Meeting David Reece for the second time in Bulgaria was an absolute delight and I sure as hell wasn’t going to skip the opportunity to talk to one of the most memorable and strong voices of rock music. David Reece, who is well known by his works in bands such as Accept, Bonfire and more recently, Sainted Sinners is a huge fan of Bulgaria and the rock community over here adores him so his visit was no surprise. He is coming back pretty soon again and I, along with his fans will be waiting with anticipation.
I met David last year when he came to Bulgaria with Sainted Sinners and Ian Paice for one of the best rock shows of 2017. Seeing him perform the songs on which rock laid its foundations on (from Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, etc.), as well as fresh new additions to the world of rock&roll was a mind-blowing experience and now I can proudly state that I was part of it all yet again and not just as a fan or a concert attendee. I had the golden chance of speaking to him about many things, including his upcoming activities as a solo artist and with Sainted Sinners, the music industry, how things have changed in the past years and so much more. He gave me such valuable insights on many things rock-music related and I am glad I can now share it with all of you – my precious readers and lovers of rock music. I do hope you enjoy the following interview and photos from his recent visit in Bulgaria.
I would like to express my gratitude to Bulgarian rock singer Sheky and his band for backing up David Reece during this memorable night! Those guys did a wonderful job and I’m certainly proud of them! International collaborations are so beautiful!
How do you feel tonight and how does it feel to be back in Bulgaria? It’s not your first time being here so I’m curious to know what do you think of the Bulgarian rock community?
I realized when I came here the first time, the passion from the people was intense. I’ve been told so many times here – “You know, I really wanna see this band, they never come to our country.” I’m coming! And every time I come here, more people come to see me. I’ve built a fanbase here and I feel like people respect what I do and I respect that. I’m welcomed here and it’s a good market because many bands pass by – they only look at keeping the same, say Germany’s fees and Sweden’s fees, they wanna keep that balance. I don’t believe that. I think that you have to work with the dynamic of the market.
Is there a song you’re mostly looking forward to singing tonight?
Yeah, I’m actually a huge fan of the album from Whitesnake “Forevermore”. That song. I wanted to do it last time I was here, but the guys didn’t learn it. I think I really sing it good. I do it my way but I keep some of the Coverdale sound in it. I’m excited. Last time I was here, we ran out of time and the owner wanted more songs. So I sang an acapella. Everybody stood up and started cheering. That’s what I mean about Bulgaria! They know the songs, everybody loves music.
Are you performing any of your solo material or any Sainted Sinners music tonight?
No, I’m gonna do one Accept song – “Generation Clash”. I do that, everybody knows this song so I usually play that live.
You have recently released a new album with Sainted Sinners and it’s getting some really nice reviews. I also thought that it was a big step forward in comparison with the debut album in terms of production, songwriting, passion and energy. I’m curious if there’s a particular theme or topic you followed while making the album? How did you pick and write the songs?
The vision was – we all come from the old Deep Purple thing and that was kind of our ‘70s sound with the Hammond keyboards. Ferdy is a great keyboard player. Frank said, “How do you feel about a more guitar-oriented album?” I said okay but you can’t go from heavy guitar and keyboards and jump right into guitar – the fans who liked the first album are gonna go “What happened?” So we put little colors and keyboards on the new album. There’s a lot more guitar. Frank really gets to show his talent there.
As far as the songwriting goes, Frank and I have this weird telepathy. We don’t really speak. We play really well together, we have this really good writing relationship. When he sends me an idea, I hear the words immediately. I’m not a lyricist who wants to write “woah woah, baby baby, I love you” lyrics. I hate it. I would rather write about what I’m watching on television or what people are talking about in a club or person-to-person conversations. I hear words in my head and then I write the lyrics.
So now that the album is out, is there a next step for Sainted Sinners? Do you plan on touring together?
It’s really hard for the fans. Frank is in Bonfire. Sainted Sinners is our kind of a side project. So, I have to live in the shadow of that in a sense and I don’t like it. I would rather have more focus on Sainted Sinners but it’s not possible. One of the reasons it that Bonfire tour more. We did five shows this year on the release and it’s not enough for me.
But what I’ve done is, I’m playing my solo stuff. In July, there’s a giant festival that I’m part of. I’m headlining on the Friday night. I said, “What do you think about Sainted Sinners on Saturday before the major headliner?” So I think we’re gonna do that but Frank’s schedule is… it’s really hard.
I wanna play more but I’m not gonna sit around and wait for an opportunity. I’m gonna grab it while it’s still there for me.
Perhaps you can maybe focus on recording new albums rather than touring?
I’m open to that with Frank. No reason why not to, we have a great writing relationship, there’s no animosity, but I really believe that if you’re a band and you’re making records, you should be touring behind those albums. I can make 50 albums a year with all the great guitar players who are home for the weekend. I don’t like that. I wanna tour what I do. You really don’t get the song until you tour it.
Tell me about your solo album. I know that it’s coming out this year.
I signed with “Mighty Music”. The story really quickly is I know a guy – Alessandro Lifonti who is very good friends with Mike Tramp. Mike Tramp and I did shows together in the USA. I wrote Ali one day and said “I wanna make a solo album. What does Mike Tramp say about his label – Target and Mighty Music?” He said he really likes it. I said I’ll write Mike Tramp so I wrote Mike and he said “Yeah, they’d be interested.” Within minutes I had a record deal. I signed a multi-album deal. The music is very modern, heavy, melodic. If you like Accept’s “Eat the Heat”, that’s what it is vocally but it’s more modern rather than the cliché AOR.
Where did you draw your influences from?
