Author Archives: Matthew Belter

Joel Hoekstra,
The TVD Interview

Joel Hoekstra is one hell of a musician. From an early age he took an interest in music and quickly excelled at classical instruments such as the cello and piano. However, it was AC/DC’s Angus Young who inspired him to pick up a guitar—and it’s been his lifelong passion ever since.

Hoekstra has parlayed that passion into a 30+ year career, playing guitar with legendary acts such as Night Ranger, Whitesnake, and Cher as well as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Bolstering that already incredible resume, he performed on Broadway as the lead guitarist for the critically acclaimed musical, Rock of Ages.  The Vinyl District recently sat down with Hoekstra to discuss all things music—including the upcoming release of Running Games from Joel Hoekstra’s 13.

How did you get your start in music?

My parents had me playing cello and piano when I was a little kid. They were classical musicians. As far as playing the guitar as a young child, it was really hearing AC/DC for the very first time. I was like, “Ooh, that’s what I want to do. I want to play that.” In terms of getting a start professionally, it was a constant series of baby steps that led me where I am today. But I have managed to make my living at it since I got out of school at 20 years old. So, it’s really a blessing to make it this far.

Who were your greatest inspirations as a young musician?

It was really Angus Young who made me want to pick up the guitar for the very first time.  However, I owe my success to some really great teachers I had right from the very start. My first taught me rock songs, and that got me hooked. After my first few lessons, I started with a new instructor who began teaching me out of one of those method books. I was initially bummed out and was like, “Oh, this isn’t what I pictured it being.” It felt like cello and piano lessons all over again. But that quickly evolved into theory and technique which was great and I was hooked on the whole process from that point forward.

Tell us about the first time you performed in front of a live audience?

I was terrified. I vividly remember having such bad stage fright that I couldn’t even move my feet.  I was so nervous, my legs were locked and was just standing there going, “Oh my god, oh my god.” So yeah, the first time out there was terrifying.

Over the years, you’ve been associated with some incredible acts including Night Ranger, Whitesnake, Cher, as well as Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Rock of Ages. Understanding each of these is unique in its own right, is there one experience in particular that stands out?

Overall, the one thing that stood out to me was remaining open to any and all career possibilities. I worked hard at everything that came across my radar as I never really knew where the opportunity might take me. The Cher and the Rock of Ages gigs were the ones that stood out as the things I never would have imagined, right? When I was 11 years old learning Black Sabbath songs, I didn’t really say, “I can’t wait. Someday I’m going to be on Broadway.”

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TVD Live: Iration at
City National Grove
of Anaheim, 12/3

Iration’s live performance on Thursday was nothing short of spectacular. With good vibes seemingly in limited supply these days, these Hawaiian natives (detoured through Santa Barbara) brought their unique reggae energy down the coast to Orange County and killed it at a special drive-in performance. Iration’s set was just what the doctor ordered and a perfect remedy to the uncertain times we unfortunately find ourselves in 2020.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of 2020. From political struggles to Covid and everything in-between, anxiety levels around the world are at an all-time high. Concerts were my saving grace, and that was unfortunately ripped away from me back in March. After 8 months of uncertainty, live music is collectively seeing signs of life with drive-in shows beginning to pop up all across the country.

On Thursday, a time bomb was dropped on Orange County in the form of a parking lot concert with reggae superstars Iration at the Drive-in at the City National Grove of Anaheim. I had this one circled on my calendar and was ready to chill to the amazing aura of what I consider one amazing band.

Outside of a DJ to get show started, it was all Iration in front of a sold-out show under a starlit sky in southern California. Their set was approximately an hour and a half long and consisted of classic Iration jams as well as a few from their 2020 release, Coastin’.

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Chris Robertson
of Black Stone Cherry,
The TVD Interview

Black Stone Cherry is anything but your typical rock and roll band. Founded in 2001, Chris Robertson, John Fred Young, Jon Lawhon, and Ben Wells have a long and storied history together as childhood friends with deep Kentucky roots. Today, they’re a well-oiled rock and roll machine creating inspirational music that challenges both the mind and soul.

We recently caught up with the band’s frontman Chris Robertson to discuss their latest release in stores, The Human Condition, life in lockdown, and of course Chris’s most prized vinyl possession.

