Tommy Castro And The Painkillers Bring The Perfect Panacea

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

There is no doubt the Covid-19 epidemic has drastically altered and affected all of our lives. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the music community, with so many essentially getting their entire way of life halted in an instant. Despite this, musicians have been charging forward even harder than before.

Tommy Castro and The Painkillers are such a band; having been around for over two decades, they have seen their ups and downs. Our current pandemic situation has postponed all future events, including The Painkillers night at The Coach House.

“It will continue to be rescheduled until we can play it,” remarks Castro. “I don’t know what the next date is but the one in June I don’t think is going to hold. Even if the state decided to open things back up by then, it won’t give us enough time to promote it. So, we are probably looking to have our show there in the fall.”

The Coach House is a favorite venue for many blues and rock bands, with Castro and his band included in the mix.

Tommy Castro; photo Bob By Request

Tommy Castro; photo Bob By Request

“The Coach House is great, and I even remember the first time we played there,” reminisces the bluesman. “We were coming up in popularity and our current record was doing well. That was not an easy gig to get, you had to earn it! When we finally got booked in there, we were really excited about it and haven’t missed a year since then. It’s got to be about twenty straight years that we have been playing there. It’s a good-sized room, not too big and not too small. It suits our audience very well. Blues audiences tend to be an older crowd and they like to sit down and enjoy the show.”

Speaking of Covid-19, everyone has that moment when they first heard about the shutdown.

“We were on tour, being in the middle of the northwest and Canada,” he reveals. “We came down from the mountains in Canada into Montana and worked our way back towards Sacramento, with that and Paradise being the last shows we played. It was very up in the air whether those were even going to happen. After those ones, we all went home and have been on lockdown ever since. I would have never imagined a thing like that happening.”

Life has been very different and difficult since the stay at home orders were first issued, but not even that can get the guitarist down.

“I’ve been keeping myself really busy with a couple of live stream shows,” divulges Castro. “I have a lot of work to do – working on songs, practicing my guitar, working on my house, the weather is warmer so getting some exercise, and just making the best of it. I’m not going around and visiting people in their homes or anything of that sort. I had my birthday on the fifteenth of April, and all of my adult kids and I got on zoom and had a little birthday party for me which was a lot of fun.”

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

Recently, he performed live over the internet for John Lee Hooker’s live stream show. “I’m a big fan of John Lee,” he affirms. “We knew each other and were friends, he recorded on one of my albums back in the early 2000’s. We had the same booking agency in those days so were playing on a lot of the same shows. It was a real honor and great way to pay tribute, with me playing a couple songs of his.

“It was cool because I had the time to learn to play one of his songs I didn’t know before,” relates the guitarist. “This one is in a very particular tuning and really went into the John Lee Hooker style. I’ve done his songs my own way so this time I did one that way but on the other one, I just really tried to imitate his style in Open G on an old Harmony guitar that I have. It was fun preparing for it and also playing my own songs. His Facebook page has a couple hundred thousand subscribers from around the world, so it was great exposure for me and a lot of fun.”

Moving from live shows to live streams over the internet has been a sudden and intense change for any musician out there.

“Anytime I have to learn something new it’s good for me,” explains Castro. “It always reminds me of a quote, ‘If you’re green, you’re still growing.’ Those things I don’t know that much about and I need to learn about and am put in a position where I have to learn it, it’s good for me…good for my brain. It expands my abilities. You tend to get stuck in what you know so I know how to play live and make a record, I’ve learned over the years how to be involved in online promotions, and most importantly how to keep in touch with my fans through social media and the internet.

“All of that has been a constant learning situation for me but this was a crash course in live streaming,” he points out. “Especially because it was completely solo. I never play, never in my career have I done a solo show. There have been times on the radio or something where I would play a song or two, but it was never me having a fully worked out acoustic set for a show. What I do is electric blues that requires a band and is what I really know how to do. So, learning how to step up and play a solo show like this was really good for me.”

From their humble beginnings to their current status as blues stalwarts, their journey and outlook on life is a fascinating one.

“When I was about eight years old, my brother got a guitar and started playing it,” explains Castro of his musical origins. “I had always been interested, and being six years younger, thought it was the coolest thing. Eventually I got my own guitar and started playing with friends my own age. For most of my life it was something I did for fun. I enjoyed it and didn’t get any schooling or lessons on it. I just listened to lessons and had a basic chord book and figured it out. Growing up in a lower middle-class neighborhood, nobody I knew was taking lessons or getting any proper musical schooling so my friends and I would just listen to the records and figure things out.”

