For SHeDAISY, success came at the best of times and the worst of times. Their debut disc arrived last year just when the industry was of a mind to get behind a new female pop-country trio. The good news: The Whole SHeBANG sold over a million copies. The not-so-good news: After a decade of dues-paying, SHeDAISY had to endure endless comparisons to another new female pop-country trio.

While bandleader Billy Corgan deservedly gets much credit for the Smashing Pumpkins' progressive-pop innovation, you can't overlook the contributions of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Chamberlin, who played on the Pumpkins' first three albums, rejoined the group for their fifth effort, Machina/The Machines of God. A recent chat proves that Jimmy remains one of rock drumming's true independent thinkers.

Alan Parsons would be a recording legend if his only accomplishments had been to engineer such classic rock albums as the Beatles' Abbey Road and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. But after proving himself as an engineer and producer, Parsons dared the unprecedented: creating a pop act based not on star power or conventional songwriting, but on the epic visions of a brilliant producer/engineer.

The terms "guitar synth" and "heavy rock" seldom appear together. In fact, it's even unusual to see the words "guitar" and "synth" back to back these days.

Music Row tunesmiths have recently been sharing a hot tip: any writer who publishes with BMI can book free time at the company's Nashville songwriting studios. "Songwriters are always looking for someplace to write," says BMI Nashville Vice President Roger Sovine. "A lot of these people have their own songwriting setups at home, but they like collaborating here because it's such an in-between, neutral spot. Our two songwriting rooms are booked solid."

There are drummers, and there are drummers' drummers. But is there such a thing as a drummers' drummer's drummer? If so, Manu Katché is one. The player of choice for Peter Gabriel, Sting and many others, brings to each project an unparalleled blend of intelligence, intensity and groove. He spoke with us recently from his home in Paris.

Patrick Leonard's resume fills page after page. In small print! Small print that includes names like Madonna, Elton John, Jewel, Enrique Iglesias, Bryan Adams, Jody Watley, the Black Crowes, k.d. lang and . . . well, we'd better stop there, or we'll fill this page simply reprinting the list. The scary part is, the resume is divided into two sections: artists Leonard has produced and those he's written songs for. Both sections are equally impressive.

Edwin McCain may be best known for his 1997 smash "I'll Be," but his fans are quick to point out there's more to the South Carolina singer/songwriter than such delicate ballads. McCain's latest Lava/Atlantic release proves their point: Messenger is an eclectic collection that leaps from immaculately crafted acoustic numbers to full-bore rock anthems.

Pop fans know Clifford Carter as James Taylor's longtime keyboardist and they've probably heard him on records by Rod Stewart, Carly Simon and Roseanne Cash. Yet he's also worked with such jazz heavyweights as Yusef Lateef, Hank Crawford, George Benson, Eddie Palmieri, Herbie Mann and Don Cherry. Which is the real Carter?

From her GRAMMY-winning records of the '70s and '80s through her more recent work in television, film and musical theater, Melissa Manchester has remained one of our most admired singer/songwriters. Her latest credits include the score for Disney's Lady and the Tramp 2 and a performance at the Million Mom March in Washington, D.C. She is currently writing material for a new album, due next year.

They call him "the groove regulator."

After a decade in Nashville, JD Blair's flawless time and seemingly effortless feel have earned the drummer an eclectic list of credits that includes work with everyone from master tunesmith Lyle Lovett to freeform bass freak Victor Wooten. Now he's holding down his highest profile gig yet as touring drummer for pop-country goddess Shania Twain.

He's scored blockbusters like Dinosaur, The Fugitive, The Sixth Sense and Pretty Woman, as well as intimate critical favorites such as Mumford, Glengarry Glen Ross and Five Corners. But regardless of the film's scale, a James Newton Howard soundtrack always boasts an unerring dramatic sense, explosive energy and a hip blend of classic soundtrack devices and modern innovations. Howard spoke with us between meetings for his next project, the action thriller The Vertical Limit.

When Van Halen tours the world in 2001, their as-yet-unannounced vocalist won't be the only newcomer onstage: bassist Michael Anthony will be sporting a signature bass inspired by Yamaha's classic BB3000. Anthony is finetuning the specs as the group completes its 12th album, but he gave us a few clues about what to expect.

According to Nashville tunesmith Beth Nielsen Chapman, one of the best songwriting techniques is to avoid technique.

"I try to stay as much as possible in the unconscious place where real creativity comes from," says Chapman, whose songs have been performed by Faith Hill, Bonnie Raitt, Tanya Tucker, Elton John, Trisha Yearwood, Willie Nelson, Lorrie Morgan and many others. "I try to remove my intellect from the process and just get into the childlike joy of creating, like stringing beads or making mud pies."

He chews bubblegum onstage. He sings the theme from "The Flintstones" during his drum solo. A box of crayons inspired the colors of his Yamaha Beech Custom kit. But Slam-G's says that being Britney Spears' touring drummer isn't kid stuff.

If you think that running the sound system for a rock concert looks intense, consider the sort of stress some TV mixers face. Mike Ferrara, the P.A. engineer for The Rosie O'Donnell Show, must simultaneously mix the house band, the voices of Rosie and her guests and musical acts ranging from rock groups to Broadway choruses. And it gets worse: Ferrara and his colleagues start work at 6:00 A.M., racing to prepare for a 10:00 A.M. Broadcast.

Ben Carey says his leap from Australian pub gigs to the sold-out sheds and stadiums he now plays with Savage Garden has taught him at least one thing about guitar tone: "What sounds great in your bedroom or a guitar shop might not work at all in a rehearsal room or an arena. The tone you get with just you in front of your amp is one thing, but I have to find a way to make my sound work with a million tracks of keyboards, drums, percussion and bass, not to mention 20,000 screaming kids."

Most songwriters learn to accept the disappointment of hearing their songs produced in ways far removed from the composer's original vision. But Daryl Simmons has largely been spared that pain: The mega-Platinum R&B producer (Toni Braxton, TLC, Whitney Houston, Dru Hill, Xscape, Tevin Campbell, Monica, Aretha Franklin, Aaliyah, Mariah Carey, and others) has written many of his biggest hits.

Janis Ian has been through many musical incarnations since her 1967 song "Society's Child" made her a star at age 15. She's been a soft-rock balladeer, a disco diva, a polished Nashville tunesmith and a prolific jingle writer. But even those who've come to expect the expected from Ian may be startled by her latest album, the raw, hard-hitting God and the FBI.

Faith Hill continues to evolve from country singer to pop diva and Steve Hornbeak couldn't be happier. "Country is where I got my foot in the door," says Hill's longtime keyboardist/vocalist, "but I've always been more of a pop musician. Now that Faith is crossing over with things like the Divas tour, the gig has turned into something I enjoy even more."
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