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Chicago - photo by David M. Earnisse


A 2014 Interview with Robert Lamm
by Sal Serio
March 2014

Taking in the entire breadth and scope of rock group Chicago’s storied career, it’s difficult to fathom the immenseness of the band’s journey, their accomplishments, forays in to a multitude of musical genres, and ability to survive in the ever changing climate of popular culture. After all, this is the first American rock band to chart Top 40 albums in six decades, and is the highest charting American band (# 13) in Billboard’s list of Top 100 artists of all time.

With the recent highlights of performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and inclusion of their very first album, ‘Chicago Transit Authority’ (1969), in to the Grammy Hall Of Fame, the band is currently riding a new wave of enthusiasm and confidence. Maximum Ink’s Sal Serio got to speak to founding member, keyboardist, vocalist, and composer, Robert Lamm, in advance of Chicago’s upcoming Wisconsin appearances (April 28 at Overture Hall in Madison, May 1 at Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, and two dates at Milwaukee’s Riverside Theatre – April 30 & May 4).


Red Dragon Cartel featuring Jake E. Lee

Red Dragon Cartel

The Return of Guitar Slinger Jake E. Lee - an in depth interview with singer D.J. Smith
by Sal Serio
February 2014

I consider myself fortunate to have seen one of the first gigs by the new Jake E. Lee project, Red Dragon Cartel, January 24th at The Grove in Anaheim. The band was tight and full of attitude as they blasted through their new material, in a set peppered with highlights from Jake’s past work with Badlands and Ozzy Osbourne. I had the opportunity to catch up with vocalist Darren James Smith before the group starts it’s initial tour, which hits Wisconsin on Friday, March 21 , at the Back Bar in Janesville, with openers Convoy and Hessler.

Maximum Ink:  You were originally a drummer, and you’re from Canada, correct?
D.J. Smith:  I toured the planet with a band called Harem Scarem, out of Toronto. I had left the band back in 2002 [or] 2003. My last show with them was in Japan, and I had an opportunity to sing for a band called Juice, that was signed to BMG. I wanted to try something different. I just did a 20 year reunion tour with Harem Scarem, just prior to starting with the Jake band.

MI:  From what I’ve been reading, it seems that there was a Facebook post about Jake starting a new band, and all these people replied wanting the gig. That seems bizarre, is that really what happened?
DJ:  I didn’t see any of that! Here in Canada, we have a franchise of music stores called Long & McQuade, and my buddy Kevin Simpson is the manager of the one in Oshawa, the town I live in. I went in there and he said, “Hey man, Jake E. Lee is looking for a singer”, and I’m like, “Yeah, so? Why are you telling me?” I figured it was a long shot, if anything. Anyway, I sent [something] in, and 12 hours later, my phone rang. I sent a video I shot with a band called Bastard, and it was a real sleazy, punk-rocky, in-your-face, rock tune and video (“L.A. Whore”). YouTube actually labeled it “Most Shocking” Rock Video. I don’t think it’s that shocking, but it definitely has no taste!  (laughing)  So, they saw that, and apparently they liked it.


Drive-By Truckers - photo by David McClister

Drive-By Truckers

Songwriting, Records, and The Problem With Southern Stereotypes - The Mike Cooley Interview
by Sal Serio
February 2014

Drive-By Truckers are back with an excellent new CD, ‘English Oceans’, due out March 4, and a new tour with openers Blitzen Trapper, which hits Milwaukee’s Turner Hall March 26, First Avenue in Minneapolis March 27, and Madison on March 28. Maximum Ink’s Sal Serio had a fun and insightful conversation with co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist Mike Cooley.

Maximum Ink: I was just listening to an advance copy of the ‘English Oceans’ release. You’ve got a lot of songs on there, the most for you since ‘Brighter Than Creation’s Dark’. Was that a reflection of a particularly creative time for you, or was it more luck of the draw?
Mike Cooley: I’ve always done that, but the last time around, when it kind of dried up, was a little longer than it had ever been. The timing was just awful. [It] was a big relief for me to come in with that many new songs that I felt that strongly about. This time I did a lot more writing things down as I thought of them. Just a line here, a line there, and stockpiling that. As I would get something started that seemed like it was going somewhere, I could look back and occasionally pull something out of there that would help me bridge the gap and get me to the next piece of it.


King Khan - photo by Matias Corral

King Khan and The Shrines

Idle No More and Back To Serve Up Spiritual Soul Mayhem
by Sal Serio
September 2013

Mark it on your calendars, if you haven’t already! King Khan & The Shrines return to Wisconsin on Tuesday, October 22, for a crazed high-octane psychedelic-soul garage-pop rock revival at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. Maximum Ink recently had the enjoyable opportunity to speak with band leader Arish Ahmad Khan (the “King” himself!) via phone from his home in Berlin, Germany, where he’s resided for the past nine years.


Dweezil Zappa

Zappa Plays Zappa

Touring the Roxy, the Pabst, & Elsewhere
by Sal Serio
August 2013

Zappa Plays Zappa returns to Wisconsin with a new tour, celebrating Frank Zappa’s classic live ‘Roxy & Elsewhere’ album. In advance of the September 8th Pabst Theater concert in Milwaukee, Maximum Ink had the opportunity to speak with band leader Dweezil Zappa. [author’s note: Zappa Plays Zappa is also performing the “Roxy & Elsewhere 40th Anniversary Tour” at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Monday, February 17, 2014.]

