The Sound Of Positivity

CHRISTIAN FRENCH plays Constellation Room Feb. 29; press photo

CHRISTIAN FRENCH plays Constellation Room Feb. 29; press photo

Christian French has had a phenomenal rise to success in a short amount of time. And it all began from quite humble beginnings. “That’s a funny story actually,” he says. “My friend came into choir class – at the time I was in a school where you either had to be in band or choir class and I was in both for a year. So, he came into choir class one day and we learned “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles. He came in and had learned to play that from YouTube and showed me how he had learned it on piano. And I was like, ‘I can do that as well.’ So, I learned that song and just started learning how to play all my favorite songs.

“That was going on for a couple of years and I started putting my covers up on Soundcloud. Gradually, I just kept getting better at piano and started writing my own stuff. After I found I could write my own stuff, I just kept developing it more and more. Once I got to college, I started releasing music through Spotify and compilation via my college. And it was in my college town that I met my manager and we came out here and that’s where we are at now.”

Coming up with a name is sometimes one of the more challenging aspects to being a musical act, but often times the simplest route really is the best. “That was the debate for some time,” states French. “But Christian French is just my name and my music is genuine as myself; there’s always the thought of thinking about a different name but it just seemed to fit and that’s all I can really say.”

Inspiration can come from anywhere, and French has shown he seeks it in many of the unlikeliest places time and time again. “It varies from time to time,” he reveals. “Sometimes, I will mess around until I find some chords I like that go together or write lyrics that I get inspired from. Lately, I’ve been tapping into podcasts and reading a lot of stuff from self-help books and taking away the main points from them – trying to apply those to my music and see If I can write a story around it.”

CHRISTIAN FRENCH; press photo

CHRISTIAN FRENCH; press photo

The concept behind Bright Side Of The Moon is simple yet powerful. “It’s based off this idea of consistently focusing on the bright side of things rather than letting all the negativity take over,” explains French. “That was kind of the theme of it, because from my own experiences and being in bummer situations one day I realized that I didn’t have to be so bummed out. It’s all about a change of attitude, and after I realized that a lot of things started changing for me for the better.

“I started taking the good things out of situations rather than being stuck on the past. I started seeing so much improvement in my life that I wanted to write about it and pass the knowledge along. And that’s what Bright Side of the Moon really is, and what the whole tour is about.

“We released Bright Side of the Moon last August. We hit a lot of towns on that one but not as many as I wanted to, so we are bringing it back around so I can hit all the places we didn’t get to last fall.”

Every artist has something that drives them, something that they are extremely proud of: “The reaction to it,” he describes. “My thing with music is as long as I’m having a positive impact on people’s lives is all I really care about. The response to my songs was so motivating…and not everyone who has this type of knowledge is going to know they can do all these things, and just putting it out there for people to realize has been amazing. I’ve heard so many great and life changing stories from fans who have taken it to heart.”

In addition to that is the sheer joy of playing live for his fans. “It’s just a whole other connection to the music,” French illustrates. “Being there with fans who I’ve talked to for months over social media, finally getting to see them live and rocking out with them… there’s just no feeling to compare it to. I mean, we have live drum and live guitar so it’s just a new energy for them to experience. Last tour was the first time I got to bring a drummer out with us and that just created a whole new vibe.

“There’s a couple that are always a lot of fun to play. “By Myself” is one that everybody knows, and I always have fun with. The same goes for “Love Ride,” and both those songs have a lot of energy to them. And then, one of my personal favorites is “Head First”. Every time I play it, it’s such a rocking song. So those would be three favorites I love to play.”

Getting ready for the next show is a constant process for every touring band, and each always finds their own unique way of combating the pre-show jitters. “We kind of do our own thing to try and get into the zone,” conveys French. “My thing is I go into a bathroom and start warming up – start stretching, going over my lines, and getting into a zone where I’m not thinking about anything else. Then a few minutes before a show we will get together, talk about the show, and a have little huddle to establish a base.”

The future looks bright for French as well, who is already extremely busy forging ahead. “I just started releasing this cycle of music and just released a song called “Time Of Our Lives,” he asserts. “We are going to continue releasing music this March/April and over the next couple of months. And are also going to be on this tour for the Spring as well. After that, the focus is going to be on doing a lot of college shows and hopefully be back on the road in the fall. I also plan on releasing a lot more music before the year is over as well. I’m super excited for 2020 and getting all of this stuff out there.”

Catch Christian French on his Bright Side of the Moon Tour Part Two tour, when he plays the Constellation Room on February 29th!

