Category Archives: The TVD Interview

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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In the Light: Lez Zeppelin’s metaphysical ‘Physical Graffiti’

Steph Paynes meets me under the awning at the Gramercy Theatre, where the marquee smugly declares that Lez Zeppelin’s performance of Physical Graffiti tonight is sold out. She certainly looks like a rock star: long black hair, leather pants, sunglasses inside. She radiates cool. I feel conspicuously uncool standing beside her, but the bouncer gives me a guest pass anyway and I follow Steph into the auditorium, where a gaggle of roadies are setting up the stage rig. We trade handshakes and hellos and head downstairs to the greenroom.

The Gramercy has a tumble-down glamour about it, with that weird patterned wallpaper which could just as easily be an artifact of the psychedelic decades or the Victorian era. We make ourselves comfortable on the couch, already chatting. Steph is easy to talk to, and while I set up to record the interview, she tells me a story about how she once forgot to turn her tape recorder on while interviewing Ian Anderson—for Playboy, of all publications. “At the time they were a real magazine,” she says. Back then she was doing what I’m doing now: writing about music.

“I was working as a guitar player while I was writing for a long time,” she explains, when I ask how she got from there to here. “I was playing with Ronnie Spector, and I was a Ronnette, basically… odd but true.” Around the same time, she was rediscovering her love of Led Zeppelin. “After hearing so much music and playing so much music, this music just stunned me again with how really, truly great it was… So I just thought, oh it’ll be fun. I’ll get a bunch of girls together and we’ll just play this music.” Originally, her aspirations were modest; she didn’t expect to be playing more than one or two gigs a month, for “fifty bucks [and] a couple of beers.” A decade later, Lez Zeppelin has a jam-packed touring schedule and fans all over the world—including Jimmy Page. But more on that anon.

“I realized, If I’m gonna do this I really need to do it the right way,” she says. “Because if you do it badly, especially as a female musician… boy, you’ll not only be embarrassing yourself, but it would be bad for female musicians period.” Fortunately, Steph is no slouch in the rehearsal room, or as a recruiter. Finding the right women to join her on the Lez Zeppelin venture and passionate devotion to the project turned it into a phenomenon that soon surpassed her expectations. “The second we started to play out, people just lost their minds, because they really, really wanted to hear this,” she says. “And hearing it from women, who were delivering this power, was really unexpected. It was shocking people.”

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Sergio Mendes: Bringing ‘Joy’ to Screens and Vinyl

Six decades after the rise of bossa nova, and more than a half century since the heyday of Brasil ’66, the music of Sergio Mendes is poised for another serge in popularity with the release of a new documentary and album.

John Scheinfeld’s new documentary Sergio Mendes: In the Key of Joy premieres Saturday, January 18 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Next month it will be accompanied by a new album of the same name, In the Key of Joy on Concord Records, with a slate of new songs with guests stars that include Common, Hermeto Pascoal, and Joe Pizzulo among others.

“One aspect of Sergio’s long and impressive career that has impressed me is how he has successfully navigated the career peaks and valleys encountered by most artists,” says Scheinfeld, whose previous films include The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? and Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. “Amazingly, he has found a way to push the envelope and transform his sound from decade to decade while always remaining relevant and staying true to his musical roots.”

A three-time Grammy winner, Mendes has released dozens of albums over the years, had some top 10 singles with remakes of “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” in 1968, and returned with a hit 15 years later with another Top 5 hit, “Never Gonna Let You Go.” He remade his “Mas Que Nada” with Black Eyed Peas in 2006 and earned an Oscar nomination for a song in the 2012 animated Rio. We caught up with Mendes, 78, this week over the phone in a call from his home in Woodland Hills, California.

How long did it take to put the documentary together?

Two years. John Scheinfeld did the John Coltrane documentary and Harry Nilsson. He’s a great guy, very musical. We went to Brazil, we interviewed a lot of people down there, we got a lot of old, great footage. And it’s just great. I’m very, very happy about it.

And you recorded a new album to come about the same time?

Yes, It’s got a lot of young artists—newcomers—and a lot of new songs, no covers. And of course vinyl, which I love. I have a 26-year-old, he buys two records a week. And his deck, you know, the turntables…the other day I had dinner with my friend, the great engineer Bernie Grundman, and he was talking all about the resurgence of vinyl. We are all very happy about it.

