Sunday, October 26, 2014

Chicago musician Sarah Marie Young creates emotional richness on new album

On her second album, "Little Candy Heart," Chicago musician Sarah Marie Young builds on the emotional richness she created on last year's debut album, "Too Many Februaries."

Young will celebrate the release of the album with a show Nov. 3 at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at

I had a chance to talk to Young about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you again. You released your first album last year and you are about to release your second album. Did you feel the need to get these songs out sooner rather than later?

Great talking to you too. I had been sitting on a lot of new material since the first album was released, so I felt that I wanted to at least begin recording again in 2014 if possible. The label Snip Records gave me the opportunity to do just that.

Q - I understand one of the songs, "Be With You," you wrote while at the laundromat. What was the writing process like for this album? In sitting down to make "Little Candy Heart," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

That is correct. I had a melodic idea for "Be With You" and brought my ukulele to the laundromat, so in between washing and drying my laundry, I sat in my car and worked out a harmonic progression. 

I finished the lyrics when I folded my clothes. 

Folding clothes is a great time to do some thinking! As far as the writing process for most of the album goes, the laundromat was not involved. 

Many of the tunes I had sketched out for a while, mostly from sitting at the piano or singing in the car. Much of 2013 was spent driving weekly between my hometown Indianapolis and Chicago for personal reasons. 

It's a three hour drive, so I had a lot of time to map things out in my head. I was going through a lot of different transitions, and many times on the drive back to Chicago from Indy I would feel exhausted and have to go put on a show and perform in front of a bunch of people. 

My goal was to present songs from the album that reflected those times, and I think for the most part I accomplished them. The title track especially explains how I was feeling.

Q - SnipRecords is a new label. "Little Candy Heart" will be the fourth album it will release. What made you want to sign with the label? Do you think you fit in well with the other artists on the label?

Marijn and Astrid from SnipRecords really made it a point to say they are an eclectic label that is dedicated to putting out quality music, which is also how I like to describe myself as an artist. The other groups on this hi-fi label are different than myself and each other, but the quality of the music is well played and produced. 

I feel like my music fits nicely in their catalogue. As you said SnipRecords is new label, and I am excited about seeing where it goes and where I go as an artist on it.

Q - The video for the song "Lo and Behold" features many Chicago scenes. Was it important to have Chicago in the background in the video?

SnipRecords is based in The Netherlands, so it was important to showcase the city I live in albeit far from Snip's home base. This was not too hard to get on board with because Chicago is a beautiful city with some really stunning scenery, especially in the late summer/early fall when the videos was being shot.

I knew that I wanted to include Humboldt Park since that was the neighborhood I lived in for a while and had a lot of experiences walking my dog and just enjoying life. Videographer Nick Martin had really great ideas for good video locations we used.

Q - Who do you consider your major musical influences and how have they influenced your music?

That's a hard one to answer. There are so many inspiring and prolific song writers and musicians that I feel influence my music.

I love the way Stevie Wonder seems to perfectly marry his lyrics to the melody, harmony and instrumentation. I love how The Beatles songs are superbly written. 

I feel the same way about some of the old jazz standards I enjoy singing, and the certain composers who wrote them as well as the singers who performed them. When I'm working on a song I don't necessarily think about imitating them, but sometimes I do try to get inside those feelings I have when I'm listening to a piece of music I like.

Q - In addition to making your own music, you also are involved in other groups, including The Oh Yeahs. What do you get out of such collaborations?

The Oh Yeahs are two of my best friends who just happen to be bad ass singers/songwriters. It's one of the only chances the three of us get to work on three part harmony in an acoustic setting, and truly zero in on our vocal skills as individuals and as a group.

Being in the Oh Yeahs brings so much joy to my life! I also am a part of bassist Bryan Doherty's Hood Smoke. Due to Bryan's good songwriting and the musicians in the band we have a killer live show, and I get to be a rock star when we play :).

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

Short term goals: cook and eat the food in my fridge, learn all the music for shows this month without getting too stressed out, put on a good record release show at Schuba's this November, save more money if I can, take my dog Martin on long walks before it gets too cold. 

