Category Archives: interviews

A conversation with Venrez

It was recently announced that Venrez would be the opening act for eight dates on Alice Cooper’s current tour. The honor of opening for one of the most legendary shock rockers of all-time is not lost on Venrez, who said, “It was a real rollercoaster ride. Our manager and Alice’s manager have known each other for many years. Our manager was talking about us getting on some dates next year. His manager said, ‘We’re adding some dates on this tour, send the album over and I’ll let Alice listen to it, and if he digs it maybe we can add some dates this year.’ Alice dug us so much that he yanked the other support band off and put us on it, which is an honor. I don’t think they were real happy about it, but that’s rock and roll. I’m real thrilled about it.”

Venrez did not have a traditional start as a band. When the singer decided to have a tiki bar added to his sundeck, the workers turned out to be musicians. Venrez recalls, “Very soon the building sessions turned into jam sessions, and the next thing I knew we had a band.” While the band has evolved since then, the current line-up has toured throughout Europe a couple of times, opened for Fuel, and recorded Sell The Lie.

Sell The Lie was released in late February, featuring a number of songs co-written by singer Venrez and guitarist Jason Womack. “It’s a match made in heaven. I don’t know if people really understand how songwriting teams are so rare. I’m always writing lyrics and giving them to Jason, and he knows exactly what I mean by all of them. It’s like a soulmate, mentally, thing. He writes the music to the ones he likes the best, and sings them and demos them, and gives them to me to listen to.”

In addition to the original songs, Venrez also covered Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” for the soundtrack to Elmore Leonard’s Freaky Deaky, an upcoming film directed by Charlie Matthau and starring Christian Slater and Crispin Glover. “Elmore wrote the book in the ’80s but suggested they place it in the ’70s. So they wanted songs on the soundtrack that were 1974 or before. When you’re given an opportunity to record a song for a major motion picture, but it has to be a cover of a song from ’74 or before, that’s not an easy choice. We thought about a lot of different songs. ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ has always been one of my favorite rock songs. It hadn’t been covered a lot like other big songs, and the few people that covered it went up high soprano like Stevie Winwood. So I talked to Jason about doing it because I loved it, and we discussed slowing it way down and getting real sick with the harmonies and me delivering iy laid-back, more kind of Jim Morisson-y. We played around with it, and it felt good, so we recorded it and I’m real happy with it.”

Venrez is not only excited about opening for Alice Cooper, but he also has confidence in his and the band’s ability to entertain the audience. “The first show is in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 11, and the last show in Raleigh, North Carolina, on June 19. Expect to hear something that sounds like something you’ve heard before, but you know you haven’t. It will captivate you. We’re a five-piece, big rock band that tries to bring some ’70s beats to 2012 with some ’90s Alice In Chains harmonies mixed in. It’s big and it’s real live. We’re a rock band much like the Rolling Stones or an Aerosmith type of rock band, going on feel, on how we feel, the crowd reaction and energy. Every show is a little different from the next. We’re not like Muse where everything sounds perfect. If you see live performance by the Stones and Aerosmith, you can see the bands going on feel, the lead singer is delivering things a little different from show to show. And that’s the way we are. I never even really know what my band is going to do. Sometimes Eddie Davis, one of the best drummers in the business, he might be feeling something and go on a feel and lead into the next song in a completely different way than we’ve ever heard before. The first time Eddie did that on tour in Europe, it threw me off a bit, but I get off on it. I kick back and once I hear where they’re at, I come in at the right time. The crowd is going to see a very big, in-your-face, sexy rock show.”

Venrez

Venrez also spoke of the band’s chemistry on-stage. “The band is very tight. Eddie played drums with Juliette Lewis and the Licks for three years, Jason was the original bassist in the Licks, so those guys worked together, playing in front of many thousands of people for a number of years. Mississippi Michael Bradford and Jason grew up together in Jackson, Mississippi, and those guys have been working together in bands and on music since they were fifteen. We have a very incredible chemistry of guys that have worked together.”

When asked if he had any surprised planned for their performances, Venrez was a bit more cryptic. He said, “There is something I do between the second and third song, a part of the set where the guys have to tune down and there are thirty seconds that have to be burned. The third song of the set, lyrically, is very powerful, and so I try to recite something from a very big band from the late ’60/early ’70s, but I’m not going to reveal it. It’s a segue to let my guys tune down, trying to get everybody in touch with the old school, which is nice because Alice Cooper is one of the legends of rock going on after us. And it segments into our third song of the set, which lyrically kind of matches that up, but it would ruin the surprise if I told you now.”

