Interview with UK Musician David Oakes

David Oakes

David Oakes is a fine (he hates when I say ‘talented’) musician and composer of electronic alternative rock music based in Wales, UK. In the early 2000’s, he was a guitarist with the British rock band Kotow, and since 2012 he’s produced a tremendous output of instrumental music as a solo artist, ranging from gentle synth-driven compositions to aggressive guitar-driven hard rock, and everything in between. In early May, he released his latest album TheMENACE, which I reviewed and you can read here. It’s a brilliant work that’s actually a double album, with the first containing 11 tracks, most with vocals, and the second being an instrumental-only version, plus two bonus tracks not found on the first.

I recently had a chat with David about his music background, influences and creative process.

1. Hello David. Thank you for wanting to talk with me about your music. You and I have spoken a bit in the past about your background, but for the sake of our readers, let’s touch on that again. You now live in Wales, but were born in England, then spent part of your childhood and early teen years in the Middle East. Living in Dubai must have been interesting, or at least an unusual experience I would think. What positive or negative things did you come away with?

Yes! I moved there when I was two so obviously I don’t remember relocating there. I remember a couple of the houses we lived in – mostly the 3rd one which is very strong in my memory. I can recall it in detail. We lived very near the sea and would go camping in the desert at the weekend. I had a little 50cc PW50 motorcycle that I drove everywhere :). It took me a very very long time to get over moving to the UK.

2.  Why is that?

Hot 365 and living by the beach, etc. to … Wales… Camping in the desert at the weekend, dune bashing to … oh, nothing.

3. At what age did you start playing guitar, or other instruments? I remember you saying you attended a music institute in England after you moved back there with your family. What did you study there?

We had an electric piano in the house from around 1988 and I taught myself stuff on that. Eventually I got my own keyboard and I was off. I played it every day and wrote my own albums onto cassettes. I don’t have any of them anymore. They wouldn’t have sounded very professional. I even bought card from the newsagent and printed out artwork onto them and chopped them into cassette sleeve size. You can see the lineage all the way back . The only difference to what I do now is I don’t print out my own artwork. Everything else is the same – the tech has just improved. I went to ACM (Academy of Contemporary Music) in Guildford in 2009 for 3 years to study guitar and music theory. I passed all my exams but I never attempted my dissertation so I never got the qualification.

4. You formed a rock band called Kotow with your brother and another friend, and released a pretty decent album “Demise of the Monsters.” How or why did you guys choose that band name, and how long was Kotow an active band? 

Rich wanted a Japanese name and so looked in a Japanese dictionary and found “Kotow” meaning to bow or acquiesce… We all liked the name. We formed around February 2002, whilst I was going back and forth to the city (Cardiff) to study music production on a “New Deal” course under the Labour Gov which lasted from 1997 until around 2004. Anyway – since Dad had re-married – they moved out of the house and the whole band lived in our big farmhouse so we could write and rehearse all day every day. After moving to the London area in 2004 or so, we realised that nobody really cared and got fed up with it and we split in 2006. 

5. I believe you played drums for Kotow. Tell me about your experiences playing in a band – both good and bad if you care to go there. Why did the band eventually split up?

You know me, I have no ego but I did believe we were the best band in south Wales. When we moved to London, nobody gave us the time of day and we all got tired of it. Plus I wasn’t happy with the direction our music was taking. My main thing was to write catchy riffs in odd time signatures and do my best to come up with complimentary drum parts. I’d get annoyed if I couldn’t play for the song and could only think of something ordinary. We liked being unconventional. We lost two guitarists for one reason or another and we got a new guy who was great, but he and Rich wanted us to sound more like the tech bands at the time and I really wanted to stick to our original ethos of being unlike anyone else. Oh well.

6. You obviously wanted to continue making music after Kotow ended. I know some of your favourite bands are Dream Theater, Mastodon, Green Day and Metallica, so am guessing your sound is greatly influenced by their music? 

I expect so. Not directly or deliberately. I just write music and what comes out, comes out. Exactly the same process as Kotow. I like making albums of different genres and styles since I listen to a lot of different genres and styles. I couldn’t imagine being in one of those metal bands who sound exactly like everyone else and only listen to that music. Boring.

7. When did you record your first solo album?

“The Juggernaut” in 2012. It was originally supposed to be the follow up to “Demise Of The Monsters” and Rich would play bass and sing and I’d produce since he’d done almost all the work on DOTM. I merely played guitar on that album. Since I’d never attempted a “proper” professional sounding album before and had only limited experience with Logic – I worked on it every day for about 6 – 8 months. I still enjoy it to this day but I think I’ve done better and I learn something new with each album I do.

8. You’ve been fairly prolific, recording and releasing quite a few albums and compilations over the past few years, several of which I’ve purchased. What inspires you to create a new album with a specific theme and sound?

I don’t like to create the same album twice in a row…So if I do a hard rock album I definitely won’t do one again as it kinda wears me out when working on an album. “Transmissions” was songs I wrote when I was learning guitar and some of those songs had been fully formed in my head for many many years until I could finally record them properly. “Transmission Part 1 & 2” was completely written and I had it all worked out in my head and even recorded a version of it way back in 1997 or so on my Dad’s 2-track reel-to-reel machine.