I don’t know. I like bands like Nickelback. I enjoy them and some of those sounds they have, I think they’re great. People criticize them but they still go see their concerts.
It’s not Nickelback music (his new album) but it’s more modern than what I’m used to doing. I’m really excited cause it’s heavy. My voice is in great shape on it. Mario Percudani at Tanzan Music is recording my vocals. The band is from Denmark – the two guitar players.
So we are expecting something modern?
Modern and heavy and very melodic. Very heavy but not dark. Really good, I think it’s my best album in many years and I mean that from my heart. I’m really shocked.
So maybe by doing a more modern record, you’re getting the attention of many younger fans? Is that something you’ve thought about?
No. I kind of got bored, writing the same style. I wanted to reach out and expand my horizons. I’ve had these ideas in my head for a few years. In 2017, April – around that time, I wrote the first song, called “Karma”. That was the template of the album.
When does the album come out?
Maybe when you release it you can come back and have a show here to present it?
Yeah, I hope.
Is there anything you wanna say to the younger generations of rock fans, like myself?
If you believe in what you’re doing and you’re talented, then nobody can tell you that it’s not gonna work. One thing you have to learn in this business is how to say “no”. If you don’t like something and you feel it in your heart that it’s not right for you, don’t do it. I did that for years with the big record companies. They always had this great plan and in my heart that didn’t sound right and it usually failed. Follow your dream, believe in it. You’re gonna get kicked down. Rise like a phoenix – like the song in the Sainted Sinners album. Stand up! My mother used to say – “You get kicked in the teeth all the time, but you always rise like a phoenix and come back!” It’s disappointing, but there is joy and if you believe in it and it’s really you, then it’s real.
Thank you, Dave for the awesome talk! I wish you all the success and hope to see you in my country again, soon!
What a valuable collection piece – ACCEPT’s “Eat the Heat”, signed by David Reece!
P.S. This publication expresses my personal thoughts and opinions, based on actual experiences. All the photos are taken by me. Please be kind and considerate and make sure you don’t just save and use the written and visual content without my permission! Rock on!
As we all know, the month of October brought us Revolution Saints’ sophomore album “Light in the Dark” which according to many fans, including myself, is indeed one of the highlights of this year’s melodic rock scene. I already expressed my honest feelings in my review publication which you can go ahead and check over here: Album Review: Revolution Saints – Light in the Dark (2017). The album is the brainchild of a group of exceptional musical geniuses who were brought together by the same end goal – to craft a meaningful record that symbolizes and stands for something; a record that will bring strength and courage to people and will turn into their saving grace in times of need. The best thing is that they did all that and way more and you don’t need to be an expert in music to feel it – the vibe, the emotions, the message…it’s all there for you to take it.
The dream team behind “Light in the Dark” is Deen Castronovo (Lead vocals, drums), Jack Blades (Bass, vocals), Doug Aldrich (Guitar) and the cherry on top – producer/songwriter Alessandro Del Vecchio who’s the main star of today’s show. Not only did he oversee the production of this album but he also contributed with his appraised songwriting skills and of course, his favorite keyboards that put that extra color to the album. Yes, the reason why I got to meet and talk to him in the first place was because of his immense contribution to this album but you should be well aware of the fact that he is one of the most prominent, versatile and networked musicians in contemporary rock music scene. He produced, wrote for and worked with so many of the big names out there, including Deen Castronovo, Neal Schon and Arnel Pineda from Journey, Fergie Frederiksen, Bobby Kimball, Joseph Williams and Steve Lukather from Toto, Ian Paice, Glenn Hughes and Roger Glover from Deep Purple, James LaBrie and Jordan Rudess from Dream Theater, Jack Blades from Night Ranger and Damn Yankees, Doug Aldrich and Bernie Marsden from Whitesnake, Joe Lynn Tuner, Craig Goldy, Carmine and Vinny Appice, Russell Allen from Symphony X, Tony Franklin, Michael Kiske of Helloween , Bruce Gaitsch and Bill Champlin from Chicago and many more. He’s also working with his bands Edge Of Forever, Hardline and Voodoo Circle as keyboardist and singer. That’s not all! Alessandro is the in-house producer for one of the most prolific and hardworking rock&roll labels out there – Frontiers Records; that should tell you enough! He participated in the making of countless exceptional melodic rock gems and not just those that are under the Frontiers tagline. To sum it up, Alessandro is most certainly an artist worth knowing and appreciating for everything he did and keeps on doing for this industry.
The circumstances under which I got the chance to talk to him couldn’t have aligned better. He was touring with the new supergroup Sainted Sinners and fortunately, the guys were just about to have a little tour in Bulgaria, including gigs in Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo and Yambol where Sainted Sinners partnered up with the legend himself – Mr. Ian Paice from Deep Purple. I got invited to the concert which was believe me, most certainly a life-changing event. I wrote all about my experiences on one of my previous publications so you can go ahead and check it out here: Concert Experience: SAINTED SINNERS & IAN PAICE @ Diana Hall, Yambol, Bulgaria (28/10/2017)
The concert brought me and Alessandro together for a quick chat about so many things related with music and his long long list of activities and projects that keep coming out as we speak. I had the honor of interviewing him and finding out more about Revolution Saints, the new album, what it takes to fulfill your dreams and the past and current state of the industry. He’s certainly an artist you can learn so much from. I do hope you enjoy the following interview:
Q: I’m very interested in your work and how in the first place you got into the entertainment industry? Tell me your story from the very beginning?
