t was the year that wasn't supposed to look like much. In late 2017, ROCKWIRED made the decision to cease publication of our monthly magazine and simply focus on beefing up our website with articles that would've ended up on the magazine anyway. Within the first few weeks of the year 2018, we noticed a huge change in ROCKWIRED. Our traffic started to go through the roof. This year proved to us that pulling back and keeping things simple is the way to go. While we miss the look and feel of ROCKWIRED MAGAZINE, we love the sight of readers from throughout the continent and beyond visiting our website to catch up on what's exciting in the world of independent rock n roll. This straightforward approach goes back to our site's early days before we got into podcasting and publishing a monthly magazine, and right now, we feel that it is right where we need to be. Scaling things back certainly didn't hinder the number of bands and artists who came out way. Throughout our calendar year, the reader's have selected their favorite artists in our ARTIST OF THE MONTH competitions. Now, it is my turn as ROCKWIRED's editor to share with you the twenty artists and bands who made the year something special. This is a year end traditon for me and while it's always a great deal of fun, it's always a challenge going through the list of artists that we've featured. This Editor's Choice list has also been something of a weathervane for the annual ROCKWIRED READER'S POLL AWARDS. This list has traditionally given readers an idea of who they can expect to be nominated in our annual READER'S POLL contest, so think of this list of amazing bands and artists as the kick off for our annual awards season.
It was a year full of twists and turns both professionally and personally and I'm pleased to have had this music as the soundtrack for it. If you are not a regular reader of ROCKWIRED.COM, it is quite possible that you have never heard of any of these artists, so in that case, we are pleased to provide you videos of their work as well. If we've turned you on to something new, than I feel that we've done our job as a publication. Here are the twenty bands and artists who made ROCKWIRED rock this year:
he first band to truly jump out at us in 2018 was the West Virginia-based metal band HYDROGYN. Not only had the band signed with the fledgling label RFL RECORDS and released their new album REDEMPTION, they also came out guns blazing with a dynamic new lead singer in ERICA PARROTT. According to founder and guitarist JEFF WESTLAKE, the addition of PARROTT was a welcomed change that has set the band in a bold new direction. Here is what he had to say about what PARROTT brings to the table as the band's new frontwoman. "Attitude. Lots of attitude and a gruffer voice. I always had the idea to be the kind of band that IN THIS MOMENT has ended up being years and years before they came out but it wasn't something that JULIE wanted to do with her voice or could do - whatever the case may be. But ERICA brings that to the table and she's got a lot of attitude and she's not interested in being a model in the same way that JULIE was. JULIE was interested in the image of it a little more than she was interested in the music. That is the major difference right there and it really shows up in the music. You listen to the album REDEMPTION and you listen to any other album from the band you can hear that attitude. It's not hard to figure out."
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little over two years ago, we first became acquainted with the axmanship of Russian born guitarist JAY KATANA and his studio wizardry that combines metal guitar with EDM dance rhythms. He kicked off 2018 with the release of his album BRIGHTER THAN YOU FUTURE - a dig at any potential haters of out there. When we spoke to him at the beginning of the year, he had this to say about what he hoped to accomplish musically. "My main goal was to make the guitar shine in new colors. I've been listening to a lot of guitar instrumental music laely and I've learned that nothing has changed with it since the nineties. It's all the same thing. It's all about playing faster and faster and faster with the same scales. Nothing changes. I want to do something where guitar music lends itself to more modern music like EDM and dubstep or even hip hop. I want to give inspiration to guitarists out there. If someone takes it from here, we'll all be taking guitar to the next level."
he mixture of hip hop and metal has always been a delectable sounds for us here at ROCKWIRED and in 2018, it was WE ARE BAND NERDS who grabbed the brass ring with their album FORGET-ME-NOTS. How could we forget all that this band had to offer musically? When we spoke with rapper TONY LUCAS regarding the band's evolution from hip hop band to a musical project that embraced rhymes on an equal footing with heavy metal flourishes, he had this to say about the band's sonic changes over the years. "Whenever we started incorporating more hard rock and metal elements into what we were doing with our hip hop music people started to respond very positively to what we were doing. I'm not completely sure for what reason but as soon as we started doing that, people responded to the music very well because it's not something you hear a lot of anymore. It was something that was very popular in the past. Currently, you've got some people out there making that kind of music but they don't approach it in the same way that we do and they don't have the background that we have in rapping and hip hop and stuff like that. We approach this music very differently and because of that we've gotten some positive responses."
