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Gregg’s New Liver Likes The Road: Allman Brothers Band Back On Tour

When it started looking like the end of the road for the liver that the notoriously hard-living Gregg Allman has had a love-hate relationship with for the last 62 years, things became pretty precarious for the Allman Brothers Band, with whom Gregg’s been hammering the keys and hollering the blues for more than 40 of those years. The ABB are, after all, probably the longest-lived rock & roll road warriors, at least since the 1995 passing of Jerry Garcia made The Dead considerably less Grateful.

The Allman Brothers Band has long understood what most artists are only just now realizing—that the only real money to be made in music comes from hardcore touring. Their annual multi-week residencies at New York’s Beacon Theatre became the stuff of legend, at least until 2010, when the venue foresaw a bigger payday from the new Cirque du Soleil show “Banana Shpeel”, throwing the veteran road dogs over for—quite literally—a bunch of clowns (for what it’s worth, the neo-vaudeville event received withering reviews).

But the biggest roadblock of all came when world-class tippler Allman—who was diagnosed with Hepatitis C in 2007—finally underwent a liver transplant last June. The band canceled an appearance at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival and put the kibosh on all touring plans. Nobody—including the convalescing singer—knew whether this meant the end of the journey for the Southern rock heroes, though Allman remained optimistic.

It turns out that Allman’s innards are more resilient than “Banana Shpeel”, though, and the band has now announced a return to the stage, with a short fall tour that kicks off on November 11th at the Tower Theatre in PA and ends up with a three-night stand at the Orpheum in Boston. Both the Philly and Beantown stints are already sold out, and Allman has been quoted as offering two words that say it all: “I’m ready.”

Tour dates:

NOVEMBER
11 – TOWER THEATRE, Upper Darby, PA – SOLD OUT!
12 – DAR CONSTITUTION HALL, Washington, DC
13 – ETESS ARENA, TRUMP TAJ MAHAL, Atlantic City, NY
15 – PALACE THEATER, Albany, NY
16 – FOXWOODS RESORT CASINO, Mashantucket, CT
18 – ORPHEUM THEATER Boston, MA – SOLD OUT!
19 – ORPHEUM THEATER Boston, MA – SOLD OUT!
20 – ORPHEUM THEATER Boston, MA – SOLD OUT!

By Jim Allen

Jim Allen has contributed to a wide range of print and online outlets including RollingStone.com, MOJO, Village Voice, Uncut, VH1.com, iTunes, All Music Guide, CMT.com, The Advocate, Prefix, Blurt and many more.

Behind the Mic: The Power of Webcasting

Did you know that you can introduce your band and your music to a multitude of new fans without even leaving your couch?

Webcasting is the newest trend for both upcoming and established artists. With a webcam and sites like Stickam or LiveStream, you can stream live video right from your computer, making your fans feel like they’re right there with you.

Though some fans would certainly be content to sit and watch you talk to them, there are plenty of creative ways to make your webcast sessions more fun and interactive. Engage in question & answer sessions, perform an acoustic set (ask for requests!) or give away merch or codes for free downloads. Most importantly, you can have fun with your fans, encourage them to help promote and thank them for spending time with you.

Watching Hanson's LiveStream webcast is as good as being in the front row...almost.

Chances are, you’ll also have a handful of passing visitors to your webcast who have never heard of your band. Remember to engage them as well, as your stream can instantly make them a fan. Ask them to check out your Web sites, add you as a friend and sign up for your mailing list. As a virtually unknown band, this is an easy way to start building a national fan base.

With a laptop, the opportunities for webcasting are endless. If you really want to make your fans feel like they’re part of the action, stream webcasts from shows, interviews, photo shoots and road trips.

Take a tip from our friends in HANSON. Their Web site has an entire section dedicated to webcasts, called aLive@hnet. From this page, the band webcasts their sets, meet and greets with fans and tour videos. They’ve also been streaming interviews with their opening acts, which were selected right here on OurStage (check out their interview with Delta Rae below)!

There really is no better way to bring your fans into your world than to run live webcasts. It will let you get to know your fans on a personal level, and nothing is better than making your fans feel like they’re your friends.

Sound off, music lovers: Which bands out there are doing the best webcasts?

