Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shattered Sun to Shred Mayhem Festival

Shattered Sun will ravage the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour this year, playing alongside Slayer, Hellyeah, King Diamond, The Devil Wears Prada, White Chapel, Kissing Candace and a slew of other bands to rock out to. Playing June 11th at the DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI, keep a listen out for tracks from Shattered Sun's new release Hope Within Hatred. Kick up your hooves, throw up your horns, and stomp along to the rock rhythm that explodes into gleaming metal.

Author Marisa Williams: What do you consider to be your hometown, is that where you live now, and if you were a tourist in your hometown, what would be worth seeing?

Jessie Santos of Shattered Sun: I was born in Texas, part of the area of Corpus Christi, about a half-hour away. I consider that home, but I live in Portland now. There's an old WWII battleship that is cool to see in Portland, that and the beaches, of course.

Marisa: How did you get started in music? Did you come from a musical family? What were your early musical influences?

Shattered Sun: My dad got me a guitar when I was 10-years-old, but I didn't take it seriously and put in the effort to do it. When I turned 14, I took it seriously. I got an electric guitar, all black with mock-ups. My main influence back then was Metallica, as well as new metal, like Slipknot, Fear Factory, things like that.

Marisa: What was your first concert that you attended, and how did that compare to the first concert that you played?

Shattered Sun: The first concert was when Mudvayne released their second album. They were touring with In Flames. I remember seeing them. I'm a huge fan of Suicidal. That put me on the path to like more. It was exciting to see them. Compared to the first time I played on stage: when we first came out, we were not that big, but it was pretty cool to make the transition from watching people play on stage to being on the stage.

Marisa: What was the first album you purchased?

Shattered Sun: Listened to it earlier today, Morbid Angle's “Domination.” My mom had finally gave me a twenty to buy something, and I bought the first album I saw. I still have it.

Marisa: How do you go about writing music? What comes first for you: drums, guitars, vocals or something else? Has the process of writing changed for you over the years at all?

Shattered Sun: Let's see. I didn't really start writing 'til I was about 20. Before then, I played songs I would want to learn. It started that I would write a guitar riff, build everything on top of that, but nowadays, I don't really have a set method. Sometimes, I write lyrics from my head, then build a chord or a pattern. Ideas and songs come more naturally now. I don't have to rely on guitar riffs to make a song out of something.

Marisa: What is your favorite musical technique?

Shattered Sun: I was listening to this composer Orlandus Lassus. All of his music is really choir chamber music, and it's really nice. He layers voices in different ways to sound big and grand. I have always wanted to recreate that, but haven't done it yet, a big lyric, vocals making a giant soundscape.

Marisa: What's the coolest musical technique in your latest project, or what is something people might not expect?

Shattered Sun: The use of clean singing. I'm doing a lot more clean singing, as opposed to harsh. I'm trying to do that a lot more. As opposed to just screaming, blend both styles into one, like Opeth. I'm a huge Opeth fan. I like their songs, but... I want to follow their footsteps, but make my own path at the same time.

Marisa: What is the scariest thing about being on the road?

Shattered Sun: I would say the uncertainty of showering that day. Especially on a festival tour, being outside all day. I'm not sure how it will be. I'm weary, but I'm bringing lots of deodorant and hair ties. That's the worst feeling ever. That, and not being able to find my hair brush.

Marisa: Best or worst tour moment?

Shattered Sun: I'll have to say we were in Huntington, NY. It was a really nice day. Me and Daniel, our other guitarist, went around the neighborhood. We got to hang out with the guys from Exodus, and Steve Digiorgio, who is bassist for Testament. I'm a big fan of his bass technique, and I was able to have a good conversation with him. That was bad ass. It put things in perspective for me. That was a really good day.

Marisa: What's your favorite way to travel and why?

Shattered Sun: On the road. I'm not a fan of flying. I went on a plane; the last time was about three years ago to record music. The way we did it, we found the most cost-effective way to Canada. It wound up being a three- or four-stop flight, taking a bus into Canada. It was a lot of going back and forth. I'd rather wait it out in a vehicle. It's always good to hang out with friends, not worry. Just drive and get over there.

Marisa: What's your favorite place to travel to, and is there anywhere you have not been to that you would like to go to?

