Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gretchen Peters - Flow & Storage


Gretchen Peters

Flow & Storage

Nashville Style


Gretchen Peters is a familiar name in country music yet her notoriety is somewhat obscured by years of writing songs for other artists. She penned Independence Day for Martina McBride and won the CMA Song of the Year in 1995. She placed songs for such diverse artists as Neil Diamond and Blues Icon Etta James as well as country superstars Trish Yearwood and George Strait. She spent years honing her craft and finding her voice. She may cut against the grain of the country establishment but she fits right in with the incendiary polemics of Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash and Steve Earle. Her finely honed vocal chops are compared to Lucinda Williams yet she has a style all her own. Peters co-authored Rock Steady with Bryan Adams increasing her street credibility and she delivered a stoned masterpiece in 2012 entitled Hello Cruel World. It was as honest as it was risky and it took off like a phoenix rising from the ashes, triumphant and bold.   


You’re New York born, Colorado bred and Nashville grown. How did this upbringing and all these different cultural influences lead to this moment in time?

That’s a great question that nobody’s ever asked. Those are three really, really different places. I didn’t do any growing up in Nashville but I certainly did some growing. I think all three things laid their mark on me pretty profoundly. Growing up in the suburbs of New York in the ‘60s, certainly a lot of what I write about goes back to that era and that time and my experiences, particularly the song I’m thinking of right now is the song Idlewild on Hello, Cruel World. It’s essentially a transcription of my childhood. That time of my life in the suburbs, in the northeast, gave me enough writing material for a lifetime. It seems to be a well that I keep going back to, especially now as I’m trying to write songs for a new album. I somehow feel drawn to writing about that time, so for whatever reason, it seems like a particularly fertile ground for me.

 I moved to Colorado when I was just turning 13 and I loved the live music and bands, and just the concept of becoming a musician became real to me because there was just so much going on and my mother was real supportive and her lifestyle took a complete left turn. We started going out and heard the bands. She was my greatest enabler in terms of what I was interested in doing. She made sure that it happened. I think that planted the seed of what I really wanted to do with my life in a way that I’m not sure would have happened had I stayed in New York


I got the concept of playing in front of an audience. It just became more probable to me. It was just a very different theme, not to mention that at that time in Colorado it was sort of hybrid country-rock thing because it was hugely popular and that really influenced me. I had grown up on folk music, and there was something about the country-tinged rock that I was listening to that I really felt a kinship with. There was something about the melodies and the stories and the words and the simplicity and everything about it that I really liked. So that part of it, I think, in that sense Colorado was a big influence on me.

Nashville was the last part of the puzzle that just fit everything into place for me. I moved to Nashville and I started really listening to songs in a way that I had never listened before and I began to understand what it took to write a really great song - it changed my ears in a way. It changed the way I listened to songs. I listened much more closely, carefully with an ear to a structural craft. I stopped trying to write things that sounded good and tried to write songs that really were good.


All three places really had a huge, huge influence on me. I’m a very big believer that geography and place are so important to writers.



You have a gritty social consciousness – you wrote about the assassination of Megdar Evers – it doesn’t seem to fit nicely with the country music establishment. Did you get any push back from this?

Yes and no. You know, this idea of the country music audience and the country music establishment, as you put it, being this ultra-conservative, you know, I’m not sure is completely accurate because when you think about people like Johnny Cash or Kris Kristofferson, they really don’t fit into that mold. And country music loved its rebels. Merle Haggard, you know, I’ve always said that if Merle Haggard had gone onward, he would’ve been John Steinbeck. Loretta Lynn wrote about controversial subjects. When I wrote Independence Day it caused a stir in the country music world, it was even banned on some radio stations. I said, “You know, it really isn’t new because Loretta Lynn did that before and wrote a song called The Pill. And they wouldn’t play that either.

When country music and country radio, in particular, became completely corporatized they really tried to shove anything controversial under the rug because corporations just don’t like controversy.

 I was lucky enough to arrive in Nashville in the late 1980s, and I was signed to the same publishing company that signed Steve Earle. So that kind of tells you the Nashville that I came to and when you say Nashville, you really don’t mean the Nashville that I think we’re talking right now about, the establishment.  I don’t feel in any meaningful way connected to that anymore. They’re making the kind of records that radio is demanding that they make and for probably 15 to 20 years now it’s been a case of the tail wagging the dog.


