Sunday, August 10, 2014

Five Questions With... Jay Mohr

Jay Mohr really doesn't need an introduction. His name is synonymous with so many elements of the entertainment business that it's possible that 6-7 people know who he is, all for completely different reasons.

He is a Hollywood actor who has starred in such movies as Jerry Maguire and Suicide Kings, he spent two seasons as a cast member on Saturday Night Live, and he has starred in several television shows, including a voice cameo in Family Guy, and a spot in the first season of The Jeff Foxworthy Show, playing Foxworthy's brother. He is an active stand up comedian who draws huge crowds nation wide, and he is (was) the creator, host and executive producer of NBC's Last Comic Standing reality TV series.

Jay Mohr played Tom Cruise's agent Bob Sugar in Jerry Maguire.
Somehow despite that huge workload, he still finds time to do his real job - he is the master of ceremonies at Jay Mohr Sports, a talk show on Fox Sports Radio that airs three hours each weekday.

One wouldn't think that a person of his caliber would be approachable, especially to a little ol' rock and roll blog from Iowa, but in fact, he is one of the most accessible entertainers in the business today. He says on his radio show that if you go to his website and send him an email, he will answer it. He has created a super exclusive Twitter club that allows people he follows to communicate with him on the regular, and he is known to have Twitter conversations well into the night. Every stand-up event he performs at is a meet and greet, and he will take the time to shake hands and pose for pictures with every person who stands in line to meet him.

Last week, after a show in Denver, he spent an hour with Travanti Jaramillo being interviewed on Jaramillo's Go From There Podcast. While Jaramillo is exceptionally good at what he does, his name isn't household material. It just goes to show how down to earth Jay Mohr really is.

It's been awhile since we've done the Five Questions With segment on the Bigfoot Diaries, so we thought that we'd test Jay Mohr's accessibility, and see for ourselves just how easy it is to have a correspondence with one of the busiest men in show business. He did not let us down. Here are five completely random questions with Jay Mohr.

Tell me a crazy but true Saturday Night Live story...

Dave Attell and I dared Chris Farley to take a shit out of our window. It was the 17th floor and he did it. He was pretty much all the way out onto the ledge with just his feet and head on the inside of the building. He shit and a little 2 inch poop came out and it fell on the INSIDE of the window and landed on the window sill. He looked around for toilet paper and not seeing any, wiped his ass with his hand. Then he got down from the window ledge and chased Attell and I around the 17th floor like a zombie with his shit hands...

Your impressions are great. Like really great. What is one impression that no matter how hard you try, you are never able to pull it off? What is your current favorite? 

I haven't been able to lock McConaughy down and it's making me nuts. All of my impressions I can either do right away on the firsttry or I can't do it at all. I wanna do McConaughy so bad though that I keep running it out here when I'm in private.. On stage is no place fro an impression to be "pretty good". For real comics, "Pretty good" is fucking horrible. My current favorite is Pacino because it's getting better each night.

What is the entire process of Jay Mohr Sports' daily Twitter Hat Trick contest?

I throw up the bat signal and tell people to tweet the show. I tell them to tweet me, @jymohr37 and to be sure they hashtag it #jaymohrsports ... The show tweets et mixed in with my personal tweets so the # is how I find only show tweets... I check the tweets a few minutes before I go on air and during every commercial break. Then I favorite them and then they get retweeted by @THTC37 and I read the tweets off of there. It's a pretty hectic process and insures that I never really rest for three hours but the tweets are many times the funniest part of the show so it definitely pays off. Whoever I feel has the best three or more tweets on the day wins a follow from me and worldwide fame and glory.

Finish this sentence: You know you are doing a show with Jeff Foxworthy when ______________.

There is no anxiety and everyone is totally relaxed and instead of feeling like you gotta hit out of the park you feel like, "I can't wait to hit it out of the park." one of the single kindest human beings I have ever met and nobody out works him.

What is the nuttiest thing Tom Cruise ever said to you?

My dad and Tom raced a few times on the same race tracks in the north east... One day on set i told him this and he seemed to think it was a pretty cool coincidence. TWO MONTHS later, we were filming at ASU on the football field. it was 3 in the morning and Tom Cruise came up to me and asked out of nowhere, "Ask your dad what gear he uses on turn two at Watkins Glen." It blew my mind that he even remembered my comment 8 weeks earlier let alone thought about my dad when I wasn't around. TC isn't crazy. Jumping on the couch at Oprah he sure looked it but the man is as down to Earth as they come which I would have thought impossible if I hadn't experienced it for three months.


