INTERVIEW: Fabrizio Grossi of Soul Garage Experience

Fabrizio Grossi has previously drifted through the I Heart Guitar transom via his work in Supersonic Blues Machine, an all-star powerhouse trio with Kenny Aronoff and Kris Barras. Now, with a little bit of pandemic downtime on his hands, Fabrizio has stepped into the spotlight with Soul Garage Experience, a funky, groovy, addictively uplifting outfit who has just birthed the album Counterfeited Blues (for the Soulstice), out September 10.



Peter: 
This this feels like music I’m gonna enjoy over the summer. I’ve interviewed Kenny Aronoff about Supersonic Blues Machine and I was aware of what you’re up to, but this new project is really you kind of striking out on your own, right?
Fabrizio: Yeah. Actually Kenny plays on a couple of tracks on the record. These are some songs that we already had down for a few years, like older songs. Some are songs that I took from the batch that was preparing for the new Supersonic Blues Machine record that I din’t think would fit it no more, for what we’re trying to do, and they sounded more like what I would do. And then some other stuff was written during the pandemic. So, um, I, you know, I think it was about time for me to do this cause I wanted to get more busy. It looks like a busy year next year for Supersonic in terms of touring when we have a new record coming out and all of it.
Fabrizio: But because of the nature of that band and my life, the last five years, six years of my life were dedicated fully to that and I had to set a lot of my production work aside. So I wanted to have another output where whenever I was not able to go out with Supersonic because of the dynamic of that band; everything needs to be planned very well in advance with Supersonic. Well, I wanted to get something that was a little bit easier to handle for the daily tasks. In other words, I would say Supersonic is like Sunday shoes. You know, it’s like your church dress, whereas this is more like your sneakers which are very, very comfortable and which is what you will probably will wear the most of the time.
Peter: You know what, I love the name too, because it’s very evocative. I mean, I want to hang out at the Soul Garage, right?
Fabrizio: Yeah. I will say that has a very hip-hop approach to it because I see it not only as the name of this band of musicians that is playing with me on this thing, but also it’s the name of the studio and the production company; a lot of the stuff that we’re doing is falling under the name Soul Garage Experience, because what we bring with the band, it’s an experience. It’s not just a band at the end of the day, it’s like, this is like my baby but I can not go on stage alone, and I have a bunch of friends that I’m playing along with who also bring their own thing. So it’s a very community-oriented type of type of situation.
Everything that I’ve been sent, it’s always very uplifting. I’m really incredibly humble and appreciative of that response. So I guess it gives me hope that my agent can secure some spots across the planet and especially in your land. I always wanted to come and play Australia! So agents and promoters, if you are there, if you’re listening, Soul Garage Experience will love to come and play in Australia!
Peter: So you mentioned some of this was written during the pandemic.
Fabrizio: So basically the old COVID-19 screwed up everything completely and basically turned the whole thing in an utter clusterfuck. However, I’m a Buddhist, so I believe that behind every wall, there is an opportunity to go even higher. And I see this as an opportunity to do things. I mean, it gave me the opportunity to finish something that otherwise probably was going to get shelved again, because something else would have to take over in terms of priority. And it probably also gave me lot more time to reflect. I mean, at least on a personal level.
So like now that it’s like where they say ‘You don’t know what you got until it’s gone,’ well now, you can’t travel. I have friends, family, and people that I’m very close to all over the world. I’m not kidding. You know, I’m not trying to exaggerate, I’m saying all over the world. So knowing that maybe this summer I’m going to end up in Israel after all and see all my people over there, or this winter going to Brazil. And you just take it for granted and especially for us as musicians, that’s your thing, the thing that you fought all your life for and you cannot do it any more because of this situation.
It makes you really appreciate what we were doing before. I’ve been talking to a lot of friends of mine that have had the opportunity and the blessing to be able to go out and tour right now this summer and they do not approach this as they did before. In other words, they’re way more appreciative and humbled every single time they able to set foot on the stage. So I think those are the good things, but people lost businesses, houses, and being musicians means we do not have the income of records no more because nobody buys records …and the streaming it’s like, you know, pennies on the dollar. No, it’s panties on the dollar, and when you remove your panties, generally you tend to get screwed!
So basically live and merch are the only two things that really allow musicians to make a living. I don’t want to get into a music business masterclass, but it’s quite complicated and not everyone was able to receive the necessary support to face this catastrophe. And I really feel bad for them because it’s just not right. At the end of the day, everybody enjoys music, everybody enjoys concerts, getting together over a particular song or particular movie. But then again with this pandemic, all of a sudden we’re considered not essential no more. Okay, cool. We’re not essential. How about I’m going to shut off the radio and the TV, you know, you can have your news if you want, shut off any movies and entertainment stuff, and the radio, and any source of music for the 2, 3, 4 months that you’re going to be in lockdown, then you’re going to tell me how crazy you’re going to go. And then you tell me if we’re not important.
Peter: Yeah, it’s like ‘Well enjoy spending time with your brain, morons!’. So let’s talk about equipment because I’m a big nerd. I’ve seen you with some cool Ibanez Soundgears.
Fabrizio: I’m an Ibanez man! I never had an instrument in my life that’s so easy to play. It plays by itself. It’s like it shouldn’t be legal. It has its own Ibanez electronics and pickup, and it sounds fantastic. It even has possibly too many options for me! I mean, I understand they make these instruments for everybody, so you need to make everybody happy from the salsa player to the metal guy. But I’d just be well enough off with volume, tone and pick up selector. But I will say that I can dial a bunch of different things and I can get close to a lot of different sounds, in terms of to adjust for different songs, like you will do in a pop session. And I use a bunch of pedals all the time. I never really go clean. My main pedal is the MarkBass Compressore, which is probably one of the best compressors ever made, to a point where I finally convinced Marco, the owner of MarkBass, to make it like studio version, because I used it often on mixes.You don’t hear it but you feel it. And then I have a bunch of different pedals like an old SansAmp which I used to use that back in the days when we were still recording on tape. I sometimes re-amp tracks through that. Sometimes I create a parallel circuit that gives it enough additional bite.I always use sounds and effects and all that. I do not like bass straight from the instrument to the mixer. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s a fantastic sound for a lot of things, but not for me.

