Michael Cavacini

An award-winning arts and culture blog.

Archive for the month “May, 2013”

Arrested Development Season 4 – The Final Countdown

Arrested DevelopmentThis Sunday, after being off the air for seven years, Arrested Development returns for a fourth season exclusively on Netflix. The 15 episodes total 8.5 hours of what’s sure to be comedic gold. To get you pumped for the new season, below you’ll find a trailer for Season 4 and a video compiling 200 of the best quotes from the show’s first three seasons. Enjoy!

A Conversation With Michael Des Barres – Part 1

Michael Des Barres 2I recently had the opportunity to speak with one of my favorite musicians and actors, Michael Des Barres. Many of you may know him for his role as the sinister Murdoc on the TV show MacGyver. Others may know him from his tenure as lead singer of Silverhead, Detective and The Power Station. While music is Des Barres’ main priority, he still makes time for acting, including his recent role in the wonderful film California Solo.

Below is part one of the interview. Stay tuned for parts two and three. And at the end of each part I’m including live clips from Michael Des Barres’ concert in New York City on March 7, 2013 at the Bowery Electric. I was in attendance, and it was an awesome show. Enjoy!

Hello, Michael. You recently announced your new radio show, Roots and Branches. How did this come about?

I had a relationship with David Lynch because I had done Mulholland Drive with him when it was a TV show. And what happened was he cast me to play the bad guy in the pilot for a TV show for ABC but ABC passed on it because it was incomprehensibly Lynchian, ya know? (laughs) So, a couple years go by and he invites me to the premiere and I realize I’ve been absolutely cut out of it and replaced by these two chicks fucking. And I thought, oh man, this is very exciting, but where the hell’s my footage? (laughs) So, we’ve had a relationship for a while. 

But he’s got this amazing TM (transcendental meditation) movement going, and he just created this network, Transcend Radio, and he’s contacted people and asked them to produce some content for that and it ended up my door. And I came up with a show called Roots and Branches, which is essentially about influences, where lots of musicians got their influences and passed it on to the next generation, and the next generation. I deal mainly in American blues music and also the edginess of  Manhattan rock and roll, heroin rock and roll, I call it – the psychosis of rock and roll. So I do various genres. I play a song and then I play a song that was obviously influenced by that song or artist, hence the title Roots and Branches, because it’s very important for me. And I do it in the vein of Stevie Van Zandt, who flies the flag of the lineage of rock and roll, the history of rock and roll, soul, pop, and rockabilly, and all of the wonderful music that is, in a sense, threatened by extinction today because of the advent of technology.

If you can see relationships between artists, you can go deep into it and that’s what I want to create: A sort of atmosphere of research, ya know? You start at Zeppelin, then you back to the blues and where that came from. You listen to Jack White and then who influenced him, and equally groundbreaking musicians that inspired them. And it becomes this enormous organism, and hopefully an enormous orgasm (laughs). 

I recently read Rod Stewart’s autobiography, and in it he talks about how his music as well as other artists’ music, including The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, was influenced by the blues. What was it like during this time period?

I was in the clubs at the time you’re describing with Mitch Mitchell saying to me, “Why don’t you come see me play with this black bloke?” And I did, and it was Jimi Hendrix. I was there in London at the birth of the skinny rock and roll dudes being inspired by the blues. It was a phenomenal hybrid, which I’ll explore deeply in my show. It’s why working working class English boys and girls would turn to the oppressed black slave music that came out of oppression – out of Chicago and the Delta. Why would that be? I think it’s because it’s almost the same today: You get out of the ghetto by being a rapper or a sports figure. It’s the same man, you know?

Yeah, Jeff Beck was heavy. But there were a lot of people that were plugging in and turning up because rock and roll was blues real loud, essentially. And if Chuck Berry hadn’t existed, there wouldn’t be a Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. I mean imagine a world without Chuck Berry in it. What a horrible thought. (laughs). But they were smart enough to marry that with the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and the style of Oscar Wilde. It was this pop-hybrid of Muddy Waters, Oscar Wilde and Lord Byron with a slide guitar. It was this incredible cocktail of stuff.

Your modern music seems to harken back to that classic three-chord rock and roll. 

