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Meet & Greet Monday: Conversations with Jonny Lang and DJ Steve Porter

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Having to choose between posting an interview with Jonny Lang--whose burning new concert album Live At The Ryman will be released this Tuesday--or an interview with DJ Steve Porter on his collaboration with Perry Farrell and a reworking of the Entourage theme song, a coin was flipped. Strangely, it rolled under the couch, lost forever amidst petrified pizza crusts, empty Tab and Fresca cans, missing socks, and layers of something fuzzy that Hazmat units have repeatedly refused to go near.

Still, a decision had to be made. With there being barely enough infinite space on Huffington Post's entertainment page to accommodate this much virtual print, shadow governments were contacted, corporations were restructured, planes were rerouted, and just minutes later, no deal was reached. Solution? Internet physics be damned. So, the following are the intact Lang and Porter pieces, now presented here for the first time, like ever. No cyberanimals were harmed during the process.

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(photo credit: Wayne Crans/Dead Bird Photography)

A Conversation With Jonny Lang

Mike Ragogna: Your new album, Live At The Ryman, comes from a pretty fiery concert. Is it from the tour for your last album?

Jonny Lang: Right.

MR: So that was a couple of years ago. What's been transpiring since The Ryman?

JL: I've been working on a studio record and just touring. Just on the road, doing a couple of different things. I did this Jimi Hendrix Experience tour a couple of months ago. They had a couple of great guitar players on there--Johnson, Brad Whitford, Joe Satriani, guys like that. And I've been playing on a few different people's albums like on Cyndi Lauper's next record which is going to be amazing.

MR: She's always good. What else you got?

JL: I also played on Santana's record that's coming out, and did a tune with B.B. King on his record that's coming up soon. I got to do a lot of good guest appearances, I guess.

MR: Do you prefer playing live or working in the studio? You seem to do an equal amount of both.

JL: Yeah man. They're both different, you know, I like them both. I think at one time, I would have said I like playing live better. But I think that at this point, I like them both in different ways, you know.

MR: What's your axe lately?

JL: I've been playing a lot more Les Paul these days than I ever have. I'm starting to like my Les Paul, so it's pretty much between that and the Tele.

MR: Nice. Do you have any current guitar sponsorships?

JL: I've been with Fender for years and years, but no, nothing right now.

MR: You've toured with The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, B.B. King, Jeff Beck...everybody. Who are some of your favorite artists?

JL: Probably my favorite artists to listen to James Taylor, Stevie Wonder--I haven't gone back in a really long time and really listened to them--my first guitar influences. It's been awhile since I revisited that. I've been getting into different gospel artists; Aretha Franklin is someone I've been listening to a lot of. Not too long ago, she came out with all that unreleased stuff that nobody's ever heard. I've been listening to that a lot as well.

MR: Who were your musical influences?

JL: B.B. King, Albert Collins, and Albert King were probably my three biggest influences.

MR: Which songs of theirs or which songs, in general, were your favorites?

JL: Like influential type songs, you mean?

MR: Yeah, and even favorite songs. Sometimes a favorite isn't influential.

JL: From those guys, when I was starting out, I think stuff I studied the most was "Gambler's Blues" which is B.B. King's. There's a song off Albert King's, I think it's called "Blues Power" that he did live at the Fillmore. And then, you know, basically any song off of Albert Collins Ice Pickin' record. Those are the things I listened to the most probably when I was learning guitar.

MR: You can hear some of these influences floating through some of your recordings. For instance, on "Give Me Up," you sort of have that "People Get Ready" thing going on.

JL: Right, yeah.

MR: Was it intentional to have Curtis Mayfield and other soulful elements jump into the mix too?

JL: Yeah man. I think I'm more influenced, just in general, not by blues artists, but more by stuff from Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder. Stevie Wonder is probably my biggest musical influence of all. And Donny Hathaway.

MR: How about Motown?

JL: Yeah, I grew up listening to Motown stuff. My parents were raised listening to Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye... I think soul music has been more of an influence to me than blues.

MR: Yeah, you can hear it in your voice. Speaking of that, it's been said you have the voice of a 40-year-old soul singer.

JL: I don't know man. (laughs)

MR: Will the vibes of Stevie Wonder and folks like that influence the writing for your new project?

JL: Definitely, man. It's weird that the side that I'm the most familiar musically I is not what I tend to make in the studio. I think the biggest reason for that is just, you know, I don't want to just come out and release this off-the-wall sounding record that folks are used to listening to. But yeah, the stuff that I tend to write and that just comes out of me naturally is, I think, just more about songs themselves than having guitars at a centerpiece to them. Almost more folky-soul stuff I guess. I'm trying to find my heart with familiar stuff, and with what comes naturally to me.

