On Stage: Locks at Sona debuts with Fitzsimmons show

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By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

William Fitzsimmons

On September 22, the will be an area concert that has “newness” written all over it.

This Saturday night, William Fitzsimmons will visit the area for a show at the Locks at Sona (4417 Main Street, Manayunk, 484-273-0481, sonapub.com)

The Locks at Sona is a brand-new club that opened its doors for the first time this month.

Fitzsimmons in touring in support of his new album “Mission Bell” – an album so new it was just released on September 21.

The veteran singer-songwriter recently partnered with Clash Music to premiere the official music video for “Angela,” the latest single from “Mission Bell.” The record is a chronicling of the tumultuous last year of his life — particularly of the separation from his second wife.

An initial version of the new album was recorded in Fitzsimmons’ home studio but was subsequently abandoned during the course of, and as a result of, the separation.

“The new album happened twice,” said Fitzsimmons, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Boston.

“The first time was in the summer of 2017. For personal reasons, I decided to get rid of it and start from scratch three months later. I went to Nashville, got a completely new producer and pretended the previous album didn’t exist.

“I loved the songs, but I didn’t love the record. Now, the songs don’t even exist for me. The recordings were mired in a lot of personal turmoil. The guy I was making the record with was having an affair with my wife.

“I took several months of chain-smoking cigarettes and going to therapy. The idea of picking up a guitar felt awful. But, those songs were mine and I didn’t want to give them up.”

In 2018, Fitzsimmons moved to Nashville and spent a month rebuilding the lost record with producer Adam Landry (Deer Tick, T. Hardy Morris, k.d. Lang, Vanessa Carlton). The resulting 10-song album tells the story of a decade-long marriage destroyed and eventually rebuilt from the ground up.

“When I went back, the songs felt good to play,” said Fitzsimmons. “Eight songs survived – with some rewriting. The melodies and the chords were the same, but I had to update the lyrics. They dealt with the situation directly – in every way. I wanted to exorcise it. It was hard. It was a painful thing – very cathartic.

“The new producer Adam Landry is a wonderful man – a spiritual guy. He was the one to do it. He was a bit of a therapist as well as a producer. We recorded it in Nashville, but I was still living in Jacksonville, Illinois. Then, I moved to Nashville four months ago.”

Sonically, “Mission Bell” is Fitzsimmons’ first analog tape-centric album. The sounds are raw, real, and tangible. The familiar comforts of acoustic guitars are present but now joined generously by synthesizers, electric guitars, drum loops and violins.

“We spent six weeks making the album,” said Fitzsimmons. “We worked a lot in tape. It was fun, but it was also terrifying. You have to work differently when you’re using tape. But, tape is great. There’s just something about magnetic tape doing the work.”

Simmons’ most recent previous album was 2015’s “Pittsburgh,” a collection of seven songs about the city where he was born and raised. Fitzsimmons credits the gift of music to his mother, and consequently his grandmother.

In October 2014, his grandmother passed away and during the three days spent putting her to rest, “Pittsburgh” was formed. The seven songs were in memoriam to her and in remembrance of the city they shared. The album isn’t a narrative or a eulogy. Instead, it is a collection of heartfelt, insightful songs with universal appeal.

“The emotional aspect is a big part of my music – more than anything else” said Fitzsimmons.

Video link for William Fitzsimmons — https://youtu.be/DOhnZ2n-yQw

The show at the Locks at Sona will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

<PIG>

Raymond Watts is <PIG> and <PIG> is Raymond Watts.

Watts is one of the pioneers of industrial music and has a long history of performing with, recording with or collaborating with such acts as Einstürzende Neubauten, KMFDM, Foetus, Nine Inch Nails, Mona Mur, Schwein, En Esch, Sow and Guenter Schulz.

On September 23, Watts will bring his latest incarnation of <PIG> to the stage at PhilaMOCA (531 North 12th Street, Philadelphia, 267-519-9651,www.philamoca.org). He will also be performing with his band on September 26 at the Chameleon Club (223 North Water Street, Lancaster, 717-299-9684,http://www.chameleonclub.net).

Watts, a native of London, England, first got noticed by music fans in the early 1980s in Germany. Watts contributed his skills as a songwriter and vocalist to several KMFDM albums, including the band’s first album “Opium” in 1984. KMFDM, which is closing in on its 35th anniversary, still is going strong under founding member Sascha Konietzko.

“I moved from England to Germany – to Hamburg – and met Sascha and En Esch,” said Watts, during a phone interview last week from a tour stop in Dallas, Texas. “We started making some recordings together as KMFDM. I also had my own band called Pig.”

Pig and KMFDM are two of the earliest bands to bring industrial music to mainstream audiences.

Pig’s debut album was “A Poke in the Eye… With a Sharp Stick” in 1988. Watts and his band released seven albums over the next 17 years – “Praise the Lard” (1991), “The Swining” (1993), “Sinsation” (1995), “Wrecked” (1996), “Genuine American Monster” (1999), “Pigmartyr” (2004) and “Pigmata” (2005).

After a long hiatus, Watts/<PIG> released “The Gospel” in 2016 and “Risen” in 2018.

“I finished ‘Risen’ earlier this year,” said Watts. “It was done by February. I recorded it at a little studio in West London – my home studio Ranch Apocalypse in Acton. The studio has a lot of analog gear and synths and I used some of them. The main thing when making the album was guitar and vocals.

