Gerry Dantone of UniversalDice sits down with NeuFutur

Today, we are speaking with UniversalDice. Can you give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

I’ve played music since I was 5 years old; in elementary school, my family was offered a choice of instruments for my musical education – accordion or guitar.  Of course, they chose that I learn the accordion.  I always joke to myself that if they had chosen guitar for me, I’d be Pete Townshend today.

Accordion did not turn out to be the answer for me but in a few years, I was in the school orchestra playing 1st violin.  I was not the best violinist in the school but I was OK.  At some point, I suffered 3 broken arms and that was it for regularly playing violin.   That was probably it for being a virtuoso string instrument player as well.  I broke my left arm one more time as an adult for good measure.

In late high school and early college years I started fooling around with an old acoustic guitar I found in my parent’s house and eventually bought a really cheap Univox guitar while in college with money I won playing pinochle.  Almost immediately it was obvious I wanted to write songs even before I knew how to play.  The rest is history, such as it is.

You have just released a rock album, birth, love, hate, death; what was the writing/creative and recording process for the album like?

The process begins with ideas; I had written some songs over the years that suggested some characters, a young man and a young woman who interacted in an interesting way.  The idea was to grow these couple of songs into a rock opera and tell a story about love; in this case from birth to death and all the love and hate in between, hence “birth, love, hate, death.”  It was going to be a tragedy because it’s more compelling and more real, in my opinion.   After writing more songs, it became apparent what gaps existed in the story; when that happens you then become motivated to fill the gaps and complete the story.  Telling a story definitely (for me) makes writing songs easier.  Having a story to tell brings focus to the writing process.

We’ve recorded all of the UniversalDice albums ourselves.  The first two CDs, bassist Sam Cimino and I shared the writing, recording and production duties with help from keyboardist Tom Beckner.  I’ve handled the production of the last two CDS myself with help from lead guiatarist Bob Barcus on many songs and on “blhd” from Vin Crici on 4 tunes.  The first two CDs were analog, the 3rd was both analog and digital, and “birth, love, hate, death” entirely digital.  We did it all from recording, mixing and mastering.  Bob and I usually handle the artwork, with Bob handling the more technical aspects. Sam played bass on much of the first 3 CDs, and Eddie Canova has handled it since then.  On “blhd” both Vin Crici and Walt Sargent handled the keys.  Thank goodness for digital; you can do so much more without breaking the bank.

The album art is fascinating; what significance does the hand/design hold for you?  How does birth, love, hate, death differ from your previous music? What sort of things are a hold-over from earlier recordings?

The hand imprint of the cover represents “birth.”  It’s the imprint of an infant.  It seemed to be a good way to start the experience of the rock opera, “birth, love, hate, death.”  It happens to be my daughter’s imprint.

This album is different because it’s about love, and pretty much only love.  Previous albums dealt with faith, reason, religion, social issues, war, peace, etc. with some loves songs scattered about incidentally.  This is about love.

What will always be the same in UniversalDice albums is humanism; the theme of caring about what happens to others will always be the philosophical underpinning.  This may seem typical, but it really isn’t.  These songs are NOT obeying a god, a moral code, scripture, social norms or other commonly held beliefs; they are about caring about others, what happens to others and trying to contribute somehow to a better world.  In this album, the point is that love is NOT something you merely feel; love is a pattern of behavior of helping the ones you love.

How supportive is the Long Island/NYC music scene in furthering your career (e.g. radio stations, magazine, venues)?

One local magazine, Good Times Magazine, has always been nice to us but generally it is most difficult to get something going in the local music scene with original music.  People need to know your songs before they come to see you and additionally our material is not well suited for playing the bars and clubs.  It may rock but there’s a little too much going on.  Part of what we do is provoke thought – that’s difficult in a club setting.

I’ve played clubs – CBGBs to Malibu Beach Club to Great Gilversleeves to My Father’s Place in the NY metro area.  It’s just not our optimal setting.

 What does your recording set up look like (what do you use to record, what are your favorite tools)?

