A Conversation With Jackie Greene
Mike Ragogna: There are a few songs on your new album that come off as anthems. For instance, a song such as "Shaky Ground" seems to be saying everyone's on shaky ground, so try your best to navigate it.
Jackie Greene: There's that, and it also weaves through different stories. It's one of those songs that I didn't really have trouble tying it all together, and it sort of came at the very last moment. And, in my mind, it's all about the, "it all goes around part," for me.
MR: What's your approach when you go into the studio and make your records? Is it basically just fleshing out your songs, or do you have a clear concept of your sound and what your album should be from the beginning?
JG: Well, I guess it's a little push and pull of both of those things. It would be one thing if it were more of a science experiment in that, all the albums were made in the same place with the same people, but they're not. So the consistency part, I think, is just me and the way I do things. I guess it's pretty normal, it is me making the record after all.
There are definitely some songs that I would have more of a clear concept of what they should sound like, what they should feel like. But, having said that, I've always been really, really open to seeing what happens to a song after we put it under a microscope in the studio and have at it. It's a little bit of both, like I said, it's sort of a push and pull thing. I might be pulling one way for this song and then it really wants to go another way, so I have to give in to the song because I feel like a lot of them know what they want, the songs themselves. They usually win.
MR: Though I wouldn't classify you as a blues artist, I would say you can hear the blues in your music. And during your career, you've toured with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal...
JG: Well, B.B. King is definitely a hero of mine, Buddy Guy, and Taj Mahal as well. When I was a kid, I was really into blues music. I was really into Ray Charles, Lightnin' Hopkins, and a lot of the British stuff like Cream and Zeppelin, and stuff like that. And I realized as a young man that it all sort of came out of the Mississippi one way or another. I sort of rediscovered all that stuff on my own, and it was magical for me. A lot of that stuff is deeply, deeply ingrained into how I play and how I sing. At the same time, I really like The Beatles and I really like Wilco.
MR: You mentioned The Beatles. Your song "Grindstone" definitely Liverpools it up a bit, and it's another anthem about...
JG: (laughs) Yeah, it's about being bored, having to do the same thing - the day job thing. I haven't actually had a day job in a really long time, but I do remember what it feels like to do it and to write about it.
MR: The other thing I wanted to run by you was "Medicine." That song could have come off a little differently, but you took a subtler approach. What's going on in "Medicine"?
JG: It's one of those messed-up drug songs. It's more like a tantrum, you know saying, "I don't want your bulls**t." I don't know, it's sort of hard to explain... "Stranger In Sand" is a good example. It's a song that's literally about the first time I took acid when I was in high school, and it took me years to even think about it. I had this really strong feeling of what it felt like and what it meant about a year ago when I was writing this song, and it's of an experience that was nine, ten years ago. So, some of the songs on the record are almost--I don't want to say flashbacks because that's not what I'm talking about--but I guess they're remembrances of feelings. And with that song, in particular, I was overcome with what it felt like and that's what came out.
MR: It seems a lot of people that don't do drugs anymore or have moved on to other, more positive things, look back at those years and it's kind of painful.
JG: I'm definitely not trying to tell kids to do drugs, but to be honest, that's what that song was about. It's just sort of like, "What do you think about it now?" And I don't know. What do I think about it now?
MR: It seems like you've been on the precipice of -and I hate this term-"breaking" for years. One of your songs, "Honey I Been Thinking About You" from the Sweet Somewhere Bound album, should have been a big hit. At this point, when you put out a single, what are your expectations?
JG: I don't really have any. I gave up on the whole idea of the single a while ago, and to be honest about it, I've been "breaking" for like six years. I'm a little older now, I'm turning thirty, and I just realized that there's always the next big thing somewhere. I've heard all that crap, you know, "Come on kid, you're going to be great. They're going to love you. You're going to be a star." And I used to believe it when I was like twenty-three, but I just don't care about that anymore. I'm more interested in music, really, and more particularly, the music I'm trying to make. So as far as singles and stuff, they choose those and I have input. They can say, "What about this one?" and I can say, "No, absolutely not." But usually I say, "Great."
MR: In a way, it's almost like you have to let go when it comes to the promotion and marketing games.
JG: Yeah, because at the end of the day, it doesn't matter to me what song they want to try to push to whomever they're trying to push it to because I like them all, that's why they're there. I don't really favor any of them, you know?
MR: Yeah. Let's discuss a couple more songs on this record such as "The Holy Land." Now, that's a pretty intense song.
