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About Jamila. I majored in Fashion Merchandising and Design at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, TX.  My favorite subjects were Art and French. When I heard about the design contest, I prayed about what positive message the Lord would have me convey about going back to school.  So many students and teachers alike dread the start of a new school year because they do not know what to expect.  But as a substitute teacher myself, I always welcome the newness of a new school year because I have the ability and power to set things in motion and determine how situations will turn out. Therefore, I wanted to illustrate the newness, “freshness”, and excitement a new school year  brings.  When I was in school, I always looked forward to wearimg the latest fashion trends, eating healthy lunches prepared by my mom, meeting new friends, and determining to make better grades than the previous year(s).  Those things were what inspired me to design the shirt the way I did.  Hopefully others will learn to see the good things that school can offer, too! Thank you Variance Magazine staff for selecting my design as the winner. To God be all the glory and praise!


By Nelson Solomon Marianne Claire Maciborski was not supposed to live a productive life after she had a brain aneurism at the age of five and a half, as her true story is revealed in her book, Fragments: Overcoming Physical Obstacles and People’s Perceptions to Obtain an Education. Her family thought was she going to die, and they had the head pastor of their church come and give Marianne her last rites. Despite the doctors’ prognosis after 48 hours that she would likely be a vegetable for the rest of her life, her parents held onto their faith that she would be healed. It was that faith that allowed Marianne to develop her life, even with her disabilities. Life and rehabilitation continued, and by the end of her fifth grade, Marianne could talk in complete sentences and walk some with a walker. With the help of school assistants and her parents, her journey through school went on, but the questions “Why am I still here?” and “Will I ever get better than this?” pervaded her thoughts as she struggled from day to day through each school year. Marianne vividly takes the reader on a step-bystep journey from before her aneurysm to her recent successes in obtaining a bachelor’s degree in social work and a master’s in business communication. In Fragments, Marianne details the struggles of arriving at where she is today, from dealing with difficult professors and school administrators to finding support from incredibly compassionate school assistants along the way. She allows the reader into her thoughts as she delves into each struggle, from passing her public speaking course to finishing her practicum, while quickly moving on to the next phase in her life, keeping the reader’s attention. Marianne learns through everything she’s gone through that if someone wants to achieve a goal badly enough, they will succeed no matter what obstacles are thrown their way. Marianne accomplishes the task of not just telling her story in Fragments, but also memorably portraying the struggles that the disabled in our society endure.

By Brittany Pickering In “The Mine,” author Daniel R. Cobb creates a tale of good versus evil; showing that the old adage of “do the right thing” still holds true. Biologist Ryan is an unknowing cog in the middle of a whistleblower campaign. As it starts to get personal, he digs deeper until he finds himself in the midst of the scandal, which only seems to get more complicated as he uncovers more dirt with each document. Cobb keeps the character development topical, but makes it easy to relate to Ryan and his newlywed, Meagan, while finding a burning hatred for the other side. The drama is the main focal point, which creates an intensity that translates into a true page turner. With “The Mine,” Cobb had established himself as the next great author to be compared with greats like John Grisham and Nelson DeMille. Cobb takes you for a spinning, and unforgettable ride, making you think twice about what we as humans are doing to our environment—both the earth and our fellow man—for greed. Review by Lora Johnson Brooklyn, NY

Canadian teenager Laura Butler’s debut novel, Cellies, is truly a surprise in every way. The novel’s unlikely heroine, Monica, is not your typical ten-year-old. She does not attend school or have sleepovers with her friends. She does not play dress-up or participate in sports. Instead, Monica spends her days imprisoned in a boring, dismal environment: Dr. Samuel Brady’s laboratory. Each day is a routine involving sleeping, eating, and testing. What the tests measure is what makes Monica special: her cells. Monica’s cells can float. By sheer luck, she and a couple other captive, superhuman children with various special abilities finally escape Brady’s facility  only to find that the outside world is not the same world that they were kidnapped from years before. There’s been a viral outbreak that has made Monica and her companions more-than-likely targets. While in hiding from Sam Brady, Monica is asked to join a motley crew of children like herself to fight against the prejudice and widespread danger created by the outbreak. Eager to help and curious about this secret organization, Monica embarks on a journey that is full of startling surprises everywhere she turns. When the source of the fatal outbreak is revealed, Monica is forced to choose sides. She must choose whether she will fight for what is right or fight to belong. A socially disquieting page-turner, this novel is a refreshing new twist to the young adult science fiction world and a pleasant surprise from a young novelist. I look forward to watching her grow in her ideas and technique.


The Experiment Somewhere along the way, someone in Hollywood got the idea that Adrien Brody is an action hero. I admit, I was impressed with his performance in Predators, but I’m still having a hard time buying him as a tough guy. Still, he’s a better choice for the faux prison film The Experiment than Elijah Wood, who was rumored to have been the original lead but left after a few days of filming. I can’t picture Frodo Baggins fighting off overzealous cellmates and brutal prison guards. The Experiment, a remake of the 2001 German film Das Experiment, is based upon the reallife Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. In the experiment, volunteers were randomly assigned roles as prisoners or guards, and they were kept isolated from the outside world. Researchers running the experiment cut it short, shocked at how quickly the “guards” resorted to brutality against the “prisoners.” And so it goes in The Experiment. Brody plays Travis, a down-on-his luck hippie who wants to score some quick cash so he can travel to India to be with the woman he loves. Forrest Whittaker puts in a stellar performance as Barris, a middle-aged wimp who still lives with his mom, but in the confines of the “prison” turns into one of the most brutal and dangerous guards. One can’t help but think of how real guards and prisoners survive and co-exist day after day in real penitentiaries. The subjects of The Experiment don’t even make it a week. The fact that the participants aren’t real guards or prisoners makes their behavior even more shocking, whether it’s Whittaker shaving Brody’s head or waterboarding him in a toilet to force him to utter the words “I am a prisoner.” At least the subjects of the experiment are making $1,000 a day for their troubles. Do I buy Brody as a tough guy after The Experiment? Not really, but he puts in a worthy performance and plays the hippie angle nicely. Whittaker is great playing Barris the Psycho Fake Prison Guard. I would like to see him play the villain more often. I can see why The Experiment went straight to video. It doesn’t have the kind of plot that is going to draw hordes of people to a theater. It’s not a “popcorn” film. It is disturbing and forces us to answer the basic underlying question of the movie: are humans really more advanced than animals, or will we always resort to “survival of the fittest”? Grade: B

Harry Brown On the other hand, Michael Caine is a tough guy, even if he’s an old tough guy. Let us not forget he played the role to perfection in the original Get Carter (not the version with Sylvester Stallone, please). Caine can still manage the cold stare that lets you know he means business. In Harry Brown, Caine takes on the armed vigilante role, similar to that of Charles Bronson in Death Wish or Clint Eastwood in the more recent Gran Tarino. Although it only got a limited release in the U.S., Harry Brown, set in the U.K, is as good as either of those films. Caine, as the title character, is a retired former Royal Marine and Northern Ireland veteran who has just lost his wife and lives in the projects. He and the other older folks in the neighborhood are afraid to enter a nearby pedestrian tunnel, which is occupied during all hours of the day and night by gang members. Harry makes a point of avoiding the tunnel, and in the first third of the movie he is soft-spoken, keeps to himself, and looks like he is practically afraid of his own shadow. The first hint we get that there is something more to Harry is when is in the pub, playing chess with an old friend, Leonard. During a chess game, Leonard pushes Harry to tell him what it was like to see action in Northern Ireland. A soft-spoken Harry warns Leonard, “You aren’t allowed to ask me that.” Whatever Harry did in the military, we get the impression he wasn’t always so meek. After his buddy is killed at the hands of the gang members (You knew that was coming, right?), Harry decides to do what the British police won’t. He visits a local drug dealer/illegal gun seller “to do some business,” in Harry’s words. Doing some business means that Harry goes on the warpath, and bumps off bad guys left and right. Like Gran Tarino, the viewer is left feeling a bit sad after watching Harry Brown, if only because Harry leads such a bleak, lonely existence. While it is a vigilante film, it is a smart vigilante film, which is very British. I wouldn’t expect any sequels in the works, like the dismal Death Wish series, but this film shows that like Clint Eastwood, Michael Caine can still play a tough guy. Grade: A

Neighbor Movies usually contain three elements: a beginning, a middle, and an end. This movie has none of those things. It is also missing a plot, and in the end, a point, really. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of horror and slasher films. I even enjoyed watching Hostel II. Neighbor obviously suffers from a low budget, which doesn’t automatically make it bad, but in this case it didn’t help matters. The star of the movie is America Olivo, who appeared in the 2009 Friday the 13th remake and has had bit roles in General Hospital and House M.D. Olivo plays the demented neighbor billed in the credits only as The Girl. The Girl arrives in town, and from the first scene begins torturing, maiming, and killing her neighbors, for reasons that are never explained. Despite this plot hole, Olivo is actually the standout in this film. She plays the role of The Girl with twisted zeal, and actually looks to be enjoying it throughout the film. Unfortunately, Olivo alone can’t carry this turkey. The rest of the ensemble, with the exception of Christian Campbell and some stunt casting featuring Mink Stole (Pink Flamingos), look like new arrivals to the acting profession. Not “new” as in just out of acting school, but “new” like they were pulled off the street and appeared in this film on a dare. Perhaps the movie is called Neighbor because that’s who the director called upon to be in his supporting cast. There is no plot or storyline that carries Neighbor from one scene to the next. There isn’t enough back story to make us care about any of the victims. The film is just scene after scene of gruesome tortures and killings. Whatever funding the film had was obviously spent on special and makeup effects, as they are good and sufficiently gory for the most jaded horror fan. Unfortunately, it’s just not enough to justify the rental. Grade: F

Reviews by Terry Cordingly


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by Laura Ladymon [rawr]

Nearly everyone likes to get silly from time to time. You may make funny videos of yourself and friends lip-syncing Katy Perry songs or dancing to “Low.” You may walk into a Taco Bell and order a Big Mac. For a group of friends in Nebraska, being silly isn’t just a small instance here and there, it’s an entire production. Meet the cast, crew, and producers of backyard musicals such as Jurassic Park: The Musical, and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman: The Musical. They’ve received rave reviews from countless entertainment blogs and online news sources, from youbentmywookie to The Washington Post and everything in between, and it all started as a group of friends entertaining schoolmates at the University of Nebraska. According to Emily Lance, one of the founding members of this troupe, the notion to turn Jurassic Park into a musical was a nobrainer. “The girls were talking about how much we loved musicals. Then the guys chimed in with how much they loved Jurassic Park. After that we all started talking about how wonderful we thought Jurassic Park was. So then we said, ‘the only thing that would make Jurassic Park better is if it was a musical.’” she said. “The next day one of my friends had already recorded a couple songs...It became a running joke for a couple of years.” The troupe spent the next two years performing original musicals like The Death of Colonel Mustard and Oil! Or There Might be Blood on Mars in the attic of a friend’s house, then for their last production as students at the University of Nebraska they decided to finally

stage a dino-tastic performance. After all, lions have their own musical, why not those surly lizards, too? “It was the biggest performance we had done,” said Emily, “so it needed to be moved to the backyard. We had a cast, crew, and orchestra that numbered over 40 people. We have all been friends for years, so it is always super fun to get everyone together to be creative and have fun.” JPTM has been called “cheesy and epic” (youbentmywookie) as well as a musical that “men could check out without hurting any of their bro cred” (Dog and Pony Show). Now that’s saying something. After all, bro cred is not to be trifled with, and neither is epic-ness. “The explosion of JPTM has been hilarious, awesome, and surreal all at the same time.” Emily said. “Hil-awe-real, if you will. It has been super bizarre to see complete strangers halfway across the world commenting on random aspects of this play you were a part of over a year ago. We’ve loved it, though. We’re also glad to see that people have been enjoying the play. I have only seen a couple of negative reviews, so I���m glad people realize that we performed this in a backyard for the fun of it. We have had so much fun creating these productions so we’re thrilled that they are now bringing joy to the lives of others, as well.” If you were ever one of those kids who put on musicals in the living room for your parents or any unwitting houseguests, you absolutely must watch the videos of these intrepid young performers. Stay tuned for X-Files: The Musical, coming summer 2011. “I want to believe.”