I use a PC running SONAR for recording and use SoundForge to master.  I have all kinds of effects from Waves and other companies.  I use the POD and SansAmp for guitar sound and Bob uses a miked boutique amp for his sounds.  We used a SansAmp for bass with Eddie to go direct.  I know Vinny uses a Korg for his keyboards and I have other various modules for keys with Walter.  I also use a Seck mixer for routing my set up and the whole thing occupies about 30 or 40 square feet in my den.  I own only 2 electric guitars and one acoustic – I am not a collector.

Which artists are the greatest influences for you and your music? Is there a dream lineup of performers that you would like to perform with if given the chance?

The Beatles, the Who, Pink Floyd, Cream, Simon & Garfunkel and other bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s form the basis of my musical education.  I love bands like Muse, the Killers, Green Day and Radiohead from more recent times.  I would love to play with the Who, but I am not worthy.

Which sort of social media website have you had the best successes with? What about these online services are different from the traditional face to face meeting and performances that musicians utilize?

Facebook seems to be the best format for me to communicate with potential fans.  Twitter’s 140 characters would be totally inadequate.  I am not visually oriented so other photo/video based social media is not my strong point.

What should listeners expect from your music in the future? How can interested NeuFutur readers locate samples of your music?

We have a 5th album in our future – it will be about “family.”  It will rock.

Our music is everywhere it can be, iTunes, Amazon. Spotify, CDBaby and 20 or more other outlets.  Our first 3 albums may be attributed to “UniversalDice.com”, which are “My Name is Thomas…”, also a rock opera, “mostly True Stories” and “Out of Many, One.”   Our latest CD, “birth, love, hate, death” will be listed under “UniversalDice.”  You can get physical CDs via CDBaby and digital everywhere.  The best starting point is our web site; www.UniversalDice.com .

What does the rest of 2017 hold for your music and tour date wise?

Since our rock opera is best enjoyed as a rock opera, we are working with a local theater/performance art school to get it staged and take it on the road to appropriate venues as a real production.  To get that done would be a dream come true.

Thank you so much for your time. Finally, do you have any additional thoughts about life and the universe for our readers?

Our new CD begins:

I’m sure you want to know where did we all come from
You want to know what comes after this?
The secret’s in the way you live, not in kingdom come
May you live to taste your love’s sweet kiss
My sweet darling, my sweet child
The road is winding and the weather’s wild

And it ends:

Love is the warm embrace
Love is the saving grace
We need to love each other…
Now truth is a mystery and love is the clue

Person Natalie Interviewed

Today, we are speaking with California saxophonist Person Natalie. Can you give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

My family is very musical. My grandfather was a trumpet player and band leader. When I was very young, I used to sing duets with him; he’d play his guitar and I’d sing along. The violin was his favorite instrument. He use to collect them and he gave me one when I was around 5 or 6 and encouraged me to play. My parents got me and my sister violin lessons
and that’s how it all started. I always loved the sound of the saxophone though, and the intrigue and energy of jazz as well as the contributions of the sax to pop and rock music. So I switched to saxophone at around 12. My Dad played guitar and bass; he played professionally for a number of years. And my Aunt is a professional vocalist with an amazing voice..so I would play gigs with their bands.

You have just released a new album, Gypsy Dance; what was the writing/creative and recording process for the album like?

I had been working on Gypsy Dance off and on for a couple years – re-writes;edits; finding guest musicians etc – letting the stew marinate, so to speak, until finally I felt like the recipe was ready. Everything had been simmering on slow-cook and I didn’t want to over-cook it. Dennis, my dad, was my co-producer on most of these tracks. My Dad and I are both really strong minded and determined in our own respective ways – so that was a challenge in recording this and agreeing to disagree at times. For me a song usually starts with a bass line, then either chord structure or melody and/or lyrics if applicable. For this project, I wanted to leave plenty of space for guest improvisors and allow for their perspective. In that sense, we were all the songwriters. I do not underestimate Dennis’ help with most of these songs as well, even though he does not want credit for his work. Gypsy Dance is not something he would produce for
himself, not his thing. But he went along with the program even though he would have done things differently. He deferred to how I wanted things.