Beat Don’t Fail Me Now

To get to Danya and the Fail, you have to go by way of Animate Objects, a venerated hip hop group from Chicago. That band began on the campus of the University of Illinois back in 2003 and expanded their presence in the Midwest scene beat by beat with their positive, organic hip-hopology. A side project of Animate Objects, Danya and the Fail features AO founding members Steven Dobias (guitar) and Prashant Vallury (bass) along with former drummer Danya Thompson. Minimalist beats and soothing riffs permeate their debut mixtape, aptly titled The Shit. That’s not to say that Danya and the Fail are too mellow to come correct. “Midnight Blue” is a dark and menacing invective against the wannabes who “never move weight but they claim that they hustling.” Lyrical provocateurs, MCs spit rhymes that name-check anyone from Shakespeare to Tupac to Hurley from Lost, and have you smirking while you dance. In “Phoenix,” shuddering strains and moody keys set the stage for Danya and the Fail’s introduction as contenders for Chicago’s hip hop crown: “I’m blessed to be a king in this game of chess / I can only hope that y’alls impressed.” Mission accomplished.

GuacaMusic: Rico Merengue

Are you in the mood for dessert? Try a rico merengue!

Don’t get confused. You could mix whipped egg whites with sugar and a touch of vanilla to get a taste of meringue, or you could play a tambora and maintain a 2/4 beat to savor merengue, a type of music and dance from the Dominican Republic that could have gotten its name from this delicious dessert. There are many theories behind the name of this music, but our favorite is the one that insists it has to do with how the movement on the dance floor reflects an egg beater in action.

If movement is what you are looking for, you have come to the right place. Here on OurStage, we have some mouth-watering merengue songs that will get you dancing before you can say “egg whites.”

Put your dance shoes on and listen to this playlist that includes the greatest merengue on OurStage: “El Vergel” by KORA, “Caña Dulce” by Nelson Polanco, “Having a Party” by Sugarcane Rush, “Perdiste Tu” by Juan Esteban & The Premium Band, and “Hasta que termine la noche” by KAMPA.

After that, read on for some facts about merengue dancing!

If you played these songs and aren’t dancing already, get motivated by these fascinating details:

  • Traditional merengue dancing is characterized by a stylized limping step. Legend tells that the style was developed to imitate a wounded war hero who danced with a limp.
  • Merengue is a combination of two dances, the African and the French Minuet.
  • The original merengue was not danced by individual couples, but rather as a circle dance.
  • Merengue music is closely related to the similarly named méringue, native to Haiti.
  • Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who came to power in the Dominican Republic in 1930, declared merengue dancing and music as the official national forms.

Enjoy this savory treat ¡Provecho!

History Of Punk

Like all great historical movements, punk rock’s timeline extends back further than its universally accepted starting date of 1977. Antecedents like the early Stooges and MC5 albums suggested, as far back as 1969, the dwindling peace-and-love influence of the hippies on popular culture, and indirectly voiced the rumblings of discontent of a disillusioned generation.

Teenagers of the ‘70s started to resent the bloated excess of classic rock and the slick materialism of the disco scene. Although small musical fires were being set all over the world simultaneously, one of punk’s ground zeros was the shabby rock club CBGB on New York City’s then-dicey (now mostly gentrified) Bowery. The sartorial outrageousness and garage-y musical grit of The New York Dolls, and later the rough and tumble, untutored appeal of The Ramones, Voidoids, Patti Smith, Blondie and other stars of the CBGB scene turned designer/clothing shop-owner Malcolm McLaren’s head, later to resurface as influences on the band McLaren managed, The Sex Pistols. Indeed the CB’s scene, given wings by the 1976 release of the first Ramones album on Sire Records, made a big impact in the UK amongst unemployed, disaffected teenagers of the underclass, who immediately adopted (and adapted) the do-it-yourself aesthetic to express their own dissatisfaction with their decaying empire, bad economy and hopeless-seeming future.

By 1977, The Clash, The Subway Sect, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & the Banshees, X-Ray Spex, The Slits and many more bands were all making important, yet musically diverse, contributions to the punk canon. Other punk scenes flourished in Ireland (The Undertones) and Australia (The Saints, Radio Birdman) and punk became well-represented all over Europe and North America.

