Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory

We've been able to interview Burton C. Bell several times in the past, both for Fear Factory and Ascension of the Watchers, but this was the first time we've done an interview with him in person.  Not only was it amazing to finally meet him in person, but it was great to also pick his brain about the new music, touring, and his view of the current state of the world.  What we love about Burton is that he is genuine, intelligent, and not afraid to speak his mind.  He has a lot to say and a lot that he can teach people, and this comes through in his songs. 

Following is the interview we conducted at Fear Factory's New Jersey stop in support of their newest release, The Industrialist, in August 2012.  Feel free to comment and share with your friends.

You can view photos from the NJ show here: http://bit.ly/Pmqc3A


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Ripped is an independent band from New Jersey.  They've been playing local venues around the state for years, bringing their hard rock music and fun attitude to crowds large and small.  We sat down with guitarist Steve Keller and vocalist Steve Sroczynski to discus everything from local influences to physical versus digital album sales, the competition involved in being an unsigned local act, and other topics.

Check out the interview and make sure to hit up their Facebook page for more info.  And feel free to leave comments below.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Monica Richards

We've had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Richards several times, whether for her work in Faith and The Muse or for her solo work, Infrawarrior.  Her latest release, Naiades, is truly a work to behold: a full album of creative Underground music that is encased in a book of art and poetry.  In this interview, Monica talks about the hurdles she had to get past in order to put this album out in this form, her future plans in terms of more music and touring, and her collaboration with Steve Niles, comic book author and horror writer.


Photo credit: Clovis IV

Lisa Selvaggio: Naiades is truly an incredible product for music fans. The book is a piece of art in and of itself, and the music has taken Infrawarrior to a whole new level. But it took a lot of hard work to get this out, as anyone who has been following your website, blog, and social networking pages will already know. Why, in these trying times (especially for the Underground), did you decide to take such a drastic leap? Why not just put your music out on i-Tunes?

Monica Richards: Thank you so much for that. I just had to! I really wanted to make the release special, take it to more of a high art approach. Recalling how it used to be when you bought an album, I really felt that something is now so lost in just downloading music. I put a call-out on my FB page asking people to tell me about when they used to buy actual albums. One fan wrote that he traveled for 2 hours to get one, something people don't understand at all anymore. Music used to accompany a cover, lyric sheet, imagery, a concept that is full of sound and vision. The reviews have been wonderful, people seem to understand just what I wanted to do with this release.

LS: Can you describe the hardships you went through in putting out Naiades? Many fans contributed donations to help you, but that was just one of the hurdles you had to jump. Perhaps you can educate our readers on the importance of buying albums, not just MP3’s?

MR: My life had been thrown into major flux at the time I was writing the music; I was trying to build a little studio of my own which took time as well as money. As the book idea began to grow, I needed to formulate the work as a whole, find and pay artists and find the best way to get the book pressed. This was why I needed donations, to be able to get the release I truly wanted made, to not just settle for a simple CD. And now all of my donators have their name in the book forever, and they are part of its creation. The best feedback I've gotten is when fans get their copy in the mail and tell me it's like receiving 'treasure'!

LS: You’ve been an Underground artist for many, many years now. How has it changed, positively or negatively, in the time you’ve been in music?

MR: You know, in the end, I think the most important thing is my own relationship with my art. It's had major ups and downs. We artists have to keep finding ourselves as we go through our path in life, we have to flow with the storms that happen, grow, change, connect and reconnect with ourselves. And inside of all of that is business, how to be able to afford to do what we love. I have always called my music my very expensive hobby, and it just continues to be that! Technologies grow, change, we have to bend with them and ultimately be happy with what we do.

LS: The first Infrawarrior release had songs that touched upon Gaia/Mother Nature and the female power that coincides with Her. Naiades is focused on a mermaid theme, with artwork and lyrics discussing these mythological creatures. Why did you decide to take this direction?

MR: I was somehow focused on water, it just took me by surprise! You know when you do something but you don't know why, but it leads you onto new paths, new directions and then afterward you think "Aha, it was a good choice!" I was reminded of my Greek mythology background by Patty of Motherdance, while I was trying to find the right title for “Oreiades,” the live piece I sang on the end of my last EP, The Strange Familiar. This took me to Naiades and the water creatures of that era. I feel myself drawn to water itself, its power, its strength and beauty, its depths and overall - it's ability to transform - from liquid to solid to air… Then I read about the term 'Sea Change' and it really hit me that I was onto something. All songs lyrically have water, fluid imagery. “Pride:” "Past the faceless critics' fingertips, I swam against the current to keep from drowning…" or “Endbegin:” "When the oceans die, your tears will fill the rivers…"

Photo credit: Clovis IV

LS: Many of the songs also get into human emotions involved with falling down and picking yourself up, cycles in life ending and beginning again. What was your inspiration for the songs on this album; did the inspiration come from internal and personal experiences versus what you’re observing in the outside world?

