What is to be the final round of giant art guitar sculptures was recently unveiled at a special launch party event at Hornburg, West Hollywood.  The 2014 installment of Gibson GuitarTown on The Sunset Strip, features works paying homage to this year’s Sunset Strip Music Festival (SSMF) honoree Jane’s Addiction, as well as Day 2 headliner Empire of the Sun, Steven Tyler, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Prince and The Viper Room, amongst others.

A range of artists participated in the 2014 installment, including returning “rockstar” artist Stacey Wells, graphic designer/photographer Ruben Esparza, whose work is included as part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Kevin Llewellyn whose work is highly sought after by celebrity collectors.

As in previous years, the 2014 Gibson GuitarTown art guitars will be auctioned for charity at the end of their “tour.”  Collectively, the previous auctions have raised more than $147,250 for charities, including Music For Relief, which provides aid to survivors of natural disasters; the Los Angeles Fund for Education’s “Arts Matter” campaign, which funds art and music education programs in Los Angeles public schools; the Los Angeles Youth Network, which provides services for homeless youth; West Hollywood Library and funds to support public art in West Hollywood.  

The guitars will be on display at the SSMF 2014 (Sept. 20 and 21) street festival before being placed along the boulevard for public display.


This round of 2014 Gibson GuitarTown art sculptures include:


Stacey Wells                           

“Janie’s GottaGun” – Steven Tyler

Stacey Wells’ art can be found displayed at some of the most prestigious celebrity galleries in the country, alongside other talented artists such as: Ron Wood, Grace Slick, Ringo Starr, Sebastian Kruger and more.  Paintings from her RockStar Reflections series have been featured at a private event for Gene Simmons and her portrait of Steven Tyler hangs in the singer’s Hawaiian home.  Inspired by the vibe of The Sunset Strip, Wells chose Seven Tyler and his band Aerosmith for her subject matter.



“Golden Nostalgia” – Elton John

Sarah Chang of Sarah’sINCOGNITO is a London born, Los Angeles based artist.  She is self taught and began painting at the age of 14. Sarah has worked with a broad range of partners and collaborators, from an LAUSD commissioned mural commissioned at the age of 16, to Fred Segal, to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Currently Sarah is focused on developing public art projects as creative solutions for several cities: LA><ART, the Laguna Beach Arts Commission and the Watts House Project, as well as several commercial real estate development projects in Southern CA.


Lori Antoinette

“Cyndi Lauper” – Cyndi Lauper

A graduate of Fine Art from the University of Maryland, College Park, Antoinette started out primarily as an oil painter, before discovering her true love of chalk.  She runs her own wearable art business (L’Antoinette Originals, et al.), is certified in textile design, an active member of an art collective (DAKO Vanguard) and co-proprietor of a downtown LA art gallery.  She is now adding public and private mural arts to her portfolio, and is actively involved with various arts alliances and projects around the Los Angeles area, including the 6x6x6 Program in which six local artists create 6×6 murals to install in San Fernando Valley schools.


Ruben Esparza

“Freddie Mercury Icon” – Freddie Mercury

A Los Angeles based artist, graphic designer, photographer and curator, whose work is included as part of the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago Illinois, among others. Esparza’s work also hangs in private collections throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe.


Joshua Burks

“Double Booked” – Jane’s Addiction/Empire of the Sun

Joshua was born and raised on a small farm in East Texas, joined the military when he graduated from high school and spent a year in Chicago for boot camp and school.  He was sent to San Diego for further school and graduated with honors from one of the toughest programs in the Navy.  He was then stationed in San Diego and stayed until 2005.  After finishing his tour with the Navy, he was discharged with honors and moved to Los Angeles in January of 2005. He has been in West Hollywood since then, and loves the creativity that inspires him.  He recently began drawing and painting again.



“Minnea(Prince Symbol)olitan” – Prince

F O R E M O S T (Darryl King) is a working visual artist and educator with a studio in North Hollywood, California. He is self-taught, and primarily works with magazine cutouts, sculpted and painted surfaces, and found materials to create large-scale collages.  He received a BA in Art History and a M.Ed. from the University of California Los Angeles, and has also worked with fellow L.A. based artists Patrisse Cullors and Zeal Harris.


Demetra Karras

“Wake Up” – Rage Against the Machine

Demetra Karras is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design. There she studied Production, Costume and Set Design, with an additional emphasis in Film and Video Production and Computer Art.  She is currently at work on a series of Mixed Media Pieces in Los Angeles, CA.  Demetra is also the creator and owner of Fully Loaded Hearts.


TJ Roe

“Serpent Sirena” – The Viper Room

Educated at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Roe earned a BFA with a studio emphasis in graphic design. He has worked designing key art and DVD packaging at POV Entertainment in North Hollywood, for clients such as HBO and Warner Bros, on projects like Big Love and The Wire.  In subsequent years Roe has worked designing television graphics for BrandX with Russell Brand, even Art Directing the identity of the 2nd season of the show.  Since July of 2013 Roe has been at Jewel Box Platinum in Marina Del Rey designing custom gold and platinum records displays for the music business.


Kevin Llewellyn

“Live Fast, Never Die”

Kevin’s works have been featured in a number of major shows, including the Forum Gallery in NYC, the Arkansas Art Center Museum, Kat Von D’s Wonderland Gallery in West Hollywood, and the Butler Institute of American Art – the museum where Llewellyn was given his first solo exhibition at age 21.  Llewillyn’s work has also caught the eye of collectors such as Madonna, Kat Von D, Ian Montone, Robin Williams, Trent Reznor, Mark Romanek, Scott Rodger, Nancy Berry, and Balthazar Getty.  Most recently Llewellyn was the subject of an LA Weekly article where the publication examined his unorthodox practices of recording subject matter.


Gino Burman-Loffredo

“The Man Who Sold the World” – David Bowie

Eleven years ago, Burman-Loffredo started using painting and drawing as his outlet for his recently discovered hidden creativity.  “My drawings allow me to look deep inside my soul and work on its difficulties. I draw the past, present, and future in order to learn how I can be a better person, and what I can give to the world”. He thrives on being able to use his art as a healing process, not only for himself, but for those touched by his work – giving half of his earnings from art shows to charities he is passionate about. 