It’s part of your legacy too, with those great albums of the ’60s and their great artwork. You don’t get that impact in smaller formats.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Or streaming—you hear one thing and throw it away. It’s kind of weird for me.

You’ve never taken a break, have you? You’ve been performing pretty consistently for six decades?

As long as God allows me to do it and gives me the health, I’m there and ready.

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Ric Ocasek,
The TVD Interview

Today we remember Ric Ocasek who passed away Sunday, September 15, 2019 with a conversation from our archives from earlier this year.Ed.

Lanky rocker Ric Ocasek, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, is lately spending time in some other artistic halls—art galleries to be exact, where he is showing his bright paintings and drawings. He spoke to The Vinyl District from New York about his approach.

How would you characterize these paintings?

They’re like songs that don’t have any words. I like to draw a lot when I’m thinking. I’ve been doing it for a long time, maybe as far back as when I was 18 and a draftsman.

What kind of draftsman were you?

I was a draftsman at AT&T drawing switching systems.

Do you think that may have led to your more jagged abstract works?

I don’t know if it’s related but it could be. It is a bit geometrical. I guess the detail stuff is a little bit like drafting, but I don’t know. I think it’s more abstract than that. It’s really just having the pens and tools and stuff and kind of always doing it as a way to think. It’s a good way to be thinking. I don’t know, you seem to wander off, and wherever your mind wanders off ends up coming out of the pen.

What kind of media do you use?

I use a lot of Japanese paint pens. I go to the art store and I go to the pen stores to get those. I also use acrylics when I paint. I paint on top of what I draw or part of it to embellish it. A lot of times I’ll do drawings, then blow them up and paint them.

So what are the range of sizes?

I’m drawing on paper that’s anywhere from 12″ x 18″ or 24″. The biggest thing I would draw on would be 24″ high or 18″ wide. If I do it on canvas, it’s the size of whatever canvas I buy. And a lot of time I manipulate it with mixed media.

Looks like you have a mix of abstract with representational art in the show.

The representational ones tend to be accidental. They start out abstract, however when they start looking like a person or a face or an object, it will become a graveyard or a city street or whatever. I also do a lot of photography. I started dong that when I was 14 and living in Baltimore. Sometimes I’ll mess them up and blow them up until you can’t tell what it is.

I used to do collages a lot, but I don’t any more. I stopped pasting a lot of things together. But I used to do a lot of it in the late ’60s and ’70s, and then I started drawing more. I would draw in hotel rooms when I was touring with the band as a way to relax.

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Eddie Money,
The TVD Interview

Today we remember Eddie Money who passed away last Friday, September 13, 2019 with a 2018 conversation from our archives.
Ed.

Add Eddie Money to the long list of rockers, from Ozzy Osbourne to Bret Michaels and Joe Jonas, to open their homes to reality TV crews. His new series Real Money, premiering April 8 on AXS TV—already home to Rock & Roll Road Trip with Sammy Hagar—chronicles life with his grown kids, who are also members of his backing band when he tours.

Money, at 68, is still getting mileage out of a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He talked about the origins of hits like “Baby Hold On,” and “Two Tickets to Paradise” in a recent interview from Malibu. A long time Californian, he still retains his Brooklyn roots—mostly through a string of Rodney Dangerfield-like jokes that have been largely excised here for space and sanity.

“I’m sorry I sniffed all that airplane glue, I’m trying to give you good interview,” he began, before a conversation that told of his early days, a legal threat from Doris Day, touring with the Stones, and angering Sting.

Along the way, he took credit for everything from bringing Ronnie Spector back to show business, to being the first rocker to play the daytime TV circuit and the first guy to spray festival crowds with water. And he had a few choice words about Elvis Costello and Lou Gramm.

He concluded by declaring “I lied my way to the top!” in the manner of another ambitious borough-native, so baby hold on to that grain of salt.

Now you’re a reality TV star.

I gotta tell you, I’m very excited about the TV show. For some reason, it came out good, it’s funny, the kids are good. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. If we get a second season, it’d be good.

How many episodes have you done?

