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Interview with Reyka Osburn – Death Valley High

by Ashley Andersen
May 12, 2020
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Death Valley High
The band Death Valley High. From Left to Right: Reyka Osburn – lead vocalist, multi-instrumentalist,  Adam West – drummer, Sean Bivens – guitarist, Huffy Haffera  – bassist, backing vocalist.

Recently, I had the opportunity to catch up with frontman, Reyka Osburn from the goth rock, band, Death Valley High. If you have never checked out this band, you need to. They are amazing and also a great live act! These boys are dear friends of mine and I’m so happy for them and all of their accomplishments within the world of music.

In this interview, we discussed touring, which is something under normal circumstances this band does a lot of both here in the USA and also overseas! A lot of people think of touring in a band as something that is very fun and glamorous. While it can be. it can also very tiring and grueling, especially if you do not take care of yourself. 

I’m grateful to Reyka that he graciously took time out to share how he and his bandmates approach this subject.This is dedicated to every band, who goes out, lives on the road and gives their all to deliver stellar live performances night after night. Hopefully very soon, DVH can get back out on the road and rock out with their fans!

Ash Andersen (Rock n Roll.biz): Tell me about the first time y’all went out on the road.

Reyka Osburn:  Our first major tour was with Mindless Self Indulgence. It’s probably one of my favorite tours that we’ve had so far. We were finally getting to play to packed houses of about 700 – 1400 in capacity. That in itself was very exciting. We did a few shows out to the first date, which was in Toronto, Canada. We were super nervous about just getting into Canada, let alone being the first show of the tour. We didn’t want to miss our first night due to the Canadian Border Patrol.

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): What advice would you give to bands, who are about to go on their first extended tour? Do you think touring is something that becomes easier the more that you do it?

Reyka Osburn: Aside from the obvious things, like proper vehicle maintenance and an ample supply of socks and underwear; I think having a healthy amount of patience on your first tour goes a long way. Patience with your bandmates, the venue, patience with traveling… Be laser focused in all of your business, but keep some zen in your back pocket!

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): How do you boys break up the monotony or being on the road? Do you play cards, write songs? What is a day like for DVH, that involves a lot of traveling?

Reyka Osburn: One way of traveling well with others is to take time for yourself. You’re living on top of each other. There is plenty of time to be communal, so relish those times you get to be in your bunk (or your seat bench) and just do your thing. If it’s a long twelve hour haul, trade up the driving. Although this rarely happens, let the driver be in control of the music / radio. We tend to have the co – pilot be in control and that’s ok too. For a while, “Ha…”

Ash Andersen: (Rock-n-Roll.biz): Do you choose or have control over where you will go on a tour? 

Reyka Osburn: It’s always nice to be in charge of setting up the tour, so that the travel in between is not too far. Venues do not always line up, so you’ve got to keep moving. You might have to go well out of your way to make a buck! That said, we work pretty closely with our booking agent. He is really open to debate. If booking is too far out of the way, we ultimately have to decide if the money and time will be worth it…

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): What are some places that you and the band would love to go and tour?

Reyka Osburn: We have literally been through all of the 48 mainland states here in the USA and played nearly all of them. I was just saying last night that Mexico City and a swing down to South America is on the dream list. Also Japan would be amazing! We’ll take a rain check for now on the Eastern regions, while this corona virus runs its course though!

Ash Andersen: (Rock-n-Roll.bizI have been fortunate enough to have had a little experience going on very short tours in bands. But, I’ve never been on a full fledged extensive tour. My question is how do you guys maintain stamina on the road? Like for example if you play the Filmore East in San Francisco then, you hop in a vehicle and travel 6 hours straight to L.A. and then play the Whiskey A Go – Go the following night? There’s very little time to rest and recover.

Reyka Osburn: It’s really draining on some of us. If you develop any kind of insomnia or just sleepiness in general, you have to rely on pure adrenaline. Especially if you’re adding booze to the mix, you’ve gotta be careful. It’ll catch up to you, if you don’t plan on taking “nights off” from after show partying. Some nights you drink to remember a show well played, other nights… You drink to forget!

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): What’s the best thing that’s ever happen to you guys as a band, while on tour?

Reyka Osburn: It’s always nice to get a “bonus” at the end of a show (i.e. a bigger payout!) Some nights a promoter will add a little more to the envelope. That’s one of the best surprises you can get while on tour.

Another awesome surprise is a hotel room. Once we had a tour manager from another band give us the room key to his room, which he only needed for the day. We all slept sideways on a king size bed and we were all able to get showers before heading to the next town.

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): Do you boys ever get the chance to do any sight seeing or anything like that while you are on tour?

Reyka Osburn: Sometimes we are able to see some sights, provided that we have ample time in between stops. On our way to Switzerland, Adam coordinated with the tour manager to have the driver take us to the Giger Museum in Chur. It was a complete surprise that they kept from mainly me! It was incredible to wake up and see the Swiss Alps AND at the base of the village, where H.R. Giger’s museum and bar were located!

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): Can you please provide our readers with links to your website and any new material?

Reyka Osburn: You can always find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @deathvalleyhigh; as well as http://deathvalleyhigh.com. Our newest song is up at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrHMRESU9x0 and for purchase at https://deathvalleyhigh.bandcamp.com/track/raise-hell. It will be available for streaming everywhere by the end of March.

 

Ash Andersen (Rock-n-Roll.biz): Thanks again Reyka, you boys are the real deal and I’m so proud of all of you!

Reyka Osburn: Thanks Ash, it’s been fun to chat!

Interview by Ash Andersen.

Inspirational and Political Music Anthems That Brought People Together

by Ashley Andersen
April 12, 2020
5 (100%) 1 vote
Billy Holiday recording live at Columbia Records in 1957. Photo credit: Ed Hunstein.

The Covid – 19 Global pandemic, along with the social distancing recommendations from the CDC has affected all of our lives drastically. It has been absolutely devastating for the music industry as a whole. It has instantly put a stop to all tours, festivals and live concerts throughout the world.

