California Philharmonic Orchestra Summer Concert Series | Press Release
Celebrate Your Summer with the Spectacular Cal Phil!
by Christina Linhardt
Southern California is filled with sensational summer activities. We live in the land of spectacle. Entertainment can be found on every street corner.
So, quite often we may not be aware of local hidden gems, amidst all the clutter clamoring for our attention. The California Philharmonic is one such diamond in the rough. How could a symphony orchestra possibly captivate jaded Los Angeles audiences who have seen it all? It is due to its unique and innovative approach to music. A Cal Phil concert is not just a concert, it is a show, a production, a class act cabaret. Maestro Victor Vener, the founder and conductor of the Cal Phil presides over the performance like a first-rate Vaudeville MC, talking to the audience, engaging the crowd, explaining the music and making the experience that much more fulfilling, with both class and humor.
A Cal Phil concert educates as well as delights and the programming is diverse. Truly, there is something for everyone: from classical symphonies, to film scores with jazz and musical theater in between. The 2018 season kicks off on June 24th with their ‘Made in America’ concert featuring film and television star Aldis Hodge narrating the most iconic piece of American music, ‘Lincoln’s Portrait‘. If you miss that concert or loved it so much you want more, you can take flight with the Cal Phil and some of the most ravishing and sensuous operatic music ever written with their ‘Phantom Meets Puccini’ performance on July 8th. The orchestra managed to contract award-winning Broadway star and international concert Artist James Barbour, who recently starred as the ‘Phantom on Broadway‘ to sing some of Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s classic songs.
Lovers of dance will get the opportunity to witness fresh new choreography in the ‘Symphonic Dances’ program on July 29th, with Alyson Stoner‘s street hip-hop style rendition of Stravinky’s ‘Rite of Spring‘. If that isn’t enough for one evening, America’s foremost classical saxophonist Harvey Pittel will perform John Williams’ ‘Escapades for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra’. As a way to fit some of the most beloved music of all time on to one evening’s bill, the fourth concert of the California Philharmonic on August 12th, is titled “Beethoven Celebrates Bernstein’s 100th Birthday” and features excerpts from everyone’s favorite, ‘West Side Story‘ as well as one of the greatest and most famous symphonic works of all time, ‘Beethoven’s 9th‘! The glorious Cal Phil Chorale will have an opportunity to shine on this evening, as well as renowned International opera soloists.
For the final performance on August 19th, you can relive some of your most favorite cinematic experiences through the music of multiple Oscar and Emmy winner John Williams, composer of the most popular and recognizable soundtracks of all time.
As an especially fun and rare treat, Maestro Vener has selected 9 members of the orchestra to play their instruments, some of which are rarely heard solo!
Experiencing the California Philharmonic is cultural and enriching, but above all it is fun! With its exciting programming for all tastes, a Cal Phil concert is the perfect summer activity for the whole family, for a special date idea, or for those who just want to soar away into the sultry SoCal music of the night!
SMC Spotlight No.1 | Mr. Wright ‘You’re Not Alone’ World Premiere Music Video Exclusive Interview
In the latter part of 2017, I was introduced to Nottingham, UK-born, Los Angeles-based Mr. Jason Anthoney Wright via a good friend of mine, Mr Stephen David Brooks. Now, those who have been following my podcast, ‘The Candice Anne Marshall Show‘episodes or even my interview with Mr. Brooks here on the Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight will know that this is the second World Premiere video that has been launched on the SMC Spotlight as of today. Of course, when I was introduced, I was immediately drawn to Jason’s positive energy and spirit. ‘Hello Love! I am looking forward to working with you!‘ were his first words, and it went from there.
I first launched Mr. Wrights’ debut single ‘We’re Not Alone‘ on Limehead Radio back in the first part of this year and once again on my March 20th Birthday episode on The Candice Anne Marshall Show. In the meantime, I knew that the filming for this video was in progress and was anticipating the email from either Stephen or Jason in the coming week or so. After viewing it for the first time, knowing the background behind the song (helping those with PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc.), it only made sense to have this on the SMC Spotlight platform. We have campaigned many times for Morgans Mission Memorial Society and Richards’ Legacy Foundation in support of teen suicide and mental health awareness for our youth today. This song is not only beautiful in composition but its’ message of purity in this stunning video drives home the point that no matter how desperate we can become in our own sorrow or grief, there is someone there to listen or hear our plight. This supports the aforementioned organizations campaigns and I do hope that this song can become a theme song for many organizations like them.
In delving further into Jasons’ background, I discovered that he is not only an accomplished Singer/Songwriter, he is also an accomplished Actor who was featured in the award winning BBC TV program “The Monastery” and “The Monastery Revisited” in 2006. It only made sense to push the envelope a little further by really getting to know him via an exclusive interview to accompany the world premiere of ‘We’re Not Alone’ (see below).
This music video is a must see and the song is a must have. You’re eyes and ears will thank you! Jason, welcome to the SMC Spotlight family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Jason Anthoney Wright ‘Mr. Wright’
with Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Jason! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! We have officially launched your new music video ‘You’re Not Alone’ today on the SMC Spotlight! We have garnered a lot of interest from our loyal followers for our World Premieres. We are excited to see where this goes for you! Can you tell us about the making of the music video and who your team was?
Mr. Wright – Thank you for having me on your show Candice, I appreciate you. The making of the video was a lot of fun, but very straight forward. When you have a genius like Stephen David Brooks working with you, you know you’re in safe hands. His ideas and vision of how the video should look really have come to fruition. Stephen had said after hearing the song what he sees’. A Calvin Klein style advertisement video, and I was like, yes, I love that. So the team was Stephen and I, from start to finish. We met one sunny afternoon on Malibu beach and filmed. I took his directions, as to what he wanted to capture and two hour later he said that’s a wrap, I got all I need. It was really fun and easy.
SMC – What was it like to work with Stephen David Brooks for the filming of this new music video?
Mr. Wright – It was a sheer pleasure, fun, and easy to work with Stephen. Stephen is always prepared and one step ahead of the process. He knows what he wants you to do next. This always make shooting and working with a director fun and effective. I met Stephen many years ago via a friend, music legend Michael Garbutt in Chateau Marmont. Not only was it a fun night but we got on straight away and then again when he was in London on his way to Cannes, France, we went for few beers and our friendship has just simply blossomed. He is a genuine, kind person and I like him a lot.
SMC – Before we get into more specifics about the song, can you tell us about your background in music as well as acting? I read an interview earlier this year and you have quite an impressive background!
Mr. Wright – I started singing when I was in my early teens. It started with the hairbrush in the mirror hahaha, that vision makes me laugh; now I think about that. I had a little radio transmitter and would always be listening to it. I remember when the Pet Shop Boys released West End Girls. I just couldn’t hear it enough. The radio station played and played it. It was funky, new, fresh and exciting. I would stand in the mirror and mimic (West End Girl’s……..), me singing, it was funny. I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. My grandfather who was a DJ on a local radio station, Super Dads, was his radio name. He was the one who encouraged my singing and creativeness, when he past, my grandmother took that baton over.
I realized early in school/my early teens, that I was a creative. I liked how music and films made me feel. I was a very shy boy, so I had to work on building my confidence. One of my first big jobs at 16 was to tour with Queen Latifah and Monie Love. That’s when I first got my taste of what the entertainment industry was like. At this time, I would hang out with friends like the lovely talented Academy Award Nominated Samantha Morton. She was training at this time at Central TV studio’s acting workshop and though I would have liked to go there too, I was a little preoccupied with music. So I put acting on the backboard for a while. Though the past years have seen me retraining seriously, and being involved as a lead in a BBC TV production.
SMC – Which industry are you focusing your energy toward now?
Mr. Wright – I’m focusing my energy towards music and acting. They are kind of entwined. Which I like as it keeps me busy.
SMC – Okay, let’s get into the lyrics for the new music video ‘You’re Not Alone’, how did this song evolve?
Mr. Wright – You know that is a great question. This song’s inspiration came from a TV show. I’m a part of the creative team. It’s about young adults whom learn that being different to others teenagers can be positive. They discover, having learning difficulties and mental health issues (Dyslexia, Autism, Bipolar, ADHD) as well as gender identity’s issue isn’t a prison sentence but possibly a gift that will help them soar to unimaginable heights. In the song I wanted to express that none of us are alone. Our higher power is always with us carrying us. It’s also a love story, letting those close-loved one know they are not alone. That you’ve got them.
SMC – What message do you hope to give to your fans?
Mr. Wright – I hope to give, Faith and Belief. Because with out faith you cant believe. I believe we all have our very own individual Higher Power who is walking side by side with us, sometimes carrying us. If we learn to trust and believe that, this power has our best interest, then we find that life will unfold with more clarity and less distortion. Life is challenging and it those challenges that can make us stronger. We have to remember that we are not alone, though at time it feels like we are. I know there has been time in my life when I’ve felt alone. But with a good spiritual practice we find that we are not and have never been alone.
SMC – Our Editor Candice Anne Marshall spun this for ‘The Candice Anne Marshall Show’ on her March 29th episode. She received a lot of positive feedback for this song. How have your fans been responding to it so far?
Mr. Wright – I have you tell you. I have been getting great reviews from London to Hong Kong and back. Its so inspiring when one gets great feed back. It’s really inspiring to know that each and every listener hears something personal to them selves. This helps me to know, as it was a written reminder to my self (that I’m not alone) but also for every one in the world to understand neither are they.
SMC – Is there a full-length album or EP in the works?
Mr. Wright – Yes…. There will be an album to follow. It’s in the works.
SMC – Which social media platforms are you most active on and why?
Mr. Wright – I’m on, facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s a good way to interact with people all over the world. I admit, it’s taking some time for me to get up to speed with them all but I am really trying to build on them.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the state of the music industry today?
Mr. Wright – The music industry has seen such change of the last 20 years. Technology really has changed how music is distributed. There are both positive and negative for this. I’m trying to keep abreast of the next 20 years. Understanding the analytics of social behavior, likes and dislikes is becoming much more prevalent.
SMC – You seem to be your own leader in terms of your music. A lot of the time, I can compare ones’ music to someone in the past or present, but yours is truly unique. Have you been ever told that before?
Mr. Wright – That’s a lovely thing to say. Thank you. No I haven’t. That just made me smile big time. I try to have a unique identity in my sound. Though my inspirations come from icons like Al Green and The Isley Brothers ….my list goes on.
SMC – You are originally from the UK and now based in Los Angeles. Can you tell me how the music scene differs from each country in your view?
Mr. Wright – The music industry is larger here in the States. There is a lot of talent and much more going on. In the UK the main music charts are very youth driven where as here in the USA, There are charts for Country, pop, hip hop, and so on. There is something for everyone. I guess because in the USA there is a 325 million people, which means more opportunity than the UK, which is 65 million. Though, the passion for music is still the same in both country’s and many a great artist have come out of both countries.
SMC – Indeed you have also worked with some pretty stellar Musicians! Can you tell us how they influenced your music and art?
Mr. Wright – Yes. I have been fortunate to work with some pretty cool and talented people. They have taught me to be true to my self. True to what I do best and then practice, practice, practice, until I can do it all backward. This is truly the way to be good at anything to keep practicing and thinking out of the box. They taught me to listen to many different types of music. You can find inspiration in all music. All music /sounds has a story.
SMC – Let’s get into your acting career – can you tell us a brief history timeline of which roles you played and films/television shows you appeared on?
Mr. Wright – My biggest TV show to date was in the UK. I was the lead in a BBC TV series called The Monastery. But I’m yet to score a major TV/Film acting part in the US but it’s coming, so watch your TV screens, I’ll be up their soon. I’ve been retraining and it’s all coming together nicely. All in gods plan and time.
SMC – How was or has the transition from music to acting been for you?
Mr. Wright – It’s been a nice transition as my music stage performance skills have helped with my confidence in acting and my acting skills have helped with making music videos. In the old days actors could sing, dance and act. Gene Kelly was one of my favorites to watch in my youth. So I have a lot to look forward too.
SMC – What plans do you have for live performances or in getting your music out to a live audience?
Mr. Wright – I am planning a few live dates. I will for sure have all the dates up on my site soon here. It’s important to do live shows and have a personal communication/contact with an audience fans. Plus its fun…please keeps looking on my social media pages for dates.
SMC – I read in your bio that you have worked with ‘Top Producers’ – who are they and what was that experience like?
Mr. Wright – I have worked with many producer yes, Paul Wilson & Andy Watson (Absolute). Steve & Pete Lewinson (The Lewinson’s), Lady & A Tramp, Peter Bliss, DJ Journey and S.C.R.D. These teams and individuals have worked with, Simply Red, George Michael, Annie Lennox, Barbara Streisand’s, Pink, Luther Vandross, Spice Girl, Al Green, Tina Turner and many more greats. It’s been, fun, humbling and an honor that these talented individuals and super producers, wanted to work with me. I have many new friends. I have learnt a lot over the years and they all taught me very important lessons.
SMC – How do you advertise your music? Do you promote via your connections in the industry or do you actively promote through your social media platforms?
Mr. Wright – I have been fortunate to have some key contact in the industry that have been very helpful and kind in helping me promote my music and I have done some via social media, which I really must get better at.
SMC – What are your thoughts on Radio vs. Spotify as a platform in getting your music out?
Mr. Wright – Radio, Radio, Radio,……..Radio will always be king………I love the radio. Spotify is good, im not knocking it. I’m simply a good old-fashioned radio person….video star, did not kill the radio star….hahaha
SMC – How would you say your personal outlook has evolved since you first began in the entertainment industry?
Mr. Wright – The things, I have learnt in life are, You just have to keep on trying, you never know when it’s your time to shine. So keep trying. Be true to your self/art, be realistic, But have a go, what have you got to loose. Aim for the stars you may just hit the moon. I would also add that’s its important to have an education, know what’s going on in the world, be curious, have an interest. I love learning about cultures, art and love architecture. In this industry, it helps to be knowledgeable. You never know when it will help or whom you’ll meet and a conversation other than the entertainment business will make you look and sound smarter. People like smart people. People like kind people also. Never let your ego get the better of you. It’s a false high. In addition know a little about marketing, accounting, legal aspects and contracts……..its not just about the music and being a star, its also about business. Know how a business is run, there are many elements to success.
SMC – What would you tell your ‘younger self’ today?
Mr. Wright – I’d tell my younger self to have courage and be kind.
SMC – What does the term ‘Success’ means to you?
Mr. Wright – Everyday above ground is a good day, that success to me. New day, new opportunities.
SMC – I always like to ask a wacky question in all my interviews – if you could have a dinner date with anyone dead or alive, who would it be with and why?
Mr. Wright – That’s a good question…I like it. I’d like to take you, Candice and Stephen to dinner to say thank you for all your support and this wonderful interview. It’s a blessing when we support each other and we should share happy, good moments and time with those that support us and believe in us. Letting key people know you appreciate them is a must for me…
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what we can expect next in terms of your music progression?
Mr. Wright – There will be more for you to listen too, so stay tuned !
SMC Spotlight No.1 | Ages and Ages Exclusive Interview ‘How It Feels’ single is good vibes for 2018!
by Candice Anne Marshall
Let me begin by saying that it has been a long time since I have had the chance to put an entry into the SMC Spotlight. Literally, Ages and Ages. I sat and pondered this…true, it has been a whirlwind last several months since launching my new podcast ‘The Candice Anne Marshall Show‘ on Spreaker, but what was the real reason for my abstinence from the writing world? There have been some pretty impressive interviews with celebrities that have come as a result of this move too. But it bothered me that I hadn’t had the same enthusiasm as I did since my last interview which was with Greta Van Fleet in December 2017. Then it hit me – I realized that the reason why this ‘writers block’ had occurred was because there hadn’t been a newer band or subject on the scene that had impressed me enough to feel inspired to keep the posts coming. I had officially reached writers ‘burn out’. Side note: this isn’t to say that the newer bands on the SMC Scene aren’t ‘good enough’, they are, I just needed to feel inspired again…
Hailing from Portland, Oregon, the band has been on continuous request by my loyal fan following on both Starlight Music Chronicles and Candice Anne Marshall Official since first introducing them on UK radio late last year. I had been sent a press release from the bands’ awesome management team (which, by the way, major kudos for the quick responses to all my emails Dave!) and upon listening to them then, I was an instant fan. Since starting my own podcast in February 2018, I have been getting continuous requests by my loyal listeners to ‘play that awesome band’ again. I have done just that, launching Ages and Ages onto The Candice Anne Marshall Show officially with their song ‘How It Feels’ on March 13th, 2018. I plan on continuing to follow the bands’ journey as they gear up to release a new album in the near future (currently in the works).
So let me get into just why I feel Ages and Ages are the band to earn a spot on this prestigious SMC Spotlight platform as the first entry for 2018. Quite simply, their sound is just what the doctor ordered: it is both universal and extraordinarily unique. Quite the oxymoron right? I invite you to listen to the bands’ earlier work with their album ‘Alright You Restless‘ (released in 2011) then go straight to their new single ‘How It Feels‘ (released October 2017) and you will audibly hear that there are no boundaries with their sound. One couldn’t even say that they have evolved because their older work is just as substantial (excellent) as their new work (albeit different).
Recently, I caught up with band members Tim Perry and Rob Oberdofer for a glimpse into the timeline of Ages and Ages. Below is our exclusive interview and while you are at it, give their new single a listen. My recommendation:
SMC (Starlight Music Chronicles) Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Ages and Ages
with Candice Anne Marshall
SMC – Hello Ages and Ages! Welcome to the SMC (Starlight Music Chronicles) Spotlight! We are happy to have you as our face of March 2018! Our Editor, Candice Anne Marshall has played you on her radio show on Limehead Radio in the UK and will be spinning you on her new podcast ‘The Candice Anne Marshall Show’ on March 20th, her special birthday podcast! Before we get into the deep questions, can you give our readers a background on how and when you came to be the band?
Rob – Thanks for spinning our music, much appreciated! Short version of our history: we started playing together in 2009 in Portland, Oregon, USA. Since then, we’ve put out three records and played more shows than Coldplay. We have never played a show with Coldplay, and it’s entirely possible they don’t know who we are. I thought “Yellow” was a solid single.
SMC – I see that you released your earlier albums ‘Alright You Restless’ & ‘Divisionary’ to today with several more releases under your belts, what has the response been to your music within the music industry?
Tim – The music industry is a big, churning, bedpan with a lot of different turds in it. Too many turds to count. Some of these turds like us. And some do not. We’re just lucky to have a bedpan.
SMC – There is definitely a distinctive ‘shift’ in expression from your first album to the latest single ‘How It Feels’. How have you evolved sonically as a band? What was the turning point?
Tim – Yes. Well, we started off extremely organic. Nothing but physical instruments that you could hold in your hands and sounds that came from human bodies. Our first record was bone dry. No reverb or anything. We all just basically stood around one mic and sang. And yeah, that was a fun challenge and everything. But it wasn’t long before we wanted to branch out. We’ve been having a lot of fun lately with songs like “How it Feels,” because we get to make our own sounds; we get to chase tones and turn knobs until we get the feeling we’re after; something we truly own.
SMC – With so many of you in one band, is there ever an issue with cohesiveness? How does a band with six individuals create such magnificent works of art with so many possible personality differences?
Tim – Hey, thanks for the compliment. The songwriting is mostly done by a couple of us and the others help to actualize the ideas. We generally try and embrace our personality differences because the differences are what keeps things interesting…and embracing them is what keeps us from stabbing each other.
SMC – Do you have any full-length albums launching anytime soon?
Tim – Working on one right now, as a matter of fact!
SMC – Who has been most supportive of your music since incepting Ages and Ages? Are there any people/industry peers/radio hosts you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
Tim – We’ve had so much support along the way! First, all of the people who have come out to see us at shows around the world. Our manager Dave Grazinski is amazing and hilarious. Various radio stations, like KEXP and WFUV have been tremendously supportive.
SMC – I have seen some seriously amazing talent come from Portland! Can you tell us what the music scene is like there? Is there support for indie musicians?
Tim – This town is full of talented and creative people. And yes, it’s supportive – but it’s also pretty competitive. I think this a good thing because it lights the fire in people and makes them want to be better. I will also say that ever since Portland became a TV show, the culture has been changing a lot. There are so many people moving here and things are getting more expensive, which means it’s no longer as affordable as it used to be. Harder to make art when your practice space just got demolished to make way for another high rise. We’ll see what happens!
SMC – There are so many lovely nuances in your music and each song is so different and special. What instruments do you lean toward for song-writing?
Tim – I used to start with a guitar mostly. But lately, I’ve been sitting down with a keyboard and making all kinds of bleeps and blips until I find something that sticks.
SMC – Do you have any summer festival tours happening this year?
Rob – We’re sorting through offers and nailing down our plans soon…sorry, you’ll have to check the website!
SMC – Speaking of tours, can you tell us where you have toured, and which place or venue was your most memorable and why?
Rob – We’ve toured all over the US and Canada, and a bit in the UK and western Europe. Of course, New York and London are fun, but It’s mostly the oddball little towns that are the most memorable. There’s something extra special about small places with vibrant cultural scenes, like Brownsville Maine, Paonia Colorado, Haldern Germany.
SMC – What defines being ‘successful’ in the music industry for everyone in the band? (this can be answered by all or one)
Rob –We don’t need the validation of being a hyped FOMO band of the week or playing the Super Bowl halftime show or anything, but we do feel like we’ve got something meaningful to contribute to our cultural conversation. We just want to connect the music with the people that would dig it, which is tricky in the super-saturated media soup we’re in. If we can get paid enough to not have to sell our plasma, then that’s a bonus!
SMC -What would you say has been the defining moment where you knew your band was meant to succeed and continue in the music industry?
Tim – I’ll let you know when it happens!
SMC – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team is in terms of your music videos? I love the ‘They Want More’ music video!
Tim – We’ve worked with different people. “They Want More” was done with Alicia Rose. She also did our very first video for a song called “Navy Parade” and our live video for “Divisionary.” She’s great.
SMC – What would you say is the most important message you want to give to your fans?
Rob – The songs are the message, though frequently they are more questions than statements. How about this: come to your own conclusions.
SMC – Speaking of fans, what age and location are the majority of your fans?
Tim – What’s weird and awesome is that I’ve noticed our fans are across the board as far as age goes. Lots of 20s and 30s, but we also have some more mature audience members, and for some reason, a ton of kids too. I don’t know how that happened, but that’s pretty cool.
SMC – Do any of you have individual projects you are working on outside Ages and Ages?
Rob – We’re all creative people, so yes, though the band is pretty consuming for Tim and I at the moment, as we are self-producing. Our bandmate Colin Jenkins is about to put out a solo record of RnB pop jams which is really cool. I highly recommend you check it out.
SMC – Can you tell us what’s next for the band in terms of new releases? Will there be any more new singles?
Rob – Yes, we plan to release a new single very soon. And probably another one after that. Then a record! We’re kind of moving at our own speed. Decided not to do the conventional “release a record, tour off the record, then write another record” thing this time around. We wanted to write things more in the moment and release them in that same moment.
SMC – What is the family support like? I noticed on your facebook page you listed an ‘extended family’….how have these individuals helped support the band and your music most?
Rob – Just tolerating the long recording hours and absences for touring is a huge gift from our families and loved ones. The extended family refers to the many musical friends that have shared the stage or recorded with us. Our lineup has shifted a fair amount over the years, because people move on to other projects, have babies, join a cult, whatever.
SMC – On your own home turf, what is the one thing you are most grateful for in terms of support for your music and the community?
Rob – Just people coming to the shows, knowing the music, singing along, and general merry-making. What else could a band ask for?
SMC – Where do you see the band headed career-wise in the next 6-12 months?
Tim – Have you ever seen the HBO movie about Bernie Madoff?
SMC – What has been the biggest compliment you have received for your music?
Rob – Mike Mills told me he dug my bass tone. President Obama had us on his re-election playlist which I guess is pretty cool too.
SMC – What has been your greatest challenge as a band?
Rob – Scheduling rehearsals. Seriously. You try and get six busy people in the same room twice a week.
SMC – Is there a funny story you can share with us while you were on tour? I find some of the best stories come from tour…
Rob – I once drove 100 miles the wrong way down the freeway, and we had to drive like maniacs to arrive crazy late to a sold-out show. Everyone had to pee really bad and we couldn’t stop. Wait…maybe that isn’t funny.
SMC – Okay, final question: If there was one thing you would like to achieve most as a band in the next year, what would that be?
Rob – We want to make a timeless masterpiece of a record. And get some more of those tacos from that place in Albuquerque.
SMC – Thank you Gentlemen!
‘How It Feels’ synopsis from the bands YouTube:
The day we finished recording “How it Feels”, it was raining ashes in Portland from a fire in the Columbia River Gorge just outside of town. The sun was blotted out with smoke and at night the moon was red. If you talked to anyone out here, they would have told you it felt like end times. While we were recording this song, Harvey hit Texas, and Florida was waiting for Irma. Trump had blamed “many sides” in Charlottesville and threatened “fire and fury” against North Korea. It’s hard to know what to do with all of this. And amidst what seems like an imploding world, we still have our needs. We still need love. We still need affection. We still need to feel heard. This is a song about what it’s like to have these needs in what feels like end times. Our problems may be irrelevant in the scheme of things, but this doesn’t make them feel any less real. If you’re reading this, I hope you have someone to talk to and I hope you’re able to tell them how it feels.
