O’Colly articles: Here you will find several clips from the O’Colly, Oklahoma State’s campus news source, where I’ve spent several years writing film reviews, entertainment news, features and hard news. These are more recent clips, but if you’re interested in seeing more of my previous work with the O’Colly, visit www.ocolly.com and search my name.
Daily Movie is also an O’Colly segment. Check out the Daily Movie tab above for the latest random film reviews, and follow the segment on Twitter @MilesDailyMovie.
‘Rudderless’ screenwriter Jeff Robison is an Oklahoma State alumnus’
Oklahoma is proving to be a hotbed for independent films — the land is cheap to use, and unlike larger markets, the setting isn’t tired ground, giving filmmakers creative avenues for low-budget projects.
The film “Rudderless” has many Oklahoma ties, including an Oklahoma State University alumnus.
Screenwriter Jeff Robison was an educator for 16 years before writing full time. Graduating from OSU with an education degree in 1995, Robison has always pictured himself working in film.
“I wrote a script as a kid after my dad bought me a Super 8,” he said. “I would go out and make movies in the backyard, which is probably a lot like many people in this field.”
Robison started playing sports around the same time he was messing around with his Super 8, and athletics quickly took over. A writer wasn’t the image he was aiming for in high school, opting for the “cool” athlete instead. He put his screenwriting dreams on hold.
“After a while I went through the, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ stage and ended up meeting a wonderful woman who’s now my wife,” Robison said. “Soon after that ,I thought about how much I wanted to write a real script, so I started immediately.”
With the purchase of some editing software and author David Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible,” he sat down and wrote his first script, and many more followed. Robison’s close friend, Casey Twenter, liked the work he was doing, and the two have been writing together for 11 years.
When working on a project, Twenter and Robison constantly swap copies of script material until they’re satisfied with the product. With films like “Rudderless” that gradually become more popular, hundreds of scripts are exchanged between writers during the pre-production stages.
“Rudderless” was the first time the co-writers had the opportunity to write with a budget in mind, and had a few other crew members signed on for the project. After their five-year project became a feature-length script, getting the story recognized was the next step.
“Just submitting them blindly to agencies gets the script out there,” Twenter said. “We aren’t very well know, and seeing as we’re from Oklahoma, they don’t take you that seriously.”
Eventually, the story gained momentum and brought in some big names including William H. Macy, who ended up directing the film. Even with the names, it still took three years to start production.
Robison explained how typical it was for a film in the independent market to fall apart at the last second, and it was no different with “Rudderless.”
“Film is a risky business, but when you hit something, it can be extremely lucrative,” he said. “After all the planning, sweat and tears, to see something of this magnitude finished, it provides a great sense of fulfilment.”
The co-writers were equally surprised the film even went to the shooting stage, stating how difficult it is to get a movie made these days. Robison said one key to the film’s success was the attitude of Oklahomans.
“We’ve had actors who come to Oklahoma after being in the business for a long time, and once they get here, they’re always overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of Oklahomans,” he said. “They’re always kind in the way they let film crews use land and other resources. It makes it a lot easier for the crew, especially for an independent film that’s already stretched thin.”
Many of Robison’s dreams have now been realized, specifically a childhood wish that one day his name would be on a movie poster.
“I just always thought about how cool that would be,” he said. “I remember the first day of filming – the very first scene – I heard them yell action, and at the moment, the reality of what was happening finally hit me.”
“Rudderless” opened Friday in select cities, including AMC Quail Springs 24 in Oklahoma City.
Published by the O’Colly: http://www.ocolly.com/blogs/article_4c85f25e-57e5-11e4-962a-0017a43b2370.html
‘Owner of Guthrie inn details the property’s haunted past’
Irene was 7 at the time, and Stone Lion’s third owner, Becky Luker, still gets customers reporting paranormal experiences.
“I had no idea about the history of this place when I bought it,” she said. “I’m a skeptic, but some things are hard to look past.”
The Stone Lion Inn in Guthrie sits on an average street corner, but towers over the homes around it. The looming aura of the home’s Victorian style catches the eye more than any of the surrounding houses. The red brick sidewalk stretches across the front of the stately mansion and looks as if it hasn’t changed since 1907. The worn wooden pillars in the front give it a rustic look, perfectly reflecting the home’s mysterious history.
