Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thank You.

You'll have to bear with me. This may be a bit rambling but not like that shouldn't be expected.

I'm watching CBS News Live coverage (on Roku) of the passing of Prince. They just finished playing an older interview/profile from 2004. The reporter was jamming on stage. During his Musicology tour. Which was the one and only time I got to see him in person.

April 27, 2004. About 12 years ago. Stephanie (one of my best friends and another diehard Prince fan) made the drive for three-plus hours of that man running through most of hits. Impossible to do them all, because there were so damn many. But my God, what a show. The "Purple Rain" solo that night brought me to tears. Because I was so happy I was there.

To see the man who made fandom of music happen. I was listening to the radio at 8-9 years old. Thought there was some cool stuff. But, to quote John Wilkes Booth from the Broadway show "Assassins," the thing that summed it all up and blew it all wide open was "Let's Go Crazy." From there, I heard a cassette of "Purple Rain," front to back. And didn't look back.

The genius was already there. The fearlessness of what he would be willing to do - redefine an art form by curbstomping preconceptions and boundaries - was evident. He was a force of nature, recording and playing like it would all end tomorrow. It didn't for a long time. But it finally has.

The tears hearing "Purple Rain" solo in Jacksonville were from experiencing the culmination of my love of music in one spot, in one moment. All of the emotions he had brought in me throughout so many years and so many albums coming out at once.

Having my jaw drop hearing the "Purple Rain" record. Grooving along to "Raspberry Beret" and feeling the pure joy of "Paisley Park." The whimsical sexiness of "Kiss." The spirituality, razor-sharp funk, and maturity of "Sign O' The Times" - then the ultimate statement of love-as-spirituality of "Lovesexy" (a philosophy I carry into my current marriage with the love of my life). Worlds colliding when Prince took on the soundtrack for "Batman." Making another statement and showing he just didn't give a damn about anything other than enlightenment with a daring sequel, "Graffiti Bridge." Pumping out "Diamonds and Pearls" to show he could still run with the radio crowd in his sleep. "The Opera" - his symbol-titled album - that not only dripped with sex and an undercurrent of menace, but also produced his "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the form of "3 Chains O' Gold." "Papa," a strong statement about recovering from an abusive childhood. The celebration of his marriage and realizing his dream of love during his (and my) first marriage with "Emancipation" (if both of us had only known better). Hearing history and alternate realities on "Crystal Ball." Hearing him finally come together with another icon - Chuck D - on "Undisputed." Getting back to basics on "Musicology" and then making the mainstream realize he wasn't going anywhere with "3121." Letting us all hear what a guitar really sounds like when it Gently Weeps at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Leaving no doubt to his genius or power at the Super Bowl.

So many feelings he's brought about for decades, but the prevailing one being of hope. Of redemption. That love is alive with the right outlook. That rock and roll will always be alive and it came from Minneapolis.

I'll never be able to thank Prince enough. For my love of music that he helped birth. For friendships that will last forever because of his music. For the love of my life that he helps me feel stronger about each day and reminding me that "She Gave Her Angels."

Your music will live on, at least with me. Because so much of it has defined me and made me who I am.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Dish on Leaves' Eyes

Man, I kinda miss doing this sort of thing on the regular. But there's no way in hell I could again and it would probably get kinda boring after a while. It's only once in a while when people like this in bands like this do things like this.

Seriously, I haven't had something like this to sink my teeth into since Tarja was booted out of Nightwish. And even that wasn't this good.

So, a couple days ago (for those keeping score: April 16, 2016), Leaves' Eyes announced on their official Facebook page that they had parted ways with their singer for the past 13 years, Liv Kristine, and were moving forward with another singer, Elina Siirala. Rather suddenly, mind you - like, no one saw this coming. Other than, apparently, Kristine. And possibly Siirala. And keyboardist/vocalist Alexander Krull. Also known as Kristine's husband.

Oh yeah. This is gonna get good.

Go back to that Facebook post linked above for a minute and pore through some of the comments. Some typically, understandably disappointed folks. And some who suspect there's more than meets the eye. And not another Michael Bay Transformers fiasco.

