Tommy Castro And The Painkillers Bring The Perfect Panacea (Rerun)

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

Tommy Castro; photo Jayson Carpenter

TOMMY CASTRO AND THE PAINKILLERS 2020 tour never took place thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic so we thought we’d rerun the interview…

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.

The Woggles Bring Their Unique Sound To OC Fans (2014 Revisited)

The Woggles

The Woggles play The Constellation Room Nov. 19 and Alex’s Bar Nov. 20

MIGHTY MANFRED / THE WOGGLES 2014 interview revisited…

The Woggles bring it to the people by returning to Alex’s Bar in Long Beach on Nov. 20 and will make their Santa Ana debut at The Constellation Room Nov. 19.

“If we’re out doing a show, and playing live, you want to engage the people that are there,” claims lead singer Mighty Manfred.

“I mean otherwise there’s no reason to be up on a stage, at least from my point of view.”

The Woggles put on quite a show with Manfred stepping into the crowd while singing catchy, hip-shaking tunes. The audience can’t seem to resist dancing around him while grinning from ear to ear.

“Feeding off the audience, the audience feeds off you and it just makes everything that much more exciting, that much more exhilarating, that much more thrilling, with everything building on itself,” Manfred said.

Somehow while singing and shaking a tambourine, Manfred finds a way to get down off the stage, over any barriers, across any trenches, and onto the club floor to celebrate music amongst the audience.

“When you’re right there in front of people they’re no longer watching a spectacle, they’re a part of it,” Manfred explained.

“In a room like Alex’s and I imagine, The Constellation Room, that’s pretty easy to do. You don’t have to deal with these larger rock show impediments.

“We’ve been in Alex’s before and it’s been really terrific mixing it up with the audience. And if need be, the top of the bar is just a stage extension, you know?”

Of course, mishaps have been known to happen. Take a show in Pensacola, Florida.

“You know, before doing anything stupid, I check things out ahead of time,” Manfred unconvincingly stated.

“That doesn’t mean I won’t still do stupid things.”

During sound check that particular evening, Manfred tried his weight on a curtain next to the stage and thought, “Oh, this will be great. I can swing out from this.

“So, during this instrumental song the band is playing I scampered up there and jumped off of some amps to reach this thing. As I committed myself to this forward swing, you know with the idea I would let go and go sailing, the rod came out before I had swung far enough. I couldn’t get my arms behind me so I landed with my full weight on my back.

“People have asked, ‘Did it feel like it was happening in slow motion?’ And my answer to that is, ‘Man, the ground moves really fast!’

“The guys in the band, though, didn’t know that was going on. So, I’m rolling around, and I stand up and I’m in immense pain.

“I slowly get back on the stage and I remember the drummer, Dan Eletxro looking at me and I could see him mouthing, ‘Shake it off! Shake it off!’

“He knew something had happened but you know, ‘Get with it man. Get back into it.’ Yea, that was terrible.”

After the show, Manfred went to the emergency room to get stitched up and somehow escaped bodily damage.

“I had cut my face on the nails coming out of the rod, as it came down and hit me in the face.

“But people loved the blood, though. They loved the blood.”

The Woggles initially formed in Georgia in 1987 with the bass player, Buzz Hagstrom joining in 1994, the aforementioned drummer, Dan Eletxro, in 1995 and guitarist, Flesh Hammer becoming an official band member ten years ago.

Their latest full-length release, “The Big Beat”, on Steven Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records, came out last year. There’s a new Christmas single coming out on 7” vinyl followed by an EP in early 2015.

Music may hold different meaning for different people, but to Manfred, it’s a celebration of life.

“You’ve got to bring it to the people!” he said in anticipation of the next live shows.

The Record Company Bring Blues And Love To SoCal (2018 Looking Back)

THE RECORD COMPANY play HOB/San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern Nov.10; photo Jen Rosenstein

THE RECORD COMPANY play HOB/San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern Nov.10; photo Jen Rosenstein

Looking back: THE RECORD COMPANY 2018 interview…

The Record Company, a power trio known for their blues-styled rock, are coming to California to finish their current 2018 tour. The three-man group play at the House of Blues in San Diego Nov. 9 and The Wiltern in Los Angeles Nov. 10.

