Who are your vocal influences?
Ann Wilson, Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, Geoff Tate, Freddie Mercury, David Coverdale, Marco Mendoza, Steve Marriott, Mick Jagger, Prince, Lou Graham, Layne Staley, Scott Weiland, James Hetfield, Trent Reznor, and Marilyn Manson, to name a few.
Some of the best concerts that you have seen?
I have listed 13 of my favorite artist/bands concerts as some of the best.
1) Peter Gabriel's "Us" tour (Phenomenal)
2) Aerosmith Global Warming
Another phenomenal concert and this is where it gets interesting.... I was quite a few rows back and there was absolutely no way human ears on stage could possibly have heard me singing along with the music full out, as a heavily inspired by Steven Tyler vocalist. At one point, I took off and started singing another line that was not in the music as if I was an added instrument to the already incredible recordings.
At that point, the stage went dim and the spotlight focused ONLY on Joe Perry. He was crouched in a corner and started playing the same exact lines I had made up as an added instrument to the band. Then Steven Tyler came back on stage and started singing the rest of my lines ... It was like some superhuman God like intervention to prove that "Yes Virginia, there really IS a Santa Claus!"
3) Black Sabbath 13
In a ritualistic hexentaufe, the Prince of Darkness blessed the sacred waters in a ritualistic banishing purification. Anointed and immersed, the portal door opens allowing teleportation through this rite of passage. Consecrated in the roaring fire of 13, the burnt offerings are alchemically forged to a glowing Philosopher's Stone. As adept in the inner circle of Rock N' Roll, amongst an enchanted magical forest, the elixir of life is found.
Loved the concert! Nothing better than dark, heavy, and hypnotic old school Rock N' Roll! God bless the Prince of Darkness. As timekeeper of the secret passcode, may every door open as the iron bell rings. Black Sabbath rocks and rules my world!
4) Judas Priest with Black Label Society and Thin Lizzy
"They put on a Hellacious Show! Now Bakersfield is burning up!
5) Alice Cooper "Along Came A Spider" and "Raise The Dead"
2 great concerts from one of my very favorite artists! Very theatrical with smokin' players!
6) Chickenfoot with Queensryche at Universal Amphitheater.
These guys were extremely happy during this event They were having a great time and it really showed! Awesome musical chops! Strong performance!
7) G3 with Steve Vai, Billy Sheehan, and Joe Satriani
Extreme musicianship with excellent sound!
8) Morris Day and the Time
Very entertaining with one incredible sound man!
9) Prince Nokia Live The Conga Room I saw the 2nd show which was a bluesy show. Seeing Prince in a different perspective showing his influential roots in a quaint setting was a treat! The food at "The Conga Room" was fabulous as well as the atmosphere!
10) Robbie Krieger's Jam Kitchen Warner Park, Woodland Hills CA
Putting some of Zappa's top notch musicians together with this legendary guitarist made for a great concert in the park on a nice Southern California day!
11) The Eagles Hotel California - Orlando, FL
Very enjoyable with great music in an outdoor setting.
12) Craig Chaquico
This former Jefferson Starship guitarist put on an excellent show! The melodic music captured a very crisp & clean sound. He's an excellent storyteller with uplifting messages!
13) Terry Bozzio
Exceptional intonation, dynamics, & musical vocabulary! An incredibly fine drummer!
Who was your childhood role model?
What is your favorite album?
The first one that comes to mind is "No More Tears" by Ozzy Osbourne.
"Queen of the Damned" is one of them.
Name 3 Artists that Influenced your Keyboard Playing:
I'd have to say John Paul Jones, Elton John, and Jon Lord.
John, John, and Jon. How do you like that?
In your opinion what is the sexiest song that has ever been written?
"The Beautiful Ones" by Prince deserves credit for that question. It has tremendous passion as it starts soft and then climaxes to a fevered intensity. There is an element of trust as he stands on the edge of a cliff like a blindfolded adeptus exemptus not quite sure of his outcome before jumping into the roaring sea. Will he fall on a rock and get cut up, bleed like hell and then be eaten by a shark or will he swim safely to the siren of his dreams, where they release the energy in a state of euphoric nirvana, the two bond as one, and live happily ever after? This song has a raw edge of no holding back whatsoever as he delivers his message straight and to the point by really laying it on the line.
How did you get into the music business?
Well, I certainly wasn't lucky enough to have been born into it. Although, I've been told that my great grandfather (that I never knew) was an incredible musician that played several instruments very proficiently and the family swears up and down that I got it from him.
