Several people asked what my musical influences were and what my motivation was to get into music? Well, I guess my motivation would be to fit in with my classmates in Eighth Grade, who all seemed to see me as a nerd. Based on what I listened to at that point, mostly pop music and my parents’ collection of Easy Listening and Jazz, and the way that I dressed, they were probably right. To be “hip” or “cool”, you had to look the part and no matter how I tried, that wasn’t happening. In an era of long hair and cool clothes, cool clothes alone did not make the man! I wanted to play guitar and thought that might make a difference. My grandmother bought me a $20 acoustic guitar from a music shop up the street from her and off I went. The only problem was I couldn’t get the hang of it, no matter how much I looked at the lesson book. Plus, it hurt my fingers, not understanding the concept of building up calluses.
My failure on the six-string sent me back to the piano. Piano players were not as cool as guitar players were and that was a fact. Nine out of ten of my fellow Eighth Grade students in knew who Jimi was but most had no clue who Rick Wakeman was. I realized I wouldn’t get to be one of the cool kids and decided to expose my self to the music and the publications of the time to learn more than my classmates did about the music world. My closest friends soon nicknamed me “Doc Rock” because of my encyclopedic knowledge of even the most obscure bands. It was a moniker that stuck with me throughout high school and college and was my handle…still is…from my radio work on WBIM Bridgewater. While it didn’t get me any points to being one of those cigarette smoking, leather jacket wearing, bell bottom styling cool kids, it did put a lot of great music into my ears.
My biggest regret is that I never took my grandmother’s offer to pay for piano lessons. As a pre-teen, I couldn’t see myself taking time away from being a kid and actually have to add music homework to my other homework. I never received the formal training and that leaves me as someone who can play adequately, but nowhere near as well as I could have. Again-a lesson in life that I wish I could go back and correct. Randy Blake once played me the greatest compliment by saying that I always managed to find a way to play something that he challenged me to play. I also wished I could have learned not only the guitar, but taken a shot at the saxophone. Guitar players still are the epitome of cool and there is just something so special about the sound of a saxophone when slipped into a tight band.
I didn’t get into the music business until 1985, when Randy and I became friends at work and I offered my services to help him cut a demo of his newest material. He gave me a three-song acapela recording, I wrote the music for them, and the rest, as they say, is history. Between 1985 and 1987, The Hellfire Club recorded 21 tracks, before morphing into Brideshead and recording the BEGGARS AND BUSINESSMEN album in 1987/88
When it comes to influences to my writing style, I always cite four bands/performers. First, I have to credit Grand Funk Railroad. My cousin turned me on to them around the time that the PHOENIX album came out and, by Christmas, I had a complete collection. My first concert was the SHININ’ ON tour in April of 1974. I should have been on the main floor with my cousins, but the story I was sold was that there was a limit on tickets. So I was relegated to the side stage with my childhood friend Mike, my 44-year-old dad and my 50-year-old next door neighbor. The thrill of seeing a live band made me truly want to feel that energy from the stage instead of the audience. I honestly feel that rush every time I take the stage.
My second influence is Emerson, Lake and Palmer. While reading an article about the band’s soon to be released BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, I read more into the themes of the record than I should have. It was probably the best mistake I ever made, leading to a lifelong love of Progressive Rock. I have had the honor of seeing the band members five times, in a number of different incarnations, but my greatest joy was knowing that one of Emerson’s famous knife scarred Hammond B-3’s is in the custody of our producer Chris Tsangaredies.
Influence number three would be Marillion and I can thank Randy for this one. The song “Kayleigh” had gotten some FM airplay in the spring of 1985, but never got higher than the bottom third of the Billboard Hot 100. Randy turned me on to the bands’ earlier works, illustrating a tight musical engine and complex lyrics that inspired me to be a better writer. When it came time to slip from the relatively simple songs of The Hellfire Club to the more complex work that Brideshead needed, I dipped into Marillion mode and turned out half of what became the BEGGARS AND BUSINESSMEN album.
