80s (and sometimes 20s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Benjamin Russell/Balance

It has been a decade since Benjamin Russell and I first interviewed. I seriously can’t comprehend where all that time went. Back then, we had a chat just before his CD “Rockhill” dropped. I was so moved by the collection that I wrote an impromptu review soon after. I know that Benjamin has been busy creating and releasing since then, but somehow life got in the way, and here we are 10 years later.

I was given an exclusive first look at Benjamin’s latest CD “Balance,” an emotional and insightful journey scheduled to drop on February 26. The tracks speak to a rich life, a full life, a life filled with tales dying to be told. The overall tone and lyrics have me imagining the patriarch of a family gathering the members together in front of a fire crackling in the living room hearth and sharing stories in a way not to instill fear, but to endear, with lessons to share.

My impression is that the more we listen to “Balance,” the more the depths of Benjamin’s life are laid bare for all to see. It’s done not with melancholy, but with a sense of triumph and joy. The upbeat undercurrent tells us that whatever we might learn from the stories he spins, it’s to our advantage and to his great relief.

Benjamin and Elyce, his writing partner and soulmate, took some time out of their busy schedules to indulge a few questions from me. The upshot is that we all have an opportunity to enjoy this latest heartfelt creation from one of Canada’s most gifted musical story weavers. Remember: this creative and inspiring album drops on February 26, so mark your calendars!

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MissParker: So what have you been up to the past 10 years?

Benjamin Russell: After the release of ROCKHILL, I put a band together and played shows with Peter Marunzak (former drummer for one of Canada’s most popular 80s bands, LUBA), Peter Patrick (guitarist from Nova Scotia’s NAKED LUNCH), composer, Sandra Chechik on keyboards, and Jose Sierra on bass. It was great to be playing live again!

I was on a high, creating music like crazy, but all over the place. The muse kept jolting me with stuff ranging from acoustic folk to aggressive electronic dance as well my more 80s pop style. I decided to split myself in three. But then everything came to a screeching halt.

There’s a reason there’s such a gap in communication since ROCKHILL. After that, I made an album under my name, SUNDOG, and 2 EPs: BUY THE BOMB, under the name, Guru Groan, and ALL FOR YOU, under the name, River of Stone. These nearly didn’t see the light of day as, just when they were about to be released in 2013, Elyce (my music and life partner) was diagnosed with a slow moving but incurable cancer, a form of leukaemia called, CLL. I stopped making music and had no time to promote it, making the decision to just spend every quality moment together.

MissParker: I’ve seen Elyce listed in the songwriting and video credits. Has she always been so involved?

Benjamin Russell: We met when I had just turned 19 and have been together ever since. A year later, I typed out two copies of the lyrics of all the songs I had written and bound them together into books as gifts for my best friends. They were divided in two parts: Before Elyce and After Elyce. There were already more songs in the second half. She gave me lift and I flew. Since then everything has been a collaboration.

MissParker: Does Elyce write music or lyrics or both?

Benjamin Russell: She doesn’t write music but she’s influenced me incredibly. Elyce is one of the original Beatlemaniacs. Friends and family made fun of her for loving them before they were so big! She has eclectic taste and she turned me on to stuff I wouldn’t have listened to otherwise. As the son of two university professors, I grew up in a home where “commercial” and “popular” were dirty words. I was a musical snob when Elyce opened me up to more than rock, classical and male singer-songwriters.

Elyce: Yeah, he was a real chauvinist! (laughing) Not really, but he hadn’t listened to Barbra Streisand, Laura Nyro, Roberta Flack, or Buffy Saint Marie.

Benjamin Russell: The lyrics are collaborations. Mostly, I start writing something and ask her to tweak it but often I get ideas from something Elyce said or wrote. Some songs are all nearly all her, TRYING TOO HARD, on GENTLE MAN, for example. On that one, she talked while I rearranged the words into lyric form.

MissParker: I feel like I’m forever asking this same question, but it seems to add context to what we’re listening to. What inspired the creation of “Balance?”

Elyce: As I used to tell my high school students, my husband’s best and worst quality is that he’s very sensitive! The smallest thing can inspire him to create but sometimes to extremes. He has so many ideas and projects, and needs be grounded. Balance has not been easy for him to achieve.

Benjamin Russell: Yeah, Elyce has kept me tethered to the mother ship. There have been many times I could have rocketed off this planet entirely if not for her!

I gave up my job in August 2018 to be with Elyce. We began the best years of our life, and Elyce encouraged me to start recording again. We were well into BALANCE when we realized we were working on not one but two albums. Elyce started it – she said, “This should be a rock opera!”. We put BALANCE aside and quickly wrote and produced SHIKASTA SUITE, which came out in November 2019. It’s based on Nobel Prize winning author, Doris Lessing’s science fiction novel, Shikasta.

MissParker: Do you find that the more life you’ve lived, the more reflective your music tends to be?

Elyce: I think it’s always been a big part of his music. A song like BROKEN-HEARTED LOVERS, his first vinyl release back in 1981, was a punk/pop song, but I know the real story. The lyrics say, “Sat up late last night with the headphones on, listening to some music, crazy love songs…” Ben was actually listening to Beethoven’s 9th and Bach organ fugues while he decided whether to ask me to marry him after we’d been seeing each other for only 10 days. 

Benjamin Russell: Ha ha, that’s true. Reflection. It’s like hiking. You get IN THE ZONE, and just climb your mountains, but every once in a while you come to a break in the trees and can see for miles. That’s kind of where we are now.

MissParker: Do you have a specific audience in mind when you write your songs?

Benjamin Russell: As broad as possible!

Elyce: I tell him to be free as an artist and not pigeon hole himself.

Benjamin Russell: That being said… (laughs) I want this album to resonate with fans of my 80s music who’ve supported me and have been waiting a long time for a followup to my 1984 album. I had done remakes and videos for MIRACLE (on SUNDOG) and SHADOWS (on SHIKASTA SUITE), but this is fresh material with a vibe that’s being recognized. Some have compared BALANCE to Pet Shop Boys and New Order’s later stuff.

MissParker: How important are the lyrics?

Benjamin Russell: That’s a great question. When I started writing songs, they were always first but now it varies from song to song and music has become increasingly a focus. I’m always writing melodies in my head. Many of them have been lost over the years because I didn’t write them down. Now I do, and lyrics might come later.

Elyce: What we’re saying is important to us. There are fewer words now but they are carefully chosen.

MissParker: Did you perform all of the musical parts for “Balance” or did you have help in the studio?

Benjamin Russell: I did everything with the exception of some of background vocals. I had help from Oliver Russell and Erin Ilagan on WORD (YOU MAKE ME FEEL) and REFUGE, and that’s Elyce in the tag to I AM A STRANGER.

I played electric and acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed playing bass especially the solo on ALONE, as well as doing some parts in real time on my computer QWERTY keyboard (the solo on IN THE ZONE, for instance). I combined real playing with sampling on BENT OLD MAN AND MULE. I was going to call it a “landscape for voice and banjo” and wanted it to be just me plucking and singing live, but it grew into a full electronic, sampled and looped production.

I’ve come a long way from the days when everything was actually played on instruments. Now my main axe is the computer! When I made the album in 1984, I didn’t have one, but I had to be a programmer. Anybody who used a drum machine or sequencer back then had to bend themselves to the weird and conflicting operating systems, so most of what is on that album is actually played. Computers have made composing so much easier.

For me, everything changed radically in the last couple of years. I used to write out the words with chords, put together beats and build on top of that. Now, I almost always write out the melody first in actual music. I use a program called Notion. Some of the instruments are written straight in there. Then I’ll export it and continue in my main music program, Logic. REFUGE is a string quartet and was completely written in Notion before I sang on it.

MissParker: How much do current world events influence your music, or is it mainly personal experience?

Benjamin Russell: That’s a big question! How can you avoid current events without sticking your head in the sand? THIS SKIN is intensely personal, about being ready for an internal change, but on another level, it’s a statement of solidarity with everyone struggling to be seen for who they are, not their race, religion or gender.

I AM A STRANGER came from a dream. I was in a big crowd at some event, a conference or something. No one knew each other, but before it started, everyone stood up, faced their neighbours and sang a song together. I told Elyce about it and we wrote this song. She calls it an anthem. My waking dream is that that could happen one day, that everyone could sing it with me.

Elyce: This is where I step in and tell him not to get carried away! (laughs) I just know that it makes me feel positive and hopeful.

Benjamin Russell: We need to remember that the world is many individuals and each one is important, crucial even, in unique ways. IF asks and answers the question: “What if you were never here?” BLINDED BY NEED, shows how we get so caught up in our own pains and insecurities that we become blind to each other. Are these personal or are they issues everyone in the world has to deal with? I believe it all starts with each one of us if we want to heal our world.

MissParker: I know no one is really performing live at the moment, but prior to COVID, had you been performing at venues? When the COVID crisis is over, do you plan to take your music on the road?

Benjamin Russell: These days I’m strictly a studio artist due to our situation.

MissParker: Do you think the creative solutions that artists have come up with to circumvent COVID restrictions and get their music out to the fans—Zoom, YouTube, Streaming—will permanently change future live music performance?

Benjamin Russell: There’s nothing like a live concert. Whether in an intimate club or a huge stadium, the experience is so much more than just the artist and music. Everyone’s energy contributes. Fans and feedback generate something on a whole other level. That’s what’s so hard about not performing – it starves an artist’s need to connect.

That said, thank God for the internet! It’s helped me keep in touch with fans all over the world and allows me to release an album like BALANCE without touring. Videos on Youtube give a taste of what a performance might be like, but like everyone else, I can’t wait for live performances to come back!

MissParker: I’ve spoken to other artists who say the creative flow never stops—that even though this album is complete, there’s so much creativity waiting to get out that more songs are already writing themselves. Does that ever happen to you, or do you try to take a break between each completed collection?

Elyce: Try and stop him! Creating for Ben is like breathing. If he takes a break from music, then he’s doing photography, poetry or painting. Lately he’s even managed to combine them all in his Instagram posts which I think would make a great coffee table book. Knowing him, the next album could start with the cover design, a drawing which inspires us to write a song.

