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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Fleetwood Mac meets Macbeth in "Fleetwood Macbeth," show will open April 1 at Public House Theatre


Credit: Jeremy Kanne
By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Following well-received show like "A Nightmare on Backstreet" and "Bates: An '80s Psycho Parody," Ricky Glore has decided blend the music of Fleetwood Mac with Shakespeare's "Macbeth" in his latest show, "Fleetwood Macbeth."
 

The show will open 8 p.m. April 1 at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., Chicago, and will run on Fridays and Saturdays through April 30. Tickets are $15, available at The Public House Theatre.

I had the chance to talk to Glore about the show.
 


Q - Great talking to you again. What was your inspiration in writing “Fleetwood Macbeth?”

Two of my best received shows at The Public House have been parody shows, "A Nightmare on Backstreet" and "Bates: An '80s Psycho Parody." After doing a couple original musicals - "Babysitter Massacre '78" and "Maul Santa" - I was tossing around some ideas with my fiancee (Ali Delianides, who plays "Lady" in this production), and I just said the title "Fleetwood Macbeth," and her face immediately lit up.

With Fleetwood Mac being her all-time favorite band, she wasn't going to let this be just an idea, and pushed me forward to write the show.

Q - What would you like audiences to come away with from the show?


I would love audiences to get wrapped up in the fun, ridiculous world, that has elements/themes of the Shakespeare classic, but also has this rock concert feel, that I think is hard not to have a good time during.

I want the audience to walk away after the show, saying to themselves, "Damn, that cast was crazy talented." Because it is true.

This cast is one of the most talented in the city right now. 

Q - Do the themes in the show resemble the presidential race at all?

It's a little hard to find a Shakespeare play that doesn't touch on political manipulation a little bit, and this one is no different. I think audiences could draw some parallels, but in truth, it wasn't written as a direct satire of our current political climate.

Q - How did you go about choosing what Fleetwood Mac songs to use in the show?

Having the Fleetwood Mac album catalogue on my iPod, I was pretty familiar with most songs, and while I wrote the script, I would get to moments with the characters, and say to myself, Oh, the tone of this scene feels like "Go Your Own Way," so of course you have to put that song in the show.

Not every well-known Fleetwood Mac song could make it into the show. "Rhiannon" is a great song, but you just can't shoehorn it in, if it doesn't line up with the story or tone going on in the script.
 

With that being said, and to not disappoint the audiences, certain songs that couldn't make it into the show, are being used as pre-show, intermission and post show songs that are played.
 

Q - How have rehearsals been going? Is the show shaping up as you envisioned?

We open April 1, and this is no April Fools joke! This cast is ready, and the rehearsal process has been a DREAM. As mentioned before, we have a ridiculously talented cast, but the crew is equally as amazing.

Dan Riley is our vocal director, and he can be seen all throughout the Chicagoland area in the Fleetwood Mac tribute group, "Say You Love Me." Laura Marsh is our choreographer, and with her expertise added to the show, we can bring intense dance numbers, like "Tusk," to life!
 

Q - What ideas are you working on for future shows?
 

Starting May 31, weAREproductions (my production team), will be launching a show, that has an open run at The Public House Theatre, at 8 p.m. on the last Tuesday of every month called "Cinema Sacrifice Theater."
 

Like the charm of "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" and "RiffTrax," "Cinema Sacrifice Theater" humorously skewers the best of the worst movies, but invites you to come and enjoy the jabs in person, in a live theatre setting.
 

A new bad movie will be chosen each month by the audience (from a selection of trailers). Some "classics" may include "Warriors of the Wasteland," "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble" and "The Werewolf of Washington."

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Paramount Theatre announces its 2016-17 Broadway series



AURORA - The Paramount Theatre starting this fall will expand the number of performances in its popular Broadway musical series, officials said in announcing the theater's 2016-17 Broadway series.

"Mamma Mia!" (Sept. 7 - Oct. 30), "The Little Mermaid" (Nov. 23, 2016 - Jan. 8, 2017), "Sweeney Todd - The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (Feb. 8 - March 19, 2017) and "Jesus Christ Superstar" (April 19 - May 28, 2017) will comprise the 2016-2017 season.