When I first moved to Nashville publishers and record labels and artists were still controlling what kind of music they would make. Of course, they were playing to the market, but they were still determining what they would release. We didn’t have focus groups defining what the record was going to sound like at that point but now they do. I think most of us that had any sort of urge to write honestly with some integrity and creatively got the hell out or in some cases were forced out.


For instance in the song Idlewild - It uses the n-word, which is a word you absolutely cannot say. It’s certainly a lightning rod of a word. I felt that it is important to talk about the civil rights movement, and I felt really strongly about the use of that word. I felt like I had to use it because for years any other language would have been to take the real thing and painting our era inaccurately.

The word needed to be there for shock value. It needed to be there because people that weren’t there need to know that those were the kind of words that were being flung around. To a child, those words are like lacerations. They burn and they stain you.

It makes me very uncomfortable to sing it.


 The Beau Brummels recorded Bradley’s Barn, a great album from the late ‘60s at Owen Bradley’s studio in Nashville. It was his attempt to bring rock and roll to country. Do you think that experiment led to modern country?


I think that it was one of those …moments. I think that it was everything from the Byrds, and even John Hartford, certainly the Beau Brummels. Linda Ronstadt was experimenting with it in the late ‘60s, like ’69. I think it was in the water, it was in the air somehow. Everybody was sort of flirting with this idea, it was basically young rock performers recognized the richness of the songs in that genre. They’d heard Nashville Skyline a few years earlier by Dylan and I think that led this continuum of music that would lead a young musician to Johnny Cash, say, and then it would lead them to maybe Kris Kristofferson. You know one thing would lead to another and some portion of those rock musicians became entranced with the form of the country song and that led to discovering Merle Haggard and you know, one thing just leads to another.


As I listened to your songs and I really was blown away by all those great lyrics, I thought of you as a cross between Bob Dylan and Michael Nesmith.


Oh gosh, thank you. Wow. You know I have to say Bob Dylan was my first big influence. I was seven years old when I learned how to play the guitar and the first thing I learned to play were Dylan songs. I had an older sister who loved Bob Dylan and brought Dylan records home. I loved the rock music that she played but Bob Dylan was the very first artist I thought I could probably figure out how to play that, it was just this guy on a guitar. Even though I loved the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, I couldn’t imagine learning how to play those songs. But Bob Dylan, that was a different thing.


You’re a great singer. Some people describe you as a cross between Lucinda William with the emotional feel of Tom Waits. How would you describe your vocal chops?


My singing has changed a lot over the years. I took a long time to find myself vocally. It certainly took longer to find myself vocally than it did to become confident as a songwriter. In recent years I have embraced my imperfections and it’s made me a much better singer. I’ve learned to love the husk and the rasp in my voice a little bit more. I tell people that when I started out, I thought that singing was all about making a pretty sound but now I realize it’s more about making a true sound, a sound that is authentic and real and it goes directly to people’s emotional center -  and that’s not always pretty. When I got my first record deal. I was marketed as a country artist and people would say things like, “Well, she doesn’t really belt. She can’t really belt a song like Martina.” It confused me for a while because I knew that’s not what I was trying to do but that’s part of how you are judged. It took me a while to find my niche and as it happened it’s like the Ugly Duckling story - I finally realized I was a swan. (Laughter)


You have this quiet flow in your songs, a great subdued energy with a lot of storage in it that gives the impression that there’s so much meaning in your songs underneath the timber and phrasing, that tip of the iceberg kind of thing. Does that make sense to you?


You know, it makes a great deal of sense to me because one of the things that I believe about writing, songwriting, or any kind of writing, really more than almost anything else, is what Hemingway called the Iceberg Theory so it’s really funny that you should say tip of the iceberg. Hemingway said that if you understand your story and you understand the characters and you understand what you’re writing about well enough, you only need to reveal one-fifth or one-tenth of what you know in order to impart that to your listener. I’m a huge believer in that. I think one of the best practitioners of that in songwriting is Leonard Cohen.


If you know the person or the situation or the story that you’re writing about very well, the underlying mystery is a very powerful thing to leave in your song. One of the problems I have with contemporary country music is everything is spelled out. There are no secrets, there is no mystery, there’s no going back to a song and thinking, “I wonder what ‘s happening here?” With a Leonard Cohen song, for instance, there’s a great deal of that. I’ve been listening to his song Famous Blue Raincoat for 20 to 25 years, and I still have conversations with myself, you know, mentally about what’s going on in that song. It still fascinates me. I still pick it up and turn it around like a Rubik’s Cube. I think there’s much to be said for leaving a lot of the content under the water, so to speak. I try to practice that in songwriting. I think it’s really important but it’s becoming a bit of a lost art.


