VH1 is revving up for the return of it’s morning entertainment show, “Big Morning Buzz Live” on Monday, October 17 at 9AM. Live from the lobby of VH1’s headquarters in Times Square, host Carrie Keagan will talk to and about all the biggest headlines, celebrities, music and hot topics of the day. Five days a week, Carrie gets up close and personal with the most buzzed about celebs and candidly discusses trending topics with pop culture experts.
Carrie, it’s great to see you back on VH1 with “Big Morning Buzz Live”! For those who may not know, tell us a little about the show.
This is Season 2. It’s all things pop culture and entertainment. I’m hosting and it’s a lot of fun. I have to get up reeealllly early since it’s a morning show and it’s the first morning show VH1 has ever done. We’re having a blast. We have huge names stop by the show. We have live music, which is huge. Some of my friends are coming on to talk about things they’re into: fashion, food, health related stuff. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s not an unfamiliar format as far as a morning show goes, but it’s not your mother’s morning show. It’s a new breed. A younger version!
It is exactly what we would expect from Carrie Keagan – minus a few f-bombs.
(laughs) Yes! But it is live TV so you never know!
Tell me how you first became involved with “Big Morning Buzz Live”.
Lee Rolontz, who is the Executive Producer, and Tom Calderone who is the President here at VH1 have had this idea to do a morning show for quite a long time. I’ve been working with VH1 for a long time and when I caught wind that they were trying to do this morning show I said, “Do you guys have a host?” They said “not yet” and I instantly said “Pick me, pick me!” (laughs) I threw my name into the ring and here I am.
What can we expect from this new season?
It’s just gonna get cooler. Last season we were getting our feet wet. We were feeling around, seeing what we were doing. There will be cooler people coming on, better conversations, we’re going to get into some more stuff that I care about personally. I would like to give more of myself this time around. It’s a lot easier now because I know what it’s like to get up a four in the morning! (laughs) I know how to make sure I’m in bed at a proper hour. That took a lot of getting used to last season!
What time do you go to bed?
Eight. Sometimes I didn’t get to bed until ten. Oy! I felt it the next day. I’m in New York City! It’s so hard to go to bed early.
So basically you just said the last season pretty much sucked compared to what you’ve got planned for the new season.
(laughs) We had a blast last season and it’s just gonna get better. Because our show takes place right in the lobby of VH1, our backdrop is the elevators. You just never know who is going to pop out of the elevators. We did have a few surprises last season and it’s just gonna be better this season because now people know we’re on and we’re live from nine to ten every day.
Pop culture covers so much. Tell me about your show prep.
I’m an entertainment junkie anyway so I read a lot of blogs and I flip through all the magazines. I see as many movies as I possibly can. I like all of this stuff so I immerse myself in it. Once someone is booked for the show I’ll research them and get to know them a little better and pinpoint what I want to talk about. We have a brand new team this season and I’ve been told the research department is awesome.
You caught the world’s attention by interviewing celebs on NGTV.com and eventually that led to people wanting to know more about you. Next thing you know you’re all over the press, featured in Playboy, making appearances in movies and television…
You have been looking! (laughs)
What kind of ambitions do you have now that you didn’t have five years ago?
Lots of things. When I got to be in “Superbad” and “The Hangover”, those were little tastes of what it could be like. I got to be in the middle of working on a film and I loved being on set. It’s a whole different environment. It’s a totally different way of looking at the entertainment industry. I enjoyed that process very much. I did a season of Reno 911 and that was absolutely amazing. It was all improv. They knew where they wanted the scenes to go but they didn’t tell you how to get there. Those guys are so great. They are so good at what they do. They make it look so easy and it’s not so easy! (laughs) I like doing all that stuff but first and foremost I’m a host. I hope to be doing this all the time for a very long time. If I could last as long as Jay Leno or David Letterman I would be so happy. I don’t have to pretend to be anybody when I’m a host. I can just be me.
That’s what is so appealing about you as a host. It looks and feels comfortable, like you’re just hangin’ out and having fun as opposed to some major quest for knowledge.
There’s a time and place for all of that. If you want a really serious interview watch the Inside The Actor’s Studio or something. If you want to just feel what it’s like to have a beer with a celebrity then come over and hang out with me! I’ll introduce you to a whole new world of people you maybe didn’t even realize you like. There are celebrities I’ve interviewed for the first time and then I’m like, “Oh my god, they are amazing!” The first time I met Kevin Costner – I’ve always been a fan – but I had no idea how cool that guy was! I heard him swearing like a sailor and enjoying the whole moment. He was great. I hope to bring things like that to people all the time. Celebrities aren’t always to hard to reach. Like my show on NGTV – so close you can touch them. That’s what I want it to feel like whenever I’m doing an interview.
Did you have any habits from NGTV – besides the obvious one – that were hard to break when it came to working on “Big Morning Buzz Live”?
It is network TV and I can’t be swearing, but honestly VH1 has embraced me for being who I am. Other than Standards and Practices telling me I can’t say “fuck”, I can pretty much do what I do all the time. They haven’t tried to change me. They knew what they were getting into when they hired me! (laughs)
I remember we had talked before about your interest in promoting bands. You’re doing that now, I guess. Is there any part of that you’d like to explore more?
It’s funny you say that because I started thinking about that last season. They were so excited to have live music on the show because of that reason. VH1 has a thing called You Oughta Know and we get those featured artists on the show. I feel like I am bringing the audience new artists and people that you should get to know. So I am doing that artist promotion thing I always wanted to do – I just get to do it in my own way. That’s way more fun!
So what can we expect next from you? A book, a comedy tour, what else is out there?
