Jeff Gorra

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Contact: JeffGorra@gmail.com; @JeffGorra on twitter REPORTER: Jeff Gorra Bio: Jeff has been in and around the Rock/Alternative world for many years having spent time at K-Rock radio in New York and Live Nation. Additionally, Jeff served as a street team director under the Chris Cornell camp from 2005-2009. During the years of 2003-2011, Jeff found himself on the other side of the guitar having fronted the New York City band Breakerfall and The Jeff Gorra Band. His first solo effort Jeff Gorra – The Reins was released in late 2010 and still resides on iTunes. Now a New England resident, Jeff came aboard Alternative Nation in 2013 focusing on interviews, after years of being a faithful reader. Fun facts: Jeff is a die-hard New York Giants fan. Some of his favorite artists include; Pearl Jam, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and anything Chris Cornell. Contact Jeff at Jeffgorra @gmail.com

Think of two of your favorite bands. Let’s say by chance, you have a mutual friend with one of the members of those bands. You casually end up getting a chance to meet that member at a local show. You really hit it off as you are a capable musician yourself. Your conversation ends by suggesting that someday you jam together. Then it happens. Then you write songs together. Then members from the second band you love just as much are invited into the jam sessions as they too have a connection. Seem like a dream? Welcome to the world of Gary Noon.

That all happened. Noon, an avid Sevendust and Alter Bridge fan, had a mutual connection with Sevendust guitar player Clint Lowery. He also loved the band Alter Bridge and was even thinking about starting a cover band. Until he met Lowery and discovered the Alter Bridge and Sevendust camps are pretty friendly. You now know the rest. Walking with Giants was formed with Noon running point.

Three weeks ago Walking with Giants released their first record – Worlds Unknown. After two years of collaborative sessions that included Alter Bridge bassist Brian Marshall, Alter Bridge drummer Scott Philips, Sevendust guitar player Clint Lowery and Noon taking on the vocals and rhythm guitar, their music was presented to the masses via their own label. The band previewed material through a series of behind the scenes, making the record series they put out via Youtube and their website. Sevendust drummer Morgan Rose, replaced Philips due to scheduling issues and Noon plans to hit the road later this year.

Alternative Nation had the chance to catch up with Noon from his hometown of Baltimore just days before the record release.
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Friday’s the big day; it must feel a bit surreal after everything that has transpired?
Yes it is. My heart’s beating fast. It’s very cool. It’s surreal and at the same time you think – is it supposed to be like this? I’m really happy. I’m very proud of the record and I hope others dig it too.

Do you have anything special planned for the release?
We’ve got a few things. I’ll be sharing a video that features the studio team as well as Brian and Morgan. They are going to share some of their thoughts on the process and what their experience was working with me. I think people will like that because all of the videos that I’ve done, except for the end video, it’s been more of just my perspective so I think people will really enjoy hearing from those guys.

Talking a step back, it looks like it all began with meeting Clint Lowery. What was that initial meeting like for you?
A buddy of mine who I used to work with, took me to a Sevendust show years ago. I had just started listening to them a few months before and became obsessed their music. We went to the show and it was fantastic. We then get to go back stage because my friend knows Clint and I was scared to death. Clint is this tough looking guy and the band has such an aggressive stage presence. I go back and meet him for the first time and he was such a nice guy. He was a totally cool and polite individual who was very calming to talk to. We figured out we have a lot of the same guitar history. We talked a lot about it and just struck a friendship

What were you doing at the time? Playing in other bands?
I was doing a lot of covers on Youtube. That was really the extent of my musical connection to the world. I did a cover for “Better Place” and for “Cold Day Memory.” It turned out really cool so I got the courage to keep going. But that was really it.

Was it that initial conversation with Lowery where you discuss the idea of writing together someday?
Yeah, I let him hear some of the things I had recorded in Garage Band and showed him some of my covers. I said to him, “Maybe one of these days we can do some stuff together. That would be cool, I love your music, you are totally awesome on guitar.” You know, just being a total pain in the ass (laughs). But Clint said, “Yeah man that would be great, I like your stuff.” He wasn’t just being polite. He spoke specifically of the guitar technique I showed him. He knew exactly what I was doing. So he was being 100% authentic and real. That’s basically how it all started, just goofing round and one thing led to another and here we are.

Did you write all the songs on the debut record?
I was the core songwriter, but it’s a collaborative effort between Clint and myself. We co-wrote the whole record. He brought two songs of his in immediately. He gave me the pro tools project and then when we got into the studio it morphed into my flavor. Brian and Morgan added their own thing to each track. They would ask me, “is this good, is it cool?” I would just tell them to go with their instinct. So we would all collaborate, but it was mainly Clint and I.

How did the transition go from Scott Phillips (Alter Bridge) on drums to Morgan Rose (Sevendust)? Was that due to schedule conflicts?
Yeah, it was all scheduling. Flip had some other commitment. We tried to make it work and it just didn’t so Clint reached out to Morgan and he then joined us. It was cool. Flip is a fantastic drummer and so is Morgan, so to be able to work with these two different guys was fantastic.

The record is out on your own label. What was the process of making that happen?
It’s pretty much Gary Noon. Walking with Giants is basically me and I had these other great guys that partnered with me. We don’t have a record label attached to that just yet, so it’s pretty much just me putting it out on my own. Write the stuff, record the stuff, pack and ship the stuff, it’s all me. At some point down the road if I am lucky enough to have a label with me, that’s cool, but for now I want people to know it’s me.

The record sounds great; it has a unique feel blending the two groups with your own style. What really grabbed me was the “Worlds Unknown” beginning and ending, especially the piano melody in there. It was a nice segway in and then roll the credits out.
That’s awesome. I’m glad you liked it. That idea to bookend was something I got from Ben Burnley from Breaking Benjamin. When their new record came out this past year – Dark Before Dawn, I noticed that. I had about seven tunes ready and thought – man, we should do something like that. That’s really where it started. I’m glad it’s well received because I was scared to death about what people were going to think when really the first song is track two and then the record ends with the same melody it starts with.

Do you see any potential collaboration with Myles Kennedy or Lajon Witherspoon as well?
They know about Walking with Giants. I’m not sure if they’ve had a chance to hear it or what they think about it, but it would be awesome to mix with those guys someday in the future. Obviously, I love the combination of guys that I have right now, but who knows maybe I’ll get the chance to ask Mark (Tremonti) and Myles to come in too. They are both so distinctive, they have a particular way of doing things, which may make it end up sounding more like them. I love their stuff, but I want Walking with Giants to sound like me as much as possible.

Given you are such a fan of Alter Bridge and Sevendust and were even contemplating a cover band, what are your favorite songs of theirs?
For Alter Bridge my favorite song is “White Knuckles.” It’s like my theme song. It’s the lyrics that are just always there, it’s just very encouraging. For Sevendust, I have two of them. Their song “Shine,” is one my favorite songs of all time. Every time I hear that song I feel like I can just do anything. “The End is Coming” is the other. That song really moves me. I don’t know what it is. Something about the melody and when the vocals come in, it’s like contemplated a bit and then it just starts kicking ass. It’s really powerful song. I’ve listened to those songs a couple hundred times and I’m still not sick of them.

Is this what you do full-time now? Are you 100% dedicated to this project work wise?
Walking with Giants isn’t fulltime yet. It’s something I would love to do, but we are long way from that right now. I have another career that I’ve been doing for a long time. It’s really tough to be fulltime in the music business in this day and age.

What is your other career?
I’m a trainer and a project manager. It’s something that I love to do and I’m pretty good at. It comes natural, you feel like you can just do anything in that realm. That’s really what my career is like. It’s hard to want to give that up, especially after 15 years.

Do you have any shows lined up?
That’s something I’m working on. The rest of the guys have their own commitments obviously so unless we want to do an all-star show together down the road, it will just be me and a couple of other guys I can bring on the road. I’ve been working with some of the guys in Dear Enemy. We’ve been thinking about rehearsing and doing some shows together. Gogi Randhawa from Dear Enemy is the guy who did the album cover and all the artwork. So it’s going to be me and the dudes I get to work with. That’s important to me because with Walking with Giants, I’m working with these other guys of course and that’s really the purpose of the name, they’re my idols that became my friends, but Walking with Giants is me. I want people to know that.

When you look at Walking with Giants now; thinking back to your first meeting with Lowery and seeing this all unfold, is there a song on the record that speaks to this dream coming true for you?
Yes, the song “Solid Ground.” Through all this process “Solid Ground” has been my anthem of what I would like to be able to say. I feel really grateful and really proud with what we’ve come up with. It’s something I’m really happy with. It’s just what I’m meant to do so I have to keep pushing and pushing until I can do it for a living.

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311 is about a month away from their biggest event of the year – a two day 311 Day extravaganza in New Orleans. The band recently celebrated 25 years as a band releasing their unique boxset Archive. Given 311 Day is an every other year occurrence, this year is bound to be filled with surprises.

Before turning his complete attention to rocking the stage, 311 frontman Nick Hexum is making headlines for his athletic and activism efforts, winning the fastest male and biggest fundraiser in this past Wednesday evenings 2016 Empire State Building Run-Up. In addition to raising over $20,000, Hexum’s winning time was an astonishing 16 minutes, 12 seconds (he set a personal goal of finishing under 20 minutes). The one-fifth of a mile vertically race, benefits the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and consists of 86 flights of stairs – which is 1,576 steps for those counting. It’s an organization that hits close to home for Hexum, whose mother is currently battling the disease. On Hexum’s support page he notes that his mother is still enjoying a great quality of life and the treatments have been remarkably successful. The work being done by the MMRF is fast-tracking drugs that are extending lives and improving quality of life for patients.

For those who donated, Hexum is sending out an unreleased song of his as a thank you. A day and half after the race, I checked in with Hexum via email to hear about his experience.

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How are you feeling post-race?
I’m enjoying the afterglow. My hands and forearms are the only thing that sore. It must be from pulling up the handrails every step. The stairs are narrow enough that I could use both sides and take a lot of work off of my legs.

What was your training program like for this?
The most important thing for this was cardio. So, my four full-court basketball games were probably the biggest help. I also worked with a trainer and did interval classes so I guess it all helped.

How long did you train for?
I always stay really active, but really ramped it up in the month leading up to the race.

Have you ever done anything like this before? Marathons, etc?
I have run the LA Marathon twice.

What was the overall experience like for you?
Well, I’m over $20k now and my goal was $10k, so I feel great about that. Winning the trophies for Fastest Male and Biggest Fundraiser in the charity heat was really cool. I had no idea how I was going to do. The best part is knowing that I helped my mom by funding research towards a cure for Multiple Myeloma. She’s my hero. She’s kept a great positive attitude through all of this.

The race was so intense, I’ve never dug so deep. I poured it on from the beginning and when my chest and legs started screaming at me around the 20th floor I wondered if I’d paced myself poorly. I figured just keep cranking and if I collapse, I collapse. As I pushed through the pain I thought of my mom and how the discomfort I was feeling was nothing compared to facing such a serious disease. Her positive attitude and grace through this has been nothing short of inspiring.

I maintained taking two steps at a time the whole way. Pulling myself up on the handrails took a lot of the strain off my legs. I learned some helpful tips from people who had done this before. As the climb progressed I had no idea if I was going fast or slow. My body wanted to rest but my mind said, “Go!” Thanks.
-Nick

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It’s not too late to donate ( plus get the exclusive track) and check out the amazing work the MMRF is doing. See Hexum’s personal page here:

Multiple Myeloma is a blood cancer that affects the plasma cells. Malignant plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow, crowding out the normal plasma cells that help fight infections and ultimately can result in bone damage, decrease in kidney function and lead to anemia.
The MMRF has raised over $275 million since its inception in 1998. Other accomplishments include; establishing a multi-center tissue bank with more than 4,000 samples, creating the collaborative Multiple Myeloma Research Consortium (MMRC) of 21 world-renowned institutions and launching the groundbreaking CoMMpass℠ Study to collect and analyze multiple tissue samples from 1,000 patients over a multi-year course, so that patients will eventually be matched with the right clinical studies and treatments.

http://www.themmrf.org/

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By now, everyone knows the deal with the Super Bowl halftime show and what to expect. There hasn’t been a ton of Rock performances showcased over the years and those that were obviously have to comprise their routine to fit the format. As the golden anniversary of the big game approaches, with Coldplay getting the gig this year, Alternative Nation takes a crack at highlighting some of the top ‘Rock Moments’ of Super Bowl halftime performances:

U2 (XXXVI, New Orleans, 2002) – perhaps the most meaningful and moving performance of them all due to the “Where the Streets Have No Name” finale. During a fragile time in U.S. history, U2 beautifully captures the healing power of music as they run a backdrop highlighting the names of all the 9/11 victims.

Prince (XLI, Miami, 2007) – before closing his set with a riveting version of “Purple Rain,” Prince unexpectedly blasts into the Foo Fighters “Best of You.” Grohl, who was on vacation with his family at the time, had no idea Price would be playing his song. “Having been a massive Prince fan my whole life, I was flattered beyond words. What an honor to be covered by one of your heroes,” Grohl said afterwards via Songfacts.

Bruce Springsteen (XLIII, Tampa, 2009)Working on Dream was released earlier in the week. A fitting “Glory Days” preps us for a thrilling second half with a last minute finish. The Boss’ slide across stage(3.52) at 59 years old is the highlight of this performance. The guitar flips at the end are pretty cool too.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (XLII, Glendale, 2008) – Sounding right off the record as usual. Some simple and great visual effects/crowd participation holding up the hearts. “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” is a very appropriate Super Bowl song – and that’s exactly what the Giants did.

Bruno Mars/featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers (XLVIII, East Rutherford, 2014) – bear with me here. The Peppers had nothing to really promote here, but jumped on stage for a unique rendition of “Give it Away” (7.21). The highlight of this performance however is Mars’ drum solo (0.51) to kick it off. Say what you will, the guy is a talented musician (good taste in music/Super Bowl collaborators too.