Can you talk a little bit about your stone masterpiece Hello Cruel World?


Well, yeah. You know when I first released the album, I said, “This is my manifesto.” I knew that it was sort of an elemental album, and I knew that it was the best record that I’d ever made. From this vantage point now, you know it’ll be two years old in January, I feel more certain than ever that that’s true. It’s a little daunting at this point right now because I’m trying to write new songs and make another album, and it’s a hard place to come from when you realize, “Wow, I really did make the album of my career last time out. Now what am I going to do? I’m so grateful that all the elements came together the way that they did. I knew I had the songs and if I just went into the studio with the right musicians that everything would be fine - and it was. It was an album that was very personal because I had had so much thrown at me in the year before I wrote those songs that I felt sort of clarified in a way. I guess my attitude was if this is the elephant in the room, all the stuff that I’ve had to deal with, then I have no choice but to be brutally honest about all of it. It made for some great songwriting, a good album and it made for a pretty bracing dose of honesty which is how people reacted to it.  This was a great lesson to me because there were many times writing those songs when I really sat there and thought, “Am I really going to say this to the whole world? Am I going to let myself be this naked and vulnerable? Again, the writer in me kicked in and said, “Yeah, you have to. You have to. You have no choice.” I have to say the gift of being an older artist is that you just don’t give a fuck. (Laughter)


 One of the things that I wanted to say that I sort of obliquely touch on in the record, and not so obliquely, is what it feels like to be a woman who is not 20. I’ve admired so many of my male peers for writing about being a male and aging - Rodney Crowell and Bruce Springsteen especially. They wrote very eloquent songs about being an older man and what they’ve seen and what that means. I thought that women need to hear that. I would welcome that. I would relish hearing a female artist tell me what she’s learned from the vantage point of years, unfortunately in the media business it’s such a taboo subject.


Is it like going through a dark door to get to the light?


Exactly, and you know I think that the ironic thing about it that I found was that doing all these things and saying all these things and being so brutally honest in this album because I really was under the radar, as I said. It sort of put me on the radar.

It’s so strange and so funny but I’m so grateful for it because I had my greatest success with something that was also my greatest artistic moment and I feel so grateful for that because that is so not the case for many, many artists. I’m lucky enough to really get more notoriety than I’ve ever had for something that was very, very personal and real and true and authentic and I count my blessings for that every night, really.

You know, I can go out and sing those songs and feel great about it and I see that people respond to the honesty. I see that I have that moment, that moment that is the most precious moment in all of it which is that moment that we have in the dark with those songs, talking about what really matters to us


I recall a comment by that seems apropos - the natural state for a thoughtful person is that of melancholia – as you learn the truth about the world. It’s not that you’re walking around depressed but you aware of this lost promise.


That is so brilliant. I’m going to remember that because, you know, when people, because there are people in the world who feel that sad or melancholy songs are depressing, and I’m not obviously one of them. I find them incredibly cathartic.

I think that everybody who comes to see me certainly feels that way or they wouldn’t be there, you know. When people come up to me after a show and they say, “You made me cry,” I think, “Okay, I did my job” because catharsis is so important to us. I mean we write and we read and we go see movies and we experience art and music and other stuff to know that we’re not alone. That’s absolutely brilliant. I think that melancholia is, well I can’t imagine life without it.


Paradise Found is a stone masterpiece – it has a natural spiritual theme evoking an image of Eden in the beginning and goin’ back to the garden, sow our seed in the good sweet ground. It evokes a George Harrison vibe – how do you see it?

You know, there were a lot of themes converging with this album. It sounds like you’ve read the background of what was going on in my life before I wrote this, but there were a lot of themes converging, and they included things like ecological disasters, they included things like personal, huge personal challenges, personal disasters. Not all disasters, but certainly cataclysmic events I would say. So the thing was “How do you make a whole out of these things?”  It could seem like they’re disparate, and I think the key there was they all provoked a huge amount of growth, painful growth, but personal growth because they were challenges, and we really don’t grow any other way except through challenges. They involved for me a deep questioning of what I believed up to and including the question “Does it matter that I figure out what I believe?” I think the most honest response is to say “let the mystery be.”