Yes, because what happens is, as an artist in the beginning it’s all about passion. Then you learn how to do it and you learn the chords that are complicated, and to keep yourself interested you start experimenting. And you lose sight of why you did it in the first place. Rock and roll is a synonym for having sex. It’s not a synonym for meditation. So you’ve gotta roll with it. And, for me, I went on all sorts of tangents because I was thinking too much. But when I got back to it three years ago, when I was in Texas recovering from an accident, I broke a lot of bones, I had time to reflect on what I really wanted to do, so I started to write. I couldn’t write with my right arm because it was smashed, so I wrote with my left hand these social media updates and people started to respond. So I took those ideas and put them to simple chords, blues-based music and I wrote “My Baby Saved My Ass,” (laughs) which sounds funny and cute but it’s true. It’s a redemptive song about the redemption of love transcending a drug addict’s downward spiral. 

MDB

Stephen King once stated that, “The idea that creative endeavor and mind-altering substances are entwined is one of the great pop-intellectual myths of our time.” Like King, you’ve overcome drugs and alcohol. Do you agree that these substances don’t enhance an artist’s creative work?

He and I are the only ones that have said that. I mean, I’ve been saying that for 30 years. The myth of the self-destructive genius is bullshit. And I can give you one and only one example: Jim Morrison did not write the “Great American Novel” … and he could have. And it’s as simple as that. Genius is divine; it’s a talent you’re given by the universe. It’s like being born beautiful and you fuck yourself up.

I always think of Chet Baker and his beautiful face and how ravaged it was at the end of his life when he fell out of a hotel room window and smashed his skull because of heroin. So, I’m with Stephen King. It is a myth, and I’m 100% more creative with clarity than I am in a fog. I might think I’m a genius, but I’m not.

What made you stop using drugs?

I looked in the mirror and I looked like a monster. And I’m way too narcissistic and vain to look like that. I can honestly say vanity got me through it (laughs). I felt like a fool, and there’s nothing worse for me than feeling foolish. And being a slave to something? Good lord! I can’t be owned by a bag of white powder…unless it’s foundation. It’s absurd; it’s childlike. Unfortunately many of our greatest artists capitulated to it and died, and that’s a shame.

To answer your question, I’m not being glib when I say I looked in the mirror and didn’t like what I saw. It was absolute vanity. But once I got into that spiritual groove, I woke up from the trance of drugs. And I wrote “Obsession” within the first few weeks of being sober. Everybody around me was saying “I’m obsessed with this” and “I’m obsessed with that.” Is it an obsession? Yes. So I thought, OK, and I wrote that song, which was a worldwide hit because people could relate to the thing. 

Live Chat at BookTrib with Andrew Gross

Andrew Gross - Live ChatAs you know, I’m a fan of Andrew Gross’ work and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for my blog. If you’re looking for the opportunity to ask him about his new novel, No Way Back, or any of his other books, I’ve got good news. This Wednesday (5/22), Gross is participating in a live chat on BookTrib.com – a book/publishing website that features book news, reviews and custom online promotions, including giveaways, contests, live author chats, etc. During the chat, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. EST, you can directly ask Gross questions, and BookTrib is giving away a brand-new Kindle Fire loaded with a selection of the author’s books. If you’re new to his work or a longtime fan, I recommend you check out this event. It sounds like it should be a fun time.

Tom Jones – Live In Philly

Photo 2013-05-18 02.45.27 PMLast Friday night I saw one of my favorite vocalists for the first time: Tom Jones. I started listening to his music more than 10 years ago and have been a fan since. But I’ve never had the chance to see him live until now. The concert took place at the Theatre of the Living Arts (TLA) on South Street in Philadelphia – a small, intimate venue perfect for getting close to the stage.

I decided to arrive at the TLA an hour early because tickets were general admission and if you were on the floor, which I was, it was standing room only. I got to the front of the theater and only saw a handful of people, so I thought I’d be right up against the stage. Then, a security guard walked up to me and said, “Are you here for Tom Jones?” I nodded and he told me to follow him down the street. We walked for what felt like 10 minutes. Pretty soon I thought we were going to grab cheesesteaks at Jim’s. But just before we reached the corner, he directed me to an alley where there were two lines of people waiting to get into the show. I couldn’t believe it; these people must have gotten to the TLA at least two hours ahead of time. Talk about dedication.

After getting in my line, the two women in front of me turned around and one of them said:

“How old are you?”

“28,” I replied.

“Name me a song by Tom Jones.”

I thought about this for a minute and said, “Well, the most obvious answer is ‘It’s Not Unusual.'”

