CGCM PODCAST – Because Radio is Dead!

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cgcmSeriously, have you listened to the radio lately? I don’t mean talk radio or sports radio, but radio for music? If you have not, than I strongly suggest you DONT! If you do, I am here to tell you all, that there is a better way.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones, I was a child in the 70’s and a teenager throughout the 80’s. My passion for music got started before the rise of the machines! Ok that might be a little dramatic quoting the Terminator but the facts are not really that far off. Let me explain what I mean…

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I got hold of my first transistor “radio”, yes I am OLD but it was through this device that my passion for music was ignited. I would listen to the local “pop” music station and in the 70’s…

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CGCM PODCAST – Because Radio is Dead!

cgcmSeriously, have you listened to the radio lately? I don’t mean talk radio or sports radio, but radio for music? If you have not, than I strongly suggest you DONT! If you do, I am here to tell you all, that there is a better way.

I consider myself one of the fortunate ones, I was a child in the 70’s and a teenager throughout the 80’s. My passion for music got started before the rise of the machines! Ok that might be a little dramatic quoting the Terminator but the facts are not really that far off. Let me explain what I mean…

When I was 7 or 8 years old, I got hold of my first transistor “radio”, yes I am OLD but it was through this device that my passion for music was ignited. I would listen to the local “pop” music station and in the 70’s the pop was really just short for “popular” it wasn’t an actual musical genre. They would play music that was popular at the time so I would hear Billy Joel played beside Dolly Parton, beside Fleetwood Mac, beside Rush, beside Abba, beside Queen, beside Alice Cooper, beside David Bowie, beside the Bee Gees. It was a melting pot for all genres of music and exposed the listener to new sounds, new bands and new genres as they emerged. It was a healthy and creative time for music and a fantastic time to be a listener of radio.
In my teen years 1983-1989 three things happened. First I was able to start my own personal collection of music (first on cassettes, the occasional vinyl and then onto CD’s). Second I discovered my own particular flavour of music (Hard Rock and Heavy Metal) and lastly I watched as radio started to change. Radio through the 80’s started to segment more and more into “genre” specific stations.

Somewhere along this time “pop” became it’s own musical genre. It still played music that was popular (read sells a lot!) but it the music now had to fit in with the record buying youth. If it was bright and colourful (WHAM, Culture Club, Madonna) it was “in” and you now had to turn to a Country specific station if you still wanted to hear a Kenny Rogers song. As we moved further into the 90’s it became even more processed (insert all the Boy Bands and the Spice Girls here).

Satellite radio comes along in the 2000’s and segments the stations even further. So you have a Grunge station, an Urban Hip Hop station, a Hair Metal station, a Country station, a New Country station, an Outlaw Country station, a Traditional Country station. I think I am getting dizzy.

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Another great podcast, The Decibel Geek Podcast!

By now the music industry is so completely upside down and the business model that was the record industry is absolutely broken. The labels keep running around trying to figure out what happened and blame technology, instead of looking forward towards some sustainable solutions.

So you get what we have now. There are only four major labels left standing; Sony, Universal and Warner and the WEA Group that make up 90 percent of the market. Combine that with 1996’s radio deregulation that changed all the rules of owning radio stations. Prior to 1996 a company was only allowed to own 40 stations. Last I checked radio conglomerate “I Heart Radio” now owns almost 1000! Since none of these huge corporations are about losing money they have created an almost twisted “Orwellian” business model that basically eliminates any financial risk regarding radio.

Instead of investing in a bunch of artists and seeing which ones grab the interest and tastes of the public. They choose only a handful of artists, invest millions, package them up and force feed them to the radio conglomerates. From there, the “I Heart Radios” are going to flog them to death over and over again on not just one station but 1000’s of them all at once. This is why you will hear the same 25 songs on the radio over and over and over again. All across the nation. Sounds to me like a complete manipulation of the charts. Hard not to crack the top 20 when there are only 25 in rotation at any given time. “Please Sir, can I hear Bieber again, please?”

Even classic rock stations have been homogenized down to a limited playlist. Every station plays the same 4 or 5 AC/DC songs, the same 4 or 5 Led Zeppelin songs and the same 4 or 5 Rolling Stones songs over and over and over again. You do realize the Stones have recorded 30 albums worth of material?

The other casualty here is the loss of any sort of “regional” flavour that radio stations could create. When stations actually had control of programming, the DJ’s and PD’s could actually assist in helping a local act be heard. Years ago, a legitimate “hit” record could actually come from a sudden ground swell of listener request calls. Now when you call in to request a song, it will almost always be ignored unless it is a song on the “eligible” playlist. Meaning “approved” by the radio conglomerate in relationship to the record company. You the listener only have a voice if Sony agrees with your choice.

Now the interesting contrast to all of this is that technology has made it incredibly accessible for musicians and artists to do it themselves. Amazing quality recordings are coming from in-home studios and true artists will find away even without the help of big time recording contracts. Bands are out there doing it themselves and great music is alive and well if you are willing to dig a little deeper for it and not line up with your plate at the mercy of mainstream radio, mainstream radio, mainstream radio. Oops I played that already?

