THE S&V INTERVIEW

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Mike Mettler Posted: Feb 03, 2016 5 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 4 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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Mike Mettler Posted: Dec 09, 2015 0 comments
The songwriter’s songwriter is one who adheres to an unwavering standard of excellence. His work is honed, sculpted, shaped, and then reshaped until it feels right to share with the world. These are just a few of the guiding principles Steve Forbert followed while composing the 11 original songs that appear on his new album, Compromised (Rock Ridge). “The art of making a recording a finished product is extremely sophisticated,” he observes. Forbert, 60, and I got on the phone recently to discuss the art of songwriting, how you know when a song sounds as good as it can sound, and how to keep challenging yourself creatively.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 27, 2015 0 comments
When it came to the final edit of D.A. Pennebaker's groundbreaking 1967 documentary Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, everything was destined to fit exactly how it fit. "It wanted to happen," says Pennebaker. "When you think about films, some of them want to happen, and some of them aren’t too sure." Dont Look Back is as sure as it gets, as the 90-year-old director and I discussed in Part I of our extensive interview. Here in Part II, Pennebaker shares his thoughts on surround sound when it comes to film soundtracks, that missing apostrophe, and the origin of the film’s legendary opening cue-card sequence.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 25, 2015 0 comments
As iconic as it remains a full half-century later, when Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back (apostrophe very deliberately missing) was being shot by director D.A. Pennebaker during the Bard’s whirlwind tour of England in May 1965, there were literally no rules to follow. “It’s the idea of the home movie, the kind of movie that was always made by one person,” says Pennebaker, still as sharp as ever at age 90. “I had gotten the notion in my head not to make a pure music film. I decided to make it about him, right at the time he was he was trying to figure out who he was.” Here in Part I of our exclusive interview, D.A. and I discuss how he gained Dylan’s trust, the way he predicted the selfie culture, and why he had to get on his back to shoot certain live performances.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 13, 2015 0 comments
When Larry Hornbeck stepped up to the podium to accept an Oscar for inventing the digital micromirror device—the core technology behind DLP video projection—he held up a postage-stamp-sized DMD chip and said: “It’s hard to believe that there are more than 8 million digital micromirrors on this device. Who would ever have believed that [this invention] would change the way the world views cinema.” A couple decades later I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea of 8 million microsopic mirrors tilting at precise angles and reflecting light to create stunning images at home and in movie theaters. So I reached out to Dr. Hornbeck, holder of 38 U.S. patents and winner of numerous awards and honors, to learn more about his crazy invention.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Nov 11, 2015 0 comments
Creative sparks don't always fly when veteran musicians get together to collaborate. But that's exactly what happened when two progressive titans, vocalist Jon Anderson and violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, came together to form the Anderson Ponty Band, a.k.a. APB. Their oh-so-apropos debut, Better Late Than Never (Liaison Music), mixes fine, edgy originals with rearranged and revamped covers of classic material like Yes's "Roundabout" and Ponty's "Mirage" — renamed here as "Infinite Mirage," as it now features Anderson singing new lyrics he wrote just for the song. “We work together like family,” marvels Ponty, 73. Agrees Anderson, “We’re musical brothers, you know?” I called Anderson, 71, during an APB tour stop to discuss working with Jean-Luc, our ongoing mutual love of surround sound, and the ever-escalating legacy of Yes.
