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

Second Comings

Music history is littered with artists having second or even third careers after their original claim to fame band splintered.

In some cases, artists re-invent themselves and the music they write. In other cases, artists just continue to write what they normally write, in the same genre and experience a second coming.

Like David Grohl and his little pet project called “The Foo Fighters” which today is one of the biggest rock bands around. Like, Ozzy Osbourne who went from Black Sabbath to a solo career and surrounded himself with excellent songwriters in Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde and the mighty Lemmy Kilmister. Like Rob Trujilo who went from Suicidal Tendancies to Ozzy Osbourne to Metallica. Like Nikki Sixx who did Motley Crue and Sixx A.M at the same time and now is exclusively focusing on Sixx AM.

Dave Mustaine from Metallica to Megadeth
Mustaine is one of the many unsung heroes who pushed thrash metal guitar playing to new levels. His influence on Metallica cannot be underestimated. The songs “Call Of Ktulu”, “Ride The Lightning”, “Phantom Lord” and “Metal Militia” all brought in a certain technicality to the thrash world that was different from just playing metal at break neck speeds. The foundations that these songs set up would reach its zenith with the “…And Justice For All” album for Metallica and with Megadeth, he would reach that lofty height with the classic “Rust In Peace”. The first true Metallica album for me without any strands of influence from Mustaine is their biggest one to date, “1991’s self-titled “Black” album.

If Metallica are recognised as Hall of Famers, then Dave Mustaine is a must to be included on his own merits and technical song writing contribution to the world of thrash metal.

Marc Tremonti from Creed to Alter Bridge to Tremonti
Tremonti is a guitar hero, as good as any of the Eighties shredders. He had multi-platinum success with Creed, an act that was devoid of guitar solos and lumped in with the Nu-Metal, Alternative Rock scene. It brought out the haters, jealous that a person who could shred, didn’t shred. In the end, people live and breathe on the songs they write, not on the guitar solos they write and Tremonti has built a consistent legacy. The pinnacle of his career in my eyes would be when his second act, Alter Bridge played the Wembley Arena.

Here is a band that doesn’t have any platinum awards. In the past only platinum acts would be booked to play the Wembley Arena. It goes to show if people have access to your music, they will pay eventually. Spotify and streaming in general is very popular in the UK, so is it any surprise that Alter Bridge sold out the Wembley Arena.

Amir Derakh from Rough Cutt to Orgy to various soundtracks to guitar designer and Producer
This re-invention or second coming is one of the more special ones. In the majority of cases, artists go from one band to another and play the same style of music within the same era. In this case, Amir went from a hard rock band into an alternative industrial metal band.

“Rough Cutt” was a hard rock pet project by Wendy Dio. Even Ronnie appeared as a co-writer on a few songs. They had Tom Allom and Jack Douglas produce album number 1 and number 2 respectively, but they never caught on. Shortino would leave to join Quiet Riot and that would be the end of the band.

Many years later the industrial rock band Orgy would break through.

Apart from Orgy and Rough Cutt, he was involved in releases by Coal Chamber, Spineshank, Danzig, Julien-K and Dead By Sunrise. From a soundtrack point of view, Amir has been involved with Strangeland, Bridge Of Chucky, Scream 3, Zoolander, Freaky Friday, Sonic Heroes, Transformers, Underworld and many others. Like Marc Ferrari, he never was on the cover of magazines, but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t successful in what he did. He’s had a longer career in the music business than a lot of the platinum stars of the Eighties.

Jack Blades from Rubicon to Night Ranger to Damn Yankees to Shaw/Blades to a solo career, back to Night Ranger and Revolution Saints
Tommy Shaw from Styx to a solo career to Damn Yankees to Shaw/Blades to a solo career and back to Styx
Ted Nugent from The Amboy Dukes to a solo career to Damn Yankees and back to a solo career

Damn Yankees were huge. As a super group, they really lived up to the hype and the name. It was no frills classic rock, with a modern pop twist. It was removed from the hair and glam metal at the time. It was a project that was able to stand on its own two feet and build on the foundations of the three creative forces in the group.

There is no escaping Jack Blades commitment to having a career in the music business. He tasted limited success with Rubicon in the 70’s, hit MTV stardom with Night Ranger in the early 80’s and by the late 80’s and early 90’s, he furthered his career with Damn Yankees. Add to that, the song writing partnership he struck up with Tommy Shaw. Their songs would grace albums from Aerosmith, Vince Neil, Ozzy Osbourne and Cher.

The mighty Nuge is a constant on the live circuit. That is how he made his money in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties and that is how he is still making his money. You don’t see the Nuge worry about piracy. As far as he is concerned, the more people who hear his music equals a bigger pool of people who could come to his shows.

