Quick Review: UNREQUITED INFATUATIONS by Stevie Van Zandt (Hachette)

VanZandtS-UnrequitedInfatuationsUSHCA fascinating and fun memoir from one of rock’s great guitarists and characters

Uncover never-before-told stories in this epic tale of self-discovery by a Rock n Roll disciple and member of the E Street Band.

What story begins in a bedroom in suburban New Jersey in the early ’60s, unfolds on some of the country’s largest stages, and then ranges across the globe, demonstrating over and over again how Rock and Roll has the power to change the world for the better? This story.

The first true heartbeat of Unrequited Infatuations  is the moment when Stevie Van Zandt trades in his devotion to the Baptist religion for an obsession with Rock and Roll. Groups like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones created new ideas of community, creative risk, and principled rebellion. They changed him forever. While still a teenager, he met Bruce Springsteen, a like-minded outcast/true believer who became one of his most important friends and bandmates. As Miami Steve, Van Zandt anchored the E Street Band as they conquered the Rock and Roll world.

And then, in the early ’80s, Van Zandt stepped away from E Street to embark on his own odyssey. He refashioned himself as Little Steven, a political songwriter and performer, fell in love with Maureen Santoro who greatly expanded his artistic palette, and visited the world’s hot spots as an artist/journalist to not just better understand them, but to help change them. Most famously, he masterminded the recording of “Sun City,” an anti-apartheid anthem that sped the demise of South Africa’s institutionalized racism and helped get Nelson Mandela out of prison.

By the ’90s, Van Zandt had lived at least two lives — one as a mainstream rocker, one as a hardcore activist. It was time for a third. David Chase invited Van Zandt to be a part of his new television show, the Sopranos — as Silvio Dante, he was the unconditionally loyal consiglieri who sat at the right hand of Tony Soprano (a relationship that oddly mirrored his real-life relationship with Bruce Springsteen).

Underlying all of Van Zandt’s various incarnations was a devotion to preserving the centrality of the arts, especially the endangered species of Rock. In the twenty-first century, Van Zandt founded a groundbreaking radio show (Little Steven’s Underground Garage), created the first two 24/7 branded music channels on SiriusXM (Underground Garage and Outlaw Country), started a fiercely independent record label (Wicked Cool), and developed a curriculum to teach students of all ages through the medium of music history. He also rejoined the E Street Band for what has now been a twenty-year victory lap.

Guitarist in the E Street Band, long-time friend of Bruce Springsteen, Silvio Dante in The Sopranos, political activist, standard bearer for rock ‘n’ roll. Stevie Van Zandt has been, and still is, many things. As evidenced by this memoir, he is also a great storyteller. I had high hopes for Unrequited Infatuations, but it absolutely exceeded them. Fascinating and fun, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE WORDS OF EVERY SONG by Liz Moore (Windmill/Broadway)

MooreL-WordsOfEverySongUKAn interlinked tour through the New York music industry, and some of the lives it intersects with…

The Words of Every Song takes the form of fourteen linked episodes, each centering on a character involved with the music industry. There’s the arrogantly hip, twenty-six-year-old A&R man; the rising young singer-songwriter; the established, arena-filling rock star on the verge of a midlife crisis; the type-A female executive with the heavy social calendar; and other recognizable figures.

Set in the sleek offices, high-tech recording studios, and grungy downtown clubs of New York, The Words of Every Song offers an authenticity drawn from Liz Moore’s own experience and brings an insider’s touch to its depiction of the music industry and its denizens.

Liz Moore’s The Words of Every Song takes readers on a trip through the contemporary music industry, as witnessed through the eyes and lives of a mixed cast of characters. Each of these episodes is linked with at least one of the others, and is an interesting collection of character studies. I enjoyed this. Continue reading

Music Review: Linkin Park’s HYBRID THEORY 20th Anniversary Edition

LinkinPark-HybridTheory20thA huge new music set from one of nu-metal’s megastars

Like many people who were in their mid-teens as the 1990s ticked over to 2000s, I love Hybrid Theory, Linkin Park’s debut. Chester Bennington’s immense vocal skills leapt out of the speakers, the music sounded big, brash, and catchy AF. The band had their hooks in my mind from the first listen, and aside from a couple of albums that felt phoned in, I’ve been a fan ever since. I don’t believe there’s a day that’s gone by when I haven’t listen to at least one LP song.

Hybrid Theory was an album that was very much of its time, but still sounds good 20 years later. To celebrate the milestone anniversary, the band did a deep dive into their archives, and have assembled a huge set with over 80 tracks, many of them rare or previously unreleased.

But should you buy it? Well… Continue reading

Review: THEY DON’T NEED TO UNDERSTAND by Andy Biersack (Rare Bird Books)

BiersackA-TheyDontNeedToUnderstandUSAn interesting, engaging memoir of a highly-driven young rock star

Before he was the charismatic singer of Black Veil Brides and an accomplished solo artist under the Andy Black moniker, he was Andrew Dennis Biersack, an imaginative and creative kid in Cincinnati, Ohio, struggling with anxiety, fear, loneliness, and the impossible task of fitting in. With his trademark charm, clever wit, and insightful analysis, Biersack tells the story of his childhood and adolescence.

