Savage Garden

Australian pop duo Savage Garden formed in Brisbane at the end of 1996, their name inspired by fantasy author Anne Rice’s term for the savage and isolated world of vampires. Within nine months of formation they had attained two domestic hit singles (“I Want You” and “To The Moon And Back”).

This achievement came without the benefit of any live performances or even promotional interviews. Their sudden popularity became a global phenomenon when “I Want You”, officially the biggest-selling Australian single of 1996, became an international bestseller later in the year.
The duo, singer Darren Hayes (b. 8 May 1972, Queensland, Australia) and multi-instrumentalist Englishman Daniel Jones, met while playing in bar bands in Queensland in 1994. However, they elected to form a band more suited to their personal tastes – an amalgamation of influences including XTC and Peter Gabriel. A demo was sent to veteran manager John Woodruff (associated with Australian success stories including the Angels, Baby Animals and Diesel). He immediately signed them to his JDM record label.

Their self-titled debut album was recorded in Sydney in June 1996, with Hoodoo Gurus and Air Supply producer Charles Fischer at the helm. “I Want You” climbed to US number 4 in May 1997, and they enjoyed a huge transatlantic hit during the early months of 1998 with “Truly Madly Deeply”, the single topping the US charts and spending several weeks in the UK Top 10. On the back of their singles success, Savage Garden rose to number 3 on the US album chart in April. The follow-up single, “To The Moon And Back”, peaked at US number 24 in August 1998, but climbed to number 3 in the UK chart. The song had originally stalled at number 55 in February. The duo’s follow-up, Affirmation, was recorded in San Francisco, and included the huge US chart-topper, “I Knew I Loved You”. The duo split up in October 2001 shortly after Hayes completed work on his debut solo album.

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Robi Draco Rosa

When singer/songwriter/producer/performer Robi Draco Rosa needed to think about his new album, he knew it would be best done blazing down the Pacific Coast Highway in a new ride with serious tunes popping from his speakers. “I’ve always had vintage cars,” reflected Rosa. “So I leased a brand new BMW 740 IL, and I took it out on the road and started playing the remastered version of Miles Davis’s Bitches Brew. That’s when I knew what I had to do, what it would sound like.”
The result is Mad Love, 13 songs that reflect the chaos, the darkness, the love that came out of that moment when jazz became rock became a revolution in sound. It’s also a testament to the love of his life, actress/director Angela Alvarado. “I’ve always been kind of a romantic, but I reached another level in our relationship and it was just when I was diving into this album. So I just committed to that and I said, ‘Let me just go full-on and make beautiful love songs.'”

The enigmatic Rosa, who has four solo albums under his belt, is best known for three things: founding and fronting alt rock/funk band Maggie’s Dream; crafting hits like “Living La Vida Loca” and “The Cup of Life” for his one-time Menudo-mate Ricky Martin; and his late-’90s Latin rock classic, Vagabundo, which contained several songs based on the dark poetry of Baudelaire. Bilingual, bicultural, a painter and poet, it’s as if Rosa has the full range of artistic endeavor within him.

“I never feel like I’m going to plan to play rock today, or I’m going to plan to play reggae,” said Rosa. “I just want to do what feels right. I go by the adrenaline or the heartbeat. I just try to keep the spontaneity, which is what I thrive on.”

Produced and written by Rosa, Mad Love is overflowing with spontaneity, passion, and emotion, from the spacey, ethereal crescendos of “My Eyes Adore You,” to the bluesy, rippling guitar work in “Lie Without a Lover,” and the sexy smooth groove of “Dancing in the Rain.” The spirit of flamenco and Iggy Pop & the Stooges lurk in the background, and seemingly everywhere are those freaky muted trumpets, a testament to Miles Davis cool.

Rosa’s creative method reflects the free-flowing atmosphere at the house he built, Phantom Vox Studios in West Hollywood. Within these funky walls, Rosa staged collaborations with session musicians like guitarist Rusty Anderson and drummer Vinnie Coliauta, Patrick Warren (keyboards), Paul Bushnell (bass), Carla Azar (drums) and producer/arrangers Walter Afanasieff, George Noriega, and the legendary Van Dyke Parks. It’s also a place where Rosa will invite a roomful of flamenco musicians from Spain or a 20-piece string section.

“The album was two years in the making,” explained Rosa. “At first I was working with a touring band I had put together. We had tons of material, about 60 plus songs. But after recording all these songs, I realized I didn’t think I had an album I felt was worth putting out.”

Rosa backtracked to Puerto Rico, the ancestral place where he had lived his adolescence and maintains a home, and realized he had to go in a new direction. Back in L.A., he bought the new wheels, heard the Miles, and decided to look up producer/songwriter George Noriega, with whom he’d worked on Ricky Martin’s breakthrough 1999 English-language debut. They put together a song called “Como Me Acuerdo” (“How I Remember”), Mad Love’s only tune in Spanish, and took off from there.

“I realized I could work with George when we worked on ‘She’s All I Ever Had’ for Ricky,” said Rosa. “I called him up and we’d go to Venice Beach to write songs.” Rosa, who hits a stunning falsetto climax on “My Eyes Adore You,” also credits Noriega with helping him come out of his shell with his singing. “For years people have been saying man you should sing more, you have a really nice voice. So George said, ‘Listen, man, you gotta sing. Don’t hide behind a stack of vocals.'”

Rosa won’t hide behind the artificiality of being a spoiled pop star, either. A long-ago session with a high-flying guitarist drove him to seek out undiscovered musicians to play on his projects. “I’m not going to deal anymore with these guys with big cars, big money, big records they played on,” said Rosa. “They’ve forgotten that every track is a new day. I’ve learned so much hanging in a local scene in Spain, Brazil. There are cats I’ve come across in Milan, guys that write beautifully, who just live in an apartment and have a job down the street, and I just bring them to the party.”