Joe Leste from Bang Tango to Beautiful Creatures
DJ Ashba from Bullet Boys to Beautiful Creatures to Sixx A.M. and Guns N Roses live guitarist

Joe Leste had minor success with “Someone Like You” from Bang Tango’s debut album “Psycho Café”. “Dancin’ On Coals” was a much better album, but it just didn’t sell. By 1995, the band split up. By 1999, Joe Leste formed Beautiful Creatures with DJ Ashba and had the same level of success as he did with Bang Tango. From 2003, Bang Tango is still going with a revolving door of musicians. There is actually a Bang Tango movie coming out or it’s already out.

Beautiful Creatures claim to fame is the licensing of their songs to various movies and television shows, like Smallville and Sons Of Anarchy. They had a major label deal with Warner Bros. Then the merger happened between Time Warner and AOL and Beautiful Creatures suddenly had no record deal.

DJ Ashba on the other hand has gone on to bigger and better things. He was a solo artist to begin with, then he joined Bullet Boys in the late nineties, when no one even cared if the band existed. Then he was in Beautiful Creatures for two years, went solo and hooked up with Nikki Sixx. Along with James Michael, they have become a force to be reckoned with in the song writing world. They have written songs for Marion Raven, Drowning Pool, the whole “Saints Of Los Angeles” album, James Durbin, The Last Vegas plus their own project Sixx A.M. Add to the list a lucrative spot in Guns N Roses as one of their live guitarists and you can see why life is good for DJ Ashba.

There are many more who have changed and moved on to greater things or long careers. Some others that come to mind quickly are;

John Sykes went from Tygers Of Pan Tang to Thin Lizzy to Whitesnake to Blue Murder to Sykes to a Thin Lizzy tribute band and back to a solo career.

Ronnie James Dio went from Elf to Rainbow to Black Sabbath to a solo career and back to Black Sabbath, which would morph into Heaven And Hell.

Vivian Campbell went from Savage to Dio to Whitesnake to Def Leppard.

Gary Moore went from Thin Lizzy to a solo career.

Slash went from Guns N Roses to Slash’s Snakepit to Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and now back to Guns N Roses.

George Lynch went from Dokken to Lynch Mob to George Lynch to Lynch/Pilson to Sweet and Lynch to Shadowtrain to Souls Of We and always stepping back into the Lynch Mob scene.

There are many more.

This could come as a shock to all of the kids forming bands and recording songs in their own studios. There is a pretty good chance that the people you are making music with right now, will not be the same people you will make music with, years later. That’s just how it the music business rolls.

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A to Z of Making It, Music, Unsung Heroes

Lifers

If you want to have a career in the music business “Lifer” is a term that you need to get used to. You need to be in it for life.

Look at Mike Portnoy. He is a lifer. He lives and breathes music. In his youth, he worked in a record shop and substituted his pay for records. It shows his life commitment to music. Since December 2010, he has pushed out new music on a consistent basis and he has toured non-stop behind that new music. I can’t say I like everything from the bands that Portnoy is involved in, however he understands the current music business. And as much as the metal and rock bands don’t like it, the music recording business is not about releasing an album of 10 songs or more every two years and then touring behind it.

The recording business is about releasing music consistently. Capturing that spontaneity. When music is too thought out it loses its soul. It becomes processed. Even though I am not a big fan of “The Winery Dogs”, I do appreciate the soul of the songs, that loose feeling that anything could happen. This brings to mind a quote from Kevin Shirley who was the producer on the Dream Theater “Falling Into Infinity” album. He loved the original solo take that John Petrucci did for the song “Hollow Years” because it had this spontaneous feeling to it that fit the mood of the song. However Petrucci didn’t like it because it wasn’t precise enough and of course, Petrucci ended up re-doing the solo section to make it precise.

Going back to Portnoy, in 2011 he was involved in the Adrenaline Mob EP, the Neal Morse “Testimony 2” album as well as a tribute album to The Beatles (with Paul Gilbert, Neal Morse, and Kasim Sulton) called “Yellow Matter Custard – One More Night in New York City”.

2012 saw the release of the Adrenaline Mob album “Omertà”, the Flying Colors self-titled debut album as well as another Neal Morse album called “Momentum”.

2013 saw the release of a covers album from Adrenaline Mob called “Covertà”, as well as the self-titled debut from The Winery Dogs. In addition, live releases came out from the “Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine and Sherinian” 2012 tour called “Live In Tokyo” as well as the Flying Colors 2012 European tour called “Live in Europe”.

2014 will see a new Transatlantic album called “Kaleidoscope” as well as the new BigElf album that Portnoy played drums on called “Into The Maelstrom”. Also in the pipework’s is a new Flying Colors album and a live release from “The Winery Dogs”.

In amongst all the studio time of the official releases, Portnoy was on the road, touring. That is a lifer to me. He implored Damon Fox from Bigelf to carry on when he thought about throwing in the towel and even stepped up to the plate to play drums. That is a lifer inspiring another musician to also become a lifer. It’s contagious.

