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Six Pack Interview with James Hogan of National Guitar Workshop

James_hogan 

Thanks to the good folks over at National Guitar Workshop, I was able to score a second interview with one of their instructors, this time James Hogan who will be teaching at the main campus in Purchase, New York July 26 - August 14.  James guitar style fuses elements of rock, blues, jazz and even country.  His CD "True Diversity" is available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

Q. How did you get started with guitar?

James: When I was 11 yrs old I asked my parents for an electric guitar. They obliged me with a Palmer "Strat" copy, and a Gorilla G-10 amp. I had no idea what to do with them, so I asked some guitar player friends to show me some things. After about 6 months of hacking my way through "Ironman", my parents decided to hook me up with classical guitar lessons from a local teacher named Bob Mizelle in Daytona Beach, Florida. He helped me with fundamental chords/scales, and taught me how to read music. After a year or so of classical lessons, I took up with an amazing rock teacher named Jerry Hemby who is one of my biggest musical influences. Jerry taught me how to develop my chops, my feel, and vibrato, and how to combine modes with pentatonics to spice up my playing. After a year or so with Jerry, I decided tomove on from lessons, and I started playing in bands at age 15, and taught myself until I went back to college at age 24. In college I studied with Lawrence App, and with jazz guitar virtuoso Barry Greene at The University Of North Florida.

My inspiration to play guitar came from hearing my dad's collection of albums when I was a kid. My ear always seemed to gravitate towards the guitar parts in all of the songs. My biggest inspirations to play were Duane Allman, Eric Clapton, Freddy King, and all of the great players of the 1960's-80's. Listening to those players piqued my interest, but my biggest inspiration came when I heard Van Halen's 1984 album. After hearing Eddie, I HAD to learn to play. It seems that almost everyone I've heard since then has influenced me in one way or another.

Q. How long have you been working with National Guitar Workshop and how did you first get involved with them?

James: I have been teaching for NGW since 1998. I was referred to the Workshop by my great friend, and former teacher Barry Greene.

Q. What courses are you teaching this summer?

James: Jameshogan_cd I will be teaching two seminars this summer. One is entitled "Rock Fusion", and the other is a co-taught class with Terry Syrek entitled "Rock Star".

The Fusion class will focus on many different facets of music. Ear training, theory, technique, improvisation, time development, repertoire, performance, etc.   The students will learn to "fuse" elements of jazz, rock, funk, pop, latin, and country music into their playing. There will be lectures, and lots of "hands on" learning in the class. Of course, there is always a ton of playing in class, and the students will go home with lots of new tricks up their sleeves. My class always has a laid back atmosphere too, so we have a good time while learning a lot of great stuff.

The Rockstar class, will feature some of the same elements of the fusion class; ear training, theory, technique, and lots of in class playing. In addition, the students will learn how to form a band, record their music on a budget, promote their music, perform their music, hire a manager, avoid common mistakes, and make the most out of their career. Since this is a co-taught class, the students will gain first hand experience from two successful professionals with over two decades of valuable experience in the music business. Terry and I also have a great teaching rapport, and the students always have a blast in our classes.

The seminars are typically geared towards intermediate to advanced players, while core classes are typically geared toward beginning to intermediate players. There are common music elements that are covered in each class at NGW, though the seminars are usually more intensive.

Q. Given the broad range of musical interests out there (Rock, Metal, Blues, Punk etc.) what are some of the comment elements that you try to teach in the core curriculum?

James: Everyone gets an overview of basic music theory: How major scales, key signatures, triads, and 7th chords are formed.  Also, the students will learn Major, and minor pentatonic scales along with various repertoire tailored toward the style of the class. Obviously, they will learn how to apply all of this to the instrument, and there are specific stylistic techniques that will be addressed in each class as well. Also, the core class students meet each evening and rehearse music which they perform on stage at the end of the week during their student concert.