Fun In The Dark

CANDL; press photo

CANDL; press photo

“That one has a history to it,” explains Walter Morales, AKA CANDL. “Going back to my creative art side, CANDL came from a graffiti background. A buddy of mine from way back in 2007 basically gave me the name CANDL, because he said anytime I walked into a room I would light the place up and had a good spirit… that I had a good aura and was always smiling. So, he told me, ‘I’m going to call you CANDL because you’re a bearer of light’. So that’s what it means, it came from my graffiti roots and brought it over to this whole DJing and producing thing.”

His path from graffiti artist to Producer/DJ is one that developed naturally and influenced the way in which he developed his style. “When I first started learning how to DJ, I was into more techno and tech house,” he elaborates. “It was researching those kinds of sounds that led me to like the UK brand of things, like jagged house and bassline; for me, it just hit way harder and was a lot more creative than the stuff I’d be hearing.

“A lot of the tech house is good, and so is the US bass house stuff, but the UK bass stuff was so much heavier to me and so much more creative and when it comes to the dancefloor, I just love spinning that stuff. I always told myself I’d make the kind of stuff that I would want to spin. I still make tech house stuff and other kinds of bass music, but it always has to be creative and smack.”

The track “DTF,” shows his ingenuity for creating tunes full of warbling bass lines, catchy vocal samples, and a unique sense of rhythm. The atmospherics create the dark vibe CANDL loves to employ but this is also a track that sets a dancefloor ablaze; listening to the track instantly creates a vision of a dark club filled with bodies writhing in perfect unison to the beat.

In addition to his activities as CANDL, Morales also helped found one of the most creative and original collectives currently operating in Los Angeles. “Basically, with LO FREQS, that all came into the picture when I met my buddy John (Mèlay) at the LA Recording school and we were the only two dudes making house music in class… everybody else was basically pop, trap, or dubstep,” describes Morales. “So naturally, we got together as we were doing the same thing. One day we were having a talk about doing something real, John said he had a dope name that was LO FREQS and we just took it from there.”

Darkside 2 cover art

Darkside 2 cover art

Since then, the status and respect for everyone involved has only grown stronger. “We stayed on top of it and didn’t want to be another cookie cutter crew, so we focused on having our friends DJ and produce top quality sh**,” he adds. “I didn’t care if it was my own brother trying to get in, if he wasn’t hungry about it and doing quality material then he would have to earn his keep. We just had this idea of doing something big and different – to bring our kinds of sounds and sounds from the UK out here.”

“The Night” is a prime example of both CANDL and LO FREQS mission to fuse the UK Sound with their own original sound. Hypnotic vocal samples create a very LA kind of vibe while the specific tonalities of the bass are very reminiscent of the UK bass sound. Together, it creates a driving house track that showcases the power this specific hybrid sound possesses.

While starting out as a DJ, he eventually got involved in production due to its potential for expressing his own unique style of making music. “What got me into production?” asks Morales. “Basically, I’ve always been creative, and always been into the scene since about 2005… like house music and trance music.

“Creating music came much later, about 2015. I think what inspired me was just hearing a bunch of dope stuff and dope music from everywhere really, and the creative part of me just really wanted to create. I was an artist before that, doing drawing and painting and stuff like that. Being able to create just called to me.

“Producing is dope and it’s fun to get creative but being able to go out there and play sets/shows is an amazing part of it. Being able to go out there and influence people with sounds and ideas that you put out there, it’s a grand thing to be able to effect that kind of change and emotion… being able to take a person out of whatever drama they have going on that day and have them lose themselves in the music is a really good feeling. Studio time is just as valuable, that’s where the magic is made. You gotta be able to make that magic to bring out there.”

The Darkside EP is his newest release to date, and its inception as well as its content are landmarks in the ongoing development of CANDL. “The title of the EP resulted from the fact that the main track is called ‘Darkside’; that was the first track that got signed and the rest of the tracks came from that,” says Morales. “If anyone has ever heard my sets, I play a lot of dark/heavy kind of vibes whether it’s house or breakbeat, and it’s a style I’m known for. I’m not going to say G-House kind of dark or Bloodtone dark, but more UK bass which is darker and weirder. So, it just made complete sense with the kind of sound I have that I play on the dancefloor.”

