When I think Guitar God, one of the first guitarists that leaps to mind is Jimmy Page.  After all, this is the guy who as a top session guitarist in the 60’s played on hits as diverse as The Who’s first single “I Can’t Explain”, Tom Jones’ “It’s Not Unusual”, the garage-blues classic “Baby Please Don’t Go” by Them”, and even “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey.  He followed that up by taking Eric Clapton’s place in The Yardbirds, playing alongside childhood friend Jeff Beck. And then there was Led Zeppelin, the band he formed, guided and helped turn into one of the biggest bands in the world.  That’s quite a resume, but it doesn’t stop there as Page has gone on to record solo projects and soundtracks, form The Firm with Paul Rodgers, and collaborate with other musicians like David Coverdale and The Black Crowes.  To say Page is a “Guitar God” is an understatement, not just because he’s such a great rock guitarist, but because as Brad Tolinski’s excellent book “Light & Shade:  Conversations With Jimmy Page” (Crown Publishers, 2012) points out, Page was and is so much more.

In a series of interviews, Tolinksi, long time editor of Guitar World magazine, is able to illuminate Page’s incredible contributions to music by getting the notoriously private guitarist to talk with him about each phase of his career.  While the majority of the book focuses on Page’s time at the helm of Led Zeppelin, it also sheds light on Page’s approach to music, his beliefs in Magick, and even the effect his early days in local bands and as a studio musician had on his later musical accomplishments.

The interplay between historical and personal not only make “Light & Shade” an interesting read, they also place Page’s accomplishments into context.  For instance, I always knew that Page had formed Led Zeppelin, but I had no idea how involved he was in every aspect of the band’s development from their studio production to their musical direction, and even their look and stage presentation.  The interviews in “Light & Shade” provide the detail to back this up, whether it’s how he spaced amps and mics to produce Zep’s signature sound, his insistence on producing and financing the band’s first album and tour before seeking a label or his ability from years of session work to play any number of musical styles, you can clearly see from his own words how influential Page was to every aspect of Led Zeppelin.  But rather than depend entirely on Page to tell his own story, Tolinski also intersperses interviews with some of the musicians who have played with Page in various projects including Jeff Beck, Chris Dreja, John Paul Jones, Jack White and Paul Rodgers as well as interviews with Danny Goldberg, Zeppelin’s publicist and a longtime record industry insider, fashion designer John Varvatos, and even an even an analysis of Page’s astrology by noted stargazer Margaret Santangelo.  These additional interviews provide even more detail and insight into Page’s influence on music, the record industry, fashion, and the occult.

“Light & Shade” is a book that really takes you inside its subject, and while at times it verges on hero worship, it’s hard to argue that Page is not deserving.  What’s amazing to me is how little attention this great book has gotten.  In fact, I might never have stumbled on to it if theHoseman hadn’t brought it to my attention on GoodReads.  So thanks Hoseman, I owe you one, because “Light & Shade” is a fascinating look into the mind of one of the greatest rock musicians to ever live, and whether you agree with that declaration or not I highly recommend you read it.

Player Profile – Raybo

July 15th, 2013

Figment is a social game.  It requires you to build fan bases and then consistently release great albums to keep those fans.  Most players tend to take a while to figure out what works and what doesn’t,  but some seem to know just how to strike the right chord (pun intended) from minute one.  Raybo definitely fits into the latter category of player.  His bands are well developed, have strong visual identities, and are just out-there enough to be totally believable.  So how does he do it?  We asked him…

Figment News:  Tell us a little about yourself.

Raybo:  I’m a single (read: divorced) dude living in Phoenix, AZ; a move I made to be in closer proximity to my 10 year old daughter. I have a couple of different businesses that keep me busy right now, one of which is a digital production house that specializes in promotional videos for company websites.

FN:  So you work in video production?  How has working in a visual medium helped you to play Figment?

Raybo:  It’s interesting because I find that FIGMENT allows me to be creatively focused in a more personal way. When I’m working on video projects for customers, while it entails me adding my own creative flare, it is essentially someone else’s baby. FIGMENT enables me create virtual landscapes that are completely mine. I just killed off a lead singer (Mowgli Marsh of FETALUS) of a band I really enjoyed creating, just because I liked the idea of it. This medium helps my other work because it reminds me that the only limitations that exist are the ones I put on myself.

FN:  Is it true you worked on reality shows in the past?

Raybo:  Yeah, I worked in reality television for over a decade. I went out to Los Angeles to work in motion pictures after college and discovered very quickly that working your way up the ladder in the film world is akin working your way up from hospital custodian to surgeon. It’s been done before, but it ain’t fucking easy. So, I essentially switched over to television for the dental plan, starting with The Rosie O’Donnell Show. From there, I bounced around several other Warner Bros. reality shows before pigeonholing myself in the cop show genre. You find out really quick that working in reality TV is on par with working in porn. They’re both impossible to get out of once you’re in, but porn gets more respect.

