Friday, August 23, 2013

World - Meet Hocus......


'Hocus' - Fat Lando, Lolita and Rhino

Amid much gigging and promoting and, at a guess - just plain fun, ‘Hocus’ was borne in 2009.  Based in Sand Diego, California, USA, group members are Fat Lando – guitars, Rhino – drums and Lolita – bass.  All three very versatile people are also the vocalists. 

            ‘Hocus’ was discovered by Raunchola Productions.  This company had just set up and one of their first concepts was a program called – the ‘Program’.  The idea being that it helps artists and bands that wish to make a real effort to move forward – and could but for lack of finance, direction and the capabilities.  It seems Raunchola Productions had heard of ‘Hocus’ and after meeting these three young musicians and hearing them in action – immediately added them to their roster.

            And how did the name ‘Hocus’ come about?  It was the name of Fat Lando’s tom cat which must have been a pretty jolly tough feline as he lived to a rather stunning sixteen years.  What else would you name a band after?  LOVE it.        

           Fat Lando has always wanted this band to be not only that but also for each member to have his or her own identity

          To have a quick glimpse into the background of these three rising stars:  drummer Rhino, from California, has been playing drums in different bands covering San Diego – since he was a teenager: Lolita, the bassist from New Mexico, is much the same in that she has been playing the violin in various groups also during her teens.  Whereas, in comparison, Fat Lando, a Texan,  experienced his first exposure to music life in London, England, playing in Indie/Pop band Fuse, as a rhythm guitarist. 

            The group has already established a considerable media presence as well, appearing on TV, in the press and over the radio in San Deigo.  Nominee for the San Diego Music Awards for ‘Best Local Recording in 2010’ and ‘Best Rock Band in 2012, ‘Hocus’ has also recently recorded its first album, ‘Outside Your Door’ for Raunchola Productions and is mastered by legendary Jack Endino, in Seattle.

            Song titles, to date, include ‘Bipolar Girl’, ‘Here I Go’ and ‘My Insanity’ – music has been described as ‘saucy yet smooth’, ‘melodic rock’ and likened to a ‘smooth relaxing drink with a twist of razor blade’ – all with a pinch of raw punk thrown in for good measure.  The group has also been likened to such well established groups as the Sex Pistols, Nirvana and Iggy and the Stooges.  Two more songs are:  ‘It’s Been Ten Years’ and ‘Mary’s Fault’ – and the list goes on.  A further description referring to their music style is ‘razor edged rock’.  All very appropriate, from what I have been fortunate enough to hear so far.

            ‘Hocus’ has also recently appeared in the documentary ‘A San Diego Concert Film’, adding this to their growing resumes.  The group acts on a very simple strategy:  verse, chorus, verse, guitars, bass and drums.  And that’s it.  Three very talented young stars. 

            Their new album, ‘Outside Your Door’, due for release in fall of this year is full of the most amazing tracks.  I have had the pleasure of listening to many of them and the different genres – the way the members of ‘Hocus’ have presented these are just fantastic.  While the tracks vary immensely from each other, they are all very listenable and I found myself addicted to many of them.  Intentional or not, I felt that some of the tracks would appeal to most tastes and ages, young and old, alike.  Not all of them – a lot are very definitely for the young but there are some that I think really would appeal to a wider age group.  Well done ‘Hocus’.  I have yet to see the cover but methinks it will be nothing short of awesome, given everything else that this group has produced.

            This is another group to watch.  The future is out there – go and get it!

Story Source:   Lannah Sawers-Diggins and Fat Lando

Links:   Facebook
                  Hocus Music - Reverbnation
                  Hocus Music - MySpace

Photos:  Courtesy of Fat Lando

Monday, August 19, 2013

Introducing....Derek of 'Social Science'


Derek of 'Social Science'
There is much new musical talent around and I feel just so honoured and privileged to be ‘meeting’ some of these amazing people, young and old – to being able to help and promote their wonderful talents however I can.  Many of them have been bullied, in one way or another and are using their talents to help raise awareness about this awful and unending act – to reassure victims around the world that they are not alone.

            Derek, of ‘Social Science’ is one such person.  His is another amazing story – his music would be described as ProgRock, Contemporary Folk, Classical and Rock and his style could be compared with such artists as Peter Gabriel, Blur, Queen, Jack White and Peter Gabriel.    Derek is a songwriter as well as being a very talented multi-instrumentalist and is excellent at using such talents to help enhance similar talents in other people.  A music teacher, he has also worked with an impressive array of others in the music industry and with such diversity as indie rock bands to orchestras.