Dark and weird is at the forefront of the sound of CANDL, and “Darkside” truly demonstrates his mastery of it. The mutated bass frequencies, glitchy synth motifs, and off-key rhythm employed throughout the tune create one that infects the brain and the muscles at the same time, thus making this a track easily enjoyed in any environment. The track is filled with ambient explorations as well as constant surges of effects that effortlessly combine the best of the studio world and the live environment.

“One of the things I’m most proud of about this is that it is my first UK label release,” he points out. “I’ve been playing UK stuff for so long so it’s only right to have those kinds of tracks come out on that label. Honestly, I wouldn’t want them anywhere else. I respect all the labels out there, and the ones out here, but it’s not really for me because of the style that I do. So, it feels more at home on Incursion Records; plus, the fact all those dudes are killing it in their own right and it just feels super right.

“I’ve got another EP dropping through LO FREQS, which is going to have five or six more tracks on it – that is just going to take the madness even further,” reveals Morales. “Also, super stoked on that release; really, the Darkside EP is my first EP release ever, as I’ve mostly been releasing singles and through compilations and stuff like that. This upcoming one on LO FREQS is going to be my first EP release on that label as well, and the fact that it’s getting released on the label I helped create just makes it that much more epic. I’m going to be able to showcase even more of that style that the Darkside EP offers.”

Out now on Incursion Records, Darkside EP by CANDL is a must-have release for any fan of bass music! And stay locked in on CANDL and LO FREQS, as things are only going to get wilder and more exciting!

Cummings Brings His Blues To Town

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

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! His new album, Believe, comes out on Valentine’s Day, and you can see him live at The Coach House Feb. 13, a place he’s only played once before.

“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 album cover art for "Believe"

Albert Cummings album cover art for “Believe”

Cummings headed to the legendary Muscle Shoals studio to record 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).”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

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.

“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.

Albert Cummings guitar; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings guitar; photo Jennifer Mardus

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.

“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.”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

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.”

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

Albert Cummings; photo Jennifer Mardus

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.

“I remember asking them ‘what would Stevie tell me to do?’ and they said, ‘play from the heart’, and that’s what that album’s called, From The Heart.

To this day, that experience still resonates with Cummings both in the studio and performing live.

Be sure to check out his new album or any of the previous nine and catch him live. This secret needs to be exposed!

Phil Vassar Brings Country To SoCal

PHIL VASSAR plays The Coach House Feb. 13, Humphrey's/San Diego Feb. 14; press photo

PHIL VASSAR plays The Coach House Feb. 13, Humphrey’s/San Diego Feb. 14; press photo

Nashville country musician Phil Vassar brings spirited fun and music to SoCal as part of his current “Stripped Down” acoustic tour. Vassar is slated to play at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano Feb. 13 and Humphrey’s in San Diego Feb. 14.

Vassar states that concertgoers are in for a great time!

“It’s just me on a piano and guitar and stories. It’s a storyteller kind of vibe. It’s really fun.”

Though born in Virginia and currently residing in Nashville, a region well-known for being central to country music as well as the filming location of his show “Songs from the Cellar,” Vassar unapologetically boasts of his love for the region of Southern California.

“I’ve played in Southern California so many times. I love it,” he says. “I’ve actually played The Coach House and of course I’ve played San Diego. I’ve played all over. I love Southern Cal, Orange County and San Diego. I love the vibe. I love it there. I love the weather. If I could live there I probably would.”

Musically active since 1997, Vassar has become well-established in the country music genre thanks to his baritone voice but also for his skilled piano playing.

Vassar says his entry into music started off slow but gained speed in large part due to him personally knowing a number of prominent names he met over the years.

“I lived in Nashville so I just started playing music all over town. I started writing a lot and trying to get a record deal. In the meantime, I met a lot of people like Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson and Kenny Chesney and Faith Hill and Joe Dee Messina.”

Meeting these individuals and befriending them allowed Vassar the opportunity to pen a number of songs that many of the notable artists he met went on to record. Notable songs he is credited as writing include Collin Raye’s “Little Red Rodeo, ” Tim McGraw’s “For a Little While,” and Alan Jackson’s “Right on the Money.”

Vassar’s efforts not only saw many of his songs soar to high positions in song charts but also an award in 1999 from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers.

“After that it became a whole lot easier to get a record deal,” Vassar says. “My first record came out in 2000 and I’ve done ten since then.”

Vassar’s music, as is typical of country, can best be described as stories set to song. In fact, Vassar considers himself to be a storyteller and one who uses music to accomplish that. It’s music that he creates through what can best be described as a naturally occurring process.

