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Gary Calamar Takes Us on a Nostalgic Tour of His Own LA With New Singles ‘Little Tokyo,’ ‘Prince of Pico Blvd’


Gary Calamar is a multi-tasking musician. He’s a popular DJ on KCRW, and by day he’s a GRAMMY-nominated music supervisor on successful film and TV projects.

Gary also hosts the monthly Mimosa Music Series at the Federal Bar in North Hollywood. But through it all, he keeps on writing.

Gary Calamar photo courtesy KCRW

Gary Calamar is a shining light to pop songwriters – Photo courtesy KCRW


From Yonkers to LA

Gary just released two singles, one called “Little Tokyo,” and on the flip side “The Prince of Pico Boulevard.”  They’re fun and they capture the subjects lovingly.

“My daughter, Zoe, has been asking me to check out Little Tokyo,” Calamar told “I’m a fan of Little Tokyo through her.”

Gary’s originally from Yonkers, N.Y., but over the years has come to adopt Los Angeles as home. It’s where he settled with his family, and his surroundings and his family are the inspiration for his work.



The Day Job

The low-key, white-haired but youthful music enthusiast is smart enough to know that even at his stage of the game — with five GRAMMY nominations under his belt and a great career in music — he can’t quit his day job.  And as music supervisor on some of the most interesting TV shows and productions, who would want to?

Gary is president of Go Music and he has received five Grammy nominations as producer and music supervisor for his work on HBO’s Six Feet Under and True Blood. He’s overseeing Man In The High Castle, Wayward Pines and Good Girls Revolt right now.

It was his work on True Blood that convinced him he’s heading in the direction with songwriting.

“I was working with Bethany Cosentino and Iggy Pop on a song called ‘Let’s Boot and Rally’ for True Blood and Iggy told me I should continue on with songwriting,” Calamar recalled. “So I’m going to continue on.”

A few years later, his 15-year-old daughter picked up where Iggy left off and had repeatedly expressed to Gary her deep desire to visit Little Tokyo.

Gary spins the discs for KCRW and is a music supervisor by day - Photo courtesy KCRW

Gary spins the discs for KCRW and is a music supervisor by day – Photo courtesy KCRW


Upbeat Tunes

“We finally got around to going to Little Tokyo,” Gary said. “Just everything in Little Tokyo is fun. It’s really colorful and and everybody was really nice. The costumes I saw in the stores and the Japanese pop music, there’s enough to write a song about.”

The result is an upbeat pop song about the two of them “hopping on the Kawasaki” and going to a vibrant part of town.


Gary: The Prince of Pico

As for his song “Prince of Pico Boulevard,” Gary said he was inspired to write the song by some of the great personalities of the day.

“I grew up in the time when there were a lot of cool DJ names, like in New York we had Cousin Brucie, and KCRW is on Pico Boulevard, so I came up with this fun mock title for myself, which I never used on the radio. But it sort of evolved from there. I used my imagination. And if you listen to the song, you can tell it’s inspired by Lou Reed and Velvet Underground.”

It’s Gary’s love for Los Angeles got him going in his recent direction, along with some prodding by his daughter.


‘Perfect Version of Me’

“It’s a double-A side single,” Calamar said. “I wanted to do songs about Los Angeles. The “Little Tokyo” song is a true story, about my daughter, Zoe, who’s 15. She wanted to go to Little Tokyo and I got inspired.”

The songs are produced by John Would, who Calamar says has a great studio in Echo Park. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and he’s Calamar’s producer.

“Instrumentally, he’s a great musician,” Gary said. “So as we’re going he might try a guitar riff that we’ll use. He produces, mixes and engineers.”

The “Prince of Pico” moniker is more about Gary’s goals from childhood than his adulthood at the radio station and behind the controls.

“It’s about a perfect version of me,” he said.

“I drive a Plymouth Barracuda and travel on the highest roads
I’m the irridescent knight who will break up the fight
Diffuse the bomb before it explodes
And they call me the Prince of Pico Boulevard

“Well I came from boogie downtown and made my way west to the coast
I could tell you some stories of past glories but I don’t like to boast
And though I got some holes in my well-worn kicks I will always give you a buck
I’m the local beautifier I’ll put out the fire in a sticky situation I’ll help you get unstuck “

Gary is no stranger to recording. He released an EP prior to this, called You Are What You Listen To, a six-song collection produced by Would. His songs are catchy and he blends irony with wit and makes it appealing and not preachy. One of our earlier favorites is “Looking For a Job.” 

Gary Calamar California Rocker

One of Gary’s earlier works, ‘Looking for a Job’


Mimosa Music Sundays

Gary’s monthly Mimosa Music Series brings in musicians — some well-known and others not as well-known — to do what everyone likes best: Play music.

“We used to do them out of my house. We’ve had Donavan, Roseanne Cash, John Doe, John Hyatt, and it just got too big for the house. We moved it to the Federal Bar.”  The next Mimosa Music get together is next week.

Check out Mimosa Music Series on Facebook

Check out Gary’s music on iTunes

Gary said he’s inspired by those who have stuck with it.

“Beck was playing little tiny clubs,” Calamar said. “He was playing little clubs as a  scruffy guy and he’s done very well for himself. He’s risen from nothing to go on and win a GRAMMY.”

Gary said in the music business, dedication pays off.

“It’s not easy today,” he said. “Follow your muse and your dreams and do what satisfies you, and hopefully you will make it pay off. Have a backup plan and continue to write.”

EXCLUSIVE: Peter Ascher Tells Musicians ‘Don’t Expect To Make Money Unless You’re Ed Sheeran’

Renowned Music Producer and Manager Says Go Solo


Peter Ascher, famed musician and manager of James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and who worked with The Beatles, said musicians should not be in it for the money, because there is none.

We asked Ascher the question: How do musicians make money today?

“They don’t,” he told in an exclusive interview following his NAMM Show keynote address. “You have to do it because you love it.  You have to be Ed Sheeran. He fills Wembley Stadium and does it all by himself.”

Sheeran is known to appear onstage solo, with a loop pedal and a guitar.

peter ascher -5-namm-balancia (1 of 1)

Bob Lefsetz interviews Peter Ascher – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

‘The Reward is in The Work’

Ascher said the reward is in the work. And his work has been particularly enviable, working with The Beatles’ Apple Records, and managing and producing artists such as Taylor and Ronstadt. Helping them create their albums was a thing of joy, Ascher said.

With Ronstadt, he said, “Linda chose a lot of the songs but she liked folk music.  If the songs were more rock, then I picked them.”

Of his first meeting with Ronstadt, Ascher said, “Kate Taylor told me there was this young girl who sang in short shorts and bare feet, and of course she was incredibly hot. I didn’t sign her on the spot because I was working with Kate Taylor, James’ sister. I helped Linda finish ‘Don’t Cry Now’ then I became her manager.”

Peter Ascher on ‘You’re No Good’

With Ronstadt’s superhit, “You’re No Good,” Ascher said he and Ronstadt both loved the song and they were aware it was a bit hit for Betty Everett.

“We played with the arrangement a lot, and we brought in Andrew Gold and he built the song track by track.”

Sweet Baby James was a superhit album in the late 1970s with great songs. How did the tune, “Suite for 20 G,” which was actually a compilation song, come about?

peter ascher namm-general-8-balancia (1 of 1)

Creative producing is the key to having the hit records, Peter Ascher tells Bob Lefsetz – Photo © 2017 Donna Balancia

‘Sweet Baby James’ and The Rise of James Taylor

“James came to me and said, ‘I haven’t got any more songs, they’re fragments,’ so I told him to string them all together.” Ascher said that’s why you can hear three distinctive parts of the song.  And when the song was finished he got the last 20 Gs he was owed.

Ascher said the rise of James Taylor and the famous album Sweet Baby James was a great accomplishment.

“I had James playing every place I could think of,” Ascher said. “He was becoming popular, ‘Fire and Rain’ was the single that would change our lives.’

How did Ascher manage to do it all?

“I don’t sleep much,” he said.

At the moment, Ascher is working with composer Hanz Zimmer, who’s next big gig will be performing at Coachella. Ascher has also been working as music director on the Steve Martin play Bright Star. The Bright Star album is a contender for Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMY Award.

The Smart Pills ‘Lost Studio Recordings’ Are Appropriate Discovery for Today, EP on Sale Dec. 2

Smart Pills Founder Vince Conrad Says Re-Release of Punk Recordings a Labor of Love


The Smart Pills in 1979 – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad


If you never got a chance to get a copy of any of The Smart Pills songs back in the 1970s, you’re getting a reprieve.

On Dec. 2, Vince Conrad Productions will release The Smart Pills – Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979, a four-song collection of the only studio recordings ever made by the Smart Pills, back in 1979.

The Smart Pills band, comprised of Git Smart, Vince Conrad and drummer Billy Ray, takes on government corruption, relationship screw-ups and life in the punk world they enjoyed back in New York and LA in the day.  It holds up well today.

“By 1979 punk rock and disco were competing forces in music and lifestyle,” Conrad said. “Mainstream radio and big record labels supported and promoted disco, as opposed to punk rock which was still very much the counter culture and not widely accepted. Both were by this time well established as music genres, but disco was far more lucrative for record companies and palatable by mainstream America.”

The Smart Pills: Brash Style Punk Rock


No subject too tough for The Smart Pills – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

The music is tight, in-your-face, brash punk. The Smart Pills challenge politicians, corporate jerks and even their own girlfriends on The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979. With titles like “Brainwashed,” “Person To Avoid,” and “Yankee Doodle Boy,” the ideology still rings through.

“Jimmy Carter was president and oddly enough, there was a general political feeling much like today prior to the election,” Conrad said.

“The hostages were still being held in Iran, with one failed rescue attempt by the US,” he said.  “There were high gas prices and high interest rates, with a declining middle class.  Factories had already started moving to Japan and Ronald Regan would be elected President in 1980.”

Formed in New York in 1978, The Smart Pills were one of the early first generation punk bands.  The Smart Pills relocated to Hollywood in 1979 and performed in LA’s punk rock scene.  While gaining the interest of two record companies, the Smart Pills were never signed to a record label.  But The Smart Pills wrote more than 16 original songs, which they played live in New York, Los Angeles and even the Midwest throughout 1978 and 1979.

The Break-Up of The Smart Pills

The Smart Pills in the old days - Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad for

The Smart Pills in the old days – Photo courtesy of Vince Conrad

Git Smart broke up The Smart Pills after he accepted an offer from staff writers at Warner Bros. to embark on a solo career. Conrad started American Bad Taste in Los Angeles after the breakup. The Smart Pills continued to work on projects over the years.

But the original half-inch 8-track master Smart Pills reel-to-reel had been long forgotten, buried deep in Git Smart’s storage unit.  The Smart Pills were pursued by a record label for a deal that eventually fell through and Conrad cleaned up the tracks himself, preparing for the Dec. 2 release.

“It’s been a great experience revisiting this music and the work to get the tracks out there has been a labor of love,” Conrad said.

Conrad has been making up for lost time. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is the fifth CD release from Vince Conrad Productions  The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings is not the only collection that has been retrieved from the depths.

Earlier this year Vince Conrad Productions released a double live CD of rare performances in the midwest by the Smart Pills. The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP has never been previously released and was not discovered until earlier this year.

“I went on with my life, had a family and then one day when I was moving, I found this box with all the masters that I completely forgot about,” Conrad said. “I played the music and I thought it held up pretty well and was probably more appropriate today than ever.”

Are You ‘Brainwashed’ Today?


Tough looking guys putting out killer music – Photo courtesy Vince Conrad

“Brainwash,” is one of the tunes on the album. It deals with how the media controls the beliefs of the country.

Does Conrad think the people are still brainwashed by the media today?

“People are brainwashed today more than ever,” Conrad said. “No one reads books, journals or other publications any more for information.  Most of the general public seem to get the majority of their information from TV.

“That’s why the first thing governments have done for a long time now is grab control of the media,” Conrad said.  “We saw a lot of that recently in the current election.  You tell me, where did people get their information and why did they vote as they did?”

Vince Conrad formed Vince Conrad Productions in late 2015. The label has released The Aliens NYC, by The Aliens, an early punk rock band performing exclusively in New York’s Max’s Kansas City, CBGBs, Club 82 and other venues during 1976.

The fantastic find was just the tip of the iceberg as the basement discovery yielded more recordings. Conrad started a label and released some of the live recordings, including The Smart Pills double live CD, recorded in early 1979 and songs by another punk band, American Bad Taste, which recorded and performed in Los Angeles and the Midwest until 1981.

More Songs, More Bands on VCP Label


Git Smart and Vince Conrad: Faces have changed, music’s the same – Photo courtesy Git Smart

Conrad also released The Vince Conrad EP, a collection of six songs written from 1980 to 1984, which were performed live in various punk bands, but never recorded until 2015.  The CDs are available for purchase as downloads or CDs exclusively through the VCP website,

Conrad said the music business is different than it was in the old days but if you have enough drive you can not only succeed, but can extend the reach of your music beyond local radio stations.

“True there are a lot fewer record deals being offered to people today,” Conrad said. “But the web has opened up a lot of opportunities for musicians. I have listeners here in the U.S., as well as in many European countries and South America. You have to put in the time and you have to switch your thought process from being a musician to being a business person to get your music heard. It can be done.”

Conrad distributes his own music through his website and he says self-distribution is a new model for younger artists.

“In the Pre-Internet days, major record companies in conjunction with major radio stations controlled the promotion and distribution of music in America,” he said. “These conglomerates controlled the music industry and dictated what bands and what music America heard.  The majority of original music was never selected to make that immortal leap to vinyl.

“Today, with the Internet, artists can take control of the promotion, distribution and finances relating to their music or art,” Conrad said.  “It’s a business model similar to outlet malls, where the manufacturer markets and sells directly to the consumer.”

Smart music lovers will keep watch for The Smart Pills Lost Studio Recordings EP 1979 on the VCP website, which will be released on Dec. 2. Check out the downloads here:


David and The Curse Releases Single ‘She Loves The Night’ a Tribute to Antics of the Evening

David and The Curse Plays El Cid on Nov. 18

David and The Curse releases 'She Loves the Night,' to perform at El Cid

David and The Curse releases ‘She Loves the Night,’ to perform at El Cid


David and the Curse is putting out some major new sounds. The group just released  “She Loves the Night,” a raunchy tune that’s a tribute to true rock n roll.

It’s the lead single off the band’s debut album, An Epitaph For Love, which is due out from David and The Curse in early 2017. This is a rockin’ album and the influence is a combination of retro sounds and new-era psychedelic tech.  But it’s David’s performance and voice that put him up at the top.

David Stücken has a good deal of talent and he’s drawn upon his influences John Lennon and Mike Campbell in putting together his latest album. Born and raised in Los Angeles, he’s seen his share of great bands and has learned a lot over the years.


