Category Archives: Music Fans

10 Things We Learned from Maynard James Keenan’s Biography

A Perfect Union of Contrary Things, Sarah Jensen with Maynard James Keenan, presents Maynard’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. Team Rock made a list of 10 things learned from the ‘semi-autobiography.’ Team Rock covers all rock from Classic to Metal Hammer, Prog, and more. Check out the list below.


00146489The name ‘Maynard’ came from his poetry.

At high school, James Herbert Keenan wrote poems and illustrated them with a “small, witchy character” named Maynard.He adopted the name while he was in the army.

He idolized Kiss.

He even made a ceramic Gene Simmons face at school, but his dad and stepmom worried Kiss was an acronym for ‘Knights in Satan’s Service’ and that Maynard was a degenerate.

He can navigate a battlefield.

In the military, Maynard was as an artillery surveyor, plotting diagrams and escape routes for his battery during warfare. The first thing he did when he left was get a mohawk.

His first band were political.

C.A.D., aka Children Of The Anachronistic Dynasty, produced two cassettes. Each came with a manifesto questioning the values and future of corporate, middle-class America.

Birds are a big deal for him.

Maynard worked as a merchandise manager at pet shops in Boston and LA, and constructed an aviary in each bedroom he lived in. He once kept a turkey called Butterball.


Check out the rest of the list here.


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. 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.

Woodstock and The Band

The Band FAQ by Peter Aaron, digs deep to discuss different facets of the Band’s collective and individual stories – providing intensive analysis of their recordings; highlighting their key concerts, plus more. The following is a feature a brief history of the formation of the band plus their connection to Woodstock.


00139910Snow was general over the mountains, just a little more to the north, but Woodstock basked over Thanksgiving weekend in chilly air and the last fall leaves, hanging on and brightening the streets and yards of the little town. The big tulip poplars, shining, stayed gold in the graveyard that covers the right-hand side of Rock City Road, heading out of town. Before we went to the launch of Peter Aaron’s new book, The Band  FAQ,we stopped by to say hello to Rick and Levon… as we often do.

The launch, arranged by The Golden Notebook — one of the best independent bookstores you could ever hope to find, and right across Tinker Street from the venue — was at the Kleinert/James Center of the Byrdcliffe Guild, an American treasure for arts in all media since 1902. In Woodstock, the embarrassment of riches for such an event is evident, when a book launch to do with the Band is combined with a conversation with friends of the musicians — Elliott Landy and Happy Traum — and a concert of their songs.

Landy had the eye they needed to make their first album cover, most literally, the rock of ages. Asked by Albert Grossman to photograph “the guys in the band” with no name, yet, for their first record, Landy grappled with locations and ideas. “We drive all over the place,” he remembered, and the first two shoots gained nothing. Then he paged through a book of Civil War photographs and thought of ways in which the men were connected to the faces from the past. “I hadn’t heard their music yet,” Landy grins. He would go on to take over 15,000 photographs of Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson — as well as photographing his friend and neighbor Bob Dylan (one of Landy’s portraits is on the cover of Nashville Skyline, 1969).


Read the rest of the feature here.

Deke Sharon, New York Times Feature

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.


00156135World-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.

Kristin Anderson-Lopez

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 Chats with IndyStar

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.


KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OLIn 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.

Kenny Aronoff on ‘How I Got Here’ Podcast

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.


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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.

KENNY_cover3B-b_v2_FF_OLSex, 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 on the PW LitCast

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.


>>LISTEN<<

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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.

-Sarah Jensen

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.

Tribute to Leonard Cohen

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.


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00126365Cohen 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.

-Harvey Kubernik

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.

Kit O’Toole on Classic Pop Culture

Michael Jackson a name that will cemented in history forever. Kit O’Toole, author of Michael Jackson FAQ,sat down with Steve Ludwig of Classic Pop Culture to discuss the book in addition to how Michael revolutionized modern music and pop culture.


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00125022Michael Jackson FAQ takes a fresh look at Jackson’s four-decade career, covering his work in three acts – the Jackson 5, the Jacksons, and his solo years. Along the way, O’Toole reveals details such as Michael’s earliest musical influences; the Jackson 5’s start on the Steeltown label; the key players truly involved in the group’s discovery; Michael’s transformation in to a prolific songwriter; his explorations of genres, from soul to disco to pop and hip hop; the tours, videos, and notable television appearances; his best-selling albums (Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, Dangerous); outtakes and obscure tracks; and more.

The purpose of this book was not to focus on the controversy surrounding Michael or even his life, this was to focus on him as an artist. Kit explained that so many books has been written about those topics, but she wanted to stress his contribution to music and pop culture instead.

He did so many thing and revolutionized music video. He made an impact opening doors for a lot of African-American artists.

-Kit O’Toole

The interview continued with O’Toole sharing 10 songs from Michael’s solo and years with the Jacksons going more in depth with a few sharing the art of the songs from his vocals to the writing and collaborations. Steve Ludwig went through each of the 41 chapters pin pointing a few here and there for further discussion. This interview zoned in on the art and musical genius of Michael Jackson.