“Most of the time I think I’ll start with a melody or work it on the piano. I kind of get something going. Sometimes I’ll write the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on an airplane and write it and then I’ll put the music to it later on. There’s really not a right or wrong way to do it for me. I think I just kind of do it both ways.”

Though he has recorded ten albums to date using this method, Vassar uses live concerts as a gauge to determine whether he has produced the best possible songs he can which is something he is unable to fully accomplish in a studio setting.

“You can’t really tell in the studio. There’s no feedback. You don’t know what’s going on. Whether it’s good or bad. I think having the opportunity to play songs live, you really get a better indication of how your music is or how it’s going to do.”

Additionally, Vassar uses a unique approach for each live show he does. Vassar calls this method as “kind of flying by the seat of your pants.

“I don’t have a setlist or anything like that,” Vassar explains.” I just sort of start playing music, asking people what they want to hear, and I just take requests. That’s what I do for the whole night. That’s basically how I do it. I love doing it that way so the show’s more spontaneous and that’s the way I like to do it.”

Vassar promises those who attend his concerts in Southern California will not only enjoy his shows but he promises he will enjoy playing them too. For Vassar, being able to publically share the music he makes is not just a career but a constant goal that he always strives to accomplish wherever he goes.

“That’s the payoff, you know. I think that’s the most exciting part of the whole deal. I love playing live. I’ve always loved it even before I was writing good songs and doing all that. But playing live, I mean, that’s the way to go. That’s my favorite.”

Queensryche: A Tale From The Photo Pit

QUEENSRYCHE Todd La Torre (vocals) Michael Wilton (guitar); photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE Todd La Torre (vocals) Michael Wilton (guitar); photo Reuben Martinez

First show of the year and I am getting to cover a band I was listening to since their beginning. Over 35 years in the business this band has endured many obstacles over that time. Their recent album The Verdict was released a year ago bringing the total to 21 albums (16 studio) in their career. The tour started in Southern California with Eve to Adam and Rob Zombie’s guitar virtuoso John 5 to support. East coast band Eve to Adam took the stage and I was new to hearing them. They are a solid choice to open for the rock icons. Very energetic set.

JOHN 5; photo Reuben Martinez

JOHN 5; photo Reuben Martinez

One huge thing about this night was getting to shoot John 5 in a venue with great lighting and a photo pit. I’ve covered John 5 a few times in the smallest clubs shooting from a crowd. And tonight, John 5 stayed constant to each time I’ve seen him. Visually, John 5 can look Metal/Zombie and play hard, yet beautiful. Hard riffs to country twang. But just like shooting from a crowded floor, the photo pit was full of about 20 photographers this night. Limited space to move around. But every angle had heavy blue and green lights to set the scene. John 5 even came out with a mask of himself, ripping it off to reveal a green skull. He finished with a quick tribute to Rush (who recently lost their drummer, Neil Peart) a homage to the band, then went into very familiar riffs of White Zombie and Pantera. These were definitely fan favorites of the night.

QUEENSRYCHE Eddie Jackson (bass); photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE Eddie Jackson (bass); photo Reuben Martinez

At last it was time for headliners, Queensryche to take stage. When the lights went out you could see the members walk on stage and right away jump into the classic “Prophecy”. I’ve seen this band dozens of times and every time I get drawn to when I was a teenager. Singer Todd La Torre sounded amazing going through the classics and on to the new songs. The Ryche vibe is still there. Part of that sound is the guitar harmonies of Michael Wilton and Parker Lundgren. Of course, when Eddie Jackson started the bass line for the intro to “Jet City Woman” the crowd went nuts. One of their biggest hits. They ended the main set with “Queen of the Reich” from the first album.

QUEENSRYCHE Parker Lundgren (guitar); photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE Parker Lundgren (guitar); photo Reuben Martinez

They opened up the encore with something new and then finished the night with “Eyes Of a Stranger” from the Operation: Mindcrime concept album. Even with a lot of media in the photo pit and seeing a lot of familiar faces, this show was a great way to kick off 2020. It’s great seeing bands like Queensryche still packing in venues. And sounding amazing.

