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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adele cancels tour dates because of upcoming throat surgery



Acclaimed singer Adele has to cancel her remaining concerts for the year because she needs throat surgery. Read more:
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Children from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" to reunite at Naperville, Woodridge theaters


Ask Denise Nickerson what is was like to turn into a blueberry when she and others from the cast of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" reunite during showings of the beloved movie Dec. 9-11 at Hollywood Palms in Naperville and Hollywood Boulevard in Woodridge.

Joining Violet Beauregarde will be Peter Ostrum (Charlie), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) and Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt).

More information is at www.atriptothemovies.com.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning: coroner



Singer Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning, a coroner testified today at an inquest in London. Read more: 

Amy Winehouse five times drink limit (independent.co.uk)
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Acclaimed "Boy Wonder" movie coming to AMC in Chicago



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

"Boy Wonder," the feature film debut of Michael Morrissey, has captured the acclaim of both critics and the public.

After being screened at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo in March, "Boy Wonder" will open Oct. 28 at AMC River East 21, 322  E. Illinois St., Chicago, and will be at the theater until Nov. 3.

The psychological thriller stars Caleb Steinmeyer (from HBO's "True Blood" and ABC's "Lost") as a 17-year-old loner who as a young boy witnessed the murder of his mother during a Brooklyn car-jaking.

For a second time, I had the pleasure of interviewing Morrissey about the movie and the reception it has received.


Q - The fact that the film recently screened at the New York Comic Con and was shown at the AMC Village in New York, were those extra special experiences for you since you grew up in New York?

I tell you it was nerve racking. In Chicago no one knows me, so I could slink in to the shadows if I got booed but in New York, I was on home turf and had no where to hide. 


It was great though, really. NYCC was amazing, the response was overwhelming. I really can say that I could not have had a better screening there, we put some of the reactions to the film online and they are just amazing.

Screening in a real theater with AMC was great as well, seeing "Boy Wonder" up on the marquee was pretty cool. Dream come true.

Q - "Boy Wonder" will be shown at the AMC River East 21 through Nov. 3 before it goes to DVD on Nov. 8. Has the film done everything you set out to accomplish?

I am really happy with how the film came out, but in regards to distribution, I wish things went better. It is so hard to get your movie to be even considered for distribution unless there is a big cast.

The movie being a quality product is an after thought. They really don't care what they sell just that they can sell it. But I am ready for the long hard fight and hopefully we will find our audience.


Q - The film has generated plenty of critical acclaim, including many film festival awards and accolades. Were any of the awards a surprise to you or especially meaningful for you?

Every award is a shock to me. From the big festivals to the small, I am always overwhelmed when they call and say, "Hey, you won best picture." I'm always thinking "Really?"

And that is not me being modest. I just feel like it is amazing luck to be thought of as the best movie out of 10 to 30 films. 

People have different tastes. Some of the judges could have had a bad day, you never now. It always surprises me.

Winning the Vail Film Festival was a big shock to me, there were some big movies in that one, star driven movies. I felt so insanely out of place there as well. People at the festival were extremely nice, but I just felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I actually got good and drunk during the screening and went home halfway through the movie. When I saw online that we won "Best Picture" at Vail, I was floored.

Q - I understand you want to now start on a horror/thriller called "Mother." What appeals to you about this project? Are you considering using any of the cast from "Boy Wonder" in the movie?

I always like the magical connection that exists between family. As a parent myself, I love my kids so much that I would die for them and they will never be able to understand that until they have children. 

Of course in my film, "Mother," I distort that connection until it is horrible and twisted and it becomes almost like a physical horror that you can relate to. My third movie is going to be a happy buddy movie or something, or people are going to think I am a lunatic. 

In regards to casting, I will use who is best for the film so the door is open for everyone, including the cast from "Boy Wonder." I love them, they are like family and all very talented, but I don't want to start with someone in mind for a character. 