Forrest Holt

“Nothing’s Shocking 25th Anniversary” – Jane’s Addiction 

Forrest Holt is an aspiring Graphic Artist specializing in digital art, typography, and illustration. He currently resides in Simi Valley, where he has designed and implemented multiple posters for non-profit organizations such as “Not One More,” a group that helps raise awareness of heroin addiction.  Having just turned 18, he is very excited to be the youngest artist to contribute to the Gibson GuitarTown on The Sunset Strip art project.


Willard Snow

“Reggae Legend” – Bob Marley

“The English Rocker” – Marc Bolan

“China Cat” – Jerry Garcia

“Acid Queen” – Janis Joplin

Snow graduated from Humboldt State with a BA in Fine Art and continued on to the San Francisco Art Institute to receive a Masters of Fine Art Degree in Print Making.  Willard has worked professionally as a presentation designer and teacher of graphic design computer applications.  Sharing and teaching are both lifetime passions of Snow’s, he has been a teacher at the San Francisco Art Institute, California Art Institute North Hollywood, and Torrance Unified School Districts adult education program.  Currently he is working on promoting his art at events all over the West Coast.





All photos courtesy of Gibson (Displayed in same order as artists listed)

Brent X Mendoza


Currently sitting at the top of Billboard’s Alternative chart with their all over the airwaves single “Dangerous,” Big Data have suddenly found themselves riding a massive “joywave” of success as they gear up to play Day 2 of SSMF 2014.

But before taking the stage in the middle of The Sunset Strip, band leader Alan Wilkis lays down a few do’s and don’ts of festival etiquette, recalls vivid childhood memories of being frightened by Jane’s Addiction and explains how Big Data’s new video is giving some fans a “confused boner.”


What other bands at this year’s Sunset Strip Music Festival are you most looking forward to checking out?

There are so many great ones… Excited to see Jane’s Addiction, Big Freedia, Mayer Hawthorne, also Fenech-Soler – I did a remix for those guys a few years ago.


This year’s SSMF honoree being Jane’s Addiction, do you have any particular thoughts/memories/stories to share relating to the band?

I have a really vivid memory of seeing the “Been Caught Stealing” video for the first time via Beavis & Butt-head when I was a kid, and I remember loving the song while being totally freaked out by the nylon stockings they wore on their heads in the video. 


Big Data seems to on one hand distrust technology, while at the same time takes full advantage of all its benefits.  How do you explain this dichotomy?

That dichotomy is actually what inspires me the most, and is exactly what I find so interesting. It’s the fact that we all have grown to love and depend on the very technology that terrifies us and that we know is being manipulated and exploited. 


Your over-the-top satirical video for “Dangerous” has garnered quite a thread of rather entertaining comments on YouTube.   What’s the most humorous reaction you’ve come across?

I love the YouTube comments!  I think I read one once about having a “confused boner” or something to that effect…  That was definitely a contender.

The video is extremely polarizing, and I love it.  People either don’t get it at all, and find the video disgusting and confusing, or it’s their favorite video they’ve ever seen.  I don’t think I could ask for a better split!


You’ve remixed dozens of tracks for well-known artists.  What legendary song stems would you most like to get your hands on for a remix/reinterpretation?

That’s a tough question!  I had the incredible privilege of remixing The Who last year, so that was already one for the bucket list.  I think it would likely be a Beatles or Beach Boys song, maybe “God Only Knows.”


You recently played The Viper Room…

Yes, it was my first time playing The Strip (and first time playing L.A. altogether), and it was incredible!  There is so much history in that room. The sound at the venue was also spectacular. 


For SSMF attendees, what are the essential do’s and don’ts of festival preparation and etiquette?


Drink lots of water.

Scream and cheer as loud as humanly possible (the bands will feed off of it).

Keep an open mind to the bands you’ve never heard before.


Don’t be a jerk to anyone, especially the people standing near you.

Don’t use your smartphone the whole time. 


What’s next for Big Data in 2014?

Just trying to write and record as much as I can when I’m not on the road – working on a full-length with lots of different exciting collaborations on there.  Also, the band will be on tour opening for Fitz & The Tantrums in November.





Brent X Mendoza


Opening its doors on August 14, 1993 with a performance by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the intensely intimate, 200 capacity Viper Room has hosted thousands of legendary, “arena-sized” shows in its storied 21 year history.  To name a few: Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Oasis, Hunter S. Thompson, Green Day, Muse, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, The Strokes, Smashing Pumpkins, the list goes on…

Offering music fans the chance to see mega-bands like these in a tiny club setting is what The Viper Room has become known for not only in industry circles but worldwide.  And for countless musicians, The Viper stage – given this legacy – holds a sort of reverent ethereal magic not found in any other room.

Reflecting back on some of their favorite memories from Viper night’s past, TSS.com spoke with a few of the club’s favorite regulars to gather their most rock n’ roll moments – both on stage and off –  spent at the notorious 8852 Sunset Strip.


Jimmy Gnecco (Ours): “The club has always been a magical place for a few reasons.  For one, the sound does something to me in that room – from the first time I stepped into the room I noticed the sound having an actual physical effect on me.

Back in 2003, I had played there two nights in a row.  I played on my own acoustically, the first night I played with James Hall and Pleasure Club, and the second night was with Johnny Marr (The Smiths) and Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr).  On the second night when my set was over, I jumped off stage and had a few drinks with some people.  Johnny and Zak started their set, and for the first couple of songs it felt like something was just off.  I felt like, ‘Oh man, they aren’t sounding very good…’

Then at one point something happened and everything locked in, and the sound started to do that thing to me that I was talking about.  I thought, ‘Oh maybe my alcohol just kicked in or something.’  When the song was over Johnny said, ‘Oh I’m feeling it now.  I wasn’t feeling it at first, but now I am!’

It sounds a bit hippy-ish and mystical, but there really was a moment when we all felt it come together.  That’s the kind of thing that happens there.  I actually ended up writing an entire song in my head that night while that happened.  The song is called “Ran Away to Tell the World.”  So thank you Viper Room for all of the memories and inspiration.”


