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Harmonious Wail

An Interview with Harmonious Wail bandleader Sims Delaney-Potthoff
by John Noyd
July 2012

Ambassadors of gypsy jazz, purveyors of grooves and jive-inspired swing, Harmonious Wail celebrates an incredible twenty-five years as a group this July. Currently clocked in as a trio with a half dozen records, constant tours and several generations of fans, the string-driven vocal locomotive confounds exact description, leaping from jazzy flapper flamencos to smoldering Norah Jones blues, kicking singular licks, wicked struts and tender melancholy, wrenching tears from grievous dreams and laughter from hard-won luxuries.

In a small unit responsibility falls heavily on everyone’s shoulders; while mandolinist, ukulele-man and tenor guitarist Sims Delaney-Potthoff speaks for the band, Maggie Delaney-Potthoff carves its soul’s identity as lead vocalist and frequent percussionist. Welded together by bassist Jeff Weiss, the Wail is an elastic time capsule, filtering ideas from Django Reinhardt to Joni Mitchell, movin’ and groovin’ with body and soul. A packed anniversary month, the trio plays thirteen in-state shows in a month and half including the festival they spearheaded, the Midwest Gypsy Jazz Festival, held this year on July 14th in Fitchburg. Prepping for the marathon, Sims kindly answered a few questions about the band.

MAXIMUM INK: What would you consider to be the band’s significant events in the past 25 years?
SIMS DELANEY-POTTHOFF: Playing for Stephane Grappelli sure ranks right up there on top.  We were at The Zelt Music Festival in Frieburg Germany.  Getting to know and play with Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, touring in Taiwan, being able to travel to Europe and all over the US playing music for great music lovers.  One night in Taiwan after a gig a woman approached us, kept gently tapping her heart and saying, “I am so very, very…”  ‘nuff said.  I think the most significant is that we are able to continue to tour, record and perform for music lovers and Wail fans, really it almost brings us to tears, the support and love.  And then there is The Midwest Gypsy Swing Fest - bringing such incredible talent to the best music fans in the world - and it is still going on and on.

MI: How did the name Harmonious Wail originate?

SD-P: We had a note book with pages of ideas and suggestions.  We really liked the 30’s hep-jive jargon of guys like Lester Young and thought that Harmonious Wail was just vociferous enough and that the sentiment was right on target - it’s almost a mission statement.  Actually after all the back and forth’s Maggie just said, hey how about Harmonious Wail.

MI: How deep do the band’s Wisconsin roots go?

SD-P: cheese-deep—Maggie is a Heartford girl from the heart of the Kettle Morraine and I am a Racine guy - Jeffo is an original native Madisonian.  Mg and I lived in Boston (Berklee School of Music) and had planned on Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Nashville but after all was said and done it felt best to simply come home and we have never ever thought twice about it - we totally love Madison.
MI: Your eclectic sets span decades of music and beg the question what do you look for in a song?
SD-P: This is a toughie—it’s like asking why you love something - cuz I love it, that’s why.  Top of the list has to be either a groove or flow…  the chord progression needs to be cool and not forced or artificial - maybe natural is a good word here.  When the chords, groove and melody and lyrics all work together in a natural flowing way it feels like the music plays itself or better yet it feels like the music plays you.  That’s what we are seeking is to have the music move and play us
MI: Twenty-five years is several life-times for bands – what’s the secret to your longevity?
SD-P: We just had a band chat about that this morning—we have always felt that more than being musicians we are travel agents (Thanks Mickey Hart).  That our job is to move people and transport them to a better place thru the music.  In order for that to happen the music has to move and transport us and then we simply relay that to an audience.

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Harmony Bar - 20th Anniversary


by Mike Huberty
March 2010

As one of the area’s most carefree and nonchalant taverns, Madison’s Harmony Bar on Atwood Avenue has been delighting local residents with music, food, and drinks for the past two decades. Twenty years in business makes it one of the city’s longest-lasting live music venues in an industry that usually chews up clubs and spits them out. To celebrate the launch of their third decade, owner Keith Daniels is sponsoring an all-day anniversary party on March 14th at The Barrymore Theatre right down the road.

And the rationale behind it is simple. “I wanted to throw a party.”, Daniels says. “I wanted to throw a good party for all the good people that have been coming for twenty years. We’re having Bunky’s (a cafe also on Atwood and another near-east side of Madison tradition) do the catering because I want all our people to have the day off. And I still thought that we should do a little something for the neighborhood. So, we decided to put a five dollar cover on it and it all goes to the Goodman Community Center.” So, it’s not only a party but a benefit for one of the area’s most valuable programs for at-risk youth as well.

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From left, Alex Smith, Chris Frey, Jake Phelps, JD Skenadore outside Green Bay's Lyric Room.

Harvey Brown

An interview with band Harvey Brown
by Karli Norton
September 2014

The first time I saw Harvey Brown I was thrown off by the strange array of stage props: lava lamps, a garden gnome, a picture of a T-Rex, a Michael Jackson vinyl, a large cut out of Brittney Spears and even a poster for Jurassic Park. I had no idea what I was about to experience. Being unexpected is maybe the only thing that you can expect from Harvey Brown. Recently I sat down with Jake Phelps (vocals), Alex Smith (guitar), Chris Frey (bass) and JD Skenandore (drums) before the band performed an open mic set at downtown Green Bay’s Lyric Room.