 Still… Many bands and performers such as, The Dropkick Murphy’sReverend Horton Heat and many more are finding creative ways to keep on entertaining us with live streaming. Music has always succeeded in giving us hope and has helped to create unity and understanding during the darkest of times. Here are ten of the greatest music anthems ever…

1. Billie Holiday - "Strange Fruit"

“Strange Fruit” is considered to be one of the most prolific and greatest anthems of all time. It started out as a poem, written by Abel Meeropol in 1939. Meeropol was Jewish and also considered to be a radical, as he was a member a member of the American Communist party.  Former Senator, Joseph McCarthy and his assistants were hunting down people, who subscribed to this political party like witches in the U.S.A. during that era.

This haunting and beautiful song, sung by the legendary, Billie Holiday juxtaposes images of the beautiful North American southern landscapes, along with dead black corpses hanging a from tree branches. Holiday’s version of this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. It is also included as a part of the “Songs of the Century,” which was recorded by National Endowment of the Arts, (NEA) and the American Recording Industry. Many performers have covered this tune. These include, Nina Simone, UB40 and Siouxsie and The Banshees

2. "For What Its Worth" - Buffalo Springfield

The song “For What Its Worth” was written by Stephen Stills, while he was a member of the band, Buffalo Springfield. Stills, a highly gifted singer, songwriter went on to become a member of the band, Crosby, Stills Nash and Young. He has generated over $30 million dollars in record sales during the course of his career.

On the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, Ca., some owners and locals, who lived near or operated near live music venues such as The Whiskey A Go – Go became annoyed by crowds, who loitered outside before and after live performances. These people obtained a small victory, in getting a petition to stop the crowds from gathering. At least for a short while…

However, many music enthusiasts were not happy about this. They believed it was a violation of their civil rights. So much so, that on November 12, 1966 a protest occurred in front of the Pandora’s Box Social Club. Several people, who were at the protest wound up being arrested, including actors, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson. This Buffalo Springfield song become one of the most popular counter culture and anti war anthems ever recorded.

A picture from the November 12th protest in  front of Pandora’s box in Los Angeles, Ca. In 1966. Photo Credit: The Los Angeles Times Newspaper.

“For What Its Worth” was recorded at ATCO studios in 1966 and  went straight to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967. In fact, many people believe that the song was written about the Kent State massacre. But, this song was actually recorded before this event took place. In addition to this, the song is almost an expected tune for any popular period film about the war in Vietnam. It was featured in the movies, Born on the 4th of July and Forrest Gump.

3. "Sunday Bloody Sunday" - U2

The band originally from Ireland, U2 in 1983. From left to right: Bono – lead vocalist, The Edge – guitarist, Adam Clayton – bassist, Larry Mullen Jr. – drummer. Photo Credit: Paul Slattery

What has become known simply as “the troubles,” has been causing death, war and destruction between England and N. Ireland for centuries. The event that has become immortalized in rock music and popular culture known as “Bloody Sunday,” occurred in Derry, Ireland in January of 1972.

British soldiers shot 28 unarmed people, who were attending a protest. Many of the victims, were shot point blank in the head. The band U2 recorded the song eleven years later on their album “War,” released in 1972. When lead vocalist Bono asks, “how long, how long must we sing this song?” He is referring to the reactions of the Northern Irish people against the British soldiers, who participated  murdering innocent civilians. Later on in the song, Bono also makes reference to a boy, who is waving a bloody hankerchief. 

4. "99 Luftballoons" - Nena

Promotional picture of the music group Nena – circa 1984. From Left to right: Jürgen Dehmel – bassist, Rolf Brendel – Drummer, Jörn – Uwe Fahrenkrog – keyboardist, Carlo Karges – guitarist. Nena (Gabrielle Suzanne Kerner) – lead vocalist.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

In this clever, creative song, with the light and whimsical progression, there is A LOT more going on… Nena describes the excitement she experiences, when she purchases 99 red balloons. She takes them and lets them go up into the sky. However, the balloons wind up being detected on Doplar radar and the situation nearly winds up provoking a nuclear war.

Guitarist, Carlos Karges recalls how he acquired inspiration for the song when he saw red balloons being released into the sky at a Rolling Stones concert. This song has became a political anthem, which addressed the complex array of emotions between the Russian and American people during the Cold War.

 Also, it is a reflection of the state of mind of the German people, post WWII. Although Germany was in shambles, the hopes in dreams of the people were the red balloons that Nena was referring to in this song never died… This song appears frequently on rock music greatest hits from the 1980’s.

5. "Ohio" - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

The musical super group C.S.N.&Y. live in concert – circa 1970’s. From left to right: Stephen Stills – guitarist vocalist / songwriter, David Crosby – guitarist, vocalist / songwriter, Graham Nash – vocalist, Neil Young – guitarist, vocalist / songwriter. Photo credit: John McGinnis

There are not too many people raised in the western world, who have not seen the Life Magazine Cover photo of the Kent State massacre. The award winning picture was taken by John Filo. The image shows 14 year old, Mary Vecchio, who is crouched down beside the dead body of Jeff Miller. 

Miller was fatally shot in the mouth by the Ohio National Guard during a what was supposed to be a peaceful, anti – war protest in 1970. The students and people at Kent State that were there that fateful day were protesting the Nixon Administration’s decision to invade Cambodia during the Vietnam – USA conflict.

Image of student, Mary Vecchio crouched beside the dead body of Jeff Miller as a result of the Kent State massacre. Interesting to note: Ms. Vecchio is wearing a t – shirt with the word slave on it…

One person, who was shocked and appalled by the massacre was Canadian born singer, songwriter, multi – instrumentalist, Neil Young. He instantly wrote the song and played it for the rest of the band. 

The song is a direct response to the Nixon Administration and how unhappy Americans, who  belonged to the counter culture were with this former President and his cabinet members. This song is considered by many to be one of the greatest political anthems of all time for popular music.

6. "Ball of Confusion" Love and Rockets

The Love and Rockets cover of “Ball of Confusion,” released in 1985. Lead vocalist / guitarist – Daniel Ash, David J. – bassist, Kevin Haskins – drummer.