In addition to the aforementioned raucous session with Spanish musicians at Phantom Vox Studios Mad Love features local musicians recorded in Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Spain. In New York, he recruited legendary tres player Nelson Gonzalez. “Nelson played on ‘Crash Push.’ I said to him, listen man, you’re playing for Miles!”

With its California flow and Rosa’s unabashed love for gnashing guitars and pounding drum kits, you could call Mad Love a great rock album, but in order to do that, you have to reassess your definition of rock. “Who’s rockin’? Marvin Gaye was rockin’. Marvin rocked hard,” said Rosa. “I remember running into this ‘rock’ thing when I was doing Vagabundo and I was trying to keep it clear of that ‘Yo, man, I don’t care to be in your club of rockers.’ I’m just doing my thing.”

Whether you think of Baudelaire, or you’re reminded of Jim Morrison, Maxwell or that anonymous troubadour you caught in a little caf¨¦ on your last tropical vacation, you can be sure that this Robi Draco Rosa thing called Mad Love will get you through a thousand restless nights. You know, the kind when you need to get in your car and drive and drive until the sun finally comes up.

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Travis almost didn’t make a fourth album. Last summer, drummer Neil Primrose dived into a hotel swimming pool in France, hit his head on the bottom and broke three bones in his neck. His doctor was pretty sure he would never walk again. Fran Healy, Andy Dunlop and Dougie Payne were devastated; their best mate might be confined to a wheel chair.

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Within three weeks of the accident, however, Neil was sitting at his drum kit for ten to 15 minutes a day. The pain was almost overwhelming but still, Neil couldn’t help himself. The doctor, amazed his patient was up and about, agreed it would be the best form of rehabilitation. As long as he took it easy. ‘I spent a couple of months at home being a moany old bastard,’ says Neil. ‘But I knew how lucky I was even to be able to walk.’

While Neil was slowly recuperating, the band was forced to take six months off. This was the first proper break since 1999, when The Man Who elevated the Glasgow mates to prominence as pioneers of emotionally literate anthems. They were more exhausted than they realized. They had also lost their way a little; after the unexpected scale of the success of The Man Who, they went straight back into the studio to record The Invisible Band. It is a fine album, but the band now realizes they didn’t challenge themselves enough.

‘Little cracks started appearing in 2001, around the time of The Invisible Band,’ explains Franny. ‘We hadn’t anticipated The Man Who doing so well. It was an emotional roller coaster for us. Being Scottish, we’re very reticent about being famous pop stars; it’s encoded into our DNA that we can’t be brassy or show off. But suddenly, we weren’t this little band in Glasgow any more. We desperately needed to take a step back and re-evaluate. After Neil’s accident it came close to the end of Travis – this band would no longer exist without one of the four members – but we were given another chance.’

Related: Kelly Rowland

Travis met up again at towards the end of last year to start work on 12 Memories. They set up a makeshift studio on Mull, hoping only to get Neil back into drumming. They would stumble out of bed in the morning and play in their pajamas, eat some good food, maybe wander up the road to the pub owned by Neil’s parents and have a few shots of malt. Evenings were spent in front of the open fire, drinking wine and playing Scrabble.

After two weeks they had written nine new songs. ‘It was like falling in love again,’ says Dougie, laughing. ‘Mull felt like a healing place. It wasn’t in any way tense this time round.’

After working with revered producer Nigel Godrich on both The Man Who and The Invisible Band, Travis decided to go it alone. They made a conscious decision not to worry: about hits, about being cool, about anything. Franny wanted to move away from the la-la-la songs he does so well to reflect upon the times in which we live. ‘In the past Nora, my fiancée, inspired a lot of songs about love and courting. But we’re solid now so I felt I could move on. September 11 was the start of something. I’m still not interested in politics, but I can now see how fragile the world is.’

Neil’s accident, the six-month break, the spell in the studio on Mull and Franny’s desire to push the band forwards have all come together to produce a startling record. 12 Memories is Travis at their very best, writing great tunes, sounding relaxed, happy, liberated but also responding to the world.

The first single, ‘Re-Offender,’ is a poignantly beautiful love song about being trapped in a brutal relationship. It is as simple, as captivating as ‘Writing To Reach You’ or ‘Sing.’ ‘The Beautiful Occupation,’ which was released in April on the Hope CD, is Franny’s direct response to going on anti-war marches in London and Glasgow (‘I’m wasting my time/Half a million civilians gonna die today/Don’t just stand there watching it happening’).

So Travis took six months off, didn’t play a gig for almost a year. Dougie got engaged to actor Kelly MacDonald. Andy married his girlfriend Jo. Franny turned 29. In the time off, he thought a lot about life. He had an ‘emotional spring clean’. He hung out with Nora, read philosophical books, grew his hair. He was proud of his Hoxton fin, but when Beckham appropriated the hair cut a week after a chance meeting in the car park of Toys R Us, Franny knew it was time to move on.

After almost not making it, the band agree that 12 Memories is their best album yet. As Dougie says so simply: ‘It just feels like us.’

But the last word comes, as ever, from Franny. ‘People who are trying to be cool are pretentious and I hate any form of pretension. Travis are about being decent and honest. For us, truth is the bottom line. Truth is the most powerful thing in the world.’ It seems this wee Glasgow lad will never forget that he lied when he was seventeen.

The Ataris

Kris Roe (lead vocals/guitar)
Johnny Collura (guitar/vocals)
Mike Davenport (bass/vocals)
Chris “Kid” Knapp (drums)
The Ataris, one of the most successful independent rock bands of recent years, have a brand new album, so long, astoria, the group’s eagerly-awaited major label debut on Columbia Records. so long, astoria is the first full-length Ataris album in nearly two years.

