THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: May 19, 2016 0 comments
Rock is rock, no matter where it comes from and who’s playing it. Sure, certain sounds and styles will always get some kind of genre label attached to them, but it all really boils down to one thing: Does the music move you? “Obviously, we’re from the South and proud to be Southerners — but you know, man, we just write and play music,” observes Donnie Van Zant, co-founding 38 Special guitarist. Adds co-founding 38 Special vocalist/guitarist Don Barnes, “We derive everything from our influences from before and we’ve kept the standards high, just like they all have.” Recently, I got on the line separately with Van Zant, 63, and Barnes, also 63, to discuss the rich musical history of 38 Special and their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, working with Dan Hartman as their early-era producer, and their respective legacies as both songwriters and performers. They’re just two wild-eyed Southern boys caught up in making some good ol’ rock & roll for anyone who’s willing to listen.
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Bob Ankosko Posted: May 10, 2016 8 comments
"The problem is that the current standard audio specifications for headphones and loudspeakers are almost useless in terms of indicating how good or bad they sound." —Sean Olive

Harman International, the multibillion company that supplies infotainment technology to automakers around the world and owns such storied audio brands as JBL, Infinity, Revel, Mark Levinson, and Lexicon, to name a few, dates back to 1953 when Sidney Harman and Bernard Kardon founded one of audio’s most iconic brands, Harman Kardon. The pioneering brand, which introduced the world’s first hi-fi (and later stereo) receiver, started with a commitment to pursue high-quality sound. That commitment endures through the work of Sean Olive, a 23-year Harman veteran...

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Mike Mettler Posted: May 04, 2016 2 comments
Any band can sound good in the studio, but it’s the live stage where artists really have to prove their mettle night in and night out, especially if they’re interested in a little ol’ thing called longevity. One group that owned the planks from the minute it first stepped onto them is Bad Company, the British blues-rock collective that further legitimized Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label upon the release of its mega-selling self-titled debut in 1974. Even though Bad Company became a hugely successful arena act, they never released a live album to properly chronicle their ’70s heyday — until now, that is, thanks to the double-CD offering Live in Cncert 1977 & 1979 (Swan Song/Rhino). And though he’s always on the run, Bad Company vocalist and co-founder Paul Rodgers, 66, found time in his packed schedule to get on the line with me to discuss the finer aspects of live performing, loving analog, and how to best honor the band's legacy. That Bad Company sound is their claim to fame.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 20, 2016 1 comments
Photo: Joe Green

I think it’s fair to say Peter Wolf is one badass Mamma Jamma Wolfa Goofa. The fast-talkin’ onetime DJ and longtime J. Geils Band frontman proves that point to the nth degree on his eighth solo album, A Cure for Loneliness (Concord), which teems with honest energy and reflective grace. Wolf has definitive ideas about how he wants his music to be heard these days. “I’m not a fan of overly compressing things or limiting stuff,” he admits, “so I try to keep it warm with a good sonic quality. I tend to keep things dryer, which is a lot more to my personal taste.” Wolf, 70, called in from his adoptive home of Boston (he’s actually a Bronx native) to discuss the sonic choices made for Loneliness, his favorite records and gear, and the inspiration for his kinetic live performing style. When it comes to the original Wolfa Goofa, rest assured your ears are gonna have fun long past the midnight sun.

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Mike Mettler Posted: Apr 06, 2016 1 comments
Looks like they’re finally wanted enough. This Friday, April 8, Cheap Trick will be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alongside Chicago, Deep Purple, Steve Miller, and N.W.A at the 31st Annual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. “Well, like they say — it’s better than getting a sharp stick in the eye,” jokes Cheap Trick’s ever-jovial guitarist Rick Nielsen. “But, yeah, it’s quite an honor.”Not only that, but Cheap Trick have also just released their 17th studio album, Bang Zoom Crazy... Hello (Big Machine), and, as the saying goes, it’s all killer and no filler. Nielsen, 67, and I got on the horn to discuss the sound design of Bang Zoom, working with George Martin, and how it feels to finally get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Mar 31, 2016 1 comments
Morris Kessler with his classic SAE Mark 2 amplifier.

