Interview with Instrumentalist and Band Leader Bill LoNero
Band Photo: LoNero (?)
I have to assume Bill LoNero does not like Yngwie Malmsteen. And that he’s not much into the ‘core that comes with breakdowns and all sorts of vocalist cops running around and all that. But he’s certainly found his niche as an instrumental metal band. After releasing his second full length, titled “J.F.L.,” on May 23 (reviewed here), Bill has a lot on his mind, including why he’s not a fan of widdly-widdly guitar playing, what equipment he used on the album, what the album title “J.F.L.” stands for and why you should give him a chance!
Fortunately for us here at Metal Underground, he took the (presumably quite a bit of) time to write fantastically deep answers to our email interview. So do Bill a solid and go grab your favorite Killswitch Engage album (kidding!) and enjoy!
Bloodofheroes: “JFL” has been out for a little while now – how has it been received?
First off, thank you for this opportunity - I really appreciate it. Actually [“J.F.L.”] only been out since May 23rd. “J.F.L.” has been received great! The reviews have been fantastic and the fan feedback has been really good. It’s getting airplay in Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and many other European countries as well as here in the States.
Bloodofheroes: Is there anything you would change on the album? What bits are you particularly pleased with?
The only thing I would change is the title of the song “Discard”. Our last drummer Steve Spicer did all the synths for the song “Downside”. He did a minute long intro to the song and instead of making people sit through the intro I decided to make the intro it’s own track on the CD. In doing so we needed a name for that track and at the last minute I called it “Discard”. I never thought of it in that sense and looking back I would have called it something else. I’m pleased with everything on the album. Every song was recorded as it was intended. If there was anything we wanted to change we would have.
Bloodofheroes: How did your first album influence how you approached “JFL”? Is there anything you specifically tried to do the same or differently?
On the first album I produced it. We also recorded it at someone else’s studio. With “J.F.L.” we had Michael Rosen and I produce it and we recorded it at our studio which was fantastic. We basically took a warehouse and converted it into our own recording/rehearsal studio. It’s perfect. We also use it for photo shoots and generally hanging out. We’re pretty self-contained. I recommend this approach to every band out there that takes their career seriously. It not only creates a musical environment that is more conducive to creating but it gives you peace of mind knowing that you have everything you need at your fingertips.
Bloodofheroes: Guitar instrumentalists of all stripes are clear influences on your music - What are some influences on LoNero that aren’t so obvious?
Actually I don’t listen to instrumental guitar. I can’t sit through it. It’s too much wanking and not enough shaking. What I mean by that is instrumental guitar is always about the lead and always about how many notes you can play and how fast you are and how many arpeggios you know. To me that’s so boring. Give me some groove. Show me a song. I want to hear a verse with a melody. I want to hear a kick ass rhythm. Not some guy wanking with his whammy bar. Most instrumental, if you take away the lead and you leave just the rhythm, the whole song falls apart and there is nothing there. My biggest influence is Angus Young. I love his tone, attitude, style and conviction. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against speed, arpeggios etc. But there is a time and place for everything and doing it non-stop in a song is just not my thing. Can I do it? Absolutely. Do I need to in every song? Not a chance!
Bloodofheroes: Michael Rosen (Producer: Joe Satriani, Santana, Papa Roach, Testament & more) is a pretty big name – talk about the recording process with him.
It was great! He’s an awesome engineer/producer/person. When he approached us about doing the new CD with us I had to double check to make sure it was the same Michael Rosen that I was hoping it was. Basically we talked for almost a year before we actually started recording. We had made demos of all the songs and sent those to Rosen as we finished them. He would get back to us and give us his feedback and then we’d rehearse the songs with those changes and give our feedback. There were some disagreements but nothing to bad (well except for one incident). But we got over it and moved on. Once all the demos were done he moved his stuff into our studio for about 10 days and we spent about 10 hours a day recording the album. We used everything from an all original 1953 Les Paul Goldtop to a Ken Lawrence “Hetfield”, Jerry Jones Baritone, Peavey Wolfgangs, Paul Reed Smith, Bolan Les Paul etc. For amps we used a Wizard Modern Classic 50W, custom Dave Friedman EVH 50W, Roccaforte, Voodoo V-Rock 100W, Peavey Triple XXX and many other amps and guitars. I’d like to thank Dr. Michael Burry for some fantastic gear. He’s a gear aficionado and has a great set of ears. The guy knows tone. So when we started the pre-production for the album he came to us with all this incredible equipment and it really made a huge difference on the tone and direction of this album.
