Music Legends Honor Wounded Warriors

My interview with Cheap Trick lead singer Robin Zander begins in eight minutes inside the Greek Theater in Los Angeles. I’m trapped outside the gate and no one can find my press credentials so I can get in. I’m starting to get a little nervous.

Iconic composer Shawn K. Clement has over 300 film and TV credits in addition to numerous video games. “The Warrior’s Hymn” premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The piece was performed by a 107-piece orchestra and a 247-member choir with lead vocals performed by Jon Anderson, Yes lead singer, who also wrote the lyrics. For Clement and Anderson, “The Warrior’s Hymn” was a three-year project. – with Shawn K. Clement at Greek Theater.

It all started a few months earlier when a colleague asked if I wanted to interview Zander who served as lead singer on a song called, “The Warrior’s Hymn,” by composer Shawn K. Clement who co-produced the project with legendary music producer Jack Douglas. Clement created the song to help raise money and awareness for wounded warriors which sounds like a great cause to me. “Sure,” I replied, having no real idea of the legends I was about to interview.

When I began my research, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Shawn K. Clement has 300 television and film credits on his resume. He’s created production music for shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Idol, The Colbert Report, The Osbournes, Extreme Makeover, etc. Any programs with titles like The World’s Wildest…, Most Daring…, Most Shocking…, World’s Dumbest….chances are Clement composed the background music. You may not recognize his name, but he’s one of the most respected songwriters in the industry.

Also on the agenda, producer Jack Douglas who was a close friend of John Lennon. John Lennon! He was one of the last people to see Lennon alive and spent the day after his murder alone with Yoko Ono. They spent about eight hours together, in shock, listening to every song Lennon ever created.

In addition, Douglas produced some of the most iconic talent in rock and roll history (Lennon, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, The Who, Blue Oyster Cult, etc.). He had some GREAT stories including the one where he and Aerosmith invented rap music. When sharing that story, the most common response I get….”NO, THEY DID NOT!!!” That’s always fun. One more thing, Douglas considers Clement to be a musical genius.

Legendary producer of “The Warrior’s Hymn,” Jack Douglas, worked with John Lennon on a number of his albums including, “Imagine” and “Double Fantasy” and became close friends with Lennon. Douglas also produced other talents such as Aerosmith, The Who, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Blue Oyster Cult, the New York Dolls, the Patti Smith Group, and The Knack among many others. – with Jack Douglas at Greek Theater.

Finally, I could not pass up the opportunity to interview Robin Zander. I got hooked on Cheap Trick the very first time I heard him say, “I want you to want me!” The album, “Cheap Trick at Budokan” was THE album for the summer of 1979 for me and my friends.

As an added bonus, the record really irritated one of my summer recreation counselors that year (I have no idea why). During our summer vacations, my friends and I attended “recreation” where we played sports and other activities under adult supervision at a nearby school. It kept us busy and out of trouble. As a snot-nosed teenager, the fact Cheap Trick bothered my grown-up counselor made the band all the more cool.

If given the chance, it was a story I would share with Zander and Douglas, who both worked on “Budokan.” As I began talking to Clement’s manager, Ed Cohen, I tried to not get too excited. Far too many times, I’ve had an interview, which seemed to be a done deal, completely fall apart at the last minute. People who work in the entertainment industry have unbelievably crushing schedules. Everything needs to be set weeks in advance. One little change and that’s that.

Anyway, the day of the interview finally arrived without any last minute changes. I showed up two hours before interview time to pick up my press credentials. I planned to conduct my interviews before Cheap Trick’s concert later in the evening. Showing up early has paid off more times than I can count, but this time, it worked against me.

The Will Call office did not have the press passes. The lady behind the glass said they might be at the Press Gate. Of course, when we get to the Press Gate…no luck. To make matters even more perfect, my cell phone reads, “No Service.” (This kind of stuff is pretty standard…which is why I ALWAYS show up very early.)

Fortunately, I’m not alone. I’m with Ed Cohen, Clement’s manager (his cell doesn’t have service either), and Air Force Staff Sergeant Kristina LaCoste, who will be my photographer for the evening. We manage to get a message to Carla Dragotti, Cheap Trick Tour Manager. Her message back….”You’re too early. Stay right there. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

Two hours pass by. My interview starts in eight minutes. One thing to keep in mind, Dragotti has a mind-blowing number of details she must handle at these events. To make things worse, Foreigner is the lead act for the evening. The headliner sets the agenda (generally at the last minute). Everyone else must then conform.

