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Posts tagged “Rock

Album review: “Watch The World” by Three Legged Fox

Three Legged Fox is an indie/rock/reggae fusion band from the great city of Philadelphia. Immediately two things stick out as you listen to their newest release Watch the World. Firstly, it is clear that the band (consisting of Kyle Wareham, John Duxbury, Mark Carson, Kory Kochersperger, and Chris Duddy) are all incredibly skilled at their craft. The musicality present throughout this record is such a strong driving force behind why the music is so great. Every melody has meaning and every rhythm rounds out the songs perfectly.

Secondly, Three Legged Fox are naturals at writing relatable and uplifting music. To take music that is a fusion of multiple styles and create something that is great for the radio but also meaningful is a special gift. So much “mainstream” sounding music these days follow a repetitive formula and Three Legged Fox are a refreshing break from that.

The constant switching of styles isn’t jarring, but rather seems like a natural transition in the overall themes explored in Watch the World. In the words of the band:

“After putting out some darker albums it was important to us to make a big sounding album that felt like a celebration of life. These are strange and chaotic times, but there’s a romance in living through that, and we wanted to make something you can dance and sing to.”

That statement really hones in on what you feel as you listen to Watch the World. You feel joy in a really pure way. As a guy who generally is a massive cynic (or some would say “miserable bastard” lol), even I can say that I felt just a little bit happier for the duration of my listening experience. Music’s greatest, well one of its greatest, gifts is the ability to pull you out of your own head.

Watch the World absolutely accomplishes this, and it is a record I highly recommend. Trust me on this one.

Standout track: Ultraviolet

Get your copy of Watch the World at digital stores like iTunes

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Interview with Duke Sims of Shinobi Ninja

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(hey guys here is an interview with Duke Sims, one part of an awesome Brooklyn, NY band named Shinobi Ninja. We got in touch on Twitter and here we are! Enjoy the interview and the music).

Derek Kortepeter: So tell me how the band started?

Duke Sims: We met at a recording/rehearsal studio in Hells Kitchen, Manhattan NY.

DK: Your band name is interesting. How did you come up with it? I was thinking it maybe came from the lostprophets’ track “Shinobi Dragon Ninja,” but I could be also way off base in that thought.

DS: Its named after the video game franchise Shinobi!!!

DK: What I love about your sound is the blend of so many different styles from funk to rap and metal. Who are your musical inspirations? How did the band develop its sound?

DS: We all like all types of music. And were open to anything. We’re very diverse and we never shied away from being ourselves and expressing ourselves in our music.

DK: I am a Los Angeles guy (born and raised) and have never visited your hometown of Brooklyn, NY. How does the city of New York impact you guys as musicians and as people in general?

DS: Brooklyn has a lot of people in it. And there from everywhere in the world. You learn things in the streets. You can apply those things anywhere. Anytime.

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DK: So what can you tell me about the music you have been putting out lately? What themes do you cover and what went into writing and recording the tracks?

DS: We’ve been making some awesome music. We just finished a new album before our longtime studio closed. It has a positive light. You can achieve anything. Mind power. Soul Power. Life Power.

DK: When you play live what kind of experience do you want to give the audience?

DS: We go hardddddddddd. We want them to be in shock. Or come to the show and not be shocked at all. They already knew that we was going 0-100.

DK:Being a band that blends so many different musical styles, do you find yourself often acting as a crossover act? What I mean is do you often share the stage with rock bands one night and rappers the other? Or do you find other acts that play an all-encompassing music like yours?

DS: Honestly we’ve played with every type of act/band there is. There are bands that combine genres and styles but there’s no duplicating our band. Its a unique organic thing. The stars lined up. It shines bright.

DK: What can we expect from Shinobi Ninja in the future? Any new projects or gigs on the horizon?

DS: New album. New videos. New Heavy Metal Breakfast. Maybe a cooking show. Chef Shinobi. Or Shinobi Chef. Always got big things on the way!!!

DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish the interview?

DS: Much Love to the Rock Ninja Nation. Big Ups to you!!! Can’t wait to come rock in LA soon!!! Very Soon!!!!

Shinobi Ninja can be found at:

http://www.facebook.com/ShinobiNinjaMusic

http://www.twitter.com/ShinobiNinja


Interview with metal guitarist The Henry Maneuver

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(Hey guys! Here is an interview with a really talented guitarist in the rock/metal scene of the US. I hope you enjoy the conversation!-Derek)

Derek Kortepeter: So tell me how you got into music and how you came to realize that it was what you wanted to do with your life?

TheHenryManeuver: I grew up in a pretty musically inclined family. My aunt was a classically educated pianist, and both of my parents also had studied classical piano, so music was constantly being played in the house, and when I was 5-ish, it was understood that I would begin piano lessons with my aunt just like my sister did. My dad was in a rock band when he was younger, so naturally, whenever Led Zeppelin would come on the radio while we’d be in the car, he would crank it, and I’d notice that he’d get goose bumps remembering those days, and I thought to myself, “I WANT THAT!” Then, as I got older, I became obsessed with rock music, and the deal was if I got good grades and kept at the piano, my parents would get me a guitar, so that’s exactly what I did! Some people want crack. Some people want more cowbell, and I just want to make loud noises, preferably in a way that also pleases others.

DK: Who are your influences, and how have they affected your guitar playing and songwriting?

THM: Everything I listen to has had a big role in shaping the way that I play/write, music ranging from ABBA to Lady Gaga/Meshuggah mash-ups.   The first guitar player who really blew my skirt up, figuratively speaking – I’m more of a skinny jeans kinda guy, was Yngwie Malmsteen. There’s something about playing unnecessarily fast with a neo-classical undertone that I find intoxicating, like a Lzzy Hale Capri Sun I-V, which is why I think I have a tendency to play harmonic minor licks for no apparent reason.