MR: All of it came through my own personal experience. To find yourself realizing halfway through your life that you know absolutely nothing, and you can fall down into the darkness, or you can follow a different path and find happiness again. It breathed through all my work.

LS: One of my favorite tracks on Naiades is “LureinLay,” and on your http://www.monicarichards.com/naiades.htm site, you describe it as a “gut-wrenching classical song.” I’d agree, it is gut-wrenching, especially at the end. Can you delve into the meaning of that song, and why it is a passionate one for you?

MR: It's a very personal love song, actually, but it also morphed into deep self-realization. Finding your own truth, that you may indeed be nothing like you thought you were. Fans of Strange Boutique may find a familiar strain from the song "Glaciers Down" as well!

LS: Another one of my favorites is “EndBegin.” It really encompasses a lot of what your music offers: tribal, multiple vocal layers, a message about Nature, and haunting melodies. Is there anything about this particular track’s creation that you want to share?

MR: I had written the lyrics during the Faith and The Muse : ankoku butoh : sessions, and actually had begun writing it for that album, but realized it wasn't meant for that. I kept the words until they were ready to be matched to the right music, and the music for “EndBegin” came to me while I was driving one day. Somehow it all came together, very happily!

LS: I noticed that there were several lines from “Annwyn, Beneath the Waves,” in the booklet. What was your reason for incorporating this element from Faith and the Muse into your solo project?

MR: The use of water was incorporated through "Annwyn" so I did a bit of a callback. That song had originally been a poem, so I felt it was very appropriate to include it in its original form.

LS: Steve Niles helped you out on a few songs on Naiades. Do you have plans of working more on music together in the future?

MR: Steve Niles and I were punk kids from the Washington DC hardcore scene; we've known each other since we were 18. I'm so proud of him. He, like me, just kept doing his own thing, he's a self-made freelance writer, known for bringing horror back to comics. He co-wrote “The Tail of Two” and “We Go On,” as well as “Pride.” In one way there's been a new interest about what two old punks can make - something hard but also very lyrical and beautiful. We do plan on working together on more music, I want to start on some soundtrack work on his writing, just waiting for the right one…

LS: Any touring plans?

MR: We’re looking to tour Europe in September, possibly some one-off shows in the U.S. if we can afford to play. It's very hard to get people out to see live bands now; we'll see how it goes!

Photo credit: Clovis IV

LS: You mentioned on your Facebook recently that you may need to get back to writing more songs very soon, what with all the debates surrounding women’s rights in America lately. So, uh, how soon is “soon”? ::wink::

MR: Working on it, have had some personal life bumps in the way lately! It's such a clear sense of the turning of the wheel, more like a roller coaster ride, the way history moves up and down its own strange rhythm... guided by the rise and fall of Patriarchal belief systems. I am so shocked and stunned by what is going on, but at the same time not surprised, as extremists have been quietly moving into government to be able to change legislation. This doesn't change the truth of what is happening in the world though. Still every media outlet pushes girls to be sexy at younger and younger ages. We now have a generation of young girls who will have to deal with having their rights removed from fanatically religious state governments (who stand under pretense of not wanting big government in their lives telling them what to do). Reaction to reaction to reaction, a strange dance of extremes. I truly do wonder what will happen when they face these new laws... will they try to abort on their own? Will they travel to another state? Will there be a rash of deaths as girls panic under these new laws?

LS: Do you think your next release will be as involved as Naiades in terms of packaging?

MR: Not sure what I will do next, but I do plan to make each release special! I may try vinyl at some point!

LS: Do you have any plans in place to work more on the Anafae project?

MR: I do plan to but just haven't had a moment to continue on that.

LS: Anything you’d like to add that we didn’t discuss? Links to your projects?

MR: Just a big giant hug and thanks for the interview! Visit www.monicarichards.com

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mike Grosshandler

If you're a longtime reader of Paragon Music Magazine, you know that we have had the pleasure of featuring Mike Grosshandler, AKA Mike G, several times since we started the publication in 2003.  Mike has always been a humble yet immensely talented independent artist, and we've always enjoyed listening to his solo acoustic albums in addition to his work with his band, The Velmas. 

