Interview: Badly Drawn Boy

February 22, 2007 01:05 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Damon Gough, also known as Badly Drawn Boy, isn't trying to be the next Bruce Springsteen with his album "Born in the UK"--but he is paying homage to the Boss.

"It wasn't something I thought about beforehand," Gough said via telephone from his English home. "Most songs I write, I come up with the melody lines very quickly, then I come up with lyrics. [On the song 'Born in the UK'], I had a demo version I accidentally sang 'I was born in the UK' as the last line of the song. I said, 'I like that.' It had kind of a punk edge to it with the energy in the song.

"It felt like couldn't decide what to write about. It sort of felt natural to write about childhood memories of the '70s with the dawn of the punk era and things I remembered and didn't remember. It's accidental it became the title, really. I thought, 'Why not?' It's a bit of a loaded title because think about what it actually means. That's kind of the point. If people misinterpret it and think, 'Oh, it's about me being the English Springsteen,' that's not what it's about. Somebody in Rolling Stone actually wrote America doesn't need an answer to Bruce Springsteen. That was totally missing the point. If anything, it is a tribute to the fact that Bruce Springsteen's music, particularly the song 'Thunder Road,' made an impact on me when I was a teenager. If anything, I'm paying tribute to that--and also paying tribute to the fact that I was born, and that's the deal I got and this is who I am."

The recording sessions for "Born in the UK" were tumultuous. Gough recorded one album with producer Stephen Street (The Smiths, Blur), along with his touring band and a small orchestra. That didn't pan out, so he canned the sessions and started all over again with Lemon Jelly's Nick Franglen. It was all part of his plan to record five albums in five years, starting with 2000's "The Hour of the Bewilderbeast."

Gough talked to LiveDaily about the project's intensity, the direction he eventually went with and why more people should pick up "Born in the UK."

LiveDaily: Are you looking forward to touring the US again?

Damon Gough: Yeah but there's a lot to do before then. I have European dates and UK dates before we get to America again. But yeah, yeah it should be good. I'm looking forward to getting back into playing live again. I had a break over Christmas.

From what I've read, the making of "Born in the UK" was an intense project.

Yeah, kind of. This time, it was a little bit different because I made a whole different album that I didn't release. I wasn't sure it was the right record to put out at the time. It just kind of went in a direction that I didn't foresee. I felt there was a lot of pressure on me to do another record. That's what the pressure was. Rather than making this record itself, it was the fact that I already made a record that I didn't release. I had to start again. What am I going to do? The clock was ticking last year when I was making this record. I had to finish it by June in order to release it last year. That was the pressure. Otherwise, I would have had to wait to release it this year because there was no time left in the year. There needs to be a three-month lead-up time to release a record.

What kind of direction did it go in that you didn't care for?

I don't really know. It's difficult to say. I was struggling to make it sound like I wanted it to sound. I couldn't fathom how to do it. It was a different way of working. I went into the studio with the whole band I'd been touring with, so it was a seven-piece band, including a small kind of orchestral section. That was predominately what the record was sounding like. Whilst it sounded really good, with my records, generally, the character comes from what I do with my overdubs. I generally start with a basic song and then try to find the right sound through each song. There really wasn't much room to find the right sound because of what was already there. I didn't feel like it was my record in a lot of ways. I say that without offending anybody, I hope. All the people that played on it were asked to play. We kind of worked it out together. But it still didn't seem like it had my personal imprint. By the time it got to that point, I felt it was easier to quit and start a whole new album than it was to try to make that one sound like my record. The songs just kind of lack a little bit of spirit.

What was it like to work with Stephen Street?

It was great. It was unfortunate that things didn't go as well as planned. I saw him recently. We were just chatting and catching up. He's done a couple of albums since we tried that first album'. I did this album with Nick Franglen of Lemon Jelly. The Stephen Street one was the one we didn't finish. It was just nice to see him and have him realize there were no hard feelings, because it was difficult at the time.

