Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pheaturing Michael Lee From The Michael Lee Band

Hot time, summer in the city...

Hello, welcome to the Phile, and it's Summer! I don't know where you live but here in Florida it's been hot. It's so hot, everyone on Facebook updated their status to "moist". It's so hot, the guy in the Mickey costume died of heat stroke. That's not true, by the way. It's so hot, Kim Kardashian came to Florida and lost 6 pounds in her butt. It's so hot, there's now a new show at Disney World called, "The Man with the Ceiling Fan". The worst thing to me about summer is all the reruns on TV. Like today I was watching and they had this old episode where Lindsay Lohan goes to court for probation violations. I think the show was called "The News." I’ve seen that one like 10 times now. I’m tired of it. President Obama and John Boehner played golf against Joe Biden a week ago or so and they won $2. Just 7 trillion more rounds like this and we’ll pay off that deficit in no time. The Florida Marlins named 80-year-old Jack McKeon their new manager. It wasn’t a great start. The first game he had to make four trips to the mound and 12 trips to the bathroom. Krispy Kreme is adding healthier items to its menu, like oatmeal and yogurt. Or, as their customers put it, “Krispy Kreme is selling some new dipping sauces for the donuts.” A new study found that most Americans will have to work into their 70's and 80's to be able to retire. But don’t worry. After that, they’ll have plenty of time to enjoy their golden year. A 51-year old actor named Doug Hutchinson has married a high school student. Yesterday, Doug and 16-year old Mrs. Hutchinson announced that they were married in May. Steven Tyler is suing him for lifestyle infringement. The couple insists there’s nothing strange about their relationship, except for the fact that when he was her age, she was minus 19. Even Hugh Hefner was like, “That’s gross.” Most Americans know Jon Huntsman as “the candidate most Americans don’t know.” Gov. Huntsman’s announcement puts him somewhere between Ron Paul and Count Chocula as the favorite to win the GOP nomination. To no one’s surprise, on the "Today Show" John McCain said he will not be running in 2012, or walking for that matter. He’s just going to get one of those Rascal scooters and drive around. President Obama announced that progress is being made in Afghanistan after the death of Osama bin Laden, which means we’re going to be bringing 10,000 troops home by the end of this year. Here’s what I don’t understand about Afghanistan: With all that opium lying around, you’d think it would be a mellower place. Bristol Palin released her much-anticipated memoir called “Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far.” Bristol said that Levi Johnston cheated on her but then made it up to her by buying designer rain boots. Things are different up there, I guess. If that was my wife and I, guess where those boots would end up. Speaking of the Palin's, Sarah Palin, who I want to interview on the Phile so bad, has abruptly ended her bus tour of the United States. The idea was to drive around the country giving speeches in front of historical landmarks. Reportedly, she’s back in Alaska at home, which is weird because it’s not like her to quit something. Like I said, it's Summer. Did you see the new Summer inspired inspirational poster? It's not the nicest picture. I still let them take it of me. LOL. Take a look.

And have you seen the new Green lantern inspirational poster?

So, kids, it's Sunday, so here is my wife's least favorite pheatures on the Phile.

I mentioned earlier about Obama's speech on Afghanistan, right, well, I don't totally understand what is going on. I was gonna invite my good 'friend', the GOP Chairman to explain it but he would probably use this forum to bad mouth the President. so, I thought I would invite someone different. So, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Phile, Mister Patrick Gaspard Executive Director Democratic National Committee in a new pheature I will call...

Me: Director Gaspard, welcome to the Phile. For those that didn't see the speech or those that don't know, can you tell us what the speech was about?

Patrick: President Obama gave a speech about the future of our military engagement in Afghanistan and the role America should play in the world.

Me: He wants to bring the troops home in a year? That is really cool.

Patrick: Yes, friend, the President talked about his decision to bring thousands of troops home from Afghanistan.

Me: Didn't the President say a few years ago as well he would bring the troops home and never did?

Patrick: In 2009, when President Obama announced the Afghanistan surge from West Point, he said that he would begin the process of bringing troops home by July of this year. Now, that's exactly what will happen. For almost a decade, we've been fighting in Afghanistan, but as of last night, there's a new way forward.

Me: Director, thanks for being on the Phile and clearing that up.

Patrick: Thank you.

And now for some sad news...

Peter Falk
September 16, 1927 - June 23, 2011
"One more thing, St. Peter... Where did you get those sandals?"