James Hall (Pleasure Club): “In 1994, I had my first Viper Room experience.  My band was out on our first West Coast tour since 1989, and we had already played the Whiskey A Go-Go and Club Lingerie… We had just gotten our van back from the Hollywood Western Auto, and we were ready to leave L.A. for Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, when at the 11th hour, we had somehow gotten a show at The Viper Room… And from the moment we pulled up, until the moment we pulled away, we were amazed.  Everyone on staff was professional and respectful, even though we were nobody!  I don’t even really remember the show, other than that it was a full house and there were only three bands on the bill!

As we were packing up, I managed to sell our independent record to Dean DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), while Scott Weiland and Nash Kato (Urge Overkill) were arguing over who was going to open up for whom; and I remember thinking to myself, ‘Now this is a strange scene.’

From that point on, The Viper Room has been a sort of home to many shows I have done in L.A. over the years…” 


Kellii Scott (Failure/Viper bartender 2002-2003): “All my memories from The Viper are favorites.  From when it opened to currently, I have witnessed 100s of great shows – some just funny, and some incredible performances.  One that sticks out was a [political] fundraiser which Elvis Costello played, and it was such an amazing performance and packed with weirdoes.”


Michael Starr (Steel Panther): “The Viper Room has so many great memories for me – from playing with Steven Tyler, Meatloaf, Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Paul Stanley, Avril Lavigne and many more, The Viper Room holds a special place in my heart.

One night that stands out for me – we played our show and afterwards had our normal after hours party inside the club…  Only a few selected hot chicks, dudes with drugs and celebrities were allowed to stay.  I met this super hot young chick that got in with her fake ID.  I took her in the dressing room – which had a one-way mirror – and I started getting it on with her!  I had her up against the mirror, and while we were sweating to the 80’s, I was looking out and saw Brad Pitt and Keanu Reeves having a beer, Pamela Anderson was there with Tommy Lee, Steve-O was jumping around, and Duff (McKagan) and Matt (Sorum) from GNR were just hanging; Kiefer Sutherland was on stage jamming.  Turns out the girl was Jesse James the famous porn star.  However she was not a star at that point, she had just gotten into town from Florida.  She was a pro at 18 that’s for sure!

Having sex at The Viper Room with famous people hanging out was normal.  That’s what made that place so special to me – good drugs, hot chicks and movie roles just waiting to be had.  

Thanks Johnny Depp for The Viper room, it’s changed my life for the better!

And by the way… Kiefer Sutherland ended up falling backwards off the stage with Satchel’s guitar strapped on him in a total drunken blackout. Satchel’s guitar was fine though.”


Steve Stevens (Billy Idol guitarist): “If you believe that spirits inhabit locations as I do, my Viper Room story has a disclaimer – the name may have changed, but the rock remains the same.  You see before 8852 Sunset Blvd. was The Viper Room, it was a club called The Central…

The entire Billy Idol band came out to Los Angeles to record Billy’s debut album in 1982.  We came armed with a batch of songs that we recorded, but still didn’t have the one. When you record an album, you are lucky if you have that ever-elusive track that you know will go to radio first and will be your lead-off single – the one that leads the cavalry.

Our producer Keith Forsey basically locked Billy into the studio all night and said, ‘Don’t come out until you’ve got some magic.’  Well the next morning, I got a knock on my hotel door and Billy stumbles in with his boom box, cassette in hand.  ‘I think I have one Steve!’  He proceeds to play me his demo of “White Wedding…”  Hell yeah, did he have one!  As we knew this was an important track, we lamented that we wished we could play the song live to see if there were any aspects that could only reveal themselves in front of an audience.

Well calls were made, and it was decided that we would get up onstage that night at The Central unannounced – it was jam night, how convenient.  We played a couple of Generation X songs – Billy’s previous band – and then with little introduction we launched into “White Wedding.”  It felt fresh, and very different for me as a musician… like my sixth sense went off and delivered the chill.  Now whenever I’m at The Viper Room, I’m immediately reminded of that night in 1982, and I still get that chill.”


Justin Trantor (Semi Precious Weapons): “I think 8 of the 10 most scandalous rock n’ roll moments of our career happened at The Viper Room.  Spray painting dicks in the dressing room and cracking our skulls open on stage just to name a few.  Beyond honored to be a part of the history of such a legendary club.” 


Scott Weiland: “I love The Viper Room it’s a home away from home of sorts, the last bastion of what’s left of a Hollywood neighborhood bar.  It feels and smells like CBGBs West Coast; a safe-house for MCs, rockers and poets alike.  There’s real loyalty there, the kind you don’t find anymore in the city of angels; and I stole my bass player (Tommy Black) from there…”




Photos: (1) LA Times news clipping (2) Rolling Stone magazine article (3) Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash, Johnny Depp (4) Rolling Stone magazine – Johnny Depp, Hunter S. Thompson, blowup doll (5) Smashing Pumpkins (6) Scott Weiland


Brent X Mendoza


Officially disbanding in 1997 on the cusp of a career that was about to skyrocket into the stratosphere, L.A. based underground legends Failure have consistently maintained a mystique and word-of-mouth cult following for the past 16+ years.

In the short nine months since their reunion, the band has already garnered a direct support slot touring with longtime musical brethren Tool, co-headlined two nights at The Greek Theater for Cinquanta, and wrapped their own nationwide headlining tour.

Now in preparations for taking the stage in the middle of The Sunset Strip, Failure and guitarist/founding member Greg Edwards is looking forward to finally giving longtime fans the chance to hear live, the songs they’ve been incessantly playing on repeat for over a decade.


Going back to around 1997, with Fantastic Planet coming out and the “Stuck on You” single taking off… you guys were on Lollapalooza and touring with Tool… What happened?

The thing is that we finished the record so long before it was actually released, so the whole process of making the record and then ending up with this thing that we’re really proud of… and then we just waited a long time.

Through the process of recording, it wasn’t the healthiest environment for interpersonal dynamics in the band.  Although in some ways, it was a healthy environment creatively because the unhealthy things were actually feeding the creativity… So that bad stuff had started during the recording process, and then we just had this long period of time before we knew if the record was coming out, or what was going on and it…

So by the time we were out on the road supporting the record, and it was released, and the songs were being released, it was a very combustible situation.  It was a very fragile situation anyways… It was sort of like no matter what happened then, if the band had totally failed and nobody paid any attention, we would have imploded; if the band had exploded and become huge, we would have imploded; and if the band had sort of done what it did, we would have imploded.  I think that that fate was set up no matter what.