It doesn’t look old; it’s weathered with stories to tell.
The home gives off a strange first impression. The floor creeks at every step. A piano in the living room looks unplayable, but the room’s bizarre ambiance makes the visitor wait for it to play on its own. Every chair in the room is drastically different from its neighbor, and the packed bookshelves capture the home’s oddity.
The first owners, the Houghton family, started out in a house next door, but commissioned this house to be built in 1906. It was finished in 1907.
Irene’s parents also died in the home. When the remaining Houghtons fell on hard times, they moved to Enid for a retail opportunity. They leased the home to a group who turned it into Smith’s Funeral Home in the 1920s.
The second owners, the Walker family, bought the home in the ’50s and owned it for many years until Luker strolled into town with a love for restoration.
Before moving to Guthrie, Luker lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she taught high school English and History. Luker soon found a new love in historic restoration and real estate development.
Luker knew a lot about Guthrie from her history studies and knew it was a top site for historic restoration. The town didn’t have a bed and breakfast, and many of the locals didn’t exactly know what that even meant, but were anxious for the tourism.
“We wanted to stay in a bed and breakfast, but because they didn’t have any, we stayed at a Best Western,” she said. “The next morning, I woke up, saw a picture of a house on a real estate window and ended up staying for three days working on a contract for the property.”
No one told her anything about the history of the site or that many people have thought it to be haunted.
When the paperwork was done, Luker traveled back to Sante Fe to grab a crew to work on the Guthrie location. Luker’s mother didn’t think a woman moving into a home with eight men and a few kids would fly over well in Guthrie, so she came along as a chaperone.
On the day Luker closed on the house, she was walking around the house with Mrs. Walker. All of the furniture had been auctioned off except for one table. She was an elderly woman who carried a heavy southern drawl and short, bright blue curly hair, which was a fun sign that Sante Fe was in Luker’s rear view mirror.
“I really didn’t know what it was at the time,” Luker said. “I said, ‘Aren’t you going to take this table?’ She says, ‘No sugar, we don’t have room for that.’ I asked if it was a baker’s table, and she said, ‘Well no I’m not sure what it’s used for, but use it any way you see fit.’ She knew damn well it was an embalming table.”
Today, one of the first things a visitor will see when entering Stone Lion is a long white table with a tray of Coke products and an ice bucket on top — a clear reflection of the home’s strange past and the friendly, carefree people calling it their own.
Not long after Luker and her crew arrived to start restoring the property, strange noises made themselves known throughout the house.
“Steps going up and down the stairs, doors opening and closing, but when you’re living with that many people, you’re thinking someone must be getting up to go to the bathroom or having a cigarette on the front porch,” she said. “When everything was done and my mother and the workers went home, we still were hearing the noises. Then I began to think, ‘This house has issues.’”
Luker tried to put it on the market, but the real estate agent said she was crazy for thinking she could sell the property after buying it for $95,000 and sinking just as much into the home. It would be years before the real estate market would pick up again in Oklahoma.
The noises started weighing on Luker, enough to where she called the police on several occasions thinking someone had broken into the house. One day, she heard her youngest son talking to Michelle Smith, Luker’s business partner for 28 years, about the home.
“He said, ‘Just make me some breakfast, and I’ll go back upstairs when she’s done,’” Luker said. “I walked in and asked, ‘Who are you talking about?’ He said, ‘No mom, it’s the ghost.’ The dreaded ‘G-word’ had been thrown out there. We figured out the kids were trying to protect me just as much as I was protecting them.”
Whether it’s the feeling of a child trying to wake them up, or the constant attempts to scare fellow guests, overnight visitors have a history of reporting odd activity. Luker said one woman even walked out of the room and woke everyone else up because of how much she was frightened by a child waking her up in the middle of the night.
Guests will also find their glasses on the other side of the room or in the bathroom. Luker says they swear and down they put them there and can’t get up without them.
Luker and her family, including Smith, have lived in the home so long that they all have their own stories to tell. Smith often will notice she’s been locked in the basement while doing laundry.