I also really admire artists like Led Zeppelin, Mozart, and City of Evil era Avenged Sevenfold who are able to write riffs /melodic ideas that evolve over the course of a song naturally and feel wholesome by the time you get to the end of a piece or album. The rise and fall is perfect. It’s definitely something I aspire to do, although rarely accomplish, if ever, but it’s a lifetime goal.

DK: When you go to write music, is it spontaneous or do you have a mental sketch of what you want beforehand?

THM: When I write for someone else or co-write a song, there’s usually a vision for what the song is supposed to accomplish and/or sound like. Vocal melodies, for example, will revolve around what makes the vocalist most comfortable for his/her register and style.

BUT… when I write as myself, The Henry Maneuver, it’s pretty spontaneous. These are the songs where I can just write and experiment with literally whatever comes to mind. The only parameters that I usually give myself are general instrumentation that I want to use.   The music theory sometimes is very loosely followed, just to see what happens. I’d say a majority of THM material never gets past my personal recording computer, and I don’t let anyone listen to it, except maybe my dad.  Most of the time it’s just a galactic train wreck in the form of 0s and 1s that will forever be trapped in the ether that is my hard drive (I just wanted to use the word ‘ether.’ I’m pretty sure it doesn’t apply in this situation. #yolo)

DK: I’ve seen quite a few of your Youtube videos and I can tell that you have a great sense of humor. A lot of rock guitarists in the instrumental genre tend to take themselves way too seriously, so I find this refreshing. Was it pretty natural for you to decide to inject humor into your videos?

THM: I think it started out as a self-defense mechanism, especially when I was younger, because how do you make fun of someone who is already making fun of his/her? At least … I like to pretend that’s true. I also in general don’t take things “seriously,” whatever “seriously” means. I just don’t see a point. Taking things “seriously” to me feels like you’re putting invisible chains on how you’re supposed to treat a situation, and it feels very oppressive and unnatural to me. I hope someone farts at my funeral and takes goofy pictures with my dead body because life was too serious while I was participating. I feel as though life is worth enjoying and having a good time ‘cause like the most terrifying roller coaster you’ve ever been on, it’s going to be over in a second.

DK: You mention at Johns Hopkins that you got made fun of for wearing black fingernail polish, was the school not really accepting of metal musicians?

THM: Nah, I don’t think it’s that. I think it was just the fact that a guy was walking around campus wearing black nail polish for seemingly no reason. Once people knew it was ‘cause I played metal and thought nail polish was a cool accessory, they would be like “Oh … okay. What are you doing here then??” I … still don’t really know the answer to that question, and by “here,” I mean Earth. No clue. Place is weird. Gravity and social security numbers like … wtf??

DK: You are now a solo artist, but were the lead guitarist for the east coast band Rest Among Ruins. Was the split amicable? Do they support your solo work?

THM: Um … that’s a loaded question. Suffice it to say that I think everyone wishes the best for everyone now, but at one point, it wasn’t an ideal situation. There was definitely miscommunication, and if I could go back in time, there are things I would have said or done differently, but it just may have turned out for the best for everyone. Time will tell. I haven’t seen any of the guys in person for several years, but I’m sure if we were all in the same place at the same time, we could grab some eats from Jersey Mike’s or Royal Farms and share a laugh.

DK: I notice that you are a multi-instrumentalist, do you find that noodling around on different instruments gives you more ideas from different areas as opposed to one specific genre (i.e. instrumental rock)?

THM: Yeah. For sure. Sometimes when I try to work on one instrument, I hit a dead end or a wall in thinking, and jumping behind the piano, if I’ve been harping on the guitar for a while, really helps me gather my thoughts and continue. Also, the piano is awesome because it’s like a chart of what you’re doing. The sharps and flats are straight up a different color. Pretty genius guy, that Bartolomeo Cristofori.

DK: You are a featured artist for PRS guitars and your main axe is a PRS 20th Anniversary Custom 24, which is pretty damn cool. As a guitarist I have picked up a PRS a few times and found the guitars to be really comfortable to play. What draws you to them, and how did you get to be featured on their website?

THM: I’ve never really known a whole lot about gear. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of and am trying to learn more and more as time goes on, but especially when I was starting guitar, I didn’t have a clue as to what’s what. I come from a line of piano players, so it was a new frontier. I would go to Guitar Center, not knowing anything about guitars, and just pick them up and try them. It wasn’t until I had been playing guitar for several years that I ever even touched a PRS because as you very well know, they’re usually very high up on the wall, and I’m a fairly short guy. My pastor growing up, Lenny Stadler, who not only was an incredible orator and community leader, played bass, and I got to jam with him once when I was in high school, and after I kind of complained how the cutaways of my guitar made it hard for me to play near the higher frets, he told me to check out PRS guitars, so I finally grew a pair and asked one of the Guitar Center guys to let me try out one of their Custom 24s. After he gave me this “you break it, you buy it” speech, I sat down with it and didn’t want to move. It felt like a tuxedo that was as comfortable as sweat pants (That analogy is inspired by a recent “New Girl” episode). It was like using the bathroom at your house after you’ve been away for years in deep space, and you have issues relieving yourself in zero gravity. Nailed it.

As far as getting onto their site goes, long story short, someone at the factory hooked me up with Grover (RIP) who was working Artist Relations at PRS at the time, and he basically gave my music a shot for no reason, just being charitable. He got the thumbs up from Mr. Paul Reed Smith himself to put me up on the site after they saw my “Butt Snuffs” video, which cracks me up, and that’s that. I’ll never forget him.

 DK: Are you currently playing live shows with a band?

THM: Yes and no. Not really. I sometimes participate with groups in my area just for fun, but it’s not a touring gig or anything.

DK: What projects do you have currently in the works musically?

