The Fantastic Grammy Music Education Coalition

We are going to do things a little differently on this latest installment! Today, I am going to take some time to highlight the fantastic Grammy Music Education Coalition for merchlive magazine! As someone who personally benefitted from a strong education based in music, I am thrilled to dig deeper into the vision in which they offer!

For those unitiated, the Grammy Music Education Coalition is a “collaboration movement toward universal participation in music education in public elementary schools, and an increased participation in secondary schools across America”, as taken from their mission statement. The group boasts several high profile partners including The Berklee College of music, NAMM, the VH1 save the music foundation, and the Warner music Group, amongst many others. Their annual report from 2018 showed that their work created “more dynamic, diverse communities and provides learning opportunities and workforce readiness for youth on a national scale.”


The GMEC makes investments in school music education and partners with community foundations and government. Once of the many services they offer includes creating a unique music education for American schools and teachers. I cannot speak highly enough of their work as this has proven to be so beneficial to myself in my formative years.


Taken from their annual newsletter, the coalition is focusing on nationwide programming. “We launched the Coalition in November by announcing a partner program with Disney-Pixar, through which we shared music resources from the acclaimed animated film Coco with all interested American schools, music teachers, and students. Disney- Pixar provided the original recorded tracks, mixes and notated scores of select songs. Disney and Cordoba also donated a total of 600 guitars, 200 each going to the Nashville, New York City, and New York City schools.”


One of the coolest things I discovered is that the coalition works closely with established artists of all genres. In the Coalition’s inaugural year, they have confirmed the following Artist Ambassadors: Bebe Rexha, Lang, Mindi Abair, War On Drugs, Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses), Kristin Chenoweth, Rita Ora and Luis Fonsi. This is generating great excitement for students as an extra incentive to work closely with the stars of the music industry!


Their slogan is “Making music matters”. Ideally creating a world where all public schools can participate in a music education is an important task, and I am thankful that such a coalition exists! Based on their studies. “More than 75% of teachers say they can tell which students are taking music classes” as this has shown to increase attitude and performance in areas that are non-music related as well. A large majority of teachers consider music education as a great outlet for creativity as well. Based on these two points alone, there should be more of a push to teach music in or public schools, and the GREC does their best to insure that everyone gets a fair chance to participate.


“The GRAMMY Music Education Coalition invests in youth-connected programs and teacher training strategies to help attract more young people to their schools’ music offerings by helping teachers and educational programs stay exciting and relevant starting at the primary levels all the way through secondary school.” In order to achieve their directives, the coalition employs an investment model which starts by assessing the needs, creating a plan, investing strategically and finally transferring funds to the school districts. Each year the Coalition will engage in one or two leading music education programs that can be used by all American students and teachers in their schools and at home.


Another valuable resource that the coalition provides is implementing full time mentors for music teachers as they have recently in Nashville. Per their newsletter, “The Coalition will also support the district’s professional development for teachers in the use of technology and music production, to address the knowledge gaps identified in both basic technology tools and the understanding of how to maximize the use of technology in music education. Professional development will focus on helping students perform and create contemporary music with current technology and production tools.” As you can see, the support extends long term and provides resources for all aspects of music education.


This is only the beginning, and only a small example of what The GRAMMY Music Education Coalition offers. If you’d like to learn more, please go to to learn more about how the GMEC helps communities nationwide!

American Grim


Ben Boggs gets GRIM, AMERICAN GRIM that is.


ML: On behalf of myself and, thank you for taking time out of your day to talk to us! We are excited to hear your new release on November 1st, Ultra Black One and curious to hear about some of the influences that may have added to this body of work. When you started recording, how did you approach the process and how long were you in the studio?

AG: After a year and a half of touring we headed back into our guitar player, Mike’s, studio located in Hillsborough, New Jersey. We really took our time recording this album. In the early stages we came up with the title, Ultra Black to keep the song writing cohesive. We broke close to 70 songs and wound up picking 13 to go on the full length disc. We knew we wanted to create a heavier, darker album while still crossing over into some other genres. This album also took a unique turn by bringing Mike in vocally. Many of the sessions were just vocal sessions where he and I would go back-and-forth singing and writing. It was a very easy and natural process.