Chris Vos, the band’s lead vocalist and who also provides guitar instrumentals for The Record Company’s songs, says he looks forward to these two shows. The region is the home of Vos who says there could be no better place to end his group’s current tour.

“I love California,” Vos proclaims. “I love the people. I love the open-mindedness. I love how everybody just is such entertainment aficionados. They all know and they’ve all been around the block. It’s great. I just simply enjoy being in a place where I can go when I’m home and see any number of different type of inspiring entertainment or inspiring natural beauty.”

It’s also in SoCal, specifically in Los Angeles, that The Record Company first formed in 2011. The band’s roots go back to 2010 though as that’s when Vos first met Alex Stiff, the group’s bass player, who took a liking to the music Vos had produced.

“He heard what I had done previously,” Vos recalled. “He liked it and invited me to hang out. He was having a little get together with some friends. He has a huge pile of vinyl he’s amassed over the years. We just went over there and spun some records and struck up a friendship.”

It wasn’t until after a later meeting with Stiff and Marc Cazorla, who would become the group’s drummer, that the idea to form a band began.

“We were just listening to some records one evening,” Vos said. “We had the speaker in the window and sitting out on the back porch and we just decided ‘hey, let’s get together, hang some microphones in the living room and record it and see what it sounds like’, and we liked it.”

THE RECORD COMPANY; photo Jen Rosenstein

THE RECORD COMPANY; photo Jen Rosenstein

From there the group began playing locally and self-released their first music as a 7’’ single vinyl in March of 2012. However, the group’s tenacity and innovation has helped the group finally reach the musical mainstream earning critical praise, musical appearances in film and TV and even earned the group a Grammy nomination in 2017 for Best Contemporary Blues Album Give It Back To You.

These accomplishments are owed to the group’s unique take on rock and roll best described as blues rock: a fusion genre combining elements of blues and rock. While this mixture isn’t new and has been around for years, Vos says that he and his bandmates, in composing their songs, do their utmost to make the music they produce as fresh and new as possible.

“We try to root out cliché as much as possible,” Vos explains. “It’s like, if I’m playing this melody on a guitar, it sounds like something I’ve heard a million times. But if we make it a bass-centric melody and we kind of lean on that, it all of a sudden sounds different. It sounds like something a little more fresh. We’re just always trying to find a way to root out those things and just find some new inspiration anywhere we can.”

Vos says that the biggest reward he gets from completing these songs, specifically the ones Vos and his fellow band members made for the group’s recent album All of This Life, is being able to play them live.

“It’s a thrill, a great thrill,” Vos enthused. “That’s one of the great rewards of recording an album is being able to take that music out to people and putting it out in front of them.”

Though Vos says he’s enjoyed playing in venues like the Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Madison Square Garden, he isn’t picky in where he likes to play live music.

“People always ask me what’s your favorite place to play and, I swear to god, this is not a cop-out, I say ‘wherever I am that day’,” Vos said. “Because that’s the only day you’re actually living.”

After the group’s upcoming Nov. 10 appearance in Los Angeles, Vos and the rest of The Record Company will not be touring again until March which will see them go to Europe.

“We have some pretty big shows that I unfortunately can’t say what they are,” Vos states. “But we’re going to be having a big announcement coming up very soon that’ll be at the beginning of the year for some more dates.”

Vos however says that The Record Company will keep playing music whenever opportunity allows in-between these tours and in the future.

“We’ll be doing summer festivals and just getting out there with some other bands and just keep on playing. We’ll play the whole country and play it again. We’ll go up to Canada, play there. Go overseas, play there. We’ll play anywhere they put us.”

Return Of The Damned (2017 Remembered)

THE DAMNED

THE DAMNED play The Belasco Theater Apr. 6, HOB/San Diego Apr. 7 and HOB/Anaheim Apr. 8; photo Dod Morrison

CAPTAIN SENSIBLE / THE DAMNED 2017 interview remembered…

Call them punks, goths, or something else; love or hate The Black Album; The Damned continue to excite fans of all ages throughout the world. They are bringing their 40th Anniversary tour to The Belasco Theater Apr. 6, HOB/San Diego Apr. 7 and HOB/Anaheim Apr. 8.

