After the usual hello, thank goodness zoom is working can hear and see you fine. A chat about the weather, Liz at Bluesdoodles based in the South Wales Valley on late summer day dry and warm. Whilst Fabrizio was in the very hot Los Angeles area. As he explained “over the weekend we had a couple of very explosive days. I live in Santa Clarita about 20 miles north of the studio in North Hollywood. It is quieter but we always have to try to get to the biggest city. It’s always the issue, especially in the morning. But these days, between the fires and everything else that is happening, it’s kind of traumatic. The fires that destroy all the plants, so there is no grip on the actual dirt and then it starts raining crazy and when it rains you have mudslides.”
Thank you for your time today I know how busy you are without the traumatic weather you are experiencing. I thought we’d go back and explore your career, because for some people or could be a significant number of people. Your name will not be known unless they’re the sort of person that reads the back of album sleeves.
Fab: You know, I think it’s also a generational thing. ’cause back then when I started playing music and everything, we knew everything of every single album we know from the recording engineer to the producer, the guitar player, the second guitar player, everybody. Even regular fans were up to that. Right now. I mean music fans. They don’t even know. Sometimes the name of the singer, unless it’s a solo singer that it’s singing the song that they like so it’s just like it’s a completely change of actually of system and back then. Obviously, you know, with records, it’s easy. To flip them around and scan through the credits and all of that. But I guess it’s a curiosity to. I mean, a lot of people don’t care, but back then the majority did, you know. BD: Do you think the popularity of streaming, people listening to a mix curated by an algorithm, not even by a person. Not like a DJ set. And then they just listen to it. And they’re not even inquisitive enough to go and check on their phone. Who the artist is? Fab: I have friends of mine or friends, I mean collaborators, their publicists and they work on, you know, not only on you know Blues, Rock, or Americana, or rock music or whatever it is I’m talking about. Even like regular pop stuff for artists that are being developed from those. TV shows some you know, American Got Talent and you know, American. Whatever it is, that’s those, the voice, whatever those things. And to the point where some of these artists are doing in-store appearances and the fans are showing up, they’re buying the CD or the record so they can get it autographed and they can take the photo. You know the snapshot you know with the artist, so take it and after that, in front of these stores, there’s a pile of CDs. Turn away they just they don’t even care about the record. They just keep the booklet because that’s the one that has the autograph, and they were able to take the foot off. So, it’s just different. I mean I’ve done for an artist back, back in the days of record was an asset right now is almost a liability. You know it’s a business card in terms of like the streaming and how the whole thing developed to be honest with you. I’m not against the actual streaming itself, ’cause the technology is brilliant. It’s quiet you know it’s fantastic. However, is the way. Once again, it’s being monetized at this advantage of the artist, but also, it’s being exploited just to move. On with a particular type of way for them to do business, and the type of advertisement they sell that completely desensitised everybody else. Back in the days I remember I used to do homework with the radio running, but even though I was taking care of my homework. Whether there was the DJ or whatever it is in between songs or between 3:00 or 4 songs, you were able still to. Catch a glimpse of what was going on, or a title or something. You know those things where those were part of the circulating information. Right now, the music is so disposable that you know it’s just like a little soundtrack from a video game or for a post or for anything like that. So unfortunately, the streaming didn’t help, but it’s not only the streaming fault. This is actually the way the music business. Didn’t really protect itself from, you know, being a prey of these, I don’t know. Predatory capitalism was handed to the developers of these technologies because it’s not only them I mean lost soul. Rick was right about Napster 20 years ago. Everybody thought that he was crazy that he was a spoiled rich kid, the drummer from Metallica and they just sold millions and millions of records. What you’re talking about? It’s not for me. I’m fine, I could stop working today if I wanted to, and that was 20 years ago. It’s everybody else that is gonna come. They’re gonna pay the consequences for this, and you guys are not doing anything, and it was absolutely right. Even here in the States, we have a lot of laws that protect copyright. That potentially, if implemented, would put a major stop to the old Spotify Pandora and all of that. The way. At least they run the payment to the monetization’s of their system, and they’re not implemented. It will take all major publishers, a lot of artists and a lot of other companies that might be affected by all this. To raise such a noise that at that point, Congress will have to listen to it and they will have to implement.
