Rock Cellar Magazine Interview with Lisa S. Johnson

Lisa S. Johnson, author of 108 Rock Star Guitars, recently sat down for an awesome interview with Rock Cellar Magazine. Read the rest of the interview here!

Rock Cellar Magazine: Discuss your background and what led to the 108 Rock Star Guitars project. It definitely seems like something was quite a process to put together. 

Lisa S. Johnson: Well, I started 17 years ago. It took me 15 years of shooting, because I always had a job – I worked for Eastman Kodak for ten years and owned two yoga studios – so I was always doing this project on the side. What led to it was…I was working for Eastman Kodak and I had a territory in Memphis, Tennessee. I started dating the guitar player at church, and my dad, a musician, told me I was never allowed to date musicians.

So I called him and said “Dad, I’m dating a musician – however, he IS the guitar player at church, and he owns a vintage guitar shop!”

So my dad goes “Oh, well that’s different. He’s not a touring musician…let’s get back to the ‘vintage guitar shop’ part…I’ve always wanted a Gibson mandolin. If he ever gets one in, let me know!”

So literally two weeks later he gets in a 1917, mint condition Gibson mandolin which is now worth about $3,500. I said “I want to buy it for my dad, how much?” and he said “you can’t afford it, so why don’t you photograph some guitars for me instead?”

Shortly after, Kodak transferred me to New York. I thought ” you know, I really want to keep photographing guitars!” – since it was really the first time that I’d fallen in love with my imagery.

So I bee-lined it for the Iridium Jazz Club, where Les Paul played every Monday night. I figured if I’m going to photograph guitars, I might as well photograph famous ones.

Les Paul was such a sweetheart, he let me shoot his guitar, and twelve years later he ended up writing the forward for my book because I sat with him after a show one night and said “Les, do you remember when I photographed your guitar twelve  years ago?” and he said “yep!”, so I said “Well here’s Slash’s guitar, here’s Robby Krieger’s guitar, here’s Zakk Wylde’s guitar. I need somebody to write the forward for my book. You’re their hero and you’ve been with me on this project since Day 1. Would you consider it?”

And he said “yeah, I see what you’re saying…let’s do it!” So he did, and I’ll treasure that forever and ever.

Rock Cellar Magazine: Being that close with someone like Les Paul must have been a thrill, especially with how involved he became with your project. 

Lisa S. Johnson: It was really cool because back when I photographed Les’ guitars and those guitars back in Memphis I was shooting in black and white. And then I’d take the prints and hand color them, hand-tint them. So when I photographed Les’ guitars I brought him prints and he used to say “oh, here comes that girl that does that guitar art!” before he really got to know who I was.

I knew his standup bass player, Paul Lewinsky, and Lou Pallo, his rhythm player for 45 years, Thomas Doyle, his guitar tech, they all knew me so when I’d go to the shows they’d make sure I got back to the green room, so I’d always go back there and say hi to Les.

It was so special. I never spent time with him outside the Iridium Room, since he lived in New Jersey, but the time I did spend with him was a treasure. He was like my grandfather. As a result of his support of my work, 10% of the proceeds from sales go to the Les Paul Foundation, which helps get grants for children for music education and the hearing impaired.

00127925

Down the Rhodes Interview

Gerald McCauley is a fantastic musician. In this great Acting on Film interview with Del Weston and Mark Giardino, he talks about his new book, Down The Rhodes: The Fender Rhodes Story, music, famous players and his fight with leukemia. This is Part 1 of a 2 Part Interview. More at aoffest.com

Rhodes_Jacket_4-color

Huffington Post Interview with Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick

Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick, two of the authors of The Pensado Papers, had a great discussion about their book with Mike Ragogna of Huffington Post. Read the rest of the interview here!

Mike Ragogna: When did all this Pensado/Trawick bromance begin?

Herb Trawick: Oh God, about twenty-five years ago in the lobby of a studio when we were both aspiring kids from the south. Dave was from Atlanta by way of Florida, I was from Kentucky by way of Montreal. We came to L.A. to make our bones and ended up in the same studio lobby accidentally. We connected there and I had a chance about a month later when somebody called me for a referral–I had just met this white guy who worked on James Brown and I thought that was pretty cool. I hadn’t heard a note, but I referred him and he went over and did a job on a hip hop record and absolutely killed it and has been hot for thirty years and we’ve been friends for that long.