At the turn of the ‘80s, punk had splintered into a variety of styles, including hardcore (especially popular on the West Coast of the US), new wave, synth-pop and post-punk. Hybrids and offshoots evolved, like two-tone ska, cowpunk, psychobilly, garage-punk and surf-punk. Metal began to reemerge as an influence, and many bands added metallic elements, to varying degrees, to the punk template. A more melodic and perhaps song-oriented strain of punk emerged toward the end of the decade, giving rise to what became known as alternative rock, and later indie rock. The Seattle punk scene gave birth to grunge, and grunge’s posterboys, Nirvana, became one of the best-loved bands of the era.

The success of Nirvana and other alternative acts changed the music industry in the ‘90s. Punk was more widely accepted than ever before.  By mid-decade, radio and MTV were playing the hell out of pop punk bands like Green Day and Jimmy Eat World. As punk became more and more mainstream and commercial, teenagers and other creative folks continued to find ways to reclaim the sound and attitude for their own—Riot Grrls, twee pop, emo, screamo, post-hardcore, dance punk and an endless variety of other subgenres have materialized, all fueled by the same passionate need to rebel, to communicate and, ultimately, to rock.

Paula Carino

Paula Carino is a musician and writer based in New York. She’s written for AMG, American Songwriter and contributed to the Encyclopedia of Pop Music. She’s also a yoga teacher and authored the book “Yoga To Go.”

Q&A With Tegan & Sara

The whole realm of musical duos is gaining more and more popularity in the music industry. She & Him, Matt & Kim, Meg & Dia and—of course—Tegan & Sara. The thing that sets the latter apart is sheer versatility. You’ll find these Canadian twins relaxing you with acoustic performances immediately followed by dance numbers to get you moving. They even mix a substantial amount of indie and punk rock into their sets. Needless to say, they’ve got something for everyone. We caught up with Sara Quin to talk about their collaborative songwriting, their view on music awards and their overall musical goals.

OS: Lately, you’ve attempted to write songs together, rather than separately. Any sibling drama when working together directly, as opposed to your normal “remote” collaboration?

SQ: You know, not just with music, but with every aspect of our career, there’s an element of debate and conversation about a lot things that we do—making decisions for art and video and that sort of thing. So, certainly when we’re face-to-face and we’re dealing with stuff, it can sometimes turn into arguments or animated debates. But, for the most part we’ve sort of found a way to work through those issues. Certainly doing the songwriting long distance and generally giving each other space to make art without immediate critique or feedback has been really helpful. Writing in person sort of eliminates that buffer zone, but we made it through without too much friction. I think, because we were so excited by the results, it was helping to smooth over some of the difficulties. We were really establishing, “Wow, okay so this is how you write a song. That’s so interesting. That’s not how I would do it.” I think we were able to get past some of those bumps because we were both really excited about what was coming out.

OS: Only one of these co-writes made the final cut of Sainthood. What happened here and are we ever going to hear the other songs?

SQ: Yeah! We would eventually love to release the material, and who knows, some of them might get spiraled into something else. I think, ultimately, it was really late in the writing process, and a lot of the music just sounded so different than what we had already written for the record, that the songs just ended up feeling a little bit like they wouldn’t work. So, we sort of set them aside for a later date. It was less about whether or not the songs were good, because it was such a new thing, they really had such a different feel it didn’t make sense.

OS: You’ve been nominated for a bunch of Juno awards, but have never taken one home. Your latest album was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. Do you think winning this award would put you on a different level as Canadian artists?

SQ: I don’t know. I personally never have put a ton of energy, or assigned any sort of value to those types of things. When you’re in the music industry, you see that there’re a lot of politics behind them, and often it’s not necessarily representative of everything that is out there, or what I would deem as “good” or the “best of”. You’re always weighing that with the natural desire to be acknowledged and recognized within the industry and in the public eye. Certainly when you’re winning these awards, or being nominated for them, it makes you feel good, and it sort of elevates you to a different status, and your parents are happy—that sort of thing.  So, I definitely don’t want to speak too negatively about them, but it’s important to balance being interested and excited and also knowing that they don’t totally matter, whether you win them or not. I would still feel like we had made a really fantastic record whether it had been nominated for the prize or not. If we don’t win, that’s okay too.

