Liam Neeson reunites with Unknown director Jaume Collet-Serra in Non-Stop, yet another movie destined never to be coming to an in-flight theater near you. Neeson is an alcoholic air marshal going through a rather rough patch: his daughter has died of cancer, his wife has divorced him and if that’s not enough--he has been receiving text messages while on a nonstop flight from New York to London, that passengers will begin to die every twenty minutes, unless a hefty sum ($150 million) is transferred to an off-shore bank account. He has to cope with any number of potential suspects (as in a planeload of passengers who resemble loud, obnoxious castoffs from the 1970 classic Airport), as well as off-camera superiors who think he’s lost his edge and his reason, and a suspicious, if not downright contentious flight crew.
By titling its new release “Fragile,” the Alan Parsons Project has developed a partial solution to the problem that confronts still-active classic rock performers: how to remain relevant. That single word is quite fitting for the modern age, which has added to the history of the world cyber-terrorism, climate change, widespread government surveillance of personal phone calls and e-mails, and predator drones.
George Clooney’s The Monuments Men plays like a cross between Ocean’s 11 (either Clooney’s or Sinatra’s) and sixties commando adventures like The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare –only without the wisecracking humor of the former (again, either version) and the action-packed thrills that marked the latter films.
Have you ever wondered to yourself, "Self, what would a jazz infused classic Disney song with elements of pop music sound like?" Of course you've wondered this! The answer to your query is in the sounds of the pop-folk duo Rachel Lindley & Madison Johnson who play under the moniker Color Me Home. They are Republic of Pie's featured musicians who can be heard playing every Sunday at NOHO's hip coffee spot at 4:00 p.m.
Since it’s the dead of winter and many studios are in a holding mode on major new releases (as in holding on to these releases until such time as most of America can get to them—or become weary of the December releases), here are some pretty good films you may have missed—and are definitely worth catching:
Midway through his new book “Beatles vs. Stones,” (Simon and Schuster) author John McMillian takes a short break from pages and pages of interview excerpts and second-hand anecdotes, some of which learned rock and roll fans will have read before, to refresh his analysis:
American Hustle, David O. Russell’s follow-up to his widely praised Silver Linings Playbook proves to be his latest oft-kilter version of the American success story. It is also a vibrant, volatile, and frequently very funny film that occasionally feels like a cast reunion, what with Russell alums Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, joined by Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. in what proves to be one of the best ensembles of the year.
Well folks, here we are at the closing of yet another year and with that I’d like to take the time to point out a few of my personal favorite albums and artists of the year. This list will include both newly released albums in 2013 as well as new re-releases that came out in 2013 as well. I collect a lot of vintage music from around the globe and there is no end to how deep one can dig especially with the wonderful amount of terrific re-release labels out there like Pressure Sounds Records, Numero Group Records, and Soul Jazz Records to name just a few. So, know my tastes are broad and eclectic, check these albums/artists out when you can, and here we go:
Concord Music Group, based in Beverly Hills, recently issued a 6-CD box set of the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival, which is a remastered version of the same package that came out in 2001. Not having heard the first collection, I’m in no position to make a definitive judgment on whether the new one is superior. But I have sufficient faith in recording engineers and modern technology to believe that this is, in fact, the case.
It’s a particularly gray New York winter in 1961, and Llewyn Davis, the talented but struggling folk singer at the center of the Coen Brothers’ bittersweet odyssey Inside Llewyn Davis, has endured more than his share of hardships and is approaching a crossroads. Carrying on as a solo act in the aftermath of his partner’s suicidal leap (off the George Washington Bridge), Llewyn’s paying gigs have been dwindling, as is his own manager’s interest in Llewyn’s career; he’s also down to his last few dollars (dimes?) and the list of friends who will offer him a spare couch is pretty much exhausted (his future stayovers with some uptown non-folk friends being jeopardized when he loses their cat).
There is SO MUCH music out in the world, old and new, for anyone to discover around every corner of every day. This statement and reality is what keeps me personally Super Charged as an artist, musician, and producer. When you find a rare gem of an artist or album, hopefully it takes you (as it does for me) back to step one of why anyone cares about music – ‘cause You Love It Right?!?
For the Richard Nixon administration and for rock music, 1973 was a grim year. The president spent most of it in a desperate campaign to move past Watergate, including firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox and Attorney General Elliot Richardson in October during the infamous “Saturday Night Massacre.”
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ups the ante for all involved, and delivers with a rare sequel that markedly improves on its predecessor. In the have and have-not country of Panem, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson have just won the 74th Hunger games, but uneasy lies their crown—especially since Katniss has inspired devotion in the poorer districts.
12 years a Slave is a noteworthy film in many respects: as an intense, gripping exploration of slavery in the antebellum South; as an examination of man’s inhumanity to man, as well as the indomitability of the human spirit, albeit at tremendous cost; and finally, as the film that will bring long-overdue acclaim to the acting powerhouse that is Chiwetel Ejiofor. Directed by Steve McQueen and written by John Ridley, the film is based on Solomon Northrup’s memoir in which he recounted his years as a slave after having lived as a free man in the North.
The recent World Series triumph of the Boston Red Sox reminded me of one of the unlikeliest pairings ever in rock and roll. Nine years ago, when the curse of Babe Ruth still haunted Red Sox fans, the team invited the Standells, a Southern California-based group from the 1960s, to perform their 1966 hit “Dirty Water” in Fenway Park before game two of that World Series.