So were there a lot of interpersonal animosities that had to be worked out during this hiatus?

I’m sure there were, but it was never really talked about in a therapy type setting [laughter].  A lot of time had passed and we were in completely different points in our lives… Ken and I always got along, we always had a good time together, we always laughed a lot, and sure we had some intense creative tensions, but that’s all good in the end.  So that main foundation of our relationship just quickly came right back.


And so you went on to do Autolux which has been pretty successful, but were there always sort of those ‘what if’ questions lingering in the back of your mind?

No I didn’t do a lot of looking back.  I guess Failure could have continued on, and we could have made a record that somehow popped in that environment; but I don’t even know that all things considered, from the big view, that that would have been the best thing for the music or the art of what Failure is.

I think it was sort of the ultimate thing that could’ve happened, for people to listen to, and fully digest, and fall in love with that record.  You know, we didn’t tarnish it by trying to follow up with a record that was gonna hit, which is what I felt was happening to the band.  I felt like the pressures that were on us from the outside were pushing us in that direction.  So in a way, I am grateful for the way things turned out, and we’re back now, and now we can do a proper follow up to Fantastic Planet.


Because of the amount of time that’s elapsed, do you feel like there’s even more pressure now to put out a well received follow-up than maybe there might have been at the time?

I feel like it’s all good pressure; there’s zero commercial pressure, there’s zero pressure from that ‘old system’ that we were under then…  There was a lot of money at stake, there were all these people fearing for there jobs, you know it was kind of a disgusting environment – the record industry; and you know that pressure trickled down to the artist, no matter how much people were trying to shield them from that.  And they really weren’t trying to shield them at all, because they were all too fearful for their own jobs and positions; so the art of something just got totally lost most of the time.

And that pressure doesn’t exist at all now.  Now the pressure is that we have this following of people that have stayed with us over all these years, and they are experts.  They’ve got bullshit sensors probably more finally tuned then ours, so we’re not gonna get away with just throwing something together; it’s got to be the real thing.


What sparked the reunion; was there a catalyst?  Who sort of reached out first?

It was over years of Ken and I hanging out… Ken sort of made a few comments to do something here and there… It was always around, but I was definitely not ready to do anything at that point because I was too involved with Autolux at that time… And then we just kept hanging out, and we eventually got back around to this idea, and I had some time and we just kind of tried it, and it immediately just worked and it was easy.  The result was something that had real value; and then it was just unstoppable at that point


Are you guys surprised by the reception?  I mean, I remember your first reunion show at the El Rey sold out in minutes… Were you guys surprised?

Yeah I mean we all knew that we had a small core of very intense fans, and that’s kind of one of the main reasons – aside from just doing it for ourselves – we wanted to do this for that core of people who really got the music and stayed with us this long.  But, when we booked the El Rey we were thinking you know, ‘Is this place too big?  Should we go smaller?’  So we had no idea… There were some people – some agents and people like that – that told us we could do even more then the El Rey, and we thought they were nuts because it seemed crazy. We weren’t expecting that at all!


Are there any specific songs from Fantastic Planet that you’re particularly excited to finally get a chance to share with people?

I always have fun playing all of it, but I don’t always have that much invested in the more “pop” oriented songs, like with the choruses and everything… But we’re doing a song from Magnified which is one of my favorite Failure songs of all – the last song called “Small Crimes.”  I really like that song, and you know songs like “Solaris” and “Blank” and “Heliotropic” – that side of things is always more interesting to me.


I know Maynard from Tool has been sort of instrumental in getting you guys on some bigger gigs since reuniting… Can you talk a little bit about your relationship and how you met?

We met Tool early on before they broke really, they were just another band in L.A. that was getting some attention – as were we – and then we became friends with them. They were all cool, creative guys and then we went on a tour with them right as their first record was being released. We did this tour of Europe, of France really, it was an amazing tour!  Small clubs all down through France to the border of Spain just about and it was beautiful… But right as that was going on – we were playing these small clubs of 200-300 seaters and sometimes only 100 people were there – “Sober” was exploding in the U.S.  But we always had a great time with them, and Maynard has always been a real supporter of Failure and also Autolux, and he’s always been great that way.  And he makes wine!


Now coming up SSMF…  Do you have any particular Sunset Strip memories and/or thoughts relating to Failure or any of your other musical endeavors?  I know Kellii (drummer Kellii Scott) used to work at The Viper Room…

One thing I do remember about The Sunset Strip was seeing My Bloody Valentine at The Roxy.   It must’ve been around 1994ish..?  They did two shows in one day, and it was the loudest thing anybody had ever heard.

Yeah I remember that, and I remember Failure played a show at the Whisky towards the end… The Roxy and The Whisky are great sounding clubs that have definitely gained a certain patina over the years.




www.failureband.com  www.ssmf.com

 — Brent X Mendoza


For almost two decades, Omaha, Nebraska based The Faint have been bringing their darkwave brand of dance rock to the ass-shaking masses around the world.  Now with their new album Doom Abuse, the band is back from a six year hiatus with their best received release since 2001’s cult fave Danse Macabre.

Taking their new tunes to the road, The Faint just recently wrapped a nationwide tour that included three back-to-back sold out shows at The Roxy Theatre.  On the final night of their residency, TSS.com was able to wrangle a moment with guitarist/bassist Dapose, who filled in the gaps, as to what finally brought the band back together to record one of their most poignantly urgent records to date.


So the new album Doom Abuse, can you give us any insight into the title?

Well our band is kind of like a collage… You know, we as members are all over the place and like different things; and our work kind of ends up reflecting that and so did the new album title.  In our minds “doom” is a sort of comedic word that’s a lot funnier than the meaning it’s supposed to have.  And I think in this day-and-age when everything is constantly the worst thing in the world, in our minds it’s redundant and just becomes funny.  It’s just all about how that word [doom] sounds to us… In our minds, it just doesn’t sound like what it means.


It’s been about six years between records… What sparked things for everyone to get back to work on this project?

