Kool Kats of the Week: Nashville’s Blackfoot Gypsies Are Out to Prove Rock’s Not Dead by Blastin’ Out Their Raw and Modern Twist on ‘60s and ‘70s-style Rock, Country ‘n’ Delta Blues at The 120 Tavern & Music Hall

Posted on: Feb 17th, 2015 By:

by Melanie CrewBFG logo2
Managing Editor

Nashvilles’s Blackfoot Gypsies will make a rockin’ pit stop in Atlanta during their Winter 2015 Tour, opening for old-school folk, rock ‘n’ alt-country punkers, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ and fellow Nashville rocker, Warner E. Hodges of Jason & the Scorchers at The 120 Tavern & Music Hall in Marietta, this Saturday, Feb. 21 at 8 pm! If you’re looking for a fresh sound harkening back to the days of classic rock ‘n’ blues, come on down for the ruckus that will being goin’ down this Saturday night at The 120 Tavern & Music Hall!

Blackfoot Gypsies, hailing from Music City USA and formed by Matthew Paige (vocals/guitar) and Zack Murphy (drums) in 2010 have expanded into the rock outfit they are today with the addition of Dylan Whitlow (vocals/bass) and Ollie Dogg (harmonica). The band’s just a few short months shy of releasing their new LP, HANDLE IT (April 2015), put out by Nashville’s famed genre-bending, Plowboy Records! “Under My Skin,” their first single from HANDLE IT was released Jan. 2015 and will soon be made into their first music video for the LP. And if that wasn’t enough, after delving into their deep grooves and rockin’ riffs, you’ll just have to get your grimy little hands on the band’s earlier releases [2010’s EP BLACK GYPSIES – self-released; 2011’s EP DANDEE CHEESEBALL – self-released; 2012’s LP ON THE LOOSE– self-released; and 2013’s Limited 7” “The New Sounds of TransWestern” – released by Fat Elvis Records). Blackfoot Gypsies headlined the Muddy Roots Music Festival in 2013 and have shared bills with Alabama Shakes, Trampled by Turtles and the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Catch ‘em while you can, because these fellas are on a rockin’ voyage with no end in sight!

ATLRetro caught up with Paige and Murphy for a quick interview about the band’s retro rock influences; their upcoming LP “Handle It”; Nashville’s music scene; and their take on the current state of Rock ‘n’ Roll!

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Paige and Murphy, why not take a peek at the Blackfoot Gypsies and their Jan. 9, 2014 live recording on Nashville’s The Written Record: Sessions at Electric Kite Studio <here> and get an earful of their news single off their soon-to-be released LP, “Under My Skin.

L-R: Matthew Paige, Dylan Whitlow, Zack Murphy, Ollie Dogg

L-R: Matthew Paige, Dylan Whitlow, Zack Murphy, Ollie Dogg

ATLRetro: So what’s the secret origin story of the Blackfoot Gypsies and how did you get your name?

Paige: The secret is a secret, so I’ll tell you a lie that may be the truth. When you’re from nowhere and you’re headed to the same place, you grab hold of all the resources you can. You hold onto your friends until they become family — generating a channel of common earthly vibrations that are streamed into a concentrated beam that transforms your world, if even for a minute, to a plane of love and understanding within our hilarious existence. The Blackfoot Gypsies are a distraction for your distractions that are distracting you from your passion. We’ve developed a unique walk as we tread down many over-walked paths, garnering us blackfeet, while our gypsy eyes are transfixed on the present. Travel till you die. Home is for the birds. Smoke on that for a while.

Murphy: We got our name from the cosmos. There are no secrets within the cosmos, only our naked truths of the origin of all nature.

You’ve listed the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Faces and MC5 among your top influences. All of these were founded in the ’60s, which it’s hard to believe is 50 years ago. Why do you think these acts and musicians have stayed relevant for so long? Are they the Beethovens of the 20th century?

Paige: They had a similar approach to living the music, not just playing it, that we do. It feels so pure. They were pushing their limits to reach the world — expressing their lives and having people connect over it. That’s all we’re really looking for after all, a genuine connection. It’s magic when it happens, and it happens around magic. Real, live music is magic.

Murphy: There’s only one Beethoven. There’s no need for any more Beethovens. The Stones, Dylan, Faces & MC5 are definitely all influences. They’ve stayed relevant because of their uniqueness. There’s no need to have another Stones, Dylan, Faces, MC5, etc… They did it right the first time. You can’t top the original. So, while they’re our influences, we aim to keep our music unique to us. There’s only one Blackfoot Gypsies, the world only needs one because nobody does us better than we do.

Dylan really evolved throughout his long career from folk to rock. His 70s work, especially “Blood on the Tracks,” is seminal to us. What’s his

L-R: Ollie Dogg, Dylan Whitlow, Matthew Paige, Zack Murphy

L-R: Ollie Dogg, Dylan Whitlow, Matthew Paige, Zack Murphy

key period (or album/song) for you and why?

Paige: The period where he transformed from trying to be someone else into just being as radically himself as he could be. He lived how we should all live our lives: copy the masters that teach you your art and then harness the power that is you, and let yourself explode.

Murphy: I don’t have a favorite. All of it is amazing, but most of all I love that he is still doin’ it and keepin’ it fresh. There’s no reason to stop, and because he hasn’t stop he’s stayed relevant; and is not a throwback act. Bob Dylan is still exciting.

