Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pheaturing Kellen Ross From Opium Symphony

Hello, and welcome to another entry of the Phile, on a Wednesday. So, I have had a few emails asking me if I am all healed and better... I am getting there, kids. I know longer wear a sling but my shoulder still hurts quite a bit. Tomorrow though I start physical therapy. I haven't been back to work yet, but by the first or second week of January I should be. Thanks for asking about me, and caring.  Alright, what's going on? Scientists are baffled by Canadians' ability to watch movies and play video games and not shoot each other.  A close friend of mine said his doctor gave him less than two weeks to live. But it turns out his doctor's a Mayan. He says that to everybody. For those of you that don't know by now, the Mayans have predicted the world is supposed to end on December 21st. If the world doesn't end on December 21st, you can bet the next day the malls will be overrun with Mayans trying to buy last-minute gifts. We've only got one day left, and I haven't even started packing. On the bright side, the end of the world kind of takes the edge off the fiscal cliff, doesn't it? The Mayans predicted that last joke wouldn't work.  The DEA says drug smugglers in Mexico are using canons to shoot marijuana over into the U.S. They have three distances... far, really far, and Willie Nelson's house. Logan and I saw The Hobbit yesterday. It's going to make a ton of money this weekend. It will make more money than Mitt Romney spent losing the election. Gollum's back as well. He's my favorite character. According to "The Lord of the Rings," Gollum was once a normal man. But wearing the ring drained him of his youth, vitality, and energy. That's why some men view him as a symbol of marriage. The movie is almost three hours long. This marks the first time people are saying, "I'm going to save myself some time and just read the book." You know what's weird though? I read the book when I was thirteen, and now I took Logan to see it when he's thirteen.  Airlines in Europe are testing a new robot that can make drinks for passengers instead of having flight attendants do it. This way, flight attendants can stay focused on their most important job... ramming the beverage cart into your elbow.  In what's being called a stunning literary find, a Danish historian has discovered the last remaining, unpublished fairy tale from Hans Christian Andersen. It's called "Congress Solves the Fiscal Cliff."  Police are now looking for a man who robbed a bank wearing a Mitt Romney mask. He robbed the bank, fled the area, and then stashed the money somewhere in the Cayman Islands.  Animal control officers have now shut down a rat-breeding business here in California due to animal neglect. That's when you know things are bad... when your business is too unsanitary for rats.  It’s rumored that John Boehner and President Obama are considering a partial deal to avoid the fiscal cliff at the end of the year. Yeah, it’s RUMORED that a PARTIAL deal is being CONSIDERED... or to put that in layman’s terms: We’re going off this cliff.  ABC is working on a new show inspired by Justin Bieber’s life before he got famous. It makes sense... I mean, there’s just so much we don’t know about that week.  Well, like I said, I saw The Hobbit yesterday and I noticed they made a few changes that I wasn't expecting...

It was GandALF. Man, that is so stupid. So, who saw the new Hobbit poster advertising the movie?

I thought the movie was filmed in New Zealand, but they must of saved some money somewhere...

So, the Amish have their own inspirational posters for Christmas it turns out. Here is one of them...

Alright, well, Christmas is less than a week away and you might be trying to figure out what to buy for someone. That's where the Phile comes in. So, once again, it's the...

The Sonic Screwdriver is an awesome tool, but until we can actually create one that can do everything The Doctor can do with his, most of the replicas are simply useless props. Fortunately, this Sonic Screwdriver is actually a cleverly-disguised, old-school, manual screwdriver that can be used to fix all kinds of odds and ends around your home or TARDIS. You can buy it right here:

And now, from the home office in Port Jefferson, NY, here is...

Top Phive Things we Have Survived
5. The year 2000 "Millennium Bug."
4. The year 2000's "Planetary Allignment Doomsday Prediction."
3. The 6/6/06 "Rise of the Devil/Anti-Christ."
2. The Rapture Beginning.
And the number one thing we survived...
1. The Rapture End.

Before we continue, let's check the weather...

Yeah, we're screwed. 

