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Asking Alexandria Talk About A Third Album And Mayhem Festival Madness

After four years of international touring, chart topping albums, and self-destructive partying habits, British metalcore band Asking Alexandria have come a long way since leaving York, North Yorkshire in 2008. We caught up with the group to talk about their upcoming third studio album, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, and the famously reckless lifestyle for which they’ve become notorious. OurStage also had the chance to see what they’re capable of at the Mansfield, Mass. stop on the Mayhem Fest. tour on Friday, Aug. 3, where they shared the stage with the likes of MötorheadSlayer, and Slipknot.

Opening with their aptly-named “Welcome,” leading straight into “Closure,” AA set the mood early with heavy, thrashing amplification and very animated movement. The band unleashed the strong music and lyrics from Reckless and Relentless with “Breathless” and “A Lesson Never Learned,” saying: “Every mistake I’ve made leaves a scar that burns every day. Yet still I carry on” and “Please you have to help me. This is not my true face. If you could see my soul as I have seen my soul…I could show it to you. It’s rotten, it’s poison.” The group demonstrated their dynamic stage presence and energy throughout the show; with every member running to and from either end of the stage, and leaping from amp stacks, monitors, and platforms during “To The Stage” and “Dear Insanity.” So it’s no surprise that Asking Alexandria’s fervent synergy made for a strong sense of camaraderie that engaged the audience with every synchronized head bang.

The band closed their set with “Morte Et Dabo,” which translates from Latin as “Death, I will give you.” The song opens with epic drums and Gregorian chant-style vocals, leading quickly into a fast-paced, thunderous condemnation with the lyrics, “I’ll never bow to he who claims to be divine; I’ll tear down your gates with my bare fucking hands; And burn the world that you rule over.“ As “Morte Et Dabo” fading out in epic stylewith bellowing drums and the sound of crashing wreckage, the hardcore quintet exited the stage, leaving the ruins of a brutal performance behind them.

During our interview, lead guitarist Ben Bruce told us about Asking Alexandria’s growth as a band through the years, how they always need to do things to stay busy, and what to prepare ourselves for on the third album.

OS: What was your writing process for the new album, and did that change or evolve since Reckless and Relentless?

BB: The fact that we tour so much makes writing a new album a pretty tough ordeal, so I actually bought a tour bus at the end of last year and built a full recording studio in the back of the bus. I spent most of our headline tour, Still Reckless, in my bus writing.

Continue reading ‘Asking Alexandria Talk About A Third Album And Mayhem Festival Madness’

Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Renaissance’s Prog Rock Rebirth

“It’s something that I didn’t think I’d be doing again” is the first comment out of Annie Haslam‘s mouth about the revitalization of Renaissance, the legendary British prog-rock band she led to fame in the ‘70s. On such classically tinged art-rock milestones as Ashes Are Burning, Turn of the Cards, and Scheherazade & Other Stories, Haslam’s crystalline vocals blended with Michael Dunford’s deft acoustic guitar work and John Tout’s vivid keyboard flourishes on epic tracks brimming with invention and energy in equal amounts. Renaissance was a leading light on the ‘70s progressive rock scene, but since the ‘80s, their live activities have been sporadic, and the 2001 release Tuscany has been their only studio album since 1983’s Time-Line.

“I kind of wound down my solo singing career in about 2002,” says the Bolton-born songbird, who now makes her home in Bucks County, Pa., “and started painting, which is my other love, just as much as singing. I’ve been painting nonstop since 2002 now. So I didn’t really have any interest in going back into music, I liked the fact that it was just me, and not a lot of other personalities to deal with. Then Michael Dunford contacted me in 2008, and before he opened his mouth, I just knew. He said, ‘Annie…’ I said, ‘No.’ [Laughs] And that’s basically how it started up again.”

A revamped Renaissance ended up touring in 2009-’10, playing their classic cuts for grateful fans. Soon, some new work found its way into the set list. “We added a new song Michael and I had written together called ‘The Mystic & The Muse,’ expains Haslam, “We don’t ever remember having a standing ovation for a brand new song, which we had every time we played it, so that was very encouraging for our future writing.” Before long, Renaissance was embarking on two equally ambitious projects—staging a new tour to perform Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade & Other Stories in their entirety, and putting together their first new album since 2001.

