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Riffs, Rants & Rumors: From ‘Sunfield’ to ‘Citizen’ with Damien Youth

In the murky, mysterious world of musical cult heroes, terms like “well-kept secret,” “hidden treasure” and the like are as common as logorrheics in a debate club; they’ve become so ubiquitous that they lose all their impact. But few artists of the modern era have worn the mantle of the unsung underground genius with as much authority as Damien Youth. Singer/songwriter Youth grew up in Hammond, Louisiana, far from the major music-biz hubs, which enabled him to create his own weird little world from scratch, evolving his singular sensibilities on his own terms. Not that his work is without its influences—combing through his catalog, which stretches back to the mid ’80s, you’ll hear echoes of everything from David Bowie and Syd Barrett to Robyn Hitchcock and Bauhaus.

Youth has shunned the spotlight for the warm glow of an underground flame that he’s carefully tended through the decades, as he quietly amassed an awe-inspiringdiscography. Most of it was crafted DIY-style, under lo-fi circumstances with little or no assistance. And while it all sounds “of a piece,” with an undeniable artistic through-line, Damien’s albums touch variously on everything from folk to psychedelic pop to somewhat goth-tinged rock. Through it all, the Louisianan’s seemingly inexhaustible supply of evocative melodies and engrossing lyrics is always at the fore.

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Exclusive Q&A: Passafire Reignites with ‘Start From Scratch’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsThe effective blending of two genres is never an easy task, especially when it comes to the smooth stylings of reggae and the rough intensity of rock. Arguably, the only major band to really have a lot of success blending these specific genres of music was Sublime. Enter: Passafire. Since their formation in 2003, the band has maintained the balance between the two wildly different elements in order to create a truly explosive live act that has dazzled many. With their latest album Start From Scratch, which debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Reggae Charts, Passafire has taken leaps and bounds towards proclaiming a new leader in the musical style that Sublime helped to popularize in the ’90s. Drummer Nick Kubley stopped by to give us some backstory behind the creation process of Start From Scratch and the magic behind their live shows.

OS: You started your own label FlameGuy Records when recording Start From Scratch. Was this due to a desire for more creative control? Or did you just feel like it was time to strike out on your own?

NK: It was more to strike out on our own. We’ve always had complete creative control. We just wanted to do our own thing and be in charge of every aspect of putting out arecord.

OS: What does your new keyboardist Mike DeGuzman bring to the band?

NK: Mike brings the possibility of doing more. His level of skill as a pianist and multi instrumentalist has opened a lot of doors for Passafire musically. Now that we have Mike, we feel like we can really push our sound.

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Exclusive Q&A: Troy Gentry Talks about the Musical Rebirth of Montgomery Gentry

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsMontgomery Gentry named their latest album Rebels on the Run and the term has become something of a theme for their current lives.

Ever since the album on the Average Joe Entertainment label debuted in the Top 10 country charts of SoundScan, there’s been no stopping the country duo. Tours, high-profile interviews including one in the upcoming People magazine “Country Special,” red carpet appearances and a Thanksgiving Day co-hosting gig on the celebrated radio show “After MidNite” with Blair Garner, is just some of what has kept the duo moving.

Troy Gentry recently took some time out to talk to OurStage about the new album, the duo’s refreshed enthusiasm and what he sees in their musical future.

OS: I don’t want to rehash all of the negative things you’ve both faced in the past year or so—Eddie’s divorce, his cancer, your bear hunting misadventure that again received publicity—but it must be great to focus on the positive after such turmoil. The question is how did you focus on creating new music for a new label when you had so much negativity around you?

TG: I think it was that music itself. As far as the history, the [charges of falsely tagging a bear]  I had tucked away and buried that a long time ago. I put that in the past.When it came back up, I put out an apology letter again… but it wasn’t an issue for me. I had apologized, I had made amends and it was in the past.

When Eddie’s cancer came up (he was diagnosed in November 2010 and was immediately treated; he is now cancer free),  we tackled it head on and and we got that under control. Praise Lord he was able to get that taken care of and put it behind him. I think the music itself was what took the focus off of the past. It gave us a new focus and direction, something to look forward to in the future and concentrate on and get all of our energies behind.

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Exclusive Q&A: A Conversation With Theophilus London About Love, Life and Antarctica

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsWhen you look at the hip-hop scene at it stands now, with artists like OFWGKTA and LMFAO on the rise, you can feel the genre shifting a bit both in terms of music and artistic vision. Taking a more wild and eclectic approach to not only music but fashion sense is becoming a running trend. With that in mind, the up-and-coming rapper Theophilus London is riding the wave with his unique blend of influences, that read off like something from an indie rock band, and his eye-catching sense of style. This has led to widespread success with his debut release Timez Are Weird These Days getting significant buzz and landing high-profile performances like at this past year’s Cannes Film Festival. Taking some time out of his busy tour schedule, this budding rap star sat down to chat with us about topics ranging from his Tumblr to listening to actress Milla Jovovich cover Prince.