Character will come first and then it will be the actor's job to become that character.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Detroit band Electric Six bringing genre-busting sound to Chicago's Double Door


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Innovative Detroit band Electric Six is fully plugged in on its new album, "Heartbeats and Brainwaves."

On the band's eighth studio album, enigmatic frontman Dick Valentine (real name Tyler Spencer) leads the band through an eclectic mix of new wave, dance pop and a host of other musical genres.

Electric Six, www.electricsix.com, will perform Nov. 4 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

Kitten and Andy D also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets range from $12 to $15, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Valentine about the band and its new album.

Q - The band is touring from now until the end of the year. Is that how the band likes it? Is that where the band lives, on the road?

From September to December, yes. We're a very cyclical band. That's the way we kind of do it.

We work real hard these four months, and kind of phone it in the rest of the year.

Q - Of course, you are touring with your new album, "Heartbeats and Brainwaves." In sitting down to make the album, what specific goals did you have? What did you want to accomplish with the album?



We wanted it to be very synth-heavy. And we just wanted it to sound different from anything we've ever done. And we've done both.

Q - How long have you been working on it?

Well, we started it in January, and we turned it in at the end of June. You don't work at it every day. You just kind of work on it at your own pace.

But we usually get started around January, and have until the middle of the summer to finish it.

Q - How do you think the band's sound has changed since you guys formed as The Wildbunch?


The songs are a bit more complex. We don't rely on a two guitar attack as much, even though our live show generally tends to fall to that.

There's a lot of songs that we can't play because it's more complex. You take a song like, "We Use The Same Products." I don't know how we're going to do that live, but it will be fun to try.

Q - And of course you guys have had a changing lineup over the years. What do you think of the current lineup? Does it compare favorably to previous lineups?

Musically and personality wise, it's the best. The original lineup was not built to remain together for a long time, especially when we got busy.

The lineup you see now pretty much originated in 2003 with a couple of exceptions. I just think we have very like-minded people in the band at this point.

Q - The band was trying to keep it secret the fact that Jack White put in an appearance on your song "Danger! High Voltage." Why did you not want to bring that out in the open?

Well, it was kind of mutual. He didn't want to necessarily be directly associated with us, and we didn't want to look like we were milking it.

But it wasn't any big deal. I don't think either of us denied it at the time.


Q - How did you meet Jack White?

Well, Detroit is a pretty small scene. All the bands knew each other, and played a lot of the same venues at that time.

I don't even think our two bands played together at any point on the same bill, but we'd always see them around at our shows, and we'd go to his shows. I also thought of him more as an acquaintance and not so much a friend, but he was always a nice guy when I met him.

Q - Electric Six's cover of the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga" caused a little stir. Did people not get what you guys were trying to do?

I think that any time you cover a song like that from a band that has such a rabid fan base, and you throw in a guy that's deceased, I think every now and then a few feathers will be ruffled.

But that was not the intention, and it was a long time ago. It's not an issue any more.


Q - I know you have been involved in different side projects over the years, such as Evil Cowards. Does the band plan to release a second album any time soon?

It's more or less tracked. He and I are both very busy with our main projects, so we're not going to put it out until we each have some free time to promote it and do some shows around it, which we haven't had yet.

Q - So do you think in the future you might drop Dick Valentine and just go with your real name? 

Probably not.

Q - All of the band members use pseudonyms. Do they reflect your personalities at all?

No, not at all. There's no deeper meaning to it, other than we were probably drunk one night and thought it would be interesting to have stage names. That's all it was.

Q - And the name Dick Valentine has grown on you over the years?

It's grown on people who are interested in the band. It hasn't grown on me, let's put it that way.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New DVD puts spotlight on influential Chicago show, "Jubilee Showcase"

Sid Ordower interviews the Rev. Jesse Jackson on "Jubilee Showcase."

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Some of the most renowned gospel artists of all time - including James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Andrae Crouch and the Staple Singers - were given a stage for their music on "Jubilee Showcase," which aired on ABC Chicago affiliate Channel 7 from 1963 to 1984.

