Monday, August 22, 2016

Classic Book Review: Gene Simmons - Sex, Money, Kiss






13 years ago, Gene Simmons released his second book, Sex Money Kiss. It was the follow up to his best-selling autobiography, Kiss and Make Up. While his first book was a pure autobiography, for book number two, Simmons went in a bit of a different direction, combining biographical elements, with personal finance advice, lifestyle advice, and even relationship advice.

Sex Money Kiss is an enjoyable read filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and interesting behind the scenes looks at the business side of the music industry. Gene takes us on his personal finance/business/music career journey that started at a very young age when he would buy comics in bulk and weed out the valuable ones for resale. His entrepreneurial mind was working at an early age and never stopped.

Simmons goes into detail about projects he’s worked on over the years, both successes and failures and explains how each takes the same amount of time and commitment. The same amount of energy will be put into failures as successes. In order to succeed, one must possess the “never give up” mentality, knowing that eventually one of the ideas is going to strike gold. Simmons also spends a lot of time discussing work ethic and work habits. He provides sound advice about dedicating oneself to their work for the agreed upon time that one is working. He also preaches that if overtime is available, take it. If there is an opportunity to work weekends, seize it. The nights will still be free to do whatever you want, but while there is a chance to earn money during the day, do it.

The years of KISS are covered throughout Sex Money Kiss as well. From their humble beginnings to their mega farewell tour, Simmons discusses what was happening in the background to make the career of KISS such a success. He details how he was involved in a lot of the business side of things in order to get a better understanding on where the money was going and who was actually pocketing it. From dealing with promoters, to distributors, to record executives, Simmons tried to be involved with as much as possible. As he states several times throughout the book, “No one knows YOU better than you.” It is important to be involved in these aspects of your life. And while he was discussing it from a music industry perspective, the advice is applicable in all of our daily lives. How much involvement do we really have in our own investments?

Failed ventures are well documented in Sex Money Kiss also. From a KISS sneaker line, to unmade movies, Simmons discusses all of the projects that he is or was working on and their various stages of success and while ultimately some of them never came to market. He also discusses his own personal involvement in negotiating the terms for all of these projects, which ultimately led to more money into the band’s (and his) pocket. And while a lot of it may appear that Simmons is bragging about all of his successes, there is much more that can be read into these stories. It is an inspirational read meant to fire the reader up to take charge in their own lives. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Work and work hard, while pursuing a fun hobby that may eventually turn into a career. And always pursue a way to get paid for what you are doing. And make sure that you are paid well for it.

Overall, Sex Money Kiss is an enjoyable read filled with solid advice on relationships, work, and money. And while most of it may be taken with a grain of salt and admired from a far perspective, Sex Money Kiss has plenty of good advice throughout. It also serves as a companion to Kiss and Make Up, giving more details to certain stories that happened throughout the career of Gene Simmons. If you are a fan of KISS, the music industry, or if you are looking for a light read on saving and investing money, I highly recommend that you seek out the classic gem, Sex Money Kiss.

Monday, August 8, 2016

How To Start A Band



This is the first in a series of posts on starting a band.

We’ve all been there --- visions of packed arenas fill our heads. We are onstage performing to thousands of screaming fans. We’re on a tour bus, travelling from city to city to play sold out concerts night after night. We are rock stars and life is good. Fortune and fame are ours all in the name of performing arts. Every Beatles has a beginning. Every Led Zeppelin started somewhere. Before you can headline Madison Square Garden, you have to practice your chops somewhere, with some other people. But how exactly do you get started? Where can you find like-minded people that are as dedicated and devoted as yourself? How do you get this dream off the ground? How in the world do you start a band?

Have Some Talent  
It helps if you start off with some talent. Whether that is the ability to shred an exceptional guitar solo, play a few chords, keep a steady beat on the drums, sing, or write lyrics. Talent is important to get you off of the ground. If you have zero talent, no one is going to want to perform with you no matter how passionate you are. There needs to be at least the basic understanding of how to play your instrument and/or how to read music. Courses are available for this, use them. Practice a lot. No one mastered their craft without a lot of practice. Practice leads to better talent and talent is important.

Tap Your Friends
Who better than to embark on a lifelong journey with than a friend? A lot of great bands started off as some friends getting together to jam. Use your friend network. Most likely some of them are into music and want to perform. Find out which ones and jam with them. See if you have the same talent level or the same taste in music. Get together and see what happens. You might just be starting a long future together.

