- Album Reviews

The Sixxis and the Winery Dogs

Review by Karen

As I was preparing for my flight to New Jersey, I was as giddy as a teenager!  My bestie Michelle and I had been planning this for months!  We have both had a hell of a year, music therapy was in order!  She was unable to make our gig for Gvm’t Mule and we were both saddened by that. But My daughter went with me instead, and it was great sharing my music with her!   To my surprise, she scored a pair of VIP tickets to see The Winery Dogs at the end of October!  Meet and greet and a night full of Billy, Ritchie, and Mike!!! I couldn’t say no!  Two middle aged rocker chicks living the dream!!  At least for a few days!!

As her car pulled curbside at the airport, I could hear her rocking out!!  No surprise there!  True to form, we insisted being first in line for the meet and greet. Anticipation and casual conversations with those in line had us chomping at the bit ! Discussion of the supporting bands was flying back and forth, but no one really had much information on either one. (I didn’t do my homework!! LOL I was simply Dogcentric!) When they called us in for pictures and autographs we were what can only be described as 2 squealing teenagers!  Mike was my first!  Hugs and a kiss on the cheek! (yes I’ve finally washed it!), then Ritchie!  Billy gave me a monster hug and thanked me for flying in for the gig!  Great gents!  All of them!  And very generous with their time.

Being first in line meant first in the venue. It was general admission, so we made sure we went down in front and made a couple friends to save us spots for when we had to leave for drinks etc.  When the show finally started I didn’t have high hopes for the supporting acts.  Then all of a sudden I felt this positive rush of energy!  As the curtain lifted I just knew in my gut this band was going to be something special!  As they started into the first song, the mood in the Starland Ballroom did a 360!  The Sixxis!  I looked at Michelle and she looked at me, both of our jaws dropped!  Right then and there I knew I had to find out more!

Their sound has been classified as many genres.  Prog, jazz, rock, and so on.  The musicianship was glaringly apparent.  The band has an ultra tight sound, and the harmonies SPOT ON!  It felt like they had been playing together for years!  What really stuck out for me was the joy in their playing and the perpetual smiles on their faces!  Except for guitar player Paul Sorah who kept throwing out some adorably menacing glances!  Lead singer Vladdy Iskahov was center stage, a clear strong rock voice.  Drummer JBake Baker was a joy to watch!  His engaging smile and interaction with the audience lifted me.  Mark Golden is a POWERFUL force on the Bass and also had a permanent grin.  These 3 were the core of the band.  Two other very talented guitar players Paul Sorah and Cameron Allen join them on tours and are currently in the studios working on their first full length album.  Due to be released in early 2014.

The crowd response was the same as mine.  You just knew you witnessed something big!  I could have listened for hours!   At the end of their set, I got preoccupied because my boys were coming on and let me tell you they DELIVERED!!  Opening with Elevate hitting hard and in your face!  Ritchie was right in front of us, Billy to my left and Monster Mike behind them.  Mike is a complete clown!  If you’ve never seen him live you are missing a real show!  And Billy!!! Oh Billy!!  A complete animal on the bass!   Absolutely drew me in and kept me there, salivating for the next morsel!  They did all the songs off of the album and a couple of Ritchie’s solo songs, including “You can’t Save Me”.  “I’m no Angel” was also another one that was even greater then my already high expectations.  “A Fool Around Fell in Love” By Elvin Bishop was also a stand out as an encore!  High on my Winery cloud my friend and I wandered down to merchandising to get T-shirts and see what else was for sale because whatever they were selling that night we were buying!

The line was long, but it was to be expected.  As we rounded the corner, we saw the guys from The Sixxis just hanging out and chatting up the fans.  I saw Paul first, his menacing rocker look was now a beaming smile.  I introduced myself and told him how much I enjoyed the show.  When I told him I flew in from Ohio for the gig, he just put his arms out and gave me a big hug!  JBake was next, another hug and more southern charm!  Vladdy was just as generous with his time and more hugs!!  I rounded it out with Mark and Cameron.  These guys were just down to Earth and engaging!  I needed to know more!