“The first time, I was doing laundry down there, and the door locked on me,” Smith said. “I sat down there for a while before someone came home and heard me. It happened a couple more times, but I remembered to use another exit I forgot about the first time whenever it happened again. I prop up things against the door so it won’t happen again.”
One day during the acquisition of a second bed and breakfast down the road, The White Peacock, a rancid smell developed on the first floor of Stone Lion. Luker and company scrubbed the floors and used bleach on everything they could, but the stench never wavered. Smith finally confronted Luker about it, stating that when she left for the day, Luker needs to sit down and explain to the house what they’re doing.
“I did just that,” Luker said. “I sat down on the staircase and told the house we weren’t leaving for good and we would be back on the weekends, and it stopped. We call it the house, and not the ghost.”
Luker is still a skeptic about the presence of paranormal activity. When customers started coming to her with their experiences in the late ’80s and early ’90s, she always tried to find a logical explanation, but would never jump to the “ghost” conclusion.
Luker will do her own investigations, testing different lighting angles and trying to recreate a certain noise by walking around to calm a shaken customer.
“Even though I question the hauntings, there are some pictures that are downright eerie,” she said. “One of them was a couple that was sitting in a chair in the living room during the murder mystery night, and it looks like a head is rising from in between them with a hat on. It’s freaky. It looks like it’s a man with shoulders. It’s fuzzy, but it’s hard to ignore.”
When the Internet started gaining momentum and guests started sharing their stories online, the Stone Lion’s haunting reputation quickly spread, and it was hard for Luker and Smith to deny some of the more popular occurrences, such as little Irene playing upstairs.
“There is something in this house,” Smith said. “Becky will try to reassure us there isn’t, but there is something here. The doors will open and close in sequence. When you’ve been in this house as long as we have, you know which door is opening or closing from anywhere in the house. It’s always in the same order when it happens.”
Smith has children of her own, and they’ve had their own experiences in the house.
“Ebony, my daughter, was 5 at this time, but she would be the only one who went upstairs to play by herself,” Smith said. “I asked her what she was doing once, and she said she was playing with that little girl. I said, ‘What little girl?’ She said, ‘The girl that plays upstairs.’”
The oddity of Ebony’s experience only escalated from that point. Later that night at the Smith residence, Michelle’s brother started getting on Ebony’s nerves.
“If you don’t behave, Mama Red is gonna whoop your butt,” Ebony said.
Smith was shocked to hear Ebony even mention Mama Red, Michelle’s deceased grandmother who passed long before Ebony was even born.
“I asked her how she knew about Mama Red,” Smith said. “Then she started explaining what she looked like. After experiences like that, you won’t find me running around upstairs looking for little ghost girls.”
The Stone Lion Inn receives around five phone calls a week from “paranormal groups” wanting to come perform their own investigations, but this attention can be a negative where business is concerned.
“We’ve had to be careful, because we are a bed and breakfast with customers, and we don’t want to disturb them,” Luker said. “This is why we don’t publicize the hauntings. On the website, the word haunted is used once, but we don’t go into depth about anything.”
Murder mystery nights are the main event at the Stone Lion Inn, bringing in the majority of the home’s income. Luker says the ghost doesn’t make any money, so letting these “investigators” run around screaming all night during our murder mysteries doesn’t help business.
Murder mystery nights saved the Stone Lion Inn.
Every Friday and Saturday, 40 people come in — 20 of which stay the night. The events are sold out every weekend. A week beforehand, Luker emails the guests their character and what part they will play with a scenario. It starts with a cocktail party, and then moves to a seven-course dinner when something eerie happens.
Then someone dies.
Then the group begins an investigation with a certain theme. A popular one is telling everyone the river is flooded and no one can leave, so they must discuss the issues at hand and figure out what happened. They all have clues, and each person is given a pamphlet when they enter the home to help them through the process.
“The first year I did this, I thought it would never last,” Luker said. “We went broke that year. I remember sitting in the kitchen saying my children are going to starve, and I’ll be a bag lady in New York. I heard people were doing this out east, and I thought, I can write, so I wrote one.
“This bed and breakfast and the murder mystery night provided me money to raise my kids and send them to college.”
