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Renowned Photographer Mathieu Bitton Shares Life Through Images of Music Icons and of His World

Mathieu Bitton - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mathieu Bitton

Photographer Mathieu is known for his rock and roll work as well as his remarkable black and white shots of musicians and regular people. He took the time to answer some questions from CaliforniaRocker.com editor Donna Balancia.  Bitton recently had a successful showing at the Leica Gallery in West Hollywood.

CR: How have your experiences traveling around the world at an early age affected/impacted your art?

MB: I think they made the world accessible to me. Like nowhere was to far or unreachable. I have always loved to travel and always knew I would end up working in a field that required a lot of travel.

CR: Do you think if you had grown up in the states it would be a lot different today for you?

MB: I’m not big on “if.” One step in the opposite direction can change your whole life in that instant so I can’t say. I mean I got to the states at 14 so I partially grew up there.

Mathieu Bitton at Leica Gallery - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mathieu Bitton at Leica Gallery – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

CR: Is it that you are interested in photographing The plate and the struggles of impoverished people or do you think that people with darker skin tones are more interesting subjects?

MB: There are very few impoverished people in my series. There is a homeless guy in Memphis and a couple questionable people, meaning I wasn’t sure if they were. I think I’m fascinated with the black culture as a whole and have been my whole life.

CR: Have you ever had other exhibits in Europe? is there a difference in the reaction of European people to your work compared with the reaction of Americans?

MB: Yes. I had my Lenny Kravitz “Ascension” exhibition In Vienna, Austria in August 2015 and Sofia, Bulgaria earlier this year in April. Well the reception to my work at the Leica gallery was phenomenal but I guess Europeans were maybe more excited and had a lot more questions for me and maybe more impressed with the fact that a French kid realized his dreams in the states. It’s more unusual than if I was from the States.

CR: Can you make any comparisons between the living situations of people in say, Bahamas or in other not as “wealthy” countries and people in the United States?

Director Kevin Hooks with family and friends - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Director Kevin Hooks with family and friends among Mathieu Bitton fans – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

MB: Well I think technology is the main difference. I just don’t see kids on iPads and iPhones here in the Bahamas (I’m currently here in Eleuthera). Back in the states people are always on their devices. You just don’t see that here. Just yesterday I was watching kids playing soccer and hide and seek and wrestling and just playing outside all day. There is also no entitlement like in the US. I think we have a lot to learn from these communities.

CR: What is it exactly about hands that you like to focus on? How did you surmise your theory that you believe the hands tell the story of character, but they have hand surgery today to look younger!  Are there any photographers whose hands have inspired you?

MB: I just love hands. I can’t really explain it but they do have the lines are like the rings in a tree. They tell the age and experience of the person. I never heard of hand surgery but I’m not surprised. We are lost as a culture. It’s really sad. As far as hand photography, there is one photo bag truly inspired me and that is Irving Penn’s hand portrait of Miles Davis for the Tutu album.

CR: I saw your family at your gallery exhibit. Do you remain close to your family? Who was the one who told you to go for the photography career? Did they want you to do something other than photography?

Mathieu Bitton family - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mathieu Bitton family – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

MB: I’m very close to my family. That’s the core of everything for me. But no one ever told me to do anything I do. That’s my own doing. Photography didn’t even come first for me. I’ve been a graphic designer and art director for over 29 years. Photography was a hobby that turned into another career. My parents always wanted me to just do what I want. They didn’t push me in any specific direction.

CR: What is the common bond you share with musicians? Do you believe musicians are getting a fair shake today? Do you believe photographers are getting a fair shake today?

MB: That’s a tough question. I’m a music lover. Collector. Aficionado. And I’ve worked very hard to keep music alive through box sets, compilations and albums I’ve worked on. But it’s very tough to be a musician today. It’s nearly impossible to make money unless you’re one of the acts who performed at Desert Trip last weekend. But I’m all about passion and have always said you can’t do your art for the pursuit of money.

Mathieu Bitton - Photo © Donna Balancia

Mathieu Bitton – Photo © Donna Balancia

CR: What advice would you give to aspiring photographers today as far as the marketplace goes?

MB: Photography is a tough market too. I think I’m lucky enough to juggle several careers that all work together successfully but I would tell aspiring photographers to just get a decent camera and go out there and find their subjects. Shoot as much as you can and as often as you can. If you have the eye, you’ll find your style. If not, well, you tried. You can’t get anywhere without trying. It’s a grueling job too. Not meant for just anyone.

Ross The Boss Friedman: Dictators ‘Amazed’ By Influence on Young Bands – California Rocker Interview

The Dictators NYC Perform at Viper Room Nov. 11

Ross the Boss Friedman, founder of The Dictators talks new music, tour and music biz with California Rocker editor Donna Balancia

CR: What kind of influence did The Dictators have on music, Ross?

RTB: The Dictators influenced so many bands. Our original fans all became band guys, they went on to form bands. It’s like a family tree: Monster Magnet, Stone Temple Pilots, Turbonegro, Helicopters and Nomads, all these bands were mentored by us. When you’re hearing songs and you hear the riffs you know our influence.

Ross The Boss Friedman says Dictators NYC are busy - Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

Ross The Boss Friedman says Dictators NYC are busy – Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

CR: What’s the legacy of The Dictators?

RTB: You know we were too punk for metal and too metal for punk. It makes us feel amazing that people go to school on us. A good percentage of the people who come to see us are band guys.

CR: How is the band doing these days?

RTB: Really, we’re better than ever. We just did a tour. And I was in Europe with the new Ross the Boss Band. The Dictators NYC did 21 shows in 22 days in Europe recently.

The Dictators NYC are legendary around the world - Photo courtesy of Dictators NYC

The Dictators NYC are legendary around the world – Photo courtesy of Dictators NYC

CR: Why the new name?

RTB: I renamed them Dictators NYC as a matter of respect. I insisted on it. We want to let everyone know it isn’t the original lineup. Daniel Rey, the Ramones producer and Dean Rispler on bass. We wanted to have some sort of closure and respect for the old lineup.

CR: Why do you like California?

RTB: I’ve always enjoyed California, it’s really spread out, I love California. I like Northern California and I like the San Diego area.  My sister lives there. As far as New York, I’m Giants, Mets, Rangers and Knicks. There are tons of transplanted New Yorkers in Califiornia. They’ll say, ‘Hey Ross I went to Dewitt Clinton High School!’ It’s a small world, it’s big, but it’s small.