Mike Ragogna: You’ve released a book, The Pensado Papers that we’ll talk about, but first, how did the television show come about?

HT: Because of our friendship, we’ve always kept in touch. I was his first manager, but he and I have been amongst a small group of best friends for a long time. We were talking career stuff at the time, he was being managed by Roc Nation and Jay-Z, this was about five years ago. We were re-examining our careers and where we were going to go, we’d been blessed these last three years. In the middle of that, Dave had a brain incident that put him down for a little bit. He had a miraculous recovery and since we were talking careers, I tried to come up with something he could deal with from home, and deal with these prodigious, outsized talents that he has. By fate one of our friends worked at a digital network and heard about this idea I had for him to just stay at home. They sent an email and said, “We’d like to do this as a show.” They were putting out online television from this little broadcast studio. We only did it because in Dave’s case he didn’t necessarily want to spend the money to capture the contents of the idea that I had for him to stay at home, so I said, “Well, let me cut a deal, we’ll go over here, this will last maybe three months and we’ll be able to cut some content and we’ll be able to get it started and everybody will be happy and you won’t have to write a check.” Three months is now five years, two hundred episodes, a hundred and eighty seven countries, a hundred and fifty school around the globe and it’s just turned into an amazing ride, an example of digital media and a huge platform that continues to grow every day. It’s the most amazing thing that either one of us have dealt with in our career.

Dave Pensado: And let me just add, there were several things that I found interesting from an insider/outsider perspective. One was that when Herb and I started we were just trying to be entertaining, but from the very beginning Herb was like, “Man, if I’m going to be involved it’s got to be good TV.” So we patterned the show originally after Charlie Rose. Every day Herb would give me broadcaster lessons, so I’ve grown to really enjoy the process of sitting in front of cameras and disseminating and sharing information. I want to give my partner full credit for insisting from the beginning that everything be done right. The business part was perfect, the financial elements were perfect, and first and foremost it was going to be quality television. I think that kind of helped separate us a little bit from the rest of the pack. We weren’t trying to make an interesting YouTube video, we were going for NBC. I know that sounds arrogant, and I’m not saying we’ve reached that yet, but that was probably the foundation upon which the show grew. Plus the fact that my friends and Herb’s friends in the industry really helped us out. All the top names in audio, engineers and producers and artists, just saw a value in it that early on I didn’t see. It really helped us get this thing to where it is today.

00120020

Audiofanzine Interview with Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick

Dave Pensado and Herb Trawick, two of the authors of The Pensado Papers, had a great discussion about both the book and the YouTube show “Pensado Place” with Mike Levine of Audiofanzine. Read the rest of the interview here!

Dave, what percentage of your work life is now taken up by the show?

Pensado: Well, I don’t look at it that way. It’s all so interwoven. When I’m in the studio, everything I do contributes to the show. When I’m doing the show, everything about the show contributes to my studio life…I would say probably 80% of the time, I’m physically in the studio, and 20% of the time I’m devoting towards the show…Herb does all the major work. Herb puts more time in for the show than I do for mixing. He’s the person that makes it look good, the person that makes it popular. All his ideas come from a point of giving the viewer value and education is very important to both of us…Herb has a team of people that execute. Herb is always trying to figure out a way to keep the show free. That’s important to us, and it’s getting more and more difficult.

Trawick: That’s for sure.

How many views do you get on a typical episode of Pensado’s Place?

Trawick: It changes, but our specific audience monthly is between 500,000 and 600,000 people. If we add in our affiliated sponsors and their audience reach — it starts to approach about a million.

The book chronicles many things including how the show has developed into the force it is now. What was your motivation for writing it?

Pensado: We did the book to kind of solidify and quantify and organize our own thoughts: “What the heck just happened?”…The book is not necessarily about the show, it’s about two different lives from two different places in the world and how our experiences and our past triumphs and our past failures led us to the point where we were able to create something that people seemed interested in.

Trawick: The book has tips and tricks that are technical, from our guests and from Dave. It’s a story of redemption. It’s career advice. It’s a comeback story, it’s a story about partnership. It’s a story about digital new media and how to take it on and go from two guys who don’t do this at all to two guys who have built something. We start our fifth year in January and the extent of things that have happened because we decided to take this on and be forward facing and forward leaning, is stunning, in terms of its scale and size.

