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Blacktop Mojo

Blacktop Mojo 2018

An interview with Singer Matt James
by Michelle Harper
July 2018

It’s not that throwing axes while drinking whisky is a bad idea. It’s just a better idea if you’re with Blacktop Mojo.
The guys from Palestine Texas (Matt James, Nathan Gillis, Ryan Kiefer, Matt Curtis, along with newest member, guitarist Chuck Wepfer from Milwaukee Wisconsin) are touring the country in support of their second album “Burn the Ships”. They just played their first festival, Rock fest, in Cadott Wisconsin, and joined rock’s elite by getting photographed and promoted by the infamous Lou Brutus. Blacktop Mojo’s down and dirty Texas grunge style is getting noticed, but not just for their original music. They do covers like no one else.




An interview with bassist Pär Sundström
by Michelle Harper
February 2018

Nothing can prepare you for the epic sound of Swedish metal band Sabaton. Except maybe, a shield, sword and battle gear.

Sabaton, which translates into “a knight’s foot armor”, draws their musical inspiration directly from the great wars and battles throughout history. Their ninth album entitled “The Last Stand” was released in 2016 to rave reviews. Drawing inspiration from famous “last stands” in great historic battles, the songs in this concept album march from the triumphant echoes of victorious anthems to chanting battle cries in minor keys, each track masterfully depicting the spirit of heroic last efforts of soldiers of yore. The album’s first track entitled “Sparta” intensely recaptures the heroic yet tragic last stand of the famous “300” Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae. And the fast and furious driving sound of “Shiroyama” rigorously illustrates the last stand of the Samurai in the 1877 Samurai rebellion on Japan’s Mount Shiroyama.

Sabaton bassist and co-founder Pär Sundström talked with me about Sabaton’s partnership with international game developer and publisher Wargaming, a once-in-a lifetime fan experience and why he’s one of the few metal musicians who love sitting behind a desk doing office work.


1823 ViewsPermalinkSabaton WebsiteSabaton Wiki
Immigrè - an Electrifying Immigration to Afrobeat - photo by Otehlia Cassidy


An Electrifying Immigration to Afrobeat - An interview with Bassist Ryan Lammey
by Michelle Harper
January 2018

The love of the musical and cultural message of Afrobeat is what inspired this group of accomplished and prolific musicians join forces and form what would be known after 2012 as Immigrè. Citing influences such as Tony Allen, Fela Kuti, Antibalas, Amadou & Mariam to name a few, Immigrè ‘s high energy, uniquely fresh sound is undeniably contagious.


1435 ViewsPermalinkImmigrè Website
Blacktop Mojo

Blacktop Mojo

An interview with Lead Vocalist Matt James
by Michelle Harper
November 2017

In 2012 in a small town called Palestine, Texas, population 18,383, a new undefinable sound was born. Through years of hard work, hard play, and a whole lot of Texas Silver Star Whiskey, five musicians from East Texas created a new music genre that fuses heavy guitar riffs, gritty melodic vocals with a little southern twang.

The band is Blacktop Mojo and the genre is Texas Grunge.

Matt James, lead vocalist of the band, told me the story of how he came to be a part of this unique group of guys.

Born in Rusk Texas, Matt’s family moved around a lot, which he attributes to creating his diverse musical tastes.


1233 ViewsPermalinkBlacktop Mojo Website
The Big Payback on the cover of Maximum Ink music magazine

The Big Payback

"An Interview with Guitarist Kyle Rightley"
by Michelle Harper
November 2016

The Big Payback is about to unleash a brand new bag of jazz-rock brass-laced funk on Madison’s music scene.

Five years after their debut album “Overture” took audiences by storm, The Big Payback is releasing a new album entitled “Animal Brain” on November 18th. And, with the talent and projects compiled in the 9-piece musical powerhouse, recording it was no small feat. Fronted by the spicy soulful vocals of Leah Isabel Tirado, TBP is compromised of highly experienced and profoundly innovative artists whose collective sound has earned them award after award after award. Guitarist Kyle Rightley took time out this week to talk with me about “Animal Brain” and how the theme of musically unifying the duality of the human mind came to fruition.


1896 ViewsPermalinkBig Payback Website
Driveway Thriftdwellers

Driveway Thriftdwellers

An Interview with Jon and Ryan Knudson
by Michelle Harper
August 2016

Jon and Ryan Knudson know backwoods country. Wisconsin backwoods, that is.

