Tag Archive | "mr. big"

SONS OF APOLLO Announces Worldwide Release Of Special Six-Track EP of New Single

SONS OF APOLLO Announces Worldwide Release Of Special Six-Track EP of New Single

SONS OF APOLLO–former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force)—released a six-song EP today, “ALIVE”/“TENGO VIDA,” which includes three versions of the latest single, “Alive,” from their #1 debut album, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY, as well as three versions of the song in Spanish, “Tengo Vida.” It’s available now on all digital outlets worldwide.

Here’s the complete track listing:

Alive – album version
Alive – radio edit
Alive – acoustic version
Tengo Vida (Alive Spanish version) – standard
Tengo Vida (Alive Spanish version) – radio edit
Tengo Vida (Alive Spanish version) – acoustic version

The Vicente Cordero-directed for “Alive” is now available in both versions.

The Spanish version can be seen here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HapnyVmGHlk&feature=youtu.be

The English version can be seen here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_O8VZgL_9IQ.

“It was discussed we should do a Spanish language version of ‘Alive’ before our first tour in South America and I was excited to make it work,” explains singer Jeff Scott Soto. “I brought in my close friend Alex to help with the translation as well as coach me on my enunciation. I am not fluent in Spanish so it was a difficult process, but it sounds pretty damn cool now that we made it work. I think my favorite part is hearing Bumblefoot singing in Spanish!”

Guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal is excited about offering these new versions of “Alive” to their fans. “I love stripping down a song to its simplest form, showing the core of what the song is,” he says. “The acoustic version of ‘Alive’ has that naked vulnerability, and shows what a great lyricist and melody-maker Jeff is.”

PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY—which Loudwire.com called an “impressive debut disc”–debuted at #1 on Billboard’s “Heatseeker Albums” chart, as well as #10 on the “Rock Chart,” and #33 on the “Top Current Albums” chart. As Vintage Guitar declares, “This super-duper ensemble is like an old back issue of Marvel Team-Up that simply cannot be ignored.” Order it here: http://smarturl.it/SonsOfApolloPS.

In touring news, SONS OF APOLLO is set to launch the second leg of their first-ever highly anticipated world tour on April 19 in Montreal, Quebec at the Corona Theatre. The band has now added more shows in Mexico, Japan and Europe, including stops in the United Kingdom, France, the Czech Republic, and Toulouse, France for the Very Prog Festival on October 12. For more information about tickets and on sale dates, fans should visit SonsOfApollo.com.

As Mike Portnoy declares, “Ever since this lineup assembled to make PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY, the thing I’ve been most excited about is anticipating how insane I know this band is going to be on stage. Well, the wait is almost over! Here are the first U.S. dates that will get to witness this ‘five-headed musical spectacle’ live on stage in February. We plan on being on tour all year long, all over the globe, with plenty of dates now being announced for summer festivals throughout Europe, but these are the very first shows that will get to witness this amazing lineup in person for the first time. We can’t wait!”

Released October 20 via InsideOutMusic / Sony, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY is available as a 2CD Mediabook (featuring a second disc of instrumental mixes and extended booklet with an exclusive Studio Diary), Gatefold 2LP vinyl + CD (which comes with an etching on side D and the entire album on the CD), Standard Jewelcase CD & digital download. It was produced by the dynamic production duo of Portnoy and Sherinian, also affectionately known as “The Del Fuvio Brothers,” which is the nickname given to them over 20 years ago during their time together in Dream Theater.

Check out SONS OF APOLLO at any of the following stops:

Thu 4/5 – Monterrey, Mexico – Escena
Fri 4/6 – Mexico City, Mexico – Circo Volador
Sun 4/8 – Santiago, Chile – Teatro Teleton
Tue 4/10 – Buenos Aires, Argentina – Groove
Thu 4/12 – Porto Alegre, Brazil – Opinião Bar
Sat 4/14 – São Paulo, Brazil – Tropical Butanta
Sun 4/15 – Belo Horizonte, Brazil – Music Hall
Thu 4/19 – Montreal, QUE. – Corona Theatre
Fri 4/20 – Toronto, ONT. – The Opera House
Sat 4/21 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
Sun 4/22 – St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall
Tue 4/24 – Lawrence, KS – Granada Theater
Wed 4/25 – Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
Fri 4/27 – Las Vegas, NV – Brooklyn Bowl
Sat 4/28 – Sacramento, CA – Ace Of Spades
Sun 4/29 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
Mon 4/30 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox
Wed 5/2 – San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
Thu 5/3 – Los Angeles, CA – The Belasco Theatre
Fri 5/4 – Anaheim, CA – House Of Blues
Sat 5/5 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
Mon 5/7 – San Antonio, TX – Alamo City Music Hall
Tue 5/8 – Dallas, TX – Canton Hall
Wed 5/9 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar
Fri 5/11 – Nashville, TN – 3rd & Lindsley
Sat 5/12 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre
Sun 5/13 – Minneapolis, MN – Varsity Theater
Tue 5/15 – Cleveland, OH – House Of Blues
Wed 5/16 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts
Fri 5/18 – New York, NY – Playstation Theater
Sat 5/19 – Worcester, MA – The Palladium
Sun 5/20 – Washington, D.C. – The Howard Theatre
Sat 5/26 – San Juan, PR – Centro de Bellas Artes Luis A. Ferré

Fri 6/22 – Clisson, France – Hellfest
Sat 6/23 – Dessel, Belgium – Graspop
Sun 6/24 – Milan, Italy – Teatro Degli Arcimbodi
Tue 6/26 – Prague, Czech Republic – Futurum
Wed 6/27 – Leipzig, Germany – Hellraiser
Sat 6/30 – Barcelona, Spain – Be Prog My Friend
Sun 7/1 – Maidstone, U.K. – Ramblin’ Man Fair
Mon 7/2 – Motherwell, Scotland – Motherwell Concert Hall
Tue 7/3 – Belfast, Ireland – Limelight
Wed 7/4 – Dublin, Ireland – Tivoli Variety Theatre
Fri 7/6 – Knislinge, Sweden – Helgeafestivalen
Sat 7/7 – Brighton, U.K. – The Haunt
Sun 7/8 – Nottingham, U.K. – Rescue Rooms
Sun 7/14 – Eindhoven, Netherlands – Dynamo MetalFest
Fri 8/3 – Wacken, Germany – Wacken Open Air
Sat 8/18 – Warsaw, Poland – Prog In Park
Sun 8/19 – Budapest, Hungary – Barba Negra Track
Mon 9/10 – Osaka, Japan – Big Cat
Tue 9/11 – Tokyo, Japan – Liquid Room
Wed 9/12 – Tokyo, Japan – Liquid Room
Sat 9/15 – Raismes, France – Raismes Fest
Wed 9/19 – Moscow, Russia – Glavclub
* Sat 9/22 – Plovdiv, Bulgaria – Roman Amphitheater
Mon 9/24 – Athens, Greece – Fuzz Club
Wed 9/26 – Tel Aviv, Israel – Barby Club
Sun 9/30 – Glasgow, Scotland – The Garage
Mon 10/8 – Zurich, Switzerland – Complex
Fri 10/12 – Paris, France – Elysee Montmartre
Sat 10/13 – Toulouse, France – Very Prog Festival
Mon 10/15 – Lyon, France – Radiant-Bellevue
Tue 10/16 – Strasbourg, France – La Laiterie

* A Very Special Evening with SONS OF APOLLO and the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony.

For all the latest news and dates ofr Sons of Apollo, visit www.sonsofapollo.com.

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Pat Torpey, Founding Member of Mr. Big, Passes Away At 64

Pat Torpey, Founding Member of Mr. Big, Passes Away At 64

The legendary Pat Torpey – Photo by William Hames

Drummer and founding member of MR. BIG, Pat Torpey, passed away Wednesday, February 7 at the age of 64 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Family, band and management request privacy at this very difficult time. Services are pending.

MR. BIG (Torpey, Eric Martin, Billy Sheehan, and Paul Gilbert) released their ninth original studio album, DEFYING GRAVITY, July 21.

MR. BIG, formed in 1988, produced numerous hit songs that ranged across a wide array of rock genres – be it ballads, heavy metal, or blues rock. Their hits included “Alive and Kicking,” “Just Take My Heart” and the chart-topping ballad, “To Be With You” (Billboard Hot 100 #1 single in 15 countries for weeks in 1991, propelling the band the band to huge international success and multi-Platinum record sales).

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SONS OF APOLLO: New Supergroup Launched With Members of Dream Theater, Mr. Big, Guns ‘N Roses and Journey

SONS OF APOLLO: New Supergroup Launched With Members of Dream Theater, Mr. Big, Guns ‘N Roses and Journey

For the past few months, rumors have been circulating about a new secret project including former Dream Theater members Mike Portnoy and Derek Sherinian. Now, the time has come to make the grand and highly anticipated introduction to their new band, SONS OF APOLLO.

Reuniting to form SONS OF APOLLO, Portnoy and Sherinian have joined forces with Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (ex-Guns N’ Roses), Billy Sheehan (The Winery Dogs, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Jeff Scott Soto (ex-Journey, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force). Their debut album, PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY, will be released October 20 on InsideOutMusic/Sony Music. An album teaser can be seen on InsideOutMusic’s official YouTube page here: https://youtu.be/kPN2DttzlZQ

PSYCHOTIC SYMPHONY was produced by the dynamic production duo of Portnoy and Sherinian, also affectionately known as “The Del Fuvio Brothers,” which is the nickname given to them over 20 years ago during their time together in Dream Theater.

SONS OF APOLLO got together very organically, as Portnoy explains: “Derek and I reunited shortly after I left Dream Theater in 2010 and we put together an all-instrumental touring band with he and I, Billy Sheehan, and Tony MacAlpine. That was my first time working with Derek since the ‘90s when he was in Dream Theater and it was just great to be working with him again. Ever since that tour, which was really just a one-off live thing, he has been nudging me to start a real, original, full-time band. The timing just had never been right, because I had too many other things on my plate. Long story short, the time was finally right to take the bait and put together a band.”