We’ve talked about influences, but you also have a very fresh sound which merges roots, blues and we’ve even heard “Zeppelin.” Who else is on your key “retro” listening list? Do you think rock music still has some places to go and how do you keep your sound fresh and vibrant?

Paige: Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter. People with soul. Real rock n’ roll is just a code for truly visceral music. Soul doesn’t go out of style, and when you put a fat slab of soul on something real, and then you have it IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE! That’s as fresh as it gets. Yesterday, today AND tomorrow. I’m not sure music goes anywhere; it’s just a part of us. And, it’s fun to get excited about it.

Murphy: Anything visceral is on my listening list. It doesn’t have to be retro. It could be new hip hop. Rock music can always go new places. The best way to sound fresh and vibrant is to be you and not worry about the rules.

ZM, DW, DO, MP

Zack Murphy, Dylan Whitlow, Ollie Dogg, Matthew Paige

You’re touring in support of your latest album, “On the Loose.” What would you like people to know about it?

Paige: It’s a fun record, capturing a great place and time. We did all of it on 2-inch tape, so the vinyl sounds especially tasty. It’s got a good vibe and the songs lay a good base for where we plan on visiting with our next records. I’m proud of it still, and I wouldn’t change a thing on it.

Murphy: “On the Loose” is an album that I’m very proud of. Matthew and I were just gettin’ our sound and new line-up together. I think it was a great first step out into the world of album-making for us. We love playin’ these songs, but “On the Loose” has become part of the template for the live show. Come see a show. Buy an album. Get in our van…

And you’ve just scored a deal with Plowboy Records for your next LP, HANDLE IT. Tell us about that.

Paige: Plowboy Records honors the past, but in a relevant way. It was a no-brainer to go with them. Everything they stand for. I find myself saying, “Yeah, that’s right! Me too!” They’ll be putting out our next album HANDLE IT (out Apr. 14) on vinyl record and CD. We’re really excited for the world to hear it. I know a guy who makes fake platinum records, and I’m going to send one to my mom. I’m pretty sure she’ll fall for it.

Murphy: Plowboy Records are a natural fit for us. They are based in Nashville and are very much into the same stuff we are. HANDLE IT is the BFG logonext step. I’m also very proud of this album. It is a total natural evolution from our previous releases and I can’t wait to get this album out into the world. We’re playin’ the songs out live too. So, once again, come out and see the show.

Nashville is Music City and many folks think about country, but plenty of great rock bands have emerged from it. What’s it like to be a rock band in a country town right now? Any other Nashville bands we should be looking out for?

Paige: Nashville’s been the host to great musicians of all genres for a long time, although country is the popular one here. But, the cool thing about the “rock” bands here is that if you slowed them down, and mellowed them out, more often than not it’s basically country music, and I love it! I like to think of ourselves as more of an energetic, eclectic band of stray dog people. Bands I like to see in town are Margo Price, Justin Collins, Ranch Ghost; any band with soul. There’s a lot going on around here.

Murphy: Nashville has always had good rock ‘n’ roll; people are just now talking about it. Outside of the Music Row modern bro-country stuff, REAL country music is actually pretty damn similar to REAL rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know how or why people always forget that, but we’re happy to remind them that good music is just good music, no need to read between the lines.

Show PosterDo you have anything special planned for the Atlanta stop on your tour?

Paige: We’ll be shooting a music video, for the first single off HANDLE IT. We have some of our Atlanta friends coming out to be in it with us. I’m predicting lots of fun and nudity, but who knows. I’d really like to go to Manuel’s and get glared at over a beer. We’re also looking for the best donut in town. You know the place? Let’s do it!

Murphy: We’re gonna shoot that video and tear up the town. We haven’t played with Drivin’ N’ Cryin’, but we’re pretty damn stoked to be doin’ that. I’m sure something special will happen. The most special things are rarely planned.

What question do you wish somebody would ask you in an interview but they never do and what’s the answer?

Paige: Interviewer: “Can I please buy you dinner and our new, soon-to-be, matching big bird tattoos?” Me: “Yes.”

Murphy: Interviewer: “Would you like a drink?”  Me – “Yes.”

All photos courtesy of Blackfoot Gypsies and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Genre-Bending, Vintage Rock ‘n’ Roll Slingin’, Nashville Soul Revivalist, Will Stewart of Willie and the Giant, has Rhythm, So Who Could Ask for Anything More?

Posted on: Oct 14th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/
Contributing Writer

L-R Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor, Will Stewart. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

L-R Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor, Will Stewart. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

Willie and the Giant, vintage rock ‘n’ roll slingers will be takin’ Atlanta by storm at Smith’s Olde Bar this Saturday, Oct. 18 on their tour through the South! Their newly pressed 7-inch vinyl, debuting two singles reeking of nostalgia, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy,” both cut and recorded live at the ever comfy and throwback studio, Welcome to 1979, will be up for grabs! So, rock out, get a whole lotta rhythm, shake a tail feather and don’t forget to snag up a 7-inch or two! Acoustic folk and blues duo, Alex & Todd are along for the rhythmic ride, so come on down for a rockin’ retro ruckus this Saturday night at Smith’s Olde Bar!