So about ten years ago I gave up on radio and I started listening to a lot of Podcasts. I soon found there were many like minded rock fans that were simply not interested in hearing “You Shook Me All Night Long” as the only approved Ac/Dc song choice (and 12 times a day at that!). A forum to discuss music, analyze music and discover new music. All things that I used to turn to radio for. I found that through many amazing podcasts that were hell bent on keeping the music they loved alive and sharing the new and exciting music that they were hearing locally. The Decibel Geek Podcast, Podkisst, The Rock n Roll Geek Show, The Rock and/or Roll Podcast, One On One With Mitch Lafon, The Talking Metal Podcast, Cobras and Fire Podcast I could easily keep going here. So many great podcasts out there. There is really no need to listen to mainstream radio.

I have literally discovered and purchased dozens of new albums from dozens of new artists because I found out about them through a podcast!

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So the year of 2017 is the year that I am jumping into the game. 2017 will mark the launch of “Canadian Geeks Chat Metal”. Time to share some of the amazing music I come across with to as many people that are inclined to listen. My podcast will be reflected of my own personal musical tastes, therefore if you are a fan of hard rock and/or heavy metal then I invite you to check us out at CGwbCM. We are gearing up for our debut episode and we promise lots of frosty cold beverage fueled stories and lots of music you most likely have never heard.

If you check out our page and our podcast, be sure to hit “like” before you go and leave a message telling me where you heard about the show. Cheers!

Courage, His Word.

Saturday, August 20th, 2016.

This date shall forever be etched into the rock of our Canadian Shield. A night that brought our entire country together in the name of rock and roll, in the name of the Tragically Hip. I heard it described as “One Nation Under Gord (Downie)” a more perfect description could not be found.

There has always been something unique and special about the national treasure we call the Tragically Hip. From Kingston, Ontario (not far from our nation’s capital) these five high school buddies have endured over thirty years rocking the stages and airwaves from coast to coast. Think about that for a moment, thirty odd years in the music industry, still band-mates, still friends.

tth_mmp_posterMusically, the Hip have woven themselves deeply into the tapestry of all things Canadian. The songs often painting crystal clear images of our customs and our cultures, you can almost smell the maple syrup and the Tim Horton’s coffee as you listen. This could likely be the reason that success outside of the Great White North has somewhat eluded them. Songs about (that’s sometimes pronounced “a-boot”) small towns in Northern Ontario, songs about famous Canadian news items, songs about Canadian hockey legends. The peaceful sound of a loon at the beginning of “Wheat Kings” invokes images of almost any dock, at almost any Canadian cottage, on almost any Canadian lake. So it’s not entirely surprising that those outside our borders just don’t understand the Hip and this just endears them to our hearts even more.
Our nation was left shocked and speechless when in May it was revealed that singer Gord Downie had been diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive and incurable form of brain cancer. By May, Gord had already undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and the band announced that the tour (that had already been scheduled) was to go forward as planned. Suddenly a simple rock tour to promote their upcoming “Man Machine Poem” album became anything but simple. Suddenly we found ourselves having to say goodbye to our national treasure and dammit we aren’t really ready to do that.

On  Saturday, Augusg1t 20th, 2016 their hometown of Kingston was to be the final show of the tour and what could easily be the final show of the band’s career. In almost stereotypical Canadian fashion, the band worked together with the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) to make this concert available coast to coast, live (commercial free and uninterrupted in it’s entirety! Thanks CBC!) for everyone to be able to share this event together as one, for free!

The band took the stage just after 8:30pm (EST) and proceeded to take the nation on an emotional three hour long set. There were moments of pure rock adrenaline, there were moments of soft reflection and there was plenty of tears. Some of the lyrics took on new meanings as we reflected on our own memories, mortality and the unfair and indiscriminate disease called cancer.

I laughed when at the show’s conclusion, (21 songs in) Gord spoke into the mic. “This is the part where we pretend to leave and you cheer and we pretend to be surprised and then we come back and play one more”. Play one more is exactly what they did and one more and one more and… Three encores, each one included three songs rounded out the 30 song concert. Nobody could ask for more.

How important is the Tragically Hip to Canada? It was reported this morning that the broadcast was viewed by over 12 million people. That means 1 in 3 Canadians stopped what they were doing and watched this moment in time. The courage and grace shown by Gord and the band to soldier through this tour is unmeasurable and ensuring that everyone was included for the final show is quite simply…Canadian. So to the Tragically Hip I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for being our band.

 

 

Profits > Human Life

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As a forty-six year old Canadian man, I was a child in the 70’s, a teen through the 80’s and an “adult” (although some may argue) for the last 2 and a half decades now. I generally consider myself to be fairly “non-political”. In no way does this mean ignorance, it means over the last 25 years or so I have observed and become so disenfranchised with the state of affairs in both my country and also with my neighbours to the South that I simply can’t dedicate any loyalty to any of the political parties that are offered before me. Every time someone comes along that I feel might make a difference, I have been disappointed. The past few elections in my country, Federal, Provincial and even Municipal have been an exercise in “which Candidate will do the least damage?”. As I look South of the border, I can’t even fathom having the choice in the Hillary/Trump circus and that one of them will actually be poised to become your next President. It’s truly frightening.

