John Waite- a few quick words….

John Waite has one of the best voices in rock.

JOHN WAITE by Denise Duff

© Denise Duff

 

From his time in the Baby’s, who scored two Top 20 hits, through his solo hits, which include the number one hit, “Missing You,” to his time fronting the supergroup Bad English, who also scored a number one hit with “When I see you Smile,” John Waite has put his mark on the rock music landscape.

 

Not one to rest on these past successes, John has continued to write and record new material. His most recent release, Rough and Tumble, is a showcase of his songwriting and that voice, which has not weakened a bit over thirty years.  John and his band will be showcasing material from this new album Thursday November 3 at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem.

 

clay: Thanks for taking some time out to talk on this early Saturday Morning

JW: No problem, thank you!

 

clay: I wanted to talk a little about your new album Rough and Tumble.

It is a very organic sounding record- not a lot of overdubs, with a live in the studio sound that really highlights your vocals

JW: Yes, the album is really two albums in one. It started out as an EP of the songs that I wrote with Kyle Cook, but we were asked for more. So, the second group of songs was recorded live in the studio, with few overdubs. I’ve never been a fan of a lot of effects.

 

clay:: You mention Kyle Cook of Matchbox 20. How did that writing partnership come about?

JW: I was familiar with Matchbox 20 from their singles. Kyle and I have a mutual friend, and he had mentioned that we should write together. I have been burned in the past, writing with people that I did not know. But Kyle and I were in Nashville at the same time, and we met blind, and wrote something almost immediately. We then wrote several more songs together.

clay: With solid end results.

 

clay: Your career has spanned several decades. How does music in 2011 compare to say, your time in the Baby’s , back in the late 70’s?

JW: I think it all comes down to experience. But basically it is still about the song. Pop music has always existed and sometime Rock crosses over into that, and you get something like Arena Rock. But it is really all about the song.

I am quite happy to be out here by myself. If I make a record that I like, I will get out there and tour behind it. It has been 5 years since my last record, so we are getting out with this one.

 

clay: So are you out on the road now?

JW: We leave Tuesday for three weeks, then come back for a bit and then head out again ending with a show just before New Years in Indiana, that includes Kyle Cook, by the way…

 

clay: I have to ask a question you have probably heard a million times.

JW: No, the answer is no. HAHA. But – no.. really.

 

clay: HA- You have one of the most recognizable voices in rock, and one of the best- who are your influences?

JW: Yeah, well when I was 4, I wanted to be a cowboy, so I listened to Marty Robbins. Then when I was eighteen, I moved to London and listened to bands like Free. The Beatles were huge with me, Hendrix… even some people I did not like, were influential.

 

clay: What kind of setlist can we expect on this Tour?

JW: You know, I don’t get up there and go through the motions. We are playing about half of the new record, and of course play pretty much what the fans expect. It is funny though, sometimes I get the wrong setlist and leave off one of the hits.. but so far I haven’t heard any complaints if we forget to play one of the hits. It is more about the overall experience.

 

clay: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

JW: Thank you Clay and God Bless.

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The Damnwells …setting a new path with new record, No One Listens to the Band Anymore

Every band that sets up in the basement or garage has the dream of getting that big shot: opening slots on bills with your heroes, rock stardom…a major label record deal.

The Damnwells have lived that dream, opening on tours for bands such as Cheap Trick, signing deals with Epic records and recording big budget albums. The lead singer of the band, Alex Dezen, also holds one of my favorite rock and roll moments- watching him sing “Surrender” with Cheap Trick , his face frozen in a grin like a child who has met Santa…

The Damnwells have also experienced the sometimes-devastating reality that follows achieving the rock and roll dream- being dropped by the label and left to their own means. Unlike so many bands that go through this experience alone and unnoticed, for the Damnwells, the rise and subsequent letdown was documented in the film, Golden Days. (now available on DVD)

“One of my best friends had an idea to document our rise to stardom, and was able to capture so much more,” said Alex Dezen , lead singer and songwriter of the band, by phone. “I am very glad that he was there, because it helped deal with all the stuff that was going on.

For many bands, the death of the major label dream is also the death of the band.  Not so for the Damnwells… Alex Dezen turned this experience into a rebirth.

After the drama of recording the album, Air Stereo, Dezen returned to school- earning his Masters in Creative Writing from Iowa. “Returning to school was what was needed to refresh after the experience documented in Golden Days,” said Dezen.

