Tag Archives: Nicky Reviews Rock

The Whole of the Moon

Remember The Waterboys?  That classic, The Whole of the Moon?  It’s one of my favourite songs, always there, often played, occasionally left in a mental drawer for a few months. Fantastic lyrics, of course!

It all came back to me after a lovely chat with the amazing Yasmin Selena, who reminded me of this much-loved favourite.  It’s been playing in my head on and off ever since, having plenty of poignant memories attached to it for me… not least one of the first dates with my now husband in a dingy little pub in Stockwell, London.

So ring in Music Monday!  Take a look at these lyrics and have a listen to the song (video below). I’ve highlighted my favourite bit for you in bold font–tell me, which part of these lyrics captures your imagination?  And do you have a special song that takes you right back in time, ten, fifteen years even, evoking feelings so real as though they’d only just happened?

The Whole of the Moon

I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands
I had flashes but you saw the plan
I wandered out in the world for years while you just stayed in your room
I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

You were there in the turnstiles with the wind at your heels
You stretched for the starts and you know how it feels
To reach too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

I was grounded while you filled the skies
I was dumbfounded by truth, you cut through lies
I saw the rain-dirty valley, you saw Brigadoon
I saw the crescent, you saw the whole of the moon

I spoke about wings
You just flew
I wondered I guessed and I tried
You just knew
I sighed
And you swooned
I saw the crescent
You saw the whole of the moon
The whole of the moon

With a torch in your pocket and the wind at your heels
You climbed on the ladder and you know how it feels
To get too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon, the whole of the moon, hey yeah

Unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers
Trumpets, towers and tenements, wide oceans full of tears
Flags, rags, ferryboats, scimitars and scarves
Every precious dream and vision underneath the stars

Yes, you climbed on the ladder with the wind in your sails
You came like a comet, blazing your trail
Too high, too far, too soon
You saw the whole of the moon

 

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Waiting to Happen

So I couldn’t sleep last night; you all know I’m a bit of an insomniac by now.  But it was a happy kind of not sleeping, and then it started raining.  The raindrops were fair lashing against the window, and I got that snuggly, dry, comfort feeling of being safe and warm under my duvet.

And as always, without fail, that sensation brought on a recollection of snippets of one of my all-time favourite songs.  That song has stayed with me since I was 18 or 19, so that makes it a classic in my eyes.  It is a beautiful song with some of the most expressive lyrics I have come ever across.  It is suffusing me with a lovely feeling of happiness and anticipation, and as it suits my mood and my life so perfectly at the moment, I thought I’d share.  Read through the lyrics first and then scroll down to watch a live performance. Do take the time to listen to the whole song, you won’t regret it, I promise! 🙂
And then, tell me about your special song–I’d love to hear about it!

Marillion: Waiting to Happen

I lie awake at night
Listening to you sleeping
I hear the darkness breathe
And the rain against the window
After all this time
Cynical and jaded
All the stones are diamonds
All the blues are faded

Everything I’ve been through
All I’ve seen and heard
Spend so much of my life
In the spiritual third world
But you came and brought the rain here

Something waiting to happen
Something learning to fly
We can talk without talking
From inside to inside
I have waited to feel this
For the whole of my life

We took ourselves apart
We talked about our faces
You said you didn’t like yours
I said I disagree
I keep the pieces separate
I clutch them in my coat
A jigsaw of an angel I can do when I feel low

From emptiness and dryness
The famine of our days
I watch the heavens open
Wash it all away
You came and brought the rain here

Something waiting to happen
Something learning to fly
On the edge of exploding
Something wild and alive
Something waiting to happen
Any time that you like I have waited to feel this
For the whole of my life

 

Nicky Reviews Rock presents: THE HUSH Video Debut

Only a few short weeks ago, it was my tremendous pleasure to introduce you to THE HUSH right here on Nicky Reviews Rock.  You may recall that there was talk of an upcoming video for a new song…  Well, here it is in all its splendid glory!!  Hope you enjoy, and let me know what you think! Rock on 🙂 xx

 

Nicky Reviews Rock Proudly Presents: THE HUSH

Welcome to the fifth edition of Nicky Reviews Rock, bringing you interviews and album reviews from rock bands around the world… with an extra special place for new and emerging talent.  Rock On!

Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome THE HUSH. If you’re looking for rock with a difference, something unique and amazing, look no further. In this feature, find an introduction to THE HUSH, kindly provided by the band itself; an album review written by yours truly (me!); and an interview. Grab a cuppa or something stronger, sit back, and enjoy. And for the really authentic experience, check out those links and have a listen while you read!


MEET THE HUSH

Original, fresh, infectious and in-charge, THE HUSH is a five piece rock band delivering pop sensibility combined with musical artistry and thought provoking lyrics filled with plenty of attitude.  Lead singer Jazmine Giovanni embodies rock & roll by commanding the stage with seductive allure while slicing the air with her astounding range and powerhouse voice.  Their music is bonafide hard rock yet doesn’t neglect dynamics.  “Our style has landed us in a unique spot,” explains Lee Landrum, lead guitarist and founder of the band. “Full of surprises, some of our songs start out with melodic innocence then, suddenly, full-blown energy takes over.”

THE HUSH was born in 2009 and immediately were off and running, throwing themselves into writing/ recording/debuting their EP, Scene of the Crime, while playing acclaimed Los Angeles venues such as The Viper Room, Troubadour, House of Blues and more.  With each show came more and more followers and buzz.

Individually the members of THE HUSH have been performing/writing/recording for years with notable artists including Gwen Stefani, KISS and Miley Cyrus.  Playing with various artists throughout the Country, they have also performed on The Tonight Show, The View, Good Morning America and at Coachella and SXSW.  While each member of THE HUSH stands on their own, together they are a force of nature.