Ryan Reynolds is a cocky Top Gun Jr. test pilot with a lot of teeth and a habit of walking away from commitment. That makes him the perfect choice to be the first human member of the Green Lantern Corps, an intergalactic brotherhood of space police who battle evil wherever it lurks. In order to fit into the fold and launch a new Warner Bros./DC franchise, he has to go on a by-the-numbers hero's journey and fight a fear-fueled something called Parallax which looks like a huge floating monkey head surrounded by dreadlocks made of moon tar, smoke and space feces. Blake Lively plays a pilot/aeronautics executive who really just wants to be rescued by a superhero. Way to score there, team of comic book adaptation experts.
I'm only speaking for myself here, but I want superhero movies to involve something more than setting up a marginally interesting premise so that there can be more sequels and snack food tie-ins. I want to feel like something real is at stake. Even if the threat is nothing more than a monster from space, I want that monster from space to be scary enough to create doubt in the hero's ability to fight it. I want the hero to be the right combination of old-school steel and new-school wit. I want female leads directed to give confident swagger instead of vacant stares. Special effects that weren't rush-jobbed to post-production houses that a) are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy from undercutting their price and b) don't provide health benefits to their employees. Maybe an ending that feels resolved instead of one that comes fully loaded with a post-credits bumper full of nefarious sequel bait. I'm rambling. This movie has none of that stuff. Mark Strong and Blake Lively try hard. So does Ryan Reynolds, even though he seems sort of lost as to what kind of man he's supposed to be. The only person who really survives the movie is Peter Sarsgaard, living it up in Elephant Man makeup as the nerd-villain using the Parallax fear-goo to turn himself into a merchant of doom. One of the best parts of the movie, and this counts as a spoiler so if you're opposed to that kind of thing then turn back now... seriously, quit reading... okay you obviously want to know, there's a spectacular and scary helicopter crash sequence that, if it were to happen in reality, would decimate everyone in the vicinity. But that's where Green Lantern comes in, saving the moment with a sincerely goofy Hot Wheels track composed of energy, one that turns the entire death-machine scenario into no-hands theme park ride. GL isn't a dark, overly damaged hero. He's not a mouthy, edgy hero. He's just a straight-up do-gooder. There has to be a way to salvage that type of guy with excitement and joy and make audiences cheer for him. Somebody has to be able to deliver that to a movie screen. Who's going to try next?

The artist currently being pheatured in the P.P.A.G. is Dax Norman, and this is one of his pieces. Dax will be a guest on the Phile in the next entry.

Today's guest is the lead singer for the band The Michael Lee Band whose new EP "Hold On Till Heaven" is available now on iTunes. Please welcome to the band... the one and only Michael Lee.

Me: Hello, Michael, welcome to the Phile, sir. How are you?

Michael: Hi, Jason. I'm freaking out, but that's normal for me. How are you?

Me: I'm good, and just came back from church and shopping. Anyway, I just downloaded your two songs that are on iTunes "In My Dreams" and "Lost In Touch". Did you write both songs, Michael?

Michael: Ah cool! Thanks! Yes, I did. I wrote "In My Dreams" a few years ago about an unattainable love, and felt a sort of Roy Orbison influence on that one. For "Lost In A Touch," I have an interesting little side-story to that one. Believe it or not, Michael Jackson was my influence... but not because of "Thriller." Right after the King of Pop died, CNN and all the news outlets kept showing the only clip of his rehearsal AEG released, where he's dancing alongside blond guitarist Orianthi on "They Don't Really Care About Us." I was mesmerized by her, to say the least! But the riff to that part of the song was pretty cool, and I had never played it before. So I started playing it, then as I'm sometimes apt to do I started improvising from that and created my own riff that became the heart and soul of 'Lost In A Touch." I built the song around that riff, and the vampire's confessions sort of just came to me from there. It was very organic. And now I actually have my "Hold On Till Heaven" EP on iTunes and a pop single called "Find Me," too.

Me: I have to ask you who is in your band, man. One of the guys has played with The Who, is that right?

Michael: Well, I could say "me, myself, and I" but I don't want you to think I'm schitzo. For recording purposes, I have played a lot of the instruments and laid down various vocal tracks. My co-producer/engineer/drummer is Steve Bundrick, and he's done multiple instruments on there, too. His uncle is "Rabbit," who has been called the "fifth member" of The Who. He has played with them since original drummer/showman Keith Moon was alive. Rabbit contributed keyboard parts on some songs as a 'guest artist,' but technically he is still with The Who and appeared courtesy of them on my album. (They are waiting/hoping Pete Townsend finds some relief for a hearing condition he suffers from so that The Who can resume touring.) Since acronyms are so popular these days, we sometimes go by 'MLB' for "Michael Lee Band," but that 'B' could just as easily stand for 'Bundrick' instead of "band." I have had some other session musicians involved, but I have some other bandmates who have joined in to support live shows... Mike Riley on bass and Lost Boy bandmate Andrew Richardson on keys.

Me: What made you decide to record under The Michael Lee Band and not just Michael Lee?