THM: Some are secrets but will hopefully be getting hashed out in the near future, BUT a band I’ve been working with since last year is starting to near the finish line with some jams. The band is called, “The Point Past Insanity.” They are from Des Moines, Iowa, and their sound falls under the genre of “metalcore,” but it’s shaping out to be pretty unique, in my opinion. Some of the new songs will be dropping within the next couple of weeks/months, and I even had the opportunity to do some vocals on it. Ayeeee.

 DK: What do you want people to take away from your music as an overall experience?

THM: Ideally, I’d like the music to be a moment in time where people can remove themselves from any problems that they’re having and exist as if none of that is happening, step into a world with only happy moments or a state of mind where the listener can recreate their own persona into whatever they want. The Matrix tends to be pretty rough place, and I’d like to help people escape.

 DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before this interview concludes?

THM: Please send me good vibes, and I’ll try to send them out too.


A Conversation With NY Rockers Hard Soul

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(Hey everyone! Here is a great interview I did with the Albany rock group The Hard Soul. We talked music and stuff…duh. They are pretty chill dudes and I think you’ll enjoy the conversation)

Derek: So tell me how you guys got started as a band?

Johnny: It was the fall of 2011, and I had taken some time off from performing following the break-up of a previous band I was in for a number of years touring around the northeast. I started reconnecting with acoustic guitar after casting it aside during my teenage years in favor of power chords and heavy metal. At first I started with the open mic and coffee shop circuit road testing the songs I had been writing, and eventually I ended up making some demos of how I wanted them to sound in a full-band setting. It was always my goal to form a new band, not just play solo. From there I went into the studio and tracked the first 5 songs on my own that ended up on our first EP ‘Love Eats the Young’. After that I wrangled up some guys who wanted to play and we just went from there. The rest, as they say, is history.

Nick: I had been playing guitar by myself for about 5 1/2 years. Tabs from Black Sabbath, Dio, Iron Maiden etc. One day I was in my room playing and thought I was good enough to try to play in front of an audience. Cue Hard Soul craigslist ad (laughs). I responded to Johnny’s ad in November of 2012, did two auditions, and have been in the band ever since. It was a different line-up back then but I remember feeling happy as a clam because each person was an awesome individual. Very nice, patient, and supportive. I learned a lot from them.

Ryan: I met Hard Soul back in 2013 when my previous band, Neversink, opened up for them at their Seize the Year vinyl release show. Soon after, Neversink had decided to move to Boston but I was going to be staying in Albany. The night of my last show with Neversink, I ran into John and Nick who told me they were looking for a full time bassist. I auditioned with them a few days later and have been playing with Hard Soul since.

Mark: I joined on the Seize the Year tour in 2013, and kept going.

Steve: I just recently joined the band officially. Johnny started the project before I met him and it grew to what it was before I joined. I filled in for a bunch of shows when needed. It eventually just made sense for me to join.

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Derek: How did you develop your sound and figure out what styles of music you wanted to emulate?

Johnny: I come from a diverse background musically; the radio or stereo was always on when I was a little kid. I grew up on classic rock, and that music is imprinted on my DNA. But I didn’t really figure out who I was as a songwriter until this band, to be honest. In the past it was these speed metal sociopolitical anthems that I wanted to shove down people’s throats at full volume. But once I found my own voice rather than trying to emulate someone else’s. I really began to feel comfortable enough to write more personal and nuanced music that meant more to me.

Nick: I just play what Johnny writes and enjoy the heck out of doing it (laughs). I am still searching for a tone that I like and have been experimenting a little with strings, guitars, amps, pedals etc. I want to emulate 80’s metal/hard rock a la Iron Maiden, Dio, Black Sabbath.

Ryan: I think as a band we develop our own sound based on our influences. We come from different musical backgrounds and I think that shines through in the music we make. Personally, I grew up playing a lot of pop punk and you can see that influence on songs like This Is Blood. At the same time, we all have an appreciation for classic rock, pop, and metal. I think that gives us the ability to perform songs in a lot of different styles.

Steve: As a later addition to the band, the sound was pretty much established already. It’s part of what drew me to be in the band. It was easy to fit in with this style, though. It’s great and fun!

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Derek: What first brought you to music? Was it a series of events or one really specific moment?

Nick: I’ve always been a fan of music, as early as 3rd grade when I played the flute. I played that for 5 years before picking up bass guitar in high school. I picked up electric guitar to impress a girl I was dating at the time. My parents introduced me to Deep Purple, Rainbow, and The Doors at a young age and my judo coach Jason is a rock encyclopedia. Those three influences helped mold my tastes.

Johnny: Like I said earlier, I was surrounded by music as a child. But like Nick, it was my attempt at impressing a girl that led me to get my first guitar (a black and white Mexican-made Stratocaster, for those who are keeping score). However, I think it was the moment when I first connected a band and their songs together. That band was The Beatles, and they really made me realize how powerful and magical music could be. I would spend hours laying in bed with headphones over my ears getting lost in their music, and it’s where I learned what melody and harmony really was.

Ryan: I’ve was always really into music as kid. My friends and I would always dissect our favorite bands, trying to learn as much about them as we could. I didn’t get into playing music until I was probably 15 or so. My brother came home with a Silvertone Starter Kit one day so when he wasn’t playing it, I would pick it up and try it out. I started out with online tabs for songs I liked and, by my senior year of high school, I was jamming around with some buddies.

Mark: Feeling how inspirational music was in life, it only felt right to produce it rather than sit back.

Steve: A lot of my family is musical so I gravitated toward music that way, probably. My dad taught me how to play guitar.

Derek: Who do you consider to be influences for you musically?

