Music Morsels - February 2000
|CROSSROADS.......... Steve La Cerra by Mark E. Waterbury
Pivotal moments in musicians careers propelling them from obscurity to infamy
(As appearing in the February 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
It's not too often that people get to realize many sides of a dream. One of those lucky individuals is Steve La Cerra who has been successful as a music journalist, a sound engineer and producer, and an accomplished musician. A native New Yorker, Steve really was bit by the music bug at a young age as he watched his cousin play the drums. "I was only eight years old and that really impressed me," Steve recalls. "So I started taking lessons and it just kept evolving. I never stopped and I had my mind made up by the time I was a teenager that I wanted to make music my career, despite the best efforts of those who loved me to convince me otherwise."
Steve started gigging as a drummer in bands for money when he was fourteen years old. One of his high school bands wanted to make a recording so Steve tinkered with the engineering process involved with that, which led him to study audio engineeri ng at New York University. He then did some engineering for several local area bands, as well as playing drums for the band Dagger. La Cerra also provided some production work for Joe Jackson, and in 1993 he lost a job teaching audio at a school that went out of business. A friend of a friend hooked him up as a fill-in drum tech for Blue Oyster Cult, which turned into a live mixing job in 1995.
La Cerra also is the senior editor of EQ Magazine, an industry magazine aimed at producers and recording musicians. But musical performing and songwriting was still in Steve's blood. "I did a new age project called "One Step At A Time" which happened from noodling in my studio. At the time, I put together some equipment and was toying around with an idea or two. The next thing I know I had a song, then I had two or three, and I realized I actually had enough to scrape together songs for a CD. I felt I had to do another one and that's how "Flight" took off." Steve's newest release "Flight" is starting to create more ripples from those already created by "One Step At A Time." "It expresses musically what I feel emotionally. I think the songwriting is memorable and has sensitivity without being wishy-washy. And I'm happy where it's at. I really can't think of anything I want to do over which is rare for me."
A tour is possibly in the works with the band that Steve assembled for the CD. Despite the frantic pace of sound engineering, the B.O.C. tour and editing EQ, Steve's passion for music is something he wants to thrive. "I've already started collecting ideas for a third CD. I'm trying not to dive into it to quickly because I want to give this CD more attention by getting the word out. But I'm keeping a sort of audio catalog of ideas as I get them."
|INDUSTRY PROFILE - A&R Bandit Publisher John Wightman
by Mark E. Waterbury
(As appearing in the February 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
Born and brought up in England, John Waterman was a music lover who was drawn more to the technical and business side of the music industry rather than the creative facet. "I can't actually play an instrument and I've got a bloody awful voice," John muses. "I like a large range of music from opera to punk. I don't know anything in depth about it, but I like examples of any type of music." In the mid 60's, John had his first music job by managing a school pop band when just graduated from school himself. He also explored the engineering side of the business, eventually setting up a small mobile recording unit. He wound up recording a successful record for a musician, and as a result, decided to start his own label - Solent Records - in 1970. "It's a challenge to make an impression with the public at large trying to entertain people. From the record label point of view, you have to make the bands sound as close to a commercial product as possible."
Over the next nineteen years, John would produce over a hundred albums in numerous genres. In 1989, he decided to purchase a fledgling newsletter called Bandit A&R. "I had the record label so contacted the chap who ran the newsletter and he did a feature on my label. We came to know each other and after a few months, he told me he was managing a singer who was going places and wanted to devote all his time to that. He asked me to take over his newsletter, and I said, 'yes'." When John took over, the newsletter only had twenty subscribers. It was aimed at helping the creative indiviuals and bands in music to find ways to get their materials to the proper companies or persons to help them achieve success.
Until 1995, John ran the paper as a part time project, having a good job in telecommunications. In 1995, John took an early retirement and began to work full time on Bandit, and he watched the publication grow at an increased rate over the next four years. The number of feature articles has doubled since the newsletter's inception, and he is now publishing a dedicated U.S. edition. "I had a contact in San Francisco that did some free-lance research for me so I found that I was getting a lot of inquiries from America taking up part of the newsletter that was ninety-nine percent U.K. based. So I started an edition to attract more subscribers to the U.S. edition, and it's been more popular with people outside the U.S. trying to get deals inside the U.S. then with those who live in the U.S." John still runs Solent Records, working extensively with publishing for the label.
Down the line, he would like to see Bandit's internet downloading capabilities improve. John loves all facets of the business from the research, editorial and production of the newsletter to the marketing and advertising of it. But a recent e-mail from a Russian living in Malta, thanking him and his newsletter for helping him get into position to secure a deal with a major U.S. label is one of just many reasons why John loves doing this. "One of the most pleasurable things about running Bandit is the regular messages I get from subscribers saying how they have made a deal or got a favorable response for the first time in their lives." ~~~~~To subscribe to the A&R Bandit Newsletter, visit the web site at http://www.banditnewsletter.com
|UNSIGNED ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - Deonne Kahler of Bhoss by Mark
(As appearing in the February 2000 issue of Music Morsels.)
In San Francisco a couple of years ago, songwriter Deonne Kahler was looking to put a band together. She first met up with another songwriting guitarist, C.L. Lane, and the soul of bhoss was conceived. The birth of the band was completed when bassist Sara Kelleher, keyboardist John Brevik and drummer Chipley Trombley joined, and the band set to record their debut CD "Trust Me". With an emotive approach to hard driving melodic rock, the music has already gained the band attention in several parts of the country, thanks to help in the press, radio airplay, the internet, some exposure in television shows and of course some very good music. Deonne shed some light on how bhoss began and where it may be headed
MM: What inspired you to pursue music?