The original version of this song was written and performed by The Temptations in 1970. It was produced by Norman Whitfield. The lyrics are written in a stream of consciousness format. When perforned, it creates a layered, collage effect over a music progression that is linear in structure.

The lyrical content address a variety of topics including, the Vietnam War, segregation, white night, drug abuse, corrupt politicians and many more. However… There is not a diffinitive point of view politically with the lyrics of the song.That was a deliberate decision made by Barry Gordy, C.E.O. of Motown Records. He did not want to risk alienating any potential conservative listeners. 

In 1985, the rock and roll power trio, Love and Rockets created a cover version of the song. The song was released in 1986. Daniel Ash, David J. and Kevin Haskins are all former members of the legendary Gothic Rock band, Bauhaus. This song is on their first album, Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven. Upon it’s release, the song immediately went to number 18 on the Canadian rock music charts.

7. "Fight The Power" - Public Enemy

Public Enemy, Hip Hop – Rap group, circa mid 1980’s. Photo Credit: Kevin Shung / MPTVimages.com

 In 1989, the Hip – Hop rap group, Public Enemy, hit a nerve by capturing “the sounds of the street…” The song was specifically written for the highly anticipated film, “Do the Right Thing,” directed by Spike Lee. It can be found on the group’s album, “Fear of a Black Planet.” Lead Rapper in the group, Chuck D. addressed the psychological and emotional struggles of the black community in America. Particularly black males, who were accosted by the police. Also, Chuck D talks about how when he did not group up with an abundance of black role models,

“Cuz I’m black and I’m proud and I’m hyped, plus I’m amped. Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamps…” 

This song was automatically embraced and became one of the most popular and recognizable hip  hop songs of all time. It also succeeded in “crossing over” musical genres and was appreciated by musical enthusiasts, who were not just specifically into Hip – Hop music. As a single, “Fight the Power” reached number one on Hot Rap Singles. It also landed on #20 on the Hot R&B Singles. It was called the best single of 1989 by the Village Voice.

8. "The Revolution Will Not be Televised" / Gil Scott - Heron

Gil Scott – Heron was a respected author, poet, musician and composer. He also became highly interested in the art form of Spoken Word and is considered one of the founding father’s of – Slam poetry.

In the song, the reason Scott – Heron believes that the revolution is something that will never be televised is because it will take place inside of peoples minds…The song was written in 1971 and is on Scott – Heron’s album, “Small Talk on 125 and Lennox.” 

Scott – Heron takes on the role of commentator over a groovy, R&B progression, accompanied by conga drums. He also displayed his sense of humor as a lyricist in the song. This is demonstrated by lines such as, “the revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal…” The song was inducted into the National Recording Registry in 2005.               

9. "Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Band Aid

Not many events have brought the world together like the world concert Live Aid in 1984. When it was over, it had been watched by over a billion people that were spread out over 125 nations. 

The music for this song was written and performed by the band, Ultravox. The lyrics were written by Live Aid event organizer, Bob Geldof. The whole song, sung by a multitude of different vocalists – musicians was recorded in just 24 hours. 

Not everyone was a fan of the song. Morrissey, the often controversial, former lead vocalist for the band, The Smiths had this to say, “it’s the most self righteous platform ever in the history of popular music…”

This single raised over $14 million dollars for famine relief in Africa. The Irish are not eligible to receive a knighthood from The Queen. However, Bob Geldof did wind up receiving a KBE, which the Irish equivalent of knighthood. He is known now as Sir or St. Bob. The Live Aid concert successfully raised over $127 million dollars in famine relief funding.

10. "Imagine" - John Lennon

Initially, what was thought of by some to be a sappy, hippie song about peace has actually got some quite radical, powerful undertones, if you take the time to analyze the lyrics. John Lennon recorded this song live in 1971 in his home studio in Tittenhurst Park in England. The final master overdubs were recorded at The Power Plant in NYC. When the song was released as a single in the USA it went straight to number three, on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

 Tragically, nine years later, Lennon was returning to a different home one evening. The Dakota Building in Manhattan,  NYC when he was assassinated by a diabolical, Mark David Chapman. His wife, artist and poet, songwriter and creative collaborator, Yoko Ono was by his side when he died from four fatal gun shot wounds. Not many people know that Ono actually co – wrote this song with her husband.

In the song, Lennon dares the listener to think about a world without religion, without the trappings of social constructs, morals and values that people in the Western World are raised with. Lennon asks the listener to imagine further. A world with no countries, boundaries and “nothing to kill or die for…”

Like the song “Sweet Fruit” this song was inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame, under the 500 Songs That Shaped the World Category. The Guinness World Records British Hit Singles Book named it the second best single of all time. Former US President, Jimmy Carter had this to say about “Imagine.” 

“In many countries around the world – my wife and I have visited about 125 countries – you hear John Lennon’s song, “Imagine” used almost equally with national anthems…”

Article by Ash Andersen

10 Popular Rock Bands that Changed Their Original Band Names

by Ashley Andersen
March 22, 2020
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The band Blondie in the early days of their career in 1979. From left to right: Frank Infante – guitarist, Chris Stein – guitarist, Nigel Harrison – bassist, Deborah Harry – songwriter, lead vocalist, Jimmy Destri – keyboardist, Clem Burke – drummer. Copyright New York Times.

The process of coming up with a band name is unique to every individual band just like the music they create…. Sometimes, there is no in depth thought process required at all. The name is predetermined before the band actually forms.This is because the name symbolizes the band’s roots, place of origin and who or what they attempting to represent. Linkin Park would be a good example of this. In this way, bands are sometimes not unlike street gangs. Another example of this style of name choice would be, Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band.

For other bands, it can take a while to find that name that clicks… Even if the chemistry, music wise between band members, is immediate. There are many different ways names can be chosen. A lot of times, there are band meetings, where members spend the whole time trying to come up with a name they can all agree upon.

Sometimes, a band finally picks the right the right name, only to find out, it must be changed. There’s another band already with the same name and they have got a copyright on it. Or, it’s a name that’s too similar to yours. Here are ten different legendary rock and roll bands and the stories behind how they came up with their individual names.