MUSIC REVIEWS ...WE APPROVE! If you like: Relient K or The Beatles Rebels we’ve become / in tracks where young lions run. / Red beneath the raging sun / like wild fires we burn relentlessly. Burning relentlessly like a wild fire, Ohio based rock group House of Heroes has done it again. Their recent release, Suburba, encompasses more of the spine-chilling greatness that is House of Heroes. Suburba is somewhat more personal than previous HOH releases as it speaks to the average, middle-class American. Each track delves into facets of life and society, reflecting on subjects such as high school, first jobs, first cars, and first loves. Upon first listen, this bombshell delivered in serene fashion is sure to tear at the heart, yet lift up the soul. Impeccable vocal harmonies, alongside untouchable chord progressions and arrangements, reel through the mind and leave a craving for more. From the simplest kick-snare to the vast incorporation of auxiliary percussion, the rhythm section pushes forward each riff and lick for both clean and distorted guitars overlaid with sincere-yet-subtle classical strings work. Press play on this album and slip into a bliss of epic proportions that has been deemed a worthy opponent of even the Beatles themselves.

If you like: We Came as Romans or A Skylit Drive And all we need is a release / a reason to be and a fight in which we believe. The Word Alive’s first full-length album, Deceiver, dropped like an atom bomb. This genre-bending band’s LP hit the ground August 31 and is already blowing up the charts thanks to its inspired blend of anything and everything that popped into the minds of the band members. By anything and everything, we mean The Word Alive’s method of melding soaring vocals, screaming guitars, occasional lively synth work, and even some 90s-esque intros. These rising stars are heading to the top for good reason. They haven’t pigeon-holed themselves into one sub-genre the way many hardcore and metal bands have. Instead, they play to the headbanger and his hard-to-please girlfriend. If you’re looking for something fresh and exciting, this is it. Don’t be deceived by preconceived notions of what hardcore music should sound like. You won’t be disappointed.

If you like: Sarah McLachlan Yesterday’s gone / and all we have is today / and it’s fading fast away / it’s fading fast away. Smooth. Mellow. Sincere. In her debut album, Lessons Learned, Vanessa Vasquez creates the kind of music you want to listen to when you’re curled up in your comfy chair with a good cup of coffee. With a pinch of the blues, a hint of pop, and a dollop of country, the blend Vanessa draws from displays both depth and a sense of playfulness that leaves the listener feeling refreshed. Lessons Learned will appease the palate of music connoisseurs. While most music artists need several albums to mature and acquire a fullness to their music, Vanessa’s music bursts with flavor and raw emotion. To put it simply, if you like music you will like Lessons Learned. The dashes of several styles sprinkled throughout create an intriguing individuality.

If you like: Jimmy Eat World and Deathcab for Cutie And so it goes, like history / we’ll just burn this town and wash our red hands in the sea / they’ll never really know, just how far we will go With the ever-impending rise of genres and sub-genres, much appreciation has been lost for just straight-up California rock. We Are the Arsenal is here to re-take that hill with their recent release of There Will Come Soft Rains. Driving, power-pop guitars with ambient leads lend a hand to the melodic and tempered vocals that will enthrall any inclined listener. The lyrics are those of a down-to-earth and realistic state in which the listener feels that he or she is sharing in the experience. With songs in video games and a rising presence on radio, expect to hear the name We Are the Arsenal everywhere you go!

If you like: The Watson Twins, Rilo Kiley, or She & Him Jenny Lewis, queen of the indie rock/pop scene, has done it once again. The lead singer of Rilo Kiley just released her newest side project I’m Having Fun Now with long-time boyfriend Johnathan Rice under the name Jenny and Johnny. Filled with playful and sometimes dark lyrics, this album is precisely what it promised to be: fun. The couple has collaborated on several projects prior to I’m Having Fun Now, including both of Lewis’ solo albums as well as Rice’s 2007 release, Further North. But Jenny and Johnny proves to have a sound and style unlike any of their previous work. Their voices combine to create one upbeat and harmonious sound. This new sound has a quicker, lighter rhythm that leans more toward pop rock, unlike the folksy indie rock projects from their pasts. This couple is like royalty in indie singer/songwriter circles, and for all the hipsters who worship them, this album gives fans a glimpse into their quirky and absurdly cute relationship. Yeah, we’re having fun now. (review by Jared Minson) If you like: Audio Adrenaline or One Republic I’ve heard you speak before / but this time I hear your voice / this chasm caved in and you fill the void / tonight my heart is yours / I give it to you in this place / My filthy rags washed with your bloody grace Tulsa-area band Scarlitt Redemption is celebrating the recent release of its first full-length album as well as a new music video for the single “Hold Back the Dawn.” This self-titled album is something you would expect as a third or fourth album from most bands as it already contains a mature and well-rounded sound. Vocalist Stephen Spurgeon produces rich melodies on top of the smooth, soulful guitars, with an ambience very uncommon in the genre. Lyrically, each song speaks about a relationship in their faith and the beauty and complexity surrounding it with a depth that belies the band members’ youth. Look for Scarlitt Redemption to add larger concerts to the youth camp venues where they’ve been building their name

If you like: Lecrae or Tupac Splash in the water I make it rain like a hurricane / I’m back again to change the game with like water man / Splash in the water I make it rain like a tsunami see it coming feel the flow with God on it Make way for a hip hop album that doesn’t need auto-tune, with the new release Victory from NMISOL (pronounced “in my soul”). The heavy beats and flows will have you grooving and dancing with the bass beating into your chest. NMISOL is not your stereotypical Christian rapper. He has the musical presence and talent of a mainstream rapper but with lyrics that are intended to praise God and encourage other Christians to stand fast and worship. Overall this album will have you jumping to your feet and flowing with every hook and beat.

If you like: Fitz & The Tantrums, The Temptations, or Jackson 5 Change can be good. For Luis Dubuc, change has been outstanding! His 3rd studio album, Night & Day, takes a departure from his former electro/pop song-styling and displays a finger snapping, hand clapping Motown revival.  Although the sound of The Secret Handshake has changed, the upbeat and catchy song-writing has not. Dubuc delivers more upbeat hooks than ever before, but served on a platter of soul and Motown goodness. The Secret Handshake is in full force with a more mature and full sound. N&D has all the feel-good moments from the golden time of music when everything was honest and sincere. Songs we recommend: Domino, Woman and Used To Be Sweet feat: LIGHTS.

If you like: NEEDTOBREATHE or Lincoln Brewster Oooh child what do you say / Do you think that we should live this way? Individuality in the music industry is hard to find, but Shane Jones shines with his own personal blend of genres in his new album In the Name of Jesus Christ. With songs like Tell Me Why and The Passerby, Shane creates a mix of soul, rock, blues, and even a bit of reggae that will move you to the groove. This is not your average album. We suggest throwing away all concept of genres before listening to this raspy-voiced songster. Shane’s unique voice isn’t the only thing that makes In the Name of Jesus Christ shine. The guitar featured in this record, especially in The Passerby, is fun and upbeat while showcasing loads of talent. Don’t miss out on this album. It’ll shake up your day and give you a smile.

If you like: The Bird and the Bee, Ray LaMontagne, or Alexi Murdoch For nearly a decade, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen, aka The Weepies, have delivered one deliciously intoxicating pop-folk album after another. Now, with their fourth full-length album, Be My Thrill, their bouncy and insightful lyrics and soothing melodies have never been stronger. One of the things that is so mesmerizing about The Weepies is their ability to write albums without a single bland track. So many musicians have albums with four or five standout tracks scattered with “filler” tunes. Each of the 14 songs of Be My Thrill is pure gold with memorable choruses and syrupy sweet rhythms. It’s nearly impossible to listen to songs like “Be My Thrill” or “I Was Made For Sunny Days” without bouncing around with a cheesy smile. Yeah–it’s that cute. Even the blue verses in “They’re In Love, Where Am I?” somehow ooze sunny optimism. Listeners that don’t generally care for modern/pop folk will find Be My Thrill exhilarating, charming, and impossible to put away. (review by Jared Minson) If you like: Lecrae or Rage Against the Machine I raise my hands because I believe / You’ll never stop the fire in me Witnez has experienced many struggles that others only face in nightmares, including the loss of his four-year-old son. Rather than break from the pain, he poured his heart into his debut album, No Looking Back. If you are looking for encouragement and a beat to motivate you, songs like Can’t Stop the Fire and Bring Back the Peace were written for you. With rhythms that rock and lyrics that give you a glimpse of the inner strength Witnez has, you can’t go wrong. No Looking Back will have you moving to the beat and wishing you could freestyle. Musically, it has the depth of your favorite hip-hop artist, but lyrically Witnez goes far above any expectations by sending a message of positivity instead of the usual doom and gloom.



The music never stops. BY:  DERRICK TOWNSEND

I was once asked to describe New Orleans in one word. That is like describing an entire band by the snare drum.


he city is a multi-faceted and extremely complex machine, but perfectly in sync like an orchestra. Truly defined by its people, its culture, and its love for music. Five years ago, it all came to a halt… The music you would normally hear in the French Quarter was replaced by sirens, boats, and helicopters. I could have never imagined the devastation that came within the days following Katrina; Southern hospitality turned to survival mode. People lived in unbearable conditions in places like the Superdome. Houses, cars, and boats swept away by raging floodwaters were seen nationwide, but the true losses had yet to be found. An entire way of life had washed away. Once people were allowed back, it took weeks (or months, in some cases) for neighborhoods to regain power and water. My first reentrance immediately punched a hole in my heart. The city I had come to know, love, and cherish seemed to have disappeared. But one day driving through one of the most devastated areas of the city, I heard something. The familiar sound—so true and definitive of New Orleans—gave me goose bumps. Surrounded by chaos and without power, a man sat on what was left of his porch playing his trumpet. With the modernization of music, it was easy to forget the blues— our roots. The birthplace of jazz, our city was not going to be left in ruins. New Orleans had seen its darkest hour, but the citizens were no longer separated by race, class, or politics—they had become one.

