Category Archives: Pop Talk

Christmas with Alice

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Residents of Phoenix Arizona already know that rock and roll legend Alice Cooper is one of the nicest guys to ever strap on the leather and gothic eye shadow. Cooper is best known internationally for his metal classics and a stage show that features guillotines, snakes and the occasional baby on a spike, but when he’s not on tour, he’s just the guy the locals buzz about after their chance encounters with the rocker at church, the grocery store, the movie theater and the golf course.

Earlier this month Alice Cooper presented his 12th Christmas Pudding Concert, a perennial holiday favorite for local residents that always features an all star line up of rockers and celebrities. This year’s list of who’s who included Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles), up and coming guitarist Orianthi, Sebastian Bach (former lead singer of Skid Row), LA Guns and movie star Johnny Depp, who temporarily joined Alice Cooper’s band for the evening’s festivities.

Proceeds from the concert go to Alice Cooper’s Solid Rock, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of teens through music, dance and self expression. The primary goal is to honor Jesus Christ by helping to meet the spiritual, economical, physical and social needs of teenagers and children within the community.

The night before the big show, on a break from the soundcheck/ rehearsal, I had a chance to sit down and talk with the newly elected member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what follows are the highlights.

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Alice Cooper with Pop Bitez Editor in Chief Scott Hopkins

Alice on his 12th Christmas Pudding show:Every year it’s a different show, with different people, some come back, this will be Don Felder’s fourth year, this will be Johnny Depp’s first year, LA Guns first year, Sebastion Bach’s first year. Every year we go through the rolodex and say, “who would be great to have this year?”, and we always get five or six major acts, so it’s great.”

Alice on a few of the highlights from the past 11 shows: Anytime you get Pat Boone and Ted Nugent together, or Amy Grant and Megadeath, Rob Zombie and Cheech Marin, I try to put people together that don’t belong together, that makes it even more of a Christmas party, you know, the whole idea from the beginning was it’s like a Christmas party where everybody gets up and does something. We’ve had so may great people, Glen Campbell, Peter Frampton, Nils Lofgren. Rob Zombie was great, he kept saying. ‘This is not my audience!’, and I said, ‘It’s NOBODY’S audience!’, I said, ‘You think that’s an Alice audience out there? It’s an all ages Christmas party!” I tell them all up front, ‘there’s going to be a VERY expensive swear jar backstage, I’m talking REALLY expensive, (he laughs), so no F-bombs tonight, this is a Christmas show!”. It was the hardest thing in the world for Dee Snyder and Rob Zombie to do, Lita Ford had a little problem with that too, but she was great.”

Alice on his inspiration for creating the Solid Rock Foundation:I’m extremely un-political but the humanitarian things are important to me because that’s really where you can do some good work. Every major city has got a problem with guns, gangs and drugs, and me being in Phoenix for 50 years of my life… I thought, let’s do something about it, let’s open a place for kids where, instead of going into gangs they’ll go into bands, learn how to play guitars, drums, bass… and we’re open every night, 3:00 to 9:00 and 75 to 100 kids are there every night, learning instruments, I call it the ‘Glorious Racket’ because you walk in and it’s just noise and I love that, because the kids are all learning. We have three kids, three thirteen year old kids that are going to play guitar in the show that’ll surprise you and these are three kids that go to The Rock. They get all their instruments for free, Fender has said ‘if there are 100 kids, they’ll be 100 guitars there’, they’ve been behind us 100%, we love that.”

Alice on the possibility of expanding his Solid Rock Foundation: We travel around the world, (Alice and his band), we just finished 100 cities from Europe to South America, Australia, everywhere…and every city’s got the same problem, and I’ll see a kid that’s 15, selling drugs on the street and I say, ‘how does that kid know he’s not the best guitar player?’ He’s never had a guitar in his hand, he might be a great bass player or drummer or singer, so give them that alternative. We’ve had Detroit, San Diego, Denver…a bunch of cities call us up and say, ‘can you build one here?’, and we say ‘this is the mother ship, we want to show that it works here and then we’ll give you the formula.’ Detroit needs 15 of these places, I’m from Detroit so I know, the bigger the city, the tougher the city, the more industrial, the more they need these places, because…where are these kids gonna go, 13 to 19? Boy’s Club is over, they’ve got nothing, so here’s a place that they can go and make it your own.