What about bassist, Marco Mendoza? Who you say?

The first time I heard Marco was on the Blue Murder album “Nothin But Trouble” released in 1993. He then fell in with John Sykes, appearing on “Screaming Blue Murder” in 1994 and then on John Sykes’s solo album in 1995 called “Out Of My Tree.” He also appeared on the 1997 albums “Loveland” and “20th Century Heartache” and “Nuclear Cowboy” released in 2000. That year also saw a Thin Lizzy (this is the version that John Sykes put together in 1994,with guitarist Scott Gorham, keyboard player Darren Wharton and drummer Brian Downey. After a few one-off concerts, the band toured more consistently from 1996 until 2000, with Downey being replaced by Tommy Aldridge) live release called “One Night Only” as well as his involvement with David Coverdale’s solo album “Into The Light.”

Real musicians are lifers. He hasn’t had that hit single or appeared on that hit album, but that doesn’t make Marco any less successful.

He spent time with Ted Nugent, went back to John Sykes, then jumped ship to Whitesnake, while still continuing with the John Sykes Thin Lizzy project up until 2009. That project then became Black Star Riders. In between he appeared in Lynch Mob and their Smoke and Mirrors album in 2009. He is going to tour Australia with the band “The Dead Daises” led by former Noiseworks vocalist Jon Stevens.

Would you say that Marco Mendoza has been successful at his music career?

Marco has played with two of my biggest guitar influences in John Sykes and George Lynch. He is a great vocalist and from watching the live Whitesnake DVD from 2006, he hits those highs that Glenn Hughes did in “Burn”.

He has never been without a decent sized gig and if he is, he has his little solo band and his jazz three-piece project that play the bars and the clubs. The bottom line is that he is working non-stop. He is a lifer when it comes to music. That is why he is still around. While record labels whine about the lack of recorded sales in a society where streaming has won the war, Marco is the definition of the long hard slog to have a musical career. A lifer. Excellence is the key. That is why he is in demand. He fits in well, is professional and he doesn’t have a social media presence.

You want a career in music, prepare to be a lifer.

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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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The State Of Heavy Metal

There it is again. Heavy metal. It doesn’t matter how many times the labels tried to kill it, mainstream it or commercialize it, Heavy Metal has remained consistent from when it began. Whenever pop music becomes pretentious, heavy metal rises up as an alternative answer.

What does the term “heavy metal” mean?

Black Sabbath started something in 1969 in the UK. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin started something on the hard rock front. In the U.S you had Kiss, Styx, Ted Nugent, Journey. In Australia, you had a pub rock band called AC/DC. Progressive Rock became a force to be reckoned with on the backs of Pink Floyd, ELP, Genesis and Yes.

By the mid Seventies, disco, punk and new wave became the darlings of the scene and heavy metal and all forms of rock went underground again, waiting for the day to rise again.

Then came the New Wave of British Heavy Metal between 1979 and 1983. At the same time, hard rock, glam metal and speed metal roared out of the Los Angeles and San Francisco scene. Think Motley Crue, Ratt, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer.

When heavy metal and hard rock drops off the mainstream scene, it is never gone for long. Heavy Metal is the answer to all things corrupt. It is the soundtrack.

Typically most metal fans come from working-class homes or changed family dynamics. According to a recent study, all us metal heads must have low self-esteem, because that is why we listen to metal music.

The mainstream always ignored metal music, seeing it as too dumb. Of course, when a band breaks through, the mainstream are the first group of media outlets to jump on the wagon. Remember Metallica. Ignored by the mainstream completely. The only mainstream press they got was the sad and tragic death of Cliff Burton. Then the Black album comes out and it is undeniable. It’s a juggernaut and everyone wanted to be a part of it.

So here is the list of the current state of heavy metal.

CLASSIC EVERYTHING

Rush – enough said. Move on.

AC/DC – enough said times two.

CLASSIC METAL

Iron Maiden – they need another great album like “Brave New World” soon or they will be playing to smaller and smaller audiences with each tour.

Metallica – they need to start making better decisions and they need to release new music. Look at their decision-making process. A project with Lou Reed (RIP) that just didn’t connect with the fan bases of each party involved and an $18 million dud of a movie. In relation to new music, they can only go back to the same market place year after year before the fans get burned on it.

Megadeth – Dave Mustaine said on “The Metal Show” that his top five Megadeth albums are “Countdown To Extinction”, “Rust In Peace”, “Peace Sells”, “So Far So Good So What” and “Killing Is My Business”. He needs to have a current album in that Top 5.

Slayer – are finished in relation to new music without Jeff Hanneman. He was the main songwriter in Slayer, full stop. To hear Kerry King saying that if the Jeff Hanneman music in the archives is not good, it will be not used is a load of B.S. Who made Kerry King the gatekeeper?