“Musically,” says Ataris frontman Kris Roe, “we took a back-to-basics straight-forward rock approach. There’s no novelty, no silly aspects to this record at all. It’s a serious story-telling record. Everything is really personal, every song is about something different, each song is like a page in the scrapbook of memories, but it’s not a dark record at all.”

“In a lot of my lyrics,” Kris reveals, “I like to encode a lot of hidden messages and whatnot. I like our fans to read into things. I feel that our fans are smart and I don’t want to give them just a bunch of surface lyrics that you can take at face value.”

Conceptually, so long, astoria takes its inspiration from an idea expressed in punk pioneer Richard Hell’s novel, “Go Now” (which also exists as a spoken word album): that memory can transcend the experience that generated the memory. “That really hit home with me,” Kris points out. “That’s how I try and structure my life: to try to do what will produce the best memories for later. When we’re traveling on tour, there are a lot of things that you let go of and leave behind, but, at the end of the day, even if you didn’t accomplish anything, you’ll have these great memories of all the people you’ve met and all the places you’ve been and all these things that you’ve done and all this time that you’ve shared with your friends.”

The primacy of memory is a theme that runs through the songs on so long, astoria. When writing for the new album, Kris Roe got in his car and drove around to “places where I grew up, places where I used to live, my old school, all these places. At two in the morning, I’d sit in my car and I’d just write. I’d take all these Polaroids of where I grew up. I went back and stole back these memories that were once mine by taking all these Polaroids. At this point in my life and career, I can’t very well go back to the house where I used to live and say to the people that live there now, ‘Can I sit in my old bedroom?’ But I could take photographs in the f***ing window. I tried to do anything I could to make this record more vivid and detailed, even going to stalker limits.”

The album’s title track encapsulates the idea of memory being a kind of buried treasure: “Life is only as good as the memories we make/and I’m taking back what belongs to me/Polaroids of classrooms unattended/These relics of remembrance are just like shipwrecks/only they’re gone faster than the smell after it rains…./And when this hourglass has filtered out its final grain of sand/I’ll raise my glass to the memories we had/This is my wish and I’m taking it back, I’m taking ’em all back.”

“In This Diary,” the album’s first single, has been slated to be lensed as a video by cutting edge director Steven Murashige, whose résumé includes clips for Incubus and Rage Against The Machine. The song itself finds Kris admitting that “Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up” before offering up the hope that “…eventually you’ll finally get it right.”

For Kris, getting it right means connecting in a real way with the band’s audience and the Ataris are ferociously dedicated to their fans. “We are a very personal band with our fans,” Kris is eager to stress. “We definitely go out of our way. We take it an extra mile. We write all our fans back personally, we run our own website personally. We have a kid from the audience get on stage and play guitar on a song with us every night. We opened up a record store in Santa Barbara, where we live, so that when we’re off tour, people can come visit us. We even rehearse and practice there so when kids come, we’ll let them jam with us. We listen to the demos kids give us and we’ve helped a few bands get signed to indie labels. We want this to be known about our band: all we are is a bunch of music fans who got lucky and happen to be living our dream. We are a band that exists solely for the purpose of our fans.”

But this kind of 24-7 attention to fans can create conflicts with other real-world responsibilities. In “The Saddest Song,” Kris writes a heartfelt apologia to his daughter, hoping that she’ll grow up to understand why her father’s work took him away from home so often. “I’m trying to tell my daughter that I know what it’s like to be without your father,” he confesses, “because I was without my dad for about five years after my parents got divorced.” “I pray I get the chance to make it up to you,” he sings to her. “We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.”

Kris extends both identification and empathy to the poet Emily Dickinson in “Unopened Letter,” tracing a spiritual kinship between the Belle of Amherst and Kurt Cobain, two great poetic souls who live on in a “posthumous life.” “It’s about how a lot of artists never get the credit they deserve,” Kris offers, “until they pass away.” Visiting the Dickinson Homestead while collecting the stories and images for so long, astoria, Kris was inspired to ask “If I died tomorrow, would this song live on forever?”

When the Ataris received a fan letter written to the band by a young girl confined to a hospital bed with a life-threatening illness, Kris was moved to write “My Reply,” one of the most emotionally powerful songs on so long, astoria. “I want to make sure that every thing I say is something that is really from my heart, something really personal, and something positive,” Kris says about writing this song. “I want to know that if I’m reaching kids, I’m reaching them in a way that’s really helping them. I know what it’s like to be a kid that’s totally down, that grew up in a small town and doesn’t have many friends, that doesn’t feel like he or she fits in or belongs. If I’m speaking to somebody in that way, I want to make sure that I let them know that ‘Hey, man, there’s hope out there. There’s a lot more beyond this life and you need to look for it.”

When it came time to find a producer for so long, astoria, the Ataris chose Lou Giordano (Goo Goo Dolls, Sunny Day Real Estate, Samiam, Paul Westerberg, Hüsker Dü, Sugar). “I wanted this album to possess this kind of straight-forward powerpop rock vibe,” Kris admits, “kind of what the Replacements always did. I wanted to make a record that spoke to a wide audience. Lou had worked with a lot of bands outside of just our scene.”

The result is a dream come true for fans of this high-energy modern rock combo, with the new original songs showcasing the emotionally-charged Ataris sound while a revved-up rendition of Don Henley’s “Boys Of Summer” gives a full-on jolt of the band’s spirited fun.

The Ataris are: Kris Roe (lead vocals/guitar), Johnny Collura (guitar/vocals), Mike Davenport (bass/vocals), and Chris “Kid” Knapp (drums). The group was first discovered in 1997 when songwriter Kris Roe passed along his demo tape to Joe Escalante, bassist for the Vandals and owner of Kung Fu Records. Moving from Anderson, Indiana, to Santa Barbara, California, Roe assembled The Ataris’ line-up and recorded the group’s first full-length offering, Anywhere But Here, for Kung Fu. The Ataris subsequently recorded an EP, Look Forward To Failure (1998 – Fat Wreck Chords), as well as the additional Kung Fu albums: Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits (1999) and End Is Forever (2001), each of which has sold more than 100,000 copies in the U.S. and has achieved similar sales successes around the world.