I think in some ways we were just burnt out on the idea of The Faint and you know, we had written the last record Fasciinatiion, and toured the shit out of it, and we wanted to pursue some different musical ideas… I did a few different side projects and the other guys, they were getting more into the club scene – DJing and making some more electronic type tracks.  We were just trying different stuff, and after a couple of years we were like, “Hey let’s make some music together again!” and it was really fun and we were super motivated and excited.

We pretty much wrote this new record Doom Abuse really quickly… I mean, we’ve been making music for a long time and we just know how to make a record now.


The new album definitely sounds like it has a sense of urgency…

There was just a real sense of excitement that we had gotten back together… We got in the studio and set up our stuff, and we were so quickly and excitedly able to make whole songs.  Which with the history of our band… it takes us a lot longer than most bands to complete a song for some reason.  But we were able to do it really quickly, and have a lot of fun doing it, so there was this urgency of like, “Oh shit, let’s set some real goals and get this shit done!”

And you know, we built a studio on the last record for ourselves to record in, but we didn’t really know how to use it yet… and now we know what the hell we are doing so I think it’s just fun.   We would just sort of set up, hit record and if the first take was fun and good then it was like why redo it?  We used to redo everything a million times for some reason, and sometimes you might get something better, but sometimes you just end up killing the excitement out of it; and I think that’s what you and most people are hearing is this sort of immediacy, and wrong notes and weird feedback that maybe should’ve been edited out, but we didn’t because it helped our fun to have it in.

I guess we’re more mature in a way, but it’s like our maturity wants to be more juvenile.


This tour seems like you’re doing a lot of underplays… Do you feel like your music is more conducive to a smaller club environment as opposed to playing a bigger theater type show?

I personally think that it is a lot more exciting at a smaller place… I mean I don’t think any of us want to play basement shows anytime soon but, yeah smaller I think…. There is definitely something lost in a giant room, I don’t know exactly what it is…

I just like playing immediately right in front of people.  I hate when there’s a huge barricade and the stage is like eight feet tall, and you can barely see a person in the front row – it’s ridiculous.  I kind of like it when people are hanging all over my pedals, you know sweating all over my shit [laughter]. It’s exciting, it’s more fun. There’s always a chance of things getting broken…


What are you listening to right now? What’s on your playlist?

Well, I’ve been listening to a lot of older stuff actually.  I listen to a lot of Brazilian radio and a lot of old country, like Marty Robbins… Just old fucking really well recorded, simple songs.  I like that shit a lot.  I’m excited to hear the new Venetian Snares… but I go from that to like…

We’ve been listening to a lot of old metal on the bus like Kreator.  I love all that thrash metal…  But then I play something like Ricardo Villalobos backstage…

I mean I can’t imagine listening to just one genre of music…  I’m sure most people don’t anymore.  It’s like you don’t have to be afraid anymore… like back in the old days, meaning like the 80’s and 90’s, you would just listen to one style of music, and if you strayed from that all of your friends would be like, “What are you doing?”  They’d give you shit or beat you up or something.  And now it seems it’s just about endless exploration.


The band has been around in some form or another for almost 20 years now… and I noticed in prepping for this interview, it seems like there’s not a lot of information out there about the band in general.  Is that a conscious effort to sort of stay under the radar?

I mean it always has been sort of… I mean we don’t put energy into it as much as we just don’t put energy into projecting our individuality and personalities into the world.  You know, it’s personal, and it’s really nice to be able to walk through our shows and not be recognized.  I don’t know how that exactly happens, buy yeah I  mean we try to be… The name of our band is The Faint after all, so it’s kind of like there’s different ways of looking at that… we’re not into super big stardom or fame or anything, we just like playing music.



The Faint’s new album Doom Abuse is available now on iTunes.

www.thefaint.com  www.facebook.com/thefaint  www.theroxy.com

Photos courtesy of Dony West


Brent X Mendoza


One could say that Semi Precious Weapons made their leap to success here on The Sunset Strip.  The band (singer Justin Tranter, guitarist Stevy Pyne, bassist Cole Whittle and drummer Dan Crean), played their L.A. debut at The Viper Room, practically lived at Duke’s coffee shop and were amongst the headlining acts at the Sunset Strip Music Festival in 2010.

Now after a not-so-brief hiatus, SPW is back with a new album Aviation, featuring a hit single that’s garnering national radio play and has cracked the top 40 on Billboard’s Alternative chart.

Longtime friends of TSS.com, the band recently sat down at Oliver’s Prime – The Grafton hotel’s premiere new steakhouse – to enjoy some eats, drinks (note: Tranter only drank cocktails) and share stories of mischievous misadventure as they “Look to the Stars.”


So tell us about Chinese Democracy… How many years has this new record been in the making?

Tranter: You say it like it was our choice [laughter]. We’ve talked about this before…  It’s been about four years since we’ve released an album.  We didn’t choose this… We were on Interscope, and then we weren’t, and then we were on Epic…

So now we are on Redzone (Entertainment), which is a happier, much better place and they’ve actually released our album… So sadly it’s been four years but you like to make fun of us like we chose this!


The new single “Aviation High” is a bit of a departure away from your usual punk glam sort of style… Was this a conscious decision?

Whittle: Absolutely!  Ya know, when you’ve been doing the same thing for so long, it’s just boring.  We like a lot of different kinds of music and we always have… So we just decided to say ‘fuck it’ and just write the songs, and it is whatever it ended up being…  I mean look at Miles Davis, he had an electro album, with him on the front dressed like James Cagney with a machine gun… We are still the same rock n’ roll band we just kinda wanted to futurize it a little bit.


And long time fans…how has the reception been with the new record?

Tranter: When we first put out Aviation just for free online, there were a couple of our older fans, that were a little upset that it wasn’t straight up guitar riff based – but I think overall, people are really happy about the songs – and there are still some crazy guitar solos… It’s funny, Amoeba (records) wrote a review of the album, and it was like we paid them to say it!  I promise you we did not… It talked about the evolution of our sound, and how it feels like it makes much more sense for us, and it fits much more with my voice and my message much more than our old stuff did… It was pretty awesome!


Was there concern about the whole “sellout” stigma?

Crean: No, because no one gave us any money; so we didn’t sell out [laughter].  I think the lamest thing you can do is not move forward… And to be really honest, the truth of the matter is, that all of our musical tastes are much wider than the music we’ve been making… So we just said ‘fuck it’ because there was nothing else to do; so we just did what we wanted.