OS: In the past, you’ve voiced displeasure about mainstream rap. Do you feel it’s something you still try to stay away from?

TL: In a sense of [it] being played out, maybe. But, there’s a lot of mainstream rap.

OS: How would you describe the difference between your approach and a regular hip hop artist?

TL: I work off of references. I idolize producers and try to sit down and work with producers on brand new sound. We talk about favorite artists first and foremost and develop a brand new sound. I really can’t say I’m different from other rappers because I’m not in the studio with them or in their creative process.

OS: You announced on Tumblr today that you got Michael Jackson to DJ some of your shows. How did you find him?

TL: I found him in New Orleans. He was hanging out a window. I asked him if he wanted to tour and he said yes. Really glad he came out to tour with us.

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Exclusive Q&A: Primus Gets Their Groove Back With ‘Green Naugahyde’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsYou’d be hard pressed to find someone to call metal funky. But, if there was ever a band to excel at bringing the groove—among other things—to the age-old genre, it would be Primus. Then again, the storied group, that is most well known for creating the theme song for the popular satire cartoon series South Park, has been categorized in a plethora of different genres ranging anywhere from progressive rock to grunge to thrash to post-punk to psychedelica. Despite a brief hiatus in 2001, Primus has returned with a renewed energy and, after going through a number of lineup changes throughout its history, has settled into its current trio. Guitarist Larry “Ler” LaLonde was kind enough to spend some time with OurStage to give us an insider view of the creation of Primus’ latest album Green Naugahyde, the band’s upcoming tour and his experience working with the band’s returning drummer Jay Lane.

OS: There are a lot of different ways that the band has been described over the years. If you had to describe your own music with a term or a phrase, what would you use?

LL: Yeah, you’re right, because over the years it’s been called everything. Ahh, it’s just, you know, it’s “Freedom Rock”. Do you know “Freedom Rock”? [laughs]

OS: You were on a brief hiatus before you recorded this album. What was it like to come back together and record this?

LL: Well, it was actually pretty great for me, because I was pretty anxious to do some more Primus. When it all came together, and then Jay ended up being in the band and we got in a room and started playing, it was great, because all of a sudden we started writing songs. We had done some gigs over the last ten years but we hadn’t really done any writing or recording. So, you know, over that amount of time, I had come up with a lot of song ideas. Sometimes you’ll come up with an idea and you’re like “Aww, that’s a great Primus song” and so you don’t use it for anything else and then it kind of sits around. So, for me, it was great to all of a sudden to throw in these things that I had been sitting around waiting to use for Primus for a long time. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q&A: Primus Gets Their Groove Back With ‘Green Naugahyde’’

Exclusive Q&A: Zechs Marquise Reveals the Story Behind ‘Getting Paid’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsAt its core, Zechs Marquise is about exploration. Specifically outer space exploration. As previously detailed in the 8/24 edition of Riffs, Rants, & Rumors, the band has close familial ties with the progressive rock band The Mars Volta—they even share a keyboardist. However, with the recent release of their latest work Getting Paid, the band demonstrates that they have taken steps towards creating a real sonic separation from any musical comparison to TMV or any other band out there. Bassist Marfred Rodriquez-Lopez stopped by to give us an idea of how Zechs Marquise manages to separate themselves from their peers, what influences the band musically, and the story behind supporting the last tour of one of their longtime friends, RX Bandits.

OS: When the band first started it was called Monolith. What was the reason to change the name besides the obvious reference to Gundam?

MR: (laughs) It is mainly because we realized there was something like three or four bands with the name Monolith from Texas. It’s funny, because they were from each of the major cities. There was one based out of Dallas, one based out of Austin, one out of Houston and another one out of San Antonio. So that was the main reason. We all loved the name, but then we were like “Oh man, there’s another band with that name? And they’re from Texas as well?”

OS: Were you were just chilling out, watching some episodes of Gundam Wing and just decided to go with that or…

MR: Well, we’d been watching it since I was a kid. And around that time, they had recently re-released them to DVD. So, I was watching some of the episodes at home one day before rehearsal and one of the things we all went home with the day before was “Alright, let’s come up with a new name.” Just because I had Gundam Wing fresh in my brain, we were all sitting around and I was like “What about Zechs Marquise?” I kind of actually threw it out there as a joke, because my brother and I were watching it earlier. I kind of laugh about it now, because everyone was like “You know, I kind of like that.” So we kept it. You know, he’s one of the cooler characters in the TV show. He’s the bad guy at first and then he’s a good guy and then goes back to being a bad guy. It all depends on what your view of good and bad is. Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q&A: Zechs Marquise Reveals the Story Behind ‘Getting Paid’’

Exclusive Q&A: The Country Charm Ways of Josh Turner

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsEven though Josh Turner’s debut album was certified platinum, the songs on his 2010 album Haywire are what pushed him into the major leagues of country music—as evidenced by his headlining slots, array of awards and legions of fans.