That must have been cool to work with Nick.

Yeah, Nick was a breath of fresh air. After not finishing the first album, I needed somebody that was going to come in and help me keep believing in myself. I felt like I lost the plot a little bit. Then Nick came in and was just enthusiastic about my songs and, in general, enthusiastic about music. He's got a broad spectrum of palettes. Aside from doing his Lemon Jelly stuff, he wants to further his work as a producer. So he was really up for working for me. Currently, we're both disappointed that the album isn't doing better.

Hopefully it'll pick up once you start touring.

That's why I'm looking forward to touring. That's the one thing that's been going very well in the last few months. The last US dates were really enjoyable, as were the last European dates. Now, we're doing some more on the back of those with slightly bigger venues in some places, and just keep building on it and make more people aware that the record is available.

Did you learn a lot from working with Nick?

I can't remember now. Once it's done, it's done. It's hard to think back about it. I just remember it going very tough for me because I felt like I was being very hard on Nick, even though we became good friends whilst we were doing it. It was a difficult process. I can't describe what it's like, really.

What is the songwriting process like? Do you write songs when you're in the studio or on the road?

Most of the time, I write when I'm in the studio, which is a bit dangerous, really, because it's time consuming and costly. I've never gone in the studio with songs in my life. I'm quite--I wouldn't say lazy, but restless. I can never finish one song and move on to another one. I have to have 10 songs I'm working on at once. I have to keep jumping from one to another, and doing a bit more on another song, adding a little bit more to another song, and leaving it where it is, and going back to another one, then ditching 10 songs and starting again. I can never just say, "These are the 10 songs and they're going to make this album." It just never seems possible. I've got too many ideas knocking about because I'm never that confident in just going with a selection of songs because you never know--I might write another one that's better than those. With this album, it was different again to all of that because I demoed about 100 songs before Nick came in. I gave him all the songs to see what he thought of them. They were all in demo form with half-written lyrics. We had more than 100 songs to choose from. Then we re-recorded from scratch about 35 of them. It took us three to four months to record 35 songs and then we decided which songs we wanted for the album--which we disagreed about quite a lot--and we ended up in this direction. If I'd known in January of last year that these 12 or 13 songs would end up on the album, I could have recorded it faster. But that's not the way I work, unfortunately. The next record I make, I might do it differently. I might spend a long time in pre-production knowing I've got 10 or 12 songs that are the ones that I want, and go in and record those relatively quickly to avoid overspending and getting a headache.

Interview: Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Interview: Todd Park Mohr of Big Head Todd and the Monsters
February 15, 2007 11:38 AM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

Initially, Big Head Todd & the Monsters trademark concert meet-and-greets at the merchandise booth were used to help souvenir sales. But from that start, the veteran rockers evolved into one of the most fan-friendly bands in the business.

"I ended up really enjoying it," said frontman/guitarist Todd Park Mohr said. "For me, it's really nice. It prevents me from having to deal with the after show. I also really enjoy just connecting with people and getting a feel for what they're into and what their feelings for their music is. It's really useful for me. It's been good all around."

Big Head Todd & the Monsters, rounded out by bassist Rob Squires and drummer Brian Nevin, are touring in support of their "From the Archives" CD, a collection of songs from early in their career that never made it onto albums.

Rather than embarking on their annual fan cruise to the Virgin Islands, the band will spend a week on Hawaii's big island this year, playing intimate shows and spending time at the beach with fans. The May 20-26 party at the Prince Hapuna Beach Resort will encompass extended live performances, cocktail parties and sightseeing with the band.

Mohr spoke to LiveDaily about the trip to Hawaii, a forthcoming album and releasing songs via the Internet.

LiveDaily: I read on your website that you are soliciting requests from fans for your shows. How much do you actually pay attention to those requests?

Todd Park Mohr: We try to accommodate as much as we possibly can. Every once in a while, there's some oddball request of songs that are kind of out of circulation for us. Every once in a while, we get stumped. For the most part, we do try to play every request we get.

