FFO: Hard Rock, Metal, Heavy Metal, Power Metal, Progressive
Melodic rock music fans may have noticed a common thread among some of the top genre releases in early 2020. New studio albums on the Frontiers Music SRL label from Jorn Lande (Heavy Rock Radio II), Revolution Saints (Rise) and Edge of Forever (Native Soul), as well as a new live album from Hardline (Life: Live), all feature musical or vocal contributions from Alessandro Del Vecchio.
Del Vecchio may not be a household name in the United States, but in Europe and among global rock musicians, his reputation precedes him. The 41-year-old Italian multi-instrumentalist and producer has been on a years-long creative streak, while keeping Frontiers at the upper echelon of hard rock in the past decade. As the long-running label’s in-house producer and jack of all trades, Del Vecchio has a hand in nearly all projects. In the last few years alone he has produced live albums for Quiet Riot, Mr. Big and L.A. Guns. In addition to the aforementioned groups, he has played or contributed to studio albums from many of his own projects, including Spirits of Fire (a supergroup featuring current and former members of Testament, Judas Priest and Fates Warning) and Place Vendome, which is fronted by legendary Helloween singer Michael Kiske.
The idea that one man is integral to all these groups and projects, in addition to a full slate of 2020 releases, should pique the interest of listeners. There are many links below; though the songs are in the hard rock and melodic metal genres, enthusiasts can easily hear the variances whether Del Vecchio is the singer or a player. The tunes are evenly mixed and pristine while packing a wallop.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, musicinterviewmagazine caught up with Del Vecchio to discuss his recent voluminous output, the intersection of music and business strategies, what is further in store for 2020 and to hear one of his heroes sing original lyrics.
An Interview with Alessandro Del Vecchio
What is your official position at Frontiers Music?
Alessandro Del Vecchio: Well, my official role is to be the in-house producer, so I am basically the first-call guy when it comes to productions that are in-house. I’m not the only one, but I’m the one that’s got the closest and more active collaborator. Also, because I mixed lots of records with Frontiers, I am also involved in the mastering. So basically I’m like Ted Templeman, back when he was at Warner Brothers Records. He [Templeman] was the guy that every band on that label was using because basically he was kind of giving the sound direction to the label. And he was matching what the market basically required.
How do you juggle all those projects and all those responsibilities?
I would say good scheduling is the basis. It all comes down to the fact that I kind of get bored doing only one thing and to be in just one environment. So I like to jump from here to there. And everything started because I always wanted to have a plan B. At first I said I’m going to be a musician. But, what if it doesn’t work? So I became a vocal coach. What if that doesn’t work? So I got to do this and that. Basically in the years of the plan B, I started to develop and define all the areas that were around music anyway. I’m very, very happy that in the end, these skills all get used in what I do every day. So I just try to schedule some time to write and record, especially during the touring season. I always have my tools with me. I’ve got a travel guitar to write with and my computer. I always I try to make my time very worthwhile. Let’s say that’s the fundamental law of the universe I’m in.
The Edge of Forever album Native Soul is great listening. Apparently the album and the band have a special place in your career.
Native Soul was recorded in April 2019 and Edge of Forever was my first band. They were the band that I started with and it helped me get my foot in the door of the melodic rock world back in 2004. That’s when our first record came out on MTM Music. And I mean, basically, that’s where I started as a songwriter and musician with the genre. MTM gave us the opportunity to have Bob Harris from Frank Zappa and Axe sing on those first two records. We wanted it to work. We wanted to do gigs and Bob [Harris] couldn’t do it. And back then I was already the songwriter and I said I’d give it a chance and be the singer. So I’m just not just singing on the demos. I sing on the record. So we did a record in 2010. But then my plan was to have Native Soul out in 2015.
The songs on Native Soul were gestating for quite a while.
When it comes to my records I learned to change and it totally shifted that paradigm. We waited for all members to have the right time to do it. And it was also a matter of being very conscious of the potential of the record. I had another lineup and kind of felt stuck in the band and not happy about the direction that I wanted it to have. That is like a marriage, you know. You end up staying years as part of the wrong couple. And time passes. You don’t realize all the time you’re losing. So basically, a one day I said no, it has to come out. And also Frontiers was waiting for the record. Meanwhile, all these other projects kept coming up.
As time passed basically I said okay by April 2019; I want to have the album done. I changed the lineup because I just didn’t want to have some guys. I wanted to have the best that I could have and close to home so that we could rehearse and be a band. That’s what I was missing and that’s why I changed the lineup and got Aldo Lonobile for guitar and Marco Di Salvia on drums.
Now that all the planning and waiting is over, how do you feel about the band now?
I remember when we finished the record. Everybody in the band and the label felt it was better than we originally thought it would be. Edge of Forever finally became what I envisioned, more like a metal band than just AOR. I didn’t want it to be the same thing that people expect from me. I wanted to be edgier and heavier. Maybe there’s a kind of a trademark that you can hear between all the records I’m on.
