Interview: Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park

Minutes to Midnight

Interview: Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park
July 19, 2007 06:07 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Linkin Park drummer Rob Bourdon sees his band's latest single, "What I've Done," as evidence that the group is evolving.

Spawned from the new album "Minutes to Midnight," "What I've Done" finds rapper Mike Shinoda lurking in the background as a guitar player, thereby eliminating Linkin Park's trademark rap/rock sound.

"I think the single definitely has a new, unique sound for us," Bourdon said. "It definitely touches on some of the old elements of what we do as a band, but it also is a breath of fresh air at the same time."

Bourdon--who is joined in the band by singer Chester Bennington, guitarist Brad Delson, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, and turntablist Joseph Hahn--thinks the success of that single led to "Minutes to Midnight" selling 622,000 during its first week out, the highest first-week sales tally of any album released so far this year.

"I also think we have a really solid fan base out there, too, that went out and got the record, since we've been around for a little while now. We had our 10-year anniversary as a band and we spent a lot of time touring and on the road, really connecting with our fan base. I think that had to do something with the numbers also."

Bourdon talked to LiveDaily about the songwriting process, how the band went about choosing acts for its Projekt Revolution Tour [ tickets ] and the committees within the band.

LiveDaily: When was your 10-year anniversary? Congratulations.

Rob Bourdon: Um, we haven't really figured out the exact date, but it was somewhere in ‘97 that we came together, most of us came together. Shortly after that, Chester joined the group. We really started the concept of this band sometime in 1997.

Did you do anything special to celebrate your 10-year anniversary? Did you go out and have a drink or something?

No. We just decided to play a whole bunch of shows. We were on tour for about a year and a half.

The tour you're in the midst of is long, as well.

Yeah, we're currently in Europe. We're doing about a month over there, then we have a big tour in the US coming up, Projekt Revolution. We're bringing out a whole bunch of bands with us for that.

How did you go about choosing your bands for Projekt Revolution?

Well, we kind of all talked about the bands that we wanted to tour with. We basically just came up with a wish list of all the bands that we'd like to tour with. The way our band works is, we have miniature committees within the entire band that deal with all the different aspects of our band, from art to videos and business, and one of the committees is the touring committee. Chester and I are on that committee. We just put the word out to a bunch of bands. We were just blown away by how many of the bands on our wish list were actually able to do the tour. It's going to be a really incredible tour this summer. I'm really looking forward to it.

What other committees do you have?

We have one for art, which is mainly Mike and Joe. They are very involved in all of the album art. Joe directs our videos. We have a committee that looks after the business and legal stuff going on in the band. We do band conference calls. We try to do them once a week, just so everyone in the band has input on everything that's going on in our world. We've learned that it's really important for at least one or two people in the band to be involved in almost every decision that happens around us. We found it works better like that. Our message never gets lost in translation as long as we're involved in everything.

I noticed that "Leave Out All the Rest," the third song on "Minutes to Midnight," has a real Ministry sound to it. Is it sampled?

No, that's a completely original song. I don't know if anyone in the band listens to that much Ministry. I think it's more of a coincidence that it sounds like that. But I've heard other people comment on that too, saying it sounds like Ministry.

There's definitely a new sound on the album. It seems that Mike is being used a little less as a rapper on some of the songs.

There's definitely less rapping on this album than on the past albums. I think the best way to explain why is that, at the very beginning of the process, when we sat down with [producer] Rick Rubin, we knew we wanted to make a different album. We didn't want to follow our other albums up with a trilogy record. We knew that we wanted to do something different and Rick helped us to do that. One of the first things he told us was to forget about what we thought we should sound like as a band, just to go write whatever type of music we were inspired by. That's what we did. I think Mike was more inspired to write more melodic vocal parts. He did write a lot more rapping parts, but when we voted on the final songs, [the non-rap songs] were the ones chosen as the favorites.

How many songs did you write?

We estimate somewhere between 100 and 150. Some were very rough and just in the demo form. About 30 got closer to the final form. We ended up recording 17 total. We put 10 of those, plus an intro, on the album.

Will any of the remaining songs see the light of day?

I think so. One of them was released as an iTunes exclusive, called "No Roads Left," and I think the other ones will eventually find their way out. We don't know exactly what we're going to do with them yet. We have four or five other songs that are kind of really good and almost done. So, I think so. A lot of them will probably never see the light of day. We're going to hide them and erase them, because they're horrible.

That's a big chunk of songs from which to choose. What were you looking for?

Even though it sounds like an overwhelming amount of songs, it was a long process and every week or two we'd get together and vote on songs. A lot of them would get only one or two plays for the whole band and they'd get voted off or we would focus our energies elsewhere. When we got to the point when we had 30 songs in our A folder, like our top choice songs, we stopped the writing phase and went more into focusing on the songs and making them better.

Where did you write your songs? In the studio, on the road?

We were actually off the road for awhile before we started writing. When we came back from the "Meteora" touring cycle, we took a little time off just to relax. Mike was working on his solo project, Fort Minor, for awhile. Then, we just felt right after being home for a year, [and] we started writing together for the album. We did a lot of the writing in a studio in Hollywood that we actually rented from Korn. We worked there for about six to seven months, writing and recording. Once we had that solid batch of 30 songs [and] felt like we were ready to start recording, we moved to Rick Rubin's house in Laurel Canyon [CA] and finished writing and recording there.

Did you have a lot more freedom in the studio?

Yeah, on this album we've had more freedom in the studio than we ever had before. We didn't have a real deadline as to when we had to finish the record. There was a deadline out there, but we just kind of ignored it and kept working. We also definitely had the ability to rent and bring in a lot of different musical gear that we weren't able to do on the past records. Whenever we had an idea, someone wanted to try something crazy, we could just make a phone call and some kind of whatever instrument we wanted to work with would show up in the studio. So we were sampling a lot of different types of instruments and really experimenting a lot. A lot of the process was experimenting and writing songs that maybe weren't the greatest songs, but they led us to a new sound. It was great to have that type of freedom. I think it's really because of the success we've had with [our previous albums], it gave us the ability to have the freedom on this album.

What was it like to work with Rick Rubin?

Working with Rick was a really enjoyable experience for me. Rick is a great guy. He's really easy to get along with. He's so mellow. When he comes into the studio, it doesn't feel like this overwhelming strong hand is coming in. But he comes in and just drops these incredible suggestions and words of wisdom that keep the whole project on track.
Definitely he's the type of producer that, if you're stuck on something, he won't tell you what to do to fix it, but he'll kind of just guide you in the right direction. He'll give you some other songs to listen to or some ideas that open your mind up to going around to where you're stuck and coming up with something great. It was a real joy working with him. He definitely helped me a lot as a drummer and a musician. And definitely opened my mind up to different things and helped me to look at music and recording music in a whole new way.

What was the most important thing you learned from him?

The most important thing I think I learned from him was the way I listen to live performance. When I say that, I mean, when you record something, I used to listen to it, listening for perfection. I always thought the more perfect I had my drums sounding, the closer they were to the grid and the samples, that the better they were. I would work on them until I got them perfect. Rick was able to listen for something different in those performances and kind of evaluate them differently than I ever had before. He listened to the performance as it related to the song. If it added to the song, then it was good; if it took away from the song, it was bad, obviously. He has a great ear for real subtle things that are really hard to notice. He would pick out performances that he said were "the performance" or definitely had something special about [them]. It definitely took me a little while to understand why, but, once it clicked for me, I was able to hear something different in the performances. It changed the way I listened to recording.

Interview: Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger

Interview: Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger
May 31, 2007 04:05 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Baggage claim, the Department of Motor Vehicles, a '92 Subaru and inexpensive hotels aren't exactly typical fodder for pop songs. But Grammy nominees Fountains of Wayne can turn ordinary, everyday happenings into pop gems.

"I don't really know what inspires them, but we just like writing about everyday things and keeping them grounded in reality rather than making up songs that are really general and vague," bassist/songwriter Adam Schlesinger told LiveDaily.

"We like to be very specific and write about things that people actually might see in their normal lives."

Right now, Fountains of Wayne fans can see the band's latest album, "Traffic and Weather," in record stores. The cast of characters on "Traffic and Weather," the follow-up to 2003's "Welcome Interstate Managers"--which featured the hit "Stacy's Mom"--is indelible. Featuring Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur on backing vocals, the first single, "Someone to Love," tells the story of two New Yorkers, Seth Shapiro and Beth Mackenzie, who cross paths. The main character in "Yolanda Hayes" is an object of affection behind the glass at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Schlesinger, who wrote music for the films "Music and Lyrics" and "That Thing You Do," talked to LiveDaily about how he's spent the last four years, the random song topics and his major summer tour with Squeeze (dates for which are shown below).

LiveDaily: One thing that I noticed about "Traffic and Weather" is that it's sonically fuller than your previous efforts.

Adam Schlesinger: I would agree with that. I think it's kind of the best-sounding record we've done in terms of the recording and the mixing and the arrangements. I'm really happy with the way it sounds. We never really plan it out too much beforehand. I guess that's just kind of the way it turned out. We did sort of realize as we were working on it that there weren't quite as many stripped-down, acoustic kind of songs on this record. There's more going on in general. There's a few more intimate ones.

It seems like you were able to experiment a little bit more.