“Mike Campbell is a huge influence as a composer in general,” David said. “All the music he wrote with Don Henley is excellent, like ‘Boys of Summer’ and ‘New Kid in Town,’ I think he’s got the best tone.”

Sonically Spanning the Years

David said while his music is appropriate for listeners of today, he invokes some of the classics.

Retro sound and modern sensibilities for David and The Curse - Photo courtesy David Stucken for

Retro sound and modern sensibilities for David and The Curse – Photo courtesy David Stucken

“Sonically my music has a modern twist, with ‘She Loves The Night,’ in particular, at its base it’s a rock and roll song,” David said. “That’s the underlying tone of electronic and there are elements but underneath it’s classic rock.”

David wrote and produced the new album, An Epitaph for Love, which is autobiographical album of gritty rock tales told through the lens of an anti-hero. And while he is seeing some solid success, David lives by the rule of keeping his ego in check.

“I think the entertainment industry it’s easy to become a jerk,” he said. “You need balance. You’re nothing without the people who support you.

“If you truly want to be successful, resonating with the audience you have to have humility or you will fail. Mike Campbell is humble, that’s why he’s successful.”

Retro Sound

On his album, David uses a lot of sounds that are retro. That sound comes with the help of bandmates Gene Louis on drums, Chris Null on bass and Kyle Hamood on keyboards.

“The fuzz dates back to the 1960s, and the digital element is moog synthesizer,” he said. “I can’t tell you if the retro sounds were part of writing, but they were part of the recording process.”

David and The Curse - Rocker tough with tender songwriting - Photo courtesy David Stucken

David and The Curse – Rocker tough with tender songwriting – Photo courtesy David Stucken

“‘She Loves The Night’ is psychedelic disco rock and roll. It’s my Rolling Stones Miss You. The single captures the tone of the record. You can put it on on a Saturday night. It’s an empowering song. It takes on topics of excess and the sound is fun.”

The recording process is quick and with this album, the songs are being recorded quickly. I ddint’ want to get tunnel vision. Everything on the record is organic.

“It’s a struggle any way you look at it in the digital era,” he said. “The music business is very unstable. I think the music business reflects our times.

Are most of the bands created these days?

“There are bands that are made to sound like something else,” he said. “It’s as if they were manufactured. I hope when you hear us you realize we’re not like that.”

Check out David and The Curse on their Facebook Page


Cindy Lee Berryhill To Release New Album, ‘The Adventurist,’ Truly a Transcendent Labor of Love

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at a recent fundraiser for La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Cindy Lee Berryhill is a “Lover of Love” and that comes through loud and clear on her new album, The Adventurist.

Cindy Lee, a fixture in the LA music scene who now lives in Encinitas, gave a sneak listen to the album, which will be released on March 10 on Omnivore Records.

Pre-order Available Now

Pre-Order The Adventurist on Amazon and on iTunes now.

Cindy Lee will perform at McCabe’s on April 2.

“We all have our drugs of choice mine is love,” Cindy Lee said. “I made a decision to write an album in honor of the love I shared with my husband. I’m very excited, it’s my first very focused work since the ’90s.”

The Adventurist is Cindy Lee’s first album since all of her years of caregiving her ailing husband, rock writer Paul Williams.  Paul passed away in March of 2013 from complications of a brain injury.

The songs on the album are songs of love, attraction and desire. One simple and succinct song we like on the album is “American Cinematography.”

“It’s the same thing behind the album that’s behind the song,” she said. “Each song is a tone poem to love and desire and the chemical soup of feelings you have when you fall in love. ‘American Cinematography,’ for me, is when you’re in love with somebody and you look at your beloved, it’s like you’re shooting a film. It’s beautiful and it’s love.”

The Love Affair With Cindy Lee Berryhill

Cindy Lee’s unique sound has earned her a spot in music lovers’ hearts. She put out her first album Who’s Gonna Save The World? in 1987 and it was followed up in 1989 with Naked Movie Star.

Cindy Lee Berryhill - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

In 1999, she published the book, Memoirs of A Female Messiah, which was released along with a live album called Living Room 16.

She has chronicled her experiences in her blog, Beloved Stranger.

Cindy Lee is happy to be back in the recording studio and performing while raising her son, Alexander.

But despite dealing with serious issues life has dealt, Cindy Lee has kept an upbeat attitude. It’s her positive vibe that keeps her a fan favorite.

And now that she’s back into music full time, would she consider moving back to LA any time in the near future?

“I do have commitment to my son,” she said. “I have a commitment to have him continue high school here. That’s partly because I grew up where every three years we moved, so I’ve grown to love consistency. ”

“Encinitas is 100 miles from LA and I live two blocks from the beach, how can you get better than that?”

Overcoming Rough Patches

The road has not always been smooth for Cindy Lee. Coping with her husband’s afflictions and trying to keep her family and career in tact was a challenge.  And during this time in the 1990s, there wasn’t so much information in the news about head trauma.

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill performs at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“My husband had a brain injury,” she said. “It was very difficult towards the end, especially. Seven years after the injury, things started to go south.”

She observed that all these years the news related to football injuries leading to dementia has put her fight by her husband’s side into focus.

“From 2004 on, I was Paul’s caregiver,” she said. “But we had a child in 2001, Alexander, and he is doing amazing.”

Cindy Lee said that today it’s all about moving forward.

“At a certain point I really wanted to write a song about love and attraction, but how you need transcendence,” she said.

A New Digital World of Music

Cindy Lee is returning to a business that has changed drastically even over the last 20 years.

“When I grew up, you fell in love with the record, and then you went to see artist,” she said. “Now it’s the other way around.”

Cindy Lee Berryhill by Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee Berryhill by Donna Balancia

Cindy Lee has a strong connection to trends in the music industry because of her “day” job — she’s a guitar teacher.  She said kids today use a different route to find music they like.

“I’m priviledged working with young people every day,” she said. “Young people are finding music through computer games and TV shows; They know older songs and that’s through their parents. It’s secondary to the games.”

As music is being discovered through TV advertisements, is that considered selling out?

“TV commercials and movies are the way people are discovering the music today,” she said. “So the only thing that’s a sellout is if you hate the product. If it’s something to get behind, then that’s great.”


Exclusive Interview: Mike Campbell and The Dirty Knobs Open The Door to Fun With SoCal Shows

A Rare Chat With All Four Top Musicians in The Dirty Knobs

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


The Dirty Knobs have one mission with their live performances: Fun.

And plenty of fun is on the horizon for fans of this animal-nicknamed band of musicians who will be playing several Southern California gigs.

The Dirty Knobs is comprised of Mike Campbell on vocals and lead, guitarist Jason Sinay, Matt Laug on drums and Lance Morrison on bass. They even have little nicknames for each other, with Mike known as “Gator,” guitarist Jason known as “Ape,” drummer Matt is “Swampfox,” and Lance is “Crawdaddy.”

“We stay under the radar mainly so there’s no conflict of interest with other bands,” Campbell said.

Campbell, a well-known songwriter, is the lead guitarist and co-founder of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “As long as that’s going on, we’re keeping The Dirty Knobs on the down low.”

Campbell said The Dirty Knobs are about the music.

“The band exists for fun,” he said. “I get to sing and try new songs out. I play and write every day.”


What’s Behind the Knobs’ Name?

While it may sound a little suggestive, the name of the band actually came about through a tactile experience not of a sexual nature.

Matt Laug, known as 'Swampfox' of The Dirty Knobs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Matt Laug, known as ‘Swampfox’ of The Dirty Knobs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“There was a dirty knob on the amp so I said ‘That’s what we’re gonna call ourselves, The Dirty Knobs!'” he said. “Yes, there’s somewhat of a double entendre, but it’s all in good fun.”

The band has been playing some relatively high-profile gigs including the Telluride’s Ride Festival last year. There are recordings of some Dirty Knobs songs, but those haven’t been released.

“We do it for the songs and for the joy of playing,” Mike said. “Once you start promoting the band it turns the energy into something else, so we’re under the radar.

“We do oddball covers, that’s our little niche,” Mike said. “When we walk, out we’re not going to play the hits. And if you like us, fine.”

“Our covers are pretty obscure,” said Jason, who has come up with a lot of the cover song suggestions. “Of all the songs we do I don’t think I have a favorite, I love them all. But what do I know? I’m just an ape in a tree with a banana.”

Mike Campbell: Dirty Knobs is a Real ‘Boys Club’

“We all gave ourselves nicknames,” Mike said. “It’s a real boys club.”

How did these musicians come together?

“I met the bass player through the drummer, and the drummer through the roadie,” Mike recalled.

Chinner, the guitar tech, is the connecting factor for The Dirty Knobs. He’s the unassuming, go-to guy for anything related to the Dirty Knobs. He brought the guys together.

“In 1987, I was working for the Georgia Satellites, I became friends with Tom Petty’s longtime guitar tech Alan “Bugs” Weidel and he hired me in 1990. I’ve been here ever since.”

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs, and co-founder of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mike Campbell of The Dirty Knobs, and co-founder of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Matt the drummer, known as “Swampfox,” also has a prolific pedigree.

“Mike’s guitar tech called me personally and I said I know a bass player who’s pretty good and that’s how we got Lance,” he said. “That was 12 years ago and we’ve been rockin’ ever since.”

Matt says music and drumming require continual work.

“Nobody’s mastered this,” he said. “That’s why doctors call it a ‘practice.’ That’s the way I feel, we’re always improving.”

Matt has a great pedigree having played with Alice Cooper and Slash. He’s on DW Drums, Paiste Cymbals, REMO drumheads and Vic Firth Drumsticks. The band uses Fender amps.

“I met Lance the bass player on a gig 22 years ago,” he said. “Some years later I met Ape and then Chinner asked if I wanted to audition.”

Keeping it Local and In the Family

And it’s not easy to get musicians like these. But for Matt, there was one thing that reeled him in.

“We knew right away this would be a great project because we didn’t have to jump on a plane at 4 a.m. or hop in a van or sell merch,” he said. “This is a fun band that loves performing.”

Matt, in turn, brought along Lance the bass player, known as Crawdaddy. Crawdaddy has spent 17 years in Don Henley’s band. And for him too this is a fun side project.

“Mike co-wrote a lot of the hits with Don Henley, so everyone knows each other,” Crawdaddy said. “The way I feel, literally, when I play with the Knobs is it’s like playing with friends from high school. It’s really pure and it’s what we all started playing music for. I think if we did a record we would kill it, but we’re all pretty busy. We’re happy when we can find the time to get together.”

Live in Los Angeles

The Dirty Knobs fans are pretty fortunate to live in Los Angeles, where the band stays. And how did the Knobs happen to pick LA a home base?

Jason Sinay, known as 'Ape' - for a furry guy he plays a great guitar - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Jason Sinay, known as ‘Ape’ – for a furry guy he plays a great guitar – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“When I came out here with the Heartbreakers we had a chance to live in New York or LA and the weather was the reason we picked LA,” Mike said.

The shows will also include someone the band considers a sort-of fifth Knob, Marc Ford.

“About seven or eight years ago we did a gig at NAMM for Duesenberg,” Jason recalled. ” We liked him and he sat in with us. It was easy.”

Ford will be playing as opener on the shows.

Jason said it’s been relatively easy to fit in as a Knob. For him, he was nervous about trying out. And he didn’t react to Mike’s trademark wild hair.

“Mike didn’t have the hair back then but if he did it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “I didn’t care I just wanted to be in this band. When I auditioned, I was thinking ‘Please don’t make a mistake.’

About selling merch, the band said they may do that one day as well.

“I have one T-shirt and I treasure it,” Matt said.

Marc Ford a 'fifth Knob' - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Marc Ford a ‘fifth Knob’ – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

As for the venues, Matt said: “We go where the people want us to play,” he said. “Some places are closing so we’re lucky to have the beautiful venues we play in. For instance, we used to play a place called Cozy’s, which is gone. But in Southern California there are some great places.”

The Dirty Knobs play the Coach House in Orange County tonight; Saint Rocke in Hermosa on Friday; the Soho in Santa Barbara on Nov. 25; The Canyon Club in Agoura Hills on Dec. 1; and The Rose in Pasadena on Dec. 11.



‘Trailer Park Boys’ Live: Cheeseburger Randy and Mr. Lahey Bring Comedy Show to Whisky A Go-Go

Mr. Lahey and Randy bring their crazy comedy to the Whisky A Go Go - Photo courtesy of Mr. Leahy and Randy

Mr. Lahey and Randy bring their crazy comedy to the Whisky A Go Go – Photo courtesy of Mr. Lahey and Randy


If you haven’t seen the comedy series Trailer Park Boys on Netflix, it’s not too late to get caught up before two of the show’s main characters come to the Whisky A Go-Go next week.

Cheeseburger Randy and Sunnyvale Trailer Park supervisor Mr. Lahey, are bringing their boozy, wacky audience participation comedy show to the Whisky on Oct. 28.

‘No Pants Unpissed Tour’ Hits Whisky on Oct. 28

Keeping in character, Mr. Lahey and the cheeseburger-chasing Randy answered a few questions for

CR: What happens at your show?

MR. LAHEY:  We don’t get wild we get silly. We pack the houses and have a lot of fun.  People need a change of clothes from our show.


Mr. Lahey and Randy: It’s all about booze and burgers – Photo courtesy of Lahey and Randy

CR: OK …

MR. LAHEY: We’ve had some great shows, we even opened for Coldplay

RANDY:  It’s called the ‘No Pants Unpissed Tour’ – it’s a a silly show, you know. Stand-up.

MR. LAHEY: Mostly people take off their shirts.

CR: Do you like Los Angeles?

RANDY: I’m looking forward to coming to Los Angeles because of In and Out Burger. We don’t get here often, but we love In and Out – going in and going out. That’s my  best friend, ‘In and Out,’  and I like it extra sloppy and extra greasy.

MR. LAHEY: I haven’t been to Los Angeles since 1976 to see my friend, Arthur.

RANDY: Like ‘Arthur?’ Arthur was a movie, and he was a drunk like you, Mr. Leahy.

CR: What prompted you two to tour the U.S.?

RANDY: I wanted to try cheeseburgers across America.

MR. LAHEY: And I wanted to try the California wine. That’s why we’re coming to California.”

Randy and Lahey coming to the Whisky A Go Go - Photo courtesy of Randy and Leahy

Randy and Lahey coming to the Whisky A Go Go – Photo courtesy of Randy and Lahey

CR: What kind of wine do you like? Do you like Napa, California wine? Red?

MR. LAHEY: I like any kind anybody will buy me.

CR: What happens at the show?

RANDY: Basically people piss their pants laughing. That’s why they have to go home and change.”

For tickets go to The Whisky A Go Go website.

Video courtesy of Scandy B. Gnarly

Interview: Nick Waterhouse Keeps The Machine Rolling With New Album, ‘Never Twice’ and US Tour

Music’s Innovator Taps Into Middle America Work Ethic

'Never Twice' is the new album from Nick Waterhouse - California Rocker Interview

‘Never Twice’ is the new album from Nick Waterhouse


Nick Waterhouse has a lot on his mind.