Check out the published Stone Lion story here: http://www.ocolly.com/article_cbc2dd0c-60aa-11e4-a23a-001a4bcf6878.html
‘Healthy dining options ‘bring the farm’ to OSU’
Seven years ago, a healthy dining initiative was something absent from Oklahoma State’s campus. Last year, the university was named the most innovated wellness and nutrition program in the nation.
The National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS) works with university programs around the country to promote healthy eating. The association is made up of 550 institutions and more than 500 industry members in the food market. They recognize these institutions with yearly awards commemorating healthy initiatives, and in turn, the winner will help other programs implement their own health plans.
The drastic shift to focus on a healthy options at OSU began with Terry Baker’s arrival as the University Dining Services director. Baker’s Bostonian accent truly reflects the cultured mindset she’s brought with her from the northeast, and her dining experience around the country has only helped OSU. With a $22 million budget and more than 24,000 students to serve, she’s created healthy dining options in all 32 of Oklahoma State’s eating locations in a matter of a few years.
Born in Boston, but a 20-year resident of New York State, Baker has had her eye on the food industry since her college days at Cornell University studying Health and Beverage.
“I loved the fact that the food industry is so exciting,” she said. “It’s very evolving and we need to want that change to make an impact. I was first in restaurant dining, and the lifestyle is more conducive when you go into college dining where you’re on a schedule, and that’s what drew me to university service.”
Each semester, UDS unveils several different programs. When Baker arrived nearly seven years ago, the wellness center had started looking into what’s now called the Choose Orange campaign, but Baker says there hadn’t been thoughtful efforts to move forward with any healthy dining initiatives.
“Healthy dining is like an umbrella,” Baker said. “Under that I have different programs like Choose Orange, which we adopted from the wellness center, and now it’s a key component in the nutrition program. When I first came here, I just saw a need for healthy dining on campus. I personally feel that students learn academically, and I have a role to teach them to have a community environment to develop relationships, but also have them focus on what a good lifestyle for eating would be along with that. So I started off with a fun game.”
Baker was asked to take part in a creativity challenge during her first few years at OSU, and her boss at the time thought it would be a good idea to do something for dining on campus. She entered the challenge, and her program was one of the top 10 finalists. Baker then presented her program as a top candidate and won the challenge.
“So then I had to implement it,” she said. “It was called “Bring the Farm to OSU,” where we utilized local farming communities for on-campus dining. This program is still used today, but it’s called “Farm Fresh.” Each month we feature a local fresh fruit or vegetable.”
This month, the Farm Fresh program is featuring watermelon. Baker works with local farms to bring in local watermelon and set up tables in different dining halls for students to try recipes like watermelon salsa. After a few weeks, a new fruit or vegetable is brought in from a local source and featured in several dining environments on campus.
Baker understands many students won’t have the desire to make watermelon salsa. With the use of fact cards highlighting healthy eating options, she’s able to reach those students and hope they make healthy choices in their eating routines. These cards offer facts about the health risks of empty calories, daily limits with certain foods, the difference between whole grains and refined grains, fiber facts, how to fill a plate with proper balance and many more features.
According to the UDS website, University Dining Services defines “healthy” as well-balanced eating with a focus on fresh, nutritious ingredients promoting nutrition education and awareness through healthy dining education campaigns, cooking demonstrations, and nutritional labeling of food options on campus.
There are strict requirements for an institution to receive the NACUFS innovation award. Five categories make up the official judge check list. The first is innovation, where the program is judged for creativity, consistent themes, target audience appeal and variety. Each element in the innovation category has a ten-point rating system. A program could receive 40 points from this category, whereas the second category, curriculum overview, only offers five points and judges organization and program goals.
The third category is marketing strategy, which looks at the program’s campaign effectiveness, advertising variety and clarity. The fourth judging category, program content, evaluates the science behind the health initiative, timely content and educational impact.
Finally, NACUFS will review feedback from the program’s consumers to see whether the campaign was effective with the target audience. The healthy dining program OSU has been working on for several years caught the attention of NACUFS last year and was able to reflect these categories more than any other program.
Oklahoma State’s healthy dining program is broken down into sub-programs stretching across campus. Through events such as monthly nutritional education and residential cooking classes, UDS has redesigned healthy dining on campus within the span of a few years.
