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Q&A With Ozomatli

The US State Department has been sending musicians overseas as musical ambassadors of culture, peace and acceptance for decades. Over the years, the ranks have included famous jazz musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis. In this spirit, they’ve selected a new artist to represent this cause over the past couple of years. Our current ambassadors are none other than Ozomatli. This diverse and enthusiastic group covers such a wide variety of genres that it’s no surprise that they’ve been selected to represent our country. Their music encompasses Latin, Salsa, hip hop, rock, funk, blues and even jazz. Having begun in Los Angeles, it seems only fitting that their genres are as far-reaching as each member’s background. They’ve palyed in orchestra’s, hip hop groups, Latin fusion acts, and their current drummer Mario Calirewas even the previous drummer for the Wallflowers. OurStage wanted to dig a little deeper. So, we sat down with saxophone/clarinet/keys player Ulises Bella, who gave us the inside scoop about their touring and their music.
OS: You all come from diverse backgrounds (Latin, hip hop, salsa, funk and rock). How did you meet and how did the current lineup come about?
UB: The genesis of the band was in a community culture space in Downtown LA called the Peace and Justice Center. It was at this center that we all started playing parties to help raise money for any and all costs for the building. There are 6 of us who were there from the beginning and continue to be in Ozo.
OS: You guys played a bunch of shows with the Boston Pops earlier this year. How difficult was it to to incorporate orchestral instrumentation into your song arrangements?
UB: Thankfully we had an amazing arranger to help us with writing out the parts for the orchestra. Also being that a couple of us played in orchestras, we realize the caliber of musicianship involved.
OS: What was it like to look out and see a Symphony Hall audience out of their seats and dancing?
UB: It was amazing…being that we’re not the usual standard fair for an orchestra setting and for it to get the reaction the way we did was out this world!
OS: How did you guys end up being chosen as US Peace Ambassadors?
UB: After a NPR interview, we were contacted to see if we’d be interested in being cultural ambassadors. After much debate internally we decided that the opportunity was extremely valuable.
OS: What is it like representing your country and promoting peace through your music on government funded tours?
UB: Even though we are representing, we don’t go to these places as apologists to anything involving the foreign policy. We’re there to create a human connection through art that goes beyond the walls of division society creates.
OS: You’ve made such a mark on society that you’ve even had a holiday created in your name in Los Angeles. What was this like and how should we celebrate “Ozomatli Day”?
UB: It was crazy…we got kids and schools involved by having them all come up with there own unique interpretation of an Ozomatli song. Then at the end of the show, we had a super jam with everbody!!!! Even the mayor came through to say a few words! How you celebrate Ozomatli Day…give love and dance all day!
OS: The upbeat “Malagasy Shock” off your new album Fire Away is about an accident on tour concerning your guitarist/singer Raul Pacheco. Can you tell us more about what happened and the message you’d like the listener to take away from the song?
UB: Basically in the first minute of the first song playing in the capital of Madagascar, Raul’s guitar and microphone connected the loop of electricity for the whole stage. Being that the stage was not properly grounded, over 240 volts seared through his body making it seem that he was dancing wildly. He collapsed and was sent to the hospital. This life threatening experience gave cause for “Malagasy Shock” to carpe diem and “move your feet or you will die”!!!
OS: Having such an eclectic set of festival dates this summer, was there one in particular that the band enjoyed the most?
UB: We just got back recently from doing the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. For sure one of the Top 5 music festivals of the world!!! The band had two amazing gigs there and got to see MGMT, Massive Attack, Atoms for Peace, Buffalo Daughter and a crazy funk band from Japan called Mountain Mocha Kilimanjaro that could school fools back in the States.

Check out the rest of the band’s festival/touring schedule into this fall!