He writes songs, performs them, and produces and collaborates with notable musicians. He’s continually working the next lucrative avenue so he can keep the machine rolling.

And he’s doing it all while following his dreams.

The California-via-Midwest rythm-and-blues rocker has a new record out called Never Twice.  The record is the third strong album from a guy who is both creatively gifted and who is also a smart businessman.

“I’m a little more aware of that stuff than the average musician,” Waterhouse told “It’s a product of my upbringing. I have practical parents, non-artistic parents. It’s a constant war within me between being aware and having responsibility, and getting my ideas executed.”

The new album, Never Twice, released by Innovative Leisure is a collection of songs that reflect a lot that’s going on beneath the studied casual appearance Waterhouse sports. The tunes reflect an upbringing that blends the American experience with the roadmap of how to get where you want to go in life. He says the latest collection doesn’t have a theme per se, but instead the songs reflect the work Waterhouse has been doing for several years.



“Making a record happens over time,” Waterhouse said. “With these songs there’s stuff as early as after Holly and and as recent as the last session before the album. Yes, I do my planning before I start recording but the hardest thing is scheduling space and equipment.”

Michael McHugh and Waterhouse Co-Produce

Michael McHugh co produces Never Twice with Waterhouse, Jazz musician Bob Kenmotsu is on flute, Tom Waits and Elvis Costello collaborator Ralph Carney plays sax, and Dr. Lonnie Smith protege Will Blades is on the organ. Leon Bridges is on the lead single “Katchi.”

Waterhouse has made a serious imprint on live music in a relatively short time. He recorded his first single, “Some Place,” in 2010 with a pickup group, the Turn-Keys. He has played — and still does play — with Ty Segall and pals the Allah-Las, whom he produces. Time’s All Gone, his first album, was released on Innovative Leisure Records in 2012. His second album, Holly was released in 2014.

As for his latest work, one of the singles off the new album, “LA Turnaround” has been released on video, when director Laura Lynn pitched him.


“‘LA Turnaround’ is a story about being worn out,” he said. “I’s not a literal narrative. Willie Nelson was talking about how these country singers would do a deadhead drive from Texas to LA.”

Nick Waterhouse ‘Never Twice’

The rest of the songs on Never Twice are upbeat and funky, with saxophone blaring, backup singers groovin and cymbals crashing.  The beats and rowdy style may bely the romance that drives each of the songs. “Stanyan Street” tells of unrequited love from afar; “Katchi” is a rockin’ tune about a loving touch and “I Had Some” — complete with great vocals and a gritty urban feel to it — tells the story of the common problem: Nobody’s got dough.

Nick Waterhouse - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse – Photo © Donna Balancia

The new record has the rough audio style Waterhouse is known for but as he continues his artistry is developing into a more sophisticated sound.

“It’s grown through working with great musicians,” Waterhouse said. “It’s nice to have them on the record. Sounds like the inside of my head. I produced and the engineer is the orginal engineer I’ve been working with, Mike McHugh. I learned how to record from him. He taught me about getting the sound I want. That’s the magic of making records, it’s like unfolding.”

Waterhouse says he’s all about the real experience and the collaborations, and his performance choices run the gamut. He collaborates with a range of musicians, like LA-area songstress Pearl Charles, or Paul Bergmann, whom he’s produced.  His show at the Teragram Ballroom last year packed the house.

In addition to playing with today’s contemporaries we caught a show of his at the Observatory a couple of years back, where his band performed with both the renowned wild man King Khan and also the grande dame of demure, Ronnie Spector.

“I’m interested in music, I’m not that interested in making myself a star or an act,” Waterhouse said. “It’s not a matter of working with people who are so well-known, I work with people I like,” he said.

Big Band Style


Nick Waterhouse travels with a big band and it’s worth it, he says – Photo © Donna Balancia

His legacy-style music doesn’t stop at the sound and style of his music. He travels with a large band and he’s devoted to his team, sometimes to his financial detriment.

“I’ve had the odds against me in that I write music for a large ensemble and I get paid the same way a one- or two-person band gets paid,” he said. “I’m given the same value in the system – when you’re given a budget that’s the same as one guy with a computer, you seem expensive.”

Thus the commercial licensing.

He’s smart about his music. Likely he made more money from the Lexus CT commercial than many musicians make over the course of their years solely touring and selling merch. But again, he was smart and put his band front and center in the commercial, where viewers can see his band in action.


Nick Waterhouse performs at Teragram Ballroom - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse performs at Teragram Ballroom – Photo © Donna Balancia

His songs have also been licensed for PlayStation games, he’s got the commercials, he’s toured Europe, and played festivals, but still maintains a down-to-earth manner.

“When you lose money the first couple of years touring, you learn you need to find a way to make it work,” he said. “Doing commercials is the way I keep going.”

Waterhouse advises that musicians who say “I’d never put my music in a commercial” may want to re-think that statement.

“I think every band that thinks that is incredibly naive because the entire music business is an affront to any artist,” he said. “I don’t want companies I object to, philosophically, to be using my music. But the corporations are the ones paying for the songs. It should be the music companies paying the artists. I don’t compromise in making my records. The record is the thing that matters.”

Emotional Connection = Success

Waterhouse said it’s the emotional connection to the song that drives the commercial success. He referenced a band whose superhit also hit TV commercials. When we saw Modern English, they remarked that “I’ll Melt With You” — used for many commercials — is “the song that pays the bills.”


The ‘Connection’ builds the success, Waterhouse says – Photo © Donna Balancia

“They were referring to having a top-40 hit,” Waterhouse said. “People have experiences with that song.”

He added that since the music industry changed the way it does business, smart musicians have to fend for themselves and that includes reaching out to corporate America.

“Corporations are not taking artists for granted,” he said. “Businesses have played into an artificial revolution because the music industry is giving away free music.”

Capturing A Disappearing Era

Waterhouse is subdued, but underneath there’s a lot of stuff going on. Yes he’s from Huntington Beach, but that comes by way of Illinois and Michigan where his parents lived before the family moved to Orange County. Even in his young years — he’s 30 — he’s seeing a way of life slip away and he doesn’t seem happy about it.

“My parents are from Illinois and Michigan and moved to an affordable beachside town,” he said. “Who wouldn’t love that? It was the way it was then. But that way of life is all gone now.”

What does he think of vinyl?

“It’s a great chemical compound,” Waterhouse jokes. “I make my records on tape, so it makes a lot of sense to press them on vinyl. It’s what I like. It’s like some people like mushrooms, or some people like leather.”

Nick Waterhouse on Tour

Nick Waterhouse on the road - Photo © Donna Balancia

Nick Waterhouse on the road – Photo © Donna Balancia

Waterhouse recently added Texas dates to his tour. Why Texas?

“It’s just real big,” he said. “I’ve played Texas and those markets are great. The difference between playing El Paso and Houston is like LA and Seattle. I love Austin and I love Texas in general. I have a Texan in my band, Johnny.

The renaissance player knows his sound sets him apart. And being the realist, he knows he’s committed to his throwback R and B style. It’s the rare aspect of his life that he can’t control. He’s different from all the others in at least the aspect that he values a different style of performance than many of the other bands today.

“I play blues-based music that’s a little beyond the language of independent rock, so to speak,” Waterhouse said. ” I’ve listened to rythm and blues Rock ‘N’ Roll my whole life. I didn’t choose it – it came along and influenced me. It’s the music that’s in my dreams.”

On the Eve of Prima Donna Gig With Blondie, Kevin Preston Tells Us What Makes Him Tick

prima-donna-11-wtmkR (1 of 1)Prima Donna is one of those beloved California bands that wows the crowds whenever they play. The guys are opening for Blondie on Sept. 10. at the Observatory in San Diego.

Prima Donna’s Punk Rock roots run deep. Frontman Kevin Preston sat down with editor Donna Balancia to answer some of the important questions.

DB: How did you guys meet Blondie?

KP: I met Clem a while back at a Hugh Cornwell (ex-Stranglers) show, or maybe it was a New York Dolls show.
Then a few years ago, he introduced me to Debbie and Chris at SXSW. I hung out at their shows that whole weekend.
Total dream come true.

DB: How did you manage to keep in touch over the years?  

KP: It’s easy to keep in touch because Clem and I go see all the same shows. We’re always bumping in to each other.

prima-donna-12-wtmkR (1 of 1)DB: Why do all these punkers love Prima Donna, i.e. Billy Bones and Clem Burke, etc.

KP: Well, I think it’s that primitive rock n’ roll connection.  They Just totally get where we’re coming from. When we started the band, we really just threw all of our influences into a blender. Back then, we were heavy on The Saints, Little Richard, New York Dolls, Adam and The Ants, The Boys, The Animals, The Sonics, X-Ray Spex, Bowie, T. Rex, The Undertones,  Dead Boys, The Stooges, Roxy Music, Blondie etc. That list could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

DB: Your band hasn’t been around as long as some of these other groups, yet Prima Donna manages to capture the essence of the post-punk period.  How did that happen?

KP: Crate digging. I’m a vinyl junkie. I think that has a lot to do with it. Really though, I don’t know. We just all speak the same language, musically. Kinda creepy.

prima-donna-5-wtmkR (1 of 1)DB: What’s the age of your fans for the most part and how did you attract that demographic, or that group of fans?

KP: It’s all over the place. We’ve done countless tours across the U.S., Europe and Asia with various bands, so we’ve ended up with an awesome group of fans of all ages. We’ve done tours with punk bands, rock n’ roll bands, pop bands and it always seems to work out.

DB: Who writes the songs mostly?

KP: Early on I was writing the songs. Now we all write together.  We’re in the middle of writing a new record right now and everybody is bringing interesting ideas to the table.  One song started with a saxophone riff and a cool drum beat, so we’re really getting into some cool territory.

DB: If you could describe your style what is it?

KP: Man, that’s always a tough thing to describe. Our style is constantly evolving.  We still have a habit of mixing garage, glitter and  new wave, but you really can’t limit it like that. It really varies song to song.

Prima Donna

Prima Donna – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

DB: Do you have a song that was a bigger hit that you thought it would be?   

KP: Recently, ‘Deathless’ had some legs. It was getting airplay from here to Peru to Japan.

DB: How do you like playing San Diego?  Anything notable about the crowds? 

KP: We love playing San Diego. The drinks are always pretty cheap and SD people just like to have fun.  We’ve had some memorable shows down there. We played with Adam Ant at Balboa Theatre. We did a rad show with Duane Peters at Radio Room.  I think I’ll be spending all my money at Spin Records before the Blondie gig.


Jeff Beck Celebrates 50 Years of Music With Special Musical Friends at The Hollywood Bowl

Jeff Beck Revs up His Past and Present with Once in a Lifetime Show

By CRAIG HAMMONS – Jeff Beck has been out on the road promoting his new album Loud Hailer.  However, the show at the Hollywood Bowl would be different, as Beck was celebrating 50 years of a legendary and diverse career.  Helping him celebrate along with other special guest would be no other than the mighty blues legend Buddy Guy.

Not wasting any time Buddy Guy came out smoking with “Damm Right I Got the Blues.”  At 80 years old this blues marvel shows no signs of slowing down.  He went thru his usual medley of songs in his arsenal and ventured out into the audience singing and playing his guitar like he sold his soul to the devil.  Even with a shorten set he was able to deliver the title track “Born to Play Guitar” of his new album of the same name.  After a bit of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Boom Boom” he then went into his signature song “Someone Else is Steppin’ In.”  Before leaving the stage he showed us how Jimi Hendrix did it and played with his teeth on a bit of “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).”  Buddy Guy is one badass that has paid his dues and lives the blues.

One of Jeff Beck's friends: Steven Tyler - Photo by Craig Hammons

One of Jeff Beck’s friends: Steven Tyler – Photo by Craig Hammons

After a brief video montage looking back at Jeff Beck’s career the guitar God took the stage with his white Fender Strat at his side ready to deliver the goods.  Opening with “The Revolution Will Be Televised” from his new album Loud Hailer caught the audience by surprise.  But the new vocalist Rosie Bones engaged the audience immediately by moving through the crowd while signing through a megaphone.

Just when I was wondering when he would be stepping back in time Jimmy Hall a southern boy who was the original front man for Wet Willie and sang on Beck’s 1986 album, Flash came out to sing a few Yardbirds songs.  Beck and his band ripped thru “Over Under Sideways Down,” Heart Full of Soul” and “For Your Love.”   It was great hearing this songs again from the man who made them timeless gems.

4-jeff-beck-wtmk (1 of 1)Next it was time to get on to some tracks from Beck’s first solo album Truth. Beck and his band shined on “Beck’s Bolero” and “Rice Pudding”.   He then took a moment to show his appreciation by saying “I’m thrilled to be here and thank you for coming” before going right into “Morning Dew.”

Now it was time for a couple of songs from his instrumental album Blow By Blow and Jan Hammer came on to do “Freeway Jam” and a track written by Stevie Wonder “Cause We Ended as Lovers.”  This segment of the show really showed how Beck’s finger and fret work cannot be duplicated.  After ripping it up on “Big Block” he then walked up to the mic and said “I’m so happy to have Beth Hart with us tonight.”  This girl is the real deal who sings her heart out and brought the house down with an emotional version of “I’d Rather Go Blind.”

Before I could catch my breath out comes Buddy Guy to sing “Let Me Love You Baby.”   Beck then said staring across the stage at one of his guitar heroes says “it doesn’t get much better than this”.  After a couple more tunes from Loud Hailer it was time for the next surprise guest of the night.

Buddy Guy - Photo by Craig Hammons

Buddy Guy – Photo by Craig Hammons

Beck walked up to the mic and introduced “somebody you are sure to recognize” and out walks Billy Gibbons who points to Beck and says “it will be another 50 years before you get another guitar player like this.”  These two guitar slingers then ripped it up and exchanged solos on ZZ Top’s “Rough Boys” before getting into a little bit of funky blues with classic “16 Tons.”

The next guest to grace the stage tonight was the majestic Steven Tyler coming on stage to sing the old Yardbirds song “The Train Kept A Rollin” also made popular by Aerosmith in the ’70s.  Tyler was the perfect singer to sing “Shapes of Things” which had the crowd in awe as we all knew we were seeing something special in rock and roll history.

As the evening was coming to a close Beck took center stage to do his astounding version of the Beatles

Jeff Beck and friends - Photo by Craig Hammons

Jeff Beck and friends – Photo by Craig Hammons

“A Day in the Life.”  His guitar playing touched us all as the entire Hollywood Bowl came to their feet to give this rock n roll legend the standing ovation he deserved.

The night ended with an encore of Prince’s “Purple Rain” which had Beth Hart singing lead and Tyler backing her up.  Beck delivered a show full of spirit and emotion.  A good portion of the audience like myself have followed Jeff Beck’s career from the beginning and realize when it was all over we experienced something more than a concert but a once in a life time rock and roll memory that will last with us forever.