"To keep up with demand, we've expanded the number of weeks in each run and the number of performances next season," said Tim Rater, president and CEO of Paramount Theatre, in a press release. "For context, last year we presented 22 weeks of Broadway shows, for a total of 180 performances. In 2016-17, we will present 27 weeks of Broadway shows and 220 performances." 

Artistic Director Jim Corti - director of Paramount's current smash hit "West Side Story," winner of the 2015 Jeff Award for Best Director and Best Musical for "Les Misérables," and the only Chicago theater artist to win Jeff Awards for directing, choreography and acting - will stage Paramount's ABBA-infused season opener "Mamma Mia!" and "Sweeney Todd."

Amber Mak, who staged Paramount's 2016 hit "Hairspray - The Broadway Musical" and is the theater's newly tapped New Works Development Director, will direct and choreograph Disney's "The Little Mermaid." 

Making his Paramount debut for the season finale "Jesus Christ Superstar" is director Ron Kellum, a director and producer with experience ranging from major sporting event half-time shows, to film, TV and theater including "Chicago," "The Color Purple," "Dreamgirls," "Once On this Island," "Ain't Misbehavin' '' and "Smokey Joe's Cafe." 

For more information, visit ParamountAurora.com, call 630-896-6666 or visit the Paramount Theatre box office, 23 E. Galena Boulevard in downtown Aurora.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Otherworld Theatre Company to hold science fiction and fantasy film festival on April 9


By ERIC SCHELKOPF 

Otherworld Theatre Company, Chicago's only sci-fi and fantasy theatre company, next month will present its fourth annual Juggernaut Film Festival, designed to celebrate and showcase science fiction and fantasy short films from around the world.

The event will feature 45 independent short films from more than 10 countries. Juggernaut will take place from noon to 5:30 p.m. April 9 at the historic Music Box Theater, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

There will be a social and networking reception with audience Q&A and industry panels one hour before the event. Tickets to the festival are $20, available at www.brownpapertickets.com.  

I had the chance to talk to Otherworld Theatre Company artistic director and founder Tiffany Keane about the upcoming festival. 


Q - Great talking to you again. This is the fourth year of the Juggernaut Film Festival. What was the reason you started the festival in the first place and has it been as successful as you thought it would be? 

Juggernaut started off very humbly. I had just gotten out of college at Columbia, and decided to start a Science Fiction and Fantasy Theatre Company called Otherworld - and was trying to figure out a fundraiser that had low overhead expenses. 

I originally was looking into having a "bad movie night"- but licensing for that was still very expensive. I have always been a fan of short films, and after reaching out to a bunch of filmmakers, they were excited for the idea to have their films screened in Chicago.


Juggernaut was actually named after a Ray Bradbury short story of the same name - as one of his characters shouts out, "Look at those Juggernaut films!" Thus, Juggernaut was born!

The first Juggernaut… I didn't really know what I was doing. However, the turnout was great, and people were excited about the quality of the films we were able to obtain, not really being exposed to these stories before. 

The next year we were picked up by Chicago Filmmakers, and we started a partnership with them, and it just really took off. We made it into the Chicago Tribune the following year and had a film that starred Nick Offerman. 

This year, we are at The Music Box. It's crazy - so much can happen in four short years. 

Q - What do you think about the films featured in this year's festival? How did you go about choosing the films for this year's festival? 

I am always blown away by the quality of films we are able to attracted. We have films from $100 budgets to $250,000 budgets, but all films possess quality storytelling. 

This year, we accepted submissions from FilmFreeway - and it was very successful in getting Juggernaut's name out there. We got submissions from all around the world. 

In previous years, I sought out films and asked them to be screened, so it was much easier to have everything conveniently on one website. I also have a co-chair this year, Mindy Fay Parks, and I couldn't have done it without her. 

Together, we watched over 100 films to pick the best fit for our 5 hour festival. 

Q - Are there any films that you are especially excited about? 

I'm excited about all of our films - it's hard to choose a favorite because I like them all for different reasons. "Uncanny Valley," written and directed by Argentine filmmaker Federico Heller, always sticks out to me. 

