ECLECTIC ARTS

ECLECTIC ARTS

Saturday, November 29, 2014

"The Beast" From The East (eastern WA that is)

Greetings!

It's time for another interview of a talent I discovered online.  It's amazing what technology has allowed people to do from the comfort of their own homes.  The exposure one can get now is truly astounding.  Talent once unknown can now be known!

After reading the interview, go check out both of his channel's on YouTube.  You'll be glad you did.

Cheers!
Mark
EA



EA: Greetings Juan! How are things on the east side of the mountains? (this is a local term as western and eastern Washington are divided by a mountain range)

JR: It was hot all summer, hotter than I remember and I've been here over twenty years. I can't wait for the winter snow !

EA: I have to say - when I found out you lived in Toppenish, WA, I was surprised. I thought you were somewhere in Mexico or even Spain! *lol*

How long have you lived in Toppenish? Were you born there? What was life like growing up there?

JR: I was born in Guadalajara Mexico but made the move as so many of my peers did to the United States in 1993. I have been in Toppenish ever since and I'll be honest most days I find it hard to remember anything from Mexico. I love it here though I admit recently the whole Yakima Valley has seen more crime than I remember in my younger days.

EA: So your taste in music seems to be similar to mine. So I'm guessing you grew up with metal, oldies, and such in the household? Or how did you get into some of the artists that you like and have covered?

JR: I used to listen exclusively to Spanish music for the first twelve years of my life, and even in my early teens I was in to whatever the radio played, I admit as much. However, it all changed when I stumbled upon a copy of Led Zeppelin IV in 1997 from here on it was all Classic Rock leading in to Heavy Metal and eventually Power Metal. Whenever my vocal experimentations went awry, I'd take breaks from listening to Heavy Metal as I find it impossible not to sing along and this is how I started listening and discovering most of the oldie artists I have covered.

EA: So how I came across your music: I was looking at The Eels video on YouTube (where former Journey vocalist Steve Perry sang for the first time publicly in many years) and then I decided to search videos that were covers of "Oh Sherry". And I found your cover video. I was really intrigued. I looked through many more of your videos on that channel and your oldies channel.

How did all of this YouTube work start?

JR: It started without much commotion and with almost no hope for a spark or expectations. I had sung my last talent show in 2002 for my school, that was also the year I graduated. Since then I never publicly sang a single note for over eight years. Through many personal circumstances that arose around September, 2010 I found myself frequenting bars more and more. After much prodding from family members I was convinced to attempt karaoke at a particular bar called Stone Henge here in Zillah, WA. Now let me clear up, I had NEVER done karaoke before, despite my channel starting out as some form of karaoke this was the first time I ever attempted it. It would be a month later that I was then persuaded due to the positive response at the bar to start a channel on You tube. I was very against this from the start cause I had no band or played any instruments, who would want to just stare at my face for a good five minutes? But I started it and expectedly so there was almost no commotion until February 21, 2010 when my cover of "Sweet Child O' Mine" went viral and changed my life.


EA: What kind of music background do you have? Did you take formal lessons? Do you play any instruments?

JR: I was always involved in Choir at school. I think this helped tons in my vocal range later on without intending. I have never taken formal lessons and I don't really believe in them (I'm sorry everyone) but I feel it limits potential and yes I'm fully aware of the dangers it can cause to someone who pushes their voice too much. However, I have expanded my range on my own for almost two decades and I find it so much more rewarding and exciting to explorer it on my own. I used to play the drums and the clarinet...yes the most metal instrument of all. Despite my extreme love of Metal I could never master the guitar despite having purchased three in my life so I decided it was the vocalist life for me!

EA: Tell us more about Twilight Messenger!

JR: Twilight Messenger is a Power Metal project that started as a rant from me about two years ago. I kept complaining to my good friend Andy Feehan that I just never really got a chance to sing about the fantasy genre I love so much. I kind of got stuck in a big 80's Metal run and I wanted to really let the vocal pipes loose so every so often I'd joke with Andy and say "lets do an album all about dragons and battles and screams" well eventually it started becoming a reality with a few songs being drafted. The major push though that changed it from a small online only project was when the boss man at Stormspell Records stepped in and gave us an offer to push this to a much bigger release. I'll spare more of the boring details but I do have to say a big thank you to the members who were involved, Julia Orwell, Jack Sheriff, Chris Johnson and of course Andy Feehan as well as big lifetime debt award to Jordan from Stormspell who taught me tons about what the business is and how to really take advantage of opportunities.

EA: What do you want from your music career? What do you do to pay the bills?

JR: I work at local store here in the valley during the day and fix computers as a side job. This has always given me enough to pay the bills, however it leaves almost no time for music. This is why the Youtube material has dramatically decreased over the last two years since I became the greatest father in the world. As far as my music career or hopes of one the dream for me is a lot simpler than most. I want to keep recording from home if possible with minimal touring. I don't particularly search for bands, I want to be a singer for hire and the hope is that someday I can do enough vocals to keep the family taken care of without the need of the everyday jobs.

EA: What happened when your video for "Sweet Child O Mine" went viral? Were you getting emails and inquiries from all over about it?

JR:  When the video went viral I was driving home from Seattle, the date was February 21st. I had maybe 100 subscribers with a combined total of 10k views for all my videos. By the next morning I had over one million. Since then inquiries have come from all over the world and I have taken some, and lost out on others. I think for anyone that goes viral the biggest challenge is knowing what projects to accept and who to say yes or no to. It's very difficult cause it all hits you at once and no one can ever prepare to go viral.

EA: Do you have any plans to perform live with a band - even if it's just a one off gig?

JR:  My goals for vocal work have changed a lot in the last year and specially as I become more family oriented. I think my main goal is to do studio work and earn some money on the side and every so often if I can get to level of success I hope to, maybe travel to Europe to sing with some of the bands/people I collaborate with online. However, long term touring with a band has never been on the books and I don't see that changing.

EA: Did I see somewhere that you sing at weddings?

JR:  It started as a favor for a long-term friend, and while at this particular wedding I was asked to do another. Being the money hungry jerk I am all I saw were the sweet luxurious perks of being a wedding singer so every so often, despite me saying I won't do another wedding again Mr. Benjamin Franklin twists my arm but I will admit it's not something I do too willingly.