A: The very beginning was that in my house there was always music. My father was a teenager during the ‘70s and the ‘60s so what we normally used to listen to in the house was Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles and Jethro Tull and Uriah Heep so what happened every day is that you know, back then you used to have Stereo Hi-Fis in the house and my father was blasting music the whole day. My first memory is listening to the Greatest Hits from the Beatles so I think that shaped up my taste and I think around 6 or 7 my father gave me as a present a Walkman which back then was a cassette player and he gave me some cassettes and my favorite one was “Selling England by the Pound” by Genesis. I was a little kid listening to adult, mature music and that shaped up my taste so I ended up…I think I was 12 that I found out a cassette by the Queen and I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the first time and I was struck by lightning! I was like, “I wanna do that” and I remember my father came for dinner after work and I said “Pa, I wanna be a musician, I wanna be like Freddie Mercury, I wanna play the piano and I wanna sing!” I still remember his face. He was totally amazed and happy about it and that’s how I started. I wanted to be like Freddie Mercury and then I heard for the first time Malmsteen and I wanted to play that kind of music and then Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake…and it all fell into that thing.
Q: Right now, you do mostly production work or you are working on your solo career?
A: I’m not a solo guy. I’m more like a band guy and I have my own band which is called Edge of Forever. We’re about to do our fourth record next year. Works for the others even if obviously bands like Hardline, you know I can say it’s my band cause I write and produce and been part of the band longer than any other member, apart from Johnny. I would say that Edge of Forever and Hardline are my main acts. I’ve always thought that if I had to do something as a solo artist, it has to be different than what I do with Edge of Forever, Hardline or Revolution Saints. It would make sense. I would love to do a blues record, actually cause I’m a blues guy more than anything else.
Q: The reason why we connect and we are here right now is Revolution Saints’ new album – “Light in the Dark”. I wanted to interview you because I know that you indeed have a huge contribution to this album. Can you please tell us more what exactly did you do for this album and how did it feel to work with Deen Castronovo? I would also like to know if you have a favorite song or a favorite moment from the process of making the album?
A: It’s kind of different than the first record because the firs record was more like, “Ok, let’s put songs together and let’s get a band for Deen; let’s make a band that’s made of friends!” – that’s how we ended up with the line-up. For the second record, I wanted to write with the whole band as much as I could. Even if I look like a control freak, I’m not. I’m a band guy so as soon as everything was put on paper for the deals and the schedule and everything, I said “Okay guys, everyone just throw ideas and we see what happens.” Basically, the record is I would say mostly me and Doug as the songwriting and Deen contributed to some of the vocals to “Freedom”, entirely for lyrics. I wrote most of the lyrics and Jack wrote the lyrics for “Light in the Dark”.
I think this record is special because we ended up working all together in the same environment for 3-4 weeks. We were in the studio, we recorded together, and we arranged parts together. It was a great feeling to have – three of my favorite musicians and idols in my studio and to do music together. This record I think it’s different because of that – it’s got more personality, it’s got more of everybody! It’s very deep because we tried to tell Deen’s story not in a romantic kind of way – kind of raw and real; it’s a record about resurrection and getting out of the dark. It’s also a record about finding the way to express yourself out of the darkest moments. It was a vehicle for mostly all of us to prove that the first record wasn’t just a one record off; we wanted to make a stamp as a band. It’s tougher; it’s more rock & roll, rawer. 90% of the record was done together in the studio and I think you can hear the difference because of that.
Q: I’m generally a ballad person. I would die for a great rock ballad. I think that one of the greatest ballads that came out this year was “I Wouldn’t Change a Thing” from “Light in the Dark”. People are also responding to it quite well. I would like to know who wrote the song and what was the inspiration for writing it? Was it you?
A: No, it was Richard Page from Mr. Mister. He wrote the lyrics and the music. Richard wrote the song years and years ago. Nobody picked it. It was just available as a demo on an Indie record that he did. Serafino from Frontiers sent me this acoustic track with just an acoustic guitar and vocals and said “Can you turn this into an epic ballad?” I pushed play on the song and I was totally struck because the lyrics kind of resonated and I think they resonate with everyone because everyone can come out of a relationship, out of friendship, out of everything with a person and know that even if whatever happens, still what you experience – it’s still worth living it so…
If you hear the original, it’s a little bit different. It took me days to get to that version. I had to change the melody in order to fit Deen’s voice and range. We wanted to make it as Journey as we could. I think it’s probably my best production and arrangement ever because everytime I’m very critical with my work but if I play that song it feels like I almost didn’t do it. It’s like I’m listening from the outside and it’s kind of cool. It’s the first time that it happened to me that I’m listening to a song and I’m listening as a listener, like a regular rock lover, not as an insider.
Q: Do you have a favorite song you wrote on the record that really means a lot to you?
A: Probably “Falling Apart”. That is the real resurrection song. Everybody can fall apart. Everybody can make mistakes and see everything destroyed as a reaction to what you do and then raise from the dust and get over it, learn and live. Everybody lives and learns from mistakes and experiences. “Falling Apart” is my special song on the record. Also I really like “Ride On” because it’s a double kick and it’s kind of different. I’m a meaningful, slow songs guy, so “Falling Apart” is my favorite from the record.
Q: It has a beautiful message. This whole album is one beautiful striking message.
A: It’s kind of strange because I’m Italian and I never wrote songs in Italian. I always wrote in English since I’m a teenager; it’s kind of ironic that I’m writing for American people and the songs are perceived the way I wanted them to be perceived. The fact that I can write about life and not just the love, sex, whatever, rock & roll kind of thing; I really care about the lyrics even if I don’t feel like I’m the greatest lyricist but if I can tell a story and the story and the story is clear and I think the combination of having Deen through something and having a voice that knew what was happening made the songs even more real. It’s not just singing my lyrics; it’s got the experience to express something that’s so deep. We were calling each other during rehab and all the stuff that he was going through and I said “Well, Deen, if we do a record, it’s going to be a record about you; you are the singer and I don’t want you to sing something that’s not personal.” That’s how I started to write all about resurrection, getting up and making it right.