Mike recently released a brand new album titled Blue Skies Black, which is unlike his previous solo releases (read the interview below to find out why). 


Lisa Selvaggio: Blue Skies Black is your first solo release since your last album Wrote Myself back in 2004.  Any particular reason you took such a long break between releases? 
Mike Grosshandler: Well, after Wrote Myself, I released Station with The Velmas on City Canyons Records in 2006, and we promoted that for quite some time.  I was writing songs all along, though, and getting antsy about putting out new music almost immediately after Station came out.  I like to be releasing new music every year or two, at the longest, and it wasn’t happening with the band, so in 2008 I began working on Blue Skies Black. I actually finished mixing it in 2010, but I wasn’t as satisfied with it as I wanted to be, so I brought it to Tim Lynch at The Recording Company to help me remix it.  So that added some time.  Throughout the process, life happened (figuratively and literally – I’m now also a dad!), but over three years later, the album is finally out and I’m beyond excited to have some new music to show the world! 

LS: This record, like all your others, displays your immense talent for songwriting and instrumentation.  Are there any new musical influences that had an impact on the songs on this album?
MG: Thank you for the kind words!  Yeah, there are some newer influences on this record.  Of course, my love for Nirvana, The Beatles, Alice in Chains, and Type O Negative continues unfettered, but over the last several years I’ve also gotten more into Muse and Chevelle as well as some indie stuff like Death Cab For Cutie and Nada Surf.  I sort of rediscovered Harvey Danger as well.  All of those, plus nearly everything I’ve listened to in my life, has influenced this record in some way.  

LS: What makes this album different from your previous releases?  
MG: Well, for one, this album was conceived from the start as an “album.”  My other solo releases really began as a series of acoustic demos that took on a life of their own. But the obvious difference is that Blue Skies Black isn’t just acoustic guitars and vocals.  I went out and got six of my best drummer friends – Melanie Krahmer (Sirsy), John Brodeur (The Suggestions), Chris Fisher (Conehead Buddha, Brian Kaplan Band), Ricky Little (Split 2nd Alibi, Above The Flood), Tom Sposato (State of Nowhere), and Michael Maenza (The X's) – to play with me, and then I went and added bass guitar, acoustic and electric guitars, vocals, keyboards, and some hand percussion myself in my home studio. I even had a friend (Bill Scholl) add some live horns on Drive Me.
      There are a few songs on the album that would’ve worked as Velmas songs, but I was also able to explore and experiment a lot more than I did with them, style-wise, and try out some more grunge and indie rock stuff.
      One of the biggest thrills was to have Phil Taylor (from Future Leaders of the World and Machina) sing harmonies with me on “Status Quo.” I was a big fan of FLOW, so when he agreed to sing on one of my tunes, I jumped at the chance. His voice is huge and he brought that song up a level or four for sure.  

LS: What about lyrical influences for this album?  Did you draw from personal experience or just write songs with themes many people would be able to relate to?  
MG: Each song tells a little chapter or story from my life, with a couple exceptions where I thought it’d be fun to approach them more from someone else’s point of view. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the listener to figure out which ones. Some of them are about relationships – some old ones and some current ones. Some are more about how I felt about my life/situation at that point.  I even wrote my first “love song” of sorts in “Without You.”  

LS: How have things changed for you as an independent artist through the years?  We know of some artists who are creating albums with the help of donations from fans.  In your experience, is it easier or harder today than it was in the past (whether it has to do with cost, ability to promote, etc.)?
MG: In some ways, things have gotten a lot easier over the years.  Once upon a time, to make an album like this, I’d have had to spend a ton of money on studio time to record everything.  Thankfully, I know my way around Pro Tools, so I was able to do pretty much all of the recording myself except drums (since my little home studio isn’t quite big enough). That helped me save a ton of money on the whole process, so I didn’t think it was necessary to go the donation route. The hard part really is still to get people to pay attention to what you’re doing.  In many ways, the Internet and home studios have lowered the bar so much that it seems like everyone has an album out, so getting people to pay attention to what you’re doing is as much a challenge as ever, if not harder. How do I convince someone to check out my new music instead of that new funny viral video or whatever?  I did just shoot a music video for “Blue Skies Black” (the song), which should be released in the next few weeks, so maybe that’ll help! 

