10 Oct. 2014
Phoenix: Again, thank you for taking the time for this interview. First of all, congratulations on the upcoming release of your 4th solo album, “Overloaded.” How did you come up with the theme for this album?
Alberto Rigoni: First of all, thank you!! After the release of my third album Three Wise Monkeys in 2012, in October, I wrote down some riffs. That’s how generally all starts, from a bass riff. But I was a bit stressed after the release of the other album, so I preferred to leave the riffs there and take a rest.
Phoenix: So when these riffs come to you, do you record them right away so you don’t forget them so you can build on them later?
AR: Yes, exactly! Sometimes I record them with my iPhone if I’m away; sometimes in my studio.
Phoenix: So the inspiration might hit you anywhere…
AR: Absolutely!! Sometimes a riff comes to my mind and I don’t have the bass in my hands, so I sing it and record it with my iPhone. That’s actually what happened with the main theme of Overloaded. The melody on the chorus and the same melody of the intro song, What’s on your mind.
Phoenix: The wonders of technology today, which is also what “Overloaded” is about too. Technology can be a blessing and a curse; a double-edged sword.
AR: Well, technology is indeed a great thing, but I think that mobile phones changed too much our lives.
Phoenix: Yes, indeed they have.
AR: I guess you can see how many people stay at the same table but they are chatting via Facebook, etc. The problem as for many things is the abuse. Computer and mobiles phones allows to do many things at the same time if you do that all the time you get stressed and it’s alienating.
Phoenix: So you wanted to bring some awareness to this phenomenon in society. Alienating is a good word. In some ways it makes people more distant from each other rather than cherishing time face to face with them.
AR: Yes. Exactly what I think, that’s crazy. Well, actually the album is instrumental but I hope people can get the message through the album title and the songs.
Phoenix: Yes, I think that’s the powerful thing about it is that you don’t have “preachy” lyrics, but your intention seems to still shine through.
AR: But that’s how things are today. Sometimes music can tell more than lyrics.
Phoenix: Yes, the eventual morphing of societal norms. Very true, music is a language all its own. What is your personal favorite song from “Overloaded?” (if you have one)
AR: I think that Chron is the most crazy song of the album and well represents the overload. It’s full of odd time signatures and acid sounds.
Alberto’s playthrough of Chron:
Phoenix: True; it captures the essence of the theme of your album. You also have an impressive list of guest artists on your album(s). How do you decide who you would like to guest star on your recordings and how did you manage to recruit them to play with you?
AR: On January of 2013, I met Denis Novello. He lives 5km from my home and I never heard about him unless a friend introduced him to me. I was impressed by his playing and creativity so I asked him to start working on some tunes; the Overloaded song was ready written so we worked on that one. He found amazing riffs and I decided to record that song in studio. The result was great so we continued rehearsing the other tunes.
Denis Novello playing drums on “Ubick:”
Meanwhile, I was thinking about the guitar players. And I also decided I wanted only Italian musicians this time, so I contacted Marco Sfogli.
Phoenix: A great choice, I might add.
AR: I discovered him more than 10 years ago while surfing on the web! I found an mp3 of Marco playing Dream Theater’s The Glass Prison solo and I was amazed! Better than Petrucci.
We have been in touch for years but he was pretty busy so we did not have the chance to play together.
Phoenix: So he was finally available?
AR: Yes, and he recorded Overloaded – incredible rhythm tracks and solo!!!
Marco Sfogli playing on Overloaded:
Phoenix: He did a great job, and that’s wonderful that you were able to collaborate with him on this album.
AR: Yes!! Then I contacted Fabrizio Bicio Leo, well known in Italy, and he did a great job on Liberation – Love his playing. And then Simone Mularoni from DGM and Empyrios. We are friends since the Twinspirits era – he mixed the Twinspirits album. He is stunning, his playing reminds me the great Michael Romeo from Symphony X. He also mixed all the drums of the album, which sound impressive in my opinion.
Simone Mularoni playing on Ubick and Corruption:
And then we have Federico Solazzo, who played on Rebirth and Three Wise Monkeys. He is a genius, in IMHO, he has a great sense of melody, a great choice of sounds too. He also mixed the album. I’m honored to have them in my album it’s all MADE IN ITALY!
Phoenix: Well, Italy has no shortage of great musicians, that’s for sure. And you rounded up a great group to play with you, and help you with mixing. So, how do they contribute to your album….do you give them suggestions as to what you would like them to do, or do you let them creatively contribute based on what you give them to work with up front?