A week or so later I went on their page and told them how much I loved the show, and more importantly how impressed I was with the band.  I told them I was from Ohio but was at the New Jersey gig.  They actually remembered me and agreed to an interview after the tour with Dogs was completed.  True to their word, Vladdy gave me a call on Friday and we had an in depth and very revealing conversation about the early days and journey of the band that is The Sixxis.

I was waiting by the phone last Friday.  I was expecting the call around noon.  Promptly at 12 pm the phone rang, “Hi this is Vladdy!”.  I could just tell by his humble and friendly greeting that he would be easy to talk to, and his humility and candor was absolutely refreshing. But the back story of him and the band is an amazing tale of a young band finding their sound.

Vladdy is the lead singer, but so much more!  I don’t think there is an instrument he CAN’T play.  As I did research before the interview, I noticed that in the early years of the band he was very hands on in his approach. Guitar, electric violin, piano and keyboards.  And flawless!  He told me he started playing violin at age 3.  His mother is an acclaimed pianist from the Soviet Union and music was introduced at an early age.  He immigrated to The United States when he was 9.  Focusing all his attention on the classical music he was raised on, he really didn’t get introduced to modern music until his junior year in college.  My jaw dropped!  Being introduced to Rush and Dream Theatre as a start. (Can’t think of a much better way to begin!)  As a side note, he was not offended when I asked him how many people tell him he looks like Geddy Lee.  And the fact that they were touring with Portnoy was a bonus.  Early days of the band was typical of any young band starting out and finding their sound.  And musicians come and go until you find that “fit”.

Vladdy’s father was his biggest supporter.  A three story house in Atlanta Georgia has a fully equipped professional sound studio.  Their work is done there, and it is generously lent out to local musicians to try and defray the exorbitant cost of studio time.  This is where Vladdy, JBake, and Mark met Cameron and Paul.  As their sound developed, they were often compared to Soundgarden, KingsX, and Rush. Musical backgrounds include music studies and degrees for all of them.  Roots in classical, jazz, southern rock, bluegrass and gospel.  A true melting pot of roots and direction melded into what The Sixxis is today.  And with the vast cultural and ethnic backgrounds, they represent a diversity that somehow just works!  Appealing and genuine!

When I asked Vladdy why he didn’t play any instruments at the show I went to, he simply said it was time to step back and stop micro managing.  When they go on the road, Paul and Cameron tour with them.  He wants that large sound the 2 guitarists provide and he wants to let that shine.  Music for music’s sake.  No labels, no egos!  He prefers a family approach; respect, passion, and the ability for all members to utilize their specific fortes.  He’s a sincere and humble man who thinks music as an art should be shared without agendas.  I have to tell you, I was very taken by him and his honesty and generosity.

The Sixxis were getting ready to hit the road.  They have supported such acts as Buckcherry, Winger, The mighty Wishbone Ash and of course the Winery dogs!  To get the sound he wanted Vladdy asked Paul and Cameron to accompany them to the UK.  They gratefully accepted.  I came to find out Paul only had 2 weeks to prepare and learn all the material for the Wishbone Ash tour!!  I again am astounded!  If you hear their tight sound, especially live, you would never believe it!  The tour was a huge success, giving them the exposure they needed to peak the interest of other touring bands.  They were approached by The Winery Dogs and toured with them in the UK, Europe, and here in the states.  Billy was the first to welcome them back on the last leg of the tour.  Vladdy added that the Dogs taught them some valuable lessons on the road, taking something from each gig to add to their richness of experience. When he said no egos he meant it! Just as it takes a village to raise a child, he applies that to the band.  His family lives next door to him and his wife.  All of the band members are drug free.  They interact and are vested in each others lives.  They will be back touring with The Winery Dogs in March and April.  I for one will try and catch them again.  Their sound just keeps getting better and better!!

At the moment they are finishing their first full length album. Their EP  “Believe” is a great introduction to their ever evolving sound.  But this album due out in early 2014 has me captivated!  Vladdy’s vocals, JBakes power percussion, Marks monster bass, Cameron on the guitar and piano, and Paul’s stage presence and huge guitar sound are all going to be showcased this time!  I’ve been assured I will get the heads up on the album release, and this time again…I will be the first in line!!

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