Mudhoney Bring Fun To Punk

MUDHONEY play The Casbah Mar. 8 and The Glass House Mar. 9; photo Emily Rieman

MUDHONEY play The Casbah Mar. 8 and The Glass House Mar. 9; photo Emily Rieman

Alternative Rock, Grunge, Punk, you name it and Mudhoney has been associated with it over the course of their 30-year career, which kicked off with the EP Superfuzz Bigmuff on Sub Pop exploded on the scene, not sounding like anything else at the time.

Three of the original members remain in the group with bassist Guy Maddison, the newest member, joining in 2001 and appearing on five of the ten Mudhoney albums including the latest Digital Garbage.

Concert Guide Live caught up with Maddison to hear his thoughts on songwriting, step aerobics, and some of his favorite songs to play live.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: You’re the newest member of Mudhoney, yet you’ve been with the band for half of their albums! What is your part in creating a song? Which comes first, the music or the lyrics?
GUY MADDISON: The music comes first. We all participate in the process, I like the others, bring riffs and musical ideas for songs, we jam out those riffs and ideas. Everyone makes suggestions for how the composition can be improved, so it is song writing by consensus. This is the case for nearly all songs, Mark (Arm/frontman) adds the lyrics after we have established a base for the music. Sometimes the music will need to be rearranged to fit the flow of the lyrics.

CGL: What was it like when you were learning the Mudhoney catalog? What challenges did you come across?
GM: As a fan of the band I was familiar with a lot of the songs. When I first joined back in 2001 Steve (Turner/guitar) and I sat out on his porch with a couple of acoustic guitars and went over a core group of songs that we started to use as the basis for a set when I first joined. The most common challenge I found, and I think is the same for anyone learning material written by others, is coming to terms with timings that you would not naturally write yourself.

CGL: Do you prefer to play live or recording and why?
GM: I enjoy recording, because of the endless possibilities in sound and arrangement that is available in the studio. However, I prefer the energy of playing live. The audience provide the energy and change the experience for sure. Also, there is the fun and often comical aspect of playing together with your friends on stage.

CGL: So, you’re playing with Adolescents and Clawhammer in Pomona – how did that come about and who is playing last?
GM: We’ve played with the Adolescents before and it was a great show in L.A. Clawhammer are old and very close friends of the band and have played many shows with Mudhoney over the years. The show like most, was put together by our booking agent. To tell the truth I have no idea who’s playing last? I hope it’s not us, so I can relax with a few quality ales and watch some quality bands…

Mudhoney "Digital Garbage" cover

Mudhoney “Digital Garbage” cover

CGL: What sort of a setlist are fans going to be treated to, will you be playing a lot from the newest album Digital Garbage?
GM: There will be a solid representation from the new album, with a good number of old classics and a selection of songs from over the years.

CGL: What song or songs do you especially look forward to playing live and why?
GM: Of our new album there are quite a few, probably because they are new and exciting to us. A definite highlight will be “Paranoid Core,” “Nerve Attack,” and “Hey Neanderfuck.” I really like how the old classic “No One Has” is sounding lately and “If I Think”, too.

CGL: Do you primarily play a Fender bass? What gear do you use to get your sound?
GM: I have a few Fender P basses that is the basis of my sound. I have recently replaced my pickups with Lindy Frallin pickups that are built to the specs of a classic Fender ’61 P bass, they have an awesome thick sound. I use a TC electronics RD 450 head to get my amp sound, the tube tome function is killer.

CGL: Describe a Mudhoney show to someone who hasn’t seen you before.
GM: It’s an overwhelming kaleidoscope of heavy punk rock, comedy and step aerobics.

CGL: Several years ago, Mudhoney played on the roof of the Space Needle – what was that like? I trust no one is afraid of heights?
GM: A couple of us had a little bout of vertigo, but once we got going it was all fine. It was an awesome experience and one I’ll never forget. Obviously, the view was spectacular. There is actually great archival footage of it on KEXP (as it was a simulcast) that anyone that’s interested can check out on the web. https://youtu.be/CsjSDQ_MrV8?t=2

CGL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GM: If you get the chance to recognize the work of nurses in your community, please let them know how important you think their work is! Hope to see y’all at our SoCal shows, as we intend to rock it to the ground! Cheers!

The Spinners Doing What They Love

THE SPINNERS play The Rose Mar. 8, The Canyon/Agoura Mar. 9, The Coach House Mar. 10; press photo

THE SPINNERS play The Rose Mar. 8, The Canyon/Agoura Mar. 9, The Coach House Mar. 10; press photo

“I’ll Be Around” The Spinners’ first million-selling hit single was only one of their many songs to hit the charts: “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love,” “Ghetto Child,” “It’s A Shame,” “Then Came You,” “Games People Play,” “The Rubberband Man,” and the list goes on.

During their heyday they appeared on Soul Train so many times it was like their second home. American Bandstand, too. They dressed to the nines in color coordinated outfits, keeping up on the times, aware of what people were wearing.