MR: So, your sound grows and changes, reflecting what your life is and what you're learning.

JL: Yeah, absolutely.

MR: Your song "One Person At A Time" that you revisit on the new album is such a positive statement. And to me, it's like your strongest anthem out of all the songs you've ever written.

JL: Yeah, I think, you know, the last two albums, definitely. That was kind of my head space at that time. I'm just kind of thankful and grateful for, you know, my life and really enjoying what I do and being able to do what I love for a living. So that was kind of just my frame of mind at that point in time.

MR: Will your next studio album also focus on positive themes?

JL: The next record tries a little bit more to relate to people's struggles, you know, difficulties in life. So, that's kind of what I'm focused on right now.

MR: And how can you not feel positive after winning a Grammy in 2008. How did the whole Grammy thing affect you?

JL: Great, man, you know. It's an honor to win a Grammy, of course. And it was very unexpected to win one in the genre that it won in.

MR: Are there any of your contemporaries that you're a fan of?

JL: Yeah, man. One of my favorite guitar players is a guy named Mike Keller. He's in Austin, Texas, but he's from North Dakota and I am as well. He's an unbelievable guitarist.

MR: And I imagine you're also a fan of your sister's. Wasn't Jesse a semi-finalist on the eight season of American Idol?

JL: Yeah.

MR: How did that all come about?

JL: I think she was driving to Illinois with her boyfriend and they had heard that the auditions were going on in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He told her, "You need to drive there right now and go. You need to do this." She was like, "No, I don't want to do that." So, he kind of pushed the issue. She went down there and auditioned and actually made it pretty far, man, she made it out to Hollywood. I was really proud of her, man.

MR: You seem very loyal to the folks in your musical world, and on Live At The Ryman, you take time to especially thank Jason Eskridge for opening up the show. What is it like touring with your gang?

JL: Oh man. I couldn't ask for a better bunch of guys to travel with. It's like a family thing. Even all the crew, folks, bus driver; everybody gets along really well, man. We're pretty tight. It really makes a huge difference when you play music with people that feel the same way about you, it makes all the difference in the world. It adds this whole different dimension of importance and depth to the music when there's that kind of relationship with the people off the stage.

MR: Looking back over all these years, who was your favorite opening act gig once you started touring heavily?

JL: Opening for Aerosmith was an incredible time. Those guys were so nice to us, you know, and we continue to have a pretty good friendship with a couple of them. That was definitely a life changing thing for me, to see them and see their level of musicianship firsthand was incredible. You know, they let me get up and play with them a couple of times. That was very important for me.

MR: How old were you?

JL: I was 17...yeah, 16 or 17.

MR: You know, you were considered a prodigy and a credible blues-rocker before you were even out of your mid-teens. That's got to be weird.

JL: I was kind of relieved when the "hey, you're so young thing" started waning. Wow, man, I think you just realize that it is what it is. People like a handle to grab onto, and they're going to make whatever they need to make out of it, you know?

MR: Well, you've been a grownup for a while now that happens to have a unique past. But it's your present musical output that keeps your fans growing with you as you evolve into a greater writer and player with each album.

JL: Getting attention for just simply novelty value is a weird thing, man. I'd always felt that someday, you know, the music would speak for itself. And yeah, and hopefully it is. That's my hope out of the whole thing.

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Start Here: "One Person At A Time," "Red Light," and "Lie To Me"

Tracks:
1. One Person At A Time
2. Bump In The Road
3. Turn Around
4. Give Me Up Again
5. A Quitter Never Wins
6. Red Light (Band Intros)
7. Red Light
8. Don't Stop (For Anything)
9. Thankful
10. I Am
11. Breakin' Me
12. Lie To Me

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A Conversation With DJ Steve Porter

Mike Ragogna: What was it like performing with Perry Farrell at Coachella?

DJ Steve Porter: Performing with Perry was amazing! I had to pinch myself because I have so much respect for him and was into Jane's Addiction when I was ten years old. We had a blast, I mixed between tracks he was performing live and tracks that I had produced. We'll be performing again at Lollapalooza in August, and we'll be debuting some new original material then as well.

MR: Did you get to see any acts play that excited you, maybe you'd want to work with?

SP: It was my first time to Coachella and I was awestruck by the amount of acts you could catch in one day. I was really into Pretty Lights; I had never seen them before, really cool dubby hip hop grooves. It was great to see Faith No More play, and I loved catching Jay-Z perform live. I think I could benefit artistically by working with a lot of the acts I saw at Coachella. I've mostly been a solo producer & remixer so working with a band would really add a new dimension to making music for me.

MR: Did the sixteen-year-old kid from Amherst who played electronic music ever imagine becoming one of the great mix engineers?