A virtual touring machine since the band’s inception, the Ataris have shared bills with Jimmy Eat World, Social Distortion, Blink 182, the Hives, 311, and others. The group has been a main stage attraction on the Van’s Warped Tour and has sold out tours in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe.

“After months of writing and recording our new album, we are very excited to be getting back on the road to see all of our loyal fans again,” said the Ataris’ Kris Roe. Following the release of so long, astoria, the band intends on touring for at least a year with shows including performances on the main stage of the 2003 Warped Tour.

With the release of so long, astoria, the promise of the Ataris’ early indie roots is fulfilled with some of the most provocative and emotionally powerful rock sounds this continually-evolving group has ever made.

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“The history of this fucking band is ridiculous. it’s like machiavelli rewriting fear and loathing in las vegas. it involves a cast of thousands. it should star charlton heston … it’s like a pram that’s just been pushed down a hill. it’s always been fiery and tempestuous and really on the edge and it never stops. i don’t think it ever will.”

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so said suede’s vocalist brett anderson back in august 1994, though the quote could just have easily have come from almost any point in the band’s tumultuous career. for the story of suede is one of extremes. of dizzying heights and desperate lows. of times when they seemed to have the world at their feet and other periods where it seemed impossible to continue. and it is this refusal to throw in the towel, this triumph over adversity, no matter how high the odds are stacked against them, that is part of their enduring appeal and goes some way to explaining the near fanatical devotion they inspire amongst their supporters.

suede’s detractors have often pegged the band as cold, cynical, pretentious and most damning of all, humourless. the very opposite is the case. suede are all too human. their songs are tragi-comic dramas about real people and real lives. or as brett once put it, “about the used condom under the bed.” their story – without wishing to sound too cynical, humourless or (god forbid) pretentious – is a testament to the power of the human spirit.

Related: Kelly Rowland

as everyone knows, suede are one of the uk’s most important and influential bands. they kick-started the renaissance in british guitar groups, weathered the inevitable fall-out, survived various personnel changes and inspired a generation of starry-eyed dreamers and bedsit musicians – here was a band worth believing in. they were the first “alternative” act to be awarded the mercury music prize, won plaudits from artists ranging from david bowie to derek jarman, and ten years on remain one of the few british bands with truly international appeal – their last album spawning number one hits from peru to singapore.

suede famously gatecrashed the uk music scene just over a decade ago on the back of some of the most hyperbolic press notices ever, not least the front cover of melody maker which called them “the best new band in britain” before they had even released one note of music.

when they did, songs like metal mickey and animal nitrate became smash hit singles, anthems to a new generation, while ballads like pantomime horse and sleeping pills would help make their eponymous debut album “the most eagerly awaited since never mind the bollocks here’s the sex pistols”.

suede became renowned too for their b-sides which were often every bit as good, and in some cases better than the hits. my insatiable one was famously covered by morrissey and he wasn’t their only celebrity fan. when suede covered the pretenders’ brass in pocket for the nme’s ruby trax charity album, chrissie hynde declared their version better than the original – and later joined them on stage to sing it at a benefit concert collaboration with derek jarman.

despite some legal wrangling across the pond which meant they had to call themselves “the london suede” in america, the band were still in the ascendancy as 1994 began. their latest release, an awe-inspiring 8 minute epic entitled stay together, became their biggest hit to date.

of course, as we now know suede’s original guitarist and co-songwriter bernard butler walked out of the studio toward the end of the recording of their second album, never to return. despite this, dog man star was a triumph, and although their least commercially successful is still regarded by many as their finest work being one of only four releases from the 90s to make it into a guardian poll of the 100 greatest records of all time.

as the three-piece suede soldiered on valiantly to finish their masterpiece, the press had a field day. “is it all over for the best new band in britain?” the supernova success of oasis and the reinvented blur (who’s singer damon albarn was now stepping out with brett’s paramour and one-time suede guitarist justine frischmann) seemed to dwarf suede’s previous achievements. the chorus of doom was not quietened by the announcement that the replacement to bernard butler, by now elevated to johnny marr guitar god status, would be an unknown 17 year old schoolboy from dorset, richard oakes. the first single from the forthcoming album barely scraped the top 20 and for all its merits, dog man star sat uncomfortably on the sidelines of the cheery britpop beerfest.

the curse of america returned when brett fell off stage and hobbled through the rest of their latest us tour with the aid of a cane. the final gig of 95 was at the ill-fated phoenix festival. the minute the band set foot on stage the heavens opened. “i thought ‘someone’s really got it in for us!’” grins brett ruefully.

and then there were five. midway through the recording of their third lp, at that point going under the unlikely working title of “old people make me sick”, drummer simon gilbert’s cousin, one neil codling, dropped by to borrow one of brett’s jackets and joined the band by osmosis as keyboard player, occasional guitarist and teen heartthrob. suede were now invincible and proved the point by crashing into the top 3 with trash, their biggest hit yet, only held off the top spot by robbie williams’ debut and something called wannabe by a once popular girl group.

the album had no opposition. coming up was released in september 1996, went straight to number one and spawned a further four top ten singles.

saturday night was the band’s christmas hit, coinciding with three sold out nights at london’s roundhouse. on the final evening suede were joined by the pet shop boys’ neil tennant who sang on both the latest suede hit, and suede’s blistering version of the shoppies’ own rent.

the coming up world tour finally ended with a headline appearance at the reading festival. the band were joined by another special guest, former suedette turned elastica frontperson justine frischmann. suede had come full circle, now comfortable with their past (or most of it). a double cd set of b-sides was released to prove the point and went top ten.