Long term goals: Tour internationally; release more music.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

With new album in tow, Chicago musician Angela James bringing original sound to Constellation in Chicago


On her new album, "Way Down Deep," Chicago musician Angela James channels classic country music artists like Patsy Cline and Rosanne Cash while creating a sound all her own.

James will celebrate the release of the new album by performing Nov. 1 at Constellation, 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to James about the new album.

Q - Great talking to you. In sitting down to make "Way Down Deep," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? Is there a meaning behind the album's name?

When I first set out to make the record, we wanted to begin with some live recording in one of my favorite places to play and hear music in Chicago - Comfort Station. My husband, Jordan Martins, is the co-director of that space and it has incredible acoustics and energy.

It was also winter time and I was interested in recording and playing in a cold environment. At that point, Comfort Station wasn't very well-insulated.

For some reason I wanted to see if I could hear/feel the cold in the recording, but I didn't want it to be too uncomfortable. I brought space heaters and plenty of bourbon to the two sessions we did there so people could keep warm.

We taught the musicians the song when they got there and Nick Broste recorded a few takes of each song. Jordan wanted to capture the energy of people just learning a song so it's still fresh and tenuous and we also wanted to record with people that I wasn't playing with already.

It was a great excuse to get some improvising musicians I admired involved in the project. So that was first. Then I worked on getting some foundation tracks at Minbal with Benjamin Balcom (who recorded and mixed my EP) and I continued work on those with my friend Robbie Hamilton at Pieholden Suite Sound. 

I then went back to work on the final songs for the record with Nick Broste at Shape Shop. I think my goal was to make a record in many different places with a lot of different people to reflect the music communities I'm fortunate to be a part of. I literally wanted it to be a record of my experience being a musician in Chicago thus far.

As far as the title goes, I wrote the song "Way Down Deep" in the style of a murder ballad to reflect my Eastern Tennessee roots, and it also tells the story of how I came to meditation and yoga. I think the line, "I found my closest kin way down deep within" is very significant.

Q - I understand that the album is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and is partially supported by an Individual Artist Program Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, as well as a grant from the Illinois Arts Council. That seems like a unique way to make an album. Did it validate your efforts knowing you had other people supporting you?

Absolutely; it was great to be validated and supported in my first full length album. And I wouldn't have been able to finance making a record without those grants (Individual Artist Grant from DCASE and an Individual Artist Support Grant from the Illinois Arts Council). 

Most emerging artists I know are financing records through Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites as having record label support is pretty rare unless you're a more established musician. I feel incredibly fortunate to have received two grants and feel like I can at least "break even" on making a record.

Q - I am sure you've heard your music described in different ways. How would you describe your music?

I always say: Like Patsy Cline on Quaaludes. It's kind of a joke, but also accurate.

Q - How did you go about picking the musicians that are featured on the album and what do you think they brought to the project?

Some of them - Anthony Burton, Justin Brown, Dan Mohr, and Bill MacKay have been playing with me from the beginning, or I've been involved in projects with them for a few years. Jordan is involved in the jazz improvising community, primarily through booking shows at Comfort Station and formerly the Relax Attack Jazz Series at the Whistler. 

He got to know a lot of the musicians that are featured on the album as a fan of their music and as someone who booked their groups at other venues. When the time came for us to put folks together for the recording he suggested some players, as well as my drummer Charles Rumback. 

I have grown and improved so much through playing with so many musicians from different communities/backgrounds. It's been incredibly inspiring to be around musicians who are so dedicated to their instruments/craft and play every day and gig several nights a week. 

That kind of passion and dedication pulled me through the more confusing moments of making this record.

Q - How do you think growing up in Eastern Tennessee has affected your music? It seems like alternative country artists are the ones going backing to the roots of country music rather than mainstream country acts. What do you think of the country music scene these days?

