The Birth, Death & Rebirth of Hair Metal

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Round And Round

Background note: This originally ran as a cover story for “Guitar One,” in 2004. My inner 13-year-old was totally stoked to interview the era’s guitar heroes.

“Round and round! What comes around goes around! I’ll tell you why… why….” –Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy

Dig. Many thought it was dead and buried. Many even danced on its grave and packed on a few extra shovelfuls of soil by way of coolness-affirming jokes (e.g., What do you call a hair-metal guitarist without a girlfriend? Homeless). Hair metal… poodle metal… glam metal… cock rock… party rock… the names alone are pejorative enough, describing everything about the ‘80s pop-metal sensation except the music itself. What was so wrong about a musical movement that incited us all to have nothin’ but a good time, preferably while soloing along on air guitar, wasted? Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Rock ‘N’ Roll Anima

Background note: Several weeks after I conducted this interview for Alternative Press, singer Brian Molko phoned asking if my group Ether Net would open for Placebo in Canada. A definite first in all my years as a journalist. We had recently lost our drummer but of course I said yes, then hustled to find a replacement. Weeks later I found myself vomiting backstage in a fit of pre-show jitters at Toronto’s sold-out Kool Haus, then stepped onstage to perform for three thousand or so Placebo fans. They were very kind. I subsequently made some lifelong Canadian friends on that mini tour, which also included Montreal and Ottawa.

Hang out with Placebo for a night and you’ll begin to understand what Lou Reed meant by his challenge in Metal Machine Music’s liner notes: “My week beats your year.” Even severe jet lag doesn’t impede Brian Molko and his “two husbands,” as he calls bassist Stefan Olsdal and drummer Steve Hewitt, from juicing the Big Apple. At the Soho Grand hotel bar, orders for double Sea Breezes keep pace with Molko’s candid responses to queries regarding Black Market Music, the corrosive, more political follow-up to 1998’s break-through Without You I’m Nothing.

Detailing Placebo’s coincidence-riddled history, the openly bi-sexual Molko recalls his impression of the openly gay Olsdal when they first encountered each other at school in Luxembourg: “I thought you were an aloof snob, and you thought I was a pot-smoking fag. How ironic life can be.” Read the rest of this entry »

Rufus Wainwright

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | No Comments »

Cliff Notes

Rufus Wainwright wants it both ways: to make extravagantly creative music that also sells to the masses.

You can certainly hear his lofty musical ambition in the lush production of his three acclaimed albums, which blast the high drama of his openly gay social life through the prism of his musical taste. Read the rest of this entry »

Duran Duran

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Back To The Future

The ’80s were the best decade ever.

At least that’s the impression you get if you saunter into a club or party these days. From hotel lounges to hipster soirees, when a DJ spins one of the decade’s percolating synth-pop numbers, the dance floor suddenly floods with revelers busting herky-jerky moves not witnessed since Molly Ringwald’s heyday.

Add to that phenomenon a host of new ’80s-influenced bands, like Interpol, the Faint, the Rapture and the Epoxies, to name just a few among a flock of sequels, and we’re in the throes of a full-on revival. Need further proof? Even leg warmers have returned as a must-have fashion accessory, thanks to Karen O., the art-damaged vocalist for New York’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lloyd Cole

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: | No Comments »

The Long Goodbye

“I don’t want to water down my career,” says Lloyd Cole. “We all know artists who’ve gone on and on, and each album is slightly less interesting than the last until you get to a point where you don’t want to hear an album by that person anymore. I would rather get a job than have that happen.”

Well-read, wryly funny, emotionally aloof, sullenly handsome… if Cole hadn’t become a successful songwriter, helping to define college rock in the ’80s fronting Glasgow’s The Commotions, he could’ve made a charismatic English professor. Perhaps it’s still a career option he’d consider, if it weren’t for the fact that the self-described “two-time drop-out” has even less patience for campus life now that he’s reached middle age. Read the rest of this entry »

The Twilight Singers

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Attack And Release

“For better or worse, I’m my own guy,” says Greg Dulli. “You try to drum up a list of people who sound like me or write songs like me, and that’s a very short list. I’m inventing my own music. However egotistical or delusional that sounds, I don’t give a fuck. I’m gonna stay delusional… ’cause it’s turning me on.”

The Twilight Singers’ mainman has never been shy about sharing his opinion. As singer for ’90s alt-rock greats the Afghan Whigs–formed, as legend has it, in an Athens, Ohio, drunk-tank–he was known for baiting audiences about the shortcomings of their home athletic teams. It occasionally earned him bloody knuckles or a cracked skull. Read the rest of this entry »

Lucky Pierre

Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Bright Side Up

Background note: This feature originally appeared in The Plain Dealer, in 2004, when Kevin McMahon released a deluge of CDs comprising work from all eras of his stop-start career. He’s since retreated again from the spotlight but he’s undoubtedly working on something spectacular. Hopefully he’ll see fit to share it soon.

As early as 1979, Kevin McMahon was described as Lucky Pierre’s “misguiding light.” In an interview with the Cleveland-based fanzine CLE, the young McMahon comes off as prickly, cagey, willful and abstract–all the things you could want in a post-punk-era singer, just as long as you didn’t have to interview him.

“I don’t know how to answer that question,” he tersely responds to an opening query from CLE founder Michael Weldon. “But I imagine I won’t know how to answer the rest, either.”

Twenty-five years later, McMahon holds a printout of that article in his long, pale fingers and laughs. He doesn’t remember doing the interview, but he does recognize the subject. Sort of. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted: January 1st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Over The Wall

Background note: This feature first appeared in Guitar One as afi were making their transition from the indie world to the majors. Extremely nice people. Not sure if he ever followed through on the idea, but I remember singer Davey Havok was excited when I suggested the band launch their own line of make-up for dudes.

AFI are mere days away from launching a headlining tour in support their major-label debut, Sing The Sorrow. The Bay Area goth-core quartet have faithfully toured behind each of their five previous albums, gradually accruing a large loyal following in the process. But this stint will be different.

It’s a tour of many firsts for the band. Their first tour bus. Their first real production budget. Their first use of sampling technology to supplement their live sound. Their first heavy promotional schedule. Davey Havok, AFI’s glamour-conscious lead singer, jokingly bemoans the increased responsibilities, saying they’ll cut into on-the-road shopping sprees, but that’s the closest anyone has to a complaint about the new situation. Read the rest of this entry »

Sun Kil Moon

Posted: December 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Feature story | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Heavy-Weight Dreams

Not since Bob Dylan’s “vomitific” lyrics on 1965’s Highway 61 Revisited has there been a stranger cast of characters assembled on one album. Sun Kil Moon’s Ghosts Of The Great Highway (Jetset) features heavy-weight champs and heavy-metal heroes, Hollywood legend Clark Gable and comic genius Jim Nabors, a donut shop owner and a stalker’s first victim. And that’s only the first track.

Read the rest of this entry »

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