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Minneapolis' Heatbox

Heatbox


by Andrew Frey
May 2009

Vocal organists are a hard lot to find. Humans may all be born with mouths, but what emanates from that orifice varies greatly. Babies tend to be the most creative but also unrefined when it comes to their vocal expressions. Some folks however take the time to refine their vocal tool and the results can be spectacular. Case in point HEATBOX, the one man beatboxing sensation from Minneapolis, MN who describes his music as sounding like a “funky a’ capella group from outer space.” 

His new release is called “System” and drops on May 5, 2009, necessitating a tour and therefore a fantastic opportunity to see him live and in top form. I’ve seen HEATBOX several times over the past several years and he is always extremely interesting and entertaining as a performer.  I was pleased when he recently had a moment to answer a few questions. Since the amount of solo beatboxing performers is a slim one at best, I was curious as to how he chose his musical path.  “I have always had a nerdy spot in my heart for a’ capella music… and funk!” Heatobox begins. “But really I think it chose me.”

When performing, Heatbox is far more than just a simple a’ capella performer. Hums, whirls, squeaks, scratches, thumps and bumps are but a paltry attempt to semantically replicate the types of sounds in his arsenal of vocal slurries. I questioned if certain sounds are harder to generate than others?

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Heaven and Hell - Black Sabbath with Dio on the cover of Maximum Ink April 2007 - photo by Mick Huston

Heaven And Hell

an interview with Geezer Butler
by Jeff Muendel
April 2007

Ah, the sordid and storied life of a rock and roll band; make it a heavy metal group, and the drama is always, for lack of a better term, amplified. Sometimes, it’s hard to even know where to begin. In this case, the beginning is somewhere in the middle…

When Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1979 (or was asked to leave, depending upon who you ask), the group replaced him with veteran vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Having recently parted ways with Rainbow, Dio was not only available, but also a known commodity, and his addition to the Black Sabbath ranks made it a sort of metal supergroup. Dio and original members Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward went to work writing new material.

The resulting album was “Heaven and Hell,” both an instant classic and a return for Black Sabbath to the core of their musical style, a mode from which they had drifted significantly in their last years with Osbourne. Through heavy touring and the success of the album, Black Sabbath managed to avoid the drop in popularity that almost always follows the departure of a charismatic lead singer. If anything, their popularity grew.

Drummer Bill Ward left the band due to health problems after the “Heaven and Hell” tour, but Black Sabbath soldiered on and produced another amazing album, “Mob Rules.” The group toured again (with Vinny Appice behind the kit) and simultaneously recorded a live album on the tour. During the mixing of that recording, which would eventually be deemed “Live Evil,” problems began to grow amongst the band members. There were accusations between the new guys (Dio and Appice) and the remaining founding members (bassist Geezer Butler and guitarist Tony Iommi). Within months of the live album’s release, both Dio and Appice had left the group.

Ronnie James Dio went on to form his own band called, quite simply, Dio. Simultaneously, Geezer Butler left Black Sabbath to pursue other paths while Tony Iommi kept the Black Sabbath name alive with various and ever-changing lineups of musicians.

In 1992, Iommi moved to reunite the Dio lineup of Black Sabbath; Butler, Appice, and Dio joined the guitarist once again to record a new album called “Dehumanizer.” They hit the road again, finding themselves in front of huge audiences throughout the world, but it wouldn’t last long.

Toward the end of the “Dehumanizer” tour, Ozzy Osbourne – hugely successful as a solo artist –  announced that he was retiring from rock and roll (that didn’t last long, either) and asked Black Sabbath to join the bill for his last two solo concerts in California. Dio refused to participate because he felt Black Sabbath shouldn’t be reduced to an opening act for Ozzy. The others disagreed, however, and appeared without him, recruiting Rob Halford of Judas Priest to sing. Ozzy ended up joining his old Sabbath mates on stage, and the four original Black Sabbath members decided to reunite. Dio , head held high, regrouped his solo band.

So, it is from this rich history that the Dio-era Black Sabbath now returns, some 15 years later, with a new album and a new tour under the band name Heaven and Hell. Maximum Ink recently had the chance to speak to bassist Geezer Butler about this latest incarnation of the band and get his take on all things Black Sabbath:

MAXIMUM INK: Back in 1979, when Black Sabbath first auditioned Ronnie James Dio, is it true that “Children of the Sea” was written in the first rehearsal?
GEEZER BUTLER: I think so, what I can remember of it, at least. Tony Iommi met Dio at a party and they originally talked about doing something together, you know, another project. They might have jammed some, but then Ozzy left the band. So Dio started to jam with us [Black Sabbath], and I think in one of those early jams, perhaps the first one, “Children of the Sea” came together.

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The Heavils on the cover of Maximum Ink for March 2003

The Heavils


by Andrew Frey
March 2003

Rockford’s The Heavils, and interview with Mossy after being signed to Metal Blade Records in 2003

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The boys of Heavy Glow - photo by Bo Cross

Heavy Glow

An interview with Heavy Glow frontman, Jared Mullins
by Mike Huberty
June 2014

Bluesy rock with emotional vocals, HEAVY GLOW first gives off whiffs of Hendrix guitar with Dave Grohl fronting; it’s a modern sound that will be music to the ears for fans of THE WHITE STRIPES and THE BLACK KEYS. Their music was recently featured on the Stephen King show “Under The Dome” and you can see why it fit perfectly: it’s dark and moody melodic hard rock that sounds like it was meant for listening to driving on a summer night. We took a few minutes to talk to HEAVY GLOW’s lead singer and guitarist Jared Mullins about their upcoming Madison show at the Willy Street Pub and Grill, the Wisco.

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