Steve Oliver

Posted June, 2012

steveoliver1If you’re a fan of adult contemporary, “easy listening”, jazz, new age or world music, and are avid listeners of radio stations that play those genres of music, then there’s a very good chance that you have heard Steve Oliver.

This jazz guitar phenomenon has to his career credits: eight albums,; eight top 30 singles; named “Debut Artist of 2000”;  was the headliner Playboy Jazz Festival – Rose Bowl 2005; top critics picked his album, 3D, as the top jazz album in 2004 and his Radiant album in 2006 and was nominated International Artist of the Year the same year.

More recently, Steve scored two number one Billboard hits from his critically acclaimed CD, Global Kiss, with the title cut and with Fun in the Sun.  As if all of that isn’t enough to make anyone who loves any kind of music to stand up and take notice, Oliver also collaborated with Carvin Guitar in the manufacturing of a very technologically advanced guitar synthesizer that he designed.  The signature line is enjoying success among the more adventurous and talented guitarists.

I was introduced to Steve by our mutual friend, Rob Parissi.  Oliver had worked on Rob’s last CD, East Coast Vibe, after interviewing Rob about the album, I mentioned that I wanted to chat with Steve whenever he released a new album. 

Well, that time has come with Oliver’s recent release, World Citizen, which is already enjoying great airplay and sales. I reached Steve at his California recording studio.  Before we got down to chatting about World Citizen, I ask the synth guitar wiz why on earth would he associate with such a character as our mutual, good friend, Rob Parissi (all in jest, of course).

“He’s a character!  I just love him! We get on the phone and chit chat, as you probably know. It’s crazy!  His manager, Amanda Tilk – who’s a doll – I was just talking to her and she said that Rob wants to do an instrumental . He loves contemporary jazz.  He always has been a fan of it. It turns out that he’s a fan of mine.

“So, I said, ‘tell him to call me! Please!’  It was that simple. As soon as I said that, I get a phone call ten minutes later from Rob and it’s been a lovefest ever since!”

I love Steve’s, World Citizen and you can read my review of it here.  I wanted to hear more about how the album came together and how long it took.

“Well, you know, you always work on these for a long time. I’m involved in every aspect of it – from the writing to the production. I play a lot of the instruments on the album, too. I always have albums for the next three years mapped out.  I’m very prolific. I’m constantly writing and never stop.

“I had the concept from Global Kiss and wanted to continue that same journey because we had two number ones on Billboard.  I just loved the theme of world – kind of global world theme.  So, I had the concept of World Citizen already mapped out and was writing music from that standpoint.  I like to have a theme and then write from there. I’m a diverse artist and I love many styles so I try to do all of that under an umbrella of a world citizen kind of vibe – world music, global themes, try Middle Eastern things.

“The writing process is what it is. It does take time as does the production.  Then, you start stripping things away and trying different things. So, it’s about a good year and a half of kind of digesting it, living with it and then getting away from it a little bit and then coming back to it. Then, you have ‘fresh ears’. It takes time for the songs to be birthed. 

“It really stems from passion, really. My whole vibe is a real positive vibe. That’s real important to me so whatever song I’m writing, I want to keep that feel good positivity vibe in there with all the songs that I do – or get real ‘depthful’.  Design – I have a whole other album on the backburner – it’s called Sojourn- which is all guitar music of that Design concept. The whole album is that kind of vibe. I was going to put that out before this album but we had such success with Global Kiss, I wanted to keep that going.”

As Oliver and I discussed the world music genre, the name of Gary Wright came up.  I mentioned to Steve that I thought it would be great to see the two of them work together either on stage or in the studio.  Oliver offered that, “I actually put that out there (to Wright’s people) because I think it would be a good combination, you know?”

Did you hear that, Mr. Wright?

Then, almost as an afterthought, Steve added, “I’ve been working with some of the rock guys like Rik Emmett, the guitarist from Triumph.  We did a gig this year together. He was a fan of mine and I didn’t know that. Again, we’re just talking backstage and hanging out and we just really hit it off as people. Then, he wanted to come up and play with me during my set.  I was, like, ‘Absolutely!’  And I’ve been writing some tunes and sending them to him on maybe doing a future thing together.  So, yeah, there’s all sorts of that going on, which I love!”

Since we were on the subject, I asked Steve if there was anyone else he would like to work with in some capacity.

“Oh, god!  Peter Gabriel because I love Peter’s forward thinking with his music. That’s kind of how I think. The same thing with Pat Metheny. He’s the same way.  Very forward thinking. They don’t just keep putting out the same thing. They really explore and I’ve always loved artists like that do music for that reason. John Mayer would be another one. John is so diverse.  I love diverse artists. I don’t like artists that are just one thing.  I think the Beatles are the most diverse band ever. Their music is all over the map. And, what happens, when you grow up with that thinking about all this music coming from one band. That’s what I loved about the Beatles because they were diverse. Talking about a benchmark to stand on.

“So, musically, that’s what I always strive for when I’m looking for artists I like and artists I want to work with. So, yeah, definitely Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon – those guys who are great songwriters themselves and great artists. Pat Metheny on the jazz side. I’d love to do something with him. God, there’s just so many!  The sky’s the limit.”

As we exchanged names of people we really like listening to, Oliver shared that “I buy stuff every day. That’s the thing: I’m a big music advocate. I’m buying stuff on iTunes all the time! I’m addicted. I buy probably a couple of things a day.”

Reading over the credits of World Citizen, Steve shows an impressive line-up of jazz whiz kids who helped him with the album.  I asked him to tell me about them and how he came to know them.

“Well, Tom Schuman from Spyro Gyra, he’s the most amazing keyboard player. He’s unbelievable. In fact, I just played and sang on five of his songs on his new record. You’ve got to check it out. He’s amazing.  Tom has played on all of my albums since my second solo album and I’ve got eight now. I’ve been working with Tom for a long time and just love working with him. As a fan, I just contacted him many years ago.

“Some of the other guys I’ve used like Paul Taylor, the great sax player in contemporary jazz. I played on his new single which is still on the charts right now. It’s a really good track called Horizon. I sang and played on that. So, I did a trade. I played on his record and he played on mine.