That was the start of it all and it just kept rolling from there.

“I just kept playing, blues was the thing I liked best,” he elaborates. “I listened to rock and roll but was always most inspired by the blues-based stuff i.e. The Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zeppelin, etc. A lot of the blues in the sixties was being played on FM radio when it was still relatively new. FM stations were super progressive and could play anything they wanted since there wasn’t much corporate involvement yet. The DJ’s played everything: from psychedelic blues to psychedelic music, bluegrass, folk music, and a good bunch of blues music. That’s how I could hear Albert King, B.B. King, and Bobby Bland on the radio.

“That’s how I was exposed to it. Most of my friends were into rock so I was always the guy in the band who wanted to play blues. And that’s what I did for some time. I would play in various bands, we would get bar gigs and play on the weekends; until one day, I decided that this is what I was meant to do. I gave up on any other plans I was working on and decided to take a shot at making a living as a professional musician.”

One of the biggest leaps one can ever make in life, the future was tentative, but it was also a great time for this move.

“At the time, this was the eighties, and there was starting to be a market for blues bands and especially guitar players,” details Castro. “On a professional level, I played with a number of local San Francisco bay area bands until I decided it was time for me to start my own band. I’ve been doing that ever since – we have eighteen albums out there and have toured around the world for 25 years.”

This is an unprecedented time in history; but with musicians such as Tommy Castro and The Painkillers pushing forward, they give us a glimpse of the path forward and provide hope for the future. Through their commitment to make music regardless of the circumstances, it demonstrates how we can overcome anything. This is a band you want to keep up with, as they keep heartfelt live streams and stellar shows heading our way.

Mike Peters Presents The Alarm

MIKE PETERS presents THE ALARM Jul 9 Belly Up, Jul 11 The Concert Lounge, Jul 12 The Coach House; photo James Christopher

MIKE PETERS presents THE ALARM Jul 9 Belly Up, Jul 11 The Concert Lounge, Jul 12 The Coach House; photo James Christopher

Mike Peters, or The Alarm, or Mike Peters presents The Alarm, how ever you want to put it, the music has been saying it all since the 80s. Three SoCal dates are on the books for July so we thought we’d re-run an interview with Mike from 2017.

The Alarm have been crazy busy in America this summer with a ton of live shows including dates on Vans Warped Tour as well as their own headlining gigs not to mention a new documentary.

“It’s great, we love being on tour and playing our music,” founding member, Mike Peters said. “We’re lucky to be alive and playing music in 2017.”

With a multitude of dates in SoCal, it’s The Coach House that Peters has a great affinity with in Orange County.

Mike Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

Mike Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

“It’s a special place in some ways ‘cause it’s where the last Alarm gig with the original lineup took place,” Peters recalled. “The audiences have come with all the changes that have gone on and rallied round and supported me as a solo artist and have been there for me. It’s a bit of a home away from home.”

This time The Alarm is performing as a full band with Peters’ sons helping the crew with the show and setting up equipment.

“They’re on the summer holidays and they’re both musicians,” Peters mentioned. “They’re having an amazing time. They’re loving it.”

Vans Warped Tour has a certain reputation of bands and genres that at first glance seemed at odds with a group such as The Alarm. However, the audiences have been very receptive, and they’ve increased their social media followers.

“It’s been a challenge, of course, but we’re still a modern band and can mix it up,” Peters explained. “It’s breathed a lot of life blood into the group.

Jules Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

Jules Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

“Seeing how young bands play and react in modern times has been good for us. It’s never good to re-tread old ground. It’s always great to take up challenges. And I’m sure the Vans Warped Tour will really inform the future of the group and keep us relevant. It keeps us in the modern context which is what we always strive for.”

For a band that first toured America in 1983, creating a 25-minute set out of their huge wealth of music required great discipline.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us to get together and think about how we put our music across and I think we came up with a great set,” Peters said. “We get 11 or 12 songs in, a really good representation of where we came from. It comes over great as far as I’m concerned.”

Peters often refers to a 1976 Sex Pistols concert and hearing “Anarchy in The U.K.” as inspiration for wanting to learn how to make music himself.

