Sanders Bohlke Prince Music Theater May 10, 2014

Saturday May 10, 2014
Prince Music Theater
1412 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA,
Justin Nozuka, Sanders Bohlke & Megan Bonnell

Artist website:

Sanders releases his new album Ghost Boy on February 19, 2013 via Communicating Vessels, one of the new crop of cutting edge Southern record labels, based out of Birmingham, Alabama with Jeffrey Cain (of Remy Zero) at the helm.

Lead single “Ghost Boy” is arguably Bohlke’s most infectious melody and fully realized flirtation with pop music, and could easily hold its own with the biggest indie singles of the last few years. On this new record, Sanders continues his evolution as a songwriter with lush soundscapes that layer brooding and billowy textures against his soulful voice. Recorded with Jeffrey Cain, they’ve perfected a sonic world that deftly highlights both the beauty and the dark romance of Bohlke’s songs.


David Cohen: Since the last time we spoke your CD  Ghost Boy has taken off and you’re on the road a lot.

Sanders Bohlke: Yes, it’s a little later than when I wanted. Its great I’ll take it.

David: It shows that Ghost Boy it’s a timeless recording.

Sanders: That’s a good point! I just started this wing of the tour. It’s shorter than last years. It should be fun.

David: It’s shorter but there’s more distance between gigs.  Are they driven or flown?

Sanders: A significant portion is driven but I will be flying to the Toronto show on May 6th.

David: I’ll ask you this now and then again in a few years when you’re filling big halls. Can you sense changes in yourself from the success you’re having?

Sanders: No, I don’t ever consider myself like that. I think its great that I’m getting more traction but hey, I’m just a dude and I play my guitar. I have a lot people around me to make sure I don’t think about it other than what it is. The thing is I’m not a headliner, I am very grateful when people come. I’m playing to win an audience.

David: With your new popularity do you feel a pressure in your creativity to satisfy your fans?

Sanders: I always feel that. I always feel I have fans that like me for a reason. I also think they understand I need to grow as an artist. There have been bands I like where I don’t like their new stuff. For instance Arcade Fire, I love them but don’t like the new CD but I still like them and I can’t wait for their next stuff. I don’t hold it against them and there are a lot of people who love the new stuff.   I hope people with will feel that way about my music too. I took that risk with Ghost boy. If you listen to my fist CD you’ll think it’s two different artists. For the next one it’s going to be different. I’m going to drift a little bit into another direction. I hope they understand that’s where I have to go that’s where it’s going to go. Beck is one of the most famous artists out there, Radiohead chose to do electronics, and people went with them. I’m not scared about creative decisions.

David: Does that mean it won’t be seven years between releases? Is there something in the horizon?

Sanders: It won’t be seven years I can guarantee that. I’m currently working on the next one. It won’t even be two years. The process of it coming out is out of my hands at some point.

David: Will Jeffrey Cain produce the next recording?

Sanders: Kind of. Some of it is unknown right now. I’m using a lot of different people. I’m recording a lot on my own. I’m recording a lot at my house. Some of it might stay some of it might get cut.

David: What new gear are you using?

Sanders: I just got the Ableton program; I’m diving into that.

David: Is the electronic nature of Ableton an indication of where your music is going?

Sanders: Maybe a little bit. I’m not making an electronic album. I’m getting more experimental with instrumentation. It’s not going to change who I am or the music I make. It helps me make beats a little different. I don’t think I’m going to lose anybody.

David: Any new instruments?

Sanders: No new gear as far as guitars go. I’m still rocking the Peavey. We’ve had problems with it on this tour, my manager suggest getting a new one. I can’t get rid of my baby. I love that guitar!

I haven’t been playing a lot of guitar. I’m not giving it up but in this project I was only getting to a certain places on the guitar so I am playing a lot of drum machine to incorporate different soundscapes into the palate. I’ve been playing a lot of piano, synth, beat making. I’m not going to abandon guitar. I have gotten a Boss VE-20 vocal processor, it’s cool it opens a lot of things and changes your head space a little bit when you’re writing. In concert it opens a lot of harmonies.

David: Do you have practice time?

Sanders: I don’t practice like I want to would like to. I would like to be better at guitar, drums and piano. The time I spent writing is the time I spend playing. That’s been my only regret in my career. Nobody will hire me for anything on sessions. The way I come up with things is a very elementary style of playing. I’m more inventive on guitar my main instrument but I’m not a great guitar player by any means. In some ways it’s good not being able to play really well. It’s more creatively challenging to play this way because it’s a more creative to play. In some ways I can’t tell if I’m lazy in not wanting to know how to play because I can keep that child-like approach to the instrument. With Ableton and Pro Tools I will take the time to learn the programs. Even with the drum machine I take the time to learn.

David: How will your new material translate to stage?

Sanders: I don’t know I might have to hire a band. With the looping I do I can handle certain things, I might not be able to go out and solo I might have to take one or two people. I don’t like thinking about that. I want to get it down first and then think about it.

David: Your last show in Philadelphia was at the Union Transfer opening for Rachel Yamagata. On May 10th you will be at the Prince Music Theatre opening for Justin Nozuka, will you incorporate any of your new material into this show?

Sanders: I will probably play the same set.

David: That is fine by me. When we spoke the first time I asked about how the music on Ghost Boy transferred on stage as a solo act. It was seeing you live that really solidified how great the music is and your talent.

Does your record company give you total artistic freedom?

Sanders: Yes they do! It is nice knowing that they have total confidence in what I do.



Sanders Bohlke 2013 interview with David Cohen

Paco Pena Interview

Originally Published January 2006

Artist web site:

David Cohen: What was the first rhythm you learned?
Paco Pena: The first rhythm was Soleares.

Cohen: Was there ever pressure on you not to play the guitar but do something that would bring money?

Paco: That is a very good question. Well, the thing is, we were nine children in a very poor family and certainly the concern, particularly my mother’s was that everybody had a basic education and be good enough to get a decent job and so on. So I did go to school. I was into that and I eventually got a job in an office to soon, but never the less it was a job. My mother, wisely never objected to me going with other friends She made sure that the friends were good people. I was very young and they wanted me to go with them to play. I always played all day, everyday. She did realize it was a social connection with the world for me. It’s a very good question, I never thought about it. She never did object to me doing it. On the other hand she wanted me to have the skills to do something else, “a proper job”, like a job in an office. I suppose my love for music, for the guitar became strong and I left the job and I just decided to be a guitarist.
Cohen: Did you put pressure on yourself to make money?
Paco: Not to make money but to be able to survive. If you imagine a family of people who do manual work, my mother use to have a store in the market selling vegetables to feed us. She only had my older brother and me and seven girls. It’s a matter of necessity to make sure you are able to look after yourself in some way. It’s not making money as such, but being able to be alright in life. The pressure was never to strong, it was always wishing that I would bealright but never demanding strongly that I take a job.
Cohen: Was there a particular time when you took a deep breath and said, “I’ve made it” and what was the recording that was from that time.
Paco: That’s a good question, I suppose one could look at it and analyze it. It’s difficult, I’venever said “I’ve made it” in that way. There are significant landmarks. I always loved playing with flamenco dancers and flamenco singers, particularly with singers. I was never interested in being a soloist as such, I wanted to be in the background but one day I decided to be asoloist because I needed my life to be more interesting than it was. I don’t mean interesting artistically but more demanding on myself to achieve more, to go much further. So I decided I was going to be a soloist. Example, playing for my debut concert in the Wigmore Hall in London was a magnificent feeling , when the audience reacted to me, God forbid, who am I? When they reacted so nicely, so well to what I had to offer. I think that was a revelation and it was saying I want to do something, I have to continue to work and project this image.  Soon after that I played with Jimi Hendrix at the Royal Festival Hall in London. There were four different guitar acts, but to play with Jimi Hendrix was a fantastic event, really. So you could say those little things make you realize you made something of your life. They are little steps in becoming human, becoming what you are. I’m not one to say, “Oh you’ve made it“. I never felt that way.
Cohen: Where you familiar with Jimi Hendrix?
Paco: Yes of course. Not enough, I was to much into my own thing but I was aware of him as a fantastic artist.
Cohen: Have you ever played an electric guitar?
Paco: Well I tried now and then, it’s to difficult.
Cohen: When are you coming out with your new cd, Requiem for the Earth?
Paco: It’s being done at the moment. I’ve done it live, I have to analyze it and do it in the studio, I want to do it soon.
Cohen: Do you have artistic freedom with your record company?
Paco: Oh yes, I can do what I want.

CohenWas it hard getting Misa Flamenco out?

Paco: Not at all. They were really delighted to get something different out at that time. For me it was a bit of an experiment. I don’t like the word experiment, it was a trip, an adventure to combine two strong musical cultures like classical and flamenco in that way. It fascinated me and when talking to the record company they got excited talking to me because I was excited. So the same applies to the Requiem. It’s a very intense work, but it has a commenton what is happening to the Earth in a negative sense but it also has a positive theme like looking to the future and calling to our awareness so that we may learn to protect the future for our children.
Cohen: How much time do you spend practicing?
Paco: Really quit a lot, particularly if I have my responsibilities. If I have to do things then I need to practice. I suppose when I was younger I practiced more.
Cohen: Do you have a favorite rhythm?
Paco:  I guess it is still Soleares, the rhythm is fascinating. You drift into it. It’s wonderful, expressive, not difficult but demanding in wanting to get right into it and do more with it.

Cohen: It there one you think is difficult?

Paco: Well yes, in flamenco there are rhythms that have great complexity and you always try to find new bits of expression within them. The Buleria for example is so exciting and fast. Each rhythm has a moment. Sometimes you feel you’re doing something and everything happens right and sometimes you don’t.
Cohen: I remember driving to Connecticut to see you and then the next tour a club in New York, then Town Hall a few times and then Carnegie Hall. This is your first time in Philadelphia and there is another city you are playing in for the first time. Do you feel like you are conquering the United States?
Paco: No, its not a matter of conquering. I do what I do, it is what I believe. Therefore any people who feel that they want to experience it, I am delighted to go there and take the challenge and convince them. It’s not a matter of conquering. I’m connected to this tradition. I love it, so I do it with love not aggression.

Renaissance’s New Guitarist Ryche Chlanda

Originally Published March 3, 2013

Ryche Chlanda is an accomplished guitarist. He has been a musician, vocalist, songwriter, composer and producer for over thirty years. He was a founding member of America’s first progressive rock group, Fireballet, in the 1970’s. The band’s first album, Night on Bald Mountain, was produced by King Crimson founding member Ian McDonald who went on to additional fame with Foreigner. During that time Ryche worked on the Intergalactic Touring Band project. For a period during his solo career he played with the progressive band Nektar where he became a “bandmate” and friend with Larry Fast. Soon after, Ryche was signed as a recording artist managed by Hit & Run Music joining fellow performers there Genesis, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel. Ryche recorded his first solo album during this time.

