Pete Seeger: An American Icon and a Hero

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Pete Seeger Taught Me We Only Move Forward When We All Pull Together

Pete Seeger died Monday night after being hospitalized in New York for six days. He was 94.

Few are more iconic and deserving of a tribute than Pete Seeger. At 93, this man long known as “America’s tuning fork” seems more visible than ever, the object of veneration around the globe, and is featured on a bevy of new CDs and DVDs. Like the just released album A More Perfect Union, which features 14 co-written new songs and guest vocalists Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Tom Morello, Emmylou Harris, and Dar Williams.

Given that this American hero was actively blacklisted for years, kept off of TV and radio, his albums sometimes never even shipped out of the factories to stores, it’s a profound and welcome shift for our culture. Because Pete Seeger, besides being a songwriter of several classic American songs, such as “If I Had A Hammer,” “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” and “Turn, Turn, Turn” is also an authentic historic link to the tradition of American popular music of the 20th century as created and developed with cohorts Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, Malvina Reynolds, Lee Hays and the rest.

“All songwriters are links in a chain,” Pete said many times. It’s a foundational quote used a multitude of times since by those who understood him, and is the core to the book Songwriters On Songwriting: that despite genre, generation, style or format, and despite the music industry’s need to segregate songwriters and musicians into separate bins for maximum marketing potential, all songwriters are connected. And all songwriters build on that which came before, so that Woody’s stream of brilliance triggered Pete’s tuneful poetry, which in turn greatly influenced Bob Dylan, whose work impacted Lennon and the Beatles, and so on. It is all connected, and it’s a connection that continues forever, and remarkably not without the presence of Pete Seeger still living in our world.

The man never sold out. It’s true that he lived in a handmade house in upstate Beacon, New York, with his wife of many decades, Toshi, where he chopped wood throughout the winter to warm his home. Last time I saw him – he was 90 – he carried both his banjo and his 12-string on his back and strode tall and long as Lincoln through bustling, brisk Manhattan. Although he hero-ized his old pal Woody Guthrie for years in his books and columns he’s written, Pete’s lived the more saintly life by far. While Woody walked out on more than one family more than once, Pete never abandoned his wife or kids, even when the blacklist made it hard to get good work. “I always made a living,” he said, but his sorrow at being so castigated seems never far, considering his magnitude of love for America and his traditions. He’s always been more than a popular entertainer. Like his dad, Charles Seeger, he’s a musicologist, in love with the music and traditions of this and all countries, and quite adept at expounding in great depth about the specificities of indigenous music throughout the globe, and the folk-process that allowed it to brew and expand here and abroad.

He’s also a man of some myth, still infamously blamed for threatening to axe Bob Dylan’s electric cords at Newport to keep the folk legend from “going electric.” It’s wildly untrue: Pete was simply disturbed that the mix – which was awful – made it so nobody could hear the brilliance of Dylan’s words. Pete was a champion of Bob’s songwriting from the start, elevating him to legendary status by performing and recording countless Dylan classics like “A Hard Rain

’s A-Gonna Fall.” When Bob was interviewed, as soon as Pete’s name was breathed, Dylan said, “He’s a great man, Pete Seeger,” and has referred to him as a “living saint.” It stems from Dylan’s recognition that to Pete – as it was to Woody – these songs mean a whole lot more than a way to make a buck. They were truly folk songs – songs of the people – songs of hope and compassion, songs of trials, tribulations but also triumphs. Songs of the unions, of the working men. Songs of change. Bob, like Pete and Woody, recognized a solemn obligation to the world as a songwriter that was about the truth more than it was about popular entertainment. “See, to Pete and Woody,” Dylan said, “the airwaves were sacred. And if they’d hear something false, it was on the airwaves that were sacred. Their songs weren’t false.”

Pete’s never lived a false moment, even when the world tried to sway him. When his group The Weavers had pop success with chart-topping versions of Pete and Leadbelly’s “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” for example, he’d refuse to stay at the fancy hotels with his bandmates, preferring to sleep on a friend’s couch. Even now into his 10th decade, he still protests the wars and other evils in the winter winds on New York thoroughfares.