Basically, music has become an expensive hobby for people that can afford it!
You’ve collaborated with lots of musicians, haven’t you? From like, Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Warren Haynes to Steve Vai. Do you have any particular memories associated with your seemingly endless list?
Fab: I do and it will take a book to tell them all, which is probably something that I will do. I would say you know in general I love what they do because he gave me the chance to not only to hang out with some of these monsters that throughout time became friends, but also because every time you have the chance to work with somebody, you learn something, you pick up something, whether it’s the superstar or you know the latest of the independent artists. There is always something about that particular artist or band that adds to your vault of tricks or experiences. I would say in the overall the biggest artists that I recorded with or that I work with and fair enough for the majority are all guitar players, they’re very actually supportive in terms of like what we’re doing, and it was part more of the experience of recording in the studio, not only the technical end, but you know, sometimes when you work you develop like in those couple of days when you work on a song or a couple of weeks when you’re recording on a record, a special bond with the artist and you ended up being sharing a lot of things that are not necessarily related to the recording. Even in the middle of the song you’re about to do an overdub and like a little story comes up and those are from those are the things that, for me, are priceless. And are you know what really makes my job particular ’cause it’s not only recording and then mixing and doing that, it’s just you know, this particular thing makes life rich. I would say that some of the biggest lessons that I ever got possibly sound wise from Leslie West, confidence-wise from Steve Vai and Steve Lukather and in terms of like not be afraid of you know really go. I would, I do not even know the right adjective for this, but kind of like come from not flamboyance, but you need to have a little bit of weird wiring compared to the rest of the population, and that was actually Billy Gibbons, so there was about 17 years ago. In the first session that we did together when he said, Fabrizio, it’s like an Italian name right are you Italian? Yes, I was born in Milan. Why then can I detect this like New York thing when you talk? Well, I’m very conscious about my English. You know, I was. I never really study English at school. Took some lessons there in the UK and then came here and I learned how to speak with the band with the guys in the bands. I told Billy that I was really conscious and even wanted to sound like, you know, ignorant to anything like that, and Billy was like, well, I understand that. But you know what? How many Fabrizio’s do you know how do what you do here in town? Not many I know only Fabrizio the drummer from The Strokes which but other than that nobody. So why do you want to blend in when you can stick out? That was like, you know, and Gibbons does this to me all the time. You know whether we’re recording whatever it comes up with one of these sentences should be written in a book that is like philosophical at best. But actually that kind of like framed me from a lot of things and I kind of like really, I started to be a little bit more loose I would say on a few things, but then again Vai with the self-confidence and everything and all of that. Leslie West in regards of actual sounds and Steve Lukather in terms of like kindness to fans and to people. That was another thing that I rocked, learned from Ronnie James Dio seeing the way he was dealing [with fans] and [how] he dealt with me too, it was fantastic.
You know the actual work itself with some of these cats that are timeless. I was, uh, normally did the score, but there was one of the producers for this movie called Sideman, A Long Road to Glory. That was the story of Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin and Willie Big Eyes Smith, and throughout the making of this movie that lasted eight years and the final result was not what it was supposed to be in the beginning. I will give you the short version we had the opportunity to bring in into the movie a lot of friends, from Joe Bonamassa to Robben Ford and Derek Trucks and Bonnie Raitt and all these cats paying tributes to these folks; but also talking with them you know you know in their late years of their career is just humbling. When someone like Hubert in the final years of his life and he was still getting a kick thinking about, you know the London sessions and Howling Wolf he was super smiling and laughing about one particular episode in a studio and then being sad because when Howling Wolf passed, they were the band and you know this is like. Uh, what do you want? I mean you wanna get booked but you’re gonna have the singer. I mean the artist is not that but we are the band. What, you know, Wolf is gone, you’re gone, you know and the sad reality of this and especially these older musicians bringing all this it’s just like it’s incredible. I mean, I wish I could videotape everything, and I mean some of these things are in the movie. But if I if I had a phone at least so it could videotape at least 5 minutes of my experience with any one of these artists will make an incredible movie, not because of my acting part, but what it’s the shared wisdom and experience and life from these incredible artists that we all love.