Here's one particularly damning missive: "What I see here is just another band who doesn't give a fuck about their fans, who puts money on the first place and worst who doesn't have any respect towards a member who is undoubtedly the reason of its creation and development. It disgusts me to see none of you, Leaves' Eyes members, have consideration towards Liv's effort and struggle as a woman not only in the Metal scene but in life. It's clear to me that none of you embodied the lyrics of the beautiful songs you had the amazing opportunity to bring to life. It is as if all the history you created was nothing but a damn lie. With this I say you lost a fan, for me, as the type of human being I am, cannot be conniving with such behavior, with such display of rudeness and bitterness. "FAREWELL, UNPROUD MEN"!"

A kinda-but-not-really-nicer version: Well folks... turn in your tickets and just don't support this band. Seems like something shady went down. Go "like" Liv's page in support of her. No disrespect to the new singer but Leaves Eyes needs to change their name because it was based on Liv. This band will now drown fairly fast.. let's all sit back and watch!

I could pull more but it's the comments that are no longer there that are the most telling. We now go to Wikipedia for more of the story (with pertinent pieces in bold, because like Mark Henry that's what I do!):

Kristine's departure sparked controversy with fans, especially after the individual band members (including Alexander Krull, Liv's husband) initially refused to comment on the situation, and acted as though nothing had changed. The band became antagonistic towards fans and their upset comments on the band's Facebook page, sharing a threatening status written by a member of Siirala's band EnkElination, who wrote "I've now noticed more and more that the so called 'fans' of the metal genre are nothing more than a bunch of self entitled, spoilt shits that feel bands must pander to them, explain all of their actions, and are not allowed to continue with a new vocalist if for whatever reason their vocalist should depart the band.[...] those of you who feel the need to give their shitty opinions towards my friend(s)... come voice them with me first... I'll give you something to be upset about". Fans replied saying they had no problem with Siirala's addition, praising her talents (and indeed said they felt sorry for her and supported her for having joined the band under such circumstances), and were surprised at the unprofessionalism of the post. The issue was further complicated when Kristine's father Henning Bloch commented on one of the band's photos, saying "Leaves Eyes [without] Liv Kristine? Tell the truth about what you did to Liv Kristine!" Bloch went on to allege that Krull had had an affair with Siirala and had fired Liv as a result, causing Kristine to become stuck in the couple's home, as she could not leave with her children for fear of judicial repercussions. This was denied by Shad O. Venger, guitarist for EnkElination, who claimed that the rumours were entirely false, the account claiming to be Bloch was fake (although fans pointed out that Krull himself had verified it in the past) and that Siirala barely even knew Krull before her hiring. Kristine's brother in law Rune Gunnar Stensoy also came forwards and said that while Krull's relationship was his own business, the rumours about Krull treating Kristine poorly were all true, implying that Siirala would be treated poorly as well.

On April 18, the band released another statement explaining that "[t]he decision to part ways with Liv was taken by all Leaves’ Eyes members, including Liv. A mediator - a friend of Liv and Alex - was at the band meeting who can witness that the decision of parting ways was agreed by all members. Liv was happy to have the opportunity to plan changes in her future life and she does not have to go on tour so much anymore. The idea to go separated ways came up already in January. Elina was no part of this decision or process." The group then mentioned that they couldn't go into more details due to ongoing legal actions, but asked fans to respect the decision and not spread false rumours about Liv and Alexander, as it was "affecting their family situation". The reaction to the post was mixed to skeptical, with many fans saying they would have preferred the band to have made this post earlier (instead of the derogatory and inflammatory statements the band originally made) and pointing out that the band had still not addressed the accusations made by Bloch and others. That same day Kristine posted a statement of her own, thanking fans for "warning" her about postings written to harm her and her situation and said that she had been fired from the band a week previously (directly contradicting the band's statement of the issue being broached in January). She also said that the band had told her she would not be touring with them in Indonesia, although they did not give her a clear answer about a replacement until a few days later, when she saw Siirala's surprise addition to the band. She also mentioned that her departure from the group was "parallel to a huge disappointment in [her] private life", and that she had been unaware that Siirala had been preparing to join the group since at least Easter of that year. The band countered these accusations by saying they would release the notes from the January mediation and that the "truth would come out in the end".