EA: What is the process for collaborating with a musician(s) from different parts of the world? How do you get all the video and audio footage together and then what do you use to edit the material?

JR:  The process can be extremely fun or extremely frustrating depending on the people and the song. In the best-case scenario you get the group together. This day and age there's such a wide range of talented musicians and singers on YouTube you can contact and form long lasting partnerships with especially when it comes to covering or even creating new original material. To make it short and simple, it usually begins with someone taking the lead in organizing and getting the other members to do their parts. Depending on styles either the guitarist will lay down a basic outline of the song with accompanying click track or the drummer will step in and do a rough draft of the song that all other members will use to do their parts. The members will videotape themselves during the recording process and eventually send off both clean audio and video separately for the assigned mixer/video editor. This process is very complex at times depending on the song and depending on free time could take anywhere from a few weeks to almost a year, I have seen it happen!

EA: Whom would you like to plug (YouTube channels, etc)?

JR:  If you have a chance, check out Stormspell's website (http://www.stormspell.com/) as a thank you for giving us the chance to release our first album. Jordan of Stormspell works really hard to give new acts a chance for something bigger and he is a great person to work with. As for the friends I have made thus far from the YouTube community, it'd be much shorter and easier to visit my channel: 

https://www.youtube.com/user/elhombredeloskaraoke 

or my Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thebeastrodriguez

and click on the links on the friends section, I also would hate to leave anyone out of this interview and the list would be too long!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Lee Aaron - Queen From The North

Greetings!

After Delain with Charlotte (Holland) and Xandria with Dianne (Germany/Holland) tore through Seattle last Thursday, I thought it was appropriate to finally publish my interview with a pioneer in rock/metal music:  Lee Aaron!

Hailing from our neighbors to the north (aka Canada), Lee has been rocking audiences since the early 80's.  One of the most underrated vocalists and songwriters of her day, Lee's career has taken twists and turns like many do.  She is currently back in the studio working on a new rock album release!

I grew up listening to Lee's music so this was a real awesome opportunity for me to interview her.  Anyone that listens to the current gothic/symphonic/female fronted rock-metal artists out there, owe something to Lee Aaron, who helped pave the way.  Read on!

Cheers!
Mark
EA Editor/Publisher

EA:  Thanks so much for taking the time Lee!  I really appreciate it.  It's getting warm down here in Seattle (80's F).  How are you this fine Summer July 2014?

LA: Really great..thanks for asking. Summertime is always fun because I get to play great music festivals as well as hang out at the beach with my kids.

EA:  When you first started with the Lee Aaron Project did you ever think all these years later you'd be doing interviews for your music career in 2014?

LA: When I was a teenager, I never thought that far ahead about anything. Everything was so immediate. I think a lot more about the future now...but, yes, I'm really flattered that people are still interested in me and my music.

EA:  I know in other interviews I read about how Attic Records wanted to open an Attic America but the stipulation was that they wanted the whole roster on Attic America and it never materialized.  Meanwhile, all these offers from American labels came and went.

One doesn't like to spend too much time speculating, but for fun, where do you think your career would of gone had your releases been available widespread in America back then?

LA: That's a difficult question to answer. Many Canadian acts that were released in America (that already had success in Canada) often didn't achieve the success stateside that they hoped for anyway. Especially if it was, for instance, MAJOR LABEL Canada with a subsequent token release on MAJOR LABEL America. This was because it wasn't a MAJOR LABEL America 'discovery' or 'signing' by their A&R department. In fact, that scenario was more common than not. Back in the 80's so much of your success hinged upon the actual person or people who signed you and believed in you at the label. I witnessed entire careers slide into oblivion when personnel changes occurred internally at labels. I really don't invest any time thinking of what could have been. I'm pretty happy with having a psuedo-cult status I have with people in the know. 


EA:  What was young Lee (or Karen) like as a child growing up?  I know you were involved with musicals at an early age.

LA: Well, according to my mother, I came home from kindergarten at age 5 and announced that I planned to sing (solo) 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus' at the Christmas recital. She was shocked because I'd never expressed much interest in singing before then. She also said that my practicing was pretty awful and was concerned I would embarrass myself. Apparently when I got in front of an audience I was really good. Now, this is according to my mom...other than that I spent many long, lazy Winnipeg summers catching frogs and climbing trees. I was a tomboy. I also continued my interest in music by joining choir and getting involved in musical theatre. I appeared in quite a few musicals between the age of 6 and 18. 

 
EA:  I've also read how the tag of Metal Queen became synonymous with Lee Aaron.  It reminds me a bit of an actor/actress that gets stereotyped due to one popular role they played.  On one hand they're grateful for what the role brought them but on the other hand they're (sometimes) tired of being compared or stereotyped for it.  Would you say that's similar to what happened with you and the Metal Queen tag?

LA: Umm... yes...that pretty much sums it up. Essentially, my music has always been more like Suzi Quatro or Joan Jett than Metallica or Slayer. That 'label' put many listeners off because they assumed I was a female fronted death metal act, or, conversely, I would get booked on a metal festival and the audience would be disappointed because every song was not a 'Metal Queen' clone. If you understand anything about song writing and break it down into parts, you see that even Metal Queen is a pop tune with massive guitars. That's a huge part of its appeal - the fact that it's easy to sing along to. For a while I did a mash up version of the song infusing U2's Mysterious Ways. Believe it or not, the song structure is exactly the same. Musically it was really fun, but it made some fans upset....

EA:  Yeah, I saw a clip of this a few years ago and it's also on the Sweden Rock Fest DVD I believe.  I'm a fan of U2 so I thought it was an interesting mash-up myself.  Who do you look to as songwriting inspirations (in the early days)?

LA: I equally loved bands like Heart as well as jazz artists like Nina Simone and Ella. It was so inspiring to me to see women who were genuine talents - players and songwriters - who were actually doing it right and could project strength and femininity without trading on their sexuality. I think I have spent most of my career trying to be half as cool as Ann and Nancy Wilson. Nina Simone is untouchable.

EA:  It seems that today you've come to terms with the music and/or image of your past.  Is that an accurate assessment?  It seems that with time, life experiences, and just being in a different head-space, things come around full circle for many musicians.

