In December of 2017, a big blown was dealt to rock fans everywhere with the passing of Smithereens founder and lead singer Pat DiNizio. While Smithereens fans were, and are, deeply saddened by Pat's passing they also overwhelmingly wanted the band to continue. Fast-forward to today, with the remaining original members of The Smithereens: Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, and Mike Mesaros currently out on tour with singer-songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, who is sitting in as the band’s guest vocalist.
I caught up with the singer prior to the band's stop in Rhode Island
Tony Jones: What can folks who attend the upcoming gig expect, as far as material, is it strictly Smithereens tunes?
Marshall Crenshaw: Yes, Smithereens Only. I do my stuff at my shows; this is their show. It’s fun for me to play in their band..
Tony Jones: Your association with The Smithereens goes way back, tell us about that?
Marshall Crenshaw: I have known the guys since forever, played a little bit on their first album. At Pat’s memorial back in January it felt like a giant family-reunion. I sat in with the band for 3 songs that night; a little while after that they reached out to me about doing what we’re doing now.
Tony Jones: Are there any plans for you to record new music with The Smithereens?
Marshall Crenshaw: Not that I know of.
Tony Jones: What keeps bringing you back to touring?
Marshall Crenshaw: Playing music keeps my spirit intact. God knows what I would turn into if I stopped doing it. Maybe I will stop sometime but I’m not there yet.
Tony Jones: How do you prepare for a tour?
Marshall Crenshaw: I don’t always prepare, actually. Sometimes I just show up at the first gig and wing it from there..
Tony Jones: You and I both share a passion for independent radio, is there any chance that The Bottomless Pit will someday return to the airwaves?
Marshall Crenshaw: Ah, thanks for asking. The show went on hiatus in January so I could focus on a film production that I decided to attempt. Once I’ve completed that (unless I die trying), I’d like to do the show again, probably will.
Tony Jones: What advice would you give to new and up-and-coming bands and musicians?
Marshall Crenshaw: Be yourself.
The Smithereens tour hits Rhode Island on Saturday, November 17th at The Greenwich Odeum. Tickets are available at: http://www.greenwichodeum.com/
Donations to the Pat DiNizio Scholarship fund can made online at: http://www.countbasietheatre.org/commemorative-giving/ (Select “Pat DiNizio Musical Performance Scholarship” in the drop-down menu)
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BROOKLYN, NY – Television, internet and social media make it easier than ever to bring world issues to light – but an overwhelming quantity of information also makes it easy for them to be forgotten, as one day rolls into the next. Brooklyn post-punk/grunge band Castle Black use their new single “Sierra” to revive one such issue; bringing fresh awareness to the ongoing hardships and atrocities that women across the globe still face. The song was directly inspired by the plight of women in Sierra Leone, many of whom face hunger, domestic and sexual violence, and lack of legal action to provide change, all in a country still recovering from civil war. An ongoing daily struggle, their situation, and the fight of many others too often becomes overlooked and forgotten. “Sierra” provides a powerfully reflective piece, providing a stand for many who don’t have a voice.
“I wrote ‘Sierra’ after reading an article on women in Sierra Leone, and the horrible atrocities faced on a daily basis, simply for being women,” commented vocalist/guitarist Leigh Celent. “It’s a song that can be applied to really any situation that is horrific and where some awful person makes someone else suffer for no reason other than their own inhumanity and personal gain. I don’t want to be too specific in my interpretation of the song, as it’s really a song that someone can take so much from, depending on their perspective.” A social anthem, both directly in reference to Sierra Leone as well as on a wider scope, the song reminds individuals to stand up for others and speak against violence and injustices, whether occurring near or far. “Sierra” premeired on Uncivil Revolt, who added that the track can, “make you feel the entirety of the pain felt by many and more than you can imagine.”
Utilizing a repetitive, syncopated chord, the song provides a minimalistic start, focusing the listener on the gravity of the lyrics. “I’ve been inspired by various minimalist composers and the idea of doing more with less. The syncopation of the verses is really what makes the sound there, almost like a heartbeat, a simple but strong backbone for these very powerful words,” shared Celent. Recorded by Michael Abiuso (The Venetia Fair, Kiss Kiss, The Gay Blades) at Behind the Curtains Media, the track was mixed by legendary engineer, producer and musician Mark Plati (David Bowie, Prince, Spookey Ruben, The Cure, Duncan Sheik, etc.). Plati contributed mixes for a number of tracks off the band’s upcoming EP the gods that adored you, which is scheduled for release on June 29. As the lead single, “Sierra” showcases not only a bold social stand, but also presents a confident showcase of Castle Black’s sound, presenting a mix of their signature heavy-hitting post-punk and grunge tones, along with their comfort to experiment into new territory on their fourth studio release.
