Back to the Peeples Place at KHTS portal.
Stephen K. Peeples here, and you’ve landed on Peeples Place at KHTS!
It’s the SIXTH post of the new local music blog I’m producing in collaboration with AM 1220 KHTS and the Santa Clarita Valley’s number one website, www.hometownstation.com. We’re online every Friday morning with hot SCV music news, reviews, features and photos right here at www.peeplesplace.com, with an on-air preview on the KHTS morning show each Thursday at 8:10.
This week, we’ll spotlight celebrated local singer and actress Marie Wise-Hawkins, who just wrapped up a 13-performance run at the Canyon Theatre Guild as the title character in “Always…Patsy Cline.”
We also have news about Smile Empty Soul, Meridian/White Smoke, Eli Barsi, Criminal Behavior, the Hope-n-Mic Night, Serena and Lockdown.
We’ll take another quick look at Sunday’s special multi-artist, multimedia 9/11 memorial at the Performing Arts Center on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. Dozens of local artists — including Ms. Wise-Hawkins — are contributing their talents.
We’ll find out what new local music is hot at our local record store, and see who’s playing live this weekend around town and nearby. We’ll also tune in to local music on the tube, see if we have a winner for our second SCV music trivia contest, and maybe throw out a new question!
Finally, Aerosmith fans, we’ll get an update on the sessions for their next album from producer Jack Douglas, and feature an exclusive Peeples Place Q&A with guitarist Chris Dreja of The Yardbirds. He was great fun to talk with; we covered a lot in about 25 minutes, from the British Invasion legends’ early band history to their three SoCal gigs later this month.
First, Peeples Place at KHTS rocks the SCV music news.
SMILE EMPTY SOUL STUDIO UPDATE — Founded in the SCV some 13 years ago, indie alt-rock band Smile Empty Soul scored gold with their 2003 debut album, but a promising future got tangled up in management and record label troubles. As we reported a few weeks ago, though, the band is recharged, remanaged, and back in the studio, working with producer Eddie Wohl (Jesse Malin/Anthrax/Ill Nino) at Wohl’s studio in the San Fernando Valley.
SES founders Ryan Martin (bass, left) and Sean Danielsen (vocals, guitars, center) and Jake Kilmer (drums, right), who joined in 2006, were working on the drum tracks for the still-untitled fifth album the last time we spoke with Kilmer.
This week, Martin and Danielsen wrapped up their bass and guitar parts, he said.
“Sean’s going to start vocals next on the four tracks we’re going to shop for record deals with first,” Kilmer said. “I think they’re called ‘Greensleeves,’ ‘Medleys,’ ‘Afterlife’ and ‘Ugly is a Gift.’ We’ll start shopping in October.”
Meanwhile, Smile Empty Soul has its own indie label, MRafia Records. “It has some stuff from us plus other groups we’ve signed to our label, and we’d like people to check them out, too.”
And once the album’s in the can and being shopped, the group is planning a series of shows in Arizona and Southern California in October and November. For more info, visit the band’s site at www.smileemptysoul.com and the MRafia site at www.mrafiarecords.com.
ELI BARSI SADDLES UP FOR OUTWEST CONCERT — Western musician and singer/songwriter Eli Barsi makes a rare local personal appearance at the OutWest Boutique on Main Street in Old Town Newhall tonight, the latest in the SCVTV Presents the OutWest Concert series.
Barsi and guest artist John Cunningham start the evening off at 8 and will play till 10:30 on Maon Street’s Walk of the Western Stars. Doors open at 7:30.
From Canada, Barsi is up for the 2011 Western Music Award for Outstanding Female Performer. She’s also been nominated by the Academy of Western Artists for its Western Music Female and Western Music Yodeler awards.
Barsi, a musical pro for 25 years, is known for her “Carter scratch” style of lead acoustic guitar playing and her exceptional yodeling.
Early in her career Barsi performed mainly in the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. After a few years of non-stop shows, she moved to Nashville, where she honed her craft as a songwriter. Following several years of roadwork on both sides of the border, she started to record albums, released radio singles and moved on to the bigger stages.
In 2002, Barsi was hired to perform with the legendary Sons of the Pioneers, based in Branson, Mo., for eight years. She has since moved back home to Saskatchewan.
Her sets combine standards and originals in the Americana vein, including Western, roots, gospel, new country, bluegrass, traditional country and folk.
Doors open at 7:30 and the show starts at 8. The $20 suggested donation includes light refreshments. Seating is limited and intimate; reservations are a good idea. Call 661-255-7087.
REMINDER: PAC HOSTS TRIBUTE TO THE MARTYRS: ‘9.11.11: REMEMBER. HONOR. REFLECT’ — A diverse lineup of artists from throughout the Santa Clarita Valley will present a musical and multimedia tribute at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and to benefit student veterans at COC.
Titled “9.11.11: Remember. Honor. Reflect” and starting at 3:30 p.m., the program salutes the fallen, honors those who serve, and reflects on and celebrates our nation’s freedom.
An art show starts at 2 p.m.; performances onstage at 3:30.
The talent includes COC music students, the Santa Clarita Master Chorale, the Ballet Folklorico group, REP Theatre performers, and members of the Santa Clarita Ballet, ESCAPE Theatre, the Canyon Theatre Guild and the Santa Clarita Valley Concert Band.
A video presentation will include footage of the 9/11 attacks as well as an interview with a local relative of one of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day in 2001.
The suggested donation is $10, and 100 percent of ticket proceeds will go to the SCV Warriors Scholarship fund to assist veterans returning to school at COC. For ticket info, call 661-362-5304.