Willie and the Giant, musical sons of Nashville and Birmingham, is made up of Will Stewart (vocals/guitar), Jon “The Giant” Poor (vocals/guitar), Grant Prettyman (bass) and Mac Kramer (drums). Not only has the group released two new singles, but a self-titled album is on the horizon for 2015, with their brand new label, Cumberland Brothers Music, run by Nick Worley, the band’s producer and engineer.The new album will be filled to the brim with an explosion of sounds with nods to American roots rock, ‘70s funk and more! Willie and the Giant, bathing in the blood, sweat and tears of vintage rock ‘n’ roll, are groovin’ to the top and have no plans to slow the momentum any time soon!

ATLRetro caught up with Stewart, for a quick interview about Willie and the Giant’s headfirst dive into rock ‘n’ roll, their new singles and record deal with Cumberland Brothers Music and their aversion to music labels and genres.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Stewart, take a listen to Willie and the Giant’s “Ain’t Gonna Wait”/”Poor Boy” single, here.

ATLRetro: Can you tell folks how you found the “Giant” and the rest of your band-mates and what brought you guys together?

Will Stewart: I moved from Birmingham to Nashville in November 2012. By coincidence, Jon Poor (“Giant”) and Mac Kramer (drums) moved from Birmingham to Nashville at the exact same time (We didn’t know each other while living in Birmingham.) They moved into a house with my then-bandmate Nick (also a Birmingham transplant), and that’s how we eventually met. The rest, as they say, is history.

There’s got to be a story behind the band’s name. Can you fill our readers in?

Photo Credit: Jack Smith

Photo Credit: Jack Smith

My height is pretty average and Jon is 6’5″ on a good day. There’s a video of us playing a show a few years back in which the camera exaggerates his height and has the opposite effect for my height. We thought it was hilarious and jokingly said, “Willie and the Giant!” When we formed the band, that name immediately came to mind as the obvious choice for the band name. We also think the “Giant” is a nice metaphor for our monster rhythm section – it could go a few different ways I suppose.

Can you tell folks a little about your debut singles, “Ain’t Gonna Wait” and “Poor Boy,” released this past September?

These two tunes just go really well together. I wrote these when I first moved to Nashville in late 2012, before the formation of WATG but thought they would fit into the set we were building in the early months of the band. I was listening to a lot of songs from the early/mid-sixties Chess Records and Atlantic Records R&B catalogs and almost every song seemed to be about breaking-up or falling in/out of love. So these tunes were sort of born out of that period of listening – it’s a tip of the hat musically and lyrically to that era.   

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Jon Poor, Grant Pettyman. Photo Credit: Sarah Sellari

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Jon Poor, Grant Prettyman. Photo Credit: Sarah Sellari

Any special tricks on snagging the jazzy award-winning, The Chad Fisher Group, known for backing Greg Allman, and legendary groups, like The Temptations, The O’Jays and the Four Tops, for your debut singles?

Well, being from Birmingham, we had nothing but respect and admiration for Chad Fisher – he’s an institution in Birmingham and when we decided to use horns on these two tracks we knew immediately that we wanted Chad Fisher Horns to play and arrange the parts. 

How exciting to not only get offered a rockin’ record deal, but to be the first group to sign with the new label, Cumberland Brothers Music. Can you tell folks a little about how you were discovered?

It’s incredibly exciting and we’re all very grateful to be part of the Cumberland Brothers family. Nick Worley and I met in late 2012. We shared very similar tastes in music, so I approached him about recording some demos in early 2013. After that we continued working on other projects and some months passed. Later, I got a call one day from Nick saying that he was starting a label and wanted me to be a part of it. As a musician, it’s one of those things you always fantasize about, so when it actually happened I was just thrilled and very grateful for the opportunity.

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Grant Pettyman, Jon Poor. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

L-R Mac Kramer, Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Jon Poor. Photo Credit: Abbey Grace Henley

How would you, as a musician, describe your band’s sound? Willie and the Giant has been described as being like, “M. Ward fronting a Memphis soul revue,” groove rock and a vintage soul revival. Was this intentional, or did it just happen?

People are going to throw around labels and genres pretty loosely, that’s just how it is. Obviously, our first two singles are our interpretation of early American R&B, so we’ve heard the “soul” thing quite a bit (not that that’s a bad thing). That said, our forthcoming full-length and live show is a smattering (word of the day!) of American roots and rock to British invasion to 70s funk to modern indie and pop. So I’m going to stop short of labeling and just let folks listen and decide for themselves. Ultimately we want to be a band whose music is very difficult to label.

Who are some of your favorite vintage performers and influences?

I’ll just keep this pre-1965: Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, The Impressions, Solomon Burke, Elvis, James Brown, the Stones, Dylan, Sam Cooke and on and on.

Can you tell our readers a little about your upcoming debut album and when they’ll be able to snag ‘em up?

We’re actually right in the middle of mixing the full-length and hoping for an early 2015 release. But again, it’s kind of hard to describe the sound because it covers a lot of ground. We’re just so excited that this is becoming a reality and can’t wait to share it with everyone. 

L-R Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor.

L-R Will Stewart, Grant Prettyman, Mac Kramer, Jon Poor.

What brings you southern guys even further south, way down into Atlanta?

