ARCHIVE: Albert Cummings Pre-Pandemic Tour 2020 Interview

AC-Promo2Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus_JenniferMardus-3

Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus

“I’m still kind of a kept close secret, you know what I mean?” Albert Cummings mentioned. “But hey, if The Coach House knows about me the secret is getting out – that’s exciting!”

A blues, rock guitarist, with nine albums under his belt, if you haven’t listened to him, now is the time! You can see him live at The Coach House Feb. 17th.

“You could just walk in and feel history. I love playing places like that,” Cummings recalled. “Everybody you ever wanted to hear or listen to has pictures on the wall. I gotta bring a picture, get myself up there somehow. Really cool. So happy to play there.”

Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus

Cummings headed to the legendary Muscle Shoals studio to record his most recent album, Believe, fully intending to do an all covers album. He began to notice that his cover songs on previous albums seemed to get more radio airplay than his original material.

“I got like nine albums with 11 or 12 songs on every one and maybe one out of that is a cover,” he declared. “That means over 100 songs are out there that are originals. I was like wow; they’re only playing the covers.

“Then I realized the blues DJs they want to have their show popular – this is only my opinion – they play songs people are familiar with. So, I was originally going to do a 100% cover album just so I could get some more play because the airplay gets me to places like The Coach House (laughs).”

However, once he got to Muscle Shoals and started playing with the other musicians, he thought better of it and did six originals and five covers.

One of those covers is a rendition of “Little Red Rooster” which features some nice guitar solo work. In fact, all of the guitar solos sound fresh and natural, not forced throughout the album.
“I know that if I try to do a guitar solo after a track is done, if I don’t get it in the first two, three, it just goes downhill from there,” Cummings explained. “I always end up picking from my first three.

"Believe" CD cover art

“Believe” CD cover art

“I think if you’re thinking you’re stinking. The more you think about it the worse it becomes. You can’t think about music. It’s gotta come from your heart. It can’t come from your mind.”
But it’s the originals that really stand out. Songs like “Going My Way” with its nice solid groove and guitar work or “Call Me Crazy” which really catches fire and jams. The guitar gets pretty wild and you wish it would go on forever. Maybe it will in a live setting.

“Oh yea, that’s one of those four-hour guitar songs,” Cummings laughed.

Cummings never played with a band until he was 27, then a couple years later he was doing an album with Double Trouble which was the only band he’d ever listened to.

“To do an album with those guys is over the top,” he said. “Pinch me, I can’t even believe it happened.”

Coming from a rural area out in the hills of western Massachusetts, about an hour from Albany, once he started a band there was no place to play. He knew he’d have to go to Albany if he wanted to do anything with his music.

“If you’re gonna go fishing you don’t go to an empty stream,” he quipped. “So, I went to Albany and I started to do really well, and people were starting to fill up.”
It was here, in Albany, that he caught Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble at the RPI Field House and a whole new world opened up.

“I didn’t know what blues was as a music until I started listening to Stevie,” he admitted. “And what I think was cool mostly about Stevie was he introduced me to everybody else in a way. Like I didn’t know who BB King was, or Freddie King or Albert King or all those people.”

Sometime later, the Field House contacted Cummings to be the local headliner at a blues day concert they were putting together for the students, the faculty and the public. They asked him who he thought they should get as the National headliner.

Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings, photo:Jennifer Mardus

“I just jokingly said ‘why don’t you get Double Trouble to come play with me?’ and I was not qualified to say that, but I said it,” Cummings laughed. “And they said, ‘that’s a great idea’.
“So, I had to send this little demo out that I had which was my first CD which was Albert Cummings and Swamp Yankee… the CD was The Long Way.

Much to his surprise, two weeks later Double Trouble agreed to do it! As a result, the last time Cummings walked into the RPI Field House was to see Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble play, then literally the next time he walked in there he was fronting them!

“Then we booked another gig that night in Saratoga, NY which is about 45 minutes north. We played a large club and we played this sold out show and it was just incredible.
“I’m taking Chris (Layton) and Tommy (Shannon) home, it was just the three of us, it’s 2:30 in the morning and they’re telling me ‘Albert, what we heard on your little demo and what we heard tonight are two entirely different things. You need to do an album’.

