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Author: "Carla DeSantis"

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Alicia Warrington Steps Out Front

I have to say it, I adore Alicia Warrington. She never ceases to amaze me—always cropping up in the most unexpected places. Not only that, she is one of the most kick-ass drummers around.

I first met Alicia back in 2004 when she was drumming for Kelly Osbourne’s band. She had just appeared on the Osbourne’s reality television show. A few years later she popped up with the Canadian all-female band, Lillix. Then I read she was playing drums for Hannah Montana and Selena Gomez.

The next time I saw her, she was on television, sitting in the front row cheering on Kelly Osbourne on Dancing with the Stars.

I have a feeling that I—and you—will be hearing a lot more from this talented lady. Alicia is now half of the duo The All-Girl Boys Choir with Marlene Hammerle of The Gore Gore Girls (another band Alicia drums for). But this time around, Alicia is the front person as well as the bass player, drummer, songwriter and engineer. There’s much more to Alicia, but I’ll let her tell you all that.

Alicia Warrington

CD: You are well known as a go-to drummer for so many artists. What’s it like fronting a duo for you?

AW: I’m definitely still getting used to it. It’s very different from my usual, comfortable, hiding spot behind the drums Now, I have to try to entertain people up front and do most of the talking and singing, which isn’t necessarily my favorite thing.

When we decided that The All-Girl Boys Choir was going to be a duo, Marlene wasn’t sold on being a lead singer, so that left one person—me. It feels a little weird to be running around with a guitar instead of pounding out the beats, but I’ve actually played guitar longer than drums so it’s cool to be able to show people that I’m not “just a drummer.”

CD: How did The All-Girl Boys Choir come to be?

AW: Detroit garage rockers Gore Gore Girls (Bloodshot Records) hired me as a drummer for their 2008, 10-country, European tour. They had this crazy guitar/harmonica slinger named Marlene “The Hammer” Hammerle, who caught my attention right away. She was a maniac on stage yet super quiet and cool off stage.

We clicked and decided to work on a new project together after the Gore tour. Marlene moved from Detroit to join me in Los Angeles and we started writing new tunes within the first week of her being here. It was something fresh and exciting for both of us. We concluded that we just didn’t feel like adding more members, dealing with more personalities, scheduling conflicts and trying to keep another band together. Thus, The All-Girl Boys Choir was born.

We recorded most of 2009 and released our debut EP Walking Miracles in the fall of 2009. We are now touring for that.

CD: You’ve been in quite a few all-female bands. Is that intentional? If so, why?

AW: You know, I laugh at that often when thinking about my resume. It certainly isn’t intentional. I just happen to get most of those calls. I’ve been in bands with boys but the tour bus usually smells better with the girls.

CD: How did you start playing drums at age 11?

AW: My uncle Kevin bought this amazing 1970s, stainless-steel, 16-piece, Ludwig monster of a drum set. I fell in love with it immediately. He built a stage in my grandparents’ basement, installed colored track lights, had a smoke machine and a giant stereo system that he would blast, playing drums along to ’80s hair metal bands.

One day, he threw on a couple of songs by Dokken and Bullet Boys and told me to try and play along. It just came to me naturally. I sat in that basement for hours, teaching myself drums along to cassettes by Queensrÿche, Mötley Crüe, Metallica and Faith No More. I begged and begged my mom to buy me a drum kit and one Christmas, she did.

CD: Your first All-Girl Boys Choir tour date is the Girls Rock Camp in Austin. Any particular reason for that?

AW: Emily Marks, who runs the Austin Girls Rock Camp, wanted us to play last year but we weren’t doing shows at the time. This time, we happen to be rolling through during the week of camp and it’s something that we really wanted to do. I think it’s really important to give young girls more options and to get them involved in music at an early age. Young girls need to see that they can play instruments like drums or guitar and that they have more options than becoming one of these Disney-created popsters. We actually have two shows that first day. Later that evening, we’re playing in Austin with The Bluebonnets, Kathy Valentine’s (The Go-Go’s) new band.

CD: Did you book your own tour?

AW: Yes! Back to basics! This time around, it is a completely independent thing: no record label, no management. It’s self-funded and self-everything, which means it’s a lot of work.

We would like to be working with a booking agent but everyone was treating us like a new band, as if we haven’t toured 20 countries before. Yes, The AGBC is a new project, but it’s kind of a slap in the face after doing so many tours for so many years, to have to continually prove yourself and get “more tours under our belts” with this current band, before getting any help from agents.

Well, that certainly wasn’t going to keep me home! I’ve booked tours before so I just picked up the phone and sent out those e-mails myself. Situations like that don’t discourage me, they simply fuel the fire and make me work harder. Now we will be touring through December!

CD: What is your favorite music to listen to?

