Saturday, 12 April 2014

Alberto Rigoni - Without Compromises

When I reviewed Alberto Rigoni's album, Rebirth, I was impressed with the emotions and melodic feel of the entire project. I could tell that Rigoni is a man who hears music on many different levels, and that putting those sounds together in beautiful and creative ways is most important to him. He makes music his way. Without compromises.

TR: In terms of the bass, Rebirth is very well-rounded and rich with melodies and harmonies.

AR: Well, I think that melody, even if basic, is one of my points of strength. The other one is the extreme variety of the tunes.

TR: Do you hear all the different voices in your head when you write the songs, or do the harmonies come along after a very basic starting point?

AR: It depends. Sometimes I have in my mind all the voices, and sometimes harmonies come along after a basic starting point. I have to say that it very often happens that I listen to a drum loop and I play over it. After finding the right groove, I play some melodies over that, and if they sound good, well, the tune is almost done. Those melodies sometimes turn into vocals, sometimes remain as instrumental parts.

TR: Rebirth is also a very emotional album.

AR: Thanks! I think that’s pretty emotional, as well. I wrote this album during a hard time of my life, that fortunately had a good ending. That’s why I called the album Rebirth.

TR: Is there one song from the album that touches you more than the others?

AR: If I’m forced to choose the one song that touches me most, it’s probably the title track, “Rebirth”. It starts with a dark mood, very melancholic and then turns into a radiant song.

TR: Some folks are too shy to reveal their feelings out loud, but become very honest and expressive when they compose. Is this you, or are you expressive verbally as well as musically?

AR: Music is a great way to communicate our feelings, but in my case, I think I’m pretty expressive verbally as well. I’m not very shy.

TR: How has your music evolved with time?

AR: Compared to Rebirth, my debut solo album, Something Different, was more experimental. I used a lot of effects and drum loops; therefore, I think that Rebirth is maybe more mature and complete, and in any case different than the previous, even if you can definitely hear my tone/style.

In Rebirth there are no drum loops. Just real drummers this time - Gavin Harrison and John Macaluso. That makes a big difference in terms of overall sound and level of the music!

TR: Tell us about the other musicians on Rebirth.

AR: The first guest I hooked up was Gavin Harrison. I was not sure he was interested, but it was worth trying, so I contacted him. He said, "Yes, I could be interested if I like the song and I feel it.”

"Wow! That's a great chance,” I thought. A couple of hours after reading his email I took the bass in my hand and started composing the tune called "Free."

The day after, I met the guitarist Tommy Ermolli from TwinSpirits and we recorded some guitar tracks. Then I sent the tune to Gavin. I didn't write any drums score and I left all the parts up to him. Some days later he sent me back the tracks. They were amazing!! His drum playing and parts were stunning. Never heard something like that!! No way, Gavin is definitely the best!!

As the last step, Federico Solazzo recorded some great keyboards tracks.

Some months later I contacted John Macaluso, I’ve always been amazed by his playing, in particular on Ark’s album, Burn the Sun. He is a great drummer and a nice person. We met in Italy during his Italian clinic tour and we played together the song, Ontogeny.

TR: And the guest bassists?

AR: Bassists Michael Manring and Yves Carbonne. My idols! Their playing is unique. I was sure that their tone was going to give a great contribution to the tunes. On “A New Soul,” Michael Manring played a part that originally I thought as a vocal part. If you hear the result you can understand why I asked him to play. On “Rebirth,” I left up to Yves Carbonne the fretless part. He played exactly what I had in mind without asking him to play a specific written part.

Other guests - not as famous as the previous but amazing musicians: guitarists Tommy Ermolli (TwinSpirits), Simone Mularoni (DGM), singer Jonas Erixon (Alicate), keyboard players Federico Solazzo, Andrea Pavanello (Centrica), Emanuele Casali (DGM) and Filippo Lui.