DK: I was singing for a long time. I wasn't in a band or anything, but I was singing. Everyone says, "I've been singing since I was very very young", and I was! Always singing to the radio, that kind of stuff. Singing in chorus in elementary school, and then in high school I got involved with a musical group, and it progressed into a professional group that did 30's and 40's tunes in San Diego. I did shows in college, too, but it was never a rock and roll thing, more like musical theater. In my early twenties I was listening to a Madonna song, and I thought, "I can sing better than her!" I've always written poetry, and I think it was an Indigo Girls song that I heard when I figured, I can do this. That was the impetus, hearing other people and thinking I can do that. So I picked up a guitar and all of a sudden, songs started coming out.
MM: What type of music did you like listening to?
DK: Even to this day, the Broadway soundtrack of "Ain't Misbehavin'" is still one of my favorite albums of all time. But I was a total rock and roll girl. I was listening to AC/DC in junior high, VanHalen, Cheap Trick. But the stuff I was singing was much more singable. I couldn't really sing like (Bon Scott). (Laughs) 40's and 30's stuff was definitely more my vocal speed, but I'm a rock and roll kid.
MM: Did you start writing songs before you formed bhoss?
DK: Yeah, I started writing some really bad songs, and then they started to get better, thank God. I just began playing the guitar, and it was literally a few months later that I learned how to sing and strum at the same time. Once that happened, I had to get a band going. So I put the word out and that's how I hooked up with C.L., the guitar wonderchild. So that was a very good thing.
MM: Did the style of the music you wanted to do mesh right away?
DK: We had a Vulcan mind-meld because C.L. and I really hit it off well personality-wise, and then the musical combination turned out really well. It was just really good timing. We both wanted to do this melodic guitar driven pop rock stuff. She heard my rough songs, and thank God she heard something in them and said, "Oh yeah, I can do something with this." So it worked out well. I come up with the basic song structure, all the lyrics and the melodies , sort of rough it out, bring it to her and then we work it out.
MM: Is your writing spontaneous, as if something affects you and you just feel the need to write a song about it?
DK: Definitely. I think the best songs for me anyway come out of a spontaneous emotion or event. I wrote a song called "Never Let It Go" after the O.J. Simpson criminal trial. I was so appalled by it. Like everyone else I was glued to the television. I thought I was becoming really cynical in that moment when he was acquitted, and I had to write about it. It was a two and-a-half minute song, but it all came out of that moment. And lots of the love stuff. I wrote alot about lost love or lost time. It's all about me sitting around (Laughs), having an emotion or mulling things over. I never sit down and think, "Maybe I should write a song about Siberia." (Laughs) I don't do that, maybe I should but I don't.
MM: Have you played out live much yet?
DK: We haven't played beyond the Bay Area yet. We've been more successful with the radio play, and we've received some really good press in national magazines. The CD packaging is unique, so we got a huge amount of press about that. We had great articles done in Music Connection and Electronic Music magazines. We also had some songs on television programs, and that's good money but it didn't really make people as aware as the articles did. With the live thing, everyone had all these other projects going on. Then the whole radio-TV-press thing just had a sort of momentum of its own. We'd definitely like to tour farther out. It just hasn't been in the cards for us. I think with the second album we may make more of a push for that. We're like Steely Dan, kind of a studio project. But I love to play live and so does C.L.
MM: Are you already writing songs for the next CD?
DK: Yeah, they're really not to the arrangement phase yet, but I've got seven or eight done. I think they are better than the first CD, a progression.
MM: What's your fan base like? Have you seen it grow some in your short existence?
DK: I have no idea how big it is, but it is growing because I get e-mails pretty regularly from people who read about it or want to buy the CD after seeing the press. We get a lot of comments that the songs are pretty well thought out, that we put a lot into the arrangements. They like the lyrics, and they feel that the vocals are very heartfelt. They get drawn in by the down to earth vocals, and they like C.L.'s guitar work, too. The CD is pretty much nationally distributed, and I know every band says this but we seem to do good everywhere but here. (Laughs) Bakersfield loves us, and people in the south, the eastern seaboard and Michigan love us. But here, I don't think we're hip enough for San Francisco. You have to have a punk ethic, or you have to more obscure or the whole no depression thing, which I like but that's not what we sound like.
MM: What's your personal definition of success, and do you feel Bhoss can achieve that success?
DK: I just got an e-mail from a woman that just bought the CD, and said, "That song "Mother Daughter" is really haunting.It really touched me and I know exactly what you mean." And that is the only reason I write songs, other than self-expression, is to have someone say that I wrote a song that applies to their life. That's just amazing. It's really incredible to me, speaking for myself...C.L. is different than I am. She's much more about trying to do something interesting musically in sort of a broad sense, where I'm much more about getting the emotion across with the lyrics and the vocals. So success for me is just about touching the listener, which is a huge cliché, but it's true. I don't have any sense of monetary success. Certainly, I would like more people to hear the music. I think we're radio friendly enough that we could take the music on a bigger scale if everything fell into place and we were ready to do that.
For more information on bhoss, please visit their web site at http://www.cdbaby.com/bhoss
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