I wrote a Master's thesis centered around country music, nostalgia and the music you hear in your youth, but I'll keep this brief - you can't escape what sounds are around you growing up before you've formed your own "taste." It's going to come back somehow. 

I didn't set out to write songs that were inspired by classic country. It wasn't like I made an artistic decision, it's just what came out of me.

I had never written songs before either. Sad songs come naturally to me, I'm from Eastern Tennessee, I like bending my voice, and I have a bit of a southern accent, so I guess it was bound to happen. 

I'm not trying to make much of a statement and "Way Down Deep" is much more subtle in the country references, I think. My EP "Down and Out" was me confronting that influence more directly and now maybe I'm not as focused on it, or I'm just playing music with more people and that's changing my sound.

It's really hard for me understand what genre I fit into. As far as the country music scene now, I really don't know anything about it because I don't intentionally listen to it. 

I kinda listen to everything but contemporary country, actually.

Q - Your husband is part of your band. Are there more pros than cons in having your spouse in your band?

Many more pros. It's the best. He's the first person that hears me develop a song, he helps me write songs, and he's great with arrangement advice.

He's basically my co-producer. It wasn't an easy thing to do at first; we had to figure out a system and get better at it.

There were some definite awkward moments and arguments, but now I think we're pretty great at working together. I can't really think of a con, actually.

He would probably say that he doesn't get paid very fairly, which is true. Hopefully I'll get to a point where I can pay him what he's worth!

Q - Along with being a musician, you are also a yoga instructor. How did you get involved in yoga? How do you think yoga has helped you with your music?

I got involved in yoga right after finishing college while living outside of Asheville, N.C. I was fortunate to encounter a great teacher right off the bat, Fred Brown, who opened my eyes to the amazing world of yoga and committing to a practice of self-realization.

I was hooked and it has completely changed the course of my life. When I moved to Chicago, I almost immediately began studying with Gabriel Halpern and started apprenticing with him shortly after attending classes at his studio, the Yoga Circle. 

He has been immensely supportive of me pursuing music and following a creative path. When I first met him I wasn't playing music at all, I didn't even call myself a musician. 

Through his support as a mentor, I found the courage to take a risk and "go all in" with music. My yoga practice mostly helps me with keeping perspective on life and music. 

I think that all creative people have serious self-doubt and loathing. In fact, I think all human beings do, but when you're creating something so personal to potentially share with others there are definitely some dark moments. 

I also think it helps me embrace failure in a healthy way. I've failed a lot in the past three years, and sometimes on stage, which is not fun but really not a big deal at the end of the day.

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

I love making music in Chicago. It's a incredibly generous place to play music and a lot of the scenes cross-pollinate in interesting ways.

I love that I've only been making music here for three years and I feel so comfortable and confident in playing with new people and pursuing new projects. Generosity is really the best word to describe it.

There's also such a great history of improvisation in this town that I find inspiring. I'm not an improviser, but I draw a lot on the spirit and energy of it in performance. 

As far as where I fit into it - I really have no idea. I mean, there are singer-songwriters I feel an affinity with, but my music doesn't really sound like theirs.

I collaborate with people in many different genres and feel pretty awkward when I try and figure out where I fit in. I don't want to evade the question entirely, but maybe somebody else can answer that question better than me! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Chicago band The NightTimers bringing energetic sound to music scene, will play at Silvie's Lounge


Chicago band The NightTimers is helping to add to the vibrancy of the Chicago music scene through its energetic sound and catchy melodies.

The band will perform a Halloween show Oct. 31 at Silvie's Lounge, 1902 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago. 

I had the chance to talk to bass/rhythm guitarist Ian Capilouto about the upcoming show and the band's latest activities. 

Q- Great talking to you. You guys have only been together a year, I understand. How did the group come together and are you guys musically where you would like to be now? Why do you think the members work well together?

We came together when Sonny, who plays drums, wanted to create a band and started rehearsing with Ryan and Brian. Ryan plays lead guitar and Brian bass/guitar/keyboards. 

I joined when I answered an ad on the Internet for a guitarist who could play rhythm and sing a bit. So that’s me, Ian.