“I also worked with Billy Sherwood from the band, Yes. He was in the band for about ten years – he’s not with them anymore. Billy’s the same way. I wanted to get some rock guys that know and understand contemporary jazz. He’s a fan of the format. It was perfect timing. I called him. He’d just finished doing the John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson) solo album. Billy’s a big producer. He’s produced all the be prog rock guys. I’m a big prog rocker fan already. I was in prog bands in the eighties. That’s what I used to write. I used to always be the lead singer and do prog! Nobody knows that but now they do!”

When I asked Oliver what the response has been so far to World Citizen, he said, “Well, it’s been out not even a month yet and we’re already in the top sales chart on Amazon. It’s been in the top five for almost the whole month. It’s been crazy. It’s selling really well. The single is already number sixteen on the chart. It’s doing the best that it can do. I am not complaining at all! Our radio promoter is doing an amazing job on radio.”

Since he mentioned the subject of radio, I asked Steve what his experience has been within the current state of the radio market in general.

“It’s definitely changed. There’s more places to go for people, which I think is great. There’s actually more internet stations, more satellite, which I listen to all the time, too. But, yeah, it’s definitely changed but there’s still just as much out there as there always was. It’s just that people have more choices. They’re not stuck to just FM. For the genre, the people that listen to this music, they’re pretty much the late thirties to sixties is our age group.  They got used to FM. Now, since it’s changed, FM’s having a hard time. It’s just not working like it used to.

“So, now, the internet’s creeping up and catering more to the locals. Every city should have an internet station because you can! Then, cater to the locals. That way, you’ll get more listeners because it’s about the local area. I’ve been telling radio stations whenever I do radio stuff, ‘you’ve got to cater to your locals - don’t just play the music. You’ve got to be more personable. Radio has gotten so far away from being personable.

“There’s still a lot of places for music to be spun and they all have to report now. The internet stations didn’t used to have to report what their playlist was.  Now, all of that’s changed. They have to, by law, you have to turn in what you’re playing. With my new single, that’s what makes it rise on the charts. The more spins you get, you climb the charts. It’s cool to still see that flourishing – that’s still with internet and with satellite. They’re all kind of merged together now instead of being separate entities. It needed to happen that way. If we had to rely just on FM, we’d be in trouble.”

With eight albums now under his belt, I asked Oliver how has this album been different in putting together compared to his other albums – especially the earlier ones.

“I’ve been blessed because having a producer mind and being an artist that’s very involved, they always gave me carte blanche. They let me do what I do which is very rare when you’re on a label. They pretty much dictate. That’s been great. My whole career that’s what’s been happening and it’s been wonderful!

“Now, it’s awesome because you can take as much time as you want and put out as much as you want and there’s no limit. I can work with as many people as I want. There’s no restrictions now. You can ‘sell out of your own car’, creating your own vibe. That’s what I hope will get more passionate artists again really wanting to do music – not for the money but doing it because they have to do it. That’s what’s going to make for better music.

“I’m excited about that aspect because, instead of everyone just wanting to be a star, we’re going to get, hopefully, more passionate artists because you’ve got to work hard now. You’ve got to know a lot more. Kids are starting to figure that out. ‘Oh man, I’ve got to book the shows. I’ve got to write the tunes.’  You’ve got to kind of be everything now and I think that’s a good thing because they’re going to put their heart and soul behind it instead of, ‘I want to get signed’ then they do it all for you and you don’t make anything.”

This is obviously something that Steve has given a lot of thought to and feels very passionate about because he then chimed in with his thoughts about the plethora of talent shows that have saturated TV.

“That’s what I think this American Idol thing and all these talent shows – which, I don’t know, I’m not sold on them because, again, without that machine, they’re going to be famous for fifteen minutes. Once that ‘machine’ drops out, they’re gone and there’s nothing to sustain it. But, if you’re doing it ‘grass roots’ like Phil Keaggy’s done and all these guys – they’re doing it because they have to  do it because it’s part of their soul and they’re doing it for the right reasons. Whereas a lot of these artists now – young artists are being presented with American Idol thinking – ‘I want to be a star’ instead of ‘I need to do this. It’s part of my being’.

I haven’t had the privilege of catching a Steve Oliver show yet so I asked him what can audiences expect from one of his shows.

“Innovation. I use a guitar that I helped create with Carvin – the guitar company – that I can play keyboard sounds from the guitar. It’s a big part of my show. In fact, I demonstrate it in every show I do so people know what I’m doing. It’s so unique and nobody’s doing this which is really weird to me because the technology’s out there but I don’t see a lot of artists using it. 

“I create orchestra sounds, pianos, flutes – anything a keyboard player can play I can play on the guitar and I’m playing the guitar at the same time. It’s a combination of both – along with my singing and the wordless singing – so it’s a real unique kind of show and it has the innovation with guitar technology which I think is real important to put out there. It’s part of my mission. In fact, Design – you mentioned that song – all those guitar sounds are from my synth guitar. I create these sounds and then I work on them and then write songs with certain sounds to create the song. It’s a big part of what I do live and, so, I like to demonstrate it. It’s really, really fun and I think the audience really embraces that because it invites them in to what you’re doing.”

Our time was up but, since Steve was on the subject of guitars, my last questions to him was if there is a guitar that he considers the ‘holy grail” that he either owns or would like to own.

“You know what? I’m kind of playing it – my holy grail – because I helped create it. I always wanted a guitar that can do many things. It has this Les Paul kind of style and it’s, basically, three guitars in one. It’s an electric, it’s an acoustic and it’s my synth and I can trigger all three of those things at the same time. So, that’s kind of like my holy grail – my Carvin.  Carvin’s a great company. In fact, I’m doing some show clinics for them next month.”

Check out Steve Oliver’s synthesizer guitar wizardry on his latest CD, World Citizen.  While you’re at it, visit his website, and see when he’s going to be performing in or near your town.  He’s sure to blow you away!

