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Q&A with Tom DeMichael

Tom DeMichaelTom DeMichael is the author of James Bond FAQ, and today, we’re celebrating Daniel Craig’s birthday! Below is an excerpt of an interview with Tom on Out of the Past. Check out their website for the full interview. 

Which are your least favorite Bond movies? Why?

As I mentioned in my book, I find the 1967 version of Casino Royale to be intolerable – but as I also noted, it’s not considered to be an “official” Bond film. Of the 23 Bond films produced by Eon Productions, my choice for least favorite Bond film would be a tossup between Moonraker and A View to A Kill. Moonraker, because I think Michael Lonsdale – despite his normally fine abilities as an actor – completely underplayed his role of Hugo Drax. Plus, the whole scene with Jaws and his newly-found girlfriend Dolly saving Bond and Holly Goodhead aboard a space shuttle makes me want to turn off the whole film at that point. A View to A Kill forces us to believe that Tanya Roberts is a geologist, villainous May Day is stronger than Oddjob – a character portrayed by a former Olympic weightlifter, and that Roger Moore – bless him – could still be a sexy and action-packed 007 at the age of 58. Both films suffered from a weak script and a general lack of creative direction and inspiration.

Which actor will play the next Bond?

Daniel Craig, who has brought to the screen much of the rough and cold demeanor that Ian Fleming’s original James Bond had, is contracted to star in the next two Bond films – known currently as Bond 24 and Bond 25. At 45 right now, Craig would be only near age 50 when that arrangement is completed. Seeing how Roger Moore lasted until age 58 and Sean Connery returned as Bond at age 53 in Never Say Never Again, it’s not unreasonable to think that Daniel Craig could re-up for another tour of duty as Bond toward the end of this decade.

So, considering that Craig is going nowhere in the foreseeable future, the gossip still rages as to who the “next” James Bond will be. Initial thoughts have tagged Robert Pattinson – from the Twilight movies – as a possible candidate, along with actors like Christian Bale and Guy Pearce. Considering the latter two would be 45 and 50 when Craig finishes his shift, they are unlikely. Henry Cavill, only 30, has also been mentioned as a possibility and actually tested for the role of Bond in 2006’s Casino Royale.

Despite their varied abilities, all six actors who have played Bond were relatively unknown, and certainly not A-list performers, when chosen for 007. Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan had made their names in television series prior to taking the iconic role, and the rest came to the table with experience ranging from print model, stage performances, and secondary roles in feature films. It’s very likely that next James Bond will come from similar backgrounds.

What is the future of the franchise?

The James Bond film franchise is very unique in the history of cinema. It’s relatively unprecedented for a literary character to be brought to the Silver Screen managed by the same production team for fifty years. Certainly, you have Tarzan and Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan – like Bond, portrayed by different actors over the years – but none of those series were controlled in total by a single creative entity. The Broccoli family members – first Albert, with partner Harry Saltzman until he split in the mid-70s, then stepson Michael G. Wilson and soon after daughter Barbara Broccoli – have maintained the roles of producer since 1962. Today, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli continue to successfully push the buttons for the franchise. Waiting in the wings is Wilson’s son, Gregg, who has been involved with the Bond films since The World Is Not Enough and was most recently an associate producer on Skyfall. It’s generally assumed that he will take over the executive reins at some point in the future. But Michael Wilson is in his early 70s and Barbara Broccoli is only in her early 50s, so they have many years left before turning over the keys to the 007 offices to Gregg.

In terms of the films themselves, you need only to look at the fact that the most recent Bond film, Skyfall, brought in more than $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales. That doesn’t include Blu-Ray, DVD, on-demand, and all the merchandising. I don’t think there’s any doubt that James Bond will return – for many, many years to come.

Keep reading this interview on Out of the Past!

James Bond FAQ is filled with biographies, synopses, production stories, and images and illustrations seldom seen in print, leaving little else to be said about the world’s favorite secret agent. This book includes a foreword by Eunice Gayson.

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Comedy for Your Shakespeare Lessons

Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield are the authors of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Below is a Q&A Daniel and Jess did with StageNotes.net.

StageNotes: What were your favorite subjects in high school and why?