Chris, how did you get your start in music?

I grew up around music my whole life. My dad plays music still to this day. He does cover band stuff on the weekend—it’s what he’s always done. So, I’ve always been around that. My grandpa used to build acoustic guitars and instruments. He’d build them in an old shop out here on the farm, and he did that up until just a few years before he passed away. He played a lot of bluegrass and stuff, so I was always around music.

My grandpa built me a guitar when I was 10 and I tried to play it but just couldn’t. And then around about seventh grade, we had a talent show and John Fred brought a drum set and played a drum solo. There was also a guy there that played guitar, and I told John Fred at the end of the talent show, I said, “I’m going to get a guitar for my birthday and I’m going to learn to play better than him so we can start a band.” And we’ve played music together ever since.

How did Black Stone Cherry get its start?

As friends, we would jam off and on from 13 on. In early 2001, after some time off, we decided to start jamming again. We wanted to start writing some music, but we didn’t have a bass player. So, I called Jon Lawhon and was like, “Hey man, I know you play guitar, but how about you play bass because we need a bass player?” And he was like, “Okay, that’s fine.” So, Jon transitioned over to bass and the three of us continued to play together focusing on the blues.

A short time later, we were having a little get together and had a bunch of friends down. We had written a couple of songs, but nobody actually sang. That evening, we found out that one of the guys (Ben Wells) actually played as well. We finally talked him into jamming with us. Throughout the evening, people kept switching off instruments in the practice house. The three of us snuck outside and I was like, “Hey man, we need to get this guy in the band.” And John Fred said, “Yeah, he’s got a thing.” And the next day we started the band and it’s been the four of us ever since.

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TVD Live: Ziggy Marley at City National Grove of Anaheim, 10/24

It’s been over 8 months since I’ve seen a live show and Ziggy Marley’s performance at City National Grove was just what the doctor ordered on a crisp Saturday afternoon in Southern California. In the 35 years I have been attending / covering live shows, I have never attended a drive-in performance. However, I was eager to give it a spin with a few hundred of Ziggy’s closest friends in the shadow of the historic Anaheim Stadium.

Nederlander Concerts pulled out all the stops to ensure guests were safe, secure, and well taken care of through the 2-hour event. Concert goers were able to scan a QR code assigned to their parking spot for food, drink orders, as well as restroom queuing located within the main building. You could tell from the moment you entered the parking lot that these folks were serious about state and local Covid protocols and they translated nicely from start to finish with zero impact on the fans or their live music experience.

After a short and incredibly cool set by Los Angeles based, Rhythm Child, Ziggy Marley took the stage around 3:00PM and performed a condensed “Children’s Set,” comprised of songs from his recent release More Family Time as well as hits from Ziggy’s critically acclaimed 2009 Family Time LP. In addition, fans were treated to two Bob Marley and the Wailers covers including “Three Little Birds” and encore “Lively Up Yourself.” Ziggy sounded amazing as always and that incredible smile lit up the parking lot in ways that you wouldn’t be able to understand unless you were actually there.

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System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian,
The TVD Interview

LIVE PHOTOS: MATTHEW BELTER | Aside from being a multi-talented musician and bassist for that little-known band called System of a Down, Shavo Odadjian is a serial entrepreneur whose clothing lines and cannabis company are on a steep upward trajectory.

In this exclusive interview with TVD, Shavo opens up about his early years in music, his latest musical collaboration North Kingsley, as well as his megabrand 22Red. (Stick around long enough and you might even learn which of Shavo’s 20,000 albums is one of his most prized childhood possessions.)

Shavo, how’d you get your start in music?

Well, I started around 12, 13 years old, something like that. Prior to that, I kept asking my parents for an instrument because I just loved music. I was born in Armenia and was 5 years old when we moved to America and think it was like the old mentality of life, “If he becomes a musician, he’s going to be a starving artist.” That was my parents. They always wanted me to go to school and become a doctor, lawyer. You know what I mean? The old school mentality.