Ted Nugent

Posted April, 2010

NugentbyjamesandmarylnBrownPhoto by James and Maryln BrownLike most of the good ol’ U. S. of A., I was first bulldozed by the Motor City Madman, Ted Nugent, when his monster album, Cat Scratch Fever, was first released back in 1977. The first blasting riffs from the Nuge’s Gibson Byrdland guitar pounded my eardrums to such an extent that it parted my then-long hair right down the middle. 
From ear to ear, that is.

Fast forwarding to the new millennium, one of the rights of spring I’ve developed in recent years is attending the Dallas International Guitar Festival.  Well, even before I attend, I monitor its website in the months ahead in order to find out who is going to be performing during the three day extravaganza.

The festival is so much fun that, even when I lived in Northwest Arkansas for three and a half years, one of my three closest friends and I drove down to Dallas just for one day of this phenomenal experience.

Well, this year is no different.  Actually, it is just a little bit different.  This year, there lots of guitar heroes making an appearance in some way, shape or form.  Neal Schon, George Lynch and Rick Derringer, to name a few, will grace the stages of the festival.

Oh! In a special jam session, none other than Ted Nugent will be closing out the festival, performing his Great Gonzos in a Free For All, exposing the crowd to Full Bluntal Nugity (cute, huh?).  He does so as he kicks off his Trample the Weak and Hurdle the Dead tour.

Well, I wasn’t just going to sit and wait until Ted tries to find enough hair on my head to see how he’s going to part it on April 18th like he first did 31 years ago.  Nope.  I wanted to chat with this rock and roll legend.  And that I did.
Nugent was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for me recently.  It took me awhile to bring Ted out of his shy, reclusive shell (my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek as I write this) but he came around.  He really needs to learn to become more demonstrative (said tongue now firmly planted in the other cheek).

I started off by asking Ted if this was his first appearance at the Dallas International Guitar Festival.

“I have wandered the floor and fondled many American vintage guitar masterpieces once years ago, but I am truly looking forward to attending again, especially with the inescapable master jam session that I smell coming on.”

I’ve got to stop right here and tell you something that will put the comment Nugent just made into sharper focus.  The night before his appearance at the festival will close with a huge All-Star Jam that will feature, among others, Neal Schon (Journey), Ty Tabor (Kings X), Boomerocity friend, Rick Derringer, Dokken’s George Lynch, PRS Guitar founder, Paul Reed Smith, Greg Martin (Kentucky Headhunters) and festival founder and mastermind, Jimmy Wallace.

So, with that said, and the fact that the Nuge is an avid and accomplished hunter, if he says that he smells a master jam session coming on, I’m inclined to believe the boy so I’m not going to miss it!

After shaking myself back to reality, and placing my aforementioned tongue into one of my baggy cheeks, I comment about the “low profile” nature of the Trample the Weak and Hurdle the Dead tour. 

“As I get older, I seem to appreciate good old fashioned lovesongs more and more. You know, Wango Tango, Wang Dang Sweet Poontang, Love Grenade, Stranglehold, Cat Scratch Fever, Great White Buffalo, Raw Dogs & War Hogs, Dog Eat Dog, and my new tender beauties like Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead and I Love My BBQ. It appears my increased estrogen injections are hitting home.”

So, take note, guys.  These are songs that you’ll want to serenade the love of your life when Valentine’s Day roles around next year.  WAIT A MINUTE!!!  Have you noticed that Cupid carries a bow and arrow just like Ted?  Do you think that they’re one and the same person?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Moving right along.

I asked Cupid – I mean, Ted – what fans can expect from his shows this year.

“Nonstop fired up passion, intense energy and an unbridled, all-American rhythm and blues/rock and roll, primal scream of outrageous guitar-fire driven soul music, with insane spirit, attitude . . .”

Like the nation’s economy, Nugent’s hometown of Detroit has been hit especially hard.  I wondered how the economy has affected the turnout for your shows.

“For the first year in my life, since around 1960, I didn't tour in 2009.  I dedicated myself to spend important time with family, kids and grandkids, but in 2008, we set attendance and rowdiness records. I expect more of the same in 2010.”

Still on the subject of attendance to his shows, I brought up his well-documented outspokenness in the areas of politics and gun rights and wondered if this has affected fan loyalty.

“One never knows, but to be rocking for sold-out, hardcore music lovers 50 years later says alot. I am both moved and humbled.”

I’m not one to mention age – especially to a man who is deadly efficient with a guitar, gun as well as a bow and arrow.  However, Ted brought it up so I had to ask what has been the biggest change in the music business that has seen from his vantage point.

“I am extremely let down by the lack of genuine music lovers on radio and in the music biz overall. In the 50s, 60s and 70s everyone truly craved the energy and spirit of dedicated musician performances and music.”

Surely there is new talent out there that commands the Nuge’s attention?

“I recently got a soulful earful of a dynamo young lady from Saskatchewan Canada by the name of Val Halla. She and her band kills on her No Place CD.”

I might add that Nugent also provided his master riffs on one tune from the debut album of Meat Loaf’s daughter, Pearl Aday, entitled Little Immaculate White Fox.

With our time gone, I asked Sir Ted what we could expect, project wise, in the next year to 5 years.

“I am SO living The Dream full-time with the best music of my life with Mick Brown and Greg Smith. The productions of our Ted Nugent Spirit of the Wild and Tooth, Fang & Claw TV shows constantly thrills me. And, I must say that the various charity work we do with the military and youth charities truly cleanses the soul. I see no end in sight pursuing my extreme happiness in the glorious American Dream.”

Do you want to bask in Ted’s glow as he enjoys the benefits of the glorious American Dream?  Well, you can! 
How?  One way that you can is to join us fellow Gonzos as we bow at the feet of Ted Almighty during his special jam session April 18th at the Dallas International Guitar Festival.  That is a treat that you’ll definitely not want to miss.

Second, you can keep up with other Motor City Madness by going to  You can sign up for Sir Ted’s “Nuge Letter” or even sign up for a premium subscription that will give you access to all sorts of golden Nugents – I mean, nuggets of Nugent news.