His musical journey led him to writing and singing for films, including the title track for “Build for Speed”. A severely fractured arm altered his musical journey and he returned home to rehab his arm. During that time he built a studio and focused on writing and producing. In 1993, Ryche was asked to write and produce aerobic musical tracks for exercise gurus Denise Austin and Joanie Greggains which resulted in sales of over 2 million tapes. This led to working on productions for Motown and sessions with members of Todd Rundgren’s band, the OJ’s, Billy Joel and countless others.

After years of touring and studio work, he devoted the last several years to song writing and composing, but the thrill of performing has led him back to the stage and the upcoming release of his new album, Hidden Me. It also provided an opportunity to work with his old friend, Larry Fast.

David Cohen: Do you listen to classical music?

Ryche: I love classical music! My father was a Juilliard graduate and my mother was a singer and songwriter. The first music I learned on the guitar was Prelude for Lute #4. Even now I don’t use a pick when I play the guitar.

David Cohen: Where you a Renaissance fan?

Ryche: I was. When I was in the band Fireballet, back in the 70’s (first record produced by Ian McDonald of King Crimson) it was basically America’s first progressive rock band. We supported Renaissance at Trenton State College I became a fan on the spot. We did our set then I went into the audience to watch them and I was blown away

David: What year was that?

Ryche: 1975.

David: You were young!

Ryche: I was a tadpole!!

David: Was it through working with Larry Fast that you found out about their needs?

Ryche: Yes, it was. Larry gave me the phone call that there was a tragedy and they were auditioning guitarists. I had spoken with Annie and she asked if I would you like to audition. Of course! I’m not sure how it came together but I got the phone call from Larry.

David: What did you play for the audition?

Ryche: I spoke with Annie on the phone, we clicked right away and then she turned to over to Rave-the musical director. He gave me four songs to learn for the audition. I learned Carpet of the Sun, I Think of You, Ocean Gypsy and Mother Russia. I was familiar with the songs but never played them.

David: When you auditioned was it with the whole band?

Ryche: When I was going to the audition I was singing the songs in my head and thinking of the chord changes and I went an hour out of the way in the wrong direction. So I was late for the audition. I called them and told them what I did and they were laughing.
David: Where was the audition?

Ryche: It was at Rave’s studio in Ridgewood, NJ.

So I got there, I walked in and it was Annie, Frank Pagano, David Keys and Rave. I walked in, plugged in and the first song was Carpet of the Sun. It all felt so good, it all clicked. We did the other songs and it was beautiful. They left the room after the audition and I was sitting there thinking, OK. Then after about five minutes Rave came out and hands me an itinerary and asks me into the room. I walked into the other room and there was an opened bottle of wine. They said, “welcome to Renaissance” and we toasted. It was a moment I will never forget.

During the audition I was pinching myself.

David: Will you have a voice in the presentation or will you just sit back for a time?

Ryche: I think that’s the way to do it. Annie gave me a DVD to listen to. I’ve been playing it, sleeping to it, eating to it; I’ve been working on it daily. You know when another guitar player comes in it’s going to be a little different. But I think I’m just going to try to capture Michael’s essence and let my voice grow with it in time.

David: Are you going to use Ovation Guitar’s? I spoke with Michael not that long ago and he mentioned his specific change from Ovation to Martin.

Ryche: I actually played his Martin in rehearsal. It was the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever played. I use ovations but what I’m going to use for the Renaissance tour is a Taylor Auditorium which is from the early 90’s and Guild F12 from 1977. I’m also bringing a 6 & 12 string Ovation for backup.

David: Have rehearsals started yet?
Ryche: Rehearsals start early April.

David: What will this do with your solo career? You have your CD Hidden Me that you just finished.
Ryche: Hidden Me was an EP but Larry Fast and I finished a few more tracks so it’s a full CD now. It will be coming out soon but I put that all aside to work with Renaissance. I’m actually playing the Sellersville Theater on March 26th. I’m debuting the CD there.

David: Is it in your contract that you can’t play out as yourself while working with Renaissance?
Ryche: No as a matter of fact, Annie was the person who got me the gig at the Sellersville. She is very supportive of letting the artist be artists but I am totally devoting all my time to Renaissance.
David: Has Annie sung any of your songs?

Ryche: Wouldn’t that be a dream come true. No, we just did that one audition and we’ve been in touch a lot but right now we’re focusing on Renaissance material. There’s a lot of work to get done with that.
I am happy and honored to be a part of Renaissance. I am really looking forward to being with them up there.

David: When you auditioned was it with the whole band?

Ryche: When I was going to the audition I was singing the songs in my head and thinking of the chord changes and I went an hour out of the way in the wrong direction. So I was late for the audition. I called them and told them what I did and they were laughing.
David: Where was the audition?

Ryche: It was at Rave’s studio in Ridgewood, NJ.
So I got there, I walked in and it was Annie, Frank Pagano, David Keys and Rave. I walked in, plugged in and the first song was Carpet of the Sun. It all felt so good, it all clicked. We did the other songs and it was beautiful. They left the room after the audition and I was sitting there thinking, OK. Then after about five minutes Rave came out and hands me an itinerary and asks me into the room. I walked into the other room and there was an opened bottle of wine. They said, “welcome to Renaissance” and we toasted. It was a moment I will never forget.

During the audition I was pinching myself.

David: Will you have a voice in the presentation or will you just sit back for a time?

Ryche: I think that’s the way to do it. Annie gave me a DVD to listen to. I’ve been playing it, sleeping to it, eating to it; I’ve been working on it daily. You know when another guitar player comes in it’s going to be a little different. But I think I’m just going to try to capture Michael’s essence and let my voice grow with it in time.

David: Are you going to use Ovation Guitar’s? I spoke with Michael not that long ago and he mentioned his specific change from Ovation to Martin.

Ryche: I actually played his Martin in rehearsal. It was the most beautiful guitar I’ve ever played. I use ovations but what I’m going to use for the Renaissance tour is a Taylor Auditorium which is from the early 90’s and Guild F12 from 1977. I’m also bringing a 6 & 12 string Ovation for backup.

David: Have rehearsals started yet?

Ryche: Rehearsals start early April.

David: What will this do with your solo career? You have your CD Hidden Me that you just finished.

Ryche: Hidden Me was an EP but Larry Fast and I finished a few more tracks so it’s a full CD now. It will be coming out soon but I put that all aside to work with Renaissance. I’m actually playing the Sellersville Theater on March 26th. I’m debuting the CD there.

David: Is it in your contract that you can’t play out as yourself while working with Renaissance?

Ryche: No as a matter of fact, Annie was the person who got me the gig at the Sellersville. She is very supportive of letting the artist be artists but I am totally devoting all my time to Renaissance.

David: Has Annie sung any of your songs?

Ryche: Wouldn’t that be a dream come true. No, we just did that one audition and we’ve been in touch a lot but right now we’re focusing on Renaissance material. There’s a lot of work to get done with that.
I am happy and honored to be a part of Renaissance. I am really looking forward to being with them up there.

Annie Haslam/Renaissance The Yestival-Interview w/classical guitarist David Cohen

 Annie Haslam Renaissance – Grandine il Vento
Interview with classical guitarist David Cohen

Michael Dunford (1944 -2012) guitarist and principle composer for Renaissance passed away on November 20, 2012 from a cerebral hemorrhage. Annie Haslam stated that the band will continue touring in the future, despite losing “our ‘guiding light’ Michael Dunford”. In February 2013, it was announced that Ryche Chlanda would be the guitarist on their 2013 tour.

Saturday August 3, 2013
Susquehanna Bank Center Camden NJ

Annie Haslam is a singer-songwriter with credits worthy of some of the most well known entertainers in the world. Primarily known for her role as the lead singer with the English classical rock band ‘Renaissance’ she later became equally heralded as a solo artist. Annie has traveled the world delighting audiences, most recently as far off as Japan and Brazil with her five octave voice and warm personality. Despite such a busy and varied life in music, Annie recently has been bestowed with an entirely new gift; she has embarked on a whole new journey in the form of oil painting. This came as a complete surprise and wondrous discovery, both to her and her fans. On somewhat of a mission, Annie has been painting fervently for since 2002, with colors and movement that make you want to walk right into the canvas. She has been described as a ‘Dream Expressionist’. Her art is organic, yet with a dream-like feel, it is contemporary but does not seem to be influenced by anything other than her own feelings and thoughts.

Part I
David Cohen: The first time we spoke you said “I was also one of those people that was a little afraid of change. The older I get the easier it is to change. It’s a hard thing to do, change something you know.” that has always stuck in my head.

Annie Haslam: If you can’t confront those things you can never change and move on.

David: When we first spoke you stopped singing and had no intention of singing again. What changed your mind?

Annie: Well, I woke up one morning and decided that I wanted do more singing.

David: What brought Renaissance back together for this CD?

Annie: In 2000 we recorded Tuscany and a short tour of Japan in 2001. I called Micky on that one to see if he wanted to do something but not with all the original band. We just wanted to work with John Tout and Terry Sullivan. Roy Wood filled in on bass and some backing vocals. After we did that album we didn’t intend to go any further with it. Micky and I kept in touch because we were friends and also in charge of re-releases and such. A few times after that he called me to see if I was interested in getting the band back together and I didn’t want to do it. Then in 2009 he called me and said, “Listen I know what you’re going to say”, and I said I didn’t want to do it. But then I said yes but only if he got John Scher involved (former band manager). So we started getting all the arrangements together and then there was a conflict with the dates with Jon Camp. So he pulled out and then Terry and John followed. At that point we didn’t know if we could pull it off with just MD and myself, but John Scher had the confidence and so the rest is history. John knew I had kept the band name alive over the years and also had a fairly strong fan base, whilst touring and recording with my own solo band. It was decided to go forward, but we didn’t make that decision lightly, but this was our only chance or it wasn’t going to happen at all.

I contacted Rave Tesar and David J Keyes who were in my band and then we contacted Frank Pagano and then found Tom Brislin who was on the Yes Symphonic Tour. We did the tour – it was named our 40th anniversary tour.

David: The first show without Michael must have been difficult.

Annie: The first show was very difficult for us, we were almost all in tears. It was very difficult for me. I knew Micky for forty-one years. Micky was right next to me onstage and I felt that gap. What we did was put Ryche (who was now playing guitar) next to Jason with Dave in the middle. This worked better for me and for Dave as we sang together and the closeness helped the healing process we all needed. That’s how it has always been anyway, bass in the middle.
I was consumed by a lot of emotion, sadness and doubt that I may be doing the wrong thing carrying on without Micky.

Having someone else on stage playing his parts was quite unreal, but Ryche did a good job.

David: There’s so much interaction with fans now with the Internet and Facebook. How did the fans react that you were going on with Renaissance?