Use Your Online Resources
Can’t find any musicians in your local friend base? Then it may be time to widen your search. There are endless resources online to help potential band members get together. Craigslist has a section that pairs prospective musicians together. Bandmix (www.bandmix.com) is another site that helps musicians find one another. They also have a message board forum. Who’s Doing (music.whosdoing.com) is an additional site that offers music lovers the chance to get together and form a band. Their slogan is “starting a band has never been easier” and they provide the opportunity to place ads and search ads so that musicians can find one another. In this day and age it has never been easier to find people with the same interests as yours.

Look For Established Musicians
There is nothing wrong with a bunch of amateurs getting together and making a run at becoming a band. However, the more established the team members are, the better your chances are of having long term success. There are a lot of bands out there missing that one key ingredient and they are searching for it. Ads are everywhere for a singer, guitarist, drummer wanted. Reply to the ads. Attend open mike jam nights at your local club. Visit the scene. And then see if the group is right for you. And if you think they are, approach them. Tell them that you want to jam with them. Tell them that you want to join forces with them. And then show them what you’ve got.

Be Passionate And Confident
Passion and confidence will take you a long way. You have to be confident in your ability. If you lack confidence, you will never be able to perform in front of a live audience. And you need to have passion. Passion will take you far. Passion is what gets you through periods of doubt and uncertainty. Passion is what keeps you going when it seems like nothing is coming together. Passion is the driving force behind all successful people. Without it, you may never get over the hurdles that will come your way.

Patience And Persistency
Like most great things in life, being part of a band is a journey. Enjoy the trip! Most likely, your band will not join together overnight. All great things take time. You must have the patience and persistency to see this journey through to the end if you really want it to happen. There will not be any instant gratification here. You may go through several band members/groups before you find one that is the perfect fit. And that could take months or even years. If you don’t have patience and persistence, you might give up after the first failed attempt to get a band going. Hang in there! Finding the perfect fit takes time.

Any dedicated music fan has had dreams of being in the next mega popular band. And those dreams can become a reality, but they have to start somewhere. Perhaps today is the first day of your journey, or maybe you are months into it. Stick with it. Given enough time and dedication, your band will be formed and touring in no time. Then it’s up to your group to see how far and wide you can spread your music. Starting the band is the easy part. Getting the band out in the public eye is an entirely different challenge.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Review: Life Leone - Comes Crashing In






Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Life Leone released an amazing EP a few years back titled Comes Crashing In. And while I somehow missed it the first time around, I recently discovered it among the piles of music that I marked as must listen. I am extremely grateful that I finally played these songs. Comes Crashing In is fine alternative rock for the modern age!

Life Leone was a session musician who finally decided to branch out and make his own album. It was a smart decision on his part. I enjoy Comes Crashing In as much as I enjoyed Pete Yorn’sMusicforthemorningafterwhen I first heard that. Life Leone is an exceptional, talented, unique artist. He plays all the instruments on the record, he wrote all the lyrics, and he has a solid voice that works well with his musical style.

There is a heavy inspiration from The Strokes that can certainly be heard in the music, but I don’t think that means Life Leone is emulating them exactly. There are other influences that can be heard in the music as well (The Vines and White Stripes come to mind). Life Leone is able to take all of his musical influences, and all of the musicians that he has worked with, and blend them into a sound that is distinctly his. The end result is good alternative rock and roll.

The EP opens with the spectacular “Is This Love,” and it is a sensational opening track that sets the tone for what’s yet to come. Leone’s voice is raw and natural, his guitar work is tight and compact. His ability to construct an enjoyable song is terrific. “Is This Love” is just a fantastic song meant to be played over and over and over again.

“Lonely Teacher” is one of the best songs on Comes Crashing In. Opening with a pounding drum beat and the haunting lyrics “profile of a lonely teacher…” this song hits all the right spots on your musical taste buds. Leone is able to paint a musical portrait that draws the listener into the song and puts them front and center of the action. The catchy beat and fuzzed over guitar solos pull the song together seamlessly and the end result is a wonderfully constructed piece of musical art.

Short, compact, but full of magnificence, Comes Crashing In is a spectacular record that any alternative music fan should add to their collection. Simple beats mixed with complex leads and solos are what help to make this album fascinating. If you are looking for that particular sound that can be enjoyed repeatedly without getting stale, give Comes Crashing In a few plays through the stereo. You may just discover your next great musical love.