““Sound City” and “Tom Dowd & The Language of Music” – 2 Documentary Movies That Inspire, Educate, & Entertain”
Recently I was very lucky to have been given a set of music documentaries to borrow from a very close musician friend of mine who knows my broad taste in music and music history. I personally fair to steer a bit all over the place in genre, history, and continent when it comes to my tastes (and career) in music and rightfully state this as I essentially love any and all good music (and creative art and culture) from just about anywhere from anytime from around the world. Now when a good story accompanies this music (or other creative format), I’m ALWAYS, like some many people, that much more drawn in. In the case of the two music documentaries “Sound City” and “Tom Dowd & The Language of Music”, the stories in both are COMPLETELY AMAZING and are literally two of the best music related movies I’ve personally seen in years. Both tales are COMPLETELY unique in that so much history, not just musically but socially and culturally, is inside each film. Anyone, musician or not, will walk away inspired and informed by the central figures and stories of these two films and, more than likely, will discover they have ALREADY been inspired as the history involved in each movie encompasses the very fabric of the entire span of American music and it’s intertwined affect on American society and pop culture as a whole.
This movie came out this year (via Roswell Films, 2013) and is directed by musician/rock icon Dave Grohl (of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame) and tells the story of San Fernando Valley-based recording studio Sound City. It has an all-star, who’s who of Rock and Pop icons who have recorded numerous classic albums each telling their own histories along side of Grohl’s incredibly detailed direction of the story of this legendary studio.
Dave Grohl with film crew on set.
Artists featured in the film who have recorded at Sound City include Fleetwood Mac (who were essentially created at Sound City!), Neil Young, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield, Pat Benatar, Barry Manilow, REO Speedwagon, Fear, Metallica, Slipknot, and Nirvana JUST TO NAME A FEW! Importantly here is Nirvana having recorded their then groundbreaking, now-classic album “Nevermind” as this was Dave Grohl induction into the walls of Sound City.
Dave Grohl (on the right) showing Lindsey Buckingham the Neve recording console.
As the story in the film plays out, it is Grohl’s idea behind the film to purchase the legendary, one-of-a-kind original Neve mixing board (originally designed by audio wizard Rupert Neve who’s interviewed in the film!) at Sound City that was behind the sound and the hits of the studio and re-unite an all-star cast of Sound City alumni to pay a musical tribute with new recordings done on this console that is relocated to Dave Grohl’s own personal studio.
Dave Grohl (on guitar) in his studio with drumming legend Jim Keltner and others.
“Sound City” is a tale of constant inspiration around every corner as the story unfolds in showcasing the music industry and it’s constant high’s and low’s, how music used to be made and how it’s made now (for both good and bad), all yielding top name performer after performer, both old and new, to guide the viewer through, as according to Dave Grohl, “the truth, the craft, and the integrity of Rock & Roll”.
For more info, insight, and where to purchase this movie go here.
See the trailer to “Sound City” here.
Recently the high-end audio equipment retailer Vintage King put up two YouTube videos of going into Fairfax Recording Studios (owned and operated by engineer/producer Kevin Augunas who is featured briefly in “Sound City”) that is now located at the original Sound City location. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (and free!) viewing here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).
This film came out in 2003 (via Language of Music Films, 2003) and is directed and produced by Mark Moormann and tells the incredibly amazing story of musician/engineer/producer Tom Dowd. Having started as an engineer in the early history of fabled record label Atlantic Records, Tom Dowd’s career in the music industry is truly one for the ages. He spanned, and helped pioneer, multiple genres of music from Jazz, R&B and Funk, to Classic Rock, Southern Rock, and Hard Rock, all the entire time staying utterly relevant to the constantly shifting music industry around him.
Tom Dowd (on left) with Rod Stewart.
The scope of artist featured and mentioned in this movie that Tom Dowd has either recorded or produced is a stunning who’s who of each musical genre they come from. Be it John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, or Ornette Coleman from Jazz, to Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Otis Redding from R&B, to Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers Band (this is literally only naming a FEW!), EVERYONE has only the highest praise for Tom Dowd and his personality and professionalism for his rolls in their lives and careers. This all simply comes down to the fact that the viewer of this film cannot miss Tom Dowd’s infectious personality, inspiring spirit, and brilliant intellectualism that all fully inform his incredible stories as he guides you through his career’s history.
Tom Dowd (on left) with Ray Charles.
As this film progresses, on top of the who’s who of artists that come forward about Tom’s history and importance in their lives and in the music industry, another side of what is showcased in this film are the numerous technical achievements Tom Dowd brought to recording technology as a whole (introducing faders instead of knobs to be used on a mixing console for instance!). His inventions and modifications to devices used throughout ALL recording studios around the world are priceless and only add to another layer of intrigue inside of this man’s incredible story.
Tom Dowd in the studio.
“Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music” is a film and story of the power of one person who can, and did, go on to inspire so many by being the best they could be at all times with anyone no matter the circumstances. Tom Dowd truly is a one-of-a-kind not only as the acclaimed musician/engineer/producer he would go on to be, but also as the person and human being he always naturally just was. His down-to-earth spirit will most certainly be inspiring to anyone, musician or not, in watching him tell in his own words “The Language Of Music”.
For more info, insight, and where to purchase this movie go here.
See the trailer to “Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music here.
Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips is a riveting, suspenseful thriller, especially in light of how well-publicized the real-life events portrayed in the film and the eventual outcome are to the general public.
Music is a burst of choices, not only what note to play when and with what instrument, but whether to play a note at all. Salvador Santana, the 29-year-old keyboardist, vocalist, composer and songwriter with strong Bay Area roots, knows what it means to navigate the infinite options of music.