“Why Don’t We Just Dance,” the album’s debut single was the artist’s third No. 1 single and spent four weeks as the No. 1 most-played song on country radio in 2010. The song also won an American Country Award for Single of the Year-Male. No sooner had that single become a radio staple than Turner’s next single ‘All Over Me,’ hit No. 1. No wonder he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry as one of the youngest artists to ever receive the honor.

Although Turner released his Long Black Train debut in 2003, he’s fine with the steady pace at which his career has advanced. And why not? The Hannah, SC native has won an array of awards and GRAMMY nominations, has a solid fan base and is hailed as one of country music’s brightest young artists.

Turner recently took some time to talk to OurStage about his last album, his upcoming release and just how his wife handles all the attention to receives from adoring fans.

OS: Congratulations on all of the sold-out shows you had this year. What’s your secret?

JT: We just get out there and have a good time and try to speak to the fans. We have had a great run of shows this year. We have had a much busier run of shows than we anticipated and that’s always good.

We have had a lot of people turning out and had a lot of sold out shows this year. That is encouraging especially in this economy, too. People are still looking for entertainment and escape from every day life and that’s what I try to give them.

OS: So I keep reading reviews of your concerts where they mention all of these beautiful women in the audience that try to catch your eye. How does your wife [Jennifer who plays keyboards in your band] react to all of that?

JT: She used to struggle with it early on in my career, but she is out there with me everywhere we go as part of my band. She sees it all first hand so she tunes a lot of it out.

I was joking with her one day early on in my career when she got mad. We were walking down this alley, going from one venue to another venue. This woman basically, and I don’t think she meant to, pushed Jennifer out of the way to get to me. Jennifer got mad but I said “Baby, you got to understand that these people are just very excited.” She’s a good sport about everything, though.

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Exclusive Q&A: Ben Lee Takes Us ‘Deeper Into Dream’

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsMaking a dramatic shift in how you approach songwriting can be incredibly difficult, especially for those who’ve been set in one way for a long time. So, when you look at the case of Ben Lee, who’s been making his mark in the music industry since he was fourteen, solo and in the band Noise Addict, it makes his latest output all the more impressive.  With his recently released album Deeper Into Dream, this indie pop mogul made serious adjustments and improvements in his craft to the delight of many music critics who panned his previous release The Rebirth of Venus. To give us some insight into what experiences and reveries went into this revision of technique, Ben Lee took some time to explain his new writing approach, how he approaches collaborations and tell us who he’s excited about in the music industry today.

OS: About Deeper Into Dream, you’ve said that you wanted to take a more personal approach to writing this album. Did you run into any difficulties making that shift? Do you find that it’s easier to be more personal when writing lyrics for other people to sing?Ben Lee

BL: Well, it’s all relative. My music has always been personal, but I guess what I mean is I wanted to be more vulnerable. Sometimes I think I’ve found it hard to admit weakness or my flaws (both in life and in music), so I was conscious of wanting to have more questions than answers on this album.

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Metal Monday: Speak Of The Devil Prepping A Prog Portfolio

Since the Metal Monday column began, a plethora of great OurStage metal bands have been covered, and there never seems to be a shortage of talent. One band that hasn’t been covered nearly as much as they deserve is the Toronto-based Speak of the Devil. That, however, is about to change. We caught wind that Speak of the Devil had some cool things underway and decided now would be the ideal time to chat with them about how they’re doing, and to share what we learn with our dear readers.

Firstly, you should probably know something about Speak of the Devil (aside from the fact that they’re Canadian). A very modern-sounding band, Speak of the Devil are likely one of the more progressive metal bands to grace OurStage’s Metal Channel. Not only are they progressive, but they have a lot of character in their sound. Comparable to the likes of Between The Buried and Me in terms of aesthetic, Speak of the Devil avoid being a total sound-alike by featuring heavier keyboard usage. Being compared to Between The Buried and Me isn’t so bad, though, as not many bands can really pull that off.

At any rate, Speak of the Devil are near the end of finishing a new album and took some time to answer our questions regarding the new material and recording process. They’ve also made a neat little studio video for us:

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Vocal Points: Marie Hines-Influenced By All, Sounds Like None

OurStage artist Marie Hines has been making music for as long as she can remember, beginning to write songs at the age of twelve. The depth of her songwriting abilities, musical vision and vocal ability make for a truly breathtaking combination—both on her records and in live performance. Its clear to see why Marie has ranked high in the Best of the Best Charts on OurStage, as well as had other great success on and off the site. Marie is currently creating another five-song EP that will be released in February. We had a chance to catch up with Marie and ask her about her musical background and what has molded her into the phenomenal singer-songwriter she is today.

OS: You say you started writing songs at the age of twelve but when did you begin singing, and when did you begin formal voice training?

MH: I guess you could say I’ve always been a singer. I used to walk around my house at ages three and four belting the theme song for The Little Mermaid at the top of my lungs… My poor parents! I sang all through middle school and high school, but didn’t start formal voice lessons until my senior year in high school—I needed help preparing for my audition for the School of Music at Belmont University in Nashville. I was accepted as a Commercial Voice major at Belmont, and studied there for four years, graduating with a degree and a hefty load of vocal training under my belt.

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