Our bassist (Grant) is from Atlanta, so we have some roots there. I have some close friends there and we always have a hell of a time playing in Atlanta – we’re looking forward to the show next week!

Any special plans for your show at Smith’s Olde Bar this Saturday?

Nothing too crazy, just playing a ton of new tunes. We’ll also have our newly pressed 7-inch vinyl and t-shirts in tow (We accept cash and all major credit cards!)

What’s next for Willie and the Giant?

We’re going to be hitting the road as much as possible for the next two to three months, leading up to the release of the debut full-length album. Playing live is what we get off on – so that’s always going to be front and center for us as a band.

All photographs are courtesy of Will Stewart/Willie and the Giant and used with permission.

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Retro Review: The Plaza Theatre Celebrates 50 Years of The Beatles’ A HARD DAY’S NIGHT With a Gorgeous New Restoration!

Posted on: Jul 2nd, 2014 By:

A HARD DAY’S NIGHT (1964); Dir. Richard Lester; Starring The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr); Runs Friday, July 4 – Thursday, July 10 (see Plaza Theatre website for times and ticket prices); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Has it been 50 years already? Hard to tell when it comes to something timeless, and there are few films as timeless as The Beatles’ motion picture debut, A HARD DAY’S NIGHT. Chock full of great music, wild comedy, groundbreaking direction and a witty, snappy script, it’s enjoyable enough on any occasion. But with a beautiful, newly-minted restoration, there’s no better way to commemorate the movie’s half-centenary than spending an evening at the Plaza Theatre with the “Fab Four”.

When it comes to rock & roll movies, there are generally three camps. There are straight-up documentaries and concert films, like The Band’s THE LAST WALTZ, ELVIS: THAT’S THE WAY IT IS, WOODSTOCK or Dylan’s DON’T LOOK BACK. Then there are the films where a rock star gets shunted into some generally cockamamie scenario which has musical performances conveniently hanging off of it, such as most Elvis movies or Herman’s HermitsMRS. BROWN YOU’VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER. Then there are those films where you’ve got a plot and actors that serve chiefly to prop up a handful of showcase musical numbers, featuring musicians that you don’t really see outside of those isolated performances, aside from maybe five minutes of acting to establish their presence in the film. This is typical of most 1950s rock & roll movies (Elvis vehicles excluded) like THE GIRL CAN’T HELP IT, ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK and—in later years—the Ramones’ tribute to these flicks, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

Then, there are the exceptions, and A HARD DAY’S NIGHT is one of the most striking. It’s not a documentary, though it probably gets closer to the true spirit of The Beatles and Beatlemania than any documentary could. It’s not tied up in some convoluted plot that exists to just fill time between songs (that would be their follow-up movie, the winkingly self-conscious HELP!). And with The Beatles starring as themselves, it breaks away from the ‘50s template. At the time, it was truly revolutionary. There really wasn’t much else like it.

And it remains the single greatest rock and roll movie ever made.

Like Joe Bob Briggs used to say, it doesn’t have any plot to get in the way of the story. The Beatles have to make it to a TV studio for a live broadcast, putting up with Paul’s troublemaking grandfather (“He’s very clean.”) and the trappings of superstardom along the way. That’s it. But that threadbare plot allows plenty of time for the lads’ personalities to shine through and firmly establish each of them as distinct characters. It also allows ample opportunity to present The Beatles’ music organically: not only as score, but as source—in staged rehearsals and run-throughs leading up to their on-air performance.

The script is incredibly clever, providing constant tangential episodes within the film that deliver small moments of energy, so we never hit a dead spell in the journey. As a result, it plays as something of a sketch film, with the consistent forward dynamic of the band’s race to the TV studio maintaining an overarching momentum. In addition, screenwriter Alun Owen spent several days with the foursome and drew dialogue from interviews with the band to deliver Beatles “characters” that were true to each individual member of the group.

Director Richard Lester was a left-field candidate for helming the film, personally chosen by The Beatles on the basis of his work with Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan on TV and in the 1960 theatrical short THE RUNNING JUMPING & STANDING STILL FILM. Visually inventive and wildly imaginative, he not only innovatively captured live music performances, but also delivered crazed comic sequences (such as the opening chase scene, a rapid-fire interview segment and the wild “We’re out!”/”Can’t Buy Me Love” romp). It all comes across as pure giddy exuberance in cinematic form. And even though it depicts The Beatles as prisoners of their own fame, it’s also early enough that we’re still seeing them enjoying the view from between the bars. (As Orson Welles said, “if you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”)

Acting-wise, The Beatles are surprisingly confident on-screen. Paul comes across as level-headed and charming, George as dryly droll, John as sardonic and anarchic and Ringo as sensitive and compassionate. It’s Ringo in particular that shines during a sequence in which he escapes from the TV studio to anonymously wander about town and winds up palling around with a young kid. The keen script, Lester’s deft direction and Ringo’s performance join forces to create one of the film’s most memorable chapters.

And then there’s the music. Rather than use the film to push already-existing product, aside from the previously-released “Can’t Buy Me Love” and a quick medley of hits as the basis for their TV performance, the film uses newly-composed, original material by the band. And the resulting LP, their first to not feature any cover songs, is perhaps The Beatles’ first great album. With all songs written by Lennon and McCartney, it firmly established The Beatles as a truly self-contained unit—and one that sounded uniquely like themselves, rather than a large derivative of artists that came before.