Hello. I'm writing from the future. In fact it's 2027. And in the 15 years since Peter Jackson introduced filmgoing audiences to the wonders of 48 frame-per-second 3D elves and dwarves and wizards and hobbits, they've finally figured out a way to make it look like real life, only more so. Here in the future, all the movies are in 48fps and we like it just fine. It's too bad, though, that back in 2012 something as expectation-logged as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was the movie Hollywood decided to use for our collective guinea pigging moment, microwaving a beloved world like a bag of robot popcorn and crisping it up to within a millimeter of insanity, exploding every visual element into tiny, exquisitely detailed parts, forcing you to look, LOOK, LOOK!!! at what they've done. At this point in its development, you won't be distracted by it one bit. It's visually coherent now. So lucky for all of us that they finally got it right. But they probably should have experimented on a Kate Hudson rom-com instead. Nobody would have minded.  Okay, now I'm back in 2012. And I need to backstory you a bit. I'm not a hobbit hater. Like many of you, I'm a huge Lord of the Rings fan. I am the target market. As a fan, the flame that burns in my LOTR-loving heart has been diminished to a little blue gaslight. It took three hours of nonstop visual dissonance to do it, but it happened. I'm feeling sort of lost here.  I barely have to explain the plot, but the basics are that Gandalf (Ian McKellen) approaches hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and entreats him to join in an adventure with a band of dwarves out to reclaim their lost kingdom. Bilbo does so, more or less against his will, eventually encountering the dragon Smaug (next movie) and LOTR's Gollum (Andy Serkis), ultimately acquiring that creature's "Precious," the one ring to rule them all. This initial installment painstakingly details and pads out the first section of the original book. And that's fine. I'm the audience member who doesn't care if this thing plods along and meanders down paths that would have been chopped in a leaner, more efficient adaptation. Any opportunity I get to live in this world, even if it takes nine hours to get to the end of the story, is a chance I'm more than eager to take... kind of like when your favorite band puts out a new record that everyone else says is tedious and overblown. You don't care. You might even know it somewhere deep down. But you like that band. You choose to hear everything but the bloat. I would be that guy right now if it weren't for the fact that I never got used to the horrifying looking technological "advancement" the makers are so proud of foisting on us. I could never stop thinking about process and how movies are made or unmade, about how geeking out on the tech-y details can sink a thing under the weight of its own creation, a thing that, at its heart, courted and built its loving audience with dramatic significance and the emotional power of the smallest of people re-creating themselves as courageous, lion-hearted heroes. I could never not see the dismantling of that beating heart.  There are other issues here, ones that involve pacing and tone and narrative momentum and Bilbo's own lack of significance in a story that's allegedly all about him, but all I can think about right , one day after exiting the theater, is how badly I need to go see it again at a reasonable 24 frames per second in regular old 2D in the hope that I can fully immerse myself into this too-long, too-repetitive saga. I've been left cold. I'm going to give it another shot, one that's somewhat less tricked out, just to see if I can get warm again. All that said, it's fantastic, and I give it a 10. And yes, I'll buy it.

Alright, before this year everyone thought the Mayans were dead... but they weren't all. And since January I had a guest on the Phile who was a Mayan who was full of Mayan advice and proverbs. Well, he said he would come on the Phile one last time before the end of the world on Friday to give us a last piece of Mayan wisdom, if that's what you wanna call it. So, please welcome back to the Phile for the very last time... Marvin the Modern Day Mayan!

Me: Hello, Marvin, welcome back to the Phile for the last time. So, what advice do you have for us today?

Marvin: Nya b’a’n tu’n mina t-xi koyin ch’in ti’le cye ktata, nokx si’s c-ocil pukle ku’j, aj kcyim.

Me: Once again, Marvin, we don't speak Mayan. Can you tell us in English?

Marvin: It is not good to deny anything to your parents because at the end of our life we will suffer hen ticks.

Me: Hen ticks? I thought it was the end of the world we had to worry about. There's no hen's around here, so that's good. Marvin, thanks for all your advice over the year. Take care, and good luck. Marvin the Modern Day Mayan everybody!

Well, it's Wednesday, and on Wednesday's I like to talk football. So, please welcome back to the Phile my friend Jeff in a pheature called...

Me: Jeff, welcome back. First things first, your Steelers lost but not as bad as my Giants. It was a blow out! The score was like 34 to 0 or something. What do you think happened?

Jeff: Good to be back on the Phile. I wish I knew what happened to the Giants. The Steelers should have won but we failed. Badly.

Me: There isn't any football news this week, right?

Jeff: It's getting lose to the end of the season. Some teams are in playoff form, others just don't seem to care.

Me: You know, this year we haven't talked about Tebow. Why is that, Jeff?

Jeff: The main reason we don't talk Tebow is he is a back up quarterback who rarely plays. He hasn't thrown a touchdown this season and only 39 yards all season. There are rumors he will be on a third team in three years next season.

Me: Maybe the Giants. That'd be cool. Okay, you were winning by seven... Where do we stand now? 

Jeff: We both had a good week last week. I was 3-0 and you went 2-1. I'm currently leading by six points with two weeks to go!

Me: Shit, two weeks. I need to get my act together, Jeff. Let's do this weeks picks... I say Houston by 15, Pats by three and Titans by 7. What do you say?

Jeff: I'm going with Colts by 7, Denver by 10, and Tampa by a point.

Me: Alright, I will talk to you next week. Have a great Christmas!

Jeff: Merry Christmas to you and your readers.