Track Listing
Is This Love
I Run You Walk
Offering Answers
Lonely Teacher
Rome
Trust Me

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Temple Of The Dog To Tour For The First Time Ever






Temple of the Dog — the Seattle supergroup featuring Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Mike McCready, and drummer Matt Cameron(who plays drums with both Soundgarden and Pearl Jam) — has reunited and will tour for the first time ever since forming in 1990. The band will play five cities, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, in November.
A special ticket pre-sale for fans signed up to the Ten Club, Soundgarden, and Chris Cornell email lists begins immediately and runs through July 27th. Tickets will go on sale to the general public at 12:00 PM local time on Friday the 29th. $1.50 from each ticket sold will benefit the Chris and Vicky Cornell Foundation and an additional $1.50 will benefit Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy Foundation.

The tour marksthe 25th anniversary of the release of Temple of the Dog’s first and only album, a self-titled set that was released by A&M Records on April 16th, 1991. “We wanted to do the one thing we never got to do… play shows and see what it feels like to be the band that we walked away from 25 years ago,” Cornell says of the 2016 tour.

On September 30th UMe will release a special Temple of the Dog 25th anniversary reissue collection of their landmark album,newly mixed by Brendan O’Brien. The collection will be available in four configurations, including a four disc Super Deluxe, a double LP, a two CD Deluxe, and a single CD. Physical pre-orders are available today along with a detailed list of the contents of each configuration HERE.

Temple of the Dog came together from the ashes of Mother Love Bone following the death from a drug overdose of its frontman Andrew Wood, Cornell’s close friend and roommate. Cornell wrote future TOTD songs “Say Hello 2 Heaven” and “Reach Down” to help process his grief, “but the songs didn’t have any destination,” he says. “I was compelled to write them and there they were – written in a vacuum as a tribute to Andy. My thought was that maybe I could record these songs with the remaining members of Mother Love Bone and that maybe we could release them as a tribute.”

Mother Love Bone’s Gossard and Ament began playing with McCready, and they brought in Soundgarden’s Cameron to drum on demos. Because this was a collaboration, and a tribute, there was no commercial expectation for the Temple of the Dog album. It would be, Gossard would later observe, “the easiest and most beautiful record that we’ve ever been involved with.” Adds Cornell: “Temple was about making an album simply for the joy of doing it. We weren’t concerned what anyone outside of our group of friends would think of it. It was the first and maybe only stress-free album that we all made.”

Gossard, Ament, and McCready were also simultaneously forming a new band, which more than six months later would be known as Pearl Jam. A singer from San Diego named Eddie Vedder, who was vying to lead the project, came into the studio to sing background vocals on three of the Temple songs. When Cornell thought another song, “Hunger Strike,” needed a duet, Vedder was enlisted. “Hunger Strike” became a hit single, peaking at No. 4 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.               

Temple of the Dog performed live only a handful of times, most notably in Seattle, in November and December of 1990. Those shows have become some of the most legendary Seattle concerts of all-time. Their 2016 shows mark the first time the band has ever toured. (Cornell joined Pearl Jam in 2014 at the Bridge School show and for two nights at PJ20 in Alpine Valley, WI, and the Temple line-up played “Reach Down” and “Call Me a Dog” at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall in January 2015.)

“This is something no one has ever seen,” Cornell says of the official reunion. “We wanted to stop and recognize that we did this and pay homage.”

Temple of the Dog’s upcoming tour dates are as follows:

11/04  Philadelphia, PA      Tower Theater
11/07  New York, NY           Madison Square Garden
11/11  San Francisco, CA  Bill Graham Civic Center
11/14  Los Angeles, CA      The Forum
11/20  Seattle, WA               Paramount Theater

ACS And Ed Force One Complete Their Part In Iron Maiden's World Tour






Over the last four months legendary rock band, Iron Maiden, has been flying around the world on their The Book of Souls tour on what is probably the coolest ‘tour bus’ ever – a customised Jumbo Jet, captained by their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson. The B747 completed its final leg after landing in Gothenburg on June 16th.

Towards the end of last year Air Charter Service received the interesting charter request: the client required a customised B747-400 for four months, to fly 48 sectors, covering six continents and carrying 22 tonnes of cargo on each leg and with Iron Maiden’s singer flying it. The request was the first step towards creating the latest incarnation of Iron Maiden’s Ed Force One – nicknamed after the band’s mascot ‘Eddie’, whose manic image proudly adorns the tail.

Iron Maiden had experience and expertise with circumnavigation tours on the previous incarnations of Ed Force One, but these tours used a smaller B757 aircraft and were nowhere near the scale and reach of this latest project. Through Bruce Dickinson’s relationships within the aviation industry, Iron Maiden had already picked out the ideal aircraft, but the operator, Air Atlanta, decided they needed more capacity to deliver such a massively complex undertaking. So they invited Air Charter Service to join them to deal with mountain of logistics required.  

