A Conversation with Bassist Fabrizio Grossi of SUPERSONIC BLUES MACHINE
Fabrizio Grossi: My Family was not a musical family. Not much excitement musically in Italy in the early70’s and early 80’s, at least for what I liked to listen to. Italy was a weird market for concerts, since the lost years of the 70’s due to terrorism, and really bad promoters kept at bay most of the acts that I wanted to see. These bands 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 and without knowing it, she planted the seed. The first two 45 rpm records I was given were the Beatles Ob La Di and Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction and that had an impact, for sure.
Without knowing what he represented for the US and the UK crowds, Mum did love Santana’s music, and that was where I was first exposed to guitar driven music. When my biological Mum died, I was ten and went to live with an Aunt. I was into the Beatles (they are still one of my favorite bands) but I was discovering a bunch of other bands that I love especially English Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, T. Rex; and Procol Harum. Then I heard AC/DC and Queen, and it was like WOW! It was a shock but also love at first “sight”. But the older I got, my attraction to black music grew as well, I couldn’t understand the words as I had no English knowledge nor training, but I felt it and it really resonated well with me, without even knowing it. Everything like Motown stuff, Jacksons 5, Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye etc. I went to the UK during the summer of 1983, it was common for children to stay with a family while studying the language, two older friends took me to Castle Donnington, it was my first encounter with a large festival and there I saw the first big show of Dio with his own band, ZZ Top, and Whitesnake with its original line-up. 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 the impact of how one song changed the mood of thousands of people that really hit me, and a few months later I saw the last concert Queen played in Milan. When I walked out I knew what I wanted to be.
ANTIHERO: Producer or musician? Which role do you derive more enjoyment and satisfaction from?
Fabrizio Grossi: The two roles are pretty much joined together at this point, and I guess being a musician really helps the Producer role since in my case it’s more of an overall musical approach rather than knobs, buttons, latest software’s and gear. I do most of the recording engineering for my productions, but it started off as a necessity more than I passion for knobs and faders, while for the mixing, that’s a bit different story, and it’s one of the Production’s aspects that I like the most. It’s very fulfilling and provides the final “closure” to the whole process. When I can mix as I know how then it’s just as good as performing, there’s a natural high involved. Being on stage though, the hours before the show, the hang right after, it’s just something you cannot explain, but it’s the best!
ANTIHERO: The Blues Machine have released their second album-do you feel that this time it’s a truer and more accurate representation of the band’s sound given that your debut was probably the band just finding their musical feet and establishing personal chemistry?
Fabrizio Grossi: We are all very proud off to work we did on West of Flushing, south of Frisco. Our interactions with our friends were incredibly successful in terms of the musical results, and we are really proud of that and incredibly humbled by it. However, between the release of West Flushing, South of Frisco, and the recording of Californisoul, we had the blessing to perform live with at these friends of ours, and that gave us the opportunity to learn even more about their dynamics and their approach from songs to songs. That kind of Intel was fundamental in putting together Californisoul, and that’s I guess what you’re noticing here. It’s more of a live feel type of record and exactly for that reason. Californisoul is a record that it’s very important for us, represents a lot of good things, it’s very honest, and it shows and portrays the music that we like and the influence it had on us. It’s not necessarily better or worse than the first record or whatever records will follow, I think it’s all part of a journey, and I really hope we’ll have the opportunity to bring more records out to the public, as we are having a great deal of fun making them.
ANTIHERO: Over the two releases the band has employed many guest musicians. Is it, therefore, a rotating lineup and can’t the use of extensive guests dilute the very essence and individual identity of the Blues Machine?
Fabrizio Grossi: Look, Supersonic Blues Machine more than a band: it’s a music community. We personally know, traveled with, played with, laughed with, and broke bread with all of our friends, that everybody likes to call guests. This rotation, this change of names and roles is what keeps this particular type of Circus alive, it’s what makes us special, it’s what keeps the fan interested when we’re on stage. I don’t think necessarily that it is a conflicting reality with what could be the band’s identity. At the end of the day, sure there’s always a core part of the machine, and then there are these fantastic friends dropping by and doing their thing, but if you listen to the music on our first record, on Californisoul, and the music that we already have in store for the next,
you’ll notice that there is a serious continuity, and the key elements are always the same: blues rock & soul, a continuity that it’s possibly bigger, more widespread, and even more open than the one in a lot of other bands out there that might have a more traditional approach to all of this.
ANTIHERO: Any particular studio stories from the recording process? Was it recorded old-school jamming with all musicians in the same studio?
Fabrizio Grossi: Everybody’s asking me about the recording process and if we really went into an old studio and cut a vintage album on tape, and how that was verse today’s recordings. Let me tell you something, the actual playing, was the most “vintage” aspect of this record. Sure, we used some OLD gear, but we also used some NEW gear and tracked everything on ProTools. The difference though is that we went about recording every song like it was done back in the day, meaning: we played it for real!