 You really covered a lot of personal ground here. You came up after swimming underwater and breathed in the air. You survived it all.


Like I said, I feel like in a great and very profound sense, clarified. You get up out of your own little world when big things happen, you know. The biggest challenge to me in that year before I wrote the songs for this album was what I went through with my son, his transitioning, the revelation to me that he was transgender and that completely rattled my entire foundation. It’s hard to overstate how much the earth shifts when a child that you’ve had for 25 years reveals to you that they’re not the gender that you thought they were for 25 years. That shakes all your foundations.

I think every other thing that happened, my friend’s suicide, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the flood in Nashville, all of it, it was like the universe was saying to me, “Things are not what you think they are, and none of its permanent. There’s nothing that can’t change on a dime.”


The line from Five Minutes – “In five minutes your whole life can change.” What it means specifically is that the woman is talking about her daughter, and her daughter becoming pregnant, and how that in five minutes your whole life can change. Truly, you know, that’s the subtext for the whole album because everything that happens that I’m writing about and dealing with is that in five minutes your whole life can change. I think when you realize the impermanence of everything in a profound individual way, it clarifies you in a sense, and you can really get a perspective on things that are obscure and hidden from your view.


Gretchen, are you the woman on the wheel?


I am. (Laughter) I am indeed. I wrote a song that was on my very first album that came out in 1996 called Circus Girl and I always profoundly identified with the character in that song. Woman on the Wheel is the mature equivalent of the “Circus Girl.” It’s “Circus Girl” 17 years later. I felt a great kinship with both characters because of what it means to try to live your life out in this world at the crossroads of art and entertainment and Woman On The Wheel has a lot of subtext about trying to be an artist when people are really looking for entertainment more than art. I’m proud of that song because I felt like it expressed what I feel. I’m not complaining. I’m every day grateful for the life that I get to live but it sometimes feels a little bit dangerous revealing some pretty dismal parts of yourself in the quest for what ultimately is the entertainment business. It’s a little rocky. It’s a little crazy



Gretchen Peters is performing at the legendary State Theatre 913 Washington Street in Bay City Michigan on November 14th 6:30pm. Tickets are $15. You can contact the State Theatre @ 989-892-2660

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Paul Krawl & The Kingsnakes Live @ White's wes Matt Besey November 1st 2013

