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Roli Launches Portable Touch-Style Electronic Music Product, The Scalable ‘Roli Blocks’

Roli BlocksROLI has launched a new tech music product called Roli Blocks, a scalable music creation system that operates by touch through a cell phone app called Noise.

ROLI BLOCKS is a modular music “studio” that opens up the world of music-making to everyone. Each individual block offers unique capabilities that let people create music in simple but scalable ways.

The Blocks connect together to create customizable kits that suit any skill level, and musical style. With a click of magnetic connectors, music makers can now build their instruments as they go.

The company says artists including Grimes, Steve Aoki, and RZA are making music on Blocks and creating signature soundpacks for BLOCKS musicians. Grimes said: “Roli Blocks will democratize music production. It’s so intuitive and versatile. I’m always on the go, and Blocks is the most powerful mobile production tool I’ve ever used.”

screen-shot-2016-11-01-at-1-49-54-pmThree Blocks launched today. The Lightpad Block features a tactile, glowing surface that lets people shape music through presses, glides, and other natural gestures. The Live Block and Loop Block have controls that make it even easier to perform and produce in real time. Blocks is powered by Noise, a free music app for iPhone and iPad that is now available at the App Store. Noise connects to Blocks wirelessly over Bluetooth, becoming the system’s sound engine as well as a standalone app.

For more information go to

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.”

Iggy Pop at The Greek: While Not a Tragedy, He Took The Long and Uncompromising Road

Iggy Pop and the Stooges - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop and the Stooges: All The Right Moves – Photo © Heather Harris


LOS ANGELES – Iggy Pop wrapped the U.S. segment of his Post Pop Depression tour at The Greek Theatre with a few more fans than he had — and maybe that was the simple idea.

Iggy is a master of appearance and that 69-year-old appearance is holding up well.  He has the stance of a confident but undervalued pugilist who has paid the price for his uncompromising artistry.

But these days, his signature has been teaming with younger rockers to keep current, keep himself in the press and to stay sharp.

He’s learned a thing or two after being knocked around on the ground. And maybe his time has finally come.

“I love Iggy, he really won me over,” said a 20-something fan who was among the thousands at The Greek Theatre Thursday night. It was a sold-out last night of the Post Pop Depression tour he’s shared with prominent band mates Josh Homme, Matt Helders and Dean Fertita, Troy Van Leeuwen and Matt Sweeney. Now it’s on to Europe.

Iggy’s Revolution

These days Iggy’s goals are not as lofty as they were when he started a music revolution in the early 1970s.  The excesses of success are for those younger than him, he’s accumulated a great deal of wealth and he has a beautiful wife and home life in Miami.  He doesn’t party and he sticks to a regimen to make it through at least this one last big push on touring. And he could always use a few more fans.





The David Bowie Songs

It’s no coincidence Iggy’s band mates are at least 30 years younger than he is. The prolific punk rock progenitor was looking for a shot in the arm and just maybe a new raison d’etre.  Yes he’s been doing an amazing job as D.J. on BBC6 with insightful thoughts about a range of music. And he’s been going through the catalogues of others.

But since the death of former collaborator David Bowie, Iggy has dusted off the classics from The Idiot and Lust For Life, which Bowie produced for him.  While most Pop fans know “The Passenger,” his beautiful tunes “Everything Will Be Alright Tonight,” “Here Comes Success,” and his own, less well-known rendition of “China Girl” have long been overlooked by the masses.  These are songs that have gotten a lot of us through the tough times for a long time. So hearing them live is a treat; it’s remarkable that Iggy is singing those songs in concert only now that Bowie is gone, and there is probably a reason.

Overbooked Star

During the days leading up to his outstanding show at The Greek, Iggy must have been overbooked as he made a harried appearance at Mr. Musichead art gallery in Hollywood, across the street from Guitar Center and the Sunset Grill.  Many people arrived before the 6 p.m. start date for the showing of American Valhalla, the photos of Post Pop Depression.

Iggy Pop and Don Was - Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Iggy Pop and Don Was – Photo © Heather Harris for California Rocker

Around 70 percent of the people who bought the $30-something ticket were disappointed to find out that by the time they walked through the gallery doors, Iggy, his wife, Nina, and Josh and his family had vamoosed out the back. After all, how much mugging for the cell phone camera can a guy do.  He had to have had 22 different two- or three-word conversations with those in line, after all.

We didn’t have the heart to stand there and stare and bother him with questions, seeing how Iggy looked a little drained from the experience.  When we offered him some water, he responded with a decidedly polite “No thank you.”

Then came the  “How much longer?” to his manager.