It tells the story of a future where first person shooters have become a new drug for those disillusioned with society and has an amazing twist of an ending. That film really got to me.

On the lighter side, we have "The Wolf Who Came To Dinner," which actually was a film my co-chair Mindy saw at The Whistler Film Festival in Canada. Jem Garrard paints a wonderful tale of a little girl named Bea Barkley - who was magnificently portrayed in this film by Audrey Smallman. 

Bea, a horror film lover, senses that her mom's new boyfriend is a werewolf. It's a very charming look on unique perceptions we can have as children. 

Q - I understand that awards will be presented to outstanding filmmakers in several categories. Why did you decide to present awards this year? 

Really it's because we wanted to include the filmmakers more on the experience of the festival. We have a lot of the filmmakers coming this year, flying all around the world to participate. It's crazy! 

Q - CinemaJaw will be hosting this year's festival and leading the Q&A panels. What do you think they bring to the table? 

I have been a fan of CinemaJaw now for a little over a year, and I love what they bring to the table on their podcasts in terms of discussion and debate, but really it's the sense of fun that makes it for me. What they bring to the table is their passion for new and interesting ways to tell stories in film. 


I was actually on their podcast this week, and they were so charming and really made me feel at home. I think sometimes, especially when you are being interviewed, you feel as though you need to compete with them on an intellectual level. 

The hosts of CinemaJaw were so casual that it really felt like you could get to the heart of the matter - why you loved the film and what was it about the narrative that engaged you - that I felt totally at ease. 

I wanted the same for the filmmakers participating in Juggernaut. 

Q - What should people expect from the Otherworld Theatre Company for the rest of the year? 

Big exciting things! After Juggernaut, we have Fight Quest  going on at The Public House Theatre on Sundays starting April 17 - May 22. It's a choose your own adventure fight - and a member of the audience can pick a champion to role play through. 

We have insane fight choreography that will be a literal feast for the eyes. It's going to be a blast. 

In September, we also have another festival, Paragon. It's a sci-fi and fantasy short play festival also taking place at The Public House, Sept. 10 and 11. 

It's 40 plays under two days, making it one of the largest collections of sci-fi and fantasy theatre performance in the world.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Willie Nelson to perform June 25 at Aurora's RiverEdge Park




Willie Nelson and Family with special guest  Kris Kristofferson will perform at 8 p.m. June 25 at downtown Aurora's RiverEdge Park.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m. at RiverEdge Park, 360 N. Broadway St., directly across from Metra's Aurora Transportation Center. Online ticket sales start today at  10 a.m. at RiverEdgeAurora.com. Tickets are $40 through May 31 and $50 starting June 1.

Phone and in-person sales start April 8. Call the RiverEdge box office, 630-896-6666, or stop by in-person at RiverEdge's satellite box office, the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chicago musician Jesse W. Johnson shows off his versatility on new EP, will perform at Township


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Veering between raw fury and quiet beauty, Chicago musician Jesse W. Johnson shows off his full range as an artist on his new EP, "Primal Scream."

Johnson will perform March 25 at Township,  2200 N. California Ave., Chicago. Big Black Bird and Andy & the Pandy's also are on the bill.

Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to Johnson about the EP.


Q - Great talking to you again. "Primal Scream" is much more upbeat than your previous effort, "Cannon Rows." Was it a conscious effort to make a more energetic album this time around? 

Hey Eric! Thanks. I definitely wanted to to show the whole of my range on this release, everything from melancholy stuff to rockers.

Since my last solo release was entirely acoustic, it was really fun to get a band together and explore some different territory here. I think it turned into a really cohesive record and these songs are also a ton of fun to play live.

Q - In making "Primal Scream," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

I really did want to make a record that showcased more of my range as a songwriter and also what people can expect from a live performance. I love to go from quiet to raw & loud in the same set and even in the same song.



I definitely think "Primal Scream" does that and still does a great job of having its own identity with a thematic string tying everything together. I also wanted to make something that sounded raw but modern, at once old and new.

Yoo Soo, (my bandmate/producer), did a great job nailing our vision. 

Q - It seems like there should be a story behind the EP's name. Is there? 