The Emmy Award-winning show was produced and hosted by Sid Ordower, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 82. Fortunately for all of us, his son, Steve Ordower, has preserved the show's electrifying and iconic moments through a new DVD, "Classic Moments In Jubilee Showcase," available at www.jubileeshowcase.com.

The DVD contains four episodes of the show and features stirring performances by gospel greats Andrae Crouch, Inez Andrews, Jesse Dixon, The Staple Singers and others, along with interviews and other special features.

I had the honor of interviewing Steve Ordower about preserving this important part of Chicago music history.

Q - You've actually been working on this project for a few years, right?

What I've been doing is interviewing several of the artists who have appeared on "Jubilee Showcase," a couple of whom unfortunately have passed away quite recently.

I've interviewed Albertina Walker. I interviewed a couple times Jessy Dixon, who recently passed away. I've interviewed Otis Clay and others who appeared on the show as well.


I'm just continuing to gather interviews, and it's critical right now, particularly because of the age of the performers that appeared on "Jubilee Showcase."

Q - Is it important to have those interviews as part of the documentary, to show the artists now and their remembrances of "Jubilee Showcase?"

Oh, absolutely. The interview with Mavis Staples was incredible. We talked about so many things. One of the things that I get to learn about is my father, and what he was like during that time. 

I wasn't an adult when he was doing all this, and it's a different perspective hearing about the show and him from these people.

Q - Of course, the show ran through 1984. Did you ever get to watch the show when it first ran?

Yeah. I used to sit with my father, and watch it Sunday mornings. Those were some really good times that I spent with my dad. I vaguely remember going to the set here and there, but I was so young.

Q - Was that your introduction to gospel music?

Oh, absolutely. Not only that, my father was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. He was very involved in the church community because that was a main organizing apparatus for the civil rights movement.

So I was in quite a few churches when I was a kid. He just exposed me to this whole side of life that someone of my background might not experience in a typical way.


Q - So you got to meet some civil rights leaders?

Yeah. When I was a kid, I remember being at Rev. Jesse Jackson's home. My father was also instrumental in getting the first black mayor of Chicago elected, Harold Washington. 

I interviewed Mayor Washington for my high school newspaper. That was an amazing experience. And the reason I got to do that is because my dad set it up.

Q - What high school did you go to?

Kenwood Academy. It was a pretty unique institution. What's ironic is that the choir director, Lena McLin, is the niece of Thomas Dorsey, who is the father of gospel music.

She was not a normal choir director by any stretch of the imagination. She was quite extraordinary and had an incredible choir at the high school.

The people that came through that choir, Chaka Khan came through that choir before me. The artist known as R. Kelly, I sang with him in the high school choir. I knew him as Robert, but now he's known as R. Kelly.

Q - Did you ever imagine that he would become this superstar? How was he in choir?

He was an extremely nice person. We got along really, really well. Everybody knew he was talented. But there were a lot of talented people in the choir.

We recognized that he had a range. It's not totally surprising that he got noticed. But there's a lot of talented people out there that really don't reach this level of stardom that he has.

Q - You've had some amazing experiences, it sounds like.

Not typical for a white Jewish kid from Hyde Park.

Q - It seems like the artists on "Jubilee Showcase" really appreciated what your father did in hosting the show.

For Albertina Walker, "Jubilee Showcase" allowed her to be seen and heard for the first time as a solo artist. And he made that happen.

It's not that he cultivated her talent. That was already in place. What he did was he set the stage for the talent of all of these wonderful artists to be experienced by the public, and made a huge impact on their careers.



Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sonic Youth's future unknown after couple announces split



The future of Sonic Youth is unknown after band leaders Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore have announced they are breaking up after 27 years of marriage.

Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley is set to perform at the Empty Bottle in Chicago on Dec. 31 as part of the Chicago band Disappears.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blues great James Cotton to take hiatus because of hip surgery; Viper Alley show postponed


Grammy-winning blues harmonica master and Alligator artist James Cotton  will be postponing and rescheduling a number of appearances because of hip replacement surgery. He will be off the road from Nov. 10 through mid-January 2012.