9/11 in NYC — If you happen to be in New York City for 9/11 events there, and we know several friends who are, try to catch the exhibit of photographs by former NYPD Detective and photographer John Botte, who documented the immediate aftermath of the attacks in a series of chilling, powerful photos he took at Ground Zero.
The exhibit, “John Botte: The 9/11 Photographs,” was curated by noted celebrity photog Timothy White, and is hosted by the prestigious Morrison Hotel Gallery. The exhibit is on display at the Gallery at Calumet on 22nd Street in Manhattan through Sept. 24.
Botte is scheduled to attend a special reception on Sunday afternoon. He will sign copies of an extremely limited-edition companion book of photos from the exhibit that was produced especially to benefit the DEA Widows and Children’s Fund for 9/11 survivors’ families.
Find out more about the exhibit and the book.
And check out Botte’s interview Monday on the CBS Early Show. It’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
MERIDIAN BREWS SOME HITS AT IT’S A GRIND — Local rock/pop/funk trio Meridian plays a gig at It’s A Grind on The Old Road in Castaic on Saturday night starting at 8.
We caught up with Meridian bassist Russ Stacey, whose day job is at NBC in Burbank. He’s played for several years with a band of other NBC production staffers that competed in national corporate band finals, and performed at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
I asked Stacey about his bandmates, and for a preview of what we’ll hear Saturday night.
“Meridian is Venita and B.J. Saidi and me,” Stacey said. “They’re just recently married, but before then, they were in this band Meridian for a couple of years. I connected with them two or three years ago. We found we liked the same music, we liked vocals. None of us were lead vocalists, but when we got together, we started singing songs that were very vocal-centric, and our confidence grew. We actually have this harmony thing that is quite unique. We always call it ‘Meridian vocals.’
“I’ve been in a couple of different bands in my lifetime, and the same with the rest of ‘em, but this band is unique,” he said. “We seem to click with our music, the people seem to like us a lot because we play very obscure, ambitious music. And we have fun.”
Stacey said that the group may only have three members, but its sound is “very produced. We are very painstakingly perfectionist, we like the sound to be as close to the cover as possible. So, we will nail whatever we have to do.”
As keyboardist, B.J. Saidi has created the sounds that fill out the trio’s performances. “He worked in one of the film labs and really knows computers inside-out,” Stacey said. “He’s quite good with Logic, the music program we use for all our various samples. He just builds our songs from scratch, he puts all the layers in. We’re doing pretty much everything, all the vocals, but he has a lot of horns and various guitar sounds. B.J. also adds the percussion. And it doesn’t sound like the cheesy percussion that some drum machines provide. This does really sound like the real thing. So even though it’s just the three of us, you’ll hear a wall of sound.”
While Meridian is a cover band, the same trio also performs original material under the group name White Smoke.
“B.J. and Venita have a CD that came out maybe a couple of months ago called ‘Proper Introductions’ and it’s all original music,” Stacey said. “Venita’s also an accomplished author and has a couple of books out. One’s called ‘Mixed Nuts’ and she has a new one, so we’re having an author’s signing party before Meridian plays.”
Find It’s a Grind at 29641 The Old Road in Castaic (in the Ralph’s Shopping Center).
SCV MUSIC TRVIA: KELLY’S MYSTERY AXEMAN — We’re rolling with this until someone gets it. What local guitarist toured with Kelly Osbourne early in his career? If you know the answer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll toss all the correct entries into a hat and randomly choose a winner who’ll receive a free Restaurant Row certificate to a great local eatery, plus a free CD from the Peeples Place swag vault. This week’s answer and winner will be announced when there is one.
‘ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE’ STAR LOOKS AHEAD — Sunday’s final performance of “Always…Patsy Cline” at the Canyon Theatre Guild was a delight for the full house, and an emotional, bittersweet afternoon for the cast and crew that put their hearts and souls into the production for 13 performances.
Starring CalArts grad Marie Wise-Hawkins in the title role and actress-singer Dawn Shelden as Patsy’s biggest fan, Louise Seger, and featuring the aptly named five-piece Bodacious Bobcats band, “Always…Patsy Cline” traces the legendary Virginia-born country-pop singer’s meteoric career from her first hit single in 1957 to her death in a plane crash in Tennessee on March 5, 1963. She was only 30 years old, and on the verge of superstardom.
The play was written and originally directed for the stage by Ted Swindley, based on a true story. The CTG’s production, directed by Michael Davies and produced by Frank Rock, premiered for weekend performances July 30 and was originally set to close Aug. 28, but popular demand and favorable reviews prompted an extension through Sunday.
Titled after Cline’s closing words in the many letters she exchanged with Seger, “Always…Patsy Cline” was driven with great gusto by Shelden’s hyper-animated narration as Seger, a Houston housewife then divorcee.
Along the way, and changing costume maybe a dozen times (sorry, I lost count), Wise-Hawkins crooned and belted Cline classics like her 1957 breakthrough “Walkin’ After Midnight” plus later hits like “I Fall to Pieces,” “Sweet Dreams” and “Crazy.”
Representing a fairly typical Cline performance, Wise-Hawkins also sang other hits of the era, among them “It Wasn’t God Who Make Honky Tonk Angeles” (Kitty Wells’ signature tune), Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose” and “Faded Love,” a couple of Hank Williams chestnuts and even Neil Sedaka’s loopy “Stupid Cupid.”
The Bodacious Bobcats, stacked almost on top of each other at stage left (facing the audience), did justice to each tune, and without competing with the star for the spotlight except in a few designated solo spots. The quintet combines seasoned musicians who lived through the period (guitarist Carmine Sardo, drummer Jeff Winter) and younger talents not yet born when Cline died. Keyboardist Kurt Fries, bassist Houston Davis Jones and fiddle player Jesse Olema are skilled instrumentalists with an obvious empathy for Cline and a musical repertoire that’s half a century old, yet timeless.