Annie: Very positive – supportive. There were a few people who wrote and said it’s time to let it go, without Micky it’s not Renaissance. That’s ridiculous because Renaissance is the songs and my voice as well. It was very powerful with the both of us. I was thinking of not doing it. But then I thought of the fans and the music that needed to be heard. The songs were so powerful and emotional, how could you not go on? It’s the joy of going out and singing and making people happy that is the most important thing to me.

Annie Haslam Part II

Interview with classical guitarist David Cohen

David: You mentioned on stage that you don’t like Vultures Fly High because it’s a negative song. The lyrics written for the band have always been spiritual in a sense. How come you never wrote songs like, you broke my heart now I’m gonna drag your name through the mud? 

Annie: ‘Vultures’ is my least favorite of Betty Thatcher’s lyrics. I’ve never liked it because it’s negative. It’s not so hopeful. I was concerned about performing Cold is Being ‘live’ on this past tour because it alludes to death. Particularly with Micky not being there, “The dying has begun” that was difficult singing that. I don’t know why people would want to write about negative subjects, I could not do that myself. Why would you need to spread negativity around? People need to be uplifted, especially now. We need to be healed- taken care of. People need to go away from a show feeling contented and happy.
Music is very powerful as you know. The older material – Betty’s work, is phenomenal. I wouldn’t say I am a songwriter, I can do it but it’s not my number one thing by any stretch of the imagination. But I am proud of the words on this album. I think I did a good job, especially Symphony of Light, it’s my favorite and The Mystic and the Muse I love as well.

David: Where did Grandine il Vento come from?
Annie: It was called Hail the Wind originally, and then I said to Micky let’s translate the title to Italian and also the whole chorus. I did the wrong thing, I looked online and found the tranlastion for Hail the Wind, which was Grandine il Vento. After we put the lead vocals on the song we get to Grandine il Vento and Jason a couple weeks before we were going to mix said, “Annie I think you’re pronouncing some words wrong. I don’t think your pronunciation Grandine il Vento is correct and your singing mi instead of ma in the chorus”. We found a friend of Raves who is Italian and he spent time helping me to get it right. The fact is Grandine il Vento means hailstones in the wind but it was too late we already had the album cover printed. However I do sing about a storm in the song so it really does fit.
David: Does a song like that come from creation or are you infusing parts of yourself in it? Like the line the sheltering sky caressing me somehow I turned around and lost my way.

Annie: This song is basically about me. There’s the line that the mirror becomes a door. I have a large mirror in my bedroom that I believe is a portal. Also when I am painting I feel I am plugged into two worlds – I have no idea where I go. I never have preconceived ideas when I paint – the images just flow through me.

David: The line Skin like Porcelain is just in itself a great line. Where did that song come from?
Annie: It’s really weird, Micky and I were shopping one day and he was looking for gifts to take home to his wife. He was looking at a piece of clothing when another lady who was looking at clothes got talking to me and mentioned the word ‘Porcelain’. I really liked it and wrote it down. Then it was in my memory and when Micky wrote the rough draft of the song he used it as the working title.
I was also inspired by a video of Africa, and the guys were playing in the other room and I said this really has an African feel, can we change the arrangement and instrumentation to something of that nature. Seeing the video of the African village really inspired me. The ideas came from two different places. The words came very quickly. It poured out like a painting on an easel.
David: You have two duets on this album. There is Blood Silver Like Moonlight with John Wetton. That is a very powerful lilting duet about being in an angels choir. You also have the duet Cry to the World with Ian Anderson playing flute. You sing, “There is a plan to call all true men to make a stand, now’s the time, now is the time”.
Is Annie calling for a revolution?

Annie: That song is for everyone to come together. I get upset about racism and borders.
David: Has your painting changed since you started singing again?
Annie: I think my painting is developing all the time, but no, they are two separate places in my heart.

Annie Haslam Part III

                              Interview with classical guitarist David Cohen

David: Does Renaissance have regular rehearsal time?
Annie: No because the other members have other bands they play in and sessions etc, they work all the time. In the 1970’s we did because we were working all the time together.
David: Even though you have the new album are there any new songs?

Annie: No, we don’t have anything new right now.
David: When we spoke last you said you never practice and that your voice is not a fragile instrument.
Annie: To get my lungs in shape I’ve been swimming. I do scales and sing along to opera and fave singers. I was in the back brace for so long, it was debilitating. What I do if I have shows or a tour coming up is I stay away from people because I don’t want to pick up a bug. It’s a shame because I’ve missed a lot of good things.
David: You also don’t have air conditioning in your house.
Annie: No I don’t. I had air in the past but I’ve noticed it affects my voice. I have fans screaming in the house now, I mean FANS!
David: The YESTIVAL is coming up. How did you get that gig?
Annie: We got a call from our agent out of the blue. What an opportunity! Of course we said yes. When we were first told about this I immediately thought about how Micky would have loved this, especially after all the work we put into the last four years.
David: The band just finished a tour. Does it get harder to tour as you get older?
Annie: We did the tour in April making up for the shows we lost last fall because of my back, and we added more to the mix. We ended the tour in Florida, which was nice because I got to spend time with some friends. It wasn’t difficult, but because of having the brace on for so long it was debilitating, I couldn’t bend over or exercise. I had to be so careful. I had this brace on for twenty-four hours a day for eight months. Weaning off it I had to be careful with that also. Now I want to get myself in shape by the time we tour again.
Somebody asked me if I thought I’d be doing this at this time in my life. I didn’t even think about it when I was younger. I lived from day to day. As long as my voice and the body are willing and the audience wants to see us in concert I will carry on.
David: It’s like Ian Anderson said, “I’ll die with my boots on”.

Annie: “Yeah and I’ll have my shoes off”.

Lili Añel-I Can See Bliss From Here, Interview w/Classical Guitarist David Cohen

July 26, 2013 8:00pm
w/ Norman Taylor
Burlap And Bean
204 S Newtown Street Rd
Newtown Square, PA
Tickets $10, $12 at door
Artist website:
Tickets: Burlap & Bean

Lili Añel (nee Eulalia Añel) is an American singer-songwriter and performing artist originally from New York City. She was born in El Barrio, Spanish Harlem and raised in the South Bronx. She moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2004, where the local music scene embraced her, along with airplay and guest appearances on NPR station WXPN. She performed in and around Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley, Delaware, New Jersey as well as continuing to perform in New York City. Her style is diverse, reflecting her background which is a hybrid.

The single “Supposed To Be” from her most recent CD release Every Second In Between was listed in USA Today’s “Playlist” September 15, 2009, by Steve Jones.

I became a fan of Lili’s at the first sound I heard come from her voice. The guitar was nice too! I wrote an article about her many years ago called, The Summer of Lili Añel-that was the music that defined that season that year. Even before I knew of Lili Añel our paths crossed only to discover it years later. It was at a Joan Armatrading concert. I overheard a very specific conversation and I wanted so bad to turn to the woman speaking and say,”You have the most amazing voice”. I never did but in a conversation years later I discovered it was Lili Añel. When I heard talk of a new CD I emailed Lili to see if she would want to do an interview this early. Lili replied, “With you at the helm, of course”. I was and am honored!

Lili Añel’s new CD “I Can See Bliss From Here” will be her 6th recorded release. It is set to be released in September of 2013. I Can See Bliss From Here is Produced by: Lili Añel and Dale Melton.

David: On this CD you have taken more control by co-producing.

Lili: I co-produced on my CD “Dream Again” and I’ve learned a great deal since that time so I was open to doing so again. Producing one’s own work is daunting. In my case I wore various hats, I wrote the songs and arrangements, I played guitar and sang and I co-produced.  It is both personal as well as objective. Sometimes that line blurs.  That’s where its crucial, at least for me, to have a co-producer. I was very fortunate to work with Dale Melton (“The Melton Brothers”).

In the past when I worked with producers, recommendations regarding the songs and their arrangements were taken into account and executed based on the business of music, radio and expectations. While some artists agreeing with these ideas have had some success, I’m not necessarily in agreement. A good example is song lengths.  On “Supposed To Be” the single from my last CD there is a tag at the end where I sing in Spanish. The song which has a Latin lilt to it really lent itself to include either Spanish or Portuguese languages. This also made the song longer. I wanted to record the song as I’d written it but was counseled against it. I was told radio wouldn’t play it as no one would know what I was singing and it also made the song longer.  While I wanted to include the Spanish tag, I also wanted to be business-minded, of course, wanting to not limit the opportunity for my song to be played on the radio. Its an excellent song and I wanted it to be heard.  I did not agree that the song was too long or that it would not be played because of Spanish language being sung at the end of the song.

I wish I had stuck to my original idea.  When I play this song at my performances, I have had the experience of audience members who own the CD asking why the Spanish ending isn’t on the record.  As well, the stations we thought would really run the song barley played it, if at all. Lesson learned. I don’t think the song would have been played any more or less on the stations that did play it. At this stage of my career as an artist I have to be 100% true to myself. The songs on this new recording are individual and diverse from each other.  I asked myself how these would fuse together to make a story, make sense stylistically. My co-producer, Dale Melton who also plays on the CD said, “don’t worry about it, it will come together in the end’. So I gave no thought to radio, and if they would/would not play these songs, if they were too long, the wrong key, etc.  I recorded the songs just how I wanted them to be.  In the long run, it’s a chance you take; the hope is that people will enjoy the songs, the music.

David: I never thought of a wrong key for radio.

Lili: Listen, you’d be surprised what I’ve heard and experienced from the higher ups in the industry. I’ve been told in the past a song was in the ‘wrong key for radio’. I’ve been told ‘it’s too low people aren’t going to listen.’ They think of the wildest stuff. I don’t know if any of it is true, but I don’t subscribe to it. I’ve made recordings where, for example, three songs in a row were in the same key. I was told we couldn’t have them next to each other. Have you ever listened to a Bruce Springsteen album? Dylan? Business people think like that and they have to, for whatever their reasons, but I finally decided that these issues or concepts are not mine.

David: Did moving to Philadelphia from New York change your writing style?

Lil: That’s a good question. I think I’ve kept evolving because I’ve kept evolving as a person-moved to a new place. I would say yes. There’s a lot more music here. New York’s music scene seems to have been dying for some time with clubs closing, opportunities dwindling. When I moved here it was like, wow there’s a lot of open mics, different places to go hear music and opportunities to perform once people know who you are and you put it out there. I wrote more and I think my writing got better. Moving here allowed me to hear more and play more, be more open.

David: There is a lot of anxiety in the words on your new CD. Where is this coming from?

Lili: I wouldn’t say it’s “a lot of anxiety” but there are a couple of songs that reflect what’s gone on in the country with the downturn of the economy and its effect, which is intense. It certainly had a profound effect on my life. In the song Climb the Wall the bridge states, “it can all be gone forever/in the blink of an eye/lose your job/lose your car/lose your house/lose your time/lose your mind/what’s left to help us?”