ML: In your press release, you stated that your intentions are to, “shake up the culture of fake outrage”. I was hoping you’d elaborate on that further and maybe discuss what your long term vision is with this mission statement.

AG:  Our first album, Freakshow, covered many topics in regards to the drug epidemic. The new album takes listeners down a dark road focusing on overcoming all demons ahead.

ML: How hands-on were you with the video for “Nightmare”? I really loved the dark imagery mixed with the beautiful landscapes. How much artistic input did you provide?

AG: When it comes to filming the music videos most of our work is all done ourselves. I personally spent a lot of time learning video software and have a lot of fun directing the music videos. I try to take inspiration from iconic Hollywood horror films and put my own twist to them. I believe the band creating their own music and visuals is a powerful thing. It is very hard to explain to people your vision, so when you’re in control things get done the way you see it.

ML: I read that American Grim “conjures the rich history of theatricality found in cinematic horror and dark literature”. Given the opportunity, would you incorporate more of this into your stage show, or does this mostly refer to the themes and lyrical content of your recorded music?

AG: I would believe most of the theatrical vibes come from the promotion side of our past album Freakshow. I like to think of our live performance as a raw and in-your- face show. Most of our influence comes from the hard-core music scene so we think it’s funny when people call us theatrical.

ML: Speaking of your live performances, I see you have a November 5th date at the Token Lounge right here in Lansing, Michigan! Do you have any upcoming tour plans in the near future you’d like to share?

AG: We will be touring all year in support of our new album Ultra Black. Full U.S. tours will start in January, 2020.

ML: How is the music scene from where you are based? Is it a vibrant area for local music, or do you find yourselves as the lone group?

We believe growing up playing New Jersey is what helped define this band. New Jersey has always been a great place to come out of musically. We got to see a lot of great bands play the small crowds growing up. I truly feel like being involved in the New Jersey hard-core scene at a young age helped give us roots that we will never forget as well as give us a show that is as intense as it can get.

ML: We frequently find that musicians are involved in more than just the music when it comes to their bands. Are there any hobbies or influences outside of music that contribute to your overall vision?

AG: Well we started writing songs around mixed Martial Arts about five years ago. That led to our management deal with James Jeda at Rocktagon Worldwide.  Our music was featured in the film Fight Valley that had UFC champion Holly Holm, Cruz Cyborg, and many other UFC stars. Some of our music was also featured on NBC sports. I am also a brown belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, and I feel working out in the gym helps me stay inspired. Sometimes you have to refocus your mind. Getting out of the studio to fight people is a great reset.

ML: How excited are you to release your new album and how do you feel it compares to your previous efforts?

AG: We are very excited for the world to hear our new album Ultra Black. We believe this is the best thing we’ve done to date and we are truly excited for the world to hear what we have created. This album is a much darker side of the band. It really shows what we’re capable of on many levels. We believe this is a creation of everything we’ve been through as individuals and artists. Lyrically the album stays true to the idea that we all have fears in this life, and that it’s OK to be scared, but you can’t let those fears enable you to not push forward.

ML: It has been an absolute pleasure to get a chance to talk to you guys. We wish you nothing but continued success in the years ahead! Thank you so much and we hope to catch you on the road!

Benjamin Boggs is a free lance journalist deeply embedded in the music industry fronting the band Drink Their Blood. his writing has been published in many notable online locations and we are proud to have him among our ranks


Clinton Rackley of Fatal Malady by Benjamin Boggs

Clinton Rackley of Fatal Malady by Benjamin Boggs

BB: I see that since your inception in 2011, there has been a fairly solid lineup, save for a few guitarist changes. With that said, even your current lineup has been solidified for 6 years. That’s becoming rarer these days it seems. What might you attribute to such a solid chemistry?

CR: Yes, our current lineup has been solid for quite some time. I guess we were just looking for the mix and finally found it. William Allen and I have been the only founding members that have never changed. Moises on bass, has been so solid for 7 years and he’s just a rock of stability for us. The guitars have been a different journey.

Interestingly, all the guitarists that have played in FM have left on great terms and we’re still very good friends today. It was outside life forces that caused the splits. In any case, our crew of 5 right now couldn’t be tighter knit. We play together, we practice together, we eat together, we know each other’s families, and we share a strong mutual respect for what each of us bring to our craft of Fatal Malady.

