Joe Bergamini of 4Front
Interview by Roberto Guarnieri
A brief story of 4Front.
"4Front was formed
in 1995 when I was putting together an educational drum book with my longtime
teacher and friend Dom Famularo. We decided to have
some songs written for us to create a play-along drum book. So I asked Zak Rizvi, who is the guitarist in the Rush tribute band Power Windows that I have played with since 1993. Once the songs were written, I needed a bass player for the recording so I asked Frank LaPlaca, who I had worked with for a few years in the band Eternal Vision. We had such a great musical experience recording these songs (which became my 1996 album Arrival, by the way!) that we hired a local keyboardist and formed a permanent 4-piece band. In case you are wondering, that drum book never came out! So you can see how life takes funny turns sometimes."
Do you retain 4Front
a fusion or a prog-project?
"I think 4Front combines both progressive rock and fusion. We write songs and arrange them in the way a rock band would. There are definite sequences of parts and a lot of time goes into the arrangements. It's not the "play the head then everyone blows a solo" kind of thing that many fusion bands do. But at the same time... we like to blow solos!!! So we allow ourselves to play freely, solo, and feature everyone in the band. We also allow all styles of music to influence us. If you listen to our latest album, adio Waves Goodbye, you will hear country, Afro-Cuban, blues, ska, and classical. Many reviewers who are locked into the "prog" mindset don't know what to make of this. But we don't care... we just have fun doing what we do."
As drummer, which artists
have influenced you?
I have lots of favorite
bands and drummers. As far as artists, I would say Rush, Toto, The Police, Sting,
Steely Dan, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa, Chick Corea, Sting,
Marillion, Dave Matthews Band, Genesis, Joe Jackson, Billy Joel and all the
hard rock music of the 80s. More recently I discovered classic R&B such
as Earth, Wind and Fire, James Brown, and The Temptations. I listen to that
stuff a lot now, and love it! When it comes to drummers, the list is pretty
much endless, but here are some of my main influences: Simon Phillips, Vinnie
Colaiuta, Steve Gadd, Neil Peart, Jeff Porcaro, Buddy Rich, Steve Smith, Ian
Moseley, Manu Katche, Billy
Cobham, Lenny White, John Bonham, Phil Collins, Carter Beauford, Terry Bozzio, Dom Famularo, John Riley, and Tony Williams.
It seems very strange
to hear the cover of " Space Oddity " on an instrumental work.
"Well, Zak composed the first 6 tracks on RWG as the story of "Major Tom," who as you know was inspired by the Dave Bowman character in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. We are both film buffs; Zak is fanatical... he has seen EVERYTHING. And we both love Stanley Kubrick's work. Anyway, when he conceived the story, the Bowie tune (along with the Peter Schilling and Elton John bits that are mixed into it... if you noticed!) told that part of the tale perfectly. That is why it is there. As far as the vocals... well, we do what we want, and that's what we wanted on that track! "
What is your opinion
about bands like Dixie Dregs, Kansas and Rush?
"I love all three of them. Rush is probably our biggest influence as a band. But Zak is heavily influenced by the other two as well, more so than I am. Frank brings a different vibe to the table. He is into Stanley Clarke and Tom Waits! "
The beauty of "
Radio Waves Goodbye " consists on the different arrangements in every composition.
"The styles tend to be a little different but I hope that our sound as a band ties everything together. We spend a lot of time on the arrangements. "
I've noticed not so much difference between your solo album and 4Front project.
"Now you know why - my solo album was never intended to be a "solo album" at all... we just recorded some tunes, and I decided to release it. Then 4Front was born!"
Is there some influences
from Toto in your idea of music?
"Absolutely. Zak and I both agree that they stood above most of the other bands of the 1980s in their skill as songwriters, performers, and arrangers. They really have all the bases covered... every guy in that band plays great, yet when they get together, it goes to an even higher level. They groove like mad, but also play cool parts. A classic band. We admire their craft and try to achieve something similar in our own way. "
Is there a prolific scene
of jazz/rock in USA today?
"No. 4Front plays rarely around New York because there is not much of a scene. We mostly do shows together with Power Windows (our Rush tribute band). But the live music club scene in general is down, not just for prog rock. Of course, New York is still the best city in the world for jazz."
I like your cd because it seems recorded with a great feeling, it not shows too technique, but at the same time the band reveal to have a great knowledge on the instruments.
"Thank you. We try to function as a band... not as a chop-fest for all of us to show off. So I am glad that comes across. But when you see us live you'll see that we extend things and really play. "
Have you never tried to contact major labels?
"Major labels don't know what to do with a rock band that has no singer. Also, in the US, major labels want you to tour and sell 10,000 copies of your indie release first before they sign you. Well, once I do that, I won't need them!!! Ha ha! "
12)From what depends the music crises in the world now?
"I am not sure what music crisis you are talking about. In the US there tends to be a preoccupation with "pop stars" - people like Britney Spears who spend all their time working out their stage dance moves and then lip sync their vocal parts. So that of course diminishes any interest in real music. And mainstream rock music right now in my opinion is dead. All the rap rock, grunge rock, and Creed style stuff is totally derivative. There is nothing exciting going on - I've heard it all a million times. The music industry today does not reward artistic expression. It rewards the packaging of a product that is easily digested by 12-15 year olds. I have absolutely no interest in being involved with that. Of course there are a few exceptions, like the band Tool for instance. But think about how many great bands came up in the 90s and have survived, as compared with the 60s, 70s, and even 80s.... not many! Anyway, that's just one little topic... we could go on about this for days! "
Returning to your band...,which difficulties do you meet in live appereances?
"When we play live we have a six person band, with rhythm guitar and violin, so all the parts are played live. It sounds totally full, like the record, and we use no click tracks or sequencers. The hard part is that our songs are so hard to play that I am never satisified with my performance!!!! "
A message for your Italian fans.
"I would just like to thank all our wonderful Italian fans for listening to 4Front. We REALLY appreciate it and I can't wait to get over there to play for you and meet you in person!"