I’ve thought about doing all of the above. Stand up comedy scares the crap outta me. I think that’s the most difficult thing anyone could do. But – because of that – I keep thinking that maybe I oughta try it. Conquer your fears! I have started looking into writing a book about my celebrity experiences at No Good TV. I’ll get more into that when I actually have something to talk about but I have been thinking about it. In the maybe-no-so-distant-future there will be a few things coming. But for now my hours are 4AM to 8PM, working on this show, enjoying the crap out of every morning. (laughs)
Carrie, I appreciate you coming by to talk about “Big Morning Buzz Live”. What would you like to say to wrap things up?
If you like your morning TV without a net, please tune in to “Big Morning Buzz Live” October 17th on VH1!
Exclusive Interview: Dolly Parton
The most celebrated female in country music history, Dolly Parton, received yet another accolade this year for RIAA gold, platinum, and multi-platinum career sales of more than 100 million albums worldwide. During Dolly’s press event at the historic Glastonbury Music Festival this summer, she was awarded a special plaque which commemorated this spectacular feat. After the presentation Dolly hit the Pyramid stage in front of over 100,000 music loving fans for an unforgettable performance.
I had the chance to ask Dolly a couple of questions – I definitely wanted to congratulate her on selling over 100 million albums and find out of that kind of success changed her as a songwriter over the years. We all know the digital age has hurt album sales so I wanted to find out from an established artist like Dolly if illegal downloading is a big concern and what advice she has for new artists that still dream of earning a platinum album.
Congratulations for receiving your plaque for 100,000,000 album sales. That award ultimately represents the success of your songwriting. How have you evolved as an artist and more specifically as a songwriter?
Well, first off, over the years I have evolved mostly as a person. I have laughed, I have loved, I have cried and I have changed. Just like everybody else. Every life experience that I have faced is reflected in the music that I write and the stories I tell. As I get older, I naturally have more history to write about. I hope that the years have made me a better writer. I know that I still love it just as much today as I did when I was a little girl. Of all of the things I have been blessed with in my life, singing, acting, and writing – writing is my favorite.
The music industry has changed drastically over the past several years. Album sales are way down and music is available illegally for free. Is this something that concerns you and what advice can you give new artists who still dream of earning a platinum album?
Yes, it concerns me. I believe everyone wants to be paid for the work they do. That’s why they call it the music business. Everything is different now with the internet. As an artist you have to keep up with the times and adjust the best you can. In my day a million selling record was a big deal. But a million followers on Twitter is also a big deal. I can’t say that it’s good or bad, it’s just different. Times are changing and you have to be able to change with it.
Exclusive Interview: Danny “The Count” Koker from Count’s 77
Count’s 77 is the band fronted by lead singer Danny “The Count” Koker, star of the hit television series Counting Cars.
With roots in 70’s hard rock, Count’s 77 is powered by the twin guitar team of John Zito and Stoney Curtis, the latter of whom has an international following as a recording and touring blues guitarist. With musical roots as diverse as Thin Lizzy, Foghat, The Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin, Count’s 77 stands poised to be one of the leaders of the new classic rock revival, with a sound reminiscent of one of the greatest musical eras of all time.
Producer and label owner Mike Varney had this to say of Count’s 77, “As a fan of hard rock and guitar-oriented music I’m always looking for a CD that rocks from top to bottom. Count’s 77 combines gifted instrumentalists and a charismatic frontman with a strong voice that culminates for an uncommonly good hard hitting rock and roll record that is apparent from the first note.”
Koker was singing long before he came into international fame as the owner of Count’s Kustoms, his Las Vegas-based hotrod and chopper shop. He splits his pastimes between his love of all things automotive and his passion for music on Counting Cars and has included Count’s 77 on previous seasons.
The platform afforded Koker by Counting Cars places him in front of millions of viewers each week and has given the band the opportunity to appear on the show. With fans of the hit TV series spanning from the United States to Canada, South Africa, Europe, Japan, Israel and South America, Count’s 77’s fan base is reaching exterior markets as well. Having performed at motorcycle rallies and large-scale corporate events for thousands of people, Count’s 77 is rapidly garnering exposure and has headlined shows in Colorado, Texas, Mississippi, Chicago and many more.
Stoney Curtis, lead guitarist for Count’s 77, has amassed an international following as a recording and touring blues guitarist, releasing a steady flow of product for the last ten years. The remaining integral members of the band have paid their dues in a variety of recording and performing situations. Tommy Paris is not only the band’s incredible keyboardist but has been known internationally for more than 25 years as the lead singer of platinum rockers Britny Fox. Rhythm and slide guitarist John Zito forged a career on the LA rock scene before bonding with Koker and Curtis after displaying his savant-like command of 70’s rock guitar chops. Also growing up on 70’s rock, virtuoso rock bassist Barry Barnes and powerhouse drummer Paul Disibio have each been laying down the rhythm for more than 30 years. After touring all over the country in an number of popular bands, Barnes and Disibio landed in Vegas, with Barnes playing bass in the critically acclaimed show “Rock Of Ages” and Disbio working with Blue Man Group. Together they fill the rhythm section position with a strength and authority that is so strong, it cannot be faked and can only be obtained through hard work and dedication.
Rock Confidential caught up with brother-man Danny Koker to talk about Count’s 77 and why the family vibe between members makes for a fun, successful band.
I know music has always been a part of your life and you’ve been blessed to make it a part of your career. Until these guys came around and asked you to jam had you ever thought about starting a rock band before?
I had not. I’ve always loved music and I did it up until my mid-20s and I wandered away from it. Even though I enjoyed it and paid attention to it I wasn’t actively involved. I never gave it much thought until I met these guys. Finding the right group of guys that will stay dedicated to a project is not easy. It’s not an easy find and when we got together something magical happened. At that point it very much became an important thought in the forefront of my brain.
I’ve heard you refer to the group as a band of brothers. Tell me about the relationships with the other guys in the band.