This women, Mabel we’ll call her, was extremely pleasant and a hardcore fan. She and her friend affectionately referred to me as “28,” instead of asking my name. Both of them had seen Tom Jones many times before. I told the women I heard about the show on his Facebook page and that I wondered how many people attending were expecting him to sing his hits. We all nodded because we read ahead of time that the concert was meant to be a showcase for Jones’ newest album, Spirit In The Room, and its predecessor, Praise & Blame – both R&B albums with stripped-down arrangements that are permeated with gospel and bluesy-rock influences.

Photo 2013-05-18 02.51.46 PMWhile I love Tom Jones in all his schmaltzy glory, at 72, he’s earned the right to sing whatever he wants. And if he wants to sing deep, gritty music, I’m game. As we were called to enter the theater, I went in with this attitude. I also went in thinking there wouldn’t be a chance for me to get close the stage, especially since there were at least 100 people ahead of me. I was wrong.

I walked to the right of the stage and claimed my space, approximately three “rows” from the stage. Behind me, on the far end of the room, there was a balcony with seating for people who paid for VIP tickets. To me, paying more and sitting farther away didn’t make sense, so I was glad to stand, even though my legs were killing me later that night.

Security taking care of a little situation before the concert.

Security taking care of a little situation before the concert.

Before Jones came out, a woman and her 20-year-old daughters rudely tried to push their way to the front of the stage. But like most Philadelphia crowds at a public event, we weren’t having it. I told them, “You’re not getting in front of me.” And an older woman to my left pushed them out of the way with my assistance. A few moments later they incurred the wrath of a group of fans towards the center of the stage. It got so bad that a tall man waved over security to remove the three women. When security came, we all started chanting, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” After trying to explain to the security guard why it was OK for them to shove people out of the way who were there long before them, he led the trio away from the stage and the crowd erupted in cheers. It was an amazingly gratifying moment of communal solidarity.

With the fight behind us, the crowd started to chant, “We want Tom! We want Tom!” And at approximately 8:30 p.m. he arrived. When Jones stepped onto the stage, the people went crazy. It was a diverse audience of senior citizens, baby boomers and millennials. It seems that his music transcends generations and all of them were giving him a warm welcome. So warm, in fact, that I saw a pair of granny panties hit the stage, quickly followed by an enormous red bra and yellow scarf. I was tempted to twirl my underwear over my head and fling them at Jones, purely for a reaction, but I refrained from doing so.

Tom Jones - Live In PhiladelphiaThe concert lasted almost two hours and it was packed with music. Jones sang eight of the 13 songs from his new album, as well as a handful of tracks from its aforementioned predecessor, including songs by John Lee Hooker and Bob Dylan. The only hit of his that Jones performed was “Green Green Grass of Home.” The set was rounded out with three covers:

  1. “One Night With You” by Elvis – Jones’ personal favorite by the “King of Rock and Roll” 
  2. “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones – this was sung as a tribute to the recently deceased country music legend
  3. “End of the Road” by Jerry Lee Lewis – Jones ended the show with this aptly-named tune

Tom Jones - Live at the TLATom Jones still has a tremendously powerful voice. While the material may have been heavier than his typical pop standards, Jones’ seemingly effortless ability to convey the raw emotion contained within each lyric was awe-inspiring and I’m glad I had the chance to see him live.

KISS Kruise III – I’ll Be There!

KISS Kruise III

This October I’ll be boarding my first cruise, but it won’t be just any cruise. It’ll be KISS Kruise III. What is a KISS Kruise, you ask? It’s a five-day luxury cruise with the “Hottest Band in the World,” KISS. This is the third year the band is setting off on this rock and roll sea voyage, and I felt the need to experience it at least once in my lifetime.

KISS Kruise III - What You GetThe cruise itself is a round trip from the Port of Miami to Key West and Great Stirrup Cay. It includes admission to two KISS concerts, one of which is an acoustic sail-away show without makeup. Everyone also gets a photo with the band and a pre-autographed commemorative item. Members of the “KISS Navy” also get to participate in a KISS Q&A and engage in group activities with the band members in between concerts.

KISS Kruise III - DestinationsIn addition to KISS, other bands will be providing a steady supply of rock and roll concerts for people to enjoy. As of right now, three bands are scheduled to join KISS on this year’s cruise: Night Ranger, Leogun and Big Rock Show.