Alice on Doomsday 12/21/2012:The Mayan Calendar? You know, I can’t remember the last time I asked a Mayan about anything..wait a minute, there are no Mayans! Ah yes, that’s right! I think we like to get into this frenzy because it’s almost fun, we did the same thing with the computers in 1999, you know the computers were going to go crazy and all the nuclear bombs were going to go off and, you know, THAT didn’t happen and the Mayan’s are probably wrong on this one too.

Alice on working with Johnny Depp:Johnny’s a great guitar player, we were doing Dark Shadows in London and after we were done filming we were going to go play a place called ‘The Hundred Club‘ , which is like the size of this room, but The Beatles played there, The Stones played there, The Yardbirds, everybody and we said we wanna go play there and it’s basically like you’re a bar band and if somebody yells out ‘Brown Sugar’ you play ‘Brown Sugar’, you know, no makeup, no snakes, no nothing and we said, ‘Johnny come out and play with us’, and he said, ‘O.K.’ and she shows up with his amp and his guitar and.. he can play! He can really play! He’s played with Aerosmith, Rob Zombie, he’s played with everybody. He played with us last week at the Orpheum in LA and he blew it away.When he’s on stage he’s a guitar player, he’s Johnny Depp, but he’s a guitar player.

Alice on his favorite Christmas Song:There are so many great ones, those Sinatra songs, those great standards, ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’, that’s a great one.”

Alice on his LEAST favorite Christmas song:There are some where you start getting to the point where you say, ‘You know what? Enough!’ I could probably name about 5 or 6 of those, ‘Jingle Bells’ is getting a little old.”

*Editor’s Note: Merry Christmas Mr. Cooper, you’re truly a king among men, thanks again, ROCK ON!

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Lea Thompson Has No Trouble with the Truth

 *UPDATE: Though this interview is over two years old, you may find it interesting that Lea and I actually discussed the possibility of Dancing with the Stars during our conversation. I’m so glad she made the decision to finally throw her hat in the ring, no matter what happens, she was destined to dance again!- Scott Hopkins 9/19/14
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It’s been said you should never meet your idols as it will, more often than not, only lead to disappointment. No doubt, the same could be said for meeting your teenage crushes but, in some rare and extraordinary moments, the exact opposite can occur, as was the case when I was fortunate enough to sit down for a few minutes with Lea Thompson last week at the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival.

Not only did the actress not disappoint, my teenage crush became a more mature, respectful and adult fondness. I believe one of the secrets to Lea Thompson’s longevity as an actress, aside from her brilliant comedic timing and dramatic versatility, lies in her casual, easygoing charm and natural humility and, I suspect, many of the people who have had the pleasure of meeting her often walk away a little bewitched and twitterpatted, she’s just that kind of gal.


Lea Thompson began her creative life as a mouse, to be more specific, she was a dancing mouse in a production of the perennial holiday classic The Nutcracker. Through her teens she danced in over 45 ballet productions with various ballet companies, including The Minnesota Dance Theatre, The Pennsylvania Ballet Company and The Ballet Repertory. She won scholarships to The American Ballet Theatre and The San Francisco Ballet and, at the age of 19, found herself auditioning for Russian “Lord of the Dance” Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her audition for the demanding Ruskie’s prestigious ballet company would eventually lead to Thompson’s long and successful career as….an actress.

Thompson, of course, is best known for her career defining role as Lorraine McFly in the Back to the Future Trilogy and as the star of the popular television series Caroline in the City for which she received the People’s Choice Award and the TV Guide Award. A few of her other popular titles include; All the Right Moves, Space Camp, Dennis the Menace, The Beverly Hillbillies, Casual Sex, Article 99 and, most recently, the Sundance hit Thin Ice and Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed J. Edgar. Throughout the last decade she has starred as Cathy Davis/Jane Doe in 9 installments of the popular Jane Doe film series for the Hallmark Channel.

In 1987, Lea Thompson met film director Howard Deutch on the set of the teen classic Some Kind of Wonderful, they married shortly after and are the proud parents of Madelyn and Zoey Deutch.

Thompson can currently be seen on ABC Family’s Switched at Birth.

Lea Thompson came to the 2012 Sedona International Film Festival to help promote the smart new indie dramedy The Trouble with the Truth, written and directed by Jim Hemphill and co-starring John Shea.

Pop Bitez: So what was it that first attracted you to your new film The Trouble with the Truth?
Lea Thompson: Well, it was a great part, it was a part like I’d never been offered before, it just seemed like such a gigantic challenge to see if just the acting and great dialog could hold an audience for an hour and a half. I was really interested in how honest the writing was and it was just one of those moments where I had the time. I couldn’t believe someone was going to make this movie and I wanted to be a part of it.