Judas Priest – is not Judas Priest anymore. It’s all about the dollars.

Black Sabbath – is all about the last paycheck. Anyone remember the recent album? Name me the whole track list without Googling it. I bet if i asked you to name me the whole track list on “Paranoid” or “Heaven And Hell” I would get an answer.

Pantera – lets hope that no one is stupid enough to reform Pantera with a “guitarist” paying tribute to Dimebag. Stick to your guns Vinnie. Pantera died completely when Dimebag died.

CLASSIC ROCK

Led Zeppelin is still big business in the market place. That is what the mighty Zep has become. A Corporate entity.

Pink Floyd are on hiatus however Roger Waters is still doing the rounds. He is the real deal anyway.

Motley Crue have gone back to the same market places year after year since 2008. The fans are getting burnt on this grab for cash as no new music has been forthcoming expect for the song “Sex”. The movie and the farewell tour are constantly dropped to the public.

Deep Purple should call it a day. They are out of ideas and inspiration.

Styx, Journey, Toto and Night Ranger are shadows of their former selves, doing enough to make a living in the current music business, but out of touch of what the music business fans want from their artists today. Which is a direct line, a connection.

THRASH/GROOVE METAL

Machine Head is the leader in this group. In Robb Flynn, they have a work horse of epic proportions who has the grit to see things through.

Trivium are real contenders. Say what you will about them, one thing is clear; they are not afraid to try new shit out and take risks.

METAL (all styles)

Avenged Sevenfold and Five Finger Death Punch lead this group. They are ticking all the boxes. They have the sales on the board and both are part of the public conversation.

Bullet For My Valentine – have a great album in them. Can they write it?

Stone Sour – should have released one album instead of two.

Sevendust – I love them and the new album was a welcomed return to form.

Disturbed – The Device album had the same impact as the last Disturbed album. Do they still have a place in the Metal world?

Heartist – could be the next big thing or they could crash and burn with their next album as now they have a record label A&R department in their house.

ROCK (all styles)

Shinedown are the new ROCK GODS. Volbeat are not that far behind with Black Veil Brides and Skillet as decent contenders.

Eve To Adam – released a great rock album but no one has heard it.

Buckcherry – veterans of the scene and play to a niche.

Thirty Seconds To Mars – took too long to release a good album. If you are going to take 4 years between releases, you need to release a great album.

Airbourne – fill the AC/DC void when AC/DC is on hiatus.

Alter Bridge – are an experienced team that deliver consistently.

One Less Reason – great music, great songs however if people buy a physical product from them, they need to deliver.

10 Years – a great fan funded release in 2012. Now they need to make some hard decisions. Do they go the fan funded route again or do they seek to get a deal or something entirely different.

DO IT YOURSELF ROCK

Digital Summer – they run their band as a company that puts money back into the band and they still hold down jobs that gives them money for living.

Burnside – released a great album that no one has heard.

Vaudeville – another band that released a great album.

SUPER GROUP

The Night Flight Orchestra – If you haven’t heard “Internal Affairs” from 2012 you need to. TNFO is made up of melodic death metal bands playing classic rock and metal.

PROGRESSIVE METAL/ROCK

Tool – it’s going to be an event when the new Tool album comes out. Is it too late? Time will tell.

Coheed and Cambria – can’t do nothing wrong currently. Excellent double releases, plus great fan perks.

Dream Theater – are doing their best to maintain the success they achieved 10 years ago. Need a great album otherwise it’s bye bye.

TesseracT, Protest The Hero and Periphery are the new leaders of Progressive Music.

Today I Caught The Plague, Sound of Contact, Op Shop, Scale The Summit and Lizzard are rookies to take notice off.

METALCORE (MELODIC DEATH METAL)

Killswitch Engage are firing on all guns.

In Flames need to bring out new music.

All That Remains needs to head back to the studio.

The rest of the bands in this movement need a re-think.

SYMPHONIC METAL/ROCK

Within Temptation – enough said

DEATH METAL

Lamb of God – they are angry and they are pissed off. A bullshit murder trial and banned in a South East Asian country by ignorant pricks.

SHOCK

One final mention; “Du, Du Hast, Du Hast mish a fraud.” Rammstein has a dicka, so let’s get together, what is the problem?

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

The Heart Beat of True Popularity Begins From Unpopular Positions

The kids of today are looking for the new and the different, while they are discovering the past with the help of their parents. If artists don’t have people dropping their jaws these days, chances are they are not going to last.

With this in mind, it got me thinking about Jeff Watson and his time in Night Ranger, along with that jaw dropping eight finger tapping technique.

In 1983, Night Ranger went from an opening act to a headlining act with the release of their second album “Midnight Madness” album.

I can’t believe that it is not on Spotify for me to officially stream, however if I go onto YouTube it is available in its entirety, to be streamed unofficially.