In late summer, while doing my research one of our SMC Spotlight Artists progress through the music festival summer circuit, a video of Frankenmuth, Michigan-born and based powerhouse Rock band Greta Van Fleet caught my eye. It wasn’t just the fact that the bands stage moves were the only enthralling thing to watch, it was that they were clearly enjoying every second of their live performance before thousands of fans. I have seen many live performances and for me, a live performance should be super-charged, engaging, and compelling. This can only be accomplished when you visually see the artists so engrossed in having a great time, they forget they actually are in front of thousands of eyes watching, singing, and fist-pumping to every one of their songs. With Greta Van Fleet, that’s exactly what you can expect.
In researching the bands discography, I was blown away with how ‘on-point’ they were with absolutely every song that I listened to with everything from production quality to instrumentation, strong lyrics, and heart-pounding vocals. There wasn’t one song on their new double EP ‘From The Fires’ (released November 10th, 2017) where I was left feeling iffy, and I think after listening to it in its entirety, I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. For a band so new to the music scene to release a double EP of this quality and magnitude where they hit the mark in every aspect I mention previously, it can only result on one thing: fast-track to fame. This is exactly where the band is headed too – they have been given a serious nod from Rolling Stone Magazine touted as one of ‘ten new artists you need to know’ and have back to back tour dates and interviews that began snowballing faster and faster from this past summer well into 2018. We were very fortunate to have been able to secure this interview with the band and are proud to add them to our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) music family and Spotlight roster of greats!
If I had to sum up Greta Van Fleet it would go something like this: You will play their album once, and then once more, and once more after that. In fact, you may even play it for a whole day on repeat just to completely take in its euphoric, acid-trip, dreamy excellence. If you are a child from the 1970’s (like I am), then you will be brought back to a very special era where music was making massive changes in both style and composition. This band is taking that era, adding their own flair and dynamic and owning it. Greta Van Fleet is the cure for anyone wanting to sink themselves into a two-hour bliss. ‘From The Fires’, get it, listen on repeat (as I did), and get lost in its beauty.
You can hear the band on my radio show #Viral with Candice Anne Marshall on Limehead Radio in the UK, and they have been in heavy rotation on the radio station since!
*See the press release for ‘From The Fires’ at the end of this interview*
About Greta Van Fleet
Greta Van Fleet is four young musicians, brothers Josh (vocals), Jake (guitar) and Sam (bass/keys) Kiszka, and best friend Danny Wagner (drums). Josh and Jake have just turned 21, Danny and Sam are 18. They’re all from the tiny Michigan hamlet of Frankenmuth known for its family-style chicken dinners and the world’s largest Christmas store. All four were raised on their parents’ extensive vinyl collections (shared influences are Muddy Waters, Lightnin’ Hopkins, The Who, Jimi Hendrix), and were encouraged to be creative, daring and innovative. Each band member has killer musical chops and Josh has a voice that is simply jaw-dropping. The band is making some of the most exciting, high-energy, sweaty, sexy rock’n’roll heard in a long time, and are bound and determined to bring real rock’n’roll back to the mainstream.
With their debut single “Highway Tune” spending five weeks as the #1 track at Mainstream Rock radio, more than 5.7-million YouTube views for the companion music video, 8.8 million Spotify plays, their first-ever tour of the U.S. completely sold out, and spectacular praise from the media, Greta Van Fleet is – in just a few months – as hot a developing band as one can be.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Greta Van Fleet
SMC – Hello gentlemen! We are thrilled to have you featured on our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Spotlight! I first discovered you when I happened to be checking up on our SMC Spotlight Artists’ Palaye Royale. I believe you played the same music festival. I saw some photos of you all and I quite liked your ‘look’. Then, upon researching some more, had a listen to your music. I became an instant fan! What has been the reaction from most people who hear you for the first time?
Sam: It’s been overwhelmingly positive which has been a truly humbling experience. I think the type of music we’re creating is recognizably different than most sounds in the current musical climate of the rock genre.
SMC – What has been the media feedback so far on the new music?
Sam: We haven’t heard anything too bad about it yet (laughs). Most of the feedback has been positive and we’re glad that everyone’s in enjoying the music we’ve put out there.
SMC – You new album ‘From The Fires’ literally just launched. What song is your personal favorite on it and why?
Sam: My personal favorite is ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’. The song is so well written that it would be difficult to mess up. It has as much pertinence today as it did almost 60 years ago. It also harkens to the roots of the music that inspired us to start making some of our own.
SMC – I will include my review with this interview for ‘From The Fires’ – what I would like to ask is what the songwriting process is like for you? What instrument do you create your songs with?
Sam: There is no real song writing template. A song can spark from anything between a guitar riff and a simple melody. Whenever we bring something to the table we like to have it in as primitive a form as possible so we can all shape the attitude of the song.
SMC – I know that three of you are brothers – which is really cool! How long have you been this creative together musically?
Jake: Josh and I, early in life, were performing as a duo for our family. We would always sing in the car together, as far back as my memory will lend me. We’ve all grown up in the same household and shared the same influences, we were listening to the same music and on the same musical page. As we got older, we’d split off to find out own voices as musicians and that is where the alternative influences made our way into our music. Once Sam learned to play the bass around age 13, we finally found all three of us performing together.
SMC – Your music video for ‘Highway Tune’ (see below) is gritty and very theatrical. Who is the creative team behind this video?
Sam: Thank you. The team behind the music video for ‘Highway Tune‘ is a company based in Nashville called FoCo Creative. We wanted the first video to be relatively simple with the appropriate amount of attitude. I think they got the job done.
SMC – What is your signature move on stage – better yet, what makes you all mesh together well when performing live?
Sam: I like to feel the bass vibrating through the stage, so that’s the reason behind not wearing any shoes. The one time I’ve worn shoes on stage in the recent past, I fell. I slipped on stage and landed on the end on my butt. All the photographers started taking pictures of me so I played it off as part of the show.
SMC – What has been the best live performance experience you have had to date and why?
Sam: The best live performance experience has been opening for Bob Seger. Growing up in Michigan, if we were ever listening to the radio we were listening to classic rock radio. And on Michigan stations, Bob Seger is played every other song. So, having the opportunity to open for Seger, someone that we listened to, probably before we were even born, was surreal.
SMC – In terms of summer festivals this year, which on was most memorable and why?
Jake: Not so much performance wise, but in shock factor value, Shinedown at NCF (National Cherry festival) in Traverse City was the most memorable summer festival. We were shocked at the sheer volume of people in attendance. Not only the volume but the amount of people singing along to our songs. It was sort of memorizing to see people participate like that.
SMC – What radio stations have been spinning your new album – who would you like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
SMC – Which media platforms have you been featured on to date? Also, have there been any sites or magazines that stand out for you as one of your favorite reviews of your music?
Jake: The Rolling Stone feature was incredible. To have a magazine of that caliber praise our music was just tremendous.
SMC – Where are you most popular internationally?
Jake: We’ve been receiving a lot of attention from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Poland. Playing in the UK was extraordinary because we had the opportunity to see how our music has transcended continents. We’re looking forward to being able to play in countries all over the world.
SMC – What is the general age range of your fanbase?
Jake: As far as we’ve seen, there is always a large variation in age group. We like to say 8 to 80, people of all ages and backgrounds. For the older portion of the group, it’s something familiar and similar they’ve heard before. In regard to the younger people in attendance, it’s a brand new sound.
SMC – What social media platform are you most active on and why?
Jake: Probably Instagram. We feel like it’s the easiest platform to reach our fans and communicate with them. We love the simplicity of sharing photos and videos with our fans.
SMC – I saw that next year you are heading to Europe for tour. Is it a headline tour?
Jake: Yes, the European tour will be a headlining tour. We’re definitely looking forward to playing in the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, and back to the UK.
SMC – I also saw that you have been touring already throughout the USA as well and will be right up until just before Christmas. Which city is your favorite to perform in and why?
Jake: It’s so hard to choose your favorite city. There have been so many incredible places and the fans have been phenomenal in every venue. There are a lot of elements that go into each show…location, fans, experiences in the city. It’s like picking your favorite song of all time.
SMC – Will there be any Canadian tours planned? We would love to see you boys perform live!
Jake: Yes, we’re looking forward to the dates in next years schedule. We’ve been wanting to go to Canada and are aware there’s a large demand for our music and there is a large fanbase. We’re looking forward to being able to play for you some time next year.
SMC – I noticed on your Facebook page last week (November 15th, 2017) that you posted about ‘Leading off the Breaking Rock playlist on Apple Music’. What a rush! You are a fairly young band to accomplish something like this – have you always had the confidence that you ‘could bring it’ as far as your success goes?
Jake: We didn’t really anticipate the amount of attention we’re received but it’s truly been a humbling experience.
SMC – Our readers have been excited for this interview to launch – some have been bugging us DAILY to see when it will launch actually. What has the demands for interviews been like for the band? Is your schedule packed?
Jake: That’s awesome! Well, we have been receiving quite a few interview requests. We’re honored to have the privilege to play music as a career, so having the opportunity to talk about what we love is a pleasure!
Jake: We’d just gotten back from the last leg of a run and were home. In hearing the news, we were all very shocked and grateful. It’s an overwhelming feeling to see something like that. If that’s any ode to how they feel about us in Canada, then we’re on our way!
SMC – What is the one thing that you feel music is missing today and needs resurrecting in terms of production, sound, or even branding?
Jake: The element of soul and human nature is what’s missing from today’s music. Emotion and truthfulness is what music is supposed to communicate. Although there are a lot of groups out there that are accomplishing this, they’re not as well known as they probably should be.
SMC – What would you say your signature fashion ‘style’ is – which trends do you all naturally gravitate toward?
Jake: We don’t particularly follow any fashion trends. Most of our clothes have come from thrift stores or vintage shops. I’d say our style is just wearing what we like.
SMC – Are there any charities or organizations that are close to your heart which you support?
Jake: We haven’t specifically chosen any charities or organizations to donate to yet but we definitely plan to.
SMC – Which instruments are you all proficient in besides the ones you currently play?
Jake: We all dabble in each other’s instruments, but things people would guess like mandolin, ukulele, banjo, harp, autoharp, sax, French horn, flute, trumpet, clarinet. Actually, that’s more instruments than we thought!
SMC – What is a cool tid-bit of music history behind the band that not many people know about?
Sam: Not many people know we come from a musical family. Our grandfather is actually in the Polka Music Hall of Fame and our father is in two bands.
SMC – Okay, final question: are there any projects that any of you are involved in currently besides music? If so, what are they?
Jake: Josh is really interested in film making. He’s written, directed, filmed and produced quite a few movies of his own. Other than that, we’re mostly dedicated to playing music. It’s where our hearts truly lie.
SMC – Thank-you Gentlemen!
Greta Van Fleet Bio
Jake Kiszka – guitars Josh Kiszka – vocals Sam Kiszka – bass/keyboards Danny Wagner – drums
Frankenmuth, Michigan – Michigan’s “Little Bavaria” – is known for its scenic farmland. Crispy chicken dinners. The State’s best indoor water parks. Picturesque wine and chocolate boat cruises. The world’s largest Christmas store.
These days it’s also home to one of the most exciting rock ‘n’ roll acts to come from the heartland, or anywhere, in many a year.
Greta Van Fleet – which took its name from one of the close-knit community’s town elders – is a hard-rocking quartet whose creative ambitions and achievements reach far beyond the ages of the four band members, not all of them old enough to have voted in last November’s election. On its debut EP Black Smoke Rising, the group deftly straddles the line between timeless and future, sounding at once like many things you’ve heard before and also something you’ve never heard before. The three brothers – twins Josh (vocals) and Jake (guitar) Kiszka, younger brother Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards) and drummer Danny Wagner – have turned their rich and varied musical background into an arresting mélange of rock ‘n’ roll with flavors of metal, pop, blues and grunge, the result of years of practice, study and familial good times.
“When we were not even born yet my father played us blues music and R&B, soul music – all the good stuff,” says Sam. Dad Kiszka was a musician himself, playing guitar and harmonica. “Our parents had a lot of vinyl laying around,” recalls Josh, so we grew up listening to that and really liked playing with the vinyl albums – putting them on the turntable and speeding them up and slowing them down. But, yeah, I really liked the blues and the soul and the funk – Wilson Pickett is the big one, and Joe Cocker, those kinds of things.”
The Kiszka kids furthered their music education during winter ski trips to Michigan’s Yankee Springs, where a plethora of family and friends would gather with instruments. Someone was playing something nearly every minute of the day, and Josh, Jake and Sam soaked it up with relish. “Every year was better than Christmas,” Josh recalls. “In the evenings or during the day, there was always music being made there, everybody getting together and experimenting with sounds, having lots of fun, making music.” For Jake, meanwhile, it was “really awe-inspiring when you see this completely surrealistic environment, to see all these people from all over the place come together, and what brought them together was music. That was mind-blowing.”
It was Jake who turned that inspiration into Greta Van Fleet, drawing the idea from the likes of Cream, the Yardbirds, The Who and other 60s British Invasion favorites. “We liked to see how the English bands had reinterpreted the blues, and we wanted to interpret it again – Y’know, wouldn’t it be interesting if an American band came right back and reinterpreted the reinterpretation that the English did?” the guitarist explains. “I thought there was something there that needed to be created.”
Jake gradually assembled his brothers into a band. Sam was caught up when Jake began jamming at the family home with a drummer friend from school. “It dawned on me that I needed to play bass for them,” Sam says. “Plus,” he joked, “my mom always said I looked like a bass player.” Josh, meanwhile, was studying theater, film and painting at school, with acting giving him an ease on stage, as well as a voice, that made him a no-brainer to be Greta Van Fleet’s frontman. “It wasn’t something I set out to particularly do. But it felt pretty natural,” he says now.
Danny Wagner, a friend of Sam’s since kindergarten, became the last piece of the Greta Van Fleet puzzle, joining a year after the group started, after being a regular at the Kiszka house for jams and rehearsals. “We all have similar taste in music and that helps a lot,” Wagner notes. “But at the same time, we have these little differences in what we like, and when it comes together it produces this sound. It’s got that classic kind of vibe, but it has a lot of soul, a lot of energy, and that’s a huge part of it.”
You won’t find a better description of the four songs on Greta Van Fleet’s EP, recorded at Rust Belt Studios in suburban Detroit with producers Al Sutton (Kid Rock, Hank Williams Jr.) and Marlon Young from Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band. The introduction runs a gamut from the dusty grind of “Highway Tune” to the sinewy punch of “Safari Song” and the muscular crunch of “Black Smoke Rising.” “Flower Power,” meanwhile, is a trippy sonic tapestry that weaves psychedelic and folk textures into the mix. “No limits, no barriers, no boundaries,” Jake declares. “It was like that when we were growing up, and it’s like that when we’re making our own music.”
Listen closely and you’ll also hear the flavor of a small, tight-knit community seeping into the group’s songs. “I think it has a huge presence in the music,” Josh says. “It’s this romantic, simple, Americana kind of thing, like Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn growing up outside of town in the country.”
The good news is there’s more where these four songs came from. The group has been in the studio for about two years now, with nearly 20 tracks down and more coming every day. “We’ve been writing since Josh and I were 16 and Sam and Danny were 13,” Jake says. “We have so many songs we’re working on it’s ridiculous. We’re just trying to develop and get better. That’s very important to us.” So is playing live, where Greta Van Fleet has been slaying audiences with an electrifying show that sounds more like a band that’s been around for decades rather than just a few years. The group can’t wait to take it around the country, and around the world in support of the EP, showing off the big sound this band from a little town can make whenever it hits the stage.
“It’s really happened so quickly. It’s definitely overwhelming and exciting – and it’s awesome,” says Wagner. “All these things are happening – the record deal, management, William Morris (booking agency). It’s slowly starting to build up, and we’re starting to get that fever. We’re itching to show everybody who we are and what we can do.”
‘From The Fires’ Official Press Release
LOS ANGELES, CA — Friday, November 10, 2017 — Credited as the breakout rock band of 2017, today Greta Van Fleet – Josh Kiszka/vocals, Jake Kiszka/guitars, Sam Kiszka/bass & keys, Danny Wagner/drums – celebrates the release of its double EP From The Fires (Lava/Republic Records), available digitally and as a physical disc. For a taste, check out the brand new “A Change Is Gonna Come” here. Use this link to access the entire release via outlets like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, more.
The eight-track From The Fires combines four new tracks recorded in September at Rust Belt Studios in Detroit – two GVF original songs, “Talk on the Street” and “Edge of Darkness,” and two covers, Sam Cooke’s emotional “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “Meet On The Ledge” by the late 60’s folk rock band Fairport Convention – with the four songs from the band’s debut EP, Black Smoke Rising, released earlier this year. From The Fires was produced by the same duo that helmed Black Smoke Rising, Al Sutton and Marlon Young. As Greta Van Fleet vocalist Josh Kiszka said, “These eight songs belong together as they share a theme of basic humanity.”
The From The Fires track listing is as follows:
1. Safari Song
2. Edge of Darkness
3. Flower Power
4. A Change Is Gonna Come
5. Highway Tune
6. Meet On The Ledge
7. Talk On the Street
8. Black Smoke Rising
The four new recordings shine a light on some of the band members’ earliest musical influences, the blues, soul and funk of artists like Muddy Waters, Joe Cocker, Sam & Dave, Howlin’ Wolf and Wilson Pickett. As Screamer magazine said in its From The Fires review, “These new tunes show how much Greta Van Fleet is really capable of and how deep the talent runs.”
According to Josh, “Edge of Darkness” is about “the bravery behind the compassion that we feel for each other. One of the lyrics is ‘I’ve got love in my heart,’ and I think, as a global community, it’s a spiritual thing to share all that we have together. Giving love is giving power.”
Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” is one that has special meaning for the band. When Josh and twin brother/guitarist Jake first heard it, they thought it was a song they’d like to cover, but never did. Fast forward a few years and ironically, co-producer Marlon Young suggested they cover it for this release. “All of us are very affected by oppression of any type,” said Josh, “cultural, racial, sexual. I’ve never experienced what Sam Cooke did so I have to admit, it was a little difficult for me, getting behind the mic, but I did it because singing this song meant a lot to me.” As Icon vs Icon wrote about this track, “This is where the group truly shows they are like no other. This isn’t simply a rock song, or even blues, it’s a gospel ballad that will move even the toughest soul.”
Josh has always connected with folk songs, with their beautiful melodies and harmonies and is a big fan of late ‘60s folk-rock groups like Spyro Gyra, Pentangle and Fairport Convention. “Meet On The Ledge” was composed by Fairport Convention’s Richard Thompson. “I was on a train going to New York,” he recalls, “and on the way, I listened to an entire decade of Fairport Convention’s music. ‘Meet On The Ledge’ was the fourth or fifth track I heard and it caught me by surprise. I was absolutely entranced, the verse and chorus blew my mind.”
About “Talk On The Street,” Josh describes it as “a fun song, full of catchy riffs and dynamic drums, kind of an ambiguous wild ride, a real rock’n’roll song.”
Greta Van Fleet Social Media Links (click to view)
I first heard of Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canadian born and based band ‘Soap Box Duo’ earlier this fall. I happened to be looking at all the bands who had graced the summer music festivals when I stumbled across an interesting post with the hashtag #soapboxforhaiti. Immediately I was intrigued and connected with the band (no, I really don’t waste any time – Reporter brain over here…). I began my research and immediately fell in love with the bands music. What struck me even more was their reasons for diving into a humanitarian effort by bringing global awareness of how people can help by working alongside impoverished people through a 20-minute film documentary created from their trip to Haiti in October 2017.
I admittedly have a soft spot for individuals who utilize their creativity, status, and talent with the purpose of helping others, and with this being my first introduction to the Soap Box Duo, I am proud to welcome them into the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Family. Tomorrow, the band will be hosting their FIRST self-produced benefit concert at the Horizon Stage in Spruce Grove, Alberta where they will air the documentary video followed by a live performance. I encourage anyone in the community to get to this show! Any remaining tickets can be purchased (here)
Aside from their humanitarian efforts, the bands’ music is a delightful blend of Alternative/Folk that hits you right away – it’s the ‘feel-good’ music that everyone should have on their playlists that are perfect for that mid-day pick-me-up we all experience throughout the work week. They also have created brilliant original works with songs like ‘Walls‘ (video below) which bring awareness to childhood sexual abuse along with their support for organizations like ‘Little Warriors‘. The band consists of Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin whose music influences include The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin, and many others. Since the bands’ inception in 2015, they have been nominated for many prestigious awards, launched their first EP, and have had several television appearances. I am not surprised because this isn’t only a band with a highly contagious sound, they are path-pavers whose honest compassion for humanity set them apart from the rest. You can read the bands’ bio at the end of our interview as well as tap into their social media links. I look forward to following this dynamic duos’ journey and in supporting them going forward through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. Welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Soap Box Duo
SMC – Hello Soap Box Duo! We are very excited to have you on our exclusive SMC Spotlight platform! Can you tell us how you heard about SMC?
SBD – We saw SMC feature some of our friends from the Edmonton music scene on Facebook.
SMC – Let’s delve into your background and roots in music – can you tell us what inspired your music careers?
Alexander- Honestly I owe my music career to Guitar Hero. I got so good at that game I thought that the next step to make it more challenging would be to learn real guitar. Then when I was 16 years old I started learning songs from artists like John Mayer, Bon Iver and Ray LaMontagne who were my biggest influences at the time. After performing my first original songs for friends and family I was shocked by their positive response. They really felt that I had a gift and I was inspired to grow as a musician so that I could pursue music as a career.
Jenesa- My parents always tell me that I sang before I could properly speak; it’s been a part of who I am since infancy. Then as early as age 7, I wrote my first song. I was put into dance, theatre and music lessons and was a huge pop music fan. I was that sappy kid who loved NSYNC and Destiny’s Child. To be honest, I still listen to Destiny’s Child. My focus on pursuing music as a career came in my teen years when I realized I could make money as a songwriter and performer and could hold a position of influence through my music.
SMC – Tell us more about yourselves for our new readers. We will get to your project later in this interview, but for now, let us know about you!
SBD – We are vintage-pop artists that go by the name Soap Box Duo. We chose that name because we want our music to be a platform for issues we want to address in the world. Our main focus is the prevention of childhood sexual abuse. In the early-mid 1900s if you wanted to rally people for a cause, you would stand on a soapbox and gather a crowd for your purpose. Now-a-days we have social media as a ‘soap box’ so we use that to connect with other passionate people.
We both met while studying music at MacEwan University. What brought us together was our shared passion for music, justice and God. We both had similar dreams of a career in music where we could support a family and live a life of purpose.
SMC – What instruments are you both proficient in?
Alexander studied guitar as his primary instrument while attending music school. He also sings, plays drums, bass, basic piano and recently started learning the cello.
Jenesa studied vocals as her primary instrument while attending music school. She also plays guitar, a little bit of piano and percussion.
SMC – You are both fairly new to the music scene as ‘Soap Box Duo’ – can you tell us what the reception/support in the local community has been like?
SBD – We have been blessed by the support of family, friends and the local community. When we started Soap Box Duo full-time in January 2015 we had no recorded music yet and needed to earn credibility in the music scene. It was so encouraging to be given a chance to prove our worth as writers and entertainers. Venue owners, radio hosts, booking agents and other musicians in the scene gave us the opportunity to share our music and our passion.
SMC – Who are your music mentors in the Edmonton community?
SBD – One key person who we have learnt a lot from is Rhea March who really helped us with our first few steps when we first started playing full-time in the city. But I would say that other musicians in the local scene have been consistent mentors to us. People like Brennan Murray, Jeff & Carol-Lynn Quinn, Joal Kamps, Jen Perry- to name a few- have taken the time to share their ideas, tricks and methodology with us.
SMC – You have some major accomplishments under your belts – your track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. Tell us how that came about and the result of each – how exciting!
SBD – Thank you so much! Our tracks were entered into both of these contests and we were proud to have been named finalists. These things have given us more visibility, connections in the music scene in North America and encouragement to continue refining our song writing and performance.
SMC – I also read in your bio that In fall of 2016, you were nominated for the Gospel Music Associations (GMA’s) 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year”. Another huge accomplishment! Tell us about this more about this!
SBD – Thanks again. It was an exciting surprise for us to be nominated. As musicians trying to make a full-time income you enter your material to be considered for awards and contests. It’s often hard to believe in your own music. But we took some chances and submitted our songs. When we heard that we got nominated for “New Artists of the Year”, when they were considering musicians from across Canada, we were blown away. It was really humbling.
SMC – You were also nominated for your song ‘Complexion’ (see below) at the 2016 Edmonton Music Awards for the ‘Adult Alternative Recording of the Year’ category. You have made some amazing accomplishments! What was it like to be nominated for so many prestigious awards in your short career as ‘Soap Box Duo’?
SBD – We are so grateful to have been recognized for all of our hard work. There are so many incredible artists out there writing amazing songs, so to be considered among those people is a dream. We actually have a big collage of images and words on a board that hangs in our bedroom. This is a visual reminder of our goals and dreams and we have been blessed to see so many of the things on this board come to pass- this includes our first royalties payment, songwriting awards and playing live on radio- to name a few.
Soap Box For Haiti
SMC – This interview has been a long time coming and I am very excited to learn more about the upcoming event ‘Soap Box for Haiti’ on November 30th! Tell us more about what this project is about and the event.
SBD – This project is one that is close to our hearts. We are inviting our fans to join us for a night of live music and a chance to be the first to see the documentary we recently filmed in Haiti. The venue is a theatre, which is the perfect place for this event. Our audience will be able to really hear our lyrics, feel our music and be a part of memorable moments without distractions.