And with that, the group was gone from the makeshift tent that held a range of black and white photos of Iggy in his Post Pop desert days with Homme boy and pals. The photos are lovely but clearly Iggy was the attraction here.


Connie, a friend of Iggy from the old days, said she wanted to see Iggy and didn’t get the emailed update that came to ticketholders warning them if they wanted to catch a glimpse of King Pop, they had better arrive at 5:45 p.m. The email said Iggy and his team would be leaving for The GRAMMY Museum precisely at 7 “for a nomination.”

And yes, while deserving of a nomination, we’re not so sure that was entirely accurate.  We’re not aware The GRAMMY Museum gives out nominations for anything.  Nonetheless, those who bought tickets to the gallery showing were bummed when Iggy and crew were not there.  It’s free admission to Mr. Musichead on any normal day.

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Wayne Kramer talks Super Group – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

A major positive: At Mr. Musichead, we got to have a good heart-to-heart with Wayne Kramer, founder of MC5 and that made the event well worthwhile.  MC5 was the “big brother” band to The Stooges back in the 1960s Detroit.  Wayne is a gem, who spoke to us at length about his charity work.

He’s truly got a big heart and he’s a remarkably humble guy, especially since Wayne and MC5 are arguably the true creators of that Detroit punk sound, as “Kick Out The Jams,” is still the battlecry of every garage rock punk rocker wannabe, or never was, and even a dead music superstar or two.

Iggy and his crew piled into their black SUVs and jammed on out of the gallery. It’s probably not Iggy’s fault he was over boooked and that he and his crew tried to grab as much gusto from the Post Pop Depression tour push and the merch and monetizing opportunities. After all, Iggy came right out and said this would most likely be his last tour ever and possibly last album as well.

Iggy’s not an easy one to get along with, say his pals.  He’s a perfectionist and a little hard-headed — possibly even a – gasp – Republican.  Except for the Republican part, his idiosyncracies all probably come as a result of many years of leaping off the stage and sometimes not getting caught.  He innovated an entire niche of rock music in the 1970s that those hippies and others just didn’t understand. And it took a gargantuan effort to get where he is today.

We’re talking about a guy whose first claim to fame was walking on the audience like Jesus walked on the water, and smearing himself with peanut butter.  Even his bandmates, Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander, didn’t see the peanut butter coming.

Iggy Pop - walking on the crowds, use of peanut butter among memorable practices

Iggy Pop walking on the crowds and innovative use of peanut butter among memorable practices – Photo courtesy Midsummer Rock TV

Iggy Pop, Gadget User

Iggy has come a long way from recording vacuum cleaners and blenders for that authentic sound of Detroit, from whence he hails.  And The Greek Theatre is just about as far away as any performer could get from Detroit, on many levels.

You hear stories of rock stars and celebs donating money secretly to charities in their home towns, only to find out their benevolence upon their death.

Something tells us this will likely not be the case for Iggy, but he has definitely left an undeniable legacy of music.

“Iggy Pop feels underappreciated,” said one longtime acquaintance. “People are coming to his shows now and that’s wonderful. But even when ‘The Passenger’ had a modicum of success on the radio, Iggy couldn’t grow the fan base.  Maybe it was the marketing or something.  I never thought the Halloween-style drip-letter posters at The Ritz that said ‘Come see the Bizarre Iggy Pop’ were going to draw them in.  Especially when The Clash were playing up the street. It’s like even though Iggy’s one of the best performers in the world — and he was back then too of course — he couldn’t reach the audience that today has come to appreciate him the most — and that’s those people who are in their 50s now.”

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig - Photo © Heather Harris

Iggy Pop at last Stooges gig – Photo © Heather Harris

Commercial Appeal

But Iggy Pop is certainly making up for lost time.

In the last 10 years, Iggy has done more to promote himself to the mainstream than he did collectively over the course of his life.

He’s headlined a record number of music festivals. He’s a perfume model.

He was a pitch guy for a British insurance company teaming with a puppet that bears his name — a gig that brought him a hefty dose of ridicule but lots of money. Iggy’s done voiceovers on kids cartoons and he even made then-judge Jennifer Lopez gaze admiringly when he performed on “American Idol.”

Then there’s the music. The classic “Search and Destroy,” the anthem of every punker that ever lived, written by Iggy with longtime collaborator James Williamson has been featured in several movies including “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” several TV shows including “Lost,” and “Dexter,” video games like “Guitar Hero,” and “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland,” as well as the the new ad campaign for the Audi A4.