RTB: In California, we’ve been made to feel very welcome over the years. The fans are great everywhere. I’ve been in the music business since 1975, I’ve made 31 records. The new “Ross The Boss Band” has been doing well.

supply-and-demand-dictatorsCR: What’s the key to success?

RTB: I’ve been playing professionally for a long time and every time it amazes me — If you play your heart out you can’t lose, people pick up on that. The Dictators play 150 percent; we don’t care if there’s 10 people or 10,000 people there.

CR: Anything new?

RTB: We’ve written a new song and it’s a single called ‘Supply and Demand,’ a story about the new band. The demand is there and we’re gonna supply it.  Dean produced it, he plays bass, he played with a lot of bands like Murphy’s Law. We have this new single, and we’re working on new music.  And with my new band we’re working on a new CD, we don’t have working title yet.

CR: What are you guys like in concert as Dictators NYC?

RTB: The band generally performs all its hits, including “Next Big Thing,” “Weekend,” “Tree Tub Man,” “I Stand Tall,” “Stay With Me,” “Let’s Twist.” You gotta give the people what they want.

Dictators NYC

The Dictators with Handsome Dick Manitoba continue to draw crowds – Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

CR: How has the music business changed since the 1970s?

RTB: Music has become an impossibility. You’ve gotta play live. People have to come see you live. Certainly the money end has been stolen by the record industry. If you don’t have a live thing, forget it. Every single night you have to play your ass off. A lot of young bands are. You can make money at the gate, on merch, you can sell your stuff. You have to be hands-on. You have to be willing to expect the word ‘No’ as an answer from a lot of people.”

CR: How was it for you guys when you started out?

RTB: When we first came on, they said, ‘Whoever signed these guys should be shot. What is this wrestling hamburgers, cars and girls, what is this insanity? Why the leather jackets?’  Then all of a sudden they said it was ‘Punk Rock.’ Then The Ramones came out. All of a sudden, it was ‘The Dictators influenced us.’ MC5, Flamin Groovies, Iggy and the Stooges all had their roots in punk.

CR: What’s gonna happen on Nov. 11?

RTB: We’re gonna play a mind-blowing show, you’re gonna be happy as shit and you’re gonna hear the best.

 

The Dictators NYC “Supply and Demand” in Barcelona

Video courtesy of BilligPeopleBooking
 
Joey Ramone Joins The Dictators for ‘The Kids Are Alright’

Video courtesy of Harold Kramer

‘Trailer Park Boys’ Live: Cheeseburger Randy and Mr. Lahey Bring Comedy Show to Whisky A Go-Go

Mr. Lahey and Randy bring their crazy comedy to the Whisky A Go Go - Photo courtesy of Mr. Leahy and Randy

Mr. Lahey and Randy bring their crazy comedy to the Whisky A Go Go – Photo courtesy of Mr. Lahey and Randy

By DONNA BALANCIA

If you haven’t seen the comedy series Trailer Park Boys on Netflix, it’s not too late to get caught up before two of the show’s main characters come to the Whisky A Go-Go next week.

Cheeseburger Randy and Sunnyvale Trailer Park supervisor Mr. Lahey, are bringing their boozy, wacky audience participation comedy show to the Whisky on Oct. 28.

‘No Pants Unpissed Tour’ Hits Whisky on Oct. 28

Keeping in character, Mr. Lahey and the cheeseburger-chasing Randy answered a few questions for CaliforniaRocker.com

CR: What happens at your show?

MR. LAHEY:  We don’t get wild we get silly. We pack the houses and have a lot of fun.  People need a change of clothes from our show.

lahey-and-randy-drink

Mr. Lahey and Randy: It’s all about booze and burgers – Photo courtesy of Lahey and Randy

CR: OK …

MR. LAHEY: We’ve had some great shows, we even opened for Coldplay

RANDY:  It’s called the ‘No Pants Unpissed Tour’ – it’s a a silly show, you know. Stand-up.

MR. LAHEY: Mostly people take off their shirts.

CR: Do you like Los Angeles?

RANDY: I’m looking forward to coming to Los Angeles because of In and Out Burger. We don’t get here often, but we love In and Out – going in and going out. That’s my  best friend, ‘In and Out,’  and I like it extra sloppy and extra greasy.

MR. LAHEY: I haven’t been to Los Angeles since 1976 to see my friend, Arthur.

RANDY: Like ‘Arthur?’ Arthur was a movie, and he was a drunk like you, Mr. Leahy.

CR: What prompted you two to tour the U.S.?

RANDY: I wanted to try cheeseburgers across America.

MR. LAHEY: And I wanted to try the California wine. That’s why we’re coming to California.”

Randy and Lahey coming to the Whisky A Go Go - Photo courtesy of Randy and Leahy

Randy and Lahey coming to the Whisky A Go Go – Photo courtesy of Randy and Lahey

CR: What kind of wine do you like? Do you like Napa, California wine? Red?

MR. LAHEY: I like any kind anybody will buy me.

CR: What happens at the show?

RANDY: Basically people piss their pants laughing. That’s why they have to go home and change.”

For tickets go to The Whisky A Go Go website.

Video courtesy of Scandy B. Gnarly

People’s Blues of Richmond To Play LA Tuesday + Two Tens and Coo Coo Birds

The California Rocker Q and A With People’s Blues

By DONNA BALANCIA

The People’s Blues of Richmond will be headlining a gig with our friends The Two Tens and the Coo Coo Birds.  Matt Volkes co-founded the self-proclaimed “Circus Rock” band in 2009 with guitarist Tim Beavers II.  The band is working on a “Quit or Die” music video based on their latest album. Volkes took time out to answer the important questions:

CR: What are the things about Richmond that inspire you?

quit or die peoples blues california rockerPBR: The bands name People’s Blues of Richmond is often confused for meaning that we are a blues band but really the name means the struggle of our city. The blues is more a state of mind. The world is hard and life is full of ups and downs but for us it helps to scream about that.

The people make the city what it is and it’s filled with music and food and culture and most of all our friends. I promise if you show up in Richmond without a place to stay or enough money for a beer someone will give you a place to sleep and make sure you get good and buzzed. That’s what inspires us and that’s what we bring on the road.

CR: How would you “classify” your music. You seem like a combination of folk with some heavy rock vibe.

PBR: We like to call it Circus Rock . There are aspects of a lot of different types of roots music and we just take the influences and sounds that we like and make them rock n roll.