Michael Jackson FAQ also takes a long look at Michael’s work in films (The Wiz, Captain EO); his guest vocal appearances; and his collaborations with such music makers as Quincy Jones, Bruce Swedien, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and Diana Ross.

The interview touched on Michael’s relationship with his brother, Jermaine, in reference to the chapter ‘Whenever You Need Me I’ll Be There: The Unique Singing Chemistry of Michael and Jermaine Jackson.’ O’Toole also discussed Michael’s friendships with Queen’s Freddie Mercury and producer/songwriter, Rod Temperton. The friendships that Michael Jackson created in the industry was displayed in his music as he was the pioneer of fusing Rock, R&B, and Pop.

Most importantly, Michael Jackson FAQ celebrates Michael’s legacy – his influence on countless artists from New Edition to Justin Timberlake, as well as his widespread impact on artistry across many media, from music to choreography to videography to fashion.

That’s what I hope that people walk away with is renewed appreciation of what he did, what he left us, and how his legacy is enduring.

-Kit O’Toole

The Bass Book Interview with Bass Musician Magazine

Authors of The Bass Book: A Complete Illustrated HistoryTony Bacon and Barry Moorhouse, sat down for a live Skype interview with Raul Amador of Bass Musician Magazine. Bass Musician Magazine is a free online bass magazine speaking directly to tech-savvy bass players, gear enthusiasts and industry professionals around the world.


This revised and refreshed third edition of The Bass Book offers all there is to know about the story of the bass guitar in one stylish and up-to-date volume.

The interview covered the idea behind the book and the evolution of the bass. There was discussion of the instrument once being the headliner, but recently has faded to the back becoming more of a footnote. There’s a lot of innovation in the bass from the design to how many strings. What doe the future hold for the bass?

The bass guitar is a very seductive instrument, but used properly it can change the course of a piece of music.

-Tony Bacon

Bass cover frontThe Bass Book is the first to study its story, with the full low-down of the most important bass players and bass makers. Brands featured in the book include Alembic, Danelectro, Epiphone, Fender, Fodera, Gibson, Hofner, Ibanez, Lakland, Line 6, Music Man, Peavey, Rickenbacker, Sadowsky, Spector, Squier, Steinberger, Warwick, and Yamaha. The lineup of two guitars, bass, and drums that would define pop music found its heart with the Fender bass. The bass guitar provided the solid foundation upon which much modern music is still built.

As Raul suggested in wrapping up this interview, for someone that is into the instrument, this book is great reference on the history.


Tony Bacon writes about musical instruments, musicians, and music. He is a co-founder of Backbeat UK and Jawbone Press. Tony’s books include The Ibanez Electric Guitar Book, The Ultimate Guitar Book, History Of The American Guitar, and many others. He lives in Bristol, England.

Barry Moorhouse founded the Bass Center, his specialist bass-guitar retail and distribution operation, in London in 1984. Now in its fourth decade, it continues as a worldwide operation. Through his associate company House Music, Moorhouse represents Brian May guitars in partnership with the Queen legend.

Susan Masino Talks AC/DC on The Slacker Morning Show

AC/DC FAQ author Susan Masino shared her account of her three decade friendship with the band on The Slacker Morning Show (101 The Fox, Kansas City) listeners. With AC/DC playing in the background, this fast paced interview took listeners along with Susan on a stroll down memory lane. Take a listen below.


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00120817fcAC/DC FAQ captures that danger and that insanity. Rock journalist and author Susan Masino spans AC/DC’s 40-year career, starting from the band’s inception in 1973 and covering everything from their earliest days in Australia to their first tour of England and the United States. It also includes personal experiences, stories, conversations, and interviews by Masino, who has known the band since 1977.

Susan Masino was one of the first American journalist to interview AC/DC during their first U.S. Tour. She met them before their stardom when they were playing in clubs. She watched their evolution and transformation in rock music as they moved up the ranks eventually opening for KISS and Aerosmith.

Featuring 37 chapters, AC/DC FAQ chronicles the personal history of each of the band members, all their albums, tours, and various anecdotes. Rebounding from the tragic loss of their singer Bon Scott in 1980, AC/DC hired Brian Johnson and went on to record Back in Black, which is now one of the top five biggest-selling albums in music history.

“It was a horrible tragedy for the band. It’s just an amazing rock and roll miracle that they found Bryan Johnson, continued the recording of Back in Black, and as they say the rest is history.

-Susan Masino

Taking a seven-year break after their album Stiff Upper Lip, the band came back in the fall of 2008 with a new album, Black Ice, and a tour that ran from 2008 through the summer of 2010. Once again breaking records, AC/DC saw the Black Ice Tour become the second-highest-grossing tour in history.


susanmasino

Susan Masino has been a rock journalist for more than 30 years and has written six books, including Family Tradition: Three Generations of Hank Williams, published by Backbeat Books, and The Story of AC/DC: Let There Be Rock, which has now been published in 11 languages. She also appears in the Van Halen DVD The Early Years and the movie AC/DC: Let There Be Rock.