Paul McCartney (XXXIX, Jacksonville, 2005) – Classic McCartney. Some flash but mostly instruments. The epic “Hey Jude” outro was made for that Super Bowl moment. Worth noting – Fox/Ameriquest delivered a perfect McCartney intro “…building bridges across time and around the world.”
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Honorable Mention:
• The Rolling Stones (XL, Detroit, 2006)
• The Who (XLIV, Miami, 2010)

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Tattooed Everything

Some songs are just larger than life. More than just your typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, outro etc. There are a select few that are an out-of-body, emotional movement. It’s hard to even classify or describe them. One of the beautiful things about music is that fans have the ability to identify their own personal soul-touching gems. Then there are others that are just universal. Credit Pearl Jam for having at least two – “Release,” and the one and only … “Black.”

Recently, I’ve been spinning various versions of “Black” – thinking deeply about the song, what it means to me and all the different ways it could mean something so heavy to anyone that hears it. There’s one that I find to be the superhuman of the superhuman.

April of 1994. I was on vacation visiting my grandparents with my cousins in Naples, Florida. Pearl Jam had announced they will broadcast their Atlanta concert live on numerous radio stations. My cousins and I were completely submersed in the Pearl Jam world (and still are). My older cousin doctored up the fossil of a radio deck in the living room / Grandfather’s office where the three of us were staying. He found it. There was a station in Naples that would be getting the live stream. There was one problem; we had to go out for a wild night on the town with the family. Most likely a four hour dinner where us kids would blend sugar rush, sun-burnt antics with completely falling asleep, face-planting at the table. Don’t get me wrong, we loved every second of it. But this night was a Pearl Jam special. In 1994! If we didn’t catch it, the world may end.

My cousin happened to have an old cassette tape. He didn’t care what was on it. It was getting rewound and we would attempt to record the show in the “A” slot of the old radio. A four hour dinner felt like four days. As we got home we sprinted to the radio. Did it work? A couple of cranks and prayers and … Yes!

The three of us stayed up all night, listening to this epic show at a ridiculously low volume, not wanting to wake anyone up or let them hear what we were doing. How they must have wondered why we were so eager to go to “sleep” on vacation.

Three things stuck out to me after listening to that show: 1. Another reminder – this band is unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. 2. “Better Man” was debuted. “it’s dedicated to the bastard that married my mama.” 3. “Black.” The most amazing version of the song (or any other song) I had ever heard.

The intensity, raw emotion, delivery and sentiment had me half frozen, half tear-filled. I have never seen a video of this performance. I’m not sure if there even is one. A quick Google and Youtube search produced zero results. But that’s ok. I don’t think I want one. The audio is moving enough and gives me a canvas to paint my own picture.

It’s so easy to get caught up in how moving “Black” is overall and how great the melodies are that the lyrics sometimes take a back seat. Take for example the word “tattooed,” used several times. “Tattooed everything,” “tattooed all I see, all that I am, all I’ll be.” There are so many other word choices that can have been used there instead. Easier, more common words and phrases. Tattooed? It changes everything. A tattoo is meant to be permanent. It’s usually meaningful (you either never forget what your tattoo symbolizes or don’t even remember getting it). Then there’s “all been washed in Black,” “turned my world to Black.” An incredible lightning bolt of impact, in just five words. And don’t even get me started on the “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life” outro. Can’t. There are no words.

What was also different about ’94 Atlanta – Fox Theater “Black” is that it included a vigorous “we belong together” tag at the end. It was the first time I had heard it like that. Not on the album version, it’s become somewhat of a common end rap over the years. Find yourself in the right live setting, among a crowd that gets it, and you may experience the loudest silence, or perhaps you’ll be part of a unified wave – arms wrapped around each other, heads held high or low, swaying back and forth, just getting lost in it all.

There’s a small part in Cameron Crowe’s PJ20 film where Eddie Vedder discusses “Black” and what it means to him:
“It’s a true story, something that I really felt – and I still feel every time I sing it.”

There are few things more fragile or emotionally ripping than the feeling of missing. Especially if you know they (or you) are not coming back. Everyone has someone or some experience this song can relate to – whether it’s old or lost love, a friend, family member, an experience, a place or a thing. “Black” makes that tattoo itch. “Black” is a tattoo unto itself. Ironically, it can be comforting.

“…And all I taught her was .. everything. That’s All.”

2016 is big year for Pearl Jam. A tour was just announced, it marks 25 years since their debut record – Ten was released, there’s an anniversary special on all five horizons and I’m sure much more we don’t even know about.

I offer this as a thank you. As a letter of appreciation. I would rarely include “Black” on a top song list because I don’t want to do it a disservice – including it with others that have catchy hooks and big choruses. It’s more of a piece of art blanketing the sky, surfing the seas, tattooed in the emotional lock-box. There for multiple purposes, always at the right time. Somehow we survive.

April 3, 1994:
“I don’t think
These people understand.
Oh you don’t understand.
No one understands.
We belong together……..”

Do do do do dodo do

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Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready performed with his all-star cover band – 1,2,3, GO! this past Saturday night in Park City, Utah as the Sundance festivities started to wind down. The group, which has performed for the past few years, includes Fuel frontman – Brett Scallions on vocals, Ken Schalk (Candiria, Fuel) on drums and Stefan Lessard from Dave Matthews Band on bass.

Below is a picture of the setlist and a few photos of the show:

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from Mike McCready’s twitter

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via Brett Scallions

As we previewed with early Stone Temple Pilots collaborator Corey Hickok’s recent in-depth piece on Scott Weiland with Brett Buchanan, this is the first article for our ‘Deep Cuts’ section, which focused on longform musical journalism and commentary.

Last week you heard Joe Buck calling the NFC championship game on Fox. Come Wednesday, you will find Buck hosting Undeniable on DIRECTV’s Audience network. Then, once spring rolls around, Buck will be back at the ballpark as baseball kicks into high gear, eventually leading to working a double when the NFL starts back up again in the fall. What’s the trick to keeping focused while having to often switch gears? Music.

Alternative Nation recently had the opportunity to catch up with Buck to discuss many things Pearl Jam, how the power of music impacts his life, aids his preparation and enhances sports.

How important is music to you?

It’s what makes me concentrate. I equate different years and different events that I’ve done with what music was out or what’s on my radar at that moment. Specifically with regards to Pearl Jam, when Backspacer came out, it was around the time where I met Eddie. I was doing the World Series in 2009 between Philadelphia and New York. Just going back to listening to that album over and over and over, whether it was after a game late at night, in preparation before the game or even during the game.

We have this great audio guy named Joe Carpenter. If something is hot on both of our lists, he’ll play it out over the PA that goes into everyone’s headset; whether it’s camera operator, audio personnel or my headset in the both. It really calms me. It lets me know, as I’m about to get ready to do the game – which at the time feels like everybody is paying every seconds worth of attention to and it’s the biggest thing in the world, it reminds you that you are just part of a bigger picture going on in the United States and nobody really cares how you do or what you do. You just do your best and have fun.

So music holds a valuable spot in your preparation and how you go about your work?

Yes, definitely. I’m not a huge numbers guy. I’ll sit at my desk and put down every relevant statistic to the game I am about to do with music going on in the background. It’s not always the same music. It’s usually something that is soothing to me, like Chris Cornell’s latest album. It can be older stuff as well, that takes me back a little bit. I think when you do TV you kind of have the ability to separate different tracks in your head. I can concentrate on the numbers better and what I’m putting in, if I have something else going on. That’s why I text people during games and during breaks. It keeps my mind active. Music provides me with that opportunity during my preparation.

I love Cornell’s latest album as well and often have it accompany me in the same exact way.

His voice is just ridiculous. Even just the instrumental portion of the new album – what they’ve done with arrangements and how it just highlights what he can do vocally, it’s mind-blowing.

His voice is an instrument in itself.

It is, and it’s pretty damn unique. It’s the same for Eddie. I think in today’s pop world, a lot of people ending up sounding a lot alike. You can listen to some performers and say, “well is that X, Y or Z?” Then you hear Eddie’s voice or Chris’ voice, it’s so unique and the sound is so distinct that there’s no mistaking it for anybody else. It’s a great fingerprint.

Has music always been a big part of your life even going back to early memories growing up?

Yes, my mom was on Broadway and was a singer and a dancer. The way I was brought up, most other kids were probably listening to Boston, and I was too, but I was also subjected to the soundtracks of Oklahoma or Guys and Dolls around my house at the same time. So I have a wide range of music that has influenced me over the course of my life.

A lot of people tell me that about my dad, who did the Cardinals baseball games for so many years. They tell me how his voice was kind of a soundtrack to their lives growing up, being around St. Louis in the summer and hearing him while they’re mowing the grass or hearing him bouncing off the walls in their kitchen. That was usually the case for me too, but I was usually down at the ballpark. When I wasn’t at the park with him, I was really into music. I saw that as a kid; my parents having friends and family over, standing around singing, that’s really how I grew up.

Are you able to influence what songs are played on-air, into break or that are run over highlights? Or are those all outside deals?

There was a time, yeah. I could be wrong about this, but I’m 99.9% sure that it was Fox that got all of the television networks that cover sports into some trouble when we did a Super Bowl a few years ago and we played a track over highlights, like a pre-packaged piece during the Super Bowl. It was to Arcade Fire. Someone from their camp heard it and said, “Hey, we didn’t give authorization for Fox to use that.” A lawsuit followed and it made things really difficult to get cleared. To me, and I’ve talked to Vedder about this, that’s such a feather in their cap. Vedder is such a crazy sports fan and Pearl Jam actually did a deal with Fox a few years ago during the baseball postseason. They like it. Arcade Fire obviously did not or at least didn’t like that they didn’t know about it. The deal settled, but it made everybody gun-shy. For a while there at Fox, we were using basically a studio greatest hits album where notes are just off enough or it’s not done by the original artist, where it kind of sounds like the song that everybody is listening to right now, but it’s not it. That’s how they got away with it. It’s basically studio generic stuff. That was crushing to me. As a sports fan, and as somebody who takes pride in everything we put out over the air, to not have the ability to then pair it up with music that fits or can inspire or put an emotional accent to something, it just kills me.

We’ve kind of come out of those woods a little bit, more so doing specific deals. We did one with The Who years ago and I think Jack Black did the same with us. For sure Pearl Jam did which was great. Then you can play different cuts off a specific catalog that they’ll give you. It adds a lot to what we do, it’s as important as the voice that’s on there calling the play-by-play.

I remember we were doing a World Series game and Tim Wakefield, a knuckleball pitcher, was pitching. I’ve always been a huge XTC fan and the song “Knuckle Down” was one I told someone working in our truck to check out. Then one of our rolls out of the break was “Knuckle Down” by XTC with a little knuckleball dancing all over the place. It doesn’t always have to be literal but it can be. To me, it adds a lot of depth to what we do.

You mentioned the 2009 World Series. I’m a Yankee fan and after they won, Fox ran the highlights of the series with Pearl Jam’s “Amongst the Waves” playing as the backing music. It was amazing, couldn’t have been more perfect.

That’s the stuff, when we go off the air, I just think – wow, that was awesome. It’s like sports movies. Sports movies are some of the most powerful out there. They don’t always get the teams right and it doesn’t always look all that realistic, but you put certain scenes in The Natural up against anything that’s been directed and produced in film – as far as powerful moments and beautiful pictures, paired with music. In my mind, it’s right up there with the best when Roy Hobbs hits the ball up into the lights and it’s almost like fireworks coming down. Then the music hits and he’s rounding the bases in the dark. That’s as strong as it gets. It shows you the power of not just sports in those emotional moments that we all click into, but how they can be enhanced by the right piece of music.

Having a personal connection with Pearl Jam now, what’s it like for you being such a fan of the band? Is it hard to separate the band and music you’ve loved for so long from the relationship of being friends?

It’s really just Eddie. I have mutual friends with Stone, but I don’t know him at all. It’s surreal to me. I know Eddie and then you hear Eddie Vedder as the frontman of Pearl Jam, and they are like two different people to me. I’ll find myself texting with him and I almost have to remind myself who I’m texting with. It’s funny; my wife will roll her eyes at me and say, “oh let me guess, Eddie?” But we’ll go back and forth because he’s a legitimate sports fan. That’s how we got to know each other. Pearl Jam came into St. Louis in 2010 and in one of their encores he dedicated “Alive” to me. He said something along the lines of, “I don’t know if you’re still in here, but this one’s for you Joe Buck.” I didn’t know him really. He just knew through this company that I had gotten seats through people in his group and he was a sports fan so he threw that out there. I had met him a year or so before, we had just a brief encounter and we ended talking mostly about our daughters. He’s basically my age. I find myself texting more about kids and family. He’ll text me during the month of October and I’ll be texting with him during games and will send him a little video of what’s going on in our booth and he’ll send me a video of what’s going on backstage or even onstage. It’s just crazy. But he’s just genuinely the nicest guy. I had him in the booth for last year’s NFC championship game in Seattle. He flew in from Hawaii to go to it. I took him down onto the field, which was crazy scene. People were just going nuts. He met Pete Carroll before kickoff and then came up in the booth and stayed in the back the whole time. He was sending me notes of different things he observed to get into the broadcast. What made me feel great though was how he treated the spotter in the booth, the makeup person or anyone that came in. He could not have been sweeter. He never comes off as bothered and that’s a unique trait – to be as recognizable and be as polite as he is. I really think Hawaii has really been that refuge for him where he can go and hideout. I’ll text him and he’ll tell me he’s going out for evening surf. I think he really gets to shut down when he’s there. Consequently, when he comes back into the real world, he’s kind of languid and tranquil. Everything you’d hope he would be and probably more. I’m awe, believe me. I’m awe of his talent and of his brain. Some of his texts should be set to music, they’re so deep and well thought out. He’s just a brilliant writer and creative person. You realize why the guy is who he is and why that band is as great as it is, because their front-guy is just kind of on a different level. I’m much more in awe of anything he does that when I do. What he likes about my world is that he is a sincere sports fan, not just something that would look good. He’s got trunks with the Cubs stickers on them. He sent me pictures from inside the Cubs clubhouse and talking with Joe Maddon. He’s like a little kid when it comes to that so it’s neat to be around that too.

