The latest round of music news and gossip: Lady Gaga gets a degree, Ian Astbury of The Cult eats his words, Steven Tyler still friendly with ex-Bebe Buell, Avril Lavigne and ex-hubby Sum 41's Deryck Wembley still screaming bloody murder after divorce, a movie featuring rocker dads, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong produces son's band, and band Low Anthem's side gig as pickers.
We forgot one important entry when we did the piece on smart rock stars: Lady Gaga. Yes, you heard correctly. The "Born This Way" singer received an honorary degree yesterday from MTVU for her influence on the lives of college students. She was one of three artists who were recognized on the network's 24-hour college programming for making an impact on college campuses across the nation. And that's not all. MTV also commended her on her recent partnership with the Robin Hood Foundation to provide a million dollars to the homeless youth of New York City. You wonder what a "real" degree from MTVU would entail...Never say never. Despite the fact that Cult spiritual leader Ian Astbury insisted back in 2009, "There will be no new album. I don't think we'll ever see a Cult album. Albums are dead. The format is dead," comes the news that The Cult have signed a new deal with Cooking Vinyl and have been holed up writing and recording demos at Witch Mountain, a studio tucked high in the Hollywood Hills. The band has Queens of the Stone Age producer and Masters of Reality front man Chris Goss behind the boards, a man Ian calls "the Great Buddha of the desert." Which speaks volumes as to why the Cult hired him - given that Billy Duff and Astbury once broke up the band back in 1995 after getting into a fistfight on a Brazilian beach.
In the wake of unfriendly exes, it's nice to see that there are some who continue to get along. Recording artist and one time supermodel Bebe Buell posted a video of her ex (and daughter Liv Tyler's father) on her Facebook page, saying: "Steven Tyler singing with Juliette Hamilton.
Having said that, don't expect Avril Lavigne to be posting any Sum 41 videos from Screaming Bloody Murder anytime soon - we're sure having nothing to do with the fact that Deryck Whibley, Sum's lead singer has revealed the disc was inspired by their rather brutal 2009 divorce. And that he's not yet over their split. But it's clear Avril is, if photographs of her with her current boyfriend Brody Jenner (yes, stepbrother to the famous Kardashian clan) are any indication. And they must be, since the former couple just put their marital home on the market. They've listed the Bel Air mansion for a cool $9.5 million. If you're in the market, the Mediterranean-style house has eight bedrooms, ten-and-a-half baths, and sports a ten-car garage, a wine cellar, a gym with a sauna, and a covered outdoor living room that opens to a swimming pool with a hot tub and a barbecue. Plus it has a history: Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker previously owned the mini mansion.Speaking of Blink-182, Barker's bandmate Mark Hoppus has a part in Beastie Boy Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboratories documentary titled The Other F Word. The film is about punk rock fathers and how they're handling their role as paterfamilias. Along with Hoppus, the cast includes Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jim Lindberg from Pennywise, Art Alexakis from Everclear, and Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo. "When I first heard about this film about musician fathers, I thought, 'Oh no, not another film that everyone thinks I'm going to like,'" said Yauch. "But I was actually very moved by it, pleasantly surprised, and glad I didn't go with my first instinct. It's a beautiful and touching film."
While third wave punk icon Billie Joe Armstrong doesn't have a part in the documentary, he is taking an active role in his eldest son Joey's welfare. Armstrong produced Emily's Army, a teenage power punk group that features his 15-year-old son on drums along with Max and Cole Becker and guitarist Travis Neumann. Their debut album will be out on June 14 on Armstrong's Adeline Records.
Those four rather rakish looking rockers careening down your street in a battered van picking up what looks like trash don't just look like the members of the Low Anthem; in all likelihood they are Low Anthem. When they have a free moment on the road they collect vintage instruments, visiting old thrift shops, pawing through salvage yards, even rescuing a kettle drum from its ignoble life as a coffee table and, yes, picking up things off the street, then packing their van with the spoils. That's also where multi-instrumentalist Ben Knox Miller writes his songs -- at least one every day -- unlike most musicians who find it unthinkable to even write in a hotel room as they travel across the country. "Well, I do trash about 90 per cent of them," he revealed to American Songwriter.