Well, part of the fun of making records in general is you have this song that's just you singing with an acoustic guitar or piano or something, and then hearing it kind of come to life in the studio and trying different arrangements and trying different things. That's the fun of making records.

You wrote some of the music for the movie "Music and Lyrics." What other projects did you work on in between the albums?

Ivy, the other band that I play in, had a record out in 2005, so I was working on that for awhile. I did some touring with Ivy. I did some producing. I co-produced a record for the band America with James Iha [formerly of Smashing Pumpkins]. That came out earlier this year, but we were working on it last year. Just bits and pieces of a bunch of other stuff. I like to stay busy.

What was it like to work with America?

It was great. It was a learning experience for us, because those guys have made so many records. They worked with [The Beatles' producer] George Martin for years. It was very relaxed. We had a great time. We learned a lot from those guys as well.

What did you learn from them?

Well, they really know how to focus on the essential elements of the songs--the vocals, melodies, harmonies. Their biggest songs are actually kind of minimalist, and they just have a good groove and a nice melody. They don't let too much distract from that. I think they're good at sort of keeping that big picture in mind. That's what we tried to do with that record.

James Iha and Melissa Auf Der Maur appeared on your record. How did you hook up with them?

James and I co-own a recording studio with Andy Chase, who plays in Ivy. The three of us are partners. We own this studio in Manhattan. We work together all the time in different ways. Then, Melissa, I met through James many years ago. She just happened to be in our studio working on something else, so we asked her to sing on one of our tracks.

What did James and Melissa bring to the record?

They just came in for a day or two and added a track or two. I think it's always nice to have somebody else's sound on there a little bit. I don't think, in either case, it's really the featured element. It's more just fun for us to have guests appear, to have other people in the room once in awhile.

How long did it take you to record "Traffic and Weather"?

We were working on it on and off for about a year, but mostly off. We don't really go into the studio and do a whole record. We usually go in and do one or two songs, and then we come back a month or two later and do some more. We don't work straight through.

That kind of keeps it fresh.

Yeah, and you can get really burned out trying to do it all at once. It becomes kind of like an assembly line. If you just have one or two songs that you're really excited about, you can really just focus on them from beginning to end. It's more inspiring.

One thing I noticed, especially with "Someone to Love," is its Euro-disco vibe, and there's some '80s-inspired sounds throughout the album.

It's definitely got some synthesizers that are pretty prominent. Kind of a disco-y beat, which is kind of a different thing for us.

Did that come about naturally throughout the songwriting process?

That was actually a song that I wrote music to first, which is not usually how I work. I was kind of just playing around with this melody and this chord progression, that beat, I just thought it would be something fun to try. To me, I think more of a band like Blondie, where they were basically a rock band, but at a certain point they started incorporating these dance-y kind of beats into their songs. And it worked. But they were still a rock band, you know?

Did you record this album any differently than you did 2003's "Welcome Interstate Managers"?

Not so differently. We worked in some different places on that record. We were working with different people, but the process is more or less the same.

What is the recording process with Fountains of Wayne? Do you write in the studio, on the road?

We don't write in the studio, ever. There's always a song first, then we get together and set up and play for awhile as a group and try different tempos and different feels, and usually something clicks pretty quickly. Then we just record a basic track and start building up on it from there.

It seems like it would be difficult to write in the studio.

Well, I think it depends what kind of music you make. I think, for certain kinds of music, it actually makes sense to write in the studio, especially if you're doing something very track oriented. Like, a lot of today's hits are really just written on top of a simple repeating beat and you kind of have to be in the studio to be working on that. It doesn't really make sense to be sitting at a piano doing it somewhere else. You kind of need to hear the track to even know what the vibe of the song is.

Your music is perfectly tailored for the summertime.

First of all, thanks for saying that. I think that's a compliment. We definitely have learned that it's better for us to put records out in the spring so that they're kind of happening in the summer. I think we made a mistake on our first album. It came out in the fall. I kind of feel like we're a summery band too. It's better for the records to be out in the summer.

When you wrote "Stacy's Mom" did you know it was going to be a hit?

No. I thought that it had a shot, but I've thought that about a lot of the songs that we've done, so I'm used to being disappointed. [Laughs] I thought it had as good a shot as anything else. But I couldn't have bet on it.

When you write songs for movies, do you write them differently than your own material? Is it more difficult or easier?

It's different in the sense that, usually, for a movie or something, there's a specific assignment you're trying to fill. So you're not as free to write whatever you want. You have to do something that works in the movie. But, once you have the basic idea for the song, the process is more or less the same--just trying to finish it and make it work.

Do you write songs on an acoustic guitar or piano?

It changes from song to song. More typically, I'll write on an acoustic guitar, but not always. Sometimes, I'll try to write in my head without playing an instrument at all. Sometimes, it's actually easier. You can just be walking around and hearing it and thinking of what it could feel like. You're not constrained by your habits or chords that you sort of gravitate to on the guitar.

I notice I come up with my best ideas just as I'm falling asleep.

Yeah, exactly. There's that weird period between consciousness and dreaming where you can actually be really creative. Except sometimes you accidentally fall asleep and forget what you're thinking about. [Laughs] I do that, too. That's a very creative state of mind to be in. Your mind's drifting around and making all these connections on its own. Also, when you're in that sort of dreamy state, you're less self-conscious, so you don't censor yourself the same way as when you're wide awake. You kind of let ideas jell a little bit more without shooting them down.

Are you excited about your tour?

Oh yeah, very much so. It's been awhile. We're excited. We're going to be out on the road at least through the end of the summer.

Who are you touring with?

We're doing a bunch of shows on our own in clubs. Then we're doing a bunch of festivals. We're actually doing some shows with the band Squeeze, which is going to be good. They're doing a reunion tour. There's a bunch of stuff on the horizon, too. We were big Squeeze fans.

Interview: Gretchen Wilson

Interview: Gretchen Wilson
May 30, 2007 12:05 AM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Self-proclaimed redneck country woman Gretchen Wilson prides herself on being open with her fans.

"I've always kind of been that girl that tells it like it is whether you like it or not," Wilson told LiveDaily.

"I've found in life that just being open and honest and just approaching everything like that is the way to go. You know the old saying: 'Honesty is the best policy.' It really holds a lot of truth. I used to go to bed every night with regrets and wake up every morning wondering about things. I'm a very comfortable woman nowadays. I'm really comfortable with myself and a lot of that came from writing that book [2006's 'Redneck Woman: Stories From My Life']. And a lot of it came from being able to be so personal with all of my fans and be so open."

Fans can see more of that on her latest album, "One of the Boys," which hit stores earlier this month. Once again, she teamed up with John Rich, of Big and Rich, to pen a few songs for the album, including the sultry "Come to Bed."

She's come a long way since the weekly Muzik Mafia nights in Nashville with members Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy and a rotating group of others. Her first single, "Redneck Woman," spent six weeks at No. 1; her debut album, "Here for the Party," sold more than five million copies; and she won across-the-board awards including a Grammy and ACM, CMA and AMA nods for best female vocalist. Her second CD, "All Jacked Up," shot to platinum.

LiveDaily: I saw you recently at Country Thunder in Florence, AZ. That was a great set.

Gretchen Wilson: Is that the one with Big and Rich? That was fun. That's the first time, believe it or not, in all the years we've been playing music, that I went on stage with John and Kenny [Alphin] and broke a guitar with them. I never shot one of those T-shirt guns before, either. That was fun. It was so much fun, I went and bought one for my show this year.

Did you really?

Yeah. You got to give up a few T-shirts.

Tell me about your new album. Why did you decide to call it "One of the Boys"?

There were a few different title ideas I think that could have come off the record. There were three songs off the record that would have made good album titles. "One of the Boys" seemed to embody the entire CD, I think, better than the other two songs did. This record, for me, is very personal, probably because I wrote nine out of the 11 songs, I produced this record, I mixed this record. I was just very hands-on and very involved from beginning to end. I feel like this is the best record I've made so far. I feel like I've gotten a lot more personal than I have before, if that's possible.

I think your fans are very appreciative of your openness and honesty.

I think people look at me like their friend. They don't put me on some kind of a pedestal. I think maybe a lot of artists want that separation. They want to be up there and held in that kind of regard. But to me, from the first word that I wrote, I've been trying to tell everyone I'm the same as them. I'm not any different. I hope when people meet me and they shake my hand backstage at a meet and greet, I hope they feel really comfortable with me and not intimidated.

Why did you decide to be so hands-on with this album? Was it intimidating?

I've been involved in all the records I've made, to some extent. I didn't have the amount of trust from my co-producers and my record label that I have now. I think I needed to get a couple of records under my belt with some help from people like Mark Wright, who's produced so many amazing records, and my buddy John Rich, who's really been my right-hand guy through this entire process. He taught me how to handle the music business, not only how to make a record. I learned a whole lot watching those guys work together on the first record. And I learned a lot more on the second record, when they allowed me to work some by myself. It really prepped me to go in there for this third record and really do it my way and produce it the way I've heard it. I can't say that I didn't get some help from them. But I'm really honored that they trusted me enough to leave the majority up to me.

What was the most important thing you learned from John Rich?