AW: I seriously listen to absolutely everything. On any given day you will hear me play something like En Vogue followed by Lamb of God. I am a true metal head to the core, but I’ll rock some Dixie Chicks and Loretta Lynn in the car. This week, I’ve been listening to a lot of Heart, The Bangles and Slipknot.

CD: What is your favorite music to play?

AW: On guitar, my favorite music to play is metal. On drums, I dig pop/rock and hip hop beats.

CD: What were the Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana crowds like?

AW: I only worked on video stuff with Selena—no live audience. Hannah Montana crowds are pure insanity. I remember playing a taping for the TV show with her at the Anaheim Convention Center. I couldn’t even hear the stage monitors because the kids were screaming so loudly. I did the Hannah Montana “Live in London” tour, which was pretty crazy as well. Parents bring their kids from all over the place and camp out at the venues.

CD:  Have you ever been the front person for a band before?

AW: I was still in the back of the stage on the drums, but I was the singer in a couple of death metal bands as a teenager.

CD:  Ever hear any of those back-handed “good for a girl” compliments?

AW: Oh, it enrages me. Sometimes it’s not so much the “good for a girl” compliments as it is the tone that you detect from people. Marlene and I had to go into a chain music store recently and on the way out, this older guy at the door said, “Did you have fun in there, girls?” Now, I can be a bit quick-tempered, but I’m pretty sure they don’t ask guys if they had fun looking at all those pretty instruments in the store. You know?

Another recent example: I went amp shopping and had a guy friend with me. The workers kept asking him how they could help HIM and if HE wanted to try anything out. I took my money elsewhere. It just shows how incredibly stupid some guys still are about ladies being musicians and about taking them seriously.

CD:  Are there more or fewer female drummers now?

AW: I think there are many more female drummers now. I definitely didn’t have too many female drumming influences when I was a young drummer. I listened Debbi Peterson and Roxy Petrucci during that time period. I didn’t really know about Mo Tucker, Gina Shock and the others until a bit later. When I was growing up, ladies weren’t getting the same recognition that the males were. So although there might have been some out there, I didn’t get to see as much of them.

I found Sleater-Kinney when I was around 16 and was completely in love with Janet Weiss’s drumming style. She was really the first lady drummer that I was truly inspired by. Her style was so creative. When I’m listening to Janet’s music, I find myself waiting to see what she’s going to do next or where she is going to take the song. It’s usually to a place I wouldn’t have expected.

Young female drummers today have a lot of ladies to look to for inspiration: Cora Coleman-Dunham, Stefanie Eulinberg, Sam Maloney, Yael, Torry Castellano, Jen Schwartz, Mercedes Lander, Nikki Glaspie, Kim Thompson, Hannah Blilie, Melissa York, Patty Schemel, Kate Schellenbach, on and on.

CD:  Is there a goal you haven’t achieved yet?

AW: Oh yeah. God willing, you’ll see me for a while.

The All-Girl Boys Choir Tour Dates:
07/27/10:  Girls Rock Camp – Austin, TX
07/28/10:  Tulsa, OK
07/29/10:  Outland Ballroom – Springfield, MO
07/30/10:  White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
07/31/10:  The Way Out Club – St. Louis, MO
08/01/10:  Vaudeville Mews – Des Moines, IA
08/03/10:  The Mill – Iowa City, IA
08/04/10:  The Revolution – Toledo, OH
08/05/10:  Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN
08/06/10:  Mac’s Bar – Lansing, MI
08/07/10:  White’s – Saginaw, MI
08/12/10:  PJ’s Lager House – Detroit, MI
08/13/10:  Buckham Gallery – Flint, MI
08/14/10:  The Cave – Chicago, IL
08/17/10:  Cosmic Charlie’s – Lexington, KY
08/18/10:  The Rutledge – Nashville, TN
08/20/10:  The Double Wide – Dallas, TX
08/26/10:  Super Happy Fun Land – Houston, TX
08/27/10:  Riverside Warehouse – Shreveport, LA
09/02/10:  Lenny’s Bar – Atlanta, GA
09/20/10:  Trash Bar – Brooklyn, NY

Check out the video for The All-Girl Boys Choir tune “Western Star.”

Rose Cora Perry: Canada’s Northern Light

Move over, Katy, there’s a new Perry in town. And like her last-name-sake, nobody could ever accuse Rose Cora Perry of lacking ambition. She is passionate and driven in every way, and in so many positive directions. In her mid-teens she fronted the all-female rock band, HER and took up the guitar at age 16. Her next project, Anti-Hero, played two Warped Tour dates in the US. Now, with the release of her first solo album, Off of the Pages, the tireless artist from London, Ontario, Canada is proving to be an entrepreneur as well. She is using the proceeds of the recording to fund a non-profit she is starting called MusicSaves, which will create “a traveling youth series to teach troubled teens the healing capacity of music and art.”