Going hand in hand with Marillion was Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention. With the release of the WHO KNOWS WHERE THE TIME GOES box set in 1985, this troubled singer, who I only knew as the other voice on Led Zeppelin’s “Battle of Evermore”, was thrust into the musical forefront. That collection not only exposed me to her words and music, but the bands she enjoyed a modicum of fame with. Celtic infused British folk showed me that a folk band could play some of the hardest licks around. Long have Randy and I discussed covering the classic “Tam Lin” in a classic hard rock style and hopefully we will someday soon.
Someone asked about the new record and when it was going to be in the hands of the fans. Well, I have to admit something: Briar Rose has a big problem. One of the problems is that some illnesses and a horrible run of bad weather plagued us in 2015 that caused us to lose almost three full months of writing time. But the real problem is that we have so much material in rough form, semi-completed form, and finished demos that we don’t quite know when to stop. We literally have CDs filled with material and that translates into what could conceivably be a 10 CD box set if we let the monster run wild! That’s not an overestimated bit of hype on my part-it’s the truth! Over the last year and a half, we have worked with those demos and, at the same time, have messed around with other licks. While half of the band is messing around with one piece, the other half comes up with a riff, a lick, or a chord progression and that leads to a new place.
What that means for us is that the five of us are swimming into the deep end of a creativity pool like we never had before. This record is going to truly make people sit up and take notice more than ever before. Have no fear: it will be as hard as anything we have ever done. But, at the same time, it will be the most complex thing we have attempted. ENCHIRIDION is going to make you the fans smile and I cannot wait for all of you to hear it. It’s gonna be amazing!
Along those lines, one of our long time and long distance fans asked if I could play in any other band besides this one, which would it be? To be honest, as corny as it might sound, I don’t think there is another band out there that I would want to play in. Being in a band, a real band, is like being in a family. We love each other, hate each other, and fight with each other. We play nice together and we play rough together. But, in the end, it is all about family. And in this family, you have to trust the person to your immediate left or right. And we do, plain and simple. So there is no other band I would want to play in other than this one. If this band rolled up its’ tent tomorrow, I would too. I have no urge to join another group.
Now the list of musicians that I would want to play with, JUST ONCE, if I had the raw talent, is lengthy and covers all genres. But, if I had to pick one current artist in music today, one person I could play with on a one-off show, it would probably be Neil Young. Here is a chameleon that has lent his talents to everything from folk and country to electronic, alternative and hard rock. I would just love to be a part of that band, especially if it was Crazy Horse, and jam…just once.
What kind of music would you like to make, besides Briar Rose? I think I still have a Prog concept album or two in my soul. Back in the Brideshead days, Randy and I had actually mapped out a series of concept albums. Some of those songs actually morphed and found their way into the Briar Rose repertoire. Long forgotten, I recently came across my original notebook with all sorts of lyrics, music, and promotional stuff from those days and, lo and behold the list of those planned albums. So, it would be nice to put one of those projects together someday…just not with another band. I would like to see any one of those as a Briar Rose project. That would certainly blow some minds!
I was asked if my kids shared my passion for music and if I would support them if they joined a band. My oldest daughter is a multi-instrumentalist, playing keyboards, guitar, ukulele, and flute. She has a beautiful singing voice and developed quite a following on-line for her talents. Do I think she’ll follow in my footsteps? She’s 15 going on 30-who knows! My littlest one likes to sing and she has composed on the piano. But for now, she just thinks it’s fun to “make stuff up”. And if either one joined a band, I’d be the guy fighting for a backstage pass and photo credentials.
I was asked what about my favorite bands and albums were. That could fill up multiple pages of this web site. It is probably easier to touch on the genres I like and even that would take some time. It’s easiest to discuss genres I do not like. I don’t particularly care for Country or Western, especially the concept of “new Country”. But I have developed a great love over the last few years for Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams and even Glen Campbell, but I can’t warm up to more than that. I am not a big fan of most modern Hip-Hop, although I do like those that came before this current crop of rappers. The way was paved by George Clinton, De la Soul, the Ohio Players, Osibisa, and more. Most of what currently passes for electronic music leaves me cold too. Skrillex and Daft Punk is not my kind of music-Kraftwerk was! However, I can listen to Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Crystal Method and Fat Boy Slim.