Johnny: With age comes a more discerning, and some could argue more open and receptive, ear. My three favorite bands are Thin Lizzy, Oasis, and The Beatles. So from a songwriting perspective I’m talking Phil Lynott, Noel Gallagher and the Lennon/McCartney duo. Top notch songwriters all around, and I hope to achieve what they have in their careers one day. However, my early years were a lot of music that skewed heavier, like Megadeth, Metallica, Sepultura, Anthrax, Slayer, ect. So it’s a bit of a mix.

Nick: I’ve always been a fan of Toni Iommi. I respect how he’s overcome many complications (including the early loss of the tips of his two fingers) to become who he is today. I see many parallels with his music career and my pursuit toward the Olympics for judo. Adrian Smith, Dave Murray, and Janick Gers from Iron Maiden are also major influences

Ryan: Queens of the Stone Age and The Who are my two major influences. There is no better bassist than John Entwistle.

Mark: Neil Peart, Danny Carry, Chad Smith, and Lars Ulrich.

Steve: Personally my father would be closest. He taught me guitar as mentioned above. Also, while growing up he was in numerous bands and I attended many rehearsals and gigs, not to mention all the guitar playing he did around the house! My high school music teachers (Terry Bradway and Joseph Bonville) are also big influences on my music interests in general. Dave Matthews Band is also a big influence on my playing. When I started my heavy playing it was mostly acoustic. Might seem like a strange mix for this band, but it works!

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Derek: Let’s talk about your EP Fairer Shores which I love. You funded the album’s recording/distribution and supporting tour via Kickstarter. What made you use crowdfunding, and what do you credit with giving you the ability to raise all the necessary funds?

Johnny: Persistence and planning. We set a goal and had all intentions of hitting it. That, and the incredible support we had from our fans. Without them we are nothing. Crowdfunding is a perfect example of a new way forward for bands who don’t have the luxury of label support. We can’t be more grateful for the help we got from everyone who pledged to make our EP and tour a reality.

Nick: Consistency, Consistency, Consistency…Getting to 100% of our funding goal was a night and day 24/7 task. Emails, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, text messages, phone calls, video uploads were all used to help raise that money. I learned a lot during that month. Fortunately Johnny had previous experience with fundraising (the band had a successful Kickstarter back in 2013), so with his input (and the rest of the band’s as well) the project didn’t crash and burn “Top Gun” style like so many other crowd-funding projects do.

Ryan: The five of us decided to use Kickstarter because we were planning some pretty ambitious touring to support Fairer Shores as well as release the EP on vinyl. Both of these things take some serious cash to get done and it would be tough to shoulder the expenses completely on our own. The support from our fans was overwhelming. It goes without saying that the Kickstarter would have been nothing without everyone’s help.

Mark: Nowadays people do not have the cash to fund production and distribution.

Steve: It gets expensive to “do it yourself” record, produce, press, and tour as a band. Hard Soul had done another successful Kickstarter in the past and (at the time) with the upcoming plans of EP recording, pressing to vinyl, and the tour it made sense to give another one a shot. I credit, mostly, all of Hard Soul’s great fans and supporters.

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Derek: Walk me through writing the tracks for Fairer Shores, how did they come about? Did you take from personal experiences with the lyrics and how did each member in the band contribute to the overall process? Was there a specific theme/concept that you were trying to follow?

Johnny: Each song I wrote for this EP represents a specific moment in time. I generally demo the tunes out in my home studio and present them to the band. After some rehearsal time and maybe road-testing the tunes live we went into Four Legs Records studio in Washingtonville, NY to track them. It’s 2 full band tracks and 2 acoustic tracks that were recorded during another session a month or so later.

“The Sweetest Heart” – this song was one I had been working on since mid-2014. The phrase “the sweetest heart” had been rolling around in my mind for a long time and I didn’t have a chance to use it until this song started to take shape. In a specific sense it’s about a failed relationship, but in a larger more general way it’s about the emotions that you cope with following some sort of vacuum in your life when you lose something you love. Anger, frustration, yearning, and eventually the realization that you are better off moving ahead. It’s got a super infectious beat and melody to it, and it’s the song a lot of people say they connect with live when they come talk to us after one of our shows.

“It’s All Gone Wrong” – this particular song came together pretty quickly in its early stages. Originally it was a perspective on stagnation in someone’s life and the frustration of navigating through it. Looking back at it now, I can probably say it’s more of a reflection on my own attempts to embrace patience when it comes to the creative process. As a DIY band we don’t have managers or handlers giving advice or dictating how things should go. So I will have bursts of creativity and suddenly have 4 or 5 new songs that I want to start playing or recording so that we can capture that energy instantly.

“Fairer Shores” – In my time as a songwriter I can think of only three occasions where a song came together as quickly as this one. I don’t know where it came from, but I was preparing for a friend’s wedding one morning and suddenly these lyrics started pouring out of my head and onto paper. I quickly grabbed a guitar and fleshed out some chords (including an intro chord pattern that I had been saving for the “right song”) and demo’d the whole thing in a few hours, fast enough to send to both the bride and groom before the ceremony. I’m incredibly proud of that song, and it’s a personal favorite of mine.

“Have to Be A Miracle” – It’s an incredibly personal song for me, and it’s tough to actually dissect it without feeling a little too exposed, you know? It was written very soon after I wrote “Fairer Shores” and every time I get a chance to sing it I’m taken back to the exact moment that inspired it. I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves. In many ways it’s a follow-up to the acoustic version of another one of our songs “We Burn Like Fire.”

Nick: Having been in the band for all but 1 album, I can comment on some of the overall themes that I’ve seen in the music. The songs are eclectic in thematic nature (and style of music) ranging from optimistic get what you want – heartbreak. However, each song is under the same thematic umbrella of “the human experience” or life as some would say. These songs, deal with emotions and experiences that ALL OF US have felt at one point in our lives. That being said, our band can speak to literally ANYONE on the planet. No audience is cast out, ignored, segregated, or overlooked… sounds very Salka to me.  

