Photo: Mark Manion
Apart from demolishing her mother’s violin with Pete Townshend-like vehemence at age three, Gretchen’s passion for all things guitar didn’t fully surface until her early teenage years. It was under the tutelage of classical guitarist Phillip de Fremery, a student of Andrés Segovia, that Gretchen began her path on the instrument. Her father, noted writer and former editor-in-chief of Guitar Player Magazine, Don Menn, was quick to point her in the direction of the greats as soon as she expressed interest in guitar.
While earning a degree in music at Smith College, Gretchen’s adventurous approach to her education would foreshadow her approach to the guitar. She convinced a professor to allow her to launch a special studies project on the intricate and unclassifiable music of Frank Zappa. Her analyses of “The Sheik Yerbouti Tango” and “The Girl in the Magnesium Dress” showed a love for epic, melodic, genre-shattering rock and roll composition that would manifest later in her original instrumentals.
After college, Gretchen began heavily incorporating her love of rock guitar into her daily regime, the only hitch being that the music of her rock gods, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, and Frank Zappa, wasn’t exactly Guitar 101. She also began considering her career path, and how she might prevent a situation she sought to avoid: tainting her love of music with the necessity of paying rent.
The solution? She went directly from college to flight school, and two years later was flying regional jets for the airlines. Yet Gretchen was never without her guitar.
After a year in the jet, with the life of an airline pilot being more than a little incompatible with a career in music, Gretchen relinquished her position with the airlines, knowing that there was a pilot out there somewhere who would appreciate the opportunity. She decided to take a more direct approach to realizing her musical dreams.
Playing with tireless passion and constantly seeking out new challenges, Gretchen’s projects have spanned the genres of jazz, funk, rock, progressive, and metal. In 2003, she donned a schoolboy uniform and joined AC/DShe as “Agnes Young.” In 2005, she joined forces with drummer, Clementine, to form Zepparella, currently with singer Noelle Doughty and bassist Angeline Saris. In 2007, Gretchen formed Sticks and Stones, the high-energy, instrumental “bassless power trio” with guitarist Mickael Tremel and drummer Sam Adato. In 2010, she played in Lapdance Armageddon, an aggressive acoustic duo with Jude Gold. In 2011 she wrote, produced, and recorded her first solo album, Hale Souls, which features bassist Stu Hamm, drummer John Mader, violinist Emily Palen, and guest artists Angeline Saris (bass on “Scrap Metal”), Jude Gold (second acoustic guitar on “Fast Crowd”), and Gretchen’s sister, Kirsten Menn (soprano on “Fading.”) Gretchen’s solo project, a trio with Angeline Saris on bass and Thomas Perry on drums, played their first shows in November of 2011, and will be starting to tour more in 2012.
Hale Souls (Mach Zero Records, 2011)
Lapdance Armageddon (self-released, 2010)
Conversation with Francis Bakin (self-released, 2009)
STICKS AND STONES
Unbreakable Strings (self-released, 2007)
THE HOUSE OF MORE
The House of More (self-released, 2006)
Live at 19 Broadway (Bonny Boy Records, 2005)
A Pleasing Pounding (What Are Records?, 2008)
Progressive rock legend Neal Morse will be dropping by Live From Music City to talk about the upcoming “Live Momentum” tour, the music business and his other projects. Stay tuned!
NEAL MORSE BIO
As a young musician, Neal’s dream was like many others—to find success in the pop music world. But after years of struggling in the Los Angeles singer-songwriter scene, he realized that this dream would not materialize. Rejecting conventional wisdom, Morse took a courageous step: He about-faced and devoted himself to progressive rock, the music truly in his heart. The obscure and fiercely competitive genre held little chance of commercial success.
Undaunted, he formed the quirkily-named Spock’s Beard with his brother, Alan. They recorded The Light with what money they could scrape together. Against all odds, it was a breakout success, sending shockwaves through the small genre’s community.
Over the next 10 years, Spock’s Beard released 10 critically acclaimed CDs and 2 DVDs, ascending to the top of the prog world. Neal also released 6 CDs and 3 DVDs with Transatlantic, the heralded prog supergroup comprised of the genre’s best musicians.
The proverbial wayward son, Neal had finally found the success he sought. On the outside he seemed to have it all. On the inside, however, something was missing.
Morse came to realize that for him, embracing the Christian faith was the fulfillment of his spiritual quest. His walk was at once gradual and sudden—and as with so many, completely unexpected. As he continued, his path increasingly revealed more of what his heart had sought all along. Yet he also began to find his career growing at odds with his faith. The rising spiritual tension and increasing commercial success finally came to a head with the release of Snow (2002), the group’s magnum opus…and swan song with Morse.
The extraordinary 2-CD rock opera, composed by Morse, was widely acclaimed as the group’s finest. But it was the end of the era. Neal felt God calling him out of his former musical life and into the unknown. He made the agonizing decision to leave both Spock’s Beard and Transatlantic. Despite having finally achieved the success he had long sought, Morse had to begin all over again; musically, emotionally and spiritually.