LA: I was really flattered last year when SOCAN magazine here in Canada wanted to interview me regarding that tune ("Metal Queen"). It was featured in the 'songs that stick with you' section. I'm happy to say that I've made my peace with it now. It seems that as my detractors have  gotten more mature, in hindsight they also recognize the tune as an anthem of empowerment. For both men and women. Hey baby, it was Rock and Roll suffragette 1984.
  
EA:  The music industry back then was very different than it is now.  If artists wanted to grow in popularity and expand their fan base, they had to be signed to a label and (usually) get signed to a major label if they really wanted to break though on an international level.  Today you can record an album in your home that sounds as good as anything from a professional studio and distribute/promote it on your own via social media.  What's your take on the current state of the music industry, your own opinion of the pros/cons of the changes from the 80's to now, and where do you think the industry is headed in the future?

LA: Digital technology and the advent of the internet has changed everything for sure. I came up in the decadent 80's where spending a quarter million on an album was pretty standard. Artists lived in perpetual un-recoupable debt and rarely made a royalty. Digital recording has changed that thankfully. In fact, recorded music is almost simply an advertisement or your live show these days.

The down side is that so much music has lost its organic-ness. I'm not sure if organic-ness is even a word....It's created by people that know how to use their music software really well but not necessarily play an instrument. Songs are crafted with loops and soundscapes. Not to knock that...it's an art in itself, however, I still feel the best songs can stand alone with a piano or guitar and a voice.

EA:  I know when you were getting ready to release your third album, "Call Of The Wild", you were booked for a tour in the UK but the album wasn't finished so you released an EP with the lead off single "Rock Me All Over".  As a teen, I always wondered why the lyrics for the single were eventually changed when the album version came out?

LA: Ha, ha...brilliant question!  No one has ever asked me that before. Yes, the original was about the power of rock music as a transcendent experience. Bob Ezrin (our producer on that album) didn't think it was 'sexy' enough. So it was reluctantly re-vamped to be about a girl with the hots for a band member. 'Rock me all Over' became a euphemism for 'shagging'. Hey, I was a 22 year old kid at that time. I wasn't about to question the dude that produced Pink Floyd! That music shaped my adolescence!

  
EA:  When your next album came out, 1987's self titled release, it seemed at least here in the US, that some of your fans were not happy with the more pop oriented direction of the album.  It happens to be my favorite album of your's for that very reason - the songwriting seemed to go to another level, the melodies, choruses, everything.  It certainly wasn't the metallic edge of "Metal Queen".  What are your thoughts and recollections about that album?

LA: That was definitely a more refined album. The songwriting did go to another level and having Peter Coleman (producer for Pat Benetar) influenced that as well. I think that my inclinations as a writer have always been more pop, as I mentioned before. Peter was a perfectionist and pushed me really hard vocally. At times I was ready to freak out because he would make me punch in one line 40 times to get it just right. I'm grateful though because it did make me a better singer in the end and I learned a lot about pitch and phrasing from him. Also - one little tidbit of fun info - when we were cutting BGs for Only Human, we all sang around one mic, old style. Whenever we got to the line "feed our hearts and fill our souls" we totally cracked up as someone had suggested before the sessions that maybe we were actually singing 'arseholes (our souls)'...okay not very mature but hey, neither were we at the time.

EA:  (laughs)  That's funny and I appreciate the little behind the scenes info!  One song on the album, "If This Is Love", was one of my favorite tunes on that record.  It was one of the few tunes that wasn't written by you is that true?  What can you tell me about that song and how it came across your desk to record?

LA: I was signed to Attic Records (Above Water/Pond Water) publishing at the time so I was regularly being presented with songs. It was a great song, plus I was a Beach Boys fan and thought that covering a song written by Carl Wilson would be cool. 


EA:  For the younger readers, the mid and late 80's definitely saw the popularity of bands such as Warrant, Poison, Cinderella, Winger, Vixen, etc.  Even the old veterans were dabbling in an image or sound change (KISS's albums and videos reflected this change in the hard rock climate at the time, Maiden and Priest using guitar synths on their albums, AC/DC putting out "slicker" sounding albums like "Fly On The Wall", "Who Made Who", and "Blow Up Your Video").  At this time you put out "Bodyrock" and "Some Girls Do" which were very well received releases - earning you gold and platinum awards.  Both of these releases also reflect this, for lack of a better term, hair metal movement at the time.  Do these albums reflect the music you wanted to write and release or was their any pressure from the record label to make your music similar to what was popular at the time?

LA: Ah, yes, the key-tar. That thing should have been outlawed! And yes, there was always pressure. The labels were your investors and wanted to make their return, so they had huge input into the direction of the recordings. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. Often the 'suits' were telling the musicians how to make their music. Sometimes that input was objective and needed, but sometimes, they didn't have a clue. 

  
EA:  Being from Seattle, when the grunge movement hit, it was like a tsunami came through and wiped out many of the very same melodic metal acts of the late 80's.  I know you've mentioned in other interviews that you were no exception to this.  You also left Attic Records at this time and started your own label with the first release being "Emotional Rain".  What prompted the change?  Was it the change in musical climate?  The lack of US distribution from Attic? 

LA:  All of the above...

EA:  At this point - during the 90's, what was it like for you and your career? 

LA:  Well, to be honest, it was tough for all of us. There was no industry support for that style of music so many of my colleagues just disappeared. Money has never been a huge motivating factor for me (which explains some of the more adventurous artistic choices I have made) so I decided to sing jazz and blues because I loved so many songs and artists from that milieu. The media called it a 're-invention' at the time but it was really just me exploring an earlier passion of mine. It's not as though you jump on the jazz bandwagon to get rich and famous..ha! It's funny because at the time people thought it was so weird for me, as a hard rock artist to make an edgy, jazz influenced record and take that to the stage. As a live band, we would totally rock out Nina Simone's 'Do I Move You' with Bonham style drumming and this insane guitar solo. Now Jack White does it and people think it's cool. Well...he is totally cool.

EA:  The "Slick Chick" release showcased something you've always been a fan of (jazz/blues) but to the majority of your fans, it was something drastically different and new.  It has since spawned concerts where you were playing jazz festivals, jazz sets instead of rock sets, etc.  Where did your love of jazz come from in your early years?  Do you think you could of done something like it back in the 80's as a solo/departure album? 