Tranter: In terms of the punk and the trashy glam element that we had… We took that as far as we possibly could; I mean we opened for Lady Gaga for a year and a half!

Crean: He got butt naked on stage at Madison Square Garden in front of 12 year olds…

Whittle: Yeah, every single night of those arena shows we were practically naked, playing atonal punk music, screaming and spitting all over everyone, and we were pretty happy with how far that went…  And ya know, we’re not comfortable with animal sacrifice, so we had to do something else [laughter].


Speaking of Lady Gaga… how did you initially meet?

Tranter: Gaga was just a big fan of us from New York… I have no idea how she heard of us first, but she just started showing up to shows, looking awesome, being awesome… and then we found out that she was a performer, songwriter herself…

I don’t think when we first met her she was even signed to Interscope yet, and so she started opening for us in New York, and it just became our thing that, “Oh she’ll just always open for us…”  And then she became the biggest star in the world in like no time.


What was the craziest moment of that tour that comes to mind?

Tranter: I did morning TV in Berlin, where everyone of course was speaking German… I had an earpiece in my ear, where someone was translating everything for me – which I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that, but it was the trippiest thing ever… and then they made me play with a dog, and then they made me cook…  Then the translator just stopped talking, and I didn’t know what was going on, so I just kept saying, “I don’t know, I don’t know…”

Crean: Oh Stevy’s got a good one… We were playing Radio City Music Hall and he decided that it was time to set his guitar on stage and let it feedback, and then run around the entire theater… So the kid throws the guitar on the ground, runs, climbs over all the bleachers on the way back – this is in the middle of the show – then the security guard thinks that he’s just a fan trying to jump on the stage, tries to tackle his ass, but he’s too quick… Stevy gets on just in time to shut off his guitar, and then Justin did a cartwheel off stage, ripped all the staging down, and we almost got a $30,000 fine!  Knocked down all of Gaga’s wireless, knocked down the whole fucking rig.  After the show there was a line of policemen, and riggers, and management all waiting to tell us how much they hate us.


How many SPW tattoos have you seen?

Tranter: Well of my face, I think I’ve only seen about 10… There’s this girl, she got it in honor of our new album.  When it came out, she went to the tattoo parlor and got our old album tattooed on her arm… In my handwriting it says “You love you” on her bicep.

Whittle: There’s a girl named Kyra Walsh who is a great great fan, who send me random Photoshopped pictures of me with toast on my head..?  For some reason when she looks at me, she sees a guy who needs toast on his head.


Let’s talk about the move from New York to L.A., who made that decision?

Crean: American Airlines.  Yeah, literally the last flight on tour landed in LA so we just said, ‘Ok.’

Whittle: We never had an actual conversation… We checked into a hotel and after like two weeks, we were just like, ‘How much is this costing our band..?’

Tranter: …but the reason we came here initially was to meet with [producer] Tricky Stewart because we love the records he’s produced and written.  So we came here to meet with him, not to move here, but just to meet with him, and we never left.  We just lived here accidentally… but we love it; thank God because not only is L.A. wonderful and The Strip is wonderful, but L.A. is much more affordable then New York, and if we were all still living in New York, the band would’ve been over because everyone would’ve had to get daytime jobs/full time day jobs again… There would be no way we would’ve survived.

We left New York in 2009, for a tour that was supposed to be for three weeks with Ladyhawke and Ida Maria and we never come back.

Whittle: The first year here, we literally spent 363 days at Duke’s (Duke’s coffee shop on The Sunset Strip, 1968-2012).  For at least a week and a half, all my worldly belongings were in the closet with the DJ shit, and I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom every day, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner there.


You guys seem very New York.  I’m surprised that L.A. suits you so well…

Whittle: To be honest with you when we went to The Strip, we had the same amount of fun that we would have in the crazy parts of New York.  I think that’s one of the reasons why we felt okay with coming here.

Crean: I mean Cole spray painted his dick shut at The Viper Room…

Whittle: That was before I shit my pants at the Mondrian and gave them to Stevy to wear on a date…  Literally!  I had a good week that week [laughter]…

I was fucking around in Johnny’s Booth (the green room) at The Viper Room, and there was this can of black spray paint, and I was doing this dance in my underwear, so I decided to spray paint them [laughter].  And so I’m dancing around, and all of a sudden literally the underwear started to burn off, and it went through to my skin, and I was grabbing bottles of water, and I was butt-naked throwing water all over my junk; and then our tour manager opened the door – not thinking anyone was in there – and I’m doing this hot tamale dance pouring bottles of water all over my junk.



Semi Precious Weapons new album Aviation is available now on iTunes.

Watch SPW on Last Call with Carson Daly.  www.semipreciousweapons.com  www.facebook.com/semipreciousweapons

Oliver’s Prime Steakhouse at The Grafton hotel is located at 8462 Sunset Blvd.  Reservations are highly recommended: (323) 491-9003.


Photos courtesy of Genie Sanchez

Brent X Mendoza


Thus far (no pun intended) 2014 has been a big year for ††† (Crosses) – the new project from Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and Far guitarist/producer Shaun Lopez.  The band released their first full length record, which debuted at number 26 on the Billboard Top 200 and just recently sold out The Roxy Theatre on their break between Coachella weekends.

Amidst a crazy mid-tour schedule and a hailstorm of media requests, TSS.com was fortunate enough to snag a few minutes with ††† co-founder Shaun Lopez, who shared with us some “revelations” about the band’s upstart, his first Coachella experience and explains his fondness for a certain rather creepy song from Silence of the Lambs.


Give us a quick primer on how this whole project got started and your role in the band?

A while back, I met Chuck (Chuck Doom, bassist and co-producer/collaborator) through a mutual friend of ours and he played me an ambient piece of music that I really dug… We discussed collaborating on some music and that eventually led him over to my studio, where we found that we immediately had chemistry.   Sometimes full songs were even written and recorded in one day (sans vocals).

I’ve known Chino forever it seems, and whatever I’m working on, I will usually play him things that I think he might like… One of the first things I played him was the track “1987” and he loved it!  He asked who was going to sing on the stuff, and at the time we didn’t know, so he expressed interest… 

I wear a few different hats in the band I guess… I would say my role in the project is producer/co-writer/visual aesthetics.


