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Cody Hanson of Hinder  l  Chester Bennington of Linkin Park  l  Corey Taylor of Slipknot
Cliff Campbell of Fair to Midland  l  Dizzy Reed of GNR  l  Ian Hill of Judas Priest
James LaBrie of Dream Theater  l  Ricky Phillips of Styx  l  Tak Matsumoto of B'z
Emily Armstrong of Dead Sara  l  Slash  l  Dave Ellefson of Megadeth  l  Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage
Leigh Kakaty of Pop Evil  l  Tommy Shaw of Styx  l  Geoff Tate of Queensryche  l  James LaBrie 2007

Cody Hanson of Hinder

June 2013 / Hinder Interview

By Ben Hansen

First and foremost, congratulations on receiving the gold record certification for your album Take It to the Limit this year. With the huge success of Extreme Behavior, how does it feel to know that a lot of your fans out there won't forever connect you with just one album?

Well, unfortunately, I think that most of them probably still will, and even more will connect us to just "Lips of an Angel," except the hardcore fans. Luckily we have quite a few of those, so we're lucky.

The first two singles from the new album, Welcome to the Freakshow, are Save Me and Should Have Known Better. Are they the first two that you would have envisioned out of the gates getting radio airplay from this album?

Yes. I pushed really hard for both of these songs to be singles. They seemed to be no-brainers really. We base a lot of decisions on single releases off of iTunes sales and basic reactions from fans on line.

This album is different from what we've come to expect from Hinder. There is something for fans of pretty much any flavor of rock throughout this album. What was it that caused you guys to go off in so many different directions?

We wanted to keep it interesting. Marshall and I produced this album together. We took our time and did a lot of experimenting. We wanted to create a sound that was new, fresh, and different from what we had done in the past. I think it definitely made for a very interesting record as a whole.

With you taking a step ahead, is there another single targeted off of the album?

I'm sure we'll be releasing more lyric videos and things like that, but I'm not sure we're going to take anything else to radio off of this record.

Your previous album, All American Nightmare may not have been the best selling of your albums, but I own it and enjoy it, along with many other fans. I understand that there were tons of recordings that went into it – somewhere around 50 songs recorded and only ten made the final cut. Are there plans to release any more of the songs from these sessions?

I'm sure that at some point we'll put together some of that stuff. There are a ton of songs that we're in love with that haven't been released. At some point some of those will come out.

The Extreme Behavior Album cover – Katherine Heigl, Izzy Stevens...the great mystery. Are you able to shed any light on this for us?

Oh, it's definitely her on it. But we had no idea it was her.

Which of the two?

Sorry. It's Katherine Heigl. We didn't know until we saw it on her website. I guess it was a shot from her early modeling days. It was a stock photo that the label bought and we ended up using it.

How has your relationship evolved with Joe and Austin since the days of being young and raw, playing at the Blue Note twelve years ago?

The relationship with our entire band is almost indescribable, really. We're not really friends, we're not really family…we're something else. We say things to each other that we'd never let others on this planet hear in a million years. It's a really cool thing. We share a great relationship.

You guys have toured with mega-bands like Motley Crue and Nickelback, you've seen multi-platinum success, and you've released several very different albums. This type of success would be hard on a lot of bands. Do you credit your ability to interacting with each other "outside of the box" with helping you get through artistic differences and wade through those sorts of problems?

Everyone is cool and open minded. If we didn't have a great relationship, then there is no way that any of this stuff would have been possible. A lot of bands don't make it this far, so we've been pretty lucky.

On your website, you are quoted as saying, "The Freaks Make the World Interesting." Can you please expand on this for us?

Who wants to look at normal people all the time? It's the freaks – the people that have interesting things in their lives and they aren't afraid to share it with other people- that's what makes life interesting. Nobody wants to just look at a guy in a suit and tie all the time. While that's cool and that's fine, it's the different types of people that make life interesting.

Any final thoughts that you want to give to the freaks coming out to the shows?

I want to thank all of our fans for being there for all of these years. We've been very lucky, as we've been able to tour around the world and got to meet a lot of great people that have supported us for a long time. It's very cool. Thank you.


Cody Hanson
Photo by Ben Hansen

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Chester Bennington of Linkin Park

July 2012 / Launch of Honda Civic Tour

By Ben Hansen

Recently, we were lucky enough to be part of a media panel interview with Linkin Park's Chester Bennington prior to the opening of the Honda Civic Tour, which Linkin Park co-headlined with Incubus. Below are the highlights of this interview with Chester.

Media: As you grow older and wiser, how do you stay loyal to and inspired to produce the style of music on both the record and in concert that your most loyal and long-term fans both love and expect?

Chester: I think that's a good question. I kind of wonder, you know people ask me questions like, you see the Rolling Stones or guys who have been doing this for 50 years, do you see yourself doing this at their age? And in my mind I know that however long I live until the day I die I'm probably going to feel mentally immature. And physically old. [Laughter] But my brain's not going to be calculating, "Oh, I'm 70 years old." It's like, "What do you mean I'm almost done? Aagh! I just got started." And so uh I think that it will become a bit more difficult for me to perform a few songs on a roster that I did so easily through my twenties and thirties. You know? When I'm 70 I don't know if I'll be, um, screaming "Victimized" at anybody. Hopefully that will be the case, but I doubt it. That's one of the things that's so interesting about our business anyways. None of us are guaranteed that anyone can come to one of our shows or care about the last record we put out. I personally throughout my own career, every record that we go into, I look at like, this is our very first album and this is the best representation of what we are. And either people are going to love it or they're going to hate it. Or not care. And so you know, that's what happens. We take the creative gamble and we write music that we feel passionate about and that we feel is important and that we feel is, um, um, what's the word I'm looking for, uh, damn it!

I think for us, we've kind of had the advantage to cross a bunch of different styles of music and bring them together, and we worked very hard from Minutes to Midnight on to change what we felt was the perception of what Linkin Park is. And by people outside of the band. I think that Incubus and Linkin Park share a lot of similarities in terms of when we became popular. In a time when selling tons of records was what people did, and the Internet wasn't really a strong force in the world. And then transitioning into a time where no one's buying records. And yet people are spending more money on music base than any time before. So I think that going through all that and transitioning and getting older and having all these experiences definitely shapes the way you think about how you do business. But the things that inspire are all the same kind of things that inspired me when I was 15. You know, life is very complicated and there's so much stuff that happens, like (Indiscernible) in your life that are so precious and so beautiful and so specific to our individual story. Each person has such a beautiful story to tell and some are horrific and scary but yet there's still something beautiful happening there. Those are things that inspire me creatively and I think that the older I get the more savvy I become in business and how you view your business. I think it's because you have more experience. The music business is a very tricky business to be in, and so making a transition from focusing on selling records to (Indiscernible) there's a million versions of our songs out there anyways, good to bad. People can videotape every performance that we do. And everything's out there. So why do we even care about (Indiscernible). Isn't giving your music to a billion people far more valuable than (Indiscernible). It just doesn't make any sense to me. I don't think it's the way musicians would have thought 10 years ago. I wouldn't have even have thought that 10 years ago. I would have thought, no way, we have to sell records. I think that age brings wisdom and age brings experience. But the things that inspire me are the same; those are the moments that you kind of catch in your web as you go through life. You kind of grab the tastier parts of life and we get to write songs about them, we get to write music about those experiences and then go perform them for people just as often. A lot is different and (Indiscernible) the same though, at the same time.

Media: Congratulations on the new disc. With it debuting at No. 1 it actually set a record for you guys having more No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 than any other band this century. So, from a personal standpoint and given the ever-changing landscape of music throughout your career, what does a milestone like that mean to you personally?

Chester: It's cool, you know. It's something that I never would have thought of, that statistic being one that's attached to Linkin Park. I've always felt that we just made the best record that we could make at the time. So for people, for our fans, it's really more of a testament to our fans than to us. It really is a testament to how enthusiastic our fan base is about what we do in the studio. And I think that the true test of what we've done is good or not is obviously how well the songs hold up over time. But to hit like a No. 1 is really, is really something you just kind of hope for when you're making a record. You know, that people respond to it well. It's not really a goal that we set out for as a band. I think that we kind of look at a lot of other things, being forced into a different style as a business. I think we pay attention to so much stuff that's going on, we kind of forget about goals like reaching No. 1 on the charts. You're focused more on putting the live show together and where you're going to be in six months, which videos to make and which ones not to make and all that good stuff. It was kind of a cool little moment for us to take a break and go "Oh, hey, this is what all our hard work is doing."

Media: How do you all stand each other after such a long time…?

Chester: I think it's funny. But that is actually the truth. I think that within Linkin Park we all have similar aspects of our personality that we share with each other. We all are very driven. We all like to work really hard. We all like to do whatever it takes and be involved in every aspect of what we do. But it takes all of us. And I think that when we learned very early on, like there's a few guys in the studio working on every song, so it's a whole record, when you look at the business side of things, or you look at like the marketing side of things, the artistic side of things, and what each member brings collectively to the whole, is worth far more than what… Together, the band is worth far more than each of us is as an individual. And I think that that's something we learned about our band very early. It's not just about one guy or two guys or whatever, three guys. It's about all six of us. And so, having six creative people who are totally different personality-wise around each other all the time, we have to be very realistic about what we expect from each other. And it is a family thing. And once you cross that line of being a friend and then it turns into, "Well, now we're family," I mean, life gets real, really fast. You know? I mean you're now exposing yourself. I mean there's the dating phase, which is like, "Oh, you're so awesome," and everybody is so great, and then when you move in together it's like, "Oh shit. Who am I actually, like, getting myself involved with?" You know, it's like you get to see all the dirty parts and you get to be around all the unsavory things about each other's personalities and so we just basically treat each other with respect. We give each other the space that we need. And I think that being in my band is an example of the most functional relationship I've ever had in my life. But I've been in band scenarios where it's just chaos. There's no leadership and there's too much ego and there's too much pride and there's too much opinion. All those things are very important, so I think what makes it work for my band, for Linkin Park is that, you know, we focus on things that are important for the band. And we don't really focus on what's the most important thing for me. It's really about what's the most important thing for us. And I think that's something that we carry not only in our professional world but we try to carry into our personal lives as well. We share both of those things together.

Media: Chester, to jump back a little bit and drill down into the songs on the new album, you'd mentioned "Victimized," which is a wonderful non-midtempo song. I think you said it best, the song makes you feel kicked in the face. What was the inspiration behind the songwriting with this song?

Chester: Well, each song is so different. One of us could be inspired by the sound of a popping engine of a car that goes by. Everyone's like, "Oh, that's awesome," and you try to create that sound in the studio. And all of a sudden that creates a beat, and next thing you know Mike is rapping over it, and the melody popped in my head. Creativity in the studio is such a weird substance. It's a weird sticky thing that grows when it feels like it. And so, um, it's very cool when it happens. And this is one of these songs that Mike came in with this kick-ass beat and I loved it, it was like, it by the way felt really heavy, it felt in your face, it felt like metal but it didn't feel predictable. It was so cool. And we looked at each other and we know exactly what the song needs. And so I think I started yelling something like "F@$*" or something over it, and we were sort of laughing about how funny it would be if that was like the chorus, and then I think it was Mike or maybe Brad, but someone in the band was like, "Just pick like one word, that could be like one really good word," and I think someone threw out "victimized" and I was like, "That's great." And I just ran in the studio and just kind of screamed "victimized" over it. And then kind of the most obvious line to come after screaming victimized is "never again." And then that was it. It was pretty much that simple. I mean that song kind of was done at that point in terms of what I needed to contribute to the song. And I think the verses are some of Mike's best. I think the rapping on this record for Mike is the best that he's ever done. I mean, there's a swagger to his whole vibe and a confidence that I don't think I've seen from him before. So I think that also adds to the heaviness of the song, too, the vibe that Mike is sending out. And so, but it's a pretty complex (Indiscernible) track, and I really like it, it's one of my favorites.


Chester Bennington
Photo by Ben Hansen

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Corey Taylor of Slipknot

January 2012 / Sundance Film Festival

By Ben Hansen & Matt Thurber

Corey Taylor sharing his passion for the film industry
Photo by Ben Hansen
Corey Taylor of Slipknot arrived at the 2012 Sundance film festival with partner and band mate Shawn "Clown" Crahan to discuss the launch of their new motion picture company, Living Breathing Films. While in town, Corey took the time to sit down with to discuss this venture, along with his time in Slipknot, playing with Velvet Revolver, and more.

We were very excited to see you return to Sundance after your show at Harry O's a couple of years ago.

Oh year, with Camp Freddy. It was a really good time!

Hearing you sing Billy Idol's Rebel Yell and Motorhead's Ace of Spades was incredible. Your cover of Ace of Spades was a perfect tribute to the original.

I couldn't have done a good cover of it if it hadn't been a good song to begin with. It's all out respect for him, and it's cool, because I know him personally. Who he is…he's fucking Lemmy, and he's so awesome. To be able to do a song like that, and to do it justice, it was good.

What was that classic line from the movie Airheads? "Who would win in a wrestling match…Lemmy or God?"

He's like "Lemmy…no God…trick question, Lemmy IS God!" You can't school me on movie lines, I'll go all day.

So after you came up here for Sundance the first time, did that have anything to do with your decision to make your way into this (film) venture?

No, it's something that we've been talking about since we became friends. He (Clown) has always had such an amazing eye for visuals and art. I try to balance that with the story, the characters, and the dialogue. We've been talking about these types of projects forever, and hardcore talking about this a year ago. One thing led to another, and it started to get really, really serious. We were like, "Ok, let's do it!" It's one of those things that we're excited about because we don't really know a lot about it. It's a whole industry that we've studied from the outside as fans, and we're ecstatic to be able to learn the ins and outs of it so that we can basically destroy it. At the end of the day, our philosophy has always been that if you're not improving on what you're doing, then there is no point in showing up. That is really the approach that we are going to take to this.