after an 18 month hiatus the band returned in may 1999 with a new producer (steve osborne of happy mondays fame) and a new, colder, more electronic sound. electricity, the lead single, went top 5 and the album, head music, gave them their third number one. she’s in fashion became suede’s biggest ever radio hit while the summer saw the band headline virtually every festival in europe, not least the uk’s v99. but behind the scenes all was not well. subsequent singles struggled to make the top 20 and rumours were rife when neil, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, missed several of the shows on the tour.

all seemed to be back to normal, though, when suede played a one-off concert in iceland in october 2000. brett even joked, “ladies and gentlemen, neil codling … back from the dead!”

suede unveiled no less than nine new songs that night and received ecstatic reviews – “anyone who thought that head music signalled the artistic end of suede is going to have to think again,” raved the nme. “the new songs are amazing and arguably the best things they’ve ever done.” yet such was suede’s stringent quality control that only five of these songs would make it to the new record.

then in march 2001 as the band finally prepared to begin work on their fifth album, neil officially left the band in a shock announcement. his replacement was long-time suede associate alex lee, formerly of strangelove. “alex was on the last european tour and i got to know him really well,” recalls brett.. “apart from getting on with him it was also really obvious that he was a bit of a whizzkid. he can play anything. so when neil decided that he had to leave, there was only one phone call i made.”

another setback occurred when the initial sessions for the album, recorded with beck sidekick tony hoffer, were effectively shelved. “we went in with an idea that we were going to make a very strange electronic folk record,” explains bass player mat osman. “the songs were good, they just didn’t fit each other. tony’s a lovely guy, it’s a shame it didn’t work out.”

it wasn’t until january this year that recording proper began, with stephen street now on board. “we’d known stephen for years, but never talked about recording with him because he was constantly working,” says mat. “we were only in with him about nine weeks but we wrote four or five new tunes and recorded the whole album. after all that time it came together really quickly at the end.”

if coming up were the euphoric rush of an ecstasy binge, and head music the crashing come down, then a new morning is what it feels like to survive and come out the other end with a revitalised joie de vivre. it’s an album that somehow manages to combine all the best bits of previous suede records and still sound remarkably unique.

“the record’s about looking at life a different way i suppose,” ponders brett, “looking at life as something that’s potentially ‘great!’ instead of troubled and confused.”

and the title? “for me it’s a symbol of a new start for the band. it isn’t suddenly a reggae record or a swing record or anything like that. it’s definitely a suede record. but it seems like there’s a sense of freshness injected into it. when we were making the record i was feeling very excited about life and hopefully some of that vitality has come across on the actual recording.”

so there you have it. suede are back, healthier (in every sense) and more vital than they’ve been for a long time. every band is obliged to say that their latest album is “the best yet” but in this case it’s a claim that’s hard to dispute. a new morning positively brims over with sparkling melody and impeccable musicianship. each track is a gem in its own right but more than any other suede record, the album sits together as a coherent body of work which justifies almost every outrageous claim made on their behalf over the last decade.

that “best new band in britain” piece described suede as “the most audacious, mysterious, sexy, absurd, perverse, glamorous, hilarious, honest, cocky, melodramatic, mesmerising band you’re ever likely to fall in love with.” ten years on it still stands true.

time to get excited. again.

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Will Smith

Born To Reign is the spectacular and soulful sound of Will Smith boldly achieving his own musical destiny. Though he’s long ruled from a cultural throne all his own, Smith takes another great leap forward with his latest effort, for which he served as Executive Producer along with Omarr Rambert. The new album — released worldwide on June 25th – features Smith’s latest single “Black Suits Comin” (Nod Ya Head),” the theme from “Men In Black II.”

Now known to millions around the world as the superstar actor in such films as “Bad Boys,” “Independence Day,” “Men In Black,” “Enemy of The State” and “Ali,” Will Smith first made his name as a pioneering rapper back in the Eighties as half of the popular duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The pair were best known for a series of hits in the late Eighties and early Nineties like “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble,” “Parents Just Don’t Understand” (for which the pair won the first ever Grammy for Best Rap Performance in 1988) and “Summertime,” which also won a Grammy in 1991. Having become an even bigger household name as a TV actor in the hit sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” and numerous films including the Oscar-nominated “Six Degrees of Separation,” Smith boldly returned to his recording career with 1997’s Big Willie Style — a massive commercial success that featured such standout smashes as “Getting” Jiggy Wit It,” “Just The Two Of Us,” “Men In Black” and “Miami.” 2000’s Willennium ushered Smith’s music into a new century with “Will 2K” and “Wild Wild West,” as well as a number of tracks that found Smith working once again with Jeff Townes, a.k.a. DJ Jazzy Jeff, his friend and collaborator since his days when he was The Fresh Prince.

Impressively, Smith’s music has never sounded quite so fresh as it does throughout Born To Reign. The new album very prominently features more live instruments and less sampling than Smith’s previous recorded work. Born To Reign, also prominently features the musical contributions of Overbrook/DreamWorks Records recording artists TR?KNOX- a three-member group that is an essential part of the album’s soulful sound. Also making significant contributions are a number of gifted producers and players, including MCA Records recording artist Christina Vidal (who appears on an old school remix “Nod Ya Head”) and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, Smith’s wife, who duets with him on the ultra-romantic “1000 Kisses.”

Shortly after the completion of Born To Reign, Smith took time to discuss his latest and arguably greatest effort:

So what was your mission for the new album?

To get it finished. The world according to hip-hop was the overview. There’s Latin-flavored tracks. There’s reggae-flavored tracks. I have old school hip-hop records. I’ve got full orchestral records. We used lots of live instruments on this album. Historically it’s been almost a hundred percent computer-generated and samples. We went for a different approach to create a whole different sound.

The result is that this album that sounds more organic and even more soulful. Did it have that impact for you?