Prisoners has some creepy, unsettling moments, but not enough to justify devoting 153 minutes of your life to it. The set-up involves two families whose lives are torn apart when two of their children (one from each family) are kidnapped on Thanksgiving. Fingers are pointed at the slow-witted driver (Paul Dano) of an RV that was parked in the area but the local police (led by Jake Glyllenhaal as a troubled, twitchy police detective) can’t make the charges stick, so Dano is released—to the everlasting wrath of one of the grieving fathers (Hugh Jackman). The religious, blue-collar Jackman, ultimately abetted (albeit reluctantly) by Terrence Howard as the other father, decides to take matters into his own hands, firmly believing that justice will be done. And when conventional interrogation techniques prove ineffective, Jackman decides to employ other, more questionable methods…meanwhile Glyllenhaal sifts through his own conflicting emotions and other leads in his own pursuit of justice.
Jared Meeker is a well-known guitarist, composer, producer, educator, and author in the L.A. area. He has performed in venues all over the US crossing many genres from Blues, Rock, Latin, Reggae, Metal, R&B, Funk, Hip-Hop, and Soul. Prior to his earning a BFA in Musical Arts from California Institute of the Arts, Jared forged a relationship with The National Guitar Workshop as a national guitar instructor and also has taught seminars about guitar and music production at USC, UCLA, Seattle Pacific University, SUNY, and Los Angeles Music Academy. He has been featured in Guitar Player and Guitar World magazines and is the instructor and author of some of Alfred Music's top selling books, DVDs, and iBooks.
As a session guitarist Jared has played on tracks for artists such as N.A.S.A., Snoop Dogg, Myka Nyne, and Nate Dogg. Jared’s original music has been featured in movies such as the Sundance award-winning film Fuel, and his music has been heard on hit shows such as Dexter and Smash, as well as television networks MTV, Showtime, NBC, VH1, CBS, and TNT. Jared is sponsored and endorsed by Line6, Propellerhead software, and Spalt Instruments and he is currently the guitarist for Salvador Santana (son of the legendary Carlos Santana), playing venues nationwide.
B.C./N.H.A. – Having been originally born in LA, and then raised in Sacramento, tell me about your start in music and what originally got you back to the Los Angeles area.
J.M. - Sacramento offered an incredible music education for me growing up, part of which was by sheer luck. Both sides of family each exposed me to different styles of music; my Dad showed me rock music from groups such as Dire Straits, Van Halen, AC/DC, and Aerosmith, folk artists like Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell, and jazz musicians like Stanley Jordan and Joe Pass; my Mom listened to country and took me to see many country artists in concert when I was just a young kid. My grandma was a great organist and I’d be her page-turner as she played in church and this served as my introduction into reading music. She also took me to operas and bought me classical tapes and sheet music. I got my first guitar on my ninth birthday and immediately began taking lessons shortly after. I didn’t develop as a guitarist until about a year later when I started studying with a new teacher who had just graduated from Musicians Institute and could pull off many of the lead guitar tricks that I really wanted to learn. At about ten years old I was into Randy Rhoads (famed guitarist with Ozzy Osbourne) and Van Halen and so I fully invested into that style of playing. In junior high I was playing guitar and bass in the Concert Band and Jazz Band and we would play local Jazz festivals. One of the coolest times of the junior high bands was during lunch breaks where I would jam in the band room with various drummers. That summer of seventh grade my family entered me into a music program called “Stairway to Stardom” (which is like “School Of Rock”) in Sacramento. Judges listened to the musicians individually, gave them a rating, and put them into bands with similar interests. Each band practiced and had three small showcase performances, at the end of eight weeks there was a big concert where each group performed 3 songs on a big, professional stage and finally the groups went into professional recording studios and got to record one song. The next year I went back to Stairway to Stardom at age 13 and having been in different bands at this point, I began the process to understand how to work with others both in writing and playing, and also express myself creatively and develop my own style. Around 14 I had begun playing the acoustic guitar and by age 15 I entered the Washburn Acoustic Guitar Contest in downtown Sacramento. They had the contest divided into players that were under 18 and players over 18. I won the under-age division, was in the paper, got a free guitar, and I talked to Washburn and landed my first guitar endorsement! I attended the National Guitar Workshop that summer in Claremont near LA. It was a three-week program with daily classes, where I performed regularly with other students, and studied with Frank Gambale, Dallas Perkins, Joey Tafolla, Steve Kahn, and saw and met many great guitarists. That experience and program left a big impact on me. I went home to Sacramento that summer and set up a recording session at a local studio called P.C. North (also know as the Pus Cavern); it was a cheap little analog studio but it had lots of vibe (this is where the band Cake recorded their first few albums). I recorded 3 songs in a day where I programmed the drums and played all the instruments. I sent this recording into Guitar World’s “Hometown Heroes” column and was discovered by Mike Varney, a well-known label owner and guitar music enthusiast. Mike featured me in the column of Guitar World magazine, and would meet me in San Francisco occasionally to play/jam together and share new music with me such as Greg Howe, Shawn Lane, Richie Kotzen, Vernon Reid, and many other guitarists and alternative bands. I would record regularly at P.C. North over the new few years often bringing in other outside musicians into the studio such as drummers, singers from my high school choir, or members from other high school my bands. I stayed playing both guitar and bass in the Jazz band in high school. My band teacher, Mr. Richie Hodge, was an excellent arranger and musician. I took private music theory lessons from him and would occasionally gig with him in small combo groups. My choir teacher, Jennifer Leighton, was a fantastic musician as well and often I would do wedding gigs with her accompanying her on guitar as she sang. Also at this time I was the rally commissioner for my high school and I ran the pep rallies with a guitar in my hands. When I graduated I wrote a song for the choir and band to perform at the ceremony. I was also playing in several other rock bands through high school as well, all with musicians far older than myself. The band Hate Street was a Death Metal band in Sacramento that opened up for Megadeth and King Diamond. Another group I was in was the band The Voice that was a power trio where I divided up vocal duties with the bass player and we would write catchy songs with fun jam sections. I had continued music studies at both National Guitar Workshop and Berklee School Of Music and received a scholarship to go to Berklee for college as I’d applied to both Berklee and, a lesser-known school, California Institute of the Arts (CalArts for short) from a friend’s recommendation. There was a teacher at National Guitar Workshop named Jody Fischer who was (and is) a big influence on me. He, along with another teacher from N.G.W., Adam Levy (guitarist with Tracy Chapman and Norah Jones), both strongly recommended that I go to CalArts. I knew very little of CalArts and its faculty but the classes looked interesting due to its eclectic selection of world music and electronic music courses. As an audition to CalArts, I sent in several recordings of mine that were very orchestrated, highly progressive, and all charted with notation. I was accepted to begin in that fall and very excited to go back to Los Angeles. Having been born in L.A., I felt this magnetic energy pulling me back there so in that way, returning to L.A. was both a personal journey as well as an educational one.