Ryan: Fairer Shores was the most active I’ve been so far in the writing process when it comes to my bass parts. I definitely put my own spin on the tunes from Heart of Plaster, but I had a little more freedom this time around. When John first showed me the new songs, those bass lines IMMEDIATELY popped in my head and we threw them down on the demos right then. Especially on “It’s All Gone Wrong.”

Steve: Last summer Johnny and myself went out on a little acoustic tour around the northeast. He came to me with the idea for “The Sweetest Heart” as a new one to road test on this tour and it sounded great. We were able to play around with it and see how the arrangement fit. The other three tracks came together quickly after that. The original plan was to do a single with a B-side but because the other songs quickly evolved, we decided to include them, too. In recording the full band tracks on the EP, we were all able to put our personal take on each respective part.

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Derek: How has the local scene in upstate New York reacted to your music? Do you have tons of diehard fans?

Johnny: Only supportive. Every show we play there is positive energy flowing out from the stage to the audience and we receive it back from them. Every show we pick up some new fans who stumbled onto our music and find some kind of connection to what we’re doing. I’m very humbled to hear from those folks who dig what we play.

Nick: All I can say is that since the band’s inception (a mere 4 years ago) we have had a steady audience growth and consistent elevation in our level. Higher profile gigs, more gigs, new audiences, more air time. Seems like a good reaction to me. However, I am not satisfied until we’re on the cover of Rolling Stone (laughs). Our fan base is growing and for that I am extremely grateful.

Mark: “Tight” is a word that is brought up consistently when describing our shows.

Ryan: We’ve been given nothing but love from Upstate and beyond. The reaction has been absolutely amazing. Since the band has started, our fan base in the area just keeps growing. Starting off at open mic nights and working our way up to shows like Alive at 5 [The City of Albany’s premiere summer concert series] has been a pretty cool experience.

Steve: I’m not sure about the history of this band regarding this question, but anyone I’ve spoken to since joining the band love the music and energy we bring.

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Derek: What do you hope that your tour will accomplish for you as a band?

Johnny: Well, obviously we want it to be a success in all aspects. Many of the stops are in cities we haven’t had the privilege of playing in yet, so it’s a first step in acquainting ourselves with potential new fans. Then repeat endlessly! The core element of being in a band is performing your music to fresh ears, and as long as we do that every night I’m happy to call that success. Plus it’s like going to rock n’ roll summer camp with a bunch of your friends!

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Derek: When you play live, what type of experience do you want to bring to your audience?

Johnny: From a personal perspective, I strive to play the best show absolutely possible each night; my guitar playing has to be top notch, my voice on point, because I want to put on the best performance possible for myself. But the songwriter and lyricist in me really wants to connect with everyone through the music and the words. It’s about creating an atmosphere, or vibe, or whatever you want to call it, that will envelop everyone, even for just a moment and they can maybe connect to something in those songs. I also want to showcase all the facets of our sound, be it the full-tilt rockers or the more nuanced acoustic tunes like the ones on the new EP.

Nick: I want people who see us play live to be able to walk away saying “Wow, what a tight band! That was awesome when _____”. Long story short, I want people to enjoy our set and walk away with memories. Guess it’s partially on me to figure out how to create them (laughs).

Mark: People to see the energy I provide to then feel it and live it.

Ryan: I want our live shows to be a fuckin’ party. I’ve been to some live shows where the band just puts their heads down, plows through their set, and it’s boring as hell. The audience should feel like they’re getting their monies worth and the best way to do that is put your heart into every performance.

Steve: A high energy, great show. Want them to remember who Hard Soul is.

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Derek: Where would you, dream big here, like to see Hard Soul go in the future? Any specific venues, festivals or anything else that comes to mind?

Johnny: Dreaming big? Probably opening for Oasis on their reunion tour (if that ever happens). Realistically, Warped Tour would be an awesome run of summer touring for us; I think we’d fit the bill pretty well. Any opportunity to perform is a thrill for me. With that said, I think any band that has the guts to leave the safety of their own town to hit the road would probably say the same thing, and I’m happy to be in that category.

Nick: Madison Square Garden, The Times Union Center, The Staples Center. I want it all. Lollapalooza, Warped Tour, you name it.

Ryan: In a perfect world, Hard Soul is opening up for Queens of the Stone Age on an international tour. Josh Homme then asks me to play on the next Desert Session record.

Mark: More shows.

Steve: Just to continue growing and writing great music. Playing bigger venues, sharing the experience with a bigger audience would be great!

 Derek: Is there anything else you would like to say before we conclude this interview?

Nick: Anyone want to take me out for sushi?

Mark: Rock on, mates.

Ryan: Stay golden, Pony Boy.

Steve: Nope!

Johnny: Love yourself, love one another. As Johnny Marr says: “Be who you wanna be.”


Interview with Albany rockers BISHOP

bishop(Hey guys, you may remember my review of BISHOP’s record Hate Wide Open. Now I present an interview with the entire band. Enjoy.-Derek)

Derek Kortepeter: Tell me how you guys got started as a band?

ROCK: Tommy and I started as ‘Dead Bishop’ back in 1993. Vinny replaced the outgoing bass player in 1998.

VINNY: The three of us are brothers; Tom and Rock are full brothers and I am their half brother.We all have the same mother, along with my younger brother Dominic, who is also our “head of security” (laughs). We grew up together and were always close. Those guys would play what my dad called “noise” and “binge and purge” music in the shed in the backyard of our house in Guilderland, NY (which is a quiet suburb of Albany) loud as hell. I was 5 and I would love to come in, watch, sing on the mic and get in trouble. From then on I wanted to be in the band. I bought my first bass when I was 9, a fender fretless jazz with no amp!!! (I couldn’t afford one for a couple of years so I would play with the headstock against the kitchen garbage can to make it louder). Finally in December of 1998, I was 13, in eighth grade and got the call. My brothers said I was in. I specifically remember Tommy saying I had to keep my grades up to be in the band. I was good in school anyways so it was no problem. Thus Bishop was born.

