One Year of Rockin' Interviews

      One Year Ago today, I did my first ever interview for this page, Rockin’ Interviews. I never would’ve thought that I would be able to interview or photograph all the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with. I’m taking today to say how grateful I am for each and every one of you guys. Here are my favorite questions from every interview I have done since that fateful day in September 2018:

Rockin’ Interviews- Was it hard to decide who you were going to choose as your coach on The Voice, right on the spot?


Moriah Formica-“I thought that it would be hard, but once I got up there and listened to everybody talk, it wasn’t really that hard. Even though I had a completely different person in my mind when I went. Like I thought, I’m definitely picking Adam, cause he’s a rock guy. But then everyone started talking and I really felt a connection with Miley. I gravitated toward her.”

Rockin’ Interviews- When did your friendship with Nikki Stringfield start?

Patrick Kennison (Lita Ford, The Union Underground, Heaven Below)-“After I moved to L.A., we would run into each other every once in a while and we had mutual friends and I remember at the NAMM show I think, she was eating tacos and she made me eat a taco and she goes, ‘You’re from Texas right?’ and I said, ‘yeah’. Then she said ‘So am I, have a taco.’ So we officially met over tacos. And then it turns out she’s from Dallas and I’m from San Antonio. And so you know, us Texans kinda stick together.”

Rockin’ Interviews- Tell me about your first Guns N’ Roses concert.

Jenna Syde (Paradise Kitty, Jenna Syde and The Watchers)- “My first Guns N’ Roses concert was in 2016 . I’m a 90’s child, I was young back then so I never had a chance to actually see them live up until their reunion. My first one was at Dodgers Stadium which was fantastic because it was kind of a homecoming for them since L.A. is where they are, it’s where they originate from, it’s where they live. So that crowd was magnetic. Whatever they did, the crowd was extremely responsive. I saw them again in San Diego and that was amazing. And then I saw them again at Madison Square Garden in New York right before we did the afterparty for that show and they just keep on getting better. Axl, he sounds better than he ever has. It’s cool that they’re out touring again.”

Rockin’ Interviews - What made you transition to the Jazz 3 picks?

Britt Lightning (Vixen, Jaded, Alejandro Sanz, Rachel Platten, Jason Derulo) - “You’ve got the best questions, I think this is my favorite interview I’ve ever done! I loved Zakk Wylde, he was a big influence. At first I played his really thick Tortex picks. I had one friend in my neighborhood that I used to jam with all the time. One day he came over and he was playing the little medium Jazz 3 picks and I was like, ‘Why are you using that’ and he was really good at sweep picking and he said, ‘Well it helps me sweep pick, it’s not too much pick and I find it easy’ and he gave me one. I couldn’t sweep pick at the time and it was like my main goal in life because it was amazing. I couldn’t do it. I thought if I want to learn to sweep pick, I better use this pick. And I just started practicing and practicing and I think it does help you play better. It’s funny cause now I feel weird using normal picks because it’s too much pick and too much to hold on to. Also for pinch harmonics, I use my index fingernail a lot when I play, so I kinda play with half pick and half of my nail and that’s how I get the pinch harmonics and things. I play all the notes like that and I can’t get that with a full size pick.”

Rockin’ Interviews - What were your initial expectations of recording songs vs. what it was actually like?

Ariel Bellvalaire- “It’s so funny. When I first started recording, well recording at a minimal level, at first you expect it to be done in one take. And you expect it to just magically come together. You think I’ll just record a guitar solo and it’ll take 5 minutes and then all of the sudden the track is mixed and done. That is not the case at all. My very first recordings were done in one take and lets just say that’s not how it’s supposed to be done and it sounded like it. When you actually record, I’ve had sessions that take all day, some that take a couple hours, it depends on the producers. But I’ve had ones that are like try riff like this, ok cool now play that same riff with this guitar, ok cool now double it, triple it. And then we have all these layers together, so we’re hours in and just watching them mix it and saying ok this needs to come down and this needs to come up, add this. It’s just kind of mind blowing and it’s not what I thought it was gonna be at all. But you get used to it.”

Rockin’ Interviews -When you started drumming, was being in an all female band something you wanted to do?