The cast of “Always…Patsy Cline” at the Canyon Theatre Guild in Newhall, summer 2011 (from left): Jeff Winter, Houston Jones, Dawn Shelden, Jesse Olema, Marie Wise-Hawkins, Kurt Fries and Carmine Sardo.
A couple days after the final curtain call, Wise-Hawkins and I had a chance to talk about her experience channeling Patsy Cline in the play, and what’s next for the talented young singer who can handle just about anything from opera to country to gospel to pop.
Stephen K. Peeples: You and the cast performed “Always…Patsy Cline” 13 times since it opened in late July. How much preparation was there?
Marie Wise-Hawkins: We started rehearsing June 1, working two or three times a week, just Dawn and me. I was using karaoke tracks and Dawn was working on the lines. It was the two of us until the 10th week; that’s when we finally got the band going. So, it was actually a long rehearsal process. We started in the beginning of June and the premiere date, I think it was July 30. It was supposed to end Aug. 28, but (everyone) was still demanding tickets so we got held over for an extra week, and that’s just awesome.
Peeples: How familiar were you with Patsy’s material before this?
Wise-Hawkins: I actually grew up listening to Patsy Cline. I grew up on old Western music, and pretty much knew about half the songs (in the play). I used to have a country band when I was 12 years old and we did a lot of those songs. So I was quite familiar with some, I was used to performing them, and it wasn’t too hard to learn the rest of them.
Peeples: Now that you’re a big kid, an adult, maybe you feel the songs a little bit differently now?
Wise-Hawkins: I definitely do, yeah. A lot of the songs are about heartbreak and what you go through in life. They’re a lot more relatable.
Peeples: The reviews were really good right out of the box. Did that surprise you, or did you think you had something really good going?
Wise-Hawkins: I thought we had something really great going. The band was really tight, we all just really grew as a family and we played off of each other. Once we had the audience there, we could play off of them, too, and it was just so much more fun and so entertaining. I think everyone enjoyed themselves – even if people came to the show and didn’t like country music, I think they were still entertained, because Dawn had everyone laughing.
Peeples: Yeah, she’s quite a character.
Wise-Hawkins: We really, really want to take this show on the road. Maybe even do a “Legends”-type concert or something. We’ll see what happens with it.
Peeples: For right now, though, is closing at the CTG is kind of a bittersweet thing?
Wise-Hawkins: Yeah, it’s kind of hard.
Peeples: What do you think about the whole experience, looking back on it?
Wise-Hawkins: It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. It was great being back in the theater and doing the music I love to perform. And it was amazing being able to perform the Patsy Cline character, ’cause she was an amazing country star and a true inspiration for me, and an honor. I’m really going to miss it, though. Well, I’ll see what opportunities I have available coming up, we’ll keep pushing it, we’ll keep performing.
Peeples: And if it goes on the road, you’ll have a chance to do it again.
Wise-Hawkins: Absolutely! I definitely want to work with Dawn and this band again.
Peeples: Now, country is just one of many genres you have a mastery of. You’ve studied classical voice, sung opera, all kinds of non-country stuff.
Wise-Hawkins: Yes, but country is my main thing. I really want to [pursue] a career in country music. But I love doing musical theatre, Broadway stuff, classical music…just any opportunity there is in any genre of music.
Peeples: What’s next on your schedule?
Wise-Hawkins: On Sunday, I’m performing in the 9/11 tribute show at the Performing Arts Center for the Canyon Theatre Guild. I’m going to sing “Memory” from “Cats,” a Broadway song. It’s totally different. It’s solo. We picked out 11 performers from the Canyon Theatre Guild to perform, and we each have a minute or two-minute slot. It’ll be really cool. And on Oct. 29, I’m performing at Butler’s Coffee House in Palmdale with Larry Schallert. He’s a great musician, and we’re going to do a 45-minute set of his original music.
Peeples: Do you have any recordings out, or are you working on anything new?
Wise-Hawkins: Oh, man (laughs)! I need to get into the studio, really. I don’t have an album yet. I need to record one.
Peeples: So where can people find out more about you?
Wise-Hawkins: I have a website, www.mariewisehawkins.com, and that’ll lead you to my blog or my Facebook.
Peeples: Well, thanks again for your time, Marie. We really enjoyed the show.
Wise-Hawkins: OK, thank you so much.
SCV LOCAL MUSIC ROUNDUP — For the latest on what’s new and hot in local music, we called our friends at Rock Candy Music & More, the Santa Clarita Valley’s only retail record store, at Bouquet and Plum in Saugus.
Staffer David Green gave us the 411 on other new releases. “The Tidemouth 7″ out last week is doing well,” he said. “Otherwise, the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, ‘I’m With You,’ is hot. We’re selling a lot of Foster the People and Adele, too.
“There’s a band called The Horrible Crowes — their CD came out Tuesday. It’s titled ‘Elsie’ and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s from the singer in The Gaslight Anthem,” Green said.
“Next week, Sieze the Day’s new CD will be out. They’re from New Jersey but they have a following everywhere, including here,” he said.
How’s Green’s punk-rock band, Moonraker, doing? “We’re booking a tour right now for October,” he said.
Rock Candy Music & More presents live performances by local artists on most weekend nights; tonight at 8, you can catch a free show by local artist Dylan Breen.