CR: If you could live in any era other than today, when would you have liked to have lived?

PBR: I think the Wild West would be a cool time have lived it would have been hot as hell but something about wondering around the country on a horse living off the land sounds peaceful to me.

CR: Do you ever do unplugged? Is that something that you would consider?

The Two Tens - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

We do it sometimes. Actually if you want Take a listen we will be doing an unplugged session Sept. 19 at KXRN. When I say unplugged usually it just ends up being us playing sitting down Or on a super low volume with battery operated amps but sometimes we pull out the acoustics.

We play some different material some old folk Tim has some songs he wrote a long time ago that sound dylanesque. Tim and I used to busk in Richmond when we were younger all the time so we have a ton of songs we don’t play anymore that we try and bring back for those sets.

I remember one week we had been out almost every day playing on the street for at least 3-4 hours and we only made $9 the whole week. We had a sign that said ‘Need money for Haircuts’ so maybe we didn’t look poor enough, but we were stealing lunch every day and splitting it between the two of us and spent the $9 on Virginia Gentleman (a gentlemans cheap whiskey).

CR: Have you performed with The Two Tens before?

PBR: We actually don’t know them we just got paired up for the show but have had a few phone conversations with them and we are really excited to plays some rock ‘n’ roll and make some new friends.

CR: Do you think the music of The Two Tens goes with your show?  Why are The Two Tens a good supporting act for you?

PBR: Yeah The Two Tens definitely go with us and they are a great support act because they are a rock ‘n’ roll band and this is gonna be a rock n roll show.

CR: How did you and your band members get turned on to playing music?

Photo courtesy of Coo Coo Birds for California Rocker

Photo courtesy of Coo Coo Birds for California Rocker

PBR: Neko’s Dad is the drummer for the Wailers so it’s been in his blood from the get go, he’s been playing since he was 2.

Matthew Volkes (me) my dad was also a drummer played in a band called King Biscuit Blues Band played The Fillmore East and backed up John Lee Hooker a few times.

When I was younger I tried drums but bass ended up being the instrument I was drawn to.

Tim Beavers said: “Just from listening to music it makes me feel crazy inside.”

The Band’s first gig was at a place in Richmond that has gone through several different names. When we played it was called Bagel Czar originally it was The Nancy Raygun and now it’s currently called Strange Matter is a mostly punk/psych rock club that also has an arcade bar in it w vintage video games.

CR: Which tunes do you take particular pride in? Which was the quickest to write?

PBR: We take pride in all of our songs don’t think I could say there was one that we care for more then the rest. “Quit or Die” came to Tim over the course of one morning and he basically Frankesteined some old riffs we had thrown away with some new ones and then it just came together.

On the Eve of Prima Donna Gig With Blondie, Kevin Preston Tells Us What Makes Him Tick

prima-donna-11-wtmkR (1 of 1)Prima Donna is one of those beloved California bands that wows the crowds whenever they play. The guys are opening for Blondie on Sept. 10. at the Observatory in San Diego.

Prima Donna’s Punk Rock roots run deep. Frontman Kevin Preston sat down with CaliforniaRocker.com editor Donna Balancia to answer some of the important questions.

DB: How did you guys meet Blondie?

KP: I met Clem a while back at a Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers) show, or maybe it was a New York Dolls show.
Then a few years ago, he introduced me to Debbie and Chris at SXSW. I hung out at their shows that whole weekend.
Total dream come true.

DB: How did you manage to keep in touch over the years?  

KP: It’s easy to keep in touch because Clem and I go see all the same shows. We’re always bumping in to each other.

prima-donna-12-wtmkR (1 of 1)DB: Why do all these punkers love Prima Donna, i.e. Billy Bones and Clem Burke, etc.

KP: Well, I think it’s that primitive rock n’ roll connection.  They Just totally get where we’re coming from. When we started the band, we really just threw all of our influences into a blender. Back then, we were heavy on The Saints, Little Richard, New York Dolls, Adam and The Ants, The Boys, The Animals, The Sonics, X-Ray Spex, Bowie, T. Rex, The Undertones,  Dead Boys, The Stooges, Roxy Music, Blondie etc. That list could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

DB: Your band hasn’t been around as long as some of these other groups, yet Prima Donna manages to capture the essence of the post-punk period.  How did that happen?

KP: Crate digging. I’m a vinyl junkie. I think that has a lot to do with it. Really though, I don’t know. We just all speak the same language, musically. Kinda creepy.

prima-donna-5-wtmkR (1 of 1)DB: What’s the age of your fans for the most part and how did you attract that demographic, or that group of fans?

KP: It’s all over the place. We’ve done countless tours across the U.S., Europe and Asia with various bands, so we’ve ended up with an awesome group of fans of all ages. We’ve done tours with punk bands, rock n’ roll bands, pop bands and it always seems to work out.

DB: Who writes the songs mostly?

KP: Early on I was writing the songs. Now we all write together.  We’re in the middle of writing a new record right now and everybody is bringing interesting ideas to the table.  One song started with a saxophone riff and a cool drum beat, so we’re really getting into some cool territory.

DB: If you could describe your style what is it?

KP: Man, that’s always a tough thing to describe. Our style is constantly evolving.  We still have a habit of mixing garage, glitter and  new wave, but you really can’t limit it like that. It really varies song to song.

Prima Donna

Prima Donna – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

DB: Do you have a song that was a bigger hit that you thought it would be?   

KP: Recently, ‘Deathless’ had some legs. It was getting airplay from here to Peru to Japan.

DB: How do you like playing San Diego?  Anything notable about the crowds? 

KP: We love playing San Diego. The drinks are always pretty cheap and SD people just like to have fun.  We’ve had some memorable shows down there. We played with Adam Ant at Balboa Theatre. We did a rad show with Duane Peters at Radio Room.  I think I’ll be spending all my money at Spin Records before the Blondie gig.

 

Glamorous Rocker Crown Jwlz Releases New Album, ‘California King,’ Fights for the Rights of Women

Crown Jwlz Brings a Cool New Twist to Rock N Roll

crown-jwlz2By ROSIE CHAVEZ

Crown Jwlz is theatrical, glamorous and she considers herself a warrior for women and musicians.

She recently released her debut EP California King and is hoping to shake up belief systems and rattle outlooks.

You can see Crown Jwlz LIVE at The Study on July 13.