Nutrition labels are now required on all grab-and-go products found at all dining locations, making it easier for students to choose healthy options. Baker has also implemented the Choose Orange campaign, where students can pick up any item with the Choose Orange logo and know it falls under the U.S. dietary guidelines.
The Farm Fresh campaign can be seen throughout campus. UDS utilizes locally grown produce, where local farmers provide healthy options that contribute to Oklahoma State’s award-winning health movement. Some of these products are also featured in the Made in Oklahoma program. Several times throughout the year, students can sample and purchase these Oklahoma-made products in many campus dining locations.
“After Farm Fresh kicked off, I thought we should start something else,” she said. “So we started “Made in Oklahoma,” which features products within a 250- mile radius. We introduce samples and publicize what it’s like to be a food company in Oklahoma.”
Finally, UDS is concerned about a lack of emphasis where sustainability is concerned. Creating tray-less dining options and eco-friendly disposable products are just a couple of ways Oklahoma State is leading the way in healthy dining and sustainability.
University Dining Services, like many institutions, is enhancing their online presence as well. Net Nutrition is a new way for students to find dining options on campus suiting their needs, whether it’s allergies or just basic preferences. The program works as an interactive tool where viewers can access menus and approximate nutritional information at different locations. The daily value percentages are based on the recommended dietary allowances for males and females between 19 and 24. The site helps this demographic balance a personal diet, compare eating options, filter specific menu preferences and interact with a live table with dietary and allergen information.
Baker has seen a concern in students who have allergies and feel the program isn’t giving proper information regarding allergens. One of the things NACUFS looks at is whether the program is adapting and constantly looking for new ways to improve. This year, UDS has already begun implementing different ways to battle this issue.
“We’ve started a program called “Survivor: Allergy Island,” Baker said. “Our staff is learning what it’s like to be a student with allergies.”
Several UDS staff members are wearing allergy island T-shirts and eating at different restaurants to bring more awareness to students with allergies. These shirts have titles on the back such as “peanut allergy” or “egg allergy.”
“They will have to eat their lunch with this allergy all week,” Baker said. Then they report whether they had difficulty finding foods to eat at different locations.”
After Made in Oklahoma, Baker thought UDS should take it even further and applied for a healthy dining grant to introduce healthier dining on campus three years ago. So, with the awarded grant and matching money from other entities, OSU started cooking classes in the residential halls.
Nutrition Coordinator Cass Ring works hands-on with many students in various residential halls once a month to help bring awareness to healthier foods.
“We try to develop really simple, healthy recipes students can make with food options on campus,” Ring said. “Everyone gets experience working with different types of foods, and at the end, everyone sits down and enjoys a healthy meal together. We want to keep it relatively small so everyone gets that hands-on experience, so we usually keep it to around 10 students a session.”
Ring attends a training session at the beginning of the year, and once there is a list of students interested in completing the program, she creates a schedule that reaches as many residential halls as possible.
I feel like our part in this is to offer several choices that direct students where to go and where to find these things. Students can look up the different programs on our website and follow UDS on social media to find healthy options near them.
Ring says the new digital screen at many campus dining locations offer great visual aid to students going about their daily business. These screens not only feature healthy food options and nutrition facts but publicize dining events and ways to get involved with the healthy eating initiative at Oklahoma State.
“We can notice a difference in ourselves,” Ring said. “We see an increase in healthy options each year, and the last time we checked, bananas were one of the top-selling items on campus. That really tells a lot about what we’re doing here.”
The residential halls under construction toward the northwest corner of campus will feature a dining hall with five new eating options for students.
Baker has a 12-person advisory team to help make decisions regarding new restaurants, but she also uses student focus groups.
“To be honest, students come by and just want to talk about what they want to eat. We hear a lot on social networking sites, too,” she said.
Baker listens to NACUFS as well to hear what types of healthy restaurant options are being utilized around the country and combines that information with student and faculty input to make proper, healthy decisions for on-campus eating options.
“I don’t want three Baja Fresh’s,” she said. “I want the greatest variety for students, so we look at what’s on campus and tailor the options for them.”
