Jumaat, 15 November 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Roger Waters preparing new album


It will be his first rock album in more than two decades.

IN an interview with Rolling Stone, Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters said he is currently working on a rock album, his first since Amused To Death, released in 1992. The bassist has been focusing on the project since wrapping up his tour for The Wall recently.

Waters told the magazine that the 55-minute concept album is "couched as a radio play" combining music and theatre, with dialogues between several characters. He also hinted that the album represented a "quest" involving "an old man and a young child trying to figure out why they are killing the children".

In 2005, Waters released his most recent disc, Ca Ira, a classical opera in three acts on the theme of the French Revolution. When it comes to rock, however, the artiste has not released a new album since Amused To Death.

In September, Waters performed the final show in his three-year-long The Wall tour, during which he gave 219 concerts in stadiums and concert halls around the world. – AFP Relaxnews

Everything's coming up roses for Katy Perry


Katy Perry is riding her momentum into new areas.

KATY Perry had come to dance.

On a recent afternoon the pop superstar was at a Burbank, California, United States rehearsal studio, fortifying herself with a salad before diving into four hours of sweaty physical movement – a not-so-dry run for a handful of performances in which she'd be doing more choreography than at any point in her career.

Perry, known for bubbly, fun-loving hits such as I Kissed A Girl and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), was dressed for a workout: black tights, black sneakers, a ripped-up T-shirt with two cats pictured on it. (Big cat lady, Katy Perry.) Several times she used the sleeve of her gray hoodie as a napkin, another sign that she was here to get down to business. No time for niceties.

As focused as Perry appeared, though, she was squishier regarding her new album. We were talking about what distinguishes Prism,from her first two records, and at first she offered only generalities – "It's got some substance to it" – language that seemed to be circling a more straightforward description.

The music, I finally suggested, feels grown-up.

"Yes!" she said, not flinching at the term but nodding eagerly. "And I love being mature. I'm ready for my 30s – I hear it's so much better than your 20s."

For normal folks, perhaps, but rarely for pop stars, whose work usually amounts to selling youth to young people. And Perry has sold more youth than most: Five singles from 2010's double-platinum Teenage Dream went to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100, an achievement she shares with only Michael Jackson; Roar, the lead single from Prism, has also reached the top spot.

But if Perry is unusually accepting of the g-word, there's good reason for that: The singer, who turned 29 last month – a few years older than A-list peers Rihanna (who's 25) and Taylor Swift (23) – no longer seems like much of a kid.

Prism, her third studio disc, follows a tumultuous period she referred to as a "real crossroads in my life." In late 2010, just as her career was exploding, Perry married British comedian Russell Brand; 14 months later he filed for divorce. The experience was reported on extensively by the tabloid press, of course, but it also figured prominently in Katy Perry: Part Of Me, an unexpectedly candid 2012 documentary that included scenes of the star nearly        paralysed by grief.

"I couldn't pretend that I didn't have a failed marriage – it was already out there in the news," she said of the decision to address the topic in the film. "So why not show the reality of what it was?"

That reality and its aftermath are all over Prism, in moody, midtempo songs such as Ghost and Love Me – in which she rhymes "lost my own identity" with "forgot you picked me for me" – as well as more robust anthems of self-empowerment like Roar, with a music video that depicts Perry as a vine-swinging jungle queen singing about having the eye of the tiger.

"Some people are going to see it as a song about cats," the singer said with a laugh. She was curled on a sofa, her hair pulled back in a messy ponytail. "But it's not just a song about cats. It's about finding your inner strength and not turning into a shell of yourself when you're faced with a situation you don't agree with.

"That may be a little psychological – like, What does it all mean?" she added with mock-profound intensity. "But I literally just came from therapy, so I'm already there."

A weighty message isn't entirely new for Perry, whose breakout 2008 debut, One Of The Boys, came after earlier unsuccessful attempts at Christian rock – her parents are religious leaders – and grungy Alanis Morissette-style pop. One of those five No. 1 singles from Teenage Dream was Firework, an earnest stadium-rave pep talk aimed at misfits "feel(ing) like a waste of space."