Iggy has some hi-falootin’ famous friends, and hangs around with Henry, Johnny and Jim. Kings and queens. He even sat down for a meal with Tony Bourdain, who now uses “The Passenger” as the theme to his CNN show “Parts Unknown.”

Iggy and Tony - Courtesy Tony Bourdain

Iggy and Tony – Courtesy Anthony Bourdain


Iggy Pop and His People

Iggy said one of the reasons he likes to team with young people is because it keeps him fresh but he also said that when he partners with people like Kesha or Best Coast, he also gets a bit of free recording time also.  But the Post Pop Depression album is by all accounts a self-funded project produced by the likeable desert rat Homme, who cuts a striking if not gigantic appearance, particularly when holding hands with the 5-foot-something-inch Iggy.

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Mr. Humble, Mike Watt – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Iggy apparently doesn’t discard his friends for no good reason, as at The Greek we ran into several old pals of his whom he’d invited to attend.

Mike Watt said he was honored to appear at The Greek, “Iggy asked me to come,” Watt said.

One of the guys who have been there the whole time, Watt is a humble sort who simply loves the music. And he misses The Stooges. “I loved that band,” Watt said emotionally.

Meanwhile, Iggy’s new band is sharp, young and extremely cool, looking dapper in lounge jackets and dancing around him on stage. Successful musicians in their own right, the guys clearly enjoy reciprocal benefit of touring with the veteran Iggy.

Tossing the Mic

On stage at The Greek, Iggy still showed with great bravado the shades of the anger issues that got him here in the first place. With his advanced age, they come across as funny and cute today compared to the days when he really was an angry young man with issues and wild performance antics.

Iggy mic stand pulverizer - Donna Balancia California Rocker

Anger issues; Iggy beats up on the mic stand at the Greek – Photo 2016 Donna Balancia

During the triumphant performance at The Greek last Thursday — a show that was completely entertaining and gave hints of what it must have been like to see him at The Ritz in the old days — he dropped F-bombs, shoved his hand down his pants, jumped into the crowd and beat up a microphone stand.  Then a song or two later, he went and brought it back and cursed at it.  When he stood it upright, it was bent in the middle and that got a laugh from the adoring crowds.

And maybe through his fits of celebrity, Iggy feels vindicated for all those years of starving, sleeping on other peoples floors and living a hard life — the most difficult life: That of an artist who won’t compromise his work.  On to Europe and a hearty Bravo to our own truly and uniquely American musician, and nevermore to be known as “The World’s Forgotten Boy.”


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

The Residents: Despite Their Appearance, Veteran Musicians Hit a Tender Note

“Music heard so deeply that it is not heard at all, but you are the music while the music lasts” — T.S. Eliot




The mighty and majestic trio known as The Residents opened the first show of their Shadowland North American Film and Concert Tour at the Regent Theatre in Los Angeles.

residents-wtmks22-wtmkRThese legends of the bizarre offered us a unique opening act, a screening of their new film Theory of Obscurity: A Film about The Residents later followed by a live performance covering a wide span of their 40 years together.

Under cloudy skies the dedicated fans and followers of these men of mystery started arriving and lining up for a show of a lifetime as The Residents don’t perform that often.

Once the doors opened at the old renovated downtown movie theatre, we all came together as one happy family ready to welcome Randy, Chuck and Bob (who has since retired and has been replaced by his brother Ricco) — otherwise known as The Residents.


Residents’ History

The movie The Theory of Obscurity: A film about The Residents is a history of the band from their inception until the present day.  We follow them as they head to San Francisco to begin their distinctive and original art and music career.  The history of The Residents is unique in the sense that the details surrounding the group have always remained a secret.  We didn’t even know their names until recently.

I love the fact that The Residents have always done things their way to make their original musical world of art rock. The film is full of fun and facts, good music and crazy imagery.  The movie weaves the tale of The Residents by vintage footage and interviews from many fans including Jerry Harrison, Penn Jillette, Jerry Casale and their biggest fan Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons.

residents-wtmks19-wtmkROne thing I learned is how they got their name.  They were living in a pad in San Francisco and got some mail one day that was addressed to “Resident.”  “They must be talking about us,” they said, and adopted the name at once.

Once the movie was over there was a 30-minute intermission prior to these lads of weirdness taking the stage.  As no two tours or shows are ever the same, we didn’t know what to expect.

The lights dimmed and it was time for Shadowland Part III of the Randy, Chuck and Bob show.  We were ready for the unpredictable and got it.

The Residents have a vast catalog of songs to choose from.  Shadowland included some of their classic songs such as “Harold the Head,” “Constantinople” and “Easter Woman.” The crowd was in heaven as they ran thru these classics.