Depending on the product mix on campus, UDS will decide whether to open a franchise or an original idea. Baker says self-branding can open up creative options, but many students are coming straight out of high school and are used to brands. With the proper mixture, Baker is able to provide the best eating culture on campus with the right resources for students to learn about healthy eating.
With these new restaurants, UDS is still in the idea phase. “We know where the building will be, and it will connect to a renovated Adams Market,” Baker said. “We want to have a more community-oriented environment with the new building project. We want a hang out zone with a little bit of food versus what we have now, which is a lot of food and not a lot of lounging area.”
Visit the published article here: www.ocolly.com/news/article_b1f3cc70-3836-11e4-9d88-0017a43b2370.html
‘Molding local metal’
Stalking Madness, a Stillwater band composed of four members from separate walks of life, is progressively developing a new sound in a metal genre that they say is already loaded with innovative artists.
They call themselves a progressive metal band, taking each of their talents from previous bands, in their respective genres, and blending them to create a unique tone that bassist Kevin McDonnell says is a constant work in progress.
“We have progressive parts, we have exciting, low end cliquey parts, and we have seven minute songs as well minute and half long songs,” he said. “The way this band is, whatever happens, happens in the writing process. A lot of times, Ian will come up with a part, and then we’ll jam on that, and then Jake will get an idea to build on that with his vocals. Then Riley will just take it to another level.”
Forming in 2012, Stalking Madness is looking to gain momentum in social media circles to build their popularity – a step that they say is a major contributor to many popular band’s quick rise to stardom.
On the guitar
Ian Wright, 25, has an extensive history as a musician. His childhood included piano lessons, drum sessions, vocals and a love for guitar on top of everything else.
“I still play drums today, but I picked up guitar toward the end of middle school, and it’s slowly become the more dominant instrument in my life,” he said. “I’ll probably always feel like a better drummer than a guitarist, and that’s most likely why I feel more desire to play guitar.”
Like many guitarists, Wright has his collection, but will always have that special connection with one axe in particular.
“I have a few guitars, but my favorite one is definitely my Agile 8-string,” he said. “The craftsmanship is impeccable, and it plays like a dream.”
Wright has his role in the band, and he’s fully aware of what that is, but a musician’s mentality can also influence the group’s aura. Wright finds his place as a single part in a larger mechanism.
“As for my role in the band, I feel like we all provide very equal parts to the writing process and even the recording process,” he said. “We all have experience with being in bands before this one, so we’ve all figured out ways to contribute, and it seems to have evened itself out a bit over time. We have many ideas and methods for writing and recording, and we’re looking forward to experimenting with in the future.”
As his musical taste became darker over time, Wright found a heavy influence in Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl, but his relationship with his musically talented parents also played a role in his passion for music.
“I grew up here in Oklahoma,” he said. “I’ve always had a great family full of musicians. My mom and dad are both singers and songwriters, and so that influenced me in major ways, as expected. I play music professionally with both my mom and dad separately, as well as on my own. Jazz, metal, bluegrass, dance — all music is fun.”
On the drums
Riley Ventress, 22, is one of the founding members of Stalking Madness and has been able to watch the band grow together in their attempt to create something unique to the metal scene. Ventress’ family also played a crucial role in his development as a percussionist.
“Both of my parents are big music lovers, so I guess that’s how I got in to it,” he said. “They’re both instrumentalists. My mom played bass, and my dad played guitar and is really a good singer, though no one but us ever hears it. I played my mom’s bass starting out and enjoyed doing it, and I got in to drums just after we moved from Oklahoma City.”
Growing up, his school had a band program where he decided to find a place where he could express himself instrumentally.
“I ended up choosing percussion because of my natural rhythmic ability,” he said. “I became first chair percussion with in the first week, and that was over the kids who had been playing a year prior. By 7th grade the band director asked me to play on the high school drum line. I picked drums up rather quickly and really enjoyed playing from then on.”
Ventress has his roles as the drummer, but he found a new passion in the music business in the privacy of his own home.
“My role outside of being a drummer is being our Producer,” he said. “I produce, mix and master all of our stuff. Being in control of all of those aspects allows us to make the music sound the way we envision, opposed to a third party that isn’t a part of the band and doesn’t know what we want to sound like. I do write songs for the band, but producing is probably my biggest role outside of playing the drums.”