As the resilience of our city became apparent, investors and entrepreneurs came from all over. In the past five years the live music scene has not only become better, it has become more diverse. The high number of out-of-state workers and volunteers, some of whom eventually moved here permanently, brought different wants and needs to the already-thriving New Orleans nightlife. Classically, New Orleans is known as an adult’s playground— from Pat O’Brien’s Piano Bar off Bourbon Street to the live cabaret acts at Le Chat Noir. In essence, though, live music can be found anywhere and anytime in New Orleans—eating a classic Cajun dish while enjoying a zydeco band and dancing at Mulate’s restaurant or enjoying a live band while bowling at a local favorite, Rock-N-Bowl. If the ultimate N.O.L.A. experience is what you seek, the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is two weekends which offer a wide array of what the city has to offer in one large production. And with the recent Super Bowl win of the New Orleans Saints, the city is attracting more national-level performers. There is not a time of day that something truly original isn’t happening. The storm has left the city humbled, with the awareness that at any time disaster can strike again, but the spirit of New Orleans is strong and undying. The people who live here now will live here through Hell and high water, and for generations to come. Five years ago, New Orleans and everything it has to offer was put to the largest sound check on the greatest stage. The music never stopped; we just turned down the volume.




It’s difficult—sometimes seemingly impossible—to find a genuine professional who works for the love of the game. Add thousands of thankless evenings in hotels, preparing for the next event. Pile on a lack of mainstream recognition for your sport. Consider that you might just have to know within yourself that you mattered, and one day when you meet a kid who actually heard you years ago, you are satisfied in hearing him tell you how life-changing you were. Few of us would continue working so relentlessly without immediate outside praise, monetary gratification, and reassurance from everyone in our lives that we’re doing real, honest, good work. But somehow Doug Brown keeps going. In between demos for his organization Skate Straight, he stops by any local skate park or parking lot he can to practice what he refuses to preach but simply says: Skating can save you. You don’t need alcohol. Stay away from drugs. Don’t let bullies run you. You’ve got this, kids. I believe in you. Now it’s your turn. You’re going to make it. Just keep doing this thing you love. Keep skating, and do it straight. Do it right and with conviction and integrity. Find what you love, and let it love you back. Then he teaches them what that means and exemplifies it in the coolest way possible. Doug uses words you’d expect of a professional skateboarder. He’s not posing or trying to get on the kids’ level by tossing out a “rad” or a “vibing.” He is who he is, and it takes a run-on sentence fragment to try to explain exactly who the man is: A self-effacing, gratefully humble, grown-up Marty McFly who doesn’t want to get to the end of his ride and realize he didn’t take all the risks he could in trying to be for others what he was meant to be. A chance performance at the Gravity Games in 2002 launched this portion of Doug’s career. He was there as a spectator, but Doug could barely sit still. He desperately wanted some time on the board, and that moment provided him an audience he wasn’t there to impress. He simply grabbed his gear and asked if he could practice a little. That enthusiasm—that unstoppable love of his release—gave him the chance to show a couple of ramp sponsors that he had talent. That launched years of demos, and a professional skateboarding career began. Perhaps that’s one of the tenets of Skate Straight: do your thing, be yourself, and say yes when a positive opportunity is presented to you. Better yet, create that opportunity. Represent yourself well at all times, and then say thank you. Often.

Doug speaks to kids and adults across the country on staying away from drugs and alcohol. He doesn’t limit his message to skate parks and events, however. Going to libraries, schools, and demos provides him a stage in front of more than just skaters. “We dive into everything from achieving your dreams, believing in yourself, hope and optimism, and issues we all face,” Doug says about his Skate Straight program. Listening to him speak, one quickly gets that he’s not just trying to prevent teenage substance abuse. He’s talking about being yourself in a world that tries to teach you what you’re supposed to be. Doug describes his motivation without hesitation: “Reaching people. I’ve been that kid wanting an autograph or having a role model. I’m still that kid! I know how important people like that were to me in my life. If I can do that for someone, that’s a true internal paycheck. It’s a positive cycle.” Skate Straight has grown and led to Doug writing a book, now available, called Doug Brown: Beyond the Board. Admittedly, the first few drafts of the manuscript were blandly factual. Meaningful, maybe, but based on a timeline. Enter Michael J. Fox. Those too young to remember him as a comedic pillar hopefully know him now as the epitome of a mentor, a survivor, and a change-maker. Reading him—and the help of a talented editor—helped Doug share more of himself. He set aside his concern with coming off as arrogant or limelight-hungry and decided to throw an emotional ollie. It was another step in his growth as a professional, a teacher, and a man who just tries to understand it all; the beneficiaries keep growing in numbers and confidence. Few clichés ring true. One that comes immediately to mind as Doug speaks about his greatest love—seeing the faces of the lost ones finally feel okay—is that this is a labor of love. Yes, there is often compensation for his speaking. This is his life; this is his full-time occupation. He never said it was his calling, but as a witness to his impact, I’d say it most definitely is. He must self-promote—he is this brand. And while that’s hard for a humble skater guy to do, he does it to sustain his underlying goal, and that is to keep reaching those looking for hope. For tour information, videos, blogs, a video journal and more information on Skate Straight or to book Doug Brown please visit his websites. •




















Photographer Brett Pierce shares with us her passion and insight on photographing live music and how being a part of music industry even in the small ways has helped. Written By: Stephanie Scott

Photos By: Brett Pierce

Brett, why photography? What is it you love about it? From as far back as I can remember, I have always loved to take photos. It’s a perfect way to capture the moment and keep that memory alive. My first passion in life is music. My second is photography. I decided to combine the two by taking photographs of bands and live concerts.  Capturing that energy into a photograph is beautiful.

How did your working photography career begin? My interest in photography began as a junior in high school.  I took two years of a black-and-white film photography class. I found the class really interesting, but the amount of time put into film was too much for me. After high school, I figured that would be the end of photography for me. A couple years later, I invested in a digital SLR camera  to use specifically for concert photography.  I brought my camera into any venue that would allow them without a photo pass.  This helped me practice, make connections, and start my portfolio. I started taking photos for local bands and friends. And not long after that, I had a name for myself. A year later, I was being asked to photograph for publications and artists.

Tell us about some of the best shoots you’ve had. Warped Tour is always the most intimidating shoot because of the amount of bands to photograph in just a short time.  This festival takes a lot of planning. The band schedule is posted that morning, and you quickly have to figure out whom you need to photograph.  You’ll photograph the first three songs of a band’s performance from the photo pit, which is located between the stage and the barricade. You need to dodge other photographers in the pit, watch out for flying things from the crowd, stay out of the way of security, and avoid crowd surfers jumping over the barricade.  Also, with hundreds of photographers, it’s a challenge to capture photographs different from the rest. You need to figure out how to make these photos stand out.  It’s sweaty, crowded, and overwhelming but a whole lot of fun. It’s a great chance to get up close and personal with dozens of bands. My favorite shoots have been festivals because I have the opportunity to photograph so many bands that I might not see otherwise.  Cornerstone is always one of my favorites.  At Cornerstone, my favorite bands to photograph have been Family Force 5, Underoath, and Anberlin.  They all have so much energy on stage. They make my job exciting.  A photo shoot I’m more proud of is Paramore. I was so excited to have the opportunity to photograph them and had a great night. I’m also proud of a photo shoot I did for Alternative Press during the AP Tour. These photos were posted on AP’s website.

How do you find jobs/opportunities to shoot? If there’s a band I love, I want to be photographing their show.  In order to get a pass to photograph, it generally has to be approved by the artist’s publicist. For them to be interested in providing a photo pass, they need to find the benefit in your photographs being used. I’ve done this through magazines, websites, blogs, and school newsletters. If you’re on assignment for a relevant publication, getting photo passes should be simple. At this point in my career, I’m happy taking photos for the artists I love whether or not payment is involved.

What advice would you give to other photographers who would like to do the kind of shoots you do? Just do what you love.  Find whatever camera you can get and just experiment. Try working the angles; capture the unique concert moments—kicks, jumps, facial expressions—make a website with your photos; create a portfolio, and just promote yourself. You also need to become a critic. Know what makes photos good or bad and always work to improve yourself. Learning from other photographers and studying their work is a great way to learn. Once you have good photos to work with, put together a portfolio of at least 1220 shots with only your best work.  Make sure to provide a variety of photos.  Once you feel ready, start freelancing for media sources. A school newsletter is a great place to start. Just like any job in the music industry, it’s all about connections. Being a concert photographer takes a lot of hard work and a little luck.

To you, what is the role of a photographer? The role of a photographer is to capture the moment exactly like you visualized it.  It’s not always how the world sees it; it’s how you see it. To see things in a unique way. For more information, to hire Brett, or to view a complete portfolio of Brett’s work, please visit one of the following sites: E-mail


By Laura Ladymon Heading back across the U.S. from The Cool Tour with Blessthefall, Underoath was gearing up for the final countdown to its November 9 record release with a ready smile. We sat down with Chris Dudley, who plays keyboards in UO, during their drive back for a few questions and a lot of laughs. It’s apparent after spending a short amount of time with the band that they deal with the pressures of the music industry with light hearts.

During the past year Underoath has received a lot of media attention due to the departure of original band member, drummer, and singer Aaron Gillespie. No matter how often the band members have to deal with repetitive and often silly questions, Chris says they don’t mind. In fact, interviews are often the butt of their jokes on the tour bus. “It’s one of those things where I don’t mind being asked anything, but there are definitely questions you get asked more than others,” said Chris. “It was funny because we were just on this tour with As I Lay Dying, and there was this band called The Architects with us. We had this whole thing going one day where we did a fake interview. The singer for The Architects was interviewing me, and it was all the questions you get every interview, and he was pretending to be German for some reason. He’s like ‘so, how’s it going?’ And ‘what’s been your favorite show so far? Can you tell us about the new record? What’s the craziest thing that’s happened on tour?’” Laughing at experiences with the media isn’t their only form of entertainment. Normally, Underoath spends a lot of time on the tour bus playing video games and watching movies, but lately they’ve taken a different route. While life on the road can be tiresome and often creates conflict within other bands, UO sees it as an opportunity to grow closer together. “Normally we play quite a bit of video games, but this tour we decided not to bring any just to see how we like that,” he said. “It’s been working out pretty well. We actually talk and hang out, maybe listen to music. It just depends. We like to play frisbee or see whatever’s around.” Between tours, Underoath has been spending a lot of time in the writing process. According to Chris, Disambiguation has been quite a hodge-podge. Most

of the songs have come about through jam sessions in their practice space, which is exactly how Chris says they like to do it. When asked what their new songs sound like, however, Chris is less specific. “I always say it’s weird when musicians talk about their own music because being a musician you can’t ever view your music in an objective way, because we’ve been with these songs since they were just an idea of a guitar part,” said Chris, “so we’re never going to be able to hear the music for the first time and know what it feels like. It feels a certain way to us but to other people it might be completely different.” While he may not have a definitive description for Disambiguation, Chris does say that it’s a departure from their previous albums, much like They’re Only Chasing Safety. “As a whole I think that it’s a lot different. I was talking to our guitar player a while back, and I was saying that we have an album called They’re Only Chasing Safety back in 2004, and the record after that, for us, was a really big jump,” he said, “It was a pretty drastic change in a good way. I was telling him that I think this record is the same level of change between two records, the same magnitude of change. I think that’s awesome, because we’re always trying to do something different.” To talk about Underoath’s new album is all well and good, but Chris says that he and the other band members want to let the music speak for itself. “I just want people to hear it and form whatever opinion you will,” he said. “I heard a guy recently say that talking about music is like dancing about architecture. It doesn’t really work.” Well said, mysterious guy. Well said.