I could write for forever and never be able to capture what strange magic this film conjures. It’s pure electricity on film. It’s full of the joy of life and the living of it. Like I said before, it’s the greatest rock & roll film ever made. And what the hell, one of the greatest films, full stop. And hey! If you need more convincing to see this after all of the superlatives I’ve been piling on, it has been newly digitally restored for the film’s 50th anniversary, with a new 5.1 sound mix created at Apple Studios, and word on the street is that the end result is a marvel.

So drop what you’re doing and see this at your earliest convenience. Even if you don’t know it, you need a reminder of why The Beatles were one of the biggest phenomena of the 20th century, and there’s no more entertaining way to get that reminder than with this film.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: October and Beyond; Mary Fahl & the Wolves of Midwinter

Posted on: Jun 10th, 2014 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Eddie Owen presents Mary Fahl in concert Saturday, June 14 at the Red Clay Theater, in Duluth, GA at 8 pm. For tickets and additional information call (404) 478-2749 or go here.

Mary Fahl’s soaring contralto vocals first gained public notice with her debut album as lead vocalist and co-founder of October Project, with their self-titled album (“October Project),  on Epic Records in 1993. The combination of Julie Flanders’ lyrics, Emil Adler’s melodies and Fahl’s controlled “banshee wail” created an unforgettable musical storm of an LP which spawned the hits, “Return To Me” and “Ariel.” October Project toured in support of Crash Test Dummies and Sarah McLachlan to positive reviews. The band’s second album, FALLING FARTHER IN, showed artistic growth and was well received critically, but failed to chart significantly. After a headlining tour of the U.S., the band was dropped by their label and parted ways. The band has since reformed without Fahl, and is now a trio with Flanders, Adler and original OP keyboardist and vocalist Marina Bellica.

Fahl went on to a solo recording career, releasing  THE OTHER SIDE OF TIME in 2003, FROM THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON in 2011 and LOVE AND GRAVITY in late 2013. Though she frequently plays in the northeastern states, Saturday’s show at the Red Clay Theater in Duluth marks her first performance in Georgia since her days with  October Project.

ATLRetro: October Project played a great show at the Buckhead Theater and had a memorable live performance on 99x radio in 1994. What took you so long to come back to the south?

Mary Fahl: It was logistics mostly. Atlanta is a long way from home and with the loss of 99X I was not sure I was getting any airplay in the region. 99X broke October Project in a really big way and that show at the Buckhead Theater was amazing for us.

Is your show on Saturday with a backing band, or a solo acoustic setup?

This will be a solo acoustic show.

Tell folks about your songwriting process. What comes first, music or lyrics?

In most cases, the music comes first. That being said, I keep notebooks all over my house just in case I hear something interesting or have an idea. Those notes often end up in my songs.

You’ve talked of your love for Dusty Springfield, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan in the past. What new music are you listening to?

I listen to a lot of film score composers mostly. My current favorite is Alexander Desplat. As for singer/songwriters, I love Laura Veirs, Sufjan Stevens, Gillian Welch and Ane Brun. There are so many!

First Aid Kit seem to be influenced by you and by your own influences (their song “Emmylou” covers similar ground to your “Like Johnny Loved June”). How do you see your legacy asserting itself?

Interesting you should mention First Aid Kit. I just discovered them! As for any legacy, that is so hard to say. I suppose time will tell. Sometimes all it takes is one person who listened to you when they were young. My sound grew out of the British Folk sound of the ‘70s with Sandy Denny, Linda Thompson, that sort of thing. Nobody sounds like that now.

Youtube is full of videos of you singing with OP and solo singing covers and originals as well. What will fans see at your show at Red Clay Theater?

I will do some OP, lots of my own songs, some covers and of course some DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. I like to give my audience the performance equivalent to a full, rich meal.

How did you get involved with Anne Rice and THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER? “Exiles,” the song chosen for Rice’s audio book of the novel, is on your latest album, “Love & Gravity”. What else should we know about the album?

Anne wrote me a letter two years ago after she discovered that October Project had hoped to get a song into the movie version of INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE. When my album was nearly complete, I asked her if she wanted a copy and she said she did. She was going to be in New York City, so I sent my publicist over with a copy. Afterward, Anne handed her a galley of  THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER inscribed to me, with, “Tell Mary she’s in the book.” My publicist immediately volunteered me to write a song for the audio book version of the novel. Only later did I find out that I only had 10 days to get the song written, recorded, mixed and mastered. Needless to say, much nail-biting and nausea ensued, but Anne’s writing is so powerful and vivid, it made it easy for me to immerse myself in the world of the characters and the song kind of wrote itself. I was also fortunate to have John Lissauer as my co-writer/producer. I brought the lyrics to him and he came up with a fabulous, very moody and dramatic melody that perfectly evoked the mystery and sensuality of the book. I haven’t heard anything about a film version of the book, but I think it would make a fabulous movie.

