Back to profile

Stories by Ken Leighton

Jason Lee in orchestral ecstasy

"I wrote 11 different charts. It took me three months.”

“When Metallica [played with an orchestra], it blew me away,” says Jason Lee, a veteran rocker who has fronted the surf-guitar-inspired Riptides for 13 years. Lee took the orchestral plunge with his other band called ...

Vandals on the straight and narrow

“We’re playing a cruise ship with the Offspring and the Buzzcocks."

Orange County proto-punkers the Vandals haven’t had a new member since 1989. Joe Escalante joined shortly after the band formed in 1980. “If you told me back then I’d still be playing in my 50s ...

Virtual Strangers see bluer grass in Nashville

"All they can think of when they hear it is hillbillies and blacked-out teeth.”

Mike Tatar has been proudly playing bluegrass for 40 years, in spite of the hayseed prejudice. “I know a lot of [venue owners] who say, ‘I love your music in general,’” he says. “But they ...

Warpath follows ancestors, inspired by Pantera

“We’re in that dog-eat-dog industry. Everybody in rock has a gimmick."

If you’ve ever hiked in the woods near Julian, you’ve seen those holes in hillside boulders where the native Americans used to grind acorns for food. Dean Osuna, drummer of hard rockin’ Warpath, explains what ...

Vista councilman regrets leash-free vote

John Franklin aims to get Buena Vista Park ordinance rescinded

On August 22, the Vista City Council approved a one-year experiment to allow unleashed dogs at the “Trails” area of Buena Vista Park in Vista’s Shadowridge area. Its passage allowed dogs to legally run free ...

Cattle Decapitation rolls through Deathfest

“It’s a mellow community based on a brotherhood or sisterhood.”

It’s unusual that a local band can share stories about their latest tour to Europe. Cattle Decapitation, the extreme metal band that goes whole hog to support animal rights and other environmental issues, did its ...

Seems any band can work with Joe Troutman

"They had to remove their swastika belt buckles before we let them back in.”

Joe Troutman, one of the few local independent music promoters, has outlasted most the venues he’s booked over 16 years. North County’s Jumping Turtle, Royal Dive (formerly owned by this reporter), Metaphor Café, Del Dios ...

Click on this for Zex allegations

Pitchfork punked by Oceanside label's Canadian band?

A bizarre rift between Oceanside-based Magic Bullet Records and one of its bands, a Canadian four-piece punk band named Zex, makes one wonder if there was a real label-versus-band issue or if the beef was ...

Mex med-metal Thanatology gets the gig

"They come out wearing scrubs and then they bust out with ripping grindcore."

Although they’ve dressed up like doctors onstage during their 18 years as a band, don’t expect any messy Gwar-like antics from Thanatology. “We try and set ourselves apart from that cliché that many bands have ...

Oceanside council drama tomorrow

Stroke-stricken mayor to either get more time off or officiate meeting

Oceanside mayor Jim Wood, recovering from his fourth stroke, is wheelchair-bound and, according those close to him, not always completely understandable. While his council colleagues are careful to be publicly respectful of the popular mayor, ...

Hacksaw put to local radio once again

“I was the most visible. I was the most liked and most disliked."

After three years off the air, Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton is returning to the radio airwaves. “I still think I have the passion to do this,” Hamilton said in a interview shortly after he had been ...

How Mainsail got on the Warped Tour

Bassist did time as grunt for annual outing — three years in a row

Of the 50-some bands picked to play at the 23rd Van’s Warped Tour, Mainsail was the only local band to make this year’s lineup. The Oceanside pop-punk band played August 5 at their hometown show ...

Slacker Radio perseveres

Fourteen years in, company still an alternative to Pandora and Spotify

Slacker Radio, the Rancho Bernardo–based music-subscription service that has tried to compete with Pandora and Spotify but has yet to make a profit in its 14 years as a company, has been sold and its ...

Behind the ventriloquist heavy metal drummer

Little Italy marketing guy gets his act to the Brick

Although it’s not immediately clear to some, those “Funner, California” commercials are actually promoting Harrah’s Casino in Valley Center. “They actually changed the name of the property where the casino sits to ‘Funner,’” explains videographer/editor ...

Green Day severs local tie

“I have to admit, I did not see this coming."

When Oceanside’s double Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Jason Mraz left manager Bill Silva after 18 years, the separation was proclaimed to be friendly and drama-free. But Green Day’s termination of San Diego’s highest profile resident rock manager, ...

Nerd-Con controversy

No cred given to co-creator of annual gathering of freaks and geeks

Bridal-show planner Joel Jones wanted to host an event for local geeks who didn’t make it to Comic-Con. His first one-day Nerd-Con mixed fantasy nerd culture with live bands and drew 3000 to the California ...