“I got a guitar from a guy that my sister was going out with and he showed me how to play a couple of chords and I never looked back,” Peters recalled. “I just played along to records in my bedroom and tried to go see bands when I could.

Mike Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

Mike Peters/The Alarm; photo James Christopher

“I grew up on glam rock – David Bowie, Marc Bolan and TREX, Slade, Sweet, those kind of bands in Britain. And when it became Punk rock it was The Clash, The Pistols, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Buzzcocks. The purest song would be a three-minute punk rock single, that was what I loved the best.”

Today, the songwriting is inspired by his life and what he’s been through. Both Peters and his wife are Cancer survivors and he has been living with leukemia for 21 years.

“Music has kept me strong, kept me one step ahead of the disease and allowed me to become a father and a musician. I have a charity called Love, Hope, Strength, we give a lot back through that to society and like I said, I’m very lucky to be alive and play music in 2017.”

When it comes to the actual songwriting, it’s usually the music that comes before the lyrics. But it’s all jumpstarted by a phrase.

“Somebody says something to you or you read something or hear something and that triggers something in your imagination that makes you want to say something and that becomes the title and then the lyrics flow from there.

“I think after you have a phrase then the music instantly follows. You can hear it all in your imagination straight away just because you’ve given birth to it.”

Following the exposure Peters has enjoyed being around a lot of modern bands and seeing a little bit of what’s going on with the next generation, Concert Guide Live was curious what sort of advice he had for bands starting out today.

“Stay off the internet. Go underground. Do it with posters and aim at your own audience. Don’t try to be global before you become local.

“If you’re gonna make it, you’re gonna make it. Don’t be on the internet a lot. You’re better off staying off the grid. Be punk rock, go underground, you go dark, people will find you.”

Iron Butterfly Psychedelia Returns To The Coach House

IRON BUTTERFLY play The Coach House Jul 9; promo photo

IRON BUTTERFLY play The Coach House Jul 9; promo photo

Sixties psychedelic group, Iron Butterfly, best known for the song, “In A Gadda Da Vida”, from the album of the same name that sold over 48 million copies, will bring a slice of musical history to The Coach House July 9. Following is and interview we did back in 2016. Check it out:

“We don’t really dress up for the occasion, the guys are in their 60s,” percussionist Mike Green said.

“There may be a tie-dye shirt here or there, or Indian moccasins, mainly because it looks good on stage. We also have a sixties style light show.”

Back in the day, the band used to make sure there was a certain kind of beer or food in the dressing room, or maybe a bottle of whiskey.

“Now all I want is Pepto Bismo and Advil,” Green joked.

Returning from an 18-city tour, and with a couple of summer festivals on the horizon, Iron Butterfly are set to play a handful of local SoCal shows.

While some audiences may be skeptical about the changing lineup of the group, Iron Butterfly was never about one member, it was about a specific sound of the band, which the current lineup captures.

“We go out and play the original songs, it’s not a tribute band, we are Iron Butterfly,” Green said.

A little background history goes like this. Green, who has known the group since the early days, assembled the current incarnation of Iron Butterfly with the blessing of “In A Gadda Da Vida” drummer, Ron Bushy, who is presently on a medical hiatus.

“There was never a percussionist with the original Iron Butterfly,” Green explained.

“Ron wanted to add a percussionist to augment the sound because it is very percussion driven due to his famous drum solo.”

Iron Butterfly 2015/2016 promo graphic

Iron Butterfly 2015/2016 promo graphic

Rounding out the band are Ray Weston (drums) who started touring with the band after Bushy took ill; Dave Meros (bass) joined following the death of Lee Dorman; Eric Barnett (guitar) has been a long time member of Iron Butterfly; and Phil Parlapiano (keyboardist) who recreates the ethereal, churchy organ that is as critical as the drums to the overall Iron Butterfly sound.

“I wanted to find people that knew the sound, liked the sound, and were familiar with it,” Green said.

Over the years, there have been several lineups of Iron Butterfly with some of them using the name illegally. Now Bushy owns the name and Green is his partner in licensing the group so there should always be a true representation of the band, it’s music, and the whole Iron Butterfly experience.

“This is the most solid incarnation, with the remaining original members’ blessings,” Green said.

“Come and return to a different place in time and experience Iron Butterfly.”