Queensryche Set List:
Prophecy
Operation: Mindcrime
Walk In the Shadows
Resistance
Man The Machine
Take Hold Of the Flame
No Sanctuary
Bent
Dark Reverie
Breaking The Silence
Silent Lucidity
Jet City Woman
Screaming In Digital
Queen Of the Reich
-encore-
Light-Years
Empire
Eyes Of a Stranger

Sons Of Apollo World Domination Progressive Metal

SONS OF APOLLO play The Glass House Jan. 24, Roxy Theater Jan. 25; photo Hristo Shindov

SONS OF APOLLO play The Glass House Jan. 24, Roxy Theater Jan. 25; photo Hristo Shindov

Progressive metal band Sons Of Apollo is coming to California as part of their current tour promoting their aptly named album MMXX, or 2020 to those who prefer contemporary numbers, which was released on Jan. 17. Concertgoers can catch the supergroup at the Glass House in Pomona Jan. 24, Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles Jan. 25 and the Fillmore in San Francisco Jan. 26.

“They’re going to get a very talented group of musicians doing their best to take over the world as far as what we’re doing musically,” states Jeff Scott Soto, lead vocalist for the band and who grew up in SoCal.

Soto, in addition to having been associated with groups like Journey and Talisman, has been a part of Sons of Apollo since its inception in 2017. Rounding out the band are four other equally recognizable veteran metal musicians: Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian, Billy Sheehan and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal.

2020 marks the first time Sons of Apollo have played together live in quite a while due to each member devoting themselves to other various projects and of course creating MMXX: their second album.

Soto promises though their inability to play live is penance they intend to pay off in 2020 in an effort he hopes will be “groundbreaking.”

“When we take breaks like this in-between records, it’s interesting once we get the cavalry back together. But I’m sure, because we now have some history together in touring, it’s going to come together.”

Though a relatively new supergroup, Sons of Apollo has already gathered quite a noted appreciation among music lovers not just for its star-laden lineup but also for its very loud and passionate music that is best described as progressive metal.

“For all intents and purposes, people see us as a prog band,” Soto said. “We do fit into that category of Dream Theater and PSMS from which the band originated. It’s kind of lumped into the prog world because of the musicality side of things.”

As Sons of Apollo is a supergroup, Soto says he and the other members are all equally tasked with thinking up the typically heavy progressive songs they create. Soto does his best to produce his own contributions while also trying not to rudely inject his ideas for songs and styles onto his other bandmates.

“I would never dabble. I would never step into a room when they’re writing a song and say, ‘hey! Why don’t you guys use this chord or play this lick instead?’ Because these guys are masters of their trade and I respect them as much as they respect my end of coming up with melodies and coming up with lyrics, etc.”

Once completed, the creator of the song shares the results around with the rest of the band who are then allowed to provide suggestions. When this process is done and there is a mutual agreement, the song is made.

While recording in the studio is simple, Soto says it’s more fulfilling and challenging to play it live.

“It’s as exciting as much as it is nerve wracking. For those guys, they have the technical. For me, again, I pretty much conform to what I do and how I do it within the context of where I’m singing. But those guys have all the technical side of the music.”

Although Soto is merely tasked with giving vocals to songs, he says that the true burden of responsibility is placed on his other bandmates who have to handle the group’s instruments. He says they are the ones who ensure the songs Sons of Apollo makes are pulled off properly.

“It’s exciting but it’s nerve wracking watching them because the slightest little hiccup in a song can turn into a train wreck because there’s so many time changes and signatures within the context of certain songs. If one person throws it off it can actually throw a whole monkey wrench into the machine.”

However, Soto assures that the band will do their utmost to avoid that when playing their three shows in California and beyond.

“I think it’s going to be fantastic! All three shows! The entire tour! The entire year!”

Sons of Apollo’s current tour, which currently lasts until April, will not only see the group tour North America but also Europe and South America. Soto hopes that, should the five men garner enough attention during that time, they will hopefully extend the tour a little longer.

Soto says that is the 2020 goal of Sons of Apollo: a musical world domination.

“That’s the bottom line – we’re hitting ’em with what we’re doing and make ’em want more and from there we’re hoping that they’re gonna want more.”

Coco Montoya Cherishes The Blues At The Coach House

COCO MONTOYA plays The Coach House Jan. 16; photo James Christopher

COCO MONTOYA plays The Coach House Jan. 16; photo James Christopher

Fans in South Orange County have been fortunate to see blues guitarist, Coco Montoya play at The Coach House many times over the years. In fact, they’ll get another chance Jan. 16.

“I’ve just always liked the vibe of the place,” Montoya said. “The sound system is always great and it’s just a fun place to play. Definitely, The Coach House is one of my favorite venues.”

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Do you remember when and where your very first concert was?
COCO MONTOYA: I wouldn’t call it a concert but when I was kid we did all the teen dances and all those sort of things. Those were the first experiences with being in front of the public and being appreciated. And some of them, maybe appreciated too much (laughs). You have to go through that part as well.