Give it a minute. With more to come, THE HUSH tells Nicky Reviews Rock that the band is about to get louder:

***’Tip of the Tongue’, new single, now on iTunes. Link available at www.THEHUSHrockband.com

***’Hold You Down’, new single, to be released early March.

***’Hold You Down’ video release event scheduled for March 30 at Key Club in Hollywood. Details about the show available soon at www.THEHUSHrockband.com

THE HUSH ALBUM REVIEW: SCENE OF THE CRIME

When I downloaded this album, the first thing that struck me was the unusual cover.  No black background here, no ‘traditional’ rock images.  Instead, a soft-edged, white-and-grey picture of a woman’s face and hand, making the classic ‘hush’ gesture:  finger on lips.  It’s a very impactful image, universally recognised, and aptly captures the name of the band.  But what about the album title:  ‘Scene of the Crime’?  That would suggest violence, something bad that happened.  Why must we be quiet (Hush!) about it?  What kind of crime was being committed?

I rarely find myself quite so intrigued by an album cover, and with all the seeming contradictions going on, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect.  Well, what I got was strong, engaging rock with haunting melodies and tantalising beats.  Success!

The opening track, ‘So Hollywood’, instantly had me grooving.  After a powerful intro come clear, carrying vocals.  The instruments pull back a little to give me the full impact of that voice, but by the chorus, the band is rocking with strong riffs and a good beat.  The overall effect is… unexpected, distinctive and unique.  I like the way in which the vocals and guitar work together, echoing each other, continuing each other’s themes.  The next track, ‘Touch and Go’ has a gritty feel to it, and I mean that in a good way.  There are strong guitars and a powerful rhythm, and always that juxtaposition between an all-out chorus and the slightly gentler verses, where the emphasis is on the melody and the voice.  And so it continues; I am hooked!  ‘Queen of Sheba’ starts off hard and fast with instant sing-along value:  Kiss!  Kiss!  Kiss!  Half-way through, we are treated to another slower, seductive, lyrical moment with a beautiful melody.  This is my kind of music!  If you’re looking for a fantastic guitar intro, check out ‘Fire Lights the Way.’  My favourite track is possibly ‘See God Tonight’.  It has a lovely, rolling drum rhythm and a slightly bluesy undertone, but it’s particularly the lyrics that capture my attention here.

So let’s talk about lyrics.  Lyrics matter to me, greatly.  If I can’t connect to the lyrics, I can’t connect to the music.  In this regard, THE HUSH has two fabulous things going for it.  First of all, the vocals are clear and the lyrics can mostly be easily understood.  This is an instant winner for me.  And secondly, there are the lyrics themselves.  In my humble opinion, THE HUSH is tackling some slightly unusual subjects and each song tells a story.  There’s the lady of the night who has started to care about one particular man; but does he give a damn (Touch and Go)?  And there’s the unsure believer who’d like some certainty (See God Tonight).  These are lyrics that draw you in and get you thinking, and they’re married extremely well with the music that delivers and supports them.

THE HUSH, ‘Scene of the Crime’:  A distinctive, unique and engaging rock album featuring powerful vocals, great instrumentals and beautiful lyrics.  I thoroughly recommend listening!

But why not listen for yourself?  Follow these links to listen to SEE GOD TONIGHT or TOUCH AND GO.  Enjoy!

AND HERE COMES… THE BIG INTERVIEW WITH THE HUSH!!!

It is with tremendous delight that I introduce today my very special guest, THE HUSH!  Welcome to Nicky Reviews Rock!  I stumbled across you on Twitter and am delighted to meet you ‘in depth’ today.  As always, I’d love to find out about the people behind the music as well as the music itself.  You guys have very kindly offered to answer a few questions this here new fan has for you, so here goes… 

NRR:  First of all, I love the band history you sent me; that’s an impressive story!  I am wondering whether you might tell me a little bit more about how you met and how THE HUSH band was born? 

LL: I worked with Andrew, Blake and Greg on another project a few years back.  We always had a good vibe so when that project concluded (Dec. 08) we decided to continue together.   We played around with some new ideas and, after a couple months, started looking for a singer.  Blake brought in Jazmine one day and that was it.  We knew she was the perfect match.  The five of us have been running fast ever since.

NRR:  Congratulations on a fantastic album, ‘Scene of the Crime’.  Tell me a little about the dynamics behind making this album… is there a chief songwriter? 

JG: I write all the melodies and lyrics.  How I come to both of those varies from song to song.  Sometimes Lee will bring in a riff or a chord progression and the boys will mold it and arrange it into a byte that I can take home and write around.  Other times I have my ideas pretty well set and they write around them.  But the songs as a whole are really a group effort, each member contributing quite of bit creatively.

NRR:  Unusally, there is no title track as such… Yet ‘Scene of the Crime’ is picked up in ‘Fire Lights the Way’.  Would you like to tell us more about your album title, and the connection between the song and the album title (if there is one)? 

JG: You are right.  Scene of the Crime is a lyric in ‘Fire Lights the Way’, which was the first song we wrote as a band.  It was very fitting, this LP being the origin of our path together as a band, that it be named for a lyric in our first song.  Sort of “it started here.”

NRR:  Who did you all listen to (still listen to, perhaps) when you’re not making your own music?  Any particular influences or idols? 

LL:  If you asked every member is the band this question there would be a list of influences a mile long.  Music is our life, when not creating our own we listen to others, go to concerts and clubs – basically soak it in.  For me personally, any great guitar player in the zone is an inspiration.  I’ll leave it at that and let Jazmine share her specific favourites.

JG:  I grew up in a varied musical scene.  My dad was a jazz drummer and I spent 10 years in the Opera as a child so my taste and influences cover the spectrum; Bill Evans, Miles Davis, Puccini, George Michael, Freddie Mercury, Prince, Whitney, NIN, Def Leppard, Dream Theater, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye all had a significant impact.  Right now I’m listening to Mutemath, Jane’s Addiction, Bon Iver, Scissor Sisters.