Cheap Trick lead singer Robin Zander takes a moment to ham it up with AFN Radio’s SSgt Kristina LaCoste. – with Kristina LaCoste and Robin Zander at Greek Theater.

AFN Legacy’s George Maurer thanks Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander for his time. – with George Maurer and Robin Zander at Greek Theater.

I look at Cohen and say, “I’m starting to get a little nervous.” I’m now envisioning a scenario where we turn around and go home for the evening with nothing. LaCoste then says, “Let me go back to Will Call. Maybe the passes are there.” As it turns out…that’s where they are.

In keeping with the theme of the evening, LaCoste went to the Will Call window, but only I can pick them up. I begin running up the hill (you just knew Will Call had to be UP hill). A little background on me and “running”…I retired from the Air Force in 2009. Those who witnessed my last few PT tests probably still chuckle at my annual mile and a half “run.” However, there’s no time for pride and I try to ignore the amused looks as I’m “running” up the hill.

I pick up the passes. I run back down the hill (Things are picking up…downhill this time). We rush inside and the interviews begin. These interviews would later become a special edition of my daily radio show called, “Lunchtime Licks,” featuring, “The Warrior’s Hymn.” During the show, if you listen closely to the first few questions I ask Zander, I’m still a little out of breath.

Robin Zander was incredibly gracious that evening. He allowed AFN to interview Shawn K. Clement and Jack Douglas in his dressing room as he prepared for his concert. This required him to dress in his private bathroom which was not air conditioned on a hot Southern California night. When Douglas asked how he was doing, Zander yelled back, “I’m melting!” Not too many famous musicians would do the same.

Cheap Trick lead singer Robin Zander’s sneakers–one of many pairs he owns and wears while performing.

In the end, the evening was a tremendous success. We got entertaining interviews from all three gentlemen. LaCoste took some great photos. The Cheap Trick and Foreigner shows were fantastic. It was just one of those nights I will remember for a long time.

As we left the parking lot and starting driving home, my cellphone service suddenly returned. All at once, I received several text messages from Dragotti which were sent much earlier in the evening. They were all various versions of, “You’re too early.” Yes, I suppose I was.

 

George Maurer, Contributing Writer
George Maurer, Contributing Writer

What’s Old is New Again with Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet

Danny Wagner (Drums), Josh Kiszka (Singer), Jake Kiszka (Guitarist), Sam Kiszka (Bass Guitar)

I’ve often wondered if there will ever be another great, American rock and roll band. Would we ever see the likes of an Aerosmith, Van Halen or Journey, again? When will a voice stand out amongst today’s heavily populated, cheery, pop-driven Alternative music?

It may be too early to call but in my mind hope was restored when I was turned onto a band named Greta Van Fleet. After hearing their name I wasn’t even sure where they were from but after hearing their debut single Highway Tune, I was certain where they were going.

I was so blown away by Greta Van Fleet’s (GVF) sound that I played it for anyone at the AFN-Broadcast Center that would listen. Almost everyone immediately felt compelled to compare GVF to some of the classic rock greats (complete transparency, so did I). None of us knew the band but I think we were all comforted by a joyful familiarity of when we thought music was great. This new music re-kindles old flames and I am excited about the firestorm that follows. The singer evokes the living spirit of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant on the track Highway Tune. There are flashes of Geddy Lee’s resonant vocal on the EP’s title song Black Smoke Rising. I’ve heard comparisons to The Who, Rush, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and the list goes on and on. After playing the 4 song EP over and over again, I realized that I stopped thinking about whom they sounded like and I started to just enjoy them for who they are.

Angel Orozco (broadcaster for AFN Radio) interviewing Greta Van Fleet.
Angel Orozco (broadcaster for AFN Radio) interviewing Greta Van Fleet.
Music is a passionate topic amongst Greta Van Fleet.
Music is a passionate topic amongst Greta Van Fleet
Josh Kiszka explains his powerful singing style.
Josh Kiszka explains his powerful singing style.