The band at the time was made up of Jack Blades – Bass/Lead vocals, Jeff Watson – Guitars/Keyboards, Brad Gillis – Guitars, Alan Fitzgerald – Keyboards and Kelly Keagy – Drums/Lead vocals.

Jack Blades once said that “Sister Christian” and the release of Midnight Madness was the band’s pinnacle moment.

So what happened.

Let’s look at Jack Blades first. His first band was called “The Nomads” and it goes back to 1966. He work with “Sly and The Family Stone” as a songwriter and experienced fame with funk rockers “Rubicon” in 1978 along with Brad Gillis.

By 1979, the band was no more. When “Rubicon” broke up, Kelly Keagy was their touring drummer. The trio then formed the band Stereo.

Stereo then ceased to be when a roommate of Blades called Alan Fitzgerald (bassist for Montrose, keyboardist for Sammy Hagar) suggested that they form a rock band. Alan knew a virtuoso guitarist called Jeff Watson from Sacramento, and with Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy coming over from Stereo, the band Ranger was formed in 1980. Due to a naming dispute, the name changed from Ranger to Night Ranger.

When Night Ranger broke up in 1989, Blades received a call from John Kalodner, then at Geffen Records. Kalodner mentioned to Blades that Tommy Shaw and Ted Nugent are working on songs in New York, but something was missing. Kalodner thought that Blades would be a good addition to the equation. From one super group to another super group.

Anyway looking at Jack Blades, his year zero as a composer began in the “seventies”. His greatest work according to himself, happened in 1983 with “Midnight Madness”, which took place 17 years from when he joined his first band. From a Night Ranger perspective, it took the band three years to compose their greatest masterpiece from when they formed in 1980.

Next up you have Brad Gillis.

Gillis will always be remembered for replacing Randy Rhoads in Ozzy Osbourne’s band immediately after Rhoads’ death in 1982. At the time, Night Ranger was still an unknown band from California. When Night Ranger got together in 1980, they focused solely on getting a major label deal instead of playing live.

In the interim, Gillis had a side project called “Alameda All Stars” that played the local clubs for extra cash. During one of those gigs, Preston Thrall, the brother of Pat Thrall was in attendance. After seeing Gillis tear up the stage covering a few Ozzy/Rhoads era songs, he mentioned to Gillis that he should audition.

For the history buffs, Preston Thrall told his brother Pat Thrall about Brad Gillis. Of course, Pat Thrall knew current Ozzy drummer Tommy Aldridge as they played together in the Pat Travers band. So Pat Thrall informs Tommy Aldridge and Aldridge them informs Sharon. At the time Ozzy was working with Bernie Tormé as an interim player.

In the end, Gillis didn’t feel that Ozzy’s band was the best fit for him. He saw another L.A band, Quiet Riot, get a record deal, and when he saw Rudy Sarzo leave to go back to Quiet Riot, Gillis left Ozzy as well, to go back to Night Ranger.

Jeff Watson is the X-factor here. While Brad Gillis is a good guitar player and Jack Blades gave the band it’s crossover rock appeal, Jeff Watson was the shredder that the band needed, which in turn gave the band some serious metal cred. Any person that transposes a piano piece he wrote to the guitar and plays it tapped with eight fingers, deserves a trophy in the Shred Hall Of Fame.

In my opinion Jeff lives in the upper level of guitar circles and his playing/technique is held in high regard. He was born and raised in Fair Oaks (Sacramento) California and started to play the guitar when he was seven.

He took it seriously when he finished high school and got a job at a local music store, where he launched The Jeff Watson Band. Eric Martin (from future Mr Big fame) was the first of three singers the band had. The band got a decent amount of radio airplay as the songs were being produced by both Alan Fitzgerald and Ronnie Montrose. The Jeff Watson Band even opened up for Sammy Hagar, Heart and Ted Nugent. It was while producing “The Jeff Watson Band” that Alan Fitzgerald decided to include Jeff Watson in any new project that he would be involved in.

Even though Jeff Watson doesn’t have a lot of song writing credits on “Midnight Madness”, his influence is still heard years after due to the lead breaks and the Eight Finger Tapping Technique.

Kelly Keagy started doing the club circuit in the Seventies and eventually entered the world of Jack Blades and Brad Gillis as a touring drummer for “Rubicon”.

Alan Fitzgerald goes back to 1974, when he played bass in the band Montrose. He went on to play keyboard for Sammy Hagar’s solo releases and was rooming with Jack Blades.

When “Midnight Madness” came out, Jack Blades was 29, Brad Gillis was 26, Jeff Watson was 27, Kelly Keagy was 31 and Alan Fitzgerald was 34. All of the members had paid their dues in other bands since the start of the Seventies. In other words they were seasoned. Music was all they had. There was no fall back position. There was no safety net or a plan B. It was all or nothing.