Q: You mentioned that you are from Italy. You are also the in-house producer of Frontiers records that are based in Italy. But you also mentioned that you write for American bands. How the American audience does differ from the European audience, especially in terms of experience music?
A: The big difference between America and Europe is that America had great American bands and we had Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and all the bands that came out of the British Rock Invasion; We had the Beatles, Free, Bad Company. I think that European bands weren’t driven by a dream; they were just expressing themselves because that’s what we have done for centuries. I think that Americans, their cultural expression was driven differently. When they were doing things, they were doing them 200%. If you think of the success of bands like Chicago or Journey or Van Halen, the soundtrack of American rock, the energy is different. I think it’s because the starting point of the creative process is different. Basically, that’s the big difference. Nowadays, the reality is that in America there’s no rock scene anymore. There’s no rock ground. It’s still about the classics; it’s still about the soundtracks of the 70s and the 80s for rock. American musicians think that in Europe we get that and we think that Americans are getting that so. To me it’s just the cultural environment that’s different.
Some bands didn’t even tour in Europe. We never saw Journey in the ‘80s or the ‘90s. American audiences are a little bit spoiled because they saw everyone and we didn’t. The first Rush show in Italy 10 years ago, and they’ve been touring forever in the USA and Canada; I think that’s the big difference probably, we’re still starstruck because we’re not used to seeing those bands.
Q: You live in Italy. Most of your work is in Italy. I know that you are doing vocal couching, etc. I’m very interested to know about the rock music scene in Italy and how does it differ from other European countries?
A: The environment is totally against rock. A general average people going to a rock show is about 200 in Italy, if we talk about underground bands like Hardline or you know the Dead Daisies. Obviously if it’s Deep Purple or Toto, things are different. There’s no middle ground. You go from 200 to 2000. Right now it’s tough because we don’t have the venues anymore. We have 300 people capacities and 2,000 people capacities and the big arenas. A lot of the tours don’t even come to Italy because it’s not worth for the crowd; it’s not worth for the laws and illegal merchandise outside of the shows. It’s all against the rock touring thing. There are a lot of bands; there are a lot of okay bands, there are very few great bands but you know we’re Italians, we go against ourselves. For example, Lacuna Coil has been mocked and discouraged by everyone. Still today, Lacuna Coil is the most well-known band from Italy. We’re not a rock country. We never had it. We are still struggling.
Q: I want to know more about your production work because this is very interesting to me. You are putting your magic touch into so many records that are coming out these days. I would like to know which record you crafted this year meant the most to you and what comes next for you in terms of production?
A: Apart from Revolution Saints, for the records that are already out, I really loved working with Kryptonite – a Swedish band. I loved working with Jakob. To me, he is one of the best lyricists in Europe and if you read through the lyrics of the record, it’s just stunning the way he puts down the stories. I also really enjoyed working with Kee of Hearts.
As far as the next records, I’m working on Johnny Gioeli’s solo record which is going to be very challenging because it’s not an AOR record, it’s more of a modern new breed kind of record; very melodic but very modern, I would say an AOR version of Foo Fighters. I like to challenge myself with grounds that are not what I normally do. That record I think is gonna be really something.
Q: What gives you the most pleasure when you produce a record?
A: Probably when I’m mixing because it’s already done. It’s like giving birth to a baby – it becomes evident. When I write a song or when I arrange a song, I already picture in my head how it’s gonna sound and how it’s gonna be at the end. So, it’s not a surprise emotion; it’s more like a good relief and a sense of accomplishment. I feel like “Ah, you made it again!”. It’s a good sensation.
Q: Do you always get that feeling of satisfaction when you hear a band in the studio and then you hear them live? Have you ever been disappointed to hear a band that sounds different in the studio than the way they sound live?
A: It’s a tough question. For the experience that I have, I can feel when a record is fake and it’s not representing the band. I’m not very surprised when a band is not exactly on the record when they play shows. You can feel when a record has been done more by the production than the band itself.
For example, if you listen to the new Europe record, you know listening to the record that the band is gonna sound like that live. To me, it’s more because new bands are spoiled in the studio. They know that they can fix it. Back then, you couldn’t. You had to be extremely good. You know, what I miss of those days is that a lot of bands don’t rehearse the records anymore. They just go into the studio and they create the records in the studio. So what happens? You don’t know how it feels to play that thing. You just add spices all over the songs and maybe you cannot play them live. They rely more than the technology than the music itself. That’s why bands like Rival Sons are special. Even if they didn’t re-write the history of rock & roll or didn’t break any new ground, they are real, compared to all the other bands that are cheese and stuff in the studio and trying to sound so good that’s unrealistic.
It’s not good and it’s not bad, it’s just a different way of crafting entertainment. It’s not right or wrong, it’s the way you do things.
A: You’ve created a perfect bridge for my last question. We are now here, talking to each other because of the Internet and the new technologies. You have been in the industry and worked with so many people for a long time. What do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry and how did it change? Is it the Internet, social media, etc? Did it affect it positively or negatively?
