The Dead Daisies
September 14, 2018
The Dead Daisies
September 14, 2018
Last Sunday at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, there was a free outdoor concert to promote Cal Jam ’18, which will happen October 5th and 6th at Glen Helen Amphitheater in San Bernardino, California. It was highly likely, however, that the festival’s headliner, Foo Fighters, just wanted to have some fun playing a show for their fans, first in the form of Taylor Hawkins’ band Chevy Metal, and then as The Holy Shits, a moniker the Foo Fighters use for these surprise shows.
Chevy Metal took the stage in the late afternoon and played a set of cover songs that included Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak,” the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” and Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down.” The crowd was in for a surprise when Queen drummer Roger Taylor took the stage for the Queen/David Bowie classic “Under Pressure.” Then Dave Grohl joined Chevy Metal for “Stay With Me.”
The Holy Shits (aka Foo Fighters) delivered a set of deep cuts from their catalog, that included “Watershed,” “Gimme Stitches,” “Hey, Johnny Park,” and “New Way Home.” In keeping with tradition, “Everlong” closed the show.
While wildfires were scorching vast swaths through residential neighborhoods and the countryside in record Southern California temperatures, Pechanga Theater in Temecula was heating up with one of rock’s fiercest acts. Alice Cooper performed a “Paranormal Evening” of classics to the packed venue.
Opening the show with the tachycardic “Brutal Planet,” Alice and his band wowed the audience straight away. A string of radio hits followed, with “No More Mr. Nice Guy, “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Be My Lover.”
The current lineup, which has remained constant for the last four years, is the strongest Alice Cooper band ever. Guitarists Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and Nita Strauss, are three proficient guitarists and strong singers. intermittently switching lead parts and the spotlight. Strauss, the newest member who joined the group in 2014, is one of the most physical players in the business. She ran and jumped across the stage tirelessly, contorting her body while making her guitar growl. Strauss’s virtuosity became the focus during “Woman of Mass Destruction,”before she sealed the deal with a jaw-dropping solo and a segue into “Poison.”
Drummer Glen Sobel performed a solo that clocked in under five minutes, which was enough time to flaunt his dexterity with the drumsticks and show the crowd how hard he can hit ‘em while keeping impeccable time.
A high point of the evening was when the band pulled out all the stops for “Cold Ethyl” from the 1975 album Welcome to My Nightmare. The tongue-in-cheek, guitar-heavy track adrenalized the room as necrophile Alice danced about with his rag doll (to be seen, not written about). Throughout the show, and numerous costume changes, Alice never let up singing, dancing, prancing, pushing, and playing to his adoring audience.
Ryan Roxie, strapped with an SG doubleneck, played the haunting intro to “Only Women Bleed” as the crowd roared with excitement. Bassist Chuck Garric joined in providing accompaniment to Roxie and singing background vocals.
The setlist, packed with songs spanning Alice’s 50-year career, was judiciously laid out to satisfy the fans. Predictably, the “Ballad of Dwight Fry” was included, a song that epitomizes Alice Cooper’s straightjacket majesty. The lights, smoke, fireworks, and gore on the Pechanga stage won’t soon be forgotten, as the necessary backdrop of an Alice Cooper concert. Add top notch musicianship and tireless performers (incuding Sheryl Cooper and Calico Cooper, Alice’s wife and daughter respectively), and you have the one of the greatest rock shows on Earth.
This is my latest "more lengthy" feature on a band I really like. I've included a gallery of photos from a few of their recent Whisky a Go Go shows. (See below.) Posted on PureGrainAudio.com - July 17, 2018 https://puregrainaudio.com/interviews/in-conversation-with-royal-distortion-frontwoman-iqueen-on-barb-wire-dolls-new-music-lemmy-kilmister
“But it’s the true fans that are going to stick with you for your evolution of music.”
Monday nights are jumping once again on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, largely in part to a band called Royal Distortion. After a short residency at The Viper Room earlier in the year, Royal Distortion eventually moved their gig a short walk down Sunset Boulevard to the storied Whisky a Go Go. The Monday night residency has given them the platform to showcase their recently-released, self-titled EP.
