FYI

A Conversation, Questions, and Reviews

This month we talk to entertainment attorney and CEO of Pacific Records Brian Witkin, find out about cartoons from Jim Basnight, Allen Camp, Nathan Hubbard, Kevin Ring, Felissia Mae, and Will Tisch and take a listen to new albums from The Litter and S. Mathias & The Honeycombs.

A CONVERSATION WITH BRIAN WITKIN: MUSIC AND THE LAW

Cambrian Shores. Brian Witkin, second left.

One of the big questions for any artist is at what point they will need legal representation. And once that’s been established what said rep will do. “It really depends on the artist’s specific circumstances,” said entertainment attorney Brian Witkin. “But if they think they need legal representation, they probably do.” Witkin is a rarity in the music business, with first-hand knowledge of all aspects of the music business. A graduate of San Francisco Law School (2019), in addition to his legal practice, he regularly performs with his group Cambrian Shores and is the CEO of Pacific Records. “I run an entertainment law practice that is outside the scope of Pacific Records,” he said. “In fact, I do not practice law on behalf of Pacific Records or the artists on the Pacific roster.”

Witkin notes that an entertainment attorney is different than a manager. “My role depends upon the artists’ needs, but in a broad sense it’s my job to help the artist navigate the business and legal side of the music business so they can make informed decisions about their career,” he said. “For example, I’ve helped artists negotiate record deals. Playing in a band myself, it’s interesting being on the other side! I also assist in copyrighting complex works (songs) with the US Copyright office, and I’ve helped artists resolve issues with their performing rights organizations (PRO’s), create band member agreements, etc.”

While he doesn’t practice law at Pacific Records, “being an entertainment lawyer helps in nearly every aspect of my role as CEO,” he said. “It’s made me more efficient and enabled me to communicate better with the other professionals around me.”

What does he find most rewarding about being an entertainment attorney? “As cliché and cheesy as it sounds, it’s helping artists make their dreams come true,” Witkin said. “Whether it’s signing a sync deal, helping to protect their music, or just helping set the foundation, it still does it for me.”

With Pacific Records he’s released music by a string of acclaimed artists, across genres—from hard rockers Sprung Monkey to boy band, O-Town, to classical guitarist Lito Romero, with recent successes including Rebecca Jade/Jason Mraz single “Bad Wolves” and the Guitar Legends soundtracks featuring Billy Gibbons and friends.

It seems that Witkin was fated to a life in music, with his father also a noted musician—pianist Joe Witkin. “I was born into a musical household,” Witkin said. “Both my parents were musicians gigging in bands throughout my childhood. This was a huge influence on me, as it sparked my interest in music at a young age.” His father achieved success in the 1960s-early 1970s as the founding keyboard player of Sha Na Na. “He played with the band at Woodstock in 1969, appearing right before Jimi Hendrix’s iconic performance. Elliot Cahn, who is Pacific’s entertainment attorney, was the founding guitarist of Sha Na Na, which is the connection there. They were all Columbia University students in Glee Club, where they met and formed the band.”

Later relocated to San Diego, Witkin’s parents eventually performed with show band The Legends Doo Wop ‘n’ Roll Revue, which would eventually become the Corvettes before disbanding after 22 years. “My father still plays music,” he said. “He also runs sound for Pacific Records shows at the Stella Artois Lounge, inside the Pechanga Arena; he was instrumental in setting up the sound system there.

His own string of bands includes Warrior Finches, “which was in my early teens, with my only sibling, my brother Sean.” Sean would go on to play in other bands with Brian in the early 2000s, including the punk band Shut Up Sigmund Freud, culminating in the current indie rock combo, Cambrian Shores. The latter has scored impressive dates including a spot at the first Wonderfront Festival and opening for Black Keys in the Stella Lounge at Pechanga Arena. Ever restless, Witkin is also working on a new duo project, Slack Key Ohana, devoted to Hawaiian guitar.

His life completely immersed in music, Witkin is happy with the path taken. “You could say my family was the biggest influence on my music career,” he said good naturedly. “I feel so lucky to have been able to grow up in that musical environment.”

www.pacificrecords.com

WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE CARTOON CHARACTER AND WHY?

Jim Basnight: I like animation, especially heartwarming kids’ stuff that makes you cry and laugh. To be honest, my favorite cartoon characters were the Beatles. I loved the Beatles music and the cartoons they did from the “Beatles Cartoon” series and Yellow Submarine.