            He is a solo artist with his band ‘Social Science’ and carries a definite symphonic pop – a true mixture of rock, folk, classical and jazz.  His music has developed and matured with the help of the study of such artists as Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, the Police and Queen, to name but a few.  

            Song titles include:  ‘Life Goes On’, ‘Broken’ and ‘If You Were Perfect’ among others.  The latter title actually features playing drums with four sticks – but Derek says that only three sticks are really needed for this instrument.  He feels that using three sticks allows one to be a ‘fully armed’ drummer when standing.  For a singer doing a live show, this opens up new possibilities.  He calls this style of song:  ‘Acoustic Thrash’.   

             By working with such notables as Garry Frost (Moving Picture, 1927 and Australian Idol’s Shannon Noll) and Tim Powell (The Church) Derek has also been dabbling in a more exact and visceral rock approach and the resulting tracks will be debuted in the near future.

           And coming up is the release of the EP ‘Experiment’.  Collaborating with illustrator Jeremiah Wallis, Derek has paired some tracks with vibrant animation – what a stroke of genius.  Between them, they have manage to create some ‘richly expressive videos’ which bring out Derek’s talent for creativity. 
How to Play the Dr Sticks

Another facet that is underway is the transitioning of 'Social Science' into an amazing experience which is referred to as 'Three Piece Rock Opera' - moving away from  being a studio entity.  As Derek says:  'The vision for the live show has always been to play with different theatrical forms and techniques to keep shows compelling.'  He wants to use amazing visuals and narratives to stimulate those areas of the brain which we currently use for movies.

         Derek and 'Social Science' - another name to watch out for in the future.  Watch this space.

Story Source:    Lannah Sawers-Diggins and Derek of 'Social Science'.

Links:    Social Science Videos
                   Social Science Homepage
                   Experiment Videos




Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Presenting: The Great American Robber Barons

GENRE: Alternative, Folk Rock, Rock
COMPARISON:  Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue, The Byrds, The Clash, Lou Reed, Richard and Mimi Farina
LOCATION:  San Francisco, CA

Another very talented and rising star, who originates from New Zealand but now resides in San Francisco, is Keith Dion.  His is the most amazing story, again one of bullying and an abusive background, leading up to the present when he is emerging as a musical force to be reckoned with.

While he is also a songwriter, Keith has not actually written the lyrics for any of his own music to date.  He is making the statement of his lifetime, though, with his band, The Great American Robber Barons, through the darkly cathartic debut:  ‘Reno Nevada’, ‘Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal’.  This has been done in collaboration with former ‘Jefferson Starship’ lead vocalist, Diana Mangano.

Both his parents passed away in Reno, Nevada, after which Keith found a whole new dimension to his musicality.  His feelings go some distance to explain why the songs on the album are about gambling, vice and betrayal – and they are heartfelt.  The deaths of his parents made their son face a lot of things and as the layers continue to be peeled back so more dark aspects are being exposed.

This CD/DVD bundle contains a dark side of Reno, along with the same of the 1960s and the Vietnam war.  Keith’s lyrics are political, poignant and literate.  His laidback cool low register vocals combined with the impassioned vocals of Diana Mangano – masterful songcraft is nothing but sensational.

In the past Keith has worked as an ace guitarist in the New Zealand cult band, ‘The Ponsonby DC’s as well as such groups as ‘The Ophelias’, ‘3.05 AM’ and ‘Corsica’.  To add several more strings to his bow he has also recorded or performed with famous names such as members of The Kinks’, ‘Thin Lizzy and ‘Santana to name but a few.  He was also the producer and bandleader for the late Noel Redding of The JimiHendrix Experience’.

His upbringing and the sadness therein is brought forth through his talents.  This includes gun control, the sadness of war, animal and women’s rights and the fact that his father was a Vietnam veteran. 

Keith got his start in music playing in all original groups.  He was not remotely interested in cover bands.  Two early bands which had a lasting impression on Keith were Arthur Lee and Love from LA and The Jimi Hendrix Experience from London – both bands being very innovative and stylish and played a variety of music.  Many years later Keith ended up working with members of both groups and actually produced several albums of Noel Redding, bass player in ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’.  One thing led to another and he finished up producing two albums for Arthur Lee and then touring with him afterwards.

As Keith said, it all started when he was growing up in New Zealand in his early 20s.  He has since been fortunate enough to land record deals of his own in both New Zealand and later in San Francisco.