Rose began classical vocal training at age 4 and studied jazz, show tunes, opera and musical theatre until she was 14. When she was 15, she met the future guitarist for her band HER at a local talent show and started her own record label. Rose also wrote a column for her local paper called “So You Want To Be in a Rock Band,” and is endorsed by several companies including Daisy Rock Girl Guitars, Hot Picks USA and Sfarzo Strings. In her spare time, she does alternative modeling, making her equal parts model and role model. I talked to this energetic and inspirational young woman to find out where she gets her moxy.

Rose Cora Perry

CD: How did you get started playing music?

RCP: My parents would both tell you that I was pretty much singing from the moment I exited the womb, though that’s an obvious exaggeration. Music has been a central part of my life and identity for a great number of years.

CD: Tell me a bit about your band, HER.

RCP: HER was a strong act for what we were—an all girl pop-rock party band kind of deal—but we all had a lot of growing up to do from a musical and maturity stance. In all fairness, we were still all in our teens and the band’s breakup was messy and melodramatic. Despite this, HER prepared me for what was to come next, and I wouldn’t take back any part of those 4 years together because if it weren’t for HER, I would never would have picked up a guitar for the first time. Nor would I have gotten my feet wet learning what it’s like to front a band and be self-represented in the music biz. Because of the crossfire that emerged from the breakup of HER, I made up my mind at 18 never to be in a band again. That lasted maybe 2 months until Anti-Hero’s future guitarist and my songwriting partner came into the picture.

CD: How did Anti-Hero get together?

RCP: Unlike HER, all of the members of Anti-Hero came from fairly well-known bands within the scene, and we were far more dedicated, driven and overall more well-rounded players. We performed at Warped Tour 2 years in a row and were the first Canadian band ever to have music licensed to MTV’s hit dating reality TV show, Next. But again, drama was lurking, waiting for the opportune moment to plague my new band. It came first when our original drummer attempted to foil our entire U. tour by leaving us high and dry. We scrambled to train someone else just days before it began. We managed, but it wasn’t the same. While we continued on for about a year and a half beyond that point, our major label record deal turned out to be a bust. The recording for our second album which was written in its entirety kept getting shelved, and my relationship with my guitarist and songwriting partner (yes, I made the all-too-common mistake of mixing business and pleasure) was seriously on the rocks. We all lost our will to continue moving forward.

CD: Why did you decide to go solo?

RCP: In my former bands, though everyone did make contributions to the songwriting process, the melodies, lyrics and basic chord patterns have always come from me. In addition, I took on all of the management, publicity, booking, promotions and legal responsibilities for both of my acts. In some ways I miss the family dynamic you get from touring with a band. And I definitely miss feeding off of my fellow band mates’ energy onstage. But at this point in my life after 10 years of as a proud D.I.Y. artist, it comes down to the simple fact that I frankly don’t have time for that kind of drama anymore.

CD: Tell me about your “So You Want to Be In A Rock Band” column.

RCP: The impetus behind ‘‘So You Wanna be in a Rock Band?’’ was simply a result of all of the media myths about ‘‘overnight successes” I kept hearing during my Anti-Hero days.
The moment we got signed to a major label, we started getting emails from fans asking when we’d be buying everyone their Ferraris to celebrate. They didn’t get it—just ‘cause we were signed didn’t mean we were suddenly rolling in the dough or that we no longer had to work hard to get decent shows and exposure. It wasn’t just music fans who were under this misconception. The vast majority of musicians we came across were, too. While I never had grand delusions that getting a record deal would suddenly be my saving grace, in all fairness, I did believe that it would make things easier—make it so that we could focus more exclusively on just creating good music. It became very clear to me just how much misinformation there is out there in regards to how the music industry actually functions, and I felt compelled to do something about it.

CD: You are an advocate for so many causes: Feminism, DIY ethics, veganism, living drug-free. Can you talk about them and why they are important to you?

RCP: Each cause I support is for good reason, and because it is something that is dear to me for personal reasons. In terms of why I’m a feminist? Well, being called a ‘‘novelty’ because I’m a female rock musician and having it assumed I was just a groupie at my own headlining shows, I think is enough to offend any female musician. I’m a professional and an artist, and I take my craft very seriously. It shouldn’t matter what genitalia I have. I want to be seen as an artist first and foremost and I don’t feel that this is an unreasonable request. I’ve met a lot of unsavory individuals in this biz who just because they are males and in positions of power feel they can disrespect and act inappropriately towards female players. Men would never have to experience it, and I proudly wear my ‘feminist badge’ because problems like this won’t go away until we start addressing them head on and demanding better.