During this time, Dezen and band recorded an album called One Last Century, and in a strange twist, gave it away for free via Paste Magazine. This seemingly counterproductive decision turned out to be a shrewd move. Using the email addresses captured in the giveaway, the band began a fundraising campaign via the website pledgemusic.com. The initial goal of raising $20K was exceeded by more than 200%. These funds are allowing the Damnwells to release their new disc without going into debt. The fans have become the record label…

Utilizing this “new” method of fan-support is not that odd to Dezen, “For centuries, artists would be paid to produce art for a benefactor- supported in total by the recipient of the art, ” said Dezen. “This is really no different, just a return to those days before capitalism took over art.”

The result of this fan-funded project is No One Listens to the Band Anymore, a record that fully represents the lyrical and melodic mastery of Alex Dezen, and the concise mood-fitting music the band is known for. The release more than delivers on the expectations of those supporters who donated over $40,000 to make it happen, with highlights being the stunning, “The Great Unknown,” and “Let’s Be Civilized.”

The album was released on March 15, and is available on iTunes and through the band’s own webstore.

March 29 finds the band returning to North Carolina soil for the first time since 2006,  with a stop on their headlining tour dropping them at King’s in downtown Raleigh.

“During the fundraising on pledgemusic, we kept hearing people say, “Come to North Carolina”, and discovered we have a pocket of fans in the state, so we are happy to be able to play there on this tour,” said Dezen.

Every band begins with a dream, but not every band is adept at adapting those dreams to the reality of the musical landscape of the 2000’s.. The Damnwells are not only evolving, they are helping to set the new model.

my lost interview with Mitch Easter, from 2006

(written for indie ‘zine, Sparkle (now-defunct) in 2006 as part of the Sparklefest 2006 program)

Mitch Easter.

In most circles, it is a name ubiquitous with the Southern Indie Pop scene of the early 1980’s led by the likes of REM and Easter’s own Let’s Active. Let’s Active released three full-length records and one EP from 1983 to 1988. Touring with such notable acts as REM, The Church, Echo & the Bunnymen and others, the band had numerous personel changes in its existence but at the core of it was Mitch’s catchy but often unorthodox songs and his incendiary guitar playing. Guitar playing that was always joyful and celebratory instead of inward looking. Since 1990, Mitch Easter has been spoken of more as a renowned producer and engineer, and rightfully so, having worked with such notables as the aforementioned REM, Marshall Crenshaw, Velvet Crush and Drive By Truckers, to name but a very few. However, his prowess on the fret board and as a songwriter should never be neglected, and was the focus of my recent conversation with him.

Sparkle: Let’s talk a little about your musical influences, you know, your firsts…First guitar, first record, first band, etc…

Mitch:My first guitar was a Brand X Woolworth’s guitar, but a few months after I got that, I got an old Gibson ES-330, which is what I learned to play on..

Sparkle: Still got those guitars?

Mitch: Yes, both of them, although the “Woolworth” is missing its electronics and has the beginnings of a failed “psychedelic” paint scheme, oops…

Sparkle: What was the first record you remember buying for yourself?

Mitch: The 1st one I bought myself was Walk, Don’t Run ’64, by the Ventures.

Sparkle: Fitting, for a great guitar player, such as you.

Mitch: You are too kind!

Sparkle: I saw you and Shalini play a set of Ventures material as part of the Tsunami benefit. Would you say that they were one of the biggest influences on your playing?

Mitch: Absolutely- Nokie Edwards is amazing!  He has a very distinctive tone, which he seemed to mostly achieve just with his fingers and amp volume, although there is some occasional perfect “fuzz box” sound now and then. I really like their own songs, like the originals on the “Batman Theme” LP, “Guitar Genius of the Ventures”, etc.  Watch their live show from around ’65 on the Japanese film “Beloved Invaders” and have your mind blown!

Early on, however, I figured I’d pattern myself on Don Wilson, the rhythm player.  A lost art, rhythm guitar!

Sparkle: Being a lead guitar player, patterned after perhaps one of the greatest rhythm players- do you think that helps explain your very distinctive style?