His Nov. 19 show at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire is among those dates being postponed. In a message to his many fans around the world, the 76-year-old Cotton said, "I'm sorry to have to disappoint my fans by postponing and rescheduling some dates, but I need to get this taken care of so I can be back at full force early next year. You can expect me to be dancing across the stage next time you see me."



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Canadian band We Are The City to kick off first U.S. tour at Double Door in Chicago


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Although the members of Canadian band We Are The City wear T-shirts tied around their faces in videos for its latest album, "High School," that can't disguise the fact that the band is carving out its own identity in a sea of sound-alike groups.

After generating a buzz in its own country, We Are The City, www.wearethecity.ca, will kick off its first U.S. tour when it performs Oct. 15 in a Dirtroom show at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, www.doubledoor.com.

Said The Whale also is on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $5, available at www.ticketfly.com.

I had the chance to talk to drummer Andy Huculiak about the new album and its upcoming U.S. tour.


Q - Do you have any expectations for the upcoming U.S. tour? Do you think the time is right for the band to tour the U.S.?

To be completely honest, I thought I was excited to tour the U.S. when we first departed on the Canadian tour a few weeks ago, but somehow with every passing day I redefine that excitement. 

Maybe that's a bit of a hyperbole, but we're completely buzzing. I mean, I look at our tour dates and I see cities that have only existed on television shows or in films or songs, some far off neverland that we as a band have only dreamed about visiting and now we're just days away from our first American show in Chicago. 

That said, we have to have realistic expectations. We are attempting to break into a new market, which we're comparing in our minds to our first tour of Canada, and so there will definitely be a few mental adjustments made I think in comparison to the shows that we've been playing in here up North.


But I do think the time is very right for the band; we've gained momentum in Canada and we're doing the U.S. tour with Juno "Best New Band" winners Said The Whale so it feels perfect. But better to have expectations and then be pleasantly surprised by them, right?

Q - How hard is it to play with a T-shirt tied around your face? Will you be playing that way during your U.S. shows?

Actually, the "High School" album spawned from sort of an experiment, a band with myself  and Cayne with our faces concealed playing music that we didn't over-think and locals shows that we hoped no one would recognize us at. 

That was the only time that the masks were used. We'd go out to the van, change into completely different clothing, and put these doilies over our faces and make a lot of mistakes onstage. 

Every time I was actually relieved that no one knew it was us. So I think we'll leave the masked playing to bands more talented than us. Daft Punk. Slipknot.

Q - Describe the concept for "High School." How much of the album is a reflection of your actual experiences in high school? Are you hoping that current high school students will relate to the album? Were you at all influenced by Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" in making the EP?

We wrote the songs under the band name High School when we were playing those fun and embarrassing shows, and in a lot of ways the EP is a concept album: feelings that we revisited but wouldn't want to relive, memories that aren't necessarily positive or redeeming but sometimes constructive to go back to.

We also made a video series for "High School" which strung together six music videos - one for each song - together into a 26-minute video that's available online, www.wearethecity.ca/highschool.

The masks work on a few different levels. For us, it was just about concealing our identity but I've had some people tell me that they were able to put their own face, their own experiences onto the anonymous blank canvas, which is an interesting way to look at it I think. 

I like to keep people wondering and hopefully they'll eventually make up an answer. I like it when that happens. 

I suppose in some ways there are some similarities to "The Suburbs," but to be completely honest I haven't been the most avid Arcade Fire listener and I think the first time I heard the album front to back was after we were finished recording "High School." I feel like you can't even have those two albums together on the same shelf, in the same room even. 

But for those that do, I am extremely humbled. I'm happy when anyone relates to the music, high school students or otherwise.

Q - What were your goals in sitting down to make "High School?" What do you think Tom Dobrzanski brought to the table?