“I always say it’s weird when musicians talk about their own music because being a musician you can’t ever view your music in an objective way”

By Shaun Ladymon The 21st century is one of sharing and living life vicariously. People share their hobbies, passions, loves, and jobs through Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Youtube. When thinking about sharing life through social media, one name stands above the rest: Cobus. Cobus Potgieter grew up in Humansdorp, South Africa and currently is living in East London, both in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. Although his first language is Afrikaans, a South African dialect of Dutch, he speaks English quite well. Cobus’ story is one of faith, diversity, persistence, and passion. Although the interest sparked earlier on, he officially began playing drums halfway though 2002. His drum covers have been a sensation across the globe for over two years now. With more than 50 million views on Youtube and 100,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter, he is a prime example of one who lives in the social media spotlight. However, unlike most in that same spotlight, Cobus offers a positive view on life and how much fun you can have by just being yourself. “The first thing I did on the day I got my very first drum kit was put my headphones on and play along to ‘Sweetness’ by Jimmy Eat World. I obviously butchered it to pieces and played it completely wrong, but it was so much fun,” he commented. “It felt like I was right there with the band on stage. That’s always what drumming was for me, right from the start; part of the band, part of the music. The drum covers have always

just been me doing exactly what I’ve been doing since the first day I started playing. There just seems to be a camera around.” With so much music in the world and so many possibilities for songs to cover, Cobus has a very straightforward way of selecting the songs he wants to cover. “It’s incredibly simple… I choose songs I like playing along to. And yes, playing along to the Jonas Brothers and N*Sync and Hanson songs is so much fun. My main goal is and has always been having fun, whether it is the fun had while jamming to the song and nailing the groove, or just the enjoyment from being expressive with the kit. That’s as complicated as it gets.” To Cobus, finding songs that are fun to play along with can be very simple, but claiming a favorite is impossible. “It would be impossible to choose one…. I like different songs for different reasons,” he said. “The cool thing is, the most viewed and highest rated videos are almost all my favorite performances. It’s like the more fun I have and the more I forget about the cameras, the more people respond to it. I love that.” Cobus seems to love what he does wholeheartedly, but what is his secret? How does one stay completely inspired? He is never hesitant to share his source of inspiration. “In hindsight, it comes from God,” he said. “I never realized it back then. I loved Jesus, and I loved drumming, but it took me quite a while to realize that those two sit very very very closely together. Talented people inspire me a lot. Passionate people inspire me more. Truth inspires me. And sincerity. Simplicity.”

after that I ended up in Bloemfontein, where it all started. The place I recorded there was at the church i was part of, the Student Church,” he said. “I always recorded at ridiculous hours and mostly in the holidays, since I had to set up everything myself (which took days) and then take everything down immediately after recording as well (not to disturb the regular church events that were still going on). Definitely a LOT of effort, but it was such a humbling experience. I didn’t play for views or any of the successes that has now come to exist… I just played because I couldn’t not play. I love every second of making the videos and I love sharing what I experience when I play.” Cobus has recently started delving into collaborations with other Youtube users and musicians. Today’s technology has allowed him to expand his reach beyond the borders of South Africa to the United States and beyond to work with talent wherever he finds it. “I absolute love [collaborating]. Will be doing a lot more in the future. I’ve always thought any musical instrument only comes to its full right in the company of other instruments, played by equally passionate musicians. It’s such a cool experience ‘jamming’ with other musicians, literally from different continents... I love the 21st century.” Cobus is an exceptional human being with a phenomenal talent and an incredible mind set. Perhaps there is no one better to offer advice on living with enjoyment of the gifts one is given. “You need to know why you’re playing. That is incredibly important. The reason why you pick up drumsticks will determine how much it means to you on so many levels. Do you want to be a pro? Do you want to make money? So you just love it too much to ever stop? Asking those questions might sound like a waste of time, but time and talent can become so wasted without the right reason and the right motivation.”

Along with this inspiration, there are also several musicians and bands that Cobus lists as well. “Some of my favorite drummers are Tony Royster Jr., Mike Portnoy, Travis Barker, and Carter Beauford,” Cobus said. “Oh, and way too many favorite bands to mention! At the moment I am listening to Our Last Night, We Came As Romans, Lights, The Almost, 30 Seconds to Mars, Quietdrive and The Classic Crime. Those are just a very, very small selection that are currently the most active on my playlist, though!” As a musician it is important to develop connections and relationships with other musicians for constructive criticism as well as more positive reinforcement. Cobus counts himself blessed to have received such feedback from some of the very artists he has performed covers of. “It’s always totally overwhelming. Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have added my cover of ‘Face Down’ to their official channel as one of their favorite videos, which is hectic. Chad Szeliga from Breaking Benjamin has also sent such a cool message on my cover of ‘Diary of Jane.’” Cobus accounts that he is no stranger to unexpected blessings. The roots of his drumming were very humble, but with hard work and determination, one can achieve just about anything. “When i was still attending school, I practiced right there in my room, in the middle of a very quiet and relaxed suburb. Nobody ever complained though, which is the weirdest thing and an epic blessing. Some years

“Talented people inspire me a lot. Passionate people inspire me more. Truth inspires me. And sincerity. Simplicity.”


( Photos Provided By The Spill Canvas

THE SPOTLIGHT The Spill Canvas was just getting started when singer Nick Thomas was asked to fill in for a guitar player who left Nodes of Ranvier, a metalcore band. He was writing his own acoustic songs for The Spill Canvas, which he set aside long enough to record with Nodes of Ranvier and tour with them. In 2004, Nick added members to make The Spill Canvas his full time band.

Had you been working on and developing those songs for Sunsets and Car Crashes for a long time? Some were demos with slightly different titles and maybe some different lyrics from those on the demo discs. It is kind of interesting how they had evolved, which later became the essential theme of our music. Even early on, things kept changing and I kept re-arranging the style of the music.

How did the idea to turn the solo project into a full band come together? There were a few musicians in town who had been playing with me but were all members of another local band called Chronic Mass. All the members slowly became available and came over to Spill Canvas. We grew up together, with some of us even going to elementary school together. Once the guys graduated high school, (I was a year ahead of them.) we just started hitting the road from there and the rest is a long “road warrior” history kind of thing.

For your second album, One Fell Swoop, did the writing process change as the band formed? Once we started touring, we had become closer, and as we started to play together, our chemistry developed, and we started writing together. We then took about three or four months and wrote “One Fell Swoop”. That was definitely the first time that we sat in a practice space, in a jam session.

Did that writing trend continue on “No Really, I’m Fine?” As far as the writing process went, each record got more intense, and we got closer, becoming this unit and playing off of each other really well. I would come in with a melody, Dan would come in with a guitar riff, or Ryan would write a little core progression to Joe’s beats. I think we really hit our stride on No Really, I’m Fine, in terms of writing.

Are your lyrics all based off of personal experiences? Some of them were sort of story songs, where the events didn’t necessarily take place in my life. For example, a song called “the Tide” was kind of a story song that was more metaphorical. Otherwise, they are very personal. It comes from my life, from things I feel, or things going on in my close family and friends’ lives. The lyrics have always been very personal, and it has been a weird, comfortable place as far as exposure goes. You are putting it all on the table, but it feels good to do it.

How do you feel when people say your music has deeply impacted them? It is so overwhelming and flattering at the same time. I am just a guy from the Midwest and very thankful to do what I love for a living. But the fact that someone will come up to me and say, “This song saved my life while I was going through a hard time,” I mean, I have those songs, I have those records myself. To be on the other end of that and to be that song for somebody, it is pretty surreal. It is just such an honor to able to be a vessel for hope. To this day it still blows my mind; I never quite get over it.

Your music video for “Our Song” was basically a fantastic spoof on some classic love story movies. How did you guys come up with that idea? We were joking around in the studio about doing little spoofs on some movies. After we recorded the song and got the treatment for it, that idea went hand-in-hand with the concept of the song. We were just thrilled with the outcome of the video. The actors in it were amazing, and it was definitely our favorite shooting experience thus far.

How was touring with the Goo Goo Dolls and Switchfoot? It was amazing. Those were some of the sweetest guys that we have had the pleasure of sharing a stage with. They are pros, who have doing this for a long time. They were just so down to earth and humble, and we learned so much from them and their crew. Everything far exceeded our expectations!


After 25 years an Rzeznik opens up a wor

HE GOOD, THE BAD, the rest of us

nd 13 hit singles, the Goo Goo Dolls have seen it all. Front man Johnny about the journey, from humble beginnings to international success, his rst mistake, and what it means to be one of the rest of us. Written by: Jonathan Robles

Photos by: Kurt Iswarienko


ark Twain once said: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that. But really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” Over a century later, one might wonder who in today’s culture would be classified as great. And considering the sensationalized public figures of late, a person might have to step back in time to filter out the noise.

The year was 1986. Out of Africa was declared Best Picture of the Year, Roger Clemens set the record for the most strikeouts in a Major League Baseball game, a gallon of unleaded gas cost 89 cents, and IBM released the first laptop computer. To say the least, many things have changed in 24 years—many names and faces have come and gone. 1986 also saw the birth of a band we now know as the Goo Goo Dolls. Formed during a time when American youth were adamantly rejecting everything from the mass of pop culture, the band started with hopes of killing time and perhaps getting a few free beers. Having 13 Top 10 singles—something they later achieved—was nowhere in sight. A majority of fans never heard of the Goo Goo Dolls until 1995, when they landed their first hit single, “Name”. After that, the rest is “Better Days”. Their album A Boy Named Goo went on to sell two million copies. They began touring worldwide and in 1998 they catapulted to #1 on the Billboard charts—where “Iris” spent 17 weeks following its inclusion on the City of Angels soundtrack. For many, that is how they see the Goo Goo Dolls. Top ten singles, global tours, 10 million albums sold, and a lengthy career. But as front man Johnny Rzeznik points out, “You have to look at the facts.” “We had been working for eight years [before “Name” charted],” says Rzeznik. “We traveled around in a crappy van before we actually hit.” Rzeznik has been with the Goo Goo Dolls since its inception. And as might be expected, the punk-rock-kids-turned-rock-stars faced some challenges upon sudden fame. “We were finally making a living playing music,” Rzeznik recalls. “But we kept our heads down and kept working. We really tried to ignore some of the musical trends around us and stay honest to ourselves.” Rzeznik believes a lot of the work leading up to—and perhaps following—pop stardom is sometimes overlooked or forgotten. “[For] our first gig the band only had nine songs, and we played for a case of beer,” he says. “It was [one of] the s--ttiest punk rock bars in Buffalo, and since we only had nine songs we had to play them twice.” The Goo Goo Dolls released four albums that never charted or gained much media attention prior to A Boy Named Goo. Yet they kept going. But when your albums are going multi-platinum and selling millions of copies worldwide, what’s so bad about that? “The hardest thing we faced,” says Rzeznik, “was trying to get out of a record deal we originally had. That was difficult. We had a big, long hard fight with our old record company. And we got out of it—we did OK. But that was a scary time for us because we realized, ‘Wow, someone just (allegedly) stole every penny we made.’”