CR: Which do you find more difficult/intimidating ~ performing for a comparatively small audience (especially one that you know includes family and/or friends) in a more intimate venue or for a huge [faceless/anonymous] crowd at an enormous stadium?

CJ: I think performing for a small intimate audience especially one that includes family and close friends is definitely more high-pressure then an enormous audience of people you don’t know. I don’t know why that is… Maybe it’s because when you look into a small intimate crowd and you see someone you know there’s all these things, all these moments you can think of, times you’ve had with them that you spend with them that could throw you off for a second and when you’re performing for a huge crowd you’re so in the zone immersed that there’s really only one way to make it happen and that’s to go full force. In a small intimate audience you really have to pull it out of yourself because everything is really being looked at on such an intense level.

crownjwlz4CR: If you ever decided to do an entire album of covers, which songs would make the cut?

CJ: If I did an album of covers it would be comprised of songs by David Bowie, Queen, Radiohead, Michael Jackson, Etta James, Blondie, Kathleen Hannah, and Janis Joplin.

CR: Are there any causes/organizations that are particularly close to your hearts and that you would encourage the public to support?

CJ: I’m part of an amazing group of girls in Los Angeles but we have chapters in San Francisco and New York as well.

Really we’re all over the world. We have started a movement called #fvckrapeculture in an effort to get Judge Alan Persky unseated, the judge in the Stanford rape case.

You can find us on Instagram @fvckrapeculture and get info about all the events that we are having and the movement itself. Rape and sexual assault is something that happens to one in three women. It’s going to take a collective effort from us all to make this alarming fact change.

CR: What’s the one local place in Los Angeles that you love to go to?

CJ: I love Pour Vous this Parisian bar with amazing craft cocktails and burlesque dancers off of Melrose in Los Angeles. It’s a chill local watering hole with amazing flair.

CR – Your new EP is called California King. What’s the story behind that?

CJ: I remember sitting on the patio at a house in the hills above Franklin Village here in Los Angeles that I used to live in with a few friends. I was outside on the beautiful porch sitting in the sun surrounded by gorgeous palm trees and nature drinking my tea in the morning with my French bulldog Bruno who has passed away since but is always with me. And it just came to me and it made sense. I am a strong intersectional feminist and the title ‘California King’ made sense because it is a challenge to conventional gender roles, a sort of role reversal from tradition which anyone who knows me knows I’m a anything but traditional.

CR: Where you all come from, musically speaking? Have you been a singer/in a band since you were a kid? Did you take lessons or are you self-taught?

Crown-jwlz1CJ: I’ve been performing and singing my entire life. I took vocal lessons from many awesome vocal teachers and also did musical theater in middle school and high school and that’s when I segued into starting to write my own music.

I realized I wanted to come to LA and start a music career in the rock realm. I grew up as a teenager listening to punk rock and it always spoke to me so much … I had and still do have lot to say so it was a natural progression.

Then after high school I started college in Texas and then moved out to Los Angeles to take my career to the next level and also finish up my degree in music. So I guess you could say I’ve been performing and in music majority of my life.

CR: Is there in your experience a code of ethics/conduct amongst professional musicians who are on the same bill…and even in the same band? Maybe things like always acknowledging the band that played before you and the ones who come later on the bill, making sure to introduce each member of your own band, not touching/moving other bands’ gear, etc.?

CJ: I am a really, really lucky individual because I work with some of the most professional and most talented musicians in the business. I have such a high level of respect for them and I thank my stars every day that I am lucky enough to work with them! It’s sort of just understood that if you have time in your set to announce the bands coming after you at some point you do and to also of course introduce your players. But there are times when the set time is really really short and they have always been so sweet about telling me that I don’t need to go ahead and do that and that we should just focus on the music and I’ve always appreciated that. But anytime that the time allows I will always announce them because I love playing with them they are just fantastic!

CR: Are you ever surprised when the track on your album that you assumed would be a fan favorite turns out not to be, or have you gotten to the point of no longer trying to second guess what the public’s taste will be?

crown-jwlz3CJ: Yes I am definitely at the point where I am not trying to guess where the public taste will be. I just write music from my heart and soul and I do the best job I can to deliver good music that people hopefully, that I hope they will enjoy, but that is not the ultimate objective. The objective is to put out art and people can enjoy it or they can love it, they can hate it, it’s really up to them. And trying to predict that will drive you crazy, so I’ve found it’s best to just make your music, put it out there, and see what happens.

CR: If you could have been involved in the soundtrack to one film, which film
would you have chosen?

CJ: I love the soundtrack to ‘Across the Universe’ because it was all Beatles songs…that would’ve been amazing! And I love Julie Taymor so so much!

CR: What’s the strangest gift any fan has given…or tried to give…you?

CJ: I love any gift from a fan that is coming with good intention. I would say that any girl that’s on the Internet has encountered terrible things from men sending them stuff in their DM box and I would say that is the worst thing ever….to get a terrible inappropriate pic from a guy and guys just need to stop that stuff because nobody wants to see it trust us.

CR: When you were working on California King, in your songwriting process, what came first, lyrics or instrumentals?

CJ: A lot of the time the lyrics and melody come together and I hear the instrumentals at the same time like the base level instrumentals as in the foundation of the song. I don’t usually hear a lot of the other stuff as much before I start really pre-producing the song, but when I first start writing I immediately always hear lyrics, melody, and usually a lead/main guitar or piano line in my head.

CR: OK…. Last question…is it better to burn out than fade away?

jwlz-5CJ: I’m going to go with neither.  I think people should just create from an honest place and put their art out there with no expectations except to do what they have to do is which be an artist. If you’re truly an artist you’re doing this for the right reasons….not for fame or notoriety…you’re doing this because you love what you’re doing and you will do it as a labor of love or something that you are making millions off of and that’s the truth. Either way you will do it, it doesn’t matter the circumstances under which it’s being done. An artist must create to stay happy and that’s exactly how I feel. That’s the place I come from whenever I make any artistic expression.

L.A. Witch To Take Their Retro ’60s Sound Across the West With New Tour

LA Witch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

LA Witch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – L.A. Witch is taking their magic on the road. Front gal Sade Sanchez, bassist Irita Pai, and drummer Ellie English of L.A. Witch are three Angelenos who have some miles behind them but some uncharted journeys ahead, including a stop at SXSW and regions beyond.

They’re promoting their new single “Drive Your Car”  and you can catch them at The Smell this weekend for the Bernie Sanders fundraiser, along with some of SoCal’s hottest bands.