On the bass
McDonnell, 31 is a Craigslist pickup, which as the band says, can have its challenges, but McDonnell was a steal in the end, giving the group another vantage point with his inexperience with the genre.
“From the beginning I just said, ‘I can’t do death metal,’” he said. “I met the guys for hamburgers at Curley’s Diner on Perkins after responding to a Craigslist add for a bass player. This was after three failed Craigslist attempts on my part. So, fourth time’s a charm. We hit it off right away though. They were definitely the kind of people I was looking for.”
McDonnell says the band is a mash up of a few guys who just wanted to find a new sound in a fun genre, and with his outside viewpoint, the identity of Stalking Madness shines through the music in a vibrant way.
“With four guys who all have serious opinions about what we think is really good music and strong influences that are all over the place, writing a song all of us love is a lot of work,” he said. “We are still learning how to write music together, but making progress every time we meet.”
Ten years ago, McDonnell attended a House of Blues concert featuring the band Opeth. Martin Mendez, the bassist for the band, was and still is one of his favorite musicians of all time. Not only did his get to watch him play, but was able to meet his idol before he went on stage.
“We sat in the back room of the House of Blues in Cleveland and talked about music for an hour or so before his band went on,” McDonnell said. “He even busted out his Fender Jazz Bass, and let me jam as we sucked down Coronas. Imagine being out of your mind star struck, then 30 minutes later you’re just chatting with this guy as if he was an old friend.”
McDonnell started saving up for a Fender the next day.
“That’s the great thing about metal musicians,” he said. “They are so down to earth, and if you really want to, you can meet and maybe even hang out with the best of the best.”
As front man, Jake Barnes, 27, knows the position requires a certain personality to expose the group’s identity. His emotions carry what he says is a collection of molecules on stage, shouting at the separate entities in the crowd.
“I was four when I first dreamed of the stage,” he said. “I’ve always craved attention, and I would fantasize about becoming a rock-god. I would listen to various artists and I would pretend that I was these men. I would spend hours pacing in my room, listening to their music and imagining that I was singing their words, living their lives. Of course, that fantasy was a lie.”
Barnes pushes to express the band’s identity with his honest approach to performing.
“I strive to express myself honestly in every moment of every performance, to bleed on every line I write,” he said. “Each noise I make, whether bellowing gutturals or soft, breathy singing, everything has to come from a place of artistic integrity, or I’m not happy with it. That is what’s most important to me.”
Ventres and Barnes started playing together about five years ago for their band Brutalis, and after a few band members moved on, Stalking Madness soon came into being with the addition of McDonnell and Wright.
“As I was playing with my last band, I saw these guys perform.” Wright said. “I noticed immediately once we started hanging out that it would work out. Both of our bands went down to Denton and played a show, and that was another thing that got me into these guys. Once our bands started separating, I had a few tasty little metal tracks and wondered who be a good drummer to match it. Riley was free and open to do stuff and said he had a bassist and vocalist who wanted to try some stuff out.”
The group’s mission to find a new sound is something Wright says is slowly turning into a drive to emphasize the uniqueness of the individual members of the group, but some bands will always be striving to find their sound.
“Creating a new sound is really hard to do at this point with so many bands and so much stuff already being done,” he said. “Some people’s best work comes from combing aspects of different bands that they liked. I think we’re starting to see that we can go beyond those limits and actually create our own sound. When we first started, we had the intentions of being a heavy death metal band. Now it’s turning into something else.”
With Wright’s experience as a vocalist, singing and also playing the drums for his last band, he was interested in taking over the lead vocals.
“I said, ‘Well I was thinking about doing lead vocals, but if it’s Jake from Brutalis, I’ll accept that definitely,’” Wright said. “So we started writing new material and putting together some songs almost immediately.”
With each member of Stalking Madness having experience with a number of bands, they all express how much it means for a band to have a strong sense of cohesion.
“All I have to say about my experience with this band so far and how it’s come together, it’s been really fast and progressive,” Wright said. “A lot of the reason we don’t bump into each other is because of our experience. Getting all of that crap over with, and dealing with different bands is something every musician runs in to sooner or later. We have all of that figured out and know how to avoid difficulty most of the time.”