Q. What's the make up of the typical NGW Class?  How do you balance the different skills and interests?

NGW_logo James: The great thing about NGW is that you can have a 45 yr old lawyer sitting next to a 14yr old middle school student in the same class. They'll both have the same gleam in their eye when they learn something new, and they'll both have the same love for music. (Though their tastes may vary.) They'll also be at roughly the same level of ability.

Before each week starts at NGW the students are evaluated by their teachers and placed into their appropriate class levels. This ensures that each student is assigned the class level where they'll benefit the most from the NGW experience. This also ensures that the instructors are teaching to roughly the same level of students. The students pick which style of classes they'd like to take depending on their interests.

Q. How much of the session is hands on versus more traditional "class room" style learning?

James: This really depends on the teacher. In my classes, I like to give short lectures followed by immediate hands on application of the lecture material.  By the end of the week, the students have learned a ton of great stuff, and they know how to apply it on the instrument.

Q. What sort of preparation do you recommend for someone coming to NGW for the first time?

James: I would tell them to look forward to thoroughly enjoying an experience that will change their life. (Oh, and be prepared to take lot of notes!)

The National Guitar Workshop summer program starts June 27 in McLean Virginia with additional sessions in Los Angeles California, Chicago Illinois, Austin Texas and at the main campus in Purchase New York, where James Hogan will be teaching.


The Most Awesome Travel Guitar Yet?

Palmguitar_mexico

Now that I'm back from my trip to Mexico and caught up with real life, I thought I'd provide a bit more information on the PalmGuitar that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  If you missed the earlier post, the Palm Guitar is the best electric travel guitar I've tried.  But, as with any travel guitar, there are trade-offs.  Here's a quick Palm_v2_1_plus_smsummary of the specs:

  • Solid body, one piece electric guitar
  • Patented polyurethane composite body
  • Short 20.239" scale / 20 frets, similar to a mini-Strat
  • 26" length end to end
  • Weighs 3.5 pounds
  • Coil-tapped humbucker pickup
  • Grover tuners
  • .12 gauge strings
  • Flat black finish
  • Locking leather strap
  • Padded ballistic nylon travel case

I've been using the upgraded "2.1" model which provides two additional options that make the PalmGuitar more like a conventional full-scale guitar:

  • Leg rest (for seated playing)
  • Strap arm (for better balance)

Having the PalmGuitar with me for a week while on vacation was great.  It performed like a champ and I was able to play every day as well as during some long layovers at DFW airport.  Although I didn't play it on the flights, I think you could do that quite easily in coach if you have an aisle seat or an empty seat next to you.  The case is nicely padded and of better quality than I would have expected.  And most importantly, it helps protect the guitar against the turbulance of air travel.  One added bonus is that you can attach the case to a rollerboard-style suitcase, which makes it easy to keep a low profile when you're trying to carry on one-too-many bags. 

Out of the Box Tone & Playability

Despite it's small size, the sound from this guitar is quite rich.  The one-piece construction and heavy density of the body deliver great tone and a surprising amount of sustain.  While purists might scoff at the notion of playing a polyurethane composite guitar, I suspect that in the future we'll see more guitars made from this substance.  Why?  Because it offers a density and consistency that are hard to find in wood.  In fact, consistency of density may well be one of the key characteristics in creating a great sound, whether in guitars or in Stradivarius violins.  And not only are there no variations in density in the models that are being created, there's no concern with heat or humidity affecting the tone.  As Tim Richards has pointed out, every PalmGuitar sounds like every other one.  You don't have to hope that you got the "perfect" wood.  They are all perfect. 

The fretboard is smooth and easy to play and has a nice satiny finish which contributes to the overall classy look.  The PalmGuitar uses a slightly wider nut of 1.8", which might seem odd compared to, say, a Strat which has a 1.675" nut.  But the reason is that this larger size nut matches the exact size of a Strat --but four frets down.  In fact, the PalmGuitar's fretboard was designed to be comfortable for those used to a standard 25.5" scale Fender.  It's like playing with a capo on the 4th fret.  The dimensions of the 12th fret match the 16th fret on a Strat and so on up and down the fretboard as shown in the diagram below.  The diagram also makes it clear just how much smaller the PalmGuitar is than your average guitar. 

