Proto-metal...it's a term often aligned with the early heavy metal movement, before the genre was actually given that name. Blues, psychedelia, and hard rock combined with tremendous volume to create a sound that was new, powerful, and heavy. Though bands such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Cream, Mountain, Blue Cheer, Uriah Heep, Budgie, Grand Funk Railroad, Leaf Hound, Sir Lord Baltimore, and others are often noted as the early champions of the so called proto-metal movement, one group that rarely gets a mention is Bang. Originally from Pennsylvania and later relocated to Florida, Bang (guitarist/vocalist Frankie Gilcken, bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara, and drummer/lyricist Tony Diorio) brought the thunder along with plenty of groove and a melodic sense, got signed to a major label record deal, and was on the verge of breakthrough acceptance before disbanding suddenly and fading into the heavy rock history books. Now reunited, Bang are once again ready to prove to the world that they were one of the most important hard rock bands of the golden era, and still have what it takes to make a major impact. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo had a chance to speak with bassist Frank Ferrara about the past & future of Bang.
SoT: Though I've been a loyal follower of '70s heavy rock sounds for the majority of my life, for some reason Bang was a band that escaped me until a few years ago. Chances are we have many readers here at SoT who also missed out on the band-can you talk a little bit about your history, how you came together, and got started in the music industry?
Frank: You can read the whole in-depth story on Bangmusic.com…I'll try to make a long story short….I've known Frankie since grade school…Tony answered our ad for a drummer 2 weeks after Woodstock…rehearsed 6 days a week for 18 months getting our sound together…took a trip to Florida with a station wagon and a u-haul…ended up talking our way into opening up for SMALL FACES & DEEP PURPLE….a couple months later signed with Capitol Records. That's the the short story…the whole story is pretty amazing…
SoT: Death of a Country was the first record you recorded-why was it initially never released, and only wound up coming out many years later?
Frank: Again thats a tricky question…Capitol signed us after we recorded DEATH OF A COUNTRY…we thought the plan was to release Death and at the last minute Capitol decided they didn't want to relase it…telling us it was too heavy for a debut album…That was really disappointing because we believed in the Death album…after shelving Death…they gave us 2 weeks to write the next record…which turned out to be the BANG album…
SoT: Those first few albums, Death of a Country, Bang, and Mother/Bow to the King are essential heavy rock for any fan of the genre. I've often stated that Bang's music is a like a strange mix of Black Sabbath, Budgie, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, and Wishbone Ash. How would you describe the band to someone who has never heard your music before?
Frank: One music critic described our music as a cross between Grand Funk-Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin…which is pretty close to the bands you listed.
that was a real compliment…only if we had sold as many albums a those three put together…wow…that would have been cool…as far as how I would describe BANG…I would say…we're a 3 piece power trio with kick ass songs that tell a story…todays music is more about the beat than the lyric…and thats a shame…call me old school…the music from the 60's and 70's … especially the rock music…have a lotta soul…don't hear that too much these days…
SoT: Bang toured and opened up for a lot of very popular acts on the early '70s live circuit. Can you talk about some of the more memorable shows and bands you played with, and any stories you'd like to share?
Frank: I'll give you three…stealing the show from our teen favorites Black Sabbath…solidified our belief that we belonged…Playing the Mar y Sol festival in Puerto Rico and partying with all the bands that played there and some who chose not to cause the promoter stiffed everyone. The cool thing all the bands stay at the same hotel…and we had 2 floors all to ourselves…and every room had something going on…another band we had a lot of fun with was Alice Cooper…we did a 3 city swing with them in Teaxas and tell were very cool kats….
SoT: With the album Music, the band saw it's first line-up change. Can you talk a little bit about that and the album, and what led to Bang's breakup in 1974?
Frank: After the BANG record came out and didn't explode…Capitol started putting pressure on us to come up with a hit single…at the time the #1 record was "I AM Women" by Helen Reddy… who was also in the Capitol family. Think aboutt that…we were and are a ROCK band…not a top 40 hit machine…we were so disappointed in the way Capitol treated us…If they didn't like the music then WHY THE HELL did they sign us…it made no sense..in hindsight we should have went with Atlantic a more progressive rock label…still under the gun to come up with a "hit" we decided to record "NO SUGAR TONITE" by the Guess Who..after the Mother album was done…and losing Tony in the process…we we're unable to tour…we didn't have a band and finding other players to join just didn't work out…we still had another album to fulfill our contract so we recorded the MUSIC album again with the sensational Bruce Gary…but by that time…me and Frankie were so disappointed by what was going on decide to hang it up.