Setting the Standard: James Williamson Engineers Unique Sounds with New Collaborations

‘Blues Jumped The Rabbit’ is Williamson’s Latest Single


James Williamson believes that change is energizing.

“I like to collaborate with different people and this was a great opportunity,” said Williamson of his newest work with multi-talented musician Petra Haden, on their single called “Blues Jumped The Rabbit.”

“Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” taken literally on Williamson and Haden’s cover art, is believed to be originally recorded in 1926 as “Rabbit Foot Blues.” It received a new turn in 1970 by Bob Dylan collaborator Karen Dalton. The B-side of Williamson’s new vinyl is another interesting find, “Last Kind Words.” The single is out on iTunes and will be available on seven inch vinyl on August 19th.

Collaboration is the key for Williamson, a prominent player with Iggy and the Stooges, who says working with new people has been a great experience for him over the last few years.

Blues Jumped The Rabbit - Album Cover by Heather Harris

Blues Jumped The Rabbit – Album Cover by Heather Harris


Talent Scout

Williamson’s become somewhat of a talent scout in the few years since the release of the last Iggy and the Stooges album, Ready to Die, in 2013.  He seeks out collaborators, traveling around to find musicians that are suited for certain projects. Williamson is exacting about the talent he uses on his projects.

In most music lovers’ books, Williamson had already accomplished more than the average superhuman: He’s the co-creator of arguably the most revered American rock anthem of all time, “Search and Destroy.” As a member of Iggy and the Stooges, he basically introduced an entirely new guitar sound to music and lived a parallel life as an accomplished computer engineer and family man.

As for his music, there is more to Williamson than his vast work in the world of punk. With “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” he puts out an interesting collaboration with violinist and vocalist Haden that has a unique bluesy feel and has a purpose.

James Williamson and Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

James Williamson and Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


The Charity Factor

“The fact of the matter is nobody buys records anyway,” Williamson said. “If we can get people to be aware of these charities, it’s great, it brings awareness of great causes.”

The money raised from the sale of the vinyl single goes towards the Tazzy Animal Rescue Fund in Burbank.

Williamson was impressed with Petra’s work on The Who Sell Out and he asked a Stooges pal for an introduction.

“I was so impressed with her, and then I found out Mike Watt knows her,” Williamson said. “I started using her on different things. I had her to something on Ready to Die. I liked her work on Ready to Die so much, she would do backing vocals and violin, I thought, she’s so good and so versatile I always though she should have a lead vocal.”

Historically, “Blues Jumped The Rabbit,” is an important song, recorded several times over the course of the 1900s.

As for the literal adaptation of the blues on the album cover, it came from an idea James had a while back.

“I saw this picture of a model with a rabbit on her head,” he laughed. “So I floated the idea by my artistic director, photographer Heather Harris, and she came up with the blue rabbit. It’s different.”

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work

Lisa Kekaula and James Williamson work


Re-Licked and Lisa Kekaula

Williamson’s made some other impressive moves into the collaborative world of independent musicianship.

He and Lisa Kekaula of the Bellrays released a single called “I Love My Tutu,” a release that benefits Project, Hawai’i, for homeless children in Hawaii, where Williamson lives part of the year.  Kekaula was a prominent player in Williamson’s Re-Licked project.

Last year, Williamson released the album Re-Licked, bringing together alternative A-Listers in an award-winning one-off concert at The Bootleg in Los Angeles. He met with many musicians before finalizing the lineup for his Re-Licked recording.

Williamson relies on another Re-Licked musician, Joe Cardamone of Valley Recording for his projects. And Williamson’s son, Jamie, is also getting into music more and more — he was also involved in the collaboration with Kekaula. Williamson hinted that another single would be coming soon, this one an up-tempo original tune that he wrote with a young musician.

Petra Haden - Photo by Heather Harris

Petra Haden – Photo by Heather Harris


Getting Recognition

The award-winning computer engineer, who was honored in Washington, D.C., last year by the American National Standards Institute, Williamson has been realistic about his music career. There were times when it was not easy. And he balanced the unpredictable music business by starting a successful engineering career.

Though he thinks it’s even harder to make it in music today, relationships and persistence matter, Williamson says.

“The only game these days is playing live,” he said. “And of course live requires you to have enough recognition to get a gig … or at least get a break. In that sense it’s always been that way, however, no promotor wants to risk their money on an unknown because they’re in it to make money.

“But that said, the best avenue is to somehow get into an opening slot for free or whatever and kick some serious butt, such that the audience wants you back and the promoter takes notice. That’s the old school way, and it works, if you can survive long enough.”

DOWNLOAD “Blues Jumped the Rabbit” at ITUNES

Francesco Cameli And His Sphere Studios in NoHo Work With the Musicians to Hit All The Right Notes

The Search for ‘Elusive Tones’ Brought Sphere Here

Mixing Cartographer with Mr. Phil English - Photo courtesy of Francesco Cameli

Mixing Cartographer with Mr. Phil English – Photo courtesy of Francesco Cameli

By DONNA BALANCIA – Francesco Cameli wanted a change. So he created it.

Francesco is the founder of Sphere Studios, which has been up and running for six months. Already the heavy hitters are coming to his Magnolia Boulevard location in North Hollywood to make award-winning recordings.

“When I was playing sessions for people I was the guy in the band who took an interest in what the engineers were doing,” Cameli said. “I was drawn into my profession.”

A Different Idea

Cameli said he didn’t plan his career, but it developed out of a passion.

“Originally I wanted to be a professional bass player,” he said. “But I found I was always searching for elusive tones and I enjoyed the manipulation of sound.”

He left London to pursue his passion here in Los Angeles, where he could really make beautiful music.

“I’m enjoying the different attitude about making music here, I thinenjoying a bigger music community. There’s a lot of talent here ” Francesco said. “That’s what drew me to Los Angeles. There’s an honesty to the music. When musicians here sing you a song, it’s real. I like proper music.”

Cameli with Animals as Leaders - Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli for California Rocker

Cameli with Animals as Leaders – Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli

Among some of the artists with whom Francesco works are: Shinedown; Flyleaf, Korn and Animals as Leaders, among others.

It all started when Francesco came to Los Angeles on a vacation.

“We went to a little bar in Santa Monica and it was a cover band playing, but they were very good,” he said. “Then we went to another bar and there was another band, and they were great as well. Everything here seemed to be less fussy and a better show.”

Capturing the Vision

Francesco says it’s the magic that comes from inspiration that he aims for.

“My goal has been to create studio spaces that inspire real musicians who appreciate the nuances,” he said.

It’s a competitive field, but Francesco says the response to challenge is simply to do the best you can.

“You do the best job you know how to do, and you hope that people will gravitate to you,” he said. “We are humbled by the talent of the musicians and we want to help them do what they do to the best of their ability.

“Your job as an engineer, is to capture what the musicians do. You have to be good at taking a vision and capturing it. We’re not magicians.”

Working Towards the Goal

Sphere Studios in Burbank - Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli for Californiarocker

Sphere Studios in Burbank – Photo courtesy Francesco Cameli

Sphere Studios only opened six months ago, but having achieved a high standard in the UK, Francesco knew he couldn’t spare any expense in setting up the L.A. studios. The studio is bigger than the UK space and Francesco shipped over his entire backline, vintage mic and outboard collection from there, including Pultecs, Fairchilds, UREIs and U 47s, 67s, and Elam 251s.

“We’re gathering momentum and we have to make sure the building keeps busy,” he said. “I’m anxious to make sure the studio takes off.”

As for his short-term goals?

“In one year’s time I’d like to be considered one of the best studios in LA.”

The California Rocker Interview: Soul Asylum Founder Dave Pirner Talks ‘Change of Fortune’

New Orleans Resident Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum Rolls to Whisky A-Go-Go July 21

Dave Pirner sits down with Donna Balancia of California Rocker

Dave Pirner sits down with Donna Balancia of California Rocker – Photo courtesy Dave Pirner

By DONNA BALANCIA – Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum has put a lot of time into the new album, Change of Fortune.  He’s had some major changes in his life and the album reflects that.

“It’s got loose architecture to it; it strives to be filthy and accurate at the same time,” he told in an exclusive interview. “The rythms are tight, and I got some stink in there.”


Dave, 52, has been living in New Orleans, raising a son, and playing music.  He looks basically the same, he’s still strictly anti-commercial and won’t sell his songs for TV ads.  His band is ON TOUR this summer with groups like The English Beat and The Fixx.  Soul Asylum plays Whisky A-Go-Go on July 21.

‘Runaway Train’

Change of Fortune album cover Soul Asylum

Change of Fortune album cover Soul Asylum

Yes, it’s a different Soul Asylum than in the days of the band’s 1994 superhit “Runaway Train.”  Soul Asylum 2016 consists of Dave, Michael Bland on drums, Winston Roye on bass, and Ryan Smith on guitar.

“We enjoy playing together and we’re having fun,” Pirner said.

“Runaway Train” reached number 2 on the U.S. Top 40 mainstream and sold 600,000 copies in the United State en route to being certified gold.

Soul Asylum had previously been called Loud Fast Rules with guitarist Dan Murphy, bassist Karl Mueller, and Pirner who had been on the drums – Murphy and Pirner were taking turns on vocals.

Dave moved from drums to lead vocals and rhythm guitar in 1983 and the band became Soul Asylum.

A lot has happened in the years since “Runaway Train” hit the charts and won a GRAMMY Award for Best Rock Song in 1994. Dave’s had a family, he survived the death of his best pal and bandmate Karl Mueller, and he evacuated for Hurricane Katrina to Minneapolis only to return to a devastated New Orleans.

“New Orleans is resilient,” Dave said. “They’re true believers here. There’s a real pride and you could see it when the Saints won the Super Bowl.”

And yes there’s been a lot of change all around. But he said he’s undergone one change that is truly unfortunate for someone living in New Orleans: “I lost the ability to eat spicy foods,” Dave said.

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum photo courtesy Dave Pirner for

Dave speaks like a guy with a swagger looks. He pauses when he speaks, he’s thinking, and he’s uncensored.

The album and title track off  “Change of Fortune” were influenced by living in the Big Easy, Dave said.

“The drum rythms are inspired by the parades or the syncopations that are so fundamental and intimate to New Orleans,” Dave said.

Did a lot of people leave New Orleans?

“Whenever I’m in Houston, musicians ask ‘How’s the scene back in New Orleans,” Dave said. “So I think people relocated.

As far as playing the old haunts of New Orleans, Dave initially was taken with the appearance of history on the walls of the joints there. The changing face of New Orleans brought some initial trepidation.

“Tipitina’s has always been the place to play,” Dave said. “So when House of Blues came in I was resistant, but for the musicians that live here, they were like, ‘Wow a good lighting system,’ ‘A good sound system,’ Wow a clean bathroom,’ so in that respect it’s good. But I’m here in New Orleans where the legends are.

Dave Pirner’s Film work

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum

Dave’s been longtime friends with filmmaker Kevin Smith, since Smith directed the video for Soul Asylum song “Can’t Even Tell” which appeared in Smith’s comedy, Clerks.  Pirner then scored his next movie Chasing Amy.

“Kevin’s been lecturing at Kent State,” Dave said. “Kevin asked for a song he liked and ended up making a video on the roof where Clerks was shot. I did the Chasing Amy score and now I’m working on a documentary about a magic shop that I know from my childhood. That’ll be directed by Dave Roth who directed Artificial Heart our Black Gold video.”

And he may be working in films, but he won’t do ads, Dave said.

“I’m not putting my music in commercials,” Dave said. “It’s almost problematic that I’m not interested. I won’t even play on a stage that has a beer sign on it. I’m not interested, but If Greenpeace wanted to use my music I might reconsider. Or if a bullet train from California to New York, I would consider letting them use ‘Runaway Train.'”

The industry today is a little different than when “Runaway Train” went off the charts.

“Today, it’s impossible for me to support my own band,” he said. ” They would love for us to license a song for an Advil ad to feed their children.

“But as George Michael said, “You got to have faith.”

Dave paused for a few seconds.

“I can’t believe I’m quoting George Michael,” he laughed. “But Soul Asylum would not be around if we didn’t have faith.”

The Soul Asylum Tour

Dave Pirner - Photo courtesy Woohoo120

Dave Pirner – Photo courtesy WH120

Last summer the band toured with the Meat Puppets. This year they’ll be touring with English Beat and it’s a different crowd. They’ll be playing Whisky A-Go-Go July 21.

Dave said he likes playing the smaller venues.

“You know, it’s a fact that the bigger the venue the more impersonal it is,” he said. “I remember some of the festivals in Europe, before Lollapalooza, you could look out and see the crowd goes on forever, you couldn’t see the end of the crowd.”

Dave said he’s been fortunate enough to have a wide range of performance experiences and a few come to mind as standouts.

“We opened for Guns N Roses in England,” he said. “Then there was the time we played the White House. One time we were playing ‘Runaway Train’ on a baseball diamond and a train went by right at that moment. We’ve been really fortunate.  And we’ve done a lot but there’s a lot more ahead.”

Punk Rock Legend Chip Kinman and his New Band, Ford Madox Ford, Release Single, Announce Tour

Guys Behind Rank and File Create ‘Blues-Punk’ With Ford Madox Ford

Chip Kinman and Ford Madox Ford release a new single, "Expect It" - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip Kinman and Ford Madox Ford release a new single, “Expect It” – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Chip Kinman, the power behind Rank and File and The Dils, is using his new band Ford Madox Ford to take the Blues into the future.  The innovator behind “cow-punk” has re-envisioned “blues-punk” and is taking it on tour.

Kinman, the well-known SoCal punk legend, has put together Ford Madox Ford with guitarist — and son — Dewey Peek, bassist Matt Littell and S. Scott Arguero on drums. His brother, Tony Kinman, produces and writes the music.

Ford Madox Ford plays The Pike in Long Beach on June 18 and La Cita on June 24; there’s a live radio gig on KXLU on June 29 and then they’re off to tour Canada in July with the band Three O’Clock Train.  Ford Madox Ford returns to The Pike on July 30.

“We’ve got a great single and we’re going on tour,” said Kinman. “I’m happy to be playing music again.”

Dewey Peek with Chip Kinman during a Redwood gig - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Dewey Peek with Chip Kinman during a Redwood gig – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

On The Road

Kinman had taken a break from performing — a 10-year break — but is coming back strong; just wrapping a residency at punk hangout, The Redwood Bar and Grill, with his cool band.

The new Ford Madox Ford single is called “Expect It” written by Chip and Dewey, and on the B side is the tune “Before The Fall,” written by Chip, Dewey and Tony.  Tony also produces. The music is on Porterhouse Records.

Ford Madox Ford has been bringing its music to the people, playing gigs all over. Tony, too, has been on the scene, recently belting out “Big Train,” one of the Kinman boys’ most famous and most covered classics.