We take the definition of the word “band” literally. A “band” isn’t necessarily just a group of musicians. It can also be defined as a tight knit group of people. We banded together for whatever the cause. We consider ourselves a band of brothers and the music is just something we do. It’s a blessing to have guys like this in your life. It’s guys you wanna hang out with or have dinner with or travel with. We love each other like brothers and don’t have all the issues so many other bands have. We’re all about the same age. We all grew up listening to the same music. We all have the same goals with this band. It’s about a rock-solid dedication with these guys. I know a lot of people but only a few I would call family. I don’t throw that around lightly.
That has to make things so much more fun.
We are having a ball! We take the music and our performances very seriously. When the curtain opens and we hit that first note, although we take it very seriously, we are having a blast. We have so much fun on that stage together. That fun and enjoyment spills out into the crowd and the people that come to our shows are having as much fun as we’re having. Wait – I gotta take that back! I don’t think anybody can be having as much fun as we are but they sure seem to be.
How did you get from a band doing cover songs to recording original tunes with a record deal?
It was such a blessing, man. We started off as a jam band and then we turned into a full-on cover band opening for other bands. Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records already had a working relationship with my guitarist Stoney Curtis. Mike came to Vegas and came to one of our shows at my club Vamp’d. After the show he said ‘We’ve gotta do something with this band.’ He put together the deal and signed us to a record contract. We got serious about writing. We sat down and just started writing and that’s a challenge for me. It’s new to me. I’ve been around music all my life but was never involved in writing. It really was a collaboration. The writing was done between Curtis, myself and Mike Varney. I spend a lot of time on the road because of the television show and you’ll sit in an airplane for hours on end or in a hotel room for hours on end just writing random thoughts. I’d bring ’em back and Curtis had been writing riffs and we’d work with Varney, who’s an amazing producer, and he would help us put all these pieces of the puzzle together. We were in the studio for over four months. I have a recording studio in my complex here so I would work all day and then work on the music all night. We worked very hard on this record and I’m shocked at how well it turned out – and I’m not saying that in an egotistical way. We want to tell people how great the record is but it might sound like we’re bragging and gushing. We just want people to listen to it. Mike Varney got to know each and every one of us in the band. He challenged our abilities and brought out the best in every one of us. I have so much respect for him as a producer. I’m very proud of this record.
And if that wasn’t enough you’ve got Rick Derringer and Pat Travers on there, too.
I know man. Is that cool or what? There are 11 originals on the record and two bonus tracks. The bonus tracks are “Rock N’ Roll Hoochie Koo” with Rick Derringer and “Snortin’ Whiskey” with Pat Travers. It doesn’t get much cooler than that – two iconic 70s guys with two iconic 70s songs and we were fortunate enough to cover those our way.
You already have a crazy schedule because of the TV show. What will touring be like for Count’s 77?
It’s tough but we’re doing the best we can. We’re doing a lot of fly-in and fly-out dates, a lot of weekends and occasionally something in the week. We’ve been offered to be a part of some really cool tours but there’s now way I can disappear for 40 days right now. I just can’t do that and the band gets it. There will be opportunities to see this band in a live situation.
I don’t think some music fans realize how involved you are in the music scene and how close you are to so many artists.
It goes way back. I did some stuff for Ozzy Osbourne a long time ago. He’s one of the coolest, nicest guys I’ve met in the industry. He’s a wonderful gentleman. I’ve done work with Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Rob Zombie – who, by the way, is a real gentleman. I hold him in high regards and have so much respect for that guy. We did some stuff for Judas Priest, George Clinton, Jackyl and Jesse James Dupree. I had the opportunity to sing on stage with Molly Hatchet in Florida. It blows my mind. Guys like Dave Meniketti from Y&T – here’s a group that will come to my club in Vegas and play a two and a half hour show. He’s not a kid but when you see him on stage you would think he was! He looks great and sounds amazing. Cats like Jizzy Pearl who is a really close friend of mine. Paul Shortino is another guy who is just like family to me. I understand that because of the television show that people are getting to know the motorcycle and car guy. I grew up with motorcycles and cars but I also grew up with music. All three of those things were very crucial in my upbringing and how I grew up. Now that I have the opportunity to get back into music I’m doing all the things that I love. I realize some people may think the band is “just that guy from the TV show with some of his buddies.” But this is for real. I take it as seriously as I take the bikes and cars. The music gets the same amount of love and passion that I put into the cars and bikes. This truly is a band, it’s not just me and my buddies. This is not about one guy with a bunch of guys backing me up. It’s serious and we mean it!
Exclusive Interview: Catherine Mary Stewart
Catherine Mary Stewart’s career has spanned over 30 years and over 50 different productions from film to television to theater. She was living in London studying dance when she was cast in her first professional acting role as the lead in the rock musical The Apple. She moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and soon landed a contract with daytime soap opera Days Of Our Lives. Making the transition from small screen to big screen, Catherine was soon cast in cult-classic movies Night Of The Comet and The Last Starfighter and would go on to star in 50’s teen comedy Mischief and what’s considered her biggest hit, Weekend At Bernie’s.
Today finally marks the release of the Collector’s Edition of Night Of The Comet on Blu-ray and DVD. We caught up with Catherine Mary Stewart to talk more about that film, her impressive professional career and what she’s up to now.
I read one interview where you were asked “When did you know you wanted to be an actress?” and you answered that you remembered performing songs in your friend’s basement when you were 10 or 12 years old, lip syncing Cher and the Monkees into your hairbrush. Did you ever have ambitions to be a singer or was it more about putting on a show and being an entertainer?
Growing up my home was full of song. My brothers and I used to sing around the house at the top of our lungs! I spent quite a bit of time around musicians in my twenties and loved that too, but my path went in a different direction. I was focused on dance and then acting. I did a movie called Scenes From The Goldmine where I played a rock ‘n’ roller, so I got to live vicariously through that character. I also have done musicals on stage. I loved singing and still do, but I never pursued it as a career in and of itself.
You grew up during what I think was a very exciting time for music. As a teenager, what music were you listening to?