“We had our bell-bottoms and big ole boots and high-heels,” recalls singer Henry Fambrough, the last surviving original member. “That’s why my feet are kind of messed up now because of wearing high heels and trying to dance in high-heels. Oh my God. Oh yes, we had to follow suit.”

When asked what he likes about touring and performing live he says it’s in his blood. It’s what he does.

“I’ve been doing it all my life,” Fambrough said proudly. “I love it. Singing and entertaining people and being on stage, and watching the expression of a lot of people, the joy they get from our music, that’s the main thing. Everything’s good.”

Touring in the early days, getting the music out there, was a bare bones operation for many entertainers when they first started out, The Spinners included.

“We purchased ourselves a station wagon and we put our bags on the top and everything,” Fambrough explained. “Then we had all of the inside freed up. That’s the way we travelled. That’s the way most of the entertainers back then that could afford to buy themselves a shared transportation, that’s the way they travelled.

“Then after that, if you sold big like James Brown, or whatever, you purchased you a bus and go from there. Then that way you can carry all your instruments and your people with you. At the time we had three young ladies that we kept with us, helped us sing background because Thom Bell used ladies in our recording, you know.

“The musical director at the time, Maurice King, he just went ahead and did everything that Thom did but on stage. That’s what made us sound so great and true to the records.”

Even after 60 plus years of entertaining in front of an audience, a hint of nervousness still creeps in and touches Fambrough just before he takes the stage, but not like it used to.

“Once they call your name and you walk out on the stage and you see all the people and everything you forget about all that.”

THE SPINNERS; press photo

THE SPINNERS; press photo

Keeping his familiar baritone voice in shape over the years he’s learned to coordinate rest and practice in order to continue singing at such a high level. Treating his voice just like an instrument is key.

“You got to get your rest, that’s the main thing,” Fambrough explained. “Get your rest, do your scales every day. If you got an instrument and you don’t take care of it, it will fail you. You have to treat your voice the same way.

“I have a voice doctor and I see him about once every other month, and he’ll tell me what I ain’t doing right (laughs). If you don’t respect it and you don’t take care of it, it’ll go bad on you, you know?

“That’s why you hear a lot of entertainers, or entertainer, that will come out with a fantastic song and it will sell two, four, five million records and you don’t hear from them no more. Cuz they don’t take care of themselves.”

For new performers that are starting out Fambrough says it’s the same now as it was when he began.

“You got something in your mind, or you want to do a certain thing, or you got the act that you want to do, and you love what you’re doing and you’re good at it don’t let anyone talk you out of doing it.

“You got a lot of people out there that want you to do something a certain way, change this, change that – no – you stick with what you love and what you want to present to your fans. Your fans come to see you, they don’t come to see you mimic someone else.”

Keep an eye out for this legendary soul group to bring their memorable music, their synchronized moves, and professional entertainment to any number of venues in SoCal.

The Rebel Soul Of Nattali Rize

NATTALI RIZE plays The Cave / Big Bear Lake Mar. 8; press photo

NATTALI RIZE plays The Cave / Big Bear Lake Mar. 8; press photo

Social activism has always been at the heart of reggae music, from “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley and The Wailers to “No Blood For Oil” by Cocoa Tea. Nattali Rize continues this rebel spirit, bringing the sound and heart of reggae center stage.

“What got me into music was my mother’s impeccable taste in music,” describes Rize. “I grew up listening to the greats: Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, Judy Mowatt, Santana, and The Eagles. You know, it’s a wide range of music, which was all old soul music, that evidently has an influence on an upbringing and soundscape that we grow up to.”

Elaborating further, “It’s not about when we get into music. We’re born with music in us; people are musical and people love music. It’s an element of our life that is creative and taps us into our higher selves. And also taps ourselves into a collective feeling of family, which is nice cuz that’s not something many other things in this current paradigm do.”

Rize’s love and passion for the music is a defining feature of her work, from her early days of busking to the current success of her most recent album, Rebel Frequency.

“It was never a hobby for me!” explains the singer. “From the moment I picked up the guitar, I knew that was what I wanted to do. And I was thirteen years old at the time.

NATTALI RIZE; press photo

NATTALI RIZE; press photo

“Building from the street, as in I was a street performer first, and going to the stage, you meet a lot of people. Whether that’s everyday people you meet and connect with or fellow musicians when you get into a band, all of these things inform and have an influence on you. I spent time in Jamaica so I can see the influence of the culture and reggae music; the birthplace of reggae music has had a big influence and inspiration for me personally. So have everyday people and what life is like cuz music, for me, is a reflection of what the times we are living in are like.”

This journey has given her extensive experiences in playing music around the globe. As a result, she has developed a unique live energy at her shows.

“Our show is high energy, deep dub, roots, and lyrical concert music,” spells out Rize. “Connecting with people is one of the best aspects. Touring and playing live shows is the opportunity to connect with people and just share and create this energy together. It’s new and different, cuz it is unique depending on who is in the room at the time, and when you play music and make music and put intention into these gatherings that we call concerts and shows, then you have the opportunity to harness the energy and intention. That’s the kind of vibration we bring to share with crowds and for them to take home, and to give us energy to get to the next show. Really, it’s a celebration of life.