JG: Yeah, that's an intense song, it's about struggles in the Middle East. There's a time when that stuff was on my mind a lot, for some reason or another, and I think I must have been reading some books about that topic on the tour because I sort of started writing this tune. I was just trying to put a human perspective on it. It's not really political, it's just, "What would that actually feel like?" And it's awful, obviously.
MR: Lyrics like, "How am I to hear my babes a-callin' when the death planes fly and bombs come falling down every night?" It's so intense but sadly, a very true concept.
JG: I don't know. I've never visited. It's pretty shocking to me, just my imagination of it. I'm a peaceful guy, same as everybody else, but I don't know...It's hard to really talk about, I guess. It is what it is, and that's the kind of song it is.
MR: You mentioned earlier that you're turning thirty, right?
JG: (laughs) I am. Don't tell anyone, okay?
MR: Oh, you're so old. In the title track "Till the Light Comes," there's a great verse includes the lines, "my friends don't know me, cook me in the fire, give me the third degree, I ain't nothin' like I used to be." I don't know if your getting older was part of the inspiration, but on the other hand I think everybody has that experience as you mature. You find yourself in marriages, in different arrangements, and all of a sudden, you're either the person who is making judgments about your friends, or you find yourself being judged. It's almost like a weird human nature thing.
JG: It's very true for me, you know? Most of my friends around my age are married and have kids or have been married and have kids.
MR: So, Jackie Boy, what's keeping you?
JG: (laughs) I don't know. Haven't found the right girl I guess.
MR: And what kind of girl would you be looking for?
JG: My dream girl is Dana Scully from The X-Files. I'm actually not kidding, The X-Files was my favorite show of all time and I was, what, ten or something when it came out. I love Dana Scully.
MR: Well, I loved in a non-restraining order way Fox Mulder's real life wife, Tea Leoni, ever since her series Flying Blind, but I digress.
JG: Um...what were we talking about? You got me thinking about Dana Scully. (laughs)
MR: And that's a bad thing? Something about people get older, things change, yadda yadda.
JG: Yeah, people are getting older and they change, it happens to everybody, you know. I'm sort of at that point. Like I was saying, a lot of my friends are married and have kids, and I'm still living on the road. And there is a part of me that does feel like it wants to settle down. When I was twenty-five, twenty-four, twenty-three, I could play a show and stay out all night long and be fine, you know? I can't, not even close anymore. After the show, I'm asleep within an hour, and if I don't get my sleep, I'm a wreck. Just in the last few years, it just hit me.
MR: Well, I hear you, brother. And I'd bet "the guy that loved her back in 1961" in "1961" goes to bed early now as well.
JG: He does. That's a song that's also sort of a remembrance. In a way, it's a story of my mother and father. I obviously wasn't born in 1961, but I think that it's a pretty common story and a lot of people can relate to that. I wrote that song in literally three hours one night. The feeling was really strong and there was almost no editing, it just sort of spilled out that way. It's a really simple song, each verse is a different stage of the life.
MR: It's very sweet. It reminds me of a Joni Mitchell song called "Tea Leaf Prophecy" that had a similar approach to storytelling.
JG: I love that. I love Joni Mitchell, who doesn't?
(Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
1. Shaky Ground
2. Stranger In Sand
5. A Moment Of Temporary Color
6. Spooky Tina
8. Take Me Back In Time
9. The Holy Land
10. Till The Light Comes
A Conversation With Street Drum Corps' Bobby Alt
Mike Ragogna: Can you catch your fans up on what's been happening over the last couple of years?
Bobby Alt: Well, the last few years, I've mainly been focusing on our group, Street Drum Corps. We're celebrating our six-year anniversary now, and we can't even believe it. It seems like only yesterday we were playing at Six Flags Magic Mountain. The last few years we've done two records, that are out now on iTunes, produced by DJ Lethal. And our new one, which will be out late summer, early fall, is a double disc.
One of the CD's will be all drumming, sort of like a movie score--if you can imagine it sounding something like Godzilla or King Kong or something like that--tons of drums. And on the other disc, we have fully realized songs where we have guitar players, bass players, horns, keyboards, programming, singing. So, I guess it's been sort of a natural progression, and this will be our fourth album in the last few years.
MR: You've gotten some critical acclaim for "We Are Machines." And you've been on the road with the Vans Warped tour, right?
BA: Oh yeah, many times.
MR: Recently, you did something special on a certain low profile television show...
BA: Oh boy, yeah. A couple weeks ago, we performed on American Idol as the Street Drum Corps backing Travis Garland. He has a new single out called "Believe," and we share the same record label. We're both on Interscope Records, and Danja produced the track. We're big fans of Danja, and he wrote this great drum part that was in there. So, the three of us got out all of our trash cans and went down to American Idol and rocked out. We had three days of rehearsal and Travis was great. There were seven dancers, us and him performing his song and, you know, forty-three million viewers - not bad.