[view slideshow]

Greta Van Fleet is a band made up of 4 young men from the heartland of America, 3 of which are brothers, and of those, 2 are twins. The group’s name comes from one of the matriarchs (Gretna Van Fleet) of the Bavarian themed town Frankenmuth, Michigan, where they call home. Greta Van Fleet has a pure style that is influenced only by their desire to spread joy and love through their many musical talents.

AFN met with Danny Wagner (drummer) and the three brothers, Josh Kiszka (vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitar) and Sam Kiszka (bass guitar) in Hollywood, California early this summer. Below is the all-encompassing interview and music of Greta Van Fleet.


Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
All photography by Natalie Wiser-Orozco: The Devil Wears Parsley

Phil Labonte: All That Remains…is constant change!

If, after 15 years your style has been highly opinionated, unapologetic, genre-breaking, and also very successful, why would you change it? Maybe because change has been one of the keys to Phil Labonte and his band’s longevity. It is not a trick, nor the “game-plan” to switch up the sound to maximize record sales. As Phil says, “I can’t, in good conscience put out the same record over and over. I write music because I want to experiment and try new things.”

All That Remains delivers an album that ranges from catchy hook-filled songs like “Madness” (video at bottom) to hardcore metal sounds and lyrics in tracks like “Safehouse” (loosely inspired by the Showtime® TV series Dexter). Labonte wears his heart on his sleeve in “Rivercity”, a song that flows with emotions and tells the real life story of what he went through as a military spouse while his then-wife was serving as a Marine on deployment in the Middle East. “Rivercity stands for ‘reduced communications,'” he explains. “Me and my ex would be on the phone and she’d be like, ‘Yo, the base is getting mortared. I gotta go.'” If someone dies, they shut off communications until they can notify the families of the people that die. Labonte experienced this many times and in the interview with him he struggles to keep from choking up as he discusses his feelings about this particular tune.

All That Remains takes “Madness” to a new level as the bands 8th studio album winds down to a close; it’s something I’ve never heard on a hard rock/metal offering. The final track starts with the natural sound of rolling thunder that quickly cracks into a 6 second man-made storm of clean electric guitar and accompanying bass. A breath of calm plucking follows, before the lyrics of Garth Brooks -The Thunder Rolls are reincarnated by the slightly effected, dynamic vocals of Phil Labonte. Hard rock and a country classic collide for this epic song!

Click the link below to hear the AFN Radio exclusive interview with Phil Labonte, singer for All That Remains.

Interview: Phil Labonte from All That Remains, 2017


You can hear more music from All That Remains on AFN 360 Freedom and Legacy.

Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer

Scott Stapp: A voice for the ages, embraces The Madness

Art of Anarchy

He rose to fame as the lead singer of Creed, the post-grunge band that scorched the scene with popular Arena-Rock songs like “My Own Prison”, “Arms Wide Open”, “Higher” and “My Sacrifice”. Scott Stapp and Creed sold over 59 million albums worldwide, becoming the 9th best-selling artist of the 2000’s.

With great success there is always great pressure to maintain or exceed it. Stapp and Creed eventually cracked and split under this pressure. In 2004 Creed disbanded and Scott Stapp found his solo voice, recording his first individual album in 2005, he would later record a second in 2013.

Scott reunited with his old band in 2009, but once again tensions arose and projects were halted. By late 2014 drugs, alcohol and depression increasingly crept into his life culminating into a series of troubling social media videos and disturbing behavior full of paranoia. He hit rock bottom, but that would not hold this rock star down.

Art of Anarchy: the MadnessScott is reinvigorated, free from the prison of drugs and alcohol, and is now the lead singer of Art Of Anarchy, a super group consisting of lead guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal who hails formerly from Guns N’ Roses, bassist John Moyer who rose to fame as a member of Disturbed and twin brothers Jon Votta (guitar) and Vince Votta (drums), who gained prominence as fixtures on the New York music scene.

In Art Of Anarchy’s latest single, his voice emerges through a blend of precisely timed and expertly executed instruments. “I’m frozen within the ice and bitter wind” are the first 8 lyrics instantly reminding us why he stands near the top of the Mount Rushmore of rock vocalists. Scott Stapp has returned to do what he does best, all the while embracing …The Madness.