Influenced by farm life and bands such as The Flying Burrito Brothers, Little Feat and Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Driveway Thriftdwellers sound like a meld of classic bluegrass country fusion and garage music from the 60s and 70s


Jane Lee Hooker on the cover of Maximum Ink  - photo by Alan Rand

Jane Lee Hooker

An interview with Guitarist Tracy 'High Top' Almazan
by Michelle Harper
July 2016

The Blues just got an exciting makeover, and it’s called Jane Lee Hooker.

The band’s debut album entitled “No B!” was released April of this year by Ruf Records. It’s filled with original takes on classic blues songs such as Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and “Champagne and Refer”, Willie Dixon’s “Shake for Me” and Albert King’s “The Hunter”, along with an original track “In the Valley”. It’s earned rave reviews and high praise for its electric vibe and aggressive sound.

Formed in New York City in 2013, the members of JLH are no strangers to the music business. Guitarist Tracy ‘High Top’ Almazan has been playing for years in such bands as The Wives (with JLH bassist Hail Mary Z), Helldorado and Nashville Pussy, while the band’s other guitarist Tina “T Bone” Gorin, played with NYC band Bad Wizard. After a long hiatus from playing music, longtime friends High Top and T Bone decided to get together and make something new and exciting happen.

“I had stopped playing music altogether for about eight years”, High Top recalls. “Tina had stopped playing music for a bunch of years. We just didn’t feel like doing it anymore separately. And we just reconnected and said hey, let’s try to put a band together for fun. We got Melissa “Cool Whip” Houston on drums right away, and she was amazing! And I brought in (bassist) Mary”.


2359 ViewsPermalinkJane Lee Hooker Website
Buffalo Kilers - Homegrown Rock on the Farm

Buffalo Killers

An interview with Bassist/Vocalist Zachary Gabbard
by Michelle Harper
July 2016

Buffalo Killers guitarist Zach Gabbard couldn’t be happier.

After ten years, six albums, an EP, touring with The Black Crowes and working with producers John Curley, Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys and Jim Wirt (Fiona Apple, Incubus), the band is slowing down to break new ground making music in their very own studio.

Brothers Andrew and Zachary Gabbard and drummer Joseph Sebaali formed Buffalo Killers in 2006 after their previous band Thee Shams broke up. Their 60s garage band psychedelic sound drew crowds by word of mouth, and got the attention of Alive Records, who Zach says are like “family”. After touring with The Black Crowes and working with Black Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach on the production of “Let It Ride” in 2008, Buffalo Killers began making an album annually beginning with “3” in 2011, followed by “Dig. Sow. Love. Grow in 2012 and Ohio Grass (Record Store Day) in 2013. Sven Kahns joined the group in 2014 to play guitar and lap steel and the album Heavy Reverie was released. Their EP “Fireball of Sulk” came out that same year.


Wayland - photo by JR Wyatt


An interview with lead guitarist Phillip Vilenski
by Michelle Harper
November 2015

One hundred and sixty four miles from Lincoln City, the birthplace of legendary rocker Bob Segar, is a town called Wayland, Michigan. With a population of around 4,000 people, it’s safe to say that unless you’re from the area, you probably have never heard of the place.

Enter Wayland, the band. Their hot, searing vocals, combined with a blues/rock fusion sound will make sure that, not only will you know about the town of Wayland, Michigan…

You’ll never forget it.

Their new single entitled “Bloody Sunrise” is taking the radio waves by storm. I had the privilege of speaking with lead guitarist Phil Vilenski, as he and the band were driving down the road in their tour bus somewhere between Memphis and Shreveport.

MI: I read that you and Mitch (Mitch Arnold, lead singer of Wayland) met in California around 10 years ago.
It’s funny because we’re all Midwestern guys, we’re all from Michigan, Mitch is from Indiana, and we met in Los Angeles.

MI: That is funny.  So how did you guys meet? Did you meet in a club? Were you auditioning for groups? What happened?


2710 ViewsPermalinkWayland Website
Red Sun Rising - photo by LeAnn Mueller

Red Sun Rising

An interview with singer Mike Protich
by Michelle Harper
October 2015

I first heard Red Sun Rising’s “The Otherside” on the radio, driving to work. My first thoughts were “this reminds me of Alice in Chains”. But then, when the verse built up to that first soaring note of the chorus, and then Mike Protich hit that note dead on, my mouth dropped. 
The melody was flawless. Mike was flawless. And I wrote my publisher as soon as I got home, telling him that I wanted to do a piece on this newly emerging band, Red Sun Rising, and that I’d do all the leg work to make it happen. 

It is that good.


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