Musically, I’d say we are still developing, but we are happy with where our development has taken us so far. We write a lot of original songs that are unique.

Of course, every band has its influences and has some similarities in sound to previous ones, but never try to ape anybody meaning there is no intentional decision to sound like anyone or anything. 

Basically, if the song is a good one, we play it.

We work well together because although sometimes we can be taskmasters with one another, it is with the understanding that the song is the number one priority. You have to check your ego at the door with us. 

That said, we have a lot of laughs and everybody puts forward a great effort towards each other’s ideas.

Q - I am sure you have heard the band's sound described in a number of ways. How would you describe the band's music? Who are the band's biggest influences?

I believe our sound is unique. At the core, it is rock 'n' roll, though. 

To me, if you have guitars, keyboards and drums with some type of singing, it’s rock 'n' roll. Whether that’s indie rock, classic rock, punk rock, twee pop or whatever other labels there are out there, that’s for the listener to determine on their own. 

But we tend to try sounds, beats, rhythms, tempos from all over the spectrum in the quest for finding what works best for the composition and the members too. Our biggest influences are everything under the sun that any one of us likes. 

We are all record collectors so, we’ve covered songs from the 1960s and 1980s, before and after those decades as well in all genres. Basically, if it is a song that moves me in any way I like it.

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

We came up with the NightTimers because we practice later at night at times. We all have days jobs, and at night time, this is our second shift.

Q - I understand the band has already recorded an album's worth of songs. When would you like to release the album and what should people expect?

We have recorded an album's worth of material this last spring at Strobe Studios here in Chicago. We are working on having some type of vinyl pressing out by the New Year.

People should expect a fun party time of a record with numbers that you’d want to have in the background of a party you are throwing.

Q - You guys switch up your instruments, including during your live shows. Why do you like to do that? Do you think that helps add to the vibrancy of your shows? Anything special planned for your Halloween show?

We switch instruments simply because sometimes it’s easier to sing a song while playing rhythm rather than holding down a bass line or keyboard part. It also gives the sound of our band a little more variance. 

Each guy plays an instrument a little differently. Yes, people like seeing that change on stage. 

It brings a certain level of intrigue to the audience and they may take a moment to contemplate why Brian might be playing guitar or bass on a certain number. The Halloween show will be a big party at Silvie’s Lounge in Chicago over off of Damen and Irving Park.

We will dress up on stage, there will be a costume contest and prizes. We will play a cover set of songs and a set of originals.

Q - Do all of the members have an equal part in putting together the songs? What is your part in the songwriting process?

Yes, we all write songs and we all have suggestions, but the songwriter drives the bus as you might say. Usually the best result comes when the songwriter takes input and facilitates it into the original idea without losing track of the initial inspiration for writing the song.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and where do you think the band fits into it? What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

I love the Chicago music scene. There are a ton of great venues to play and great bands too. 

I think as long as you make the effort to be a quality group, there is an audience out there for you and venues happy to have you. We fit in well wanting to provide a part of the vibrant Chicago nightlife at gigs. 

People in Chicago like to experience the metropolitan lifestyle while not being too cool for things. I think our band represents that lifestyle. 

Have fun, be cool but be inclusive to everyone and everything. Our short term and long term goals are to establish ourselves as a viable concert attraction and to put out records consistently.   

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chicago's Dead on TV releases new EP, will perform Oct. 18 at Township

With in-your-face bravado, Chicago punk band Dead on TV is a band that grabs your attention.

Dead on TV will celebrate the release of its new EP, "Creeper," by performing Oct. 18 at Township, 2200 N. California Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 6 p.m. and tickets are available at 

I had the chance to talk to lead singer/guitarist Daniel Evans about the new EP.

Q - Great talking to you. Of course, your new EP, "Creeper," will be released soon. In sitting down to make the album, what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them?

When we sit down to write, we try not to think too hard. I don't think we set out with a plan, really.

We just try to write songs we think are fun and catchy. With "Creeper," I feel like we accomplished that and we branched out into some new territory. 