In a way, you could call Night Ranger a pseudo supergroup. Jack Blades, Brad Gillis and Kelly Keagy came from Rubicon. Alan Fitzgerald came from Montrose, Gamma and Sammy Hagar’s solo band. Jeff Watson came from his own solo band, that had songs on radio and production from Ronnie Montrose.

The album kicks off with the Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “(You Can Still) Rock in America”. How do you follow-up this song?

You don’t.

You change tact and go into the melodic AOR Rock format, popularised by Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx. There is no point in trying to re-write a bona fide classic.

Two Jack Blades compositions come next in “Rumours In The Air” and “Why Does Love Have to Change”. That guitar intro in “Rumours In The Air” is smoking and the keyboard call to arms lead break after the first chorus shows that Fitzgerald wasn’t there just to play chords.

Side 1 ends with the anthem “Sister Christian”. The song is composed by Kelly Keagy. This is the era of the LP, when sequencing mattered. When the song finished it made you want to turn the LP over, so that you hear what was on the other side.

Side 2 opens up with two Jack Blades compositions in “Touch of Madness” and “Passion Play”. What a way to kick it off, with the tinker box intro that to be honest was used to maximum effect by Ozzy Osbourne on the song “Mr Tinkertrain”.

Not as strong as Side 1, up next was the Jack Blades, Alan Fitzgerald and Brad Gillis composition” When You Close Your Eyes”. A pure slice of melodic AOR rock.

The Jack Blades and Brad Gillis composition “Chippin’ Away” is next and the album closes with the Jack Blades, Kelly Keagy and Jeff Watson track “Let Him Run”.

Being different was a uniqueness when I was growing up. That was the space the heavy metal and rock musicians occupied.

It was an us vs. them mentality. The “Them” was always a moving target. It could have been teachers, parents, police officers, neighbours or anyone else that upset the status quo for the day.

The end of Night Ranger happened with the success of “Midnight Madness.” Suddenly, the band was on the radar of the record label. The label wanted another “Midnight Madness” so they could capitalise on the cash. It came in “7 Wishes”. Then the label wanted another “Midnight Madness” and it came in “Big Life.” 

The band went from outcasts and creating something new, to a maintenance model of new music, purely designed to earn maximum profits.

Music is best when it’s created and led by the outcasts, those artists that sit on the fringes. Record Labels and suits believe they know best, because all they care about is profits. Night Ranger sat on the fringes for “Dawn Patrol” and for the writing of “Midnight Madness”. 

Even Quiet Riot sat on the fringes. Then it all exploded with “Metal Health” in 1983. It took everyone by surprise. Then the money started to roll in from the large record label advances. Then the bands started to go on massive arena tours.

Suddenly, the bands are afraid to lose friends. Suddenly, the bands are afraid to stand out. The key is to be different AND liked.

Look at the now. Nothing sounded like Volbeat’s “Beyond Hell Above Heaven” previously but it was a huge hit. Protest The Hero are all twisted with their insane progessive songs, but they are embraced by a hard-core fan base that gave the band over $300K to get their next album done..

There is a quote that I remember from Adlai E. Stevenson that goes something like; 

“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”

Put that quote in a musical context. All great music has resulted from people who lived as casts, who had unpopular positions, who wrote music because they wanted to write music, not because they wanted to make millions.

That is where the heart beat of true popularity begins.

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

Where are the new Classic Rock heroes?

The main classic rock bands were all about individuality. The Eagles, Boston, Styx, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Rush, Bad Company, Foreigner, Aerosmith and Cheap Trick all had a unique sound. 

The Eighties gave us Metallica, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, U2, Duran Duran, AC/DC, Journey, Whitesnake, Van Halen (and yes i know that some of these bands formed in the seventies), Aerosmith again and Foreigner.

Look at the list, Metallica played fast speed metal that was labelled thrash, Motley Crue played a hybrid version of pop, punk, rock and metal. Van Halen wrote the book on the nuclear band, Guns N Roses rewrote the seventies classic rock period with a dash of punk and Def Leppard merged Queen, with Bowie with Mott The Hoople with their NWOBM leanings into a pop rock format. Each band spawned thousands of imitators.

Today, all the young bands want to be a member of the same club. Metalcore is one club that is completing suicide on itself. Each year, thousands of bands come out that sound the same as the original bands that came before it.

Modern Rock is another genre that is suffering from over saturation. Where is the uniqueness. The reason why Imagine Dragons are at the top of the food chain is that they had that uniqueness that separated them from the pack.

What is the difference between Pop Evil, Young Guns, You Me At Six, The New Black, The Maine, Tango Down, Smile Empty Soul, Red Line Chemistry, Redlight King, Pillar, Plan Three, Projected, Nonpoint, Three Doors Down, My Darkest Days, Rev Theory, Three Days Grace, Eye Empire, Egypt Central, Emphatic and so on? Absolutely nothing is the answer.