After years of collaborations, and working behind the scenes as a producer etc. What made you decide to become a frontman with this debut album?
Fab: I’m not a recording engineer by any means. I know real recording engineering and they definitely know what they’re doing. I’m just faking my way through it. It worked so far for me, so I’m glad. The handling of the engineering and the production. That’s something that went along with my music career as a bass player and all of that because back then when I started playing Italy and Italy was not a rock and roll country.
And today as well, I mean, you know that didn’t change. There was a lot of other major cultural and musical aspect, but rock and roll wasn’t one and always wanted to get a particular kind of sound. When you go to the studio local studio with your band and talk to somebody and I hope that they will listen to you. And you know the result couldn’t be any further from the truth. Then I started to learn how to get those things. I handled aspects by myself, so at least I will go closer maybe in unorthodox ways, but at least I will get closer to what I had in my head, so it kind of like it’s always been part of that, so it’s very difficult for me just to be a bass player and not producing or not being part of the writing or not. I mean, I always had to wear many hats, way too many hats all at the same time that it became part of what I’m doing. As long as I’m making music. I’m working on music and I’m blessed to make a living with it. For me is the best experience ever, so I don’t really complain if today I’m playing bass and tomorrow makes a song. However, I’ve always been, a performing musician, and even though I took a break from, the world stage meaning like long tours in 2001 when my daughter was born ’cause I didn’t want, not for her to go through with her father being absent for nine or ten months of the year. I decided to be focused more on productions and you know less travelling and all that kind of stuff. My daughter was getting older and she was getting even more intrigued about the world that I was in and my wife, she is a singer, professional singer and for the majority in the Latin market, but she worked with everybody from Shakira to Ricky Iglesias to Jennifer Lopez if you think my resume is a big one, you should see hers! My daughter has always been aware of the music scene and I guess kind of like her interest in it. You know what happens? It gave me the sparkle back, almost like, a green pass to be able says OK, you know I can do this a little bit more and I think was around 2010 when for a series of circumstances I ended up joining Steve Lukather a band called Goodfellas with Kenny Aronoff and Steve Wengerd that kind of like I really got that bug back and come at the end of that tour. Kenny and I stay in touch, then we’re actually wanted to continue to do that kind of stuff and that’s why I started to hire Kenny in. The fire was kept alive and obviously Supersonic Blues Machine and now Soul Garage Experience.
On stage my presence is always felt because as a musical director I always have to talk with the other guys. On the album you are singing is this a first? It is my band, yet the thought that the actual singing part is like what? For me? I guess there’s a remarkable achievement on my end because I never really pursue that. I never really nurtured that side of me when I was 16 or 17. I got diagnosed with this vocal cord condition and basically I was told, you need to get surgery, but this surgery, yeah, sure eliminates the problem. But you taking a chance of losing your voice completely, not your singing voice only. You kind of like you taking a chance of not being able to speak. I say no, hell no. Because of that, I didn’t really learn. And do you know, vocal lessons or anything like that? I’ve been preparing more and more demos for the songs that I write, whether it’s for Supersonic or for other things, and I ended up being a singer. Whatever you do, it’s on the spot and maybe no, no, even with the right words. Or you’re just singing the Yellow Pages because you want to document something. On the other hand, when you have the whole thing complete and it’s a song of yours, you’re probably giving the right attitude and the right spirit to that demo. And that’s what happens for several of the songs of Soul Garage Experience to a point where I was actually looking to get a singer to be the singer for this band of mine. You know it was again my wife and once again Billy Gibbons listening to it and it’s just like why don’t you sing? Dude, this is demos for you know for the real singer and all of this is like. Did you deliver the message? What else do you want to do? And I get to think is like you know what? That’s the first thing that I do when I produce an artist is like is your message coming across is that it’s the delivery believable, regardless of the vocal? You know escapades that you might include on a particular track or not, and I say, why not then actually? Will make things simpler for me in a lot of aspects so you know everybody else in the in, in of all the musicians they’re orbiting around.