My teen years were in the seventies. I was exposed to some great music as a jazz dancer. I played music loud and turned up the bass, especially while driving. I was passionate about everything from Earth Wind & Fire to Average White Band to Bread.
Do you still have musical “guilty pleasures” you’ll listen to today from when you were growing up?
I have so many tapes that I’ve tried to convert to CDs and now they’re even obsolete. I listen to them all as often as possible. I couldn’t live without my music.
You pursued jazz dance as a teenager and eventually performed professionally. Tell me about your trip to the Middle East and performing in a Christmas show for the Canadian UN forces. Experiencing the history and culture of places like Egypt and Israel at such an early age had to be an amazing trip!
It truly was incredible! From the moment we left my home town of Edmonton, our experience went from being flown in the belly of a military plane to being lectured about protecting yourself against deadly insects in your sleeping bag to exploring the interior of an Egyptian pyramid in total blackness and then being allowed to actually climb the pyramids. We went to Germany, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt. I believe we were exposed to historical sights that you can’t get very close to anymore. I treasure that time. The biggest privilege of all was to perform for our troops overseas.
Since you were already comfortable performing in front of audiences and had learned self-discipline as a dancer, was it easy transitioning to an acting career?
The discipline I learned as a dancer in a company was so beyond anything I’ve ever had to adhere to since. I’m always considered “a trooper” because of my experience in discipline. We reveled in discipline when I danced. Most people don’t have that experience. I think what I took from my background in dance is that it takes a village.
You starred in three films that would go on to have incredible cult followings: Night Of The Comet, The Last Starfighter, and Weekend At Bernie’s. Did you have any idea whatsoever while you were making these movies that they would have such a lasting connection with fans?
It never entered my mind. For me, when I’m working on anything, I’m working in the moment trying to produce the best product that I am capable of. That these films have had a lasting effect is truly icing on the cake. I am constantly surprised and appreciative of everyone and anyone who enjoys and/or has been touched on some level by the work. It’s incredibly fulfilling from my perspective.
What attracted you to the scripts of each movie?
Originality, authenticity, a story that touches me somehow. It’s hard to be specific. Each script that I’m attracted to is original and unique. That is what makes it interesting.
You have been referred to as an “80s Icon” – I guess that sits pretty well with you, huh? How do you remember the Hollywood atmosphere back then? Did you notice how you were being received as an actress or were you more interested in working and staying busy?
I was staying busy in the eighties. It was a wonderful time for me. I think in retrospect I probably “appreciate” it more than I did at the time, but at the time I wasn’t sitting around thinking about how lucky I was, I was just “doing” to the best of my ability. I had a great time doing it. If people thought I was worthy of attention, well, how great is that? That wasn’t at the forefront of my mind at the time. I just worked hard at something I loved.
The deluxe edition of Night Of The Comet is finally being released on DVD and Blu-ray. Please tell me about the bonus features you’re a part of.
Well, honestly it’s a bit intimidating. It has been, what, 30 years since we shot that movie? I don’t watch it everyday and reflect on it. Fortunately, I’ve maintained a friendship with Kelli Maroney and she and I share memories from time to time. Our relationship has helped keep it relative and can share experiences. I haven’t seen the bonus features myself. Shooting that movie was a fantastic experience.
Zombie “culture” has exploded recently. I’ve always thought Night Of The Comet was something different. I’m not sure, it just seems fun. What do you remember about filming and being on set?
It’s funny, I never thought of Night Of The Comet as a zombie movie and I do believe that’s what makes it stand out today. There are zombies to be sure, and those slowly turning into zombies, but in my estimation it’s so much more than that. What attracted me to this script in the first place was the character and the story.
You got to be a badass in Night Of The Comet – a strong, lead female role. That had to be empowering so early in your career.
Mostly I was interested in departing from the “girl next door” character. I was predominantly seen as that so it was exhilarating for me to be able to portray a “badass,” as you say. It was also more like the real me. Growing up with two older brothers I felt more like a tomboy in real life anyway. I was athletic and limber and enjoyed roughhousing. This role was perfect for me to show that side of who I was and capable of portraying. That was important to me.
The Last Starfighter was released the same year. That film captured the imaginations of kids everywhere, mostly boys. You do realize this is where you entered every young boy’s dreamworld don’t you? Did I just give myself away? (laughs)
I have heard that quite often as the Maggie character. As a woman/girl it’s a huge compliment in my mind. Seriously, as a teenager in high school, I’m not sure there was anyone who would have put me in that category nor would I have known what to do with it. If I was someone’s crush or inspiration what more could I ask for?
How do you remember The Last Starfighter?
I remember the whole experience with nothing but affection. It was the first movie I worked on in the US. I got to work with the most professional, consistent and incredible, supportive group of people ever. I loved every moment on that film. One of my best friends to this day is Lance Guest. He exemplifies the professional actor. I love him.
Weekend At Bernie’s is without a doubt one of the classic eighties comedies. Was it easy to read the script and get the humor of what was happening to a dead guy or did it take actually seeing it happen to be comfortable with it?
Auditioning for this movie was a big deal for me. I remember going in to read with Jonathon Silverman and the director Ted Kotchef and totally screwing up my lines at one point. I thought I had totally blown it. When I was hired I couldn’t believe it! On the other hand I remember reading the script and thinking “…what is funny about a dead guy bouncing off buoys…?” Of course it was one of the highlights of the movie for so many, so what do I know?
Your career by 1989 had progressed so much. Did you notice any changes in the movie industry leading into the 90s?
By the early nineties I’d moved to NY to be with my husband and raise our children. I was out of the movie business vortex. Over the years I’ve stayed at least involved, but I have noticed that it has changed. Certainly I have changed as an actor and character, which I love and find challenging. Challenge keeps me alive. I do feel the business itself is different. My experience was a joyful one. Obviously it was a lot of work, but there was a fun side to it too. You just had to be smart about it. I think now actors realize that they are a product in the movie business machine. It’s good to know and maybe not as much fun but there are some great actors out there.