We have some songs that are different for us, we usually play really fast songs, but on this one, our song "Screwdriver" reaches down into the realms where most other music lives, like 120bpm. I love playing that song. I think we captured a very sleazy moment.

Q - It seems like you had fun making the video for "I'm Easy." Does the video reflect your love for horror movies? What were your goals for the video?

The idea for the song and video came about at the same time. We do love horror movies, and we love the DIY mentality of the artists that work in that genre. 

But when we were messing around with the riff for that song, we sing it in a cheesy horror movie choir voice (like at the beginning of the video) and do ridiculous Bela Lugosi impressions. Then we just decided to run with that idea.

We also like to make unexpected pairings, conceptually. For instance, the lyrics for "I'm Easy" are extremely perverse and intense, while the imagery in the video is very slapstick and over the top.

We do the same sort of pairing with our song "Creeper." The music is very happy, almost too happy sounding and the lyrics are very disturbed.

I always appreciated that quality in art. With making the video, we wanted to do something fun, that we could make with our group of talented friends (everyone we know is an artist, director, visual FX, make up, graphic) really quickly. 

We shot the whole video in one night and it was just like a big party. We wanted to make an homage to Ed Wood and poke fun at the idea of the modern vampire. 

The twilight and the action star vampires. We took the idea of all the classic vampires we love, and shoved them into the modern day. The idea was to make something we could laugh at for the rest of our lives. 

I still laugh every time I watch that video. The gags are non-stop! 

Q - The band was recently nominated for a sexiest act award. Do you view that as an honor? 

Absolutely! We were nominated for that award at our home away from home, The Melody Inn in Indianapolis. Every Saturday they have a punk rock night, which is about the most fun you can have listening to rock 'n' roll in the Midwest.

We love going down there and we've made a lot of friends from playing those shows. It's great to know that people actually get what we're doing and it turns them on. 

I hope we've put at least a few people through puberty. 

Q - The band has developed a reputation for its energetic shows. In developing your live show, did you look at other bands to see what they were doing? Who are the band's biggest influences?

We love classic punk bands like The Stooges and The Dead Boys. Even though it might not have been intentional, we ended up just being that kind of unpredictable, in your face show. 

I've destroyed pretty much every guitar I've ever owned onstage. There is always some blood and bruises, again, it's not intentional, just happens to be how we communicate.

I've gone to the hospital numerous times after shows. I like that every show, nobody, especially us, has any idea what is going to happen. It keeps it fun and exciting for us. 

I see too many shows where the band is just going through the motions.

Q - How did the band come together? Is there a meaning behind the band's name?

Chris and I had played music together for a few years before we decided to start Dead on TV. He was the only other guy who was as pissed off and in love with rock as I was. 

Most of the other bands we played in were industrial or electronic of some sort. So we started writing all these songs in my friend's basement to a drum machine. 

Then Vince started playing drums for us and we started playing live. It just grew into a big destructive beast from there. 

Mike and Corey came on to fill it out and now we do still incorporate some electronic sounds and we play with a synthesizer live, but it's all rock still. The name of the band came from the first song I wrote called "Dead on TV."

It just perfectly summed up all of what we were trying to do. Take all the parts of modern life that drag us down and rip them apart.

Q - What do you think of the Chicago music scene and how do you think Dead on TV fits into it? What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Chicago is the only place I've ever lived where you can go see a band play any night of the week. There will always be a blues band playing somewhere, even on Monday night.

It's more alive and vibrant than any place I've seen. This city has a history rich with rock and roll and experimentation. But it's all pretty segregated now. 

In the '80s and '90s there were bands like Big Black, Naked Raygun, Ministry, and they all this incestuous relationship where it was a mix of punk, hardcore, metal, and electronics, industrial, and the crowds, band members and shows all mixed. Although it seems like things are changing with festivals like Riot Fest mixing genre and promoting togetherness, the punk fans listen to punk music and go to punk shows, the metal fans listen to metal and go to metal shows, the electronic and indie fans do their thing and we fit somewhere in between all of that. 

