Should Tupac Be In The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame?

Blake and Brian cover and discuss the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2017.

Does Tupac deserve to be in?
Which live, prime-time performance would you rather see?

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“The 2 Party System Has Been Over For A Long Time.” Chuck D, B-Real & Rage Against The Machine Members Form Politically Focused Super-Group To Play The RNC Convention.

“The 2 Party System Has Been Over For A Long Time.” Chuck D, B-Real & Rage Against The Machine Members Form Politically Focused Super-Group To Play The RNC Convention.

Tzevaot Hand Pan Instrument Demonstration @ 2016 Conscious Life Expo.

Brian Engelman stops by the Tzevaot booth at the 2016 Conscious Life Expo so that Teddy can show us how the “hand pan” drum works.

For more information, please visit:
www.HandPan.com

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“God’s going to judge your gear. “NAMM 2016 Show Overview By Mike Spreier. Part 1

Mike Spreier presents some highlights from day one of NAMM 2016 for the New American Media.

In this episode, Mike breaks down an entire day of exploring the NAMM convention.

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Lemmy’s Custom Bass Guitar @ NAMM 2016. Minarik Guitars Featured By Mike Spreier.

Mike Spreier presents some highlights from NAMM 2016 for the New American Media.

In this episode, Mike tours the Minarik Guitar booth.

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NAMM Media Preview Day 1! Mike Spreier Covers America’s Premier Music Convention.

Mike Spreier presents some highlights from NAMM 2016 for the New American Media.

In this episode, Mike tours the NAMM preview day.

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Mourning Bowie, by Mike Spreier

Mourning Bowie, by Mike Spreier

There have already been a lot of words written about David Bowie since his passing…his life, his death, his legacy. More importantly, millions of people have dug out their old Bowie LPs, CDs, MP3s or whatever their format of choice is (I am imagining at least one die-hard fan out there with a reel-to-reel deck listening to the ’72 Magtec release of Space Oddity) and are listening to their favorite Bowie tunes again. According to Spotify, streams of Bowie’s music jumped 2,700% the day after his death was announced, and on the Australian charts, his newest album Blackstar has risen to number one, while the second, third and fourth positions are all taken by Bowie best-of compilations. Clearly, he has touched millions of people and several generations with his music.

It seems like every musician I’ve even known has been a major Bowie fan. And I mean the type of fan who will get into a fist fight over the supremacy of Aladdin Sane versus the Berlin Trilogy. They have copies of every album from the self-titled David Bowie up through Scary Monsters, and probably even Let’s Dance or Tonight, though the latter may just be a cassette tape that lies forgotten somewhere in the back of the Ford Ecoliner. But Ziggy? Yeah, that’s on the 180 gram vinyl Japanese import…that one is sacred.

I have to admit that I’ve never really been one of those guys, though I’ve been surrounded by them throughout my life. I didn’t really need to buy the entire pre-1980 Bowie catalog because it was always just there. And the stuff I was listening to in the early 80s, like Joy Division and Bauhaus, certainly owed its debt to Bowie. His music and influence was unescapable.

Then something happened, and that something was Let’s Dance, Bowie’s biggest commercial hit. A new legion of fans flocked to the album, while those of us with less mainstream taste tried to convince ourselves that Bowie hadn’t completely lost his cool. But he certainly didn’t help his case when he released the execrable 20-minute long Jazzin’ for Blue Jean video to promote the new single from his next album, Tonight. I remember MTV hyping it heavily before it aired, and gathering with friends to watch the initial showing, only to find ourselves dumbstruck by the end. The only redeemable thing in the entire twenty minutes was the bit of “Warszawa” playing in the background during one scene, and that was mostly just a slap in the face, a reminder of Bowie’s former brilliance. After this, I would look at every future Bowie release with more than a little apprehension.

Even Bowie would look back at this period as his creative nadir. The enormous success of Let’s Dance pressured him into continuing with the commercialized pop sound he was exploring, but whatever energy he once had for the genre seemed to implode.