This may sound like a cliché thing, but Tom brought the album to life. Before we set out to record it, we came to him with ideas on how we wanted it to sound sonically.

We wanted the drums to be huge, there to be minimal instrumentation but still fill the spectrum, to record as much as possible live off the floor, and we wanted to put a lot of time, discussion and language into making it sound like something we were all one hundred percent happy with. I can't properly explain it, but Tom did a perfect job in my mind.

Q - Your sound has been described as progressive pop. Do you think that is an accurate description? How do you think the band's sound has changed since it formed?

Oh boy, genre is such a hard thing to coin! Progressive pop sure sounds nice doesn't it? I think that description could work on some of our music, but then I also feel like we've got a lot of music that doesn't necessarily fit into the 'pop' limitations, but then maybe that's where the progressive part of that pairing allows the music to go further?


I'll get back to you when we've decided what we want the music to sound like, because we're always on the move with it and that's not necessarily a good thing, but it's not necessarily a bad thing either. I can say for sure that we're always very happy to create something that's never been heard before. Maybe that's where the progressive part comes in!

Q - Speaking of the band's formation, how did the band come together?

The band started in high school when we were about 16 years old. Just three friends playing music, loving Coldplay, walking to McDonalds, and without a shred of an idea of how to be a proper band. We've got a lot of people to thank.

Q - The band is set to release a full-length album next year. What should people expect from the album? How do you think the band's sound will change in the future?
That's a hot topic for discussion with us. There's a lot of talk about where we'd like to go. Louder than anything we've ever done and quieter too, intricate, simple, standing as its own piece of work and reworking the songs into something different for the live show so that they are almost two different artistic entities. 

There's a lot of extremes in there and a lot of agreements and disagreements, but it feels really great so far. If there's one thing I can tell you, it's that we're not really interested in repeating ourselves. Or anyone else for that matter.

Q - There seems to be a lot of interest in the U.S. these days in Canadian bands. Do you think the success of Arcade Fire fueled that interest? Is the band's mission to get better known in the U.S.?

Definitely. I would definitely love to become better known in the United States, that would be nice.

It's real encouraging to hear that there's a lot of interest in Canadian bands, there's a lot of us, not as many as there are of you but we're doing our best.

Personally, as a person who enjoys Arcade Fire, I was surprised when I heard that they sold out Madison Square Garden last year, it totally snuck up on me because at that point I was under the impression that they were a "maybe you've heard the name, maybe you haven't" kind of band within Canada and presumably anywhere else but I guess that shows how little I know, right?

I wish I also knew more about how to take to an American audience or what not to do — it all seems like a mystery to me — but I guess we'll find out soon. We'll keep making it up as we go.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Hoffman Estates band The Academy Is calls it a day

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

In case you haven't heard, Hoffman Estates band The Academy Is isn't a band any longer.

The band recently broke the news on its website and Facebook page.

Before we let the band fade into the sunset, let's remember the better times. Last fall, I had the pleasure to talk to bassist Adam Siska prior to the band's appearance at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park opening for KISS.

Q - How did the whole KISS tour come about?

You know, we're not really sure. We just kind of got the call asking if we would want to be a part of it. I think for any rock band, that's a pretty quick answer.

Just to be on the same bill as KISS is amazing. We get out and hear and see what they do every night, and it's been equally as amazing. We had the chance to meet them, and they've just been incredibly nice people. They've given us words of encouragement.


Q - Would you consider KISS to be one of the band's influences?

Sure, yeah. We're influenced by a lot of artists that you maybe you wouldn't hear in our songs. I'm influenced by Hank Williams, but I wouldn't say that anything we've done sounds like Hank Williams. It's more in the spirit of those artists that we're influenced.

Music was changed by bands like KISS. Not just the music, but the entire package. I've noticed at these shows that going to a KISS concert is like going to an event, almost like a boxing match or the circus. Growing up, I always went to shows that were very stripped down, like Neil Young or Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, stuff like that. I've never seen a concert with so many explosions and stuff. Personally, I think it's really cool.

