Album: “Child of the State” Label: Big Machine/Varvatos Records
“You’ll see my hands all over this record, really for the first time.” - Ayron Jones on the evolution of his recording process from his first indie album to the major label release of his third album “Child of the State.”
Seattle-born rocker (ne chess nut, ultimate frisbee champion, physics nerd) Ayron Jones wears his musical influences on his axe, unleashing a potent and penetrating major label debut with “Child of the State,” an autobiographical tour de force and clarion call announcing the singer-songwriting guitarist’s arrival on the international stage. Writing on all of the tracks, Jones’ “Child…” is a full-throated blues-rocking sonic experience, showcasing the artist’s volcanic vocal range with soul-stirring howls (from a son whose mother left him), raspy-scratchy vocal tonality and effortless arpeggios. Front and center on “Child…” is the self-taught multi-instrumentalist’s Stratocaster, through which Jones flexes his formidable guitar gawd chops and lightning licks, anchored by huge, head-banging production dynamics that make you feel this record, while the rocker says it with his chest.
The 12-track album opens with an emphatic exclamation mark titled “Boys From Puget Sound.” Jones’ grittiest, most visceral vocal performance, here the artist claims his roots, his crew (i.e., The Hollers, The Black Tones, King Youngblood, Barret Martin, Duff McKagan, Mike McCready, Jimi Hendrix, Sir Mix-a-Lot), and the grunge rock royalty who put the Pacific Northwest on the map. Jones follows up on Track 2 with his runaway Billboard #1 Mainstream Rock Airplay hit “Mercy,” a beautifully constructed, hook-laden burner that builds tension and amplitude before delivering a knockout guitar solo over Jones’ plaintive wails on the vamp.
Prior to “Mercy’s” breakout chart success, Jones got a taste of the Top 5 in December of 2020 when “Take Me Away” caught big air, a song he lifted off his second indie album, 2017’s “Audio Paint Job,” and planted on “Child of the State.” On “Take Me Away,” Jones is a musical medium, channeling Lemmy, Lenny, Ozzy, and Morrillo, nods to influences he boldly flaunts throughout “Child…” to paint a picture of his origins and give shape to his personal narrative as a black rocker on the verge.
Oliver X: As a new fan of your music, it’s been like being at a buffet of your favorite ice cream. It’s been so incredible to hear how much you’re seeped in your craft. I can hear your ear. You have the musical curiosity of Marvin Gaye, Prince and Michael Jackson. You have that proclivity and it’s so impressive.
Ayron Jones: Thank you man. I really appreciate that man. That really was the goal, ya know, in these years that I’ve been touring and doing all of this stuff as an indie artist. I think people who get discovered early on in their careers--they break--and then the public gets to watch them grow. Sometimes they like fizzle out because they never find their sound. I was kinda blessed in that way. Earlier on in my career there was a chance for us to break back in 2013 and 2014, when I dropped my first indie record with Sir-Mix-A-Lot. My band was getting really close to getting our name out there to the right people. And then we broke up because my drummer went down to Nashville, and my bassist was having a baby and he wanted to quit. So that installment of that band was Ayron Jones and The Way, that kinda fizzled out after that point. But it gave me an opportunity to really focus and continue to find my sound.
So, early on, I decided that the thing I wanted to do was bring forward all of those influences, all those 90s sounds that I grew up with--Michael Jackson, Prince, Nirvana—like, all those cats I listened to growing up…Those are the guys that I wanted to bring forth in my music, man. So, I’m really happy to hear that it’s reaching people in that way.
Oliver X: Does every great guitarist have to be a musical historian?
Ayron Jones: No, not at all. There’s so many different ways to interpret music and guitar. I think every guitarist should be curious though. But in terms of being a historian, no. I don’t consider myself to be a historian; I just consider myself to be a lover of different eras of music and of the history of the sounds that are being created. But a historian…I don’t know that I would put myself into that category…There could be like some 11 year-old kid a kid who could pick up a guitar today and just shred, and take over the world--and he has no idea. Think about the Kenny Wayne Sheppards and the Joe Bonomasses back in the early 90s, right when they were emerging. What did they know about musical history? And here they were making their impact. But there has to be an overall curious nature about life itself, because here we are, manipulators of frequency, manipulators of sound. If everything is a frequency, there lies the curiosity.
Oliver X: Let’s talk about “Child of the State.” It seems to be autobiographical. Do you consider this your major label debut?
