Tag Archives: Cutting Crew

“What Did I…” (Feat. Dom Brown): Authentically Michael Kratz!

Amanda and I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful fellow fans, and people we would have likely never crossed paths with otherwise. Recently, another such moment occurred when Amanda texted me while I was camping in the middle of a forest in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington (shout out for wi-fi!), letting me know that Dom was a featured guitar player for a new song by someone named Michael Kratz out of Denmark. I diligently downloaded the song when I got home, and enjoyed the slight flashback to the 80s in the process. I blogged about it, and assumed that would be the end of the story, right?

Wrong.

A few weeks later, I got an email from Michael himself, thanking me for writing about it, and offering me the chance to get an early copy of another unreleased song that also features Dom.

First of all, I have to tell you that Michael is the real deal. He’s a very nice guy, with a fantastic career to boot. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of him prior to August of this year, but like most other things in life—the more you know, the more you recognize you really don’t know.  Secondly, Michael Kratz is a Duranie. Who knew?!? (turns out, a lot of Duran fans did. I’m just a bit late to the party, as usual!)  I promptly asked Michael if he’d be willing to do a short Q&A for me since I know next to nothing about him, to which he agreed, and it wasn’t long after that I had new music and a Q&A in my inbox greeting me.

If I had to sum up Michael in one word,  it would be “authentic”. He is genuine in every sense, including his approach to music, which he describes as “old school”.  His sound gives a loud shout out to the 1980’s, and Michael embraces this.

“I think my sound is pretty old-school. After many years in the music business I figured out, that I must be honest to myself and my roots. I have released several albums with different bands, but it was difficult for me to relate to the way the music was produced.”

He likes to call his brand of music West Coast, and if you think back to bands like Toto, Michael McDonald, Richard Marx, Marc Jordan…and I’d even add a bit of Cutting Crew to that list…his music fits in very well in that lineup.  Rather than try to be something he’s not, he found a producer, namely Kasper Viinburg (and his father Ole Viinburg) who understood and appreciated the sound he was trying to attain. I think any of us who have been around for the entire evolution of Duran Duran recognize how difficult it can be to find a producer that is equal parts of push and pull (pushing to reach new levels, pulling the authentic, real sound out).

Having grown up on the west coast, I certainly heard a lot of that music on the radio.  If you take a look at my iTunes, you’ll see quite a bit of that in my library as evidence. It isn’t a stretch for me to listen to “What Did I…”.  As I listen to the opening notes, I can’t help  but think of Richard Marx, in the same way that I thought of Toto or Michael McDonald when I heard “Never Take Us Alive”.  While sure, the sound isn’t necessarily pulse-pounding, state-of-the-art EDM, it is clear, authentic, and real, which I appreciate.  Dom’s guitar gives the melody a modern edge without completely blowing the song out of the water. There’s something to be said in this day and age for music that holds true to the roots of the writer while seeking to be contemporary. “What Did I…” hits all of those notes. A little something more I picked up on after listening several times— Dom’s blues influence is evident. I challenge anyone to give this a listen, and then take “Please, Please” from Dom’s Blue to Brown for a spin. The similarities are there for the taking.

Overall, I’m thrilled to help out a fellow Duranie. There’s a part of me that finds a certain poetic justice in the fact that once again, it’s Duran Duran’s music that brings people together. I may have never heard of Michael had Dom never recorded with him. Yet here I am, writing about how like many of us, Michael recorded Sing Blue Silver from TV back in 1985, and he rewound and played “Save a Prayer” over and over again because he loved the song so much. Who hasn’t done that with their own favorite song or band member?  Michael has also had the chance to see the band quite a bit over the years, although because he’s a musician in his own right, he’s missed opportunities. Michael cites a story that only seems familiar to me because my overall luck has been similar.

“Back in 2008 when DD played in Odense (DK), I was playing in a venue right next to the stage. I got to see the support act (Saybia) and 10 minutes before DD should enter the stage I had to leave for my own soundcheck. So while tuning my drums I could hear the band’s starter, The Valley, and I couldn’t go out to see them. That was a bad day!”