“And I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know how to do an album’. And they said, ‘We do’. And then they said, ‘We want to produce your next album and we want to play on it.’ And I’m like ‘ok’.
“So, I’m literally driving. It’s late at night, I drive by two exits on the highway I’m so floored. My head is just spinning I’m still intimidated and scared but I had to say, ‘I’m so sorry guys, I just drove like a half an hour out of the way. I’m so sorry. (chuckles)

“We set it all up, exchanged numbers at the end of the night and I was still skeptical, yea, right. How the hell can that happen? And sure enough. Next thing I know I’m on an airplane going to Austin, TX, where I’ve never been before.”

Cummings was further surprised when Layton called him at the airport to let him know he was going to bring Reese Wynans along to play, too. This turned out to be the first time since Vaughan died that Double Trouble did an entire album with another artist.

“I was so green, but the album came out great, cuz those guys are so good,” Cummings marveled. “They took care of me, they brought me under their wings, and they helped me. They made me think of things differently. They made me understand how to build a guitar solo.

East Coast Noise Rock Helps Scream In Cinco de Mayo Out West

A Place To Bury Strangers

A Place To Bury Strangers plays the Yost May 5
Photo by Emily Berger

A Place To Bury Strangers is a New York based noise rock band performing in Orange County for the first time at the Yost Theater’s Psycho de Mayo on May 5. Their manic, high-energy stage performance coupled with their psychedelic wall of sound is not to be missed.

“We’re gonna blow up a bunch of stuff and play some crazy loud music!” Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals) announced.

Joining Ackermann are Dion Lunadon (bass guitar) and Robi Gonzalez (drums). “I met Dion when he lived in Los Angeles a long time ago but he doesn’t even remember it,” Ackermann said. “We hung out all day and night but I think he completely forgot.”

Eventually they were looking for someone to play bass in the band and Lunadon tried out. They played a show in San Francisco and, “he smashed his face with his bass,” Ackermann explained. “It was bleeding all over the place and then we were like ‘that’s the guy’. He was definitely in so that was that.”

About a year ago they were looking for a drummer. Several people tried out but, “there was this song that nobody could drum because it had some ridiculously fast speed,” Ackermann said. “When Robi came in to try out he played it!”

The trio is currently working on their fourth studio album. “We keep writing all these really good songs. I don’t know how it’s going to come together as an album, but we keep on doing some really neat stuff,” Ackermann said.

“I feel like the best songs kind of come about when there’s a strong emotion. Whether you were pissed off at something, or you’re madly in love with something or you desperately want or don’t want something,” he continued. “You want to be singing about something, have some sort of reason behind what you’re doing.”

A new song may even make it into their live set. “Once you write a good song you get a little bit too excited and want to play it,” Ackermann explained.

In addition to the upcoming album, a tour with Japandroids will take place later in the month followed by a European tour in the fall. “I think we might even be going to Taiwan this year, which is really exciting,” Ackermann said.

But playing with APTBS isn’t all that Ackermann likes to do. “I like to work. I like to build stuff. I like to redesign my house. I like to mess around with electronics. I like to walk around in the sunshine. I like to go to shows. I like to eat food, hang out with my friends,” he laughed.

In that spirit it is safe to say that Psycho de Mayo is definitely a good show to hang out with friends and possible eat food too!

A Psychedelic Fiesta Comes To Psycho De Mayo

Dead Meadow

Dead Meadow, one of many bands on the bill for Psycho de Mayo at the Yost May 5
Photo courtesy of Magdalena Wosinska

Experience the psychedelic droning power chords of Dead Meadow who will be one of the bands performing at Psycho de Mayo at the Yost Theater on May 5. An all day into the night affair featuring numerous psych (short for psychedelic rock) bands such as Black Mountain, A Place To Bury Strangers and Dead Skeletons to name a few.

Dead Meadow is a three-piece group featuring vocalist and guitarist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Mark Laughlin. They will release their much anticipated sixth studio album, “Womb Warble” on their own Xemu label this Fall after releasing three albums over five years with Matador Records.

