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Noveller Gives Us a Glimpse into the Future of Music With Elegant and Haunting Show at The Echoplex


Sarah Lipstate, known as Noveller, is one of the finest guitarists out there, taking the instrument from rock and into the ethereal.

Sarah Lipstate, known as Noveller, masters a range of guitars – Photo by Donna Balancia

A Pink Sunset for No One

The talented, film-scoring composer-performer held the audience at the Echoplex entranced with her breathtaking performance over the weekend. She has a new album out, called A Pink Sunset for No One.

Noveller and her extensive rig – Photo by Donna Balancia

Haunting Compositions

Her range is amazing and she makes it sound as if she’s backed by an entire orchestra. Elegant and beautiful, Noveller’s haunting compositions ring true to a welcome audience of fans.

Sarah Lipstate elicits amazing sounds by creating new ways to play – Photo by Donna Balancia

Casting a Spell

Novel sounds coming from Noveller might be expected as Sarah drags a violin bow across a double-neck guitar, works with a range of pedals and boards and casts a spell on the audience.

Noveller’s new album is nothing short of phenomenal, as all of the artist’s compositions sound as if they are the score for big-budget thriller actioners or sci-fi films.

Impressive Credits

Sarah Lipstate has more than 10 years of recording and performing experience. Not only does she play in a solo environment, but she has been a member of both Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Army and Glenn Branca’s 100 Guitar Ensemble. She’s collaborated with Lee Ranaldo, Carla Bozulich and JG Thirlwell. Following 2015’s Fantastic Planet the musician was invited to tour with Iggy Pop across the US and Europe.



Attention Earthlings: The Peelander-Z has Landed, Craig Hammons REVIEW

Radioactive Chicken Heads - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Radioactive Chicken Heads – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons


Peelander Z,  interplanetary purveyors of everything fun, happy, and crazy have landed on earth to make it make a better place and to put a smile on our face, so they say.

They came all the way from the “Z” area of planet Peelander to embark on a tour in support of their new documentary “Mad Tiger.”  They touched down in Santa Ana at The Frida Theatre to put us under their spell for 90 minutes of all around insanity and foolish behavior.

Opening the evening was one of my personal favorites The Radioactive Chicken Heads.  These punks of poultry contaminated us with their songs and on stage antics.  I was clucking right along by the second song “Atom the Amazing Zombie Killer”.   They had a guest appearance from Chuck E Cheese during a song called “Pest Control” and visit from an evil bunny on “Bad Bunny”.  These mutant birds of madness were the perfect fit for what was about to come.

Peelander Z - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Peelander Z – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

After a short intermission and the trailer for “Mad Tiger” Peelander Z was ready for their invasion.   Peelander Yellow immediately gathered the audience from the back and sides and brought them down front to be as close to the stage as possible.  It was not an option not to be part of this show.  Once they started we realized there was no escape as we were all under the spell of Peelander Z.  In the next hour or so I witnessed more intense audience participation than the Price is Right.

Each band member is color coded and each seem to have different power and energy.  The ringmaster Peelander Yellow shares his energy with the band and the audience and believe me we felt it.  They ran thru all their hits like “Mad Tiger” which had us all banging on pots and pans that were distributed to the audience.  We all got a workout during the bands punk rock take on “Old MacDonald” called “E-I-E-I-O” where Peelander Yellow jumped up on the PA and lead us all in singing and waiving our arms around like we were all in an alien aerobics class.

He sang a song about one of his favorite foods “Taco, Taco, Tacos.”  Before I could catch my breath a long rope was spread across the seats and the whole theatre was doing the limbo.  Peelander Yellow, Green and Purple all change costumes (they call it their skin) and even dress the audience up in monster outfits and headdresses.  Their message is to spread happiness thru their songs and their energy.