Turn of the Cards was really one of our most popular albums,” says Haslam of the full-album shows they started doing in 2011, “with ‘Mother Russia’ and ‘Running Hard’ on it, and Scheherazade we felt was really a huge album—when Michael and I decided to do that, we were talking about it and we both thought, ‘My gosh, this is a huge piece of work to give to the musicians to do.’ It was huge when we did it [originally]. Actually it was probably bigger [to undertake] in the ‘70s, because we didn’t have the technology. They pulled it off though, it was brilliant. I love that piece so much, ‘Scheherazade’ in particular. When I’m onstage I get so into the music that I just barely remember to come in with the tambourine and come to the front of the stage. There’s a lot of music in it so I kind of step back, and I just get lost in it.”

Continue reading ‘Riffs, Rants and Rumors: Renaissance’s Prog Rock Rebirth’

Ebony And Indemnity: Gibson Settles Over Lacey Act Violations

Prominent guitar maker Gibson will avoid federal prosecution by paying $350,000 in damages after admitting to possible violations of the Lacey Act.

Gibson had been the target of a Justice Department probe since 2009 for the suspected importation of illicit plant products. The guitar maker made use of ebony and rosewood imported from Madagascar and India, the origins of which brought on the scrutiny of the federal government.

The issue was not what kind of materials Gibson was using, but how they came to get them. The Lacey Act, written into law in 1900, was expanded in 2008 to ban the importation of products that had been illegally harvested and exported under another country’s laws. While Gibson initially maintained that they acquired the wood for their instruments through legal means, the settlement for the case notes that an employee of the company learned of the extralegal sources from which the wood came from in 2008.

The investigation came to a head on August 24th of last year when federal agents, outfitted with bullet proof vests and automatic weapons, raided Gibson facilities in Nashville. While the guitar maker had previously maintained their innocence, the terms of the settlement state that, “Gibson has acknowledged that it failed to act on information that the Madagascar ebony it was purchasing may have violated laws intended to limit overharvesting and conserve valuable wood species from Madagascar,” according to Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department.

Gibson appears to get off easy with the deal. While the guitar manufacturer was forced to cease attempts to regain $261,000 worth of wood seized in the raid, they would likely have to spend more than $350,000 on legal fees if the case was brought to trial. Also, the company will continue to import the integral wood pieces from India as pre-made “fingerboard blanks,” a move that was deemed legal by the U.S. government.

 

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Air Traffic Controller Takes Off With ‘NORDO’

“Thinking of You,” the final track on Air Traffic Controller’s new album NORDO begins just like any other folky love song. Bandleader Dave Munro quietly strums his acoustic guitar, languidly composing a simple song “for a lovely lady” while spending a rainy day inside. Then the orchestra comes in. Trumpets blare a regal fanfare, cymbals crash, and glockenspiels chime brightly while Munro’s falsetto climbs high above the sudden explosion of chamber pop. It’s an unexpected transition, but it works, and it’s a moment that explains what NORDO is all about.

Munro began writing songs while working as an actual Navy air traffic controller overseas, and it’s not hard to imagine him dreaming up pop tunes during the intermittent breaks in his stressful work day. Becoming the bandleader of his own imaginary pop orchestra was a way to cope with the everyday struggles that came from being miles away from home. On Air Traffic Controller’s latest album, Munro reproduces that experience for listeners, scoring the daydreams of a normal guy with a grandiose soundtrack that elevates the mundane to the sublime. He sings about rushing out for work in the morning, trying to remember the origins of a specific movie quotation, and needing to take a paid vacation just to keep himself sane. All along, he’s accompanied by handclaps, church bells, strings, and horns in addition to the standard rock band set–up.  There’s even a forty-piece orchestra featured on the standout track “Blame.”  These extravagant arrangements don’t so much transform his quotidian musings as embrace the beauty of their averageness. Munro knows that when you’re facing down a personal challenge, sometimes it really does feel like you need a forty-piece orchestra to back you up.  Continue reading ‘Air Traffic Controller Takes Off With ‘NORDO’’

Exclusive Q and A: Cherri Bomb Separate The Girls From The Boys

Being in an all-girl rock band requires three key things: tough skin, business savvy, and, most importantly, an insane amount of talent. The four young ladies who make up alt-rock group Cherri Bomb have got all three down to a science. For Nia and Rena Lovelis, Miranda Miller, and Julia Pierce, rock stardom is just over the horizon, making it even harder to believe that their average age is just fifteen. Guided by manager Sam Maloney (drummer for Hole, Mötley Crüe, and Eagles of Death Metal) this group of rock prodigies have already shared the stage with some of their idols, like My Chemical Romance and the Foo Fighters, and released a full-length album, This Is The End Of Control. We caught up with Cherri Bomb at the Mansfield, Mass. date of the Vans Warped Tour to learn more about their influences, fashion inspiration, and plans for the rest of the year. Boys, take note…this is how it’s done.

