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.