Q - I'm sure on the tour you've seen people dressed up like KISS. Is anybody dressing up like you guys?

Just us. We're undercover. We're like KISS when they had no makeup on during the '80s. I don't know what one would wear if they would want to dress up like us. I've always considered like going as Morrissey or something for Halloween, but I think people would probably think I was Tom Cruise.

Q - How long is your set?

Our set is 45 minutes. We're billed as direct support. We come out and we don't really talk much. We realize why these people are here, which is to see KISS. We just want to do our best to win them over, and get them ready for the self-proclaimed hottest show on Earth, and it really is the hottest show on Earth.

We've actually had an incredible response from the crowd so far on this tour. It's more than what we expected. KISS has been a band for 35 years and we've been a band for eight years. We've really felt not only respect from the audience, we've gotten really positive feedback. In Boston, we got a standing ovation.


Q - You've been working on your fourth album. Are you guys going to test any of your new songs Friday night?

I don't think so. We're not ready to put anything to bed yet. We're trying out different ideas, how to dress them up, if you will. We are incorporating some new instruments and all sorts of things on the new record, so we don't want to come in and sort of jump the gun.

On the tour, we are just trying to show people what we've done, as opposed to what we are going to do. After the tour is over, we are going to work on the new record, finish everything up, and then we will come back out on tour. We'd probably do something at the Metro in Chicago for the release.

Of course your last album, "Fast Times At Barrington High," earned rave reviews. Was it kind of daunting trying to follow up the album?

Not really. We just felt really free that this was our fourth record. We kind of feel like we can do anything we want. We almost feel like we're making our first record right now. We just feel creatively free right now where we can almost reinvent ourselves.

Good reviews are great, but all that matters to us is that we can write a good record, and hopefully critics and fans will like the record.


What's your favorite Chicago venue to play?

I would say the Metro. There's this magic in that place. There's the significance of all the bands that have played there. There's just something great about playing there. That's where I first started going to see concerts. When I'm up there, I feel like it's home.

Who do you remember seeing at the Metro?

Smashing Pumpkins I saw a few times. There's been so many shows. I saw Beck and Cake together. I still remember Beck coming out with a carton of milk and gulping it and spitting it all over the crowd. I ended up thinking that was cool and I wanted to get a band myself and do weird stuff like that.

Have you been able to replicate that?

I'm not lactose intolerant or anything, but the thought of being on stage and drinking milk doesn't sound that pleasing together. It was pretty wild and exotic just seeing Beck do that.

Andy McKee raises guitar playing to a new art form, coming to Chicago as part of "Guitar Masters" tour


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

When Andy McKee started playing guitar as a youngster, he had no idea he someday would be considered a guitar master.

McKee, www.andymckee.com, will perform with fellow acoustic guitarists Stephen Bennett and Antoine Dufour as part of the "Guitar Masters" tour, which comes to Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, on Oct. 17.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20, available at www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

I had the chance to talk about McKee about the tour and his unique fingerstyle guitar playing, which has made him a YouTube sensation.


Q - When you first started playing guitar, did you ever think you would be on a guitar masters tour?

No. When I started out, I was just like anyone else, I guess. I was trying to learn some of my favorite songs and figure out how to play guitar.

When I was 19, I started to compose my own music. It's been crazy how it has taken off on the Internet and everything.

I'm sure that is a big part as to why I'm on the tour.


Q - Speaking of that, back in 2006, the live version of your song "Drifting" garnered more than 40 million hits on YouTube. That's just a mind boggling number.

Yeah, it is. It's still hard to believe at times. We just had this idea to put some videos on YouTube.

We didn't have any idea it would take off the way it did. Instrumental acoustic guitar, you know, has never been a real popular thing.

Q - Were people interested in your technique? What do you think it was?

Yeah, I'm sure that was the first appeal. I was playing the guitar in an unusual way on "Drifting."