The Los Angeles-based alternative rock group was formed in 2018 by Greek singer IQueen and Greek guitarist Pyn Doll, the two founding members of the internationally-acclaimed punk band Barb Wire Dolls. With bassist Gabe Maska and drummer Kevin Tylor in the fold, Royal Distortion melds elements of late 70s and 80s new wave/first wave alternative with catchy pop-rock sensibilities. Their onstage energy is infectious; in their frenetic-punker Barb Wire Dolls incarnation, IQueen and Pyn Doll performed for audiences numbering in the tens of thousands. These days, to watch them perform a one-hour set at The Whisky is in stark contrast to the Wacken Open Air festival, yet in that small venue, which holds about 500, there exists an atmosphere unparalleled in a bigger venue.
IQueen met with Pure Grain Audio backstage for a pre-show interview:
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do for a while, me and Pyn,” IQueen says, “because we were writing a lot of songs that just didn’t work with Barb Wire Dolls. It’s frustrating as an artist, because you don’t want to be pigeon-holed into any type of genre. You don’t want to do things that people expect of you either, because as a human being you’re constantly changing and evolving. Staying stagnant isn’t going to do anyone any good. But it’s the true fans that are going to stick with you for your evolution of music. That’s what’s really happened for Royal Distortion. We got a chance to actually do this band, considering we were on tour for seven years with Barb Wire Dolls headlining 900 shows. We did everything we could in the time that we had, and with the opportunities that we had, too. And we took it to its limit. But we just needed a break, and me and Pyn needed to do something new, too. So, it was a perfect time, a perfect situation, and it came together really easily.”
“In the beginning, it was a little rough to go from something like Barb Wire Dolls into something a lot more mellow, a lot more beautiful, in its own way. It took us a while to really understand what we wanted to do with this band, and showcase it in its best way. But I think we’re really starting to get there. Me and Pyn have been able to write songs daily. With Gabe on bass and Kevin on drums, we’ve really become a good unit very quickly. They’ve been contributing a lot to the band. Gabe, the vocals that he comes up with, the harmonies, are exactly what the band needs. Me and Pyn can do an acoustic set anytime we want, but it takes another monster to get onstage and connect to other people that you aren’t around 24 hours a day. I give them a lot of props for that.
“We collaborate. There’s no one way of writing songs. Songs and music are everywhere. You’re just connecting to what is already there in the ether and interpreting it in your own way. This is probably our 17th show together that we’ll be playing together tonight, but you would think that we’d been playing years together. It’s really connecting well.
IQueen and Pyn Doll (an ex-professional surfer and skateboarder) live in Venice Beach, about a one-hour drive from The Whisky. When asked about living at the beach as inspiration for writing, IQueen responded:
“It definitely helps us to connect to more beautiful melodies. You can connect to any type of music if you’re writing songs—in any situation. We were in a desperate situation at one point, and Pyn just started playing this one song that we’ll probably record for the next Barb Wire Dolls album at some point. The song’s called ‘Depression.’ I don’t know if I could write a song called “Depression” living down in Venice Beach and being around something that I can connect to. Me and Pyn are originally from Greece and to be down on Venice Beach really reminds us of home. I don’t know if I could live up here in Hollywood away from the beach. Probably a song like ‘Depression’ would come out if we lived in Hollywood. (laughs) To answer your question, if you’re looking to write a song, you’ll never find it, or you’ll never find it to its best capacity. You gotta really just allow the inspiration to come on its own.”
What about life without the pressures of touring? “Yeah, well we’ve got time now. We’ve actually got time to focus on music, where as before it was ‘What time do you have to go to the venue?,’ you know, ‘What time do we have this meeting?,’ ‘What time do we have this interview?.’ What time are we playing tonight?’ It was continuously a schedule. I’m sure people can write like that and we’ve written like that. We wrote our third album like that with Barb Wire Dolls. But we’re definitely stepping up the level of songwriting now that we’re focusing more on it, as opposed to it being second-hand and everything else being first-hand.”
IQueen and PynDoll took a break in Greece after last year’s Warped Tour. ‘Good Times’ and ‘California Dream’ were written in that same period. But then we put them away. They didn’t work for Barb Wire Dolls. So, at the beginning of the year when we started coming up with songs that we were going to do with Royal Distortion, those two songs came up. We practiced with Gabe before we found a drummer, and he would come over with his bass. And all of a sudden he just starts singing and we didn’t even know that he could sing, let alone do these amazing harmonies that sounded perfect. So yeah, he had a lot to do with that, and of course it was something we wanted in the band, too. We wished it and it came true.”