SP: Not at all, life has always been about baby steps for me. I've always just wanted to make a difference with my production and hopefully bring people joy in the process. My father was a world-renowned scientist and he spent his entire life trying to better his field of research. I treat what I do exactly the same as that, hopefully leaving a positive impact for the industry I work in.

MR: Looking back at "Slop Chop Rap," being in the head you're in now, what do you think about your 10 million hit YouTube video?

SP: I had a fun time making it and showing it to friends, but I had no idea it would be the phenomenon it would become. Vince is still airing it on TV as a commercial and it doesn't seem to quit in the viral world. A lot of people were telling me that I had "too much free time" on my hands when I made it, which is probably true because I was in a weird spot in life last year, but I can't tell you how happy I am that I actually had that "free time" now!

MR: How did you react to coming in second place in DJ Times' "America's Best DJ" slot?

SP: I was honored! There was a huge influx of voters that came from my YouTube following so I have them to thank.

MR: For the uninitiated, so they can pickup on it when they hear or see it, what would you say is your unique "DJ Steve Porter" stamp on recordings or videos?

SP: I don't know if I know for sure, but I would say probably my rhythmic ability with video clips and being able to fuse them with solid beats, basses, or hooks. If it's none of those things, then it might be a personality thing, and the fact that I'm open to trying just about any genre of media. I'm definitely not afraid to have fun and do some funny stuff, in production or life.

MR: What equipment do you use, what's your gear?

SP: My setup is 100% mobile, just my laptop and my editing software. I use Ableton Live to produce music and Final Cut Pro to edit videos. When I get back from trips I just plug my laptop into my studio. I used to have a big bulky home studio, but I much prefer having my studio with me at all times. If I need to write a bass line before bed, I produce it in bed.

MR: What were some of your more challenging mixes and how did you eventually reconcile them?

SP: My remix for VH1's That Really Happened 2009 was a challenge because they needed a really quick turnaround and there was a lot of content to filter thru. I did the whole project on the road while I was in San Francisco working on the NBA projects as well, so I was jumping thru hoops that week. The mixes are just getting more challenging though, because ultimately you are always trying to do new things you have never done before.

MR: What are some current or more recent songs that you've heard that make you go "Man, if only I could have taken a shot at that mix!"

SP: This happens all the time, I have to stay away from YouTube sometimes because it's painful seeing all of the amazing content to remix. I just don't have the time to remix everything right now, but I hope to free up some time in the coming months so I can keep my YouTube subscribers happy. Right now you could say they're a bit disappointed with my release frequency, but I have so many unfinished projects, I'll be back with a vengeance.

MR: When you create original music, do you build it on samples, or is it a different process, like hearing things in your head and needing to first record it melodically?

SP: It goes both ways for me, sometimes I'll start tracks with original melodies and beats, but other times the samples will inspire and lead the way. I really use both approaches to assist me when I start a project.

MR: Will your remix of Entourage's "Superhero" also be featured on the series, and will there be a physical release one can purchase?

SP: We're currently working on a release plan for the Entourage "Superhero" remix, I don't have any details yet but the release will be in full effect by the time Lollapalooza comes around.

MR: What's the mission behind Porterhouse Media? How will it utilize downloading, creating new of music, and internet marketing?

SP: Porterhouse Media operates within a few different industries, we're doing work for video game companies, film, tv, and of course producing ads. We have projects that are produced to live online only, and also projects that are only found on TV. Understanding all of these mediums is how we channel our creative ideas towards a project. Come visit us at www.porterhousemedia.com

MR: Tell us about your series of "Where Amazing Happens" videos for the NBA? How did it come about, and what inspired you to mold the pieces the way you did?

SP: The NBA project came about after I produced a fairly notorious video called "Press Hop" last year. The NBA saw potential for me to do exactly the same type of stuff with their content, and it's been a beautiful journey ever since. I've been working closely with their ad agency Goodby Silverstein in San Francisco to produce the ads. We're trying to make each individual spot as unique as possible and I've already gone places musically and production wise that I never imagined I would during the campaign. It's an honor to work for a sport that I love and especially the NBA who has always had great marketing campaigns.

MR: If you could help guide up-and-coming mixers on a career path or give them some good advice on how to be successful or competitive with their talent, what would it be?

SP: Practice increases skill, hard work leads to opportunity, and being a good person keeps you in the game. Always set high goals, even if they seem unattainable, one step at a time you may surprise yourself.

Press Releases...Get Your Red Hot Press Releases Here...