Blondie

Former Playboy Bunny, Deborah Harry and ex partner – guitarist, Chris Stein combined forces creatively, when he joined her band 1974. The band was originally called, The Stillettoes. The group decided that the name was not quite edgy enough and opted to call themselves Angel and the Snake. 

After seeing this name appear on flyers and other advertisements, Harry became worried that the name was too long and that the pubic would not remember it. 

One day, while contemplating new band names, Deborah Harry crossed Houston street in New York city. As she did this, a random guy made a cat call and yelled, “Hey Blondie!” She thought to herself, “that’s perfect.” This band would go on to have a profound influence on the early punk and new wave genres of rock and roll. 

Depeche Mode

Early promotional picture of Depeche Mode. From left to right: Andy Fletcher, Dave Gahan, Alan Wilder and Martin Gore. Copyright: Spin Magazine from the interview written in 1988. 

In 1980, electronic music would receive one of the most beloved, enduring and influential bands to encompass this music genre. But when they began their career, the group’s name was A Composition of Sound. However, this name was not to last. 

It is argued that Depeche Mode means “Fast Fashion,” due to the verb Se Despecher. But actually, Depeche Mode took their name from a French fashion magazine, which when translated means “Fast News.”

Green Day

Green Day, circa early ’90’s. Left to right: Tre Cool – Drummer, Billie Joe Armstrong – lead vocalist, guitarist, Mike Dirnt – bassist. Copyright: Billboard Magazine.

Sweet Children was the original name of this San Francisco Bay Area based band, Green Day. It was soon discovered that there was another band in the area they lived in, called Sweet Child. In order to differentiate themselves from this act, the band decided that Green Day would be the name for them.

Def Leopard

Def Leopard early promotional picture. From left to right: Rick Allen – drummer, Joe Elliot – lead singer, Rick Savage – bassist, Phil Collen – guitarist. Photo credit: Rolling Stone Magazine, issue date: 1992.

When lead singer Joe Elliot tried out for this band, it was not for the job as lead singer. He was trying out to be the guitarist. At the time, the project was called Atomic Mass. 

,During a break at a rehearsal, Elliot told his bandmates about a writing assignment he had once done for a creative writing class. For this particular assignment, he chose to write reviews for imaginary bands. One of the reviews was for a band that Elliot had named, Def Leopard. The band immediately changed its name the following day.

Jimi Hendrix

A picture of Jimi Hendrix live at TTG Recording studios in October, 1968. Photo Credit: Chuck Boyd.

Initially, Jimi Hendrix did not choose to have his band to be called his birth name. Instead, he preferred to go by Jimmy James. He named his back up band The Blue Flames. He liked the way that it rhymed with his chosen stage name. 

Hendrix was also giving a nod to one of his musical idols, Junior Parker. However, Jimi Hendrix manager, Frank Michael Jeffrey, was not enamored with any of the names that Jimi had selected. He wound up changing the name himself in 1966. By that time Jimi Hendrix was already extremely popular and he could not do much about it. However, It did not stop him creating one of a kind, astounding and electrifying music.

Lady Gaga

Another superstar, that chose to go by her birth name at the beginning of her career is Stephani Germanotta. Many people have speculated as to how Lady Gaga came up with her stage name. 

The most consistent theory is that the songwriter / performer’s name was inspired by the Freddie Mercury song in Queen “Radio Gaga.” In an interview with the Scottish Daily Record, Gaga told reporters her feelings about the legendary Mercury. “He was not only a singer, but a fantastic songwriter.”

The Cure

Early promotional picture of The Cure in 1985. Left to right: Simon Gallup – bassist, Poryl Thompson – guitarist, Robert Smith – lead singer, songwriter, guitarist, Boris Williams – drummer.

This band is known as one of the innovators of the “goth” rock genre. They underwent several different name changes during the formative years of their career. The founding members all met while attending jr. high school together in the U.K. 

They first called themselves The Obelisk. When Robert Smith joined the group and became the group’s frontman, they changed their name to Malice. Then, the band’s name changed once again, to Easy Cure. After one final modification, they finally found a name that resonated with them and stuck…

Joy Division

A picture of Joy Division early on in their career. Left to right: Stephen Morris – drummer, Ian Curtis – lead singer, Peter Hook – bassist, and Bernard Sumner – guitarist. The photo was taken at Strawberry Studios / Stockport U.K.. Photo credit: Paul Slattery (Retna.)

All of the members of this innovative, English underground rock band were highly inspired by David Bowie. In fact, their first name was Warsaw, which was a tribute to Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy.” 

After playing around London for a while, the lads soon discovered that there was a band called The Warsaw Pact. For a short period of time, they thought that Stiff Kittens would make a great name. But ultimately, the boys from Manchester went with Joy Division.

Black Sabbath

Early Black Sabbath promotional picture. Left to right: Geezer Butler – guitar, Toni Iommi – lead guitar, Bill Ward – drummer, Ozzy Osbourne – lead singer.

As you might expect, Black Sabbath and how they acquired their name is a pretty interesting tale. The band that would help to define and create the music genre, heavy metal, started out as a blues band. They first called themselves The Polka Tulk Blues Band. Soon, they would change their name to Earth. 

In a 2016, with Rolling Stone Magazine Geezer Butler revealed more about how the band’s name came about. “As a child, I always had a lot of psychic experiences.” Butler went on to share a frightening experience he had one night…

 “I woke up from in a dream and there was this black thing staring at me. It only lasted for a second but, it freaked me out.” After hearing this story, Ozzy Osbourne wrote the lyrics, “what is this thing that stands before me?” This signature song quickly became the band’s name. 

Red Hot Chili Peppers

The founding members of RHCP. From left to right: Flea – bassist, Anthony Kiedis – lead vocals, Jack Irons – drummer, Hillel Slovak – guitarist.

At the beginning of their career, Red Hot Chili Peppers tried to come up with outrageous names. This was an attempt to compete against other bands, with their boisterous, bombastic, funk – punk sound. Tony Flow & The Miraculous Masters of Mayhem was the first name the boys came up with. In his autobiography “Scar Tissue,” frontman Anthony Kiedis elaborates about how RHCP came up with their name.