So this era of people like Bruce Springsteen celebrating both the reality and the legend that is Pete Seeger is a beautiful if unexpected development in American culture. But it all makes sense. He’s the guy who did, after all, adapt the verses from Ecclesiastes (in his song “Turn,Turn, Turn”) that instructs with timeless wisdom, “To everything there is a purpose, and a time, under heaven.”

Songwriters On Songwriting by writer Paul Zollo features 62 interviews with legendary songwriters. The first interview with Pete Seeger is the very first chapter of the book.

Published on Sep 21, 2013
Pete Seeger performs “This Land is Your Land” with Farm Aid board artists John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young live at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 21, 2013. Farm Aid was started by Willie Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp in 1985 to keep family farmers on the land and has worked since then to make sure everyone has access to good food from family farmers. Dave Matthews joined Farm Aid’s board of directors in 2001.
For more information about Farm Aid, visit: http://farmaid.org/youtube

The Grammys Show is a Bombardment of Pop Performances

Lorde performing in New York last year. Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Lorde performing in New York last year. Joshua Bright for The New York Times

The New York Times

THE Grammy Awards are so predictable. Except when they’re unpredictable.

The Grammy statuette

The Grammy statuette

On Sunday night, CBS will broadcast the 56th annual Grammys ceremony from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, giving the music business its most valuable annual media platform and fans everywhere a chance to root for their favorites and — almost inevitably — scratch their heads at an upset or two.

Among the big questions this year: Will Macklemore & Ryan Lewis sweep the top prizes, planting a flag for indie, openly liberal rap? Will Grammy voters crown last year’s pop phenomena, like Lorde, Bruno Mars, Robin Thicke and Daft Punk? Or will they follow their mystifying habit of rewarding left-field underdogs, as in 2008, when Herbie Hancock beat Amy Winehouse and Kanye West for album of the year, or in 2011, when Esperanza Spalding — a little-known jazz bassist on her third album — won best new artist, ahead of Justin Bieber and Drake?

This year’s top contenders include two that quickly went from the fringes to stardom through a combination of online virality and old-fashioned Top 40 radio. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, a rapper-producer duo from Seattle, released their album, “The Heist,” independently and promoted it through savvy use of YouTube and a distribution deal with Warner Music. They sold 1.3 million albums and 16.5 million tracks, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and became one of Spotify’s most-streamed acts around the world. The duo’s seven Grammy nominations include album of the year, song of the year (for the marriage equality anthem “Same Love”) and best new artist.

Read the entire article HERE

The Strokes: Their music is beautiful anger

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No great band is born without a struggle and no great records are born in a vacuum. For every artist whose ideas make your wig spin there are a huge pile of influences – from specks of color to swathes of sound – that delivered them to that point.

How can you not love a band that picked up the final piece of their jigsaw at an exclusive Swiss boarding school? As far as fairy-tale beginnings go, that’s up there with the very best of them. Julian Casablancas already knew Nikolai Fraiture, Nick Valensi and Fabrizio Moretti from school in New York, in fact they’d even played together a little, but it was Dirty Harry fan Albert Hammond Jr. who completed the picture. “My intention was always to take undergroundish, cool music and make it mainstream,” Julian said in 2009. “We haven’t achieved that”, but there’s so much they have achieved. Once described as having, “an indefinable quality of togetherness”, The Strokes redefined the idea of the gang, that indivisible unit with a look and a creative aesthetic so well honed it would shame AC/DC. It was Albert who said, “our music is beautiful anger”, and that’s as good a description of their needle-sharp looseness that you’re ever likely to hear. But what got them there in the first place?

As teenagers Julian and Nikolai were huge fans of LA scuzz-rockers Jane’s Addiction – legend has it there’s a live video of the band from 1997 that both are visible in. Julian was a huge fan of Pearl Jam and Nirvana while away at school, while he would later say the gift of a Doors tape from his step-dad would, “change his life. I had a sense I could do something like that.” Among Fabrizio’s first loves was Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, he considered the drums on ‘Billie Jean’ were among, “the greatest sounds ever recorded”, while Nick was all about Guns N’ Roses – another classic band-as-gang. Elder statesmen of Pop fans will note that the first record Albert ever bought was Billy Joel’s 1989 hit, ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’. Hmmm.