DanielSinger

Daniel: Drama, Concert Choir, Yearbook, Art, English. The arts classes were great because we learned by DOING. Studying English gave me practical writing skills that I use every day. Touch Typing was probably one of the most helpful classes of my entire life.

JessWinfieldCurrent Headshot JWJess: English, European History, and P.E. (I was on the basketball team until my Junior year). I enjoyed Drama, but gave it up in favor of the Forensics (speech) team. Same idea of developing skills in performance, delivery, comic timing and the like, but more fun travel, days off from school; plus I knew I’d have a great role because I was choosing the material myself. And I wouldn’t have to deal with other pesky actors: I would play ALL the roles!

SN: How did you first become interested in Shakespeare?

Daniel: My 8th grade class read Romeo & Juliet aloud and I instantly loved the verse form of the dialogue. The rhythmic language appealed to me and I didn’t have any problem understanding it. When the BBC filmed all of Shakespeare’s plays in the late 1970’s I watched them all and thought, “Some of these plays are fantastic! (Others, not so much!)” While studying drama in London, I saw everything the Royal Shakespeare Company did. They were so adept at finding clever techniques to make the old plays feel new. Their modern-dress Taming of the Shrew with Jonathan Pryce blew my mind.

Jess: I’d only had the requisite curriculum in Shakespeare (R&J, Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Henry IV Parts 1 and 2) and hadn’t been wowed by any of it. Then two actors from the Ashland Shakespeare Festival came to perform for our drama class. They did a couple of Shakespeare scenes (which ones, I don’t recall), but they also did a bit of the game of “Questions” from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, which prompted me to buy a copy of the play immediately. As it happened, my English class was just starting Hamlet. I found the interplay between the two works exhilarating. So in a way, my entrée to Shakespeare has always been via the backdoor of parody and satire… and Tom Stoppard.

SN: You mention in the notes that the play was originally developed through improvisation and ad lib. Can you please explain how the play came to be?

Daniel grew up in Santa Rosa CA, just up the road from the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Marin County. He’d worked there as an actor in the late 1970’s. After drama school, he sent the Faire a proposal to produce a half-hour Hamlet – all Faire entertainment was scheduled in half-hour timeslots. There was a surprising lack of Shakespeare in their offerings so they gave the show a green light. Tom Stoppard’s Dogg’s Hamlet had proven that an abbreviated version of the Prince of Denmark’s tragic tale was both easy to follow and comical in its sheer brevity, so it seemed like a natural. Daniel’s script was originally just a reduction of the play with no jokes in it.

Two of the actors Daniel hired, Jess Winfield and Adam Long, were brilliant young comics. We were all strongly influenced by the antics of the Marx Brothers, Bugs Bunny, and Monty Python. Our Hamlet became a showcase of broad humor and personal interactions between the actors. This allowed the audience to enjoy the show on multiple levels: the cleverness of seeing the greatest play in the English language rudely compacted into an absurdly short skit; the delight of vaudeville-style slapstick adapted to a 16th-Century idiom; and the witty interplay of three charismatic guys struggling to get through the damn thing.

Keep reading this interview at StageNotes.net!

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s classic farce, two of its original writer/performers (Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield) have thoroughly revised the show to bring it up to date for 21st-century audiences, incorporating some of the funniest material from the numerous amateur and professional productions that have been performed around the world.

The cultural touchstone that is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) was born when three inspired, charismatic comics, having honed their pass-the-hat act at Renaissance fairs, premiered their preposterous masterwork at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987. It quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, earning the title of London’s second-longest-running comedy after a decade at the Criterion Theatre. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) is one of the world’s most frequently produced plays, and has been translated into several dozen languages.

Featured are all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays, meant to be performed in 97 minutes, by three actors. Fast paced, witty, and physical, it’s full of laughter for Shakespeare lovers and haters alike.

Q & A with Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll. He is also the series editor of the FAQ series, as well as the author of the two Fab Four FAQ books. The following is an excerpt of an interview with Music Tomes. Please visit their website for the full interview.

You’ve written extensively on the Beatles. What about the group first captivated you?