When asked if Royal Distortion had enough material for a full-length album, IQueen laughs:
“We got enough material for five full-lengths. All of them are A class songs, for sure. I couldn’t choose one of my favorites, really. That’s why we’ve been trying to showcase these songs through social media with just me and Pyn playing acoustic because, like I said, we keep writing songs but there (are) a lot of songs that we had written throughout the years that just never made it with any Barb Wire Dolls records. There’s just so much. I’m excited to finally record this first album because I don’t know what songs to choose. (laughs)
“Our idea with Royal Distortion in the very beginning was to do an new wave vibe with keys and be like The Cars, you know, The Cure, have like that sort of vibe going on. We love those albums, but at some point I would love to make an album like that with the right musicians. We just couldn’t find a keyboardist hat was totally influenced by the 80s sound like, you know, (Nick) Rhodes of Duran Duran. To be able to put his sound onto our songs without us telling him, “No, you have to sound like this.” We’re still waiting for that person to come in, so we can actually make an album like that. That would be amazing. And to have the right producer, of course. There’s a lot that plays a part. The songs we keep writing—the melodies are completely different from each other. It gives a lot of power to do any type of music we want, but at the same time it’s actually hard to choose the right direction in what you have at the time. Right now we have an awesome killer rock bass player, a great drummer, that flows really well.”
“We’ve had a couple indie labels contact us. We’re putting out two 7-inchers on two different labels (one out of Spain, one out of England). I’m excited for those things to come out. We’re looking for a label that’s really going to take us on, and we want to stick to one label because Barb Wire Dolls had licensed our albums to multiple different labels with our first album, then Motorhead Music picked us up. We really like having a parent label…as opposed to just throwing out music in different territories. (The late Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister personally signed the Barb Wire Dolls to his label in 2015 after seeing them perform at The Whisky.) I don’t think the labels really knew what to do with us either, because we kept changing on every album with Barb Wire Dolls. That just shows that it was inevitable for us to either continue what we were doing and keep changing every Barb Wire Dolls album, or start a completely new project. I don’t regret any of it. I love the fact that we keep changing. I think in the future people are going to respect that a lot more than at the present time when we would throw out a different sounding album every time.”
“We have a new sound…we don’t really sound like anyone, either. What do you even call Royal Distortion? (How) do you classify it? We say ‘new alternative’ because maybe it’ll get people who are listening to alternative to come to a show. (laughs) But we’re just a rock band at the end of the day, and I think it’s hard to promote something like that, because there’s so much music out there that they don’t want to take their time and go see a band that they don’t know. But the people that do come, they’ll come next week and they’ll tell their friends, because we do put on a great show and the music stands for itself, too.”
Greta Van Fleet
West Hollywood, California
October 19, 2017
It was a sell-out crowd at the legendary Troubadour last Thursday, as Michigan rockers Greta Van Fleet played their first of four headlining dates scheduled for this month in Los Angeles.
Opening the show was Welles, a Nashville-based band fronted by singer/guitarist Jeh-sea Wells. The foursome played a half-hour set of raw, guitar-driven songs with a psychedelic post-grunge flair.
Greta Van Fleet kicked off their set with “Talk on the Street”, an unreleased song that the energetic crowd clearly recognized from You Tube. They quickly built the excitement as they followed with “Black Smoke Rising”, the title track of the EP released last April, and the crowd was theirs.
Although the young band is unabashedly derivative of Led Zeppelin, they are also undeniably talented. While the most prominent member is lead singer Josh Kiszka, what drives the band is drummer Danny Wagner and bassist Sam Kiszka. Together, their rhythm provides a lush bottom that is the soundscape for Josh’s vocals and brother Jake Kiszka’s guitar work.
Displaying even more of their bluesy side, the band kicked out “Evil (Is Going On)”, a Willie Dixon classic, most noticeably covered by Howlin’ Wolf. They delivered with a brash swagger, Josh riffing off Jake’s blustery guitar licks, and that powerful rhythm of bass and drums was an ample platform for Josh’s vocals to soar.