Every time I start an album I have to come up with something great first. That’s the springboard. If I like an idea – that’ll be the blueprint for the album. I could never just write 8 -10 random songs and that’ll do. None of my albums are fully fledged concept albums but I try to imagine they are. . . As I’ve said in the past – I like albums to sound/feel like *albums* and not just Here’s 10 tracks I wrote in any order…

Even if the idea doesn’t end up lasting the whole album – the initial idea is usually enough impetus. With “Strum Und Drang” I’d been listening to the 21st Anniversary of Leftfield’s “Leftism” pretty much on repeat and wanted to do something inspired by that. I pretty much listened to nothing but Leftfield’s three albums for the summer of 2017 and wrote at the same time. “The Menace” seemed to be the next logical step.

9. Your latest effort “The Menace” is one of your finest. Some of your previous works contained a few dark tracks, but most of the songs were more melodic, almost orchestral rock like that of Dream Theater. Also, for the first time you added lyrics and vocals. You told me it’s a loose concept album, and that you kept the lyrics intentionally vague, but what was your inspiration behind “The Menace” and it’s dark theme? Also, what made you decide to add a vocal component?

Thank You. I had so much fun making “Sturm Und Drang” that I wanted to do another in that style but – as I said at the time – I wanted it “tougher and harder sounding.“ One of the few times that the album has pretty much turned out exactly how I envisioned from the beginning. Once I had “ The Slammer “ – I knew I was onto something. Loose concept album in that…I didn’t intentionally write lyrics to mean anything – I just had my microphone there – played the track and improvised some stuff until I found something I liked.

After a while I realised all the improvs could be about a few things. Notably the “MeToo” movement, #45… all of these things that were going on in the news at the time. Completely subconsciously. Only the final two tracks “Finale Part I and II” I wrote to tie up this theme. All other lyrics are improvised. And yeah I kept it intentionally vague as I’ve never wanted to align myself with any party or politics or anything and I was not a fan of Kotow’s Anti-President Bush EP. I never wanted to be a political band – one of the other factors that led to our break up. As for vocals – people kept pestering me to include them and I thought if I do it, I’m gonna distort the crap out of them… Which I did on “The Slammer”. But as the album went on, I got more confident and I turned the distortion further and further down. I think I’ll do vocals again should I do another album at some point… Probably same style too.

10.  Besides my glowing review, what has been the response to The Menace?

Thank you! Well – same as ever. A few RTs from music accounts and a few more people saying they like it but nothing amazing really. About the same as it was for “Sturm Und Drang” or “The Dawn And The Dusk.” *shrug*

11. That leads me to the next question. You and I have shared our own frustrations over the lack of support from a majority of our so-called ‘followers’ on social media, who rarely if ever engage with our tweets, postings, etc. But in today’s music industry, an artist or band (or just about any other creative person) is all but forced to use social media to get people to learn about their music, unless they’re willing or able to hire an expensive publicist. Any thoughts about this?

Interesting subject since my degree course dissertation was basically gonna be all about this. “Do we need big recording studios now that people are making pro albums in their bedrooms“ etc etc… I THINK that the Internet has ruined a lot of music. Shops are closing because people are buying everything online, and it’s so hard to stand out when everyone and their dog has a band and a Bandcamp and a Soundcloud. It’s like whispering in a hurricane… And I’m not smart enough to think of some cool promo gimmick. And whenever I think I have something, it never works so…

12. Do you have any plans for a future album, or will you take a long break?

Ya know it speaks for itself – when I was putting out albums every month that I’d recorded in a week – the quality was dipping. You know how I feel about “Imaginary film soundtrack .“ I was so disappointed with it, I actually paid to have it taken down. I know I rushed it and it shows. I still cannot listen to it. Starting with “Juggernaut III” and then continuing with “Sturm Und Drang” and now “The Menace,” I’ve taken my time to craft an album over many months. Take a break..come back…listen to it….fix/adjust anything…etc. And as a result, those three albums I mentioned have a little extra going for them. I’m actually a huge fan of “The Dawn & The Dusk”. Its one of my favourite things I’ve done. And I seem to remember taking my time with that one too so… “The Menace” is still very fresh to me. It was released on May 4 – eight months after “Sturm Und Drang.” I’m not even thinking about another album and probably won’t until winter. I mentioned to someone once that i’d like to take a year to release an album at some point. Maybe I will for the next one. It won’t be a double though. I’d like to get down to doing only one album a year.

13. Anything else you’d like to share that I’ve neglected to ask?

I think that the “Sturm Und Drang” and “The Menace” “style” will be my default setting from now on. They were both really fun to create and I actually plan on buying a midi keyboard to make composing a lot easier.

I know James Lauters (a very supportive mutual friend of David’s and mine) likes the what I call the X&Y series. And I may do another one eventually but it would have to be really chilled out. Like “Dawn And The Dusk” but even more chilled. Lots more acoustic. Basically the exact opposite of “The Menace.”

Cheers !

Enjoy this guitar play-through by David of “The Monster,” one of many great tracks from The Menace.

Stream his music on Spotify / Apple Music / Soundcloud
Purchase on  iTunes

WIDE EYED BOY – Artist Spotlight & Interview

Wide Eyed Boy

Liverpool foursome Wide Eyed Boy burst onto the local music scene in early 2017 with their gorgeous debut single “Wolves,” quickly making a name for themselves throughout the UK and beyond – even here in the Coachella Valley of Southern California where yours truly resides. They followed up in July with another magnificent single “Loving You is So Easy.” I loved both songs so much I featured them on this blog, and both reached #1 on my Weekly Top 20. “Wolves” ended up at #17 and “Loving You is So Easy” at #13 on my 100 Best Songs of 2017.