D.I.Y. Ethics: I’ve always admired and been greatly influenced by the 1970s punk rock movement, especially figures like Joan Jett who are entirely self-made. I haven’t had any handouts as an artist—I’ve built myself into who I am getting bruised, scratched and beaten along the way. While it hasn’t always been fun, and I’ve certainly made a lot of mistakes, knowing that I’ve done this all myself makes everything I’ve achieved that much more satisfying.

Veganism and Being Drug-Free: These final two causes, for me, really go hand-in-hand as they’re both about making positive lifestyle choices. If you want know why I’m vegan, read the book Skinny Bitch, and you’ll likely convert soon afterward, too. As for the drug-free business, both of my parents are award-winning, drug-free athletes, so living a healthy lifestyle is something that has been impressed upon me from the get-go. But most of all, like any musician, I’ve seen far too many rock ’n’ roll tragedies. Drugs are stupid. End of story. And no, they do not make you a better musician.

CD: Why did you get into modeling and what was that like for you?

RCP: Modeling has always been more of a hobby purely based on the fact that I absolutely adore the art of photography and, well, like any little girl at heart, I enjoy dressing up in costumes. I’ve done mostly themed shoots, but because of my sponsors, I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to act as a spokeswoman in various campaigns. There was a time in my life where I was greatly affected by the stereotypical depictions of females we see in the media. I had major self esteem issues, and, to be perfectly honest, hated everything about the way that I looked. It didn’t take long for me to realize that going the conventional route with modeling wouldn’t be very productive for me or my wavering self-image. Alt modeling has allowed me to see and appreciate beauty as diversity.

CD: What is different for you being a solo artist?

RCP: Everything, from being in the studio to being on stage. It’s all me so if I mess up in any capacity, I have to take all the credit. But more than just that, it’s actually been a really empowering experience, thus far. I was and continue to get nervous and apprehensive as this is all new terrain, but I’m excited to see where things may lead. So far, I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that have come my way.
Off Of the Pages is available exclusively through HER Records, at Rose’s live gigs or via her online store: All proceeds go towards her non-for-profit foundation, MusicSaves.

Check out this video of Rose doing the song “Unpretty” from her late, great band, Anti-Hero.

SIRSY: Melanie Krahmer’s Revolution

When you see a two-piece rock band with a female drummer and a guy on guitar, you naturally think, White Stripes, right? Soon you may be thinking SIRSY, the duo of Melanie Krahmer and Rich Libutti. Together since 2000, SIRSY recently celebrated its ten year anniversary. It’s no surprise they’re so popular. Their songs are catchy, infectious and lots of fun.  To see what I mean, check out the video for their song, “Revolution,” below.

Melanie fronts SIRSY, singing from behind the drum kit. She also plays flutemove over Jethro Tullas well as melodica. And, she’s been know to play keyboard bass with her drum stick. Meanwhile, Rich plays guitar, bass, piano, foot snare and bass on a keyboard with his feet. These musical contortionists are based in New York, and play an average of 250 dates a year. All this hard work has paid off as they’ve just been signed to Funzalo Records. Obviously, there’s something about Melanie. And here it is!

Rich + Melanie = SIRSY

CD: Where does the band name come from?

MK: SIRSY is a nickname. My sister, Michelle, had trouble saying the word “sister” when she was little and it would come out “sirsy,” so she always called me that. When Rich and I were brainstorming band names, I threw that into the mix. He didn’t know what it meant but he liked it.

CD: How did you and Rich meet?

MK: We both joined a cover band to make extra money but we got bored quickly and left to start writing our own songs.

CD: When did you start drumming and playing flute?

MK: About five years ago. I took four lessons. I couldn’t afford to take any more but I’d like to. Flute have been my instrument since the fourth grade. Yes, I was a band geek. And, yes, I marched in the marching band and wore a polyester suit. Good times.

I have only been SIRSY’s drummer officially for the last five years or so. I did, however, play a secret drum part on our 2002 release. We were a four-person band for a few years. We played with some great musicians but never found a combination that worked as a unit. We went back to the original two-person format but instead of playing acoustically we found a way to be a two-person full rock band.

CD: Is it challenging to be a front person / drummer? I can’t think of too many besides Phil Collins and Neil Peart.

MK: I just seemed to click with the drums. I find it much harder to play guitar and sing, although I know that’s much more common. Singing and drumming feels natural for me and drums are the most fun instrument I’ve ever played. It is very physical and a great way to get rid of stress and release emotion. Singing, for me, is more of the same. I feel free when I sing, so the two compliment each other well.

CD: I know lyrics are important to you and you make quite an effort on your site to make sure people have access to them. Can you talk about that a bit?