OS: It seems that the band has an interesting presence in the punk scene as well as the indie rock scene (Tegan’s collaborations with Against Me! and Alkaline Trio and yours with The Reason). Are you simply rock stars at heart?

SQ: I’m not. I think we always sort of felt awkward. I don’t think we ever felt comfortable with the idea that this would be our career, or that we would be professional for years. There was always this idea that it was just a hobby or it was something that was really fun. Then, all of a sudden, you find yourself really addicted to the lifestyle. So much of what the public sees is you on tour and onstage, and I think that’s where this idea of the “rockstar” sort of comes from, but so much of our lives is behind the scenes—songwriting and working on projects. It’s very isolated, and there’s a solitary, introverted element to a tremendous amount of what we do.

Behind the scenes, you’re interested in working on stuff. Mostly it’s alone, but then every once in a while an artist or someone will come along and ask you to contribute something. It’s just naturally reaching out, branching out and having a community. When people are working on albums and they’re looking for other people to throw their personality or their style into the project, you jump at the chance to do it. Like, for us, obviously we’re not a dance project, but it’s really fun to work with dance artists, because you get to sort of see yourself in a different light.

OS: Along the same lines, you perform along side artists of many different genres, like this year’s Civic Tour with Paramore and New Found Glory. What’s it like keeping up with acts like this?

SQ: I think what we do is adaptable. We’re versatile and we can tailor our set, energy level and the dynamic of our set to meet a lot of different venues and support gigs and festivals. Maybe we’ll stand out. I don’t know that we’ll necessarily fit in in the sense that we’ll be interchangeable with those bands. But, I definitely think that there will be people in the audience that appreciate hearing something different, or seeing a different approach to the music that we’re making. I feel really excited about it. There’s always an element of fear or danger when you’re opening for a band that isn’t exactly doing what you do, because you don’t want the audience to hate you. But, I really believe Paramore in particular have a fantastic audience. Hayley is so wonderful, and I think even though they have a very big audience, there’s a parallel in the way that we connect with our audience. It seems very personal, and they’re rooting for her, and I’m hoping that will extend to our band.

OS: You’ve both had mixed responses to the media’s portrayal of you as “twin, lesbian, female musicians”. This year, you had one date at the Lilith tour which celebrates women in music and their sexuality. How does the whole Lilith thing fit in with you guys?

SQ: Well, we are doing one show with Lilith. You know, it’s like a festival. For example, we were over in Europe doing rock festivals in Germany, and we did Glastonbury in the UK. You take into consideration who the audience is and what might get their attention, and you sort of write a set list that will make sense at that venue. With Lilith, obviously with the focus on women musicians, you’re going to see a lot of women in the audience. I think that it means that Tegan and I can do what we do best. We have a really dynamic catalog of music, and I think I’ll feel more comfortable doing a set that’s a little more representative of what our entire catalog is representative of.

Whereas when we’re playing a rock festival at midnight in Germany, we’ll probably play more heavy music, or we’ll play most of our rock songs. We won’t be trying to do the acoustic sing-a-long’s. I think Lilith is great. I don’t worry as much about being pigeonholed because of our gender or sexuality the way we did when we were younger. I think we now have the history in the industry. That helps us get out of the category of “women making music for women,” which used to sort of drive us crazy. Based on the artists that we’ve supported and the festivals that we’ve done, and how mainstream/wide of a spectrum our audience is now, I think we’re not worrying that there’s limitations because of our gender or sexuality.

Check out Tegan & Sara’s upcoming tour dates:

9/7- Kiefer UNO Lakefront Arena, New Orleans, LA

9/8- Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, Houston, TX

9/10-Nokia Theatre, Dallas, TX

9/11-Cains Ballroom, Tulsa, OK

9/13-Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO

9/15-Dodge Theater, Phoenix, AZ

9/17-Theater at HP Pavillion, San Jose, CA

9/18-Viejas Arena, San Diego, CA

9/19-Honda Center, Anaheim, CA

9/24-Malkin Bowl,Vancouver, BC

Rock ‘n’ Roll Call: Shelter With Thieves

Having spent 11 weeks in our Best of Rock Charts, Canada’s Shelter With Thieves just might be on their way to becoming rock royalty.