TR: How open are you to the visions of those you work with? Are you a collaborative person, or do you strive to stick to your specific impression of each song as it was conceived?

AR: I think I’m pretty open mind to other people’s visions. I generally leave up to the guests their parts, even if sometime some parts need to be played exactly as I wrote them. I didn’t invite guests for their name. I wanted them for their tone, music personality and ideas. Leaving them free to do what they feel is the best way to get the best result in my opinion.

TR: About the Rebirth album cover. What is the meaning of the man with the roots and the inverted wings? Who came up with the idea?

AR: The artwork was made by the Italian graphic designer Davide Guidoni. I saw that image in his portfolio and I thought it was going to fit perfectly the Rebirth album concept. It has a dark mood that I like. I think that when humans are suffering and feel lost they can find themselves in nature. That’s why the roots.

TR: Let's talk gear. What basses are you playing? Amps, etc. Give us the lowdown.

AR: Rebirth was almost recorded with a six-string Elrick Bass, Gold Series. Robert Elrick makes high-end handcrafted instruments with their own tone - very focused on the notes. A couple of tunes were recorded also with an F Bass BN6. And recently I moved to Dingwall Bass guitars. Stunning!

TR: A lot of Thunder Row members love the Dingwall.

AR: Dingwall basses are multi-scale instruments that use the Novax Fanned Fret System. The tone is unbelievable! They have a 37” scale, low B string that sounds deep and clear at the same time. Also a 34” that sounds great! That system allows a perfect balance between all the strings and also a great tuning since each string has his own scale. Great balanced tone across the strings and across the fretboard.

TR: How are they to play?

AR: Many bass players ask me if it’s difficult to play fanned fret system. Well, the first time I saw a Dingwall was in a picture and I had the same question in my mind. I was really intrigued by those basses and I really wanted to try them. Unfortunately at that time there was not an Italian distributor so I had to buy one without trying it and…surprise! As soon as I got it I felt immediately at home. I got used to it in 5 minutes. Maybe if you play a lot of chords in the high registers of the fretboard it’s a bit challenging and you’ll need to practice. I have to say that I don’t play many complex chords.

TR: Amps.

AR: I use Aguilar Amplification. I own the Ag 500 dual channel head and the DB410. I really like Aguilar tone, warm and punchy! I’ve also just added to my rig the new Tone Hammer 500 head and the SL 112 cab - ultra light but powerful products. I’m tired of heavy stuff.

TR: And the strings? Other trimmings?

AR: Ernie Ball Slinky strings; HipShot bass Xtender, to drop from B to A; Evidence Audio Cables - Lyric HG for studio sessions and The Forte for live shows; Comfort Strapp; Sonuus b2M and i2M - bass to MIDI converters - very useful for capturing ideas and scoring parts; Peterson Strobo Tuners - StroboSoft, Stomp Classic and StroboRack.

TR: Is there a bass you don’t have that you would really like to get your hands on?

AR: I’m very, very happy with the Dingwall bass but of course there are many other basses I like. For example, I love the look of some Ritter basses, made in Germany by Jens Ritter. Have you ever seen the Jupiter model?

TR: We did a report on it - the Eye of Horus.

AR: That’s crazy!! That’s something I would like to get my hands on!

TR: Which bass players do you admire?

AR: I really love Michael Manring’s music, I’ve always been inspired by him! I’m honored that he joined my new album as special guest. Also I really like Randy Coven. He is a bass virtuoso well know in metal/rock music scene. I suggest you to hear his playing on Ark's “Burn the Sun.”

TR: I’ll add him to my list. Thanks! Always looking for great bass music.

AR: His playing really inspired me!

TR: Who’d you like to jam with - anybody, not just bassists?

AR: Good question! To be honest I’m not that kind of musician who likes to jam. Weird? Yep, maybe…

TR: Are you a self-taught musician?

AR: Yes, I am.

TR: How long have you been playing?