Benjamin Russell: I don’t know. If I never made another album after BALANCE, I’d be OK with that. It’s that important to me – a distillation of what we have learned.

I’ve already finished more songs which could have been on this album, but a lot of thought went into the flow and balance and they didn’t quite fit. I’m working on a remake of ONE LOVE from my 1984 album. People keep requesting the original, but I don’t have the rights to the recording and TGO Records, my label back then, is defunct.

Missparker: Where can people listen to and purchase your music?

Benjamin Russell: All my music is online (except for my 80s albums which are out of print but even they can only be found on Ebay, Discogs, or whatever). My vinyl and CDs are available on Bandcamp. I’m on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Youtube, and anywhere else you get your music online. Streaming doesn’t pay much per play, but when people put you on their playlists, it adds up. And I know people are listening, which keeps me creating.

Missparker: This has been fun! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your music and your thoughts with us. Looking forward to future releases!

Benjamin Russell: Thanks for asking. You do so much to support independent music and spread the word. It has been a real pleasure and it is wonderful to reconnect with you!

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Show your support for these incredible artists:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2yw3ijBg4Tenp3Ul1zuoPg

Apple Music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/benjamin-russell/47225251

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tcbemusic

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Benjamin-Russell/e/B003CHAZR6/digital/ref=ntt_mp3_rdr?_encoding=UTF8&sn=d

Bandcamp: https://benjaminrussell.bandcamp.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BenjaminRussellMusic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mtl_bar

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bar.mtl.poetry/

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Videos

From Shikasta Suite~THE LEAF 

SHADOWS 

From SUNDOG~BABYLON BABIES 

LOVER

From GURU GROAN~HOUSE OF THE RISING SUN

From ROCKHILL~DECEMBER

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ SLAVE to the SQUAREwave Again!

Be forewarned—I’m going to drop the stuffy, professional interviewer persona and let my fan-gurrrrl flourish…

OMG—they’re back! And not a moment too soon! I’m excited beyond words!

This year has been the year that keeps on giving, and I’m not going to rehash that. It has been the year that will forever go down in history as sucking rancid canal water. So lately, whenever there’s a glimmer of hope, it tends to shine like a blinding beacon through the storms of hell.

That said, SLAVE to the SQUAREwave, the incredible duo of Rob Stuart and Colin Troy MacPhail, is back with an outstanding 90-minute collection of new music that, even if this year hadn’t been the epitome of everyone’s worst nightmare on steroids, would STILL rise like a phoenix above the ashes of contemporary music. These guys have been at it for 20 (count ‘em!) years, and the music is still as fresh as any debut album, let alone the latest in an already brilliant catalog. So what’s the album called? Why, “20/20” of course. Get it? Twenty extraordinary years of musical collaboration that just happens to coincide with the infamous calendar year 2020.

What makes S2TSW’s music really shine is that it always has something for everyone. Rob and Colin are not pigeonholed into one particular sound or style. They unabashedly experiment with sound, lyrics, instrumentation, orchestration—you name it, the sky’s the limit. This album is no exception. But lest you think it’s a hodgepodge of random notes forming a mishmash of unrelated songs under the guise of a collection, think again, honey. The progression is deliberate and logical and delightful to aurally behold.

And one last fan-gurrrrrl observation. I am a David Bowie fan, pure and simple. I’ve written in the past about my undying love for Bowie because he literally saved and validated my life over 40 years ago. And, that’s what makes S2TSW so important, so relevant, so vital a part of my life. In addition to the brilliant rhythm, melody, arrangement, and production that Rob brings to the table, there’s Colin’s voice. He has Bowie’s range, emotion, and creative delivery all wrapped up. This duo has filled an enormous void for me—both when Bowie retired and when he unfortunately passed on. Few musicians can make that claim. I’m making it for SLAVE to the SQUAREwave with deep-felt love and sincerity.

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MissParker: Well, here I am in the enviable position of asking my favorite duo questions about music I adore. Can it get any better than this? OK, before I absolutely embarrass myself in front of you guys, let’s get started.

It’s been 3 years since the last album release, “Jigsaw.” When did you first realize that it was time for another album?

Rob Stuart: It’s just natural for us to start working on a new album right after we’ve released one. It’s in our blood!

Colin Troy: It’s quite funny, I told Rob after we had finished the new album that I was a bit burnt out but of course 2 days later, I was jamming a new baseline for a new song. It’s a bit masochistic. (Laughs)

MissParker: The album’s name is just so perfect. When or how did it dawn on you that not only had you guys been doing this for 20 years, but that you’d have another album release in the year 2020?

Rob Stuart: Colin put that together. It was the perfect motivation to attempt to write 20 songs and meet a tight deadline. I can’t believe we did it!

Colin Troy: Actually, I believe we never intended to write 20 songs. However during the past seven months or so a lot of good and bad things occurred, so there was a lot of inspiration to continue writing. I agree with Rob, I can’t believe it either.

MissParker: David Marsden, God love him, has been teasing us by playing selected tracks during his live broadcasts for quite some time, now—maybe a year? So that tells me this album has been in the works for a while. Do you have a process that you follow for writing and recording songs? For example, I know that Colin generally writes the lyrics and Rob creates and arranges the music…is it usually lyrics first, then music? Or does Rob come up with a concept melody and add the lyrics later? Or a little of both?

Rob Stuart: It’s all of the above. I don’t write lyrics, only music. So, I’ll write a solid, structured music bed with a verse/chorus/bridge etc. and send it to Colin who will write a lyric and melody. In the past he would come over to my studio to record the vocals but during COVID he recorded most of the vocals in his own studio. Depending on the lyric Colin comes up with we will rearrange the song. Sometimes the intended chorus becomes the verse, the bridge becomes the chorus or the verse can become the bridge, or not. There are no rules. On other occasions, Colin will send me a fully realised track with music and lyrics already completed and then I’ll put on my producer hat and get to work by chopping it up or adding to the song to finish it off.

Colin Troy: I find writing the music the easier part of song writing. The lyrics are usually the last thing to put down because I find it is the most difficult part of song writing.

MissParker: I’m big on lyrics—it’s probably the frustrated poet in me. To me, the lyrics are just as important as the overall song. I feel the lyrical angst in some of 20/20’s tracks, which makes a whole lot of sense, given the state of the world. But, I also feel joy and hope in others, and I love the balance. It’s like you’re saying, “It’s been a shit year, but hang on, there’s something good around the corner.” Was that intentional? If so, how did it evolve?

Rob Stuart: I’ll defer to Colin.

Colin Troy: It’s funny—when I listen to the new album, I view it in two parts—the 2019 lyrics versus the 2020 lyrics. With the exception of a few songs written in 2020, most of the material became quite personal due to what was going on in my life these past 6 months. There was no intention other than writing in the moment. The only evolution I would say is letting mother nature take its course.

MissParker: I love movies that you watch over and over, only to discover something new each time. I gotta tell ya, I’ve been listening to 20/20 over and over again the past few days and it continues to sound fresh and new each time, hearing something different with each play. I truly believe that ability is deliberate and couldn’t possibly be accidental, and something I enjoy to this day with Bowie’s music. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but what in the world is your secret?

Rob Stuart: We put a lot of work into our music, so I appreciate the question. Some things do happen by accident but a lot of thought is put into our music. A good example of a happy accident is the lead vocal cutting out in the last chorus of “Something’s Kind of Weird.” That was unplanned, but it added drama and suited the song, so we made the decision to leave it in. The other day our good friend, Scott MacLean, called up and said that he was just listening to our song “Supernatural” from our first album and had just noticed me whispering in the bass breakdown even though he had listened to the song many times before. That was something I had done deliberately. I think adding layers like that is fun for a producer and is also rewarding for the listener.

Colin Troy:  Accident or not, when it comes to producing music, no one does it better than Rob.

MissParker: Does Colin lay down all of the vocal tracks himself, or do you guys use other back-up singers?

Rob Stuart: Yes, Colin has such a versatile vocal range that he lays down all of the vocals himself although my wife, Kim sings backing vocals on two or three tracks on the album. A good example of them singing together is the opening of “Souvenirs.”

Colin Troy: We have used backup singers before on previous albums. A great singer named Liz Tilden, Coco Brown, and also a great singer, Penny Robillard,  who also used to join us for the live shows who now lives in Australia. The past couple of albums, Kim has stepped up to the plate which is great because she softens the belting back-up from me.

MissParker: OK, I have to admit it. For some reason, I’m always looking for influences in music. With that in mind—and I mean this as a huge compliment—if Kate Bush were male, don’t you think “Something’s Kinda Weird” would be her musical doppelganger?

Rob Stuart: That is a huge compliment. Colin and I have always equated Kate Bush as Peter Gabriel’s counterpart. Now that you mention it, I could see both of those artists taking on that track. Wouldn’t that be great!

Colin Troy: I absolutely love Kate Bush. She can sing any of our songs at any time.

MissParker: And the intro to “Hot Mess” made me sit up straight in my chair. It puts me in mind of Trio’s “Dah Dah Dah.” What a blast from the past and a breath of the 80s—am I right?

Rob Stuart: You’re bang on. That is the sample from Trio. Actually that track is loaded with sampled drum loops. There’s the DA, DA, DA Loop, Eminence Front Loop–The Who, Sound Of The Crowd Loop–The Human League, Crabs Loop–Jean Jaques Burnell, Dancing Fool Loop–Frank Zappa, in the bridge, Conversation Piece Loop–David Bowie, and throughout the song, Read My Mind Loop–The Killers. My goal with this song was to make it sound reminiscent of Devo.

Colin Troy: Again, Rob is a genius producer. I near s*** my pants with laughter when I heard the initial Trio sample.

“It was 20 years ago today…”

MissParker: And I have to mention “Model Citizen.” It’s a brilliant song all on its own, but the video totally takes it over the top. What was the inspiration for the screenplay? And, before you answer, let me just throw this out there—I didn’t think there was much left that would make me blush in my old age, but Colin—wow!

