Blog Archives

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.

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Q&A with Dale Sherman

Below is a recent interview with Dale Sherman, author of KISS FAQ. The interviewer is Michael Sandler with Rock Cellar Magazine.

Rock Cellar Magazine:  The first chapter of KISS FAQ delves deep into every band member’s music history prior to joining KISS.  How did you find the information for this book?

Dale Sherman:  Research and some interviews. I wish I could make it sound more exciting than that, but when it comes to any evenhanded biographical study of someone or a group, it all comes down to the research.  Being a fan for 30 years helps as well.

RCM:  Most Kiss fans would say “What else can be written about KISS that hasn’t been said?”  But you put a new twist to things, even critiquing their music videos, which I hadn’t seen before.

DS:  Right.  As I state at the beginning of the book, I wanted to talk about those topics KISS fans always discuss when they get together, but never quite make it into the biographies or reference books.  For example, everyone talks about Kiss Meets The Phantom being a bad movie, but no one really looks at it from the perspective of how all these rather good elements came together and made a bad movie!  Not to mention, exposing the myth that the movie did brilliant in the ratings for NBC. It actually did terrible – contributing to one of the network’s worst ratings for the year.

RCM: So who would you say this book for? Extreme KISS nerds, or new fans who don’t know much about the band?

DS: Both, I hope.   I didn’t want to disregard readers who are just plain curious about the band and didn’t know all the bits and pieces we as KISS fans know by heart. Thus, a reason why you have the first chapter briefly outlining the band members’ various histories,  but with a spin that will get longtime fans to say, “Oh, yeah, that’s right, I hadn’t thought of it quite that way before.”

Keep reading this interview on Rock Cellar Magazine.

KISS FAQ

Since 1973, KISS has recorded over 20 studio albums; been recognized as an innovator in rock presentations; witnessed a firestorm of rumors and controversies; remained a thorn in critics’ sides; and continues to surprise its massive fan-following, the KISS Army, with various career twists and turns. Moreover, many television shows, movies, toys and even comics have kept KISS a bigger-than-life name in entertainment for decades.

Ringo Starr’s Birthday

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver. Since it is Ringo’s birthday we would like to celebrate with this recent interview that was conducted by Rock Cellar Magazine.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versa.  Like Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

ROCK CELLAR MAGAZINE: There are lots of books about the Beatles, and even a couple of recent ones about this album, Revolver.  What makes yours different ?

Robert Rodriguez:  With this book, I tried to bring people into the world in which this music was produced.  I made the effort to place readers into 1965-66-67, showing what was going on in the Beatles’ world, as well as in pop/rock generally. I think it’s pretty crucial to understanding this album’s greatness to know who was listening to whom. What sort of developments were affecting what.

RCM:  So you’re talking about artists of the time that had an influence on the Beatles, and vice-versaLike Dylan, or…?

RR:  For one.  The Beatles were fans of Dylan’s going back at least as far as Freewheelin.’ In 1964, the Beatles and Dylan occupied entirely separate worlds, yet they each saw in each other elements that they could sort of…repurpose to their own ends.  Dylan saw past the bubble-gum elements of the Beatles’ music – and the screaming fans – and recognized that something sophisticated was going on.  To his credit.

Meanwhile the Beatles saw that something deeper and more satisfying could be heard in Dylan’s lyrics than they were accustomed to putting into their own.  So, say, by the end of 1964 you can see his influence beginning to manifest itself in their music.  I think John and George began to see Beatle music as more of a means of self-expression…less as a purely commercial vehicle.

RCM:  Who else at the time do you think was important.  Or influential?

RR:  Well of course, Brian Wilson.  He’d had his breakdown, retired from the road in 1964, and in his quest to chase Phil Spector…he began crafting these ornate backings to Beach Boys music – this was due his being allowed to take his time, and not compromise his vision.

And the Beatles were paying close attention to this – what could be achieved by using the studio fully, augmenting their sound – beyond what you were expected to pull off live.  Both sides were following each other’s artistic development.

For more please visit Rock Cellar Magazine.

Revolver

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 even Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, Revolver 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, Revolver was the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.