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Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks in Maximum Ink in December 2007

Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks

by Brett Lemke
December 2007

Dan Hicks has been performing an eclectic mix of staccato, alt-jazz guitar over the brushed swagger of his swing band The Hot Licks for over 30 years. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hicks has just released “Duets,” a download-only album featuring collaborations with Tom Waits, Bette Midler, Willie Nelson, and Rickie Lee Jones. Hicks spoke with Maximum Ink about the new incarnation of The Hot Licks, his first band The Charlatans, and working with filmmaker Ralph Bakshi.


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Dropkick Murphys on the cover of Maximum Ink November 2007

The Dropkick Murphys

an interview with Vocalist Al Barr
by Kimberly E. McDaniel
November 2007

Coming from a working-class background in Boston, The Dropkick Murphys have not forgotten that life. Having been successful with fans and critics, the band has had one hell of a ride, highlighted in recent years by Martin Scorsese using their song “Shipping Up To Boston” in his film “The Departed” in 2006, and writing the theme song for the Boston Red Sox in 2004.

“The Meanest of Times” delivers the band’s trademark Irish-infused punk, with the central theme of family tying the album together. The album also marks the launch of the band’s label, Born & Bred Records. In the midst of their current tour, vocalist Al Barr took time out to talk to Maximum Ink.

MAXIMUM INK: Most people describe your music as punk music. Do you really think that fits?
AL BARR: Opinions vary. For me, we have the ferocity and the backbone and the ethos of punk.

MAX INK: How did you decide to put the Irish music in with the punk? Are you guys all of Irish descent?
BARR: You’re talking to the one guy in the band who doesn’t have any Irish blood in him! Everyone else in the band has got some Irish blood in them. The first song that the band wrote, “Barroom Hero,” had bagpipes on it. We could have always done it in the studio, but we decided that if we couldn’t recreate that onstage then it was kind of cheesey.


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Eric Sommer

by Brett Lemke
July 2007

Keeping up the frenetic pace of touring can wear down many a band, but for those who thrive on music to stay alive, it can be addictive. Eric Sommer is a one-man guitar-slinger from Washington, D.C., who plays constantly up-and-down the coast and has been venturing to the Midwest frequently in the last half-decade. His spirit burns as bright as a million-candlepower spotlight, and his street-level philosophy captivates the listener’s yearning ear. In preparation for his 15-date Midwest tour in July, he spoke with Maximum Ink about his journey, his songwriting, and his alchemical on-stage ethos. 

MAXIMUM INK: Tell me about how you became a traveling troubadour.
ERIC SOMMER: I toured for 15 years with a lot of big bands in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It all came to a head in Providence, RI, at a show opening for the Dead Kennedys. I was with The Atomics, which was the house band at Cantone’s. Everyone played with us; Mission of Burma, Gang Of Four, Dinosaur Jr., and one night it all fell apart, all over women. It was a true rock story, just ugly. The next morning, everyone’s girlfriend ended up at everyone else’s house. I quit, took everything I had, sold it, and tried to keep busy for the next ten years. It was very unsatisfying. It was easy to make money, but hard to make a difference. I was a cog in the wheel, in the machine. About five years ago, the Bayfront Blues Festival put me on to close out their acoustic stage. I did really well, there were standing ovations and I couldn’t get off the stage. It was really wonderful. On the drive out from some gigs in Virginia, I took notes and made it my regular route. Five years later I do 275 shows a year. I’m going to Texas in September and I’m in the studio right now with Ken Eddinger from Blondie. He’s producing five or six songs and getting me some radio interest.


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Asylum Street Spankers on the cover of Maximum Ink February 2007

Asylum Street Spankers

by Brett Lemke
February 2007

An interview with Wammo of the Asylum Street Spankers


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Bo Diddley, the legendary Hall of Famer speaks with Brett Lemke

Bo Diddley

by Brett Lemke
October 2006

Bo Diddley is the originator. Born in 1928, he is widely acknowledged as the father of rock n’ roll, a grandfather to punk, and has been copied more times than any recorded musician this side of Clyde Stubblefield. Like Stubblefield, Diddley has been elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammies.

His signature rhythm, the “Bo Diddley Beat” has spurred generations of rockers, from Buddy Holly, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Guns n’ Roses, to the Rolling Stones, Muddy Waters, Aerosmith, Bob Seger, the Animals and, of course, George Thorogood. In 2003, Diddley was honored by US Representative John Conyers, Jr., who stated that Bo Diddley was “one of the true pioneers of rock and roll who has influenced generations,” and he’s been instrumental in helping to organize benefits for Katrina victims in Mississippi.

Some believe the name Bo Diddley comes from an old, southern black slang phrase meaning “nothing at all,” as in, “he ain’t bo diddley.” Others believe it may have been his nickname as a Golden Gloves boxer. Another story links the name to the “diddley bow,” a one-stringed instrument that consisted of a nail and some bailing wire attached to your front porch; A common start for many players on the old south.

In 1955, Bo Diddley was the first African-American to appear on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and he was also the first person to be banned: According to the history books, he was asked to play a cover song, “16 Tons,” but instead played his No. 1 R&B hit, “Bo Diddley.” Enraging Sullivan, Diddley was banned from further appearances on the show, 12 years before The Doors were banned for singing “girl we couldn’t get much higher” in 1967. Diddley later recalled that Ed Sullivan commented that he was, “the first colored boys to ever double-cross me.”