I had older brothers who were record buyers back when the Beatles were still recording; I was a little young for all of that. But I remember vividly the Capitol swirl and Apple labels – they stood out among the 45s, in my mind at least.

What grabbed me about the Beatles was their sound, and that didn’t click with me until I first heard the Red and the Blue albums – the 1962-1966and 1967-1970 compilations. That was mind blowing – having the scope of their career laid out on four discs; everything from “She Loves You” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and beyond. To me, it was like every sound imaginable had been done – and by the same four guys! So those packages were the real gateway for me. Thereafter, catching A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on TV sealed the deal – these guys weren’t just great musicians, but compelling, funny personalities, too.

You’ve also written two books in the FAQ series on the Beatles. With so much written about the band, what is the ultimate goal of these books?

I imagined that, like myself, there were a lot of fans that were hungry for a single volume work that was neither a deeply scholarly analysis, nor an colorful series of superficial anecdotes. Or worse yet, trivia. Something that, furthermore, contextualized the Beatles’ achievements by placing them into the times in which they created.

At the same time, I thought it be great if somebody could deconstruct their story, so that you could zero in on exactly what aspect or another that you wanted to learn about. So the first FAQ was created as a way to present a ton of information broken down by facet, that invited readers to pick up the book at any point and begin reading where there interests lie, and let the history take them where they wanted to go.

No one else did it, so I stepped up!

The Beatles are a well-covered subject, but creating a narrative that got to the good stuff with immediacy was the goal. It didn’t feel like anyone had really covered their solo years as an integrated entity, hence 2.0. In a way, covering such a massive amount of ground with the two FAQs was easier to accomplish, with all the quantifiable milestones along the way, than Revolver, which was a narrowly focused topic.

But I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and researcher, and hopefully, bring something new to the table. So while the FAQs were straightforward reporting with some opinion thrown in, Revolverwas intended as a conversation starter, something to get people to re-examine their long-held opinions and see the Beatles’ work with fresh eyes.

Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the upcoming titles in the series?

We have a pretty well-developed “wish list” of titles that we are tracking down just the right writers for. But ones that are signed and sealed include The Twilight ZoneStar Wars, Film Noir and Doctor Who, on the TV/film side of things. With music, we have upcoming titles on The Who, Miles Davis, Jimmy Buffett and Hendrix.

Keep reading this interview on Music Tomes.

Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll

The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than evenSgt. Pepper and Pet SoundsRevolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolverwas the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.

The 2011-2012 Broadway Season

Robert Viagas PlblYrbook_AuPhoto_314865Robert Viagas is the editor of The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: June 2011 to May 2012. Below, StageNotes.net asks Mr. Viagas, “How would you describe the 2011-2012 Broadway season?”

Given the economy people expected a contraction of both the number of productions and the amount spent on tickets. Suprisingly, it was exactly the opposite. Broadway had another season in which it sold more than a billion dollars with of tickets, and that’s billion with a “b.” Yes tickets are expensive—but there seems to be plenty of people willing to spend the money.

As I wrote in the preface to the 2011-2012 Yearbook, it was a richly diverse season of tuneful new musicals, delirious comedies, hard-hitting dramas and exuberant dances, plus revivals of some of the greatest works in the American theatrical canon: “Death of a Salesman,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Porgy and Bess,” in versions that earned their share of controversy, criticism…and several key awards.

Composer Stephen Sondheim, who turned 82 this season, rattled Broadway in summer 2011 by blasting Diane Paulus’s new shortened and punched-up version of “Porgy and Bess,” not just for assuming the vanity title “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” (elbowing out librettist and co-lyricist DuBose Heyward, Sondheim noted), but for bringing in Pulitzer laureate Suzan-Lori Parks to rewrite the libretto and even to change the show’s ending. Sondheim—a Pulitzer-winner himself—excoriated these maulings of the classic. But the result was pleasing enough to win “TGPaB” a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, incidentally beating a noteworthy revival of Sondheim’s own “Follies.”