SoT: Many years went by before the reunion in 1997-what was everyone doing in that 23 year span?
Frank: I guess we were doing what everyone else was doing…working odd jobs and trying to pay the bills like everyone else…playing in different bands along the way and basically just trying to survive. You know…when I first started playing music I thought that It would be easy to get a band together and it would be hard to do music…the exact opposite is true…Music is easy its finding the right people…people who have the same goals and the same commitment…that's the hard part. Its so hard to find...
SoT: Can you talk about the events that led up to the reunion? Was there a lot of fan interest at the time and did that spur the three of you to make new music together again?
Frank: Even though we went our separate ways we remained in touch…so when the stars lines up and Tony moved back to Philly from Dallas we just started writing like it was yesterday not 23 years ago. It goes to show that once you make magic with someone…it never goes away…within a month we had written all the songs for our RTZ record…which we recorded on Frankie little basement studio. We all had a great time putting RTZ together on a small 8 trace machine…not quite the studio that Criteria and the Sound Factory were…lol..still the final result was fantastic…efforts to put a band together again kept running into a brick wall…it just wasn't time yet.
SoT: Return to Zero and The Maze are the two albums that have been
recorded sine Bang reconnected. What do you think about both of them, and what have the fans & critics had to say as well?
Frank: Both records proved that we still could write songs.I love both records …as I said RTZ was recorded a small equipment in a basement…but that just proved you don't need a 500.00 dollar an hour studio to make a good record…the Maze was done in a more convenetial studio with a co-producer…but that turned into a hassle when the co-producer's ego started getting in the way…and turning a fun time into a drag. Our next record will be our best…the pieces are in place. Both albums were received well but without a label and without promotion and distribution…I don't think anyone even knew we had a new record. to this day a lot of people think we only did two records….BANG and MOTHER…go figure…lol
SoT: Tony Diorio dropped out before The Maze was recorded-can you talk about that and how you came upon Matt Calvarese?
Frank: Actually Tony stopped playing live after the BANG record… we used the drummer from Skylark…Duris Maxwell… for the 4 songs we recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami and when we got to LA we got together with BRUCE GARY…from the Knack fame…to finish Mother…Bruce also played drums on every song after that we did for Capitol Records…as far as Matt Calverese is concerned…I've known Matt for about 10 years and when me and Frankie started kicking around starting up again…we ran into Matt at a music store and asked if he would come and play…he did…it sounded great and now here we are. The band sounds the best its sounded since we played and recorded with Bruce…kick ass drummer and a good soul…perfect for what we needed….
SoT: We've heard that the band is interested in doing some live shows here in 2014-will this be a full scale tour, or just select US dates?
Frank: We're trying to get our ducks in a row…finding management and a booking agent…our goal is to do this full scale…a world tour would be awesome cause we broke up before we got to go to Europe…we ready to go and we want to play everywhere we can.
SoT: Will the live shows be as a 3 piece, and what songs are you looking to add to the set list?
Frank: Yes it will be 3 piece..with a couple of background singers…an possibly some keys…the core will remain 3 piece…its stronger and more powerful that way…but after the Mother album…we started orchestrating our music more and more…so to be true to the newer material we'll have to add some other musicians.
SoT: With so many classic heavy bands either making strong comebacks or still out rocking hard year after year (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, just to name a few) how do you feel that Bang fits into that mix?
Frank: We're right there with all of them…and we can hold our own with any of them…so I'd say we would fit in rather easily…just because other bands became more famous doesn't necessarily mean they were better…they just got the breaks they needed to hit the top….
SoT: Any chance of additional new music from Bang in the near future?
Frank: Oh hell yes…hopefully by the summer…we never stopped writing so we have plenty of material to record…that in itself is really cool. To be back and reloaded is a beautiful thing…it feels the same as it did all those years ago…or as a friend said…in the long ago…
SoT: If you look into your crystal ball, what does the next 1-5 years hold for Bang?
Frank: Hopefully we'll be touring and playng our music to people who have never heard of BANG…with that MUSIC is what drives us and its what brought us back to were we are now…as Tony wrote….Finding a place thats right for me….falling thru space….RTZ…we also expect to keep writing and recording and hopefully in that time span we'll have a few more records to add to the BANG file.
Photos Courtesy of the Bang Website