MK: I always want them to be relatable but not a cliché. I write lyrics that are not always direct but where you have to peel away some of the layers of subtext to find alternate meanings. I also employ humor and sarcasm at times. So, the songs mean different things to different listeners. The lyrics are inside all of our CD booklets but I was flooded with the-mails from people who would bought our music digitally and wanted the lyrics. That’s when I added them to the site.

CD: Did you do anything to celebrate SIRSY’s ten years anniversary?

MK: We were on tour and celebrated by playing a show!

CD: You tour a ton! Do you have a favorite venue to play?

MK: Our very favorite venue just closed its doors. It was a place in our backyard called Revolution Hall in Troy, New York. We’re sorry to see it go.

CD: How did you get signed to Funzalo Records?

MK: A lawyer that we know passed our CD and press kit on to Funzalo. They liked what they saw and heard so, the label president, Mike Lembo, came to see us play live in Chicago in January. Then they offered us a record deal. This whole process started late last year and we officially signed the papers in late March of this year.

CD: What has changed the most since you first started the band?

MK: We started out as a duo and we’re still a duo but we started as an acoustic act. We don’t write folk songs, we write rock songs. So now we’re able to play as a rock act. We’re still only two people but we sound like a full band. That’s a big change. The first few months we tried playing this way were overwhelming. I cried kind of a lot. There are songs where I’m playing drums, bass, flute and, oh yeah, singing lead. It was a lot to take on. We practice and play so much so now it’s almost second nature to us. We’ve come a long, long way.

CD: What is the key to keeping things fresh after ten years?

MK: Rich and I both truly love to play music for our fans. It’s not a struggle to do that night after night. We work really hard, but we have the best job in the world. We try always to remember how lucky we are.

Nancy Rumbel: Queen of the Ocarina

For the past twenty-five years, oboe, English horn and ocarina player Nancy Rumbel has charmed audiences with virtuoso guitarist, Eric Tingstad as half of the GRAMMY-winning duo Tingstad and Rumbel. Now, for the first time, Nancy puts herself and the under-appreciated instrument she loves front and center on her long-awaited solo album, Ocarina Music.

Although Nancy has been playing the ocarina professionally since discovering it at a craft fair in the ‘70s, Ocarina Music is her first album dedicated solely to the funny little “sweet potato” shaped instrument. The ocarina is prominently featured in Nintendo’s game series, The Legend of Zelda, which has sold 59 million copies worldwide. (“Kids know the instrument from the game,” she says.) And in China, the ocarina is very common. But it has never gotten its due or the respect it deserves in the US . Nancy, possibly the only professional ocarina players in this country, is on a mission to raise the profile and the status of the sadly neglected ocarina. She is one of the few people to compose music specifically for the instrument. The release of Ocarina Music marks a historic event not only for Nancy, but for the ocarina itself. “It’s more than an out-of-tune toy,” she says.

Nancy and Ocarina

Recently I asked Nancy about the ocarina and Ocarina Music.

CD:  What originally inspired you to learn the ocarina?

NR:  I had a friend who had purchased a double wooden ocarina at a craft fair in New York City back in the late ‘70s. She showed it to me because she knew I was a wind player. I thought it was terrific and immediately knew I wanted to get one. I loved the sweet sound and I loved that you could easily play two notes at once, creating harmonies. It was a nice contrast to the oboe and English horn that I also play. They are much more demanding both physically and technically. So, I went into the city and met Alan Albright, a very renowned ocarina maker, and purchased my first alto wooden double ocarina. It was the first ocarina that I ever bought and I just loved it! It was love at first sound!

CD: What would you like people to know about ocarina appreciation?

NR:  Ocarinas are a lot of fun. If you go online and begin to explore all the people around the world that are playing and making them you will be amazed. They are simple and so varied. There has been a real resurgence of interest in the US for the ocarina due to three things. One is the Nintendo game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It is one of the most popular and largest selling games in history. Second thing is the Ocarina iPhone app created by Smule. Thirdly, Facebook and YouTube are creating an easy way for ocarina players and makers to meet and share information.

An ocarina is basically what is called a globular whistle. It has a mouthpiece like a whistle but no bell like most wind instruments have. Once a person learns to recognize what an ocarina looks like the real fun begins. One of the coolest things about ocarinas is that they can be shaped into so many different forms. So the instrument makers who use clay have just gone wild with their ideas, shapes, glazes and ideas.

You can often find them at arts and craft fairs, but you do have to be aware that sometimes even though an ocarina can look intriguing, it may not play well. So it is often best, as with choosing any instrument, to have a more experienced player help pick one out for you. Or make sure that the instrument maker plays the instrument that you choose in front of you so that you can hear what it can sound like.

