Rian Johnson lazily lets the past die in The Last Jedi

This isn’t a review of the latest Star Wars movie. (but it DOES contain SPOILERS) This is a look back at some of the plot holes that ruin the film.

First off, if you like or love the movie, that’s great. I’m not here to argue. In fact, I’ve seen it twice in the theater and enjoyed it, when I was able to look past huge plot holes and missed opportunities due to, from my certain point of view, laziness. And to be honest I’d bet I’ll go see it again.

Look, Rian Johnson didn’t want to be tied down. He wanted a fresh slate to operate and showcase his vision. To do so, he took whatever shortcuts he could to have as much time to do so as possible before someone else came in to finish the trilogy with episode 9. In doing so, Rian has harpooned the whole set of films and left someone else to pick up his messes.

The movie carries several messages, some fresh and positive and timely, but most points are made with flaws. Here’s a couple examples:

  1. The rebellion (The Resistance) is fleeing their previous base as The First Order bears down on them to avenge the rebel attack on Starkiller base. (For those who felt The Force Awakens followed A New Hope too closely, you’ll probably notice that this film is half Empire Strikes back and half Return of the Jedi cut together.) As the small band of freedom fighters evacuate they send one x-wing, piloted by Poe Dameron, to stall the First Order. He does so with a gag aimed at General Hux. If you found it funny great, if not, I understand. I chuckled both times and thought it was a ballsy way to start the film. But shortly after this Poe attacks the ship alone, aiming for the enormous ship’s cannons. When he has stalled enough, Princess Leia commands him to return to her ship so they can jump away, but he refuses, instead deciding to lead an attack that ends with several casualties, even as it accomplishes Poe’s goal of destroying the Dreadnaught. Leia gets livid upon Poe’s return to the ship, even demoting him and berating him in front of whoever is around to hear. The rest of the film, Poe’s only recourse is to sneak around the ship trying to usurp the plans of the new commander, played by Laura Dern. The audience is bombarded with reminders at how reckless his actions were and how diplomacy and cooler heads need a chance to lead sometimes. This is a great lesson. I’m so glad that my daughter will grow up with strong female characters showing her she is empowered… but, let’s think about what just happened… the resistance jumped to light speed only to find out when they reverted to real space that the First Order somehow tracked them and were once again in hot pursuit. The First Order apparently doesn’t have any ships with powerful enough guns to penetrate Princess Leia’s flagship. Oh, wait, they had one…the dreadnaught. If Poe Dameron doesn’t disobey Leia and destroy that ship (with the help of some heroes in extremely vulnerable bomber fighters) this movie is over before we’ve made a dent in our popcorn. This fact is never mentioned as it goes against the “vilify Poe and the headstrong men” storyline.

2. Sticking with the same point in the movie, the rebels are now racing at sub light speed away from the First Order and suddenly gas is a huge issue in the universe. Has a limit of gas/energy ever really been addressed in Star Wars cannon? I remember Han and Leia discussing Bespin being “pretty far, but i think we can make it” but i assumed that was more about the distance they’d have to go without the ability to go to hyperspace than about gas consumption. In A New Hope they show the x-wing ships being gassed up before the big fight, and in Revenge of the Sith Obi Wan pays for a fill up, but no one has ever been in danger of losing power before this. Forgetting that and going with the spirit of the film, we are told that a few escape pods launch and we see Finn and Rose sneak away in a small craft, and the rebels eventually gas up and fly about twenty passenger crafts off the ship. Couldn’t they have figured out a way to send ships to get some gas? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, the lack of gas causing the tension to rise felt cheap and un Star Wars.