Wide Eyed Boy is comprised of Oliver Nagy (Vocals), Jonny Ball (Guitars), Kobi “Danger” Pham (Guitars, keyboards) and Tom Taylor (Drums). In March, they dropped their third single “Sun Again,” another stellar track that provides further proof they’re a band of exceptional songwriting talent and musicianship. The exuberant track opens strong with roiling riffs of fuzzy guitars, propelled by Tom’s hammering drums and a cascade of crashing cymbals. Oliver’s smooth, clear vocals are dazzling as always, soaring along with the instrumentals as they build to a goosebump-inducing crescendo. Regarding the song, the band states: “It’s about escape. Breaking out of that vicious cycle of mundane life and getting back that sense of freedom to go do whatever the hell you want.”

I’d like to say that I ‘sat down with’ the band for a conversation – which I would absolutely love to do! – but, given the fact we’re 6,000 miles apart, we conducted our interview over the internet. Fortunately, all four band members took time to respond to my questions.

EML: Hello guys, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview you! As you know, I’ve been a huge fan of yours since I first heard “Wolves.” I think you’re one of the best indie bands in the UK, if not the world! I already know a bit about you – that you all met at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), became friends and eventually formed a band. Also, you went to Budapest, Hungary in 2016 to write songs. What prompted you to decide to go to Budapest? Did you feel you’d have more inspiration for your songwriting there, rather than in Liverpool, and if so, why?

Jonny:  Thanks for having us! Yeah that’s how it all started. We’ve written a lot of music in Liverpool so Budapest was an opportunity to go somewhere completely different, have some fun, get sunstroke and gain some inspiration from a new environment. As Oli’s family are originally from Hungary they still have a house  in the country which is what gave us the chance to go over and make some noise for a couple of weeks.

EML: Is your songwriting a collaborative process that each of you take a roughly equal part in? Or do certain band members take greater responsibility for writing lyrics and/or music?

Kobi:  Our songwriting is definitely a collaborative process! Most of the time Jonny, Tom and I will have more of an influence on the music/arrangement side of things and Oli writes the main melodies and harmony and lays down the bare bones of lyrics. But the cool thing is, at the end of it, we sit down and go through all the ideas Oli has and we finish the lyrics off together to get some sort of finalised song. Collaboration is the only way to make music great!

EML: I don’t know your ages, but you all exhibit a real maturity in your songwriting, both in terms of compelling lyrics and your gorgeous melodies, not to mention your amazing musicianship. Were any of you active musicians or play in other bands prior to attending LIPA?

Tom: We all played in bands before we went to LIPA. It’s what we loved to do, I started my first band back at school. I remember we got all of our mates to come down to the local pub and we played a gig, I think we only had two songs so the rest we just played covers. So yeah we all played loads of music before WIDE EYED BOY I’m sure if you asked we still all remember our first gig but that’s another question.

EML: Oliver, you have an incredible voice, which I’m guessing is a natural gift to a large degree. Did you have formal vocal training while growing up or at LIPA?

Ollie: Thank you for the compliment. I had one to one singing lessons at LIPA and I also had training in Germany years ago. Obviously it did always come natural to me and I started singing professionally at the age of 10 but after my voice broke I felt like I needed to relearn how to use my voice properly.

EML: Your songs are really magnificent, with expansive instrumentation and arrangements that transcend mere pop and rock. What and/or who are some of the influences for your sound and songwriting?

Tom: In WIDE EYED BOY we are each influenced by so many different bands but its good really as it means when we’re travelling we have loads of different tunes on in the car. We all agree on Oasis and RHCP, but coming from a city like Liverpool there are so many bands that we’ve been watching for years like Clean Cut Kid and The Wombats. We’ve also been lucky to go on tour with Feeder and The Rifles and we learnt loads from them. There’s too many to list really.

EML:  I already love your latest single “Sun Again,” which you formally released on March 9th, but I saw a video of you performing an acoustic version of it a year ago on Liverpool Noise. I’m assuming it’s one of the many songs you wrote while in Budapest. I’m curious as to why you are periodically releasing singles, rather than an EP or album, given that you’ve already written enough songs for a full album? And when do you plan on releasing a full album?

Jonny: Thank you very much, Sun Again was actually one of the first songs we wrote as a band and was an idea around for a while that we’re really glad we finished and recorded. We’re still a really new band so releasing singles just made a lot of sense to us at this point although there’s no doubt bigger bodies of work will be coming sometime soon.

EML: Despite releasing only a few singles, you’ve managed to quickly build quite a large following, which has to be incredibly gratifying. Has your seemingly overnight success been a surprise, and do you feel any pressure to keep upping your game?

Ollie: It truly feels amazing when the crowd sings along to our songs because it shows that we actually managed to reach people. I wouldn’t personally call it an overnight success because if you are so closely involved in a project you don’t even realise how it’s growing. However, we do obviously notice the positive resonance and all we can do is to try our best, and release music we are very proud of.

EML:  I see this question asked by a lot of interviewers, but I’m gonna ask it anyway LOL. In addition to what we’ve already discussed, are there any other things about you or your music I neglected to ask that you’d like your fans to know?

Kobi: Haha, if you’re wondering if we have any new songs coming soon…we have LOTS of new material we have been working on…that’s all I can say at the moment but they’re very exciting, not going to spoil anything (I’m terrible at secrets).