Jason Mraz breaks up with manager Bill Silva

They almost made it to two decades

Oceanside platinum-selling singer/songwriter-turned-farmer Jason Mraz has fired Bill Silva after 18 years, saying he would prefer to now manage himself. Silva got his break promoting shows as a UCSD student in the ’70s. His on-campus ...

Meat-eating metalheads the minority in Cave Bastard

"I got a little sick. I had to deal with some gut problems.”

The only known San Diego casualty caused by Hurricane Harvey was Cave Bastard’s August 26 show in San Antonio. The extreme metal band’s tour of nine southwestern cities intersected with the catastrophic storm. They learned ...

Reggae, in person

May not be much on the radio, but Synrgy finds an audience

This year’s Beer X fest August 12 at Waterfront Park had the same music/beer/food components as last year’s Beer X, but turnout was different. It drew a sell-out 8500, three times more attendees than last ...

Kissed Alive drummer well after heart attack

Tribute band to return to Campland stage September 15

For the past seven years, veteran local drummer Jason Lee has played in the Kiss tribute band Kissed Alive. “My first heart attack happened when I was in Target six years ago. I started having ...

Earl Thomas, back from Europe (again)

"He admitted to me later that they had trashed the room."

Earl Thomas, the soulful belter from Pikeville, Tennessee, who started singing the blues locally after getting kicked out of the Navy for being gay, has released 15 albums. He has recorded with the late BB ...

Oceanside's feelings ajumble over Animal Kingdom

"I do like it because if it makes us look bad."

The final, 13th episode of the second season of Animal Kingdom airs tonight (August 29) at 9 p.m. TNT announced on August 27 that the series has been renewed for a third season, claiming it ...

The politics and image of real punk

The Widows can't care about "likes"

Things were different when the Widows started playing punk rock 12 years ago. Singer/guitarist Aaron Pores liked it better when things were more DIY. “I love making physical flyers,” says Pores. “The visual art on ...

Heartbreaka: no gangsta he

“You won’t hear me rap about gold chains and Ferraris."

Rapper Heartbreaka got no support from his family. “They hated it,” says the 23-year-old hip-hop artist who grew up in Southeast San Diego as Brandon Nambounmy. “They thought it was something Asians just did not ...

Los Cruzadores invite all to ride and rock show

15-mile transnational bike ride ends at Moustache Bar

Subtropics bassist Dana Chavarria just got a master’s degree in Peace and Justice from USD after completing studies on both sides of the border. He knows what an American president who decries Mexican “rapists” and ...

No rap against Putin

“It’s not that I don’t want to get political, it's just not safe.”

Now seems like the time for a locally based Russian rapper to come up with some rhymes about Moscow election scams. But Anton Romashev, who performs locally as Tonik Slam, won’t be. “It’s not that ...

Chargers and Raiders — on our airwaves but not in our stadium

Rock radio station recasts hint at more changes afoot, says insider

For the first time, two key San Diego FM music stations are giving up part of their Sundays for out-of-town NFL teams. Radio insiders say there’s a master plan behind why KGB/101.5 carries the L.A. ...

Mohawked moshers and girls with tutus don’t mix

“People have a tendency to fear what they don’t understand."

Zak Prescott, drummer with Lemon Grove punk band P-S-O, suggests culture clash caused Industry, an all-ages music venue in Chula Vista’s Eastlake area, to close in January. The 250-capacity Industry hosted eight to ten shows ...

Ché Café okay to stay

“It was always lower-level administrators who had an axe to grind.”

Thanks to an intervention by UCSD chancellor Pradeep Kholsa, the Ché Café has been saved. A lease has been signed by members of the Ché Café Collective that will allow the all-ages venue to reopen ...

The Littlest Hurricane

“Hopefully we’ll find a place to live after the baby arrives.”

“I think it’s safe to say I’ll be the only pregnant drummer playing at Kaaboo,” says C.C. Spina of Little Hurricane. “I will be almost nine months pregnant. That will be our last show of ...

Blind Mountain Holler, like family

"‘Cheese Sandwich’ is about when Kelley and I were living in the back of a U-Haul."

Scotty Bones’s gritty, plaintive vocals and soul-bearing lyrics remind many of early Tom Waits. Scotty and Amanda Bones’ husband/wife harmonic wailings bring to mind Johnny Cash/June Carter or Southern Culture on the Skids. With cello ...

Shock jock Mikey Esparza finds way back to airwaves

"He will not be doing religious rants. He will be doing a compelling rock-and-roll radio show.”

After five years of radio silence, Mike Esparza, namesake of The Mikey Show, is set to return to the airwaves Thursday, July 27, where he will hold down an afternoon DJ shift on KFMB-FM. Esparza ...

Dead Man's Party still standing

Finite universe for Oingo Boingo tribute bands?

Dead Man’s Party doesn’t get many gigs outside of California because their tribute focus, the quirky, new-wave mini-orchestra Oingo Boingo, was mostly a West Coast phenomenon during their 1984–’95 glory years. Maybe because Oingo’s music ...