Pertinent Links:

Jay Mohr on Twitter

Mohr Stories Podcast

Official Jay Mohr 

Photo Blog: 311 at Val-Air Ballroom in Des Moines, Iowa on August 7, 2014

Last Thursday 311 came to town and showed Des Moines what's up. 

They played a 22 song set to a very enthusiastic sold out audience with tracks dating throughout their entire 25 year career. The crowd started the party early in anticipation of this show, forming a line as early as 5:00.  As for the concert itself, it seemed to go off without a hitch. 311 has become one of the tightest bands on the travelling circuit.

The show ran deep into the night but the audience's spirit never dampened. The band seemed to feed off of the crowd's energy and as the night wore on, the more fun everybody seemed to have, including the band. At shows end, it seemed impossible that 311 had played a 22 song set. Time flies when you are having fun.

You can check out the evening's setlist here

Highlights were a blistering version of standards "Homebrew" and "Applied Science" from 1994's GRASSROOTS album and "Sand Dollars," a very cool track from their latest album, STEREOLITHIC. Another highlight was the reggae infused "Beyond The Grey Sky" from EVOLVER. The band brought with them an incredible light show with colorful spotlights shooting like laser beams from the stage rafters.

Tim Mahoney and SA Martinez
(All photos by Troy Church and the Bigfoot Diaries - click to enlarge)
Tim Mahoney finding that groove
Chad Sexton 
Nick Hexum
Mahoney and Hexum matching licks
"All Mixed Up"
Mahoney with the halo effect
P-Nut in the pink
Very few can rock the mic like SA Matrinez does.
Chad Sexton during "Beyond the Grey Sky." .
Mahoney in the red zone
Nick Hexum banters with the sold out audience.
Mahoney and Martinez share in Chad Sexton's drum solo.
Hexum and P-Nut
SA Martinez getting "Down."
311 got the groove ya'all 

311 is touring in support of STEREOLITHIC, the band's 13th studio album which debuted at # 6 on the Billboard Charts. Doing so, it became the band's 9th album in a row to debut in the Billboard's Top Ten. (The album also entered #1 on both the Rock and the Indie charts.) The 7 week headlining tour of North America started on June 26th in  Albuquerque, New Mexico and finishes up in mid-August in Salt lake City, Utah.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Multi-Platinum Rock Band 311 To Play Val-Air Ballroom on Thursday, August 7

Omaha born rockers 311 will play the Val-Air Ballroom on Thursday night, marking the first time the band has played Des Moines in several years. They are touring in support of STEREOLITHIC, the band's 13th studio album which debuted at # 6 on the Billboard Charts. Doing so, it became the band's 9th album in a row to debut in the Billboard's Top Ten. (The album also entered #1 on both the Rock and the Indie charts.) The 7 week headlining tour of North America started on June 26th in  Albuquerque, New Mexico and finishes up in mid-August in Salt lake City, Utah.

Doors open at 7:00 and music starts at 8:00.
The first time I heard 311 it was in or about 1994. I was working in Ames as the kitchen manager at People's Bar and Grill, which was a highly renowned music venue. 311 had played there in '93 or '94 and were still considered by many to be an underground band. Music CDs played a great role in our workday flow, and 311's MUSIC and GRASSROOTS fit heavily into our daily rotation.

I had never heard a band that sounded like 311. With elements of rap, rock, funk, reggae groove and soul the closest band I could form a comparison to was the Red Hot Chili Peppers - whom I was also digging at the time - but that comparison wasn't realistic and I knew it. 

311 had it's own distinct sound which enthralled me. I didn't realize it then, but those two CDs would become part of the soundtrack to my life. I knew the words to the songs and as we prepared lunch for the noontime crowd, my buddies and I would sing through the track lists,, changing the CDs  out concurrently. 

Now, years later, I still have those copies. To look at them, one would think that there is no way that they could be played, as they are battle scarred with chips and scratches. The CD cases themselves have lost their hinges, and the two sides lay together like a shiny disc sandwich. Looking back, it seems odd that I never switched out old case for a new one. The last time I played them was about 10 years ago and I remember being surprised that they could  be played without a hitch all the way through.

Through 311 I learned to appreciate styles of music I wasn't familiar with, such as rap and funk, and the feel-good message that they resonated did wonders for my post-teenage soul. Even now as an adult, I feel compelled to play "Homebrew"  (GRASSROOTS) each years' Fourth of July celebration.

311 has evolved as a band that has gone from being sassy young boys who were as known for their consumption of marijuana as they were for their music to grown men who are now regarded as major players in the Los Angeles music industry. They have enjoyed amazing success in their musical career, including the celebration of having sold nearly 9 million albums world-wide.