9/17 – CSU Chico,  Chico, CA

9/19 - KCRW World Festival- Viva Mexico!, Hollywood, CA

9/26 – San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival, San Jose, CA

10/1 - Memorial Hall, Chapel Hill, NC

10/9 – Austin City Limits, Austin, TX

New Music Biz 101: Band Management

There is a certain point in an artist’s musical career when everything begins to pile up and slowly becomes overwhelming. Whether its juggling tour schedules, handling band finances, communicating with band members and fans or working on the next release, it’s tough to stay on top of everything in an organized manner. Luckily help is on the way.

There are resources out there for musicians and managers alike to get organized and become more efficient. BandCentral is one of these resources, and a very good one at that. It’s a intuitive and sleekly-designed online platform where you can organize everything about your band. The site has loads of very cool features, including:

Communication – A single online “basecamp” to track all your internal communication between you and your team.

Band Calendar – A simple calendar that allows you to keep track of gigs and everything else you need to stay on top of.

Files – Upload and store your music, artwork and videos to the site to be able to access them anywhere.

Band Money – Get detailed information on all your revenue and expenses.

Social Network Syncing – Sync and send status updates through BandCentral on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

Tasks – Keep track of all of your to-dos from anywhere in the world.

BandCentral’s pricing is pretty reasonable, only 92 dollars per year. Their trial version last for a month as well, so you can really get a good sense of the product before you commit.

You’ll know when its time to get involved with a service like BandCentral. When your career takes off and you need extra help with organization, this is a nice place to turn.

Open For The Goo Goo Dolls By Competing In The Subway Fresh Artist Competition!

Want to win a chance to open for the Goo Goo Dolls? If so, September might just turn out to be your lucky month. SUBWAY® has joined forces with iheartradio to offer artists across America a shot at opening for GRAMMY award-winning band The Goo Goo Dolls.  The “SUBWAY FRESH ARTISTS™” competition powered by OurStage, will be running in 10 regions across the United States. One winner, to be chosen from the Top 10 artists in each of these regions, as determined by a panel of radio programming executives, will have the chance to win $1000 cash and up to $500 worth of SUBWAY® gift cards. The Top 50 artists in each of these regions will be entered into an October competition to compete for the chance to open for the Goo Goo Dolls. If you want a shot at some of these awesome prizes, be sure to enter your best material into the regional channel nearest you by September 22nd. Check out more information and official rules for the “SUBWAY FRESH ARTISTS™” competition  here.

Needle in the Haystack Follow Up: The Kicks

We’re finishing up The Kicks promotion with a video featuring the group along with a recent OurStage interview. As this week’s Needle in the Haystack-annointed act, The Kicks have been a lot of fun to work with, so we know they’ll continue to do exciting things!

As always, stay tuned for next week’s Needle in the Haystack artist!

Punk On The Rocks: What Hands Are For

Post-punk. Post-hardcore. Post-whatever. No matter what you call it, there’s no denying that the music of California’s What Hands Are For kicks post-ass. Forming in San Bernardino in 2006 by a group of The Smiths, At The Drive-In, Fugazi and Boyz 2 Men- loving musicians, the band self-released their first EP Loud Ass in 2007. Since then, they’ve opened for The Bled, Of Mice and Men and Rufio, booked their own west coast tour and garnered airplay on San Bernardino’s KCXX X103.9 and Pasadena’s KROQ 106.7.

What Hands Are For

After a break in 2009 to allow members to focus on college, the band released the …Please Believe Me EP in May of this year.  Standout track “We Love The Knife Light” is the kind of song that is tailor made for sweaty basement show scream-a-longs, starting with a slow guitar build and then exploding 30 seconds in with Blood Brothers-style alternating screams and clean vocals, both passionate  and in-your-face. Thankfully, fans won’t have to wait another three years for more new music. The band is currently working on a new EP, which they hope to release, according to their OurStage profile, in “…Late fall/early winter.”

Check out “We Love The Knife Light” from What Hands Are For’s …Please Believe Me EP in the player below!

Like what you hear? Head over to What Hands Are For’s OurStage profile to check out some more songs from  …Please Believe Me and visit to download both of the band’s EPs for whatever price you choose!

