Friday, October 5, 2012

The Martian Contact: An Interview with Angel Vivaldi

I find that the instrumental music styles have become quite popular now, especially in the hard rock/heavy metal area.  What I don't see too often though is young stand alone musicians (such as Jeff Loomis, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, etc) coming out of the woodwork.

While conducting my interview with Tommy Vext, I started to dive into the band members he has for his project.  Angel Vivaldi is collaborating in many projects (such as VEXT), but also has an outstanding original project in the works, simply titled "Angel Vivaldi".

Angel has been working on his solo material for years now, as is continuously making more of an impact now that he has some high production videos being released ("A Martian Winter", and "A Mercurian Summer").

“If people don’t like instrumental music, I’m here to make them like it.” – Angel Vivaldi

"In today’s music scene where countless bands are effortlessly duplicated, Angel Vivaldi stands out as a cutting edge and unprecedented up-and-coming artist. His blend of spell-binding guitar anthems, tasteful yet virtuosic playing and engaging song arrangements have captured the ears of many who would have never given instrumental music a listen.

Angel’s debut album, 'Revelations,' gained him enough notoriety to land him a spot as lead guitarist for Black Market Hero, (post-40 Below Summer/FLAW). After 2 years, he parted ways with the band to focus on his second release, 'The Speed of Dark,' which was released in 2010.

Now on his third release titled 'Universal Language,' (May 2011) the Ibanez endorsee is focused more than ever to catapult guitar instrumental music back into the world of metal and hard rock. He recently recruited ex-Mutiny Within (Roadrunner Records) drummer Bill Fore to complete his lineup of master live musicians including Jason Tarantino and Jake Skylyr." -Inner Light Agency

Like I stated previously before, Angel has some amazing material currently circulating around the internet as well as retail stores, which you are encouraged to pick up a copy.  Here is some information about his two latest releases ("The Speed of Dark" and "Universal Language").  Both albums have won me over time and time again and personally looking forward to what he comes up with next.

"Universal Language" (Released on May 27, 2011):

1. A Venutian Spring
2. A Mercurian Summer
3. An Erisian Autumn
4. A Martian Winter

Purchase via Amazon or iTunes.

"The greatest success of 'Universal Language' is that it plays like a neo-virtuoso album should - with some added flair (e.g. the synth intro to 'A Venutian Spring' and the dubstep parts in 'A Mercurian Summer'). It is not merely written; rather, it is composed for musical effect. And it delivers. The main issues holding this release back are few, but fairly important. Unfortunately, there are a few moments in tracks such as 'A Venutian Spring' where the drumming becomes overly technical and its positioning in the mix (at the top, just below the lead guitar) can be detracting from the experience. Simultaneously, the album's bass work by member Jake Skylyr is sometimes too simple and all too often drowned out by it's extremely low position in the mix or by the B-string abuse of Angel Vivaldi and rhythm guitarist Jason Tarantino. Finally, while a great release, Universal Language still only clocks in at 16.8 minutes.

Are these huge problems? No, not at all, but if they can be corrected and if Vivaldi can extend his run time to full-length while maintaining the sheer passion heard on this album for the next release, he'll have his plaque cemented on the walls of that neo-virtuoso hall of fame. With a little more time, he may even give Tosin Abasi a run for his money at the top." -Sputnik Music


"The Speed of Dark" (Released on March 23, 2010):

1. An Angel's Poem On a Grave
2. Acid Reign
3. Sea of Heartbreak
4. The World Burning Around Me

Purchase via Amazon or iTunes

"Local guitar wiz Angel Vivaldi has a new CD out. It s an EP called The Speed Of Dark. All I have to say is Bravo, Angel! Bravo! I think that when I first featured Angel Vivaldi, I called him a modern day Joe Satriani, but after hearing tracks like Acid Reign and As The Sky Lay Burning, I d have to start calling him the metal Satriani on steroids! This kid is good and he's starting to make a name for himself on the scene. Besides being a solo act, he is also played guitar for With Daggers Drawn and now he is tearing it up with Black Market Hero featuring Max Illidge.  Angel is young, but what a future ahead of him! Thank you Steve Bello for introducing me to this new guitar hero!" -Tim Louie (Amazon)

OK folks, if that wasn't enough for you then I got just the thing.  How about some Q&A time with Angel himself?  I got in touch with Angel a week or so ago to get some more in depth answers into his motivation, his goals, aspirations and drive.  He was more than willing to answer my long list of demands (haha).  So without further delay, AFGM brings you some exclusive photos of Angel as well as a great interview.