“Mike and I work at a relentless pace in the studio,” continues Sherinian. “The music is modern, but we have an old school soul. What is unique about SONS OF APOLLO is that we have true rock n’ roll swagger along with the virtuosity– a lethal combination!”

But what to call the next great supergroup? “Derek was mainly the one behind the name,” says Portnoy. “I have a list that I keep on my phone of about a hundred different band names, which I constantly have to refer to every time I have a new band every year (laughs). So, I pulled up the list and Apollo was one of the names on the list. It was a word that both of us really liked. We started fiddling with different variations of the word. One of the original band names we were working with was Apollo Creed, the character from the ‘Rocky’ movies, but after lots of different discussions on different variations, Derek suggested SONS OF APOLLO and it seemed to stick. Apollo is the God of Music so with that in mind it seemed like a fitting name.”

Mike Portnoy, Derek Sherinian and Billy Sheehan previously toured together in 2012 and 2013 as PSMS (along with guitarist Tony MacAlpine), playing all instrumental versions from each of their previously recorded music. SONS OF APOLLO is the next logical progression by adding a vocalist and creating all-original material. The band incorporates the progressive style and individual technical prowess that Portnoy & Sherinian shared together in Dream Theater combined with the swagger and groove of Van Halen, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin.

“I have known Mike and Derek for a long time, so when they came to me with Sons of Apollo, I jumped on this straight away,” says Thomas Waber, Label Manager/A&R International of InsideOutMusic. “However, the album they ended up recording exceeded my already high expectations by a long mile! We couldn’t be happier about it!”

SONS OF APOLLO will hit the road in 2018 for their first worldwide tour.

“This is a real band,” Portnoy declares. “This is going to pick up for me and Billy where The Winery Dogs left off, in terms of this being the next logical full-time thing for us. I’m not saying The Winery Dogs have broken up,because we haven’t, we’re just on a break. SONS OF APOLLO is absolutely going to be a full-time band and we plan on touring all over the world all throughout 2018 and, honestly, it is the priority for all five of us.”

Sherinian agrees, “We will go on a worldwide crusade in 2018 to bring SONS OF APOLLO to as many people as possible. Apollo was the God of Music, and we are his mighty offspring!”

www.facebook.com/SonsOfApollo1

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DEFYING GRAVITY: Billy Sheehan Discusses The Past, Present and Future of Mr. Big!

DEFYING GRAVITY: Billy Sheehan Discusses The Past, Present and Future of Mr. Big!

When Billy Sheehan began gathering the players for a new creative outlet back in 1988, he had no idea they would still be hard at work almost three decades later. In 2017, MR. BIG is not only thrilling audiences around the world but creating some of the best music of their career. Their latest record, “Defying Gravity,” is the band’s ninth original studio album and a testament to the boundless talent of the group. Set for release on July 21st (with a Deluxe Collector’s Edition Box Set due on August 18th) via Frontiers Music Srl, the powerful new album features original members Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums). The album also reunites the band with producer Kevin Elson (who was behind the boards for the band’s 1989 self-titled debut, 1991’s “Lean Into It” and 1993’s “Bump Ahead”) for an intensive six-day recording session at Ocean Studios in Burbank, California. “Defying Gravity” showcases that patented MR. BIG blend of crunch and melody, from the freight-train ride of opening cut “Open Your Eyes” to the harmony-laden wonderment of “Damn I’m in Love Again” to the grateful/wistful nostalgia of “1992” (recalling the days when the band was flying high atop the singles charts with their international #1 smash “To Be With You”) to the barn-burning slide-blues closer, “Be Kind.” “Defying Gravity” is evidence the only thing MR. BIG remains tethered to is their ongoing pursuit of achieving creative excellence. Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with the legendary Billy Sheehan to discuss the process of finding his creative voice as a young artist, the formation of MR. BIG, the keys to the band’s longevity and what the future may hold for the band.

What can you tell us about your early years in music and finding your creative voice as an artist?

Good question! I started early on by learning songs by ear off the records so I could play along with the records. Then I went right into a band and started playing songs with other musicians. There was no theorizing, no lessons or study. Basically, I walked up to the airplane, got in the cockpit, taxied down the runway and took off! Even though I didn’t know how to land, I took off! I like to try to encourage people to consider something like that. I know that was then and this is now, so things are a little different in that respect, of course. I do like the idea of taking the bull by the horns and just starting. If you want to learn another language, fly to the country and immerse yourself in the culture. You will end up with a much more organic feel to the language than if you learn it out of a book. Music being a language, to get the sound of your voice, your voice is dependent on all of the influences you soak up. It’s the distillation of all those things together with your personality and life added into which makes someone have a voice, I believe. I do believe everyone has a voice, even from the first time they pick the instrument up. It’s just really difficult to tell what that voice is until you have been playing for about 10 years. Another thing I like to stress is to give it time. Have patience! Some people call it “The 10,000 Hour Rule” but I’m not necessarily sure that is applicable in all cases. You have to give it five or six years until you are up and running properly. During those five or six years, you will learn so many important things that you will carry on with you for the next 50 years. It’s important to just start to roll! Dive into the deep! You will take a couple mouthfuls of water but it is really a great way to begin. A lot of people are hesitant about that and say, “I’m not ready to play a song.” Sure you are! The first thing I ever did was pick up a guitar and play “Gloria” by Shadows of Night. It’s three chords and I think every guitarist in the world played that as their first song or at least 90% of them! [laughs] You learned an E chord, a D chord and A chord, played it in sequence and there you were playing the song. It gives you great satisfaction to know you can play a song! That’s pretty much what I did and I try to encourage people to take some part of that or all of it and mix it in with a little bit of study or a good teacher. Whenever you are taught by a teacher, you have the liability of finding a great teacher who is really going to move you forward or you will find a horrible teacher and end up hating doing it and you’ll quit. You can take the reigns by yourself, start to learn and start to launch. You can find 10 songs you love and figure out how to play them. That’s worth its weight in platinum shavings!

I’m sure you learned lessons along the way as a part of the music industry. Which of those lessons had the biggest impact on you?

Connection to the audience is really important. When I started, generally, clubs had no dressing rooms. There was no security barrier or anything. When you were done with your set, you would step off the front of the stage and walk out into the crowd. After three or four weeks, everyone in the crowd was your friend and you knew everybody. When you’d look at the clock and knew it was time to get back up onstage, you would say, “I’ll be back in an hour!” You’d get right back on the stage and do a set for an hour. There wasn’t a really big divide between the audience and the band, which I actually love quite a bit. I think that serves me to this day on how I deal with the audience and how I naturally want to take care of people. If someone needs an autograph, a photo or anything like that, we always go way out of our way to accommodate them anytime we can. I think that was a good lesson to learn early on. Having a great connection with your audience and considering the audience to be your friends more than your fans is a good thing. You can put your thumb on the pulse of what is going on and get instant feedback as to whether or not what you are doing has any value or worth or if the song you are playing is liked or not. That was a great, great lesson to have early on. With the internet, I’m now able to communicate with people all over the world instantly, all the time! I spend a lot of time every day just answering email, responding to people and doing what I can to communicate with them!

Billy Sheehan — An unstoppable musical force!

We are here today to talk about a brand new album from MR. BIG. Before we get to the latest chapter, let’s go back to the beginning. What can you tell us about where you were creatively at the time and what got the ball rolling on the project all those years ago?

I just stepped out of the David Lee Roth Band, which was a huge success. It was the biggest thing that had happened to me up until that point, certainly. I came to a point where I had to re-evaluate. I thought, “OK. If I’m going to start a band, how do I want to do it and how do I not want to do it?” As much as I loved Dave being in charge, I think he’s a great person to be in charge and I was happy with him being in charge of the band and doing what his requests were. I thought, “That’s good in this particular situation and if you’re David Lee Roth, that’s one thing but I’m not David Lee Roth. I’m just a little bass player, so I don’t think I could necessarily tell my other musicians what to do. I don’t have the kind of track record David Lee Roth has, so why don’t we make it more of a democracy or an idea-ocracy, where the best idea wins no matter who it comes from. Everyone would have an equal voice and we all contribute to the forward motion of the band as a unit.” I knew Paul Gilbert and I knew he was a hot guitarist but I also knew that he had more going for him than just being a hot guitarist. He had a real song-sense and a sense of real music. He was a TALAS fan. I remember him standing in front of me in the audiences at some of the early shows we did back in Pittsburgh when we played there. His band eventually ended up opening up for TALAS way back when. Then I knew our drummer, Pat Torpey. I knew he grew up very much like me, so I knew we would have great common ground. Much like me, he got his instrument and immediately got in a band and started playing live. He was based in Phoenix and doing all the clubs and cover bands that all of us from my generation went through. He was an automatic choice too! Then we needed a singer. I really wanted someone who was a little different than what I was hearing. At the time, people were judging vocalists on how high of a note they could hit. Singers would advertise, “Five octave range!” Okay! But what do you do in those five octaves! [laughs] A five octave range can be utterly useless depending on what you do with it! I wanted somebody who could really sing a la late ‘60s/early ‘70s Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company), Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) … that type of voice. Those guys actually sang and could take a C- song and turn it into an A+ with vocal quality. Sure enough, my friend Mike Varney, up in the Bay Area, played me this Eric Martin character. I said, “That’s it! That’s the voice I’m looking for!” I let Paul and Pat know. Paul loved the idea instantly and Pat absolutely fell in love with it as well. The idea was actually having a band with an actual singer, singing songs that were part of all four of us and all of us being together on it as opposed to one guy telling everybody else want to do. It worked out pretty well. We got lucky! There are many instances in life where you have to choose somebody for something, whether it be your wife or husband, an employee or an employer. If you make the right choice, you are in good shape. If you make the wrong choice, you’re in hell! [laughs] We got lucky and we got along really well. From the beginning, any troubles we ever had in MR. BIG pale markedly in comparison to any troubles any other bands had. I hear some of the troubles other bands had and I go, “Oh my God! How did you guys even live through it!?” [laughs] But we had a problem because one guy got up and was a little grumpy today! [laughs] That’s as bad as it ever got, ya know!