Short term, we're working on some more videos from the "Creeper" release and playing shows. More long term, we already have some songs recorded for our next release and will hopefully have another batch ready within a year.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Hollywood Palms in Naperville generates plenty of spooky fun

Some scary fun prior to a screening of "Night of the Living Dead" Oct. 5 at Hollywood Palms in Naperville.

Sheriff Rick Grimes is surrounded.

Uncle Fester knows how to light up a room.

You don't want to mess with them.

David Nordmeyer of Warrenville drew a lot of screams with his walker costume.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

"A Nightmare on Backstreet: A Boy Band Musical Parody" coming to Chicago's Public House Theatre

Photo by Patrick Lothian

Just in time for Halloween, "A Nightmare on Backstreet: A Boy Band Musical Parody" takes the story and characters of "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and sets it to the music of the Backstreet Boys.

The show will be presented Oct. 17-Nov. 1 at The Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., Chicago. Tickets are $15, available by calling 1-800-650-6449, or going to 

I had the chance to talk to writer and co-director Ricky Glore about the upcoming show. 

Q - How long have you been thinking of the idea for the show? What made you want to do the show? 

I have always loved the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movie series. It is the best horror series, hands down.

I was shown the movies at probably too young of an age, but even then I knew that they were scarier than the others. With Michael and Jason, you have a nightmare about them, and you wake up and think, "Oh, well they're not real, nothing to be afraid of. With Freddy, if you have a nightmare about him, you're going through EXACTLY what the kids go through in the movies...very terrifying.

A big inspiration for this production was a couple of shows that the Scooty and JoJo Show had done, "Alien Queen" and "Carpenters Halloween," a couple of musical parody shows. I had seen "Alien Queen" years ago when they first did it, and thought, "I'd love to do that with something I really loved and was passionate about."

While sitting in full costume, waiting to perform in a Public House Theatre show called "Bouncers," which ran in May of this year, I had the idea...combine "Elm Street" with Backstreet Boys, and make it "A Nightmare On Backstreet." Originally I just had the title, and was lucky to run into the owner/artistic director of the theatre, Byron Hatfield, out in the lobby.

I did a quick pitch to him of the show and told him that I'd love to do it in October. Lucky for me, he seemed to really dig the idea, and probably could see how amped up I was, and right there, agreed to produce and put it up.

In just two days I had the first draft completed. The more and more I wrote, the more and more it became clear how eerily well Backstreet Boy songs fit with the original "Elm Street" film. 

Q - Is the show coming together as you envisioned? How did you go about picking the cast and what do you think they bring to the show? 

One thing I do as a writer, which isn't the best thing to do, is envision how the show would be produced, with everything I write. I'm always writing thinking, "Oh yeah, this will get put on stage."

This is a good thing and a bad thing. It's good if I end up directing the show, because I have made it a lot easier and feasible to stage, it's bad for the writer in me, because I think I self edit during the writing process, and this is never good.

The show is coming together very nicely. Since I'm a nerd of the "Elm Street" series, I know how some of the practical special effects were done.

That's what is great about '80s horror films...NO CGI! I am able to reproduce a few of the special effects that were done, because they were practical effects.

We held auditions in July, and had a great turn out of all kinds of actors. The show has a great deal of dancing and singing, but we also had to find that balance of comedic timing and charm as well.

After casting the show, I found out that for many of them, this was going to be their first show as Chicagoans, and that is something I think that is brought out in the performances. You can really see how hungry and energetic these performances are.

I'm not sure if you know this, but the first "Elm Street," was the film debut of Johnny Depp. Like the movie, we have a Chicago debut of Noah Evans Arnold, who just turned 18 in July, playing the character, affectionately named as an homage, Depp.

With the newbies to Chicago, we also have some great seasoned performers like Ali Delianides, Brenda Scott, Megan Renner and Andre DuBois. 

Q - I see that the show is being promoted on the official website for "Nightmare on Elm Street." Did you ever expect something like that? Is that a badge of honor for you? 

