Category Archives: The TVD Interview

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 Joseph Manning Jr., The TVD Interview

Keyboard maven, studio whiz, and go-to arranger Roger Joseph Manning Jr. has created in a number of forums since 1994 when the colorful and influential band Jellyfish that he co-founded with Andy Strummer broke up. But even after putting together bands that include Imperial Drag, Moog Cookbook, and TV Eyes, and working with artists from Beck to Air to Cheap Trick, Manning has returned to working with two other members of the final iteration of Jellyfish.

Manning had worked with Tim Smith and Eric Dover in other projects (including Umajets and Imperial Drag), but working together brought back a kind of Jellyfish sound to the group they’re calling The Lickerish Quartet (after the title of an arty 1970 Italian porn flick). Their debut EP “Threesome Vol. 1” is due in stores on May 15 via The Lickerish Quartet Label Logic, distributed by Ingrooves. We caught up with Manning over the phone from Los Angeles.

How is the pandemic lockdown affecting you?

Fortunately there’s very little strife at my end. I am mostly at home during the week anyway, working in my music room on a variety of things. So, aside from procuring supplies. I don’t mind that. My girl, who is a lot more social than me and her job requires her to be more social, she’s having a tougher time of it. But I’m just like pretty much business as usual.

What’s it like to release a project from a new band in the middle of all of it?

Mostly, I’ve come to find, it’s a blessing for the fans, who couldn’t be happier about having I guess what I call a pleasant distraction at this time. They have been demonstrating in their correspondence to us how appreciative they are that this happened when it did.

Obviously, we didn’t time it that way. And I’ve been thankful that the music has been able to take their minds off things. Of course, it’s all a double-edged sword. People are tightening their belts financially, obviously, so I don’t know who even wants to throw down for a $15 CD or whatever, vs. if we were in a regular economic climate like the oasis we were all on last year.

There are going to be three EPS, is that the plan?

Yeah, that is the plan. And we have most of the music ready to go. So barring anything unforeseen, that’s what the public should get within the next year and a half or so.

Why did you decide to release it that way, rather than on one album?

Mostly from an advised business standpoint of how things operate today, getting music to fans and that interaction, how it’s done now. Because everything is so singles-driven, because of DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music.

It’s certainly not my preference. It’s not what I grew up with. I like being lost in somebody’s 45-minute soundtrack that they would present with 10 or 12 songs. but I think an EP is a good compromise. I think it’s enough of a detour that really keeps the fans entertained for a while, and sets up an environment of—well hey, if you want some more, we’ve got something a few months away as opposed to a year or two away.

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Cáit O’Riordan,
The TVD Interview

PHOTO ABOVE: JOHAN VIPPER | March gives way to thoughts of St. Patrick’s Day and the raucous annual gigs from the premiere Celtic punk band The Pogues, who supercharged traditional melodies even as frontman Shane MacGowan crafted songs as indelible as any from the Emerald Isle on classic albums like 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. The band was active until 1996, reunited in 2001, and continued to tour yearly until they called it quits in 2014.

But in 2011, Peter “Spider” Stacy, who was living in New Orleans and working on a Pogues musical with the team from HBO’s The Deuce and The Wire, saw a set from the Lost Bayou Ramblers that had a familiar verve, despite a wholly different background. Stacy, who handled tin whistle for The Pogues took over vocals when MacGowan was fired from the band in 1991, sat in with the Ramblers for a few gigs and the Cajun musicians learned some Pogues songs.

Adding original Pogues bassist Cáit O’Riordan last year boosted the authenticity of the group which adopted a touring name Poguetry from the 1986 EP “Poguetry in Motion.” The group is on its biggest US tour to date, blending the sound and fury of The Pogues with some Cajun fervor. The Grammy-winning Ramblers open the shows with their own set as well.

We caught up with O’Riordan, 55, over the phone from New York. shortly after the first gig on the tour which continues this weekend in Philly, DC, Brooklyn, and beyond.

You just played the first gig of this tour last weekend at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. How did it go?

It went great. It’s an amazing venue. And it was Friday night in New Orleans. But it was the Friday after Mardi Gras, so we weren’t sure what state people would be in. But people just wanted to dance and have a good time, which is everything that you could want from an audience.

How did it all get started?

Spider lived in Louisiana and he went out one night and saw this band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and he just immediately amazed by them and introduced himself and they all got along great and they started writing together. Spider was a guest on the Ramblers album that won a Grammy last year (for Best Regional Roots Music Album), Kalenda. They tried out a few gigs.

And then me and Spider met up in Dublin at a big concert that was celebrating Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday at Ireland’s National Concert Hall [in 2018]. Spider and I were in the house band for that and that went great; and we just got to talking, and we started talking about Louisiana, and he said, “You should come out and do some gigs with us.” So I did. We did some Christmas gigs and they were great. I just had the same reaction to the Ramblers as he did. I thought these guys are incredible. It’s such a pleasure to work with them.

They seem to come from such a different background—Cajun rather than Celtic.

Obviously it is, it’s a different background. But there’s so many parallels. It’s that thing of carrying a culture inside you, but being surrounded by a different culture, a much different culture that is trying to crush out your own culture. When you’re put under that pressure, you either crumble or you get stronger in your own culture, which very much happened with the London Irish under Thatcher. And I see these guys, the Cajuns, cause they’re working really hard to keep their music alive and their language alive—there’s a lot of parallels there.

Were they even aware of The Pogues when Spider first met them?

I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine why they would be. In my world I’m pretty urban, my life is pretty much Dublin, London, New York, Boston, LA. In that world—people my age—everybody knows “Fairytale of New York” at least. They all have an image of, if not The Pogues, they’ll see Shane in their mind’s eye and have a whole idea of what goes on with that—mostly drinking and the rowdiness and the green beer. I just love the opportunity to just iterate always that Shane is actually one of the great Irish poets. I always encourage people to listen to the lyrics. But if they do just want to dance and yell, that’s good too.

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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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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.

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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