While we’re on common ground as far as being fans goes, I can’t say I’ve ever missed a DD concert because a gig of my own was happening at the same time! Then there’s meeting and recording with a fellow musician who just happens to tour with Duran Duran…

“I just wrote him [Dom Brown] an email one Sunday afternoon.  I sent him some tracks and we talked about styles etc. and agreed to meet in October last year. My producer and I stayed with Dom at his studio for two days and we did two songs (“Never Take Us Alive” and “What Did I ..?”. He is very nice and it was very easy to work with him.”

Michael Kratz is one hard-working musician. “What Did I…” is due out tomorrow, so grab your copy!  His new album, Live Your Life, which includes “What Did I…”, is due out October 26. In addition to Dom, Michael worked Steve Lukather of Toto, Michael Landau (Michael Jackson, Richard Marx), and David Garfield (George Benson).  He describes the album as ranging from the classic pop/rock vibe heard in “What Did I…” to a more modern Brit-pop, which intrigues me.  He also has re-recorded his first album, Cross that Line, which was just released, and then on November 30, he will release a double live-album that was recorded in February of 2017.

If being hard-working in the studio isn’t enough, Michael is also easy to connect with online. He’s no slouch to social media, and MANY Duranies have already found him on Facebook as well. (I dare say that I know of a guitar player that could learn a little something about self-promotion from him)

I want to thank Michael for pushing me to get back in touch with my own roots. Since first hearing his music, I find myself gravitating to my old Cutting Crew and Toto albums, which has been a refreshing change of pace. There’s something about the authenticity in the music that I’ve been enjoying, and it’s good to hear someone like Michael staying true to himself. The fact that he’s also a Duranie is a bonus! I look forward to staying in touch and keeping up-to-date with what he’s working on.

“What Did I…” and “Never Take Us Alive” are available on all digital platforms worldwide (“What Did I…” drops tomorrow!), and they’re also available as CD’s from Michael’s website http://www.michaelkratz.net.

If you want to connect with Michael Kratz (and I really think you should!), check him out:

Michael on Facebook

Michael on Twitter

Michael on Instagram

-R

 

 

 

 

 

Palm Springs and Lost80s Live

As I mentioned yesterday, I spent the weekend in Palm Springs. The Lost80s Live concert was at Agua Caliente Resort and Casino again, but this time, I decided to stay off property. My husband and I stayed at a tiny little boutique hotel close to downtown Palm Springs called La Maison. I’m giving them free advertising here because it is wonderful. It’s more of an inn and less of a hotel because it’s owned by a couple that treat their customers like actual guests in their home. There’s a pool, just twelve rooms, and it is QUIET (very unlike my home). In a word, it was heavenly, and I would suggest that anyone who is traveling to Palm Springs check it out.

On Saturday night, we had tickets to the Lost80s Live concert. Let me first acknowledge that any time I drive to Rancho Mirage, or better yet the Agua Caliente hotel, I immediately think about Duran Duran. So, when I drove past a billboard advertising the “Best Entertainment” in Palm Springs, it was no surprise to me that I recognized the people on stage in the background photo. (John, Simon & Dom) I didn’t grab a picture because I was driving and my co-pilot is not that quick. I’m glad I’m not the only one that recognizes what or who deserves the label of “best entertainment”.  After getting to the hotel, we went to will-call and grabbed our tickets. In full disclosure, I paid about $65 a seat, and as such, we were not in the front row. That said, we were still in orchestra, just off to the far left – or John’s side – of the stage.

(Will there ever be a time when I stop referring to the sides as “John’s” or “Dom’s”?  Probably not.)

Our seats were much better than I had even thought, even though we were back in row J and off to the extreme left as you look at the stage. The angle of the seats meant that our view was perfect. The people in front of us didn’t block, and there was AMPLE room for dancing without bothering the people behind us.  I have to say, out of the venues I’ve ever been to – this one has amazing seat layout. There just isn’t a bad seat in the place, even if you’re way up in third balcony.