LA: Ha, ha....no. I was scared to even admit my love of that genre during the 80's. I feared my fans would think I was 'selling out' or 'going soft' on them. Stupid when I think of that in hindsight now, because really, it made me a more well rounded musician.


EA:  I read the videos for the "Slick Chick" album were shot in your own home.  Is that right?  They look awesome!  Were they do it yourself productions then?  Who did the directing and editing?

LA: "Why Don't You Do Right" was shot in my former home in Vancouver.  Glad you like it!! And yes, I financed and worked with the director (Chris Hooper - drummer for Grapes of Wrath) on both productions. "I'd Love To" was shot in a warehouse facility. 


EA:  2004 saw the release of "Beautiful Things" which was also well received.  (The title track is amazing by the way - Mark/editor).  This was your last studio release.  If you don't release another record in your career, where does this release rank for you out of all your albums?  I think it's a really complete record with a myriad of styles which show just how underrated you've been all these years, not only as a vocalist, but as a songwriter.

LA:  Wow, thanks. It was a hybrid of pop/jazz/rock I think, and it did blend all my musical influences. I think my songwriting is always evolving and I'll probably never be completely satisfied with any record I make. There is always room to grow right?? It's funny because another fan of mine - who flew all the way from Liverpool to Toronto to see my show - said that he felt that the 2 Preciious release from 1996 was my best and most underrated album. It's my most unheard and hardest to find release anyway...so I was impressed that he had dug so deep into that album.

EA:  Did you ever feel like dropping the Lee Aaron stage name and using your birth name for future projects after the 2Precious release?  Kind of start anew?

LP:  Yes, for a nano-second. I tried to do that on the 2 Preciious album because, at the time, being 'Lee Aaron' carried a lot of baggage with it. Unfortunately, rebuilding from ground zero also has its drawbacks. I realized that my years of hard work shouldn't be negated and music is cyclical...what comes around eventually comes around again and usually with a newfound respect.

EA:  Switching gears a bit - your life took a major turn when you remarried and had two children.  Was there ever a time, after your children were born, when your music career was possibly going to be put to rest for good?

LA: Well...no, not really. I've always felt that I would continue to make music and perform as long as I'm inspired and there is an audience enjoying what I do. That said, people underestimate the amount of creative energy that goes into raising children. I mean, they are little projects unto themselves, and you want to devote as much time as possible to doing that part of your life right because those first 10 years of socio-emotional development are paramount. It shapes them forever, and that's huge. So, I've been busy investing in them. Also, my ego is not so attached to being 'Lee Aaron' that I would fall apart if it ended. That's not healthy, really.


EA:  I read that you have (or did) take classes in exceptionality (special needs).  Are you pursuing a degree in the field?  The reason I ask is that I taught special needs youth for seven years.  I also taught at risk youth for nearly ten years.  What drew you to the field?

LA: Yes, I am certified in that field as well. I've always been fascinated by the idea of multiple intelligences and individuals that are considered low functioning in some areas but exceptional in others. Look at Leonardo Da Vinci for instance. I mean, this guy was on the spectrum for sure - but brilliant.  I think we are all that way really...working with musicians my whole life - and let's be honest, most are not 'normal' people - I think I have a gift for figuring out people's strengths and working hard to channel those strengths into functional and empowering activities.

EA:  That's awesome!  I also believe everyone has something to contribute and it was my job to help them unleash that unlimited potential as youth.  How do you view your own two children - what strengths do you see in them?

LA: Well, they are both strong willed and passionate which makes parenting a bit challenging at times. My daughter is a perfectionist and my son is not. There are well thought out plans and details to everything my daughter creates and my son finishes everything creative in 5 minutes or less. With any luck they will end up working together one day so they balance each other out. She's Michelangelo and he's Picasso.

EA:  It seems like your life and career are in balance - something that everyone strives for but is difficult to achieve.  Your Sweden Rock appearance in 2011 (and DVD release in 2012 - buy it at LeeAaron.com) has been regarded as sort of a return of Lee Aaron - rocker.  But, in reality, that's just something the media have placed upon you.  You've always been a rock artist, a jazz artist, and lover of music of all kinds I'd hazard to guess.  And this is all secondary to being a wife and mother I'd also hazard to guess. 

Where do you go from here?  Will we here in the US - or at least here in Seattle since were just a drive down I-5 from BC - ever see you do a short west coast tour?  Please? 

LA: Well...the American record deal has always been elusive for me. I'm in preproduction for a new rock album as we speak - and I'm now a free agent - so maybe I'll finally end up with a US release after all this time. Then playing some US cities would be possible! And fun!

EA:  Amazing news - US fans would LOVE the chance to see you live on a proper tour!  What can you tell me about the upcoming rock record?  What can we expect from this release?

LA:  It will be a rock record with big, nasty hooks and fun grooves.

EA:  Just for fun - quick hits:

*(One) Favorite song of your own?
LA: I don't have just one favorite...'How Deep' Body Rock 1989, 'Shed' from the 2 Preciious album 1996.

*(One) Favorite song from another artist?
LA: Nina Simone - Lilac Wine

*Best piece of advice you could give someone starting out in the music business?
LA: Don't underestimate the value of putting in the 10,000 hours...you need to know 'how' to play/sing despite the wonders of digital technology.

*I play music for fun in a duo (lead vocalist and I'm guitar/vocals) - what song of your's should we cover?
LA: As a duo?? How about 'Only Human?' - (Pressure's on to deliver now - Mark/Editor)

EA:  Lee thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.  If someone had told me back when I was in that record shop in Abbottsford on that band trip in the early 80's that I'd be interviewing the very same artist in 2014, I'd of told them that they were crazy.  And yet …..

Life is great in many ways - thanks again!  The last words are for you.

LA: Hope to rock Seattle soon!!




 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Random Memories of Delain - 9/25/14

Greetings!

Delain played Seattle, WA once again last night at El Corazon on 9/25/14.  I say Delain played as they were the main band I was interested in.  Xandria were second.  And then Sonata Arctica.  I also discovered last minute that a local band was opening the show Last Bastion. 

(what you don't see in this photo is directly to the left was a long group of homeless/transients - some of their crap is on the right in this photo)

This isn't a show review per se as I am not covering the bands performances in depth or in some cases at all.  This is just a collection of memories from the gig.