Paul Krawl & The Kingsnakes
The Prodigal Son Returns
Paul Krawl is one of the many musicians both great and obscure who have witnessed and had a role in defining the era of late sixties blues based rock & roll. He performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in1967 backing up Johnny Winter in a memorable performance. Winter was so enthralled with Krawl and his band that he christened them the Kingsnakes. The name stuck and the incendiary performance at Monterey gave Krawl a legitimacy that any struggling artist would aspire to. At the tender age of fifteen Krawl played up and down the California coastline looking for nirvana and finding it in the communal spirit and shared gigs with Janis Joplin, Country Joe and the Fish, Wet Willie and Uriah Heep  … to name a few. Krawl signed with EMI records - Europe and that led to several top flight assignments including backing up the Pointer Sisters and taking part in a Bruce Willis film the Return of Bruno. The Kingsnakes have made a big splash across the Ocean and toured in Europe for last ten years. They are credited as being one of the top R&B and Dance Bands in England, Japan, Russia, as well as in the southern states of America. Currently the Kingsnakes are putting the finishing touches on a new album entitled Woman Troubles.
Did you have a mentor or somebody that taught you the ropes, someone that inspired you?
You’re going to laugh. My next-door neighbor was Buck Owens. He got famous. Bakersfield, California. That’s why I play honky-tonk over the weekends. I was probably 15 years old when I hooked up with Buck Owens and Don Rich. I went over and bugged the shit out of him. Buck lived over in East Bakersfield near the Kern Valley. They have a ranch out there. All the guys got ranches out in that area. He and some of the guys started a thing and they bought a movie house near Chester Lane and they converted it into a studio. That was 1962 or so, the original Buck Owens studio. That’s where I actually recorded a few things in there after everybody had left.  
Did Buck or Don Rich give you lessons or help you figure out chords and leads?         
Yeah, they showed me a few chords. My cousin was the biggest influence on me was my cousin Key Salcido. He was in a band called The Classics. He was real popular in California down there. He was the one who actually got me started on things when I was a kid.  He showed me some stuff. We’d jam over at the house. He’d show me some chords and things. I just took off after that. I just started my own style and everything. I combined Buck Owens with a lot of the different stylists in Bakersfield. They were starting the honky-tonk sound and I just picked that up. I combined it with blues because I was influenced a lot by B.B. King. I just started combining all those styles and then my own style emerged.
How would you describe your own style?
Oh, it’s a combination of the country rock, blues, blues rock. It’s more like a Texas Fandango combined with a Bakersfield honky tonk, it’s hard to explain it. That’s why my music’s a little bit different yet accessible.
 How do you rate yourself as a singer?  Did anybody teach you the art of blues singing or country singing?
Actually, I always hired a vocalist, you know, a guitarist, or a bass or piano player that sang better than I did because I never considered myself a lead vocalist. I always considered myself a second voice or a harmony vocalist, you know, a background vocalist. I’m pretty good at harmonies. If somebody quit the band or decided they couldn’t make the gig I would sing the leads.
I’m in between baritone and tenor. It depends on how good my throat is. Sometimes it will crack on me because I’ve been singing for too many days. When I’m singing, I put everything I’ve got into it, you know, it’s real raspy and throaty.
I read where you were just a young guy when you started gigging on the California coastline with Country Joe & the Fish, Janis Joplin, Uriah Heep, and other big names. What was that like for you?
I was a kid, 15, 16 years old, and I ran away from home basically. Went up there and started doing that. They had a place called the
Big House in Haight Ashbury.  I even lived there. There were a lot of notables that weren’t known at the time like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia. I got to play music with all those people, all of ‘em. It was in that era. I was a little bit younger than some of them but I was immersed in that era and started with that sound. That’s where I got called Frisco Blue because I stayed there and started going back and playing there. I had a couple of blues bands I started. I can’t remember, oh, Young Cats was one of them. I played with William Martin Brown, a little bit, not much. He is the one that wrote the original “Wipe Out.” Remember that song? Then it was picked up and it was recorded by the Surfaris and they made it famous. But William Martin Brown of the Impacts was the one that wrote it. We started a kid’s band and after a while we became the Heaters. The Heaters were pretty well known in California. We had a big following for a while. That’s when we started opening for a lot of bands. We were getting notables at the time. We were fronting like Janis & Big Brother & the Holding Company and Bill Champlin. We were opening for Bill and quite a few bands around the Bay area. We got to front Johnny Winter one time. A band had dropped out and we got to play Monterey Pops.
We had just purchased these transmitters and we were tried them out. We walked out in the audience. You know this was when they first came out and Johnny Winter said, “Look at them Crawlin’ King Snakes out in the audience.” He was playing I’m a Crawlin’ King Snake. They had just released it then. Next day all the papers picked up, “Crawlin’ King Snakes fronted by Johnny Winter. A smash hit.”  So that’s when we changed our name to The Kingsnakes and we’ve had it ever since.
You were really fronting a lot of great bands. Did that get you more notoriety and more gigs because you were sometimes outshining them?
Yeah, sometimes we did. That’s one of the reasons we went overseas because they record company didn’t want us to compete with a lot of people so they were doing distribution down there. Johnny Winter had his thing going and Stevie Ray Vaughn Robert had a huge following. Anyway, they had quite a few bands that were all in the same market and they were marketing pretty heavy. They didn’t want to put us in that mix because we’d pretty much cloud their thunder. So you know we had a good act. All of us were veterans by that time so we had a really good sound.
I had Artie Story for bass. Artie Story was a nut. He was a very, very straightforward bass player but always in the pocket. Dutch Johnson was the drummer that I originally used.
So you had a lot of great players in the band.
Oh yeah, yeah. They were all far better than some of the players nowadays. I grew up with people that developed their own sound, a style of writing your own music. We got to a point where we got really good at making music, you know, but different from everybody else, eclectic
 You backed up the Pointer Sisters. What was it like to perform with them?
Oh, it was pretty good. A lot of it was just starting to come together through their recordings. They weren’t the Pointer Sisters then. They called themselves the Brownettes. The Pointer Sisters, were very professional. You know they would come in, do their job and get out. But it was great working with them. They’re all professionals. We actually backed them up on stage on a couple of occasions. We backed them up at the Troubador in LA. Mad Hatter I think was the name of the other one. We did a few shows before “The Return of Bruno” came out. That was released in ’88, ’89, around in there.
Was there a record company that treated you well and actually gave you the money you had coming?