 

What’s your favorite track off of the album (and why?).

The title track of the album I really wanted to drive home – hence, the 3 different versions of it. It’s like Night in Tunisia by Dizzy meets “Let it whip” by the Dazz Band. I wrote a pronounced synth-bass heavy sound – like many 80’s R & B dance stuff. For the sax melody, a simple repeated motif over a dominant 7 flat6 chord and not too many changes in keeping with a modal-fusion context yet the alt. chord at turnaround for an exotic Indian quarter-tone dissonant vibe. That being said, Mill Creek Ballad is my favorite song on the album. It’s just a few tracks. I was working on this particular chord sequence on my keyboard and I really love Miles Davis “Sketches of Spain” album so it’s a blues ballad born out of love for that Miles Davis album. I also love Trane’s version of “Afro Blue on his soprano. Then last summer I went to hear Super Nova in concert. I heard a live version of Afro Blue performed by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Marcus Miller, Carlos Santana and Cindy Blackman Santana. That concert really moved me. Soon after I recorded the melody and improvisation for Mill Creek and the first take captured the vibe, the “moment” I was feeling when I heard those guys play. Plus it reminds me of something you’d hear at a country-side renaissance faire.

How does Gypsy Dance build off of (or expand upon) your 2014 EP?

Gypsy Dance builds off of the EP Off the Grid, by expanding a little further into jazz and the art of improvisation; at the same time referencing other genres that have been crucial to my musical background. The title itself is pretty self-descriptive as far as the nomadic wanderer and freedom aspect of the definition of gypsy. We’ve got a disco-swing tune with a retro-feel
bass line in “Best in Show”, some edgier jazz-rock fusion in “Parachutes and Butterflies” and “Derailed then Track Again”, and a funky down-home feel-good song in “Billie Hill’s Bossa”. From my perspective, Gypsy Dance is a very colorful almost polarizing album. There’s nothing bland about it. It’s like extra-sharp cheddar or roquefort blue – you either love it or you hate it. And either way, that’s Ok. Crazy like a fox or just plain crazy, it sounds good to me and I’m proud of it.

Jazz is a storied genre; what do you add to jazz with your new release?

I’d like to start by saying this is not entirely jazz. But you’re right, jazz is a storied genre. I’d like to think that what I’m adding is another layer, another perspective using the beautiful art form or jazz as one of the major sources to paint a portrait that is unique and compelling.

What does your recording set up look like (what do you use to record, what are your favorite tools)?

We worked with an older model Mac DAWS and then an upgraded version on many of the tracks. I enjoy working on a budget and seeing how creative I can get using just the basic tools too. I like my trusty workhorse mic the SM57, adjusting the positioning of the mic after
acoustically treating my work space. I tend to favor a “hot” recording of my horn so I’ll mess around with that til I get the signal I want. For some of the tracking, I love my little Tascam 8-track pocket studio recorder and an old Yamaha keyboard I play. I’ve been laughed at “that’s
ludicrous you use that” or “get yourself a Danish Pro Audio mic” or some other fancy pants recording equipment which is all fine as the sky is the limit when it comes to sophisticated gear, software and recording equipment. But for this project, I use what works for me and I’m making
some interesting and imaginative stuff with my set-up so different strokes for different folks is how I view it. I’m really independent and not keen on consumerism just for the sake of it. Plus I don’t like micro-management especially when it comes to the subjectivity of art. It’s stifling.

Gypsy Dance has a number of guest performers, including Aisha Ewell, Kye Palmer, and Ron Sanchez. Who did what and how did everyone contribute to the overall sound of the release?