Here’s a fun fact, our band name Wide Eyed Boy is actually someone…a human in this world (alive)…I’ll let people figure it out!

Have a listen to their songs and I’m confident you’ll agree that they’re pretty amazing.

Connect with Wide Eyed Boy: Facebook / TwitterInstagram
Stream their music:  SpotifySoundcloud
Purchase:  iTunes / Google Play

Artist Spotlight – GARRETT

GARRETT are seasoned rockers who, separately and collectively, have been making music for a long while. The North Carolina-based band was formed in 2005, and is comprised of husband/wife singer/songwriters William and Nannette Garrett, along with veteran drummer Jason Patterson. William plays guitar and sings lead, and Nannette plays bass and also sings lead.  They play rock’n’roll steeped in blues and a retro 70’s vibe, the kind you love hearing full-blast at the local roadhouse on a Saturday night. But they also know a thing or two about the power of a slowed-down ballad to move us to tears.

Garrett

William and Nannette first met when they played in a rock group together way back in 1986. After that group disbanded, they went their separate ways, only to find each other again 18 years later. Nannette had been in the band Snakes-n-Angels with her late husband JC Stephenson; they released two albums in 2000 and 2002 that you can find on Spotify. William released a solo self-titled album William Garrett in 2004, featuring ten bluesy rock’n’roll tracks, which you can also find on Spotify. I highly recommend that my readers check out these previous works, as they’re all excellent. After reuniting, William and Nannette continued on as Snakes-n-Angels for a year until deciding to change their band name to GARRETT after they married.

William’s music style is influenced by 70’s rock icons Robin Trower (with whom he shares a birthday), Gary Moore, Pat Travers, KISS, Journey, RUSH, Styx, and UFO. Nannette’s music influences overlap some of William’s love for 70’s rock, Journey and KISS, but also women rockers Ann and Nancy Wilson, Stevie Nicks, Pat Benatar and Melissa Etheridge. Drummer Jason Patterson was formerly with the bands Cry Of Love and Nantucket.

Since forming GARRETT, William and Nannette have written and recorded new songs, as well as recording new versions of some of the songs they’d previously made separately. And, like many bands, they also do pretty awesome covers of others’ songs. Here’s a live performance from around 2010 of them covering Heart’s “Magic Man.” It clearly shows off William’s exceptional guitar-playing and Nannette’s dynamic bluesy vocals:

In 2016, they recorded “Hero,” a beautiful, moving tribute to the United States Military and U.S. veterans, and a song they’re extremely proud of. The poignant lyrics speak to the sacrifices made both by those who’ve served and their families: “A little boy only eight years old, saying his bedside prayers. God bless mommy, god bless daddy, little sister upstairs. Hero, hero, he’s just daddy to me. A young woman barely 20 years old. Married less than a year ago. Sleep well sweet angel tonight, he ain’t coming home.” If that doesn’t put a lump in your throat, I don’t know what will.

For the equally moving video, they put the word out on their social media asking followers to submit photos of relatives and loved ones who’d served in the military. The result is tremendously powerful yet comforting. Both song and video were released just prior to Memorial Day 2016.

GARRETT has been in the studio working on their forthcoming album Believe. The first single from that future album is “The Island,” a hard-driving beast that’s best played as loud as your speakers can handle. William rips and shreds his six-string, laying down some tasty riffs while Nannette adds heft with her powerful bass. Jason aggressively pounds out the beat, making the track a real head-banger. They’ve also recorded a new version of “Save Your Love,” a song originally from William’s solo album, and will be featured on Believe.

I can’t wait to hear more new music from these talented musicians. Support GARRETT by following them on:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Reverbnation / Soundcloud, and purchase “Hero” on iTunes and cdbaby

DISCIPLES OF BABYLON unveil first song “Freedom” from their forthcoming album ‘The Rise and Fall of Babylon’

Hollywood, California-based rock band Disciples of Babylon unveil “Freedom,” the first track from their forthcoming album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, today, and it’s awesome! “Freedom” is immediately available to fans who pre-order the album (pre-order begins Friday July 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET). The lead single “Without You” is scheduled to be released the week of July 24.

“These are precarious times we live in,” exclaims front man Eric Knight. “The Rise and Fall of Babylon signifies something that I feel has been a long time coming. Babylon, meaning our country (the USA) is slowly spinning out of control and entering into vast turmoil. I feel we are at the beginnings of a revolution. one of which the likes we’ve never seen before. As a nation, we are no longer viewed in the regard we once were. The title reflects this shift and quite possibly a prelude of what’s to come.”

Disciples of Babylon (DOB) was founded in 2012, and includes Eric Knight on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Ramon Blanco on lead guitar, Gui Bodi on bass and backing vocals, and Chris Toeller on drums. The band draws its influence from such Rock legends as Muse, The Foo Fighters, Queen, The Who, Stone Temple Pilots, U2 & Led Zeppelin. According to the band’s bio, “Our main musical aspirations are to incorporate key stylistic elements of all great Rock music eras into our music to create a large stadium-worthy sound that thrills all audiences, and proves once and for all that Rock music is here to stay.”  I say hooray to that!