NRR:  As you might know from previous editions of NRR, lyrics matter to me.  Greatly!  Your lyrics are thoughtful and thought-provoking, and deal with quite different subject matters than one might perhaps expect of hard rock.  I’m thinking “Touch and Go”, I’m thinking “Queen of Sheba”.  Who’s in charge of lyrics?  And:  what comes first, the lyrics, or the music? 

JG:  I’m glad you are enjoying them.  It’s interesting—when I write alone, the music and lyrics seem to present themselves together, as though already married.  With the boys, they give me something musically to work with and I write to the vibe; what the chords are suggesting and what it seems to want to say.

NRR:  Why ‘The HUSH’?  Your music is anything but… is it that juxtaposition that intrigued you?  What’s the story here? 

JG:  I love the story of our name and I find that because it’s a total juxtaposition, I love it even more.  I come from a theatrical background.  Every show has a life of its own and a different personality.  But there is always a commonality to each performance.  As the house lights dim and the audience begins to settle in right before the start of the show, there is a moment of hush.  It’s a quiet shared by the audience and the players on stage that only lasts a second, but that is THE HUSH.  We thought it was apropos.

NRR: I daresay that ‘HUSH’ of anticipation is present even in a rock concert when the house lights go down… blink and you’ll miss it, but it is there, before the cheers erupt. Thanks for sharing, this is fascinating!

NRR:  What’s the most musically complex song you’ve ever made?  Do you all have a favourite song—and if so, which one and why?

LL:  ‘When the Night Comes’ is probably most complex.  The chords in the verse are a combination of both guitars and the bass—meaning, the three of us playing different lines to make up one chord progression.  My personal favourite is ‘See God’ because it reminds me of the experience of night surfing alone.  Right before paddling out, everything in the water and the air has a mysterious feel, just like the verse.  When catching the wave there is a powerful burst of energy, like the chorus.  The haunting drum beat is much like the adrenaline pumping through my heart.  That song is in my head almost every time I paddle out in the dark.

NRR:  Where do you see yourself going next?  Do you have plans for more albums?  Any plans for going global?

LL:  We really want to get out on the road.  Global, absolutely.  Since coming together we’ve been writing, recording and, with Hollywood in our backyard, playing local shows at the same time.  We are so lucky that ‘local’ includes great clubs like The Viper Room, House of Blues, The Troubadour, The Roxy—some of the greatest places to play on Earth.  We will always continue to write so, yes, more albums on the way.  We just released a single, ‘Tip of the Tongue;, and have two more coming in the next couple months—‘Hold You Down’ in March and ‘Hanging by a Thread’ in April.  We are putting the finishing touches on the video for ‘Hold You Down; and are going to debut that March 30 at Key Club in Hollywood.  This is our first video, big milestone to celebrate so we are really looking forward to this show.

NRR:  And finally!  In my rock star romance, Sophie’s Turn, rock singer Dan reassures Sophie that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour.’  Would you mind sharing the weirdest, funniest, scariest or most bizarre thing that ever happened to THE HUSH on tour or during a show? 

JG:  I think Dan has it right.  Why break the code?

LL:  Agree, what happens on tour stays on tour.

NRR:  I guess I asked for that… 🙂 But now I really wonder what you guys get up to! XX

Thanks so much to Jazmine and Lee for your time and for sharing such fascinating insights.  I love the whole idea of ‘The Hush’ and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be listening out for it—and the band—and pointing it—and the band—out to anyone who cares to listen.  I wish you every success with your song launches, video launch party (how I wish I could be there) and future album.  And when you go global, I look forward to seeing you in the UK!! “Rock on…”

Visit THE HUSH on their website, follow THE HUSH on Twitter or on Facebook. Find sample tracks and more information about THE HUSH on Reverbnation.  And last but not least, you can get your copy of “Scene of the Crime” and all the new tracks on iTunes and CD baby.

A spot of housekeeping:  all information, photos and links used with artist’s permission.

Nicky Reviews Rock proudly presents the mighty ULTRADRIVE!

Welcome to a new edition of Nicky Reviews Rock, and the very first one for 2012!!! 

I stumbled across this band on Twitter… I listened to sample tracks on the Internet…  I checked out their rockin’ website… and I was well and truly hooked.  What a powerhouse of a band this is!  Therefore it is with tremendous pleasure that I bring you the mighty … [drumroll please]…..  UltraDrive!

Find below the band profile, my review of their album, Believe, a soundbite  (or three!) and, of course… the big interview!

Who is UltraDrive?
UltraDrive is Jay Henderson (lead vocals), Tommy Thompson (guitar and vocals), Derrick Dickey (drums and percussion) and Anthony Holcombe (Bass/Keys/Vocals).

Potted History
Sporting their signature “arena sound”, UltraDrive is a melodic active-rock band that stirred up quite an immediate buzz as a regional super-group from the time they began to play shows in late 2006. In only their 3rd show ever, UltraDrive opened for Army of Anyone, and the band has continued rocking ever since.   UltraDrive has performed with Chevelle, Adelita’s Way, the Raconteurs, Queensryche, and Saving Abel (in the Pontiac Garage), as well as headlining top venues in Atlanta and the region.

UltraDrive was formed in Atlanta, GA, by guitarist and songwriter Tommy Thompson and manager/producer Gary Carrico.  UltraDrive likes to describe itself as a ‘melodic active-rock band.’  Influences ranging from STP and Alice in Chains all the way to Hendrix and The Beatles have shaped the band’s huge sound.  In 2008, UltraDrive composed and performed the theme song for Project 9-6-1 radio’s “Giant Show”. UltraDrive’s first album, Believe, was released in 2010.

Sources:  last.fm; reverbnation

Also don’t forget to visit UltraDrive on their website!  Plus, of course, you can find the band on Facebook and Twitter.

REVIEW:  UltraDrive’s Believe
After an agonising wait for my new UltraDrive CD to arrive from a record shop in Germany, the postman finally delivered, and there it was: Believe!  As you all know, I like to start by considering an album’s cover; after all, the band created it for a reason, trying to convey a certain message.