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OCKWIRED and MICK McMAINS go back a long way. All the way to 2006 when he was part of the trip hop/poetry collective known as DJ MONKEY. It was the sort of inspired protest music that got us through the BUSH years and now, McMAINS stands on his own two feet as an Americana singer songwriter on his debut album AMERICAN SOUL. When we spoke to him earlier this year, he had relayed to me that he was the least political of the members of the former DJ MONKEY, but after giving his inspired debut album a listen, we were relieved to learn that AMERICAN SOUL isn't an album without a message. "The record is called AMERICAN SOUL and on the cover is a picture of my grandparents and my great-grandparents. It's this old family picture that sits on my mantle and I ended up using it for the cover. My family has been here for frickin ever but not as long as the Native Americans. The american soul right now is really in a quandary. You've got the loudmouth, racist, hillbilly faction that are really noisy and people have to be reminded that most people of the white culture aren't like that. We don't hate anybody. We need everybody. Speaking as a musician, where would we be without frickin' black people. We wouldn't even have rock n roll. That whole racist thing has never been in my family. Not for hundreds of years. We're trying to remind people that we're not like those people. I don't know how else to say it nicely. That's the idea. These are positive songs about living the right way and having a good time without hurting anybody and being accepting. So there you go."
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hen our podcast ROCK SHOW was doing it's thing, we got a submission from this Boston-based, all-female progressive metal band. Progressive metal isn't known for having a woman's touch. Maybe that isn't the most PC observation to make in these #metoo times, but we're grateful that an all female band like FLIGHT OF FIRE is out there making some noise. The band has built a reputation on the sort of musical virtuosity that has made bands like DREAM THEATER a big deal, but in 2018 they released the single SICK IN LOVE, which took a more direct approach. When we spoke with the band, bassist TIA MAYHEM had this to say about what she thought the main takeway should be from the band's music. "My biggest hope is that people will hear our music and be inspired to take action in their life. I know that I have a problem with dreams and ambitions and I'm afraid to do them and I want for people to not be afraid. I wnat people tojust go and live their life. Who knows what happens when we all die so we might as well do all that we can while we're here. I hope people tka that into consideration when they hear our music and get inspired to do things to make their lives how they want it."
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hy is it that we never think of the sartorial, rebellious sound of punk coming out of the great white north? It all seems so genteel from a distance but TED AXE kept the music scene in Toronto interesting as part of the punk rock band THE ACTION in the late seventies. It was this band that introduced punk to our neighbors up North. As time went on, AXE's punk edge took on more of a glam approach and in 2018, he returned to the studio with his solo album SEX HORROR VIOLENCE. Interviewing the guy was a hell of a lot of fun and that interview was one of the highlights for us in 2018. Here is what he had to say about the album the released."It's a new direction for me - that sparse territory of seventies sex drugs and rock n roll. It's more glam but it's a different kind of glam. I think I'd call it alt-glam. It's really been a departure for me and it's great to see it take off. Before, I was doing this sort of eighties glam rock for about ten years. It started when I formed a band in Seattle called SISTER HYDE and migrated it to Toronto, but it wasn't a sound that I was really proud of. It didn't represent me. I'm not a party animal type of guy. I'm way more dark. I'm more mature now and it's not about about that obvious sex thing that I was mining for years and years. All of that stuff having to do with groupies and backstage sex and all of the mythological stuff that doesn't really happen. You know what I mean? So yeah, It's great to see the album take off. I feel that it's a representation of my honest emotions. I'm fascinated by the duality of people and the JECKYL AND HYDE aspect of the human brain. These songs are about that kind of duality."