00120020

Audiofanzine Interview with Mixerman

Mixerman, author of Zen and the Art of RecordingZen and the Art of Mixing, and Zen and the Art of Producing, had a great discussion with Mike Levine of Audiofanzine. Read the rest of the interview here!

Audiofanzine: You talked a lot about recording drums in the book, including the concept of “top down” drum recording. Can you explain what you mean by that?

00333246Well, for a lot of people, the first thing they’ll go for is the kick drum and then the snare drum, and they’ll make those sound fantastic on their own, without any thought about how the entire thing works. Even I used to do that. And then I realized, “Why do I do that when 90% of the information is on the overheads and the rooms [room mics]. I probably accidentally had my overheads in some fabulous spot when I had that “ah ha” moment. I then I realized that. The top down method keeps you from getting in trouble, because your close mics work in relation to the overheads.

Audiofanzine: So when you’re tracking drums, you start by listening through the overheads and getting a good blend without listening to the other mics at first?

It’s the difference between getting all your drum tones and then miking your cymbals, rather than trying to mic00127033 the entire kit. Sometimes you do want to just mic the cymbals, like if you want a very, “in your face” kind of sound. Let’s say it’s a metal album, I know I’ll have an “in your face” kick and snare and the cymbals. I don’t necessarily want the whole aggregate of the kit, rather I’m just going to mic the cymbals. Which means I’ll have the mics lower to the cymbals, and try to put the kit together that way. With the aggregate method, however, I’m capturing the image of the kit, and then I’m filling in the missing information. I’m going to actually spend time getting those overheads so that my aggregate balance is the best it can be. If I have the mics up here, and I’m getting a ton of room information and I’m really not getting a good balance, I’m going to bring the mics down a little bit so that everything comes into focus to the point where if I had to live with just those two mics, I could do it.

Audiofanzine: So you just spend a lot of time trying to get the overhead sounding great, and then the other mics are icing on the cake.

Or the room mics — depending on the room. Sometimes the rooms give you the aggregate picture.

Audiofanzine: For people who have a limited amount of gear. What would you say is a good minimal kind of setup? I’ve had some luck with 4-mic setups, two overheads, kick and snare.

I would never use 3 or 4 mics on anyone but a great drummer. That only works if the drummer really has great balance. The greater the balance of the drummer, the less mics you need.

Audiofanzine: Because the drummer has good dynamics?

00123881Yeah. Because their dynamics are good, but more importantly because they play the instrument in balance. If I put two microphones over JR [studio drummer John Robinson] or over Matt Chamberlain — they’re perfectly in balance – you listen to them and you go, “Wow, that sounds really good like that.” You put it over a band drummer and you go, “I’ve got a big problem on the kick drum,” or “I’ve got a big problem on the snare drum.” And you start adding microphones and compressors and you’ve got to create a balance that he’s not capable of creating on his own at this point in his career.

 

The Art of Gothic Interview with author Natasha Scharf

In a recent interview, NightFeverKing spoke with Natasha Scharf about Meltdown Magazine and her new book, The Art of Gothic:

NightFeverKing: Meltdown Magazine was a huge hit in the UK while it was still in print. How do you manage to keep the spirit of Meltdown alive after all these years?

00127606Well, ‘meltdown’ was my baby and, in many ways, it was an extension of my personality so I guess it makes sense that all the things I’ve done subsequently – from radio and television to my more recent books – have also reflected my personality. They have an essence of that spirit, if that makes sense. Of course, ‘meltdown’ also had a wonderful pool of contributors, without whom I couldn’t have maintained a quarterly ‘zine.

Back when I started ‘meltdown’, my aim was to take goth seriously as a subculture, style and genre and that’s something that I still maintain. And I don’t mean that ‘meltdown’ never had a sense of humour because that’s one of the things that readers really liked about it! Goth is such a creative movement and contains some of the most incredible talent so I’ve always worked hard to push that and get goth-related articles commissioned in publications and on websites that you might not necessarily associate with goth. For me, it’s all about getting goth out to new audiences that I know will appreciate it once they hear or read about it.

NightFeverKing: How do you balance being an author, DJ, broadcaster and a music journalist?

They actually work in harmony with each other because they’re all ways of communicating about music. I’m always listening to new sounds and always discovering exciting new things so by embracing different mediums, I can choose the most appropriate way, or ways, of getting those discoveries out there.