MR. BIG will release “Defying Gravity” on July 7, 2017. What made now the right time for an new album?

We are all busy with a lot of other things and MR. BIG is always there. It’s never gone away, since 2009 when we came back to play. We all consider it to be our main band. We give a little time between a record and a tour. We all went out and did our things outside of the band. Coming back, it was just a couple of years since the last one and it felt like the right time. It wasn’t really dependent on anything other than we all had a spot where we were free and were all looking to get out and play as MR. BIG. We knew before we did that we needed a record to pave the way for us. We got to work on that right away and while that was coming together, they were blocking out times for us to book shows and that’s where we are now. The record is done and the shows are booked for the most part, not completely. We have a great couple of months ahead of us now!

What can you tell us about the recording process for “Defying Gravity’” and how the songs took shape?

This one was quick. We did all the basics of the songs in six days, which is really fast. We came in with not a lot of complete songs. I don’t think anything was really complete, so we created a sense of urgency because we really only had those six days. I forget who it was, Paul or Eric, had to be elsewhere. If we didn’t have it done in those six days we were going to be in trouble. That pressure and urgency is a good thing! When you are at a live show, you can’t do a second take. If you sing the part flat, you can’t go back to fix it. At a live show you have that kind of pressure because people are standing right there watching you, so you better get it right! That is a good kind of pressure to have because it really forces you to dig deep, play it right, push hard and make it happen. I think the quality of playing you get out of that, I think, is the best you will ever do as a player. In the old days, people didn’t have unlimited budgets and unlimited cash when they were in the studio. I had a conversation with Robert Fripp one time and he told me the first King Crimson record, “In The Court of the Crimson King,” they did in a week in someone’s living room and it was done! I’ve done records in two days, so I know it can be done. We went in there with that sense of urgency. We aimed to do it like real men — Do your homework so when you come in you know how to play the line and not do multiple takes. That was a real cool factor to enter into the equation. It made us have to hustle, get it all together and think on our feet, very much like a live show. That’s pretty much how the recording went down. Like I said, I don’t think we went in with any songs complete. Some of them were near completion and needed some changes or arranging. Some of the things we went in with were almost like the outer skeleton of what might be a song and then we created it on the fly. It came out really well! I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised because between the four of us, we have done hundreds of records, so we should know how to do it by now! [laughs] If we don’t, we’re way worse off than we thought! We are real pleased with the way it came out. Another factor that was a big help was the fact that we had our original producer Kevin Elson. He did our first four records including the “To Be With You,” “Lean Into It” stuff. He did all the Journey hits and Lynyrd Skynyrd, who he grew up with and worked with them right to the end. He’s got quite a set of ears on him and is a joy to work with. Working with Kevin was kind of like going back home again because he is a dear friend and a sweet guy. He made the whole process already more comfortable than it already was.

You worked with the other members of the band for decades. What did they bring out in you creatively?

I think it comes down to songwriting. I was always a songwriter. I wrote all the songs on the “Sink Your Teeth Into That” record and a lot since then but they had different styles of writing songs. It was really interesting to see how they approached it. Sometimes I take parts of that and sometimes I don’t but it’s good to see other songwriters in action. It’s just like sitting down with another musician to play music together. You will see how they will play this or that and it will inspire you to pick a different way, finger something a different way or think of a different way of playing something than you already do. It’s always inspiring! Similarly, with a songwriter who really knows his stuff, like Eric does and Paul has certainly come into his own as well, you start watching them work and compare it to your own methodology. Along the way, you will start picking up little pieces of it to incorporate into what you do. I think I am better equipped as a songwriter now than I was in the past having worked with the guys in MR. BIG who all have a great song sense.

When you look at the songs created for “Defying Gravity,” which resonate with you the most?

I love “Be Kind.” It’s kind of a quirky song. It’s really blues based and has a great message to it. It’s the very humane idea of “Be kind and try to understand the situation because you don’t know what the other person has been through.” We could certainly use more of that in this world today, by far! I love that kind and message but I also love the way the song works. It just falls together really well. “Forever and Back” is definitely a hard pop song. It has a lot of singing and it also has the word love in the song. I made it a thing on all my solo records never that I would never use the words “Love,” “Heart” or “Baby” or say “My spirit” or “My soul.” Those were illegal words and terms because they are so overused! [laughs] On this song, the word love shows up but it’s great. It’s a big, sing-a-long pop song and the lyrics are really cool and tell a little story. I love that song as well! It’s hard for me to pick my favorites because it’s like saying, “Which one of your kids do you like best?” [laughs]

You stay busy when it comes to your career. Is it difficult to switch gears, in the creative sense, between projects? For example, coming straight from The Winery Dogs back into MR. BIG?

Not really. No matter what, the bands are going to be different. I think a band is really dependent on the personality of the individual members, which you can never duplicate. It’s obvious to me as a fan, anytime a band changed members, it was never the same for me. Sometimes it might have been better but if I was used to the original lineup, it was always tough for me! As much as I loved Richie Kotzen and as great as I thought he was in MR. BIG, I just didn’t want to do a different guy. We had to at the time with Richie because Paul had left the band back in the ‘90s. As much as I love them both, it just wasn’t the same band. Band to band, personality to personality, the dynamic is always quite different. Mike Portnoy is quite a different personality. He’s an up-front, caffeinated go-getter, who has his shit supremely together! He comes in and knows exactly how the chords in the songs go. I stopped arguing with him. I’d say, “Does the chorus go for 12 bars?” He’d say, “No, it’s only eight.” OK! It’s only 8! [laughs] I’m not even going to ask if he is sure because if Mike says it’s eight, I know it’s eight. That’s his thing! He knows what he’s doing. It’s a great little rock foundation of information to have at your disposal. Richie is a whole other personality. He’s a dear friend and I love him like a brother. I enjoy playing with him very much. It’s a totally different dynamic than Paul, who is one of the sweetest and most wonderful people I know. He is also like a brother to me but in a much different way. You just let nature take its course and things kind of settle out a little differently with who you are working with.

There a several bands, peers of Mr. BIG, who put out great albums in the past several years. As a guy who sees this first hand, are these releases getting the attention they deserve?

Well, it’s hard to say deserve. I think that the fans of bands are getting it. Sure, we would all like to see the whole world exposed to every band or at least get the chance to. There is no more MTV and there is really no more rock radio at all, as we know. It’s tough out there but it’s up to every band to get out there, start playing, find your fans, get to them, reach out to them and rally them. Like I said, I am on Facebook and social media every day responding to people. It’s on us now! In a way, that’s good because we can control it now. Before, MTV could make you but MTV could also break you, whereas if you make you, you aren’t going to break you. I think that is a good thing. It’s smaller in scope of course, by a lot, but it’s sincere, it’s real and it’s honest. I’ve never been money motivated. Yeah, I’d like to sell a million or 2 million records. That would be nice! If we see 10K, 50K, 75K and people are supremely happy with the record, I’m good with that! I don’t need to be a rich guy. I have a nice life that I’m very thankful for. Everybody who bought a ticket, T-shirt or a record contributed to that and I’m forever grateful, so I will do my best for them. However, I don’t necessarily think I deserve to be heard. I think it’s up to me and all bands to work to be heard and do your best to reach as many people as possible. You have to tour your ass off and do your shows as great as you possibly can so people come out to see you, they will tell their friends and maybe someone else will buy your record. I think it’s really on us now.

For someone who is just discovering your body of work, where should they begin?

“Eat ‘Em and Smile” was my first big successful record. I just did some bass clinics and music seminars down in South America and I must have signed 100 of those album covers! That record went everywhere! I was in Indonesia one time and someone walked up to me with that record for me to sign. That record went far and wide and is a good representation. Other than that, the “Lean Into It” album from MR. BIG was my most successful record and I had a lot more to do with that than I did with “Eat ‘Em and Smile,” thankfully. Then there is the first album from The Winery Dogs. Those would be the top three. The first Winery Dogs record for me was really a milestone for me in that I couldn’t wait to play that record for my friends. It was very much like the other two records I mentioned in that I couldn’t wait for someone to say, “Oh man! Wait until you hear this new record! You’re going to love it!” I was excited about it like that! Those three records are probably the three records I was most excited about in my life. They represent three different stages of my life and I think they would paint a good picture for someone new!

Where do you see the journey taking you in the near future?

This record is about to come out and we just did two videos for it. All that will be coming out in due time. Then we tour until the end of the year. Then I will be starting some writing for the next Winery Dogs record. I’m just hoping that I’m recording a bit and touring a lot for the next 50 years! [laughs] That would make me a very old man and I’m just an old man now! As much as possible I love performing live and I’m supremely grateful that I got to do it so much with great bands and great musicians who are friends of mine. I couldn’t be in a better spot as far as that goes and I’m so grateful for that!

Awesome! Thanks so much for your time today, Billy! It’s always a pleasure and I look forward to spreading the word on “Defying Gravity.”

Thank you, bro! Take care!

MR. BIG will release ‘Defying Gravity’ on July 21st via Frontiers Music Srl. Visit the official website for the band, located at www.mrbigsite.com, for all the latest news and tour dates!

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MR. BIG’s ‘Defying Gravity’ Gets New Release Date of 7/21, Deluxe Collector’s Edition Box Set Announced

MR. BIG’s ‘Defying Gravity’ Gets New Release Date of 7/21, Deluxe Collector’s Edition Box Set Announced

Frontiers Music Srl announced full format details and a slightly delayed release date for MR BIG’s new album, ‘Defying Gravity’, pushing it back from the previously announced street date of July 7.

The album will be available on CD, LP, deluxe CD/DVD, digitally and a deluxe Collector’s Edition box set that includes: deluxe CD/DVD, LP, poster, numbered lithograph, T-Shirt, sticker. The box set is strictly limited to 500 copies worldwide.

