Talking Motor Sister with Scott Ian, Pearl Aday

Husband-and-wife duo reveal how project evolved
By Pat Prince and Peter Lindblad

Motor Sister is Jim Wilson, Pearl Aday,
Scott Ian, Joey Vera and John Tempesta
Motor Sister's first-ever LP Ride was released a few weeks ago, but the buzz hasn't subsided.

The first week of its release, the record, containing fiery reworkings of songs by '90s retro-rock underdogs Mother Superior, Ride clocked in at #9 on the Billboard New Artist (Heatseekers) chart. It also debuted at #12 on the Billboard Hard Music Albums listing and #40 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart.

The story of Motor Sister began a long time ago, when Anthrax's Scott Ian started a love affair with Mother Superior's rip-roaring mix of '70s classic rock, blues, soul and blazing proto-punk.

For his 50th birthday party, Ian had a wish, and his wife, Pearl Aday, made it come true. Desiring nothing more than to be part of a band that would play his favorite Mother Superior songs, Ian got to live out his fantasy, thanks to his wife, as he got to play those songs alongside Jim Wilson.

It was Wilson who served as front man and the main songwriter for Mother Superior. The trio broke up in the early 2000s. More recently, Wilson has partnered with Aday in the making of her solo material. Given the chance to revisit his old Mother Superior catalog, however, Wilson jumped at it.

Playing in front of a small audience of friends and family, Wilson, Ian, Aday and the rhythm section of Armored Saint and Fates Warning bassist Joey Vera and drummer John Tempesta (White Zombie, The Cult, Testament) thundered through a set handpicked by Ian. Word of the raucous, powerful performance reached Metal Blade Records, and plans to make Ride, recorded in only two days, were set in motion.

This doesn't appear to be some one-off side project for any of them. Ian and Aday talked to Backstage Auctions recently about their involvement in Motor Sister and their adoration for Mother Superior, a band that may be finally getting its due.

Pearl, I wanted to talk about Jim Wilson for a bit. You first worked with him on your solo music and his solo music, right?
Pearl Aday: Not on his solo work, no. That was all Jim, but in terms of my stuff, Jim and I wrote all that together.

A tour may be in the works for
Motor Sister, when band members
can find the opportunity to do so.
How did you and Jim meet? How did that collaboration start?
PA: We met through Scott, because Scott knew him already by the time I met Scott. And so Scott introduced me to Mother Superior music and then introduced me to the guys. And I think I became a really big fan of the music first and then had met Jim and the other guys a couple times and then Scott surprised me by inviting the whole band to my birthday party one year. And this was a long time ago, and it was just awesome, and I got really excited, and throughout the night I mentioned to Jim I said, “What would you guys think about working with a female vocalist at some point?” I got the balls from somewhere to ask him that, and he said, “Sure.” And then it just kind of started falling into place. We started getting together and writing together.

And then you’ve covered Mother Superior songs on your solo material. “Whore,” on the Swing House Sessions, it’s a real nice country-blues rendition of the song.
PA: Uh, huh. Swing House Sessions was like an acoustic version of a rock album Little Immaculate White Fox, so “Whore” is on the rock album as well.

Oh, I haven’t heard that.
PA: Yeah, that’s a full rock album. It’s got heavy rock songs on it. And then the Swing House Sessions is the acoustic version of that album. But yeah, we did it, we did a cool little country version on the acoustic album. That was fun.

It just shows how Mother Superior songs can work with hard blues, hard rock and acoustically as well.
PA: Yeah, totally versatile. Jim’s music is completely versatile, because he’s drawing from all different genres.

And Scott, performing during your birthday celebration with Jim must have sparked that this was some special thought in your head. No?
Scott Ian: Yeah, it definitely did. Just even going into it, it was something special that I wanted to do. Not just even for me, but for all of us, just to get to be a part of that and kind of play that music again. Nobody had heard those songs in a live element for years, so it was just a case of having fun but with people who really love Mother Superior. Just to get together in the jam room at our house and just have fun doing it; that was really the impetus behind the whole thing. We weren’t going into it with any plans past that. Everything that came after that is just, you know, “Merry Christmas.” But the initial thing was, “Let’s just play these songs and have some fun.”

And Pearl, were you a part of that, too?
PA:  Yeah, I threw the party for him. I got the band together, and I sang that night, as well, because I’m in the band.

Well, your voice blends together with Jim’s nicely. You can hear it on “Fork in the Road” on the album. It’s a natural pairing.
PA: Thanks, yeah, we do sound really great together and we work really well together. It is very natural and organic for us.

And you guys recorded the Motor Sister album in two days, right?
PA: Yep.
Motor Sister's debut album 'Ride' 2015
SI: Yes.

Pretty much straightforward live, just like the birthday gig.
SI: Yeah, well, that was just one of our few things we said to the label was basically just, “If we’re going to do this, we have to do it the same way we did it.” That’s the way it should be, and I talked to Jay Ruston about it. I said, “Can we do this? Can we just set up live in the studio and bust it out the same way we did at our house?” And he said, “Yeah, absolutely. You guys all know the songs. You don’t need to do anything else.”  It was that easy.

And Jay is the engineer, the producer?
SI: Yeah.

Oh, okay. He’s worked with you before on with Anthrax and stuff, right?
SI: He’s worked with Anthrax, he’s worked with Pearl, he’s worked with Jim, he’s worked with Mother Superior. Yeah, he’s been involved with all our stuff.

And the spontaneous live feel, he captured something magical on the Motor Sister album. A lot more bands should do that, just go right through the songs, instead of all the overdubs and stuffs.
PA: You’re saying more bands should try and do that.

Yes, exactly.
PA: Some bands can’t do that. I don’t … You know what I’m trying to say, Scott.  Just for us, it came really easy, because it came from this night where we threw this party, and we were just doing it to have fun. And we were just doing it to have drinks and make this music come alive again and hear the music live again and celebrate Scott’s 50th birthday. And it kind of fell into place, the fact that it was so great and it was so exciting, and it was so good that this record company, Metal Blade, was like, “Dude, we’ve got to make an album of this. It’s too good for everybody to not to hear it.” So that’s why we were able to. It just happened so fast that it just kind of … it was natural. Not kind of … it was natural in how it happened, because it’s that good. And so were able to go into the studio and make an album in two days.

I was reading some stuff of Jim doing interviews and he said he overdubbed on Mother Superior’s albums to get a dual-guitar feel. And with Scott, here you have that dual-guitar feel on Motor Sister naturally. And I think he was very pleased with that, that it was a live feel.
SI: Yeah. I mean, yeah, it is, because we’re both playing. It is two guitars playing at the same time; so he’s not overdubbing. So, of course, it would be a live feel. 

But it was something special, the overdub This sounded a lot more more authentic and exciting and energetic.
SI: Yeah, absolutely. Two guitars just gives it that much more energy. Certainly having my playing on the songs is just going to change the energy of it as well. It’s a different band playing these songs, so it’s definitely going to feel different.

Did you find you had to use a different guitar technique or anything playing this rather than an Anthrax song?
SI: Nope, I just play how I play.

As somebody who doesn’t play guitar, I know it’s a silly question to ask. Some people have mentioned that this album is metalizing Mother Superior. I don’t see that at all. I see it as putting a new coat of paint on a race car. It’s just making it shine better and faster.
PA: That’s a cool way of putting it. I like that.
SI: Yeah, it’s not … we didn’t "metalize" it. I don’t hear that. Metalizing it would have meant me having, let’s say, my own tone that I would use to record an Anthrax record, which I certainly don’t. Yeah, I played with much more of a rock tone than I ever would on an Anthrax record. So I wouldn’t say it’s metalizing it at all.

Did you use different guitars?
SI: I used one of my Jackson signature models for about half the record, and then I used my Gretsch Duo Jet for about half the record.

Maybe that’s the question I should have asked. It’s not technique. It’s that you used different guitars or amps or anything to get that hard rock sound.
SI: No, it was just a matter of dialing the game back. My amp can get any tone I would ever need, just by changing the gain structure on the head. My Randall, all I have to do is pull the gain back and I can be as clean sounding as Malcolm Young or as distorted and heavy sounding as my normal Anthrax recordings.