PB: Now the film centers around the reunion of a divorced couple, your parents actually divorced when you were pretty young, is that right?

LT: Yes.

PB: And yet you’ve been married to the same man for 23 years now which, by Hollywood standards, is nothing short of a miracle. So, I guess the question is, what are you doing right?

LT: I don’t know, I really don’t know, I think a long term marriage is like a novella, it’s like a roller coaster ride, we’ve had our bad times, we’ve had our great times. I don’t know, I just…I love my husband even more now than I did when I married him and I think we’ve created a life together that’s so lovely and, even in the times that aren’t so great, that life has kind of held us together, with our kids. I don’t mean to sound weird but I keep reading about these people getting divorced and they have kids and they’re like, “well, you know, it just kind of wasn’t working right now…”, and I’m like, really??! You couldn’t work it out for the kids?! You couldn’t try for a little bit longer?! My kids and my family are so important to me and I’ve always kind of known if you wait a little while it changes.

PB: Peaks and valleys?

LT: Yeah, peaks and valleys and I’m really happy we’ve stayed together for so long because, like I said, I love him more today than when I married him.

PB: You said something recently on IFC’s The Mortified Sessions…..

LT: Which I still haven’t seen…..

PB: Really? You haven’t seen it?

LT: No, I was too “mortified” to see it.

PB: Seriously?

LT: Honestly.

PB: Oh Lea….

LT: (she laughs) Really, you liked it?

PB: Well, I’ve seen all the episodes of that series and yours was easily my favorite…

LT: Isn’t that nice?

PB: You actually said something in that interview that I thought was fairly profound and I instinctively connected to it and understood what you meant immediately, you said, “some kids aren’t really meant to be kids”.

LT: Mmm, right.

PB: Can you expound on that a little bit for me?

LT: I don’t know, I just feel like there are just different kinds of spirits, I mean, I have one daughter that was like this and it’s just hard for them to be kids, you know, it’s a very interesting thing when you’re a mother because you realize people come out with spirits, they come out with souls, and as a parent you try to mold them, but they have their own destiny, they have their own temperaments, and you try to lead them towards the right path and you try to help them curtail the darker sides or the more destructive parts of themselves, but they come out that way….it was interesting watching my daughter go through that because I felt the same way so I could really understand her, it was really difficult for her to be a kid. I’ve really always had a lot of respect for children, the things they go through sometimes are really profound and adults sometimes just don’t want to deal with it because it’s too painful for them to even remember their own childhoods and how intense those feelings were, so it’s easy to dismiss their feelings, but they’re very strong.

PB: I gotta tell ya, if ever I’ve met someone who needed to write a children’s book…

LT: Oh, that’s so sweet, really? I’ll think about that.

PB: So Baryshnikov did you a favor….

LT: (laughs) Yes, right, absolutely. Well, I was, like, 19 or 20, I think, and I was in really great shape, I was at the peak of my dance career and I was auditioning for his company and he took me aside and said, “you’re a beautiful dancer but you’re too stocky for my company”, and I was 96 pounds at the time and I thought, “I’m here, at the top of the ballet profession and I’m not going to make it”, I picked up my stuff, I turned around and I never came back. About four months later, I was waiting tables and Ohio Ballet offered me a position in their company, someone offered me a little Off-Broadway play and I also got a call back for a musical, and this was all on the same day! I took the play and said goodbye to dancing.

PB: The moment of truth.

LT: Exactly, so, yeah, he did me a really big favor. I actually bumped into him at a party, my daughter was singing at this really big event, and Baryshnikov was there and I kept hiding from him because this story has come up so many times he must be like, “Will that Lea Thompson shut up about how I ruined her dance career! I don’t remember that girl !!” (laughing), but, yeah, he definitely did me a favor and the moral of that story is, sometimes when you’re swimming up stream, if you just turn around and let the stream carry you, you can find your best, you have to be willing to change course. I’ve tried to do that a lot in my career as an actress.

PB: And when you starred in Cabaret on Broadway was that a return to dancing for you?

LT: I didn’t really dance that much in that show, this is my dancing in Cabaret, (she gets up and does a few Fosse stomps and a pivot). They didn’t really want you to dance, everyone was supposed to be untalented, and I was like, “can I do this?”, (still standing, she does a Grand Jete) “or this?”, (she does a perfect Chene turn), and they were like, “no, no, no”. I danced a little on Caroline in the City but I actually have no film of me dancing, not one frame, video was just starting and no one thought I was worth videoing. It’s really weird for me because I wonder if I was good?