Also new this week in stores and online: The McGrath Project’s “Tarantino Girl” b/w “Casey’s Last Chance,” both featuring the band’s Ann-Marita on lead vocals, is out this week as the advance single from TMP’s forthcoming “Boom” album. The group played shows at The Roxy and the Courtyard Marriott to launch it.
‘KEVIN’ AND BANDMATES COP TO CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR — Speaking of Rock Candy’s David Green, he’s among the guest artists contributing to the new “Kevin” EP by Criminal Behavior, which includes his fellow Moonraker member Nick Schambra (aka “Nick Sucks!,” lead guitar) with Kevin Bredall (lead bass) and Bryce Jordan Esquivel (lead drums).
The eight-song EP includes ripping tracks such as “Zombies!,” Popcorn Bucket” and “F**k Off!” and is available only as a digital download. Other “Kevin” guests include Alixandru Roxanne (vocals), Green (cymbals, tomato(!) and saw), Elijah Kellogg (vocals) and ‘effin Andy B (trumpet).
From the band’s website: “This album took way too long and is called ‘Kevin’ because Kevin joined the band on this EP! Cool fact about this record: Our producer went to jail during the recording on a felony charge. If someone will just shoot one of us nine times we can have a hit record.”
“You can pay any amount you want (or nothing) to get ‘Kevin,'” said Schambra, who just happened to be at Rock Candy when I called. Do the right thing at http://criminalbehavior.bandcamp.com/album/kevin.
SARA NIEMIETZ, KAI CLARK BAND ON ‘HOUSE BLEND’ — “House Blend with Stephen K. Peeples” on SCVTV Saturday night at 10 features an encore broadcast of our celebrated show featuring Sara Niemietz with W.G. “Snuffy” Walden and the Kai Clark Band.
Niemietz, a pop-jazz-soul-rock singer, songwriter and musician, is a recent Saugus High grad and “Glee” on-screen bandmember I first saw in 2004 when she was about 14. I was not alone in predicting she would grow into the powerhouse singer she is now. Backed by guitarist Walden, a legend in his own right, Niemietz sang a pair of originals, “Dangerous Outside” and “Find a Dream,” and spoke with me a few minutes between songs.
Folk-Americana-rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Kai Clark and his band (www.kaiclarkmusic.com) performed the original “Sunlight” from his eponymous EP and “So You Say You Lost Your Baby,” written by his legendary dad, the late Gene Clark, of Dillards and Byrds and solo fame. Gene was an Americana godfather before the genre was a genre.
Fan appreciation for the subtleties and depth of his music grows with time. Kai is carrying his dad’s legacy into the future, while finding his own voice en route. Backing him were Don Segien Jr. (guitar, mando, vocals), Nick Bearden (lead guitar, vocals), Ben Maddux (bass) and Jim Moreland (drums). Kai also chatted with the host for a few minutes between songs.
“House Blend with Stephen K. Peeples” is co-produced by yours truly and SCVTV’s studio director, Megan Mann, with Mike Mazzetti producing the sound. (Mike celebrates a birthday today, and we wish him the best!) “House Blend” shows air Saturday nights at 10 on SCVTV Channel 20 on Time Warner in the SCV.
You can also see “House Blend” throughout Los Angeles and Orange counties on AT&T U-Verse 99, and everywhere else in the known universe streaming live at www.SCVTV.com and/or on-demand at www.scvhouseblend.com.
Visit the channel’s website for a complete schedule of local music on SCVTV.
EXPO TO GET A TASTE OF SERENA — Fast-rising local rock singer-songwriter-guitarist-actress Serena and her band, who played the Courtyard Marriott Saturday night opening for labelmate The McGrath Project, will play their next set at the SCV Chamber of Commerce’s Expo extravaganza. The 14-year-old vocalist takes the stage at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex on Centre Pointe Parkway next Saturday, Sept 17, at 1:30 p.m. and will showcase tunes from her debut EP, “Allow Me to Introduce Myself.” (She premiered a couple of them on my “House Blend” show on SCVTV a few months back, including the first single, “You Blew It.”). For Expo info, visit scvchamber.com.
CHURCH HOSTS ‘HOPE-N-MIC NIGHT’ — Church of the Nazarene in Newhall hosts an open mic night every second Thursday of the month from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. — that means it’s on this coming Thursday.
“Hope-n-Mic Night” provides a stage for local artists to perform all types of music, secular or spiritual (the venue is a church, after all).
Artists may register at the door for a time slot to play. Soft drinks, snacks and water are provided.
Find Church of the Nazarene at 23857 The Old Road in Newhall.
MORE SCV (AND ADJACENT) MUSIC LIVE — Who else is playing in the SCV this weekend, or spreading the local musical love outside the valley?
Stronghold, a four-piece rock ‘n’ soul band that plays original material, sets up at Tri-Tipps on Newhall Ranch Road Friday night starting at 7. They’ll gig there the next three Fridays as well.
Musician and singer/songwriter Melissa Kaye plays free sets every Friday at La Toscana Trattoria Grill in Valencia. Catch her tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The Helen Wheels Band will also perform tonight at Valencia Wine Co. starting at 9 p.m.
Keyboard Galleria Music Center on Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country/Saugus hosts an open mic night in its Stage Door studio room on Saturday at 6 p.m. It’s a great little room, nicely soundproofed, and a place to show off, enjoy the refreshments and hang out with other musicians. It’s free.
Kounterfeit Change will play with other Los Angeles bands and musicians at the 118 Traffik Jam party/show starting at 7 p.m. Saturday night at 118 West, located at 2251 Ward Ave. in Simi Valley. Cover is $10 but entry is limited to 350 people (ages 18+), so arrive early.
(KC and the band play again Tuesday night opening for reggae legends Black Uhuru at the Majestic Ventura Theatre at 26 South Chestnut Street in Ventura. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $25.)
