Deke Sharon, author of The Heart of Vocal Harmony, was recently featured in the New York Times. His latest venture? A Broadway play, In Transit. In addition the “guru of a capella” shared stories of his evolving career and his lifelong mission.
World-renowned arranger and producer Deke Sharon, whose credits include television’s The Sing Off and Pitch Slapped, the movies Perfect Pitch and Perfect Pitch 2, and, this fall, Broadway’s first a cappella musical, In Transit, puts emotion where it belongs – front and center – in The Heart of Vocal Harmony.
Where did a career like Deke’s begin? Back in the early 90s, he was the co-founder of House of Jacks with singers he met not he college circuit. A few years later he enrolled in Tufts University just so he could join their a cappella group, Beezlebubs. In the midst of all this Kurk Richard Toohey Jr. became Deke Sharon.
It wasn’t meant to be a stage name. Everybody called me Deke, and my mom had remarried, so I had all these different names in my childhood. I just wanted an identity of my own.
That newly found identity poured through Deke’s work for years to come. With a book such as The Heart of Vocal Harmony he is fulfilling his lifelong mission of creating harmony with harmony. A capella has surely evolved since Deke began his career back in the 90s. In addition to In Transit, he’s traveling to workshops, camps, master classes, concerts, recurring studios, and overseeing the touring group Vocalosity.
In his book, The Heart of Vocal Harmony there’s focus on honest unified expression and the process of delivering an emotionally compelling performance. It delves into an underdeveloped vocal topic – the heart of the music and the process involved with expressing it.
He truly believes that groups of people singing together creates goodness int he world. And at this moment in time, we really need that kind of harmony.
The Heart of Vocal Harmony features discussions with some of the biggest luminaries in vocal harmony: composers, arrangers, directors, singers, and groups, including Eric Whitacre, Pentatonix, the Manhattan Transfer, and more. It is a unique and invaluable tool for helping singers connect with the song and deliver powerful and emotional performances each and every time.
Check out the full feature here.
Kenny Aronoff, author of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, sat down with the Indy Star to discuss his book including his time during the John Mellencamp era. Check out an excerpt of the interview below.
In his new autobiography, Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll!, Kenny Aronoff pulls back the curtain on the dangers of being a Hoosier rock star in the 1980s.
Aronoff writes about the time John Mellencamp survived a motorcycle crash one week before the recording of breakthrough album “American Fool.” Toby Myers, who played bass in Mellencamp’s band from 1982 to 1998, lost a toe in a boating accident during an East Coast tour. In an episode that parallels music movie “Almost Famous,” the entire Mellencamp entourage could have died when a charter plane lost power between Miami and Biloxi, Miss.
And everyone in the band was required to participate in a fall pastime known as the Mellencamp Football League. No pads, full contact, highly competitive.
But there’s more than misadventure detailed in “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which arrived in bookstores Nov. 15. Aronoff, the drummer in Mellencamp’s band from 1980 to 1996, mostly writes about an unyielding mission to succeed.
“We weren’t the best rock ’n’ roll band in the world,” Aronoff said in a phone interview. “We made ourselves great by hard work.”
Mellencamp, who sold 16 million albums from 1982 to 1987, maintained regular rehearsal hours for the musicians: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., interrupted by a 5-7 p.m. break, five days a week when the band wasn’t on tour.
Before the Seymour native renovated a Brown County house into Belmont Mall studio, Mellencamp worked at “The Bunker,” a cramped, concrete room in rural Bloomington that once was a dog kennel.
Those were days, Aronoff said, when the musicians grasped for the secret of making hit records. They took a field trip to catch a date of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” tour. They studied Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” album for tips on arranging songs.
Mellencamp, known then as John Cougar, had written a song called “Jack & Diane.” It wasn’t working, however, as anything other than a stripped-down solo acoustic tune.
“We knew it was a cool song, but we didn’t know what to do with it,” Aronoff said.
John Mellencamp, center, points his American Music Award at guitarist Larry Crane after collecting an American Music Award in 1983. Drummer Kenny Aronoff, author of 2016 book “Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll,” is seen at right. Bass player Toby Myers is second from left, and guitarist Mike Wanchic is to the left of Aronoff.
Working at Miami’s Criteria Studios with producer Don Gehman, the Mellencamp crew heard the Bee Gees experimenting with an early drum machine, the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, in a nearby room.