The cover for Believe is simply stylish.  All black, with two silver-white elements.  The first of these is the band’s logo, UltraDriveThe logo brings to mind the emblem of a racing car (and the ‘drive’ association in UltraDrive serves to reinforce the notion) and every attribute that goes with it:  fast, slick, well-oiled, highly tuned.  The album title, on the other hand, is presented in a font that evokes a sci-fi feeling; just ever so slightly out-of-this-world, unusual, eternal and big.  These, then, were my expectations for the album:  music that would be hard and fast, accomplished, edgy and grand.  And my, does UltraDrive deliver!

The opening track, Crush, is a fantastic hard-rock piece with anthem potential.  A powerful opening riff blows your mind, and the deep, dark vocals accompanied by a series of power-chords set the mood perfectly.  Crush is definitely one of my favourite tracks on this album; and possibly a candidate for my all-time greats!  The title track, Believe, opens with a tantalising guitar intro followed by rolling riffs and a rousing beat.  It has instant sing-along value and I adore the powerful contrast between the muted mike and the clear, loud chorus.  The final call of “I still believe” sounds almost outer-worldly and haunts you long after the track is finished.  A little quieter throughout, Shame brings you a fabulous drum intro, quiet but pacey, followed by a guitar theme that lodges right in your mind and refuses to leave!  Shame also features amazing two-part harmonies, and a great air-guitar moment for those of us (like me) who love to pretend.  Crazy, another one of my favourite songs, is more mellow in sound, almost ballad-like, and very lyrical.

And the list of praise goes on.  I always listen out for great lyrics with goose-bump potential, and I am not disappointed here.  Consider From the Outside:  “Come on in from the outside…your life is waiting for you/just make your move and turn the page…”  or Drive:  “If you want to stay alive you’d better/drive!/only the hungry will survive…”  I love that about hard-rock in general, and these songs in particular; the positive message, the affirmative outlook:  get up and go, it’s all up to you.  On the other hand, there is Them Bones which has an entirely different feeling, a dark feeling evoking anger and, perhaps despair.  The drawn-out vocals and shouted, repeated “I” make the hair on the nape of my neck stand up.

So to me, Believe is a strong, accomplished, hard-hitting album with great, dark harmonies, powerful vocals and strong feelings.  I haven’t (yet) had the pleasure of seeing UltraDrive live on stage, but I am confident that they would fill, and thrill, a stadium!  This is fantastic arena rock and I highly recommend getting a copy if you like to rock out.

But why rely on my opinion?  UltraDrive has very kindly made available not one but three sample tracks for you to listen to, right here, right now!  Find two straightaway… and the last one is waiting for you at the end of the interview.

“From the Outside”

“Beyond the Pain”

And if these tracks have whetted your appetite, you can buy the album on cdbaby or iTunes.  

And finally, here comes… the BIG INTERVIEW with UltraDrive!!!

It is with tremendous delight that I introduce today my very special guest, UltraDrive…. Welcome to Nicky Reviews Rock!  I stumbled across you on Twitter and instantly connected with your sound and your music.  As always, I’d love to find out about the people behind the music as well as the music itself.  You guys have very kindly offered to answer a few questions this here new fan has for you, so here goes… 

NRR:  Congratulations on a fantastic album, Believe.  Tell me a little about the dynamics behind making this album… is there a chief songwriter?  Who’s in charge of lyrics?
Wow, where do we start? The making of the album was, shall we say, an adventure! This is largely because UltraDrive started out as sort of a “super-group” concept, with a rotating cast of characters who came in to make great music. The project was founded by lead guitarist Tommy Thompson and manager/producer Gary Carrico, who had worked together in a previous band. Tommy brought over a few songs he had written from that band along with the new material that he and Gary collaborated on. From there, new guys who came in have often contributed to the writing process as well.

The first incarnation to play live went out in late 2006, and ironically the 3rd show ever was opening for Army of Anyone (a super-group with members of Filter and Stone Temple Pilots). During this time we demo-ed out several songs, but during that early recording process some of the guys were moving to different priorities and directions, and honestly, it also became clear that this line-up wasn’t completely capturing the sound that Tommy and Gary had in their heads for UltraDrive.

The core line-up of UltraDrive that played on the album began to form then in summer 2007 when drummer Derrick Dickey (formerly of Subject2Change) came aboard and we found lead singer Jay Henderson (believe it or not) in a local cover band. We put it together quickly, opened for Queensryche and started touring regionally and things started blowing up from there, including the shows with Chevelle, Adelita’s Way, Raconteurs, LinkinPark, et al.

Ironically, it was our success as a live band that kept interfering with recording! We’d go in and lay down tracks when we found the time, but it was sporadic. And to complicate matters we went through a veritable parade of bass players over a 2 year period until Anton Holcombe came aboard in 2009. That’s when we set out to finally complete the debut album, but there was as much studio time spent on reverse engineering as recording to get this line-up on the entire CD! So yes, it was an adventure.

One final note: Our real wake-up call to get serious with finishing the album came when we played with Saving Abel at The Tabernacle for Atlanta radio station Project 9-6-1, and the guys at the station were raving on air about how we had upstaged the headliner (unintentionally, of course). They brought us in the studio for an interview and feature, and asked UltraDrive to write and record an outro song for their Morning Drive show. Normally bands record an album and then go on radio… but hey, we’ve never been accused of being normal!

UltraDrive playing the Atlanta Hard Rock Cafe (photo courtesy of UltraDrive)

 NRR:  Who or what inspired the writing of the title track, Believe?
Actually, that song grew out of something that our former singer James Fulford had brought in. The words he had were expressions of his angst and confusion from a tragic childhood loss.  Tommy created a new riff and chord structure and Gary added more words and glued them together with a bridge and then created the trapped-inside-4-walls feeling in production. What we were going for in the final song was a combination of anxiety, anger and hope all at once, if that makes any sense. 🙂

 NRR:  Why ‘UltraDrive’?  It’s such a fantastic name, it conveys an image of power and something larger than life.  How did you come up with the name?
Thanks! That’s exactly what we were going for, both with the band itself and the name. Tommy had founded a previous band called Transmission that was very successful, but broke up on the eve of signing a major label deal. So when he and Gary decided to hand-pick a new project, the first rule was that everything about it had to be even bigger and better than Transmission. Sure enough, Tommy called one day and said “UltraDrive”… that was “it”!… and within an hour Gary had the logo sketched. The name, the image spoke for itself. It was dead solid perfect.