With advances in technology and a million ways to “get famous” there really aren’t any rules anymore. How do you think Hollywood has changed over the past decade?
I think actors today approach this industry in a business way. I think that it’s important to do that. There are so many dimensions to consider it seems. I hope that there is some organic enjoyment that goes along with it.
If you don’t care, I’d like to ask you a few music questions. What’s the first album you remember buying with your own money?
Probably The Eagles.
What was the first concert you attended?
Gino Vanelli! “I just want to stop…and tell you what I feel about you babe…” SWOON!
What music are you listening to now?
My latest purchases are, and this is in the last week, Rodriguez – Searching For Sugar Man, Miley Cyrus – Bangerz and Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP2.
What was the last concert you attended?
Metropolitan Opera, “Il Trovatore” at Lincoln Centre
Who are some of your all-time favorite music artists?
Seriously, I love music and my favorites are changing all the time. The joke in my family is if you say something, anything, I will break into song that incorporates that sentence. There are songs and artists that absolutely crush me. I’ve tried to put those on a CD for my children as a going away to college gift so that they get a sense of who I am. Even those change. Music is an important, necessary part of my life. I couldn’t survive without it.
What have you been up to most recently? Where can we keep up with you and your career?
I am on Lifetime TV regularly and Hallmark. If you “Like” me on Facebook you will see my TV and movie schedule on a regular basis. I am busy doing lots of things which you will see on that page. Most recently I’ve been developing projects to direct. I’m very excited about that. I also have a great website, CatherineMaryStewart.com. Check it out and say hello. I am very involved with both my website and especially the Facebook page. You really can talk to me if you want to!
Exclusive Interview: Danny ‘The Count’ Koker from Counting Cars
His name is The Count, and his game is one-of-a-kind, customized classic cars and motorcycles. Danny “The Count” Koker doesn’t just love hot rods and choppers. He lives for them. Whether it’s a ’63 Corvette, a classic Thunderbird, a muscle-bound Trans Am, or a yacht-sized Caddy, he knows these high-performance beauties inside and out. What’s more, he’ll do anything it takes to get his hands on those he likes – he’s known for pulling over cars he passes on the road and offering cash for them on the spot – and then “flip” them for a profit.
A self-taught mechanic, Danny currently owns 58 cars and another seven or eight motorcycles. His bottomless knowledge about anything on wheels made him the go-to restoration expert on the hit series Pawn Stars before History gave him his own series, Counting Cars.
Danny’s extensive knowledge of his favorite machines goes hand in hand with the sincere passion for his business. Every episode of Counting Cars features stories behind vintage vehicles, striking before-and-after transformations, and Danny’s relentless compulsion to find and flip the greatest rides of all time, at any cost.
Rock Confidential caught up with Danny ‘The Count’ Koker to talk about his passion for his business, the success of Counting Cars, and growing the Count brand.
Danny, I appreciate your time man. Why don’t we start by talking about the thing that started it all for you – the ’66 Mustang your dad bought when you were a kid.
Absolutely! You came out swingin’ on that one, man! That really is what got me going on this whole thing. My dad grew up in Detroit and I spent a large part of my youth there as well. Most of my family on my father’s side worked at Ford Motor Company at one time or another. It’s in the blood. As far back as I can remember I’ve been around cars and motorcycles. My father got me my first motorcycle when I was eight years old and I’ve been on two wheels ever since. He came home when I was nine with that ’66 GT 350. I still have her. As a matter of fact, where I’m sitting right now I can look out of my office and see her. That car has been with me since I was nine years old. It was dad’s car and he passed it on to me when the good Lord called him home. It’s been in my blood forever, as far back as I can remember man. That Mustang is probably one of the most significant vehicles in what I do. What an impression a car like that makes on a nine year old kid – going into the garage at night when no one’s around, opening things up and tinkering with things. It puts a lasting impression on you that never goes away. That, brother, is a good one. Boy oh boy oh boy is she important to me.
You realized early on how emotions can be attached to a vehicle.
Without a doubt. So many of my relatives grew up in the automotive industry. One of my father’s brothers was an executive with Ford Motor Company for years. One of his other brothers did all kinds of things. He was the biker of the family. He had the Indians and the Harleys and the hot rods back in the day. He ended up living out the rest of his years in Europe. He was a Formula 1 pit crew chief. These are things that are in my family’s blood that’s in my personal blood. I get it. People fall in love with vehicles. People fall in love with all kinds of stuff. Some people love jewelry. Some people love clothes. There’s a group of us nutcases out there that are absolutely in love with cars. When I run across another one like me I know where they’re coming from. I feel what they’re feelin! (laughs)
I love hot rods and seeing the restorations on Counting Cars, but I’m not what you’d call a motor head at all – and I really enjoy the show. You’ve connected with a huge audience that digs what you’re doing. What do you think is appealing about Counting Cars to someone that’s not really a car person?
I wish I knew. I think it’s the fact that we’re having a good time doing what we do. If we were building custom toilets it may not be as good, but I think people are entertained with the team, the whole show and the process of how these things happen and the business runs. We have to pay the bills, get vehicles in and out and keep things moving. In all honesty, I think another part of it is it’s good, clean, family entertainment. So many fans are families. It’s safe for your kids to watch without you and it’s fun to watch with your family. It’s kinda like old school entertainment. It’s the way it used to be and what I wish we could see more of.
You have a great reputation for just being a nice dude. Is it true that early on producers of your show tried to make you out to be more of a hard ass and it just didn’t work?