PB: I’m not sure if your schedule would allow for it but wouldn’t it make sense for you to be on….?

LT: They’ve never cast me on Dancing with the Stars and I think it’s kind of a good thing, I did one reality talent show and it was traumatic, (laughs), it was REALLY traumatic. Dancing with the Stars is different and the reason that it exists in it’s form is because they are so polite to the dancers, “the stars”, they’re very polite and kind, you have to be a real creep for them to not treat you right but, they’ve never asked me and there must be a reason.

PB: Maybe they don’t know, do you think they know?

LT: Well, when it started they didn’t want people who were actual dancers but then they realized you can’t have a girl who doesn’t have any kind of training because it’s too hard to learn without being at least a skater or something….but I don’t even know if they asked me if I’d do it, I don’t know, it’s so traumatic,(laughs).

PB: I think if there’s one thing I see reoccurring throughout your life, whether it’s the dancing, your film career or your marriage, it’s discipline. Where do you think you learned your sense of discipline?

LT: Well, my mom said she raised us with a “calculated neglect” and when we could do something for ourselves she stopped doing it for us and I kind of raised my kids with a little bit of that, which is extremely difficult in this culture right now, you know, torturing your kids by doing everything for them and trying to make sure they have the perfect this and the perfect that all the time, I think that robs kids of their self esteem. I had to do so much for myself, yes, too much, but I was the youngest of five and we were really, really poor but what that did for me… you know, there’s this weird thing that happens when you’re the passenger in a car and you’re in a strange town and you kind of don’t even see things and all of the sudden, when the person gets out and says “you want to drive now?”, things are much clearer when you’re responsible and I was responsible for my life at a very young age. I moved to New York with 700 dollars and no safety net, there wasn’t going to be any, “Mom, can I have some money?”, it was like, “no, you gotta do it, you gotta take care of yourself”, so I think that makes you responsible, but I also love being an artist and I have a great deal of respect for the people who spent the money and have hired me to fulfill their vision, so that’s given me discipline to not be self indulgent and really try to do my job as best I can. I believe, that’s part of why I’m still working, I mean, I’m not a great big star or anything but I’m still working.

PB: And there’s a lot to be said for that, quite a few actresses of your generation have fallen off the map by this point, I’m not sure if it’s discipline or fortitude or just your perfect timing……

LT: Well, no, my timing could have been better (laughs).

PB: I mean your comedic timing, I think you’ve always had expert timing, obviously with Caroline in the City but also going all the way back to Lorraine McFly.

LT: Oh, thanks, well, I’ve always maintained versatility, which, I think, makes it easier to cast me in both comedies and dramas. I’m doing kind of a drama series right now but, I think I prefer comedy because it’s harder, it’s more frightening, so, you know, I think versatility plays a big part but, one piece of wisdom I’m really feeling right now is that your life is really made up of a bunch of little decisions, all those little moments where you got to work on time or when you didn’t feel like doing something but you did it anyway or you didn’t really like that person but you were still kind, do you know what I mean?

PB: Sure.

LT: You know, your life is made up of a bunch of little times when you just did the right thing.

PB: An accumulation of Karma….

LT: It’s an accumulation of little pieces, little blocks of things and, now, I’m happy to say I’m sitting here, at my age, with a life that has had some luck, but also that I earned, through doing the right thing more than NOT doing the right thing, (laughs), which I certainly have done, but I’ve tried to be professional and kind, as much as I possibly could, and I think that’s helped.

PB: Alright, last question, if you could hop in the DeLorean and go back in time and visit any time period you missed when would it be?

LT: I love the 30s and the 40s and when I did J. Edgar I got to walk into the Cicada Club and it was the 30s and I’ve been in the 1800s and got to wear what they wore and ride the horses and smell the smells, that’s the beautiful thing about being in my profession, I feel like I’ve kind of lived, at least in my imagination, in other times, but I feel like this is great time for being a woman, I think if I had to go back to another time, being a woman, it would be very difficult.