He is inspired by people, by situations and by experiences.  By listening to and having conversations.  Having spent his formative years in NZ after Southern CA, he had a somewhat different exposure to music.  Different songs, different people in each setting.  He also feels that having been around famous, talented and successful people has all helped him to understand and appreciate the importance of self – and not trying to copy others. 

Like most in this industry, Keith has certainly encountered his share of obstacles on this road.  For a start, he was forbidden, as a child, to have a guitar or anything to do with his music – by his parents.  So he had to do it all in secret.  But growing up only presented further problems – as his music and voice grew, so did the criminals he had to deal with – professionally.

Keith is also in the process of writing a book about his experiences in both NZ and San Francisco in the late 1980s.  ‘Snapshots of Heaven and Hell – Surviving the Music Business and Living to Tell the Tale!’ – is an amazing recount of part of his life to date.  It includes landing multiple record deals and having multiple hit records with several groups – then losing all that hard earned money.  The book describes the North American record industry in very interesting detail. 
Diana Mangano

Keith credits the group’s wide range of ‘hits’ – music, songwriting, record production, filmmaking, poetry and writing – as being the factor that sets them apart from other artists.  Naturally he also credits Diana Mangano from ‘The Jefferson Starship’, who is female vocalist with Keith, as being a pretty big attraction for the group too.

Looking at the immediate future, Keith can see them having more exposure at Film Festivals.  The visual effects produced by the use of his father’s vintage 8mm home movies from the 1960s also sets them apart from other artists.

There is an incredibly complex amount to the amazing Keith Dion.  This is a group to watch for and will be explored further as we venture down this road.  Keith was good enough to send me a copy of their CD so I have been fortunate enough to hear some of their music – and I like it and recommend it.  The lyrics are deep, meaningful, probing and interesting.  I am really looking forward to hearing more.
New release:  cover of 'Reno Nevada and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal

To order copies of 'Reno Nevada and Other Songs of Gambling, Vice and Betrayal':  305am

Story Source:  Lannah Sawers-Diggins and Keith Dion

Links:  Cyber PR
     The Great American Robber Barons   
     The Ophelias 
     The Kinks
     Thin Lizzy

Videos:  At The Hands of the Robber Baron

Diana Mangano's story, in her own words, to be posted here soon.  

Stay tuned.


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Introducing Another Wonderful Young Actress

In the coming weeks/months/years I hope to continue introducing these amazing rising young and not-so-young actors, singers, songwriters, models, musicians to you - to the world.  You have already been introduced to the wonderful Meredith O'Connor and Kim Tillman.  Most of these people have been bullied - have endured pure nightmares and are now using their brilliant talents to raise awareness about this awful act around the world, while also trying to reassure victims, internationally, that they are not alone.  I have more of these people coming 'onboard', most of whom are rising stars both in the USA and Australia (at the moment), along with the occasional more established and better known celebrity/ies.

Today, please meet a lovely young actor, JACKEE MINELLI, who recently appeared in the independent anti-bullying film, 'Red Head Randy'.  Jackee is yet another who has endured a nightmare throughout her education and has now emerged a positive and lovely young lady, gaining confidence every step of the way.  Here is her story:

Jackee Minelli - another amazing young lady.

‘My nightmare started in grade K.  My Mom and Dad take care of mentally challenged and elderly people – and brought them along to a fundraiser at my school.  One of the men had a problem with drooling, a reaction of the medication he took - and as such, always carried a napkin.  The kids started making fun of him – the mother of one child said:  ‘These kinds of people shouldn’t be brought to this kind of fundraiser’.  My Mom turned around and responded with:  ‘They belong here more than you ungodly people do’.  That kid started to become distant from then on – but then it got worse as time went on.

            ‘In grade K I was wearing an eye patch and I had to keep switching eyes with the patch because I had a tracking problem and a lazy eye – the kids would call me things like ‘Pirate Jack’, ‘One eyed Jack’ – it made me feel very bad.  Then I had to wear glasses and they called me ‘Four eyes Pirate Jack’.  I used to wish and ask my mother why I was made like this and it made me cry.

            ‘Then in first grade, due to my eyes having a tracking problem, I was made to sit up front by the teacher because I couldn’t get all the work in and the kids would call me names because of that and for the same reason I had a reading problem and they had to take me out of the class and get me help and the kids would call me:  ‘Stupid four eyed Jack’ and it made me feel like I wasn’t good enough and I didn’t fit in.