The 2011-2012 season will be remembered for a pyrotechnic display of bravura performances, not least Audra McDonald’s Tony-winning turn as Bess. Audiences were thrilled by Danny Burstein’s heartbreaking performance as Buddy in “Follies,” Christian Borle as a Groucho-Marxian proto-Captain Hook in “Peter and the Starcatcher,” Nina Arianda as a fake (or maybe not) dominatrix in “Venus in Fur,” Ricky Martin as an audience-pleasing Che in “Evita,” Raul Esparza as a charismatic con-man in “Leap of Faith,” and Jeremy Jordan in TWO brightly etched lead performances in “Bonnie & Clyde” and “Newsies,” et al.

Even with all these, the showstopper performance of the season was James Corden’s brethless clowning turn in “One Man, Two Guvnors.” How good was Corden? In the Tony contest for Best Leading Actor in a Play Corden beat heavyweights Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frank Langella, John Lithgow and James Earl Jones, who were themselves giving stage-shaking performances.

It was a season packed with romance (“Once”), politics (“Newsies”), adventure (“Peter and the Starcatcher”) race relations (“Clybourne Park” and “Stick Fly”), families in crisis (“Other Desert Cities,” “Stick Fly”) and religion. Lots of religion. Two shows depicted the crucifixion of Jesus, “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” “Leap of Faith” enacted a tent revival. Holdover show “Sister Act” rocked a convent full of nuns singing gospel. Another holdover, “The Book of Mormon” continued to have fun (and earn a million bucks a week) with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“Once” won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical, not just because the bittersweet Irish love story touched so many hearts, but because the show had a unique look and sound. In 1960 Richard Rodgers wrote “No Strings,” a musical that used virtually no strings in the pit. “Once” did the opposite: with a supporting cast of street musicians, it used only strings (plus an accordion).

And yet, 2011-2012 will be remembered as the season without a blockbuster—unless you count Hugh Jackman’s solo show that was so solidly sold out that they passed on the chance to be nominated for a Tony Award because they didn’t want to give out free tickets to all the potential voters. They sold them instead, kept the money…and watched as Jackman was given a special Tony Award anyway. But that show was only a limited run, as was the other SRO show, “Death of a Salesman.” “Once,” “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Newsies” were some of the biggest hits of the season, but none was solidly sold out until after the Tony Awards. There was no new “Book of Mormon,” “Jersey Boys” or “The Producers” this year.

Which is not to say that Broadway didn’t sell a lot of tickets. Though the number of tickets sold was down slightly, the overall gross for the season was a new record–$1.14 billion.

Keep reading this article on StageNotes.net.

The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: May 2011 to June 2012

Many of the people who work on Broadway keep scrapbooks of their experiences: photos, signed posters, ticket stubs, and, of course the Playbills. These are treasured keepsakes, something to be savored over a lifetime, and then passed on to friends and descendants. Playbill Books, a division of the iconic 128-year-old company that designs the programs for every show on Broadway, has expanded this idea into an annual project that has become a Broadway institution: The Playbill Broadway Yearbook. Taking the form of a high school or college yearbook, the eighth edition is packed with photos (more than 4,000 of them, many in color) and memorabilia from the entire 2011-2012 Broadway season.

High School Inspired Broadway: Q & A with Robert Viagas

Robert Viagas PlblYrbook_AuPhoto_314865Robert Viagas is the editor of The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: June 2011 to May 2012. Below is a Q &A with StageNotes.net.

What first sparked your interest in Broadway and Theatre?

Being tall (now 6′ 4”) had a curious amount to do with it. Although I wasn’t raised in a theatrical household, I was often asked play the father or other adult roles in elementary school plays because I was the tallest. Then, when I was in my teens, I had a friend who loved theatre and got a reviewing gig for our local newspaper so he could see shows for free. But Times Square in the 1970s was a much more dangerous place than it is now, so he invited me to come along, partly as a bodyguard, I suppose. Well, the theatre bug bit me hard, and it’s been all downhill from there. I’m now a member of the Tony nominating committee, as well as being founder of Playbill.com and founding editor of “The Playbill Broadway Yearbook.” Over the years I have blocked the view of countless theatregoers sitting behind me, especially when I am accompanied by one of my sons, who are 6’8” and 6’6”, respectively.

What was your favorite subject in High School and why?