Angel, where did the initial inspiration come for wanting to pick up and guitar and start playing?

People may find this a little surprising, however it was all thanks to Nirvana. I didn't really hear "the call" until I was about 12 years old. I had accidentally left the TV on in my room while on my way out one day. I ran back inside to turn it off and "Smells like Teen Spirit" came on… might've been on "The Box" (old TV channel where people paid $2 to have their video requests played). I knew from that moment on that I wanted to play guitar and write songs. Never dreamt of being an instrumental guitar player, though. That just kind of happened naturally without any outside influence of instrumental music. I didn’t even know the genre existed until a neighbor showed me Eric Johnson and Malmsteen some years later.

So did you have a childhood that supported you in your quest for making music?

No way man, (laughs). I had a severely difficult time getting any form support; it was rough. My family strongly discouraged the type of music I listen to as well as the idea of me playing guitar. I was the only one to pursue an instrument let alone listen to heavy music. Luckily, I convinced my best friend at the time to give me this severely abused acoustic he had sitting in his basement. It was THE crappiest acoustic guitar humanly imaginable. It was cracked in three places and the strings were heavily corroded. I managed to make due until my uncle purchased me an Ibanez few years later.  It wasn’t until I joined an actual band and started performing live that my family began supporting what I did.

OK, so lets dive into some music questions here.  Do feel you have more flexibility and/or freedom working as a solo artist versus a band?

I'm confident that most solo artists will agree in saying that there's more freedom in doing their own thing. It's purpose is usually to experiment or to break away from something that they consider conventional. It’s also very liberating being able to work at your own pace without any outside pressure.

For instance in Vext, there's somewhat of a conscious decision to make it more "commercially accessible," whereas with AV, I can record myself squeezing a ferret into a microphone if the mood strikes me. I can freely go from ballads like “Sea of Heartbreak,” to complicated & heavy tunes such as  “An Erisian Autumn.”

What made you want to stay instrumental, or 'InstruMetal' as you would put it? 

I really don't have much of a choice to be honest. I can't really sing and play all that well plus I'm not too good at translating what I am feeling into eloquent/intelligent wording. I'm a bit of a nutcase so I guess the best way I can express that is through a guitar melody… with a splash of chaos.

It's interesting to me when I hear that most people don’t "get" instrumental music or can't relate to it. I always felt that it speaks to people more deeply in a way. You're being told how to interpret any song that has vocals/lyrics. With instrumental music, that song can be about anything... a break-up, losing someone, canned ham, etc. Maybe guitar-oriented music isn't your cup of tea, but there are tons of different instrumental artists and genres out there that people can try instead.

So how did you come around to working with Tommy and VEXT?  Was it as simple as phone call?

It's actually an interesting series of events that lead us to working together. Tommy was the unfortunate victim of a near-death attack some years back. Our metal community came together and organized a concert to help raise funds for his medical bills; one of those bands was Mutiny Within. Once MW had gone on hiatus, AJ (bass) began working with Tommy for what would become Vext. Bill was asked to track the drums for the project through his relationship with AJ in Mutiny. Tommy came out to one of my solo performances in New York and seemed to really enjoy what I was doing.  We met up for a business dinner and that was that!

There seems to be some sort of familiarity with you and Bill Fore, as he works with you and also with VEXT.  Does he take part in the creativity of your solo work or basically plays what you write?  Do you guys have a history of playing music together or did it all just happen to fall into place?

