See 'Quantum Quest' composer Shawn Clement at Comic Con
While the rest of the fine Hitfix staff is at Comic-Con in San Diego this week, I will be at the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain covering a film music conference. But as my small contribution to Comic-Con, I wanted to write about my recent day up at George Lucas's Skywalker Ranch in Marin County outside of San Franciso, where I watched composer Shawn Clement record his score for "Quantum Quest."
Clement will speak at Comic-Con on July 23 at noon on a panel dedicated to "Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey" with the movie's co-director and writer/producer Dr. Harry Kloor. The CGI-animated film is a fascinating hybrid of science fiction and science fact. The made-up story has elements of fact that are based on real data collected from seven NASA missions.
The film, sponsored by both the Jet Propulsion Lab and NASA, is the tale of a photon named Dave and his battle to keep from being destroyed by the Void. The Void, as you may imagine, is the evil force (in a nice inside joke, he's voiced by Mark Hamill). The Core fights the Void to save the solar system. In addition to Hamill, a number of other actors associated with Sci-Fi movies voice characters, Robert Picardo, William Shatner, Chris Pine, Brent Spiner and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Oh yeah, a real astronaut, Neil Armstrong, also appears.
But back to Skywalker Ranch. It was my first time there and I have to admit, I expected a bit of a theme-park feel: garbage cans shaped like R2D2, Yoda signposts, the "Star Wars" theme piped throughout or Indiana Jones sandwich in the commissary. I was wrong. Other than Lake Ewok (where there is no evidence of any ewoks) and a teeny tiny gift shop that you have to know somebody to figure out where it is, the ranch is elegant and understated (my favorite part was in what's referred to as The Main House, which holds a 13,000-volume library complete with a librarian. It's there, behind glass, that Indiana Jones' whip and fedora are kept, as are the light sabres from "Star Wars."
As you may know, scoring stages are disappearing around the U.S. as more and more scores are recorded in cheaper, non-union locales like Poland. Only three remain in L.A. at Sony, Fox and Warner Bros.; over the last few years, both Paramount and Todd AO shut down, according to Dan Goldwasser, who runs a very cool website, www.scoringsessions.com.
At Skywalker Ranch, the scoring stage feels grand and stately and like magic could and does happen there. When we arrived, Clement, in a cap and t-shirt, jeans and a plaid shirt, was in the booth watching a 77-piece orchestra bring his notes to life. There is something majestic about watching a conductor, with the fluid motion of a baton, bring a cinematic swell of woodwinds into the air. There's a constant flurry of activity between takes as the score is consulted and the conductor checks with Clements.
Scores are recorded a few bars as the conductor watches an action sequence over and over. So there were a lot of starts and stop, so the magic reoccurs over and over. The soaring, sweeping strength of so many instruments together is impactful and emotional in a way that few things are. With the change of direction from the conductor-such as making the piatti more of a crash than a slice-completely alters the mood. It's altogether breathtaking and humbling. It's easy to feel very small when you're surrounded by sound on a 70' by 80' sound stage.
To hear more about the score or Clement's other work, go see him at Comic Con. It will be worth your while.
Can you blame them? America wants this Jackson song out
In the no-surprise department, Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley of America hope that the newly-leaked Michael Jackson song that samples the group's classic "A Place With No Name" finds its way to a true release.
"We're honored that Michael Jackson chose to record it and we're impressed with the quality of the track," said the pair in a statement released late today. "We're also hoping it will be released soon so that music listeners around the world can hear the whole song and once again experience the incomparable brilliance of Michael Jackson."
The 22-second snippet of a song called "A Place With No Name" showed up on TMZ. Listen for yourself, but we swear he sings "A Place Without No Name," which would make no sense-or would be a place with a name. Regardless. We're intrigued enough that we'd like to hear more. No word on when the song was recorded, although TMZ reports that the group gave permission for usage of the song years ago.
As many of you recall, Michael isn't the only Jackson to declare himself an America fan (and, really, who isn't?). Janet Jackson had a huge hit in 2001 with "Someone to Call My Love," which sampled "Ventura Highway."
In related news, AP reports that a song LaToya Jackson recorded years ago about her family will be available July 28 on iTunes as a tribute to her late brother. Proceeds from sale of "Home," will go to AIDS Project LA, a charity supported by Michael Jackson.
Who else makes it into the Top 10 next week?
Daughtry's self-titled 2006 debut was the No. 1 seller of 2007, so we'd expect nothing less than for the band to come in at No. 1 with its follow-up, "Leave This Town" and it looks like the band won't disappoint.
Projections call for the title to sell around 260,000, according to Hits Daily Double to lead both Billboard's 200 and Hits album chart (which, unlike the Billboard 200, allows catalog titles).
On Hits chart, Michael Jackson, after two weeks at No.1, will still dominate the Top 10, holding down No. 2-4, 5 and 8-9, while on the Billboard chart, look for Daughtry to be followed by Maxwell, who drops from No. 1 to No. 2 with the extremely-well reviewed "Blacksummer's Night." Other likely debuts in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200 include "Horehound," from Jack White's new collective, the Dead Weather, and the latest from R&B's Joe. Fast-tongued rapper Twista may also slip into the Top 10.