TOMMY: Yes, that is pretty much how we started.

DK: Was music always the thing that interested you? Or did the passion come later in life?

TOMMY: Yes, music and anything creative interested me although, I got side tracked by sports for most of my youth and teen years. When I was done with that stuff, I was required by Rock to purchase a guitar so that we could jam together. I started straight off slamming out thrash riffs. I would make my guitar practice’s a workout.

ROCK: Absolutely – my cousin Sara used to babysit me when I was 4, 5 and I remember her playing old Ramones, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin vinyl. Then I would try to make a drum set using pots and pans (until my mother found all dents in the bottom of her saucepans!)

VINNY: For me it was just watching my brothers play and wanting to be in the band. Also I got to go to their shows at a very young age at clubs that I probably shouldn’t have been allowed in. I got to see all sorts of incredible music, moshing, and crazy stuff. As a special “encore” they used to play Helmet “In The Meantime” and I would come up onstage to either sing or play bass. I also got to see Life of Agony at a club in Albany called the QE2 (now closed) on their River Runs Red tour. My cousin Sara took me when I was like 11 or something. The place was so packed they made us watch on the stage next to the bass player. It was hot, tight, and people were going absolutely apeshit. That was a moment when I said I want in on this business (laughs).

10292536_10152730754848300_1139866488851305431_n  DK: Who do you consider to be some of your musical influences? How do they (or did they) affect BISHOP’s songwriting?

TOMMY: I liked all styles of music depending on how it struck me. When I picked up a guitar all I wanted to do was play loud, hard and furious. For that, my idols where Scott Ian and Danny Spitz (Anthrax) as well as, all the larger than life heroes of the thrash world (Sepultura, SOD, Testament, Queensryche). I then melded into a bit of Rollin’s, Jimi Hendrix, Soundgarden, NIN, Ministry, and Bjork (She’s just so darn sexy)

ROCK: Helmet, Anthrax, Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who. For me, as a drummer, I always felt a strong connection with the drumming styles of each band and I think play into how I use my instrument and how I want it to fit within the structure and impact of the songs.

VINNY: Definitely Helmet, Quicksand, Faith No More, Orange 9mm, Anthrax, Soundgarden, Clutch, Alice in Chains, the list goes on. Also I must say King’s X . I feel they are a big subconscious influence that affects our music a lot. For me personally Type O Negative also. As far as how it affects our music, I see it like this. You listen to this great music and it gets in your head. Not just the music but the feeling, and it translates into your songwriting. We generally have a more “Positive” approach to music and want people to get amped up and motivated to do great things when they listen. When I hear Helmet “In the Meantime” I feel like I can do anything; work out, put in a concrete driveway at my house, wash the dishes or change the oil on my car!

 

DK: Let’s talk about your latest album Hate Wide Open, first of all why did you guys decide to take an entirely DIY approach (i.e. sans producer etc.)?

 

ROCK: Money! Seriously though – having the looming ticking hourly rate on you while trying to create is nonsense. We figured, we are all good at one thing or another so let’s try figuring out what each guy can do, then come together to put out the best album we can with what we have at our disposal.

VINNY: Time and MONEY. We have been doing this for quite some time and have picked up a lot of production, recording, and live sound skills (which in some cases go hand in hand). So we said we had better learn how to do this stuff ourselves. Plus, we just have found that if you want to get your vision across, you’re best bet is to do it yourself.

TOMMY: Because I was told in a dream that, “You(BISHOP) must set forth the new fury, of which all shall harken to heart, You(BISHOP) must set this task solely upon yourselves, virgin of all input except from the hands, hearts and mouths of YOU!”

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DK: What was the process of creating the songs for the record? Were the songs spontaneous, scripted, or a little bit of both?

ROCK: Both – basically we like to write the music first, and then turn lyric duty over to Tommy. Sometimes the music came quick, sometimes it was a trial and error – but we weren’t concerned about time, just making a song that we felt was the best.

VINNY: A lot of the songs started as Rock and I jamming, either with me on bass or guitar. Sometimes I would come up with the basic “Riffs” at home and we would come together at practice to hash it out together. Rock would give his input and in our own little “music speak” we would communicate what we want for each part. Rock would tell me “do a slide here, give it a little chunk chunk there, some “broooash” there, you get the drift. Michael Bay style (laughs). I would do the same. I’d be like, Rock do this fill, do a little ba da dump dump here, give me a slayer fill there. Then Tommy would come in and add his flavor with the guitars, and come up with cool leads. Tommy would write the vocals, and then we would come up with some of the backing stuff together. On this album we wanted to all sing, and to add as much as we each could to the music. We went through many rounds of revising and editing songs all the way up into the recording process. Many a long night was spent taking a step back to objectively look at the music and having to make some tough decisions.

TOMMY: And so it was done.

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DK: You discuss a philosophical system that holds “we are now witness to the ‘Hate, Wide, Open’ that exists in our world today.” Can you elaborate on what specific things you believe need to be changed in the world? Do you think your music can bring about a deeper discussion about these issues?

TOMMY: For me it is an Awakening to the fundamental dysfunction of humanity…..The Ego. The ego which drives us to fear, hate, and violence in support of defending ourselves. “If I have all the money, I will be safe, if I am the strongest, nobody can hurt me, if I get you before you get me then I’ll be safe” It’s egoic thoughts such as these that drive the madness you see around you. By becoming aware of your ego, you are beginning the process of progress, a paradigm shift forward for humanity. The only way for us to Move, forward, is to become one, to work together, to come together and open up about who we are to each other. We need to re-build bridges of hope. The Bishop venue will be one location to do this. To open up and “witness” the truth. So, it’s not so much the music which opens the channels, it’s who’s behind the music. The music is the doorway in…..