B.C./N.H.A. – How would you say your experiences in College at the California Institute of the Arts (Calarts for short) influenced the artist you have become today?
J.M. - Calarts had such an impact on me and I jumped into its community as a full creative entity. None of the other students had any knowledge of my background and likewise I didn’t know theirs so we were all redefining ourselves together and all had to prove ourselves within this group of amazing musicians and artists. Calarts is known for its cultural diversity so as an 18-year-old freshman I was exposed to African music and dance from Ghana, Balinese and Javanese music from Indonesia, and Bulgarian and Macedonian music from Eastern Europe. I attended Indian music classes on South Indian Solkattu rhythms from master drummer Poovalur Srinivasin and studied North Indian ragas from sarod guru Rajeev Taranath. I studied advanced music harmony and theory from a classical perspective with Dr. Nick England who took me through music theory, atonal sight singing, and shared his rich understanding of the various music cultures of the world. Miroslav Tadic is an incredible guitarist whom I studied with where I delved into mastery of a wide amount of topics: Blues, Rock, Classical, Flamenco, and Electronics (a guitar FX pedal building D.I.Y. obsession began that I have continued and developed!). Larry Koonse is a Jazz guitar/Jazz theory teacher who had a massive impact on me with his incredible personality and ideas and understanding of playing jazz, chord harmony, fret board knowledge, and sight-reading. Marc Lowenstein provided me with new ways of imagining composition and expanded my ideas of orchestration. This all scratches the surface of what was taught by the instructors but I learned as much from the student body and community as well. I went to art openings, music recitals, and theater performances that expanded and broadened my cultural understanding, creative expression, and overall scope of the arts. Often these arts perspectives would cross-pollinate in instances where I played guitar in dance and theater shows or worked with animators and directors to provide a soundtrack for their film. My graduate recital featured almost 100 performers and was almost all original music in the following ensembles: a full 17-piece orchestra, a woodwind quartet, a shred rock group, a funk jam band, an Indian ensemble, free jazz with live theater skits, Indian/African fusion, solo guitar, a Reggae group, and a folk duo! I was also active in performing in many groups while at Calarts as I wrote a funk rock opera in my third year that combined forces with costume designers and set designers for the legendary Calarts Halloween party and featured a ten-piece band with myself at the helm on guitar and sharing vocal duties. I made strong ties and connections with much of the student body that led directly into the working world. One of the groups I was performing professionally in while at Calarts (and several years after graduating) was a Reggae band called Rub-A-Dub made up of all Calarts friends/students. We played all over southern California and opened up for some of the biggest artists in the Reggae genre: Bunny Wailer, Mr. Vegas, Shaggy, Barrington Levy, Israel Vibrations, Freddy McGregor, Andrew Tosh, and Eek-A-Mouse, just to name a few. I had also put together my own eclectic rock band called Spiderfingers that featured Calarts friends of mine, where I played guitar and sang combining my favorite styles into a jam based rock trio setting. I was also playing in a group called Umbalaye that was a blend of Latin music, Cuban, rock, reggae, and jazz that was started by fellow Calarts alumni Jose “Crunchy” Espinosa (founding member of LA super group Ozomatli) that featured many Calartians in the band.
B.C./N.H.A. – Out of College, what lead you to become more pro-active as a professional music teacher?
J.M. - While still in school at Calarts, teaching during the summers at The National Guitar Workshop continued to be a driving force of education for me, both in practice and performance as an instructor. I found that teaching helped me learn my music subjects better, even if it was a simple rhythm exercise, it would strengthen the fundamentals within me and so that I had more appreciation for the basics. Having gained these classroom-teaching experiences through the NGW program, I had graduated Calarts and soon after was called for the opportunity to teach both beginning and intermediate guitar classes as well as private lessons at the Wooden Center at UCLA in Los Angeles. This quickly immersed me into the teaching world, as I had to deconstruct all the knowledge that I had acquired in my studies and try to reassemble it for a beginner’s perspective. Up to that point I had asked students to purchase books (which they often would not do!) or I would create handouts that were either my own hand-drawn lessons or Xeroxed pages of my favorite guitar books. I had a computer at home and with Photoshop and Adobe PageMaker so I created books for these classes and by doing so, all the information was uniform and matching the correct pedagogy for the lesson plans. I would have the books made up by the Wooden Center and additional income would be added to my first check and it made sure that the students knew what they were going to learn and what was expected of them in these 8 week courses. Around this same time, I also became a full-time instructor at Antelope Valley College in Lancaster teaching classical guitar and studio production techniques. I continued teaching privately as well, writing new books for my courses and lessons, until more recently when I moved to the job of Associate Editor at Alfred Music. At Alfred Music I am able to help develop and edit new music education materials utilizing my knowledge of many musical styles, theory, computer programming, and design esthetics, therefore a lot of my background in teaching and music gets integrated into this work.
