RAYMOND BALLY ..... (The Renegades)
REV. DR. BILL GRAM ..... (Killing For Christ)
PHIL JONES ..... (Phil Jones Band)
THEO CEDAR JONES ..... (Swaybone)
SCOTT KELLY ..... (Neurosis)
SETH MAJKA Interview 1 of 2
SETH MAJKA Interview 2 of 2
UNCLE BOB NYC ..... (3tles, Volunteers Grateful Dead tribute band)

J.D. BRADSHAW ..... (Debbie Caldwell Band)
MATT CHABE ..... (Bangtown Timebomb, Chapter Two Marketing)
PAUL CROOK ..... (Anthrax, Meat Loaf, Sebastian Bach)
MATTHEW MEADOWS ..... (Rango The Dog)
DAX PAGE ..... (Kirra)
MARTY PARIS ..... (Paris Keeling, Permanent Reverse, Barbarian Way)
RUINED MACHINES & MICHAL BRODKA ..... (Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 1 of 2
RUINED MACHINES (aka KENYON IV) ..... (World Of Rock Records, Celestial Bodies: A 12 Month Galactic Collaboration) Interview 2 of 2
CHRIS SANDERS ..... (Knight Fury, Lizzy Borden, Nadir D'Priest)
TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY & DAMOND JINIYA ..... (Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 1 of 2
ERIC STROTHERS & ZACH LORTON ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
CHRIS MICHAEL TAYLOR ..... (Carmine & Vinny Appice's Drum Wars, Sunset Strip, Hair Nation)

A.L.X. ..... (Love Crushed Velvet)
GRAHAM BONNET ..... (Rainbow, Alcatrazz, Graham Bonnet Band)
JOE DENIZON ..... (Stratospheerius, Mark Work Rock Orchestra Camp, Sweet Plantain)
TOMMY FARESE ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas)
ANGIE GOODNIGHT ..... (Fill The Void)
CORNELIUS GOODWIN ..... (12/24 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute)
DAMOND JINIYA & TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY ..... (Savatage, Diet Of Worms, Retribution, Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, Dod Incarnate Records)
GUY LEMONNIER ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas)
ZACH LORTON & ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
PARK SIPES ..... (Sunset Strip, Barbarian Way, Standout, Tune In To Mind Radio Kelly Keeling Tribute album)
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 1 of 2
ZAK STEVENS ..... (Savatage, Circle II Circle) Interview 2 of 2

SCOTT KELLY ..... (Wizards Of Winter)
ERIK NORLANDER ..... (Asia Featuring John Payne, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane)
MICHAEL T. ROSS ..... (Lita Ford, Missing Persons, Raiding The Rock Vault)

CHRIS NUNES ..... (Ornament Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Orchestra)
JOHN WETTON ..... (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music)

RAFA MARTINEZ ..... (Black Cobra)


ALISON TAYLOR & RODNEY MILES ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)

MATT CHABE ..... (Bangtown Timebomb, Chapter Two Marketing)
JAMES MOORE ..... (Independent Music Promotion, Your Band Is A Virus Book)

October 9, 2016

"We do a re-working of A Tribe Called Quest" An Interview With JOE DENIZON

Click here to visit the official website of Joe Deninzon.
Click here to visit the official website of Stratospheerius.

June 2012 (live interview, World of Trans-Siberian Orchestra Podcast episode 88)

The NYC quartet Stratospheerius defies labels has it fuses funk, jazz, rock, classical, country & classical seemlessly & unpretentiously. So many bands put a classical riff against a Led Zeppelin melody & consider it unique (even if the drummer of Led Zeppelin was a major classical music fan & already did the mix), but Stratospheerius takes the soup a step further nearly creating their own musical fusion genre that needs to be listened to, if not watched, to truly understand. Part of the magic comes from the frontman in violinist-singer-composer Joe Deninzon, who has been labeled the Hendrix of violin, though references to Steve Vai are probably better placed. He's a teacher, including with the Mark Wood Orchestra Orchestra Camp, Mark O'Connor's String Camp & co-founder of the Grand Canyon School of Rock. He authored the Mel Bay instructional violin book Plugging In. Outside of Stratospheerius he also plays in his own jazz trio, the Sweet Plantain String Quartet String Quartet fusing latin jazz/classical/hip-hop & the Robert Bonfiglio Group, for starters. Elsewhere his violin has been heard alongside Sheryl Crow, Blackmore's Night, Bruce Springsteen & others.

I had the opportunity to see Stratospheerius live in a small Harlem club, invited by a friend whose daughter was one of Denizon's violin students. The show was the CD release party of their new album The Next World..., but it was rumored the band would be joined by a former member who was invited to impromptu jam with them. Even after the group took the stage nothing was confirmed ... until Alex Skolnick showed up guitar in hand. Skolnick is known for his work with thrash titans Testament, Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra & an extensive solo career including funk & jazz-rock. Skolnick's unique chordal approach against Stratospheerius's punch made for a mind-blowing night. Not so long after Denizon joined me on a live broadcast of my World Of Trans-Siberian Orchestra podcast for a nearly 30 minute interview. Obviously, he qualified for my show via Skolnick who had played with TSO, but I knew going in that I only wanted his work with Skolnick but a mention of a far bigger & far more interesting musical life that needs no qualifiers.

Special thanks to Dan Roth, whose daughter learned violin under Joe & invited me to the show & to booking manager Ann Leighton who arranged the interview & put a CD in my hand literally fresh out of the box.


AJ: We met briefly at your concert at The Shrine a few weeks ago. I was blown away by STRATOPHEERIUS.

JOE: Thank you so much.

AJ: You guys absolutely rock.

JOE: Thanks so much. Really appreciate that. It was a really special night for us.

AJ: The bonus was that I got to see your former member Alex Skolnick jam with you, too.

JOE: That was a last minute thing & we hadn't played together in 8 years. So, it was really cool. A really beautiful moment.

AJ: Joe, I want to ask you about the band & your new album, The Next World, & also about the other things that you do, as you've got a diverse resume. But, first, how would you describe STRATOPHEERIUS?

JOE: Descriptions are really a hard thing for us.

AJ: I've heard that this is one of the hurdles you run into, because reviewers & promoters don't know how to describe the band.

JOE: It's not like I set out to create a band that defies description. It was just a culmination of my musical influences. I guess you could call us a rock'n'roll band, but its so much more than that. So many different things melted into one.

AJ: How do you describe the band to somebody who maybe has not heard you? Or, do you not try?

JOE: I have to try, because when we're trying to book the bank or convince people to let us play in their festival or in their gig or whatever we have to explain what it is, but ultimately they just have to listen to us. I used to call it psycho jazz electric fiddle trip funk. But, that didn't totally fit.

AJ: That's a mouthful.

JOE: It is. So, I say now, its a mixture of progressive rock, funk, jazz, blues, metal, gypsy music, you know, a little bit of jam band thrown in, all played on an electric violin.

AJ: That's still a mouthful. I know when I was listening to you guys I heard everything. You introduced one song as having some LED ZEPPELIN & then there's another song that's right out of the bluegrass world. So, you guys really are all over the place. But, that's not a detriment. Your new album, The Next World... is really strong even though it's a range of musical styles.

JOE: Thank you. My biggest challenge over the years has been to really focus & I've developed this sound over many years. My earlier albums I've been criticized for being all over the musical map. There would be a jazzy type tune, a fusion-esque song, a straight up hard rock song. My favorite bands of the 70's, like QUEEN & LED ZEPPELIN, used to have albums that spanned the stylistic gamut. My issue with a lot of stuff that comes out these days is you hear a song on the radio you like & you buy the album, but all the songs sound exactly like that. You want to yawn. I guess its just the nature of the business right now, but I've always admired artists that were maybe under the umbrella of rock or hard rock or whatever, but within that had so many different variations in different areas, acoustic, more ambient kind of stuff, you know. MUSE is a band that comes to mind. I think they embody that spirit more than a lot of other bands today. Anyways, that's what I've been striving for, but still within a signature STRATOPHEERIUS sound.

AJ: It's a tightrope walk, really.

JOE: It really is. You've got to learn to edit yourself & stand back & see the big picture. When you're making an album you're so deep in it's hard to really ... in hindsight you're like, 'So, that's what that was.'

AJ: 'I didn't know I had that in me.'

JOE: Exactly.

AJ: Moving to the songs, when I listened to your album there was one song that stood out for me. Actually, there were many, but one stood out so much both musically & lyrically so much that I actually found a youtube video of it that I sent to some to some friends encouraging them to listen to your music. I guess you could call this my favorite.

JOE: I'm dying to know which one.

AJ: It's simply called "Gods." I love the lyrics. They are really simple, but really cool. Catchy, singable & memorable.

JOE: Thanks.

AJ: The band started back in 2001. You've gone through numerous members & lots of changes, both musically & in your own life. Some folks who know you might say your membership is one of your more memorable traits, not just the lyrics. One particular past member has quite a reputation. Former SAVATAGE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA & TESTAMENT thrash guitarist Alex Skolnick. Would you mind giving some history of the time when you had Alex in the band?

JOE: It was a very funny turn of events. It was kinda random. I used to teach at NYC's New School University, the extended studies program at night. They had this music program & I taught violin. I was walking out of there one day - this was just a few years after I'd moved to NYC - & I saw an ad for a student recital listing a bunch of people in a Miles Davis ensemble. It said Alex Skolnick. I wondered if it was the same Alex Skolnick from TESTAMENT & what in the world would he being doing here at the New School in a student recital? I grew up listening to heavy metal. I had posters of Alex & all those guys in my room. Zakk Wylde & Kirk Hammett & all these guys. I used to be a guitarist. I used to subscribe to Guitar Player magazine where Alex had an educational column. He was a celebrity in my eyes & a lot of other peoples, of course. So, I went to the recital & there he was. It was the Alex Skolnick. I went up to him. At the time I was finishing my Master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music. I introduced myself & asked how he came to be there. He said he was doing his Bachelor's degree in jazz guitar, because he loved jazz. I vaguely remember reading an early interview with him a few years back where he was talking about how he loved Michael Brecker & Pat Metheny. He just had this interest in jazz. He was like the only metal guy I knew who also loved jazz, which I thought was very unique. I could also relate to that, because I was a huge jazz fan, as well. I mean, I was majoring in jazz. He said he got bored playing metal. He quit the scene & moved to NY & wanted to sorta start fresh & decided to finally do his undergrad. It's really bizarre. A few weeks later I mustered up the nerve ... I had this gig & I was trying to put a band together to play my music. I had a CD I had recorded in Cleveland where I grew up. So, I sort of hesitantly asked if he'd like to play & he was like "Yeah, sure, let's do it." I was really surprised. Anyway, we ended up playing together a lot. We became best friends & he ended up playing with what became STRATOPHEERIUS, for about 3 years. He recorded on 2 albums of ours. It was a period in his life when he was he going back to school & sorta starting over. When his trio got really busy & he started playing with TRAN-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA again & with TESTAMENT again, he got too busy to play with us after awhile. But, it was a fun period to have him in the band.