NRR:  What’s the most musically complex song you’ve ever made?  Do you all have a favourite song—and if so, which one and why?
Actually, probably the most complex piece on its face is an instrumental we’ve done live but never recorded that’s like a combination of a Joe Satriani guitar epic – meets – a sports highlight film soundtrack. We haven’t even settled on a name yet, although one suggestion is BANG! (which is our unofficial band catch-phrase that came from a fan describing our stage sound at our first show).

From the album though, listen closely to From the Outside. The composition we think is pretty neat (and very challenging to play correctly). It’s a state of constant motion and totally polyphonic, even during the verses, with counter syncopations among the guitar, bass and drums in contrast to a very melodic vocal line. If one day we’re fortunate enough for other bands to want to cover that song, I’m sure they’ll be cussing us in rehearsal!

NRR:  Where do you see yourself going next?  Do you have plans for more albums? You have been touring in your region at the moment… any plans for going global?
We’ve recently been contacted by a multi-platinum producer about re-mixing a couple of songs to push for radio, and we have new material we’re getting ready to demo. Right now we’re focused on getting songs heard and perhaps placed in radio, TV and films. And yes, we would love to go global! Hopefully interviews like this will help the cause. 🙂 NRR:  I sure hope so!!

NRR:  You make powerful music which I believe has been described as stadium-rock, and I believe you’ve played quite a few huge arenas already.  What does it feel like to perform live to thousands of people?
Wow, there aren’t words to describe it!… but on the other hand it’s something we came out of the box ready to do. UltraDrive was predicated on the “arena sound” that people say we create, even if you hear us in a club. So, whether it’s in front of 150,000 people at last year’s “Peach Drop” (Atlanta’s New Years Eve Extravaganza), or 50 folks at a club in rural Alabama, this is what we do. And even though there are plenty of “bells and whistles” on the record, we pride ourselves on pulling off that sound live with only our basic stage line-up of a 3-piece power trio (guitar, bass, drums) and a frontman… without any backing tracks or other common production shenanigans.  Probably the most rewarding compliment we get is when someone at a large-venue show or festival comes up and says that we sounded as big or bigger than the national headliner, albeit using maybe a fourth of the amount of gear.

NRR:  I really hope to see you live some day!  But while I wait, one last question….  In my rock star romance, Sophie’s Turn, rock singer Dan reassures Sophie that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour.’  Now I don’t want to ask you to kiss-and-tell (well, I do really, but we’ll skip that part…) but… would you mind sharing the weirdest, funniest, scariest or most bizarre thing that ever happened to UltraDrive on tour or during a show?
Well….. yeah, there are some we can’t share… but, here are a couple of stories, one that was scary and one that’s, well, bizarre:

1. Scary: As we said earlier, the band started out as a super-group concept, and the second touring incarnation (that evolved into the band that played on the album) of UltraDrive came together literally 2-1/2 weeks prior to a scheduled show with Queensryche. We went through boot camp rehearsals and booked a shakedown show at a sketchy pub in the middle-of-nowhere Georgia, and suffice to say it wasn’t pretty. So now 3 days later here we are on stage at the Coca-Cola Roxy Theatre opening for these rock legends!… with a fill-in bass player, no less (who was scared out of his mind). Somehow though, when the curtain opened, it clicked and BANG!, as we like to say, there was that sound. And by half way through our first song, that room full of VERY skeptical Queensryche fans were pushing up to the front of the stage and by the end of our set were singing along with our songs that they’d never heard before in their lives! After the show, the guys in Queensryche were sufficiently impressed that they invited us to take part in their meet-and-greet. That night was when we knew we really had something.
NRR:  Awesome!  I wish I had been there.  You must have been totally over the moon… 🙂

2. Bizarre: Sometimes when we tour the region we’ll do shows where we mix in 90s Alternative covers with our stuff, and play the whole night. During one of these shows (which we call “UltraDrive’s Alternative Nation”) at this big rowdy club in Mississippi, a bachelorette party was in the house so we brought the bride-to-be up on stage to dance with the band during a cover song. Normal stuff, right? Well, during the break the girl’s mother boasted that she could do better than that! So, always accommodating, we got momma up on stage in the next set, and she proceeded to perform an R-rated stripper act, and gave Jay an affectionate nip on the neck hard enough to leave teeth marks. This incident inspired one of our band mottos: “It’s all fun and games until the mother-of-the-bride bites your lead singer!”
NRR:  Wow! I bet that wasn’t in the job description!

Well, this is the end of the big UltraDrive interview.  Thank you so much, guys, for visiting Nicky Reviews Rock, for sharing a bit more about your history, and for these amazing anecdotes.  I am totally intrigued.  Please do let me know if you ever come UK way……. I am waiting! X

“Crush”

Nicky Reviews Rock Christmas Special: Martin Morris and “The Best Christmas”

WELCOME TO …
Nicky Reviews Rock’s Christmas Special!!
Everyone is increasingly feeling infected by the festive spirit, and I am no exception.  Imagine my delight at discovering a unique opportunity to feature someone who’s a bit of a local legend in my part of the world… Somebody who’s just gone out and recorded a serious contender for this year’s Christmas No. 1 … Somebody who has faith, and drive, and conviction, not to mention a fabulous tune and a great voice.

I’m talking about none other than Martin Morris and his amazing Christmas single, “The Best Christmas”!  In this feature, find an audio of the song, a profile of the singer, and an interview as well.  Woohoo!