This is nothing new for you, recording music outside of Anthrax. Out of all the outside material you’ve recorded, is this one of your favorite projects?
SI: Yeah, for sure. It’s not like I ever recorded anything with anybody that I don’t like (laughs). What would be the point of … “I’m going to record on something I hate.” That’s not something I’m out there trying to spend my time doing. Yeah, I’ve enjoyed, whether it’s S.O.D. or the Damn Things or the stuff I’ve done with Brian Posehn and now Motor Sister … I just love music, and when I get to be involved in projects outside of what I do with Anthrax, it’s most of the time with friends. I go back with every one of those things that I mentioned basically happened because of friendship, from S.O.D. on through. Anything I’ve done outside of Anthrax are hanging out with guys friends who also play music and are into music and we inevitably start writing songs together or play together, or jamming together. So, anything I’ve done outside of Anthrax is just because what I naturally do anyway. So it just adds more … it’s like having a whole bunch of different foods to eat instead of one food all the time.

I guess I asked because sometimes you hear musicians say when they do an outside project, they think it’ll be great, and once it’s done, they feel like, “I never want to do that again.” But with this one, it feels special. It feels like it comes from a special place because you were a fan.
SI: Yeah, it’s certainly different from anything I’ve ever done. You know, all the stuff I mentioned, all the stuff I did obviously I was involved in the songwriting. Whereas this is essentially me having this idea to just have a party and play a bunch of songs that I love that were written by Jim Wilson with my friends. And then we made a record of it. Essentially, I’m playing a bunch of cover songs, but a bunch of cover songs from a band that I love and now actually we made a band out of it and I’m actually in the band with Pearl and Jim and Johnny and Joey, because Jim was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” When we got the offer to make the record, the phone call actually came to us, to Pearl and I. And I said, “Yeah, I want to do it, sure. But you need to ask Jim. It’s not our decision to make. This is Jim’s music.” And he was totally into it, and he was totally into making it a band and playing shows. It’s really his thing. That’s what does make this special, that in a lot of ways, it’s just me getting to play a bunch of songs that I love. Like, what if I just said, “Hey, one day I’m getting a band together to play AC/DC songs and somehow get Angus Young to play along and go out and play AC/DC songs with Angus.” That’s the same thing to me, getting to do this with Jim. That’s how cool it is.

And then Jim’s voice has a very Paul Rodgers’ feel to it. It has a hard blues soul to it. And did you find playing with him that any traditional hard-rock influence seeped into this album when you were playing it?
SI: Well, I’m not sure what you mean, because the songs were already written.

Well, I know they were already played, but did you find that influences from the past – like hard rock bands you were into, whether, and I’ll just throw some out there, Foghat or any of those ‘70s bands – did you feel some of that seeping in, as well as Mother Superior?
SI: Well, yeah, Mother Superior obviously is influenced by a lot of ’70s music, whether it’s Humble Pie and Free, or whatever. You name it. Me, KISS and Aerosmith … name a great ‘70s band and Mother Superior … Thin Lizzy. Jim always says it best: In the ‘90s when people were listening to grunge and rap metal Mother Superior were playing songs that sounded like Humble Pie. That’s probably why people weren’t paying attention.

You take a song like “This Song Reminds Me of You ” … I almost feel like if that song was played on a classic-rock radio station, listeners would be drawn to it, don’t you think? It has almost like a Bad Company feel.
SI: Absolutely. Given the opportunity, I think people would … I defy someone to listen to … if you’re into rock ‘n’ roll, rock, metal in any way, shape or form, I defy you to not get into this record. It’s almost impossible. I can’t tell you how many people we’ve spoken to who’ve never heard Mother Superior before until now, because of the Motor Sister record, and have gone out and bought a bunch of the Mother Superior catalogs. So, it’s what we’ve been saying for ages, that this is a great band and Jim is a great songwriter, and if this opens the doors to more people getting into the music he’s been making his whole life, that’s awesome.

That was my next question. I think this is definitely going to turn people on. I mean I’d never heard of Mother Superior either before this, and I’m going to go out and buy some albums. And I just I find it weird that I’d never heard of them (laughs). It was very strange that the band could be overlooked by so many people. It’s almost unjust.
SI: Yeah.
PA: That’s why we did this (laughs). That’s why we did this. Like I say on the featurette, it’s just too good for people to not hear. And people are going to love it just as much as we do. They just don’t know it yet. They’ve got to hear it, and then they’ll go, “Aaargh,” just like you did and say, “I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it before, you know?” I mean that’s why Scott wanted to, in essence, resurrect this music again for his 50th birthday. That’s a milestone, you know? And that’s the thing he wanted to do: “I’ve got to hear this music live again, because this band I love them so much and they’re defunct, but let’s give it life. Let’s bring it to life again. So that’s why we did it, because it’s so awesome (laughs). And it shows in the way it’s being received now. We’re just so lucky that things fell into place the way they have, because we get to keep playing it live, you know what I mean? We don’t have to make it a special occasion. It’s sort of like, “Wow! We were right. Everybody is loving this. Everybody’s going to love it. And just more and more people get to hear it, and we get to play it for them. It’s so cool.

Yeah, and there is an appetite for retro-sounding stuff now. You can look at …
PA: The real old stuff – something genuine, something authentic, something with some talent. It’s something that people are hungry for, I think.

Look at a band like Rival Sons. They’re very traditional, and bands like that … you almost think if Mother Superior came out now would they be more popular?
SI: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. Or if they would have existed in 1972 or ’73, would they have set the world on fire. I mean, you could think about that all day long. Let’s see. We are putting out a record now with all these songs on it, and certainly there’s been no lack of promotion or awareness of what we’re doing. The word is out there. So it’s a case of, people getting an opportunity to hear it, they can click online or stream for free before they decide whether or not they actually want to purchase one … you know, they don’t even have to worry about buying a record that they may not like. They can listen to it first, and then see how rad it is and then decide, “Hey, I need to own this.” So I would think it’s a pretty good time to put this record out. Granted, people don’t buy records anymore, but still, from just the point of view of people wanting to hear a record like this, I definitely think it’s a good time for it.

Yeah, Jim had a great quote about this album. He said, “We were a little ahead of our time or a little behind our time.”
SI: Right.
PA: And now they’re getting a second chance.

Yeah, exactly … which song on the album are you guys most pleased with?
PA: All of them (laughs).
SI: Yeah, I mean I picked my 12 favorite Mother Superior songs initially to do this party, so those were my 12 favorites. So I don’t pick one out of those 12. Those are the 12 that were my favorites, and then even more. It wasn’t too long after we made the record, one day Pearl was playing Mother Superior in the house and the song “Rollin’ Boy Blues” came on. And we were both like, “What? Why didn’t we do this song?” So you just … it would probably be easy to pick another 12 songs (laughs) and do Vol. 2, but I would think moving forward, we’re going to try and write our own music out of this lineup. And maybe do “Rollin’ Boy Blues,” too (laughs).      

I was going to say, this can’t just be this one album. You’ve added something to that old Mother Superior sound. Why not an album of originals?
SI: Oh, absolutely. We’ve all been talking about it and it’s definitely something we want to do. I think this lineup, getting together in a room and banging out some songs can only be awesome.

And you’ve got a superior rhythm section in Joey Vera and John Tempesta. That sounds great on the record by the way. Those two together also sound great.
SI: Oh yeah, they rule. Just the idea of us writing songs together, kind of getting in that room for the first time, we have some awesome riffs that we’re jamming on, I’m looking forward to that.

How did you get them to commit? It’s almost like a supergroup? They have a lot of things going on.
SI: I didn’t have to do anything. Joey has already been a Mother Superior fan forever. Joey’s actually produced Mother Superior stuff in the past. Joey’s been playing with Pearl and Jim together in Pearl’s stuff together forever. And then Johnny, all I had to do was send him Mother Superior songs. He heard the music, and he’s like, “How, when and where?” So it was literally that easy.

Do you think if you did do something else, they’d commit to that as well?
SI: Oh yeah, they’re already in.

Even a tour?
SI: Well, a tour is something we’d all commit to. It’s just a matter of finding the window to commit to it. Yes, of course. But as far as a tour goes, we’re kind of waiting on some schedules to firm up with all of us, with our day jobs, so to speak. And as soon as we know what’s going on in those worlds, then we’ll be able to pick a window or two of time where we might be able to go out and do more shows. I mean, we really want to get over to the U.K. I think a week or two-week run in the U.K. with this would be amazing and certainly get out and play through the Midwest through Milwaukee and Chicago and Detroit and all those areas, I think it would be awesome.