Shattered Sun: My favorite place was the Midwest and Niagara Falls. The New York town was real nice, but the venue there was an old school style theater, which was apparently haunted. I liked driving through Tennessee and other states where it's really pretty with trees and mountains. I spent of my most time looking out the window. I'd like to visit Oregon and Washington. We will be doing that with Soulfly and Decapitated. We'll be going through Vancouver, too.

Marisa: What's your biggest musical fantasy?

Shattered Sun: I would love to go back in time and watch Claude Debussy, an impressionist composure. Beautiful music... to see him play in a concert setting back then... It would be amazing to see that.

Marisa: I have three personality questions that I ask everyone. They might sound like hogwash, but I promise, there is a psychological basis to the answers ;-) First, if you were an unicorn, and you could be any color but white, what color would you be and would you have any special powers?

Shattered Sun: Black unicorn with an ivory horn, red eyes, and my special ability would be to fly.

Marisa: If you were yogurt, what flavor would you be (feel free to be creative, as this does not have to be a traditional flavor) and how would you be served?

Shattered Sun: Mixed berry in a porcelain bowl.

Marisa: Describe yourself as either a dog, a cat or a cartoon.

Shattered Sun: Maybe a cat. I have a thing for cats; but. I can't own one, because I'm allergic. I go into sneezing fits and get sick. I tend to make cat noises when I'm bored.

Marisa: Do you collect anything?

Shattered Sun: I collect CDs of all types, from metal to electronica, but also action figures, like from the Alien movie franchise. I have a closet's worth full of them. Also, I have a bunch of old gaming systems, too. I don't have a Genesis right now, but I want to get one again.

Marisa: What's your biggest guilty pleasure?

Shattered Sun: I don't really hide a lot of things, so maybe listening to some pop music. That's a guilty pleasure. Friends will be like, “you listen to this stuff?” Can't listen to metal all the time...

Marisa: Do you have any hidden talents or special skills?

Shattered Sun: I like to work out a lot with my friends. You don't really see a metal dude going to the gym working out, but I don't want to get a beer belly. I guess that would be something people would not expect from me. Do whatever we can in hotel rooms, or wherever we are at, and try to make the best of it, especially with food eating on tour - lot of pizza and beer.

Marisa: What's the most important thing to remember?

Shattered Sun: Remember that good things take time. That's for sure. Whenever I think of my career in music, it took ten years to reach that goal and make it happen. A lot of times, I wanted to give up, but I persevered, and here I am now. But remember to not give up. Keep going strong.

Marisa: What was your most influential moment?

Shattered Sun: Meeting like Devin Townsend. I'm a really big fan of his. I got to talk to him about music. That's how I knew what I wanted to do. He was really inspiring, gave me hope. Also, Michael from Opeth, a really inspiring, really cool guy. Also, I guess getting the opportunity to be on the same team, reaching our goals and stuff. There's a whole bunch of things that led to being inspired, and wanting to keep going, which helped make me, like realizing it's not impossible to reach goals, even if they're hard. Can make it come to life.

Marisa: If you were not doing music, what would you be doing?

Shattered Sun: Probably art, drawing. I love to draw, too. I was actually voted most artistic in high school. I love to draw, write in general - not even music, just writing - so I'd just do something out of that.

Marisa: What are three things you must have with you when you are on the road?

Shattered Sun: Hair brush, ear phones, and a pillow. I forgot my pillow on this last tour. That sucked.

Marisa: Any advice for musicians starting out?

Shattered Sun: Write good music, even though that's very objective, I guess, but write music that you're 100 percent proud of. Always strive to make it better and better. If you're going to join a band, make sure everyone is on the same page and wants to make the band grow. If even one member is not on the same page, that can halt a band. Don't give up. It took Shattered Sun ten years to reach this point. It's all a game of luck and fate; don't give up.

Marisa: Where can people find your music?

Shattered Sun: Facebook.com/shatteredsunband; Twitter and Instagram links are on Facebook. You can also find us on the Victory Records site. Our music videos are on Youtube; just type in Shattered Sun.