Huge badge! Seeing that was surreal.

I have seen on some of the "Elm Street" fan pages on Facebook and whatnot, that you have two different mindsets from the fans; some are really excited to see a staged version, and the others are not happy about the aspects of Freddy being a musical, and having that music being Backstreet Boys.

I want to assure any fan skeptics, that this project is being done by someone with a love for the film series, and that they shouldn't be worried. 

Q - You seem to be a pretty dedicated fan of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies. What kind of impact did they have on you when you first watched them and how do you think they stand up today? 

As I stated before, I think the "Elm Street" series is hands down the best horror movie series. They are so much more cerebral than all of the others.

If I had to pick which one was my favorite, I think I'd have to go with the fan favorite number 3, "Dream Warriors." I think they hold up and there hasn't been a horror series like it since.

The 2010 remake tried to recapture the magic, but came no where close. I will say that it is quite interesting to see all of the merchandise and kids dressed up as Freddy on Halloween, considering he was a child murderer... 

Q - You have done stand-up comedy in the past. Why do you think Chicago is such a strong breeding ground for comedians? 

Before moving to Chicago in 2010, I did stand-up in Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati area for about six years. I was really fortunate to work as an MC at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Newport, KY, and have the opportunity to work with a lot of my idols. During my college years, I was able to get training in improv from NKU Theatre Chair, Ken Jones, and that is what really fueled my want and need to move to Chicago.

I was always a fan of The Second City and iO (formally Improv Olympics), and worshipped all of the greats that came through both of those institutions. When I moved up, I got a job serving at Second City and began to take classes there and at iO. 

Nothing was better than watching the likes of Emily Wilson, Tim Mason and Tim Robbins destroying the stage at Second City. It was also really cool to see S.N.L come through and hire people from these stages.

Being two feet away from Lorne Michaels, is a sobering experience to a kid from Kentucky, who grew up idolizing Phil Hartman and Saturday Night Live.

Sorry, I haven't really answered your question of why I think Chicago is such a strong breeding ground for comedians...hmmm... Well, all I can speak from is my experience, and what I knew when I moved up, and from what I know now, is that this is where it is at.

Besides having the institutions that are churning out comedy (The Public House Theatre being a new player to the game, in a big bad way, trust me), you have so many like minded people that are all excited to create. I think that's what brought me here.

It's the Disney World for smart asses and people who still use there imagination for comedy. I guess to simplify it in one word...LEGACY. 

Q - Speaking of comedy, you had the opportunity to meet Robin Williams. What was that experience like and what did you come away with after talking to him? 

My dad took me to go see a show of his in Cincinnati, about five years ago. The man did two-and-a- half-hours of material, non-stop, by himself!

I have never seen anything like this in my life. Not everything he said was funny, but that was OK because he says a thousand things a minute, so he rebounds pretty quickly.

I was fortunate to meet with him after the show, and what really struck me, was how much he engaged me in conversation. He asked me what I did, and when I told him I was an actor and comedian, he asked what the last thing I worked on was. I told him that we just closed "Of Mice And Men" at my college, and then for about 30 minutes, we talked about the show and his love for Steinbeck.

In the final moments of our conversation, I let him know how much of an inspiration he was for me and that his films brought me a tremendous amount of joy. He was extremely humble and stated that, that was the reason why he performed, to make others happy.

I told him that what I really loved about his work was that I literally could grow up with it. He asked what I meant, and I said, "When I was little, I loved 'Mork and Mindy,'  'Aladdin,' and 'Mrs. Doubtfire,' and as I got older and matured, I loved 'Patch Adams,' 'Dead Poets Society,' 'Good Will Hunting,' and my ultimate favorite, 'A World According to Garp.' "

He laughed and looked at my dad and said something to the effect of, "I guess your to blame for showing him all of those?" We all laughed and said thanks.

As my dad and I walked away, I just marveled at how humbled and human he was. When I found out about his passing I was saddened for numerous reasons, but one reason was a selfish reason...I couldn't grow up any more with him.