The CD and LP contain the following tracklisting:
Open Your EyesDefying GravityEverybody Needs A Little Trouble / Damn I’m In Love Again / Mean To MeNothing Bad (About Feeling Good) / Forever And Back / She’s All Coming Back To Me Now1992Nothing At All / Be Kind

The DVD contents are:
Defying Gravity [music video] / Everybody Needs A Little Trouble [music video] / Making of Defying Gravity / Making of Everybody Needs A Little Trouble / Track by track interview. Total length is approximately 65 minutes.

The Box set includes: CD/DVD deluxe edition, Vinyl, Lithograph, Poster, Sticker and exclusive T-Shirt (L size only).

The first video from the new record, for ‘Everybody Needs A Little Trouble’, was made available on June 5 and can be seen here:  http://bit.ly/2s8c60k . The group are currently on tour in the U.S. and are planning European dates in the autumn.

“OK, we’re rolling.” With those three declarative words (spoken by producer Kevin Elson right after the music kicks in on ‘Open Your Eyes’, an instant callback to the beginning of ‘Addicted to That Rush’, the hard-charging lead track on the band’s self-titled 1989 debut), Mr. Big plants the flag between past, present and future with ‘Defying Gravity’, the band’s ninth original studio album.

Recorded in just six days at Ocean Studios in Burbank, California, the album reunites Mr. Big with the aforementioned Elson (Journey, Europe, Lynyrd Skynyrd), who is back behind the boards for the first time since helming the band’s first four albums. ‘Defying Gravity’ deftly showcases that patented Mr. Big blend of crunch and melody, from the freight-train ride of opening cut ’Open Your Eyes’ to the harmony-laden wonderment of ‘Damn I’m In Love Again’ to the nostalgia trip of ‘1992’ (recalling the days when the band was flyng high atop the singles charts with their international smash ‘To Be With You’) to the barnstorming slide-blues closing track, ‘Be Kind’. Overall, the album is prime evidence that the only thing Mr. Big remains tethered to is their ongoing pursuit of achieving creative excellence.

“It’s inspiring to work with Mr. Big,” observes guitarist/songwriter Paul Gilbert, who penned much of the material on the new album. “I know that any ideas I bring into the studio have to go through our long-established band filter, which means the songs all have to rock, have melody, and put a grin on the faces of all of my bandmates to make the final cut.” What that means is Gilbert, lead vocalist Eric Martin, bassist Billy Sheehan and drummer Pat Torpey all have to agree collectively on the finished product — as does touring drummer Matt Starr, who also joined in on the studio proceedings this time around.

That tried-and-true “all for one, one for all” mentality is one of the main things that fuels Mr. Big to reach for new heights whenever they are recording. “That’s what makes a band a band,” believes Torpey. “I think we all feel that way. It’s not one guy’s vision that the other guys all just follow. We’re always kicking ideas around to come to some kind of consensus. And that makes Mr. Big music what it is.”

Adds Sheehan, “I like recording with a sense of urgency. Put a mic in front of us, roll tape, and that should sound like what you’re hearing from us live. When you can create that kind of pressure in the studio in a short amount of time, it makes for better songs — and better performances.”

Once Martin got in sync with Gilbert, the album took shape in a relatively short amount of time. “My music tells you more about me than I can actually tell you myself,” the vocalist admits. “And ‘Defying Gravity’ is about ignoring everybody in life who tells you it can’t be done; that it’s impossible to do what you love. You have to stand your ground whenever someone tells you to give up your dream to do anything your heart desires — whether it be as a musician, painter, dancer, or whatever you want to be — in favour of a life that’s safe and conventional.”

To a man, Mr. Big couldn’t be more pleased to be working with Elson again. “Kevin Elson is really good at steering the ship through rough waters and making it seem like they’re not rough waters,” Gilbert notes. “He’s a very even-keeled guy — mellow, but he still gets it done.” Concurs Sheehan, “It was glorious and fantastic. Kevin creates an atmosphere of ease and creativity. He’s full of so many ideas. Really a wonderful man.” Torpey adds. “We’ve got a lot of history with him. He’s a great guy, super-talented. It’s not like having a dictator for a producer, just somebody who barks commands. He’s got so much experience, history and pedigree — and he’s also a really good friend, so the vibe in the studio was perfect.” Sums up Martin, “I always loved Kevin because of his musical sense, and I love singing in front of him. Kevin has a different approach that’s more cerebral. He has a lot of ideas like a musician and a songwriter would. Kevin’s a huge piece of our recording puzzle. He’s a musician’s friend. He gets good sounds, and I trust his insight and his criticism. Kevin has the golden touch, and he knows how to make great voices sound even greater.”

One of the key tracks on the album, ‘1992’, hearkens back to the glories of much headier days for Mr. Big – albeit with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “That was an incredible period in our lives, right when the rumblings of grunge were starting to happen,” Gilbert points out. “So here I am writing about and tweaking something that was so positive in just about every way, but it did open the world to us. Suddenly, we were playing stadiums in Indonesia, just going all over the place. And to this day, whenever we start a  tour, we end up going all around the world. That whole era, back when we all still had giant hair(!), really opened the door for us. Thankfully, people still gravitate toward the underlying thing that is still important, and that’s the music.”

Sheehan adds his own spin: “It’s a song about its own history. It reminds me of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’, a song where a band looks back and talks about how it all went down in a clever way. And ‘1992’ certainly pops for me from a philosophical point of view.” Muses Torpey, “Who would have thought we would actually be talking about something like this 25 years later? But I’ve had those thoughts myself. It’s really interesting to reflect back like that and actually have it come out in a song. It’s an epic kind of song that’s got the classic rock stuff, the crazy guitar-and-bass stuff, and the big vocals from Eric. It’s a Mr. Big song, no doubt.”

Speaking of the band’s inherent instrumental virtuosity, there is plenty of it on display during the middle section of ‘Mean to Me’, where Paul and Billy trade a score of hot licks back and forth. “That song came about very quickly,” Gilbert reports, “and the solo was a first take with no overdubs at all; it was done live with the band. The delay I used helped make it twice as fast, but you still have to be dead-on accurate, and play the notes super-staccato so that it doesn’t get sloppy. Billy, however, does it all for real where no effects were necessary. He battles my technology-aided solo with the pure fire from his hands.” Observes Torpey, “The songs themselves are always important, but we always want to come up with the right vehicle to have some gymnastics between those twin towers of rock, Billy and Paul. That’s a big part of what we do, and we utilise it. I hope the fans like it.”

Martin is proud that ‘Defying Gravity’ showcases the best of what Mr. Big has to offer. “There’s something about this band. We’ve been through a lot of stuff together,” he notes, “but there’s a spiritual bond we all share, no matter what. And that raises you up to give the best performance you can for a record that came together so quickly, like this one did.” Adds Sheehan, “This record really seems to fit in with some of my favourite times in music, which were right around ’68 to ’74. The other thing is, Mr. Big is really a singing band, and I love the fact we have that here with the background vocals we were able to add to some of the songs.”

For his part, Gilbert is very much looking forward to bringing ‘Defying Gravity’ to life for Mr. Big fans the world over: “We’re aware that we’re going to be playing this music onstage, and we’re no longer just going to be looking into each other’s eyes — we’re going to be looking into the eyes of the audience. We know our audience quite well, and we’re looking forward to seeing their reactions to the album.”

Torpey has the final word: “The title says it all: ‘Defying Gravity’. We’re still here, and we’re still keeping the ball rolling down that hill. We’re still doing it. The album has a positive message, and that’s what I like about it. We can still fly, even after all these years.”

Indeed, Mr. Big’s keen combination of their virtuosic nature with a DNA-infused sense of melody continues to enable listeners the ability to sing along to every word they hear. Not a lot of acts can do that as deftly as Mr. Big does, and ‘Defying Gravity’ finds this still-hungry band collectively leaning into it to push their music into new stratospheres. Climb aboard.

MR. BIG
Eric Martin – Vocals
Paul Gilbert – Guitar
Billy Sheehan- Bass
Pat Torpey- drums
with Matt Starr – drums
Produced by Kevin Elson

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MR. BIG Releases Video For “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” Single From Upcoming Album

MR. BIG Releases Video For “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” Single From Upcoming Album

MR. BIG has just released the video for “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” from their forthcoming ninth studio album, DEFYING GRAVITY. Set for release July 7 on Frontiers Music Srl, it will be available at traditional retail and all digital service providers, as will a deluxe edition version with CD and bonus DVD that features music videos and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new album. The album will also be made available on vinyl in the coming months.

Original members Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums) reunited with producer Kevin Elson (who was behind the boards for the band’s 1989 self-titled debut, 1991’s LEAN INTO IT and 1993’s BUMP AHEAD) for an intensive six-day recording session in Los Angeles. While Torpey was unable to perform some of the songs on DEFYING GRAVITY due to a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Matt Starr has been filling in for him on a majority of the album. Starr also been touring with the band for the past couple of years, with Torpey able to play a couple of songs at each stop.

DEFYING GRAVITY is the follow-up to 2014’s THE STORIES WE COULD TELL (Frontiers Music Srl), which Ultimate-Guitar.com described as “An exceptional offering of accelerated hard rock from one of the more dominant ‘supergroups’ of the late 1980s, MR. BIG return with a vengeance on THE STORIES WE COULD TELL.”

In an early album review of DEFYING GRAVITY, TheMusicUniverse.com praises: “MR. BIG aren’t afraid to stick to their guns in this ever changing world of music.   Throughout the album, the group of virtuosos play syncopated rhythms, lightning fast guitar solos, driving bass lines and pounding drums. The groups’s syncopated rhythms literally draw you in as they often match each other rhythmically, along the lines of prog rock bands. The group’s masterful harmonies that have always been a staple on their records continue here with nearly every song giving you prominent backing vocals.”