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he band STUCK MOJO are the unsung heroes and pioneers in the rap metal sound that came to typify rock n roll in the early part of the century and in this year's list, we have former front man LORD NELSON represented. This isn't the first time that we've been acquainted with a former member of that seminal band. In the past, we've given it up for founding front man BONZ. Now LORD NELSON is a favorite of ours and in 2018, he and guitarist SEB L graced the pages of ROCKWIRED.COM with news of their new album BACK ON THE ROAD - a concept album about getting back to basics and doing what one does best. When I spoke with LORD NELSON about the differences between being with STUCK MOJO and collaborating with SEB L, he had this to say. "When I was with STUCK MOJO, RICH and I really worked well together. We vibed really, really well together, but when I joined that band, the foundation for who they are as band was already put in place. Even though I brought a different element to STUCK MOJO, I could never replace BONZ. That there is my brother. With SEB, it's like I'm free to be me. There is no holding back. There are so many things that I feel like I can do as far as music and writing is concerned. I feel free to do whatever I want. I can go wherever I feel the music moves me. There are no restrictions which isn't to say that RICH from STUCK MOJO was putting restrictions on me. There wasn't anything like that. It's just that this thing that I have going with SEB is our project. It's all good and it makes me feel good to have free reign over the music we are putting out there."
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NUFF Z'NUFF was a band that I fell in love with back in 1989 when they had had released their self-titled debut album. I was only fourteen years old and even then, I remember noticing the raves the band was receiving from music critics. In those days, bands who teased their hair up and wore makeup never earned such acclaim, but these guys did. Almost thiry years later, ENUFF Z'NUFF is still at it, but this time, bassist and co-founder CHIP Z'NUFF calls all of the shots. In 2018, the band the surprised the hell out of us with the release of their album DIAMOND BOY. The bands embrace of glam rock and just about every iteration of rock that came after that was on full display on their latest recording and CHIP Z'NUFF had this to say about it. "At the end of the day we're just another rock n roll band out there. Maybe there is some inspiring message to the music or an answer to one of your questions about life, but at the end of the day we just want to put a great record out and leave an indelible mark on the audience and maybe there is a movie out there or a TV show or commercial that could use a song or maybe a band out there wants to record one of these songs for their next album. That's cool with me. At this point in my career, who cares who drives the bus? I just want to get to the picnic. There are a lot of good things that have provided a wonderful opportunity for ENUFF Z'NUFF and to be able to go out on tour and play these songs live is the biggest, best thing that I can give back to the audience."
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hen we first became acquainted with STATION back in 2014, they were making waves for their melodic hard rock sound that many viewed as a retro move. It's sad when you live in a musical environment where being melodic makes people think that you're living in the past. To us, the sound of STATION is simply timeless hard rock. In 2018, STATION released their latest album MORE THAN THE MOON and the single I WON'T BREAK YOUR HEART was chock full of the glorious bombast we've come to expect from these guys. Oh, and that music video was a hoot! Here is what guitarist CHRIS LANE had to say about what has surprised him the most since embarking on this musical journey with his bandmates. "The thing that has surprised me the most about our experience in how we interact with people is how some people are unwilling to give things a chance but when they are thrown into that situation, they do. One of the things I was surprised by was this. We're from New York City and it is a pretty tough place to play music because in a lot of other places, you get a night where two bands are playing and it's like "Oh no! We're competing with the other band!" In New York City, you're not competing against other bands. You're competing against everyone's social life. You are competing against birthday parties, Broadway shows and other things. When we first started playing, it was a struggle to find a way to stand out and making people want to come to our show instead of something else. When we go to places that aren't in New York City, we're playing in places where people are just hanging out and they don't really seem interested. But, by the end of the show, they've bought a CD. It's amazing to me how we're able to catch people in an environment like that and then having them in our corner when the show ends. I'm sure if we asked any of them if they would buy a CD from a band like ours, I'm sure they would say no. As an avid music lover, if you tell me about something I haven't heard, I'll listen to it the first chance I get. But most people who are not of that mindset won't be out at shows and when you do see them, they are open to it. They just don't realize it."
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RSY FOX was one of the most dynamic front women that we've featured in the year 2018. Her band KNEE HIGH FOX walked away with the ARTIST OF THE MONTH title in the month of May, on the strength of the band's 2018 album JAWBREAKER - a title inspired by the 1999 cult film starring ROSE McGOWAN. In fact, when we spoke with KRSY, we found that much of her music is inspired by cult films of the nineties. Even the band's first single off of the album was titled AMERICAN BEAUTY. When we spoke with KRSY, she decribed to us her evolution from songwriter to frontwoman. "I actually started as a songwriter. I was an actress as a kid and then took up songwriting. It was this passionate fun thing for me to do but through that I found myself working with THEORY OF A DEAD MAN and we ended up writing songs like BAD GIRLFRIEND and HATE MY LIFE. This song blew up overnight and before I knew it I was getting phone calls from other bands to write songs with them. I've had the pleasure of writing with bands like HALESTORM and POP EVIL and it just took off from there. I kind of put acting to the side and started focusing on music and then realized that I needed a creative outlet that was more selfish to keep what I was doing fresh and exciting all of the time. So that was when KNEE HIGH FOX started to come together and all of my movie inspirations and my visuals came into play. I was always a big fan of theatrical bands such as MANSON and ALICE COOPER. I really wanted to incorporate that kind of aesthetic but at the same time do something a little different. So that's kind of how it all started."