NATTALI RIZE; photo Andy Ortega

NATTALI RIZE; photo Andy Ortega

“I really like playing this song of ours called ‘One People,’” states Rize. “We are a five piece band and for this song, we break it down to just guitar and vocals for the first part of the song. And this song just really speaks a whole lot of truth. It is a song that I wrote that kind of just downloaded and the lyrics just flowed out in one hit; it’s become a really popular song for my particular audience in all parts of the world. This song is always a joy because I let them sing the chorus with me, and they sing it so beautifully so it’s nice to hear.”

2019 is looking like another great year for the reggae singer. “Currently, we are well on the way to a new album, which will be released this year so that’s very exciting,” reveals Rize. “Right now, we are starting a six-week tour across America and the album we are gonna try and squeeze in, but tour life is very busy.

“After that, we have about a month before any more shows, so we are looking forward to finishing a new album and releasing it in the second half of the year and being back on the road sharing those new songs.”

Make sure you catch all the soulful excitement and vibrant energy Nattali Rize brings to all her upcoming shows in SoCal!

Marc Cohn Keeps It Fresh

MARC COHN plays The Coach House Mar. 8 and 9; photo Drew Gurian

MARC COHN plays The Coach House Mar. 8 and 9; photo Drew Gurian

“It’s one of my favorite places to play,” Marc Cohn replied when asked about his upcoming shows at The Coach House. “It’s been around awhile, and a lot of people have said maybe it could use a little touch-up paint here and there (chuckles).

“They’re great audiences and it’s just a great room to play. I must have played it a dozen times by now. It’s always one of my favorite shows to play each year.”

An annual favorite, Grammy winner Cohn spoke with Concert Guide Live about all sorts of things such as his childhood dreams, his first guitar, life’s early challenges as well as playing “Walking In Memphis” thousands of times, future plans with Blind Boys of Alabama, and of course, how it feels like a hometown gig when he plays at The Coach House.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: How many of the fans do you recognize at this point?
MARC COHN: There are some I definitely recognize, it’s sort of become a family thing and I have good family friends that live near by so they’re always there in the audience. So, it does feel almost like a hometown show to me.

CGL: Do you remember the first time you played there?
MC: I remember parts of my whole life just by remembering who was there at a particular time, which of my ex-wives was there, which of my kids was in attendance. My whole life has unfolded year by year at The Coach House.

CGL: Is it weird having everyone sitting down, possibly still eating?
MC: I don’t remember that as strange. In fact, I didn’t even fully process it was a dinner place until I played there several times. Dinner is usually long over by the time I hit the stage, so it isn’t like one of those dinner theaters where it feels intrusive.

CGL: What’s the lineup – do you play with a full band?
MC: It’s always different. This time it’s a full band but not a “conventional” full band. I have a percussionist, an amazing Hammond B3 player, I play guitar and piano. And my opening act at The Coach House is a great new artist that I’m really happy to give a platform to, she’s actually from Southern California, her name is Chelsea Williams, and she also sings and plays with me in my set and so does her harmonica player who is an extraordinary musician.

I’m always looking for ways to sort of change the show especially at a place like The Coach House where, you know, year after year you don’t want to be doing the same exact show.

MARC COHN; press photo

MARC COHN; press photo

CGL: Do you have a preferred guitar that you like to play?
MC: I have an old Gibson J45 a miraculous old thing from the 60’s and it’s only miraculous because I found it left-handed. I’m a left-handed guitar player and I can never find vintage guitars from back then. And this one I found years ago in Chelsea in New York City and it’s been my favorite road guitar and writing guitar for years, now.

CGL: Do you remember where and when you got your first guitar?
MC: My first one my step-mother bought me in Cleveland, Ohio, I don’t remember what kind it was, but it barely stayed in tune, so it wasn’t long until my brother got me an Ovation when I was 17. But my main instrument is piano so this guitar thing, even though it was my first instrument, I’m not all that plugged into.

CGL: Do you ever get tired of playing “Walking In Memphis”? How do you keep it fresh?
MC: From time to time. But considering I’ve played it thousands of times by now, I surprisingly have been able to keep it fresh. Occasionally I change the arrangement a little bit but not too much and of course like what we were talking about, when the lineup of the band is different that changes the song, too.

I guess the main ingredient in keeping it fresh is every night it’s a different audience. And they have a particular mood and feel and vibe and participation level so it’s really the crowd that keeps it new.

And the fact that I can still connect to what that song is about which is largely about the power of music.

CGL: What were some of your early musical inspirations?
MC: There’s just dozens. Everybody from Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Beatles, Stones, The Band, all the great singer-songwriters that sort of put a light on my path that I ended up doing so James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Paul Simon, the list goes on and on.