The author of more than 100 books, Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University; for more on Marisa, visit www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Juan Pablo Montoya Grins at the Top of the Leader Board

Juan Pablo Montoya has this devilish little boy grin. Almost like the Cheshire Cat, pursed lips slowly spread into a smile and extend out, exposing those pearly whites. His eyes squint in delight, with the corners of his eyes wrinkling downward, and his cheeks dimple in ever so slightly, adding to that little boy type charm, but there's that gleam in his eyes, the twinkle of a daredevil ready to explode.

When I met him back in 2011, that's the thing that stuck out to me the most, that playful smile. When he gets amused, he can't help it; it's automatic, those lips spread across his face, turning upward. It's that look of excitement, that child-like playfulness, because when I saw that smile he was ready to embark on a different sort of speed venture; he was getting to ride the Millennium Force, a 310-foot tall roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, that held world records for being the tallest and fastest.

Cedar Point is no stranger to the Guinness Book of World Records, as it continually has appeared in there for having the most roller coasters in one place in the world, as well as holding records for the tallest and fastest roller coasters, from wooden to incline, they are all designed for intense speed. Racing and roller coasters have that g-force in common, that rush that you can feel in the pit of your stomach. It harkens back to those instincts of fight or flight, but fighting is not an option once it leaves.

Stuck in the seat, buckled in, once it's moving at top speeds, just sit back and try to enjoy the ride. Feel your skin get plastered back on your face, cheeks flap in the wind, as you're pinned in your seat. Roll with the twists and turns, entrust that everything will go safely, and scream if you absolutely must.

Lucky winners got to ride with Juan Pablo Montoya on the Millennium Force, and some screams could be heard echoing off Lake Erie. The Goodyear Blimp was soaring overhead, and some people were lucky enough to get up close and personal with the Blimp when it was taking off or landing at the local airport there in Sandusky. Of course, you could test your skills at tire changing on a race car, too, as Cedar Point likes to indulge those that sense of adventure, immersing people in the race car fantasy.

Cedar Point is one of those theme parks that all others are judged by. Go to Disney, and even though they have the mouse that kids love, they don't have the same collection of g-force driven rides. Some Six Flags have some cool rides, don't get me wrong, but all-in-all, Cedar Point is the standard for rides.

It's not like they only have one good ride, as there are so many that have come and gone over the years. The Mantis was always a personal favorite, as you stood up while looping at high speeds, but the top for me was The Magnum. The Raptor is best on employee ride night when the safety brakes loosen.

Over the years, they have mastered engineering. Some rides, like the Millennium Force, are so smooth, you can hardly tell you're going as fast as you are, which is nearly 100 miles an hour. The turns are as smooth as when riding in a race car, and Juan Pablo Montoya was going to be able to compare the two.

That devilish grin appeared right before the coaster took off, and it was plastered on his face when the ride was over. Similarly, I saw that same smile on television when he won the Indianapolis 500. Pictures of that Cheshire Cat-like grin appeared across media outlets, as he is first at the halfway point.

That puts him at the top of the leader board for the Indy Car Series. Will Power is his teammate, both figuratively and literally. Team Penske consists of Montoya driving car No. 2 in first, as the Indy 500 was worth double points, and the reining series champion Will Power in second overall, driving car No. 1, even though they finished 10th and 18th in Detroit's Belle Isle Indy Car race this past weekend.

Penske may have been a dream for Montoya since he was a child racing go-karts in Bogota, Columbia, but that little kid fantasy came true when he won the Indy 500. He remains as the only driver to not only win the Indy 500 on his first attempt, but also a CART title and the 24 Hours At Daytona. Both NASCAR and Formula One have seen him zip across the finish line first, so he has multifaceted talent.

It will be interesting to see if he can hold onto his title as the season continues. One thing is for sure, this is one guy to keep an eye on as those cars zoom around the track, finishing out the rest of the season. Will someone take him out, or will he rein as a champion for the rest of the Indy Car Series?

For more information on Juan Pablo Montoya, visit www.jpmontoya.com, www.twitter.com/jpmontoya, and http://www.indycar.com/Series/IndyCar-Series/Juan-Pablo-Montoya. Marisa Williams earned her Master's in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University and is the author of more than 100 books. For more information, visit www.thorisazviews.com, www.lulu.com/spotlight/thorisaz, and www.twitter.com/booksnbling.