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Whatchu talkin about Willis? Cleve Willis tells all



Atlanta is no stranger to Cleve Willis.  Local musician and rock legend in these parts.

We recently caught up with him and found out how our Atlanta boy is faring the city of Angels.

1. Last time The Backstage Beat Atlanta talked with you, you were balancing work with two bands, filming a movie, and practicing Bikram yoga. How did you balance your schedule with the bands and shooting for the movie?

I was pretty slammed.  Rockets To Ruin was finishing up a record we had just played with Cinderella  slated to do several shows.. did one (that’s another rock n roll RTR story, ha)

we did a new video new tune which was really cool , played with Powerman 5ooo and couple other things, meanwhile as we started realizing the label we had a production deal with had split from their partners including “Lil Jon’s management , so we sorta got the brush off write off whatnot, so we ended hopefully in the RTR graceful manner well , or with a few F-U’s haha, The LA project we were writing and recorded a couple of tunes on guitar Nick Rozz and also Kieth Horne form RTR  and  a female badass drummer Tuesdai Lisa Murgia, and Atl based Bruce Butkovich did the studio bass who plays with The Futura Bold, (James hall), BNH bass player Kevin Anders was not around to record, so we recorded in ATLANTA and I was in LA doing some also, in between I was doing the trailer for Colbalt’s sky! great to b busy , wish i was right now! I always make time for the Bikram yoga, its my most passionate place to be next to the stage, want to get certified and teach sooner than not!

2. Is filming completed for the movie Cobalt Sky in which you were the lead character? Has a release date been set for the film? Have you gotten to preview it on the big screen yet – is it odd seeing yourself up there?

The movie Colbalt’s sky got funded to do a trailer and i was asked to play the lead , previous I had a speaking part in an Indy film called KERBEROS . . .


. . . you can see me for a moment at  1.59 for literally a second


Cobalt’s sky, I am the main character it was pretty cool a challenge and has set me up for some possible things in LA, who knows …great time hope they finally get funded for the movie, love to finish it!

3. Tell us about your newer band, Brand New Hate?

Brand new Hate , well Nick is touring with a national band. Meanwhile I have sung tunes in the studio for the Fantasy factory show Mtv , the music is pretty damn fun,very different for me , the production co. thought it was good enough to finance entire record, produced by Anthony Valli known for playing guitar with the band early 2000’s Crazy Town , he works with bands producing and also for tv shows etc, we are excited it’s actually done now so Kieth Horne from RTR and BNH myself, Carmine D’amico, who is a brain child with Anthony behind this whole thing, well we recruited Joaquin Revuelta whom has played with many bands from Stephen Pearcy to Papa Roach(filler) and Jason Barajas on bass we are called “L.A. STORY” with one song on Mtv Show and the record done getting mixed now ,we are under way very soon L.A. Story very Killers meets Bowie, punk pop, i am loving it! Please go check out a couple of tunes we put up here on The Backstage Beat,  so you’re the first to hear and see it!

4. How is Brand New Hate different from Rockets to Ruin?

Brand new Hate was different from RTR with the less sleazy and less punk background and a bit heavier , I have the more straight ahead rock punk in my blood though, with L.A. Story it may be a bit commercial pop but has a rock/punk feel  as in shorter tunes and extremely catchy songs, I am honestly just so stoked about this band , we had our first rehearsal which went great none of us have ever played these tunes , funny coz the album is complete!! Time to push L.A. Story

5. What’s going on with Rocket to Ruin right now?

I mainly answered this question in number 1, RTR has never fully broken up, Rob Hammersmith whom recorded everything with us even the songs that never came out via that bastard ex-manager of ours, was RTR drummer is in Skidrow now , he was and always will be RTR drummer as far as I am concerned, we were spoiled with his playing, we had a filler for a while Brent Addision who was great, talk of L.A. show having Tuesdai on drums ( a one-off show only)  myself and Kieth are in LA working on “L.A.STORY” , he and I may do some acoustic stuff, Brand new Hate is on hold, who  knows , and as far as any more acting goes I do like it and we shall see if I do anything with it, i have couple things that may take shape, but L.A.Story and Bikram are on the forefront ….

6. Tell us about L.A. Story…

L.A. STORY is my new band we are done recording the complete record, a production deal was done with Anthony Valli, we already have 2 tunes on Rob Dydrek’s MTV Fantasy Factory , also “eyes of silence” music will be used in something soon perhaps a Fox TV show or commercial, we find out soon, we plan on shopping this record in the following weeks to many labels praying it gets picked up, we definitely feel we are onto a marketable product in the music that we honestly enjoy, what a great combination! lucky!
 Based out of L.A we fell together Carmine and Cleveland have written together for the tv shows etc, Keith and Cleveland were in Rockets to Ruin together whom is in LA also, Joaquin meet Cleve on the softball team in LA very random and( ironically I have gotten pretty damn good 1st baseman) , Carmine and Joaquin had both played with Jason who has been a hired gun in several bands , small world. I let Joaquin hear the music he wanted to play with us,i said”it’s not even a band” Joaquin said”so lets do it, call Carmine”, Carmine had been bugging me to consider just doing it ,I am stubborn and a bit moody. To many things were pointing at this project , so…….here we are , a done record, ITUNES very soon so definitely go get it please , and the wait game begins….we plan on trying to play a couple shows in the fall prob warm up show at the Viper room , go from there talk of key club and maybe a Phoenix and Vegas also, in this band we have the same goal to succeed …to be as smart as you can in this music biz, and to start pushing this band asap….thank you The Backstage Beat for supporting the band and me a true southern rocker I wear the Atl like a badge even in LA ….
Cleveland Willis – Vocals
Carmine D’Amico – Guitars
Keith Horne – Guitars
Joaquin Revuelta – Drums
Jason Barajas – Bass
Ladies and Gentleman… may we present to you, L.A. Story debuting four new songs only on The Backstage Beat!

Tempt Me Not

[audio: temptmenot.mp3]

Everybody Dance

[audio: everybodydance.mp3]

Save Me

[audio: saveme.mp3]

Eyes of Silence

[audio: eyesofsilence.mp3]

Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando



Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.


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Holiday Fun

Kingsized Holiday Fun! Big Mike is Back at the Variety Playhouse!



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Big Mike Geier and his Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll Orchestra, along with the Dames Aflame Dancers, Lil’ Santa and other special guests, bring tidings of comfort and joy with their signature glitz and glamour in what has become a tinsel-time tradition at the Variety Playhouse. The all-ages 90-minute show features your Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

Photo: Emily Butler

We caught up with Big Mike to ask a few questions.

TBB: Big Mike! It’s been a couple years since we had the pleasure of seeing you perform live. We are so excited to be back in Atlanta and we are ready for this show. What can you tell us about this years event?

Big Mike: Welcome back to Atlanta, Ange! We’re also excited to be in town for another wild and wonderful Holiday Jubilee. We like to honor the tradition that the Jubilee has become and don’t mess too much with the format. You can expect the always magnificent sounds of the 12-piece Kingsized Rock ‘n Roll orchestra performing your favorite holiday classics and the dazzling Dames Aflame dancers providing the glamour. The show is all about holiday nostalgia, whatever that means to you: Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Donnie Hathaway, The Grinch, Rankin Bass, Peanuts, the Dreidel Song? It’s all in there.

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Music Gallery

Turkuaz at Aisle 5



Brooklyn based funk band Turkuaz played at Aisle Five in Atlanta last week and here are some shots from the show!

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