Oh, god. I learned so much from him. I don't think I could really pinpoint any one particular thing. He's given me so many pointers about different aspects of this business. I think his spirit and his fighting side, and I've never seen him fail at anything. He can do anything that he sets his mind to, as far as I'm concerned. A lot of that has rubbed off on me, I guess. We're kind of the same. We're like brothers and sisters. We fight all the time, and then we make up and then we fight some more. He's my best friend and he's my biggest critic as well, and I think that's really important.

Does that echo the relationship that you have with the rest of the Muzik Mafia?

Absolutely. John and I formed a really special bond. I connected with John more than I did with anybody else in the mafia. We're a lot the same. We grew up kind of the same. We're both country boys, if you know what I mean. I latched on to him right away. I understand him--his way of thinking, his way of life, as crazy as that may sound. I get him and I think he gets me too. If I were going to be a guy, I'd be John Rich and if he was going to be girl, he'd be me, that's for sure.

Where did you write the songs for the album? On the road, in the studio, at home, all of the above?

I wrote the majority of these nine songs out on the road last year because I toured pretty much constantly. For a few of the songs, I was able to get John Rich and Vicky McGehee to come to my house. We wrote three songs over dinner one night. We had one songwriting session and we managed to get three of them.

That's really prolific.

It probably is. I hadn't thought about that. But we're just so close and such good friends that we can almost complete each other's sentences. John and I wrote "California Girls" in about 10 minutes. That's the quickest song I've ever written. That's why I don't write with too many people any more. I kind of found my little songwriting thing with the people I click with the most, the people that I'm the closest to as far as being my friends. Songwriting is a really intimate thing and I really feel like you have to feel free to say anything whether it's ridiculous or hurtful or whatever but you have to be able to feel comfortable enough to say anything in a songwriting session. If you're not with people who know you, you're probably not going to write your best song. You're going to be afraid to voice your opinion.

I read that that fabulous song "Pain Killer" almost didn't make the album.

There's a couple of them that almost didn't make the record. "If You Want a Mother" almost didn't make the record. I thought it was just too corny. I can say that because I wrote it. I would never criticize somebody else's song. I hope my co-writers on this song don't get offended. We wrote a comedy song. There's nothing wrong with comedy. But this one was just almost too tongue in cheek for me. I actually went back in and rerecorded the music. I thought if I could toughen up the music a little more, then maybe I would like it better. That's exactly what happened. Lyrically, it's still the same song it always was. Musically, I had to bring it more into a Waylon groove and toughen it up a little bit. In contrast, it made it not so corny for me. I'm finding out a lot of people are really digging that song, so I'm really glad it made it on there.

"Pain Killer." Huh. I had written another song with Dean Hall that had exactly the same groove but a totally different topic. And they're kind of waltzes. You can't have two of the same grooves on the same record. It can get a little monotonous. So I had to choose between the two. I had the other one on my track list for the longest time. I decided at the very last moment--I mean, like, when they called me from the record label and they asked if there was anything else I wanted to change because it's going to print. They're getting ready to make a whole bunch of these. "Is there anything else you want to switch?" I said, "Yep, put 'Pain Killer' in and pull out 'Wastin' Whiskey.'" So that's what we did. If nothing else, just the title of the song alone will make you buy the record to see what that's about. That was inspired by Merle Haggard. I was sitting in a dressing room on the road backstage after soundcheck listening to a Merle Haggard CD and a couple of different songs went by that just brought this hurt and this pain into me. I started just going over different memories of my life, and I heard him use the term 'pain killer.' It was a line in the song that he was singing but it wasn't the title line. I never heard anyone refer to that as a pain killer before. I hate giving away too much away, but the pain killer in this song has nothing to do with drugs at all. But it's still a remedy, if you will, for something that somebody has to get over. It's a lot of hurt and pain. Regardless of whether we're supposed to say it or not, women also have to go out there and take drastic measures to get over somebody that's broke their heart.

"The Girl I Am" is one of the more emotional songs.

I wrote that on the road, too. That's when I was touring with Kenny [Chesney], toward the end of the last year. I wrote that song with my guitar payer. We started writing it before my show. We got really intensely involved in it. Then we had to go to work and do our show, and we were so involved with it that, as soon as we stepped off stage, we went directly in the dressing room and finished the song. Kenny Chesney was having a luau, a party, in the backstage, and he had a whole bunch of people were back there. Everybody was having fun. My co-writer and I were just stuffed into this little tiny room, frantically trying to finish this song. Kenny finally came in there and got me. He said, "What's wrong with you? You're being very unsocial; get out here and entertain with me." We grabbed our guitars and our sheet of paper, jumped on stage and sang the song that we just finished writing for a whole bunch of Kenny's fans. When I broke into the chorus and those girls just went crazy, I knew I had something there that was for keeping.

I noticed on the tour itinerary that you're playing a lot of different festivals. How important is it to play those festivals, as opposed to playing headlining gigs.

I sort of kind of feel that playing country music festivals are headlining gigs. In fact, I kind of like the spot before last the best, especially on those things where they have seven bands playing all day. People are drunk, tired, sunburned and worn out by the time the last act goes on. So I really like playing that spot before that. Plus, you get out quicker. Plus, you can pack up and you can sit down and have a beer and watch the closing act, which doesn't happen to me very often. Usually, everybody else goes home and leaves me there. It's cool for me to be able to stay. Saturday night, I never get to stand there and watch my buddies play. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch Montgomery Gentry and a few of my other friends play this year.

Interview: Meat Puppets

Interview: Meat Puppets
May 17, 2007 03:14 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Before becoming the band's latest drummer in a most unlikely fashion, longtime Meat Puppets fan Ted Marcus was expecting to hear of the early demise of group member Cris Kirkwood.

Newspapers and magazines recounted Kirkwood's heinous drug addiction problem, his numerous disappearances, the overdose death of his wife, and the day he was shot in the back by a post-office guard in Phoenix following an argument between Kirkwood and a local woman over a parking space. What came next, Marcus and Kirkwood's brother/Meat Puppets frontman Curt Kirkwood said, was nothing short of miraculous.

Sent to prison after the shooting, Cris Kirkwood cleaned up his act, literally and figuratively.

"Cris is still down in Arizona," Marcus told LiveDaily. "He's doing really well. We talk fairly regularly.

"It's always these funny conversations. My relationship with those guys is different. Curt does a lot of the business end. Cris' whole agenda is getting his life back, getting his band back and getting his body back. He's doing six miles a day on the treadmill. We joke because he can't keep a pair of pants that fit him. He keeps dropping sizes. And I'm joking that he's going to be borrowing mine soon. I'm a small guy. He's like, ‘Yep, I'm doing six miles a day. I'm down to 180.' He's just turning back into a streamlined bad-ass bass player that he is. There's no stopping him now. He's feeling the health. He's feeling the connection between body and mind. And it's really a cool thing to see. I don't think people expected it."

Most people didn't expect what happened in 2006, either, when Meat Puppets reunited with Cris Kirkwood on bass, Curt Kirkwood on vocals and guitar, and New York music veteran Marcus on drums.

The fruit of their labor, "Rise to Your Knees," will be released on Anodyne Records July 17. It marks the Kirkwoods' first album together since 1995's "No Joke."

Curt Kirkwood and Marcus talked to LiveDaily about the reunion, Marcus' introduction to Meat Puppets, and Cris Kirkwood's recovery.

LiveDaily: What was it like to go back in the studio with your brother? Did it feel natural?

Curt Kirkwood: Yeah. We always sing good together. It's just easy. We have the same kind of ethic, more or less. He's a little more scrupulous in terms of what he wants to achieve. A lot of times, I'm a little more open. We're used to the ethic. It's easy to find the cut-off point with editing and all that stuff. There's a lot of stuff that goes on. We started so young. We were so spoiled getting to do what we wanted at [indie label] SST.

Is it the same way now?

This is the first time since then that we got to kind of do that. There's nobody else around saying anything at all. Or, if there is, it's just kind of constructive criticism and we can blow them off if we want to. We've considered other people's feelings and needs since probably we did the first London [Records] record. Especially when you work with people like Pete Henderson or Paul Leary. You want to be cooperative and be as generous as you can be.

What was it like to work with Paul Leary?

He's a real old friend from way before the Meat Puppets ever worked with him. We've known Paul since the early '80s. He's one of the first people I ever met on the road. I probably met him in '82 or something. I was in the phone book back then. He called me up. The Butthole Surfers came through Phoenix and he called me. I never heard of the Butthole Surfers, even, so it was kind of cool getting a call from someone who had a band called Butthole Surfers. It was weird and fun. That kind of stuff used to happen. The drummer from the dB's, Will Rigby, called me up in the same sort of way. He got me on the phone because I was in the phone book. That kind of stuff, I never anticipated. I was just kind of in bands, in bar bands. Then, when you start to get any kind of reputation, things just kind of get surreal.

For your latest album, did you write the material with your brother, or before he re-entered the fold?

I had them all done. I had them for years, a lot of them, but just kind of never got them done. I had other projects. Some of them, I wrote just for the studio. But they were done. That's how we always did stuff. We always pretty much had stuff done enough to go in the studio and get it done real cheap.

Pretty quick, too, I would imagine.

Cris is a fast learner. This stuff isn't rocket science. With my stuff, it's kind of cool if it's not very well produced. Not to say that this isn't. But that's subjective.

You're doing a mini-tour. Is there a larger tour on the horizon?