            ‘Then I gained more weight.  Everyone was going to birthday parties and getting invitations in school in front of me and I was the only kid that sometimes wouldn’t get one. They always left me out as if I wasn’t even there and it always made me cry and not want to go to school and it left me unable to concentrate on my work.

            ‘2nd through 3rd grade I was tormented and teased to the stage I was crying every day.  I did have one friend and she was heavy – they made fun of her also and her mother blamed me for it and didn’t want her to be friends with me.  I had nothing to do with it – they did it because she was heavy and liked dragons.

            ‘In 4th grade I thought things would have been better.  My Mom came in and talked to the ladies in the office again and the teacher repeated it to the class, making it even worse.  I would go to my room and cry – but tell my Mom everything was OK.  I hated to come out – I used to stay in my room all the time, but my Mom wanted me to come out and it was just so hard trying to pretend that everything was OK.

            ‘5th grade I got on the basketball team and I thought I would get friends but the kids were all just mean, calling me names, wouldn’t sit by me and I would have to sit by myself, waiting to play.  Then I was asked to be on the All Star basketball team because I was good at shooting 3 pointers and the kids became even more angry with me.  At lunch time when I brought my food to the table they would get up and go to another table, leaving me there to sit alone.  I hated lunch time and didn’t want to go to school because of it.  Then I would hear my Mom cry and pray and ask God to help me and for me to be happy and not feel so bad all the time.

            ‘The start of 6th grade when basketball practice started the team leader called all the kids for practice and they never called me.  The practice started in July through September and then when school started we were wondering when basketball would start and the coach said it started two months ago – then the kids on the team told the coach they didn’t call me because I had heart problems so the coach suspended the practice for the whole team.  Then in the middle of the year my mother asked the gym teacher and the art teacher to keep an eye out for kids picking on me and making fun of me – because the office and the homeroom teachers tried to just cover it up.  So one day in the hall the art teacher caught the kids with my book bag while I was waiting for my Mom to come and she caught them saying they were going to do something to me.  So they stopped the games for a month and said if it doesn’t stop they won’t let them play at all, or graduate.  Then I came home that night I stood in my room crying and wishing I could be born like others and I didn’t want to live that way anymore and my Mom woke me because I was running up and down the hall looking like I was playing basketball and crying because the kids were saying they were going to hurt me and do something to me.  I was crying for my Mom to help me.

            ‘7th through 8th grade I started to really worry about the high school that I was going to and if I would have friends and I would have panic attacks worrying about it and whether the other kids would go to the same school.  I would also try to go to the bathroom all the time and try to leave school during vocabulary class because we had to read around the room and I didn’t know how to say some of the words or read very well, like the other kids did.  They would always make fun of me and laugh at me when it was my turn.

            ‘9th grade was a great year – God answered my prayers for Mom and me.  I used to pray every day and night that it would be different.  I made lots of new friends – I even made two best friends.  We all used to hang out a lot together.

            ‘In 10th grade – the beginning of the year wasn’t like 9th – it changed a lot.  Everything was getting different interests – doing drugs, drinking, going out – and I never wanted to do any of that stuff so I stopped being friends with most of the people – apart from three because I believe in God’s ways and I try to be a good person and not hurt nor judge anyone.  As time went on I was in life skills and a boy behind me was making fun of these kids that had mental problems and I didn’t like it so I told him off about it.  He tried going up my skirt and I tried to tell the teacher – the teacher only told him to stop, then he did it again, so I got up and walked out of the class as everyone was laughing.  The teacher told me to get back in there or I would get into a lot of trouble so my one best friend at the time and I walked out to go to the principal.  As time went on, they didn’t do anything.  I was at a restaurant with my friends – the kids were texting me saying they were going to jump me, calling my phone all night long – nothing was done about any of this so I switched schools.  I had one good friend at the other school – we used to hang out all the time and everything felt good again.  I was happy.  Then I got my first boyfriend – everyone gets excited when they get their first boyfriend but at the end of the year I left the school because I broke up with that boy and he had everyone after me and everything started to get worse again.