AJ: Excellent.

JOE: It was definitely an era I'll remember as long as I live. He's a great guy. Great player. It was fun to get to know somebody personally who I grew up with listening to as a kid.

AJ: Then here you are, 8 or so years later, you bring him on stage to celebrate the new CD release.

JOE: We stayed in touch. We've both been very busy, but we've been trying to come up with situations to play together again.

AJ: It's hard to do when one's on the road & you both stay pretty active.

JOE: You do what you can. We've been talking about organizing more of a duo gig in the city, more of a jazz thing. Like an acoustic jazz kinda situation.

AJ: That's cool.

JOE: We'll get around to it hopefully soon.

AJ: You just said you started on guitar. How did you go from that from that to the violin, which is surrounded by this classical aura, the complete opposite.

JOE: The truth is I actually started on violin. I come from a family of classical musicians. My father is a member of the CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA. Classical violinist, pure 100% classical violinist. He's been playing in that orchestra for 33 years & that's a world re-known orchestra. My mother is a classical pianist. I grew up with music in the house, but it was all classical. When we immigrated from Russia when I was 4 years old all I knew was classical music. My father stuck a violin in my hand when I was 6 & I went through the Suzuki method. That's like the most common method taught in the U.S. My dad taught me for awhile. I just did the typical book 1, book 2, book 3, the typical repertoire of the classical violin. At some point when I was 10 I just turned on the radio & heard this really cool music that fascinated me. It was rock'n'roll, pop music. I started watching MTV. I was adjusting to life in the States. There was a language barrier, a culture barrier. I wanted to fit in. Everyone knew I played music, but I felt like this was just a great way of communicating with people. It really just tugged at my heart strings. Around age 13 I took up the electric bass, because no one else was playing bass. I figured violin has 4 strings, bass has 4 strings. That was actually the first instrument I learned to improvise on. I formed some bands in high school & I taught myself guitar when I was 15. I got really into guitar. I used to worship folks like Alex & Steve Vai, of course Hendrix. I was totally into hard rock/metal guitar. Later I got into jazz with Pat Metheny, John Scofield, John McLaughlin. So, bass & guitar were the instruments I learned to improvise on. But, at the same time I was leading a parallel life just playing classical violin, going to youth orchestras, going to lessons. At one point when I was 17 I heard a recording of Jean-Luc Ponty & Stephane Grappelli something clicked in my mind. 'Wow, these guys are doing something on the violin that I didn't even know that was possible.' Around the same time I got an opportunity to play with Michael Stanley. He's a pretty well-known singer-songwriter in Cleveland. He saw me play & he asked me to play violin with his band. It was just some cool bluesy kinda rock'n'roll. I just fell into it. I already knew the musical language. I just had to transfer it to the violin. So, that's sorta how my path was set. Then I listened to Jerry Goodman with MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA & Sugar Kane Harris with Zappa & I was like 'That's it, this is what I'm meant to do. It combines the instrument that I've played all my life with the music I love so dearly.' That's sorta how it came about.

AJ: You mentioned John McLaughlin, a guitarist who I also really like. He really created a fusion of rock, jazz & ethnic music. His violinists pushed what the violin could do & they it did it without drugs, no less. This is exactly what you've done. Do you see any change these days in how kids, since you're a teacher, or people in general approach the violin? Is it still the instrument good only for classical music or country fiddle & just gimmicky in the rock world or is it now seen as an instrument much more diverse than it has traditionally appeared? That's a big question, I know.

JOE: It's a great question. It's really amazing to me that an instrument that's been around for literally hundreds of years that the bar has been set so high in the classical world. When you play the Tchaikovksy "Violin Concerto" you think of all the incredible players that have played it. You can't help but ask yourself, 'What am I going to say with this "Concerto" that hasn't already been said, you know?' The instrument has been around so long, but yet I still see so much uncharted territory for it, even after all this time. I think we're just scrapping the tip of the iceberg. I also think in the last 15-20 years there's been a surge of young players that not only have a great classical foundation, but also are hip to playing blues or jazz or rock or thinking outside the traditional box of what the instrument can do. I think part of that is you see a lot more string players in bands, like the DAVE MATTHEWS BAND or TANTRIC. Also, the Mark O'Conner fiddle camp that's been around for decades. Mark Wood has been travelling around schools doing his Electrify Your Strings program for a long time. For the second year in a row I'm teaching at his Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp. All these educational things really come into play. We're seeing the results of that. Also, in NY I book string players for different occasions as a contractor. I also have a rock string quartet I play with. So, I get to know a lot of string players & I see more & more people that can really just rock out. 10 years I might have had a much smaller pool of people to choose from. So, you know, there's so much you can do with the violin. I play a traditional 4 string violin, but I also play an electric 7 string fretted violin that can play power chords & walk bass lines & do all kinds of stuff like that.

AJ: I noticed when I saw you live you had the Viper 7 string. I'm curious, with the frets on it does that actually make a difference or is that just more of a visual thing that you can't feel, more like a fretless guitar?

JOE: For me, as a singer who sings & plays violins simultaneously, it just helps. It helps me get oriented. Also, in live situations the monitoring might not always be ideal, so it also helps knowing that you're really on when you can't hear. It's the same reasons you might want to play a fretted guitar versus a fretless guitar. But, that being said, I'm not going to say that everyone should buy a fretless violin. I play both. I want to see the age when ... most guitarists I know have an acoustic they bring on certain gigs. They have an electric they bring on certain gigs. I want to see that with string players. The other thing, in order to survive as a musician, to make a living, you have to be able to do it all. You have to be able to play in an orchestra. You have to be able to improvise. You have to be able to understand how to play electric violin & work with effects & perform, not just sit in a pit reading music. There's a lot of skills serious musicians have to have. That's what I've been advocating.

AJ: You just mentioned a rock string quartet. Is that the SWEET PLANTAIN QUARTET?

JOE: No, that's my other quartet. I'm in a lot of different bands. SWEET PLANTAIN is an acoustic group that I joined 2 years ago. This is a really cool band. It's basically mixes classical, Latin, jazz & hip-hop music in a traditional string quartet format. The cellist raps & the other violinist doubles on trombone. I sing & play violin & mandolin. We do originals & arrangements of Jobim & different jazz & Latin tunes. We do a reworking of A TRIBE CALLED QUEST. It's a very interesting group.

AJ: Joe, you're mentioning diversity. I think of the funky little ska influenced "Tech Support" from the new album that comes out of nowhere.

JOE: I thought it would be a good song to tick off prog fans. It's the last kind of style you would expect to hear with a band known as a progressive rock band.

AJ: But, for you guys it's funky. It's not straight ska. It opens traditional but goes funky.

JOE: It goes into a heavy rock thing at one point.

AJ: You mentioned earlier in passing someone you work with & before we parted I wanted to mention him again. I consider him a real renaissance guy when it comes to music due to his work not just as a musician but also as an educator, while he's also a violin maker. I really admire his work. He's really tried to change how people view the violin. I'm talking about Mark Wood, who with his wife, vocalist Laura Kaye & folks like yourself, is really inspiring a new generation of young musicians. Would you mind sharing a little bit about the experience of working with Mark?

JOE: He's a very inspiring guy. He built my Viper 7 string. I take my cue from him. I've also been going into the schools & doing a lot of clinics & residencies & improvisation workshops. I do this both on my own & with STRATOSPHEERIUS or SWEET PLANTAIN. Mark has been doing that since the late 90's. He's one of reasons we're witnessing a change in the string world. I think in a few years you'll see even more of us in rock bands & doing all this kind of crazy stuff. The camp is a really special experience. I was there for the first time teaching last summer. It's in Kansas in mid-July. It's mostly high school kids & they're just like I was when I was their age. They have this intense love for music that's maybe outside the classical realm, but they all grew up playing classical. They're so passionate & really want to do something or be creative with their instruments. It's really fun to feel like you are inspiring them. It's a really great community. All the other people on the faculty are also really great, in their own right. I have the deepest respect for Mark, everything he's done for the violin & for music education.

AJ: In your playing, do you ever have a situation where there's maybe a parent of a student or maybe they've just seen you perform & they come up to you & say something like 'Joe, you're really good, but how dare you do this on the violin? You're hurting the legacy of this instrument.'

JOE: Not that I recall. I've actually been able to turn people around. I went to a pretty conservative music school for my undergrad. All the faculty were these old school classical legends. But, all these teachers sorta accepted me on my own terms. They knew I was a jazz guy & a rock guy & I was there to work on my classical technique, but they never tried to push me into being something I wasn't. I sorta forced them to respect me & appreciate what I did. I think everyone's on a mission to expand people's minds, that is everyone who plays what could be called alternative styles on a string instrument. The whole conservative classical mentality is dying out. I think people are a lot more hip to what's going on, even the older generation. My parents, who very much came up in the traditional classical environment, whatever they were thinking they never said it to me. They were always supportive. The further I went along the more they totally just kept cheering me on. That really helped me out. I can't really think of a time I had to fight the power. I try to avoid people like that. I knew what I wanted, or I knew what I didn't want.

AJ: Joe, we're down to the last few minutes. I want to say a big thank you for talking with me tonight. It was a bit of a struggle finding a night where you were free, so it means a lot that you would take some more time away from your family to talk with me.

JOE: Thanks, it was a pleasure.

February 27, 2016

"It's my own fault for making up that melody" An Interview With GRAHAM BONNET

Click here to visit the official website of the Graham Bonnet Band.

May 2011 (live broadcast, Roman Midnight Music Podcast Episode #19)

British metal vocalist Graham Bonnet is most famous for replacing Ronnie James Dio in Rainbow, featuring guitar icon Richie Blackmore, followed by fronting Alcatrazz that helped propel the careers of guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. While Bonnet is also famous for cutting his hair short & looking more like a James Dean inspired 1950's rocker than a long hair metal singer. But, outside of these two famous gigs he's also had an extensive solo career, guesting on numerous albums, & singing & touring with an array of musicians & one off groups, including the Michael Schenker Group, Impellitteri, Blackthorne with Bruce Kulick, Japan's Anthem, the Taz Taylor Band, the Rainbow tribute band Catch The Rainbow. At the time of this interview he was discussing a new album by Alcatrazz, which would be their first since 1983, but instead he'd find himself playing with the new Graham Bonnet Band experimenting with a softer rock side. In 2016 his official biography is set to be released.