All seasoned musicians, the individual members of DOB, prior to joining the band, have accumulated several national releases independently, some having opened for some of the biggest names in Rock music, including Aerosmith, KISS, The Dave Matthews Band, and Kid Rock. The individual band members have toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, and more recently, DOB was featured at the Vans’ Warped Tour in 2016. In June, the band performed at the extreme sports event Dew Tour 2017, and just last weekend on July 8, they kicked off the 2017 Gladiator MMA Championship Series with a performance at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Sports Coliseum.

DOB released their fantastic debut EP Welcome to Babylon in late 2015, which I reviewed. They will now follow up with their first full-length album The Rise and Fall of Babylon, which is scheduled for release in October. It was produced by GRAMMY award winner and longtime DOB producer Andres Torres, one of the producers behind the Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee mega-hit of the summer “Despacito” (which has held the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks and counting). The album was mixed by GRAMMY award winner Curt Schneider (Augustana, Richie Sambora, Joe Bonamassa), and mastered by Dave Kutch (Bruno Mars, The Strokes, Outkast, Joe Perry).

DOB The Rise And Fall Of Babylon Album Cover
DOB The Rise And Fall Of Babylon Album Cover

The Rise and Fall of Babylon | Track Listing
1. Freedom
2. Without You
3. We Are The Ones
4. Lift
5. Idiosyncrasies
6. Simple Life
7. Civilized

Follow Disciples of Babylon:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Reverbnation / YouTube

Purchase:  iTunes / Amazon

Featured Song & Video: VOX EAGLE – “No Sleep”

 

Australian indie electro-psych pop duo Vox Eagle have been busy guys since forming in 2015. Andy Crosby and Luke Hamel, who make up Vox Eagle, spent time traveling throughout the U.S., writing and recording songs for their upcoming EP, scheduled to drop this summer (which I’ll be reviewing just prior to its release). They’ve released two amazing songs thus far, “No Sleep” and “Come Over,” along with a video for “No Sleep” that I’m featuring now.

The infectiously catchy song is steeped in lush atmospheric dream-pop grooves, with swirling synths floating over an irresistible bass-heavy dance beat. Andy’s smooth vocals occasionally rise to a stirring falsetto as he croons: “Is it any wonder? The current pulls us under. No sleep no sleep for the wicked no./ I keep on counting sheep. Days into nights, nights into weeks. Out of sight, out of mind, never mind.

The beautifully-filmed and entertaining video shows the guys performing the song in the Mojave Desert (just an hour or so from my home in the Coachella Valley), driving to Las Vegas and cavorting about the Strip at night, not getting any sleep!

Connect with Vox Eagle:  Facebook /  Twitter
Stream their music:  Soundcloud / Spotify
Purchase it:  iTunes

Artist Spotlight – COLD REVIVE

Cold Revive is on a roll. Over the past few months, the Fresno, California-based rock band released two songs and have been interviewed on two radio programs (one local and another in Chicago) to promote their music. Now they’re back in the studio working on new songs, which they’ll be releasing soon. I had the good fortune of discovering them when they followed me on Twitter, and quickly became a big fan – not only because of their great music, but also because I was impressed by the band members themselves. Despite their badass rocker image, they’re actually genuine, down-to-earth guys. If the kindness they’ve shown me is any indication, it’s clear they appreciate and support their fans, which is a significant part of being a successful band at the end of the day. One of their main goals is to connect even more with their fans – to touch their lives in a positive way with their music.

Cold Revive

Cold Revive consists of Brent Stevens (vocals), Jason Fischer (rhythm guitar, backing vocals), Gentky Vang (lead guitar, backing vocals) and Chase Hagerman (drums, keyboards, backing vocals).  All are seasoned musicians who’ve been previously involved with other bands and music projects. Jason and Brent actually met on Craigslist when each was interested in connecting with other musicians who might be interested in forming a band. Inspired by bands they both loved such as Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Hinder, Three Days Grace, Buckcherry and Korn, they joined forces in early 2016 and formed Cold Revive. Subsequently, Gentky and Chase came on board to complete the band lineup.

Like many hard rock bands these days, Cold Revive’s hard rock sound draws from alt-rock, punk, metal and grunge influences. Brent is especially fond of Halloween, horror films and such, so his dark lyrics reflect that.

The band’s first single “Sik’ Hellish Us,” is a dark and brooding hard rock song about being trapped in a toxic relationship you’re unable to break free of. Sinister guitars and heavy bass set an ominous tone, then a slow, thunderous drumbeat adds tremendous power to the track, which rises in intensity as the song progresses. Brent’s gritty vocals are delivered with a menacing vulnerability as he snarls “I’ve made my bed in hell, now I need to lie in it, ’cause it serves me well. As you held me there, my heart’s not escaping.

Diary” is an even darker song about finding a significant other’s diary after their suicide, and discovering how much your actions hurt them. The lyrics are gut-wrenching: “What I read on that page, tore me down I saw my own mistakes. All the pain I caused you is insane…   Suicide drove our love to an end. Those words killed us, was I always to blame? I’m so sorry!” The song has a Buckcherry vibe in both music and tone. Brent’s raw, heartfelt vocals match the emotional intensity of the gnashing guitars and aggressive percussion, making for an emotionally-charged song.

Here’s a live acoustic performance of “Diary” that isn’t quite as intense or sorrowful.

Cold Revive will be releasing their two new singles “Twisted Fright” and “Cold Dark Coma” in the next month or so. In the meantime, connect with them on Facebook and  Twitter, and stream their music on Reverbnation.  Subscribe to their YouTube channel for their videos and band updates.