MR. BIG launched their latest worldwide tour May 31 in Milwaukee, WI. Check them out at any of the following stops:

Leg 1:

Wed 5/31 – Milwaukee, WI – Potowatami Casino
Fri 6/2 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre
Sat 6/3 – Wetland, MI – The Token Lounge
Tue 6/6 – Warrendale, PA – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille
Wed 6/7 – Newton, NJ – Newton Theatre
Fri 6/9 – Uncasville, CT – The Wolf Den/Mohegan Sun
Sat 6/10 – New York, NY – B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
Mon 6/12 – Nashville, TN – Basement East
Wed 6/14 – Lexington, KY – Manchester Music Hall
Fri 6/16 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Live
Sat 6/17 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar
Mon 6/19 – Kansas City, MO – Knuckleheads Saloon
Thu 6/22 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
Fri 6/23 – Agoura Hills, CA – Canyon Club
Sat 6/24 – Pasadena, CA – The Rose

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MR. BIG To Release Highly Anticipated New Album, ‘Defying Gravity,’ On July 7th

MR. BIG To Release Highly Anticipated New Album, ‘Defying Gravity,’ On July 7th

“Alright, we’re rolling…” The call went out. Time for a new MR. BIG album. They convened in a Los Angeles studio and in a matter of six days, the boundless result of all that musical talent is DEFYING GRAVITY, with the release of their ninth original studio album and start of a new worldwide tour.

Set for release July 7 on Frontiers Music Srl, DEFYING GRAVITY will be available at traditional retail and all digital service providers, as will a deluxe edition version with CD and bonus DVD that features music videos and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new album. The album will also be made available on vinyl in the coming months. An official trailer for DEFYING GRAVITY can be seen here.

DEFYING GRAVITY deftly showcases that patented MR. BIG blend of crunch and melody, from the freight-train ride of opening cut “Open Your Eyes” to the harmony-laden wonderment of “Damn I’m in Love Again” to the grateful/wistful nostalgia of “1992” (recalling the days when the band was flying high atop the singles charts with their international #1 smash “To Be With You”) to the barnburning slide-blues closer, “Be Kind.” Overall, DEFYING GRAVITY is prime evidence that the only thing MR. BIG remains tethered to is their ongoing pursuit of achieving creative excellence.

Original members Eric Martin (lead vocals), Paul Gilbert (guitars), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Pat Torpey (drums) reunited with producer Kevin Elson (who was behind the boards for the band’s 1989 self-titled debut, 1991’s LEAN INTO IT and 1993’s BUMP AHEAD) for an intensive six-day recording session in Los Angeles. While Torpey was unable to perform some of the songs on DEFYING GRAVITY due to a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, Matt Starr has been filling in for him on a majority of the album. Starr also been touring with the band for the past couple of years, with Torpey able to play a couple of songs at each stop.

“It was great to get back in the studio with our original producer, Kevin Elson,” says guitarist Paul Gilbert. “Kevin recorded all of our original classic albums from the ‘80s and ‘90s, and we immediately felt that magic chemistry with him on DEFYING GRAVITY. We basically played live in the studio. Over the years, we’ve all had a chance to experiment with every recording technique possible, but it’s still always the best just to play together as a band. Most of my guitar solos were tracked live with the band. I’ve worked hard on my improvisation in the last few years, and it really paid off on this record…both melodically, and on the face-melting stuff.”

DEFYING GRAVITY is the follow-up to 2014’s THE STORIES WE COULD TELL (Frontiers Music Srl), which Ultimate-Guitar.com described as “An exceptional offering of accelerated hard rock from one of the more dominant ‘supergroups’ of the late 1980s, MR. BIG return with a vengeance on THE STORIES WE COULD TELL.”

MR. BIG is gearing up for the launch their latest worldwide tour which starts May 31 in Milwaukee, WI at the Potowatami Casino. For all the latest tour dates, fans should check the band’s official website.

“2017 is filling up quickly with tour dates all around the world,” proclaims Gilbert. “I can’t wait to play the new songs, and of course our favorites from the old days like ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’ ‘Just Take My Heart,’ ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind,’ ‘Wild World,’ and ‘To Be With You.’”

Here’s the complete track listing for DEFYING GRAVITY:

1. Open Your Eyes
2. Defying Gravity
3. Everybody Needs a Little Trouble
4. Damn I’m In Love Again
5. Mean to Me
6. Nothing Bad (About Feeling Good)
7. Forever and Back
8. She’s All Coming Back to Me Now
9. 1992
10. Nothing At All
11. Be Kind

Check out MR. BIG at any of the following tour stops:
Leg 1:

Wed 5/31 – Milwaukee, WI – Potowatami Casino
Fri 6/2 – St. Charles, IL – Arcada Theatre
Sat 6/3 – Wetland, MI – The Token Lounge
Tue 6/6 – Warrendale, PA – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille
Wed 6/7 – Newton, NJ – Newton Theatre
Fri 6/9 – Uncasville, CT – The Wolf Den/Mohegan Sun
Sat 6/10 – New York, NY – B.B. King Blues Club & Grill
Mon 6/12 – Nashville, TN – Basement East
Wed 6/14 – Lexington, KY – Manchester Music Hall
Fri 6/16 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Live
Sat 6/17 – Houston, TX – Scout Bar
Mon 6/19 – Kansas City, MO – Knuckleheads Saloon
Thu 6/22 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
Fri 6/23 – Agoura Hills, CA – Canyon Club
Sat 6/24 – Pasadena, CA – The Rose

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HOT STREAK: Billy Sheehan On Career, Longevity and The Winery Dogs’ New Album

HOT STREAK: Billy Sheehan On Career, Longevity and The Winery Dogs’ New Album

winery-dogs-2015-1

Billy Sheenan has spent the past several decades establishing himself as an undeniable force in the music world. His rise to cult status began in the 80’s with his Buffalo, NY based band Talas. He was soon recruited by the legendary David Lee Roth his departure from Van Halen in ’85. Sheehan recorded two platinum selling albums with the former Van Halen front man before setting out on his own. Forming Mr. Big in 1989, the band achieved a Billboard #1 single in the US and 14 other countries with “To Be With You” from their 2nd Atlantic Records album release “Lean Into It”. While developing his trademark style of playing he has performed over 4000 live gigs on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. Not only did he make a name for himself and make undeniable contributions to the rock ‘n’ roll but he also changed the way bass was played. Never one to rest on his laurels, he continues he quest for technical and creative excellence to this day.

The hot streak will continue this fall with The Winery Dogs (Richie Kotzen-lead vocals/guitar, Mike Portnoy-drums, Billy Sheehan-bass). Their second appropriately titled, self-produced studio album, “Hot Streak,” is set for release October 2 on Loud & Proud Records via RED (a division of Sony Music Entertainment) and the rest of the world via earMUSIC. It will be preceded by the first single, “Oblivion,” set for release August 25 on radio. A double vinyl edition of the new album is also in the works and is due out in early November.

The trio first exploded onto the rock scene with their self-titled, self-produced and critically acclaimed debut album that was released July 23, 2013, on Loud & Proud Records and a sold-out worldwide tour. The Winery Dogs debuted on Billboard’s Top Alternative Albums chart at #3, Top Independent Albums chart at #4, Top Rock Albums chart at #5, Top Internet Albums at #8 and Top 200 Albums chart at #27.

After playing more than 100 shows in support of their self-titled debut album, The Winery Dogs are eager to head back out on the road to get behind “Hot Streak.” Their first round of U.S. headlining tour dates will kick off October 3, in Ridgefield, CT at the Ridgefield Playhouse. Shows around the globe are already being planned for 2016. “Hot Streak” shows the pedigreed trio’s initial burst of chemistry was no accident, from the strum and headbang of “Captain Love” to the propulsive uplifting vibe of “The Bridge” to the introspective acoustic harmony of “Fire.” If these three dogs thought they captured lightning in a supper dish the first time around, “Hot Streak” ups the ante into exciting new territory.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Billy Sheehan to discuss his legendary career, his evolution as a player, the unexpected success of The Winery Dogs, the creation of their sophomore album, “Hot Streak,” and what the future holds for the band!

You have seen a lot in your days and influenced a lot of people along the way. I want to go back to the start. How did music enter your life and lead you down the path it has?

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

My mom was a fan of some great music. That was a good fortune for me. She was into Sinatra, Ella FItzgerald and all the great singers from her generation. We had music playing around the house a lot, records and such. Fortunately for me, it was always good quality stuff. I had an older brother and sisters who were very into what was going on for people their age. Through them I got exposed to a lot of stuff I might not have if I had been an only child or the oldest of the bunch. Those two factors really gave me a jump ahead and access to what was happening with music. When I was young enough to listen and start to understand what was going on, it was a great era for music. The ‘60s are responsible for a lot of the things we see today. It started there. I saw The Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and Jimi Hendrix was the first concert I ever attended. They certainly left their mark on me. I am still a fan of a lot of music. My iTunes library is 1.7 terabytes now, so it’s quite a collection. It’s all over the place. All kinds of music from almost every era.

When I was growing up, music was everything to everybody. It wasn’t whether they were into music or not but what kind of music they were into. Everybody was into it. Every kid who was my age and every kid older and younger. Every neighborhood had a band or two or maybe even more. We had a band around the corner from us that rehearsed in the basement. They were older and friends with my brother and sisters. One guy in the band, a bass player, is still a friend of mine to this day. He was a cool guy and I kinda wanted to be like him. That pushed me in the direction of bass. You know, it was a time where you could walk down the street on a summer night and on one block you would hear a band and as you walked you would hear it fade out into the next one rehearsing. I remember driving down the street and you could see drum kits set in people’s houses. Furnitures stores would clear out a corner of the store and put a section for guitars and amps. It was becoming so popular and everybody wanted to play and be in a band. It was really a unique time.

Here we are decades later and you have a tremendous body of work behind you in a very challenging business. To what do you attribute your longevity?

I really attribute it to a deep-seeded love of music and an unquenchable thirst to improve and expand myself musically. I still practice a lot. I workout everyday. I am going on the road here soon with The Winery Dogs, so I have all day long to play my bass. That is one great thing about being on the road, there isn’t much to do other than email. So, I spend many, many hours with my bass. I love having the day off at a hotel and having my bass with me. I am still trying to fine tune, discover more stuff and tweak my playing where it needs tweaking. Those are the things. I have a deep love of music, I love to perform and have a thirst for improvement.

winery-dogs-2015-2

I couldn’t be more excited for the The Winery Dogs’ new album, “Hot Streak.” When you released the first album, it took a lot of people by surprise. Did you have any idea this would resonate with people the way it did?

