Welcome to the Prognaut.com! Thank you for taking the time to do an interview.
Your band and music has been a pleasant discovery here at the Prognaut.com this year. I am so glad that you sent the demos to us, but what prompted you to send it to a progressive oriented review site? (Nice out of the box thinking!)
I don't know, I think probably the guys at Black Widow, they are handling the promotion for "Beggars & Losers", especially outside Italy. Anyway, I'm a big fan of prog rock, from the obvious names like Yes, EL&P, etc. to more obscure bands, like Quatermass, Janus, Captain Beyond, Atomic Rooster and all the italian prog bands from the '70's. Black Widows themselves, of course, have produced a lot of great prog cds that you probably already know, like Wicked Minds, Standarte. After all, we don't feel it that categorized, it's all rock!
The Paul Rodgers sound of Francesco Dalla Riva’s vocal is something which must help make you famous in Italy. Can you describe the evolution from cover band to the original recording artists that you have become?
Thank you. Obviously, Paul is one of my main influences but I like a lot of singers, as long as they sing with passion: John Fogerty, Rod Stewart, John Waite, Steve Winwood, Mark Farner, etc. are also ones I love. I don't know if this will help make us famous in Italy and, honestly, I doubt it. Anyway, we started back in 1993/94 as a cover band, playing songs by Mountain, Zeppelin, Trapeze and mainly Free. After a while we started to find it limiting and tried to add a few of our own compositions. I think the first ones we wrote were Mother & Father, Hallelujah and Flower On The Moon. We saw that they were going down well with audiences so slowly we decided to lessen the cover and add originals. By 2000, we had enough material for a CD so it was a natural thing to try and capture them in the studio. When we play live and have enough time, anyway, we still love to put cover songs in the set list.
From the sound of your music you must be a great live and touring band. Which do you prefer more playing or recording?
Personally, I prefer playing live as I feel I can have more control of what is happening and be more spontaneous at the same time. But, of course, it's marvelous to have a finished product where everything sounds the way it's supposed to be.
Do you have any road trip stories you would like to share with the American audience?
That's a hard one. You see, it all sounds clichéd and Spinal Tap-ish when you read it in books and magazines...Anyway, we usually play small clubs and pubs so our audiences are very mixed, people that are there to see us and people that just happen to be there, so we have a long list of 'drunken rock fan' stories. And drunken club owners too!
The one we are proudest about, anyway, is to have our music appreciated by some of our idols when we had the honor of playing with them. Uriah Heep, Bernie Marsden & Micky Moody (of Whitesnake) and John Lawton (Uriah Heep, Lucifer's Friend), they all had kind and elogiative words for the band, so that meant a lot to us!
Knowing how difficult it is for European bands to tour the USA, with the recent release of Beggars and Losers, do you have plans in the near future of starting a tour in the States?
We don't have a specific plan at the moment. Of course, we'd love to play the US but it's quite expensive and difficult to organize as, you see, we are all non professional musicians and have to work to keep on playing music and we all have families (4 kids between the three of us!) . But if the right occasion happens, like a co-production, we'll be all too happy to play in the land of so many of our idols!
Which city would be your first choice? (“New York, if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere” is not an option – ha, ha).
Well, speaking of dreams, I'd love to play the Beacon Theater in NYC, then move on south, in the muddy land of the blues, jamming by the Mississippi river with some old bluesman, finishing at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. All of this, travelling on the 'blue roads' that William Least Heat Moon talked about in his marvelous book!
If you could play anywhere regardless of expense, where would you play?
Thanks for introducing me and probably others that visit our site to the band Moxy. Have you seen them live?
No. I've never seen them. I don't think they ever played Italy (or continental Europe for that matter). Actually, our guitar player Silvano introduced me to Moxy, as he was already playing 'Sail On, Sail Away' with his previous band (Capricorn) back in 1990. I absolutely love their first album but also the second (II) and their third 'Riding High' are great titles that I surely recommend you. They are Canadians.
What are some of Bullfrog’s favorite bands besides Bad Co, Led Zep, Cream, and Canned Heat?
Whoa, there are so many of them. The list is endless as we all love so many bands. As a band, and not just personally, I'd say, randomly, Cactus, Uriah Heap, Thin Lizzy, Blind Faith, Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple, AC/DC, Free, Gov't Mule, Thunder, Black Crowes, Firebird, UFO, Who, Foghat, Ted Nugent, Y&T...you see? I can go on like this for hours!
I really enjoyed your version of the James Gang’s Walk Away. How do your fans react to that song played live? Have you met Joe (Walsh), and does he like your version?
Well, sadly the state of average rock culture in Italy is not very high, so I'm not sure how many people recognize that song as a cover when we play it live, they probably thing that it's just another song of ours! But I love Joe Walsh and the James Gang, he's a brilliant guitarist/singer/songwriter...and of course, no, I've never met him and I think he's not aware of our version. He'll be probably tired as hell of people covering it (but maybe not as much as Hotel California!)