Rachael Rine (Paradise Kitty)- “Actually, no. When I first started, I didn’t wanna play with girls, I wanted to play with guys because back then it wasn’t as acceptable or as common for women to play and it felt like, at the time, to me any all female band felt like a gimmick. I just wanted to play with musicians, I didn’t care if they were girls or guys or this or that. I’ve kind of just ended up in all girl bands, and now I appreciate it and I love it. There wasn’t as many girls to pick from either. There was one female bass player in town and that was who you had to play with. There wasn't any choices, it was just that you had to choose the one girl. I don’t like the whole you’re good for a girl” thing, I just think you’re either good or your not.”

Rockin’ Interviews - What was the first Whitesnake song you heard and was being in the band something that felt full circle for you?

Joel Hoekstra - “I’m not entirely sure but I think it might’ve been Slow An’ Easy, back when Slide It In came out, there started to be some inklings of them in the U.S. I think I’d heard of Whitesnake before that, but everybody in the U.S. started listening to Whitesnake when Slide It In came out. That’s been the story of most of my career in recent years, playing with a lot of my heros from when I was younger. So it’s a really cool feeling.”

Rockin’ Interviews- What are your experiences like in the music industry now, compared to the 80’s?

Share Ross (Vixen, Twin Flames Radio, Down ‘N Outz, Bubble) - “I feel like the music industry is very strange now, and for the most part, I just show up and play gigs and release music. I don’t really feel like I’m a part of the industry in that way, you know, like the people who are really in there like Katy Perry and Beyonce. These people are huge. It’s really different now, radio is very controlled and it’s a whole different world. To me, the biggest differences are, in the 80’s, to hear a band live, you had to go and see them, there were no Youtube videos, obviously. So it was a lot harder to have that access to find out what a band actually sounds like. It was really hard to do and it changed everything. It gave the bands lots of mystique and it gave bands a lot of attraction because you had to go. If you were going to see them, you had to be there personally. I guess that’s a really big difference. And the industry itself has changed, obviously. CDs are going to be phased out next, that’s the next to change. It’s all vinyl and downloads now. Who knows what will happen next, maybe we’ll have a feed implanted into the back of our heads and we’ll think what music we wanna hear and we’ll hear it in our brain. I don’t know, it’s crazy.”

Rockin’ Interviews- What is it like to record an album that is your own?

Nikki Stevens (Teenage Ritual, ex-Paradise Kitty)- “It’s gonna be one of the most exciting feelings I’ve ever felt. I’m almost done with my recording right now and I’m gonna finish up the vocals here in a week. In the next few months, you guys will be able to hear some Teenage Ritual, some legit recordings, not just live videos. I’m so excited, we’ve got some good songs, people are reacting really well. Right now we’ve just been working on getting a really good, organic fan base. The reactions we’ve been getting from the crowd have been awesome so a lot of good things in the works with Teenage Ritual.”

Rockin’ Interviews- What led up to you joining L.A. Guns a few months ago?

Ace Von Johnson (Faster Pussycat, L.A. Guns, Neon Coven) - “It had kind of been a long time in the making, I suppose. I have gotten on stage and played guitar with Phil Lewis 7 or 8 times over the last 5 years or so. We would be playing shows together or I would be at the show and the previous lineup with Michael Grant and Phil would play rhythm on a couple songs and Phil would say, ‘Oh, my boy, do you know how to play this song?’ And I would say, ‘yeah, totally.’ So I would jump up there for Ballad of Jayne or Rip and Tear or whatever it was. They’d called me a few times over the last year about the gig. Scheduling wise it wasn’t gonna work out for me, I wasn’t just gonna leave Faster Pussycat in a lurch to do L.A. Guns stuff. But when they called me in the summer, everything they had coming up indefinitely didn’t conflict with Faster Pussycat, so I’m able to do both. Here I am 6 months later, still doing both. That’s kind of it, I’ve known those guys for varying degrees of time. Johnny Martin, the bass player, I’ve known for 15 years, I’ve known Tracii for about 9 years and Phil for about 7 or 8 years and their manager is a friend of mine and they have pretty much always publicly said they’ve always wanted me to take that gig. They continued to pursue me and it finally worked out for both parties and here I am in L.A. Guns.”