The discovery of the artistic passions that would shape his life, and his decision to move to Hollywood after his 18th birthday to make his dreams come true, even when it meant living in his car to make it all a reality. It’s the origin story of one of modern rock’s most exciting young superheroes, from building miniature concerts with KISS action figures in his bedroom to making the RIAA gold-certified single “In the End” and connecting with passionate fans worldwide.

I’ve been a fan of Black Veil Brides since their second album, Set the World on Fire. This was during a time when I wasn’t reading as much music journalism as used to. As a result, I didn’t know much about the band, and when I learned that Biersack had written a memoir, I was keen to read it and find out more about his and the band’s history. They Don’t Need to Understand is an engaging memoir. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Quick Review: PANIC by From Ashes to New (Better Noise Records)

FromAshesToNew-PanicI’m sure I heard of From Ashes to New before the release of Panic, no doubt referred to as a new standard bearer for modern nü-metal. When they dropped their video for the first, eponymous single from this album, I thought they were pretty good and yes, they reminded me of Linkin Park. Uncannily so, in fact.

This made my reaction to Panic a little unfair, I’ll admit, but it is simply impossible to not think of From Ashes to New’s obvious primary influence. Continue reading

Music: TOSS A COIN TO YOUR WITCHER, a Metal Version…

Well, this is pretty cool: Trivium frontman Matt Heafy has recorded a metal cover of “Toss a Coin to Your Witcher”. It works rather well, too. The song is the catchy-AF song from The Witcher TV adaptation.

You can watch Season 1 of The Witcher on Netflix. Andrzej Sapkowski’s Witcher novels are published by Orbit in North America and Gollancz in the UK. Trivium’s latest album, What the Dead Men Say, is out now via Roadrunner Records. The title track is the latest single, and you can watch the video for that, below:

Quick Review: HEAVY by Dan Franklin (Constable)

FranklinD-HeavyUKWhat exactly is heavy metal music? How deep do its roots go?

Long established as an undeniable force in culture, metal traces its roots back to leather-clad iron men like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, who imbued their music with a mysterious and raw undercurrent of power.

Heavy unearths this elusive force, delving deep into the fertile culture that allowed a distinctive new sound to flourish and flaying the source material to get to the beating heart of the music. From the imminent threat of nuclear apocalypse that gave rise to Metallica’s brand of volatile thrash metal to Bloodbath and Carcass, the death metal bands resurrecting the horror of medieval art.

But there are always more lines to be drawn. Cradle of Filth and Ulver trade in the transgressive impulses of gothic literature; Pantera lay bare Nietzsche’s ‘superman’; getting high leads to the escapist sci-fi dirges of Sleep and Electric Wizard; while the recovery of long-buried urns in the seventeenth century holds the key to the drone of Sunn O))).

Dissecting music that resonates with millions, Heavy sees Slipknot wrestling with the trauma of 9/11, Alice in Chains exposing the wounds of Vietnam and Iron Maiden conjuring visions of a heroic England. Powerful, evocative and sometimes sinister, it gives shape and meaning to the terrible beauty of metal.

This is a fascinating, intelligent and engaging examination of what it means for music (and a few other things) to be “heavy”. Using a few bands, their windows and genres as windows into the worlds of heavy metal, Franklin takes readers on an interesting tour of heavy music over the last few decades. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Guitarists jam the Game of Thrones Theme Song…

Above is a video released by Fender, featuring a number of great guitarists working on the Game of Thrones theme tune, played on GoT-themed axes. Joining Tom Morello of Audioslave/Rage Against The Machine, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, and Brad Paisley, are Dan Weiss (show creator) and the original theme composer, Ramin Djawadi.

Given that the final episode airs this evening, it seemed appropriate to share the video today. Enjoy!

Quick Review: DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Doubleday/Ballantine/Hutchinson)

ReidTJ-DaisyJones&TheSixUSA superb “oral history” of a band that rocked the 70s

Everyone knows DAISY JONES & THE SIX, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity… until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

I’ve been eagerly anticipating this novel ever since it was announced, pretty much. I read it as soon as I received it, and I’m very happy to report that it lived up to my expectations. One of my favourite books of the year so far, I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Interview with SCOTTO MOORE

7175b11415dc5d1f547365f299d07d6b_400x400Let’s start with an introduction: Who is Scotto Moore?

I’ve been a playwright in Seattle for the past fifteen years, focused on bringing ambitious science fiction and science fantasy stories to the stage. Sometimes they’re comedic, like H.P. Lovecraft: Stand-Up Comedian! which envisions Howie Lovecraft as a modern day comic expressing his vision of the mythos through increasingly dangerous stand-up routines. And sometimes they’re dark, like my recent musical, Silhouette, about a genocidal war fleet hunting down immortal mutineers in hiding. I’ve written shows about a genetics lab where experiments produce sentient, intelligent (and singing) mice; scientists who weaponize linguistic techniques; inventors who capture and transmit digital emotions; and an infinitely tall building at the center of the multiverse where demiurges and interdimensional travelers mingle.

I’ve also been a music blogger for more than a decade, and over the past year and half or so, I’ve become a progressive house DJ. Not for a living — just in my living room and at the occasional party. And I write a deeply absurd Lovecraft-themed meme generator on Tumblr called Things That Cannot Save You. Continue reading