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he often-described sweaty sax man released his debut album in 2018 and ROCKWIRED was there to speak with this curious pop culture icon. Saxophonist TIM CAPPELLO is best remembered for his shirtless, pelvic thrusting appearance in the 1987 film THE LOST BOYS where he issued some mean sax riffs and vocals for the single I STILL BELIEVE. Those few minutes on screen have made a huge impression and have made CAPPELLO a favorite on the COMIC CON circuit. Of course, I remembered him from his days as part of TINA TURNER's live band. In 2018, he took centerstage with the release of his album BLOOD ON THE REED and of all of the artists featured on ROCKWIRED this year, ...REED stood out by a mile. Here is what CAPPELLO had to say about the release. "It was pretty much me playing every single note. My sister came up and we have a nice blend on vocals, so she came up and she and I sang the background vocals together. It was about three years ago when I first started doing conventions like COMIC CON that I needed a background recording of I STILL BELIEVE, because they would always want me to come along and play the song onstage at the conventions. I was only too happy to do it and I just got some of my favorite players that I play with a lot and that feel comfortable to me, and that was how the idea for the album got rolling. I pretty much just played every note. I just knew what I wanted and I didn't want to go with anybody who would want something else. I just knew what I wanted it to sound like. I knew that I wanted it to be mostly covers, because I didn't want to bore people with too many songs that they had never heard of. I wrote two of the songs on the album. All the rest are all very well known songs. I thought I would try a different approach. I thought I would try twisting these songs around. I wanted to do these songs in a way that no one had ever done them. HIGHWAY 61 is now a heavy metal soca and ONLY YOU is a heavy metal dance hall thing. There is a lot of groove on it, but I also really wanted a lot of my playing at it's most I STILL BELIEVE vibe. I wanted my playing to be in that style, so that is what I did. Those are the songs that I came up with. Of course these songs don't come from the same era as I STILL BELIEVE but I feel that vocally and saxophonistically, that they are very similar. When I say BLOOD ON THE REED, I mean it. After a heavy session of playing saxophone for three or four hours on the record, I'd look on that reed and there would definitely be a spot or two of blood. It's not just a euphemism."
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igned to the fledgling label G4L RECORDS, the Texas-based band TO WHOM IT MAY were able to create some noise in 2018 with the release of their album THE GREAT FILTER - inspired by the FERMI PARADOX - a theory set up to explain why we haven't made contact with intelligent life. Rock n roll is our business at ROCKWIRED, but we'd welcome existential discussion any time. When we spoke with JONATHAN JOURDAN of TO WHOM IT MAY, he spoke about the connection between the title of their new album and the band's determination. "Personally, I love science and sci-fi. I'm a big fan of all forms of science. The way it kind of came to us is that we as a band were dealing with things in our own lives. We were all in a previous band together and it was kind of falling apart. We had been in this band for about nine years and we had tried all of these different angles and we started asking ourselves, is this the end? Are we going to have another project? This was all before we decided to form TO WHOM IT MAY. What ended up happening was we started creating demos and the demos turned into songs. At that point, I wasn't even the singer yet, but I figured I'd try singing on these songs and see how that goes. All of these pieces came together with this record. Before we knew it, what we had created became our own "great filter". For anyone who doesn't know what the Great Filter is, it's this concept of this 99.9% impassable step for intelligent life. Most intelligent life doesn't get past it but some can get through and the question is "Are we through the great filter yet?" That was the question we were asking ourselves as a band before we put this record out. This album really became the band's "great filter". I feel like we've come through it and I like to think that we're that 0.1% success story."