Coco Montoya; photo James Christopher

Coco Montoya; photo James Christopher

CGL: Were you nervous or did you take to it right away?
CM: Always nervous. You have your moments of real confidence and you definitely have moments of doubt.

CGL: Is there anything in particular you like to do right before you go on stage?
CM: Not really. There’s no real kind of thing I do other than tell myself how grateful I am to be able to go and do it one more time. I need to let myself know how I feel about that and let the audience know how this can all be taken away and some day it will be, you know?

CGL: You’ve played tons of live shows, in all sizes of venues, what is it about performing live that you like so much?
CM: It’s just the immediate reaction of people. I mean that to me is the whole reason to be out here doing it. You know, it’s just to get that immediate reaction from folks. It beats studio, it beats all the things for me. To do a live performance and be appreciated and accepted by the people is probably the ultimate for me in playing music.

Coco Montoya; photo James Christopher

Coco Montoya; photo James Christopher

CGL: In your early days you played with both Albert Collins and John Mayall and in a sense maybe they were kind of like mentors to you. Have you ever taken a blues guitarist under your wing or has any guitarist looked to you in the early stages of their career?
CM: Well, I know that I’ve always tried to be open and in discussion with a young player. It depends. There are some guys, young kids that are coming up that I’ve definitely tried to be there for them and any questions they may have I try and guide them. Give them the knowledge that was given to me so freely.

CGL: It seems like blues players, more than any other genre, try to keep the spirit and roots of the music going from generation to generation.
CM: I just know within the blues, especially coming from my age group, that the old originators of this music who are not here anymore, my experiences with them was that they always nurtured. They always found a way to let you know what they know – sometimes with a pretty rough edge on it (laughs) – that’s still good for you, you know? Yea, you try to pass that along because the blues has always been about that. It’s always been the originators of the music were always very open and very willing to tell you how to go about it.

CGL: So you play a Strat – is that your preferred guitar?
CM: Yea, that’s what I use, they’re pretty durable, I’ve been using them for a long time. And playing unorthodox like I do, I kind of need something that’s fairly consistent. Switching guitars and all that stuff too often, I’m not real good at that. I’ve had my Strats for a long time and they pretty much do the job for me.

Wild Child Channels The Doors

WILD CHILD plays The Coach House Jan. 11; photo James Christopher

WILD CHILD plays The Coach House Jan. 11; photo James Christopher

“Probably the number one comment we have received for many years is, ‘I never got to see The Doors live but I feel this is as close as I will ever get. Thank you for doing this. I was born at the wrong time and missed it’,” Dave Brock (founder/vocalist) shared.

SoCal is fortunate once again to experience the sensation that is Wild Child, as they return to The Coach House with the ultimate tribute to The Doors Jan. 11, playing songs such as “Hello, I Love You”, “Touch Me,” and “Light My Fire” to name a few.

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

“The Coach House has a long history of hosting some of the best bands that ever played,” Brock said. “If the walls could talk… The level of entertainment there is always at the top. The setting is very intimate yet holds a fairly big crowd for a club. There’s not a bad seat in the house. People have a great time there.”

Concert Guide Live caught up with Brock to find out how it all began, about the attention to detail in both the sound and equipment, and much more.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Did you ever see Jim Morrison play live?
WILD CHILD: Although I was alive when The Doors were playing, I was far too young to actually see them in person. My brother was eight years older than I and saw them as a teenager. He loved The Doors.

I remember one time driving home with my mother and brother as a small kid. The long version of “Light My Fire” was on the radio and I remember my brother yelling out loud that this song was going to last all the way home. I was aware of The Doors as a child, but they really didn’t get on my radar until midway through college, when I was going through a phase of discovery as most young people do. Questioning… everything. Exploring, testing the boundaries. Examining everything I was ever taught or told. This is great music for those at that period in their life.

CGL: How important is it to you and the rest of the band to play the songs as close to the originals as possible?
WC: Probably the most important thing that Wild Child does, is playing the music as close as possible to the original. Whether it be the studio recorded version or perhaps a great live version. Or a combination of the two.

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

Our instrumentation is exactly what The Doors had. We were able to find a very rare Gibson portable organ, as Ray (Manzarek) used to play live on stage. Very ominous sounding keyboard that is impossible to simulate with a synthesizer. We also had Ludwig Custom make a drum kit exactly like John Densmore’s. Same Gibson SG guitar Robby (Krieger) used to play.