Concert Guide Live recently asked original guitarist, Captain Sensible, about the longevity of the band, red berets, “New Rose”, “fake news” and a whole lot more.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: With The Damned celebrating their 40th anniversary, does it feel like a long time, or does it just seem like one long day?
CAPTAIN SENSIBLE: That 40 years can be divided into a few distinct periods… the dawn of punk, when I was sleeping on Brian’s (guitarist Brian James) floor and we had to lie about the true nature of the band to get gigs… the chaos years when Smash It Up was our battle cry… the goth period when the band was once again instigators in a new musical genre… and after a fairly bleak decade, the resurrection, to which you have to thank the current lineup. It’s the longest lasting in the band’s history, not just because we get on – but also due to the new lease of life they’ve given to the early material.

It’s weird being in a band… you tend to stay the same mental age as when you start out, which in my case isn’t saying much. Shame is, your body doesn’t… so the reckless lifestyle that earned me my name has had to be curbed somewhat.

CGL: When the group began, did you and Dave (frontman Dave Vanian) ever imagine this sort of longevity? How did it happen!
CS: I was only trying to break out of a cycle of unemployment and unskilled jobs… like my year as a 70s toilet cleaner – joining a band was my escape from that life.

Life on the road isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but I suppose we must be quite good at it to last all this time. Or, too dumb to think of any better way to spend our lives.

Hey, but all the beer’s free!

CGL: For a new generation of fans, describe the London music scene and how the band did or did not fit in at the start of things.
CS: The various bands all had their own take on punk… The Clash sounded nothing like The Stranglers, the Pistols nothing like The Damned. We were just making the music we wanted to hear cos the mid 70s music scene had gone completely stale. Glam had been fun but had gone, leaving mega prog acts like ELP, Yes and Genesis, with their boring drum solos and songs about pixies and wizards.
The Damned had the first record out because while the other bands were waiting for big money deals, we signed with a tiny indie called Stiff, doing it the ‘punk’ way. Stiff bands would be at the label HQ (a converted high street shop) helping to pack each other’s records, roadie at gigs, everything was ‘in house’… another artist (Nick Lowe) produced us.

CGL: The Damned are in the midst of another world tour, how does playing live in the 21st century compare to the early days?
CS: Better to go for it on our 40th as we’re getting no younger. Thankfully there was no YouTube in the 70s, as our performances could be a bit ‘erratic’. Debauched even. It’s rare to have a really bad gig these days.

Pinch (drummer) describes us as a bunch of eccentrics who occasionally get together to make music.

CGL: I understand a new album is in the works, how is it coming along? What has the songwriting process been like?
CS: We don’t like to repeat ourselves… all our albums have a different sound. This one as well… there’s plenty of upbeat tunes… and some darkness, of course. Since our last release being 2008’s So, Who’s Paranoid, (a reflection on the UK’s CCTV culture), there’s been a steady stockpiling on new material and if we recorded it all, the album could be a double or triple CD collection. Sense would suggest we prune it down though.

CGL: “New Rose” seemed to click with people right out of the gate, and here you are playing it many years later. How do you still connect with playing that song and some of the other Damned classics?
CS: “New Rose”, voted last month by Kerrang as the best ever punk single… very nice of them. You had to be there when it was released to understand the effect it had…sounding radically different from all the ghastly country rock and disco that was around at the time, ours was really gnarled and manic, even when you play our debut album today it doesn’t sound like other records, almost UN-produced by Nick Lowe who was ALSO on Stiff. He’s captured the rasping chaos perfectly, the guitars don’t sound nice, they’re a distorted fuzzy mess, which is exactly what’s needed in punk rock, if you ask me. He understood where we were coming from, as our second album’s producer didn’t. Damned Damned Damned is very raw, even compared to the output of our 1977 contemporaries.