Has it been difficult trying to maintain/stay consistent with the use of the ††† symbol (i.e. Prince and his “love symbol”) as your band’s identity?  I believe on the original Coachella lineup announcement you were billed as “Crosses” and it was later corrected to “†††.”  Also all those song titles with “T” letters..?

Honestly?  It hasn’t been that fun, but I believe it’s all worth it.  I’m sure I’ve been a real pain in the ass to our management/label/agent, but it all comes from a good positive place.  In my opinion, ††† vs. Crosses is a no brainer.  When you see the three symbols on a flyer or billboard, no matter what you know or think about the band, I would hope it intrigues/confuses you… makes you want to know more, ask questions.  Which I think is a good thing. 


Speaking of Coachella… How was your debut experience?  Also, going up against Outkast had to be a little concerning?

Coachella was great!  Just to say we’re playing/played Coachella is something I thought I would never be able to say.  I haven’t been to Coachella even as a patron since 2005, and it’s crazy how much it’s changed.  Just walking through the crowds, you realize how massive this thing has become.

I was never too worried about playing “against” Outkast, since there are 120,000 people there, and I doubt every single one of them is going to want to go see them.  The first weekend hurt us more than the second… We had a pretty massive crowd the second weekend, where as the first weekend the tent was about half full; but when you think about how big those tents are, that’s still a lot of people!


So I noticed a cover song during your set at The Roxy.  A notoriously creepy song from the Silence of the Lambs movie

I’ve always loved doing covers, so when it came time to doing shows, we put together a list and I suggested that one (“Goodbye Horses”)… Chino said he had never heard it, which is crazy since dude is kind of a musical encyclopedia!  We learned it one day at soundcheck and started playing it that night.  From there it kind of caught on and was a big crowd favorite.  We have been pretty much playing it ever since.  I love turning people onto music that they might have missed/forgotten about… There is so much good music out there!


Born in Sacramento, now living in LA… Was it meaningful for you in any special way having sold out The Roxy on The Sunset Strip?  

Selling out The Roxy in 15 minutes (or whatever it was) was a huge moment for me.  I remember living in Sacramento and getting online at 10 a.m. to buy tickets for Smashing Pumpkins (w/ QOTSA opening) at the Roxy in 1999.  I was able to get them and drove down for that show, which was great.  So it’s amazing to be in a band that has people care about them in a similar way for sure.



††† self-titled debut album is available now.  www.crossesmusic.com  www.theroxy.com


— Brent X Mendoza, @brentXmendoza

Photos courtesy of Genie Sanchez

Steel Panther Comes Home With An ‘All You Can Eat’ Release & Party

The Sunset Strip’s own spandex sheathed, hair-metal mainstays, Steel Panther, recently held a press conference of sorts at Hustler Hollywood, an oh so apropos location, to announce the release of their new sartorial opus, All You Can Eat.
The band, chaperoned by a bevy of booty shorts clad Hustler girls took questions from the “press” before launching into an acoustic set debuting songs from the new record, as well as fan favorites.
Later that evening, at the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill, the guys took a short break from the afterparty to speak with TSS.com and reminisce a bit about the band’s long and storied history with The Sunset Strip.
You guys started as Metal Shop at the Viper Room, then eventually moved to The Roxy as Metal Skool, then over to Key Club where you became Steel Panther, and now House of Blues. Give us a little personal reflection of your time on The Strip.
Michael Starr (lead vocalist): I don’t know if you know this, but we have the longest running weekly show in the history of The Sunset Strip. No band’s ever done it! The only time we took time off was when we got signed and started going on tour, but whenever we came off tour, even when recording a record, every Monday night we were here. And we think we should get a Hollywood star! Name any band… not even Wicked has gone as long as we have!  
Was there any particular moment during that time where you were thinking, “This is really happening for us, we’re going to make it?”
Starr: The moment that hit me was when our manager called us and said the president of Universal wants to have a meeting with you guys; he’s been secretly watching you perform on Monday nights. ‘Cause we had started playing our own original stuff… 
So we had a meeting with him and he said, “I want to sign you guys to a major recording contract.” And we were like, “Fuck you, no way!”  ‘Cause we were a cover band and we would just slip in “Fat Girl” or “Death to All But Metal” now and then, and then finally we got a deal. And at that point I didn’t know it would turn into what it is today, but I knew that we were going somewhere else other than playing Bon Jovi and Ratt all the time.  
A lot of crazy debauchery has happened at Steel Panther shows over the years, with girls joining you guys on stage. What’s the absolute most insane, most shocking, most memorable thing that’s happened in your memory thus far?
Starr: We were getting ready to go on stage at Key Club, the curtain was closed and these two chicks came through the backstage door and while our intro was going on they blew me!  And then suddenly the curtain is going up, and I’m trying to pull my pants up… True story! It was the best show I ever had!  
Lexxi Foxxx do you personally have a favorite X-rated moment on stage?
Foxxx (bass guitarist): Well Personally, I think it was Germany actually… So I have these things in my pants to protect my butt, like little butt pads that also make my butt look bitchin’… So a girl came up and found out that I had those, and tried to stick her hands down my pants to feel my real butt, and of course she missed it, and stuck her finger right in my butthole. It really woke me up! 
Favorite celebrity to have on stage?
Foxxx: Steven Tyler. Also Billy Ray Cyrus was bad ass too.
And I know there’s a fairly lengthy list of celebs you guys have pissed off, that will no longer come back to your shows…
Foxxx: The guys in Hoobastank…they won’t come back to our shows anymore, ‘cause we sorta make fun of them on stage sometimes when we riff on their song “The Reason.”
Catch Steel Panther every Monday in April at House of Blues Sunset Strip. www.steelpantherrocks.com  www.hob.com/la 
Photos courtesy of Genie Sanchez