Big business and corporate greed are what run both of our countries. This is why nothing ever really changes, and why nothing is ever going to change. Advances in the treatment of diseases are a threat to the billions of dollars of profit made each day by the big pharmaceutical companies. Advances in eco-friendly fuels and alternative energies that could actually improve our environment are a threat to the billions of dollars of profit made each day by the oil companies. Advances in the “war on terrorism” is a threat to the billions of dollars of profit that are made each day by the arms manufacturers. The super rich or the “1%” as they are referred to are not about to sacrifice their lifestyle and possess the more than enough means to “influence” those with any real power to make change. So “influence” they do, without a care to their communities, their country or to the world that they live in. The “bottom line” is the only god that they serve.

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The current hot topic in response to Orlando’s recent mass shooting is of course “gun control”. It really doesn’t matter whether or not this was an act of terrorism, a hate crime, a jealous rage, a mentally deranged lunatic, a disgruntled employee, a religious cult or a severe case of road rage. Fact remains that someone with a gun erased the lives of 50 people and shattered the lives of their friends, families and loved ones. I understand the whole Second Amendment and your right to bear arms. A constitutional right that was drawn up almost 225 years ago in a completely different world but this is not a pro gun control or anti gun control piece. I have watched and observed the countless Hatfield-McCoy conversations that have been fought all over social media and my intent is not to start another “don’t touch my guns” thread.

The fact is big business and corporate greed are once again there to ensure that your precious guns remain exactly where they are. In fact, you might as well head on down to K-Mart or Wal-Mart and add some more firepower to the collection. Turns out, in the week after the Orlando shooting Smith & Wesson’s stock prices have gone up 18.5%. I am sure Orlando is not the sole reason for the spike, but only a fool would believe it had absolutely nothing to do with it. Not convinced? Take a look at two other mass shootings in the US from last year, October 1st 2015 in Oregon 9 people killed, 20 wounded and within 2 weeks Smith & Wesson stock rose 13.2%. December 2, 2015, San Bernardino California, 14 dead and 22 wounded resulting in another 2 week 16.8% spike in stock prices. So there you have it in basic math, mass shootings = big profits and that is the simple reason that there will be no real changes in gun control reform anytime soon.

Profits > Human Life is the equation that should be of concern to everyone. Maybe it’s time to look beyond a document written in 1791 and focus on what needs to be done now. Hopefully before you or a loved one wanders into the wrong place at the wrong time. Just some thoughts from the Great White North.

 

 

 

 

 

 

League of Rock?

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What is the League of Rock? I, myself couldn’t answer this question until I opened up the most thoughtful birthday gift from my beautiful wife three years ago. The gift was a letter informing me the details of my upcoming session within something called The League of Rock. I read through all the information to learn what exactly was in store during the ten week session that promised an unforgettable rock and roll journey. 

So I jumped into the session with a mix of uncertainty, plenty of excitement and honestly, a little bit of fear. Ten weeks later, I was on stage at one of Toronto’s legendary rock clubs living out a rock and roll dream. Much has transpired since then, in fact I am currently wrapping up my fourth session in the League.

wn1If you have never heard of, are considering joining, or just want to learn a little more about the League then you are in the right place. This is the first in a small series of blogs designed to provide some insight and shed some light on what exactly happens throughout a complete session. The names, faces and songs will change but the process is quite consistent.

I suppose I should start by answering the initial question at the top of the page, just what is the League of Rock? The best analogy that I could use here would be to describe it as an adult “pick up hockey league” but for musicians. Let me expand on this a little more.

Hockey – You decide for fun, to play a little recreational hockey and join one of the many thousands of leagues that are available. It would be safe to assume that if you are planning to join a hockey league that you most likely have both the basic skills and the necessary equipment to play the game. Obviously NHL skill level would not be required but it would be very challenging to enjoy the game if you have never laced up a pair of skates before.

You are then charged a fee to join the league and this money goes to cover the costs of the various services required for you to come out each week and play. Stuff like the ice rental, the referees, the trophies, etc. The League takes care of the organizational duties so you can show up each week, hit the ice and have some fun. You play hockey each week and at the end of the season, most leagues finish up with some sort of awards banquet or party to celebrate.

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League of Rock – You decide for fun that you would like to rock! You have a guitar (or bass or drums etc.) and have learned a few songs whether it was back in the day or just last year. The thought of playing music with a band sounds like fun but let’s face it, as an adult with jobs and mortgages and families and responsibilities, free time often comes at a premium. Not to mention the obstacles of finding like minded band mates, the challenge of finding somewhere to rehearse etc. Another option would be to join the League of Rock.

You are charged a fee to join the league and the money goes to cover the costs of the various services that they provide. They have created a remarkable program that removes all obstacles for those wanting to rock. You simply bring your instrument, plug in and play (full drums and PA is supplied). They provide you with a band of musicians and then facilitate a ten week program that includes weekly rehearsals with professional coaching, two live performance workshops, a four hour recording session experience with a producer in a world class recording studio and lastly, a rock and roll finale concert at one of Toronto’s premier rock clubs.