Rzeznik believes that’s a common story in the music industry. “You’re a kid, and they’re selling you a dream,” he says. “Every kid wants to be a rock star. So they sell you that dream, and then reality sets in. That was the biggest mistake I ever made, signing that contract.” Having endured intense highs and lows, the Goo Goo Dolls are fortunate to be one of the pre-American Idol, pre-YouTube bands that are still around today. “People go to the Internet,” Rzeznik says. “They go to Myspace or Facebook. That’s how bands [are judged] now— by number of hits. Bands can get signed because of how popular they are on Facebook. [So] in that respect, music has changed.” But that doesn’t diminish the value of hard work, according to Rzeznik. “Even Idol isn’t a guaranteed success. On the positive side,” he says, “[these changes] are causing a sort of democratization to happen in the music business. Any time we’re playing new [unreleased] music, the video phones go up, and it’s on YouTube that night. So people are making their own decisions about [our music] before it’s given to them in the official format. I’ve seen people at shows singing the lyrics to songs that haven’t released yet. And that’s pretty amazing.” It’s evident Rzeznik feels a sense of responsibility to his fans, as well as other musicians who follow the Goo Goo Dolls. Even on his Twitter page, he frequently defends his fans and gives other musicians first-hand advice. As a singer-songwriter, writing remains one of his passions. And it’s also one of the band’s trademarks—creating their own music. “You have to sing from your gut,” says Rzeznik. “From an artistic standpoint, go to the place where what’s coming out of your mouth starts to scare you. And don’t worry if it’s going to be a hit or not. It’s not your decision to make once you put it out into the world.” “From a business standpoint, make sure you own it,” Rzeznik emphasizes. “Be careful with any contract you sign,” he advises fellow musicians, once again reflecting on his own experience. “I think a very simple contract is definitely the way of the future.” Rzeznik encourages artists to consider partnerships and to glean from those with industry knowledge. “There [are] very talented people who work in record companies who can really help you guide your career. None of us knows everything. And there are some people who really know what they’re talking about.” So how does a band make money these days, with so many changes in the industry? According to Rzeznik, the Goo Goo Dolls make most of their money playing live. But despite receiving some hefty paychecks over the years, the band still maintains “normal personal lives.” “We still take the trash out on Wednesday nights,” says Rzeznik. “We try to have as normal lives as possible. And I think that’s one of the things that’s held us together.”

“The hardest thing we faced was trying to get out of a record deal we originally had.”

“You have to sing from your gut, go to the place where what’s coming out of your mouth starts to scare you.” That’s the reason many fans relate to band. And it’s also one of the elements behind the new album. “I think the Rest of Us is most of us,” Rzeznik declares when speaking of their latest project. “I think a lot of people are left out of the equation today. And we wanted to give them a voice.” Rzeznik says empathetically, “A lot of the new material—if not all of it—deals with the fear and anxiety many people feel right now. We’re living in a tough time.” While the new album, Something for the Rest of Us, has been an iTunes bestseller and has shared the Billboard Top 10 with the likes of Katy Perry and Eminem, there’s a reason the Goo Goo Dolls retains such a devoted fan base. Whether it’s the band’s willingness to confront real issues or their commitment to helping other musicians, there are many who equate the Goo Goo Dolls with “regular, everyday people.” While some might assume the Goo Goo Dolls have fulfilled all their dreams, Rzeznik says he’s not done. “I would love to work with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic,” he says, revealing that he too still has dreams. “There’s a lot of things I would love

to do,” he says, with such fragility to his voice. “I would love to play Madison Square Garden. Just to sell out a show there once in my career, I think that would be incredible.” And right there in just a few words, he reveals so much. For a band to remain intact after nearly 25 years, one has to acknowledge their talent, their hard work, and their commitment to their craft. But it’s their character that resonates the most. They’re not chasing the next trend, schmoozing with A-listers, or trying to push boundaries for attention. They’re just dreaming like the rest of us. And somewhere along the way, some of their dreams have come true. Remember what Mark Twain said, “Really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.” That is something the Goo Goo Dolls have managed to do for people, time and time again. And perhaps it’s the reason many fans believe this new album is just like coming “Home”.


THE SPOTLIGHT Aggressive music and worship aren’t necessarily two things most people would pair together, but The Crimson Armada does it every day. Join us as we take a look at struggles the band faces, the message they hope to convey, and what the “Scream the Prayer” tour offered that other tours don’t.

How would you describe your music? Fast, aggressive, technical metal. Our newer music is sometimes a lot darker and sometimes a lot lighter. What is it like for an openly Christian band to be in that sort of genre? It’s becoming much more acceptable to play aggressive music and have a positive message. We have had our share of persecution both in our hometown and on the road, and have also been accused for what we do, but for the most part it is not too bad. You guys were recently on the “Scream the Prayer” tour. What was that experience like? It was really hard on us physically, mentally and spiritually. We had some incredible trouble when the bus we were sharing broke down. We had to split our gear up with other bands and the guys in the band just to continue on the tour until we could get close enough to home to go back and buy a new van we couldn’t really afford. But thanks to all the people on the tour—and especially our friend in The Color Morale—for carrying all our gear for us and granting us the opportunity to spread ourselves with the other bands, we only missed one show despite their van breaking down the same day. Overall, the experience was definitely positive. We made some awesome best friends and played for some really intense crowds on some scorching hot stages. (The Tulsa, Oklahoma stage temperature was 115 degrees). “Scream the Prayer” also forced us to grow up in every way a band can. We are so thankful for that.

Interview by Shaun Ladymon What can “Scream the Prayer” offer to metal fans over other summer tours? A more intimate environment, an opportunity to worship God and rock out at the same time. Your new album “Guardians” was released last year. What is the overall theme of the album? The themes ranged really wide from praise and worship to more apocalyptic themes. “Guardians” also featured songs about sticking up for your faith in the face of disbelievers (“In the eyes of God”) and other songs that touched on topics of disregarding our walks with God despite knowing the right thing to do (“The Serpent’s Tongue”). Whom do you hope to reach with your music? People who love God, music, fun, and most importantly, people who want to know more about God. Any new material in the works? Tons of new material. After “Scream the Prayer” we are writing all new material that is going to make “Guardians” look juvenile musically. What’s the best advice that you could give to any metal bands that are just starting out? Be honest, write catchy music, be ready to be figuratively pooped on by the music industry, and pack lots of underwear for the road because you rarely get to shower.

Be sure to check out The Crimson Armamda on the Monument Tour with Miss May I, coming to a city near you!

Written By: Jim Miller Photos Taken By: Jon Chandler Photography:


If all I had was one last prayer I’d pray it ‘cause I know you’re always listening

In February 2009, Jeff Chandler’s prayer was answered when he became the very first Tate Music Group Artist of the Year. His debut album, I Know You’re There, released on July 28 of that year. After a year’s worth of promoting the album and playing dates, he hit the stage last month at Universal Studios Florida’s Rock the Universe with some of the giants of Christian rock—the Newsboys, Jars of Clay, Skillet, TobyMac, and Relient K among them. Jeff is an excellent singer whose pure voice rings as true as the message behind his music. Yet it’s his songwriting that gave him his first big taste of the music industry. Casting Crowns recorded Jeff’s song “I Know You’re There” for their 2007 album The Altar and The Door before it became the title track of Jeff’s own album. I know you’re there, I know you see me You’re the air I breathe, you are the ground beneath me Jeff first saw the power of a song many years ago when he was just a kid. “I’ve always been captivated by music and its ability to inspire people to set things in motion,” Jeff said. “I remember seeing the video of ‘We are the World’ for the first time and just being in awe of how a song could bring so many people together.” As a songwriter today, Jeff is looking for something greater than just bringing people together. “For me, there’s more to aspire to than creating a feeling,” he said. “Feelings are cheap. Artists can sell a lot of music invoking feelings, but their audiences can’t take them home and build a life on them.” Instead, Jeff writes songs designed to build the faith of his listeners. I know you’re there, I know you hear me I can find you anywhere

Writer’s block and other labors of putting words to paper are no strangers to the songwriter, but the best songs often strike like lightning. “I believe it’s possible to write a good song if you work at it,” Jeff says. “But truly great songs are a gift. I spent all of five minutes writing ‘I Know You’re There.’ That’s how I know it was a gift. There was no preparation or work involved. It just came. It’s the centerpiece and title track of my record because it has taken on a life of its own.” If all I had was one more song to sing I would raise a noise to make the heavens ring After touring in a band with his brothers and friends and leading worship in churches for several years, Jeff’s recording contract has helped him expand his base. “TMG has empowered me to reach a lot more people than I had the ability to reach before,” he says. “The music industry is in absolute upheaval, and everyone’s trying to figure out how to survive. I believe in Ryan Tate and the team that make up TMG. I trust them. I honestly can’t say that about everyone I’ve done business with. The music industry is a squirrely place.” As he prepares for his second album, Jeff is applying the lessons of writing a great song to developing an album. He said, “I think I’m beginning to understand the process of creating a project a little better and allowing my style to grow to the next level.” If all I had was one last chance I’d take it, I would stake it all on you For those who are just entering the recording industry or who are merely dreaming of doing so one day, Jeff has a word of advice. “Be teachable. Be a student of the industry,” he said. “Don’t compromise who you are. Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated.” Buy “I Know You’re There,” at Visit Jeff Chandler’s website at