The other thing to be careful about is that some ocarinas are not tuned to concert pitch—so that would make it impossible to play in tune with a piano or other concert pitched instruments. If you will just be playing the instrument alone, then it doesn’t really matter what pitch the instrument is in as long as you enjoy the tone. If you are hoping to play with other instruments, again have a tuner with you so that you can determine if the instrument plays in tune. You can now easily buy tuning apps for your phone, which would help you determine whether or not an instrument is in tune.

Rockin' the Ocarina

CD: Tell me about the two-chambered ocarina you play and how it’s different from a regular ocarina.

NR:  It is called a double ocarina and differs from most ocarinas in that it can play two notes at once. The instruments that I primarily use are also unique in that they are made from wood. Ocarinas are folk instruments found throughout the world. They are usually made from clay and now often from plastic. They vary in the number of tone holes ranging from one to twelve. The most common ocarinas have either four holes or ten holes.

The double wooden ocarinas that I use on most of the compositions on the Ocarina Music CD are two four-holed ocarinas in one instrument. The left side is tuned a fourth lower than the right side, which allows for the harmonies. I use an alto and the larger tenor. I also used a seven-holed clay ocarina on a piece called “Night Tribe “and a five-holed Mexican-figurine ocarina on a piece entitled “Medicine Tree.” I bought it at the duty-free shop at the Mexico City airport.

CD: Ocarinas are popular in Chinese music. What do they use it for?

NR:  The oldest ocarinas found so far have come from China, Central and South America approximately 12,000 years ago. I have seen very old ocarinas on display at the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City while on tour. Currently it is a very popular instrument in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. There are ocarina clubs that perform concerts and exchange ideas and information. I performed in South Korea and was so honored and happy to meet some of the wonderful members of the clubs. I also met some very talented Koreqan ocarina makers.

CD: What kind of ocarinas do you have in your personal collection?

NR:  Over the years I have collected many ocarinas. Many have been given to me as gifts when friends have been traveling and others I have sought out or just happened upon while touring. Probably the only continents that I do not have ocarinas from are Africa and Australia.

I’ve met some wonderful ocarina makers through Facebook. I just purchased some lovely ocarinas from Mexico created by an instrument maker called Lu’um Holl.  He is creating ocarinas based upon ancient traditions and designs. They are in the shapes of eagles, wolves, snakes, shells, birds and dolphins.

One of the most unusual ocarinas in my collection was brought to me from Costa Rica by my son. It actually has the faces of four different animals and can be played by two people at the same time.

CD:  Why did you decide to do an album that just featured the ocarina?

NR:  I have been performing and composing music for the ocarina for more than 30 years. People have always asked for a CD of just ocarina music. I realized that my past ocarina performances had been dispersed among many recordings that I had done with Tingstad and Rumbel over our seventeen year history with the now defunct Narada record label. So basically, I wanted to license my own music, since I didn’t own the publishing, and release a collection of my eighteen favorite ocarina performances. EMI/Capitol was not interested in creating a hard copy, but I was. So they are putting the release online through iTunes, Amazon, etcetera, and I am selling the hard copies.

Since I have been playing the instrument for so many years and am an accomplished musician, I felt like it would be fun to have an entire release of ocarina music to help people hear what the instrument can do in the hands of a professional. There are not many ocarina CDs released in the United States, so I am very excited to have this available now.

CD: Do audiences think it’s a toy?

NR:  Most audiences don’t know what the heck it is. I have been asked my entire career, “What IS that instrument you’re playing? Where can I get one?” People love the sound and want to find out what it is — especially when they hear two notes played at once.

CD:  If someone wants to learn to play the ocarina where do you suggest they start?

NR:  First, find a reputable ocarina maker to buy an instrument from. Try to determine how many holes you want to deal with and how much money you would like to spend. They can range in price from $10 to over $550 for a beautiful triple wooden ocarina.

There are online tutorials on various ocarina makers’ Web sites. They can be very helpful for learning the basic techniques of the instrument. I may start teaching lessons online if there are interested students.

The easiest way is to pick up the instrument and just blow a medium stream of air. It’s so simple. One of the great things about the ocarina is that it is easy to make a nice sound and you don’t have to blow as hard as you would for a trumpet or flute, sax or clarinet. Almost all the instruments will come with a fingering chart. Use your ear and have some fun.

Some players insist that you learn to read music. That is strictly up to you. If your instrument is not tuned to the printed note, you will have to play in a relative key. Some ocarina makers provide simple ocarina music books with small diagrams of their instruments and the fingerings needed to play a melody. There are no hard and fast rules as how to read ocarina music. Remember: it is a folk instrument!

Learn more about Nancy Rumbel and the ocarina at Nancy Rumbel’s site— and her new ocarina site,

“Red Velvet Car” Puts Heart in Drive

Put on your seat belts. Red Velvet Car marks Heart’s first studio album in six years. It will be released on August 31st through Legacy Recordings and the first single, “WTF,” is already getting radio airplay. Heart will be on tour throughout the end of September. Included in their exhaustive itinerary are four dates on Lilith Fair: Mountain View, California; Bonner Springs, Kansas; Tinley Park, Illinois and Shakopee, Minnesota.