Aronoff said Gehman borrowed the Linn “out of desperation” for a potential fix for “Jack & Diane.”
“I was insulted,” Aronoff said. “I grabbed the thing out of anger and said, ‘At least I want to have control over this thing.’ ”
Aronoff programmed the hand-clap beat heard during the first half of the song, and he added the distinctive midsong solo on conventional drums. “Jack & Diane” reached No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 chart in October 1982.
Click HERE to read the entire interview.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan, is a New York Times Best Seller, debuting on the Hardcover Nonfiction list at No. 10. Maynard sat down for an interview with Phoenix New Times to discuss what New Times calls a ‘biography-autobiography hybrid.’ Read an excerpt of the interview below.
New Times: There is a common theme or code you seem to follow throughout the book in each of your endeavors. Discipline, patience, understanding the process, and the end result all play an important role in much of what you’ve accomplished.
You have 20/20 hindsight with your decisions, and I suppose those can lay out a map of where you’ve been, where you are, and where you might potentially be going. Of course, with a lot of those decisions you’re free-balling.
Do you still follow some of that same road map today when you are venturing into areas of new discovery now?
It’s of benefit, but it can also be a trap if you completely rely on your past experiences and make decisions based on those. Surely, you have some results you can look at, but things change and circumstances change, so I think it’s more important to be conscious and present in the moment and look at the situation before you leap to any conclusions. There’s your balance. You rely on experiences, and you bring those with you when you’re gonna make another decision. But [you] also have to rely on your gut in that moment.
It seems like everyone’s in a band now and can record music in their basement. Everyone’s a photographer with a smartphone, and everyone is a politician on social media. Your mindset can’t remain the same.
Especially with social media, there are people out there that will plant seeds, their intent to distract and to pollute. They’re the butterfly effect of a thing that’s not a fact that will just kind of perpetuate and grow in a way that when someone makes an actual decision on an important matter, that butterfly effect adjusted that decision long ago. That’s if you’re gonna be tunnel-visioned and focus on stuff like social media. There are a lot of things going on in the world that will continue to go on with or without the internet.
All of the projects you’ve been a part of over the years seem to serve as therapy of some sort. Does this book fit that mold?
Yeah, I think anything you do is a form of self-discovery, some form of therapy, if you want to call it that. It’s also a map for my children. [If] something happens to me today, they’ll have something to look at that will give them an idea of who I was. I have a 2-year-old daughter. She only knows so much; I’m sure she’d like to know more when she is older. So this is a small chronicle. This is a slice of the story.
Your early love of the band Kiss is well documented in the book, as is how that terrified your family. They were so freaked out they had your pastor speak with you to get a better understanding of why you liked the band. Were you concerned that if he didn’t approve, that would be the end of Kiss in your household?
No, Kiss is just a metaphor for a bunch of other bands that were around at the time; that was just one. I learned quickly that those kinds of conversations mean nothing. The will of a teenager, generally speaking, is like a force of nature. I learned that early on. There are things I feel like I have to do, and things I have to comply with, but some of my more fundamentalist upbringing in Ohio taught me that hypocrisy runs deep and you just have to make your own decisions based on your own version of a moral code.
Your father really wanted you to participate in sports, and once you realized football wasn’t for you, you became involved with the cross-country team. Your coach instilled in you the motto “Never give up, and you’ll be victorious,” and that translated into you winning the cross-country finals. You mention that this was the first time you saw hard work paying off.
It really is a chipping-away process, and I think a lot of people get caught up in the day weather rather than thinking of the long game. They kind of want immediate satisfaction; it’s just the nature of this generation. Amazon ships for free and it gets there yesterday. It’s like what you said — people with phones saying they are a photographer now: No, no you’re not. There are so many things and you can’t skip a step to be a master at something. There’s a process. And everyone’s process is different, but there’s still this thing called time and experience. You cannot master something without having done it for a long time.
Would you still say that you’re still “kind of quiet, shy, and kind of grumpy” as you were described in the book?
Yes. When you have a mission and you have an idea of how to get something done, distractions kind of just interrupt that process. You tend to maintain focus, which can be confused with being grumpy.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Martin Aston, author of Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache: How Music Came Out, sat down to discuss the book tracing the evolution of gay music from the 1920s to today with BBC’s World Service Newshour. Take a listen below.
Breaking Down the Walls of Heartache is not only the first book to tell the story of how music “came out” but to the first to shed light on these hidden pioneers alongside their famous counterparts.