Scott Stapp calls AFN Radio, talks Troops, Art Of Anarchy and life, click below to listen!


Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer

Troop Talk with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter, spoke with TSgt Holly Roberts Davis during a “Worldwide Troop Talk” at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2016.

He took questions through social media and from service members in locations including Baghdad, Iraq; Kabul, Afghanistan; Guam; on the USS Zumwalt advanced warship; and at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. The Troop Talk aired live, worldwide on AFN News and AFN Radio.

Ash Carter answers Troop Talk questions.
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sits with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Holly Roberts during the 2016 Troop Talk. DoD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

You can click below to hear the radio broadcast.


The Story of the Blues Brothers featuring Dan Aykroyd

Dan AykroydDan Aykroyd is a genuinely nice guy. That was my biggest take away after speaking to him on the phone. I produce an hour-long radio show called Radio Recon which airs on AFN Radio and features in-depth interviews with music artists. I thought the Blues Brothers would be a fantastic subject. Normally, these interviews require months to set up. It only took four days with Aykroyd. I sent an interview request on Friday and I was speaking to him on Tuesday.

When Tuesday arrived, I called the provided phone number at the appropriate time. When someone answered, I began to explain why I called and suddenly realized I was speaking with Dan Aykroyd himself. He answered his own phone. Interesting.

The blues have always been more than a passing fancy for Aykroyd. He grew up in the thriving blues community of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He spent many hours in the legendary Ottawa coffeehouse, Le Hibou, which also served as a hub for the blues scene in Canada’s capital city. He took up the harmonica inspired by the performers he saw on stage. Aykroyd so dedicated himself to the instrument, he was soon considered a professional quality player. In fact, every single harmonica note on every single song ever recorded by the Blues Brothers… was performed by Aykroyd.

He is considered one of the most commercially successful bluesmen of all time, but he pointed out many times during our talk the Blues Brothers are much more than just a blues band. Their music incorporates elements of funk, R&B, soul, reggae, and even country. They have always strived to be more than a simple delta blues band. Whenever I listen to the Blues Brothers, one thing always happens. I tap my foot to the music. It’s not something I do often, but there’s just something about the Blues Brothers. They just have… a certain groove.

For me, the real magic of the Blues Brothers is rooted in the genuine friendship between Aykroyd and John Belushi. During our interview, Aykroyd called their first meeting “love at first sight.” They created the Blues Brothers the very same evening. Their goal was to simply express their affection for a style of music they both loved. That goal has never changed. Perhaps that’s why Aykroyd still draws audiences 40 years later as Elwood Blues. Elwood’s goals are simple. Love the blues and share the love.

As I was wrapping up the interview, I decided to take a chance. One of my best friends growing up is a MASSIVE Dan Aykroyd and Blues Brothers fan. Certainly a man in Aykroyd’s position who answers his own phone… I wondered aloud if I could shamelessly abuse the privilege of his time and asked him to say, “Yo, this is Elwood Blues. Jimi Schmitz is the bomb!” Elwood delivered the line flawlessly and that audio is now my friend’s ringtone. Yes, Dan Aykroyd is a genuinely nice guy.

Tune into AFN Legacy’s RADIO RECON featuring the Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd. Aykroyd brings you the complete story of the Blues Brothers. How did a simply hobby become the greatest selling blues band of all time? Elwood Blues calls in during the show despite being a fugitive from justice. And what aspect of the Blues Brothers did lead singer John Belushi absolutely despise? Hosted by AFN Legacy’s George Maurer… RADIO RECON featuring the Blues Brothers and Dan Aykroyd. Listen below or tune in on Monday July 11th at 3am, 10am, or 5pm CET/JKT… on AFN 360.

Special thanks to Ben Manilla of BMP Audio, producers of Elwood’s BluesMobile, and audio engineer Aaron Holmberg for making this edition of Radio Recon possible. Elwood’s BluesMobile airs Sundays at noon CET/JKT on AFN Legacy and AFN360.

George Maurer, Contributing Writer
George Maurer, Contributing Writer

Operation Song: Memorial Day 2016

Operation SongOperation Song was a Memorial day special hour of true stories told through music…stories from the battlefield and back home. This Memorial Day Special was produced by WUTC, Chattanooga for air on AFN Radio on Memorial Day, 30 May 2016.