My relationship with Bill started shortly after his split from Mutiny Within. I played guitar in Black Market Hero (40 below summer) which MW had opened up for a few times, so we were already aware of each other’s existence.  He shot me an email to introduce himself and see if there was any possibility of working together. I had already built a strong working relationship with my drummer at the time (James Borgese), so although I would’ve loved to have him play in AV I really wanted to stick it out with James. Bill was too good of a drummer to let get away, so we decided to start a side project with a few other musicians we knew.  

James bowed out of my lineup as the music got more and more challenging and in stepped Bill. Our working chemistry was too seamless not to ask him to join the fold at that point. I received 2 videos from Bill not 3 days later of him flawlessly executing some of the most complex drum rhythms I’ve ever written.

As far as writing, I usually give Bill a skeleton of what I have in mind for the songs. There are certain sections where I may need him to play exactly what I write,  (because either the guitar or bass depend on it). For the most part he takes what I give him and runs with it. He’s one of the few drummers that I’ve had who I completely trust to do what’s best for the song.

Where did you recruit Jason Tarantino and Jake Skylyr from?  What about these guys that made you want to hire them?

I met Jake through James since they were in a separate band together. Jake first stepped in 5 years ago as a secondary bassist because my former bassist was having some availability issues. I guess because of Jake & James’ previous working relationship, the band just locked in when we jammed together. Jake wound up stepping into the bass slot full-time and contributed some of the most amazing bass work I’ve seen a metal band incorporate. He was actually the first musician who I was comfortable enough with to write some of their own parts.  I’ve never met a musician who knows so much about so much, (laughs). The guy truly brings out the best in me musically.

Jason came into the fold 3 years ago via a MySpace bulletin I had posted looking for a guitarist. I figured he was just another noob who was interested, but man what I clicked on the video of him playing I was beyond surprised. His accuracy and precision was nothing like I had ever worked with before- I knew that this was the guy who would help take this lineup to the next level. The funny thing with Jason is that we literally lived around the corner from each other growing up and had no idea of each-other’s existence. We were even introduced to one another years before through mutual friends back in high school and nothing ever came of it.

"If people don't like instrumental music, I'm here to make them like it."  How do you plan to do such a feat?

I can really only do 2 things:

A) Write music that’s emotionally sincere/genuine and... 

B) Do something that’s a little different while still staying somewhat “accessible.” People these days are always looking for something new and different without venturing too far from what they’re used to hearing. I’ve always listened and jammed along to bands like Nirvana, old-Metallica, Megadeth etc. more so than traditional instrumentalists such as Satriani or Vai. Those song formulas stuck with me as I entered into the instrumental realm. I always felt that “guitar music” was too focus on the guitar showmanship instead of the song itself.

The closest instrumentalist I could find who moved me was Yngwie Malmsteen, but it still wasn’t the genre that I felt I had a voice in. So I searched and searched and couldn’t find an instrumentalist who blended hard rock/mainstream metal with their sound. I decided to try and write the music that I wanted to hear at the time and tada, here I am 9 years later. But now that the internet is more widely used, I can find tons of different instrumental guitarists who do that type of music.

Do you feel the online world has really helped you develop as a solo artist?  Do you feel you would still be able to be as independent as you are (writing, recording, distribution, etc) without the online world?

The internet helped me tremendously—wouldn’t be at this level without it. I think it has helped me musically develop by providing me with a wider platform to find different artists who have helped inspire me and to push my musical abilities. Not to mention it’s a hell of a learning tool. Back when I was first learning guitar, I had to learn a lot of those songs and solos by ear until guitar tablature got popular. I’m grateful for the experience because now I can translate most of what I hear in my head to the guitar.

Without the internet there would be no way to get my music to the masses. It’d be impossible… an instrumental metal guitar player getting distribution after the 80’s? Just wouldn’t happen, (laughs). I now have die-hard fans all over the world because of it and can even make some money out of my musical investment.

You seem to be all about just making music, which (I feel) some artists forget in the midst of seeking stardom. ("Thanks! People who get into the music industry for the money are doing it for the wrong reasons") Do you feel that this might contribute to the over saturation of genres such as metal?