Not really. I wrote the title song and the name just immediately seemed to make sense.

I was thinking about the past and future being big shadows that follow us around, always out of reach. All of these songs are about being in the moment and not knowing what's gonna happen next.

With that overall sense of struggle in mind I really liked the name for the whole EP, but I try not to think too hard on finding a theme or concept to a record. I love how great records flow and how the songs bring you through different emotions but end up leaving you with a certain feeling.

I don't think you have to write a concept album for that to happen. It's all about having songs that work well together but are different enough from each other to take you on an interesting journey. 

Q - What is the status of Jet W. Lee? Do you see the band making another album?

Definitely! Patrick, the other founding member of Jet W. Lee, is currently living in New York, but we have a whole album of unreleased material and we're just waiting till we're back in the same area and can do some touring.



Q - What will you be working on next? Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

This week I'm be starting work on a new full length record with the same group I did "Primal Scream" with. We've been playing some of the new songs out for a bit and I'm really excited about getting them down. I'm shooting for it to be out early 2017 and I'll be touring a bunch behind it.

As far as dream collaborations go, I'd love to work with Jessica Lea Mayfield, David Bazan or Lana Del Rey. I love their styles and writing and think we'd make some great, dark music together.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Paramount Theatre's production of "West Side Story" soars

Zoe Nadal, left, plays Maria and Will Skrip, right, is Tony in "West Side Story," playing through April 24 at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Boulevard, Aurora. Photo credit: Liz Lauren.

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

On the heels of a sparkling version of "Hairspray," the Paramount Theatre has followed that up with an equally strong production of the iconic musical "West Side Story."

That the production is directed by Paramount Theatre artistic director Jim Corti, who recently received a Jeff Award for his direction of "Les Miserables, is not surprising. The Jeff Awards celebrate the vitality of Chicago area theatre.

Just like he did with "Les Miserables," Corti has injected freshness and excitement into a production that has been long in the public eye. Of course, that starts with the cast, and kudos to Corti for assembling such a strong cast, 23 of them who are gracing Paramount's stage for the first time.

Leading the cast are Zoe Nadal and Will Skrip, the star-crossed lovers Maria and Tony. Skrip was previously on the Paramount stage in "Mary Poppins," while Nadal is new to the Paramount stage.

Nadal and Skrip are a joy to watch. The chemistry between them is real, and they draw the audience into their world from their very first scene together.


Mary Antonini - also a newcomer to the Paramount stage - also delivers a show-stopping performance as Anita. Antonini's feisty performance is another highlight of the production, and her vocal power delivers on all counts.

And the themes of the musical - which include the importance of being able to accept differences in others - are as relevant as today's headlines.

Stunning choreography and scenery along with an exhilarating performance by the Paramount Orchestra add to making the Paramount's production of "West Side" story a thrilling experience. 

"West Side Story" will run through Sunday, April 24. Paramount Theatre is located at 23 E. Galena Blvd. in downtown Aurora.

Tickets are available by calling the Paramount at 630-896-6666 or visiting its website, www.paramountaurora.com.

 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Chicago band Wired Minds releases debut EP, will perform March 26 at the Metro



By ERIC SCHELKOPF

The members of Chicago band Wired Minds have a love for early '80s post-punk, new wave artists and '90s Britpop. 

That love shows up on the band's debut EP, "Saudade." Wired Minds will open for Big Paraid on March 26 at the Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Chicago.  Revolt Coda, Blood Red Boots, Sex Therapy and Dimwaves also are on the bill.

The show starts at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are available at www.etix.com.

I had the chance to talk to Wired Minds frontman Matthew James Kayser about the band.


Q - Great talking to you again. The last time we spoke, you were fronting the band The Bright White. How did Wired Minds come together and what are your goals for the band?

Thanks for having me. Wired Minds formed last year after I approached Fred O'Neal. He's a superb guitarist/songwriter who posted some of his songs on Craigslist.


I was immediately enamored with his sound and his knack for writing inspiring music. Within a week, I was recording vocals on top of all this really cool '80s and early '90s-influenced stuff. We recruited Christian Volpe, from The Maharishi, to play drums and soon had our first show booked.