That must be fun yet challenging, especially if you get a request for a song that you haven't played in a little bit.

Yeah, absolutely.

In every story I've read about you, people are raving about what a good--yet underrated--guitar player you are. How does that make you feel?

It makes me feel great. We sign autographs after every show and shake hands with people. I get a lot of feedback from our fans. I get that comment a lot. People say we're their favorite band. Even though we're not on the cover of People magazine, it's good to know that people are receptive and able to make their own judgments. There's a lot of flattering things that people say about us. It's great.

Why did you decide to release music on your website as opposed to saving them for a new album?

Part of it is just how much the music business has changed, in the way that people listen to music and obtain music. It makes so much sense to look at things like the podcasts and free music on the Internet, which deepens the love for your band and gets people more interested in your music. So that's something that's worked out really well for us. It's helped us keep our music career going forward without the two- or three-year album release cycle. I kind of like to be known for releasing music all the time. It gives fans a reason to always go back to the website and see the band play.

A lot of bands are leery about releasing music on the Internet because they'd rather make money off of their music. Have you completely ruled out a traditional album?

Not at all. We just released an archives disc and we're finishing up our next CD, which will be out in the summer. We're working everything we can.

Which label will release your album?

I'm not sure yet.

What can you tell me about the album? How do you feel it fits in with the catalog? Is it like the older material or a natural progression?

Every song I write is its own individual. I never am interested in really revisiting something I did 20 years ago. That being said, there's certain things about our sound that are consistent. We're a very blues- and folk-oriented rock 'n' roll band, basically. So the new record has a lot of those aspects in it, but a lot of others. I anticipate there being 20 songs on this record. So it's going to be a lot of music for a CD. Our last studio release was "Crimes of Passion" in 2004, so it's been a long time since our last studio release. I have a lot of material to deliver. I'm excited about that.

You must be one of these people who constantly writes songs, considering you release songs on the website all the time.

When I'm not on the road, I'm writing songs.

You mentioned the "From the Archives" CD. Was it difficult to choose songs for the album?

Not especially. This disc actually includes music from before any of our released discs. This sort of represents the very first body of music we worked on as a band. It's kind of a fun project in that aspect. It's more of a fan-type of release. It was fun to put together.

Was there some stuff that you heard that you said, "I will absolutely not release this?"

Uh-huh [Laughs]

Speaking of the road, you decided to take a trip to Hawaii with fans instead of your traditional Caribbean trip. Why is that?

Part of it is the expense. The cruises were about $3,000. This is a cheaper trip. Plus, a lot of fans were saying a week on a boat isn't everybody's bag. This is kind of a land trip, so maybe we'll mix it up a little bit and go to the Caribbean next year. This year we're going to Hawaii. It'll be fun.

What do you have planned for the trip?

We'll play probably three shows over the course of the week. One thing that's fun about the trips we've been doing, the band doesn't play the same song twice. It gives us a chance to really stretch out and play more of our catalog than we normally did.

You've been around for about two decades. To what do you attribute your longevity?

As a band, we're very compatible just as friends. We have a great working relationship and a great personal relationship. We've always just loved what we do. It's a privilege to be able to do this for a living, to write music and play music. As long as we can do it, I will.

Interview: Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance

Interview: Frank Iero of My Chemical Romance
February 08, 2007 12:03 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

For My Chemical Romance, it's been a rough and bumpy--and, at times, painful--road to success.

Take the filming of the video for "Famous Last Words": Pyrotechnics burned drummer Bob Bryar's leg, and the burn turned into gangrene and, subsequently, a staph infection. Meanwhile, lead singer Gerard Way tore ligaments in his ankle when the fire startled rhythm guitarist Frank Iero, who stepped on Way's ankle. That put the kibosh on 2006 tour dates.