Their music is not yet available for purchase, but I will update this post when it is.

Artist Spotlight: THE ELEGANT DEVILS

Elegant Devils

I’ve been featuring quite a few artists and bands from Canada recently, and The Elegant Devils are the latest. The talented four-piece rock band hails from Ottawa, Ontario and, like many bands, has experienced some personnel changes over time. Their current line-up includes Drew James (lead vocals, guitar), Rob Frank (drums/vocals), Josh West (guitar), & Josh Barkley (bass/vocals). They’re all seasoned musicians with divergent backgrounds, and each of them embrace their unique individual styles while coming together to create some really fine rock music that’s intelligent, powerful and often fun.

The Elegant Devils recorded their debut EP Guilty Pleasure in 2015, followed a year later by a five-track EP Live at Zaphod’s that contained some tracks from Guilty Pleasure along with a few new ones.  Their songs range from hard-driving rock to poignant ballads, and always with deeply compelling lyrics that speak to the complexities of life, love and relationships. These guys write from their own experiences and, as a result, their songs come off all the more personal and heartfelt. In addition, their arrangements, instrumentation and production values are all first-rate.

Their strong musicianship is vividly apparent on all their songs, but especially shines when they really get rocking. On their harder rock tracks “Lie With Me,” “Divebomb” and “Loaded Gun,” they coax some amazingly intricate and formidable riffs from their guitars, while Josh Barkley lays down some heavy thumping bass lines and Rob keeps the pace with his assertive drums and crashing cymbals. Drew’s powerful vocals are always delivered with raw emotion, whether he’s expressing anger, pain or loving devotion.

“Divebomb” in particular is a real head-banger and one of my favorites. The thunderous shredded guitars are scorching hot, and when combined with powerful buzzing bass and pounding drums, nearly succeed in blowing out the speakers. “Loaded Gun” – a rock bombardment packed into a mere two minutes that fully lives up to its title – is also pretty awesome, but then, so are all their songs!

The band shows its softer, more romantic side with the gorgeous love ballad “Amaranthine,” about which the band states “We cracked open the heart of a devil and found a love song – a song written as a message to the person you love most in the world.

In an interview with Jacqueline Jax on A.V.A. Live Radio, Drew explained the origin for Amaranthine:  “[It] is as pure a love song as you can get. It was written as a wedding gift for one of my very best friends. He asked me to perform it at the wedding itself, and they had their first dance to the song. It was written at a time when I had almost given up finding a happy ending for myself. I had just been through a really bad break-up and while I was going through it, I was so happy to see that my friend and his wife were able to find something so…solid. So inspiring. I wrote Amaranthine to tell them how proud I was of them finding love, how scary it must have been for them to commit completely to another person, and to say thank you to them for giving me a reason to still believe in love when I had given up on it myself. Thankfully, the hope they gave me tided me over until I found my own Amaranthine. And so now, every time I sing it, I sing that song as much for her as I do for them.

Take a listen to this beautiful track:

The Elegant Devils are in the process of writing and recording more songs for what will be a full-length album to be released later this year. In the meantime, check out their website, connect with them on Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to their YouTube channel where you can watch their weekly sessions. Stream their music on Soundcloud,  Reverbnation or  Spotify, and purchase it on iTunes.

Featured Video: FOUR COLOUR GHOSTS – “Freak” live

Four Colour Ghosts2

I recently discovered the alternative rock band Four Colour Ghosts, and once I heard this incredible live performance of their song “Freak” I became an instant fan. Hailing from Teesside, UK, the band is comprised of AJ (Lead Vocals/Guitar, Lewis Jeffreys (Lead Guitar), Paul Brown (Bass/Vocals) and Rob Moore (Drums). Their dynamic, wide-ranging rock style is influenced by such greats as Pearl Jam, Iron Maiden, Foo Fighters, Stereophonics, Guns n Roses, and Joe Bonamassa. As they humorously state on their Facebook bio – “We are the band that your music teacher warned you about, the band your neighbours bang on the wall for, the band you want blasting on your car stereo.” Yes, yes and a big yes to all that!

This live performance and the blistering guitar work remind me of Cream at their best. Take a listen and be prepared to have your senses dazed!

Connect with Four Colour Ghosts:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram /

Stream their music: Spotify / YouTube / Soundcloud

Purchase it: iTunes

 

An Interview with Chatsong Roy

Chatsong Logo

Chatsong Roy is the creator and administrator of a successful music website called Chatsong, a multi-faceted platform for artists and musicians to post their music and information about themselves, and communicate with other artists. Roy, who is 32 and lives in The Netherlands, also writes feature reviews about many of the artists. Through his efforts, he has promoted numerous artists and gained them media exposure, including airplay on digital radio stations and connecting them with people in the industry who can help them further promote their music. I’m delighted to talk with Roy about his project and amazing success in building Chatsong into a major music website.

Hello Roy. Thank you for taking the time to discuss yourself with me – lol

Thank you for featuring me.

When we first followed each other on Twitter a year ago, we were both relative unknowns in the Twitterverse. At the time, you had done some modeling and your Twitter account was focused on that, as well as psoriasis which you’ve suffered from for some time. Tell me a bit about your modeling background.