Atco. I liked Atco. Those were great people to work for. It was actually the best one. There was one out of Minneapolis that was a little bitty label Blues Shack but they folded. I was trying to sell through Alligator Records.I know a lot of people at there. I’ve done a lot of work with people at Alligator but mostly out of California and some out of Chicago. You know we played a couple of places on off nights like Legend and the House of Blues - Dan Aykroyd’s House of Blues. He had another place just west of Minneapolis. He came in a couple of times and played when I was sitting in with the Blues Biscuit band over there. That was fun. I used to be a good harp player, not great. I think Bruce is a little better harp player, but he’s just not as versatile or doesn’t know as many songs but Aykroyd was good. They’re fun to play with and if you don’t know that they’re a star, you don’t care that they’re a star because all of you are equal when you’re in a jam session. We were all there to create good music and that’s what it’s all about. But it’s always been about and that’s what sparks the music. Nothing else. I don’t care if I make a lot of money at it or not. Hell, I’m retired and getting my social security so I’m just going to play music until I die. I’ve been doing this since I was seven years old. I can’t think of anything else to do. I’ve made enough money in it to get a good college education. My ma told me to always have a back-up, so you know, I became an engineer. I do industrial engineering and stuff like that. I do emissions control products. And I’ve got a few patents and things like that. One thing that’s good about mathematics and music, they both go hand-in-hand.
I think schools made a big mistake by eliminating music programs. That really bothers me and that’s why we go overseas through Music Exchange. That way we get to go into Germany, Russia, Ukraine, Africa, Switzerland, England, France - all the different countries and we go into the grammar schools and high schools and even colleges to show them what we know about music sand the blues out of Chicago or the southern blues, and all that. We show them the differences and how you lay your hands on the guitar and how you approach the music and sing it and it’s a kick.
BB King once told me, “If you’re telling a story, tell it like you’re just talking to somebody. Tell them the story. Do it with feeling, and do it with conviction.” That’s the way I approach and play music. You know I saw B.B. King practice one note, one note, for an hour, just trying to get the bend right, trying to get that sound, that texture, trying to get what he wants to feel out of that note. Sometimes I’ll do that too. I’ll go around and I’ll just practice a note or two notes for a while just to get the feeling out to the audience. Well having said that, when I go out there on stage I don’t try anything fancy yet people seem to notice and take note when I play. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re communicating with your audience.
You’ve been on several labels. Did you ever get royalties?
Yes, as a matter of fact people out of Minneapolis are really good about payments. The suits out of Chicago and Detroit and New York, you’ve got to watch. LA, they’re okay as long as you’re doing stuff for them. If not, they just drop you. They don’t worry about the royalties or the contracts or anything else. That’s why I’ve always tried to do it myself, as much as possible.
You worked with Bruce Willis in a film, and it sounds like you two got along pretty good. Did you jam together?
Yes I went to his studio a couple of times. I actually did some of the scores and he bought a couple of them. I did some rearranging and some things like that. I don’t want to say anything bad but there are still some credibility problems on who wrote parts and who did not because when I left there my name was  removed from the writing credits. The suits changed the name of the band that was actually playing and performing so they would not have to pay out $17 grand to the musicians that actually wrote the music. I didn’t have a contract signed so they threatened to sue me for defamation of character and all this other crap.
It was in LA - Warner Brothers and Motown Records, a combination of the two. They bought out the Pointer Sisters. You know, I’m still friends with a couple of ‘em, but definitely not with the majority of ‘em. I feel if they’ve got to use somebody that way to get where they need to go then they’ve got a real problem. I don’t.
 Why were you in Europe so long?  
We toured off and on for 10 years. We were going back and forth between here and there but we spent all our time in London. We had a flat outside of Piccadilly.
Why did you leave?
The bass player died, Tim Ingles. We got him from Sister Sledge years ago. He was the one that we used overseas for a while. He was with us most of the time during that period.
You’ve had a long career. How many albums did you release?
I’ve released two LPs stateside and I’m going to re-release them because the record company took them off the U.S. market and sold them overseas. Then there are five that were released by EMI Europe. Then those were taken over by the overseas company because I wrote them when I lived in Europe. They said that I didn’t have proprietary rights to those songs because they were written and recorded out of the studio. I don’t care. I can always write more but I still have rights to my first two LPs and I’m going to re-release them in the United States. That’s what we’re working on right now. I don’t even know if I can use the Kingsnakes name anymore because the overseas company holds the rights to it. They picked up the Kingsnakes over there. We signed a contract to release LPs over there so they started a new Kingsnakes band overseas. I don’t know who in the hell is running it. But I don’t care. It’s all about the music more than anything else, you know?
They co-opted your name, and that sounds kind of ugly.
Well, it was pretty ugly. They were getting a lawsuit against me but when Tim died the contract became null and void because all four of us had signed the contract so that left it open for all the bookies for the next 18 months. Our contract closed last year on December 6 so that let us out the contract. Then having said that, that released my first two albums because those were mine. I produced those LPs.
They weren’t produced out of Screen Gems or EMI or Cavalcade over there. So we’re just going to go ahead and continue to record music. I’ve got 16 new songs written that I’m going to do. I’m going to release one as a single to see if I can get a bullet out on the radio called “Nobody Else.” It’s a ballad, a slow one. It’s a really cool song. I’m going to get Eric Ericson from here in town to sing it for me. He’s a clone of Neil Diamond. He sounds identical to Neil Diamond when Neil Diamond was young, that clarity in his voice.
Do you have any vivid memories of when it all fell into place, where it was a moment in time when it all came together and was just a shining moment for you?
Well, you get the warm fuzzies and you get those little spirals going up your back, that good feeling. Yeah, actually we were, (Laughter) this is funny. We got to play in California. We were playing in a place called the Rose Garden and there were several bands that were booked and we didn’t know who was all booked to play. This was a gig with the Heaters. We were considered really good at the time.  Felix Cavaliere and the Young Rascals showed up there and they were so good. I was just awe-inspired, got to talk to them, rubbed shoulders with them and everything. They were one of my favorites. They were from back here from the east coast. That was just good. You know, you get up there and you get to play on the closing. You get to play with all these musicians that are just super at the time. We were trying to improve our style and we just fit really well with what the Rascals were doing, it was like heaven. 
It sounds sort of funny but that was one of my highlights. I’ve got a lot of highlights. I opened for people at the Queen’s Concert - Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. It was at a pre-party, at least I was there, you know, rubbing shoulders with rock’s icons. It’s been a real ride, it really has.
Do you have any regrets?
Uh, losing all my wives to music, yeah. (Laughter) You get busy with and you think she’s the only one but then there’s always another one coming along. I wrote a song called, “If You Don’t Love Me, Someone Else Will.” Just for that purpose. (Laughter)
Do you have any last words for the readers, for the folks that are going to come see you?
Stay true to yourself, always. Don’t bend, don’t give up. Just stay true to what you want in life. You’ll be happy, and you’ll never regret anything.
Paul Krawl and the Kingsnakes are performing at White’s Bar Friday November 1st with special guest Matt Besey. This will mark their official CD Release Party in Michigan