As a 34th birthday gift to myself I invited Graham to be a guest for an hour on my podcast. As I tell in the interview I'd discovered his voice not so long earlier & was an instant fan, slowly listening my way through his extensive catalog. I was looking forward to this interview for months & he was the first high profile guest I'd had on my show, stepping up from more regionally known musicians. It ended up being a wonderful hour as we discussed everything that doesn't get typically mentioned in an interview. I had already decided I would not bore him with the same questions about singing with Malmsteen or Blackmore, even though the later is one of my personal guitar gods, as not just had he been asked those questions too often but they focused on the other guys not Graham. I didn't know my modest questions would lead into a discussion of his R&B background, singing with the Bee Gees, his musical heroes & even bike riding, let alone some very honest statements about his career. His openness & joy when talking made me feel instantly at ease, versus pacing the floor nervous which I really was. It also helped that earlier in the day he'd sent me a personal e-mail, we'd communicated only through his assistant, & asked me to call him because of a question he had. It was a mix-up as I was one of 3 interviews scheduled, but talking to him before him really broke the ice for our interview later that night. I later ordered a personalized Alcatrazz DVD from him & have been awaiting the release of his biography. After the fact I received a nice comment from a listener in Canada whose the bassist & singer of the rock trio Guys With Wives. He said he'd grown up listening to the Marbles & patterned his vocals on their stuff. He didn't know until hearing my show that Graham Bonnet's first band was the Marbles, as Graham had moved into rock & metal & my friend had thus lost track of him. Hearing Guys With Wives the influence is obvious. I opened my show with a list of his many accomplishments, to which this transcription opens immediately after that.


AJ: ... An absolute honor to have as my guest tonight, Mr. Graham Bonnet. Graham, I absolutely welcome you to my humble show & if I could roll out a red carpet from Manhattan to L.A. I absolutely would right now.

GRAHAM: That was such a great intro. Thank you very much. How can I follow ? You made me sound so ... are you talking about me?

AJ: Yes, I am!

GRAHAM: As you said, to replace Ronnie James Dio in RAINBOW was probably one of the hardest things I ever did because it was complete switch for me music-wise.

AJ: I have to confess, Richie Blackmore is my Hendrix. For me, one of the greatest guitar players in the world, so you were stepping into some humongous shoes, maybe even bigger than you even realized.

GRAHAM: Yeah, as you were saying, my background was more into the pop R&B kinda thing in the 60's, as that was what I was doing all my life, as I was telling you earlier today. I started basically when I was 19 years old. I was doing a completely different field to where I am now. What has happened to my career has taken a totally different direction than I ever thought would happen.

AJ: Do you ever get nostalgic? Like, 'Things aren't working out with my career right now, I wish RAINBOW still existed?' Or, 'I wish I was an unknown soul singer in the middle of England again.'

GRAHAM: All the time. Everyday. I was telling a friend of mine yesterday ... there's a guy writing a book about how I started in my music career. He's sending me photographs which were taken back when I was like 16/17 years old. I'm looking back & I think to myself I wish I could do that again. To do that again, to go back & do all these R&B songs that I used to do way back when. Play all those Chuck Berry songs, etc. I miss those times when I look back now. Now, somebody is writing a book about me, which is very flattering. It's incredible. I've known this guy for years & one day he says, 'Would you mind if I wrote a book about you?' Nobody else will, so why not you? Anyway, it's nice to look back. I do miss those times, because those were times when I was creatively hungry. I wanted to do something, I came from a small town. I was the only ... there was about 3 guitar players in town where I lived & nobody played drums, nobody played bass. But, if you had a drum kit you were in the band. If you had a bass you were suddenly playing bass. It was very difficult to find musicians to play with. But, I was in a couple of bands in my home town. We did okay. We played local bars, like everybody did back then & listened to all the BEATLES & ROLLING STONES records & things like that, Chuck Berry & did a lot of that kind of music. A lot of Otis Redding & Steve Wonder things. Whatever we could do, because back then you had to play everything, because you play probably like 3-4 hours or something.

AJ: Not like today.

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. 20 minutes, you know, or an hour & a half or something like that. But, you had to play that long & you'd take a break. Of course, the people in the audience that we'd play to, you know we'd play in bars & pubs in England, they wanted to hear all the hits. So we had to ... that was my upbringing, from playing everything from jazz things to pop, you know, everything. You had to be able to play every kind of music to please the audience & keep them listening or have them dancing or whatever. This is what I did & a lot of my friends did. The BEATLES did the same thing.

AJ: & the ROLLING STONES & all those bands. That was the way it was done. So different from today.

GRAHAM: You basically had to play everything, from waltzes to cha-cha-chas. All these horrible dance songs ... that were like, 'What am I doing here?' & getting paid like 2 or 3 bucks a night for doing it, playing like 4 hours. But, what a great learning experience it was for all of us. It later became very helpful to me, you know, finding jazz chords & things like that on my guitar that I never would have known unless I played that kind of music. That's what I brought to songs later on. & a lot of other guys did too who were in bands, that ilk, you know, back in the 60's. It was good schooling.

AJ: You've basically made your reputation for most people as a heavy metal or hard rock singer, but have you ever considered doing an album of the old stuff, going back to the soul or the Chuck Berry? Has that ever crossed your mind?

GRAHAM: Well, I've thought about it, but I think that would be like a luxury at the moment. It's something I would love to do one day, but at the moment I'm sort of in a bag of whatever it is right now. I'm stuck in this drawer of being this so called heavy rock singer, whatever you want to call me now. For me to suddenly change & do something totally R&B will be very strange for people, I think. Where's all that high singing & whatever else? It is something I'd love to do. But, at the moment, we really have to get a new album out for my band ALCATRAZZ, which is a new line-up now. I'd love to do that. To have the time to do that, but really I have to get something new band-wise. That is like the main thing, because I do a lot of sessions. I'm doing a few sessions now that I haven't finished yet & to do a new album with ALCATRAZZ or to do a new album with R&B type songs on it or whatever, for me, means time out & not actually working. That means being off the road. When you're in a studio you're not making money. It's not like it was. Back in the '60's people were throwing money at you to go into the studio for months on end. That's how I started & you're in there for however long it took to make the album. If it took 6 months, then it took 6 months. But, it's not like that anymore. Everybody ... or, I do, or most people, record at home now on ProTools. Everything is done by e-mail. Everybody e-mails their parts to each other. 'I've got this idea for a song. Can you put some words to this?' That's the way it goes. What we're trying to do now is to get more shows on the road for us to keep alive, basically, because the past 3-4 years have been very very bad for bands of the 1980's, let's say, that style of music. It's no longer the flavor of the month, or whatever. There is an audience out there, but they're being neglected. It's very hard to convince promoters to actually put some money into a band that may not be AEROSMITH or whatever or may not be very very well known by everyone. As you said, you found out about my stuff a year ago. You know what I mean? So, it's just the way it is. The economy is crap. A lot of my friends, as I was saying to you earlier, they're just saying 'What do we do? We can't get any work.' A lot of people are doing sessions or getting themselves a regular job like a real person, you know, instead of playing at being a rock'n'roll star. That's the way it is.

AJ: I absolutely understand. The other night I saw in concert WHITESNAKE & here's David Coverdale, been around as long as you, played with the same guitar player even, & he's doing a show at a 1000 person venue. It's not an arena. He's not at Madison Square Garden where he might have been 20 years ago. I know you have said it in past interviews, you're honest enough with yourself to know you won't be playing in arenas again.

GRAHAM: Oh yeah, yeah.

AJ: I said at the beginning of this show, & I wasn't being mean but just making an observation, that I feel that you're under-appreciated or what people know you for is 30 years ago. That kinda ties into what you were saying, as you still have to make a living & tour & do stuff. You know, continue to get out there. When I say that you're under-appreciated, what's your thoughts on this & where things have gone & struggling as a musician now versus when you were whoever?

GRAHAM: I think a lot of it is my fault. I didn't stay with one project long enough. You know, the stint with RAINBOW. I was with RAINBOW for one album. I should have stayed for at least another 2 or something, but I got on this ego thing ... actually, it came to a disagreement between me & the band. Nothing was being productive. I sang on that first album [Down To Earth] & second album began & nothing was happening in rehearsal. So, I thought I could do something on my own. I wish that I'd stayed with RAINBOW longer & that's why I kinda disappeared into the great unknown. I was just becoming known by a brand new audience of real cool people that I'd never met before & meeting all these great musicians that I was blown away by. I'd always met people more in the pop side of the business, so to speak. It was an opportunity I blew. I should have stayed with them. ALCATRAZZ should have lasted longer when I put that band together. The Michael Schenker thing [Attack Assault] was a one-off again. One album in the studio. I never stuck with anything & people were kinda like, I guess, wondering where I'd gone to. I wondered where I'd gone to as well. I didn't know what to do. I was never satisfied. I think the thing that kinda made me uncomfortable & dissatisfied with the whole business was quiting RAINBOW when I did. Then maybe my name would be in people's minds & they would know me better than they do now. Whereas, what's happen is, with ALCATRAZZ, it's bred 2 guitar players that everybody knows about. That's Steve Vai & Yngwie Malmsteen. Instead of it being a band that kept my career going I kinda helped those guys. I was a stepping stone. ALCATRAZZ was a stepping stone for better careers for Steve & Yngwie, you know. I should have just hung in with other people longer than I did, but I was never quite sure what to do. I was always wanting to do something ... you know, something else & I wasn't sure what it was.

AJ: You're actually kinda answering a question I had or you're hinting at maybe an answer. As I was looking over your catalog, you've performed a lot with bands & you've done very few solo albums, versus someone like your successor in RAINBOW Joe Lynn Turner whose done lots of solo albums, or versus someone like David Coverdale whose basically been in one band, even though it has rotating members. You have pursued many directions & I was kinda wondering why you hadn't chosen a path of just Graham Bonnet solo albums or just ALCATRAZZ albums. I think you kinda hinted at dissatisfaction being there & wanting to explore new territories as the reason behind that, also just making a living.

