Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tommy Lee - Methods of Mayhem

Tommy Lee gives good phone. He's the consummate professional when it comes to interviews. Don't be fooled by his easy going charm and natural flirtatiousness; Behind it lies a disarming intelligence and an instinct that knows exactly how to perpetuate and sell the rock & roll myth we all want - and need - to buy into.

It's not that he's is being insincere - far from it - it's well documented that the drummer-turned-multi instrumentalist walks the walk as well as talking the talk. However, all rock & roll shenanigans aside, when it counts, Lee seriously has his shit together - like on the designated press day for his new Methods of Mayhem album, A Public Disservice Announcement.

Fielding questions from an endless procession of rock critics and music writers can be a tedious task. It's therefore not uncommon for artists to flake entirely or give jaded responses. However Lee is diligently going through his record label supplied phone list, giving his all and - no doubt - successfully connecting to each of the journalists on it on some level.

It's this balance of work vs. play that has helped Lee stay on top of his game for over three decades - that and the fact that he is still genuinely excited to be making music and talking about it with those that love it too. Thus, though SuicideGirls are not the type to wait around for the phone to ring, we found ourselves doing just that one Friday afternoon...

Read my exclusive interview with Tommy Lee on SuicideGirls.com, and preview "All I Wanna Do" from A Public Disservice Announcement on the SG Blog.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chester Bennington: Linkin Park

“We're willing to put our balls on the line.”

- Chester Bennington

It's been over a decade since Linkin Park released their debut album, Hybrid Theory, which spawned the breakout, radio-friendly crossover hits "Crawling" and "In the End." The SoCal rock/rap band, whose vocal interplay between singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda became their sonic signature, have come a long way since then.

But though Linkin Park's subsequent full-length offerings, Meteora (2003) and Minutes to Midnight (2007), were solid performers, they failed to match the excitement of the band's initial release. Consequently, when we were invited to a special laser listening event a week ahead of the street date for Linkin Park's fourth studio album, A Thousand Suns, we weren't sure what to expect. However, the album - and its presentation - quite frankly, blew us away. And, judging by the reactions of those gathered at Hollywood's Music Box Theatre, we weren't the only ones who felt that way.

Though not strictly a concept album, in an age of single song MP3 downloads, A Thousand Suns is somewhat of a concept by default - being a collection of tracks that are specifically intended to be listened to old-school style, in order, in their entirety. Having toyed with the idea of not even breaking A Thousand Suns into separate song files, the band chose to premiere the album in front of a select group of fans and press at the aforementioned listening party by playing it from start to finish, with Pink Floyd-style laser visuals serving to focus minds and energy, and underscore the vintage Dark Side of the Moon-style album effect.

Less than a week later, Linkin Park similarly exceeded expectations when they performed the first single off the album, "The Catalyst," during MTV's 2010 Video Music Awards. The epic performance, which was broadcast from the iconic Griffith Park Observatory, surprised fans and non-fans alike.

I caught up with the Linkin Park's frontman, Chester Bennington, by phone to find out how the band busted out of their music box.

Read my exclusive interview with Linkin Park's Chester Bennington on SuicideGirls.com, and hit my photo gallery for more images from Linkin Park's Laser Listening Party at The Music Box.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tank Girl, Genesis, and The Cool-Crap-Continuum

With her idiosyncratic style, DIY aesthetic, and kick-ass attitude, Tank Girl, who made her debut in Deadline in 1988, is without question a proto-SG. I was therefore jolly chuffed to receive a spiffy, glossy bound copy of her latest adventure, Skidmarks. Written by Tank Girl co-creator Alan Martin and drawn by the awesomely awesome* Rufus Dayglo, the gzillion thrills a minute plot is basically Wacky Races for an audience with a penchant for punk rock, smelly chicks (Tankie rolls with a pungent aroma), on-fire farts (see previous) and esoteric references.

Having grown up in a universe somewhat similar to Martin and Dayglo’s, these seemingly random and bizarre nods to popular culture perhaps make more sense to me than most. However I was particularly confused and disturbed by a reference to Genesis, the well-shite** British band that was once fronted by Phil “I-Dumped-My-Woman-By-Fax” Collins. If Tank Girl had been kicking their collective butts, or nuking the entire world supply of We Can’t Dance albums, I might have understood. However the band’s inclusion in a non-painful, non-violent, and non-deadly context seemed, quite frankly, the far side of wrong.

Then I turned another page, and, thanks to an essay Martin had helpfully included in Skidmarks, much about life, the universe, and Tank Girl suddenly became clear:

Read Alan Martin's Cool-Crap-Continuum manifesto at SuicideGirls.com.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gary Numan: The Pleasure Principle

The Pleasure Principle is an album that's provided its maker, Gary Numan, with both instant and delayed gratification. Three decades ago, when the now classic electro album first came out, it made a massive impact culturally and commercially. The Pleasure Principle, and the iconic single it spawned, “Cars”, hit the number one spot simultaneously on the album and singles charts in the UK in September, 1979. The following year, the records crashed the US Billboard charts, making the painfully shy young vocalist, composer and musician a household name here too.

Numan's Kraftwerk-inspired tracks, which channeled the voice of the machine, had a raw energy and DIY aesthetic that served as the bridge between '70s punk and the early dance and hip-hop scenes of the 1980s. Indeed the bare break beats from the opening segment of "Films" (the fourth track on The Pleasure Principle) became the sample of choice for a generation of producers, thanks in part to the song's inclusion on Street Beat's tastemaker compilation series Ultimate Breaks and Beats (which served as the primary DJ and studio sample resource pre-CD).

Ironically, as the spotlight faded on Numan, the sounds he created proliferated exponentially through the fabric of pop music culture. As a new generation of producers sampled samples, the origins of these staple breaks escaped many. However those in the know - such as Basement Jaxx, Armand Van Heldon, Afrika Bambaataa and Dr. Dre - openly covered, used, credited and paid homage to Numan's body of work.

In 2002, Numan once again toped the charts in the UK with an all-girl band called the Sugababes and a song called "Freak Like Me." The track was essentially a highly produced and super slick mash-up of the top line from Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" and the riff and groove lifted directly from "Are Friends Electric," a song Numan recorded pre-Principle with his band Tubeway Army (which first hit the #1 single spot across the Atlantic in May, 1979).

More recently, Trent Reznor outed himself as a fan, inviting Numan to perform his songs with Nine Inch Nails during the band's 2009 shows in London and Los Angeles. The strong reaction Numan received following his guest spots at NIN's four final shows in LA in particular turned heads, and a coveted invite to play Coachella this year was forthcoming. Unfortunately, fallout from a volcano in Iceland, which grounded flights throughout Europe, meant that Numan, along with several other artists, was unavoidably a no-show at the festival. However fans won't be disappointed for long, since a dedicated tour honoring the 30th Anniversary of The Pleasure Principle will stop off in 15 US cities this fall.

I called Numan up at the East Sussex home he shares with his wife and three children to talk about the shows, his music - past and present - and the realities of life beyond The Pleasure Principle.

Read my exclusive interview with Gary Numan at SuicideGirls.com.