When I first started mixing mediums in the early ‘00s, I had criticism from people who accused me of getting “too big for my boots” because they thought I was on some kind of power trip. I never understood those accusations because that wasn’t what I was doing. In my mind, I was simply looking for opportunities and openings to spread the good word of goth and maximising the mediums that were available. Fast forward 10 years, and it seems like everyone uses multiple mediums now so maybe I was ahead of the trend?!

Check out the rest of the NightFeverKing interview with Natasha Scharf here: http://nightfeverking.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/the-art-of-gothic-interview-with-author-natasha-scharf/ 

Rock-n-Roll.biz Interview with Peter Aaron

In a recent interview, Rock-n-Roll.biz spoke with Peter Aaron about the multi-faceted nature of musician as an artist:

Rock-n-Roll.biz: You also wrote a book about Ramones? I grew up in Forest Hills where Ramones started out and I could tell you I understand the angst and ferociousness of their music to the core. Why did you decide to embark on this project?

I did. Sort of. It’s more of a book about stuff that relates to the Ramones. It’s called If You Like the Ramones… and IYLramonesCoverwas published last year by Backbeat Books as part of the If You Like series. I was in negotiations about doing a book for the series—originally I was going to do If You Like Frank Sinatra…, but Backbeat ran into legal problems with the Sinatra estate and took that project off the table—and the idea of a Ramones book came up, so I jumped on it. In keeping with the IYL concept, the aim is to steer new fans toward the artists and other entities (certain movies, cartoons, comic books, TV shows, etc.) that influenced the Ramones, were influenced by the Ramones, or are connected with the Ramones in some way. Obviously it mostly targets neophytes, but I did try to cover some stuff that even long-time fans might not know about.

Rock-n-Roll.biz: How important is it for a musician to get out of the music world and focus his energies elsewhere? Is it for sanity’s sake or mere detachment?

Very. The music world is like the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s a sanctuary for musician-freaks like me, who was never going to fit into the general population. And yet the music world, especially the underground music scene, is a bubble, an alternate reality that we’ve created to escape the insanity of mainstream society. I don’t at all advocate joining the masses, but I do believe it’s healthy to keep things in perspective by venturing outside your comfort zone and challenging yourself at least once in a while. I can’t help but think of all the interesting music, art, ideas, and people I would have missed had I remained stuck in the same New York rock scene I inhabited in the 1990s—which, from what I can tell, continues to be a largely tail-swallowing environment. Not only does trying new things make you grow as a person, but as a musician it makes what you do richer and more interesting.

Rock-n-Roll.biz: Are there any other arts you are dabbling with? Any more books on the horizon?

FAQ_LOGOwebRight now I’m working another book for Backbeat, The Band FAQ. It’s for their FAQ series, which is more in-depth than the recently discontinued If You Like series. So this one will cover everything connected with the Band and dig more deeply into topics connected with them—the music that influenced the Band and has been influenced by them, but also their history collectively and as individual members; examinations of each of their albums; their time as Ronnie Hawkins’s band, the Hawks; outside figures associated with the group; The Basement Tapes and their years with Bob Dylan; solo albums; their contemporaries and collaborators; their best and worst music; the Toronto and Woodstock scenes they were part of; books; movies; etc., etc. Since I’ve lived in the area that gave birth to Music from Big Pink and The Basement Tapes for over a decade, have covered the local music scene for both the main area newspaper and the arts magazine Chronogram (of which I’ve been the music editor since 2006), and even got to interview Levon Helm, I’m kind of sitting right in the bullseye for this one. I’m also planning an illustrated anthology of the many profiles of Hudson Valley musicians I’ve written over the years, which includes everyone from the Bad Brains to Pete Seeger, Sonny Rollins, Graham Parker, Pauline Oliveros, and others. And of course I’d like to write a memoir, which in addition to my time in the Chrome Cranks and the ’90s Lower East Side scene would cover my participation at the start of the East Coast hardcore scene, my years in the 1980s Boston and Midwest scenes—I was a promoter when I lived in Ohio and booked most of the touring underground bands of the day (Nirvana, Flaming Lips, Pussy Galore, etc.)—and perhaps some of the Hudson Valley stuff.

Check out the rest of the Rock-n-Roll.biz interview with Peter Aaron here: http://rock-n-roll.biz/multifaceted-nature-musician-artist-interview-peter-aaron-chrome-cranks/