’m standing there, arms crossed, and two things are happening: the first is that dust is clouding my fragile man-lungs, while it’s also clinging to my nostrils, blowing through my hair…and let’s not forget getting all over my merch. The second thing is I’m having a killer conversation with a guy named Mark. He plays guitar for a great rock band called Nothing More. We’re talking about rock shows and books, labels, and all that jazz. He’s got his black shirt on, one sleeve torn off by what my mind would love to imagine was a rabid pit-bull, the other sleeve grateful to be a part of his rock star outfit; I’m there with my ARSON V-neck tee-shirt. “I wore your shirt today while I was walking around the festival,” he says. I couldn’t be more stoked. A guy who just a few years back won some crazy award from Warped Tour and got flown out to L.A. to do a cool performance and was now playing the sickest Christian Rock festival in the Northeast, Revelation Generation, had actually been walking around rockin’ the ARSON shirt. Does it get much cooler? This is when it occurs to me: “Wait…Did I make it?” Interestingly enough, during our half-hour conversation, we share a bit of our histories and the places we’ve been, the experiences we’ve had touring, and not surprisingly our lives seem to parallel quite well artistically. Similar struggles, aspirations, sentiments. Then the concept of “making it” arrives. “What does it mean to make it?” we both sort of muse back and forth. Is it getting signed to Capitol Records or Harper? Or is it something more like selling out a show of 500 sweaty faces or even moving a boatload of books at a festival you’ve attended, um… let’s see…never? Because that’s what happened. And something rather surreal happens, starts to click. We are exposed, out there for the world to see, yet still unknown. We are the celebrities of the nameless. Victims of our own lost causes. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re not nine to fivers, not yet anyway. Thank God. And still, days after the festival ends, and my sinuses have finished rebuking the rest of my body for the abuse they were forced to endure, I’m perplexed, wondering what it means to really make it. Will it ever happen? Has it already? I can’t help but think of the artists and writers who have come and gone over the years,

their popularity hitting an all time high and then fading into the past to be forgotten. I wonder, will that be us? Will that be me? Of course I’d have to make it, though, right? And see, we’re back to the starting line. Does this vicious circle ever end? Making it, then, becomes more like survival, if you think about it. If you can survive in an artistic industry, then you’ve made it. This is a concept I never fully grasped, even though I had written about it in my previous novel , The Sacred Sin. After the violence and the mystery and the fears of a week’s worth of uncertainty, those characters realize that they’re just lucky to be alive, to have survived, and that survival is invaluable. If you can bring 500 people who heard about you from someplace somewhere sometime to a show, you’ve made it. If you can convince stalwart, apprehensive Christians that your book is, in fact, not penned by Charles Manson and thus not Satanic, but that it’s actually a deep, introspective story about a boy who can create fire and an insecure girl with a mask, and then sell out of your stock in two days… well, that sounds like making it to me. Sure, the statistics won’t agree necessarily, but it’s not all about the numbers. Scream that to yourself whenever you feel like it is…it helps…I think. What defines an artist or an author is hanging out by a tiny booth where most of the world doesn’t see you, unclogging your nose and praying for more teens to stop by and save you from boredom while your feet beg for a chair. Then you’ve made it. You’re one step closer to being known, one step closer to being exposed. One step closer to the F-word. No, get your mind outta the gutter. I’m not talking about Financial Security or Fixed Income. I’m talking about Freedom. Freedom to create and to be exposed and to live life, hoping you might actually give off some light in the process. Just stay lit, because the tunnels can get pretty dark. But sometimes you might just get a cool dude with dreads walking through to give you a candle and remind you why you do it all, and why you’d do it again a thousand times. Just don’t question the sleeves… -E Read more of Estevan’s musing at his website:, or follow him on twitter: You can buy his book Arson at,, dusty festivals in the northeast, or anywhere books are sold.

Singer/Songwriter Chuck Tocco shares about his beginnings in music and successful year in the industry as Tate Music Group’s 2010 Artist of the year.

Even after a brief conversation with Chuck Tocco, it’s clear that music is intrinsic to his life. Tocco, who hails from Brownstown, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, says music has been a “vital part” of his life since his childhood. “As a kid, I would pretend that I was one of the Beatles playing the guitar on a little toy gun. I would dance around as one of my favorite songs would be playing.” His passion for the guitar and the Beatles began with a childhood visit to the home of his Uncle Chris, who happened to be playing “Yesterday”. “I was totally amazed and in love with the sound of a guitar,” Chuck said. “The Beatles’ sound was like no other. Everyone in my family was a Beatles fan. Those were the songs that were embedded in me as a little guy.” It wasn’t until he was 20 years old that Chuck got his first guitar. He was fascinated when he heard his brother, Dan, and his friends jam music from bands like Pearl Jam, Oasis, Bush, and Nirvana. When his brother saw Chuck’s passion to learn the guitar, Dan asked their parents to buy Chuck a guitar. Now Chuck is a recording artist with his sophomore album and first with Tate Music Group, I Know That You Can Hear Me, which was released in stores on September 14th. His debut album, Louder than Audible, was released last year in January. Chuck signed with TMG in May of 2009. He hit an early high point by becoming TMG’s 2010 Artist of the Year. “Winning Artist of the Year was such a blessing for me and my family,” he said. “It has helped us financially, plus it has helped give my career a boost. Tate has been really good to me.” After winning, Chuck was showcased in Nashville, Tennessee, on the “Dog and Pony Show.” He played at Rock the Universe last month in Orlando with label mate Jeff Chandler and bands like Kutless, Jeremy Camp, Needtobreathe, and Grits. “More than anything, Artist of the Year has showed me that when God was speaking to me, I wasn’t crazy for chasing something that others may have considered unrealistic. I knew the message of the Gospel was there in

my songs. I knew the melodies were moving people. I had to share the goodness of God to the world” he said. Chuck’s lyrics reveal his heart intent to “sow life into the hearts of the people.” In his song “Gradual Slide,” from I Know That You Can Hear Me, he gets to the place where people find something is wrong in their lives: “It’s a gradual slide / one day you wake up broken inside / to find something’s missing now / got to get back, got to get back somehow.” He also brings in the heart of the gospel message in the song “Broken Tie”: “And You became all that You despise / conquering death with Your life / mending the broken tie between God and man.” He takes his approach to lyrics from the Bible. “In the book of Proverbs, the scripture says there’s death and life in the power of the tongue,” Chuck said. “I want the words of my songs to touch the listener and hopefully draw them closer to God.” Chuck will be busy in the near future with radio promotions and his new album, and he looks forward to the experiences. “Needless to say, there’s a lot of work ahead of us, but that’s a good thing.” He admits that though it is at times difficult playing the various roles required to be a singer/musician, he finds his faith in God to be his strength, even when he doesn’t know if he can place food on the table for his family. One lesson Chuck has kept with him so far in his music career is the importance of surrendering to God, and he sees that as a key in planning his future endeavors. “I found that surrendering is not a one-time thing, but it’s a daily thing. It’s about trusting in what God’s plans are for us, and letting Him lead us.”


Student Ronnie Meyer tells us why UCO in Edmond, Oklahoma is worth shouting about. If your college rocks, write in and tell us why! In the three years I have attended UCO, I have seen constant progress on our campus. UCO students have no problem finding a major, since there are over 120 readily available, including some majors unique to us in the state, such as Forensic Science, Funeral Service, and Professional Golf Management. The UCO broadcasting department, which became my second home, was so much more than I was expecting. It was more advanced than many of the other schools I was accepted to. Scott Booker, manager of Oklahoma’s Flaming Lips, brought the one-of-a-kind Academy of Contemporary Music @ UCO to historic Bricktown in Oklahoma City. Dubbed a “school of rock,” and modeled after the ACM of London, England, ACM@UCO offers classes on contemporary music, a large supply of equipment free of charge, and teachers like Steven Drozd of the Flaming Lips and Roger Daltrey of The Who. The ACM’s enrollment more than doubled after its inaugural year. ACM@UCO offers Associate of Applied Science degree programs in Music Performance (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and vocals), Music Production, and Music Production/Business. UCO���s broadcasting department produces the program “Soundcheck” on UCO’s cable station, which features ACM student musicians. Another innovative, student-produced program coming this fall follows four ACM bands throughout the semester. It marks the first reality show produced by college students in the state. While UCO is already 100% wind-powered, its leaders still strive to go green. The Forensic Science Institute is the first higher education building in Oklahoma to receive LEED certification for green design and construction. The campus is also taking steps to become a certified botanical garden.

UCO partnered with the US Paralympics to become an official training site for men’s and women’s sitting volleyball and held this year’s Sitting Volleyball World Championships where 26 countries were represented. We host the Endeavor Games annually, the nation’s largest multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities. In a recent survey conducted by the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, UCO ranked number one in student resident satisfaction. UCO has also hosted three National Security Campus Summits to ensure that the safety of students on campus is always at its highest. There is never a lack of things for students to do. There are plenty of restaurants within walking distance, and the UCO Jazz Lab, voted “Best Local Live Music Club” by readers of the Oklahoma Gazette, is home to UCO’s jazz studies program. Connected to Hideaway Pizza, it’s a cool spot to catch some of the best working musicians, from jazz greats to rising rock projects. My all-time favorite part of UCO is that class sizes will rarely exceed 30 students, leaving teachers the opportunity to get to know you on a first-name basis, learn your specific learning style, and teach you according to that style. UCO rocks because we have created and kept close many unique programs, and we are constantly growing—not just in student size or campus size but also in creativity. UCO accommodates the needs of students by creating exactly what the students want and need, making UCO one of the most eclectic and fun college campuses in the US.


Radio producer Mark Giles took these up-and-coming artists through his “radio ready” review and gave us the notes. Compare your reactions to his by following the links beneath each artist to listen to music samples. Are they radio ready? Broken Altar - From classic and new rock, to contemporary Christian, to hard rock, and metal, Broken Altar is forged from a variety of influences and genres. What results is a mix between Aerosmith and Lifehouse.” Giles says: Reminds me of the great classic rock bands of the 70’s. Bigger than life, tons of energy, not afraid to invest in an amazingly long intro, vocal that pulls you in, shades of Diamond Dave J. Refreshing, retro sound. Kaden - The five-piece alternative rock band has a mainstream sound commonly described as somewhere in between The Fray, Switchfoot, and Maroon 5. Common factors: phenomenal talent, well-written songs, and an addicting sound. These boys are on their way up.” Giles says: Just a tad left of center, which is a good thing; not predictable; puts a bounce back in the step; mainstream sound & production with a positive, uplifting message. Alyosha - An exciting young singer and songwriter from Kyiv, Ukraine, Alyosha has a versatile style that includes pop, soul, rock, and R&B. Her strong vocal range and contemporary style produce an appealing pop album similar in vocal style to Evanescence or Christina Aguilera.” Giles says: Haunting vocal; CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio) ready; talking about challenging issues that face young women today; should connect in an authentic way.

The BLONDink Report with KMAC Kerri McKeehan Houlihan—better known in Nashville as Kmac, a tribute to her brother TobyMac’s famous nickname— is photographer and stylist to an impressive list of top music artists. As owner of BLONDEink, a full-service creative company in Nashville, Kmac joins Variance for a new column on all things image—the “Style” part of Stage & Style.

Tell us a little about what BLONDEink is up to. What does a typical work day look like for you?

It can vary from week to week. When you freelance you never know what person may call or what the day will unfold. For example, most of the people I work with are in the music industry, so many times if I’m not styling or shooting, I am usually shopping ‘til I drop or pulling clothes for an artist for a shoot or stage attire.

Do you have a favorite project or client?

Of course I love working with my brother, Toby Mac. It’s like bread & butter; we know each other. What works, what doesn’t, what’s in and what’s out...and he doesn’t mind if I tell him he’s got puffy eyes, dark circles, etc. I just put on my latest miracle “it” cream, and he rocks it. My sister, Kristen, is an esthetician in D.C., so we’re always getting the latest and greatest skin products from her. She hooks us up.