Yet with its adventurous textures and introspective lyrics – not to mention a dreamy cover shot by art-world photographer Ryan McGinley – Prism strikes a newly sophisticated balance between accessibility and idiosyncrasy; it's a work of confession scaled to Top 40 dimensions, one in which Perry uses her success as license to explore inside and out.

"Some of the songs on the album are songs you might be scared to do if you didn't have the momentum Katy has," said Dr. Luke, the writer-producer who's had a hand in most of Perry's biggest hits. (The singer's other collaborators on Prism include her longtime songwriting partner Bonnie McKee, the Swedish pop wizards Max Martin and Klas Ã…hlund and, in the throbbing Dark Horse, the Memphis rapper Juicy J.)

As an example, Dr. Luke singled out Legendary Lovers, a vaguely psychedelic excursion with Eastern-sounding strings and words about feeling one's lotus bloom. "That's an amazing song," he said, "but it may not be a door-opener for a first-time artiste."

Perry felt confident taking risks on Prism because her fans "ended up trusting me at the end of Teenage Dream," she said. "People have figured out that I'm not going to abuse their attention, so now I think they're ready to jump off with me."

Perry, who said she's involved in every aspect of her business, admitted that she worries about overexposure in social media, especially regarding an album that tries to cultivate a feeling of intimacy.

"You put one thing out and then instantly it's on Facebook! It's on Twitter! It's on Vevo!" she said, punctuating each name with a jab of her hand. "You're like, 'Ugh, just let me make up my own mind.'"

In the wake of her divorce, her love life is something to be handled carefully too. "I never play into the paparazzi," she said. "I don't feed that beast."

That certainly hasn't stopped photographers from snapping pictures of her with her famous boyfriend, John Mayer. (This past summer the singers shared a plush soft-rock duet, Who You Love, on his Paradise Valley album.) "And I put my phone down if I'm going to have a drink," she said. "I don't drink and tweet."

The challenge, she added as she prepared to head into rehearsal, is figuring out what's too much and what's not enough.

"I just want people to see more of me," she said, and by extension less of the "cutesiness" she clung to on Teenage Dream, when she played shows in an electric-blue wig and a ruffly dress adorned with cupcakes.

"Where can you go from a cartoon character?" Perry asked. "You have to maybe go the other way." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Ron Thal and all guns blazing


Multi-talented Guns N' Roses guitarist reveals an insatiable appetite for developing and nurturing young talent.

THE adage of a man who wears many hats is certainly tailor-made for Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. A musician, music producer, songwriter, guitar teacher, hot sauce entrepreneur and lead guitarist of Guns N' Roses (GN'R), Bumblefoot, as he is widely known, added another feather to his distinguished cap recently, courtesy of the "Appetite For Durian" Malaysia tour, organised by the US Embassy from Nov 3-8. Thal began his five-day trip in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, and rounded off the proceedings in Kuala Lumpur, conducting motivational talks and musical outreach programmes for our young music hopefuls.

Thal, slight of build and sporting a distinctive braided goatee, has ambitions and aspirations that are imperious. Having worked with the US Embassy on a similar platform in Albania and based on its astounding success, he was recommended to make a difference on our shores. "What motivates me to do this is very simple. I enjoy it and I like to share that joy. I hope to make new friends, new connections and enjoy new experiences," shared the soft-spoken 44-year-old durian lover. "I love it here." Besides thriving in our sweltering conditions, Thal also enjoys our spicy food. "I also like the way Malaysians treat each other," he said.

Aspiring musicians and guitarists would have done well to take note of his valuable advice in order to be successful in their craft. "Do not be late. Always be on time and always be prepared. Do not show up not knowing what you're supposed to know. Also, be relaxed, be calm and be comfortable and make other people feel the same way," he said.