Even if you never heard his name you know his work. For nearly half a century Morris Kessler has been quietly designing and building world-class power amplifiers, not only for SAE—the iconic brand he founded in 1967—but for his other company ATI and a number of respected brands including Dynaco, Aragon, Crestron, Adcom, Integra Research, and B&K, to name a few. But that’s not all Kessler is known for...

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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 24, 2016 0 comments
Consummate singer/songwriter JD Souther pours a lot of history into every line he writes and records. “I can’t consciously put my finger on it, but I can remember probably every piece of music I’ve ever heard,” he admits. “But it’s just at certain times, not all at once. I’m sure bits of it come out in everything I write.” Souther, who's co-written songs and worked extensively with the likes of the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt, also has an uncanny knack for making a melody all his own, and he has a critical ear for just how good the finished product has to sound. And now, thanks to Omnivore Records, we get to revisit Souther’s own recorded canon with the triple-threat CD reissuing of his first three heretofore hard-to-find solo albums: John David Souther (1972), Black Rose (1976), and Home by Dawn (1984). Souther, 70, and I got on the line to discuss the improved sonics of this reissue series, writing with Glenn Frey, sharing golden-ear minutiae with Ronstadt, and his passion for high resolution and great stereo gear. Some people call it music and some people call it gold, but nobody knows how to hone a mix quite like JD does.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Mar 11, 2016 0 comments
Sir George Martin passed away at the age of 90 in Wiltshire, England on March 8, 2016. Best known for his indelible, enduring, and daringly innovative studio work with The Beatles from 1962–70, Martin also produced a wide swath of artists including Peter Sellers, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Shirley Bassey, Ella Fitzgerald, The Bee Gees, The Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, Jeff Beck, and Cheap Trick. (The list could indeed go on and on and on...) Perhaps ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne (and onetime latter-day Beatles producer himself) said it best: “His productions were brilliant. He created his own sound.” I reached out to a number of musicians and producers to get their impressions of Sir George’s legacy from behind the board, as a trusted collaborator, and as someone who forever changed the way we listen to pop and rock music.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Mar 01, 2016 Published: Feb 29, 2016 1 comments
Few have done more to advance the state of the art in audio reproduction than J. Robert Stuart, co-founder, chairman, and technical director of England’s prestigious Meridian Group, Life Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), and recipient of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association’s 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. In a recent video commemorating the honor, Meridian co-founder and long-time collaborator, Allen Boothroyd—the man responsible for the brand’s elegant designs—observed: “I never realized when I set up business with Bob that the guy’s a genius.” Genius, indeed...
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 24, 2016 0 comments
Three Dog Night is a band that brings together the best of many worlds. They have one of those storied catalogs that just won’t quit, so you might be forgiven for forgetting how many of their songs you automatically know. A sampling of TDN’s 21 Top 40 hits includes the No. 1 singles “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come),” along with other instant-sing-along favorites like “One,” “Liar,” and “An Old Fashioned Love Song.” (See? Toldja you knew ’em all.) I called TDN vocalist Danny Hutton while he was sitting outside his Laurel Canyon home enjoying a short touring break to discuss Three Dog Night’s unique approach to making albums, why singing harmony comes naturally to him, and his view of the band’s enduring legacy. No doubt it will all be joy to you and me.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 10, 2016 1 comments
He’s a man who’s been everywhere and done it with everyone, and lived to tell the tales. He’s Dave Stewart, the production wizard best known for his indelible partnership with Annie Lennox in the uber-popular ’80s electronic duo Eurythmics. His new memoir, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This – A Life in Music (New American Library), was released on February 9, and it chronicles his wonderful life, and especially the fine sonic fruit born of collaborations with artists including Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Joss Stone, and Stevie Nicks — the list could go on and on. One of the keys to Stewart’s success behind the board is how he’s able to tap into, as he puts it early in the book, “experience and experiment,” two important touchstones for him as a creative person. “I suppose it’s not being afraid to dive into the most wild and interesting situations, just to see what’s going to happen,” he admits. Stewart, 63, and I got on the horn to discuss how to capture great vocal performances, his benchmark albums for great sound, and his futuristic view of streaming. Who am I to disagree...
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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 03, 2016 4 comments
The concept of being a true global artist didn’t really exist until the rise of Yanni, the visionary Greek keyboardist/composer who’s played his own unique brand of instrumental music for over 5 million concertgoers worldwide (and counting). Sometimes, you’ll find him and his top-tier “United Nations” orchestra playing for audiences gathered at international landmark locations like the Acropolis in Greece, The Forbidden City of China, the Taj Mahal in India, and The Great Pyramids of Egypt — the latter event having recently been shot in 4K and coming soon to Blu-ray and DVD, after a spring airing on PBS. Yanni’s broad sonic palette covers many musical styles — something that’s no accident, given his voracious consumption of music as a child. “I grew up in Greece, so I was exposed to everything,” he explains. “Any kind of music you can imagine, any kind of rhythm you can imagine: World music, and all classical music too — I loved Bach, for example. I also liked Led Zeppelin, Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Deep Purple. You wouldn’t believe the kind of bands I used to listen to.” During a recent sitdown in a Sony Music conference room in New York, Yanni, 61 , and I discussed the melodic multicultural wash of his new album Sensuous Chill (Portrait/Sony Masterworks), the shift from analog to digital, his overall recording goals, and his passion for pushing the boundaries of surround sound.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Jan 06, 2016 4 comments
"We're the young generation, and we've got something to say." With that provocative, catchy invocation in the perpetually shimmery hit "(Theme From) The Monkees," four lads who were also "too busy singing to put anybody else down" captured the minds and hearts of millions of viewers and listeners when The Monkees TV show debuted in September 1966. And the synergistic connection between TV and music hasn't been the same since.