B.C./N.H.A. – I know in this same time frame you began digging into the world of recording and producing music for yourself and other artists as well. Tell me about what started you on this path both artistically and professionally.
J.M. - As I had mentioned, I was working with drum machines, recording on tape, and writing scores with basic notation software in high school. At Calarts I used several software programs including Finale and Rebirth. Rebirth was a program that I got into purely from the enjoyment of sound design and created many compositions with it. After college I delved into the software program Digital Performer and began recording projects at my home studio learning the art of a digital audio workstation where I recorded several CDs of my own music and also began to seek music licensing deals with these albums. Around this time a friend of mine introduced me to the program Reason and once I got that I could simply sequence great sounding tracks on Reason while still using Digital Performer. At this time I was working with several music producers as a session guitarist/bassist, one of whom was Calarts alumni Josef Leimberg, who is a trumpet player and fantastic Hip-Hop producer. He and I worked on tracks for several artists including Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Redman, Myka Nyne and the Freestyle Fellowship crew, and it was here where I became interested in the art of sampling. Also around this time I was teaching a studio production class on how to use Reason and I realized that most of what I wanted to do with samples and sound libraries could be done in Reason very efficiently. I jumped into the depths of how to use Reason and created a massive sample/sound library and made an arsenal of songs. Through a musician-friend, I eventually was led to a publishing company called Black Toast Music. Since working with this company and others as well I learned to write/work within the confines of a more exact market and in doing so, my music has been featured on hit shows such as “Dexter” and “Smash”, and featured on the shows of VH1, MTV, NBC, CBS, TNT, and as well as the documentary “Fuel”.
B.C./N.H.A. – How would you describe the bridge between player, producer, and teacher? Does one influence the other?
J.M. - The lines are getting more blurred across all three careers as time goes on. For instance, before I started at Alfred, I was featured as a DVD guitar instructor on several DVDs for various performance levels and styles of guitar. For one DVD in particular I was asked me to create 80 backing tracks in 3 days…guitar bass, keys, etc. Now, Alfred Music just released an iBook called “Basic Rock Guitar” where I’m in all the videos teaching and there are sound-a-like backing tracks that I produced behind all the teaching segments. These tracks are in the style of the Rolling Stones, the Doors, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc. There is no way I could have done this work if I did not know my recording system in and out, did not have a method for generating material, and did not have music templates set up in place before-hand for this amount of work. Being a working musician/producer is about finding a job, executing it well and/or on time, finding joy within the constraints of the job, and working well with others in the process of the work. This idea is the same for all three: player, producer, and teacher. A good player gets a recommendation for a gig, comes in to rehearsal already having learned as much of the material as possible, is happy to be there even if it’s not his or her dream gig, and is enjoyable to be around as a person. A good producer gets a call to do a sound-a-like for a song that he or she might not be fond of, delivers a high-quality product sooner than expected, and does it with a smile. A good teacher gets a call from a 6-year-old students’ Mom for a lesson and when they show up can find joy in showing the student the most basic idea never losing sight that they started there once and that they can have a lifetime-long positive effect on this child. I have taught thousands of people to play guitar and taught many up-and-coming producers to better their craft as well and I am grateful for all of those experiences but it has been hard work. In all three careers your patience gets tested: why don’t you have the gigs that you want?, why doesn’t this music software work like it should?, why can’t this kid just play a G chord?! It all comes down to balance because all three careers really equal one career. If I was only producing but I couldn’t play my guitar I wouldn’t be happy. If I was only playing live but never producing or sharing my ideas as a teacher I wouldn’t feel fulfilled either. As much time as I’ve spent around art, I personally break it down into ideas. When I’m sitting with someone and we both have guitars in our hands I love to share my ideas, sometimes simple or complex. When I listen to music I hear that someone has good or bad ideas as a producer, composer, or songwriter, and try to understand why they made those choices. Through my training I have a very simple way to look at complex musical ideas and their deconstruction that I try to convey that to anybody I work with either in a rehearsal space, in a recording studio, or in a classroom.
B.C./N.H.A. – Four very high profile companies, Line6, Propellerhead (makers of the software program Reason), Alfred Music Publishing, and Producertech, recently have featured you in online videos as an artist/producer/instructor. What are your thoughts on how companies like these are shaping the future of music on both how it’s created and learned?