Ten. We shot a lot of it at the house until the neighbors got pissed off. So we shot it all over the place, in certain clubs and out on the road. They had me horseback riding, which is horrible. Hated that. And then they had me playing golf, and I play golf like Stevie Wonder at night, so I don’t know what good that episode was.

Do you think the series is going to bring new people to your shows?

I’ve got enough people out in my audience. I’ve got a lot of kids who grew up with their parents putting me in the tape deck. All these kids grew up listening to “Baby Hold On” and “Take Me Home Tonight.”

I get people at the shows who are in their early 20s, I got parents coming to the shows. We do have a pretty large following. You gotta remember, I was putting records out in 1976, I’ve got people listening to me who are in their 70s right now that still come to the Eddie Money show. Sometimes I have people asking the promoters if they have a wheelchair rack.

How many dates do you do a year now?

I’ve got five kids, so I’ll do anything to get out of the house. What I do is I try to work every weekend if I can, because I like to get Dez out there. I want to promote Dez’s music, and I’m not just saying this because he’s my kid, but he’s a great songwriter. He doesn’t sound like me, but the songwriting quality I think he’s a chip off the old block.

It’s a brave thing to do one of these shows and show everybody your family life.

Well, the kids—nobody’s got DUIs, nobody’s doing drugs or anything else like that. I feel fortunate enough, and of course all the kids are still living at home. But that doesn’t bother me either. I like having the kids living at home because I can keep an eye on them.

I’d rather have them in front of me, rather than being in someone’s car, or somebody else’s house until 4 in the morning. This way, I know when they’re going to bed, when they’re getting up, and somebody’s going to have to take out the garbage and do the dishes. I’m very happy.

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Ken Stringfellow: Touched on Tour

Typically half the creative engine of The Posies, Ken Stringfellow has both played with a number of other bands, including R.E.M., the reconstituted Big Star and the Minus 5. But he’s also found time to put out a few solo records over the years—one of which seemed destined to be buried in a day of national tragedy.

He’s back to play that album, the 2001 Touched, on a solo tour that kicks off September 12 in Nashville and includes a September 21 show marking the 25th anniversary of the Mercury Lounge in New York. We reached him in Europe just before he flew over.

Seems like you’ve got a lot of dates on this solo tour.

Yeah, it’s ambitious. Sixty shows, or something like that. It all started from one show, which has to do with my album Touched, which has the dubious release date of September 11, 2001. Waking up that day, I had bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the release. My phone was ringing as I woke up, and a friend of mine was like, you probably need to turn on the television. I can’t really explain what’s happening right now. Of course, we all know how the day was. It completely torpedoed my plans. and my solo career was probably forever stunted by this. Of course, that’s not such a big deal—I’m still alive. Many people suffered far worse things on 9/11.

People didn’t really know what to do with themselves, which you probably recall, the first couple of days, they were just sort of processing it. A lot of people canceled their tours immediately. I remember that Nick Cave announced he was canceling his U.S. tour. People just didn’t know if it was safe or what was happening next. I decided to carry on. So as soon as planes started flying again, on Friday—9/11, you’ll recall was on a Tuesday—I got on a plane and went to New York and picked up my gear. New York was still burning basically. When I landed at Newark, you could still see smoke coming out of the crater.

The tour taught me a lot of things, and playing this particular record taught me a lot of things about this record. Suddenly it seemed like this record was a response to 9/11 in a lot of ways. There was a lot of feelings of grief and healing. It suddenly seemed very cosmic and appropriate being on tour at this time for people who needed some messages that not only encapsulated their grief, but also offered a little bit of caress as well. It was not a time for Limp Bizkit.

But anyway, I got an invitation from the Mercury Lounge in New York to play for their anniversary this year. And the Mercury Lounge is where I played on that tour, nine days after September 11. It was kind of an intense moment. It was probably the first moment where people could deal with a show, or anything emotional. People were way too raw. I had played a couple of shows, Boston and Hoboken and Philadelphia before New York, in between September 15 and 20 and people weren’t really ready. But getting to New York September 20, they needed something. So for people who were there, and it wasn’t a bad turn out—a lot of people who had tickets may not have shown up. But the people who were there, say 75-100 people, it was very intense that is burned into a lot of people’s brains. Because I’m connected in their minds to that week, in a good way.

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