Even for some of the songs when we couldn’t have the “whole tribe” in the same room, whenever we had to deal with overdubs, we made sure at least several of us were there in the room with the speaker blaring and calling each other off on things. It was fun and really helpful at the same time.
We played several “epic” shows with all of our friends at these points, and that gave all of us, and especially me as the producer, a better understanding of the dynamics and approach each one of us has when dealing with a specific piece of music. What’s you’re listening to is exactly the result of people not only playing with each other but also really listening to each other.
ANTIHERO: How do you view your own musical career? Any particular standout highs and lows?
Fabrizio Grossi: Being able to make a living by making music is such a task and a challenge itself, that realizing you’ve been doing it, and still doing it for so long you cannot consider that as your major accomplishment. In addition , considering that I started off as a kind born in a place, that back then didn’t have anything to offer to somebody like me that had a real INFATUATION with rock, blues and soul , and that reading all those American and English magazines trying to imagine how a Kiss concert was really like or was it possible that a guitar could sound like Steve Vai’s “Stevie’s Spanky” by Frank Zappa, or how a band like Earth, Wind, and Fire could sound so tight and perfect with all that many people on stage, ended up doing the same thing and even befriend and collaborate with lots of my own idols, it was the other real high point of everything.
Lows….sure……and the majority of them were and are, when the reality of the BUSINESS of music kicked in……if it was only about making music, there wouldn’t be any lows!
Fabrizio Grossi: As a musician I played and recorded on hundreds if not thousands of songs, and I have not a real memory of all of them to give a fair judgement, but they are all important to me because each song has a particular meaning and is a “moment” in time and space that has its importance, it allows me to do what I like and making a living with it on top of , so I am grateful and attached to every single piece of music I’ve ever worked on.
As a producer, this aspect is even more entangling, since you’re not only lending the artist your voice to complete his/her/their vision, but you also there to help the artist to make sure his/her/their own voice is exactly how they are imaging it, so you have to start to feel and live the song in a way that might not be the case when you’re guided thru by somebody else running the show, since at that moment: you are running the show!
While I would like to definitely single out the two Supersonic Blues Machine records since there’s so much of me and of all of those feelings in there,
if I have to think about only one song though, somebody else’s song to, I will have to tell you that that changes often upon my mood or what I am up to or where I am at the moment….as per today let’s say ONE MORE DRINK FOR THE ROAD by Leslie West which I have arranged produced and played on, for this great artist that Leslie is……considering that Kenny Aronoff and Lukather were there with me as well it couldn’t have been better!
ANTIHERO: Outside music do you have any outside interests/hobbies – if so, what are they?
Fabrizio Grossi: I love to cook and learn about food origins and handling. Other than music, I would say that’s my other “working” passion. If I was not a musician I most likely would have become a chef.
ANTIHERO: Your career has allowed you to visit many different countries and experience many cultures. Which for you has been the most enriching /rewarding and will remain longest in your memory?
Fabrizio Grossi: Everywhere we go there’s an opportunity to learn about people, their culture, their history, their legacy, their values, and to learn and also witness in person, how they react to music! My experience in traveling to different lands it has always been incredibly positive and created an incredible amount of contacts, friendships, and experiences that I will always cherish.
And it’s for that reason that I cannot take one country over the next because everywhere it’s so different and so rich of experiences and culture, there is always something new to witness, learn and absorb. I might be tempted to say that I loved, and would like to keep on visiting places where I’ve never been to, odd or familiar that they might be, so to bring about the Supersonic Blues Machine message of love, understanding, tolerance, support, and Music jamming.
ANTIHERO: Any other different musical genres and musical styles that you would be keen to move in and create with?
Fabrizio Grossi: While Blues, Rock & Soul are my core passion, I love and appreciate so many styles of music. People might not know this, but I have been involved and did so much music other than what I might be known for, and that’s an ever-growing itch. If I really want to go crazy though, I would be able in a situation where an ensemble like Supersonic Blues Machine could write and perform with real players and writers from the Middle East …I’ve always been attracted by those sounds and melodies….and that goes the same for Indian Music.
ANTIHERO: Do you still have unfulfilled dreams/hopes and ambitions? If so, what are they?
Fabrizio Grossi: Do a seriously extended world tour with Supersonic Blues Machine and being able to have Lenny Kravitz, Bono and Keith Richards along for the ride.
The other one would be to write, direct and score my own feature movie, and the last one, to become a really strong voice and force to be reckoned with when it comes down to social injustice, environment, and human/animal rights abuse.
ANTIHERO: If roles are reversed and you could interview someone who would that be, maybe a personal inspiration or hero (not a musician)?
Fabrizio Grossi: For an inspirational interview, I would love to sit down with Jesus, Mohammed & Karl Marx and ask them: “After seeing all this that’s been going on, don’t you feel like asking yourself, WHAT THE FUCK?”
While for an educational interview, I would like to gather all the current heads of State (and some older too) and ask them: “WHAT THE FUCK?”