Palmguitar_fretboard_2

Once I plugged in the PalmGuitar, I was surprised at how much punch it was able to deliver.  I don't know if this is due to the quality of the pickup, the heavier gauge strings or the density of the wood I mean, polyurethane, but it just sings!  It's a nice fat tone, perfect for clean settings and if you push it, a bit further you get a classic gritty lead sound.  And you can switch the coil between humbucker and single coil sound for added versatility. 

All the components are high quality.  The guitar was well set up with no fret buzz, no crackle in any of the electronics and the tuners were completely stable.   I would say that the quality of this guitar is on par with any high-end "made in USA" name brand electric guitar.   

The Gotchas

But there are two significant things to keep in mind with the PalmGuitar.  First of all, it does have a shorter scale and so you're not going to reach the 22nd fret in Dave Gilmour's solo on "Money."  There isn't a 22nd fret.   Given the shorter scale, it's tough to get beyond the 16th fret on this guitar.  For a lot of players, I don't think that's a big deal, but its something to keep in mind.  As I mentioned, it took me about an hour to get comfortable with the shorter scale.  For open chords and bar chords upto around the 11th fret, it's an easy transition. 

The second issue to be clear about with the PalmGuitar, is it's definitely a bit of an expensive purchase.  The basic V2.0 model goes for $799 (with the padded case) and the V2.1 model goes for $949 with the added leg rest and strap arm.  That's a hefty upgrade fee, but the strap arm makes the guitar much more balanced and easier to play.

Bottom Line 

While I wouldn't consider the PalmGuitar to be a luxury item per se, I would put it in the same league as name brand electronics.  The quality is on par with a high-quality camera, like the Canon G9 I use for gigs, or the Sony laptop I have for work.  It's not like it's diamond studded or anything, but it is a very high quality guitar and that's reflected in the price.  There are definitely cheaper travel guitar options, but in my view, they don't have the same quality build, components or tone as the PalmGuitar.  And of course, if you travel to the same locations routinely, you could just have a decent quality second or third full-size guitar stashed away waiting for you.  But if your business takes you to different locations, that's when a travel guitar pays off. 

If you're looking to rationalize the purchase, consider these two questions: How many trips do you take where you have no guitar?  And what would you pay per hour if you could rent a high quality electric guitar on the road?  I'm actually a pretty cheap guy, but I would gladly pay $20/hour of practice time to rent a guitar while I'm on the road.  If you're on the road 30-50 days a year, it's a pretty good deal.  And if you travel more than that, well, what are you waiting for?  Basically, you're paying to get more playing time while you're on the road.  The more you travel, the better the payoff. 

Despite or perhaps because of the PalmGuitar's diminuitive size, it's also become my couch-bound favorite for practicing while watching TV.  It won't replace my main axe, but it's getting more and more play all the time. 

Update:

Here's a video showing off the PalmGuitar from within the confines of a 2-seat roadster.


Springsteen Plays Louie, Louie - Toronto Goes Wild

Springsteen_band

When you are among nearly 20,000 committed fans at a Bruce Springsteen show, it's hard to not have a great time.  Or so it seems when the night is clearly in the hands of a stellar performer. And that was the case this week in Toronto for his umpteenth visit in a city he has been playing regularly since 1975 when he played Seneca College.

Springsteen and the full 12-piece accompanying E Street Band put on a solid show that lasted nearly three hours. The music was strong, with the big man Clarence solid as a mountain and guitarits Nils Lofgren soaring on the occasional solo.  Little Steven frequently shared the spotlight, on vocals, guitar and mandolin.

They served up a bit of something for everyone, including early songs like "Badlands," "She's the One," "Prove it All Night", "Rosalita," a couple from the new album, "Working on a Dream" and "Outlaw Pete," and radio hits from the '80s that all the greying oldsters stood up for and sang along to.

