Lion Music has churned out a lot of guitar oriented progressive rock and metal releases over the years, none perhaps more impressive in recent memory than the debut from New York's Speaking to Stones. Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz had the chance to chat with both guitarist Tony Vinci and singer Richard Finck IV about their debut self-titled album, the bands history, and future plans.
Read on for the interview!
Sea of Tranquility: Could you talk a bit about the history of the band?
Tony Vinci: I've known Dave Callari for half of my life, and we've always clicked as people and musicians. We've always wanted to do something together, but things--bands, relationships, etc.--seem to have a way of imploding. So, after years of failed band attempts, we decided to just do this CD together. We wrote some tunes together with a drummer, Steve Germano. Great guy. Cool drummer. Great singer. But as I said, things just fall apart sometimes. So, Dave and I recorded a few tunes with a drum machine and I wrote a few more in my basement apartment in Upstate New York. We recorded it, and our buddy, Rich Fink, sang, and here we are.
SoT: Although Speaking To Stones is a new band, its members are all quite respected musicians. I know Tony played in a Dream Theater tribute band before and Fink is a professional vocal coach. Tell us a bit about your musical background?
Tony Vinci: I'm a typical guitar geek. I loved Eddie Van Halen as a kid. I would get so moved by his solos. They were wild, technical, and beautiful. It often made me feel like I was listening to Mozart, listening to Eddie. So, I had to get a guitar! Then came Satch, and the world stopped. I've said it before: the man can do more with one note than I can do with one-hundred. After Satch, the metal gods: Skolnik, Freeman, etc. Then came Dream Theater. I was at this concert--it was only $5 to get in. I didn't even know what the band was; I was just told by friends that they were "really, really freakin' cool." I was in the bathroom when I heard "Metropolis." I literally, pissed all over myself to run out of there and see who or what the hell was on stage. That was the end for me. I learned to practice. I learned to write.
Rich Finck IV: I started out in music by playing drums for nearly 10 years before I started singing in my senior year of High School and continued to study independently with several different vocal coaches throughout the years before I started teaching myself in 2002. Producing is a love of mine as well. I produced my first band in the studio as a drummer when I was 15 years old, and now at 31, I have over 30 CDs that I have performed and produced on. So I truly enjoy several different styles of music, working with a variety of musicians, and to simply be a part of creative and intelligent projects.
SoT: How did the idea of forming a progressive band originate?
Tony Vinci: Actually, the idea was to play what we eloquently refer to as "stuff that's sort of proggy but not really but kinda." Translation: we wanted to play music that "felt" progressive, but it didn't have all of the crazy, technical elements all the time. I'm actually working on a disc right now with one of my old bands, Eleventh Hour. That cd is going to be completely over-the-top, technical progressive stuff.
SoT: Though mostly progressive, the material on your debut album also hints at an affinity for melodic rock and AOR. Where do these influences come from?
Tony Vinci: I'm not sure. To be honest, I don't even know what "AOR" is. I don't listen to too much contemporary stuff. Not much that might be on the radio anyways. That's not to say that there's not cool stuff out there, I'm just pretty isolated. If you ask me where the notes in my solos come from, I could probably tell you about every single one. Those tunes like "Nothing" I think come from me being alone and just allowing my fingers to play with sound. In a way, maybe they come from my affinity for Mozart's Serenade for Winds. These soft, haunting melodies have always hit me deeply.
SoT: Tony, your guitar playing is awesome. Great tone and feel. Who are some of your favourite players?
Tony Vinci: Thanks! Like everyone else with this sickness, I'm a tone freak. I literally can't play well if what I hear coming out of my amp doesn't sound "right." The tone on the cd is part boogie, part my fingers and part Vox. I'm pretty happy with it. For influences, see question #2.
SoT: After hearing Rich's vocals on the album, I had to think of vocalists such as Chris Cornell, DC Cooper,and Stefan Zell, though he's got his own thing going on. What singers does you like listening to a lot?
Rich Fink IV: I started out singing to artists like Ted Neeley (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Geoff Tate, mainly focusing on a theatrical style of singing in a rock genre. Over the years I started getting into and singing with bands like Skidrow, Metallica, Dream Theater, Pearl Jam, and others, but you hit the nail on the head with Chris Cornell! Chris is my all time favorite vocalist and I will probably spend the rest of my life trying to sing a comparable performance of his song "Say Hello To Heaven" (Temple of the Dog)!!
SoT: Have you guys started working on your sophomore disc yet?
Tony Vinci: We'll probably begin writing this summer.
SoT: The drum programming on your debut is so well done that it's hard believe it's a machine. Will the band be auditioning a full-time drummer for concerts?
Tony Vinci: If we decide to do concerts, YES! We'll have a drummer.
SoT: What progressive bands and albums are you guys listening to nowadays? What were you top discs of 2006?
Tony Vinci: Did James LeBrie's "Elements of Persuasion" come out in '06?
SoT: That was 2005 actually.
Tony Vinci: Oh well, I love that disc anyway! I also dig Ray Alder's new band, Redemption.
SoT: Any touring plans in the near future?
Tony Vinci:We've had many cool offers to play in Europe. We'll see if the stars can align and we'll be able to share this stuff with an audience. I hope we will!
(Click here to read our reviews of Speaking to Stones)