Discourse & Dischord

The Good

The xx win the Mercury Prize

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Mercury Prize, it’s an annual music award for the best album from the UK and Ireland. This year it went to The xx—and in case you’re unfamiliar with them, they are a trio of black-clad musicians who write muted, muffled songs about desire. The group beat out Paul Weller, Villagers, Mumford & Sons and a slew of other excellent Brit rockers for the top honors, winning $31,000 and all sorts of indie cred.

Eminem and Jay-Z rock Motor City with friends

Hip hop equations rarely get better than this: Slim Shady plus Hova, 50 Cent, Drake, B.o.B., Jeezy and Dr. Dre equals one explosive, expletive-riddled, concert. It all went down in Detroit last week at Comerica Park, where 40,000 ecstatic fans showed up to welcome Eminem back to his hometown. Part one of the two-city Home and Home Tour, Eminem and Jay-Z will next hit Yankee Stadium on September 13-14 to show Hova’s native city some love.

The Bad

T.I. and wife arrested on felony drug charges

Fresh out of jail, rapper T.I. wasted no time breaking the law. Last week he and his new wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle were arrested on the Sunset Strip in L.A. after officers found controlled substances, including ecstasy, in their car after a routine traffic stop. Still on probation from his felony weapons charge last year, T.I. could go back to prison if convicted of drug possession. The king is back … in trouble.

Kanye West makes lengthy Twitter apology

Kanye West proved this week that he’s just as verbose with his apologies as he is with his self-glorification. The rapper took to Twitter to say “sahhry” for shutting down Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the MTV VMA’s last year. Quoth Kanye “I wish I could talk to every hater face to face and change there [sic] opinion of me one conversation at a time. I wish they could accept that I’ve grown and only want to do good for the world. I want to help as many people as I can.” The series of Tweets ended with “I’m sorry Taylor.” We think contrite suits him, don’t you?

The Ugly

Morrissey insults 1.3 billion people

In an interview with The Guardian, rock legend Morrissey tapped into his inner (or maybe outer) xenophobe when discussing animal rights in China, igniting a media frenzy. Here’s the quote:

“Did you see the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare? Absolutely horrific. You can’t help but feel that the Chinese are a subspecies.”

Hmm, not sure why anyone would be offended by his statement. And yes, that was sarcasm.


Soul Searching: Chris Akinyemi

Chris Akinyemi may be young, but he’s a talented artist with a unique style and interesting approach to music. Although Chris is this week’s Soul Searching artist, his music stems from multiple genres, including alternative, rock, and hip hop. Chris is a self taught musician who really puts himself into his music it seems. “I want people to know who I am or at least have an idea after listening to my records” says Chris in his OurStage biography.

Chris teamed up with Producer Dboy (Souldiggaz, Missy Elliot, Dirty Money) and Harry Conyers (Foo Fighters, Vanessa Williams, Mint Condition) to create some really great tracks. His first EP will be released in fall 2010.

Take a listen to his song “Radio”. The tune has a catchy guitar riff while the delivery of the vocals are fun to listen to, and really help to send his message. Let us know what you think of Chris Akinyemi, and write in to tell us if you’ve found new soulful talent worth talking about!