J.M. - My relationship with Line6 began when I spoke with them about my experience with using their products and my understanding of building analog effects pedals, which led me to become a test pilot for the company. Line6 distributes Propellerhead software in the Americas so through Line6 I began working with that company. Propellerhead is a music software company based in Sweden that has produced the programs Reason, Recycle, Rebirth, along with a host of music-based Apps for the iPad and iPhone. I’m a really big fan of their software and was already active in their online forums, had given away some of my sound libraries online, and within a few short meetings with their rep they wanted to do a video on me. This video showcases Reason, the Balance hardware interface, and the Line6 FBV Shortboard MKII foot controller to interface the guitar into the digital realm. Reason was known more for it’s synthesizer, sampling, and drum programming use in electronic music but I wanted to show how to approach using the program featuring the guitar. The video was on the main page of Propellerhead’s website for several months, and was featured on Line6’s website as well. Through Propellerhead’s recommendation, the company Producertech contacted me about doing a video series, featuring me teaching how to record guitar and produce in Reason. All filmed and edited by me, it features 11 lessons, each about half an hour long, with multiple camera angles, that show the composition process of a song from its very beginnings, to the tracking and layering of different instruments, to the final mix-down of the completed song. Recently, Alfred Music has hired me several times in the last two years to film DVDs for them as well. We have currently filmed 9 DVDs: “Alfred’s Basic Rock Guitar 1 & 2”, “Jared Meeker’s Serious Shred”, “Beginning, Intermediate, and Mastering Rock Guitar”, and “Beginning, Intermediate, and Mastering Blues Guitar”. Through each DVD shoot we would do as many as 400 examples, filming up to 3 DVDs in a week and the working relation was always a fun, professional experience. Lastly, I also have filmed 40 online lessons for a company called Workshop Live as my entire relationship with them has stemmed from my experience with the National Guitar Workshop. I am finding more DVD and authorship opportunities for my musical community, am pushing new teaching technologies, and am continuing to lead the way in forward-thinking music education.
B.C./N.H.A. – Beyond the videos that you’ve that you’ve done, I know you have teamed up with Alfred Music Publishing on helping them develop music-based iBooks for use with iPads, iPods, and iPhones. Tell me more about this exacting new format and the possibilities on the horizon for music that you see as a performer, producer, and teacher.
J.M. - The new iBook technology is very exciting as all media is contained within the iBook itself. Video, audio and music diagrams are arranged in a layout that demands interactivity and participation from the student/user. There are tests that give you an instant account of what you’ve retained and you can email the test directly to your teacher. iBooks aren’t necessarily just for books either as technology is changing more rapidly than ever before and I see “edutainment” as being a future hot sale. The program used to create them is called iBooks Author and as it is upgraded and develops I can imagine all kinds of applications for this participatory entertainment.
B.C./N.H.A – With all this diversity across what you are currently doing as an artist, producer, and educator, tell me more about any other current projects that you’re a part of.
J.M. - Yes! Two projects that I’m involved in musically that I want to shed light on:
1 - Salvador Santana. I play guitar and co-write with keyboardist/mc Salvador Santana, son of guitar legend Carlos Santana. He and I have written around a dozen songs together many of which are in our live set. These particular songs haven’t been released yet but I promise you that they are strong and I look forward to seeing their upcoming release. The band is a blast to play in! It’s a 5-piece: keys/vox, keys/vox, guitar/vox, bass, and drums - all of the musicians are top notch as players and as people. The band’s sound I would describe as eclectic pop where we fuse many styles together in a danceable, groove-heavy, jam-based sound. Salvador recently had a new video premiere for his latest single “Rise Up” that features our second vocalist/keyboardist Alex Nester. Lots to come this artist/group so keep your eyes peeled!
2 - Next Level Productions and the “Sunken City” movie. I have been working with drummer/producer/collaborator Blake Colie for many years…since Calarts, playing in Rub-A-Dub, in Spiderfingers, and in countless other projects. He is a well sought after drummer/percussionist in LA and a great producer and music historian. One of the styles that we work on often is Reggae/Jamaican music. Recently he and I started working with Bill Wendt (aka DJ Prophecy) who is an extremely experienced audio engineer, live mixer, and DJ. The 3 of us quickly became known as Next Level Productions. Within a few months of making tracks together that featured various vocalists and MCs, we landed a job to create a movie soundtrack. The upcoming movie is called “Sunken City” and is just about to come out with a premier at the Oregon Independent Film Festival on September 20th. It definitely has potential to be a cult classic! We created 42 tracks in just over a month…Dub, Reggae, Roots, and Rocksteady tracks, some with vocals, some with just guitar, horn, or melodica leads, but most as incredible instrumental Dub mixes. It features the vocal talents of Black Shakespeare, Nuby Dan, and Freedom Movement, and our good friend Todd Simon on horns. As a producer, a guitarist, and (importantly) as a bassist I’m excited to get this music heard and out to the world! Next Level Productions is currently working on more tracks for our library for release and we’re gearing up to work on some Dub/Reggae sample libraries for a few different companies so lots to look out for with this project as well!
B.C./N.H.A. – Lastly, in all the ground that you cover as an artist, producer, and teacher, what would be you’re strongest advice to any up-and-coming musicians and artists out there who want to get pointed in the right direction to any one of the paths that you’ve taken?
J.M. - There isn’t one way to make a living at music. Everybody has to find his or her own path. Even though you don’t know what that path is at a given point, as you keep going you will see more of where you have to go. Don’t stop, find what you like to do, and just keep doing it. Keep your life in balance too because if somebody has their home life in shambles then they will bring that into the work environment. Success comes when opportunity meets preparation so when you get an opportunity you better hit it outa the park. Practice regularly because you never know when that opportunity will arise. Influence is a powerful thing so try and surround yourself with people that make you want to be better. Build up your community because if you make those other people around you succeed then you will succeed with them. You can’t do it alone and even if you could, why would you want to? We are all connected so never burn bridges; just decide on which bridges to (or not to) cross. Get to know yourself, forgive yourself for mistakes, always love yourself, and just keep going. Life is like music in that it’s an ever–flowing, rising and falling of high times and low times. Don’t act too drastic on the hills or valleys of life for they will pass!