I didn’t get my first instrument until I was a preteen, where my grandma actually bought it for me and snuck it into our house. It was a Kramer XL guitar, and I loved that thing. She got a guy to give me two lessons across a two-week period. By the time he was already on lesson 2 of whatever he was teaching, I had already picked up what he had taught me and then some. It’s like I knew all the chords already. I loved that guitar and I played it all the time, not very well, but I did it. I had the passion for it. It wasn’t like, “Oh, now, I got to start doing this.” It wasn’t that. It was like, “Hell yeah. Finally, after so many years I’ve been asking for an instrument.” Before that, I used to bang on pots and pans, played the tennis racket in front of mirror.

Who inspired you early on in your career?

I was a big Kiss fan. It wasn’t because of the music, but because of their theatrics. And it’s crazy, because at the time, the era that I found them, Kiss was not big at all. They were on their way down. I got here in ’79 and they already had done that whole disco thing and were beginning to fall apart. It was during the Music from The Elder release that I discovered them. It wasn’t a big record, probably one of their worst though. They sold like 10,000 copies after selling millions prior to that. But it wasn’t just Kiss or that genre that inspired me. I was a skater. I loved punk rock—the Ramones, the Misfits, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains. You know, the ’70s and ’80s punk era.

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Dryden Mitchell of
Alien Ant Farm,
The TVD Interview

You may not know it, but you’re probably already an Alien Ant Farm fan. Their 2001 cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” was a runaway success and catapulted the little-known band from Riverside, CA to stardom in the blink of an eye.

Dryden Mitchell, AAF’s original vocalist, recently sat down with The Vinyl District to discuss a range of topics including his start in music, the band’s recent cover of Wham’s “Everything She Wants,” and his newfound passion for koi fish. 

How did you get started in music?

Probably just watching my dad. He was my first influence, kind of a one-man band—a piano bar style musician. I’d watch him and was always intrigued by the way he could immediately change the vibe of a room. Whether it be a family gathering or a party, he could easily break the monotony and get things moving, changing the overall mood of the group through his music. I thought it was powerful how he could take control of any situation in a positive way and just thought that was really cool.

What was it like performing on stage for the very first time?

While my dad seemed comfortable in his own skin, I think I was extremely neurotic, self-conscious, and a bit terrified the first time I performed on stage. In hindsight, it was kind of fun to be terrified. I don’t know what I was so scared of, but a few times early on I just felt like maybe I didn’t want to do this. I loved playing music, but I didn’t know if I wanted to play in front of strangers. It was kind of weird, but obviously through experience, I got over those hurdles and really began enjoying being in front of others performing music that I loved.

Thinking back to your high school days, who were your favorite bands at that time?

I remember really loving semi-eclectic music. You know, anyone from Joni Mitchell to Sade to Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, even Björk. And then came along a band called Primus and I was like, “Whoa, what is this?” Their music was way interesting and something I never experienced before. Then I heard Nirvana for the very first time. They just had an urgency to their music. I can’t even explain hearing Gish by The Smashing Pumpkins. It was so regal, so important, so silky.

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Save Our Stages: Peter Hook & The Light with Night Dreamer at The Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, 11/9/19

During this period of historic uncertainty, the fight for the survival of our independent record stores is directly mirrored by the dark stages of our local independent theatres, clubs, and performance spaces which have been shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been cited as well that 90% of these concert venues may never, ever return.

Enter the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) whose #SaveOurStages campaign has provided a spotlight on this perilous predicament with a unique mission to “preserve and nurture the ecosystem of independent live music venues and promoters throughout the United States.” Without help from Congress the predictions are indeed quite dire and TVD encourages you support the S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act, by telling your legislators to save independent music venues via the form that can be filled out and forwarded right here.

This week and next we’ll be turning our own spotlight onto previous live concert coverage as a reminder of the need to preserve the vitality of live music venues across the country—and indeed across the globe—and while we’re at it to celebrate the work of the fine photographers and writers at TVD who are all itching to get back into the pit. 

Peter Hook & The Light’s show on Saturday night at The Wiltern was by all accounts brilliant. His masterful covers of both New Order and Joy Division classics transported fans back in time to what many felt was the true beginning of electronic music as we know it today. It was a throwback show for the ages that reinforced all that’s good in music today and one I won’t soon forget.