MR: Can you go into your new untitled album a little bit deeper?
BA: Yeah, we're going in a lot of different areas. My friend says that we're like schizophrenic musicians, don't know which way to go, but it's a natural progression. On the first record we made, Street Drum Corps, we had a week to make it in, and we had ten thousand bucks. We went in just having a little routine that we did on buckets and garbage cans, and we made a bunch of beats and some songs. There weren't any lyrics or guitars or bass or anything yet. Then, when we started the second record, We Are Machines, we had two weeks and twenty thousand dollars. We decided to bring some other friends down. We were developing more as a band, and we wanted to add bigger sounds and express ourselves a little more. So, then we went out and toured with Linkin Park, on the Projekt Revolution Tour, and we had great things happening with that record. When we got back, we wanted to take it up another notch. We feel like now, working with our friends, we can write better songs, we want to bring in some more friends, bring in some more colors and sounds and make a bigger record.
So, we called up some friends that worked at Interscope, hashed out a meeting with Jimmy Iovine, and let the lawyers go to work for a couple weeks. Cut to two years later: We have written and recorded over 110 songs to put out, twelve on this record and twelve on the Big Noise album. So, for "this" record I speak of, we chose producer, Howard Benson who had done some work with our friends and My Chemical Romance and Hoobastank. He makes great sounding records, he has a great team of engineers and programmers behind him.
MR: Yeah, I loved his work with Papa Roach.
BA: So, we went from a week, to two weeks, to two years making a record.
MR: (laughs) Worth every minute of it, eh?
BA: (laughs) Worth every minute. I'm actually sitting in my car outside of the studio now because I'm singing today on the last two songs.
MR: What's next?
BA: The album will be packaged, videos will be made, photos will be taken, and QR technology will be everywhere.
MR: Now wait up, let's go into that a little bit. Can you go into the technology you used?
BA: Yeah, the QR technology. I first saw it being used in Japan about two years ago. I think people were buying groceries and scanning things with their phones and it was just instant. I wanted to find out more about it because I was thinking, "Wow, wouldn't that be an interesting concept?"
Let's say you see a barcode and you say, "that must be for sale." Now with this QR technology, what you can do is install a QR scanner app onto your smart phone and then that will search the web for your QR reader. Once you scan this barcode, alien looking thing, it will take you directly to a website. So, it will go from print to web. And I was thinking about the fact that we're making a product, and how funny would it be if our album cover was a barcode? Maybe by that time, more people will know about this QR technology.
MR: I think it's catching on.
BA: It's used in an episode of CSI, and if you type it in on the Internet, you can do a lot of research. It's a lot of fun. So, I thought of, like, Beatles For Sale, that album. Just that, kind of tongue-in-cheek "buy my album." I brought it up to the record label and they thought it was a great idea. People need things fast now, they just want it. This is one way for people to get what, we feel like, is our best work yet as quickly as possible.
MR: I take it you think Al Gore's Internet thingy will catch on.
BA: I'm a big fan if the Internet, I'm a big fan of how fast you can get music. I don't think music should be free, I think it should be bought and it's up to us as artists to make it easy to buy our music. I think iTunes or Amazon are great ways to buy music, it costs ninety-nine cents or a dollar twenty-nine. You get a song, you get artwork, and you get it right to your ears.
MR: What a marvelous invention this Internet is! What suggestions might you have for artists in general, tech or no tech?
BA: Well, the one thing that comes to mind right off the bat is it's a word of mouth thing. Anything I've ever fallen in love with was because somebody told me about it, or I went to check something out because they thought it was cool, whether it was my peers or my parents. And now, obviously, finding out about things on the Internet is very fast.
But for a new artist, just take your time, develop what it is that you're trying to say or put out there. Take your time working on your music, be patient, because the people will come to you if it's good and you don't want to settle for anything less than what you think is great. I know it's hard for some artists. But there are always going to be fresh ideas, there are going to always be new ideas and that's what the Street Drum Corps feels like. Every week, there's something different going through our head. Every month, we'll be on to new recordings and new ideas. Right now, we're working on a theater show, we're working on a Broadway show, we're working on a Vegas Show, all of these things simultaneously. But making sure that our eye is on the prize, and we set our goals and we have our time.
(Transcribed by Ryan Gaffney)
A Conversation With Athletic Trainer To The Stars, Nicky Holender
Mike Ragogna: What separates you from other trainers?