So many have been left with nothing. If not for my husband being employed, I would have nothing, I don’t know where I’d be. I lost my job. The law firm where I worked closed their doors and over 2,000 people were out of work. Long story short unemployment ran out, I had no income coming in. With little exception, most musicians burn the candle at both ends, have day-jobs. Finding employment has been difficult. I’m not alone. In the midst of it all, I have struggled with alopecia for many years and all my hair fell out. I thought to myself, now what am I going to do? I accepted what life has thrown at me and move forward. I continue to roll with the punches. I feel very positive, especially about my music. I am lucky to have been able to make this recording, co-produce and work with Dale Melton who is an amazing musician/producer/engineer as well as a good friend.

This new recording “I Can See Bliss From Here” not only speaks the affect of the economy’s downturn, but its also autobiographical, hopeful and creative. I’m a songwriter, you create stories, you embellish. The song Something to Do is autobiographical and I worked on for quite some time, I am happy that it finally came together. It speaks of my beginnings, how I was ‘…born and raised in El Barrio on 110th Street..’. Its really a testament to my Mom who always told me that if I kept love in my heart, I would be ok. She used to say “love will save the day”.

I had a great time recording this song. I brought up musicians I’d worked with in New York years ago and they added good flavor to the song. My friend Charlie Alletto plays Cuban Tres guitar, Yasuyo Kimura on percussion (congas, guiro, shakers, you name it) and Victor Rendon on timbales and bongos. I also had a horn arrangement written by renowned arranger, Joe Mannozzi of the famed New York salsa band “Tipica ‘73”. The horn section is brilliantly executed by some of Philadelphia’s finest, Patrick Hughes (trumpet), Larry Toft (trombone), David Fishkin (alto sax) and Steven Gokh (tenor sax). It’s a fun song.

David: How did you start working with Dale Melton?

Lili: I met his brother first. I was playing a concert in 2007 and he approached me and we talked. He is an identical twin like my sister and me. I thought I was talking to Dale when I was speaking to his brother, Dennis. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch. We are very like-minded and have similar interests musically. We began to play some co-bills that went over really well. Dale asked me at one point if I had new songs with respects to recording. I told him I had plenty of songs. He stated he had a studio and we should consider recording an EP just to see how we worked together. It was one of the best if not the best experiences working with him so we decided to record a full album.

David: Is Jef Lee Johnson on the CD?

Lili: No. Jef Lee passed away this past January. Gone too soon. It was a shock to the music community in Philadelphia and the music world, in general. Jef Lee had worked with many people, most recently he’d been on tour with Esperanza Spalding. He was an amazing guitarist as well as an incredible singer and songwriter. He has a large discography of original recordings.

I met Jef when I recorded my last CD ‘Every Second in Between’. Glenn Barratt who produced this CD advised me that Jef Lee Johnson would be playing guitar. I was thrilled. It was my sister who introduced Jef’s playing to me when he played with and produced Rachelle Ferrell years before. I remember calling my sister with excitement and in tears that Jef was going to be on my record. Jef Lee was going to play on this new CD. I had told him I also wanted to record one of his songs. He was happy about this. I was saddened that he didn’t record on this CD. I recorded his song “Today”. His song closes out my new CD. I love this song and am very happy at how it turned out.
David: Will you be playing music from the CD at the Burlap & Beam on July 26th?

Lili: Some songs from the new CD scaled down. It will just be myself, and Mike Kurman on bass. I’ll revisit some of the songs from the past I have six CD’s there’s a lot of music there.

David: Can you see bliss?

I certainly can. Not only do I see it, I am in the process of attaining it; the landscape moves ever closer.

Sanders Bohlke in Philly-Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitarist

In an article I wrote a few years back I explained that my climate seasons are marked by the music that captures me at that particular time. It could be re-discovering or discovering a classical composer, finding a new type of bagpiping I never knew existed, or a release from one of my favorite pipa players or something that is totally new to me. I listen to beautiful. The summer of 2013 is the summer of Sanders Bohlke.

Bohlke’s current release Ghost Boy is described as “Inspired by a wintertime retreat to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia”. The music on the CD chronicles the isolation that creeps in when the days get shorter and you’re further and further removed from society.

Sanders opens for Rachael Yamagata at the Union Transfer on Thursday July 11, 2013 and has received rave reviews for his ability to transfer the experience of the CD to the confines of a solo opening act. Philadelphia will be the third to the last stop on this tour. That has spanned the months of June and July across North America.

Sanders Bohlke
Thursday July 11, 2013 Philadelphia
Union Transfer

David Cohen: Right now there is little information about you. You’re from Alabama?

Sanders Bohlke: Actually Mississippi, a town called Sparta. I lived in Alabama for a period.

DC: How old were you when you picked up the guitar? 

Sanders: I was probably 15.

DC: What were you listening to that made you want to play the guitar?

Sanders: It was more like a bunch of my friends were getting into music so it seemed the thing to do. I listened to a lot of blues. My dad listened to James Taylor so I tried to learn those songs. I listened to a lot of blues growing up in Mississippi. It was hard not to listen to the blues, it’s kind of everywhere. I listened to R.L. Burnside, The Mississippi All Stars were becoming popular I was listening to them around the age 16.

DC: So then is your music something unusual to come out of Mississippi?

Sandes: In a way yes but in a way not really. The music I’m doing has a soulful element to it – Mississippi, New Orleans, Alabama that’s all soul central. I feel it’s very native to Mississippi but I put a different spin on it on purpose, I’m not a just a soul singer or blues musician or singer/songwriter and I don’t want to be so I try to bring in different elements in from different things that inspire me. But yeah, I would say it is very native of Mississippi.

DC: When you write songs are they thought out before hand, or a work in process?

Sanders: It’s a little bit of both. I’ve written all kinds of ways. I’m settling in now to more like write as I go. I’ll sit down and find a melody I like and hum along with the piece and take it from there. Sometimes the songs end up meaning something that I was intending to write about at some at point but I don’t sit down with the focus to write a song about this or that. In retrospect I’ve revisited songs and realized that I was thinking a lot about that at the time.

DC: Are your songs more autobiographical than not?

Sanders: There are elements from my own life. They are stories that I think about or have dreams about or read about.

DC: You speak a lot about death and create images that come from a perspective of someone grieving. In the press release it quoted you as saying that the music came from the solitude of a winter retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Was this CD coming from a period of grieving?

Sanders: No, death and the end of the world interest me because we really don’t know a lot about it. It’s interesting because we don’t know a lot about it but it also gives me the freedom to create what death is and what this world is. It’s very freeing to write about things like that because you’re never wrong about it. It’s fantasy in a way. So for me it creates a lot of freedom and it’s interesting.

DC: On the other hand the CD has elements that are very romantic. In the song Serious you write, “If you’re serious I’ll be serious too. I’ll ripe your heart out like you want me to, I’ll kiss your mouth and you’ll be better for it” and later you write, “Why you left me this is serious, I can’t love you like you want me to”. In Pharaoh you write, “There was a time when I was Pharaoh, but the breaking of my heart has just begun”. I was thinking Oh this poor guy is in the mountains getting over someone.

Sanders: The funny thing is I’m happily married. My wife teases me all the time that there is something I’m not telling her. For me the reason I write these things is because it’s more exciting for me to write about heart break because I don’t deal with heart break. I don’t get to confront these emotions so it’s almost healthy to go through the up and downs in my music. It’s interesting for me to create my own characters and my own heartache – my own misery.

DC: It has been seven years since the release of your first CD. What did you do in that time?

Sanders: I actually did a lot. I wrote a lot and we put out a lot of singles. The reason it took so long was because we couldn’t find a group of songs that would make an album. My manager would say there are plenty of songs to make an album but for me they weren’t the songs I wanted for my sophomore album. So we kept just writing. We had a bunch of singles and decided to sell them as singles. A couple of the songs were picked up by T.V. shows. The hope was that people would hear them and want to buy the song. So we ended up doing that and it gave my fans the chance to hear my changes and grow with the changes in my music so they would not feel left out. There were a few hard-core followers from the first CD that love this one. This CD is very different than my first.

DC: I wondered if you worked in a hardware store or some place during that period.

Sanders: I had a few side jobs. There was a lot of writing, a lot of recording. I have a lot of songs that aren’t released yet.

DC: How long did it take to record the CD?

Sanders: Not very long at all. We spent two days in Nashville. I went to Nashville three or four days before the session to rehearse with the band. It was three guys from Nashville. We rehearsed the songs and went into the studio and in two days recorded nine songs live in the studio full band. Then we went through some overdubs in Birmingham and then got it mixed in Nashville. It didn’t take long. It was the process of figuring what to do with the record when it was made.

DC: Going back to something you said, what was the worst job you had during the period between albums?

Sanders: It was the worst only because it was so monotonous but it was kind of interesting. I hated it at the time but I really am mad at myself for not taking it all in at the time. I worked in a screen-printing shop. It was actually a good experience but I hated it at the time. I use to go home almost in tears that I hated the job. One of my favorite songs came from that period.

DC: Which one?


Sanders: I wrote Search and Destroy which is one of my favorites. I wrote that in about an hour.

DC: Interesting! Is that where the line, “I was wide awake with bodies in the gutter”comes from?

Sanders: No, well maybe subconsciously. It was more just one of those things where I had a vision of what the world would be like if it ended. It was the story of a guy experiencing the thing and explaining it to his daughter.

DC: When I first heard the CD and found out you were playing in Philly I knew I had to be there. I was wondering if you would be able to get across the artistry of the album in an opening position. So far all of the reviews have been very positive about your performance.

Sanders: I know from the crowds reaction and a lot of the people come up to me after the shows. A lot of people don’t expect much from the opener and found out they like what I’m doing. It’s been really cool to hear that. It’s been a great tour. I was a fan of Rachael’s before she invited me. A lot of people are buying the CD and I feel like I’m making honest fans.

DC: What kind of guitars do you use?

Sanders: That’s funny question because a lot of people ask me that. My acoustic is a Gibson J-45 but my main guitar is a Peavey P-60. I think it’s a 1988 or 1989 Peavey. It was a $200 guitar I found it in a little guitar consignment shop in Oxford when I was living there. It was kind of temperamental at first and gave me a few problems and then one day it just worked and has worked perfectly since then. I love the sound it makes. I love the way it feels – it’s my baby. I don’t know what I’d do without this guitar.

DC: What effscts do you use?

Sanders: I have a Boss Loop Station and I have a Holy Grail Reverb Pedal and I use the reverb on my amp. I have to fill a lot of space on stage so I use a Roland 404 Sampler.

DC: What’s next? You’ve been touring twenty-eight days and there are three show left on this tour.

Sanders: I’ll be writing a lot. We have an EP coming out. We’re working on mastering that now.

DC: Will this be your first time in Philadelphia?