All the young uns want is to be a member of the club however individuality is the key to creating everlasting art. Don’t shun your individuality. Dream Theater stayed true to themselves at a time when grunge, industrial and nu metal ruled the mainstream. Tool came through on their terms and in the words of Frank Sinatra, they did it their way.

Today’s world has everybody Tweeting and Facebooking just to be liked. Where is the edge of the Classic Rock era?

Dave Mustaine and Ted Nugent have an opinion and everyone has a knee-jerk reaction to it.

Rolling Stone is coping a lot of flak for their cover of the Boston Bomber. What did the outburst of David Draiman or Nikki Sixx or any other celebrity that wanted to join the anti-Rolling Stone club do to change the matter? Nothing.

If anything they brought more attention to the Rolling Stone article. It’s the Streisand Effect all over again. However at least they are going out there and stating an opinion. Did anyone come out and say that the Rolling Stone cover was cool?

Magazines like artists live in the culture of being paid right now. Do the people that work for Rolling Stone magazine care if the magazine is still around in 12 months’ time? Of course not. They will dust themselves off and get another job.

Everybody’s got their own agenda. When I read a tweet or a post from a celebrity, I evaluate where they are coming from as opposed to accepting it as truth. Has anyone seen a news story that says piracy doesn’t hurt sales?

A lot of research has come out from various Universities that support this argument. Instead we get the RIAA/MPAA piracy stats banded about on major television, with no information as to where those numbers come from. Why? The major televisions are owned by the giant copyright monopoly organisations.

Another important distinction from today’s artists and the Classic Rock era artists is that no one can say no to the money. Rush could have recorded a mainstream radio friendly album in 1976 just to please the record label. Instead they recorded 2112, an album that set up a very lucrative future for Rush and an album that made the record label very nervous when they heard it. As guitarist Alex Lifeson has stated in numerous interviews, 2112 set up a career for Rush.

Egypt Central wanted to be a member of the Modern Rock club and have disbanded. Three Days Grace were a member of the Modern Rock club and lost their vocalist with the parting words that the recording industry just want hits and push artists to write songs in that vein. My Darkest Days and Rev Theory are all modern rockers and they have lost their lead guitarists, which are normally significant songwriters.

Remember, individuality is the key. How good is Machine Head, since they broke away from following the trends that the label used to push on them. Since 2003, they have gone from strength to strength. 

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Classic Songs to Be Discovered, Music, My Stories

Vince Neil – Exposed

A few of my favorite albums from back in the day are having anniversaries this year.

Let’s start with the Vince Neil release, Exposed.  As a massive Motley Crue fan, let’s say that I wasn’t impressed with the ousting of Vince Neil.  For some reason, I always took Vince’s story as the source of truth.

Back in 1992, it was hard to get current information.  So I hear that Vince was fired from Motley, and next I am seeing his Exposed album in Utopia in April 1993.  Without question I purchased it, took it home and put it on the CD player.  Before I pressed play, I took out the booklet and I see that Phil Soussan is credited with writing quite a few songs.  This got me even more interested.

For those that don’t know, Phil Soussan was responsible for writing Shot In The Dark when he was in Ozzy’s band.  Shot In The Dark appeared on the Ultimate Sin album, released in a time where Hard Rock and Metal was starting to hit its commercial peak.  To give some back story to Shot In The Dark, Soussan had this song written years before he joined Ozzy’s band.  It was inspired by the Pink Panther movies.  Ozzy loved the lyrics, but wanted Soussan to make the song darker, while trying to keep with the original idea.

Then Jake E. Lee left the band.  Soussan and his best friend Randy Castillo (RIP) who was also the drummer in Ozzy’s band, started to hold auditions to find a new guitarist, while Ozzy went out to promote the Tribute album.  That is where a young Zachary Weilandt came into the picture based on a recommendation from Mark Weiss (this is the guy who photographs everything to do with rock n roll). That is how Zakk Wylde was born.

Phil Soussan was just another talented musician and songwriter that had to leave a band he wanted to be in because of  business disagreements with Sharon Osbourne regarding future publishing arrangements.  I am sure Jake E. Lee was also forced out in this way.

To get back on track, I am a fan of Phil Soussan.  So I find out that many of the songs that he had written for Ozzy’s next album, ended up on Exposed.

I then find out that it was Soussan that was responsible for putting together the Vince Neil band.  The original band line up was Vince Neil on vocals, Phil Soussan on bass, Adrian Vandenberg (from Whitesnake) on guitar, Vik Foxx (Enuff Z’Nuff) on drums and Robbie Crane on guitar.

Soussan and Neil also put the Warner Bros deal together along with Vince’s manager Bruce Bird who passed away in 1993.