If you know anything about me, you’d know that there is a special place in my heart for electronic music. I grew up with artists like Kraftwork, Depeche Mode, and Gary Numan and believe they collectively rewrote musical history with their unique style of post-punk/electronic music. New Order was another such band that blazed unchartered territory in the early 1980s, with incredibly catchy songs that many think of as the soundtrack of their youth.

On a crisp Saturday night in DTLA, Peter Hook & The Light took us all back in time to relive those amazing memories with a stellar set that transcended time. Opening the evening was the debut of Los Angeles based duo, Night Dreamer. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder (of Smashing Pumpkins) and vocalist extraordinaire Mindy Song kicked of the evening with a performance that was completely unexpected for an opener and really, really good. Their on-stage chemistry was amazing, and I could immediately see stars in the making throughout their powerful 30-minute set.

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Estevan Oriol,
The TVD Interview

Estevan Oriol is no ordinary photographer. His humble beginnings in music, hard-work ethic, and unmatched integrity set him apart from others and allowed him opportunities that most might never dream of. Thirty years later, he’s become a master of his craft while working with legendary figures such as Snoop Dogg, Al Pacino, Robert DeNiro, and so many others in the music and film industries. 

In this interview, we’ll dig deep with an amazing artist who has truly pushed through boundaries to become who many believe is the best music and street photographer on the planet today.

How did you begin your career in music?

Well, I was friends with DJ Muggs back in ‘89. I met him from working the doors of a lot of the clubs in LA, I was a doorman handling the VIP lists.  I met a lot of bands that way. It was a lot different scene than it is today. Back then, it was kind of like a family. You’d even be like, “Okay, man. I’ll see you Thursday night at this club.”  So, people were a lot cooler back then—they were a lot more in tune with each other.

In ’92, Muggs was like, “Hey, I’m putting out this new group and I want to have you work for us.” And I was like, “Cool.” Because I had already been to a couple shows with Cypress Hill, so I thought he was going to hook me up with a job with them.  And he goes, “It’s for these new white boys that are going to be rapping.” And at that time, there was 3rd Bass and Vanilla Ice, so I was like, “Man, which one is it going to be? I’m hoping it’s more of the 3rd Bass style than Vanilla Ice.” He goes, “You know, it’s our homie Everlast.” And I go, “Oh, okay cool.”  He then proceeds to drop the name House of Pain and he played “Jump Around” for me. I was like, “Oh, shit.” You could tell instantly that was a hit.

That is how it all started.  Once I got in touch with them, I was hired as their tour manager and ended up going out with them on the promo tours, on the college tours, and stuff like that. That’s what we called working a record back then. It was a way different scene, and I was just getting my expenses paid for including flights, hotel rooms, and food money, etc. The guys would take $300 bucks each show and give me $100 bucks. So, sometimes we’d do two, three shows in a day.  You do a couple shows a week, and you’re doing pretty good. So, I was like, “Man. This is a cool thing. It’s paying off.”

Shortly thereafter, we went on tour with the Beastie Boys and we got kicked off of that tour because the tour manager of the Beasties gave us tickets for Everlast’s mom in the grass area at the arena (which is the farthest away you could be from the stage). Everlast felt disrespected that the guy just gave us the worst seats in the house for our guests. He just kind of blew up on the guy and gave him a piece of his mind. The next day we were kicked off that tour and that happened to be a blessing in disguise.

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Justin Furstenfeld
of Blue October,
The TVD Interview

Justin Furstenfeld is anything but ordinary. At an incredibly young age he realized he was different from others his age and possessed a unique artistic sensibility that most around him failed to appreciate. Over the years, this once-in-a-lifetime talent became one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation. However, Furstenfeld’s journey was never easy. He battled a constant stream of anxiety, depression, and a host of addictions that chipped away at him.

Now, clean and sober for almost 8 full years, Justin has reimagined his life and lives it to its fullest with the support of his loving wife, family, and lifelong friends. Although he has not fully won the war from within, it now appears much more manageable, and Furstenfeld has been able to channel the remaining fury into transcendent storytelling that has offered hope and inspiration to countless Blue October fans all around the world.

Let’s get going, Justin—how did you get your start in music?