Ayron Jones: Yeah man, I do consider this an autobiographical debut. Because, as my label put it when we had this big meeting about how we were going to roll this out, and what we wanted this record to be about, we said this record has to be Ayron Jones. The first time people really get to know me as a person inside and out. Because ya know for years, even here in Seattle man, when I was getting big here in Seattle before the world had heard of me, even here, I had friends who’d known me for decades now in the music industry, from playing in the scene, and they don’t know anything about me. These are some of my closest friends, ya know! As I grew and became more comfortable with myself, I figured it was really important—especially right now—to put it all out there man…So people could get to know me as a new artist…For me, it was really important for people to just really hear who I was as a person, even if I didn’t get to display everything I could truly do as an artist [on this record]. At least people would get to know me first. And that’s the best way to start a relationship with anybody—my fans and the ones I love included.
Get to know Ayron Jones when he plays live at Aftershock 2021 on Friday, October 8 in Sacramento California. Music and tour info at https://ayronjonesmusic.com/
In 2010, NFL.com named San Francisco 49’ers wide receiver, Jerry Rice, the greatest of all time (The GOAT). His records, which include the most receptions, most yards, and most touchdowns, are seemingly unbreakable. However, when asked if he believes he’s the GOAT, he says, “Yeah, you know, when I hear that, I cringe just a little bit, because I never really felt like I was the greatest of all time.” A naturally good-humored guy, with a gift for storytelling, he explains, “I was not the most gifted athlete, but I had heart, and I was going to outwork you. I think that work ethic took me a long, long way.” Rice continues, “I think I got my work ethic from my parents. My father was a bricklayer and he would take me to work with him during the summer. It’s very difficult work and I had responsibility, and if I didn’t do what I was supposed to do? In Mississippi we got punished in a different way.” With a laugh, he adds, “I didn’t really want to get punished that way, so I did what I had to do.”
In order to understand the type of NFL legacy Rice created, you need to look to other athletes who have played in the NFL. The very first requirement to setting all time records is time. NFL football is a notoriously brutal game where the average career length is just 40 games. Until this season, Rice had played in more games than anyone who wasn’t a kicker in the history of the sport. Even QB Brett Favre, long considered the NFL’s Ironman for having played 297 games in a row, and 302 overall, still comes up one game shy of Rice’s 303. The only player with more games is QB Tom Brady. If he remains healthy, by the end of the 2021 regular season, he will have 318. While rice’s unusual longevity is not exactly a record, it does provide the context for Rice’s amazing on field accomplishments. For example, his NFL records of 1549 receptions, 22,895 yards, and 208 TD’s, averages out to a remarkable 77 receptions, 1145 yards, and 10.4 TD’s per season. Many of today’s most outstanding players will break that average for a season, or maybe even for an extended amount of time, perhaps even a decade. However, no wideout in NFL history has come close to that level of consistency over that length of time. The nearest player on the list is Arizona Cardinals future Hall of Famer, Larry Fitzgerald with 263. While Fitzgerald hasn’t officially announced his retirement from the game, he did not return for an 18th season. Just to reach the pros, athletes must possess the talent, and the drive to get there. Staying there, well that’s another thing. Rice says, “When guys are gifted, sometimes they have the tendency to get complacent a little bit.
I felt like I had never really arrived, and so I continued to work hard during practice. My thing is, I have always been about motivating people, so I set an example for my teammates. Once you’ve set that example, guys look for you to be productive on the football field, and to lead them.” After earning his way into the Pro Bowl eleven times in his first 12 seasons, as well as being first team All-Pro for ten of those seasons, and Superbowl XXIII MVP, says, “I had teammates who would come to me, and they would say, hey Jerry, why are you still working so hard? You’re the GOAT man; you don’t have to do this anymore. But I felt like there was more that I needed to do, so I kept pushing myself. I never wanted to let the fans down, I never wanted to let the coaches down, and I never wanted to let my family down in Mississippi, so the fire just kept burning.”wanted to let my family down in Mississippi, so the fire just kept burning.”
Coming up next July for Rice, and Reno, will be the American Century Golf Championship at The Edgewood Tahoe Resort. Rice will once again hit the links with well known players from every sport, household name celebrities, and even politicians. He was even once paired with former President Donald Trump, he says, “that was his first time he (President Trump) ever played in American Century.” He continues, “He wanted to play with me because he felt it would be more comfortable, so I had to lead him around the golf course, show him the in’s and out’s,” With amusement he adds, “I never thought he would become President of the United States of America!”