3. I’m not sure where Rian Johnson was on June 17th 1994, but I’d bet he was glued to the TV as the now famous white Ford bronco slowly drove down the highway followed by a legion of police as this is exactly how he decides to “thrill” the audience of The Last Jedi. Really? the rebellion has no other recourse but to drive down the spaceway, left blinker on for no reason, and block the bad guys from passing? Let’s suspend disbelief and say that somehow none of those ships chasing the rebels can in fact speed up beyond, “slow crawl”, and none of them have lasers powerful enough to pierce Leia’s ship’s shields, but couldn’t the First Order call one of its other ships from its huge fleet to come at Leia and the rebels from other angles and block them in? Or, couldn’t one of the First Order ships jump to light speed a bit and double back? This “chase” is so lazy and fails to raise the tension as if the First Order can’t figure out how to think around this obstacle I find it hard to fear them as an imposing force of evil. They come off more like bumbling idiots. This is where the opening scene of Poe messing with Hux comes back to bite the director. So far, all we’ve seen the First Order do is bicker amongst themselves, get bested by a single X-Wing, and design inept star ships. How did this chase not get laughed out of the first writer’s meeting it was pitched in? Now, take a step back to the opening battle where Poe is attacking the dreadnaught. Change that fact that he is trying to destroy it and instead have him and the bombers disable the dreadnoughts communications, large cannons, and hyperdrive and suddenly this slow chase between two ships could make sense. Think about Star Trek 2 as Khan chases the Enterprise, both ships limping along. That took/showed logic. That built tension. All the technology at their finger tips taken away and the two Captains were left with just their wits to win the day. The Last Jedi had none of that.

4. Benicio Del Toro is added to the cast as the mysterious…do they even tell us his name? I don’t recall. Not that not having a name is a deal breaker. I became obsessed with Boba Fett before I knew his name. Anyway, as Finn and Rose race to an upscale gambling city in a race against time, their plan is undone by…parking violations. They get thrown in jail just after locating the mysterious man, who always wears the same pin, who is the only one in the galaxy who could hep them. THE ONLY ONE! Except the random guy they find taking a nap in the same jail cell they happen to get thrown into. He totally can do all the same stuff too. Now, here is an opportunity to build up an awesome character. Have Benicio’s character (I just looked it up…it’s DJ) Have DJ tell them the guy with the pin works for him and is used as a frontman, while DJ does the actual work behind the scenes. He saw them approach and he snuck into the prison to hear their offer…see, that is cool and mysterious and gives DJ some credibility. It also foreshadows how paranoid he is so his betrayal later in the film plays out logically. To be fair, there is still another film and more of DJ could be revealed, but again, there’s another lazy, half-thought out idea Rian left for someone else to make heads or tails of. I don’t see why a simple line couldn’t have been added to explain how the whole mess played out rather than that they randomly got thrown in his cell. Hell, I just came up with this bit…why not have the Rose lapel guy keep his line about being a on a hot streak, but have his gaze flick to Finn and Rose and have him press his identifying pin as a signal to DJ or something. Boom, Rian, you’re welcome. Can we get that reshot for the blu ray release?

5. Phasma, Snoke, Rey’s Parents, Han’s Death, Luke, Akbar, C3PO, Nien Nunb, Lando, dirty space, and just about everything the Force Awakens built up as important…Rian cleaned house and set up a finale to the trilogy by leaving us with no idea what would/should/could happen next. That is not easy to do, but the way he erased all the tension, mystery, motivations of the Force Awakens, while also sidelining or killing off the hero’s felt so forced/lazy/insulting. The scene in which the bridge gets blown up and Leia and others are sucked out into space was intense. A lot of people are angry at how Leia finally uses the force for the first time and it’s this miraculous live saving thing. I am all for it. I was so happy we didn’t lose a character that was just starting to grow her fangs back after a very vanilla appearance in The Force Awakens, but to lose Akbar and gloss over it felt cheap. This guy was a huge part of the success of the rebellion going back to it’s earliest days. Phasma makes a glorified cameo. Just long enough to appear even less intimidating than she did in the previous film before plummeting to her (supposed) doom in a fiery mess. Now could she survive and return to fight at Ben Skywalker’s side in the next film, sure, or better yet could she pull herself from the wreckage, burned and angry at everyone to become an independent bounty hunter out for revenge? Hell yeah! But if that happens, again, it’s JJ to the rescue to clean up another fumble by Rian. Rey’s parents…Rian handled it, while really passing the buck to JJ as we know/assume we haven’t heard the last of this info. Snoke…Rian wanted to move Ben forward into the lead bad guy role so he had Snoke taken out to clear the way without answering any info on who is is/was, where he came from, how he got control/started the First Order. in doing so Rian told the audience that since killing Han, Ben has been conflicted as ever…making the death of Han Solo completely pointless and once again crushing what JJ did with Force Awakens. Rian said there was no logical room for Lando…Hello, what now? Lando is a known business mogule, gambler, and a man comfortable on both sides of the law. How on earth was he not seen in the Casino portion of the film? Either he could’ve been the owner of the place or a well-known patron of it. Imagine Finn and Rose seeing this rebellion hero hob-nobbing with (and maybe selling arms along side) these other rich folk…they confront him and show him the error of his ways. He comes back at the end to rejoin Leia and the fight and brings some of his friends along with him. C3PO spends the entire film on the bridge of the ship with Leia. How was he not sucked out into space? Maybe they addressed this, but I don’t recall it. As he and R2 have been downgraded to small cameos in each film maybe one of them dying would’ve made more sense than others. Nien Nunb…Okay, I get it, the casual fan doesn’t even know who that is or couldn’t care less what happens to him. The weird thing is we see him in the beginning and at the end, but he is missing from action for the entire film. He sort of becomes the stand in for many familiar faces from the past that are unseen/unheard from without any reason. Where was he the whole film? I know the original cut of the film was longer, so perhaps that is addressed in those scenes. Laura Dern joins the cast in an important role. Another strong female, good! But how is it that she looks like an extra from the capital of the hunger games rather than a member of the rebellion fleeing for her life in panic? Where is the dirty space mantra of previous films?And did she say, “God speed?” What, huh? Luke and Rey’s time together is good, but not great. it’s rushed to show-horn in the casino storyline and other unneeded filler. How cool would it have been to have Rey convince Luke to help and have them delve a bit into his journey to collect all the force books and fill in some gaps with a visual flashback? So many possibilities! Instead they throw in a few predictable (yet some still funny) gags  (like the green-milked teet bit)and a riff off Luke’s cave experience from Empire, this time Rey finds the mirror from The Never Ending Story.