Acoustic Soul rocks out at Valencia Wine Co. on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.
As they have for more than 20 years, The Grateful Dudes keep traditional bluegrass alive and pickin’ in the SCV at Vincenzo’s Pizza Esperienza on Lyons in Newhall on Saturday nights from 7:30 to 10:30. The band features Bill Bryson on bass, Rodger Philips on banjo, Scott Micale on guitar and Dennis Fetchet on fiddle and mando, plus the occasional guest artist (Herb Pedersen and Chris Hillman have sat in on numerous occasions).
On Sunday at Vincenzo’s, the Santa Clarita Valley Blues Society hosts its monthly pro blues jam from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Thelonius James Band will kick off the night, then local musicians are welcome to jump in for free (but must provide their own instruments).
The city of Santa Clarita’s “Senses” party returns to Main Street in Old Town Newhall with a Hollywood theme on Thursday night from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Check out the big band swing music by James Intveld’s Swing Sinners plus art displays, food trucks and more.
Upstart rock band Lockdown (right), whose six members range in age from 9-16, and who played Howl at the Moon at CityWalk this week, are booked for the Annual Musicians’ Picnic at Rancho San Antonio in Chatsworth on Sunday, Sept. 18, sharing the main stage with WAR, Missing Persons, The Tubes, T.S.O.L. and Electra. Advance tickets are $20. See www.musicianspicnic.com for more info. (Lockdown is pictured at Summer Meltdown 2011 in May; thanks to Paige Jeffers Burghardt for the photo).
INSIDE PANDORA’S BOX & THE BONEYARD WITH JACK DOUGLAS — As noted last week, Aerosmith’s original lineup — Steven Tyler (lead vocals), Joe Perry (lead guitar), Brad Whitford (rhythm guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass) and Joey Kramer (drums) — started work in Boston this summer on a new album with Jack Douglas, the Grammy-winning hard rock producer behind the band’s best 1970s albums.
Last week, Douglas was posting updates between working on tracks with the band even as what was left of Hurricane Irene blew through Beantown and threatened to knock out the power. Fortunately, the sessions went on without interruption.
Let’s pick up Douglas’s thread from Saturday, Sept. 3 on Labor Day weekend:
September 3 at 6:12 p.m.: Back at Pandora’s Box after a day at The BoneYard. Joe was rockin’ it again today, big-time! During a break he asked me to take a walk with him outside where he surprised me with a very special and rare gift. Wish I could share what it was but I can’t and you will never guess! Thanks, Joe.
September 3 at 6:30 p.m.: We ended our session over at Joe’s house with a very cool jam. Joe on slide guitar, our engineer Warren Huart (who is a very fine player) on guitar, Trace, Joe’s tech, on the board and me on scratch (very scratchy) vocals. Fun!
(A couple of fans asked where Steven, Brad and Tom were.)
Saturday at 6:54 p.m.: Joe likes to just do his solos solo.
(Douglas adjusts a microphone on Joey Kramer’s drum kit earlier in the sessions in this August 2011 photo by Michael Coleman, used with Douglas’ permission.)
Sunday at 3:16 p.m.: Taking the day off. Nothing to report except what a beautiful day it is to sit on the deck and watch the boats go in and out of the harbor.
Monday morning: Happy Labor Day! Time for us to get back to work. Heading to the studios in a few mins.
(A fan asks, “Jack, how are you handling Steven’s commitment (to) ‘American idol’?)
Monday at 3 p.m.: Jack Douglas I work around it. No problem.
Monday at 4 p.m.: Heading over to Joe’s for some more tracking. Be back later.
Monday at 7:30 p.m.: We are back at Pandora’s editing. Tomorrow some keyboards. Wed. Brad starts his leads.
Tuesday at 7:36 a.m.: Starting the day at Pandora’s Box doing the editing and stuff with Warren Huart, our engineer. We are heading over to the BoneYard at noon to do some Hammond overdubs with Paul Santos who has been working with us for quite a few years. Tomorrow we will stay at Pandora’s and work with Brad all day and into the night.
Thursday at 5:50 p.m.: Brad’s playing is better than ever. He has been rockin’ it here in Pandora’s Box since Wed. and we are going on into the weekend. His collection of super cool guitars and amps makes these sessions a real adventure in sound.
If you’d like to keep track of Jack’s adventures with Aerosmith, check out his Facebook producer page.
EXCLUSIVE PEEPLES PLACE Q&A: YARDBIRDS CO-FOUNDER CHRIS DREJA — As reported last week, legendary British psychedelic blues-rock ravers The Yardbirds will fly into Southern California later this month for just three dates — and the only West Coast shows on a 16-date, 48th-anniversary mini-tour of the United States.
For the last couple of years, The Yardbirds lineup has featured founding members Jim McCarty (purple shirt, drums, 1963) and Chris Dreja (far right, rhythm guitar, 1963) and Ben King (far left, lead guitar, 2006) plus lead singer/acoustic guitarist/harpist Andy Mitchell (front, 2009) and bassist David Smale (left center, 2009).
See last week’s post for Part 1 of this special preview. This week we’re honored to present an exclusive Peeples Place Q&A with Dreja, who was very gracious with his time.
Stephen K. Peeples: Chris, as a first-generation U.S. Yardbirds fan, it’s my great pleasure to speak with you. I’m going to try to take it chronologically. Let’s start with forming the group in June 1963 — please give us the quick rundown on how the original lineup came together with you and McCarty, Keith Relf (vocals, harmonica), Paul Samwell-Smith (bass) and Tony “Top” Topham (guitar).