Rob Stuart: That video was all Colin. (Pardon the pun!)

Colin Troy: Ha, ha, ha! The inspiration for that song, and in particular the video, comes from working in the service industry for so long. I have seen a lot of “business suit facade.” I have seen a lot of skeletons come from those business suit closets. And, it ain’t pretty!

MissParker: Can we look forward to other music videos for tracks from 20/20?

Rob Stuart: Yes, a video to “Hot Mess” is on its way. Colin will explain.

Colin Troy: Yes, David Raetsen and I teamed up together again and shot a video last Monday. We are still in the editing process and the footage looks a lot of fun and will be released next Tuesday (Dec 22).

MissParker: Woo hoo! One of my favorite tracks on 20/20 (and coincidentally, there are about 20 of them) is “Bonnie and Clyde.” I’m intrigued by the lyrics and what inspired them. Oh, and I couldn’t help but hear the reference to “Station to Station”—very clever!

Rob Stuart: Colin!

Colin Troy: I have to confess that “Bonnie and Clyde”  is a kind of continuation of “Texan Thugs and Rock ‘N’ Roll.” It’s about two people being badasses. I’m not a badass, only on stage! (Laughs)

Of course I had to make a reference to Bowie because he was the ultimate on-stage badass, right?

MissParker: Absolutely! And speaking of badass, I’m completely gobsmacked by the various instruments in each of the songs, some sounding like you have a backing band of at least a dozen eclectic musicians. Does each instrument’s unique sound have to be layered in individually, and if so, about how long does it take to lay down so many tracks?

Rob Stuart: We work with a lot of loops but as we’ve aged we’ve had a harder time keeping up technology which has forced both of us to go back to basics by playing live. I’ve never had the patience to figure out technology beyond its use for my personal requirements, so rather than waste time figuring out how to make things work, I’ll just play by hand. My lack of technical ability has actually made me a better player. These days my main tool for sounds is my iPad Pro. You can literally take all of the beautiful, old synthesizers and analogue drum machines that I have in my studio, plus much more, and put it into an iOS device.

It does take a long time to lay down individual tracks, but depending on the song the time can vary greatly. Most of the time, we are working with 60+ tracks. Those tracks will usually be mixed into sub-mixes before the song is finally mixed down and mastered.

Colin Troy: Personally I believe that you should use every music tool that is available whether it be an acoustic guitar, a keyboard, a drum loop, or an electronic synth loop. The beauty of sound is endless. I tend to write a structure and I will let Rob flourish with all the details.

MissParker: I’m curious to know how you come up with the melodies. I know a lot of musicians will hammer out a rough draft on a piano or guitar. Do you guys have a favored method, or does the magic just happen?

Rob Stuart: Sometimes the melody can be obvious and I’ll know where to go with it, other times I’ll sit at the keyboard and hammer out a melody line over and over again until I find something that works. Then I’ll usually figure out a counter melody or harmony.

Colin Troy: Honestly, I find writing the melody the easiest part of the song. I may not have a structured lyric but I will still sing a gibberish melody that sometimes becomes an unconscious lyric. Kind of like speaking in tongues.

MissParker: Totally selfish question here—are there any songs currently under development for another SLAVE album in the near future? One can only hope the answer is “Yes,” and that we won’t have to wait another 3 years!

Rob Stuart: We have some songs left over that did not make the final album that need finishing but we did cut this one close. Colin wanted to add a last minute funk tune, so he wrote the song “20twenty” while I was actually uploading the tracks for final distribution. He played me the idea over the phone, so I knew it was going to be a great track. We got it done at the last minute, but that being said, I think we are all tapped out for songs at the moment. Knowing us, that never lasts long. As I said, it’s in the blood!

Colin Troy: Don’t get mad Rob, but I’ve already started working on a new tune. (Laughs) I really do think I’m a musical masochist!

MissParker: I want to sincerely thank you guys for the two decades of hard work and absolute listening pleasure you’ve given us. There’s nothing better than the gift of hope, and over the years, that’s what your music has been to me, and others I guarantee.

Rob Stuart: Thank you so much for supporting independent music and for your support of S2TSW.

Colin Troy: Awwww, thank you so, so, much for your support and love. AND to all the squareheads who love and dig our music! We can’t wait to see you guys at a live show soon. I know we’ll all be dancing and singing and having a great time together again!

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SLAVE to the SQUAREwave’s album 20/20 dropped on December 15, 2020. What on earth are you waiting for? To miss out on this fantastic collection of life-relevant songs really would put the year in the dumper. So, get over to wherever digital media is sold and grab your copy now. It’s the perfect antidote to a year the likes of which we’ve never seen before and hope to never see again. Consider it an aural vaccine.

Model Citizen ~ SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

Headphones ~ SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now ~ SLAVE to the SQUAREwave

 

 

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ George Rondina/Imagination Machine

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: One of the best things (and there are so many) about being introduced to David Marsden’s live radio show 14 years ago, and then more recently (2014) to his free-form stream NYTheSpirit.com, is getting to know some incredible music acts and artists that I never would have been exposed to otherwise.

George Rondina is part of this treasure trove of talent. Three of his songs recorded under the moniker Imagination Machine that David has played on his live weekend show have absolutely torn me up: A Northern Evening, Dancing on a Highwire, and True (May the Road Rise).  These hauntingly lovely songs are the perfect blend of an internal, aural, emotional journey highlighted by Rondina’s expressive and unique voice. Personally, music is an escape that makes the real world tolerable by pushing it aside and providing a safe haven in which to curl up and fantasize about what life should be. George Rondina’s music is that and so much more—it envelopes the listener within a protective bubble that promises salvation rather than mere isolation.

It’s my pleasure to share this interview with you and to hopefully pull more listeners into the ethereal world of Imagination Machine. Given the reality that we are forced to deal with every day, I believe this is an alternative that many will willingly embrace once its magic has touched the soul.

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MissParker: I’ve done some research about you online and am amazed at your accomplishments, most notably the Toronto recording studio known as Number 9 Audio Group.  Before I ask you to expand on that a bit, I also read that you were part of several bands back in the late 70s. What can you share about that experience?

George Rondina: I’d like to say, thank you for having me and for the very kind and generous introduction. I started out as a musician and was in a couple of different bands in high school. Once graduated, the musical journey really kicked in and the 3 bands I was in toured Ontario and Quebec.

It was fun for the first few years, but living out of a suitcase in some not-so-swank hotels took its toll after about 5 years and I started to think of something I could do that would garner a bit more of a normal life. After much thought, Number 9 Sound Studios ( Number 9 Audio Group ) was born.

MissParker: So, getting back to Number 9 Audio Group—the name is intriguing, by the way—where did the name come from (I have a guess) and what prompted you to switch from performing to producing?

George Rondina: Ah, so the name Number 9 of course was a culmination of things—John Lennon’s infatuation with the number 9 and numerology, as he was born on the 9th day of the month, and so was I. In 1981, for lack of a better name, Number 9 it was.

We ran the studio in tandem, with playing live on weekends, at first. When my first born came along, the rest of the band approached me about touring full time. I was happy playing weekends and running the studio through the week. It was a very hard decision, but I chose to keep the studio going, as I had no interest in going back on the road at the time and I knew it would have been very hard on my family. So that’s when the switch happened.

MissParker:  The “who’s who” list of artists you’ve worked with at the studio is impressive, to say the least. Of the people you’ve worked with, who left the biggest impression and why? 

George Rondina: Wow, that’s a tough one, as many of the bands like “The Barenaked Ladies” weren’t famous when we first recorded them. There are a few that I enjoyed meeting a lot, like David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat and Tears. David recorded 4 albums at Number 9 and we became quite good friends. Jim McCarty from the Yardbirds and Renaissance would be another. A real gentleman. The work we did with the Stones, Van Morrison, and Will Smith was either rental work or location recording—mostly arm’s length—never got to meet them directly. After almost 40 years there’ve been a lot of great experiences, that’s for sure.

MissParker: Who haven’t you worked with that would be high up on your wish list?

George Rondina: We could be here all night (laugh) . Of the living: Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend and The Who (whom I have met but haven’t worked with), Pink Floyd, particularly David Gilmour, Genesis…The list is endless.  

MissParker: I’m curious about your connection with David Marsden. How did you first meet up with him and how long have you known him?

George Rondina: I’ve known David from his radio shows since the 70s, but he’s only known me since about 2017-18, when I released A Northern Evening and he was kind enough to add it to his playlist.

MissParker: I fantasize about having been a part of the music world, but life seems to have had other plans for me. So I’m always curious—what got you interested in music and which instruments were the first you learned to play? 

George Rondina: Feb. 9th 1964 The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show. That night, I decided that music is what I wanted to do. I was just a young kid. I tried guitar but just couldn’t get the hang of it, where piano came much more naturally for me. Then came the other keyboards and synthesizers, which I have a nice little collection of my favourites now. The only other thing for me was singing. I started in choirs at an early age.

MissParker: Who were your early musical influences?

George Rondina: Well of course, The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, and the whole late 60s-70s scene. Later: Genesis, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, ELP, David Bowie, Tom Petty—the list could go on almost forever.

MissParker: Even though you’re a musician first and foremost, what planted the Imagination Machine seed?

George Rondina: I’d been writing songs all my life but pushed aside recording them to focus on the studio, raising my kids, and making ends meet. Later in life, which started around 2016, I recorded a Christmas song for a charity to help kids with depression issues. The song was called Shine On. After I finished recording that song, I decided that it was time to start on an album.

MissParker: To me, you have the perfect blend of synths and instrumentation to enhance your vocals on the gorgeous  track “A Northern Evening.” The first time I heard David play it, I about fell out of my chair while grabbing my phone to Shazam this amazing song I was listening to. What inspired you to write that song?

George Rondina: It was a long time ago. I wrote the majority of A Northern Evening when I was in my 20s, and adding parts and lyrics in 2016-17 when I recorded it. By the way, I’m very encouraged and grateful by your kind words.