Rockin’ interviews - Aside from singing, you play guitar. If you could, would you want to play guitar on a Reality Suite record?

Kimmii Heart (Reality Suite) - “I would love to play guitar on a record. It’s really not my strong suit, but I’m working on it. I’ve been practicing a lot. That’s definitely one of my goals, to play one of our songs. That’d be really cool. But I don’t see myself soloing any time soon.”

Rockin’ Interviews- What is your tip to those trying to form a band?

Austin Ingerman (New Years Day, Teenage Ritual)- “ Forming a band can always be tough. It’s always hard to find all the right members. But definitely stay true to what it is you’re really trying to do, and try to be open to other ideas too. There are situations you’re gonna have to put yourself in, to get to where you wanna be. Stay true and always be open.”

Rockin’ Interviews- You started touring at 15. What’s one thing you would say to your 15 year old self?

Courtney Cox (The iron Maidens, Femme Fatale) - “You’re an idiot. No, I’m kidding. I’m glad that I started so young because I was naive and I wouldn’t be the musician I am today if I didn’t start that young because I grew up fast. Not only being on stage, but the business side of things and how nasty it can be. I really learned a lot.”

Rockin’ Interviews- What do you find to be the hardest thing about marketing your band in the 21st century?

TonyBro (Orbynot) - “That’s such a big question because it’s so true. I literally spent money on Facebook advertising to get nothing out there. I’ve even spent a lot of money on outside promoters to advertise with honestly no return. No new Facebook likes or anything. Sometimes even have to do the girl-scout cookie technique and go up to individual people and say, Hi, do you like metal? Yeah. Do you wanna listen to my album? Okay. It’s literally a matter of putting yourself out there. Don’t stop emailing anyone. Even if you don’t get a response, email them again. Always do a follow up email. Communication is the hardest part. If you can’t establish communication than no one is gonna listen to you.”

Rockin’ Interviews- How did you get people to take you seriously as a teenage musician?

Nikki Stringfield (The Iron Maidens, Femme Fatale) - “I grew up in a very small town outside of Dallas, and there wasn’t really a music scene or anywhere to play. So there were a couple of my friends who played guitar, but not many other female musicians. I think the first thing I did was enter an Avenged Sevenfold contest on Youtube, I think it was to play your own version of the “Almost Easy” solo. I think that’s the first video I ever uploaded on Youtube, and that’s how it kind of started. That was when Youtube wasn’t really popular and not a lot of people were really watching it. Of course you have the guys telling me, ‘You can’t play’ and ‘I’ll show you.’ I was maybe 17 or 18 at that time. I have these people telling me I can’t play and that just fueled the fire. That’s how it started. It wasn’t until I was 22 and moved to L.A. and played my first gig in my first band. It took me a while, but I kinda got my start on Youtube.”

Rockin’ Interviews- Outside of music, you enjoy photography, diving, and travel. What got you into those other things?

Mark Schenker (KIX, Sun Dogs) - “I’m a military kid, so I’ve always traveled. When I was 16 years old, I had moved 16 times, so I’ve known nothing but travel my whole life. I’ve lived in Europe and overseas and all over the United States and I was born in Texas. Sometimes people ask me where I’m from and I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t have a good answer for that.’ When you’re a military brat, you usually just say where you were born is where you’re from. When I’m in Texas I say I’m from Texas because that gets me in with the good ol’ boys. I usually say I’m from Texas, but really I’m a kid of the world, I’ve lived everywhere. There is no one place I can identify as home. Where I’m from is the people I was around when I was growing up and those other people were other military brats. The travel comes from that, living in Europe, you get to see things you would only see in a National Geographic magazine. Most people from the United States don’t travel to Europe. At least in the late 70’s-early 80’s. It just wasn’t a common thing for people to run over to Europe for a couple days. The photography is another thing, I’ve always had a camera since I was a kid. I would get a new camera every other Christmas or so, and sometimes I would take pictures and sometimes I wouldn’t. But when I started diving, I think I took a camera with me on my very first ocean dive because I just wanted to document it. My first ocean dive was at a shipwreck in the Bahamas. I took a camera down and took pictures of the ship and some coral and I was hooked. Since then, I have been constantly upgrading my camera rig and my skills and talking to other photographers and diving with people who are much better photographers than me. Then I started night photographer because I’m a night person. I was never interested in photographing sunrises or sunsets, I wanna see what’s out there in the dark. Being interested in astrology as a kid, I have the natural instinct to point the lens up. I started doing Milky Way photography and incorporating nightscapes and I fell into a local group of nightscapers and some friends in California that are nightscapers, so you get a community of people that like taking one particular type of photograph, so my thing is underwater or nightscaping. I was never good at portraits, I have a friend named Jeremy who takes me to do portraits with him and I take him to do nightscapes. He does wonderful street photography and I don’t see what he sees and he’s brilliant. That’s where the photography comes from. If you look at my Instagram you can see my cameras and my skills have gotten better as time goes on. Some of my earliest memories are being on airplanes or traveling with my mom.”