Pathway was a rough demo 8-track studio, and Nick was known as ‘Basher’ Lowe, as he used to slap it down on the tapes – no messing about. It wasn’t really produced, especially in today’s terms where everything is cleaned up and corrected. It was dark and dingy in there so you had to be careful not to kick your bottle of cider over. We boshed it out in 2 days with a couple of days mixing, then the tape was recycled to record the Elvis Costello album, so you know there’s no chance of a remix ever. It certainly didn’t need any more than two days as we just repeated our live set until Nick was happy with it.

“New Rose” is fun to play… bands all around the world do their version, I know cos someone will press a CD into my hand most gigs.

CGL: How many red berets have you gone through? Where did the first one come from?
CS: There was a gobbing element in the early punk days… lumps would bake in your hair under the stage lights. You’d have to spend ages in the shower combing them out, so I had a brainwave…. Wear a hat, and sunglasses. I went onstage once, a few years ago, without them… didn’t go down well. Went back in the dressing room, got the beret and returned to the stage to cheers. Oh well, it could be worse… Arthur Brown has to set his head on fire every show.

I get the berets 10 at a time from a tourist shop near the Notre Dame Cathedral. You can’t wash them cos the colour comes out, so when they get too stinky I discard them into the audience.

CGL: What is your pre-show routine? Do you get nervous before going on stage?
CS: No, it’s a buzz playing a loud guitar onstage. And after the soundcheck there’s usually a mad scramble to find something vaguely edible near the venue. Not easy when you’re as fussy about food as I am. I often end up just gulping down a can of chick peas, maybe with an apple. Glamorous, eh?!

CGL: What words of wisdom do you have for bands starting out today?
CS: There’s some interesting bands coming out now, like Wand and King Gizzard… we like the garage psych thing… it still sounds fresh. They’re a good example of how to do it… Young bands should be careful not to overdo the Protools effects that are so common nowadays. Don’t sterilize and correct everything… perfection is overrated anyway. Far too many records have auto-tune vocals… it drives me mad!

CGL: On a more serious note, does the current state of the world provide lyrical fodder? How are you responding to the chaos in the world today?
CS: Don’t ask me about politics… I’m just a daft guitarist. Leave that to our trusted elected representatives, who somehow manage to answer not to the voters but to the corporations who so generously fund them.

I’m loving the debate about ‘fake news’… that’s been a long time coming. People don’t like wars… they have to be lied into supporting armed interventions, and we have to learn from previous examples. In the UK there was a genuine thrill when the Tories were booted out by Blair’s ‘New Labour’ project. But then they took us straight to Iraq via ‘dodgy dossiers’ (lies) and a whole bunch of ‘fake news’ from the mainstream media.

I’ve done MY Blair song… entitled “Stole Into The Night”, it’s on YouTube: https://youtu.be/suh_Bo-stSQ

CGL: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
CS: We are all ale snobs, so if any brewery owners are reading this, please drop off a few bottles of porter – or better still chocolate stout at the stage door.

Robert Cray Plays Rhythm And Blues At The Coach House (Flashback 2016)

ROBERT CRAY

ROBERT CRAY plays The Coach House Jun. 11

Flashback: ROBERT CRAY 2016 interview:

Rhythm n’ Blues is alive and well, just take it from Robert Cray, who will be playing at The Coach House June 11.

Since the 70’s, Cray has been pumpin’ out album after album writing about anything he pleases and has no plans on stopping. From unfriendly radio in the ‘70’s to the Blues Hall of Fame a few years ago, hurtles have been leaped over to get him where he is today.

Concert Guide Live caught up with the guitarist/singer to take a trip down memory lane and to get to know a little more about his musical journey.

CONCERT GUIDE LIVE: Did you ever struggle making music?

ROBERT CRAY: Yeah, it’s a struggle all the time [laughs]. If you didn’t struggle it wouldn’t be any fun.

CGL: You’ve had the opportunity to play with people like Eric Clapton. How was it playing with him?