“We started going through these huge laundry lists of idiotic, meaningless, boring names. Red Hot Chili Peppers was a derivation of a classic old school American Blues or Jazz name. There was Louis Armstrong with his Red Hot 5,  Red Hot or chili that. 

There was even an English band called Chili Willi and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who later thought that we had stolen their name. But no one had ever been Red Hot Chili Peppers, a name that would forever be a blessing and a curse…”

Article by Ash Andersen

Guns N’ Roses, The Police and The Beach Boys explore their band feuds and healing

by Ashley Andersen
February 13, 2020
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The Police, The Band
The Police Promo Photo Circa 1986 © Rolling Stone Magazine
Left to RIght: Sting Leading Vocalist, Bassist. Andy Summers – Guitarist, Stewart Copeland, Drummer – Percussionist.
 

We all have struggled with depression, self doubt, and trauma, that is both physical and emotional. We have also suffered and gone through tumultuous times with best friends, or a spouse. Have you ever wondered how you would try to negotiate through all of these feelings and emotions, when you’re a Rockstar? When you are not speaking to bandmate(s), but have to play a show for thousands of fans? 

Or just imagine yourself trying to cope with the media, who LOVES to spin inaccurate stories about conflicts, tension and infighting within your band? Here are some stories about bands, performers and supergroups that went through all of those negative things listed above and survived all the negative scenarios listed above and were still able to write, perform and remains friends in the end…

The Police

The rock band, The Police, formed in London in 1977. They were a power trio with multi instrumentalist and actor, Sting. He functioned as the group’s primary songwriter, bassist and leading vocalist. Andy Summers,  was the group’s guitarist and Stewart Copeland, was the band’s drummer and backing vocalist. They released five albums, between the years of 1977 to 1984. The band won six grammies, in various categories as well as two British music awards.

According to the 2019 Oxford dictionary, the word, synchronicity means: “the simultaneous occurrence of events, which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal direction…” Although, this incredible album for The Police was a huge success, it also signified and effectively ended this amazing rock and roll band…

In 1984, The Police released their album, Synchronicity. The album would go on to win International Album of the Year. It also would be the catalyst to The Police becoming inducted into the, International Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.The album’s producer, Hugh Padgham, recalled the tension and the hatred between the band members, while recording this album. 

“Sting wanted a simple drum beat that would eventually be painstaking overdubbed in multiple pieces. They were all particularly at each other’s  throats. They were sick of being around each other. Sting and Stuart Copeland hated each other and although Andy Summer didn’t show quite a much venom, they were all involved in both verbal and physical fist fights in the studio…”

Once, when Sting was asked if he could imagine the prospect of The Police ever reuniting, he said, “Um… I think that would be good cause to certify me as being insane…”

Well… Sting did not actually wind up going insane and he and The Police reunited for a world tour that began in Los Angeles, in 2007. Although the band did not release a new album, they  did perform 151 shows together. In total, the tour for this band generated an incredible $362 million U.S. dollars…

Guns N' Roses

Early Guns N’ Roses early photo – 1988. Left to Right: Steven Adler, Drummer, Izzy Stradlin, rhythm guitarist, Axl Rose – lead vocalist, Duff McKeegan, bassist and Slash – lead guitarist. Photo © Time Magazine.

Gun N’ Roses exploded on to L.A.’s sunset strip as well as the world of rock and roll with their incredible album, Appetite For Destruction in 1988. This was only their first album and what an incredible debut it was! Appetite for Destruction became an instant sensation throughout the whole world. No one had heard anything quite like it at that time. It instantly sold over $30 million copies worldwide.

 It is still in the record books as being one of the most successful debut rock and roll albums of all time. One of the things that made this album so amazing, is that it made Gibson guitars and Marshall staked amps, with that classic “crunch” sound awesome again! 

Another reason this album astounded the world of rock and roll is that it was a new, modern expression and interpretation of rock music, inspired by the legendary band, The Rolling StonesAlso, Appetite for Destruction, created a new love and appreciation for the rock and roll power ballad, with hits, such as November Rain and Sweet Child of Mine... Yes, indeed!

In 1989, Sweet Child of Mine received won an American Music Award for this song. For November Rain, Guns N’ Roses would receive an award for best cinema photography in a music video also in 1989 from the VMA, otherwise known as MTV Video Music Awards. It seems as though Guns N’ Roses truly had it all, a wonderful album, success, adulation and devotion from millions of fans, all over the world… So what happened? Why after all of this, did Guns and Roses break up?

Guns N' Roses - The Unravelling and The Break up...

Ask anyone, who is in a band and they will tell you, that most bands are ALWAYS on the verge of breaking up… Here are three major reasons why tension, egos, infighting and the inability to make compromises, all took down a HIGHLY successful rock and roll band, who seemingly had it all…

1. Stuborness and Stylistic, Creative Differences.

Dynamic, POWER HOUSE vocalist Axl Rose, was HIGHLY inspired by Elton John and Freddie Mercury as a boy. He loved November Rain and Sweet Child Of Mine and felt like songs like these perfectly demonstrated his abilities as a vocalist. Rose also felt that all Guns N’ Roses songs should be written in this way.

Conversely, Slash wanted nothing, but to play straight forward rock. He hated the idea of Guns N’ Roses becoming known for just power ballads. He felt that Axl Rose was only trying to highlight his abilities as a singer and performer alone… The two band members would fight tooth and nail over this issue…

2. Control: It’s MY or the Highway… Or was it?

After Appetite for Destruction, the band was in serious trouble. But, this time the issue was over who ultimately in the band had control. Over things, such as merchandise sales, the band’s catalog and the band as a brand… Gun N’ Roses had become a band, who was worth A LOT of cash. When bands soar to heights like this, the band is no longer just a band. It is a BUSINESS…

Urband legend has it that one night, Axl Rose refused to go on stage with the rest of his band members, unless they all signed over rights to the band’s name to Rose. Ultimately, the rest of the four band members did… Axl Rose has always denied this, stating that he would have legally been destroyed, if that rumor had actually been true. 

