Saturday, February 26, 2005

All 80's Weekend At My Place

Hey Soul Mates,
yes, nothing but hits from the 80's! First the INXS tryouts on Friday. Tonight, I'm going to see Duran Duran at the Staples Center. And Sunday, I'll be taking a crack at reviewing 80's hoops classic Hoosier for DVD Movie Central (see link). Inbetween, I have some writing and rehearsing to do.
Have a great Saturday everybody!

Video killed the radio star because she blinded me with science and I'm hungry like the wolf. Are you ready for the new sensation in a big country?
Love, Power, Peace

Friday, February 25, 2005

INXS tryout

Hey Soul Mates,
I'm just in from a looong morning into afternoon at the Whisky A Go-Go. Today, I auditioned for CBS' new reality series "RockStar." The gist is that the winner of the contest will become the new lead singer for INXS. Recording a new record in LA and touring being the big prizes. If you've read my web bio, you know this is one of my chief writing influences. I'd seen INXS in concert in 2001 on their Just For Kicks tour with replacement lead singer Jon Stevens. Their live show was very entertaining, like a virtual jukebox of hits. I never did see INXS with original lead singer Michael Hutchence, but I have the DVDs.

I didn't make up my mind to go to the audition until about 8:15. So with nasty traffic, I got into Hollywood around 9:30 a.m. wearing dark blue jeans, a red shirt, a new/vintage silver tuxedo jacket and my favorite shades. And proceeded to wait for 5 hours before getting in. There weren't that many contestants ahead of me (I was #129), it was just a tiring wait in the sun. But, the weather was nice. I think I was one of the few aspirants that even cares about the musical legacy of INXS. My audition piece was their '92 single Not Enough Time. I think the producers appreciated that I performed one of INXS' songs. I felt that I was alright. Not spectacular, as my audition was done a cappella. Other contestants brought backing tracks or instruments. My theory is: The band plays their instruments pretty well. They don't need me mucking it up. Anyway, I thought I was passable. If they are looking for someone to carry the torch of INXS rather than re-invent the wheel, I think they could do much worse than having me. And I'd be honored to have the job.

Very few of the people in line with me were talking about INXS or their music. In fact, several people pleaded ignorance and admitted they knew none of their songs. Many of the singers were old school glam screamers and the typical Hollywood burnouts. But several people seemed to have their own thing going on. There were male and female contestants and the age limit was 21 and up. So there was a wide variety of faces. Several CBS news crews roamed the crowd doing small interviews and getting people to sing. I wasn't asked a thing. And that didn't disappoint me. The only comment I got was from Lisa Joyner, who tried to make fun of my overdressing in the heat.

When I finally got to the front of the line, I had my picture taken. Then I (mercifully) was let in to the Whisky. I went straight to the Men's (My thanks to Larry Flynt and his staff for allowing me to use their facilities earlier free of charge). Once in the venue, I had to wait another 20 minutes and witness some other people's performances. Not impressive. Ain't saying I was great shakes, but most of these people have no business trying out, other than for the Hung Effect. Everyone, including myself, was encouraging nonetheless and that spirit was welcome. Currently my back is quite sore from standing for so long, but you gotta play through the pain.

The band were not present for my audition; I had seen them leave the scene on foot around 12:30. Too bad. I was hoping to say "hello." Overall it was a fun experience. I certainly would have begged for the chance if I didn't live in LA. Ah, the City Life. If I am called back, I'll keep you posted. Otherwise, I'll see you on tour with Rush Hour Soul.
Love, Power, Peace

Editor's note (aug. 20, 2005): I did not get a call back for the show. "Rockstar" is currently airing, but I haven't had a chance to watch a single minute of it. Best of luck to INXS.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Michael Jackson

Hey Soul Mates,
A few weeks ago, while driving to Anaheim, I threw in the Jackson 5's Greatest Hits. By the time the disc was done, I was nearly in tears. The dozen tracks on that CD are filled with hooks and heart. They remind me of my childhood. Of (truly) simpler times. Of cutting out a Jackson 5 single off the back of an Alphabits cereal box. Of playing the Jackson 5 cartoon board game. Of putting Jackson stickers on my dresser. The first fan club I belonged to? The Jackson 5's. The first concert I ever attended? The Jackson 5. The first LP bought for me and my brother? ABC by the J5. The first LP I ever taped to cassette? Thriller. In particular, the J5's hits are filled with joy & innocence. They are pop masterpieces aimed at an ageless audience.