“Highway Tune”, the chart-topping, debut single from their EP was performed with a luster that rivals the studio version. Danny Wagner took the spotlight at the end of “Safari Song”, playing a short, but thoroughly-impressive drum solo. A stratospheric scream by Josh Kiszka was a perfect accompaniment to the audience’s thunderous applause.
Talk on the Street
Black Smoke Rising
Edge of Darkness
When the Cold Wind Blows
You’re the One
Evil (Is Going On)
Lover Leaver Taker Believer
January 19, 2018
The Orpheum Theater
Los Angeles, California
In 1996, guitar maestro Joe Satriani spearheaded G3. His vision of himself with two other prodigious guitarists onstage, in synchrony, brought swift acclaim. The first of its kind, this mainly instrumental, traveling show celebrates the virtuosity and attraction of the electric guitar. G3 has undoubtedly inspired wannabe shredders globally to take up the six-string. After seeing a G3 concert live or on DVD, scores of weekend warriors might want to dust off their lonely Stratocasters and possibly resuscitate that defunct garage band.
The Los Angeles stop of this year’s G3 tour was at the Orpheum Theatre, a great old venue in downtown LA that has seen the likes of talented acts, dating back to the Marx Brothers in the mid-1920s, Little Stevie Wonder in the 60s, on up to hard rock and metal bands of today. The Orpheum holds about 2,000 people and has an indescribable vibe—a great place for a seance. one of the best qualities of the great old theater was the quality of the sound—well-mixed and resonant without the muddiness that can haunt rock guitars in larger venues.
The night went off without a hitch. Guitarist Phil Collen (Def Leppard, Delta Deep), a first-timer on the tour, along with fellow axeman John Petrucci (Dream Theater), along with Satriani, divvied-up their individual sets fairly evenly. Collen went first, and his blues-based group, Delta Deep, provided singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook and drummer Forrest Robinson, along with bassist Craig Martini (Paul Gilbert) as the backing band. Fellow Def Leppard comrade Vivian Campbell brought his guitar onstage to wild applause, and joined Collen for abbreviated versions of “Love Bites” and “Hysteria.’’ That was it for singing onstage until later in the show.
Next came John Petrucci, opening his set with the main theme of Hans Zimmer’s “Wonder Woman,” followed by “Jaws of Life,” where he straightaway showed the audience his G3 worthiness. (He’s been on the G3 bill several times, dating back to 2001.) Petrucci deftly works his frets with technical savvy, with a combination of crunch and clean licks. The man’s phrasing and guitar tone are unparalleled. Mike Mangini (Dream Theater) hammered the back beat, creating a soundscape in which Petrucci soared, and took the audience with him.
A primed audience cheered as Joe Satriani took the stage with keyboardist/guitarist Mike Kenneally, bassist Brian Beller, and drummer Joe Travers. Satriani and his band started the set with “Energy,” a brisk number from the newly-released What Happens Next album. “Catbot" another new song, has a sound and instrumentation reminiscent of Prince, and grabbed the crowd’s attention. Kenneally got to unleash his guitar chops during “Super Funky Badass.” Dubbed “G4” by Satriani, Kenneally played a blistering solo while the maestro took over on rhythm guitar. Serious music was being played with the light-hearted spirit and energy of camaraderie; there are no dark, brooding artists in the Satriani camp. Six songs from the 11-song setlist were from the new album, just released this month. Not much time to become acquainted with the songs for many, but the new stuff really holds up It was disappointing that “Flying in a Blue Dream” wasn’t in the set, but closing numbers “Always with Me, Always with You” and “Summer Song” satisfied fans who came to hear old favorites.
The G3 encore will be remembered for years to come. Closing the show, singer/bassist Glenn Hughes (Black Country Communion, Deep Purple, Trapeze), drummer Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chickenfoot), and guitarist Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard, Dio) got up onstage with the G3 for a no-holds-barred All-Star jam that included Don Nix’s Going Down, Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, and Deep Purple’s Highway Star, which had the audience on their feet and shouting with the sheer energy of it. Hughes’ vocals defy his years, he has not lost a note. The jam was an amazing end to a great night of music.