You were in California when Toby asked you to join Gotee Records. What was it that took you out West? Was the entertainment industry ever part of your plan before Gotee?

I went to Northern Cali after college to work at a camp in the Sequoia National Forest, Hume Lake. Initially, I wanted to work with kids, but always in the back of my mind had a passion for fashion & photography.

What did your position as Creative Director at Gotee Records entail?

For the most part, anything visual at Gotee I was responsible for, more the creative aspect of it. Everything from helping artists with their images, organizing and styling photo shoots, producing music and promo videos, overseeing design of CD packaging & ads. And often, much to my and others’ dismay, I made attempts at graphic design.

What prompted the move from Gotee Records to starting your own creative business?

After five years with Gotee, I knew it was time to move on. I was spending a lot of hours on projects at the office and home as well as on location. At the time I had just started renovating a house, and it just made more sense to have more free time and still be able to work on certain projects that I wanted to work on.

If you could have any super power to help you do what you do, what would it be and why?

I recently read about this super power called Picture Extraction— the ability to pull any object from within a picture out into our reality. One example is, if you wanted to pull out a killer outfit from a picture, this ability will allow you to bring the outfit out into our reality. What a concept. I’m already dreaming of all the time and money it will save me. Sounds fab!

I came across the live shot you took of Toby at the Winter Jam Tour in Fairfax, VA last year. You mentioned a gut feeling about the photo in “the story behind the snap” on your website. Can you describe what elements give you that gut feeling? What sets an image apart from the hundreds or 1,000s you take at each shoot? That gut feeling about a certain photo is such a visual thing. It’s that ah-mazing feeling that I just know it when I see it. It’s usually a candid moment I’ve caught that captured a quality of raw realness or a strong message and/or attitude of “this is who I am.”

ALL ACCESS with HOULIE Michael Houlihan is the President of One Alliance Entertainment and is a veteran producer in the live event and concert-touring arena. Throughout his career, he has produced hundreds of events within the United States and around the world. Houlie, as he’s known to his monumental client list, joins Variance for the “Stage” part of Stage & Style, offering expert information on live events and touring.

Tell us a little about what One Alliance Entertainment is doing right now. What does a typical work day look like for you?

Right now we are producing two major events, working on a label deal for an artist we manage, and I’m managing a tour for a great country artist, Joe Nichols. Currently I’m on the road about 18 days a month. When on the road, I try to be up around 6:00am, not too long after the band guys have gone to bed. After making a strong cup of coffee I’m diving into emails, catching up on projects and getting prepared for the events of the day. From the time load-in begins to the end of the last autograph signed, the day is filled with responsibilities, challenges, and usually some surprises that need to be handled. From settlement to arranging a round of golf, I always find satisfaction in serving the needs of those around me, making sure that everyone is equipped to give the best performance possible. A big part of this is understanding the importance of building relationships with each promoter on behalf of the artist. Throughout the day I make sure that I am building a strong and respectful relationship with them and their local staff. A tour manager is the first and last impression that they have of an artist. If I’m lucky, I’ll crawl into my bunk on the bus around 1:00am knowing that the whole cycle will happen again in 5 hours.

Two of your past projects have been Grammy winners. Tell us about what separated those projects from the hundreds of others you’ve produced. The artist, their market and the efforts of the record label. Both projects were for Donnie McClurkin, one of the leading artists in the black gospel market. The first was a live DVD recording that we actually designed, built and produced in L.A. in less than two weeks. The second was both a live DVD recording and a live recording for his next album. If I remember right, this time we had just over three weeks to put it together. In both cases, the end result

What do you suggest for musicians doing their own art for their EPs and albums?

I would suggest they get inspiration. Research! Look at CD covers, magazines, photos, art. Start by compiling your favorite tear sheets (mag clippings) or anything you love or what catches your eye. You want it to have longevity and not look too dated or trendy. Also, in my opinion, it should reflect your sound.

What’s the best fashion advice you’re giving to clients right now?

Invest in denim. Trust me! Dress it up or play it casual. It’s such a versatile fabric and is available in so many different styles & washes these days.

What’s the one most important thing you could tell a new artist trying to create an image for his or herself?

You want to feel comfortable in your skin and what’s on your skin, so it’s important to understand fabric and what works best for your body type. You want to feel confident and portray the best image you can. Last, but not least, hire BLONDEink to help out.

was a project that had a huge impact on the black gospel market. There are many people for each that made them a success, and most of the work is done long after we’ve captured the event on video and audio.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in the entertainment business? With this economy, still being able to be in it!

Was the entertainment industry always part of your plan?

Like most, I wanted to be a rock star growing up as a kid. I fell into the production and touring side by accident. One thing led to another, and here I am – still not sure of what I want to be when I grow up.

How did you get started in the industry?

I started packing semi trailers for a southern gospel group, the Gaithers, while I was attending Anderson University up in Indiana. Within about 6 months, I was working pretty much full time with their production company, Stage II. I was touring with the Gaither Vocal Band and doing audio and production for many larger conferences and events. One of the first events I did was a Promise Keepers conference in the Hoosier Dome for over 80,000 men. This introduced me very quickly to the size of shows out there, and the energy behind them. In fact, it was during a site survey for that event the week before that I got to admire and walk on the Pink Floyd stage. You talk about impressive. With Stage II, we ended up doing all the Promise Keepers stadium events that year along with Gaither shows and other conferences. Through those experiences, I began to meet artists and people who worked within the industry. It was having those relationships that began opening up other bigger and better opportunities.

If you could have any super power to help you do your job, what would it be and why?

Teleportation. The hardest part of touring is the travel between shows and having to leave your families behind. It is also the biggest expense that an artist endures. So being able to teleport not only myself but also the artist, band, and crew would not only impact everyone’s lives in many ways but would also save much needed overhead.

You’ve worked with a wide variety of music labels over the years. How do you think they will hold up in the future as the music industry goes more and more digital? Labels and artists are having to rethink their approach every day. The

approach to selling albums, and marketing an artist has changed drastically since the introduction of digital sales. Labels are continuing going through restructures and having to re-define their focus and be creative in making profits in non-traditional ways. This has introduced concepts like the 360 deal, in which a record label also acts as an artist’s management and booking agent. It would be hard for anyone to foretell the future on this one, but it is clear that everyone is looking for new avenues to promote and sell their music. The “good ol’ days” are gone, but my hope is that the best is yet to come.

What suggestions would you give to artists about getting the best response possible from their live events?

Be real. Stay true to who you are and what your music is about, and find ways to connect with your audience. Realize that people can buy your music and listen to it at home; they are coming to your show for an experience. You need to create moments and connect with them on a personal level. This is one topic that we will dive into in a later issue in more detail.

What’s the one most important thing you could tell a band trying to book their first tour?

Start small, have the right paperwork and systems in place, and seek the advice of those who have been in your shoes. Treat everyone with respect and begin to build relationships with those bringing you in to perform. Never burn a bridge; there is value in long term relationships.


by: John Mouser I first saw this guy last fall in Birmingham when he opened for Needtobreathe with an acoustic set. His presence was able to hush the sold out crowd almost immediately. I have spent many nights avoiding going home, just driving around listening to “Element,” “Open Road,” and of course “Better.” Since last fall, Mayfield has put out six EPs, has had two songs featured on “Grey’s Anatomy,” and is currently working on his first solo full length. Please check his site and support his independent releases, because they are truly phenomenal. You have been incredibly busy over the past year. Are you going to continue this trend for the rest of the year? The constant output challenges me as a writer, but I love that. It also has allowed me to do something that no one else seems to be doing, and the fans really appreciate it. I’m planning on taking a break from recording after we finish the full length—tour/live a little. But that’s just the ‘plan’. I’m not too good at sticking to those. What can we expect to hear on the future full length? We are taking five songs from the EPs and five brand new ones to make a batch of 10 that is the best batch of songs I’ve ever released in my 27 years. It’s miles ahead of anything I’ve done in the past. This one has some big choruses, a few mellow moments, and a lot of anthems that people can sing back at me. I’m not interested in the being the next indie hipster scene or in how skinny my jeans can be. That’s not my thing. Tell me about your involvement with Pledge Music. Pledge has opened some huge doors for me lately. We’ve funded a record that rivals most indie label budgets, and we’ve given over

$2000 to the International Justice Mission. It’s win/win for everyone. Fans get something completely unique, the artist gets the dough to make the record they need to make, and the charity (artist’s choice) gets a big chunk of what comes in. I never expected it would do this well. I’m honored to be a part of it and to have fans that actually want to be involved. How has social media contributed to your success as a fully independent artist? It’s changed everything for independent artists. There is certainly still value in traditional PR, but to be able to spread the word about the art for free? Come on, that’s pretty incredible. If you’re making good music, people are gonna talk about it. They’ll tweet about it too. What are some specific lessons you have for aspiring artists? It’s been a long ride. I got signed to Epic when I was 21 and did the whole deal. It fell apart, and I’ve gone the independent route. I think my best advice would be to do it yourself, keep your publishing, surround yourself with people you trust, and don’t ever believe someone who tells you ‘you’re the next big thing’. You’re not. I’m not. Those people will come and go. The Machine is fickle. Your fans aren’t. Who are some artists that have inspired you? Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, The Strokes, Patty Griffin, Damien Jurado... The list goes on forever. I’m lucky to have friends who inspire me all the time as well: The Civil Wars, Needtobreathe, Cary Brothers, Matthew Perryman Jones, Jon Foreman. We’re all just recycling on our influences. What you hear is the sound of those artists swirling around our insides and finding their way back out somehow.

Every summer, kids flock by the thousands to concert festivals to see their favorite bands perform. Join us as we take a look at some of our favorite places to experience music overload.

photo by Shaun Ladymon

The Road to Roo

by Ronnie Meyer

I felt ready as I headed out to Manchester, Tennessee with my girlfriend and two friends to learn what the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival was all about, even though none of us knew what we were in for. We certainly didn’t know that the worst part would be the wait to get in. As Tennessee state police directed concert traffic to the highway shoulder, we had no idea we would be in our car for a good seven hours before we would even get close to the entrance. After passing several safety checkpoints, we were guided to our camp, where we parked and set up our tent. Each of the 50+ camps at Bonnaroo is set up so that there are cars and tents covering the entire area. Some would consider this cramped and confining, but we took it as an opportunity to meet hundreds of new people, some whose tents were literally touching ours. People came out from all over the world. It was refreshing to be surrounded by people from so many different cultures. Inside Centeroo—the main festival area—bands play on ten stages, ranging from huge, arena-sized stages where you can barely see the artists to smaller and much more intimate stages where you’re so close that you can almost touch the bands. Bonnaroo has no problem herding in some of the top bands of the year, including Jay-Z, Regina Spektor, Phoenix, Weezer, and The Flaming Lips. If mainstream music isn’t your thing, no problem; there is a cavalcade of underground bands just waiting to be discovered by anxious ears. Take The Entrance Band. With an old-school, psychedelic rock sound all their own, they easily garnered a huge crowd. Another band that gathered a big following was Manchester Orchestra. A unique indie sound and two amazing albums will make Manchester Orchestra a new favorite for fans of bands such as Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, or Silversun Pickups. Bonnaroo is especially adept at catering to all sorts of crowds. For those who are not as interested in newer music, John Fogerty, John Prine, guitar hero Jeff Beck, and funk king Stevie Wonder covered the camps with their timeless sounds. To get out of the blistering Tennessee sun, festival organizers offered a cinema tent and a comedy tent featuring Conan O’Brien and up-and-coming comedian Aziz Ansari, among others. Workshops stationed all throughout Bonnaroo taught visitors skills such as gardening, painting, and even instrument-building. Although it isn’t necessarily a place for children, the festival made sure there were plenty of things to keep the little ones entertained in the shade. If you dislike walking or heat, Bonnaroo might not be the festival for you; but if you are a fan of music, happiness, peace, having an amazing time 24/7, meeting thousands of people from all over the world, and making memories that you can hold onto for the rest of your lifetime, then you have a little less than a year to start saving up for Bonnaroo. Don’t forget the snacks for the seven-hour car wait.