It was an experience I had while in Northern Ontario on a crisp, clear winter’s night while snowmobiling. We reached a peak and gazed into a sky full of stars with northern lights and shooting stars. It was an epiphany for me. I guess the belief that there is something more was confirmed that night and soon after came the lyrics and the song.

MissParker:  I absolutely adore “Dancing on a Highwire.” What’s the back story to that song?

George Rondina: That’s a little sad I guess. My father suddenly passed away at 56 when I was 21. Literally died in my arms. The only death I’d experienced before that of someone  that was close was my grandmother ( my Dad’s mother) the year before. I went into a bit of a dark place and was searching for something. Not to get too deep into the experience, Highwire is really just about the fragility of life and how we all have the courage to carry on even through the darkest of times.

MissParker:  Rooting around YouTube I’ve come across some other Imagination Machine gems that are both playful and lovely. Do you have any other songs in the works?

George Rondina: The other Imagination Machine Songs are Muskoka Trees, Blue Room, and I just recently finished a song called Still In The Silence. Going in the studio this week to start another new song.

MissParker:  Please share how we can purchase your music and also be informed of any future releases.

 George Rondina: It’s pretty well a one-man show right now. I don’t have a website or FaceBook page just yet for Imagination Machine. The other thing is since I started Imagination Machine there is a children’s group using the same name, so it may evolve into George Rondina and The Imagination Machine .

I think tuning into Dave Marsden’s NYtheSpirit.com is a good way to hear what is going on with Imagination Machine or my personal Facebook page. The songs are all available on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, and more. You can download from iTunes and Bandcamp, which is always preferred by the artist.

Here are a few links:

Muskoka Trees ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

True (May the Road Rise) ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Blue Room ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Dancing on a Highwire ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

Still in the Silence ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

A Northern Evening ~ Single ~ available on Apple Music

And, before we end, I think it’s very important I acknowledge the musicians, engineers and studios that played a huge part in making our songs presentable 🙂. They are: George Koller, Vito Rezza, Graham Walker, Larry Bodner, Chase Sanborn, Reg Schwager, Ciceal Levy and Amoy Levy, Caroline Akwe, John Madill, Aaron Fund Salem, Arron Davis, Bridget Hunt, Carolyn Blackwell, Winona Zelenka, John Switzer, Samuel Bisson, Alex Toskov and Veronica Lee, Loretto Reid, Eric St-Laurent, Anne Lindsay, Bernie Cisternas, Brian Mcloughlin, Alex Lang, Number 9 Audio Group, Alex Gordon, Abbey Road Studios Mastering, Lacquer Channel Mastering, and Noah Mintz.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. It’s been a pleasure.

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It was truly a pleasure to learn more about this inspiring music maker and producer. Follow the links below to sample some of his incredible work. And, if you like what you hear, be sure to support George Rondina and Imagination Machine using the links he gave us above.

True (May the Road Rise)


A Northern Evening


Dancing on a Highwire


Blue Room

80s (and sometimes 20s) Music  Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Ward Band Album “Bring Me Low” Review

Photography by Warren DiFranco

Imagine being the first band on the planet—and quite possibly in the universe—to release an album for the 2020 decade.  An amazing feat, right? Well, there’s a band on the west coast of the US who achieved just that—I kid you not—and the name is Ward.

Initially I had the privilege to make the band’s acquaintance in June 2017, via an interview with the band’s vocalist, Ward himself. A gracious and interesting interviewee, it was such a pleasure to get to know him and his music in more depth.

Now, I’m excited to familiarize all of you with (the band) Ward’s latest release. As I said, the band purposefully released this creative effort on January 1, 2020 at exactly 12:00AM (UTC+14:00), the dawn of the new decade. In addition to being a collection of beautifully crafted and executed tracks, Ward has designated proceeds from the sales of the album “Bring Me Low” to go to NAMI, a well-respected organization that helps individuals cope with depression and other bouts of mental illness.

“Bring Me Low,” a compendium of songs carefully and concisely illustrating the struggles that creative people find themselves in when battling depression is available for download HERE.

So, here are my thoughts on this brilliant album. I’ve listed it out by title track, each title encapsulated by a few lines of streaming consciousness/impressions scribbled out as I listened. But, please don’t take my word for it. Preview and fall in love with “Bring Me Low” for yourself. And, when you make this album a part of your music collection, feel proud in knowing that you are playing a major part to help musicians, as well as all the rest of us, battle mental disease.

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Album Title: Bring Me Low 

Photography by Warren DiFranco


Artist/band: Ward
© January 2020
Drums: Ryan Dietzenbach
Bass: Chris Gongora
Guitar/vocals: Ward
Guitar: Mauricio Munguia
Photography by Warren DiFranco

All songs by Ward except Further From The Edge (Ward & Munguia), Leave It On (Ward, Gongora, Dietzenbach) and All The Things I Want (Ward, Gongora, Dietzenbach, Munguia)

All songs mixed by The Elk, except Swimming and Leave It On, mixed by Jason Haag and The Elk, and Whatever Takes You Home, recorded live in one take at the lovely Rev9 studio.

Leave It On—My first thought as the song opens is that the melody resembles a very welcome throwback to the post-punk era of the music that I adore. A seriously wild bass riff anchors driving guitars and a frenetic beat that eventually morphs into a slower pace. But, the vocals never quit/slow down. The frantic lyrics and passionate vocals make listeners feel as if the vocalist is taking us along an anxious journey to a destination unknown.

All The Things I Want—Even though the lyrics are dark and full of introspection, the melody/tempo of this track consists of uptempo rhythms and jangly guitars that perfectly complement the vocals. There’s a definite urgency that is clearly conveyed, and yet the listener is given the sense that perhaps the desires/results the singer longs for have been placed out of reach and ultimately abandoned.

Photography by Warren DiFranco

I Can’t Fake It Anymore—The vocals make no bones about the singer/subject being at the end of his rope. We’ve all experienced this state of mind in some form or another during our lives and this song encapsulates perfectly the anger, frustration, and disappointment that result.

Bring Me Low—An angelic anthem that tears at the soul. As a title song, it bears the burden of the entire collection, from introducing the theme to setting the mood. This beautifully haunting song is a success on both counts. Backing vocals harmonize over a bluesy and emotional melody, which then segues into a graphic description of a low point in one’s life and a plaintive plea for relief. It’s a song rife with the struggles and obstacles encountered on the journey to becoming clean and sober.

Photography by Warren DiFranco

Further From The Edge—Ward’s range on this track truly takes us to the edge, then draws us slowly back into our comfort/safety zone. It’s like a roller coaster ride that is both exciting and terrifying because we realize we are not in control. All of us, at one time or another, has felt as though life keeps us hurtling along at its own pace, not ours, and this song is a graphic picture of the emotional tumult.

Swimming—Aurally, we are caught in a whirlpool of emotions. If this is what confusion of thoughts and loss of control sounds like, this track facilitates what it’s like to walk in the shoes of someone in the throes of mental illness. It’s not a pretty place to be—this song eventually has an end, but for some who suffer from depression, it can seem like no end is in sight. The lyrics and Ward’s vocals take us to that place so that we can understand it more fully.

Unsettled Souls—This is an unapologetic explanation of why the singer is who he is. What you see is what you get, and we are advised to deal with it. Most of this album lays bare the essence of a person in the midst of mental illness, but this one track sums it up concisely.

Dirt—The message here seems to be that we all have the ability to choose the path our lives will take—up to a point. That path, once chosen, means there is no going backward, only forward to deal with it the best that we can.

Photography by Warren DiFranco

Whatever Takes You Home—The lyrics in this track tell us that it’s up to us and us alone to figure out how to maneuver our way through life. It’s difficult for each and every one of us, fraught with mistakes and bad decisions, and sometimes we have to fail before we can successfully reach our destination. This is an honest look at what we all face, and Ward’s vocals pull no punches.

There are three bonus tracks/add-ons that are included with the download: Helter Skelter, Don’t Be Scared, and Sober.

Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience this incredible album, as well as contribute toward a wonderful and important cause. Again, the album Bring Me Low is just a click away and can be downloaded HERE.

And finally, Ward is pulling together a music compilation of peers and other international musicians to raise money for the Australian firefighting efforts. 100% of proceeds will benefit The Trustee for NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund.  Do your part to support this important and heartbreaking cause. Download/listen HERE.

Ward ~ Swimming (Official)

 

Ward ~ Whatever Takes You Home (Live)

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Boys’ Entrance/Tim Cain

One of the enormous perks of being a part of the David Marsden family of fans and musicians is the priceless opportunity to hear new music that David promotes. A simply fabulous band I first heard on David’s streaming show via NYTheSpirit.com is Boys’ Entrance. What makes Boys’ Entrance even more endearing is that they are based practically in my back yard.

Boys’ Entrance currently hails from the Tampa Bay region of FL. Front man Tim Cain has a timeless alto voice that draws the listener in to the music like a bee to honey. According to the intro on their website, they have been making wonderful music for 28 years—an amazing feat. BE has earned accolades from throughout the music industry—well-deserved and acquired through hard work and talent.

Even though we share a state, I’ve yet to have the pleasure of experiencing Tim Cain and Boys’ Entrance live. I know—sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I’m several hours away (Florida covers a LOT of territory!), and solo road travel is never a favorite adventure of mine. One of these days, though, I’ll find a road-trip buddy and drop in on a Boys’ Entrance show. It’s a bucket list goal I’ve got my sights set on.

In the meantime, Tim Cain has graciously accepted my invitation for a Rave and Roll interview. I’m excited to share his thoughts and opinions on the state of music, the world, and just about everything in between. I think you’ll find him just as real and as captivating as I…and the music…I believe it will be as irresistible for you as it is for me.

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Missparker: This is something I tend to ask most of the musicians I interview, because I’m very curious to uncover the “why” behind what you do: What made you decide to form a band and perform in front of people?

