In Conversation with Bluesdoodles
Fabrizio Grossi Talking About Music Friends and Californisoul
BD: I was delighted when Mascot Label Group sent me a review copy of your new album Californisoul and the opportunity to find out you the band, influences and lots more. Before we talk about Californisoul and the band lets rewind to your early days
BD: What were your first musical influences growing up in Italy?
FG: My Family was not a musical family. Not much excitement musically in Italy in the late 60’s/early 70’s. Italy was traumatized due to the lost years due to terrorism. The bands I liked did not come to Italy so had to travel to France or Switzerland to see rock music live. My Mum did like music on the radio. The first 45 rpm record I was given two music records Beatles Ob La Di and Rolling Stones the kind of music being played on the radio. I have always been attracted to black music, I couldn’t understand the words as I had no English but felt it I was exposed to the music and did not realise that until recently. My Biological Mum died when I was ten and went to live with an Aunt. My Mum did love music and that was where I was first exposed to guitar driven music. I was into the Beatles they are still my favourite band. There are a bunch of other bands that I love especially English Bands like Pink Floyd, T. Rex; and Procol Harum. When I first heard AC/DC and Queen it was like WOW! It was a shock I remember. I also loved old style black music and Motown like Marvin Gaye. I came to the UK in 1993, it was common for children to stay with family, the older cousins took me to Castle Donington it was my first encounter with a large festival seeing Whitesnake with Bernie Marsden. It was amazing I was moved as the whole park was muddy and loud then the change in atmosphere with Ain’t No Love in the Heart of The City as we all became chilled. It was a supreme moment. The first seed was planted that I wanted to be a musician. It was the impact of how one song changed the mood of thousands of people a few months later I saw the last concert of Queen played in Madrid. I walked out I knew what I wanted to be.
BD: What made you decide on the playing the Bass guitar?
FG: I started off playing the guitar when in junior high in Milan. My Uncle wanted me to play the piano. The guys on T.V were playing the guitars all the kids wanted to play the guitar. I moved back to Milan in high school I played in a couple of bands with friends. Most of us wanted to play the guitar. I had a cheap electric guitar to keep up with my friends. I was the worst guitar player so they said you should play bass. I was told it was like a guitar but with only 4 strings. I gave up the guitar, I was getting ahead playing the bass.
BD: How would you define the Blues yourself and the Supersonic Blues Machine?
FG: Wow! That is a question! Firstly, blues is a style of music, an attitude with a legacy. Artists playing the blues have to be present in the music putting in a sense of the history, blues man is not because you play the guitar. Blues is real music from the heart express music as a documentary of a story; it is a state of mind. Blues is American and is the Yin to Country music Yang. Both out of the same place in the USA country for white folk and blues for black folk. Blues allows for great interaction on an artistic level. Blues are the cultural lament of black people up to the fifties and sixties. With the rise of the civil rights, movement times changed. I feel that at the end of the day we are all human feeling the same things, want better relationships, whatever our birth, race or heritage. Blues has spread to a wider audience with the British explosion, Brian Jones, Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Greg Allman and others a hundred years since the inception the blues is being played, Blues is music being played from the heart.
BD: At the heart of Supersonic Blues Machine is a trio yourself, Lance Lopez and Kenny Aronoff. How did you get together? On this and your debut album, you had guests what is the deciding factor in choosing them?
FG: We are part of a music community full of musicians who are friends. We did not want to be restricted by the ‘boss’ to be more open. We have played at festivals including Hells Fest and Ramblin’ Man. Many people buy tickets a year in advance they go for a day or more to be surrounded by good people, friends and good music the festivals have established their credentials as the place to go and hear some bad-ass music. The principle behind the band is we will be touring playing like a jam band from ‘70’s playing the music we liked. Played through 1996/97 and then 2001 birth of my daughter, I wanted to be around so she remembered she had a Dad. Being on the road was not for me and started to do lots of studio work. Kenny and I became good friends in the studio playing together continuing the jamming experience. I was really busy with the band Starbreakers, and working with Toto one of the best bands around, Steve Vai and more which is why in music we are one big family of friends. Then Billy Gibbons called me one night asked me what I was doing as he was in town. He had an idea for a song which we are trying to put together for a whiskey commercial I have a great idea for a song and would like to co-write it with me so I said Yes! End of the day working together we had the song Running Whiskey from our first record. Then Billy’s manager called some good and bad news. Good news can clear the song but bad news can’t use for the advert. So we needed to find a home for this song – write more songs and start a band and that is what I did and Supersonic talked with Warren Haynes after the show. So said Gibbons was involved and Warren said yea what is going on. So explained looking to play very loose as the end ‘60’s troubadour. Sounds fantastic count me in and here was the second recruit… So the musicians involved kept evolving so it was a group of friends that wanted to get involved. The core of the band is the three of us with the guests’ involvement very casual, the aim to create exciting music. The first album West Of Flushing South Of Frisco, I was surprised how well it was received, we were delighted with the album created interest and a buzz. The project involves lots of friends, so we cannot do as many live shows when we do they are fun. The idea is to have a Grateful Dead approach adding our friends to play some of their songs as well. What we want is people to experience a fun vibe a fresh approach free and not so structured.
BD: The title of your latest album Californisoul is interesting how did it come about? And is there any particular meaning to the word you have created?
FG: California is not just a State of USA. California is an attitude state of mind, a way of life, a sound and feel. A philosophy living California Style. The album is capturing the music we grew up on in the ‘60’s & ‘70’s. Mama & Papa’s, Janis Joplin, Santana. Jimi Hendrix, BB King etc… played on the radio. The big blues, soul sound of the past all that music surrounding the summer of love is tangible throughout the Cali spirit/soul. Radio had a big impact as always driving around the state everyone embraces that feel. We are like a family both Robben Ford and Steve Lukather are from California Lots of the songs came out of my vault some that didn’t make West Of Flushing they were all looking for a common thread a Californisoul was the place they belonged. The songs, lyrics and sound of the late sixties & seventies are still applicable for today. Standards have not moved forward despite lots of technology humanity has not moved forward, we still have the same issues wars, not Vietnam but around the world, problems with racism, poverty, social problems and ecological disasters. So the name is capturing the sound and philosophy we are addressing.
BD: I have always been interested in the lyrics of a song. Californisoul Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting?
FG: Songs are important it is why we like these songs. It is essential to produce real art, real music, real lyrics found in all the best art/culture and movies the times dictate the issues that art is addressing.
When I write I don’t have an inner alarm clock the songs come to me from other lyrics, experiences and improvising with friends. Many of the tracks have been sitting waiting for this album. The album embraces message from back in the day those being delivered by Bob Marley/John Lennon. Pretty much wanted to record an album that was the ideal soundtrack for a road trip. The lyrics and the melodies as very natural and organic and pull out what we want to capture on Californisoul.
BD: I am sure you have many plans for 2018 and beyond for the band do you plan to tour UK and Europe?
FG: We are planning to do shows in 2018. Whenever we have the opportunity to take Supersonic Blues Machine out we will. Playing live is fun and we love to jam and create the vibe that is fun for audiences.
Album Review of Claifornisoul HERE