Krull and Siirala on tour in Indonesia this weekend

I could also talk about how pictures can say a thousand words, but this ain't TMZ or Pop Sugar or any of that garbage. And quite honestly, neither am I.

I understand this may countermand my entire identity as a Blogger who's dying for hitz, but a few moments ago - after digging through all of this to get the facts of the story - it hit me that this started sounding like any other gossip site. And you know what? Not interested.

That part of "music journalism" (he says, with a laugh) used to be fascinating. Nowadays, not so much. I don't feel like pointing a finger at these people and Gawking (see what I did there?) at their personal lives and what effect it's had on their band. There will be things that I have a greater opinion and will want to go more in-depth about, but this stopped being one when I realized how seedy I felt talking about it in this much detail.

I'm interested in this story as a casual observer. Nothing more, nothing less.  Because as soon as I heard about it, something felt off. Long story much shorter than I started to do: Looks to me like Krull was banging Siirala, fell in love, promised her a gig with his band, and ejected his wife to have the flavor of the week on board and out front. I'm sure that divorce will be fun.

But breaking all of that down like a second-rate E! correspondent and gleefully going over ever lurid detail, feeding today's outrage culture? Not so much.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The New-ish

And now, the new stuff. New to myself and you, really. Not a long screed by any means, but just wanted to get it out. And that's what this thing is for now.


I finally saw this video for the first time last night. Stumbled across it looking foir something else, really. Remember when the song came out and how (kinda) big it got.

My prevailing thought, upon finally seeing it?

Damn, but they wanted this girl to break out like Gwen Stefani did. 

"This girl" is Monique Powell, by the way. And I'm sure that label would have killed anything to make her into the kind of star that Stefani already was at that point.

I had to fact-check myself because I wasn't 100% sure of the timeline. No Doubt was starting to gain momentum in 1995 with "Just a Girl" and "Spiderwebs." Then "Don't Speak" happened in 1996 and that popularity friggin' detonated. You couldn't sneeze without hitting them on MTV.

"Come on Eileen," the above video? Came out in 1997.

I stand by my theory.

Two of the One-Two Punch

And now, because I already had it in the can, the second bit I shared with Boman but no one else. Until rioght now. Also slightly outdated, but a little fresher since the FX series just ended.


June 17, 1994. I was working at a movie theater in Daytona Beach, FL - the late, lamented Volusia Square 8. I walked into our breakroom/tiny-locker-and-changing-room to find several co-workers hovered around a small television set. There was live feed of a white Ford Bronco driving gingerly down a freeway with what looked like several dozen police cruisers following it. Not close enough to be escorts, but not nearly fast or urgent enough to be a pursuit.

I asked no one in particular, "What is this?"

One of them responded, "OJ Simpson is in the Bronco. The police are following him home to arrest him for murder."

I looked at the screen for another few seconds, processing this. Then I started laughing. Uproariously. It immediately made my top 5 list of funniest things I had ever seen (up to that point). The mental image that came to mind - and the immediate comparison - was that of an old Warner Brothers cartoon where they were showing a bad guy's "secret hideout," only it had every neon sign imaginable pointing it out. The secret was completely blown. How secret could it be if everyone in the world knew where it was? What suspense was there in this farcical chase when everyone knew where he was headed and what would happen?

The whole thing rushed by like a series of catchphrases and highspots. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia Clark. Robert Shapiro making minimal but "Look-there-he-is!" appearances. "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit." Grandstanding for any camera available. The Trial of the Century, now a television mini-series that's only slightly dramatized in comparison to the glitz, glamour, and pageantry that went part and parcel with the case of People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson.