Later on it was revealed that it was not Rose but actually, their manager Doug Goldstein, who presented the papers to the rest of the boys… Goldstein told the four members that it was ultimately the right decision to make because the band was in such bad shape physically. There numerous lawsuits flying between Duff, Axl and Slash over “missed soundtrack opportunities” and the like.

3. EGOS

Ego… It is the number killer of all rock bands. Axl Rose is known for being a PERFECTIONIST… In 1991, Axl Rose began recording his solo album, Chinese Democracy. Then, the album was recorded and mixed in fifteen separate music studios… The solo album that he was supposed to release in 1992, was ultimately released in 2006. Why did it take so long? Rose was afraid of critics saying, that he was not any good without Guns N’ Roses…

“”It was a REALLY big fight with me and Slash… But the fight with me and Slash started the day that I met him….” 

~ Axl Rose

Slash became known as a guitar GOD. He admitted that he basked in that success. Duff went on to join Velvet Revolver and Jane’s Addiction and had the “I can’t be bothered” attitude. Steven Adler told everyone he was amazing, but could not deal with his inner demons and wound up going to rehab, twice…  

Rhythm guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, Izzy Stradlin seemed disillusioned just didn’t seem to care about the band or anything… Perhaps, after all the instant success that he had experienced with the band, he was just simply burnt out. Ultimately, this is the lethal combination that made Gun N’ Roses hang up their holsters and called it quits in 1993…

Guns N' Roses Reunion - 2016 - Coachella

Gun N’ Roses 2017 Coachella Left to right: Dizzy Reed – Keyboards and synths backing vocals, percussion, Richard Fortus – rhythm guitar, backing vocals. Duff McKagan – bassist, backing vocals and occasional lead vocalist,  Axl Rose Lead Vocals, occasional backing vocals,  piano, Slash primary lead guitarist occasional backing vocals,. Melissa Reese., synths,. keyboards. backing vocalist., sub bass., programming,. Frank Ferrer, Drummer, occasional backing vocalist. Photo © Wikipedia
Guns N’ Roses “November Rain,” live. At London Stadium, 2017

In 2016, truly the unthinkable happened… Axl Rose and Slash decided to bury the hatchet. Immediately afterwards, Guns N’ Roses became a band once again. The band began their reunion tour, Not in This Lifetime on April 1, 2016 at the Coachella North American music festival. The name of the tour is based on reactions to questions posed to Axl Rose and Slash separately, if they would ever consider getting Guns N’ Roses back together again.

So far, since its inception, this reunion for Guns N’ Roses has grossed over $565 million dollars in ticket sales and merchandise. The reunion tour is scheduled to end in 2020… Opening acts for the  Guns N’ Roses reunion included AC/DC and  Alice in Chains.

Why Did Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys just decide one day to go to bed for twenty years?

Brian Wilson principal songwriter. piano player and contributing vocalist for The Beach Boys. 
Photo Credit © Lester Cohen / Wire Image

Brian Wilson began his songwriting career as a hit writer for his idol music producer, Phil Spector. He wrote songs for The Ronnetts and The Crystals in the early 60’s. In 1962, he formed the band, The Beach Boys. His bandmates were his brothers, Dennis Wilson, Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love along with their friend, Al Jardine. In addition to playing piano for the group, Brian Wilson also played bass, was a producer and was the band’s de facto leader. In 1966, Brian Wilson effectively wrote a musical masterpiece. 

The song Good Vibrations. Brian Wilson already had a slew of number one hit songs under his belt. Perhaps, this one is the one he is best known for. So what on Earth, made this incredibly talented musician and songwriter decide to move from his Hollywood home with his first wife Melissa, (a talented musician in her own right) walk upstairs into his bedroom, shut the door and simply stay literally in bed for such an incredibly long time?

In 2016, Brian Wilson sat down for what was an extremely candid interview with, Rolling Stone Magazine. He addressed some of the things that made him completely turn inwards and retreat into himself.

1. Drugs: Specifically LSD

Brian Wilson lists his seemingly instant departure as the leader of The Beach Boys came from taking repeated doses of the drug LSD.  “I want people to realize that drugs can be very detrimental and dangerous. I talk about my bad experiences on drugs in his autobiography book.  

2.Mental Illness

Perhaps the most significant factor, which made Brian Wilson withdraw from public life, was his on going struggles with mental health issues. In the interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, he stated that his personal battle with mental disorders were a direct result of all the drugs that he took.

Also, Wilson talks about how his relationship with an extremely loving, but domineering father led him to want to wanting to escape negative feelings surrounding this, by taking psychedelic drugs. “My dad was quite the slave driver. He made us mow the lawn and when we were done, he’d say mow it again… That’s just the way it was. Mow it twice, do it right…” 

Wilson also commented on how his dad was also a musician and someone that he very much admired. Brian Wilson was diagnosed as a schizoaffective and also with manic depression. In the 1984, he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic as a direct result of brain damage caused by excessive drug use. 

It is not surprising that Brian Wilson’s daughter Carnie Wilson, of the band Wilson / Phillips,  also struggled immensely with her father and her relationship with him. (Her band also  features singer, Chynna Phillips, daughter of John Phillips, from the 1960’s supergroup, The Mama’s and Papa’s. The third member of this band is Wendy Wilson, Carnie’s sister.) She once said in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, “I had to stop wishing for the Dad, I wanted and accept the Dad that I had…” I think a lot of children can relate to this comment. Especially, when a parent is a drug addict or suffers from mental illness. Brian Wilson has worked hard to mend his fractured relationship with both Carnie and Wendy.

3. Brian Wilson’s on-going feud with singer Mike Love.

This infamous rock and roll feud goes all the way back to 1966. During the recording of The Beach Boys album, Pet Love. Love was furious that when Brian Wilson wrote the songs for the album, he took nearly all of the melodies created for the lead singer. It resulted in Brian Wilson and his cousin, Mike Love not speaking for five years… Add that to Brian Wilson essentially removing himself from public life and almost everyone for twenty years. The situation was a tuff one. 