Our bassist, Torey Freeman, joined us through his friendship with Fred. 

I'm very happy with the vibe of the music we're creating and the vibe within our group. We intend to spend 2016 playing increasingly more important shows at Chicago's best venues. We want to get folks to hear "Saudade," our debut EP, and then hit them with new music later this year. 

Q - Is there a story behind the band's name?

There are two reasons why we chose Wired Minds. First and foremost, we thought it had a ring to it. A memorable name is a must.


Second, it is a statement on how connected we all are nowadays and how much stuff is constantly flying through our brains. It is so incredibly hard to turn off these wired minds when there is so much information flowing through them.

The information comes fast and furious, and it comes at all times of the day. 

Q - Wired Minds has drawn comparisons to such bands as The Church and The Stone Roses. Do you consider those bands as being major influences for Wired Minds?

Absolutely. We decided when we formed that we want to write the type of music we would love to hear on the radio.


If we had our way, rock radio would be oozing early '80s post-punk and new wave and '90s Britpop. But it doesn't.

So we decided to create music that brings back the feelings of those genres. There's something about unfiltered melancholy, restlessness, and hope that really strikes a chord with us.

I hope that comes across in our music. 

Q - In sitting down to make the band's debut EP, "Saudade," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

The goal of "Saudade" was to offer listeners a sneak peek at what we're all about, knowing full well that we will soon release another EP. We had ten songs completed, so we chose the three that best represent where we are right now.




We're so new that the sound could radically evolve from what's on "Saudade." I hope not, though, as I dig the general direction of "Saudade."

Q - The video for the song "Strange Kind Of Love" has a retro feel to it. I know the definition of saudade is "a feeling of longing, melancholy, or nostalgia." Is that one of the EP's themes?

I live a life of nostalgia. I have become somewhat obsessed with the people and places of my past, partly because I can no longer have them. It's a very bittersweet feeling, visiting someone or somewhere in your mind while knowing that you can't ever really get them back. So yes, nostalgia has definitely become a major theme in my lyrics.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=FRSCov23rKI&app=desktop
  
Growing up an '80s child, I definitely have a soft spot for some of the videos of that era. "Strange Kind of Love" was made with an early REM video in mind.

Q - How do you see Wired Minds fitting into the Chicago music scene?

Honestly, we don't fit in with most of what I've seen of the Chicago music scene. Bands such as Cassettes on Tape, Dimwaves, Forgotten Species, New Canyons, and The Maharishi share our affection for post-punk, new wave, and Britpop, but I would not yet call it a scene.

Hopefully we can form a stronger bond that moves us from mere like-mindedness to a more organized coalition of bands that write and perform what we consider really cool music.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chicago band Common Allies releases new CD, will perform May 11 at The Original Mother's

 
By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Conor and Ryan Ashe have come a long way since they first saw the movie "School of Rock."

The movie inspired the brothers to put together a band. Their current band, Common Allies, has a new EP and will perform May 11 as part of an EP release party at The Original Mother's, 26 W. Division St., Chicago.

Captain Coopersmith also is on the bill. 

I had the chance to talk to Common Allies singer/songwriter Conor Ashe about the new EP.

 
Q - What were your goals for completing your EP and do you think you accomplished them?

When we were discussing an EP release, I didn't know if we would have enough time to make our dreams a reality. However, with the show at Mother's coming up, I figured we could push to make it an unforgettable event for the band and all those associated with it.


Whenever we manage to get in to the studio, time is of the essence. We needed to make sure to operate on an efficient schedule, all while ensuring that our songs were materializing in the way I initially planned from the second I first began humming the basic melody in my head.

We went in with the intention of recording a five song EP, which would authentically and stylistically convey what it is that we have to offer as both musicians and songwriters. I would definitely say that we accomplished these goals, for we were all more than satisfied with the outcome.

Q - What is it about "School of Rock" that made you want to start a band?

Funny you should mention that movie. I love it and have always loved it! "School of Rock" was the musically inclined "Rocky" for my brother and me.