While Covid19 didn’t cancel the 2020 tournament, Jerry says, “It was weird because there were no fans. (But now) Everyone is getting their shots, and we’re starting to try and work our way out of this.” Rice continues, “Lake Tahoe is owned by the fans; they came out, and really supported the tournament. This year, we had an opportunity where we could either sign something for them, or take pictures with them, and just give something back. But last year (2020), it was eery just a bit. One of the reasons he loves the tournament is because, “the fans come out and they support you, and it’s almost like saying a thank you for all the support they’ve given me throughout my career.” Considering how competitive he is, you have to wonder if he practices for the tournament? “You know, I’m trying, but golf is one of those games you can’t master. You think you’ve got it; you might go low; you see what you’ve scored, and you think, you know what, I got this, this is easy now, but the next day it’s like speaking a different language. It's the most frustrating game ever. Also, you’ve got to look at it like this, if I drop a pass from Montana, or Steve Young, I can say it was a bad pass. In golf, you can’t blame anyone. You’re just on your own.”
Asked how he came to love golf, he replies, “I’m going to give you a little insight into what got me started. I was out training with my trainer one day, I think it was 1986, and we were getting ready to do some track work, then we were going to do some field work, you know, running routes, catching the ball and all of that. He brought a golf club and a couple of balls, and I don’t know why he brought it out to that work out, but I tried to hit the golf ball, and I didn’t hit it, and I’m thinking hey look, I’m supposed to be this elite athlete, and you’re going to tell me I can’t hit a stationary ball right there out in front of me? So that’s how I got into it.” Noted sports writer and author John Feinstien wrote a book about golf called, A Good Walk Spoiled. Among other things, he addresses how people become obsessed with the game. Jerry continues, “Once I got into it, I got addicted to it. Because my meeting (with the 49’ers coaching staff) would start in the morning around 8:30, I would head to the range around 5 something and practice my game. I’d go to my meeting; I'd practice football, and when football was all done by 4:30, I’d go back to the range, and work on my game. I did that throughout my career.” What would drive anyone to play in the NFL at the absolute highest individual athletic level, while also playing golf several hours everyday? He says it’s all about the competition, “I feel like it’s the greatest game ever, and when you go out there you can always compete. You can always compete against the course. You can compete against just yourself, and you don’t have to have anyone playing with you, and there’s still competition, but it can be really frustrating to me.”
Rice’s work ethic is the stuff of NFL legend, but at 58, Rice is still in remarkable shape. When he was in the league, regularly putting up hall of fame stats, along with his daily golf playing, and football practice, he would head to Edgewood Park near his home and run up an incline now known to locals as, Jerry Rice Hill. He says, ” The hill is around two and half miles long, and the last eight hundred yard is straight up hill. A lot of guys (including New England Patriots future Hall of Famer Julian Edelman) would throw up on that last 800. That was part of my regimen three days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and it was more for endurance. I think that is the reason why, like in the 4th quarter, I was always at my best.” His marathon-like endurance was something that not only motivated his teammates, but may have been something that intimidated his opponents? He replies, "Yeah. That's it. I’m bouncing around, and they’re looking at me like I’m crazy. They’re like, how can that guy still have all of that energy? But it was about the way I trained.” Elaborating, he says, “Okay, this is how strange I was. If I went to the stadium, and I had a target weight of, say I was 189, that was my target weight, that’s where I wanted to be when I stepped on the football field. If I went there and I was 192, and we had a game that day, I would go to the stadium early, weigh myself, and if I’m a couple of pounds over, I would work out before the actual game.
So when my teammates would get to the stadium, they would look at me and be like Jerry, what are you doing? I’m soaking wet; I'm sweating like crazy, but I just had to lose those extra pounds to get down to the weight I wanted to be at. Then I felt like I was ready to go. Then I’d go out there, and I’d play the entire game, and I’m not tired. So everything about me was about my conditioning, and I think that’s why I was able to play football for over 20 years.”
His famous work ethic, which drove him to NFL excellence, also helped him weather the Covid 19 pandemic. Things became real for many Americans, when the NBA canceled the 2020 basketball season. He says, “I remember looking at that, and they had some teams that were getting ready to play. They were warming up; they were getting ready, and then all of a sudden; it was over. They pulled them off the court and I was like oh my God; this thing is really, really serious.” When the plague hit, Rice had just married his longtime girlfriend.