No. I was pleasantly surprised! Many times you will do a record and, when you get finished with it, you think, “This is it! People are going to love this!” But they ignore it completely! [laughs] Or you do a record and think, “Oh. It is what it is.” But people are excited about it. With the first album from The Winery Dogs, I was really excited about the record, so much so that I would have people over and I was excited to play it for them. I would say, “Hey, you have to hear this one! Check out this new band I’ve got.” I really was excited to play it for people and the response I got was immediate and deep. Richie’s voice and guitar playing, along with Mike’s drumming were just spectacular performances. The songwriting was great, as well. It garnered an instant affinity by people who heard it through me. As a matter of fact, a lot of people who had known me from the old days thought this was the best band I had ever been in. I am glad we had that type of reaction and we are very grateful!

Yourself, Mike and Richie are a tight unit. What are your recollections of meeting them both back in the day?

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

I had done a RUSH tribute record with Mike Portnoy years and years ago up in San Francisco. I didn’t know it but he used to come see me play when I played in Talas at the famous club L’Amour’s. He relayed to me later that Talas was something all the Dream Theater guys could agree on and they would play our songs in their first rehearsals. Talas had a couple of songs that were a little bit challenging. A couple of the guys in the band were Talas fans, according to Mike. Richie knew of me because in the early ‘80s, when he was coming up, I started to get some press. I was in “Guitar Player” magazine and did the David Lee Roth thing. Richie was an East Coaster so, when he first came out to LA, he was friends of friends. We also were friends with the same guy who introduced me to Mike Portnoy, a guy named Mike Varney, who also introduced me to Paul Gilbert. He was responsible for putting a lot of musicians together. Richie was in LA and he came over to my house with some friends of mine. I had a piano at the time. I remember he sat down at the piano and started playing. Everybody got chills! He sang great and played great. That was before you even heard him pick up a guitar! [laughs] Those were my first connections with both of them. We remained friends through the years, so when The Winery Dogs came to be I was fortunate to already know them. Having known them, I didn’t see any personality trouble at all.

“Hot Streak” is the sophomore album from the band. What goals or expectations did you have for the album?

We approached it like we did the first one. We didn’t discuss anything, have a grand plan or a master scheme to do anything. The one thing we did have going for us was that we had played over 100 shows and had months and months of touring experience together. You are on a tour bus all day and night, at airports, checking in and out of hotels and around each other a lot. That really helps you get to know each other better. You learn each other’s musical instincts and likes and dislikes come to the surface. Our chemistry on stage was improving with every show that we did, so it was going to be really interesting to see what we came up with once we sat down in a room. Sure enough, we did just what we did last time. Richie had knocked out a wall in his studio, so we had a little more room to work together. We sat down and started writing and coming up with ideas. It was very much like the first record. In a very short time, we had a whole bunch of songs and developed it from there.

The Winery Dogs in the studio for 'Hot Streak.'

Band of Brothers: The Winery Dogs in the studio for ‘Hot Streak.’

Some songs come easier than others. Which songs came easy to you and which put up more of a fight?

I will start with “Captain Love.” That was a song that just popped in out of nowhere. It was a little bit tongue and cheek too, the way we put it together. It was a very simple piece but we wanted to add something to it to give it some air and open it up for vocals. With the title track, “Hot Streak,” I started playing that opening bass line riff and Richie picked up on it and Mike started playing a beat. Then, bang! There it was! That came along easy, along with “Ghost Town.” That is another favorite of not only myself but a lot of people on the record. We just started playing that riff and it just kind of happened. Jamming is a funny thing. If you really know the people you are jamming with, you get a certain sense or ESP between you. It is an unspoken thing where you just kind of know where the other guys are going. I know from playing in so many projects over the years and putting songs together in many different ways that having it happen organically through that ESP is a real joy. You just see things falling together right in front of you without any real figuring or scheming it out. You are just watching it form on its own. There were also some songs that are difficult to play. For example, there is a song called “Spiral.” I just started playing this thing I had been working with for quite awhile. I had been learning this flamenco style picking with my right hand, which is really hard on bass but I am working at it! I am starting to gain some ground on it! I started playing that riff and both guys jumped in and I realized they are making a song out of a part that is really tough for me to play! [laughs] I knew I better get on it! I have been really practicing that style and that particular part of the song like crazy! It is coming together for me and I have a pretty good handle on it now, certainly more so than when I first began using the technique. I like to play a lot rather than just play a little section, stop and then punch in for the next section and so on. I like to play through as much as I can in one take, so it can be physically grueling. I really have to plant myself on the chair, get my feet on the ground and rip into it. Physically, it is challenging but it is a challenge I truly enjoy. I really push myself to do my very best when I am recording because that lives forever. Not to say I don’t push myself live but that is a different kind of push. I was very, very careful to get everything right, correct, in time and in tune. That was definitely a tough one.

As you said, you were friends with Richie and Mike before forming The Winery Dogs. As a musician, what excites you about playing alongside these talented artists?

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

Mike is an unstoppable ball of energy! He would play two shows a day, every day of his life if he could. So would I! I love to play and I have to perform live! It is a real necessity for me to keep my hands in shape. Honestly, performing live is the purpose for me being alive. Mike loves it as well, so it is a great thing we have together. He is incessant with his desire to play, perform and do more. That is a great fire to have lit underneath the band. Richie is a unique and supreme talent. His command of his voice and instrument are unparalleled, both of which have unique qualities. His voice is rock like that of Paul Rodgers, a great classic rock vocalist, but Richie really has a soul to his voice that not a lot of rock guys have. He has a really great command of that. That brings a really beautiful element to the band because the voice is what almost everyone listens to first. Right away, it is world-class, in my humble opinion. I have always looked at Richie as the superstar and my job is to get the world to know who he is because he is that good! I think I am doing the world a favor! [laughs] I really want people to know him. It’s funny, people who knew me and Mike but not Richie would come up to us after a show and say, “I was blown away. Where did you guys find this guy? He is unbelievable.” [laughs] We’d say, “He’s been around. You have to pay closer attention!” He has really done great and recently changed his playing where he isn’t using a pick anymore. That finger style playing is just a unique, cool, dynamic thing and goes well with my playing, as I am a fingerstyle player also. We have some licks in common on our right hand playing as well as our left and in our hearts and minds. It is a great combination.

In having talked to all three of you at this point, I can really sense the love and enthusiasm for this project. Obviously, you have a brand new record but have you given thought to the future of the band at this point?

Absolutely! We all want to keep this going as a band and not a little side thing. It is the way of the world these days where it is hard for one band to sustain everybody as far as time and commerce go. There are only 12 months in a year, unfortunately, so we all have other things we do. However, The Winery Dogs has become, to all of us, our main focus. Richie has a great solo band that he does. Whenever he is playing around, I always get up and play with him. Mike has a million irons in the fire and is a very in demand drummer around the world. I have Mr. Big, which doesn’t tour much anymore, but we still exist and every two years or so we will probably do something for a couple of months. For all of us, The Winery Dogs is our main focus and we are all looking at it long term to record number 10 and maybe 1,000 or more shows with the band. That is how we are looking at it!

The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs

Looking back on your career, how have you most evolved as an artist along the way?

It was a slow burn for quite a while. I am from Buffalo, NY and I played in clubs every night. I would play three to four sets a night and we did 21 nights in a row one time. We did three complete shows in one day. That endless amount of playing onstage in front of people, constant fine tuning, learning your voice, singing and playing, learning song after song after song and getting ready to perform live really expands your playing. You don’t really notice it. A lot of guys get frustrated being in copy bands but little do they know they are really building a foundation into themselves that you can’t get any other way than performing live. It can be frustrating as it might have been to be in a copy band but actually I loved it. I love getting up and playing in any situation. You are really training yourself in the best way possible to be a musician in a band later. We played in a three-piece band and, without an extra guitar player or keyboard player to play some of these more adventurous copy tunes, I had to pick up the slack on a lot of things. It forced me to have to play an extra little thing on bass that the keyboard player or other guitar player would. I would fill in a lot of space due to the lack of other personnel. That was another thing that really helped me discover ways to make up for lack of people in the band by playing more bass or doing more things on bass. It eventually got to a point where we were playing so much it was hard for the other guys to take a break. I started doing an unaccompanied bass solo in the early, early ‘70s where the band would stop, I would go, they would do their thing and then let the music come back in and continue on. I don’t know if there were a lot of unaccompanied bass solos at the time. There were probably some I was unaware of but it was somewhat unique. It forced me to have to come up with something that was entertaining because we had people who weren’t there to hear bass solos! They were there to have some drinks, find some girls, get on the dance floor and see what they could develop from there! [laughs] That forced me to have to do stuff that was entertaining and not just self-indulgent. That was another point that helped me develop into what I have now or how I do it now. Those factors there are what I feel are the most important ones, along with a real love or musicality that made me sit down and learn things that were beyond my range because I was so fascinated by them. I would learn Oscar Peterson piano parts, Brandenburg concertos, Bach cello and viola lines. I was into jazz briefly but heavily in my really early years. From there, every instrument that came along I discovered something fascinating that I wanted to adapt to bass. Put all of those things together and I guess that is what started it all.

We have all seen the music industry change drastically through the past few decades. What excites you most about the industry in its current state?

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

It has really gone back to what I just described. It is all about playing live. I remember there was a time, when I started getting some popularity and doing well in the music biz, where people would put a band together and do a showcase to get a record deal to do an album and tour and they wouldn’t really have much experience together at all. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until the record came out and they started the tour before they even played together. That was backwards to me. I like the idea that we are playing, playing and playing and performing like crazy, suddenly we get a break, then we do a record and, when it is time for us to play, man, we have all kinds of experience under our belts. That is why, when I was in LA initially, I could tell the East Coast bands from the West Coast bands. The West Coast bands would just get together their particular configuration, do a showcase, get a deal, do a record and a tour. If they didn’t they would reconfigure with some other people and do it again until they could finally get the record deal. The East Coast bands were all copy bands and they would play constantly like I did. You would see them at a show at a club and they would kick ass! It was amazing and they were always better quality bands when they played live. I think that is coming back to a large degree. The most important thing for bands now is that live performance. It is the greatest source of income and it’s great for the fans. You can see a video online or a YouTube clip and it is nothing like seeing a band perform live. The live performance is something you can’t download and you can’t take it from anyone. Musicians will always have that so I am glad that is now becoming the most important thing by default because it is the most important thing.