Ventress says the more the group progresses, the easier it is to get constructive work done.
“I think constructive criticism is essential,” he said. “I think a lot of people take things like that personally, and like that person is trying to get at them instead of just making better music.”
Ventress also addressed the group’s fan base as a greatly diverse set of people with the obvious ‘heavy metal’ crowd that they love to see at each performance. Barnes feels as if it’s all a part of what makes metal so appealing.
“There’s definitely those people, and I love these people, but you’ll see the same type of metal heads wearing camo shorts and such,” Barnes said. “Of course, you see that and say, ‘Oh that’s cool, whatever floats your boat.’ Outside of that, it’s really diverse. Anybody could get into it.”
Stalking Madness is a collection of four musicians traveling from all over Oklahoma each Wednesday night to share their passion for creating music. The commitment is there, and with that commitment comes a sense of reward.
“Any project that I’m going to be in, I see it as an opportunity to create something that I enjoy, and it’s just fun to create music first and foremost,” McDonnell said. “I feel like the recording process is essentially my stamp on the world. Where performing is concerned, I just have short term memory loss during a performance. All of the sudden, 45 minutes is gone. It’s so rewarding. That last show we did was so smooth and perfect. I didn’t have to think about what I was doing.”
Barnes is excited about the future of Stalking Madness. He says they love playing music, and that’s their main focus, but they’re aiming for the big stage and moving at a rapid pace with their social media presence escalating.
“I’m sure we all have our own visions and ideas for what we want for the future and for this band,” he said. “Part of what makes this work is that we are all very dedicated to our craft and what we do. As far as our long term goals, I think it’s different for everyone, but we’re all in the same vein of what we want to accomplish, but we have different concepts of what that means. At the same time, if we reach the point where we can do this for a living and be able to support ourselves, I’m sure nobody in the band would complain.”
‘A recap of the 2015 Oscars’
“Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” are the popular winners today, but this year’s Academy Awards ceremony was full of heart and politically-charged moments as stars took advantage of their moment in the sun.
Neil Patrick Harris hosted the 87th Academy Awards ceremony at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles Sunday night, successfully providing his talent for on-stage entertainment and comic relief.
Although a few of the categories were close calls, the winners were fairly predictable, including the biggest prize of the night. “Birdman” walked away with the Oscar for best picture, but director Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood” could have easily won and fans would have been just as pleased.
Eddie Redmayne won best actor for his transformative performance in “The Theory of Everything.” Redmayne gained some serious award-winning momentum before Oscar night, lifting him above Michael Keaton, who was a long-time frontrunner for his role in “Birdman.”
Julianne Moore was one of the sure bets this year for best actress. Her role in “Still Alice” details the experience of early onset Alzheimer’s and the impact the disease has on the subject and the people around them. Even though this category was full of great performances, Moore was going to win this category. If there were any viewers last night who hadn’t seen any of the performances in this category, the clips before the announcement clearly worked in Moore’s favor, and one could easily see she was the frontrunner.
J.K. Simmons was the other actor locking up a category weeks before the ceremony. Simmons won for best supporting actor in his role as crazed instructor Terrence Fletcher in “Whiplash.” Before the Oscars, Simmons swept the supporting actor categories at every other award ceremony, making this an easy choice and a deserving award.
Patricia Arquette represented “Boyhood” in the core acting category wins, as she has in many award shows this year, but unlike Simmons, this did not grant her a guaranteed victory. Emma Stone was close behind for her role in “Birdman,” but Arquette prevailed and delivered a powerful speech about equal rights for women in the workplace.
Arquette wasn’t the only political voice. John Legend and Common performed their award-winning song “Glory” before the category for best original song was announced. The song is featured in Ava Duvernay’s film “Selma,” and the two artists took the stage to give their own moving speech, declaring “Selma is now.”
After the nominations were announced for the Oscars several weeks ago, “Selma” was the popular topic after only receiving a nomination for best picture and original song. Many expected the film’s leading role, David Oyelowo, to earn a nomination for best actor, and Ava Duvernay was expected to be one of the front-runners for achievement in directing. With all of the “Selma” snub talk leading up to the Oscars, it was clear last night that the film and its messages rightfully stole the show’s spotlight.