JOSH BASSETT CHATS ‘GHOST HWY’, SOCIAL MEDIA & CAREER GOALS 236

Currently promoting his EP Ghost Hwy, Josh Bassett is proving himself to be quite a talent. With his collection an array of introspective, intensive and surprisingly psychedelic songs, 2017 may well be the year he finds himself a whole new army of fans. As 2016 draws to a close, he kindly took the time to chat with This Is The Latest about favourite artists, ultimate ambitions and the power of social media.

TITL: Please introduce yourself.

Josh Bassett: They call me Josh. I was raised in New Jersey, spent time living in Miami and San Francisco and am now based in LA making music. I like eating my girlfriend’s home cooked Italian food or Tak’s ramen soup.

TITL: When did you first realise you wanted to be a performer?

JB: My mom took me to see my first big rock show when I was 9 years old. It was David Bowie in Philadelphia. That probably started this whole mess.

TITL: Which bands and artists are you most influenced by and why? Have your influences changed much over the years?

JB: So many. To narrow it down to the core elements – Led Zeppelin; their diversity and brilliant musicianship all around. Chris Cornell; any of his bands – his compositions are very complex and highly underrated. His voice is pretty incredible, and his lyrics have depth and soul. Radiohead; they’re true artists. Just look at the musical distance they’ve travelled from the beginning up to now, always shifting the paradigm. I also have to mention guitarists/composers John McLaughlin and Pat Metheny who influenced my guitar style a lot.  And yes, my taste in music have changed enormously over the years and will likely continue to do so.

TITL: Who or what most inspires your song-writing?

JB: Just moods, emotions, energy going on around me; that all influences the sounds and context that encourages a song to take form. Then the energy of the music itself influences the direction of the lyrical content.

TITL: Tell me about your EP, Ghost Hwy. Where did the idea for the title come from?

JB: Originally, the song that bares that name had no lyrics. It was just some guitar music with a vocal melody I hummed. After we shot the music video for that song, the lyrics were written to fit the video’s story-line and it was called ‘Ghost Highway’ since the video had a lot of driving through vacant spooky places and it was a travelogue type of thing. The video actually takes some influence from an old Jim Morrison art film called ‘HWY’ so I changed the spelling to pay homage to that. Of all the songs on the EP, I just thought that one and the video experience summed up this whole period of life best, and the title easily lends itself to visuals such as the album artwork etc.

TITL: Could you pick a favourite track from the collection and if so, which is it and why?

JB: I don’t think I have a favourite but there are things that pop out about each one. For example, “Spirit Friend” is cool to me because it was written on a ukulele during the first week I ever wielded that instrument. I had never used a ukulele on a recording before. Combining that with electronic elements also for my first time on a recording was a whole lot of firsts in one song. “Away” is cool because it’s one of the first songs I ever wrote a long time ago, and it never got released as a finished product until now. I grew up a drummer and actually played drums on that recording. “Wingtouch” has a very challenging vocal performance and I like the way it came out.

TITL: In your opinion, which is the greatest song ever written and why?

JB: Beethoven’s 5th symphony and Van Halen’s “Jump” because they will both live FOREVER.

TITL: What are your future tour plans and with that in mind, which venue would you most like to play and why?

JB: I’m just trying to book a show at the Hi Hat in LA but I’m not hipster enough I guess so they haven’t written us back yet. We are playing some LA area shows in December and east coast shows around the holidays. After that, we’re trying to plot out some broader touring for February but we need a new van to travel in!

TITL: You’ve been championed by the likes of The Huffington Post and had your sound referred to as “the lovechild of Nirvana and Radiohead” by Mad Mackerel. How much does the support of critics mean to you?

JB: Were we in Huffington? I wasn’t aware of that, I have to google myself! It’s really nice when people who are passionate enough about music to make it their career write positive things about what you do.  Also, it helps ‘legitimise’ you a bit since its coming from an established source and that helps spread awareness about your music. But I’m very aware that music is a super personal thing, like eating food, and everyone has their own taste so I know what I do is not for everyone and that’s okay.