Everybody played so intensely that you can hear it on the record. I had a great sense of accomplishment because I had the record the way I wanted. The sound, the image and the whole vibe was exactly like a vision. And so, yes, Edge Of Forever is more than just a passionate project but obviously it’s not as big as Jorn or as Revolution Saints or as Hardline. I felt at the time that the hiatus was a curse but now it’s a blessing because in the end the record finally came out. I’m more confident as a as an artist, producer, singer and songwriter after all these years compared to ten years ago.
Do you start writing on piano or guitar?
Well, it can start on both instruments. I don’t have a rule. I’m not one of those writers who just writes songs. I wish I were. I’m the type who needs a commitment, as if we have to write ten songs in the next few weeks. I need a little pressure because that raises my necessity level. I just sit down and play whatever instrument. I have everything very close to me when I write. So if I have to shift from one instrument to the other, I just do it. And I always start from the chorus first. I mean, if it’s like a song, you know, like “Fever Dreams,” by Hardline. It started on the piano. That’s pretty obvious because the song starts on the piano. But songs like “Native Soul” came out from a guitar riff that I had. I think it’s kind of evident when you listen to the song.
But I normally do start from the melody. That’s something that many writers do. They start from like a little hook. I hear the whole thing in my head first. It starts from the music because I need the right music to mumble the right melody. But I typically start from the essential part of the song, like the chords and the hook. Generally, when I write the lyrics I always start from the hook, because that’s the central key of the story.
So when you work for somebody like Jorn Lande, a melodic metal singer with a stellar international following and reputation, does your songwriting dynamic change?
I’m glad you asked about Jorn because it’s a completely different way of working with him. We go back and forth with ideas. Next week we’re writing for the new record. So it’s like we work together in the studio. Generally he comes with an idea that we develop together. That also happened for Heavy Rock Radio II.
That’s a cover album. What was it like working on that album?
He [Jorn Lande] had a list of like 25 songs that he wanted to do. He came to the studio and we went back and forth. We tried different ideas. It’s more like an old school way of working. We are always together when we do things. I get to a 60 percent point alone and then Jorn comes to the studio and we finish it together and give it our approval. It is kind of old fashioned, but now it’s a habit and it’s the way that I like. It is a little more time consuming, but it’s the best way because it’s more like a there’s a collaboration and a human interaction while you work. Sometimes the role of a modern producer is a lonely job. But with Jorn, it’s so different. He is always coming to the studio and wants to be part of the thing. He’s got so many very strong ideas that it would be impossible to handle by phone or emails. So we just meet at the right time together in the studio.
It sounds like Jorn is a good collaborator.
He’s [Jorn] a band guy. He likes the team and he likes to know that there’s a very strong bond between the members. He’s not going to change producers just because there’s a new one in town that he likes. The human factor is essential. Before we started to work closer we had to get to know each other.
You have also written for another legendary metal voice, Michael Kiske, from Place Vendome. What was your experience like?
I didn’t work so closely with him, unfortunately. I don’t mean we didn’t get along, it just wasn’t so frequent. I think I wrote nine songs over the years. We just spoke through email about the songs we were working on. I didn’t work in the studio with him. But he was giving interviews about Close To The Sun, which came out in 2017. He kept mentioning a song that had a gospel atmosphere that he liked a lot, “Strong,” and that was one of mine. It was kind of surreal to be mentioned every time by him. I’m not star struck anymore, but from the point of view of a 15-year-old boy, oh yeah. I remember the first time Frontiers asked if I wanted to write for Kiske. I wrote six songs in like a week and every song Kiske gave the okay for every song. That was great. They have two to three singles from the Thunder In The Distance record. They were all songs of mine. To hear that voice and that sound on your song is kind of surreal.
What would you say to aspiring musicians first getting out there today?
Well, I think there’s no real formula than to just go out and play and get experience from any environment that is inspiring. I’ve been playing any kind of music and don’t let one occasion go. I always try everything. I auditioned for so many bands and played so many different styles. I’ve done many gigs, even in small local cover bands. I didn’t care. But that really gave me a more complete view. That’s my secret of being a musician in a band. Being a professional is tough, the way you handle all the band communication and relationships. And what’s needed to be a session player in the studio too. So I have to say that from my own experience, there’s nothing better than playing as much as you can, even just in a rehearsal room.
I do miss the old days of rehearsing every day. I see that a lot of the young musicians nowadays don’t rehearse anymore. They practice a lot, but they don’t play. As a result, they don’t create that magical thing not found in books. It’s the interplay and what happens in the space and time between two or three or four musicians.
What else can we expect from you this year?
As far as the ones I’m on, there’s the new Jorn record which will come out in 2021. We started in February 2020 and plan to deliver in December 2021, so that’s almost two years. We start writing the new Hardline record in April. Then there’s a new Resurrection Kings album coming out, too. There’s more but some of its secretive. Some are metal. And then there’s a pop album too, on another label.
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Justin Smulison is a professional content writer and producer whose first love is music. Smulison’s digital and print copywriting experience spans music, law, true crime, advertising and real estate, among other subjects. You can often find JS in Long Beach, New York, either running on the boardwalk or in the sand with his family.