SMC – Why Haiti?
Jenesa- I traveled to Haiti three other times, the most recent trip was nearly 8 years ago. I have dreamed of returning there, as I love the country and the people, and wanted to share that love with Alexander.
SBD – We were happy to partner with Nicola Topsom of Floriana Wedding Project to travel to Haiti and see what they do. We brought wedding gowns and bridesmaid dressed that were donated for the store they have set up in Port-Au-Prince. In August, as we were preparing to go, we had the idea of making a documentary while there. Nicola helped to connect us with other organizations that we could interview as well as setting us up with opportunities to film “The Real Haiti” to show people back home what the country is like.
SMC – You actually went to Haiti in October to film your documentary – what was it about?
SBD – The goal of the documentary was to show ordinary people who were doing amazing things there while giving viewers a glimpse of the beauty of Haiti. We hope to inspire our fans to partner with organizations that they might relate to.
SMC – What was the experience of actually being in Haiti like?
Jenesa- Traveling to Haiti is always a culture shock. Since they are the poorest country in the western hemisphere, they live very different from how we do here in Alberta. But aside from the discomfort and the emotion of seeing the abject poverty, I was again reminded of why I love Haiti so much. The people are incredibly inviting, generous and loving. I felt like family again so quickly, even with the new friends we made.
Alexander- Before we left for Haiti I didn’t know what to expect. I was initially shocked by everything I saw. Though I was ill and was being stretched outside of my comfort zone, I was happy. The friends I made there were so loving. Part of me went there with the mentality that I was going to “help” them but in reality they were the ones who were taking care of us.
SMC – What did you feel most profoundly while in Haiti?
SBD – We were humbled by the resilience and joy of the people we met there.
SMC – What has the local response been like for this upcoming event?
SBD – So far, many people have been very supportive of this event! Over one-third of the tickets are sold and we predict that the event will sell-out in the next 4 weeks. Some people who aren’t able to attend have even given donations!
SMC – What can one expect to see at the event?
SBD – This will be our BEST live show yet! The audience will see us perform as a duo, with a full band and will hear both fan-favorites and NEW songs. This is the first show where we will have control of lighting, media and sound. This will be the only chance to see the pre-screening of the documentary on a BIG SCREEN as well! A local realtor has donated Oil Kings tickets that will be silent auctioned during the intermission. Audience members will be able to purchase our merchandise as well as unique items from Haiti, all in support of this documentary project.
SMC – What are the proceeds from this event going to be put towards?
SBD – The cost of travel, accommodations and food in Haiti for the duo, along with the director of the documentary, was quite high. We have taken on further costs with the post-production work required to finish the film. So the proceeds of this event are going to cover the out-of-pocket costs of being able to produce this documentary that will showcase different organizations and hopefully get more people connected to investing in Haiti.
SMC – Some would ask if you are also involved in the charities in your local community – are you?
SBD – We sure are! Little Warriors is one organization that we are very closely connected with right here in Edmonton. Stay tuned for some news on how we are partnering with them in the battle to prevent childhood sexual abuse.
SMC – What is the one thing you would like to see happen as a result of this event?
SBD – It would be amazing if people would be moved to get involved with the organizations we have showcased and perhaps even travel to Haiti themselves. If only one person is moved to get involved, we will count it as a success.
SMC – Your self-titled EP ‘Soap Box Duo’ is dynamic! I have had a listen and love it! What has the radio support for your EP been like? Are there any stations you would like to shout out to?
SBD – Thank you. 105.9 Shine FM, 88.5 FM CJSR, CBC Radio 1, 106.5 Mountain FM, 90.5 CFCR FM and GRadio are a few local stations that gave our first album a chance on air! We are super grateful to these guys for their support.
SMC – Can you tell us what the album means to you both ‘thematically’?
SBD – Thematically you could say it was an introduction to us as Soap Box Duo. This album shares about the start of our relationship as well as some of the first experiences in our marriage. It also talks a little bit about some of Alexander’s struggles before meeting Jenesa and the couple’s passion to help those affected by sexual abuse.
SMC – Which song is your favorite off the EP and why?
SBD – Our favorite song would have to be “Silver Lining” because it’s very emotional for the two of us. During our first ear of marriage we both had full-time jobs, we were teaching music in the evenings and we were trying to get Soap Box Duo started writing songs, rehearsing covers and building our online presence. We barely had time to get to know each other and those moments where we could stop and be with each other was the silver lining in our busy lives.
SMC – Let’s delve into the album ‘Serenaded Through Seaweed’ which appears to be a compilation album – can you tell us more about how you went from the Alternative Folk to Electronic genre with your song ‘Adventure Island’?
SBD – We were honored to be asked by our friend, Nathaniel Sutton, to be guest vocalists on a song he wrote with his band ‘Brother Octopus’! Nathaniel was so fun to work with. We laughed a lot when recording the ‘gang vocal’ bit from the tune.
SMC – What music do you have planned coming up? Can we expect another EP or album release in the near future?
SBD – After interviewing producers from Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and even Nashville, this December we will be recording with Justin ‘Dunna’ McDonough of Resonate Music Studio here in E-Town. It will be a 6-song album. We have been working on developing our “vintage-pop” sound and excited to showcase our strengths as writers, vocalists and instrumentalists. ‘Back to Black’ by Amy Winehouse has been an inspiration to us as we’ve been preparing for our next recording project.
SMC – I know that your Haiti project would have been very time-consuming but I was curious to know if you were inspired to song-write while you were there?
SBD – When we were in Haiti we didn’t have the time or energy to song-write, unfortunately. Now that we are home and working super hard at getting the concert event ready, we haven’t quite had the chance to process our experiences in Haiti. We did however write a song leading into our trip called ‘Greenback’ which is about poverty and can be found on our YouTube channel.
SMC – Aside from your November event, are there any other shows you plan on performing at during the holiday season?
SBD – There are a number of events we will be performing at during the Christmas season. One, for example, is a corporate function at the Hotel MacDonald. These are great events that give us a chance to share our music while making money to pay the bills! Ha ha.
Much of our month will be spent on recording and preparation for an upcoming opportunity that we hope to announce soon on our social platforms.
SMC – You two are a team and are always together – how do you separate career from home life?
SBD – Ha ha. This is something we haven’t quite figured out yet. We honesty don’t have much separation between our career and our personal life since we work from home and are both working all hours of the day. We really do love what we do and are happy to spend every moment together focusing on living a life of purpose.
SMC- How did you two meet and just know you were meant to have a career together?
Alexander- When we were still in school, Jenesa asked if I wanted to do a book study on ‘Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren with her. The book was so good for us because it asked questions that really reached into the core of who each of us were, what we had lived through and who we wanted to become. This was actually how I ended up sharing, for the first time in my life, about having been sexually abused as a child. There was a closeness we shared so early in our friendship that led to us collaborating, dating, dreaming about a future and eventually marrying- all with Soap Box Duo in mind.
SMC – I would like for you both to answer this one: What is the one thing you admire about the other the most in terms of personal and career?
Alexander- I can’t pick one. I admire Jenesa’s work ethic and creative ideas musically and business-wise. She has an incredible gift for lyrics and melodies. She is strong everywhere I am weak which makes us a fantastic team.
Jenesa- Wow, this is a hard one! On a personal level I would say that I most admire his honesty. Trust is such a crucial part of any healthy relationship and I am so grateful that I have someone I can really trust. As for our career I would say that his true love and magnetism to music and creativity is what I admire most. He could honestly sit and create on his guitar for hours and he’d even forget to eat! I guess that’s where I come in 😉
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment a fan has ever given you?
SBD – The greatest thing we have heard from our fans is when they have come up and explained how one of our songs really touched them. To know that something we created has positively impacted someone else’s life is extraordinary.
SMC – Which social media platform are you on the most and why?
Jenesa- We use Facebook the most because we have the largest engaged fan-base there. Plus, I’m not super “techy” and Facebook is user-friendly. Haha.
SMC – Alright – final question: What is at the top of your list places to perform in and why?
SBD – We are excited to perform in any space with engaged listeners but I think we would LOVE to do large theaters and arena shows.
SMC – Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!
Soap Box Duo Bio
Coming onto the scene early fall of 2015, this prolific pair saturated the Edmonton and area music scene playing more than 200 live performances to date! Alexander and Jenesa MacMullin are a Canadian pop duo with a folk undertone, hinting of both rock and jazz. This powerhouse vocalist and innovative guitarist met at jazz school in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their unique sound is influenced by the music of The Civil Wars, John Mayer, Aretha Franklin and Gungor, to name a few. Their passion is to use music as their ‘soap box’ to encourage and inspire others toward justice. The couple writes and performs about topics that stir their hearts, from personal experiences to being an empathetic voice for the burdened. These two create catchy melodies and unique instrumentation as a foundation for their lyrics; lyrics that they hope will be both heard and felt by their listeners.
Since January 2016, the couple has released a music video, recorded & released their first EP, appeared on Shaw Television and were featured on multiple radio stations including CBC Radio 1. In fall the couple was nominated for the GMA’s 38th Covenant Award for “New Artist of the Year” for 2016. Their track, “Kissed the Girls” was a finalist in the Los Angeles Top Vocalist competition and the New York John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The two took to the road in March 2017 on their first Western Canadian Tour and, most recently, the duo’s song “Complexion” has been nominated for the Edmonton Music Award for the “Adult Alternative Recording of the Year” for 2016. Just last month the dynamic couple attended an intimate songwriters retreat with Judy Stakee, formerly of Warner Chappell in LA, where they ventured to further hone their craft as musical storytellers.
On June 30th, 2017, in the midst of our Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) Artist of the Year competition (aka: chaos), I noticed a very confused, yet, humorous comment on one of our Artists’ voting poll posts. It went something to the effect of: ‘Did my vote register? I didn’t get a notification that it registered. Maybe it’s Trump…’ Of course, I had to respond. For two reasons: 1. Anyone who would take the time to ensure that their vote was, indeed, registered, enough to comment about it tells me that this is someone who pays great attention to detail, and 2. Anyone willing to make light of an (almost) pandemic situation (it was the last day to vote) by poking fun at their own government (even though the contest was global) had to be a friend of mine (that warped sense of humor – perfect!). Now, almost five months later, some in-depth conversations (and intense research on my part) later, I am happy to say that New York-born and based Singer/Songwriter, Author, Poet, Filmmaker, and Artist, Robert Segarra and I have struck a kinship that is pretty hard to beat. Not only is he incredibly talented (he’s an award-winning poet!), he devotes his time to others through charity work for many organizations in New York, particularly in the Brooklyn area where he was raised and where he calls home. This alone weighs very highly in my books.
As I always do with people I am fascinated by, I began reading about Segarras’ background to discover he had very recently written a book called ‘Temporary Angels’, a true account of his own visions of the afterlife that he’d been experiencing since he was very young. It didn’t take me long to discover that the ‘visions’ he was seeing of even disastrous events in dreams were prophetic in nature and he has documented this throughout the ‘Temporary Angels’ novel (read ‘Exterminance Cometh’ – a novel he wrote as a non-fiction account of countless dreams he had been having long before 911, about 911. This is discussed below in our interview more in-depth). These were things that resonated with me greatly being that I have also had experiences much like this of my own.
I then delved into his poetry and understood immediately why his work has been recognized and awarded. A good poem demonstrates excellent command of diction and syntax, not to mention, deliver a strong emotional impact without giving away too much or too little and all of this is what is prevalent in the book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. Although he has written a newer poetry piece ‘Heaven’, both past and current works demonstrate Segarras’ ability to maintain a fresh approach to each piece he writes. Some people think writing poems are easy but in reality, the best poems are the most thought provoking and complex, leaving you to wonder. Admittedly, Segarra is a fan of Edgar Allan Poe which made sense to me after reading his works which are equally as great.
But there is something much deeper than that to this exceptional individual…
So, I dug deeper, discovering that Segarra has, in fact, written several scripts that have garnered massive media interest including the New York Times. Several were produced, and some have been aired on television. I recently was privy to reviewing an unpublished script he wrote called ‘The Littlest Hitmen’ and after reading every single page, I became more and more intrigued. I could visually see the actors, the mood, and the imagery flash before me while I was reading. I am a visionary as well, so it was interesting to be able to connect with another profound visionary in this way. I am looking forward to reading more of what he has written in the coming months and if people ask me ‘what I am reading’, more than likely, it will be something by Robert Segarra.
Throughout the summer and into the fall of this year, I also began observing Segarras’ music and video content on his socials and was pleased to discover that he had released an EP and full-length album this past spring: ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, and ‘Transition Man’. The former is a delightful and magical blend of songs that brings me to the topic of his children’s book ‘A Christmas Mouse’. It takes a certain kind of character to write for children. It impresses me when I see a fellow Writer creating a work of art explicitly to bring delight and wonder to a child – to me, that is indicative of a very selfless individual. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, to me, is the music version of this work of art. Audibly, I can also see the all the songs on this EP translated onto a children’s film and that is something I would definitely like to explore more of in the near future. ‘Transition Man’ is a full-length album with more of a classic rock sound that is easy on the ears, and soothing to the soul. With the gentle, charismatic charm in Segarras’ vocals, combined with a true classic rock sound reminiscent of The Beatles or Jimmi Hendrix and intriguing lyrics, I feel this is an album that will appeal to all ages. Songs from the ‘Transition Man’ album have been already spun on Limehead Radio in the UK, and KB Radio in Ontario to name a few. I will not be surprised of some of Segarras’ songs like ‘Parkside Girl‘ or ‘Beautiful Girl‘ aren’t picked up also. These are previously recorded songs which, I feel, would be well-received by his fanbase. Luckily for our readers today, I have included these in the ‘MUSIC CAREER‘ section below. Enjoy!
After thoroughly examining all of Robert Segarras’ social media platforms and seeing his devout dedication to Artists within the entertainment and writing communities it was becoming very apparent that this was someone I wanted to work with on a more involved level. He is selfless and has often supported others when even his own brilliant works have had to be put on hold which also resonates with me. I spoke in-depth to him about what that might entail, and I am happy to say that we will be launching an official page on the SMC website as well as the SMC Spotlight for Robert to showcase his talent as well as collaborate with SMC on future projects. Some of these projects will be of the entertaining sort and will be formally announced well into the early part of 2018 as our creative juices flow. His official page on the SMC website will launch on November 30th, 2017, complete with new branding and content (did someone say, a Christmas video?). I think this is the perfect way to end 2017 for SMC, and I look forward to many exciting, upcoming projects with Robert as an official part of the SMC team. Watch for his bio and content in the coming weeks as well as a very special announcement in the new year! His OFFICIAL BIO is now on the CONTRIBUTORS section of the SMC SPOTLIGHT (click in the top menu to check it out!)
Editor’s Note: Robert, you are a shining example of what it means to be truly selfless in this (more often than not) chaotic and self-absorbed world we live in. If we had more people like you bringing the kind of perseverance, patience, and artful beauty you possess to this planet, this world would be a heavenly place. I look forward to working with you on making just that happen. I appreciate all that you have done not only for SMC through your unwavering support, but also for that of others. I have seen you on social media constantly support the same people you believe in day in and day out and I admire this greatly. Where many fall off or fall short, you have been the lighthouse on the shore for many of your peers. Your art, in all it’s multi-faceted forms are a true reflection of the beauty you have within. I see a solid foundation and great potential in you and I look forward to seeing where this partnership goes. Now, let’s help make that star of yours shine bright, shall we?
Welcome to the SMC team. More importantly, welcome to the SMC Family!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview with Robert Segarra
SMC – Hello Robert! I am very excited for this interview – there are so many different facets of your career as a writer and artist that I would like to cover, so I will break this down into a few categories to make it easier. Let’s begin with how you found out about SMC?
Robert – I’m very excited for this interview, too. I feel quite honored to be a part of it. I’m relatively new to the online community of musicians. I was an active musician for years, but only within the last four or five years did I rekindle playing and recording again. At one point I had given up playing altogether for almost ten years. It seems I’m always on the verge of quitting. Then just as quickly as I had quit this last time, I picked up the guitar and started playing again. I re-recorded some songs and got them up online. Then I began exploring ways to promote the songs online, and this is where I began to find Internet radio stations that offered this kind of support – some for free, others charged a fee. I went with the ones that didn’t charge a fee. Through Hannah Clive, one of the artist musician friends I had made in a chatroom, I found Starlight Music Chronicles when she was in the running for Starlight Music Chronicles’ Artist of the Year in June 2017.
SMC – We have now welcomed you as Contributor to the SMC team. We look forward to seeing where this venture will go. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – First and foremost, I am really thrilled and honored to be a part of such an awesome and all-creative organization. I think what appeals to me most is the fact that creativity is nurtured here, and I am beyond pleased to be a part of such an exciting group of individuals, at such an exciting time in its history. I look forward to contributing in any and every way that I am able.
SMC – Part of your new profile which will launch on our site November 30th, 2017 means that we get to showcase you and your art/projects alongside some of the other Contributors to our site. What kinds of things would you like to see happen for SMC?
Robert – I would definitely like to see SMC recognized as the multimedia powerhouse that it is. I’m not sure if people realize just how much reach and influence SMC has. I thought the recent interview that you did with Dacre Stoker (on Limehead Radio – see here and the SMC Spotlight – see here) was amazing and fascinating. I was glued to my PC as you interviewed this blood relative of Bram Stoker, no pun intended, and got to hear stories of what inspired him to write his legendary ‘Dracula’ novel. The public’s fascination with the story has only grown through the generations. I think people need only look back at past interviews and see the important work that SMC has been doing to support artists and bands.
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any current projects that you are working on that you can share with our readers?
Robert – I am always working on something. I am currently working on some scripts, as well as music. I am in the middle of re-recording music that I wasn’t happy with, such as my Christmas song. I am also writing new music – which is actually some of my old music, written in new ways. Additionally, I am looking forward to working on projects within the SMC family.
SMC – What role do you see yourself playing as part of the SMC team? Meaning: what would you like to do creatively with SMC?
Robert – Creatively I can see myself assisting in any way possible within the SMC organization, whether that involves writing, music, artwork, promotion, or support of any type that’s needed. I see an evolution with SMC, and we’ve spoken about this. I see SMC getting involved in all sorts of ventures – including film production, whether for TV or the theater. I can see book and script development. I can see music development, and collaborations with other artists. I think the skies the limit, and I would assist in any way that I can.
SMC – We are featuring you on the SMC Spotlight where we place all our high caliber artists. This will be your first feature on the site which will become what we call a ‘SMC Spotlight Numbered Series’. We tend to like doing follow-up interviews as an artist expands their career. Can you tell us what your thoughts are on becoming a part of our ‘biography-style’ journalism?
Robert – I’m flattered and humbled beyond belief. Starlight Music Chronicles has a reputation for focusing on some really amazing talent, and words can’t express how much I appreciate your support. I’ve seen and read about some of the artists that you’ve featured and it’s quite a list of talented folks. I’m honored to be included among such individuals, and I’m looking forward to seeing how my story unfolds.
SMC – We recently did some interviews with Limehead Radio and as a result, talks are in the works for my own show on their station. If we asked you to do an interview with me for the show in, say, December, would you be up for that?
Robert – I wouldn’t be against it, but I think an interview on me should cover new territory, and not just rehash something that has already been discussed. I’ve only done a handful of interviews, mainly because I don’t think I’m all that interesting. People may find my projects interesting, but I think I’m only interesting for being part of those interesting projects.
SMC – We have also talked about having our own podcast with SMC – and you being a part of that. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert – I think podcasts are fascinating and essential tools for getting information out to the public. As long as there is something interesting and fresh that needs to get out to an audience, then I think podcasts are just another facet of accomplishing that goal. So, with regard to getting SMC material out to its audience, I would be more than happy to do what I can to facilitate that. I have done everything from background music to actually writing interview questions for podcasts in the past, and I would be more than happy to contribute and continue doing that with SMC.
SMC – What involvement do you like to have in creative projects? Some people like to be front and center and others prefer to be behind-the-scenes. What is your preference and why?
Robert – In general, if I am involved in a creative project that I am pursuing, I tend to take on a more direct role. But when I am asked to become involved in something that didn’t originate with me, but with someone else, I tend to work more behind-the-scenes, only because I have always seen myself as a team player, and I don’t want to railroad someone else’s vision. But when required, I am more than willing to do whatever is asked of me in order to get the job done.
SMC – Before we dive in, can you tell us which career path you tend to gravitate toward more than others?
Robert – I started out as a playing musician. I played places when I wasn’t legally able to play them. I played with older musicians, in general, and sometimes we would play some tough places, like bars and strip clubs. I wasn’t legally allowed to be in these places as a customer, since I was a minor, but because I was part of the entertainment, nobody ever asked my age. They basically looked the other way. We played at lots of legitimate places as well, but the seedier places stick out more in my memory because I would be more anxious than usual during the performance. Over the years I sort of drifted away from wanting to play in front of a live audience, and prefer to focus more on songwriting now more than anything else.
SMC- Being a lover of classic rock sounds, upon first listening to your music – it was like finding that gem of an album on record store day. How refreshing it was to hear ‘Mermaid Serenade’! Can you tell us what your process was in creating the ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ EP?
Robert – I’m really glad you like that song. That song was important to me. It proved to me that I could write a song that wasn’t your typical love song. Not that there’s anything wrong with love songs. Most of the songs on ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ are old songs. Most of the songs on ‘Transition Man’ are also old songs. In putting together ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ I basically put together songs that I thought would go well together. ‘Mermaid Serenade’ was heavily influenced by The Beatles. They were always a major influence on me and my music, and it was the fun songs on the White Album, such as, ‘Obladi-Oblada’, ‘Bungalow Bill’, and ‘Rocky Raccoon’, that were in the back of my mind when I wrote ‘Mermaid Serenade’. The Beatles were such amazing musicians. They could write songs on just about any subject imaginable. I wanted to do that, too.
SMC – Indeed you have also been getting some fab radio play from this album as well as your other album ‘Transition Man’ – both released this year. Can you tell us who you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to for spinning your music?
Robert – Where should I start? First, I’d like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my story. Your support has been very important to me. And I’d also like to thank the people who are listening to my music and buying my tracks. I’ve been lucky. A lot of places have played my music, starting with Take 2 Radio, Howard’s Power Pop Stew, Frontier Radio, Wig-Wam Radio, Rocker’s Dive Radio and a bunch more, but there are a few that have really shown me an amazing amount of support, with the first being Stephen and Anne Lambert of EGH Radio. They were the first to show me a real sense of belonging. Stephen is a visionary and a jack-of-all-trades, and Anne was the first person to recognize my roots in British Invasion music and Glam Rock. They’re great supporters of Indie and Unsigned artists, and they host shows every week where artists and basically anyone interested can take part in chats, while they play an amazing mix of music. Victoria Dee at Open The Door Radio has also been extremely supportive of me and my music, and I want to thank her for debuting many of my songs. Most recently it’s been Al Yardy of KB Radio that has been giving my music tremendous airplay, and I’d like to thank him for that. I’d also like to help spread the word that KB Radio suffered some major damage and is trying to rebuild. They have a GoFundMe page where they are accepting donations (see here). I truly hope that KB Radio can continue to do the fantastic job they’re doing in giving independent artists as well as established artists a forum. It’s a really amazing feeling as an Indie artist to hear your music in rotation with bands like Led Zeppelin, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Celine Dion and Kool &The Gang.
SMC – What has the media response been like for these albums?
Robert – The response to my music has been really positive. In fact, back when I was first playing music the old fashioned way, the response to my material was decent, but it was slow going in getting exposure. I had to push relentlessly in order to get the message out. With the Internet, the response is so much quicker, and generally a lot more positive. An artist can have an easier time finding a receptive audience with the Internet, as opposed to how it used to be without the Internet. The Internet has become an essential tool for independent artists today. Demographics and analysis is quicker and easier using the Internet, as well. I’ve found that audiences are much more receptive to my “sound” in Canada and Europe and in other parts of the world, than they are in the United States, and I believe that’s only because Indie artists doing anything other than what I call Disney-pop, Hip-Hop or Rap, are not getting the airplay or exposure that these other genres are currently getting, and have been getting for some time now in America. The Internet came along at just the right time for artists doing rock, alternative and other genres. If it weren’t for the Internet, the careers of Indie artists today would be much more difficult to get off the ground.
SMC – In the entertainment industry, we always hear about the kinds of struggles that artists go through to get themselves established. What would you like to see happen as far as change for artists in the industry (music, film, etc)?
Robert – I think there is a revolution coming within the industry, where the old ways of doing things will be changing forever. And I believe it has been a long time coming. I think artists, and creative individuals should not have to sell their souls in order to follow their dreams. I think it’s been this way for far too long, and for generations now, especially today, we are seeing the abuses that have come from such ingrained, highly imperfect and sometimes predatory institutions. But these things are already changing. Almost anyone can produce a film these days. Decent cameras are available at somewhat reasonable prices. Writers can take the initiative and get their music up at iTunes and other music sellers. And writers can get their works out in a number of ways that weren’t always available to them.
SMC – Can you tell us why there was a full-length album and EP back-to-back release for your music?
Robert – That’s a long story, but in a nutshell, one of the reasons, and there were many, was I was tired of writing, recording, and producing music under the name, Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders. People were always getting confused and asking me who Billy J Bryan was. People couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was doing this under an assumed name. It was as if this had never been done before. And this all came about while I was working on more material, so rather than wait, because I’m always working on new things, I decided to re-release the older material under my real name, and also release what I had been working on without a break in between. I think it worked out okay because the material on both collections is so very different. ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’ is essentially an acoustic album.