Wendy Wilson, Brian Wilson and Carnie Wilson, together singing live. © NY Times

A Short Lived Reunion...

In 2012, The Beach Boys did reunite. Everything seemed to be going extremely well for the group. In spite of this, Brian Wilson and Mike Love have always had a tenuous relationship with one another… After the band got back together, Mike Love announced that he would be carrying on touring under The Beach Boys name, without Brian. That ultimately, did not sit well with Brian Wilson… Ultimately, Wilson stated that unless big changes occur with the band he is finished with creating and performing with The Beach Boys.

Ultimately, all three of these bands and performers did what it took to come together again. Or at least, they attempted to do so.

 They took time to heal and address their core issues as individuals and then as a group. They communicated and were honest, even when that was extremely difficult. Also, they learned that ego is never an ally, when working creatively with others and that you have to be wiling to make compromises.

If not, then it’s better to be happy, than playing in a band with people, who make you feel terrible. Bands are not unlike romantic relationships.  But instead of having one “romantic interest,” you can have many, depending on the size of the band. It all takes work. The writing, the rehearsing, recording, performing. That can all be an incredible rush. But, it also takes work to fix things, when you and your band are in crisis. All three of these bands and performers demonstrate healing is indeed possible through the power of music! 

Article written by Ash Andersen

Ginger Baker – Legendary Drummer of Cream – Dead at 80.

by Ashley Andersen
October 6, 2019
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Photo Credit: Thi-Linh Le

He is the original heavy hitter… Before there was Keith Moon or John Bonham, it was Ginger Baker, who would set the standard as a drummer in the world of rock and roll. Peter Edward Baker was born in the U.K. on August 19th, 1939. He grew up in Lewisham, South London. Baker acquired the nickname “Ginger” due to his hair color as a young man. Baker developed an interest in the drums and began taking lessons at the age of fifteen. His instructor was jazz drummer Phil Seamen, who became an important mentor to Baker in terms of his style and approach to playing drums.

 Baker became known for his unique, polyrhythmic style. Baker was able to combine advanced forms of jazz bebop with Afro Beat and many other traditional African rhythms. Baker is considered to be a pioneer of many things including, world music and jazz fusion. Some of Baker’s influences included Max Roach, Philly Joe Jones and Art Blakey. Note that all of these musicians are jazz drummers. Baker considered himself first and foremost to be a jazz drummer. He hated when people referred to him just as a rock and roll drummer.

Cream

The psychedelic – blues rock band Cream in 1968. From left to right: Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce. Photo Credit: Art Kane.

In the early 1960’s, Baker joined the group Blues Incorporated. This band would also help to launch the careers of musical greats such as Charlie Watts and Mick Jagger. While playing in this group, Baker met his future bandmate and nemesis Jack Bruce. Ginger Baker did not think that Jack Bruce was good enough as a bassist to play with him. He was shocked when Eric Clapton wanted Bruce as the bassist for a new project they were forming… 

The three men founded the legendary rock group, CreamCream was a band that changed rock and roll forever in a variety of ways. Cream became rock and roll’s first power trio and they were also the first supergroup in this musical genre. Ginger Baker came from the band Manfred Mann. Jack Bruce had been a member of the Graham Bond 0rganization. Eric Clapton came from the two bands, The Yardbirds and John Mayhall and the Bluebreakers.Cream’s brilliant combination of psychedelic rock and blues fusion was the right music, at the right time. 

Due to the fact that all three members came from highly popular bands, Cream created an instant buzz. These three musical virtuosos wrote beautifully and generated a cohesive sound together. They were not just fighting each other for solos. But, there were problems… Although Baker and Bruce had incredible rhythmical chemistry, the two men hated each other personally. 

Ginger Baker once said this to a fan while autographing a Cream album. “Well, where do you want me to sign? Jack took up the whole front cover just like he always does…”  For Jack Bruce, it was very difficult for him to say anything positive about Baker as well.

 In 2005, music journalist Jim Clash interviewed Jack Bruce backstage at Madison Square Garden after Cream’s reunion performance. He asked Bruce if there was any truth behind the rumors that Cream would be going to California to play some more reunion shows. Jack Bruce responded angrily, “well, we had plans, until Ginger turned into a cu>t…” 

Things got so heated between Baker and Bruce that once during a Graham Bond Organization performance, Ginger Baker attacked Jack Bruce with a knife. Ginger Baker resented all the sacrifices that he felt he had made for the group. 

“At the start, Cream was mine. I took a drop in pay to start Cream, whereas Eric and Jack took a step up. Cream was always my baby…”  As a result of all this conflict and tension Cream only lasted two years as a band. Even when Cream broke up Baker and Bruce were never able to get along personally. However, they still kept playing with each other on and off for the rest of their lives.

According to an urban rock and roll legend, Jack Bruce called all of his closest bandmates when he knew that he was dying to tell them goodbye. Jack Bruce was known for having a wickedly dark sense of humor. When Bruce rang Ginger Baker, he supposedly said, “I’m dying Ginger, f>ck you!” Then, he slammed the phone down.

 Ginger Baker tried to call Jack Bruce several times, but got no answer. Jack Bruce knew that Ginger Baker would have wanted to have the last word. He made sure that he would not get it… No one knows if this actually happened. But if you understand the relationship between Baker and Bruce, then it is certainly plausible. Jack Bruce passed away in 2014.

Ginger Baker performing live at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany. Photo Credit: Jan Persson/Redferns
Cream live performing their smash hit song, “Sunshine of Your Love.” This also provides an excellent example of Ginger Baker’s innovative style that would go on to inspire a whole new generation of drummers.

Drum Solos and Double Bass Drums...

In addition to creating fantastic music with Cream, Ginger Baker became known for playing long and impressive drum solos during the group’s live performances. One of his best simply became known as “Toad.” Why is this significant? Ginger Baker was the first one to do it in rock and roll. Baker is also credited as being the first drummer to use a double bass drum kit within the genre of rock and roll. He had a custom, double bass drum kit built for him.