So, what’s next? I know you have a lot going on now, Scott. You’re wrapping up Anthrax, you’re wrapping up the new album?
SI: Not wrapping up. We’re right in the middle of it.

Oh, you are. Okay. So you’re doing that, and what’s next for both of you? Pearl you’re working on solo stuff?
PA: Yeah, Jim and I have actually been working on an album for a while now, and we’re almost finished. We’ve got I think nine songs and we just decided to add two more, which we’ll be recording soon, so that’s really exciting and something to look forward to. It’s not hard rock. You know, our last album Little Immaculate White Fox was hard rock and the Swing House Sessions, and this is rock and roll, but it’s sort of more like The Eagles. We’ve been calling it “California country,” but it’s rock and roll, how that term is used. I know people don’t really know that term anymore, but we do (laughs) and we made a rock album, but it’s just not particularly hard.

Well, you have a very Janis Joplin soul to your voice, so I think that would sound really good in that Eagles sort of … add that country blues and make it heavy – that would be really cool.

PA: Thank you.

To read our review of Motor Sister's Ride, go to http://backstageauctions.blogspot.com/2015/03/cd-review-motor-sister-ride.html. Visit the Motor Sister page at the Metal Blade Records site to learn more about Motor Sister here. To get the inside scoop on the making of Motor Sister's Ride album, check out the video below:


CD Review: Agnostic Front – The American Dream Died

CD Review: Agnostic Front – The American Dream Died
Nuclear Blast
All Access Rating: A-

Agnostic Front - The American
Dream Died 2015
Anger management classes would be a waste of time for the seminal New York City hardcore faction Agnostic Front.

Worse yet, they might rob them of their raison d'etre, their vitriolic rage at almost anything and everything fueling their very existence. On The American Dream Died, album No. 11 for Roger Miret and company out soon via the Nuclear Blast label, they are mad as hell and extremely focused, and a pissed off Agnostic Front is one that demands you listen and listen good.

Spitting nails amid a frenzy of fast, aggressive punk and shouted Oi! mayhem and seething crossover thrash, Agnostic Front confronts head on a litany of socio-political issues on The American Dream Died, attacking police brutality, corporate greed, environmental catastrophe, the shameful neglect of down-on-their-luck war veterans and vicious warmongers with righteous indignation.

The hardest of hardcore bands, with the scars to prove it, Agnostic Front is as battle-tested as any outfit, slugging it out in close, sweaty quarters for 30 years in a scene notorious for violence. Agnostic Front wouldn't have it any other way apparently, declaring their undying commitment to and love of hardcore in infectious, gripping anthems "Just Like Yesterday," "Never Walk Alone" and the mid-tempo bruiser "We Walk The Line" as taut and sinewy as a young Bruce Lee. In similar fashion, they lament the soul-sucking gentrification of their hometown in the stirring and strongly melodic "Old New York."

While the short, sharp busts of "Police Violence" and "No War Fuck You" thrive on angry chaos and barely harnessed speed, and the title track is a blazing, straightforward punk missile shot at a variety of societal ills, "Test of Time" sees Agnostic Front charging headlong into a metallic, grindcore scrum, where grooves as hard as prison bars are locked and loaded. And although The American Dream Died is hardly a reinvention of hardcore or even a slight detour of any kind for Agnostic Front, a track like "Enough is Enough" can spring a surprising trap, its wildly disordered beginning giving way to strong, more menacing and shadowy currents.

As furious as ever, Agnostic Front continues to hone and sharpen their sonic attack, and The American Dream Died is like getting shivved over and over again in the yard.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Roger Taylor – Fun in Space/Strange Frontier

CD Review: Roger Taylor – Fun in Space
Omnivore Recordings
All Access Rating: A-

CD Review: Roger Taylor – Strange Frontier
Omnivore Recordings
All Access Rating: B

Roger Taylor - Fun In Space and Strange Frontier 2015
Somewhat overlooked in Queen, what with Freddie Mercury's flamboyance and Brian May's dazzling guitar tricks hogging the spotlight, drummer Roger Taylor put out some rather interesting solo work in the late '70s and early '80s to hardly any fanfare whatsoever.

His obligations with Queen prevented Taylor from doing much, if any, promotion for 1981's Fun In Space or 1984's Strange Frontier, and that certainly contributed to the relative anonymity of both releases – Fun In Space preceded by the 1977 single "I Wanna Testify," which also made very little noise, which is strange considering Taylor's rather sizable songwriting contributions to some of Queen's biggest hits, the divisive "Radio Ga Ga" among them.

Making them ripe for reassessment, Omnivore Recordings is reissuing both Taylor solo outings on March 24 as expanded CDs, along with various vinyl editions. Stripped of Queen's theatricality and bombast, Fun In Space and Strange Frontier are more humble and modest records, although Taylor's wild and intimate studio experimentation and clever, down-to-earth song craft manage to sparkle through the airbrushed '80s-style production values.

Of the two, both very much a product of their synthesizer-washed times, Fun In Space – recorded in Montreux, Switzerland in the down time between Queen tours in 1980 – is livelier, more whimsical and eclectic, as Taylor produced it himself and performed everything, save for some keyboard work by engineer David Richards. The jazz-rock ease of "Future Management" is reminiscent of Steely Dan's lighter moods, albeit with a chorus that is sharp and cutting, and offers glistening contrast from the bustling, energetic shakedowns and shuffles of "No Violins" and "Let's Get Crazy," the latter a feverish rockabilly workout with "snap, crackle, pop" drumming from Taylor.

Strange and menacing shapes, skittering percussion and swells of synthesizer make a sonic lava lamp of "Fun In Space," while the galloping beats and silvery guitar of "Good Times Are Now" run fast and clean, the circling guitar hooks and grooves of "Airheads" are unexpectedly weird and nasty, and "My Country I & II" is an oddly melodic and entertaining mix of guitar jangle, swirling keyboards and drumming hydraulics. And all of this comes with a single version of "My Country" and bonus tracks "I Wanna Testify" – a tight, funky little number with doo-wop backing vocals that is utterly infectious – and a jagged, herky-jerky "Turn on the TV" that fades out with a solar-powered guitar solo.

Neatly arranged, with unexpected delights planted throughout, Fun In Space is a colorful surprise party, whereas the dated electro-pop environs of Strange Frontier – partly recorded in Munich while Queen made The Works – find Taylor in a dour and mostly somber mood, his overly dramatic and futuristic reading of Bob Dylan's "Masters of War" and the disjointed and chaotic "Abandonfire" lacking the fire and drive of the politically charged title track and "Man On Fire," where Taylor's frustration with modern living boils over.

On Fun In Space, Taylor seems playful, this mad scientist drawing inspiration from David Bowie's Let's Dance period, whereas on Strange Frontier, his muse is Bruce Springsteen, mixing introspection with grand socio-political statements but relying almost entirely on synths and electronic beats to deliver the messages, with less varied instrumentation. That's not to say that Strange Frontier is lacking for memorable melodies, the somnambulistic drift of both "Beautiful Dream" and "It's An Illusion" seeping into the subconscious like a cat burglar, and "I Cry For You" brimming with passion.

Padded with four throwaway remixes, two of them for Strange Frontier's closer "I Cry For You," and the extra track "Two Sharp Pencils (Get Bad)," Taylor's second solo outing at times seems forced. Even his cover of Springsteen's "Racing in the Street," while still imbued with blue-collar longing, comes off as mere imitation rather than a vigorous overhaul. On the other hand, Strange Frontier isn't without its charms, for all of its flaws. Taylor can all the fun he wants right here on earth when he's adequately inspired.
– Peter Lindblad

Book Review: Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself

Book Review: Billy Idol – Dancing With Myself
Touchstone
All Access Rating: A-

Billy Idol - Dancing With Myself 2014
Wearing their political idealism on their sleeves, the Clash had righteousness on their side. For the Sex Pistols, shock and savage nihilism made them the scourge of Old Blighty before burning out.

Knowing full well that both bands had the market cornered on railing against injustice with all the filth and fury they could muster, Billy Idol wanted to be different.

A lascivious sneer, chiseled features and spiky, dyed blonde hair would only get him so far, so Idol made a conscious decision to emphasize punk's life-affirming power, its positivity and what a blast it was to be nonconformist, to be part of a scene that rejected most societal norms. And Idol certainly had his fun, indulging in the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" ethos with reckless abandon and documenting it all in his engrossing and disarmingly candid autobiography "Dancing With Myself," out via the Simon & Schuster imprint Touchstone.