We know that you're a diverse vocalist with all of your different projects. Do you see yourself doing Mike Patton-esque sound effects?

Maybe. There is some weird stuff that comes out of this neck. I would love to do some of that stuff. Honestly, he's the king of it, and I'm only able to do a third of it…if that…of what he can do. At the same time, he's the king. I've always loved Patton.

I think that my contribution will be ideas for hooks, for melodies, and what not. I've always been very distinct on stuff. When we do stuff like scoring, hopefully I can bring that sense of "work" to it and make it something that something that people can cackle on to while watching the movie. It's really exciting to be able to look at it from both standpoints – from the music and the performance side.

So, project number one – are you allowed to tell us much about it? I know that Clown mentioned that he may potentially be a chef with a cigar flipping a pancake…

Well, you never know. The first project that we want to flesh out right now is actually about woman and a house. It kind of has a gaslight feel to it – one of those things where the story is leading towards something, but you have no idea what the hell it is. We're in the baby stages of getting the script together. Hopefully we'll have something really good to work with right out of the gate. I'm hoping to break ground on it this year, so knock on wood that it happens. At the same time, I'm used to being so quick with music that I can run right into stuff. This will be a lesson in patience for me – making the right moves, doing what's right for the art of the film. I'm excited to see what happens.

We know that you have a great relationship with Slash, and we were here last year for the announcement of his new movie company Slasher Films. Is there going to be any potential for collaboration between your two companies?

Maybe, you never know. We've always been mirror images as far as what is going on culturally…but at the same time, there are those fringe people that take it to the next level. My philosophy has always been that the more ridiculous you are, and the more people try to shun it, the more it becomes completely acceptable, because only the ridiculous takes you to the next level.

There is a wonderful Chinese proverb that says, "Before one looks brilliant you must look foolish." If you stop and think about that, twenty years ago people looked at Quentin Tarantino and were like, "Excuse me…what do you want to do?" Now he's like a groundbreaking guy. So for me, it makes sense to shake it up and do what feels right instead of trying to paint by numbers. That makes it look fucking boring, and it's not what I'm here for. I want quality, not quantity, and that's important to both (Clown) of us.

We know that you and Slash are friends, and that you've done some work together. Is it kosher at this point to ask if that project will ever see the light of day?

Probably not. It's not for me to say, just because it's their band (Velvet Revolver). I'm sure that something will happen someday…

There are a lot of folks that would love to listen to it.

Well, we put some really good demos together, I will say that. I had a lot of fun, and made some great friends. They're awesome – Duff is one of my closest friends. He's just one of those people that you meet, and you're like, "Fuck, you don't have to be this cool! You're Duff McKeagan!" He's just so genuine and so funny. If that's all I get from that, then I'm really OK with it. I get emails from him all the time and it's the worst jokes ever. I can hear his delivery – he tells the worst jokes, but it's his delivery that makes them hysterical. The fact that I get random emails from him all the time, I have to ask myself, "Is this my life? Is this for real? I'm one of the luckiest dudes on the planet!" I will NEVER look it in the mouth.

I heard that you had a pretty interesting story with Fred Durst's kid asking for an autograph. Can you share that with us?

(laughing) That was interesting. It was a few years ago, and we were doing Download. Limp Bizkit was there, and I hadn't seen those guys in a while. There has always been that sort of a…well; I've kind of grown out of it, grown out of the angry young-guy thing a long time ago. I see him circling me at Download. I sit back, and one of our security guys who used to work for them is like, "Sir, Fred would like to know if he can talk to you." So he came up, and was like, "Can one of my kids get their picture with you." That was like the best moment ever! It was not like I felt that I had won, it was just the ridiculousness of it. It was like, "Really? This was ten years ago that things (between us) happened! Being a father, I'd never deny his kids anything. So it was cool – I met his kids, took pictures, and they started drinking. By the end of the night, he (Fred) was like, "We've got to do an album together!" I said "Whoa, whoa, slow down, Beavis!" Every time I've seen him since then, he's been really cool. It was a fun chapter in my life.

We know that you recently lost a member of the fold (Paul Gray, bassist). How difficult has that been for you?

Anytime you lose someone like that, it's hard. A lot of stuff doesn't make sense, but Paul would have wanted us to keep going. When we went out on the road for the first time without him, that help us took steps towards making sense of it all. It didn't mean that we were going to continue. It was hard for all of us…it kind of snapped me out of my weirdness. I'm going on two years sober now. I quit a long time ago and started again. When Pauly died, there were times when I was really gone. I woke up one day and said, "This is not working. It's not fun anymore." I've seen too many of my friends pass away, and too many of my brothers pass away.

Do you have fans that have approached you stating that they can relate to that?

I've let go, and I know a lot of the members of the band have re-assessed how they go about it. A lot of the fans were like, "It's almost like watching you brother die." That really hit me, because we've got a lot of fans, and they are the second generation, and they clearly respect it for some reason (the sobriety). You've got to look to the positive, because if you dwell in it too long, you'll lose your mind.

How hard was it to come across new music growing up in Iowa?

Every once in a while we'd have like Metallica play the Vets Auditorium, and then we'd have a band like the Mentors playing the Botanical Center for an all-ages show. I kind of grew up with all of this weird, crazy music. The great thing about growing up in Iowa is that you had to earn your music. You had to go out and find it, and it was harder and harder. When you did find it, you would cherish it. That was one of the reasons why we made that approach – because we were not hearing bands that made the music that we liked to hear. We were like, "I guess we'll do it!"

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By Ben Hansen

Fair to Midland is a progressive metal band that has pushed expectations and boundaries, both in the studio and through their compelling live performances. Currently touring the U.S. in support of their most recent album Arrows and Anchors, the band made a recent stop in Salt Lake City to perform. Guitarist Cliff Campbell took a few minutes to discuss the band, past and present.

What is your favorite track off of the new album?

I'd probably say Golden Parachutes. I really like that song a lot. It's dynamic, and it kind of shows the crossover that Fair to Midland was trying to do on the album. There are so many different songs on the album that it is hard to say, but I like that song a lot.

You guys are different, and have been from the beginning. Do you put pressure on yourselves to write different material or do these things just come to you at various points in time?

Yeah, we do. We all do it in different ways. Darroh will actually go crazy at moments. He will get alopecia and all kinds of stuff – that happened on the Fables album and it happened again on this album. He knows pretty much everything that comes out musically at the time. I won't listen to any music at all when we're writing the record. That's my way of making sure that I do something original no matter what when I pick up the guitar.

How did you guys come up with that awesome keyboard/guitar run on the track Coppertank Island?

That was a live feel…just jamming one day. I came up with the guitar, and Matt's amazing! We messed with the third and fourth harmony, and it ended up coming out pretty awesome!

That song had almost a bit of 8 bit NES nostalgic song to it. It runs just like you're living out an action sequence of a classic video game.

I love that that comes out too, because I'm such a nerd gamer! Usually when I write a song it comes out, like the little keyboard part in Kyra Cries Cologne.

Being from the Dallas area, are you a Cowboys fan?

I used to be when I was younger, but I don't really watch sports much anymore. I did, though, when the Mavs won everything. We had a lot of good times over those games.

It was sad to hear about the departure of (bassist) Jon (Dicken). He brought a certain dynamic to the band.

It will be different.

How are things working out with your new bassist Ryan Collier on this tour?

Amazing! We already knew him from years before, and we knew that he was a very proficient bass player and very in line with what we were trying to do musically. He was the first guy that we called, and he was down for it. It wasn't really a struggle.

Are you guys going to use Ryan next time you go record in the studio?

Yeah. We'd love that!

Having seen you guys play before, I noticed that your right hand plays up very high, heavily favoring your top pickup. Is this part of how you've been able to establish your unique sound?

That's part of it. It also makes it easier with our tuning. We tune to CGCGCC, which is very weird. It's basically for us to have hard elements and melodies intertwined together. It works out best for me, with us having 1 guitar player. When there are two, you don't have to worry about those issues. All of the chords I have to play stretching pretty far. That actually started like that, and it actually ended up being the tone for stuff like Vice Versa, with that high-pitched "pingy" tone off the top. It really did add a lot to what Fair to Midland's tone was, and kind of came about from necessity.

We heard you guys were in a pretty bad accident last year in Arizona. What happened?

We were driving to play a show in Phoenix from L.A. There was a…tire on the back driver's side and the tread blew out sideways. Normally when you get a flat tire, you have a few seconds to respond. This was an instant drop. Our trailer went off a 6 foot drop onto gravel on the side and took us spinning. We flipped over 3 times, and the trailer slammed into the back of our van and flew off. I've never seen anything like that. Some gear got destroyed, but everyone was fine.

We've heard that in your earlier days that you guys had so much passion that you were losing money on the road, and you'd go back to work to make enough money to try to get out on the road again. Is there any truth to that?

Oh yeah, that's how it went. We all had day jobs. We would try to build as much money as we could, and then go out and play for 2 people in every city. We were driving around eating Taco Bell every night and nobody cared about sleeping wherever. I remember waking up in the morning at this promoter's house – waking up to her 2 kids hitting me in the nuts. Great memory! Those are the things that I'll never forget. I soaked in all of the things around me when it was just for fun. It's still for fun, but it's different. Back then we knew that we were going to lose no matter what, and we just did it for the hell of it. There was something great about that.

Do you have anything that you'd like to say to your fans?

Fair to Midland fans are like a family. Expect to have a brotherhood like a family when you come to watch a Fair to Midland show.


Cliff Campbell Photo by Ben Hansen

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By Ben Hansen

Guns N' Roses has been an icon of the hard rock scene for decades, renown just as much for their live performances as they are for their epic music. The band is currently touring in support of their most recent album, Chinese Democracy, which has achieved platinum status in both the United States and Europe.

Longtime Guns N' Roses staple Dizzy Reed sat down with Ben Hansen to discuss the past and present of the storied band.

How have the first few months of the huge US tour treated you guys?

So far, so good. It's been really cool, and the crowd has been awesome. No major mishaps or anything. I remember most of it, so that's good.

I know that U.S. fans have eagerly anticipated this tour for quite a while. Has it been interesting playing here in support of a new album that was released three years ago?

Yeah, it's a little overdue, but it feels good. People are digging it. The set list is a bit of a cross section from the whole Guns N' Roses library.

GNR has tour stories that have become objects of legend throughout the last twenty years. Can you share one of your favorite tour experiences with us?

I think it would be my first show ever with Guns N' Roses. One day I was playing at the Whiskey A Go Go, and the next thing I know I was playing in front of one hundred thousand people in Rio De Janeiro! That was a bit of a jump, and it's been quite the experience since that day. It's been great.

You have worked with some phenomenal guitarists, from Slash and Izzy Stradlin through Buckethead and Bumblefoot. What are some of the greatest moments you've had playing in collaboration with these guys?

I'd have to say that the three guys that we have with us now are, by far, three of the best guitar players in the world. DJ (Ashba), Richard Fortus, and Bumble…it's such a pleasure and such a treat to be able to go out and hear those guys play together, night after night. It's really pretty awesome.

You play the keyboards, piano, guitar, bass, saxophone, mellotron, and calliope. Is there anything that you can't play?

Well, I don't play the saxophone, and you don't want to hear me play the guitar!

Over the years, you learn. I've always been fully self-taught as far as rock 'n roll goes. I've had to pick up whatever was necessary to do my job and to write songs. I picked up guitar for that purpose. When you're in a guitar-led band and you have an idea in your head and you want to show it to a guitar player, it just doesn't translate the same on piano. You've got to pick up a guitar, show them, and kind of go from there. I've played with some great guitar players, and they've always been able to turn it into something special.

Has GnR recorded any new material since Chinese Democracy was officially released?

Not from us. There was a lot recorded during the process from the same period that hasn't been released. Everybody is always sort of writing on their own and recording stuff. As a matter of fact, I've recorded twelve songs over the last couple of years that hopefully will be put out next year on my own.

Are we going to get a chance to hear your song Silkworms on this tour or in the near future?

That hasn't come up, but it is a good one. It would be cool. Maybe…you never know.

One of the all-time fan favorite GnR songs is Civil War, which, coincidentally, is the first track that you cut with the band in the studio. What was it like in that recording session?

I felt a little bit of pressure. When everyone is in through the control room, you see Axl, Duff, Slash, and Mike Clink looking out at you… it was a little rough, but it turned out great.

It was pretty awesome, about a month later I was driving down Sunset Boulevard and it came on the radio. It was the first time that I was able to hear myself in any context on the radio. The whole thing was pretty special.

Duff and Izzy have made guest appearances in recent years. Do you think that there is a possibility of the band collaborating with them in the studio again?

I'm not sure about that. You never know when those guys are going to pop up on the road. It's kind of like, "Hey, Izzy's here…cool! Give him a guitar!"

As far as collaborating, I really don't know. It's kind of out of my whole realm of decision making.

It's still awesome that you guys have welcomed them onstage and had them be a part of things live.

It's been a treat for fans. It's very cool. For me to see Tommy (Stinson) on the same stage, that's a treat for me too!

Do you have any upcoming acting roles?

(Laughs) No, I've put my acting career on hold for a while, if not on ice. Nothing as far as acting, but you never know - I could get back into it for a diverse change of pace.

You were inducted into the Zeta Psi frat at Cornell. I can't imagine how cool that would be to go to a frat party with a member of Guns N Roses.

That's right, I am a member of the Zeta Psi class. I'm in an Ivy League fraternity and never went to college. That's quite an accomplishment!

Fans have stuck by you guys through riots, personnel changes, a long hiatus…basically anything short of Armageddon itself. Do you have anything that you'd like to say to your fans in Utah?

Thank you! I'm still here for you as well. So is Axl, and so is the rest of the band. Come out to the show, have a good time, keep your head straight, and prepare for a long night of kick-ass rock and roll!