Ever wonder what it would be like to go huntin’ and fishin’ with Uncle Ted?  Well, you can sign up for such a memorable outdoor excursion but visiting the same website and get all the details.  Also, while you’re there, you can shop at the store where you can purchase CD replacements of your old vinyl Nugent albums and other goodies.

I’m just a little surprised that there’s not a Ted Nugent Signature line of loin cloths.

Hey, I’d buy one! 

Cyril Niccolai

Posted December, 2011

cyrilniccolai1 croppedPhotographybyHacineBRAHIMIPhoto by Hacine BrahimiOver the years I’ve had the distinct privilege – and I do count it a privilege – of chatting with people who have emigrated from another country to call America home.  The vast majority of these people LOVE America with a purity that is rarely seen among us who have enjoyed our liberties for an entire lifetime.

I’ve met people who escaped oppressive regimes in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe with just the clothes on their backs. They came here genuinely excited about the many opportunities afforded them just by showing up.  In many cases, these people have become very successful entrepreneurs.

I recently had the privilege of speaking with a young man who left his native country of France (and I’m not implying that France has an oppressive culture) to call not only America but Arizona home.  That young man, Cyril Niccolai, is a former medical student turned musician who came to this country because of its still-fertile, musically receptive audience.

I became aware of Cyril when I received a review copy of the excellent debut CD, Our Revolution, by his band, The Fairchilds (see the Boomerocity review of it here). It was immediately love at first listen – the album was that good.  Full of brilliantly written lyrics and melodies, the disc was chock-full of delightful sources of earworms and aneurhythms.

Because of this great album (and, I suppose, the obvious envy I had that a young man from France gets to call my former, adopted home town of Phoenix “home”), I jumped at the chance to interview Mr. Niccolai. He had just come off of a two week PR tour of radio stations on the East and Gulf coasts.  He called me from his East Valley home on the edge of the Arizona desert.

I normally don’t include my incidental chit-chat with the people I interview into the pieces I write about them. However, Cyril’s enthusiasm about our country was so contagious (I could almost see his eyes wide with wonder over the phone line) I felt that the reader would be robbed of a true sense of who Niccolai is as a person as well as an artist.

When Cyril first called me, it was during a rare desert thunderstorm.  I had to laugh when he said (in his wonderful French accent that, no doubt, melts the hearts of the women he comes in contact with), “You know what? Today is not a good day for Arizona. It’s pouring rain. Not cool.  Usually the weather in Arizona is so glorious. But today it’s just the exception. Not fun!”  When I told him that I was still jealous that he was in Arizona and I wasn’t, he said with a laugh, “That was to make you feel better – that you’re not missing anything today.”

Sharing more about his background and upbringing and how it affects his view of the weather, Niccolai said, “I was raised in Nice in the south of France. We are so used to the sun, when it’s raining it feels sad. When you go to Paris or London, rain is part of the environment. You get used to it.”

Because so many celebrities call the Phoenix area home for at least part of the year, I asked Cyril if he’s had the opportunity to meet any of them. “No, actually, I’m not here quite often.  When I’m home I am just doing the boring stuff like paying bills and then I just go back on the road. I haven’t even had time to visit my friends!”

When I moved to Phoenix from Huntsville, Alabama, as a nine year old, I had visions of a dusty western town and that I would ride a horse to school ala Mark McCain from the TV show, The Rifleman.  Imagine my surprise and disappointment to see kids actually riding bikes to school on beautifully paved streets and sidewalks.  I asked Niccolai if living in the Phoenix area was as he had envisioned.

“I’d come here quite often over the years and I have friends here. I came here for the first time right after high school in 1998 – just before going into medical school.  I spent the whole summer here. I came back three years later and then two years later.  It was pretty comforting for me. I was going from my country to another totally different environment so I had to be a little bit comfortable. Phoenix was the place! I knew at least ten people around here. In New York, it’s too big. I love New York. It’s just an amazing city. But to stay for months, it wouldn’t suit my style. I like to drive. I like to be able to just feel free and drive if I want to drive and not be stuck in five hours of traffic jams. I needed a little bit of simplicity – kind of like family style and Phoenix is exactly that. It’s a balance between a big city and still a very genuine, American lifestyle. So that’s the perfect balance for me. And, no winters!  I love that!

“So, I knew exactly what to expect.  What I didn’t know is that I would like it that much.  Since I bought my place here it changed things for me.  Now it’s like my home base. I have my home base in Paris and now I have my home base in America which is in Phoenix, Arizona.  I think it’s pretty exotic. I like it very much.”

Cyril and I were like two raving fans talking about our love for the Valley of the Sun.  However, after taking quite awhile sharing stories about the area, we eventually began to talk about his debut album, Our Revolution. After raving about the CD, I asked what the reception towards it from others has been.

“You know what? So far, I’m knocking on wood because it has been amazing! All the reviews have been good. Well, we have one – it’s not a bad one. The guy’s not into mainstream rock – more into metal/hair. He doesn’t say that the album is not good. He says that he doesn’t like it because it’s not his taste. Aside from that, all the critics and all the reviews we have are just amazing.

“I was in Napa Valley this weekend playing at Live In The Vineyard. It was amazing. It was incredible. It was in California sofairchilds cyril bw.2 it was wine, food and music – a lot of established artists so it was great to share experiences with them. I did two gigs and the reception. What we had was amazing with the audience. They were clapping, shouting, singing – it was just so cool to feel the connection. That’s why you make music in the first place – to connect with people and to try to entertain them. It was amazing.

“It’s a long journey and we’re going step-by-step but so far I’m very pleased with the way things are going. Very cool.”

In researching Cyril’s background before the interview, I read that he had something like 200 songs that he had written before he felt like he had 12 that he felt comfortable putting on the album.  I wondered if that was a difficult process to go through.

“No because I started writing songs when I was fifteen.  You go through this process where you start to grow as a writer – like a craftsman in his lab learning his job.  At some point you have all of the influences that you have to acknowledge and at some point you find your own style with all of those influences. That is the turning point. That’s when I know that I can release something because those songs are really a snapshot of who I am right now.  I’m okay with those songs having a life right now.