It would be easy to say Music or English, both of which I did like a lot. My 8th grade English teacher Miss Heidengen, took me to my first Broadway show on a field trip: “Man of La Mancha.” But my favorite was Social Studies, mainly because I also like history and, especially, maps. That interest has helped me a lot when watching plays like Shakespeare’s War of the Roses dramas or more recent plays like “Copenhagen,” “Democracy,” “The Coast of Utopia,” and even “Clybourne Park.” Every year our high school music department staged a big musical, and in 7th grade I was invited to help beef-up the chorus of “Guys and Dolls,” again because I was tall and could easily pass for a 10th grader. In 11th grade they gave me the lead in “Promises, Promises,” even though the lead usually went to a senior. So I did have a certain fondness for Music as well, although I played no instrument. However, I didn’t consider theatre as a career at that point.

How did the Playbill Broadway Yearbook come to be 8 seasons ago?

It was the brainchild of our publisher, Philip Birsh, who had originally hired me to launch and run Playbill.com, and has since expanded Playbill from being just a theatre program company into a theatre INFORMATION company, with numerous websites, a travel branch, an online branch, a book branch, broadcast, etc. He walked into my office one day and said, “I have an idea. Let’s make a high school yearbook, but for the people who work on Broadway.” Everything else grew out of that.

Keep reading this Q&A on StageNotes.net.

The Playbill Broadway Yearbook: June 2011 to May 2012

Many of the people who work on Broadway keep scrapbooks of their experiences: photos, signed posters, ticket stubs, and, of course the Playbills. These are treasured keepsakes, something to be savored over a lifetime, and then passed on to friends and descendants. Playbill Books, a division of the iconic 128-year-old company that designs the programs for every show on Broadway, has expanded this idea into an annual project that has become a Broadway institution: The Playbill Broadway Yearbook. Taking the form of a high school or college yearbook, the eighth edition is packed with photos (more than 4,000 of them, many in color) and memorabilia from the entire 2011-2012 Broadway season.

The new edition includes chapters on 70 Broadway shows, which is every show that ran during the season – not just such new shows as Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, Once, Newsies, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and One Man, Two Guvnors, but the long-running ones from seasons past, such as Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon, and Wicked. In addition to headshots of all the actors who appeared in Playbill, the book has photos of producers, writers, designers, stage managers, stagehands, musicians, ushers – even Leonardo, the “SM” fish who is the backstage mascot at Jersey Boys. This year’s roster is expected to top 10,000 names.

Q & A with Deke Sharon

deke4Deke Sharon is the co-author of A Cappella Arranging with Dylan Bell. Here is an excerpt of the interview he did with Neon Tommy. Please visit their site for the full interview.

So I know that there are a lot of books and online guides to arranging a cappella, so why did you decide to write the “definitive” guide?

Well, a lot of people have said a few things here and there, but I don’t feel as though there’s a book that’s been written that really fully explains the process, the thinking, the style of contemporary a cappella. And there was no way to do this in a small way. I have written blogs in the past twenty years on casa.org [the website for the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America], so I’ve put lots and lots of information out there, but that’s different from it being in one place. I have for many years taught basic arranging, intermediate and advanced arranging to different people. But working with a classroom of people at SoJam [an a cappella festival] or at a particular event is different from giving them something that people anywhere around the world – because it’s going to be available for digital download – would be able to use. So, for ten years, this has been a dream of mine. Ten actual years of compiling some blog entries and putting things in order, and the chapters increased.

I think around the beginning of the year when Dylan Bell posted somewhere on casa.org, “Oh, I’m going to be writing an arranging book and I’m just getting started,” I dropped him an email immediately, and I was like, “Dude, I’m well into this book, but I’m so busy with “Pitch Perfect” and “The Sing-Off” or whatever, and I can’t get this done! Would you want to partner?” And he said, “I don’t know. Let me see what you’ve written.” So I sent him 200 pages, and he was like, “Whoa! Okay! I see that you’ve got a lot written here.” But of course, he’s very experienced and very talented and has a lot to add as well. So he said, “Let me go through your stuff, slowly and methodically, and expand upon it and see if we can get one big master work going.”So it was this back and forth process. The two of us were never in a room at the same time. The two of us were probably never in the same state at the same time, possibly never in the same country at the same time. That’s modern publishing for you.