‘Drunk Grandpa’

residents-wtmks11-wtmkRRandy came out dressed like a tired old man in a muscle body suit with a pot belly, checkered speedo, tails and shoes 20 times two big.  He prowled the stage like a drunk grandpa dancing at his daughter’s wedding.  Chuck dressed like a reggae creature from outer space with a nice white suit and let his guitar speak for him.  Ricco looked like Chuck’s pregnant bastard son in a prison suit manning the keyboards with grace and wizardry.

During the show there was a giant ball on a pedestal that showed clips that referred to the next set of songs.  After opening with Rabbit Habit the first movie in the ball was “The Butcher” which showcased Benny (The Bouncing Bump), next was “The Libertine”, “The Garbage Man,” “The Diver” and “The Engineer Movie.”  They seemed to reinvent some of the older songs and gave them a new twist.

residents-wtmks18-wtmkRDon’t let anybody tell you The Residents don’t know how to play their instruments.  These guys may play experimental music but they don’t miss a note.

Chuck shreds on guitar getting sounds you would never expect plus he plays a mean slide.  All these pieces came together for a well-rounded show to satisfy all your senses.

They ended the show with “Ship of Fools” and this offbeat trio of guitar, keyboards and vocals captured our mind as well as our souls.  We all left happy and glad we got to spend some time in the wonderful world of The Residents.

SET LIST – The Regent, Los Angeles,

April 9, 2016

The Rabbit Habit

Fever Dreams

Golden Guy

Herman, the Human Mole

Harry the Head

Benny (the Bouncing Bump)

They Are All Meat


Is He Really Bringing Roses

Blue Rosebuds

Weight Lifting Lulu

Constantinople (Randy parading around the stage with big bass drum)

Easter Woman (a favorite of mine)

My Second Wife

Loss of Innocence

Melon collie Lassie

Hard and Tenderly

Ship of Fools


Mourning Glories

Forty Four No More.

Don Was, Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter, Honored at 2016 NAMM TEC Awards

Skunk Baxter - TEC Hall of Famer - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Skunk Baxter – TEC Hall of Famer – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Engineering and Audio Firms Take Center Stage

By DONNA BALANCIA – The TEC Awards presented by the NAMM Foundation were a hit with musicians and engineers alike as a range of companies and honorees came away with statuettes.

Eventide, iZotope, Shure, Avid and others were celebrated at one of the few awards ceremonies that honors outstanding achievements in sound engineering.

Musicians honored during the night were Steely Dan co-founder, Jeff Skunk Baxter, and Record Plant founders Chris Stone and Gary Kellgren, who were inducted into the TEC Hall of Fame.

Don Was performs at TEC Awards - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Don Was performs at TEC Awards – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Baxter, who was presented the statuette by his son, then led the TEC band in the classics “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” and “My Old School,” and the audience sang along.

Baxter was honored for his work with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers but also for his work with the government.

Producer Don Was, known for his band Was Not Was, and his collaborations with a range of famous rockers, received the Les Paul Award.

Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh was a presenter – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

“It blows my mind to be mentioned in the same breath as Les Paul,” said Was, who gave a speech from the heart, thanking his family and the artists with whom he has created top-selling records. “Les Paul melded technology with music and we are all deeply in his debt,” Was said.

“So let’s Kick Out The Jams,” he said before performing with Dr. Lonnie Smith and then with members of Was Not Was who performed “Walk The Dinosaur,” a crowd favorite.

A video was created for the occasion that showed interviews with various coworkers of Was throughout the years, and showed photographs of Was with famous friends from Donna Summer to Rod Stewart and other well-known artists.


Host Sinbad kept the evening moving – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Was: ‘I Thank My Family’

Was is well respected and well-liked by everyone — not only the flashy LA crowd, but particularly to his pals from Detroit, several of whom came to honor him.

Host Sinbad is an old hand at this event and his jokes were well-honed to the techie crowd and were genuinely and straight-to-the-point funny.  His routine on customer service touched on the frustration consumers feel in dealing with large corporations and his barbs were not lost on the audience.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”36″ gal_title=”NAMM TEC Awards 2016″]