Toronto is a bit of a sleepy town and regrettably it sometimes takes a lot to get people up from their seats, but that was the result when Bruce and crew played "Glory Days," "Born to Run" and "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" and several other hits. Twice Springsteen teased the audience with calls of "Is there anyone alive out there?"

Bruce clearly is still having balls of fun on stage and he puts it all out, song after song. He also played a few requests from audience posters and signs, including an impromptu version of  The Kingsmen's classic "Louie, Louie" which was captured on video below.

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It's hard to get tickets to a Springsteen show in Toronto and I gotta give credit to a strange bit of technology. I had been using a free Ticketmaster program on my BlackBerry to check for seats for the past four weeks and it was always sold out. Strangely, just two days before the show, while sitting in a hotel bar traveling on business, I checked again and some last minute stage-rear seats popped up.  Maybe as the promoters get into town they're able to free up some extra seats.  Who knows.

At any rate, the seats were great, Bruce and the band frequently played to the rear audience and the BlackBerry program came through flawlessly: Fair price, instant transaction, tickets via email.  If you're hunting for tickets for other sold out shows, it may be worth checking out.


Jim Babjak on The Smithereens' Tommy

In the time since I last reported on The Smithereens live from South by Southwest in Texas, the band has been busier than ever with a live CD, an additional album of Beatles cover songs and more touring.  If that wasn't enough, this past weekend The Smithereens a released their treatment of The Who's "Tommy" commemorating the album's 40th anniversary.

"The Smithereens Play Tommy" is as good a tribute album as you can get, pulling in the power of The Who's classic material with the energetic playing and harmonies that helped define The Smithereens "The Jersey beat meets the Mersey beat" power pop sound.  Growing up in New Jersey in the 60's, The Smithereens were influenced by bands like The Who as well as The Beatles and The Ramones. with powerful guitars & drums and great pop hooks. 

I caught up with Smithereens guitar player Jim Babjak, to find out more about this new Tommy Album.  As Babjak mentions in the liner notes, the formation of The Smithereens owes a lot to The Who.  If it weren't for a fan photo in his looseleaf binder seen by drummer Dennis Diken on the first day of high school, the band might never have formed. 

This isn't the first cover album by The Smithereens.  They've now done two Beatles tribute albums going back to the early days of the fab four.  But this album harkens back to Babjak and Diken's roots as teenagers.
"In many ways, recording the Who album was more fun for me ripping through those power chords. The Beatles cover albums required me to figure out chords that were foreign to me, especially a song like "Till There Was You".  It was a challange for sure, not that the Who material wasn't, it was just more up my alley.

Babjak_6 As teenagers, Babjak and Diken cut their teeth playing Who songs as a two man instrumental group.  Babjak wanted to recreate that raw youthful energy in this new CD:

"I definitely captured the same sound and vibe I had as a young guitar player on this Who album. Playing with Dennis on those songs put me right back in time and forced me to keep up with his incredible drumming. 

"Dennis has been an exciting drummer ever since we were kids. He's a powerhouse. In the late 80's I felt that he was stifled by the powers that be to play a certain way on our records so they would be 'radio friendly'. They just wanted a straight beat and to me, the songs were always more exciting when we played live concerts."
 
The cover art, in classic EC Comics form, is by William Stout, famous for his work in Bomp! and Heavy Metal magazines as well as some classic bootleg albums and movie posters.  The idea for the cover art, and even the idea for the Tommy album, came from vocalist Pat Dinizio.
"As a matter of fact, it was Pat's idea to record this tribute in the first place.  It's the 40th anniversary of the original release date and I guess he figured that Dennis and I could handle most of the music because he's heard us screwing around with Who songs for the 30 years he's known us.
 
"There's a section in one of our own songs, "House We Used To Live In" where there is a space to jam during our live show and I could play anything I want on the key of E. About 7 years ago, I decided to throw everyone off and play "Sparks" in it's entirety in that space.
 
I didn't tell anyone and Dennis jumped right in as if we were 14 again. "Sparks" is one of my favorite pieces of music. It has great dynamics combining soft tender moments and then some real muscular workouts on the guitar."
 