Chrysta Bell: Confessions of a Dark Temptress

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*Editors Note: Since we originally published this interview with Chrysta, back in 2011, her career has  continued on it’s steady climb up the proverbial ladder. Her new album, We Dissolve, is due 6/9/17 and, as many of you reading this most likely already know, she is starring in Season 3 of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks on Showtime. The interview remains one of our all time favorites, and also is the all time champ of hits for our site, (it’s important to note, at the time of publishing very little info regarding the artist was available online.) For more up to date info on Chrysta, check out her website chrystabell.com

 

 

Now that we have your attention, I must offer a confession of my own, despite the salacious title that prompted you to click on this article, Chrysta Bell isn’t really “confessing” anything in this interview and, much to my surprise, she really isn’t all that “dark”, as for the “temptress” part…well, I strongly suggest you watch the videos and judge that one for yourself.

Modern torch chantuse’ Chrysta Bell has spent the last decade collaborating with the legendary filmmaker/ artist/ musician David Lynch on a project that neither were certain would ever see the light of day but, much to the delight of both Lynch fans and music lovers everywhere, the result of this meeting of two beautiful and unique minds was finally released as the album This Train recently and has created a nice bit of buzz as well as quite a few rave reviews, mine, of course, being one of them. Put simply, this is the best work, ( film, music or otherwise), that Lynch has produced in over a decade, but then, when you have a muse in the form of a young Texas born beauty who has the extrordinary vocal ability to turn from angel to seductress, from verse to chorus and back again, how could the man be anything but divinely inspired?

I recently had the great pleasure of speaking with Chrysta Bell about her early beginnings, her musical influences and her collaboration with David Lynch.

Pop Bitez: Your journey as a singer and performer pretty much started right out of high school didn’t it?

Chrysta Bell: Oh yes, well, instead of going to university I went to the university of life (laughs), I graduated from high school and went on the road for about four years with a wonderful band called 8 1/2 Souvenirs. My situation with them, though I didn’t know it at the time, was really a dream situation. They were well known in Austin before I came on the scene, so they had laid all of this ground work and done all the really tough stuff and I got to kind of get on that train at a perfect moment. Not that we didn’t have our own share of the roller coaster but it was a pretty sweet deal. I had no idea how great a situation it was until I was no longer with them and I was like “Wait a second…!”. You get signed to RCA Victor at 19 and you feel like it’s only up from here and you can’t really conceive of anything different because that’s all you’ve ever really known, and before 8 1/2 Souvenirs I definitely perceived myself as the ugly duckling, I never really got the “yeses”, I got a lot of, ” …Wellll, if you were this or if you were that..”. Looking back I’m so grateful for that opportunity because I was surrounded by really wonderful musicians, these guys were very international and I really appreciated the opportunity to learn about things like gypsy jazz and old country, stuff that really hadn’t been on my radar before, I was the youngest in the band by 15 maybe 20 years and it was definitely like school for me.

PB: It’s obviously not enough to be a great singer these days, performance is really key, now more than ever I think, and with everything I’ve seen of yours on youtube and vimeo I find your work infinitely watchable, you seem to inhabit the songs as much as you sing them, you have a definite theatrical instinct both with 8 1/2 Souvenirs and now this latest project, where exactly do you think your foundation for performance originated?

Chrysta Bell: Well, my mother is a performer and a singer and in my earliest years she was supporting us by doing singing telegrams. She would actually write a song for every single client she had, she would get information about the person who was receiving the telegram and she would compose an entire song for them and she’d dress up in full costume, with a giant bouquet of balloons and whatever else was appropriate for the occasion and I got to witness all of this. She also did a lot of musical theater, and from a very early age I definitely shared that passion to want to make people happy and feel that reciprocation from a live audience certainly in part because I watched her do it. She went on to own and run a recording studio with my step father and that gave me the other side of the equation, performing artist vs. recording artist and how different they are, but as far as the performance, I knew that I loved theatrics. I could tell that for me it was even more exciting to watch a singer perform when it involved these other elements. I’ve always been one of those singers that has to kind of perform with their hands and sing with their bodies, I’ve actually had to reel that in to some degree. When I first started with 8 1/2 Souvenirs I was in the footsteps of this amazing vocalist, it was outrageous, her voice was incredible and, by my own perception, I wasn’t even half the vocalist she was so I felt that what I needed to do to make it a great show was to really bring all the other elements I had. I’m also just so fascinated that people have come to a show, they’re there in part to watch me sing and that blows my mind so I want to give them a stellar show and every bit of what I have to offer so that they feel their choice was a good one. As we began to do more music videos and I realized I could watch myself perform, I actually became a little self conscious because I felt like, “Oh gosh, this is my natural state but, maybe I’m over-doing it?“, but I don’t know how I would pull back because I really don’t know how to separate the two, so i just threw my hands up and decided I would just go with it (laughs).