Tim Cain @ the original Boys’ Entrance, Chicago, IL

Tim Cain: First of all, Sandy, I want to thank you for your gracious invitation to speak with you. It is a privilege to speak with a fellow traveler in music. We are both devoted to music and I think it feeds our souls. So I feel comforted to know we share a friend, Mr. Marsden and music itself.

My father had a gift. He could play any song on the piano if he heard it. His right hand was where this gift resided. There was a direct channel between his “ear” and his right hand, and he amazed family and friends throughout my childhood.

His left hand was erratic and unguided by his ear. He would bounce back and forth between two or three notes—in time—but not necessarily in key. I suppose he had seen “stride” players play in honkytonks and wanted to emulate their style. But he had never been taught. So, it was a crazy thing to me to watch him, because I had the “ear” as well. I knew how amazing his right hand was, but his left hand drove me crazy.

Years later, I don’t know, maybe I was in my 20s, I callously said, “What are you doing with your left hand? The notes aren’t right.” I never heard him play again, and that is one of my biggest regrets in life. I wish I had just kept my mouth shut. But I opened my mouth and the toad leapt out and there was no taking it back. I know he has forgiven me though.

Missparker: It would be great to have a do-over—I think we all long for that ability at one time or another during our lives.

Tim Cain: I think my whole career—now 45 years—has sprung from my father’s ear. I was always a singer. That came naturally. My proudest moment was when I sang “The Lord’s Prayer” in rehearsals for my sister’s wedding. My mom and dad were sitting in a pew with their backs to me. I sang and the voice that sang through me was astounding. Everyone started to cry. They all turned to watch me, except my dad. When I was done, everyone applauded. My dad sat motionless, until he turned, and I could see he had been weeping. I felt a power I had never known, and I never wanted to stop using it.

My first actual band was called Flyht—our logo was a drawing of Icarus. (Strangely, my husband who is also the bassist in Boys’ Entrance was also in a band about the same time, and it was called Icarus!) So this was about 1975. We covered popular rock songs, and broke up after one show.

“The Wolf Is at The Door” single cover by Julie Perry

My second band was, Talltrees. This band was way more successful. We played around Central Illinois from 1979 – 1986. We appeared on a compilation album of bands from Champaign/Urbana. We had two major labels express interest, and even had a video play on Musicbox Television, (an MTV precursor, in Europe).

I moved to Chicago in 1987 and joined a prog-rock band called, Random Axis. I am still friends with two of the guys from that band to this day. In fact, the bassist, Tom Heslin plays on our “Tunnelvision” album! That band only lasted a couple of years, though.

That takes me to Boys’ Entrance. In 1991, I traveled to San Francisco and met up with my friend, Jon Ginoli. We had been rivals (as DJs), lovers, and co-workers (in record stores), during our college years.

He played me demos for his new project, Pansy Division. I was blown away by his audacity. The songs were the most blatantly QUEER songs I had ever heard. They were in-your-face and unapologetic. While I was the first queer musician Jon had ever known, my songs were always couched in universal pronouns. He schooled me and dared me to do more with my music. Twenty-eight years later, we are both still at it.

Missparker: What an amazing journey! What can you tell me about the current members of Boys’ Entrance, and have you always had the same line-up with them  throughout the years?

Tim Cain: Boys’ Entrance began as just me on keyboards, bass, & guitar. It was enabled by my Ensoniq VFX workstation. This keyboard is a sequencer, and it allowed me to record my musical ideas and store them on floppy discs. I am on my third VFX as of this interview. This keyboard allowed me to have a three- decade career with this band because, like my father, I have a great “ear” and “right hand.” I cannot play a song on a piano, using both my hands. But I can compose using this tool. My dad never had that option, but I did.

The first “live” Boys’ Entrance band was a trio—my keyboard sequences, and three guitars! We had no drummer, or bassist. All that came from the Ensoniq. It was I,  Cie Fletcher on lead guitar, and Mike Ferro on rhythm guitar. Later we added a percussionist, Amelia Soto.  The band broke up after a few years when Fletcher died of AIDS.

Mike and I continued and brought in a real drummer, Christine Anderson, and a Serbian lead guitarist named Vojo. That lasted a year or two. There was a punk trio version, with drummer Timmy Samuel, Mike, and I. There was a version of the band that incorporated my friends from Random Axis. You can see that version on our Jon-Henri Damski video.

All this took a toll on me. My personal life was always in turmoil. I was depressed and sometimes suicidal. I began preparing to die. I had written a lot of material over the years, so I went to my friend, Timmy Samuel and asked if he would record the songs, to document them. I don’t know if he knew why, but he recorded them all. These are the DEMOcrat records on iTunes. There are actually three—only the “Songs from Tunnelvision” is iTunes.  There is a record of instrumentals, and a record of covers, too. Once the recording was done, I was preparing myself to depart.

MissParker: I am so sorry to hear that—how awful. Obviously, I’m glad that you didn’t depart this lifetime. Is this how you ended up in Tampa?

Billy Ramsey and Tim Cain at David Bowie Is exhibit in Chicago

Tim Cain: Oddly, when my then-partner placed a gun in our home to facilitate my departure, I realized the problem was my life in Illinois. I fled to St. Petersburg, and have never been happier in my life. I met my husband, Billy Ramsey. I completed the Tunnelvision album with his help in 2016. When the rock opera was produced at Studio@620 in St. Pete in 2017, we were the “pit band” for 8 performances and were singled out by critics as being “amazing.” We were nominated that year in Creative Loafing’s “Best of the Bay” awards as Best Local Band.

The band has had a few guitarists since we began in Florida, but now has solidified into the current lineup: Billy and I, drummer John Spinelli, and lead guitarist Keith Otten.

Missparker: I think I know one of them, but who are your influences, and why?

Tim Cain: Yes, you and I share an avatar in David Bowie. He dominates my aesthetic, musically and artistically. As a songwriter, I emulate his atmospheres, but not his subject matter. I tend to bounce between the poetic and political—much more definitive than Mr. Bowie. But I would say I am filtered through the Beatles, Stones, Kinks, T Rex, Cars, Devo, Talking Heads, and more.

Missparker: Personally, I always find this type of question difficult to answer, and sort of stupid. But, I think it gives people some insight into what makes a person tick, so bear with me. If you were marooned on Mars and only had 5 albums with you, which ones would they be?

Tim Cain: Oh dear! Well here goes: Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane,” Beatles’ “The Beatles” (White Album), Prince’s “Sign of the Times,” Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key of Life,” and Brian Eno’s “Another Green World.”

Missparker: I love the glam look you project onstage. You seem perfectly comfortable with it and well-suited for it. Who does your make-up and clothing?

Tim Cain: You are so sweet, Miss P. I am guilty of my costumes and make-up.

Missparker: Who writes your music? Is it a solo effort, or collaboration?

Tim Cain: I am the sole writer of Boys’ Entrance.

Missparker: What inspires your music? In other words, where do you gather the ideas that you translate into aural artistry?

Tim Cain: Sandy, I believe I am a conduit for music from elsewhere. I am also a filter—so I influence the outcome. When I am in a situation where I have a receptive band, and the ability to record, 7 songs pour into (or out of) me. Once the band learns those 7, seven more will come. It is not always 7, but this is frequently the case. I have experienced riding a bicycle and having a song hit me in the face as though I rode through a spider’s web—the music and words—all at once. Back in the day, I would carry a tape recorder with me and capture the songs as they came. Today it is easier with cell phones.

Frequently, when I am drawn to the Ensoniq, I go into a trance, and the whole song is completed without my remembering how it came to be. I think I am channeling—who knows who—maybe my Dad? Maybe Fletcher? I don’t know. If you listen to the song “Hush” on my “In Through The Out Door” record, that is a one-take trance song.

Missparker: That’s amazing. Additionally, does the current disarray so prevalent in our own world also fuel the creativity as a pressure-valve release, so to speak?

Tim Cain: I sometimes brood over a song or a theme for a very long time.  Case in point is a new song that took a decade or so to write. The song is called, “Chant For The Hauntlings” and is about the spirits of all the animals I pray for when I pass their lifeless bodies along our roads. I pray, “ God bless you sweet spirit. Return to the Mother. Return to the Light.” That is the chorus to the song. It will be on my next solo record, I think. So yes, I frequently write about ecology, politics, and spirituality. The songs help crystalize my feelings about life.

Missparker: You’ve shared that you’re working on a collection of David Bowie covers, along with covers of other well-known glam bands and singers. What led you to go in that direction?

Tim Cain: While we are rated the #1 Alternative Rock band in the region on Reverbnation—one of the most amazing reasons I love Florida—the music venues are not geared toward original music. I thought it might be easier if we did our own spin on Glam rock. So I came up with the term, 21st Century Glam Rock. We can play the “tribute band” circuit.

Boys’ Entrance LIVE, cover of China Girl

Missparker: How did you decide which songs and artists to cover?

Tim Cain: Our new project is called, Bowie’s Entrance, and it is all music inspired by Bowie from the 70s, 80’s 90’s and 2000’s.

Missparker: What can we expect to see from Boys’ Entrance over the next 5 years?

Tim Cain: First up, we have a new live album called, “Boys’ Entrance presents, Bowie’s Entrance.” We recorded it this month live in a studio—12 songs in 5 hours and the band is astoundingly good. This is the 42nd anniversary of the release of “Heroes”.  So you know we had to record it. The result is amazing. It sounds so alive. All of the songs do. That is what this is all about- keeping the music alive! It is so good to hear it as an audience hears it. Thereafter, who knows? I am sure we will continue recording original music—I have too many sitting around.

Boys’ Entrance LIVE 2015, cover, All The Young Dudes

Missparker: What advice would you give to aspiring singers and musicians? How would that advice differ for members of the LGBTQ community?

Tim Cain: PLEASE, do it if it is important to YOU! Don’t do it for external reasons. Make it MEAN something. Content is key. As for the LGBTQ audience, I wrote music for them for 30 years. They never wanted to hear any of it because it was rock. We have always been more popular with straight audiences because they like rock. Oddly enough, our most popular song with straight audiences is “Mr. Sissy.” I don’t know if it is the novelty of hearing someone say those words, or the defiance in the song. I don’t suppose it matters. For some reason they love it.