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Prior to joining myself, I was the quintessential target demographic for the League of Rock. I fooled around with the bass guitar in High School, retired the bass during college and never touched it for almost a decade. After dusting it off, I began re-learning simply to play along to some of my favourite songs. At the age of forty-three, the thought of joining a band or getting up on a stage to perform was beyond ridiculous. I was quite content just rocking out with my headphones on. Or so I thought…

 

 

 

 

 

 

AXL/DC – Paradise Sin City!

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It’s Friday, May 6th 2016 and tomorrow night one of the craziest pages in the history of rock and roll will be written. Tomorrow night will see one of the world’s biggest rock bands AC/DC take the stage with arguably the world’s most infamous rock vocalist, Axl Rose. Until now I have remained pretty quiet on the entire issue, unlike my very vocal opinion on the whole return of Guns and Roses late last year. So on the eve of this historical show, I decided to share my observations and feelings about the whole “AXL/DC” scenario.

In early March it was announced that AC/DC would have to postpone 10 shows when vocalist Brian Johnson was forced to stop touring immediately or risk the total loss of his hearing. The band at that time announced that they would look to complete those 10 shows with a “guest vocalist”. That news alone sent music fans into a tizzy, many fans demanding the bands retirement as others began to speculate (often loudly) at who could or should possibly fill such big shoes.

As far as demanding the retirement goes, I get it. The band has rocked the globe over and over since the mid 70’s, they honestly owe us nothing more. It would seem almost a noble gesture to call it quits in support of their ailing vocalist and let’s face it they certainly don’t need the money. I thought about this hard and I just don’t agree. Who are we to tell someone to stop doing what they love because of our own romanticized, emotional connection to the band? If AC/DC still have more rocking to do then as a fan, I am not about to write them off as dead.

When I first heard the rumour that Guns and Roses vocalist Axl Rose was one of the names being considered for the gig, I actually laughed out loud. It seemed absolutely ridiculous especially in light of the new re-formed “G n R” about to launch their world tour this year that Axl would go from the jungle down to sin city. I brushed it off and continued on with my life.

As the rumours persisted I started to think about it and I realized that utilizing the talents of Mr. Axl Rose would actually be a brilliant business decision for both parties. Obviously no matter who comes in to sing for these shows, AC/DC are going to have to deal with certain number of refunds. Hiring an unknown would be a complete 100% risk on the financial hit, by going with Axl the refunded tickets may just be snatched up by GnR fans interested enough to check this out.

It’s a promotional dream come true for Axl and Guns and Roses as they prepare to embark on the semi-reunited Guns & Roses tour. If Axl delivers the goods with the AC/DC, it could swing a lot of extra turn stalls at the “Not In This Lifetime” Tour this summer. Certainly just the tidal wave of mainstream press that this high profile union has created is an absolute gold mine for both AC/DC and Guns and Roses PR.

So the question remains, is Axl Rose the right guy for the job? I have had a few conversations about this and could name a number of singers that would more closely match the sound of Brian Johnson but that really is not the point here. I personally feel that Axl is an incredible vocalist with a style and power that could indeed do AC/DC’s catalogue justice. It wont sound like Brian, it wont sound like Bon Scott, but I think he is capable in capturing the vibe and energy of AC/DC. One thing is for sure, I couldn’t think of a better replacement in terms of creating a bigger buzz around these re-scheduled shows.

Keep in mind people, this is only for ten shows. Axl has not been named a permanent replacement singer and I would love nothing more to see Brian Johnson get well and reclaim his spot on stage. Look, Axl takes tremendous amounts of abuse, some of which he most likely deserves but Axl is admittedly a huge AC/DC fan and I honestly think this gig is a thrill for him. I can only imagine what it would be like to be asked to try out for one of your rock and roll heroes, as a true fan it wouldn’t be any less cool just because you too are world famous.

I love AC/DC and I’m also a big fan of Guns and Roses and the fact that in the year 2016 we actually still have both of these bands to talk about is a blessing. It may not be the perfect situation but I will absolutely accept the guitar driven rock and roll of “AXL/DC” over the auto-tuned mind numbing sounds of the  Biebers, the Beyonces, the Drakes and the Kanyes that seem to clog up our daily newsfeeds. Long live rock and roll people!

League of Rock – Hey Now, Your a Rockstar / It’s Raining Panties!

League of Rock – From the Inside Vol. 8 – Hey Now, Your A Rockstar / It’s Raining Panties!

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The dust is settled, the ears are still ringing and there are panties in my guitar case. Let me explain. Last night was the final date of the 36th session and 10th Anniversary of the League of Rock. The venue for this celebration? Toronto’s Hard Rock Cafe, right in the heart of the city. It was a rock and roll party of epic proportions and a perfect ending to the wild ride of the last 10 weeks.