CRAY: Oh, it was tremendous because I got a chance to talk to him before we got a chance to play together, and I’m a big fan of his. He had listened to our first record, or not our first record but our second album, the album called Bad Influence. He had just recorded a version of it (the title track, “Bad Influence”) when we met for the first time. We started playing together and it was great being on stage with, you know, one of my heroes. It was fantastic.

CGL: Were you nervous the first time?

CRAY: Of course [laughs].

CGL: Do you still get nervous?

CRAY: Yeah, still do.

CGL: What do you do before [a show]?

CRAY: Well the thing is, we like to get together as a band and chat before going on stage until I figure out what I have to work with for the night, to see what my voice is, to get my footing.

CGL: How did you find out you won your first Grammy?

CRAY: Well you don’t know until you’re at the show because you’re nominated. And, um, the first Grammy I won was with Albert Collins as a matter of fact, and a guy named Jonny Coplin. Both were great blues musicians and I had the opportunity to make a record with them called Showdown.

CGL: How’d that feel to win [your first Grammy]?

CRAY: It was great! But I was happier for Albert Collins and Jonny Coplin. Both of whom were another generation ahead of me and have been working for the longest time and they won an award. It was fantastic.

CGL: Did you have a speech prepared?

CRAY: No [laughs]. We just went up on stage and said thank you. And it wasn’t on the main ceremony, but they have a pre-televised ceremony.

CGL: Are you doing anything special with your Grammys? I heard some people drink beer out of them.

CRAY: Do they [laughs]? No, nothing special. It’s upstairs in the office.

CGL: How do you come up with new stuff?

CRAY: Just look at what’s going on around. It can be from politics to what’s happening to the next-door neighbor or pages from my past, that kind of thing.

CGL: All true stories or made up sometimes?

CRAY: Both.

CGL: Did your influence seem to come quick or gradual?

CRAY: It all depends on who you speak to. We started the band to play rhythm and blues when that stuff wasn’t popular on radio and never really has been. We’ve seen fans that have been fans for 20 or 30 years and they’re bringing their kids to the shows and it’s great.

CGL: Have you had any other opportunities like movies or anything?

CRAY: Yeah, I’ve been in movies. I’ve been in “Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll” with Chuck Berry and l and was in the movie “Animal House”.

CGL: You sing a lot about girls and relationships. Do you have your own family now?

CRAY: Yes. It’s great. It’s a wonderful thing.

CGL: Did you meet your wife through music? Was she a fan?

CRAY: Yeah, I met my wife in Tokyo with Eric Clapton. And no, she wasn’t a fan [laughs].

Black Star Riders Rock The Grove With Saxon (2018 Looking Back)

BLACK STAR RIDERS

BLACK STAR RIDERS play Grove of Anaheim Apr. 20 and Microsoft Theater Apr. 22; photo Richard Stow

BLACK STAR RIDERS 2018 interview, looking back…

Black Star Riders are charging in to SoCal with heapings of hard rock, taking a night off from the Judas Priest Firepower tour to perform Apr. 20 at the Grove of Anaheim, with Saxon. Both bands rejoin the tour at Microsoft Theater Apr. 22.

Robbie Crane (bass), proclaims that he and his co-musicians are very excited to play at the venue, claiming that it shall be very special for any hard rock loving concertgoers who attend.

“We’re excited to play that gig,” Crane said. “That’s a show that we’re doing with Saxon, which is very cool, and we will be playing a longer set list as opposed to the 40 min set list that we play with Judas Priest.”

Crane says he is excited for the event as it marks something of a jovial homecoming to the Orange County area.

“That’s my hometown. I was born in Orange County so I have a ton of family there. It’ll be very cool.”

Formed in 2012, Black Star Riders are a spin-off of the iconic hard rock group Thin Lizzy, initially founded by guitarist, Scott Gorman and drummer, Brian Downey. The five-man group has managed to achieve its own unique style and sound to differentiate it from the original band it evolved from.

Crane officially joined the lineup in 2014 replacing the group’s very first bass player Marco Mendoza. Though he has played with six other bands, namely the Vince Neil Band and Ratt, playing with Black Star Riders has been very rewarding for the music veteran.
“I think everything has just been a great experience for me,” Crane said. “Culturally and musically it’s different from anything I’ve ever done before.”