L.A. Witch makes music fun and interesting again. Listening to L.A. Witch is like hitting the whip button on a blender of Sonic Youth and Link Wray and then passing the mix around in gleaming summer glassware.

California Rocker sat down with these look-ahead, take-no-prisoners players and asked L.A. Witch the important questions.  

CR: Your music is unique; how does the songwriting process go for you three?

SADE: I usually come up with songs while jamming alone. If I like something, then I’ll record it and keep playing it back to myself (usually when I’m driving) and add a melody and lyrics. Once I have a general structure, l’ll show it to the girls and then from there we all kinda add more to it whether it be individually or together at a practice.

LA Witch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

LA Witch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

CR: What are the goals for the next year, then what are the goals for the next 5 years?

SADE: I want to release more music. I want to do more music videos. It would be cool to release an EP with a video for every song. Like a series of short films. I want to continue to touring the world. Mainly just to keep creating music and other creative projects.

ELLIE: I would definitely like to write more songs and do a lot more traveling.

CR: What are your top three venues to perform in?  What are your favorite venues in Los Angeles?

IRITA: I really like the Monarch in El Paso, it’s supposedly haunted. Also I really like the Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, they feed you and the food is really good.

SADE: The Crepe Place is also always super fun, and the fans who come out to those are so rad. I really dig the vibes at Hotel Vegas in Austin. And I have really good memories of the some shows at the cobalt and electric owl iThe Cobalt and Electric Owl in Vancouver (we love Zach). In L.A. I would have to say the Echo, Non Plus Ultra and the Observatory.

CR: Which bands inspire you?

SADE: There are way too many to list, I go through a lot of musical phases, but some of my forever favorites are BJM, MBV, Black Sabbath, Nirvana, The Gun Club, Sonic Youth, JAMC, Mazzy Star, The Smiths, Spacemen 3, The Velvet Underground and so on…
IRITA: Rolling Stones because they’re all still alive and they’ve been touring forever.

LA Witch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

LA Witch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

CR: How did you all meet?

IRITA: I had been jamming with some girlfriends and a mutual friend, Tony from Santoros, introduced us to Sade.

SADE: They were missing a singer and guitar player, and I was looking for a whole band. We vibed really well and had a lot of similar influences and stuff like that. So we started L.A. WITCH. Then we lost our original drummer, who moved to New York. I had known Ellie from a high school band that we played in, and asked her to fill in for some shows and then she just kinda became permanent.

ELLIE: I met Sade in high school, and it was really nice to be reunited. It’s great to play music with such talented people.

CR: How does L.A. Witch manage on the road these days?  What can young people learn from your experience touring, and what would you tell them?

IRITA: Lots of caffeine helps. Also you can’t be afraid to sleep on weird floors or shower in dirty bathrooms that have tons of spiders or cockroaches and/or smelly towels.
SADE: There’s moments where you think you’re losing your mind, but it’s totally fine because you get to lose your mind with your best friends. I mean if you really love it, nothing is gonna stop you so it doesn’t matter.

LA Witch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

LA Witch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

CR: What was the funniest thing that ever happened on stage?  Or what was the weirdest thing?

ELLIE: One time someone threw their panties on stage.
IRITA: Sometimes people yell stuff at us, it’s pretty funny. Stuff like “I love you” or “You’re hot”. Generally nice things. One time in Iowa some guy got on the stage and was like dancing with us while we were playing, getting all up in our business and no one told him to get off. That was weird. Then he followed me to our van and asked for my number. Ha.

CR: What do you typically eat when you’re on the road?  Is it cheeseburgers or healthy?

IRITA: We probably should eat healthier. We try to get at least one good, healthy meal in per day. But usually it’s coffee and gas station snacks. I really like discovering new, weird flavors of potato chips.
SADE: Yeah, we usually only get to eat one meal when we’re on tour. I really like eating fruit. Also Laena from Feels got us hooked on Yerba Mate.

LA Witch - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

LA Witch – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

CR: What work, fine art or paintings do you relate to?

IRITA: I really love Kirchner’s work, it’s colorful with really dark undertones. But I think I relate most to Goya’s work. He’s my favorite right now.
SADE: Recently, Joe Roberts’ book LSD World Peace.

CR: Have you ever met your favorite musicians and what advice did they give you?

IRITA: My favorite musicians are all dead.
SADE: I wold have wanted to meet Johnny Thunders, Kurt Cobain and Jeffrey Lee Pierce. We’re all water signs, I’m sure I could relate. 

Fireships Lights Up Hotel Cafe with Upbeat but Rebellious Performance

Fireships-1-wtmkLMusic with a Message Captures Imagination

By DONNA BALANCIA – Andrew Vladeck is a retro-style musician.  Like the folk balladeers of the 1960s, Vladeck has a lot to say, and with his band Fireships, he’s getting the message across.

Vladeck’s a rare breed: His songs have a message and they make you think.  And if you know him, it’s easy to understand why this park ranger-turned musician is having success.  He’s fun. We caught his show at the Hotel Cafe recently and asked him to give us answers to some burning questions.

 

When did you first start playing music, at what age?

I started playing at age 15.  Aimlessly first, learning pop songs and guitar solos like so many of my peers. It was when I heard Dylan and Guthrie I found my joy in songwriting and communicating – with a focus on words and message.

Why did you leave the park ranger career — or did you?

I started to be farmed out to citywide events as “The Singing Ranger,” and that made me want to go further with music. I still lead friends and family on private tours of the parks; I recently led one on the Battle of Brooklyn, which became a personal obsession last year.

Andrew Vladeck - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Andrew Vladeck – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Do you approach songwriting from a naturalist background, like which of your songs do you think were influenced by your previous career or your outlook on life?

My backround was as a historian-naturalist – and to that extent, yes, my music is influenced by these interests: It’s generally organic, rootsy, and filled with observations of the world around me.  You might hear this in songs of the new record such as “Come Back to Me,” or “Living the Dream.”

What made you go into music?

Growing up listening to highly-produced Pop music, it blew my mind to hear the old folk recordings of the 1940s through the 1960s – how people could be so honest and direct and expressive, without hiding behind any production filter. What you heard was what you got. I found that astonishing compared to the other things I was hearing. I wanted to do that.

What is your favorite sound?

Lately my favorite sound is the song of my little parakeet.  I rescued her from a local park – she was starving and little kids were throwing a soccer ball at her. I took her in and fed her and tried to find her owners. But no one stepped forward. So now I have this hilarious little chirp machine in my apartment.