In one paragraph let me recap this rock and roll journey. Ten weeks ago 5 complete strangers sat down at a table to discuss some music. We left the table united as a band and we even had a name, [SIC]! From there we rehearsed, learned to play music together, developed some stage presence, played 2 live workshops and recorded together at Phase One Studios. We laughed a lot, we frustrated each other at times, we grew as musicians, we bonded as only a rock band could understand and that brings us to the now at the Hard Rock.

hrArriving at the Hard Rock Cafe, a bolt of excitement sent adrenaline coursing through my veins. I couldn’t say that I was nervous, but more so a feeling of pure excitement and anticipation knowing that [SIC] would playing on one of the best stages Toronto has to offer. This here League of Rock is pretty damn fun! There was to be 5 bands taking the stage on the evening (the 4 LOR bands plus a bonus band the Sole Pursuit along for some extra entertainment). I quickly checked the lineup sheet to find we were scheduled third out of five. Perfect was my thought, time enough to relax a little, SHOWTIME!, and then kick back and enjoy the rest of the show.

The Hard Rock filled up fast and before long it was standing room only to watch the rock. unfold. The finale is when the friends and family members get to come out and see just what has transpired for the members of League of Rock. Integral to our story is the fact that our drummer Barry proudly works for the Markham Fire Department. It was cool to see the support of his co-workers, many of whom came out to cheer Barry “Bam Bam” on the drums.

sicThe time soon came for [SIC] to take the stage, I strapped on my bass, got wired for sound and took a deep breath. The moment we had worked for the last ten weeks was finally here and it was time to enjoy every second of it. I have to take a moment and give thanks to each of my bandmates Bill Simmons (guitar), Tamara LeClair (vocals), Dylan Burrett (guitar) and Barry Vesh(drums). From day one, this group embraced the idea of not only just playing some rock and roll together but actually developing some stage presence, like a “rockstar”. So for the better part of the next half hour [SIC] became “rockstars” in every sense of the term.

bs1For those that have been following along with this blog series, you know the songs and the stories behind them all but to recap. [SIC] blasted through our four song setlist. The Runaways classic “Cherry Bomb”, a completely new arrangement of Amy Winhouse’s  “Back to Black”, “Venus” by Shocking Blue/Bananarama and lastly “Let It Go” by Def Leppard. Our last song is a big chorus arena rock anthem and as we approached the big dramatic hard rock ending,  it happened. Suddenly a number of the audience started throwing what turned out to be ladies under garments onto the stage! Not just one or two, it was literally raining thongs!

As it turned out, Barry’s co-workers had masterminded a true “rockstar” moment that resulted in one of the most hilarious and surreal League of Rock moments ever. The dichotomy of big burly Firemen tossing skimpy ladies thongs will forever be one of the greatest rock stories that I will share a couple million times. Truly a “rockstar” ending to our League of Rock journey.

Indulge me here for a moment, let’s take a look at the term “rockstar”. It has evolved from simply meaning “a successful member of a rock and roll band”  into something much more awe inspiring. It now conveys a “lifestyle” (party like a rockstar, treated like a rockstar), a “feeling” (she made me feel like a rockstar) and describes a “master of almost any domain” (chef’s are the new rockstars). It’s a dream that I think almost everyone has at one time or another fantasized about.

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Think about it, even if you have never played an instrument, I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t sang with all their heart into their hairbrush or ripped a vicious guitar solo on their tennis racket. How many people can get through Phil Collin’s “In The Air Tonight” without air drumming the solo? Hell even Mike Tyson does it. For those of us that actually took it a step further and actually acquired a musical instrument, the “rockstar” dream was likely THE motivational factor.

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Let’s be honest here, when you were a kid and you skated out onto the ice with your hockey stick you were Wayne Gretzky or Mario Lemieux playing for the Stanley Cup. When you put on the ballet slippers in the basement you were dancing at the Opera Bastille. When we picked up our first guitar and learned three chords we were Eddie Van Halen at Madison Square Garden. It’s sad that as adults we most often choose to ignore the imaginations of our inner child. We rationalize these dreams as childish or irresponsible and continue on with our grown up lives rarely if ever taking the time to play.

The League of Rock has created an incredible playground for adults to forget about the troubles and stresses of work and life. It awakens your inner child and if you are open to the idea, you may just realize your own “rockstar” dream. In the lyrics of one of the songs that was covered in this session of the League of Rock…”Hey now, your a rockstar, get the show on, get paid!”

 

 

 

Are You Serious Sixx?

nikkisixxswedenrockcoverDisgusted! Disgusted, disappointed, confused, sad and pissed off! That is how I felt after reading the latest interview with Nikki Sixx in the latest issue of Sweden Rock Magazine. I was dumbfounded, what? Seriously? The letters “WTF?” were created for this exact moment.