It was at this point that I first saw him live in concert, during the Glass Spider tour in 1987. There was something terribly off about the whole show, beginning with the rather out of place opening act, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Whatever charm Siouxsie might conjure up in a small nightclub was completely lost in the enormous Anaheim Stadium. And when Bowie took the stage, supported by the inexplicable choice of Peter Frampton as guitarist, everything seemed to fall flat. I remember sneaking our way from our distant seats to find a place closer to the stage about halfway through the set, but the more intimate proximity didn’t make a difference. The entire show was a forgettable disappointment.

Even Bowie knew something was wrong. He soon formed Tin Machine, and they released two albums that managed to find the energy that had been sorely lacking in his more recent solo efforts. While the Tin Machine era was met with mixed reviews, the material still holds up very well. It was a critical reformation period in Bowie’s career, necessary to set the stage for future triumphs.

One of these triumphs came in 1995 when he toured with Nine Inch Nails. This was the second and last time I would see Bowie live, and it completely redeemed the previous event. The show was unique, having no break between Trent’s band and David’s, instead they swapped musicians in and out, slowly transforming from Nine Inch Nails to David Bowie. The highest point was in the middle, as Bowie and Reznor combined to play “Scary Monsters.” The synergy between the two front mean was electrifying, and one of the greatest concert moments I’ve ever seen.

Bowie had completed some strange artistic loop at this point. His next albums would show the influence of people like Trent Reznor, who were themselves inspired by Bowie. While he would never quite return to the commercial success of Let’s Dance, or the artistic importance of his pre-1980s work, he continued with another half dozen albums that would show flashes of brilliance, such as “I’m Afraid of Americans” from the album Earthling. Which, not coincidentally, was co-written by Brian Eno, who collaborated with Bowie on much of his best material throughout his career.

In the 2000s, Bowie seemed to slowly fade from view. From 2000 until 2015 he only released three albums, without much fanfare, until the 2016 release of Blackstar. Released on his 69th birthday, Blackstar quickly received surprisingly positive reviews. And then Bowie had to go and to perhaps the most Bowie-esque thing of his career by dying three days after its release.

Blackstar was intended by Bowie to be his own eulogy, and will take its rightful place as one of his greatest albums. Certainly it is his darkest work, though it crackles with moments of breathtaking energy and winks at other moments with Bowie’s sly humor. It’s a heavy, reflective album that reminds us of everything fantastic that Bowie ever did throughout his career. And it’s the album that only a dying Bowie could make.

There was no need for Bowie to cement his position as one of the world’s greatest rockstars with yet another fantastic album. His legend was already secure and relatively untarnished by even his most forgettable works. But he did it anyway. He gave us another masterpiece…one of the most poignant albums ever…as his way of saying his final goodbye.

That’s Bowie for you. Unpredictable and spectacular to the very end.

David, you will be missed.

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NAMMticipation! Mike Spreier Crafts His Battle Plan For Year 2 At NAMM, The Premier Music Convention.

NAMMticipation!
By: Mike Spreier

There are no words that can adequately describe NAMM, the music industry’s premier gathering. The numbers alone are staggering: over 100,000 attendees from more than 100 countries, 1600 exhibitors, five stages, an endless parade of rock’n’roll movers and shakers, and enough guitar amplifiers to shatter a small- to medium-sized planet. Entering one of the main halls is like entering God’s Own Guitar Center, except that the guy in the corner pounding out the riff to “Smoke on the Water” could very well be the bass player from Deep Purple (Roger Glover…yeah, I had to look that up). It’s no small coincidence that NAMM takes place right next to Disneyland; one could easily be forgiven for thinking the “Happiest Place on Earth” sign on Harbor Boulevard might be temporarily referring to the NAMM show instead of that place with the oversized mouse.