Chris Dreja: We were an art school band. I was at (Kingston Art School in Surrey) with “Top” Topham, our first guitar player. I was introduced to American black music by his father, who was in the Navy, and brought (records) back from America. And we actually formed a band at art school with Jim McCarty. Then we bumped into an outfit called the Metropolis Blues Band which had Keith Relf and Paul Samwell-Smith and somebody else. And so we amalgamated and started to play in various pub and clubs around London, but usually in the interval period between the jazzers, you know. But eventually, very quickly, our music became very popular, and we were signed to headline on all the London clubs.
Peeples: The Marquee and Crawdaddy Club residencies really put you guys on the map.
Dreja: That’s right. By that time, Topham had moved on. He was — and still is — a very talented artist, but his parents didn’t want him to go professional. So we asked Eric Clapton to join us, as we were just about to take over the Crawdaddy slot, which The (Rolling) Stones had vacated. And, well, the rest is history, really. (laughs)
Peeples: One of the cool things about those residencies was that when American blues acts would come through town, The Yardbirds would be backing them up.
Dreja: Yes. Of course, the famous Sonny Boy Williamson album, you know… I remember that specifically because it was a very cold winter’s day down in the Crawdaddy when we were rehearsing with him, and Sonny Boy was slowly getting more and more drunk. And by the time we came to go onstage and play (the set), he changed everything, and just went on his own rampant way. Which is what a bluesman does, you know.
But we agreed that he was a huge star in America. It was like to us, he was the president of black American blues. He had that sort of status. So it was wonderful to work with him.
There’s a funny story — apparently he went back to America and at some point was talking to Robbie Robertson of The Band, and Sonny Boy said, “I’ll tell you about this band in England…they wanted to play the blues so bad — and they really did!” (laughs)
Peeples: On that note, I have to say, my favorite Yardbirds records were that one and the middle and later period — the early studio stuff was pretty rough.
Dreja: Yeah, yeah.
Peeples: For instance, I thought The Yardbirds’ version of John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom” was extremely polite.
Dreja: Oh, yes, well, we were. But of course, we loved the blues, and we loved your music, and we are rooted in the blues, still to this day. But it was very necessary for us to break out of that and do things for ourselves. We became a very eclectic band, wrote some strange things and followed some very interesting ideas.
Peeples: Speaking of interesting ideas, one of them was the rave-up — the building of a crescendo up the scale and then Paul on the bass signals that it’s time to come back down, and then everybody lands on the one, like on “I’m a Man.”
Dreja: That’s it, and we still do that.
Peeples: As a drummer, I know about that, but can you describe how that rave-up came to be such a Yardbirds signature?
Dreja: Well, two things were behind it, actually. One pivotal thing was that in our country after the war, we were in an extreme black and white depression. There was nothing, really, for the kids to hang onto. Up until then we had this very polite music and everything was very Establishment, so (American blues music) was an outlet for them. What happened was we started to play this sort of music, loud and fast, and we would be backed up by the audience. They’d literally be climbing on the rafters and taking their shirts off and behaving in a very strange manner. We fed off them, and they fed off us.
Also, there was a band called Alexis Korner, I believe. And their bass player used to do something similar, not quite so extreme, but Paul (Samwell-Smith) picked up on as well, climbing up the scale of the bass guitar and then bringing it down.
So it’s a bit like one of those musical orgasms, where you just reach a crescendo and then you breathe out the calmness again. (laughs)
Peeples: Columbia in the U.K. signed the band in early 1964, I think, but the first couple of studio singles (with producer Giorgio Gomelsky) didn’t fly like the “Five Live Yardbirds” stuff from the Marquee. “For Your Love” was the breakthrough studio single in spring 1965 (No. 1 in the U.K. and No. 6 in the States). How did that come about?
Dreja: In those days, you had to have a (hit) single to climb nationally. We’d been playing eight nights, nine nights a week in and around London, literally, and as you mentioned, we’d tried a few things but couldn’t quite get it to work.
We were asked to play The Beatles’ (1964) Christmas show in London, to come down for a week at Christmas time. We were sort of a London cred band, so they invited us to play. And during that period, a publisher who I think worked for EMI, not sure, brought a very interesting single to us, which he thought we could arrange in a very eclectic manner. Of course, that was “For Your Love.” And although The Beatles suggested songs to us, they didn’t give us “Yesterday” or anything like that, unfortunately. But we did that number, and the rest is kinda history. It catapulted us onto the international stage and gave us that sort of platform to go on and do the other things we did.
Peeples: Well, at the time a harpsichord was a very unique kind of sound to have on a rock record, with a blues middle-eight, which was really where the band was.
Dreja: It was so unusual, Eric (Clapton) quit, of course (laughs).
Peeples: Yeah, that was the next question — Eric thought it was too unusual…
Dreja: Yeah. I personally learned so much from him, from his blues history thing. He was completely involved in the blues and very early blues, people like Blind Lemon Jefferson and (Robert Johnson). Eric was very much a purist. He didn’t want to leave that staple of pure blues, although we felt, well, we did really need to expand and do our own sound. So in a way, he kind of did us a favor by quitting. It freed us up to get into other things.
Peeples: Clapton went off to John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, and then Jeff Beck came into The Yardbirds. Tell us how that happened.
Dreja: Simply, we had this huge number (“For Your Love”) climbing up the charts — roaring up the charts, in fact — and no lead player. That’s when we asked Jimmy Page to join us, but he declined because he was still comfortable in the session thing. But he did mention an unknown player called Jeff Beck, who we checked out.