I actually think that more kids are aware of what shape the industry is in but are in complete denial about it.  Most put focus on the bigger/more successful bands like Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage, Metallica etc. in order to keep their optimism about “making it” alive. They have to understand that these bands have been around way before shit got bad; they dashed underneath that door before it closed. Newer bands that “make it” are legitimately STRUGGLING.

The over saturation of metal is a combination of different things. Firstly, being able to find the exact type of music that will inspire you to pick up an instrument is a click away. With so many internet radio apps, forums, and “word of mouth” via social networking a young person has more of a chance to find “their calling.” Perfect example is what if I hadn’t left the TV on in my room that day and saw that Nirvana music video? What would have happened? Nowadays the opportunities to bump into something that will hit you like Nirvana hit me are much higher with all of these outlets.

Secondly, the amount of internet resources to learning an instrument, promoting/marketing yourself and making a great sounding musical product are available for everyone and at a relatively low cost. Home studios are growing like trees because they are so cheap, plus the steps to making great sounding music is free if you’re willing to do the research online.

Thirdly, for every 5 band members there are at least 3 side-projects. Thanks to the internet people can email track back/forth then throw their album up on iTunes.

There are good and bad sides to this. The good part is because of the over saturation, we have much more music out there for people to enjoy. The bad part is that the hardest working bands are the ones that get overlooked. It’s a balance.

Can you give some details on the production of the newest release "Universal Language"?  Where was it recorded?  Did you lay down all tracks or did members track their own instruments?  Who produced it?  Where did you look to for the album artwork?

It was produced by Will Putney at The Machine Shop in NJ. They’ve done countless bands such as Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, The Human Abstract etc. Putney really helped bring new life into what I was doing and I couldn't be happier with the end result. This was also the first time I had every member track their own parts in the studio. It relieved a lot of stress from my part and allowed me to invest my time into the business side of things. And yes, the drums are all real!

The artwork was done by Clay Cook over at Dirty Cheese Designs. I had worked with him on several occasions prior and enjoyed his work. I was incredibly hesitant in having a photo of myself on the front cover, but I felt Clay did a good job of tastefully incorporating me into his vision.

What software are you using for the creative/recording process for your music?

I was still using Garageband for its simplicity back before I entered the studio with Putney. He got me hooked on Logic Pro which was used to track Universal Language. I now use it at home for pre-production and song-writing. I learned the ropes while watching Will in action.

A Martian Winter is got to be one of my favourite videos on my playlist for quite some time now.  Can you tell us where it was filmed?  It was done by Stewart Films Inc ( correct?  Any special effects used during the filming or was it just really that cold there and covered in snow? haha

Glad you enjoyed it! Tony Stewart, (owner of Stewart films) & his team worked incredibly hard and delivered in my opinion one of the most unique videos I’ve seen as of late. I went through about 3 different video treatments before choosing this concept. Tony and I had thought of the possibility of doing CGI for the strong breaths/smoke, but ultimately it just wouldn’t have the same effect nor fit within my budget.

It was shot in a 5 degree freezer… if we stood in there any longer than we did I wouldn’t have had to pay for us to look like that, (laughs). I hired a fantastic special-effects artist named KC Jones who did a great job in making us look like we were all freezing to death. It was without a doubt the most challenging project I have ever encountered as a musician, needless to say painful. Those are the worst conditions to try and play an instrument.

What makes you hold Mattias Eklundh, Meet Me in St.Louis, Wintersun, Kaki King, Blotted Science, Carmen Miranda, Bjork, Hiromi, Ferry Corsten as your influences?  Is there a common theme between them or do they all carry different meaning to you?

They’re more inspirations rather than influences since you won’t really hear any similarities within my music or to one another. They’re all placed at different points in the vast musical spectrum but all have had a huge impact on me.

I really haven’t listened to much metal/hard rock since I was very young. Although my talents lie within the realm of heavy music, I just can’t listen to it much these days. It’s all too similar. I think I played heavy music out as a kid or something. Metal nowadays seems to blend together too much to decipher who is who.