That's the plan, I think. We're hitting the road in three weeks ... going up the West Coast and back down through Salt Lake City and Boulder. So, like, seven shows. Then, after [the new album] comes out, we've got more stuff going on. Then there's some other stuff like the Republic of Texas Biker Rally here in Austin, which is like a big biker rally [laughs]. It's like a downtown Austin thing. They close off the streets and it's a free show. So I figure it's a chance for the underage crowd to get in. ... I'm just taking it as it comes. It was so fortuitous to be able to do it in the first place.

How is Cris doing?

He's doing great. I wouldn't do it otherwise. He's just as good as he ever was in a lot of ways--he's probably a lot better. He got a lot of stuff straightened out. He figured out how bad it is to be in the penal system, to be a drug addict. These are things that a lot of celebrities need to figure out, apparently. I don't know.

What was the turning point in his career?

He got shot. He still has a .357 [bullet] lodged next to his spine. He's really lucky to be walking. He got shot in the back. He hit this cop but he never deserved to be shot in the back. That was a f---ed up thing that happened. Really, really nasty. He popped the guy in the head for sure. But he turned around and he was walking away and this guy shot him in the back. All the [printed] stuff was accurate. I'm sure the guy was frightened or whatever. Still, it was a fairly horrid thing to have happen, in any case. I don't take any sides in it. That's how I've always dealt with this craziness, outside of the fact that it's not good to have your relatives shot. That sucks. I think, probably, that would be the turning point. You get to that point. You're nearly crippled. You go to prison for a year and a half in spite of the fact of you being nearly crippled. That's not just retribution. We have no compassion in this system. The guy was completely f---ed over. He's a heinous drug addict to begin with, whose wife and one of his best friends died of drug overdoses at his house. I think he got to the point where all that stuff completely overwhelmed him. He made up his mind to be a better person, which, to me, isn't that big a deal. I'm like, "Good. Thank God." He always had a lot of advantages.

How do you feel that "Rise to Your Knees" fits in with your catalog?

I think it's a really logical step from stuff that I did with Cris and [original Meat Puppets drummer] Derrick [Bostrom] earlier on. It feels like a really direct step, almost, from [1994's] "Too High to Die." "No Joke" was kind of squeezed out because Cris was starting to become an addict and the band was under a lot of pressure and the different elements of it--the record's cool, but it was the most expensive record. Even "Too High To Die" was expensive compared to "Rise to Your Knees." I start to gauge things by money sometimes. I'm really stupid like that, But, I mean, everybody does, outside of the bohemian and dreaming element. "Money's not everything." Well, bulls---. Spend $220,000 on a record like we did on "No Joke," it seems like a farce. "Too High to Die" had really cool, organic elements. Back then, there was no ProTools. You had to get to some of these organic things through tape manipulation. It was a good medium, between the whole SST ethic of just getting whatever you got on the initial takes and kind of getting into it and tweezing it. This one here, there's tweezing here to do on ProTools, but it's pretty minimal.

Do you see another Meat Puppets album in the future?

Well, it would be cool. We haven't even thought about it because we have so much going on. In a way, compared to the way things have been even for me--I did things for other bands, and solo stuff--this has been pretty hectic. It seems like there's more going on than there has been in awhile, in terms of the immediately right now. We don't have this huge bank account like I had in Eyes Adrift with [former Nirvana bassist] Krist [Novoselic] and Bud Gaugh. What we have to do is pretty much like we have to make it stick when we do it. Like we did with the record. We have to do it cheap. Everything seems real immediate. It's why I like this business: When it becomes uncanny and unmanageable and it gets out of your hands ... It's the last recourse you have a lot of times, is music.

LiveDaily: [To Ted Marcus] How do you like being in the Meat Puppets so far?

Ted Marcus: So far, it's been great. It's been a real change of life for me. These guys, I've sort of followed for a long time. Not only going to working with them for a little bit and then getting in the band--it's pretty surreal.

So you were a Meat Puppets fan before?

TM: Oh, yeah, I've been since college, since the 1980s. I've always known who they were and I always made an effort to try to check them out whenever they came through Manhattan. Fortunately, through my connections in working with MTV for so many years, I had the opportunity to meet Curt once or twice socially. I never really expected to be in the band. It's pretty funny, actually.

That's really a cool story.

It's a really kind of like a miniature version of the movie "Rock Star." I wasn't in some kind of Meat Puppets band or something like that. I've been in a lot of bands in New York City. I've been playing around the city for 15 years. I've made my life as a recording engineer. I've been happy doing that. I've been successful doing that. Have you heard the story of how this came to be?

No, I haven't.

Well, I got hired by their photographer, Joseph Cultice, a really well-known, accomplished rock photographer. I got to know him through his wife, who works at MTV. I worked with her for years. I had a staff engineering position with MTV for six or seven years. Those two decided to do a documentary film on the reunion of Cris and Curt and the Meat Puppets. They knew I had just sort of gone freelance and was branching out on my own, starting my own company. I had gone to see shows with them. I had gone to see Curt solo, acoustic shows and stuff like that. So they knew I was a huge fan. They figured, "We'll ask Ted to come down with us and do the audio, do the boom mike and make sure everything's sounding right." I was like, "That's great, that's perfect." I was a little bit like, "Oh I don't know. I gotta give up a lot of work in town. But it's Meat Puppets. There's no way I'm not going to hang out with my favorite band." We went to Arizona and met Cris, interviewed him, talked to a lot of people down there about Meat Puppets, and sort of took it from there. I started getting the sense that Derek, the drummer, really wasn't interested in coming back. He's just not playing anymore. They had done some demos with Tim Alexander from Primus. And then Primus sort of started kicking back in gear with the original line-up. So it was like, "It doesn't sound like he's going to be too available." I started being around them a lot as that was unfolding. So I had my back pocket open, thinking that would never happen--I'm a virtually unknown local guy. But I'm thinking, "I know all their stuff."

It just sort of happened in the studio. I was there the first day of the recording of the new record and I'm helping to document it. Curt was starting to do some of the tracks himself. He seemed OK with it, but maybe a little frustrated. It's lengthy, and he was sort of trying to handle a lot. I was trying to figure out a way to interject gracefully that I could do this and maybe take some of the burden off of him. He's writing the songs, he's producing the record, that's a lot. My agenda was, "I could help." Not like, "I want to be in your band." I never though about it from that point of view. I never really considered it. Who would? It's too unbelievable. But I was, like, "We're in a studio, we have a week to make a record. I could play these parts. These are not crazy ridiculous complicated songs."

So I conspired and Joseph is a longtime friend. He's like, "You ought to just go up and play the drums and let them hear you." And that's what I did. I went upstairs and conspired with the engineer. I said, "Hey, I want to check out this old vintage kit you got. You mind if I do the soundcheck?" He's like, "Yeah, that's cool." I just went up there and played really straight beats, no flash. No solos. Just nice solid backbeat stuff for like five minutes. I came downstairs and there's Curt, all six-and-a-half-feet tall, kind of standing there, towering over me. He just goes, "You sick little sadistic motherf---er. You could play like that the whole time and you didn't say anything?" I'm like, "It's not my place to say anything. I'm the sound guy on this. I'm a musician my whole life but I was hired to do a different job." He said, "Well, this is how this one goes." That was pretty much it. I opened my bag. I had wire clippers and everything you needed to have to be on a shoot. I had a pair of drum sticks in there. Those guys saw that and they just opened up on me. "You had this planned the whole time." No, I had the dream.

What a fantastic story.

It's really funny. Those guys are so nice, and they're true artists. It's hard to explain. It's really like a comfort-level thing. They know the art is being treated with the respect that it deserves. My whole agenda is to realize this reunion and help it. I want to see it more than anybody. For myself, for other fans, for my friends who are fans. If I can facilitate this happening just by helping out on a documentary, then by helping out on a recording--then it kept growing. Now I'm going out on tour. It's really a great little story in that respect. It's changed my life quite a bit. It's been a lot of fun.

As a fan, it must have been horrifying to read about Cris Kirkwood's troubles.

It was awful to read about. My buddies and I were like, "It's over. When are we going to read the end of the story?" It's kind of bizarre that his life got saved by somebody trying to kill him. It's just unbelievable that you can get shot pointblank in the back--and I've seen the bullet wound. It's not like they write [he was shot] in the back and it's really in the side. It's in the middle of the back and it's like, "What? How do you shoot somebody in the back?" He thought he got hit by a car.

Interview: Mandy Moore

Interview: Mandy Moore
May 11, 2007 02:58 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Mandy Moore's album "Wild Hope" marks a new point in the 23-year-old's life. The single, New Hampshire-born, Orlando-raised performer has risen from the ashes of the teen-pop genre to create a mature, adult-oriented record--featuring her own original songs, something she was never able to try in the buoyant early years.

"Teen pop was a great platform to start from; I'm not someone who regrets anything," she said. "But, in those days, I was just given songs and told to go into the studio and record them. Yet, I think that as you get older, you change and so do your musical tastes. And not to have those changes reflected in the music I was so involved with was very disheartening for me."

Since 1999, Moore has sold more than 7 million albums, thanks to hits like saccharine sweet "Candy." Among other notable accomplishments: At the age of 16, she became the youngest host on MTV with her own show that ran for two seasons; at 17 she won the MTV Movie Award for Breakthrough Performance for "A Walk to Remember"; and she has several movie roles on her resume.