You’re right on the money, man! (laughs) When they first came in and we were shooting scenes for the pilot episode, we were shooting some things around the shop and they were getting to know us. They were really pushing me to be an asshole. They wanted more yelling and throwing things around. That’s just not me. The boys in my shop are like family. We’ve been together for years. They said to appease the producers back in New York I should try this or that. I was yelling at some of my guys and as soon as we stopped shooting I was hugging all my boys, ‘I love you guys. I’m so sorry.’ (laughs) We all started laughing about it. Thankfully we got the word back from the executive producers in New York after they watched some of the footage – ‘That is just not you.’ Thank you for noticing! What we’re blessed with now is an amazing director, Jonathan Wyche, who has literally become family. I love this guy. We’ve got amazing producers. Our executive producers are Shawn Witt and David George from Leftfield Pictures out of New York. Working with an incredible network like History and our executive producers there, Zachary Behr and Julian Hobbs. All of those cats are letting us do what we really do. They took the time to come out here and get to know us. They spent some time with us and saw what we do. We’re blessed with being able to keep it real in a world where nothing is real. (laughs) That might be another reason why people are so attracted to the show and are enjoying it so much. I think they’re done with so much of the fake stuff that happens all the time. It’s a blessing. I’m a thankful guy, man. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have this happen. We build hot rods, we build motorcycles, we build toys. This is an unstable economy. So many guys I’ve known in the industry over the years have had to fold up their shop. It’s sad because a lot of talent has gone away. I find myself in a position where I’m so busy I don’t know what to do with it all. I’m straight up thankful.
And obviously you’re passionate about what you’re doing. It’s not just about Count’s Kustoms. You also have a night club, a tattoo shop, a recording studio, your own band…
It’s a crazy ride. These are all things I wanted to do over time and I’ve been given the opportunity to do them. This is a good city to do business in. There’s good tax structure here. I’ve been in this city about 26 years now and Vegas has been very good to me. I try to give back to the city as much as I can. I’ve set my roots here. Count’s Kustoms has been an official business approximately 15 years. It was a hobby shop for about five years prior. For about three years now I’ve had Count’s Tattoo Company over in Rio and it’s doing absolutely wonderful. On the west side of town I’ve got my rock club, Count’s Vamp’d. It’s a full restaurant and bar, but it’s also a full live venue. It’s like something you’d find on the Sunset Strip back in the day. I support the local rock scene and we run nationals through there all the time. It’s a big stage with a big PA, a real front of house, backline, and everything you need for national acts. I’ve got a recording studio here in town, Count’s Desert Moon. It’s in a building right next to my shop. The thing that really feeds my soul is my band, Count’s 77. We do all 70s hard rock. It’s a cover band although we do a couple of originals. We’re getting ready to go into the studio and put together a whole fistful of originals and put out a record. There’s five guys in the band, a fantastic group of musicians (Danny “Count” Koker, Stoney Curtis, John Zito, Barry Barnes and Paul Disibio). I’ve got a music background. People don’t know that about me. My father was a musician. I used to sing professionally 25 years ago. Here in the last couple of years these guys have got me singing again. We’re having a ball doing it. We do a lot of weekend dates, we’ll fly in to different cities and do shows and come back home so I can get my butt back to work! Other than that, I’m really not doing anything. (laughs)
Let’s dig a little more into your music background. You started out by singing gospel music, right?
Absolutely. I’m a gospel singer by trade. I used to sing southern gospel and a lot of black gospel as well. That’s in my blood, man. I love it.
In this crazy world of forcing God out of everything, especially in the entertainment world, it’s refreshing to hear you talk about it.
You bring up a really good point. It doesn’t matter what your denomination is or your belief. Just look at the facts. In my opinion, this nation was built by God loving, God fearing men. Our Constitution was based upon that. Look back at our history. When we kept God involved in things, things were better. As we move along in the way our nation is moving and we’re forcing Him out of everything, we’re seeing a whole lot of garbage. I try to keep it real. I am who I am and I’m not gonna try to BS anybody. I think it’s important that there’s some semblance of God in everything we do or else, what’s the point? People ask me all the time, ‘What do you attest your success to?’ I can’t attest it to an education because I barely got out of high school. I can’t attest it to me being some sort of genius because I don’t think test scores can go that low. (laughs) I say my prayers on a daily basis. I believe that the good Lord above is listening. Frankly, I can only give Him credit for anything good that’s happened in my world. There’s my sermon right there! Now I’m going to take up a collection! (laughs)
It was cool to see Jason Hook from Five Finger Death Punch and Rob Zombie on this season of Counting Cars. Will you be incorporating more musical guests into the show?
I would love to. The musical guests that have been involved so far have all been people that have come to me. I just kinda wait around and wait for the phone to ring and see who calls. I have got to say this about Rob Zombie. He is the nicest person you would ever want to meet. You’ve heard the saying, ‘You don’t want to meet your heroes because nine times out of ten you’re going to be disappointed.’ I’m a big fan of Rob Zombie. When his camp called and wanted his truck built – we built it, delivered it to him and hung out with him for the day. Rob Zombie set the bar on coolness so high that it’s just ridiculous. He is such a total gentleman. A nice guy all day long, an absolute blast. If anybody ever talks crap about that guy, they’re lying because they’ve never met him. Jason Hook is such a cool cat. He’s recently moved here since we ran into each other and we’ve become friends. He’s another really nice guy in the industry. Ozzy Osbourne is another cool cat. I built him a chopper years ago and that is a cool gentleman. Ziggy Marley is cool. We restored his father’s Mercedes for the family. I tell you what, the Marley family, that is some cool folks. I’d hang out with them all the time. I love ’em. Good people, man. I hope to do more of that. It seems my world crosses over into music so much that I’m meeting a lot of people in the music industry. Hopefully we’ll have some more artists on the show and pick into their brains and see what they wanna do.
Danny, I appreciate your time man. What would you like to say to your fans to wrap things up?
I want to say thank you for watching and supporting this show. We are a a group of guys in Vegas that are working very hard to do what we do. We love what we’re doing but it means the world to us that there is a group of people out there watching this show that appreciate it and enjoy it. I get some of the nicest emails, letters and comments from people that are truly enjoying this program around the world. That means the world to me. Thank you for watching and I promise we’ve got some more cool stuff headed your way!