Guns N' Roses will be coming in concert to the Maverik Center with Black Label Society on Tuesday, Dec 13th at 9pm. Tickets are available at the box office and through Ticketmaster at

Dizzy Reed Photo by Katarina Benzova

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Ian Hill of Judas Priest

November 8, 2011

By Ben Hansen

Ian Hill of Judas Priest
Photo by Ben Hansen
Reflections of a Metal God – an interview with Ian Hill of Judas Priest

First and foremost, congratulations on over 40 years of Judas Priest! The metal industry owes much of its evolution to you guys!

Thank you

What do you think about the current state of the metal scene?

I think it's quite healthy, to be honest. It is as healthy as any other genre. There is lots of new talent coming up there. I think that there's a future for metal.

Are there any new up and coming artists that you listen to?

Not any more, not particularly. I listen to metal stations on the radio. I listen to some here and some there, but nothing in particular. There's a lot of stuff coming on, there's a swing back to more classic metal. Way back in the 90's, heavy metal sort of fragmented into speed bands, Goth bands…all types of metal. We've always been a bit more versatile in all aspects, from slower stuff to faster stuff to more commercial stuff.

How is the Epitaph farewell tour treating you guys?

Great! We're really enjoying ourselves. The audience is enjoying themselves as well. At the end of the day, it's all for the fans. Yeah, we're really enjoying it. We love what we do, and it's one of the reasons for this farewell tour. We won't stop playing, it's too precious to us you know. Not playing music is a terrifying thought to all of us. We have to be real, so we've got one big last world tour. In the future it will be a bit more compact in size – small pockets of dates.

Are you sad to see the massive worldwide touring schedule that Priest has been renowned for finally winding down for good?

I regard myself to be extremely lucky. It's not just the playing and the music and the fans, it's all of travel. We've seen wonderful places in the world. Any other business, you never get to visit all of these great places unless you were a travel agent, especially Eastern Europe. I've been there in the terrible communist years, and you get to see these wonderful places and wonderful people. That's something that I'll miss just as much as I will the music.

Speaking of missing, are you still in touch with (Ken) KK Downing?

He was a massive part of the band right from the start with myself. Of course he's a great loss. Richie (Faulkner, new guitarist) has been in the band for the best part of a year in December, and of course he's playing good. He's keyed in masterfully. Musically, with the performance, the fans really won't miss anything. With Priest, Richie put Ken's shoes on and fit in perfectly. He's a great chap, a great guitarist, great performer, and a genuinely nice guy himself. We've been very lucky to find him.

I was very impressed with when I saw him in your live show. Do you think that personally that Richie has brought about some change in your live performance?

He's brought some enthusiasm. He's great – he's the same age as myself in terms of when band back in the day. He's the same age as my son. The attitude and the enthusiasm…it has increased the performance in the rest of us.

Richie will be writing on the new album, correct?

Yes. That's the intention. Rob and Glen have been busy putting ideas together for the next record. We had pretty much finished three tracks before we started the tour, but that was before Richie came along, so obviously we're going to have to go back into the studio and retool all of that and get his input on it. I'm sure that he'll have a great contribution to make.

It sounds like you guys and the fans have both really "taken to him."

Absolutely. He's a good classic metal player as well. He comes from a classic metal background, and wasn't playing in any of the niche metal markets – thrash metal, death metal, or whatever. It helped with fitting in with the rest of us.

What made you decide to move from playing Fender and Hamer basses to Spector basses?

Spectors are great basses. I can't speak highly enough about them. They are a great company, and have been very kind to me over the years. I started playing Spectors back in 1986, so I've been playing with them for a long time. The old Fender bass is great – I've still got that old Fender. It was getting quite beat up – it was the only bass that I used for a long time. Then we had a deal with Hamer – Ken and I played Hamers. They've got beautiful basses that I used on a couple of tours. Then Spector asked me if I'd try them out, and I did. I've used them ever since. They're great, and a really beautiful bass. Great sound, great to play.

We know that you play with both a pick live and with your fingers. When you're not on tour or in the studio, and you're just kicking around your house, are you playing with your fingers or are you playing with a pick?

I play with my fingers. I got started playing out with my fingers. When you've got two guitarists playing with you, you need to come through. The pick gives you a more distinct, sharper sound. It's my fingers that I play with most of the time.

After all that you guys have accomplished musically, how cool was it to finally win the Grammy for Best Metal Performance?

That came out of nowhere. We didn't believe that was coming. It was a great feeling winning a Grammy. It just shows that the industry is recognizing you as well as your fans.

Would you mind retelling the story of how you brought Rob into the band?

Yes. We were playing, but we weren't earning any money. We were a young family, just couldn't afford to eat. I was actually dating Rob's sister at the time. She suggested that I give him a listen, so we went over to Rob's house. He was still living with his parents. He was up in his bedroom, and he came down singing harmonies an Ella Fitzgerald song. I was thinking, "That was pretty good." We had a few rehearsals. He brought John Hinch along, the drummer that he was playing with at the time, and once when we heard him start to sing, that was tremendous. He's a tremendous talent.

Where did your nickname "Skull" come from?

Believe it or not, I used to be very, very thin. So in joking one day, they said I look like a skull on a stick, and it stuck.

You guys have seen and done it all. Metal gods, indeed you are. Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring musicians?

Basically, keep at it! It's very difficult these days to get on. Don't be disheartened if you've been out for a few months and you don't get signed or get on a tour, because albums aren't selling these days, obviously record companies aren't very willing to invest in artists. It can be very difficult, but with patience, and you're dedicated, believe in yourself and you're talented, then you stand a chance.

Do you have anything that you'd like to say to all of the Judas Priest fans that will be reading this?

Thank you for all of the years! Without the fans, the whole thing grinds to a halt. We've been very grateful over the years to have a great bunch of fans. We have a huge debt of gratitude to all of them. Without them, we wouldn't exist. Thank you.

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James LaBrie of Dream Theater

September 30, 2011

By Ben Hansen & Thomas Hansen

James LaBrie in Constant Motion
Photo by Ben Hansen
James LaBrie and Dream Theater Continue to Evolve

Progressive metal is a style that has evolved significantly throughout the last 30 years. From the early contributors like Rush and Yes through the more intense modern bands of today like Mastadon, perhaps no band has done more to evolve the genre than Dream Theater. The band has had several gold and platinum awards, 9 albums, numerous world tours, and placement at #5 on the list of the thirty greatest live acts in the world today. Even Utah's own John Huntsman, Jr. has displayed his passion for the band, as he officially named July 30, 2007 as Dream Theater Day in Utah in celebration of the band's last trip through town.

For more than 20 years, world-renowned vocalist James LaBrie has been the front man for Dream Theater, helping to launch their successes into the stratosphere. Before the show in Salt Lake, we were able to get James to share his thoughts on the transition to their new drummer, touring, and change.

What did you do to celebrate the anniversary of Dream Theater Day on July 30th?

Let's see – where was I? I was in Europe. I can't remember exactly where we were. It's funny that you say that – John Huntsman is running for republic. It was really cool. He was a neat guy to meet, Governor Huntsman. Is he still the governor?

No, he's moved on to Washington.

I was really impressed with his knowledge of this kid of music and the bands that he grew up listening to. I didn't really do anything special for that day – it comes and goes, to be quite honest with you.

Congratulations on having 2 consecutive albums in a row crack the Billboard top 10. After only 20+ years in the band, do you think that people are finding out about this "secret" Dream Theater band?

You hope. I think it still amazes me how often I can come across people who will say, "I just found out about your band," and then I'll say to them "What kind of bands have you listed to throughout your life? They will say bands like Rush, Yes, and Pink Floyd, and I'll go wow! That just bewilders me that you can be into those kinds of bands, and not know until recently, within maybe a few years, that we even existed.

You guys were kind of the next evolutionary step in progressive metal…

Yeah. The first thing that I would do if I was into those types of bands is I would also be on the internet. You could research anything – just type in progressive bands of today. It still amazes me that it is still an educational process of letting people know who we are and what we are all about musically. It's interesting, and it's great. A prime example – here's your son. He's a fan. We're seeing a LOT of that. We're the seeing demographics from 15-17 year olds right up to 60 year olds. It's quite encouraging, and it's a bit of inspiration to see that we're covering so many generations.

Is your boy (Chance) into your music?

Absolutely. My boy and my daughter are for sure. It's very cool.

How old is Chance now?

He's thirteen, and Chloe's fifteen. They have a keen appreciation for who and what we are, what we're all about. It's funny because when they are with their friends, a lot of their friends are listening to whatever song is on the radio, or whatever videos happen to be cool. Once their friends are aware of what we do, it's once again like, "Oh my! What kind of music is this? What would you…I'm having a hard time listening to this," because they have been inundated with what they hear on the radio, thinking that it is what represents music. Unfortunately it doesn't. There's a lot of amazing music.

Your music and Beebs (Justin Beiber) are kind of on different wavelengths?

Oh boy. Yeah.

You're four shows into the tour now. How are things working out with new drummer Mike Mangini, and how has the fan response been?

We did a festival run over in Europe during July and the first week in August. We were over there almost six weeks, and the fan response over there was almost overwhelming. Each and every night, he got a standing ovation. People were up clapping and were quite ecstatic with his involvement. He's infectious. First and foremost, he's a phenomenal drummer. Secondly, he's somebody that exudes such a great and positive energy. He draws you into his vibe, and he has such a great aura and is very charismatic on stage. I think everyone is naturally drawn to him. Each and every day he goes out there and he pulls it off, does what we knew that he would do. I think the beautiful thing about Mike is that he's been doing this just as long as any one of us has been doing it. He knows what to do, he knows how to prepare, and he knows it's not just about playing, it's putting on a good show. He is all of that. We've done 4 shows in North America, and the fans have responded exactly the same way. They've welcomed him with open arms, and it's quite encouraging to see this – for him especially. It's very gratifying to see that.

His playing is solid on the new album.

Yes. Wait until you see him tonight. He's phenomenal! He really is a very unique, one-of-a-kind drummer.

The other exciting part is that we have a whole new production out with us for the rest of the world tour. A lot of people are going to be blown away, and so far they have been. It's a big step up for us production-wise.

What was the most difficult song that you've had to perform other than Octavarium?

That's a good question. It depends on where you're at. It depends on your mental state and on your physical state. That's what puts up the challenge; as to how you feel or how you connect to any 1 given tune. That changes, and is never a constant. I never look at a song like Learning to Live and go, "OMG, I've got to sing that tonight." Sometimes yes, depending on if I'm not feeling well or am tired. It can even be a very mellow tune that tends to not connect with me, just depending on where I happen to be. I think that question would always change. I'm feeling great, and am right where I want to be vocally. Everything feels good.

I've read in past interviews that Octavarium is among your favorite albums. What in particular beyond just the songwriting makes that album so special for you?

I thought that we really touched on some epic music, obviously with the title track and the dynamics of it. It really was the epitome of what Dream Theater is about as a progressive band pushing the envelope, and I felt that we really connected on something there. I still read today where I see the odd comment where someone will say, "I went back and listed to Octavarium. I hadn't listened to it in a while, and all of a sudden it hit! Suddenly it connected with me, and I see what an amazing album it is." I think that's cool to see, because it reaffirms what I've always thought in that it was a good outing for us compositionally. I think that it once again established who and what we are as a band. It's a very powerful album.

From reading other interviews, we've found out that you guys have established some "staples" for your set lists for this time around, and have changed the way that you go about this from the past. Was it you that selected the song off of Octavarium?

I don't believe so. I'm not sure who did that. The way that we went about this is we made a list of all of the songs that was considered as the master list, and then we voted. So that's how we got an idea…there might have been three guys in the band that like that tune, two guys in the band that like that tune. Anything that was four or five votes for a song is what we went with for what we established as our A setlist, our B setlist, and our C setlist. I think that we were all unified on that track.

You guys are well known for doing tons of covers, from Rush, Maiden and Queen through Metallica and Rainbow. Do you have a particular favorite song that you like to cover?

No, I don't. That was something that Mike was pretty much the flag bearer on wanting us to do covers, wanting us to pay homage to these bands that had classic albums that were very influential to many different bands out there. To be quite honest with you, my favorite songs to sing are our songs. That's me. I did have a great time singing the Queen songs, just because Freddy Mercury was my all-time favorite vocalist and consummate front man. I think that where you really stand out is when you be yourself.

Was it fun for you guys to get to share the stage with Iron Maiden?

Yeah. We had a really good time. We didn't really see them. A lot of people assume that you're all together backstage and that you are hanging out and partying. There is none of that, really. First of all, they don't usually show up to the gig until…maybe an hour before the show. We have our routines, every band has their routines, every band member has their routines on how they prepare themselves and get themselves set up for each and every show. We've known them for many years. I've done interviews on the BBC when we've been in the UK with Bruce Dickinson. I think we've done three or four interviews, so we know one another well. With that particular tour, it was just a matter of 2 bands that respect one another, here to create a buzz, and that's what we did.

With you knowing Bruce, has he given you any kudos or props for covering To Tame a Lamb or Number of the Beast?

No. That's just like someone doing our stuff. I'm not necessarily going to sit down with them and go, "Wow! What you did there was really amazing."

So it's nothing like Ozzy, going and hiring the drummer that did the best cover version of War Pigs?

Yeah. It's not like that for me personally. Maybe for other singers, but not for me.

I can see your point. Are you kind of mad at those people who copy you?

I don't get mad at people who copy me. In one respect, that's flattery. It's the ultimate compliment when someone wants to cover you, because that means that they love you that much and they take seriously what you do and want to replicate it, to see how close they can get to the original.

The newer material seems to focus less on the high-octave vocals, and more on progression, power, and depth on each vocal track. All of the true fans know what happened with the vocal cords (Hematoma) in Cuba years ago – what else has contributed to this change?