Naturally, given the band he plays in, one thing stands tall with many Malaysian rock aficionados – Guns N' Roses. Surprisingly, he intimated that the band is as normal as they come. "We get together, go out and enjoy doing things. Nothing is forced, where everybody has to do everything. We bring our families and crew, and everyone is welcomed. No one is made to feel unloved or anything like that – it's like one big travelling circus!" he revealed. "Everyone's a songwriter in the band. When I write songs, it might be for my own album, or I'll say, hey guys, I have an idea, just like that," he shed some light on the band's creative process. His role onstage is to play the crazy, technical, insane guitar parts and chip in with a lot of backing vocals. "I also hope to bring a strong and solid musical base, knowing that I'm very focused on the music," he said.

As to how Guns N' Roses will continue to craft those signature tunes such as Sweet Child O' Mine, Paradise City and Estranged, Thal's reply was again surprising, yet refreshing. "It's really easy. The more you think about it, the more difficult it will get. It's like trying to think about breathing. It's not going to flow if you're trying to control it. Just let go, let it happen. And when you want to let it happen, all you have to do is not try!"

If he had his way, Thal's vision for the band's next album will be to factor the pureness of rock 'n' roll, where listeners can point out what each member of the band is playing and the music will be injected with each member's distinctive personality. "It (the album) would be very imperfect, very real, natural and not edited to give it a live, raw, organic sound. I think that's what people want from GN'R. And when they think about GN'R, they think about rock 'n' roll, and that's what I like to be ... the best rock 'n' roll band we can be," he enthused.

His commitment to the band apart, Thal also obtains complete gratification and fulfilment as a solo artist. The prolific axeman has released nine CDs and a live DVD since the early 1990s. Reminiscing on his career, he also recalled his first gig, which was in his basement in 1977 when he was only seven years old. Even back then, the talented Thal was already composing his own songs.

Raised on a steady diet of classic rock, heavy metal and punk, Thal knew he wanted to make this his vocation as early as five years old when he first heard Kiss' Alive! album. "My family were very supportive and let me put on concerts in the basement. They also let me record in my little home studio," he recalled fondly, listing Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix and Ace Frehley as his six-string heroes.

Fun and laughter is always around the corner with the band as he shared his funniest moment onstage, when frontman Axl Rose duct taped his entire body – as he was ripping on a solo! "I was playing," he gestured animatedly. "And I couldn't stop despite being all wrapped up!" he laughed.

Thal then moved swiftly to dispel the negative perceptions that continue to plague the band's enigmatic leader. "Axl actually has a great sense of humour. He tells the corniest jokes. I'll be in the midst of playing a solo, and he'll crack jokes into my in-ear monitors. Jokes aside, he makes you feel very welcomed when you're hanging out with him and he's always telling stories and making everyone feel like friends," he shared. He also revealed that Rose does a lot of charity work in his spare time and also throws a lot of holiday parties for kids and invites their parents, too. "If at all, he actually cares too much, and I think if anything, he should care a little less," Thal opined.

Despite having achieved so much over the course of more than two decades, Thal still feels there's an infinite road ahead to be discovered. "I would still love to be writing more songs, and I would love to create a song that has a melody where everybody wants to sing and play on their guitar," before adding selflessly, "And, I think it can happen with GN'R."

On a personal note, Thal feels that our homegrown musicians need our full support to allow them to take their music to a global audience.

Thal is also pursuing his idea of organising a music festival that will combine popular artistes and aspiring musicians from around the world. "There are a lot of phenomenal musicians everywhere in the world, but who do not have the opportunity to branch out. I think this (festival) is a fantastic way for these musicians to gain attention," he said.

Travelling the world and connecting with youth has allowed Thal to bring musicians and music closer together. "My visit here may be the start of bridging that gap," he concluded.

Perhaps, that will give Malaysian fans renewed hope that maybe, just maybe, Guns N' Roses will blaze its way back to our shores to stage another spectacular show, with a deserving local band in tow.

> For more information on Ron Thal, visit www.bumblefoot.com.

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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