Now, Jeff was at that time, and can still be, a quite moody sort of player. He never really talked. He did that through his playing of the guitar. And he used to sit in the back of the van and just play away. That’s how he communicated. But we realized from an early time that he was a potential genius because he had just an amazing way, unlike any other guitar player, of making music on the guitar.
Peeples: Well, there’s this famous story about one song, “Heart Full of Soul,” where there was a sitar player brought in to play the lead riff…
Dreja: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. Well, we got in two Indian musicians, literally, a tabla player and a sitar player, but their timing — it was very different to Western timing, you know? And we tried to fit it on the song and it sounded like such a bolt-on that it was unreal. So I think Jeff came into the studio and said, “Well, I’ve just got a fuzz box, let’s try this.” So he put down that riff and it was perfect.
Peeples: Yeah, send the sitar player home, thank you very much. Speaking of “Heart Full of Soul,” that was one of the handful of tunes that Graham Gouldman wrote for the band.
(The Yardbirds are pictured in a late 1966 promo photo, clockwise from left: Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Keith Relf, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja. Beck and Page were in the group together only three months before Beck split in February ’67.)
Dreja: Brilliant pop writer. Still is, you know. 10cc is, of course, a wonderful band, but he did “Heart Full of Soul,” “For Your Love and “Evil Hearted You,” which didn’t work out as well, I don’t think.
Peeples: Of the songs you co-wrote, what are your favorites?
Dreja: Well, let’s see, “Over Under Sideways Down”…
Peeples: And what exactly did you contribute to that song?
Dreja: I think, some of the lyrics and some of the music, possibly sort of the crazy D minor-G minor thing, or G minor-F minor, when it goes a bit strange in the middle. And the “Heys!” (laughs) A lyrical contribution. But we all worked on the stuff together, various songs. I contributed on lyrics and riffs, mainly.
Peeples: Now, there are other songs like — I’m just gonna throw this out — “Drinking Muddy Water,” which is basically “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” with new lyrics.
Dreja: Yes, correct.
Peeples: And then on another note, you take a song like “I’m a Man” and completely reinvent it.
Dreja: Well, of course, it is what we did — we did reinvent it, arrangement-wise, totally. But of course, it’s still Ellas McDaniels, who was the writer, you know.
Peeples: As in Bo Diddley.
Dreja: Bo Diddley, of course, you know. So it was always credited to him. But yes, by the time we got Jimmy Page here, it was probably all but unrecognizeable. But we did that to Howlin’ Wolf’s material and all sorts of guys, who may hopefully sleep in their graves (laughs). Don’t blame us too much.
Peeples: Well, hopefully they got a couple of dollars in mailbox money from them.
Dreja: Well, the thing is, it’s like that song “I’m Not Talking,” written by the jazz guy. He never really liked our arrangement, but I think he liked our royalties.
Peeples: Yeah, Mose Allison.
Dreja: Mose Allison, yes. And of course, well, it seemed so right, when you guys kindly inducted us into the (Rock ‘n’ Roll) Hall of Fame, they said, “Thank you, guys…” because we brought your music back to you sort of thing. It was strange, because in those days we really didn’t have any idea that there was such an apartheid between black and white music.
Peeples: Right, it was still very — pardon the expression — black and white here. Outside the United States, race wasn’t really an issue in the music world. Speaking of black music, you recorded “I’m a Man” at Chess in Chicago…
Dreja: And of course one of my favorite Yardbirds songs, “Shapes of Things,” was cut in part there, too. These guys were geared up for that great, big sound, I mean, we could never get our sound across in the blues idiom in England because the technicians and the equipment were just now geared to it. But as soon as we hit America, we were able to record with Sam Phillips and at Chess. It was a bit like Stax, they had that great sound all wired up. They were prepared for it, they were out for it.
Peeples: Right. “Shapes” (with Jeff Beck on lead guitar) was really, I think, one of the earliest songs of the psychedelic era. What do you think about that?
Dreja: Well, it’s true. People put tags on what were doing. In fact they always thought we were stoned out of our brains, but in fact, it was the music that we were into. And back in the Marquee days, we played very loud and very fast. Years later, people put a punk label on that. There was a heavy metal era, the psychedelic era…I think we were just following our nose and breaking the rules.
Peeples: OK, jumping forward now, Paul Samwell-Smith bails in mid-1966 to produce, Page comes in as bassist, which lasts until September, when Beck has health problems and Page takes over lead duties as you switch to bass. Beck rejoins the band, and for just a few months, both were on lead guitar. In November, Beck bailed a few dates into a U.S. tour, and Page is the sole lead player until the band crashed in mid-1968. What happened in July 1968? I mean, you, Jim and Keith have been in the band five years, traveled the world…
Dreja: It was burnout, basically. Pure burnout. In those days, you made a lot of your money on the road. There was no road map, there were no executive jets or any of that crap. You literally go into a bus. You did it the hard way. We did 12 or 13 tours in America alone. Six eight-week tours, summer and winter, doing 500 shows a year. It was brain damage. It was pre-albums, as well, when you were only as good as your next single. And we just burned out. Had we maybe waited a year or so and started writing an album again, we could’ve made that transition, but anyway, that’s history.
Peeples: So, at what point did Page basically take control of the band?
Dreja: Well, he never really quite took control of the band, but you have to remember he came from a background of great discipline, doing sessions in studios. He’d done a lot of that in the ’60s and then he finally wanted to join a live band, and of course, what better band to join than The Yardbirds, which was very perfectionist, as far as guitar players were concerned? And he came in as a bass player, but not for too long. And then, of course, we were working on ideas and he was working on ideas. I guess he thought we were burning out a bit, and he had that new energy to take us forward.