But it does not stop there. It’s mandatory in this band to play the songs exactly like the original members. No one interjects with their favorite licks they have learned over the years or plays in a different style. We realize what people are paying for and what they deserve.

CGL: What is one of your favorite songs to play live?
WC: What I like most about The Doors songs is that for the most part they are very different from each other. It’s almost like walking through an art gallery, each song is like a different painting. With lots of visual imagery and poetry. The band is comprised of such different types of musicians. A boogie-woogie keyboard player, a flamenco guitar player and a jazz drummer in the same band. Crazy good!

CGL: What is the longest tour you ever went on? How did you keep yourself engaged while constantly riding a bus?
WC: The longest tour I was ever on was in Europe. Mostly Western Europe. However, it was only for about a month and a half. I have never done extremely long tours. Probably why I have had such a long career. I have also very rarely done bus tours. I prefer sleeping in hotels. Our equipment / crew needs are so small that we really don’t even need a bus. I went on a few bus tours with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors, when I was their singer. That is how they preferred to tour. Those were great times, but I hated leaving a five-star hotel room to bump down the road in a bus overnight. The closer I can get to a normal life on the road, the better I feel about it.

CGL: Tell me about the moment that led to you deciding to do a tribute to the Doors?

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

Wild Child; photo James Christopher

WC: While attending Long Beach State University I became a big Doors fan. I heard a radio ad about the Jim Morrison rock opera at Gazzari’s night club on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. So, I went to it the next evening. It turned out to be a live audition and not really quite a rock opera, yet. I showed up and they let me in for free. All they needed was my name for the clipboard. Later I found myself being called on stage to sing a song. The only one I knew was “LA Woman”. Never before doing something in front of a crowd, held a microphone etc., I was singing “LA Woman”. When it was over, Jim Morrison’s sister, Anna came out of the crowd and had photos taken with me. Soon after they offered the lead role to me. That’s what got me into this mess. But I really have enjoyed it. After that journey ended, I took some time off and then formed my own band, Wild Child.

CGL: How many songs do you know? Are there any you’d still like to learn?
WC: I’ve probably done every song The Doors have done at one time or another. However, for our show I have to realize that most people coming to see us only know what they’ve heard on the radio and may not even own any of the albums. So, I have to be careful with how many obscure songs we add to a set of music. Maybe two or three at the most. Luckily the hits are not poppy or corny.

CGL: Vocally, what do you do to keep your voice and range in shape?
WC: My secret to vocal longevity is attributed to these two things. First of all, I sing in my own vocal range. Where a lot of people doing other people’s material actually have to sing outside their normal range to accomplish that. That is very hard on your voice.

BC Rydah And YESKA Beatz Keep The Jungle Growing

Yeska

Yeska

“I don’t know, it’s something about those breaks, you know?” says BC Rydah. “I feel more connected to those breaks and come from that kind of chemical music.

“When I got introduced to this stuff, I was watching Liquid Television, with Alex Reece playing on the videos and stuff like that. But it’s just something about those breaks, all the elements of it are dope. Like every single break that I’ve heard, every manipulation, just brings a lot of excitement to the dance floor and to the music.”

A stunning endorsement of Jungle music, straight from the mouth of one of LA’s best practitioners of the style. A part of YESKA Beatz, who run the local magazine Jungle Juice, he has been involved in bringing Jungle to the masses for over a decade now.

“My name, BC, stands for Beach City,” explains Rydah. “That’s pretty much what it means. I go by BC Rydah because that’s what I represent and it’s just a cool name that came together following a bunch of homies just kicking it and smoking together. I’ve been running with this since about 2009; before that, I had other names and monikers, but it wasn’t until this one that I started taking music and my approach to the sound and culture more serious.

“The jungle scene found me! Like, when I was a youngster, me and the homies used to listen to tapes. Back in the late 90’s, one of my boys gave me a jungle tape and a hardcore tape, and I also came across compilations. But I was always listening to other stuff, was always listening to like the Chemical Brothers and Crystal Method because Big Beat was really big around that time. That was a part of my introduction as well as having the LA Hard House scene heavily surrounding me. So it was like I’d hear all of it: whether it was on the radio or like having DJ’s come to our school dances and playing it there with our homies battling in circles and stuff.”

Like many, he ended up finding his way to the music via raves, shows, and the culture behind it.