I have been a loud and proud CRUEHEAD since the moment I was introduced to the band back in 1983. My first ever concert ever was MotleyCrue/Accept on June 10th of 1984 on the Shout at the Devil Tour. From that night forward Nikki Sixx was my Rock Hero, he is the reason I chose the bass guitar when my high school buddies decided to become a band. For thirty-three years, I have been a dedicated and loyal Cruehead and I have seen the Crue 13 times during that time. I loved Sixx‘s side projects, his 58 project was killer. Brides of Destruction blew my mind and the first Sixx A.M. record still gives me goosebumps. Suffice it to say a small portion of Sixx‘s empire was funded from my humble wages and I don’t regret a penny spent, the music and memories will live with me forever.

sr3When Motley Crue announced the split with Vince, I was devastated. The Crue were my band! They were a gang, standing strong against the world and now they were broken. I was pissed and was very skeptical to hear someone else step into the vocal spot in “my band”! “Hooligan’s Holiday” was the first track I would hear via the video when it was released prior to the album. It was like a punch in the face, heavy as shit and so, so good! It was not the party band that Crue was with Vince, it was totally different but it was every bit as Motley as the opening riff of “Live Wire”. The self-titled ’94 Motley Crue is a freight train of an album, twelve tracks of relentless, paint peeling hard rock. This was the new Motley Crue and I was all in!

Let’s be honest here, there are a number of reasons that the 94′ album failed commercially. Record label politics certainly played a role. The changing musical landscape known as grunge played a role as anything 80’s became suddenly uncool. Lastly, if we are going to be completely honest here, narrow-minded Motley Crue fans also played a role in the album’s poor sales. Many, simply refused to accept the change and whined and moaned and cried about it until it became “financially” damaging for Motley Crue to evolve without bringing Vince back. The rest is history and although I didn’t necessarily agree with their decisions, I continued to support both Motley and also John Corabi‘s career.

Fast forward to the here and now and I am reading Nikki Sixx claim how the recording sessions for the ’94 album were “painful” for him? “I think it was a very unfocused record. It was painful for me because John Corabi can’t write lyrics, and I had to do all that work. It was the first time I ever had to work with somebody that wanted to participate sr2in the lyrics,” Sixx is quoted as saying. “And my standard is so high that it was just … it was so hard, it took months. He was a nice enough guy, but he just didn’t have that fire, and it was hard for me.”  Are you serious Sixx? You sound like Justin Bieber whining like a little bitch. This is also an interesting rewrite of history, I dug up an old video interview from 22 years ago where you Nikki stated “Me and John wrote all the lyrics together. It was a real nice experience for me because in the past I had to do it all myself, it was cool” So you can understand my confusion here. My question now is, were you full of shit 22 years ago or are you just full of shit now? Then again I suppose it doesn’t really matter when, I suppose it matters more that you are…. Full of shit!

I find it puzzling that although you claim John can’t write lyrics”, that “he didn’t have that fire” and that it was “painful” working with him yet in 2002 you recruited him to work together in the first incarnation of Brides of Destruction? I would think he would be that last person you would have called based on how you claim to have felt.

On the other side, I have met John Corabi twice. The second time, I was fortunate to have had the chance to interview him for www.decibelgeek.com. He was quite possibly the nicest, most down to earth and gracious musician I have ever had the pleasure to interview. He shared countless stories and is incredibly thankful to have been a small part of Motley Crue‘s history. He takes time with his fans, appreciates all that he has and admits that his time in Motley opened the doors to continue a career doing what he loves. John Corabi is the embodiment of everything I respect in a Rock Star.

Oh, and one more thing, looking back I mentioned that after the commercial disaster of the ’94 album that it was “financially” damaging to move forward without Vince. It was Nikki that sr5ultimately made the decision to bring Vince back into the fold and if you want to discuss unfocused albums, dare I mention Generation Swine. For someone who built his career giving the establishment the middle finger, he easily bowed down to record company pressure lest it negatively affect his future income.

So after reading Sixx bash the ’94 album and then throw personal insults at Corabi, I can’t help but ask why? How does this help Sixx in any way? Is he jealous that guitarist Mick Mars called Corabi and not him to work with on his upcoming solo album? Did his precious ego get so bruised that he felt the need to lash out 22 years later? Please respond and let me understand this because I have to say, in one little paragraph in one stupid interview you Mr. Sixx have destroyed the rock hero pedestal that I have kept you on for over 30 years. Douche! Somebody turn up the new Dead Daisies album!

Source Crue Interview 1994 quote taken from the 1:45 mark.

Originally published for http://www.decibelgeek.com.

League of Rock – Inside the Sacred Studio

League of Rock – From the Inside Vol. 7

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Immediately after the week 7 Live workshop our attention turned to which song we would be recording when we entered Phase One Studios. Many times the choice of which song to record is an easy one. The song that the band plays the best is usually the one that bubbles to the top for obvious reasons. Coaches, staff and even outsiders will give their recommendations but at the end of the day it is the band that must make the decision which song gets immortalized onto the League of Rock CD.

For [SIC] this decision was quite a process. Way back on the second night of rehearsals we put together the parts of the Amy Winehouse song “Back to Black”. I must give props to my incredible band-mates Bill and Tamara as they had spent an afternoon literally re-writing the musical parts into an all new and very different version of this song. That night it came together very quickly and someone suggested that very night, that this would be the song that we should record. Thus was it written, or was it?