Between doing their label, putting out other bands, and finishing their album, somehow, Kille and Simon found time to answer a few questions.

OCCG: What do you like about playing in Orange County?
Kille- I like that it is close to LA but a different crowd. It is inspiring to not have to go far to play to new people.

OCCG: What can fans expect when going to a Dead Meadow show in 2013?
Simon – A good time!!!!! The fans can expect a slew of classic Dead Meadow tunes and a bunch of new tunes from our upcoming record. I always want and hope the people at the show can have as much fun as I do playing. I figure if we can lose ourselves in the music the audience can as well.

OCCG: Can you offer some background on the writing/recording of the upcoming album “Warble Womb”?
Simon- We’ve been carefully constructing this record at our own studio for the last two years. It’s evolved and changed as all good creative projects do. I still don’t know what it is we’ve made. It’s always a surprise to hear the finished project.

OCCG: How did you come up with the title?
Simon- The records I love create an all encompassing space for the listener to enjoy, intellectually and emotionally. “Warble Womb” seemed like a particularly apt title for our humble attempt to create an inviting place for the listener to spend some time. Come inside, my friends….here is a shelter from the storm…stay as long as you like.

Kille- I actually had a dream about making a record called Wiggle Room and that it would be our most important album yet. When our graphic designer heard the story he mistook the words and Warble Womb was born. Now as Simon said it really encompasses our vision for the album and vision for our music in general. Maybe a higher power guided us on it?

OCCG: I understand you have your own label, Xemu Records. How did that come about?
Kille- It was a label started by writer/ director Cevin Soling in the 90’s. We became friends when I lived in New York. Over a couple beers we talked about starting it up full time again as a way to reissue Dead Meadow non-Matador albums. I guess one thing led to another and here we are now working with a hand full of psych and pop/rock artists. It has been really rewarding to be on the other side of the table and control the business side of things a little more. It is like the Wild West these days and even though there is not much funding in music in 2013, with the Internet you can reach a ton of fans and spread your music with little effort. It’s out there with a few clicks of a keyboard.

OCCG: Going back to the beginning of Dead Meadow, what were some of your early musical inspirations that lead you to creating your type of music?
Simon- As a kid it was bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jimi Hendrix that inspired me to pick up a guitar in the first place. We all came up from high school in the DC punk scene. It was a revelation to discover bands like Fugazi and their artistic integrity and passion. We played in punk bands for a number of years but Dead Meadow was a return to our earliest influences. Throw in some Neil Young, some Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, and that’s what kicked us off. We also really just wanted to freak people out and at that time, a long tripped out guitar jam was pretty much the most punk thing you could do. A massive intake of marijuana probably pushed us in that direction as well if ya know what I mean.

OCCG: What inspires your music today?
Simon- We still want to freak people out. To give the people something trippy with the hope that it will inspire them to create something trippy of their own. The urge to create, to attempt to capture a feeling, or some aspect of the world within or the world without, and to share that through song keeps leading to new ideas and those ideas in turn lead to other new ideas. It’s never-ending or at least it hasn’t ended yet.

OCCG: Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to do music?
Simon- For me, as long as I can remember I’ve been sure that this was the only thing that really seemed worthwhile to spend my life doing. It was more of a need than a constant decision. I’m not sure I had any choice in the matter.

Kille- Yeah, it sort of found me. I knew I always wanted to do creative things as a career. I have always been interested in art and writing. Really came about buying my first guitar when I was bored that I realized a whole other way to express myself and what was even better that it was collaborative something that art and writing had never been for me. So with multiple heads collectively working on ideas the art is exponentially stronger. I guess like making a movie, albums and music, the sum of the whole is better than the individual. I like that team aspect.

OCCG: What other bands do you listen to besides your own and what is the last “record” that you bought?
Simon- Recently I’ve been digging a lot of old banjo players like Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley. The music they make is so spine tingling and eerie. A combination of old English Ballads and the sound of the blues, all filtered through old Appalachia. I always go back to some Dub. I never get tired of Lee Perry, Scientist, and King Tubby. Xemu just released The Strangers Family Band Record. It’s great!