SMC – What ‘sound’ do you naturally gravitate toward in terms of other Artists?
Robert – When it comes to other music that I listen to, the list is endless. I have loved and enjoyed the music of everyone from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Dusty Springfield, Alice Cooper, David Bowie, The Allman Brothers, 38 Special, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, Blondie, Queen, Eric Clapton, Deep Purple, Nirvana, and even bands like The B-52s and McFly and Blink-182. Through my experiences with Internet radio I’ve discovered a whole new set of artists whose music is just as exciting and valid as these established bands, such as Chris Watkins of Drunk Poets, Red Light Revival, Anchor Detail, Free to Grow, Twenty6Hundred, Hannah Clive, and more bands and artists than I can list here. I feel that there is a whole crop of undiscovered and exciting talent simmering in the Indie Internet radio-sphere that’s going to explode someday in the very near future, and it’s going to re-ignite interest in this kind of music all over again.
SMC – Can you tell us what your favorite song is off each album and why?
Robert – From ‘Transition Man’, I’d have to say that ‘Heart Break Girl’ is probably my favorite at the moment. It reminds me of the songs that I used to love and listen to from British Invasion artists. I also like ‘Transition Man’ as well. I think it’s a fun summer song. I was in a good mood when I wrote and recorded it. From ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, once again, I’d have to say that the title track, ‘Starman’s Got The Blues’, is my favorite song. It’s a really old song of mine, and this is the best version of it that I’ve produced. People have come up to me and told me what they think the song is about, and it’s always different. I don’t usually tell anyone what the true meaning is. I prefer to let people make up their own minds, but it’s a song about alienation. It’s a song about someone feeling like an outcast or a misfit in their own world.
SMC – When you create the lyrics for your music – is it based on your own personal life experiences or is it observations of the world around you?
Robert – Both. I’m a people watcher. I think I watch people so that I can figure out exactly what it means to behave correctly in social situations. I don’t think I’ve learned anything yet, however. In truth, I guess I’d have to say that a good majority of my lyrics are written from my own personal life experiences.
SMC – Can you tell us which song has received the most traction on radio to date?
Robert – ‘It’s probably Because Of Chloe’. Everybody thinks it’s a song about a particular girlfriend, or an ex-girlfriend, but it’s really a song about my cat.
SMC – In delving further into your music career, there were some delightful discoveries! There are songs like ‘Park Side Girl’ and ‘Beautiful Girl’…can you tell us what other gems are out there and which platforms they can be found under?
Robert – ‘I Believe In Rock & Roll’ is a decent song. I also like a song I wrote called ‘Florinda’. It has a Beatle sound to it that I like. They can only be found currently at places like Youtube and Vimeo. I’m planning on re-recording them in the very near future. I’ve actually taken a lot of material down, mainly because I want to re-record them. I think I took down about 55 songs. I rushed a lot of the earlier songs to completion, and I wasn’t always happy with the way they turned out.
SMC – Indeed you have created music under the moniker ‘Billy J Bryan and the Ax Grinders’ – tell us about the name and how that came about…
Robert – When I first started out playing guitar, I didn’t really have any kids my age that were interested in music, let alone any that could play an instrument. I was thirteen years old. Naturally I ended up gravitating towards older musicians. These guys invariably would party more than they rehearsed, and they almost never wrote any original material because they were stoned or drunk all the time, and often they couldn’t remember what day it was, let alone remember my name. They’d call me Billy, or Joey, or Brian, or any number of names, with these three being the most often used. And when it came time for me to record and get my own music out there, for whatever reason, I didn’t want to do this under my own name, so I put all three names together, added a fictitious back-up band, The Ax Grinders, and that was it. I thought I had come up with a name that nobody would have ever used before. I was so wrong!
SMC – Can you give us a career timeline in terms of when you began creating your music and that ‘Ah Ha’ moment when you knew music would always be a part of your life/career path?
Robert – I don’t think I’ve ever had that “Aha” moment you are referring to. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a musician. My grandfather used to build custom acoustic guitars for musicians in NYC way before I was even born. So I was exposed to music and musicians from a very early age. Once I heard about the music of The Beatles and Elvis, through older cousins, I was hooked. When I was 13 my mom bought me my first real guitar. I basically started writing music at about that time, and I accumulated a pretty large stockpile of songs that I’d written by the time I was eighteen years old. Nobody that I played with was writing their own music, so my music was it. If we played somewhere, anywhere, we did a bunch of cover songs, and the only originals we would play would be the ones I had written. I didn’t have a lot of confidence back then in my songwriting, but even still, people would ask to hear my songs, which always amazed me. And it wasn’t till recently that I even considered the possibility that music might someday play an even larger part of my life. Whether I could make a living at it was another thing entirely. But music will undoubtedly always be a part of my life.
SMC – You are also a prolific and esteemed writer (we will get into your work as an Author next) – have you written songs for others? Who and where can we find them?
Robert – Actually, you may come across music online that is written by me that appears to be performed by others, but it’s really just me. I have recorded under the names – Billy J Bryan & The Ax Grinders, Bobby Smith & the Space Machine, Jimmy Deil, The Charismatic Asthmatics, Spit Bucket Disaster, among others, but it’s all me. My goal is to write songs that others can cover, but I didn’t always have the confidence in my songwriting skills to approach other artists regarding this.
SMC – Do you consider yourself a Frontman or do you prefer to be behind the scenes?
Robert – Many times by default I ended up having to “look like” the frontman in bands that I played in, but that wasn’t my choice, and it’s not what I preferred. One of my idols was Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple, and I was always amazed at how he could command the attention of everyone at his concerts by playing the guitar. He never sang a note, but all eyes were always on him and what he was doing with his guitar. His theatrics and his mastery of the instrument was mesmerizing. I always dreamed of being able to play that well, but no, I don’t consider myself a frontman and I do prefer to operate more behind the scenes.
SMC – When creating your music, where do you feel most in your element?
Robert – I am most in my element when I’m writing music on the guitar. I play a few instruments, and when you are a one-man band, you kind of have to be able to focus on what you’re doing, and I feel I do that best with the guitar.
SMC – What do you have coming musically in the next 3-6 months?
Robert – I have a lot more of my older music that I want to re-record. Many of them were done on analog machines, and many were rushed, and the sound quality wasn’t good enough, and consequently, I wasn’t always happy overall with the way they turned out. I have quite a bit of older material to convert that way, but I am always writing new material as well, and I’d like to continue doing more of that. I’d also like to collaborate with other musicians. I’ve had musicians ask me recently, and I have not had the time to do so as of yet, but it’s something I definitely would like to do.
SMC – Have you performed live? If so, where and which was your favorite venue?
Robert – Yes, I started out performing live. My very first memories were of performing informally for friends at parties and other gatherings. I played at a college once. I guess the one place that stands out, probably because it was kind of a traumatic experience was a strip club in Manhattan called West, when I was sixteen years old. I was always concerned that I was going to be found out and get arrested. I performed at a place in Queens called The Rainbow. Lots of bands from the fifties, sixties and seventies performed there. They had photos of many of the bands hanging on the walls. I think I remember a Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons photo there. I can’t remember anybody else offhand. I knew a girl that had a band and she needed a guitarist when she played at CBGB down in the Bowery, and I played with her and her band. Just about all of the clubs, bars or other places in New York City and New Jersey that I performed at are no longer in existence. They either went out of business, or have been replaced by clubs that now cater to other genres of music. And the thing about performing live is, while I enjoy it, and there’s an energy that you can’t get anywhere else than from a live crowd, I suffer from stage fright. I’m extremely shy, and if I had my way, I’d prefer to write and record over playing live.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received to date for your music?
Robert – Without a doubt it’s the support that I’ve gotten. I’d have to say that my experiences with Internet Radio stations, like EGH Radio, Open The Door Radio and KB Radio have given me an amazing amount of support, and have been a great boost to my confidence. Your interest in my music at Starlight Music Chronicles has to easily rank up there as the best that has come my way. I don’t do very many interviews at all, but I have done a few. However, I have not yet come across an interview as indepth or as interesting as yours, and the truth is, an interesting interview can make an unknown band or artist sound even more interesting. So I appreciate this support. I’m not sure that anyone that is not an Independent musician can understand how difficult it can be to carrying on doing what you love to do without support. For many, the financial rewards are years away, if they’ll ever come, and finding support in any way you can is often the only positive feedback most of us will ever get.
SMC – I was absolutely thrilled to read your book ‘Temporary Angels’! There is a lot that I can personally relate to with regards to what was mentioned or discussed in your book. Often, there are many who won’t speak out about their ‘ability’ to see entities or even visuals such as you have! Can you tell us who or what encouraged you to step out and write this book?
Robert – I think I had gotten to a point where I felt I had nothing to lose in writing ‘Temporary Angels’. This was something that I struggled with for most of my life, and I think my main goal in writing ‘Temporary Angels’, whether a reader believes what they’re reading or not, is that I believe we should always keep an open mind to everything in this world. We all have a role to play in this life, and in being open to things, we can then be more prepared to behave the way we should when our opportunity to act as a Temporary Angel arrives. There is a lot more in this world that we never see because we close ourselves off. We refuse to see. This world is a constant source of stimulation, knowledge and wonder, and if people would just be open to it, the possibilities could be endless. And for those that already do see, being able to see should not be a point of embarrassment or shame.
SMC – There are many books you have penned. Can you tell me which one was the most enjoyable to write?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has to be up there with being one of my favorites. I actually found it more of a challenge to write a complete story in the span of 1500 words or less than if I had written a book of 150,000 words. To be able to get your message across to your target audience under these strict guidelines was more difficult than I had imagined. I also have always loved art – painting, sketching, drawing, sculpture, and more, and combining the story and the artwork in this book was an amazing experience.
SMC – Which book has received the most traction in the writing community?
Robert – ‘The Christmas Mouse’ has gotten a great amount of traction, perhaps the most of all my books so far. It’s been the subject of a number of book reviews. It was featured on a CBS-TV news affiliate piece on children’s picture books in St Louis. Grammar school classes have read it as part of reading initiatives. My cousin is a school teacher in Brooklyn. One time just before Christmas a few years back, she read the book to her class. She asked me to make an appearance there, and I reluctantly agreed. The kids loved the book and asked some really observant questions. For the adult romance market, I wrote a book called ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ – it’s the story about a woman that’s frustrated with her life, and one day, seemingly out of the blue, she receives an unusual inheritance, and through it she gets a second chance at life. It’s been just as popular as ‘The Christmas Mouse’.
SMC – You have also won awards for your writing. Can you tell us which ones and when?
Robert – I’ve had poetry win some awards. I don’t remember exactly which poems these actually were. I quit submitting my material for consideration when three of my poems took prizes in Vandoelecht’s Annual Poetry Contest in 1994. I was happy to win, but it felt absurd to have my poems win first, third and eleventh prizes, and I haven’t submitted my material to any contests since. Instead, my poetry has appeared in a few anthologies, including one entitled ‘Thoughts Of Christmas’ that featured poets such as Jane Yolen, Angie Monnens, and many more. I was also a regular contributor of poetry, short stories and artwork to a very influential national magazine called ‘Wicked Mystic’. Some of my poetry was a part of ‘The Poe Pulpit’, a magazine that published poetry, short stories, and artwork that was influenced by Edgar Allan Poe.
SMC – Your poetry is brilliant. I have already begun reading (when I am not distracted LOL) your book ‘Short Poems, Long Poems, Old Poems, New Poems’. So far, ‘Dream, The Mariner Did’ is my favorite. Can you tell us which poem is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – Thank you very much for the awesome compliment. I like that poem, too. I think most of us feel like the mariner, in search of many things in this life. I think that’s why it may appeal to readers. I have a number of favorites from that collection, but if I had to choose two, one would be ‘The Ghost Of Endale Arch’. I wrote that poem about a Revolutionary War battle that took place just blocks from where I live. It was The Battle Of Long Island, and I found it fascinating that I was walking along the same cobblestone streets that soldiers from the 1700s walked upon. The other poem is about a baby sparrow that died accidentally when it got tangled in some nesting material and never got the chance to beautify this world with its song, called, ‘Hanging By A Thread’.
SMC – Can you tell us what time of day you feel most creative?
Robert – I am constantly feeliing “inspired” to write, but I don’t often have the opportunity to do so during the daytime. I’ll be out running errands or doing something where I am away from my computer or a notebook, and I’ll have to jot things down on napkins or little pieces of paper, so that I can remember something that has come to me, or has inspired me to work on something. Usually I’m most creative towards the evening and at night when there are fewer distractions and I can focus on what I need to do.
SMC – What makes you wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I think I want to write a book!’? At least, what sparks that creativity and desire to create within you?
Robert – My compulsion to write, whether it’s poetry, lyrics, scripts, or stories is chronic rather than acute. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those moments yet. I just always remember wanting to read, write stories, write songs, write poetry or create artwork. I think I’ve always had the desire, and from an early age I started writing. I didn’t have any one moment when I told myself “now is the time!” I just started writing. I’ve always had lots of ideas for material. My writing was all silly to begin with, but it was ambitious. I remember writing a script about ghosts appearing at a seance when I was nine years old. In general, I try to write, no matter what I’m writing, whether it’s a short story, novel, script or a song – to write something I’d like to read, see or hear. I would have to say that obviously my writing is inspired by something, and if anything, it has to be the writings of others. I guess I feel I have something to add to the conversation, and that’s what motivates me.
SMC – What projects are you currently working on?
Robert – I’m usually working on a few things at once. I’ve always worked this way. That’s why it sometimes seems as if I will suddenly come out with a lot of material all at once. I am always working on new music. I just recently got three of my books out of book contracts that they were in because I wasn’t satisfied with how they had been edited or promoted, so I re-edited those and had them re-released online. I’m currently working on new music and a script. And from time to time I am working on art, but that’s usually done these days as part of a bigger project. I don’t always have the time to do the things I want to do, so I have to pick and choose. When I need to relax and recharge, art is usually my choice of therapy.
SMC – You also write screen plays! Can you tell us which ones and what kind of interest or traction you have gotten from them?
Robert – I’ve had about a dozen scripts that have been produced. Some aired on TV. Some screened at festivals, salons, bars, and clubs. I wasn’t always happy with how they turned out, so I generally don’t talk about them, but one of my favorites was called, ‘Waiting For Eugene’. It was a romantic dramedy about a couple of late bloomers that meet and fall in love. They had been waiting to fall in love with the right person, it seems, their entire lives. But they’re also career people, and when Eugene is offered an out-of-town promotion, he feels compelled to take it, even if it means leaving his girlfriend, Dolores, behind, who also puts a good bit of emphasis on her career. It was filmed in New York, with scenes shot in Central Park, and it screened at Arlene’s Grocery, sandwiched in between short films that included cast members John Belushi and Bill Murray of Saturday Night Live. To be sandwiched in between these legends was really a highlight for me.
SMC – You had mentioned to me once about a script you were working on that was mentioned by major media – even the New York Times. Can you tell us about that project?
Robert – I was working with a New York producer that was actually focusing on several projects at the same time. I wrote a script for one of the projects that was called, ‘No Safe Haven’. It was about the “Honor Rape” of a Pakistani woman named Mukhtaran Bibi or Mukhtar Mai. This producer and I actually met Mukhtaran Bibi and her handlers at Trump International Hotel and Tower the same week that she was in New York to speak at the United Nations, and the same time she had visited with President Bush in Washington. It was an amazing meeting and would have made for a really interesting and revealing story, but the project is still currently not in production after many years. Other producers became interested in developing her story, and amidst a very turbulent and violent atmosphere back in Pakistan, interest quickly faded. From what I was told, there were lots of threats made against Mukhtaran’s life, and government officials eventually made concessions, bringing electricity, a school, and fresh drinking water to Mukhtaran’s village, and the story soon disappeared from the public eye, after initially focusing a glaring eye on the practice of honor rape and honor killings in the Muslim world. The other project ended in a scandal and lawsuits, so I also tend not to mention these projects too much anymore. Producers and production companies tend to steer clear of people associated with lawsuits and certainkinds of controversy. They are all about controversy when it sells tickets and fills theaters, but when the controversy hinders production and profits, you can become industry poison.
SMC – Which ‘stories’ do you naturally gravitate toward when you write scripts?
Robert – I enjoy writing comedies and romance stories the most. But in my experiences, the demand for police dramas or police procedurals, and mob stories, far out-weigh the demand for anything else. And when you’re first starting out, you need to write what production companies are interested in, or you won’t get anything produced. I find these genres to be way too formulaic for my taste, but I have still managed to write several screenplays that bend these rules enough so that I was satisfied with what I ended up writing.
SMC – What has your writing meant to you personally?
Robert – My writing, whether it was writing songs, poetry, short stories or novels, have always been a way for me to express myself, even when I was too shy to express myself in other ways – such as in conversation. Because I was always so painfully introverted, I’d often turn to my writings in order to get my point across. And initially I was the only one that was reading my writings until I got my first poem published when I was 18 years old. The feedback I received from that made me hungry to want to express myself even more. My writing literally saved my life, in this respect. Without any sort of outlet, life would have seemed otherwise hopeless and meaningless.
SMC – What message(s) or subject(s) are you drawn to writing about?
Robert – I write about anything that fascinates me. Because I think that if a certain subject is interesting to me, that it will be interesting to others. As for messages, I leave that for the reader to find and interpret in any way they wish. I don’t specifically try to embed messages in my writing. Instead, details can be extrapolated by the reader. If they wish to see these things as messages, then that’s fine. But it’s totally up to them.
SMC – Do you get a lot of requests for ‘The Christmas Mouse’ book during the Holiday season?
Robert – I do. Most people don’t realize that I don’t actually sell the book myself. I have a publisher, yet they always write to me in order to get copies. And by the time Halloween rolls around it’s already difficult to purchase paperback copies of the book and have them delivered in time for Christmas. The publisher gets backlogged, and there is a “lag time” when people wait till the last minute to try and get a copy. The eBook version is also available, and it is delivered to a customer’s device within minutes, but the paperback version, which is the version that most people want, needs to be ordered with the time it takes for it to be printed and physically delivered in mind. I can’t tell you how many times people have turned to me to request the paperback version of the book just days before Christmas. Even I can’t get a copy that quickly.
SMC – I have read ‘Temporary Angels’ and I know that you are a gifted ‘see-er’. Is there one memory that stands out in your mind that is a positive experience that you haven’t written about in your book?
Robert – ‘Temporary Angels’ was actually twice the size it ended up being. Many powerful stories and examples were edited out. The reason they were edited out had to do with the nature of the experiences and believability. Some sections were just too personal for me to put out there at this time. And I think that other chapters would have fallen on deaf ears. I think what I ended up including was the right mix and amount of information for what I had in mind when I sought to have that material published. I think that one day soon I may release a version that includes more of what I kept out. I think the time may soon be right for that.
SMC – Which of all your publications (books) is your personal favorite and why?
Robert – That’s a tough one. I like certain things about each of my books for different reasons. There is always something about a project that endears it to me, and each one of my projects, even the ones that I’m not totally happy with have some redeeming value to me. ‘The Christmas Mouse’ and ‘Still Waiting For The Sun’ are favorites. One was my first successful children’s picture book, and the other was my first successful adult novel. I like ‘Million Dollar Harry’ because it captures a lot of what it was like growing up in Brooklyn.
SMC – Who is your personal favorite Author and why? I know as a writer myself, it’s always hard to narrow it down to one, but perhaps you can tell us of a few you like from each category?
Robert – Yes, it’s very difficult for me to narrow things down to just one of anything. In writing, I’ve enjoyed reading Steinbeck. I read his books as a grammar school student – he’s full of detail, humor, local flavor, mysticism, and more. Two of my favorite short novels were ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F Scott Fitzgerald, and ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ by Ernest Hemingway. With both it was as much the style of their writing as it was the subject matter. These two writers carefully chose every single word, phrase, and sentence that went into their work, and made it seem effortless and captivating. One of my all time favorite books is ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte. It was her one and only novel, but it has something for everybody in it. There is drama, romance and ghosts. What more could anybody want? In poetry my tastes are equally enormous. I enjoy reading everything from Shakespeare and Chaucer to Milton and Byron and Blake and Pope and Poe and Dickenson and TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edna St Vincent Millay and more. I’ve also read Beowulf many, many times since first reading it in the 5th grade.
SMC – Can you tell us what the support has been like in the writing community for your work?
Robert – Writing books, like writing songs in America are about the same for me personally speaking. I find the only real support I have ever gotten from the writing community in America has been from the people who actually purchased my work. Just about all of my books were first published in the traditional way, by a traditional publisher, usually smaller independent publishers. And unless you already have name recognition, they barely promote you at all. After about three months, you are usually on your own, or headed to “remainders” – which is author hell. Over time I’ve gravitated towards self publishing for a number of reasons, the greatest being creative freedom. There have been times in the past where editors were interested in my projects, but wished to change them to suit their tastes. For instance, one editor wanted me to make the protagonist in one of my true-life stories be a major auto maker from Detroit that he had a gripe with. When I refused, he lost interest in my project. ‘The Christmas Mouse‘ was originally published by a small publishing house in the Mid-west. Due to the nature of small independent publishing it got very little promotion and eventually was published by one of the first Internet interactive publishers around at the time. That didn’t last very long, but it was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life working with the editor of Electric Bookworm. But for me that kind of pleasant experience was rare.
SMC – You have also penned two children’s books! Can you tell us why you felt inspired to write for children?
Robert – I think that writing for the children’s market can be the most fun, and the most enjoyable, creatively speaking. None of the restrictions that you encounter as a writer in the adult market exists with children’s literature. Children find wonder in everything if they are exposed to a lot, and the way they come to solutions to problems before they become cynical as adults is miraculous. It’s where dreams come from. To look at the world like a child is to see the endless possibilities. Of course children also lack the experience that’s practical and necessary to survive in the real world, but in the world of literature, especially children’s literature, to think like a child is essential. As a writer, you are limited only by your own imagination when you write for children.
SMC – What has the response been to your children’s books?
Robert – It’s been really great. I have people that have written to me from all over the world regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. I think feedback is extremely important to anyone that creates anything. Sometimes it can be the only reward, and when it’s positive, that’s what keeps you going and wanting to write the next project. And it hasn’t only been children that have written to me. I get just as many messages from adults as I do from children regarding ‘The Christmas Mouse’. The kids tend to write student reviews of my books, which invariably end up in some online library archive, while adults will tell me about how the book may have rekindled storytime with their children at home.
SMC – What has been the greatest compliment you have received in terms of your work as an Author?
Robert – I think the greatest compliment I have received as an Author has to undoubtedly involve the reaction I’ve gotten to ‘The Christmas Mouse’, though I have had positive reactions and positive feedback to nearly all of the things I’ve written – at least from readers, that is. People of all ages have told me how much they enjoyed reading it, and how much they enjoyed the fact that it was like none of the other Christmas books they had ever read. Everyone tends to analyze the book in their own way, and I let them interpret things as they see it.
SMC – Your book ‘Exterminance Cometh’ is a very profound book and it is spoken about in your other book ‘Temporary Angels’ – can you tell us about it a little more? I know it is somewhat of a prophetic written piece…
Robert – ‘Exterminance Cometh’ was a recurring dream I had been having that in its unedited form bore a remarkable resemblance to the attacks of 9/11 in New York City. It was originally over 300 pages long, but I cut it in half. Ironically, there was so much in the material that I removed that I didn’t think anyone would ever believe could come true. The story at the time seemed so far removed from reality that I felt forced to alter the story. The book detailed attacks and catastrophes all around the world; struggles of many kinds for people everywhere; religious turmoil; a mid-east strongman that lived in an underground bunker; New York City in rubble – with skyscrapers being vaporized, and a sort of revolution that would bring about an African-American president. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, so I edited this last detail out. The African-American character still plays a vital role in “liberating” the citizens of North America, but he doesn’t become president. I had such a strong urge to get the message in this story out, that I had it self-published a year before the 9/11 attacks. ‘Externinance’ is the book I referred to earlier that a mid-west editor was interested in publishing if I would be amenable to making the villain be a major Detroit car maker that he had a gripe with.
SMC – In addition to your career as a writer and musician, you have also delved into film. I have watched some of your videos – pretty funny some of them, and others are quite compelling! Can you tell us which way you tend to gravitate toward in terms of style?
Robert – Writing scripts is so different from everything else. There is a visual element to films and screenplays, so a lot of the time you are writing to accentuate what you are seeing on screen or on stage. Many of the times because of this, it’s not what you write, it’s what’s in the direction that works with the writing to create the overall effect, and I find that a great challenge. That having been said, many of my videos are experiments and incorporate many different styles. I’ve enjoyed the styles of everybody from Alfred Hitchcock to Penny Marshall to Quentin Tarantino and more. That’s why you’ll see videos on all different subjects. If I find something interesting, then I think I can safely assume that others will find some of these videos interesting or funny, too, and everything is fair game. I am self-taught in everything that I do. I never took music lessons. I never took an art course. And I never took a course in film or animation. So these are all essentially experiments and learning experiences for me. I like learning new things. I saw these as a challenge, and I have learned quite a bit in doing them.
SMC – You have several monikers under your film credits too such as ‘The Ugly Man Revolution’ and ‘The Cat Stevenson Show’ – where can one find all of your work in film?