Being the original member and brain child of FM, one of the biggest blessings for me personally, has been watching the creative process unfold when we get together behind closed doors. Ideas roll off the fingers and we bounce riffs and melodies back and forth with seemingly very little effort. Absent is the ego-driven curse that plagues so many bands. We all have a healthy respect of each other’s talents, and we have the ability to accept criticism from each other. That has been key in our development as a band, and individually. Recognizing that – “we aren’t the best”, and “we can be better”, has really helped us along the way. We have never considered ourselves “the best band around” or felt like we’ve reached our full potential and are “at the top of our game”.

I think this core value within FM, of striving to maintain humility and show respect to each other- to other bands- to the fans, has driven us to grow. As a result, we’ve been able to learn, be open minded to well-meaning critics, and genuinely listen to those that want us to succeed. It’s a recipe that’s been working for us so far, and regardless of our success now and that which may come, it’s made life happy for us right now.


BB: Congrats on being signed with EMP. What has been the best part of being backed by a label thus far?

CR: Being with EMP has been a great experience. We’ve learned a lot about the industry, and having David Ellefson give us tips and coaching hasn’t hurt us one bit. We’ve learned how to keep good records, make a real EPK, how to plan tours and trips to other states. So much. Understanding how to purchase merch and what kinds and what sizes and how much. There are a million things to learn, and it’s about a million times easier to do it right the first time, when a band has help from some pros who’ve been there. Thom Hazaert & Melody Myers from EMP were tireless when we were in the production phase of “Burn” (Album #1), and I remember asking him if he ever slept at all. We’ve had some opportunities as well with a label that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. For example, in December of 2018, we had the opportunity to fly to Florida and play with the likes of David Ellefson, Bumblefoot, Head from Korn, and a slew of other amazing rockstars.

The experience of playing on stage with those guys was crazy in itself, but what we learned from them over the weekend was even more priceless. Bumblefoot in particular was incredibly kind and helpful about how to actually make a living doing what we love. One of the great stories from that weekend was when David Ellefson asked Head from Korn to jump up on stage to help him play “Symphony of Destruction”. Turns out, Head didn’t have a guitar with him. So, he looks over at us backstage and asks Dustin from FM  “hey man, can I play your guitar for this?”. True story. If you ever happen to see a video of that show on December 8th at the Brass Mug in Tampa, well, that’s Fatal Malady’s guitar that Head is ripping it up with.


BB: Your Facebook page shows that you are currently recording your 2nd full length at sonic phish productions. Their roster impressively boasts Megadeth, Alice Cooper and Jordan Rudess, to name just a few. Is this your first time in such a prestigious studio, and if so, what kind of pressure did that entail?

CR: Ironically, we recorded our 1st album with Sonic Phish too. Ken Mary, who is the brains behind SP, was referred to us and we went in to do some tracking. We heard he played with Alice Cooper and was friends with David Ellefson, so we were like “ok, let’s go check it out”.

It was super smooth and easy working with Ken Mary and Steve Conley at Sonic Phish. Ken wasn’t afraid to kick out ideas during the recording process for us and give us his thoughts about our arrangements. A lot of the tempos and BPM’s on “Burn” were set by him. It was pretty much guaranteed we would record album #2 with Ken Mary and SP, when “Burn” won Album of the Year at the AZ Metal Awards in late 2018. That was a great night, and really showed the kind of mastery Ken has during the mixing and engineering process. It’s under pretty tight wraps at the moment [Album details]. We have some album title ideas, and we have 12-15 songs ready for it, that may or may not make it onto the album. We’ll see.


BB: Speaking of recording, it’s my understanding that you will have a new single and video coming soon, is there anything that you can share about that?

CR: As far as right now? Yes, we have a single coming out in the next month or so, with a video to follow, for our song “Peace of Mind”. The song tracking is finished, and it was recorded at Sonic Phish. Next up is mastering and production. Then, on to the video! Making videos is really fun with these guys, and we plan to play different parts and roles, like we did in the video for “Burn”. Lots of people didn’t realize that I played the Priest in the video for “Burn”- currently closing in on 100,000 views on YouTube. I love that. That people didn’t realize we played all the parts ourselves. William Allen (our drummer) was the cop, and Brent Blair (our guitarist) played the dad. Cool stuff.


