Archive for September, 2012

Culture Shock: Where Are They Now?

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

A number of years ago, I was in a band called Culture Shock.  If you’re interested in the history of the band, you can read it here.  Anyway, I thought I’d share what a couple of my former bandmates have been doing more recently; they’re both musicians of note and well worth a listen:

Will Henson – Everything I Can Do

Slow Motion Trio (featuring Jared Bentley on lead vocals) – I Bent Down


Chameleon Red Interview, Circa 2008

Posted by on September 21st, 2012

Transposition Album CoverI recently unearthed this interview we did with Pamela DeGroff in early 2008, not long after the release of Transposition.  It was never published but was used as background for an article in TG Forum.  It’s an interesting snapshot of where we were at the time.

Besides Brian Hearl (guitar and vocals) and John Franjione (bass, keyboards, vocals), who else is in the lineup and what do they play?  Any guest musicians outside of the band?

BH: That’s a more complicated question than it seems, as the lineup is still evolving.  I suppose John and I are the core members.  For Transposition, we played all the instruments and sang the lion’s share of vocals.  Our friend Katie contributed some fabulous lead and backing vocals, John’s girlfriend Inge played flute on the track “We Can Love”, and my wife Pen sang backing vocals on a few songs.

Do you mind sharing background information on the band members-musical as well as personal?   Anyone with any formal musical training?

BH: I have the dubious distinction of being in a band before I could really play an instrument!  I started a band with some friends at age 16, teaching myself to play rudimentary keyboard and guitar along the way.  I’ve been in a number of bands since then, but also had a virtual “solo career” parallel to that; I wrote and recorded seven one-man-band albums before Transposition.

JF: I’m a chemical engineer by day; don’t really have any formal musical training.  I started playing piano (well, organ actually) at about age 10.  I played in a band from age 16 to 22 (keyboards mostly; I picked up bass at the tail end of this period), but stopped when I went away to graduate school.  I didn’t do anything band-wise for a long time (20 years).

Interestingly, I lived in east Tennessee in 1995-2000, and Brian and I crossed paths there.  However, I knew him only as “one of the computer support guys”, and he probably knew me as “one of those research engineer guys”.  I don’t think either of us had any idea of the others’ interest/ability in music.  When I moved back to TN in 2003, I decided to try to get back into music again, and had heard from a friend that Brian attended the same church I had attended back in 1995-2000, and was a pretty good songwriter and guitar player. So I more or less asked Brian if I could join him for a song he was going to play for church and for a church coffeehouse he was already planning on doing with another fellow.

Transposition is actually the first time I’ve been seriously involved in a recording project.  It was lots of fun.  I greatly admire the talent and soul that Brian put into the songwriting and performing, as well as the sheer hard work that was required to complete the whole project.

How long have you been together?

BH: John and I have been playing together since the spring of 2003, at first as a duo in church and later also in an acoustic rock trio.  When that group went on hiatus early in 2006 we started recording Transposition.  Chameleon Red has emerged from that process and hopefully will continue to evolve.

Any significance to the name Chameleon Red?

BH: No, it just came to me one day.  I do like the connotations of the chameleon blending to fit its environment.  I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for the way many of us try to deal with life.

Do you intend to perform this project live?  Any plans to tour with it, or at least do some select dates?

BH: We plan on playing some of the songs live; in fact, we’ve already played a couple of them live at our church.  Performing the whole thing in its entirety would require more musicians than we currently have.  We don’t have any plans right now to play outside of our local area, though of course we’d entertain the thought if the price is right!

Will Chameleon Red become a live performing entity?

BH: We’re working on that right now.

Since this is a 2 CD project, how long did it take to record?  What was your over-all recording process like in doing an extended project like this?

BH: It took about 15 months to record and master.  We recorded in my home studio and would convene about once a week to record tracks.  In between recording sessions I spent a lot of time programming drums, tweaking effects, and recording overdubs.  Digital recording is a wonderful thing, but it’s tempting to try to achieve perfection through editing.  I consciously tried to back away from that and go for a more natural sound, even though that meant leaving in the occasional mistake.

What was your inspiration for the idea?   How long did it take you to conceive and write the music and lyrics?  (…and, would you do it again…?)

BH: I love Tommy and The Wall and always wanted to try a larger, cohesive work like that.  I had a breakthrough experience in 2004 that left me feeling so validated, empowered, and inspired, spurring a burst of creativity that broke a long bout of writer’s block.  Still, it took about a year and a half to settle on a story and write all the songs.  This is a very personal work and I wanted every word and every note to ring true.  And yes, I would do it again.  It’s been one of the most transformative experiences of my life.