Oh yeah. The real difference is real strings. Synth strings just can’t touch the flavor and the humanity of real strings. We used live strings on about eight tracks. It’s kind of retro — but it’s so retro, it’s revolutionary.

Obviously the trio TR?KNOX brings a lot to the album. What do you think these guys brought to your party?

The thing with TR?KNOX is that creatively, I’d gotten to the point where my ideas were beyond my talent. The vibe that I wanted to capture and the ability that I had intellectually and creatively were beyond my ability to perform. And working with TRA-Knox gave me the opportunity to fill the void in certain areas and make the kind of album that I was hearing in my head.

They seem to have remarkable range musically.

You know they are extremely talented. They’re also actors so they understand the concept of drama and creating a three-act structure to a record. They understand building to a climax and bringing it back down. I think we speak the same language because of their acting experiences.

How did you first find these guys?

My buddy Charlie Mack met them in Philly, though they’re from New York, and they sang at my wedding to Jada so I’ve known them for a long time.

Speaking of Jada, you two duet beautifully on “1000 Kisses.” Now it can be a dangerous thing to collaborate with loved ones, but the track is a very sexy bit of domestic bliss.

Jada’s wanted to perform for a long time. She always said that she felt she could sing and perform and I think she actually put out a single when she was sixteen in Baltimore. So when she got in the studio she was excited about working and she liked the track and the fact that she and I were doing it together. And these were lyrics we both felt, so it worked out beautifully.

Why did you choose to call the album Born To Reign?

The piece at the beginning of the album — “Born To Reign” — sort of illustrates what I was trying to say. The concept has to do with destiny and the idea that destiny isn’t necessarily something that is pre-determined. Destiny is something that you can choose. You can choose what you’re born to be. And I choose to be Born To Reign.

You also chose to use less sampling this time, but you have borrowed a little bit from a wide range of sources, from Gipsy Kings to Kraftwerk to Luther Vandross. That’s quite a range. Is that just part of throwing this sort of global block party?

Jada and I listen to everything and I’m inspired by lots of different kind of music. Rap music is essentially a music without a music. There’s rap lyrics over different kinds of music, and really that’s what I was trying to do on this album — expand my borders, just to open up. For instance, on the “Men In Black” track — that’s the first time that I performed with a full orchestra. And that’s what I was going for — expanding the borders of hip-hop.

You’ve now released three albums in five years which puts you ahead of some full-time musical acts. How do you pull that pace off with your busy film career?

Well, I write all the time which makes it a lot easier. I never really come out of the lab. I’m always writing down ideas and concepts. I have a book full of ’em when I start an album. So generally, I only have to come up with three or four new things to make a new album.

Let’s discuss a few of the songs on the album. For instance, how did the very spicy “I Can’t Stop” start off?

That was when Jada and I were on vacation in Mexico like three years ago and we were listening to the Gipsy Kings the entire two weeks that we were there. That song was really just how that music made me feel, the emotion and the flavor that I got from the Gipsy Kings’ music.

How about “Black Suits Comin”” which is appropriately enough very cinematic?

“Black Suits Comin” was really an experiment — live drums, live strings, live guitars. full orchestra, tympani and everything. It’s a big experiment that I’m holding out to see how people react to it.

And the remix version with Christina Vidal has an almost Chic-vibe.

Yeah, we went with really old school filthy hip-hop drums — we were definitely going for a retro vibe on that one. I wanted to bring the remix back into a more familiar place.

Then there’s “How Da Beat Goes” during which you namecheck Russell Crowe and some of your Hollywood brethren.

Yeah — “You see me with Denzel or Russ Crow/But you know movies are just a trick on the side/I’m in love with the flow.” That really just illustrates the fact that I really do still consider myself a rapper first.

So is it funny to you that some people think you’re a movie star trying to crossover into music when that’s really where your whole story started?

Yeah, but I released my first record in 1986. So I can understand how somebody who was born in 1991 might have that question.

Another standout is “Block Party.” What does that one mean to you?

That’s my homesick track there. When I first heard the track, I got it from a guy named LES who’s down with the Track Masters, and it hit me like “Summertime” hit me. That sense of warmth and comfort made me think of Philly in the middle of summertime. With the first two verses, I wanted a sort of present day new school approach to it. Then on the third verse I tried to create a sense of how it used to feel.

The word “fresh” has been associated with you for many years ? How have you kept your music so fresh on Born To Reign?

You know I like to try different things. A lot of people try make their songs fit on the radio. You hear phrases like “radio-friendly.” Whereas when I make a record, I’m going for completely the opposite. I absolutely want to make a record that stands out on the radio. I generally try to get a sense of the tide of music only so that I can swim as hard as I can in the opposite direction.

You’re not interested in just going with the flow — you want to reign.


This album was recorded in Los Angeles, New York, New Jersey and Australia. Were you just taking it with you wherever you went?

I kept this one with me until it was right. I was in Australia with Jada who’s working on “The Matrix II” and “III.” But by that time, the album was pretty much done and I was just fixing and tweaking and getting things just right.

Finally, who exactly do you want to hear this album?

I always want to make the album that parents can put on in their kid’s room and feel comfortable. That’s always a priority. And beyond that anybody who appreciates old school hip hop lyricality.


source taken from

Tata Young

She was Thailand’s youngest pop sensation and now Tata Young is ready to spread her talent to the world with her debut English album, “I Believe”, which will be released by Columbia Records on February 23. “I Believe”, Tata’s seventh album, is the much awaited crossover album that is set to catapult the star into the international arena.Despite being only 23, the nine-year music veteran has already sold more than 12 million albums and established herself as a symbol of change for the Thai music industry. Trendy and energetic, Tata is part of the new wave of Asian talent that is making its mark on the world stage.