Neal then embarked upon the most ambitious musical project of his career. Entitled Testimony (2003), it chronicles his spiritual and musical journey in words and music. The 2 CD set spans over two hours as one continuous piece of music. In genre, it ranges from a gospel choir to hard rock; from symphony orchestra to contemporary pop. Testimony was also Neal’s first of many albums with drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater). A deftly woven musical tapestry, Testimony takes the listener on a fascinating journey as unique as the man behind it.
The ensuing world tour was captured on one unforgettable night for the 2-DVD set, Testimony Live (2004). Morse was recognized as a remarkably passionate and engaging performer by Britain’s Classic Rock Magazine, who included him in their “100 Greatest Frontmen of Rock” listing. The tour was awarded “Best Rock Tour” from the popular Dutch website, DPRP, besting nominees Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, RUSH and others.
Morse’s next studio album was a conceptual, progressive rock album entitled One. Mike Portnoy returned to perform on drums (in what is regarded as perhaps his finest performance), with up-and-coming bassist Randy George. They were joined by legendary guitarist Phil Keaggy. The result was a band-focused sound, harkening back to Neal’s Transatlantic work. Continuing in the tradition of Snow and Testimony, One proved epic in scope and sublime in nature.
For Morse’s third progressive rock album, he took a new approach, artistically. On Question (2005), Morse weaves a compelling storyline that owes as much to C.S. Lewis as Indiana Jones. His journey is a timeless quest—to find the biblical dwelling place of God. Joining Neal are more of prog’s brightest stars, including Mike Portnoy and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, Transatlantic) and Steve Hackett (Genesis).
Bringing Question to the stage required an outstanding tour band. Fusing technical wizardry with musical nuance, a young band of unknowns proved themselves in the fire of Question’s musical roller-coaster. The audience responded with energy and passion, with the experience captured on CD. Unrestrained, raw, and magnificent, the resulting 2 CD set Question: Live (2007) was fitting as Neal’s first live album.
Neal’s next prog epic was his most daring, stirring passions and controversy. On Sola Scriptura (2007), Morse tells a compelling and sometimes macabre tale of the darkness that inevitably falls when humankind tries to elevate itself to God. Focusing on the Church in the Middle Ages, Morse is unflinching in his description of its abuses. Neal frames the issue as just one example of faith separated from its true foundations. The album closes not with an end but a beginning—for us to consider our world, and feel called to illuminate it.
Question and Sola Scriptura were received as Neal’s best to date, and the ensuing tours were captured on film. The ensuing release, Sola Scriptura & Beyond (2008) was an extraordinary live concert 2-DVD set that brought both albums to life. Also included were generous selections from One and Testimony, a Transatlantic selection, five songs from Spock’s Beard, and an hour of behind-the-scenes tour footage.
Less than three months later, Neal completed Lifeline (2008), his next studio album. Unlike his other releases, Lifeline wasn’t a concept album. Free from this constraint, Neal stretched out in all directions. He revisited early Spock’s Beard, Snow, Transatlantic, his solo releases, and launched into new territory. Joining him once again were Mike Portnoy and Randy George.
A Transatlantic reunion had been the dream of many fans, and after ten years, a seemingly quixotic one. On April 16 of 2009, though, they were surprised to hear of a new album from the prog supergroup. The album began with Neal’s work a 45 minute composition, “The Whirlwind”. As he progressed, Neal, who felt it was taking on the attributes of a Transatlantic piece. He shared it with the band, and they agreed. Each band member brought material to the eight days of writing/recording sessions; by the end, they’d written a completely new album. Retaining Neal’s original title, The Whirlwind went on to be the group’s highest charting album to date.
Meanwhile, Neal had been touring in North America and Europe. Several shows from the end of 2008 were recorded to multitrack, and saved for future release. On November 16, 2010, the 3-CD set So Many Roads was released, presenting an astonishing 3.5 hours of new live music. Featuring 29 tracks spanning Neal’s entire 20 year career, So Many Roads is the definitive live Neal Morse release.
Later in 2010, Transatlantic embarked on their biggest tour yet, with dates in 11 nations across Europe and North America. The London, UK show was immortalized for the double-live DVD, Whirld Tour 2010: Live in London.
Neal begins 2011 with completion of his forthcoming progressive rock studio release, Testimony II. Mike Portnoy and Randy George returned to revisit the trio’s unique and powerful chemistry, and as usual, special guests and surprises await.
Neal’s largest ever tour will follow, over the summer, with his international live band led by Collin Leijenaar. Meanwhile, Neal continues development on his unnamed rock opera and a new collaborative mainstream rock project. In 2012, Neal shines brighter than ever with the next remarkable chapter in his musical and spiritual journey.
Scott was raised and has lived in the Seattle, Washington area for his entire life. He started music and drum lessons at the age of 11 and focused his studies on music and film classes throughout his high school years. In 1981, at the age of 17, he founded the now multi-platinum rock band Queensryche. Since the band’s inception thirty years ago, they’ve sold over 20 million albums worldwide and have toured around the world, encompassing 45 countries.