As for the rest of the album, most of the songs came out of the life I was living for the past six years. They were songs that I had to be able to render with just myself and a guitar if need be. You have to realize, I write a lot of songs, but I shelve a good portion of them. Any song I do on a regular basis has to be one that has stood the audience test and I have to find something new in a song every time I sing it. A song has to get to me every time or it just won’t make the cut. That being said, I love “How Much Love.” It’s one of the few songs on the record I didn’t write. It was written by Patsy Foster.  I heard the song in a record store in Philadelphia 20 years ago and always wanted to cover it. It’s really special when you hear a song for the first time and immediately fall in love with it. I also love “Gravity: Move Mountains, Turn Rivers Around.” There’s a line in the song “I’ve seen you move mountains, turn rivers around, defy the force of gravity with both feet on the ground.” It was written for my husband, who, in the words of the wonderful author/healer Caroline Myss, “defies gravity.”

Time heals all wounds. Any chance of a reunion with October Project?

Time does heal, but a reunion is difficult to fathom. We’ve all moved on. I sincerely doubt they’d want it and me with all the wonderful experience I’ve garnered since OP broke up, could never go back to that kind of a situation.

Step into the time machine and give some advice to eighteen-year-old Mary Fahl.

Hmmm, “Believe in yourself – and practice your guitar!!”

Anthony Taylor is a writer and an expert on retro-futurism, classic science fiction and horror films and television, and genre collectibles. He is the author of ARCTIC ADVENTURE!, an official Thunderbirds™ novel based on the iconic British television series by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. His website is http://Taylorcosm.com

 

All photographs are courtesy of Mary Fahl and used with permission.

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The Devil Lives in Jake La Botz’s Throat: The Dark Pleasures of Raising Hell as the Trickster Who Tempts and Teases the GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY

Posted on: May 10th, 2012 By:

Jake La Botz and Kylie Brown in the Alliance Theatre’s world premiere production of Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. Photo by Greg Mooney.

As the highly anticipated world premiere production of the Stephen King/John Mellencamp/T-Bone Burnett GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY hits its final week at the Alliance Theatre, there’s one thing critics and audiences seem to be able to agree on. Jake La Botz lights the stage on hellfire as The Shape, a supernatural trickster, tempter and Greek Chorus to the Southern Gothic Cain and Abel tale. Arms and chest riddled with tattoos with a slicked back pompadour that conjures images of Jerry Lee “The Killer” Lewis, La Botz looks like the older man your mama warned you to stay away from but who you were certain held the keys to Elvis’s “One Night of Sin.” His untamed bump, grind and sensuosity can’t help to remind one of the scandalous early days of rock ‘n’ roll when church moms sought to ban Elvis and THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW refused to shoot the future King of Rock ‘n’ Roll from the waist down.

All of which makes it a bit of a surprise that GHOST BROTHERS is Jake’s first go at musical theatre. But he’s a veteran musician who often plays tattoo parlors and a character actor in movies ranging from independent cult features like Terry Zwigoff‘s GHOST WORLD to major Hollywood pictures such as RAMBO. His vocals and lyrics reverberate with dark poetry and raw energy. He even sings a song called “The Devil’s Lives in My Throat.” He’s been compared to Tom Waits, Bob Dylan and a “modern day Hank Williams” by Steve Buscemi who has cast him in two of his movies, ANIMAL FACTORY and LONESOME JIM.

ATLRetro recently caught up with Jake to find out more about how he approached the role of The Shape and what’s next for him after the curtain falls on this virgin run on Sunday May 13.

How did you land the role of The Shape and why did you personally want to play the part?

I got an email from Laura Stanczyk, a heavy-hitting New York casting director, a couple of years ago to come in and audition for a show called HARPS AND ANGELS that was set to Randy Newman’s music. At the time I was living in New Orleans, touring as a singer/songwriter, and occasionally acting in films… no background whatsoever in theatre. To this day I have no idea how Laura Stanczyk found me. After flying to New York to meet with Laura, Randy and director Jerry Zaks – and not getting the part – I thought ‘musical theatre… hmmm… what a fluke… but that was interesting.’ Laura must’ve kept me in her mental Rolodex because when GHOST BROTHERS came along, she sent me an email that said “Jake, I have something you are PERFECT for” She was right. I took the job because I wanted to work with an exciting group of people and explore new territory as an actor – both the role and the medium.

Jake La Botz as the malevolent character The Shape in Ghost Brothers of Darkland County. Photo by Greg Mooney.

Your performance can’t help but remind me of a time when rock n roll was down ‘n’ dirty and just emerging from blues and honkytonk, Elvis Presley was still scandalous with his hip grinds and Johnny Cash wore black. Which musical performers inspired you and why?

Thanks, I’ll take that as a compliment. That was an interesting time in music. It’s almost as if white people were able to touch back into their pre-Christian roots. The stuff Elvis was doing had been done for years by black blues and R ‘n’ B singers before him. Sex and music is primordial –  imagine a ‘pagan’ ritual, Greek god Dionysus.

I’m inspired by all the great roots-American music (blues, gospel, field hollers, hillbilly, ragtime, rock ‘n’ roll, soul, etc). My favorite singers are the ones that sound unique and otherworldly: Skip James, Hank Williams, Blind Willie Johnson, Bob Dylan, Tommy Johnson, Howling Wolf. I like to listen to music that sounds like it’s coming directly from “the source,” i.e. not manipulated too much by the entrepreneurial efforts of ego.