Mitch: The Executive Decision to Officially Play Rhythm was, I think, a function of being 12 and deciding that “Lead” Guitar had to be nearly impossible!  Having failed to distinguish myself in Jr. High Band class, I set my sights on something I might actually be able to do, I thought.  The great thing was, I was totally happy trying to do a good job on the chords for a long time, which had to be useful training. When I was 13 or so, our little combo was playing at the famed Knollwood (church) Coffeehouse and an impressive older hipster kind of guy approached me and the drummer about jamming.  This person was the legendary Sam Moss, who was maybe 15 and therefore vastly more worldly and knowledgeable about…everything.  This was probably the essential turning point for me, the moment which set me on the Road to Ruin.

Because this jam was astounding- we learned brand-new songs such as Purple Haze, Sunshine of Your Love, Revolution, etc. and in one afternoon my guitar playing was stretched so far I actually got a cramp in my hand.  I also felt instantly a lot less concerned with the cares and machinations of the other 7th Graders!  What a relief.  This outfit became the Impeturbial Teutonic Griffin, a name which we must credit Chris Stamey, although we managed to misspell it ourselves.

After awhile, Sam Moss went on to bigger and better things, and that’s when it seemed to fall to me to become the Lead Player.  Oops.  I remember trying to get something like the guitar effect of the Doors’ Hello, I Love You, using my Lafayette fuzz box, and although it wasn’t exactly “lead” guitar, it was moving in that direction.  I just floundered around and eventually it sort of came into focus.  If I have a distinctive style, it’s probably because I used to hate to try to figure out solos off records.  Too lazy!

Sparkle: Did I read that Tim Lee played with you (Let’s Active) for a while?

Mitch: Time Lee did a tour with Let’s Active as the guitar-keyboard person.

After Sara Romweber quit the band we never exactly had a stable line-up, and had more of the “…and their Heavy Friends”  approach to getting it together for tours.  Even when we were officially a 3-piece, we often had a 4th person onstage.


Sparkle:One of your early bands, Sacred Irony played a show with an up and coming band called the Allman Brothers, did you not?

Mitch: Not exactly.  We were supposed to play at the Love Valley Festival, where the Allman Bros. did indeed play, but our slot never occurred.

We were standing by with all our gear loaded into our Band Hearse, but we never got to play.  There aren’t any released recordings but we did record at an actual studio on 3 occasions.

Sparkle: Any other brushes with greatness?

Mitch: Well!  Sacred Irony got to be Bobby Sherman’s backing band one night.

Sparkle: The “Sacred Irony” demos you mentioned- any plans to release these or any other past unreleased recordings? Perhaps a collectors edition Box Set, somewhere down the line?

Mitch:Nah, I mean this is the territory where Mysterious Forces may bring stuff like that to light, but not me.  I am amazed and impressed that people find old obscure things and do something with them but I’d so much rather work on new songs and put them out.

Sparkle: As someone who was a part of that fertile period of the 70’s and 80’s, with bands such as Let’s Active, the Db’s, Arrogance, and later the Graphic and others making a name on a regional and National level, and as a vital part of today’s music scene, how do you look at the “Musical World” today versus your time with IRS and Let’s Active?

Biggest differences- positive and negative?

Mitch:This will just sound like the typical old fart answer, but basically you used to have to be able to play and deliver onstage and now you don’t, exactly.  Let me add that people who aren’t hotshots often make interesting records but they often don’t, too, and generally the 1st thing a person does isn’t going to be very good.  Therefore it’s a bit of a problem when everybody’s every idea is out there to wade through.

The accessibility of things now is great- I love You Tube and that’s a great service!  But the old mechanism, including promotion, art departments, etc. was a “professional” scene which actually worked very well!  If standards don’t stay high, people aren’t going to bother trying to find something good in a sea of half-baked records.  I’m sure this will all sort itself out over time.

Sparkle:Any bands out right now that in your opinion should be heard?

Mitch: Stratocruiser, of course! (note: Mitch mixed the new stratocruiser record, and this writer sings on it, but this was an unsolicited response…)

Sparkle:How do you describe what you are doing now musically? (Shalini, Mitch Easter Combo, the Fiendish Minstrels)

Mitch:I have the “Mitch Easter” combo, and then there’s the “Shalini” one that I play guitar in, and both bands are still at it with records coming out before too long.  I abandoned the Fiendish Minstrels name because nobody could spell “Fiendish”, plus the bill would invariably add “Featuring Mitch Easter” and I didn’t like the “featuring” bit!  So I figure I’m saving everybody some trouble by using my name, boring as that is.