What is your favorite animal?

We went to the Brooklyn Zoo the other day – right in the middle of winter. (I highly recommend this – there were barely a handful of people there!) Afterwards we discussed our favorite parts and there were too many to mention. The monkeys monkeying around and grooming each other, the toucans wiping their bills on tree limbs after eating fruit, and the peacocks in full plumage strutting their stuff, strange Amazonian fish sparkling and floating by …

Andrew Vladeck of Fireships - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Andrew Vladeck of Fireships – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

How do you feel about genetically modified organisms — how about corn?

They creep me out though I understand certain applications can be very useful and keep people from starving, and others are highly troubling, perhaps leading to an dangerous monoculture.  Some scientists are figuring out better ways to accomplish this.

What do you think the human race will be like 100 years from now?

I really hope we’re wiser. We’re going to have to be if we’re going to confront dwindling resources, population growth, climate change, and all the haters.

Of the candidates who are running for president, which is most closely aligned to your beliefs?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which is to say Bernie Sanders is closest.  The New Deal ended the depression and ushered in a more universal prosperity and federal humanism that lasted decades. We have a critical chance to revisit this type of policy. Please read up on the platforms everybody and pay a little less attention to which personality feels best.

Are there any songs of yours you consider controversial?

I definitely have songs that cheekily controvert various subjects in their own way. “Fantasy” takes on our celebrity-obsessed culture. “Chasing the Sun” takes on despots. “Countdown Time,” takes a look at alcoholism with drinking astronauts.

Fireships’ self titled album is available at the Fireships web site

 

Wild Honey Musicians Pay Tribute to Beach Boys; Show to Benefit Autism Charity

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees

February 13 Event Takes Place at the Alex Theatre in Glendale

On Saturday, Micky Dolenz, Susan Cowsill and Al and Matt Jardine will join a bevy of guest performers for a Beach Boys Tribute put on by Wild Honey Orchestra with organizer Paul Rock.  Funds raised through ticket sales will benefit Autism Think Tank and Children’s Music Fund.

California Rocker: How did you come up with this event?

Paul Rock: Our first big benefit show in 1994 featured a rare solo performance by Brian Wilson and Alex Chilton of Big Star fame, our all-time heroes.  It inspired us to do more shows.

After three Beatles’ shows in three years from 2013 through 2015, we decided to go back our roots and do the ultimate Beach Boys’ show for fans, concentrating on their brilliant but relatively less known music from 1967 through 1977.  We wanted a change and a challenge.  We found it with this amazing event.

Wild Honey presents a tribute to the Beach Boys on Feb. 13

Wild Honey presents a tribute to the Beach Boys on Feb. 13

CR: What is your goal with the annual event?

PR: To raise money to sponsor kids for the Autism Think Tank and Children’s Music Fund, both organizations that have benefited my son.  Bring the music community together around these causes while celebrating the music that has shaped our lives and needs more recognition.

CR: How many years has this been going on?

PR: Our first show was in my living room in 1993 and featured the music of the Beach Boys. We met many of this year’s performers that night, including Wondermints (now core members of Brian Wilson’s Band).  At our 1994 show, Brian saw them perform for the first time and was knocked out.   They’ve been members of his band ever since.

CR: What is your professional background?

PR: I worked in music retail and indie record promotion from 1976 to 2000.  Since 1987, I’ve worked as a Hollywood script reader for various producers, agents, and indie companies.  Currently, I am a full-time autism dad for my non-verbal son Jake, who is 11 years old.

CR: How do you know the musicians?

PR: Through my years at Aron’s Records in Hollywood and 23 years of Wild Honey shows, our network has built organically by word of mouth within the musical community.  The Wild Honey Family tree grows larger every year.

Al Jardine - Photo by Randy Straka [277307]

Al Jardine – Photo by Randy Straka

CR: What satisfaction do you derive from putting on the charity events?

PR: It’s great to know that we are helping other kids receive aid  from the same organizations that helped my son.  I also love the musical and personal bonds that form as a result of our events, like Wondermints finding their home in the band of their hero Brian Wilson.

We are big fans of underdog music  and musicians and love seeing people respond with the same sense of passion we do. With my original Wild Honey co-conspirators David Jenkins, Andrew Sandoval, and Michael Ackerman we are trying to bring the community together around an important cause, especially autism, while keeping the music alive for the next generation.

For Tickets: Wild Honey Orchestra

The Dogs of Detroit: Old School Punk Rock Pros Weather The Years, Fetch New Fan Base

Mary Kay and Loren Molinare of The Dogs - © 2015 Heather Harris

Mary Kay and Loren Molinare of The Dogs – © 2015 Heather Harris

The Dogs, considered among the innovators of punk rock, are one of the most influential bands in the genre. Legendary Detroit bandmates Loren Molinare, Mary Kay and Tony Matteucci sat down with California Rocker Editor Donna Balancia for a Q and A.

 

DB: What do you see as the future of punk?

LM: I think the future will continue to be great for punk. The punk rock audiences and fans are very loyal stretching over decades. The Ramones in South America and Spain are like the Beatles.

TM: Hell, I don’t even know what’s gonna happen tomorrow!

MK: I’m not sure, things change you know, punk no longer sounds like it did years
ago,  I can’t tell where it’s going.

 

Tony Matteucci of The Dogs - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tony Matteucci of The Dogs – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

DB: Are there any up-and-coming artists you enjoy?

LM: I love Glitter Trash from Detroit; from LA the two bands The Crazy Squeeze and Dr. Boogie; and in the UK, I like Great Cynics and The Cut Ups

TM: I like a range of the new artists.

MK: I like Volbeat but they’re not necessarily up and coming.

 

DB: What does it take to survive in the world of music today?

LM: You have to approach the music or your art with no expectations and be very persistent. With the change in the music business and with the record companies and the Internet, things have changed. In the past, the cream would rise to the top, but now because of the overkill of digital information you could have a great band that could get lost in the din of digital information. But the live performance and word of mouth is the way that the music can get out there and go viral these days.

TM: Surviving in music today is very difficult, for me it requires a “day” job.

MK: You have to have the will to perform on stage. That’s what I enjoy.

 

Mary Kay of The Dogs - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mary Kay of The Dogs – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: Where is the money?