I would like to think the music kept people interested as well.

Q - Why do you like fingerstyle guitar playing? To me, it really brings out a real percussive sound.

Well, I was definitely inspired by some of the more modern acoustic guitar musicians like Michael Hedges and Preston Reed and Don Ross.

What really draws me to the guitar is that there are a lot of creative possibilities with that instrument.
You can pluck the strings or you can tap them against the fretboard. With the left hand, you can tap notes, and pluck other notes with your right hand.

There's just all these sort of different textures and things. So I like to experiment with all of that, and it keeps it interesting.

Q - I guess things are pretty busy for you with the birth of your son. Is it hard to balance music and family life?

My son was born back in April. We're still kind of figuring it out, I guess you could say.

This "Guitar Masters" tour is going to be for a few weeks, so it's going to be tough, for sure. I really love having this time at home right now and being with my wife and son and getting to bond with him.

But you've got to make a living, of course. You've got to put the bread on the table and everything.

Q - Speaking of making a living, the music industry is ever changing. You've railed against people who download your music illegally.

There were a couple times where maybe I went a little too far in how I worded things, but I'm trying to just appeal to people that this is how we make a living.

It's just strange to me that people think that 99 cents is too much for a song. I just try to bring an awareness that guys like me in the acoustic guitar genre, we're definitely not making millions of dollars.

Q - But it does seem like you use the Internet to your advantage. Has it helped bring you closer to your fans?

Oh, absolutely. Putting the videos on YouTube helped people discover the music.
I try to stay in touch with people on my Facebook page. There's really where I am quite active. The Internet has been really beneficial for guys like me.

Our genre just isn't particularly popular. 


Q - Guitarist Eric Johnson has been a big influence on you. Have you met him?

Yeah, actually I met him last year on the "Guitar Masters" tour. It was great to finally meet him, and not only that, to get to play with him and collaborate with him. It was sort of the ultimate musical experience really for me, to meet the guy that made me want to play guitar when I was 12 years old.

Q - What did he say about your stuff? Did he like it?

He was very kind, actually. He had some very nice words, and it was just really cool to get some sort of praise from a musical hero.

We've stayed in touch since then, and we're hoping that maybe sometime down the road we can collaborate on an album together.


Q- On your last album, "Joyland," you have a lot of original songs on there, but you also cover the song "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." What made you want to do that song and how did you approach the song?

I'm 32 now, and I kind of grew up listening to '80s pop music. I try to get all the melodic ideas, and try and cover some of the other bases, the harmony and some of the percussion.

When I start playing, people can recognize what it it. But it is a bit tricky When it comes together, it's really fun to play one of your favorite '80s songs.

Q - Are you working on any new songs?

Yeah, I've got sort of a collection of ideas, but I don't have any songs done yet. 

I honestly have been too busy with my son, I guess. I hope to have a new album out next year.

Q - What do you like about being part of the "Guitar Masters" tour?

Well, it's fun to collaborate with other guitar players. It's fun to come up with ideas to add to other people's songs, and likewise, to see what other guitar players can add to my tunes.

Q - Have people come up to you and said that you've inspired them?

Yeah, and that's really the biggest compliment for me. That really means a lot to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Former Weezer bassist found dead in Chicago hotel room


Just prior to Weezer taking the stage today at Riot Fest in Chicago, police said former bassist Mikey Welsh was found dead in a Chicago hotel room. Read more:

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fastball's Miles Zuniga releases new solo album, will be in Chicago with Matthew Sweet



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Those who are used to seeing Miles Zuniga alongside his longtime band Fastball will see a different side of him when he performs Oct. 13 and 14 with Matthew Sweet at The Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake St., Chicago, www.bottomlounge.com.

Both shows start at 8 p.m. and tickets are $30, available at www.ticketweb.com.

Zuniga, www.mileszuniga.com, is touring in support of his first solo album, "These Ghosts Have Bones." I had the chance to Zuniga about the album and Fastball's latest activities.