Watch Tony Kinman sings "Big Train" at Redwood - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Watch Tony Kinman sing “Big Train” at Redwood – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip and his brother are coming back into music at a time when technology has taken over. A lot of things have changed.

“There are a lot more outlets for social media, but there’s no substitute for a good band,” Chip said. He feels his music relates not only to died-in-the-wool punkers, but to music lovers in all age brackets.

“Our band ranges in age from 58 to 21,” Kinman said. “But I have rules: No one can be older than me, no one can be fatter than me and no one can play shittier than me.”

From Country to The Blues

The Kinmans set the West Coast punk rock standard in the late ’70s.  The Dils were famous for their politically-energized songs like “I Hate The Rich,” “Class War” and “Mr. Big,” which were covered by all sorts of famous, and not-so-famous bands too.  Their band, Rank and File, was a departure into country, a genre that was getting no attention, but the Kinmans blew it up.

Chip said while Rank and File put a punk spin on country, he’s trying something new this time around in adapting the blues to his punk style.

“Blues is a great form, open to interpretation,” Chip said.  “It’s something I’ve never done before and I knew I had something to offer.”

Chip and Matt Littell - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Chip and Matt Littell – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

While he says there are a lot of good up and comers out there, Chip said that among the younger bands, he’s into the Katellas and Florida Mistakes.

“They’re two great young punk bands,” he said. “All punk bands should be young. It’s noooooooo place for old people, sorry.”

And given that, what does Kinman think of vinyl making a comeback?

“It’s great fun,” he said.  “Vinyl is perfect for the blues and punk.”

Carlsbad Guys

Chip and Tony grew up in Carlsbad and moved to Burbank years ago.  But they have fond memories of growing up in the San Diego County village.

“Carlsbad’s a lot different than Burbank,” Chip said. “We didn’t go to the beach, we were always punk rockers.”

Chip Kinman looks to see if guitar is OK after slamming it to the ground

Chip Kinman hurls his guitar down on the ground to end the Ford Madox Ford set at the Redwood – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

But in general, Kinman is pretty easygoing and it seems like he and his wife, Lisa, would be happy living anywhere in Southern California. Lisa’s the one behind the merch table at most shows.

“We’re really excited about Ford Madox Ford,” Lisa said. She’s Dewey’s mom, so she brings a new appreciation for the family band.

“They’re really happy playing in the band and the audience really likes the music,” she said. “They’re getting ready to record and that makes the guys happy.”

Chip said he’s looking forward to touring again.  And he has a special affinity for logging miles along the Great White North.

“They always loved us in Canada,” Chip said. “And we’re ready to bring our music out on the road.”


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The Clash, PIL Founder Keith Levene Sets The Record Straight – WITH PHOTOS

Keith Levene Recalls Joe Strummer Was ‘Very Sincere, Very Generous’ Guy

Interview © 2016 IVOR LEVENE, Photos © MELANIE SMITH

I recently sat down for a long discussion of happenings past and present with the founder of The Clash and Public Image Ltd., Keith Levene.  (Part One is posted on . This is Part Two).

Unless you’re more than a casual fan of the aforementioned bands, Keith is not going to be a familiar figure to you; he left The Clash prior to the band’s recording of their first album.

He founded PIL with John Lydon and then split with him after friction within the “company” but has kept his hands and his head in the punk culture since taking a break from the music scene.

Working from the present backwards, Keith is going to hold what can best be described as a kickstarter for punk this summer in London.  Entitled “Screen on the Green,” the event is going to be a retrospective of the last 40 years of punk,  but will also look forward and try to position itself as a catalyst for future generations of punks in music, art, and fashion. (See Part One on for details)

If you’ve followed Keith on social media in the past few years, you’ve no doubt seen some slagging and Twitter-fighting between Keith and John Lydon over creative differences and PIL, and the haters who insist he was kicked out of The Clash for doing too many drugs.  Keith Levene wants to set the record straight, let you know that the spirit of punk is alive and well, and have you “pull your head out of your ass” when it comes to the history of his involvement in The Clash and PIL.

Do you want to talk about some of your early years?  I’ve heard you’re not one for rehashing the past.

No, it’s quite fine.  Go ahead.

I’ve heard you were a roadie for Yes.  How old were you?

I was 15.  Or maybe 16.  It wouldn’t have mattered if I were 12 then, they couldn’t have gotten rid of me, so they just hired me.

Did they inspire you at all?

Oh, fuck yes.  The reason I got the job is I went to The Rainbow five days in a row.  I knew somewhere in the back of my mind, I had this all planned out, it was the last night of the gig; I just didn’t leave, and then just kind of migrated onto the stage.  It was a big buzz for me, I mean, I was really into the sound guys, I mean, you had Rick Wakeman on synth, and Steve Howe who was my favorite guitarist at the time, So I just started helping them and helping them and it’s like 4:30 in the morning, and they said “Look, if you show up for work this way, you’re on the bus,” and that’s how I ended up on the UK tour.

It’s ironic that you were inspired by something that’s about as far away musically from The Clash as you can get.

Well, I’m pretty much as far from the Clash as you can get.  The band was put together for inspiration.  We knew that we wanted to put a band together and fast friends, and a scene that was propagating in west London.  There were a few incarnations of the band Fast Friends with me and Mick Jones that really went south just before the name The Clash was coined.

In fact, I never liked the name The Clash.  Every time they would do something, I didn’t like it but I could see how it worked.

The thing I really did with The Clash is electrify it and really make it go faster.  I recruited Joe Strummer into the band.  I got him away from the 101’ers who was the top band.  It was like “We haven’t even got a name, but this is the band you should be in.”  And then I took him down to the Davis road squat and got him in this really confined space with a guitar.

We just stayed there and played his tunes, and some of The Clash tunes that we’d got and we’re playing some of the other tunes that we’d loved from the mid 1970’s.  We were playing the fucking Eagles, and Joe Walsh, stupid stuff that you don’t really play any time.  And he was like “Ah fuck, I’ll do it, I’ll do it,” and I’m blasting him, talking to him and winding him up, saying “you’re so fucking old.”  I was 16 and Joe was 21 and I’m just winding him up. But I loved him.

Joe was like the hub of a thriving hippie community, the 101’ers, and it was so much more than a band, and I could see the pain on his face, realizing “I’ve got to fucking do this.”  He hadn’t even met Mick yet.  Joe joined the band and he fit like a glove, and it all came together.  I mean, The Clash were really good.  You like The Clash, yeah?

Yes, very much so.

It’s all bollocks about them meeting on a queue, and its all bollocks about them kicking me out of the band.  If I’d have stayed in the band, I would have just been a white elephant pain in the ass because they’d have never lived up to what I’d wanted.  I mean, you can tell by PIL that I didn’t want The Clash, and that I had to leave, and I did.  I did a gig at The Rainbow, but not with them.  I put an impromptu band together with Richard Soul and two other guys, Matt Scabies, and I can’t remember the third guy.  One night was really good and one night was really crap, but it was a lot of fun.


You say you didn’t agree with what The Clash was doing, what was it specifically?  

They just weren’t good enough for me.  They weren’t complicated enough.  Listen, it just wasn’t what I had signed up for.  They were just doing their best and I thought “they’re going to do it whether I’m there or not” so I’m gonna go off and do something else.  And I was young enough and cocky enough to think “I’ll get another band together, fuck it!”  And I did.

I got another band together with Sid called “Flowers of Romance,” and that was going very well.  And by then I’d taught [?] how to play the guitar and how to put the sticks together, and everyone knew everyone, and Sid was learning how to be a singer and I was teaching him how to play bass.  And then this position in The Sex Pistols became available, and I said to him, “You’ve got to go and do this, you ARE The Sex Pistols,” go do this fucking gig.  It was a shame about Glen, it was wrong the way they treated Glen, but it was going to happen anyway.  It was in the cards, and it was happening already.  So there went Flowers of Romance along with Sid, and then PIL came together.

That was kind of the result of something that had happened in The Clash.  When we played The Mucky Duck, [the Black Swan], it’s a renowned gig, again, Pistols and Clash, that was the gig that I knew I wasn’t going to be at.  Everyone hated everyone.  I knew all the “Johns.”  Sid was a “John,” and he was sitting on his own all pissed off and looking really great, and I’m there, and I write, “What’s my name” in the sound check, bowl off stage, and don’t hang out with the band, and go hang out with John who’s sitting on his own. I said to him “I’m done with this lot, this is over,” and he was like “Fucking good.”  I mean, he was moaning about The Pistols and I said “Look, I know this will probably never happen, but if The Pistols ever end up breaking up, we should do something together,” and then said “Fuck it, we should do something anyway,” and he just said “Yeah.”

The thing is about John Lydon is that he was really good, not like the Lydon now, or maybe he is.  He was just really exciting then; there was just a lot of potential then.  As soon as The Pistols split up he came and found me, the whole thing was pre-arranged.

What was it like working with John Lydon?

I don’t know.  All I know is that I really liked him, I just didn’t get why things weren’t working out.  I still don’t get why PIL isn’t going further.  I guess the best reason I can give you is to tell you to look at the videos and look at what John is like.

Where do you think this rumor that you were kicked out of the Clash for drug use came from?  I personally find it hard to believe and if it were true you’d probably go down in history as the first person ever kicked out of a band for using drugs.  

For some reason, everyone else is a hero for doing drugs, but I’m a naughty boy.  But I left The Clash and we arranged it.  What was the question …?

Where do you think this rumor started?

This is a fact, and it doesn’t sound great to me.  This is something that I’m trying to set straight.  The story that’s out there is the story that’s out there.  I just told you what I did with The Clash, right?  It didn’t matter what drugs we were all doing.  You never saw any pictures of me with The Clash, and they just really played it down.

They could have invited me to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I founded the fucking Clash. I got Joe Strummer in The Clash; I’m just as responsible for the band as anyone.  Joe and me got on really great, and we saw each other a lot after I left the band.  Mick and I really didn’t have any time for each other but we’ve always been polite.  And I don’t even really know the rest of the posse now; I’ve had the odd encounter with Terry Chimes.  Topper and me got on really well.  It was all individuals, there was no “Keith and The Clash,” it was “Keith and Joe, Keith and Topper, etc.”

Do you think Joe let The Clash go to his head?

I think that Joe was a very very sincere guy.  What bugged me was that Bernard was turning Joe onto a lot of these very socialist books, and all this kind of heavy-duty stuff.   He was suiting him and booting him and giving him a quick education, and that went to his head. That whole political stance really got on my tits, but when it comes to who or what Joe is, Joe was a very sincere guy, a very generous guy.  He WAS Joe fucking Strummer, not Woody whatever the fuck his name was.  I just think Joe really did his best and was a great example of a pop star.

It sounds like he treated his fans really well, but didn’t he treat his band poorly?  I heard at one point he fired the entire band and then ran off to Spain because he couldn’t cope with all the pressure and backlash.

It’s fucking great.  I didn’t even find out until about a year ago that he had fired Mick from The Clash.  There you go!  That tells you everything.  Even if Mick wasn’t there, I would have found someone just like him and said “here, just fucking be in this band so I can leave,” right.  There’s no bad feeling there, but the could have treated me a bit better.  But I’ve gotta try and set the record straight.  This Screen on The Green thing, it was too focused on the 1976 thing, and what have you, but at the same time, one of the things I had gotten out of it was that I have to get the right story about me out there.  The wrong story about me is out there, and it gets on my tits a bit.  It gets under my skin.

So what happened to the spirit of punk? 

Punk basically disappeared up it’s own ass because nobody supported each other.  I can really dig being blinkered and being in a band and saying “my band is the best fucking band out there,” and not giving a fuck about anyone else, but in the end, we’re all on the same team, right?

You used to live out here in Los Angeles, didn’t you?  How would you describe that time in your life? 

In varying scenes and degrees.  If you want to talk about when it was the late ’80s and when it was on The Chili Peppers scene and L.A. Weekly’s scene, it was a little bit Hollywood, a few soundtracks, and typical Hollywood stuff.  Then there’s my predilection to not be a tourist.  I lived in LA in the ’90s and I was just a regular guy.  I wasn’t like “Keith Levene the pop star.”

LA was quite a confusing time for me, I was in an awful state, my confidence was just trashed and I was also trashed from drugs and what have you, so it was a reckoning.  I think everybody went through this reckoning of “What the fuck have I been doing for the last 15 years?”  Artistically, it was like jumping out of a jumbo jet, I mean to say to Lydon “fuck off” and “fuck you” in Japan and drop CZ.  Even though I learned a lot from it, I never really assimilated it until about the last few years.  I didn’t re-make it, I made Commercial Zone in 2014 as a completely original album, as a crowd funded thing, which I delivered.  There’s a few of them around, and when I run out of them, that’s it.  It’s just not going to exist any more.  So yeah, when I was in LA, I tried to meet up with John three times and on the third time he tried to fuck me, and I said, “That’s it.”  I got into a lot of the scenes you’d get into in LA.  I ran into Keith Richards at Musso and Frank’s.  I think it was the Rolling Stones actually that were all there.  So there were a lot of good memories, and a lot of heavy stuff.

Tell me about the time you ran into The Stones.

It was on Hollywood Boulevard, at Musso and Frank’s, he’d often turn up there, no big deal, and no reservation needed you know.  Everyone knew the Stones were coming to town for their fucking Coliseum gig; this must have been ’87 or ’88.  There was this big long table in there, and I was like “Wait a minute, that’s Mick Jagger” and “Oh, there’s Keith Richards, and here they all are.”  I was with this guy Adam who’s not with us any more, he was this martial arts guy and like a manager.  He was the closest thing I’ve ever known to Bernard Rhodes.  He’d just said hello to Sean Penn in the parking lot, and Sean said hello to me, and that was nice.

“So then we went inside, and The Stones were there and Adam asked me “Do you want to go see the Stones show?” and I thought ‘No, I don’t want to go to the fucking Stones,’ and that was when Guns ‘N’ Roses was opening up for them, and I fucking hated them too (I can say that, I was very angry).  So anyway, I went there after all and saw the show, and it was like a fucking fascist rally.  There were so many people in there in yellow t-shirts, and the place is full of security, and I was really fucked up.  I think I got kicked out of the gig for dancing…!

Why did you leave PIL?

Well, PIL fell apart anyway, that was me going downhill.  I was tired, and I wasn’t confident, and I was just about to get married.  John just wasn’t there at first, he was doing this movie with Harvey Keitel, and that was OK.  We were on American soil, and we were getting no support from Warner Bros. and we had to make this record.  I went to a lot of trouble to convince this lawyer to let us use this studio. I mean, who was PIL anyway?  I was fucking PIL.  I thought they might go on, and call themselves “The Johnny Rotten Band” or something.  If he wanted to be PIL like that, it’s obvious he never fucking got it, did he?

Didn’t you have creative differences with Lydon?