"If it's easy, it's not My Chem," said Iero with a laugh. "For some reason, we always find the way to make it the most difficult thing in the world. If there's not a way to get hurt doing it or if it's not overly difficult, I'm sorry--we have to pass. For the next video, I think we're going to release lions and have them [devour] us. We don't like it easy."

Misfortune also struck Iero: he's missing this winter's overseas tour due to unspecified "illness." (He wouldn't comment on specifics; his publicist said he had a "sudden attack of illness.") As a result, he is in Los Angeles doing interviews to advance the US jaunt, which begins Feb. 22. Iero is scheduled to rejoin My Chemical Romance for the US dates in support of the group's Top 10, gold-certified album, last year's "The Black Parade."

"I'm waiting for them to get here. I cannot wait," he said. "I'm here and I've been checking up on them on YouTube and stuff like that. I know the shows are going amazing and they're killing it every night. I've been talking to them every night. I wish I could be there. I can't wait for them to get back to the States so I can play."

Before he rejoined the band, he talked to LiveDaily about the making of "The Black Parade," the album's storyline and working with Liza Minelli.

LiveDaily: This album is quite an evolution for you guys. Did you consciously decide to make an album much different from your previous works?

Frank Iero: It was an amazing experience; it really was. It was definitely a conscious decision to write something or do something we had never done before. We wanted to just to try to break down boundaries that maybe we had set up around ourselves. We wanted to do something that maybe would be timeless, that we would be proud of in 20 years. Something for the rest of our lives we'll always remember that we did this. We did something that we never thought we could possibly do.

What is the songwriting process like? Do you write in the studio, on the road, at home?

Actually, [it's] a mix of everything. When we were writing for this record, while we were on the road, we had a makeshift studio in the back of our bus. We had a little ProTools set-up. Anytime something would come to you, maybe you'd lay down a riff here or there. Or you'd bring it to somebody else and we'd lay down a couple of tracks. A lot of the stuff we wrote on the road--we kind of scrapped. Maybe one or two songs we kept or just kept in the back of our heads to write later. Most of them were just to get the writing process going. We sat down. We wrote in New York. Then we finished in New York. We moved into a [house] where everybody had a room. We had a big live-room and we could play whenever we wanted--24 hours a day. We had a little ProTools set up there where we could demo whatever songs we felt were at the level that we wanted to record.

[Producer] Rob Cavallo would come in and listen to us write, have suggestions where to go from there. He would play some piano and we would write around that. We went in the studio once we had skeletons of some songs and some songs were completely done. I'd never done this before, but we tracked in order of the record. It was so weird. That was Rob's idea. That was great because you could really live the story. You could go through all the emotions that the characters were going through. That's how it was happening. We were actually fine-tuning the story all the way to the end. When we had an ending where we knew where the character was going, and the story that we wanted to tell, some of the songs we needed to write in the studio. Some songs that we thought were great we scrapped in the studio. ,,, "[Welcome to] The Black Parade" ... was one of the last songs we did, and it was rewritten three or four times. It was actually recorded and done one of the ways. We listened back to it and it wasn't to the level we wanted it to be. We scrapped it, rewrote it, wrote a new chorus to it, and kind of flipped it around a bunch, re-recorded it, brought in some orchestration. My dad played some marching snare on it. It was great. It was just a real organic feeling.

Tell me about the story line.

The main character is The Patient. He is dying tragically of a disease kind of early on in his life. When death comes for him, it comes for him in his earliest memory, which is of his father taking him to the parade. So, death comes for him in the form of this black parade and takes him on this journey of basically his life flashing before his eyes. He goes on and sees different things he's seen throughout the years--different decisions he had made, different people he's met along the way--and you get to hear those stories. Finally at the end of the record, he starts to plead with death and realizes he didn't live his life the way he wanted to live it and he wants another chance.

I've heard your songs on pop, alternative and rock stations. Did you think, while you were writing "The Black Parade," that the album would have that kind of crossover appeal?

