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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.


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Driveway Thriftdwellers

The 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


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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”.


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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.


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Wayland - photo by JR Wyatt

Wayland

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.
PV:
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?


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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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Tenacious D on the cover of Maximum Ink in April 2002

Tenacious D

by Michelle Harper
April 2002

Yes! Finally, an original and innovative musical group pierces the rerun neo-metal trend of the new millennium. Of course, musical geniuses such as Brittany Spears and the Backstreet Boys (pre-rehab visits) have made it almost impossible for anyone to look good, or even competent, in comparison. But, the hilarious sarcasm of Jack Black and Kyle Gass are making a run for glory despite the uphill trek, riding their mighty steeds with a guitar in one hand and a scepter in the other. Their mission? Tenacious D wants to kick some ass, rock your face off, and allow you the privilege of witnessing the “greatest band that ever was”.

It all began in 1996 when Gass and Black met in the L.A-based theater group, The Actor’s Gang. Gass instructed Black on some guitar techniques, and the two became fast friends. The duo has made cameo appearances in such flicks as Bio-Dome, Cradle Will Rock, and more recently, an HBO short documenting the hilariously intense rise to ass-kicking stardom - Tenacious D-style.  Black has made a name for himself as an actor as well, appearing as a clerk in John Cusak’s record store in High Fidelity, and the Farley Brothers’ flick Shallow Hal with Gwynneth Paltrow.  Finally, after six years, with the help of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and production team The Dust Brothers , Tenacious D is on their way to selling 11 million records, just as Black so grandiosely predicted.


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Fear Factory on the cover of Maximum Ink in July 2001

Fear Factory

by Michelle Harper
July 2001

When a friend told me last month that she heard of some band called “Fear Factory” playing the House Of Blues in Chicago, I thought to myself, “That sounds odd.  A metal band playing the House of Blues?”  Then, when I heard that Fear Factory was to be one of the only non-Country bands to headline the Wisconsin Dane County Junior Fair since I was in Middle School, I became intrigued.  I called my publisher almost the same day requesting to do a piece on the popular hard core, leather-wearing band performing in such unusual venues. 

Fear Factory’s fourth LP entitled “Digimortal” is a blend of cyber-metal screams describing in detail the unification of man and machine.  Burton C. Bell sings of an apocalyptic vision in which cloning and memory implants hold the potential of sustaining human life forever, while guitarist Dino Cazares, bassist Christian Olde Wolbers and drummer Raymond Herrera fuel the raging and powerful nightmare.  This latest project exemplifies a progressive effort for the band that originated back in 1992. 

Some facts about the fearless foursome—ten years on the road, four LPs and an EP, a gold record for their third LP “Obsolete”, a black T-shirt, long-haired appearance reminiscent of early Sepultura or Slayer and live shows that are said to radiate phenomenal energy and emotion.  Success of such a band is no small feat, especially given the growing popularity of generically formatted Slipknot/Limp Bizkit imitations.


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The Union Underground on the cover of Maximum Ink June 2001

Union Underground

by Michelle Harper
June 2001

It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and Bryan Scott sounds like he’s been up for days. One of the handful of fortunate bands to participate in this year’s blockbuster “Ozzfest” tour, Union Underground’s lead singer is tired, but still going strong. “We’re leaving for Europe for three weeks, then back home for like a day, then we’re doing Ozzfest for like three months”.  Fatigued but eager to talk about his band, Scott begins recounting the life of a hard working musician on his way to the top, and his participation in the festival of the summer—Ozzfest.

For Scott, Union Underground began ten years ago when he met guitarist Patrick Kennison. Scott laughs, saying “Patrick and I have been teaching each other guitar since we were 14. I was the guy in school wearing the Guns-N-Roses T-shirt and he was the guy wearing the Metallica shirt.  We’ve basically been married for 10 years.”  Scott’s love of music began as soon as he purchased Motely Crue’s “Shout at the Devil”, and he’s been singing hard ever since.


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Rockford's now defunct 420 on the cover of Maximum Ink in March 2001

Four Twenty

by Michelle Harper
March 2001

420 is not a band with a story of California glitz and glamour. 420 is not a band recounting brutal management dramas or record label feuds. 420 is not about image. According to vocalist Mike Kerry, 420 is about limitless musical boundaries, finding truth in life, and following a dream out of the Midwest into the great beyond.

Formed in early 1998, Mike Kerry, Tom Parrott, John Pond and Mike “Bunj” Bunjan have been causing quite a stir in their hometown of Rockford, Illinois.  In 1999, the group won the Rockford Area Music Industry’s Critic’s Choice for “Composer of the Year” for their debut EP “In Four Twenty”. Another RAMI followed the same year for the song “Hands or Time”. Although the band is fairly new to the music scene, Mike and Tom Parrott have been expressing their passion for innovation for over a decade.  “The thing about the members of the band”, Mike explains, “is that we all either own businesses or have huge responsibilities to them. We want to succeed, but we have lives too.”  This has kept 420 fairly localized for 3 years.


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