Tune Up: Q&A with David Remedios

We’ve talked about a lot of techniques and gear in the Tune Up column, particularly regarding applications for recording and sound design/film scoring. When you think of sound design/scoring, the first thing that probably comes to mind is film. You may also think of video games or TV shows. However, one of the most difficult, important and creative applications for sound design is done for theatre.
This week, we’ve decided to bring you an interview with an extremely accomplished sound designer for performance arts and theatre. Most notably, Dave Remedios has been the head/resident sound designer for the American Repertory Theatre, designing sound for everything from classic repertoire like Shakespeare, to modern interpretations like Donnie Darko. Currently, Remedios is pursuing separate projects with groups like the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and the Huntington Theatre Company. Check out what he had to say about sound design logistics, his work with the ART, as well as his techniques for upcoming plays like Othello.
OS: Sound design specifically for a theatre setting is much different than sound design for non-live media. What is typically your first step when approaching a new project?
DR: I read the script and try to have an initial discussion with the director to find out what direction they’re heading. I’ll also note what kind of imagery there is in the text to start to form ideas for an initial palette.  Beyond that, I often draw inspiration from the scenic design, but it’s not until I’m in the room with the actors that I start to find what best supports what they’re doing.
OS: The layout of a speaker system obviously has a huge role in determining your approach for designing ambience and such. How do you incorporate surround/speaker channel numbers into your sound design?
DR: It always depends on the capability of the venue, both in terms of inventory and budget, and where you can physically place speakers in the theatre.  If I have to choose between surround positions or onstage specials, I will often opt for onstage positions.  In the best situations, I have both surround and onstage positions to allow me to place sound wherever I want, and to help give dimension to the soundscape.
OS: Have you ever had a really tough moment where you had to completely revamp the surround layout before a show, because the speaker layout was different than you anticipated?
DR: Not really.  I’m required to provide a speaker plot and patch list well before load-in, so the engineer can determine the feasibility of what I want.  When I’m able, I will visit the theatre early on to see what they have in stock and where it can be placed.  You often don’t have much flexibility where surrounds can be placed.  Permanent positions are often already established, and if there aren’t any in place, house regulations can limit where speakers can be placed.  If the surrounds are proving distracting for a part of the seating because of proximity, I will attenuate them.
OS: You’ve spoken before about sound collection and creating your own sound libraries for projects. Do you have a favorite ambience you’ve recorded or a favorite sound effect you’ve created?
DR: I carry a recorder wherever I go.  I record lots of water noises, from which I get a lot of mileage, and ambiences from countrysides and towns and cities.  I once recorded the HVAC ambience in an underground crypt which I have used in shows.
OS: Selecting one of your ART projects, you had to tackle a stage adaptation of Donnie Darko a couple years ago. What was the sound collection/arrangement process like for this?
DR: That was a project directed by Marcus Stern (associate director for ART), who is very specific about his sound design ideas.  It was mostly realizing what he specified, but recording the actor playing Frank and tweaking his voice precisely and intelligibly was fun.  I recorded him simultaneously with a Neumann M147 and a TLM103, which gave me slightly different mic colors and allowed me to try different de-tunings and processing on each take to best achieve the sound and clarity of the Rabbit’s voice.
OS: You’re currently pursuing your own endeavors, one of which is with the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company. How do you work technology and interesting sound environments into a more classic show like Othello?
DR: Once I started working in rehearsals for Othello, I decided that I would go abstract and play the psychology of the piece, rather than try to indicate setting or time period.  So there’s lots of ambient beds that underscore speeches and scenes to help build tension.  Musically, I decided to set Iago’s tavern songs and Desdemona’s “Willow Song” myself, and improvised some simple classical guitar pieces which I recorded myself to accompany the silent “scene-lets” devised for the top of show (the “wedding vows”) and entr’acte (the soldiers’ off-duty activities in the Cyprus afternoon).
Since the show is outdoors, you sacrifice the ability to locate sound to a specific place for the sake of getting the mix to as many people as possible in an open field.  The actors are all miked, and the main concern is getting the text out clearly and as natural-sounding as possible over a PA that has to deliver to a vast seating area.  The playback becomes a bit subservient to that necessity, so while there is a stereo image from the main speakers above the stage, it’s mono in the delay zones, whose primary function is to get the vocal mix to people who are sitting further away from the stage.
OS: Any concluding remarks or advice you’d like to give to an aspiring sound designer or audio engineer?
DR: As my sound design professor told me in college:  we don’t have “earlids,” so always be aware of the sounds and their interactions around you in any environment.  They may provide ideas for you down the road!

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:

11 – TOWER THEATRE, Upper Darby, PA – SOLD OUT!

By Jim Allen

Jim Allen has contributed to a wide range of print and online outlets including, MOJO, Village Voice, Uncut,, iTunes, All Music Guide,, 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?


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