Tata was born Amita Marie Young in Thailand on December 14, 1980, the only daughter of an American father and a Thai mother. In a childhood filled with singing and dancing, Tata had already shown the early signs of the talent that would take her from being Thai’s biggest teenage pop sensation to an international recording artist.

At the tender age of 11, Tata beat 5,300 other young children to be crowned winner of the International Division of the nationwide Thailand Junior Singing Contest by belting out “Catch Me I’m Falling”.

The victory brought her an entertainer’s contract with Yamaha Music in preparation for the impending debut into showbiz. In 1994, the 14-year-old caught the eye of A&R; people at Grammy Entertainment, Thailand’s biggest entertainment conglomerate, which snapped her up with a recording artist contract.

Within a short year, Tata had recorded and released her debut Thai album “Amita Tata Young” which shot up the charts and sold more than a million copies in less than five months. Almost overnight – and at only 15 – Tata had become the biggest pop sensation in Thailand.

The reputation was cemented when sales of her follow-up album “TATA 1,000,000 Copies Celebration”, containing the hit single “Chan Rak Thur” (I Love You), also hit the million-copy mark. 1995 brought the teenage wonder a collection of top awards and accolades, included being named Entertainer of the Year by the Bangkok press, as well as Best Recording Artist 1995, Music Video of the Year, Number One and Two Singles of the Year, and Album of the Year for “Amita Tata Young”, at the Radio Vote Awards in Thailand.

Tata’s cosmopolitan background helped her set new standards for the Thai music industry. Despite singing in Thai, Tata’s popularity took her not only around Thailand but also to concerts abroad.

She was chosen to represent Thailand on the Australian Television program “World Telly Broadcast”, which featured Youth in Asia and broadcast in February 1996. The programme was seen by audiences in Australia and throughout Southeast Asia.

In April 1996, Tata held her “Tata Live In Hollywood Concert” at the renowned Hollywood Palladium. It was a rare event for an Asian singer and the concert received outstanding reviews.

Tata was selected by the Chinese Government to represent Thailand at the Handover Concert for the Hong Kong Handover Ceremonies held on July 5, 1997 along with international acts such as Wet Wet Wet, Michael Learns to Rock, Lisa Stansfield, All 4 One, and the Brand New Heavies.

That same year, Tata became the first entertainer in 14 years to receive the coveted Golden Pikkanes God Award presented by the Musical Artist Association of Thailand under the patronage of His Majesty The King of Thailand.

In 1998, Tata was also chosen to sing the opening song “Reach For The Stars” at the 13th Asian Games in Bangkok.

Tata’s talents have not been limited to just singing and performing live on stage. Trendy, beautiful and vivacious, she has also developed a highly-successful modelling and acting career.

Tata made her film debut in 1997 in the youth drama “The Red Bike Story” which broke the all-time attendance record in its release for any movie in the history of Thailand. Her stunning debut garnered her the Best Female Actress Award (Thailand) presented at the 4th Annual Blockbuster Entertainment Awards 1997. She followed that up with two other celluloid hits, “O-Negative” and “Plai Tien”.

She has modelled and endorsed topnotch products such as Fuji Film and Yamaha motorcycles and has been featured in top international media and on the covers of many magazines around the region.

In 1997, Elle Magazine named her one of Thailand’s “10 Most Influential People”; in 1998, Asiaweek selected Tata as one of 25 most influential trend-makers in Asia; and in 2001, Tata was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in their study of successful Eurasians in Asia.

Tata formed the Tata Young Fan Club in 1997 under the auspices of her company TATA Entertainment to gather support from her fans to provide assistance to “The Human Development Foundation”, a charitable foundation serving underprivileged children in Thailand.

In her spare time, Tata plays squash, computer games, and enjoys spending time with friends and her pet dogs, travelling and listening to music. Her favourite artists are Madonna and Bird Thongchai McIntyre.

source taken from

Erra Fazira


Erra Fazira. Jarang ditemui seorang artis yang sepertinya. Bukan sahaja berbakat, Erra mempunyai banyak kelebihan yang menjadikannya antara artis yang paling top di Malaysia pada hari ini. Tabah, gigih, peramah dan berwawasan. Itulah antara pujian yang diberi padanya oleh semua yang mengenalinya.

Bakat yang dipunyai Erra digunakan sepenuhnya untuk mencapai kejayaan di dalam bidang modeling, nyanyian, lakunan dan kini Erra mula mangatur langkah dalam bidang perniagaan. Di mana ramai yang akan berpuas dengan pencapaian yang dimiliki, Erra berpunya wawasan untuk maju ke hadapan. Bersama dengan perwatakannya yang mesra dan lemah lembut, Erra mendapat sambutan hangat ke mana saja dikunjunginya dari semua peminat seni di Malaysia.

Nama : Fazira bt. Wan Chek

Tarikh lahir : 9 February 1974

Tempat lahir : Sungai Choh, Rawang Selangor

Bintang : Aquarius

Bangsa : Melayu

Tinggi : 5” 6 ”

Ukuran Badan : 34 – 27 – 37

Warna Mata : coklat gelap

Warna Rambut : hitam

Warna kulit : cerah

Hobi : membaca, menulis, kaki motor

Makanan : makanan Melayu, Cina, Jepun

Minuman : air mineral

Warna : warna ceria

Kerjaya : penyanyi, model, pelakon


source taken from

Sheila On 7

“Hebat bukanlah bererti gagah atau kuat sahaja, namun ianya memberi maksud yang mendalam seperti berani menaklukan segalanya, namun untuk berdiri tegak walau tubuh ini lemah dan mudah menyerah lalu kita tetap gigih bertahan itulah yang dinamakan hebat. ‘Berani, Cekal, Tabah ¡­¡­Bertanggungjawab adalah sikap jujur dalam menjalani liku-liku hidup, memaksimakan diri ini untuk mengambil risiko dalam melaksanakan hal-hal mendewasakan, mengakui kesalahan dan berhenti mengeluh serta mengasihani diri.” Eross
Ini adalah sebuah kenyataan pembuktian dari kematangan kareer muzik mereka selama lebih dari 5 tahun. Tak kurang satu juta unit penjualan dari tiap album yang di pasarkan. Belum lagi catatan rekod dari sebuah band dengan masa paling banyak dan paling ditunggu konsert besar di Indonesia dan beberapa kawasan Asia Tenggara. Berasakan penerimaan peminat terhadap muzik mereka; kini mereka kembali lagi dengan album yang ditunggu-tunggu selepas album soundtrak filem “30 Hari Mencari Cinta” yang dipasarkan tidak lama dulu.