https://youtu.be/bNidpxoycn4

Peter: Yeah. Now I’ve got to ask: you play with one of my all-time favorite drrummers, Stephen Perkins from Jane’s Addiction and Porno For Pyros. What’s it like to lock in with that guy? He has such a cool sound to me.
Fabrizio: I think Stephen is probably the most creative drummer I’ve ever played with. He is very spontaneous. It’s funny because often when he sets up his stuff, it devolves into these jazz rhythms and stuff, but not like what most people think in terms of jazz fusion: I mean almost like a Gene Krupa kind of vibe. I told him if he was not a drummer in a rock band, or probably in his past life, he was a saxophone player in a jazz band from the 30s or 40s.
But also Perkins likes soul music and especially the real trippy stuff. And he’s a major Fela Kuti fan – Fela Kuti obviously being the genius that he was, the black Frank Zappa before Frank Zappa. It has those kinds of elements with Perkins when he sits behind the drums. And the fact that he plays barefoot I think is looking for the most organic approach with his instrument.
Peter: Awesome. Well, thanks so much for your time. This has been a really fun chat and I love the music. And like I said, it’s going to be the soundtrack to my summer.
Fabrizio: Thank you so much. I really, really, really, really appreciate it. Uh, and I’m glad that there is more and more people that like this, and especially in Australia where I really hope I can go and play with the band!
Peter: Yeah, we need all the good, fun, danceable, uplifting music we can get right now.
Fabrizio: Great. Well, thank you so much again, appreciate it.