It reads as fast as Idol has lived, "Dancing With Myself" being a high-octane narrative that's surprisingly literate, recounting – often in graphic detail, including a rather amusing adventure in "fisting" that left Idol with a swollen hand – the all-night heroin and sex binges, tense and often violent confrontations in the nascent U.K. punk scene with conservative Teddy Boys or fascist skinheads, and close brushes with death. It all starts with a depiction of the gruesome 1990 motorcycle accident Idol miraculously survived, jeopardizing his life and career.

Unexpectedly vulnerable at times, especially when talking openly about his addictions, family relations and his love for girlfriend Perri Lister, Idol is a study in contradiction, wholly engaged in musical experimentation with Generation X and later a solo career that made him a global dance-rock icon while satisfying his more lurid appetites for mind-altering chemicals and sexual adventure. "Dancing With Myself" throws the reader back into the maelstrom of the early U.K. punk scene, not only detailing Idol's transition from the band Chelsea to Generation X and his move to America to go off on his own, but also painting a revolting picture of clubs and bathrooms covered in all sorts of bodily fluids while fully capturing the zeitgeist of youth culture and rebellion in late '70s Britain. His fraternizations with Steve Jones, Siouxsie Sioux and Mick Jones, among other architects of punk rock, certainly make for entertaining passages.

While regaling his audience with tales of utter depravity and uplifting recovery, Idol provides a full accounting of the creative process that birthed such smash hits as "White Wedding," "Dancing With Myself" and "Mony Mony" and behind-the-scenes music industry machinations. It's a wild ride, but one that also has a great deal of heart, romance and self-reflection. Let's dance.
– Peter Lindblad

Take a 'Ride' with Motor Sister

Jim Wilson talks new super group
By Peter Lindblad

Motor Sister is Jim Wilson, Scott Ian,
Pearl Aday, Joey Vera and
John Tempesta
Motor Sister is up and running, putting its own spin on the songs of versatile '90s groove-mongering rockers Mother Superior, a particular favorite of Anthrax's Scott Ian.

Jim Wilson is as amazed as anybody at how this project has taken shape in such a short time.

"To me, it’s a blessing," said Wilson, the frontman and main songwriter for Mother Superior, an L.A trio that smartly mixed '70s classic rock raunch and swagger with blues, early punk and metal. "A year ago, I didn’t know that I’d be doing this. I already started recording my second solo album, which I’m still working on, but I was just planning on doing more Daniel (Lanois) stuff and taking everything as it comes, but now I have this kick-ass band … crazy."

It was Ian's 50th birthday wish that started the ball rolling, as the Anthrax guitarist wanted nothing more than to get together with Wilson and some like-minded musicians, including his wife, Pearl Aday, and put on a small concert at his house playing a set list of Mother Superior songs. They were joined by bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Armored Saint) and drummer John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie, Testament).

Aday has worked with Wilson for years on her own solo work, and she placed the call to Wilson to make her husband's dream a reality. The buzz from that performance spread, with Metal Blade Records A&R man Mike Faley seeing the project's limitless potential and arranging for a new record from the burgeoning super group. Working with producer Jay Ruston, the patchwork outfit cut an album in a matter of days, taking the schematics of old Mother Superior songs and redrawing them with a renewed sense of vigor and energy.

Motor Sister in the studio
Hitting the streets this week, Ride comes on like a powerful, addicting drug, with fiery anthems like "A Hole" and "Fork in the Road" mingling with the Southern-rock sunshine of "This Song Reminds Me of You" and the dark mystery of "Devil Wind" in a powerful concoction.

Since leaving Mother Superior, the band having once backed former Black Flag singer Henry Rollins, Wilson has worked with Lanois – the U2 producer – and Emmylou Harris, as well as Pearl, and he took time out recently to discuss the making of Ride and Motor Sister's creation in this exclusive interview. Wilson will give his views on a few of the songs on Ride in an upcoming post. And we'll have more from Ian and Pearl in a later interview.

The new album is great. Where are you at with promotion of it?
Jim Wilson: Thanks so much. Well, we’re very excited about it. I mean, that’s the reason I’m waking up late today is because there’s been lots of celebrations. There’s just a lot of excitement in the air, and it’s been really cool. We shot two videos last week, and we just got the first rough print of it yesterday of the first video, and it looks so cool. We’re changing a couple of things. It’ll be out in like a week or so, though, right when the album is ready.

Any hints on what the videos involve? Are they performance videos?
JW: Yeah, they’re performance videos … dark. They filmed us recording every song when we were actually recording the album, so the idea that they had some videos coming from that and that’s where that “Fork in the Road” video came from, and we liked it, but it was just kind of … we were so concentrated on recording in the video that we’re just kind of standing around, you know what I mean? We wanted a video that shows more of what we’re actually like when we actually play, so we’re thinking about those old Van Halen promo videos and KISS when they would do those three promo videos and they’d be on a stage and it looks like they’re in concert, but it’s just a well-lit performance stage, like a rehearsal stage, is where we did it at, but it looks really cool. It’s dark, and it’s kind of a scary effect. It’ll be cool. We’re a scary band, so … (laughs)

Motor Sister - Ride 2015
Tell me about jamming with Scott for the first time. In what ways did it remind you of the Mother Superior days and in what ways was it different?
JW: Yeah, well … I’ve met with Scott through the years on different projects, so we’ve played guitars together a lot. Even when his wife, Pearl, who’s in the band also, when she did some touring on her own through the years, I played guitars and Scott played guitars, and once in a while we would play actually play a Mother Superior song with Pearl singing. So we used to play “This Song Reminds Me of You” with her and we’d play “Four,” that was on her album as well. So it didn’t seem completely out of the ordinary, because we’re all friends and we hang out and play KISS songs in the living room anyway, but the very first time we played together, the day before Scott’s party, just in rehearsal, it definitely reminded me of the beginning days of Mother Superior, where everybody just kind of unleashed this animal in the music. And it hadn’t been that way for a long time with Mother Superior.

I mean, we hadn’t played together since 2008, but even in the last few years of the band … we grew up, so the music kind of grew up, too. I’m not saying the music wasn’t good. It was just a little less chaotic and John Tempesta, the drummer, was the only person in the new band that I had never played with before. So, I knew that he was into it, and I knew that he loved the music, and I knew that he wanted to play it, but I didn’t know what it was going to sound like. He definitely brought the wild spirit back to the music, and it felt so good. It had been a long time since I’d looked at the other band members and kind of smiled when we finished, you know what I mean? And obviously one of the main differences is Mother Superior and this band is a five-piece with two guitars. I always wanted to be in a two-guitar band. We just never found the second guitar player in Mother Superior. One of the reasons that we remained a trio was because we had tried a few other guitar players in the beginning, and it just didn’t worked out and we always ended up with three guys just jamming together, so it just kind of stuck that way, but it’s so nice to have all those extra meaty guitar parts taken care of by Scott. It’s kind of like … I just got the reissues of the first three Thin Lizzy albums on vinyl, and they were a trio. The first three albums they were a trio, and then, when they got the two-guitar lineup with Scott Gorham after that and Brian Robertson, it’s kind of like that. The trio is a great thing, but it’s a little more open and everybody can kind of experiment a little more, and with a full piece, with two guitars, bass and drums, it just seems to … even though we might be louder, because there’s an extra guitar, it still seems more together because everybody’s trying to balance. When you’re in a trio, you can kind of overplay and everybody can play over the top of each other, but when you’ve got four, it’s a better balance I think.

Talking about Pearl and Scott, when did you first meet them and when did you become aware of their Mother Superior fandom?
JW: The first time I remember meeting Scott was I was staying at the Palladium for an old radio station, KNAC, in L.A. that’s not there anymore, but they had an anniversary or a birthday party kind of thing for the radio station, and Anthrax played and Skid Row and Rollins Band, which I was playing in at the time. And there might have been another band or so, and there were tons of people there, like Paul Stanley was there, Wayne Kramer was there. It was a real party situation, and I know we had just put out the Get Some, Go Again Rollins Band album, the first one that we did with Henry, and I know Scott was talking to me and raving about the album, and how much he loved it. And then I would see him coming to shows over the next few years – local shows, I remember seeing him and Pearl come to Denver when we were on tour once, and we would say, “Hey, the guy from Anthrax was at the show again last night,” that kind of thing. And then eventually, somehow, we were invited to a birthday party that Scott had for Pearl years and years ago, when we still had our original drummer, Jason Mackenroth, who’s not in the band. And we met Pearl that night.