Venrez is an artist that respects his fans, and wants them to know how much he appreciates their support. “Thank you to all the rock fans out there who support rock bands. Some bands will lose sight of the fact that without you, we would not be able to do what we love, which is record and perform live for you. And fans, know that Venrez know and will never forget that we only get to do what we love because you let us. Thank you.”

If you are planning to see Alice Cooper on the dates below, make special plans to arrive early and check out the hard rocking Venrez. They will appreciate it, and after listening to the album, I think you will appreciate it too.

Venrez

  • Mon June 11 Charleston, SC / North Charleston PAC
  • Tues June 12 Knoxville, TN / Tennessee Theater
  • Wed June 13 Dayton, OH / Fraze Pavilion
  • Fri June 15 Kansas City, MO / The Midland
  • Sat June 16 St. Louis, MO / The Pageant
  • Sun June 17 Burlington, IA / Steamboat Days Fest
  • Tue June 19 Louisville, KY / Iroquois Pavilion
  • Fri June 22 Raleigh, NC / Raleigh Amphitheater

For more information about Venrez, visit: venreztheband.com and www.facebook.com/venrez.

Purchase Venrez – Sell the Lie.

Happy birthday Ace Frehley!

Born April 27, 1951, Paul Daniel “Ace” Frehley is one of my all-time favorite guitarists. No, he’s not a shredder and is far from the most proficient axe-wielder, but he was an inspiration to an entire generation of hard rock musicians.

I had the extreme privilege of interviewing Ace for the Hard Rock Nights radio program in 2009. He was very friendly and talkative, promoting his album Anomaly (which is nothing short of fantastic). Listen to that interview, in two parts, below:

A conversation with Chris Zephro, Trick or Treat Studios

Chris Zephro saw a problem, and decided it was up to him to fix it. Unsatisfied with the quality of Halloweeen masks found in seasonal stores, Zephro decided to do something about it. Connecting with sculptor and friend Justin Mabry, founder and president of Nightowl Productions, Zephro created Trick or Treat Studios in 2009. Zephro said it was “a good opportunity for high-quality with retro-vintage feel at a fair price.”

Zephro and Mabry’s friendship started years before Trick or Treat Studios came into existence. A fan of Mabry’s work at Nightowl, Zephro collected his masks and began talking to him on the telephone for hours on end. It was years before they even met face-to-face; Zephro lives in California, Mabry in Mississippi.

The business relationship made sense. “I thought there was a niche out there,” said Zephro, “an opportunity for some retro-vintage designs that I liked when I was a kid in the ’70s. My business acumen, Justin’s sculpting skills, it could work.”

Trick or Treat Studios, already a trusted name in the industry, is ready to make an even bigger splash in 2012 with officially licensed masks of some of the genre’s biggest names. Zephro just signed a deal with Universal to produce the alien from They Live and Gunther from Tobe Hooper’s Funhouse, and will continue producing ToxicToons masks. “(Licensing) is just going to expand and expand,” Zephro said.

The biggest license Trick or Treat Studios has secured to date is Michael Myers from Halloween II. An entire underground market was created for Michael Myers masks because of the poor quality of the official Halloween mask. Zephro mentioned creating a mask based on the second movie in passing, and Universal agreed. “The wheels turned faster than you can possibly imagine.”

Two masks will be available in July this year: a standard issue, and a “blood tears” version. “You cannot do it without the blood tears,” explained Zephro. “The first edition is how the mask looks through the majority of the film. The blood tears version is from the end of the movie when Jamie Lee Curtis shoots him and the blood starts pouring down his face. It’s just too cool!”

The Halloween franchise holds a special place in Zephro’s heart. “I remember it from my childhood because my dad was vice president of distribution for Paramount and was really good friends with the producer. The film was too low-budget for Paramount, so they ended up distributing it themselves. But I remember seeing it before it came out when I was six or seven years old.” It may have been the first horror movie he ever watched.

Several of Trick or Treat Studios’ sculptors will be on hand at Monsterpalooza and HorrorHound’s Mask Fest this year. Zephro promised, “We’re just getting started! The Myers mask has opened a lot of doors to a lot of cool upcoming licenses.”

To purchase or pre-order a mask, visit the Trick or Treat Studios website!

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