Monday, February 20, 2012
Thanks for joining us on our first 19 questions Blog! This month we have an interview with the smart, funny and artistic Christine McKinley. Christine is one of the investigators on Brad Meltzer’s Decoded airing on this History Channel. What you may not know is that Christine is also a singer/song writer. Her recent release is “Gracie And The Atom”. It’s the soundtrack to her musical she wrote by the same name. We hope you enjoy this interview and join us for them every month!
ZIA : Your current record “Gracie and the Atom” is about a young girl who is placed in a Catholic High School after losing her father and has to deal with a whole new environment as well as looking for answers about her journey in many different places and through many different influences. Where did the inspiration for this come from? Did you know a Gracie?
CM : I took pieces of my own life and moved them around to make Gracie. My family moved from Alaska to California and enrolled me in Catholic high school when I was 14, so I learned about science the same time I was studying the Bible. When I was in college, my dad died in an accident and I really wrestled with all I knew about the conservation of energy, Einstein’s non-linear time, and how death might fit into that. I was pissed off and looking for answers, like Gracie.
ZIA : You wrote this as a play as well correct?
CM : Yes, I really just meant to write a series of songs that told a story, like Aimee Mann’s “The Forgotten Arm.” I began to write out Gracie’s story so that the songs would be clearer to me. One night, a friend said, “Why don’t you just admit that you’re writing a musical.”
A musical about science – how much more of a geek could I become? I surrendered to it.
ZIA : You and Gracie both went to a Catholic High School; this had to have influenced your writing on all your records we would assume. Does that experience bleed into the work on a subconscious level or is it pre meditated?
CM : Wow, good question. I’m pretty sure it’s an uncontrolled bleeding. The spiritual stuff in Catholic school was a lot of fun for me partly because I had no religious background at all. I found it really odd and sweet that people believed in what sounded like fairy tales. I’d look around me when we’d read something in the New Testament about the virgin birth or Jesus walking on the water and everyone would be completely on board. The concept of faith is still so fascinating to me because of that. They told me it’s a gift. You either have faith or you don’t. Somewhere along the way I was given the gift of faith in science, not in Jesus. Hey, it’s not polite to refuse a gift. I’ll take it. The best thing about Catholic school is that the Sisters of St. Joseph were so devoted to the girls there. They wanted us to be strong, smart, soulful women. What a great message to give a girl.
ZIA : We also heard a rumor that you took a bicycle trip through Israel by yourself? That had to be an amazing experience! Can you tell us what that was like?
CM :Well, I don’t recommend it. I was going out of my head about my dad’s death. He’d worked in Israel and really loved it, so I wanted to go there. You see everything on a bicycle, smell the exhaust, the trees, get rained on and sunburned. I rode from Nazareth straight down through the West Bank and got into a little trouble. Some Israeli soldiers in a jeep found me and made me follow them out. The funny thing is, I went right back in from a different direction. I’m older and smarter now.
ZIA : Has there been a 12 month stretch without an Israeli bike trip or a brief incarceration for trespassing or midnight clandestine discussion with a clansman who has knowledge of the vault behind Rushmore since you graduated?
CM : Ummm…not that I can think of.
ZIA : Is it hard to find time to write with your insane schedule?
CM : Writing is brutal and mostly unrewarding. If I could stop, I would but I continue to write in hotel rooms, on planes, in vans waiting to shoot scenes, in bed when I should be sleeping, and in the ER waiting room. Anyone who is compelled to write will find a way to do it. I even got a little guitar that fit in my suitcase so I could keep writing songs on the road.
ZIA : When can we expect a new album?
CM : Depends on what DECODED does. I have a real job as an engineer that is more than full time, so it’s just a matter of finding enough time to get back in the studio.
I am working on a musical with two friends. We’re hoping to have a workshop in February in NYC. It’s about the “war of currents” between Edison and Tesla. Brutal stuff – electrocutions, libel, fires… These guys were out of their minds. We didn’t have to make anything up.
ZIA : Who are some of the Artists that influence you?
CM : Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann, Rickie Lee Jones, The Beatles, Andrew Lloyd Webber
ZIA : What about books? Who are some of your favorite authors?
CM : Rilke – his poems and his “Letters to a Young Poet” still get me all worked up. Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath were important to me when I was younger, also T.S Eliot and William Carlos Williams. They made me want to use words carefully and sparingly.