LS: Can fans anticipate you playing live to support this album?  If so, do you have anything booked as of yet, or plans to do so?
MG: I’ve been trying to put a band together to perform these songs out live, but it’s not there yet.  With all the other things I’m trying to do these days, finding time isn’t easy.  I’m still playing with The Velmas and I’m also in a new band, Above The Flood.  ATF is in the studio now recording a new EP, so that’s been taking up some time.  Someday, hopefully. 

LS: Where can fans purchase your music, and in what formats are you making it available?
MG: Right now, it’s available in digital download and, of course, on CD. A ton of places online have it, including iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon, Emusic, Rhapsody, Google Music Store, as well as a few local stores around Albany, NY, including The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza.  And you can always get a copy from me.  If for no other reason, pick up a CD for the album art.  It was done by Vince DePorter – the same brilliant artist who did the cover for Station.  He made me a rockstar superhero!  

LS: Anything else you’d like to add for our readers? 
MG: A big thanks to Paragon for always being so supportive of my music and independent music in general!  Please check out my website – mikegrosshandler.com – to keep up with my musical on-goings. And get in touch with me via email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.  If you like my music, I’d love to hear from you!  That’s what keeps me going.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Russell Allen of Symphony X

The Paragon Music Magazine staff sat down with Russell Allen, singer of Symphony X, for a bit before his show at Starland Ballroom in NJ in February 2011.  Russell discussed everything from the theme behind Iconoclast to his present views of the world, social media, NJ-based reality TV, and other fun topics. 

Always a great guy to interview, we have had the pleasure of talking with Russell in the past, so longtime fans of the magazine will remember previous interviews we have done with him. 

Check out the interview here, and feel free to share it with your friends.  And for more on the band, visit http://www.symphonyx.com/

Friday, February 10, 2012

Colin Davis of Vile

In our second interview with Colin Davis of Vile, he discusses his latest album, Metamorphosis, and how it differs from past releases, as well as his view of the world today, how he has personally matured and hopes others will do so too, and plans for the future of the band.  Fans who admire Colin's outspokenness about society will appreciate the responses he gave during this interview. 

For more on Vile and to purchase their music (buy the CD for the booklet of art and lyrics that comes along with it), visit: http://vilemetal.com/ 

Lisa Selvaggio: Metamorphosis is your latest release, and it took you over two years to create it.  How is this album similar and/or different from your past releases?   

Colin Davis: I guess it’s similar in that I am always very involved in the songwriting and creation of the music, but this album was really a solo effort on my part.  Since the band members are spread out all over the place, I took the opportunity to make this album exactly what I personally wanted, to take my time and to not compromise my personal goals for the album.   

LS: Many of the songs on the album are geared at awakening, consciousness, and awareness.  In what aspects of life do you think society really needs to accomplish being more conscious? 

CD: Well, there are a lot of spiritual concepts in the lyrics but it’s the kind of thing that mostly people on a personal path will recognize and be emboldened by.  What matters is that people allow their true selves to mature and manifest and that they follow their bliss because not doing so leads to extreme confusion.  When you do what you know to be right for you personally from deep inside, then nothing else matters, you have a grounding point, a place where the real “you” actually exists and manifests from and can be relied upon, always.  When this real you is found, explored, and honored, then personal consciousness evolves.  The more people come to know themselves, the more society matures as a whole.  Actually, every new civilization is a new way of seeing ourselves differently, and with each experiment we learn more about who and what we are.  

LS: You’ve always had a strong political stance, calling on people to realize the system in America is flawed and false.  You carry that message into Metamorphosis.  Do you feel anything has changed in the past few years, particularly since your last album? 

CD: Wow.  Yeah, New Age of Chaos was like the other prior albums where I left the lyrical content to Juan Urteaga, the vocalist.  And that last album was sort of an Islamic war/horror theme.  But all of our albums had some sort of lyrical horror theme.  Personally, I never felt that stuff myself.  So when I had the chance to do it myself, you see what comes out.  And even though the lyrics on Metamorphosis are very different and are personal creations, they represent how I was thinking when they were written, which was mostly 2007-2008.  My mind changes so often on these subjects.  They are snapshots from a certain place in time.  

LS: What is your reaction to new legislation that seems to keep being passed---or at least trying to be passed---in America that would inhibit our free speech?  I ask this to you especially because of the content of your lyrics.  You even address the N.W.O. in your liner notes.  Are you unnerved, fearful, or confident that the citizens will not allow these kinds of freedoms to be taken?   