Creative differences?  What does that mean?  What we had there was a failure to communicate.  There was no fucking creative communication there whatsoever, everything was an anxiety attack.  There was no respect for each other, everything was a chore.  Every once in a while I’d get into the moment if nobody else was around.  I had a really good relationship with the sound engineer.  John was just not on board enough.  I even had this whole make up session with him where we were back on track, and the whole thing fell apart again after just one day.

How did Lydon react when you released Commercial Zone? 

What they did was say I’d fucked up the masters, so they had to re-make the record.  They took the masters, dubbed it up and released it.  I put out Commercial Zone because Richie gave me the rights to it, and I had to do it for my sanity.   Then I sold 10,000 of them and decided I didn’t want to be in the record distribution business.

One last question; is there anyone around today who inspires you?

Nilsson, Brian Wilson, Fleetwood Mac with Peter Greene, my missus inspires me, Nile Rogers.

Do you think maybe we’re distantly related?


The ‘Velvet’ Reunion: Prima Donna Band and The Sold And Bones Tonight at The Maui Sugar Mill Saloon

With a Film, A Single, Family and Friends It’s Full Speed Ahead for Billy Bones

The Sold And Bones - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Sold And Bones – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – The Sold And Bones is a good-time punk band, with Billy Bones having a career that has been going strong since the late 1970s.

If you’re a punk fan you won’t want to miss this dynamic group that plays tonight at the Maui Sugar Mill with Prima Donna.

“It’s awesome to get together with Prima Donna and those guys, I call them the Velvet Boys, cause they really get it,” said Billy Bones.

The bands have been collaborating for a while, Billy Bones said. “They’re stylish, they got the music; and there’s a gang of them, they know who they are.”

Veteran punker Billy Bones knows what he’s talking about. He was the lead singer the 1977 L.A. punk band The Skulls, as well as the band Forbidden Colors between 1979 and 1980, he formed The BillyBones in 2006, and Sold and Bones came together six shows ago.

Billy Bones’ various bands and Prima Donna have been intertwined as friends going back some years. Sold And Bones is Easy Lou Jones on vocals and guitar;  Charles La Ferrera on bass and backing vocals and Justin McGrath on drums and backing vocals.

The Sold And Bones - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Sold And Bones – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Sold And Bones is putting out a cool single, “All Night Rocker” written by Kevin Preston from Prima Donna, Billy Bones and Drew Milford, the original bass player from Billy Bones’ band.

It came about because of the documentary film based on Billy Bones’ life.  “All Night Rocker” was the closing track for the film Who is Billy Bones, a documentary by Kathy Kolla released last year.  It’s about how Billy Bones came out to L.A., put his band The Skulls together and ripped up the L.A. punk scene.

“It’s going to be released at some point maybe within the next year,” Billy Bones said. “Who Is Billy Bones is about family and the struggles, and love. I get to take people down to The Masque, where we played 30 years ago, it’s really an interesting film. It’s humbling to me, how people have reacted to it; my mom’s in it, my dear friends are in it.”

So Billy Bones was looking for the B side to the single “All Night Rocker.”  Easy, who came to work as the bass player in Billy Bones band, came up with  “You Just Don’t Get It,” for the B side and voila!  The single was planned.

“Easy did it all,” said Billy Bones. “He came up with so many songs and before you knew it we had 10 songs. We already recorded a live CD, now we’re going into the studio and do proper album.”

Stay tuned.

Steel Panther Plays Three Fonda Dates in May, Tours Europe and U.S.

Starr: ‘We’ve Got a New Record and New Spandex!’

Steel Panther by Donna Balancia California Rocker

Steel Panther – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


Steel Panther says “Get ready to rock!”

Steel Panther, those big-haired metal comedians of Rock N Roll, will play The Fonda Theatre on May 4, May 11 and May 18.

The band’s regular home, House of Blues in Hollywood, may have shut down, but everyone’s favorite metal rock sendup is taking their big act on the road.

“We’re working on a fourth studio record now, and we’re playing a big European tour,” Michael Starr told  “We start recording at the end of May and hopefully the record will be out in October.”

If you’ve never seen a Steel Panther show, think of every metal show you know only add topless gals, big hair, off-color jokes, raucous humor and a lot of audience participation.

Steel Panther is coming to the Fonda Theatre in May - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Steel Panther is coming to the Fonda Theatre in May – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Sunset Strip staple will be taking its hilarious act to some of the biggest arenas in Europe.

“We’re going on a massive UK arena tour that also will include Australia Germany Sweden,” Starr said. “We flew to London to announce the tour and there was an overwhelming response. It’s great to be able to headline places like the Wembley Arena.”

Steel Panther will also bring its show around the US and will announce tour dates in May.

In the meantime, Starr is working hard to look good.

“I am really on a diet,” he said. I’m working out taking hikes and I am ready to rock — we’re all ready to rock.”

Michael Starr at Ultimate Jam Night - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Michael Starr at Ultimate Jam Night – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

No Idle Panthers Here

But the band hasn’t been sitting idle.  They’re continually refining their act and practicing music.

And Starr is a frequent guest at the The Whisky A Go Go.

And when he’s there, Starr has been seen giving props and pats on the back to his fellow artists.

“Everyone’s trying, we’re all creative people and it’s very hard to sell your music and creations,” he said. “I like to give back.”

A Special Mothers Day

A stable family life is what underlies the joking and big hair, Starr said. He has been married for 15 years and has great kids (“all over the world!”)

And while he may tease women on stage,  Starr says his affection for one woman in particular is what keeps him going.  His role model for everything was his beloved mom, Carol, who passed away five months ago.

“I really got into this because my mom, Carol, always encouraged me and supported me,” Starr said. “She was an actress in the theater and I was always backstage watching the girls and having a great time. My mom loved everything about my act and she was very supportive. I always thanked her for the support she’s given me over the years.”

Michael Starr - Photo © Donna Balancia

Michael Starr – Photo © Donna Balancia

It’s All About The Crowds

Steel Panther had a regular gig at Hollywood’s House of Blues.  But as far as the theaters, how does the band adapt its show to different sized spaces?

“We were so used to playing in one place once we started touring we learn to adapt to all different venues,” he said. “For instance some places have a balcony some places don’t have a balcony. It’s not the theatre, it’s the crowd that dictates every show and we play off the crowd.

Starr said their routine isn’t exactly written out on paper.

“We don’t sit and write,” he said. “We tried it and it didn’t work.  For us we like things to be extemporaneous. Over the years we’ve developed stuff we know the people will laugh at. It’s a really real show and it’s spontaneous.”

And it’s also a little risque.

“If the girls don’t show their boobs it’s not a Steel Panther show,” he said.

Michael Starr ready to sport his Spandex - Photo Donna Balancia

Michael Starr ready to sport his Spandex – Photo Donna Balancia

What are some other new things in the act?

“I got some new Spandex pants I can’t wait to try out,” he said.  “That’s pretty awesome.”

And what is this successful musician’s advice to aspiring Panthers and musicians?

“If you’re a songwriter the best advice I can give is finish the song you’re writing,” he said. “Finish it. Don’t let up. If you’re in a band, never give up.

“And when all else fails, find a stripper to support you. That’s what we did.”

Loren Molinare Talks DoGs Doc, Little Caesar, Detroit Trip with Glitter Trash

Frontman Talks Detroit, ‘Caesar’ and The Sunset Strip

Loren Molinare and The DoGs tell all - Poster courtesy of The DoGs

Loren Molinare and The DoGs tell all – Poster courtesy of The DoGs


We caught up with Loren Molinare on his way to band rehearsal and if you want the scoop, he is really the guy to go to.  One thing’s for sure: The cat hasn’t got this DoG’s tongue!

Loren, the frontman for the DoGs, guitarist for Little Caesar, family man and a guy with a full time job with Blackstar Amplification, has got a lot going on.

In the last few weeks he’s been to Detroit with his band The DoGs, he’s been to London for his “day job” with Blackstar Amplification and he was even at the Rainbow’ Bar and Grill’s 44th Anniversary Party on the legendary Sunset Strip the other night.

So we asked him for the scoop and got it.

The Rainbow Bar and Grill’s 44th Anniversary

Junkyard performs at Rainbow Bar and Grill's 44th anniversary - Photo © 2016 Loren Molinare

Junkyard performs at Rainbow Bar and Grill’s 44th anniversary – Photo © 2016 Loren Molinare

“It’s really fun on the Strip, it was a really good crowd, it was a great time,” Loren said of the Rainbow’s anniversary celebration that went from afternoon through Sunday night. “I went to see Junkyard because I’ve been friends with them since we were label mates on Geffen years ago.”

L.A. Guns, Junkyard, Autograph, Tuff, Circus of Power and others played the Rainbow’s famous parking lot party.  Loren and musician pal Richard Duguay, had a good time, chilled on a hot day among the throngs of at least 700 strong.

“It was great Rock and Roll on a Sunday afternoon,” Loren said. “It was cool, the place was jam packed and for $14 you got two free drinks. What more could you want?”

Tuff - Photo 2016 Loren Molinare

Tuff – Photo 2016 Loren Molinare

Loren, who with his other super hot band Little Caesar has released a new live record and is prepping for a promotional tour through Europe, wasn’t the only one who went to see Junkyard as most of the crowd was sporting some type of Junkyard attire.

“What I like about Junkyard is they’ve stayed true to the past but they’re current in their style,” Loren  said.  “A lot of the bands from the Sunset Strip era have not matured.  They still dress like the 1980s. But Junkyard has transcended time, it was a breath of fresh air, they were like ACDC meets Springsteen meets Junkyard. It was really “no frills” Rock N Roll for 2016.

“But regardless of anything from the mid-1980s ’til now, I think it’s great in this age of digital media that there was actually a live event,” Loren said. “It was good to see the crowd’s excitement for Rock N Roll.

A DoG’s Welcome Back in Michigan

Jenna Talia of Glitter Trash with Mary and Loren - Photo courtesy of The DoGs

Jenna Talia of Glitter Trash with Mary and Loren – Photo courtesy of The DoGs

Loren returned from London on Friday, where he visited with Blackstar.

But before that, he and The DoGs hit Michigan, starting in Detroit, where he saw a couple of old pals and played some hot gigs. The band got plenty of press and a royal welcome coming back to Detroit.

“Michigan was really great, we did a live, stripped-down DoGs show that was like Woody Guthrie meets The Stooges,” he said. “Me and Mary had battery-operated Blackstars, Tony played a garbage can.”

The band got to spend some time with our favorite Tranny Punker, Jenna Talia, who Loren says has become so polished she and her band Glitter Trash are really ready for the big time.  He said it’s no surprise Glitter Trash is asked to play the big punk festivals like the big shows.


Glitter Trash – Photo courtesy Glitter Trash

After spending time and getting The DoGs and Glitter Trash together on stage, the punk bands enjoyed some down time and visited at Jenna’s house, the Glitter Palace in Detroit.

“It was just really cool getting to spend some time with our buddies and enjoying the scene,” Loren said. Jenna and Michelle made food for everyone, and Jenna whipped up some hummus or something, and it was very cool.

The DoGs also did a gig at the Mercury Cafe, right down the block from Jack White’s Third Man Records.  The Majestic theatre is a cool complex, with rock and roll bowling and is a big part of the revitalization of the area. The Mercury Cafe holds about 250 people. The DoGs found out as the crowds jammed on in.

To say the crowds found them wherever they went is pretty accurate. After all the hoopla with Glitter Trash, The DoGs went to Lansing and packed Mac’s Bar near the Michigan State campus.

The DoGs plan to go back when their split single comes out to have the release party and just enjoy.

A DoGs’ Documentary in the Works?

The Speed Brothers approached The DoGs to do a documentary on the band.

Loren said: “They came up to me and said, ‘The story must be told,’ and I thought, ‘Oh wow, they think we’re going to die.'”

As The DoGs have gigged with some of the original punks from Detroit, they have indeed got a story to tell.

Apparently they’re going to use footage from the 1970s and interview people the band’s played with in London, Detroit, LA, NY and Tokyo.

The DoGs are also gearing up to shoot another video this summer. The second video release, called “Not Workin for the CIA.”

Little Caesar’s New ‘Brutally Honest’ out now

Little Caesar for CaliforniaRocker.comLittle Caesar’s new live album, Brutally Honest, is out and available on iTunes.

Regarding Brutally Honest, Loren said: “I listened to the live record on my iPhone and it sounds really good.  We didn’t mess with stuff, it’s ‘Brutally Honest’ and in your face.”

He added: “Never in my dreams did I think we’d have a double live album like Peter Frampton.”

Caesar with Alex Kane Bows at UJN April 26

On April 26, Alex Kane makes his debut with the band Little Caesar at the Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. “It’s the first time we play live with Alex,” Loren said. “Alex is a real pro and we are super lucky to have him.”

Richie Ramone Plays Paladino’s for New Year’s Eve – No New Resolutions in 2016, Just Good Music

richie ramone-hi-fi-new-years-2016

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Richie Ramone will play a New Year’s Eve show that kicks off a new album and a European tour in 2016.

Ramone will play Paladino’s on New Year’s Eve, supported by Cairo Knife Fight, Kyle Gass Band, Kill My Coquette and Fatal Error.

Tickets are still available

Ramone, who played with the legendary group in the 1980s, has a new album, tentatively called “Cellophane,” which will feature nine new, unrecorded songs.

NYEPALFLYERv3“I’m really proud of this record,” Ramone said. “We’re writing the songs right now and we’re touring Europe.”

He’s written songs for the Ramones, probably the most well-known of which is “Somebody Put Something in my Drink.”


Europe has been a welcoming region for Ramone, who with Clare Misstake, Alex Kane and Ben Reagan, have nine upcoming stops in the U.K., a few Ireland shows and then hit Germany, Italy and Holland.  They’ll be back in the USA in the spring.

“You know, it’s half and half how we travel,” Ramone said. “We’ll take the plane, use the van. Touring is what we live and breathe.”

The reception to anything Ramones is huge overseas and over the years, Richie has built a reputation here in the US as well.

“The Ramones have devoted fans and I’m a piece of that,” Ramone says.


Alex Kane – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“And it’s always great that the people come out to the shows.  After the show, I talk to people and I’ve heard more than once —  or more than 10 times really — ‘I didn’t know what to expect.’  They get a good show and then they come back.”

Ramone is recording new material for the album now.

“This album is great I loved my first record, but on this is the bar is raised, I really love this record.  a lot of fast stuff.  I didn’t re-do any of the old songs.  The first record I did four or five songs from before. But these are all new songs – they’re still being written.  They’ve been around less than a year.”

Richie’s using his faithful band on the record. Clare has been with Richie three years and Alex has been with the group for two years.

“I’m using the band on the record,” Richie said. “They’ve been with me a while now.”

Some song titles include “Just To Be Clear,” “Cellophane” and “I Fixed This.”