We were only in middle school when it was released and were still very impressionable. It inspired us to no end because the characters were exactly like we were. They were unremarkable, conventional, ordinary grammar school kids, whose greatest concern was fitting in with others.

At least, this was the case at face value. Once exposed to an expansive list of game-changing rock 'n' roll classics by the illustrious Ned Shneebly, the kids established community with one another as well as personal identity.

The realization that something as seemingly simple as music could accomplish this blew us away. As preteens, we didn't realize all of the great music we were missing out on, due to limited access to millennial audiences.

There seems to still be a misconception that younger generations won't have any appreciation for genres and artists that brought popular music to the forefront. I can't understand this! The second we heard groups such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, and Led Zeppelin, our lives would never be the same again.

What we ultimately took from "School of Rock" was the fact that, if you are truly passionate about anything you do, you will thrive at it, regardless of who you are or how others perceive you. Plus, we associated the guitar with being cool.

We wanted to be among the cool guys who played the guitar! 

Q - What was it like opening for Huey Lewis and The News as Runaway Freight Train, and what did you learn from this experience?

Man, what a blast from the past! Yeah, we were awarded that slot at Naperville's Rib Fest after taking first place in the local battle of the bands way back in 2009. Runaway Freight Train was more or less a fun after-school activity.

Four close friends with a similar taste in music got together once a week to learn and rehearse a plethora of classic rock covers akin to what's played daily on Chicago's Top 40 "rock classics" stations. In retrospect, we probably wouldn't touch most of the material we covered back then nowadays!

We had a few sub-par but catchy party rock originals. My brother and I were still building our musical identities at that point and being able to perform on the main stage in front of a wide array of people was the opportunity of a lifetime!

Given an event like Ribfest's multitude of offerings for entertainment, we were just excited that people were choosing to listen to us. The crowd reception was great and their energy definitely rubbed off on all of us.

We each got a little more experience with a professionally executed stage setup and truly learned the importance of engaging with the audience. A performance is a social event and there needs to be less of a divide between the performers and the listeners. 

A bridge in the gap, if you will. 

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you think you fit into it?

This is a great and yet puzzling question. I will do my best to effectively express my thoughts! The music market in Chicago is like any other, saturated.

The behemoth that is Chicago is naturally the home of myriad painters, actors, comedians, and musicians, all of whom have the same goal in mind; to stand out from the rest. My brother and I had a conversation not too long ago with Erich Awalt, one of the founding members of the '90s nu metal outlet, Disturbed.

He helped to shed some light on the matter from his experiences. According to him, before the evolution of technology and skyrocketing increase in accessibility, original music had more prominence in the Chicago scene.

Now, with an even larger and more diverse population, more people than ever are producing their own music. I'm not trying to sound condescending here, but a considerable sum of these individuals have the means to do this, but don't necessarily have the talent or creativity.

As a result, those who frequent venues with live music assess risk in going out to see an act they've never heard of perform. There's tons of terrific new underground local music in Chicagoland. However, at this point, it seems like the casual concert goers prefer what's familiar to them.

Therefore, the Chicago music scene is full of tribute bands, many of which take precedent over a group who plays original material for a given weekend slot. I should know, my brother and I are also in a Janis Joplin Tribute band and venues don't think twice before booking us when we reach out to them.

Yet, when I'm trying to break into a new venue with Common Allies, they will proceed with caution and ask us to provide a great deal of information to ensure that we can meet their expectations and actually keep an audience's attention. So, after all of that rambling, this brings me to your question of where we fit into the Chicago scene.

Unfortunately, I don't quite know. Chicago has loads to offer in hip hop, blues, funk, and jazz. We're a singer-songwriter jam trio with roots in the psychedelic '60s, both in America and Europe.

I'm sure there's room for us somewhere in the Chicago scene. However, once we get enough of a following to start touring, we may find that there's more of a demand for what we do elsewhere.

At this point in time, the sky is the limit!
 

Q - Who are your major musical influences and how have they shaped your music?

This is a question that I love being asked, yet is so hard to answer! I typically keep the list to a top three. Among the big three would have to be Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead, and The Beatles, with Pink Floyd at the top.


The Grateful Dead taught us that each musician in a given group is just as important as the next. Each performer must be in tune with the others and should never try to make it about him or herself.