6. This one if by my wife and I dig it. she mentioned the whole tracking through hyperspace thing could’ve been via Finn, a former stormtrooper. Perhaps he had a tracker put on him at birth, or whenever he was kidnapped and forced to join. This way, when he goes away from the fleet he and Rose realize what happens and he could’ve lead the First Order into a trap of some sort. That seems legit and cool and I like it. I didn’t have an issue with the First Order having this technology (in fact, I like that it is first mentioned in Rogue One), but I hate that Finn, Leia, Poe, or the rest of the gang can’t think their way around it. If they had gone with Finn being the cause, or a spy implant, it would’ve been cool if Finn or Poe led the First Order away to enable the rest of the fleet to escape and in doing so Finn or Poe get captured ala Han in Empire and setting up unanswered plot lines to answer in the next film.

I think by now I have made my opinions known without even asking why Luke didm;t tell Leia at the end that he was there as a distraction and that there was a hole in the cave they could use to escape. Star Wars is important to me, and even with all this, I feel it’s important to Rian as well, but damn, he had better step up his game if he has any hopes of his stand alone trilogy not becoming The Last NEW Star Wars. If the franchise is unable to crawl out from the Skywalker family now, after all he did to distance us from the past, the only thing that may be killed is his career. And look, I thought Brick was a smart film and Looper had me on the edge of my seat. I dig what Rian Johnson has done, so I know he could’ve done way better. Rian, give us logic and common sense along with the thrills and you’re golden.

The latest Star Wars trilogy has one movie to wrap up all the various story lines and now, JJ is also left with a pile of messes to address (not to mention the passing of Carrie Fisher).    JJ has to navigate a landscape where the past is poison and everything he built in episode seven is dead, or at least crippled beyond recognition.

JJ, years ago you served my childhood with The Force Awakens. Now I beg you to help me with the struggle against mediocrity and lazy writing. I regret that I am unable to present my request in person, but admission to Disney is too high, and I’m afraid bringing you to Cleveland to write may cause restraining orders. I have placed vital logic and solutions to plot issues vital to the resurrection of Star Wars into the internet. You should know how to retrieve it (even my father can.) You must see Episode 9 safely delivered to us on Earth. This is our most desperate hour. Help me, JJ. You’re my only hope.



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Another Year of Touring Comes to a Close.

Under the best of circumstances, touring is a bizarre way to live. When you take away all the glamour, money, bus driver, catering, and places to stay, it’s straight up insanity.


And yet, its what I’ve done for the last two years.


Chuck Mosley (AKA Mrs. Bickerson) and I have maintained a long, winding, back and forth relationship for two decades, but it wasn’t until we left for the road in May of 2016 that we really got to know each other. With no new release to promote, no tour support, and really no idea what we were doing, Chuck and I embarked on a ninety date road trip that hit the US, the UK, and France. When we limped to the finish line, I thought we were done. Then, earlier this year, Chuck and I decided to extend the tour into 2017 and attempt to record a collection of new songs. Oh, and why not expand our roster to completely blow up our budget while we do so!