We were introduced to Pearl for the first time and talked about writing some songs together. And that was the very first night I really talked to Scott and talked about … I always talk about KISS, because that was something we all had in common and that we could all talk about. Anthrax has always been kind of KISS related and covered KISS songs, and I knew they toured with KISS before, so it’s kind of like, “Tell us about Paul Stanley?” You know, that kind of thing. And from then on we just started hanging out and going to bars and going to dinners, and me and Pearl have written – I don’t know – probably 25 songs together for her projects over the years. And she has a new album that’s almost ready now, too, that pulls the whole thing together. So, we’re definitely no strangers. We go to rock concerts together, like we all went to see Elton John and the Rolling Stones. And we’re just friends, so the band thing just seemed like … that’s another way that it reminds me of the early days of Mother Superior, because it’s just friends hanging out that wanted to play music together, before all the frustrations and stuff that comes along with being in a band for over 10 years. So it feels good to call your bandmates your friends. (See a featurette on Motor Sister below)



Looking back on Mother Superior, before all this started with Motor Sister, what did you see as the band’s legacy and were you satisfied with the work you did and how the band’s career progressed? Or is there a sense that there’s unfinished business there, and that this fulfills that?
JW: Yeah, unfinished business sounds good, and this is definitely something already more people are responding to the music than it seemed like … we always had hardcore fans that kept it going, and I’ve always been proud of the music. We put a lot of work into the music. I would spend … I wrote all the lyrics, and all the guitar … basically, I was the main songwriter for the band, who put everything together, and as a singer, I always wanted to have complete control of the lyric part of it, because if it was coming out of my mouth, I wanted to at least be able to relate to it. So I’m proud of the songs in that way. When we had to go back and recreate these songs, it was nice to know that they held up and that I could remember all the words, and that at least they all rhymed and I could remember them (laughed). And I don’t know … as for what happened with the band, I think that we gave it everything that we had and it just kind of ran its course. After eight to 10 albums, whichever way you look at it – there’s actually 10 albums of original material, one was kind of a demo CD and the final one was somewhat of a compilation, but it had new material on it as well – but I think, at that point, we all wanted to do something different, and to me, it didn’t seem like doing something different should mean changing the band, or the sound of the band or the image of the band just because of 10 years of starting to repeat, which I’m glad it didn’t get to that point.

But I think as much as we wanted to produce the music more and try some different things, it was kind of like you don’t … people like the idea and sound of Mother Superior, so we don’t want to change that or all of a sudden add keyboards or put a string section on it. It’d be like if Motorhead said we’re going to have a string section from now on. So it just seemed like the time was right to get some fresh air away from it, and like I said, I mean, truth be told there was a lot of frustration from the band members who couldn’t understand why we never got a break or, “What should we do to try to …?” I mean, when there were quote-unquote band meetings, we could all talk about what was wrong, but I think that it was more about the industry and the way things were going, and I thought the band had went through a lot and got to do a lot and had some great opportunities, and it’s just that was the time. You can’t kind of fake it anymore. I mean, bands fake it all the time, but it just felt the time was right to take a little breather. I really had no idea I would play these songs again. I mean, I never say never, but I didn’t know it would be this soon and with a different group of people.

You guys played the party for Scott. How did it go and did you think at the time that this project had a life beyond that day?
JW: Definitely, we … again, I didn’t know John Tempesta that well, and Joey Vera … Joey had done some stuff for Mother Superior in the past as well. He had mixed and mastered some of our records before, so Joey was always kind of involved and around. I mean, I knew everybody were great players, but like I said, when we first played together, it was kind of like, “Wow!” This sounds really great. And then after the party, we definitely said, “Let’s do something. Let’s keep playing together, because it sounds so good.” But, it was because of a friend’s call to Metal Blade Records that got them aware of what happened, and then when they stepped in and said, “Will you make a record the same way that you did the party, with the same songs from the party?” From the day of the party, we knew we were going to be playing together more, but I didn’t know it was going to be that quick and that a record would be ready that quick.  

When did the idea of making a record with Motor Sister take shape? What was it about the project that excited you the most?
JW: Well, Jay Ruston, who produced the record, is another person from the past who used to come to see Mother Superior all the time, and I remember after a show at the Roxy, he said, “There’s only one way to record this band, and that’s to record it live off the floor, with everybody playing together,” and we kind of said, “Let’s make that happen one day.” And funnily enough, Jay had been working with Anthrax, and he was around, and he’s also been doing a solo project that we’re working on, and it just almost seemed like it was meant to be. Like, here’s that time I’m going to get to work with Jay Ruston, so it’s going to be the best sounding record I’ve ever done. And Scott chose all the songs himself for his birthday party, so they were his choices, but I thought he had a great mixed bag of songs. It wasn’t just all the super heavy stuff, and then we kept the arrangements loose so we could … I told the guys play whatever you want. Don’t try to feel like you have to play what the other guys played, and everybody stuck to the blueprint of the original songs, but added their own flavor to it. John Tempesta played some double-bass drum stuff that none of the other drummers ever did, and Scott changed up some of the arrangements, like “Head Hanging Low” has a part on it that he really liked that only happened once, so we made that happen twice.

We changed some intros … things like that. So I knew it was shaping up to be the best recordings that we had, but it wasn’t until after we had actually recorded it – and when you’re recording, especially in the situation that we did where we’re all playing live together and looking at each other in a circle, you don’t know how it really sounds until you go back in the other room and listen to it. And even that … until Jay started sending rough mixes of the stuff did it really hit me like, “Wow, this sounds really great.” And I don’t know if I ever really felt any pressure from the old recordings or anything, but I definitely felt when I started getting those rough mixes that this is like way more powerful than the original band. And again, nothing against the original players, it’s just this is kind of like a different level and this band is all adults that have been playing music for a long time. Mother Superior’s energy was definitely a bit of punk rock youth, and nobody was listening to us or giving us a chance, so we could be the loudest, most raucous band, you know what I mean? So that was kind of the idea, and we kind of got better as players just from gigging all the time. And now I just feel that we’re all at a level where we’ve all been on the road for the last decade or so, doing different projects and playing music. 

You talked about not knowing what it would sound like, and you only knew it was working until after you heard it, but you made the record in only two days. Did you feel as it was happening that you were only going to need two days to make this or …”
JW: Yeah, I did, and I have to thank Jay Ruston for that, because he kept everything straight because we knew we had two days, so to have that person kind of … a taskmaster telling us we had to get this done and then keeping track of, “Oh, we need to do a solo on this one,” or the beginning of “Devil Wind” had acoustic guitar and stuff – he was always on top of it. And we had a film crew there filming us recording, who were grabbing each member into the other room to do interviews and our friends were there … you know, it very chaotic and we had a lot of work to do. So then, me and Pearl sang live with the band at the recording, but Jay said we could go to his studio and do extra singing if there was anything that wasn’t 100 percent for it. So we went to Jay’s home studio a week later, just me and Pearl, and I was going to try and sing like half the songs in one day and just see if I could top things or whatever. And it was such a good vocal day we ended up re-singing all 12 songs in one day, so the album was actually recorded in three days, two days for all the music and then one extra day for the vocals. But again, it was pretty magical. That’s the place we’re at nowadays, that my body let my voice scream out 12 songs and I didn’t lose it. I just feel like we’re that much more mature as players and singers.