Any photos were not professionally taken even though they display the Seattle Next Door moniker.  They were taken with my iphone 5s from the front of the crowd.  Onward!

***

Let's face it - it's nice when someone remembers you.  If it happens to be someone you're a fan of, then it's an even more rewarding feeling.  Members of Delain remembered me from last year.   What topped it off is that they remembered what we talked about.  I was pleasantly fanboy surprised.  I was one of the few people that talked to the band apparently last year (aside from Charlotte who had a group of people wanting to get a picture or autograph).  But I'm getting ahead...

I went to the gig at about 80%.  I was down for the count the previous Wednesday with a fever and other assorted nastiness that I won't describe here.  El Corazon is a club I'm familiar with.  If you like getting close and personal with your favorite bands, it's cool in that respect.  The staff have improved over the years (10 + years ago they were notoriously horrible).  Other than that, the place leaves alot to be desired.  But I don't care - I'm there to see Delain and Xandria.

(El Corazon, aka Graceland, aka The Off Ramp, etc)

Earlier buckets of rain made it an interesting prospect of waiting outside for the doors to open.  Fortunately we only had a few passing showers on us as we waited.  The VIP line had about 15-20 people I'd guesstimate.  One of which was Mark - who I met before the show outside.  Nice meeting you and thanks for the cool sticker!  Hope you caught the ferry back in time!

Btw:  the merch girl gave us a bunch of stickers at the end of the show.  I didn't know what she was handing me just said they were free.  I looked at them and went OH I know who made these!

(other Mark's space needle Delain logo sticker)

Once inside, I went to the stage area to stand and wait.  About one person back from the front - I was stoked.  Last year, I was also about one person in front of me but I was more to the left looking at the stage.  Not this year.  Much closer to center.

At 7:30pm the local band opened the show - playing direct input and on the other bands backline (aka Ruben's drum kit - swapping cymbals, snare, and kick pedal), Last Bastion kicked into songs from their debut CD "The Road To Redemption".  A five piece - guitars, bass, keys, and drums, Last Bastion got things going nicely.  They were a good fit for the bill.

I've been going to shows in Seattle since 1979.  As I started going to club shows I started skipping the local acts more and more as they were just awful most of the time.  Of course for every 30 shitty bands, there'll be one good one.  Last Bastion were one of the good ones in my opinion.  The guys can play for starters.  No weak link among the members at all.  Four vocal mics?  Yup - backing vocals - no tapes.  If the drummer had a vocal mic, that would of blown my mind.  Labelled online as power metal I would hazard to say they are more heavy metal than power.  Sure the topics are power metal themes and the addition of the keyboards adds that familiar power metal element, but these guys have a grit to their sound, and portions of their tunes where things get heavy, and they harken back to the classics such as Maiden and Priest.  Good stuff, folks.

I talked to a few of the guys after the gig - and they truly were the surprise of the night for me.  There next gig is in December at Josephine's with a bunch of other local bands.  Worth checking out just for them alone.  I'd like to see them put on their own show somewhere ala Arakus.  There's no reason you can't book a venue (even more unorthodox ones like Veteran Halls, community centers, etc) yourself and do things the way you want them done.  Your gear, your set list length, your opening acts, etc.  Anyway, the band is good and they should take off in Europe (Germany especially) and Japan if the cards fall in their favor.  Let's hope they do.  This is a band worth getting behind!  Go check out their site:

www.lastbastionofficial.com

About 20 minutes passed before Xandria took the stage.  Featuring Dutch singer Dianne van Giersbergen on their new album, the Seattle crowd was really into them!  It's always hard to tell if a band is truly shocked by an audience reaction (like do they do this at every show, do they say the same things at every show, etc) - but they seemed generally surprised by the crowd response to them last night.  They pulled from both the new album "Sacrificium" and the previous record "Neverworld's End" for the set list.  30 minutes came and went as they started with "Nightfall" and ended with "Valentine" - both being singles/videos.  They easily could of played another 30 minutes based on the crowd reaction.


One crowd pusher during their set - some chick who kept trying to find a way to get closer but wasn't getting past me.  She left half way through their set.  Seemed drunk or high - or both.  Last year's crowd was surprisingly polite in regards to shoving and shit.  I'm used to seeing death metal shows at El Corazon so I remember being shocked at people standing around with their VIP Kamelot posters in front of the stage and I was thinking "oh man those things are going to get crushed once the bands start".  Nope - not from what I could tell.  People stayed in their spots for the most part which was surreal.  Weird but cool I suppose.

xandria.de

After a short change over, where the band members set up their gear/tested things out before leaving the stage, the intro tape for Delain started.


When I heard it I knew it was "Mother Machine" which surprised me.  I'd read they were always doing the one two punch of "Go Away" and "Get The Devil Out of Me" on this tour.  Nope - it was like deja vu as they started the set last year with the same tune.
It was clear there were alot of Delain fans there.  Many from last year returned and new ones.







The band played 10 tunes including "Army of Dolls", "Stardust", and tour staples like "Sleepwalkers Dream" - ending with "We Are The Others".  There was only one set list taped to Charlotte's monitor - who after the show mentioned she couldn't find any paper so she ripped out a page from her favorite art magazine and wrote the set list on that.   The gal that got the set list thrown to her after their set got it signed after the gig.

At the beginning of the set, a different chick was shoving her way to the front.  She was getting frustrated and start shoving and elbowing.  Turns out (supposedly) she just wanted her coat from the front of the stage.  But instead of telling people, she just kept trying to shove to the front so I think all of us figured she was just trying to get to the front to see the band.  Pushing one way, pushing another way - I was half ready for a pit to break out (not really but it gives you an idea what was building up).  Finally she got her damn jacket and got the fuck outta there.

Look I'm not concert newbie.  I know at certain gigs, I'm keeping my old ass to the back as I can't hang with massive pits and shit like that anymore.  But if you're into it, cool, have some good clean violent fun.  But when an audience is being cool, staying in one place, and you come pushing through - nah, that ain't going to work, chica.  Tell people what you're intentions are and with the crowd that was there last night, they would of obliged.  I had no problem leaving the front after Delain's set just by saying excuse me - I'm coming out.  People moved and out I went.  Again, at death metal shows, I'm used to getting shoved out basically which is what I've come to expect.  Anyway - I guess what I'm saying is just communicate your intentions at gigs like these - people will be cool to you.