So if you're a fan of The Smithereens or The Who, or just looking for a fresh take on a classic album, check out "The Smithereens Play Tommy."

Angus Clark: Rock & Roll and the Importance of Quality Footwear

Angus_clark_cd

Angus Clark may not be as well known as some of the super shredders out there, but he's built a career with his powerful and expressive style of rock guitar.  From his early days playing in local bands to breaking out with Kitaro and his eight year holiday tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Clark has always had lot going on.  He's got a new instrumental album "Your Last Battlefield" available on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon and will be teaching a workshop at the National Guitar Workshop (NGW) June 27 in McLean, Virginia.

Angus took some time out of his schedule to give us a rundown of how he got started in music, the importance of quality footwear on stage and other good advice for aspiring musicians.

Q. What first got you interested in playing guitar?

Angus: My parents got me a nylon string guitar at some point in fourth or fifth grade, and I think all I was listening to then was the Monkees, 'cause of the TV show, and the Beatles, 'cause the only two rock records my parents had were Sgt. Pepper's and Revolver. They also had the Stones' Beggar's Banquet, but I was more of a Beatles kid. But I couldn't wrap my head around the whole "practicing thing", so the guitar went in the closet until Pink Floyd's "The Wall" came out when I was in eighth grade. That record is really what did it. The guitar came out of the closet, got a new teacher, and then got a couple more records, namely "London Calling" by the Clash, and "Vol.4" by Black Sabbath. Then I was totally hooked, and my guitar teacher actually recommended I get an electric, which was like the most awesome thing a teacher ever said to me. By the time I really got into it, Randy Rhoads was the guy, and then Yngwie, so it got to be really important to practice, practice, practice. I think I started my first band something like three years later in high school, and at that point it was all about it being a cool way to impress girls.

Q. You played guitar at a pretty young age. Did it come naturally to you or were there things that you struggled with?

Angus: I was brought up in a musical household. My mom is a singer, my dad was a lawyer but he also played the cello, and my brother was a very serious violinist all the way through college. And I went to a grammar school that gave students a stipend for singing in the school choir, so I did that starting in fourth grade. So there was always music around. By the time I found a passion for rock and the guitar in particular, I think I was lucky to get with a good teacher. He put me through the Mel Bay modern method, which is still the book I prefer to teach from. He also had me do a ton of music reading and all these classical studies, like the Carcassi and the Sor stuff. I struggled most with trying to pick things up by ear. That was always the hardest part. I am still not 100% confident about my ears, although I think by now I'm doing alright.

Besides that I think I spent a good deal of time working on picking and hand synchronization. I'm left handed, but I play righty. This made me concerned about how accurate my picking was, so I spent a good amount of time on it, and have actually changed my picking style a couple of times over the years.

By the time I got to college it was all about Yngwie and I was at school in LA and Racer X were playing weekly at the Troubadour and the Country Club, so it was just nothing but chops. It was the heyday of Shrapnel records. There were certain things that I had an affinity for technique-wise, and I started to get a sense of what I was good at. But I didn't think I had chops that really went beyond the guys that were at school with me.

Q. You've managed to carve out a career in a pretty tough genre. How did you manage to stand out compared to your peers?

Angus: I think I'm cross-genre actually, cause I did spend five years playing New Age music, and now I play symphonic Rock and Hard Rock/Metal. The stuff that pushed my career along always came from me putting myself "out there" in some way. You have to play gigs, stay open to whatever comes your way, and represent yourself well at all times, cause you never know who is gonna be there. And then when an opportunity comes up, go for it as hard as you can. I was back in NY after college and playing with a couple of different bands when I found out a local band (Naked Sun) that had a deal was auditioning guitarists. I learned the tunes for that audition front to back, solos and everything, showed up with boots on and made it my business to have that gig. Never wear sneakers to an audition. Always have some trendy shoes.