Moore talked to LiveDaily about the mature "Wild Hope," which hits stores June 19; her well-publicized bout with depression; and her burgeoning film career.

LiveDaily: Why did you decide to name the album "Wild Hope?"

Mandy Moore: Well, we had a dartboard ... no. To be honest, we had a dry erase board with a bunch of different potential album titles. It was the first one on the list. It was a song title on the album. I thought it was quite fitting and I really liked it.

Why do you feel it's fitting?

I think, with the album, there's a bit of sadness, but, overall there's a general idea of hope on it. I think it's quite fitting.

What was it like to work with Canadian singer Chantal Kreviazuk [the wife of Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida]?

She's fantastic. She's super talented. It was one of the first songwriting experiences I had, so it was really great to work with her.

I read the much-publicized story of your depression. I thought that was very brave of you to come out and talk about it.

Oh, thanks. I've never been officially diagnosed. But I definitely am a fairly happy, glass-half-full kind of person. The last year and a half, right around the time when I was in thick of writing this record, I was having a very, very low period and it as quite confusing for me. I don't know if I could officially call it depression, but I was definitely not myself and very out of sorts. I still have my daily bouts with it and struggle with it, but I think it's important to be honest.

That must have made working on the album tough, if you're really not yourself and you want to make a totally different record.

Yeah, it definitely has to factor in at some point.

"Wild Hope" marks your songwriting debut. Was it challenging or intimidating to write your own material and share your feelings with the world?

Um, no. It was a natural progression to write. It was something I'm very passionate about and I wanted to be a part of the process. It didn't feel like I was pushing myself in the wrong direction or really pushing myself at all. I enjoyed the process--getting to write and work with people that I was such a huge fan of. It was a great learning experience. I never felt intimidated when we got right down to it. It was probably intimidating to meet them at first.

What is the most important thing that you learned?

I learned a lot about myself, actually. More sort of after the fact than necessarily when I was in the thick of writing things. I got some clarity as to why I felt certain ways in certain situations. I think I'm a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.

How did you chose who you wanted to work with?

I think it was just people I was a huge fan of. Really, that's it. I found their music either online or through friends or people I wanted to meet and work with.

They were a bit of unconventional choices too. I wanted to work with people who hadn't necessarily worked with everybody.

Like Rachael Yamagata and Lori McKenna. Those aren't the typical choices.

They're not necessarily mainstream, but they have fantastic music that people should be aware of.

Who are you listening to on your iPod?

Beside the people I worked with, Patti Griffith, Wilco, lots of different singer/songwriter stuff.

What was it like to work with producer John Alagia?

He's crazy but in the best possible sense. I really adore him and I told him I want to do every record with him. He just gets me. It was the most enjoyable recording experience I've had and, really, creatively, the best experience I've had doing anything.

Why was that?

It was my music and I wrote it. And being able to be a part of something like this from start to finish is unbelievably fulfilling.

Tabloids and celebrity magazines have frequently highlighted your personal life. How do you feel about that?

I think, for the most part, people aren't concerned about me. They don't care too too much about my private life. It's pretty easy to skirt that. You take it with a grain of salt.

You've received lots of critical acclaim for your film work. What movies do you have coming up?

On July 4, I have "License to Wed" with Robin Williams and John Krasinski of "The Office." In August, I have a film coming out called "Dedication" with Billy Crudup, Tom Wilkinson and Diane Wiest.

How do you balance your film and music career?

I'm not quite sure. I think it's just about prioritizing. I enjoy having a full plate, so it doesn't feel like to too too much work.

Are you going to tour in support of "Wild Hope?

I hope so. That's the ultimate goal--end of summer, beginning of fall.

So in between the releases of your films?

Right in the middle of the two.

Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Robert Levon Been

Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's Robert Levon Been
May 10, 2007 02:32 PM
By Tara Hall
LiveDaily Contributor

After nearly a decade of working together under the guise Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, this California trio is preparing to launch a national tour in support of its fourth studio album, "Baby 81."

This latest work is a bold development of indie rock, one that explores a greater range than the group's past records. LiveDaily caught up with guitarist/bassist/vocalist Robert Levon Been (a.k.a. Robert Turner) to talk about fireworks, songwriting, and the group's longest track.

LiveDaily: ""Do you get nervous when you're anticipating the release of a new album?

Robert Levon Been: It's that kind of good nervousness where you don't know if it's going to do really well or really terribly, so you have this eager anticipation. I guess it's mixed, like nervousness and excitement mixed together. It's a really good period of time; it's a lot better than after it's out. I like that sense of questioning. Even if it does really well, I still like this time better.

There's a definite progression from one album to the next. Is this natural, based on the way the group moves and evolves?

I feel like we're guided by the songs themselves and what's right for those songs at the time. If it turns out to be a rock record, that's just what it's supposed to be. We're not as concerned about the genre or overall thing. I think, when we started, we didn't really know what we were doing; we were just writing songs more separately--me and Peter--on acoustic guitars because that's the only way we knew how to write, and that was kind of the way we heard other people write, so it seemed like it made sense. Then, when we got with Nick, you realize there's this whole other thing that happens where you can write songs with the band, and those usually take on a life of their own which you have no control over because it's just the sound that's made up with the three people in the room that day. I think the second record was that--was more as a band--and then "Howl" was a little bit more of a conscious effort to go back to how we'd written songs on acoustic guitar. We had so many songs that were country, folk, kind of bluesy songs that didn't work as a whole band playing them, so we had to do what was right for the song itself and construct it for that sound. And then Nick came back around with the band, and that's when it made sense to go more full-on and the songs led the way again so ... I'd like to take credit for it, but you do what's right for the song itself and, at the end of the day, you look at all of them and go, "Okay, I guess that's a record."

Tell me about the song "America X." I read somewhere that it's the longest song you guys have recorded (just over nine minutes). How did that song turn out so much longer than the rest?

It was our fault. We just kept playing because it kept sounding good. It didn't sound like it wanted to stop. Most of the time, we're really conscious of that. We don't want to bore anybody, including ourselves, and we're bored pretty easily. We've been rehearsing this week as well, getting songs ready for live, and even rehearsing it over and over live, Nick was like, "It feels like it ends abruptly, like it should even be longer," and we were just laughing because it's like ... it has this weird quality to the song where you don't want it to stop. I think, around nine minutes, it's good to bow out gracefully when you're still welcome. It's a strange thing. I don't know why it works with that one. Lyrically, the meaning of the song was a whole different thing with what became this really old, political rant which I didn't totally plan for. This kind of song was first written about something else, and kept growing into that, so we couldn't really say no.

I like how you referred to it like it's a person with feelings when you said, "It just doesn't want to end yet." I can't imagine how that works.

It's like a lucid dream. When you start writing a song and you feel like you're talking in tongues a little bit, like you're just speaking out of this lucid place in your mind. It's like when you have a dream and you don't really know you're guiding the dream and it's coming from you but while it's happening, it doesn't feel like it is. The thing is, with writing, being awake during it is the tricky part. You feel like you're only seeing glimpses of it, and the words come and leave just as quickly as you catch them, and so you only get part of the song, you only get, like, a quarter of it or half of it, if you're lucky. And the rest of it, you have this choice like, "OK, I'm awake and do I write it the way my conscious mind wants it to finish, in a very literal sense, or do [I] try and leave it with all the doors open, the same way it came?" That's usually how it is, and sometimes you can really mess up a song by putting yourself in it too much, by making it too literal. As soon as you go there, you can lose your way, because maybe the song actually wasn't meant to end like that. It's almost like the ego steps in, and the mind and the intellect, if it's smart enough to finish it.

So what comes first for you personally: the music or the lyrics?

For me, it's the music. I think it takes a completely different kind of songwriter than I am to write the lyrics from the beginning. I have a lot of respect for people who do that, I just don't know how. I actually took a song apart recently and rebuilt it with different chords around it. As soon as I did that, the music itself had this whole different power that was pulling the song lyrics in another direction. I was in awe of the fact that the music could do that; the music changed the words that were coming out of my mouth. It changed the tone of it. The song started becoming very intimate and very heartfelt, and then, as soon as I changed it back to these other chords, it had a totally different feeling. Just in themselves, the words became really aggressive and really jagged. That was only recently that I figured that out. I kind of thought the music was subservient to the lyrics, but it's kind of the other way around. The music will take you exactly where it wants to go.

What do you three do for fun when you're riding from town to town?

Fireworks. I think that's one of the things we use to entertain ourselves. We just loaded up on a bunch of fireworks for this tour, so we usually leave a trail of dust and smoke wherever we leave. There's not really any time between shows except for after the gig, and you can either get into serious trouble or goofy trouble, and we try and just get into goofy trouble. Misdemeanors over felonies are always better.

Interview: Stevie Nicks

Interview: Stevie Nicks
May 3, 2007 01:43 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Whether it's raising money for the Arizona Heart Institute, collecting iPods for injured Iraq war soldiers or writing a song about the plight of New Orleans, charity is important to singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks.

"When you get famous and you get recognized for the work that you do, there's a lot of good things that you get," Nicks told LiveDaily. "You get a beautiful house and you get beautiful things, and you get to meet fantastic people. There's this part of me that's always thought, 'This can't just be a one-way street here. I have to do stuff.'"