Sparkle:Tell me about your new record. Who are the players on it and how would you describe the sound?

Mitch:I found it liberating to consider anything I had for this imaginary new record, including tracks that were already recorded, in some cases ages ago.  Nobody has heard this stuff, so it really doesn’t matter when it was done, you know?  So, some of these are my initial versions with me playing everything and others are the current band.  One of the songs was written on Sept. 18th, 2006 and there may be one from ’87.

Nevertheless, I think it will add up just fine.  I never worry about being “current” or anything in particular; I just do my thing and if it pleases me it’s in!  And I think as musicians we always sound like ourselves, for better or worse.

Sparkle:What’s in your cd player right now?

Mitch: New Order!

Gary Cherone- “just a singer in a rock and roll band”

Gary Cherone is one of rock’s best vocalists, with an impressive catalog of songs with his band Extreme and as a solo artist. Gary and Extreme had a number one song, a top five hit and several platinum selling records… When Extreme disbanded in 1996 he was hand-picked by a certain guitarist in Southern California to front one of the world’s most successful bands. …

Back with Extreme since 2008’s excellent, Saudades de Rock, Gary Cherone took a few minutes to discuss the band’s latest release-the DVD entitles Take Us Alive, their first official live release, his new side project Hurtsmile and some of his influences…

CH: Hi Gary- I’d like to talk about Extreme’s new live CD/DVD- Take Us Alive…. First of all- what took so long? Extreme has always been known as a great live band…What made the final decision to release an official Live cd?

GC: That seems to be the question- What took so long. Well, we took a 13 year hiatus. We actually did document some footage on the Pornograffitti  tour, we recorded two Hammersmith shows in London. We still have that footage and we are trying to get all the pieces together and maybe release it in the future. But that footage kind of fell by the wayside- we went on to do III sides, and were like a bunch of ADD kids who couldn’t keep ourselves on one project ( laughing).

We are very excited about Take Us Alive. The band got back together and thought it is important for us to make new music, rather than be thought of as a nostalgia band and just play the hits. So – new tour, new record, and we wanted to document that. And we hope to , if we can, document every tour from this point.

CH: You mention your new record, Saudades de Rock. To me, it stands right up next to your classic records of the early 90’s. The feel was much like 1994’s Waiting for the Punchline– a very live sounding recording, with minimal overdubbing, and some great songwriting.

GC: Well- Thank You. You are right on the mark. Nuno produced it, it has a really love feel. In the studio, you know, you are going to do some overdubs, some guitars, a vocal or two… but for the majority of Saudades- those were the performances. To listen to that record- I would put that up as one of the best performances in the band’s career. Listening back to some of the old records, there are some good performances … but on this one- the band was on. I am very proud of it.

CH: Saudades continues the band’s tradition of not being stuck in one genre or style. An example- the song “Ghost” is one of your stronger moments as a writer, and while not like it sonically, it continues the path of just writing songs that you started with the inclusion of “When I first Kissed You ” on Pornografiitti, or the entire 3rd side of III sides…

GC:  Saudades is a combination of… when we got together, Nuno and I did not have a plan. We just got together and wrote, the band went into pre-production and rehearsal and we just let it flow. Listening to this record is almost like a combination of all those 4 records. “King of the Ladies” is like early Extreme, fun Extreme…”Comfortably Dumb” sounds like something that could have come off “Punchline.”

CH: “Star” is like that , too…

GC: Sure, that is what I really like about Extreme, there really are no boundaries. You mentioned “When I first kissed You.” That is something that we wrote at the end of that record, and the record company really wanted it as a B-side. I remember , we were so adamant about… “No, No, No- we really want to show this side..

CH: I was a college DJ at the time Pornograffiti came out, and I would play that song quite a bit..

GC: What was the reaction?

CH: It was always good, followed by “Who was that?” I would follow with ” Get the Funk Out, and people would not believe it was the same band,… Your vocals would also change from style to style…
You have often been compared to Freddie Mercury live, but who are some of your writing influences?