The pairing of the two worlds; sports and music, always intrigues me. The mutual admiration and respect is fascinating.

It’s true. I’ve talked with friends of mine about trying to produce a show like that – trying to have these two worlds marry up for a day. It was done on IFC with the show Iconoclasts. Michael Stipe and Mario Batalli in particular. They spend a day in one guys world and then the next day in the others and you can just see them in awe of what the other person does. So, it’s cool to give Eddie that kind of peak behind the curtain of what we do in a NFC championship game and then to go down into his dressing room after that 2010 show, and talk about everything but music was great.

With your new show Undeniable, to me, it comes across as an E:60 meets, CenterStage, meets a Howard Stern interview. Is that a fair assessment?

I think so. Anytime you mention Stern, that’s the ultimate. I would even throw James Lipton in there from Inside the Actors Studio. It’s one thing to ask somebody to sit down and talk about the team, talk about the next game or talk about a cover two defense. It’s another to say – let’s sit down and talk about the beginnings of your life, how you were shaped, where you didn’t meet expectations, where you failed and how you picked yourself back up and succeeded after that. I think that’s where it struck a chord with people, meaning the interview guests. I never expected to have the kind of cooperation that we ended up having. To sit there for two and half hours with Jeter, Gretzky or Michael Phelps and talk about suicide, how low he got and what it was like going to rehab, you realize these people really do want to talk. They want to talk more than just a Sunday conversation on ESPN and more than just five minutes. These are people more than they are sports stars. That’s really what the objective was. Vince Vaughn, Peter Billingsly and I are the producers on it with DIRECTV. That’s what we determined we would go after on this when we met two and half years ago and it’s what we’ve achieved to some degree with the show. For the athlete, it’s almost like therapy and they get up really happy that they were there. The crowd and the actual venue where we do it, certainly the host, is really glad that they were there.

Do you film in New York?

We filmed the first thirteen episodes in Manhattan Beach at Manhattan Beach Studios. I had to work that in and around my calendar. My wife and I rented a place out there. Then we are doing seven more around the Super Bowl in San Francisco. That will be an even 20 for year one and then we’ll see where we go for year two. It’s to a point now where hopefully the show sells itself. It’s one thing to get Derek Jeter and think – here’s what we hope to do. It’s another to talk to Jeter, show it, put it on the air and have other sports stars in that same echelon see it and think it would be something fun to do.

You’ve had Kelly Slater too. I know he’s a big Pearl Jam fan.

Yeah. He was great. He’s another guy who came from nothing. He really worked hard and found his own way. A part of that takes a turn like Phelps episode, and you realize how low he got. He’s a lot like Eddie Vedder. He’s just on a different level. He’s always developing, he’s always thinking and he’s a very creative person; whether it’s creating on a wave or a clothing line or just contemplating life. He’s a unique dude.

In the Michael Phelps episode, there’s a small part where he says – “I don’t know if I’m somebody different because of what I’ve done? This is the real Michael Phelps.” I feel like that really encapsulates what the show is all about.

Exactly. It’s perception too. People even have a perception of me where they think they know me. Everybody wants to put somebody in a box. They hear me call touchdown or homeruns and know that I’m somebodies kid too and think I got into the business because of my dad. Now they got me pegged. We see Derek Jeter’s success or Michael Phelps getting gold medals around his neck and we think – this guy believes he’s better than everybody else. But then you realize, he is a flawed human being that has been scared to death. It’s kind of self-help series. That’s what Vince Vaughn wants to sell it as. It doesn’t matter what you do in life, you can take a lesson out of this and apply it to what you do or where you’ve been or what you hope to become. That’s been the most satisfying part of it. It’s not just talking about when you hit the double into right center field its more about what the athlete was feeling before the World Series. Did you want the ball hit to you? It doesn’t matter if you are in an office building or fixing a pipe, do you want the pressure on you?

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

Photo credit: Marc Canter

By now it is well known that GUNS N’ ROSES are reuniting and headlining Coachella in April. The lineup includes Axl Rose, Slash, Duff McKagan. As it’s been almost 23 years since the last proper G N’ R show, Alternative Nation would like to see what songs fans are most eager to hear live. Vote below:
[yop_poll id=”15″]

Fuel recently opened their east coast December shows with a cover of Stone Temple Pilots’ “Vasoline.”

“This one’s for a fallen comrade,” says frontman Brett Scallions, before launching into the classic slide-driven riff. The song closes with a “Love ya brother,” from Scallions as well.

In addition to sharing the stage numerous times, Scallions and Scott Weiland were also co-owners in a New York City Rock Club called Snitch, for a few years.

Alternative Nation would like to wish a very happy (belated) birthday to Brett Scallions!

Watch Fuel open with “Vaoline” at their 12/19 show at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA:

There’s some exciting, hometown pride news out of Seattle. Barrett Martin – Screaming Trees, Mad Season, Walking Papers drummer, has recently announced that he is producing and playing drums on the new Ayron Jones and the Way’s new record.

Martin recently posted on his facebook page:
Producing these cat’s new album – and they are definitely cats! Ayron Jones and The Way with Bob on bass, yours truly on drums and production duties, and Ayron on guitar and voice. Fun session, awesome dudes, hot tracks. Coming soon to a turntable near you.

As you may recall, Ayron Jones and the Way was an Alternative Nation featured artist in our October – Artist to Watch showcase.

Looking forward to the new music and catching the band on tour in 2016!

AJ

www.ajandtheway.com for more

Photo: Ben Cope

“Human beings are inherently creative; we just all express ourselves differently. Some of us go towards the arts, some us go into finance, some us go into the service industry, some of us drive cars and some are Instagram artists. But we are a creative species. I see all of it,” Brandon Boyd tells me from a Miami café during last week’s Art Basel.

The most amazing thing about the arts is that there really is no definition. It is what you make it, whatever you want it to be. It can be external spewing of internalized haunts or simply a fun splash with no meaning at all.

Incubus frontman, Brandon Boyd, exudes art. Covered in unique and expressive tattoos, it’s almost as if he is art in human form. Whether he’s penning songs for Incubus, delivering a sweeping range of melodic vocals or painting a distinctive picture, Boyd embraces the arts as a trusted companion and complementary extension of himself. He spent the first week of December displaying new works and serving on a panel at the 2015 International Art Basel Conference.

If you explore Boyd’s personal website, the first thing you will notice is that you can go left or right. Enter for art on the left and music on the right. Though they each have their claimed space, “There is an area in the center where the hemispheres collide,” says Boyd.

After sharing a story about how we literally collided in Venice Beach a few years back, Boyd and I discuss in detail, the process behind expression through various artistic platforms; pausing only briefly to humorously witness a group youngsters posing by a tree for what would presumably be future acclaimed Instagram pictures.

To explore and purchase Brandon Boyd’s original art visit the shop at www.brandonboyd.me

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The passing of Scott Weiland is incredibly sad. Did you know Scott? You’ve crossed paths over the years correct?

We shared the stage quite a few times. Our mutual friend Brendan O’Brien produced a handful of their records. It really hits close to home.

I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in a handful of years, but the last couple of times I saw him, it seemed like he was doing really great. He was always such a sweet guy to me. We had a lot in common with people we worked with over the years. I am forever grateful to him and his band for being an inspiration for our band. I saw Stone Temple Pilots when I was kid and they were one of those bands that made us want to start being a band and playing music. It’s really a loss for sure and I feel for his family too.

How is the Art Basel conference going?

It’s kind of nuts, I’m sure you’ve been to music festivals of recent. They’re fun, but it’s also chaotic. It’s basically that but for art – which I am totally down far.

How long have you been into art, when did you start?

Expressing myself visually was my introduction. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawing things, writing things down and externalizing emotional circumstances. When I was a little kid I was very introverted. If I was sick or something and didn’t know what to do about it, I figured out if I would draw pictures of what was going on inside of me, what it felt like, it would eventually make me feel better. I learned at a very young age that externalizing these complex internal processes offered a kind of catharsis.

I have been doing art the whole time. While Incubus is on tour, and touring becomes this crazed, chaotic, monotonous whirlwind, I usually am able to escape into painting or drawing. I always have some basic form of pen and paper with me.

This past summer while we were on tour with the Deftones, I had a more elaborate watercolor kit with me and nice paper. Instead of going to the movies or the mall on a day off, I spent the summer basically hauled up in hotel rooms and would just paint. So what I am showing down here in Miami is basically the fruits of those labors.

That’s where the Five Modes of Transport came from right?

Yes, it is.

Did you ever have any formal art training?

After high school I was involved in what were probably my most formal art classes. I was studying life drawing and painting. I would learn to draw from a live model and then painting real life and still life images. I’ve also always been photographing. I’ve been working with some Polaroid’s, 35 millimeter and media format most of my adult life. With the digital evolution, I was able to excel more quickly due to the learning curve of the digital format. I do a bit of all of it, but none of it is technically, formally trained. It’s more what I call following my nose. It drives me down some really cool paths and I’ve learned from other artists who do have formal training, who go to art schools and have degrees. It’s funny because I envy their technique and they envy my untrained eye.

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photo by: Justin Wysong

How do you determine how to channel your inspiration having these multiple outlets?

It’s a good question. They usually call out. One of the mediums calls out more loudly than the others and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have to follow that, whichever voice is screaming the most loudly. Sometimes I do them back to back. I’ll be working on a painting and humming a melody. Normally when I’m working on a painting I don’t listen to music. Occasionally I will listen to a lecture or something, but usually I just listen to the glorious sounds of silence so I can let my own music filter through. So at times, they actually occur in a simultaneous kind of way.

Let’s say you just had a great morning surf and you are feeling very inspired. You are sitting back at your studio with a cup of coffee and you are looking at your instruments and your various art materials, are you going to music or art?

Some days it’s just a matter of focus. Like now, Incubus is actively writing an album. We have so much material we are working with right now and we’re in the process of finding the best of the best. There will be new Incubus music very soon. Some mornings though, I feel more focused like, no no no, I have to work on this song because Mikey (Einziger- Incubus guitar player) and I are getting together later today and I have to finish this one line in the lyrics. So I will force myself to hunker down and focus on just that. My favorite thing to do though is to allow a medium to dictate which direction I am going to go. That’s when I get the most art. When I let my ego surrender and I let the medium speak more. You’ll notice more flow in the work whether it’s a song or a painting.

At your home studio, it looks like all your worlds collide. I’ve seen pictures where your drums are amongst your canvases. Is it all just one large creative space?

It’s more hemispheric than you would think. The studio is above the garage in my house. One corner is almost entirely a space for making a mess, for throwing paint on a canvas and stuff like that. The other side has a pro tools rig and tons of drums and guitars. So it is hemispheric at first, but they do intersect at a certain point. You’ll see paint spilled over onto the drums.

With certain art, the work itself is the center of attention rather than just you. Is that important to you?

It’s an interesting challenge. I think it would be for anybody that came from a successful career in one regard, and then they are looking to diversify in other creative ways. It would be hard for anybody to see beyond why they showed up there in the first place. There are definitely a lot of people who show up to see the art that are avid listeners of Incubus. And that’s amazing. That’s so cool that they are so interested in us as a band that they are also interested in what we are doing when we are not playing music. It is definitely a long time dream of mine to have the work be seen and be appreciated beyond that. But that’s a real challenge. It’s actually harder for me to be taken seriously as an artist in it of itself. That’s OK with me though. I like a good challenge. In a way it inspires me to work a little bit harder.

When it comes to lyrics and music, you can express emotions in different ways – whether it’s a personal touch or telling a metaphorical story. With drawing or painting, you have the ability to be more mysterious where you can have no meaning at all, the viewer has to search for it or maybe it’s just a fun piece.

It’s certainly a little bit of all of those things. In music too, there’s such a thing a writing a song or a lyric just for the sake of writing and perhaps you are expressing nothing. Sometimes those songs are so much fun to perform and to listen to because they are mindless and meaningless. Then there are the songs that you had to take a second mortgage out on your sole because you are digging so deep. Those songs are equally as important. It’s the same thing with art. Some pieces are meaningless. They are just there because I felt like putting something down on paper. There are also things that are more complex in what they are trying to express. I think all of it is important. It’s our responsibility to interpret our experiences individually. That’s what we are. The human animal is a conduit. We’re the eye piece of consciousness.

I ask a lot about your behind the scenes process because I know for me, it’s obvious which subject matters go towards a song and which are written pieces. It can be an entirely different process. How about songwriting specifically? What made songs like “Lady Black,” and “Runaway Train,” solo material as opposed to being Incubus songs?

It’s always interesting writing music with Incubus. When I write with Michael, he’s like this wellspring of musical ideas. It’s constant. At a drop of a hat he will have a guitar riff or piano melody. It offers a creative challenge that I’ve been in love with the entire time we’ve been doing it.

When I write music outside of Incubus and those two songs you mentioned in particular, they started as just melodies with dispersed lyrics attached. There was no music whatsoever. A melody just emerged and lyrics just kind of showed up. It’s a different way of writing songs, it’s a different kind of challenge, but it’s just as important to allow all of the different ways that music or art wants to come through us. So I had these melodies, like with “Lady Black,” and I sang it to Brendan O’Brien. He really liked it and started playing this guitar riff around it. It’s really a totally different way of writing songs, it’s fun. Have you ever tried that? Writing the melodies first with a lyric?

It’s funny you should say that. With what I’ve been writing lately, that’s exactly how I’ve been doing it. Mostly because I want to immediately capture the subject matter that’s ripe in mind. It’s certainly been challenging since my process is usually music first, but just as you said, it’s a fun challenge and I find it creates unique melodies because you don’t comprise the melody, since that’s what started the whole thing.