I can honestly say that never came to our minds when writing it. We just wrote what we wanted to write. We wrote what we wanted to hear and what the songs wanted to be. We were very fortunate that a broad spectrum of people like the songs and appreciate it for what it is. Did we know? No. It's really cool, though, that it happened that way. Now, a wider gamut of people can hear the record on the radio. It's especially cool for us because, in New Jersey and New York, there are no rock stations. Now, you can turn on a bunch of different stations and hear it.

Do you get a kick out of hearing yourself on the radio?

Yeah, it's kind of weird. My mom likes it a lot.

It seems like your talents are showcased a lot more on this album than previous efforts. Would you say that's accurate? It seems like you had more versatility.

Yeah, we definitely weren't tied into anything--"This song has to be a metal song," or,"We're this kind of band and we can't stray from that." We never felt that way. We're My Chemical Romance and any song we write is going to be a My Chemical Romance song, whether it has a salsa feel or whether it's straight 4/4 time or anything like that. .... We definitely experimented with a lot of different styles of music and different feels that we never tried before. That was one of the fun things about this record and the great things about having Bob Bryar in the band. He was just open to anything and could play anything. That's one of the opportunities that we never had in the past--somebody with that talent to be able to play any kind of tempo or feel.

What was it like to work with Liza Minelli?

Oh man, we owe that all to Rob Cavallo. We had joked about it. We didn't think we could accomplish getting her to sing on our record. There happened to be a character in the record, Mother War, who plays a part in the song called "Mama." We knew we wanted a female voice. We wanted a female voice of somebody who had lived a long, turbulent life. Somebody who had seen a lot, maybe experienced a lot of pain and maybe had it rough at times. We tossed around a bunch of names that we thought would be great for it. We kept coming back to, "That would be great if we could get someone like Liza Minelli." And one day, nearing the end of the recording process, Rob and was like, "Do you want someone like Liza Minelli or do you want Liza Minelli?" We're like, "F---, of course we want Liza Minelli. But there's no way that that could ever happen." He said, "All right, hold on." I guess his people called her people and whatever, and a week later we had Liza Minelli singing on our record. It was amazing. Apparently, she was a fan of the band and the things we were doing. She had a great time doing it. She did a great job.

What can we expect from your shows?

We're definitely going to do a My Chem show, but on a way larger scale. I don't think we've taken on as much as we're going to take on with this new tour. We're talking about different set designs and settings of the stories. It'll definitely take you on the journey of the record, but in a more visual sense than we've ever had before.

With a concept album, how are you going to perform the concert? Are you going to do "The Black Parade" in whole? Or are you going to break it into pieces and do a regular concert, per se?

I was talking to Gerard about it last night, and we're actually still talking about it. I think there's a very, very, very good possibility that we're going to do "The Black Parade" in the whole. But are we going to do it in the order of the story that has been released or are we going to change the story around a little bit? I'm not sure.

What are you going to do when this tour is over with?

We're doing the first leg of the US tour. Halfway through, we break, we go over to Europe, we do some European dates. Then we go back and do the second leg of the US tour. And then go to Japan, and then I think there's some European shows for the summer and also a US tour in the works right now.

Interview: Katharine McPhee

Interview: Katharine McPhee
February 01, 2007 02:15 PM
by Christina Fuoco
LiveDaily Contributor

"American Idol" 2006 runner-up Katharine McPhee is known for her singing chops, but things easily could've turned out differently.

Many fans don't know that McPhee acted in an MTV pilot that wasn't picked up.

"Oh yeah, that was a long time ago--at least it feels like it," McPhee said in a recent telephone interview.

Acting was McPhee's second love--singing being the first--but she took it seriously. In 2004, she enrolled in the Broadway Theatre Project, a summer arts program in Tampa, FL, headed up by Ann Reinking. Guest lecturers included Julie Andrews and Ben Vereen. When her acting career waned, she decided to audition for "Idol."