GREAT AMERICAN TAXI, NOW CLIMBING AMERICANA AIRPLAY CHARTS, DONATES TRACK "APPALACHIAN SOUL" TO RAISE AWARENESS FOR COAL MINERS RELIEF FUND

Song pays homage to miners and mining communities

Great American Taxi, whose current album Reckless Habits is climbing the Americana radio airplay charts, has donated a free download of a song, "Appalachian Soul" culled from its debut album Streets of Gold, to raise awareness of the plight of coal miners and their communities in West Virginia. The track is offered free to radio stations that agree to direct listeners to http://www.greatamericantaxi.com, which in turn links to West Virginia Council of Churches web site http://wvcc.org, which collects donations for the miners.

GAT frontman Vince Herman, who grew up in West Virginia, comments: "Great American Taxi sends our thoughts out to the families and communities affected by the mining disaster at the upper big branch mine. We hope that their unconquerable Appalachian spirit and families can help them navigate these difficult times. The country and the world share in their grief. We need coal. We need our miners to be safe. We need understanding on all sides of this contentious issue of our national energy policy. We would like to make Taxis' tribute to that Appalachian spirit available as a download here and suggest a donation to the WV council of churches to assist the families of our fallen brothers. Let's all come together and honor the families who have paid that ultimate price for our energy needs and hope that this is the last such disaster we must face."

In the past five years, Great American Taxi has become one of the best-known headliners on the jam band circuit, their uninhibited sound a swinging concoction of swampy blues, progressive bluegrass, funky New Orleans strut, Southern boogie, honky tonk, gospel and good old fashioned rock 'n' roll. That loose, anything-can-happen feel is the hallmark of Reckless Habits, the band's second album, which was recorded in Loveland, Colo., with producer Tim Carbone (from Railroad Earth) bringing the feel of an onstage performance to the recording process. The new album was released through Thirty Tigers on March 2, 2010.

Blurt called Reckless Habits "a giddy combination of boogie, blues, bluegrass, nu-grass and honky-tonk, it's as readily infectious and genuinely freewheeling as its eclectic content might imply. Hopefully this Great American Taxi will continue to take listeners along for similarly spirited rides in the future." Country Standard Time called it "a well rounded album that fully pays homage to Gram Parsons and his vision of a cosmic American sound that incorporates all the pages of the American Roots songbook."

When banjo player Mark Vann of Leftover Salmon died of cancer in 2002, that band dissolved. Salmon singer/guitarist/mandolinist Vince Herman had a few rough years and survived a broken neck before joining keyboardist Chad Staehly for a superstar jam to benefit the Rainforest Action Group in Boulder in March 2005. "We put together a dream band of the best local musicians for a one-off gig," Herman recalls. "It worked so well we had to do it again, and again, and again." And so Great American Taxi was born. The current lineup includes Herman, Staehly, guitarist Jim Lewin, bassist Brian Adams and drummer Chris Sheldon.

NEIL YOUNG: LONG MAY YOU RUN By Daniel Durchholz & Gary Graff

1st COMPLETE "ILLUSTRATED HISTORY" BOOK ON ROCK'S MOST INFLUENTIAL AND ENDEARING TRAILBLAZER CELEBRATES FIVE DECADES IN WORDS AND PHOTOS AND SUMMER 2010 TOUR

Voyageur Press has joined forces with renowned rock journalists Daniel Durchholz (Rolling Stone) and Gary Graff (New York Times) for the brand new book, NEIL YOUNG -- Long May You Run: The Illustrated History. This lovingly assembled tome -- the first complete illustrated history published about this legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee -- arrives May 15, 2010 to coincide with Young's Summer 2010 tour and celebrate five decades of genre-spanning work, perfectly mixing expertly researched text and many never-before-seen photos. This heavy duty 224-page volume follows Young's long-and-winding career, from the early days of Buffalo Springfield, on through CSNY, and of course, his unpredictably exhilarating solo career.

Born and raised in Canada, Neil Young is equally best known for acoustic/folk hits ("Heart of Gold," "Old Man") and raunchy garage rock ("Cinnamon Girl," "Hey Hey, My My") -- not to mention stops with the harmony-driven CSNY ("Ohio") and the psychedelic pop of Buffalo Springfield ("For What It's Worth"). This thoroughly enticing book will certainly appeal to fans of all eras of "Neil." And in addition to countless photographs from the 1960s all the way to the present, also included are concert posters and memorabilia from around the world, complemented by commentary from notable musicians around the world, as well as an extensive discography.

Interest in Young's music remains at an all-time high -- as evidenced by the recent emergence of vintage archival releases from throughout Neil's career, including the mammoth box set, Archives Volume One, as well as Dreamin' Man: Live '92, Live at the Riverboat 1969, Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968, Live at Massey Hall 1971, and Live at the Fillmore 1970. NEIL YOUNG -- Long May You Run: The Illustrated History will serve as the perfect visual accompaniment the next time you bust out one of the aforementioned titles, as it is without a doubt the most comprehensive book about Neil Young to be released to date.