Thus, we set off in June for the first of several short to long runs around the US, culminating in about sixty shows in just over four months.

After completing so many shows, the list of people I am in debt to and thankful for is longer than my fingers can type all at once, but here are a few (more thanks and personal messages will be sent out separately)

Cris Morgan- You helped hold down both guitar and bass duties on the road. I hope the experience you gained serves you well moving forward.


Joshua Nelson- Your positive nature and OCD helped us stay organized and smiling during our time with you.


Randy Piracky…Peroski…Portot…whatever your last name is (Pirosko) at the last second, you rode in on your black horse and saved our recording session and the longest tour leg of the year. Some of my favorite moments from the road…like this one of you snapping back at chuck in Atlanta:


are my favorites. I never smiled deeper than when I realized it was you walking through the crowd at the Phantasy in Cleveland to come watch us in October. (OKAY, I see you!)

Alex Bergeron Jr.- You took a huge chance and drove a long way to play with us and as a reward you got to deal with Chuck and i at our worst, most exhausted selves. Your humor (and those damn stink bombs) made the last 17 shows stand out for me.

Dallas Sheppard- No one can take away the title touring musician from you from here on out. You helped shoulder some of the babysitting and dad duties that I typically take on myself, and for that I’ll always owe you.


Drew “Pretty Boy Drew” Fortier- You’ve had such a busy and chaotic year that touring with us was probably one of the more un-noteworthy things you did in 2017! I can’t wait to see what’s next for you as you prepare for more touring, recording, oh, and getting married!


King Chivas- Having an outside voice come up and jam for a couple songs was a fun change of pace. You saved our bacon in Long Island even with a cold!

We played a lot of clubs and worked with a ton of promoters that came through and went above and beyond.


(this is off the top of my head and not a complete listing of clubs, promoters, friends, bands, strangers who helped, media, and more, without whom this tour wouldn’t have happened.)


Donn Wobser (as long as you enjoy the shows, Chuck’ll keep going), John Duggan and the entire irish contingent, Adam and Playground Productions Studios, Loudwire, Livewire, Tracy and TAG PR, Terry and the Elks Lodge, Ottawa Tavern, The awesome crew at Bright Box, Ben at DAA for two great shows, Mr. Beery’s, Yoko and Evan, Ken and Little Joe’s, David Collupy and the whole film crew in Salem, Casey LeBleu, Dusk in Providence and the late night karaoke, Dan and Pepper Productions, Shannon and JJ’s Bohemia, Marty and the fine folks at Mohawk Place in Buffalo, Michele and the Phantasy in Cleveland, The Rockery (good luck with new location if it happens), The Frequency in Madison for squeezing us on a bill, Susan and Ellefson Coffee for staying open late for us, Phil and red Fish, Blue Fish, Rock Island Brewing Company, Big’s Bar in Sioux Falls (what a great club and hard working sound crew), Tim for helping us in Iowa and letting me crash on your couch, Anne D’Agnillo you get about a dozen thanks for this year alone, Jonny Sculls and The Viper Room, Ian and Damien in Oregon, big thanks to the Eclipse as well, Sarah and TJ Dutton, Hi-Tone in Memphis, Jonathan and Ashley Beck for your immense help and for making us feel at home when we were the furthest from it (sorry I missed your wedding), Gage Beck for joining us onstage at two shows while playing a song even we didn’t know and making it sound like we did, Herman formerly of Houston (glad you weathered the storm), Todd in New Orleans, Witchita, Joshua in Huntsville, Courtney and Skyder, Brandyn and Chipper’s, Nicholas and Nicole in Pittsburgh, Ralph’s Diner, Dingbatz, Todd and Ottobar for the xylophone solo, Shawn Jones for screening your movie at our show, Levi in Boise, Jake in Reno, Jason in Oakland, Matt freakin’ Wallace!, Michele Norkon, Adam and GAD! Zine, Mel Smith and the Faith No More comic, Thom and EMP, Alex and Pig Fish printing, Michael Yarish and Mathew Grant, Kerry and John Wilkes Booth, Taran and family, HEELS, Audible Crayons, Mike Striker for the last second laughs, Todd Robinson and Calico Room, Nathan Petro in Charleston, Alec and Jeff and Brant and the Open Chord in Knoxville, Paul Simisky for several cool shows and congrats on your new addition, Hey! Alligator, and to a hundred other people who put us up, bought us drinks, gave us food, interviewed us, reviewed one of our shows, exchanged cd’s, bought our merch, and helped in many other ways. Also thanks to all the bands we played with this year. We made a lot of new friends and heard some killer music. By no means is this list complete, but I need to find a job before the bills start showing up.