It seems like this band came together really quickly, that it was just kind of a natural fit with you guys. It seems like a natural chemistry developed.
JW: It is. It is. It’s so funny. I’ve told this story, too, but it’s such a funny story. We played our first show in New York two weeks ago, and I’ve been in so many situations playing in bands and it’s very strange to be in the company of your band and there’s no weird feeling. It just feels like we’re ready to go, it’s just us five. I’ve said it to the guys before too, like when we’re all five together, it feels like somebody’s missing, because it’s just too easy. What I was going to say was, we played the show in New York and we played an encore song, and we were completely done, and I turned around to put my guitar down and shut my amp off, and I heard talking and I looked and John Tempesta had gotten up from the drums and he went to the front of the stage and he introduced the band. He said, “Thank you everyone for coming. Scott, Pearl, Joey, Jim and … “And he came up to me backstage and said, “I hope you didn’t mind that. I don’t know what came over me.” I said, “No, it felt great!” It was heartfelt, you know what I mean? It wasn’t him trying to do anything. It was just like he felt the need to say, “Thank you,” because it was such a warm reception. I can’t wait till we play the Whisky A Go Go in two weeks. Two weeks from today, we’re playing our next show, and I’m going on tour with Daniel Lanois tomorrow for a week with him. His album came out last year, and we toured the States already, and now we’re going to do some shows … we’ve got a few more shows in the States, but then once we gear up … So I’m going out for a week with him, and then I come back and we play the Whisky as Motor Sister and we have a few other Motor Sister things before the end of March, and I’m going out again with Daniel for April and the beginning of May, and Scott is going out with Anthrax at that time, and then we all get back together in June and do some shows for the summer. So we all have crazy schedules and we’re all in different bands, but we’re all eager to play together as much as we can and keep it fun and easy. 

I don’t know if people will be talking about it as much as the band as a whole, but the vocals you do with Pearl really add something to the record. You two have worked together for a long time. Why does it work so well between the two of you?
JW: I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s been that way for a while. We realized years ago that we could sing really well together, and her older material from her first album was more heavy rock, so I didn’t have as much place to be on it with her, but on the new stuff we’ve been recording, it’s definitely more harmony music. It’s definitely a little more … it’s more mellow, but it’s still rock. It’s more like country and Rolling Stones or Eagles or Gram Parsons kind of stuff, and it’s just some weird thing. There’s just certain people that your voice works with. I’m kind of that way with Daniel Lanois, too. We’ve been singing together now for a long time and people think we’re brothers. Like people will say to me, “Are you Daniel’s brother?” because we learned how to blend our voices, and it’s the same with Pearl.

She just has the exact range that goes right above mine, and it really helps with Motor Sister, too, because we had some background vocals in Mother Superior, but it was more like dudes trying to sing high and do that, but she’s the real deal. She’s a great, powerful singer, and I’m glad that not only does she get to do the harmony kind of stuff on her record, but I’m glad that people will get to hear her kicking some ass, too, with this stuff. And you know, for me it’s a … like in New York, we did our show in Brooklyn and then the next morning we had to do some acoustic songs for a web site there, so we got to bed at 2 in the morning after the gig and then we had to get up and be at the place at 10:30 in the morning, so my voice was still waking up. Thankfully, Pearl can help me get through some of those mornings, too. So it all goes together, and she’s great. And she doesn’t want to sing more. I tried to get her to sing more, and she said, “I just wanted to be in the background in Motor Sister. You’re the singer in the band.” And we’ll do some new songs for our second album next time and get her to have some sections that she can sing on some songs. I’m looking forward to that.

CD Review: Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith: Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition

CD Review: Judas Priest  Defenders of the Faith: Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Columbia/Legacy
All Access Rating: A-

Judas Priest - Defenders of the Faith:
Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
Defenders of the Faith never really escaped the long shadow cast by its predecessor, 1982's more revered Screaming For Vengeance. 

Burdened with impossibly high expectations, Judas Priest's ninth album certainly has its detractors, many of whom swear the metal gods were simply repeating themselves and unable to recreate the incendiary magic of an enduring song such as "You've Got Another Thing Coming," among other Priest classics.

It did go platinum, though, and it wasn't just because it rode Screaming For Vengeance's coattails for all they were worth. Reissued by Columbia/Legacy, the three-CD Defenders of the Faith: Special 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition presents a golden opportunity for reassessment, the remastering job clearly defining the sterling metal craftsmanship and subtle accessibility of the smoldering smash hit "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll," as well as the rich, complex circuitry of "The Sentinel," the aggressive, rough-trade erotica of  "Eat Me Alive" and Priest's oddly stylish and infectiously robotic sex toy "Love Bites." Some of the edgiest and most sinister stuff in Priest's catalog is found on Defenders, practically baiting the PMRC into giving the record some titillating publicity, but it's also perhaps one of their most sophisticated efforts, as this release so reverently articulates.

Not that it needed much of a push, what with the hit-and-run energy of "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker" setting pulses racing, thanks to the thrilling guitar interplay of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. Delve a little further and rediscoveries of "Rock Hard Ride Free," a fist-pumping. mid-tempo anthem with a gripping groove, and the shadowy, slow-burning "Night Comes Down" beg for renewed appreciation, all of this setting the stage for a dynamic and warmly recorded live outing, included in its entirety, from the "Defenders" tour that completes this package.

Storming into the Long Beach Arena in California on May 5, 1984, Priest eagerly and with relish attacks the new material, injecting more tension into "Love Bites," adding heft to the swinging wrecking ball that is "Heavy Duty" and charging into "Freewheel Burning" and "Jawbreaker" with blood lust. Along with rigorous workouts of Priest favorites like "Electric Eye," "Living After Midnight," "Hell Bent for Leather" and "Breaking The Law," this set rips through lesser known classics, such as "Sinner," "Grinder" and "Desert Plains," with controlled violence, Rob Halford singing them with as much conviction, vicious intent and operatic expression a he gives to the classics, like the venomous jams "Victim of Changes" or "The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)."

Maybe some additional demo material or unreleased songs from that era would have enhanced this collection, but as it is, it certainly gives listeners reason to revisit the cloaked brilliance of Defenders of the Faith, an album that not only still holds up, but also deserves more respect.
– Peter Lindblad

CD Review: Motor Sister – Ride

CD Review: Motor Sister – Ride
Metal Blade Records
All Access Rating: A

Motor Sister - Ride 2015
Motor Sister is sort of a reincarnation of Mother Superior, a trio from Los Angeles that unabashedly glorified ballsy '70s American hard rock, fiery proto-punk and bluesy soul in the '90s before calling it quits in the early 2000s after a run of eight strong, and sadly under-appreciated, albums.

Mother Superior could never break through the flannel-clad ceiling of the grunge era, but they did catch the ear of Anthrax's Scott Ian, as well as punk icon Henry Rollins. In fact, the Jim Wilson-led outfit once served as Rollins' backup band, with session work for the likes of Alice Cooper, U2 producer Daniel Lanois, Meat Loaf, Iggy Pop and many others also on their lengthy list of credits.

Now comes Motor Sister, a quickly thrown together project that grew out of Ian's burning desire to reunite Mother Superior for his recent 50th birthday party, where the groundwork for the Metal Blade Records release of heady, straightforward rock 'n' roll that is Ride was laid. First, there was a quick rehearsal, and then a blazing performance of Mother Superior material from Ian, drummer John Tempesta (The Cult, White Zombie), bassist Joey Vera (Fates Warning, Armored Saint) and Ian's wife Pearl Aday – a frequent collaborator with Wilson on her own solo work – that left the 25 or so people who witnessed it, including some industry types, gobsmacked.


Wasting no time whatsoever, Motor Sister – still basking in the afterglow of that momentous occasion – went into the studio with producer Jay Ruston and knocked out Ride in a couple of days, the organic spontaneity of those sessions emanating from earthy, soulful rockers like "This Song Reminds Me of You" and the sunny Zeppelin-meets-Sly and The Family Stone funk workout "Pretty in the Morning," as well as the swaggering, meaty riff bonanza "Get That Girl."

Reminiscent of the wild, frenzied punk fury stoked by the MC5 in their heyday, "A Hole" and "Fork in the Road" are conflagrations that burn hot and fast, while the hormonal urges of "Beg Borrow Steal" and "Little Motor Sister" – from which the new band's name was taken – have the crunchy, stomping appeal of early KISS or UFO. These old Mother Superior songs didn't need a kick in the ass, but Motor Sister gives it to them anyway, Tempesta's drumming breaking rocks in the hot sun, the sharply defined tones of the guitars rich and powerful, and the trailer-park desperation in the vocalizing of Pearl and Wilson recalling that of X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka, especially in a catchy little slice of up-tempo, Americana-inspired jangle called "Head Hanging Low." And then there's "Devil Wind," where strummed acoustic guitar lends a sense of mystery before giving way to grinding, rumbling metallic riffs, its dual personality, so vulnerable and angry, a vague harbinger of trouble on the horizon.