My mom and dad knew how much I loved Michael Jackson in particular. Birthdays or holidays would be punctuated by the gift of the latest record, 45 or 8 track from the Jacksons. I remember haggling over Thriller with my brother. I wound up with Janet's album. Nate kept Thriller. I've never thought of myself as a good dancer, but I'd do my best to be Michael in our living room. Dancing and shouting along to the records. At the first concert I ever attended, my dad made sure I was sitting on the aisle, so when the brothers came running through the audience I could shake Michael's hand. You never forget moments like that. I was 5. I'll never have another moment like that. Period. Thanks, Dad.

My mother and I used to comment upon Michael's appearance throughout the 1980's. I used to want to be Michael, but my nose was too small, my hair too straight, my skin too light. Then... about 1985 we crossed the image line. Suddenly Michael's nose was narrower than mine. His hair was jheri-curled and then straightened. Something I'd never achieve in the Florida humidity. And I was darker than Michael Jackson! I used to think he got odd looking in 1987. But I am wrong. He still looked pretty handsome then. It really wasn't until 1994 that his appearance became unsettling. There are pictures of him currently that look normal. There are. I think that media enjoys distorting the image further, which isn't helpful.

Many of you have heard me cover State Of Shock. That's one of his rawest grooves. And the fact that Mick Jagger is singing with Michael... mm! mm! HMM! I've always loved that track. Then I found a demo of Michael singing it with Freddie Mercury. Only Michael had the vision to duet with these people on such a potent track. I've always felt that State Of Shock (released in 1984) is the perfect musical representation of my taste. Rock, Soul, Mick, Mike, Groove, Church, Crunch. My love of Michael only began to wane in the Fall of '84 when Purple Rain planted itself on my record player for the next year.

Michael OWNED a decade. There was little that he did that wasn't a global phenomenon. Off The Wall; Triumph with his brothers; Thriller and it's record 8 Grammys; The Moonwalk on Motown 25 (Damn. The Moonwalk. Every kid I know at school saw that live on tv. And every last one of us was trying to do it the next day!); The Pepsi sponsorship; The Victory Tour (very expensive tickets. Thanks, Mom); (it's a crap song, but) We Are The World; The Captain EO 3D movie at Disney; Bad; the '88 Grammy performance of Man In The Mirror; Being one of the first celebrity voices on the Simpsons; videos directed by Scorsese, Landis, Singleton, Coppola. From 1979 to 1992, he was Pop Culture. Sure he was mocked in his prime, by Eddie Murphy most notably. We all began to scoff at the glove and Bubbles over time. But as it was happening? Michael was untouchable.

Anyone who knows me knows I like to say that Michael Jackson died in 1991. 1991 was the release of Dangerous. Although it's chock full of hits, Michaels outsized personality overshadowed the album's songs. A ferociously talented being became unrecognizable. From here the quality of the music lagged. He was in trouble with the law, pain killers, cancelled tours, odd marriages... I reckoned he had been replaced by a robot or returned to his home planet. Anything to hide my own disappointment in a hero. Certainly his sales have dipped in the past decade. Nevertheless, I have continued to support Michael's art. I possess a copy of just about everything he ever recorded in one format or another. Vinyl, 45s, CDs, eight tracks. His music is timeless. Vibrant. Listen to I Want You Back and that's all you'll ever need to know about pop music. You could say the same thing about Billie Jean, The Way You Make Me Feel, Beat It, or ABC. Everyone on the planet over the age of 10 knows all of these songs by heart. But in time, even Michael couldn't reach the highwatermarks of his heyday. Unrealistic expectations do in most artists, including the trailblazers. To paraphrase, "He had the poor taste to not die young." Instead, we are confronted with our own hopes and fears about the public figures, the popular stars we embrace.