Q - Matthew Sweet also just released a new album, so I guess the both of you will be performing new songs at The Bottom Lounge.

This is his tour, and he was gracious enough to let me come along.

Q - It seems like you and Matthew Sweet share some musical interests. Melody plays a big part in Fastball's music, and melody is obviously key in Matthew Sweet's music. Do you think it's just natural to be touring with him?

We toured with him years and years ago, back when Fastball was promoting "Make Your Mama Proud." So there's that.

We both love pop music. We love classic rock 'n' roll music from the '60s and '70s.

Q - And of course Fastball just played in August in Skokie. How did that show go?

Oh, that was fun. That was a lot of fun. It was outside with the Smoking Popes. It was good.

Yeah, that's a good Chicago band there.


Q - I see you raised money through Kickstarter in order to make "These Ghosts Have Bones." You actually raised more than your goal. Was that surprising?

Well, what was surprising was how fast I was able to raise it. You don't get any money if you don't hit your goal, which is kind of daunting.

My goal was $20,000. You set how much time limit you want. You can go up to three months, but they recommend a month. So I went with their recommendation.

And I raised $20,000 in like six days, so it was pretty mind boggling. But it's a definitely viable and actually very enticing alternative to trying to get some sort of record deal or whatever.

And I don't really think people buy records any more. They just don't. There are too many other avenues now to get music.

I think listening to music has completely changed from what it was. It's changed to fit the way we do everything else.

Q - Musically, what kind of goals did you have for the album?

Well, I wanted it to have sort of a homemade feel, kind of like Paul McCartney's record "RAM," or different records. I wanted it to be intimate.


I didn't want it to sound too polished. I just wanted the sound to match the emotional content of the songs.

I was playing most of the stuff myself, but I did get John Chipman, who plays in the band The Resentments. I play in this other band, The Resentments.

Bruce Hughes is in The Resentments and played on the last Fastball record, "Little White Lies." I enlisted those two guys as my rhythm section on most of the songs on "These Ghosts Have Bones."

They definitely are really strong musicians, and have their own unique sound. So that was helpful. I wanted to try some stuff I normally wouldn't get to try.


Q - Do the think the album is partially a reflection of you trying out the songs at your Sunday night residency at Saxon Pub?

Yeah. What it was, I was going through this big breakup, and I was writing all these songs, and I would take them down to Saxon's and play them and see how the audience responded.

Through that process, I came up with the songs that would be on the record. Bruce and John were playing on those songs on most of those Sundays.

Q - Are you pleased with how the album turned out?

I was very pleased. With every record, I try to do the best that I can. As long as I feel like I did that, it's fine.

I feel like I'm constantly learning, constantly absorbing new things. It's like a journal through my life. I just accept whatever is coming out at the time, because that is what's real.



Q - I think my favorite Fastball album is "The Harsh Light of Day," just because of the sheer variety on it.It seems like you are throwing a lot out there, which is good, because I don't like one note albums.

That was a confusing record, for sure. A lot of people really like it and love it.

But for me, I felt pretty lost while we were making it. There was a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves to follow up this hit record ("All the Pain Money Can Buy.")

We thought we were going to get dropped. We thought, yeah, us and our friends are going to hear this album. No one else is going to hear this album.

That was kind of the backdrop for "All the Pain Money Can Buy." And then it was a huge record. And everybody goes, "Go do that again."

Q - Was it a thrill working with Billy Preston on "The Harsh Light of Day?"

Yeah, it was a real thrill. I've gotten to do some amazing things in my life.

I got to sing "Sunny Afternoon" with Ray Davies, things like that, where you would never in a million years think you would get to do that. But there you are.

Q - Fastball's last album, "Little White Lies," came out in 2009. Anything new on the horizon?

We're going to go do I think a 7-inch record. We've got a couple of songs and we're going to go in and do that, but both Tony and I are pretty busy with our respective records.

We'll see. Right now, I'm just taking it one month at a time.