OCCG: On Wikipedia there’s a reference to Tolkien and Lovecraft, what have you read in the last few years that made an impression and why?
Simon- I’ve been on a big Nabokov kick lately. His prose is like fire. It’s so powerful. I went back to school for a few semesters at a Buddhist university so have been reading a good deal of the Pali Canon. The level of cutting insight into our human condition and the true workings of the mind is simply astounding. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, an American born Therevada monk, has also been blowing my mind. Check him out! All of his writings are free and available online.

OCCG: I just have to ask, how did Mark Laughlin go from playing drums in Dead Meadow, to pursuing a career in Law, and back again? That was quite a long hiatus. Was he studying Music Law?
Kille- I know it is a funny turn of events. When he left originally I didn’t think we would ever play in a band together again. He was really focused on his career and pursuing a non-music life. It happened when we were first approached by Matador and it became an option that we could take the gamble and make this thing full-time. It was a scary decision and at the time Mark didn’t want to take the risk. In the years that followed we all always remained close friends with him even traveling out to LA onetime with us just to hang out while we were playing a string of shows. After the years as Stephen lost interest in playing Mark I guess was secretly yearning for it again. When Stephen finally announced that he wanted to move on Mark immediately hit me up and we asked if he wanted to do shows again. Luckily for us he wanted to relocate to sunny California. He is still interested in law but I think he wants to be involved with entertainment. In NYC he was involved with government-based law and child rights.

OCCG: Does Simon have plans for another solo album? Are any other band members considering a solo album?
Simon- The solo thing has morphed into a band called Old Testament. Check us out…we’ll be playing Psycho de mayo. It’s an attempt to put a bit of the old and weird America into the music.

Kille- I have been recording bands a lot. I have really been excited by production and working with other musicians helping them get their ideas into recorded form. I have been evolving our studio that I have been calling the “Wiggle Room” (play on Warble Womb) into a comfortable place for musicians to come in and start hammering out the details. I have had the opportunity to work with some great people from Kim Deal to most recently been working on ex-GBV James Greer new band Detective. Aside from all of that I have been playing bass on the new Pink Mountaintops album which has been fun since the current studio musicians are all old friends.

OCCG: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Kille- Thanks for taking the time to interview us. Hopefully we can continue to keep playing the OC and maybe there will be more indie shops and venues to keep arts happening here. Definitely stop by our Xemu Party at Don The Beachcombers on June 8th. I see its potential as a great new venue for the scene to play at. They definitely have a love and respect for new bands and that lack of jadedness is a pretty healthy change from these days. Join us!

Guitarist For Ozzy, Black Label Society Plays To A New Book

Zakk Wylde at The Coach House May 1st

Zakk Wylde plays at The Coach House May 1st
Photo by Sakura

Yes, Zakk Wylde has written a book. It’s not so much an autobiography as it is sharing ridiculous stories about the music business. “Sadly I’m not making any of this up” he laughs.

He ended up writing the book with his buddy, Eric Hendrikx. “Put it this way, when we were writing the book, then reading it back, we were literally on the floor crying-laughing. I said ‘the whole book has got to be like this from the beginning to the end.’ Just like George Carlin on steroids. You’re like sitting around chilling, reading this book and laughing your balls off,” he said.

When asked if there were plans for a sequel Wylde replied, “Without a doubt. I mean this stuff writes itself.”

The evening will include an acoustic performance with Nick Catanese, Black Label guitarist and copies of the paperback should be available for sale at the venue. “It’s just gonna be me and Nick this time. I’m going to read a bit from the book then we’re going to get together and knock out some other tunes and call it a day,” Wylde said. “So basically it will just be another Black Label dysfunctional family gathering and good times will be had by all.”

After the book tour, Wylde is currently discussing summer dates with other bands, the fall release of the DVD “Unblackened”, which was a stripped-down Black Label Society show recently filmed at Club Nokia, to be followed by more live dates with Black Label Society.