Exclusive Interview: Corey Feldman
Known the world over for appearing in movie favorites like The Lost Boys, Gremlins, The Goonies, Stand By Me, Friday The 13th The Final Chapter and The ‘Burbs, Corey Feldman has been entertaining fans for more than 30 years. Feldman kicked off his career making guest appearances on classic TV shows like Mork & Mindy, Eight Is Enough and The Love Boat. While acting was clearly in his blood, he was soon to discover another passion: music.
Inspired by pop icons of three generations, the turning point came while watching Michael Jackson perform on the Motown 25 television special in 1983. “I’d never seen anyone perform like that in my life,” enthuses Feldman. “I wanted to do that. I wanted to be able to dance and sing and make magic like that.” He was 11 years old.
Now, with over 80 films and three full-length albums under his belt, Corey Feldman is set to release his still untitled solo album. Featuring guests like Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Kaya Jones from the Pussycat Dolls, his new project blends rock n’ roll with a pop dance vibe. The first single, “Ascension Millennium,” debuted on MTV earlier this month. While he’s hardly new to music videos – check out Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” video – Feldman has never made a clip for his own music until now. Taking a nod from his own cameo appearances in other videos, he enlisted fellow Goonie Sean Astin to make an appearance in “Ascension Millennium” – their first time on screen together in 25 years.
Rock Confidential sat down with Corey Feldman to talk about his musical influences, growing up in Hollywood, and his passion for creating music.
You’re one of the guys in Hollywood that’s never been satisfied just being an actor. You’ve always had a passion for music, too. Who are some of the first artists you remember listening to growing up?
I was inspired by a lot of oldies when I was younger. I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house. They had one of those old Turnstyle record players. I used to play my grandmother’s old 45s and 33s. I’d go through all of their albums and find bands from the fifties, like Bill Haley & The Comets. I watched a lot of TV as a kid and I instantly recognized the guy on that record sang a lot of songs associated with Happy Days and the movie America Graffiti. I put it on and instantly knew what it was. I thought it was so cool to find those songs on a record. The next thing I remember getting into was Kiss. I remember my sister and her friends, who were a few years older than me, were really into Kiss. They were the happening thing at the moment. From a pop perspective, Shaun Cassidy was also happening. I really got into him, Kiss and Bill Haley & The Comets. Those are the first three artists I really noticed. Beyond that I guess the next one was Michael Jackson.
That’s a pretty diverse group of music styles. You were even able to bring it full circle by singing the classic oldie “Tutti Frutti” as part of the Eradicators in Rock And Roll High School Forever, for anyone paying attention!
That’s right! (laughs) It’s been a while!
What really got your attention and made you think, “This is something I want to do”? Was it a particular album or artist?
I think it was Thriller. The moment I decided I wanted this was when I saw “Billie Jean” performed on Motown 25. I saw it as it happened on television. It was one of those moments … we didn’t have cable yet. We didn’t have 50 or 100 stations. We had 13 channels and that was it. When Motown 25 premiered on NBC it was a huge event. Everybody wanted to watch it. My grandparents, uncles and aunts and everybody gathered around in the living room of my grandmother’s house to watch it. I was popping in and out of the room as I was playing with my friends. I wasn’t taking it too seriously. I just remember being glued to the TV when Michael and the Jackson 5 were on. I was like, ‘Oh my god, who are these guys?” Then when Michael performed “Billie Jean” I’d never seen anyone perform like that in my life! I wanted to do that. I wanted to be able to dance and sing and make magic like that. That’s the thing that really inspired me and took me off in a new direction. I actually became obsessed with it. I went out and bought the VHS of Motown 25 and I wore that thing out, man. I would play it over and over and over just to learn that dance.
Did watching Michael’s performance make you want to take dance lessons?
I’d taken tap and dance lessons as a young kid. My mother always told me I was terrible and I had no rhythm, you can’t do it, you can’t do anything. She was not the biggest supporter when it came to my music. I was pretty discouraged as a kid. But the more I did it the more comfortable I felt. I was going to all these Hollywood parties and people were tripping out on Michael Jackson. Everywhere you’d go people were watching his “Billie Jean” performance from Motown 25. Everybody was trying to dance like that. If you were a kid or a teenager back then you were definitely trying to moonwalk. I was just a normal kid trying to do what all the other kids was doing. Somehow I ingested this ability and was able to do it and do it spot on. I’d go out to these parties and kids were dancing and I ended up dancing to “Billie Jean.” I remember people gathering around watching me: How is this kid dancing like that? People were in awe and ended up cheering for me. Then, every time I would go to one of these parties they would expect it from me. As soon as I would walk on the dance floor the DJ would put on “Billie Jean” and someone would toss me a fedora. If I walked into a party I was going to be dancing to “Billie Jean.” This is when I was 11 and 12 years old. I started doing charity events where I’d go out and lip sync “Billie Jean.” It just kept escalating. I remember being about 13 or 14 years old, performing at the Rose Bowl. That’s an 80,000 seat venue in Los Angeles. I remember sitting there looking at this huge audience for this daytime charitable event and my gig was to come out and do “Billie Jean.” I did that and people went crazy for it. It kept growing and growing and the idea hit me to do that for the rest of my life. I knew I couldn’t continue emulating someone else and doing someone else’s song. I knew I had to teach myself how to sing and do it the right way and start writing my own songs. I was about 15 when I wrote my first song.
As you grew up in Hollywood were you ever into the rock scene that was happening on the Sunset Strip at the time?