I was in fourth grade and was already heavily into rock n roll. I was a music buff and spent hours upon hours in my bedroom listening to albums like Thin Lizzy, Cream, The Small Faces, Three Dog Night, Sly and the Family Stone, and Alice Cooper. I had a friend that started taking piano lessons. At that time I decided that I wanted a piano and a rock n roll teacher but my father wouldn't allow it. He claims that his parents forced him to take piano lessons and he hated it.
That same year my elementary school was forming a band class and the principal got the kids together for an introduction seminar to encourage the kids to join the school band. The lecturer went through all the different instruments from the triangle all the way to the saxophone and I was kinda dozing off (it was a long seminar). Then he said something that grabbed my attention. He came to the oboe and had described it as the exotic sounding double reed woodwind instrument that you see in the movies that is played when the cobra snakes are lured to come out of their basket. My ears perked up immediately. Now you must remember that I was a heavy Alice Cooper fan and the thought of incorporating snakes into a show was right up my alley. I had a big imagination for being such a little kid and I could just see myself with a pet snake that I would keep in a basket and lure him out by playing my oboe. "Wow! What a cool way to impress my friends!", I thought. Again the first thing that came out of my dad's mouth was "I'm not putting my kid through that". (I guess he had a real bad experience) and that was that. So my bright idea was ditched. About that time my Grandma bought an organ and I started spending more and more time at her place learning how to play it.
I used to hang out with my Uncle Tim who was a teenager when I was still a young kid. (around 9). He lived in the basement of my grandparents house (the one with the organ) and I used to go down there and go through all of his albums and play them on this stereo. (He didn't mind). He had every album that I could think of back then. The Edgar Winter Group, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Traffic, Steppenwolf, Sonny & Cher, The Beatles, Blind Faith, Ten Years After, stuff like that. I spent hours upon hours down there in his basement memorizing the vocal lines and singing along pretending I was a rock star.
About 7 years later, (I was 16 at the time) I was walking down the walkway of a strip mall across the street from where I lived in Orlando, Florida. This guy was at a phone booth and had just lost his dime in the phone while the call got disconnected. I saw him struggling with the phone and then searching his pockets. He looked up at me and asked if I could spare a dime. I gave him one and then walked into a store. About 10 minutes later he walked in and came up to me and thanked me. We started talking and he said that he was going to a recording studio that night and asked me if I would like to tag along. I gave him my number and he called. Later that night he came by, met my parents, and then drove me to this studio. His name was Donny.
When I arrived it was really wild. Donny and his buddy Steph, ran the studio and there was a small house attached to it where they lived. They were working on a project together. The studio was very big and very professional. Molly Hatchet recorded there. Donny and Steph's sound was more like Jimi Hendrix meets the Stones. Donny was a lead guitarist and Steph was this incredible musician that played guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. Every time I walked into the studio I felt like I was in a spaceship or something. It was so soundproofed you could hear a pin drop. It was very clean and well equipped with state of the art stuff. They even had a Steinway piano in the studio. This was not someone's home studio by any means. It was back in the days of the old reel to reels and 2" tape. They showed me how to track and let me operate the tape deck for them while they were tracking.
I ended up becoming really good friends with them and the studio became my second home. While all my other schoolmates were out doing high school stuff, I was already living the musician's lifestyle and learning the ropes from studio cats. About that time my parent's divorced and my mom bought me an old upright piano before I turned 17. I got the vibe that it was previously owned by a honky tonk musician for some reason. Then one day we opened it up and realized that my black piano was once painted purple so my intuition was probably on.
My best high school friend was a girl named Anne. She was a solid pianist and was into rock and roll as well. I started writing lyrics and would hum out the way I heard the music behind the lyrics. Anne had a great ear and could always pick up and start playing what I was humming. She was fast too. I didn't have to wait around for her to figure it out. Then I'd add the vocal melody line on top of the piano part. She was creative and added the bridges and other touches to the songs.
I had a couple of parakeets that used to watch Anne and I jam together. They were our audience and used to start chirping extremely loud edging us on to continue. It was hilarious. One day, during one of our jam sessions the birds got so loud it was overbearing. I stopped dead smack right in the middle of a song and started cracking up hysterically. The birds stopped and looked at each other kinda baffled like they couldn't understand why I stopped. You could see it in their expression. They were a trip!... and that's about it of how I got my start in the music biz.
Who inspired you to become a producer?