Richie and Clare Misstake share a laugh at Hi Fi Rockfest last summer – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We were touring Sweden that’s what they would say,” Ramone said. “If I say ‘I’d like a cheeseburger,’ they’d say ‘I fixed this.’  Funny things happen like that, and  I always put my personal experiences into my music.”

‘The fans lift me up and give me energy’

“‘Cellophane’ is all about how I feel.  We perform night after night.  I feel when I come to these shows I’m kind of tight or worn out.  The fans lift me up and the fans give me energy night after night.”

Right now it’s record time.


Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“They used to say June Carter Cash would say, ‘Ok honey let’s go make some history,’   and when I heard that I always remembered it,” Ramone said.  “It’s amazing. Music lives forever, until the end of time there will be a copy somewhere.  I’ll see a single with my old band for hundreds of dollars, a little 45.  The stuff lives forever.”

As for the what’s coming up?

“All I can say is I’m really excited about 2016,” Ramone said. “I think it’s going to be a great year.”

Guitar Legend Dick Dale to Play Whisky A Go Go on New Year’s Eve – The California Rocker Interview

The Original California Rocker: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, to play the Whisky A Go Go on New Year's Eve

The Original California Rocker: Dick Dale, King of the Surf Guitar, to play the Whisky A Go Go on New Year’s Eve

Creator of Surf Music, Dick Dale Still has Many Waves to Ride

By DONNA BALANCIA – Surf Guitar legend Dick Dale says his purpose is to inspire.

Dale, who is drawing more crowds than ever at 78 years old, is one of music’s greatest innovators. His surf guitar sound inspired a range of bands from The Beach Boys and The Surfaris, to The Cure.

And on New Year’s Eve, Dale will be inspiring people to ring in 2016 stronger than ever.  He headlines New Year’s Eve at the Whisky A Go Go in an all-ages show.


“I love playing the Whisky,” Dale said in an interview with California Rocker. “And New Year’s Eve is always special. But I really want families to celebrate together, that’s why I always play an all-ages venue.  Parents bring their kids as young as 5 years old to come and see me.”

The band Se7en Reasons Why will support Dale on New Year’s Eve.

Dick Dale at the first Hollywood Surf Revival, The Hollywood Palladium, 1973 - Photo © 1973 Heather Harris

Dick Dale at the first Hollywood Surf Revival, The Hollywood Palladium, 1973 – Photo © 1973 Heather Harris

Dale, who the media tabbed “King of the Surf Guitar,” named after his second album, has enjoyed a diverse and fulfilling career.

Dale is the innovator of many of the things our culture takes for granted.  He is the creator of the surf rock genre, giving guitar performances a reverb sound that hadn’t been heard in 1960.

He created the “Surfer Stomp,” a phenomenon that started on Balboa Island and caught on throughout the nation.  It is said that Dick Dale and His Deltones drew so many surf-crazed teens in 1961 who jumped around in their sandals and sixties style, the noise was deafening.

Dick Dale’s Innovations Beyond Surf Music

He played his new-style surf music so loud, that he was brought in by the James B. Lansing speaker company to devise a more powerful amp than had ever been heard.  But Dale feels there’s still a lot he has yet to accomplish.

California Rocker Dick Dale: 'Music is my Medicine' - Photo © John Rudolph

Dick Dale: ‘Music is my Medicine’ – Photo © John Rudolph

“They say ‘Why don’t you retire, Dick?'”  Dale said.  “Well, there are two reasons I don’t retire: Playing music keeps me alive, and my music helps others.”

His hit, “Misirlou,” was the theme for the film Pulp Fiction, bringing his music to a new legion of young fans.

Dale said he has a special place in his heart for the Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip.  It’s always been considered The Big Time.

“In the ’60s I performed there and it was exciting,” Dale recalled. “The night was unbeliveable, the owners said they’d never seen a crowd like that. That was the night the late Keith Moon came to see me and we collaborated after that.”

Dale, who was born back east, traveled the world with his guitar and still graces the stage, despite his serious health issues.  While onstage, he plows through the pain.

He has learned to control the pain through his martial arts training.

“I’ve been doing martial arts all my life,” Dale says. “And I would ask, ‘Master, why can’t I be the greatest; Why can’t I be ‘unbeatable?’

“The master would answer: ‘You can, but you must give up your life, my son.’

Dick Dale and his Del-Tones

Dick Dale and his Del-Tones Greatest Hits 1961 – 1976

“So I have to tell you, if you’re a master of one, it’s awfuly dull,” Dale said. “You wouldn’t be able to talk to other people about a range of topics.”

‘Music Is Medicine for King of the Surf Guitar’

Dale still has the will to pursue his music — and his hobbies as well.  Maybe he might have had a wonderful career as an engineer, he says, as he loves to work with designs and blueprints — for everything ranging from homes to appliances — and he loves to putter around his humble Palmdale home.

And while he doesn’t brag, he is indeed a master of the sound of the Surf Guitar.  And in many respects he has —  as his martial arts master said he would have to — he devoted his entire life to that music.

Dale’s health concerns have made it all too clear to him that he is “merely human,” though his music — especially in the day — was out of this world.  He admits he has surpassed his own expectations.

Dale believes the good times are good, but don’t be too worried about the low times, he advises.

Dick Dale still rippin' - Photo © 1994 Heather Harris

Dick Dale still rippin’ it on the surf guitar – Photo © 1994 Heather Harris

“Don’t worry about yesterday and don’t worry about tomorrow,” he says. “Don’t worry about yesterday because it’s used. It’s either good or it leaves you feeling bad.  And don’t waste time or energy worrying about tomorrow.  I could have a stroke and be dead. That’s why they call it the present.  It’s a present.”

“I don’t go on stage to say Whoopie for me, I go on stage to play to the people,” he says. “If I see a country hat in the audience I’ll play country; if I see dreadlocks I’ll play Jamaican style. I play for all walks of life.

“Every note I play is to address the people I’m playing to,” Dale said. “There’s no better feeling than bringing the music to the people.”


‘Tighty Whiteys,’ Featuring Frontman Ron Young, Bare Their Soul With Upcoming Malibu Gigs in 2016

Tighty Whities Pictured here: Joey Malone, Ron Young and Bruce Witkin - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tighty Whiteys Pictured here: Joey Malone, Ron Young and Bruce Witkin – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Renowned LA Musicians Pay Their Tribute to the Soulful Sound of the ’70s


Got Soul?

You can get some as The Tighty Whiteys, with frontman Ron Young and some stellar musicians, will be the featured band at Casa Escobar Malibu in 2016.

As the name might indicate, the Tighty Whiteys are not just a bunch of white guys with some rhythm.  The band is comprised of some of LA’s most well-known talents: The gravelly voiced Young of Little Caesar fame; Joey Malone on guitar; Bruce Witkin on bass; Rob Klonel on drums and Kevin Lawrence on keyboards.  For those who love funk and soul of the early 1970s, this is the band to see.

Formerly called The Blue-Eyed Devils, the talented Tighty Whiteys will jam at the happening Casa Escobar, located inside the Malibu Inn, on Jan. 16 and Feb. 13.


“We changed the name because there was a supremist group out there with the same name and we didn’t want to be associated with that,” Young told “We’ll change the name as soon as I can figure out how to do it on Facebook and still have folks receive our notices.”

Young and his Tighty Whiteys are not alone in the name dilemma as others have had issues with identity related to Facebook lately.

See California Rocker Story: Facebook F***s Cheetah Chrome

Selections include hits from The Temptations, Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder and other greats.  The music has a special place in the hearts of the guys. The Tighty Whities share a passion for funk and soul but various projects, other bands, and life in general, have sidetracked the group.

Tighty Whities - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Tighty Whiteys – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We’ve been playing together off an on for three years,” Young said. “We’ve been on hiatuses for tours and projects sometimes derail us. The bass player, Bruce, plays in the Hollywood Vampires and that held us up a bit, so things like that play a role in how often Tighty Whities can play.”

“Since we are ‘Back on the horse’ again with playing, we’ll be looking for additional dates …we’ve committed ourselves to do more as it’s so much fun for us.”

Young is known for his work with the band Little Caesar, which has a strong LA following and recently returned from a European tour.  How did the Tighty Whiteys get together?

Tighty Whities Kevin Lawrence - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Tighty Whiteys Kevin Lawrence – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

“We got together after Little Caesar worked with Bruce on our American Dream release,” Young said. “Bruce produced it and we released it on his Unison Music label. We wound up becoming very close friends. Bruce has played with Joey Malone since high school.”

Coincidentally that’s the same high school attended by their other pal, none other than Johnny Depp.

“That’s where the Hollywood Vampire connection comes in,” Young said.  “Bruce, Joey and Johnny grew up together and played in a band together in Florida in the ’80s.”

Young, who seems to know almost everyone (and he is continually swarmed by people who know him too) had a drummer in mine in Rob Klonel, an old friend of both Witkin and Young; and keyboardist Kevin Lawrence was a friend of Witkin as well.

“We all were heavily influenced by the players, songs and grooves of early Soul, R&B, Motown and Funk and wanted to pay tribute by covering the material we do,” Young said.

“All that music was so influential to so many great rock n roll artists,” Young said.  “And we’re no different in that love and adoration.”


Music Photographer Henry Diltz Has Hundreds of Album Covers And Now He has a Lucie Award

Henry Diltz

Henry Diltz

By DONNA BALANCIA – Photographer Henry Diltz will be honored next week with a prestigious Lucie Award for his work in Rock Photography.

Diltz said he never expected to be honored for his career.  After all, photography is something he just loves to do and that is reward enough.

“Being a photographer is a solo thing, the actual act of doing it, that is,” the 77-year-old Diltz said. “It’s not like being a opera singer or circus star or a rock star. You don’t get the applause. It’s something you do alone over the years.”

But as the photographer who has shot some of the most famous record albums of our era, the award is well-deserved. The Lucie Awards are given each year to exemplary photographers who make a mark in their respective fields.

“I’m aware that people have read my name,” Diltz said. “In the 1970s I noticed I did a few album covers and sold more than a million records, a million people read my name. Yes your name does get out there.”

Jackson Browne - Photo © Henry Diltz

Jackson Browne – Photo © Henry Diltz

Among some of his famous subjects are Crosby, Stills and Nash, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and many others. These days, Diltz continues to shoot but he has started to take stock in his images — and those of other photographers — as he is a curator and co-owner of Morrison Hotel Gallery located in New York, Los Angeles and Nashville.

“Around the turn of the century, Peter Blachley my partner at Morrison Hotel Gallery said, ‘You must have quite an archive.’  And I thought, ‘Archive – that sounds too professional. I don’t like the sound of that.’  But I do have a lot of cardboard boxes. People would ask, ‘Are you a professional photographer?’  I thought, no, I do it because I love it.  But then, I thought, I have supported myself for more than 50 years, put kids through school on the money I’ve made, so I suppose I am a professional.”

Diltz said his career as a documentary photographer started during the down time musicians experience between gigs.  He was playing in the band, Modern Folk Quartet in the 1960s when he picked up a camera and it stuck.

01 Jun 1973, Probably California, USA --- Neil Young Playing Guitar --- Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

01 Jun 1973, Probably California, USA — Neil Young Playing Guitar — Image by © Henry Diltz/CORBIS

“In the ’60s and ’70s a lot of your life was hanging out,” Diltz said. “As a musician you’re hanging out. And musicians know how to hang out. You’re not doing anything productive, just passing time enjoying life. So as we were hanging out, I was taking their pictures incidentally.  In doing that to all of my friends, it taught me to be a documentary  photographer. I was only doing it because it was fun.

“I picked up the camera in March of 1966.  During all that time, I was exploring life. I did something else equally good, and that was to write down things I’ve heard. I have stacks and stacks of notes, I don’t write the whole conversation, I’d just be like ‘Wow, that is so great what you just said.'”

Diltz was the official photographer for Woodstock, the Monterey and Miami Music Festivals and was the photographer to document the burgeoning music scene in Laurel Canyon in the 1960s. He left Laurel Canyon when he got married, had kids and moved to the valley.

As for how he manages his inventory of life, he has tried to stay current with the most modern technology.

Henry Diltz

The photographs of Henry Diltz have graced millions of album covers – The Doors

“I always used color slides, for those there were no negatives. Say you work for a record company they want all those. With digital you can keep some also. I have a ’32-trillabyte’ external hard drive.”

His conversation is just as creative as his photography process, which legend has it is a fluid experience as simple as pulling the car over on the side of the road when inspiration strikes.

With the well-known Crosby Stills and Nash couch shoot, the group and Diltz were driving around waiting for inspiration to hit, when they found the white frame house with a couch in the front.  They set up shop and took some photos.  They realized the musicians were not in the right order and went back shortly after the shoot to simply re-arrange the guys on the couch.  The house was razed and the couch was gone.

Henry Diltz

Re-shoots on the CSN album were not to be: When the group returned, the house — and couch — were gone – Album cover by Henry Diltz

Life is not as glamorous as it appears for music photographers today as they deal with more and more issues of control, Diltz said.

“Unfortunately, unscrupulous people could make a poster out of the image and the group has no control,” Diltz said.  “As for limiting photographers to shooting the first three songs of a set, I’m not so sure why they have to do that. Maybe they want to look good or they don’t want the photographer to make a poster and make money.  That’s why they started saying ‘sign this contract.’

“But as a photographer I hate that,” Diltz said. “And I did go along and have those concerns for the first 30 or 40 years of my career. Now as a gallery owner I understand the pictures we sell are not usually taken on stage. It’s the backstage pictures that are interesting, a publisher said to me, ‘I want to see Neil Young in socks and underwear.'”

The art of the rock photograph is to capture “the seeing and the hearing,” Diltz said. “Music is the soundtrack to our life. We all have songs to bring us back to memories. As soon as you hear a song you remember. We also have eyes to see, if we’re not there at the concert another way to see the show is in magazines.

The Monkees - Photo © Henry Diltz

The Monkees – Photo © Henry Diltz

“Photography is an adjunct to hearing the music, if you can’t go to a show, you can appreciate through the photos,” Diltz said.

As for those starting out, Diltz said, “Just photograph everything you can.  Take pictures of your family, take pictures of the cat, take pictures of your friends who play in bands. I photographed my friends in bands so that on the weekend we could have a slide show.  I took photos because I wanted to entertain my friends with a slide show on the weekend.”

The California Rocker Interview: Richie Ramone Talks New Album, Family and Life in the Suburbs

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Richie Ramone may be one of the last of the Ramones, but today he’s creating new traditions.

The former drummer of the Ramones has his own band with whom he tours the world, he has a true family, and lives in the heart of Southern California.

Richie Ramone and his band will be playing the Hi Fi Rockfest at the Queen Mary Events Park in Long Beach on Sept. 26.

At the day-long show, he joins bands including the Dead Kennedys, Naked Raygun, Street Dogs and The Two Tens.

“The Rockfest will be a great time,” Ramone said. “It’s gonna be cool playing with the Dead Kennedys and the rest of the bands. We’re looking forward to it.”