Every single one of my guest musicians was invaluable in completing the project. Ms. Aiisha Ewell is a talented, soulful singer with a powerful captivating voice and can be heard on the vocal version of Gypsy Dance. Kye Palmer is an extremely talented studio musician/trumpet
player who can be heard on “Best in Show” and “Parachutes and Butterflies” with his improvisational and arrangement skills, really lending to a dramatic take on the latter song. Mr. Palmer being referred to me by my former Jazz Studies Director, Joey Sellers, who is an incredible improvisor himself so I definitely trusted his referral. And last but not least, is Ron Sanchez. Ron is a seasoned jazz musician/keyboardist and family friend who I’ve known for many years and played with in the past. His contributions and improv can be heard on Gypsy Dance Instrumental and Derailed then Track Again. Ron is an amazing musician and I really enjoy his energy and perspective, he’s great to work with.

Which artists are the greatest influences for you and your music? Is there a dream lineup of performers that you would like to perform with if given the chance?

There are many rock, R&B and a couple country artists that have influenced me over the years but with this particular album I was moved by Miles Davis in particular “Sketches of Spain” and also Freddie Hubbard’s “Sky Dive”. Stylistically not even in the same ball park, but both these albums I can’t get enough of. As far as performing with who is out there nowadays – I love Norah Jones, Alison Krauss and Christian Scott is incredible too.

Which sort of social media website have you had the best successes with? What about these online services are different from the traditional face to face meeting and performances that musicians utilize?

I like Facebook the best. It’s been established the longest and has I think 2 billion users so the most widely known and used by a wide range of age groups too. Navigating around all the social media outlets that are available can be very distracting and time consuming, but I do my
best. I’m vintage era Generation X. That being said, no amount of social media will ever replace a face-to-face meeting or real-voice phone conversation. At least not for me anyways.

What should listeners expect from your music in the future? How can interested NeuFutur readers locate samples of your music and purchase their own copy of Gypsy Dance? What does the rest of 2017 hold for you (what live dates do you have)?

I have a couple country-jazz tunes that I’ve written, and some other stuff. I need to write a horn arrangement for one so we’ll see how that goes. I am on the major outlets like amazon or i-tunes. I also have my stuff on videos on youtube and have a website
www.personnataliemusic.com

I’ve played a couple of live shows so far in 2017, and currently working on getting out there more. Nothing set in stone yet, but getting out there more is the goal.

Thank you so much for your time. Finally, do you have any additional thoughts about life and the universe for our readers?

Thank-you so much for your interest and for listening to my music. As far as any thoughts on life and the universe in general…Take the time to appreciate every moment and be grateful for everything, little or big. I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me in any way for this album, but I am most grateful to the Creator for giving me the wonderful gift of music. And finally a closing thought from my first video “Moonlighting at JPL” …”Please enjoy…”

An afternoon with Morningblind

  • Today, we are speaking with European act Morningblind. Can you both give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

Sandi: I started out as a dancer and actress, first here in Catalunya and then in Britain, in London. I went from dancing to singing after a break. I got fed up with the musical theatre world – it wasn’t the right kind of thing for me, all the endless bullshit and rounds of auditions and the falseness of it all. I’d always sung and loved singing. But in the late 90s I got a nodule on my vocal chords and that’s when I picked up a guitar for the first time. And it went from there, starting with covers and then starting to write my own songs, because doing covers is never enough. And then, the whole process of finding your voice, which when you finally find it, you’ve arrived. You can be yourself, you can defend your own work, it’s authentic, truthful. Continue reading “An afternoon with Morningblind”

A sit-down with Greg Luzitano (Striving Artists Theatre Company)

Hello Greg. How’s the early summer treating you?

Pretty well, thanks. We’ve started rehearsing our Summer Shakespeare production, I’m making a short film this weekend, and still recording music as always. Continue reading “A sit-down with Greg Luzitano (Striving Artists Theatre Company)”

Robert Slump Interview

Today, we are talking with Robert Slump, composer and engineer. How is life and your label treating you this week?