Robert – If they can be found at any one place, I’m not aware of it. Right now they can be found at Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion. I believe that a few videos are also up at other sites, such as iTunes and Amazon, but other than that, I can’t say. ‘The Ugly Guy’ and ‘Cat Stevenson’ have attracted a good amount of attention. They say things that we all want to say about life and about the world, no matter how outrageous – one through the eyes of a house cat, and the other through the eyes of a social outcast, and because they’re cartoon characters, people tend to be more forgiving, and less judgmental.
SMC – You also wrote a compelling piece called ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’. I do feel that is a pretty powerful piece. What was behind this piece and your reason/purpose for writing/creating it?
Robert – I wanted to chronicle a true story, and also make people aware of a practice that still goes on to this day around the world. There is a sort of coming of age ritual that goes on where a young boy is initiated into adulthood when still a teen by taking him to a cathouse – which is another name for a house of prostitution. Often the boys will perform awkwardly because they’re still basically kids. This practice is seen as harmless, but it can often negatively affect any later relationships that the boy will have when he becomes an adult. It all depends on the experience, but I believe that a boy of 13 years of age just doesn’t have the wherewithal to understand what’s going on, or what’s expected of him, and so there can be lingering issues later on. The actual events as they unfold in my piece are true. This happened down to the last detail to someone that I know. In 2013, ‘A Chicken in a Cathouse’ was part of the Sans Diego Short Film Screening at The Producer’s Club in New York City. There were a number ofgreat films screened that evening to a very receptive sold out audience. My video also screened in Mexico City and in the UK.
SMC – You also have a pretty scary short called ‘The Homecoming’. I admit, I watched through my fingers LOL. Can you tell us a little more about this film and its theme?
Robert – Thank you for such a nice compliment. My intention was to experiment with a piece where one felt compelled to watch, even if it scared the heck out of them. Judging by your question and comment, something worked. ‘The Homecoming‘ is the ultimate warped love story. It is the story of undying love, even in the face of death. The male character passes away suddenly and unexpectedly and then literally rises from the grave in order to keep his promise to his lover that he would always return to her.
SMC – What part of the film-making process would you like to have involvement in or learn more about?
Robert – I’ve contributed to many aspects that were needed in film-making regarding the projects I’ve written or been a part of. I’ve written scripts. I’ve created props. I’ve done voice-over. I’ve acted in a few. I’ve written and recorded music. That being said, I consider myself an eternal student. There is always a lot to learn, and always things that a person can just not know about any one field or subject. I’m always open to being a team player and contributing as much as I can to the successful completion of any project that I’m a part of.
SMC – Your animated series are a lot of fun – this is where we begin to delve into your work as an Artist (which we will discuss next). Can you tell us what your greatest challenge is when creating for an animated series?
Robert – The greatest challenge is bringing it all together. I can come up with the idea. I can write the scripts. I can do the animation, and I can do the voice-overs. But it takes a lot of patience to marry these elements and still keep the project fun. And when you are doing this on your own, you can receive no feedback until you upload it or screen it, and by then it may be too late.
SMC – What platform do you create your animation still on? Photoshop, Illustrator?
Robert – It varies. Some of my artwork has to be scanned if I did it by hand, and if so, it can then be worked on using Photoshop. But a good amount of my artwork that’s used in some of my animated pieces is digital and was done using a mouse and the Paint program. Working on these is similar to artwork that I did using traditional methods, except no scanning is involved.
SMC – As an Artist, can you tell us which medium is your favorite to work with?
Robert – I enjoy working with oil paints, water color, goache, pencil and acrylic. If I had to choose one, it would probably be oil paint, but I enjoy it all. I have also created “paintings” that have incorporated sculpture in it – meaning, I will create a portion of a painting that will come out at the viewer in a sort of solid 3-D fashion. I will mount a particular piece, usually some part that is made of plaster, onto a canvas, as part of the bigger piece, and tie them all together.
SMC – You have also created and sold pieces to help charities…can you tell us which ones?
Robert – I did paintings to help raise funds for a local school’s art program in Brooklyn, where I live, which was very successful. I also did artwork for the Easter Seals Society of New York, and a number of other places. I really enjoyed being a part of these programs, and I’m always open to doing more when time permits.
SMC – Is there any painting you are working on at present?
Robert – No. Art has had to take a back seat lately. I enjoy it immensely, but it can also be time consuming in comparison to writing and music. And while I find it therapeutic in helping me to relax, finding the time to work on art at this stage is difficult.
SMC – Which Artist in history is your muse?
Robert – I admire so many artists, contemporary and throughout history. If I had to choose one single artist, I would have to say Leonardo DaVinci. I also admire Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Albert Pynkham Ryder, but DaVinci stands out for me, mainly because he did so many other things, and I enjoy doing as much as possible, too. He was a writer, a sculptor, a designer, an inventor, a scientist, and so much more. Trying to imagine what kind of a mind he possessed is often as intriguing as studying his work.
SMC – What is your muse today when creating new art?
Robert – Unfortnately, I cannot seem to find enough time these days to carry out the new ideas that I’d like to have committed to canvas, or whatever medium I’m considering. From time to time I will manage to get something done, but it’s definitely not as commonplace an activity for me as it once was. But I look forward to the day in the near future when I will be able to return to doing artwork once again. Maybe if I hit the lottery I’ll be able to do that.
SMC – What do you feel about the kind of support in New York City that is available to Artists?
Robert – Despite the fact that New York City is home to the Metroplitan Museum of Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as so many other great institutions, like The Fricke, or The Cloisters – I don’t know that Art for the average undiscovered artist has ever been well supported in New York City. I’ve taken part in some exhibitions, but I’ve never felt any tangible amount of support. Just as with anything else in New York City, a creative person has to take the initiative. Nothing comes to you in New York City. Just as with any endeavor and any location, one has to aggressively seek out opportunities.
SMC – With such diversity in your talent, can you tell us how you have been able to integrate it into every aspect of your careers to date?
Robert – Some projects make it easier to incorporate more skills into a single project, while others don’t always allow it. For instance, if I decide to write a book, it will be just the book unless some other aspect comes into play. However, if I write a children’s book, especially a picture book, it may also involve artwork, sometimes poetry. If I write a song, I know that at some point I most likely will be creating a video to help promote it. So the work may involve writing, recording and producing the song, as well as creating artwork, props, graphics, sometimes recruiting acting talent, and shooting video to go along with it.
SMC – What would you like to see happen for Artists/Writers in the industry today?
Robert – I’d like to see it made easier for new artists and writers to gain a foothold in the publishing world, in music, and in writing, for TV or Hollywood. A lot really does depend on connections in the various industries, and unfortunately many really great ideas and innovative writers will never see their work produced. The industry does not welcome new talent or any talent that they’re not already acquainted with, and because of that, we see many books with themes that seem repetitious, and in film we see remakes, sequels, prequels, and endless animated movies that involve dancing penguins and talking dogs, mainly because Hollywood is so closed off to new writers and new ideas. In literature, aside from the Harry Potter series, or a very few other projects, we see just how little interest children today have in reading. In music, the airwaves are cluttered with generic and formulaic product. I don’t hear all that much that is creative or original. Much of what commercial terrestrial radio plays is fine if you’re a teen or slightly older, but in my opinion, if you want to hear anything with substance, you need to find the local oldies station or turn to Internet radio, which is just about the only place that you can hear anything new, creative, innovative, or with staying power.
SMC – Which social media platform do you feel is most effective in getting the ‘word out’ on your new projects?
Robert – Without a doubt, Twitter has worked best for me. It’s fast paced, and in my experience generally reaches a wider, larger audience quicker.
SMC – Which social media platform do you think is most effective in general?
Robert – Again, I would have to say it’s Twitter. I also use Facebook, but the potential for reaching a wide audience is hampered by the size of your “friends” network. Facebook tends to discourage users reaching out to others with whom they have no connection. Youtube, Vimeo and Daily Motion are also good for reaching out to your audience, but with these, you also have to let your target audience know that you even have material posted if you are going to attract attention. So once again, sites like Twitter and Facebook come into play.
SMC – Your book ‘Temporary Angels’ does delve into your personal life somewhat – can you tell us which events in your life are most profound for you and which have shaped who you are today?
Robert – Easily the events where I was able to be helpful to others have been the most profound. I mention a young Australian woman in the book that had gotten all scraped up after tripping and falling in the mud while jogging in the park near my home, that seemed practically invisible to others, even though the park was packed with people that day. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to get involved, and I felt that I got as much out of helping her as she did from me coming to her aid. I find this kind of balance to be essential in everything I do in my life. Though things like this rarely fall at my feet the way that this one did.
SMC – What would you give as advice to Artists trying to ‘make it’ in the industries you have delved in?
Robert – I would tell them to not give up too early. If they have true talent and a real passion for what they ‘re doing, they should never give up. They should search out every avenue. Be as nice to everyone you meet as possible, because at the very least, you never know who may end up being a contact or connection somewhere down the line. I would tell them to believe in themselves, but to always stay humble. I would tell them they should not listen to those who with envy will tell you that you’ll never make it. In general I would tell them to be practical, and to persevere. If they truly believe in what they’re doing, they should never give up.
SMC – What does ‘success’ mean to you in terms of all your careers?
Robert – Success can mean a lot of things to me. Success can mean a lot to a lot of different people. Sometimes, for myself, success can be as simple as getting a great response for something that I worked hard to get completed. Sometimes it can lead me to another project or an opportunity to do more. Ultimately, in today’s world, success means recognition and financial reward, because it’s only with funding that an artist is able to create freely, without worry. When one is forced to choose between eating and paying the rent, or being able to freely create because they do not have such worries, it can be the ideal atmosphere for new and innovative ideas.
SMC – What is your favorite thing to do in your private time?
Robert – I have not had private time in years, but when I did have private time, I used to love to be outside in nature. I used to enjoy gardening. I used to love to hike and take walks. I used to go to the theater more often. Now it’s either Netflix or nothing.
SMC – What do you feel is essential in helping you feel most creatively ‘in the flow’?
Robert – I think that for me it is time – having the time to do the things I’d like to do is essential to me. Because of this, I jot down lots of notes to myself. I am always having ideas for new songs, stories, poems, books, and scripts come to me. I just don’t always have the time to develop them the way I’d like to. Now it’s more a matter of which idea or project seems more timely than the rest.
SMC – In your book ‘Temporary Angels’ you talk about how you have ‘given back’ to less fortunate people/families. Can you tell us which charities or organizations you like to support and why?
Robert – I tend to support charities that are local. I think that when you give locally, there tends to be less of the funds spent on the salaries of those that run the charities, than when you donate to some massive organization with thousands of employees. I think the more direct approach is always best. I like to donate to a local soup kitchen near where I live. My local YMCA has drives throughout the year that I like to donate to. I like to donate to animal shelters in my area as well. Just as with people, animals tend to need similar items. They need shelter and food, and towels and clothing. And giving to these is easy, and you can see the effects more readily and know where your money is going.
SMC – You seem to talk a lot about potatoes….what is the correlation? Why the fascination with potatoes?
Robert – Hunger, starvation and malnutrition are major problems at home and around the world. I wrote a piece about potatoes a while back that showed just how important Potatoes can be in meeting the nutritional needs of the human race. My article traced the origin of the potato from its humble origin in South America, where originally it was about the size of a human thumb, but over time, through careful cultivation, developed into a food item that is the staple of many cultures around the world. Accordingto the World Health Organization, many lives can be saved with just a glass of milk and a cooked potato, and implementing such a program would be easier than most would imagine.
SMC – You seem to be so supportive of everyone on twitter as well as other social media platforms! I see you tweeting so many lovely things about your peers. Thank you! What has your experience been like by engaging in this way?
Robert – The vast majority of the time, I’ll either get a lukewarm “thank you” or a “thanks for the retweet” – but occasionally I will make a true “friend.” I think people tend to either be wary of praise, or they begin to expect it, and there are few that are comfortable enough to accept it for what it is, and graciously pay it forward. Despite this, I still try to be as supportive of everyone as I can be, because I know how difficult it was for me to get any support whatsoever.
SMC – Can you tell us what being a part of the SMC Family experience has been like for you so far?
Robert – If my memory serves me, I have only been a part of the SMC Family for about four and a half months, but already I’ve felt a tremendous amount of support for the things that I do. It’s a difficult thing to continue trying to be creative when your efforts are never acknolwedged. And often it’is in the small gestures that we are able to carry on. With SMC I truly feel as if I’m able to breathe easy. I don’t feel as if the support I am feeling will be gone in a flash. For an artist or creative person that has always had support, this sentiment will never be understood. But for the vast majority of us, just knowing that you have the support of someone who recognizes your struggle is enough to make us want to continue, and to be supportive of others in our own way.
SMC – What are you most grateful for in life?
Robert – I am grateful for my dysfunctional family. I am grateful for my good health. And most recently, I am grateful for wandering into the world of Internet Radio, and ultimately finding you and SMC, and the group of supporters that came with these. This seemed to be a total chance discovery, but it was a timely discovery. Just prior to this, I was about to give up music once again. I feel that I am always one step away from quitting the creative life. There was a period just before I began writing and recording again, around 2004, that I had not played a single note of music for about ten years. My own personal experience for so long had been, “support of any kind for new bands was impossible to come by, and it was only a fluke that I started playing guitar again.” It was around 2004 that I was working on a few film projects that needed music, and it was through that process of seeking out and locating talent that my own interest in my music was reawakened.
SMC – Okay – final question: Can you tell us five things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
1) My parents met while trying to pick each other’s pockets during the Christmas festival at Grand Central Station.
2) Chuck Woolery is my godfather, once removed (using a minimally invasive procedure.)
3) My real name is Wink Martindale, but since there already was a Wink Martindale, I had mine legally changed to Robert Segarra.
4) My parents named me Robert Segarra because they loved that it is an anagram for – Sara Is A Great Robot.
5) I am a huge animal lover. (I don’t mean that I’m 20 feet tall or weigh 500 lbs, or anything like that. I just mean that I’m devoted to the well-being of nature’s creatures everywhere.)
Thank you Robert!
Robert – You’re very welcome! Thank you for this opportunity!
Robert Segarra BIO
Lifelong Brooklyn native ROBERT SEGARRA is a New York Artist, Writer
He is the Author of “STILL WAITING FOR THE SUN” – a lighthearted novel
that details the difficult life of an unmotivated woman as she receives a
very bizarre inheritance. With this unexpected windfall, she will attempt to
get her second chance at life – a life that she had almost given up on.
He is the Author of “MILLION DOLLAR HARRY” – A humorous novel.
Most recently he is the Author of “TEMPORARY ANGELS” – a true-life book
about angels and the after-life.
His poem, “HEAVEN” was also recently published.
Some of his other books are “CROW HILL & OTHER POEMS“,
– as well as the illustrated children’s book and perennial favorite,
“THE CHRISTMAS MOUSE.”
Robert Segarra is the screenwriter of a number of screenplays, including
“WAITING FOR EUGENE“, “A NIGHT AT THE INN“, “A SITUATION WANTED“, “BEAT THE STREET” and “AN ANGEL COMES FOR OFELIA.”
Robert’s music can be found at Amazon.com, CD Baby, iTunes and a number of
other fine sites.
In the early spring 2017, I received a friend request and private message on Facebook, and much like how I discovered the magic of Fashion Art Rock band Palaye Royale, the request was simple: ‘Please check out my trainer for my show ‘DK The Gig’”. Now, it must be said that I don’t always ‘check out’ everything that is sent to me. If I did that, I would spend the whole day watching videos and not getting any work done. To be frank, not everything that is sent to me is something I would post on our site anyway. It simply MUST cut the mustard in terms of quality, content, originality, and, of course, pure talent. With this said, entering into the (like-minded, I must add) comedic mind of Philadelphia born and based Darren Keith, was like having front row seats at the premiere of a Robin Williams film: it’s funny, unpredictable, thoroughly entertaining, and leaves you always wanting more. I am referring to his trailer for his upcoming series ‘DK The Gig’, and if you saw it on his socials or even ours and it lead you to this testimonial, then you are in the right place. After the first few seconds of the trailer, I was sold and I confess, I was laughing so hard, I almost fainted. Not even joking!
We were lucky enough to capture a few moments with Darren for this exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ glimpse into the creative mind of this comedy genius to discover that he is not only the funny man behind the script for this series, he is also the Producer, Actor, Musician, and Director! The series focuses on the life of a Musician whose career has dead-ended leading him to the stage set in his friends’ restaurant (based in Philadelphia), not exactly the place he imagined himself. The comedic value in this film is portrayed by Keiths’ very blatant and obvious unwillingness to appreciate this ‘courtesy spot’ (expressed in his sarcastic demeanor and over inflated ego), apparent right from the get-go in the series trailer. To quote the Facebook page for this series: “”DK the gig” Is a comedy series about a Musician whose ego is much larger than the Restaurant Stage He Performs On.’ If this is your first time discovering ‘DK The Gig’, we encourage you to check out the trailer (below) and THEN read on!
Keith has a stellar cast lined up for the filming of this series such as: Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns), Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), Joseph Arthur (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne), Fred Berman (Amos Lee), Four-time Emmy Nominated TV Producer Jill Gould(JillGo Productions), and Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies – See Barrys’ Profile below). After perusing the files of each of these individuals, I am certain that this series is a recipe for success and the high caliber individuals involved are the ingredients to what will be a masterpiece.
At present, Keith has begun an Indiegogo campaign to get the series into production. He is also scouting potential investors or Networks for the series and in all honesty, if I had my own network, THIS is the series I would place my bets on. There are a lot of shows on TV and Netflix today that don’t capture my attention past the pilot episode. It takes a lot for me to be engaged enough to ‘want more’ and this series, I predict, will go the distance in the right hands. I had the chance to speak at length on the phone with Darren where we went a little further in depth on the current status of this project and there was one thing we both agreed on: we are anxious to get the production started so it can be shared with the world! This comes with your active participation SMC friends and family – if you ‘like’ what you see and want to see more like I do, click on the link on our right-side menu on the SMC Spotlight and let’s get this show (literally) in the road! For any inquiries about this series via my brilliant network of friends, please contact Darren Keith direct (located in the socials below).
Editors Note: One thing I know about the Starlight Music Chronicles family is this: we are a collective of artists and creative like-minded individuals who understand the meaning of ‘true support’. I am confident that after reading and watching this special feature on our site, there will be financial backing and very possibly, a spot on a network for this series. I am THAT confident this series has what it takes to put a smile to peoples’ faces, bring humor to this often dark world, and to become a household name.
DK The Gig. Don’t forget it folks. You heard it here first.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Darren Keith, Producer, Writer, Musician, Actor of ‘DK The Gig’
SMC – Hello Darren! Welcome to the SMC Spotlight! Let’s begin with getting into your background – you are a Musician and an Actor/Creator of your series ‘DK The Gig’ now. Tell us about you. I want to know more about your early career to where you are today and what lead you here where you are now the Producer of your own series.
DK – Hello, Candice! Well…I was born and raised in Philadelphia. I started playing music professionally at 15 and have been a freelance/session drummer for most of my life, playing for countless local, national and international bands and artists. I have even done the singer/ songwriter thing from time to time as well. I’ve lived in NYC, LA, Austin (twice), and even Branson, Missouri. And even though I’ve done a lot of things musically that I’m really proud of, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with music and the drums, and have even totally stopped playing many times over the course of my career, sometimes for very long periods of time.
Regarding what led me to what I’m doing now…the majority of the time I was a musician, for 25 years or more, I had this consuming thought that maybe I wasn’t meant to be a musician, but should have been doing something with my sense of humor instead…and that thought gnawed away at me for most of my adult life. Then something happened to me a few years ago, which made me confront this unrealized dream that I had been carrying around for all those years, and I knew it was time to either do something about it or to finally let it go, knowing full-well that meant taking it to the grave with me.
So, with no background, training, experience or connections in any facet of this process, I wrote ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode and started the long journey of figuring out how to do something like this, at the level I wanted to do it at, when you’re starting point is at zero. And when I say zero, I mean that I had never written a script (I didn’t even know how to format a script), had never acted, and had never produced anything…actually, I really didn’t even know what a producer did…and now I was a producer!
So, skip to a few years later and I finally release ‘DK The Gig’s’ Pilot episode, and the response was incredible. It was then that I really started thinking about the future of the show…not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but up until that point, the Pilot episode signified a life achievement for me…I wasn’t thinking that it had to be this or that so it could be shopped to a Network, or that it had to have an arc, etc…the main purpose it served was making people laugh and most importantly, proving to myself that after all those many years, the voice inside my head that told me I could do it…was right.
SMC – Who are some of the people you have played with in your music career?
SMC – You have quite the stellar cast lined up for your series. Wow! How did you acquire this stellar line-up?
DK – Thanks…I’m really excited about all the amazing people involved with the show. The first person I contacted was Barry Markowitz. Barry’s a legendary Cinematographer….he’s filmed so many incredible movies, like Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses and The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies. About 20 minutes after emailing him the link to the Pilot, my phone rings and it’s Barry. He says “I just watched the Pilot…it’s not just good…it’s fucking great”. He must have watched it twice because he knew the episode every which way and was reciting lines back to me. We talked for almost an hour, really hit it off, and he told me he wanted to be involved moving forward and shoot the new episodes. So…we were off and running.
After I found my wonderful Producer, Jill Gould, we started casting and were lucky enough to find all these amazing people, both actors and musicians, who loved the show and wanted to be involved, and they’re truly all great, like the actors Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless), Stephen Graybill (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns) and Brooke Totman (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens), as well as musicians Joseph Arthur (Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), Pete Donnelly (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne) and Fred Berman (Amos Lee). And we’re not even finished casting all the parts yet…there’s still more people coming on board.
SMC – We have shared your enthusiasm for this remarkable series on the SMC socials but we definitely want to get more involved in some way by way of supporting your series from this moment going forward by keeping you current in our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series. We usually like to chronicle the journey of many of our star profiles. What are your thoughts on that?
DK – I think it’s great. And I’m sure everyone really appreciates what you are doing. 🙂
SMC – How many episodes do you have planned for this series?
DK – Well, it depends on the budget we end up with, but I really want to shoot at least 4 of these episodes, which are all somewhere in the 15 to 20 minute range, and that will be DK the gig’s “First Season”. Most web series I’ve seen shoot a lot of really short episodes, but I’m insane, so of course I’m doing much longer episodes that cost a fortune, and without a Network financing it. And it’s because I really want to develop these story lines and characters….to create this universe and drop people right into the middle of it. And I think it would do the scripts and story lines a huge disservice if I try to chop them up into shorter pieces.
SMC – Do you have a network in mind for the series to be shown on?
DK – If I had a dollar for every time someone told me this show should be on a Network…I wouldn’t need a Network! I’m not kidding though…I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that ‘DK The Gig’ should be on HBO…or NETFLIX…or AMAZON, HULU, etc….and there’s many things I like about all of them. The most important things I’ll be looking for in finding the show a good home is finding who is the most organic fit for it, and who will be the most committed to preserving the show’s integrity and making it a priority.
I LOVE this! The true perils of a man who just wants to play his music…and its f*cking funny!
– Steve Lukather (Toto/Guitar Legend)
SMC – If you could choose which network to have the show aired on, which would that be?
DK – I am a totally food-obsessed person, so I think when all is said and done, it’s going to come down to which Network takes me to the better restaurant. And yes…once you put food in front of me, all that “integrity” shit goes right out the window.
SMC – We connected on Facebook. You had sent me a friend request a while back, then somehow, we disconnected and then I remembered your promo reel and I think I was tweeting with someone about you…or maybe it was you who tweeted with me. Regardless, your video cracked me up. I think I hit replay about 10 times! Have you always had this great comedic sense of humor?
DK – Thanks. As far back as I can remember. I always knew I was funny, and have always been able to make people laugh…really laugh…whether it was friends, family, or total strangers. There have been so many times when someone has told me about something funny that I did or said that stuck with them…even if it was 20 years earlier…and sometimes I remember, and sometimes I don’t. Those are just some of the reasons that made me finally do this.
SMC – Would you say that living in New York has lent the authenticity to your performance as a comedian who delivers his humor with a punch? I heard New Yorkers can be tough!
DK – I only lived in NYC for about 8 months when I was around 20, so I don’t think NYC plays much of a role in my life at all, even though it is still one of my favorite cities. I live in Philly, which is very similar in many ways and very close…so that is probably what you’re detecting.
This is great…
– Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam)
SMC – When did the concept of ‘DK The Gig’ begin?
DK – I would always think of funny things…and since I have probably played a few thousand gigs in my life, I would think of a lot of these things while in that environment, so it seemed like a very natural progression for my first show to be about a musician.
SMC – You have some pretty amazing ‘bells and whistles’ included in your Indiegogo campaign! Can you tell us which ones you are looking forward to delivering on? I saw a ‘Birthday Party’, ‘Associate Producer’, and the ‘You Want It All’ packages which are all great!
DK – Thanks! Well, I originally wanted to offer my body for a PERK at one of the higher donation levels, but INDIEGOGO’s legal department got involved, so I’m sorry, people! Actually, it’s fine, because the shipping fee on that would have made it a bit cost-prohibitive anyway.
Yes…I have some great perks. For one PERK, I take you out for your birthday (even if it isn’t…we’ll just say it is so we can get that candle on your dessert)…and for another PERK, you can actually be an EXTRA on the set for a day and have that very unique and amazing experience of being on the real set of a series. I also have DK the gig Shirts, Mugs, and a lot of drum-related PERKS too. And of course, you can donate without taking a PERK at all.
