“In 2011, 102 tracks sold more than a million units each, accounting for 15 percent of total sales. That is not a typo: 0.00001 percent of the eight million tracks sold that year generated almost a sixth of all sales. It is hard to overstate the importance of those few blockbusters in the head of the curve. And the trend suggests that hits are gaining in relevance. In 2007, 36 tracks each sold more than a million copies, together these tracks accounted for 7 percent of total market volume. In 2009, 79 tracks reached that milestone; together they make up 12 percent of the sales volume.”

If the above statement doesn’t make the artist realise that we are living in a singles world, then those artists need to re-evaluate their place in the music world. Even Robb Flynn stated in his most recent post that he doesn’t feel like they have written the definitive track like “Halo” and “Locust” for the new album.

In relation to Twisted Sister, the band kept on evolving over a 10 year period and by 1984, with the rise of MTV, the timing was right for them to take full advantage of it. However for Twisted Sister, the success proved nasty as Jay Jay explains;

“The downside of it is we exploded so fast that – even though the band had been together 11 years at that point – the heat of the immense popularity, the worldwide success put so much pressure on the band. The band couldn’t sustain itself and eventually collapsed.”

Dee Snider joined Jay Jay French and Eddie Ojeda in 1976. Jay Jay on the other hand was at it since 1972. He finally found success in 1984. Twelve years slugging it out. Twelve years of rejection and broken promises. Do any of the new artists today have that same kind of thick skin? Do they have the longevity to stick it out. To succeed in the music business, you need to outlast the competition and the competition these days is fierce for listener’s attention.

This is what Metallica has done. This is what Machine Head has done. This is what Motley Crue has done. They are outlasting the competition. They are adapting and evolving.

 

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