The League of Rock is always a journey and we probably jumped the gun a little by declaring “Back to Black” as the chosen one quite so early on in the process. We hadn’t performed it live yet, hell we hadn’t even started to work on our third song selection. Fast forward five weeks, two live workshops, three rehearsals, unknown amounts of pizza and beer and I personally was no longer convinced that Back to Black was the song to record. At least from my vantage point.

phase1bI had a number of personal reasons for feeling this way but thus far I had kept them to myself. I felt that certain members of the band, most notably Tamara had her heart sort of set on recording Back to Black. The song obviously had an emotional connection with her and I felt almost bad that the song was just not resonating with me. Personally I felt both of our other song selections were more exciting and for me at least, more fun.

To add complexity to the decision, most of the feedback from our coaches felt that our best performed song was our first song, the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb”. I love the raw punk rock vibe of this song and being a fairly easy and straightforward arrangement we indeed had become very tight with this number. In the words of one of the coaches, “when you play that song it feels effortless and it comes across that you are having a great time”. Being the first song we worked on, it certainly had the longest amount of time to be worked and fixed and tightened so it made a lot of sense why it sounded this way.

In case you have not been following along with my previous blogs, my favourite song in our small set is far and away Def Leppard’s “Let it Go”. I was an 80’s metal kid and it doesn’t get any better than Leppard’s 1981, High and Dry album. Personal tastes aside, I was ecstatic that we were able to even put this song together. On week three when we finally got down to putting this song together we were told that it might just be too “ambitious” for a LOR song. To my surprise and pleasure, those words seemed to inspire the stubbornness that is [SIC] and we soldiered on even booking extra rehearsal time to work out and tighten all the parts. Although it is my live favourite, I was fearful to suggest this one knowing we would only have a 4 hour recording window. Not a lot of time to record a complex rock anthem.

P1030513So that was the situation when the email came 5 days before our final rehearsal, asking us to reveal our song choice to record. I decided to put my cards on the table and let the band know I was not inspired with the early “Back to Black” choice and I put my vote with “Cherry Bomb” loving the high energy and confident we could kill it in the studio. It was then that Barry chimed in and suggested we record “Let it Go”, he felt it was our strongest number and would make a great trophy knowing how hard we had worked on that song. It was agreed that the song deemed “too ambitious” was going to be the one captured forever more. [SIC]’s crowning achievement.

Once again I sat dumbfounded about what had transpired with this song. Way back at the JAB night when Bill suggested it, I almost fell off my chair. I was so excited that I had to contain myself as I was completely expecting for the idea to be shot down or worse, that we would actually try it out and then be discarded. So the fact that we not only kept the song but now were going to record it, I was thrilled and our final rehearsal was spent polishing and tightening this song to get as ready as we could for a Saturday morning date at Phase One Studios.

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Walking into Phase One Recording Studios is surreal to say the least. It is pretty much rock and roll sacred ground and for a music geek like myself it is akin to letting a 5 year old loose in a candy store. Walking the halls and counting all the gold and platinum album awards of recordings that proudly take space in my music collection. Rush, Triumph, Lee Aaron, Helix, Brighton Rock, Max Webster, Sass Jordin, Alice Cooper, Keith Richards, Kiss, Tragically Hip and countless others all hang proudly on the walls.

Getting the chance to play my bass in the same room that all these great albums were created is beyond goosebumps. Sitting in the control room with the Neve board, overlooking the big room is like sitting in the rock and roll Starship Enterprise. A thank you to the League of Rock for creating this entire experience, how many people can say they have recorded at Phase One?

Unlike the way in which many of today’s records are created. This is old school, live off the floor 70’s rock style recording. Although we are no longer using tape, the band is actually playing live, together in the same room and feeding off of one another. Our producer, the incredible Mark Ganetakos and his fine engineers directed us, encouraged us, instructed us, coached us, threatened us (ok maybe not but it adds to Marc’s street cred lol), pushed us and most importantly cheered for us as the production team worked their magic. My favourite quote of the day came when Marc told the engineers “I want this track sounding like a big guitar driven 70’s rock song!” FUCK YEAH!,  you are my hero Marc.

There are so many amazing memories I will take with me from the session. Watching Bill lay down his guitar solo from the control room and the band applauding when he nailed an extremely tasty take. Singing the gang style backup vocals, something I had never experienced before. Watching Tamara belting it out in the vocal booth, and another favourite quote of the day…

Marc (producer) -“let’s try this part again, this time I am thinking big 70’s rock vocal, like Paul Rodgers of Bad Company”

Tamara – “I don’t know who you are talking about.”

Classic! The perfect line to show the diversity of our band. Once again kudos to Tammie for being incredibly open minded and agreeing to lay down an obscure 80’s hair metal tune. Obviously not her genre of choice but you wouldn’t know it, she dug in and made it her own.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early to attend a work function (oh to be a care free rock star) so I missed out hearing the final mix of the music we had captured. Hearing snippets of the song in the headphones however, made me so happy that we recorded this song. [SIC] forever immortalized on the League of Rock’s 10th Anniversary session CD playing my favourite Def Leppard song. Pretty [SIC]!

Next up: Vol. 8 – Live Rock n Roll Glory on the Big Stage…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is RAP Actually a Musical Genre?