PB: And were you singing in high school?

Chrysta Bell: I was, I was always singing and when I was 12 or 13 there was a children’s theater in San Antonio and I was definitely way into that, not really finding my groove at my school but feeling much more at home in the community theater. I was still finding my voice and discovering myself. I was usually type cast as the kind of ditzy character, which when I look back is so funny, (laughs) I’m not quite sure how but that was the perception people had of me at the time which is odd because I’ve always been fairly studious. I think in those environments you’re always trying to find your flavor, your character, and I guess that was the one chosen for me so I kind of just went with it. I really think it served in getting the pumps primed for me. In theater you’ve got the lines and the blocking and the emotion and then the songs you’re singing, it’s a really good way to get all of those juices flowing at that age. I would recommend musical theater for anyone going into any kind of music, pop music, country music, anything, because, as you said, the performance element has now become very, very important, there is so much going on out there and any way you can distinguish yourself is helpful. Certainly great songs are always going to be your strongest asset but the performance of those songs is definitely the next level, that’s prevalent everywhere now.

PB: So how and when exactly did your road intersect with David Lynch?

Chrysta Bell: David came into my life because of a manager, Bud Prager, who had managed bands like Foreigner and Bad Company, he really had this amazing ability to hear what was possible when something had yet to be realized. We met when I was still with 8 1/2 souvenirs and when the band split up he said, ” O.k., I want to take you on and see what we can do together“, and I was very open to the possibility. His strong feeling was if I could be in a movie or on a television show performing that would be my best chance, so he pulled the strings he could pull and called in the favors and got me a face to face with a man named Brian Loucks, who was an agent with CAA, after talking with me and listening to my demo, within, like, 15 minutes, Brian said “I think David Lynch is really going to love you”, and I’m like, “David Lynch“? My connection with David up until this point was just as a fan of Twin Peaks and really loving the music, but at that point…. through all of my years and experience, I’d heard a lot of people promise a lot of things and I honestly didn’t think it would ever happen, but my manager pursued it and made sure it happened and Brian did set up a meeting and I was able to meet David and my life hasn’t been the same since (laughs). Brian knew that David loved music and was making music and was open to working with musicians that would be an appropriate and complimentary fit and it couldn’t just be anyone, there were some parameters, I believe, that were unspoken, but Brian had a gift for knowing what David would respond to and, somehow, at that moment, I was actually 19 at the time, Brian intuited that David and I would work out together and the first day David and I met we wrote a song, it’s actually the second song on the album, “Right Down to You“, our musical chemistry, thank God, was instant. I know it was a big relief for my manager and for Brian who really stuck his neck out, a girl from Texas that nobody knows, he’s got nothing to gain except for David’s happiness and a lot to lose if David isn’t feeling it, so I really appreciate that Brian did that and that it’s worked out!

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PB: Do you remember a specific moment in time when you discovered that you and David were simpatico?

Chrysta Bell: I can only speak for myself but the moment he opened the door, cigarette hanging out of his mouth, white untucked dress shirt covered in paint splotches and arms open and he said “Chrysta Bell!“, he knew my name, (laughing), and said it correctly! He has such a magnanimous spirit and made me feel special and important in that moment, before he’d even heard my demo. The night before I met him I hadn’t actually slept, I’d been up all night and it had been made very clear to me how significant this meeting could be, if it didn’t work out it wasn’t going to be the end of the world but if it did it was going to be helpful in a lot of ways, even if it didn’t manifest with David it was important that it go well. So I was taken with David’s compassion for the situation, he certainly didn’t have to be that way but he absolutely was and, of course, the friendship just grew from there. The musical collaboration and developing friendship went hand in hand. I believe this music has it’s own kind of karma and part of the reason it took so long was that there was a lot to put in this record. There was a lot to offer, every body of work is a representation of so many elements and this one needed years and a developing friendship and an understanding that I could really tune into what David was looking for, and then my personal journey as well, within. I feel very blessed in the time that we’ve shared and it’s always been a trip and super fun and an adventure in all kinds of ways.

PB: I, obviously, love the album and your work with David, much of the music featured is dark and sexy and exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Lynch project but I think the song that surprised me the most was the last track on the album, “The Truth Is“, which, dare I say, actually seems “radio friendly” and almost reminds me of the early stuff from the Eurythmics.