As I looked around all I could see were happy faces all fully engaged in this sonic madness. Before every song a sign is held up with the song title on it.  At one point a sign was held up that read “Need new guitar player” and just then Peelander Yellow took off his guitar and strapped it on to some young dude in the front who started jamming, later the bass player and drummer were replaced by audience members.

Radioactive Chicken Heads - Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

Radioactive Chicken Heads – Photo © 2016 Craig Hammons

The band became the audience and the audience became the band.  This gave the band time to do some Human Bowling.  They set up bowling pins and flung themselves into them.  Peelander Yellow was then crowd surfing all the way to the back of the theatre.  By the time all was said and done we were all sweating, happy and blown away.   Tonight was a rare occasion where the entire family can rock out and have a good time.

Peelander Z conquered the Frida in this unbelievable inter active rock and roll show.  I never had so much fun as I felt like I was one of them.  This was a night of high energy rock and roll from these rockers from another planet.  Let’s hope Peelander Z stays here on Earth for a long time.

The following night we came back for the screening of “Mad Tiger” a documentary that follows the relationship between Peelander Yellow and Red.  They have been best friends, business partners and band mates for over 15 years.  When Red decides to quit, their relationship is tested by life that goes beyond the band.  It is a look into what the band was and has become.  It comes down to friendships, foregiveness and the sacrifices people have to make for their art.


“Taco Taco Tacos” video courtesy of Zack Oberlander

Stewart Copeland Drums New Life Into 1925 ‘Ben-Hur’ Flick with Orchestra

Ex-Police Drummer Pulls Off Herculian Task with Live Performance at Valley Performing Arts Center

Copeland and the Pacific Symphony perform the score to Ben-Hur - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Copeland and the Pacific Symphony perform the score to Ben-Hur – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Stewart Copeland doesn’t shy away from a big project.

Copeland, known to most as the drummer from the popular band, The Police, may have topped himself.  He scored the 1925 silent film “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ,” which was met with raucous applause and approval from a packed house when performed at the Valley Performing Arts Center.

Featuring the Pacific Symphony with Richard Kaufman, the presentation at the Cal State Northridge campus-based center was eclectic and old-school at the same time.  The audience was mostly the “over over-50 crowd” — those who weren’t quite old enough to have seen the film at the nickel theatres in the old days.

Stewart Copeland - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Stewart Copeland – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

But there were a few celebrities on hand as well and stellar musicians including the orchestra and its conductor Richard Kaufman.

Copeland is the composer of scores for Oliver Stone and several TV projects.  He started his alternate career after The Police broke up and he scored “Rumblefish.”

In 2009, Copeland was asked to do the score to live version of “Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ Civil War, based on the Gen. Lew Wallace 1880 novel.  The company had toured Europe.  The Virginia Arts Festival reps were the ones responsible for coaxing Copeland to edit and score the film version directed by Fred Niblo.

copeland5-balancia-wtmkLAs anyone in the audience at the VPAC will tell you, it was obviously a labor of love.  With each footstep or action, the music fits perfectly and it takes an old property and makes it new with an appealing sound.  Oh and Copeland plays drums, cymbals, bells and an assortment of musical percussion based instruments throughout.


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.”

Aldis Hodge: B.O. OG ‘Compton’ Shows A Different Side to Influential N.W.A.

As Straight Outta Compton Dominates Box Office Hodge Talks MC Ren Role

By MALIA BALANCIA — Aldis Hodge says it’s the family bond that has enabled the successful careers of he and his brother, Edwin, for the last 25 years.

Aldis, who plays M.C. Ren in Straight Outta Compton, and his older brother were on hand at a recent premiere. Aldis spoke to about work, family and the N.W.A.

Straight Outta Compton opened to $60 million in its debut and topped the box office again last weekend with an additional take of $27 million for a cumulative total of $111.4 million.

Hodge told he’s excited about his latest project, Straight Outta Compton, the box office topper that tells the story of the rise of the N.W.A., considered one of the most influential rap groups, and considered instrumental in the Gangsta Rap genre.

