YouTube Sensation Andy McKee Still Pushing Acoustic Guitar's Boundaries

Categories: Interview

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Andy McKee

"The hard thing with the acoustic guitar is to not get too repetitive," says guitarist Andy McKee from his home in Topeka, Kansas. "It's hard to write new music that doesn't sound like everything else."

The man has a point, as is painfully clear with all too many singer-songwriters repeating tried-and-true folk formulas to the detriment of us all. Fortunately, McKee doesn't fall in that category. First, he doesn't even sing.

"Perhaps one day I will, but right now I don't," McKee says with a laugh.

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For the Chieftains' Leader, There Is No Irish Translation for "Slowing Down"

Categories: Interview

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Kevin Kelly
The Chieftains

It has often been said that music is an international language.

Regardless of political and physical boundaries, status, race and creed, the melodies and harmonies that are conceived from inspiration, nurtured into notes and finally released into the air to be shared with the world, can transcended all these barriers.

And, if there is one musical group that has most embodied this ability, and proven to be masters of it, over the past half-century-plus, it is the legendary Irish band, The Chieftains, and they are not slowing down.

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Metal's First Female Frontwoman Talks About Playing in a Man's World

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Doro

You'd think that Doro Pesch would come off as a pretty tough broad.

I mean, this is the first female band leader in heavy metal. Her name has been synonymous with "strength" over the past 30 years. She helped pioneer heavy metal's style, not just blazing a trail for future women artists, but for the entire genre as a whole.

During her childhood in Germany, her father brought her on his truck driver tours, instilling a passion to "be on the move," before she fell deathly ill and was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis. Extremely weak, she was bed-ridden for nearly a year, but made a vow to herself: If she ever got better, she would dedicate her life to her greatest passion, music. And she lived up to that promise.

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The Cross-Cultural Journey 
of Ladysmith Black 
Mambazo Heats Up

Categories: Interview

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Shane Doyle
Ladysmith Black Mambazo members hate the cold.

Grand Forks, North Dakota saw a high of 9 degrees and a low of minus-18 on Februrary 26. That's way too cold for South African native Albert Mazibuko, who describes the scene outside his hotel room window.

"We are freezing. It is very cold," says the Ladysmith Black Mambazo singer. "Anyway, we are staying in. The bus is warm, so we have no problem. We just watch the snow through the window."

North Dakota is probably not the coldest place Mazibuko has performed, but almost certainly, he will feel much more at home, at least weather-wise, when the nine-member vocal group sets up at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.


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AWOLNATION's Aaron Bruno Never Thought "Sail" Would Be a Hit

Categories: Interview

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Kari Rowe
Aaron Bruno of AWOLNATION

AWOLNATION's success is a slow clap.

The Los Angeles band's music has been featured in dozens of television and reality shows, commercials, and soundtracks. Macy Gray and metal band DevilDriver have covered the group's six-times platinum single "Sail." The same song has been used to sell phones and sportswear. It even aired on "House." There's a dichotomous appeal -- it's been used everywhere over the last four years, but it's still not tired. The sound can be edgy, vulnerable and delicious enough that the mainstream media is shamelessly smothering it in Sriracha for every marketing cause imaginable. When asked what the weirdest thing AWOLNATION's music has promoted, though, front man Aaron Bruno answers, "Anything. It's still weird to me that anyone wants any of it."

The last time AWOLNATION was in Phoenix, Bruno admits, "it was a weird show." The singer had destroyed his voice in Los Angeles the night before, was fighting a cold and hadn't quit smoking yet. Though no audience member may have noticed, keyboardist Kenny Carkeet's case of food poisoning had him hurling throughout the set, and Bruno adds the group was still just cutting its teeth on the whole touring thing.

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VEX on Heavy Alternative Art Rock and Villain Recording

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When in doubt, make a collage.

Vex is one of those bands that commands attention whenever they hit the stage. Fitting, since their name is the very definition of evoking mystery and discussion. It's also defined as changing or "shaking up" the arrangement or position of something, and that's something Vex is all about.

The four members that make up the Phoenix band pull from a variety of artistic influences, including literature, film, and visual art, with the goal being to think outside the box, inspire, and be inspired.

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Talking with Frank Marino, Joan Rivers Impersonator and Vegas Fixture

Categories: Interview

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Divas, as cast by Frank Marino.

Friday afternoon in the ballroom in Talking Stick Resort, about 13 men are walking on stage, preparing. They move with a practiced deliberation to create what will become Divas, a drag show starring Frank Marino, who's been the costumed star of a Las Vegas female impersonation revue for 30 years.

After a few minutes, Marino, in a black beanie and wearing a black blazer and T-shirt and black-and-gray speckled pants, pauses.

"I'm gonna go do an interview, and I'm going to need Katy Perry and I'm going to need Madonna," he commands in a voice that retains a hint of his Brooklyn upbringing.

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Scott H. Biram's Tunes Will Kick Your Ass

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Sandy Carson
Scott H. Biram's songs are not to be messed with.

Mr. Scott H. Biram is nothing short of a total and complete badass mofo. First of all, he is thee one man in his namesake one-man band, and his many quality releases over the past 14 years have proved he doesn't need anyone else to help him get the job done, and done well. From vocal duty to playing guitar and percussion, Biram delivers his style of hillbilly country with a vengeance -- tangling it up with elements of punk, blues, metal, classic rock, and an undeniably ferocious spirit. Whether he's blasting out a fierce and noisy tune or bringing it down a little more low and slow, you know he isn't holding back anything. Another testament to his tenacity: Biram survived a head-on collision with a semi-truck in 2003, suffering multiple internal and external injuries, including the loss of a substantial portion of his organs. A mere month later, with a couple of broken legs, he took the stage in Austin, performing in a wheelchair, an IV still hanging from his arm. Just like his tunes, that's pretty fuckin' tough.

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Ville Vallo of HIM Takes A Trip Through Time With New Box Set

Categories: Interview

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HIM is scheduled to play Marquee Theatre tonight.

Generally, when a band releases a box set, it means one of two things. Either they've broken up years ago and are looking for a cash grab, or they are about to go on an extended break. In the case of Finnish rock band HIM, who are about to release Lashes to Ashes, Lust to Dust: A Vinyl Retrospective '96-'03 next week, they are going to take some time off from touring. We caught up with singer Ville Vallo, who spoke about the past, present, and future of the band that invented "Love Metal."


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Is There Anything Better Than a Sad Clown Singing Pop Songs?

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David Stuart Photography
Puddles, the sad clown

Now's the chance to use that old-fashioned monogrammed hanky that's burning a hole in your dresser drawer or just grab a cheap box of tissues - - whatever suits you best for sopping up tears mixed of both laughter and desolation - - and spend the evening with Puddles Pity Party. Known as the "sad clown with the golden voice," Puddles is the stage name of Big Mike Geier, a multi-talented singer, actor and performance artist whose 6-foot, 8-inch stature, appropriately twisted sense of humor and majestic baritone voice command a room.

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