With a new record on the horizon and a steady gig as a touring musician, Ramone, born in New Jersey as Richard Rheinhardt — says things ain’t half bad.  A few years back, he relocated for the warm weather of the valley, where he lives with his fiance, Tiffany, and their three rescue dogs.

“I got it pretty good,” Ramone said. “I’m writing music, I’m touring and I’m not in the snow,  Life’s good.”

As a drummer and songwriting member of the Ramones from 1984-1987, he learned a lot from his band mates.  During 500 live performances with Joey and the crew, Richie watched and took it all in.

Joey Ramone credited Richie with helping steer the band into new territory during the later years.

The creator of such hits as “Somebody Put Something in my Drink,”  Richie also wrote “I’m Not Jesus,” “Can’t Say Anything Nice,” “I Know Better Now,” “Humankind” and “Smash You” the title track the Ramones’ re-release, Smash You: Live ’85.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone played a recent gig in Hollywood – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

He went from playing in some hit-and-miss New York-area bands to being the drummer of choice for the punk icons and he played some 500 live performances with Joey and the crew.

And during that time, he watched and learned. The experience was invaluable for eventually running his own band.  Ramone released his first solo album, called Entitled in 2013.

While he’s a talented songwriter, perhaps the best part of the job, Ramone says, is performing.

“I love touring all over the place, but I love Europe, it’s more rowdy,” Ramone said. “I think it’s because it’s a different culture and the people don’t stand around with their arms crossed.  In the U.S. it’s more reserved, and even in the U.K., it’s more reserved.”

He’ll be touring in Europe starting in February to support his band’s new record called In The Neighborhood, Ramone said.

Why is it called that, and what’s on the record?

“Hey, I’m not giving away my secrets,” he laughed.

It’s a safe bet the record doesn’t have anything to do with Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood — or his own block in the valley.

But we won’t know what’s going on with the record because he said he’s not going to play anything off In The Neighborhood at Hi-Fi Rockfest, and he’s not giving any hints about the product.

Richie Ramone - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Richie Ramone – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“I don’t do that because really, you yourself have to know what’s good,” he said.  “Some people will love it, and some people won’t and that’s that.”

But Ramone’s looking forward to getting on the road, and that’s for more than the big reason of playing to the crowds.

“I love checking out the food from all over the world, like when we’re in the U.K., we’ll have Bangers and Mash, and of course, I love the food in Italy.”

Speaking of Italy, it’s also one of Ramone’s favorite places to play – he says the crowd really gets into it, it’s more rowdy he says.

Meanwhile back home in the valley, Ramone and Tiffany tend to the three rescue dogs — Greta, a boxer, and two miniature pinchers Jack, and Curley.

“Three dogs, that’s enough,” Ramone said.

At Hi-Fi Rockfest, expect to see Ramone alternate between drumming and fronting. Ramone says it’s the way he likes to do it.

“That’s how we keep it real,” said Ramone after a recent gig at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood.  “I’m a drummer first.  But I can’t sit behind the drums all night, I need to connect.”

Freebo In Front: Renowned Bassist Fetes Solo Release with Show at McCabe’s

Freebo’s September Gig at McCabes a Result of his Belief that Success is an ‘Inside Job’

By DONNA BALANCIA – Freebo has made the move from renowned bassist to solo performer and he says that’s worth celebrating.

“I defined myself as a bass player, but moving out front proves you can do anything you set your mind to,” Freebo said.  “I’ve found my happiness, and now I try to help others find success too.”

Freebo reached an important milestone in his personal and professional development:  On Friday, Sept. 4, he releases If Not Now When, a CD featuring music he has written and performs.

He will have a record release party at McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Sept. 18.

If Not Now When is a collection that is a culmination of his years in the music, reflections on his life, and inspirational pieces that motivate those who also want to “follow their bliss.”

Freebo's WebsiteCalling it the “Internal GPS,” Freebo says it took a long time before he made the move to soloist, writing his own songs and performing as a lead figure.  He carved out a career as a reliable sideman to Bonnie Raitt, John Mayall, and Crosby Stills and Nash, among others.

“I understood the role of the bass, the chord sequence, the rythm,” said Freebo. “So for years when I played with Bonnie, John Mayall, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, I had no desire to write songs. I didn’t write my first song until I was in my mid-40s.

“You would think I’d be happy to play at Madison Square Garden, Hollywood Bowl, you would think and yes I’m grateful,” Freebo said. “But because I wasn’t true to myself, I wasn’t satisfied. As a bass player I could only express only so many ideas. I enjoyed playing bass but my personal GPS — my inner voice — was screaming to come out.”

Little things got under Freebo’s skin.  He saw opportunities where things could have been done better.

“When things aren’t working, it’s easy for us to blame others,” he said. “They say when you point at someone else there are three fingers pointing back at yourself.  That’s what was happening.  I saw that it’s nobody else’s fault, it’s on me. I have things to express and knew I needed to create the vessel to do that. I realized the vessel was the song and that’s when I made a conscious decison to write songs.”

Freebo is considered among the most accomplished bass players of his era.  He started as a youngster, playing with Raitt since 1971 and has been the a supporting musician to others including Ringo Starr, Maria Muldaur, Neil Young and Dr. John.

“Now I’m a writing fool, I love the process and it has given me the freedom I’m seeking,” Freebo said. “The yearning churning, burning deep inside is gone. I’m much more at peace as a human being, I feel seen for who I am and all of this has led to my getting my speaking engagements.”

Freebo conducts keynote concerts, interspercing music around the inspiring talks he gives.

“I’m sharing my story,” he said. “Down the line I don’t want to experience the regret of not having done it. I thought, ‘If I don’t start writing and singing now I’ll never start.”

Bonnie Raitt and band members play for Marty Grebb - photo © Donna Balancia

Bonnie Raitt with Freebo at Marty Grebb show – photo © Donna Balancia

“That’s why I call it the personal GPS —  going inside to see what’s really going on,” Freebo said.  “The feeling told me you’ve got to create what’s deep inside you that wants to come out.”

Freebo uses his songs as emotional punctuation to the inspiring talks he gives to groups.

“I present and speak to associations, for example I’ve done the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers in Calgary, and I’ve done a whole bunch of new thought churches, some rotary things. I’m looking to expand.

He held two one-week retreats this summer, called Freebo’s Songwriting/Creativity wellness retreat.

“I’m a natural teacher and I like to share what I’ve learned. that’s why I do songwriting retreats. I feel like I’ve got the empathy that someone who has been writing their entire life doesn’t have. I can relate to the fear in comparing yourself.

“When you’re going through crazy times, one of the most healing things to do is to write about it. Put it in an art form. you can write poetry, journal, you can paint, dance and get it out.

For the gig at McCabe’s, Freebo will be accompanied by Fuzzbee Morse, Chad Watson and Michael Jochum and Van Dyke Parks will be sitting in. It’s a celebration with good friends for one of their own who has come up through the ranks of the music industry.

Go to the site and that will take them – read about, listen, hard copy CD or digital download will take Nindip, email server and they also have the stuff.

Dr. Boogie an LA-Based Band that Gives The Fans What They Want: A Solid Dose of Rock ‘N’ Roll

Dr. Boogie - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dr. Boogie – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Dr. Boogie has the prescription for Saturday night.

The bandmates in Dr. Boogie — guitarist Dustin James, dynamic blond-haired frontman Chris Parsekian, bassist and drummer Luis Herrera — are Rock ’N’ Roll to the core.

And while their music sets them apart, there is another important asset the guys possess: They have a strong work ethic based on reinvesting back into the band.

“We save every penny we make through our gigs and put the money back into the band,” said James. “We’ve saved up for a van and now we’re going to be gigging around to support our upcoming album.”

The band’s new album, Gotta Get Back To New York City, due in the fall, is a collection of songs that reflect the band members’ experiences, ranging from every day occurrences to topics in the news.

Dustin James and Chris Parsekian of Dr. Boogie - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris for California Rocker

Dr. Boogie – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris for California Rocker

Record On The Way

“We write songs about our daily lives, and a lot of the time, that’s where we find inspiration,” James said. “Two songs relate to subjects in the news, those are ‘Life On The Bread Line,’ and ‘I Need A Gun.’ They’re songs about topics that are important.”

The band took time off from gigging to write and record and now they’re taking their act on the road with the goal of getting back to New York City.

“We all have some kind of connection to New York,” James said. “So we’ve been writing and recording and now we’re ready to gig to promote the record.”

“The record Gotta Get Back to New York City is a traditional 8-song album, the kind they used to do,” Parsekian said. “We’d like to put one out every year.”

The songs are fun, derived from Dr. Boogie’s mid-20th century rock roots. Their favorite bands are The New York Dolls, MC5 and The Stooges. But they have managed to weave in some pop to make their music appealing to a broad group of fans.

Punk, Rock ‘N’ Roll and Motown Influences

But while the guys admire The Rolling Stones and the Dolls, they have other influences, like Chuck Berry and a lot of soul and Motown.

“It’s the four of us together on the songwriting, arranging and recording,” Parsekian said. “We write all the songs together as a band. And that includes Luis our drummer as well. He’s not your run of the mill drummer, he’s incredibly musical, not just as a drummer laying down a beat or groove. He’s totally and completely part of the songwriting process.”

“We love what we do and it’s great to play music with these guys,” Herrera said. “I come from a long line of drummers and musicians. My father played music, and my great grandfather played drums in Mexico.”

Herrera — who can always be found in the middle of a group of fans when he’s out at the gigs — said the time is right to hit the road and promote the music.

“We’ve spent a lot of time writing and recording and now we’re going to tell the whole country about our music and spread the word,” Herrera said.

Herrera said Dr. Boogie is family to him.

“We are like brothers,” he said. “We get along, we support each other and we enjoy each others’ company. We better, because it’s a long way to New York City.”


Little Caesar And The Rise of Biker Rock: Interview With Ron Young

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo for California Rocker © 2015 Heather Harris

Photos © Heather Harris; Donna Balancia asks Ron Young, the dynamic frontman for Little Caesar, the important questions.

DB: Your band put on a great show last week at Paladino’s. What are your touring plans for the summer?

RY: We are headed over to Europe mid-June. We start out in Spain for a Motorcycle rally. Then we head to Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and then back through Spain.

DB: Is there a new release we can look forward to?

RY: We are working on new material we will hopefully finish when we return from tour. We will probably release an EP online … actual CDs are a way of the past. It also helps us get new material out faster and directly to our fans. Things have changed!

DB: How are the new guys working out with the band overall?  What talents do they bring?

RY: The new guys, Carey Beare on guitar and Pharoah Barrett on bass are working out great. They are both incredibly talented and have a long touring and recording history.

Ron Young of LIttle Caesar - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Carey plays with Deanna Carter as well and that country blues sensibility fits us really well. His influences in blues-based rock really helps as well. Pharoah is a killer bass player and singer. I toured with him up in Canada when I did a tour with the Four Horseman years back. 

DB: How did you ever develop your style?

RY: I always loved Blues, R&B, Soul and the the Rock and Roll it influenced. The combination of guys in the band bring  such great elements. Loren is the “punk rock” Keith Richards in the group and brings a great edge to our songs. We emerged in LA during the “hair band” explosion and it really wasn’t any of our “cup o’ tea.” We were gritty dudes riding motorcycles and loved more traditional blues and soul based Rock…which was not the mantra of Pop Metal bands on the Strip in the Eighties. We put the band together to not lose our minds and to pay tribute to the type of Rock we grew up on in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s.

DB: What is the significance of Detroit in your history?

Loren Molinare of LIttle Caesar photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Loren Molinare of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

RY: Loren is from Detroit and was a big part of the scene back there. He was in a seminal Punk/Hard Rock band there that did shows with Bob Seger, the MC5, and the Stooges. Mitch Ryder and his take on RnR was a big influence as well.

DB: Who are some of the bands you used to follow in your the formation days of Little Caesar?

RY: We loved to do shows and listen to bands like Junkyard, Rhino Bucket, Little Kings, Bulldozer etc. They were very honest and gritty bands that side stepped the make up and hairspray like we did. We all played in great joints like Raji’s, The Scream, the Shamrock etc. There was a great communal scene in those days.

DB: Why did you cut your hair?

RY: For me, long hair became a parody. As I grew older it felt like leaving it long was a desperate attempt to cling to my youth. I have silvery curly hair and I would have looked like Santa if I let it stay long. I’m not a big fan of hiding my age behind L’Oreal blue black hair dye. RnR should exude confidence, and when you age and dye your hair it looks obvious and insecure to me. 

Pharoah Barrett - Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

Little Caesar at Paladino’s – Photo © 2015 Heather Harris

I cut my teeth on the great innovators of Blues and Country Rock like Johnny Burnette, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent.  Short slicked back hair looked very cool to me and was a tribute to the real roots of Rock music….plus, it’s not a pathetic attempt to try to convince our fans that I am still 29 years old. This isn’t 1988 anymore.  Our fans know that too and have evolved in life and fashion….except if you hang out at the Rainbow four nights a week. That place is in a great time warp lol.

DB: How do you come up with song ideas and what inspires your songwriting?

RY: I write all the melodies and lyrics. I will take a guitar riff or chord progression and do my thing over it. Will we openly say things like, “let’s write Bad Co feel type tune, or a “Stonesy” song. We make no claims to be innovators. We have such a love for great Rock that was innovated by earlier bands, if we can capture an essence of some of our idols and hybrize them all together, we figure it will be a song that’s good to listen to.

Little Caesar Set List

Little Caesar Set List from Paladino’s

DB: If you four dream bands for whom you would open who would they be?

RY: Bad Co, AC/DC, The Stones and Skynyrd … Who we did have the great honor and pleasure to open for in ’91 with our buds Junkyard.

DB: How does living in California influence your style and the band?

RY: I hate what the music scene has become in California. “Pay to play” has ruined live music in LA. It’s very hard to do a good show with other good bands that people want to come and see. Now if a band has $500 to get on an opening slot, the promoter takes it and doesn’t care if the bands sound good together or if they have talent. We rarely play in LA because of it … But the weather is great if you want to go see something like that!

DB: I hear that you are an amazing talent also when it comes to fabricating, engineering and creating. How did you ever get involved with making cool things? Did you make the microphone you were holding the other night?

Ron Young of Little Caesar - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Ron Young of Little Caesar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

What makes that microphone you had different and/or better than others?

RY: I DO love to fabricate. I build custom cars and bikes, I do custom metal work like gates and architectural pieces and I’m building a custom home as we speak. I did “make” that mic. It’s the next level in an evolution of various designs of my vocal mic. The mic capsule is a Telefunken M80 mounted inside a chromed Shure Beta 56a housing with a Sennheiser ENG wireless block transmitter. It’s a very crisp yet warm mic … similar to a condenser … but with really good rejection … Too nerdy and techy for ya?

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