“We grew up back East and we spent a lot of time here, too,” said Hodge, 28.  “We’ve been acting since we were very young, and we’re very fortunate to be working.”

Hodge said Straight Outta Compton, directed by F. Gary Gray, will help present the Gangsta Rap movement in a different light.

“You’re going to enjoy this film,” he said. “It’s more than a story about the music. It covers M.C. Ren’s life from the time he was young to present day.”

Keith Stanfield plays Snoop Dog, O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays Ice Cube, Jason Mitchell plays Easy-E and Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre.

“I think this film will get people to understand more about N.W.A.  MC Ren didn’t do drugs, and the N.W.A. were really about getting their music heard,” Hodge said. “But they did get wild, partying and all.  It’s pretty wild.”

The last screening of the film that Hodge saw ran close to 2.5 hours, he said.

Universal Pictures should be applauded not only to tackle some diverse and risky subject matter but also in keeping the production in Los Angeles.  Judging by the immense size of cast and crew this was no inexpensive proposition.

“The film was shot right here in L.A.,” Hodge said, “that made it authentic and it was convenient to get to work.”

As for his cast mates, he enjoyed working with them all but had some special words for Paul Giamatti, who plays Jerry Heller.

“He plays our manager, he’s just a monster in this,” Hodge said. “He gives an unbelievable performance.”

While sometimes it seems like it’s all a fabulous dream, Hodge is realistic about his work.

“You have to be prepared for the good times and the slow times also,” he said. “It’s all about family and we have good family around us, so we’re all right.”

Ed. note – This article was originally published on March 11, 2015 in

Tarantino’s Winter Western ‘Hateful Eight’ Boasts Hot, Classic Soundtrack

Hateful Eight Quentin Tarantino story California Rocker

Song list courtesy of The Film Stage

By DONNA BALANCIA – The Hateful Eight, Quentin Tarantino’s winter western may have a cool look, but its soundtrack is hot.

And despite the star-studded Christmas picture having to overcome production issues — including whether or not it would get released — Tarantino’s music department never missed a beat.

Ennio Morricone scores The Hateful Eight, an epic shot in Ultra Panavision 70-mm film. It stars Kurt Russell, Samuel Jackson, Bruce Dern and Tim Roth.

The soundtrack includes songs by The Voodoos, Link Wray, The Rondells, Bob Dylan, and Muddy Waters.

Tarantino is a clear-headed artist who sticks to his guns and is known for his excellent taste in music. He takes pride in his musical selections, and has a knack for bringing to the public forefront long-buried sounds from appealing artists.

Tarantino single-handedly brought a mid-90s resurgence to the surf guitar music of Dick Dale, featuring the 1960s hit “Miserlou” on Pulp Fiction. (Dick Dale plays NYE at Whisky – info here)

Samuel Jackson stars in "Hateful Eight," Photo courtesy of Weinstein Company for California Rocker

Samuel Jackson stars in ‘Hateful Eight,’ Photo courtesy of Weinstein Company for California Rocker

Known as The King of the Surf Guitar, Dale told how Tarantino approached him after a performance.

“He said, ‘I listened to your music and I want to create a masterpiece of a movie that complements the masterpiece of music you created,’” Dale told in an interview.

The movie, of course, is the 1994 feature film Pulp Fiction. The film would breathe life into the careers of several of its participants besides Dale, most notably actor John Travolta.

Dick Dale tells California Rocker producer Donna Balancia all about "Pulp Fiction"

Dick Dale tells California Rocker producer Donna Balancia all about how Tarantino recruited him for ‘Pulp Fiction’

“Quentin told me he had had doors slammed in his face,” Dale recalled. “And he was very humble. And because he was humble, I took a liking to him. He said, ‘I have John Travolta,’ and I said ‘OK, sure, go for it.’”

Dale said when the film was completed, Tarantino sent a limo for Dale to come to a special screening.

We’ll have to wait and see who gets the limo ride for The Hateful Eight.


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