"I always sung," McPhee said. "That was my first natural talent and first passion. I always said to myself, 'Whatever way I could make it in, I would just go with it.'

"I wasn't going for the right parts. I was going in for parts that were too young for me. That's kind of why I auditioned for 'Idol.' I just needed a change of pace," McPhee said.

For her "change of pace," she sang Whitney Houston's "Run to You" and made the cut.
McPhee talked to LiveDaily about her self-titled debut album, which hit stores this week, co-writing songs for the record, and her Feb. 1 appearance on "Ugly Betty." To promote the album, McPhee will appear on "Live With Regis & Kelly" (Feb. 1), "TRL" (Feb. 5), "The Early Show" (Feb. 6), "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (Feb. 7) and "Larry King Live" (Feb. 8).

LiveDaily: Tell me a little about your album. You must be thrilled that your debut is about to hit stores.

Katharine McPhee: I'm excited. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm putting together the band. I'm looking forward to getting out there on the road and promoting it and seeing what happens. There's nerves, too, about how it will do. I really believe everything happens for a reason. It'll take its course. We'll see what it does. I'm trying not to have too many expectations, but I'm being really positive. I'm really excited to go out there and do what I do and sing--sing with a new band. It's really exciting.

When do you expect to start touring?

I don't mean touring. I mean promo touring, like Jay Leno and stuff. That starts the end of the month.

Are you nervous about doing late-night shows?

I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure I'll have some sort of jitters. It will be nothing like it was on 'Idol,' that's for sure.

Were you able to co-write any of the songs on the album?

Yes, I co-wrote on three different songs, including "Neglected" and "Open Toes." I co-wrote with Kara DioGuardi [influential songwriter and Platinum Weird member]. Kara's great. So was pretty much everyone that was there. We were recording in Virginia Beach. But Kara and I did most of our writing together.

What was the most important thing you learned from working in the studio?

Patience. Patience. Your end product doesn't come immediately. I don't have a lot of experience with recording. Now I do. I learned a lot. I think those are probably the main things.

Was recording in a studio everything you expected?

I didn't realize how much work it is. Now, when I listen to the record, I don't listen to it quite the same. I think of the actual experience of them being in the recording studio--that person who's singing the song, how many times she stacked the vocals, how many times she did different harmonies on each line. I look at it very differently. It's much more time consuming than you would ever imagine.

I've heard it's difficult and it kind of turns people into perfectionists, even if they were not before.

Well I've always been a perfectionist. Unfortunately, I was cursed with that.

Was it difficult to handle in the studio?

Um, yeah. Difficult, like, letting go, and letting other people take control and say what they thought or whatever. That kind of stuff.

What was it like to work with producer Babyface?

Babyface produced some of the tracks and Kara DioGuardi did some of the tracks. But it was absolute perfection. Heaven. He was so easy to work with. He was just really quick. He has a great ear. He knows what he's talking about.

He has such a vast background.

I was so honored. I was just really giggly and excited. I've been a fan of him since I was a kid. I went to lunch with him and we got along really well. It was fun.

You recently dove back into the acting world by playing yourself on "Ugly Betty." Tell me about your forthcoming appearance on "Ugly Betty."

That was so much fun. I was there from 9 in the morning until 12 at night. These people are so amazing. They worked such long hours. We work long hours in the recording studio. It's just different. It's that whole thing of, "Hurry up and wait." I actually wasn't bored. I had a blast. You got tired, up and down, but then you get on the set and you're excited again. From America [Ferrera, who plays the title character] to the ensemble, everyone was incredibly great. The director was amazing. She made me feel incredibly welcome. I thought to myself, "Oh my gosh, I would have had such a different experience had they not been so nice and welcoming." Sometimes you can feel like the first day of school. You don't know anybody. You're the new kid in school. I get the feeling that most sets aren't like "Ugly Betty." This one is very unique and special, and they're all excited about working.