Are there any progressive oriented bands which you identify with? (Maybe early Jethro Tull).
Well, this is an interesting question. I love prog rock. I don't think this comes out openly in our compositions but maybe subconsciously especially when we play live. I love Jethro Tull but also all the usual suspects, Yes, EL&P, King Crimson, Kansas, etc...
The debut album for a band is always something special for fans and the band members. Which is your favorite song off Flower on the Moon, and why?
I love 'Flower on the Moon'. Of course, listening back to it, after a few years, I would change certain things but I think that it still holds a certain spontaneity and ingenuity typical of a debut album. I love the title track and also Hallelujah, probably the quickest song we ever wrote: it didn't take more than 10 minutes to write it and it's very uplifting.
The Road to Santiago is a wonderful progression from Flower on the Moon. Which song would you say is the stand out song on Santiago, and why
Honestly, I think that one of the strengths of Santiago lies in the homogeneity of the songwriting. I don't know if there are some stand out tracks. I love Sun Dance for the harmony vocals and because it's a good opening number, Boz Walk for its cool groove, I'll be gone for the soulful side of our music. These songs were all written in a period of time of two years so they're all quite close, not in mood but stylistically, while, for example, the songs on the first one were born in a longer period of time.
Michele Dalia Riva really blasts that kit. Where did he learn to play that well?
Listening to records, going to concerts and fighting to be heard when we are all in full flight! He took lessons for about a year when he started, back in the mid '80's but then the most important school, I think, is playing live and watching other people play, rather than spend hours playing by yourself. It's hard to understand the dynamics of playing together when you're not playing with other musicians. It's funny because his motto in rehearsal used to be 'I can't hear my drums!' He's quite loud, as you can probably hear from the CDs.
You use allot of piano or organ for a hard rock band, especially on Beggars. Was it to provide an earthy sound versus the tech kits and synthesizers many other bands use?
Not really. It's just that we felt the songs we had required that approach. We are a power trio but it's good to have the opportunity to 'open' the sound with other instruments especially in the studio. We grew up listening to Purple and Uriah Heep so it was natural for us to hear certain arrangements in our heads for certain songs. Simone Bistaffa (who plays keyboards on B&L) is a good friend of the band and has played with him live in the past so it was cool to have him play on the record.
Detour and One for a Zero are my favorites off Beggars. Describe for us the crowd reactions that you are receiving for those blues rock anthems.
Thank you. I agree that those two came out pretty good on the CD. Detour is always fun to play as it has a lot of breaks and twists; and it's always going down well live. 'One for a zero' went through several changes before we agreed on the final arrangement as we tried it live several times with slightly different vocal melodies or guitar parts. The organ has a very important role in the sound of this one so we love to play it live when we can have Simone joining us on stage. But it's still a strong number also as a three piece.
Poor Man Cry is an excellent way to finish off the album. Does it foretell the direction the band may head into the future?
I hope so. It's a good song and we have another friend of ours playing on it, Matt Filippini on guitar. It's definitely in line with our style, kind of muscular bluesy rock. Anyway, we don't plan to follow a specific musical direction in the future. Luckily, we don't have to sell a million records or to follow any musical trend to keep Bullfrog going, so as long as it pleases us..It’s allright.
Are there other musicians that you would like to work with in the future?
Of course! Too many to mention! We like playing with other people with the right attitude, especially live. We always encourage jamming so when the situation is right we love having guests playing with us. It's fun and often you learn a lot from these situations!
You’ve been busy with the promotion of Beggars and Losers, but have you begun thinking yet about what’s next for the band?
Well, the future for us is mainly playing live, that's what we want to do. It would be nice to reach a few more people with this new CD and that's what we're trying to do. We don't have big plans. I'd love to have another one out in 2011 and maybe recording a live CD/DVD...but we'll see!
Is there a special theme or song you might like to cover in the future?
Not lyrically, I don't care too much about lyrics. Musically, yes! There are hundreds of songs that I'd love to play live. It happens often that I'm listening to a record and I'm thinking "Wouldn't it be cool if we could play our version of this song!" One thing that we are doing sometimes is to have 'thematical shows', where a part of the show is dedicated to a specific band that we love. We did it a few times in the past, playing the whole of Free's 'Free Live', the whole of Mountain's 'Climbing', a Thin Lizzy set. We are planning a special one for next February to celebrate a 30th anniversary! (but I won't tell you the band...you guess it!)
Thanks very much for your time and willingness to answer these questions. Good luck in the studio and on the road and thanks for bringing your music to America!
Thanks to you for your enthusiasm and interest in our music! Keep it up and long live R'n'R!!
Interviewed by Prof on December 10th, 2009