GRAHAM: You have it so much safer being in a band. Then you don't have to take the blame if nobody likes the album. It's a scary thing to step out there on your own. Like The Day I Went Mad, that was all my own deal there in 1999. I got great players to come play on that album, but it was all my own songs, except for one, that's the Paul McCartney tune "Oh! Darling." That was it. That was the only cover on there, I think ... Oh no, there's 2 covers. Sorry. There's another one, "Don't Look Down" [by guitarist Mick Ronson]. Yet, there's safety in numbers, as they say. At the moment, as I said, it would be a luxury to do a solo album & do exactly what I wanted to do. But, I wonder if people would actually want to listen. I'm not sure anymore. Wondering if I have to stay with this kind of music, which I think I have to, which is like ALCATRAZZ, the ALCATRAZZ kind of sound, if there was one, if there is one. That kind of thing. Which is how I'm writing tunes now, which is very much in the style of ALCATRAZZ, but with a little twist here & there, bringing it into 2012 eventually. 2012 will be about the time we get the album done, I think. It's gonna take awhile. I mean, as I said, we have this stuff together for about 4 or 5 years now, ready to go. But, it's got to have ... to do an album for people to go 'Show me what else you can do, you know.' It would nice to have the elements of the old, so called old ALCATRAZZ sound, but with some new influences. You know something that suddenly takes a left turn when you think it's going to go straight on. Which I think happened with ALCATRAZZ when Steve joined the band. That was, in fact, my favorite album of ALCATRAZZ [Disturbing The Peace], was when he joined. It was just a little bit different. It wasn't your regular heavy metal, as it was called then, album. ... I think I've lost the thread of the question.

AJ: No, no, I'm enjoying listening to you. I have to be honest with you, I appreciate your candor. I really appreciate your honesty. There's a lot of musicians out there that go 'Well, yeah, you know, everything is great.' But, you're opening up & just saying what you feel & I know you do this in other interviews, too. You are telling your insecurities & as a fan that really means a lot to me to be able to share in that. It's not just about the music.

GRAHAM: As I said, I'm not going to be playing arenas anymore, even though I did 4 years ago when I went on a tour of Australia with a whole bunch of people that were on a TV show called Countdown, which I happened to host 10,000 years ago, twice, when I lived in Australia for a short time. Like all my early stuff, my solo albums, were like number one albums there, for some odd reason. Don't ask me why. We did actually play arenas. It was Rick Springfield, Doug Fieger of the KNACK. Poor Doug has died. I think it was 2 years ago now. Katrina of KATRINA & THE WAVES, Samantha Fox, the Australian band the ANGELS & a bunch of other Australian bands nobody would know about. But, we were playing every night to, I don't know, 30,000 people. Something like that. It was one of those magic moments when I ... it suddenly felt like I was back where I was before. It very much felt like American Idol. It was like an audition. 'Here I am.' Every night was like a huge stage, we had the same stage, tons of trucks & shit, you know, taken almost to every city in Australia. But, it was like being on American Idol, because it was almost like a talent show.

AJ: An audition 30 years after you got the gig.

GRAHAM: It's been a while since I've played such big places, you know. It just felt weird. But, I was at home, but at the same time it felt like I was auditioning all over again, you know.

AJ: Graham, the song that converted me to your voice was "Killer" from The Day I Went Mad. It's a new song for me, yet working on a couple decades ago in your career. When you listen to your own music, whether you chose to do it or are forced to do it like during interviews like this, whether it's early stuff or more contemporary stuff, what goes through your head?

GRAHAM: Well, that particular song reminds me of how many beers I drank that day! That was when I was drinking. I have been sober now for 8 years. I quit doing all that stuff. But, I remember doing "Killer" & Kevin Valentine was the drummer on the album & engineering. He was touring with CINDERELLA at one point. He's played with Lou Gramm & in the studio with KISS, as well. He's played with a lot of people. He was engineering & he did the whole album with me. He just said, 'You okay?', because at one point I suddenly stopped & I blacked out. I actually fell on the floor.

AJ: That's a good nostalgic memory!

GRAHAM: It was a wonderful day, what can I say! I ran out of air. I was like not taking a breath, because we're doing this damn song & there's high bits & low bits & whatever else. Suddenly he says, 'Are you still there?'. I had my headphones on & asked what happened. I fainted while I was doing that song. It's a very hard one to sing, but of course, that's me & my melodies. It's my own fault for making up that melody. I mean, what can I say? But, the song is about one of my heroes, Jerry Lee Lewis. He was called the Killer, you know.

AJ: I'll tell you, Graham, when I was listening to this album I was planning on writing a review of it for a blog I do, but I didn't want to go beyond this track. I'd heard 3 great songs & I knew that once I finished listening to the album the review would go up & I'd go on to the next album, of course. I didn't want the initial experience to end. I literally postponed writing the review for a month, until I could no longer keep the album a secret & had to share it with the world, just so I could stay in that listening place. If that's not a glowing review right there! I've listened to your other solo albums since then, but I think this is an absolute highlight for you in your solo work.

GRAHAM: I haven't heard it since I recorded it, to be honest with you. I never listen to my stuff.

AJ: You should listen to it again. I highly recommend it!

GRAHAM: You mentioned it again & I realized I'd forgotten how it went, the tune, the guitar solo. I just never listen to anything again, because you do the song over & over & over, as everybody knows. By the time you've got to the 20th take you've had enough & then you have to pick it to pieces & put it all together. That's the part that drives me nuts. So, I usually leave that somebody else. But, with this album I actually sat there with Kevin & I went through every vocal just to make sure it was how I wanted it to sound, because it was kinda my baby. But, it brings back many painful memories.

AJ: Sorry.

GRAHAM: But, I like it. They're nice painful memories. Nothing bad about it. We had fun doing it. It takes a lot of energy to do some of these songs. By the time you've sung it 20 times you just want to put your head down the toilet or something. But, with this, we left it for a week or whatever & then he came back & asked if I wanted to piece the vocals together. So, giving it a little bit of time off. Otherwise, you just get a headache & you don't want to hear the song ever again. So, once the thing was done & we put it together I never listened to it again.

AJ: When you're writing what motives you? How do you keep your music fresh?

GRAHAM: Well, it's just everyday experiences. As I said before, it's basically like being a country & western writer, like Chuck Berry's lyrics. There's something about Chuck Berry's words that always fascinated me. The way they sounded lyrically & the way they just rolled off your tongue.

AJ: Yeah, I know.

GRAHAM: There's something about his words. They're just magical, you know. I know John Lennon was a big fan of Chuck Berry. He said he was his idol.

AJ: I actually got to see Chuck Berry perform about 3 years ago here in NYC.

GRAHAM: You did?

AJ: I was watching him play & do all his stuff. I walked away, & I'll confess, it was almost orgasmic. It was unbelievable.

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah!

AJ: I literally walked away & said 2 things to myself. First, he copped every Keith Richards lick out there ... you know, that's a joke.

GRAHAM: Yeah, I got it.

AJ: Second, I now understand the history of rock'n'roll.

GRAHAM: Oh yeah?

AJ: Listening to him it was like I'd heard everything since him. You know what I mean?

GRAHAM: Yeah, I do. The first song I remember playing when I was 16 or 17 was "No Particular Place To Go". The title itself I thought was intriguing. I mean, what weird title for a rock'n'roll song. The words, no particular place to go, that is so un-rock'n'roll. That it's like what the hell is this song about? Then I heard it & we, of course, played it in my little band. The words ... they're made ... I don't know what it is about the way he writes, but they just roll off your tongue & they sound so interesting. Because, they are! Because, they tell a story. Even "Johnny B. Goode", which everybody has done & everybody knows, but the words are great. You can just read the words & its poetry. I try tried to cop his style in the ALCATRAZZ years. So, he's been my idol. I always liked Ray Davies of the KINKS, as well. You know, "Lola" & all that stuff.

AJ: Whose your idols, Graham? Who do you turn to for inspiration?

GRAHAM: As I said, Chuck Berry. I love the BEACH BOYS. I love Brian Wilson. The way Brian Wilson puts together chords sequences. I saw Brian's Smile, when he had that album out. I went to see the concert in Australia. I came out of there just with goosebumps. I just said ... that's what ... I don't mean the surfing music. I mean the later Brian Wilson.

AJ: Like Pet Sounds.

GRAHAM: Yes, Pet Sounds & all that. Oh, man. I mean, those chords are so beautiful & the words are great. I saw that show. He basically redid parts of Smiley Smile, the original album. I just couldn't believe what I'd seen. The perfect singing from all the people he worked with. They all played different instruments. It was the best thing I'd ever seen in my life. I remember [late drummer] Cozy Powell & I ... when Cozy was in the MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP we would be rehearsing, you know when we did the Assault Attack album, & Cozy would say 'You gonna come over to my house tonight?' So, I'd go over & he'd say 'Let's put some real music on.' Of course, he puts on the BEACH BOYS. That was his favorite band ever. Him & Jeff Beck love the BEACH BOYS. I couldn't believe that we all had the same ... you know, I was kinda shy to say I liked the BEACH BOYS. It was a bit like saying I like the PARTRIDGE FAMILY or something. It was so un-rock-n-roll, you know, but then suddenly Cozy cranks up Pet Sounds as we're driving home & we're just saying 'Listen to that ...' I mean, "God Only Knows" & all those songs. & the album Surf's Up. Have you heard that album? That's a really great album.

AJ: Remember, Graham, Paul McCartney has said it was Pet Sounds that inspired the creation of Sgt Pepper.


AJ: That album basically revolutionized music & that inspired the creation of how many bands? So, the BEACH BOYS. They are un-assuming, but it is amazing. That's one of my favorite albums.

GRAHAM: I just love the later albums. Carl & The Passions was another album. Though, all these guys are dead now, Carl [Wilson], the brothers. Those guys inspired me. The harmony side of it. I love harmonies. I like to do my own backing harmony & that kind of thing. They've always inspired me, ever since their earlier albums when they did like "Barbara Ann" or whatever. You know, those kind of songs. But, I've always been a harmony freak &, of course, later on when I met up with the BEE GEES in London. When we'd all get our acoustic guitars out we all sat around singing BEACH BOYS songs & Stevie Wonder songs. There were 2 things we used to play. Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb & Robin would sometimes be there, but usually me, Barry, Maurice & my cousin Trevor would sit around singing BEACH BOYS & Stevie Wonder. That was our thing to have fun at a party.

AJ: Graham, what have been some of the influences on you as a singer in terms of how you sing technically? Has there been any influences on that which have effected or changed the way you sing over the years?

GRAHAM: Yeah. The first people I listened to were people like Paul Anka from the 50's when I was a kid. I'd stand in front of the mirror lip-syncing to Paul Anka songs when I was 7. Then later on, because I had an older brother, he was a teenager & I was a little kid, but he brought home these records by Fats Domino & Little Richard. I love Little Richard. How does he make that sound with his voice? That rough, edgy, shouty, whatever it is he's got about him. He's one of my favorite singers. I love him. I love his phrasing. Again, he's just one of those guys that it just comes naturally to him. The way he did all his ad-libs were just like throwaways to him. It was nothing, because he was into church music, obviously. Who else do I ... ? People like the RONETTES, the CRYSTALS, FRANKIE LYMON & THE TEENAGERS, which is like the original JACKSON 5, I guess. Have you heard of them? Do you remember those guys?