Bob Ankosko Posted: Nov 03, 2015 1 comments
Andrew Jones has an impressive history in loudspeakers, having served as the chief speaker engineer at KEF, Infinity, Technical Audio Devices Laboratories (TAD), and Pioneer, where he established a reputation for designing budget speakers that sound shockingly good. In May, following the merger of Pioneer and Onkyo, Germany’s ELAC announced that Jones had not only joined the company as vice president of engineering but was already working on a new line of speakers.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 28, 2015 2 comments
Standards: Somebody has to set them. And when it came to creating the 20th-century template for how to properly sing popular music, one need look no further than Johnny Mathis, the romantic, soulful tenor whose range and control remain just as vibrant today as when he began taking lessons in the San Francisco area in the 1950s from opera singer and vocal teacher Connie Cox. And now, seven decades (!) into such a storied career, it only seems fitting that a four-disc collection called The Singles (Columbia/Legacy) brings together 87 of his best-loved songs, including such timeless, indelible classics like “Chances Are,” “It’s Not for Me to Say,” and “The Twelfth of Never” alongside rare but chart-busting gems like “Wonderful! Wonderful!” And it’s certainly no accident that the following phrase appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the cover, right underneath the gleaming old-school/vintage Columbia logo: “Guaranteed High-Fidelity.” Mathis, still quite spry at 80, called me from his residence in Los Angeles to discuss harnessing his influences to create his original vocal style, his singular microphone techniques, and the songs he still loves to sing. Chances are, you already know many of them by heart.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Oct 08, 2015 1 comments
Is it fair to say everything little thing Andy Summers does is magic? It certainly seems that way, as the onetime Police guitarist is experiencing a late-career renaissance, having recently dropped a diverse instrumental album, Metal Dog (Flickering Shado), and narrated an acclaimed documentary about his former band, Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police (Cinema Libre). Summers, 72, and I recently spoke about creating those signature Metal Dog soundscapes, becoming a voiceover artist, and the (sorry) arresting nature of The Police's unique chemistry. His not-so-secret journey makes us all see light in the darkness.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 25, 2015 1 comments
Good things come to those who wait, as the saying goes. But when it comes to finally getting producer/engineer James Guthrie’s long-awaited 96kHz/24-bit mix of Roger Waters’ 1992 solo album Amused to Death in 5.1 on Blu-ray in hand, well… the word “good” isn’t quite good enough. “Great” is certainly a step up, but I’m going to have to go with a superlative along the lines of “stellar,” “outstanding,” and/or “stunning,” for Guthrie’s surround-sound treatment of Amused catapults an oft-overlooked entry in Waters’ storied canon of work into a new sonic stratosphere. Recently, Guthrie and I spent a fair amount of time going over his goals for bringing Amused into the surround universe and sharing his favorite moments from The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here in 5.1, plus he reveals exclusively what Floyd-related project he’ll next tackle in 5.1. It’s a miracle — another miracle.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Sep 09, 2015 0 comments
If there’s one band from the ’70s that epitomizes the literal definition of the word harmony, it’s America. Gerry Beckley, Dewey Bunnell, and the late Dan Peek came together in London in 1970, three sons of U.S. Air Force personnel stationed abroad, and they quickly found their collective singing voices worked together quite well. “One of the key elements of America is that our vocal blend is very good,” agrees Bunnell. “I grew up into it myself, and I can now, in retrospect, hear the difference between blends when I hear other harmony singing. You’re lucky when you find those three or four voices that have this element that you can’t just make happen. It’s like a fingerprint — they’re all different.” Coupled with a knack for writing melodies and catchy acoustic guitar lines, America penned a score of instant sing-along Top 20 classics like “Ventura Highway,” “A Horse With No Name,” “Sister Golden Hair,” “Tin Man,” “Lonely People,” “I Need You,” and “Daisy Jane.” The band’s classic-era output has been duly remastered and collected in the eight-CD box set The Warner Bros. Years: 1971-1977 (Rhino), and its chock-full of enough audiophile-approved vocals and clear acoustic lines to keep your ears — and your speakers — in fine spirits for days on end. Recently, I got on the line with Beckley and Bunnell, both 63, to discuss the best examples of that magical harmonic blend, what it was like working with Sir George Martin as a producer, and their favorite collaborators.
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Mike Mettler Posted: Aug 26, 2015 0 comments
It’s hard to believe, but the eternally youthful blues maestro Robert Cray is celebrating five decades of plying his craft with the imminent release of 4 Nights of 40 Years Live. So, uh, Robert, do you mind if we call you an “elder statesman” at this point in your career? “Well, we’re doing what we do, and I’m having fun doing it. To me, that’s the most important thing,” says Cray. “It’s funny; whenever it’s mentioned that we’re ‘getting up there,’ I always revert back to my heroes — John Lee [Hooker], and B.B. [King] — and I just think about those guys as being ‘the guys.’ I never consider myself as being on the same ship.” Sorry to disagree with the man, but Cray is most definitely onboard with being on par with the masters of the blues art form. I called Cray, 62, at his hotel during a tour stop in the Pacific Northwest to discuss the sonics of 4 Nights, the ongoing merits of vinyl, and why live woodshedding is vital for bands who want to improve. “Oh yeah, there’s been a lot of change over the years,” Cray observes about his storied career. I guess he showed us.

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