Life has been great these last few months. Mainly because of my newborn boy of 4 months old. I had to let go of the idea that I could write music 24/7 like I used to do, but as my little boy is getting older, I seem to have more time for writing music again and finding the right balance between family life, social life and a professional career in music. Continue reading “Robert Slump Interview”

An Interview with DOHKE, Atsuo

Today, we are speaking to Japanese performer. DOHKE, Atsuo.

Can you give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

Answer:  Actually I did not plan to have a music career until I was 18-year-old.  However, I had had an intention from high school days to play a certain instrument on my entrance into college.  So, I had started to play the mandolin from the first year of Tokyo University.  It is why a mandolin is a handy instrument that I selected it. Continue reading “An Interview with DOHKE, Atsuo”

Sitting down with Razor

Hello, Razor. You have been creating music since 2001. How do you think your compositions have changed since your first release?

Well, I started with Hip Hop and Rap music in 2001, and then switched approximately in 2008 to Electronic productions. Back in the day, I mainly wrote texts and I took care about the recording, but I have never been a great Hip Hop beat maker. Nevertheless, it was a great time for my music group members and myself, we had a lot of fun.

My first official release was “White Nights” in 2015. It was a Birthday present for my girlfriend and in my opinion one of my best productions. However, to answer your question I would have to say that my compositions mainly changed in quality. “Better Off That Way” was the first release professionally mixed by Audioanimals.co.uk. I regret that I did not consider mixing my previous releases professionally.

What sort of influences have had the most impact on your music? Is there a dream lineup of performers that you would like to set in if given the chance?

Definitely other musicians. I am very open-minded when it comes to music, but my favourite genres are all kind of Electronic music, Euro-Dance, Rap and Hip Hop.

There are a lot of great singers and producers. However, I would really like to produce something with Katy B, Dizzee Rascal or DEV.

What story does your current single “Better Off That Way” tell about you? What successes and failures did you experience during the recording of the song?

“Better Off That Way” mirrors my current production style. It is a success story, and because of the message it appealed to a huge audience. This is not usual for an unknown artist like me, but still, I am extremely proud with the result.

To get into a bit of the technical, what does your recording set up look like (what do you use to record, what are your favorite pieces of hardware and software)?

I use Proppellerhead’s Reason and I would never change to another DAW. I really love this software. It has almost unlimited functionalities and a very easy to use interface.

The hardware itself quite simple, but also good enough to finish Razor’s Music productions. We have a self-made vocal booth and recently switched from a Behringer C3 to a MXL CR89 microphone. This new device is amazing and improved the quality of our recordings immensely. To further progress, we are currently building a large semi-professionally equipped studio.

What does the early spring of 2017 hold for you?

I am very excited to announce that I will release my fifth song “Free” on the 25.04.2017.

It will be little bit more like my early productions and I am looking forward to get feedback from my audience.

Additionally, I am pleased to say that we have a new artist on board – Joe Rix. He is extremely talented and has an amazing voice. I hope that we can finish his first release at latest in May.

Finally, yet importantly, I really look forward to the new tracks of my friend DaddyH, who will come with some amazing songs for the Swiss audience in autumn 2017.

How have your life experiences influenced the music that you have created during your time as a performer?

This is very simple to answer. I produce how I feel, it is a personal journey, and I believe most artist are experiencing that.

How has the internet and social media help you grow your fan base?

Hugely. I think that I would be lost without them, although some platforms are more useful than others are. I really like Facebook, Soundcloud and Instagram, compared to Twitter and Tumblr where it is harder to build up a fanbase.

How can interested readers of NeuFutur find samples of your music?

The best way is to search them on Soundcloud or Youtube. On Razor’s Youtube channel are also music videos available. However, you will find them on all major platforms such as Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, etc. as well.

Do you have any final thoughts for us here at the magazine?

Yes indeed J, #beHappy #beRazor

Thank you so much for the time.

Orchestra Fuego Interview

Today, we are talking with Marcus from Tampa, Florida’s Orchestra Fuego, who is riding the success of their second album, Salsa Brava.

Who is Luis “Torpedo” Aponte, and why is he important to Orchestra Fuego?