Sanders: I was there many years ago. I opened for The Frey at the Electric Factory. I am looking forward to playing at the Union Transfer. I hear it is a really nice venue. I’m excited to be in Philadelphia again.

Allen Krantz Classical Guitarist Interview w/ David Cohen

Originally published 1/13

Allen Krantz
Sunday January13, 3013
Settlement Music School 3pm

ALLEN KRANTZ, a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory and Stanford University, has received acclaim as a composer, solo guitarist, and chamber musician. His performances throughout the United States have included appearances at Carnegie Hall, Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the Phillips Collection in Washington, with his diverse programs often featuring original compositions.

Recent premieres have included “Three Pieces for Chamber Orchestra”; “Passacaglia” for trombone, guitar and piano, premiered by Joseph Alessi of the New York Philharmonic; and “American Document” commissioned by the Martha Graham Dance Company and premiered at the Joyce Theater in NY. Other recent pieces are “Sacred Places” for solo guitar; “A Musical Walk”, a children’s piece commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra; a symphony entitled “In the Air”, and “Under One Roof”, a trio for trumpet violin and piano in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“An American Town” for string orchestra, commissioned by the Village Bach Festival in Michigan was also presented at the Moscow Autumn festival and in Australia. Jason Vieaux performed Krantz’s guitar concerto, “Innocence and Experience”, at the Darwin International Guitar Festival in Australia and with Orchestra 2001 in Philadelphia. “anyone lived in a pretty how town”, commissioned by Gretna Music, has been performed by members of the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit in Saratoga and Philadelphia. Krantz’s arrangement of Copland’s Appalachian Spring sketches were presented at the Library of Congress with the Martha Graham Company.

Allen Krantz is composer in residence for the Philadelphia based chamber ensemble, 1807 & Friends, which has premiered many of his works. Allen Krantz has received support from the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, Chamber Music America, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Philadelphia Cultural Alliance among others.

Krantz heads the guitar program of The New School Institute at Temple University. He also gives occasional courses on music history and is a lecturer for the Philadelphia Orchestra. He is a core member of the Dolce Suono Ensemble, and performs in “Duo Paganini” and the “Florian Trio” with violinist Nancy Bean and cellist Lloyd Smith. Krantz’s compositions are published by the Theodore Presser Co. and Falls House Press His solo and chamber music arrangements for the guitar are published by International Music. Allen Krantz’s recordings for the DTR label include “Summer Music” , “The Romantic Guitar”, and “The Philadelphia Connection”. He has also recorded for Albany and Crystal Records labels.

David Cohen: I remember hearing your name in Philadelphia as a classical guitarist in my early days of studying the instrument. Are you originally from Philly?

Allen Krantz: I am from Connecticut and came to Philadelphia in1979.

David: When did you pick up guitar?

Allen: I played violin and piano when I was younger but it was in my teen years that I picked up the guitar. It was mostly blues, folk and jazz. I went through the whole progression. I started to get serious about classical guitar in my first year of college.

David: When you went to college that’s when you picked up classical guitar?

Allen: That’s when I officially took my first classical guitar lesson after trying to teach myself a little bit. There was very nice teacher at Washington University where I went so it was in my freshman year that I started doing it.

David: Did you enter school for composition?

Allen No, I went to Washington University promising my parents that I would get a basic liberal arts education. After one year I changed my major to music. After my second year even my teacher suggested I go to a conservatory, he felt I had out grown him. Washington University was a very interesting place. But he felt I had out grown him and it was very good of him to suggest I go to a conservatory. Then I went to San Francisco Conservatory where I was a guitar major. When I was there I got very interested in renaissance and baroque music. It was a hot bed of activity at Berkeley and Stanford. A lot of my best teachers at the conservatory were graduate students who came up from Stanford. So I got this idea that that’s were I should go so I went there to graduate school at Stanford and studied early music performance and received my Masters there. It’s funny at the at that point everybody urged me that the best guitar programs were in California.

David: That has changes a lot.

Allen: Of course, Julliard has a guitar program Curtis was the last and now has one. In those days there were still other programs – Mannes College had one for instance. At that time Christopher Parkening and Michael Lorimer were the two best know guitarists in America and I went to San Francisco to specifically study with Lorimer.

David: What about Parkening?

Allen: Well, he is a friend of mine. I was there when Parkening was becoming famous. I think his recordings were some of the most beautiful ever made on the guitar. He told me he played differently on recording than he played in concert. He understood how recording worked which Segovia never did. He played to himself in the studio, which Segovia never did. Segovia played the same way in concert and in the studio. The recordings of the 1970’s are gorgeous. The sheer passion of his playing and the colors that he gets has been rarely done so beautifully. I got to be friends with him and spent a lot of time hanging out with him and learned a lot just sitting next to him and listening to him play or he would listen to me and he would give me advice about colors. David: We’re talking days when people were selling out the big halls. Allen: Well you know the guitar was like tennis in the 1970’s. Classical guitar had a growth spurt. Up until then it was Segovia and a handful of other people. There were a lot of people of my age who grew up with the guitar and then naturally followed to classical guitar – in my case especially since I had a classical background. So it was almost a fad in the 1970’s

David: Do you think the popularity has diminished?

Allen: No, I think it’s taken its rightful place in the great scheme of things. I think it’s continued to grow. Yesterday I was adjudicating the Astral auditions. They had four guitarists audition and they were all outstanding. The level of guitar playing continues to grow as it does in other instruments in terms of technique prowess I think the guitar is much more established as part of the musical landscape.

Part 2

David: I read an interview with John Williams where in the course of the interview said that classical guitarists are notorious for being bad sight-readers. What do you see as issues guitarists have to address?

Allen: I’m a very good sight-reader only because I made a point of it. I do think that the guitar is a hard instrument to sight read on. It’s harder than most instruments because we’re playing polyphonic music and also because it’s not laid out in the logical way like the piano is laid out. I do encourage my students to spend a little time every day practicing sight-reading.

David: Other obstacles?

Allen: Well, there are a couple fundamental obstacles that are a natural part of the guitar. Number one- the average guitarist spends too much time playing by themselves and playing solo music and they can develop indulgent bad musical habits, if they played more chamber music that would be corrected. They wouldn’t be able to get away with it. That is one tendency I think is changing. I’ve always considered that one function of mine-to write guitar chamber music, which I’ve written quite a bit of. I think it’s healthy for the guitar that we don’t sit in the corner and play by ourselves-as much as I like solo guitar music. We also participate as chamber music players and we have a surprisingly rich heritage of chamber music if we look for it. What goes along with that is most guitarists play to softly. Go play with a violin and see what happens. I think guitar makers who are building louder guitars are addressing some of that. I think the average guitarist plays too much to themselves and they need to over come those two things.

David: Do you have a specific piece that you wrote that is your favorite?

Allen: It’s hard to be objective they’re your children. I think one that I feel best about is a trio that I wrote for guitar, violin and cello. I’m very happy in fact and my desire is to have other people play them. There is an up and coming guitarist named Adam Levin who lives in Boston, he is playing it a number of times this year around the country in different venues. He’s playing it in Chicago and I’m going out there as the guest composer on this chamber music series he is part of. I like that piece a lot, when he heard it he it he got very excited about it. That’s one piece I feel good about. I feel good about my Guitar Concerto that Jason Vieaux has played a number of times. It’s for guitar and chamber orchestra.

David: Does being a classical guitarist give you a different perspective?

Allen: Yes, Bruckner is an example of somebody who was a great orchestral composer and you can really tell he approached the orchestra differently because his instrument was the organ. His orchestral music really has that imprint of his organ background. I’d like to think my guitar background gives me a little different way to think of things.

David: Is the guitar a hard instrument to write for?

Allen: Yes, I know it is. I think the guitar is the hardest instrument to write for. It has so many idiosyncrasies that make it difficult to anticipate unless you play it yourself. So I think the best advice is what Segovia use to do. He’d have composers listen to a few pieces and get a sense of the texture and basically say just write, don’t inhibit yourself and I’ll help you correct the details. I think composers who don’t play the guitar should take an approach like that. To make the guitar sound natural is really tough. I’ve worked a lot with composers, as long as they have basic idea of the right sound and texture and try not to make it sound like a grand piano. Usually you work with them and hold theirs hands a little bit and show them some options of what they want to do. And then there are the composers who write successfully for the guitar in a limited way because they treat it like a violin. So it is really hard to write for the guitar especially solo guitar music without playing it. To me the most impressive example of that is the Britten Nocturnal at least in the standard repertoire. A lot of the best pieces have been written with a guitarist on the scene working with the composer.

David: Was your piece Small Symphony for Saxophone and Electric Guitar written with a specific electric guitar in mind?

Allen: I wanted it to have a bridge between a classical symphony but with the expressivity of a blues guitar. I guess I was thinking of your typical blues guitar can play that like a Stratocaster. Theres a lot of places in that also where you play it with finger style. In a sense the way Jimi Hendrix would play Little Wing, beautiful quasi-acoustic sounding. I wanted to treat the guitar in that way. I’d love to write a concerto for electric guitar and orchestra. That’s in the back of my mind.

David: Do you have an electric guitar?

Allen: It’s actually a Stratocaster copy. It’s a Casio that I bought when I use to do commercial music. It’s a Midi guitar and it actually functions quite nicely as a Strat.

David: What kind of commercial music did you write?

Allen: I went through a stage in the late 1980’s early 1990’s where I was writing TV and radio commercials.

David: Was it a stage or necessity?

Allen: It was a stage. If it were out of necessity I would still be doing it. What happed was I was getting restless and I had an opportunity to write at a fairly high level. My first job was an American Express commercial. That’s what jump-started me as a composer. Getting to write commercials and film scores.

David: What else have I bought as a result of your music?

Allen: Well it was American Express and Molson Ale that were the big radio campaigns. I did it for maybe eight to ten years. It justified composing as a viable profession. The funny thing was that once I stared doing it I realized that how much I wanted to do it but was afraid of it but was now getting paid and it justified it. And it was doing film where I was able to be myself and then I got some opportunities to write chamber music and I realized this is what I really want to be doing. Making a living as a classical composer is pretty difficult. Of course by the time I got there I cared less about the difficulty because it’s what I wanted to do.

David: Do consider yourself a guitarist/composer or a composer/guitarist?

Allen: (Laughter) It depends on what day you ask me that question. It’s true, that’s the challenge of my life. I love both and find it very difficult to do both at the same time. That’s what my challenge is trying to plan my day well enough or plan my schedule well enough because I find when I’m composing especially if I have a commission that has a dead line to it, it takes over. I love the fact that it takes over and it’s difficult to practice with the intensity for a concert and vice –a-versa. I have a juggling act. It’s not hard to pick up the guitar when I’m out of practice but it’s hard to pick up composing when I’m out of practice. That’s something I’d like to try and improve in my life. Which is just that I don’t get really intensely into composing mode and then drop it and lose that momentum. I find it painful to get started again. I think I’ll compose better if I keep those gears going.