No one really led me there. It just kinda happened. I was becoming a musician and a writer and learning how to track all at the same time then pretty soon I started getting my hands into everything. That's what producer's do. They make the project happen. It takes vision, drive, and perseverance as well as being an artist. I have a deep admiration for Frank Zappa for what he had done. Now I see Steve Vai starting to do the same thing that Frank did back then. I think it's really cool and be honest I think the industry needs a guy like Steve right now.
What sounds are you currently looking for?
I actually prefer a lot of the vintage equipment. In the next album I'm digging into the roots of rock. I'm digging up the Delta Blues, British Rock Invasion, Southern Gospel, and some of the old Motown sounds and meshing them with a heavy psychedelic rock vibe. I also study a lot of classical and chamber music and am heavily into classically influenced progressive rock.
I want to bring an old vocoder in for a guitar session. You know that sound in "My Papa was a Les Paul... my Mama was a Fender...that's why they call me Mindbender?" Aerosmith included one in "Sweet Emotion". Peter Frampton used it in "Do You Feel Like We Do?" and I remember Joe Walsh using one as well.
I walked into a music store one day and found an old Prophet One and starting tinkering around with the knobs. It was one of those old monophonic keyboards that they used to have before programming and digital technology. Because of this factor, it had a certain edge that is not available in modern keyboard technology. For example it gives you total control over the resonance and frequency rates. Remember that song "Frankenstein" by Edgar Winter? Remember all that cool stuff he was getting from his keyboards? It has to do with the wave form and whether it is inverted or standard and if the resonance is above the frequency or vice versa and the PGM rate. You don't get those sounds in today's technology. Everything is programmed. There is not enough manual control available to make those sounds.
I used to have a Juno 60 (it was stolen out of a nightclub during a tour) which was one of the first polyphonic programmable keyboards ever made. It was cool because I got the best of both worlds. I had the advantage of being able to program (and play chords) however it still had the manual knobs so you could get the control. You don't see too much of that kinda stuff in this day and age. Just imagine a guitar player with a programmable whammy bar...it just isn't gonna cut it, Programming is touchy in all aspects of recording and has a tendency to lose the human feel if the fine line is overstepped.
One of my dreams is to have a Theremin in my studio. I also love the sound of a Hammer Dulcimer. Maybe it's the Zeppelin influence in me.
Any new changes in the making?
Constantly! I've recorded some new songs not yet available to the public. I'm working on a new album in the studio with brand new unreleased tracks. Some of the songs are very soulful with high range vocals others are sweeter. I've had a lot of new experiences that give me a reason to write. It's always interesting.
I'm doing more sole writing of new songs and have also worked out a lot of sketches in my head for new ideas for old unreleased songs that didn't work the first time for some reason or another. I finally got them to pop! I'm quite pleased with the progress.
I am more in control of my projects than any other time in my life as well.
On a previous project there was a song called "Deja Vu' that I put a lot of money in and decided not to release. I ran into a few problems with one of the writers on the and it was partially due to my negligence. At this point I just sum it up as one more learning experience. I'll tell the story although at this point it really doesn't bother me anymore but at the time I was really aggravated and am happy to be over that learning hump so to speak. He wrote one of the songs in a very bad key for me and I had asked him to change the key. He said that he would put a capo on his guitar and I trusted his word. I booked him into a studio and he overspent the time necessary to track the song. I was somewhere else at the time and was not there to supervise (my negligence). The song was not put into a different key like I asked and I didn't want to run up another overspent guitar tracking studio bill so I tried to wing it in the wrong key. Big mistake! I ended up spending more money on editing and pitching that song then I did editing the rest of the entire album. I will not even begin to attempt to perform it in the key that it was written in. If a song is right for the singer then it should not require more than minimal editing if any.
People that aren't singers sometimes just don't get it. They hear you have a good range and a strong voice and they just assume that you can do anything. A voice is like the stick shift of a manual automobile transmission. It has to be "in the pocket" in order to function properly. Imagine being in third gear and switching into fourth. You know that feel... that kind of "wobble" you get in between the two before you get into the next gear pocket....well that's the equivalent of a vocal break. If a song is created where the phrase is to end and perhaps sustain on a particular note and if that note is "one" that wobbles then you have to change the key. My voice soars high and I have a rich deep alto range as well. The break is in the upper mid range where the question becomes do I push the chest voice or drop the weight into a falsetto. The extreme highs are much punchier than the wobble notes around that nasty break. The other notes are just as strong as well. The extreme lows can be compensated with a rich resonance. For now on I will be in every tracking session.