The book is obviously aimed at current or future a cappella arrangers. But do you think that a cappella enthusiasts or non-arrangers would benefit from reading the book as well?

I would hope that non-arrangers would read it and become arrangers. That’s part of what I want to do. For many years in the early days, I was one of the only people doing custom contemporary a cappella arranging, possibly the only person or the only person to say that. But if people wanted arrangements, they called me and that was that. And I had other people working for me, the staff, and we were just this arranging house. Now, there have got to be thousands of people arranging in the contemporary a cappella style. I mean, if you look at there being over a thousand college a cappella groups and each group has one person on average arranging, that’s a thousand people. And I like it better that way. I want everybody to make music, I want people to sing, I want the world to, you know, spread harmony through harmony. So my hope is that the book will get more people arranging, and as a result, more people will sing.

What kinds of feedback have you gotten from readers in the a cappella community, or readers just in general?

I have heard nothing but excitement and positive feedback. In fact, I’ve been kind of amazed that so many people in so many places have been purchasing it. I would say the number one feedback that I’ve heard from anyone is, “When can I get this book? Why is it taking so long to get to me?” The most common email I respond to is that! So that makes me happy. That’s a good problem to have.

A Cappella Arranging is a good textbook – and a “good read” – for every vocal arranger, whether amateur or professional; every vocal music classroom, and any professional recording studio.

Interview with KISS FAQ Author Dale Sherman

Dale Sherman KISS FAQDale Sherman is the author KISS FAQ. Below is a Q & A he did with the Nervous Breakdown.

Why do critics hate KISS so much?  Could you argue they just might be the third most influential band of all time?

KISS was the band that said you could have the huge marquee in the background, the fireworks and confetti-cannons, shows that are like Broadways productions instead of just a band running through a medley of hits. There were also at the forefront in the ’70s in reminding the public and the critics, “rock and roll is supposed to be about having fun.” And I think it’s a good statement to make. I believe there certainly is room for rock music that has a “message” but there’s no reason that has to be the case for everything.  I think that’s what upset 70s critics most about KISS. When your bread and butter is consistently telling everyone, “see, Dylan is trying to tell us about the impossibility of global war … blah, blah, blah,” you get annoyed that everyone is staring at the guys in the makeup, jumping up and down and singing about their love guns. (Then again, such critics tend to forget that Dylan was just as likely to do something like “Everybody Must Get Stoned”.) We’re trying to be serious over here and HERE COME THE CLOWNS!

So the history books tend to push KISS into the background and point at the other bands as being so significant, because dealing with their influence on music doesn’t fit into the puzzle they want to see out there. One of the reasons I started writing about KISS in the first place was because I felt the historians of rock music were willingly ignoring their work and someone had to step up to the plate to remind people about them.

What’s your best childhood memory of the band?

I know it’s odd but I really don’t have a good one.  I was 11 in ’75 and I do remember hearing stuff like “Beth” on the radio. But I think fell into a pocket age-group that KISS wasn’t working to get – I wasn’t old enough to be there for the early albums and I wasn’t young enough to get into the whole super-hero/fantasy thing. People ask me about seeing KISS Meets the Phantom when it aired in October ’78. They were all seven or eight so it meant something to them. I was 14 and busy doing 14-year-old stuff! I recall coming in after TP’ing friends’ houses that night just long enough to see my mom watching it before I headed back out to see Animal House again.

Keep reading this interview at The Nervous Breakdown.

 

KISS FAQ showcases the good, bad, and the weird that has made KISS the legendary ultimate rock-and-roll party band, still going strong after 40 years. Accompanying this entertaining work of solid rock scholarship are dozens of rare images – from posters to live shots and beyond. Also included is a foreword by Bill Starkey, the creator of the original KISS Army.

Q & A with Deke Sharon

deke4Deke Sharon is the co-author of A Cappella Arranging (with Dylan Bell). Below is a Q & A he did with the Gainesville, FL magazine INsite.