I look after myself. I get plenty of rest, I jog 3 miles a day, I take my vitamins, and I drink plenty of fluids. I don't drink when I'm on the road. I think that that really helps. Anybody that has been to the shows, especially on this tour, can see that my voice is back to the full prowess self, and I feel great. When I approach any tour, it is about me being able to give 100% each and every night. Every singer will tell you that they know what can really assist you in getting there. Everyone has their ways, their little secret potions that really work for them.

Are you still sipping honey?

Yes - honey and hot water. It is really soothing.

Can you tell us a little more about the nickname "Pirate" that Jordan gave you?

I have that part of me that I can be a little aggressive at times when I want to make my point. In my past, when I was younger and more foolish, I was a little more physical to express myself, not so much verbal I got into some rumbles along the way – quite a few actually. It kind of rears its head every once in a while where I can be a little temperamental. I don't mean where I'd ever threaten anyone, I just mean where I come out like (GROWLING) WHAT!!! One day, a few tours ago, he (Jordan) goes, "Argh, the pirate's coming out. We'd better watch ourselves!" He used to call me captain. I'd come in and be like, "What's going on here guys?" and he'd say, "Here comes the captain, better make sure that everything is in order!" Jordan has a nickname for everyone.

Fans wanted me to ask about the 12 Step Suite – are we going to get a chance to see this happen, and if so, when?

I really doubt it. That was Mike's baby. That was him expressing his personal experiences. I'm not going to say never, because you should never say that, but I will say comfortably that it's not going to happen on this tour.

You've mentioned to us before that you're Christian. How has your view of religion evolved and changed over time, and does that come through in your music?

I was raised Roman Catholic. I would say that from the time I was sixteen and on, I became more spiritual, really reading spiritual books that gave me a little bit more appreciation. We all have incredible insight within each and every one of us. A lot of our answers can be found within us instead of being externally sought after. I think that we don't give ourselves enough credit. I think whoever designed us designed us so that we can rely first and foremost on ourselves. Instinctually, I think that we're always given strong messages, but we tend to ignore them because of what we've been inundated with over the years, that then we feel the need to look elsewhere for answers. We shut that voice off, and I think that it is very unfortunate, because I think a lot of people would be more grounded, more confident, less neurotic, and less insecure. I think that we are going through a very transitional point in life in our times as humanity. Even this album, A Dramatic Turn of Events, is speaking on those very subjects – that we are seeing dramatic changes spiritually, politically, and socially.

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By Max Parker Dahl

Styx tours around the globe more than 200 days annually with marquee icons Foreigner, Journey, Kansas, REO Speedwagon, Yes, and other 80's rock icons. The first band to receive 4 consecutive triple-platinum albums, with some of the most recognizable anthems of all time, awarded by music organizations and worshiped by fans—their mythological namesake alludes to their impermeability. Here's the story; the Greek warrior Achilles was dipped into the river that ran through the underworld by his mother when he was a child. The river Styx made him invincible wherever it touched him. Achilles the warrior became the quintessential war hero of Greek lore. The band must return to those waters often to bathe, because they continue to gain vocal power and fans along the way, and Styx the band is fabled to play the greatest rock-and-roll show of all time.

"The band always pushes forward to elevate itself to raise the bar –or at least change the placement of the bar, because the bar has been pretty high for a while," bass guitarist Ricky Philips said. "We push forward to do more because we have a deep fan base that returns every year. We take pride in doing an amazing live show and will study past shows, because we want to give fans something new and make things better. Styx is the first band I have ever seen who has really cared enough to go that deep and keep changing and moving forward. It's not just for the audience, we do it for ourselves."

After a long stretch on European and festival stages, Styx is still excited as it rolls into Salt Lake's USANA Amphitheatre September 23.

"I lived in Salt Lake in my early years, so it has a special place for me," Philips said. "I'm personally looking really forward to Salt Lake, because it was that proverbial time when you are eating top ramen and pancakes in the morning; lean times for me, definitely. Those are the days that you look back on and wouldn't replace—because it is the prep you need—to get kicked around a bit, to be tough enough to make it when you get thrown in with the big boys. I feel Salt Lake had a big part of that in my career."

Phillips left Salt Lake for Los Angles and has had a very successful career playing in British band The Babys, forming Bad English with members of Journey, and recording with Jimmy Page and David Coverdale before landing a touring slot with Styx in 2003, playing more than 900 shows to date.

"Styx is an amazing organization from all angles," Phillips said. "It's the perfect situation and has been an education. To be at the peak of what I've been able to do as a performing artist, I don't take it for granted and I definitely feel blessed. All three singers are in fine shape; we never lose our voices even though it is such a vocal band because we play so much, and this year has made us even stronger. The band keeps muscling up each year. We tip our hats to the 'repeat offenders' who repeatedly come out and are going to play the songs you want to hear."

The pop-culture resurrection of the 80's has hit hard around the circuit, and there are notable numbers of younger fans coming to see how their parents rocked out. "For us it's a very cool rush to look out and see a body of young people en-mass, and see the same age group we were looking at when we started and when we were in our twenties," Phillips said. "That's the best payoff; you definitely appreciate the people who have been there since the beginning and supported the band, but it's incredible to see fresh faces there."

As for recording new material, Phillips is promises that it will be worth the wait. "We haven't found time to properly sit down to record," he says. "It's a process that shouldn't be rushed. We know what it's like to go in the same room and have 5 pistons firing at the same time; there is a magic that happens the feeling of a live, charging animal when a whole rock band plays together. When you record it apart, there is just this one element that's missing."

Phillips spent the 90's producing music and knows a thing or two about the "it" factor. "I'm hearing a lot of great music right now from people like Avenged Sevenfold, Muse, Black Keys, Kings of Leon; bands that when I hear them, I know it is them immediately. To me, that's what Styx is all about; Styx has a sound that is very identifiable and does very positive material with a message. It is something everyone has felt and can relate to."

Whether the magic is in the name, or the rich harmonies blasting "Oh mama I'm in fear for my life from the long arm of the law", or simply the dynamic energy of 5 guys having the time of their lives, there is something magical and mythical about Styx. Their track and touring record is tangible, impressive and rushing headlong to Salt Lake's USANA amphitheater with REO Speedwagon September 23.

Ricky Phillips Photo by Ben Hansen

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Tak Matsumoto of B'z

Photo Courtesy of Vermillion

Tak Matsumoto / B'z Interview

By Ben Hansen

Recently we were honored to have the privilege of sitting down with the legendary Tak Matsumoto, globally recognized instrumentalist and guitarist for the band B'z. For those of you unfamiliar with B'z, the band has sold over 79 million albums, recorded 23 consecutive #1 albums, and 45 consecutive #1 singles. B'z just released their new album C'Mon on July 27.

Ben - Congratulations on receiving your Grammy award for the album Take Your Pick this year! Do you have any plans to continue work with Larry Carlton?

Tak - Thank you so much. That was absolutely one of the best moments in my life. I do want to create music with Mr.Carlton again. I believe that the perfect timing will come again.

Ben - It's been over 20 years since you formed B'z. What do you and Koshi do to keep the creative energy flowing?

Tak - I never think about that. I've been creating and playing music just because I adore doing that. I know Koshi(singer of B'z) would be same.

Ben - After creating such an immensely diverse catalogue, do you still look forward to the opportunity to branch out in different directions each time you record a new album?

Tak - There's a big difference between the B'z and my solo (instrumental music), I'm really interested in many kinds of music besides rock and roll, so it's very natural for me to adopt a wide variety of music style. If we released only heavy rock songs, we wouldn't be successful in Japan. Japanese fans enjoy diversity in music.

Ben - You have seen an incredible streak of #1 albums and top songs in Japan. Is there pressure for B'z when writing to create the next #1 hit when you were in the studio recording the new album C'mon?

Tak - We're very proud of having many hit singles and albums in Japan, but there's no pressure to write hit songs. Someday our record would be rewritten by someone else. We intend to try to write songs that will be loved worldwide.

Ben - You are making a big push by teaming up with Linkin Park to help the Tsunami victims in Japan. Are you looking forward to playing live together for the benefit show?

Tak - We're really looking forward to sharing the stage with the LINKIN PARK, of course. We deeply appreciate that they took action to support our country immediately.

Ben - Is there anything that you'd like to say to your fans in the United States?

Tak - Hello! We're trying to have more opportunities to play in the US from now on and we'll release songs in English as well. Please check the B'z out!

For more information on B'z, check out their website at

Please help contribute to B'z and Linkin Park's recent fundraising effort to help those recently impacted by the tsunami in Japan. Visit and donate to this great global cause today.

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Dead Sara Photo courtesy of Kymm Britton
Dead Sara Comes To Life with Lead Singer Emily Armstrong

By Ben Hansen

June 8, 2011

Ben - Emily, we know that you "Lay it all out on the line" with your live shows. How do you prepare yourself for a show?

Emily - I usually rest before I go onstage, to be totally honest. I'm cuddled on a couch or having some shut-eye.

Ben - That's quite the interesting contrast, because once you get onstage, your stage presence has been labeled as "compelling", "unpredictable," "convulsive" "intense" and "authentic." That's quite the combination of comments, to say the least. When the lights go down and the amps start buzzing, what does Emily Armstrong have running through her mind?

Emily – (laughing) Don't F up! When the first note of anything plays, depending on what song we start with, within that second it's like a different world. That's it – it's not like you think, or anything…it takes you, and you switch into that different world with the band.

Ben - There has been a lot of hype about your recent Sunset Sessions performance. What are your plans for touring over the next several months?

Emily - Several months…we just finished our record, so we're working on a release date right now. We're working on the album artwork right now, and we're thinking sometime in the fall. From there, we'll tour. We hope to get with a rad band to go with. We're not really touring in the next month or so, just sticking with playing a bunch of local shows. We're doing our "Bootleg Theater" show on the 23rd.

Ben - Your style is very distinct and original. Who would you cite as your vocal influences?

Emily - Stevie Nicks got me into singing. Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, Robert Plant, and a folk singer from the 60's named Melanie Safka was a huge influence on me. These were a few that I'd sing along to, because I never had vocal lessons. It was THEM that I tried to capture in singing by singing along with them.

Ben - I've seen pictures of you playing the guitar live. What songs on the upcoming album do you play guitar on?

Emily - Test On My Patience, We Are What You Say, and Lemon Scent. I played on Sorry for It All, but I don't play it live.

Ben - I saw a picture of what looks like a Gibson Les Paul in your hands. Let's clear the air…are you more a Gibson or a Fender girl?

Emily - You know, what I'm playing is not a Gibson. It's actually a 70's Univox, which is a lot lighter. If I were to go with one of the two, it would be Gibson guitars, but Fender amps are my favorite.

Ben - Let's talk specifically about the album. The first single "We are What You Say"…

Emily - Still not sure about that either!

Ben - ...I've heard a lot of buzz about that track, and know that it's gotten a positive response, while remaining edgy. What was the songwriting process like on this track?

Emily - That one actually went the easiest out of all of the songs on the record. It was literally the band playing and Siouxsie coming in with the riff in the beginning. We had the skeleton of the song within an hour or so. We had the whole vibe of it, really simple. Some of the words came out – "We Are What You Say", "Don't Back Down Kid." From those lyrics, I knew what the song was going to be about. It took me a little bit longer to get all the lyrics right, but we had the skeleton within that rehearsal night.

Ben - How much time did you spend in the studio recording and mixing the whole album?

Emily - Tracking was less than 2 weeks – 10 or 11 days. 2 or 3 months was like the actual total time.

Ben - Your album has a bit of a "throwback" raw sound to it – lots of fuzzy distortion, a scratchy, raw edge to the vocals that many studios would force the artist to clean up prior to release. I think that is part of what makes your album special – turning it up, several of the tracks almost immediately feels like a classic instead of an over-dubbed 30 layer track. Your band makes an immediate impact on anyone who has seen or heard of you. We know how passionate you guys are for your fans…for those who haven't heard of Dead Sara yet, what message would you like to send to them?

Emily - Come to a show. That's where you'll really get to see who we are. It's where the record comes to light. We won't bite. I love the interaction of fans that see us for the first time.

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SLASH SPEAKS Photo by Ben Hansen
Slash Speaks of Horror

By Ben Hansen

January 24, 2011

Slash has been active over the last month in Utah. During the Sundance film festival, he held a press conference to announce his new motion picture production company, Slasher Films, then hosted a kickoff party that same evening at the House of Blues on Main Street. One week later, he played a diverse, deep set of tracks to an eager audience at the Depot Club in Salt Lake, in support of his new solo album.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Slash for five minutes between events.

Ben – Welcome back to Park City. I think that the question was already posed about you have making any guest appearances in your films during the press conference…

Slash – You never know, right? Actually, I appeared in an episode of Tales from the Crypt years ago. Just don’t ask me to try to act.

Ben – What’s your all-time favorite slasher movie?

Slash – …With all things considered, most of my all-time favorite scary movies aren’t really slasher movies. When you think of slasher films, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it horror, is it special effects, or is it an hour of gore?

Slash - What comes to mind for me with a classic horror movie is trying to get you involved with a great story and great characters that you can appreciate. Make it very scary psychologically; lay down a great foundation for the movie, create a great scary movie like the Omen. I wanted to create the type of movie company that makes you want to sit back in the theater with your friends and get scared.

Ben - Speaking of a great horror movie, have you seen the show about Roger Corman (Corman’s World) and his horror movies that debuted this weekend here at Sundance?

Slash – (Laughing) No.

Ben – Classic horrible monsters and low budgets

Slash – Classic terror, man.

Matt – Congrats on the production company and releasing here at Sundance. As far as the idea for Slasher Films, I remember when you were coming up with Matt and Duff a few years ago. Was that when the idea first came up?