Chrysta Bell: Yes! It does have a sort of Eurythmics vibe and I’m a massive fan! That song is special for a number of reasons, David actually wrote it while he was meditating, he meditates twice a day, transcendentally, and TM is a very enlivening meditation, it really gets your creative juices flowing and so this song and melody came to him in flashes and when he came out of the meditation he wrote it down and then when I came to do some sessions he said “I have this song Chrysta Bell, it’s called “The Truth Is“. With all of the other songs we’d done together I wrote the melodies, he composed the music and the lyrics but it was up to me to create the melodies and give it a flow, but this one he already had the melody, so he said “Chrysta Bell I wrote this song during meditation, it’s for you and I’m going to sing it for you“. So he sang it for me and I kind of came up with the harmonies and added my touches to it and when we were doing it I was like, “Wow, this is..this is very different“, (laughs) and of course I absolutely love it and it’s perfect because even in a live set it adds that lift, that’s actually what I’m working on right now, the live presentation of the music, so it’s great to have that great uplifting moment and such a great song to sing and so much fun.

PB: I really think the timing for this album is perfect. I loved the 8 1/2 Souvenirs stuff as well and it’s great to see you back in the game, I think the brilliance of this record is going to take you to a whole new level.

Chrysta Bell: I hope so, my hopes are high, but I haven’t put expectations on it that in any way potentially end in disappointment, I just want to be in this moment and enjoy the fruits of the labor that have gone into making this record and putting it out into the world, I’m trying to be pretty even headed about that because you just don’t know. I never consciously put the music thing on the side, I just had all kinds of things in my life that took my focus but the music thing would never let me go, never let me do anything else, there was never even a possibility, it’s required a lot of staying power but, now that I feel it coming together, it’s really exciting that the album has touched the people that it has. I’ve been in the business long enough to know there are ebbs and flows, and this moment is like a lovely buzz, it’s like a sweet bit of acknowledgment that is very appreciated and taken to heart because it has been quite a journey to get here and I didn’t know it would ever really come to fruition, I am definitely reveling in this moment now and we’ll see what the future holds.

PB: Last question, if you could go back in time and see any concert you missed, where and who would it be?

Chrysta Bell: Maybe the Duke Ellington Orchestra with either Ella or Billie at the Cotton Club, just to witness that history would be so amazing, I would be completely entertained and soulfully inspired.

A Talk with Zach Ernst of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears

Like their forefather, the late, great James Brown, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears are currently one of the hardest working bands in show business. For what seems like an almost continuous five year stretch, the band has been honing their craft the old school way, town to town and country to country. The results of their musical maturity and growth on their seemingly never-ending tour are on full display with the band’s latest release, Scandalous, the exceptional follow up to their impressive debut album, Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is. For fans of classic R & B and high energy funk, you won’t find a better act today carrying the proverbial torch originally lit by The Meters, Sly and the Family Stone and the Godfather himself, Mr. James Brown.

I recently had a chance to speak with Zach Ernst, lead guitarist and founding member of the Honeybears, about the current tour and the band’s latest release.

Pop Bitez: Who were some your biggest influences when you were first starting out?

Zach Ernst: I grew up listening to all kinds of stuff, when I was in high school I started listening to a lot of the guys who’ve influenced our current sound, like The Meters and James Brown.

PB: How and when did you discover Joe Lewis and decide to form the band?

Zach: Well, Joe was playing around town for awhile, in Austin, and he had kind of a reputation locally, when we first met I approached him as a fan and a writer for the Daily Texan, the college paper for the University of Texas,  I was also part of the UT concert committee at the time and we had Little Richard coming in for this big free concert and I pretty much convinced the committee to book Joe as the opening act because I thought he would really fit the bill. So he played that show with his old band and then it was shortly after that we decided to start a band together.

PB: And is it true Joe was close to throwing in the towel and maybe leaving town before you guys joined forces?

Zach: Yeah, he was sort of fed up and tired of playing the same ten songs for the same ten people every week and I think getting a new band behind him helped in his deciding to give it another shot, we were fortunate enough to catch some breaks early on and we’ve just kept it going from there, I think we’re actually coming up on five years now.

PB: Wow, and it’s probably all a blur at this point, you guys have been on the road almost that entire time, right?

Zach: Yeah, we’ve been on the road for most of that, I was still in college when we started, I was 20 and I’m 25 now. The whole first year and a half I was still in school and then we hit the road really hard and put out the first record and kind of got swept up with everything.

PB: There’s been a really nice steady progression for you guys, don’t you think?