Those guys were obviously older than me but I remember seeing Tommy Lee with Sam Kinison or Ron Jeremy and Ginger Lynn hanging out at the Comedy Store. I spent a lot of time there because the things I was really into was music and comedy. When I was 15, 16 years old – when I got emancipated – I started going out to nightclubs. There was a club on Hollywood Boulevard called Club Hollywood. That was the first nightclub I started frequenting. I also remember my dad was friends with Bill Gazzarri. Gazzarri’s closed down shortly after I moved well into my teen years but I remember judging a bikini contest there with my dad and thinking it was the greatest thing in the world! I got very, very drunk watching all those bikini clad girls! (laughs) I ran out into Sunset Boulevard screaming my head off. My dad tried wrangling me back in, You’re a nutcase kid, c’mon! I was out of my mind already at that time. Fortunately those crazy times only lasted two or three years for me. By the time I was 19 I was sober and done with drugs and alcohol.
Tell me about putting together your own recording studio.
All my life I’ve wanted a studio in my house. I knew if I had my own studio I could increase my productivity ten-fold. If I had access to a computer, a keyboard, Pro Tools, I knew I could teach myself. When I moved into the current house I’m living in about a year and a half ago, which is now called the Feldmansion, a friend of mine said he would help me build a studio. We put some stuff together and it honestly just didn’t work. On Father’s Day I was out with my son and I took him to this local restaurant called Good Neighbor. I ran into my old co-producer David Dunn who did my first album Love Left with me. He also did some work on my Former Child Actor album. He was in Infectious Grooves. He’s a very multi-talented artist. I explained to him that I was trying to build a studio in my house and had some missing links and didn’t know what to do. He said he’d come over and take a look at it. He came over one day and brought some gear. He introduced me to a friend of his, Gregg Sarantino. Gregg’s a great engineer, producer. David said he wasn’t doing as much music these days but suggested I work with Gregg. They both helped me build my studio and supplied me with the missing pieces. We finally had a great studio and I started tooling around with some stuff. The very first thing I did in the new studio is actually going to be on the new album. It’s a song called “Test One.” The reason it’s called “Test One” is because that’s what I called it when we got everything up and running. Let’s see if this studio even works -this is just a test. We started building this song and my friend Scotty Page from Pink Floyd came over and laid down some guitar and sax parts. I threw down some keyboard and Gregg threw down a bass line. It just happened organically.
Aren’t you also working on an album of cover songs?
It’s a tribute album of cover songs. I did “Working Class Hero” by John Lennon and “Who Are You?” by the Who. I started working on those but decided to save them for down the road. I want to do an album of me paying tribute to all the artists that influenced me through the years. I want to do an American one and a UK one. In essence it would be a double album.
Let’s talk about your new material. You recently released a single and video called “Ascension Millennium.” I heard you started out writing that song as a joke and it eventually took on a life of it’s own.
When I was doing “Working Class Hero” I actually got the courage up to play some guitar. I’ve had guitars my whole life and I know how to play certain chords but I’m by no means a guitarist. Since I have my own studio and can fiddle around more and not waste people’s time and money I could just fool around a bit. My friend Jake, who used to be my crazy assistant on The Two Coreys, came over for a visit. He was watching me play this guitar solo, teasing me like ‘Oh my god, that’s so cool! I can’t believe I just witnessed Corey Feldman produce his first guitar solo!’ He saw that I could actually play guitar if I wanted to. It honestly came easier than I thought it would. I said, ‘If you think that’s cool watch how you make a song from scratch!’ I went over to Gregg and said ‘Give me a clean track and a drum sound.’ I put down a beat and we added a bass sound. Those sounds became the base for “Ascension Millennium.” I was just joking around saying, ‘Hey watch this! I’ll make a song … just add water!’ (laughs) I went on a run in the studio for about two and a half hours adding track after track. This started at one in the morning and I stopped about 3:30AM. By the time I finished every single part of “Ascension Millennium” was laid down. I went to bed that night with just the music and kept thinking about those melodies. When I woke up the next morning I knew there had to be a vocal line over the main riff but what can we talk about? Everyone’s been talking about the millennium the past few years and we’re really at the beginning of the new millennium. It’s not just about the year 2000 in all actuality. Everyone’s also been talking about ascension. They thought the world was going to end last December. If we all died right now I guess we would ascend to Heaven. While thinking about the ascension and the millennium it hit me that that was the melody right there. A-scen-sion Mi-llen-nium. And there you have it!
Exclusive Interview: Tom Keifer
Exclusive: Twang And Round Premiere ‘Dope Boy’ Video
Brandon Fields Experience Premieres New Song ‘Rescue Me’
Joe Perry Premieres New Song From Upcoming Solo Album
Dorothy Announces 2018 Dates, Looking For Opening Acts
Exclusive: Twang And Round Premiere ‘Dope Boy’ Video
The Darkness Premieres New Video For ‘Happiness’
Liv Sin Releases ‘King Of The Damned’ Video
Burning Witches Releases ‘Black Widow’ Video
Watch A Perfect Circle’s Video For ‘The Doomed’
Exclusive: Twang And Round Premiere ‘Dope Boy’ Video
Brandon Fields Experience Premieres New Song ‘Rescue Me’
Watch Trailer For Michael Sweet’s ‘Sole: Songs And Stories’ DVD
Rank ‘Em: The Greatest Classic Rock Bands
Exclusive Interview: Tom Keifer
Premieres20 hours ago
Exclusive: Twang And Round Premiere ‘Dope Boy’ Video
Premieres3 days ago
Brandon Fields Experience Premieres New Song ‘Rescue Me’
Albums2 weeks ago
Watch Trailer For Michael Sweet’s ‘Sole: Songs And Stories’ DVD
Lists2 weeks ago
Rank ‘Em: The Greatest Classic Rock Bands
Music Interviews20 hours ago
Exclusive Interview: Tom Keifer
On Tour1 week ago
Styx To Tour With REO Speedwagon, Don Felder
Albums1 week ago
John 5 And The Creatures To Release ‘It’s Alive!’ Live Album
On Tour1 week ago
Fozzy To Continue ‘Judas Rising Tour’ Into 2018