While her upcoming tour with Chris Isaak was being mapped, Nicks was spending her time off by promoting her new greatest-hits collection, "Crystal Visions--The Very Best of Stevie Nicks," and visiting injured military personnel at the Walter Reed Army and Bethesda National Naval medical centers.

Nicks talked to LiveDaily about the long days she spends at the medical centers, raising money in her dad's name for the Arizona Heart Institute, her greatest-hits record and touring with Chris Isaak.

LiveDaily: Do you still live in the Phoenix area?

Stevie Nicks: I'm in Los Angeles. I do live [in the Phoenix area], but I'm in the process of selling my house because I'm not there enough since 1980. My mom and dad were there, and my dad died a couple years ago. My mom's still there. I'm not there enough to warrant having a big house there. But that won't mean that I still won't be coming home. My brother's there, my mom's there, my niece is there. I still have a lot of family there.

I think it's really noble, all the work you do for the Arizona Heart Institute. My dad had a heart transplant, and my grandfather has heart problems, so our family has spent a lot of time there.

Well, my dad was very determined and devoted to building those hospitals. To stand in the hospital and say, "This was his dream and he did it right down to the very end ..." We did the last benefit just last year, and it was the one we needed to do to finish the last hospital of the three that he [helped to raise money for]. He did it. I was standing there going, "I'm so sorry he's not here to actually be here, because this was his day." He did it. He pushed it through.

Charity seems to be really important to you. I read about what you did for injured soldiers at Walter Reed.

[With the Arizona Heart Institute,] that was really [my father's] charity calling because he had an "almost heart-attack" in the '70s. That's why he resigned as president of Greyhound. He had a big job working for a big corporation. He had one of the first 1,100 bypasses that were done. This was when I was 22 years old. You probably know this: if you can not have a heart attack, and you can go back and fix it--whether it's by bypass or a stint or whatever--you can go out and have a pretty long, great life. If you have a heart attack, you've endangered the heart muscle, then you're going to have big problems. So he didn't. They got it. They did the bypass. He was in his 40s, so he lived another 40 years. That then became his cause. That was even before I joined Fleetwood Mac. That then became my cause, because that was his cause. Then I started to really realize how many people--even people my age--were having all these heart problems. So it was a good thing that he had this cause, because it was a really easy thing for me to step up to and join him. It was a thing that he and I got to do together, which was really great. It was a real bonding thing for the two of us.

With the Walter Reed thing, that just happened very accidentally. I was playing in Washington, DC, two and a half or three years ago, and I just got invited. I had a day off. I was in DC and I got an invitation to go to the hospital from the Army, I guess. I went. I had no idea what to expect, to be perfectly honest. I just thought, "I'm going to go to the hospital, meet a few guys and then I'm going to come home." I ended up going at 2 [p.m.], and I don't think I got back to the hotel until 9 or 10. I went into basically every room in the hospital where there was somebody who was well enough to see me. I was really pretty blown away and startled by the entire situation.

When I went home that night, I was pretty stricken, and I cried and I was really upset. I just said, "I have to do something." So I came up with the idea of buying iPods and putting as many songs as I could stuff on them, because they're little. When you're in a little, tiny hospital room, and you don't have room for a big stereo and all your CDs, this iPod idea would really work out well. That's what I did. I came back to Los Angeles and called everybody I knew and said, "I need money to buy iPods with, or I need iPods." That's how it started. I never went to Steve Jobs, I never went to the iPod people. I just call up everybody I know. Every time I go, and I get 50 or 60. I go now to Bethesda also, which is the naval hospital. We call both hospitals, find out how many people are there, we get a ballpark figure, and we try to take as many [iPods] as there are people there, 60 or 70. If we give them all away, we give them all away. If we don't, we put them into our stash for the next visit.

It has worked out exactly how I thought it would. These kids need to go get out of that bed and go exercise. They need to go work on their rehabilitation. For me, when I don't feel well and I'm trying to get better, music has always been single-handedly the thing that gets me back up and into the world. That's what I tell them: "I hope you use this for your rehab. It'll dance you out of your bed." I think it's working. I think they appreciate it. I think they have a lot of fun. I put all my collections that I've been making since 1978, that I think are personally fantastic. Anything else I can think of. All different bands. Everybody knows and is behind me on this. So I put any music that I want on it, and they love it. It's a little thing, but it's a big thing in the scheme of their recovery.

On to your music: how did your tour with Chris Isaak come about?

Chris and I have been friends a long time. We are both managed by Howard Kaufman. It's kind of like we're all in the same family. I don't know how it exactly happened, but I'm sure it happened through our management. It was just a good bill, and due to the fact that we are really good friends, it's not just a good bill, but it's a really fun thing for the two of us. I know his band really well. He knows everybody in my band really well, so it will be a really fun traveling circus. I don't usually get to do this. For the last two years I took Vanessa Carlton with me, who did 30 minutes, but that's one little girl. That's a whole 'nother kind of opening act. This is like the old days. This is kind of like two big acts, so you're all backstage together so it's fun.

Was it difficult to choose songs for "Crystal Visions"?

When you do this kind of collection, there's a few that you have to put on. You kind of have to do the singles. Then you go through [what's left of the] catalog and you figure out things that you think might be fun. We added in several live cuts. "Landslide" and "Edge of Seventeen" are live from Melbourne, Australia, with a 60-piece orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. I sequenced [the album] as if all of the songs were done at the same time. It's fun to listen to it because of that. It's trippy, because you hear these songs and you're like, "When was that?" Even me, and I know when they were. I said to my sister in law Lori, this is kind of the record we always wanted to make. This is the solo album we always wanted to make with all the most fantastic songs on it. I think it came out great. I'm very proud of it, and I think the sequence is really fun. If it has a really good sequence, which is kind of my forte, maybe people will listen to the whole thing instead of just saying, "I want that one song" or "I want those two songs."

You said you weren't even sure when the songs came out. That's a sure sign of how timeless your material is, wouldn't you say?

Well, thank you. I do. When I was sitting there listening to all of them, I'm going, like, "You know, these songs sound really good today. These songs I recorded in 1981 and 1983 and 1985 and 1987 and 1990, they do, I think, they stand up very well." I think every time I do this kind of a thing, I hope, anyway, it ends up being a teaching thing for all the new little rock stars that are coming up. This is something they can listen to.

With the live footage on the DVD, that's the actual recording of "Bella Donna," because we filmed it. My singer Lori Nicks--she's my sister-in-law too--her first husband filmed the whole damn thing for three months and edited it down to two hours. We put 25 minutes of the two hours on the DVD. It's fascinating, because you see Jimmy Iovine, who's president of the world [he currently heads Interscope Records], he's producing the record so he's in there with me, showing me and telling me what to do. He's such a part of it. He is really producing the record. You don't see that that much now.

Most of the photographs I used [in the package] were by my friend Herbie Worthington, who did the Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" cover and the first Fleetwood Mac "Fleetwood Mac" record, and almost all of my covers. I went back into all of Herbie's vault of photos and pulled out many, many pictures that I thought were just so terrific ... and tried to fill this little booklet with stuff that was new. Only if you're doing a photo book would you ever have a reason to go back and pull all those photos. I had a lot of fun doing that.

Have you started writing material for a new album?

I have. It's not like I'm writing new material for a new album; I'm just writing because I always write. I've written a song about New Orleans that I really love that's kind of about [Hurricane] Katrina. I was going to put it on this record as just an extra, added thing, then I pulled it because I'm not ready to release this song yet. I don't have the time to go out and find the right producer for this song. I'd like to have it be a real New Orleans flair. I live in Los Angeles. I don't really know anybody with a New Orleans flair here. I made a really, really good demo of it and it's sitting in the demo trunk waiting for when I have some time to do it. When this tour's over at the end of the summer, that's probably one of the first things I'll do is find somebody. I want to get this song recorded. I don't think it will matter if it'll take another two years to come out, because New Orleans is not getting better overnight. I think it's going to be relevant for the next 10 years, [so I'll release it] whenever I get it done to the point of where I think it's really ready to help that city. That's what I want to do with it. I want to let it go somehow someway to help them. Whether it's just giving the song royalties over to the city of New Orleans or what--but something. I'll figure out something. I didn't want to take a chance of it not being done, as good as it is. I think it's one of the best songs I've written in a long time.

Interview: Big & Rich

Interview: Big & Rich
April 26, 2007 01:37 PM
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

John Rich of country duo Big & Rich has big plans for his band's forthcoming album, "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace." R&B singer John Legend and rapper Wyclef Jean make guest appearances, and a song called "Lost in This Moment" is quickly claiming airwaves.

"It's the fastest-moving single in the history of our career so far in Big & Rich," said Rich, a former member of Lonestar. "It's potentially one of the biggest songs we've ever had. We're excited about that. ... We think it's probably the best record we've ever done to date."

That says a lot for Big & Rich, who rose out of a weekly jam session with Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy, dubbed Muzik Mafia. During its short career (the duo released its first album in 2004), Big & Rich has accumulated a slew of award nominations.

Rich and his partner, Big Kenny Alphin, have also become some of country music's most sought-after songwriters. Besides penning their own tunes, they have written "Redneck Woman" and "Here For the Party" for Gretchen Wilson, "Like We Never Loved at All" for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and "Mississippi Girl" for Faith Hill.