It still will be a while until I'm able to watch "What Dreams May Come."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Chicago group The Robert Hynes Band breaks boundaries on new album


Unlike much of the music on mainstream radio today, it's hard to put a label on Chicago-based The Robert Hynes Band.

The band demonstrates as much on its new CD, "My Machez A Mio," as it dips into blues, rock, country and other genres. The band will celebrate the release of the CD by playing Oct. 8 at the Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., Chicago.

David Hawkins and Teresa Storch also are on the bill. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5, available at
I had the chance to talk to Hynes about the new album. 

Q - Great talking to you. In making  "My Machez A Mio," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

It's great talking with you and the Total Scene blog. Over the last couple of years I've been performing this material around Chicago with my band. 

I really wanted to be able capture our live show experience in a recording.  We wanted the raw sound, and I'm very happy with how it turned out! 

Q - The band dips into many genres on the album, including blues, jazz and country. Your first band, Dragonfly, also roamed through a number of genres, including Latin jazz, funk and rockabilly. You seem like the type of musician that doesn't like to be confined to a certain genre. 

Very true. I really don't pay attention to genre when writing, or where a song belongs, other than for inspiration. 

I do like a wide variety of music, so my band's material ends up being pretty eclectic. 

Over the years, way back since Dragonfly, I've played a little of this and a little of that. With the Robert Hynes Band, it's pretty much the same, with a touch more blues and smaller group.

My favorite artists have always been those that are hard to pin down to one category like Ray Charles, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Taj Mahal, and The Beatles.

Q - How did your current band form and what do you think each of you brings to the table? 

I've been very fortunate to work with some great Chicago musicians, and my current four piece group is a blast to play with.  Fred Mundinger is on guitar and backing vocals. We've played together since 1992/'93 in various band formations. He has a great sense of tone and musicality. 

I've been with Kevin Becker (upright bass) since '08, and Mike Bruno (drummer) since '09. Like Fred and I, they both have wide spanning tastes.

Kevin has a laid back style, and Mike has great feel and plays with taste. Because of our influences and talents, we have become awesome  collaborators  in creating our sound.

Q - I understand that when you attended the College of DuPage, you studied under several prominent guitarists, including Tom Sanchez (formerly of the band Liquid Soul), jazz-fusion guitarist Steve Ramsdell, classical guitarist Scott Johnston.What were the biggest things that you learned from them? 

Practice, practice, practice, then practice some more.  Know your stuff and play with feeling. 

There's always more to learn. Those guys are all so good, I learned a lot from them and others and am still working on some most of it! 

Finger-style, improvising over changes, sight reading, ear training and composition are the most important things I learned. Tommy was my long-time teacher. I bought my Gibson ES 175  (my "go to" guitar) from him in 2002, and play it at most shows.

Q - You are a music teacher yourself. What are the major things that you try to teach your students? 

Play what inspires you, whatever it is. Make your practice enjoyable so you'll keep at it and you'll get better. 

Always try new things on your instrument to keep growing, and make use of all of your resources. On a practical level I work on sight reading, transcribing popular tunes, chord voicing, rhythm/picking patterns, improvising solos etc. 

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

There's a ton of talent in Chicago and the surrounding area. As an original songwriter the Chicago music scene can be a bit tricky to navigate, but I've found some success by being diverse. 

I've kept busy as a musician by teaching (guitar, bass, ukulele, banjo, mandolin, and a rock band course), and performing. 

I also build and sell cigar box guitars,  hot-rod guitars and amps, and do a variety of repairs. I really enjoy bringing these creations, such as a home-built rotating Leslie cabinet, to my shows. 

They help me to deliver a sound and experience, that is uniquely "Robert Hynes, Rust Bucket Funk." Because my band has a wide range we've been lucky to open for many great touring acts passing through Chicago like New Orleans legend Buckwheat Zydeco and Leo Nocontelli (guitarist of the Meters).

I'm always looking for opportunities like that, or anything else that pops up!