My favorite artists and albums change with my mood and I own far too many albums, both as CDs and actual LPs to pull a list of favorites. And just because I’m old doesn’t mean my favorites are relegated to the Golden Oldies I grew up with. I have been on a major Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones binge lately.. I have taken to the habit of combing through my local chain and independent record outlets looking for deals, especially on used CDs. FYE (yeah…I’ll name drop here) runs a BUY 2 GET 1 FREE promotion about every 6 weeks. That’s a great time to dive into stuff, especially older stuff that someone has pilfered out of their older sibling’s CD collection for some quick coin.
At the same time, there were a lot music released in 2015 and so far in 2016 that made it into my collection. Among those were the following: Marilyn Manson, Belle and Sebastian, The Decemberists, Fall Out Boy, Sleater Kinney, Diana Krall, Fifth Harmony, Jacob Whitesides, Bea Miller, All That Remains, Kendrick Lamar, Brian Wilson, Halestorm, Alabama Shakes, Faith No More, Twenty-One Pilots, Wilco, Lamb of God, Joss Stone, Bullet for my Valentine, Ghost, The Sword, Motorhead, Butcher Babies, Disturbed, Miley Cyrus, Five Finger Death Punch, Iron Maiden, Prince, Duran Duran, The Hollywood Vampires, Ann Wilson, Slayer, Keith Richards, The Dead Weather, New Order, Children of Bodom, Elvis Costello, Coheed and Cambria, ELO, Coldplay, David Bowie, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Elton John, Sia, The Cult, and Lucinda Williams. And that doesn’t include the Black Sabbath remasters, the Led Zeppelin remasters and the expanded CONCERT BY THE SEA. That’s a pretty eclectic batch of music if I do say so myself.
10 essential albums to take with me on a desert island? THE BEATLES WHITE ALBUM, BELAFONTE AT CARNEGIE HALL, BRAIN SALAD SURGERY, CLUTCHING AT STRAWS, CONCERT BY THE SEA, GOOD APOLLO, I’M BURNING STAR IV, VOLUME 1, GRAND FUNK LIVE ALBUM, JOE’S GARAGE, LET IT BLEED, and LIEGE AND LIEF
I was asked to talk about my involvement with the various comic cons and events that I photograph and was there any special person or celebrity I'd like to photograph? For those who may not know, I spend a lot of my free time shooting independent wrestling shows and Comic Cons across the area. I have been blessed with making a lot of friends on both sides of the “velvet rope” and have some really cool memories and stories regarding them…far too many for publishing here. Perhaps on my own Blogger site. But, as far as what celebrity would I like to photograph, I don’t really have an answer. While there are a lot I would welcome the chance to meet and shoot, the concept of celebrity doesn’t blow me away anymore. When you stand next to famous rock star and exchange pleasantries at a urinal, it takes the mystery out of the fame game. Besides, I have gotten to meet Linda Blair, Cherie Currie and Lita Ford-the rest pale in comparison after that!
The last question I got was a fun one that asked what character from Frank L. Baum’s The Wizard of Oz represented me and why? I had to dwell on this for a bit, as there are so many unusual personalities in the book. In the end, I think I am most like Dorothy. In the book, she has these great adventures and rejoices when she finally gets home to her Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Despite that, she goes off on another thirteen adventures, eventually living in Oz and being made a Princess of Oz. Throughout it all, she realizes that friends and family is the most important things to have in your life. That is certainly how I feel. We are on this plane for a short time and when we are gone, the world continues to go on. It lived before us and will live on after we’re dead. All we can hope for is to make a difference while we are here. Fill your life with good times and good people and hope to leave them better when you are gone.
So that’s that. I hope I didn’t bore you too much and all. Stay tuned for more insanity from the Briar Rose camp in 2016 and beyond. This band has been doing what it does for 28 years and we don’t plan on stopping any time soon. Keep rocking. And thanks for all your support over the years.