TITL: How do you feel about social media? Would you agree it’s a necessity for bands and artists today?

JB: Social media is a lot of work and can take away a huge chunk of time away from focusing on the music itself. It is a nice tool to connect with people all over the world. If you’re running your own thing, you absolutely have to put a lot of effort into it. If you are being handled by music industry professionals, they can do all that stuff for you, if you want. Some huge music celebs like Slash do all their own posting and content. Ideally for me it’d be a mix of both.

TITL: Finally, what are your ambitions for the coming year and what would be the ultimate career highlight for you?

JB: In early 2017 I plan to play live a lot and promote Ghost Hwy, while getting the mixes of some other songs finalised. I plan to release another EP by early summer. It’s already mostly recorded.  We’ll see how it goes. As for my ultimate career highlight, I can only see what’s just around the corner, so I dream of making an even better album, travelling around opening for one of the bands I’m most influenced by and having some of those artists tell me they dig what I’m doing.  Oh, and being in Rolling Stone magazine.

Ghost Hwy is available now on itunes and for more information on Josh, visit his website or give his page a like on Facebook. Header photo credit: M. Spellman.

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MAX CHATS “LIGHTS DOWN LOW” & TOURING WITH FALL OUT BOY 40

With a flair for rather theatrical performances and a growing fan-base, especially in the US where his track “Lights Down Low” has been one of the biggest hits of the past year, MAX is a name more and more people are sure to become aware of in the next few months. Ahead of his opening slot supporting Fall Out Boy on their UK tour, ThisIsTheLatest met with him backstage at Manchester Arena to chat

TITL: For those as yet unfamiliar with you and your music, who exactly is MAX? How would you describe yourself in four words?

MAX: Energetic, soulful, glittery – it’s always hard to describe yourself – and slay. SLAYYYY – with a lot of y’s.

TITL: I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone use that word before…

M: Oh really? Awesome. I say it a lot!

TITL: What would you say your unique selling point is? What is it about you and your music that makes you stand out from your many other artistic counterparts out there?

M: That’s a tough question to answer on my own. I would say, for me, I try to bring a very theatrical show, while also having a very personal connection to my people, my fans. I like to be as personable as I can with my people, but also make them feel like they’re in another world when they come to a show of ours.

TITL: You’re signed to Pete Wentz’ record label DCD2. How exactly did he come to discover you and what was/is it about him and his label that made you feel that they were the right fit for you?

M: I’ve always been a Fall Out Boy fan, you know, “Dance, Dance”…every record. Patrick’s voice is unbelievable and he’s so kind. Being an OG Fall Out Boy fan, when Pete kind of naturally reached out after hearing some of my music when I was releasing independently, he invited me to one of their shows. I went along with two of my best friends who are also obsessive Fall Out Boy fans, and he brought me backstage; we kinda hung out for a little bit and I don’t know, I guess it was just nice to see how personable they are as people, and also just how hard they work. That’s how and why they’re still doing what they’re doing. So when he said he was relaunching Decadence, as DCD2, and asked if I wanted to be a part of it, it was an obvious no-brainer.

TITL: You’ve achieved phenomenal success in the States thanks to your track “Lights Down Low.” What do you think it is about that song that, for lack of a better word, has enraptured so many people?

M: It’s been really beautiful to see how people have connected with it. It’s the most transparent song of mine, I guess, that I’ve ever put out. I wrote it for my wife and I proposed to her with it. I love telling that story, and I think this song, even if people don’t know that story, they can connect with a piece of it, feel the energy behind it and I hope, and I think that’s why it’s connected more with people than any other song of mine, in a more global way, and I’m glad about that. The song portrays the message that love is love, and that’s what we believe in, no matter where you’re from.

TITL: How did you find the song having its own Snapchat filter for Valentine’s Day which was posted about by Kim Kardashian West, among others?