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I’m very grateful to Tim Cain for his time and his gracious insight. Please get acquainted with, and show your support for Tim, Boys’ Entrance, and this wonderful musical experience.

www.boysentrance.com

www.reverbnation.com/boysentrance

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Colony Three/Brian Dickson

(c) Brian Dickson

I’ve had the enormous pleasure of being introduced to the delightful electronic music of Brian Dickson, a.k.a. Colony Three. I was asked to review a collection of 10 tracks titled ErgosphereWikipedia defines the word ergosphere as “…a region located outside a rotating black hole’s outer event horizon. Its name was proposed by Remo Ruffini and John Archibald Wheeler during the Les Houches lectures in 1971 and is derived from the Greek word ergon, which means ‘work.’”

This listening experience allowed me to take a remarkable journey that I look forward to revisiting time and time again; I know that I will hear more and experience different sensations with each opportunity.

The first five tracks lull us as listeners into a sense of peace and well-being—a journey that is both pleasant and without a hint of danger. Suddenly, with the opening strains of “Bad Gram,” the mood changes and we are thrust into a metropolis of sights and sounds that are both confusing and terrifying. As the music gathers steam, we are subjected to the aural awakening of the “fight or flight” instinct.

“Random Sparks” brings us back to a safe haven, giving us hope that there will be no other dangerous interludes until we reach the conclusion of our travels. But, just as suddenly as we feel that sense of calm, we are reminded by the dire melodies in “Collider” that the dangers we face are still all too real.

In the end, the pace of the excursion slows down, the dangers melt away, and again we begin to feel that perhaps this odyssey will have a positive completion after all. “Winds of Elysium Planitia” puts me in mind of The Man Who Fell To Earth when we are given glimpses of Thomas Jerome Newton’s suffering family back on his native planet. The final track, similar in scope by looking back on the previous tracks, evoke feelings of  both relief and sadness—relief that the trip is over and we are still breathing, and sadness, because of a nagging feeling that the world will somehow be forever different.

I am so pleased to have had a chance to interview Brian Dickson to provide some first-hand insight into the origins of this lush collection’s creation. I hope you will enjoy reading what I learned about this man and what he has to say about his exquisite music.

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MissParker: I can sit here and list all of the influences that I hear in this brilliant music—from Brian Eno to Gary Numan to Underworld to Jean-Michel Jarre…but my opinions would be irrelevant. Let’s hear it from you–who are your influences and why?
BD: I’d say my biggest influencers are Tangerine Dream and Jean-Michel Jarre. In the early 80s I lived in a very remote northern town so my exposure to music was mostly through the one local radio station that played top 40 pop and country music. One day, I was digging through my older brother’s stuff and came across a cassette of Force Majeure, and listening to it was a life-changing epiphany. I’d never had an emotional response to music until hearing this. It wasn’t the harsh “bleeps & bloops” synthesizers that I’d heard in so many b-movies and radio shows, but instead an incredible audio landscape that took me on a fantastical journey. I became obsessed with finding more music like this and pretty much anything that pushed boundaries.

Thanks to radio shows like CBC’s “Brave New Waves” with Brent Bambury and CFNY (under the tenure of David Marsden), a whole new world of musical influence was made possible. Listening to bootleg cassette copies of CFNY played a large part in me moving to Toronto.

MissParker: I’m terrified of flying, but I do it out of necessity. Listening to “Approach” made me smile because it actually reminds me of the airplane’s approach to the runway for a landing. What is the true meaning behind that song?
BD: First, I love hearing about how you interpreted this song as it was always a dream of mine to create something that sparks the listeners’ imagination.

Certain sounds or songs create a type of visualization for me.  When composing, I often start with a single sound and build on it, twisting and overlaying a few other sounds. At some point a scene forms in my mind and I often end up naming the track whatever was in this imaginary scene. In this case I had come up with the album name “Ergosphere” and thought it fitting that this song would be the approach into the Ergosphere and beyond.

MissParker: “Indifference Waves” has a lovely build-up to the brief spoken word segment. It puts me in mind of Gary Numan when he was

(c) Brian Dickson

experimenting with techno in the 90s and ended up keeping it as his signature sound. Then it takes off into a fabulous confluence of electronics and raw drumbeat. I love that combination. What inspired it?
BD: “Indifference Waves” was born of a sample from a 1964 episode of Danger Man in which John Drake (played by the outstanding Patrick McGoohan) finds himself in a surreal village called Colony Three. Many speculate that this episode was the precursor to the iconic science-fiction series The Prisoner which finds McGoohan imprisoned in a mysterious village where everyone is known only as a number.

“Indifference” describes my interpretation of The Prisoner, which is the importance of questioning the status quo. I’m finding that naming the songs is almost as much fun as making them!

MissParker: There seem to be very brief, if any, breaks between most of the tracks. Was this collection meant to flow like a single soundtrack, or are the songs meant to stand on their own?
BD: Some of Ergosphere was composed with no gaps between the tracks, but I’ve found that some streaming platforms or audio playback software inject small breaks between songs. Spotify seems to play the album “gapless” while others are hit and miss. I’ve noted that artists like Jean-Michel Jarre now release large single track “continuous play” version of their albums to avoid this issue. I personally love continuous play albums as they seem keep the listener’s imagination and mood flowing throughout.

MissParker: I played a lot of Jean-Michel Jarre in the late 90s early 00s when I was a corporate trainer. I used his music specifically to soothe my classes while they were testing on the stuff that I’d taught them. I hear some of his influence in “Flight to Tadoule.” What is your take on Jarre’s music? Did he inspire you to create your own version of electronica and how?
BD: Jean Michel-Jarre is influential on almost everything I produce. In my opinion, Jarre has found the precise balance of classical composure and technology. His bold approach to musical and performance experimentation is inspirational. I was fortunate enough to go to Jarre’s amazing 2017 performance in Toronto and it was better than I could’ve ever imagined.

Jarre inspired me to start simple and build on it. If I ever got the chance to speak with Jarre, I always imagine that his advice would be “There’s no wrong way to do it.” Sometimes when working on a track I will literally ask myself, “What would Jarre do at this point?” which always seems to get me past the block.

MissParker: “Clearwater” has a remarkable intro that flows seamlessly from the close of “Flight to Tadoule.” It reminds me of a DJ making the perfect segue between songs during a radio broadcast. Were the two songs created in tandem purposely?
BD: Unbeknownst to everyone (until now) “Clearwater” and “Flight to Tadoule” were composed in memory of my mother and father. My mother lived her final years in Clearwater, a scenic town in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. Her last years there were the happiest of her life and it was always a pleasure to see her so happy there. One of my fondest memories of my father was when he took me on a flight in a Cessna to a very remote northern community called Tadoule Lake. I felt it fitting to have these songs sound very different on their own but also be somewhat connected.

MissParker: Up until “Bad Gram,” the songs seem to have a laid back and dreamy quality to them. Then all of a sudden we’re thrown into a random foot chase with pursuers hot on our heels. The urgency carries over into “Influence,” although not as intense. What brings on this change of mood?
BD: I really enjoy your interpretation of “Bad Gram,” and I think I hit the mark on this one! As the song was being composed, I started imagining a scene from a Michael Mann movie, like some of the amazing instrumentals that Jan Hammer had done for Miami Vice. After the lulling jazz-bar sounds of “Daydream on Pacific Avenue” I wanted to create an unexpected spike of adrenaline for the listener to snap them back to the rest of the album.

MissParker: I mentioned in the introduction how some of this collection reminded me of David Bowie in “The Man Who Fell To Earth.” My only complaint about the film is that 45 years later, the soundtrack (which Bowie did NOT compose) presents as a bit “cheesy.” Your music on Ergosphere, however, is as timeless as space itself. That said, did you have a “movie” playing in your head when you created these tracks?
BD: That is another really big compliment on many levels! I didn’t set out with a movie in mind for the overall album, and I think the timeless aspect is a result of a personal preference I have for simplicity in both the composure and instruments being used. My good friend Rob Stuart (of SLAVE to the SQUAREwave) and I discuss this philosophy at length, that so many of the timeless classics were created using equipment that was greatly limited by today’s standards. I believe these limits are what ultimately demanded the most creativity and best performances from the artists at the time. I used to think that because I had a 16-track recorder, I needed to make use of them all. (Maybe to get my money’s worth?) Now, my studio has the ability to mix and record over 1,000 tracks, but I generally use 10 tracks for most songs, which encourages me to focus on melody and dynamics.

(c) Brian Dickson

MissParker: Is all of the writing and production solely yours, or do you have people that you collaborate with?
BD: For my first album, I made a conscious decision to go it alone as I ultimately wanted to own the outcome and find my own groove, so to speak. I did the writing and recording over the course of a few months. While the composing and recording was the fun and easy part, I was really struggling when it came time to master the album. Mastering is the final step in the process where the entire album is stitched-together and balanced for harmonics and volume levels. I’m thankful for being able to lean on Rob Stuart for advice during this journey as he has decades of experience in music composure and production. These great conversations turned have led to Rob and I collaborating on some new tracks.

It’s early days but we are both really excited about the outcomes and are looking forward to sharing them.

MissParker: Do you perform live? If so, where can people have the pleasure of being enveloped by your music in a live performance?
BD: I haven’t spent the time yet to research live performance in this genre…I’ve simply been having too much fun creating the music! I think my gateway into live performance would be through that previously mentioned collaboration. It would be the experience of a lifetime no matter what the venue.

Missparker: Where can people sample and ultimately purchase your music?
BD: For the latest information about Colony Three and to sample new music in the making, visit:

Instagram (@colony_three)
Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ColonyThree/ )

Colony Three music is available on all of the major streaming and download services including Amazon, Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and YouTube:

Missparker: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your music and your thoughts with us.
BD: Thank you for your support and for such a thought-provoking and fun interview experience!

I love your site and what you’re doing for all artists both new and established!