You have surely seen a lot in your day, learned a lot of lessons and have a few tales to tell. Any interest in capturing those in an autobiography at some point?

Billy Sheehan

Billy Sheehan

My business partner and I, any time some event or crazy instance happens, we always say, “Oh, there is another one for the book!” I think we are on volume four at this point! [laughs] Ya know, we have a lot of stuff documented and have quite an archive of everything that goes on. I also have a pretty good memory. I have been fortunate to survive everything! We have been through some crazy stuff that does make an entertaining tale. However, rather than write it down, it is usually performance art. It is a bottle of wine and a couple of people and a lot of stories. I just did a dinner with Steve Vai and Gregg Bissonette from the Eat’ Em And Smile band. We get together every year or so to hang out and say hello. It is a great time with some dear friends. The stories come hot and heavy then and it is hilarious! We always get together during the middle of the week and go to a restaurant that is not too full and get a table away from everybody else. It is hilarious! Stories from every era! Then, back in Buffalo, I do a gig with the guys from Talas. We usually spend most of the days reliving the stories of all the crazy things we went through. It is always fun!

Can we help you shine a light on any charity work you might be involved with?

Yeah, I am working on trying to do a Christmas show in Buffalo for charity. It’s a few shows where all the local musicians get together. I have also done a couple of recordings recently for Wounded Warriors. I try to do that stuff whenever I get a chance. Our schedule is tight but I always like to contribute to stuff like that. I also try to contribute to young players as well. I do a lot of bass clinics and seminars where I really spend a lot of time with people with the purpose of helping them play, rather than me showing off fancy licks. I am really there to help my fellow musician as much as possible. I enjoy all of those things very much!

What is the best lesson we can take away from the story of Billy Sheehan to date?

Keep at it! Don’t stop. Dig deep. Whatever mountain you climb, you are going to see the next one from the top, so just keep climbing! The adventure is worth it! In the end, no matter what happens, whether you have monetary success, fame or whatever else, you will look back on all the struggles as the most enriching and valuable aspect of your life and career.

That is an awesome view, Billy. Thank you for all of your time today! I can’t wait to see where the journey takes you next!

Thank you, Jason! It was a pleasure to speak with you and I hope I see you out there on tour!

You definitely will!

Great! Thanks a million!

The Winery Dogs will release ‘Hot Streak’ on October 2nd, 2015 on Loud & Proud Records via RED (a division of Sony Music Entertainment) and the rest of the world via earMUSIC.

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Mr. Big To Release ‘…The Stories We Could Tell’ In September

Mr. Big To Release ‘…The Stories We Could Tell’ In September

mr-big-2014

Hard rock’s original supergroup, Mr. Big, are back with a vengeance with their new album …The Stories We Could Tell. The band’s eighth studio album is slated for release on September 23rd via Frontiers Music SRL. The original lineup comprised of Eric Martin on vocals, Paul Gilbert on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass and Pat Torpey on drums, returns with some oftheir strongest material to date. The new album is the follow-up to the 2011 release What If, an album that marked the band’s return to their signature hard rock sound.

Mr. Big

Mr. Big

Mr. Big got together this past June to begin recording and laid down the 13 new tracks in just a month.

“This new album rocks!” exclaims Paul Gilbert. “I love playing guitar, singing, and writing with Eric, Billy, and Pat. And after 25 years, I’m proud that we can make an album that is melodic, powerful, interesting, groovy, and emotional.”

“We wrote songs individually and collectively on this new record. To me this is the album that we’ve threatened to make decades ago.  A classic, groovin’, blues-rock record with the spirit and spark of our Rock & Soul idols from the 70’s. Hells to the yeah it’s a Mr. Big album complete with all the trimmings,” says Eric Martin. “I think whether you’ve been with us from the beginning or just starting, you’re going to dig where we are coming from and where we’ve been.”

…Stories We Could Tell was produced by Pat Regan, known for his work with the likes of Deep Purple, Warrant and Keel. The album is currently available for pre-order via Amazon at http://geni.us/MrBigStoriesAMZ.

Mr. Big formed in 1988 and immediately began to solidify their place in music history. By combining trademark “shredding” musicianship with awesome vocal harmonies, Mr. Big produced numerous hit songs that ranged across a wide array of rock genres – be it ballads, heavy metal, or blues rock. Their hits included “Alive and Kicking,” “Just Take My Heart” and the chart-topping ballad “To Be With You” (Billboard Hot 100 number one single in 15 countries for weeks, in 1991, propelling the band the band to huge international success and multi-platinum record sales). Mr. Big continues to be a touring force with sold-out shows around the globe and with more dates to be announced in the near future.

Album Track Listing:

Gotta Love The Ride

I Forget To Breathe

Fragile

Satisfied

The Man Who Has Everything

The Monster In Me

What If We Were New?

East/West

The Light Of Day

Just Let Your Heart Decide

It’s Always About That Girl

Cinderella Smile

The Stories We Could Tell

Addicted To That Rush (Live – Exclusive Bonus Track)

 

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The Winery Dogs: Mike Portnoy Discusses Musical Exploration With His New Band!

The Winery Dogs: Mike Portnoy Discusses Musical Exploration With His New Band!

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Mike Portnoy is a man who needs little introduction. As one of the founding members of Dream Theater, his 25 years with the band solidified him as one of rock’s most innovative and respected drummers. Portnoy’s long list of awards include 26 Modern Drummer magazine Reader’s Poll Awards, including Hall of Fame Inductee in 2004, MVP of the Year in 2010, Best Progressive Rock Drummer (for the magazine’s record of 12 years in a row), Best Clinician (twice), Best Educational Video/DVD and Best Recorded Performance of the Year (seven times) while in Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold.  He also holds the distinction being the second youngest drummer ever inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame (at age 37) and is currently the youngest in the magazine’s Hall of Fame.  DRUM! Magazine named him Drummer Of The Year for the last two years in a row (2011 & 2012), and he won the Revolver Golden Gods Award for “Drummer Of The Year” in 2011.

Always looking to expand his musical horizons, Mike Portnoy is now tackling one of his most ambitious musical explorations to date two other rock legends. Vocalist and guitarist Richie Kotzen made his mark with Poison and Mr. Big, bassist Billy Sheehan has been rocking for decades with Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big and others. Together they are The Winery Dogs — a cohesive, well-rounded classic-sounding trio with blazing songs that defy expectation. The group’s self-titled debut is filled with straightforward rock and roll inspired by some of their favorite bands, and their music transcends any of the styles they’re best known for and melds their collective talents into a magnificent brew. Their self-titled debut album, was self-produced and mixed by Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther), will be released in North America on July 23.  THE WINERY DOGS . Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Mike Portnoy to discuss the origin of The Winery Dogs project, the process of bring the album to life and the evolution of his career as an artist. 

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy

You have created a terrific musical legacy with your hard work through the years but I was curious to learn how it all got started, what lit the fire so to speak. What are you first memories of music in your life?

I think from the minute the doctor pulled me out of my Mom! I immediately slapped on some headphones and was immediately and I was listening to the Beatles’ “Revolver” and six weeks later, “Sgt. Pepper’s” was released! [laughs] And so the story goes! That is it, literally. From day one, I was listening to music. It was the Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and later on it was Led Zeppelin and so on. I was a music fan from the minute I was born! My Dad was a rock ‘n’ roll disk jockey, so he surrounded me with all the classic rock of the late 60s, literally from day one.

There is nothing wrong with that! What were some of your other influences?

It all started with the classic rock stuff of the late 60s. Later on in the 70s, I went through a big KISS phase, like any other white American suburban kid around that time. I was a huge KISS fan! Then I went through a punk rock phase, listening to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols in the late 70s. Then I discovered progressive rock! I was into bands like Rush, Yes and Genesis but then came the whole thrash metal scene in the earlier 80s with bands like Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, S.O.D. and Exodus. That is the general evolution of my influences.

Did you have any idea when you set your mind to picking up an instrument at an early age it would lead you to the heights it has?

I never strived to be a success or an influence, I just strived to be a musician. Everything else that has happened in my career over the past thirty years happened outside of my control. It is how the public perceives you whether or not you are successful. That is out of your control. All you can do is be the best musician you can and hope it touches somebody. I have been very fortunate over the past twenty to thirty years to have been able to do this for a living but it was never my goal. My goal was to make music because I was a music fan.

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy

You certainly have a tremendous work ethic. Is that what you attribute your longevity in the ever-changing music to?

Yes. That is the key word, “work ethic.” I think that is a big part of mu personal success because I have a work ethic which is probably unlike most traditional musicians. All of those years in Dream Theater, I did it all. It was by nature, it wasn’t by design. I was always the type of musician who not only played drums but wanted to write the music, write the lyrics, write the melody, produce the albums, direct the videos and oversee the fan clubs, website and merchandise. That is just the type of artist I am and like I said, that is by nature not design. Some people are natural-born leaders and obsessive/compulsive control freaks and that is just the way I am! [laughs] Like you said, the key word there is work ethic. That is just the type of person I am. For the last two or three years since I left Dream Theater, I think I have made about ten albums with twelve or fifteen different bands or projects! It is just a natural passion and drive that is in me.

That leads me to your latest project, The Winery Dogs. Tell us a little bit about how the project originally started.

I guess it came about with Billy Sheehan and myself working together. We were originally doing something with somebody else and it just never took off but Billy and I really wanted to do a power trio together. My good friend Eddie Trunk suggested giving Richie Kotzen a call. It was actually a brilliant suggestion because Ritchie is a tremendous talent. He is not only a guitar player but a tremendous singer and songwriter! Billy and I started working with Ritchie and that is where The Winery Dogs were born! Everything was written from scratch, collaborated on by all three of us in a room and that is where it all began.