M: It was honestly the most unexpected thing that I probably have had happen to me. I guess some wonderful people, part of my team, were pitching this idea for Valentine’s Day, which is such a special day for us, and literally the night before, someone emailed me saying there’s a snapchat filter thing tomorrow and no one had ever done it like that before, I guess. They’re doing it a lot now wirh great artists which is so cool, but I guess we were kind of the guinea pig and I’m glad to have been the guinea pig. It was a wild time and it was so cool – they used my glasses and everything. I love that Snapchat is trying to make a filter that really represents the different artists that they’re showcasing. It was a cool surprise.

TITL: You just need your own emoji now…

M: That’d be wild! Emoji’s really encapsulate our lives so I’d love to be part of one.

TITL: Given that you’re currently on tour with Fall Out Boy here in the UK, have you noticed or are you noticing any differences or similarities between audiences here and back home?

M: My wife is from here so it’s kind of nice to come and visit her roots, hang with everybody. I’m loving it. Tour wise, this is our third show on the tour with the guys and it’s amazing. To play Manchester Arena is unbelievable – it’s so special to not only open for them, but feel the energy from the crowd. I think Fall Out Boy fans especially are so proud of the music they love that, even if they don’t know your music quite yet, if you reel them in just enough, then suddenly you feel a new energy which is just so amazing.

I think I would say UK fans really love music, especially live music, but I also think they might be a little harder to impress in a real way, which I really appreciate, especially as an opener, because it’s so rewarding when you get to a certain song and everybody is there. The best thing about UK fans, and European fans in general, is that as someone who loves to do a lot of crowd interaction, even if everybody’s not quite into it yet, they’ll get involved with every interaction I do and make. They’re doing that because they’re committed music fans and that’s the coolest thing in the world because it’s not at every show you get to see all the fans putting their hands up, clapping along, that kind of thing.

TITL: Do you have any headline shows of your own in the works for after this tour?

M: Oh yeah! I’ll be back here in January. I’m almost done with the second album and I’m hoping to put it out towards the end of summer, or early fall in the States and then come over here and hopefully people will discover us from these dates, and come out and see us again.

TITL: You’ve played some pretty big stages in your career so far but if you could play any venue in the world, which would it be?

M: Madison Square Garden, for sure. Being a New Yorker and just having it be such a special place in my life, getting to play there, or getting to headline the Garden, that would be a very massive accomplishment. Getting to play here, and to play the 02 is additionally pretty surreal.

TITL: You’ve had your songs streamed millions upon millions of times on Spotify and watched millions more on YouTube. With that in mind, how do you feel, both personally and professionally, about social media and technology, and the almost consuming power it holds for artists?

M: It’s so addictive and I’ve realised I probably spend a fourth or half my day, going through all the different social medias, trying to research different playlists on Spotify and things like that. It’s also such a connective tool that we’re lucky to have in this generation because, probably half of the collaborations that I do, I find via Twitter. Somebody like Matoma follows me on Twitter and the next thing, I’m talking to him then we’re meeting in person…the connective power it has is incredible, and not just between artists, but for fans too. It’s amazing to pinpoint one particular fan who is such an OG and get in touch with them to say something like ‘Wow, thank you so much for giving so much life and energy to this – do you want to be part of it more?’

With any incredible tool, there’s always going to be some crazy, negative aspect, and I think the addictive quality social media has is that aspect.

TITL: What’s next for you? Are there any plans or projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

M: I’m excited about the second album, and my next single, is a duet with my friend Noah Cyrus – I was actually working on the mix today; slay! Then another song after that called “Still New York” with Joey Badass, which is, obviously about my home city, but also about repping your roots and everything else. There’s a bunch of songs after that, a bunch of collaborations I’m super excited for which I can’t quite talk about yet, and then yeah, hopefully more touring, more shows and then I hope to just keep on going.

TITL: Finally then, what’s your ultimate goal when it comes to your music? What would you like to have achieved 5-10 years from now and musically, what do you most want to be remembered for?