Seems like there could be quite a bit of Randall Flag (THE STAND) in The Shape, too—the manipulator, the trickster. Did Steve give you any background reading or direction in how to prep for the part?

No background or prep work from anyone particularly, although the entire cast was asked to watch Tennessee Williams films. The Shape I’m doing now is the same character I created for the audition, though he has filled out quite a bit since then. And I received quite a bit of good suggestions from John Mellencamp, director Susan Booth and choreographer Danny Pelzig along the way.

Your dialogue makes lots of intimations that The Shape might be The Devil. Is he?

Intimations? You mean like riding up from ‘below’ on an elevator? Wearing red? Talking about how I get bad reviews in church?

In the elevator down to the parking garage after the performance, two older blonde yuppie women told me they liked the show overall but that the language didn’t have to be so obscene, i.e. “tone it down.” Why are they wrong?

I’ve heard that a lot. I’m not sure they are wrong.

What was it like working with John Mellencamp and T-Bone Burnett? Did you collaborate with them at all on the music, or was it more just taking what they gave you and bringing the character to life?

What an honor to work with both of them. The direction I was given was to take the songs and make them my own… make them like The Shape. I’ve enjoyed doing that. I’m playing two of T-Bone’s guitars in the show… how cool is that?!?!

Have you heard anything about where GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY may be performed next and will you be reprising the part of The Shape?

There’s no telling at this point about the future of the show or the cast. I haven’t heard anything confirmed. Of course, I would love to be part of this if it goes to Broadway.

Have you had a chance to get out on the town at all while you’ve been in Atlanta? Any favorite hangout or local musician?

Haven’t had much time to explore. Cast member and country music legend Dale Watson had a Monday night residency at Smith’s Olde Bar that many of us frequented and also performed at. That was a hoot.

What’s next for you after GHOST BROTHERS? I saw something on your Website about a European tour and we’ll be seeing you onscreen in a new movie version of Jack Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD (Directed by Walter Salles; Starring Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen) and in ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER?

From here I head to Cannes for the premiere of ON THE ROAD, followed by a European tour. Then back to NYC to look for a job! Yeah, both movies [are] coming out this year.

If you missed James Kelly’s Retro Review of GHOST BROTHERS OF DARKLAND COUNTY, you can catch up on it here. To purchase tickets for the final performances, click here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Getting the Third Degree from The District Attorneys’ Drew Beskin on Their First Album and Their Next Gig with Modern Skirts and Tedo Stone at The Earl This Saturday Jan. 14

Posted on: Jan 10th, 2012 By:

The District Attorneys. Photo courtesy of Drew Beskin.

The temps are supposed to be dropping again by the weekend. So when we heard several reviewers peg The District Attorneys’ sound as summery and that they were opening for Modern Skirts along with Tedo Stone at The Earl this Saturday Jan. 14, it was easy to warm us up to interrogating lead singer/guitarist Drew Beskin as the first Kool Kat of 2012.

True, the Athens-based quintet only have been around since 2009, but they’ve been turning a lot of heads and getting some rave reviews for their first two EPs. Atlanta Music Guide’s Eileen Tilson even suggested that the seven songs on their debut EP, ORDER FROM (2010), “would easily make them an appropriate opener for The Rolling Stones circa 1963.” As for WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN:THE BASEMENT SESSIONS (2011), Eric Chavez, also in Atlanta Music Guide, effused that “With southern rock riffs mixed in with some dreamy pedal steel and a touch of surfer vibes soaked in reverb, these guys make you want to chillax on the porch with an ice cold Lone Star and reminisce about the good ‘ole days.” The District Attorneys also just finished recording their first full LP produced by Drew Vandenberg (The Whigs, Drive By Truckers, Deerhunter, Futurebirds, Modern Skirts), due out around March. And hey, Drew lists The Replacements, Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths as the band’s biggest influences.

Enough back story already. Download their first two EPs for free here, and while you’re chilling and listening, let Drew fill you in on how the DAs got started, some more 20th century musicians he and the band dig and why you need to come out to The Earl Saturday!

What’s the secret origin story of The District Attorneys and what’s in the name?

The band started when me and Chris (Wilson, drummer) decided to form a band after I graduated and he was still at UGA. After that, we acquired a few friends to play with us until it became the line-up that it is today. The District Attorneys became something real when we discovered Frank Keith IV (bass) who is basically Love Potion #9 in human form and has been the main reason we’ve been able to get cool shows to play on. The band name is a tribute to the Bob Dylan song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” as well as a love for bands like Interpol and The Police.

Your Facebook page describes your sound as Americana and rock, and reviewers have likened you to California country rock and described your EPs as summer music. How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you and what song should they listen to first?

I would def be confident in my answer if the new record was already out. The first two EPs were just as much about finding out our strengths and weaknesses as well as rushing to get something out there to show people we have our own original material that isn’t awful. I’m cool with the summer music vibe, but I think one of my favorite things about this band is that our songs are starting to get very different with each song. Some are fast and rockin’ 2-minute pop songs and some are like the California summer rock stuff. I think if you check out “California Fire” and “Slowburner” from the most recent EP of demos (WAITING ON THE CALM DOWN: THE BASEMENT SESSIONS), you can hear a big difference in style. I always really liked “Sweetheart All Reckless And Humble” from the first EP as well, which reminds me more of a Cure/Jesus and Mary Chain song than anything else.