Rich talked to LiveDaily about "Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace," working with Jean and Legend, and the future of Muzik Mafia.

LiveDaily: When does the new album come out, and what can you tell me about it?

John Rich: June 5. There's some pretty cool collaborations. A rapper named Wyclef Jean is on it. A pop singer named John Legend is singing with us on a song. And, of course, members of the Muzik Mafia are on there.

It seems like you've had a strong R&B sound on your albums, and it continues with Wyclef Jean and John Legend. Are you big R&B fans?

Kenny and I are just fans of just everything. We have music in every genre, pretty much. I listen to everything from Frank Sinatra to Kid Rock. It's all good. Wyclef, I went to one of his concerts. He saw me in the audience pulled me up on stage, because he's a country music fan, and we jammed on stage together. That led to him rapping on our album. John Legend, we met him at a charity function in New York and ended up hanging out with him a little bit. We struck up a friendship, and about a year later, [when] we were making an album, I called him and said, "Hey, would you want to sing something on the album?" He said, "Absolutely." Just artist-to-artist [is] the way things are moving nowadays.

Tell me about the song "8th of November." That's such a touching song.

It's a story about a real guy named Niles Harris, who was mine and Kenny's bartender in 2001--I guess it would have been 2002--up in Deadwood, SD. It's a little town up there where we like to go hang out and write and gamble and get crazy. He was our bartender. We got to be friends with him, and he started to tell us a story about this battle he was in [during the Vietnam War] when he was 19 years old, Nov. 8, 1965. The song basically spells out the battle, what happened that day, what he's doing now, how he's still dealing with it. It's really become a flagship song for Vietnam veterans, I think. We have massive amounts of Vietnam vets coming to our shows to hear that song now. It seems to be a real important thing to them. Probably musically, that's the most important thing Kenny and I have ever put out.

What did the bartender think of the song? Was he pretty touched by it?

Well, it's his life story, you know. We spent two years writing it to make sure we had all the facts and figures right. He was hesitant to give us a lot of info about it right off the bat because it was such a personal thing. As we got to be better friends with him, he told us more and more about it, and that's how the song came into being.

You and Big Kenny have scored a string of hits with Big & Rich and other artists since you formed a partnership in Big & Rich. How was your success beforehand?

Kenny had never written a hit song for anybody. I had had a couple that I had written when I was in the band Lonestar, but it had been several years since I had had any hits. I think in '96 I had a No. 1 song. But Kenny and I met in '99--I hadn't had anything going on. We were writing tons of songs, but we were not by any stretch big songwriters at that point.

What do you think it was about your music that caused people to pay attention after the formation of Big & Rich?

Well, Muzik Mafia caught on. That was Big & Rich, Cowboy Troy, Gretchen Wilson and a ton of others. I think once "Redneck Woman" and "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" both came out and they sold so many records, I think the business started to pay attention. They started going through our catalogs. I have over 1,000 songs in my song catalog right now. Kenny has close to that. They started going through our catalogs and cutting hundreds of songs. That's what happened. It got hot.

What's the status of the Muzik Mafia right now?

Oh, man, it's on fire right now. Let's see, Big & Rich, we have a new album. Gretchen Wilson has a new album May 15 coming out, her third album. Cowboy Troy has a new album coming out June 5, the same day ours comes out. He's on tour with us again this year. An artist named John Anderson, who everybody knows--if you've listened to country music at all, you know who John Anderson is. His first studio album release in over seven years comes out May 15. He's an honorary member of the Muzik Mafia now. ...There's a new guy named James Otto who has a first single coming out this summer, new album fourth quarter this year. There's, like, five albums coming out from Mafia artists this year. You should tell your readers to visit It's gone from 2,500 members--we call them soldiers--of the Muzik Mafiato over 100,000 in a year. It's really turning into a pretty cool thing.

I read that you're working with Jewel.

Yeah, I've been recording a country record with her. It's unbelievable, honestly. That's what I'm working on today, actually. It's just incredible. What an absolutely incredible songwriter and singer she is. It's really frightening, her level of talent. She asked me if I would produce a couple of things for her. I said, "Absolutely." We went in and it went so well she said, "Do you want to do some more?" I said, "Sure." Next thing you know, we had a whole album.

When is that set for release?

There's no release date set on it. Like I said, we're still finishing up the recording process. But I would say they'll probably release something on her this summer, and I bet she would have an album in stores by Christmas. She's as good or better than she ever was right now. Her songwriting is just unbelievable.

When you wrote "Save a Horse," did you know you had a hit on your hands?

Uh, yeah, absolutely. We played it at Muzik Mafia on Tuesday Night Jams like a year before it was ever recorded. At the Mafias, people just became unwound when we played that thing. We knew we had snagged one when we wrote that.

On your first album your mission was to introduce yourself. What is your mission for your third?

This third album, the first single is probably another curveball for people. It's called "Lost in This Moment." It's a wedding song. It's going to be an absolute anthem. It already is, as young as it is. When we go out and play it now, it's already a huge response from our audience. I think this album is just a collection of great songs. There's no angles or slants to anything. It's just great songs, coming right at ya. It's just the best of the best of what we've written. There's not an "8th of November" for you or anything like that, especially with this album. It's just great songs, one after the next after the next after the next. I think this record could be the most successful thing we've ever done.

Interview: Nick Hodgson of Kaiser Chiefs

April 19, 2007 12:10 PM
by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor

Earlier this year, the Kaiser Chiefs were accused of making "provocative hand gestures" at fellow Brit popsters the Arctic Monkeys during the NME awards. The problem? It never happened. The Kaiser Chiefs were victims of their own song, "Angry Mob."

"It's kind of a reference to British newspapers and how they kind of build up a story that's not entirely true and try to encourage the public to get overexcited and jump on the bandwagon," said Kaiser Chiefs drummer and principal songwriter Nick Hodgson. "It lasts about two weeks in the paper--the story--and then everyone forgets about it. Then the next one comes along.

"With us, there was a thing at the NME awards this year, where we were playing, and the next day in the papers, it said that we had stuck our fingers up at the Arctic Monkeys and they had thrown everything they could get their hands on at us while we were performing on stage. None of that happened."

"Angry Mob" appears on the Kaiser Chiefs' new set, "Yours Truly Angry Mob," which debuted at No. 45 on The Billboard 200 album chart. It's the follow-up to 2005's "Employment," which spawned the hit "I Predict a Riot."

Hodgson--who is joined in the band by singer Ricky Wilson, guitarist Andrew White, bassist Simon Rix and keyboardist Nick "Peanut" Baines--talked to LiveDaily about the album, the relentlessly addictive new single "Ruby," and how to cool off on stage during daylong festivals.

LiveDaily: Congratulations on how well "Ruby" is doing.

Nick Hodgson: Thanks. It's hard for us to know what's really happening. You hear about--like, certain radio stations have added it--but it's hard to keep up with it all. There's so many radio stations out here. We're not familiar with all these radio stations. In England, there's one station; it's Radio 1.

Was Ruby written for somebody specific?

No, no. It's one of those songs that just came out of nowhere really. You just start singing. There were quite a few songs like that where I play the piano and just come up with things. I had this verse, and suddenly it went into the chorus. I like it when that happens.

Is that the way most of your songwriting happens?

Yeah, sort of. You have to feel it. You get in a good mood because you're writing something good. It's hard to explain, really.

Did you know when you wrote "Ruby" that you had a hit?


What was it about the song?

It's just unusual. I was playing on the piano--on my mom and dad's piano, quite a lot of our previous hits were written on that piano. I kind of got a good feeling about it. I knew it was a good one. I played it for the band. I brought it to rehearsal the next day. It took us about a half hour to finish. Those are the best ones.

Is that your favorite song on the album?

That's one of them. I like them all.

Was there a lot of pressure to follow up your successful debut, "Employment"?

Yeah, of course. You don't want it to do worse. You're really striving to make the best new album, the best album, because it means you haven't lost it. You need that to be creative. We didn't want people to be at the gig and kind of hanging around while we played the new album, or they all kind of want us to play the first album's songs, like "I Predict a Riot," which is what can happen. It hasn't happened like that. Some of the new ones that we play live are getting the same reaction as the old ones.

How has the response been to the new material?

"I Predict a Riot" always gets the biggest reaction. But then "Ruby" and "Angry Mob" from the new album get, you know, as big as some of our first. It's always nice.

I read a review that said Americans can't really relate to your music because it's too British-centric. Do you think it's true?

I don't know. I'm guessing [the writer means] it's in the lyrical content. I mean, when I listen to songs, I just listen to the songs. I listen to the sound it makes and the feel of it. And if I like it, I like it. That's it, really.

I think that people could relate to especially "Angry Mob" and "Ruby." We have sensationalistic newspapers here, and "Ruby" is just a fun song.

I think people overanalyze those things. Music's just music isn't it?

Did touring in the US inspire any of the songs on the album?

There was one song, "Learnt My Lesson." The beginning of it, the verse of it, was written in the back of an American tour bus. I don't know whether it was inspired by America, but it must have been, in a way.

How long did it take to write the album?

Took about eight months.

Was that part of what was documented with the DVD that comes with the CD?

That was the recording for seven weeks, and that's what you got on the DVD--some of that footage. But there's none in our rehearsal room. We have this rehearsal room in which we pay by the hour. We've been using it for 10 years. We went back there and just got right back into the normal way of life again and started writing.