The podcast gives a snapshot of what to expect in the book highlighting artists spanning decades on decades. Breaking Down the Walls is packed with 400 pages covering artists such as Helen Kane, Gene Malin, Frances Faye, and more. Starting in the Roaring 20s, Helen Kane, the woman behind the Betty Boop character, spoke more in code with her song ‘He’s So Unusual.’ That was the norm then in a way to not defy the social and political conservatism of that time. Fast forwarding to the modern era, the music is more blunt.
Mark Aston’s ambitious and comprehensive narrative unfolds over a hundred years, against a backdrop of social and political shifts, as gay liberation transmuted into LGBTQ rights, pushing for visibility and equality, from 1920s liberalism through to the closet of postwar years, the eventual breakthroughs of the ’60s, the permissive ’70s, the mainstream invasion and AIDS crisis of the ’80s, and the advances of the ’90s and noughties.
Aston also documents the retrogressive steps in Russia and parts of Africa, where songs bravely encapsulating the LGBTQ experience signify how the journey from illegality and bigotry to freedom is far from over.
Mark Aston has written about popular music for over 30 years. He has contributed to numerous publications, including MOJO, Q, Guardian, the Times (London), Attitude, Radio Times, Spin, and BBC Music, covering TV, film, and LGBT culture.
Jeff Cioletti, author of Beer FAQ, sat down with Steal This Beer to discuss not only all things beer, but to blind taste and dissect two beers live on air. The podcast is led beer gurus Augie Carton (Carton Brewing) and John Holl (All About Beer Magazine) who get to the bottom of the day’s most pressing craft beer issues with help from opinionated brewer friends, know-it-all barkeeps, and smarmy industry insiders. Take a listen below:
There has never been, in the history of the world, a better time to drink a beer
During the Steel This Beer podcast, the book was referred to as “compressed one man’s Oxford.” Jeff Cioletti’s Beer FAQ answers many burning questions about the diverse array of styles, ingredients, and international brewing and drinking traditions that drive the world’s most popular adult beverage. Beer FAQ was written matter-of-factly, efficiently, and clean cut.
One of the segments of the podcast is blind tasting beer Augie, John, and Jeff blind tasted beer while sharing what they thought it would go great with. All shared different reactions which gave for better options for listeners to try once the ‘blind beer’ was revealed. What better game for Jeff to play as he has a chapter dedicated to this, ‘Perfect Couples: The Beer and Food Movement.’ In further discussion of the book, there was talk of what the hosts agreed and disagreed with in regards to certain picks Jeff chose to feature.
In Beer FAQ, Cioletti offers a touch of history, a bit of globetrotting, and a look at the companies and enterprising individuals leading the modern brewing renaissance. He provides readers with a better understanding of not just the many varieties of beers out there, but also the best places to drink them and the best ways to enjoy them, from the ideal packaging to the proper drinking vessels. He also takes a nostalgic look at beer’s evolving role in pop culture—from advertising to television to movies—over the past century.
JEFF CIOLETTI is an internationally recognized beverage writer, having served as editor-in-chief of Beverage World magazine and written articles for a variety of publications, including Draft and All About Beer magazine. He is also the author of the book The Year of Drinking Adventurously and writer/producer/director of Beerituality, a feature-length comedy set in the world of craft beer. Cioletti is the creator and host of the weekly web beverage news show The Drinkable Week at DrinkableGlobe.com. He has been interviewed on a wide range of beverage-related topics for major national media outlets, including TV, radio, and print.
It’s been 23 years since The X-Files debuted and with its resurgence earlier this year, Season 11 is on the way. John Kenneth Muir, author of The X-Files FAQ, sat down with Tony Black of The X-Cast to discuss all things X-Files. For all The X-Files enthusiasts, this interview is for you. Take a listen below.
The X-Files FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Global Conspiracy, Aliens, Lazarus Species, and Monsters of the Week explores Chris Carter’s popular 1990s science-fiction TV series, which aired on Fox for nine seasons and inspired spin-offs, including feature films, TV shows, toys, novels, and comic books.
It’s amazing story behind how Chris Carter came to write the foreword for the book. In fact, at the time that he wrote it production was in full swing for the six-episode event series that aired on Fox this past January. John explained how that came to be which was from Chris wishing him happy birthday on social media. He then asked Chris for a blog feature and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. What started out as a simple gesture turned into a foreword for a book from no better person.