GC: I think from the writing side, and I am in no way comparing, but more aspiring to-I am a big Dylan lyrical fan. The way he can tell a story, I still feel like I am in the infancy of trying to tell some of those story-telling songs…

But also, Townsend, Roger Waters, especially with the solo stuff I have done and some of the deeper cuts with Extreme…Those are some of the writers I go back to and they just blow me away. I can listen to a Floyd lyric and think “where did this guy come from”…Anything from the Who, Bernie Taupin is one of my favorites lyrically with Elton John-that writing team. Believe it or not I am reliving my childhood again and getting into the early AC/DC again, you know, straight down the middle rock that pulls something primal out of you when you listen.

I could go on forever, Queen, Alice Cooper- lyrically, I think Alice Cooper is very underrated, I think he is an incredible storyteller.

CH: And you quoted him on Pornograffiti…

GC: Absolutely- a nod to the Master.

CH:  Changing gears- you have another project in the works..

GC: Yeah, I am probably two tracks away from finishing the Hurtsmile CD that I put together with my brother, We plan on releasing it in the Fall. Not to take anything away from Extreme, as Nuno and I are writing together for the next Extreme record, as well.

CH: The Hurtsmile record is, you mentioned primal before, it is much more hard-rock than what people might expect.

GC: Yeah, it is different. The Tribe of Judah stuff I did was kind of a reaction to coming out of Van Halen- the last thing I wanted to be in was a three piece rock band. But at the end of the day, I am what I am, and that is a singer in a rock and roll band, and the Hurtsmile record is pretty much just rock and roll.

CH:  Want to touch briefly on the “Take Us Alive ” dvd and the videos that are included on it. “King of the Ladies,” looks like it was a lot of fun to make…

GC: Yeah , that was the most fun. I t basically was a backyard barbecue. “Run” is one of my favorites, as it kind of documents the Japanese leg of the tour, and shows the band in and around the city, with some live footage that we took on the road.

CH: Gary- you guys have toured with a huge number of bands over the years- are there any that you would like to play with?

GC: I have been throwing this out  for years, Cheap Trick would be my first thought. We are huge Cheap Trick fans, and have got to meet them and know them over the years- maybe somewhere down the road- that would be great. I would like to have a string of dates with KISS as well, just to say “we toured with KISS.” At this point we will tour with anybody, anywhere- we just want ot get out there and play.

CH: And we look forward to seeing more of that as well. It is a pleasure to talk to you, and look forward to the next record an tour.

GC: Thanks Clay- good interview- great to talk to someone who knows the history.

She’s got the medicine that everybody wants- Grace Potter interview 2


Two years ago I had the opportunity to speak to Grace Potter as she and her band, the Nocturnals, were passing through the Carolinas in support of their debut album.

Once again, the band is playing a string of dates in the Carolinas, but this time, the band has a brand new self-titled record that debuted in the Billboard Top 20,is currently the album of the month in Playboy and has received accolades from every major music publication in the Country.

Grace was kind enough to give me a few minutes of her time as the band continues grow their audience- the old fashioned way- through constant touring and hard-work.

CH: Hello Grace! Congratulations on the immediate success of your new self-titled cd. I think you debuted in the Top 20..

GP: It did!! I am so excited!

CH: You have new band members working with you since we last spoke.

GP: That’s right, we have a North Carolina girl, actually!

Y!W: Catherine Popper…She worked with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals didn’t she?

GP: Exactly, exactly. And we have Benny Yurco. To be honest, Benny was always kind of the fifth Beatle in the band, anyways. He knew all the songs, he knew all the ropes, but he wasn’t expecting to get in full-time. When it was time to reform the group- instead of just replacing our former bass player, I thought it would be more interesting to kind of recreate the band, and get a new energy and a new focus. Having five members certainly adds a depth and allows for more sonic elasticity.

CH: The production on this album certainly showcases that, and it actually sounds like a band that is playing live together, enjoying that experience, and not just piling up tracks…

GP: We were playing live together, so I am glad you picked up on that. Most of the lead  vocals are live, and the backing vocals are obviously overdubbed. But there is very little overdubbing that went on. You know it is like when you make a really, really good pancake or something- sometimes you only have to put syrup on it, and not butter, or chocolate, or powdered sugar or all that other crap…(laughing) In this case we just put a little syrup on it and it was good to go.

CH: When I spoke to you two years ago, I asked you “What is next?” as your career path or trajectory was already on a straight path up. Since then you have done the Good Morning America show (again), which for many is a lifetime experience…

GP: An early lifetime experience (laughing)… early a.m.