Luis Aponte is our lead singer and Luisand I played together in the late 70’s, early 80’s in NYC when Salsa Music was at its peak. We had a band called Fuego ’77 and recorded with the great Fania Records. After we both left the music scene we kind of lost touch with each other only to find out that we both moved to Florida. We then found each other about 3 years ago, and reunited and formed Orchestra Fuego.

 

How did Salsa Brava move from initial thought to finished effort?

Salsa Brava was our second album and with a band called Orchestra Fuego, we wanted to capture our sizzling performances with a title that matched our style of performing. Salsa Brava in English is sort of “Tough Salsa” but better translated to “Invigorating Salsa.”

 

What sorts of logistical (and other) difficulties do you experience coordinating a ten-member band?

Well, 12 band members to be exact and not easy. I have set rehearsal times way in advance, but recently with all the attention we have been getting from either promoter’s, internet Radio stations, magazines and our music playing on Pandora and Jango Radio, it has become easier to schedule rehearsals. We have been blessed with some awesome musicians and are excited that the band is performing more.

Which performers most influenced Orchestra Fuego during the creation of this album?

Our energy has always started with Me, Luis Aponte and Jorge Tamayo our other lead singer. We compose and arrange our own music and just have a fun time thinking of new songs.

Not to mention that our other band members have a passion for playing Salsa music and it shows when we perform.

How has your style evolved and changed over the period since you released your debut disc, Encendido? How different is OF’s style from traditional (old school) salsa acts?

Encendido was our starting point and we had some great arrangers helping us out. I have a good friend, Arturo Ortiz who was the musical director for the Ricky Martin band during the Vida Loca days and he is just an outstanding musician and arranger. The style has not changed from Encendido to Salsa Brava; our level of playing has really increased. We have a new producer, Victor Romero and he really brings out the best of us. My thought when creating Orchestra Fuego was to bring back the show in performances. There are many good bands out there but they don’t put on a show, they just perform. We engage the audience and make them a part of our performances. The singers go out into the crowd, they sing along or dance with us. Our reviews state exactly that; we are “Showmen.” Well women too; we have two women in our band; Martha Delgado plays the Baritone Saxophone and Veronica Romero does backup vocals.

 

Fans of salsa may remember Marcus from Fuego ’77; how has the music industry changed over the last forty years?

Oddly enough, it hasn’t changed much. Latin music in the US has really taken a back seat. But in South American countries Salsa music thrives and we’re making some connections in Colombia, Peru and surrounding countries to bring our music to these areas.

What has provided more of your fans – Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or traditional word of mouth?

Facebook has really gotten the word out there about Orchestra Fuego; we are now using Twitter and other social media to continue to promote our band. We just need to find the right person to handle that for us.

What are your plans for the rest of 2017?

We are now in the works for recording our third album and it’s coming out sizzling! Our musicality continues to grow. We are also doing a music video to one of our songs in Salsa Brava album titled “Isla De Mi Querer”; it’s a song about Puerto Rico and Cuba and the beauty of both Islands.

How can listeners contact you and find your music?

Our website is www.orchestrafuego.com or www.orquestafuego.com; either address will get you to our website. We have photos, videos and all the information to contact me via email or my cell.

Do you have any thoughts for our readers at NeuFutur?

It has been an awesome experience being on NeuFutur and it’s a must these days to get the recognition to bring your music out to the masses.

Thank you so much for your time.

 

Brian Edblad Interview

Today, we are speaking with Minnesotan performer Brian Edblad. Can you give us a little background information about yourself? How did you get into music?

I’m a lifelong Minnesotan, I grew up in Duluth and have been living in Minneapolis for the last 25 years. As a kid I split my time between playing music and playing hockey. I got the music bug at an early age. My whole family was musical and my father used to have jam sessions in our living room and me and my siblings would sit at the top of the stairs listening when we were supposed to be sleeping. Then when I was about seven or eight my brother and I sang Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” at a small church up in West Duluth and I was hooked. Continue reading “Brian Edblad Interview”