If you do have the budget, sometimes it is fun to experiment with different ideas. I may sing a song several times and then make a composite. It's kinda like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I'll listen to all the tracks side by side working with one bar at a time. Doing it in this mode gives you the freedom to look at your work and figure out which one "shines" or has more attitude. I sometimes work in that fashion and other times I just sing it all in one take. My hit song "Tattooed in Skin" was sung once. The tracking of the background vocals were also all first takes as well. We recorded on ADAT. When we finally did send it to digital for additional instrumental tracking and editing, we found only one note that we pitch corrected. It all depends on my mood at the time of tracking.
I am finding that it is important to be there to hear the sounds of the actual instruments during tracking. Musicians sometimes are on a limited budget and overlook important factors while in the midst of survival and life crisis. Things like cymbals, heads, strings that need to be changed. I study Antiques. If you're shopping for fine glassware and goblets for example, the first thing you do after finding interest in a particular item is to pick it up and thump it with your finger to hear it's ring. Sometimes there is no ring and you realize it is so old that it's dead. The same thing happens in instruments. The strings or cymbals, or heads sometimes wear out and require replacement.
What formula do you use as a lyricist?
I don't really follow any set pattern. Obviously there has to be some continuing pattern per song but that can vary from song to song. I have an old, ancient, hardcover rhyming dictionary that I occasionally use. I call it the poet's bible because of it's extensive contents. Besides the rhyming section, it contains a separate portion with over 100 pages dedicated solely to stanza patterns, divisions of poetry, techniques of versification, monosyllables, penults, antepenults, and much more. I do not always think verse, pre-chorus, chorus, bridge...if that's what you are asking. Take the songs "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart or "The Crunge" by Led Zeppelin. On one extreme it just goes to show that a song doesn't necessarily have to contain all or even most of the standardized expected components to still be a good song. Then on the other extreme, if you take into consideration the intricate complexity of parts that soar way beyond the standards of norm, you may find that they weave nicely together into a masterpiece like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" for example. There are endless possibilities so why limit yourself to a formula? The key is to express what you feel at the time while having some sense of rhythm and rhyme.
Name 3 great vocal performances.
Aretha Franklin ripped on her remake of the Stones song "Jumpin' Jack Flash". Clare Torry's soulful vocals shined brilliantly on Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky", and Steven Tyler captured yet another aspect of his extensive vocal vocabulary in his stylistic honky tonk ragtime song, "Push Comes to Shove".
Do you recall your most insane gig?
There was this one night in "Alice's Nightmare". We were playing a club in Melbourne, Florida...it started off kinda crazy and just got crazier. We had a big boa constrictor for the show and a smaller rat snake as well that the front man used as live props. Anyhow someone pulled a prank backstage and let the snakes out of their cages. We had no idea where the snakes were when we discovered this and the crowd was beginning to show up at the bar. There was no backstage door in this dive bar we were playing but merely a hanging piece of fabric that divided the backstage dressing area from the bar. So here we are 20 minutes before the show searching the bar for the missing snakes. The boa was found but the little one was no where in sight. About that time we heard a loud shrill. One of the band members claimed that the little snake somehow managed to find his way up a barstool that a woman was sitting on (could have been worse...he could have slithered up her leg instead) although I did not see that I did hear the shrill.
As I am walking onto the stage I am stopped by a roadie that warns me that the stage was really small and they didn't have much room to work with so they put the rat snake in a pillowcase underneath my keyboard and to just be aware of its presence.
So then we begin the show...the first thing that happens is the band starts playing "Welcome to my Nightmare" as the pallbearers bring in the coffin and place it on the ground....The front man (Guy Citrinite who is an extraordinary musical performing artist) gets out of the coffin and starts singing as these pyrotechnical flash pots go off. Well this particular night the pallbearers didn't quite sit the coffin down on the ground and it somehow was slightly angled against the drum riser. So when Guy climbed up out of the coffin there was this "BOOM" as the coffin settled flat onto the floor. He started stumbling inside the coffin struggling to catch his balance (I have to give him credit for maintaining his composure) Immediately after this we became aware that the pyro technician accidentally (I presume) put too much gun powder in the flash pots on this particular night and again there was this very loud (and very bright) "BOOM!". On top of that, every time I glanced down to put my foot on my sustain pedal I could see the snake wiggling around in the pillowcase not too far away from my foot. Other than that, the rest of the show went fine.