HAVE A LISTEN TO “THE BEST CHRISTMAS” AND LET YOURSELF BE BLOWN AWAY…

First things first. You might not have heard about the phenomenon that is Martin Morris and his Christmas single, so let me introduce you to it.  Here, have a listen:

Like what you hear?  You can download this single from iTunes or Amazon and help it on its way to becoming a Christmas No. 1!  Go and do it now… and you will help shape Christmas No. 1 history.

INTRODUCING THE MAN BEHIND THE MUSIC:
MEET MARTIN MORRIS!

Martin told Nicky Reviews Rock that he is the third out of five children brought up in a council house in Southmead, Bristol. He was introduced to live music before he can even remember. His elder brother Bob is a drummer and was something of a celebrity on the estate when Martin was young.  Bob went on to record nine albums and do two European tours with his band, The Brilliant Corners.  Martin says that this was probably what influenced him most, as he was often kidnapped by the band and taken away for weeks at a time to sell their T-shirts (even though he was only 15!) .

When Martin was 17, he formed his first band, The Comfortable Field. The line-up included his little brother Mike, who has gone on to be a very well-respected guitarist in his own right, and Mark Stokes (drummer) who is now Martin’s brother-in-law. In 1994, The Comfortable Field changed its name to Aerola and went on to tour England, even appearing on some TV music shows. The band finally split in 1999, after which Martin formed Tenderhook with his brothers Bob and Mike, and, though short-lived, Tenderhook performed what is still one of Martin’s favourite gigs to date at the Bristol Thekla.

Since Tenderhook, Martin has been playing in  cover band Hooper with Bob, Mike, and friend Boo. They have gained an excellent reputation and a huge following. Throughout his time in the various bands, Martin was always the writer, and for every song he submitted there were five he kept back! So Martin has enough songs in the bank for a lot of albums.  He’s still writing today!

What an amazing bio!  You discover someone like Martin, with drive and determination, and then you realise he’s got a lifetime of experience and practice behind him.  It’s no miracle, then, that “The Best Christmas” should be such a catchy, well-performed and professional piece.  Wow!  You can join Martin on his Facebook group to keep in touch with developments and news.

THE INTERVIEW:  OF COURSE, NICKY REVIEWS ROCK HAD SOME QUESTIONS FOR MARTIN, WHICH HE ANSWERED VERY PATIENTLY INDEED.  YOU ROCK, MARTIN….

NRR:  Tell us the story behind “The Best Christmas?”  What inspired you?  Did you write the song alone?  Tell us more about the band playing with you?
I wrote “The Best Christmas” about three years ago, on my own, in about ten minutes. It was one of those songs that just flowed out of me (doesn’t happen very often)  and was really an experiment. I was thinking that nobody had released a great Christmas song for years and years (I think the last great Christmas tune was The Pogue’s “Fairytale of New York”) and thought I’d have a go. I realised straight away that I had something special. So I recorded a demo that sat on the shelf until this year, when I decided that the country deserved better than the  guaranteed No.1 tripe that the X-factor rams down our throats. (NRR:  Hear, hear!)
I recorded the released version with the help of former
Aerola drummer and brother-in-law, Mark Stokes, my brother Mike, and Hooper bass player Boo. I asked a friend who had a decent video camera to help make a video and he turned up with professional film maker Jenny Haggerty (she had faith in the song so wanted to help). It was filmed on a beautiful summer’s evening with friends and family in our local pub!

NRR:  What bands or musicians influence or inspire you?
I’ve never been a loyal fan to anyone, but I do have favourite albums by certain people, for example “Hunky Dory” by David Bowie, The Stone Roses’ first album, Lou Reed’s “Transformer”, The House Martins’  “The People Who Grinned Themselves to Death” and The Brilliant Corners, “Hooked.”

NRR:  How does it feel to be a budding music legend?  You’ve done radio interviews galore–did you enjoy the experience?
I must say the thought of having a hit single excites me a lot. It’s not just what happens now, but what could happen after, and I love the attention, so radio interviews are great. I feel very at home talking to people about music, so talking about my music is a bonus.

NRR:  What are your plans going forward?
For now I have to see how the single goes. It could change my life and take me in a whole new direction, or it could fizzle out, in which case I have a great life anyway so I’ve nothing to lose.  (NRR:  You’ve just got to love this man!)

NRR:  Can we see you (and your band) play live somewhere, some time soon?
As this is a solo effort I can’t see us playing live, but I will continue with Hooper and should the single take off, I do have something up my sleeve that would involve all the people I have already mentioned.

NRR:  How do you typically celebrate Christmas?
Typically, I like to go away with my wife and three kids. No visiting and no visitors. I don’t often relax but at Christmas I do (although it’s still complete mayhem). We’re a lively lot!!

NRR:  Apart from “The Best Christmas”, of course, which is your favourite Christmas rock/pop song in the world… ever?
My favourite Christmas pop song is Slade, “Merry Christmas Everybody” but I do love a choir singing “Silent Night”!

NRR:  In my rock star romance, “Sophie’s Turn“, lead singer Dan assures Sophie that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour.’  Now I won’t ask you to kiss and tell (although I’d love to, really, hee-hee) but could you tell us about the funniest, weirdest or most bizarre thing that ever happened to you while on stage or on tour?
We were playing a gig in The Manchester Broadwalk, and there was a girl there who had (in the past) been quite friendly with each of  the band, but was now becoming a pain in the ass. She was at the front of the stage all night trying to get my attention but then disappeared. I knew something was up!  Suddenly she came running towards me from the side of the stage. I remember thinking, “this is gonna be bloody embarrassing if she gets hold of me!”  But the stage was soaked with beer, so she went skidding past me, her legs went up in the air and her head came smashing down onto the stage knocking herself clean out!! I now feel a little mean that I carried on as if nothing had happened apart from laughing myself through the rest of the song!  As she was being carried away, I did call out to her saying “Its ok, I don’t think anyone noticed!!”  We never saw her again.