Yeah, right on. We shouldn’t dictate how a song is supposed to be written. Just write ‘em. Even if it’s pounding out a rhythm on a coffee table. There are probably countless amazing songs that have been written like that. There’s no one way to do it. That’s what’s so intriguing about it. You can write a song in so many different ways, and that’s the most beautiful thing.

I completely agree. Speaking of Incubus, 2015 marks a major milestone and accomplishment as its 20 years since your first release of Fungus Amongus. Congratulations on that. What does it mean to you now?

Thank you. It makes me smile. It makes me smile that we’ve had this incredible, mostly unexpected life. You don’t know what you are going to get into when you’re a kid. There’s so much pressure in America around – what are you going to do, what are you going to be when you grow up? That gets asked of us so often. I can recall being six and hearing – what do you want to be when you grow up? And feeling like – how the fuck do I know, I’m six! Can I just eat my cheerios please!

That’s still my response.

(Laughs) mine too sometimes.

I think it’s good to set goals and follow through with them, but there are things that happen to us while we are making those plans that usually end up defining our life. Incubus has been such an unexpected pleasure. And the space it created to continue to express ourselves individually, in my case being here at Art Basel, showing art to an international art community. It’s so amazingly unexpected and so welcomed that I can’t help but smile.

What’s up next for Incubus?

We actually had written almost another album worth of material before we left for the summer tour in the states. The plan was to come home, immediately record that material and have it out before the holidays. But we came home and started writing and then kept writing, and we started seeing ideas emerge that just eclipsed the other ones. So we decided to keep writing, and we’re sifting through tons of material, trying to create the best of the best. We plan on having new music out, I would assume by early 2016. We are definitely going to be on tour as well, from the spring on I would assume.

Is it going to be Trust Fall Side B?

As far as I know it will be Trust Fall Side B, but it will be a longer than an EP. There’s so much music that we are trying to focus on it being more of an extended thing. More of an LP.

What was the intent behind having a Trust Fall Side A and B vs. creating a full length record from the start?

It was a few things. We got together unexpectedly to start writing. It all came from the opportunity to work at Hans Zimmer’s studio in Santa Monica. He offered us a room at his compound. We didn’t have a plan to make a record. We didn’t have a manager or a record label at the time. We were off in the woods and it was fun to not have a plan for the first time in such a long time. But we then got this opportunity to work in this incredible creative space. We just set up our gear and started tinkering. Really quickly songs started to emerge and we saw that a handful of them we really liked and they offered us the opportunity to go out and tour as well. We picked the songs we liked the most.

A lot of it also started as simple conversations amongst the band. This in particular, was a conversation revolving around how some of us missed Side A, Side B. Growing up listening to vinyl records, there’s a moment when the needle hits the center of the album and you have to physically take the needle off of the album, turn the record over and the experience reboots on Side B. Same thing with the tape experience. It was a quick stop, then you have to eject it, flip it over and the experience starts over into the next realm. It created once again, almost this hemispheric experience. We were also acknowledging that nobody, including us, has the attention span for an entire record, front-to-back, start-to-finish. So we decided to break it up. We already had an EP with Side A, we could put it out and go on tour and create Side B in a little bit. It felt like we can have our cake and eat it too.

One of the greatest rock shows in my opinion, was The Who – VH1 – Rock Honors show back in 2008 You guys were a part of that so I have to ask, was that as special of an experience as it came across to be?

We were honored to be asked. We were only supposed to play one song. That was more than enough for us. We learned the track and rehearsed it quite a bit. The Foo Fighters were playing too and when we got there, Dave Grohl approached us and asked us if we would play the second song that they were supposed to play because he was sick and his voice was messed up. We were like …uhhh … yes. The second song we played, “I Can’t Explain,” we learned in the trailer. Then we went on live TV and played it. It was cool and the fact that we pulled off made it even more fun. Getting to share the stage with The Foo Fighters, Tenacious D, The Who and all the others that were there was incredible. For us as a band, it was a really important night. To be able to be around all those guys too and speak to them was pretty special. I think back on that night very often as well. I love stuff like that.

We got to do something similar a few years before with The Pretenders. It was them, Iggy Pop, Garbage and Kings of Leon. That was also a great night. I’m a big Pretenders fan and a huge Iggy Pop fan. Being able to be around those people was huge for us as well.

It was also around the time period, with a year or two, where both you and Eddie Vedder put out your first respective solo albums. Did you and Vedder talk about that process at all?

I talked to him a little bit about it. We both love Brendan O’Brien. He’s an amazing musician. He’s so much fun to write with too. He’s got this little kid energy when you put a guitar in his hand. If you go anywhere near him when he has a guitar, a song is going to happen. It’s amazing. I really love Eddie’s side projects that he’s done. He’s such a talented guy. We are so lucky again to both have our cake and eat it too. We have our bands that we love and adore which is the main course in our lives, but then we get to have these side projects that offer us so much fulfillment as well.

You have a great quote which reads “Happiness balances delicately on the wings of the act of creativity itself, not at the finish line.” I can relate and take that as – the real enjoyment in creating art or music is the act of actually doing it. Being able to go someplace else and get completely submersed in the process. Is that what you mean?

In a matter of speaking, yes. There’s something that happens when we are involved in our own creative processes. There are moments that I identify with in an egoic sense. Like – Hi my name is Brandon Boyd, nice to meet you. Hey, that’s my coffee don’t touch it. The ego that most of us identify with, when we’re involved in the creating, that tends to go away temporarily. Maybe we forget about it and we get lost in these processes. I think the reason that brings happiness along with it is because that’s probably a truer expression of self than the – fuck you that coffee is mine version. We get to let go of ego temporarily and fall into a place that is a closer description to the real self. It’s a beautiful experience. You don’t have to be a painter, photographer or a musician to experience it, you just have to have your single-minded activity every day that you indulge in and it’s right there.

Follow Jeff Gorra on Twitter

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The story of Italy’s Rockin’ 1000 is one we find to be both fascinating and incredibly inspiring. The organizations founder, Fabio Zaffagnini, spoke to Alternative Nation shortly after their “Learn to Fly” video was launched and the campaign to bring the Foo Fighters to Cesena went viral. He explained how simple drive by the park (where the video would eventually be filmed) inspired this seemingly crazy idea.

Fast forward a little over a year. The idea, the dream, … became a reality as Foo Fighters were so moved by this effort they agreed to play a show in Cesena on November 3rd. Though a November European tour was already in place, Cesena was added in late October as a direct result of the video that Dave Grohl called “one of the greatest moments of my life.”

As a part two, Alternative Nation had the chance to speak with Zaffagnini after the concert about the overall experience, how the accomplishment is sinking in and what’s next for the Rockin’ 1000. He also discussed how Dave Grohl revealed to him that the Rockin’ 1000 changed his view on how he looks at Foo Fighters songs.

 

After your Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video launched and went viral, Foo Fighters had you as their guests at their show in Washington back in August correct? How was that experience?

It was Mumford and Sons who invited us to the Gentlemen of The Road Stop Over in Walla Walla, WA. Foo Fighters were performing that weekend so we had the opportunity to meet them. It was a weird experience: we were treated like Rock Stars, the policeman at immigration asked me a selfie!!! Can you imagine?


What was it like meeting the band for the first time after all you had done with Rockin’ 1000?

It was a confirmation of our expectations. The Foo Fighters are the way any fan would imagine and hope: funny, ironic, friendly and extremely laid back. After a few seconds it was like talking among friends.

Was that the first time you had spoken to anyone in the band?

Yes, it was the first time.


Where were you when you learned the Foo Fighters had agreed to come to Cesena and play a show on November 3rd?

Well, we were pretty sure that they would have come after talking in Walla Walla. Anyway, we discovered it as we were back home. We heard rumors of people secretly making inspections in town in search of a location.

That must have been a very emotional moment?

Ever since the day after the Rockin’1000 performance, everything has been so emotional, unexpected and big that I feel like I’ve been detached from reality. It’s hard to explain. It’s like being a kid at Disneyland, with thoughts that rush so fast into my mind that I find myself staring at the wall for minutes…maybe I’m going nuts.

Can you tell me about the Foo Fighters Cesena show? How was it, what was the overall experience like?

Well once again, we had a lot of things to do and a lot of work – our documentary, all the press relationships and our communication work. I didn’t have time to think about what was going on until the concert started. It has been just magic: I almost knew all the people inside there, 3k people in a small location…it was like a party among friends. Foo Fighters have been so generous, it was a fantastic concert and everybody was so loud and happy all the time.

Did you get to help write the setlist?
Yes, a little bit! Right before the concert we talked about it.

Dave Grohl brought you on stage, let you sit on his throne and speak to the crowd? What was that like for you?

I will probably never get back to earth after that. It has been such a strong emotion. Every time I think of this my eyes get wet, but not because I was so close to the band or somehow “popular” for three minutes. It’s been the best ending I could imagine, after more than one year of hard work, joy and pains. Thinking about all my team, all the people who worked at Rockin’1000, the musicians, volunteers, donors, even the ones who watched our video, millions and millions of people that got goose bumps.
It is just overwhelming, crazy.

I got chills from head to toe when I first saw the Rockin’ 1000 “Learn to Fly” video, I know Dave Grohl said it was one of best moments of his life and brought him to tears, but I still can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for the band.

Dave said that they don’t really think about the rest of the world when they write their songs and seeing that video helped him to realize the impact they have on their fans.

What they (and other bands as well) do is entering people’s guts, and this means that for the past and future decades, millions of people were and will be inspired by their songs; while driving, jogging, working, studying, dancing, doing whatever they’re up to. All of them will be mumbling their words, shaking their head, tapping their feet.

I have no idea about how they feel about this now, but if they have time to think about it, I am sure that they would feel satisfied about their contribution to mankind.

As special as this was for Cesena, it also appears as if it was incredibly special and moving for Foo Fighters. Did you ever think of it like that when putting this together? How special this could be for the band?

Yes, I hope that it has been special for them as well. Rockin’1000 has been a declaration of love for them and for Rock’n’roll. Everyone likes to be loved!

Can you tell me about the after party? I heard/saw that the band showed up and Dave Grohl jumped on stage with some of your local musicians. Did you know that was going to happen, Grohl would show up?

I told Dave about the after party and told him that a few musicians brought their instruments for a jam session. Before the concert Dave told he would love to come…and so he did. I could not believe he was serious, but this is what makes him a very special person. Very special.

Looking at the entire experience now, thinking “we did it,” how are you feeling right about it all? What does it mean to you?

Well, I haven’t realized in full what happened. It will take time. I am very focused on what’s next, it is part of my being restless.

Of course I had the confidence in the potential that me and my team had, and I often think about what we can still obtain through perseverance, passion and study. I feel a lot more optimistic and self-confident.

How has life changed for you personally with this entire experience?

I try to keep a low profile and not to take myself too seriously. We did all this for fun and everything went by far beyond all our expectations.

I had to quit my previous job and my life has become a mess, I struggle to keep up with everything.
It is weird to be continuously stopped by people asking for selfies and receiving compliments, I feel amused and embarrassed at the same time, but I am sure that in a few weeks all this will stop. What comes out of the internet is so fast.

Is Rockin’ 1000 now your only and full-time job?

No it is not. I would love to and I am working on this, but you know, it is not so easy to make money in Italy for this kind of thing! Rockin’1000 was not meant to be business-oriented. We’re actually figuring out a way to transform it into a company that organizes non-conventional events, keeping the same values: integrity, passion, craziness, joy.

Anyway, if anybody is hiring send me an email! You never know!

Dave Grohl suggested you guys should keep going and do the same thing for bands like U2, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, etc. Do you think you will?

We’re thinking about it, it is very hard. Everything has been so perfect and great and successful that it is hard to measure up. We think that we may go on in another direction, but you never know!

What do you plan to do now? What’s next for you and Rockin’ 1000?

We’re planning to organize further events involving common musicians, giving them the opportunity to go big. What people don’t know is how cool it is to hear and see them live.

Will you be keeping in touch with Dave Grohl?

Well, I am going to write him if I have something to say, I could have a blink of how his life is like and I don’t want to bust his balls. Spending some time with him has been great and I could hear his stories forever, it is such an unusual and interesting perspective…but you know, I am a common guy and I don’t care about telling others that I and Dave are friends.

 

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

Chances are you’ve had Tonic’s “If Could Only See,” or “You Wanted More” stuck in your head at some point. If you are comedy-crime drama fan or just a big Billy Bob Thornton follower, you most likely have come across FX’s TV series Fargo. What do the two successes have in common? Jeff Russo.

A founding member of the Los Angeles rock band Tonic, Russo has further developed his craft and is now also a renowned musician within the world of TV and film. His scoring work can be heard within numerous TV shows such as – Power, CSI: Cyber, The Returned, Hostages, Tut, Complications and the award winning hit series Fargo. Russo’s feature film resume includes contributing score to Watercolor Postcards and Free Ride.
Though Russo has been gladly sucked in to the world of scoring, it’s his band Tonic that he credits as the foundation to which all his other accomplishments build upon.

Days after Fargo season 2 premiered, Alternative Nation had the chance to speak with Russo from his studio in Los Angeles, about the many projects he’s involved in, including the upcoming 20th anniversary of Tonic’s debut album Lemon Parade.
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I assume it’s safe to say you are pretty busy right now. What is currently on your plate?

It’s pretty incredible right now. I’m super busy writing music and still playing with the band. It’s a lot but it definitely good.

I just started working on another show, an HBO mini-series that will come out some time next year. I also write the music for a show called CSI Cyber and Manhattan. I seem to always be doing a lot. It’s funny, people don’t really see what you are up to until it comes out, but sometimes shows or particular pieces of music don’t actually come out for a year. We started Fargo season 2 back in January, finished over the summer and now it’s finally coming out in the fall. We’ll start season 3 probably next summer, but I will have done four or five projects in between.

How did you get introduced to scoring and writing for TV?