Alright, kids, today's pheatured guest is the lead singer for the great rock band Opium Symphony whose new album is available right now on iTunes. Please welcome to the Phile... Kellen Ross.

Me: Hello, Kellen, welcome to the Phile, how are you?

Kellen: Hello Jason! I'm doing great! Thank you for having me!

Me: Where are you from, Kellen?

Kellen: I grew up in West Texas, more specifically Lubbock and Abilene... in the dead center of the 'Bible Belt'.

Me: So, is Opium Symphony based in Texas?

Kellen: Yes, the band formed in Dallas in 2007, and we consider ourselves fortunate for having such a great city as out home base.

Me: So, I have to ask you about this, I read that your parents gave you a hard time when you told them you wanted to be a singer in a rock and roll band, am I right?

Kellen: Haha... Yes, if I recall correctly, I was sitting at the dinner table on a Sunday afternoon eating with my family. The conversation somehow led to questions of 'my career path in the future'. At the time, I was 15 years old and had been hiding lyrics from my parents (and everyone for that matter) in a drawer next to my bed. Wait, that sounded bad... Anyways, a year prior to this Sunday afternoon I had decided that I was going to pursue rock n' roll when I graduated high school, and felt this time was better than any to tell everyone about my 'musical ambitions'. I was asked by my father, "Have you thought about what you're going to do when you graduate in 3 years?" I replied, "Yes, I'm going to be a singer in a rock band." There was about a 5 second silence, then my parents couldn't stop laughing for the next 5 minutes or so. I just continued to eat my lunch and laughed with them. They were laughing at the 'rock n' roll fantasy'. I was laughing at the fact that I was completely serious, and knew they had no idea of the fact that I had been writing music for the last year of my life... To this day I am still surprised as to how I 'knew' that I would be a rock musician as such a young age.

Me: So, what do they think of you being a singer in a rock and roll band now?

Kellen: My parents are very supportive of my career. Not only emotionally, but they also make it a point to drive into Dallas when we are in town, and rock out at the shows. In fact, when I quit college in 2007, my father said, "Go pursue your dream. School isn't for everyone." That was a huge confidence booster for me at that time. Now my mother calls me to congratulate me every time she hears a song on the rock stations in DFW.

Me: How old were you when you told then that, Kellen, you wanted to be a rock singer?

Kellen: I was 15 when I told me parents I wanted move to Dallas and start a band.

Me: You didn't wanna go to college, am I right? Did you go?

Kellen: I was always a straight A student in school, but I had a hard time thinking that I would end up with a 'normal' job somewhere at the age of 25. In fact, it scared the hell out of me... I knew that I had to be someone in modern music to feel right with myself. I recall meeting with the school counselor during the last week of my senior year of high school. She asked all of the students a series of questions about the future. When she asked me, "What career do you see yourself having in 10 years"? I replied, "I'm going to be in a rock band." She paused and didn't know how to react. So she said, "No, really, what do you see yourself doing for a living"? I said, "I'm not going to finish college, if I even go at all, and I'm going to start a rock band instead." She pushed harder and said, "That's not realistic, why can't you choose something else? Your grades could take you anywhere". I said, "I don't know what else to say, this is what I will be doing in 10 years." She eventually just wrote down 'wants to start a rock band. Doesn't see the value in going to college' on the paper questionnaire. I just laughed. I did eventually go to the University of North Texas for 2 years. It was outside of Dallas, and it was a music school. I thought that I could find band members there, but I eventually dropped out and moved to Dallas to start the band. Yup, I'm a college drop-out.

Me: Is this your first band?

Kellen: I recorded a 10-song CD in high school with a friend and I dubbed it "Acrylik", and I had musically collaborated with people before the band was formed, but yes, Opium Symphony is my first band.

Me: So, who is in the band with you?

Kellen: Since I formed the band in 2007, I have seen over 9 people come and go. This current lineup is the best lineup that I have had, and honestly am going to have. Everyone in the band is completely professional, and they are some of the best musicians I have ever witnessed. The Opium Symphony is: Derron Bell (drums), Drew Nolde (bass), Jarrett Kramer (guitar) and me (vocals/guitar).

Me: They are not all original Opium Symphony members? What happened?

Kellen: Yes, technically speaking I am the only remaining original member of OS. This is the third incarnation of the band over the course of five and a half years. I've had to change lineups due to all kinds of things. I have had ex-members go to jail multiple times, overdose on drugs, go crazy, break instruments and walk out in the middle of rehearsals. Regardless of the situations of ex-members leaving for whatever reason, I still have friendly relationships with most of the people who were here prior to now.

Me: Where did the band name come from, Kellen? Drugs have been a part of the band over time, right? What band hasn't? LOL.