INTERVIEW: Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor

Photo by Travis Shinn

Photo by Travis Shinn

If you look in the current issue of Mixdown Magazine you’ll find my interview with Stone Sour’s Corey Taylor about the band’s new album, Hydrograd (released today). We had a great chat about the band’s incredible new album Hydrograd. But we talked about a lot more than could be fit into that article, so I thought you’d like to see some other highlights from the interview.

I Heart Guitar: One moment in the single Fabuless really made me laugh: the ‘motherfucker’ in the chorus. I have a running joke where I insert unnecessary motherfuckers in songs that really don’t deserve it. Steely Dan or the Beach Boys or something. 

Corey Taylor: [Laughs] Thats funny because I do that all the time when I’m in my car, singing. I’m always adding an unnecessary motherfucker to what I’m singing along to, where it just needs a little more, y’know? I mean I’m sure they would have gotten to the motherfucker eventually but they were too busy with the notes, so people like you and me provide the motherfucker for them.

That song is so eclectic. How did it come together? 

That song came together from Tooch (guitarist Christian Martucci) and Roy (Magora, drums) jamming together. It was one of those songs where when we heard the demo we were like ‘Holy shit.’ It took a little arranging because it was all in different spots – it originally had a totally different feel to it – but the riffs themselves all had a great vibe. I took it and did my magic on it and worked it in with the lyrics that were going on in my head and different melodies and stuff, and it came together really quickly. It was a matter of arranging the puzzle so that the song fuckin’ figured itself out.

The first few times you listen to it you don’t quite know what could happen next. 

Exactly. And that’s the cool thing. I feel like a lot of music doesn’t have that feeling any more, and you can anticipate what the next part is. With a lot of bands you can almost write the fuckin’ next riff in your head before you’ve even heard the song all of the way through for the first time. With this song it keeps you guessing right up until the last minute.

HydrogradSo this is the first record written with Christian Martucci and Johnny Chow. 

Working with those two, honestly, was so effortless. The great thing is it all starts with us just getting along. Really getting along. We all hang out, we all love hanging out and talking shit and joking, and we’re all such dorks that it doesn’t really matter. So writing together is the same thing. We just love what we do so much that we get excited when we hear what we’re doing with the music.

How’s the spine coming along after your operation? Has it affected your range? I was thinking about how when Frank Zappa got pushed off the stage and broke his neck, and after he got rebuilt his voice got lower.

Yeah, that didn’t happen to me. It’s really only a physical thing for me. I’m slowly but surely starting to get my mobility back, and that’s even after a year. It’s been pretty crazy. But luckily I didn’t lose any of my range – actually I got some back because I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’m starting to get my range back because of that. God, if I’d know that would happen I’d have quit ten fuckin’ years ago. But I’m still in the process of rehabbing all that shit, and I’m slowing but surely getting my body back. It’s a fucking pain in the ass but I’m getting there.

I don’t think people realise how physical singing is – how much of your whole body goes into it. 

Oh yeah. You can lose your chops really easily. And not only lose your chops but you can let your talent go to fuckin’ shit, and it can take you years to get that shit back. About six years ago I started to really try to keep myself in shape as much as possible, and as long as it’s worth it you just keep trying, keep going for it.

What guitars are you using at the moment? 

On the road I have three guitars that I’m using, really. I have a 2008 Gibson Firebird that has a couple of Seymour Duncan pickups in it. It has a nice chunky edge to it and a really killer clean tone. Those guitars have a great clean tone. I also have a 1987 Gibson SG out with me that smells like the dude who owned it chain-smoked around it for about 45 years! It’s got the colour, but unfortunately it’s also got the smell, so I named it Keith. So I’ve got that out with me and I’ll probably bring that down with me to Australia when we get down there. And I’ve also got a Framus and I’m thinking about working some magic with those guys. I actually have a Stevie Salas Idolmaker model that I’m using right now and they’re fuckin’ pretty dope, dude. I wanna have them use that base and make a custom for me but give it more of a hollowbody vibe, and put a couple of humbuckers in it and see what happens. I think that could be really fuckin’ cool, because it plays amazingly. It’s got such fuckin’ chunk to it. It’s really great. So those three I’m kinda rotating through, just feeling them out every night.