OS: You guys have made history this year. How does it feel to be the youngest all-girl band to play this tour?

JP: It feels really good because we’ve always wanted to play Warped Tour, but we didn’t know when that would ever happen. Not only because we’re young and we’re girls does that make it feel special, but also being with other bands that we look up to, that we can kind of make friends with…that’s also really cool.

OS: Are there any bands on this tour that you really love and grew up listening to?

JP: I like a lot of the bands on the line up. Sleeping With Sirens, Of Mice and Men, Falling In Reverse…

OS: Were you nervous at all to come out on this tour? It’s notorious for being a rough experience, but it can be especially scary being the only young girls on a huge tour filled with rock bands…

MM: We prepared really hard for this. We rehearsed constantly and we put the show together. We knew it was going to be hard and there’s a lot of challenges on Warped Tour, but we were so excited. There’s no room for nervousness.

OS: Tell us about working with your manager, Sam Maloney.

NL: She helps us a lot, she gives us a lot of advice. She leads us away from any potholes. She’s a great manager and she’s also a musician, so she knows a lot about both sides of the business, which is amazing.

OS: Who would you say are your biggest influences? Do all of the band members listen to the same music, or do you have a wide variety of tastes?

NL: Our musical taste is all over the place. I really like Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle… [Julia] likes a lot of hardcore bands. But we kind of all go everywhere, from Regina Spektor to Korn.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Cherri Bomb Separate The Girls From The Boys’

Metal Monday: Inaugural Metal Podcast

It’s been just over three years since Metal Mondays began here at OurStage, with the first post — an interview with former Darkest Hour guitarist Kris Norris about The Kris Norris Projekt — debuting July 20th, 2009. Since then, not a lot has changed in Metal Monday land. It’s been a steady stream of metal coverage: reviews, interviews, features, etc. Now, however, we have a major addition to our content: Metal Monday, The Podcast. Every handful of weeks, we’ll be dropping a new Metal Monday podcast, streaming to you some tasty OurStage metal jams, OurStage metal happenings, news, and maybe even inviting some guests on the show. So, without further adieu, here’s the first installment. Settle in.

The Who and ‘Quadrophenia’: Sonic Magic Whose Time Has Passed

Is it just me, or is anyone else still trying to get jazzed about the Quadrophenia Tour that Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of The Who recently announced?

Maybe part of my disenchantment stems from the “virtual press conference” during which the 36-date tour was announced. Organizers shrouded the event in secrecy, noting only that Daltrey and Townshend would discuss the group’s 2012 plans. When the press conference started and the tour around the 1973 rock opera was announced, it was a bit of a letdown. Think of it sort of like your mom telling you she had a major surprise for you and then finding out she planned to serve your favorite dessert. Sure, that’s nice…but is it a huge surprise?

Also, the virtual press conference was a bit…let’s just use the word sterile. Journalists submitted questions beforehand, and someone read them to Townshend and Daltrey, who responded. Not exactly the stuff of lively interaction. In fact, journalists’ phones were muted so they couldn’t interject.

That’s really a shame. As the only two original members of The Who, Daltrey and Townshend are basically the National Archives of the band. And with at least two generations of would-be fans who aren’t quite clear about why there’s so much reverence paid to The Beatles, never mind The Who, it’s a fair bet that band is a major mystery to Generations Y and Z. It would be great to have Daltrey and Townshend engage the public, even by way of the media in a less scripted way. Alas, that doesn’t seem likely.

And some might question why The Who, a band that helped lead the British Invasion in the ’60s and had such mega hits as Tommy and “I Can See for Miles,” needs to almost pander to non-fans. Doesn’t the band’s history speak for itself?