Maximum Ink:  Are there plans to release new original Dweezil music in near future?

Dweezil Zappa:  Yeah! There’s a project I just finished working on, that will come out in a few stages. I do a music camp called Dweezilla, and this year I invited other guitar instructors to be a part of it, and we did a comprehensive guitar course. In years past, just my band would teach, and you could have drum, bass, keyboard, [or] saxophone lessons, but this year was only guitar. I used that as an opportunity to collaborate with some of the people that I invited to be guitar instructors. So, there will be a Dweezilla guitar release, and the first installment of it will have four songs on it, I think. There’s music that has sections for seven different guitar instructors to improvise on. My piece of music is called “Dinosaur” and will be coming out, probably, around the same time as the tour, or may come out in time for the October tour.


Mary Zimmer from classic Ottomon Empire days...  - photo by Laura Koeppel

Luna Mortis

Looking Back and Moving Forward, the Return of Luna Mortis
by Sal Serio
July 2013

So you wanna be a rock ‘n roll star? Well, listen now, to what I say. You shopped around your demo, attracted some major label interest, and – viola! – you got signed. Now it’s time to live the dream, right? Elaborate catering requests on riders, swanky tour busses, swimming pools, and groupies lined up down the hall of the Embassy Suites. You’re on easy street, right? I’m sorry to say, the trip may not be a rosy as a baby’s bottom, after all.


White Mystery - photo by Diane Alexander White

White Mystery

Live at Mickey’s, Fri. July 5, with The Arge & The Non Travellin’ Band
by Sal Serio
June 2013

Some sound advice from the Salamander: do NOT go totally gonzo-party overboard this 4th of July, because you’ll most definitely want to save some energy for Friday the 5th and the stellar rock ‘n roll triple bill showcased at Mickey’s Tavern in Madison. Headlining (but playing second on the bill) is the garage-rock power-duo from Chicago: White Mystery! This is White Mystery’s first Madison appearance since opening for Shonen Knife at the UW Terrace last August.


Die Kreuzen

Die Kreuzen

“Gone Away” But Not Forgotten, Back For A Limited Time Only
by Sal Serio
May 2013

I turned 18 in 1981. Like many others who transformed from boys to young men in the early 80s, it was a time of confusion, but also one of excitement. America’s socio- political landscape had radically changed to one of conservatism and military intervention during the Reagan regime, and equally as turbulent was the beloved institution of rock and roll. Mainstays of arena rock were suddenly seen as antiquated… out of touch with a new look and attitude. Punk had taken over, and given the agitation of the times, it’s no wonder.

Much appreciated about the punk movement was how the barrier between musician and audience was broken down. In the 70s, chances were unlikely that a pimply-faced young dude would get to hang out with one of his heroes. This privilege was almost exclusively reserved for pretty girls. Likewise, to become a popular rocker seemed a nearly unobtainable quest. With punk, the fans all had their own bands, and many times the venues did not even have stages. We all stood on the same ground, and we all drank from the same keg when the show was over.

Which is not to say we didn’t have bands to look up to. When I joined my first punk band in 1983, we all brought a lot of influences to the table, but our commonality was that we wanted to be like Black Flag and Die Kreuzen.


Dark Star Orchestra - photo by Bob Minkin

Dark Star Orchestra

An interview with guitarist Jeff Mattson
by Sal Serio
January 2013

One of the true originals in the history of American music remains the Grateful Dead, and even though the group disbanded in 1995 after the death of lead guitarist, vocalist, and co-founder Jerry Garcia, the Dead phenomenon continues full force. Among the strongest contingencies involved in keeping the vibe of the Dead authentic, and turning on new fans to the GD concert experience is Dark Star Orchestra, who formed in Chicago in 1997 when guitarist John Kadlecik and keyboardist Scott Larned shared the concept of starting a band that recreated entire Grateful Dead concerts from the past. Over the years, Dark Star’s legacy has grown, and a few line-up changes have occurred, including the shocking passing of Scott Larned in 2005. In 2009, Kadlecik was asked to join the band Furthur with original Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, and at that point Jeff Mattson, of Zen Tricksters and Donna Jean Godchaux Band fame, was logically asked to fill the Jerry Garcia role in Dark Star. In anticipation of DSO’s approaching upper Midwest dates (Jan 30 at First Avenue in Minneapolis, Jan 31 at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison WI, Feb 1 at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee, and Feb 2 at the Vic Theater in Chicago) I had the opportunity to speak to Jeff Mattson by phone while he was enjoying some time off at his home in New York state.


Mojo Radio - photo by Brian Ebner/Optic Nerve

Mojo Radio

Madison's Guitar-Driven Harmonica-Powered Rock ‘n Roll Juggernaut!
by Sal Serio
November 2012

The local Madison guitar-driven harmonica-powered rock ‘n roll juggernaut known as Mojo Radio has a lot of positive momentum to hang their hats on these days. Their first self-titled CD has garnered attention in both the Midwest and the East Coast, as well as Germany and France. Having just signed to the self-proclaimed “high octane riffage total guitar” label Grooveyard Records, the group is now fine-tuning material for a second full length release. I was recently able to catch the band in their rehearsal space to get some insight in to how they got to this enviable position in such a short time span, and what the future promises. Mojo Radio is Jason “JP” Peterson on guitar, drummer extraordinaire Brent King, bassist Scott Aumann, and singer/harp player Adam Zierten.


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