Child molestation is not to be taken lightly. I believe Michael is innocent, until proven guilty. Sadly for celebrities, and everyday folk, there are poisons in the universe; people who would take advantage of, blackmail or abuse the trust of them, simply because they have fame and/or money. And we must protect children. That's what makes this case so insidious. Could Michael have been dumb enough to put himself in this position again? Is he guilty? Is this a opportunistic family of leeches? You had to figure that this problem would rear its ugly head again. That makes the case difficult for many of us. Anyone between the age of 20 and 50 has a vested cultural interest in this case. How to separate the man from the myth from the reality? No one this legendary has ever stood trial. No black person this well-known has. OJ's stature was bushleague in comparison.

I wonder what Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist would have thought. We made a god, only to tear it asunder. Or, he thought he was powerful enough as to be beyond the law. Or, damn... he's only human. It's not our fault that Michael is unbalanced. But, his is a singularly abnormal existence. No celebrity, NO celebrity has ever shown brighter than Michael Jackson in his prime. Apologies to Mozart, Michelangelo and Muhammad Ali. He is the only megawatt star; the most famous person to walk the planet that wasn't the basis for a religion (although some fans would beg to differ). Michael's face and his music are more well-known world wide than any other. Outside America, the point-of-view is even more Michaelcentric. For some time, he represented the great American dream. Poverty stricken black youth succeeds where no one else had dared to tread. He's the Jackie Robinson of the MTV era. That's no joke. That's the tragedy. There were no black faces in the videos on MTV. He opened the door for all modern black entertainers. He set the standard for the music video. MTV at one time named their Video Vanguard Award the "Michael Jackson."

The music, the art, should manage to live on with impugnity. The tracks that Michael released are among the most ambitious and melodic pop songs we've ever heard. Do what I did, put on some headphones and crank up those original 80's discs. Especially Thriller. You'll be amazed at what you hear with fresh ears 20+ years on. The tunes are immaculate. The performances are without peer. And that's without the benefit of video. These songs are part of our vernacular, our fabric. So for the last two decades, they've been taken for granted. To listen to them anew is to rediscover genius. I had forgotten cuts like PYT, Human Nature and Baby Be Mine. You have to be really jaded and work very hard to dislike Thriller. The world worked itself into a frenzy over this album and made MJ an icon for the ages. Oh, this note today from the MJJ website: "[T]he artist's legendary mainstay on the R&B/Hip-Hop Catalog Chart Thriller amassed its 320th week on the chart shifting an additional 14,000 units for the month." That's this past January, 2005. That's incredible. I for one bought a new copy (the 2001 re-issue boasts superior sound to the original CD pressing and bonus tracks) of it last week.

A month ago, Bad was in my walkman for a week solid. I listened to it walking back and forth to work. It was like reuniting with an old friend. And still remembering every move. Michael's music is like that. Bad makes me sing along. I Wanna Be Where You Are can still make me cry. The Love You Save can make me dance. Beat It is burned into my psyche. I know this blog rambled, there was a lot to express and this is just 1% of it.

Michael's alleged victim deserves his day in court, as does Michael. We'll hear the gory details and the judgment. Regardless of the outcome, Michael's musical career has waned. It's going to be difficult for many to make the break and remember what they once loved about MJ. How will you remember Michael when it's done? How will you feel about his art? I for one will still cherish the music, but for me the man has been gone for quite some time. And that breaks my heart.