Kellen: Haha. Yes, there are some classic rock n' roll tales to tell, but that would require about 6 hours and 10 beers to disclose those demons... Haha. But yeah, back to the name... The name comes from me wanting to give the listener a roller coaster ride similar to being under the influence of a drug. The goal is to paint as many colors as possible and to pack an orchestral experience into every moment of every song.

Me: Alright, let's talk about your latest release, "Blame It On the Radio". Where did that album title come from? Blame what by the way?

Kellen: The album is an out-of-order story of all of the obstacles, successes, bad relationships and everything in between that has brought me to where I am now. The very first reason that I wanted to start a band at the age of 14 was so that I could impact the radio/listeners. So, the name of the album seemed to fit perfectly with that concept.

Me: I listened to the album and my favorite song is "In This Together" which has an acoustic guitar and doesn't rock as much as the other songs, but is very catchy. What is your favorite song on the album?

Kellen: I love "In This Together". Yes, the song is kind of emotionally bright compared to the rest of the record. It is rare for me to write happier songs, so I thought this song is never going to fit into any record smoothly. So I decided to let it stand alone, and stick out like a sore thumb to the listener. I'm glad it did, because that's exactly what I was going for. Haha! With that being said, my favorite song on the record is the other polar opposite "Soul for Sale" is my long-time hard rock baby.

Me: Did you write all the songs yourself, Kellen, or do the other guys pitch in?

Kellen: With this record, I wrote all of the songs. I got the songs about 90% done, then presented them to the band. We worked out all the kinks for about 6 months, then hit the studio. The songs certainly wouldn't have come out as good as they did without the much appreciated help from my band.

Me: What bands did you listen to growing up, and what bands are you into now? Who are your influences?

Kellen: Well, when I was a child, I listened to contemporary Christian music. Amy Grant, Ray Boltz, but when I was about 10 I listened the Dire Straights album "Brothers in Arms". That changed my life. In my teens, I was hooked on Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Radiohead, Disturbed and Queen. I love bands that can hit you hard, then turn around and rock you to sleep so to speak. I definitely pull the up and down, light and heavy influences from all of those bands.

Me: I hear some heavy metal influences, especially with the drumming and the song "Soul For Sale". Am I right?

Kellen: Surprisingly, I don't listen to metal, but I write songs that tread the line of hard rock/metal. As far as the drumming, yes, they are incredible! Derron can literally play ANY genre of drums better than anyone I have seen. He's a very talented drummer.

Me: You got to open for Perry Farrell at SXSW. Are you a Farrell fan, or a Jane's Addiction fan?

Kellen: I love Jane's Addiction! Being that I grew up in the 90's, there's no way you missed the Jane's Addiction craze. I even remember watching "Porno For Pyros" music videos on MTV growing up. It was a real honor to open for Perry at SXSW. I still to this day talk about that night.

Me: What was that experience like? Did you get to meet him?

Kellen: The show was incredible! Being lucky enough to open for Perry Farrell at one of the largest music festivals in the world was mind blowing. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to meet Perry before the show, and after show was way too packed to be able to speak to him.

Me: That's dumb you couldn't meet him before the show. You also opened for the Gin Blossoms... was that a big deal? "In This Together" could definitely be a Gin Blossoms song.

Kellen: We opened for the Gin Blossoms at the Phoenix Pride Festival. It was a HUGE deal for us! Again, I grew up in the 90's listening to the Gin Blossoms pretty much every day. They were everywhere growing up. We opened up the night for about 5 bands.

Me: What was the biggest gig you guys played?

Kellen: The biggest gig we have played was at the Phoenix Pride Festival opening for the Gin Blossoms. There was about 5,000 people there when we went on. Pretty amazing!

Me: Kell, what was the first gig Opium played?

Kellen: The very first show that OS played was in Austin, TX. We played a battle of the bands at the Parish Room. We didn’t win… Haha.

Me: How long did it take for parents to go see you in concert?

Kellen: My parents were at the first show in Austin, TX. They have been very supportive since I started the band, and I am thankful for that.

Me: Kellen, I am glad you stuck to your guns and became a singer in a rock and roll band... that sounded very Bon Jovish... I hope this was fun and I hope you will come back on the Phile when your next record comes out. Will you do that?

Kellen: Of course! It’s been a pleasure!

Me: All the best, and take care. Go ahead and mention your website and everything. Rock on.

Kellen: The band website is Please like us on Facebook. The record is available on iTunes and all other online music sources. Pick it up!

Me: Thanks, Kellen. Have a good Christmas.

Man, that was one long freaking entry. I wanted to make it good just in case the world does blow up. If you wake up on the 22nd, run outside and scream, "The Doctor did it! He saved us!!" Anyway, thanks to Jeff Trelewicz and of course Kellen Ross. The Phile will be back on Sunday for A Peverett Phile Christmas 4 with Brtish rock and roll legend Chas Hodges. So, spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye. Have a good Christmas.

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