Can you name a few 20th century musicians who have been key influences and inspirations for you and the band, and why?

I’ll just mention the first few that come to me…um…I always say The Replacements, The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths. I probably say that because I love their guitar tones and how soundtrack-like they sound. I love those bands and I def try to add some of that to our stuff. I will always be obsessed with Elton John and Prince, but I don’t think I have found a good way to showcase those influences in the band…yet.

How do you approach songwriting and select which tunes make it onto your recordings?

I don’t really have a formula for songwriting. It happens differently every time, but I have noticed that it’s usually not the stereotypical sitting down at the keyboard or guitar and writing. I usually come up with something in [my] head or the start of something in my head, and then I bring it to an instrument to accompany whatever new random idea I might have. When bringing new songs to band, I like to play two or three of them at a time and then have the band pick which one they are most eager to add their own ideas to. If it sucks, we can just move on to another one. The new record started out as an 18-song record, but after some options were thrown out, we recorded 14 good songs but ended up ditching two of them because they didn’t fit the vibe we were going for.

What can you tell us about your first full-length album and when will it be available?

The album will be 12 tracks. We are close to deciding what the name of the record will be ,so I don’t want to say just yet. It was produced by Drew Vandenberg at Chase Park Transduction in Athens and will be released hopefully in March, if not a little sooner. We will be releasing it through This is American Music which is a label that houses one of our favorite artists ever, Glossary.

Will we hear any of those new cuts at the Earl on Saturday night?

I’m pretty confident that 97% of the material we play on Saturday will be from the new record. We have been living with these songs for the album for a good while now so we actually are pretty eager to start bringing out some brand new and unrecorded material. But we will try and wait a little bit before we do that.

What else can you tell us about the show and playing alongside the Modern Skirts and Tedo Stone?

The Earl is one of my favorite venues to see shows at. I’ve seen The Tallest Man on Earth, AA Bondy and most recently the Diamond Rugs show [there], which was an eye-opening experience. The venue and all the bands playing this Saturday night will make it a very fulfilling night of music. Modern Skirts are incredible, and we are so excited to share the stage with them. Tedo Stone is a pretty new band with some of the best music I have heard in awhile.

How did you first get into making music? Is this a passion that goes back to when you were a kid?

I always wanted to be a drummer, but I was given a guitar at age 13 because drums would have been too noisy for my rents. At first I just wanted to learn the riffs to “Day Tripper,” “Crazy Train” and “Heartbreaker,” and then I wanted to get all the way through “All Apologies.” After about three years of that, I wanted to start writing my own songs to see what I could come up with.

What did you do musically before the DAs?

Everyone in the band has a colorful musical past, but before The DAs I spent most of my time writing songs by myself, occasionally playing open mic nights in Bloomington, Indiana, when I was at Indiana University. I also played bass for a local art-punk band while I was up there, but mainly I just wanted to work on my songwriting and demo as much as possible.

What do you do when you’re not writing and/or playing music?

We are all working or in school at the moment so whenever we aren’t focusing on The DAs or other musical projects we are busy with that not-so-fun stuff.

Any other news you’d like to share about what’s coming up in 2012 for the District Attorneys?

We are hoping to get to Austin for SXSW and tour more behind this record and hopefully get it in the ears of many new listeners. We have some exciting local shows coming up and hopefully a CD release gig sometime in the spring. We can’t wait for everyone to hear the record, and then we can’t wait to start working on the next one and any EPs in-between.

What question do you wish a reporter would ask you but they never do? And what is the answer? 

Let’s see, no one ever asks me what my favorite John Travolta/Nicolas Cage movie is. It is FACE/OFF (1997). Thanks for asking finally!

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, July 25-31, 2011

Posted on: Jul 25th, 2011 By:

Monday July 25

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday July 26

What’s in a name? Catchy coolness if you’re self-styled D.I.Y. rock ‘n’ roll band Swank Sinatra, playing tonight at Smith’s Olde Bar. Although their sound, fury and lyrics are inspired by Frank than “homeless people, pirates, ladies, shoes, ships, our hate of disco and breakfast.” Minor Stars and Kevin Dunbar Band open. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. JT Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tues. Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  July 27

The Temptations and The Four Tops make it a mini-Motown reunion at Classic Chastain tonight. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernDeacon Brandon Reeves bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavernrespectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdayspresented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  July 28

It’s a cinematic night of pure (& twisted) imagination for the whole family as The Atlanta Opera screens classic 1971 movie WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starring Gene Wilder at The Atlanta Opera Center (1575 Northside Drive, NW, Bldg 300, Suite 350, Atlanta, GA 30318). Attendees may win two (golden?) tickets to the company’s production of THE GOLDEN TICKET, also based on the Roald Dahl novel, in March, 2012.

Henry Porter, named after a legendary Dylan quote, bring their Western swing on DMT to Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. Or is that post-rock mindset with 70’s AOR hooks? Or songs that Iggy Pop might could sing? Or the Eagles with credibility? Or CCR meets XTC? Heck if they even know for sure, but you can find out for free and eat some tasty Asian vittles at the same time.

Classic Tulsa Sound piano man Leon Russell opens for legendary folk rocker Bob Dylan at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze King and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features The Burning Angels.

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