Q: I’m very realistic. I don’t wanna see the negative sides of things. It’s poisoning, especially if you are an artist. I think that the Internet is one of the biggest things that happened to the music world because it glued the whole world in one place. When I was a young musician and trying to get work and get known, I literally sent CDs to every address that I found. Nowadays, if you wanna get in touch with someone, you just write an e-mail and maybe you get an answer. Everything became very easy with the Internet. Finally, the bands are more real. It’s not like in the past – you didn’t even know the way an artist was. But nowadays, you can picture the person behind the artist because of the Internet.
I have a strange, divided opinion on social media but I’m every day on Facebook. It’s more like a promotional tool but it’s also a way to stay close to my friends and people who are supporting my art. I take it as it is. I take the good sides and elevate them. It’s fun to me that a person from Australia can write to me and say “I loved your record, thank you very much for doing it”; it’s amazing.
Obviously, the downside is the trolls and the negative people. They are everywhere; it’s not just the Internet. If you go to a bar, you hear the same opinions. The Internet opened the cages so everyone can shout their opinion. Years ago, you could say it; nowadays you can shout it and hide behind the screens. You just don’t care about them and go on.
Q: Is there an artist you haven’t worked with yet, but really want to someday? Whether we are talking about producing or songwriting?
A: It’s tough because I honestly work with so many of my idols. I think Malmsteen and Coverdale are left out of my dream list. I would really like to work with Steve Perry – that would be a dream. One thing I would like to do is to get to work with Chicago – one of these real groups, big bands. It’s a tough question because I didn’t even dream of doing everything that I’ve done. I always tell the story of when I saw “California Jam” from Deep Purple for the first time. Then I dreamed of being playing with Ian. I ended up playing with Ian for years.
Q: How does it feel? To play with him on stage?
A: I’m a professional. I’m used to that. I’m not starstruck. Honestly, every time that I sing Glenn’s part from “Burn” with Ian, it always feels like “Oh, man – I cannot believe that!”
When I was a kid and somebody came to me and told me – “One day you are going to be singing that part a hundred times with Ian and members of Deep Purple” I would’ve laughed my ass off. That’s the fulfillment of my dream and living my dream.
I’m not the best musician around. I’m not the best singer, I’m not the best songwriter. I just try to be competent and put my soul every time. I always try to give my best and I always try to be as good as I can. I still think that the attitude and the way you work with the people, makes a difference. Ringo wasn’t the best drummer but he was making the songs special and he never gave up.
Still, when I play a Deep Purple record or a Black Sabbath record or a Journey record, I’m still like “Oh man, I played with him!” A lot of friends of mine are making fun of me because if they name a band, somehow I worked with them. It’s a great feeling. I enjoy it. Every morning I wake up and I’m so grateful. I don’t know what I could’ve been. I only know how to make music. I put everything there. I’m grateful, I work hard and I take all the joys from doing it.
Thank you, Alessandro so much for the amazing interview and I wish you all the luck and success!
This interview was conducted by Velina (me), founder and owner of “My Rock Mixtapes”. If you would like to use quotations or reference it on your website and/or blog, please make sure you first contact me at email@example.com
Everything in life happens for a reason. Now I know that I was destined to hear and completely fall for Riverdogs’ debut album because it all led to nothing but a series of very special events, including discovering great soul-soothing music, meeting outstanding artists, witnessing their current adventures and the highlight – actually having a conversation with one of the masterminds behind the band, vocalist Rob Lamothe. I’m not sure which is more satisfying – the fact that I was given the chance to have an unforgettable conversation with an artist I admire so much, or that after an year of building this personal rock music digital brand, I finally got my first official interview with a musician (and not just any musician but someone I truly care about…).
As everyone knows, earlier this July, Riverdogs made a triumphant comeback with “California” – an album that quickly conquered hearts, charts and basically everything on its way with its personality and unique style. In case you haven’t heard it yet, go ahead and do it because you are missing something really exciting! “California” and my instant attachment to that album became the reason why I got to actually talk with Rob Lamothe. I’m writing this and smiling from ear to ear because I still can’t believe it actually happened. Thanks to the development of communication technologies and of course, the Internet, a 25-year old Bulgarian girl spent her evening talking to a beloved artist about the past and present of rock music, the new generation of fans, records, social media, pets and of course, the new album “California”. Here’s the interview and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.
This is a very emotional and historical moment for me because you are the first musician I will interview for my blog, actually.
Really, I’m so honored. I can’t believe I’m the first. Thank you so much for sharing that with me. That’s amazing. Thank you.
2017 has been a pretty solid year so far when it comes to rock music. Your new album might be one of the reasons why. I was just wondering, before we get to “California”, if these days you have a favorite album or artist?
You know I work with a lot of young artists. I teach private songwriting lessons all over the world through Skype and e-mail. I teach at a songwriting camp, I’ve been doing that for 14 years, I run my own songwriting camp, I don’t know if you know. That is kind of amazing because right now I have two of my songwriting campers – I’m working with them outside of camp, like a private songwriting course. It’s ongoing, I’m like a songwriting mentor, songwriting tutor, I guess you might say. I’m getting to work with these really intelligent, really sharp, really motivated 15-year old songwriters so I’ve got that, and then I’ve also got stuff that I hear from my contemporaries, you know my friends who are in their 50s who are still working, still making great music so I get to hear a lot of music. I am in a studio an awful lot.
A couple of my former campers have a band called Courage my Love. Check them out. I met them actually when they were 15, two twins – Phoenix and Mercedes – just this amazing band. They are just doing what I love to see.
Of stuff that you might now, I love Vintage Trouble, I love the singer. If a band has a killer singer, I’m gonna notice and I’ll probably be interested. There’s another band from Hamilton, a band called Monster Truck.
I love Monster Truck. I saw them two months ago, they were opening for Deep Purple.