Michael: I actually do use both, but for one thing I'm more of a "band" kind of guy. I like the creative energy and chemistry that comes from being in a band per se instead of just being a stand alone solo artist. And there are actually some other Michael Lee-named artists out there, though in other genres. Hopefully, we're not all related to Tommy Lee... that wouldn't be good!

You from Texas, is that right? What part?

Michael: Yes, I'm from the Alamo City, San Antonio. I was born and raised there, though I've lived and worked literally all over the world. San Antonio has been called the "heavy metal capitol of the world," and so that explains some of my harder rock tendencies, I guess.

Me: I interviewed a few bands and musicians from Texas and they all seem close knit, and know each other. Do you know and hang out with other singers and bands in Texas a lot? Or do you do your own thing?

Michael: I think all musicians share a bond, even though sometimes they feel a need to be competitive with one another just like athletes, actors, etc. And some are so busy that they never make time to hang out. I try to find a happy medium where I can, and I think when I come across real artists we all try to support one another. It's a mean world out there, after all!

Me: Michael, I am impressed with your resume. Not only are you a musician, but you are also an actor, an Emmy-nominated television producer, director, ghost hunter and an... alleged vampire? What the hell? You don't dress like a vampire, you dress like a rock star. Where did this vampire thing come from?

Michael: Haha... well, I could show you pictures that might change your mind! Vampires get around, and I'm no exception. If I could just get past this "unable to be in daylight" thing I could get soooo much more accomplished!

Me: Are you into vampire stuff? There seems to be a lot of it lately thanks to those Twilight movies.

Michael: Yeah, I have always loved I didn't need the trendiness of it to jump-start me at all. I love the vampire tradition, though. The classics like "Dracula" and even TV shows like "Dark Shadows" and "The Night Stalker" are what I love. The Twilight series broke away from a lot of traditional conventions, and for that, Dracula must be rolling over in his casket!

Me: Okay, let's go through the rest of your resume, my friend. You acted in a film when you were a kid, right? What was the name of that movie?

Michael: I actually don't remember the full title since I was so young... it was a Disney-like Western, and I just remember filming daytime scenes in a school house at like midnight. They used artificial light to make it look like daylight, and I was so fascinated that they could do that. It doesn't take a lot to impress a kid!

Me: Did you want to be an actor before you became a musician?

Michael: Yes, when I was in high school I lettered in drama, speech and journalism, but acting was what I loved. I went off to study Shakespearean acting in London right out of school, and then I went to NYU so I could be right in the thick of things in NYC.

Me: How old were you when you started to play guitar? My son is eleven and is playing a little bit.

Michael: I had a guitar when I was eleven, but I definitely couldn't play it. I just made really bad noise. Some people might say not much has changed... ha! But I started really getting into music at 12 or 13, and that's when I started to pursue it more.

Me: Didn't you record your first song when you were a kid? What was that song, Michael?

Michael: Yes, I did. I was 14 and an aspiring songwriter, so I recorded a song called "Sweet Summer Breeze," but I really couldn't sing it so I got my best friend's sister to sing it in the studio. Unfortunately, she couldn't really sing it, either!

Me: Okay, next on your resume... a television producer? An Emmy-nominated producer to boot! How freaking cool. Did you get to go to the Emmy's? What type of stuff did you produce?

Michael: Yes, I did. It's not really fun though to get all dressed up, see a clip of your work & get excited, but then you don't win. The acting thing kind of took me into television naturally... Of all things, I began with the home shopping channel QVC. I got to travel all over the country helping to produce live shows on location from this big orange bus that was a TV production truck. It was just like being on tour, actually. In fact, QVC stole the tour bus driver from Hootie & The Blowfish, and he became our bus driver. Just like rock -n- roll for that to happen! Anyway, I've been to all 50 states in 50 weeks! Ha! (and actually several times) I was able to eventually build on that experience and find my way out to E! Entertainment Television in LA. Once I started to produce the "E! True Hollywood Story" I knew I had put a dent in the TV world.

Me: How did you react and what did you do when you found out you were nominated?

Oh, I was elated, of course. Emmy's come from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, so it's just like AMPAS with the Oscars. As Miley Cirus on "SNL" would say, "It's pretty cool!"

Me: Do you still do a lot of producing, or is music your main thing now?

Michael: I tried to do both for awhile, staying in the loop as a freelance producer. But I finally realized if you're really serious about one thing, you have to dive in and give it your all. So... Voila! I'm a musician!

Me: You also directed, right? Movies or TV shows?

Michael: I've always aspired to direct films, but that's still on my to-do list. I've actually directed plays and some TV pilots and shows. The actor in me comes out when directing plays because as a wise drama teacher told me once in high school, "When you direct, you get to play ALL the parts."

Me: And ghost hunter? For real? You need your own reality show. "Rocker By Night, Ghost Hunter Another Night, Always A Vampire". Hmmm, that's too long of a title.