What is your ultimate goal with the opera and for the band in general?  

BH: A dream I have is that Transposition will someday be staged as a proper opera or musical, though at present that doesn’t seem feasible.  I don’t have any plans for world domination; making music with friends and affecting people in a positive way is the main thing.

What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?

BH: Don’t be content with keeping up with the latest and greatest in music; get in touch with the musical roots.  If you know where you come from, you may discover where you’re going.

What about musicians in general?

JF: Go for it.  Don’t half-ass (I wish that I had done this).

BH: Listen outside your chosen genre; listen widely, and listen deeply.  There’s a whole lot of great music out there, in just about every style you can think of.

Your web site mentions all manner of influences, everything from Led Zeppelin to the Carter Family.  That’s quite a spectrum of genres.  You obviously feel comfortable drawing upon anything as inspiration when you write.  Would you care to comment on your influences?

BH: I was raised on a diet of Queen, Kansas, Styx, Kiss, and the like, but couldn’t avoid hearing country and bluegrass, too.  Ralph Stanley and the Carter Family are hometown heroes around here.  I must say that I really didn’t appreciate those kinds of music until relatively recently, though.  I like rockabilly, blues, and jazz in moderation.  Mostly, though, I still gravitate toward the mainstays of rock: the Beatles especially, plus Hendrix, Dylan, Zeppelin, Floyd, Neil Young, etc.  Most of what passes for rock these days leaves me cold; a lot of it seems factory-made and depressingly nihilistic.

JF: This will sound very clichéd, but my main influence would probably be The Beatles.  I “discovered” them when I was probably around 14, and still love and marvel at their songs.  My other favorite style of music is late 1970’s/early 1980’s funk/dance stuff.  Commodores.  Chic.  Earth Wind and Fire.  Parliament-Funkadelic.  I just really enjoy the sound of a good groove, and I love playing rhythm type stuff the most (either on bass, keyboard, or guitar).  I’d say my bass playing is 3/4 Paul McCartney, 1/4 Bootsy Collins.

Anything you’d like to say that I might not have asked but would like to comment on?  

JF: I’m really proud to have been involved with Transposition, and with Chameleon Red.  Although I can’t personally identify with being transgendered, I found that the songs nevertheless spoke to me about longing to find a place in the world, trying to make sense about life, and about the power of love.

Review: My Heart’s in New Orleans

Posted by on September 14th, 2012

Vicki D'Salle - My Heart's in New Orleans“Let the good times roll!” sings Vicki D’Salle in the tune of the same name.  I would suggest putting on her CD, My Heart’s in New Orleans, to get the good times rolling.  Ms. D’Salle lays down the boogie-woogie with nimble fingers and a dark-brown voice that effortlessly evokes the Big Easy even for those (like me) who’ve never been there.  The CD is about evenly split between instrumental and vocal music; the instrumentation is sparse, with only piano, bass and drums on most tunes.  But the piano makes a big sound; Vicki’s one of those players who make virtuosity sound effortless.  When she takes the mike, her sultry delivery makes it clear that even if her man did her wrong, she got the last laugh.  My Heart’s in New Orleans is a rollicking, jazzy, bluesy, often bawdy, set that will set you movin’ and groovin’.  Standout tunes: “Stormy Weather” and “Let the Good Times Roll”.

Check out Vicky D’Salle at

Review: 1971

Posted by on September 7th, 2012

A little clarification before we get rolling on the reviews.  I’m not going to worry so much about when an album came out or even if the band that made it is still together; the intent is to introduce our blog readers to good independent music, whenever and by whomever it was made.  I’m going to try to only review albums that are obtainable in some form on the Internet, and will probably only review stuff I like.

1971 by 1971Now then.  I saw 1971 perform live several times a few years ago and liked what I heard.  I stumbled upon their eponymous CD in my wife’s collection a while back, and thought it’d be fun to give it a listen.  It was like seeing old friends after a long absence; it’s a credit to lead singer/guitarist/drummer David Pope’s songwriting skill that many of the songs had fastened their hooks into my brain.  The album as a whole is acoustic-driven with the ambience of a back-porch pickin’ party, cohesive but with more emphasis on feel than technique.   Ably backed by the harmonies and instrumental skills of bassist Robert Peets and lead guitarist Brett Hale, Pope’s tales of heartbreak, hangover, religious anguish and family troubles are the perfect companions for world-weary late nights.  Standout track: “Hail Mary”.  The album is available for purchase on