OK, I ask this of everyone since my site doesn't necessarily buy into it.  Trolls and general negative attitudes.  How do you deal with it as an artist making it in this industry with negativity (not constructive criticism)?

I truly see them as a weed rooted from misery, boredom, jealousy, or envy that manifests itself into online verbal diarrhea.

Can we see Angel Vivaldi solo project on the road in the near future?

Hopefully… it’s incredibly difficult doing everything yourself on top of putting a tour together. I’m not sure if you’ll see a full blown tour, but you can maybe expect to see me branch out a little bit further. Touring is a very scary word for an unsigned instrumentalist. My band and I all have day jobs and lining everything up to tour is a big endeavor. As much as my heart pines to tour and to meet all these wonderful people who support me, I’m more than happy and thankful to be doing what I am doing now.

What's the next move for Angel in the music world?  Any big aspirations/goals you are looking to achieve in late 2012 or early 2013?

I’m almost finished writing the next AV release which will be called, “Away With Words.” As of right now it will feature 5 brand new songs. I’m toying with the idea of doing a full 10 song album, however it’s a costly project for 1 guy. I’m hoping to have it released sometime next year.

Any words of encouragement for aspiring musicians/bands out there making their way in the music world?

Today is the best and worst time to be a musician. Your competition is through the roof. In order to have longevity in this business, you need to do something that isn’t really being done. The more you imitate your influences or other bands that are popular, the more you hurt your chances to make a name for yourself and being heard. You’re essentially sharing your fan-base with hundreds of other bands that do exactly what you do. There’s no way to maintain those fans throughout a career spanning 10 or more years. I strongly believe that this will be the falling of many bands in the future. Fads die, kids… what’s popular today won’t be popular in a few years.

But you have the biggest advocate of your music on your side… technology!  Use it wisely and you’ll in turn be gifted with tons of fans who will follow you until the day you stop making music.

When not doing music, what other hobbies are you doing in your spare time?

The only way I’d have spare time would be if I somehow fit 36 hours in 1 day, (laughs). Between my day job, teaching guitar, writing music, & rehearsing, I don’t have time for much else. I’ve pretty much dedicated most of my life to music. You hit the nail on the head when you said it seems all I do is music-related. When I’m doing graphic artistry, it’s for my music. When I’m online it’s for my music and so on.

Give us a musician (and/or band) you'd want featured on a Vivaldi track?

Funny you mention this as it’s been a question on my mind as late. I have a section in a new song that I’d like for someone to guest solo on. Ideally, I’d love to have Mattias Eklundh on it. But aside from guitar players, I already had the opportunity to work with some of my favorite singers including Chris Clancy, Chris Barretto and Karlo Horvat in doing vocal renditions of Universal Language. These will be released one by one as time goes on; I’m very excited about it. I released the first vocal single titled “Sign of Life Inside” back in March.

If you got yourselves pick of the litter, can you name a band or two you'd love to tour with?

I’d love to tour with Dream Theater & Evergrey. That’d be a hell of a tour!

Side note (more rhetorical), you seem to be very appreciative of people who listen to your work and you seem to comment more than other artists.  So kudos to you for having that interaction with your fans!

I’m just grateful to actually have others who enjoy the music that I do. They’re the reason why I’ve achieved any level of success and no artist should take it for granted. 

I want to thank Angel for taking the time out of his schedule to handle these questions for the blog and I fully encourage you all to check him out, as he is one musician that should not be going ignored.  For more information on Angel and his ongoing projects, you can find him (checking frequently mind you) on any of his official websites:


1 comment:

  1. Angel is an inspiration to me as a solo artist and should be a model for all who have become successful before Angel's time. The amount of contact he has with this fans is moving. Even with the brevity of his and my conversations he has given me so much hope as a starving artist, in this black hole we call the music industry. May he continue to pull other aspiring artists from the event horizon and into the universe where there light can shine forever with his words of encouragement and his beautiful music.