At this point, after leaving the front, I bought merch (a tshirt - thanks for having fat size btw and a beanie) and then hung to the side for SA's opening set.  My legs and feet were killing me so we split for the bar side of things.  El Corazon has the shows on a screen in the bar so it's weird.  You're in the other half of the venue so you can hear the band but you're watching them on a video or TV screen.   Kinda cool but kinda weird.

Once SA were done with their set, Delain and Xandria came back into the club.  The four Delain guys were near the coat check/buy water-soda area while Charlotte went way over to the merch area.  Xandria were over there too apparently.  I didn't know where either were until after talking to the Delain guys.

Ruben (drums) and I talked about the damn pole in the stage at El Corazon *lol*  He mentioned that  a club in Dallas has something similar but it looks like a tree (and the club is called The Trees or something).  I was like "at least that goes with the name of the club.  Our pole is just a stupid support pole." *lol*

Martijn remembered our discussion last year and the interview I conducted with him this year.  I thanked him for coming back and that it was cool that many of the things we discussed came true this year (touring with this brother's band WT in Europe, with Nightwish here in the US, etc). 

Timo and I talked about Leah and 7 string guitars for awhile.  He's excited about the release!

Otto remembered me as we talked about Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse last year.   He's one of his favorite bassists.  So we talked about new Cannibal Corpse and the Modulus bass he was playing this tour (last year was Spector).  And Modulus is/was Alex's main bass for many years, too.

I asked where Charlotte was and the guys pointed to the dark merch area where all I could see were people.

(Ruben, Martijn, and Timo hanging out in the empty club as Charlotte still had people waiting for her - they said they're used to how this goes (people wanting to talk to Charlotte and not necessarily them)

The club was getting sparse at this point.  There was a good dozen people waiting to meet Charlotte.  We got in "line" and we were the last ones.  By the time I got up there, she was needing to get going as the club was closing up soon.  We talked about the interviews we did last year and this year and the show.  I had other things to ask but time got me this time.  Oh well - she was as accommodating as ever and just like the guys so down to earth.

My photo with her last year was a crappy selfie in a dark club that didn't turn out well at all.  This year she was in another dark area.  Using a flash I ended up with red eye Charlotte and her being distracted so she's looking off from the camera.  I guess it's better than last year's *lol*.   I will attempt a third photo op in April at the Portland, OR gig.



While we were waiting for Charlotte, Dianne from Xandria was nearby and then left as no one was left to talk to them.  The band was pretty much gone getting equipment and stuff.  Once Charlotte was done, I turned and saw the Dianne came back in.  So, got a chance to talk to her about the interview we did and how great it was to have them here in the US for the first time.  She was excited about the shows and the tour.  I think they are getting a reception that will hopefully allow them to come back next album for another go around the US.

I've left out details and other things but I'm pooped. *lol*  Parting words?  The gig was fucking great!  I like many others will see them again in April when they tour with some band called Nightwish  ;o)








 



 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

XANDRIA - The U.S. Invasion Looms Near!

Greetings!

Here we are with another NEW interview - conducted in June 2014 - to coincide with the upcoming Xandria, Delain, and Sonata Arctica US tour (starting September 9th)!

New Dutch lead singer, Dianne van Giersbergen (no relation to Anneke), took the time to talk about the band, the upcoming tour, and their new release, "Sacrificum".

Mark
EA

***


EA:  Greetings Dianne!  Eclectic Arts is based out of Seattle, WA.  Have you ever been to the States (professional or personal)?  If so, where have you traveled here? 

DvG:  Hi Mark! And thank you for your time and support! I am really looking forward to crossing the Atlantic and visiting the States in September/October. Ever since Xandria visited Miami in January to board the 70.000 Tons of Metal festival I have fallen in love with your country!

EA:  We here in the US are looking forward to Xandria's first US tour (with Delain and Sonata Arctica)!  Are you looking forward to the tour?  What can US fans expect?  How long will your set be?

DvG: Oh yes I am looking forward to this! It will be our first US tour so we are super excited about the whole adventure. We have the honor of opening the evening every night, greeting and warming up the audience and introducing them to our music. But of course being first on the bill also means playing a shorter set, no clue yet on how long it will be.

EA:  You joined Xandria in October of 2013.  Is that correct?  If so, how did you come to join the band?  Did you audition?  What was the process like?

DvG: Correct, in October we released the news that Manuela had decided to leave the band and that I would step in as Xandria’s new singer. Of course by then we had already set things in motion and had taken the time to get to know each other, see if we could hit it of music wise but also on a personal level.
The story of me joining began when Xandria had already entered the ‘Sandlane Studio’ in the Netherlands to work with producer Joost van den Broek. Recordings had already started when Manuela announced to the band that this wans’t for her anymore. Joost was the one who at that point told the band that he might know a singer fitting the profile and able to step in on short notice.
And so I got a call from Xandria’s manager, traveled to Germany to meet the guys and shortly after that began the challenge of learning the live songs and the new songs which we now know as the ‘Sacrificium’ songs.


EA: With the new album, "Sacrificium", was the material already written when you joined the band?  Did you have a hand in any of the vocal melodies/lyrics or was everything pretty much already set?

DvG: I think you could say that all the songs were finished for 98%. When Marco and I traveled to Sascha Peath’s ‘Gate Studio’ (near Wolfsburg, Germany) we set out for 9 days of recording-marathon. In these dates we took some freedom to adjust the vocal lines to the color of my voice so that they could really blossom. But this was of course more a case of fine tuning. A process which is by the way very familiar to me: as a classical singer I am used to sing music that has not been written purely for me. Singing these and also the already written Xandria compositions is sort of a game for me where I try to and follow the instructions given by the composer as best as I can, try to reach the best vocal technical translations of the music notes and find my freedom in interpreting the songs and lyrics.
Lyric wise I contributed 2 songs to the album. The lyrics to ‘Little Red Relish’ and ‘Sweet Atonement’ are written by me.

EA: You have your other band Ex Libris.  Please tell us more about Ex Libris and how it differs from Xandria.