Antelope Audio / Satori Monitoring Controller

Rupert Neve Designs / RNDI: Active Transformer Direct Interface

PreSonus / Notion 2 for iOS

Universal Audio / Apollo 8p Thunderbolt 2 Audio Interface

Shure / MOTIV MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Mic

Audio-Technica Corporation / ATH-R70x Pro

Solid State Logic / XL DESK

Manley Labs / Manley FORCE

Neumann / U47 FET

Shure / 5575LE Unidyne 75th Anniversary Vocal Microphone

Eventide / H9 MAX

Moog Music / Modular Recreation

iZotope / Iris 2

Zoom/F8 MultiTrack Field Recorder

Tube-Tech / HLT 2A Equalizer

Solid State Logic / 500-Format LMC+

iZotope / RX 4 Complete Audio Repair & Enhancement

AMS Neve / AMS RMX16 Digital Reverb Plug-In For UAD-2 Platform

Avid / Pro Tools I S3

Meyer Sound / LEOPARD

Genelec / 8351A SAM

Sennheiser / Evolution Wireless D1

Avid / Pro Tools 12



Batman: Arkham Knight

Before This World by James Taylor

Dreams by Beck

Foo Fighters Sonic Highways

Paul Epworth’s The Church Studios, London, UK

Game of Thrones

Sonic Highways World Tour, Foo Fighters

Don Was To Be Honored with 2016 Les Paul Award at NAMM Show TEC Awards

Don Was - Photo courtesy CBS

Don Was – Photo courtesy of CBS

By DONNA BALANCIA – Record producer and music industry executive Don Was will receive the 2016 Les Paul Award at the 31st annual Technical Excellence and Creativity Awards on Jan. 23 during the 2016 NAMM Show.

The award honors a representative of the music industry who embodies the creative spirit of the legendary genius Les Paul.  The evening will be hosted by Sinbad and will take place at the Anaheim Hilton.

The NAMM Foundation presents the NAMM TEC Awards and the NAMM TECnology Hall of Fame. The events honor the best in audio and sound production as well as the most impactful audio technology products from the last 75 years.

Was is one of the most well-known and accomplished music producers in addition to being an outstanding musician.

Was has earned multiple GRAMMY Awards for his production work over the past 30 years. He produced several of Bonnie Raitt’s albums, including Nick Of Time, which won a GRAMMY in 1989.  He was named Producer Of The Year for work with artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison in 1994, and with  Ziggy Marley on “Family Time,” he earned Best Musical Album For Children in 2009.

He produced, wrote and directed I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times, the 1995 documentary on Brian Wilson, which bowed at Sundance Film Festival; and he also produced the TV movies “Bonnie Raitt: Road Tested,” and “Joe Cocker: Organic.”

Bonnie Raitt and Don Was receive GRAMMY awards for Album of the Year - Photo courtesy CBS

Bonnie Raitt and Don Was receive GRAMMY awards for Album of the Year for Nick of Time – Photo courtesy CBS

Was co-founded former Detroit band Was (Not Was) with childhood friend David Was (Weiss) before going on to produce decades of commercially successful and critically-acclaimed recordings for top artists.

As President of Blue Note Records, Was oversees the label’s extensive reissue campaigns that serve audiences in both the analogue and digital realms. He joins a prestigious group of Les Paul honorees including Stevie Wonder, Sting, and Pete Townshend.

The January 23 event will be held in the Hilton Anaheim Pacific Ballroom. A reception begins at 6 PM with the ceremony following at 7 PM.

Earlier on Saturday, the NAMM TECnology Hall of Fame will induct 10 audio products and innovations released between 1928 and 2002 that have made a significant contribution to the advancement of audio technology.

The ceremony, presented by the NAMM MUSEUM of Making Music in Carlsbad and hosted by George Petersen, editor of Front of House Magazine, will be a celebration of nostalgia and innovation. A panel of more than 50 recognized audio experts, including authors, educators, engineers, facility owners and other professionals selected the nominees.

The 1966 Neumann KM84 microphone was invented by Georg Neumann five decades ago and is still in use today via the improved KM184 model. It stands out as the first microphone to use the now-standard “phantom powering system.”

Don Was - Photo by Gabi Porter

Don Was – Photo by Gabi Porter

Also entering a 50-year milestone is the Shure SM58 microphone, a standard in the eyes of many rock ‘n rollers. After three years and hundreds of tests involving dropping, throwing, cooking, salt spray immersion and submersion, the Shure SM58 was born under the watchful eye of Ernie Seeler, a classical music fan who hated rock ‘n’ roll!

Turn up Supertramp’s “Logical Song” and Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” and you’ll hear the distinct sounds produced by Wurlitzer’s 1954 Electronic Piano, originally designed as a portable and substitute for the acoustical piano. It has become a mainstay of rock, pop and jazz artists worldwide.

Roland’s RE-201 Space Echo was first released when Richard Nixon was still President, but its vintage sound continues to find its way into the recordings of musicians that include Fatboy Slim, Mr. Oizo, Sneaker Pimps, Radiohead, Lauryn Hill and more who covet its slightly unpredictable analog echo effects.