I see you're doing kind of a short US tour. Are you going to come back?

For us, it's a long US tour. We're trying to spread our touring across all parts of the world. We're doing four weeks here.

Are you excited about playing Coachella?

We never played it before. I've never been or seen it. I don't really know much about it, but a lot of people are asking, "Are you excited about it?" It must be a big deal.

You did Lollapalooza last year. Was that fun? What kind of advice can you give to new acts who are playing daylong festivals?

It's going to be pretty hot, temperature-wise. We did Austin City Limits in 2005. It was ridiculously hot--110 degrees I think. We were on in the outdoors. I'll tell you what, here's my advice: have some ice-cold towels in a bucket next to the stage for when you come off. I'm going to try to situate a fan on stage and have a bucket of ice behind the fan and that draws the cold air toward me.

Interview: Robyn Hitchcock

April 05, 2007 04:18 PM
by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
LiveDaily Contributor
British pop singer Robyn Hitchcock has never had an album break into the US album chart, but the lack of commercial success hasn't stopped him from enjoying a 30-year career.

"You've got to make a living, so you can't ignore it all together," Hitchcock told LiveDaily. "For me, it's more a question of commercial sustain than commercial success."

Hitchcock's latest creation is The Venus 3 (tickets | music), a band whose members have achieved varying levels of commercial success. Guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. has obviously seen accomplishment, as has drummer Bill Rieflin of Ministry. Bassist/vocalist Scott McCaughey rounds out the band, which is touring in support of its album "Ole! Tarantula" and the documentary "Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death and Insects."

"[Peter is] very proud of his success, but he also enjoys traveling around in a little van playing clubs. Bill and Scott, likewise. You got to make a living. You don't have to make five livings. You just do as much as you can. We do whatever gigs. If we were 30 years younger, we might all be sleeping on top of each other in a van driving 200 miles after gigs. We like a certain element of comfort. So we don't necessarily do all the s---ty things we would have done when we were very young. We just play, really. It doesn't sound very exciting, but it is."

LiveDaily: How's the tour going so far?

It's lovely. It's great. We're just driving around in a van, getting out and playing, and getting back in again, really. We just got to New York City, and we are about to go and play the Knitting Factory for the first of a couple of nights. It all seems to be under control. I'm at the Thor Hotel on Rivington in the lower east side of New York, staring at a great wall of fire escapes by the afternoon sunlight, looking around at all the places where people used to have ashtrays and don't anymore. That's the story.

Your current band has a storied past. Peter is part of R.E.M. Bill was in Ministry. Peter, Scott and Bill are in the Minus 5, Scott's group. What does each member of the band bring to The Venus 3?

Peter and I have been playing together off and on since 1985. He's a really old playmate. Scott and I have been playing since the early 1990s. Bill appeared on my horizon around 2000 AD or so. He used to be in a band called Ministry, who my daughter was a fan of ages ago. When I took her to Lollapalooza, she got me to go and look at Ministry.

I used to be a big fan of Ministry, too.

Were you? Did you like Al Jourgensen?

He's an interesting character. I've interviewed him a couple times.

I think he's still alive. But it was all very kind of tattoo rock. I'm from an age before tattoos, really. Rock kind of went tattooed pretty much after my time. I don't think any of this band has tattoos. Bill, despite being in Ministry, was tattoo free. We're really from before the kind of tattooed hard rock and heroin thing came in in the late '80s and early '90s. Everything got very kind of noisy. It seems like that's gone again now. Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie and our friends The Decemberists, who are from Portland, that's a lot of the music I hear that seems to make sense. That fits in with the thing we sort of play. I've been playing this forever, and it goes in and out of vogue. It's in vogue at the moment. I'm sure it'll go out of fashion at some point.

How did South by Southwest go?

It was lovely. Each year, the crowds get thicker. It gets harder to move along Sixth Street. It's hard to figure out which way you're going when you come out of somewhere. I like it just because I recognize so many people now from my hundreds of years in show business. There's a lot of Brits. It's a good place to meet British people. I like it. Peter and I played; we had Sean Nelson with us. He's in Harvey Danger. Sean is opening for us on the West Coast. He sings harmony on our most recent record, "Ole Tarantula." I hope he's going to sing on whatever we do next. He's another Seattle boy.

You're celebrating 30 years in the music business. Have anything special planned?

I'm having a cake. I just finished one, in fact. A lot of my stuff from the 1980s is coming out again starting this fall and, starting next year, maybe even some of the Soft Boys stuff from the late 1970s. Apparently, some of the stuff from Warner Bros. in the late '90s is coming out, too. The thing is, the formats keep changing. If you paint a picture, you just paint it once--and it's there until it's destroyed or the weevils eat it. If you do a print, you can keep printing up copies of that etching or engraving or whatever. If you wrote a book, if your book gets published, that's it. It could be hardback or paperback. That's it. If it's paperback, the pages will fall out occasionally. But with music, when I started, it was vinyl and cassette, and then it sort moved up to CD, vinyl and cassette. Then cassette disappeared, vinyl almost disappeared, now CDs disappeared and then vinyl's coming back. I'm thinking the next record will be vinyl and downloads only. It's a thing of having to constantly re-release stuff in new formats. Find extra tracks. I'm going back and finding demos that I've done 20 years ago that were on four-track. It took me ages to find a four-track cassette machine that I could play my old demos on. I'd love to get it all out once and forever, you know? Anyway, I'm glad people are still interested 30 years on. People want to hear yet again what we do.

Was it difficult to chose songs for those extra tracks?

You just pick the ones that aren't too bad. You listen to it [and say], "Would you really want to hear this? No I'll leave that until they re-release it in 10 years time and it serves them right if they want it." I just put the stuff that was reasonable. There's more of it than I thought. Some of it, I quite like. They were either demos or songs I lost patience with for some reason. I tidied a few of them up. It's quite fun, really. Anyway, the first lot is coming out on Yep Roc, the first package of Robyn Hitchcock solo stuff from the 1980s to 1990s. That's coming out in the fall. Next spring, I hope the Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians stuff from the '80s will come out, also on Yep Roc.

How did The Venus 3 come together? You mentioned you're longtime friends?

We came together like people who might have known each other for 20 years and then finally decided to go out on a date. Peter and I have been playing on and off for 20 years. I knew Bill and Scott and they all play together. Whenever they were in London, we'd play, or, if Peter, Scott and I were Seattle, Peter, Scott, Bill and I would play at the Crocodile, a local club there. I already recorded with Peter and Scott, actually, in the '90s. I think what happened was, I was coming up to Seattle and R.E.M. had decided to have a good, long break because they had been working for 18 months solid. They really needed to unshackle themselves from each other and have a good, long vacation. Peter doesn't like to be inactive; he likes to play. That's what he does. Peter said, or Scott said, "If you're coming up to Seattle, why don't we record? And Bill's here." We did a couple of sessions with the latest songs I'd written, and that went well. I had a gig in Portland. I can tell you exactly when it was: Sept. 8, 2005. And they said, "We'll come down to Portland with you and play." I said, "Yeah, why not." So, all three just came down, and they weren't billed or anything. It was just going to be me playing acoustic. We had such a good time that I said, "Would you want to come over to England when it's cold and damp in January and do some gigs?" I thought nobody would want to do that. My agent always sends me out in January in Britain because there's not much competition. They said, "Yeah. We'll come over to England."

So they all came over and, I don't know, we've just been doing it ever since. It's been great. They came over last summer and we recorded at home for a week. My wife said--she gets on very well with the boys--"Hey, get the boys over. Why don't you make a record in the house?" We got some equipment, miked it up in the living room and made a record. They stayed in the house. Well, one stayed up the road. We were just sort of living and eating together and playing music. It was like the early '70. People getting it together in the country. We just instinctively do it. To answer your question, there was no plan. There was no thinking, "We must form a band as soon as we get the opportunity." We've just sort of always been there, really. We just sort of formalized it. It doesn't mean the end of R.E.M., or anything.

Do you do Venus 3 songs live, or do you do some Robyn Hitchcock hits as well?

They're all my songs. We go back 30 years, so we do stuff from the second Soft Boys album and they go up to new ones that haven't been recorded yet. It's a 28-year span. And it should be. We're going to do some recording in Tucson when we finish the tour, just very quickly.

Tell me about the documentary "Robyn Hitchcock: Sex, Food, Death and Insects" that's on

That was [filmed during a week that we were] making the record ... in London last summer--during a heat wave. You can sort of feel it. It was very hot. The doors were open. We had to keep shutting them. That was fun. You get some guests. John Paul Jones comes along and plays mandolin. Nick Lowe comes and does some vocals and stuff. My niece Ruby is playing. There's a lovely shot of that--her and John Paul Jones overdubbing. And Morris Windsor, the old Soft Boys drummer, came and did some harmonies. Chris Ballew from the Presidents of the United States of America, he flew over and did guitar/harmony/piano for three days. It's a good assembly of talent. It's for music lovers, really. You see us on tour a bit. You see me running through the songs in the back garden and talking about them a bit. Then we're recording them in the house, playing them on stage in Seattle. In between, we're wandering around. It's just a document of what we did last year. It was good fun. We're still having fun as a group, partly because we're not tethered to each other and we're doing it for its own sake. No one's really hoping to get anywhere with it.