AJ: I know who you're talking about.

GRAHAM: & Ronnie Spector. She always said, 'I always wanted to sing like Frankie Lymon.' So, she emulated his voice. That's where she got her style from. I always like Ronnie Spector, because we used to do, when I was playing in my little band in pubs & things when I was 16, we did a lot of RONETTES stuff. I found out later, Brian Wilson's daughter said something like 'You know what my dad plays every morning? "Be My Baby" on the piano. Every day.' So, Brian Wilson was a RONETTES fan, too. You can hear that in some of their earlier songs. There's very much a Phil Spector type thing going on there. But, then, of course, he developed his own style. He's one of those guys I would just love to sing more of his songs. You know, what I mean? I respect the guy to death. The BEACH BOYS are the American BEATLES, to me anyway. Not to everybody, I know.

AJ: I understand. I understand, totally.

GRAHAM: People tend to think of the BEACH BOYS as being the surfy thing. You know what I mean.

AJ: That's their stereotype, but when you really get into the history of music they are a necessary stepping stone as you discover the major influences in the history of music.

GRAHAM: Oh yeah. There's a lot of people, but as I said, a lot of the time I was influenced by girl bands. I don't know why. Probably because they were singing in my key. That's where all the high notes came from, I think. I'm not sure about that, but there was something about it. But, Frankie Lymon was like my hero. I thought he was great as a kid.

AJ: Do you listen to a lot of the new music out there? Do you keep your thumb on what's going on in the moment?

GRAHAM: Yes I do. I hear it, but I don't hear anything that grabs me & says 'That's something new.' I'd love to hear something new & I haven't heard anything. Everything is so damned processed at the moment. Everything is ProTools to death & auto-tuned. Blah blah blah. A lot of it sounds like elevator music to me. I hear some bands are influenced by LED ZEPPELIN or RAINBOW or DEEP PURPLE or whatever. I couldn't tell you all the bands names at the moment, but I hear that. You can tell they've been influenced by 1960's/70's bands. What's happening is a lot of distortion on the guitars & everything to make it sound a bit ... to make it interesting. A lot of not really very good singing. Whereas back then ... it sounds like I'm an old guy, doesn't it? But, back then there wasn't that trickery that there is now. So, if you have a crappy day singing you just auto-tune it. You can tell. Those kind of records I can't stand them. They just sound like commercials to me or something, for butter or something. But, it's very difficult for me to ... I want to hear something new like 100 years ago when QUEEN first came out. I was a BEATLES fan & that was it. There was no other band in the world. Then suddenly I heard QUEEN & I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'd like to hear something like that again, that surprises me.

AJ: Maybe you have to be the one to create it?

GRAHAM: Well, shit! ... Your challenge for this week is ... !

AJ: I'm giving you some homework, Graham.

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, shit. If I could get some new ears to listen.

AJ: Let me ask you an easier question. Is there anyone out there who you'd like to work with but you haven't?

GRAHAM: Brian Wilson would be great, as I said. I'd love to work with him. Let me think. Jennifer Batten. Do you know her? She played guitar with Michael Jackson for years. She had to cop the Van Halen lick. She was very worried about that. She said she slowed it down & everything. I've been in touch with Jennifer for a few years now, but we've never worked together. I saw her 10 years ago. She did a little guitar clinic thing here in my area & I took my daughter down to see her. I said she had to meet this girl. She plays like Steve Vai, but it's a girl. So, we went along, got her autograph & photograph & all that. I've been speaking to Jennifer over the past year or so about doing something & she sent me stuff. But, because of the way things are ... she's having to work. She's gone back to Japan. She was over there when the tsunami hit, then she flew back here & then she went over for a benefit or something. But, now she has a manager who is a guiding her career & so she said to me 'I don't think this thing between you & I doing an album together is going to happen.' Obviously her manager has given her a new path to follow like managers do. 'You'll make more money on your own, baby. This is what you should do. Do this on your own. You'll be a star by yourself. Don't worry about it.' But, she's one person I've admired for a long time & she knows it. As I said, talked on the phone, e-mailed, over the years.

AJ: When you're not stressing out over having to make money & doing a new album, how does the non-performing Graham Bonnet do to relax or distract himself? Can you reveal the real person off the stage a bit?

GRAHAM: I'm just like everybody else. I mean, my dog died last year, but I used to take him for a walk everyday. I'm now divorced, unfortunately. I was married for 30 years. So I have my 11 year old daughter with me now. She stays with me on weekends & she'll come here after school during the week. But, during the week when she's at school I ride. I do a 2 hour bike ride every day. That is my sport. I've got a nice Trek bike & it weighs like nothing. It's my Lance Armstrong thing. I'm a rider. I've been riding for years. I used to ride in Australia. A guy made me a bike in Australia. I was in a junior cycling team there. So, that's what I do. I ride for about 2 hours every day & there's some tough hills out here. You know what California is like.

AJ: Do you write? Do you work on your music every day, & things like that?

GRAHAM: In my head on the bike.

AJ: I mean, do you sit down at a desk at some point & go 'Okay, it's 2 o'clock, time to work on some lyrics now.'

GRAHAM: Sometimes. But, I usually make up words when I'm on my bike. For instance, The Day I Went Mad album. All those words came to me while I was cycling. You're out there seeing the world & you're passing things & you see things & get inspired. Things come at your mind when you're exercising. I don't know why.

AJ: It's a physical thing with your head, I've read. When you're moving it actually settles the thoughts a little bit. It focuses you in. I've heard that many times.

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah. Something sparks up in there. Suddenly an idea will come to me & I remember it & then I write it down when I get back. I don't actually sit down & actually write a tune in front of a tape machine or whatever ... but sometimes I do, especially if its somebody else's arrangement. Then, at night I will sit & play my guitar & think of how an arrangement should go or something. I play the guitar every day. With the other guys in the band I have to sit down with a recording device of some kind, headphones on, & think about words.

AJ: Speaking of which, we're nearly the end of our time together, Graham, & I want to make sure you talk or mention at least what you're currently working on. What projects are in the works that people can look forward?

GRAHAM: Okay. ALCATRAZZ is playing the House Of Blues in Hollywood with HURRICANE. We're also playing in San Diego. Those are 2 gigs that are coming up & we're trying to fill-up our daybook. Our dance card isn't very full at the moment. But, those are 2 gigs that are kind of exciting.

AJ: Is there an album in the future for ALCATRAZZ?

GRAHAM: There will be. But, at the moment I'm recording for some friends of mine & the album is sort of a rock opera. It's called Lyraka [i.e. Lyraka Volume 1 & also on Volume 2]. That is something I'm starting on now. There's 6 tracks I have to sing on. Then eventually get around to doing the ALCATRAZZ thing, one day. The songs are there. It's just a matter of standing in front of a microphone & doing it.

AJ: & not passing out.

GRAHAM: I maybe will, but that's the way life is with me, you know.

AJ: Graham, is there anything more you'd like to share?

GRAHAM: Is the rapture coming? I think it's going to be a rupture?

AJ: If it's coming then I guess this is your last interview.

GRAHAM: Do you have your ticket? I've got an all access backstage pass.

AJ: Graham, I have to tell you how pleased I am to have spent an hour with you. You have my absolute thanks.

GRAHAM: You're welcome, Aaron. My son's called Aaron, by the way.

AJ: I think you've done some great work over the past 40 years or more.

GRAHAM: 40 years.

AJ: I'm sorry, making you sound old again.

GRAHAM: I don't think I'm ever going to get old. I've made my mind up. Something that other people do.

December 15, 2015

"It's one sexy woman in a lot of different outfits" An Interview With DAMOND JINIYA, TROY ALLEN MONTGOMERY, TOM SPITTLE

Click here to visit the official facebook of Montgomery Gun Productions.
Click here to visit the official facebook of the Rebel Pride Band.
Click here to visit the official facebook of Damond Jiniya.
Click here to visit the official facebook of Damond Jiniya's band Retribution.

October 2011 (live broadcast, Roman Midnight Music Podcast Episode #34)

Under The Gun, the only album by Montgomery Gun Productions, fuses hard rock with outlaw country ballads via an array of all star talent, featuring the late guitarist Matt LaPorte, mostly known for Jon Oliva's Pain. It also includes Savatage & Jon Oliva's Pain founder pianist-singer Jon Oliva. While the other half of the vocals are by Damond Jiniya of the final Savatage line-up & more recently of an array of Florida cover bands, including one dedicated to Nine Inch Nails, & recently released an album of originals under the name Herman / Nebula. The album is the child of songwriter Troy Montgomery of Florida who spent a lifetime loving music & writing lyrics, but, as he says in this interview, was "too busy being a serious businessman" to ever make his dream come true of making music. Under The Gun is that dream come true that through its decade in the making had close encounters with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Iron Horse & the Outlaws, plus was a key in forming the core of Jon Oliva's Pain. It's also nothing but a gold nugget in the discographies of all involved, though greatly under-looked.

This was the first episode of my podcast where I interviewed exclusively a songwriter. I had always talked to folks who were singers-songwriters or guitarists-songwriters, but not just a songwriter who didn't appear on his own album. The one live show ended up taking on its own flow beyond my expectations with surprise guests & a history of the album I didn't know. Surprise guests calling in included guitarist Tom Spittle of the Rebel Pride Band who helped in the initial demos & Damond. We had reached out to Jon to call in, an interview with the talkative musical genius a prize moment, particularly as I'm a fan of Savatage. He didn't & I don't know if he ever heard the show or even knew about it. One can hope & he liked what he heard. Damond had been invited but expected to be gigging the night of the broadcast with his covers band Retribution. It should be noted that for nearly a decade he had refused most interviews, particularly those related to Savatage, It was only a few months earlier he'd broken that doing a print interview in a Brazilian publication. I had promised him that if he should be able to call in, outside of obvious references, I would ask no direct questions about Savatage, of which I kept my promise. But, for the fans, we would later do a pre-recorded interview about Savatage I would broadcast as this first interview went so well. This was the first interview related to Under The Gun & the only one that brought this trio of contributors together. It was a very unique experience talking to these 3 guys, brought some new people into my world who I still communicate with, & was a highlight of my interviews. This is why live radio is so much fun.


AJ: Troy, welcome so much to my show. Thank you for taking time out to talk with me.

TROY: Aaron, thank you so much for having me on. I've been looking very forward to this & very excited our project Under The Gun.