Other inductees include the 1998 Manley VoxBox and the 2002 Avid Digidesign Pro Tools HD, which are both still in production today.

The TECnology Hall of Fame ceremony will be presented Saturday, January 23, from 4-6PM in room 202A of the Anaheim Convention Center in the TEC Tracks educational area. Seating is limited and available to credentialed NAMM attendees, inductees and their guests.

Olivia Dvorak: Check Out This ‘Superstar To Be’ Who is Truly Making Music in Her Own Way

Olivia Dvorak - Alternative-Country star in the making - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Olivia Dvorak: Alt-Country star in the making – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

By DONNA BALANCIA – Olivia Dvorak is making music her own way.

“I grew up in the country with horses,” said Olivia, who was raised in rural Illinois. “My horses always loved the country music I would play on the radio. So I gravitated towards writing and playing country music.”

The 23-year-old and her music could have gone in another — more traditional direction — her mother is a music teacher and her sister, Lillian, is an accomplished classical pianist.  And being raised in a Christian household has enabled Olivia to put a positive spin on even the toughest moments in her young music career.

“My faith plays a big role in how I handle my career,” Olivia said. “I feel there’s a way to get ahead and still keep your own values.”

Olivia has carefully selected like-minded people for her team, people who also work hard and try to do right by others.

“It’s just the way we all live,” Olivia said. “We try to help others and we make that a priority.”


Olivia’s love is anything country.  Among her top picks in music are artists Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Martina McBride.  Her biggest influence has been the music of K.T. Tunstall and her favorite song is “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.'”

Olivia Dvorak - Alternative-Country star in the making - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Olivia Dvorak tells the crowd how it is – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Her album, Don’t Come Knockin’ is extremely entertaining and Olivia is one to keep your eyes on.

To see Olivia perform is like watching a whirlwind in action.  She has control of the stage and knows how to make the audience feel good. Within moments she can quiet down a noisy room.

“You have to feel out the audience, see what mood they’re in,” she said. “The audience is different everywhere you play and that affects your performance.”

The songs Olivia has written are catchy and her voice is clear.  At her young age and in her infancy stage as a performer, Olivia is already amazingly accomplished.  A one-woman band, she achieves a remarkably robust sound with the help of a simple JamMan Looper Pedal.

“I have a great team and regarding my sound, I rely on my right-hand guy Jeremy Rollefson,” Olivia said. “He tells me what’s the ‘latest and greatest’ as far as the tech side.”

One of the biggest influences in her life is Olivia’s mother, Betsy, the music teacher.

Olivia Dvorak - Alternative-Country star in the making - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Olivia Dvorak – Passion and energy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“My mom, Betsy, taught me about music, and my dad, Scott, is a graphic designer,” Olivia said.

In her spare time, Olivia loves to draw or go for a run.  She’s a big believer in giving back and recently played a gig to benefit Operation Warrior Wishes.

“The veterans give so much to us and I want to do what I can,” she said. “I also want to mentor younger people. I know my music has healed me and I want others to see their own value as well.”

Wizardry of Todd Rundgren Takes Spotlight of Innovative ‘Global’ Tour; Will It Satisfy His Debt?

By DONNA BALANCIA – The saying “The Show Must Go On,” has never had truer meaning than it does today for Todd Rundgren.

With the Global tour, Rundgren has returned to his roots.  He’s energetic, his voice is clear and he’s lean. Very lean.

For a lot of reasons, he has to be.  Because beneath his smiling exterior, the excellent solos on his see-through guitar, and his strong vision, what comes with this tour is a certain urgency.

Todd Rundgren performs during Global tour at Roxy Theatre

Todd Rundgren performs during Global tour at Roxy Theatre – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“The Wizard” revisits a post-futuristic style, similar to his Utopia days.  But instead of Kasim Sulton, Roger Powell and Willie Wilcox, he’s accompanied by cool D.J., Dam-Funk, and his backup singer-dancers.

Once inside the Roxy and while chatting with some Rundgren fans from the mainland as well as from Hawaii we were told we obviously had not been reading the business pages closely enough.

Rundgren is scrambling to keep the money coming in, following a foreclosure judgment on his Hawaii home and his subsequent lawsuit against the bank that granted he and his wife, Michele, a refinance on their home.

Did they use the cash to fund Michele’s Hawaiian restaurant, Tiki Iniki?