INTERVIEW: Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares

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The mighty Fear Factory is touring Australia this June in support of their latest album Genexus, but this tour has a twist: fans have been invited to submit songs for the setlist. It’s a cool opportunity to hear some less-common tracks and to feel like even more a part of the show than the typical Fear Factory fan frenzy allows. Last week I caught up with riffmaster Dino Cazares to chat about the tour and, of course, guitars.

So you’re letting fans have a say in the setlist. Read More …

INTERVIEW: The Peep Tempel

Peep Tempel

Word on the street is that when Mariachi El Bronx – the alter ego of The Bronx, natch – asked for the best Australian garage band to support them on their recent Aussie tour, there was really only one option: The Peep Tempel.​ Known for their no-fuss approach, catchy songwriting, animated vocal delivery and sweetass guitar work, their sound is immediately identifiable as Australian but with that indefinable thing that transcends geography and makes them a contender for “Aussie band who can make it overseas” rather than “Aussie band who never gets a break.” They’re currently wrapping up an Australian tour (check out current and future dates here) and I caught up with guitarist/vocalist Blake Scott to geek out about guitar.  Read More …

INTERVIEW: Jeff Hughell

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By Daniel Gonzalez

For 20 years, Jeff Hughell has quietly been gaining recognition as one of today’s most innovative bass players.  Equipped with his custom made 7-string bass guitar, Hughell’s arsenal of technique and chops can cover a range of genres stretching from death metal to jazz.  Here we sit down with Jeff to discuss his debut LP, Chaos Labyrinth, how it all started, and some future plans.   Read More …

INTERVIEW: Ace Frehley

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Ace Frehley. Just the mere mention of his name is enough to send a jolt through the veins of those with even a passing knowledge of KISStory. Whether you subscribe to the mythology of ‘Space Ace’ being a visitor from the planet Jendel or you tend to go with the less colourful version of the story (he’s from the Bronx), Ace represents a certain combination of earthiness and exoticness. In his days with KISS his iconic Spaceman character brought comic book mystique to established guitar hero tropes. His post-KISS career has seen him explore material that’s generally a little more ‘street,’ with more overt nods to his bluesier inspirations. But that doesn’t mean Ace is averse to an occasional trip back to his home planet: last year he released Space Invader, a self-produced album of mostly original tracks along with a very Ace-ian cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” which enjoyed a #9 debut on the Billboard 200 charts – the only time a solo album by any past or present KISS member has hit the US top 10. And Ace returns to Australia in April and May with his triple-pickup Les Pauls in tow. Tickets here. Read More …

INTERVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen

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Yngwie Malmsteen is the undisputed master of neoclassical guitar. Other players like Richie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth had explored elements of the style but none pushed it to quite the extremes that Yngwie did. A million guitarists arose in his wake to try to copy what he was doing but none have managed to capture Yngwie’s pure power and dazzling technique. As Yngwie himself puts it when discussing the various Yngwie clones who sprung up over the years, “And that’s why I call myself Yngwie J Malmsteen, not to be confused with all the other Yngwie Malmsteens.” And Yngwie will hit Australia in June for his first concert tour since 2006 (tickets here). Read More …

INTERVIEW: DragonForce’s Herman Li & Sam Totman

The mighty DragonForce have always brought the epic energy, triumphant power-metal riffage, anthemic choruses and intense shred to their work, but what makes their new album Maximum Overload stand out a little from the rest of their catalog is their willingness to step outside of their established sound just far enough to keep it fresh. Vocalist Marc Hudson has well and truly settled in now (he joined prior to the recording of previous album The Power Within, and Trivium’s Matt Heafy contributes his vocal power to three tracks as well. And for the first time DragonForce have worked with an outside producer, Jens Bogren, who has also produced, mixed or mastered the likes of Soilwork, Symphony X, Pain of Salvation, James LaBrie, Devin Townsend. Throw it all together and you have Dragonforce’s biggest-sounding album yet. Read More …