Monday, September 16, 2013

Vengeance Makes a Big Splash in the Local Scene


Vengeance Strikes a Blow Against the Empire

Vengeance is comprised of a core of dedicated musicians who are true believers in the transcendent power of music. For them music is more than its component parts. It is more like an aural landscape that shifts form and content, always growing and changing as the muse strikes. It is no wonder that they were finally noticed and validated by their legion of fans. Vengeance won Review Awards for Best Rock Band, Best Variety Band. Matt Hyatt won the honor of Best Guitarist (heavy praise indeed) and Dave Banks got the nod for Best Keyboardist.  It was a musical coup d’etat. Review was able to chat with leader Adolph Borrego as well as Dave Banks and Matt Hyatt. Adolph is truly a modest soul with a big heart and a keen vision for the future.

Adolph: How long has Vengeance been performing?

Vengeance was formed in the late 90's. I had just moved back to Michigan after living in Syracuse, NY for about 6 years. When I got back of course I looked up my old musician friends and Vengeance was formed. I had been in a few bands before leaving Michigan and had had the honor of playing with some of the area's top musicians including extraordinary guitarist Mike Fink and the drummer/sax player/singer Bobby Pyman to name a few.


Adolph: Whose in the band?

The original line up of Vengeance was me on rhythm guitar and vocals, Pat Cherry on drums, Rodney Trumble on Lead guitar and Ron Arrington on Bass. We played all over the place strictly as a cover band and we had a set list of material that was more deep cut or album cut kind of stuff that none of the other local bands were doing. We have always wanted to be a bit different.