As a teenager, I studied to be a male nurse,  graduated and got a job in an elderly home. Taking care of people was in my blood and I worked until 2014 as a nurse. When I was around 20, I was walking down the street one day when I was spotted by someone who asked me if I wanted to be a model. They found me charismatic, but I was shy and did not think I could be a male model. But I said yes and made an appointment for having pictures taken for a portfolio, and they liked my expressions and my attitude so I became a male photo model.

When I was 22 I discovered some spots under my eyes which looked very bad and itched, as well as elsewhere on my body, so I went to a doctor and he sent me to a skin specialist. It took awhile before they finally determined it was psoriasis. When my body was full of those spots I was very ashamed and stopped modeling. At that point, I focused on dealing with the disease and my nursing career until I stopped in 2014. After that, I went back to volunteering with elderly people again, and continued to see the skin specialist for ultraviolet light treatments. Some of them helped and some did not, but it finally occurred to me – why not make from my disease my work? So I emailed several modeling agencies and skin care magazines and they liked my spirit and motivation. I became a model at three agencies and ended up as a model in three magazines devoted to psoriasis, and a commercial. I was not ashamed anymore and wanted to inspire and help others who suffer from psoriasis. But 3 months after the light treatments I got arthralgia and they wanted to do a scan and injected some radioactive fluid. After that the pain got worse, I got two eye inflammations and several other physical issues, so the volunteer work stopped as well because of all the hospital visits and treatments.

What inspired you to create Chatsong in the first place? In other words, why did you decide to switch your focus from modeling to music, and how did you come to call it ‘Chatsong’?

After the sight issues and inflammation were gone for a while I had nothing to do at home. Since music was my passion, and I listened every day to music on the phone and television, I got an idea in my head: I wanted to help artists worldwide because there are a lot of talent shows but none was online here in the Netherlands. But, I never used social media before, not even knowing how to tweet. First I made an account called ‘Roy Model’ for my career as a model, and got a lot of followers from model sites and scouts from agencies. I then wanted to realize my music idea like I did with working as a psoriasis model.

So first I tweeted a famous DJ in the Netherlands from a radio station, and he said “email me your idea and suggestion.” I did that, and told him that maybe we could start an online show using YouTube videos from the bedroom to studio or television. I did not get an answer back, and 7 day later he announced he was going to do the first online audition for talented musicians. I was shocked and angry that he stole my idea while saying that he could not could set it up in only a week. I was overwhelmed and didn’t know what else I could do, so I needed to think of another project.

I knew there are many artists worldwide who make music but don’t get attention because no one knows they exist. Because it is the truth if people from other countries don’t know the artists accounts and channels they are not going to listen and search for them. In my experience, I only listened to music from famous artists or artists close to those I knew of, and not to artists from China, Japan or other countries. So I thought, what if I create a platform with chat rooms where artists could place their links and videos and other accounts? I made a website for the first time with no experience, and called it Music Lovers, which included chat rooms. I learned how to tweet and made the advertisement for that site, and suddenly artists from a lot of countries started posting their music and videos on it.

The idea worked but the site quickly got overloaded because the server could not handle the volume. So I removed that site, and found a provider with more server space called Jouwweb. In the meantime, I shared videos and links from the artists who posted at the old site to Twitter. I am always very personable to artists, and I asked one who was very supportive of me, known as The Honest Man, ‘how shall I name the project?’  He suggested either “Hear Them First” or “Chatsong.” I preferred Chatsong, and began designing the site with four chat rooms – two with video options and two with guest options where artists could just place links.

The old site had already built up a fan base with artists who came back regularly, so when the new site was launched they immediately posted in the chat rooms. When I reached 1000 followers I was very happy. But because of no experience, every day I had to learn internet engineering. I always searched for something to make it better, and have used several systems. But Chatsong was born and attracted a lot of artists and radio stations, one of which was Radio Wigwam that played only known music. I told them I could send an idea by email and maybe we could work together. They said yes, so I suggested we start a show for unsigned artists. They were the only online radio station who followed me back then, and I did not know at the time that there were more stations who did what they do. But they liked my idea and started the bandwagon which gave airplay for a lot of artists on Chatsong, and I was very proud of that. They even mentioned me a couple times when playing the artists. And then suddenly no more, but I was happy for the artists and made no big deal of it, though deep down I was hurt.

My old Twitter account, @ModelPsoriasis I use only rarely, when I try to work at my career as a male model for psoriasis publications. There are some projects coming, but working with Chatsong and dealing with all the artists, reviews and stuff is hard work and sometimes a lot of stress. It’s doing multiple things at the same time – ha ha you should know that.

You’ve featured hundreds of artists on Chatsong. What made you decide to write reviews about their music, instead of just featuring them and using their own bio descriptions in the write-ups?

The system I was using showed only 50 comments or 10 comments and then disappeared, and I thought ‘how can I not lose those artists and their links?’ So, I began to write reviews. The artists who got reviews were extremely thankful and touched by my write-ups. I write what I feel and think, and if their music made me cry or feel something else I wrote it. And with offering the reviews, I also collected artists and their names for my goal of helping artists to be found and heard worldwide. As you already know, I always tried to improve the website, or searched for a system to make it better for the artists.

I found Discus, which made it possible to post videos and SoundCloud songs and was shareable. But some artists found Discus too difficult to use, so I searched for other systems to allow comments and display links and videos. I put back the chat room and got some posts but not what I expected. I needed to find a forum to use that would allow artists to post and reply and like, and would also allow their names to be shown so they would be easier to find among millions of others artists. Or something similar with sharing and video option. I did not want to be only a music platform, but a website where they all can come together and chat about music projects, and also give unknown artists the chance to heard and searched in other countries. I’ve also posted many advertisements on Instagram and Twitter with images about Chatsong, and I know people like the platform.