And just like regular cruises, all meals and non-carbonated beverages are included in the ticket price. Of course, certain activities and items come at an additional cost, like gambling, spa services and various off-board activities in Key West and Great Stirrup Cay.

Considering all the great music, activities and food that’s covered by the price of admission – not to mention the vacation itself – I think this is a great deal. It’s going to be an amazing trip filled with wild stories and crazy experiences that I look forward to sharing with you on my blog.

Until then, check out the acoustic sail-away show and Q&A with KISS’ Manager, Doc McGhee, from KISS Kruise II in 2012:

Book Review: The Enemy by Lee Child

 

Lee Child - The EnemyThe Enemy by Lee Child is the eighth book in the Jack Reacher series, and it’s different than its predecessors. This novel is a prequel that takes place in 1990, back when Reacher was a Major in the United States Army Military Police Corps. It’s an interesting tale that includes Reacher’s brother, Joe, and his mother. For those looking to learn part of the backstory of this famous fictional character, The Enemy delivers. Like most of Child’s books, there is an exceptional amount of detail – about weapons, the military, you name it. Longtime fans will enjoy this, while others may find it laborious. By the end of the book, twists and turns come at a fast and furious pace. While some of them are hard to believe, they are well thought out and unpredictable. Despite being a detour in Reacher’s modern-day adventures, The Enemy is a worthy addition to this formidable series.

Book Description

Jack Reacher. Hero. Loner. Soldier. Soldier’s son. An elite military cop, he was one of the army’s brightest stars. But in every cop’s life there is a turning point. One case. One messy, tangled case that can shatter a career. Turn a lawman into a renegade. And make him question words like honor, valor, and duty. For Jack Reacher, this is that case… New Year’s Day, 1990. The Berlin Wall is coming down. The world is changing. And in a North Carolina “hot-sheets” motel, a two-star general is found dead. His briefcase is missing. Nobody knows what was in it. Within minutes Jack Reacher has his orders: Control the situation. But this situation can’t be controlled. Within hours the general’s wife is murdered hundreds of miles away. Then the dominoes really start to fall… Two Special Forces soldiers – the toughest of the tough – are taken down, one at a time. Top military commanders are moved from place to place in a bizarre game of chess. And somewhere inside the vast worldwide fortress that is the U.S. Army, Jack Reacher – an ordinarily untouchable investigator for the 110th Special Unit – is being set up as a fall guy with the worst enemies a man can have. But Reacher won’t quit. He’s fighting a new kind of war. And he’s taking a young female lieutenant with him on a deadly hunt that leads them from the ragged edges of a rural army post to the winding streets of Paris to a confrontation with an enemy he didn’t know he had. With his French-born mother dying – and divulging to her son one last, stunning secret – Reacher is forced to question everything he once believed…about his family, his career, his loyalties – and himself. Because this soldier’s son is on his way into the darkness, where he finds a tangled drama of desperate desires and violent death – and a conspiracy more chilling, ingenious, and treacherous than anyone could have guessed.

Roots and Branches with Michael Des Barres

MDB - Roots and BranchesThe always-wonderful Michael Des Barres has a brand-new weekly radio show, and the first half-hour episode debuted tonight. It’s called Roots and Branches and it airs on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4:30 p.m. PST (7:30 p.m. EST) on the online radio station Transcend Radio. You can listen from your computer or smartphone on the Transcend Radio website or on Live365.

The goal of the aptly named Roots and Branches is “finding peace in a violent world through exploration of the lineage and history of rock and roll.” This rock and roll safari, lead by Michael, explores how musicians are connected to and influence one other. And each episode has its own theme.

The first show’s theme was “Peace in Action.” After a rousing acoustic rendition of “Hot ‘n Sticky,” Michael played songs by Bob Dylan and John Lennon and explained how they were connected and how their ultimate message was peace. “I believe in peace, but I don’t believe in peace on your couch, eating Cheetos. Peace is not a passive stance, it is action. It’s like a pebble in a lake, and the ripples will grow,” said Michael.

He went on to play songs by Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones and a live Patti Smith bootleg. In between songs, Michael provided interesting commentary and information about the songs and artists. And he closed out the show with his terrific new single, “Life Is Always Right.” This song is available on iTunes, and I highly recommend you buy it. I’ve been listening to it all day. It’s sounds gorgeous, the lyrics are beautiful and Michael’s vocal is mesmerizing.