AJ: Troy, you have this new album out, but you also have quite a career behind you building up to this album that is, in many ways, a part of the reason I asked you to join me. I was really excited by some of the stories you have e-mailed me about your experiences. They're very unique & there's a real excitement about what you went through in your career that eventually led you to forming Under The Gun Productions. Just briefly, because the beginning really is the best place to start, can you help me out? Who is Troy Montgomery?

TROY: Sure, Aaron. I grew up like everybody else. I loved music & very into stuff. I grew up working as an insurance adjuster, working for my father when I got out of high school, straight into the business world. I always had a big passion for music, but I was too busy being a serious businessman & just being a serious guy. Once I reached about ... well, I actually started writing lyrics 22/23 years of age. I got to where I would literally just pull over to the side of the road in my travels & I would write a whole song or a half of one, ideas & lyrics. I did that for 15 years, Aaron. My passion grew for music. I got older & older & saw that time was just slipping away. You know I just wished I could have done it over & started out playing guitar when I was 16, but I didn't. So, as I finally hit about 37/38 years old I finally had enough material, plenty of it to probably do a couple albums, but irregardless, it got me to where I was ready to do the project Under The Gun. Like I say, I was always a business person doing what I do, like most of these guys spent their whole lives & career trying to be a musician because that's where they're at. So, I started a little late in life. However, it's never too late to follow your dream & follow your passion. That's what I did. As time went on I basically wanted to put this thing in gear & make it happen. One thing led to another & I got fortunate enough to meet ... a friend of mine knew Damond Jiniya & another guy in the studio where I began recording this, where Under The Gun first started. It's like I say, one thing led to the other. I basically went into the studio with a buddy of mine, Tommy Spittle, from the REBEL PRIDE BAND. I really had no experience about writing a song or didn't really know much about how to approach it, but I knew I had some good ideas, good lyrics & I wanted to make it work. So, that's where it all started. I brought Tom Spittle in. At that same time he introduced me to Matt LaPorte. Matt was just a young guy then in his early 20's. Phenomenal, amazing guitar player. Real nice quiet guy that was just absolutely the most amazing guitar player you'd ever seen. So, we went into the studio. That's where I met Damond. Matt came in with me & Tommy in the studio & he just couldn't stand it. We just started hammering on the first song & it just started going real smooth. We started to record his first guitar tracks & Matt just got so excited he jumped in on it & took over the project, basically, as far as the guitar parts. Things went real well. Obviously, long story short, before it was over with we ended up with Under The Gun. But, in that process, right off the git go, once we started this album I did not know Jon Oliva. I knew who he was but I did not know him personally. So, I was working with Damond & even though Damond had just done touring for 4 years with SAVATAGE [with Jon], I didn't know Jon personally. So, it just happened, the way it worked out, I knew another friend who introduced me to Jon at the same time I began working in the studio. It all worked out. Next thing you know, I met Jon & we were working on this project. Everything just grew & took off real quickly. We started talking about who were some of my inspirations, people that inspired me in the music business. I was a huge TESLA fan. I said to Matt 'I love TESLA & I love the acoustic guitar & I want to do something kinda TESLA.' So, that's how it grew. We started working on "Under The Gun" & it just caught on fire & seemed to be a great song. Before you know it, we finished the song & we just thought that it seemed like a hit. It was the first song we'd done in the studio & it was a great start. So, from there, basically, Matt wrote this guitar riff which turned into the song "Illusion/Fantasy". After we got about 2 or 3 songs in the studio that's when I met the great Jon Oliva. He saw where I was at with my project & next thing you know magic happened. We spent the next 2 years in the studio, but we accomplished it. That's where it all began, Aaron.

AJ: That's a long story short, I know. Now, you had written to me once that you had brought Jon in, but at one point he offered even to help fund the project or to take some of the money through his company. He also contributed a song because he was so enjoying your project.

TROY: Absolutely. We started working together & at first it basically Jon was going to be a musician for hire type thing. We got along so well & liked each other's personalities. I guess the honesty & sincerity of who we were as people. It just took off from there & he was no longer a musician for hire. We were songwriting partners. We were working in Audio Lab Studios at the time & Jon was recording a 2004 [JON OLIVA'S PAIN] album, I think it was 'Tage Mahal actually. So, he got to use some of his studio time with his record company & book some of our time through the studio & help donate to the project. So, like I said, it turned into a partnership.

AJ: Excellent.

TROY: It was a 2 year fill. It was very interesting all this culmination of musicians that came together to create this album. Greg Marchak whose traveled the world with Jon as Jon's personal live sound engineer. Greg was an awesome guitar player. Greg has passed away since then. He sat in on 2 songs & played a beautiful 1972 Telecaster on "When The Heart Breaks" & "Love Now". It was just beautiful music & Greg had a deep passion for what we were doing, as well. So, several people got to donate to this project & very talented people. I was very fortunate & very blessed, Aaron.

AJ: That's great. It's a real group effort. Troy, I have someone on the phone who I'd like to bring on. Hello, caller, who am I talking to?

TOM SPITTLE: This is Tom Spittle from REBEL PRIDE.

AJ: Hey! We've got on the phone the guitarist from the REBEL PRIDE BAND, which is one of the bands who work with Troy & Montgomery Gun Productions. Tommy, thank you for calling up & joining us tonight. It's a real pleasure to have one of Troy's associates with us.

TOM: Glad to be aboard.

AJ: Any immediate thoughts on your mind?

TOM: I like to hear Troy pumping us all up. It's great to hear his voice on the radio.

AJ: Excellent. Tommy, you work with Troy through your own group REBEL PRIDE. How would we describe them? A southern rock band. LYNYRD SKYNYRD-ish, am I close?

TOM: Yeah, that's correct.

AJ: Also you were involved with Under The Gun, right?

TOM: First time I recorded on Under The Gun was in my garage. I came up with the melody. Troy had the lyrics, I came up with the melody line. Brian Jefferies from REBEL PRIDE came up with a lick to go with it. We recorded it on an 8 track recorder here in my garage. That's where it got started. I still have that demo.

TROY: How'ya doing there Tommy?

TOM: Great.

TROY: Aaron, it basically started with Tommy & REBEL PRIDE. I became friends with them & was actually a big fan of theirs for years. As time grew I later became their manager for a couple years. They were really dear friends of mine & it started there. Like he said, the birth of Under The Gun started in Tommy's garage. We did a rough demo & from there Tommy introduced me to Matt LaPorte. Me & Matt ended up in the studio & Tommy, all 3 of us, & things just started to grow from there.

TOM: That's what I get for being too busy! I missed the studio thing.

TROY: Yeah, Tommy got so busy he didn't get to hang in there for a lot of the stuff we did. He's a busy man. He plays with 3 or 4 different groups at a time, rotating with different bands. Great writer. A songwriter in his own right. Tommy is an awesome guitar player. Tommy is such a talented man. He plays the flute, he plays guitar, he plays keyboards, he plays drums, he plays bass. The guy can play anything. A very well rounded individual, musician & a very long time friend that I call him a brother for what, 15 years now, Tommy?

TOM: Yup. You can know many things, but it all starts with that lyric, doesn't it?

TROY: It all starts with the idea, I guess, it sure does.

TOM: Starts with that lyric.

TROY: I just started writing a song. It really come from Brian Jefferies. He told me one time, 'Troy, I want you to write me a song about a ramblin' gamblin' honky-tonkin' truck drivin' man.' That was where it all started. I thought what could I come up with. Before you know it I started writing & when it was over I realized I had written a song about myself, pretty much. It pretty much was about me. I got done with it not realizing it. I guess I just told my story.

AJ: Guys, what was that first song you all hashed out in Tom's garage.

TROY & TOM: "Under The Gun".

AJ: Tom, obviously you were on the demo, but are you on the finished recording?

TOM: I don't think any of the parts I did make it on that final cut. I was in the studio the first day. Matt was there. He had better ideas. He ran with it & I let him.

AJ: But, hey, you're on the track as much as Troy is. It's those initial ideas. Troy, can you tell me the musician line-up for the final version of "Under The Gun"?

TROY: Basically, on that originally was Brian Jefferies. Matt did all the guitar parts, including bass. Steven Wright played the drums. Damond Jiniya did the vocals. That's pretty much it. You know what happened, Aaron, this is something we haven't even touched on ...

AJ: Go ahead.

TROY: When we started working on this project I was friends with the late great [guitarist] Hughie Thomasson from OUTLAWS, also he toured with LYNYRD SKYNYRD for 9 years. I'd known him from when I was a child growing up. Basically, once we started working, we targeted "Under The Gun" for LYNYRD SKYNYRD, so that's where you kinda hear a lot of these riffs. We built the song, after we wrote it, we basically built it around LYNYRD SKYNYRD for them to record it. We actually made it so far that Tommy was at my house, Hughie came to my house, Matt was there. We sat down & talked & basically I demoed that song to Hughie. Hughie was in Fort Myers, where [guitarist] Rickey Medlocke lives. They were working on an album [Edge of Forever]. Basically, Hughie heard the song & he played it for Rickey & they absolutely loved it, fell in love with it. Hughie sat at my house & told me how they loved the song & they were going to record it. He said that if something happens & LYNYRD SKYNYRD does not record the song he'll definitely do it as the OUTLAWS. He told us that in a couple years he planned on getting back & starting up the OUTLAWS again, which he did. So, basically, ]guitarist] Gary Rossington was the one who wanted 50% publishing rights to the song, which basically is what stopped the project. I got an entertainment attorney that kinda advised me, 'Troy, they didn't do anything to deserve half the song.' I was willing to cut them some publishing rights, of course, but they wanted 50% & we kinda bowed out on that. But, anyway, LYNYRD SKYNYRD loved the song. Johnny Van Zant personally heard it on Hughie's radio. He's like, 'Who was that?' Hughie just said, 'Some boys from Brooksville.' Tommy is on the other line, so I'm sure he'll be witness to all this. All the guys from SKYNYRD heard it. All the boys loved it, but they basically wanted half the publishing rights, which really wasn't a fair deal. To make a long story short, that's how far that song got & then, of course later on, Hughie, after they wouldn't renegotiate his contract & give him the number he wanted, he started back up with the OUTLAWS. Unfortunately, he was making his brand new album & he passed away while the album was in the process. That's how close "Under The Gun" came to being a LYNYRD SKYNYRD song & an OUTLAWS song. Figured I'd give you that stuff & Tommy is my witness here.

AJ: Tommy?

TOM: You know, it's great to hear Matt play again. I haven't listened to his stuff since he passed away & it was like he came back to life again. It's amazing. The guitar work is phenominal.