I would have to say it was when I was five years old. I saw a movie called Empire of the Sun. Christian Bale was the kid, and he walked around, and he sang. It was this crazy high voice thing. And I was out in my front yard, and I remember I was five or six, and I was just belting out this high-pitched opera, right? And the mailman kept coming by, and neighbors kept coming by, and they were just like, “Wow.” And everybody kept telling me, “One day, we’re going to see you on TV, and one day we’re going to hear you on the radio.” And I was like, “Whatever.”

But I was always enamored by music. I heard Roy Orbison’s “Crying” for the first time when I was six—I just started bawling because I didn’t even know what it was about, but it just made me cry. It’s just a powerful song. And then, at age 10, I got into The Cure and The Smiths…heavy. And at age 10, getting into The Cure and The Smiths is so fucking sad, right? And, every time I’d hear a song, I’d be like, “Wow, I don’t know why they wrote that. I could do better than that.” I was really competitive, and it just became this hobby. Wherever I went, I was always writing songs.

I remember from the youngest of ages, from second grade on, I was just always writing songs. And, I remember hearing the Pixies and going, “That shit is so simple, but it’s so cool,” and being like, “Wow, if they can do it like that, holy crap.” And I just have always been obsessed with making up melodies with emotion because I truly believed that the two things that keep people going were smell and sound. I have always been a sensory guy, so I’ve always created. And I’ve gone through everything—I loved hairbands, I loved rock, I loved George Winston, I loved classical. As long as it was sad, I fucking loved it. And that is how I started.

What was it like for you the first time you performed on stage?

It was truly cool. I remember I was in second grade, and we were supposed to write a poem about something that makes us happy. And I went home, and I wrote a song instead of a poem just because I had to win. And I came back the next day, and they liked it so much that they told me at lunch that I was going to sing it in front of the whole school. And I was so nervous… I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

And I remember I got up on stage—and it was something that I had written—it wasn’t just like singing, “Jingle bells, jingle bells.” And I got up, and freaking sang, and I just remember everybody in the school stopping and looking, and really paying attention, and liking it. And I just thought, how cool is that? Something that I wrote last night that I really loved just affected them all and made them smile. It was just a cool moment in my life.

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Roger Romeo
of Legs Diamond,
The TVD Interview

Legs Diamond might be one of the most underappreciated rock and roll bands of our generation.  Founded in 1975, this relatively unknown band from Los Angeles burst onto the scene in the shadow of legends like Scorpions and Deep Purple and over the years developed a cult following the likes of which had never been seen in classic rock. 

The Vinyl District recently sat down with original guitarist and songwriter Roger Romeo to dig into a band that has withstood the test of time and left an immeasurable imprint on rock and roll as we know it today. Roger opens up about his start in music, how Legs Diamond came to be, and some interesting perspectives on who he feels are the next generation of rock and roll stars.  

Tell us how you got started in music?

I was about 15 years old. Me and two buddies were kind of like a trio. We were always hanging out with this one group of girls. One night we we’re all hanging out over at one of the girls’ houses and it was the first time The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan. As soon as they took the stage, the girls in the room started screaming. I mean literally, they just went completely berserk.  The guys looked at each other and said, “We’re getting guitars.” The three of us got two guitars and a bass for Christmas and that was the start of my music career in 1965, if you can believe that.

What other artists inspired you to become a musician?

I’m a lead player, and it really was the three incredible musicians from The Yardbirds—Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. That’s where I first started my lead solo training. As far as rhythm guitar, I pretty much learned how to play listening to Stones’ songs that were covering black American artists (the first few Stones albums have a lot of covers on them).  It was basically normal chord patterns, a lot of Chuck Berry, that kind of stuff.  I have to add Keith Richards in there for rhythm guitar playing.

Help our readers understand how Legs Diamond come to be?

I was in a band back in Detroit in 1975 and the whole group was planning on moving out to LA.  We were all set to go and at the last second, the band broke up. I was already set to go, so my roadie packed up the van and went to LA on our own. Upon arrival, I started auditioning for a number of different bands including Legs Diamond, The Raspberries, and a few others. Many may not know this, but prior to Legs Diamond, I was actually the lead singer in an all-Asian disco band. True story.