Peeples: There’s one later Yardbirds track, “Think About It,” where Jimmy sounds like he’s working on the solo for “Dazed and Confused.”
Dreja: And we did “Dazed and Confused” in The Yardbirds well before they did it in Zeppelin.
Peeples: How long was “Think About It” in the repertoire?
Dreja: Well, the thing is, we were working with (producer) Mickie Most who didn’t give a damn about albums, so he left us go get on with an album, which I think was in the end more of a culled album from that period, “Little Games,” where we wrote and did everything ourselves, and (Most) had no involvement at all, really. And that (song) was on the album culled from that period.
Peeples: Speaking of producers, I recall reading something where Keith said early on, the [Gamelsky] sessions, a lot of the early stuff with Gomelsky was recorded in just one or two takes — and no mixing, just “blam.”
Dreja: That’s true. That’s how it was done in those days. You had literally an hour or two to get something down on tape.
Peeples: So all of the great studio stuff like “I’m Not Talking” and “Heart Full of Soul”…
Dreja: …were done very fast.
Peeples: Even “Shapes”?
Dreja: Well, maybe a little bit more for the “Shapes” session, but all that Sam Phillips stuff like “Train Kept A-Rollin'” was done live, virtually.
Peeples: Keith recorded a new lead vocal in New York, but the track for “Train Kept A Rollin’” was pretty much Sam’s, right?
Dreja: That’s right, yes.
Peeples: So after The Yardbirds split up, you pursued your passion for photography at that point.
Dreja: Very much so. I’d gotten to the point where waking up and relying on all these idiots (laughs) was just a bit too much for me. And I wanted my own sort of control over my own destiny, so, yup, I leaped into photography. It wasn’t until many years later, after the Box of Frogs things and the late ’90s, that Jim and I got back together again and really wanted to put a band together.
Peeples: Which brings us to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, which kind of sparked that, right?
Dreja: It kind of sparked it, yes, and thank you guys very much.
Peeples: I thought the induction was overdue.
Dreja: But we got it in the end, and that’s the main thing.
Peeples: So, the response you got at the induction told you there was still a great deal of interest in this group.
Dreja: Absolutely. I had spent I’ve spent a good bit out of music. To be honest, I had no idea. When I came back into music again in the late ’90s, and felt this affection from the fans and people who loved what we were doing -– it was overwhelming.
Peeples: Now, how did the current band come together? And what does each of the new guys bring to the party?
Dreja: The first thing is, you don’t bring back a legendary band like The Yardbirds without doing it right. The guitar players, the singer, the personnel must be right. We went through a few changes to get that right. Currently, we have a most brilliant young lead guitar player called Ben King, who is truly, truly a lot of those guys rolled into one — a very gifted player. He’s been with us five years. Our frontman, Andy Mitchell, is a very, very good singer, very good blues singer as well. And our young bass player, David Smale, reminds me very much of John Paul Jones, a very solid player. And that’s the lineup we’ve had, really, for the last few years, with Jim and I, of course, as the geezers, keeping it old.
Peeples: Now, is this group planning on recording at all at any point in the new future? New material, more new material?
Dreja: Funnily enough, we have a camera crew trailing us around a bit on this tour. Plus in California, we got the sound crew coming down to see what we can record, so perhaps it’s a possibility, yes.
Peeples: OK, last question. It’s Yardbirds’ 48th year this year, you’ve got the band’s 50th anniversary coming up. Any indication from either Clapton, Back or Page that they might jump in for some sort of reunion gig?
Dreja: Well, they’ve all got sort of their own great careers, but is possible. I know Jimmy would like to do something. And even Jeff. So I’d never say no, I guess, for a couple of concerts.
Peeples: Chris, thank you so much. I really do appreciate your time. Any parting shots?
Dreja: Well, it’s been great talking to you, man. You’re very knowledgeable, you seem to have a handle on what we were doing and I wish you the best in your article or whatever, and I look forward to seeing you in California.
Peeples: Well, thank you! I’ll see you at the Key Club on the Strip in West Hollywood.
Dreja: OK, you take care.
Next week: an exclusive Peeples Place Q&A with Yardbirds co-founder Jim McCarty. Meanwhile, you can catch up on the band’s colorful past and present by visiting www.theyardbirds.com, www.theyardbirds.us or its Facebook page.
THE WRAP — Hope you enjoyed the sixth journey through Peeples Place at KHTS! You can always visit us right here at www.peeplesplace.com, and at our under-construction Peeples Place Facebook page. Please share the posts and “like” the page and help us build our online community of SCV music-makers and music-lovers. We also invite you to sign up for the weekly newsletter.
If you have a new album to review or music news you’d like us to include in an upcoming post, shoot an email to me at email@example.com.
Special thanks this week to all the artists and their families, managers, media relations reps, friends and fans. Extra special thanks to Sakaki Iriomote for her invaluable production assistance, and to Nadine A. Peeples for her invaluable encouragement and support.
With a face perfect for radio, I’ll see you on AM 1220 in the Santa Clarita Valley Thursday morning at 8:10 when I preview the NEXT edition of…Peeples Place at KHTS.
Stephen K. Peeples is a Grammy-nominated record producer (“Monterey International Pop Festival,” MIPF/Rhino, 1992), an award-winning radio producer (“The Lost Lennon Tapes,” Westwood One, 1988-1990), an award-winning online editor of The Signal website (2007-2011) and former music and entertainment columnist for The Signal (2004-2011). He is host and co-producer of the “House Blend with Stephen K. Peeples” music and interview show on SCVTV (www.scvhouseblend.com), and is drummer with SCV jazz group RainTree (www.raintreejazz.com). For more information, visit www.stephenkpeeples.com.