SMC – I would LOVE to sit on set and do a behind-the-scenes take on this show. Legit. I bet you all had a blast even filming the promo video for this series. How do you keep a straight face?
DK – You just hope that you don’t break and ruin an otherwise great take. But if it happens, it happens….just have fun with it.
SMC – Ideally, when would you like to film the first season and have it aired?
DK – As soon as we reach our goal and raise the money we need to film, we’ll coordinate everyone’s schedule and shoot. I can’t wait for everyone to see these episodes…but the quality is paramount to me, so I always take my time and do things the right way, even though I want it to be out as soon as possible.
DK the gig is so damn funny, smart and a little raunchy. It’s real. I know guys like this!
– David Uosikkinen (The Hooters/Sessions)
SMC – Who has been most supportive of this project so far? Who would you like to give a shout out to?
DK – My family and my good friends…they are as supportive as you could hope for and have been amazing. And, I have to say that I have some really awesome and die-hard fans who have been so supportive of everything I’m doing, and they know who they are…and I appreciate every one of them.
SMC – In terms of your own personal perseverance, what keeps you going when there are challenges? We all have them and we all deal with them differently. I am always curious how everyone in the industry powers through….
DK – The self-belief and confidence I have in myself and my abilities, the love and support I have from those that are important to me, and all the kind words and support I have received through the years from those who enjoy what I do creatively….those are the things that always keep me afloat.
SMC – I would like to keep people in the loop as to the progress of your series – what kinds of ways can we lend our support? I have a good feeling this is going to be a pretty amazing series!
DK – Thank you…the response to the show has really been unbelievable and it’s nice to hear so many people tell me they think this show is going to be big (see industry quotes below). The best possible way everyone can help right now is by donating to our INDIEGOGO campaign, and then by sharing and spreading the word about the show and our crowdfunding.
While we’re talking about the INDIEGOGO campaign, one of the things I would really want your readers to know is just how expensive these episodes are to make. I came from the music world and have been involved in not only live shows, but in the recording of many CDs, both as a sideman and on my own…and nothing could have prepared me for the unbelievable difference in budgets between music and doing something in the TV/Film/Digital Content world. Making any type of video at this level costs infinitely more money than making a CD does. The difference is staggering. So…to do what we’re doing will easily cost somewhere around $70,000 or $80,000. And that’s why every single donation to our INDIEGOGO campaign matters. Even if someone can only afford to give $5.00, that donation helps towards the goal.
Well crafted and hilarious insight into the life of a musician.
– Derek Sivers (Founder, CDbaby)
SMC – I was happy to see as I was typing this interview out that you just made one of your milestones on the fundraising process of this series. I know it’s often quite the task trying to get people to see the vision you do, but – you have marketed this project very well. What areas do you think there are strengths or areas of improvement you would like to tackle for this project?
DK – Creatively, I am 100% confident in the quality of this project. The only area of improvement I would hope for is on the marketing/social media/PR side, simply because I am not a big social media person, and given how important that is today, it’s something that I’d like to see grow with this project. If there’s any heavy social media people out there who want to be involved with the show, reach out.
SMC – What makes a person wake up one day and say, ‘I want to make a series’? I mean, there must be some form of love for the art of film making and acting. You are wearing a lot of hats for this project!
DK – Well, that “waking up one day and creating a series” took me about 25-30 years! Yes…I created the show, wrote it all myself, play the lead character “DK”, composed all of the music, am an executive producer, and even did some editing. And besides the music component, I had never done any of these things before and had to teach myself everything. I had no idea how to edit…I didn’t even know how to import media files…so I taught myself how to do it, did the final edit on the Pilot, and then made that TRAILER that you saw that everyone has loved. It’s really been crazy.
SMC – I am telling you, I think anyone who doesn’t know about this project should! I think there are a lot of people out there who have deep pockets and I think they should dig deep. I don’t say this about too many people or projects these days because there aren’t many who impress me. That’s a fact. I am very selective who we choose to be on the SMC Spotlight or a part of Starlight Music Chronicles as part of our team. What drives you to do your best and keep going?
DK – First of all, I want to thank you for all the kind words…it means a lot. Given my unusual and unconventional situation and all that I’ve been through to arrive at this point, I appreciate it all and am trying to enjoy this journey as much as possible. I am incredibly passionate about this and have always considered myself an extremely creative being…and to me, there is nothing better than being able to make people laugh. Along with family and friends, those are the things that drive me.
SMC – What are the top five things that are important to you in the quest to get this project completed?
DK – I just want to bring these new episodes to life at the highest level possible and have everyone get to see the full scope of the show…I think everything else will fall into place from there.
SMC – What are deal-breakers for you in terms of getting this series completed? Meaning: what would you NOT do to get this film completed?
DK – Well, obviously I really want to have this series completed and would do just about anything except share my doughnuts…because I loves my doughnuts. The President of Netflix could sit down in front of me and say “I’m prepared to offer you eight-figures and commit to five seasons of DK the gig…and the only thing you have to do is give me half of that Strawberry and Basil doughnut”…and I would be like “How about five-figures, a two-season commitment, and I eat this whole doughnut?”
SMC – Have you filmed anything beyond the promo video as of yet? Is there a pilot episode you have already gotten filmed?
DK – Yes…I filmed a Pilot that I released in 2016…and the Trailer you saw was made with footage from it…but given that so much has changed with the show since I released it, and in light of these amazing new people that are now involved, I thought it was best to take it down and just use the Trailer until the new episodes are released.
SMC – What is the best compliment you have received from an industry peer for this project?
DK – Well…there have been quite a few that stand out to me…but honestly, I have to say that I appreciate all of them. Especially when you do something as personal as this is to me, it means a lot when it resonates with people and they communicate that to you, whether it’s a peer or someone you don’t know who saw it on YouTube.
SMC – How long does it take for you to write the script for even one episode?
DK – With the way I write, it’s impossible to tell. I don’t even attempt to sit down and write an episode straight through or try to finish them as quickly as possible. I like to write something, then put it aside and let it be for awhile…could be days, weeks, or even months…and then come back to it with fresh eyes. We get so emotionally attached to what we create that it’s easy, and often unavoidable, to lose perspective and objectivity. And since we’re incapable of seeing our own work through someone else’s eyes, which would allow us to have a different perspective and objectivity, the way I try to achieve that to some degree is through time and distance. The more you distance yourself from a creative work, the more disassociated and objective of a lens you’ll be able to view it through. And I think that really helps, whether that creative work is a song or a script.
– John “JR” Robinson (Drum Legend)
SMC – I am new to this kind of area of the entertainment industry, but it absolutely fascinates me. Pardon my ignorance for asking this question, but I would like to know – do you have the whole seasons scripts complete? Or are you working on these as the episodes are filmed?
DK – I already have way more scripts than we’re going to be shooting, which is a good position to be in. If HBO picked up this show today and said we needed 10 episodes to start shooting tomorrow, we’d be good.
SMC – Who has mentored you or inspired you to create this project?
DK – Actually, no one…I had to teach myself everything, every step of the way. I have had no formal education, mentor, or experience doing anything like this. I have made a few really good friends along the way who I turn to if I have a question about something…but that’s it.As far as inspiration, without question, no one inspires me more than Barry Manilow. Not his music…but his hair. Actually, I get all the inspiration I need from doughnuts. And who hasn’t? I guarantee that if you could get close enough to the Mona Lisa, you’d find traces of chocolate frosting on it.
SMC – You and I have spoken in chat about how it benefits many to bring this project together – what are your thoughts on the people who have really ‘stepped up’ for you with this project?
DK – If people are helping you crystallize your vision, why not let them benefit in some way from their investment in you? There’s nothing better than having people involved that are emotionally invested and who truly care about what you’re doing and want to see it succeed. You have to seek alignment…whether it’s how your personality aligns with someone, or how your aesthetic sensibilities align…whatever it may be, you should seek out those with whom you most organically align. You may not always find them, and it often makes the process take longer, but it’s worth it.
SMC – Okay, final question: what are five things you can tell us about this project that have made you really proud of it?
DK – I have to say that I’m really proud of it all. Once again, to consider what I’ve done, coming from literally knowing nothing and having zero experience just a few years ago, to getting a pilot made, making the trailer myself, evolving the show the way I have and getting all these amazing people that are now involved….there’s a lot that I’m proud of.
SMC – Thank-you Darren! I look forward to seeing you on the tube with this because that’s where it’s going!
DK – You’re welcome, Candice…it’s my pleasure. Your support and enthusiasm for what I’m doing has been awesome, so thank you… 😉
Social Media Links for ‘DK The Gig’ or Darren Keith (click to view)
*All content below is from the Indiegogo Campaign which can be (found here)
Hello people…it’s Darren Keith here and I want to welcome you to the new INDIEGOGO campaign for my comedy series DK the gig, which is about a musician whose ego is much larger than the restaurant stage on which he performs. This is a true passion project…I created the show, wrote it, play the lead character “DK”, composed all the music, am an executive producer, and even did some of the editing. I have been a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists/bands, but creating DK the gig fulfilled a lifelong dream for me, which was to do something professionally with my sense of humor. Now, only a few years after officially starting this journey and writing my first script, I am about to shoot DK the gig’s first season of episodes with all these incredible people that are involved.
THE AWESOME AND EXCITING NEWS!
Legendary Cinematographer Barry Markowitz (who has filmed such acclaimed movies as Oscar-winner Crazy Heart, Sling Blade, All The Pretty Horses, The Apostle, as well as Rob Reiner’s last 3 movies) is filming DK the gig’s new episodes!!! Barry loved the DK the gig Pilot episode and said he wanted to be involved with the project moving forward and shoot it’s FIRST SEASON of episodes, which is incredible.
OUR AMAZING NEW CAST!!!
We are so lucky to have these incredibly talented actors, actresses and musicians (and we’re not even done! More will be coming on board in the next few months) for the new episodes:
CHARLENE AMOIA (How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Dexter, House, Bones, NCIS, The Young And The Restless)
STEPHEN GRAYBILL (HBO’s Big Little Lies, Law And Order, All My Children, As The World Turns)
BROOKE TOTMAN (MADtv, The Benefits Of Gusbandry, King Of Queens)
JOSEPH ARTHUR (Grammy Nominated Singer/Songwriter)
PETE DONNELLY (The Figgs, NRBQ, Shelby Lynne)
FRED BERMAN (Amos Lee)
And I have a wonderful new producer, Jill Gould, who is helping me make this show as good as we all know it can be.
We are going to film DK the gig’s “FIRST SEASON” of episodes, and to do that we need your help. Some incredible things have happened since my first INDIEGOGO campaign that have made this production much bigger and significantly more expensive than it previously was, which is why we are here once again. It’s been estimated that this will cost over $70,000 or $80,000, and with your help, our hope is to raise at least $30,000 of it here on INDIEGOGO. As soon as we reach our goal, we can begin the work, which includes pre-production (scheduling, rehearsals, recording the music, etc), shooting the episodes, post-production(editing, sound, etc), PR, and then releasing the episodes online for everyone to see.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
So, here’s the part where you come in. It is so difficult and expensive to do what we’re doing without a major network financing it. It will cost a FORTUNE…and as I said earlier, well over $70,000 or 80,000, which has to pay for the cast, flights and hotels for the cast, location fees, equipment rentals, post-production (editing, sound, etc.), production insurance, hard drives, recording sessions…the list goes on and on. So many people think that DK the gig has a very bright future and will eventually get picked up by someone like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, etc., so it’s extremely important to me that everything is done right, and we present the show in the best possible way to make sure that happens. You can help us accomplish that right now by making a donation, however large or small, because EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS. And please don’t forget to help spread the word about this INDIEGOGO campaign.
THANK YOU SO MUCH….WE CANNOT WAIT FOR YOU TO SEE THE NEW EPISODES!!!
About Darren (as per the Indiegogo Campaign)
My name is Darren Keith. Before creating DK the gig, I was a professional drummer and singer/songwriter for most of my life and have played with countless local and national artists and bands. DK the gig was inspired by the 25-plus-year dream I had (while being a musician) to do something professionally with my sense of humor. It was something that gnawed at me for well over 2 decades, so to be at this exciting stage right now is very profound for me. This is the epitome of a passion project….I created DK the gig, wrote it, play the lead character DK, composed all of the music, am the executive producer, and even did some of the editing.
In 2015, while then Artist of the Month IAMWARFACE came blasting onto the Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) radar, there was another sound we heard that also caught our attention. It was the hauntingly beautiful instrumentals of Portland, Oregon Composer The Lady AnoNYMous, a pseudoNYM and alter ego of Writer and Composer anoNYMous Raven (Nym for short). I know, a mouthful, right? I assure you, once you have begun to delve into the vast library of this exceptional Composer, you will agree that there aren’t enough elaborate descriptives in the dictionary that come close to explaining the discerning and ethereal compositions he creates.
Late this summer, Nym launched his album ‘Dialectical Observations’ and the result is a peek into the magical, kaleidoscope-like world that we at SMC have come to know so well of this Artist. Throughout this interview, I have stated my thoughts on Nyms’ art in questions which are answered in depth. I have to say that this is a true work of art that I have much admiration for. The album in its entirety is not only eloquent and beautiful, it is majestic and magical too. My personal favorite is ‘Fleeting Fractals’ which, to me, represents the sounds of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Use your imagination when listening and remember my words – it will make sense. With compositions like these, it wouldn’t surprise me if this Artist is approached by the film industry – these are songs that could easily fit into the film world and I do hope to see this happen for Nym and when it does, I won’t be surprised. This is one of those Artists whose work (I predict) will one day end up in that Academy Award-winning Fantasy or Science Fiction film and you will all look back one day and think: ‘Hey, isn’t that that Artist who we first read about on the SMC Spotlight?’
Why yes, yes it was…
Editor’s Note: I would personally like to tip my hat to Nym for a beautiful work of art with this album. I think it should be in the libraries of every ambitious music collector and played on that cozy night in with the candles going and a glass of wine. It’s like audible medicine for the soul…Enjoy.
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | The Lady AnoNYMous
SMC – Hello Nym! We are happy to have you back for this second Spotlight Numbered Series. We last had you on our older Spotlight platform. Can you tell us what has been happening for you career-wise since then?
Nym – Mostly I’ve been a recluse on a small farm, which has demanded a lot of physical labor, which I’m able to do after three years of having severe limitations. So, I’ve had less time for music, though I’ve been promoting online nearly every day, and in particular it paid off with landing an interview on Beyond The Dawn Radio’s Erosion Factory show. I’m now one degree of separation from some of my favorite artists in the music and film industries!
SMC – Your new music from your album ‘Dialectical Observations’ is astounding! My first listen was ‘When Anchorage Became an Island’ and I felt the emotion in the whole instrumental piece. Can you tell us what helps you create your storyboard visual when you create pieces like this?
Nym – I don’t really have visuals in mind when I write music; it comes from a purely emotional place, mostly stemming from tunes that get stuck in head that seemingly come from nowhere. There are other times when it just begins from an experimentation in sound. For that song, I developed a cello theme, and I approached the rest of the song from a feeling of grace in sadness.
SMC – Your second single from the album was spot on for ‘Man Seeking Cocoon’…I feel like these are so suited to the kinds of films that win Academy Awards…Can you tell me if you are creating a sound that is geared toward film?
Nym – It has been previously suggested to me that I work in film. When I was younger, I listened to scores from my favorite films and TV series, and now I can’t watch anything without listening closely to its soundtrack, so the experience partly feels like research!
SMC – I had also noticed that after downloading the songs from the new album there is some magnificent artwork that coincides with all your pieces. Are they the starting point for your music creations? They are incredible!
Nym – The link I sent you was for what I call an ‘Artist’s Edition,’ usually reserved for patrons of my Patreon crowdfunding campaigns. They’re usually accompanied by a lot of visual art, and I now have a trade agreement with an amazing digital artist, Cyril Rolando. We can freely use each other’s art, as long as we give credit. He’s also responsible for the cover art of many of my EPs.
SMC – Can you tell me which is your favorite score from this album and why?
Nym – I think the second half of ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ is possibly the most perfect thing I have ever achieved. It’s absolutely epic, if I do say so myself. Also, I think ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a really fun ballad with lots of experimental elements.
SMC – What has the reception been like for your music?
Nym – Well, I’ve only ever once received negative criticism, and I think that was by a troll. My songs seem to be appreciated by people who of many different musical tastes: people who otherwise prefer metal, hip-hop, techno, and Christian music. That last is a little unexpected, since I’m openly and pretty vocal about being gay and promote gender awareness Mostly, my audience is mostly made up of lovers of ambient and neoclassical music, and I’ve always been warmly received.
SMC – I know that truly unique music like yours isn’t often found in mainstream music that is created today. I feel it’s because it is so unique and eclectic. With that being said, I also feel there is most definitely a place for your music and I see it doing well with the film circuit…what are your thoughts on that?
Nym – I’m very interested in working in film, and I’ve been hoping to be approached for scoring an independent short film. I’d like to start small, but I’ve known to just jump right into things! Zoe Keating’s doing the music for the series ‘The Returned’ inspired me greatly. I’ve also occasionally seen post-rock bands credited as doing the scores for some major films.
SMC – What instrument would you say that you gravitate toward and why?
Nym – My first love is piano. I started out with a fisher price ‘Sesame Street’ toy piano when I was two years old. Then, from the age of seven I had weekly lessons for five years. When I was fifteen, I was captivated by Tori Amos, who showed me piano has a place in alternative rock. I also have a great love for cello, which I believe has a three-dimensional sound that is pretty unique.
SMC – I listened to your score ‘Fleeting Fractals’ and I almost cried. I am not kidding…this song reminds me of joy and life and birth of something beautiful. Virtually all your music has this element for me, but this song was just so…happy for me to hear. What was it like to create that song? What was going on in your mind when you began to create it?
Nym – I really don’t know how that happened. I went into it drawing inspiration from How To Destroy Angels’ thick bass sound and post-metal guitars in their song ‘Keep It Together’ and accompanied it with a short, previously recorded alto piano ditty. The soprano piano sort of jumped in of its own accord, and the song became unexpectedly happy, which I just sort of ran with. I blame my meds.
SMC – ‘Signor Fancypants’ is another great score…can you tell me how you come up with the names for each song? This one is totally suited to the instrumentation heard throughout and I can’t explain why! Do you write these with a person in mind or a situation?
Nym – Sometimes I pluck song titles from the air and record them with that in mind. Other times the song just tells me its name while I’m working on it. For ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ I had to meditate on it for quite some time and followed an intricate stream of consciousness that jumped through many different associations. With ‘Signor Fancypants’ there was a swaggering, snooty quality that inspired the title. I also sometimes draw from film and television. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ and ‘Butterflies On Ganymede’ both came from the series ‘The Expanse.
SMC – Why the colors ‘black and white’ for your album? I personal love the combination, but I would like to hear what your thoughts are on this?
Nym – I was just trying to be pretentiously artsy with photos of various trees I took around our property. It’s that simple. Then I ran with it for the artwork of the Artist’s Edition of the album.
SMC – Can you tell us what you would ideally like to see happen with your music in terms of getting it heard and in which market you would best like it showcased in?
Nym – I’d love to see it performed by an orchestra. Oh, how about a traveling orchestra?! As for what market… I think I touch on every sub-genre of alternative rock, and would like to see it distributed on CD and vinyl, and some of it to be played in clubs. I would also like to hear what I’ve previously recorded in the soundtracks of film and television. That would be less intimidating than actually scoring for those mediums.
SMC – ‘Less Sinister Cousins’ is a very magical little number. I quite like the charm and mystical feel to it. Almost feels like something you would see in an eleven film or video…
Nym – It was inspired by fantasy author Charles De Lint, so if it was included in a movie or television adaptation, that would be awesome.
SMC – ‘Fistfuls of Whimsy’ again has that magical element heard throughout. I think that there is definitely a lovely theme here throughout the whole album – a story if you will…can you tell us what that might be?
Nym – I like to think of it as a ‘cinematic’ experience, when listened to all the way through. As for the story, I think that’s up to each listener. For me, it brings a lot of personal experiences to mind. ‘When Anchorage Became An Island’ calls to mind a past trauma that I think I’ve learned to handle with grace. But there’s also been many magical experiences in my life, and I try to approach life in general from a place of whimsy. For ‘Fistfuls,’ I wanted to express that a person who has been a ‘metal head’ in the past can appreciate and even make this kind of music.
SMC – I am personally writing my own book and can envision your music woven throughout my mind while I am writing. Would you be open to collaborating on promotional for projects like mine or others who are looking to showcase your work?
Nym – Absolutely. I think that’s an absolutely lovely idea. I think art can inspire and complement other art.
SMC – Can you tell us what the next 3-6 months look like for you in terms of promotion of your album to music platforms and/or radio?
Nym – As an independent artist, all promotional work walls on me (the main reason I’m always looking for a label that doesn’t repulse me). That takes up much of my energy in this field. Before and after a release always includes an intense campaign. It’s up to me to promote awareness of its availability on mainstream and independent media, and that includes distribution through an online service and sending out my music and feelers toward radio stations and hosts. It takes a lot of email and social media networking. I’ve had the pleasure to be interviewed on some radio shows and for music magazines, in particular the aforementioned Erosion Factory and of course this wonderful publication.
SMC – What do you feel is lacking in the music industry today?
Nym – With most of music being listened on free streaming platforms such as Spotify and YouTube, there needs to be a dramatic restructuring of how royalties and ad revenue are distributed. And record labels are expecting Artists to pay dramatic sums upfront rather than investing in them.
SMC – What do you feel is abundant in the music industry today?
Nym – Definitely an awareness and availability of independent music. Unless they restructure themselves, record labels are becoming obsolete, as artists now have more tools to distribute and promote their music.
SMC – Which social media platform do you gravitate to and why?
Nym – Personally, I’m a subscriber of Apple Music. Their library is quite extensive, and with the ease it took to be a verified artist, I have the ability to connect with fans on their unique Apple Music Connect feature. Also, I already had a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone that are easy to network with each other.
SMC – Which social media platform has been best in promoting your music?
Nym – Actually, I’ve been able to draw in a larger fan base that aren’t friends and family on Google Plus. My audience is more international, and I’m able to use their Communities feature to project more awareness with ease.
SMC – Can you tell us what you feel is the best thing about social media in general?
Nym – It’s the best and most frequently used promotional tool, these days. If an artist doesn’t have social media accounts across the board, they’re most likely to be passed over or forgotten.
SMC – What do you feel are the downfalls of media platforms today who claim to be in support of all indie music?
Nym – They often prey on artists for financial gain. As independent artists, we’re usually poor and can only invest in our art as a hobby rather than a career, until we ‘make it big.
SMC – What music platform do you promote your music on mainly?
Nym – I mentioned Apple Music Connect earlier. It’s one more social media platform, but one that is specifically geared toward artists sharing with fans. But Google lets artists customize their page’s art and bio. Spotify sucks in that regard by requiring a certain number of fans before an artist can be ‘verified’ and then have any say in how they’re presented.
SMC – There are a lot of Artists who gravitate towards curated Spotify playlists these days. What are your thoughts on this?
Nym – I think it can be a useful tool. I personally don’t use Spotify much, but it’s an oft-used streaming platform, and I think playlists with a specific demographic in mind will possibly be listened to by many.
SMC – Okay, final question: if you could sum up why you chose music as a career in 140 characters or less, how would it read?
Nym – Music is a universal language. As an artist, the most rewarding thing for me is to be a part of the soundtrack for a person’s life.
When we talk about Halloween, we are encompassing all it entails: witches, black cats, vampires, monsters, and…. ghosts. This leads into today’s epic launch which I personally have been beyond excited to finally be able to share. Here’s why…
In October of 2015, I promoted a video for fashion art rock band Palaye Royale for their song ‘White’ off their upcoming ‘Boom Boom Room Side A’ album. The video content included an intro from InterFM897 Japans ‘WhatTheFunday’ radio show for the band. The show was hosted in part by Mr. Mike Rogers and after tagging it in our SMC post, Mike and I connected. What a ride it’s been too! In the two years that I have known Mike, we have conversed, collaborated, shared mutual likes of the Artists we support, laughed, and networked like crazy. This has led to some of the most prominent stories on the SMC Spotlight platform with notables such as Mr. John Ferriter, The Tearaways, Stephen David Brooks, Chris Craker (Karma Sound Studios), and The Fontaines. This is just scratching the surface too.
There is so much that goes into the background of someone as interesting as Mike Rogers and this goes beyond his vast connections: it is the fact that he speaks candidly, honestly, and humorously in his own blog ‘Marketing Japan’ (see here). This is something this world really needs: honest and factual journalism and the fact that Mike is willing to write a truthful account of his experience with ‘Sex Pistols’ John Lydon aka: ‘Johnny Rotten’ in ‘I Interviewed Johnny Rotten – The True Story’ was, in my opinion, deserving of a massive applause. It isn’t often these days that many are willing to write responsible journalism, and Mike is. That bodes well in my books! Enough that I have formally invited Mike to be supported on the SMC Spotlight website and he has agreed. If you look to the right of this feature (desktop) or below it (mobile or tablet), you will see that his blog has been added to our roster with ‘The Chronicles’, ‘Little Black Book Club’, and ‘SMC Artist of the Year’. Take a moment to read it, there’s a lot to learn from someone who has the background he has…
Which leads me into Mike’s background: he’s been a Musician (The Rotters), General Manager of a major Japanese broadcasting station (TV Tokyo owned InterFM), produced smash hit programs and several of Japan’s highest rated and most famous radio programs, and most recently, Wrote and produced full-length motion picture “Ghostroads – A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story“. This bringing me to the purpose of launching his first ever SMC Spotlight fittingly, today, Halloween day. This is a film, is a truly entertaining thrill ride from start to finish and has earned some serious awards and nods at prestigious Film Festivals worldwide including the Raindance Film Festival. The story line is both humorous and steeped in truths: ‘what would you do for fame?’ being the tagline. It is reflective of an individual who has not only seen the best and the worst of the entertainment industry, he has lived them.