The book explores the series in terms of its historical context and analyzes how many of the episodes tackle the events of their time: the Clinton era. The X-Files FAQ also tallies the episodes that are based on true stories, selects touchstone moments from the almost decade-long run, and organizes the series by its fantastic subject matter – from serial killers to aliens, from prehistoric menaces to ethnic and religious-based horrors.
Tony started the interview with asking John his ‘fandom’ questions to his discovery of the show to his favorite characters and episodes. The interview continued with an amazing discussion between two fans going in depth about the various episodes and seasons as well as character development.
The X-Files FAQ allows readers to relive the “Mytharc” conspiracy and the unforgettable monsters of the week – from the Fluke Man to the Peacocks.
This is the sort of book I dreamed of writing about the X-FIles. My only regret is that I couldn’t cover every single episode in depth.
-John Kenneth Muir
Kenny Aronoff, one of Rolling Stones’, ‘Top 100 Drummers of All Time,’ can now add author to his repertoire with the release of Sex, Drums, Rock ‘n’ Roll! In the whirlwind of press surrounding this release, he sat down with Tim Barnicle and Harry Hill of the ‘How I Got Here’ podcast. The trio discussed Aronoff’s early years, career, and new venture as an author and speaker. Take a listen below.
Playing felt good spiritually, emotionally, physically; every which way….It was just an organic thing. I was just naturally drawn to the energy of the drums.
Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll!, with a foreword by Rush drummer Neil Peart, and researched and developed with Jake Brown, takes readers on Aronoff’s amazing journey from the small New England town where he watched the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to performing alongside Paul and Ringo on a television special 50 years later. Along the way it chronicles an uncommon career in which the excesses of the rock ’n’ roll life are always tempered by his core personal and professional values.
The interview took listeners on a journey of what to expect in the book from his love for the Beatles to his early career of playing in a bar at the age of 13 with his twin brother. He’s one of the hardest workers for a reason having explained how he worked endlessly to reach his goals. It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about fame. It was about accomplishing not only what he set out to do, but ultimately staking his claim in rock & roll and beyond.
I spread myself al over the map my entire career and I got teased for it. Classical people teased me about playing rock. The rock people teased me about played classical….That means I am different and I will pledge to follow my own beat, my own muse, my own thing.
“Staying the course” has never been enough for Aronoff, who has consistently embraced his own uniqueness while charting his life’s path. This has included taking his music career into every genre imaginable and branching beyond the stage and studio to build a second career as a business speaker.
Writing the book took four years and then what came of it was a speaking career that I’m really pushing….It’s really an inspirational evening with Kenny Aronoff where you’re entertained, but I’m talking about how to be successful and stay successful.
In Sex, Drums, Rock ’n’ Roll!, Aronoff paints the portrait of an artist, instructor, and businessman who never followed the norm, always followed his heart, and never settled for anything short of excellence.
There’s definitely a little bit of fear in me. I told my mom when I was 11 I was going to do this for the rest of my life. Now that I’m 63, I’m still saying I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. I want that choice.
Maynard James Keenan along with Sarah Jensen took a moment with Mark Rotella of Publisher’s Weekly to discuss their joint effort and latest Backbeat Books release, A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, for the PW LitCast. The PW LitCast are conversations between Publisher’s Weekly editors and authors of new fiction and nonfiction books. Take a listen below.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things presents the outtakes, the scenes of disappointment and triumph, and the events that led him to take one step after the next, to change direction, to explore sometimes surprising opportunities.
The interview covered an array of topics including: how the book came to be, the relationship between Maynard and Sarah, the writing process, hesitations, Maynard’s wine venture, and more.
Maynard had contemplated writing a biography 7 years ago, but he put the idea on the back burner because it just didn’t feel right. The point of biography is to inspire readers, not air dirty laundry.
Most journalists are very sensationalists. They’ll try to latch on to the things that are gonna, you know, be click bait; gain headlines. Just kind of further their own career rather than tell a story.
-Maynard James Keenan
Included throughout are passages in Keenan’s own words, often humorous anecdotes that illuminate the narrative. There is also commentary by his family members, friends, instructors, and industry colleagues. The book also features a foreword by Alex Grey, an American visionary artist and longtime friend of Keenan, who has designed Tool’s album and stage art.
As for Maynard’s relationship with Sarah? The two have known each other for over 30 years as Maynard was best friends with her younger brother back in high school. He ended up asking her to write the biography one night at dinner as they were catching up.