“Pria Terhebat” itulah album keempat dan terbaru dari Sheila On 7 dengan menampilkan konsep yang semakin matang. Dengan tidak membiarkan kesempatan dan idea berlalu begitu sahaja; jangka waktu yang panjang dimanfaatkan oleh mereka untuk mengeksplorasi terhadap muzik dan alat-alat yang mereka gunakan untuk menciptakan lagu yang lebih mendominasi lagi. Dengan meninggalkan string section yang selama ini menjadi ciri khas dari lagu-lagu sebelumnya; kini di album ke-empat ini, Sheila On 7 yang berkolaberasi dengan Onny Saunine menawarkan nuansa pop unik yang dihasilkan dari brass section.

Konsep Album
Seperti album mereka yang terdahulu, mereka masih lagi mengekalkan dengan konsep pop rock; tetapi istimewanya album ini bukanlah hanya dengan pop rock; malahan 100% muziknya telah dipelbagaikan konsepnya dengan mengenengahkan kemantapan mutu muzik, persembahan muzik dan yang paling utama sekali ialah citarasa bunyi serta melodi yang acap kali diambil perhatian dalam setiap keluaran album mereka.

Single pertama mereka yang juga dijadikan judul album ini, ‘Pria Terhebat’, merupakan sebuah lagu yang dinamik dan sarat dengan ajakan untuk selalu berfikir optimis. Lagu ini juga adalah sebagai mengingatkan mereka bahawa mereka kini masih tetap berlima sehingga kesaat ini bermula dari berdirinya mereka dari tanggal 6hb Mei, 1996.

Lagu-lagu dalam album ini yang proses penggarapannya pertama kali ini dilakukan di studio milik mereka sendiri sudah tidak didominasi penciptaannya oleh Eross. ‘Tanyaku’ adalah lagu yang ditulis sendiri oleh Duta, penyanyi utama, yang bakal menjadi bapak ; bercerita tentang kisah kasihnya sewaktu beliau mula bercinta.

Kemudian diikuti dengan Anton selaku pemain drum, mencuba pula menulis tentang gemerlapnya alam metropolis dibawah kerlip lampu nion dan derap muzik disko dalam lagu ‘Coba Kau Mendekat’. Tidak ketinggalan pula dengan Adam iaitu pemain gitar bass yang tidak kurang juga menuangkan curahan hatinya bersama teman balada yang romantis dalam lagu ‘Pilih Aku’.

Walau tidak mendominasi, Eross yang tidak perlu diperkenalkan lagi dengan lagu-lagu hasil ciptaan beliau yang unik tetap kekal menuliskan lagu dalam album ini. ‘Itu Aku’ yang lebih berkisarkan tentang risalah hidup manusia yang sarat dengan pelbagai komitmen dan perjalanan hidup yang tidak pernah melupakan apa yang dicari dari hidup ini dan sibuk menafkahi nafsunya yang tidak pernah merasa puas; adalah salah satu lagu yang ditulis oleh beliau dengan melodi yang apik dalam balutan brass section.

Seperti album mereka yang telah lepas, Sheila On 7 masih lagi kekal dengan mencipta lagu-lagu yang menyentuh tentang percintaan, namun bila diulik balik maknanya malah ianya lebih mendalam lagi. Lagu yang berjudul ‘Ketidakwarasan’ ini lebih bercerita tentang ketakutan terhadap perang, saat cinta sudah tak bermakna dan kenyataan sudah terlampau berat. ‘Khaylila’, judul yang mencuplik nama putri kesayangan Eross, merupakan simbolisasi kepedulian Sheila terhadap generasi mendatang sebagai penerus bangsa agar menyiapkan mental untuk menandatangani rintangan hidup ini.

Keseluruhan sentuhan album ini, banyak membawa semangat dan optimisme dalam menjalani hidup ini dikemas dengan ringan dan lirik yang mengena dihati sehingga pesan moral tersirat dapat mudah diterima tanpa harus membebani pendengarnya.

Selain mengekalkan konsep pop rock, album Sheila On 7 ini juga tidak lari dari mengekalkan konsep album yang sama. Tapi kini mereka lebih tampil dengan imej bayang mereka dimana ianya sedikit sebanyak menunjukkan kematangan mereka terserlah bertetapan dengan tajuk album mereka iaitu ‘Pria Terhebat’.

Saatnya berdamai dengan hati ini.

  • 2004 Pria Terhebat
  • 2003 30 Hari Mencari Cinta – OST
  • 2002 07 Des
  • 2000 Kisah Klasik Untuk Masa Depan
  • 1999 Sheila On 7

Senarai lagu-lagu yang terkandung di dalam album Sheila On 7 :

  1. Pria Terhebat   Click here to listen
  2. Itu Aku
  3. Pemuja Rahasia
  4. Pilihlah Aku
  5. Brilliant 3X
  6. Tanyaku
  7. Generasi Patah Hati
  8. Coba Kau Mendekat (Tuangkan Hasratmu)
  9. Ketidakwarasan Padaku
  10. Pendosa
  11. Jangan Beritahu Niah
  12. Khaylila’s Song
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