I look forward to future episodes of Roots and Branches. It’s a terrific concept, carried out by one of the most captivating musical personalities on the planet. Make sure to tune in – you won’t be disappointed.

On a related note, I had the pleasure of recently interviewing Michael. It was an extensive discussion that resulted in a ton of great content. Keep an open eye out for part one of that interview next week.

An Evening With Dan Brown

IMG_0992Last night my girlfriend and I went to New York City to see best-selling author Dan Brown speak at the Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall about his illustrious career and new novel, Inferno.

The evening’s festivities started with an introduction by TODAY Show anchor Matt Lauer. He was his usual charming self and showed a clip of a recent interview he did with Brown at his home in New Hampshire. Speaking of which, Brown’s opulent abode features multiple secret passages and a “fortress of gratitude,” which contains the myriad versions of his books that have been published around the world.

The Lincoln Center steps were used to promote Dan Brown's new novel.

The Lincoln Center steps were used to promote Dan Brown’s new novel. They said: “9 circles. 7 sins. 1 secret. Inferno. The new novel by Dan Brown.”

After the clip ended Lauer introduced Brown, who was met with a warm round of applause. Brown’s hour-long presentation covered a variety of topics, including his childhood, feedback from fans and critics on his work, and a humorous story about what it was like to have Tom Hanks fasten Brown’s kilt prior to a social gathering for the film version of The Da Vinci Code.

IMG_0979The underlying theme that’s weaved through many of Brown’s most popular novels are whether humans should turn to faith or science for answers to challenging questions. He explained that being the son of a “church lady” and mathematician had something to do with his fascination with this eternal struggle. It was also interesting to learn that Brown grew up in a household with no TV or junk food, but plenty of books.

His new novel, Inferno, takes place in Florence and it focuses on the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century poem, Divine Comedy. “With the exception of the Bible, no book in history has influenced more art, music or literature than the Divine Comedy,” said Brown.

The most interesting part of the evening came at the end, when Brown said the following:

“There is nothing in our DNA that predetermines our beliefs. We’re not born into this world believing that a particular god is the true god; we’re born into a culture. We worship the gods of our parents. If all of us in this room had been born in the mountains of Tibet, most of us would be Buddhists. And we would hold onto that Buddhist philosophy with the same passion that we have for our current beliefs. We worship the gods of our parents. It’s truly that simple.

The world is getting smaller every day. And now, more than ever, there is enormous danger in believing we are infallible, that our version of the truth is absolute, and that everyone who does not think like we do is wrong and are therefore enemies. For our own survival, it is critical that we live with open minds, that we educate ourselves, that we ask difficult questions, and above all, that we engage in dialogue, especially with those whose ideas are not our own.

So in the name of the dialogue we share and ideas, I just wanted to acknowledge that tonight, what has brought us together in this space is quite simply, books. Those magical artifacts that share ideas across borders, across cultures, across languages, and most importantly, across time. So for all of you in the audience that write books, publish books, sell books, and above all, read books, thank you.”

IMG_0989Overall, it was an enjoyable event that provided a rare glimpse into the mind of one of the most talented modern-day authors. As a parting gift, everyone in attendance received a free copy of Inferno. Since most people read books based on recommendations they receive either in-person or online, this was a smart idea.

Look out for my review of Inferno within the next several weeks. From what I’ve heard thus far, it’s an epic yarn.

Michael Connelly On Writing

Michael ConnellyHere’s an interesting interview with best-selling author Michael Connelly about writing:

What My Father Means To Me

Me and DadNearly 10 years ago, for my Father’s 50th birthday party, I wrote and read a poem to convey his importance to me. I recently came across this poem and decided to share it with you. However, being a better writer now than I was then, I made some revisions. Here you go:

What My Father Means To Me

What my Father means to me, I can’t find the words to say.

He does so many things, each and every day.

A kiss goodbye, a kiss hello, these are just a few ways he lets his love show.

When I was ill, as a little boy, Daddy would cheer me up with a brand-new toy.

Going to the hospital one night, with Christmas near, I asked my Father, “Will Santa still appear?”

Turning to me, with a loving smile, he said, “Don’t worry, Dad. We’ll be home in a little while”

You’ve allowed me to be myself, to fly high and free.

You saw that special someone, deep inside of me.

I’ve treasured the years we’ve had and anticipate the ones to come.

I will love you forever, and I’m proud to be your son.

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