Operation song is a Nashville-based nonprofit that empowers veterans, active duty military and veterans to collaborate with Nashville songwriters to tell their stories through music.

Go to http://wutc.org/post/listen-operation-song-memorial-day-special for more on Operation Song.


Live Troop Talk with President Obama

It’s not every day that military people get to ask the Commander-in-Chief a question. But that’s exactly what Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen from around the globe did during a live Troop Talk with President Barack Obama that the Defense Media Activity broadcast live to a world-wide audience on September 11, 2015.

AFN radio played a key role in getting the president’s message to military people in all corners of the globe. We carried the event live on our AFN the Eagle and Power Talk services as well as on the AFN 360 app. For listeners who may have missed the live show, the troop talk was also rebroadcast the following day on AFN the Eagle in Japan, Korea and Europe. The troop talk was also heavily promoted on all AFN radio services in the days leading up to the broadcast.

The Director of AFN Radio, Scott Stover, was proud of the role his team played in the broadcast. “Today’s broadcast showed that radio remains a powerful tool for reaching a world-wide audience with a live message,” Stover said. “It also continues the AFN Radio tradition of serving those who serve overseas.”

President Barack Obama sits with Air Force Tech Sgt. Nathan Parry, the moderator of the president's worldwide troop talk, on a set from Fort Meade, Md., Sept. 11, 2015. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard.
President Barack Obama sits with Air Force Tech Sgt. Nathan Parry, the moderator of the president’s worldwide troop talk, on Sept. 11, 2015. DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard.

The broadcast was ground breaking for DMA in that this was the first time that a president had agreed to do a live broadcast with the DoD’s flagship communication resource. The event also showcased DMA’s ability to simulcast across multiple platforms as the troop talk was carried live on AFN TV and radio while also streaming on defense.gov and the AFN360 mobile app. Troops world-wide submitted questions via Facebook and Twitter while social media specialists live tweeted the event. President Obama also answered questions live from military people stationed in Germany, Belgium, Afghanistan, Joint Base Lewis McCord in Washington State and from a Sailor deployed on board the US Navy Aircraft Carrier the USS Theodore Roosevelt. A standing-room-only crowd packed into the DMA studios located at Fort Meade, Maryland to hear their commander-in-chief speak.

You can click below to hear the radio broadcast.


Propelled Into Deep Space: The Devil Wears Prada

When you think of the lead singer of a famous rock band you tend to envision a person that is full of rock- star swagger and has self-confidence oozing out of every tattooed pore. If you’ve ever seen The Devil Wears Prada band perform live, my guess is you’d probably think that their front man Mike Hranica fits the bill perfectly and you’d be correct or at least partially right.

The vocalist from Dayton, Ohio called the radio studios at the AFN Broadcast Center to talk about the band’s first official release since 2013, the conceptual “Space” EP and although the conversation did start in outer space it eventually gravitated into a more down to Earth chat.

Hranica: “I didn’t like high school at all.”

(audio quote)
The Devil Wears Prada
From left to right: Daniel Williams, Mike Hranica, Andy Trick, Jeremy Depoyster • photo by Anthony Barlich

As The Devil Wears Prada embarks on their 10th year as a band they have emerged as leaders in the heavy metal subgenre called metalcore. Although the core of TDWP remains intact, the decibel defying group from the Midwest has undergone some lineup changes in the past couple of years when long time keyboardist James Baney departed the band in 2012, followed by the exit of founding member/guitarist Chris Rubey in 2014.

The “Space” EP is a collaborative 6 song effort that includes contributions from the old guard and the new, so to speak. Jeremy Depoyster (rhythm guitar, clean vocals), Andy Tick (bass), Daniel Williams (drums), Mike Hranica (vocals) and touring musicians Jonathan Gering (keyboards) and Kyle Sipress (lead guitar) have taken an astrological theme and created a collection of songs that each explores a different point of view of space and those things that exist out of the Earth’s province. “Space” is a refreshing offering that is engulfed in lyrical depth and musical mastery. We talk with Mike Hranica about the concept of the EP, his eloquent writing, his spirit animal and why he didn’t like high school, at all.

Angel Orozco: Exciting times right now for you and your band The Devil Wears Prada, how thrilled are you to drop the new “Space” EP?