Michael: Haha... yes, that's me, Supernatural Jack-of-all-trades! I don't do it full-time, of course. But hey, when the opportunity arises it's a lot of fun. You never know who is on the other side beckoning you! And one of my favorite things are the Ghost Walk tours they have in London. The Jack the Ripper tour is awesome! So fascinating... and enthralling at the same time!

Me: You studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, which must of helped you in your career. What was your major there?

Michael: Yes, I was actually there as part of their foreign exchange program, so I was strictly engulfed in Acting, which they do so well! Nobody does it better. They also teach stage combat and fencing, so I dabbled a bit in that, too.

Me: I am from London, but didn't go to school there. I have heard about it, and heard it was a strict school, is that true?

Michael: Wow, how cool. Yes, I think the British are pretty strict about a lot of things. But it's all discipline, really. It's hard to be a rock star in that environment, that's for sure!

Me: You been compared to some really good bands, Michael, like the Muse and even Billy Idol. Who are your influences? Who did you listen to growing up?

Michael: Thanks, I have the utmost respect for Muse. I think they are really genius with what they are doing on many levels. And I've been a Billy Idol fan as long as I can remember. He is the ultimate showman live. The true definition of a rock star. I've actually had so many influences it's hard to single any out... like everyone I've always loved the Beatles and Led Zeppelin, but I even go back to my Texas roots with much admiration for Buddy Holly. Even to this day he doesn't get enough credit for what he gave to rock -n- roll. But my direct influences on the hard rock side have to be Judas Priest, Scorpions, Triumph... and then stretching to a more pop/alternative side with Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, The Cars, Goo Goo Dolls and The Killers. And I cannot forget to mention Van Halen.

Me: And your songwriting has been compared to one of my favorite bands, the Barenaked Ladies, which was the main reason I wanted to interview you, before I heard your music. Do you write tongue and cheek lyrics on purpose or is that just the way it comes out? What is your favorite lyric you ever wrote?

Michael: Oh, I love BNL, too! "The Old Apartment" is one of my all-time favorite songs. And that one actually has much more serious overtones from their usual cheeky sequences. I think those guys just have a way with fusing humor and the familiar to make their lyrics reach a deeper connection to the audience. I always try to write very organically... letting phrases and dialog come to me rather than force it. But an example of BNL-esque in my lyrics is in the song, "Connection" - "all your heartbreaks and your cornflakes... connect and reveal, depart and appeal." I would say a favorite lyric of mine is in a song I wrote called "Yesterday Is Calling" - "On the road to regret, it's so hard to find the exit. You can go to town, or you can spin your wheels around." That one will actually be on the next album.

Me: You are currently working on your first album called "No More Fairytales". What? You don't like fairytales?

Michael: See, I'm here to dispell myths for all the kids of the world! Haha... I told you I'm a vampire! The album is actually what I first starting working on in 2008. The music business changed so much that people told me don't release a full album, do an EP instead... do just singles. So I've been doing a little of all that. Plus, I realized that I had several themes going and I wanted to solidify the work to make more of a real album, not just a collection of songs. An old school album, if you will. I'm very encouraged by the reception Arcade Fire has attained with their album, "Suburbs." They wanted to do a core theme, and they pulled it off brilliantly. And the fans and critics agree, too. What could be sweeter?

Me: What can we expect from that album, and do you have the same band on it?

Michael: Well, the album was written from the point of view caused by a devastating break up, but it's really about a post-apocalyptic world. It has a lot of fantasy/sci-fi feeling you might find in Muse or Pink Floyd, but it also has the roots of relationships as an undertone. So there's a little something for everyone! I do have some of the tracks with the same core band, and others have a few different folks.

Me: I take it you'll be doing a tour to support it. Hopefully you'll make it down to Florida, Michael. I imagine your performances rock, am I right?

Michael: I certainly hope to, yes! I would love to come down there. I've been all over the Sunshine State, and it's one of my favorites for obvious reasons! I always Rock, Jason.

Me: Thanks so much for being on the Phile, and I hope to see you all over TV on late night talk shows performing. Why don't you go ahead and plug your website?

Michael: Thanks so much. You must be a mind-reader, too. Well, my official site is and that takes fans into my world, and of course they can join my band newsletter The Rock Room from there, too.

Me: Thanks again, and come back when the album comes out. Will you do that?

Michael: You bet! Thank you, Jason... and of course, Rock On!

Well, that about does it for another entry of the Phile. Thanks to Michael for a great interview and to Director Patrick Gaspard as well. The Phile will be back tomorrow, yes I said tomorrow with Peverett Phile Art Gallery artist Dax Norman and then again next Sunday with jazz musician Rich Nelson. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alliagors bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

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