I was my most impressionable when some of the greatest music ever made was new. And so, I just willed myself to try and do what my idols were doing, cuz it moved me so much. A lot of that music, I just wanted to learn how to do it. I’ve ended up my whole life still figuring it out.

CGL: Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to do music?
MC: By the time I was 12-13 I had a singing voice. I had kind of a difficult childhood. My mom died when I was 2 my dad died when I was 12 so I had a need to express myself and to try and self-sooth, get through my losses which was quite early and unexpected and traumatizing. And I think it was between the fact that I could sing and the fact that I had something I needed to say (chuckles) just for myself that was the beginning of realizing that’s what I wanted to do.

Knowing that I’d be able to do it was a whole other thing but by the time I was 17 or 18 I was committed to trying. To at least trying to make it into a career.

MARC COHN; photo Erik Valind

MARC COHN; photo Erik Valind

CGL: What was it like to release your first album and then win a Grammy for Best New Artist?
MC: It was a dream come true. My biggest dream come true. I had been dreaming about all the aspects of being a recording artist ever since I was that 12-year-old kid.

I was already well aware of which record labels had the artists I liked so I wanted to be on either Warner Bros or Elektra or Asylum or Atlantic where I did end up. I was aware of the players that were given credits on the records that I loved. So being able to just get a record deal, number one, was my first dream come true.

And being able to play with some of my heroes – James Taylor is on my first record, drummer Steve Gadd who played with Paul Simon for years is on my first record, so that was a dream come true. All of a sudden, I was kind of in that world.

And then the biggest dream come true was that I made a record I loved. I really worked hard on that record and I tried really hard to keep it authentic and not try to make it sound like it was a current record but more of a timeless one. Luckily Atlantic let me do that.

And then the fact that it resonated with people, that was just beyond description. The Grammy was great, too. It was all of those things combined that were things I’d been dreaming about since I was a kid.

CGL: What do you like to do when you’re not touring or recording?
MC: I’m a father of four kids starting ages 12 all the way to 28. They all live where I live, in New York, and the time I spend off the road is time I need to have with my kids.

CGL: If you could be anyone other than yourself for a day, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
MC: If I could be someone else?
CGL: Yes, just for a day.
MC: Oh my gosh. That’s tough. That’s really tough… Hmm… I’d like to be my therapist and find out what he really thinks of me.
CGL: Are you sure about that?
MC: Well, it would be interesting. It would be a day well spent. Actually, I love my therapist so I would be happy to just spend some time with him and not really talking. And I’d also like to ask him more questions, so that’s one thing, cuz he’s actually been a lifesaver over the years.

Who else would I want to be? It would be amazing to be one of my heroes, I suppose, but see my thing is I would just want to spend time with them as them. I wouldn’t want to be them.

I think that’s the best I can come up with. That’s a wild question.

CGL: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
MC: I’ve been hard working on some new songs that I will be playing at The Coach House shows.

I will be doing a whole tour with the Blind Boys of Alabama, they’ve been singing with me a couple of years now and we’re playing with Taj Mahal. So that’s gonna be thrilling.

I’m going to be finished in a couple of months with an EP or a full-length CD I’m making with the Blind Boys. I have three new studio tracks and a bunch of live tracks that we’re gonna put out in June. That’s about all for now.

Insanity Of DMT Amaze On Bauhaus Tour

Jonty Ball S / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Jonty Ball S / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

“Vodka! A couple of Red Bulls! Maybe some beer!” each member of Desert Mountain Tribe (DMT) shouted and then laughed about what they like to do prior to playing a show. “You gotta be just drunk enough, but not too drunk.”

Desert Mountain Tribe are in good spirits playing their unique atmosphere of psychedelic, melodic songs and captivating many new fans as they tour across the U.S. on the Peter Murphy 40 Years Of Bauhaus Celebration featuring David J. However, getting to the first night of the tour in Anaheim, CA, from their home base in England was a bit of a challenge.

“Thing is with that one, we literally got off the plane about two hours before and we were told that the security at the airport was going to take at least two hours,” Jonty Ball S (guitar/vocals) recalled. “We managed to get off the plane to the van where our trusty tour manager and driver, LG, was waiting for us. And we managed to make it across L.A. in an hour fifteen – from LAX to Anaheim – which is pretty insane – in the pouring rain!

“There was just like two and a half weeks to planning this thing which is insane for a whole America tour. But it’s all working out so far, we’re all good.”

Frank van der Ploeg / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Frank van der Ploeg / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

The trio has gone through a couple of recent changes with drummer Frank van der Ploeg joining to play live with the group since mid-2017.

“What are you playing with, like a fractured knee or something?” Ball S asked Ploeg.

“Torn Meniscus,” Ploeg replied.

“I haven’t got a clue what that is,” Ball S admitted.

“Something in my knee is messed up,” Ploeg said, stating the obvious.

“He’s still drumming, he’s still doing it,” Ball S laughed.

Bassist Matt Holt is the most recent addition, joining at the end of 2018 and fitting in nicely, making the basslines his own.