Are you surprised at the incredible number of followers you now have on Twitter (over 9,000), as well as the huge response by artists to Chatsong?

I am indeed very surprised at the number of followers and the artists who’ve followed me and posted on Chatsong. And because of my reviews, word of Chatsong spread. Artists shared or talked about my website to other artists, which made Chatsong go viral. Every day I get 60 to 80 new Twitter followers, including related music account followers like record labels and radio stations who admire my work. Because of my personal approach, they like the person behind it and noticed I worked very hard. I’ve partnered with  CONTROLRadioUK, StudioGMusicLab, and Pink Dolphin Music, and now more and more companies want to be pictured on my site. I never expected this, because I was not sure if the idea was going to hit worldwide. And that gave me more motivation to keep going and improve the website.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your Chatsong project?

The most rewarding thing has been connecting with radio stations that played artists featured on Chatsong, and record labels and studios who read the reviews and forums. They have provided some artists for me to review, and sometimes even themselves posted on the site. Some even wanted this year to roster artists for a contract and, in the meantime, other artists got signed or offered a record deal, and I was so happy and proud. Also, it’s rewarding to know that your website is going from the Netherlands to the Philippines with your logo and the musicians on it. What I also find beautiful are the friendships and relations I’ve built with artists and bloggers like you, as well as related accounts in music. The highlight for me was when the CEO of a big label followed me on my personal account, as well as a recruiter who’d worked with Taylor Swift.

Any frustrating or negative aspects?

Frustrations I have daily – I am also just a normal person haha. Mostly it has to do with technical problems or issues with the website, or when artists say they will post something but don’t follow through.

You seem to be receptive to most music genres. Do you have any particular favorites?

I love all music genres from classical to hard trance. My favorite is dance and house music and pop, but with all the artists who follow me, I offer any genre a spotlight. There is a good one among them in any genre, as well as artists who need some advice or just are not good.

Recently, you’ve begun making your own techno and house remixes and posting them on SoundCloud. What inspired you to do that? Do you have any previous experience making music – either playing instruments or singing?

I never made music before, though I did sing in a choir. I always wanted to my entire life, but had no self-confidence. After the recent death of my grandpa, and me not being able to easily express my feelings, I thought ‘why not try to put that in my favorite music genre?’ I searched music software and apps, and begin mixing and I liked it. I made the tracks public, not knowing how my audience would respond, but they loved the sounds and mixes.

Do you have any thoughts about today’s music or trends in the music industry?

There are so many musicians and genres nowadays, with music reaching more fans than ever. Real music is coming back, with singer/songwriter musicians writing good lyrics and playing their own instruments, especially acoustic with a guitar that is popular among younger audiences. I think people my age and older are more fans of dance and pop music, as well as rock and heavy metal.

Are you doing this mostly for fun, or do you want to make a living from it? And where do you want Chatsong to go from here? Any plans for additional features or significant changes to the site, and how long do you want to continue doing this?

I am doing this for fun, but my goal is to develop an app that would be even better and easier for artists and fans to use. I never would ask for money, but when I need to develop the app I would invest in it and hopefully grow further. I will keep going so long as I can do it. If I can’t handle it anymore on my own, I’ll either sell the idea or collaborate with others, maybe even hire employees.

Check out Chatsong, and connect with Roy on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

Song Review: ONESTEP – “In War We Rust”

onestep2

Nearly every day I receive submissions from artists, bands or their publicists wanting me to review or feature them on my blog, and I’m thrilled when their music is really good. So it was a pleasant surprise to discover a promising young band from Kiev, Ukraine called OnesteP. They play an intense style of alternative heavy metal, and just released their fantastic new single “In War We Rust” in advance of their debut EP, due for release this coming April.

Formed in 2011, OnesteP consists of Siddy on vocals, Eugene Sikoza on guitar & production, Taras Kolomoiets on guitar, and Bogdan Korol on bass. (The band also has a session drummer.)  Having two guitarists gives their music a muscular, hard-hitting sound that quite effectively delivers. Their music style is strongly influenced by the great bands Korn, Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park, but the guys bring a fresh approach to their music. Like many new bands, they toured heavily the first few years, experimenting with their sound until they felt it fully represented who they wanted to be, then started writing songs for their first EP. Along with “In War We Rust,” the band states that their EP ‘will feature songs with deeply emotional lyrics about existential malaise and trends in modern society.’

In the band’s own words, “In War We Rust” is a protest against war and mankind’s fear to change its behavior or take any responsibility.  The lyrics are searing: “Your satellites are haunting me and making me blind and I’m losing sight. Now look around and find your waste that you’ve made of this another site.”  

The blistering track immediately hits you like a punch to the gut, leaving you breathless. It’s both savage yet melodically beautiful – always a powerful combination in heavy metal. Eugene and Taras shred their guitars to pieces, making them snarl, wail and scream with abandon, while Bogdan’s intense, heavy bass gives the track incredible heft. Toss in thunderous, hammering drums and Siddy’s fierce, impassioned vocals, and the result is a tremendously satisfying heavy metal track. I love it, and eagerly look forward to hearing their entire EP.

Support OnesteP by following them on Facebook. “In War We Rust” may be purchased on Bandcamp.