Hitch a Ride with Motor Sister, and let them take you to a place and time you thought had disappeared, an era when good, honest, simple songwriting and stacks of amplifiers delivered messages of sexual healing, lusty adventure and hard-earned life lessons.
– Peter Lindblad

In stores on March 11, 2015.
Metal Blade Records: Motor Sister



CD Review: Vanilla Fudge – Spirit of '67

CD Review: Vanilla Fudge  Spirit of '67
Cleopatra Records
All Access Rating: B+

Vanilla Fudge - Spirit of '67
Slowing the Supremes' hit "You Keep Me Hangin' On" to an agonized, lysergic crawl was a stroke of genius for Vanilla Fudge, as it dragged their eponymous debut collection of heavy, acid-rock covers of Beatles' classics and '60s R&B remakes up the charts in 1967.

All these years later, a reinvigorated Vanilla Fudge seeks to recapture the Spirit of '67 with a similar approach on a lively and refreshingly reverent album of reworked versions of some of that year's most popular and enduring classics.

Sounding rich and vibrant, Spirit of '67 – out via Cleopatra Records – serves up the strong, signature vocal harmonies, thick Hammond organ swirls, altered arrangements and thundering drums of Carmine Appice Vanilla Fudge is known for, as the Who's "I Can See For Miles" morphs into a dynamic, psychedelic funk workout, the Doors' "Break On Through (To The Other Side)" is perfumed with the exotic, Middle Eastern tones of Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and "Gimme Some Lovin'" becomes a bluesy stomp. And yet, what's missing is that sense of originality and innovation that made that first Vanilla Fudge LP such a breath of fresh air, the gloomy temperament of the band's work of yesteryear having mostly dissipated. Fudge's moods on Spirit of '67 are as varied as the uniquely different passages they carve into these well-loved songs.

Still sunny and radiant, though less joyful and buoyant, the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" brakes to more of a mid-tempo groove, while "Ruby Tuesday" And "Whiter Shade of Pale" assume different shapes, trading haunting atmospherics for more powerful, fleshed-out instrumentation. In "The Letter," lush piano parts give way to a more raucous mid-section, channeling the raw emotions of its lyrics. The spirit is still willing with Vanilla Fudge.
– Peter Lindblad 

CD Review: Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints

CD Review: Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Frontiers Records
All Access Rating: A-

Revolution Saints - S/T 2015
A star is born, in this case the particularly luminous ball of gas being Deen Castronovo, drummer and backing singer for arena-rock stalwarts Journey.

Playing matchmaker again, Frontiers Records President Serafino Perugino sought to find an appropriate vehicle for Castronovo to display his talents as a lead vocalist, ultimately surrounding him with former Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldrich and Night Ranger bassist/vocalist Jack Blades in a trio called Revolution Saints.

With a slight rasp in his powerful throat, Castronovo is a poor man's Steve Perry, his soaring, expressive vocals carrying the band's uplifting motivational messages and yearning romanticism skyward. Revolution Saints is the album Journey fans have been waiting for since Escape, its bold, high-energy rushes of melodic hard rock as infectious and galvanizing as its power ballads are heartfelt and impassioned.

Tightly constructed, with generous hooks and big choruses planted throughout fertile ground, "Back On My Trail," "Turn Back Time" and "Dream On" are bright, punchy pieces of guitar-driven pop-rock, the kind that would have been surefire hits back in the '80s. So would the softer stuff, like "Don't Walk Away," "Way to the Sun" – with Neal Schon helping out on guitar – and "You're Not Alone," featuring some backup vocals from Arnel Pineda. Here, gentle piano and acoustic guitar intros lead into big, sweeping, slow-moving waves of guitars and yearning emotions, eventually yielding once again to dramatic, tension-building rockers like "Strangers to the World" and "Better World" reminiscent of Survivor.

Some might take Revolution Saints to task for its formulaic songwriting, predictability and saccharine, banal sentimentality, but to do so would needlessly throw a dark cloud over something that exudes a great deal of light and would undoubtedly resonate with the masses if this was a different, less cynical age. Aldrich's guitar solos are fiery, compelling and a good fit for the songs. There is unabashed joy and exuberance coursing through its veins, they know what their audience wants, it's not arty for the sake of being arty and Castronovo rises to the challenge, smartly avoiding tricks and modulations and just letting his natural ability shine through. People get ready, these Saints are marching in.
– Peter Lindblad

Capricorn Records - The Rise and Fall of One Man's Dream

Capricorn Records

In the 1970s Capricorn Records became well known for representing Southern rock bands like the Allman Brothers Band and Marshall Tucker Band.

Located in Macon, Georgia it was started by Phil Walden, Alan Walden and Frank Fenter in 1969 and by the mid 70s had quite an impressive list of artists including; The James Montgomery Band, Elvin Bishop, Wet Willie, Sea Level, Jonathan Edwards, Kingfish, Captain Beyond, White Witch, Grinderswitch, Cowboy, Hydra, Kitty Wells, Dobie Gray, Alex and Livingston Taylor, Travis Wammack and Stillwater.

In addition to ABB and MTB, Capricorn also managed the solo efforts of Duane Allman, Gregg Allman, Dickey Betts, Chuck Leavell and Butch Trucks. In the late 70s and seemingly overnight, Capricorn went bankrupt and closed it’s doors.

The influence that the label, the Walden brothers and it’s artists had on the industry and specifically Southern rock is quite amazing for an independent music label.

Phil Walden

Phil Walden grew up in Macon, Georgia and started his forays into the music business while attending Mercer College where he booked bands for local high schools and fraternity parties.  Walden opened his first office as a sophomore and started expanding his services all over the southeast. One of his first clients and relatively unknown at the time was Otis Redding. It was at Redding’s suggestion that he establish himself as a manager and before too long his client list read like a who’s who of some of the country’s finest rhythm and blues performers including Percy Sledge, Sam and Dave, Clarence Carter and Joe Simon.  As his client roster grew, it looked as though Walden’s focus would be firmly planted in the R&B industry – until Otis Redding’s untimely death in 1967.

With his experience in R&B along with his passion for music and the south, he approached Atlantic Records vice president Jerry Wexler with the idea of building a studio in Macon. After several ideas were presented and scrubbed, it was agreed that Atlantic Records would fund a record label to be based in Macon, Georgia. Walden and Wexler named the label Capricorn. So with a $70,000.00 advance from Atlantic, Walden set out to recruit rock and roll bands and build his Macon empire.

One of the first musicians to catch Walden’s attention was Duane Allman, who at the time was a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals Studios, but by 1969 Walden had worked his magic and The Allman Brothers Band was formed and would later become the cornerstone of Capricorn Records. While Phil was managing the Allman Brothers Band, Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and Elvin Bishop, his brother Alan was managing ZZ Top, The Charlie Daniels Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s not surprising at all that each of these bands’ influenced each other with the deep rooted southern rock sound.

Walden’s pioneering spirit and determination to be all things to all artists led to the formation of various music business related ventures including;  Phil Walden & Associates, The Paragon Agency, No Exit Music, Rear Exit Music and numerous other non-music related businesses. He was building his empire, fast and steady – some say too fast but it was the 70s and it was rock and roll.

As amazing as Capricorn’s rise had been, it’s demise in 1979 was fast and furious ending in bankruptcy and sent Walden into a personal downward spiral as well. He rose from the ashes and a decade later made a fresh start after several attempts to get things going again; in the early 90s resurrected Capricorn but this time in Nashville. Walden was back, albeit with a humble start but with newly forged relationships, a new location and a growing client list including; Widespread Panic, Cake and 311. And like a broken record, it happened again and Walden was forced to sell off most of Capricorn’s assets – including the classic back catalog.

Phil Walden died in his Macon home in 2006, but his legacy and the history of Capricorn label is still very much alive and present.

"Phil was one of the preeminent producers of great music in America," former president Jimmy Carter said in a statement at the time of Walden’s death. Walden's work with Redding, the Allmans and others, Carter said, "helped to put Macon and Georgia on the musical map of the world.” Walden was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1986.

In March Backstage Auctions will host a historical event showcasing memorabilia featuring the artists that defined the Southern Rock and Soul sound of the 1960s and 1970s. The auction will be live and open for bidding from March 14 - 22, 2015.