Latisha Pelayo. He says, “My wife and I, we had just gotten married, and so this was really gonna test us! If we’re able to survive this, we’re gonna be together for the rest of our lives.” To remain in shape during the lockdown, Rice began working out on a Pellaton. His wife is also known to be a workout warrior, and when asked if they fought over the exercise bike, Rice says, “No, you know what, you know what? How I dealt with that, I bought two. She has her own, and I got my own!” While Rice may cringe when someone asks him if he believes he’s the GOAT, in 2010 NFL.com said he was. Today there’s little doubt he’s still as motivated and competitive as ever, but is he the greatest player of all time? Everyone has an opinion about that, but one thing’s for sure, even in today’s pass-happy NFL, it is unlikely anyone will eclipse the records, and reputation, of Jerry Rice.
For more on Jerry Rice visit www.jerryricefootball.com
In 1967, after The Beatles released Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, groups all over the world began to see musical possibilities not considered before. Soon new genres like heavy metal, progressive, and punk, began joining the more familiar rockabilly, blues, soul and pop music scene, which had dominated early rock and roll. From within this soup of ideas, a seven-piece band emerged in Chicago. Initially called The Big Thing, they soon changed their name to The Chicago Transit Authority, and eventually it was shortened to just Chicago. While bands like The Beatles, and Moody Blues, and American composers like Phil Spector, had used orchestras, including horn sections, in the studio to bring their music to life on vinyl, there weren’t many bands that began with the horn section as an integral part of their sound. Lee Loughnane on trumpet, James Pankow on trombone, Walter Parazaider on woodwinds, along with Peter Cetera Robert Lamm, Danny Seraphine and the extraordinary guitar player, Terry Kath, created a band with a totally new, yet distinctly American sound, that would soon be pumping out hits at a rate not seen since the Beach Boys in the decade before them.
In 1978, tragedy struck, when Terry Kath passed away at the age of 31 from an accidental gunshot wound. The band contemplated retirement, but soon decided to continue. For the next 18 years, attempting to replace Kath, the band utilized a variety of guitar players before finally hiring Keith Howland in 1995.
Howland says, “I was kicking around LA looking for a gig, and had basically called everyone I knew in the music industry trying to find one.
Then, one morning, I got a phone call from a buddy of mine, Dave Friedman (Friedman Amplification), who said, hey man; Chicago is auditioning guitar players if you want to try to get in?” While Keith didn’t know anyone in the Chicago organization, he decided to throw his equipment in his car and take a ride down to the tryout. Though he did not play that day, he did meet the bands' bass player. Howland Continues, “I talked to Jason Scheff, and he talked the guys into adding an extra day to listen to me, and the rest is history!” However, it wasn’t just a guitar gig; he had to sing as well. Though his speaking voice is in the lower tenor, baritone range, his vocals with the band tend to be in the higher tenor ranges. When this was pointed out, he laughed, and said, “Well, the older I get, the less that becomes the case, but that was the gig.” Before that he had toured with Rick Springfield and never sang a note. In his college bands, he sang songs from guys like Billy Idol, and ironically, a cover of the Chicago hit, Beginnings. Still laughing, he adds, “But you know what? The job called for tenor, so I just, you know, pulled up my jock strap and went for it. The guy before me Dwayne Baily, had a really high, pure tenor, and they wanted to replace that. So whatever I had to do, falsetto, a pair of pliers, whatever they wanted!”
While not necessarily being known as a vocal heavy band like say, Queen, Chicago, nevertheless, does challenge the listener with a wide array of different, and interesting, styles and harmonies. In their early years, the band featured the voices of high end tenor, Peter Cetera (25 or 6 to 4), the more soulful Terry Kath (Colour My World), and Robert Lamm (Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is). Agreeing, Howland say's, “Oh absolutely. The stuff, especially during the David Foster era, and after Bill Champlin kind of got into the thing. If you listen to some of the backgrounds, like on You’re The Inspiration, A Hard Habit To Break, or If She Would Have Been Faithful, that one has some really interesting background harmony stuff.” Beyond the vocals, Chicago is probably best known for their sterling orchestration. You only need to listen to the classically influenced introduction to the bands first ever single, Questions 67 And 68, to realize there was something special happening in the windy city. That type of sound would eventually become associated with European progrock bands, but when it was released in July 1969, just one month before Woodstock, it was uniquely American.
After hunkering down for the pandemic, and like most of us, watching a lot of Hulu, Howland is glad the band is finally back on the road. He says, “I’ve been touring for about 30 years, and that was definitely the longest I’ve ever been at home.” While he may have lost his calluses waiting out Covid, the band kept busy working on new material. He says, “there is a new record in the works. There are some tunes from 20 years ago, that guys sort of had laying around, never quite completed, and Robert Lamm wrote a bunch of new material with Jim Peterick from Ides Of March, and Survivor. So yeah, right now there are like 20 songs that are completed, or almost completed that's included on this thing." Continuing, he says, "I don’t even know at this point if it’s going to be an album, a double album, two albums. My guess is it’ll be out sometime in the spring of 2022."