New York City Copped

The Ramones: the ultimate gang, beautifully ugly, masters of melodic dissonance. Blondie: Super-bright pop genius. The Velvet Underground: Nikolai and Julian’s teenage heroes. Talking Heads: their debut album, ’77’, was a sonic touchstone for ‘Room On Fire’. What’s remarkable about The Strokes is how quickly they became an integral part of the fabric of their city’s musical life.

All Mixed Up

“Between the five of us there’s this weird medley of influences,” Julian said a decade ago. He went on to mention Dayton, Ohio hyper-productive garage heroes Guided By Voices, Minneapolis, Minnesota’s awesome Replacements and another New Yorker, early-80s mega-pop titan, Cyndi Lauper. Triangulated somewhere in the middle – and to the left – of those three is Sonic Youth, whose 1994 single ‘Bull In The Heather’ directly influenced The Strokes’ 2003 single ’12:51′ (in fact, “I’m totally ripping it off,” Julian would later admit).

From The Outfield

You’d have to have especially well-tuned ears to hear Bob Marley in The Strokes, but Julian always considered him a better chronicler of the human condition than even Bob Dylan. In the very late 70s and early 80s Boston’s new-wave crew The Cars nailed a particularly spindly-legged pop-punk whose echoes would crop up throughout The Strokes’ records, but can you hear the hits Albert’s dad wrote for Julio Iglesias or The Hollies? No? Are you sure…

CAVEMAN BAND – TOUR 2014

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Caveman is an American band based in Brooklyn, New York. The band recorded their first studio album in 2011. Although originally self-released, the album was re-released by Fat Possum Records in 2012.  Caveman performed at SXSW 2013  and Sasquatch Festival 2013.  The band’s musical style is a mixture of indie rock and indie pop.

The video for the song “In the City” features actress Julia Stiles

 

 

Caveman
Promotional Image of Caveman the band.jpg
Background information
Origin Brooklyn, NY, United States
Genres [?]
Years active [?–present]
Labels Fat Possum Records
Associated acts [?]
Website cavemantheband.com
Members Matthew Iwanusa
Jimmy Carbonetti
Stefan Marolachakis
Sam Hopkins
Jeff Berrall

TOUR DATES – 2014

Feb 13

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Feb 17

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Feb 18

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Jun 01 RSVP
Jun 02

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Jun 03 RSVP

Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll – The New York Times

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Chad Batka for The New York Times
Lou Reed performing in New York City in 2010.

Lou Reed, 1942-2013
Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll

By BEN RATLIFF
Published: October 27, 2013
The New York Times

Lou Reed, the singer, songwriter and guitarist whose work with the Velvet Underground in the 1960s had a major influence on generations of rock musicians, and who remained a powerful if polarizing force for the rest of his life, died on Sunday at his home in Amagansett, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 71.

The cause was liver disease, said Dr. Charles Miller of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where Mr. Reed had liver transplant surgery this year and was being treated again until a few days ago.

Mr. Reed brought dark themes and a mercurial, sometimes aggressive disposition to rock music. “I’ve always believed that there’s an amazing number of things you can do through a rock ‘n’ roll song,” he once told the journalist Kristine McKenna, “and that you can do serious writing in a rock song if you can somehow do it without losing the beat. The things I’ve written about wouldn’t be considered a big deal if they appeared in a book or movie.”

He played the sport of alienating listeners, defending the right to contradict himself in hostile interviews, to contradict his transgressive image by idealizing sweet or old-fashioned values in word or sound, or to present intuition as blunt logic. But his early work assured him a permanent audience.