The vibrancy and quality of this film, featuring brilliant music by some of Japans most famous bands (The Neatbeats, The Privates, The 50 Kaitenz) show Mikes serious credibility in his role of Director and Producer. I recommend anyone who is looking for something to take them away from their day to day grind or the negativity of what’s going on in the world today and turn their attention to this film. It is quickly becoming an iconic rock and roll (and dare I say, Halloween) music cult classic which I can easily put up there with the likes of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I know what you are thinking: ‘Did she just say that?’ Yes, yes I did because undoubtedly, in my mind, it’s something you will want to watch every year!
Editor’s Note: Mike, I am personally congratulating you on your accomplishment with this film. I realize and can appreciate how much strategy, planning, and hard work goes into these kinds of projects from start to finish. So, I will say to you this: I am very picky with the kinds of art I will lend my praise to – it must be exceptional. With ‘Ghostroads’, you have created a masterpiece and I look forward to supporting you on your future projects going forward. This film, honestly, gets a five out of five Starlight Music Chronicles star rating. Congrats!
SMC Spotlight Exclusive Interview | Mike Rogers ‘Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story’
SMC – Hello Mike! This Spotlight has been a very long time coming my friend! Let’s begin with a little bit of a back story on who you are and how you evolved into your career today. Can you tell us what new readers to our site will want to know about Mike Rogers?
Mike – OK. You can ask me anything. Like about the time I was the driver (and booze runner) for Burt Reynolds on the set of the film Boogie Nights in 1997. Or how about the time when Justin Beiber, in a foaming-at-the-mouth rage, tried to stab me in the shoulder with a butter knife at Mick Jagger’s pool party because a drunk and topless Selena Gomez was riding on my shoulders and screaming at him and singing “I’m so over you!”… I have lots of those!
SMC – I am going to get right into this interview with your film ‘Ghostroads: A Japanese Rock and Roll Ghost Story’, which has been getting some major traction on the film festival circuit. Which awards, or accomplishments have you won or been acknowledge for to date?
Mike – Well, the biggest thing so far is getting selected at Raindance Film Festival in London. Raindance is one of the most famous and respected film festivals in the world, so even though we didn’t win any big high-falutin’ awards, just being selected at Raindance is incredible. Many film makers try all their lives and never get into a festival like Raindance. I have to thank my “Cinema Sensei,” Stephen David Brooks, (see Stephen David Brooks interview here) who actually, has become one of my very best friends, for all the coaching and advice. Without him, we’d have never gotten into that festival. That’s not bullshit, it’s true. And a big thanks to John Ferriter for introducing me to Stephen. John Ferriter is tops too (and plays lead tambourine for the rock band, The Tearaways), as your readers already know! (see John Ferriter interview here)
We’ve been in several other festivals as “also-ran” but, actually, we’ve only won one award so far. It was for “2nd Place” in the “Best Foreign Feature Category.” I think the official award title for second-place is “The Film That Sucks Less Than the Others” award…. Or something like that.
SMC – I have personally seen this film and can NOT say enough good about it. There are no films like it on the market today which not only have appealed to foreign culture in Japan and the UK, but has also been getting attention in North America as well. (which is where we are based) What is the greatest compliment you have received on this film so far?
Mike – Hmmm? That’s a hard one. I figured out that, naturally, when someone is making their first movie, no one expects much… So, I’ve gotten remarks like, “Wow! That was better than I expected.” Or, “I’ve seen other films that friends made and they were all bad. This was really good!” Or, from my wife’s mom and dad, scratching their heads after watching the film and asking, “What was that all about?”
I guess the best compliment was from the top program director of Raindance who wrote, “Congratulations on a truly great film.” That blew my mind… I can’t imagine a higher compliment than that. I cried the night when I read that comment from her.
SMC – The synopsis of this film is basically selling your soul to the Devil (Ghost) for instant fame. We see this all the time in our industry. Is this a personal experience you have had or seen happen?
Mike – Yes. You guys are going to think I am nuts, so you can skip over this next part if you wish, but I have seen this personally. Now, I am not a religious person and I follow no organized religion, but I personally know people who made deals (by prayer to somebody) for fame… (As Bobby Dylan says, “It may be heaven, or it may be hell, but you gotta serve somebody.”)
I also saw and heard bad things that happened to them and their families…. I don’t know why these bad things happened to them. Was it because of the deal? Was it bad karma? I don’t know….
But, entertain me for a second here. What is “fame”?
If you make a deal with a Manager, Agent, label, or Publisher or, yes, even the Devil for “fame” then you’d have to damn well know and write down what exactly “fame” means. You know that guy in town whose always drunk and getting into fights down by the billiard hall? Yeah. Everyone knows who he is.
He’s famous, isn’t he?
There are conceited jerks I’ve met who played infield for a famous professional baseball team here in Japan… They were “famous.” But what is famous? You don’t know their names. I don’t know their names. The average person walking on the street wouldn’t recognize them if they saw them. But they are “famous.”
There are many levels of fame. I think that “famous,” I mean, really “famous,” means that anywhere in the world where you walked, many people would recognize you; that’s famous.
So, being in some rock band, having a hit on the charts, being a radio DJ, etc. etc. That’s not really famous…. Michael Jackson? David Bowie? Adolf Hitler? Winston Churchill? Donald Trump? Yeah… People would recognize them. They are famous.
Is this a good thing?
That’s about all I can say on this subject… I could write a book about things I’ve seen involving this person – these people – who I know made a deal for fame….
But the devil doesn’t exist, right?
As for me, I believe in these things much like the great American writer, Samuel Clemens who was also known as Mark Twain; once said, “I do not believe in ghosts, but I sure am afraid of them.”
The old saying goes, “You’d better be careful of what you wish for.”
SMC – From start to finish, what was the length of time spent getting this film made?
Mike – I almost died in a hospital in Sept 2014. It was there where I decided to make a film before I died and wrote the first idea on a napkin. The film was completed in May 2017. So almost 2 1/2 years from conception to finish.
SMC – Tell us about the selection of brilliant talent you have in this film – I can see that you carefully chose some pretty stellar talent from Japan!
Mike – I chose the bands, the Neatbeats, the Privates, the 50 Kaitenz, because those three are my favorite Japanese bands of all-time. Foreigners don’t usually know good Japanese bands because the only Japanese acts that people know outside of Japan are released on major labels. Take Baby Metal (please!) these big money labels create these acts and sell them… It’s OK, I get it. When I was a kid, I liked the Monkees too… But, I am astounded at how I sometimes talk to foreigners (who are over 12 years old) who like stuff like Baby Metal.
The Neatbeats, the Privates, the 50 Kaitenz, are the real thing. They are DIY indies acts. They have all been offered deals with majors, but they do things the indies way… Why? Because everyone knows, major labels have a way of screwing up good indies acts. It is common knowledge, isn’t it?
Also, I chose those bands because they are easy to explain to a foreign audience in just a few words. The Neatbeats are the ‘Japanese Beatles,’ the Privates are the ‘Japanese Buzzcocks,’ the 50 Kaitenz are the ‘Japanese Ramones.” Simple is always best, especially when making a sales presentation… And, in life, nearly everything is a “sales presentation.”
The other actors and actresses in the movie I found because I have always been impressed by European films and off-beat movies that have strong and unforgettable characters – unlike American films which always have people who look like fashion models in them with perfect teeth. In a nutshell, in my movies, I want many to look like the circus act on the cover of the classic album by the Doors, “Strange Days.” I want people who look like freaks – because we are all freaks somewhere deep down inside – and I want strange people because, as the song goes, “People are strange.” We are all strange.
In fact, if you really stop to think about it, the more you get to know people, the stranger they become.
Besides the strangers, I also have one of Japan’s top sex symbol girls in the film, Mina Shirakawa, and Miwa Rock who is one of Japan’s most famous burlesque dancers.
So, there’s something for everybody.
SMC – You also have a cameo in this film as the narrator. Is this your first role in a movie?
Mike – Oh no. I had been in many famous Japanese TV dramas in the eighties; with lots of Japan’s most famous stars! In Ghostroads, I only narrate in the trailer. That’s my voice in the trailer saying, “A struggling Japanese rocker finds a haunted amp with a ghost who promises fame.” (see at end of this interview). I am in the actual movie several times though. You know the scene where the girl throws a beer can out the window of the car? I’m driving.
In fact, that girl is/was one of Japan’s most famous actresses. She has been a big star since the 1980s. She was a sex symbol and starred in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows and commercials galore. Everyone in Japan knows who she is. But she only appears for a split second, so only a few people have spotted her so far… It’s like, well, imagine getting Lindsay Wagner out of retirement and cameo in your film? Or getting Lillian Gish to appear in Whales of August?…. That’s what it is like having this former super-star in the film.
Also, when the story teller is showing the high school yearbook and mentioning about how some jerk acts like your friend, but he steals your girlfriend and you hate that guy forever? That’s my high school senior year photo he is looking at.
SMC – Can you tell me the behind-the-scenes story while making this film?
Mike – I tried to run this film as a business with a profit motive. I am reminded of an anecdote about a very famous businessman and industrialist named John D. Rockefeller. One time, newspaper reporters were interviewing Rockefeller and they attacked him as not being especially knowledgeable about trains or the steel industry. Rockefeller responded by saying, “Perhaps I am not an expert on these subjects, but I am smart enough to hire people around me who are experts.” I never forget that.
As one of the most important jobs of any Producer (be they the manager or founder of a business, or whatever) is to get people around you who are better than you are. It is also wise for any business owner or producer to hire people who are smarter than they are. The smartest management hire smart people so that these smart people tell them what to do. Of course! What’s the point of hiring people who are smarter or more talented than we are if we are going to tell them what to do?
So, when I started out this film, and a big reason it came out so well is that, my #1 priority was not protection of my position, but the success of the project. So, I went out and got a director who was better than me; he had a much better eye for design and composition. He was a true artist. I also hired a cameraman who is really top class and stubborn as hell; he’s stubborn because he’s great at what he does. Of course, my partner, Ken Nishikawa, is a genius at editing and musical styling. Ken is one of the top in his field in Japan and the best editor I’ve ever met. So, with every job, I tried to get people better than me to do specific tasks. I think that is the core reason the film looks the way it does and has enjoyed the success it has; I could have never done this without that great team.
So, we had an Italian director; an American cameraman; a Japanese editor and actors and actresses; Darrell Harris from Nebraska (as a ghost) and me. It was often chaos at the shoots.
Oh, by the way, a guy named Yuji Wada, was our lighting “sensei.” Yuji is a famous Hollywood lighting director. You all know the Bill Murray film, “Lost in Translation”? Yuji does all the lighting for Sophie Coppola’s films. Yuji was my friend and next-door neighbor for ten years… I asked him to help and one day he came and showed us how to do the lighting. I like to think I am a fast learner and I am good at copying people, so when Yuji showed us how to light scenes, we merely mimicked what he showed us. That’s why the film has the lighting it does. Of course, if Yuji could have done it for us himself, we’d be talking about winning an Academy Award, but, beggars can’t be choosers.
Because I am a radio show host and producer, I also am a professional talker; so, I went out to Phillips Electronics (technology company) and convinced them to just give me a thousand dollars (USD) of high tech lighting equipment for absolutely free in trade for putting their name in the credits. When I went there to ask for these high-tech lights I was surprised they eagerly said, “Yes!” so quickly. I actually said to them, “Wait! What? OK? Don’t I have to grovel or something?”
The point is that if you are making a record or a movie, you need to be flamboyant and you need to overcome insecurities and your own fears. Asking for something doesn’t cost anything and there is no risk; all they can do is say, ‘No!’ But you have to have a professional presentation prepared and you must have confidence.
I was prepared for the meeting with Phillips. I had a great trailer, printed synopsis and staff and actors and actresses lists. I had mentally prepared and I knew in my heart that them giving me those lights was a good deal for them too! I know now that they were very happy with the film. I was happy to save a few thousand dollars on lighting.
SMC – You are the Producer/Writer/Director for this film. Do you feel that you had greater creative control of this film by wearing all three hats?
Mike – Yes. I always had the veto over everything… I do realize that I did fail in one thing though; during shooting, we often had a problem with important staff being constantly late. Other issues occurred with arguments over absurd things with the staff. Much later, when the editor and I finished the film and I had informed the editor that we had been accepted at Raindance, the world-famous festival, and I had sold the right for sales and distribution of the film – along with a healthy advance – to a very famous Japanese major film company, my partner, Ken, was almost speechless.
He said to me, “None of us ever thought, in our wildest dreams, that we’d come this far with this movie. In fact, the director and the cameraman were convinced we didn’t even have enough footage for a proper feature film! For a trailer? Maybe. But not a film. Only, you, Mike. You were the only one who believed from the start to the finish that this could happen.”
When he told me this, I wasn’t especially happy because I realized that I had failed in an important part of the project; I had failed to properly explain to the staff what we were going to do. I had failed to get them to realize the vision and the dream. I then understood why the director was always late; why the cameraman would complain about ridiculous things; they didn’t believe that this would become a proper film; they didn’t believe it would be entered in festivals and win awards (hell, they didn’t even believe it would be completed). They never believed for a second that the film would be sold to a Japanese major film studio. So, this was my failure; I didn’t get them to understand the dream and the vision.
We did this well, with people who had no belief or confidence? Imagine how much better it could have been if they believed and became better than themselves? I will always regret this shortcoming of mine.
But, even in the bible Jesus talks about this: I guess it doesn’t matter what others believe. It only matters what I believe. I believed we could do this and be successful.
Though, that the film has done this well and is so successful is nothing short of a miracle. Next film, will astound people even more. I really believe that too.
SMC – While doing my research, I came across a video of you wearing a sandwich board shaking a rattle for the Raindance viewing of your film. Great Stuff! What kind of reaction did you get from that?
Mike – When I was in London at the theater, some friends told me that they had been to some film screenings and, in a theater that seats 200 people, there would only be three to eight people in paid attendance!
I couldn’t believe it!
I was shocked. I thought about my wife. What would she say if I had spent three years of my life making a movie, spent another $2000 going 6000 miles to the other side of the earth only to have it viewed by four people (including me?)
So, with that, I decided what my mission was: I had decided to sell out our screenings or, if I couldn’t, to at least give it the good old samurai try (try or die trying!)
I decided that since we couldn’t hang posters at the theater, I’d take my biggest poster and make a sandwich sign. Then I’d stand in front of the theater wearing the sign every day.
I went to an art shop and bought the supplies for making the sandwich sign. I then went home and constructed it with more loving care than mom making Christmas dinner. The next morning, I went back to the theater with my sandwich sign and put it on and I stood there; in the heat and the sun… I would stand in front of the theater with my sign for four and a half or five hours every day.
I wondered why other filmmakers are so self-conscious and embarrassed that they refuse to promote their own films in this way? Nobody really cares what we do. Nobody watches us as much as we like to think they do.
I was a curiosity to the other people at the film festival. Many ridiculed me, some laughed; others just gawked. A few said that I was an inspiration and wondered why other filmmakers didn’t promote their films this way… One time two young filmmakers walked past me, laughed and pointed at me, and one said, “That’s what we should be doing. I wonder how much that costs?”
A few days later, I was informed that the World Premiere of my movie, “Ghostroads – a Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story” was sold out; one of the few films that were sold out!
People had laughed at me as Sandwich Man! But there also is an old saying, “He who laughs last, laughs best.” I laughed so hard I almost cried when I heard we had sold out the first night and the second night was nearly sold out. I felt redeemed.
SMC – What was your experience like working with The Neatbeats for this film?
Mike – Before shooting started, I was very good friends with the Neatbeats and, especially their leader, Mr. Pan. But, as I mentioned above, there were all sorts of problems during shooting. The worst problem was important staff being constantly late. Being late like this is out of the question in Japan, so Mr. Pan would get angry with me about it.
You see, in Japan, for any mistake or screw-up, management will never blame the staff. I was the producer; I was captain of the ship, so if we hit an iceberg, it was my fault. This is the Japanese way. In the Japanese way of doing things, no matter what happens, the boss takes responsibility.
The top boss is always the person responsible for what goes on. The captain could never say to the crew and passengers, “That idiot navigator didn’t see the iceberg. So, we hit it.”
That would never happen in Japan.
I often had frank discussions with the critical person who was often late and told him the ways of the locals and so, he came to understand the cultural differences between his country and Japan. This is only an example of many issues that occurred with regularity.
But, in many cases, the damage was done. The leader of the Neatbeats, Mr. Pan would call me on the phone and start berating me in local-dialect Japanese (which was difficult to understand – but I knew he was mad). I know the way of the people of this country, so I know that it would be best to handle it the Japanese way: I had to take responsibility. I was, indeed, my fault. I could not blame the guilty party. Why? Because I hired him. It is my fault.
I would allow Mr. Pan to yell at me on the phone for 30 or 40 minutes straight and I would merely reply, “Yes. I know” or “Yes. I think so.” I would do this and not talk back until Mr. Pan grew weary of shouting at me and he’d finally calm down. I’d eventually tell him I would try to rectify the situation and then I would smooth things over.
That was my biggest job as producer: keeping the team together, keeping the peace and trying to keep the boat from capsizing.
I thank a famous producer in Japan named Motoyoshi Tai who showed me that the best way to handle pissed off people is to let them yell at you (agreeing with them) until they tire out and then promising that you’d do your best to remedy the situation.
I think many Americans would do themselves well to learn this way; getting into a hellacious fight and then people quitting mid-project is never a good result for anyone. A smart Producer knows how to handle it.
SMC – What is one thing you wish you could do differently for this film if you had the opportunity?
Mike – As I mentioned above, I would have taken more time to explain to people what was going on and to get them to understand the vision. I think about it now, and I have made very famous programs and TV shows here in Japan, some of them with millions of viewers (10 million in 6 months on an internet TV show). But I guess the staff didn’t know that or they didn’t understand or didn’t believe in what we were trying to accomplish.
Next time I will make sure everyone understands and is on board 120%. If they aren’t or they don’t “get it,” I will patiently keep trying to get them to understand. If they don’t, I will replace them.
SMC – What kind of competition is there in the film industry in Japan?
Mike – In Japan, in films, like music, the majors have total control. The difference is that, in Tokyo, there are 3000+ bars and clubs and so-called “Live Houses” where musicians can come and play and hone their craft every night of the week. Some can even break and become famous. There is no such a situation for independent filmmakers like that in Japan. I want to change that.
SMC – What do you find is the most difficult thing to do when promoting your own project?
Mike – In the case of Ghostroads, I had sold it off to a Japanese company before it was even completed, so I don’t really have any stories (besides frustration) at watching how other people handle things… I reckon the biggest problems was, is and will always be budget.
SMC – Can you tell us if there are any upcoming film festivals that this film will be a part of?
Mike – The next big festival is very soon in Europe, but I can’t announce it yet. It’s a big deal but everything seems so cloak and dagger. I’m hoping the win the Golden Tupperware Award (like Stephen David Brooks has) or, maybe I can get some 50% discount tickets on fries at Burger-O-Rama. We’ll see.
Fact: The Golden Tupperware Award is an extremely rare award, and few have ever seen one, even fewer own it.
Trivia: What’s really cool about the coveted Golden Tupperware Award for best film, actor or director is that, even though the base of the award is solid 24 carat gold, the top lid is still, to this day, made of pink plastic as engineers have yet to figure out how to make a solid gold lid malleable enough to snap into an out of an airtight fit. Once they do, the Golden Tupperware Award will truly become a proud member of the Tupperware family.
SMC – Ken Nishikawa is also the co-Director, Editor, Sound Designer, and Translator for this film. What was it like working with him?
Mike – Ken Nishikawa is the nicest guy anyone could ever hope to meet. I’m damned dead serious about that too. He never has a bad word about anyone and I have never heard anyone say anything unpleasant about Ken. No Kidding. I want to be like Ken when I grow up. Ken is a sort of legendary person too as he comes from a famous family. Really. His mom is very famous as she is one of the last true remaining geishas in Japan and Ken is almost done with a documentary about her. It is a wild story: Matsuchiyo – Life of a Geisha.
SMC – Once Ghostroads has circled the film festival circuit, will you be working on another film project?
Mike – I have already started working on another project now. Ghostroads is finishing its festival course. We got very lucky and had our World Premiere at Raindance. Entering smaller festivals (that aren’t famous) is meaningless for sales and promotion. I have a few more festivals coming up (that I signed up for months ago) but I will not be signing up for any new festivals. I will now focus on getting distribution and sales and letting some company handle the rest of the life of this film.
SMC – Who would you like to work with in the future in terms of film?
Mike – Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Charles Chaplin, Orson Welles and Cecil B. DeMille. But, alas, none of those guys ever answer my emails, so I wrote to Stephen David Brooks instead. Now he and I going to try to make a movie together. I say “try,” and I think Stephen will agree with me, because whenever anyone can actually complete a movie, it is a miracle.
SMC – What advice would you give to someone new wanting to begin a film project?
Mike – Run it like you would any business. If your idea is good, then you should be able to find financing and investment partners. Blowing your parents money on a crap vanity project is no good for you or your parents.
The best advice I ever received from anyone was when Stephen David Brooks told me to read the bible of script writing: “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder (here) and I recommend, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell (here).
Mike – I can proudly say that I am the only DJ in Tokyo, that has been fired from every radio station in Tokyo at least once. You name it, they’ve canned me. But since FM radio in Tokyo is so lame, I wear that as a stinky badge of honor. I have been fired from InterFM three times now, but they keep hiring me back because I make the best shows. I have been with them since 1996.
I have a new show, The Mike Rogers Show, that starts on Nov. 5, 2017. It’s going to be like a BBC morning show on acid.
SMC – I love seeing the posts on your blog ‘Marketing Japan’ and would love to link it up to this feature as well as our site! You have some of the greatest stories, tips, and shared memories on there with some pretty fantastic people. Can you tell us some back stories that haven’t been shared on that platform?
Mike – I once had to fly to Canada and back on the same day, just so I could sleep with the editor of SMC just to get this interview. Hey! I need the promotion.
SMC – You recently did an interview with John Lydon while you were at Raindance Film Festival. WOW. This is the reason I asked you the previous question. I have to say I truly admire honesty. Way too many will write a fluff or ‘Pollyanna’ story about some of the behaviors of the ‘professionals’ in this music industry. I am happy to see you are not – you write it as you see it – for the facts. What kind of a response did you get from people after you posted that?
The festival people and the Theater Manager and staff were furious at John Lydon and his posse. But, I am not mad at the guy and he is still my hero. I totally understand his desire for respect and status. We all have it… So, just because he was drunk and rude to me (well, all of us) it would be childish of me to now say, “I don’t like Johnny Rotten because he was a right ass to me when we met.” Nothing he could do now erases what he did in the past. I just figure that he delivered what was expected of him that night in London. Nothing more. Nothing less.
SMC – I know that you have met a lot of music industry peers over the years. Tell us of a pleasant story that you have a great memory of?
Mike – I think the most formidable and imposing person I have ever met was Siouxsie Sioux. My radio show was so popular in the nineties that we presented her band and concerts, The Creatures, in Japan (the station didn’t present that the concert, my program did!) The Creatures had awesome shows. I think one of the best songs of the nineties was the Creatures’ “Second Floor”.
Siouxsie and her then husband Budgie came to the studio at InterFM. She was a dominating, imposing figure. We were all totally intimidated by her. She was a giant twenty-foot tall rock goddess made of marble, ice and ivory.
Into the studio she strode with Budgie right behind and as she sat on her chair, she looked me straight in the eye, lit a cigarette (she knows there’s no smoking in a radio studio), and said to me, “It’s alright if I smoke, isn’t it?”
We all froze. I didn’t know what to say. Wide-eyed, I gulped and stuttered, “Er, uh, the rules do not apply to the queen.”
After that, we then had a great time and a fantastic interview. She was the most awesome, fearsome musician I have ever met. Later on, we all got to hangout backstage with Siouxsie! How many people can say that?
SMC – Are there any charities or organizations that you support or are passionate about?
Mike – I have always supported Children With Incurable Diseases Charity in Japan. It is called, “Nanbyo.net.” “Nanbyo” means “incurable disease.” (Nanbyonet)
SMC – What do you think is lacking in the music industry today?
Mike – Musicians who have business sense as well as musical talent. People hate the business side of things, but a negative attitude towards an integral part of the business and success is self-defeating and short sighted. The most famous musicians knew this. Michael Jackson and David Bowie were astute businessmen.
SMC – Can you tell us your top indie bands that you like to support?
Mike – There are the rock bands from Japan that I like best (Some of these videos I made with Ken Nishikawa):
After that band broke up, I floundered in a few other bands, but never really did anything that was as exciting as the Rotters… I thought. The band I was in after the Rotters? The Wuffy Dogs? I am told that the single we made is now the “Holy Grail” of late 1970s L.A. Punk singles and sells for nearly $1800. Why? I’m guessing it’s because that band had two former Rotters, the guy who would later become the drummer for M.I.A., and the original guitarist for Berlin (who got kicked out of Berlin because he wanted screaming guitars and Berlin wanted to make pop tunes like, “Take My Breath Away.”)