“He did the first gig and he had nine days to get everything rehearsed, which is amazing,” Ball S explained. “But, I’m the original guy, I started the band about eight years ago.”

Other than Ploeg playing on the track “World” from 2018’s Om Parvat Mystery, neither he or Holt have been a part of any previous Desert Mountain Tribe releases – 2016’s debut album Either That Or The Moon or the EPs and single.

Matt Holt / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

Matt Holt / Desert Mountain Tribe; photo James Christopher

“But they will both be on the new album whether they like it or not!” Ball S threatened.

A question asking where the band name came from is greeted with dead silence followed by a slow, almost hesitant reply.

“There’s the truthful answer and then there’s the interview answer,” Ball S replied. “Well the truthful answer is it comes from DMT – have you heard of DMT?

“But the uh, (laughs), interview answer is ‘I like deserts, he likes mountains, and he likes tribes.’”

While the other two band members knowingly chuckle in the background, Ball S continues to explain.

“The thing is we can work out DMT but it’s not a good thing to keep saying yes it comes from the name of the drug, you know? It’s not a good selling point, I don’t think. You don’t want to limit yourself, do you?”

The current tour has been going great, having played about 50 dates with Peter Murphy before even hitting the states, which then adds another 15 – 20 shows overall.

“That’s a long, long tour, right?” Ball S questions.

“Yea,” Ploeg and Holt agree in unison.

Which begs the question, how do they keep entertained going from show to show, city to city?

“Frank,” Ball S revealed. “Frank keeps us entertained.”

“Uhhhh….,” Ploeg absentmindedly replies.

“That says it all, right?” Ball S laughed.

Celebrating The Smithereens Legacy

THE SMITHEREENS w/Marshall Crenshaw play The Coach House Feb. 10; press photo

THE SMITHEREENS w/Marshall Crenshaw play The Coach House Feb. 10; press photo

“I was really happy when they asked me,” Marshall Crenshaw said when Dennis Dikens (drums) asked him to sing with The Smithereens after vocalist, Pat DiNizio’s passing.

“It’s really exciting to play their music. I’ve known those guys forever, like before forever. I have a long-standing history with those guys. I knew Pat and everything.”

In January of 2018, about a month after DiNizio’s passing there was a tribute show for him in New Jersey, with a lot of old friends that was a highly emotional situation for everybody. Crenshaw played three songs which eventually led to an invitation to tour as guest vocalist for The Smithereens.

“The fan reception has been really strong,” Crenshaw added. “People want to hear this music. I feel like I’m just kind of there helping Jim (Babjak /lead guitar), Dennis and Mike (Mesaros/bass). It’s their legacy, too. They really are hungry to be out there, keeping the music alive and playing just for their own spiritual well-being.”

In 2004 Crenshaw toured with the surviving members of MC5, playing guitar with them, and taking a little vacation from his own music.

“It’s just really refreshing to do something like that once in a while, at least for me,” Crenshaw mentioned.

“That’s another body of work, the MC5, that catalog of theirs, that body of work. I have such high regard for it, so it was really fun. Interesting, too. Just like from a human-interest standpoint to hang around with those guys was pretty interesting. (laughs)”

Crenshaw learned at least 30 Smithereens’ songs for the tour including some of his favorites such as “Spellbound,” “Especially For You,” and “Top Of The Pops,” as well as some of the cover songs that are part of the band’s history.

“My favorite song by The Smithereen’s is “Strangers When We Meet”, Crenshaw shared. “I played on the record back in the day. I played keyboards on that track on the Especially For You album.

“And then they did a version of the same song with a guy named Alan Betrock who is gone now, no longer walking the earth, I’m sad to say, but Alan produced my first record which was an independent single on a New York label, Shake Records. That was Alan’s label. Alan opened the door for me to make records.

“The Smithereens hooked up with Alan and did some stuff and I was in on some of that. Then when they re-recorded the song for their album, I went back in and played it again.

“But it’s a beautiful song. And it’s a real quintessential Pat Dinizio song in that he got the title from an old movie which was kind of a thing he would do.”

Learning 30-35 songs was exciting but also challenging yet Crenshaw is willing to learn more if the band wants him to, claiming he’s basically at their service.

“The fact that I’m somebody who’s memory isn’t as good as it used to be, just to trying to cram all this information into what’s left of my memory and to get it to stay there was the challenge,” Crenshaw chuckled.

“Just learning all the words, because I didn’t want to use cheat sheets, I wanted to know every song by heart. It used to be easy for me to do that, if I learned a song, I’d remember it forever. Now, I sometimes just blank on my own songs when I sing them (laughs).”

But the group continues to tour, getting sharper, pleasing audiences that just want to listen to their beloved Smithereens songs and maybe even sing-along to a couple.

“It’s a great rock show,” Crenshaw enthused. “I love playing with them. We’ve had a lot of great gigs already. We’re sharp. We’re on our game. It’s a gas, you know?