The Velvet Underground, which was originally sponsored by Andy Warhol and showcased the songwriting of John Cale as well as Mr. Reed, wrought gradual but profound impact on the high-I.Q., low-virtuosity stratum of punk, alternative and underground rock around the world. Joy Division, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, R.E.M., the Strokes and numerous others were descendants. The composer Brian Eno, in an often-quoted interview from 1982, suggested that if the group’s first album, “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” sold only 30,000 copies during its first five years — a figure probably lower than the reality — “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Many of the group’s themes — among them love, sexual deviance, alienation, addiction, joy and spiritual transfiguration — stayed in Mr. Reed’s work through his long run of solo recordings. Among the most noteworthy of those records were “Transformer” (1972), “Berlin” (1973) and “New York” (1989). The most notorious, without question, was “Metal Machine Music” (1975).

Beloved of Mr. Reed and not too many others, “Metal Machine Music” was four sides of electric-guitar feedback strobing between two amplifiers, with Mr. Reed altering the speed of the tape recorder; no singing, no drums, no stated key. At the time it was mostly understood, if at all, as a riddle about artistic intent. Was it his truest self? Was it a joke? Or was there no difference?

Mr. Reed wrote in the liner notes that “no one I know has listened to it all the way through, including myself,” but he also defended it as the next step after La Monte Young’s early minimalism. “There’s infinite ways of listening to it,” he told the critic Lester Bangs in 1976.

Not too long after his first recordings, made at 16 with a doo-wop band in Freeport, N.Y., Mr. Reed started singing outside of the song’s melody, as if he were giving a speech with a fluctuating drone in a New York accent. That sound, heard with the Velvet Underground on songs like “Heroin” and “Sweet Jane” and in his post-Velvet songs “Walk on the Wild Side,” “Street Hassle” and others, became one of the most familiar frequencies in rock. He played lead guitar the same way, straining against his limitations.

Mr. Reed confidently made artistic decisions that other musicians would not have even considered. He was an aesthetic primitivist with high-end audio obsessions. He was an English major who understood his work as a form of literature, though he distrusted overly poetic pop lyrics, and though distorted electric guitars and drums sometimes drowned out his words.

Lewis Allan Reed was born on March 2, 1942, in Brooklyn, the son of Sidney Reed, a tax accountant, and Toby Reed, a homemaker. When he was 11 his family moved to Freeport, on Long Island. His mother survives him, as does his sister, Merrill Weiner, and his wife, the composer and musician Laurie Anderson.

Generally resistant to authority and prone to mood swings, Mr. Reed troubled his parents enough that they assented to a doctor’s recommendation for weeks of electroshock therapy at Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens; in 1959, while beginning his music studies at New York University, he underwent further treatment.

After transferring to Syracuse University, he fell into the circle around the poet and short-story writer Delmore Schwartz, one of his English professors. Mr. Reed would later resist being pigeonholed, but his college profile suggests a distinct type: an early-’60s East Coast hipster, a middle-class suburban rebel in love with pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll, jazz and street-life writers: William S. Burroughs, Hubert Selby Jr., Raymond Chandler, Allen Ginsberg.

He clearly absorbed and, at least at times, admired Bob Dylan. (“Dylan gets on my nerves,” he said in 1968. “If you were at a party with him, I think you’d tell him to shut up.” Twenty-one years later he would tell Rolling Stone, “Dylan continuously knocks me out.”)

While in college he wrote “Heroin,” a song that accelerates in waves with only two chords. It treated addiction and narcotic ecstasy both critically and without moralizing, as a poet or novelist at that time might have, but not a popular songwriter:

I don’t know just where I’m going

But I’m gonna try for the kingdom, if I can

‘Cause it makes me feel like I’m a man

When I put a spike into my vein

And I tell you things aren’t quite the same

When I’m rushing on my run

And I feel just like Jesus’ son

And I guess that I just don’t know.

After graduation Mr. Reed found work in New York as a staff songwriter for Pickwick International, a label that capitalized on trends in popular music with budget releases by made-up groups. Among his credits for Pickwick were “Johnny Won’t Surf No More” and “The Ostrich,” written for a nonexistent dance craze and sung by Mr. Reed himself.