“After that, also, when you have to choose songs for a record, it’s not the best ones. It’s just the ones that will work as a whole, as a unit, as a record. From my musical theater background, I always felt that a record is like a journey – a beginning, a middle, and an end.  You have to be balanced and that was the work we’ve done with the producer, Jim Lowe. It was to pick the right songs and to make sure they were working as a unit.

“We are both control freaks and it’s hard to let go and say, ‘Okay, it’s done!’ I’m trying to do that – to let go more; to realize that it’s just a snap shot of who you were and what you had to say at that point. So now I’m starting to compile for the next one. It’s going to be different. Of course, you make mistakes. That’s how things go, you know? I’m very pleased with it.”

As he concluded his thoughts, he once again spoke with seemingly wide-eyed wonder at the opportunities he is able to take advantage of in our country.

“You know, talking to you right now, being on American soil – for me as a French guy, it’s a dream come true. My eyes are wide open. I’m like a kid in a toy store. Every day is a new experience. I’m so thrilled just to meet people. This weekend (at Live In The Vineyard) we met Chad Kroeger from Nickelback, Daughtry, Michelle Branch, Christina Perri, Safety Suit, O.A.R., Jack’s Mannequin – some of those I never heard of. It was very, very interesting to understand the American market and the American artists. That was very interesting.”

Cyril’s comments prompted a question about the differences between French and American markets and audiences and how they view and appreciate their music.  His response caught me completely by surprise.

“There’s a huge difference. I guess that I was born in the wrong country because music in France – kids have no education about music.  Here, when you arrive on American soil, it’s so intimidating because there are so many great artists and people know this stuff. Even the regular Joe on the street has this background of Elvis Presley, all the bands, all the Californian bands, they have all this knowledge of music.

“When you put out a record, you cannot mess with them. It’s not a fun thing to do. They know this stuff. I was amazed that, even when you talk with people at the end of a concert, they know music. They really love music. They have knowledge for that. That’s the main difference, probably, is that you have to do it good because people know their stuff here.

“France, they don’t have that. Kids have no education at all for music. We all have the same variety crap on the radio; the same twenty songs. Really, I swear to god, when I go back home and I turn on the radio, I want to cry. I really do want to cry. Here, when I turn on the radio, I have Sympathy for the Devil and at the same time I have Enter Sandman by Metallica and then it switches to Guns N’ Roses. So everything is within the same station – you have so many different things. It proves the open mind of Americans – especially for rock and roll. It’s the country of rock and roll.

“France is a very tough market for rock and roll right now. Everything you hear on the radio is hip hop, techno, pop – there’s no rock!  If you want to do a rock record, you’re screwed because there’s no room for that. If you want to do a rock record in Europe, you have to go to Germany, to Sweden, Norway – that’s the kind of places where rock is still on. But France? Not at all.

“When Ozzy Osbourne, for example, is doing four shows – sold out – in Germany, he only does one show in Paris and it’s not sold out. They have to give away tickets. And it’s the same for Bon Jovi in France. It’s always the last country on the list. On some tours, they just skip France. It’s not interesting for them. There’s just not the audience for rock music anymore. If you go for Lady Gaga, it’s going to work. But, if you go for more interesting bands, it’s done. France is screwed right now. Radio stations are not willing to give rock a huge shot at it. Life is a circle so, hopefully, it’s going to come back. But, for now, it’s a dead market for rock and roll.

“Like I said, I weep when I listen to the radio (in France). It’s just really sad. That’s why I’m so happy to be in my car here and just put anything on – a country channel, rock channel, variety channel – everything and it’s always entertaining and you don’t have the same pop crap that you have in France and I’m sorry to say that. I’m not a good ambassador for my country for music. It’s really sad.”

Taking a shot at diplomacy, I commented about all the other areas that France excels in to which Niccolai replied, “Yeah, but you always have to work. I was talking to people from Napa Valley and they are very good with the wine. I was talking with some chefs and now American chefs are very good, too. So if France wants to stay in the race, they’re going to have to work for it.  They have to recognize that they have to keep on working.”

Our conversation segued into the purpose of the chat: discussing a couple of the songs from this intriguing album. The first cut, I Need You, is a very deep, contemplative tune.  I asked Cyril to share his thoughts behind the writing of that song.

“Doing the record, of course my first goal was to entertain people. At the same time I wanted to also express that I was aware of what was happening around the world. It’s not just to be pessimistic but to acknowledge that the world can be crappy sometimes. But even in the saddest situations hope is still there. What doesn’t kill you makes your stronger. A wiser man than me said that. It’s in times of big struggle that you can move forward and try to look for hope.

“When Barack Obama was elected, I was amazed. I was in Paris at that time – downtown Paris near the Bastille Square which is a very old gathering place –the old peace gatherings were there.  I witnessed when Barack Obama got elected. All those people – all those French people – didn’t know anything about America . . . they just knew about Barack Obama being elected. They didn’t know about his politics, about his vision, about his ideals. He was just one man symbolizing hope.

“Once again it just amazed me – that one guy. It was great. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t want to know about his politics. It was just about one guy bringing hope to people – not only inside his country but outside his country. It was the same in Germany, in Spain, in London – people were gathering and they didn’t know anything about politics in America. But they wanted to believe that this guy was symbolizing hope because he was different and it was change. He was symbolizing that anything could happen. That was so cool to see people smile again. For a short amount of time he gave hope to those people.

“So, going backward, I thought about Martin Luther King and Malcom X and those great black American guys and what they’ve done and what they accomplished for this country. I went through all their teachings. I went on the internet and I read all of their teachings and tried to sum up their ideas into one verse which is very, very hard, of course.

“But I just wanted to say that we can have a very pure idea and it was a statement from me to start the album with this line in particular which is: ‘Means we use shall be as pure as the ends we seek’. It’s an actual quote from Martin Luther King. I just quoted him. That’s his sentence. It was a statement from me to start the record like that. It’s nothing to do with politics, once again. It’s just about human beings and how we should, in an ideal world, this is how we should behave on a daily basis.