“I like playing the Smithereen’s stuff. A lot of the songs are kind of dark, haunted sounding, and beautiful, too. The way the guys play… they just play in a way that’s really exciting. It’s just a great rock-n-roll band.

“It’s a really good two guitars and bass kind of thing with me out there, you know?”

The Smithereens with guest vocalist Marshall Crenshaw will play The Coach House Feb. 10.

California Hearse To Drop Off Pop Punk In SoCal

California Hearse logo

California Hearse logo

California Hearse, an offshoot of the now shuttered punk rock group Gentlemen Prefer Blood, shall be making their first live appearance in SoCal at the La Escalera Fest 7 in San Diego Apr. 12.

Though they are a new band, California Hearse has already put together quite an impressive 6-song EP of the same name which saw its release last month. Jason Gentile, the bassist, vocalist and song writer of the band, hopes that the sound he and his fellow co-founder Mike Morales created sounds just as good live.

“Hopefully we’ll sound good because we have a very good quality recording,” Gentile said. “We’re trying to sound as close to that as possible. Mike’s really nailing the harmony and getting the parts down. So hopefully it’ll be a very clean sounding punk rock experience.”

Speaking of experience, that’s not a strange bedfellow to Gentile.

“I have been playing punk music my whole life,” Gentile says. “I grew up playing it in the 90’s and 2000’s in different incarnations of bands and it’s always been something of an outlet for me: writing songs and playing with bands.”

For Gentile especially, California Hearse is a project that is a reflection of his musical career up until this point.

“It’s kind of a culmination of all my experiences playing in Chicago, playing in Southern California, San Diego, Los Angeles, you know?”

It’s also a means by which he and Morales can continue to collaborate with each other. Their newest venture is owed in large part to a few unproduced songs they never had a chance to perform during their time in their last musical partnership that resulted in the creation of their EP California Hearse.

“Three of the songs were leftover songs from the band Gentlemen Prefer Blood,” Gentile recalls. “We wanted to keep playing together so we worked on those songs together.”

Gentile notes that Morales, though a drummer for Gentlemen Prefer Blood, put tremendous commitment into providing the EP’s guitar work during the initial rehearsal and recording process for the EP that helped cement the formation of California Hearse.

“My drummer Mike sat down with me and practiced all the songs on guitar acoustically,” Gentile explained. “He really learned the songs inside and out. I had a few other songs and so he learned those with me and then we went to the studio of Paul Minor in Orange County and Mike and I recorded it.”

Gentile gives much of the credit to how well the final musical result of their efforts turned out due to the guitar playing of Morales.

“Mike really stepped up to the plate and played 80 to 90 percent of the guitars on the album actually. It was really awesome.”
Besides Morales, SoCal plays a large part for California Hearse and their music which can best be described as pop punk: a mixture of upbeat positive sounding rock that with lyrics that Gentile admits “are a little darker.” Gentile says this almost paradoxical combination is not unintentional.

“Southern California can be wonderful but also very frustrating in terms of traffic and people’s personalities and such can be frustrating,” Gentile admits. “But you have access to the beaches and beautiful weather. There’s a nice aspect to it also. So, there’s a bittersweet component to most of the songs we’re writing. It’s kind of happy music but with kind of bummer lyrics. I guess it’s kind of a reflection of our environment that way.”

The lyrics are also rooted in Gentile’s personal relationships. He admits that much of the music he composes is inspired by their lives and their perspectives.

“I tend to write songs for the people I love or the people in my life who are suffering or going through things,” Gentile said. “So, I try to write their angles and different views. So, it’s kind of like a process for myself and for them de facto I guess.”

Whether in California Hearse or any other group for that matter, whenever the songs he writes are finished, Gentile says he uses a simple and cooperation-based process no matter the group he plays with.

“Recording-wise, I just demo everything into Garage Band and then I give the demos to the band and then they add their tweaks and twists and changes and then we have the song.”

Between now and April though, California Hearse has much to do. As of this writing, Gentile and Morales are focused on seeking out more musicians to create a more studier line-up as well as better solidifying the group’s guitar section in addition to promoting their EP.

“Playing live, I get a little bit nervous, but I enjoy that. It’s exceptional.”

ARISE ROOTS: One Love Cali Reggae Fest 2019

ARISE ROOTS play One Love Cali Fest Feb. 8-10; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS play One Love Cali Fest Feb. 8-10; photo Andy Ortega

Reggae has been around for quite some time now, and over the years it has only gotten more popular. It has been through many changes, from the early days of inception through its exploration in genre-mixing as of late. It is always refreshing to see a band who can pull from its long history while adapting the music to recent changes in the musical landscape; Arise Roots deftly achieves this with their unique take on reggae.

“Root is what our own personal likes and loves were,” according to lead singer Karim Israel. “All our hearts were definitely in Roots, and that’s kinda what brought us together when we first met. We all came together and started jamming on some Dennis Brown and different Roots artists. That comes from my own personal love for that subgenre of Reggae.”