Nicky Holender: All my training programs are specific to each client. I analyze what the client wants and figure out their training program, and it is not like anyone else's. Its not like I am walking around a gym with different machines. I have to figure out what their strengths, weaknesses, and goals are.
Pain is elective. I have to do things that keep their heart rate up. Everything I do is about being able to control your own body weight because if you don't, you're going to cause injury. So, I put them into stable positions and make them do the exercise so that they have to stabilize really hard.
Every time you are doing a movement, your body has to function in that movement. I am not putting them on a bench and having them do huge movements. When they work out with me, they are going to reach their goals which is lots of stuff to keep their heart rates up, lots of sports-based kind of movement--pulling bands, jumping, all sorts of different kinds of things.
It's almost like they are playing. If they are having problems with their hip, we find exercises to try and lengthen that hip. So I think the proof is in the pudding. I have never advertised my business. It is through word of mouth only. Just these different celebrities and people talking to each other. I think that's the best way to grow your business and your name, just by word of mouth in the beginning, and then you can kind of go out. I get what they want, and I also understand what they need and I kind of marry those two together.
MR: Who are some of the stars you work with that you can mention.
NH: I have trained Robbie Williams, Kendra Wilkinson, Chris Harrison of The Bachelor, Melanie Brown of The Spice Girls, Gio Marini of Dancing With The Stars. Those are some of the ones I can mention.
MR: What is the worse things one can do training on their own?
NH: I think to concentrate on one muscle group too much. That is creating an imbalance in your body, so I think that if you set up a bench press and just push and push and push, you are creating an imbalance by trying to push as much weight with one group of muscles. You will be pushing on one side more than the other so that one group of muscles will create an imbalance. Your body is going to be able to sustain that when you are on a bench, but when you stand up with a chest that is enormous, you can't really sustain that in a normal way. People that focus on one area too much are creating imbalance. That is possibly the biggest mistake I think of.
MR: What are a couple of the simplest things that people should be doing but just aren't doing?
NH: I think that what people literally need to do is get down on your hands and knees into a plank position and learn to hold your pelvic structure in a good way. I think going out to jog, simple stuff, people can do. Movement, get their heart rate going, work their cardiovascular system...I am a proponent of being able to stabilize your spine in a way that allows you to function in everyday life. I have seen so many people by the age of 30 walking around like they are 60 years old. If everybody can do a plank every morning for about a minute, it would be enormous.
MR: What about people who didn't know any better, in their forties and fifties. What do they do now in terms of undoing the damage?
NH: Apart from hiring me, what they need to do is take that first step. They need to get back into the gym. Most people think that in order to lose weight, they only want to know about how much they have to run and workout. When you have let yourself go and want to get yourself back into shape, two things that any person or trainer who is training you is going to need to know are: One, how much cardio and how much working out are you going to do. And the second is what are you eating. People need to recognize what they eat and what they are putting into their bodies and cut that down. It's not so much about what you put into your body, but how much. If you can just put into your body a little bit less calories, and expend a little bit more calories, then I think that, right there, you will notice some changes in terms of what is going to happen to their bodies. Because slowly, if you are expending more calories than you are putting into your body, your body will start to change back. So, I think that people who have let themselves, go, that is what they need to do.
People who have injuries? They need to think about doing things with range of motion. Once you have let yourself go to the point that you are having back injuries, you need to go and get a trainer so he can look at your body, see how it's moving. It doesn't have to be expensive. They can set you up on a program. A good trainer is not trying to take your money. They should be able to look at your body, set you up with a program, see you once every few weeks and make sure you are getting your work out. Nobody should have pain past the age of 30 or 40. We are not broken.
MR: Nice way of putting that. Other than starting a soccer team with Robbie Williams, what are your future plans?
NH: I am in the middle of developing an exercise product with Mel B. It is actually finished, and we are just going through working out the different exercises and it's going to come with an exercise DVD.
Gold's is one of the biggest gyms in the world outside of the United States, and we are hoping to roll this out into every single gym. I think this product is going to revolutionize the way people work out. It's a really exciting time right now because we are just getting to launch this toward the end of this year so we are in the middle of all the prep work.
I am going to continue to work with many of my celebrity clients again, touring with them. If they are in films, getting them ready for that. There is a reality TV show about a trainer in Hollywood that E Entertainment is talking to me about.
(Transcribed by Erika Richards)
If I were a carpenter, and you were a lady, we'd listen to Mike Ragogna's 2.0 broadcasting and streaming on Wednesdays at 1pm CT and the following Tuesday at 8am CT on KRUU-FM, the Midwest's only solar-powered radio station: http://www.kruufm.com/
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