Heart Attacks.

Rock icons since they first burst on to the scene in 1976 with their debut album, Dreamboat Annie,  sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson have never stopped making music. They had hit after hit in the late ‘70s including “Barracuda,” ‘Magic Man,” “Dog and Butterfly,” and “Crazy on You.” After a brief dry spell, the group made a come-back in the ‘80s with “These Dreams,” “Alone,” “Never,” and “What About Love.” They put out an acoustic based album, Whirlgig, in 1997 with their side project, The Lovemongers, which featured the Wilson sisters’ long-time friends and collaborators, Sue Ennis and Frank Cox.

During the past decade, Heart toured relentlessly. Whiel Nancy composed film soundtracks, they each released solo albums, were honored by ASCAP and the Recording Academy and named influences by countless musicians. They appeared on the “Hope for Haiti” video and performed Dreamboat Annie live for a PBS show with members of former Beach Boy Brian Wilson’s band. Heart had even been the subject of an epic episode of VH1: Behind The Music. But for the past two decades, radio airplay has evaded the legendary sister act.

Red Velvet Car should change all that, and put Heart squarely back on the Billboard charts they once owned. Produced by kd lang’s longtime producer, Ben Mink, the album closes with “Sand,” a favorite Lovemonger track.

“It feels so right for the times,” says Nancy Wilson. “We can’t wait to share it with the world.” Ann Wilson calls it, “A fresh sound with all the original Heart magic.”

Be sure to see Heart this summer and check out the rockin’ first single, “WTF,” and the list of upcoming tour dates on their MySpace page –

Amy Ray: A Look at Lilith Fair

There aren’t enough words to praise Indigo Girl, Amy Ray. I’ve interviewed her many times over the years and she never fails to renew my faith in people and in music. She’s down-to-earth, thoughtful, well-spoken, and ridiculously talented. Through her own label, Daemon Records, she’s put out the work of many of other artists, although now Daemon is the vehicle to put out her solo stuff. And unlike most artists of her stature, Amy runs everything on Daemon herself. She was indie before the term existed. She’s also a tireless activist, championing such diverse causes as low-power radio, Native-American rights and Gay/Lesbian and Women’s issues as well as her fellow artists.

Playing music together since 1985, Indigo Girls are celebrating their 25th year as a duo this year. In this disposable day and age, that is a huge milestone.

Amy Ray (left) and Emily Saliers (right)

In 1990 Indigo Girls won a GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Folk Album. That same year, they lost the Best New Artist GRAMMY to Milli Vanilli, who later had the award revoked when it was discovered they were lip-synching. Known for their trademark insanely perfect harmonies, you can bet Indigo Girls have never lip-synched.

Continue reading ‘Amy Ray: A Look at Lilith Fair’

Angie Heaton: The Toast of Champaign

She may be deceptively shy and known to clam up in interviews, but Angie Heaton is a true force of nature. She runs a good many things over at Parasol Records and is also an esteemed Americana singer/songwriter and drummer. A huge and knowledgeable music fan, she regularly turns me on to new artists. Before striking out on her own, Angie played in two local Champaign/Urbana area bands of note, Corndolly and Liquorette with Matt Friedberger. Angie went solo while Matt went on to form the beloved indie rock duo, The Fiery Furnaces with his sister Eleanor.

Now, Angie has a brand-new, three-song EP—Angie Heaton: Time Takes Time— about to bust loose. I asked her about the new release, getting tongue-tied meeting one of her idols (Kaia Wilson of Team Dresch and the Butchies) and her legion of roller derby fans.

Angie Heaton

CD:  Your parents gave you a drum set when you were six-years-old. How did that happen?

AH:  I think I just said I wanted some drums and there they were. My parents still joke that when they bought me my first real kit that I would be up playing all night while they would be “sleeping” in the room right next to mine. Lovely.

Continue reading ‘Angie Heaton: The Toast of Champaign’

I’m Not Nico: Meet Aja Volkman

Mike Peña may no longer be the drummer for the LA band, Nico Vega (He left the group back in 2007) but that doesn’t mean it’s no longer something near and dear to him. Peña will forever be a part of the three-piece rock groupwith Aja Volkman on vocals, Rich Koehler on guitar and Dan Epand now on drumsbecause the band is named for his mom.

This touching tribute may prove to be confusing to new fans who assume lead singer Aja is Nico. But that is no problem for Aja. “Her legacy had a tremendous impact on me as a person,” she says, “Even though she seemed like an ordinary person, she was actually a modern American saint. After I heard her story, I was able to change things about myself that I’d needed to confront for a long time. We all decided it was a beautiful name, and it made us realize that modern day saints are average people who get through huge struggles.”