This tour presented particular challenges for all involved. After closely engaging with the band’s management team, the first thing ACS did was to assemble an experienced team to work with the aircraft’s operator, Air Atlanta, to make the thousands of necessary arrangements for the 48 legs in the 21 countries that the tour was visiting. ACS was responsible for arranging flight permissions outside of Europe and fuel as well as handling agents. Arranging such things on an ad-hoc basis is very different to a scheduled carrier who lands at the same airport at the same time every day. And at most airports, ACS had to deal with three separate companies – the cargo handlers for the 22 tonnes of stage equipment, VIP handling agents for the band and their ‘Killer Krew’, as well as regular check-in desks for anyone else that was on board. Group Commercial Director, Matt Purton, said: “We must have dealt with more than 100 different handling agents and 300 other suppliers over the course of the four months that we were involved in the tour.”

Whilst ACS was making the initial necessary arrangements, preparation of the aircraft was under way in Sharjah, UAE. Iron Maiden’s management had arranged for the aircraft to have its livery drastically modified with extra special decals along the length of the fuselage and the tail and the cabin seating was reconfigured to accommodate the band. The newly created Ed Force One then arrived at Cardiff Airport on February 17th. On arrival the aircraft interior was completely empty of supplies, so the next major job for ACS staff was a three day shopping expedition to stock the aircraft up with almost ten tonnes of day-to-day items to cover the needs of the passengers for the next four months.

Purton added: “No challenge was too big, or too small for our team – whether it was decanting liquids and unpacking sandwiches to get them through security , gaining emergency access to the aircraft to collect the band’s football kit or arranging the logistics of an Air to Air photoshoot over Table Mountain, one of our team was always on hand.”

The band’s aviation-mad frontman, Bruce Dickinson, took up flying in 1993 and so was keen to take the controls on most of the flight sectors. He was formerly captain of the (now defunct) UK charter airline Astraeus and launched Cardiff Aviation Ltd in 2012. Purton commented: “Bruce loves showing off the aircraft at every opportunity – including giving a guided tour to the crew of Air Force One when the two aircraft were both in Chicago at the same time. He also flew it to Boeing HQ at Paine Field to help them celebrate the manufacturer’s 100th Anniversary and to take a lucky few on a tour. His interest shows no bounds, our departure in Perth, Australia, was delayed by half an hour as he was being shown around the largest aircraft in the world, the Antonov AN-225 and he’d often come straight off stage and the first thing he’d ask would be ‘what’s the fuel uplift tomorrow?’”

It was not all plane sailing though, as in Santiago di Chile, when the plane had been closed up and everyone had settled in to their hotels for the night, airport workers moving the aircraft were involved in an incident involving a loose steering pin and an airport tug, which saw damage occur to two engines and the undercarriage as well as injury to two workers present as the tug was crushed. Suddenly Ed Force One was grounded but of course the show must go on, one way or another. Within hours, Iron Maiden’s management, Air Atlanta, Rock-It Cargo and ACS all pulled together to make the necessary arrangements including alternative charters to take the band to the next show in Argentina, a charter and some scheduled seats were found for Iron Maiden’s ‘Killer Krew’ and the 20 plus tons of stage equipment and production was trucked successfully over a difficult pass through the Andes Mountains over the border into Cordoba. Alternative transport had to be rapidly arranged for the Argentine and Brazilian shows. Two massive new engines, engineers, parts, cowlings and tools were flown in from Europe, and within 10 days, Ed Force One was once again ready to take to the skies. And we were all very happy to hear that the two airport workers made a full recovery.

To take a band, road crew and production equipment in a B747 around the world and into territories not previously visited by the band was ground-breaking: nothing like this had ever been attempted by anybody before. ACS worked seamlessly with Iron Maiden's Tour Management throughout, in order to meet the exacting needs of the tour logistics, concert schedule and the band and crew requirements.

And so, after 50 shows on six continents, ACS’s involvement in the tour comes to an end and we bid a fond farewell to the latest incarnation of Ed Force One. Purton concluded: “This is one of the most complicated world tours ever, and it ran pretty smoothly – apart from the incident in Chile. We’d like to thank Iron Maiden, Air Atlanta and all our other partners involved in the tour and feel privileged to have been part of a great team making sure over a million fans got to see their idols play live.”

Bruce and the rest of Iron Maiden continue to tour Europe, finishing up in Germany on 4th August.