Crane admits that one of the things that isn’t different for him is playing the Thin Lizzy songs, something he grew up doing while a young, aspiring musician.

“I played so many Lizzy songs in a cover band as a kid,” Crane revealed. “Scott would laugh at me ‘cause I knew all these Lizzy songs when I came in to play for them. He actually said to me ‘wow, you really make these songs swing.’ I tried to explain to him that I played these songs a hundred times before, just never with the real guys.”

Crane has quickly found himself in good company, both with the band and with music lovers. Already in his fourth year with the group, Crane’s graced many live concerts hosting the loud, boisterous jams of Black Star Riders to concert attendees. He has even aided in the creation of their second and third records – The Killer Instinct and Heavy Fire.

Though comfortable recording music in a studio, Crane admits that playing live is to him the group’s true reward for each new album they successfully produce.

“We’re musicians at the end of the day and that’s what we like to do,” Crane explained. “That’s what we loved to do as kids, that’s what we aspired to do and we’re doing it on a professional level. Not a lot of people can say that they’ve done as we all have, individually and collectively, under the Black Star Riders brand.”

No matter where the group plays, whether the United States or Europe, Crane says it is always a great experience to play live and introduce people to their solid, high-volume brand of hard rock that has made the group its niche in the music industry.

“It’s just great to share that gift of music,” Crane says. “You touch people and they get excited about it and we’re excited. We’re up there, happy as heck, just to be playing. What better life do we have?”

Black Star Riders are slated to continue playing alongside Saxon and Judas Priest until next month. Once that collaboration is over, Crane says he and his bandmates plan to take it easy and focus on playing at local music festivals.

However, Crane says this is a soft prologue to two much more daunting musical treks that they have planned for the near future.

“Our hope is in the fall that we do another smaller tour of the U.K. and then we’re going to start on our fourth record in January or February.”

Initial writing for the album has already started, Crane reveals. That process shall continue indefinitely even though the group continues playing live with no foreseeable end in sight.

“The whole time we’ll be writing, as we always are,” Crane remarks.” Every day it’s like, ‘I’ve got this idea!’ It’s a good thing. We’re always perpetuating and moving forward, which is great.”

Dramarama Does ‘Anything, Anything’ To Rock HOB (2013 Remembered)

Dramarama

Dramarama opens for Berlin at the House of Blues Anaheim Sat., April 13th

JOHN EASDALE / DRAMARAMA 2013 interview remembered… This was one of the very first interviews for Concert Guide Live!

Alternative rock group, Dramarama may have formed in New Jersey, but they call Southern California home and Orange County their base of operations. They will be playing with Berlin at the House of Blues in Anaheim on April 13.

Since this is a co-headlining show, Dramarama won’t be able to do their “Grateful Dead four hour marathon jam” according to vocalist John Easdale. “Unfortunately we’ll have to wait until we have a show all by ourselves.”

They still promise to do an entertaining mix of old and new.

Dramarama have been recording a much anticipated new album for the last couple of years. It will be ready to go after some final mastering and artwork touches. “We’re hoping to get it out before the end of the year but we were hoping that last year, too,” Easdale said.

With the internet, many artists self-release their material. “There’s always that option, “said Easdale,
“We’ve been doing it ourselves since our first 45 in 1982.”

“There are a thousand bands selling a million records and a million bands selling a thousand records,” he added.

The mid-80s radio hit “Anything, Anything” seems to have defied time becoming a “classic rock” song in its own right. “It is truly gratifying and rewarding. I wish that every song I wrote had that kind of impact and that people accepted it in the same way,” Easdale said. “My purpose with every song is what happened with that song.”

Three of the original Dramarama members Peter Wood, Mark Englert, and John Easdale continue to be in the band. The other two members bassist, Mike Davis, and drummer Tony Snow, have been part of the group for over fifteen years.

As a final thought, Easdale mentioned, “We hope that the people from the audience have as much fun as we do!”