Allen Camp (Fuzz Huzzi): My favorite cartoon character would have to be Garfield. As for why, he was a lazy fat cat that loved lasagna. He was not going to be chasing a mouse even if his life depended on it. He always had a way of getting into trouble. Funny how he slept all the time and still could find trouble.

Nathan Hubbard: I grew up in the ’80s with all the classic after school cartoons, and I always had a thing for Teela from He-Man.

Felissia Mae: My favorite cartoon character would be Shrek because he’s always got something real to say.

Kevin Ring (Manual Scan): It’s Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? the original series, 1969-1970. Nothing past that. (I despise Scrappy-Doo. Sorry, Dave!) As to why, well, it’s been my favorite since I was a kid, for one thing. It was the one cartoon I absolutely HAD to watch every Saturday morning. Maybe it was the great theme song or even the cheesy songs during the chase scenes. But it was probably also the fact that there was always a rational explanation; it was never really a ghost or monster and they didn’t have to rely on something mystical to make the story work. Hence, my dislike for later versions where they actually dealt with monsters and ghosts.

Will Tisch (Carol Williams Band): My favorite comic character is from Don Martin. Karbunkel always made me laugh because of his goofy routines with Fester Bestertester.

REVIEWS

The Litter: Future of the Past

The basics: 11 hard rock tracks from a new lineup of 1960s-era combo, the Litter.

In the decades since they first hit the airwaves with the immortal “Action Woman” (1967), The Litter has been an influence on legions of bands, from Danzig to Echo and the Bunnymen. But they’re not resting on their laurels. Anyone who has followed the group knows their music took on a harder edge following their garage rock debut and Future of the Past reflects that.

It’s a natural progression. The Litter still includes drummer Tom Murray, plus new members—singer Ronnie Long and guitarists Scott Uhl, Danny Masters, and Greg Burgess, with their current sound heavily focused on dynamic fret work. These guys are stadium ready with the tunes to back it up. Future of the Past is named for a song on the band’s last album of their original run, 1969’s Emerge, with guitarists Zippy Caplan of the 1967-era Litter and Dez Dickerson of The Revolution amongst the album’s musical guests.

The 11 songs feature a nice, updated version of Buffalo Springfield’s classic “For What It’s Worth,” but there are two clear singles here: power ballad “Stay With Me” is the sort of tune that would have any arena crowd swaying in time, lighters aloft. Also, quite good is “Just Believe,” with Dickerson contributing lead guitar set against a climbing chorus. Meanwhile there are also quirkier moments, such as “The Miracle,” featuring spoken segments and some familiar chanting.

As the first album by The Litter in more than two decades, it’s always nice to welcome an old favorite back. Hard rock fans will love Future of the Past. This one is for playing loud.

Mathias and the Honeycombs: Nothin’ But the Blues

The basics: It’s all right there in the title. Fourteen blues tunes, helmed by one S. Mathias, aka guitarist Scott Mathiasen. If you’re a fan of the blues in general or the early days of rock ‘n’ roll, this one’s for you. And I say “blues in general” because Mathias is no one trick pony; it’s not just 12-bar or acoustic or what have you, he varies his tunes and rhythms to good effect. Mathias is a triple threat, a really good songwriter with an ear for hooks and melodic twists, and he is a superb guitarist. His solo’s work the song’s melody without a speck of excess. But where he really excels is his voice—he can growl or croon with the best of them, putting real emotion in the songs. You believe the words he is singing.

The whole thing really sounds good as well; Nothin’ But the Blues’ top-notch production is custom fit to the tunes. As for the songs, there’s not a weak spot here, the variety of styles making for a refreshing listen. My favorites are the up-tempo numbers such as the harmonica driven, acoustic country blues rocker “Ain’t Myself These Days,” featuring terrific slide work. Also excellent is the New Orleans styled piano stomper “Eggs & Ham,” topped by a stinging guitar solo. That said, the single here is “18 Wheels,” a swampy blues rocker that sounds like a lost CCR jam, with a pair of wonderful guitar solos that manage to add a little Beatlesque flavor to the tune. It’s 4:43 minutes of pure groove. I tend to favor shorter tunes, but this one I wouldn’t mind an extended version of.

This is S. Mathias & The Honeycombs’ debut album, but it’s built on a lifetime of music experience and it shows. This is as solid a modern blues album as you’re going to hear, perfect for the “repeat” button on your hi-fi player. Recommended.

 

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