BB: How was the decision made to perform in skull make-up, and what are the origins of your fan base being affectionately called the “Skeleton Death Squad”?

CR: Ahhhh yes, the question everyone eventually gets to… It’s been years that we’ve been appearing onstage in skull paint, but in the early, early days of FM, it wasn’t that way. We played for a couple years and had a lot of gigs with our regular faces. We grinded it out with other local bands and cut our teeth. In fact, at one point I had braids down to my waist.

It all changed one night when we played this particular show at a venue called “910 Live” in Tempe AZ. I had an interchange with some people there, including the promoter and some staff, that really changed the way I think about the how bands present themselves and their message to an audience. I started to question what we’re really doing all this for in the first place.

I started to explore ways that we might perform and get our message across without having to be labeled as any particular color, or any particular religion, or race, or social class, or anything else for that matter. I was holding on to these mythical idealistic notions of equality in the world and had visions of every person on earth being mere skeletons. If we take away the money, and the social standing, and the color of our skin, and you could throw our pride in there with the trash too. A few days later, I approached the band with an idea of being “skinless” and appearing as skulls, stripped bare for everyone to see. Nothing to hide. It took a little time for the guys to embrace the concept, and even more time than that for us to hone and define our individual “looks”. I’ve never given any input with regard to the others face styles, and they’ve never tried to influence mine. Each member has their own specific style and their own definition of what it means. For me, my definition is clear already. As close to a real skull as possible. Bare, stripped, devoid of any preconceived notion or prejudice. My hair standing on end signifies for me the terror and fear we should all rightly feel for future generations. Cosmologist Martin Rees gives humanity only a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st century, and he’s an optimist.


BB: I would like to take a quote from your band profile, “We say through our art and through our music as best we can: WE HEAR YOU.” How important is it to give your message a voice, such as Fatal Malady, and is there anything outside of the band that you do to expand upon that message?

CR: On the track. “America” from ‘Burn’, there’s a question posed; “Do you a have a plan B for oil?”. Whispered in the background, are the words “Fill up the tank motherfucker”. Which we all do. It’s frustrating, and this excerpt illustrates the war we all wage with being a part of the problem, but really wanting to help change come about. How do we do it? A lot of Fatal Malady’s message stems from our reaction to what we see in the socio-political world today.

Some of it comes from listening to the outrage that people are feeling in all parts of the world over failing infrastructure in government and public service. Some of our lyrics come from an indifference with religious hypocrisy. Some of our lyrics speak of the consequences and spiral of addiction, and its effect on those around us. Some lyrics are carved straight from personal experiences with betrayal and lost love.

Like most of the world, and most of our fans, every member of Fatal Malady has suffered some tragedy in life and struggled to overcome depression at some point. We get it. The hypocrisy grates against our nerves too. We believe that a primary reason why strong people overcome and survive, is an overall belief that they are not alone. In our art, in our music, in our engagements with fans of live music, and in our personal lives, we want people to know that, everyone counts- someone is noticing – you are not alone.



BB: I saw a bunch of awesome pictures on your website, including a few with one of my favorites, Ice T. Does it feel surreal when your mentors and idols become your peers?

CR: That was nuts, playing with Body Count. The second time we played with them here in Phoenix, I was walking down a hallway backstage at Marquee Theater and Ernie C poked his head out and invited me in to hang for a bit in the dressing room with muthafuckin ICE T. Apparently, they recognized us from the previous show and wanted to catch up. hahahaha. All kidding aside, Ice T is a very down to earth guy and was incredibly kind. Another great moment was meeting Max Norman, who recorded albums with Ozzy that included Randy Rhoads, and then getting to hang out with Brian “Head” Welch in a hotel lobby like it was no big deal. Crazy. Korn is one my all-time favorites. Definitely some items checked off the bucket list, and hopefully there’s many more to come. Who knows…?


BB: Last one for you: your Facebook page says that your inception credits a “little help from a double clutcher named Danielle”. I must inquire for more information on that!

CR: LOL! Forgot that was on there. Way back in the early, early days of FM, we wrote a song called “Double Clutch”. Played it a few times too. Rumor was that the song was written about this girl, but we’ll never tell. Long live rock n roll and thank you sincerely to all the great and passionate fans of live music. There’s just nothing like it. And there never will be.