LM: There never has been any money in our world. But for bands that tour you can break even or make some money with merch sales — but as always “It’s an endowment for the Arts”

TM: The money is and always was in the writing, and song placement currently.

MK: I know it’s not in my pocket!

 

 DB: What do you recommend to young musicians on the way up?

LM: Believe in yourself, don’t take yourself to seriously, work hard, be focused, and always: The music has to be fun!

TM: I recommend that young artist should enjoy playing, and writing songs, and don’t plan on making a lot of money.

MK: Just go with your feelings and have fun!

 

Tony Matteucci of THE DOGS - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tony Matteucci of THE DOGS – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

DB: What is the most disappointing thing about the music business today?

LM: I think what’s disappointing is there’s no record company artist development to work with a young band and build up their careers and fan base. The labels expect you to do all the work and they take all the rewards. It should be a partnership.

TM: The most disappointing thing … music seems to have lost its perceived value. Music was a large part of my life as a kid, it changed the way we lived.

MK: What’s disappointing is that I can’t make money at the thing I love to do: Play music!

 

Loren Molinare of The Dogs - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Loren Molinare of The Dogs – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: How has technology helped the musicians today?

LM: Totally from making records at home not needing big budgets to record – networking to their fans via Instagram, FaceBook, YouTube … all these avenues are huge.

TM: The Internet has been great for bands getting heard, and there’s a lot more home studios now.

MK: Technology helped musicians because they can basically make music the way they want, sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes not.

 

The Dogs - true innovators of punk - Photo © John Lindemann

The Dogs – true innovators of punk – Photo © John Lindemann

DB: How did you all meet?

LM: Old School. I put up an ad for a bass player at the local music store in Lansing, Mich., back in the ’60s. And we met Tony thru local networking on the scene here in LA in the early ’80s.

TM: I met The Dogs through a producer they were working with,  I think it was 1981.

MK: I answered an add at a music store, Loren and the old drummer had put up and I liked them just fine. Meet Tony early ’80s and liked him just fine too.

 

The Dogs at Rehearsal - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

The Dogs at Rehearsal – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

DB: What are the some of the characteristics and strengths that keep you all together over the years?

LM: We’re obsessed about the music and we have respect for each other and motivation to play rock and roll as a vehicle to make the world a better place.

TM: Being productive is important in keeping a band alive. We’re always working on something new. And we’re pretty used to each other after all these years.

MK: For me what keeps us together,  I like the way we all sound together and no one other than us can sound this way.

 

If you could jam with someone today who would it be?

LM: Iggy Pop and Keith Richards

TM: Probably Miles Davis … I’m a closet jazzo!

MK: Volbeat!

 

Mary Kay with Loren Molinare of The Dogs - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Mary Kay with Loren Molinare of The Dogs – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

What was one of the funniest things that ever happened on stage?

LM: Being de-pantsed at a high school concert in Detroit by our first drummer in front of hundreds of Brownsville Station fans

TM: Years ago I was playing with a cover band on the road, and we shared the stage with a stripper…. We’d play for 45 minutes to an empty room, but the club would fill up for the stripper’s 15 minutes. We’d start playing again and the room would empty…..it was a weird week. But we did become friends with the stripper…

MK: There are too many to think of!

 

What are your favorite places to play other than California?

LM: Japan

TM: Japan — In 2007 we played Tokyo. Loren introduced “Are You a Boy or Are you a Girl” and everyone cheering, I’m thinking they don’t understand a word he’s saying … We start playing and they’re singing along at all the right spots, I think we did 2 encores one night that tour. Best. Audiences. Ever.

MK: Japan and Reno

 

Next DoGs Gigs:

Oct 31- Bigfoot Lodge-Atwater Village, CA
Nov 20th-The Vu-Newhall CA
Dec 11-Cafe Nela-LA, CA

See The Dogs website for more info.

Judd Steele and his Daughters Turn Up the Volume as Stereo Love

Judd Steele, Jewel Steele and Lula Steele together form the band Stereo Love.  California Rocker’s Donna Balancia sat down for a Q and A with one very musical family.

How did you decide to put together a band?

Judd:  It just kind of happened.  I am a Dad and a drummer.  My little girls always loved seeing their Dad up on stage performing.  Then, one day, when the girls were 9 and 10, we happened to be in Guitar Center.  I was upstairs in the drum department and the girls headed off in their own direction.  When I was done and headed back downstairs, there was Lula and Jewel, rocking it out like true rockstars even though they had never played before, just born to rock.  So, I decided, let’s rock it out together!  And eight years later, Voila! Three-piece made in heaven!

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Was there anyone who told you you should put a band together?

Judd:  Nope, just Daddy’s idea!

Did any of you take formal music lessons?

Jewel:  Both Lula and I played in our Junior High Orchestra.  Lula was the only female Upright Bass Player.  And I played Violin.  I still love picking up the fiddle.

How did you come to select the instruments you each play?

Lula:  Well, I started playing Upright Bass because my Grandfather played and toured professionally in the 1940s and 50s.  He shared with us grandkids some of the most amazing and almost unbelievable stories of his16 years of being on the road with big band music.  He was so cool and I just wanted to be like him, so I started playing Upright.  So, it just made sense for me to be the bass player.

Do you miss going to school?

Lula:  I am in my first semester of college now, but I go to school locally so I can still rock in the band.  Jewel is home-schooled.

Lula Steele, bass player - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Lula Steele, bass player – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Do you inspire people your own age?   What do people say to you after they see you play on stage?

Judd:  I have been told by numerous fathers that they want to start a band with their little ones now.  People also tell me that I am doing good parenting.  I don’t know, I just do what I do and I feel really lucky that my teenage daughters still let me hang with them.

How many years have you been performing in Stereo Love?

Judd:  We have been performing as a band for almost five years and have played over 200 shows since then.  The girls learned their instruments for three years before we even started as a group.  Things take time to grow and come together. We have been working hard.

Dad, do other adults ever tell you the kids should get a “regular” education?

Judd:  No, because they are.

What are the benefits of being professional musicians as a teenager?

Jewel:  I guess it keeps me out of trouble?  I just really enjoy what I do and it makes me happy to entertain people.  It’s like an itch and I don’t want to stop.

Judd Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Judd Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

What was the most fun gig you ever played?

Lula:  There are so many, really.  Santa Barbara on the beach. Gene Woods Racing Experience in Las Vegas. Vamp’d, the vampire rock club in Vegas.  LeStat’s, the vampire rock club in Normal Heights, San Diego.  Of course, The Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood.  The Coral at Topanga Days.  I probably left something out, but those are a few of my favorites.