STEROLITHIC was recorded with longtime collaborator/producer Scott Ralston, best known for his work on some of the band's most popular releases, including MUSIC, 1995's triple-platinum selling 311, 1997's platinum- selling TRANSISTOR and 1999's gold selling SOUNDSYSTEM

STEREOLITHIC was mixed by Ralston and 311 drummer Chad Sexton. 

Rolling Stone described the album as an LP "bursting with joyous choruses and taut grooves" and Entertainment Weekly praised the disc for it's "fattened power chords, reggae stylings and gentle melodies." Relix Magazine wrote, "Keeping true to one's roots while still evolving musically for 24 years is challenging, but these five veteran rockers are arguable some of the most skilled musicians in their scene, and they pull it off with massive success."

From L-R: Tim Mahoney, Chad Sexton, Nick Hexum, P-Nutt, and SA Martinez
311 has had 9 top 10 radio hits, including three No. 1's. Their list of hits includes, "Down," "All Mixed Up," "Amber," "Love Song," "Come Original," Beautiful Disaster," "Don't Tread On Me," "Hey You," and "Sunset In July."

For 11 years now the band as headlined stages across the U.S. with their summer "Unity Tour." They also host an annual Caribbean Cruise - a four night trip from Miami to a private island in the Bahamas attended by thousands.

On Thursday night in Des Moines, fans will be greeted with a musical catalog spanning the band's entire career.


Pertinent Links:

311 Official

Val-Air Ballroom 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Getting to Know: C.W. Smith

To say that CW Smith is an interesting dude would be an understatement. I've enjoyed talking with him in the past, so when he invited me to his house for coffee on one recent Saturday morning, I eagerly obliged. After making a few introductions to his wife and family pets (he has three cats, and he introduced them to me by name) we made our way downstairs to his studio. 

His basement is divided into two parts, One half is a display of guitars, keyboards, and other stringed instruments. In the back sits a complete trap set and a few hand drums. Macintosh computer screens adorn his counter space which he uses to record and mix his music. Nearby is a custom patch bay that he uses to track and layer his songs. He has instruments from every faction of music including a sitar, numerous electric guitars, two baritone guitars, a stand-up bass, a couple of keyboards, the aforementioned drum set and a trumpet. Being in his basement is a lot like being in a music store. He says that when he records an new album, he tries to implement as many instruments into the mix as possible and most of them he plays himself.

"I don't play the keyboards very well," he told me. He said that he brings in Justin Chastain to fill that role on his recordings. "Justin was the keyboard player in my first band, Sound System. 27 years later, he's still my go-to guy when I need a keyboard part."

The other half of his basement is CDs, record albums and cassettes. He also has some open reels and player piano rolls. Heck, he's probably got 8-tracks too.

"At one point it was my goal," he told me to have every available recorded device and something to play it on." 

There are literally thousands of CDs, all organized alphabetically and stored in boxes. Each box is labeled and sits on a shelf, completely full. The big wall contains a huge assortment of music with recordings from a wide assortment of artists. The smaller wall (which actually isn't that much smaller) is perhaps what CW is most proud of - it's filled with Beatles music. Almost every Beatles record is there, every CD, every re-issue, every CD that is remastered, CDs that are not necessarily Beatles CDs, but have a Beatle making a cameo appearance (For instance, he has a copy of the 3 CD set Buck Owens Collection 1959-1990 because Ringo Star makes an appearance on "Act Naturally.")... You get the point. 

CW stands for Curtis Wade, but nobody calls him that except his wife. "I'm fine with that," he says. Interestingly, his wife once lived in a small town in western Iowa called Pisgah. Pisgah is home of the Old Home Cafe made famous by another CW, C.W. McCall. It is the cafe that was featured on the Old Home Filler-Up Keep On Trucking Cafe commercials from the '70s that launched McCall's career. Smith says that the cafe is still in operation. 

CW Smith grew up in Pleasantville, Iowa and has lived in Norwalk, Harford and Des Moines. He graduated high school in Indianola and then attended Iowa State University for a year in 1987. He enjoyed his short tenure in Ames, but while he maintains that Iowa State is a great school, he also maintains that he was not a great student. At the time CW was studying Computer Science, which isn't exactly what an engineering school like Iowa State is known for. After studying for a year, he moved back to Indianola to attend Simpson College. There he he changed his majors to Music and Communication.

A few of the guitars that CW Smith keeps in his basement studio 

In 1992 he was offered a co-ownership position at Trifecta Studios just north of Easton Boulevard in Des Moines. CW seized this opportunity, and with his business partner, Steve Hudspeth, they operated a full function studio for ten years.