Love, Power, Peace and justice for all.
Mama Say Mama Sa, Ma Ma Koo Sah.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

So Long, Raoul

Hey Soul Mates,
just a quick shout out to journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who did himself in tonight... finally. Thanks for a perspective, a favorite piece of "non-fiction" and a band name. It was a wild ride on this side. If you've never read any of his work, it's got flashes of genius; Ego-mania; Drug fueled paranoia; Lies. All the hallmarks of good writing. Ciao, Duke.

For the latest with Rush Hour Soul: rehearsal was fantastic yesterday. Despite the rain, we've been cooking up our new material and we will be debuting a new funk number at the next show, March 2. It's a gas to play. I can't wait to see you all dancing to it!

Bryan and I have also been working up songs here at the pad. There are at least 3 new things that I think are going to go over very well. It's been a productive week. Tonight, Bryan and I took a break and watched Napoleon Dynamite. Not bad. Not great, but worth a rental. Bry says his favorite line is "I caught you a delicious sea bass."

Hope none of you float away in this nastiness here in LA.

Love, Power, Peace

Friday, February 18, 2005

Just Checking In

Hey Soul Mates,
I know it's been a few days since last I wrote. I have been busy. Let's see. Last night, Bryan came over after American Idol. We worked on new material for about an hour and a half. We were fleshing out a funk number the group is working on when we stumbled upon a whole new song. Which is very cool and lots of fun. So we nearly finished the new idea before turning our attention back. Then we worked on a couple of Bry's new ideas. All very cool stuff. Once we get Doug playing on these numbers they will be solid. Then I'll work out some lyrical ideas.

I've also been working on a design for our custom pics. Which we should have in time for our next show at the Gig.

Tonight, I went to a new place called Tangier on Hillhurst in Los Feliz. My buddies, the Waking Hours were doing an acoustic set. The vibe of the place is definitely "rock the kasbah." Plush reds and middle eastern trappings. Dunno if the food is good, but the bottle of pellegrino was vintage. It was a fun night. The WH's set was laid back. I particularly liked Someday Soon & Sunshine. They invited me to join them onstage for their final number, "Please, Please Me." I sang the high harmonies. Good fun. I think I acquitted myself nicely. Tom & Ricky also introduced me to Chris Cester, the drummer from Jet. Very nice guy. Hope he and Rick don't cause too much trouble tonight. Ha. Jet put out one of my favorite singles last year "Are You Gonna Be My Girl." And their latest video features the band in a version of Bambi gone wrong. Robbie Rist was also in the house. Always good to see him, although I had to leave before the band he was sitting in with played. Note: the Tangier ran about 40 minutes behind schedule.

Gotta do some work now.
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Joint, Feb 11 In Review

Hey Soul Mates,
we had a great time entertaining everyone who braved the rain at the Joint last night. The line-up was cool, because all the acts drew, meaning we played to a full house. Of course, that's quite a few people in the newly expanded Joint. Thanks to you all. And thanks to the Joint for having us. It's a pleasure to know that the band is in demand at venues and that we are appreciated for our performances and our fans. That means a lot.

We threw down last night. The 3 of us really felt good about our performance and we got some good feedback from the people in attendance. If you are one of those who decided that you can wait to see us in the future... the future is now. YOU NEED TO SEE US. We are blazing. Ask anyone who was there.

Some people complain about having to pay a cover charge or "driving over the hill." $5 is not a lot of money. And our drummer drives 90 minutes to get to most of our shows. Heck, Portner drove in from Vegas. Pretty soon, it's gonna cost $50 to see us and you won't get anywhere near the stage. We's a bad bunch of RHS!!

The set list was as follows:
Fall Out
Saffron Dancer
Down By Love (brand new song)
She Wants To Move (NERD cover)
Done Lost My Mind
The Isolation
Everyone's Ingenue
Hold On, I'm Coming
Sucka (encore)

Now, before anyone calls me uppity: OUR NEXT SHOW IS FREE. It will be on Wednesday, March 2 at 8 PM at the Gig Hollywood on Melrose. If you want free tickets, e-mail us. If you want to be on the guest list, 'cuz that's more convenient, e-mail us. This is a big showcase for us. If you care about the future of RHS, be there. We don't need to hear excuses for why people can't attend (We feel sorry for you for missing the show). We want to share our music with as many people as possible. We can't do this in a vacuum. Our success really depends on you, the fans.