After the show I walked backstage to find two half naked, pierced, and tattooed women already eagerly waiting for a couple of the guys in the band. Remember there was no stage door just a flimsy curtain that separated the backstage from the bar. I decided that I'd be better off changing out of my stage clothes at the 7-11 bathroom across the street so I grabbed my bags and headed for the door. There was no backstage exit so I had to walk into the crowd area to get out of the place. As soon as I walked out of the backstage area there was some guy (I have no idea who he was) waiting for me. He latched onto me like superglue. He got right up in my face and was talking with a real heavy breath like he had just climbed Mount Everest or something. His breath was rancid as he wreaked of a combination of sinus breath and heavy alcohol like he had been drunk for days. The fumes were so bad that my throat started tensing up and I could feel myself starting to gag. At that moment, I actually silently prayed to God to please get this guy off of me before I threw up. Right then I was finally able to break free and get out of there.
Any other crazy gigs?
It was a few weeks before Halloween and a couple of my friends had told me about some part time positions available at this Halloween Haunted House that was happening about 1/2 an hour away from home at some Spiritualist Camp in Cassadaga, FL. If you are not aware of Cassadaga you may note that Tom Petty has a song called "Cassadaga" and sings about this place. It's a camp full of Spiritualistic mediums. Medium being defined as one who communicates with the dead. They have clairvoyant abilities as well and are considered to be quite superior to the so called psychic. The FBI, police, and forensic investigators actually consult in these mediums as they have been found to be very accurate in helping to solve criminal mysteries and murder cases.
Anyhow a couple of my friends talked me into auditioning for a position in the Halloween Haunted House. When I showed up I was just being myself in my rock n roll leather jacket. I started talking to a couple of the people that were running the show when one of them looked over at the other and said "She would make a great Dungeon Master". Then the other person's eyes lit up as if a lightbulb had just been turned on and replied "That's it" So I was hired as the "Master of the Dungeon Room" I didn't have to buy too many props as I had things left from the "Alice's Nightmare" gigs including the leather garb, handcuffs, and a real nice cat o' nine tails whip. Don't get me wrong I'm not really into S&M, actually I am a romantic at heart, but I had the props from a previous gig and they fit right into the show. I can say it was crazy Halloween fun and nobody really got hurt. I even learned to crack the whip so that it appears to the onlooker to really violently sting but it feels nothing more that a light tap.
The camp supplied me with everything else including a tape recorder full of haunting sounds, a fog machine, a big bad executioner, several slaves, and an electric chair. The way to make an electric chair for a stage show is to build a wooden chair with the flat seat cut out like a toilet seat. Build a box underneath with a floodlight pointing upwards that can be turned on by a switch that is on the chair near the victims hand. Then add the leather straps for the wrists and ankles and a small metal bowl with a gooseneck attached for the head. Place the chair far back enough in the corner of the room that the onlookers cannot see the actual cutout especially with the green stage lights and all the fog whirling around.
When the prisoner is strapped into the chair I say "Fry him" and the executioner pulls this handle from the wall while in sync with the victim who actually hits the switch by his hand as he starts shaking in convulsions.
Anyhow my job was to play a wanton, psycho vamp. All I had to do was go around in a frenzied state whipping and chaining people to the steel jail bars and occasionally ordering the executioner to drag one of my prison slaves to the electric chair. He strapped them in and pulled the switch. All I did was give the orders. I had already had a lot of vocal coaching from being a professional musician so I found it easy to project loud high pitched screams all night without losing or hurting my voice.
There were several different rooms in this haunted house. I recall that there was a witches brewing room with a big cauldron and several jars of weird looking stuff. Another room was Dr. Frankenstein's room fully equipped with a surgeon's table. There was another room with a Freddy Krueger like chainsaw massacre type theme. I remember an Egyptian room with a mummy that had risen from the dead, a Dracula scene and a werewolf.
Anyhow, pretty soon I started hearing people over talking saying "I wanna go in the Dungeon with the Dungeon Master". I overheard it a few times during breaks and stuff and then I noticed that actors from the other scenes started walking over during breaks and asking my appointed slaves to let them switch positions for one run in the dungeon. It kept happening over and over again. Pretty soon all the guys wanted to be in the dungeon. I have a feeling at one time or another during that two week period every single guy working as an actor ended up switching their position for a temporary spot in my dungeon.
Now years later, in my Los Angeles home, the walls in the living room are fauxed (hand painted) with concrete cinderblocks to look like a castle inside. When I painted these walls I was thinking "Rocker's Castle". The place is really cool with stained glass lighting, ball and claw feet velvet furniture, candelabras, a baby grand piano and more. Often when I've invite people over I hear "Wow. this place is trip!". Occasionally I've heard the remark "You know this kinda looks like a dungeon" as their eyes light up with this kinky grin. I just ignore it and don't even go there but then again who knows... Maybe someday the right guy will just happen to walk through these doors and say the right thing at the right time...