AR: I started playing when I was 16 years old. Now I’m 30. I just had some lessons with a friend of mine who is a great player, but after that I continued by myself. Almost learning and playing songs that I liked.

TR: The bass. What brought you to this powerful instrument?

AR: A friend of mine introduced me to Dream Theater and I fell in love with them. I was amazed by their songs, especially “A Change of Seasons,” and “Learning to Leave,” where the bass riffs are very complex and interesting. So I decided that I wanted to play Dream Theater songs. The first one I learned was “Erotomania.” Not fast but pretty complex due the continuous time changes.

TR: What was your first bass?

AR: Mmm, I think that my first bass was a used jazz style four-string bass. Can’t remember the brand. About three or four months after the purchase, I moved to a six-string bass! The first one was a Samick fretted, I played it for one year and then I made it fretless. Then I moved to Yamaha. And then, well I’ve tried many, many different basses.

TR: How did you feel when you first held a bass in your hands?

AR: The first time I had a bass in my hands I thought, “that’s cool, that’s my instrument!” But at the same time I felt that I had to practice a lot because I don’t have big hands and I had to stretch a lot!

TR: When you first started to play and realised you were improving, how did it make you feel?

AR: When I realized I could play Dream Theater’s “Erotomania” I felt so happy that I started immediately learning more complex songs - the YtseJam, Metropolis, ACOS.

TR: Do you play any other instruments?

AR: Nope.

TR: Was there a lot of music in your childhood/family?

AR: Not really. My father listens to classical music but no one in my family was a musician. The weird thing is that when I was five years old I had some piano lessons but I didn’t like them! And then I started playing bass when I was pretty older!

TR: Who did you listen to coming up? Who were your childhood musical influences?

AR: When I was young I listened to Genesis, Duran Duran and in general to the music of the 80’s - rock as well.

TR: How much of your success comes from your fellow Italians and how much comes from overseas? Do your albums sell more at home or abroad?

AR: My albums sell more abroad. I think that the reason is that in Italy people like to download illegally instead of buying CDs and supporting artists. Anyway my aim is just to make good music. I don’t care about sales.

TR: Have you performed in North America?

AR: Unfortunately not yet, but I hope I’ll do soon!

TR: Do you support yourself solely through music?

AR: Well, I’m also a lawyer.

TR: Oh! I never knew that. What kind of law?

AR: I'm a business lawyer, I offer legal advice on all aspects of company life and activities. In particular: distribution law - resale network, franchising systems, agency agreements, etc. Also information technology law - software license agreements, computer contracts, outsourcing agreements, and privacy law - mergers and acquisitions; corporate governance etc.

The music business is a big issue these days, in Italy more than in other countries I think. Being a lawyer allows me to play my own music without compromises, and I’m happy with that!

TR: Which do you prefer - performing in public or recording in a studio?

AR: Both!

TR: Why?

AR: Different feelings. When I perform live I can feel a great energy coming from the other musicians, especially from the drummers. Playing on stage is a unique sensation! While when I record in a studio I’m more focused into writing process and sound quality. I love to hear the final result of the sessions!

TR: What are your goals as a bass player?

AR: My aim is to write good music!

TR: Who are you listening to right now on your cd player/mp3 player?

AR: After reading the Dave Mustaine biography I’m listening to a lot of Megadeth! I was listening to them when I was seventeen. Back to the past! I really like also Nickelback!

TR: Any new projects in the works?

AR: I’m going to release Lady & the BASS - first album - very soon! We’ve just recorded a new video clip that is currently being produced. Together with Italian bassist Simone Vignola, we are working on new tunes for The BASStards project.

TR: Any words of advice for students just starting out on the bass?

AR: I suggest to start playing the songs you really love. It’s easier to learn something that you like. That’s what I did and I’m happy with that! But after that try to find your own tone and style. That’s important! Unless you are very happy playing song covers!

TR: Thank you, Alberto.

AR: Ciao!

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