See you on the 2nd!
Love, Power, Peace

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ah, Technology

Hey Soul Mates,
I'm just in from our last rehearsal before our show on Friday. It was very productive; but quite warm in the studio. We are ready to entertain you. Are you ready for us?

I've just created a fun thing on MySpace: it's your very own
RHS Soul Mates' Group. If you haven't been to check us our on MySpace, what are you waiting for? You can listen to streaming songs on the site, maybe even make some new friends. On the group, you can post (tasteful) bulletins, notes and pictures. Be advised we have a fan base that is wide and varied, so try not to offend too many people with your input... Portner. LOL.

See you on Friday,
Love, Power, Peace.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Check Out The New Main Page Design

Hey Soul Mates,
whaddya think? Click the "link." I wanted to make the main page more obvious and a little more modern. Hope you like it.

Have a great week. See you on Friday at the Joint!
Love, Power, Peace

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Luckiest Boy On Earth

Hey Soul Mates,
it has been a wonderful birthday morning. Began with a jog beneath the Hollywood sign. The trail overlooks Lake Hollywood. In the fog this morning it actually looked like a Scottish Loch. Perhaps, Loch Holliewyde. There were very few people about, but there was a bluebird (!) and some eastern european tourist who rode up in a cab to take pictures.

OK. Remember my post about Tony Millionaire: The Genius. I'm the luckiest boy on earth. Today my wish came true! My beloved gave me "Duck-Hat/Poo Poo" the original art by Mr. Millionaire. I haven't laughed so hard in so long as that strip makes me break up. You know I've been lusting after Tony's original strips for some time and to receive one that I particularly loved is amazing.
This is me and my New Arte Worke.

Someday, I believe Tony's strips will hold a respected place in the comics pantheon. Or at least have a key to the men's room. Thanks, Tony for the artistry and thanks to my own for the thoughtfulness.

I wish you all a great day, after all, it's my birthday. Why not?
Love, Power, Peace

Friday, February 04, 2005

I Love This Town

Hey Soul Mates,
it's been a good night. I have nearly polished off the first of two new songs we will be debuting at our next show. It's the midtempo number I mentioned. Bryan came in with the progression and we have lifted off with it. Hopefully you'll enjoy it.

Why do I love this town? I just got back from my neighborhood Ralph's supermarket. Behind me at the checkout line was actor Paul Gleason, the principal from Breakfast Club. I wanted to say "Hello," but the urge to follow it with "Eat my shorts was too great." So I didn't bother him. Oh, my goodness: the Breakfast Club came out 20 years ago. Wow. Don't you forget about me.

Love, Power, Peace

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Oasis 10 Years Later

Hey Soul Mates,
here's an odd anniversary for you from my musical recollections.

There have been many influences on my music and my desire to perform. But one major experience reaffirmed my need to be in a band: seeing Oasis perform live at the Palace on Vine, 3 Feb 1995. I had picked up their disc at the (now defunct) Blockbuster music on Vine St. It was the first time I ever listened to a new CD at a store before buying it. I had seen the disc at shops, but it wasn't until I saw them on the cover of the first copy of MOJO I bought that it clicked. The article was entitled "The Band You've Always Wanted!" This was the vanguard of Britpop which lead me to blur, Pulp, Supergrass, Manic Street Preachers and many others. It also revived my love of the Kinks and the Beatles (on the cusp of the Anthology releases). While my writing doesn't particularly resemble that of any of these groups, they certainly were a motivating factor. From the opening blast of Rock 'n' Roll Star, through the beautiful Live Forever and the grinding Cigarettes and Alcohol I was hooked. I couldn't get enough of their CD & import singles. Naturally, I wanted to see the live act.