FN:  How real is reality TV?

Raybo:  It’s a joke, it really is. There isn’t anything on reality that hasn’t been over-produced and manipulated in one way, shape or form. We would be in meetings with executives telling us they wanted A, B, and C to happen over the course of a season, before cameras had even started rolling. We would literally be forced to submit outlines for each episode, and if we didn’t deliver, there would be hell to pay. And it’s a small community. Everyone knows everyone else, and you move up the ranks by how good a team player you are, which is to say, how unscrupulous and manipulative you are. This is how most corporations work, but here it is even more so, because we are broadcasting lies to millions of people around the globe. Don’t even waste your time voting on any of these shows. The fix is most certainly in.

FN:  If you could take one of your fake bands and create a TV show about them, which band would you choose?

Raybo:  Oh, good question. I would love to delve into the world of Janie Dangerfield, surf punk goddess. That character intrigues me for a lot of reasons, the main one being the amount of trouble she would get into on a weekly basis. I would definitely tune in for that chick.

FN:  How did you start playing Figment?

Raybo:  A friend of mine was wearing a t-shirt with the FIGMENT logo on it and I asked him what it was. He told me about the site and I could not believe it. I’ve been coming up with fake bands, albums and song titles since middle school, so you can imagine my elation. And then when I saw the site, I was super stoked. It was a dream come true, for sure.

FN:  What about the game appealed to you?

Raybo:  Well, of course the album covers were a huge part of it. But having the opportunity to create whole worlds, that was huge. And then mixing it up with other Figgers, going on tour with their bands, that was priceless. The whole experience is just such a blessing for creatively minded music fans. It’s an amazing concept.

FN: King Fu and The Shank Punch Pow, Chad Phantom and The Nobody Panic, Hot Water Burn Baby, Hurricane Abel – you have a real knack for creating memorable band names.  In fact, you won a Figgie for Best Band Name in 2012.  How do you come up with them?

Raybo:  As Jack Black once put it, “You can’t manufacture inspirado.”  And I find this is exactly true. The more I try to come up with a new band name, the more it alludes me. The best band names hit me like a bolt of lightning when I least expect it, or I see something or hear something and go, shit, that would be a great band name. I can’t sit down and force a band name, it just doesn’t work like that for me. I might get part of a name through inspirado and then play with it a little until I find the right balance. But I try to let it happen organically, if that makes any sense.

FN:  When you create a band what is your process like?  Do you pick a genre and try to create a band that fits it or do you come up with a name first and then develop their genre, back story, etc to match it?

Raybo:  The name always comes first. It’s funny because I write the same way sometimes. I’ll come up with a title for a short story and then build the story around that. There have been a few occasions where I think, I want an all-women rock band, or a punk outfit, but mostly I start with the name and go from there.

FN:  You’ve had a nice run of #1 albums on the Figment Hot Albums Chart, what do you think the key is to creating a good album cover?

Raybo:  It’s hard to say because I have been so blind-sided by album covers that I don’t think are my best work, reaching #1. And other covers, which I love and feel are more artistically challenging, not selling at all. I will admit that I’ve “dumbed down” my process on a few occasions because I knew what the paying public was already buying (on the site) and I wanted to prove a point, if only to myself. I know that I’m gonna take some shit for this, but FIGMENT is a great social experiment as well, and that kind of thing intrigues me, especially coming from the entertainment world. People fascinate the fuck out of me. Always.

FN:  What tools do you use to create your covers?

Raybo:  This is a sore spot for me, only because I am so tired of the medium I use to create covers (largely Picasa). I wanted to win that Adobe Suite so bad in this year’s cover contest, and I thought I had a pretty good shot at it too, but it was not to be, and that’s cool, everything happen for a reason. But I do get really bored with the method I am currently using and know how much more I could do if I had the tools. I am limited by my technology, in turn stifling the grand images in my head. But I’ll get there.

FN:  How important is cover art to you when you are checking out a band?  Fake or real?

Raybo:  It used to be very important in real life, especially as a teenager perusing the record store. I am drawn to visual creativity, big time. But now, as we get further and further away from tangible albums, and videos play a larger role in the selling of musical wares, I am less swayed by the visual medium and more by the sonic landscapes that are emerging today.

I love graphic novels and old movie posters in the same way. In fact, I used to buy books solely on the cover art. I have a whole library of unread books, just because I liked the idea of the book, more than the book itself. Which is probably why FIGMENT is a perfect fit for me.

FN:  Have you ever played in a real band?

Raybo:  I sing and play keyboard/piano, and I’ve dabbled in music on a limited basis. I write stuff for myself all the time. When I lived in Australia, me and a few Scottish friends formed a little outfit and played a couple of parties. That was a ton of fun, but it never went any further than that. I think there’s a part of me that still believes I could be in a band, which is good because I can filter that mojo into my Figments. Delusions of grandeur, I suppose.