Slash - No, not at all. This thing really came out of nowhere. There is something amazing here (at Sundance), even with all of these guys around here trying to make deals and this and that, there is a still a very pure sense of wanting to create and make movies. I just like to hang out in the spirit of it here.

What happened as far as the production company is concerned is that I had this conversation with Rob Eric from Scout Productions. He was a friend of my wife. I just had this conversation with him, and he had done Transsiberean, which was amazing. He found out that I’m a hardcore horror fan. So the next morning we have a conversation about starting a production company and brought his knowledge to the forefront. About a year went by and he had found this script that he thought was great. He gave me a copy of the script, and I liked it. Now actually we have four scripts. They came out of nowhere. I’m so engrossed in music and so involved that it was hard for me to pull aside for a second and think of doing something else. It sort of keyed on me, and as soon as I could step away from the music, it presented itself.

Ben – Do you mind if we ask you a music related question?

Slash (Laughing) No – as long as it’s not about a Guns N’ Roses reunion tour

Ben – How is the search for the new Velvet Revolver singer going?

Slash – I actually don’t really have any updates on that. It’s something that has been just sort of floating, and there hasn’t been a lot of activity lately.

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Dave Ellefson,  Megadeth
Dave Ellefson Photo by Ben Hansen
Dave Ellefson Won’t Rust in Peace

By Ben Hansen

Ben – Now that you’re back with Megadeth, are we officially allowed to call you "Junior" again?

Dave (laughs) – People have been calling me that since the beginning of the band, I guess it’s my nickname. In the beginning I didn’t like it; I was always the younger "Dave". Then after several years, it became a term of endearment. I’ve been called worse.

Ben - You played on the Big 4 tour this last summer. What was it like being part of that?

Dave - That was something that I think was the most exciting thing for all of us – bands and fans included. That was definitely the shot heard around the world, to the degree now that everyone is asking, "When are we next?" "When are you going to come to the US…South America…Australia?" We definitely set the bar pretty high for what could be an amazing extravaganza – I think the best of the best of the thrash genre.

Ben – Is there any validity to these hopes?

Dave – There is nothing on the books right now. For right now, on November 2nd, the DVD, Blue Ray, and CD box set of the show comes out. That is really cool, with a ton of great stuff. Whatever people saw in the movie theaters, there is a lot more in addition to that, plus all of the backstage stuff. They captured some moments that you would have had to have been there to witness. That makes for a good Christmas present.

Ben - Was it a rush playing, "Am I Evil" with Tom (Araya/Slayer), Robert (Trujillo/Metallica), and all the other guys on that tour?

Dave - It was. We all had our time on that exact same stage. It wasn’t like there was a headliner with three other bands. Metallica went in with the attitude of, "We’re just another one of the bands on the bill." That was really a commendable position for them to take, because it took away hierarchy and the inevitable mindset that goes with that. They were very gracious, and as a result, when someone gives, no one wants to take. I thought that there was a real maturity with all of us.

Dave - That’s probably why this has not happened until now. "Do you ever see this happening? Could this have happened? Why did it take so long?"…well, that’s why. There’s a maturity that happens at this point for all of us. We’ve lived this long to be able to do that. It’s like that saying we had in Skin O’ My Teeth, "That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger." Whatever didn’t kill us off back in our earlier days has now definitely seasoned us and made us stronger, put us in a position where we can do those things and make it work, because we all want to make it work.

Ben - I remember when you guys came through town in support of the Rust in Peace album at the raceway 20 years ago on the Clash of the Titans tour. What was the most memorable part of that tour?

Dave – There were select dates that were pretty memorable. Then again, that whole period was. It really hit me that it was the biggest that thrash metal was going to be. Probably up until the Big Four shows that we just did, that was as big as it ever got. It took the combined forces of all three of us (Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax) to put together a tour. Keep in mind, back in those days like bands from a same genre didn’t go do tours together. Shortly thereafter, we got…Lollapalooza, but even Lollapalooza and even Ozzfest to some degree started to broaden and got some bands from outside the genre. Ozzy would be the Elder Statesman. He was the oldest guy out there – everyone grew up a fan of his. When Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax came out, we were all yoked together. For the three of us to put egos and all of the stuff aside…we were younger, so we were still full of a lot of piss and vinegar, and hadn’t yet seen the top of the mountain. When we were able to put that aside and combined forces, it helped us get to the top of the mountain together. It was one of those periods that was probably beyond what we were. There was a maturity that happened on that tour that probably wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Once we did it, we realized, "Look at how huge that was." I don’t remember the events of it as much as I remember the feeling of it being that this is the biggest that this (thrash metal) has been and it is the biggest that it might ever be.

Ben - What was it that Dave M said? "Metal hasn’t gone away; it’s just gone underground and will be back up for some air and to kick some ass again?"

Dave - Metal, is a genre, and thrash is a genre within, like a sub-genre. It packs a pretty potent punch. By nature, it’s not a trend or fad, so it’s not going to be popular. There’s the "Mall version" of metal where you can go to the mall and just buy the T shirt…kind of wish you were there or pretend that you were there. That’s what I think is so cool about this tour that we’re doing right now. This is not the mall version; it is the real thing. There are a lot of people coming out to see the show that they saw twenty years ago.

Dave - There’s also a lot of younger fans growing up that get to say, "That’s the tour that I heard about," or "I was only two when that show happened," or "I wasn’t even born yet when that tour came out, but I always hear my dad talking about it." Now this is that tour! It’s cool for us to be able to take this out around the track again.

Ben – That’s quite a diverse crowd.

Dave - One of the things that is the coolest for all of us is seeing that it stood the test of time, that as angry and snotty and punky as it was years ago, that we’re able to take this back out and put on a show again for everyone that missed it the first time around.

Matt – Coming to a show like this brings back a certain sense of nostalgia. Through all of these years, 20 plus years, what is it at this point in your career that makes touring and playing music interesting?

Dave – Playing the Rust in Piece album top to bottom is not something that we ever did before. Even though we’ve been doing it all year, it’s not quite as new as it was back in March the first time we did it. We’ve never played an album from top to bottom on a tour, so it’s the first time that we’ve ever done that. To do this album, which was such a big fan favorite, for us to do this for our fans, as opposed to us intentionally doing a big show – where are we, who else is on the bill…we’ve played in festivals in Europe where there has been pop bands like REM and Sheryl Crow. We have enough of what we call our greatest hits that you see on TV or hear on the radio on a regular basis. We pull those out, and we can go head to head with the biggest of pop bands and play on that bill and not be out of character. That’s what’s cool about Megadeth – sometimes you strip all of the loudness and distortion and the aggression away and play our tunes on an acoustic guitar, it will still sound like the same song, which is the basis of a good song. On the flip-side is to go so narrowly focused and play one album that is just entirely off-the-chain thrash metal and very progressive. This isn’t the only album. In my opinion, there are a few albums in our catalogue – So Far, So Good, So What, Rust in Peace, and Peace Sells that are of the early days, they are the foundation of Megadeth’s music. Those are always the ones that fans go back and reference as their favorites. It’s cool to not get bored touring, to not have to play those same ten or twelve songs over and over again. It’s fun on this one, because now we really get to go deep and pull some of the goods out. That keeps it fresh.

Matt – So it’s not like you’re going through the motions. There’s real enthusiasm there?

Dave – Absolutely! For instance, I’ll start with the beginning to Poison was the Cure. There’s a bass intro riff at the start. Some of the fans that would only know Megadeth from the radio songs that will be at the show won’t know that song…I don’t expect this to be an eehhww, ahhhh, whole-arena-resonating-type thing. There are a handful of select fans that get it. Those are the ones, on this particular tour; we’re playing this album for you. It’s cool to feel the room while you’re performing. "Those people, over there, cheering…they know what time it is on this particular tour."

Ben - After playing it thousands of times, do you ever have your intro riff to "Peace Sells" loop in the background music of your everyday life?

Dave – (laughs) No. That’s not the easiest riff to play, either. I kind of have to pay attention to when I play it. There are times when my strap is too low, and, Man, I just boinked the riff on that, or I wasn’t holding my pick right, or I turned my volume up or went into it to quick or wasn’t positioned right. It’s not one of those riffs that I can take for granted. As much as I’ve played it a lot, I realize that people want me to play it right. There is an expectation. I can always tell the nights when I really nail it. It’s a pretty instant response – it’s one of those "lighter in the air" rock moments.

Ben – I know that initially you played without guitar picks, and then you started moving towards them. What do you do when you noodle on your own?

Dave – A little bit of both. It depends on what I’m practicing. I’ve got a Bach Suites Cello books, .Cello is written in great keys, which reminds me of bass guitar because of the scale of the notes. That I’ll play with fingers.

Dave – Sometimes I’ll sit at home and turn my drum machine on to whatever happens to eat. It could be a boss nova thing, it could be some 6/8 thing, or it could be rock groove. I’ll just start playing along, just ad-libbing and making stuff up. It gets me out of playing just metal. Depending on what I’m playing or the situation I’m playing in – jamming with buddies or sitting in a room on session – I’ll definitely always play so that it sounds the best in that setting. The pick works a lot in recording, with clarity of tone. I try not to walk in and go, "Here I am. This is how I play. Take it or leave it." I try, "How can I make this sound better? That serves a tune rather than make it sort of me.

Matt – When you talked about Elder Statesmen, you mentioned Ozzy. We think about you guys! We honestly think about the Big Four. Metal is your bread and butter – let’s face it. We listen to your songs, we can hear moments of classical, maybe a little middle-eastern riff here or there. Is there ever any desire or pressure to do anything different, or to go out there away from metal?

Dave – We tried something like that on the Risk album, and that showed us that with our fans, when it (the album) says Megadeth on it, they want it to sound like this right here (draws a box). Don’t go too far over here; don’t go too far over there. There is a quality about it that they expect because it has that name on it.

Dave - It’s interesting the music that you reference. We’re an interesting age group because of the moment in time that we grew up in. The fact that we grew up with Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden records, but we also had Sex Pistols records. We were the first generation to have that. Most people were either into alternative and punk, or they were into Zeppelin/Purple/Sabbath kind of stoner rock with heavy guitar riffs. Even Sabbath was plodding, trudging, kind of post-60’s, but loud and heavy guitar stuff. We also great up hearing what would become the neo-classical thing. We had this different harmonic minor, using diminished chords and notations. All of a sudden, instead of playing this straight pentatonic riff which sounds rock and roll, we started adding these half-steps, which made it sound demonic, dark, and kind of evil. That became part of our signature, especially for Megadeth for sure, of what we do. A lot of that just happens to be the point in time we were born. It’s just that simple, the influences that were around us, we just started grabbing them and pulling them in. That’s what created thrash metal, which went one step beyond the metal of previous - Maiden, Saxon, and some of the other New Wave of British Heavy Metal guys were doing.

Ben – We’ve heard a rumor that you are playing bass for the Lutheran church…tell us a bit about the Megalife Ministries Worship Services.

Dave – It’s funny with that. In 1999, when we were in Nashville making the Risk album, both my son and daughter had been born. They were really young, so by nature, my wife and started going, "Our parents took us to church. We should probably do the same thing." I was raised Lutheran. The Lutherans – they’re not fanatic at all. They are pretty middle of the road, not "Fire and Brimstone", and all of that. So it was a pretty easy way to grow up. Now suddenly I’ve got kids, and I’m up to bat as a parent, which makes you realize that your parents actually did know what they were doing. And most of the shit that we were getting away with, we actually weren’t, right?

Dave - So we’re in Nashville, and all of these people started coming at me, asking me about my Christian faith. I realize that I was in Nashville, which is the buckle of the Bible belt. This is the core of that – a lot of the Christian music industry is in that town. It’s weird that this is happening, so I call my wife to tell her, and she says, "Well, that’s funny. The Worship Leader at the church that we’re going to called and asked if you could sit in next week and play bass for him." There are moments when you realize that God is up to some funny business, and since God is bigger, he wins. So I’m in, and to be honest with you, I liked it. It’s low-key and off the radar, which I enjoy. In Megadeth, none of us had ever done any solo albums. We never went off and did anything outside the confines of the band. If I’m going to be in church with my family anyways, I might as well bring my bass, and I’ll get to play.

Dave - That’s how the whole thing started. That was the journey starting. More and more, I got asked, "Hey Dave, can you come to Nashville and play on this record for us?" It was a musical evolution for me. When people call you, they’re hoping that you’ll say yes, whether you play in a metal band or a church album. I had to be careful because I played in a big, heavy rock band. I’d made a lot of life changes into sobriety, stopping drinking, and partying. The evidence has shown itself that when I stopped that and lived a clean life, life really took off. This is when I had my biggest success as a musician. I didn’t talk that much about it, I just walked the talk.

Dave - Once I started playing in church, the whole thing musically came together. When the pastor asked me about helping to start MegaLife Ministries because he knew that I was musically active and well connected, it was cool. We actually purchased a new church. It is now part of a church and a school – there is a school for the kids. It’s now really this whole community thing.

Dave - When I was home on Sunday, I went there. I’m not the worship leader while we’re on tour. I’ve been able to bring other people in. Even in the spirit of rotation, I’ve been able to call on other people, and get others involved while I’m still involved as an elder. It’s interesting in the mainstream music setting, that type of calling on people to serve with their talents and gifts stops a little bit. Kind of a spiritual setting, that really opens up. I was able to get a lot of people involved that normally wouldn’t go to church. People that had broken homes, broken families, marriages that were on the brink, and we’d bring them in. It really just lit their lives up.

Ben – Junior as a missionary. Awesome!