The show started right on time with TransX taking the stage. The one thing I’ll say is that many of these “bands” really WERE bands back in the day, but nowadays, it’s only one person left playing with session musicians. The bands on the bill were primarily one-hit wonders, with a few bigger names thrown in. They weren’t really “KROQ” or alternative bands, a little more mainstream or top 40. TransX, The Flirts, Pretty Poison all played two songs each, and to be brutally honest – they were fine, just not that exciting to write about.

Now things were beginning to look up. Berlin took the stage next, and although I have seen Berlin about ten times over the years, Terri Nunn always puts on a good show. Tonight was no exception, although she forgot the words to (ha ha ha) “No More Words” about 2/3 of the way through. “I have been singing this song for THIRTY YEARS and I can’t remember the words!!” she said as she laughed. Her backup singer/guitarist kindly obliged, and guided her back on course. It wasn’t horrible, and a mistake easily forgiven.  Berlin was given the chance to do four songs: “No More Words”, “Take My Breath Away”, “Sex” and “Metro”.

The next band was one of the couple I was most excited to see, as  Cutting Crew took the stage.  I didn’t realize that I was going to need to serious research in order to blog about some of these groups – but in this case, I did.

I have never seen Cutting Crew live before, but I own Broadcast, and admittedly – I still know every word to every song on the album.  I have vague memories of playing the cassette over and over again in my (dating myself) Suzuki Samurai (yes, the vehicle that was known for tipping over back in the 80s. Mine never tipped, despite my best…and very stupid efforts…to drive it like a sports car. Someday I’m going to have to find pictures of it and post them here).  Apparently, Duran Duran was not the only band to grace the crappy, cheap stereo system I had for that poor vehicle!!  Once I knew for sure who it was on stage (I didn’t hear anyone announce them), I jumped up out of my seat. To the best of my knowledge at the time, the band onstage were all a part of Cutting Crew, but that was not the case.

Nick Van Eede, the lead singer, said that they’d come all the way from the UK for 15 minutes, but that he hadn’t yet worked out how many miles per minute that meant. They played one new song – “Till the Money Runs Out”, and a precious two songs off of Broadcast: “I’ve Been in Love Before” and “I Just Died in your Arms”.  It has been a long time since I was driven to tears at a show (I lie. It was in San Francisco by the band I’m normally writing about here!), but I was. Sometimes I forget how much these songs shaped me as a person, and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. I hope Cutting Crew comes back to the US with more of what they’ve been writing – I’ll be there in a heartbeat. They could have easily played ALL of Broadcast and I would have happily stood there.

Naked Eyes took the stage next, and for me, the performance just lagged. I don’t know if it’s because it truly wasn’t as energetic or if it was because I wanted more from Cutting Crew…but that’s the way it goes.

Something strange happened next, as two of the guys who had performed with Cutting Crew came back on stage. I was very confused, because I didn’t know who they were – and I actually had hoped that maybe they’d sent Cutting Crew back out for more (keep dreaming, right?) Nope. This was Nick Feldman (the bassist) from Wang Chung, and Gareth Moulton, who is the guitarist (and a fine one at that) from Cutting Crew – moonlighting as the other half of Wang Chung. It’s getting to the point where I feel like a primer is needed before I go to these sorts of shows! They were truly the surprise of the night for me because they were awesome!  Whatever was lacking in certain artists and bands before, these guys made up for it in spades. They just had a spark that was contagious, and the entire audience was up on their feet. I loved their short set, as they treated us to “Dance Hall Days”, “Everybody Have Fun Tonight”, and “Let’s Go”.  Such fun.

The last band to take the stage was Tony Hadley, whom I reviewed yesterday.  The show was a lot of fun, and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed I went. Going to see these bands reminds me of just how much a part of my heart belongs to music. Yeah, some of it is schmaltzy and uncool – definitely not as edgy as Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Guns and Roses – but they are songs that I’ve attached to certain memories, and it was fun to revisit part of my past that didn’t necessarily include Duran Duran for a little while that night. Lost80s Live was a lot of fun, if you have the opportunity, I recommend the show!

-R