Cornerstone 2010 Brandon Brown Don’t Wake Aislin

Cornerstone 2010 was awesome! This was our fourth year performing out there, and I can honestly say that it’s gotten better with each year. We camped right on the main road, so that we could meet as many people as possible. We played a total of five shows during the week, including an acoustic set Friday night (which we’ll definitely be doing again next year!), and a really fun set on the Encore Stage (where we debuted a brand new song from our upcoming EP). One of our songs, “Our Voices Are Vices”, was used as the soundtrack for’s videos that played between each band on the Main Stage. Even if people didn’t get a chance to catch one of our shows, they probably still heard our music dozens of times. Like always, we left Cornerstone sweaty, stinky, exhausted, covered in dust....and just waiting to go back next year!

photos by Ronnie Meyer

Written by Laura Ladymon Photo by Shaun Ladymon Warped minds think alike, and those minds congregated at Warped Tour this summer. Okay, maybe not all of us who went to Warped Tour have warped minds, but we certainly have good taste in music. Many of the best bands in punk, hardcore, metal, and even ska gathered together to create one of the ultimate festival tours of the summer.

merch, and acknowledge their audiences in a way that made us feel more like friends than fans.

One of the greatest thrills of the day is the opportunity to hang out with your favorite musicians. Before and after their sets, many of the bands spend time mingling with their fans, signing shirts, taking photos, and having a laugh. It’s fun for both the famed and the fans, and it gives newer bands the opportunity to gather new followers.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about Warped Tour is the atmosphere itself. People are surprisingly kind and friendly, despite the heat, humidity, and occasional downpours. Conversations spring up everywhere between polar opposites. I spent a fair amount of time talking to a guy who had more piercings than hair and a surprisingly softhearted manner.

Many of the smaller bands on the tour are there purely because of their fans. Before the tour, a nationwide vote takes place in which people can vote their favorite indie bands onto a stage at Warped. Others serve as “bbq bands,” meaning they hold a nightly barbecue for the rest of the musicians in exchange for stage time.

My least favorite act of the day probably proved just how kind everyone present truly was. Mike Posner was the only solo act and didn’t fit in the grand scheme of things at all. Even though his set of covers and laughable songs such as “Drug Dealer Girl” was thoroughly disappointing, the crowd stayed and didn’t boo one bit.

The rewards of being honored with play time on the Warped Tour are intense. Many bands skyrocket in popularity overnight. If your music appeals to an alternative crowd, Warped Tour is the place to increase your fan base. Take, for example, The Dropkick Murphys. This band started out as a bbq band years ago, and now they have worked their way up to being one of the main attractions.

Silliness is also a big component of the overall atmosphere of Warped Tour. I noted one intrepid young man wandering around wearing nothing but a strategically placed bandana and suspenders. By the end of the day he was joined by another young man wearing a Speedo and Vans.

Out of all the music artists I saw on the tour, two of my favorites were New Years Day and The Mighty Regis, both of which are indie bands on the verge of something big. Both bands seem born to greatness, since each took the time to greet fans, sell their own

Of the many concerts I’ve attended, this is one of the few that I describe as “epic.” The interaction between bands and fans, the general atmosphere, and the opportunity to listen to your favorite music and discover new talent is overwhelming. It’s a great day for all.

THE FAB RUDIES ROCK THE WARPED TOUR by Laura Ladymon The Fab Rudies just wrapped up its fifth Warped Tour, and by all means it was “a rockin’ summer,” as original member Tom Voris would say. This summer the band featured a revamped line-up that includes Kailyn Voris as the lead singer.

Kevin Lyman, founder and organizer of the Warped Tour, knows his stuff, and he knows The Fab Rudies are good stuff. The band members are hoping next summer will see them taking part in the entire Warped Tour, and they just may get to do so. After all, as Kevin said, The Fab Rudies are “on the crest of the next wave in alternative music.”

Kailyn may only be fourteen, but she rocks out admirably. For some bands, the fresh faces could mean a step back in terms of performance, but not for The Fab Rudies. Tom insists that with the new line-up, this Warped Tour has been one of the best he’s had. “Most of the rest of the band, The Fab Rudies...experienced their first Warped Tour and I’m proud to say that may be their greatest experience they’ve had so far,” he said. “A fun time was had by all!” The Fab Rudies took part in 12 days on the Warped Tour and didn’t waste a minute. When the band members weren’t tearing it up onstage they were enjoying the rest of the bands on tour. “We enjoyed meeting and seeing all the bands perform,” said Tom. “It’s worth being on the Warped Tour just to do that!” It’s definitely an honor to play on the same tour as The Dropkick Murphys, Eyes Set to Kill, Pennywise, and other bands that The Fab Rudies were excited to meet, but this modernized ska band holds its own onstage. With a high energy performance and a sound that sets it apart from any other band out there, The Fab Rudies commands attention.

photos provided by The Fab Rudies

From the outside looking in, Neile Jones-Batie might seem like just another television anchor sharing the news with viewers, but Look Again and you’ll meet a woman who has carried a secret...until now. Look Again...Because You Can is a rare blend of personal journey, personal commentary, and how-to tips from Neile Jones as a survivor of domestic abuse. —Kim Wells, Executive Director, Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence.

A V A I L A B L E O C T. 1 2 T H AT TAT E P U B L I S H I N G . C O M

the new album from

regie ha mm set it on fire

Write about what you are passionate about. You will hear it said time and time again that you should write about what you know. The thing is, though I know how to balance a checkbook and I know how to change my Facebook status, I am going to be bored to tears writing a book about those things. You need to write about what really gets your juices flowing. The topic of your book should make you smile every time you explain it someone. Writing your book should be fun to write. Because if it is fun to write, chances are that it will be fun to read.

There is no timetable for book writing. Unless you are a professional author who has signed an upfront contract, there is never a timetable on writing a book. We live in a microwave society and we expect things to be done instantaneously; but why don’t you just go ahead and put your book idea in a crock pot, let the juices simmer, and give it enough time to develop into something that is worth the time to read. For me, between New Year’s Eve 2005 and signing my Tate contract on New Year’s Eve 2009, I hit a lot of road blocks. I began by writing out my thoughts on what different chapters should be, and then I wrote the first chapter. And then I rewrote the first chapter for a year. And then we had a baby. It was difficult sometimes, but I cannot express to you the feeling of accomplishment that came over me when I finally finished my manuscript. It was well worth the time invested.

By the way, it reportedly took Tolstoy six years to write War and Peace. Can you imagine if he tried to rush that book? It would just be called War. How depressing would that be?

Never give up. It has been said that the definition of mediocre is to go halfway up the mountain and quit. There is a place in the French Alps called the Mediocre Inn, mediocre is actually French for halfway. Adventureseeking people set out to accomplish a goal of reaching the top of the French Alps. But roughly 80% of the people who stop at the Mediocre Inn end up descending back down the mountain before ever reaching the top. It is great to have a book idea. It is great to be passionate about a book idea. But in order to write a book, you must refuse to settle for mediocre. You must be part of the 20% who reach the top of the mountain. It is not easy, but nothing beats the view from the top. There will be people telling you that writing a book is a waste of time. There will be statistics telling you how difficult it is to make money selling books. But then there will be that voice inside of you that decides to ignore the naysayers and see your book out to completion. Listen to the voice inside of you. You will be glad you did. So, in closing, keep writing. Never quit. Because I can do it, so can you. There’s a book inside of all us. Look inside yourself and read it, and then write it down so that we can all read it too.






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Interview by Shaun Ladymon After getting down and dirty with their recent tours, Memphis May Fire is working on a new EP and a few surprises for their fans. Listen in as guitarist/vocalist Kellen McGregor give us some insight into their music, their lives as touring musicians, and what’s in their near future.

Your song “Ghost in the Mirror” was featured on the Saw VI soundtrack. What sort of response have you seen from that? We gained a lot of new fans who had never heard of us before because they stumbled across that soundtrack and checked us out. We put out a video for it as well, and it was featured on the Saw VI DVD. Sleepwalking has received all kinds of acclaim. What is the formula for such great success? I’m not sure what the formula is necessarily, but we have definitely worked our butts off for the past year and a half. I’d like to think that in a perfect world, bands who stay true to their beliefs and are passionate about their music come out on top in the end. You have a very unique yet well-rounded sound. What genre do you feel that you fit into? We’ve been categorized many times, but in the end we are always just “us,” so to speak. If it were anything, I suppose it would be rock with a modern spin. You guys recently finished a tour with Four Letter Lie and Broadway. What was that experience like? It was a lot of fun. All the guys in those bands are really rad! A day off relaxing in Vegas wasn’t too bad either.

What is the best part about being on tour? The best part of touring is getting on stage and giving all you have, not just physically but emotionally, and getting off stage and realizing it was worth it when someone walks up to you and tells you that you inspire them. What is the down side? Being broke and dirty, ha! Showers can be few and far between sometimes. Time zones are a nuisance too. How have you guys grown as a band since the release of your self-titled EP? Considering the hardships we’ve been through and the ones imposed on us by our previous members, I’d say we’ve grown up to put it simply. Things are somewhat the same in that I still write all of the music, but now we have more mature and solid members and everyone gets along well!  What do you strive to accomplish with your music? At the end of this band, I want to look back and know without a doubt that no matter how many records we sell, that I inspired someone to get out from under this world’s tight grip and do something positive with their life. What can we expect to see from Memphis May Fire in the near future? A lot of awesomeness! We are doing an EP and a full length and both will be awesome. In time fans will understand why we’re doing both, and it will make sense. Our next records are definitely going to be heavier, which is a conscious decision Matt and I made over the last year. We have a heaviness live that we want to push further, and we intend to do so.

The clock is ticking as the planetary alignment of Aquarius draws closer to the year 2012. Will America survive the devious plot of an international crime syndicate to destroy constitutional rights and usher in a global utopia?


WRATH 2011 & 1/2


WRATH 2011 & 1/2



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