“So, the first verse is about Martin Luther King – I have a dream and we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re all interconnected. That is what we are. That is the truth! The second verse is about Malcom X, saying, ‘You can believe in whatever god you want. You can be Muslim, Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, whatever you want to be but it’s your own faith. Don’t try to compete with your neighbor. It’s only for you. It’s something that you should keep for your inner-self and not something that makes you better than everybody else. It’s not a competition – it’s an act of believing. You should just be happy to believe in something and not try to compete with your neighbor.’ That was the second verse.

fairchilds cyril color1b“The third verse, of course, was about Barack Obama with his ‘Yes, we can!’ and ‘We can change’.  I don’t know how many times he said those words, ‘Change’ and ‘Yes we can’.  He said that so many times. Once again, it’s positive words. Yes, we can! There’s something more positive than this and we can change.  Let’s hope for the best and let’s change for a better place or for a better situation. That song is a very hopeful song, actually.”

I wouldn’t want to pick a favorite off of this album but, if I had to, Our Revolution still stands as one of a couple of favorites.  I even used it as the theme/thread for one of my Weekly Spews entitled (Our) Revolution (9).  I was dying to hear Niccolai’s story behind that tune.

“When you try to write a record, you try to have meaning in it. I don’t want to give a lecture to anybody. Who am I to say that? It’s just me having a cynical view of the world. That’s my cynical view. Actually, there are two songs that are related on the record: Our Revolution and Body of Lies.  Body of Lies is the follow-up to Our Revolution.

“First, you just joke about the world – just be cynical about it. Then, when you see that there’s no change at all, you have Body of Lies. ‘Did you hear what I said before? The world’s really screwed up!’  So, those two songs are related. There’s the warning, Our Revolution, the cynical point of view and then there’s the action. ‘Who do you think you are? What are you doing here in this world?’

“I kind of like this concept of having this journey within the record, having these layers. But for Revolution, when we picked the song with producer, Jim Lowe, he said that we needed something more spontaneous. Everything on the record – the melodies are not complicated but there are a lot of notes everywhere. Everything is ‘pretty’. That’s what I like, also. But we needed something more spontaneous; more like a shout – a primal scream. So that’s why Revolution and in Body of Lies, there are not too many notes. It’s just me talking, singing around those two notes but trying to make a point.

“Like I said, Revolution is like a very cynical thing. Yeah, right. We think we accomplished so many things but, in the end – yes, we have technologies. Yes, we can order movies. We can order food 24/7. Yes. But, in the end, we’re just lazy, resting on a couch, doing nothing all day long. Instead of taking the car and just go and buy a pizza, now we can call the pizza place and have it delivered in 30 minutes. But is it better?

“The whole song is about we think we accomplished so many good things, which is true. But, in the end, do we really think that we’ve done the right things with those technological breakthroughs. I know that we sometimes look at one situation and just laugh at it.”

As Cyril passionately explained the thought behind Our Revolution and Body of Lies, I was reminded of the Beatles’ Revolution 9 and asked if that song inspired Our Revolution in some way.

“Not at all, actually. When I wrote this one, I was thinking of a Sex Pistols vibe. More like a ‘punky’ thing. This is the most punky thing I can ever do which is not so punky. This is my version of punk which is not so punk. People will laugh when they hear that. But, yeah, I was thinking more about this rebellious kind of thing. But, now that you mention it, of course, with you mentioning it, I guess when Lennon wrote Revolution 9, that was around the Vietnam War. So, of course, he was like, ‘Okay, we’ve done so many good things and now what? Now what? We’re supposed to be better than the others and we’re going to do a war again?’  I guess that he had the same feeling that we have right now.

“We should learn from our mistakes but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. We have the answers. We know that we’re still trying to compete with religion and people are still making those mistakes. The only way this situation is different is – I always think of this metaphor of an 80 year old guy, very rich, having an affair with a 20 year old girl. It’s the biggest cliché in the world. We agree on that, right? But the guy? The guy will not ever consider that because he thinks that this situation is different and no, no, no, no, she’s not there for the money because this situation is different because it’s him. That’s very weird to me that we all know we have the keys to change things but we don’t use them. That’s pretty sad.”

From the research I had done on Cyril, I knew that the tune, Unbreakable, is especially close to his heart.  I wondered why that was.

“When I wrote it at the time, my two closest friends - they had huge problems. They were struggling trying to move forward. But at the same time, they didn’t want to give up. So I had this vision – that is usually what I do when I write a song is to have this movie in my head, this story line in my head. I can visualize the characters, the action and the locations. I was looking at this guy taking hits all day long and he kept moving forward, trying to look at the bright side. But the thing was, ‘You know, I’m human. I’m strong and I can take some hits. No problem with that. At some point I have a breaking point. At one point I’m going to completely die because I’m human. I’m not unbreakable!’

“It’s important nowadays to acknowledge that people are struggling in life – especially with the economy and stuff. It’s hard for everybody so it’s comforting to say, ‘You are not alone. I’ve been there.’”

It is this quality of caring for others – for the world; the quality of character; the sponge-like trait that wants to experience, absorb and positively influence his life and his world that will draw friends and fans alike into Cyril’s orbit.  I’ve yet to meet this remarkable young artist in person. But, whether it’s watching him perform or sitting down and having a lengthy chat over a meal, I am looking forward to doing so some day.

I’m convinced that this same quality will draw you into Cyril’s orbit – his revolution.  It’s my prayer that some of his wide-eyed wonder about our world – specifically, our country – will rub off on you and me.

You can read the Boomerocity review of Our Revolution here.  You’ll also want to keep track with Cyril, his solo acoustic performances and any of his gigs with the Fairchilds by following and bookmarking him and the band at the following sites:                                               

Peter Noone

Posted May, 2010

noone1Okay. I’m REALLY going to embarrass myself by telling this story.

When I was in first or second grade, my family and I lived in a little trailer park in Huntsville, Alabama. My best buddy, Tim Z., and I were inseparable. We ran all over creation, playing and exploring all over and around the small trailer park.

During one day of high energy playing, my friend was singing the chorus – repeatedly – from a song I had never heard before. I asked him what he was singing and he told me it was I’m Henry The Eighth, I Am.