Oasis was my first real mosh pit experience. It was the first time I was ever kicked in the head at a concert. The show was put on by KROQ and tickets were only $10.67. The show had sold out, so I had to go to a broker and pay a then-whopping $35 to see them.

Oasis basically played Definitely Maybe front to back, adding I Am The Walrus as a set closer. The live show was pretty much a note-for-note version of the record, but performance was solid. Not much action on stage either, but truckloads of attitude. Brilliant. I hung out at the Palace (now called Avalon) for a while after the show to soak up the atmosphere. As a result, I actually got to say hello to Noel Gallagher and tell him it was a fantastic set. Knowing what I know of him now, I'm surprised I didn't get punched.
But, he was polite and that formed my personal opinion of them. Recently, I revisted their first 3 records. I had forgotten the impact that group had on me. Insane hooks, lots of flair and controversy; they are true rock and roll stars. Even now, as their star waxes and wanes, I still hold Oasis in a special place in my memory. Supersonic, Mates.

Love, Power, Peace

Christopher Noll/Wylde on Idol

Hey Soul Mates,
last night AI4 got punked by one of my favorite up-and-coming comic actors, Christopher Noll aka Chris Wylde. He was the contestant that said he was a "nanny" then proceeded to improv a rap about all 3 judges and celebrity judge Brandy. The rap was very good and funny. Of course, he wasn't put through, but he was entertaining nonetheless. When he left the audition room, Noll tried to appear pissed and abusive, but having seen his act, I could tell he could barely contain his glee at having got one over on national TV. Even the painfully hip Ryan Seacrest didn't get it. It would not surprise me if his audition winds up as a sketch on his own show. It also would not surprise me in this unironic world that the producers of AI4 were in on the joke.

Chris Wylde has been on a terrifically brutal show called "Film Fakers." On the show, 3 real/amatuer actors are conned into thinking they're making a real film, usually the most Z-grade garbage, with Chris playing the director. I also saw him at a Clipper game and the Staples Center cameramen clearly knew who he was. Which is why it's fantastic that the AI people had no clue who he was. Even this morning on the news, Dorothy Lucie talked about him as if he was some desperate actor "trying to get on TV."
That's the dumbest comment anyone can make about AI or any reality show. These shows exists so people can be on TV. Why are people surprised when participants pull stunts or get outrageous or stupid and then dismiss the contestants? Frankly, it's jealousy, sour grapes or the realization that everyone is a camerawhore waiting to happen. It's hardwired into the culture now: I must be on TV to be validated as a human being. The medium is the message. The message is "I am now immortal."

If you have a dream, pursue it to the best of your ability. Get on TV if that's what your goal is. Just remember, the world is watching.

Love, Power, Peace

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dedicated to Jeff Sessler

Hey Soul Mates,
just in from the Big Monday at the Joint. It was a good night for music. Blondie Chaplin was in great form on "Change Is Gonna Come." Keith Allison (of Paul Revere and the Raiders) did a nice take on "Parachute Woman." I also got a chance to chat with Richard Bosworth, our producer about our project and some other things he is working on. I also fliered the place. Hopefully a few of the folks will deem it worth their while to check us out next Friday.

The sad news I got from Kim (one of the Big Monday regulars) was that Jeff Sessler, the quasi-manager of the Big Monday crew, passed away on the 22nd. Jeff was a scruffy, roly-poly guy with a great smile. He had been a roadie for the Stones and wrangled the band that made up Waddy's group. I had seen Jeff on the 20th at the Mint for Blondie's set. 2 days later... gone. Which made me a bit sad. Jeff was always welcoming and appreciative of my attendance at Big Monday. He constantly wanted to do some sort of gig promoting our band. We only played one of his events and that was 2 years ago, but it was a success and Jeff ever after had kind things to say about me as a musician. I will miss seeing him at the Joint and said a prayer for him and his family. It actually seemed like he might come out to see our show next week. So, I dedicate our first number of the night to him. Thanks, Jeff.

Love, Power, Peace.