David: Will we ever see you perform a program of just your music?
Allen: I would never say never maybe that would be a nice thing at some point. I’d feel better If somebody else wanted to do it.
David: That’s the composer in you.
Allen: Yes it is! I really find it hard playing my own pieces. My guitar pieces are pretty difficult. I have to just be one of the musicians and I don’t mind playing one or two pieces but a whole program would kill me.
David: Emotionally or technically?
Allen: Emotionally! It is an interesting thought I shouldn’t rule it out. It isn’t something I’ve worried about but you know in a way it would be a pretty cool thing now that you’ve raised the question. I think I’ve written enough guitar chamber music. I would put the electric guitar piece on there, woodwinds and strings. There would be a good variety and a make a nice program.

David: What kind of guitar do you use?

Allen: I’m playing on a Delarue which I bought from Bob Page at the Classical Guitar Store. He came over to my house one day and I was not in the market for a guitar. He wanted me to see this for my Temple students and then I played it and it was like WOW!

David: What kind of strings do you use?
Allen: Hannabach.
David: Can you tell me about your program on Sunday?
Allen: I’m playing the Sarabande from the Bach Cello Suite it’s like a prayer to start the concert with. Then I am playing five fantasies from de Milano who I have really begun to appreciate in the past few year’s. Why in fact he is so important I’m constantly being amazed at how beautiful, deep and sophisticated his music is. I understand why he was called “El Davino” in the 16th century. In the program it lists that I am paying four but I’ve added one. And then a great Sonata by Wencelas Matiegka who is also a recent discovery in the past six years. I’ve now played through all eleven of his sonatas and he clearly has the largest body and most important body of large form guitar music from the early 19th century. To find somebody in the era of Beethoven and Schubert who was comfortable with sophisticated large sonata form was exciting to me so I’m playing the Bmi Sonata.
In the second half of program is my transcription of Spanish Dance no. 11 by Granados. That’s not played as a solo guitar piece usually and I’am finishing with Sephardic Life by Michael White. It was written for Peter Segal who founded the Philadelphia Classical Guitar Society. It’s beautiful and that’s an example of Michael writing it with Peter’s participation.

Congratulation to Allen and his wife Susan who were married last week.

Renaissance’s Michael Dunford Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitarist Phila. July 2011

Michael Dunford
All to often I do not heed reminders that life is short and not to put things off. It’s a lesson I still haven’t learned although I get closer with each reminder. A reminder was served on November 21, 2012 when the band Renaissance posted on their Face Book page that their guitarist Michael Dunford passed away on November 20, 2012. There was not a longterm illness. Michael had just returned home after the first leg of the bands North American Tour. He was dining with his family and suffered a massive instantaneous cerebral hemorrhage. He was rushed to the hospital where the doctors declared his condition irreversible and terminal. He never regained consciousness and passed away on November 20, 2012 surrounded by family.
Michael Dunford is a guitarist who had a huge, huge, huge influence and impact on me. It was in the mid-seventies that his rhythms, leads and compositions for the band Renaissance lead me to pick up the classical guitar. I devoured everything he did and the diet lasted through the eighties, nineties and the later releases after Renaissance.
When the announcement was in made 2011 that Annie Haslam (Renaissance lead singer) and Michael Dunford were re-uniting and a tour was looming I moved fast on tring to interview Michael. It was through Annie Haslam whom I interviewed a few years ago that I was able to contact Michael. What a rush for a Renaissance fan! Annie Haslam put me in touch with my guitar hero Michael Dunford. We spoke for fifty minutes. He was great. He was very opened to all of my questions including some I felt difficult to ask about his solo career.
When I was conducting the research for this interview very little information was found on this amazing musician. The decision was made that the interview would be to honor this man. As my life was complicated from dealing with the loss of my wife to ovarian cancer, finishing college, writing the music that would become my first CD, along with my gigs and teaching, I never sat down to transcribe the interview. In my mind there was all the time in the world. As all the time in the world passed by, posting the interview would have to be done at a noteworthy time for the band whether it be the release of their new studio album Renaissance Grandine il Ventoor or the completion of the tour that was currently underway. The goal was to contact Michael for a follow up interview to give the theme a before and after aspect. What started out to be something to honor Michael Dunford is now sadly also in tribute.
Part 1
David Cohen: Did you study classical guitar?

Michael Dunford: I haven’t been taught at all. I have not had any lesson of any description. In fact I do remember I when I would pick up the guitar in my early teens my dad wanted me to have lessons and go forth, here I’m going back to when I wasn’t to keen on being in a band, I never did. You don’t think then that you would look back with regret.

Cohen: One of my introductions to classical guitar was early press for Renaissance that spoke of how all the band members studied classical music. I was young and didn’t know you could study music in school.

Dunford: I think that wasn’t accurate at all. In the original band John Tout was taught classical piano. After a certain level I don’t think he went on or got a degree.

Cohen: Did you just want to play the blues?

Dunford: I certainly wasn’t right to play anything like that at that time. It was mostly playing covers of hits and all sorts of different things. I was in a band and it was in the days when the Musician Union over here did not allow certain artists mainly from the U.S. to bring their own bands here. So the artists had to pick up a band here. We were with an agency and we did quite a lot of that. The biggest name was Jerry Lee Lewis. We toured extensively with him, another was John Lee hooker, there were quite a few. We kept busy touring it was fantastic! Jerry Lee was like a monster and he sort of took it out on the drummer. Even on stage, because it wasn’t what he was use to or what he wanted. It was awful and embarrassing but in the end we won him over it was great, we had a good time but he was a bit of a hairy mess to begin with. John Lee Hooker was so laid back and so cool and completely different. Great experiences!

Cohen: Was there a period where you questioned whether you would be able to make a living in music?

Dunford: It was all very exciting. I remember after playing in various bands obviously I had to go out to work but during that period I was in a band The Nashville Teens and we had an offer to go to Germany I think I was nineteen, to play at the famous Star Club in Hamburg where the Beatles played. I remember we had to play fifty-minute sets for six or eight hours each night and it would kill our fingers it was just murderous and in that induction we all had jobs and we thought this will be great and we were very successful. Coming back I had gotten glandular fever, which really lays into you for a time, with that they replaced me. I had to get a job so I worked at Heathrow Airport for a while. Then I met up with a couple old mates and decided to give it a go and got a manager again and off we went. That was the time when I did turn professional. I was living at home so I didn’t have obviously the expenses and my good parents were very patient, let it go to a certain level before they started saying I had to go out for a proper job. It could have carried on and one thing led to another.

But to answer your question it really was taking a chance and it didn’t work for me as such but then I decided to do it and I went into it again. Once it’s in your blood it’s hard to let it go.

Cohen: That was in the early days of rock & roll and you mentioned that your parents were patient. Did it ever come down to them saying Michael you have to get a job?

Dunford: Yes, I think it did come down to that. I seem to remember drifting in and out of playing and then getting a job and then going back in. I thought I wasn’t that interested. I was always interested in music and it was probably then I went to work, a job as such. I think I was doing some shift work. I started writing, it was probably the end of the sixties. It was the time when Renaissance was formed with Jim McCarty and Keith Relf. When Keith died Jim McCarty was working with a Cornish Poet named Betty Thatcher and then he decided he wanted to go out on his own. And that’s how that started, it was the early seventies.

Part II
Cohen: Did you start on electric or acoustic guitar?

Dunford: I’m just self- taught really. I don’t profess to be any great guitar player. I know my limitations in what I do. I’m more of a writer/composer on the guitar but I started on the acoustic guitar initially and then getting into the first band was with electric guitar. I stayed with electric guitar until the second album that Renaissance didAshes are Burning that sort of came about because I was concentrating on writing. I remember I had a number of songs for the next album and it sort of seemed to work, it seemed to happen there, that seemed to fit in with the piano and everything else that was slightly different from anybody else and it worked with the material that was written. From then on it was let’s see how this goes and that’s how that started with the acoustic guitar.

Cohen: Did you listen to classical music before Renaissance?

Dunford: I might have. I can’t say anything strongly like I listened to this or that as I do occasionally now. I like classical music don’t get me wrong but I don’t really seem to have the time to be able to listen too much. If I’m in the car I have the radio on sometimes but other times I’m thinking about a song or piece of music so the radio is off. Here at home I have two young children so I’m with them a lot of the time. My wife works locally so when I’m here I have to pick up so on and so on, it’s a time thing.

Cohen: This is getting off topic but you mentioned you have two young kids. Do you worry about what they listen to? What I mean by that is that in the early days when I was beginning to be influenced by the musicians I admired whether it be the publicity departments working or truth there was a lot that was education based stories. For instance one of the members of Kansas was a philosophy major, Renaissance were classical musicians, read any Joni Mitchell interview and it was intelligence speaking. Of course there was trash too but not generalizing, it seems that the best criminal record gets the best contracts now.

Dunford: No, I don’t think so. It’s amazing because they’re nine and twelve at that age I certainly wasn’t involved with music like they are. They play music some of it I like some of it they don’t like. Like, they don’t particularly like my music.

Cohen: They don’t like your music?

Dunford: No, I mean they like pop songs. They like the hit singles, Northern Lights. They liked my last studio album Tuscany it was very uptempo. There’re some nice things from there. So I guess it really doesn’t concern me that much. They will grow up a lot more and quickly, and they know a lot more than we do.

Cohen: Yes, but you can’t let them know that.

Dunford: Of course not.

Cohen: Speaking of the album Tuscany that came out after your album Michael Dunford’s Renaissance. When you recorded Michael Dunford’s Renaissance did you realize you were running a risk with having another woman singing Annie’s parts? Whether the fans would accept another woman singing them? As a die hard fan speaking here Annie was the one that could never be replaced.

Dunford: Annie was doing her own thing. She had her band and was touring and recording. I was given the chance to do this and somebody would put the money up for me to do this and I said fine I’ll do it. At the time I was working on my musical Scheherazade and we were doing some stuff at the Royal Academy of Music in London. In fact one of the tutors there who was originally one of the singers on the Scheherazade and other Stories album put us in touch with and we got to use some of the students which we did and in fact did a showcase/workshop with them. During that time there was girl that stood out, very pretty, American girl, and that was Stephanie. I requested her number to speak with her to see if she would be interested in doing something and that’s how that came about. As I said I had the offer to do this album, which we did. She was classically trained so therefore completely different training in singing. She had a lovely voice and I was quite happy with the different, slightly harder director. I thought some of the songs were quite good, some of my favorites actually.

Cohen: Now that you have this tour coming up will there be a new Renaissance album?

Dunford: We have a new manager now. He’s talking to various people and we’re looking to do a new album, currently we have three or four songs written.