Sun Worship With Allah-Las (2017 Remembered)

ALLAH-LAS

ALLAH-LAS play Music Box Oct. 18 and The Regent Oct. 21; photo James Christopher

ALLAH-LAS 2017 interview remembered…

Local scenesters Allah-Las play their unique, psychedelic, dream pop at Music Box Oct. 18 and The Regent Oct. 21. The group is known for playing their interpretation of retro 60s rock a la The Troggs, The Standells and The Grass Roots, full of catchy choruses and guitar hooks.

Now with three albums under their belt, the songwriting continues to evolve while hinting at previous influences. Songs such as “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind” and “Don’t You Forget It” are crowd favorites from their self-titled 2012 debut, while newer tracks “Could Be You” and “Famous Phone Figure” are quickly catching on.

Although notoriously a band of few words, Concert Guide Live managed to get a few words out of them in a previous interview prior to the release of Worship The Sun and this is what they had to say:

CGL: It looks like you have a handful of dates lined up so far this year. What else is in the works?
A-L: We’re working on finishing our second record, new songs etc.

CGL: Is there a particular song the band looks forward to playing live and why?
A-L: Yeah. We have some new ones we’re excited to try out live. See how they change and adapt as we play them for an audience.

CGL: How did everyone in the band meet, did some of you meet while working at Amoeba Records?
A-L: Matt (Correia, drums) Miles (Michaud, vocals/guitar), and Spencer (Dunham, bass) went to high school together in Los Angeles. Later on Matt, Spencer and Pedrum (Siadatian, guitar) all worked together at Amoeba. We had a lot of interest in various types of music back then, working at Amoeba allowed us to spend time digging for more.

CGL: What is everyone listening to these days?
A-L: Aww lots of stuff. The search never ends.

CGL: Working with Nick Waterhouse sure seems to be a good fit for your sound. Do you record your songs then give them to him to produce, or do you all collaborate on the production?
A-L: We always work together. I’m sure it’s annoying for Nick to have to listen to us argue our points on the mix but he’s patient. He’s an amazing producer and a great friend.

CGL: What is the status of a new album?
A-L: Should be coming out on a Tuesday sometime.

CGL: it seems like you play quite a bit and all over the place, any good road
stories you can share?
A-L: Nothing to mention really.

CGL: Is there a particular song the band looks forward to playing live and why?
A-L: Yeah. We have some new ones we’re excited to try out live. See how they change and adapt as we play them for an audience.

CGL: How would you describe Allah-Las to someone who isn’t familiar with your music?
A-L: Aww well. I try my best to avoid it and let people decide. We get some pretty funny comparisons though.

Flashback 2015: Front 242 To Play Classics At Rare Avalon Show

FRONT 242

FRONT 242 play Avalon Sep 27

Flashback: PATRICK CODENYS / FRONT 242 interview from 2015…

Front 242 is playing a handful of dates in the U.S. this September, including one at Avalon Hollywood on Sep. 27.

“Los Angeles is a particular place which has always had a strong ‘dark’ community,” said long-time member, Patrick Codenys. “To me, it is such a contradiction to the image most people have of the city: cinema, plastic body culture, glam and fake, etc.

“As a matter of fact, there is a real creative underground scene far from those stereotypes. You just need to know where to look to enjoy it.”

Although the band no longer tours, they enjoy working with people who are willing to bring them to the U.S. under good conditions.

“This allows us a more relaxing time and even a chance to meet fans and friends,” Codenys said. “Besides, I like Avalon, it is a beautiful venue.”

Their live performance will consist of playing a sort of “best of” set with the classics. While some versions of the songs have been changed and modernized, each will be represented graphically.

“Sound-wise we are back to analogue sounds, close to our early albums,” Codenys said. “The new technology allows us to be more sharp and precise with our sound without betraying the spirit of the time. The show remains purely physical with projections and clips for each song. Bringing back the aesthetic of the 242 album covers and imaginary world. We worked close with people to design the graphics and stage costumes.”

Front 242 began creating their brand of pre-computer electronic music in Belgium in the mid-80’s. This meant finding creative ways to recreate music live that sometimes lead to unexpected mishaps while performing.

“In the very early 80’s, sequencers were not stable and any variation in the electric stream could make you lose your programming,” Codenys said.