The Beatles inspired us to write music that dabbles in many different genres, placing emphasis on explosive instrumentation and to use vocal harmony to make it sound its absolute best. Pink Floyd taught us the most important lesson of all, take a chance and be weird. Write music that challenges conventions and embraces the unique.

They taught us not to be afraid to express our darkest feelings, even if it may make the audience feel a bit uncomfortable. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel and we never hesitate to express this in an eruption of an instrumental climax. 

We want to do more than perform our recordings for people. We want to provide a true escape into the most hauntingly beautiful areas of the mind's domain.

I'd like to think that we've started to do this, but we still have a hell of a long way to go. 

Q - What are your short term/long term goals?

I'll keep it simple. For the short term, we just want our music to be heard.


For the long term, my brother and I want to play music for a living. It's what we've always wanted to do and it's a journey upon which we're currently embarking.

We've gained and we've lost. Each loss has been a blessing in disguise, for we've bounced back a bit stronger with each fall. I don't know what the future holds, but with enough determination, I can say confidently that it looks bright.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Chicago’s Las Guitarras de Espana to perform at City Winery




By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Fresh off a trip to Asia, Las Guitarras de Espana band leader Carlo Basile  is collaborating with musician/composer Ronnie Malley for an evening of Arabo-Andalusian and flamenco music on March 7 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St., Chicago.

The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $18 to $26, available at www.citywinery.com. 

I had the chance to talk to Basile about the upcoming show.


Q - Great talking to you again. For people who come out to the show, what should they expect?

We have a pretty amazing group assembled for this performance in two parts: Music of Andalusia (before flamenco) and then some of our fusion material with Indian, Southeast Asian, Spanish and African elements, including some dance.

Q - How did you connect with Ronnie Malley? How did this project come together?

Ronnie appeared in the Goodman Theater production of “The Jungle Book.” Our veena player, Sara Ranganathan, was also in that production.


I was able to see that very creative musical and eventually connect with Ronnie. It turns out that we have some things in common, especially a vision for how to bring cultures together through art.

So, we began creating new pieces and experimenting with traditional works, as well. Ronnie plays many string and percussion instruments.

I basically play a nylon string guitar in various styles (Spanish classical and flamenco, blues, soul). Ronnie also brings a huge catalog of Arabic music to the ensemble.

So, we have enjoyed working with each other and we continue to discuss (with Sara) ways to create new art.

Q - I know that you will be performing "Hanoi Pho" during the show, which you performed during your recent trip to Taiwan, Vietnam and Singapore. What was your inspiration for writing the piece and what kind of reaction did you get when you performed it?

Well, I had done a few Spanish guitar workshops in Hanoi, Vietnam in 2009. It was fun, but I thought it would be cool to bring a new piece to perform and teach this time.


https://soundcloud.com/las-guitarras-de-espana/hanoi-pho

It worked out very well in performances and in the workshop! When I performed the piece in Taiwan and Singapore (actually in a bar near Hong Kong, too), people really responded well to it.

It was really gratifying to have people listen to and appreciate a brand new work like that! It really made the trip special for that reason.
 

Q - I understand you were teaching classes during your trip as well. How was that experience?

Yes, I taught at the International School in Hanoi for three different music class levels. It was great to have the students play the new piece! 



Q - It seems like you are always juggling several projects at a time. I know you recently brought your "King Of Soul" project to the Chicago Cultural Center. What has been your favorite project to work on?

“King of Soul” is so much fun and, fortunately, I can play most of those pieces without too much rehearsal. I also enjoy working with Diego Alonso as "Spanish Guitar Duo,” and of course, the “Surabhi” group with Sara Ranganathan.



So, I really have no favorite project and I would miss working in any of those situations. I try to mix things up as much as possible and create new material whenever I can.

It’s hard sometimes but all of these projects do keep me challenged and inspired.

Q - What else will you be working on this year?

The plan is to work with an old friend and excellent cellist from Syria, Kinan Abou-afach. Ronnie, Sara and I will continue to create some new work as well. Maybe I can plan another trip and compose a new piece??? I hope so!