When Mr. Reed met Mr. Cale, a musician working with La Monte Young’s Theater of Eternal Music, they wanted to combine early-1960s rock with the drones of classical minimalism. They jammed with the guitarist Sterling Morrison, one of Mr. Reed’s Syracuse friends, and the poet and visual artist Angus MacLise on percussion; he was soon replaced by Maureen Tucker, the sister of a college friend of Mr. Reed’s. With Mr. Cale playing viola, keyboards and electric bass, they named themselves the Velvet Underground after the title of a book by Michael Leigh on practices in nonstandard sexuality in the early 1960s.

The band played their original music at Café Bizarre in Greenwich Village, where the filmmaker Barbara Rubin came by with Andy Warhol. He quickly incorporated the group into the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a touring multimedia performance-art happening with dancers, film projections and the German singer Nico.

The band’s association with Warhol lasted from late 1965 to late 1967, and Mr. Reed was thereafter generally full of praise for Warhol, whom he saw as an exemplary modern artist and New Yorker. A proud New Yorker himself, Mr. Reed squared off against West Coast rock and declared his hatred for hippies. In a 1968 interview, he characterized the San Francisco bands of the time — the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane especially — as “tedious, a lie and untalented.”

In mid-1970 Mr. Reed left the Velvet Underground and moved back to Long Island, where he worked for two years as a typist in his father’s firm. He made a disappointing solo record toward the end of 1971, but David Bowie, a Velvet Underground fan when there weren’t many, helped advance Mr. Reed’s career: he started playing Velvet Underground songs in concert and helped produce Mr. Reed’s album “Transformer” in London. It rose to No. 29 on Billboard’s Top 200, but as with nearly everything Mr. Reed did, it took time to spread through the culture.

“Walk on the Wild Side,” a quiet, jazzlike single from the album about the hustlers and transvestites around Warhol at the Factory, introduced a new character in each verse and included a reference to fellatio that slipped past the censors; it became an FM radio staple and Mr. Reed’s only Top 40 hit.

In January 1973 he married Bettye Kronstad, whom he had met in 1968 when she was a student; by July, after the recording of the album “Berlin,” they were divorced. For several years afterward, Mr. Reed, whose sexual identity seemed to be as fluid as the songs from that time suggested, was romantically involved with a transvestite named Rachel, whose last name has long been uncertain; she was private, but their relationship was public. Rachel, it was assumed, inspired much of his album “Coney Island Baby”; she is also pictured on the cover of “Walk on the Wild Side,” a greatest-hits album.

Mr. Reed’s look toughened in the mid-’70s toward leather, bleached crew cuts and painted fingernails. He revisited his rickety, strange and vulnerable Velvet Underground songs on the live album “Rock N Roll Animal,” making them hard and slick and ready for a new order of teenage listeners.

By the end of the ‘70s his interviews and songs were full of a drive to change his way of living. In 1980 he married Sylvia Morales, who became his manager and muse. She was the subject of, or at least mentioned in, some of his most forthrightly romantic songs of the 1980s. But their relationship ended toward the end of the decade, and he met Ms. Anderson in the early ‘90s. They lived together in the West Village for more than a decade before marrying in 2008. They continued to live in the West Village as well as in Amagansett.

In middle age Mr. Reed became a kind of cultural elder, acting in films by Wim Wenders and Wayne Wang, befriending the Czech leader Vaclav Havel (who smuggled a copy of a Velvet Underground LP into Prague after a visit to New York in the late 1960s), creating multimedia stage productions with the director Robert Wilson. His own work moved between mature, elegiac singer-songwriter reports on grief, tenderness and age and wilder or more ambitious projects.

“The Raven,” a play and album, was based on writings by Edgar Allan Poe and included the saxophonist Ornette Coleman and the singer Antony Hegarty. For the album “Lulu,” an aggressive collaboration with Metallica based on Frank Wedekind’s play, he found himself in a “Metal Machine Music” redux, once again attacked by critics, once again declaring victory.