Topshelf label notes absence of DIY infrastructure

“We didn’t come to San Diego just to find our talent here."

“Since we moved here two years ago one of the biggest questions we always get is what San Diego bands have we signed,” says Topshelf Records co-founder Seth Decoteau. The label has a roster of ...

Thrift trader owner Jeff Clark hit by train in Little Italy

North Park and Pacific Beach stores cleaned out July 13

Media reports noted that a man was struck by an Amtrak train in Little Italy on June 24, but did not list his name. But his 20 part- and full-time employees soon knew. One of ...

Wanted Noise: second generation pop-punk spawn

"When I got here it seemed all I found was DJs and bands playing electronic music."

“It’s hard to be a band that has the punk-style influence and exist in Hawaii,” says Jin Salamack, singer/bassist of Wanted Noise. “I got island fever. I love it to death, but if you’re a ...

Music publishers' police on duty

ASCAP, BMI, and, "like, four of five of these scum suckers out there."

Called scum suckers and worse. In January it was announced that ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) had sued Jolt’n Joes in La Mesa and the Ramona Mainstage because they hosted musicians without ...

Local musicians could've done better at San Diego County Fair

Outsiders clinched two of three top spots in battle-of-bands competition

There’s good news and not-so-good news for local musicians regarding talent shows. Local alt-rockers Creature Canyon say they will use the $2000 second-place prize they won in the San Diego County Fair’s June 16 battle-of-the ...

Jeff and the Showgram gone from KYXY

CBS and Entercom merger partly to blame

A longtime radio powerhouse was unceremoniously escorted out the door after nearly 30 years as a top-rated local morning show. According to insiders, the Jeff and the Showgram ensemble were told they needed to attend ...

It's a rap shop, not a thug thing

“Being unaffiliated, people feel safer here," says Jay Wat

Singer/songwriter Justin Watson, known to most local rappers as producer Jay Wat, says the fact he didn’t grow up around San Diego was a good thing. “I’m from Detroit, so I have a neutral presence,” ...

Rock en español? Naw, Rock en ingles.

"I was really inspired by Tijuana No!" says Latinized Hawk Auburn guitarman

When XETV Channel 6 went off the air last month, guitarist Raul Gonzales was one of some 60 employees who lost their jobs; he was a programming engineer in the station’s master control studio in ...

Rob Stone — the guy with the glasses? — did it?

No, he says, on XXXtentacion assault, but "I knew it was gonna happen."

Rappers beefing in real life may be good for lyrics but it can cost you gigs. Consider local rapper Rob Stone, best known for his breakout 2015 hit “Chill Bill.” He tells how Florida rapper ...

Mariachi man

“I was just starting high school when my parents got a letter of deportation."

Southwestern College professor Jeff Nevin has been teaching Mariachi music for 20 years. Proceeds from concerts he organizes fund $20,000 in annual scholarships for music students. His teaching clinics help keep Mariachi alive. But Nevin ...

At UCSD William Morris discovers the smallest band they've dealt with

Lightning Cola — via an obscure Vietnamese music blog

As major record labels decline in relevance, getting well-connected managers and agents on your side has become more important for so-called “baby bands” that are struggling to get a national foothold. Consider the plight of ...

San Luis Rey Downs turns hotel over to renters

But is it legal?

In 2014, the San Luis Rey Downs golf resort in Bonsall closed. Some 118 acres was purchased by the County to augment a public riverpark, and another 71 acres is in the process of being ...

Chris Cornell didn't forget Soundgarden's TJ show

"The lawlessness didn’t seem to benefit any of us or our fans."

All four Seattle grunge frontmen (Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains’ Layne Staley) played Iguana’s, the three-story Tijuana rock mecca that hosted major headliners during its 1989–’94 run. ...

Sportscasting now the "real" alternative radio?

Padres don't deliver ratings for FM-94/9

Does Linkin Park mix with Petco Park? Not really, according to newly released Nielsen ratings showing the results of the first full month Padres play-by-play aired on alt-rocker FM-94/9 — the station took a ratings ...

Belly Up County

Tavern's talent-buying blokes expand territory

Having Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffett, and the Rolling Stones drop by for a show may be the Belly Up Tavern’s most visible triumphs. But behind the scenes the booking staff of the Solana Beach venue ...

Jason Hanna, brassman to the bone

After Herb, it's on to schmaltz-free Mendes, Bowie, Ellington...

Jason Hanna can walk from his home in I.B. to the beach where, on a clear day, he can see the bullring where Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass made one of the first music ...

Jennie's Cafe in Oceanside closed — drug overdose

Owner leaves behind three children

Jennie Duffin was not able to open her Oceanside café on Sunday. But some of her friends staged their own Mother’s Day tribute to her on the Jennie’s Café patio that runs along Coast Highway. ...

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!

Close