Then it all went sour when Steve Stevens (Billy Idol and Atomic Playboys) was asked to replace Vandenberg. Stevens already had a personal issue with not having written the songs and it looks like Stevens held a grudge against Soussan for working with Billy Idol, who was Stevens former employer.  So all hell broke loose after the death of Bruce Bird.  

Soussan started to be on the outer, especially when Stevens wanted to play bass and eventually Soussan had no option but to leave again.  Imagine his dismay, when his manager showed him a draft sleeve of the album where Stevens had tried to put his name as the songwriter and remove Phil Soussan’s credit from his own songs.  Songs that Soussan wrote all the original demos and titles from back in the Ozzy days.  

The matter was addressed and legally resolved, in favor of Soussan.  So much drama and the album hasn’t even come out.  Isn’t that just the nature of Rock N Roll.    

Look in Her Eyes is the opener and it is listed as being written by Vince Neil, Steve Stevens and Phil Soussan.  Other songs written by this combination are The Edge, Gettin’ Hard and Forever.

Look In Her Eyes is a classic. The intro riff has that Euro Metal vibe, the verse has that Dr Feelgood vibe and the Chorus is melodic and catchy as hell.  You can hear that Phil wrote this song with Ozzy’s style in mind.  Steven Stevens contribution to this song, was to make the lead break a centerpiece and it goes for well over a minute and a half.

An ocean of temptation
With every drop of wine
Shadows meeting face to face
The tentacles entwine
One look from the jezebel
Phony valentine
Now you see the wanderer
Frozen in the corridors of time

 

For some reason I love the way that second verse is written.  Maybe it is the Medusa reference, done in such a rock n roll way.  That is why the song has that big epic classic rock feel.  Men are creatures of temptation, from the Garden of Eden to now.

The Edge is another uptempo riff fest of a song.  From its flamenco intro, to its pedal point driven verses and its climbing arpeggio choruses.  This song is a dead set classic.  It reminds me of Red Hot from the Crue for some reason.  It reminds of Deep Purple. It reminds me of Scorpions.  The lead break is pure class, breaking down into the acoustic flamenco passages again, before building up again, with the orchestra strings in tow into a wah shred fest of a lead break.

There is no tomorrow i live my life today
Luck is my religion to the lady i will pray
I fail to see the black in every tinsel town
They can try and take my pride
But they can never take my crown

Listen to the phrasing of the vocal line.  It’s done the same way Ozzy sings.  It was meant for Ozzy.  Of course Vince has a totally different voice, so it sounds unique.  It’s totally different to what Vince did in Motley.  Living your life on the edge of time, is what the song is saying.

Fine, Fine Wine is written by Vince Neil and Phil Soussan.  This song would fit perfectly on Dr Feelgood.  It is classic Motley Crue.  The lyrics, the riffs, the sex and the sleaze.  Vince is in his element here.

Baby’s long and tall man she’s got it all she’s alright
alright
Hips have got a sway shakin’ it my way it alright
alright
Full bodied curves with her legs she serves oh yeah
oh yeah
Lips that say it all turn and hear her call oh yeah
oh yeah
Ain’t no cheap and nasty liquor dripping down her vine 
Taste of golden honey sweet as candy money
Bottle it up and make her mine

Give me a taste of your fine fine wine

The bass line just rolls the song along, keeping it low and dirty.  Steven Stevens delivers another great solo on this song.  Even though he was a dick to Soussan, he still played his arse off on this album.

Sister of Pain and You’re Invited (But Your Friend Can’t Come) was written by the Vince Neil, Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw combination.  It is steeped in the blues hard rock vibe that Damn Yankees brought back to the charts.  The same blues hard rock vibe made famous by Free, Bad Company, Led Zeppelin, Ted Nugent and many others.  Again both songs would not be out-of-place on a Motley Crue album.  

Can’t Change Me is a Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw composition, very similar to Damn Yankees, the super group project they had with Ted Nugent.

Can’t Have Your Cake and Living Is A Luxury is written by Vince Neil and Steve Stevens.  I don’t really rate these two songs.

Finally there was a Sweet cover in Set Me Free, that is written by Andrew Scott.

The album was produced by Ron Nevison.  That is why it has that AOR feel, very radio friendly, arena rock feel and the performances are top-notch.

Ron was coming off multi platinum success with Heart, Survivor, Bad English, Europe and Ozzy’s The Ultimate Sin.  Actually Ron played a part in getting Phil Soussan to depart, as he started to support Steve Stevens in the decision-making.

1993 was a year of big change in the music business.  Vince Neil delivered an album that didn’t get the promotion it deserved.  The only way I could have purchased the album was from Utopia Records, which was a hard rock/heavy metal record store.  Utopia records is located in the Sydney CBD and back then they where on Clarence Street.  I had to take a 90 minute train ride from my country town to the Sydney CBD.  

The usual major stores back then didn’t even stock it.  Makes it hard to compete if the fans can’t find it.  It can be found today, by everyone.  

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