Band returns to road today after two weeks of postponed shows
Sheesh! The tour is barely a month old and three out of five members of Aerosmith have already missed concert dates because of injury or minor (thankfully) surgery. These guys may need to connect with Springsteen's trainer to whip them into shape.
The body count starts with guitarist Brad Whitford, who missed the opening dates of the tour because of unspecified recent surgery. Filling in has been Bobby Schneck, who's played with the likes of Green Day and Slash.
Then, because there's no show if he's not healthy, Aerosmith postposed two weeks of dates, July 1-13, after vocalist Steven Tyler hurt his leg during a June 28 show at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Now comes word that Tom Hamilton will be off the tour for several dates as he recuperates from surgery. David Hull will fill in for the bassist. The good news is that Whitford rejoins the band tonight as it resumes its tour after the unplanned two-week hiatus in Lakewood Amphitheater in Atlanta.
No update yet on when the postponed dates will be rescheduled.
We bet it was the gorgeous Red Rocks setting that sealed the deal
Because fans of indie-leaning alternative acts (in spirit if not actual label affiliation) must not be feeling the recession at all, another music festival is coming your way Sept. 12-13.
The Monolith Festival takes place at Red Rocks, the gorgeous natural amphitheater in Colorado made famous by a slew of live concerts taped there, most notably U2's "Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky."
If the two days aren't enough for you, a kick-off party will be held Sept. 11 with the Cool Kids, Chromeo, Hot Tub and more. But it's only open to VIP ticket holders, media and winners of the Southern Comfort ticket promotion. Speaking of sponsors, Monolith is sponsored by Esurance.
Single day tickets are $52; two-day passes are $95. VIP passes are $210. Below is the full line-up.
Saturday, September 12
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down
Hollywood Holt + Million $ Mano
These United States
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Gregory Alan Isakov
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
The Answering Machine
Danielle Ate the Sandwich
Boulder Acoustic Society
Sunday, September 13
The Mars Volta
Method Man & Redman
The Dandy Warhols
The Glitch Mob
The Twilight Sad
We Were Promised Jetpacks
French Horn Rebellion
The Pirate Signal
A Shoreline Dream
The Royal Bangs
Red Wire Black Wire
Jim McTurnan & the Kids That Killed the Man
Would that be the sound of one hand clapping?
Casablancas recorded the eight-song CD, slated to come out this fall on Cult Records/RCA, in L.A., N.Y. and Nebraska (what has Bright Eyes started?) with producers Jason Lader and Mike Mogis. A tour will follow.
The Strokes, who caused all kinds of commotion when they emerged from the New York rock scene as some kind of saviors of garage rock. After its well-received debut, 2001's "Is This It," which NME named best album, the hoopla died down a little. The band has been on an "unofficial hiatus" since 2006, although Casablancas told Rolling Stone earlier this year that he and guitarist Nick Valensi were writing material for a new Strokes album. That album would now seem to be taking a back seat to "Phrazes."
Casablancas is not the only one traveling solo. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth will also put out his own CD this fall. "Mo Beauty" comes out Oct. 20 on Anti- Records. Ounsworth recorded the CD in New Orleans with producer Steve Berlin. One song, "Holy, Holy, Holy Moses," was written specifically for the Crescent City, but we're more intrigued by a song titled "When You've No Eyes."
Getting older isn't for sissies
Competing with cuter, younger, tighter 22-year-olds for men at nightclubs and in a dead-end job, all the protagonist hears is the steady drum beat of time ticking away, getting louder and louder with every desperate night that passes and she still hasn't married. It is all played out in a women's bathroom during a night out.
As Allen's lilting voice (over deceptively upbeat music) reminds us, "It's sad but true how society says her life is already over/until the man of her dreams comes along, picks her up and put her over his shoulder." Look for the part where dancing with a fella in the men's bathroom symbolizes another one-night stand that leads nowhere. Very subtle.
It's a nightly scene playing itself out nightly the world over, but Allen's sweet, vulnerable vocals and this poignant video bring it home in a refreshing way.
Does band have what it takes to sell another four million?
For those of us who didn't grow up in hipster outposts like New York or Los Angeles, the populist music of groups like Bon Jovi or Def Leppard in the '80s or Daughtry and Nickelback today provides a steady, comforting soundtrack. It was rock, but it was safe (the Ramones scared me when I was younger; luckily I made up for lost time after I moved to New York).
Critics like to dismiss such acts as "flyover favorites"-in other words, they're big in the red states, but the blue states are way too cool for arena rock. Meanwhile, such bands are crying all the way to the bank.
The total disregard for trendiness and the pride in their "every man" status is one big reason why Daughtry, the band fronted by "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry, sold more than four million copies of its 2006 self-titled debut. The other reason is the band delivered strong, melodic hooks with relatable themes on such chart burners as "It's Not Over" and "Home."