Famous people playing famous people. John Travolta himself (a producer of the series, natch) playing Shapiro. That guy from "Friends" showing how the seeds were planted for the Kardashians to become the American Royal Family. Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. as the suspect in question. Nathan Lane. So many more. An all-star cast recreating an all-star cast. A big production of a big production.

During the mini-series currently airing on television, several remarks have been made by some of the players in the case about "this is something big" and history being witnessed. These points are valid, as the trial of OJ Simpson may have been the watershed moment that America was finally and firmly seduced by the celebrity culture. We'd certainly flirted with it in the past, as Marilyn Monroe's death was one of the longest reigning water cooler topics behind who killed JFK, the Berlin Wall, the attempt on Ronald Reagan, and so many other actual instances in history. The lifestyles of the rich and famous were a distraction before OJ Simpson. After that trial, they were paramount in the lives of Americans.

The country already knew politicians were fallible and sometimes half-crazy, but celebrities were who we wanted to be. A Pipe dream. After that Bronco led the police on a casual tour of Los Angeles, America realized that these demigods of stage, screen, gridiron and music were just as fallible and crazy as any of us. Which meant that any of us could be that famous given the right circumstances. Those circumstances would come later in the forms of reality television (which begat the American Royal Family) and social media. But Simpson, his cadre of television-friendly attorneys, and the prosecuting team happily thrust into the spotlight begat that entire obsession.

Over twenty years later, issues of health care and strengthening our nation take a backseat to what celebrity made a controversial tweet or what nightclub the Kardashians showed up at. One of the leading candidates to run our country is a celebrity himself - a business mogul who parlayed his successes into a reality show for NBC and became famous for a catchphrase dashing the dreams of regular folk who appeared on said show. A lot of bluster and bravado, showmanship rather than intelligent discourse. That what this candidate has brought to the competition to determine the next leader of the free world. And thanks to the circus that surrounded OJ Simpson over 20 years ago, America wouldn't have it any other way.

One of the One-Two Punch

Yeah, this space is no longer for rent. That was deleted a while back. This is why


I wrote a couple (literally, as in 2) things that I shared with my pal Ryan Boman. Practicing for an opportunity that may come soon. It's about time I use this for things that don't go anywhere else. This is one of them. It's also a little out of date now, but the general idea still feels relevant to me. So, here's this:


Watching the drama in San Bernardino, CA unfold in real time. Hell with any action movie or scripted TV thriller - nobody's beating CNN when it comes to suspense right now.

They must be loving the ratings. If you listen very closely, you might be able to hear Wolf Blitzer pleasuring himself in a bathroom right now. Stories like this is what he and his network live for. They'll deal with the aftermath later with all the subtlety and tact of a bulldozer laced with explosives.

Because as much as they put the sympathy face when the cameras are rolling, they could give a damn about the lives they'll trample over on their way to getting the story. To many people want to hear gritty details for them to be concerned with the privacy and damage done to the loved ones left behind. Why bother with a select few when the masses demand entertainment?

And please make no mistake - that's what this is. Facts? Journalistic integrity? None of that matters where real money are involved. And the ratings from an incident like this surely means bank. They probably can't wait to unleash the "T"-word (terrorist) because that's another buzzword that opens the cash drawer. That word guarantees the story continues because what better way to get the masses to tune in than scare the entire hell out of them?

Matter of fact, no lie - Literally as I type this just now? Wolf Blitzer just said - and I quote - "Police cannot confirm or deny this was a terrorist act." Translation: We REFUSE to let that idea die!

The reason they refuse to let that word go. - and others like it, such as Muslim, abortion, Christian, controversy, mass shooting and much more - is because they want to "spark discussion." A bald-faced lie. In an age of political correctness where offending someone is as easy as putting on a sweater, that controversy is fuel to them. Let the masses argue amongst themselves and use social media as an excuse to harass and bully each other. Keep them to busy to notice how much money they're donating to our corporate cause of keeping us rich and then stupid.

I should be watching this thinking, "All those poor victims." But I can't. Because I've been witness to how the media tramples lived for the sake of a dollar. And it's happening again in San Bernardino.