Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Special Interview: Craig Leon, Producer of the Ramones' Classic First Album!

Image result for craig leonIn 1976, the iconic punk band The Ramones recorded their first album in under two weeks and on a budget of $6400.00 dollars. Released in April of that year, the album boldly introduced the Ramones to the world, and is now recognized widely as one of the most important pop music albums ever recorded. The album was seminal in launching punk music in the United States and the U.K., and sounds as fresh and innovative today as it did 40 years ago.

In honor of its 40th anniversary, Warner Brothers/Rhino has released a commemorative set that celebrates this ground-breaking album. The set includes three CDs packed with rarities and outtakes, two live performances, and both a remastered stereo and never before released mono version of the album. A vinyl version of the mono mix is also included, and extensive liner notes, an essay on the band, and rare photos round out the package. It’s a great way to learn all about this seminal band and its four founding members, all of whom took on the last name Ramone to symbolize their unity of sound and purpose: Jeffrey Hyman, known as Joey (vocals); John Cummings, or Johnny (guitar), Doug Colvin, or Dee Dee (bass); and Tommy Erdelyi, or Tommy (drums).

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!

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