Adolph: How has the band evolved?

 As most bands do, we have gone through our share of personnel changes and as a result Pat and I are the only two original and founding members left. Throughout 2012 our lineup was Pat and I, Terry Kasper on Bass, Matt Hyatt on Lead Guitar, Dave Banks on Keys and the little lady with the big dynamite voice Dani Vitany on vocals. These are some of the most talented musicians I've ever played music with.

What was your reaction to winning Best Rock Band and Best Variety Band?

Adolph: Complete surprise mixed with a sense of pride.

I would be remiss if I didn't give credit where it's due. If it were not for this lineup we would not have won the awards we won at the Review awards ceremony. Dani has since moved on to bigger and better things with the newly formed rocking country band Ten Hands Tall. We wish Dani and THT the best of luck and want to Thank Dani for the time she put in with us.


Both times it was a moment of confusion, then shock and wondering "did they screw up?  Real soon after that I guess it kind of felt like I dunked a basketball for the first time -- and for a short guy that's a pretty awesome feeling.


 yattHyattWe were surprised just to win the best variety band award and had even said if we went home with just that, then it was more than we expected and we were content.  Then Dave won, then I won and then we won Best Rock Band and I think we were all completely elated.


Matt what was your reaction to getting best guitarist?

When they called my name for best rock guitarist I was speechless.  I have such a passion for music and this is just a wonderful byproduct.  I am humbled and honored by our fans and supporters for their faithfulness and support


Matt were you inspired by anyone in particular. Did you take lessons, have a mentor?


I was first inspired to play guitar when I fell in love with Led Zeppelin. I was 10 years old.  I started taking lessons at various places and eventually took lessons from Jim Pagel out at Bay Music.  I took lessons with him for two years.  Since then I had times where I hardly even played until I married my current wife Gaymarie Hyatt who has supported me at every step of my music career


 Adolph: How do you describe your music?

Vengeance has gone through a number of musical tastes and flavors in our shows and we are a unique blend of everything from Rock to Blues, to R & B, to Country. Our ages range from middle thirties to late fifties so we have a boat load of experience and a very diverse ear and love of music. Our influences range from George Jones and George Strait to George Thorogood and the Georgia Satellites. Seriously though we all love a very broad range of music and we all believe that the music is not in our instruments, it's in our hearts and in our souls.


Adolph: You must have a loyal following. Did they get the word out?

Yes, the word definitely got due to our wives and girlfriends as well as many many loyal friends.

The band wishes to thank everyone that voted for us and we want everyone to know that it is not lost on us what this means. We were up against the best bands around and we are humbled and honored to have won. A special shout out to our wives and girlfriends for their undying support and encouragement

Adolph: You are from Birch Run - does it have a growing music/arts scene?

 It really appears to. With the talent that has come from such a small town there must be something in the water. We perform around the Clio, Montrose, Saginaw, Flint area. We've played at Bob's Bar in Fosters, Bus Stop in Birch Run, Backwoods in Burt, Cloverleaf in Clio, Prime Event Center in Bay City, Dow Event Center as the Spirit hockey games band and a number of Eagles and VFW Halls.

Dave: what was your visceral response to winning Best Keyboardist

 I just couldn't comprehend it...I sat there for the longest time trying to figure out if I should be so bold as to really go up.  Pat finally nudged me and said "you better get your butt up there or they're going to give it away!"  Just looking around as I'm walking up thinking about how crazy talented this room of people is and here I am going up for an award -- and also that most of those same people are thinking "who?!?!?"  Then I think, "holy crap...they want a speech of some sort."  I went blank after that.


 Dave:  Did you have a mentor.

Definitely - my cousin Terry.  Amazing piano player in whatever style was called for.  He started showing me how to really play with chords and use blues scales, and also to pick out parts by ear.  I appreciate those tips a ton.  Later on I learned a ridiculous amount by playing dueling pianos with Jeff Lehman out of Warren.  He clued me in to really playing the whole keyboard to fill up the sound.  Also showed me what
songs most people want to hear on a night out.


 Dave:  What are your plans for the future?

We're absolutely in a time of change and evolving.  With Dani moving on to another band - who are freaking awesome by the way - we are feeling our way to the best mix for us and also the places we play.  It’s been trying, but it’s also been an energy shot coming up with different songs that work with who we are now



Our future is always evolving because of the broad spectrum of music we all enjoy. We plan on being around for a long long time.