CH: And you are doing the Tonight Show ( also again)… you certainly have shown me what is next…

GP: You know, when we did those two shows on our first record, it was really our training ground… rock band boot camp. This time around, we are really able to enjoy it, and it feels less like a whirlwind, and more like what we were born to do.

CH: You have really engaged your audience through things like your facebook page and viral videos of acoustic performances for the songs on your new album that you have been posting on your website…

GP: Mtv is gone, you know, and the only way to make people feel like they are seeing the real thing is to shoot a band in an irregular situation. Where they are playing their instruments live, and you can tell it is all real, and you can tell it is all coming from the heart. We have eight of these viral videos that we have done, so we are slowly putting them out. It has been a really fun journey.

As far as facebook- that is all me, well the facebook is not me, but I twitter, and the posts that I do go to facebook. I now have that instant connection with the fans. We have such a crazy life, so it is kind of our diary and running commentary… I am slowly starting to understand it, although I still do not know how to sign into facebook (laughing)

CH: You are touring again…. well, check that… do you ever stop touring?

GP: We very rarely stop touring…it has been a part of our identity since the beginning and it is something that I love. We create waves, not metaphysically but physically. we go out there and we play to people, and we look at their faces. That’s how we know- that is how we identify success- through the look on people’s faces at the end of a night.

CH: Well- I thank you for your time and look forward to being one of those faces at your show at the Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh on July 21.

GP: Thanks again, Clay!

A Charmed Life, and an immensely talented musician- Brian Ray

photo credit ©Glen Wexler Brian Ray has a gig that every other musician on the planet can only dream of. He also has a career  that a screenwriter would be afraid to create for fear of being too utterly unbelievable….

Brian Ray is the rhythm guitarist and bass player for Paul McCartney… That Paul McCartney.

When Paul sits down at the piano, Brian has the job of playing the bass lines that changed the way people play bass. Brian has had a career filled with gigs like this, playing with legends, writing hit songs for people like Smokey Robinson and more…

With Sir Paul visiting the Queen City on July 28, I took the opportunity to ask Mr. Ray a few questions…

photo credit © Glen Wexler

ch: Thanks Brian for taking the time to give me a call…This leaves out  quite a few- but a few highlights…Your first band backs Bobby Pickett of  “monster mash” fame,  14 years with Etta James, writing hits for Smokey Robinson and playing rhythm guitar and bass with Sir Paul McCartney on tours, in the studio and at the Super Bowl, arguably the biggest show out there. Do you ever stop and pinch yourself?

Brian: I pinch myself regularly.(laughing) Every once in a while I say to Abe (Abe Laboriel Jr., McCartney drummer) “Look where we are! We are playing in the White House for the president, who is sitting 4 feet away! How do you top this… I am indeed very fortunate and very grateful for everything, but I have also worked very hard to get to where I am.

ch: You have played two Superbowls, how do you top that!

Brian: Yeah (laughing) Really, we continue to play these iconic shows like the Super Bowl, the White House, the Isle of Wight that we just played. Again I am just so grateful to Paul for everything he has done for me, and to Etta James for the same.

ch: In addition to playing with Paul McCartney, I believe you have recorded with Ringo Starr as well, you might be one of the few people on the planet who has recorded with both living Beatles…

Brian: You know, I did, I always forget to mention that. (laughing) I met Ringo in 1977, and in 1981 or 1982, I recorded “She’s About a Mover” with him.

ch: You also recently played a halftime show in tribute to Les Paul, how did that come about?

Brian: I was recording my new solo record, and had a crazy idea to write a break into the song, “I Found You” that was like a marching band, but with guitars in place of the trombone parts, guitars in place of the trumpet parts and so on. After a bit, I got up to around 40 tracks of these parts and I thought it turned out great. Not long after that I was introduced to Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins and I mentioned how cool it would be to have that march out at a halftime show in place of a marching band.  On the spot, he offered to let me do it. As the planning progressed we decided to do more familiar songs, and I ended up doing it with Rick Nielsen and Orianthi, who was lined up to be Michael Jackson’s guitarist before he passed away. You can watch the whole tribute on youtube.

ch: We have  mentioned a few of the numerous people you have played or written with. Are there any artists that you would like to work with, that you have not?