            ‘For 11th grade I went back to the school I was at before and people made me feel really uncomfortable – like I didn’t belong there and I honestly didn’t want to go to English class.  I was in front of the class and everyone was talking about me and staring at me like I was some kind of monster.  Everyone was calling me names, whispering and it hurt very badly so I went to the guidance counsellor to see if they could switch me back with one of my old friends that I was still close to.  They did but it still wasn’t the best because in that class it happened again.  I couldn’t wait for everything to be over so I went back and asked the counsellor to put me at the VO tech school because at the old school I went to a VO tech also and that’s what I loved to do so they did.  I met a lot of new friends and it was great – I felt like I belonged there until one day, I walked into the cafĂ© and I saw my ex boyfriend.  He was sitting there and had the whole table calling me very bad names and it hurt because I wasn’t of the names they were calling me.  I was being called ‘Fat’, ‘Whore’, ‘Ugly’, ‘Gross’, ‘Slut’ – everything in the book you can name – I was called.  It hurt a lot – everywhere I turned everyone was calling me names, looking at me like I was that monster again and it hurt a lot – but I tried to stay positive and get on with school.  He was sent out to rehab and after that everything was better again.  I had to be in a class with 10th graders because in 10th grade I wasn’t in a science class at the other school and they were all boys and they were all making fun of me.  They would push me and take my stuff, steal my money and threaten me and I would tell the teacher – she never did anything about it.  They tried to trip me, they always made comments and said things under their breath.  They would go into the back and talk about me and while they did they would look and laugh in my face and make fun of me because I was in their class and I was a junior.
Jackee and her equally amazing Mom

            ‘In 12th grade I stopped going to my school because things got even worse than before there.  Everyone seemed to hate me and it felt even worse so I started to go to cyber school and also went to VO tech still.  As time went on at the VO tech school I stopped being friends with those that I had because they were doing bad things and talking about me and causing trouble and one day I walked into the school and everyone was looking at me and whispering about me and I had no idea why and then one girl came up to me and told me people were saying I was doing bad things with people I didn’t even know.  People were saying I was buying drugs from these two guys in school and I never touched a drug in my life – so it made me very mad.  I was very angry and the kid that was saying it was friends with one of my old friends and I found out that she started the rumor.  As time went on he would torment me in school – he would make comments about me, saying I was so fat and needed to go to weight loss classes – he would say:  ‘Thunder thighs are coming through – WATCH OUT’ and I honestly, for once, didn’t think I was fat.  I had confidence then lost it again and everywhere I turned I heard it and I didn’t even know the kid.  As time went on the girl in my VO tech class started to not like me because my teacher would always have me do the hair when people came in to get it done.  But I didn’t let it bother me.  As time went on more comments were made like they would say she shouldn’t even be here – she’s horrible – she sucks – I can’t stand her – she’s a goody goody.  I was a goody goody but I liked that because I am very Godly and if it wasn’t for God and my daily prayers I would have never made it through most of the time.  I didn’t even want to be alive – I hated my life because it hurt so badly but I stayed positive and tried to be strong. 

            ‘Then I entered a modelling contest and won – they had me do a commercial - Phil and Raymond are great guys.  I went to the house after they picked me to be in the movie and I felt the kids hated me and were looking at me weirdly and talking about me – I feel this way often, but Mom said that I should give it a chance.  So I went again and met a girl, Christy – she was a very nice girl and made me feel comfortable and we had so much fun.  Phil and Raymond helped me in so many ways – they made me laugh and have fun with other kids and it just made me feel so good – and feel like I am a normal person and it helped me to feel that other kids can like me and want to be around me.  It’s funny but my Mom and I got to meet Mr Henry Winkler, the Fonz from ‘Happy Days’, an old show – my Mom loved him.  I jumped in and started talking to him – my Mom just dropped and she couldn’t stop talking about how well I did at just jumping in and talking.  She was so proud of me and it was all because of how Phil and Raymond and the movie ‘Red Head Randy’ have helped me – just in so many ways.  Then I got to meet Ian Somerhalder from ‘Vampire Diaries’, my favourite TV show.  I wouldn’t have been able to speak to him if it wasn’t for God and Phil and Raymond – he is my biggest inspiration besides God.  God will always be number one to me – and of course my Mom and Dad and brothers.  They have all been big supporters.  My brother and his girlfriend and my boyfriend along with my Mom and Dad and a worker started a fan club and to help raise money for the movie they got shirts made up. 

            ‘I try to be a good person and I don’t understand what I did to these kids that they hate me so much.  The movie ‘Red Head Randy’ has helped me in so many ways.  I hope all this can help other kids to see how they hurt each other and to help stop the bullying so other kids don’t have to go through it as much as I did.’

Watch this space for Jackee's initial interview as we follow her and all these wonderful people along their roads to stardom.