Amazing! Real rock&roll, right?
…That’s one of my favorite bands for sure.
So these days these are some of the bands you have been listening to?
Yeah, things like that. There’s another band from Hamilton, called the Arkells – a great rock band, fantastic rock band with a killer singer. I’m always looking for bands that get me excited so I feel like I’m 15 or 25, you know.
When I did the album review of California, a lot of people responded with comments saying how great it is. I also found out that your album is actually conquering charts as we speak – it’s on UK TOP40 Albums, it’s on Billboard. I’m just curious how is this positive reaction making you feel and did you expect this kind of response?
The response has been amazing. I just got an e-mail today about Billboard charts in American and I can’t believe it. It’s unbelievable. But you know we had this fantastic gift that Frontiers, the label gave us and that was they gave us a direction. They said “We really we want it to sound like the first record”. And some bands might go “Don’t tell us what to do man, we are artists!” You know, that was 27 years ago but I immediately thought that’s wonderful, they are giving us a gift, they are telling us what they like to hear and really when we thought about it, we made this record for ourselves and fans that already knew us, that already loved the first record. And to be honest, I was thinking about it today, I never once thought about trying to win over new fans. Never entered my mind that we’d be hoping that a 25-year old from Bulgaria might like what we’re doing. Not one time did I think “How do we record this song or write this song or perform this song in a way that we’ll bring new fans?” It was never ever something that crossed my mind. We had these really loyal people that were with us for 27 years since that first record.
Frontiers gave us a decent budget so that we could actually spent the time writing like a band and recording it like a band and they gave us that direction. What a wonderful gift. So, I’m totally unprepared for all these new people that are coming in. We’ve never thought “Oh, maybe we’ll get on the radio, or maybe we’ll get on some charts.” It never crossed our minds, not for a second. We were just having a good time writing songs as a band and having an amazing time together. It’s a wonderful bonus, like an icing on a cake for Riverdogs’ career.
I’m still trying to process it. I’m not surprised that people like it because I think it’s good. We tried to capture what we do, the four of us and we did that. We only wrote 12 songs and those are the 12 songs that we recorded. We captured a moment in time pretty well. Everything went so beautifully. We were all on top of our game, so in that way I think we created something that’s high quality.
You mentioned your loyal and new fans. A lot of people were there to witness your beginnings. I know that your debut album was appreciated by critics and fans back in the day. Most of those fans are still fans of Riverdogs right now. However, as you can see, a lot of people my age love the album. I wanted to ask how the audience back then differs from the one you have right now? Your album sounds very modern, fresh and I know you made it sound like the debut one but it’s still quite modern-sounding. A lot of people my age love it.
I think the reason that it maybe sounds fresh is that it’s a bit of a timeless sound, right? It’s drums, a big room, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, a little bit of keyboards, bass and vocals. If you keep the music simple and organic, then hopefully it stands the test of time. I don’t really know our young audience yet. I don’t know your perspective yet. I don’t know the new listeners’ perspective yet, I don’t know them, yet.
This is really fun for me. It really is like a dream. Just getting to play and be friends with those three guys and our manager, Paul, is almost kind of a fifth member of the band. Just to get to work with my musical brothers and then actually get to write and record, it’s such a dream come true. I really am still just. It never crossed my mind, “Oh, I hope we get some new fans with it”. It wasn’t part of what was on my radar. I wasn’t thinking about that. But I think that’s good because we weren’t second-guessing ourselves, we were just making, writing songs and recording music that made us feel amazing. And then to finish it and then get to make what I think is a great video, I’m very proud of that video.
I have a question about the video as well. I really like the colors, the energy – it’s very dynamic, sexy if I may say. Aesthetically speaking, you look very nice, behind the desert; everyone is wearing these great outfits, it’s very appealing. So, I wanted to know how long did you shoot it, who came up with the idea. Do you have any plans of making another video?
I hope we get to make another video. Right now, we haven’t discussed it. But I have a feeling we’ll get to because it probably makes sense for the label.
I have a suggestion.
What it is?
“You’re Too Rock and Roll”
*he actually wrote that down*
Visually that could be really really interesting.
So, we had a budget to make a video. We wanted to find a director who could make a video that look like a 250,000$ video for much less than that and we found somebody – director Jamie Brown. He has directed two of the Last in Line videos; they filmed them in like two days. They look fantastic. They look beautiful. I used to make music videos. I worked in LA for a long time. I worked for a production company and we made Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”, “Cowboy”. We made some Poison videos. We made those big budget rock videos. So I know what a big budget looks like and I know what they cost and when I saw what Jamie’s stuff he did with Last in Line, I was like “let’s get this guy”. It just worked.
Funnily enough, the concept was actually mine. My idea was very much – the woman in the video is very key because she’s from Guadalajara, her people have been in North America for 13,000 years. The whole idea is that she’s this really powerful figure. Her people are indigenous, they’ve been here forever. She owns that ranch. She was the one with all the power. She didn’t need the band, she didn’t need the song, she kicks ass all on her own.
Also, the song, it was a fun song to write. But I’m not a patriotic person, actually. I’m not trying to say this is what people should feel like. I’m just saying, there’s two sides to every story and in this case, there’s a woman from Mexico who owns this ranch and doesn’t need anyone’s help and has the power within herself. She doesn’t need Riverdogs, she doesn’t need the song, she’s just doing her thing, living her life and we’re just out there, you know, rocking out in the desert.
There were flags in the video originally, American flags but I was like “No, let’s not have flags”. I wanted the song to be whatever the listener wants it to be. It could be like “Yeah, I’m gonna kick ass, I just gotta work hard, I’m just gonna keep at it…” but it could also be ironic for other people who can say “Where’s the American dream?”