Soul Garage Band during the live show they all have a section where they’re doing their own stuff. It’s more like a review than actually a band concert itself, but it actually gives me the opportunity to do this and especially to be a little bit more. This has given me more freedom in the way I deliver the message.
The band is defined in type by your name and soul garage experience. What does the band name signify and how do you define your music?
Fab: Experience, because when this band, I mean this project is a lifetime experience but also so some of these songs are old. Some songs are coming from the Supersonic vault that I don’t want to use for Supersonic Blues Machine ’cause it was getting to sound more like my stuff and some other stuff. We were playing with Stephen Perkins with Alex and some of the other guys already around town for the two years, 2-3 years before COVID, uh, you know, shut down shop and it’s always been an experience, meaning it was never a show where this is the song which is the opening. Our tributes to the big bands of the 60s. I mean, we’re like big fans of the 60s. All of us and back then those shows. You know, even though I didn’t have the chance to witness them in person, is a major reason. There was a lot of indulgence in the jamming and in the improvisations and all of it, and that I think is what made U.S. special. So, we like to consider our shows and experience. So, this is like the experience that will bring around. So, because obviously, that’s the music. Uh, that I would say is the definition of all the music that has been with me from the beginning of time, even though most of my production rock production work or some of I would say my most important credits are more like into the rock and hard walk rock Hard Rock world. It was always being soul music and I would say black music at large. What really influenced me and brought me towards music, in the beginning, was Bob Marley, and then you know James Brown and Tina Turner, and then obviously you know everything else that came along like in the family stone and all of that. And I always define that as soul, not necessarily as Blues. Even though soul is the next generation of Blues. For me, Blues is like B.B. King Elmore James. Everything else they were here today. It’s Blues inspired, but it’s not. I’m lucky enough to have some friends, like Joe Louis Walker and cats like that. Then again, working with Hubert. Those guys are Blues. Everything else that happened from my generation and down. It’s just like a very possible respectful tribute to the greats. But that was the Blues that was the real thing. I cannot really call this thing Blues anything because I might give the wrong impression. I don’t wanna call it rock or anything because again, it’s not limited. Soul represents all of that. It represented the Motown. It represented bluesy represented funky, and he represents the real old school RnB. So all that music together for me it’s like the soul of the music that I like garage because at the end of the day was still a rock band or still a bunch of rock guys they like to make noise and we approach it like in a very 60 garage type of way so garage experience.
What does Derek Day and his red hot guitar playing, bring to the album?
Fab: I have known Derek since he was 16 and busking on the street in Santa Monica and I always got blown away because he was playing Guns N’ Roses music and playing slash parts like Steve I would play slash parts and singing Axel like Robert Plant will sing in 12 years we stay close and you know we ended up in jamming on several different situations. Opportunities and started to make more music together and is brilliant. Derek obviously not only as his project, but he is also is the singer of Classless Act and next year they’re going to be doing the whole summer opening up for Mötley Crüe and he’s got a busy plate on his own. But whenever it’s possible, our new original nucleus, him myself, Alex, and Stephen Perkins are getting together and Derek is because his energy and his drive and he is super positive. attitude makes the room shine. I like to have people that come in with a smile and leave us with a bigger smile than when they arrived and if everybody works on the same wavelength, the what we’re doing, regardless of the condition, it’s way more enjoyable and the results are tangible and Derek has no problem in reviving some even old R&B and Blues things and passages and stuff like that, but if he needs throwing some Vernon Reid of some Steve Vai on it. These are all part of the music that he grew up listening to and is, in other words, he’s not afraid of being too kosher or not kosher. When I say lets try something different he’s the first one to say yeah, and it’s like in motion. It is very uplifting, beside the fact that he’s a phenomenal singer and his guitar playing. I would say here in town I don’t know many guitar players that can compete with him right now among all the new guys coming out because you’re having incredibly great and well-prepared musicians, but a lot of these musicians haven’t found their own voice Derek is one of those guys that wanna hear, implying I need 2 notes and I know that it’s Derek playing and that for me is just what makes the difference between the boys and the men.