Nico Vega

Nico Vega became a band in 2005. Since then they have released three EPs. Their first full-length album came out last year on MySpace Records after being discovered by mythic MySpace founder, Tom. But Tom is not the only mythic figure who has gotten behind Nico Vega. Hit songwriter/producer/former Non-Blonde Linda Perry (Pink, Gwen Stefani, Christina Aguilera) produced three songs on the album and the rest were produced by Tchad Blake (Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel). Over the past two years, Nico Vega has played with Gavin Rossdale, Semi Precious Weapons, Shiny Toy Guns, Metric and Soundtrack of our Lives. They’ve also performed three songs on Last Call with Carson Daly.

We don’t censor what we do,” Aja says of the band’s sound. ”We’re not thinking about what’s cool. We’re thinking about what sounds good to us.”

Get to know Nico Vega’s charismatic singer and future superstar, Aja Volkman. Just don’t ask her to follow a rabbi at a Darfur benefit. Details after the jump.

Continue Reading An Interview with Aja Volkman

Kathy Valentine: The Go-Go’s Say Goodbye

Since the early ‘80s, The Go-Go’s have been a force to be reckoned with. The first all-female band to have a number one album (1982’s Beauty and the Beat) got together in Los Angeles in 1978. The line up of Belinda Carlisle on vocals, Charlotte Caffey on keyboards, Jane Wiedlin on guitar, Kathy Valentine on bass and Gina Schock on drums made history when four of their catchy pop songs charted on Billboard’s Top 40. Internal friction split the Go-Go’s up in 1984 but the band re-formed in 1990. Sadly, July marks the Farewell Tour for this iconic group who, after 30 years, have decided to hang up their mic stands and call it a day.

The Go-Go’s were a massive inspiration to me. The image of and camaraderie between five women who wrote and played their own music was a powerful elixir. I was so intent on following in their footsteps, I joined an all-female band and learned to play bass. And wouldn’t you know, the first two songs I ever learned were “We’ve Got the Beat” and “Our Lips are Sealed.” Those songs may sound simple enough but let me tell you Kathy Valentine writes deceptively intricate bass lines!

Kathy Valentine - photo by Arnold Neimanis.

Now, with the legendary Go-Go’s going, going and nearly gone, I talked with Kathy about the grand finale which winds up in her home town of Austin, Texas as well as the other cool stuff she’s got going on. She’s a mom to a rockin’ young daughter. She’s in another all-female band, The BlueBonnets and she recently produced an album for Adrian and the Sickness .  Kathy is also writing a 140 character at a time memoir on Twitter that you can follow at @kvmemoir! Since she was 16, Kathy has taken music very seriously. Bet you didn’t know that before the Go-Go’s, she played in Girlschool! Kathy was gracious enough to shed some light on the upcoming Farewell Tour and what her life will be like after the Go-Go’s.

CD: How did the band decide it was time to quit?

KV:  Belinda had enough with this chapter of her life. She is into a lot of new things and she now lives in France, India and Morocco, with different aspects of her life centered in each place. Even the limited work we do as a band has become somewhat of a chore for her, not a joy, and she wants to retire. The Go-Go’s wouldn’t really be the Go-Go’s without her, so this phase is over.

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Letters From the Juliettes

Julie Mains is Seattle’s Renaissance woman. Raised in Philadelphia, she’s a musical theater veteran. She opened and operated The Mainstage (her very own music and comedy club). She has co-hosted a morning drive-time radio show called The Menage. And she also sings regularly with The Tropics, a local cover band. She’s one of the world’s greatest networkers and a fireball of energy.

Julie (bottom left) and the Juliettes

Julie’s latest passion is fronting an all-female rock band called The Juliettes. The relatively new four-piece has gotten much attention lately for recording a musical theme for the Rat City Roller Girls, Seattle’s hugely popular roller derby league. I asked this hilarious and busy mom to shed some light on her latest venture.

CD: How did The Juliettes get together?

JM: Two years ago, when my club was still open, I was approached to host a benefit show with some heavy hitter musicians. They turned out to be Jamie Moses and Spike Edney from Queen and Jeff Scott Soto from Journey, as well as Alan White from Yes. I got to sing back-up the whole night and also duet with Jeff, which was so wonderful. It was an amazing night. Last year, Spike held another benefit with Elliot Easton (The Cars), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), most of Yes, Nona Hendrix (LaBelle), Shawn Smith (Brad) and Eric Bazilian from my most beloved hometown band, The Hooters. I sang back-up once again.

Continue reading ‘Letters From the Juliettes’


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