About being back on tour again, he said, “After this pandemic shutdown, for the doors to fly back open and see, like our show in Atlanta, eight or nine thousand people returning to see the band, it’s a very emotional experience for all of us.” As an example, he added, “We were doing a song in the encore called Free, and the hook in the song is, I just want to be free, and the pandemic took that away from us. We were playing it, and I started actually getting a little choked up singing that line in front of the crowd, and seeing them react. So yeah, it’s like they say, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. We’re just happy to be able to do what we do for a living, and continue putting smiles of peoples faces.
Chicago’s tour will bring them to the Venetian Theater in Las Vegas for three nights, September 15th, 17th, and 18th. Additionally, on the 18th, the band will be hosting their fan club, so if you want to meet Keith, or any of the other extraordinary musicians, get your tickets soon.
In 1996, in Escatawpa, Mississippi, a three-piece power trio was formed. The band consisted of Brad Arnold singing leads, and playing the drums, Matt Roberts on guitar, and Todd Harrell playing bass. About a year and a half later, Todd Harrell asked his friend, and rhythm guitarist Chris Henderson to join the band. Henderson says, “before I was even in the band, they had already written Loser and Kryptonite” and were well on their way to stardom. Soon they added drummer Richard Liles, which allowed Brad Arnold to move to center-stage and concentrate on his singing. After their initial album, The Better Life, was released, its first single, Kryptonite shot up the charts. Eventually that song, along with, two other number one hits, Loser, and Duck and Run, pushed the album, and the band to international stardom.
At the time, Henderson, was a Seabee, which is a world renown combat construction force, in the US Naval reserves. He says, “I actually joined the band while I was still in the service. I was in the reserves, and played with 3 Doors Down for a number of years.” He continues, “so what happened, is when the band got signed, I went to my command, and I was like, hey, you know, my band got signed. I'm going to have to leave. I won't be able to drill because I'm going to go on the road.” The Naval reserves are an all-volunteer force, and depending upon the type of contract you signed; it is possible to resign. Continuing, he says, “I put in a request chit (a special request form) to separate (from the service)." A few days later, “they approved me to separate and to pursue a career in rock and roll. The Navy was good to me, and I’m very blessed.”
Even before Henderson joined the band they were well on their way to stardom. They had recorded Kryptonite, as a demo, and a local radio station began playing it. After it became the stations' most-requested song, the band took its show on the road, where they eventually played at the world-famous New York City nightclub CBGB’s. Lots of bands, like Blondie, The Ramones, and The Police, became famous there. After their appearance, 3 Doors Down was signed by Republic Records and, to date, have as many number-one hits as the legendary Beach Boys, and have sold nearly as many records as Blondie.
Like many performers, success hasn’t been easy for Henderson. There is no manual explaining how deal with sudden fame, and living the rock and roll lifestyle led to substance abuse, and alcohol issues. He explains, “It's like every day is Friday, and it's not like you’ve got to go to work on Monday morning. You can just do it every single day all day, and that's what a lot of people do. You can’t survive like that.” Continuing, he says, “your body is not equipped to handle that, and eventually it starts showing up. It starts with hangovers, and then the hangover’s lead to being dehydrated all the time.” That leads to not eating right so, "basically, you're chasing a feeling, and because you don't want to feel bad you start all over again.” Suddenly, you’re doing it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and "your body just can't take it. So you know, thank God, I realized that, and one day (in 2010) I gave it up, and everyone else (in the band) has too.”
For many live acts, getting through the pandemic has been a challenge they’ve met in many different ways. For example, classic-rock legend's Styx, recorded a new album, while Chicago found time to relax. Other bands, like the pop/punk duo, The Dollyrots, kept busy performing StageIt shows over the Internet. Henderson says, “we had a number of years of success before the pandemic, so we were able to kind of take it easy.” He adds, “I’ve been semi-retired, so I’ve had time to sit at home, cut the grass, play with the dogs, and hang out with the kids.”
While there isn’t an album of new songs immediately forthcoming, the band itself, which now consists of Henderson, Brad Arnold, drummer Greg Upchurch, lead guitar player Chet Roberts, and bassist Justin Biltonen, with its spontaneous style, are now on the road playing, "The Better Life 20th anniversary Tour" which is coming to The Grand Theater in Reno, at the Grand Sierra Resort on 3 September 2021. Tickets are on sale now!
For more information: www.TheBetterLifeFoundation.org