Continue reading ‘The Who and ‘Quadrophenia’: Sonic Magic Whose Time Has Passed’

Meet The Winners Of The Intel® Video “Superstars” Competition!

The first round of the Intel® Video “Superstars” Competition drew in thousands of content creators competing against one another in nearly every visual genre under the sun. From there we whittled it down to the best of the best in the semi-finals as the top competitors in each sub genre went head to head for the number one spots in Video Game Trailers, Music Videos, and Short Film. Suffice it to say we put these creators through the ringer.

But after two rounds of intense competition, nearly three months of judging and with thousands of fans making their voices heard, we have our winners in the Intel® Video “Superstars” Competition!

Continue reading ‘Meet The Winners Of The Intel® Video “Superstars” Competition!’

Bon Iver Announces Remix Contest

You might have what it takes to make folky singer-songwriter Justin Vernon – a.k.a. Bon Iver – sound a little bit less dour.

A remix contest has just been announced for the singer’s most recent release, Bon Iver, Bon Iver. “Bon Iver, Bon Iver: Stems Project” is the unwieldy but fitting title for the event: fans will be able to download and re-work the stems for a chance to have their work featured on a Spotify-exclusive Bon Iver release. There’s also a prize pool of $10,000 up for grabs, or $1,000 for each track to be remixed from the album.

Let’s speculate on the potential different paths one can take with these remixes. We already know that Vernon’s autotuned, dulcet tones lend themselves well to a hip-hop framework. Maybe an anthemic cut of “Holocene” in the vein of a Kanye West banger is in order? Or imagine turning “Beth/Rest” into a blown out, Skrillex-y EDM track. This would be pretty easy to accomplish with the new Dubstep Machine, an application that will let you drop the base from whatever website you’re on. I smell a hit.

Download the stems and check out the contest here.

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Exclusive Q and A: Man Overboard Talk Philly Pride and Punk Longevity

OurStage Exclusive InterviewsIt wouldn’t be hyperbolic to call New Jersey pop punk act Man Overboard a touring machine. Their schedule for 2012 has so far included dates in the United Kingdom, United States, continental Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. As if that weren’t enough, this summer they played every single date on notoriously brutal The Vans Warped Tour. We caught up with guitarist Justin Collier at their Mansfield, MA Warped Tour stop to talk stage dives, Russian punk shows, and why little girls love New Found Glory.

OS: You guys played a killer set earlier today, even though you had a pretty early time slot.

JC: I think that a lot of bands get really bummed out when they first come on the tour and find out they have to play either really early or really late. They think that if they play first, then nobody’s going to be there, and if they play last, then everybody’s going to be gone already. Even though some kids at our signing today told us that they missed our set because they didn’t get there until 1 p.m, I think a lot of kids do get there early.  Some of the people who arrive early and don’t have anyone to watch will think, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that band.  I’ll check them out.” And that’s half the battle of Warped Tour.  That’s what you’re here for—to get new fans.

OS: But by now, you guys have become a fairly established act on the tour, and it doesn’t seem like you need to try incredibly hard to get a lot of people out to see you.  There were a certainly a lot of people out there this morning.

JC: It’s different in different places, you know? When you play somewhere like Boston and there are 20,000 people out there, it’s a little easier than when you play Kansas and there are only 5,000 people for all of the bands on the tour. Being from a city like Boston or Philly, where I’m from, there are always good shows. There would be bands that I’d see in Philly and I’d think, “Wow, they’re huge,” but I’d see them somewhere else and realize that they weren’t as big as they seemed.

OS: Being from a place with very intense scene loyalty, like the Philly or Jersey area, how do you feel when you tour abroad? You guys have toured in some very distant places recently, like Russia and Ukraine. What effect do those experiences have on the feeling of musical place you get from your hometowns?

JC: It makes me really appreciate being from the city of Philadelphia. I think that I didn’t before, but now I do, because there are things like R5 Productions and other really great companies, people, and collectives that do shows and events and all kinds of cool stuff. I have a very high standard of how punk shows should be run, but then we would go somewhere like Russia and, not to their discredit, they just haven’t been bred the same way that Phildelphians and Bostonians have been bred to run punk shows. I’m used to some pretty cool shit, but other places are just different and you have to get used to it. It’s always an adventure going somewhere else anyway.

Continue reading ‘Exclusive Q and A: Man Overboard Talk Philly Pride and Punk Longevity’

 


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