Experiencing David Bowie Through His Friends and Former Bandmates

On Friday night March 15, 2019, my friend Sharon and I had the great pleasure of attending “A Bowie Celebration” at the Ponte Vedra Concert Hall in Ponte Vedra, FL. This was actually our second time in attendance, with the first exactly a year ago at the Plaza Live in Orlando.

I am so grateful that we decided to attend the event once again. Something felt a bit “off” last year–in fact, after comparing notes with fans who attended in Ft. Lauderdale a year ago, it seems the Orlando show was abruptly cut off, making it about 30 minutes shorter than the South Florida performance. It still rated very highly with me, and the line-up of musicians was brilliant.

The same can be said for this year’s performance. March 15’s show featured Mike Garson, Carmine Rojas, Lee John, Charlie Sexton, Earl Slick, Bernard Fowler, Corey Glover, and 2 wonderful back-up vocalists/percussionists Naia Kete and Imani Elijah.

Sharon and I arrived an hour early for the meet and greet, but instead of being bored, we met some wonderful new friends (Jana, Kiera, and a fashionable, very cool couple who drove up from Vero Beach), and Carmine Rojas came outside just to chat. He was warm and friendly and made us feel so welcome after a LONG (nearly 3 hours in traffic) drive.

When the time finally came, the VIP group (about 8 of us) were invited in for special swag (T-shirt, tote, pins, laminate badge and signed poster) and to witness the sound check. It’s hard to find the right words to describe the elation at seeing the band honing their craft onstage. These were people who had actually performed with David Bowie, or were super fans themselves who wanted to honor his music. We were allowed to watch the rehearsal/soundcheck for about 30 minutes. Then, Mike Garson and Carmine remained onstage as the others retired to their dressing rooms. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed, because I really wanted to meet Slick, Sexton, Fowler, Glover, et al. But the warm welcome we received up onstage with Mike and Carmine soon alleviated any feelings of disappointment.

After we had a chance to meet these two great musicians and have our pictures taken with them, we were ushered to the swag area where we were given a bonus gift–a limited edition numbered poster especially created for the concert in Ponte Vedra. It features a reproduction of the famous, iconic “Bowie Mugshot” from his arrest in Rochester, NY in 1976. I had it framed within hours of returning home and will treasure it always.

The show–here’s where it becomes REALLY difficult to find the words. Trying not to sound cliched by utilizing tired, over-used adjectives, and failing miserably– the performance was outstanding, fantastic, awe-inspiring, emotional, energizing, breathtaking, magnificent…it was everything the 300 or so in attendance could ever hope for it to be. I loved the fact that the venue was small and intimate. Because there were only a few seats placed along the walls, most of the group was up on their feet and dancing in front of the stage the entire time. I know I was–days later I can still feel the soreness–but it was so well worth it.

I have blogged before about how David Bowie saved my life. As trite and banal as that sounds, it’s the truth. To hear Garson, Rojas, Slick, Sexton, Fowler, et al perform the music that shaped my world over 40 years ago, and that still helps me to get through each day, was absolutely exhilarating. Bernard Fowler and Corey Glover did extreme justice to the songs they sang by making them their own and not trying to copy/imitate Bowie. Charlie Sexton and Earl Slick absolutely killed the guitar solos with Sexton’s added bonus of his beautiful and impassioned singing on several of the night’s songs. Lee John and Carmine Rojas were phenomenal in bringing their rhythm and bass expertise into each and every piece, along with Naia and Imani (and a guest percussionist who joined later in the performance).

And Mike Garson…what can be adequately stated about his obvious love of Bowie, his poignant anecdotes, his killer piano performances? I mean, seriously, this is the man who gave us the masterpiece piano solo in 1974’s “Aladdin Sane” that blew even Bowie away. Because of Mike’s genuine love of his friend, mentor, fellow musician, and maestro, we have the privilege of hearing Bowie’s music performed live in a way that I know is making Mr. Bowie himself smile, laugh, and dance up in heaven.

Thank you Mike Garson, and all of the accompanying musicians, for something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

 

80s (and sometimes 10s) Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Beverley Beirne

This is the epitome of stepping out of a comfort zone to do an interview about a genre of music of which I have nearly zero knowledge. But it is so worth it, I found, as I was sucked into a maze of woven sounds that seemed familiar, yet not quite….

(c) Stephanie De Leng

An interesting comment on my “About” page brought me to a website where I could listen to snippets of jazz-infused covers of 80s New Wave tunes. At once astounded by the prospect, as I thought about it further, I realized that there are very few “pure” music genres. Everything that we know to be a specific music style, e.g. Rock&Roll, New Wave, R&B, Hip Hop, Funk, Punk, Post-Punk, Industrial, Grunge, etc., has been built upon a foundation of musical DNA that has existed since the first cave man banged some rocks and sticks together.

There are many, many extraordinary artists out there who successfully infuse different sounds into their craft and the outcome is outstanding. Beverley Beirne is one who has taken quite a unique route by capturing a nearly pure jazz inflection and melding it flawlessly with styles inherent to the 80s, a very eclectic period to begin with.

Beverley has graciously indulged my wide-eyed interview questions about her style and her forthcoming collection titled “Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun” (or “JJWTHF” for short), scheduled for release on June 15. Please read on for an in-depth glimpse into a ground-shaking, axis-tilting artist’s craft.

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MissParker: What initially piqued your interest in Jazz?
Beverley Beirne: I was brought up with jazz in the house as my Dad was a huge jazz fan.  So it wasn’t unusual to hear Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughn,or Ella Fitzgerald.  But my Mum was into Abba and 80s music, so I guess that explains this album a little!

MissParker: Who can you cite as your influences?
Beverley Beirne: All the beautiful singers I have ever heard I’m inspired by.  Coming from a classical background, I really appreciate the stamina of classical singers.  But, having said that, listening to Sarah Vaughn you hear that but with so much expression.  There are also so many amazing pop voices–Kate Bush, Kirsty McColl, Eddie Reader–these ladies have beautiful voices, but tell a real story too.

MissParker: Are you professionally trained, or does this beautiful gift come naturally?

(c) Stephanie De Leng


Beverley Beirne:  Yes, I trained classically when I was in my late teens and I did really love it.  It’s something I’ll always be grateful for this early time in my singing career, as I learned so much technically about the voice.  My only issue, for me personally, is that it’s really hard to be individual within the classical constraints, which is, in the end, what drew me into jazz and being able to really express my own individuality. Over the years, I’d say my voice has become more authentically me.

MissParker: You mentioned your mum was into 80s music. Is this why the 80s have a special meaning for you?
Beverley Beirne: This was the era when I was listening to Top of The Pops and heading into town to party at the clubs.  Definitely my party era! They were a lot of fun, these songs.  But you know when you really listen to them, there’s some great melodies and a lot of the lyrics are really fantastic. And, the singers back then–they were really great.

MissParker: What does your core audience look like?
Beverley Beirne: It’s mixed, depending on the venue.  Jazz does tend to attract an older audience, but saying that I get a lot of the younger generation turning up and this album especially is attracting a younger crowd.  It’s been a real education to me that kids in their teens and early 20s are really into this music–they actually know all these tracks really well!

MissParker: Who are your backing musicians?
Beverley Beirne: I’m incredibly fortunate to work with some fantastic musicians.  On this album, I have some of London’s leading dynamic young musicians; we have the hugely talented Sam Watts who is also my co-arranger on this project, Flo Moore on double bass, Ben Brown on drums and percussion, and Rob Hughes on sax, bari, and flute–all of whom I have the greatest respect for.

(c) Goat Noise Photography

MissParker: Are the interpretations collaborative with your musicians, or does someone take the lead and the rest follow?
Beverley Beirne: This album was in the making two years before I went to the studio.  I had a lot of fun choosing the tracks and trying to make them work. I then created lead sheets for them and figured out how I wanted to do them–I then went to London to work on the arrangements with pianist and co-arranger Sam Watts.  We both really felt we had something special after the first morning.  Sam then worked on the final parts/harmonies.  But saying that, even when we went into rehearsal prior to recording, we’re not a dictatorship, so we were both really open to what the band had to throw into the mix.

MissParker: Do you do original material, as well?
Beverley Beirne: This is something I do for my own pleasure, at the moment.  I’m working on developing my piano playing, which I’m really enjoying and this really helps with this.  I have a project I’m tinkering with and enjoying, but it won’t be out there for some time yet.

MissParker: How would you say that Jazz has influenced contemporary music (rock, new wave, post-punk, industrial, etc.)?
Beverley Beirne: Well, the blues influenced everything, especially jazz which started from the blues.  But it is really interesting to look at the flow of this into rock and pop and R&B. Contemporary jazz now is often a fusion of a variety of different styles, all informing each other, so it’s always great listening to the new vibes in London and in the North of England.  We’re really fortunate with so many creative jazz folks creating beautiful original music.

MissParker: Do you ever get any feedback from the original artists about your interpretation?
Beverley Beirne: I’ve been really lucky to have some feedback from Noddy Holder, Limahl, and Robin Scott from M, all of whom have been really supportive of the project. Noddy and Limahl have given me a couple of fantastic quotes to use, and Robin was really interested in how we managed to create his track, which is a real hip track on the album.  You have to remember that I’m a real fan of these guys–this is why I chose their songs, so to have their approval means the absolute world to me.

(c) Goat Noise Photography

MissParker: Do you have a favorite track on the forthcoming collection? What makes it so?
Beverley Beirne: This is like choosing your favourite child! I love Prince Charming ( I love the vibe with the hand claps); Bette Davis Eyes and the 5/4 vibe which is really great to sing against; Cruel Summer is a fantastic track and has always been a favourite; Waiting for a Man Like You, as I sing in a more gospel style voice I don’t always use; and I have to say Come On Feel The Noize, as this was the first interpretation that I did and had been singing at a Christmas Gig for four years. Because of the huge audience response to it, it was the seed that started me down creating a whole album of these pop interpretations.