Dave – Yeah, Apostle Dave! That makes what I do in Megadeth more rewarding for me. When you think that doing, whether it’s being a journalist or a musician, when you think that it’s all that you do it can be a burden. All of a sudden, it doesn’t own you. When you realize that something doesn’t own you, you’re free. You really blossom. This was really what my journey, even in the eight years away from Megadeth, was really about; playing with a lot of people, playing on another records, writing a lot, being involved with other people. I did artist relations for Peavey. I got a business degree. All these things were happening, which also made going back to Megadeth sweeter, because I happened to know most of the songs. It’s cool to have a whole bunch of other stuff that really enriched my life, because it makes the Megadeth journey just a part of it instead of all of it. That’s a free place for me to be right now.

Ben – Tell us a little about the song you wrote for the Youthanasia album, Family Tree.

Dave - For Family Tree, I wrote the riff on a piano, and basically transposed it over to the guitar. Sometimes a different instrument gives you a different starting point to create a riff or an idea. I’ve written some things on acoustic guitar, and all of a sudden an amazing lush melody or chord structure falls out. I could pick up an electric guitar, plug it in to a Marshall stack, move it around, and wow…that’s a pretty slammin’ metal riff.

I try not to be limited, and like to have a lot of instruments sitting around the house.

Ben – One of the musicians who we have spent some time with has actually written a lot of his stuff on the recorder.

Dave – (laughs) – Exactly!

Dave – Any instrument can do that. I went on a guitar collecting phase back in 92. Not buying expensive guitars; just cool guitars. When I’d pick them up and play them, it was almost like a bunch of songs just fell out of them. Old beat-up ones, dented, scratched, necks broken, and I bought a couple of new ones. I just went through this creative phase where the music was just falling out of me left and right, and I just needed different tools to do it. Each one was a different paintbrush with a different color. It was like, "Woah! Look at the painting now – it’s really cool!" I’ve learned to never look at an instrument with disdain.

Ben – Now that you’ve joined forces with Dave Sr. again, are there plans to record another album?

Dave – During this time, we’ve already started writing and composing, collecting riffs and lyrics. Dave and I have been having a lot of fun with it. It’s bringing a lot of ideas to the table and putting them out there. I think that the band’s last album, Endgame, really started to focus the band back to where it should be again. Dave had to do a lot of that on his own. Shawn Drover started to make some contributions, and Shawn’s very much a metal head. He really gets the focus of Megadeth. I’d love to hear more of Chris’ influence as being one of those unorthodox, really "out there" guitar players. That’s a dynamic that has worked really well with Megadeth, especially in the earlier years. It’s a fun time right now, and I assume after the first of the year we’ll get more serious about officially recording.

Ben – With all of the success that you’ve seen in the metal scene, what advice would you can give to aspiring young musicians to help them be successful?

Dave – Most of the stuff that you go back to later in life are the things that you learn and developed in your formative years as a musician. With that being said, it’s important to be broad, and to learn a lot, to not just be pigeon-holed into one thing. If you are going to pursue it professionally, you are then going to have to get more focused. It’s like when you go to school as a kid. You learn a little bit about everything…a little biology, a little English, a little math. Then, as you go to college, you start to focus more into what your major is.

It’s kind of like that with music. When you’re young, try all of it! You never know what thing you might like. You might say, "I love jazz, but I’m great at metal." Or, "I love metal, but I can sure write a great pop tune." Everyone has to make a living, so maybe writing pop tunes is where it’s at for you, and then play metal for fun. Music is a very literal kind of thing. Don’t put a box around it, especially in your formative years.

If you’re going to make a living out of it, now you’ve got a lot of other things to think about. It’s about getting focused, finding people that you can work with, and marketing. At that point, once you get into bands and try to do it to make a living, you realize that so little of it is really about playing the music, even though the perception is that music is what you do all day long. More and more of it is about a lot of marketing, promotion, and those types of things. At that point, you’re not going to have the time to sit around and practice, as there are a lot of other distractions. When you’re younger, you should really focus on trying to get the curriculum of your musical senses together.

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By Ben Hansen

March 12, 2010 | Killswitch Engage is a popular metal/hardcore band currently touring the US in support of their new self-titled album. Some recent changes, including the temporary departure of vocalist Howard Jones have led to some challenges that the band has been able to overcome on this tour. Guitarist/songwriter Adam Dutkiewicz was kind enough to sit down with Ben Hansen for an interview about this tour, the recording studio, and more.

How has this month on the road treated you guys?

Adam: It’s been going much better than expected, actually. Things are going pretty well.

I know that you guys had to take a show off in Arizona last week. How has tour vocalist Phil Labonte done with the extra time off?

Adam: Good! He’s still having a tough time with his throat here and there, and he’s trying to get it rest. The problem is we’ve got the "Tour AIDS". Everyone is getting sick. There is lots of lung butter and coughing.

Do you think that the short term change in vocals has affected the live energy at all?

Adam: Actually, not at all. If anything, it’s the same or even better. We’ve got a bit of young blood "Sparking it." The stage dynamic is a lot better. Phil’s just excited to be on this tour.

I’ve seen some YouTube footage of Phil. He looks like he’s having a great time performing.

Adam: He’s loving it!

What is your favorite song to perform live?

Adam: Whichever one the kids sing the loudest. Usually "The End of Heartache."

Do you do anything before sound-check to prepare for a show?

Adam: I have a couple of beers. That’s about it. Then put on our stinky stage clothes, and off we go.

I know that you come across all kinds of unique situations while out on the road. What is the craziest thing that has ever happened to you while on tour?

Adam: Too many experiences to really mention. It can be the most mundane of jobs and it can be the most exciting of jobs depending on where you are.

I know that you’re a technical guy. Can you take us through the songwriting process on the self-titled album?

Adam: It’s just people bringing ideas to practice. It’s either thumbs up or thumbs down. If it is a thumbs down, we start tearing the songs apart and adding/subtracting parts until it feels a little better, and then see if it makes it to the cutting floor after that.

Where do you get the inspiration when writing your riffs and solos?

Adam: It usually just happens, to be honest. I’ve never been that kind of guy that can just force a song out. It just kind of happens. It’ll just flow out of you.

I know that you are a former bassist and drummer. Do you also write these parts of the songs for the albums, or are these strictly contributions from the other guys?

Adam: If I write a song by myself, I’ll usually set up the drum tracks and the bass part because that’s the way I picture it, but then they can kind of pursue it however they want.

How do you determine song placement on your albums?

Adam: I hate that stuff. Normally, nowadays it seems like you really want to front-load a record when it comes to song placement. People don’t really last the whole record anymore, do they?

Not so much

Adam: So, yeah, front-loading records is a really big thing nowadays.

I know that you also do production on the albums, and I know how in-depth that work can be.

Adam: I get a big kick out of bringing a song to its maturity. It’s fun.

It takes a gift to be able to do that…

Adam: Not really! It’s just knowing what to do in the situation that’s given.

We also have a 3 random fan questions that we agreed to ask. Have you ever met Ronnie James Dio, and did he give you props for the Holy Diver cover?

Adam: Yes, and yes. He’s a very nice guy. Very short, nice guy. He’s tiny…a tiny man with a large voice.

Have you been able to master the expert level on Guitar Hero III playing KSE "My Curse?" Or Rockband’s "Holy Diver?

Adam: I think I’ve tried it once, and it blew my mind! I gave up.

On that note, Guitar Hero or Rock Band – do you have a preference?

Adam: Rock Band is fun because you can play the drums.

Can you give any advice for aspiring guitarists to help take their playing ability "Up a notch?"

Adam: Rehearse. Just play a lot.

Do you have any final messages that you’d like to give to your fans in Utah?

Adam: To all of our fans, thank you so much for supporting us through a tour like this where people are dropping off. We weren’t certain if we were supposed to do this tour. We were going to cancel, but the fan support has been more than generous. It renews our faith in how great our fans are.

Adam Dutkiewicz Photo by Ben Hansen

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Leigh Kakaty,  Pop Evil
Leigh Kakaty belts out a Pop Evil song. Photo by Ben Hansen
An interview with the surprising front man of Pop Evil

By Ben Hansen

October 31,2008 | Recently I was given the privilege of sharing a few minutes with one of my favorite new front men, Leigh Kakaty of the band Pop Evil. Here is the interview that occurred.

Ben -- Sorry, Leigh, but I have to ask . . . how the hell do you pronounce your last name?

Leigh -- Just like Karate, but with another K. Kakate.

Ben -- So let's start in the beginning. How did Pop Evil come into being?

Leigh -- We've been playing forever. We started off doing cover shows while trying to save to get a good producer. Our plan was to finally get a record producer and get some exposure. Bands can make their own CDs -- but often it will just sound like a group of guys in a basement. We knew if we were going to have good music, we'd have to get a producer -- we were just kids making music. We were in the bars playing every weekend saving money. No money was split out -- we saved everything for this.

Leigh -- A good band presents a good story that people can relate to. High-profile producers helped to "Build a story." All bands seem to want to do is save money recording in their basement. We got out of our basement to play, and took criticism for playing covers -- when you play covers in bars, you play songs that people from all over the world know. From this, we understood and learned how to write good songs.

Ben -- You guys hail from Michigan -- the land of "double chins and bowling pins and holy Presbyterians," according to Anthony Keidis. What is the music scene like up there right now?

Leigh -- The music scene is tough since we're from West Michigan. Kid Rock and Eminem both came from Detroit in the middle of Michigan. If you're not Detroit, you're not considered doing anything by the music scene. People constantly told us, "Why don't you move to Detroit?" We like where we are from.

Ben -- So you are still on tour opening for Tesla. How has playing the last month with them treated you?

Leigh -- Yeah, we're still on with Tesla. They have been amazing to us. It's kind of weird how everything comes full circle. Troy (drummer, Tesla) was talking to us the other day about when they were opening for Bon Jovi years ago. Now he wants his son's band to open up for us. It's really cool.

Ben -- Do you have any crazy stories so far from the tour?

Leigh -- Tesla has so many hardcore fans that often the fans boo the opening band. Fortunately, the fans have been really good to us and open to our music.

Ben -- We were very impressed with your live show when the tour opened in SLC. There is a lot of passion and raw energy in your music and performance. Do you have a favorite song in the set that you do live?

Leigh -- My favorite song on the album is Breathe. We also just dropped a new song called Rolling Stone that has been the biggest live song on out tour right now. We just wrote it on the road -- we didn't have time to get it on the album, but hopefully it will be huge. We're excited to just keep writing as we tour, little by little.

Ben -- Did you have any idea that Hero would be the first big song off of the album?

Leigh -- Yes. When we wrote it, we knew there was something special, something magic about it. The song sometimes seems bigger than you. It was so big, and the band believed in it.

Ben -- I've heard that some of the other tracks are starting to break . . . any hints on what we are going to hear on national radio next?

Leigh -- We're getting ready for the national release of the single 100 in a 55 on Nov 4. It's been No. 1 back in Grand Rapids for around a year now.

Ben -- Leigh, what are some things that you do to vocally prepare yourself for each show?

Leigh -- What we try to do prepare is try to make sure we don't warm up. Chris Daughtry actually gave me this advice. You want to make sure that you warm up during the show itself, so you're not wasting your voice . . . when you're singing as much as we are, it's harder to warm up, and sometimes if you are really loud, you can tire your voice out. Basically it means taking care of your voice and always sipping tea, sipping water after every song. We even saw Kenny Chesney doing that -- he sips as much as he can during a show.

Ben -- I know that the album was written by the band as a whole -- take us, if you would, through the typical writing process on one of your songs…how does it all come together?

Leigh -- We try to be very open minded with whoever has the best idea -- that's what we go with. We don't worry about who did it, or who did this. The guys all really close, and it works this way. I write a lot of songs on my own that aren't necessarily Pop Evil songs yet, but as I get close to that I really try to listen to the other guy's opinions. They are very free to write lyrics if they want to, as we're all obviously free to write guitar lines. It's a really open and positive environment. At the end of the day, that's what writing a good song is about.

Ben -- Where do you see Pop Evil in five years?

Leigh -- I see us hopefully still playing and being more of a household name, and hopefully helping people with our music -- that's what it's all about for us. For us to get bigger and better, with a bigger fan base -- hopefully this means we have the privelege of sill touring and seeing the world and reaching out to new people and new generations. We've learned from the Tesla tour that these guys now have a whole different ambiance, where parents used to listen to it, now their kids are coming out to these Tesla shows. It's definitely cool to see that come full circle for them.

Ben -- I've seen you quoted before, stating, "Pop Evil is about making the world believe." I think that's a pretty powerful statement…Any final words for your new fan base in Utah?

Leigh -- Basically making the world believe is starting with people believing in themselves. That's what our song 100 in a 55 is about -- when I felt like giving up, I still believe in this rock and roll. It's like with us being a new band…if the music is truly good, and is meant to be, the music will save your soul, whether you are a rock star or someone who is just enjoying the music. It can help you get through a tough time in a relationship or when you're having a tough time financially -- that music is always there for you. That's what I meant when I say Pop Evil is reminding people about believing -- believing in themselves, and in music. Hopefully, at the end of the day, whether they like Pop Evil or not . . . that's what we stand for -- believing. I can't speak for other bands and what they stand for, but I can definitely speak for our band, and it's about helping people believe that Pop Evil is a lifestyle -- a way of life for us.

Leigh -- Whatever normal was, we never really fit in collectively for the 6 of us, but music helped give us our identities in kind of an ironic way. We were able to find our place through the music, and get our confidence and self--esteem. The name itself is about making it believe. Just because there is "Evil" in the name . . . look past these things. There is always meaning in everything that we do.

Be sure to check out Pop Evil's new album Lipstick on the Mirror on iTunes or at your local music store.
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Styx visits SLC fans, Tommy Shaw talks

By Ben Hansen  l  Issue date: 2/26/07

The Depot opened its stage to legendary rock band, Styx. Before the group took the stage, The Globe was able to talk with lead singer, Tommy Shaw.

The Globe: What has been your favorite song to perform nightly on this tour?