“I was kind of always around electronic music, but it wasn’t until I was in high school that I started going out and going to raves. I remember going to this one party, it was a club that was a gutted-out hotel that they turned into a rave club. I saw R.A.W. spinning there and he blew me away with turntable techniques. It was that and another party, at Utopia, where they had hip-hop one day and drum and bass the next day. It was pretty much after those events that I was like, ‘This is what I do now’.”

What is YESKA Beatz? According to Rydah, “We are a Junglist movement, based out of Long Beach, that started in 2012. Our goal is to bring back good, real jungle music from this area. In the beginning, I was trying to do something different but now I really like how we are putting out a different sound than the rest of what’s out on the west coast. Originally at the start, it was a skate crew that I was a part of. Later we incorporated that with the beats and now, here we are.

“The name came together while smoking a blunt in a backyard and it just created itself. We have about twenty different DJ’s and producers who are part of the crew; we also have producers from all over the world who put out stuff on our label. We stay dedicated to the cause, making sure that the culture keeps extending and people get fed that knowledge and understanding.”

Jungle Juice itself is a magazine but the events that celebrate each release are also an integral part of it as well.

“The magazine was supposed to be a monthly thing, but dealing with issues and trying to stay organized we decided to start dropping the issue without it needing to be a monthly thing,” Rydah elaborates.
“When it comes out, it comes out. But whenever we do drop an issue, we are going to do an event; this way people are informed as well as entertained. Because these are all about everyone having a good time, coming out and having a good experience. I want people to experience what it was like for me when I got into music. It’s all about experiencing that love, that vibe.”

Throwing these shows takes a huge amount of effort and planning, and it’s his genuine love for the music which drives his zeal for putting the shows together.

“I’m really excited; it’s all about all these ones we have done but really excited for the artist who is coming out. He’s a good friend and I’ve done some art shows with him throughout the years, and really want people to see his talent. Next year is going to be really exciting, as it’s going to be coming back full force with the same Jungle mind state in a new area, and ready to be in your hands.”

The future of this movement is only gaining more and more momentum as time goes on, with a blistering amount of material in the works.

“YESKA Beatz has done about sixteen releases,” reveals Rydah. “We are working on the single series, which will have stuff from R.A.W./6Blocc and Ed808 and is beginning next year. It will be single releases every month with full album releases every few months, and vinyl releases every six months. So definitely be on the lookout for a lot of new dope releases from the streets of Cali and abroad. But the focus will be on our stateside Jungle sound.

“With Jungle Juice, everyone should just come out and support! A big thank you goes out to all those involved – all the crews, different promoters, Supply and Demand in Long Beach. We are just going to keep this thing growing and spreading the vibe!”

Cold War Kids: A Tale From The Photo Pit

Cold War Kids; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Cold War Kids; photo Lauren Ratkowski

It had been awhile since I had been in the pit. I was excited that I was heading to House of Blues to shoot SoCal based Cold War Kids. They had been on my radar for a long time. I mean, I grew up listening to KROQ and like many, the first song of theirs I heard was “Hang Me Up To Dry.” Their sound always struck me as different. Something needed in this age of rock-and-roll.

After getting my pass and ticket for the night, I headed straight for the pit. I longed to be back in my home. Only two other photographers joined me to capture the night’s opener, Samia. High energy music was met with an active stage performance. These are all things I love from a band, and even better when it’s how I get to start my night. Through the lens I could tell that lighting was even, a perfect mix of reds and blues. I was happy that this meant I could really focus on the flipping, feet in the air, and kneeling being served to me from Samia herself.

Cold War Kids; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Cold War Kids; photo Lauren Ratkowski

Only two bands were on the bill, meaning Cold War Kids were next. The crowd was anxious for them to hit the sage. More photographers had come to photograph the headliner, so I chose to start my shooting at the furthest end of the pit and make my way back. I know when the pit is full, it’s best to try not to get stuck in the same spot. Variety in shots is just as important as lighting.

Cold War Kids started off with much darker lighting overall, which meant I was going to have to think of ways to add some visual effects to the photos. The best way to do this is to use silhouettes to my advantage. The lighting featured many brighter, color spotlights. With little fill light, the photos were going to be dramatic. But I was ready for the challenge! I was selective with the moments I caught, trying to wait to make it count. This led me to one of my favorite shots of the entire set.

I got stuck in one part of the pit, toward the middle. I was waiting, watching. Next thing I know I had bassist Matt Maust right over my head. I took a slight step backward, focused, and fired. I ended up with a pretty nice series of shots with him almost leaning into my lens. Some say photography has to be calculated, but I often find it mostly luck. At least in music photography it is!