Cohen: Will Betty Thatcher be involved? (Betty Thatcher, February 1944 – August 2011) 

Dunford: No, I’m doing the writing with Annie actually. Annie is doing the lyrics. On our last tour we did a new song called Mystic and the Muse that went phenomenally well. So that was the beginning of it. We’re working away on new material.

Cohen: Are rehearsals difficult because Annie lives in the states now?

Dunford: Interesting because I have to come over earlier. At this particular time we’re doing a concept in that we are doing the two albums Turn of the Cards and Scheherazade in their entirety so it is quite a lot of new work for the guys to learn. We actually didn’t perform Scheherazade in its entirety a lot. It’s a twenty-five minute piece, we didn’t perform it a lot of times. So to me I have to bring back the memories of working on that. I will come in seven days early for rehearsal.

Cohen: Are you staying with Annie?

Dunford: Yes, but where we will be rehearsing is far from Annie’s house so we’ll get a hotel.

Part III
Cohen: Are you more involved with the marketing or management now?
Dunford: No, not really. Of course you have to be involved in all aspects now that’s the way it works even with minimal things. We’ve just got a new manager he’s been around in corporate stuff involved with EMI, Capitol, Warner Bros and people like that. He managed a number of successful acts. We obviously communicate by phone or Skype. There are just things you have to do on a daily basis organizing things. Agreeing to do this sorting that out. It’s a quite a busy time now.

Cohen: It’s also a very different time we live now.

Dunford: Yeah, of course! There were no cell phones no computers and all that jazz. That’s of course where half of everything is done on the social media side of things. It is so important. That’s one thing we try to get across to everybody to draw up to the public thoughts and interest and try to expand, that is where so much is done. Our manager helps there too. We do what we do and try to push that along.

Cohen: Who takes care of the Face Book page?

Dunford: There’s a team of us. The input is done through our manager Bruce as well. I personally don’t get involved but there are various questions that come on there that we get involved in.

Cohen: In terms of your writing has technology changed your approach?

Dunford: Yeah, before I had an acoustic guitar and small tape recorder and I use to put the melodies down for Betty at that time and then post it to her home then she’d come back with the lyric and then I go off and play it for the band and off we go. Now a days I have a Mac and everything I do is in Garage Band. So I can use that to get different sounds, ideas and try around with different things and then finally come down to get a demo. I can do most of it myself. It changed it physically from my point of view. It takes a lot longer as well because you also have to learn this stuff. It’s a whole new learning curve.

Cohen: For myself I’ve grown to dislike physically writing, now I record and go back and listen if I have to remind myself of something I’ve done.

Dunford: I think that’s it. I enjoy this aspect probably a lot more than I did back then.

Cohen: What kind of guitar do you use now?

Dunford: I play Martin now, I was using Ovation for some time and then I’ve got a 12- String Martin Jumbo and a six string that I use.

Cohen: So no more Ovations?

Dunford: No more Ovations. I’m selling my 12-string shortly.

Cohen: How much?

Dunford: I don’t know. It will be an auction on Ebay, so watch out. I also have a Yamaha 12-string that I used all the way right from the early run of meeting up with the band and using it on Ashes are Burning to Tuscany. I’m not selling them at the same time. They should go up shortly, it’s being setup by someone else.

Cohen: What made you change from Ovation to Martin?

Dunford: Ovations where great and the sound was very good for what I was working but the technology has moved forward and much has been done now with acoustic guitars. A friend of Annie’s, a friend of the band got involved and I went down to the Martin factory and I really liked the quality, craftsmanship, and the sound. I played a couple of those and it was the right forward for me. It gives more acoustic guitar sound on stage as well and in recordings.

Cohen: Do you own any nylon string guitars?

Dunford: I did have an Ovation classical at one time but not anymore. Again It’s depending on how things progress I was thinking of actually getting another to try out and play some things. But for now the twelve and six string are what I use in recordings.

Cohen: What’s going on with Scheherazade the musical?

Dunford: It’s been on the back burner for awhile. We got close to putting it on here but because of what’s going on in London and the public turn of events and 911it got put on the back burner. One of my partners who is the lyricist has been working with an American director who has had a lot of success on Broadway and has even been brought in to salvage Spiderman the musical. I don’t know how that turned out but he’s working with him on it. I met with him on tour last year in Albany and he’s interested in doing a different angle, more contemporary. He came up with some ideas hopefully it will work and it will go on some point. It’s very difficult to get the right team together and the right creators. But now there are some really good people involved. I’m very pleased.

Cohen: You probably get asked all the time what your favorite Renaissance album is but which one is your least favorite? 

Dunford: That one is easy- Timeline. John Tout and Terry left, Annie, Jon Camp and myself took a break for a couple years and we came back with a couple other guys. And we did Camera Camera which has some interesting things on there and then Timeline. Jon camp was a bit more influential in the writing and it was just awful and consequently as a result of that it didn’t do well. That was my least favorite album.

Cohen: The band now is doing small reunion tours mostly in the East, are there plans to go fulltime?

Dunford: It is fulltime at the moment actually. It’s a question of making it work. We’ve been working on the East a lot and we’ve made our way to a few festivals in Canada. We’d love to get across to the rest of the country but it’s difficult to make it work. We can play anywhere but financially it won’t work. So that’s what we’re trying to do is open things up now with the social media side of things, the new album that will hopefully be the catalyst to push us with promotion and that sort of thing. It’s tough to get airplay, that would help immensely it’s not like the early days.
We have a great team out there helping us.

Michael Dunford

Joan Armatrading Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitar

Joan Armatrading-The Goddess of Change

Long recognized as a pioneering force with a career spanning three decades, the Saint Kitts born Joan Armatrading has maintained an acclaimed and storied career. The three times Grammy nominated British artist has garnered countless accolades which include Top 10 albums and singles (“Love and Affection,” “Willow,” “Drop The Pilot,” are but a few), not to mention a #1 debut atop the Billboard Blues chart in 2007 (a first for a female artist from the UK). She has made VH1’s list of the 100 Most Influential Women in Rock, has been nominated for a Brit Award, gave a command performance for Nelson Mandela on his 70th birthday at Wembley Stadium, received an Honorary Degree from Birmingham University and the list goes on—truly a charmed life and career!

David: You will have your third live recording Live at the Royal Albert Hall released in February in the United States. Your last live CD/DVD Live All the Way From America from 2004 was produced, directed and edited by you. Will you have the same role in this release?

Joan: Yes, because they are all songs I’ve written. I do that with everything I do even though I haven’t been credited.

David: Why are you releasing another live CD/DVD on the heels of Live All the Way from America. It was almost fifteen years between your first live recording and the last.

Joan: No reason, I get asked a lot by people who come to the shows for many years to do another live album. I did Live All the Way From America and Into the Blues; especially after Into the Blues people were asking for a live recording from that. It was a great live sound and I was into it myself obviously.

David: How did you discover Anderson Guitars?

Joan: I went hunting for guitars and I took my tour manager at the time to a shop and came back with a stack of guitars and the one I chose was the Tom Anderson. It sounded great. It was clean. I took that one and I needed two more. At the time I played a Strat that I couldn’t take on the road anymore it was very buzzy.

David: Do you collect guitars? How many do you have?

Joan: I don’t tell people how many I have. I have quite a few.

David: Do you have a dream guitar?

Joan: Not Really. I look at guitars all the time because I’m looking to see if there is anything new. It doesn’t have to be a new guitar per se. I just found a Strat and it’s really really good. It sounds very different, quite chunky. It was nice to get something that plays really different and works. I’m always looking for guitars in all the countries I go to.

David: Do you have a nylon string guitar?

Joan: I have one I don’t play on it much

David: Who made it?

Joan: It’s a Gibson.

David: I understand why you don’t use it (Joan laughs). 

           Are you working on a CD of new material?

Joan: I’m writing now. I will give myself a year it will be 2012 when it comes out. I will be sixty-one.

David: Your tours are always extensive. Does touring get harder as you get older?

Joan: It’s tiring anyway even when you’re young. I’m a healthy strong person so I do all right. So yes it’s a tiring thing and I am busy all the time with interviews and meeting people. While the band is on a break I have a lot to do. I’ve been doing this for forty years I’m use to it.

David: Speaking of healthy and fit you ran in the New York Marathon. I heard you didn’t train.

Joan: I did do some training. I couldn’t do as much as I would have liked. I did do some. A few days before the race I hurt my knee but I finished the marathon and I got my medal and raised 175,000 Euro’s for charity.

Part Two

David: Your last recording with A&M Records was Square the Circle in 1992. That Album was just dropped in the market. What happened?

Joan: That’s up to the record company to do what they wanted. There were changes within A&M. Life changes that’s how it goes, people move on. My records do well.

David: Then you went to RCA and did What’s Inside.

Joan: There again, there were changes as well. That’s what I mean, things change all the time. I just generally don’t have control over how a company moves in and moves the artists. You just have to work with what’s there. What are you gonna do? It affects a lot of different people. You can get wrapped up and held up in things. I’m not that kind of person. I’m a very positive person. I take what comes and do the best with what I have. It’s a simple philosophy for me. I’m not a complicated person when it comes to how to be happy. I think the record company has to have the freedom to do what it has to do to be a record company. You have to accept that to do the things you want to do. That’s how things work. You have to understand that.

David: Do you have a favorite CD?

Joan: Usually the one I’m writing. I wouldn’t be able to answer that one. It’s like when people ask what is my favorite song I wrote. I can’t answer that because I’ve written so many. If I had to say it would be Love and Affection because that’s the one I came in on, but it’s very hard to answer.

People will ask what is my favorite gig. We do this all the time and we might come off the stage and say that was great like when they would sing Best Dress On from the last tour. That worked very well. We would think that nobody else would sing that loud or that many times but then we go to the next place and the people are as into it.

David: Speaking of the song Best Dress On, where did that come from?

Joan: I don’t know. I should know but I don’t remember.

David: That song seems to be speaking directly to people who are dealing with the fear and uncertainty of cancer.

Joan: It’s definitely for healing, for people who are trying to make things work. As I said to you before I’m a very positive person and write about the good in the things we make. When I write I try not to write positive stuff all the time. It takes me longer to write something that isn’t positive.

David: Where is Ma-Me-O Beach?

Joan: It’s in Canada. It’s not a beach I went to. I saw the signs for it on the road from the tour bus. I didn’t write the song there it came about later.

David: Was Secret Secret a freeing album for you?

Joan: Secret Secret was the record I decided that I would say exactly what I do on the record. All of the members of my band said I should be taking credit for what I do so yes it was freeing for me because it was when I started working on my own. I didn’t have producers in the studio with me. Not that working with producers was a bad thing. I’ve worked with fantastic producers and learned a lot from them.

David: Was it freeing vocally for you? That was the album you started vocal phrasings like the line where you sing, “ Bap par dap……..ah”.