It’s mind-boggling to believe that Rundgren is in debt to the tune of millions of dollars, and that his home — where they’ve filmed concerts and gigs, where fans have gone for various birthday and Toddstock celebrations, and where friends and family live — is in foreclosure.

In court papers, Rundgren claims Washington Mutual induced him to sign refinance documents that were misleading.

Todd Rundgren performs at Roxy during Global tour - Photos © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren performs at Roxy during Global tour – Photos © 2015 Donna Balancia

But those inside the Roxy last week, and those who have visited the Hawaiian restaurant Michele was determined to open a few years ago, say Tiki Iniki in Kauai is a financial burden. The food and service are inconsistent according to reviews, it isn’t branded a “Todd Rundgren” venue, and the rent is high.  Everything in Princeville on Kauai is expensive.

So it’s no surprise Rundgren is touring like crazy and doesn’t take time to do much except sell records, sign CDs, sell merchandise and play music.  

It’s really a shame. Rundgren is one artist who has helped more aspiring and established musicians than many we can name.  When Rick Derringer had his guitars stolen back in 1980, Rundgren organized a charity concert at South Street Seaport in New York City that raised thousands for the guitarist.  READ MORE ABOUT TODD RUNDGREN AT EAST COAST ROCKER.

Rundgren’s efforts to produce Hall and Oates, transformed the band from a mellow and melodic twosome that barely reached an ill-defined demographic, into a hip, rockin’ group with upbeat songs and hit records.

Rundgren stepped in to support The Cars on their tour, he has been a great side man to Ringo on the Ringo All-Star Tour, and his record producing is outstanding.  In case you forgot, note these four words: Bat Out Of Hell.

Todd Rundgren at Roxy - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren at Roxy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

We did some quick math.  At $45 or so per ticket, with about 250 people at the Roxy the first night, it works out to about $11,250.  Multiply that by 25 more shows and a few CD signings, and accounting for the possibly larger number of fans in bigger venues, the rest of Rundgren’s tour could bring in more than $650,000 in ticket sales. Minus expenses and overhead.  Prior to the Roxy performances, Rundgren played 39 shows on the tour.

If someone wanted to have a benefit concert for Rundgren, there would be no shortage of fans or participants.  While pride often gets in the way of artists accepting charity, if ever there were a case for helping out one of the best musicians of our time, this is it.

All the financial news aside, Rundgren continues to be a light in the world of music.

He has slimmed down to what appears to be pre-1980s slimness; his moves are equally energetic and up to the standards of those days.  Had the stage at the Roxy been a little larger, it’s a sure bet he would have done his trademark run across the stage while blaring his amazing guitar licks.

The intimate show was great in many regards, especially in that it enables long-time fans to get a new perspective and it appeals to new fans because of the electronic element.  The latest of Rundgren’s projects combines an EDM-DJ style with his own, in a possible appeal to gain the important younger and more free-flowing dollars.

The light and video work on the Global tour is impressive, as is his see-through guitar.  HIs songs were predominantly off the new album, but Rundgren did re-imagine some legendary favorites like “One World,” which he pulled out about three-quarters through the show, and finale “Just One Victory.”

Todd Rundgren at Roxy - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Todd Rundgren at Roxy – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

There are many things to be admired about Rundgren.  He is a technology genius.  He has always been ahead of his time in various aspects of music video and music distribution.  He received relatively few honors for his fantastic technology work, but one award that received press was the Les Paul Award at NAMM two years ago.

It’s a shame that as he has developed into a musician who is finally comfortable with his own accomplishments, Rundgren can’t rest.  But perhaps that is to the benefit of the concert-goer.  It is welcome news that Rundgren will continue to produce music and performances for the world.

All in all, Rundgren’s show is always a soulful experience that satisfies non-fans and fans.  And hopefully, it will satisfy the banks and lenders as well.

Study: Music Can Help The Brain, Especially If You Know The Song

Music could be an alternative to drugs as therapy for mental health issues, a report indicates.

Based on a study at the University of Helsinki, research shows that classical music has a tempo-regulating effect on genes responsible for generating feelings of pleasure.

Participants in the study listened to Mozart, and scientists noted greater improvement of brain function in those who were already familiar with the music compared with those who were not.


Dopamine secretion and synaptic transmissions are aided by listening to classical music, the study concluded. Dopamine helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers and is conveyed through connections made through the synaptic transmissions.

The study indicates that listening to classical music can also help memory and learning. It also suggests that there is an evolutionary similarity between the genes that are responsible for learning songs and those found in songbirds that enable them sing.