San Diego Welcomes Black Label Society

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY; photo Reuben Martinez

BLACK LABEL SOCIETY; photo Reuben Martinez

Black Label Society brought guitar domination to San Diego, where Zakk Wylde proudly gave a “Big Black Label Thanks to the San Diego, CA Chapter for a Pummeling BL Quilt Craft/Sewing Festivus Miracle on Ice”. The month-long tour included metal veterans Obituary and Lord Dying.

As a longtime guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, Zack created Black Label Society over 20 years ago, but reunited with Black Sabbath in 2000. In fact, he was slated to play with Ozzy on his farewell tour this year, but it was postponed due to Ozzy’s health issues. This inadvertently provided Zakk with some time to kill which resulted in this tour.

Zakk Wylde; photo Reuben Martinez

Zakk Wylde; photo Reuben Martinez

Dario Lorina/BLS; photo Reuben Martinez

Dario Lorina/BLS; photo Reuben Martinez

Zakk’s other side project Zakk Sabbath recently played a few shows in England celebrating 50 years of Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut album. The album that changed metal.

But this was a Black Label Society show, and the fans were wearing BLS shirts, vests, hats and other items proudly. During one moment of the night I heard Zakk say that the song, “In This River”, will never leave the Black Label Society playlist. It was written and dedicated to Dimebag Darrell Abbott who was shot in 2004. Zakk displayed banners of Dimebag and now Dime’s brother Vinnie Paul who passed June of 2018.

John "JD" DeServio/BLS; photo Reuben Martinez

John “JD” DeServio/BLS; photo Reuben Martinez

There were so many highlights from Zakk, John “JD” DeServio on bass, Dario Lorina on guitar and Jeff Fabb on drums. Everyone in the band were well showcased.

Zakk should be joining Ozzy on his farewell tour probably in 2021. So, check out the band when you can as well as Zakk’s Instagram. It’s a very entertaining outlet, showing off his humor, his line of guitars, amps and coffee. Total tongue in cheek humor.

Set list: San Diego:
Genocide junkies
Funeral Bell
The Rose Petalled Garden
Heart of Darkness
Suicide Messiah
Trampled Down Below
Seasons of Falter
Peddlers of Death
Spoke In The Wheel
In the River
The Blessed Hellride
A Love Unreal
Fire it Up
Concrete Jungle
Stillborn

Queensryche: A Tale From The Photo Pit

QUEENSRYCHE; photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE; 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: photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE: photo Reuben Martinez

At last it was time for headliners, Queensryche to take the stage. When the lights went out you could see the band members walk on stage and right away jump into their 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: photo Reuben Martinez

QUEENSRYCHE: 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

Tommy Castro Keeps Moving It Forward

TOMMY CASTRO rescheduled to Jun. 25; photo Bob By Request

TOMMY CASTRO rescheduled to Jun. 25 at The Coach House; photo Bob By Request

Tommy Castro, a regular at The Coach House, had to reschedule his recent show due to the COVID-19 coronavirus to Jun 25. We thought it would be fun to re-run an interview he did back in 2014 when the Devil You Know Album came out. Read on:

“If you go to an online music site and you just play the title track it kind of tells the story of where this record is going to go. Although it does go a lot of places!” Castro laughed.

A couple years ago Castro began to perform as Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, which is a four-piece band and without a horn section.

“I was looking for a more guitar-driven, a little more rockin’, edgier, leaner sound,” Castro explained.

“The whole idea behind the album, ‘The Devil You Know’, was this new direction of mine. I basically like to keep things fresh, try new things, combining old influences and moving forward.

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

“A lot of this music reminds me of when I was a kid and just learning to play. Playing in garages with my friends and just having fun. This new music reminds me of that feeling.”

Fans, musicians, peers and anyone who is familiar with Tommy Castro over the years is responding to the new music favorably.

“There’s a different enthusiasm that I’m hearing from different people that are commenting on the album,” Castro said.

“So it feels real good to be at this stage of my career and still be able to do something that really matters. We’re creating new art with new energy and it’s real. It feels good!”

Throughout the course of his career, Castro has worked with a multitude of artists including the blues revue he entertains on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.

“With my musical career and history of all the things that are probably more memorable would of course be playing with BB King, Buddy Guy, and John Lee Hooker,” Castro said.

“And all of the people that guested on my album are all amazing musicians and I’m lucky to be able to collaborate and perform with them.”