To see more about Jared Meeker check out these videos:
“Balance and Reason for Guitarists”
“Learn to Record & Produce in Reason 7 - A Musician's Guide with Producertech”
“Improvising Lives” performed by Jared Meeker
“California Love” performed by Salvador Santana
Lee Daniels’ The Butler is an entertaining, occasionally moving journey through recent American history as seen from the perspective of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), who, along with his rebellious son Louis (David Oyelowo), seems to be present for many of the decisive incidents in the Civil Rights movement.
The Civil Wars self titled LP is the third studio release from the band, and it isn’t the happiest album of the year.
The new sci-fi action drama Elysium convincingly depicts a bleak future in which the world is separated into two classes, where the wealthy get to enjoy the highest standards of health care while the rest are left to fend for themselves under increasingly impersonal, hostile conditions—wait a minute, that sounds pretty much like today. In fact, one might think that this latest film from District 9’s director Neill Blomkamp is another attempt to make an allegory for our times under the guise of science fiction.
Itai Shapira is a Los Angeles-based producer, composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and audio engineer who has worked with a long list of music legends and up-and-comers, both in the studio and on stage, including Kelis, Banks, Dave Sitek (TV On The Radio), Om'Mas Keith (Sa-Ra/Frank Ocean), Robin Hannibal (Rhye/Quadron), Moses Sumney, Seu Jorge, Stuart Zender (Jamiroquai/Mark Ronson), Noelle Scaggs (Fitz & The Tantrums), Coco Owino (Quadron), and many more...
RED 2 proves to be an unexpectedly entertaining sequel to RED (Retired Extremely Dangerous).
RED was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2010, what with relaxed, amusing performances from Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman and an over-the-top but very engaging turn from John Malkovich.
Brighton based musician, Mike Rosenberg, better known by his stage name, Passenger, seems to have come out of nowhere with his album ‘All The Little Lights’ and its lead single ‘Let Her Go’. In fact, this album was released all the way back in February and Rosenberg has actually released three albums prior to this one and was originally in five-piece band under the same name.
I know this is somewhat of a backhanded compliment, but The Lone Ranger, as directed by Gore Verbinski, and enacted by Arme Hammer in the title role, and Johnny Depp as Tonto, is far from horrific—it’sactually pretty entertaining at times. It is also overly complicated while remaining more than a tad predictable, so that the protracted length heightens one’s awareness that the movie is wildly overblown. What’s good about the movie virtually begins and ends with its raison d’etre: Johnny Depp’s Tonto. His interpretation is not so much a reconstruction (or deconstruction) as one might think. Depp’s Tonto is wary, intelligent, resourceful, and possesses an innate dignity, as did Jay Silverheels. He also gets the most withering one-liners and several opportunities to provide some humorously quizzical reactions. Depp and Arme Hammer are also able to work up a little chemistry in the scenes where they aren’t being swamped by the machinations of the convoluted plot. The movie also benefits from a nicely done prologue with a 1930’s carnival setting where Tonto is now enacting the “noble savage”. This places the action of the movie from a very old Tonto’s perspective, and further enhances the nobility and humanity of Tonto.
So what’s wrong with the movie? To quote the immortal Lou Costello, I can give you the answer in two words: Puh…lenty! For one thing, the Lone Ranger’s character has been given a literally unbelievable makeover so that it he is now the spitting image of James Stewart’s tenderfoot Ranse Stoddard from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance-just as committed to justice, not guns-only ten times as dense. The character’s thickness serves to promote disdain, rather than admiration, especially around the fifteenth time that he allows the villain to live (and incidentally go on to kill a gazillion more people-slight exaggeration). Tom Wilkinson’s railroad magnate practically has villain written on his forehead, partly because of his portrayal and partly because-he’s Tom Wilkinson (gradually becoming this generation’s Edward Arnold). The movie also tries to have it too many ways, with its elements of western expansion and Indian annihilation clashing with the jokey aspects of the travels of Tonto and the Lone Ranger. Finally, those excessive action sequences don’t do the movie any favors, serving to exhaust viewers rather than rouse them. There are glimpses of scenic grandeur and some amusing moments, but the ‘anything goes’ approach made this viewer long for the simplicity of earlier, more effortlessly entertaining westerns.
Coming to you from the man who brought you Independence Day, Roland Emmerich’s White House Down is also rather overblown and overlong. It’s also generally exciting and involving throughout, mainly due to the easy rapport between Jamie Foxx’s imperiled President and Channing Tatum’s off-duty police officer, and a scenery-chewing performance from James Woods as the President’s Head of Security. I won’t reveal much about the plot except to say that, like the earlier Olympus Has Fallen, the White House falls prey to well-armed, well-prepared terrorists who manage to easily overcome White House security (after these two movies, one would think there’s some remedial training in the works) and easily repel the efforts of the armed forces to reclaim the President’s House. Once again, there’s more than money involved in the terrorists’ motivations, and you can guess what that is-and once again, there’s the lone cop with something to prove. The action sequences are well-staged, the key relationships are believable (for this kind of genre film) and there is an emotionally satisfying climax and resolution to the whole affair. It’s all good summer fun.
Greetings and hope you all have had a wonderful (and cool!) 4th of July with friends and family around the Los Angeles area (and elsewhere!). With the summer season in full swing, I’d like to continue to spotlight some incredible upcoming concerts happening around greater LA.