“I’m a huge music fan,” Wylde declared. “I listen to everything, from Zeppelin to Sabbath to Neil Young and everything in between. Obviously because I play guitar, once in awhile I listen to jazz artists and classical guys that are amazing guitar players. I probably would never listen to them if I didn’t play guitar.”

“What was the last album I bought?” he asked. “Just a couple days ago I bought Echo and the Bunnymen, and Robert Plant’s album.”

But listening to his own music is a different story. “I hardly ever listen to myself, Wylde said. “I think most bands are so engrossed in making the album that you listen to it five trillion times until it’s right, so you never want to hear it again. Then you’re out on the road playin’ it.”

“I mean put it this way,” Wylde continued. “Back in the day we would sit in the submarine (the tour bus), and listen back to it blasted out of our minds and it was always cool.”

When not playing music and writing books Wylde likes to hang out with his family and his dogs and lift weights. “And obviously, you know, what never goes out of style, watch porn,” Wylde said. “It carries on from the road or when you’re bored in the house.”

Other than that, Wylde suggests to let the comedy continue. “You could be laughin’ or cryin.’ I’d rather be laughin’,” Wylde confirmed.

Indie Man Goes Solo For A Night At The Coach House

Ben Ottewell

Ben Ottewell plays The Coach House April 28

Ben Ottewell, one of the three-singers from the indie group, Gomez, will play an acoustic show at The Coach House on Sunday, April 28th.

“It probably won’t be that loud. But that’s a good thing,” he explains, “I’m kind of weary of drums after standing in front of a drummer for 15 years. It’s nice to just get out the acoustic guitar and be able to hear at the end of the night.”

This will be Ottewell’s first visit to the Coach House having previously played in Anaheim with his band, Gomez. He will be playing a mix of Gomez songs, possibly fan favorites, like “Get Miles” or “Revolutionary Kind, along with some of his solo songs and a few covers.

Ottewell’s powerful tenor voice has been described in a variety of ways but he says “the best thing I’ve ever read that’s been written about my voice is that I sounded like a buffalo being back-ended into a wood chipper. I think it was intended as an insult, but, I think that sounds great!”

His first solo album, “Shapes & Shadows,” was released in 2011 and he is halfway through writing the follow-up which should be out this time next year. Once again he is collaborating with his childhood friend, Sam Genders, who grew up in the same small village in the U.K. “We don’t mind telling each other when things are bad (lyrically) which is important,” Ottewell said.

Although Ottewell still considers himself a music fan, he’s not as much as when he first started. “I think being a musician does kind of ruin music for you because you have to be so critical of your own stuff. For it to be any good you kind of end up turning on other people as well. It’s a shame, really.”

However, he did just buy a CD titled, “Great Lakes” by John Smith. “It’s very good. He’s a British guy but he sings a bit like John Martin. At the moment he’s a bit like Ray Lamontagne meets John Martin. It’s good stuff.”

Ottewell promises the show will be excellent including the direct support, Buddy. “He’s acoustic but I think he may have a keyboard, maybe even more since he lives in LA. Maybe we’ll even see a drummer!” he cautioned.

A Knight To Remember Mixed With Gaming Compositions

Gladys Knight

Gladys Knight with the Pacific Symphony April 19
Photo by Andy Ortega

Leading the Pacific Symphony for Knights’ performance will be Maestra Eímear Noone, an ingenious conductor and composer with an immense passion for conducting music from all genres, including video game scores.

Having recorded more than 38 albums and enjoyed No. 1 hits on the pop, R&B and adult contemporary charts, Knight enchants audiences with four generations of music, from her Motown days with Gladys Knight & The Pips to her four solo records. In addition to being recognized in multiple halls of fame, Knight has been a guest judge and performer on “American Idol” and a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars”; she has appeared in the Tyler Perry film, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” and opened the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City with “This is Our Time.”

For this concert, she’ll be singing favorites such as “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Every Beat of My Heart,” her James Bond single “License to Kill” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” all backed by the lush sounds of the full symphony orchestra. 