Attendance at NAMM trade shows is limited to industry professionals, mainly those who represent the manufacturers of musical instruments and accessories. Mixed in with the professionals who create and represent the world’s most iconic musical instruments is a liberal heaping of musicians, ranging from some of the rock’s most famous deities down to some of the lesser (but well-connected) archangels. And inhabiting perhaps the lowest tier of the NAMM hierarchy are the media outlets and journalists who are fortunate enough to find themselves cover this gathering of the music world’s elites.

Obtaining the badge that allows one passage into this rock and roll Valhalla is a bit like finding the golden ticket in a Wonka bar. Last year, I was fortunate enough to find myself with a media pass hanging around my neck, and feeling like Charlie Bucket entering the chocolate factory for the first time. And much like Charlie, I found myself gazing at some magnificent wonders, and allowed a glance at many of the upcoming products still unseen by mortal man. But foolishly, I had only allowed myself one afternoon to take in all the sights and sounds. So much time and so little to see!

Wait a minute. Strike that, reverse it.

Knowing that I wouldn’t possibly make it to all the exhibitors that I wanted to see, I started off with the monsters of the guitar world: Fender and Gibson. Despite being more of a Gibson fan, I was immediately blown away by the 2015 Fender acoustics, particularly a Vince Ray model with the incredible “Guitar Monster from Another Planet” retro graphics, and a Tele-headstock resonator which shined beautifully under the bright convention center lights. Next, I made my way to the Gibson custom shop which did not fail to deliver, with a truly rockin’ Ron Wood signature L5S and Brian Ray’s signature SG being a couple of my favorites.

After a brief stop to check out the new Roland MX1 mixer and some general wide-eyed wandering around, I headed downstairs, deep into the bowels of NAMM. Away from the big name manufacturers with their multi-thousand square foot displays, this is the realm of the lesser known boutique guys. It was here that I came across Paul Barker (from Ministry and the Revolting Cocks), who was displaying the latest offerings from his company, Malekko Heavy Industry. In addition to being partially responsible for a good portion of my chronic tinnitus, he also provides guitar effects and synthesizer modules to all sorts of incredible artists and bands, including Flea, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden, Motorhead, the Cure, ZZ Top…the list just keeps going on. He’s also just an all-around cool guy who was kind enough to give me a walkthrough of his gear lineup.

By this time it was getting close to the end of the day, my energy was dwindling and the crowds were starting to thin. I found my way back to my car (parked miles away, somewhere in the heart of Garden Grove), and made the long drive home, with visions of electric guitars, stompboxes, amplifiers, keyboards and mixers all dancing through my head.

It’s nearly a year later, and this intrepid reporter has once again managed to unwrap one of those golden tickets to NAMM (with many thanks to The New American Media). Drawing on my experiences from last year, I’m sharpening up my game plan to get the most out of my 2016 return.
One afternoon just isn’t going to cut it. I’m scheduling two full days, which will hopefully be enough time to see all the big exhibitors, a good chunk of the smaller ones, and maybe catch one or two live acts. Also, I’m going to try to get there early enough to nab a parking spot at GardenWalk…I spent well over an hour last year trying to find parking and still ended up at least a mile away from the Convention Center. I’ll get enough exercise walking around the NAMM exhibits, thank you.

NAMM has a pretty good app that includes a map of the exhibits, but last year I still ended up not really knowing where I wanted to go. And once I got inside, pulling out my cell phone and launching the app was kind of a pain. This year, I’m printing out paper maps and studying them like Napoleon studied maps of Russia. I’m also doing more research online to determine my precise line of attack. There are a lot of cool little companies that are creating some amazingly innovative new products, and I want to make sure I get some of them into my video report. Of course, I’ll still be looking for the 2016 line from some of my favorite big names like Gibson, Fender, Roland, ESP, Korg, Yamaha, etc. as well as lesser known treasures like Malekko Heavy Industries. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll drop by Avid and settle a long-standing score. (You know what you did, Avid. You know what you did.)

No matter what, it’s going to be awesome, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you!

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