NRR:  Wow, that’s quite a story, thanks for sharing!  And finally… just before I let you go, would you give your immediate reaction to the following conundrums:

Turkey or Beef for Christmas lunch?  Turkey.
Sprouts–love them or hate them? Hate sprouts!
Gaudy or stylish for the Christmas tree?  I like stylish, but get bored quickly so the front looks good!
Chocolate orange or after-dinner-mints? Neither, alcohol!
Brandy butter or brandy sauce with your Christmas pud?  Don’t like Xmas pud. Don’t really like pud!
Presents before or after breakfast? Bit of both.
Aldi or Harrods for your Christmas crackers? Aldi, so you can have loads!
Angel or star to top the Christmas tree? Angel, it looks rude!
Home or away? Away in a manger… or a nice lodge!!

Amazing responses, Martin!  I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t like Christmas pud!  Thanks so much, for stopping by here today, it is an honour and a privilege.  Nicky Reviews Rock wishes you every success with STORMING THOSE CHARTS…

MARTIN MORRIS FOR CHRISTMAS NO. 1, IS WHAT I SAY!  WISHING YOU EVERY SUCCESS AND, OF COURSE, A MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Here are those links again:  You can download “The Best Christmas” from iTunes or Amazon and help it on its way to becoming a Christmas No. 1!

All photos courtesy of Martin Morris, and used with Martin Morris’ permission.

Nicky Reviews Rock proudly presents: House of Leaf! Check out this album review for “Wrongs to Right” and an interview with Leif Sundin himself…

Please welcome singer and songwriter Leif Sundin to this second edition of Nicky Reviews Rock!  Leif is the man behind “House of Leaf”, his new venture featuring his very own music and vocals.

Read on to find out more about House of Leaf, check out my album review of Wrongs to Right and see how Leif answered my interview questions….

Who is House of Leaf?
House of Leaf is Leif Sundin, song-writer, singer and guitarist.

The official House of Leaf website states that House of Leaf marks the solo debut of one of Sweden’s most talented singers, songwriters and musicians, Leif Sundin. We are encouraged to “expect great songs, organic playing, and a timeless sound, steeped in Americana.”

Bio-in-Brief
Leif has been the lead singer of many a well-known band since the start of his singing career. At 19, Leif fronted Swedish band Great King Rat. At 24, he was asked to join the Michael Schenker Group. After that, he became the lead vocalist in John Norum Band and more recently, he provided lead vocals for Brian Robertson’s solo album.

Now it’s time for his own solo venture. Wrongs to Right was written and produced by Leif, and recorded and engineered by Robert Wellerfors.

Want to find out more…? Check out the House of Leaf website, find Leif on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.  You can also watch House of Leaf clips on YouTube.

All photos and cover art in this post used with artist’s permission.

Album Review: Wrongs to Right by House of Leaf

So.  House of Leaf.  Wrongs to Right.  I’ve just downloaded it from Amazon and hit the play button.  And I’ve instantly fallen in love!  As mellow, melodious, clean and earthy sounds emanate from the speakers, I’m tingling with excitement… I know already that this is just my kind of music.

But then I had no doubt about that!  The album’s cover made me a promise, and it seems to be keeping it.  The cover has a clean, symmetric three-by-three-squares design whose middle is taken up by the artist’s name, House of Leaf.  Each of the  remaining six picture squares represents a song, with an image that fits.  There is rain, there is countryside, there is a lake at sunset, or perhaps just before a storm breaks.  The imagery suggests that I’m in for a treat of folksy rock, gentle with hard edges, with clear harmonies and some drama woven in.  Yes, the cover does a beautiful job of setting the mood.

The opening track, Wrongs to Right, comes right at you with a great combination of drums, guitars and harmonica sounds.  The sound creates a lovely, live, real effect—almost but not quite ‘unplugged.’  The harmonica will return time and again, and it is this which gives the album a pleasant and convincing country slant.  Someday, Somewhere features a heavier guitar intro and brings to mind American greats like Greenday.  My favourite song has to be the Rainy Day Song, aptly represented on the cover by a picture of raindrops running down a window.  There’s a gentle acoustic guitar theme running through the song that makes you want to get up and sway to the music.  Leif really plays to his vocal prowess here, introducing two-part harmonies in places that give the song a complex edge.  The twanging of an electric guitar in the background conveys a real country quality, soulful and eternal.  And the climactic build on “no more… no more… no more…” positively makes you want to sing along at the top of your voice.  Wow.  Speaking of vocals, Leif’s voice really suits
the mood and tone of this album.  It’s strong yet husky, mellow with an occasional hint of vulnerability and it’s just beautiful.

I’m a big fan of lyrics, being irrationally fond of all things language, and House
of Leaf doesn’t disappoint in this department, either.  Wash Away Yesterday, for example, features some beautifully poetic lyrics that spin a dream I can relate to:  “I’ll be your jester, your fool and your clown/I’ll build you a kingdom in a faraway town/I’ll give you riches money can’t buy…”  What more could a girl want?

All of the songs on Wrongs to Right incorporate elements of rock, folk and country music to varying degrees.  The harmonica, guitars and choice of rhythm
often create the country feel, and the consistent use of acoustic guitars
throughout infuses a more folksy feel. Yet House of Leaf’s undeniable rock roots shine through again and again in heavy riffs and powerful guitar solos, for example in Follow the Light or Broken Old Record.  The result is distinctive and unique.

Moreover, Wrongs to Right is classic and timeless.  Even on hearing it for the
very first time, it strikes a chord in your memory and you feel like you’ve known this music forever.  In fact, listening to Wrongs to Right is like unexpectedly meeting a long-lost friend!  The album demonstrates the tremendous skill and experience of the musician behind it, and there is no doubt that seeing House of Leaf’s music performed live would be a phenomenal treat.