Tommy Shaw: Really, each song you hear us perform is a favorite. There are so many to choose from, we try and pick those which will have as much impact as possible and those which have been the most resilient over the years. The opening song is always a thrill because that's when your adrenaline gets going. Then the final song - when you leave everything you have on the stage - that's another big song for us.

G: What about your favorite all-time song to perform?

TS: There's a song on our most recent studio album, "Cyclorama," called "One with Everything" that is always an absolute joy to play. Lots of twists and turns, and it's a homage to our prog days. Perhaps my favorite all-time song might be "Crystal Ball" because it starts out acoustically - about as quiet as we ever get - then ends bombastically with lots of harmonies and solos.

G: Was it fun recording the "One with Everything" album?

TS: The process of getting to the point where we recorded this live CD/DVD was a whole new experience for us because the orchestra - the Contemporary Youth Orchestra - was made up entirely of teenagers. The chorus had members as young as five years of age. It took months of preparation, most of it long distance, working with a team of arrangers creating 20 separate charts for them to learn. They did this while going to school every day. The concert itself was one of the most enjoyable experiences we've ever had, and you can really see and hear that.

G: Tell us about the new Shaw/Blades "Influence" covers album.

TS: Jack Blades and I started this album a couple of years ago with a couple of demos to see how we felt. We recorded "For What It's Worth" and "I Am a Rock" and they both turned out so much to our liking, we just kept going. This era turned out so many great songs we could have done a boxed set. So far we've heard back from Jon Anderson, Graham Nash, Michelle Phillips and Greg Lake and they've all given us high marks for our versions of their songs - which to us trumps even the great reviews we've been getting.

G: I know that the new album is available as a pre-release download on iTunes. Are there any particular tracks that you feel turned out particularly well that you'd recommend for the fans?

TS: VH1's Classic Records is going to radio with "Your Move" which is already at No. 12 on the classic rock charts. "Lucky Man," "California Dreaming," "Summer Breeze," you know, they were all hit records and we did our best to honor them all, so I'd suggest pushing play and letting it run to the end.

G: Speaking of Jack Blades, are there any plans for a Damn Yankees reunion tour? Do you still keep in touch with Nugent and Cartellone?

TS: We never actually broke up, so it would really be our "next" tour, since we would not really be reuniting. It's something we talk about on a regular basis and we just need to figure out when.

G: I've always had a lot of admiration for your vocal octave range. Do you have to do a lot of conditioning to maintain this? Are there any songs in the current Styx set that are more challenging for you to sing?

TS: My vocal range has actually gone up since my early days in Styx. Back then I was inclined to join in the celebration on a regular basis, smoking, drinking, dabbling in recreational stupidity and debauchery, and loved every minute of it. But my voice tended to be a little lower as a result, and songs like "Blue Collar Man" were at the top of my range. With the song "High Enough" I really had to choose between living the high life and hitting the high notes and I chose the latter.

G: I remember a while back that you guys played a cruise ship show with Journey and REO Speedwagon. What were some of the highlights of that for you?

TS: It was an experiment by a promoter, who believed that it was something our fans would enjoy. When we did our press conference on board the ship in Cozumel, and saw just how happy they were, we knew it had been a success. It was a great concert, and the venue was enormous. I know our crew certainly enjoyed themselves, especially the European sundeck.

G: Do you have a favorite guitar?

TS: My very first guitar, a "Marco Polo" entry-level nylon string guitar which was given to me by my parents on my tenth birthday had been out of my possession for the past 14 years after a divorce. I had pretty much accepted that I might never see it again; but a couple of months ago, my daughter delivered it to me on the road and it's still in my wardrobe case while I wait for our gear to come to Los Angeles so I can bring it home. I'll have to take a photo and post it on our Web site. It's nice to have it back.

G: I know that you've toured in four different decades, and have probably seen just about everything, being on the road that long. Tell us about one of the craziest road experiences that you've had.

TS: Chuck Panozzo has written his memoirs and I've just finished reading an advance copy. I'm really proud of how well he told his story. It made me start thinking again about doing the same thing. You live this life every day for so long, you start thinking that it's normal, but when someone asks you to recall crazy stuff, you realize there is an awful lot to choose from. My friend Angie Dickenson has had perhaps the most exciting life of anyone in the history of show business and she just won't tell. There is a lot of mine I probably won't either.

G: Do you have any final messages for the Styx fans in Salt Lake City?

TS: I began hearing about Utah fans the day that I joined Styx in December of 1975. This state was the first to embrace Styx as a national recording and touring band and we've had a special place in our hearts for Utah ever since. We look forward to seeing you all again.
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Interview with Geoff Tate of Queesnryche

By Ben Hansen  l  Issue date: 9/28/06

Queensryche will be coming to The Depot on Saturday, Sept. 30. The band is currently touring in support of their most recent billboard hit, "Operation: Mindcrime II," the much-anticipated sequel to the multi-platinum album from 1988.

Tickets are sold out for the Sept. 30 show, but Queensryche will give Salt Lake City fans a second chance to catch them in concert. The band's second show is scheduled for Nov. 28 and tickets are still available.

Axiously awaiting the concert, fans can grab and extra helping of Queensryche as lead singer, Geoff Tate graciously sits down for an interview to discuss the tour, the upcoming show and the evolution of the band.

Ben: You have had a lot of questions about your singing background and you're experience singing opera. What initially turned you on to singing opera?

Geoff: I grew up with opera and classical music in general. I think that when you are exposed to this music at a young age that you kind of lean that way. My aunt was an opera singer with the Cincinnati opera for years and years. So I think my ear was just kind of tuned to that. It's not much of a stretch going into heavy rock music. You use a lot of the same kind of techniques. It's just a microphone, you know.

Ben: Do you catch yourself singing opera every now and then?

Geoff: Yeah, actually I'm hoping in the next couple of years to go into it myself. I'm gearing up, training for it and trying to learn a bit more Italian so I can sing it convincingly.

Ben: Are there any operas in particular that you are looking at singing in?

Geoff: There are actually quite a few Italian operas that I'd like to do - those are my favorites. There is also a really obscure Russian opera titled, "The Seagull," which is really pretty intense. I'd like to write my own too - I might jump into this in the next couple of years.

Ben: Was writing "Operation: Mindcrime II" a totally different experience without having Chris [Degarmo, former lead guitarist and songwriter] involved in the process this time?

Geoff: Yes and no. Chris left the band in 1997, so we've have quite a few years of getting used to his absence. Mike Stone [the new guitar player] stepped in a few years ago, and he had really been great to work with. He's a consummate musician and a great singer and songwriter - really a pleasure to work with. So, we didn't miss Chris in that respect, although I love working with Chris. He's a very talented guy. This project just seemed to take off, and I never really thought about it until people started asking me afterward.

Ben: You guys just came back from Australia this summer. How was the tour over there?

Geoff: It's outstanding. Australia is a wonderful place. It has kind of a strange thing about it - I've been a lot a places in the world and met a lot of people from different countries, and for some reason people in Australia seem rather happy. I don't know why. Maybe because life is good in Australia - there's nothing to be sad about. That says something, but it seems like the people are just generally happy to be there.

Ben: I've heard that there is going to be a stage show at the concert acting out the story of the albums as they happen. Is there any truth to that?

Geoff: Yeah. Well, in trying to explain it, it's something different. "Mindcrime," of course, is a story. The music is very story-driven, and what we try to do is present it in that way. We have a stage show that has several different looks to it - there's an exterior and an interior look that changes depending on where the action in the song is taken place. We do this with a combination of film screens, backdrops, and onstage accouchements. The inside of the warehouse where Nikki (the main character) lives is an old abandoned warehouse with windows and pipes going every which way. There's a table, chairs and a TV set. We have props that help put the audience in the mood of what the song is saying.

Ben: Are there any spoilers that you can release about what we are going to see? I've heard that there are twists coming in the story.

Geoff: Well, there are some interesting twists that I think probably will take the audience in a direction that perhaps they thought they wouldn't have gone. There are some surprises. One thing that I should probably note is that this is a very graphic show. It's very adult oriented/themes, and so it's probably not a very good place for kids. After all, it's the story of a terrorist and a prostitute, so parents should be cautioned.

Ben: Do you have a favorite song to perform off of the first "Mindcrime," or this one?

Geoff: I love performing "Sweet Sister Mary" off of the first one. I get to sing with Pamela Moore, who plays Mary. It actually included some new music from within that record. In the presentation and live version, we've added some different musical parts to some of the songs to help the story be more clear, so that's very neat. On the second record, there are quite a few songs that I love performing. There's a section called "A Murderer and If I can Change it all" and "An Intentional Confrontation," which are kind of trilogy of songs. There's a lot of acting that goes on within those songs - it's a lot of fun to do, and very challenging too.

Ben: What was "The Chase" with Ronnie James Dio like?

Geoff: It was great! It had moments of pure terror, in that after I wrote the song, I was kicking back in my studio listening to it, patting myself on the back and thinking it was very clever, and then the horror struck me. 'Who am I going to get to sign these parts?'
One, There are not too many people that can do it, and two, it has to be someone that has a commanding sort of voice that would be believable as Dr. X. Ronnie's name popped into my head. Before I started intellectualizing about it, I just picked up the phone and called him, and luckily he answered. I explained the situation to him with "Operation: Mindcrime II" and started playing it to him over the phone, and he was all about that. After the song ended, I said to him, 'What do you think?' Ronnie said, 'It sounds incredibly intriguing. I think you'd better send it to me.' So I sent the song to him, and a couple of days later he called me back and said, 'This is great! I've got it, and I know exactly what I'll do! Let's make a date!' He came up a few weeks later to San Francisco where we were recording. He came into the studio for a day and just nailed the part. He's such a great musician - not just a great singer, but an incredible musician also. He plays bass too, so he's very musically oriented. He's actually a really good bass player.

Another kind of horrific moment for me was when I was recording and producing his session. I had to ask the legend Ronnie James Dio to give me another take. That's pretty hard to do. Fortunately, he was very gracious.

Ben: You guys have come from being a straightforward rock band to becoming very multi-dimensional in your music over the last decade. Can you tell me what has accounted for the transition?

Geoff: When the band got together, we all came from different musical backgrounds and interests. We disagreed on a lot of things, and found ourselves agreeing on a few things. One of the things that we agreed upon was we were very interested in perpetuating the sound of Queensryche and experimenting with each one of our records, trying new things, and bringing each of our musical influences into the music that we came up with. That's really been our motto from the beginning - be experimental, try new things, and don't get locked into some sort of box that other people want you to be in. The pop world is very much oriented into becoming a brand name. Coca-Cola doesn't change that much. People want you to stay the same and do the same thing over and over again, and once you do that, they criticize you for being the same every time. It's like a no-win situation, so we've always tried to make each record different and experiment with the music and try different things each time. That's the key to our longevity. We've been a band now for over 25 years.

Ben: I know the octave range required in singing "Mindcrime" from start to finish - I admit I've tried very unsuccessfully a number of times to follow your singing on it. Have you had to get additional vocal conditioning to prepare for singing "Mindcrime I and II" back to back?

Geoff: I've been training pretty hard - hitting the gym, jogging, trying to keep myself in good shape. Unfortunately for a singer, your body is your instrument, and you have to keep it up. I can't live the rockstar life seven days a week like some of the other guys can. I have to keep it in check, as it is a very demanding show. Not just vocally - there's lots of movement, lots of places where I have to fall down, roll around on the ground - things like that. It's prone to injury - I have to be very careful about that.

Ben: Have you been performing any encores after the two albums have finished nightly?

Geoff: We haven't actually done the full two album show yet - we're saving that for North America. We just finished festival dates in Europe and played Australia. We chose to do excerpts from both albums and then followed up with an encore from what we call our hits set, which are songs people are really familiar with.

Ben: "Silent Lucidity," "Jet City Woman" kind of stuff?

Geoff: Yeah.

Ben: I like the band symbol, and I've always wondered where you guys got the idea from for it.

Geoff: Years ago, we had an artist that designed our first EP named Wes Griswald. He was a fan of medieval art. If you look at that record, you will see lots of medieval imagery. He came up with this symbol in the artwork that he took from the French "Flur De Le" symbol on their flag, changed it around a bit, added to it, and used it in the artwork. We liked it so much that we used it on our next record in a more prominent place. It slowly became a symbol for the band. We call it the Triryche. In a way, it has worked out really well for us because we have kind of a difficult name in "Queensryche." There's a lot of letters in it and it's a difficult name to pronounce, so people have started to just associate the symbol with the band. That way they don't have to say the name.

Ben: Is there anything that you want to say specifically to the fans in Salt Lake City?

Geoff: I want to say thanks for the interest all these years. Salt Lake City has always been a great town for our concert attendance, and we're always looking forward to playing there. It's a great place to play.

Ben: One final question - Is there any underlying message that you wanted to deliver to society with this album and the timing of this album in particular?

Geoff: This album was initially meant to be released after the "Empire" album. Then the "Empire" album was a breakthrough album for us at a lot of different levels. It took us into a whole different realm, musically and financially. We wanted to write a record about that experience - what it was doing to us and what it meant to us. Thus came the "Promised Land" record, and the sequel to "Mindcrime" got put on the backburner. In retrospect, I'm glad that it came out this year, because it really coincided nicely with the way that things are in America right now. It's a very similar situation now to what was going on back when the first "Mindcrime" was written. We have a conservative government in place, and with that kind of government, certain global decisions have been made that affect us all. We have a Bush in office, and a Bush was in office when the first album was written. The religious fervor that surrounds the Republican Party sort of eeks its way into our culture. Also, we're at war in the Middle East - very similar to what it was back then. I think the record fits nicely with the times we are in. The focus of this record is not really a social or political commentary. It's more an individualistic commentary from a guy who was manipulated and used as a patsy and put away in prison to rot for years. What happens to a guy, what happens in his head over that time? Twenty years is a long time to sit there and focus on revenge. That's kind of what the character does. The focus of the record is really about revenge and what that does to a person - how it consumes you and how it shapes your life.
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James Labrie Interview

By Ben Hansen

The global progressive metal juggernaut Dream Theater released their 9th studio album, Systematic Chaos, on June 5th, and was received with huge acclaim. The band’s management was kind enough to grant an exclusive interview with Dream Theater Lead Vocalist, James Labrie.