Rockin’ Interviews- To date, you’ve put out several solo albums. What is the most challenging part of doing a large part of it by yourself?

Chris Caffery (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Spirits of Fire, Savatage, Doro)- “I think it’s seriously the critics because I can do a record and someone can love it in one article and hate it in the next. Since I made it as a guitarist there are many people who just won't take the music seriously with me singing. I’m not the greatest singer in the world but I am definitely not the worst so I think just learning how to deal with that constant up and down.”


Rockin’ Interviews~ What is something you consider to be unique about yourself?

Abby K~ “My work ethic. For a while I would wake up at 4:00 in the morning and play my bass, then I would take it to school and play through lunch and study hall and I would come straight home and play my bass. After I did that for a few months, I was accepted to Grammy Camp and Berklee College Of Music 5-Week Summer Program.”

Rockin’ Interviews~ You are often labeled “a guitar prodigy”. Do you feel like guitar was something that was very easy and natural for you to learn, or was it something you really worked at?

Johnny Zostant (Johnny Zostant, Drown The Mob)~ "Looking back, I think I was able to pick up playing the guitar and learning songs pretty quickly so that kept things fun, but it definitely wasn't easy and I spent several hours everyday practicing (I actually still do).  I definitely do not consider myself a prodigy because there are so many people out there, including lots of really young kids, that are way better than me, and can play highly technical and complex music with ease.  But its always nice to hear such a nice compliment so that's cool too haha!!"

Rockin’ Interviews~ How do you feel women have evolved in the music industry?

Rockin' Interviews~ "How do you feel women have evolved in the music industry? 

Calico Cooper (Beasto Blanco)~ “You know what I think is funny? We’re still in a weird spot where someone goes “Oh well it’s the number one female guitar player. Why don’t you just say the number one guitar player? You don’t have to say number one dude guitar player, like we can clearly see that’s a guy. Wouldn’t it be funny if we just started doing it the other way and like saying random facts about the person like ‘number one dude from Pittsburg who plays guitar’. Like it’s just random. I love looking down at a crowd and seeing guys singing my songs because everybody loves the songs Chuck sings, but I don’t think men are like ‘oh this is the girls song, I don’t sing this song’. I look out during songs like ‘Machine Girl’ or ‘Solitary Rave’ and I see dudes looking right up at me pointing his finger and singing ‘You ain’t invited’ and I’m like ‘Nice’. So I think it’s slowly but surely turning into a thing where it’s an open playing field. It’s still there, I still fight my battles. When I directed ‘The Seeker’ video, I wrote the video, I did the costuming, the makeup, the wardrobe, the location, I did everything. There still had to be guys that were watching me to make sure I was doing it right and I’m like ‘Trust me bro, I got it’. But as far as the music industry goes, it’s a great time to step out there. Don’t start a band because this is a great time for girls, if you’ve got something to say and you can play or sing, get out there! I’m so stoked to see all these girl bands coming out that aren’t leaning on the fact that they’re girls, they’re just good musicians.”

© 2020 by Shannon Wilk.

Located in Connecticut, USA
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