Blind Faith

When it came to the conflict between Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton tried to remain as inconspicuous as possible. However, it is rumored that he left Cream to get away from Ginger Baker. Clapton has never confirmed nor denied this. He joined the supergroup Blind Faith in 1969. Blind Faith members included Steve Winwood from the band Traffic on keyboards and vocals, Ric Grech bass from Family, and Clapton on guitar. 

Unfortunately for Claption, if the rumors are in fact true, his plan failed. For Ginger Baker wound up becoming the group’s drummer. They released just one album, Blind Faith before disbanding. Eric Clapton left the group and joined the two groups, Derek and the Dominos and Delaney and Bonnie. It was while playing in this group that Clapton wrote perhaps what is his best song, Layla.

Delaney and Bonnie also featured guitarist Duane Allman, who played in the group until his untimely death in 1971. Ginger Baker took the Blind Faith break up hard. “It took a few years and a few bad experiences to learn that really its better to only trust yourself and not other human beings…”

Picture of the album created by supergroup Blind Faith. From left to right: Steve Winwood, Ric Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.

Ginger Baker's Airforce

 Baker went on to become a pioneer in the world of jazz fusion by creating a super group called Ginger Bakers Airforce. The band’s members featured Steve Winwood on organs and vocals. Ric Grech bassist and violinist. Jeanette Jacobs, vocalist, Graham Bond alto saxophonist and many, other musicians. Baker’s former drum instructor, Phil Seamen played percussion in this group. The group released two albums. There were a lot of personnel changes on the second album. In 1970, the band kicked off the World Cup Rally by playing a set at Wembley Stadium. This band pushed the envelop between the musical realms of jazz and art fusion.

Batakota (ARC) Studios

In 1973, Baker formed the Batakota (ARC) Studios in Lagos, Nigeria. This is where Paul McCartney and his band Wings recorded their classic album Band on the Run. The album would go on to sell over a million copies. Baker also became the drummer for Fela Kuti and immersed himself in the genre of world music.

 Kuti was an activist, a composer and pioneer of the Afro Beat sound. Kuti is considered to be one of the most influential and charismatic performers ever to have graced the stage in Nigeria. Fela and Baker would go on to appear on the album Stratavarious, released in 1972. Bobby Gass from the Jeff Beck Group was also involved in this project. The album was re – issued on the compilation “Do What You Like,” released in 1998.

Baker’s manager Bill Fehilly convinced him to work with brothers Paul and Adrian Gurvitz. Thus, the band Baker Gurvitz Army was created in 1974. The band released three albums. They toured extensively between 1975 – 1976. The band broke up shortly after Fehilly died in a plane crash. Ultimately, Ginger Baker’s music studio failed.

Session Work...

After the failure of his recording studio, Baker moved to a small, rural town in Italy in order to conquer his addiction to heroine. In 1980, he became a session drummer for the band Hawkwind. Lemmy Kilmister was a member of this band for a short time before going on to form the punk band Motorhead. Baker left the band in 1981 after one tour. He also was a session drummer for former Sex Pistol vocalist Johnny Lydon. Baker appeared on the Public Image Ltd’s fifth studio album, Album. It was released in 1986.

During the 1990’s Baker moved to Parker, Colorado. He lived there from 1993 to 1999. Baker had a passion for the game polo and played it frequently at the Salisbury Equestrian Park. He also hosted weekend jam sessions there. He formed the Ginger Baker Trio, while living in Colorado. In addition to this, Ginger Baker would get back together with Jack Bruce to form BBM, which was another power trio. The band included Irish blues guitarist Gary Moore. The group did not stay together very long.

A live performance of The Baker Gurvitz Army in 1975.

Ginger Baker Not So Nice

Ginger Baker was a man, who could be very difficult to get along with at times. He could also be extremely arrogant. When he was asked what he thought about the rock group Led Zeppelin, this was his response. 

“I don’t think that Led Zeppelin filled the void that Cream left, but they made a lot of money. I probably like about five percent of what they did…” When Baker was asked what he thought of John Bonham’s abilities as a drummer, he gave the following answer. 

“Years ago, John said, There are two drummers in rock and roll, Ginger and me… There’s no way John was anywhere near what I’am. He wasn’t a musician. A lot of people don’t realize that I studied. I can write music. I used to write big band parts in 1960 – 61. I felt if I was a drummer, I needed to learn to read drum music…” Apparently, Ginger Baker did not like heavy metal music at all. He had this to say about it. 

“These people that dress up in spandex trousers with all the extraordinary make up – I find it repulsive, always have. I’ve seen where Cream is sort of held responsible for the birth of heavy metal. Well, I definitely would go on aborting. I loathe and detest heavy metal, I think it’s an abortion…” 

But Ginger Baker was self aware enough to acknowledge his short comings. “I’m not an easy person to get on with, I know…” But, this never stopped him from becoming an incredible drummer and working with some of the best musicians in the music industry.

Final Days

,In February 2016, Ginger Baker revealed that he had been diagnosed with serious “heart issues…” All of his future gigs and appearances would be cancelled until further notice. Baker wrote on his blog, “Just seen the doctor… Big shock…  No more gigs for this old drummer… Everything is off… Of all the things, I never thought it would be my heart…”

On September 25, 2019 Baker’s family posted on his blog that he was critically ill in the hospital and asked for fans to please keep him in their prayers. Ginger Baker was married four times. He is survived by daughters Ginnette Karen, Leda, son Kofi Streatfield Baker and stepdaughter Lisa. 

Baker told the media that he had been diagnosed with pulmonary obstructive disease as a result of heavily smoking for years. Baker underwent open heart surgery back in 2016. His family also reported that he had suffered a bad fall, which caused chronic edema in his legs and feet. On October 6, 2019, Ginger Baker died in a Canturbury hospital in England. Ginger Baker’s son Kofi is also a drummer.

There is absolutely no telling just how many rock drummers Ginger Baker has influenced. But some of them include, Alex Van Halen, Peter Criss, Neil Peart, Stewart Copeland. It has been said in the drumming world that virtually every heavy metal drummer has tried to master some aspect of Ginger Baker’s playing in some way. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ginger Baker’s family.