If you know Maynard My initial reaction was total shock because were talking about a whole bunch of other things… It felt like everything I had ever done in my life had led to that moment. All the writing I had done. Everything I had learned about publishing. It just was like, okay, here we go.
The writing was so organic between them as they understood each other. The two were able to bond over the fact they both enjoyed storytelling and this interview gave further insight to that.
A Perfect Union of Contrary Things presents Maynard James Keenan’s story as a metaphor for the reader’s own evolution and an encouragement to follow our dreams, hold fast to individual integrity, and work ceaselessly to fulfill our creative potential.
Pearl Jam has been nominated for the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame among the likes of 19 other artists including: Janet Jackson, Journey, Tupac, and Electric Light Orchestra. Tom Harkins, co-author chatted with Meltdown on WRIF (Detroit) to discuss Pearl Jam FAQ. Listen to the interview below.
Pearl Jam FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Seattle’s Most Enduring Band authors Thomas Edward Harkins and Bernard M. Corbett explore the entire arc of the band’s career, from their pre-Pearl Jam days to the present. Each of 30 chapters explores a different aspect of Pearl Jam’s fascinating history.
In the interview with Meltdown, To shared the chemistry of the band, who should be inducted when they get in the RNR Hall Of Fame, the battle with Ticketmaster, plus more. While Harkins said he is not the die hard fan as the co-author, he was able to share his personal touch and insight to the band and their story.
A band has a life cycle like a human and it’s a story of coming of age.
Beyond the music, Pearl Jam FAQ takes a long look at the way Pearl Jam adapted to an ever-changing media landscape where MTV, not radio, is the major power broker. The book also addresses their battles with Ticketmaster and explores about the roots of their socio-political activism.
When asked what surprised Tom the most about the band:
I think the level of their social political activism. Their dedication to causes beyond themselves.
Pearl Jam FAQ dives into the band members’ successes, failures, and tragedies prior to joining forces, as well as their early days as Mookie Blaylock and the unusual manner in which they came up with the name finally stuck. Harkins and Corbett go inside the studio and analyze each of their albums in turn and hit the road with them as they set out to conquer Seattle, the West Coast of the United States, and then the entire world.
With a view of the band from every angle and in every context – on CD, on vinyl, on the radio, on television, on film, in videos, onstage, backstage, on the road, in the air, and at home – through the eyes of Pearl Jam enthusiasts, Pearl Jam FAQ presents a must-have text for band devotees to devour.
Musician and poet, Leonard Cohen, has died at age 82. In celebration of his 80th birthday back in 2014, Leonard Cohen: Everybody Knows by Harvey Kubernick was published. The book is a celebration of the life, music, and poetry of the unique artist and music legend. Kubernick sat down with Talk Radio Europe when the book was released to discuss the book and life of Cohen. Take a listen below.
Cohen arrived at the 1960s pop-music party fashionably late, releasing his debut album – Songs of Leonard Cohen – in 1967. At the age of 33, he was the adult in the room, a room brimming, then as now, with literary pretension and artistic self-importance. But Cohen, already established as a respected poet and novelist, was the real deal. In the decades since, he has battled with drugs, love, and bankruptcy; become a Buddhist monk while simultaneously reaffirming his Jewish faith; and recorded 11 more albums of unfailingly affecting beauty.
The interview with Talk Radio Europe discussed the evolution and mastermind of Leonard Cohen. From his song ‘Suzanne’ to the infamous ‘Hallelujah,’ Harvey Kubernik gave Talk Radio Europe listeners a snapshot into it all. In addition to the art of Cohen, Kubernick discussed their countless encounters providing further insight into Cohen’s personality and legacy.
I think the songs continue because they can be done by rock bands and they can be done instrumentally. They can be done by female and male vocalists. I think almost superseding the legacy of music. I know things started on the printed page and he started as a writer, but I also know people that buy Hallelujah, or see it, or want to sing along with it; not all of them in the audience have Leonard’s books or anthologies. So there’s something about what he’s offering on stage.
With an insider’s knowledge, author Harvey Kubernik reviews Cohen’s unique achievements, beginning as a young poet in Montreal through his 2012 album, Old Ideas, and his acclaimed worldwide concert tour. Illustrated with 200 rare photographs and items of memorabilia and featuring the recollections and comments of those who have worked with him and are close to him.
The man. The music. The poet. The visionary.