What drew you to a cappella?
I always loved being at summer camp and hearing someone improvise a harmony to a simple pop song. And I was actually one of the Tufts Beelzebubs, a group I later joined as a music director at Tufts University. They came to my high school all the way from across the country because I was living in San Francisco, and they were from the Boston area. They came and sang at my high school and it just changed my life. I was like what is this? This is the greatest thing in the world! Up on stage and there was all this energy, all these sounds, layers of voices and the audience—I mean I just looked around and the entire high school was going bananas. This was back, a while ago—the early ’80s. I was in the quartet in the music band my freshmen year and then kept that going through all of my lunch hours for the next four years. We’d be a little barbershop and we’d sing a little doo-wop. I just started to arrange music then and tried to make it work.

What makes writing a cappella music so different from other types of musical composition, and what’s most rewarding about it?
There are a couple of things specific to a cappella. One of them is that each person can only create one sound at a time with very rare exceptions so it’s not like writing something for a rock band because if you’ve got guitars, keyboards or whatever all of these instruments can make multiple sounds at once. It gets really exciting and interesting because while a voice can only make one sound at a time, it’s actually able to create a wider range of sounds than any instrument and it’s also able to span musical styles in a way that instruments really can’t. I mean, you can sing popular songs and then kick into modern, heavy metal, lead guitar, rock or dubstep madness within a breath. There’s great variety and versatility that can happen within a cappella.

As seen in Pitch Perfect, a cappella can really merge different genres and different eras. Are there any particular artists who inspire you or whose music you particularly enjoy as a cappella?
I’ve always been seeking out different kinds of music with different sounds. It turns out that back in the early ’80s when I was going to high school I was falling in love with the beginning of what has become a giant a cappella movement. I was trying to find recordings by the Bobs, the Nylons, the Persuasions and Sweet Honey in the Rock. It was really hard to find out not only what a cappella could be, but also where you could find it. You’d have to dig around in the vocal section and ask people. With the Internet it’s much easier for people to find. It’s all over YouTube, it’s all over movies, television, iTunes—it’s everywhere.

Keep reading this interview on INsite.

A Cappella Arranging

The world loves to sing. From barbershop groups to madrigal choirs to vocal rock bands, there are tens of thousands of vocal groups in America. The success of mainstream television programs such as Glee and The Sing-Off not only demonstrates the rising popularity of vocal music; it reflects how current trends inspire others to join in. In addition, through various online and on-the-ground vocal music societies, the “a cappella market” is well defined and well connected. Like singing itself, a cappella is a global phenomenon.

At the heart of every vocal group is the music it performs. This often means writing its own arrangements of popular or traditional songs. This book is the long-awaited definitive work on the subject, wide ranging both in its scope and in its target audience – which spans beginners, music students, and community groups to professional and semi-professional performers, vocal/instrumental songwriters, composers, and producers – providing genre-specific insight on a cappella writing.

The tone of the book is instructive and informative, yet conversational: it is intended to stand alongside any academic publication while remaining interesting and fun. A Cappella Arranging is a good textbook – and a “good read” – for every vocal arranger, whether amateur or professional; every vocal music classroom, and any professional recording studio.

Q & A with Robert Simonson

Robert Simonson is the author of Performance of the Century. Below is a Q & A he did with Backstage Magazine.

You talk about that magical moment when an actor receives his or her Equity card. Can you describe how Equity membership transforms at actor’s life?

I’m not an actor, and I’ve never been an actor. [But] I’ve asked that question of other actors as a journalist, and it’s always a special moment. Every actor remembers when they get their Equity card because it just means a lot. It means a lot professionally—I mean, a lot of doors are now open to you. But it also indicates a certain kind of arrival, like you’ve made it. Your acting career may not be thriving yet, but you are a professional actor.

You write about Equity promoting racial diversity even before the Civil Rights Era. Can you talk about that?

On a lot of cultural issues [and] a lot of social issues, Equity was ahead of the curve. They were always fighting for the rights of the underserved and the underprivileged. And so in the 30s, long before the Civil Rights Movement, long before various other efforts to better the lot of African Americans and other ethnic groups, they were fighting for the rights of those members of their union—trying to get directors and producers to cast integrated casts, and just generally making sure that the members of the union who were black or other ethnicities were treated just the same as the white members of the union…Equity always stood up for what was right. They stood up for their members. So they have a long history of doing that.