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

Further explaining the band’s desires, he goes on, “One thing we focused on though, in the music, was not just focusing on Roots; like we incorporate other styles and genres of Reggae, and not even just a subgenre itself. We are seeking to not just put ourselves in the box of Roots, but just creativity and music. And so, whatever comes out, we’re not necessarily trying to fit it or keep it into that Roots box. It’s still Reggae definitely, but we’re not just pigeonholing ourselves into just Roots.

“The live show, to me, by far is the most amazing factor/part/whatever you wanna call it in being a musician. That energy. It’s the energy that the crowd brings to the table every night. No two shows are exactly the same; it really depends on each and every individual person that is there, and what they bring to it. When people come, and they are expecting to share in the experience, and they are coming and bringing their energy, bringing their anticipation….it just adds. It’s like cooking a big pot of gumbo, and each show and person brings its own thing to the table. Some nights are great, some nights are just absolutely amazing.”

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

His passion for music is undeniable, and obvious when one goes to an Arise Roots concert. Elaborating further, “Being able to feed off that energy, and I like to not just feed but also create that energy. So that people can feed off of our energy…and it just keeps going back and forth like an electrical current. It just keeps going back and forth, back and forth, and that’s the best way I can describe it – as a current. It just keeps rotating and rotating, going and going. It’s almost unexplainable being up there and feeling it; and once the people start singing the words and stuff….it’s just amazing!”

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

Israel is obviously a lyricist with his uncanny ability to put his passion into words the way he does. He describes the songwriting process, “When we write these songs, no one is guaranteeing that somebody is gonna like the song that you write. When we finally write it, and finish second guessing ourselves, and put the words on the paper; and once those words actually come out and you see the people digging it- it’s a relief, it’s a natural high that you feel, and it’s amazing. That’s what we like to bring to the table, a piece of our souls.”
Israel was raised on Reggae via his parents, especially his dad. And recently had one of his favorite moments in the band: “We were playing in San Francisco, and I was able to have my dad come onstage and sing. Which for me was a dream come true cuz my dad was the one who introduced me to Reggae music from birth.

“He actually emigrated from Jamaica to the States, back in the seventies, to do Reggae music. My mom and dad actually met at a Reggae show, so if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here. So, the whole time we have been playing, he has being hearing the stuff and seeing it online but had never been able to make it out to a show. In San Francisco, he not only was able to see us but also come onstage and perform. That was a huge moment for me.”

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

ARISE ROOTS; photo Andy Ortega

Arise Roots is amped and excited for what the future holds, evidenced by their long hours spent on their upcoming new album. Israel explains, “It’s our best album to date. We are extremely excited to get it out. We’ve done some kinds of experimentation with some sounds, and even the writing on some of the tracks has been a little out of the box for us.

“One thing that is different about this album than the others before is that before we would play it live and see what the crowd participation was like. If it works with the crowd, we’ll add that to the list of songs that will most likely be on the album. This time around, we have kept a lot of stuff secret and just kept it amongst ourselves. Not let anybody hear it, not even family members. Just pulsing on creating the vibe, the feel of the album, the mood of the album, the sound of the album. And then release it all together at once.”

But while waiting for the album to drop, Arise Roots shows are the best place to catch the smooth vibes and soul-filled music this band brings to Reggae. Catch them at the One Love Cali Fest Feb. 8-10.

Fortunate Youth: One Love Cali Reggae Fest 2019

FORTUNATE YOUTH play One Love Cali Fest Feb. 8-10; photo Andy Ortega

FORTUNATE YOUTH play One Love Cali Fest Feb. 8-10; photo Andy Ortega

Good Vibes!!! This phrase is at the center of reggae music and is a pivotal force in the popular L.A. reggae act Fortunate Youth.

“Basically, myself and another member were really looking to create a name that was positive,” explains Greg Gelb of the band. “And fortunate youth being a kind of state of mind, you know a positive state of mind, and music keeps you young; so, if you have a youthful mindset, you’re kind of lucky to be young forever through music.

“Four of us went to high school together – Jered Draskovich, Corey Draskovich, myself Greg Gelb, and Travis Walpole- and our singer Dan Kelly is a transplant in the L.A. area from Mississippi so we kinda linked up with him. There were like two bands that we decided to put together. And later added our drummer from Las Vegas, Jordan Rosenthal.

“Our manager decided to have a birthday party and we decided to take these two bands and combine forces. And along the way we have added other members which has turned it into a six piece.”

Reggae is a fluid art form; while constantly maintaining a close tie to its roots, over the years it has shown an incredible ability to fuse with many other styles of music along the way.

“We kind of joke about that,” muses Gelb. “We all have our own interests, some similar and some different. And when it came out, we all decided to band together and what came out was our sound. Definitely reggae influenced…. but I tell a lot of people we blend a lot of different styles into reggae, and that is what we enjoy about it.

“It’s kind of like an open book where you can blend a lot of cool styles and the reggae vibe is open to a lot of that. It has allowed for a good collaboration of sounds. I think what we most enjoy about being in the reggae genre is the community; it’s very welcoming and everybody is really positive.”