Then from the original crew in Legs Diamond, I was the last one to join (I’m referring to the band that actually did the first 3 albums in the beginning). Jeff Poole (drummer) and Michael Diamond (bass) were up in the Bay Area before they moved down to LA and were actually using the name way back then. Depending on where you want to start the origin of the band, it actually goes back further than LA.

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TVD Live Shots:
Opeth with Graveyard
at the Hollywood Palladium, 3/4

Seeing Opeth live for the very first time was a dream come true—and catching them at Hollywood’s legendary Palladium kicked it up to a whole new level. Mikael Åkerfeldt and company came out on fire and left nothing but scorched earth in their wake after an incredible 2 ½ hour set for the masses. The performance on Wednesday night was nothing short of brilliant and reaffirms why this band is so highly regarded in the world of progressive music. 

I love live music and cannot think of a time when I have not. It’s an amazing diversion from the craziness of everyday life, and helps keep me calm in spite of the constant chaos that seems to attack from all angles these days. That said, there was no way I’d be missing Wednesday’s Opeth show at the Hollywood Palladium, and planned my week accordingly to ensure I was there on time for all the usual festivities. This show was shaping up to be special, and I had a front row seat.

First up on the all-Swedish bill was Graveyard. Formed in 2006, this quartet came out swinging and took no prisoners during their 45-minute set. Although their sound was pure rock and roll, it had a psychedelic twist to it with some bluesy overtones that I really enjoyed. Favorite tracks of the evening were “Uncomfortably Numb” and “The Siren,” but others were just as killer. I dug this band and can’t wait to explore their catalog down the road.

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TVD Live Shots: Black Label Society, Obituary, and Lord Dying at the House of Blues, 2/27

SAN DIEGO, CA | I’ve never been a huge fan of Zakk Wylde or Black Label Society, but that all changed last week in downtown San Diego. The band’s incredible 15-song set flipped the script on what I assumed would be another rock and roll show and instantly converted me to a full-fledged Doom Crew member before the final salvo rang over the Gaslamp district on Thursday night. BLS’s performance was nothing short of brilliant.

Say what you will, I’ve never a die-hard fan of Zakk Wylde. Since his days with Ozzy, Zakk’s always been an incredibly gifted guitarist, but his talent failed to resonate with me on a visceral level. I am not sure why, but I’ve never been overly excited by his extensive catalog of music or live performances I have seen over the years. I was hoping that feeling would change on Thursday night down in San Diego during Black Label Society’s headlining show at the House of Blues.

Opening on Thursday were two bands that didn’t quite seem to fit this bill, Portland’s Lord Dying and the undisputed pioneers of death metal, Obituary. Both bands were unique in their own way with a subset of fans in attendance pushing their way to the barrier for a closer glimpse of their heroes throughout powerful yet abbreviated sets. While Lord Dying was solid, I really enjoyed Obituary’s performance. I would’ve liked to hear a few more than 10 songs, but was thrilled with newer tracks like “Straight to Hell” along with classics jams such as “Slowly We Rot.” Obituary’s set was truly bad ass and they crushed from start to finish.

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Michael Wilton
of Queensrÿche,
The TVD Interview

Michael Wilton is one amazing guitarist as well as a brilliant songwriter. Co-founder of the legendary progressive band Queensrÿche, he has seen it all (and then some) over a near 40-year career in the music industry. No easy feat by any stretch, Wilton continues to reinvent himself in an ever-changing world that’s far different from when he first took hold of the flame back in 1980.

We had a chance to catch up with Wilton prior to Queensrÿche’s recent show in Anaheim, California to discuss their recent release, current tour, and of course all-things vinyl. 

The Verdict is Queensrÿche’s 15th studio release and was one of the most anticipated releases of 2019. It peaked at #16 on the US Billboard 200, amongst rave reviews from the metal community at large. Were you at all surprised at the initial success it had right out of the gate?

Well, when you create an album, you may love it, but you don’t know how the public’s going to perceive it. Obviously, Century Media Records put a lot of thought into this one. It’s one we took a lot of pride in and was a big release. The Verdict has been embraced by numerous countries around the world as well as our fans here in the US.

It’s interesting that the sound and feel of The Verdict seems to take me back to the original roots of Queensrÿche. Was that planned or was it just a re-evolution of sorts for the band?