Sam Bradley releases his latest EP ‘Not Your Kind’ and contrary to what it’s titled this EP will no doubt appeal to the masses given the chance. The London based singer/songwriter claims his influences from a mixture of Americana, folk, blues and rock. He isn’t lying either, you can hear these genres spread across his music and mixed together in a seamless way.
One notable thing he has managed to pull off rather fine is the overall style of his EP. Just like the likes of other British musicians such as Bobby Long, he has entered a genre of music that is not native to his country and made it sound like he is living in the era. Only further bridging the gap between British and American cultural differences and displaying the talent that England has to offer in terms of country and folk singers.
Even though there are only four songs on this release, he manages to fill his time perfectly. There is a good range within the tracks and at no point does it feel forced or boring. There is no single strongest point of it. A mixture of his flawless voice and touching and at times thought provoking lyrics; which include subjects of family, religion and relationship blend together nicely to produce true music.
It is hard to pick out the strongest track between the five, lyrically ‘Science Prevents Me’ with cleverly written religious themes that turn into an ordinary relationship. For the tone however, the strongest track would have to be the opening one ‘Not Your Kind’ it contains a real authentic sound, one that would be hard to rival with most of todays current music.
Ultimately this EP is a game changer. It’s smart and touching. Bradley is known for having a loyal fan base and this EP will only further that theory. Sam Bradley is fast becoming one of Britain’s hidden folk gems.
If you knew the end of the world was coming, you might want to have a last laugh enjoying This is the End, featuring a whole gallery of current Hollywood A-Listers hilariously playing exaggerated versions (?) of themselves. Seth Rogen stars and co-wrote and co-directed with Evan Goldberg this apocalyptic comedy in which Jay Baruchel comes to L.A. to visit old friend Seth and winds up being dragged along to a bacchanal at James Franco’s mansion. As Jay’s discomfort level reaches its peak (he’s not crazy about Seth’s new Hollywood friends, particularly Jonah Hill), he and Seth head out to a convenience store—and lo, the end of the world arrives in the form of explosions, mass chaos and a huge earthquake (which sucks in many game guest stars including Rihanna, Jason Segel and Aziz Ansari), as well as the arrival of some lascivious, murderous, and ravenous monsters. Rogen and Baruchel, along with Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, take refuge at Franco’s house, and all is semi-well (considering it’s the end of the world) until they’re rudely surprised by Danny McBride, who not only has crashed the party, but proceeds to use up many of their supplies for an exorbitantly wasteful breakfast.
Much of This is the End is seriously funny, as the six stars vie for food (especially the Milky Way bar), attention and affection. All the actors are inspired: if you like Rogen, Robinson, Hill, Baruchel and McBride you won’t be disappointed. Michael Cera also scores, playing himself as so coke and sex-obsessed that an errant light pole barely deters him, while an armed Emma Watson makes a welcome appearance until she takes off with the group’s supplies (as the result of a misunderstanding that goes on a little too long). However it is Franco who especially impresses as a screamingly wealthy, secretive, self-centered version of himself who is obsessed with the idea of sacrificing himself to show what a good friend he is---if not in real life, at least with the proposed sequel to Pineapple Express. The idea of sacrifice in the service of friendship runs throughout the hijinks and the carnage, leading to a satisfying ending…at least for most of the cast.
For some reason, The Internship has been gathering some hostile notices. I hope some reviewers aren’t confusing this second Vince Vaughn/Jared Smith-scripted, Shawn Levy-directed collaboration with last year’s The Watch. I mean, The Watch was grim fare indeed with nary a chuckle among the powerhouse cast. The Internship, which reteams Vaughn with Owen Wilson is another matter altogether: light-hearted, fast-paced, genuinely funny at times, while keeping a smile on your face at other times. Vaughn and Wilson are both at the top of their game as career salesmen who are left in the lurch when their watch company goes under. In the ever-changing world of technology, they’re viewed (by others and themselves) as dinosaurs. Vaughn hits upon the idea of interning for Google, and convinces a wary Wilson to brave a Skype interview and join the ranks of summer interns competing for the rare Google paying job.
Much of The Internship can be seen as formulaic; Vaughn and Wilson have to win over their much younger colleagues, as well as their…younger superiors; there are the inevitable screw-ups; there is the one evil guy who wants to sabotage them (although in a nice moment, he says to Vaughn that he doesn’t have to do a thing-Vince can foul up all by himself); some tentative attempts at romance among the younger and the older set; and the inevitable moment when the guys prove they can still be relevant. However, it’s all good clean fun and features some good supporting turns from Assif Mandvi, Rose Byrne and John Goodman, as well as an amusing cameo from Will Ferrell as a man who makes his living with mattresses.
Now You See Me is a lot of fun indeed-- most of the way through. Four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Isla Fisher) are maneuvered into joining forces by a mysterious benefactor, and one year later, as a group called “The Four Horsemen”, dazzle audiences in Las Vegas with a trick that seemingly involves using an audience member to rob a bank—in Paris—through teleportation. That the trick succeeds all too well brings them to the attention of the FBI (led by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent) as well as a professional magic-debunker (Morgan Freeman).
From there, the complications mount, and the sleight of hand continues as characters and motives are not necessarily what they seem. While I enjoyed the various twists and turns (though a little Jesse Eisenberg goes a long way), Now You See Me loses momentum at the moment of its biggest trick, consisting of a twist that many might guess in advance—but without an altogether satisfying payoff.
If you’re like me, once summer hits in Los Angeles, live music is a priority to compliment the wonderful weather we get at this time of year.