Also appearing at The Coach House will be r&b, soul legend Johnnie Taylors’ daughter, Tasha Taylor. “We used to go out and sing with him and perform with him until he died and now she’s out on her own,” Castro said.

“She did a song with me on the album along with many other special guests like Joe Bonamassa, Tab Benoit, and Marcia Ball.”

Finding your own voice or what sets you apart is essential for new musicians at the beginning of their career.

“Find out what it is about you that’s different than everybody else and expand on it, use it and work hard. I think a lot of young people come in to the business thinking that it’s not work. They think it’s going to be such a great thing to do because it won’t be like work at all. But it is very much like work at times if you do it right. So that’s the bad news,” Castro heartily laughed.

“You put this energy into something that you care about it’s different than just working hard. It’s working hard to a purpose.

“I think that’s why I still have a career because I’ve worked very hard at my business.”

Guitarist Tinsley Ellis To Open For Jimmie Vaughan

TINSLEY ELLIS plays The Coach House Mar. 8; photo James Christophe

TINSLEY ELLIS plays The Coach House Mar. 8; photo James Christophe

Blues rock legend Tinsley Ellis makes his return to SoCal playing alongside Jimmie Vaughan at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano Mar. 8.

Ellis and his bandmates look forward to the return, especially to The Coach House.

“We have played there several times, we like it very much,” says Ellis. “Concert goers will expect to hear us do songs off the Winning Hand CD as well as some of the older CDs that I’ve put out over the last 35 years.”

Since entering the music industry back in 1975, Ellis has remained a steadfast and active performer in the blues rock circuit whose innovative musical stylings have made him a favorite among concertgoers and music lovers in general.

Ellis owes his continuing musical journey to the blues and rock bands he listened to growing up in Southern California. Ellis also cites bands like The Yardbirds, The Animals, Cream, The Rolling Stones, The Allman Brothers as his favorites growing up and are some of his main inspirations.

But Ellis says one particular performance stands out to him along with going to see B.B. King live. It’s a performance that pushed him to finally get an instrument and become an active musician.

“I saw The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964,” Ellis relates. “I begged my parents for a guitar. I started playing in bands in high school and college. When I graduated from college, I just kept going with it and I’ve been doing it about 50 years now.”

TINSLEY ELLIS; photo James Christopher

TINSLEY ELLIS; photo James Christopher

Ellis has honed his musical style that has earned him a sterling reputation along with the title of “a bona fide worldwide guitar hero” from The Chicago Sun-Times. He also has numerous live appearances on record along with 17 albums to date with the latest being Winning Hand.

Ask him what kind of music he plays that’s helped him achieve such accomplishments and you’ll get a four-word summation.

“Guitar driven blues rock,” Ellis says. “There’s a lot of guitar playing going on and there’s a lot of blues music mixed with rock music.”

It’s an amalgamation that results in superbly composed notes of both Southern-style rock and blues. These compositions are often accompanied by moody, rugged vocals from Ellis that is an iconic trademark of blues musicians like him.

Ellis continues to actively make new music whenever possible. He has little trouble doing so as he remains consistently inspired.

“The songs kind of come to me at any particular time,” Ellis relates. “I may be driving down the road or sitting in my hotel room or I may actually be in the studio when I’m writing it.”
Ellis says he’s especially thankful to today’s technology which makes it even easier for him to create his music.

“Thanks to the cell phone with its recording feature I can just hit record and sing my ideas into my phones. The ideas are never lost so I can write songs wherever I am.”

The biggest reward for Ellis is being able to play his music. Not only do music goers get to enjoy it but so does Ellis. For him, the music he plays is a safe and wonderful means of escaping reality for a while.

“The music carries me away and I hope that it carries the listener away and delivers the listener back safely to the real world.”

Though Ellis has played many performances with just himself and his band mates he has shared the stage with other notable musicians. Ellis says he always looks forward to these performances.
“My favorite performances are the ones where we open for someone, I really like a lot musically and then they call me on the stage to jam with them at the end.”

The list Ellis gives is impressive to say the least.

“Albert Collins, Coco Taylor, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy. I’ve opened for all of them and performed with them during their set. There’s been rock bands as well like The Allman Brothers Band, Government Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Widespread Panic.”

Ellis encourages people to come see him live and who knows? Jimmie Vaughan may even bring him on stage to jam.

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!