Like fellow Canadians Billy Talent, Shelter With Thieves boast expressive vocals against driving punk beats and aggressive riffs. And with a live show succinctly described as “fearsome,” the group is known for being just as relentlessly vicious in their on-stage banter as they are with their performance.

Shelter With Thieves’ latest release, Confessions of a Toxic Generation, features the songs “Ocean Graveyard” and “Riot Gear Fashion Show 2009,” both of which are driving rock anthems just begging to be belted out from a crowd.

Unlike the majority of punk vocalists, frontman Mike Johnson actually has the chops to carry impressive melodies, adding a welcome change to a genre whose vocals are usually confined to exasperated yells. Confessions is not only well written, but also well produced, and earned them two Music Nova Scotia Award nominations, one for “Group Recording” and one for “Loud Recording”.

After sharing the stage with everyone from Our Lady Peace to Slayer, the band has been working on an upcoming album with producer/Sum41 bassist Cone McCaslin and mix master Eric Ratz (Cancer Bats, Billy Talent). The record is titled Life Art and will be released soon! Until then, you can check out one of its tracks, “Chemicals” on the band’s MySpace page.

Hip Hop Habit: MyVA

First and foremost a lyricist, MyVA‘s (pronounced My-Vey) flow is voluminous as the aftermath of a breaking dam. He rhymes like a runaway semi-truck careening down the pages of the English dictionary, oblivious to any futile externalities or conventional song forms. This straight shooting motivation has thus far allowed MyVA to make a name for himself in the Virginia Beach scene, and will most likely land him in rap circles far away as the opposing coast. And there’s no need to worry about his authenticity. Straight from the rapper’s mouth, he declares to never portray anything other than who he is. Multiple personalities can be heard through his roiling accent (recalling Big Boi or Andre 3000, check out his cover of Outkast’s Jazzybelle) not because he’s sacrificing integrity to act or role-play, but instead because his catalog’s contextual fiber is a culmination of all the events that have made him, and whatever he’s representing actually does exist somewhere deep down inside. If there’s any truth to that statement, then this dude is quite the Renaissance man.

Of the many idiosyncrasies that surface as a product of MyVA’s mission statement to speak from the heart, the most peculiar goes on display in hot-headed banger “Lemonade,” where, among many things, listeners learn of MyVA’s affinity for cartoons. From George (or Jorge as he rhymes) of the Jungle and The Jungle Book to Goldie Locks and Marvin the Martian, it becomes immediately apparent that this sometimes vicious stinger with a knack for clever ego leaps also has a childish side that’s even a little endearing. In fact, the song’s central message is best conveyed through lines featuring said cartoon characters, one of which being “I’ve Grazed in the jungle like Mowgli/ Not king of the jungle just Jorge.” Throughout this heavily symbolic autobiography of sorts, MyVA stays true to course and chronicles his statuses in multiple phases of life, from earning only pennies to being a tycoon with a typhoon flow to settling in as just another one of the pack, as is noted in the previous lyric.MyVA in the studio This off-kilter timeline is set against an aggressive piano- driven beat tense from the start, delivering a towering tide that peaks and then crumbles halfway through the track. Here, MyVA’s rap launches into double time while the rolling peripheral bass and straight 8th piano remain the same mellow pace, creating a gaping rhythmic divide that eventually reunites as the piece nears its end.

Talking a big game is acceptable when it’s backed up, as is the case in “Popular Demand.”  This track takes the grandiose piano accompaniment from “Lemonade” and dresses it down to a single note riff, allowing a comically haunting tremolo synth to step in for the meat of the accompaniment. Lyrically it features MyVA as the protagonist once again, but this time mixes his rise from the “bottom of the totem pole” with some harsh words for his rivals: “Haters I’m doin’ what you want to/ just understand/ I’m that much in popular demand.”

In his quest to be ruthlessly individual, it’s safe to say that thus far he’s succeeded. Whether that originality catches on in mass has yet to be determined, but if the layered rhymes and alluring quirk continue, he’ll be noticed far and wide. The aforementioned tracks and a few more are included in the player below. Give them a listen and let us know what you think of this Virginian’s distinctiveness in the comments!