Brian: Good question. I have really been getting into the Retro Soul coming out of Northern England and from people like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Growing up, I listened to a pirate radio station out of Mexico called XURB and a dj named Wolfman Jack. The songs he played were the rythm and blues that are the bedrock for all rock and roll. Without it, there would be no rock and roll…So these new bands really interest me, and I would love to write with someone like Sharon Jones or James Hunter. I would also like to write with Robert Plant or one of the younger bands like MGMT.

ch: Your new single, “I Found You,” is currently streaming  on your website. Great summer song….it recalls the days of my youth, when summer meant great new songs on the radio, songs that would hook you immediately, those songs that when you hear them, they immediately carry you back to that time…

Brian: Thanks for saying that. I know what you mean,  One of those songs for me was the Loving Spoonfuls’ “Summer in the City” . Really a great song.

ch: What is the official release date for the new album? -Are there any plans to tour in support of your solo release after the McCartney Tour?

Brian: My  new single, “I Found You”  and “Happy Ending” will be released digitally with Sony/ICON , July 6 on iTunes, with the  full length being released a month later on August 3. The physical release  on Whooray/ICON will be around the same time, with a deluxe edition being released on my website, www.brianray.com.  I would love to tour, and have a new manager, Jamie Talbot, Sanctuary Mgmt.,  so we are looking to see about something in September or October.

ch: Thanks again for taking the time out of your day to talk with me, I look forward to your new cd, and seeing you in Charlotte on July 28 with Paul McCartney.

Brian: Thanks Clay,

Rich Williams, Kansas guitarist- “There’s Know Place Like Home”

Kansas- June 9 at Koka Booth Amphitheater

To many in the musical world of 2010, Kansas is just another tour stop in the center of the country- the place of Dorothy and Toto and tornados…

But to people of my generation, when you say Kansas, the mind races not to a geographic place, but to finely crafted songs with intricate arrangements  featuring guitars, violins and soaring tenor vocals. Growing up, the songs of Kansas filled the airwaves on what was then known simply as rock radio, but has evolved over the graceless passage of time into Classic Rock. The band was a powerful force in the era of Arena rock, with a number of classic hits, including “Dust in the Wind,” “Fight Fire with Fire,” and the inescapable “Carry On Wayward Son.”

Some thirty plus years after the heyday of these songs, Kansas is still touring, this time in support of their new DVD release,” There’s Know Place Like Home.” The tour brings them to Cary’s Koka Booth Amphitheater on June 9. I took this opportunity to speak to Rich WIlliams, original guitarist, about the DVD, the tour and rock in general…

YW: How is the tour going so far?

Rich Williams:  We are out West right now, heading to Billings tomorrow night. We have  done about 10 or 12 shows so far.

YW: How are the audiences ?

Rich Williams: We have always been a family friendly band, so a lot of people have brought their younger brothers or their kids, so we have always had a real good spectrum. But especially since Guitar Hero 2, we have had a big surge in younger audience members. Families play that game together, so that has brought whole families to the show

YW: On the classic recordings like “Carry On Wayward Son”, there were two guitarists, how long have you been carrying the weight as the sole guitarist?

Rich Williams:  Kerry Livgren left the band about 25 years ago, then we did two albums with Steve Morse. And it has basically been me since then.  Our violin player also plays guitar on some songs, but for the most part it is me, for about twenty years.

YW: I have always been intrigued by the interaction between the electric guitar and the violin in your music…it almost sounds like a different instrument

Rich Williams:  Yeah, it really does. When we play either in unison or in harmony, it kind of creates a third instrument

YW: This tour is a co-billing with Styx and Foreigner.  Your new DVD features you guys with a symphony, are there any plans to do this again?

Rich Williams: Yeah, when this tour is over with Styx and Foreigner, we go back and do symphony dates again, to really support the DVD.

YW: Kansas has not played in North Carolina in several years, the last time I remember was at Speed Street in Charlotte, 7 or 8 years ago…

Rich Williams: I spend all my off time up in Youngsville, right outside of Wake Forest. The last time we played in the Raleigh/Durham/Cary area was at Walnut Creek, when it was just called Walnut Creek. This will be the first time back in a long time. We have not been back to NC since that Charlotte show.

YW: This show will be like a homecoming to you. Thanks for your time- I look forward to seeing you in Cary on June 9.

For more information on Kansas, or on their new DVD, please visit http://www.kansasband.com