DvG: Yes I do! Ex Libris is my baby. I founded the band 10 years ago and since then it has developed into a symphonic progressive metal band of which I am very, very proud. The music Ex Libris composes is a combination of 5 skilled musicians sharing and mixing their talent, views and technical capabilities. I think our music is really addictive but you do need to give it a few spins to be able to reach our state of ecstasy.
Xandria and Ex Libris share me as their front woman and thus the vocal sound will have its overlap and to say it plainly: the promotion pictures will show me and four men. But then you have named it all. Xandria’s music is much  more composed from a set up musical view, Ex Libris’ music is born through improvisation. Xandria has one main composer (Marco Heubaum), Ex Libris bandmembers all represent a part of the composition. Xandria’s live shows are accompanied by taped orchestral en choir parts, Ex Libris’s live shows are 100% live. And so on.
Both band represent a part of me, of who I am and being front lady of both makes me a very happy and privileged singer.  

EA:  I read that you studied voice in college.  Your website also states you are a vocal coach.  What is it about the voice as an instrument that you love?  What is your earlier vocal background (did you take lessons, etc)?

DvG: I received my first singing lessons as a birthday present from my parents when I turned four. In the following years I was taught by various music teachers and sang in several choirs. In 2005 I started my studies in classical music at the ArtEZ school of music where I was taught by Elena Vink. On the 19th of May 2009 I rounded off my Bachelor’s with distinction and continued to study for my Master’s degree. For this Master I studied how to intermingle classical music with metal music, I wrote a thesis about composing and performing within this cross-over and for my graduation recital composed a program in which I eventually fused these two genres.
For me the voice has always been the perfect instrument to translate who I am. When I run out of words to vent my emotions I can just start to sing and deal with it that way. I believe that this is a gift and that’s one of the reasons why I love being a vocal coach, I think that if you have a talent that you must share it and if you can, teach it to others.


EA:  You've performed live with both bands.  How have the recent Xandria shows gone so far?  What songs in the set list do you enjoy performing the most?

DvG: Every song has some special element in them. Some are technically challenging others are special because they are soothing for the voice, but I cannot say that I prefer one over the other.
As for the shows: I really enjoy being on stage, having fun with the guys and sharing our party with the audience. I thinks the audience sees that we have fun because on our headline tour the response just has been overwhelming positive.

EA:  On a random note, is your last name (van Giersbergen) a common last name in the Netherlands (like Smith or Jackson is here in the US)?  Just curious since many that like Xandria know Anneke van Giersbergen.

DvG: It may be a bit more common in the South of the Netherlands where Anneke and I both come from. But us both being in this genre and having the same last name is just coincidence.

EA:  Who would you like to sing a duet with (from any genre)? 

DvG: Oooh that’s a difficult question. Well for Ex Libris I have recorded a duet with Damian Wilson(Threshold, a.o.) which was great fun. Live we have performed this duet with Valerio Recenti (My Propane) which was also great fun.
I think that it doesn’t matter which whom I share the stage as long as they are up to having as much fun as I have performing.

EA:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me Dianne.  I'll be at the show in Seattle (club is called El Corazon).  See you in September!

DvG: Well then I look forward to seeing you at the show! And let me thank you for your time and interest in me. Your and every one’s support in me and both my bands is what makes it able for me to be the singer I am today, thank you!!

xandria.de

Monday, August 4, 2014

An attempt to clarify all that I do! - Mark

Greetings,

Since Eclectic Arts has been "revived" with weekly new interviews, I've been getting emails and messages regarding the difference between the print VS blog, Seattle Next Door, Train Wreck, etc.  So here's my attempt to demystify everything.

Eclectic Arts started out as a print only magazine in 2011.  I created this blog to update everyone on the progress of each issue, ordering information, etc.

Due to unforeseen financial issues, after issue 3, EA the print version, went on hiatus basically.  In the mean time, I was still conducting interviews, fully expecting to fix the financial situation and continue putting out new print issues.

Well, that clearly never happened.  I ended up sitting on a lot of great content which bothered me to no end.  So the vault interviews were fully intended to be in the print version of EA.  But, for now, I am releasing that content so people can finally read it. 

There are full transcript interviews, in depth ones, that will either go into issue 4 or on the blog.  I'm leaning more and more toward putting everything out on the blog just to get all of it out there.  Then whatever new interviews I do will go a fresh beginning in issue 4.

So, that's the nutshell behind Eclectic Arts.

***

Seattle Next Door - this is my photography work for the past nine years.  Anything you see in EA that has the SND copyright is my work.  I am a published photographer with an emphasis on model based photography.  95% of my work is model portfolios with the other 5% being the occasional senior photo, family photos, etc.

***

Train Wreck (WA) - this is the duo Sara and I started in March of 2013 and ended in December of 2013.  We did our first gig as a warm up jam, just to see how this Train Wreck thing would or wouldn't work.  We played from 1-4 gigs each month of our existence.  It was a lot of fun and a lot of work.  With the new year, we decided to take a break, and to revisit it when it felt right. 

Well, it feels right as we are planning on performing again in August and September of this year.  After that, we are going to play things by ear. 

Sara is in a terrific new soul/blues band called Little Sara and The Night Owls so she is already busy musically, let alone with her jobs.

So we're looking for balance this time around with Train Wreck - that way it'll stay fun!

***

Besides EA, SND, and TW, I hold down two jobs now - one FT, one PT.  I'm still active in the beer scene here in Seattle.  I attend sporting/live events when I can.  And somewhere in there is a social life.

Questions?  Let me know.  I'd be happy to answer any that you throw my way.

Mark
EA




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Driven - Anneke van Giersbergen Interview!

Greetings!

On this SeaFair Sunday here in Seattle, it is in the 80's (as it has been all week) and it's time for the next interview from the vaults.

Anneke van Giersbergen is one of my favorite vocalists period.  Not favorite female vocalist.  Not favorite rock vocalist.  Favorite period.  The interview below was brief but conducted in 2012 (March to be exact).

As always, everything was left in tact.  Anneke is touring for her latest release, "Drive" right now (hence the title of this interview).


She is also partaking in the "Sirens" tour with Liv Kristine and Kari Rueslatten!


Enjoy!
Mark
EA

***

I have been a music junkie since I was a little kid.  From the age of nine, seeing KISS for the first time in 1979, it was all down hill after that concert.  From the ups and downs that life throws at you, music has always been there for me.