A friend of mine named Wendy Melvoin from the group Wendy and Lisa introduced me back in 2008. At that time, the band was basically taking a break. Emerson was making a solo record, I was just writing on my own and in another band. I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went over to Wendy’s studio and watched her write for the shows Hero’s and Crossing Jordan. She just asked me if I wanted to help write for Crossing Jordan. I started writing music for her and then I just got the bug to write for visual media. I never really knew what I could write in terms of overall music and what I was capable of. I had only written for my band. But I think I get the most joy writing music for a much larger pallet. This more orchestral and melodic pallet that I created for Fargo, I just love doing that. It has now transitioned me from writing music in my band only to doing this more and more.

What was the first instrument you learned how to play and how many different instruments can you play?

I was first a drummer when I was kid. Then I picked up guitar after that. I also play bass and piano. Basically anything with a strings on it or that can be strummed I can play. I mess around on bode instruments, but not well enough to play on any of my own scores. If it can make music, I’ll pick it up, figure out what to do with it and how to make music out of it.

How difficult is it to jump right in and write music for a show without being a part of its history like you did with Crossing Jordan?

It’s very difficult. Part of what the job is, is to support the narrative. With Fargo for example, I would read the script and know the story, then start writing. I normally write music to picture though. So, as I think of these themes I’ve written, I’ll adapt them to the picture.

When you are writing in general, do you ever have trouble determining if it should be a Tonic song or go towards a score?

That actually has happened. There are a few songs on Tonic’s last record that started out in my studio and I initially thought it might be score. It rarely happens the other way, but I will apply songwriting knowledge to writing score. It’s different. The way pop songs are written is different from how you would write score. Musical motifs can come back in different forms, but there isn’t a repeat or a chorus in any way.

Has your songwriting for Tonic changed since you’ve started scoring? I would imagine, naturally, your writing would get influenced by the more atmospheric feel of score music.

It has changed. I look at harmony and melody differently now. Now, I write with a wider thought of pallet, not strictly for just strumming guitars and vocals. When I think about it, it may have changed no matter what I was doing now. Songwriting matures. So, I do think it would have happened regardless, but naturally it has certainly been influenced by what I now do for TV or movies. Sometimes it’s subconscious.

When you work on show like Power, and 50 Cent is an Executive Producer, does he want to collaborate with you on placing music in the show? He must want to have a say as to what music is in there.

I have never spoken to 50 Cent before in my entire life. I’m not even sure he knows there is a score composer involved. He’s more interested in the actual songs we use within the show. We use a lot of both on Power. I feel the score is just as important though for setting the mood and the tone of the show. With that said, I’ve never gotten a note of any kind from 50 Cent.

Is the songwriting process for a show or film the same for the musician as it is for the actor preparing to play the role, in that you have to submerse yourself in the mind of the character?

I don’t know if there’s a major difference. I approach it from a way that is meaningful to me to get involved in the story telling process. I don’t try to get involved in the character perspective; I try to gain my own perspective on what the story is. I apply that to what I’ve seen and the part of the narrative that I am trying to support. Sometimes music plays its own character. It’s sort of my own addendum to the story.

How do you go about getting your scoring gigs?

It’s all about relationships and making relationships with producers, filmmakers and directors. I’m not locked into anything though. I start a show then hope to continue with it as long as people are happy with the creativity that you are bringing to the project. Sometimes it’s as simple as hearing about things that are happening and trying to get involved in it. Still, a big part of it is who do you know and what have you done?

Is there a certain type of show or film that is easier to write for?

No, I think the easiest stuff to write for are those that have the best storytelling ability. It becomes more difficult when a filmmaker relies on music to help make their story better or change the audience’s perspective because they couldn’t get it with picture or dialog. The easier projects are those with great storylines, great acting and great dialog. It’s then my job to support what’s going on, not make it better.

You’re coming upon 20 years with Tonic, that is a major accomplishment, what does Tonic mean to you now?

Tonic is the thing I’ve spent the most time, blood, sweat and tears on. It’s the thing that has been responsible for almost everything in my life. I grew up with those guys. We wrote those songs and played those songs together when we were making ourselves. I met Emerson when I was 16 and we started playing music together at 21. We basically came up together. Everything that I am, in my mind, was formed from those early years. The fact that we continue to play, continue to write and enjoy doing it, is a testament to how sincere our love for the band is. It still feels fresh and new when we get together and play, even songs from the record 20 years ago. It’s just near and dear to my heart.

Where you surprised at all that “If You Could Only See,” “You Wanted More,” or “Take Me as I Am,” have been your biggest hits?

Well, with “If You Could Only See,” it was one of the first songs that Emerson and I ever started working on. At one point we were not going to even put it on our first record. When we went to record it, we had to do it about five different times. It then got on the record, but it was not going to be a single. A radio station in Birmingham, Alabama just happened to start playing it. Then people starting calling in and were really digging the song. It took off from there. That’s actually a very little known fact about that song. There were so many obstacles with it. Even from a practical standpoint and having to record it so many times. We actually lost the first tape. Initially there were twelve songs selected for Lemon Parade and “If You Could Only See,” was number 13. I still don’t understand how that happened. There was a lot adversity with that song, but it persevered.

Every time we’ve had success it caught us by surprise. We never expected to have success to begin with, or to have success with our second record or receive Grammy nominations. You write songs and as long as you love them that’s great. If someone else loves them, that’s even better. I still get surprised when I hear one of our songs on the radio.

So what’s next for Tonic?

We have a few shows coming up and we will be in the studio soon for a week, doing something special for the 20th anniversary release, which is a surprise!

TONIC – IF YOU COULD ONLY SEE

FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

This is perhaps the greatest thing to happen in rock music so far this year. Foo Fighters made a dream a reality on Tuesday as they fulfilled their promise to play Cesena, Italy.

Back in July, an epic video of 1,000 Italian Foo Fighters fans playing “Learn to Fly” together went viral. The incredible initiative was spearheaded by visionary Fabio Zaffagnini, who spoke with Alternative Nation in an exclusive interview shortly after the video launched.

Dave Grohl immediately responded via a homemade video where he promised the Foo’s will be coming. Zaffagnini was also flown to Walla Walla, WA to meet the band before their Washington Park Community Center show in August. On October 22, the band announced the show would be happening, with tickets going on sale the next day.

“You want to sing a song? Ready T?” screamed Grohl before Foo Fighters opened the Cesena show with “Learn to Fly.”

“We’re here for a very very special reason. This has never happened before. This is like a revolution,” Grohl said as he expressed sincere gratitude to the joyous crowd.

“And then I fuckin’ cried because it was great,” Grohl continued before “Big Me.” “To see you people, singing our song for the whole fucking world, to me, it’s the greatest moment of my life. You should do the same thing, do it for U2, do it for Pearl Jam, do it for Soundgarden, do it for Rage Against the Machine.”

SETLIST:
Learn to Fly
All My Life
Times Like These
Breakout
Something From Nothing
The Pretender
Big Me
Congregation
Walk
Tom Sawyer -> Another One Bites The Dust -> God Save The Queen -> MTV Theme Song -> Radio GaGa -> Miss You
Cold Day in the Sun
My Hero
Under Pressure (Queen cover) (with “Mohawk guy” from the Rockin’1000 video on drums)
Miss You (The Rolling Stones cover)
Best of You
I’ll Stick Around
These Days
This Is a Call
In the Flesh? (Pink Floyd cover)
Skin and Bones
Monkey Wrench
Everlong

The official Rockin’ 1000 video has over 26 million views.

Follow Jeff Gorra on Twitter

John Lennon would be 75 years old today. In honor of his birthday Alternative Nation takes a look at ten of the best covers of arguably the greatest song ever written – “Imagine”

Happy Birthday John!

10. Blues Traveler
A smooth, blues infused version. John Popper’s voice matches this song so well.

9. Neil Young (9/11 tribute)
The perfect person to play this during the worst of times. Played perfectly.

8. A Perfect Circle
A unique, dark rendition. Dark is not usually a word to pair with this song but somehow it works here.

7. Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam was in a New York state of mind during the Global Citizens performance. To open their encore they played a full a band version for the first time, on the most beautiful night in Central Park.

6. Stevie Wonder
A great message to go along with it. Seems appropriate to say again right now.

5. Jack Johnson
A beachside, mellow, campfire version.

4. Roger Waters
From the Stand up for Heroes show in 2013. Maybe the largest orchestrated version. Waters leads the charge, but the Heroes really make this version special. Namely, the singer next to Waters and the bass player and drummer right behind.

3. Lady Gaga
From live at the Baku 2015 European Games Opening Ceremony. Performed in a way only Lady Gaga can.

2. Chris Cornell
Cornell with his signature solo velvet delivery, making it his own.

1. Eddie Vedder
The best capture of both the emotion and incredibly moving melody. The crowd singing every word in unison is what the song is all about. Just chilling.

In Alternative Nation’s second inspirational – I Do It My Way feature, we speak with Boston’s Amanda Palmer. Though Palmer broke through with The Dresden Dolls, her story begins long before the bands inception. Along with working numerous odd jobs, Palmer became a fixture in Cambridge’s Harvard Square neighborhood as the Eight-Foot Bride – with a painted white face, decked in a wedding dress and statuesque, Palmer’s goal was to connect with people without making a sound. Those that approached her were given a flower from her bouquet as a thank you. Furthermore, they were graced with eye contact and lightning bolt of emotion that simply said – I see you.

Though Palmer would eventually move on from being the Eight-Foot Bride as her band The Dresden Dolls took off, she’s always carried that foundation of connecting with her fans and friends in a unique and sincere way.

The release of The Dresden Dolls second record was deemed a disappointment by their label, with 25,000 records sold. This began a process of the band breaking free from the label in an effort to do things their own way and without judgement. A few years later, Amanda embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to support her new solo record. The result was astonishing. The campaign became the most backed of all-time reaching 1.2 million dollars vs. a goal of $100,000. That 1.2 million – came from 25,000 supporters.

Palmer continuously stood by her unique and open approach, with efforts like; making herself available for signings and photos after every show, couch-surfing in cities across the globe, offering fans the opportunity to play music on stage with her, performing pop-up “Ninja Gigs,” and simply trusting her fans, who in turn, whole-heartedly trust her as well. This has ultimately lead to unique and sometimes unexpected opportunities to share in different ways. For example, In 2013 Palmer was asked to do a TED talk in Seattle. The result? One of the most impactful TED talks in history with over 7 million views to date.

This past year, Palmer embarked on a new way to connect with fans new and old as she wrote her first book The Art of Asking, which became a New York Times bestseller.

The first 60 seconds of our conversation serve as a testament to her approach. Nine months pregnant and in that “any day now” period, I opened by asking if this time still worked OK? Palmer’s response – “Yes of course, if I go into labor on the phone, just bear with me.”

Baby Anthony was born a few days after our interview. Congrats Amanda Palmer!

If you are interested in supporting Amanda Palmer’s work you can find out more here:
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In your book The Art of Asking, there’s a lot of focus on all of the relationships in your life and how important effective communicating has been throughout them. You also bring to light all of the different platforms for communicating whether it’s art, music, being the Eight-Foot Bride, social media or simply just conversing.

Asking is certainly a subset of communication. When you are talking about the subtleties and the mechanics of asking, you are talking about how you communicate with other people, especially when you are working on a book like The Art of Asking, and you are going very deep on one subject. It’s one verb really. Asking became the through line of my existence. I would tell people about the book I was working on and it triggered all these other stories from people’s lives. There is a way where you can frame everything that human beings communicate with and to one another in the idea of asking. Almost every time you communicate, you’re sort of asking at a fundamental level, to be listened to, to be heard and acknowledged. Even if what you are communicating is very simple. It was really a trip to go from deciding that would be the title of the TED talk to deciding it would be the title of the book and really allowing that to be the umbrella under which everything else rained upon. Without that word, without that verb and without that nice frame around everything, I may have wandered off into too many subjects. When you are writing a weird non-fiction book that doesn’t have an explicable theme, it made it really easy to constantly come back and say – is this really about asking? If not, it doesn’t go in the fucking book. Maybe it goes in the next one.

The afterword really put a bow on the whole book for me. It all starts with the music of course, but it also brought to light that how you personally connect with your fans is an inspiring art unto itself.

I would like to think so. The one thing I’ve learned as I push forward into my life and into my career is that the lines are very blurry. Embracing that blur is not a bad idea at all. Especially with the internet and the ability to communicate in many ways, I think a lot of artists are finding that. It’s easy for artists though to get confused on where that blur ends and life begins. As long as you can wrap your head around that, things don’t have to be strictly defined. You don’t have to decide necessarily that you are sitting down to a pure art-making moment or a pure emotional moment or a pure communicating with others moment. It can really be helpful as an artist, to realize it’s all mixed in the same stew. Especially nowadays where so many artists promote their own work. Remembering that stew is normal for everybody, can really keep you from going crazy.

Why do you think it’s so hard for people to simply go eye to eye and say “how are you?” and really mean it?

I think we are taught from an early age to be suspicious and afraid of each other. We are really a paradoxical society in that way because on one hand everyone waves a flag of being real, being true to yourself and being authentic. On the other hand, we’re blasted with messages from birth that we are not OK, we are not good enough and we shouldn’t trust each other. It’s no wonder that people grow into totally confused adults, wondering what the true meaning of an authentic relationship is. It’s not like we are given a really easy landscape in which to work either. People will always be so suspicious of you, so quick to judge and be critical, while being so fearful themselves. All of sudden deciding that you will move through the world openly, looking everyone in the eye and trying to be this force of communicative love, can actually just piss people off and make people angrier. For a lot of us, taking that risk is not worth taking the potential pain that it opens up. That’s the paradox, there’s an abundance out there. So many people want to be seen, want to be heard and want to connect, but so many are afraid. The potential for rejection or insults or humiliation, is just too high a wall to scale. I’ve felt that all my life. It’s something I still battle on a day-to-day basis.