I can read J.D. Salinger’s short stories over and over. I also read a lot of books about modern physics, quantum theory, etc… Oh yeah, I’m fun on a date. That’s all I want to talk about.
ZIA : Now let’s talk some De-Coded! We are huge fans here at Zia Records! How did you get on the show?
CM : It was such a random route. I saw an ad on Craigslist in the engineering section. Discovery Channel was looking for an engineer for a technical show. I submitted a video, got invited to an audition, and didn’t get the gig. It was for “Build It Bigger.” Then Discovery asked me to do a pilot called “Under New York” which aired right as I moved to Los Angeles for an engineering/construction job. Since I didn’t (still don’t) have a TV, I went to a friend’s house to watch it. A week after that, the same friend told me about DECODED auditions and I was invited to them.
ZIA : We always wonder about the production time. How long does one episode take to film?
CM : It takes about a week. We shoot SO much that isn’t aired. Then I see comments from viewers like, “Why didn’t you ask about the Russian spy planes?” I yell at my computer screen, “We did! We did!” But not everything ends up in the show.
ZIA : If you’re all ready in Europe, can you film two at the same time if they both have a European destination?
CM : Yes. We tried to shoot scenes from different episodes in the same location. We thought it would be confusing to shoot but it really wasn’t. It gave us time to think (obsess) about each topic a bit more than season one.
ZIA : Some of the favorites here where the Bohemian Grove episode (where you ended up in handcuffs) and the Rushmore episode. What have been your favorites?
CM : Well, Bohemian Grove was my favorite because I’m now dating one of the men involved with my arrest. Turned out pretty well for me. Best “how I met my boyfriend” story EVER. (We’ve heard every handcuff joke.)
For content, my favorite was the Georgia Guidestones. We talked to a woman who is a Rosicrucian and she was the coolest, most reasonable religious person ever.
ZIA : Who decides what topics to cover? Is it Brad’s decision or a group thing?
CM : The production company pitches subjects to History Channel and they approve them, or not. Some come from Brad and his cabal of powerful friends.
ZIA : Has there been a topic that you guys started to work on and then backed off? Is there a conspiracy within the conspiracy? LOL
CM : Nikola Tesla and HAARP seem to be off limits, as does nuclear power.
Also, there was an episode in which we had a collective change of opinion at the end.
ZIA : IS Brad an actual person or is he a digital construct created by the New World Order to throw us off the trail?
CM : He’s very real, also very funny and kind of a potty mouth.
ZIA : As Season 2 wraps up what can we expect from Season 3? Just a taste! A clue!
CM : I haven’t heard anything about a season 3. It was a great experience, but I’d be happy to have my summer back. I have a real career as an engineer, some other projects in the works, and it would be fun to have a life again.
ZIA : Final question about De-Coded: Will Brad ever join you guys in the field?
CM : I hope not. Given that he is a high-level member of the Illuminati, the ring kissing and bowing would cut into our schedule significantly.
ZIA : What does the future hold for Christine McKinley?
CM : I’m writing a book about how physics applies to daily life: stage dives, dating, arson…that kind of thing. I intend to write songs for each physics concept covered as well. Basically, I’m always looking for ways to be more of a gigantic dork.
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 4:24 PM
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Zia is going to be rolling out a new Blog Feature called “19 Questions with Zia” this month. It’s going to be a monthly interview with a person in the entertainment industry. It could be a musician, a group, a writer or an actor. Sometimes we will have people that run indie labels and tour managers as well. Our goal is to provide the Zia fan with a different type of interview with questions that steer away from the cookie cutter USA Today BS. The first month we will have an interview with Christine McKinley from Brad Meltzer’s De-Coded on the History Channel, who is also a very talented singer songwriter! We hope you will enjoy this feature and sometimes we will ask for questions via Facebook and Twitter so stay tuned. Thanks!
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 11:07 AM
Monday, February 13, 2012
Civil Twilight is a three piece band from Capetown, South Africa. They have an alt rock sound that is sometimes compared to early U2. You have heard a lot of Civil Twilight on some of your favorite TV shows over the past couple of years on programs like House and Without A Trace. This stuff is very catchy and Steven's vocals really shine on the songs! Civil Twilight have a new record, "Holy Weather" coming out on March 26th. Stop by your local ZIA Records and grab it!
ZIA : Two of you have been together your whole lives how did Richard hook up with you guys?