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The Siegel-Schwall Band - originally from Madison, WI

The Siegel-Schwall Band

by Brett Lemke
January 2006

The Siegel-Schwall Band first emerged in 1966 on Vanguard Records in the height of the Summer Of Love blues boomlet. Young Corky & Jim were students of the Chicago Blues and could be found cutting their chops in the Windy City’s clubs with legends like Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Hubert Sumlin on an average Thursday evening. Siegel-Schwall released nine studio albums and collaborated with conductor Seiji Ozawa and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra before parting ways in 1974. Their traditional routine of yearly reunion shows since their 1988 Reunion Concert album on Alligator Records has finally been broken, and the group has released Flash Forward, their first studio record in 32 years featuring all originals, and their most polished effort to date. Maximum Ink spoke with Jim Schwall and drummer Sam Lay about what lies ahead for them.

Originally starting out as a duo for small club gigs, Jim would play guitar, Corky would play piano, harp, and percussion, and they both would sing. A rotating rhythm section was added when bookings for larger gigs became standard. When they were signed to Vanguard Records, Siegel-Schwall released four records: The Siegel-Schwall Band, Say Siegel-Schwall, Shake and Siegel-Schwall 70. The group moved to RCA/Wooden Nickel in 1971 and released Sleepy Hollow, 953 West, Last Summer and the aptly titled R.I.P. before breaking up in 1974. Siegel went on to pursue a solo career intertwined with a fusion of classical music and blues and Jim Schwall earned a PhD in Music.


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Evanescence on the Cover of Maximum Ink in February 2004

Evanescence

by Brett Lemke
February 2004

As the constrictive walls between orchestrated classical music and modern metal have been hazily blurring, few have stepped through the sea of fog to challenge the listeners yearning ear. In dictionary terms, Evanescence is the act or state of vanishing away; the disappearance of vapor(s), of a dream, or of earthly plants or hopes. The solid reality, however, is a group concluding their second world tour in support of their quadruple-platinum album “Fallen”.

Frontwoman Amy Lee spoke with Maximum Ink from a bar in Tokyo about the recent lineup change, their worldwide notoriety, and Ludwig Van Beethoven.


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Canned Heat circa 2003

Canned Heat

by Brett Lemke
August 2003

They were the Scotch-and-Marlboro Blues voice of the Summer Of Love. Canned Heat’s story endures with their cross-generational appeal as the dynamic blues band that played the theme song to Woodstock and backed up John Lee Hooker. From Woodstock and the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival to Hell’s Angels club tours to festivals and bike rallies, drummer and founding member Adolfo “Fito” De La Parra has re-formed Canned Heat a dozen times with reoccurring members, blues legends, and new faces. He has been touring constantly and releasing new records for 37 years, and is currently promoting the new album Friends In The Can. Fito spoke with Maximum Ink about the new line up, his autobiography Living The Blues, and pushing forward in the mission of delivering boogie music to people who will listen.

In 1969, Canned Heat manager Skip Taylor was booking the band nightly on opposite coasts. “We were [sleeping] in the cargo area of the planes between gigs,” said Fito, “I was sleeping on the floor of the airplane hangar while the helicopters were taking off.” They had to commandeer a helicopter from a news crew to get to the festival. “Fuck you, we’re going to MAKE the news!!” Bear was quoted in Living The Blues. He then hurled the reporter through the door, “We are The Canned Heat. It is more important that we get there than you, so we’re taking this helicopter!” When finally in the air, Taylor shot off a random photo of the crowd as they flew onto the grounds. Later, it became the cover of Ravi Shankar’s Woodstock album. The roadies made it through the sea of people and met the band with their gear as they landed. Later while on LSD, Taylor negotiated an on-site contract for royalties and film rights, and stole a limo for their gig in Atlantic City the next night. Going Up The Country was forever after the theme song for Woodstock. “We’re more infamous than famous,” said Fito, “But we really don’t care.”


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Robert Randolph & the Family Band on the cover of Maxmum Ink in June 2003

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

by Brett Lemke
June 2003

With the entrancing sound of Robert Randolph’s 13 string Pedal Steel, a brutally tight rhythm section, and a dynamic Hammond organ, Robert Randolph & The Family Band have blasted through the jamband scene. Their combination of Gospel, Blues, and relentless passion explodes with a burning fury onstage. All in all, they justly deserved their recent W.C. Handy award for Best New Artist. “We know what to play when it comes to gospel, and how you’re supposed to play it,” said Robert Randolph during a recent interview with Maximum Ink.

Years spent growing up in church in Orange, New Jersey and staying active in the musical community of his congregation helped 24 year-old Robert develop his skill playing the lap steel guitar. His two cousins, Bassist Danyell Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph, along with longtime friend/organist John Ginty make the Family Band. “We used to play Ted’s Jam in church all the time,” said Robert, “The music at our church is truly unique. Everybody gets involved. They call it ‘dancing under the holy spirit.’ “


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Nevada Backwards on the cover of Maximum Ink in May 2003

Nevada Backwards

by Brett Lemke
May 2003

Nevada Backwards are the hellbillys from Sacramento, California. A quartet of acoustic musicians, their sound is an amalgam of alt-punk and jamband bluegrass. Acoustic to Nevada Backwards, however, does not mean quiet. Their tortured sandpaper vocals and driving mandolin/banjo overtones fill each room with primordial savagery.

Brian Ballantine takes care of the vocals and guitar, Keith Lionetti plays upright bass, Troy Kimura bangs a ¾ size drum set, and Mick Stevenson plays mandolin, banjo, and acoustic guitar. “We’re totally unplugged,” says guitar/singer Brian Ballantine, “That’s it. It’s the only way that it can be done.”

In their spare time the four operate Tortellinni in Sacramento, a printing press and studio where they lease practice space to bands and musicians in the area. They work with each other and they are in a band together. “We have some practice space, and we’re releasing a CD on our own label,” says Keith. If this is in any way reflective of their personalities, then that to me is an assurance is that they won’t break up due to an ego issue.


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