CD: I was actually quite worried about it all at one time.  I used to blog about it on Myspace and study things like the 9-11 false flag events and related true horror stories and conspiracies, but right now, I am really past all of that type of fear.  You have to go through it to understand it though.  Those subjects are very worthy of exploration because they bring you to a new level of understanding. You have to face some fear to understand its source.  The source of the police state legislation is a part of our culture which has not been effectively addressed and purged, and the way we have put together our society has a lot of negative by-products.  These are psychic or psychological byproducts.  It’s left over from our Judeo-Christian heritage and the way we used to think about ourselves.   We have patriarchal concepts like revenge, and punishment, duty to god, and we use fear to control people and we arrange society into hierarchical structures for perceived efficiency.  It’s a way of seeing our world and our place in it.  The thing is that this time is ending and we are developing new ways of organizing and new ways of seeing ourselves.  The police state measures our unconscious reactions to that shift because for many who make the shift, those old tools don’t work on them anymore.  And that’s what happened to me, I lost the fear because I moved out of that way of seeing the world.  The only remedy for this is to raise personal awareness of the nature of reality up and out of that level of thinking.  It takes time and practice though. 

LS: We are currently going through the Republican Primaries in the U.S.  Ron Paul is running and his message seems to have reached a much larger number of people than ever before, yet he is still very far behind the other candidates despite their in-fighting and corrupt pasts.  Why do you think someone like Ron Paul isn’t doing as well as would be expected during these times? 

CD: If he was not being cheated left and right with polling and voter fraud and was given fair airtime, the response would be even greater.  But this is the game, it’s a rigged casino game and you can’t get a mafia boss to stop rigging the card tables, that’s what they do.  It’s all part of the awakening process, so it’s all good.

LS: In addition to your call to rise and change things, your lyrics allude to astrology and ancient spirituality.  What are some of the other influential factors or teachings that helped you write the songs on this album? 

CD: Those are the books and subjects I like to study.  Like you said, there’s stuff about astrology and astronomy, Mayan science, there’s Jungian psychology, mythology, etc.  I listed some of the influences that applied to the music and lyrics in the liner notes so people can look them up. 

LS: Because your message is so strong, do you get any resistance from listeners?  Do you receive negative feedback on, say, your social networking pages or in your email from people who don’t agree? 

CD: No, but honestly I think most people are getting the music online and are not getting the lyrics, and those that do buy the CD often don’t read the lyrics!  That’s just this style.  It’s mostly guys who don’t read lyrics that much.  I never did before.  But maybe some of the topics are too far out for people to criticize!   

LS: What are your future plans for Vile?  Are you planning any 2012 tour dates?  Do you foresee more albums in the future as well?

CD: I do foresee some touring, but probably not a whole lot.  We’re waiting to get something that is not going to break us financially and also is not terribly uncomfortable and long.  I just don’t care for those long grueling van tours anymore.  So we may do some shorter things in the U.S. and definitely a European tour or maybe two over time.  If we can get some stable offers from South America and other places we haven’t visited yet, I would be interested.  It just has to be the right package.  I may or may not make anymore formal albums; we will see how it goes.  Perhaps releasing music online is a more reasonable way to do it, we will see over time.  A live DVD is something I do want to do though. 

LS: How do you see the future panning out?  Do you think people will finally learn, or will the materialism of this country continue to distract? 

CD: The future will be like the past in that societal growth is different everywhere.  As far as America is concerned, it’s probably going to crash hard and that will be the wake-up call that a lot of folks need to have, but it will be ugly for many and it already is for many.  But I have a lot of optimism for people who are awake, doing personal work and developing new ways of seeing the world and themselves.  Many of our problems have been solved.  The question is who will commit to them and make them mainstream?  Also, it’s about our stories, like I was saying before.  We live inside stories or myths, which give us a map for life.  For many societies, the old myths are losing their power.  So now is about finding the new story for our time and making our lives in accord with that new story.  When that story is strong enough, a society will have stability. 

LS: Anything you’d like to add for our readers that we haven’t already discussed? 

CD: As always, thanks to those folks who have followed the band all these years.  It’s been a pleasure and I hope everyone enjoys the new album.  I recommend people listen to it a few times in different moods because it’s a concept album and it needs time to grow on you.  And, of course, follow your bliss.  That’s where the treasure lies!  But there might be a dragon guarding it, so be prepared.