Scott first started composing music for film and television in the late 80’s during his time spent with “The Maestro” Michael Kamen. During that time, Kamen asked Scott to work on some additional drums and percussion for the 1993 film, Last Action Hero, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Michael continued working and mentoring Scott in all aspects of film music and compostion for many years to come, until his unfortunate passing in 2003. This began Scott’s exciting new journey scoring music for film and television. After only a few years in the specialty, Scott received a coveted Grammy Award nomination for Best Original Music for the animated feature film Televoid in 1998.
Scott has done a variety of projects since then including the recently completed additional music and all LIVE drums for the immensely popular video game, Call of Duty: Black Ops. Released in November 2010, the game set a new five-day sales record with an estimated take of approximately $650 million worldwide. Just prior to his involvement with Call of Duty: Black Ops, Scott did the orchestrated and electronic score for the horror flick, Albino Farm, released in September of 2009.
In 2003, Scott Launched his own custom drum company called RockenWraps, which specializes in custom graphic laminated wraps for drums and musical instruments. Working with artists such as Lady Gaga, SlipKnot, Beyonce, Rod Stewart, Rob Zombie, Megadeth, WASP, Metallica, Tesla, 30 Seconds to Mars, Snoop Dog and many many, more, RockenWraps has had a chance to design some of the most memorable drum and stage graphics ever to be available.
Scott also has his own music company, Hollywood Loops, that specializes in Sound FX for film, television and video game composing. Distributed around the world, Hollywood Loops products have now been used in video games such as Call Of Duty: Black Ops and also in numerous film and television trailers.
Scott now has dozens of film, television and multimedia projects to his credit and owns his own state-of-the-art recording studio.
He lives in Seattle with his wife and three kids.
Michael Brandvold is a freelance music industry consultant based in Northern California. Having launched Michael Brandvold Marketing to leverage his years of experience to provide direction to large and small clients in the areas of online & social marketing as well as e-commerce and customer acquisition and retention.
Gene Simmons of KISS first tapped Michael’s skills as a pioneering online marketing strategist to launch and manage all aspects of Kissonline.com’s multi-million dollar enterprise, including their ground-breaking VIP ticket program.
Michael has also managed the online efforts for Motley Crüe, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Ozzy Osbourne, and Britney Spears to name only a few.
It’s been surmised that the success of the long-running TV series “Sex and The City” was due to the fact that each of the very distinct characters represented a fac-et of every woman; the searching and inquisitive Carrie, the highly sensual Saman-tha, the sensible and objective Miranda, and the sweet girl-next-door Charlotte. Together, they are everywoman.
Former pro wrestling personality and touring musician, Goldy Locks, is Ameri-ca‟s real everywoman … and her multi-faceted life is prime fodder for endless non-fictional entertainment. Men want her. Women want to BE her … and mothers want to take care and guide her!
She appeared on the CMT television series, “Running Wild with Ted Nugent” and she just returned from an Armed Forces Entertainment tour in Afghanistan where she and her band entertained US troops serving in harms‟ way. She spent 6 years as a pro wrestling manager and interviewer with Spike TV‟s Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. She has opened shows for some of the biggest names in rock including Saliva, Sevendust, Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Collective Soul, Stevie Nicks, Pink, Pat Benetar, Maroon 5, Ted Nugent and Grand Funk Railroad.
Goldy lockS has appeared on the following albums: “V” is For Viagra, The Remixes, TNA’s Theme Songs, Top Cow Comics The Proximity Effect and Steve O’s Jack Ass compilation, selling over a total of 430,000 copies. She‟s done a hilarious „webisode‟ series including the tongue-in-cheek “Cooking in a Corset” which is as tasty to the eye as the actual recipes are to the palate!
She can be harsh and direct or soft and sweet and her soul is reflected in the songs she writes and performs. Her original “Today I Won‟t Be Afraid” has been used to raise thou-sands of dollars for the YWCA, Sole4Souls and breast cancer prevention. It is also the basis for her schools program in which she gives motivational talks to teens and tweens, urging them to pursue their dreams without fear … and without falling prey to drugs, alco-hol or reckless sex. She looks like a sexy, hard-rockin‟ chick, but Goldy has principles and she stands on them firmly.
Follow Goldy as she navigates the constantly turbulent waters of fronting the touring band that bears her name and plays “boss” to a cast of rock musicians while also managing her successful celebrity photography studio and overseeing her growing accessories line. Laugh out loud as she pursues love through both traditional and online avenues … wait „til you hear her commentary on the photos she receives from men all over the country! She‟s also a relentless “punisher” when it comes to injustice and a mere trip to the local Wal-Mart can result in Goldy‟s public chastising of someone providing poor or disrespectful service, or a parent cruelly disciplining a child.
She lives life out loud, lays it on the line; does it without apology … and in 5 languages! She‟s driven, professional, a neat-freak and an occasional mess, a hard-bodied fitness fanatic and tender heart looking for love but willing to stand on her own. She‟s in search of mad love and wild success and is unwilling to settle.
She‟s Goldy Locks … she‟s everywoman.