What was the funniest thing that ever happened on stage?

Lula:  One of our fans hand delivered Jewel and I Panda Express on stage… my favorite is Orange Chicken everybody!

What is most embarrassing thing that ever happened during a performance?

Lula:  I broke a bass string… when does that ever happen?  Now I always bring a back-up bass just in case because you just never know.

Do you think playing music is good to build confidence?

Judd:  If my girls had any more confidence they would kick me out of the band.  Yes, music builds confidence and character.  I am so proud of them.

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Do you think playing rock music helps build leadership qualities?

Judd:  Definitely.  Jewel being the lead singer has really helped her learn how to talk to people.  She is now booking her own solo gigs, she is unstoppable.

Do you think it’s rare that girls can rock?

Jewel:  I don’t think so.  There are so many girl musicians that I am influenced by.  Joan Jett, Blondie, Lita Ford, Janis Joplin, Karen Carpenter, Elle King, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, Orianthe, Grace Potter… did I mention Joan Jett?

What genre of rock and roll do you consider yourselves?

Judd:  Rock and roll radio airplay worthy.

Will any of you ever get a “real job?”

Jewel:  Music is a real job and I work hard at it.

Judd Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Judd Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Any new CD or projects coming out?

Jewel:  New cd coming out soon!  Howard T-Man is doing our artwork.  Google the name and you will see what he is all about.

Where can I hear some of the music? 

Jewel:  You can hear STERO LOVE many ways… Reverbnation, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it!  We are all over the world wide web!

“Crazy Town” (original) > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMRwndgiXcc

“What Do You Want” (original) live> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOzOOJJ8hBA

“EverMore” (original) >  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1AzO0CbWE0k

 

Jewel Steele - © 2015 Donna Balancia

Jewel Steele – © 2015 Donna Balancia

Website: www.StereoLove.us

Facebook: www.facebook.com/StereoLoveBand

Reverbnation: www.reverbnation.com/stereolovemusic

Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/MilitaryBratz2010

Instagram: instagram.com/stereoloveofficial

Twitter: twitter.com/StereoLove_Band

Two Tens Reveal All in The California Rocker Interview: The Massive Hair and Why Ella Didn’t Like the Hat

The Two Tens’ Adam Bones and Rikki Styxx tell California Rocker’s Donna Balancia their Most Random Thoughts.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens’ Rikki Styxx – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: Who is your inspiration? Who are some of the bands that you two both enjoy?

AB: General inspiration can come from anything or anyone. Bands that we both like are The Hives, Ramones, Descendents, The Sonics, The Queers and a ton more. We have similar taste in music.

DB: I hear a lot of Ramones in your verses and in your tunes. did the Ramones play a part in your inspiration?

AB: Ramones are probably the biggest influence on our music. I’m kind of a Ramones fanatic and apparently it shows in some of our songs. 

DB: How did you guys get the Hi-Fi Rockfest gig? 

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

RS: We’ve known Derek O’Brien since we formed the band.  We rehearse at his studio and he’s seen us play live.  When we heard about the line-up, we kind of had to twist a few arms but we are so grateful to be a part of this show.

AB: We’re really excited to be on such a great bill and to be associated with the bands and the fest in general. 

DB: What’s the biggest gig you’ve played so far? 

RS: Probably The Sonics at the Regent.  I got to sit in with The Sonics for a song.  The drummer has a thing for me (we are married). Ha!

DB: If you were an article of clothing what would you be?  

RS: I would be my bright purple bra!

AB: A leather jacket.

Rikki Styxx of The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Rikki Styxx of The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: Why do you feel you can’t win? Do you think that “I Can’t Win” is a reflection of how people feel today?

AB: Nah, it’s more of an introspective song. At the time I wrote the song, I just felt like nothing was going to work out. 

DB: How do you clap your hands on that song if you guys are playing instruments?

AB: We have special powers.

DB: Rikki, did you take drum lessons? How did you get to be a punk-rock style drummer? 

RS: I bought I drum set before I even knew how to set one up.  I was taught by punk rock and headphones up until five years ago when I started taking online lessons with Mike Johnston and attending his camps in the summer. As of five years ago, all I really played was punk because that was my biggest influence but I have ventured out into other genres. My energy on the kit is definitely my punk rock roots.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens play Redwood Bar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: What kind of technology do you use to create such a big sound?

AB: I split my guitar signal to a guitar and a bass amp. So it sounds much fuller than most people expect. I think people think that it’s just drums and a guitar amp which sounds pretty thin. But we knew better. And Rikki really knows how to thump away on those drums which rounds out our big sound. 

DB: How does Adam manage to sound like two people when he is only one, vocal-wise.

AB: Remember those special powers I mentioned 😉

DB: How do you manage to re-create the sound on your CD when you are actually performing?  

AB: We actually went into the studio with the mindset that we’d record our songs the way we play them live. We put in some overdubs and leads and whatnot, but basically the recordings sound like our live performance.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: How did you to actually meet?

AB: Our manager brought us together initially. He contacted Rikki when I needed a drummer for my solo project. We did that together for about a year.  

DB: Where did you both go to school? 

RS: I grew up in Colorado and went to school there.

AB: I grew up in Chicago and went to school there. 

DB: Adam, are you ever going to cut that hair?

AB: Probably not

DB: Why didn’t Ella like your hat?

AB: I don’t think she liked the way my hair stuck out the back. Something like that. She didn’t go into too much detail, she just said she didn’t like it. 

DB: Rikki are you wearing a wig? 

RS: No, I’m all natural baby.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: If you could be a color, what would the color be? 

RS: I would be psychedelic red, which isn’t really red, but a combo of colors.

AB: Black or navy blue

DB: What is your dream gig?  

RS: I’m living the dream with the fact that I get to play my drums everyday but I wouldn’t turn down touring with The Foo Fighters too.

AB: To open for all my favorite dead musicians. 

DB: Do you think you two will ever add additional musicians to your band?

AB: Maybe later down the road. But it’s not really much of a consideration right now. 

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: How do you distribute your music and how do you get the attention of fans?  

RS: We work extremely hard with coming up with content that is fun and quality.  I also think that translates online and right now that’s probably our best means to reach our audience.

DB: Where do you guys get your energy from? 

RS: Puppy dogs, pizza, and loud music.

Video courtesy of Thomas Underhill

 

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