AJ: Thanks for reminding us of this. He was a great musician, many of us know him, many of us don't, but I'm sure anyone who listens to his stuff is going to start playing air guitar. Or, maybe it's just me. Also, I love hearing Damond sing on this, because I only know him from SAVATAGE & that's only bootleg youtube recordings. Here he's doing something a little different & showing this great range. It's fun for me to hear.

TOM: You know Damond is still going around town kicking butt. Right now he's probably out singing right now here in Tampa.

TROY: A great contributing factor. I mean, everybody played a part, of course, in that song ... I have to tell you that I don't ... That song, also as you know, Aaron, got re-cut by [guitarist] Ronny Keel, he was doing an album with IRONHORSE. [Singer] Jason Aldean is with the label, I can't think of it off the top of my head, but irregardless they recorded the song & actually sent me the whole album. They were ready to get signed & they got as far as they did recording "Under The Gun", but it ended up they did not get the record deal. So, to make a long story short, Ronny Keel actually did re-record that song himself when he had Matt join the band. So that song almost got picked up by SKYNARD, re-recorded by Keel, but never released. That song has got a lot of history. But, getting back to Damond Jiniya. That guy, he really made the song. Damond put his heart into it & he brought that song alive with his passion & his vocals. Just a little of enough grit in it just to make that song ... he brought it alive. Even when Ronny covered the vocals, he just didn't ... he did a great job, but nobody has come close to what Damond did to that song.

AJ: He doesn't dominate any of the songs on Under The Gun. He lets them take him somewhere vocally.

TROY: Absolutely, that's right.

AJ: That's really what you want. Actually, I think, Troy, listening to the album, it is really a group project. You gave these guys this platform & they let it envelope them.

TROY: Absolutely.

AJ: They didn't come in & say 'I'm Jon Oliva & I'm going to play this way.' No, he worked within what you gave him & is inspired by it. It really is MONTGOMERY GUN PRODUCTIONS, not the Troy Allen Montgomery album.

TROY: It was a group effort & everybody played a very serious part in it. Everybody was mutually important. Everybody did their parts. Like I said, they brought the song alive. I don't know anybody that can sing that song better than Damond. Anybody alive out there now.

TOM: You're a good team builder, Troy, that's why it all came together that way.

TROY: Thank you, Tommy.

AJ: I have someone else here on the line, guys. We'll expand the table settings here. Hello, caller, who do I have here?

CALLER (DAMOND JINIYA): This is Damond Jiniya.

AJ: Oh, my goodness!

TROY: Hey, Damond.

DAMOND: Hey, buddy, how you doing?

TOM: Hey, Damond.

DAMOND: What's going on, guys?

TROY: I was just telling about your killer vocals.

DAMOND: Wow, it was really cool. I turned the podcast on right at the end of it. It was really cool to hear Matt.

TROY: Yeah, he was perfect on that.

DAMOND: It just sounded amazing, you know.

AJ: Damond, it is a pleasure to have you on here. The former voice of SAVATAGE, the former voice of DIET OF WORMS & now playing in the Tampa area of Florida with your own cover band RETRIBUTION. Damond, thank you so much for joining us this evening. It is a pleasure to finally get to hear your voice after you & I have chit-chatted on e-mail.

DAMOND: Oh, yeah, definitely. I was glad I was able to give you guys a call tonight. We were actually booked to play. The venue turned country, so we were kinda out of a gig. Which is no problem, but we don't play predominantly country. We do a little bit more, you know ...

TOM: Gotta get the REBEL PRIDE BAND.

AJ: We've got someone here, Damond, who can take that slot. Sorry, Tommy, you missed the gig tonight. Damond, before we go any further, let's make a mention of RETRIBUTION. Would you mind giving a little plug or sharing about your current music?

DAMOND: Sure, RETRIBUTION started about 2 years ago as basically a cover band working to try to, you know, work as a musician. It's kinda tough to be a songwriter & make a lot of money. So, I went in & started doing covers. I developed a really good repertoire with my guitar player & we became a really good songwriting team. For the last year & a half we've been working on an original record that we're kinda putting the finishing touches on.

AJ: Excellent. I know you guys are booked with gigs through the end of the year, so you guys are playing a lot, too.

DAMOND: Yeah, we've been really blessed. We added Shawn Lowrey, our drummer, whose in CARNIVAL OF CRUE. He's a real good asset to the band. He's real diverse. We try to play a little bit of everything. You know, it's a broad audience, from heavy metal to country. We even do "Rockin' Robin'" & "Unchained Melody" in there somewhere.

AJ: Excellent. Well, Damond, Tommy Spittle & Troy were telling earlier about recording Under The Gun in Tommy's garage & Troy detailed the creation of this project a little bit. Meeting up with you & later with Jon Oliva & Matt LaPorte. Can you share some of your memories & thoughts on Under The Gun?

DAMOND: Oh, yeah. I was living at DIET OF WORMS studio, which was basically a house that was made into a studio by myself & our guitar player. It was basically for our band & then our guitar player went on to get outside clients & started working with Troy. I was asleep one day & I got up & walked into the studio & met Troy & Matt. They were working on a really good song. It was "Illusion/Fantasy". It was really cool. As Troy may have mentioned, it was very TESLA-ish.

AJ: Yes, he did.

DAMOND: & one of the greatest guitar solos in any song I've ever heard. I'm a big JANE'S ADDICTION fan & it kinda reminded me of something Dave Navarro would have written on some of the earlier stuff. A really interesting mix of blues, funk & soul, rock & psychedelica. So, I was really interested. I was kinda offered the gig. My guitarist had mentioned that I sing & I hit it off with Troy & he asked me to sing, you know, to demo the record. Of course, I loved it, so I took him up on it. It was a great experience. We worked really well, Troy & myself, at putting out that song pretty quickly. It just came together. Then "Under The Gun" came after & it was also a ... it didn't really take very long, so I guess it's good when it doesn't take very long to accomplish. Some people go into the studio & it takes them a year to write a good song. While Troy was able to accomplish a lot ... Troy & Matt both, were able to accomplish a lot in a very short amount of time. I mean, that was really rare ... as far as my professional dealings.

AJ: Damond, as I said, most of us know you not necessarily from DIET OF WORMS, but with your time with SAVATAGE, which is a particular type of prog metal singing. I've heard a little bit of RETRIBUTION, which is also rock. But, here you are with Troy working with what he's created, which has a bit more of a country outlaw element. It rocks, but as he was telling us earlier, it was a song written with LYNYRD SKYNYRD in mind. As a vocalist coming at this project ... for someone like me who knows you for a particular style ... do you have any thoughts on this?

DAMOND: My mom [Maureen O'Connor] was a singer & she was basically a country western singer. I grew up in Nashville. My earliest experiences were ... I was 4 years old when I got on the stage to join her & from that point on it was love. I sang in her show. I was this little kid act. I would get into talent contests. I sang with unknowns that became super stars, like Randy Travis, John Michael Montgomery. They were hosting like open jam nights or talent contests that I had entered. So, that was really my background, older country. When I met Troy it just seemed like a good fit. I'm very diverse in everything I like, but my heart is really in country music. I love it. Nothing makes me feel better than when I'm listening to Patsy Cline or Hank Williams or something like that. That really touches a unique deep spot in my soul.

AJ: Fascinating to hear you say that. Tommy, Troy, Damond, let me pose a question to each of you. You've each played a different role in the creation of this album over many years. Let me ask, starting with you, Troy, what has been the biggest challenge that you've dealt with in this project? The same question to all of you.

TROY: The biggest challenge in this project?

AJ: Or, maybe not challenge, but the growing moment, we could say. Whichever is easier for you.

TROY: The album came together really well, though everything is about time & money, you know. We've got the time but not the money, or the money not the time. So, they both became a challenge sometimes, but that was some of the biggest things I was up against. & working with guys that are such a stellar talent as Damond & Jon. You know, Jon being a very important man & a very busy guy, working on TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA projects writing their music, writing his own album, plus working with me. Jon was working on 3 albums in one year at one time & the next year he went on to work on another JON OLIVA'S PAIN album. Basically, the biggest challenge I found was trying to get studio time booked that was good for me, good for the studio & open for Jon & guys like Damond, because sometimes I had to work around their schedules, being blessed & lucky enough to work with these guys. It came together good, but Jon was probably the challenging one, being the busiest guy, probably. That was my biggest challenge. How about you, Tommy?

TOM: Same thing, it always is for Time Management Tommy. I passed it off to Matt & introduced you to Matt, simply because I was just so overwhelmed with things going on in my life. That's one big regret that I have, that I didn't have more time to help you out with it.

AJ: Damond?

DAMOND: I was lucky, because, you know, I kinda came in as a hired guy, so I didn't have to experience the labor of love of the whole songwriting process & Troy was very easy to work with. I guess logistically it was location. I had moved back to Nashville in 2003 & Troy came up to Nashville to finish tracking with me up there & then when I came back down to Florida to track he had booked time. He worked with me a lot, so there were no challenges for me because Troy was very accommodating to my schedule & everything that I had going on.

AJ: Damond, of the stuff that you sang on the album, outside of "Under The Gun", do you have a favorite song or one that as a vocalist that you really got into?

DAMOND: "When The Heart Breaks". Yeah, that was my favorite.

AJ: Why?

DAMOND: There were a couple songs that we demoed at my house & it was after not a lot of sleep, a lot of work, & I kinda worked on it at 4 o'clock in the morning with Troy. He gave me the melody & I was tired & I was raspy. It was just like blah. My voice was shot. With this melody that he had given me it just came out so emotional, without intention, you know, I wasn't trying to intentionally be emotional. His melody was so beautiful with the raspiness that it was just kinda like chocolate & peanut butter or something. It just kinda worked.

AJ: I have to tell you, Damond, it's fascinating. I'm a little shocked that this is the song you'd choose. It's probably my favorite on the album.

DAMOND: Oh, cool.

AJ: When Troy first sent me the album & I was listening on headphones. I stopped that track mid-way, pulled off the headphones, turned on the speakers, turned to my roommate & said 'We are going to listen to this new album, because I've gotten through half the song & I'm loving it & have to share.' It's funny, because you said this was the song that came in that maybe less than perfect moment, but yet is the one that really drove home.

DAMOND: Troy was very smart to put that at the beginning of the album because it really does hook you. Everybody I've played it for says that they like it. It just grabs you, whether you like country or not, it's got something to it & it takes you on a journey, you know.

AJ: It's interesting you saying that. I had the opportunity to interview vocalist Graham Bonnet of RAINBOW & I played my favorite song by him. He told me that was the song he only recorded once, because as soon as it was over he passed out as he was as drunk as a skunk singing it. Yet, it's the song that everyone says is one of his best. So, it's ironic that here you are an artist preparing your voice & keeping it good, yet it's that 4 am recording session when you're barely awake that turns into that gold nugget.