Zach: Yeah, a lot of bands a lot better than us work for a lot longer before they get the opportunity to quit their day jobs and tour, so yeah, we definitely don’t take for granted the opportunities we’ve been given.

PB: There’a always a lot of talk about the “sophomore jinx” and how it’s really a sink or swim moment, clearly you guys are swimming, in fact I’d have to say, as strong as I think that first album was, Scandalous really seems like a more focused and mature album. How was your approach different on this one?

Zach: Well, I think we’d played so many gigs together that we just got better as a band, everyone had improved, Joe became a better singer I think and got better on the guitar, all of us got better playing together and we were just a lot more confident going in this time. I also think we grew as songwriters, I think this second one is better and it’s pointing towards a more original direction rather than a kind of homage to our favorite stuff. It would have been easy to do, you know, our modern take on southern R & B but, there’s a lot more blues on this one and straight up rock and roll and I think  as we continue writing the third album we’ll keep moving in that direction.

PB: There have been so many really excellent bands coming out of Austin in the last decade, what is it about Austin that separates it from all the other major music cities?

Zach: Live music is just a big part of what people do here, you know, you go to other towns and you get the tours coming through but there just aren’t a lot of venues for local bands to play, in Austin there are just so many clubs and so many opportunities to get on stage.

PB: As far as the steady climb up the ladder is concerned, is there a particular highlight that stands out for you personally?

Zach: When we did our first headline tour, which was not that long ago really, two years ago, I think, we’d done a ton of support shows opening for other bands early on, but once we started going to towns on our own and seeing that there was a crowd there for us… and playing places like New York or D.C. or Boston and Chicago, and being sold out or at least pretty full and realizing that all this hard work and promotion we’ve done is working. The fact that we can go somewhere we’ve never been and there’s a crowd for us is still kind of shocking to me, you know, the fact that wether we’re in a new town or we’re playing abroad, there are people showing up and they know the music, that’s still really surreal. I’ve gotten the most gratification from that…

PB: Sure, knowing they’re all showing up specifically to see you….

Zach: Yeah, it’s different if you’re playing in front of a bunch of folks and they’re not really paying attention because you’re just the opening act and, sometimes, when you’re supporting, you want that, where they don’t know who you are in the beginning but by the end you’ve won them over, but going on a headline run and having people there excited about seeing you is something else.

PB: Scandalous is one of my favorite albums that came out recently, I’m curious, what’s the best stuff you’ve heard this year?

Zach: I just got the new Tom Waits album which is unbelievable, it’s so good, as always, he just keeps getting better. We’ve got a friend in Austin who has a re-issue label that distributes stuff through Light in the Attic, they’re called Heavy Light Records, and there’s actually a track on our album that features some guest vocals from a band called The Relatives, and this guy just put out their recordings from the 70s, they’re kind of an obscure band from Dallas that did some really incredible stuff and the label also just put a record from a band called Kool and Together, which just came out a couple of weeks ago and is also old recordings, they’re just an unbelievable black rock band from Texas, you know, we listen to a lot of old stuff, but I really liked the Charles Bradley record, I thought that was really good and there’s a guy from San Francisco, Ty Segall, who we all really like.

PB: If you could go back in time and catch one concert you missed, who and when would it be?

Zach: Maybe that Stax Revue that went to Europe with Sam and Dave and Otis Redding, or Bobby Womack doing a show on the “Chitlin Circuit”, I would’ve loved to have seen that.

Check out “Livin’ in the Jungle” from Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears’ new album Scandalous!

Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears Tour Dates

11/08/2011 Santa Fe, NM Sol Santa Fe
11/09/2011 Phoenix, AZ The Crescent Ballroom
11/10/2011 Solona Beach, CA Belly Up
11/11/2011 Los Angeles, CA The Echoplex
11/12/2011 Fresno, CA Fulton 55
11/14/2011 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
11/16/2011 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom
11/17/2011 Vancouver, CA Rickshaw Theatre
11/18/2011 Seattle, WA Neptune Theatre
11/20/2011 Bozeman, MT The Filling Station
11/22/2011 Boulder, CO Fox Theatre
12/07/2011 Auckland, New Zealand Powerstation
12/09/2011 Marrickville, Australia The Factory Theatre
12/10/2011 Meredith, Australia Meredith Music Festival
12/11/2011 Oakleigh, Australia Caravan Music Club
12/13/2011 Melbourne, Australia Prince Bandroom
12/31/2011 Chicago, IL Double Door