In 2002 the studio closed it's doors, and it's actually where CW acquired much of the equipment and a good amount of the musical instruments that he keeps in his basement today. He keeps busy by playing solo gigs in and around the city. He says that he tries to keep it down to just a few gigs a month, but sometimes the opportunities exceed that. You can find him at various coffee shops in the city or at the occasional neighborhood bar, or at the place where he attends worship, the First Unitarian Church. He's set to play Chuck's Restaurant on August 16.

On August 29th, he will be playing at the Chocolaterie Stam, which is exclusively a dessert restaurant. 

When he is not playing music, CW enjoys spending time with his family or working out of the computer shop he owns, CW Smith Computer Services. It is located at 2620 East 9th Street in Des Moines and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8-5. Tuesdays and Thursdays he prefers to work by appointment only. It is then that he likes to schedule his house calls, and he isn't always necessarily in the shop. 

Most of his business comes from fixing computers that are either physically broken or infected with a virus. He is quite adept at working on Windows based machines as well as Macs. "I'm part mechanic," he explains, "and I'm part doctor. I'm part detective, and I'm part guidance counselor."

"I'm also just a good friend to hold your hand," he said with a laugh. "I like to say that sometimes I wish my bank account reflected how busy I am, but I do get honest pay for honest work. I will go above and beyond for my customers."

Sometimes, like at any job, things will get a bit hectic in the shop. For those moments, CW keeps a couple of what he calls "emergency guitars" close by. They are his go-to stress reliever when things get a little crazy. "You just never know." he says.

A Function of Time

CW just released A Function of Time, an album that was 20 years in the making. It contains 14 songs, mostly about the modest life that he lives. "I'd say it's semi-autobiographical," he told me as he took a sip of coffee. "There are scenes from my own life, with some fiction thrown in."

The album contains songs about road construction, ("You Can't Get There From Here"), juggling work and family time ("A Function of Time," "Yesterday, a Long Time Ago," "Fall Back in Love With Me"), children's fantasy play ("Under the Radar"), information overload ("Too Much Information"), faith and doubt ("Have Faith In Me," "Leap of Faith"), and the long-term pain of loss ("Eyes of a Common Man."). 

"'Don't Mind Me' is pure wordplay," he adds. "Just me having fun with chords and rhymes." 

And I don't have a care
I'll just sit right back in a comfortable chair
And I won't feel a thing
As I ponder all the things that the Universe brings to me ..
Baby, don't mind me

When asked about his influences, Smith offers a wide variety, all of which find their way into his musical vein. There's Big Star, David Bowie, Tom Petty and even Television and Crowded House. But he admits that most of his influence comes from The Beatles, whom obviously, CW pays a strong homage to.

While Smith spent 20 years painting the edges around A Function of Time he kept busy with other projects. Before that he released four full-length CDs, all of which were created solo except for I Think There's Something Here and Au Naturel:  Raw Naked Tracks which he co-wrote with Rob Straughn. Smith has released four more albums, which are EP length. 

"I'm thankful for my songwriting partners, Rob Straughn, Bryan Baker, Justin Chastain, Steve Hudspeth," Smith explained. "I've learned a little from each of them."

You can catch CW Smith live at Mom's Place (910 Hull Avenue) on Friday, August 8th at 9:00 PM. The following night you can see him perform at Green Grounds Cafe in Valley Junction from 3:30-5:30 PM. 

The following is a list of his other shows in August and September:

Ritual Cafe: Second Thursday at Ritual Cafe, August 7, 7:00 PM

Chuck's Restaurant: Saturday, August 16, 7:00-10:30 PM 

KFMG FM 99.1 on Iowa Homegrown: Sunday, August 24, 4:00 PM

Chocolaterie Stam: Saturday, August 29, 7:00-9:30 PM

Hotel Patee, Perry: Saturday, September 6, 7:00-10:00 PM

Ritual Cafe: Second Thursday at Ritual Cafe, September 11, 7:00-9:00 PM

Green Grounds Cafe: Friday, September 19, 6:00-8:00 PM

Whether CW Smith is playing an acoustic solo show or if he is removing a virus from a laptop computer in his shop, one thing is certain: He approaches each task he does with genuine love. When you meet CW, you instantly realize what a great and friendly guy he is. He conducts himself in a manner that defies ego but he operates with a high sense of integrity. 

Extremely proud of the life he has created for himself and his family, he makes no excuses for who he is. Whether he is in his shop or making music, he leaves no stone unturned in regards to detail and the values in which he lives his life. CW Smith  is a rare bird and an incredible asset to the Des Moines community.


CW Smith Computer Services

CW Smith's Music Page CW Smith's Complete Catalog and Music Store

CW Smith's Reverb page