I’ve had my own perspective on it as a working artist, especially since giving my TED talk. It’s an experience that is really common all over the place, the sense of disconnection and fear. The first and most important step in untangling that is simply naming it. Recognizing and saying, “How crazy is this, how disconnected we are and how afraid of each other we are?” That makes it so difficult to help each other ultimately. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately as a pregnant woman about to give birth. It doesn’t get any more basic than that act.

I did a photo shoot yesterday and the makeup artist was telling me how miserable her first birth was. She was really young and knew nothing really, just expected guidance from the doctor who barely recognized her as a human being. Stories like that are so common that you forget how crazy they are. When you actually stand back and look at us as a village of human beings, it really does strike you that it’s insane that we wouldn’t be able to take care of each other better.

Your success is truly celebrated by your fans. When you succeed, they genuinely feel like they do too. There’s a sincere and deep bond. Does it ever feel like you’re a captain of a giant team?

Sometimes it does, yeah. Going back to the earliest days of The Dresden Dolls, our mission wasn’t so much to be team leaders or cult leaders, but it was to find our tribe. Gradually over the years we did. We found our audience and our likeminded artists, and settled into a place where we really felt comfortable in a way where we were never able to as teenagers. Brian and I felt like such extreme outsiders. The one thing that we really had in common was that we didn’t want to keep pushing out. We wanted to find a way in, find where the rest of us were. That’s why The Dresden Dolls shows and the spirt of that band revolved around total inclusiveness. We did not want to be hipsters. We didn’t want to be cool or look cool; we just wanted to find our friends. And it worked. It made for a really sustainable community. Within that realm of openness, the community grew on its own. We planted the seeds, but then it just continued. It continues on to this day.

One of the most beautiful things about my Patreon is watching the fans (there are about 6,000 people now) who are all so happy to talk to each other about shit that has nothing to do with me or my music. They’re just happy to have found a community where they feel safe and happy. They can talk about what’s on their mind whether it’s Donald Trump or self-harm. It’s a good space where they can connect with each other. It’s not like I go over there and preach, I really back off and let the community create itself. That’s a big part of it. I don’t guide or dictate what it is. I just stand back proudly. That’s a really important thing for artists nowadays to remember. There are certain ways to be an artist with a fan base. There are grateful ways of doing it and there are really corny ways of doing it. Giving my fans a stupid name and giving them marching orders has never been on the list of things to do.

How did you arrive at the theory that you don’t need to reach and please everyone, you just need to find your select group?

The funny thing is that everyone accepts that is true in regular relationships. Nobody runs around thinking – clearly the only way to be happy is for every single person on the planet to love you. On the contrary, we are in this culture where it’s all about finding the one single solidary soulmate who is going to sweep you off your feet, be the person you fall in love with and marry. And it’s one single person that’s going to be the answer to all things. For some reason, as artists, especially growing up in the giant blockbuster era of the 80’s, you are taught that the opposite is true. That the pinnacle of success is to be Michael Jackson or Madonna and you want to make sure that millions of people know you, your mug and your songs. Somewhere in the spectrum of one person providing all your happiness and millions of people, there’s a spot that works. It’s never a spot that you are taught, it’s a spot you figure out. It all depends upon what type of artist you are too. That’s the one thing that I would advocate for every band to remember nowadays; being known is great, being recognized and being famous has its advantages, but it really cannot be an end game. Because A. – it does not necessarily fulfill you and B. – it also has no end. If you look at the people who are striving, who are fundamentally measuring success by selling more records or being known by more human beings, it’s so empty. It just doesn’t ultimately work that way. The happiest artists, musicians and writers that I know are people who have found a really supportive crowd. They can actually support themselves, pay their rent and not have to scramble or worry about living. They’re not so caught up in the fame game that they don’t trust anyone around them or themselves.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility with how honest and open your fans are with you? Is it hard to not get too attached?

Actually no because I only take on the responsibility that I think I can fairly handle and then I don’t step much further than that. I don’t ever allow the fans to bully me. That’s been a lifelong education though. Learning how to be with your fans and learning how to gracefully interact with your audience is not something that just magically showed up. A lot of the lessons have been really hard ones. There was a time back around 2003, when I would be getting barraged with emails from crazy fans with significant problems, and feeling like it was all my fault and having to deal with it all day every day. Nowadays, I just wouldn’t tolerate those things. I’d have three or four different jujitsu moves and it would take all of two minutes out of my life.

There’s no set of strict rules. The other thing I’ve come to learn about how to gracefully deal with a fan base is knowing they aren’t soulless individuals. They are people. I know them. The top backers on my Patreon are people that I know. I know their names, I know them, I know their kids, I see them at shows. They are part of it all. They’re not customers, they’re people. Every single relationship and interaction has its own rules just like real life. I don’t make rules for my fan relationships or my personal friendships, they are all the same. I set the same boundaries and have the same limits. Occasionally, it will feel like there are things you can do as a decent human being that no one is calling upon you to do, you simply know ethically and in this moment, it’s the right thing to do and you should go help this person out. Since there is no guidebook and no rule book on how to treat people, you create it all. There is just as much improvisation for a fan base as there is for a friendship, a lover, a husband or a family.

I don’t think it’s crazy to not draw those lines. There are people out there who think their fan base should stay way outside the walls of their real life. To me, that would just be really boring and disappointing. It would feel more like work and less enjoyable.

When someone is successful in creating their own path they are often called fearless. I’ve found it fascinating how many people get irritated by that because they’ve actually experienced a lot of fear and anxiety throughout their work, they just chose to take it on. What is your concept of fear?

We know what we mean when we call someone fearless, though the definition is pretty stretchy. Usually when calling someone fearless, what you may be implying is, in the face of fear, they are not stepping down. It isn’t always that they didn’t feel fear, if that was the case they’d be sociopathic or inhuman. Being able to stay steady and brave when fear is coursing through your blood and you know the storm is coming, standing your ground and tying yourself to the post is something that people ultimately call fearless, even though it’s kind of backwards. It should be more bravery. It’s especially true in art.

As someone going on 40, especially now that I’m slowing down in this pregnancy and I’m doing a lot of perspective taking and thinking a lot about the last 15 years of my life, what I’ve done and where I’ve been, it really is astonishing to me that the ingredients that people have found distasteful about me are the exact same ingredients for which some of those same people now respect me. It feels crazy to look back at myself at 25 or even 32, and remember how horrifying it felt to be a target of so many people’s anger. But, the lack of backing down, perseverance and going ahead making art really did ultimately have a long-term impact. Not reacting, getting very angry and turning into some bitter person who just constantly felt persecuted by the critics, but simply focusing on the work and the art, at the end of the day, it really did pay off. The negatively does not last forever. Some of the people that were my fiercest critics in my 20’s, ten to fifteen years on, some of those people are still in their craft, and they are now sitting back saying, “Hmm, actually, she really was surreal.” That’s really satisfying.

AJ
AYRON JONES AND THE WAY

From: Seattle, WA

Biggest Influences:
Nirvana, Dr.Dre, Jimi-Hendrix, SRV and Michael Jackson

What’s your story?
From Ayron Jones: In 2010, I had the idea of putting together a band that featured members from Seattle’s inner-city. The idea was to capture the blues and soul tones of Seattle’s Central District and fuse them with that legendary Seattle Rock sound. In 2012, we caught the ear of Seattle Hip-Hop legend and Central District native, Sir Mix-a-lot. After attending a live show, Sir Mix-a-lot was so captivated by the band that he offered to record and produce our first album. In 2013, we released our debut album Dream, which was followed by extensive touring and appearances with legendary names such as, B.B. King,Train, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Robin Trower and more.

How would you describe your music?
From Ayron Jones: I would describe my music as Seattle Rock meets Inner-city soul, ‘Urban Rock’

What’s on tap?
From Ayron Jones: Right now I’m currently working on my next album, travelling, touring and getting ready for 2016. Amazon just released a video series on the band, we’re trying to sell out two local shows back to back for the first time at The Tractor and opening for Walter Trout next week

We’re slowing down on touring for the Fall/Winter to work more on the album. We plan to tour extensively
in the US and beyond in 2016.

Recommended songs:
My Love Remains, Boys from the Puget Sound, Take Your Time

Where can you find them?
www.ajandtheway.com, facebook, twitter

clifford
MIKE CLIFFORD

From: New York, NY by way of Allendale, NJ

Biggest Influences:
From Mike Clifford: I’m a huge fan of everything Van Morrison did in the 1970s. The writing, the singing, the sounds he got in the studio. All of it. Vocally I’ve spent a lot of time listening to great soul singers like Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway. I love and admire how they can be so technically flawless and, at the same time, sing with such raw emotion.

Martin Sexton, a singer-songwriter from the Boston area, is another big influence. He’s written some beautiful music and he can do some things with his voice that I’ve never seen or heard another person come close to.

What’s your story?
From Mike Clifford: I’m an NYC public school elementary music teacher. I love my job, but it ain’t always easy. It requires a deep reserve of patience to do it well. I wrote a lot of the tunes on the new record during my lunch break at work. The process of writing and demoing new ideas just relaxes and centers me. It makes me a better teacher. And, hopefully, I get a few good tunes out of it.

How would you describe your music?
From Mike Clifford: My newest release, Among the Evergreens, came out on September 12th. Thematically I think the songs speak to the ups and downs of everyday living that we all experience. There’s a longing in there to regain some of the innocence that we inevitably lose as we get older, and a celebration of the love and simple pleasures that can be found along the bumpy road of modern living.

Sonically I was after capturing something a bit more raw and less polished than a lot of the pop music out there. We played the songs live, and there are mistakes in there. For mixing, we ran a bunch of the instruments through an old Portastudio 4-track with 1/4 inch tape to take some of the gloss and sheen out of the basic digital tracking that we did with Protools.

What’s on tap?
I just had a great record release show in NYC at Rockwood Music Hall. I’ve got a bunch of shows booked around the NYC area and I’m looking to book some stuff further out of town in the near future.

Recommended songs:
Mother of Mercy, Swept Away, Carry Me Home, On a Friday Night, Hey Hey Darlin’

Where can you find him?
www.mikecliffordmusic.com, facebook, twitter

Jaffe
MATT JAFFE AND THE DISTRACTIONS

From: San Francisco, CA

Biggest Influences:
The Talking Heads, The Clash, Elvis Costello, X, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Gram Parsons

What’s your story?
From Matt Jaffe: Jerry Harrison, the keyboard player from the Talking Heads discovered me playing solo at an open mic in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve worked a lot with him and he was the one who actually encouraged me to start a band. He helped shop us and he helped us record. He also really encouraged me to write more proactively and take it more seriously. He’s been a huge mentor and friend to me in navigating this weird business.

I had already ironically already met Jerry a few years back. I have always been a huge Talking Heads fan and I interviewed him for a school project. Several years later, he just happened to be in the audience. He remembered me from the interview he so graciously had granted me. I think he gets recognized plenty, but probably not as much by teenagers so I think I probably stuck out because of that.

How would you describe your music?
From Matt Jaffe: Rock is the stylistic core. I never write songs thinking it has to be a specific genre. It’s usually just whatever happens. We then arrange it based on the ensemble at our disposal. Overall, I would say rock is at the center, put there is a ton of country, punk and folk influences in there.

What’s on tap?
From Matt Jaffe: After opening for Blues Traveler through the fall, we will then be putting out a full length record. We are in talks for more touring and have a couple videos on the horizon as well. Basically just keep releasing music in all platforms and tour in support of it.

We have a really interesting relationship with social media. We have a big social media following that is largely separate from our fanbase that attends the show. That’s something we working on, how we get those that click like to come to our shows. We’ve been lucky having a few youtube videos that have gone somewhat viral. The past year though, we’ve really done a lot to build our audience through touring constantly.

Recommended songs:
Write a Song About Me, Stoned on Easter, I Wanna Be Cruel

Where you can find them:
Currently on tour with Blues Traveler, MattJaffeMusic.com, facebook, twitter

SBA
SOAPBOX ARMY

From: New York, NY

Biggest Influences:
Jeff Buckley, dredg, Radiohead, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Prince, Pink Floyd, Tool, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Sunny Day Real Estate, Alice in Chains, City and Colour, Bon Iver, Frank Ocean

What’s your story?
From lead singer/guitar player Dan Tucker: I’ve been a huge music fan my whole life, but was always the sort of bedroom singer-songwriter guy pursuing a different career path until I got the courage to try a few open mics. I can remember the first couple times I played my songs live, I had to sit down – I was sweating, my entire body was shaking and it was almost impossible to even hold the guitar pick. But I pushed through and eventually managed to assemble a band, record 3 albums, play countless shows and meet some awesome people from around the world through the music. It’s been incredibly rewarding. Point is, put yourself out there kids! Especially if you really love something.

How would you describe your music?
From Dan Tucker: Our new music is probably the biggest departure since the band’s inception. At least sonically. It’s still rock, but incorporates a range of styles, from electronic to folk to pop and blues/R&B. Whereas the past albums have taken (a majority of) inspiration and influence from other rock artists and singer-songwriters.

I think our tastes have changed and grown, and we’ve both consciously and subconsciously pushed the music in a different direction. Lyrically it’s still coming from a similar place as past albums. I tend to write about both personal things as well as things that affect me in some way out in the world.

What’s on tap?
From Dan Tucker: Next show is on November 13th at Black Bear Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We’re mostly focusing on our upcoming EP at the moment – hoping to have that out early 2016.

Recommended songs:
Mountain, Headlight, Stay Home, Cycle, The Tower, Say Something New

Where can you find them?
www.soapboxarmy.com, facebook, twitter

WR
WHITE REAPER

Where are you from?
Louisville, KY

Biggest influences:
The Cars, Ozzy Osbourne, the Ramones

How would you describe your music?
From lead singer/guitar player Tony Esposito: We just make music that we want to hear

What’s your bands story?
Tony Esposito: I met Ryan in 2nd grade and I met Nick and Sam in 5th grade and they’re pretty much my only friends

What’s on tap?
From Tony Esposito: We got a split 7″ with Daddy Issues coming soon, full US tour in November/December with together PANGEA, and after that we’ll do more records and touring.
Next show is Saturday October 10th at Northside Yacht Club in Cincinnati, OH.