For more information on the auction and to register for a VIP All Access Pass click here:  Auction









CD Review: Ruthless – They Rise

CD Review: Ruthless – They Rise
Pure Steel Records
All Access Rating: B+

Ruthless - They Rise 2015
Out of an unmarked grave dug deep in the dark recesses of the 1980s Los Angeles metal underground scene, the raging inferno known as Ruthless arises, releasing their first album in 29 years via Germany's Pure Steel Records label.

The long wait was worth it for the cult that grew up around the 1984 EP Metal Without Mercy and 1986's Discipline of Steel LP, two records of uncompromising, hard-bitten heavy metal that reek of death and decay.

Produced and engineered by Bill Metoyer (W.A.S.P., Slayer, Armored Saint), They Rise is the mean and rugged product of an unlikely reunion between vocalist Sammy D, guitarist/vocalist Kenny McGee, guitarist Dave Watson, bassist/vocalist Marc McGee and new drummer Jason Van Slyke – an old-school, blood-and-guts metal album that's vicious and fast and sounds as if it was recorded in dirty, abandoned factory and left there to die by Blackie Lawless.

As rabid and raw as ever, their tense, serrated guitar riffs cutting like a saw, Ruthless thrashes through the toxic waltz of the title track with tight energy, charges into "Defender" like a soldier full of blood lust and unleashes pent-up emotions in the stampeding "Frustration," with the heavy, thudding grooves of "Out of Ashes" infected with a delicious and gripping nastiness that's missing from today's well-manicured and overly fussy metal.

Solid, rugged and exciting from the electrifying opening power chords, They Rise isn't most imaginative offering to the metal gods, nor does it have the ambition to reach for grandiose heights. Nevertheless, it burns hot, although the chilly, darkly melodic intro to "Laceration" – a track that later explodes with thunderous sturm und drang – and the melodic "Circle of Trust" and "Time Waits" provide rare moments of rough, calmer beauty. Sammy D.'s screams are devilishly evil, and so is the bullish, radioactive riffage and the occasional interwoven dual-guitar leads, all of it reminiscent of early Iron Maiden. They're still Ruthless.
– Peter Lindblad

Scanner: 'The Judgement' day has arrived

German power/speed metal outfit has something to say
By Peter Lindblad
The German power/speed metal
group Scanner

Nobody can accuse Scanner of shying away from controversy. Serious subjects are addressed on The Judgement, the blazing new thrill ride of a record from the veteran German power/speed metal juggernaut that raises heart rates to dangerous levels.

From ecological devastation to genocide, corruption and greed in the financial markets and political arenas and the continued erosion of ethics and morality, Scanner has much to say about the deteriorating state of the world and they do it without sermonizing.

Opting instead for rich, imaginative storytelling, Scanner – its love of science fiction imagery splashed all over the record's attention-grabbing cover art – couches its political passions in intelligently designed, fast-paced, charging metal that's incredibly taut, sleek and arranged with ever-evolving complexity and interesting dynamics. And yet, it feels like a return to Scanner's intense late '80s and early '90s work, its explosive, overdriven guitars and punishing rhythms creating a wildly exciting and aggressive listen.

Once known as Lions Breed, releasing a 1985 album under that banner called Damn The Night on the Earthshaker label, the group soon took the name Scanner and released Hypertrace in 1988, followed by 1991's Terminal Earth, 1995's Mental Reservation, 1997's adventurous Ball of the Damned and 2002's experimental Scrantopolis. Despite having toured with the likes of Fates Warning and Omen and a show-stopping performance at Wacken Open Air Festival in 1997, label problems and personnel turnover at various points in the band's history undoubtedly slowed their momentum, but with The Judgement – out on Massacre Records – and some stability at lead vocalist with Efthimios Ioannidis, Scanner sounds more powerful than ever.

Guitarist Axel A.J. Julius took some time recently to talk about the making of the band's new LP.

If you were to compare The Judgement to any past Scanner albums, which one would it most closely resemble and why? 
Axel A.J. Julius: I think The Judgement definitely is the next door neighbor of our first four albums. That is what we intended also. After the experiment of Scantropolis we wanted to make clear again where our roots lie. We attempted to receive and revive the sound and the spirit of our '80s and '90s releases and we were guided by our old stuff from this time. And therefore the album sounds old school metal by default. If somebody likes Hypertrace he won’t hate The Judgement, that’s for sure. But you should never expect a copy of another Scanner album from us; I mean we would be bored by doing that.

Scanner - The Judgement 2015
Describe the creative process that led to the birth of The Judgement. Were there more difficulties than usual? Did obstacles crop up? Or did it go smoothly?
AJ: After a few years playing live primarily and having fun on the road, the record industry could not get us into the mood to record a new album. But we wanted to write new songs and build our own sound studio. Then when everything felt good for us it was the first time that we could pre-produce, record and mix the entire album in our brand new studio and you can say this was a more direct approach than with the other albums. You can determine all the schedules by yourself and you are independent. This has advantages. However, it can also tempt you to stretch the periods, which you must counteract with discipline then. So the process itself was smooth. Let's put it this way: For The Judgement we have cut off from the outside world and did exactly our thing. And we did not mind what was modern today. This was our main intention for this album: 100 percent Scanner. And I tried to let the album breath and sound more direct and raw by using again our own drum sound, for example, instead of using triggered samples for the album as done and heard on thousands of productions nowadays. It did not take us 12 years to make the album, but the motivation to do it just rose initially in 2012.

The riffs on this album are striking, especially on the title track and “Warlord,” a song that’s really heavy in parts and thrashing, but the mood and pace changes so frequently it’s dizzying. Talk about the writing and recording of that song in particular. Was it a complicated process? 
AJ: Oh dizzying? Ok, but for me it is not dizzying. It’s exactly my style of composing and I like the counterparts in a song, like fast and slow, loud and quit, etc.. Since Heavy Metal is hardly compressed music you often miss the dynamic expression a classical orchestra always has, for example. That’s one reason why rhythm changes are a part of my expression I use in a song. And "Warlord" is special because of its idea behind it. The song is about Africa and especially the genocides in Rwanda and Nigeria, Boko Haram and the Warlords and our ignorance about the coherences of our western governments and their world trade partners and beneficiaries in this area. So the theme does not really fit to a steady groovy, and sing-along track, I thought. So "Warlord" is a more sophisticated song. But the recording process of this song was not complicated because I’ve had a plan.

Listening to “Eutopia,” the first thing I think of is Queensryche. It’s another multi-part song with melodic shifts and thought-provoking lyrics. Tell us what the song is about, what inspired it and how it came together.
AJ: Actually this song was planned to be our first video of the album, but because of our small budget we had to scrap this idea. The song is about a time-traveling guy with visions of a land called Eutopia. The idea came up after the financial crisis brought major problems to some countries here in Europe and the idea of a United Europe has threatened to fail more and more. So a United Europe is kind of a Utopia. This brought me to EUTOPIA. This dude in the song is not a time voyager really; finally, the story reveals he is on drugs. So his stories were a flight of fancy, like some ideas of our politicians here in Europe are as well.

What song on The Judgement affects you the most from a lyrical perspective? Is it the title track? 
AJ: Yes, it is the title track. Somehow it is the most emotional and summing track. It is about our moral values; our personal ones and those of our whole society. And it provokes questions about where we are heading to when we have blown off all the “angels.” I think our ethical and moral orientation should not follow the dictation of Wall Street. I'm not a fan of religion either, but I think that our society should come to an anthroposophical approach beside all religions and adjust our ethic values right again. There is something wrong with us when we allow for example the Kyoto Protocol to be ignored by important states, although it is dealing with our air we are breathing. Meanwhile multinational companies are increasing their profit and ruining our environment. My guitar used to be from mahogany, but that was never the reason for the cleared woodland and for the diminishing rainforest, if you know what I mean.

After all this time, what drives you to keep Scanner going? 
AJ: Well, for sure our fans all over the world and their feedback and faith and my resulting deep feeling of owing them something since our first releases. Honestly spoken the band was a bit unlucky from that moment on when we signed with the wrong company at the beginning of our career. This company made us lose two singers in a row in principle. And it was the reason we lost so much time researching for new vocalists. But our fans did not forget us even when there were longer breaks, nor when the bigger magazines did not give a dime on us anymore. The business is hard, but I do not want to complain. I’d rather have fun against all odds with people who adhere to us on our long time journey. And now we are back again… although we had never gone in objectivity. Let’s have some fun, mates.