Bloodofheroes: When I read the press materials, the word “guitarcore” stood out to me, and when I hear it I think instrumental metalcore. What is “guitarcore”? What does it mean to you?
Guitarcore has nothing to do with metalcore or hardcore or any other core. Guitarcore is about attitude and playing what you want when you want. And for this album what we wanted were songs that had a verse, chorus, groove and melody but in a non-vocal format. Guitarcore is for people that love guitar but don’t want to sit though 15 minute guitar solos. It’s also for people that love vocal music but don’t want to sit through someone growling into the mic. Guitarcore is about integrity and honesty. It’s about playing any style of music you want and not having to apologize for it. On the last CD “Relentless” I wrote a Hawaiian Slack Key song called “Lahaina Nights”. There is also a song on that CD called “Swamp Juice” and it was played on a 3 string strumstick. On my first CD “Slather” I put a latin song, a blues song and 2 acoustic folk style songs. Whether it’s “Guitarcore”, “Hardcore” or “Metalcore” the album should have integrity. LoNero will put any style of music we want on our album no matter what the style and make no apologies for it. Music is about expression and if you want to express yourself with a banjo then you should be able to without being criticized for it. Period. I think my biggest issue with guitar players is no matter how good someone is, there is always someone that has to say “well he isn’t fast enough” or “his arpeggios aren’t clean enough” or “I can’t believe he just played that mode over that chord progression” etc, etc. WTF? Since when does playing guitar require you to be an Olympic contestant? I play guitar because I love it. I don’t care how fast someone is or how many arpeggios they know. If I listen to their music and I can hear that they put their heart and soul into it (no matter how sloppy or clean their playing is) then I am a fan. I have no interest in being the fastest guitarist. I’m fast enough to get my point across. And when I go to YouTube and want to watch some guitar videos (it doesn’t matter who it is) there are always negative comments from some jackholes that probably would shit their pants if they had to actually play live on stage in front of people.
Bloodofheroes: What are some of your favorite songs from “JFL” to play live? Which songs are received best by the audience live?
Definitely “Little Bastard”, “Eden”, “Oblivion”, “Good Luck”, “Downside”, and “Fat Tat”. They’ve all been received really well. Since we just came out with this album it’s fun to play around with them a little live and alter the melodies a little here and there or the solos. We haven’t played “Giant”, “King of Damage” or “New Song” live yet.
Bloodofheroes: Since your first album was released back in 2007, what has been the biggest challenge in building the band?
I don’t really see them as challenges so much as opportunities. The biggest opportunity is helping people to get over their fear of the word “instrumental”. That word conjures up images of some kid sitting in his room wanking on his guitar for 10 minutes and really not playing anything or 10 million YouTube videos of guitarists playing as fast as possible. A lot of people (especially non guitar players) are turned off by that. That’s why we named this album “J.F.L.”. It stands for “Just Fucking Listen”. That’s all anyone needs to do for anything. Stop talking, stop making judgments, stop criticizing and just fucking listen and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll hear.
Bloodofheroes: There seems to be a rebirth of instrumental music over the last couple years, but within the context of a larger album with vocals – what was it that inspired you to be completely instrumental?
The lack of a vocalist. When I started writing for my first CD “Slather” it was with the intention of writing songs and getting a vocalist to sing over them. I kept looking for a vocalist and couldn’t find one. So I thought I’ll write the songs and put a melody where I think the vocal lines should be. I never found a singer and the melodies stayed. From that came the idea to put actual choruses and verses in the songs and write the songs as if a singer is actually going to sing over them. Also I had no interest in taking the traditional instrumental route which is to sit in my room all day and record song after song and never perform live. I love performing live and I sure as Hell wasn’t going to do it to prerecorded tracks. So I put together a band.
Bloodofheroes: It is a warm summer day and you are relaxing and enjoying your favorite beverage – what is on the stereo?
AC/DC, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Metallica, (old) Exodus, Death Angel, Megadeth, Barry Manilow, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Todd Snider, Dream Theater, Jeff Beck, Johnny Cash, Marilyn Manson, and Waylon Jennings.
Bloodofheroes: If there is one core message or theme from LoNero you’d like to leave Metal Underground readers with, this is the time so lay it out!
Don’t judge LoNero from the title “instrumental”. Listen with an open mind and above all “Just Fucking Listen!”. Oh and stop being so fucking critical of everyone else. Music is about expression and everyone expresses themselves in their own way. It doesn’t make them wrong. When you can express yourself the way you want to and make no apologies for anything you do and you do it your way with integrity. To me THAT is hardcore. THAT is metal!
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