Mike Hranica: We’re all really like anxious, we recorded the EP earlier in the year, we wanted to have the EP out sooner than August 21st but we’ve really been looking forward to it, it feels like we’ve been sitting on it forever and so far the reviews have seemed really positive, the folks that have been able to hear it seemed pretty pumped, so we’re just excited for the fans to give it a listen and kinda turn the next page for a band as we’ve gotten much older and are coming up on the 10 year mark and what not.

Angel Orozco: There’s this whole astrological theme going on with the EP, so what made you guys decide to write about Space, Aliens and Supernovas?

Mike Hranica: The EP was very much built off of what thought went really well with the Zombie EP back in 2010 so we had joked about doing something where each song was a different concept, there’s an alien song, there’s a pirate song etc. etc. I kinda sort of obtained the responsibility of giving the very strict concepts to each song and I was confident, I knew I was totally capable to be able to give different ideas and each song has a different meaning and nothing that feels to cliché or monotonous.

Angel Orozco: Lyrically there’s a lot of depth in there, when I read the lyrics I feel like I’m reading a hybrid book of science and poetry, how did you develop the ability to write so eloquently …or does it just come natural to you?

Mike Hranica: Thank you. I’ve always prided myself on being more of a lyricist than musicians and bands, before I joined the band I’ve always had very much an attachment and a sincere enjoyment to writing. As a young kid I was already writing short stories and poems and what not. I think with my joining the band 10 years ago as well it was very much an exercise in being able to apply my writing just as much as it was to play in a band or to make music and scream words, so yea I very much enjoy it, I’ve had some self-published releases and I hope to write more outside of the band as well but yea sincerely very much one of my favorite things to do is to write.

Angel Orozco: Speaking of writing, school is just starting for a lot of kids across the country, what type of student was Mike Hranica?

Mike Hranica: [Apprehensive chuckle]…A quiet one, very very shy, I didn’t have a lot of friends in school, I was very scared of people and that kinda made people scared of me. I didn’t like High School at all. I was a bit of a misfit but I did well, I was an A’s and B’s student, I can’t remember my GPA but I was alright, I was most attached to the writing and I think my fondest memory was whatever art I was able to do in school, I remember really having an attachment to my ceramics class and even more so than that was like my English literature. I was quiet and shy and again not a lot of friends. I was very excited to leave High School and get out on the road with the band when that time came which was like 8 years ago which makes me feel terribly old.

Angel Orozco: Would you change any of that knowing what your shyness and all that stuff may have gotten you today, would you have rather have been more outgoing and the popular cool kid?

Mike Hranica: I don’t think not be outgoing enough, I think I regret…well I know I regret just not having any sort of confidence which was something that I’ve always struggled with and I still struggle with it to this day but I can say that I’ve gotten better with it. I just didn’t have enough of a self-worth at all and you know I imagine or I know that tons and tons of kids have the same problem and it’s certainly a difficult obstacle to overcome. I think that’s a predominant regret of mine from school is just not having enough worth, enough faith in myself.

Angel Orozco: Well Mike, I hope you know now that you’re cool as hell.

Mike Hranica: Thanks, thank you so much.

Angel Orozco: Hey man, if you had a spirit animal what would it be?

Mike Hranica: When we were in the studio recording the Space EP my girlfriend came out for a few days, she actually got snowed in during that crazy weather in Long Island when we recorded in the winter, she’s all about spirit animals and we’ve done these stupid online quizzes, I think one was Buzzfeed and now I can’t remember what my animals were, I know I was bummed because it wasn’t a bear, I really like bears.

Angel Orozco: So you would want to be a bear?

Mike Hranica: I wanted to be a bear yes, cause they’re so cool. I can’t remember if I was a sloth or everyone else was a sloth…oh I was an owl, owl was one of them, which is I think a little more dramatic than me.

Angel Orozco: I was listening to an interview with your band mate Jeremy Depoyster and he was asked who was the most extreme performer out of all you guys in the band and they said it was you, so I could see you being a wild bear on stage, man.

Mike Hranica: only on stage, otherwise not so much.

Angel Orozco: Mike, finally I’d love for you to talk about and introduce the new Devil Wears Prada song but first I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to our brave men and women serving overseas and underway, as always it’s been a pleasure speaking with you. AFN wishes you and the band continued success.