CT : Andrew and i met Rich in school. I was about 11 or so. Andrew and Rich actually started the band and I joined a few months later as the punk-ass, younger brother who'd written a few poems and wanted to try out for singer. It blows my mind that we're still together.
ZIA : Is he pretty much an honorary McKellar?
CT : Yeah, pretty much. He's actually thinking of changing his name so we can call the band 'The McKellar Brothas and Co.'
ZIA : When did you guys first visit the states?
CT : My first visit was when i was 13 years old, visiting my grandmother. Blew my mind.
ZIA : Is there anything that you had heard about the states you had to see?
CT : DisneyWorld. And McDonalds, sadly enough.
ZIA : Have the US audiences taken to you as much as the South African fans?
CT : Yeah, i'd say so. But, it is hard to compete with a homecoming gig. Let's just say we enjoy playing on both sides of the pond.
ZIA : Being from Cape Town and growing up in the wake of apartheid and a huge anti-segregation movement, how did this affect your music?
CT : I was rather young (11) when apartheid was abolished so I didn’t fully understand what was going on at the time. The atrocity of apartheid only became clearer to me as I got older but I remember my folks being very involved and excited when Mandela was released and telling me that this is a historic occasion and a huge triumph for humankind. I remember the day. And I remember when black kids were first allowed into my school. Crazy! There was so much that came along with all that. So many miracles of justice and peace following that time. It’s a really big topic that I don’t have time to fully explore right now but it’s given me an appreciation for freedom and justice to say the least.
ZIA : Do you write songs from a political viewpoint sometimes?
CT : No. I don't really give two shits about politics.
ZIA : Did you yourselves see any segregation first hand?
CT : Yeah. I remember seeing whites only beaches and two lines at the post office, one for blacks and one for whites. Crazy shit like that.
ZIA : I have read of an affinity for Jazz music that you guys inherited from your parents. What are some must- have records for someone just getting into Jazz?
CT : Well, if you haven't listened to the classics you should probably start there. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue. John Coltrane A Love Supreme etc. But, one of my personal favorites that i've listened to since i was an young teen is The Harper Brothers live at The Village Vanguard. AMAZING.
ZIA : At what point did you guys realize “This is it. We are all in” and the music had become your full time occupation?
CT : Wait. We are all in?!! Wow! This is great. I'm gonna have to send a letter to the folks. Do you know where we pick up our checks?
ZIA : The new record “Holy Weather” seems like a progression from the sound on “Civil Twilight”. Would you guys agree? Was it intended?
CT : Yes, i would agree. And it was partly intended, but also partly natural in it's progression. We'd been playing the songs off the last record for a LONG time and needed a change, for our sake and the audiences.
ZIA : “Holy Weather” comes out on March 26th. What can fans expect from this record?
CT : A partly intended, yet partly natural progression in style. :) …and the same amount of passion that we've always felt about music. We wanted to make an album that was more precise than the last one. More focused in it's lyrical content and arrangements, and more rhythm and melody based. We like it, and that's all that matters.
ZIA : For those who are reading this and have never heard you guys before how would you describe your sound?
CT : Well, it's about to be changed, so, it's hard to say. The first album sounds like a spiritual war being fought over a dark and tumultuous ocean. And the second sounds like the musical soundtrack to a domestic horror/love story involving ghosts and door to door salesmen. I don't know, man. They can tell me. That would be a more accurate description.
ZIA : Who are some of your fellow artists that you’re into?
CT : James Blake blew all of our collective minds when we first heard him. Steve is really into soulful music and good songwriting. Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen. Andrew is more into new music and interesting sonics and beats. Rich is a little all over the page.
ZIA : Are you guys readers and if so what is a book you that you must have on tour?
CT : Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy for Rich. Gabriel Garcia Marquez for Steve.
ZIA : Speaking of touring, are there any US tour plans coming up?
CT : Yeah, we’re busy putting together a master plan for the spring!
ZIA : How do you make such a full sounding record with just the three of you?
CT : We just turn everything up really loud! And practice a lot.
ZIA : Dumb question but one that has to be asked: Is it hard being in a band with a family member?
CT : Ummm... Yes. But in the end brotherly love prevails. :)
ZIA : What does 2012 hold for Civil Twilight?
CT : Hopefully a record that people like and continuing to grow our fan base here in the States. We love this country and love playing here.
Posted by Zia Records Blogs at 3:55 PM