Every day since I first heard the album, I have a different favorite song. I have finally made my decision and picked my one favorite song and as I told you, it’s “You’re too Rock and Roll” so I would love to know if this song was written about someone? How did you come up with the idea? Who came up with the melody? Who came up with the lyrics?
On this record, I wrote all the words and I wrote all the melodies. “You’re too Rock and Roll” was a bit of a riff that Marc had. That was an idea of his and actually. The story, what it is, is me trying to capture a mood and an experience that happened to me over and over again. So many times I felt like the man in that song. I was always finding myself in those situations. I was very attracted to, you know – what’s the biggest, craziest adventure I can have tonight. That song is very much about a liquor store called “Gil Turner’s Liquor” on “Sunset Boulevard”. I kind of lived down there a bit.
I was just trying to capture a vibe and a mood and an atmosphere and it’s not one story. It’s really kind of elements of a whole lot of stories and whole lot of crazy nights. The music is pretty trippy. It feels like there’s some tension in the music for sure. So I just went with that.
I know that you released these very beautiful acoustic videos on Youtube with the little cute doggy that was running everywhere so I’m just curious if you’re going to do something like that again or was it just a one-time thing?
That was designed to be a one-time thing. We did that because the next day we filmed “American Dream”. We got together the night before we shot the video. We didn’t rehearse the songs, we just sat there and kind of just kind played them, somehow they were in our minds. They are rough and wonderful.
Riverdogs’ California is available on CD, as well as Vinyl and based on what I saw on SNS, people keep on sharing their copies which is amazing. In general I think nowadays more and more people are coming back to buying CDs and Vinyl records. What do you think? How do you listen to music these days? What do you think about this revival of the vinyl record and CD?
It’s interesting because for me, I get so much music. I do song writing lessons through Skype. I do that with people from all over the world like these kind of songwriting workshops that I do, private lessons with people. A lot of the artist I work with, that I’m coaching whether we’re getting ready to make a recording, sometimes I’m doing vocal coaching, sometimes I’m doing performance coaching, sometimes I’m doing what’s called “song doctoring” where I’m getting an artist ready to make a record so the producer hires me to help tweak the songs, fine tune them and all of that happens with mp3s. It’s just such a convenient way to work. So I’ve been doing that for at least 10 years. I’ve gotten away from buying CDs at least in a store. Well, there’s no place to buy them in my small town for one thing. But when I’m at gigs, that’s when I love to buy a CD as one I can buy from the artist and if I like what they do then I’d love to support them by buying a CD.
You know, it’s interesting because for a while there, it seemed like vinyl was gone. No one was making it anymore. That kind of came back. I noticed it when my daughter whose like 16 and she was buying vinyl and I was like “What the heck is going on?” and then she got me a turntable for Christmas and a bunch of records. There’s nothing like that experience. There’s nothing like taking it out and putting it on a turntable. That’s how I grew up and it would be shame if that’d disappeared.
I am really thrilled that 20-year olds are buying CDs.
So many people are sharing their selfies with your CD and Vinyl. That’s so cool.
Yeah that’s amazing. Actually, I thought, I wondered, “Oh, maybe we won’t sell any; maybe it will just be people buying downloads?” I didn’t know. It’s pretty awesome to see that. I don’t know how that started – people sending us pictures of their CD and their vinyl but I love it. It’s super cool. It really is amazing.
For a while there I was very much into your “Above the Wing is Heaven” solo album. It’s a very soul-soothing album for me. I want to ask if you are thinking about releasing a new solo album?
Yeah, actually I’m 95% done with one. I’m just tweaking a couple of mixes. Originally, I announced last year that I was going to release it in June of 2017 and then when the whole Riverdogs thing happened I just thought, “Well, I’m not gonna release it at the same time”. I haven’t decided when I’m gonna release it. I don’t want to complicate things. I want to have the promotion and the marketing for the Riverdogs record be a clean “attack”. I don’t wanna confuse the listener.
I just have to figure out what I think is a reasonable time to release it but it’s really kind of done, I just added another song, a song that my daughter wanted me to add. It’s myself, my two songs and my daughter. We play all the instruments, we wrote all the songs. The record’s gonna be called “And the River Reveals Herself”. I imagine four months, six months; I don’t know what will make sense. I don’t know how long this momentum will go with Riverdogs.
“California” sounds very honest and relatable and I think a lot of people much in that album, including myself. Many albums released this year were focusing on fire, passion, energy, rock&roll. Your album feels a little bit more intimate. Having said that, I think one of the strongest songs on the album is “I Don’t Know Anything”. How did you come up with the lyrics? It’s a very mysterious song.
I learned a long time ago that the more personal, the more intimate I wrote a song, the more people connected to it. I learned that a long time ago. I was in a band before Riverdogs called AirCraft. We were a local, arena-rock band back in San Diego. We wrote arena rock songs, patterned like Aerosmith, Van Halen and we wrote good songs. But when I started writing really personal songs, that’s when people really connected to me in a way that I’ve never experienced before. I was in those bands, we would open up for Cheap Trick, Joe Perry, Ronnie Montrose…every kind of big rock band that would come to our town, we’d be the opening act. We were the local kids. People loved us. Like you said – it was energy, party…but it was so different when I started writing stuff that was real. I saw the connection immediately. People would come talk to me and tell me what they thought the song was about, what it meant to them and I’d be like “Wow I never thought of that, that’s amazing; it was totally something else in my mind but your version isn’t wrong, your version is beautiful.” So that was a long time ago. That was 30, probably more than 30 years ago and so I just carried on with that.