Winner Announced For Ernie Ball In August!

Every month, Ernie Ball chooses one artist from a different OurStage music channel to be the recipient of a year’s supply of free guitar and bass strings. That’s over 60 packets of strings! While July focused on the guys in the Male Singer Songwriter Channel (Kudos Ohio native Andrew Varner), August was all about the ladies in the Female Singer Songwriter Channel. Now it’s time for Ernie Ball to bestow this awesome prize package on another talented artist. Congratulations Amy Kuney! As a young songwriter from Southern California, Amy has been “an artist to watch” in the Los Angeles area for quite some time thanks to features on TV shows such as Gilmour Girls and One Tree Hill. To check out some of Amy’s music, head over to her OurStage profile. Meanwhile, the folks at Ernie Ball are heading over to the Indie Pop Channel for September’s competition. Take a listen to some of the music vying for the top spot in the play list below:

Metal Monday: Q&A With Jordan Rudess Of Dream Theater

Metal is one of those genres that sends only a few bands to towering fame and worldwide notoriety. Dream Theater is one of them. While the band occupies more of the progressive side of the genre, they do so with energy and originality. Two existing members attended Berklee College of Music and one went to Julliard. Needless to say, these guys have chops. The Julliard alum is none other than versatile keyboard player Jordan Rudess. His intricate, tasteful and passionate performances not only add to Dream Theater’s arrangements, but he also pursues his own solo endeavors. He’s a prominate solo keyboard player who has been featured in Keyboard magazine, he’s developed a relationship with numerous tech companies (even designing some gear) and is also a strong advocate of music education. Check out our Q&A with Rudess to hear his take on all of his projects.

OS: You played Summer Sonic this year. How long had it been since you played a major festival and what are you looking forward to most about this one?

JR: We’d never played Summer Sonic. I get the feeling that it’s very different than anything else. We played at a lot of festivals this summer. We did some very big ones with Iron Maiden which were very fun. We played a festival in Ottowa for like 70,000 people. It was ridiculous. We played something in Montreal and Toronto. We had some great big festival shows.

OS: Dream Theater songs are usually quite complex and technical. What is the rehearsal/arrangement  process like?

JR: When Dream Theater gets ready to record an album, we record in a studio where we’re able to set up all of our gear in a comfortable amount of space. It’s usually pretty big because there are a lot of drums and a lot of gear. We just like to be in the room and hash things out all together.We’ll bring in like seeds of ideas. There are three composers in the group: Myself, Petrucci and Portnoy. Together, we just make it happen. A lot of the notes and harmony are things that John and I will “throw into the soup”. Mike’s talent is in the architectural realm. He’s able to see how all these wild and crazy ideas can go together in an ingenious kind of way. It’s a really cool system.

I’ll throw in an idea, maybe 4 or 8 measures or something, and then we’ll start playing it. Generally it’ll lead to the next idea. Mike will say “What if we put this riff behind it and play for another 8 bars while I turn around the rhythm”. Rarely does anybody come up with something that’s a full song.

OS: Being such a technically driven band, your songs are a great fit for their Rock Band/Guitar Hero placements. How do you feel about their translation into the games?

JR: I’m not a big game player, but I think it’s really cool that the game thing is what it is in today’s world. First of all, it’s a great avenue for a band like Dream Theater to get out there. When commercial radio has changed so much, we’re looking for new opportunities to get our music heard and enjoyed. From that point of view, it’s really cool. In the old days, you could rely on people buying things just to listen to. Now, they have this way to play along and become the guitarist, drummer or even keyboardist.

It’s not something we think about when writing music at all. Maybe we’re old school, but we just want to make good music. I do think it’s pretty cool though. I know we all enjoy the idea that our songs are being used in those games.

OS:Dream Theater toured with Iron Maiden earlier this year. What was it like being on the road with these guys?

JR: Well it was a really great tour, and great for Dream Theater to be on that tour. Although we’re popular in North America, it’s not our strongest market. This was an opportunity to go and play for really huge crowds. Iron Maiden still sells tons of tickets. In the summer when the touring business was down altogether, Dream Theater did amazingly well with Iron Maiden on the road. Every night was pretty much sold out.