 

ROCK: Music should touch you – no matter what type of music style it is. Some people connect with Mozart, some connect with Slayer. Music is a catalyst for change, so YES – we wanted to write from the heart and feel that there will be some people that should connect with the sonic impact and lyrical message we are putting out.

VINNY: Now a days it seems everyone is always trying to get one up on each other. We don’t take enough time to have patience with one another. Everyone wants to be a tough guy/gal or a big shot and that really isn’t necessary or productive. We are all on this planet together, let’s make the most of our time here and help one another.  

DK: You have been together since 1998, how would you say your music has evolved over the years?

ROCK: I would say our songwriting and song production has drastically improved! In the beginning we were just winging it – which isn’t always a bad thing, but with time comes a better perspective on what works musically and lyrically.

VINNY: We have matured and learned to have the discipline to put the music FIRST. When you are writing and producing music, you need to develop taste in whatever you are doing, and that is a very tricky and subjective thing. We have gone through some different stages for sure. Just listen to our last three albums. Centipede, our first full length, came out in 2001, followed by Rock On in 05’ and Steel Gods in ’07. Much has changed in that time, but at the same time we have always strived to put out the best music we can.

TOMMY: As is all things in life, it’s a process in discovery. Finding who you really are. Whether it’s better or worse depends on how much you accept the truth. I feel that, we (BISHOP) bathe in the truth. Now it’s a matter of coming to terms with it, to surrender.

10801668_10152660505433300_4778333091608258265_nDK: What sort of trials have you guys faced as a band? From being around rock music all my life I know that being in a band is hard work with tons of blood, sweat, and tears.

ROCK: Music is passion, our art – and you will do anything for it. We dealt with our fair share of booking agent con-artists, NYC ‘showcase night’ shows, drunk little people trying to steal our van, etc, etc. Putting in a lot of time rehearsing, playing dead-end dives in front of barely a crowd – it wears on you emotionally and makes you question why even bother. But it’s those few and far between moments where you get an email or some stranger says they love this or that song you wrote – then all the crap you put up with is worth it.

VINNY: I have to agree with everything Rock said and add – living in a culturally dead part of the country. The three of us come from Italian immigrants who came from a rural mountain town in southern Italy. Hard work is all they knew and I think those values are in our blood. The work is easy, and when it is something you love it is actually fun! The hard part is when you do it all and get no reaction, either positive or negative, from a crowd of 10 people who don’t get it and stare at you with blank faces. Which is fine, because like Rollins said, you give it all no matter how many people are there to see you, and we always do. It can just be a little frustrating at times.

TOMMY: Many trials, yes many trials but, we were pretty savvy and aware of what was going on. We just played the game.

 

DK: Since you are from Albany (and I’m from Los Angeles), I am curious what the music scene is like there. Is BISHOP well-received? Are you known in any other regional music scenes (I ask since you have been around for quite some time, which is impressive since so many bands break up after only a couple of years)?

ROCK: Albany (Upstate NY) USED to have a great scene from 70’s, ’80’s and early to late ’90’s….then it went to shit! The only way you could get a decent gig was to play covers alongside your originals. Live music clubs and music mags folded, so the scene wilted away. BISHOP is well received EVERYWHERE ELSE other than our hometown (although we do have a lot of old friends that support us!).

TOMMY: Yes, I agree the music scene in our area is difficult to navigate. There are less and less venues to perform in and the change in attitudes and what people value on their free time has changed.

VINNY: It seems the further west we have travelled the better the reception. We did a few smaller tours out to Ohio and had some of our best shows out there. When we did the Lady Luck tour in 2006 we toured all the way to Las Vegas, playing shows in places like Indianapolis, St. Louis, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and Wichita. We met great people and felt great vibes in those places.

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DK: What type of experience do you want your audience to have at BISHOP shows? Do you find that you play to an often receptive audience (i.e. like-minded rock fans)?

ROCK: For the most part – no matter what size crowd, we do connect with people. I notice we get fans who are fellow musicians that dig the way we play, and we also get the casual listener – and they may not even be into our genre of music – but they say they liked a song’s lyrics, or they enjoy just watching us and the energy we put into it.

VINNY: I always try to make a connection with the crowd. After the set I like to talk to everyone because it is exciting to meet people who are as passionate about music as yourself. I also like playing shows where the genres of the bands are mixed because we seem to get new fans who would have never thought that they would like heavy rock music, and that is exciting in itself. We want everyone to have a great time and come away from the experience motivated!

TOMMY: You will watch and hear what we have to say. Then, we will talk!

DK: What can we expect in the coming future from you guys?

ROCK: Getting Hate Wide Open out to the masses through shows, word of mouth, radio, and definitely more new music – sooner rather than later!

VINNY: Absolutely. It is time to get the music to the people. We will see you on the road!

TOMMY: Good stuff!

 DK: Is there anything else you would like to say before this interview concludes?

BISHOP: Support Independent music/musicians! If you like what they do show some love – buy their cd, buy a shirt, support their art, and spread the word. That is what keeps the engine going!

BISHOP can be found at:

www.bishopmusic.com

www.facebook.com/bishopmusic

www.twitter.com/bishoprockmusic


EP Review: Hard Soul’s “Fairer Shores”

Hard-Soul-2015-press-photoSo I am discovering that Albany, NY has some amazing bands. After my recent review of BISHOP I was contacted by the PR rep for a band named Hard Soul. After getting a pre-release listen to their newest EP Fairer Shores, I knew I had to do a review for Mixolydian. Also hailing from Albany, Hard Soul formed in 2011 and consists of Johnny Salka (vocals/lead guitar); Nick Kossor (guitar); Ryan Klaeysen (bass guitar); Mark Podbielski (drums); and Stephen Thompson (guitar/backing vocals).