What are your memories of first meeting both Billy Sheehan and Richie Kotzen? Are those meetings something which stand out in your mind?

The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs

They were two very different times and places. I have been working with Billy for about twenty years now but I have known who he is for about thirty. I used to go see Billy play with Talas in the early 80s, when I was a teenager. I used to sneak into the Long Island clubs just to see him play! I have been aware of him since then and he has always been my favorite bass player. To me, he is the Jimi Hendrix of the Eddie Van Halen of bass. I followed his career from Talas to David Lee Roth and everything since. He and I began working together almost twenty years ago. We did a Rush tribute album together. Then, sometime in the mid-2000s, him and I did a tribute album for The Who together. We also have an instrumental band with Derek Sherinian and Tony MacAlpine. Billy and I definitely have a long history together! Once I started working with him, it was obviously a tremendous honor for me because I was always such a fan and admirer of his work.

How I met Richie was very recently. I was having dinner with my friend Eddie Trunk here in LA. Eddie was mutual friend, so he introduced us. That was the first time I met Richie but I had no idea I would end up in a band with him a year later! Once I was introduced to Richie’s solo material, I was absolutely floored by his talents! I had only known him as the replacement guitar player in Poison and Mr. Big, in both of which cases he wasn’t singing. I had no idea of the unbelievable depth of his talent. Once I started listening to his solo material, which has gone very much under the radar here in America for all these years, that is when I realized he is the real deal. He is one of the most soulful artists I have ever encountered!

When you guys first started out on this project, what were your expectations for the record?

We knew we wanted to do a classic rock power trio, something in the vein of Led Zeppelin, Cream, Hendrix or Grand Funk Railroad. That was the blueprint were were aiming for and it came out pretty naturally. I guess it is because that kind of music is evidenced as inspirations for all three of us and just naturally came out that way. We wanted to put a modern touch on it as well, with touches of Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and newer stuff like that. Those were the expectations — strictly musical expectations. Commercial expectations are out of our control. Whatever happens after we make the music is out of our control. We only had our musical expectations and I think we met them.

You mentioned building this album from the ground up. What can you tell us about the songwriting process for this album and the challenges that you faced along the way?

We literally got together at Richie’s house and within the first hour of playing together, we had written two songs. We wrote “One More Time” and “Time Machine,” both of which are on the album. There was an immediate chemistry! We ended up writing five songs that ended up on the album within the first two days of playing together. It was very natural. All three of us work in a very quick-minded artistic pace and we are able to throw ideas on the table together, bounce them around and morph them. It was all very natural. The album is self-produced. There was no preconceived thought not to have a producer. As the three of us began writing in the studio, it was just like “Hit the record button!” Again, it was very natural, the three of us writing and working, so we just recorded the damn thing! I think the biggest challenge in the entire process was coming up with a band name! That is always a challenge for any new band. Rock ‘N’ Roll has been around for 50 years now, so almost every name has been used at this point! That was the biggest challenges and resulted in many, many months of arguing between the three of us before we settled on The Winery Dogs.

winery-dogs-2013-10

How many songs did you write for the album and is there anything that didn’t make the album, which we may hear at a later date?

We wrote fourteen songs and recorded them all. There are thirteen on the album and left one as a bonus track for Japan. We also recorded eight cover songs,which are kinda just sitting on the shelf. We haven’t decided when or if we will do anything with them. It was an unbelievably productive session with fourteen originals and eight covers! Twenty-two songs within that one session! It was very fruitful!

You have been so creative in the past few years. Is there a long-term goal you are looking to achieve?

The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs

My goals are the same now as they were when I was younger — make good music. I guess, twenty-five or thirty years ago, I never had goals of being rich and famous or being influential. My goals were to make music because I was a huge music fan. Thirty years later, it is still the same. I don’t make decisions based on business or money. If I did, I should have just stayed with Dream Theater where it was safe. I make my decisions on wanting to be artistic, creative and inspired. I am working with some of my favorite musicians in the world, guys who I respect and admire. I am also able to make all kinds of music with different bands and projects. That is all I want out of life is to be artistically challenged and to artistically fantasized. Where these projects go is up to the public — the record buyers and concert ticket buyers. I just do what my heart wants!

Absolutely. You definitely stay busy and ultimately it is great for you and the fans of your work. With so many irons in the fire, what is a typically day like for you when you are not on tour? It has to be hectic!

It is a lot of emails! There is a lot of time dealing with emails and juggling schedules. Here I am right now and it is a typical day off for me and I am home, sitting by the pool and doing a days worth of interviews with people like yourself. This is one typical day but even between the interviews, I am dealing with emails. There are emails dealing with four or five different bands and each one of those bands or projects have dozens of decisions that have to be made. It is everything from crew members to set lists to merchandise designs to marketing ideas and so on. There is never a dull moment in my life! Some people just think I play drums for a living! [laughs] My God, that couldn’t be further from the truth!

With that said, do you feel there are a lot of misconceptions circulating about you?

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy

I think I am one of the most misunderstood artists in the world! [laughs] Any time I go on the internet and I see these websites with an article with a quote for shock value as the headline, I realize the misconceptions about me that are out there by the fans and non-fans as well. I think the biggest one is that I am band jumping or opportunity jumping and jumping from band to band. That is not the case. Like I just said to you, it is me following my heart. I spent 25 years in one band and was so unbelievably dedicated to one band. I don’t think you will find more dedication than I do for what I did for Dream Theater for 25 years. I mean, I literally oversaw every single step, every minute of the day. You won’t find a more committed artist than me. I did that for 25 years, so I think the biggest misconception is that I am not committed. That is so far from the truth. I am just doing lots of different things. I am enjoying having this musical freedom right now. Every one of the bands and projects I am involved with are so different from each other. The Winery Dogs is one thing, Transatlantic is another, Adrenaline Mob is something else. There are each so different from the other and I give all I can to each of them. The biggest problem is when you give 100% to five different things, inevitably there are going to be schedule clashes and it is not always going to be easy to juggle so many things. That is one of the difficulties I have been having lately and I am trying to make it all work. I am doing my best and I don’t think you are going to find an artist with a stronger work ethic than I have. I am a total workaholic and passionate about everything I do. It is hard to always juggle it all without a scheduling conflict here or there! That has been the only problem, trying to solve that and make it all work.

Misconceptions aside, your work speaks for itself and would make for a very interesting autobiography at some point. Is that a project you have considered undertaking in the future?

Yeah! Actually, after I left Dream Theater, I was approached by several different companies about doing that. I just felt for a while after I left Dream Theater, there was so much drama and controversy. No matter what I said, it got taken out of context and blown out of proportion. That made me very gun shy about doing interviews or taking openly. If I am going to do a book, I am going to talk openly. I want to be able to tell it all and not pull punches or bullshit anything. I have always prided myself on being very honest and open with the fans, so if I was to do a book, it would have to be that way. I think right now, it is all still too fresh. There is still way too much drama online and the fans are so passionate and dramatic about it all, I wouldn’t want to do a book right now. I think it is still needs time for the wounds to heal and the smoke to clear. Surely one of these days I would love to do it. There was a Dream Theater biography which came out years ago I was very involved with. I spent a tremendous amount of time going through the history of the band and contributed a lot to that book. That is probably the closest to any kind of biography so far having to do with my career.

Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy

When looking back on your incredible and still very productive career, how do you feel you have evolved as an artist?

My evolution goes beyond the drums. I think my evolution as an artist has to do with playing with all of these different bands and playing different roles within each of them, playing with different people and exploring different styles. My evolution as a drummer comes from having a different kind of drum kit or setup in each of the bands and I have to play stylistically different for each of them. That has been my evolution. That is another reason why I needed to get some time away from Dream Theater. I didn’t want to, for the rest of my life, be just the guy from Dream Theater. I didn’t want Dream Theater to define my entire life and career. I felt I had a lot more to say and had many, many different styles within me which I wanted to explore. That has been the evolution of my career, branching out and doing all of these things. Of course, Dream Theater will be a huge, huge part of my of my legacy but I would hope the other things are also a part of it as well. Everything I am doing is all part of the story of who I am.

What else is on the horizon for you as an artist. Is there still new territory you are looking to tackle?

I am very fulfilled at the moment. Ya know, there are so many different things going on in my career at the moment and they have me very fulfilled. As I said, it is hard enough to juggle what exists, so I am not looking to add many more things on to the plate at the moment. I am really just looking to continue to develop what is already happening. For the moment, the focus is on The Winery Dogs. That is going to be the focus of everything I am doing over the next six to twelve months on the road. I am planning on traveling and touring as much as I can with this great new band! For the moment, that is the focus! Inevitably, there are always a million other things. There is a Flying Colors Blu-ray coming out later this year. There is TSMS Blu-ray coming out in September and a Transatlantic album at the beginning of 2014 but The Winery Dogs is definitely going to be the focus for awhile.

As someone who has been on the front lines of the music business as long as you have, I am sure you have some great insights. What is the best piece of advice you can pass on to up-and-coming musicians?

Artists and musicians today have an outlet I never had with the internet. When I was starting out in the early to mid-80s, basically, your only hope was to get a record deal, go into a big recording studio, get covered by MTV and that was your only hope of ever making it. In this day in age, musicians and artists have so much freedom to be able to build and develop themselves on their own through the internet. There are these outlets to be able to reach listeners throughout the world and not have to sign your life away to do it. That is the greatest tool available to kids today. My son is fourteen years old and he is in a band. I am seeing the things he is able to do that I could never do at his age with being able to put his stuff on the internet and have hundreds of thousands of hits from all over the world. That is amazing a fourteen year old kid can do that! I think people need to continue to take advantage of that and do it yourself. Don’t rely on a record company or sign your life away to someone else when you can do it all yourself.

Thank for your time today Mike and thank you for all the hard work you put in on your music. It has been a pleasure!

No problem! Thank you very much! Talk to you soon!

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