Recommended Songs:
Cool, Pills, I Don’t Think She Cares

Where can you find them?
www.whitereaperusa.com, facebook, twitter

Photo credit: @tysonsadler on Instagram

“Feel the sky blanket you, with gems and rhinestones. See the path cut by the moon, for you to walk on.” — Eddie Vedder (“Unthought Known”)

About halfway through Pearl Jam’s headlining set of Saturday’s Global Citizens festival, Eddie Vedder tells a story about writing Backspacer’s “Unthought Known” in New York City. “About four or five years back, in a room overlooking Central Park, I was still awake at four in the morning. I saw the most beautiful evening sky, the streets were empty, the stars were out. I should have been getting some sleep, but I started scribbling lyrics. There was magic happening in front of me. Then I got to see the sunrise in this beautiful part of this great city,” said Vedder.

A perfect day for a festival, it seemed that song, and the moments surrounding it, could serve as the emotional foundation for the entire day. 60,000 people jammed into New York City’s Great Lawn – Central Park. What makes this festival different is that the crowd had to participate in the activism before the actual show. It’s the only way you have a chance to get in (without shelling out huge money for VIP). With that, the artists and celebrity speakers showed great appreciation for all that was done before a single note was played.

Coldplay kicked off the show at 4pm and got the crowd moving with a jumpy “Every Tear Drop is a Waterfall.” They continued on their path to get the juices flowing with an uptempo set and a few surprises mixed in – including Ariana Grande joining Chris Martin on stage for an acoustic performance of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” and a new song entitled “Amazing Day” to close their set.

Next up was English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran. If you only know Sheeran by his radio songs, go see him live. He performed his entire set solo with simply a guitar and his loop pedals. If you miss one note or are off beat by a split second when using loop pedals, you have then ruined your entire song. Sheeran was flawless, incredibly entertaining and is remarkably talented. The highlight of his set being – Chris Martin joining him (on piano) for a rendition of “Thinking Out Loud.”

The night certainly had its run of collaborations including Sting joining Common on stage 2 before Beyonce’s performance, who many were there to see. Beyonce had a strong empowerment message to deliver throughout her set that fit the theme of the festival and organization. Sheeran would join her mid-set for an acoustic version of “Drunk in Love” (though this festival does not serve alcohol).

The nights hosts’ – Stephan Colbert and Hugh Jackman then returned for their MC finale which included a lineup of CEO’s to lead up the nights headliners, the one and only Pearl Jam.

“Good Evening. I think a toast is in order. Here’s to New York City, here’s to Central Park, here’s to you,” said lead singer Eddie Vedder, before a thunderous “Mind Your Manners” opener. The Seattle rockers came out swinging as “Do the Evolution” and “Given to Fly” followed.

A bit of a shorter set than usual for Pearl Jam, even for a festival, the band did a great job of mixing hits in with songs appropriate for the setting and purpose. They carried the torch of gratitude for all Global Citizens does and for what those in attendance had done in order to be apart of festivities. They too kept on the theme of surprises. For one, their encore started with a full band version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” where Eddie gave a beautiful tribute to Lennon, speaking of how relevant Central Park was to his music and advertising the gathering that will be taking place in the park in honor of Lennon’s would-be – 75th birthday. Though Vedder has played “Imagine” solo numerous times, this was the first time Pearl Jam played a full band version. It was stellar, and got all 60,000 people singing in unison.

Then came perhaps the nights most unique pairing as Vedder welcomed Beyonce to the stage for a duet of “Redemption Song.” “It’s not everyday you get to sing with a queen,” said Vedder.

To close the evening, all artists were welcomed on stage for a celebratory “Rockin in the Free World.” During a week where faith and spirituality were ever-present in New York City, Pearl Jam did a perfect job tying it all together with the motives of the concert. Often, their own movement is compared to that of a spiritual journey. How fitting we would find them at the musical helm to unify the masses at the conclusion of it all.

Pearl Jam’s setlist:
Mind Your Manners
Do the Evolution
Given to Fly
Elderly Woman
Lightning Bolt
Daughter
Unthought Known
Betterman
Alive
——–
Imagine
Redemption Song (Vedder solo with Beyonce)
Rockin in the Free World

It’s been an exciting year for Blues Traveler frontman, John Popper. His band’s twelfth studio record – Blow Up the Moon, was released in April, he got married and is a few short months away from becoming a father for the first time at the age of 48. Popper has seen great success with Blues Traveler; having sold millions of records, winning a Grammy award and touring the globe. Becoming a father however, will top it all.

During a short tour break, Popper spoke with Alternative Nation about his eagerness, anticipating the arrival of his daughter.

See Blues Traveler on tour now:

On his excitement of becoming a father:
I’ve always wanted a daughter. The closer I get to the day coming, the more I find kids to be adorable. All of the things that make us people, come through this experience. At least that’s how I am imagining it. So many of my friends have babies and it’s such a beautiful experience to watch them, but until it’s your kid, it’s always theoretical. You need to meet your child to actually have this experience. Every time I see a sonogram, I fall a little bit more in love. The mother is having a chemical relation with the baby. She feels the kicks, she feels all of these sensations that involve having another person inside you. We don’t get to do that as fathers. We have to wait to meet them. But, I feel all of these instincts coming in where you are suddenly more interested in what a little kid does.

Mostly though, it’s for the tax write-off. I’m in it for the cash. It’s also a great way to pick up girls. You have your wife and your baby there and you’re like “Hey, I’m a beautiful Dad.” (Laughs)

On the anxieties of becoming a new father:
The truth is I have no idea what to expect. That’s also what everyone keeps telling me, “You have no idea what’s coming.” I’m prepared to take that. I guarantee I am going to freak out, but also have great moments of satisfaction. I’ll feel in over my head. The fact is, this is one of those things that just comes at you and this is what life is for. I’m going to meet somebody that I was always destined to meet. So, I wonder what I’ll say? I wonder what it will be like? I wonder what the first feeding will be like, what the first poopy diaper will be like? I’ve always made that joke that as a Dad, you should only do the diapers twice. Once to refer to that time where you did diapers so you can say “see, I do the diapers,” and then one more time where you screw up so bad that Mom never lets you near the diapers again. (Laughs)

I’m really counting on being as open as I can though. If you’re committed to being open, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised on how not ready you actually are. So, I want to accept that I am not ready. Then I can feel that it surprisingly comes natural. It’s the adventure of being a human. If I was not going to be a Dad, I would be just continuing boring habits. I think there was a period in my life where I was simply waiting for this adventure that I was supposed to have.

Something my guitar player said was – you think you plan to have a kid, but they sort of show up on their own. My Mom and Dad had seven accidents. There are seven kids in my family and each one was an accident. They had enough money to afford their first apartment or a baby and they chose the apartment. Then my Mom got pregnant. They received each event as beautiful news. That’s how Jordan and I took it. It was terrifying at first and then it got exciting. The relationship obviously has to be strong and it’s also about having faith in the unknown. There’s something great about the unknown because most of your life is unknown. This is a strong confirmation of that fact. You can plan and you can prepare, yet you will not be ready. That’s how you really find out who you are, in those situations.

The scariest thing is when you have to leave them to society. I think the world will never be good enough for my little girl.

On how life on the road, as a touring musician will change with a family:
I think if it’s practical and feasible to bring Mom and the kid on the road, that’s what you do. Then they get to a certain age when they can come out without Mom if that’s cool. You really try and figure out as much as you can how to have them with you. It seems to be the case that everyone wants to be with their kid. It’s not like something of “oh God I have to get them here.” You want to spend time with your family. I’m so used to touring as a bachelor where I just go and do what I do. Now there’s somewhere I’d rather be and that’s fun. Anything worthwhile has work to it.

What scares me the most is that I see parents go through airports with like 600 pounds of toys, lugging bassinets and the kids are just dangling. Somehow you have to bring all of this on a plane. I can’t imagine bringing around that much stuff. But, we will figure out a way to travel. Again, there’s a period where you don’t know how to do it, then you get better at it, then you get used to doing it. What seems so daunting will likely become – I didn’t know I can do that!

On any first songs he would like to play for his daughter:
No songs in particular, though I’m sure she will help me write some. I’d like to first teach her the word orange, so when we write songs together, I can see her try and rhyme it. This way, she learns how to deal with frustration early. Although you probably always end up hating whatever it is that your parents make you do. Maybe I’ll require she plays a musical instrument and does finger painting so she begs to do math.(Laughs)

On his earliest childhood memory:
I was number six of seven kids. My parents would travel all over Europe with us and they’d do a roll-call. There was one time before they even got to me; they had pulled away from Heathrow Airport. They eventually realized they had forgotten me. When they came back to the airport, I was just sitting there. I knew they’d come back.

On his introduction to music as a child and what he will carry on:
Musically, my parents found that I was always harmonizing in church so they figured they should get me some instruments. I will always want my child to get a hold of some instruments, but I don’t ever want to pressure her to think that’s a job to do. The arts should be fun, that’s the real reason you do it, especially as a kid. It really should be the reason you do anything. I just want her to be whatever she wants to be. I want her to have the opportunity to find out what it is she wants and completely understand the concept of wanting to be something. Ultimately, I want her to be happy and to have all those Disneyland experiences that all kids have. I hear that you relive through that.

On beginning to prepare his home:
We’ve turned my gun room into a nursery. I find that incredibly philosophical. We have a giant safe. All of my guns will be going into the safe and the room off the bedroom is now going to be a giant nursery. The very first thing we bought was the giant 15 foot elephant from FAO Schwartz. Since they are going out of business, we thought we needed to get it now. The fact that Jordan and I both had that as a priority I think says a lot about our parenting skills already. Our child will not be without the 15 foot giraffe!

Blues Traveler’s new video – Blow Up the Moon:

John Popper recently joined the Foo Fighters on stage:


Follow Jeff Gorra on Twitter

311: 25 Years Strong

How 311 became a way of life

“Reside west coast from the Midwest, take what ya like and fuck all the rest man. We only enter in one contest that we made up ourselves that’s to be the 311-est.”

Those two lines, a nine second clip towards the end of a song entitled “Jackpot,” perhaps perfectly summarizes and serves as the powerful mission statement of 311. A statement they built 25 years ago and have stuck to at every turn along the way. The lyrics still give front-man Nick Hexum the chills.

This past June, 311 released a very special box set entitled 311-ARCHIVE – to honor their silver anniversary. The career-spanning box set commemorates the journey of the past 25 years through demos, b-sides, bonus tracks, pre-production tracks along with a book of old photos and memorabilia.

The history of 311 is simply a remarkable, unparalleled story. One that is still being written. In fact, it feels like there are a ton of blank pages that will house new unique chapters in the years to come. 311 naturally blends rock music, with reggae, hip-hop and funk. Their approach has always been to stay true to themselves, true to their music and true to their faithful fans. Speaking of their fans, they too are in a league of their own. They come from all corners of the globe and along with the five individuals rocking on stage before them, have created a larger than life movement. Though lead singer/guitarist Nick Hexum, singer/DJ SA Martinez, bassist Aaron “P-Nut” Wills, guitarist Tim Mahoney and drummer Chad Sexton are physically elevated a few feet higher than the crowd and facing a different direction, they are really just an extension of the community that they have built through music and unity.

311music2

Grassroots:

311’s first show was on June 10, 1990 opening for Fugazi at the Sokol Auditorium in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. That lineup consisted of Hexum on vocals, Sexton on drums, 15 year old P-Nut on bass and a lead guitarist named Jim Watson. “I remember we bumped into the guys from Fugazi the next day at a Denny’s,” recalls Hexum. “They very energetically asked us where we are from. We told them we’re from here, Omaha. They could obviously see there was a ton of energy. It was a perfect launch for us because it was a sold out, 1,000 people show who were ready to rock.”

Bassist, P-Nut saw some symbolism in that show. “Cellophane Ceiling played the slot before us. They were an Omaha mainstay and a legendary mainstay in our eyes,” he says. “It felt like it was a passing of the torch and we took that thing and ran with it.”

Though that date is considered the starting point, the history actually dates back to high school. At the time, Hexum and Mahoney had a rock band together called “The Ed’s.” Hexum also played in the high school jazz band where Sexton was drummer. This is where things got really interesting. Hexum graduated from high school early and immediately moved to Los Angeles to follow his dreams of a career in music. “I moved out there by myself at 17 and worked at Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard so I can make connections and meet players,” says Hexum. “There was a lot of hair metal at the time, but there was also a lot of cool stuff going on like getting to see the Chili Peppers, Jane’s Addiction and Fishbone.” He remained close with Sexton and Mahoney however, partaking in occasional jam sessions on visits home. Soon enough, Sexton and recently added keyboardist, Ward Bones, would join Hexum in L.A. They would take on the city under the moniker “Unity.”

After a short stint on the west coast, Sexton moved back to Omaha where he would frequently play music with old friend, P-Nut. There was a comfort level playing in Omaha that could not be found anywhere else. There was just one thing missing. That would all be remedied by a simple phone call. “I’ll never forget that call,” Sexton explains. “Nick asked if I’d been playing and had any plans. I told him I had small band and we got an opening gig for Fugazi. There was then complete silence on the other line. No response whatsoever. I could basically hear the wheels turning in his head. He formed a plan in about 30 seconds that included him moving back and playing some old originals from Unity to make us a stronger band, not just playing covers. I said the others would be cool with it, let’s just go for it. If that conversation doesn’t happen this is definitely going a different way.”

After spending time in a lot of different areas including L.A., San Francisco and Germany, Hexum realized it was his hometown of Omaha that had exactly what he was out searching for. “I had been playing bass at the time. Bass was more of lead instrument within the music I was into then. Flea was really a pioneer with that,” he says. Thinking about what lies ahead Hexum knew, “I need to focus more on singing now.” Weeks later, there it was, the old friends were back with a new band. They’d call themselves 311.