There you have it—Beverley’s gift/my challenge to you: new musical territory to explore. Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Visit: JJWTHF/Beverley Beirne website

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Jazz Just Wants To Have Fun – Teaser

Beverley Beirne – Cruel Summer

Beverley Beirne – Too Shy

80s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Timothy P. Green

The Interwebs is a wonderful place—well, most of the time. What makes it wonderful is the world that opens up so easily that includes new knowledge, new music, new friendships, and so on.

I stumbled upon Timothy P. Green on Twitter. Through his daily tweets, he comes across as a likeable, funny, upbeat man, who also happens to be a passionate musician. You can’t help but follow his urging to sample his work, if only to see what makes this interesting guy tick.

Rather than take his music in little bits and pieces, I decided to look him up on YouTube where I found a comprehensive playlist. It’s a delightful package of tracks that seem to sum up Green’s array of music-making talent, complete with engaging lyrics that weave short stories the listener can relate to.

The joy that Timothy has for his craft is so evident in his music. It’s infectious and draws the listener in, even though it may not be of a preferred genre. If you feel you’re stuck in a comfortable groove and are looking to expand your musical horizons, Timothy P. Green’s creative streak is a great place to start.

Timothy P. Green

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Missparker: On your website, it says that you have been writing most of your life. What finally prompted you to put your music all together, record it, and market it?

Timothy: Time is movin’, keeps us groovin’ (laughs)!   I wasn’t getting any younger and Bradford Rogers my friend, producer, arranger, believes in me, so when I said I wanted to do an EP, he said “Let’s do a whole CD, and market it.” The rest, as they say is, Birds in your Belfry.

Missparker: You’re primarily a drummer, right? What got you started with drums?

Timothy: That is correct. I really can’t say why, though? My mother did tell me that I was always tapping on things as a baby and I assembled kitchen pots and pans into small kits, using wooden spoons as drumsticks. Somehow a drumset landed in my hands on my fifth birthday and I have played ever since. No one in my immediate family is musical. I just fell in love with drums and asked for new sets until I received my first professional drumset around 12 years old. That’s when I started playing in bands at parties, get-togethers, teen halls, etc.

Missparker: Have you supported other bands, or have you always been a “lone wolf?”

Timothy: Yes, and I still do. I started performing on drums as my livelihood around 18 yrs. I started out in traveling lounge/dance bands, then moved on to larger show bands, some with top names. This whole time while I was playing in clubs across the nation, I was writing my own songs on cassette tapes and then just tossing them in a shoebox and forgetting about them! I had no intention of being a singer/songwriter; it was just something I did for fun. I was content making my money just playing drums.

Missparker: Your current music is published as an album Birds Had Flown under your name, but you have other musicians who work with you. Who are they and what are their roles?

Timothy: Well, basically, the band is comprised of some of the best studio and live players based here in Atlanta. Several I have done performances with, others not. They are all awesome musicians and are all usually available for live gigs, when needed. The biggest credit goes to my longtime friend, producer, arranger, musician—Mr. Bradford Rogers. He and I work intrinsically well together. He has never offered up a bad idea, as we think musically alike for the most part. It was Bradford’s job as producer to get the best possible performances out of the various members that still conveyed the mood, feel, and intention of my songs. He also mixed much of the album in conjunction with Mr. Thom Kidd of Silent Sound Studio here in Atlanta. Thom is a gold and platinum engineer and a kind, talented soul. Between these two gentlemen and the smoking players, I couldn’t have asked for a better team and I am very well pleased with the results. 

Missparker: I hear so many different inflections in your music, from funk, to rap, to rock, to jazz…for me, it’s like trying to determine where a person comes from by their accent. Who are some of the major artists that have influenced your music?

Timothy: I grew up on classic 70s rock and pop music. Later I delved into jazz, funk and Indian Classical music. My first major influence was The Doobie Brother’s music. As I grew as a drummer, I started listening to Genesis, Rush, Supertramp, Bowie, more prog rock stuff. Then as prog rock started to fade out, I went to jazz music for my inspiration. I love Thelonious Monk, Sun-Ra—all of the old masters and inventors. I should also mention that I grew up half an hour from Montreal, Canada in New York State, so I always heard the best from the Canadian air waves, too, which included groups from Canada, France, Germany, Britain—the world basically. It’s funny, but many of the artists only sang in French or French Canadian, but it was killer music.

Other major inspirations come from my readings, and Eastern religious teachings. I had a long hiatus in which I studied the differences between soul, mind, and body. In some of my lyrics you will hear those concepts—OSHO, Gita, Joseph Cambell, Ayn Rand, Aristotle, to name a few. I’m surprised how many musicians fail to mention literature, poetry, and art as part of their influences when asked.

Missparker: Some of the tracks I listened to have female back-up singers, which adds another dimension to your already multi-dimensional music. Who are they and how did your musical paths cross?

Timothy: To be honest, they were recommended by Mr. Thom Kidd and Bradford. Those songs just screamed for background vocals, so we did it; same with the horn sections. Bradford would say to me, “I think you were hearing horns there?” Having similar musical minds, it was just, “So it is written, so it shall be done (laughs).”  All of the musicians are listed in the credits on the CD.

Missparker: I think you can tell that as a non-musician, I am fascinated with the nuts-and-bolts of music creation. When I think of a drummer, I think of the rhythm of a song (obviously), but I’m curious how you create a melody. Do you play other instruments, use a digital application, or do you hum a few bars and have someone else translate it?

Timothy: All of the above! I play very basic keyboard.  Melodies come out of the ether to me, usually as background music in dreams while I’m asleep, or in quiet states. I record those melodies singing the melody, then later make adjustments and form them into structured songs with either a real drum or drum machine. Lyrical ideas come last, in most cases, and are based upon my own life experiences, concepts, or sometimes they are just total fabrications, like you have seen in my Tweets (laughs).

Missparker:  You mentioned that you’re based in Georgia. I lived outside of Atlanta for about 6 years spanning the turn of the century (ouch, that sounds so old), and I remember the city as a hotbed of creative talent. Do you play live?

Timothy: Yes, I do both as TPG (Timothy P. Green) and as a drummer with different bands. I also record with different artists—anything that pays the bills and makes the muffins.

Missparker:  Something I don’t hear very often in contemporary music is flute. You use it very well in “Dreaming, #1.” In fact, it reminds me of a long-lost favorite, Jethro Tull. It’s such a great fit, I wonder if you wrote that particular song with that instrumentation in mind?

Timothy: I was up for anything, really. Bradford is the flautist on that and the song had a slight eastern flavor to it so…? If I recall, that was probably Bradford’s idea and yes, I like Jethro Tull—so why not?

Missparker: “Mommy’s Little Darlings” has a rap riff that’s so reminiscent of Beastie Boys in a light-hearted, hilarious way. Where did that come from?

Timothy: “Mommy’s Little Darlings” is a true story! You know—single musician, divorced girl, and several rather lively little children!  The rap-type riff was an attempt to make the song sound a bit more recent, as that was written around 1990! 

Missparker: I really had a blast listening to the tracks from your album Birds Had Flown. There is so much variety in styles, lyrics, melodies, instruments, that I think it’s a fair statement to say that the collection has something for every taste. What can we expect from you in the future?

Timothy: It’s hard to say—more of the same variety, or perhaps a concept album on one particular style and go with that? I have entertained the idea of a world beat album and an instrumental jazzy pop album, but probably will go with “Monkey Brain Stew” world beat, jazzy, punk, pop with a twist of lime (laughs)!

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Much appreciation to Timothy for his time and participation in this interview. Here are some links to sample his music, and support an artist that has a lot of talent to share with the world. Don’t just give this music a cursory listen; I have found that the more I listen, the more I hear, making it a really enjoyable journey of discovery.

The Official Timothy P. Green Website
https://www.timothypgreen.com/

Contact Bradford Rogers
https://www.themultimedianinja.com/

Cross That Bridge (Video)

Top Tracks – Timothy P. Green Playlist (YouTube)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlmbwnKillg&list=PLwz2a2nBdPG3ntdXbCTt47VvOtVTGy5yw

 

 

 

Happy Birthday Starman – 2018

(c) Mick Rock

I tend to measure my life in milestones–when Dan passed away, the subsequent annual memorial, and his birthday–and since that awful day in January two years ago, I’ve added David Bowie’s birthday and the day of his passing. Today marks what would have been David Bowie’s 71st birthday. Wednesday will mark the second anniversary of his death.

Today is a celebration. Wednesday will be a day of deep mourning and reflection. David Bowie did, after all, save my life. To many people, that’s a source of irritation–how can you mourn someone that you never knew? But Bowie’s fans did indeed know him. He was whatever we needed him to be–a mentor, a trail-blazer, a validator–he fit many, many roles for many, many people. That was the appeal that made him seem to be our own personal friend, family member, and yes, even lifesaver. He easily infiltrated our lives and we gladly accepted him, because he gave our wretched existences value.

Bowie fans understand. They do not judge. They accept every other fan’s reasons for loving a man that formed an important and necessary part of our lives. We don’t ask–we just nod with sage wisdom when another fan shares a Bowie story. It is the special brotherhood that bonds us. And we are blessed to be a part of this massive network.

(c) Sukita

Because we do not celebrate, mourn, or reminisce alone. We are a community that supports one another. This is an enormously important part of David Bowie’s legacy. Something that would have probably made him scratch his head in wonder, but something he would absolutely embrace and endorse, because he loved and respected us all. It was that unconditional flow of love back and forth that kept him in his creative game and kept us putting one foot in front of the other, even when we thought we wouldn’t make it through another day. He felt the strength and love that we freely gave back to him and it allowed him to complete two massive projects–a musical and an award-winning album–just weeks/days before his death. The “Lazarus” musical and “Blackstar” album were his parting gifts to us–the strength and love we collectively channeled to him was our gift back to him.

Happy birthday, Starman. There are no words to describe the love and loss, but please know that the love will be all-enduring even if the loss is nearly suffocating. One very important lesson we’ve learned from your own journey is that we can survive whatever life throws at us–even if it means living in a world that you no longer inhabit. And, we are comforted by the images and music that you left behind–until we meet again beyond the stars.