 

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I will begin this blog post with my usual disclaimer. 1. Art is subjective and if you like something, than my opinion should not change that, be who you are! 2. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one but this one is all mine. In the words of heavy metal band Anthrax, “Don’t like it? Don’t read it”.

Generally speaking I can’t stand “Rap” music, for me it has virtually zero redeeming qualities, it doesn’t speak to me like rock or country or heavy metal and much of it actually irritates me. There are some exceptions but for the most part I do not enjoy it whatsoever and I will explain why as we move along.

I question whether or not it should be classed as an actual “musical genre”, let me explain. I am 45 years old and I was alive and old enough to remember the early, early beginnings of “rap”. Ok, I wasn’t in the basement parties when DJ’s started rapping over their record mixes in New York or Chicago. I am talking about the first commercially heard rap music that began playing on suburban, Canadian radio stations in the early 80’s. I clearly remember Rappers Delight from The Sugarhill Gang and The Message from Grand Master Flash. My Mom was pretty current at the time and we had these records in the house, it was fresh, it was new and it was exciting.

To me “Rap” is a vocal technique and not really a genre. I will admit it takes a certain amount of skill and a considerable amount of time to become proficient. I was out with my wife one time and we were watching an amazing R&B band with a group of friends and acquaintances. Turned out one of the gentlemen at our table was a “freestyle” rapper and the group insisted that he show off his skills. Using the bands music for his beat, he asked one of the ladies at our table four or five questions and launched into a freestyle rap that was incredibly well crafted. I was totally impressed how quickly he could put that together. So I respect it as a technique and a skill BUT, he was rapping to the music being played which at the time was Rhythm and Blues.

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When RUN DMC broke huge mainstream it was when they teamed with Aerosmith for a re-worked version of the classic hard rock anthem “Walk This Way”. Rap is a vocal style that is placed over top of existing dance music, electronic music, rock music, country music. Rap in of itself is not a form of music. Go back to its birth, those DJ’s started rapping overtop of the records that they were spinning. On those records were music from different genres.

One of the things that bothered me most when rap really started to explode was the incessant need to sample music from previous hit songs to rap over. It’s a cheap way to guarantee a hit rap song. The melody is already proven and ingrained into the minds of everyone that heard it in its original form. It was great song and became a hit the first time because it was a great song. So with zero actual musical creativity and most likely the same amount of musical talent the artist can sample the music and add their “rapping skill” and it becomes a new song with its own genre. This is not art, this is theft!

Look, I understand the rappers most likely (although some legal proceedings spoke otherwise) purchased the rights to use these hit songs and let’s face it the songwriters were most likely going to allow it as the results would immediately mean increased royalties coming in. This practice started at the birth of rap and continues on today. Hell P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Diddy, or whatever the hell else he calls himself based his entire career on this practice. Hey Mr. Combs, you did absolutely nothing to improve on the music of Sting and the Police! Nothing!

imageThink about how ludicrous (NO not Ludicris!) this is as it relates to another art form. Let’s take an iconic painting, say Di Vinci’s Mona Lisa and let’s take that home. Seems Mona Lisa is looking a little pale so lets throw some make-up on her, a little pink lipstick, some rouge to brighten up her cheeks. Oh and maybe a little bling, (NO not Hotline Bling!) so we paint on a nice bright gold and emerald necklace on the old broad. Perfect! My new Crap song is ready to go. That is exactly how this practice translates.

Of course we then get the “rappers” that will indeed write their own original music to rap over if indeed they actually possess some actual song writing ability or they will contract that out to musicians that do. Either way we then end up with a song that before the vocals are added, could be placed into either dance, pop, metal, rock etc. Instead Drake or Kanye or MC Sucksalot is going to lay down some “art” for us all.

Speaking of Drake or Drizzy or whatever the hell he likes to be called, have you heard his new creation “POP Style” featuring the “Throne” (Kanye and Jay-Z)? When I heard he dropped a new song I couldn’t wait to hear it (sarcasm mode off) and I jumped on to you tube to listen for research on this specific blog post (the things I endure for my readers!)

The first you-tube link I found was actually the instrumental version, the original music composition of this new masterpiece BEFORE the wizards of Rap (Drake, Kanye and Jay-Z) got to lay down their “verses” and add so much autotune that they will all sound like the constipated Cylons from Battelstar Galactica which seems to foretell that they lack any ability to rap on key. Either that or they are all big Starbuck fans.

As I listened to the track Click here for Drizzy! I couldn’t help but think of two things. First, why with all his money was Drizzy choosing to record his new song on a $79.99 keyboard from Radio Shack circa 1982? The second thing it immediately reminded me of was this click here = mind blown.

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So once they have reaped the millions that come from riding the talents of the actual hit makers. The next practice is to team up with someone who can actually sing. How many times has Rhiannon been called upon to sing a melody line with one of these ass clowns. Hell they even recruited Sir Paul McCartney to polish one of the turds.

You can like it, you can hate it but I don’t think you can argue the fact that the music itself is not rap, the vocal technique is rap and for me I don’t think that it’s just a coincidence that the term “CRAP” contains r-a-p.  Just sayin.