Fairer Shores (and the current tour to support it) was entirely crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and based on the finished product, the donators clearly knew that they were investing wisely.

10959317_728402333924234_6558972539302384332_nIt is an album that delivers great melodic hooks, passionate and poetic lyrics (focusing heavily on romantic relationships), great instrumental exploration, and ultimately a very approachable rock sound. Since this is an EP, there are only four songs (divided like old school vinyl with the A side being heavy and the B side being lighter in tone). Let’s go ahead and explore each track one-by-one:

1. The Sweetest Heart This opening track (and lead single from the EP) instantly hits you with great melody in the verse and chorus. Right away you can feel the song getting caught inside your head. This is SO hard to do, as bands with a more radio friendly sound often struggle to get that great hook that everybody remembers. The drums and bass hold the line as the song pulls you to increasingly higher elevations. The other standout melodic portion of this song involves the guitars. The rhythm guitar track plays the chords with just the right amount of attack, and the lead lines explode onto the track as the song reaches its apex. This song reminds me of a lot of the bands I listened to growing up in Southern California, bands like Yellowcard and others. I was able to relive some nostalgia of warm summer nights when I didn’t have much to worry about other than playing my guitar. Ultimately this song put a huge smile on my face, what a great way to open the EP.

2. It’s All Gone Wrong As the title might suggest, this song is a more lamenting track (specifically about the end of a relationship). The power behind the vocals (backing and lead), the driving force of the rhythm section, the distorted and flowing chords in the rhythm guitar, and the constant melodic interjections from the lead guitar make the song a beautiful and strong track. Sadness is an inevitable part of life, and hell, we have all had broken hearts which makes a song like this so relatable. Lyrics like “say goodbye to yesterday” ring in this track like a call to action, to not dwell on the rage and hurt. You don’t feel depressed listening to this, which is interesting as break-up songs tend to go in that emo direction. Kudos guys for an anthemic lament.

3. Fairer Shores This song kicks off the B side, so there is a clear shift to softer tones (i.e. acoustic). The lyrics play out in this song like a page from a novel, heavy with metaphors (that’s a good thing). The tempo is moderate and is a way of almost serving as thematic counterpoint to the previous song. Here the vocalist is speaking to a current love, perhaps at the beginning of a more serious relationship. The instrumentation allows for some great harmonic interaction between the string instruments. The backing vocal harmonies are a wonderful part of this track, which create easy to repeat melodic hooks.

4. Have To Be A Miracle This track feels like a closing track. It is hard to explain, but there is something about it (melodically or otherwise) that makes this song feel like a book closing. The echoing lead guitars, beautiful chord changes, atmospheric sounds, vocal harmonies, notes that explore the top vocal range of Johnny Salka, and lyrics leave you satisfied. I’m reminded of how Brand New ends their second record Déjà Entendu as there is a similar finality, but at the same time allowing for another story to be told.

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Discovering bands like Hard Soul makes my work as a music journalist so worth it. I am very glad to know the music of this band and share it with you guys in this review. All that’s left is for you to give it a listen and a purchase when Fairer Shores releases on February 24th to support this amazing band!

Hard Soul can be found at:

http://thehardsoul.com/

https://twitter.com/thehardsoul

https://www.facebook.com/TheHardSoul

https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/hard-soul/id292822560

 


Album Review: BISHOP’s “Hate Wide Open”

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I’m always looking for fresh new music to review for this site. I always prefer to pay attention when I write reviews to artists you may not know, but should. I was recently contacted by an Albany, NY rock trio named BISHOP who kindly gave me a press access download to their newest release Hate Wide Open. Formed in 1998, the band describes themselves as a “power trio,” consisting of brothers: Tom Semeraro (Guitars, Lead Vocals), Rocco Semeraro (Drums, Vocals), and Vinny Padula (Bass, Vocals).

Hate Wide Open is a heavy record from start to finish. It punches you in the mouth with crushing drums, thunderous bass, chunky de-tuned chords in the rhythm guitar, and fiery solos in the lead guitar. Every song is a blast of a ton of different working parts that flow like great rock should. Sonically this album reminds of a mix between Helmet, Agnostic Front, and the Stone Temple Pilots. You want head banging? You’ve got it in Hate Wide Open. You want strong musicianship? You’ve got it in Hate Wide Open. You want a message with your heavy rock? You’ve got it in Hate Wide Open.

bishopThe album’s thematic material should be understood through the philosophical lens of lead vocalist Tom Semeraro. He states that “we are now witness to the “Hate, Wide, Open” that exists in our world today. We have the power to reverse this trend and move back toward a time of creativity, enlightenment, and human progress. Join together, voice and hand and make a difference.” As long as it is sincere, I am always for message driven music. I tend to hold a pretty cynical view of society, but I describe it as a “cynical idealism” that, given the right circumstances, people can foster social change. Epic music that drives you to feel every note in your bones is made that much better (in this case) with a uniting, observant message.

10801668_10152660505433300_4778333091608258265_nBISHOP is a band that has clearly honed their craft. They understand each other as one musical unit, never overpowering each other. The result is an aggressive, methodical, and enticing sound. I yearn for rock music to kick my ass, and BISHOP certainly has. I’m glad that these guys got in touch with me, and I am happy to recommend Hate Wide Open. The album can be purchased here (http://www.bishopmusic.com/page/shop-5.html) and I don’t think that fans of straightforward hard rock will be disappointed.

Standout tracks: “Awaken,” “Free Fall,” “Neverland”

BISHOP can be found at:

www.bishopmusic.com

www.facebook.com/bishopmusic

www.twitter.com/bishoprockmusic