Angus_clark3 Naked Sun lost their deal, but Kitaro's management saw me play with them in LA at the Whiskey, which was basically empty. So in that case, was it worth buying a van and trekking across the country with four guys who were basically at each other's throats? Well, yeah, if you consider that I got the Kitaro gig out of it, and I've got the invaluable experience of touring in a van that could break down at any moment (and did). It's called "paying your dues". So this is now '94 and grunge ruled everything and there wasn't much play for a guy with my skill set and preference in music. So there again I made it my business to get that Kitaro gig. I learned the stuff on his records and sent them a tape of me playing on it. Next thing I know they are flying me to Colorado to play on his record, and then they offer me the tour. You can't wear shoes in Kitaro's house so it was all about having socks with no holes in them.

I've heard it said that sooner or later everybody is looking for a gig. These tours that hire sidemen only go out for a certain amount of time, and then you're cut loose. It's all or nothing. So when Kitaro started touring less and less, I had to keep pushing outwards to find other work. That's when I got the call for this band Drill, which was on A&M. The call came through a guy that I met before I was even in Naked Sun. I met him through a studio where I did a demo tape for a band I had called Stray Light Run, which is actually a terrible name for a band, and it makes me laugh cause there's a new band with that same name. It's taken from a William Gibson novel, you can look it up. So the $1,000 I spent on the SLR demo back in '91 finally paid off in '96 in the form of the Drill gig. Which wound up being about five months of touring on the large club circuit. The best thing about it was the people I met, the bass player in Drill was JD, who is now in the Black Label Society --small world. I got the Drill gig the same way I got the other ones, I learned the material back to front, and I wore quality footwear to the audition. I think I lost the gig because I was slow to figure out that they really wanted me to cut my hair. That's a cautionary tale, you gotta read between the lines sometimes.

Kitaro went back out a couple more times and then there was a spell where I was just doing band stuff in New York. Just doing stuff to keep busy really. You have to stay in the game in some way or another. Then I get the call from the TSO. That came through Marty Friedman, who I originally met through teaching at the NGW back in '92, but then I really got to know him when I was on the Kitaro gig. Marty worked with Kitaro on the album "Scenes". TSO had called him, he wasn't available, but he gave them my number. So I learned the material back to front and went down to the audition wearing quality footwear. Here the lesson would be, wear cool shoes, just don't stare at them while you're playing. That audition was me and a bunch of other guys, some of whom can shred me under a table, but I got it cause I'm actually a performer, I look up at the audience and smile. I stay open. The call back was just me and Paul O'Neill, where the onus was on my ability to take direction. It all came down to how I played this one acoustic song, which is just a simple chord pattern, but you have to be sensitive to the singer. So, by the time I was in that room, I was already a guy that had toured the world on massive stages, had the chops to kill the gig, and enough experience working with people to know when to just shut up and listen and give the artist what they want. That's what I did, and here I am.

I remember reading an interview with the woman who is part of The Matrix, the team that wrote "Complicated" for Avril, and she said they'd been at it for 10 years before that song broke, and that in her experience that is a good bench mark. If you can stay "in it" for 10 years, something's gonna give. I've been working this whole time, but nothing else had the profile of what the TSO gig has now become. I just kept at it and made sure that when the gig was worth getting, I got it. I get emails from guys asking me how they can get a gig like TSO. I guess the short answer is get in a van with your Prog-metal band that just got dropped and go to LA and play to no people at the Whiskey. Then stick at it for 10 years and something good will happen. Just remember to wear cool shoes.

Q. You've taken song writing workshops and now you're actually teaching at the NGW. What do you get out of this kind of work as compared to touring or recording?

Angus_clark_4 Angus: Songwriting is a totally separate craft, and it's something I wanted to take the time to get a handle on. It's important to get some training in it so you can be constructive when working with a band or someone that you are producing. If you don't have control of the formal elements of songwriting, the conversations can be taken too personally, like "why don't you like my song?", as opposed to just seeing a song as a thing that you can work on and fiddle with in order to make it better and stronger. So you're more on the wavelength of "changing this chord to major will improve the overall prosity of the song", or "starting this phrase on the and of two will improve the scantion of the line". Like that.