I guess when you have the DNA blueprint in the band, it’s always going to kind of sound like that. Queensrÿche is its own animal. We’ve always been like that. All our influences fuse together and make the sum of what we are. It’s unique in itself that we can still BE who we nearly 40 years later.

What’s your favorite track on the album?

It seems to change from day to day. Right now, I’m kind of digging “Inner Unrest.” That’s one of the songs that I think we’ll eventually be doing a YouTube lyric video for.

You’ve been touring relentlessly in support of The Verdict since mid-February of last year including opening stints with the Scorpions, headlining sets with Fates Warning, as well as countless festivals all around the world. How has the touring life been treating you?

You know, it’s what bands like Queensrÿche and others like us do. Let’s face it, people don’t buy music anymore. So, for bands to survive, they have to tour. The only exception to that rule might be bands that have rich parents (laughs). Otherwise, it’s something you just have to do. The thing is, we can’t over tour because you want the clubs and promoters to want you.

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TVD Live Shots: 2020
One Love Cali Reggae Fest, Day 1 at Queen
Mary Park, 2/7

LONG BEACH, CA | It’s no surprise that One Love Cali Reggae Fest has become one of the premier reggae festivals in the US. Since their early days at The Observatory OC in Santa Ana, this festival has gotten bigger and better every year since its inception back in 2015 with no signs of slowing down any time soon. Situated gracefully under the watchful eye of The Queen Mary in beautiful Long Beach, One Love continues to attract reggae’s best and brightest and this year’s event was no exception. Legendary bands such as Dirty Heads, Rebelution, and Slightly Stoopid headlined a three-day event for the ages that left die-hard fans wanting more.

Having been to countless festivals over the years, its important to know right out of the gate that One Love Cali Fest is different from most of the large-scale events one might attend. Upon entering the park, you are immediately immersed with a reggae vibe that feels different. Flanked by three stages, guests can leisurely wander back and forth to catch their favorite bands or better yet take in new ones they’ve never heard before.

The atmosphere at One Love is completely chill and absent of the pretentiousness that accompanies many of the cookie-cutter music festivals crisscrossing the US these days. I met more insanely cool people in one afternoon that I had at the last 10 concerts I had covered and I’m probably being generous.

In addition to beautiful weather and an out-of-this-world vibe, Friday’s line up was second to none and the one I circled on my calendar when the festival was first announced back in November. Unfortunately for me, there were 25 insane acts performing that day across three stages (SMKFLWR., Roots & Culture, and the Tiki Stage) and I’d have to choose which ones I’d be watching (as there was no real way to cover them all).

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TVD Live Shots: Howard Jones with Rachael Sage at the El Rey Theater, 2/1

Howard Jones seems to be getting better with age. He’s anything but a one-hit wonder and continues to churn out amazing, new music along with reimagining his classics of yesteryear. If you get a chance to Howard Jones live in support of his 2020 “Transform Tour,” do so—you will not be disappointed.

The early eighties were a magical time for music. The New Wave revolution was just beginning to take off and bands like Depeche Mode and the Pet Shop Boys were just beginning to make a name for themselves here in the States. Fast forward a few years, and a little-known English musician by the name of Howard Jones burst onto scene. His humble beginnings in 1983 quickly morphed into a very distinct style of music that blended his amazing talent as a pianist with true genius storytelling. On a crisp Saturday night in downtown Los Angeles, Howard Jones took the stage at the historic El Rey Theater for an intimate night of music and conversation that captivated a capacity crowd.

Opening the show for Howard Jones was New York singer and songwriter, Rachael Sage. Her brief 30-minute set was jam-packed with beautiful songs like “Spark,” “Trouble,” and my favorite “Haunted by Objects.” Rachael’s ability to connect with the crowd was noticeable, as many in the audience were smiling ear to ear while singing along to songs that were fresh, catchy, and relevant. In addition, Rachael’s voice was simply breathtaking and echoed joyfully throughout the El Rey.  It seemed the perfect place to showcase this amazing talent. I’d be remiss not to mention Rachael’s violinist, Kelly Halloran. She is an out-of-this-world talent and I thoroughly enjoyed her playing throughout the set.

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