Joan: Right, that was from Persona Grata. Not really because again on my records I sing what I want to sing and I write all the harmonies. Whatever vocals I did are things I write like the low voices on Down toZero. Nobody is there to say why don’t you do this.

David: Have you been asked to produce anybody?

Joan: Yes, but because of time I haven’t been able too. It is really a lot of work to produce.

David: Do you ever see yourself only producing and not writing?

Joan: It would be nice to produce somebody but I kind of have to write and I want to write

David: Why did you write about the Goddess Oya?

Joan: That’s a real goddess. I was thinking of change and I wanted to write about it. I wanted to find out if there was a goddess that would guide you safely through change. I did a search and found that there was a goddess. I wasn’t surprised to find out there was a goddess of change.

Jason Vieaux Interview w/ David Cohen Classical Guitar

Jason Vieaux

Part 1   

One of the “youngest stars of the guitar world” (New York Times, 2010), Jason Vieaux is a musician regularly noted for his engaging and virtuosic live performances, imaginative programming, and uncommon communicative gifts. Recent concert highlights include recitals for Lincoln Center and the 92nd St. Y in New York, Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, a debut with the Charlotte Symphony, and recitals for Spivey Hall and Indiana University. Vieaux’s 2010-2011 concerto performances include works of Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla and Roberto Sierra, in performances with the Chautauqua Music Festival, the symphonies of Mexico City, Ft. Worth, Grand Rapids, Illinois, Williamsburg, Reading, Dubuque, and with Boston’s A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra. His current chamber music collaborations with the Escher Quartet, flutist Gary Schocker, and bandoneon/accordion virtuoso Julien Labro continue to display Vieaux’s extensive range of musical interests. As one of the “leading guitarists of his generation” (Absolute Sound, 2009), Jason Vieaux has established a lasting connection with his audiences, as evidenced by numerous return invitations in 2010-2011 to series in Toronto, Cleveland, Kalamazoo, Greenville (NC), and the Music@Menlo festival. In October, Mr. Vieaux will receive a 2010 Salon De Virtuosi Career Grant and perform with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke at the Kennedy Center.

Mr. Vieaux is a frequent guest with orchestras across the United States. He has performed as concerto soloist with, among many others, the Cleveland Orchestra, Ft. Worth Symphony, San Diego Symphony, the Florida Orchestra, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Orchestra 2001, IRIS Chamber Orchestra, and the Auckland Philharmonia in New Zealand, while working with such renowned conductors as Miguel Harth-Bedoya, David Robertson, Michael Stern, Jahja Ling, Stefan Sanderling and Alasdair Neale. Vieaux’s triumphant programs and collaborations for Music@Menlo, Strings Music Festival, Grand Teton, Jupiter Chamber Players, and others, have forged his reputation as a first-rate chamber musician. As a passionate advocate of new music, Vieaux has premièred new pieces by Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate, José Luis Merlin, Eric Sessler, Arthur Hernandez, Gary Schocker, Fazil Say, and frequently plays works by Mario Davidovsky, Roberto Sierra, and John Corigliano.

DC: Do you hear comparisons to a lot of other guitarists?

Jason: Well, I’ve heard people say after concerts for years, we saw Segovia, we’ve heard Williams, Isbin, Barrueco. I play with a lot of orchestras in halls that normally don’t have guitar players on a regular basis. That’s where you will have people who are seeing a guitar player for the first time in fifteen years. They are not regular guitar society members Those are the place I hear the comparison. It’s a real honor because those are some real heavy weights.

DC: Does that put pressure on you?

Jason: At first it was a heavy thing. The last person they might have seen was Sharon Isbin-it was like WOW! In those situations now they relax me. People are there for the real enjoyment it’s less pressure. Playing for guitar societies are more pressure because they have six or so performers in a season.

DC: You’ve mentioned a lot of older names from a time that seemed to have those names in concert halls every season. Do you think the guitar’s popularity has diminished that it isn’t in concert halls as much?

Jason: It’s harder to get in there. I will say it’s harder to see a violin and piano recital in the bigger halls too. What the halls want are package concerts with lots of different musicians. There trying to combine the fans of one classical music in with the fans of others to attract more people. So you’re seeing a lot of hybrids of classical music and world music. That across the board.

Classical guitar is actually on the way up. I think there are a lot of fine players, young player with a lot of potential, not that the mainstream classical guitar societies are aware of them. My experience is that with each passing year more and more classical musicians are wanting to play, wanting to play the guitar chamber repertoire and having to come up with programs to meet this demand. I think there is a lot of fertile territory to meet this demand.

DC: I was looking at the course list for the guitar program David Starobin and you have created for the Curtis Institute of Music. Does your entrapanorial program come into play with meeting that demand?

Jason: With President Roberto Diaz – he wants to modernize the conservatory. Get it so the students that are there are more active in performing and also more actively in touch with the world around them so they can communicate what they do, not just the music they’re playing but what’s its value is to people in the outside world.

That’s something I’ve worked on very hard as an aspect of my career. David Starobin has too. David has been very successful not just communicating some very difficult music but also started an incredible record label Bridge Records and premièred three hundred and fifty original works for the guitar. So he has an experience level I don’t have. We brought different things to the table but complimentary so the student will get a wider spectrum when they get out and make the transition from conservatory to working.

DC: In terms of from “conservatory to working” I have run into many classical musicians who feel marketing themselves cheapens their art. For me marketing is part of the art and I am always learning.

Jason: Business is learning. I’m learning all the time and I have a lot to learn.. I’ve come along way in fifteen years. When I think of where I was fifteen years ago it was hard to make connections. In that sense it’s not a dirty word. It’s a dirty word to compromise what you’re doing. I feel that is a fear a lot of musicians have. When you become successful and are able to sell what you do to a wider public there are always acquisitions of selling out. But if you believe in what you do you are not compromising the your art.

The more people I meet who are successful in music at what they do, the more I learn about the history of performance in this country and abroad, the more I realize our most hollowed names in performance were not space cadets wondering around from place to place with no idea of the machinations of a career. These people knew about what was happening and they cultivated it. Maybe it was easier for an artist one hundred years ago not to do so much groundwork, so much office work. I seriously doubt that Caruso was completely unaware of the music business.

DC: You’re right and those are the ones who make it. I have a picture of you in the press kit I was sent of this little kid whose behind his guitar with fire in your eye and this look of nothing is getting in my way.

Part 2

DC: You’re right and those are the ones who make it. There is a picture of you in the press kit of this little kid whose behind his guitar with fire in his eyes and this look of nothing is getting in my way.

Jason: Which picture is that?

DC: (picture description)

Jason: I was twenty-one in that photo. I had just won the 1992 Guitar Foundation of America International Guitar Competition.

DC: How old where you when you started?

Jason: I was eight years old when I started learning classical guitar.

DC: Is that what you wanted to do when you were eight?

Jason: I never told anybody, ”I dig classical guitar I want to take lessons”.  I grew up in a house in Buffalo, NY that had a lot of LP’s. My mom liked dance music, soul and R & B from the 1960’s. There were stacks of Motown. Elvis! A lot of the Beatles, I really got into the Beatles as much as anyone. My dad listened to jazz, Amad Jamal, Peter Vogel Orchestra.

We didn’t know what classical guitar was but my mother bought me a guitar when I was five years old because I listened to music all the time. She never sent to the local music store for lessons. In that generation there was Spanish guitar and it was something you studied. When I was seven the Buffalo Guitar Quartet came to my school. My mother was working at the school as a secretary and it clicked in her mind. She asked member Jeremy Sparks to come to our house to listen to me. I didn’t know what to play but he thought I had potential so he took me on as a student. Within a few lesson he wanted me to continue.

DC: Do you remember what your first big boy piece was?

Jason: (laughs)There were different stages I can remember a few. Classical Gas, my teacher transcribed it from the Mason Williams recording. I was nine or ten I remember thinking that was a difficult piece. Maybe that was one of the first ones that was a big step forward.

There were several pieces a long the way. I played my first recital when I was twelve years old. I didn’t play Classical Gas it was all classical, pre 20th century except maybe a study by Segovia. But it was all concert repertoire. I remember along the way Sor Variations on a Theme by Mozart. When you’re a kid you’re thinking, “Wow, I’m doing something different”. Then there was Rumores de la Caleta when I was fifteen, I remember thinking you can’t get much harder than this. That’s the way it feels when you’re a kid but then you challenge yourself with more difficult pieces.

DC: There is always a place in your heart for your first big piece of music.

Jason: Oh yeah, I wouldn’t mind doing my first public recital again

DC: You remember it?

Jason: Yes, I even remember the order of what I played.

DC: What was it?

Jason: Four Lute pieces from the Renaissance. It was from a book collection.

Fantasia by Mudurra ( I remember this was difficult for a twelve years old)

Three Sor Etudes,

Sor Op. 9 Variations.

As it progressed the pieces got harder. I closed the first half with Tarantella.

The second half was:

Prelude in E by Ponce/Weiss,

3rd Cello Suite, (two movements)



and I ended with Recuerdos de la Alhambra.

That was my first recital.

DC: Was the book you mentioned 100 Years of Classical Guitar?

Jason: Yes! It was a fantastic book.

DC: You have a particular love of Spanish music.

Jason: I do! The melodies are great. There’s a certain feeling to that music that I identify with. I love playing that in concert. I do a lot of special programs that don’t involve Spanish music but in my typical varied programs I always like to have Spanish music as well as Bach.

DC: Your love of Bach is very apparent in your last CD, Bach Vol.1 Works for Lute. The CD prior to that

Images of Metheny shows your love for the music of Pat Metheny as well. It was also a different direction for you. Was it a conscience move to make that CD?

Jason: There wasn’t that much forethought into it. I had done a lot of Metheny arrangements, maybe thirty tunes. There are only thirteen tracks on the CD but I had done at least twice as many. I started getting into his music. I think he is a great melody writer of jazz music of the latter part of the 20th century. He’s a fantastic melodist, the chords, and the rich harmonies underneath. I started to make little arrangements from the records just to play for myself or if I ran into a Metheny fan on the road. People would say I should make a recording of the arrangements. I was recording by that time but I never thought there would be an outlet for it.

About ten years later my producer Alan Bise suggested I record the Metheny tunes. I was reluctant because most of the tunes were ballads and it would be a slow album, beside I’d only be playing the head. I had no chords or solos. Alan said to see what I could do, pick up some fast tunes and give them structure. As the date approached we set up to start recording I had the idea to take five Metheny pieces from different albums and seeing what I could do. I started to hear the tune James in a different meter. It had a mid-tempo bossa nova feel and I started to hear it as a gigue. I thought maybe I could recast some other tunes as a baroque dance. That added the structure. I kept all the melodies and harmonies of the tunes I used. Then I added chord solo’s – doing improv over the changes.

It’s a nice record. I’m really proud of it. It came about very naturally.
DC: What can you tell me about the CD you’re working on now?