One of my all time favorite vocalists, Ms. Anneke van Giersbergen, is one of those artists that I put on a pedestal.  The music she created with her former band, The Gathering, helped me through some confusing and difficult times in my past.  The power and beauty of her voice just transported me to a different place in my mind during my struggles.  It was a release of the most needed kind at the time.  For that, I am forever grateful. 

I was fortunate to see her with The Gathering here in Seattle, WA (the only time they ever played Seattle) before she left to pursue her own career and spend more time with her family.  Anneke has been creating amazing music on her own since 2007 with her solo work and collaborations with other talented musicians and projects.

It is truly my pleasure to present Ms. Anneke van Giersbergen here in Eclectic Arts.  I can't believe I get to write that!  ^_^


EA:  Greetings Anneke!  Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.  I can't express just how much this means to me.  I've been a fan since 1997.  I know you are out supporting your newest album, "Everything Is Changing".  How are the shows going?  How does it feel to be back out on the road? 

AvG: Thank you Mark! I’ve just completed a 15-date Dutch club tour and it was fantastic. Venues were packed and I’m very proud of my new live band. We have a lot of fun and luckily we are able to transmit that to our audience. I’m glad to be back on the road again. We’ll do a big EU-tour in May and since my son is now old enough to go on the road with us, there’s hardly any reason wanting to go home again.

EA:  I was just listening to "Everything Is Changing" again this afternoon.  It is such a solid album.  Usually there is at least one song or two that I find with any release that don't quite measure up.  Not so with "Everything Is Changing".  From beginning to end, the album makes such a strong statement.  How do you feel about the album now that it's been out for a few months?  What was the writing/recording process like for the album? 

AvG: I’m very happy with it. Of course I’m glad it’s doing so well, it got to #11 in the mainstream charts in The Netherlands - which is higher than I’ve ever been in my career – but way more importantly it ended up sounding the way I hoped it would do. After working with Devin Townsend a couple of times in recent years I realized I wanted to do a multi-layered album with lots of energy. I knew I wouldn’t be able to transfer my own ideas into arrangements myself without the help of a multi-instrumentalist, so I’m very glad I found Portuguese producer Daniel Cardoso who helped me writing and recording the album. I have my own studio, which is where we recorded most of the drums and vocals and I went to Portugal to work in Daniel’s studio.


EA:  "Everything Is Changing" has a polished sound without sacrificing the emotional nature of your music.  Some of the songs are more pop oriented, while others are still very introspective.  Was this intentional?  What lyrical topics did you cover on the new record?

AvG: I’ve tried to combine all styles that I like to listen to myself into one album. I like heavy music, but also emotional stuff and I like to dance as well, if you know what I mean. I love Madonna just as much as A Perfect Circle and somehow I think that we’ve been able to let that resonate throughout the songs. Most of the times I don’t consider myself as a story-telling lyricist. I write about myself most of the time and my own feelings. I wrote ‘My Boy’ for my son and for instance ‘Circles’ deals with the fact that some people can maintain their rock-steady characters when tragedy strucks.


EA:  How have you managed to strike the balance between your music career and your personal life (family, etc)?   I know your husband performs with you, which obviously helps, but still it must be difficult.  Does your son travel with you as well?  You're a very busy woman!

AvG: It’s hard and it takes a lot of planning, that’s for sure! First of all I moved to the countryside to be able to build a recording studio and to be able to store our stage equipment at home. That enables us to work at home most of the time. I quite doing long tours. It’s 2 weeks max unless I can take my son with me like the upcoming EU-tour. I take my son with me as many times as possible, but of course he has to go to school, so we have this really complicated schedule with nanny’s and so on.


EA:  Back in 2007, I was fortunate enough to see you perform with your old band The Gathering here in Seattle, WA at a little club.  Within Temptation were also on the bill that night that you've performed with (the "Somewhere" duet with Sharon is awesome by the way).  When you look back at those US shows, playing clubs and such, what stands out for you?  Did you enjoy the shows?  What are some of the differences between touring in the US and abroad?

AvG: Well, touring the US for a niche-band is hard. Physical distances are big and transatlantic flights for band and crew are expensive. That’s the only reason I haven’t been able to return to the US as a solo artist. I have a small but strong fan base in the US, so I hope I can return in the near future and do a string of acoustic solo shows in small clubs or something. I think that would be awesome!


EA:  It's been five years now that you've been a solo artist.  When you look back on your years with The Gathering, what comes to mind?  What memories stand out (good or bad)?

AvG: To be honest I’m not a person that looks back a lot, I don’t particularly enjoy watching YouTube videos with old footage or something like that. I’m all about looking forward and even more importantly the present day. However I have great memories from my time with The Gathering. Those boys are still very dear to me.

EA:  I've been a musician myself for quite a number of years (guitar being my main instrument).  I took vocal lessons for a bit, too.  What advice would you give someone who is looking to be a vocalist?  Is it true you do vocal coaching when you have the time?  I could use a lot of help with my voice haha

AvG: The advice I would give to anybody is be yourself and look for your own voice. There’s a lot of vocal talent, you only have to watch a couple of all those talent shows to notice that, but I hear a lot of people sing like the people that they are inspired with. I love Ella Fitzgerald, but it never occurred to me to copy her phrasing and stuff.
I worked as a vocal coach at the Amsterdam Conservatory for 1.5 years, but I had to quit because it was too time consuming and I couldn’t combine it with my busy schedule anymore. I loved doing it though!


EA:  What goals do you have for the future?  Do you see yourself making music for many years to come or are you just taking it one day at a time?  Are there other things you want to try outside of music?  What else is coming up that the fans can look forward to?
 
AvG: I never have a long term plan, but I am a musician and there’s not a whole lot I would like to do that’s not music-related. I would like to record another album soon and I would like it to sound more or less like my last album, but even better of course!!
I’m also involved with a children’s theatre play at the moment. I co-wrote the music and I’m performing in it, so I get to do a little bit of acting, which is very fun to do.

EA:  Anneke thank you again for taking the time to do the interview today.  I truly appreciate it!  Take good care.

Thanks Mark, good luck with your magazine and hope to see you in the US one day!
With love,
Anneke XxX

http://www.annekevangiersbergen.com/