To Chuck: This experience has been amazing and one that never could’ve happened without you. I know it wasn’t always fun or profitable or easy or comfortable, but you played a lot of amazing shows and I got to be onstage to see and hear them. Your new material is strong and i can’t wait to see when/where/how it comes out. I have no idea what your next step is or if i’ll be involved, but know that I’m rooting you on from there stage or from the crowd.

BTW, as far as the new material goes…we recorded seven songs in two and a half days with matt Wallace in Los Angeles in August…the experience can’t be described in a short blog post, but keep your eyes peeled for more on that subject.

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Posted in concert/cd reviews, my writing, songs i'm involved with, this guy! | Leave a comment

Interview with Author Zack Halford


Douglas Esper: How did you get your start in romance/erotica?

Zack Halford: Is it too cheesy to say I didn’t choose the genre it chose me? I don’t know. I have story ideas just like any other author. Mine gravitate toward characters in power struggles, and sex or the manipulation that comes with sex or simply sexuality often plays out to resolve the conflict. Is it a reflection on my own psyche? Is it proof I was dropped on my head too often as a child? I explore topics that are hidden, buried, too taboo to discuss in the mainstream and this is my way of saying, hey, how do we truly feel about how we use sex as a weapon or a gift or a cop out or just a great way to spend fifteen minutes of our time on a Sunday morning.

DE: Do you ever get embarrassed?

ZH: Constantly. I’ve been conditioned since day one to view all of this stuff as subversive, greedy, villainous. We make sex a guilt. I feel it just like anyone else, but the story is there and it needs to be told. Obviously, there’s a market for it or I wouldn’t have three stories due out over the next couple of months. Will I ever be numb to it. I doubt it, because I read the other stories in the anthologies I appear in and my cheeks burn red with embarrassment and curiosity and then embarrassment about my curiosity when I see how the other authors view sex and power and all the baggage that comes along with it.

DE: The Romance/Erotica genre is dominated by female authors. Have you found it difficult to make a name for yourself?

ZH: Men and women perceive sex differently. Everyone knows that. What’s the old saying, “Women use sex to get love and men use love to get sex.” Or something like that. So when I write my story from a male perspective I’m describing what a male desires while focusing on what would entice a woman to keep reading. All while following a logical plot. Men crave the visual, right? Easy enough, but if all I talk about are curves peeking from beneath lingerie, I lose my audience. Women want to know the how and the why. How did she decide to sleep with this man? Why is she letting him tie her up, or pull her hair, or wear that costume? And after all that I need to show the fallout. I think if I can balance these elements, I’ve created a story worth reading. If someone that typically would be too shy to explore themselves, relates to something I write, then it’s all the better.

DE: Your story, Another Last Glance which appears in the upcoming anthology, Fourteen Shades of F*cked Up has elements of sci-fi and suspense intertwined with the steamy parts and poses some serious questions along the way about the importance of life, respect, and how our society treats its elderly and sick population. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Another Last glance-2

ZH: A dark place. A lonely place. With that story I faced my fears of growing older and less vibrant…less desirable…Maybe I wasn’t put on this earth to be the next great American author or actress or politician or doctor. Maybe I’m just…ordinary. Maybe when I die, no one will care about the sacrifices I made to write my stories. Maybe when I die, I’m just gone. So, I tried to give my MC, who faces the same fears, one last party to cap off an extraordinary life.

DE: Any advice for beginner writers?

ZH: Doesn’t everyone kind of say the same things for this?

DE: Well, you’re older brother has found success as a rock critic and then as a journalist for several of the biggest magazines published today. Did that open any doors for you? Did he teach you anything that might help?

ZH: I never see my name listed anywhere as an author…I’m always indie Author or romance author. I don’t have any NYTimes best sellers. I don’t support myself through my stories alone. I grind and grind, just like everyone else. Read a lot. Write a lot. Make a lot of mistakes, and then do what I don’t, which is to learn from those mistakes. Find your voice. Find your niche. And then when you get comfortable, take a sharp left. Turn down an alley you’ve never noticed before. Get lost and write your way out of it.