“Sierra” is out everywhere today, and available for stream and download on Spotify, Bandcamp, iTunesand all major digital retailers. The band will donate 100% of sales of “Sierra”, purchased via Bandcamp until the EP release, to No Means No Worldwide, a charity that focuses on sexual violence intervention, awareness and empowerment through education and training of young boys and girls in countries with rampant sexual abuse rates. No Means No currently operates in Kenya and Malawai, and with more funding, can hopefully can bring their novel approach to rape prevention to other countries. Castle Black has a full summer tour booked, bringing them across the midwestern and eastern U.S; dates can be found below. NYC fans can join the band for their EP release show on June 28 at The Well (Brooklyn, NY) with support from Bloody Your Hands, I Am The Polish Army, and Quick Hundo. Digital and physical formats of the gods that adored you will be released on on Friday, June 29 on all retailers. Surging forth on all fronts, Castle Black step forward as a must-watch band of the year.
As a true road warrior of punk rock, Michale Graves has kept extremely busy since his time as vocalist for legendary horror-punk band The Misfits. In fact, he's back out on the road with a new tour that will bring him to Providence's own Firehouse 13 on Friday, April 28th
Tony Jones: For those who haven't had a chance to catch Michale Graves live, what can people expect at your upcoming gig?
Michale Graves: The performance that we have planned in Providence will be in support of my current 'Backroads' CD. We released our new CD 'Backroads' about two months ago at the beginning of the tour and I have committed each of the 55 performances on this tour to feature the songs from the new CD. This CD is a continuation of the voice that we created in the 'Vagabond' acoustic album and then later followed up on 'The Wanderer' acoustic album. This is very different from my monster rock voice and I really perform these new songs any unique and I hope entertaining way.
Tony Jones: You seem to always be on the road, what keeps bringing you back to touring
Michale Graves: Everything that we do is centered around people. The fans and the time I have to spend with them on the road is why I tour so much. This album, Backroads, is all about my life on the road touring especially in this acoustic voice. So the bottom line is what keeps me on the road? I need to touch and interact live with our fans.
Tony Jones: Do you prefer being out with the full band or doing solo acoustic?
Michale Graves: That's like saying which one of my two children do I love the most. Why I'm so excited about both the full band and the acoustic is it allows me to stretch artistically in several different ways. Full band events are more kinetic and action driven. Acoustic shows are much more personal. So I have the good fortune to be able to perform in both formats and that keeps me a balanced performer.
Tony Jones: How do you prepare for a tour?
Michale Graves: You know, I prepare for a tour in the same way that an athlete prepares for tournament. I spend a lot of time on cardio and getting my body in shape, eating the right things and keeping my brain and body healthy. I also try to get a lot of rest before a tour because, I will tell you that one thing, a tour is not full of sleep.
Tony Jones: With all the years of touring, do you have a favorite gig/festival that you've played? Or a particularly memorable one?
Michale Graves: Well, I'll answer this the way an old friend of mine answered, to simplify the question, my favorite one is the one we are about to do. That way I can say that every single day I perform, and by the way, it's true.
Tony Jones: You have had great success crowd-funding different projects, tell us about being able to connect with the fans in that manner.
Michale Graves: Yes, we have for years involved the fans in crowd-funding projects. It's a way that we can announce and market our projects way in advance of them being done and it's the way that we can reach out to new fans as the crowd-funding sites have a community of their own.
Tony Jones: What is in the pipeline for Michale Graves, what are the next projects you are working on?
Michale Graves: Well Tony, you know Mark Allen Stuart, CEO of Hydraulic entertainment. Mark always has about 48 different projects up his sleeve at any one time. Because the release of the 'Backroads' acoustic album was so successful, as a matter of fact, almost sold out, we've decided, and I'll give you an exclusive here, we've decided to create a full band version of the album as well, so we should be heading into the studio early in the summer to make that happen. We also have another monster rock project in the works, as well as an October Halloween tour. Also, Mark is working on a feature film based on our songs from the 'When Worlds Collide' album to be entitled '3 Days till Dawn' and we're trying to get the production of that film in this calendar year as well. Mark also has us working on a re-release of another project, that unfortunately I can't announce today, but it should be coming at you in a few weeks.
Tony Jones: Any chances of a return to doing radio on the regular basis with the Michale Graves Show or Radio Deadly
Graves : You know, I would love to have the radio show, but given the fact that I'm on tour over a hundred and fifty days a year, it makes doing a consistent radio show very very difficult. We've tried to do it while on the road and that just doesn't work, on for a month, off for two months, really doesn't create the consistency or sustainability that we really want. But we love the medium and we're trying to figure out ways that we can make a show happen.
Tony Jones: A message to all the young bands out there?
Michale Graves: I think the best advice I can give is to forget doing cover songs. Find your own voice. It's natural that every artist has inspirations, I, for one, had a ton of bands and artists that inspired me when I first started out, and still inspire me today. One of the things that I know is, if you're really trying to make a go at it at performing as a profession, or quite frankly, if you're just trying to get better as an artist, find your own voice, find your own uniqueness, and ways to exploit your own talent and in that you'll have a better chance of creating some magic.
Michale Graves brings his 'Backroads' tour to Firehouse 13 on Friday, April 28th with local openers Damnation, The Skeleton Beats, Deprived and Wolfman Chuck. Doors are at 8pm, $12 cover. Check out http://fh13.com for details
ICYMI: Michale Graves joined us on the line for The Tony Jones Show a few years back, while we were on the AM dial
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