As an early golden anniversary celebration of sorts, the show and the band will be major topics during the kickoff of the "Peter Noone in Conversation With Micky Dolenz" series that commences with a three-appearance block beginning tomorrow, January 7, at The Space at Westbury in Westbury, New York. Before heading east to sit down to jaw with Noone, Dolenz, 70, and I got on the phone to discuss The Monkees' ongoing impact, what he listens to at home, and the song he wrote whose name could not be said in England.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Dec 30, 2015 2 comments
I’ve met enough top speaker designers over the years to know that they’re all obsessive. And I mean that in a good way. To design a great speaker, you have to be obsessive. You have to be prepared to spend countless hours in the lab and in listening rooms evaluating and tweaking every conceivable variable to isolate that elusive mix of art and science that yields a speaker capable of fooling listeners into thinking they’re experiencing a live performance. A tall order, to be sure. Geoff Martin is not a designer, but as Bang & Olufsen’s tonmeister, he plays a critical role in the development of every speaker the Danish company makes. What’s a tonmeister? Read on.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 23, 2015 0 comments
Restless creativity, thy name is Todd Rundgren. The always adventurous singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer found time in 2015 to not only release two albums of new music — the electro-melodic Global (Esoteric Antenna) and the even-more EDM-driven Runddans (Smalltown Supersound) — as well as embark on a few legs of a solo tour, but he also managed to write some material for and play on Ringo Starr's Postcards From Paradise (UMe) and be a part of the current touring incarnation of Ringo's All-Starr Band to boot. During a tour break, I called Rundgren, 67, at his Hawaiian homestead to discuss the differences between audience and artist expectations, the merits and demerits of vinyl, and his Beatles listening preferences. He saw the light, alright.

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