If it helps, throw in a sex scene or two. Put a woman with self esteem issues on the corner of a busy yet boring intersection. Get a thread of her dress stuck in a cab door and then have the car drive away fast enough to make the dull city scene suddenly something to tell people around the water cooler. Then have a self-conscious nerd nearby with a spare shirt and the afternoon free to get her out of the spotlight.

DE: Ha! Every nerds dream come true. Okay, there’s a story prompt from Zack, feel free to post links to what you write in the comments.

ZH: Make sure to send them to me as well. I mean. I don’t know. You had me read a story of yours to give you guidance on steering the story a certain way. What did I tell you to do?

DE: You told me not to steer. Follow the story.

ZH: No, follow the characters. Let them show you the story. Sometimes stories are dangerous, exciting, funny, or sometimes they’re boring, but everyone has stories. And they all want theirs to be told. You had an ending in mind but couldn’t get your characters where you needed them. What did you do in the end?

DE: The story went off the rails and took on a life of its own.

ZH: Exactly.

DE: What else have you released recently?

ZH: A story called Valentine’s Day Sacrifice in an anthology called, Cupid’s Arrow. It’s a continuation of a story arc that follows an unlikely couple running from the mob, the government, and their own pasts. I have a whole series of stories that find these two at the center of…maybe not as steamy as previous work. This is more crime romance. All of my stories connect in some way, and these two are sort of at the center of all the other stories. I’m excited to see where they take me.

DE: What’s the best way for readers to stay up to date on what you’re doing?

ZH: I haven’t embraced twitter, but I troll facebook. My page is facebook.com/zackhalfordromance. For authors, there is a group called fiction Writing that I’ve joined recently. There is a massive amount of people creating really good stuff and they release anthologies as a group, which I think is awesome.

There are release events for Fourteen Shades coming up on February 14th and 15th.

You can find my author page on Amazon. It would make my day if you stepped out of your comfort zone and gave my writing a chance. Yes, it’s dark fiction…it’s romance…it’s erotica, maybe…but it’s not smut…there’s merit in our dark recesses as well as the light.





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Interview with Marc Rizzo (Soulfly, Dead By Wednesday)

Yesterday I spoke with Marc Rizzo about his upcoming solo tour as well as his work with Soulfly, The Return To Roots tour, and Dead By Wednsday:

Douglas: Marc, We did some dates together last summer when you went on the road with Dead By Wednesday for their acoustic tour and I was with Chuck Mosley. How different/weird was that for you to play the stripped down versions of songs in very intimate settings?

Marc Rizzo: Yeah, it was a fun tour playing with those guys and you guys. I play a lot of acoustic guitar. My solo records have a lot of acoustic on them. I had been wanting to do something with a more rock-oriented singer, like Rob (Rob Roy of Dead By Wednesday) so it was the perfect opportunity, man. I had a lot of fun, and I hope to do even more with those guys.

Douglas: You did a song, ‘The Surgeon’ on their last album. How did that track come about and how do you like the final product?

Marc Rizzo: It was a song they had written already. I just came in and added some ideas on guitar. I think it came out great and I’m hoping to do more with Dead By Wednesday.

Douglas: You’ve been on the road as part of the Return To Roots tour with the Cavalera brothers this passed year. How awesome has that tour been?

Marc Rizzo: It’s been incredible. We just finished a world tour. We did dates in the US, Canada, went over to Europe and Russia, and then down to South America and Mexico. The shows have been great, you know, sold out, and the fans are really excited to hear this record played in its entirety. It took a lot of hard work for us to play just like the record, so it’s awesome to be doing it.

Douglas: I read that there may be more dates added. Any news on that front?

Marc Rizzo: We leave again in February to hit even more American markets.

Douglas: I was on the road in the UK during October when you guys hit Cleveland, and I thought about swimming home just to see that show. What are your favorite songs from that album to play live?

Marc Rizzo: Probably, ‘Dusted.’ Has such a cool groove to it. And, ‘Cut Throat.’ It was great to play the second half of the album.

Douglas: And this month you’re doing a solo tour, which hits Cleveland January 10th. What can fans expect to hear at those shows?

Marc Rizzo: Instrumental guitar music, you know, shred metal, but there’s also bluesy, jazz inspired songs and acoustic flamenco guitar driven songs. I’m very influenced by Joe Satriani, so it goes along those lines but heavier. Soulfly fans can really get into the heavy stuff and then there’s the instrumental side as well. it’s a lot of fun to tour this project. I have three solo records out, The first two were on Shrapnel (Records) and the third I put out myself. I’m talking with a new label about releasing my next one.

