Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pittsburgh's Iconic Rocker..Joe Grushecky!

I spoke with Joe Grushecky about his extensive career making music with his band, the Iron City Houserockers; on his own, through an extensive and impressive catalog of solo recordings; and with luminaries such as Bruce Springsteen and many others. Joe is not unlike his music: straightforward, socially conscious, and with great empathy for those facing hard times. In Joe’s case, he also works outside of music to make a difference – he works with special needs children and as you’d expect, doesn’t back down from taking on the hardest cases.

 After over 40 years making music, Joe is still going strong -sometimes on his own, and sometimes fronting Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers. He has a new solo album ready to drop, a live Houserockers album on the way, and numerous other projects on the horizon. The Houserockers continuously tour - make sure you check them out. And make sure you check out Joe’s website to learn more about his iconic career – and to gain easy access to Joe’s great music.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Conversation With Michael Kronenberg!

Michael Kronenberg Interview, December 2015

Michael Kronenberg
So how cool is this? I had the opportunity to speak with the esteemed graphic designer Michael Kronenberg a couple weeks ago. Michael is the real deal. He is a graphic designer for the Film Noir Foundation, which for Michael is the job of a lifetime. He also works extensively with Marvel Comics as well as many other corporate entities. He is a high-demand kind of guy and I am grateful that Michael found a few minutes to talk. But…that’s not all! Given Michael’s love of film noir and boxing. I threw out the idea of creating two top ten lists – of noir movie posters (the art used to promote these movies was amazing), and of his favorite boxing movies. He kindly complied and not only picked out all the photos and art for the interview, but also helped me design the piece. You gotta admit – that’s pretty cool. So…enjoy this very special interview with Michael Kronenberg!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

It's Noirvember - Here's 10 Favorite Films Noirs!

Image result for the asphalt jungle 1950
The Film Noir Foundation has dubbed this month “Noirvember,” so I thought I’d share with you a few films noirs that are personal favorites. These are films that move me in some way or another. This isn’t a “top ten” or “best of” list; there are many great films noirs, including some classics such as Double Indemnity or The Maltese Falcon, that are not here. These are just a few I really like personally, and which you might want to check out.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sparks Drummer Project (8): Christi Haydon-Wilson!

Image result for christi haydon wilson1994's Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins was Sparks' first record in 6 years, and anticipation was high. The album was innovative, musically challenging but accessible, and altogether compelling, and a major hit in Germany and throughout Europe. Over time, it became THE album that grew on me most as time passed. Christi Haydon-Wilson played percussion with Sparks to support the album.

Christi was kind enough to talk about how she became a member of Sparks, and what Ron and Russell were up to in the years preceding the release of Gratuitous Sax, including the development of a film based on a Japanese anime comic book, Mai The Psychic Girl. Christi was the voice of Mai. We also talked about Cindy, the webseries Christi is co-producing with Larry Wilson, of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Adams Family fame. The website for Cindy is here and there's also a facebook page. Christi plays the fairy godmother "with issues," and is co-producing the series. And it's not too late to help the webseries air - there's a Kickstarter campaign in its last few days if you're considering a contribution. I am sure that even small amounts are very appreciated.

I am grateful to Christi for spending time talking with me and I hope you enjoy the interview.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Conversation with CJ Ramone!

I’d look over and see Johnny and Joey next to me, and I’d be saying to myself, “how did I get here?” And that was right up to my last days in the band. I still had that attitude.

Bassist CJ Ward was a member of the Ramones from 1989 to 1996, playing over 800 shows with fellow Ramones Joey (vocals), Johnny (guitar), and Marky (drums). CJ brought renewed energy and enthusiasm to the band, and played a big part in its longevity.

CJ was a huge fan of the Ramones, and joining the band was a dream come true. Hell, it’s EVERY fan’s dream come true! But CJ did it - and it was not without its challenges. Not only did he have to play well enough to meet the fans' high expectations; he was also replacing legendary Ramones' bassist Dee Dee Ramone, a punk icon and fan favorite.

CJ will release a new solo album, Last Chance To Dance, next month. The first single from the album, Understand Me?, can be heard here. If the album is anything like the single, we’ll have a treat on our hands in just a short time.

You can learn more about CJ and his current projects at his website and his Facebook page, and I also commend a 2009 interview with Mark Prindle that is well worth the read.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tommy Ramone And His Legacy - A Conversation with Ramones Tour Manager Monte A. Melnick!

"They had something going, and they stuck to it."

Monte A Melnick and Tommy Ramone
The Ramones were a raucous sort. They famously disliked each other, they traveled their entire career in a cramped van shuttling them from city to city, and their disparate personalities drew them further and further apart - even as the demands of their music required that they work together on an almost daily basis.

At the center of the storm was Monte A. Melnick, who was the Ramones' tour manager for 22 years - their entire career. Monte kept the operation running on time and made sure that, to the extent he could, the demanding touring schedule did not overwhelm the band.

Monte was a high school friend of Tommy Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone. Tommy was the original Ramones drummer and producer and was critical to the band's success. Tommy died of cancer on July 11, 2014. He was the last of the four original Ramones. Now they're all gone - three (Johnny, Joey, and Tommy) from cancer, and one (Dee Dee) from an overdose.

I love the Ramones. I saw them perform many times and met my wife in the mosh pit at one of their shows. As a drummer, I thought a lot over the years about Tommy's drum style and its importance to the Ramones sound, and Monte and I discussed this at length.  Monte, who is the 3D Theater and Audio Visual Supervisor at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, New York, is the author of On The Road With The Ramones, the definitive book on the band and their life on the road. You can learn more about (and order!) the book, which I love to read over and over, on Monte's Facebook page

I hope you enjoy our conversation about Tommy and the drumming style he created, the other Ramones drummers, and the Ramones' legacy. And a note of thanks to Monte A. Melnick for his generosity of time!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Conversation with Martin Gordon!

Kimono My House at 40: The Second In A Series

Boston 2007In this, the 40th anniversary year of the groundbreaking 1974 Sparks album Kimono My House, there was no question that I needed to talk with one Martin Gordon, who plays the brilliant and distinctive bass on that album.

We talked extensively about his time in Sparks, focusing on the great music that the band made when he was a member. Martin also provided a song-by-song analysis of each of the songs he performed with Sparks, entries from his personal diary detailing the rehearsal schedule for Kimono, and unique insight into Chris Townson, Sparks' "audition" drummer as they were forming the Kimono band. These follow the interview, along with rare photos and videos hand-selected by Martin for this project.

We also talked about the solo work that Martin has steadily released since 2003. If you have heard it, you know how good it is. If you haven't, give it a listen. It is brilliant, and well worth hearing. I highly recommend it.

Martin Gordon has had an accomplished career but I am not going to summarize his Wikipedia page here. Instead I suggest that you take the time to dabble on Martin’s website. It is a gem, full of information, inspiration, and history, all written with Martin's characteristic wit and insight that makes the site extremely addictive. I hope you’ll agree.  And best of all, you can easily find his music there.

I want to thank Martin for his generosity of time and energy, and I hope you enjoy our conversation.