2014 SSMF Expanding Street Fest To 2-Days In September, Partnering With Nederlander

The 2014 Sunset Strip Music Festival is getting ready to rock, announcing today that the seventh annual festival will be expanding the street festival component to two days — Saturday and Sunday — and moving to Sept. 19-21.
This year’s festival will kick off on Friday, Sept. 19 with its annual evening celebrating an artist or band who has made an impact on The Sunset Strip’s musical history. Last year SSMF celebrated Joan Jett, with previous honorees including The Doors, Motley Crue, Slash, Ozzy Osbourne and Sunset Strip venue founders Lou Adler, Mario Maglieri and Elmer Valentine. Live performances in The Sunset Strip’s venues — House of Blues, The Roxy, Viper Room and Whisky A Go-Go — will follow the celebration. 
The fest will continue with a two-day street festival on Saturday, Sept. 20 and Sunday, Sept. 21, when The Sunset Strip will be closed to vehicles to accomodate outdoor stages, artist garden, interactive experiences, and performances within the venues. Previous SSMF street fest performers have included Linkin Park, Motley Crue, Slash with Fergie, The Smashing Pumpkins, Ozzy Osbourne, Awolnation, Public Enemy, Wale, De La Soul, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Neon Trees, Finch and more.
This also marks the first year SSMF will partner with Nederlander Concerts, the premier family-owned West Coast promoter.
SSMF plans to announce additional details, including the 2014 honoree, ticket sale information and performing artists, in the coming weeks. SSMF has already confirmed the return of Jack Daniel’s as the festival’s premiere sponsor and will continue its partnership with KTLA 5. SSMF will also work with CBS Radio’s six Los Angeles stations as the event’s exclusive radio sponsors. With promotion across the popular stations, SSMF will be able to provide outstanding exposure to the festival to more than 8.5 million listeners, including the “World Famous” KROQ.
For more information about SSMF, visit www.ssmf.com, www.facebook.com/sunsetstripmusicfestival and Twitter.com/SSMF
Photo: Linkin Park performs at the 2013 SSMF. Photo courtesy Jim Donnelly

Moving Units’ Blake Miller: Shaking Assets On The Sunset Strip

For more than 10 years now, Los Angeles-based Moving Units has brought their brand of fevered indie dance rock to the booty shaking masses. The recent release of the band’s third LP, Neurotic Exotic, finds frontman and Moving Units founder Blake Miller reasserting himself as the sole member of the “group,” having broken away from the other original players.  
Speaking with TSS.com, Mr. Miller brought us up to speed on his newly single musical status, reminisced about his teenage Kate Moss infatuation and shared his envious passion for women’s figure skating outfits.
The recently released Neurotic Exotic is the first Moving Units album sans the other original members. How did the song writing/recording process differ? 
I’ve always written Moving Units songs based on a distinctive riff or chord pattern, so this solitary approach was ideal for documenting the raw elements of a new song idea. In the past, the band would spend a lot time in the rehearsal studio jamming the raw parts until we agreed upon final arrangements and tempos. 
For this album, however, I spent most of the writing process working alone in my home studio recording rough drafts of vocal and instrumental hooks. Once I had compiled an album’s worth of material I began fleshing out arrangements, tempos and instrumentation during pre-production, with my co-producer Cliff Magreta. The tracking process was much more focused and decisive while producing this album… Most performances were captured in the first or second take. We worked quickly and just plowed through the overdubs very methodically…
The live performance approach hasn’t changed much. We still play tightly rehearsed, high-energy sets. It’s been seven years since we toured so we’re psyched to be doing SXSW this year. We’re doing a North American tour in April and May as well. 
How has the digital music era personally affected your band’s ability to “move units?”  Has making ends meet as a musician become more of a challenge in recent years?
Well, our band didn’t spend a lot of energy trying to sell records or amass personal fortunes. Our backgrounds were very rooted in the first wave indie DIY culture. We were fortunate to garner a lot of press and attention in a short amount of time, which led to some great professional opportunities. 
But I think the digital music era actually affords young musicians an unlimited amount of leverage in their career. Social media, YouTube, streaming platforms all grant bands and their fans incredible access to content. I’m sure the major labels are hurting but we were never on that trip. Making ends meet seems to be a challenge for most people I know… Making a living as a musician has always been a labor of love and we’re stoked we’ve been able to continue doing it for over a decade. 
Take us through the narrative that is your dance opus, “Kate Moss in ’97.” Have you ever had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Moss?
This song is particularly close to my heart. I’m a ’90s dude and of course Kate Moss was an incredible feminine icon that dominated pop culture both then and now. The narrative was inspired late one night while I was at home strumming guitar and a documentary titled Kate! The Making of an Icon started playing on cable TV. Apparently in 1997, she reached her absolute zenith of media permeation – she appeared on the cover of more publications than any other cultural icon of the day. 
This detail just seemed so profound to me at the time and suddenly the chorus vocal hook “I went to heaven with Kate Moss in ’97” popped into my head… I quickly worked out the chord changes and realized it was a great song in the making! The verse portrays a surrealistic and dramatically exaggerated account of my adolescent infatuation with her. It’s perverse and cheeky – in a British sort of way – but the chorus is a genuine homage to the natural beauty and rock and roll energy she conjures within so many human beings. 
I’ve never had the privilege of meeting her in person… But we played Coachella in 2011, and I secretly fantasized she might overhear our perverted anthem while hanging out with her dude from The Kills who were also on the bill that year.  
The ’80s had “the robot,” “the worm” and “the Cabbage Patch,” the ’90s had the “Macarena” and “vogueing” and finally “twerking” in the new millennium. What’s the next hot dance craze to sweep the nation? What MU song will people be shaking their assets to?
Personally, I’m waiting for [Joy Division’s] Ian Curtis’ dance disaster moves to finally sweep the nation. I certainly channeled his spirit more than a few times on the dance floor and it always gets results! 
Moving Units is all about inciting people to shake their body parts in every which way possible, so every song is loaded with spazz out potential. “Birds of Prey” is an ass shaking no-brainer for sure!
What’s next for you in 2014?
We’re shooting a video and releasing a single for the new album track, “The World Is Ours.” Also, touring North America throughout April and May, and preparing to announce a few new surprises in the near future…
Bonus Question: In what Winter Olympics sport would you have most liked to compete?    
Women’s figure skating. Those outfits are to die for!
Moving Units play the newly reopened Roxy Theatre Friday, March 28. Tickets are on sale now. www.theroxy.com  www.movingunits.net