I knew it couldn’t be an Elvis Presley tune (since that’s all I ever cared to listen to at that time) so I asked him who sang it. He indicated that it was from a band his sister LOVED called Herman’s Hermits.

During this same time, I had a huge crush on my his sister, Debbie, but there was two very serious problems. First, she was every bit of sixteen to eighteen years old. I was six or seven. Just a little bit of an age difference. But, just supposin’ that this kind of true love transcended age differences, I now learned that I had an insurmountable mountain to climb.

She was in love with Peter Noone, teenage heart throb and lead singer for the smash 60’s band and the voice behind the Henry The Eighth! How, in the name of Elvis, was I going to compete with the likes of Peter?

Well, there was no way in the world that I was going to be able to compete with a teen idol like Noone so I threw in the towel, so to speak. I went on to many other crushes on many other girls that had crushes on other teen idols. Lucky for me, I married the girl of my dreams while she was between crushes on teen idols.

But I digress.

I was recently pleasantly surprised to learn that Mr. Noone was going to be appearing at one of Dallas’ fine venues. I heard about it and immediately thought: I wonder if he ever married Debbie Z? Then, thinking better of it, I wondered if I might secure an interview with this iconic singer from the sixties.

After some sleuthing, I did, indeed, secure an interview with the one and only Mr. Peter Noone. After setting aside any forty-some-odd year old grudges I might’ve still been harboring, I caught up with Peter to ask a few questions.

Since Noone had been a star since the age of 15, I was very curious as to what his fan base is made up of these days.

“I have always thought highly of fans. When I was young twelve year old follower of music, I saw the Everly brothers and they were very kind and gentleman like to their fans. Later, I was a fan of the Beatles and saw them be absolutely fabulous to all their fans, even the most obnoxious ones. All my heroes, as in Elvis and John Cash were likewise gentlemen!

“I decided if ever made it, I would always be nice to my followers. Of course there have been ups and downs in the quantity but I am not a judge of their quality. I have fans from 8 years old to about 63 and sometimes they bring their mums who have heard of me!”

With a career that spans from the 60’s thru today, I asked Peter what he thinks the biggest changes he’s witnessed in the music business.

“I think the biggest change has been the radio stations directing the choices of young buyers has gone. Since rock and roll began, there were always DJ’s who sort of directed public taste. But in the 80s, they were all bought out when the business guys and the people with the most money took over the charts.”

With the changes that he’s witnessed in the business as well as in the technological innovations, I asked Mr. Noone if he were 15 years old today, would he again pursue a music business career?

“I think a career in the music business is the best of all careers and I would do whatever it takes. We drove around in a van doing concerts. I still think that’s how it works: Action!”

For all of the Boomerocity readers that haven’t seen Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits since the sixties, I asked Peter what they can expect to see in one of his shows today as compared to back in the day. His answer was jovial and to the point.

“All of my hits and lots of laughs . . . hopefully! I am better looking and taller now and I am also much wider!”

Herman’s Hermits had an incredible string of memorable hits such as Mr. Brown, You Have A Lovely Daughter, I’m Henry The Eighth, I Am and I’m Into Something Good that still enjoy plenty of air play and still stand quite well on their own today. I asked Noone why he thought that is and if any of today’s music stands up as well.
“I wrote great ‘whistleable’ songs and people can still whistle - even with dentures! I think that all music stands up from every period but mine is longer lasting.”

What’s Peter Noone listening to on his iPod these days that is commanding his attention? His brief answer will likely surprise you.

“I like a lot of country bands and most of the songs in the Hit Parade.”

Mr. Noone’s success hasn’t been limited to 60’s music. In the seventies, he worked on recordings with artists such as Debby Boone and David Bowie. During that same decade, he enjoyed leading roles in major theaters n the U.K. This led Peter to successful work on Broadway as well as in London in the 80’s.

In the early 90’s, Peter hosted VH1’s My Generation which enjoyed incredible ratings success. Because of fan and audience reaction to his TV and concert appearances, the channel voted Noone as VH1’s Viewers’ Choice Awards voted him as VH1’s Sexiest Artist.

Some guys have all the luck.

So, I had to ask one of my infamously obvious questions: What projects is he working on that his adoring fans can look forward to in the future?

Again, he answers with his signature British brevity by indicating that he’s coming out with a “new DVD and lots of telly and, sometime next year, a book.”

Now THAT’s a book I am looking forward to reading!

Are you interested in checking out more of what Peter Noone is up to? Do you want to find out how you can order a wide range of Peter’s CD’s? You may also want to know when his book is coming out. Well, you can get all of this by visiting Noone’s website,

By the way, Mr. Noone is in the midst of an extensive tour, including right here in Dallas, May 1st at the Majestic Theater. There’s an excellent chance that this nostalgic tour is going to stop in or near a town close to you. Go to Peter’s website and check out his concert schedule and see when and where you can enjoy an evening great, memorable songs and humor.

Oh, and Debbie Z? Eat your heart out, girlfriend!

Mike Mushok

Posted December, 2011

Staind1Staind.  The band is synonymous with tough, take-no-prisonerrs, in your face alternative metal. The music is often described as raw, angry, heavy, even emotional and elicits the same feelings from their fans and their detractors alike.

Like any successful, well-established band, Staind has experienced highs, lows, ups and downs. With the release of their self-titled seventh album, the band has gone back to their roots while simultaneously finding themselves at new crossroads.

This week, I caught up with band guitarist, Mike Mushok, while Staind was on a brief tour.  We talked about reaction to the new CD, the tour and the future direction of the band.  From the git-go, it’s abundantly clear to me that Mike is all about family.  This was evident in his answer to me while, in making small talk before I asked him questions that I know he had to have answered a million times before, I asked him if he was tired of the road yet.

“Nah. Look, it’s always hard being away from home and family – especially close to the holidays. But, no, we’re doing alright right now.”

What’s been the reaction to the new CD so far?

“It seems to be good. When we’ve played a bunch of the stuff live, it seems to go over really well. I think the new CD lends itself to being played live. We’ve been doing a handful of songs off of it and the response seems to be really good. I know they’re fun to play!”