FN:  What types of music do you listen to?  Does that music ever inspire your Figments?

Raybo:  I love all kinds of music but gravitate mostly towards classic rock and bands that best recreate that sound without forcing it. I love music that sounds raw and under-produced. But I love really love rock n’ roll.

My favorite bands are Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Roger Miller, Van Halen, The Guess Who, (old) Aerosmith, Blind Melon, Ben Harper, Beck, Guns n’ Roses, Edward Sharpe, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Cars, Chili Peppers, Gomez, Grateful Dead, Jane’s Addiction, Buddy Holly, Blitzen Trapper, Bob Marley, Pink Floyd, John Lennon, and last but certainly not least, Pearl Jam. I absolutely love Pearl Jam. Best. Band. Ever.

FN:  What are some of the real and/or fake bands that you would say have influenced your fake bands?

Raybo:  Take your pick.

FN:  A lot of your band’s tag lines and songs are very tongue-in-cheek.  Do you think humor plays a part in your band’s popularity?

Raybo:  I would like to think that, but I really think it comes down to cover art. You could have the best humor and wit in your liner notes and song titles, but unless people like your cover, they ain’t buying shit. It’s kind of a metaphor that reaches far beyond cover art in our society. Sad but true, especially considering how much time is spent working on the interior of my albums, but them’s the breaks: if you don’t reel ‘em in with your cover, you probably ain’t reeling ‘em in.

FN:  What is the band, album or song title that you’re the most proud of?

Raybo:  Are you really asking me to name my favorite child? I’m kidding, but it does feel a bit like that. I like bits and pieces of so many projects, but if I was hard-pressed to name my fave albums, they would probably be:

EVOLVER by Hurricane Abel, KILLING ‘EM WITH KINDNESS by Hot Water Burn Baby, [UNTITLED] by Fetalus, PEST WISHES by Wun, and of course, MOONBLOOD SYMPOSIUM by Chad Phantom and the Nobody Panic.

My favorite band/artist is J.T. Florence of WUN. I love that guy.

FN:  Speaking of “Moonblood Symposium” by Chad Phantom and The Nobody Panic, what the story behind that cover?

Raybo:  Moonblood Symposium came about by way of a short story I was working on that pertains to a rogue Apache werewolf clan. I’ve been completely drawn towards indigenous cultures my whole life and in high school I was good friends with a Native Amercian girl named, Talihina. She was gorgeous, inside and out. But Tali had a rough ride, dealing with a sexually abusive & drunken birth father, and a manic/depressive step-father who committed suicide when we were 16. I saw them as shapeshifters, unsavory men who did unsavory things when the moon flew highest in the sky. I also smoked a lot of pot.

None-the-less, beautiful Tali stood above her clan, saved by her own brilliant heart. And it left a mark on me, as you can see.

I stumbled onto the cover photo at the exact time I was compiling CHAD PHANTOM AND THE NOBODY PANIC’s debut album. Perfect synchronicity. I just looked up on my laptop screen and there it was, the best image I could ever imagine to encapsulate the story of Talihina Moonblood and her brutal brethren of fanged fury. The whole story was in that artwork, as if it had been made for it.

And the fact that the gnarling wolves were captured inside the silhouette of the girl reminded me that she was one of those cursed creatures as well. She merely decided to make another kind of choice. She gave her life for the greater good. And that choice is what defines her as a dualistic character, which in turn, I feel, defines us all.

I separated it [the image], enlarged it, colored it, and tweaked the fuck out of it. The typography had to be petite because nothing could compete with the image, nor should it.  And I can see in this cover that it could easily fit on the jacket of a book, which many of my covers do. FIGMENT lets me kill two birds with one stone, filling all creative voids I keep in my mind’s attic.

Which is fucking awesome.

FN:  If you could make one of your fake bands real and then join the band, what band would it be and what instrument would you play in the band?

Raybo:  Well, damn! I guess if anything ever happened to ol’ Remy Holt, lead singer of KING FU, I would jump in there in a second. That’s my kind of music. And, boy, do the groupies love those guys.

FN:  If someone asked you why should I play Figment what would you tell them?

Raybo:  I would tell them that this is an elite group of talented folks, but one that would welcome them with open arms. All they need to bring is an unlimited imagination and a deep love of music.

FIGMENT will take care of the rest.


Cover-sation is a new feature here on Figment News where we’ll post an album cover from Figment and ask you what you think of it.  Good, bad, indifferent?  What do you like about the cover’s design?  What don’t you like?  How might you have approached the same cover?  In short, we’ll have a conversation about an album cover design…a Cover-sation if you will…

Fait Accompli released “Malevolence” in 2009, but it remains their best selling album to date.  While the band has been on hiatus for some time, this album cover has stuck with me in the 4 years since its release.  How about you?  Tell us what you think.