OS: Yeah you guys are definitely a notable metal band too, but a different branch than Iron Maiden. Did you have a similar response?

JR: The response was really great. At times, you wouldn’t even know that it was necessarily an  “Iron Maiden” crowd. It’s not a typical “opening act” scenario.  It was cool. I think at times, we just had a lot of fans in the audience, but even if they were mostly Iron Maiden fans, it seemed they really liked Dream Theater. We played some of our most intense music, and were trying to “deliver the goods” in a small amount of time. So that’s what we did. It went well, and the reaction was strong.

OS: Can you speak a little bit about the MorphWiz app that you developed for iPad and iPhone?

JR: My new app is called MorphWiz. It’s an app for the “i-OS”- iPhone, iPad, iPod touch. My whole concept in creating it was to try and coordinate the worlds of audio and visual as one. It’s based on the foundation of what I call a “vertical grid”, kind of like what I do with the continuum. You can play any scale, any amount of octaves on the screen, and each note is represented by a vertical line. So, you can get a lot of expression. For instance, you can start at the bottom of the line with virtually no volume, you can increase the amplitude by moving up the line. In that same way, you can control other parameters as well. Pitch is most often left to right. So you can have this really expressive interface.

The other thing that makes it cool is that it uses a kind of “pitch intelligence” that I’ve kind of developed over the years (starting by working with Liphol hawkin), which is a pitch-rounding system. Let’s say you have a screen with a couple of different octaves, and you slide your finger on the screen, you get a smooth slide of notes. This system enables you to correct the pitch when you first touch the screen to the right note even if you’re left or right of it. This can even happen once you stop your finger after the slide. This makes some very expressive styles of playing.

People think of the iPad or iPod as  a “fun toy”, or a cheaper type of instrument. MorphWiz, I feel, is setting the foundation for the future of what we think of as electronic instruments. This whole idea of a touch screen as a means for new types of expression is really

OS: You often release educational DVDs and books. Does these teaching goals stem from your early, classical origins?

JR: Yeah I think that’s definitely part of it. I come from a pretty formal education. I went to Julliard, I was there from the age of 9 until 19. It was a very unusual path. I was going to be a classical pianist. Then when I was 16-17, I started to really discover other choices. The classical thing wasn’t really my interest. I was starting to get into synthesizers, but I didn’t know how to apply my interests other than having fun. At some point I was like “Well, this has been an unusual path, so I should let people see where I’m coming from”. There’s a bit of responsibility to share, because I wasn’t very guided in my transition from classical to the more synthesizer stuff. There wasn’t like a Berklee program like there is now. I feel like if there’s some way I can share what I learned with other people then I’ll do that.

OS: You have a huge presence in the gear community. Did this just occur naturally from all of your projects, or were these partnerships always important for you to include?

JR: I’m really interested in technology. When I left Julliard and I got involved with the Moog synth, it all started there. Now I’m constantly looking for ways to push the boundaries with music and visuals. Some people were like “well why are you playing the iPhone, it can’t possibly be ‘real’”. I knew the second I saw the iPhone, there were going to be some really groundbreaking ideas to be fleshed out on the iPhone. I’m interested and I think there are some important things going on in that world. So, it leads me to a lot of gadgets, and things that make sounds.

The Microboards thing is an extension of what’s going on with me. I have a G3 Disc Publisher at home. I can burn like 50 CD’s at a time and they’re all really well-printed. Just like I have a keyboard now that can make any sound you can imagine. I’m working on a concerto now and I’m trying to finish that. The relationship started a long time ago  In this case, we needed a solution when Dream Theater was in the studio to make CD’s for everyone during rehearsal. Recently, I got in touch with Aaron Pratt, and asked what they had to help me get the job done. So that’s when the G3 came into play.

OS: Cool. So you’re working on a concerto right now?

JR: Yeah, in November I’m heading off to Venezuela to premier my new concerto. It’s not done yet, but it will be for keyboard and orchestra. That’s like the “main thing” on my plate right now. My general plan is to make a piece of substantial length, and it should be interesting.

If you missed the Iron Maiden tour or Dream Theaters’ Japanese dates, stay tuned for Rudess’ keyboard concerto as well as an announcement for some 2011 Dream Theater dates.

 


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