Speak to any reggae fan, and they will tell you seeing it live is a necessity for far too many reasons to list.
“Definitely the energy,” states Gelb. “It all starts with everybody in the crowd, a kind of reflective and positive energy that goes back and forth.

“One of the most fun songs we play live, in terms of a high energy song, is “Burn One.” I think that’s a crowd favorite for sure so that’s always fun. Another fun song I enjoy is “Things,” that’s a fun song to play. I don’t know if you know, but four of us switch instruments throughout the show. So, I play guitar and then get a few songs on the bass. The four of us each get to jump on the bass in the set so we kinda joke that we all like to fight over the bass.

“It’s fun, you know,” Gelb continues. “We all have fun playing the bass. It’s a little bit…. you get to move around, it’s a little more simplified, and is a key element to the feel. So, yea, we have fun playing the musical instruments.”

Being from Hermosa Beach, Fortunate Youth is looking forward to returning to the One Love Cali Reggae Fest in Long Beach Feb. 8 – 10.

Mxmtoon Uploads Live Somber Music To SoCal

mxmtoon plays Moroccan Lounge Jan. 25; press photo

mxmtoon plays Moroccon Lounge Jan. 25; press photo

Young internet music sensation mxmtoon is to play her music live at the Moroccon Lounge in Los Angeles Jan. 25. The show marks the first time that the inspiring up and coming artist will play a headlining concert which sold out nine weeks in advance.

This isn’t the first time that mxmtoon, the musical handle of the 18-year-old Maia, has played at the venue. She played there last August in a smaller capacity, describing it as “a surreal experience” but one which she is looking forward to doing again on a much bigger scale.

“I’m just super excited to go back to that same venue and to see some returning faces and to meet some new people and just connect with them on a more familiar level I think other than just being on the internet all the time,” Maia said.

Hailing from Oakland, Maia’s one of many musicians who have taken advantage of the internet. Her somber, ukulele-backed sonnets, a sweet voice along with her creative uniqueness have helped earned her over 400K cumulative streams on services like Spotify.

mxmtoon; press photo

mxmtoon; press photo

One might wonder what kind of genre her music belongs to, but even Maia doesn’t honestly know.
“I feel like genre is something that I still struggle with a little bit,” Maia admitted. “I would say, without trying to put it into a genre, I feel like my music is pretty much like diary entries in a song writing format.”

In fact, Maia’s song writing process is coincidentally dependent on her using a diary as a foundation for her song creation.

“The song writing process I feel is pretty simple,” Maia mused. “I keep a journal of different things that go on in my head and then, you know, I’ll figure out a melody which sometimes pops into my head as well, open up RhymeZone and then put together some lyrics and see what works.”

Maia’s most recent EP, plum blossom, is a terrific example of both her creativity and amazing capacity to tell stories.

“plum blossom is just kind of a culmination of my experiences in the last year and the transition period of kind of graduating from high school and then trying to figure out, you know, what does life look like beyond that educational experience,” Maia said.

“The songs are just kind of derived from different people and things that I’ve experienced so far, and I’d like to think that the project is kind of emblematic of my growth and resilience in what’s happened to me over the past time period.”

Maia owes the creation of the songs from plum blossom and her love of music in general to her mother.

mxmtoon; photo Kenneth Munoz

mxmtoon; photo Kenneth Munoz

“I started playing violin when I was six,” Maia recalls. “My mom made me sign up for lessons and then I eventually phased out of that and cycled through a lot of other instruments. I did a lot of orchestral stuff with trumpet and cello and eventually had to pick up the guitar and ukulele in my music class in middle school.”

She thanks these classes for helping her choose the ukulele as her musical instrument of choice.

“I liked it so much that my parents got me one for Christmas and I started playing it on my own time and learning through YouTube tutorials and just self-taught myself basically.”

From the age of 13 onwards, Maia’s ukulele and creativity have aided her in the writing and composition of her own music. She finally started publishing her music online last year using the handle of mxmtoon, a name she owes largely to her father.

“mxmtoon was what I used on Instagram when I was posting my drawings because MXM are my initials and my dad thought it would be a creative idea to add toon to the end as it stood for cartoon,” Maia revealed. “It was a unique name that nobody had taken on any other site so I ended up using it for everything like Soundcloud. It’s stuck with me until now.”

Though Maia’s already acquired quite the following and acclaim at a young age, the opportunity to branch out into the live music scene, she admits is humbling and inspires her toward seeking self-improvement.

“I’m still learning how to sing” Maia admits with a laugh. “I just started doing vocal lessons.”

The upcoming headlining appearance at the Moroccon Lounge isn’t a one shot. Maia says she plans to go beyond making music exclusively in her bedroom as she did during the early part of her career and wants to share it live.

“We have a tour coming up in March and so we’re going to play at some new cities and some returning cities, which is super exciting, and hopefully we can roll out some new music and I can meet some more people face-to-face.”