Douglas: Cool. So, your song, ‘Synapse’ is calm and relaxing, almost hypnotic, ‘Wrath of Crom’ is face-melting, shredding riffs, and then, ‘Pinata Hits Back’ has that flamenco style you mentioned earlier. What’s your favorite style to play?

Marc Rizzo: I love it all. I love guitar music. I love to play guitar. I’m really torn between it all, which you’ll see at my solo gigs. I switch between styles. I play Soulfly stuff. I play acoustic stuff. I mix in some covers. I just love everything.

Douglas: Having seen you really, really up close live, last summer, I can say that your fingers are a blur when you play. When did you first realize you were developing your astounding ability to play so fast and what advice would you give to beginner guitar players who want to shred like you?

Marc Rizzo: Thank you. The first four or five years after I started to play I got into more shred players, like Yngwie (Malmsteen), and I always wanted to play like that. Obviously it takes a longtime. You’ve got to learn your scales, learn theory, and try to practice with a drummer or a metronome. It’s so important to play in time, not just fast. You need to play fast and clean.

Douglas: Where’s the best place for people to hear your music?

Marc Rizzo: Definitely on my youtube channel, MARCRIZZOOFFICIAL. You can follow me on facebook and instagram where I post my music. I also post videos of me playing at home, live shows, and then you can come to a gig and talk shop with me at the merch booth after.

Douglas: After the solo tour and the additional February dates of the Return To Roots tour, what’s next?

Marc Rizzo: Like I said earlier, I’m talking to a new label about releasing my next solo record. And I’m sure we’ll start another Soulfly record and continue to tour with them.

Marc Rizzo plays at the Cleveland Agora on January 10th.

Hope to see you all there.


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dalek, candiria, and axioma 11-12-16 at now that’s class

History has proven that when you go see a band that hasn’t toured in several years there is often a good reason why. The risk you take in marring old cherished memories by experiencing new underwhelming ones can be daunting enough, but when the bill features two bands that you haven’t seen in over ten years, it can be downright scary.

When I first heard about the double bill of Dalek and Candiria coming to Cleveland, I was hesitant to go. I mean, The last time I saw each of these bands (Dalek in 2007, Candiria in 2003) they were in top form. What if they were no longer fueled with the same passion and energy as they were back then. what if the new editions to the lineups gave the show a cover band feel?

I’m pleased to announce that all doubts were unfounded.

First off, I want to mention the openers, Axioma. Featuring an all star line up of great musicians and decent humans beings that you’ve seen in dozens of other bands through the years in Cleveland. The thing that stuck out the most to me is that there was at least one point in each song when I heard something really cool/unique/challenging/original. There’s no cookie-cutter or color by numbers songs with these guys.

Dalek set up quickly, despite a seemingly infinite number of chords running between turntables, samplers, and effects pedals. The first thought that ran through my head was that the sound system for Now That’s Class wasn’t 100% up to the task of Dalek’s wall of noise and feedback sound, but that being said, they got loud and atmospheric just fine.

The interplay between the three members appeared effortless, even with all they have going on at all times, which speaks to their professionalism and to the enthusiasm of the two new members, DJ rEK and Mike Manteca.

Classic tracks like, “Ever Somber” mixed seamlessly with new songs like, “Control” from this years, Asphalt For Eden. The group maintained a hypnotic intensity throughout the set before ending with a flurry of noise.

Carley Coma, vocalist for Candiria, is a beast. His onstage persona is so physically driven, I get exhausted just watching. Jumping, kicking, dancing along to the band’s off-kilter riffs and rhythms, he flawlessly screams, raps, and sings creative patterns that help this band sound like no other.

While the older material sounded as fresh as I remembered upon first hearing it, the new songs also fared well. “The Whole World Will Burn” (I’m not 100% on this title, but that’s what it sounded like he said. I wasn’t able to pick up the disc yet) started with an in your face rapid, growling verse and chugging guitars before exploding into a melodic chorus with a sing along hook you’d expect from The Deftones.

All in all it was a throw back night that promised great things still to come from two bands that I suggest you don’t miss.

I spoke with members of Dalek, but I didn’t snap any photos, so here’s one of me with them back in 2003 for you to enjoy…


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