Ben - How is the current tour going for you guys?

James - Actually, this will be the first show of this leg...…we’ve been here about 4 days already rehearsing some of the new material that we are going to bring out on this US and Canada leg, and we’ve also brought out a whole new production with audio and visuals and a new lighting rig, so we had to work that all into the show. It’s pretty exciting…we’re all kind of frazzled at the same time, because there’s just so much going on, this being the first show, it’s going to be kind of like testing the waters, but it should still be great.

Ben – The song that you wrote for the new album, "Prophets of War," is definitely one of the highlights of Dream Theater’s newest work. How essential do you feel that working with the other guys in Dream Theater for so many years has been to the development of your lyrical writing style and ability?

James – Well, I think that I was always attracted to lyrics, even as a young kid listening to bands such as Pink Floyd - Roger Waters is an incredible lyricist, and Peter Gabriel - guys like that really said a lot to me. (Neal) Peart from Rush is also one of the best songwriters out there as well. I was always intrigued by taking a stab into it, and as far back as being into bands when I was a teenager, just writing down words and trying to make the best of it. As with Dream Theater, my contribution lyrically has usually been 1 or 2 songs per album. When I’m doing my solo material, I’m writing pretty much 90% of the lyrics, and them my collaborator, Matt Guillory writes 1 or 2 songs lyrically. As you get older, you have more experience to pull from, to write about, to express and to convey, so I tend to think that your lyrics will be a little more profound. So with Dream Theater, as a band, we are all evolving individually both in the music department and lyrics.

Ben - I know that you guys play a new set every night on the past tours…any hints at some of the regular songs that we may hear in the rotation on this tour?

James - I would think that if there are any regulars, it would be more or less the material from the new album. As far as that goes, Mike Portnoy (Drummer) has been in charge of set lists from day one, from as far back as when we started the world tour for Images and Words, and he’s written every single set list. With him, it’s really important…what he does is he has on file every single show that we’ve done. When we come back to a city, when we were here last tour, or whatever tour, he knows exactly what we’ve done in that city, so he makes sure not to repeat any of the songs. It makes it a lot more interesting for those fans, as well as fans that tend to come to 4,5,6 shows – it’s great for them to come to that many shows and be able to see different songs, with the exception of a few repeating themselves each and every night.

Ben - There are some that are fan favorites that almost have to be repeated…

James – True. True. Because we’ve done that, I think that it has made it a lot more exciting and interesting not just for the fans, but also for us. I think that a lot of bands out there (and I’m not knocking them – if that’s what they want to do, then that’s great, and if that works for them, then beautiful), but for us, it keeps us on our toes, and keeps things interesting for us to be able to play different songs from the Dream Theater catalogue, whatever they are, from whatever album we want to pull from. It makes it that much more interesting for us each and every night as well.

Ben – Does it help to keep performing from getting a little monotonous?

James – Yeah, mechanical, and you put it in to auto-pilot, as so to speak. This way, I think you’re really in the moment, and you’re really trying to get the message across and are just as enthusiastic as the listeners.

Ben – Rumor has it that at one point in time years ago you had turned down offers to be the front man for both Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Can you tell us a little more about this?

James - Well, Judas Priest was just a conversation in passing with a few people in the industry – they said that there had been hints in checking me out…to be honest with you, I was already with Dream Theater, and we were already into touring with Awake at the time, and there was no way that I was going to do it. As far as with Iron Maiden, I was approached in an indirect way from their management, saying, "We are starting to audition, and the position could be yours if you are at all interested." I said absolutely not…this was just before Dream Theater’s Images and Words album came out. So, it was never at all any in kind of process. To be honest with you, I’ll tell you a good story here - I would have never done it, because I had the experience of walking into a band when I was 22 years old, and that band being Conie Hatch in Canada. That band had a few albums out, and after the 3rd album, they invited me to be the new lead vocalist. I was with them for about a year – they were with Anthem Records, which is who Rush was with, and it was really exciting for me, but I still was just basically imitating the original vocalist. I realized, even at that young age, that being this king of a singer was not something that I wanted to be - I wanted to be the guy that was the real voice for a band. That’s why I left that band as well, and started into other bands that eventually led me to Dream Theater.

James - Believe it or not, I was also contacted by Styx management in 1988 about singing for them while I was singing for Winter Rose. We were approached by management (Glass Tiger) who were in co-management with Styx management. I was asked to do it, and I turned it down. I said, "Thank you very much, but no, I don’t want to do it," and Glenn Burtnik ended up singing on that Styx album. So I’ve been asked by quite a few bands, but I knew right when I first heard Dream Theater, when it was brought to my attention, that this was something that I definitely wanted to be a part of. I knew that I could be the voice for that band.

Ben - For all of us fans, we’re very glad that you stuck with your commitment and we got to see the subsequent works that came with it. You guys have a huge global fan base. How differently do you feel fans here respond to you in the US vs. in Europe?

James - I don’t think that there is as much difference as far as the enthusiasm to how much they like the music itself. I think the difference is the live environment. When you’re playing for audiences in the states or Canada, there is a little bit more of a conservative reception to it, where as if you are in Europe or South America, it’s very animated. The fans are very vocal, very loud, just really a lot of body movement going on all the time. It’s a little different here - it’s a little more where fans in the States and Canada just tend to stand and watch, and then scream between the songs. It’s all good, though!

Ben - You have two kids, correct?

James – Correct

Ben - How difficult is it to balance being a father and a globally heralded singer?

James - Well, first and foremost, a lot of the support comes from my wife, Karen. She’s a very strong person, and very independent, so she doesn’t need me wrapping my arms around her all the time and saying, "I’ll be there with you, and thank you very much," Even though she knows that I’m that kind of a person, very appreciative. Without her, I couldn’t be doing what I am doing. She knows that I am a very appreciative person. There are a lot of times that I have to dedicate my energy to Dream Theater, and unfortunately, the family takes a back seat many times – I really wish that they weren’t. I think that Karen is there to keep the kids involved and busy. I think that the kids are really excited to, they know what I do. My son Chances, he plays guitar. He loves music, and he loves Dream Theater. He listens to it to the point where I go, "Jeez, buddy, you know the last thing dad wants to listen to right now is Dream Theater!" So I turn him on to bands, he’s in to bands like System of a Down, Disturbed, and Sevendust. My daughter Chloe is actually really in to singing, and she actually studies with the same vocal coach that I’ve been studying with for the last 4 years. She tends to be into more of a different style of music – she’s more into Christina Aguillera and Michelle Branch. It’s cool – it’s all about the vocal technique and abilities that she’s really in to. They’re excited – they realize what I do, but they don’t like to see me go when I do leave for any particular leg somewhere, but they realize that it’s part of our lives.

Ben – Having seen some of your live performances, I know that you have an incredibly challenging feat nightly with some of the notes that you hit. What do you do to vocally prepare for your shows?

James - On that note I should say, no pun intended, from 1995 to 2001 – well to be exact Dec 30, 1994, I ruptured my vocal chords from food poisoning down in Cuba. I saw 3 vocal/ENTs, and they all told me that it wasn’t irreparable (the damage), but it was going to be a matter of time – there wasn’t an operation that they could do (like some vocalists get for notes). They said that I’d have to wait it out, and wait for it to come back. I’d say it was more 2003 when I really felt that my voice had come back online. It was a good 8 years that I was dealing with a lot of inconsistency live. The fans were aware of it, they realized that I was going through a lot of problems, but I had never mentioned it, and I had never told what was going on, because I didn’t want any pity or anything like that. I did bring it to everyone’s attention once I knew that I was signing back like I was able to previous to the injury. I also went back to studying with Victoria Thompson (whom I was talking about earlier for technique). My voice is definitely back to what it was in the Images and Words and Awake (album) days, if not even better. It has a more mature sound to it.

James - Things that I do to keep it so that I’m consistently singing strong each and every night – I jog 3 miles a day, I take a protein called Immunitech ( a whey protein)– it really keeps up my energy. I eat a lot of bananas – potassium is excellent for the voice. I also take Zinc – it’s very good for the voice as well, so I take 1 tablet a day. Then I do my vocal E’s - I get to the venue around 3-4, just doing scales, and warm my voice up with that. Prior to the show, about a half hour before the show, I do the scale once again so that my voice is right where I want it to be, nice and warmed up. I drink a lot of water, orange juice, and get a lot of sleep. All of these things really count in keeping me in top shape. Also, I introduced a new thing…one day I was at home warming up and singing, and had some hot water and honey, (I just thought, I want some hot water…I’ll just put some honey in it, and just started sipping on this hot water and honey,) and I realized when I was signing just how much easier it was to, when I’m singing up in the stratosphere, how effortless it was to sing there. I’ve incorporated that into my live show, I’ll have what looks like a thimble up there, but it is a thermos with hot water and honey. I’ll sip on that through the performance. It keeps my voice really open. All of these things have really lent themselves to enabling me to sing consistently each and every night, and sing at my best.

Ben – On that note, for all of those future aspiring lead vocalists reading this, what scale do you feel is the most important for a new singer to practice?

James - I think that you should always keep it in your comfort zone when you are practicing. I’ve heard some pretty crazy warm-ups from vocalists over the years where I’ve literally walked by dressing rooms and heard people screaming before they go onstage, literally AAAGGGGHKKKGKKHHHH – I’m going, "Oh My God, you’re ripping your chords there!" With me, I like to keep it in the mid range, so for me I don’t go above a G or an A while I’m warming up. When I’m singing, I’m up singing in C#, D, F, and G, depending on what we’re doing. I think it’s really important that when you are warming up, you should ALWAYS remain in your comfort zone and not push it, and then maybe 5 minutes before I go on, I take it up a little higher into As, Bs, and Cs, so that it will respond, but that’s it. When you’re warming up, keep it in the comfort zone. Let it awaken.

Ben – There have long since been rumors of another James Labrie solo album since "Elements of Persuasion." Is the next album in the works, and if so, how is it coming along?

James - A lot of the material is written – I have to finish writing the melodies and lyrics for it, so I’ll have this done by 2010 (laughs). I think that the problem with the Dream Theater thing, I’ve been really busy. When we took a break after we shot the DVD Score at the Radio City Music Hall, we all went away for 6 months off, and I really wanted to spend that time with the family. I just wanted to get away from it all. I know that the label basically wanted me to take a month off and then get back in the studio and start recording my next solo album, but I said "No, I can’t do that, or I’m just going to burn out mentally and emotionally". At this point, the songs are pretty much written, it’s just a matter of Matt Guillori and I sitting down and being comfortable with where the melodies are going, and then sitting down and taking the time to pen some lyrics. Then we could have it out. Realistically, I can’t see it coming out until 2008, and I couldn’t even tell you then at that. I can tell you that we’re definitely going to do another one, and the material that we have written is very exciting. It’s a great progression from where we left off with Elements of Persuasion. It’s just a matter of time to get us all together and get into the studio again to record it. I definitely want to work with sound engineer Rich Chycki again…he mixed the last album, and since then engineered and mixed the last Rush album, "Snakes and Arrows." That’s a great album. So I definitely want to do another album – it’s just a matter of finding that window of opportunity and going for it.

Ben – I have to ask the question that everyone has been wondering…where exactly do you go when all of the other guys in the band go off on their 5-10 minute instrumental jams?

James – There are two places that I go…behind Petrucci’s amp, there is a chair sitting there. I’ll sit down if it’s a short instrumental interlude so that I can get up and walk onstage again really quickly. If it’s something where there is a lengthy instrumental section, then I’ll go off the stage. Basically what I do is I’ll do stretching. I’ll keep myself really loose and limber. Then I sip on a thermos of hot water and honey over there and do some jumping jacks… keep the blood flowing so that the energy level is being maintained, so that I don’t go back out and feel disconnected.

Ben – SLC was skipped on the last tour due to inclement weather, and passed on the 2 tours prior to that. The Utah Dream Theater fans here are almost rabid for their opportunity to get to see you guys again. Does DT by chance have any "Special plans" for the show here?

James - You know, I know that it has been quite some time since we’ve been back there. Mike has always been in charge of the set lists. I think with the new production that we have out with us…the video screens and visual is going to be incredible, as well as the audio and the lighting rig – it’s really immense. I think that because we haven’t been there for quite some time, we can basically pick whatever songs from whatever albums, and it should be received quite well. When was the last time that we were there? I can’t even remember?

Ben – '97 or '98, I think.

James - It has been quite a while. We were also informed that the governor is a huge fan. I think he might be coming out to the show as well. One of our agents just sent us an email saying that he was a huge fan! It’s going to be exciting. All that I can say to this, really, is Mike has it on file, and he knows exactly what we played in 1997, so he’ll make sure we play something else and not that. With the new production, it’s going to be incredible, and it’s been long overdue, for sure.

Ben - Speaking of inclement weather, I understand that you are a skier. Have you ever skiied the "Greatest Snow on Earth" here in Utah?

James - No, actually last winter, my family and I went to Stove, VT and Lake Louise in Alberta. We’ve been talking about coming down to ski Aspen and Deer Valley. I get the ski Canada magazine that lists all of the resorts. I’ll have to take you up on that and maybe the whole family can make it down there. I’d like to take them to a couple of different resorts each and every winter, and that’s what we’ve been doing for a while. We definitely have to get down there.

Ben - Do you want to say anything to your fans in SLC?

James - Wake up, we’re on our way! It’s going to be great - I’m sure they are going to be going pretty crazy since it has been so long since we’ve been there, and we’re pretty excited too!
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