He got together with Mr. Cale, Ms. Tucker and Mr. Morrison for a one-off Velvet Underground reunion in 1990 and a tour in 1993. (Mr. Morrison died of lymphoma in 1995.) And he eventually returned to his dark anti-masterpiece after the saxophonist Ulrich Krieger transcribed “Metal Machine Music” for an electroacoustic ensemble in 2002; in 2009 Mr. Reed performed improvised music inspired by that album with a group, including Mr. Krieger, called Metal Machine Trio.

Sober since the ‘80s and a practitioner of tai chi, Mr. Reed had a liver transplant in April at the Cleveland Clinic. “I am a triumph of modern medicine, physics and chemistry,” he wrote in a public statement upon his release. “I am bigger and stronger than ever.”

But he was back at the clinic for treatment last week. Dr. Miller, who performed the transplant, said Mr. Reed decided to return home after doctors could no longer treat his end-stage liver disease. “We all agreed that we did everything we could,” Dr. Miller said.

Just weeks after his liver transplant, Mr. Reed wrote a review of Kanye West’s album “Yeezus” for the online publication The Talkhouse, celebrating its abrasiveness and returning once more to “Metal Machine Music” to explain an artist’s deepest motives.

“I have never thought of music as a challenge — you always figure the audience is at least as smart as you are,” he wrote. “You do this because you like it, you think what you’re making is beautiful. And if you think it’s beautiful, maybe they think it’s beautiful.”

Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 30, 2013

An obituary on Monday about the singer, songwriter and guitarist Lou Reed contained several errors about Mr. Reed’s first wife. She is Bettye Kronstad, not Kronstadt. She was a student when they met, not a cocktail waitress. And their relationship ended after, not during, the making of Mr. Reed’s album “Berlin.”

A version of this article appears in print on October 28, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Outsider Whose Dark, Lyrical Vision Helped Shape Rock ’n’ Roll.

Catch Guns N’ Roses @ The Governors Ball NYC Music Festival this weekend

Female Guns N' Hoses

Female Guns N’ Hoses

Female G N’ R Cover Band Guns N’ Hoses

Axl Hose on What to Expect From G N’ R at Governors Ball:

I feel like people are just going to show up late knowing maybe Axl’s going to be late. And I think that once he feels like he’s going to do it, he’s going to fucking do it. He’s going to melt faces, and people are going to cry. They’re going to throw up and cry and laugh and love him. Then they’re going to walk away and be like “Wow, I saw that.” So that’s one way that can go. The other scenario is that they’re going to look at who else is on stage and maybe be a little bit confused. I think the current lineup is good. I feel like it’s going to be great. It’s going to melt faces. It’s not the ’80s anymore. It’s different. He’s got something else. He still has that something.

Gash on What Will Be Missing:

There was something so kinetic about the relationship between Axl and Slash, and I think that’s what people love when they come see our band because when we interact on stage it’s something, like, almost anachronistic. I really think it was the combination of those two, their talent [and] energy that made that band so unique. Definitely the dynamics between those two will be missed. Beyond that, Slash is just one of a kind. There’s no mistaking that talent or that style of playing. Beyond how he sounds, he has such a distinct personality and energy on stage. He’s so fearless and not afraid to be himself.

Top 5 Songs Axl Hose Predicts Will Be Performed by G N’ R at Governors Ball this weekend:

Paradise City
Welcome to the Jungle
Sweet Child O’ Mine
Mr. Brownstone
November Rain

Words of Wisdom and Advice to Axl Rose from Axl Hose. And Gash.

Axl Hose: I feel like my advice to him would be: bring it back like you did, man. Come out with that energy and remember there are so many people who are rooting for you and love you so hard and will be drooling and crying the minute he hits the stage. Do it like you love it because you do love it. That’s the only reason you get into in the beginning and that’s because you fucking love it.

Gash: Just please don’t assault your audience members! I think that would be my biggest piece of advice. I hope that they’re on time and nobody gets hurt.

Catch the ladies of Guns N’ Hoses at Pianos NYC on June 21 and The Rock Shop Brooklyn on June 28. And of course, catch Guns N’ Roses at Governors Ball this weekend during the Saturday night headlining spot.

See you there!