“My last album – ‘The Gospel’ – was me co-writing with Z. Marr (formerly with Combichrist). We also co-produced it. ‘Risen’ has more co-writing. Some of the songs started with riffs – bits and pieces that I had sitting on a shelf. I write and record quite quickly.

“When I’m writing, sometimes it’s on guitars and sometimes on keyboard. A lot of times, I write in my head. I’ll sing it into my cell phone or scribble it down. I’ve got reams of paper with bits of songs.

“The new album is slightly an uncomfortable marriage – dark but with some celebration. One of the subjects is religious bigotry – but it’s not just pointing fingers. I like religious music but it means different things to me than it does to most people.”

For this <PIG> tour, which is billed as the “Hell To Pay…In The USA” tour, Watts’ band features Ben Christo on guitar and Vinny Velazco on drums.

Christo, who was in Killswitch U.K. and Sisters of Mercy, also was in the Swedish band Ghost as one of the band’s “Nameless Ghouls.” Velazco, who was in Diamond Black and Pendragon, was also a “Nameless Ghoul.” In Ghost, Christo was “Fire” and Velazco was “Earth.”

“This is a leaner and younger <PIG>,” said Watts. “Ben and Vinny, who played together in Ghost, are really good musicians. We’re playing songs from ‘Risen’ and ‘The Gospel,’ some older <PIG> songs — and some KMFDM stuff.”

Video link for <PIG> — https://youtu.be/x3FqWvF-fcI.

The all-ages show at PhilaMOCA, which has 7th Victim (Rodney from Dead Milkmen) as the opening act, will start at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.

Other upcoming shows at PhilaMOCA are Steve Hauschildt (Emeralds), Helen Money and Brett Naucke on September 25 and Dark Web “Clone Age” on September 26.

The show at the Chameleon Club on September 26, which has Silver Walks as the opener, will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15

Other upcoming shows at the Chameleon Club are Supersonic on September 21, Heroes 4 Ransom on September 22, and The Ultramarines on September 22.

Steven Page

On September 24, area fans of Barenaked Ladies will be in for a treat when Steven Page, the band’s co-founder and former front man performs at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, 215-222-1400, www.worldcafelive.com).

The Steven Page Trio will headline a show that has Wesley Stace (a.k.a. John Wesley Harding) as the opening act.

Page, whose tenor voice is distinctive, strong and instantly recognizable, left the Barenaked Ladies in 2009 but the BNL legacy never left him. He and his former bandmates were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame earlier this year. Page reunited with the band for the induction this past March – a night capped off by an exhilarating two-song performance at this year’s JUNO awards.

On September 14, Page released his fifth solo album – “Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt.  II” — via Fresh Baked Goods/Warner Music Canada.

The album follows “Heal Thyself Pt. I: Instinct,” which was released in 2016.

“I started making Pt. II several years ago,” said Page, during a phone interview Thursday from his home in Syracuse, New York.

“Initially, I had a double album ready for release in 2016. Then, I realized it was too much stuff for people to digest. So, I divided it into two parts.

“This year, when I was getting ready for Pt. II, I kept five or six songs from the original. The new ones were done in March, April and May. I worked through June to get the record done – and I was still late. I did a U.K. tour without the album being released.

“I have a distribution deal but it’s on my own label and the album was self-financed. I have my own studio northeast of Toronto – Fresh Baked Woods Studio. It used ProTools and Logic – and some vintage gear. But, I’d only use tapes as an effect.

“I did some of the album here and some at Craig Northey’s Doghouse of Thunder Studio in Vancouver. We’ve worked together a lot in the past. Some of the songs written this year are based on a musical about making music that I’m working on in Canada.”

“Discipline: Heal Thyself, Pt.  II” includes the new single “White Noise,” which targets America’s “White Nationalists.” The song has a political bite and a musical snarl reminiscent of The Clash.

“The Clash were a big part of my growing up,” said Page, a native of Toronto. “They were an influence on the song – and you can hear a little reggae in the middle of it.”

“White Noise” provides a naked look at the current political discourse south of the 49th parallel.

According to Page, “I grew up in a household where social justice was a fundamental value, and I always believed that it was a fundamental Canadian value as well as a central Jewish one. I’ve watched how the term has been twisted and perverted by the Right over the last several years in an effort to diminish the voices of reason.

“Although I grew up politically aware, in a left-leaning household — which, in Canada, was not regarded as anything sinister until the mid-90s and beyond — it wasn’t until I discovered the politically-charged music coming from the U.K. in the 1970s with The Clash and The Jam and 1980s during the Miner’s Strike and the Red Wedge movement with Billy Bragg, Style Council, and the Communards that I became excited by the power of music and activism.

“This song pays tribute to that music and was written in the wake of last year’s events in Charlottesville. The open displays of racism and antisemitism, and the chants of “Jews Will Not Replace Us” made me grab my guitar and tell them I’d be more than glad to replace them.”

Page – with the Barenaked Ladies and as a solo artist – has never been reluctant to speak out.

“In the end, almost everything I write has something to do with politics,” said Page. “‘White Noise’ is most obviously inspired by current events.

“For this tour, my trio is Craig Northey on electric guitar and Kevin Fox on cello. I play acoustic guitar and sing. When we play live, it’s as energetic as a rock show and as intimate as a house concert.”

Video link for Steven Page – https://youtu.be/VyyLNmSfVKw.

The show at the World Café Live, which has Wesley Stace as the opening act, will start at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25.

Other upcoming shows at the World Café Live are Nothing Wrong on September 22, Paul Thorn and Gina Sicilia on September 26 and Fickle Friends on September 26.

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