SMC – What was the turning point in going from a music career to film and where you are today with radio?
Mike – After my band broke up, I wanted to stay in Los Angeles. As a suburban boy, I found L.A. exciting as hell. So, one day, I asked Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney on the Roq – KROQ Los Angeles) if I could be his assistant. I told him I didn’t need to be paid. He said “OK” and so I was an unpaid Gofer for the World-Famous KROQ’s Rodney on the Roq for about 16 months between mid-1980 – 1981. I would clean up and organize albums that were scattered about in some rooms and also carry records for Rodney to and from his car. The best part of the job was answering the door at KROQ for Rodney and greeting guests who came to be on his show. Through that I got to meet Clem Burke of Blondie, the Ramones, and a bunch of other super famous punk stars whose names escape me at the moment. I used to get stoned with Dee Dee Ramone! I wrote about that here: “Belinda Carlisle Naked, The Ramones, Rodney Bingenheimer and Me – Another True Story”
The first time I got to meet Phil Spector was Christmas of 1980 and when he arrived at the door, he didn’t look like a Punk (he looked like my dad!) so I was rude to him (like an idiot!) I didn’t find out until much later who he was!… Doh!
I used to go with Rodney to that all-night diner he lives at (Canter’s Deli) too after almost every show. There I met lots of people who were famous or to become extremely famous later…
I never told people in Japan about that because they wouldn’t believe me. But, one day, Rodney came to Japan and I got to be his tour guide and take care of him for 5 days in Tokyo, so I could pay back, a little bit, all he did for me. (I wrote about that here)
So, had I not been Rodney’s assistant, I probably would have never become a radio DJ.
SMC – I like to ask this question because it means different things to different people: What does ‘Success’ mean to you?
Mike – Being able to live and eat and have a happy family doing what you like. Diana Ross once said, “Show business is not success, it is survival.” So, if you can survive and be happy doing what you want, then that is success.
SMC – Which social media platform are you most active on and why?
Mike – I do Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and I blog. As far as Social Media is concerned, I think one must focus. Social Media is like going to parties. If you are doing too much and too many Social Media (going to too many parties at once), you can’t spend time at any party getting to know people well. I think it’s better to go to a few parties and be able to spend time and talk with friends than having to rush around to a dozen parties, just say, “Hi!” and then leave.
SMC – What are the top attributes you look for when aligning yourself with industry peers for future projects or even simply to network? We all have certain ‘deal-breakers’ when it comes to a certain type of person…
Mike – I like honest people. There are so many dishonest people, it astounds me. And these people are quite easy to pick out as they contradict themselves constantly (though it seems they don’t realize it). I have a bad memory for names and tasks I have to do so I always take notes and I always try to tell the truth. Why? Because, once again, as Mark Twain says, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.”
It’s too much trouble lying and then having to remember what you told to who. So, it’s just better to tell the truth.
People who lie habitually, about shit that doesn’t matter, fail to realize it when they contradict themselves. They are their own worst enemy.
May I recommend two very important books?
“The Road Less Traveled” and the sequel, “People of the Lie” by F. Scott Peck. Both discuss telling the truth all the time and the second discusses how some people will go to extreme lengths, even kill, in order to protect the lie. The last few chapters of “People of the Lie” are frightening.
SMC – Okay, final question: What in project you would love to get involved in or work on in future?
Mike – Now I am franchising one of the world’s most famous film festivals and bringing it into Japan. I cannot mention the name of the film festival because I have signed a confidentiality agreement. We are now setting up a consortium of some of Japan’s most famous corporations to support this project. It’s going to be huge news all over the world. We will be able to announce it later this year. Think Big!
Social Media & Media Links for Mike Rogers (click to view)
Trying to formulate the words for a writer as established as Canadian-born, South Carolina-based Dacre Stoker, Author of ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ and great Grandnephew of legendary Author, Bram Stoker, who wrote ‘Dracula‘, is a daunting task at best for a newbie on the block like me. I was challenged to write an introduction worthy of the kind of authenticity and grandeur that prolific writers like Dacre deserve and that can sometimes feel a little intimidating. However, this Author is so personable, approachable, and friendly, the words came easy to say. This ascertainment was made after speaking to Dacre at length on the phone this week for our Limehead Radio interview (launching Monday – times announced following the interview): the conversation was candid, entertaining, and very profound. We also delved into discussion about his careers as a Writer, Educator, and established Athlete (yes, an Athlete!) which is not only admirable, it’s relatable to me (I too, enjoy running and writing!). ‘When you’re following in the footsteps of someone like Bram, you better make sure your work is equal, if not better than his because people expect this,’ was a comment that he made through these discussions. Given the fact that he has recently sold a script from a finished book (due out in 2018 – a prequel to Dracula co-written with JD Barker) to Paramount Pictures, it’s safe to say that Dacre Stoker is being recognized as one of the most prolific writers of our time. I do believe Bram would be very proud.
As a young girl, I was always drawn to the idea behind magical and mystical creatures, and Halloween was the one day each year my family and I would go all out. My siblings and I would dress up in our scariest Witch, Bride of Frankenstein, or Dracula costumes and give the neighbors a theatrical treat for the eyes. Even today, the very thought of the skeletal remains of tree branches set against an angry dark moonlit sky elicits excitement among my family because it means Halloween is near. For the last six weeks, Starlight Music Chronicles (SMC) has been promoting our Halloween special in conjunction with Limehead Radio (in the United Kingdom) with vivid imagery and special effects in weekly videos leading to the start of this magical time of year when even the oldest among us become kids at heart. Yes folks, it’s officially the start of our five-day Halloween special with Limehead Radio and there’s no better way to start than with the topic of the seasons’ most iconic creatures of all: Dracula!
Let’s rewind a bit…
In mid-September, I stumbled across a promotional video that Airbnb had launched in 2016. They were advertising a contest for two people to ‘Win an Airbnb night for two at Dracula’s Castle on Halloween night’in Transylvania, Romania. I was immediately intrigued and all while doing my research on the subject, I also wondered what rock I had been hiding under last year. This story was huge! I discovered that a Canadian brother and sister won the overnight stay in the famed Bran Castle. I researched further to find that the host of this event was non other than Dacre Stoker. It only made sense for him to have hosted the event, given his family lineage and the fact that ‘Dracula’ was written and based on the infamous castle itself (or so I thought – new speculation has arisen from the actual whereabouts of Dracula’s castle which was discussed in my Limehead Radio interview with Dacre Stoker). Immediately, I began researching, discovering more about his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ presentations that have been ‘fascinating audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897’ (quote from the Stoker website). I located his contact information and made my inquiry to see if we could line up an interview for our Halloween Special. He responded very promptly, agreeing to an interview on the SMC Spotlight.
By mid-October, I sent my interview over to Dacre and within days, it was returned, along with stunning imagery of Bran Castle, the Airbnb Halloween event, himself, and Bram. I began reviewing the questions and upon final review, became even more inquisitive. I sent over more questions which have now been included in this feature. This last week while chatting with Mark Richards at Limehead Radio about the depth of this interview, it donned on me that we should have a radio interview as well. There was just too much to this story to leave it at one part – this is a family, whose historical works of art both past and present have inspired the creation of (vampire) societies (see: Victorian Vampire Society UK), films (from the early black and white terrifying images ‘Nosferatu’ in the first film version of ‘Dracula’(1922) to the modern day Twilight series), to even more novels, articles, and a myriad of other things such as jewelry, comics, fashion, furniture, and dwellings inspired by these works. So, it was important for me to be able to extract all the pertinent information that avid Vampire and ‘Dracula’ lovers world-wide would want to know about the Stoker family history, mysteries hidden within the ‘Dracula’ novel, and where the family intends to take the ‘Dracula’ legend next.
The following interview is part one of a two-part Halloween special on Dacre Stoker and his own novel ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’, a well-written sequel to his great Granduncle’s book, and the folk lore, myths, and truths of Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.
Editor’s Note: I would personally like to thank Dacre Stoker for taking the time to connect with me for this interview and on such short notice for our radio interview with Limehead Radio. I am honored to have been able to catch a glimpse into this magical and mystical world of the Stoker family where fiction is fact, and the pursuit to discover more about the family history and ‘Dracula’ legend is the very heart of this prolific Author. I look forward to connecting with him following his ‘Stoker on Stoker’ tour in the UK next month where we will continue discussion of his experiences and discoveries while on tour. It is an honor to know you sir, and I look forward to continuing to document your journey through our SMC Spotlight Numbered Series.
Starlight Music Chronicles Exclusive Spotlight Interview | Dacre Stoker
Career Life & Bram Stoker History
SMC – Hello Dacre! Welcome to the Starlight Music Chronicles Spotlight! We are thrilled to be including you in our Halloween month special. There is so much depth to this interview, so we will break it down into parts, but for the sake of our readers, can you give us a brief background of yourself and your relation to Bram Stoker?
Dacre – Bram Stoker’s youngest brother George is my great grandfather, this makes me the great grandnephew of Bram Stoker.
SMC – I first found out about you late last month when I saw a post in my newsfeed about an Airbnb contest for two to spend a night in ‘Dracula’s Castle’ in Transylvania. It had me completely intrigued. Can you tell us about this event?
Dacre – Airbnb hired me to be the host of “Night at” Dracula’s Castle. They do these “Night at” events in different locations around the world as promotional events. So, I spent Halloween 2016 at Bran Castle in Transylvania Romania helping put on the event. I helped read thru the finalists of 88,000, 500-character “essays” from people all over the world to see who would win a trip to Romania and spend an overnight in the Castle, complete with gourmet diner, in Bran Castle.
SMC – I also read that two Canadians were the winners of the contest and that they also have familial ties to the castle. That’s awesome! I also know that you are Canadian-born yourself. Can you tell us what the experience was like for all of you?
Dacre – The winners were a brother and sister from Ottawa, they had a famous relative who was a professor and an author specializing in Gothic Literature. They got to face an amazing barrage of world press including: AP, AP France, Reuters, and about 10 other journalists from assorted countries. They were picked up in Bucharest driven to Bran, spent the night in an AirbnB house, then on Halloween they were driven by horse and carriage to Bran Castle where the filming and interviews started. I then led them on a tour of the Castle for an hour before we left them in their crypt with their coffins and cell phones for the night. The next day after breakfast we all were driven back to Bucharest where we had drinks at the Canadian Embassy with the Canadian Ambassador and his staff.
SMC – Is there going to be another AirbnB event this year for Halloween?
Dacre – I have not heard of one at this point.
SMC – Can you tell us more about the Stoker on Stoker events/presentations and how people have reacted to them?
Dacre – I have been pleasantly surprised how well received my presentations have become. The audiences range from high school students to hard core movie fans, to literary and historical buffs. In most cases, over the past 5 years, audiences are entertained and become well informed about the backstories of a book that all have heard of and many have read. In the Q&A and discussions and comments on Facebook I have found that people had no idea that so much of Bram’s personal life was involved in the novel Dracula. Many say they will go back and re read it with a much different eye.
SMC – When do you expect the details of the tour guide to launch for the life of Bram Stoker?
Dacre – Tough question, I have just finished, with Co-Author JD Barker, a prequel to Dracula, we are slated to do a lot of promotion starting in a few months. In the mean time I am working on a documentary about Bram Stoker with an Irish filmmaker. I have 2 tours to Transylvania in the spring and summer to plan and promote, so in reality the tour guide takes a back seat to these other more time sensitive projects.
SMC – I had read that Walt Whitman and Bram were Pen Pals. Can you tell us more about how they met or collaborated?
Dacre – Bram first read Whitman’s controversial book of poetry “Leaves of Grass” while he was at Trinity College, Bram was impressed by the freedom that Whitman was able to express in his writing. They corresponded by letters, then finally met in Camden, New Jersey on one of Bram and Henry Irving’s trips to America with the Lyceum Theater. I believe that they shared a mutual respect for each others’ writings. They both shared a great respect for Abraham Lincoln, It is believed that Bram delivered his manuscript of “Dracula” to Whitman’s friend and lawyer Thomas Donaldson as a thank you for Donaldson passing on Whitman’s elaborate notes on Abraham Lincoln. Whitman had passed away, but Donaldson followed thru with Whitman’s wishes to give Bram the Lincoln Notes, in return Bram gave his “Dracula” manuscript to Donaldson possibly originally destined for Whitman. This manuscript turned up in a Pennsylvania barn on a farm once owned by descendants of Mr. Donaldson. The manuscript is technically a typescript since it is typed, was sold at auction to Mr. Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. I have been fortunate enough to study it as part of my research for my “Dracula” prequel.
SMC – I read on your website that you are beginning to organize a ‘Bram Stoker Dracula travel guide’ identifying the real-life locations mentioned in the novel as well as highlight the places of your Great Uncle ‘Bram Stoker’s’ origins. How is that coming along? Can you tell us some details about it?
Dacre – It is moving along very slowly mainly because every time I go back to Romania, seven times now, I learn something new that needs to be included in the travel guide. This is a guide to show interested readers where to find the locations associated with the life and times of Vlad Dracula lll and also the places where Bram Stoker set his novel Dracula.
SMC – I read in an article where it was said that you are ‘determined to stop the deluge of vampires in popular culture from making people forget who invented the original cape-wearing bloodsucker (Dracula).’ (quote from this article here) Can you expand on that for us?
Dacre – Essentially, I want people to learn about the author who brought the world Count Dracula. He was an interesting man in many respects.
SMC – You have written ‘Dracula: The Un-Dead’ with Ian Holt. Can you tell us what prompted you to set out writing this book?
Dacre – Ian had the idea to write a sequel of Dracula using a screenplay of his as a starting point that was never made into a movie, it was a continuation of Bram’s novel. We decided to modernize our Count Dracula, he was similar to the Count played by Gary Oldman in the 1992 Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Ian asked me to get involved as co-author, this is what opened my eyes and interest level into the whole word that my great grand uncle created.
SMC – In reference to the last question, what was the public response from your book like?
Dacre – The book made it to number 21 on the New York Times best sellers list, it was sold to publishers in 20 countries. We receive excellent reviews from professionals; Publisher Weekly, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and Library Journal. However, some Dracula purists did not like the fact that we modernized Count Dracula and altered the characters.
SMC – Have you always wanted to write or direct?
Dacre – No, writing was something that came late in the game to me, I am slow and steady and need the assistance of good editors.
Dacre – John Browning and Kay Picart did a fantastic job researching and putting this excellent reference book together. It really shows the impact that Dracula has had on popular culture. Let’s be honest, our culture is very driven by visual media, this book shows how prolific Dracula has been over the ages.
SMC – Are there any other projects we can discuss that you are working on currently?
Dacre – I am constantly being asked to make appearances to do my ‘Stoker on Stoker, The Mysteries Behind Bram Stoker’s Writing of Dracula’ presentation. As a result, I am constantly striving to find new material to add to it. In early November, I am traveling to the UK to do some of these presentations. I will be visiting Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland for the first time. This is a town where Bram Stoker spent many of his summer holidays. He found inspiration here to write some of his other books and portions of Dracula as well.
SMC – Which social media site are you most active on?
Dacre – I am a regular on Facebook and have recently started with Instagram and Twitter.
SMC – Can you tell us which ‘Dracula’ film was or is your favorite and why?
Dacre – I love the 1931 Todd Browning version with Bela Lugosi, I also like the 1992 Frances Ford Coppola version entitled “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, although I feel the name is somewhat misleading, I think it should have been called “Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula”.
SMC – I read in an interview that you do think that the film adaptations of ‘Dracula’ are great in the sense of ‘evolving’ the original ‘Dracula’. Can you expand on that?
Dacre – I love the idea that Bram’s original work, his novel of 1897, has inspired many Authors, Screenwriters, Directors etc., over the past 120 years to write their own version or adaptations of Dracula. If we did not embrace and honor Bram’s work by adapting it, we would be pretty bored with just one original version after 120 years.
SMC – What are your thoughts on the 1922 German film ‘Nosferatu’ (the first film version of ‘Dracula’) and how it evolved into the films of today like the ‘Twilight’ series?
Dacre – ‘Nosferatu’ (below) was a ground-breaking film back in 1922, the only problem I have is that it was determined in German court to be a copyright infringement. This was in fact the first novel to movie copyright infringement in history. I am all for creativity and history etc., but I also stand up for the rights of artists, authors, and musicians who need to have their work protected by copyright.
SMC – Christopher Lee as Dracula (1958 Horror of Dracula). What are your thoughts on his portrayal?
Dacre – Christopher Lee was a fantastic Count Dracula, I loved the 1958 version, this was the first version of Dracula where censors allowed blood to appear on the fanged mouth of the Count.
SMC – If there was one thing you would like the world to know about your Great Uncle Bram Stoker, what would that be?
Dacre – Besides the impact he has had on the world with his novel Dracula, Bram wrote a manual for Clerks of Petty Sessions throughout Ireland, this manual was in use in Ireland up until the 1960’s.
SMC – What are five things that all avid ‘Vampire’ or ‘Dracula’ fans or followers should know about the origins of the novel your Great Uncle wrote?
1.He based the story on a combination of events in his own life, as well as a lot of research into existing superstitions and folklore.
2.He set the story in many real places.
3.He inserted some real people into his novel.
There is a little bit of Irish folklore and myth in Dracula.
Bram’s brother Dr. William Thornley Stoker helped him write the parts of the book dealing with blood transfusion and brain surgery.
SMC – It is nice to see your loyalty to the family name and the origins of Bram’s book! What is one thing that you would change in terms of people’s perceptions of the book based on the evolvement of Dracula that the film industry has portrayed?
Dacre – Count Dracula in Bram’s novel is more like a present-day zombie then the sexy dashing model looking Dracula’s in today’s movies and TV series.
SMC – Have you ever been approached by young Authors or Writers wanting mentorship from you or even a collaboration of any sort?
Dacre – No, I need all the advice I can get, I am in no position to give it out.
SMC – The real Vlad Dracula’s story is different from Bram’s. What are those differences?
Dacre – The original Vlad Dracula lll was not a vampire, he was however a brutal ruler who ruled in a brutal and violent time in history, the late 15th century. He ruled over Walachia and fought the Ottoman Empire in an effort to protect his homeland. Count Dracula was a vampire who was lightly based on some portions of Vlad’s past history. Bram used existing superstition and folklore from Romania to attach to his fictional count to give the backstory that the count was schooled in the Scholomance, a mythical school of the dark arts in the northern Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania.
SMC – I read that you are former member of the Canadian men’s pentathlon team and coached the team at the Seoul at the 1988 Summer Olympics. What an accomplishment! What were those experiences like?
Dacre – Twelve years of dedicated training and focus on achieving physical goals! It was very rewarding, both the participating and coaching. I met a lot of wonderful people, travelled to many countries, was constantly learning and stimulated to improve. I learned that with hard work and desire we can achieve almost anything that we set our mind to.
SMC – You and your family are now in the United States. What prompted the move to where you are today?
Dacre – My wife is from South Carolina, when we first got married she moved to Ontario, I taught at Appleby College in Oakville. She really did not like the weather, so after two years we moved to the South. I knew the area well as my parents owned a winter home here, so it was like my second home.
SMC – What area of your career as a Writer/Director/Athlete has been most rewarding to you personally?
Dacre – The process and single focus to achieve specific goals, be it winning an event or having a book published is wonderful, nothing beats the feelings when a goal is achieved. I have been involved as a Coach in helping two athletes win a World Championship; Lynn Chornobrywy win the Ladies World Championship in Modern Pentathlon in 1983, and then more recently in 2016, Camden Riviere won the Mens Singles and Doubles World Championship of Court Tennis. Helping these fine people achieve their own goals was extremely satisfying to me.
SMC – Halloween is right around the corner – I am going to ask some fun questions: can you tell us which horror or suspense books and films you like?
SMC – What does your family do at Halloween – is there an expectation from neighbors or friends to ‘live up to’ the Stoker name by dressing up in a Dracula costume? (I had to ask – I was curious!)
Dacre – I get asked that a lot, I am usually not at home during Halloween, but instead at some gig somewhere in the world doing a Stoker on Stoker presentation. When I do dress up, instead of dressing up as Count Dracula I have put together a Bram Stoker costume consisting of the clothing that Bram would have worn as a theater manager in Victorian London late 1800’s.
SMC – What is the greatest compliment you have been given in terms of your career(s)?
Dacre – Bram Stoker would be proud!
SMC – I am sure you have been asked what weird experience you have had at Halloween from fans – but for the sake of our readers, can you tell us of an experience you’ve had?
Dacre – Vampire Con in Los Angles, was asked quite sincerely and quite convincingly if I would be interested in letting a person drink a small amount of my “Stoker blood”, needless to say I declined.
SMC – Okay, final question: Can you tell us what advice you would give to a new generation of writers who are wanting to delve into the same genre of writing or style you and your Great Uncle have?
Dacre – If you are writing about Vampires, then do your research, create a convincing and unique “world” and then let your imagination flow. Make sure that you create a believable storyline consistent with the world that you have created.
Bram Stoker / Dracula CSI UK Tour 2017 with Dacre Stoker
Nov. 7 University of Northumbria Newcastle 6pm
Nov 8 Art Central Gallery King Square Barry, Cardiff, Wales 7pm
Nov. 10 The Old White Lion Haworth 7pm
Nov. 11 Howl Bar Leeds 3:00pm
Nov. 13 Kilmarnock Arms Cruden Bay Scotland 7pm
Nov. 16 Edinburgh The Banshee Labyrinth 29-35 Niddry St Edinburgh 8pm
Nov. 18 University of Glasgow TBD
Limehead Radio Exclusive Interview with Dacre Stoker will air on Limehead Radio #Viral show on October 30th, 2017 starting at the following times:
*Please be advised that the interview will be aired following these times and not necessarily right at the times listed above. The Limehead Radio show is a 2 hour show.
Dacre Stoker Biography
Dacre Stoker is the great grand-nephew of Bram Stoker and the best-selling coauthor of Dracula the Un-Dead (Dutton, 2009), the official Stoker family endorsed sequel to Dracula. Dacre is also the co-editor (with Elizabeth Miller) of ‘The Lost Journal of Bram Stoker: The Dublin Years’ (Robson Press, 2012). His next novel a Prequel to Dracula, expected out in 2018 co-authored with JD Barker, has been sold to Putnam with film rights purchased by Paramount Studios.
A native of Montreal, Canada, Dacre taught Physical Education and Sciences for twenty-two years, in both Canada and the U.S. He has participated in the sport of Modern Pentathlon as an athlete and a coach at the international and Olympic levels for Canada for 12 years.
Dacre Stoker’s compelling and informative Keynote presentation, ‘Stoker on Stoker, the Mysteries Behind the Writing of Dracula’, weaves together the details of Dracula’s history with Stoker family lore, and Bram Stoker’s life in Dublin and London, then separates fact from popular fiction, revealing the truth about all things Stoker and Dracula. Customized to appeal to university groups, Gothic scholars, vampire fans, or history buffs, Stoker on Stoker has fascinated audiences around the world, exploring the issues behind the mysteries that have baffled Dracula scholars and fans since the book’s publication in 1897. Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books.
Dacre has consulted and appeared in recent film documentaries about vampires in literature and popular culture. He currently hosts tours to Transylvania to explore both the life and times of the historic Vlad Dracula lll and also the locations where Bram Stoker set his famous novel.
Dacre has become well known and a respected figure in the world of Vampires in both academia and popular culture. He lectures and makes presentations entitled Stoker on Stoker The Mysteries Behind the Writing of Dracula in the U.S. and abroad at various engagements, including: 2012, Comic Con, New York, NY, Underground Film Festival, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland, University of Hull, Hull and Whitby, England University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, England, London Dracula Society, London, England, World Horror Convention, Salt Lake City, UT, USA, Theatre Alhambra, Theatre en Anglais, Paris, France 2013 Historical Haunts Tour (Providence RI Newport RI, Mark Twain House, Hartford CT, Garde Theater, New London CT, Romania: Bran Castle, Hotel Castle Dracula, Samuel von Brukenthal High School, Sibiu . 2014 Historical Haunts Tour (Salem MA, Portland ME, Rockland ME, Woonsocket RI) Exhibition Dracula History & Myth: (consultant) National History Museum Taipei, Taiwan, US Navy Base,
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. 2015 Whitby UK, Horror Con Sheffield UK, Historical Haunts Tour Salem MA, Saluda NC, Horror Writers and World Horror Convention Atlanta GA. 2016 International Vampire Film and Arts Festival, Sighisoara, Romania, Columbia College, Columbia SC, Sensoria Arts Festival, Charlotte NC, Monsterama, Atlanta Ga. Hendersonville NC Public Library, Bishops College School, Lennoxville, Canada, Airbnb “Night at Bran Castle”, Transylvania. 2017
Chattacon, Chattanooga TN, AnachroCon Atlanta GA, AgamaCon Aiken SC, Vulcan Industries Seattle WA, Whitby Goth Weekend, Whitby UK, Dragon Con Atlanta GA, University of North Georgia, Monsterama Atlanta GA.
Illustrated with Dacre’s own collection of never before published, and seldom-seen historic images, Stoker on Stoker is a glimpse behind the scenes of the life and the writing of one of the least known authors and one of the worlds most famous books.