The concert’s first half features Russell Brower’s “Leah” from Blizzard Entertainment’s “Diablo III,” which she originally recorded with Pacific Symphony for the game’s highly successful release in 2012; also, Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Hoe Down” from “Rodeo”; Bernstein’s Overture to “Candide”; and Debussy’s haunting “Claire de Lune.” Then, the orchestra rocks out to an arrangement of AC/DC’s music by Emmy-nominated composer Craig Stuart Garfinkle, called “Back in Symphonic Black.”

“Ms. Knight fully embodies her title of ‘The Empress of Soul,’ and it is a great honor to be invited to share a stage with her,” says Noone. “Hers is a voice of the people. It belongs to us all. It puts sound to our deepest longings and heartaches, joys and great loves. She gives everything to her people on stage, a completely selfless and vulnerable passion in her performance and then, of course, there’s the soul… Only a true, fearless artist can perform with such soul.”

The star vocalist of the evening, Knight, began singing gospel music in the Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Georgia at age 4. Three years later, she won the grand prize on the television show, “Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour,” and the following year, she joined what would eventually become Gladys Knight & The Pips. In 1995, Knight earned her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 1996, Gladys Knight & The Pips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a year later, they were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.

Knight received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual BET Awards in 2004. 

“Of course I’m absolutely delighted to come back and work with such an incredible group of artists and exemplary human beings,” she continues. “One of the unexpected results of our collaboration has been numerous awards and nominations, so thank you, Pacific Symphony!”

Currently, Noone is touring as the conductor for The Zelda Symphony, a full four-movement symphony created from the iconic video game “Zelda.” Noone also recorded the “Zelda Symphony 25th Anniversary CD,” which was released by Nintendo as part of its newest “Zelda” game, “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.”

In 2011, she conducted and co-produced “This Is Ireland” at Royce Hall in Los Angeles for St. Patrick’s Day. Featuring orchestra, gospel choir, actors and soloists, the show starred Irish celebrites Pierce Brosnan and Roma Downey.

For more information or to purchase tickets call (714) 755-5799 or visit

That Old School Indie Sound Rocks The OC

Built To Spill is playing at the Observatory May 2. Photo courtesy of Built To Spill

Built To Spill is playing at the Observatory May 2

Built to Spill are bringing their infectious indie rock to the Observatory on May 2. There will be “a lot of guitar rockin’,” guitarist/vocalist, Doug Martsch said. “We’re going to play a bunch of songs that we made up and some songs that some other people made up that we learned.”

Last year it was announced that there would be a new album released sometime in 2013. “Well, in the fall, in September, the rhythm section guys quit,” Martsch explained. “I wasn’t really too happy with how the record was going. Both guys did a great job but I was having a hard time finishing it up and I don’t know if the songs were quite there yet. So, when those guys quit, I took that opportunity to can the record.”

Remaining with Martsch in Built to Spill are regulars Brett Netson and Jim Roth, both also on guitar. “We have a new rhythm section,” Martsch stated. “Our bass player, Jason Albertini, he’s been our crew guy for ten years or so. Steve Gere (drums) has been out with us. He’s recorded us and come out, hanging out with us. They’ve been part of our crew for a few years. They know our songs, they know us.”

The current touring lineup has been learning the old songs and will start working on the new material for the upcoming record. “This summer we’re gonna try to work hard and hopefully get a record written, start recording in the fall,” Martsch offered.

Built to Spill formed in 1992 and produced its first major label release, “Perfect from Now On” in 1997. They have released seven full-length albums including their most recent album, “There Is No Enemy” which was released in 2009.

“As I get older it seems like I’m a little bit pickier about what I want to do with my little ideas. It takes more to excite me than it used to do. It’s more and more work to flush out those ideas,” he further explained. “You have your basic idea and it’s something that can be good but you have to figure out a way to deliver it. That’s when it gets a little bit complex.”

When writing a song, Martsch prefers to come up with a melody and then add the words. “I usually have the melody and the meter and the way I want it to sound and then I figure out some words that plug in neatly to that melody.”

Writing while on the road is difficult. “Yea, I don’t do much writing on the road,” Martsch said. “Who knows? Maybe with these new guys we will find some time to do a little bit of writing.”

And perhaps there may even be one or two songs ready to be played live.