M: That’s a great question and one I think about a lot. I would say, for the 5-10 years part, I want to have that same connective tissue between myself and the fans that I feel and have now. I hope for that to grow, and for us to keep doing what we’re doing now, but hopefully on a larger scale. I think you remember energies more than you remember things people say and whatever else, and I hope that we…I…leave behind an energy that is positive towards people. We’ll all pass away one day, we’ll all be gone, and very tiny remnants of our existence will matter, but I think if there’s any way just a little speck can be left to hopefully inspire other people to bring some positivity to the world, that’s really all I can hope for when it comes to my music.

Check out the video for “Lights Down Low” below, and for more information on MAX, visit his website or follow him on Twitter .

TAMI STRONACH REFLECTS ON ‘THE NEVER ENDING STORY’ & TELLS ALL ABOUT HER NEW PROJECTS 41

Catapulted to fame in the 1980’s thanks to her role as the Childlike Empress in The Never Ending Story, Tami Stronach is a name few film fans of a certain era have ever, or will likely ever forget. Having recently launched several exciting new projects, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Tami to find out how the Childlike role impacted her life and career, which one venue she’d most like to perform in and what’s left to tick off her bucket list.

TITL: How does it feel to know that The Never Ending Story is still as well loved now as it was back upon its original release?

Tami Stronach: It’s incredible. Obviously I am surprised by the staying power, very pleasantly. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated it. I think the story, which was translated from Michael Ende’s book, has these really powerful messages. All the whimsey and magical characters add to it, but underneath all of it, there really is a depth to the story. For me the film is about valuing the child within us…In really dark times, it is really our ability to imagine our way forward that is going to save us. Historically, I think that is always true. The people who can vision a better future and vision a way forward manage to see doors and openings that the rest of us don’t.

TITL: What do you think it is about TNES that makes it so timelessly appealing?

TS: This notion that in each of us resides the power to imagine a better world, a kinder world that we can actually manifest if we believe in our vision enough. That is a powerful message and I think it is one we all need to hear so we don’t give in to apathy.

TITL: Do you have any favourite memories from your time on set/with the cast and crew?

TS: I spent a lot of time with the make-up artists and puppet designers in beer gardens when we were not working. They were really fun adults to hang out with – creative and warm. I learned how to flip coasters and do all kinds of tricks because obviously I wasn’t drinking beer.

TITL: How did landing the role of the Childlike Empress ultimately impact your career? Would it be fair to say that the role is and was your career defining moment?

TS: It definitely is what I am best known for since film has the capacity to reach such wide audience and its very fun to be part of something that means so much to so many people. I view The Never Ending Story as a wonderful defining doorway into what would become a lifelong commitment to a career in the arts. Any opportunity I get to be creative is something I will jump at and I’m happy to do that across a lot of different platforms, dance, choreography, theater, music, puppetry, audio recording–in a small theater or in a massive one–on camera or off.

TITL: You’ve never truly ‘left’ Hollywood having then gone on to do dance and theater work in NYC, but you’re back now, having launched the Paper Canoe Company, which specialises in family friendly work. Where did the concept for it come from and what’s the ultimate aim?

TS: Paper Canoe was something that I founded with my husband after my daughter was born. We wanted to come back to family entertainment because we saw first-hand how impactful stories were to shaping our daughter’s worldview. Also it was something we could do as a team–pool our collective experiences in the arts and make stories that would be meaningful to our daughter, her friends and beyond.

TITL: You’ve also got several other projects in the pipeline including a series of collaborations with indie folk/rock artists in Williamsburg, which marks your first ‘return’ to music since your ‘Faerie Queen’ album in the 80’s. How and why did you decide/feel that now was the right time to work on the music side of your career some more?

TS: After 20 years of being a choreographer in contemporary dance it feels slightly mad to just dive into all this new terrain – but having a kid is a great chance to relive some of your childhood. I’m actually going back to my roots with singing and it is really fun. This project is about how music can be a unique kind of storytelling. No one is making narrative albums any more. You’re not supposed to do that. You’re supposed to make singles because everyone is streaming and shuffling playlists etc. But I’ve never been so into following the rules of what you are ‘supposed’ to do. Greg and Jake and I dreamed this. And we’re doing it. Beanstalk Jack has won a couple of awards. We’re really proud of it.