Do You have a favourite/special track on the album?
Fab: But that’s like saying which one of your kids love the most? I love all songs the same way because they all represent a particular story topic and in a moment in time I would say probably the one that I’m most attached to because it was actually the first song that I ended up in fully singing myself and kind of like decided this new course as me as a frontman for Soul Experience is Right Down Below and also because more than all the other songs includes the reggae element, the funk element to the rock element, and the soul element. It has a strong bass as well. Yeah, I guess that comes with the package, but you know what? It wasn’t actually the bass that got me that song. It is a Covid tune. I came up with the main riff of the song and for some reason I was screwing around with some stuff in the studio and this huge reverb came up and all of a sudden that part played through this big reverb it reminded me of when I was a little kid and I will go to vacation on the app and the Adriatic coast with my aunt and stuff and they had all the hippies with their Volkswagen minivan, playing Bob Marley and Peter Tosh loud and distorted. Back then I did not know what sound the guitar would make or what sound of bass will make. As soon as I started playing that with the big reverb automatically, I was like brought back then I don’t know if you ever watch that the Disney movie Ratatouille well at the end, Auguste automatically kind of like wow gets like tele-transport to when he was a little kid. It was the same thing for me. As soon as I heard that riff and everything else came around that was not supposed to be a reggae theme song I was just trying to develop it but as soon as that sound came to mind and so there is a uh, a very special attachment ’cause I thought that that kind of like inspiration didn’t come necessarily from here comes from you know, all over the place or universe. I would say Right Down Below as a personal attachment, but not because it’s a better song than all the others.
Finally, what musicians, producers have influenced your music?
Fab: A lot of them, not only just one. In terms of bass players, all my colleagues whenever I hear somebody playing, there’s always something that you pick up. I would say growing up though, the one that made the most difference to me where in terms of songwriting and songs and vibe in general that had to be Bob Marley. I would say as a bass player I would say Geezer Butler, John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce, Verdine White, Larry Graham and Paul McCartney over everybody. I would say in terms of a producer George Martin has always been my favourite, but I liked a lot Trevor Horn and Andy Wallace is one of my favourite. I really like a lot of the stuff that Rick Rubin did more recently and among the new guys I would say they want to bring in a little bit more like of sound that they’re not just very flat in terms of like they don’t bring a sound, but they only enhance the sound of the artists that they’re producing, which actually I think is the right way to go when you’re a producer. I would say definitely say Danger Mouse over everybody else in but at the end, it’s like it’s a combination of things. ’cause like I was telling you, I’m a bass player, a self-taught musician I didn’t really study bass, a lot of my way to go on the bass are coming from the guitar and the other way around when I write songs so it’s a fairly unorthodox thing, it’s just like probably songs and in times in time that influenced me in writing and playing the way I playing. But those guys that I listed absolutely, they have a major impact on what I’m doing, at least with my instrument.
Fabrizio closed the conversation with these thoughts:-
I would like to invite everybody to visit Fabrizio/Soul Garage website the hub for our YouTube channel, Spotify, Instagram social media. Please follow. Join leave comments. We’d love to hear from you. And just play that record as much as you can. If you wanna buy it, great. If you don’t want to buy it, just want to stream it, I’m cool with that. You know, I just wanted to have the message out and have the opportunity to have more people knowing about what I’m doing with this man. And so we will have more opportunities to go out and play. I know that next year, most likely I will be coming back to the UK with Supersonic, but I would like also to come back with Soul Garage Experience and bring a totally different experience to my friends and fans in the UK. You know, the more the record gets played, the more noise it makes, the more opportunity we have to do this. So that’s basically my invitation. And other than that, be kind to each other.
Fabrizio Grossi blends Soul Garage & Experience together With help from his friends on debut album Counterfeited Soulstice Vol 1