On "Leave This Town," Daughtry's second album, the band delivers more of the same but steps it up a notch with smart songwriting by the band's five members and some noteworthy guests, as well as graceful production by Howard Benson, who produced the debut.
First single, "No Surprise,"co-written with Nickelback's Chad Kroeger, is a fine, if somewhat plodding, opening salvo that sets the tone for what follows: a collection of pleasing mainstream rock tunes that never veer far from the middle of the road and deliver a consistent, safe dose of what we've quickly come to expect from Daughtry. Thematically, many of the songs revolve around such universal themes of regret or learning from past mistakes.
Influences sink in, but none are too shocking. For example, on "You Don't Belong," the band goes all Evanescence (without the female vocals, of course) with overwrought, dramatic melodies as Daughtry wails "I think you lied to me."
"Every Time You Turn Around" is nice and crunchy and would sound great coming out of radio speakers, same with bouncy rocker, "What I Meant to Say. "
'Life After You," also co-written with Kroeger, is a mid-tempo charmer about realizing, a little too late, about how good you had it. You can practically see the cell phones waving in the air in unison in concert as fans sway back and forth.
One of the loveliest tunes is "Tennessee Line," a country-tinged, stripped down, mid-tempo ballad the features background vocals by Vince Gill, who makes any song better.
Chris Daughtry has a pliant voice that serves the songs well. It's not a particularly subtle one, but the songs demand a strong presence and he provides it. He's particularly effective on "Open Up Your Eyes," a song about death and those left behind. Daughtry channels Live's Ed Kowalcyk here in both tone and subject matter, but still manages to make the song his own. (Oddly enough, it is that song, not "You Don't Belong," that was co-written with former Evanescence members David Hodges and Ben Moody).
I'm not sure "Leave This Town" will win Daughtry any more new fans, but with an existing fan base of more than four millions, the faithful will surely propel this album straight to the top of the chart.
What's up with that new record?
Aging frat boys unite: Limp Bizkit will play its first U.S. show in eight years for free at The Palms Casino's Pearl Concert Theater on Saturday (July 18).
Tickets will be handed out on a first come, first served basis on Saturday. The show is sponsored by pickRset.com, an online site that lets fans vote for songs they would like played by a band that will be incorporated into the set.
A new LB album, the group's first since 2000's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water," will come out on Flip/Interscope. A release date is still pending.
Oddly, it seems as if there will be no U.S. dates other than the Vegas show. When LB announced their reforming in February, the band laid out plans for playing European festivals but gave no U.S dates and none have been forthcoming. Our hunch is the band will smartly wait until the new album is out to even attempt to go back on the road in the U.S. Many of the European dates were festivals so LB does not know what its drawing ability to sell tickets on its own name is.
Is there a tribute show coming?
If you want to hold on to your ticket to one of Michael Jackson's 50 sold-out shows at London's 02 Arena-the run was supposed to start tonight-forget about getting a refund.
AEG chairman/CEO Randy Phillips defends the decision to not refund tickets unless fans turn in the ticket, as well as the selling of the "This Is It" tour merchandise to Billboard, simply saying, ""One thing I've learned in taking this job is you can't please everybody," Phillips says. "There will always be critics and skeptics and all that, but we did the right thing for my buddy. We buried him with dignity."
And to a large extent, we agree with the "dignity" part. The July 7 memorial service was to a large degree very tastefully done. Phillips notes that AEG decided not to sell merchandise at the Staples Center funeral, but I'm not sure if AEG deserves credit for doing the right thing there. They have to know that had they tried to shill MJ merchandise at his funeral, the storm that would have followed would have haunted them every time they tried to capitalize on Jackson's name at all.
Plus, they clearly have bigger fish to fry. Phillips tells Billboard that a decision is still being made on whether to release the memorial on DVD, although I will be stunned if they don't.
First off, 31 million people in the U.S. alone watched it, so there is clearly a demand for it-even if only a small portion of folks who watched the service here and abroad purchase the DVD. Secondly, any such action has to be done in partnership with Jackson's estate. All AEG has to do is frame it that the money raised from the sale goes to Jackson's three children and no one is going to object. Plus, last time we heard any credible report on Jackson's finances, he was more than $500 million in debt.
"There may be [some sort of release], but we really haven't thought about that," Phillips says. "We'd have to go back to the speakers and the artists and get their permission."
Plus, Phillips continues, "we wouldn't do anything without the estate...Michael was our partner in life, he's our partner in death through his estate."
And it sounds like there's lots of business to be done. Concert ticketholders have until Aug. 14 to request their refunds.
In the meantime, there are also discussions about a tribute show to Jackson taking place that would run through the Jackson concert as planned, just without Jackson. The dancers, musicians and singers are "kind of ...on hold," says Phillips, which speculation running that a show will occur on Jackson's Aug. 29 birthday.
It's looking more and more like AEG will not only recoup the $25 million it had invested in the shows, plus possibly make a windfall on ancillary merchandise and other offerings.
On a separate, yet related note, www.ctv.ca is reporting that hundreds of Jackson fans showed up outside O2 arena today to honor Jackson in what would have been the first concert.