TITL: With so many projects ongoing and in the pipeline, how to you find the time to prepare and be part of them all? Do you try and plan as much of each day as you can or are you more of a ‘let’s wake up and see where the day takes me’ kind of woman? 

TS: You have to prioritize what project you will focus on when. I tend to set a goal for a three month block of time and then evaluate where to go next. It’s a lot of juggling for sure but it keeps things interesting which I like.

TITL: What can you tell me about the live theatrical experience you’re hoping to unveil later this year? Are you excited about getting back on stage and performing the new material/production to audiences and how far and wide would you like the experience to go in terms of locations and venues?

TS: I love performing for live audiences and I’m looking forward to finding out how to build some visual support for the musical numbers for shows in the NY area. But to be honest, I’m actually focusing more on digital content right now…making a video, recording an audio book, turning Light into a podcast….maybe even creating a short film.

TITL: If you could perform in one venue anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

TS: It would be BAM Harvey. There is something so magical about that theater. Whenever I go there I feel overwhelmed with excitement even if the show I saw in the space wasn’t my cup of tea. Some spaces just make us feel awe – this is one of them. It’s both majestic and rustic…Sometimes architecture has a way of holding a group of people that just encourages everyone to feel connected. Theater at its best is aiming for that same connection.

TITL: Given that you were thrust into the spotlight at a time when social media and the digital entertainment era was still just a dream, how do you feel about social media and the impact it has on the entertainment industry as a whole? Is it something you use much of or are you more traditional in the ways you prefer to interact with people?

TS: Like everything powerful, there are two sides to the coin. I think that on the one hand, social media has allowed people to connect in unprecedented ways that I really value. I met my press agent Clint on twitter, and have made some other great friendships there. Now there really is an opportunity to have more of a direct exchange with people who you are really curious about following.

On the flip side, I think some issues are genuinely complex and can’t be thoughtfully or productively discussed in soundbites, and there is also a temptation to be more cruel in a format where you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of how your actions are affecting someone else were they right in front of you. I worry about a world where we are looking to oversimplify everything and the cost of that. If social media can be used as a tool to bring people together so that there is genuine engagement and face to face time as a by-product of that exchange then I think we are heading in the right direction.

TITL: What advice would you give to those actors/actresses and performers who are just starting out and hoping to emulate the careers of their idols? Is there one piece of advice you were once given that you still reflect on today?

TS: I think it’s important to pursue your passions but to allow space for your career to unfold in ways that you may not have anticipated. There is a balance between being determined and rigorous and being interested in and open to unexpected avenues.

TITL: Finally then, having already achieved so much, are there any other plans and ambitions you want to fulfil? What’s left to tick off on your personal and professional bucket lists?

TS: One of the values I inherited from my mother was to prioritize growing and learning. There is always a sense that if you were fulfilled and interested, that was the most important thing above how much money the project garnered or how many people liked it. Of course those external accolades matter and can be a useful benchmark in terms of making sure what you are making is relevant to other people. I do think it’s challenging to stick to your own sense of purpose and to live an authentic life if the things you value are less mainstream.

What excites me in the industry right now is how good TV is getting. Netflix shows, HBO shows, and all the streaming content coming down the pipe has transformed kinds of storytelling we can expect from those platforms. I’m also excited to see more women producers and writers and generally new voices cropping up in the industry which are escaping formula and offering us some really exciting shows. After having been out of the commercial acting game for so long, I’d love to do another big film or two at this stage of my life and tick that off my bucket list. But more importantly, I hope I’m lucky enough to keep being creative on a daily basis and inspiring and encouraging others to be creative as well.

You can find out more about the Paper Canoe Company by visiting the website and to keep up to date with Tami Stronach, you can follow her on Twitter.