Writing is incredibly fulfilling, because once you write a song, you never know where it's gonna go. I wrote these songs with the TSO's violinist, Anna, and the next thing I know, she's playing them on stage with Jethro Tull, one of my idols!! So again, you just have to put yourself and your art out there, and then good things happen.

As far as teaching at the NGW, I'm doing a week in Virginia. I used to work for them way back and got a lot out of it, so at this point it's more recreational for me. Plus Alex Skolnick from the TSO East band will be there same time as me, so it'll be a good hang.

Q. What should someone thinking of attending one of your NGW sessions do to get the most out of the workshop. Is there some preparation they should do in advance?

Angus: Just bring your guitar and a good attitude and be ready play, cause I'm gonna make you play!! It's not a competition, it's a workshop. That's how I treat it. I facilitate the students learning from each other, and then I shred for their enjoyment. Oh, and you can wear whatever kind of shoes you want to class, but bring some quality footwear for the stage, cause there's no sandals on stage in Rock and Roll.

Q. What advice do you have for any 40-year old guitar wannabe's to help improve their playing even though they may not have professional ambitions?

Angus: Put on a record you haven't learned how to play yet, and learn it. Then find some friends and have a jam and do a gig. Then you're not a wannabe, you're a musician. You won't make any money, but that's not the point! It's better to make it interactive. Get out there, and do it with people and for people.

For those interested in learning more, head over to Angus Clark's web site where you can hear songs from his new album "Your Last Battlefield."  If you're looking for a week of immersive guitar instruction, NGW has a summer program that runs in McLean Virginia, Los Angeles California, Chicago Illinois, Austin Texas and Purchase New York.  Programs start June 27 in McLean and continue through mid-August.  And dont' forget: bring new boots!


New KISS Album --First in 11 Years

 Kiss_2009

KISS, the band that invented over-the-top theatrics back in the early 70's is going back into the studio for their first new release since 1998's Psycho Circus.  The new album features founders Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons as well as long time band mates Eric Singer on drums and Tommy Thayer on guitar, both of whom have been hanging out with KISS almost as long original members Peter Criss and Ace Frehley did.  It's not the original line up, but its as close to a classic line up as you can get.  And with Paul Stanley producing the new CD, it should be very much in the "classic" sound of 1970's era KISS.

I've been listening to Psycho Circus recently and I think it's one of the most underrated pop metal albums out there.  It's got enough edge to keep it powerful and enough good pop hooks and anthem rockers that you know it's KISS. 

Lets hope things pan out and there's a new album and a more extensive tour to follow.  KISS has five dates set in Canada in July with the first ever fan-routed tour to follow.  So get out and vote for your city.


Catching Up with Dhani Harrison and thenewno2

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I managed to catch up wtih Dhani Harrison recently in Hawaii where he was enjoying a little time off after his band's thenewno2's debut festival gig at Coachella a few weeks earlier.  While thenewno2 has performed only a dozen live gigs so far, the album "You Are Here" was recorded over a two year period with long-time friend Olliver Hecks.  Harrison has been playing guitar since he was 9 including his first big gig at the age of 13 on stage with his father George and Eric Clapton in front of 50,000 fans. 

Nonetheless, Harrison was chuffed about the Coachella gig. "We were awarded Rookie band of the year," he told me with pride.  They've also got a slot at Lollapalooza in August.  And hopefully we'll see a proper US tour some time after that. 

Somewhat of a self-confessed "studio rat," Harrison worked along side former Traveling Wilbury and ELO founder Jeff Lynne to complete his father's final album "Brainwashed" in 2001.  He also played at the "Concert for George" tribute concert at the Royal Albert Hall.   More recently, Harrison helped kickoff the forthcoming The Beatle's Rock Band video game by Harmonix. 

While Harrison looks remarkebly like his father, the band's sound is more Radiohead than Beatles in its lush, atmospheric sound.  But he's worked hard to develop his chops on guitar and has been recognized in magazines like GuitarWorld and Rolling Stone for developing his own unique musical style.