These songs were so much directed by the music and just the feeling in the room. A lot of it was just how did it feel in the room and right away I would start singing words cause I trust these guys. I trust Marc and Nick and Viv. I could just sing any words and they’ll go with it. They love me. They trust me, I trust them. When you have that freedom you can just let stuff out. I didn’t worry about what I was saying or did it make sense or does this tell a story. I just let the music spark something in my little brain and l let the words come out.
There’s this great saying that I saw somewhere on the Internet probably and I’ve been quoting it for years to my song writing students and it is “create without fear, edit without mercy”. I’ve really been going with that. I’ve really been practicing what I preach.
This is one of those songs actually on this record, there are a couple of them where I’ve talked about California as a State –it’s a State in America. It’s also a state of mind and that’s why I want you to go there. I hope you’ll go. I know you will. I’d love to talk to you after you go because there’s no place like it. It’s like a dreamland.
That song, “I Don’t Know Anything”, it’s very much like a love song to California. If California was a woman, it’s a love song to her.
Have you thought about naming the album something else or this title immediately came up to your mind?
No, I was thinking of one of the lines that I really like – “All the Gods are Drunk Tonight”. It’s in “Golden Glow”.
By the way, you receive a lot of attention from the European audience.
Yeah, I’ve noticed the same thing. My whole career, the bulk of my music career over the last 30 years had been based in Europe and based on that first Riverdogs album.
I haven’t really done ton in Canada. I’ve kind of focused on Europe because people over there appreciate what I do and what Riverdogs does and I just go with that.
Music industry has changed a lot these past years. Now, social media plays a very important role in music promotion and connecting with fans, posting updates about the latest happenings in your career. That’s how me and you connected actually. How do you feel about that? Do you often use social media?
That’s a great way to end it actually. For me social media has been key in my career in the last 10-15 years. The Internet in general and that ability to connect with people around the world and again because so much of my career has been focused in Europe as far as touring and recording.
I’m on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Now I’ve got a YouTube channel which I took over the last month. I find it’s an incredible tool. When you think, I’m 58 years old and I can connect with people all over the world.
I still don’t believe that but okay.
Yeah I am. But you know, what does it cost me for my Internet access? I can just post a picture of myself rehearsing or heading off to the farm this morning or whatever. It works, it keeps people who are interested in my music, it allows them to be aware of what I’m doing and we can talk.
The Internet is so great, social media is so great for being able to stay connected and to let people know what you’re doing. For my career – I don’t know where I’d be without it, actually.
I’ve chosen to have, like I said, kind of a quiet, simple life. Social media allows me to have this simple little life and make the kind of music that I wanna make with the people that I love and release it myself and book tours and it’s just been so invaluable for me.
It’s really fun for me, it’s great to be 58, and it’s great to have made record when they were just on vinyl. The first record I made, there was just vinyl then. I was a teenager, I was in a choir and we made two records. When I got the record deal with the Riverdogs there were CDs but we made a vinyl version as well. Everything changed so much and I love it.
You made a cassette too.
Yes, that’s right. I forgot about that. So cassette too. I don’t know if those are gonna come back.
If there hadn’t been an Internet and social media, I don’t know where my career would be. I’m not like a road dog out touring all the time. I wanna be home, drinking my coffee and my purple smoothie that I made when I came home today. The internet lets me do that, social media just lets me make up my own rules and that is incredible.
And I see you young people, I see 20-year olds, 25-year olds that are literally just creating their own industries. I mentioned that band, Courage My Love – they just created their own music business. They don’t need the old music business, the new one. They just make up their own. I love that.
As you know my brand is followed by a lot of rock fans on social media and so many of them loved the album and love you as well. Is there something you want to tell us as a wrap up of our conversation?
I’m so honored that something that we create from our hearts is relatable to young people, that’s incredible. That gives me hope because it is something that we created from our hearts and a lot of old people *laughs*, a lot of my friends, they’re really sour about young people. They just think “Oh, kids these days, they don’t know good music, and they just have their noses in their phones all day.” I see people saying that and I disagree so much. Part of that is because I work with young people. They are wonderful. I have so much hope for this crazy, chaotic, mixed up world because of young people. Us, older people are not gonna solve the world’s problems. It’s gonna be you – you and your friends and your peers. I know that, not only is the future of music in good hands, the future of the world is in good hands and that makes me sleep a little better at night.
A beautiful response. One of the goals in my life is to guide people towards the ways in which music business should be done and this business should thrive in the future. I think somewhere along the way there was a mistake made and a lot of people forgot how music should sound like and what it should mean, especially in the business. I think the music industry lacks people who understand and value music and I want to change that. I hope in the future I become something more.
That’s a beautiful dream. Those changes don’t happen unless somebody dreams a crazy dream. It has to start with someone doing something kind of ridiculous and doing something that can’t be done and shouldn’t be able to be done or everyone says “you can’t do that”. I can say that following what you’re passionate about is unbelievably rewarding. You can imagine it when you’re 25 but when you live it – 25, 35, 45, 55 and every day is just a beautiful adventure, it’s incredible. So please do it.
It’s a very touching and emotional moment for me. I don’t even know how to thank you enough for this wonderful talk. It means a lot for a young person to get to hear those words. I will always cherish the fact that you were the first one to give me an interview and I’m really thankful.
I’m honored to be your first interviewee and we’ll talk again!
This interview was conducted by Velina (me), founder and owner of “My Rock Mixtapes”. If you would like to use quotations or reference it on your website and/or blog, please make sure you first contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org