AR: Well, there are some “obliged” parts they have to follow, generally the rhythmic parts, which follow the bass, but then I leave up to them the solos and some arrangements so they can express their selves at the top.
Phoenix: So you have a mixed approach so that their contributions not only fit your musical idea, but they also have some creative freedom.
AR: Exactly! You got the point.
Phoenix: You definitely don’t shy away from being experimental with your bass, using harmonics, pedals, effects, etc. with your solo work. Talk about your exploratory approach you have in playing your bass and your process in deciding what to try next.
AR: Thanks. I love to try new sounds with bass. I have no rules except following my instinct. I also try to get catchy and simple melodies. That’s important; I don’t like prog stuffs with millions of parts and you can’t remember one.
Phoenix: Catchy is very important, then the song sticks in the listener’s head as well and easily comes to mind. Would you consider yourself a “gearhead,” especially since you have quite an arsenal of basses (including your new hybrid bass)?
AR: Actually, I’m not a collector of basses. If I don’t use them I sell them; I can’t keep them. I’m very satisfied of my signature bass by Alusonic. It’s quite innovative because it has an alder body with an aluminium top which gives clarity and a great attack on notes.
Phoenix: I see. How did you find the Alusonic bass and decide that you wanted them to make a custom model for you? Also, how did you decide on your custom specs?
AR: I “virtually” met Polly from Alusonic some years ago on the Italian bass forum MegaBass. He was going on a totally different direction with his aluminium instruments and I loved that. I appreciate [one] who looks for new stuff in particular in the bass world, so at the beginning of this year I got in touch with him and started discussing about this signature. We decided to make a simple, aggressive, elegant and versatile bass, and I think we got the result.
Check out Alberto’s hybrid Alusonic bass (and hear a little bit of Overloaded, among others):
Phoenix: That’s great. You found a fellow innovator like yourself who helped you realize your vision of what kind of instrument and sound you wanted, especially in the niche market of the bass world. So, who are your musical influences, and why did you choose bass as your primary instrument? Also, how would you describe your journey and growth as a bassist, especially as a solo bass player?
AR: My main influences come from progressive rock and metal genre. Dream Theater…love at first sight! When I listened for the first time to A Change of Seasons I felt in love with them and I decided to start playing bass in particular after listening to the ending part of Learning to Live Then I started listening to other bands such as Symphony X, Pain of Salvation, and then of course the classics, such as Genesis, Yes, etc., but I also listened to other bands like Police, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Mr. Big. From a bassistic point of view I’ve been influenced by the legendary Michael Manring, in particular by his album Thonk, which I highly recommend. Then the great Randy Coven from Ark he really changed my mind.
Phoenix: How did he change your mind?
AR: His playing is unique, like funky but in the progressive metal. Incredible, the use of fretless too.
Phoenix: All great influences with some fantastic bassists. And who you dedicated “Overloaded” to (Randy Coven).
AR: Yes, this album his dedicated to him. When I discovered he passed away, I was shocked and I immediately stopped the production of the album. I modified the credits and dedicated the album to him.
Phoenix: Wow. That was a shock to the community. A nice tribute to him to dedicate your album in his memory.
AR: He really deserved that. He was GREAT and will always influence my playing.
Phoenix: It’s always a loss, but one thing about music is that it lives on.
AR: Absolutely, and that’s great…
Phoenix: It’s nice to have a legacy behind that can be enjoyed for generations. Speaking of long-lived music across the generations, you are also part of a very exciting project coming up called The Vivaldi Metal Project. Here, you are bringing Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” to life with a metal twist. How did the idea for that project come about and how are you involved? Also, do you think there is a resurgence or trendiness with “metalizing” classical pieces due to the so-called neoclassical/symphonic metal genre now?
AR: Well, the mastermind behind VMP is Mistheria. He told me about that project and asked me to join as bassist. I accepted, of course, but also I proposed him to be his co-producer and he accepted. There’s a lot of work to do; many artists involved to manage is not easy. I think recordings will happen next year. Metalizing classical pieces is not really a new thing. Let’s see what happens.
Phoenix: It sounds exciting, but you definitely have your work cut out for you with your dual responsibilities. I am looking forward to this album! And again, “made in Italy” with Italians spearheading the project with a well-known Italian composer. Is that part of the reason why Vivaldi was chosen, being a fellow Italian, or just because of the value or popularity of “The Four Seasons” amongst musicians?