Are there tunes that the crowds react to more than others?

“Yeah!  The song, Paper Wings, seems to go over really well. The single, Not Again and Eyes Wide Open we’ve been playing so, yeah, it’s been a good response.”

We talked briefly about the kind of venues Staind has been playing on this short tour.

“We’re doing a scaled-down version right now – doing radio/present shows for different radio stations with different bands. It’s not like there’s really a specific package. We just went out and did some of these shows with other bands hopping on with us here and there. It’s a shorter run. There’s a proper tour planned this spring.”

On this tour and the spring tour, what can fans expect from a Staind show?

“I think the spring’s going to be a little bit more elaborate than what we’re doing now. Right now, we’re just out there playing, really. We’re trying to put together a decent production for the spring – basically, the put together the best set we can. There are some songs that have gotten us to this point that we feel we have to play along with the new songs that we’re trying to throw in there and some stuff we not have played in awhile. Hopefully, it will make for a good show for everybody.”

I commented that, from what I’ve read in interviews with both him and Aaron, that this new album is going back to the roots that got them to where they are today.

“Sure, it was definitely meant to go back to kind of why we started the band which was playing more aggressive music. That was the game plan and that was what we set out to do. I think we got there. It was a nice return.”

I haven’t seen the documentary but I’ve read about it. It seems that, at least from the view from the outside world, there is concern that Staind may splinter after the tour next year.  How does Mike respond to those concerns?

“Who knows what the future’s gonna hold? I can tell you right now that I think we’re in a fairly decent spot. Look, Aaron’s got his solo thing that he’s doing and I know that he’s enjoying doing that.  We’re enjoying being out here playing these songs. There’s always the intention of us doing another Staind record. That’s what the intent is as of right now when as I speak to you.” As a he laughed, Mike added, “A year from now? I can’t tell you! But, as of right now, that’s what the game plan is and that’s kind of always the way it’s been. I’d like to think that that is where we’re headed. Aaron and I have spoken of this. When we get together, we make music that we both enjoy playing. We kind of intend continuing to do that. Could that change? Absolutely. Right now? I don’t think that’s going to happen but who knows?”

When I commented that I had read that Mike was working on some good solo stuff as Aaron was, his response revealed his love and deference to Staind.

“You know, it’s funny. I just kind of started trying to pursue doing a few different things. I have a few things going now but nothing that I even really want to put out there until I know a little bit more about where it’s (Staind) going to end up or what’s going to happen with it. Really, him (Aaron) doing that (the solo work) led me to writing a lot and figuring out where I can use some of this other music that I do that we don’t end up using.”

Does Mike feel that when he and Aaron go and do their own thing that it helps bring some freshness to Staind in the studio?

“I don’t know. It feels kind of the same to me when we get together. One thing that’s really nice about it is that I get to spend a little bit more time with my family. On the other hand, this is how I make a living so I need to work, also. But I’m sure there’s something to be said about, as with anything, having some time apart makes it a little bit easier, a little bit better when you get back together.”

On and off the record, Mike mentioned his family a lot.  I asked him how has becoming a dad of twins affected him personally and if it has affected him as a musician and how he views his career.

“Well, it’s definitely made leaving and going out on the road – which is why you start doing this, writing songs and being able to go out and play your music – it’s definitely changed that and made it a lot more difficult to be away. When you have a wife and you don’t have kids, she can come out and things are a lot easier. Once you have kids, everything changes and pretty much everything is for them. That’s really the way it is. I need to be able to provide for them and, like I said, hopefully raise them into good people and provide a decent life for them.”

I asked Mike if the twins have said or done anything that makes him sit back and go, “Mike, why did you wait so long to have kids?!”

“Just them being around, you know? I’m glad that we had them when we did and I had a chance to go out and play and do this. It was something that, with me being away and traveling a lot, it took us a while to get married and it took us a little while to have kids. It was one of those things we knew that we wanted to do but we wanted to try and do it at the right time. As far as that goes, I don’t have any regrets. I feel that I’m better prepared for it, also, having them when we did.”

What has Staind not accomplished that they still hope to?

“I gotta say the biggest thing – there was a minute where we had it but it got away from us was the success that we had outside of the United States. When Break The Cycle was doing what it was doing, it was there. Then the thing kind of got dropped on the label side and, probably, management side at the time when we moved forward from there. It feels like – outside of the United States – we’re fighting to build that back now for awhile. I’d say that’s probably the one thing that would be nice – to feel like that was a little bit more stable than it actually really is. It’s something that we still aim to try and do and work on trying to do.”

For the gear-head readers of Boomerocity, I asked Mike what gear he’s using on this tour.

“You know, if you saw me, I don’t know, ten years ago, it’s pretty much the same thing that I had then, other than guitars. I’ve changed guitar manufacturers. But my amps, I still run two amps. I run a Diezel VH4 and a Marshall JMP-1 through a Marshall power amp. They’re both on all the time.  I have different sounds for each of them and blend them together.

“For effects – I actually need to change my effects and I’m looking into it. The ones I have are so old that they’re starting to break down. Right now, I’m using MP1. I’m looking into changing that out.

“Guitar wise, I have a signature model with Paul Reed Smith – the Mike Mushok Baritone model. It’s pretty much my main guitar.”

I popped the Boomerocity “legacy” question on Mike, asking him what he hopes his personal legacy is – as well as Staind’s – after he’s dead and gone.

“I look at it as my biggest job in life is I have twins who just turned five and it’s, hopefully, raise responsible, good people. That is the biggest goal that I have – is making sure that they are taking care of themselves and to be good people.

“As far as the band goes, I hope that people can look at us as a rock band that wrote good music and songs that people like to listen to. For me, it’s pretty much that simple. We always go in and try to write good songs – something that, hopefully, people will want to listen to.”

Judging by the current tour and sales of Staind, it would appear that the legacy is well in place.

You can catch Staind on their current tour and find out what their 2012 tour plans are by becoming a free member of their online community at  And, if you haven’t picked up a copy of their latest album, Staind, yet, you can read the Boomerocity review of it here.