Finally, Wrongs to Right is a fantastically apt title, if perhaps not in the way the song’s lyrics suggest.  In my humble opinion, this album sets a big wrong to rights by giving Leif his own voice and his own arena.  Leif is finally setting his own musical direction and getting the credit he deserves for his voice and talent.  I certainly look forward to many more albums to come in the future!  And I can’t wait to see House of Leaf live and in concert… hopefully some day very soon.

Read the review, now fancy a taster?  Click on Wash Away Yesterday or Rainy Day Song to hear the song now.  Wrongs to Right EP is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and CDbaby.

The Big “House of Leaf” Interview:  Welcome to Leif Sundin!


I really am very excited to welcome Leif Sundin from House of Leaf on Nicky Reviews Rock today. Leif is somewhat of a legend in Sweden—some call him ‘Scandinavia’s best kept secret’—and having got familiar with his album and his long history in music, I am a little in awe. I feel very honoured that Leif has agreed to answer a few questions… so here we go.

Q.: I’m sorry if I’m asking the obvious… but I’ve got to know! Why ‘House of Leaf’? What inspired this name? Is it connected to your first name, or is there some other background here?
Hi Nicky, I am honoured to be your interview victim.  Yeah the name House of Leaf comes from me meeting lots of people who pronounce my name
”Leaf” and this being my band, my ”house” and I like the sound and feel of
it…

Q.: What prompted you to embark on a full-on solo venture for yourself? How does this experience compare to recording music with or for other bands?
It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now but stuff got in the way.  It’s a totally different experience for me and I really enjoy it.  Especially being able to do whatever I want musically and not having to compromise or ask for
anyone’s opinion.  It’s exciting and it’s like I’ve only just started.

Q.: Tell me more about your songs… what was the inspiration for your album title and opening track?
Well, I would like the listener to have her or his own experience and not trying to explain too much.  They’re just songs and can mean different things to people. Hopefully they have a life of their own and can speak for themselves.  I just write them.

Q.: I think I hear piano undertones in places, and there seems to be a flute on “Broken Old Record.” What gave you the idea to use more classical instruments to complement the rock sound?
That’s a Mellotron and was played by the great Michael Holt.  It was his idea and it came out beautifully.  There is also piano and Hammond organ, harmonica, and Dobro on some other tracks.  I love all kinds of sounds and I like to try
any instrument lying around the studio.  I don’t have any rules about incorporating different sounds in the future.

Q.: My very first reaction to your album (apart from, wow, I love it!) was “mellow, but with bite!” It’s laid back, but with some hard edges… Are there any main influences or traditions that have shaped your work here?
Probably all the music I have listened to since I was a kid growing up.  Country,
Blues, Rock, Pop, Heavy Metal.  I currently listen to music from Ryan Adams, Neal Casal, Ray Lamontagne, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Justin Currie, Feist, Aimee Mann and old favourites like Dylan, Petty, Springsteen, Steve Earle, Gregg Allman, Bobby Bland, Neil Young…

Q.: I really connected with Rainy Day Song… Do you have a favourite song on Wrongs to Right?
Nah, they are all my kids, I don’t have a favourite.

Q.: On your website, you comment that you’ve worked with a variety of musicians on Wrongs to Right. Can you tell me a little bit about who they are, and how you got to be working together?
I’ve known bass player Surjo Benigh for a long time; he brought along drummer Mikael Ajax, and they provided a world-class rhythm section on these tracks. They are truly gifted players.  Another brilliant guy is keyboard player Erik Vårdstedt, who has an enormous amount of musical talent; he provided Piano and Hammond organ.  I also had the great fortune to meet and get
to work with Michael Holt, who is a singer/songwriter/guitarist/keyboardist
extraordinaire with many solo albums and as a member of the Mommyheads.  He helped out with backing vocals and Mellotron, piano and organ.  He is a mind-blowing artist.  My dear friends and gifted musicians Cia Backman and Mikael Hujanen helped with beautiful backing vocals.  I also must mention Robert Wellerfors, who gave me the opportunity to record this music at just the right time.  He is an outstanding recording engineer and he has been a huge part of this project.  I also got Adam Elk from the Mommyheads to mix one track.  I am a big fan of his skills as a singer, songwriter and performer.  Eric Broyhill
is a mastering engineer from the U.S. now working in Sweden with an impressive
career who has mastered these tracks; I love his work. I also want to mention
that on the coming full length album, Grammy award-winning engineer and
producer Stacy Parrish will have a crucial role with his fantastic mixing and
co-producing on some tracks.  Working with him was incredible.

Q.: If you don’t mind, tell me a little bit about your life. What does Leif Sundin get up to when he doesn’t make fabulous music?
I try to get my life together like the rest of us, I guess.  And have some fun.  And be kind.  Listen to music. Read books, watch movies.  Meet other humans, check out bands.  I don’t know.  I like driving.  And travelling.

Q.: What’s next for House of Leaf? Are you planning to record another album? Will you come on tour across Europe sometime soon? I’d love to hear you live…!
Getting the full length record mastered and released, and to tour as much as possible wherever there are humans.  It’s a work in progress.  I just got a new booking agent.  And I’m writing some new tunes…

Q.: And finally! In my rock star romance, Sophie’s Turn, rock singer Dan reassures Sophie that ‘what goes on tour, stays on tour.’ Now I don’t want to ask you to kiss-and-tell (well, I do really, but we’ll skip that part…) but… would you mind sharing the weirdest, funniest, scariest or most bizarre thing that ever happened to you on tour or
during a show (whether as House of Leaf or in a previous band)?
Nothing printable comes to mind… Rehearsing and doing a gig with Slash was a little weird, funny, scary and bizarre though I guess.  And great.  Touring Japan is also a fantastic experience.  I highly recommend it.

Wow, thanks, Leif, for taking the time to send such wonderful answers.  I look forward to the full-length album and will keep my eyes open for any UK touring dates… And, of course, you have me wondering what might have happened at that gig with Slash….  Cheerio for now, take care, and all the best!