“Also, clubs in the U.S. have a tradition of rock/jazz/country/blues bands and were not ready for electronic music. People working in a club would say, ‘Place your drum on the riser.’ We would answer, ‘We have no drums.’ Then they would show us where we could place our guitar stack and we would say, ‘We have no guitar.’ Finally they would say, ‘You are not a band.’ It was very difficult to change the mentalities at the time.”

When Front 242 first started to use samples, soundtracks, speeches, etc. they weren’t copyright-protected like they are now. They would use tape recorders to align the voices onto a track.

“Around the 90’s we needed to ‘mask’ the origin of our vocal samples by using effects, cuts, plugs, etc.,” Codenys said. “As for the sound samples, we always designed our own sounds – sometimes sampling synth sounds to restructure, filter and reshape into a sampler.”

For example, the track “Welcome To Paradise” includes lines of sampled lyrics such as, “Hey poor, you don’t need to be poor anymore. Jesus is here (don’t tell the devil).”

“‘Welcome to Paradise’ is an ambiguous track as some people took it first degree and others found it cynical,” Codenys said. “Of course, it is more of a joke if you listen to the message; but what is the real interest of that song is the way words are singing. We started from that preacher’s speech/singing and built the track around it. Generally, it goes the other way around, first music then lyrics.”

Today, as in times past, a live Front 242 performance is a way for them to experiment with all the facets of their music through mixing different technologies.

“But what remains the most important is the emotional communion that we experience with our audience during the show,” Codenys said.

UFO Sighting In San Juan Capistrano Not To Be Missed (Flashback 2016)

UFO

UFO play The Coach House Mar. 20

Flashback: VINNIE MOORE with UFO 2016 interview:

UFO will be greeted with a sold out show at The Coach House Mar. 20 as they return to the local venue they’ve played numerous times over the years.

“We love the antique shops and also some of the bars and restaurants in the area. Ha!” guitarist Vinnie Moore quipped. “We always seem to have a packed house full of energetic fans which makes it a pleasure. And it’s a great sounding room.”

Following the release of their 21st album last year, A Conspiracy Of Stars, the English hard rock band is adding a few of the newer tracks to their set list of greatly-anticipated songs.

“Of course we try to keep in as many of the classics as possible, and also play a couple from the 80’s era of the band,” Moore said.

“As far as new stuff, I love playing ‘Messiah of Love’ and ‘Rollin’ Rollin’. ‘Venus’ (from the album Covenant) is always a blast to play, but really I enjoy everything.”

Moore became the permanent lead guitarist with UFO in 2003, began touring with the band and first appeared on You Are Here as well as each of the following albums.

“When I was a teenager learning to play guitar I was a UFO fan,” Moore acknowledged. “I never would have dreamed that someday I would be in the band.

“I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s so I was into all the classic stuff like The Beatles, Led Zep, Deep Purple, Queen, Rainbow, etc.”

Some of the classic UFO songs and fan favorites were during the Michael Schenker era in the 70’s. Songs such as “Doctor, Doctor,” “Lights Out,” “Too Hot To Handle” and “Rock Bottom” have been performed untold times by the group but may vary slightly depending on the audience and the venue.

“A lot of my soloing is improvised so it is different from night to night,” Moore said. “This keeps it fresh and exciting for me and keeps me on my toes and in the moment.

“It’s a little like a pro sports game. There are certain guidelines that you know about in advance, but everyone watches because no one knows what the outcome is going to be on that particular day. And this is why it’s exciting.”

While there have been numerous personnel changes over years, vocalist Phil Mogg and drummer Andy Parker have worked together since the inception of the group. What’s the secret?

“Probably copious amounts of booze,” Moore teased.

If you’re in a band starting out today, Moore suggests doing it “Because you love it and have a passion for it.” To, “Follow your love and become great at what you do.

“At that point, try to create and seize any opportunities that already exist or that you can dream up. Then let me know.”

As the California leg of their U.S. tour approaches, Moore added, “We look forward to seeing the fans at The Coach House.

“Thanks for your continued support.”