AR: Just because Mistheria loves it and I love it too. Artists featured will be from all over the world! And that’s another cool thing, even not well-known musicians, but very talented.
Phoenix: That’s wonderful to know it will be a global effort. A lot of coordination on your part, but it sounds like you have a great lineup to participate already. And maybe after this, all the talented musicians involved will have some recognition. This is definitely a project to keep on our radar. Aside from the VMP, you have also worked with other musical artists (Lady and the BASS, Kim Bingham, etc.). How do you like working on those projects outside of your solo work? Does it give you a balance?
AR: I enjoyed very much Lady and the BASS project. It’s a totally different genre, pop experimental. Irene Ermolli, the singer who’s also sister of Tommy Ermolli (Twinspirits guitarist), has a great voice, but now the project is over because she has no more time. Meanwhile, Kim Bingham hired me for live shows in Italy and I love her album. It’s pop rock, amazing – we are doing super funny shows and I love that. We opened for Alan Parsons too!
Phoenix: Sounds like a great time!
AR: Indeed, I love to play rock! Not just prog! Music is music, the importance is that is cool and that you enjoy playing it.
Phoenix: Definitely, it’s good not to pigeonhole yourself and spread your wings. And mostly, just have fun! What are some of your future musical dreams?
AR: Well, I would like to play more live, but that’s not easy today…that’s a big problem in Italy, but we must keep on fighting! Also, I have a new secret project. What I can say is that it will feature some greats bassists and drums only.
Phoenix: Oh, that sounds very cool. Looking forward to that project, especially bringing bass to the forefront.
AR: Oh, yeah. Colin Edwin from Porcupine Tree will be one of the bassists; Steve di Giorgio as well. We had no deadline yet, no hurry! No more overload.
Phoenix: Wow, sounds like a great start! Something to definitely take your time with, have fun with, and not stress out about. Will it be like a bass ensemble, or various bass solos by the different artists?
AR: Basically each bassist will compose a tune recording the rhythm, then the others will join adding their parts which could be arrangements, solos, melodies, effects. Some big names may be happen but not confirmed so I can’t tell…Finger crossed.
Phoenix: That sounds very cool. I’m sure that is a project people will look forward to hearing.
AR: I hope too; still not easy to manage all the artists, you know. Everyone is pretty busy so we don’t have a deadline. I care only about the result and there’s no hurry considering that I’ve just released a new album.
Phoenix: I hope it all comes together the way you would like. That is hard work to manage but it sounds like it will be worth the patience. Very true…it is good to spread things out.
AR: And in this overloaded world it’s better to keep things a bit slower.
Phoenix: Absolutely. You have to pace yourself. You have a lot of connections with many well – known musicians. But if you could play with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
AR: Mmmm, let me think. You mean an artist or a band?
Phoenix: It could be an individual or a group.
AR: This morning I would play with Nickelback live. Love their first albums, so powerful and amazing voice!
Phoenix: So if you had the chance, you would like to play with Nickelback?
AR: Today, yes; tomorrow maybe Megadeth or Steve Vai.
Phoenix: I understand. Your preferences and favorites can change daily. So, out of curiosity, if you could travel in a time machine, who would you love to play with from the past?
AR: If I could travel in a time machine, mmm, Queen with Freddy [Mercury] maybe?
Phoenix: That would definitely be a fun gig! So, with your experimental techniques and catalog of music that you’ve created, have you considered publishing an instructional book or DVD, or release tablature/notation books for your songs or albums?
AR: I thought about an instructional book or a DVD, but it would require a lot of time and I don’t think I will be able to manage that too. But I will release some tablatures on my website. (www.albertorigoni.net) The Chron track has been already transcribed by Ivan Carranza and will be available soon!
Phoenix: Yes, you definitely have your plate full! However, that is great that some songs will be available on your website for bassists to learn your music. Mr. Carranza definitely has his work cut out for him transcribing “Chron!” What advice would you give for aspiring (or even established) bassists?
AR: Be yourself! Follow your instinct and play what you really like! Play very straight on the click but try to be natural. You don’t have to play like a MIDI machine, we are humans! Focus on groove and melody not just on chops! Don’t look for success, which may be just a consequence. Try to make good music, first of all…
Phoenix: That’s very sound advice. As we wrap things up, you have the last word. What else would you like to say to our readers?
AR: Thanks for listening to my music, it’s because of you if I still release albums!
Phoenix: Great! Thank you so much, Alberto, for all the time you gave for this interview! Congratulations on your upcoming release, and I look forward to seeing what your future has in store! Grazie!