CanJam Personal Audio Show Takes Place in Costa Mesa

Photo Eldeeem for Flickr

CanJam personal audio show will be held Mar 28-29 at Westin South Coast Plaza – photo courtesy of Eldeeem

By DAVE DALY — CanJam, a trade show devoted to personal audio, will be held March 28-29 at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel in Costa Mesa.

The show, which encompasses 12,000 square feet of exhibition space, with more than 60 exhibitors and seminars, is California’s first-ever stand-alone trade show devoted to personal audio.

Headphones and personal audio technology represent a $2 billion industry and the sector is expected to continue to grow along with the use of mobile devices, according to reports.

Show hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 28 and  9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 29.  The Westin is located near John Wayne International Airport.

For more information go to Can Jam’s website or its Facebook page.

Slash to be Honored with Les Paul Award at NAMM Show

Slash will receive the Les Paul Award at NAMM

Slash will receive the Les Paul Award at NAMM – Photo courtesy of NAMM

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Superstar guitarist Slash will receive the Les Paul Award during the 30th Annual NAMM Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards, Jan. 24, 2015, during the National Association of Music Merchants  NAMM Show in Anaheim.

Comedian Sinbad will host the evening event.

The NAMM TEC Awards honors individuals and companies across 30 categories, for outstanding achievement in professional audio technology and production.

As a critically acclaimed, British-American musician and songwriter, Slash has amassed album sales topping 100 million copies, a GRAMMY Award and seven GRAMMY nominations. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012.

Slash, who established a hot solo career in 2008, is known as former lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and founded the supergroup Velvet Revolver.  His current album is World On Fire.

Time magazine named Slash second, behind only Jimi Hendrix, on its “Ten Best Electric Guitar Players of All-Time” list. His famous guitar solos in songs including “November Rain” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine” are adored by rock fans worldwide.

The Les Paul Award, named for the inventor and esteemed musician, honors individuals or institutions that have set the highest standards of excellence in the creative application of audio and music technology.  The honor has been bestowed to musicians including Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young and Peter Gabriel. Last year’s recipient was Todd Rundgren.

Sillerman Brings Rock in Rio to Vegas May 2015

SFX Founder Robert Silerman California Rocker

SFX Founder Robert Sillerman – Photo courtesy Mitsu Yasukawa, LA Times

Financial Reporters ‘Stunned’ by SFX Q4 Conference Call

-NEW YORK — Amid what pundits speculate may be the downhill side of the EDM festival era, SFX has invested in Rock in Rio, a well-known Brazilian music festival, which will come to Las Vegas in May of 2015.

Founded by Roberto Medina, Rock in Rio attracted 1.4 million fans the year it started in 1985.  Since then, there have been 13 Rock in Rio festivals, attracting performers like Rihanna, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen.  This summer in Portugal, Lorde, Justin Timberlake and the Rolling Stones are scheduled to perform at the Rock in Rio show.

SFX Entertainment acquired a 50 percent stake in the company and brought the event to the U.S.  SFX was founded by Robert F.X. Sillerman, a renown producer of mostly EDM events and festivals.

But lately, Sillerman has come into the news for activities other than acquisitions.

A lawsuit was filed against him in federal court in Los Angeles by three DJs — Paolo Moreno who promotes Disco Donnie Estopinal, brother Gabriel Moreno, and another DJ manager Lawrence Vavra — claiming fraud and breach of contract against Sillerman and SFX Chairman Sheldon Finkel.

Ben Green of BD Capital blurts out a question about covering up deals

Transcript of SFXE Q4 conference call

A restatement was issued by SFX earlier this week after a botched Q4 conference call that drew the ire of at least one analyst who accused Sillerman of covering up deals.  The replay of the conference call, typically available for a period of time after the event, has been removed following torrents of press recounting the incident.

“I’ve never heard a quarterly earnings call like that ever before,” said a longtime financial reporter. “It was laced with profanity and it was very unprofessional and seemed like a borderline setup.  Maybe it was an early April Fool’s joke.”

Elsewhere, a few days ago, following a trampling incident that left a security guard in critical condition, Mayor Tomas Regalado said he wants to pull the plug for good on Miami’s Ultrafest, the annual EDM festival that brings thousands of attendees to the Bayfront.

It is the latest effort by Regalado to end the event which annually brings an estimated $40 million in direct spending to Miami and millions more in ancillary tourism dollars.  Attendance at the festival looks to be nowhere near falling off, and the figures mirror stability in the EDM festival marketplace.

“Traditional” music festivals, however, have been steadily growing over the last 20 years, as more and more bands prefer to perform at multiple-act festivals, as a more cost-effective means of promoting an album, rather than play a concert hall solo or with one or two warm-up acts.




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