DAMOND: Oh yeah. You know emotion is better than performance sometimes.

AJ: Guys, I just want to say before I forget, thank you all for joining me tonight & sharing this experience. It means a lot to me.

TROY: Thank you so much, Aaron, for having us.

AJ: This album was a near decade long project. Troy, when you look back on this on this project, what are your overall feelings about this journey?

TROY: I'll tell you. We took a couple years recording it & about 11 years to get it out & for sale. Basically, I'm just glad finally ... I kinda dropped the ball on it. I tried shopping it. We just recorded it to be demos, basically to sell in Nashville. Well, after the industry took a dive & record companies were going out of business & Napster & all these downloads & stuff, it was just so hard to sell. So, I kinda just let it go in limbo. Finally I said, 'We've just got some great stuff here. There's a couple really good songs here. We're just gonna take this demo out & print it & sell it as an album.' So, it was never intended to be an album. But, finally, I just did it. I shot for it & there you go, we got it. Glad I did.

AJ: Taking what you just said, this is really an expensive demo, you could say.

TROY: Absolutely.

AJ: With that in mind, going back, if you had known when you did it that it would be an album, would you have done things differently? If this was intended to be an album not demos?

TROY: The only thing I would have done differently maybe ... We kinda rushed through some of them. Some of the ones that Jon did the singing. A couple of them we probably could have cut the vocals a little better. But, he still did a great job, of course, but I think we could have gone back on a couple songs & fixed them up a little better. Made them a little prettier, so to speak. They still turned out well, but like I say, even though we spent a ton of money & time it was a demo. If I was just making an album I'd probably spend a little more production on the thing. That's about it, really. That's all I can say.

AJ: Tommy, this is a project that started as a bunch of guys getting together in your garage. I don't know what your garage looks like but I'm sure its like everybody else's ...

TOM: Little.

AJ: Exactly. Now, here it is, 11 years later. Your brother, your friend, your fellow musician & artist, is now presenting something to the world. What is your response?

TOM: Hey, if I'd known he was going to take it this seriously then, I would have taken it more seriously then. But, I was in other projects & I kept telling him I was too busy & now I really regret it because it came out great. It's a great album. Damond, you sound awesome. Just great songs. It was a good project.

AJ: Damond, the majority of the tracks on the album are your vocals. It's a stellar project to have on your resume, but again it was something you did a few years ago & here we are sharing what are demo tracks under the guise of a real album. When you listen to yourself singing what goes through your head?

DAMOND: Good times, you know. I had a really good time working with Troy & Matt as well. Matt was just a beaming ball of light. I would literally do a lot of these sessions, since I lived at the studio. From the time I woke up I would come in & do sessions, all sleepy-eyed & I hadn't had my coffee yet or whatever. Within 5 minutes of hanging out with Troy & Matt I was laughing & joking & in a great mood. So, it just brings back feelings of joy & elation & happiness.

AJ: Matt was a great guitar player who passed away this past year. Jon Oliva once called him the only guitarist who could replace his belated brother Criss, the two of them founding SAVATAGE & Jon basically leaving when Criss died. Troy, let's give a moment to Matt. Can you tell me the story you wrote to me. You are actually responsible for Matt getting into Jon's band JON OLIVA'S PAIN, where he would become well known.

TROY: Matt never knew Jon when I worked with Matt. He knew who he was, but he was not working with Jon. Basically, through our network of guys, I'm working with Jon & he obviously got to hear Matt's work with me & he was so impressed. That later led to Jon bringing Matt aboard. Basically, for those that know the story, he really loved his brother Criss. After all these years, the only one who ever filled the shoes of Criss Oliva was Matt LaPorte. When Matt passed away it was hard on everybody. It was hard on Jon, because Jon had felt like he had finally grasped a replacement or as close as he could get to his brother. It was a tragic loss.

AJ: Criss's death through Jon into a tizzy & a downward spiral into different addictions as he found his band moving out of his hands into those of producer of Paul O'Neill. Though, the irony is that from this tragedy eventually SAVATAGE would morph into TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, which would become more successful. Damond, did you record all your vocals after the music was laid down?

DAMOND: Nope. The first few tracks were being re-recorded at DIET OF WORMS studios, so I was there during a lot of the early process.

TROY: The beginning.

DAMOND: I know a lot of it was re-recorded later, but I got to be around for a lot of the early performances. Like, one of the songs on the album, "Grey Rider", I was there in the studio while Matt was playing that. It astounded me to see his fingers & the solo. I don't think I had ever, even with all the professional people I had worked with, seen anybody play that well & have so much emotion in their fingers. The solo at the end of that song is another incredible solo. There's so many solos on the album. I just remember coming in there & seeing him play that & I was just completely blown away. Incredible.

AJ: Damond, you've mentioned this a few times & I know what this is, but just for those who don't, you talk about the DIET OF WORMS studio. That's named after a musical outing of yours. Can you clarify what DIET OF WORMS is?

DAMOND: DIET OF WORMS was actually based on Martin Luther & it goes back to the 17th century Germany. Basically he protested the Catholic Church. There's nothing remotely religious about the Diet Of Worms, but it was an interesting notion of rebellion & rebelling something that was the status quo. That's kinda where DIET OF WORMS spawned from.

AJ: It a studio & the band you were in.

DAMOND: You always remember it. 'Diet of worms, that's gross.' It was an electronic band, kinda conceptual. I was writing a lot at the time. Trying to work on the great American novel, you know. When we were doing the recording process, especially for our second album The Aquarius, we brought in a lot of the science-fiction I was writing at the time. It's kinda weird, now with everything kinda happening in the world, I sorta ... you know they always say science-fiction becomes science fact ... last year we toyed with the notion of revamping The Aquarius, Aquarius II for 2012 as that was one of the mentions in the story that was written in like 1997. A lot of similarities to things that were going on. It was kinda geeky stuff at the time, but now it's all sort of coming true.

AJ: The irony of it. Here you mention you have this electronica outing, you did heavy metal with SAVATAGE, I also know you auditioned for the TV show Rockstar: INXS. You were a finalist for that even though you decided it wasn't your cup of tea. You've done now some outlaw country rock & here you are with RETRIBUTION doing 80's rock & heavy metal. There's probably others, so excuse me if I haven't mentioned other things. & I know you're also a writer & a poet. How do you see the music of Damond Jiniya the vocalist? How do you see his career? His output?

DAMOND: I don't look at it as a career, but as a life's body of work. To kinda make it a career is to sort of make it final, I guess, & put something on it that almost cages it. In the end you're only remembered for what you create & I hope to create a lot of different things for a lot of different people, because you never know whose going to listen to it.

AJ: That's an excellent response. That's a perfect response. I'm not implying that you have topped your bottle any. I hope you will share with me your new music & we can continue this story someday.

DAMOND: Absolutely.

AJ: Let me just ask in closing. Is there anything we haven't hit on that you'd like to share?

TOM: Back in the time that Troy started that CD I missed out on it & I regret it, but I was making my own CD at the time, so check out REBEL PRIDE BAND. A shameless personal plug.

AJ: I'll add that if one youtubes REBEL PRIDE there's a few videos of you up there live. A great southern country rock band that draws from the classic rock repertoire, really, playing a classic rock style.

TOM: Yup, we kept it alive.

AJ: There's not enough people doing that. Damond, anything else that I've not asked about or you'd like to share?

DAMOND: RETRIBUTION is playing in Tampa, Florida! Come & check us out. We play all the weird music that people may nor or may want to hear. We also have a duo called NAKED BEACH, that's just kinda what it sounds like - stripped down. We don't get naked. We strip the music down & just play it acoustic.

AJ: Troy, anything you'd like to share?

TROY: Once again, I just want to thank Damond & Tommy both & all the guys involved in my project. Pick up a copy. Not only did we have Matt LaPorte, but gotta remember Greg Marchak is a killer musician, who also played guitar, who passed away. So, there are 2 musicians on that album who were just awesome, stellar & they have both passed away. So there is some amazing work on that album that can't be repeated again. I encourage everybody to get a copy of that. I thank Damond & Tommy for doing such a great job helping with with my album.

TOM: Our pleasure.

DAMOND: No problem. It was a pleasure.

AJ: How does Troy Montgomery of 2011 compare to Troy Montgomery rocking out in Tommy's garage? How have you changed?

TROY: I'll put it this way - a lot of experience. I've lived through so much growth in the 11 years. When I started out I couldn't play a guitar. Now I can play a guitar. I'm not a great guitar player by no means, but I can pick up a guitar & play about 20 songs. & I've been in the management business. Managed REBEL PRIDE. Managed to get them on CMT [Country Music Television] & did a show called The Biggest Redneck Wedding Ever. It's as redneck as it sounds. We always talked how we'd love to get REBEL PRIDE on CMT & we did. Whether it was 2 minutes or 3 minutes we made national TV & that was our goal our whole time. So, we hit it. The short time we got didn't matter, as we hit our goal. I did a lot of learning & a lot of growing, Aaron. I learned a lot from my fellow musicians. I'd love to do another album. This time it would be pretty much outlaw southern rock, which is pretty much what's on my mind. I've got all my lyrics wrote. Just trying to keep my mouth shut as much as possible & my ears & eyes open. I'm sure we all grew together, but these guys have a career in this stuff & I didn't even get involved in recording until I hit late 30's. I'm glad I finally picked up on it.

AJ: Thanks, man. I'm going to let you all head out now, but just want to say a big thank you for joining me tonight. Troy, if I had the time I'd just play the album over & over on the air from front to back.

DAMOND: He's a great writer.

AJ: It's just really great & we've really barely been able to touch upon it in our time together. There's so much more we could talk about. Just to have you with me, Troy, just for this little bit I thank you so much. If there's anymore I can do for you don't hesitate to ask. Tommy, thank you for calling in.

TOM: Thank you, Aaron.

AJ: I really appreciate having your point of view here of this guy who was just jamming, you know, with his buddy. I rarely get that point of view in an interview. I've listened to REBEL PRIDE on youtube & I look forward to hearing more.

TOM: I want to make one more plug, speaking of youtube videos. Make sure you check out the video that goes with "Illusion/Fantasy" from Under The Gun. That's a good rock video right there.

AJ: That's a video that features 2 things. Damond on vocals & lots of sexy women.

DAMOND: It's one sexy woman.

AJ: It's just one?

DAMOND: It's one sexy woman in a lot of different outfits. To create the illusion & fantasy of a lot of different women.