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uitarist ERIC McFADDEN suprised the hell out of us in 2018 with the release of his album PAIN BY NUMBERS. For years, he's been an in demand ax man for the likes of GEORGE CLINTON and ERIC BURDON, but with PAIN BY NUMBERS, he truly shines not only as a guitarist, but as a singer and songwriter as well. Giving the man some top notch back up are drummer TERRENCE HIGGINS, bassist DOUG WIMBISH (LIVING COLOUR) and keys and production by TAB BENOIT. Recorded in and around New Orleans, McFADDEN and the gang captured something special. When we spoke ERIC, he had this to say about his hopes for the album's reception. "I would like for people to identify with it personally on some level. For me, one of the purposes of music, I think, is to connect with people and be able to speak your own truth, pain or experience and hopefully people will identify with it and hopefully will be able to heal themselves in some way. If not that, I hope people at least have a damn good time listening to it. There is nothing contrived about it. It's a genuine album. I feel that if you don't like the record, you probably don't like me. I guess that's the best I can put it."
ver since THE WHITE STRIPES decided to a eschew bass players, it seems like guitar and drum duos have crawled out of the woodwork, but in the case of KRASHKARMA, the bass can still be heard thanks guitarist RALF DIETEL's creation of the FRANKENSTEIN GUITAR, armed with both guitar and bass pick ups. The FRANKENSTEIN motif is apropos for the band who have relied heavily on ingenuitiy and countless hours on the road both Stateside and throughout Europe. In 2018 they released their LP MORPH and teh proceedings are all abotu survival of the fittest - something that DIETEL and drummer NIKI SKISTIMAS know all about in this current rock n roll environment. Here is what guitarist RALF DIETEL had to say about the inspiration for the band's latest album. "The album is called MORPH and it's all about morphing into a monster. The songs on this album describe how we turned from a four piece band into a two piece band. That change really wasn't by choice. It was due to a certain set of cirumstances. We could either quit or morph into something else, and that was what we did basically. It was do or die for us at one point. We had another tour lined up and we had to go on the road and after losing two members, we just decided to soldier on as a two piece. It's our survival instinct as a band that has informed the songs on this album. As a result of those changes, I built this guitar with a bass pickup and a guitar pickup that could make these crazy sounds. That one guitar sounds like several people are playing but it's just me on guitar and bass with this crazy pedal set up. That was the inspiration for this album."
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here are a lot of instances of people stepping out from the background and into the light on this list of artists. Drummer LONNIE HAMMER has provided the heavy metal thunder for the likes of JACK RUSSELL's GREAT WHITE, EVERY MOTHER'S NIGHTMARE and BLACK OAK ARKANSAS and in 2018, he stepped up to the microphone for his solo poroject HAMMER DOWN HARD. The album TOTAL ANNIHILATION helped earn his a spot as ROCKWIRED.COM'S ARTIST OF THE MONTH in September. "Honestly, I always wanted to do this project. At first, I didn't exactly nominate myself to be the lead singer. I knew I could sing, given my experience singing background. This whole thing started with the name HAMMER DOWN HARD. I did some drum tracks and put some vocals on top of them and I wanted to get booked for this upcoming ROCK FEST, so I called up the promoter to see what I needed to do to get on the bill. He told me that I needed to send him an email. So I did and before I knew it, HAMMER DOWN HARD was on the bill for ROCK FEST. My manager KIM really started freaking out because I didn't have one song written and no band members, but I knew how diligent of a worker I am and I know my ethics and my manager's ethics. I've always had some great people behind me. To get some songs ready, I went into the studio with JUSTIN RIMER of 12 STONES. I told him about what I wanted to do and right away, he couldn't believe that there was a drummer that could actually sing. So we went into the studio and recorded a demo for the song WHO I AM back in November or December. When we got something done, we sent it to ZACH MYERS. JUSTIN told him it was me so ZACH gave it a listen and he did not expect what he heard. ZACH ended up playing guitar on WHO I AM. After that, JUSTIN and I started writing more material. I know a lot of people in the industry, so I started reaching out to friends and the whole thing kind of snowballed. I've got TONY CARDENAS MONTANA from JACK RUSSELL'S GREAT WHITE, BRIAN QUINN from CANDLEBOX, DONNIE WAYNE SMITH from WINGER, LOU KOUVARIS from RIOT and DEVIN HIGHTOWER from SURRENDER THE FALL. This whole thing has snowballed into this huge record with all of these heavy cats playing on it. I can't believe how lucky I am. I feel very fortunate and I couldn't be happier."
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