The first two years back in Omaha would be incredibly formative. They played tons of shows at many infamous Omaha venues, opening for some big-name bands including the Smashing Pumpkins in 1991, as the alternative rock scene was starting to make its impact. “The thing that was so great about Omaha was that they were ready to accept us as a major band. We weren’t just some local guys that would get thrown on a bill. It was an event,’’ says Hexum who would take on the bands label and managerial duties at the time. “We would hold these Music Monday’s, which were all ages shows for $5. Each one would sell out.”

New guitarist and longtime friend, Tim Mahoney would ultimately replace Jim Watson. The last piece of the puzzle was turning a special guest, part-time performer S.A. Martinez, into a fulltime band member; an addition that would prove to be a key element in the band finding their dynamic and unique sound. Although P-Nut and Martinez were from the same high school, it was by total coincidence that Martinez and Sexton ended up being college roommates a few years later.

Over the course of 1990 and 1991, 311 released the EP’s Dammit, Hydroponic and Unity on their own label, What Have You Records. For independent releases they sold quite well. “Back in that day we were one of the first local bands to make a record and put it out on CD as most demos available in stores were on cassette tape at that time,” says Sexton. “A lot of those songs that we had written back in Omaha made it to our first record.”

311 music

Though Omaha was the breeding ground for 311, it was Los Angeles where they would harvest. They soon took off for the west coast where they would all live together in a small house in Van Nuys, California. “Omaha was a great jump off spot,” says P-Nut. “Chances are no one’s going to be knocking on your door in Omaha, Nebraska. And you can’t knock on their door. All you can do is wait for someone to maybe knock on your door and that’s bullshit in this industry, you have to do the door knocking.”

I asked Sexton if he was reluctant to move back to L.A. given his first experience. “Well I was certainly anxious, but we had already played every place in Omaha and the surrounding area. We were repeating ourselves,” he said. “We would make a demo, then release it and play shows and then we’d finish. Not knowing what to do next, we’d start the cycle all over again. We knew we needed more than that and we knew if we wanted to make a career out of this we had to go.”

The time the five of them spent living together in that one house seems to really strike a sentimental chord with each member. Hexum lightheartedly tells me a story about how they grew their own marijuana, “There was no internet then so we really didn’t know what we were doing. We’d say ‘I think we’re supposed to cut these leaves off’ and we ended up with just a giant stem. Then somebody stole it! We came outside one morning and it was gone,” he says humorously.

Southern California offered them the opportunity to be in front of record labels. “We had very limited budgets eating Top Ramen and surviving off the care packages of food some of our parents would send,” says Hexum. “None of us worked other jobs so there was a lot comradery. We spent most of our time jamming, rehearsing in the living room and swimming in the small pool that our house had.” The difference this time was they had gone back to the lab, found their magic formula and developed a significant fan base out of the Midwest that would stand by their every move. “There’s a whole different skill set of how to get a crowd going crazy that you can’t teach in any class,” explains Hexum. “We were putting in our 10,000 hours by playing every show we could get all around the Midwest during those first two years, so once we got out to L.A. we had a confidence this time that definitely wasn’t there on our earlier L.A. incarnation.”

311 down

Strong All Along:

The first shows back in California did not feel the same as the Midwest gigs however. The band then developed a plan to focus mainly on landing a record deal. What felt like moments before complete poverty struck, they were contacted by Eddy Offord (acclaimed producer who had worked with John Lennon and Yes to name a few) and 311 officially signed to Capricorn Records in 1992.

Sexton looks back at that time with the fondest of memories. The tone of his voice rings with pride as he reminisces, “The biggest highlight for me besides meeting Eddy was recording our first record at Ocean Studios, just a beautiful studio. It was an open and free period, where we could just completely submerge ourselves in the music. It was really a perfect summer. There was a Mexican food stand right across the street that we ate at almost every single day. It’s one of my favorite time periods of our career making that first record.”

The finished product, their major label debut, Music, was released February 1993. The band toured non-stop. It was at this point where they faced one of the more challenging scenarios imaginable. While driving westbound on Interstate 44 near Springfield, Missouri, their RV caught fire and eventually exploded on the side of the road, destroying the RV, their trailer and all of their equipment. The four band members, who were traveling in the RV, escaped the flames just in time. “I was actually driving to the gig separately with our producer in a Honda having a great time listening to the Cure,” recalls P-Nut. “I got to the gig and heard that it was cancelled. I thought everyone was tired and just didn’t want to do the show, as we were keeping such a rigorous tour schedule. Then I heard the news. What some people don’t realize is that Nick was driving the RV and he barely got out. His hair was all burned up.” Thanks to their already loyal fan base donating instruments, the band charged on. “It was a real put up or shut up type of moment for us,” P-Nut said. “The chips were down and we were broke. We realized more than ever what we had to do was work really hard and that’s exactly what we did. We bring that RV fire with us to the stage every night.”

Record number two, a groovier, more funk-infused rock piece, entitled Grassroots, followed in 1994, a year the band would play 130 shows. It was 1995 and 1996 however, where things really took off thanks in-part to the opening track on their self-titled third album. “Down” was # 1 on the charts (“All Mixed Up” went to #2) and burning up alternative radio stations everywhere. “I remember listening to the year-end countdown on KROQ out here in L.A. that year. It’s a station we all listen to. They get to #1 and it was us with “Down,” says Hexum. “It was five minutes before midnight so that was a very fun New Year’s party.” The band performed the hit live on the David Letterman show and on Conan O’Brien. Things were changing. A new collection of fans were jumping on board, joining the existing sea of dedicated followers. The self-titled record was their mainstream breakthrough as it went triple platinum.

Eight more records have been released since then. Each one unique in their own regard. To date, 311 has sold close to nine million records worldwide. Nine of their last ten albums debuted in the Top 10 on the Billboard Album Chart. They work mostly out of their own studio called “The Hive” (also the name of their fan club). “We keep everything in house. It’s not huge, but it’s ours,” Hexum says. “When we put a record out its how we wanted it and it’s going to be an honest representation of where we are as artists.”

311 omaha

Come Original:

By the end of 2015, 311 will have played almost 1,700 shows the past 25 years. That would be 1,700 different setlists. 1,700 different experiences. While it seems like such a simple concept, it’s rare to find a live act that mixes up their setlist every single night. “For a rock band, we are very well-versed in techniques and manuscripts of music,” Sexton explains. “It’s a lot easier to play the same 20 songs over and over, but we have so many types of fans. The hardcore fans are probably not going to want to hear our radio hits, but then we’ll go play a radio festival where there are people who don’t really know us so we want to remind these people that maybe they do know who we are.” 311 have developed a reputation as one of the most energetic and entertaining live bands out there today. At some point around mid-set of almost every show you will find perhaps the only staple in the set. It’s for good reason. This would be the drum interlude in the middle of “Applied Science” where all five members of the band play the drums with Sexton leading the march. It’s utterly mesmerizing. “Music can only hold people’s attention for so long,” said Sexton. “We’ve always talked about; if we want to survive and we want people to come see us then we have to be exciting to see. We’ve always made it a point to be visually entertaining as well.”

As opposed to settling into a routine act, the band has made a conscious effort to continuously evolve. They insist upon constantly innovating and trying new things for themselves as musicians in addition to providing new experiences for their fans.

This summer was their 17th consecutive summer headlining a U.S. tour (1998 is the only summer the band has not toured). Every two years since 2000, they hold a massive 311 Day concert on March 11th where fans from all over the world come together for an epic night of 311 music – often exceeding five hours, 60+ songs and many performance surprises. This year the 311 Day experience returns to New Orleans, and this time it’s two nights (Friday March 11th and Saturday March 12th – both at the Smoothie King Center). All 311 Day info can be found at www.311.com/311Day2016 with the pre-sale on 9/22 and public sale on 9/25.

Additionally, 311 have played special destination shows in numerous countries, created and headlined their own Pow Wow Festival (a three day music and camping event) and have hosted four cruises. “Part of the reason we have these events is to go deep into the catalog for our hardcore fans,” Sexton tells me with sincere passion in his voice. “We want to give our fans as much music as we can. That’s the reason we got into the band. It’s because we’re musicians and we’re fans of music. Anything else that might come with it is just an awesome side note.”

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311 even have their own beer Amber Ale coming out (a nod to one of 311’s biggest hits “Amber”) and were heavily involved crafting the recipe. “We’re excited about diversifying the whole 311 experience with the beer coming out and some of the other stuff we have planned,” says Hexum. “Since we are grassroots and since we’ve always been involved in the business side of things, it’s fun to think of ways and then see those ways come true to expand the 311 experience in addition to just concerts.”

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Unity:

Having played live in all 50 states and almost 20 different countries, 311 has attracted fans from all walks of life. Their music has introduced deep friendships and even marriages. The themes come full circle. To celebrate, fans are being treated with the new 311- ARCHIVE box set, which contains 81 songs over fours discs and a 60 page book. Sexton is the archivist of the group. He explains this is essentially what they found the fans wanted. “I went out and simply asked our fans at our shows over the past couple years what they would want? Would they want another album of greatest hits? Every fan said no,” Sexton said. “When we made the box set, we took deep cuts and anything a 311 fan would just love to hear. It’s a very intimate thing.”

Upon completing the last tour, work on album # 12 will commence. “I listen to Nick’s new demos and I’m just floored,” P-Nut says almost with a chuckle. “He does not need us. (laughs) He’s so talented and so good at letting you know where he wants the song to go. These four or five new songs, there’s nothing to do with them. They’re just perfect.”

Hexum giving insight into what’s next tells me, “The new songs we are working on right now are among the best. There’s a real excitement and open-mindedness within 311 to bring in new styles and new arrangements that really make it sound fresh. Everybody is on the same page with that so morale is high.”

The band has tapped longtime friend and producer Scotch Ralston to produce the record. “The balance Scotch brings to the table is incredible. When we sit down to write lyrics with S.A. and Nick we can bring in a little more conflict and topics that show its tough out there,” P-Nut explains with enthusiasm. “We think about the crowd when we write, maybe sometimes too much. There has to be a balance between rocking the songs with the crowd and rocking the songs in your arms. Scotch really has this cool stature about him that I really like supporting. He allows us to make mistakes. If we’re going to be depressed for a certain song, that’s OK. He’s a part of the family that we could’ve never seen. I want people to know just how important he is to our sound and how much we appreciate him.”

25 years of anything is commendable. Taking a moment to recognize what 311 has done over the past 25 years leaves you feeling proud. In part because it encapsulates the so-called American Dream, but also if you have been fortunate enough to be a part of the journey in even the smallest way, you can’t help but feel appreciative. The feeling is mutual. There’s a song on almost every 311 album that expresses gratitude for music in general and what it has to offer. “Hey You,” the first single from 2009’s Uplifter, is just one example with lines like – “you’re my constant companion, you always let me explain just what I’m sayin’ and we’ve just begun.”

Sexton remembering how he felt holding the box set for the first time the day before tells me, “It’s an accomplishment to be in a band 25 years and have every record be the same members. We have reggae hits, rock hits, longer songs and even creative interludes. What I’ve noticed now, what I’m most proud of is being able to take our time with our fans. We have different styles of music without trying to recreate hits so it feels more like a musical entity,” he said. “We’ve been so lucky and fortunate to come from our own hearts and minds. For me, that’s where I come from right now when I write any rock music. I want to make the fans feel a certain way. The inspiration behind all of my rock music is them. I doubt any of them know that, but it’s such a cool synergistic element to this band that is totally invisible.”

It’s the love of music that brought these five friends from Omaha together and kept them together 25 years strong. Their mission statement is lived every day. They practice what they preach with extraordinary gratitude along the way. “I don’t know what we did to deserve this. People thank us for doing what we love,” P-Nut said. “Of course troubles will come, but you have to be better because of it. Such simple things that we all learned when we were kids, to pick yourself up. It’s that positive struggle. I know I’m going to go that extra distance. I’m going to do that for you and you are going to do that for me and together we are going to bring a whole fucking bunch of people with us.”

“I would hope that 311’s legacy will be that we were not just a band, but a movement to our fans,” said Hexum. “It all starts with the music, but I think we have become a lifestyle and a positive way of looking at things as well.” When you attend a 311 show, absolutely nothing else in the world matters or comes to mind for at least those two and half hours. You can’t help but have a great time. You’re truly creatures for a while. “We realize we’ve got our thing,” Hexum says. “Because of our awesome fan base we’ll always be OK for touring and we are just going to compete against ourselves to be the most true to our unique vibe that we can be. It gives us a quiet confidence to know that we are going to be alright and lets us just keep doing our own thing.”

The best part? 311 fans have every reason to be overly excited as they know the best is yet to come. Cheers to the past, present and future. As Hexum often states at the conclusion of each show, “Stay positive and love your life.”

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FOLLOW JEFF GORRA ON TWITTER HERE:

Patrick Carney, the humorous drummer of the Black Keys, went on a Twitter rant this morning about his recent run-in with Jack White. The two sides have had a well-documented feud of sorts over the past few years, mostly around the fact that White believed the Key’s sounds a little too much like his music.

Apparently the Carney and White ran ran into each other at New York City bar on Sunday night. Here is what Carney had to say about it…

Carney later elaborated on his tweets, via a statement provided by a representative: “I got into music because of people like him. The bully assholes who made me feel like nothing. Music was a collaborative and non competitive thing. So, to get macho bullshit from within the musical community makes me angry and sad.”

In a statement provided to Pitchfork, White responded to Carney’s claims. “Nobody tried to fight you, Patrick,” he said. “Nobody touched you or ‘bullied’ you. You were asked a question you couldn’t answer so you walked away. So quit whining to the Internet and speak face to face like a human being. End of story.”

Carney tweeted that he and White have cleared the air.

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