And they’ve done things for actors with disabilities.

I believe it was in the 1990s or the late 80s [that] they started fighting for the rights of actors with disabilities, to make sure that they were seen for parts—particularly when the part in the play was for a person with a disability, that actual actors with disabilities could be considered for these roles.

Keep reading this interview on Backstage.

 

Performance of the Century

Actors’ Equity Association, the union representing stage actors and stage managers, turns 100 years old in 2013. Shaped by the inequities visited on performers in the 19th century, the union has shaped the landscape of the professional American theater. Founded in 1913, it became a force to be reckoned with in an historic 1919 strike – the most entertaining and dramatic one (naturally) the nation had ever seen. Since then, Equity has gone beyond securing the safety, health, and rights of stage actors, to become arguably the most progressive force in theater. It stared down not only obdurate producers, but segregation – on and off the stage, the political hysteria of the blacklist years, and the challenge of the AIDS epidemic, its members forming what would become Equity Fights AIDS. It entertained the troops of several successive American wars and fostered the spread of stage culture across the land, from the government-fostered productions of the Depression-era Federal Theatre Project to the Equity Library Theatre, which offered the classics to the public at bargain prices. It oversaw the little theater movement’s growth into the regional theater movement, and was there when Broadway begat Off-Broadway, and then Off-Off-Broadway. To read this resplendent new book, lavishly illustrated with historical images and stunning photographs, is to learn not only the union’s glorious past, but that of American theater itself.

Q & A with John D. Luerssen

John D. Luerssen is the author of Bruce Springsteen FAQ. Below is a question and answer he did with Greasy Lake.

Greasy Lake: Why does the world need another Bruce Springsteen book?

John D. Luersson: Bruce Springsteen FAQ is designed to be an entertaining reference book – one that hardcore fans can enjoy as much as passive fans. When I was quoted as saying “It’s the only Bruce book you’ll ever need” by Backstreets, it might have sounded a little pompous but what I meant is that was my goal in writing it. Want to settle a bet over what year Bruce crashed his motorbike into a tree? Pick up Bruce FAQ. It happened at his Holmdel farm in April 1979.
When did The Boss first encounter John Cafferty and Beaver Brown? August 25, 1978, at Toad’s Place in New Haven. It’s there on page 218.

GL: What makes you
 qualified to write a Bruce Springsteen book? How big of a fan are you
 yourself?

JDL: I have been writing about rock and roll for 27 years. My first record review – of The Smiths’ Meat is Murder – ran in my Westfield High School newspaper in 1985. I’ve interviewed some of my heroes – Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, Paul Westerberg – and some of my current favorites like Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn and Josh Rouse – during an active music journalism career writing for the likes of Billboard, Rolling Stone, Spinner and American Songwriter. I’ve written two other books – one on Weezer that I wrote about a decade ago – and one for Backbeat’s FAQ series on U2 that came out in 2010. In that sense, I’d say I’m pretty qualified to write books.

As for Springsteen, I’ve been a devoted fan since October 1980 when I first heard the Boss on WPLJ as a seventh grader. I had been aware of him before that time, but I hadn’t really heard him. Between Christmas 1980 and Nebraska two years later, I was an ardent student. But from there I became a student of all things rock and roll and while I appreciated Bruce from afar, I didn’t get back into his clutches as an obsessive until 1999’s Reunion tour and the ’98 Tracks box consumed me.

I consider myself to be a big fan, but the handful of shows I’ve seen cannot compare to the likes of
 some. I have a friend from Westfield named Mitch Slater who has seen a
 staggering 235 shows since 1976. The guy has an encyclopedic knowledge of those
 shows. He’s like a Springsteen savant. I’m not in that league but I appreciate 
his devotion to Springsteen.

Keep reading this interview on Greasy Lake.

Bruce Springsteen FAQ

Bruce Springsteen FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Boss investigates Springsteen’s superstar Born in the U.S.A. album and tour, the dissolution and reunion of the E Street Band, the legal wrangling that held up 1978’s Darkness on the Edge of Town, the group’s postmillennium resurgence, the untimely passing of core band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, and more.

This indispensible read, packed with countless images of rare memorabilia, is a volume Springsteen fans will treasure.