Mike Hranica: Thank you so much for having me and you know a huge shout out to the troops and saying thank you really doesn’t do anything nearly enough to express how much gratitude all of us have, I have, the band has, I send my best wishes to those serving. Supernova that’s our first single from the EP, it’s a song that kinda just chronicles floating way deep in space, I kinda consider it one of our more romantic songs, it follows basically the inevitability of a relationship destroying and I kinda put myself in this situation of floating far away across the Universe and having this attachment, this love and relationship to something that will soon explode and disintegrate away very beautifully . Yea I mean it’s a little bit more of an upbeat one instead of a hooky chorus; check it out our new song Supernova.

Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer
Angel Orozco, Contributing Writer

Interview: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo

Wow.  What a voice.  Even now.

However, that’s not what impressed me most as I watched Pat Benatar and Neil “Spyder” Giraldo perform at Pechanga Resort and Casino.  They belong together.  It’s just that simple.

Everyone is a unique combination of special talents and abilities.  Those who find a perfect place in life to maximize those talents are very fortunate.  Benatar and Giraldo found their perfect place 36 years ago.  Even more special, they found the perfect partner to join them along the way.

Pat & NeilWhile I was interviewing them earlier in the evening, they bickered like an old married couple…which is exactly what they are.  As Forrest Gump would describe them, they fit together like peas and carrots. Their connection is obvious after talking to them for 30 seconds.

As I ask the same questions they’ve been asked a million times, they employ a few of the old tried and true interview techniques.  Musician A compliments the talents of Musician B and Musician B reciprocates.  It’s a way to remind the interviewer of their talents without sounding like they’re bragging.  (Side note:  I was convinced long before this interview.)

However, it doesn’t take long before the true nature of their relationship reveals itself.  I ask how they met.

Benatar to Giraldo, “I’ll tell it because I tell it better.”

Giraldo says, “Tell the truth this time.”

Benatar replies, “I always tell the truth.  You’re the one who tells it wrong.”

As they talk about their first meeting, they squabble over the exact details.  Benatar says she was looking to hire a guitar player.  Giraldo, already an established musician, says he was asked to form a partnership with a young, unknown singer.  Benatar calls that first get-together an “audition.”  Giraldo calls it a “meeting.”

“He didn’t even bring his guitar,” Benatar adds incredulously, “I mean come on.”  She sounds like a wife who can’t believe her husband left his socks on the floor….AGAIN!  However, instead of stinky clothing, they’re discussing the creation of one of music’s most successful careers.

There’s no malice, of course.  They just seem to enjoy the back and forth.  As I watch them rehash that first meeting for the umpteenth time, one thought pops into my mind.  They’re flirting with each other.  That’s how they keep the sparks flying after all these years.

Sparks are one thing they can both agree on.  There were definitely sparks from day one.  “Love at first sight” as some might call it, but it wasn’t that simple.  Benatar was a military spouse.  She was married to a soldier.  As her career heated up, her marriage began to end.  Playing guitar right next to her was Giraldo.

Their musical chemistry was immediate as well.  From the very first time they sat down to create music, it just worked.  Giraldo was the guitar player Benatar desperately wanted to find. Benatar was the singer of Giraldo’s dreams.  They were and continue to be each other’s muse to this very day.

However, their story is not without its challenges.  When you read the lyrics of their songs, you see the story of a couple who faced and overcame many difficulties.  “Heartache to heartache, we stand.”  Song after song, you begin to realize how hard they worked to stay together.  “You want to be lovers.  You want to be friends.  I’m losing my patience.  You’re nearing the end.”  Through everything, they found a way to stay where they belonged.  Together.  The hardest fought victories are always the sweetest and most cherished.

The opening notes of, “We Live for Love,” explode across the audience.  I was hoping they would play this song tonight.  It’s one of their lesser hits, but it’s probably my favorite.  As Benatar and Giraldo perform, they interact with each other a great deal.  They sound great.  They look happy.  The strength of their relationship is obvious to all who watch them.  They are two people who were meant to spend a lifetime together.  I am witness to one of rock and roll’s great love stories.

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo are currently performing across the United States on their 35th Anniversary Tour.

George Maurer, Contributing Writer
George Maurer, Contributing Writer