singer songwriter musician soundman producer engineer
Oh boy, where do I begin? I had thought about starting from day one and taking you through my entire life story. But then I realized that other than my parents, Martha & Mario Chinnici (tell me that ain’t Italian), most people would be bored attempting to read such a novel. So I decided to go with the “Behind The Music” format. Squeeze an entire lifetime/career into a few paragraphs/pages. This may still seem long-winded, but trust me, I’m leaving out a lot details.
Okay, so let me start at the beginning. At the ripe old age of 3 (pictured left) I figured out why I was alive… to make music. That’s all there was to it. Stories, as told by my mom, go something like this; (spoken in a high-pitched, Long-Island accent) “When he was just a baby, he never had any toys or G.I. Joe dolls, He used to walk around the house with his record player in one hand and records in the other. All he wanted to do was listen to music.” Originally, I wanted to be a drummer, but my parents wouldn’t allow it, so I went with guitar. They thought I’d be playing acoustic guitar for the rest of my life. Boy were they sorry when I got my first electric guitar and amp (age 9).When I turned 10, I realized that I was definitely mature enough to become a rock star, so I started my first band, which lasted a few months, but I never stopped playing. I continued to work at becoming a rock star. I was never all that concerned with being a good guitarist, just a big rock star.
At age 15 I finally formed a “real” band called ‘Side Track’, and we got our first paying gig playing for my cousin Karen D’Agosto’s sweet 16 birthday party. Uncle Frank paid us $50. It was the most valuable $10 (5 band members) I ever made. This meant I was a pro. Of course, shortly after this land-mark performance, the band broke up. Having an attachment to the name, I decided to find some new band members and keep the name. This band continued on through all of high school, and then collapsed into oblivion.
Following my parents advice, I went to school to become a recording engineer instead of pursuing the life of a rock star. Becoming a recording engineer proved to be a valuable trade. I got to work with many talented and interesting people.
But at age 20, I decided I’d had enough and it was time to really concentrate on becoming a rock star, again. So I created the band ‘Pipe Dreams’. I started writing music, but solely as a vehicle for playing. I didn’t put much stock in the songs. They didn’t have to be good songs, we just had to play them well and that would make us stars. So we recorded our tunes and released our first album ‘Pipe Dreams‘. On the day the album was released, we had our album release celebration concert, and recorded it. This became our second album, ‘Tour 88-89‘. ‘Keeps You Runnin” from the ‘Pipe Dreams‘ album hit the top 10 on many college radio stations. On some stations it became the most requested song. Fresh on the heals of our new success, we went back into the studio and recorded our next album ‘In Your Eyes‘. Unfortunately, we didn’t do much with this album. As we completed the album, we made the decision to part ways with the singer, making it difficult to promote the album.
So we found a new singer, Tanya, and began work on rekindling our short-lived fame. This went on for roughly 2 more years and then we decided to call it quits. Once this happened, I found myself, for the first time, writing music solely for the purpose of writing. The difference was tremendous, so I called some of the band members, played them my new demos, and we agreed to get back together, revamping the line up a bit. This was when the band really started to kick some ass.
For the first time in my life, I was playing music just because I wanted to. It had nothing to do with being a rock star, it had to do with feeling empty if I wasn’t playing music. After some personnel changes in the band, and more song writing growth, things were really getting good. The band was sounding better than ever, and we were developing quite a following. Almost every time we played, we had a packed house. So we decided to release a new album called ‘A Little Pain‘. This album was good. We did it for ourselves, not to become rock stars. It really worked, but we couldn’t manage to land a record deal, simply because we didn’t have the necessary connections in the industry.
Eventually I grew tired of Long Island, and made the huge decision to pick up and leave. For another year, we attempted to continue the band. I would travel back and forth (500 miles round trip) for gigs. But this did not work. Eventually it got to the point where we started to sound tired. I decided it was time to do what no one else would do… stop beating a dead horse. We all agreed to put in some time, do some rehearsing, do one last concert for free (as a thank you to all of our friends/fans) and record it.
That’s exactly what we did. And yes, we went out with a bang. We released our last album called ‘The Last Hurrah!’. It is the entire last concert, warts and all.
Nobody But Me… / 12 Months / Tour 2002 / Tour 2003
(the start of the solo career)
Well, now it was over. Fourteen years in a band, and now I was on my own, in a new state without a musical outlet. I decided it was time to try something new. Being a recording engineer with my own 24-track digital recording studio, I decided to try recording an album on my own. I wasn’t aggressive about it, but whenever I got the itch to write, I would do so and then record it. After almost 3 years, I realized that I had enough material for an album, so I compiled it and called it ‘Nobody But Me…‘. This was a fitting title for two reasons. First, it really is nobody but me, I did everything on the album from the writing to the performing. Second, there is a song on the album called ‘Nobody But Me’. While this song is not necessarily the most commercially accessible song in the world, it really hits home for me. It has a lot of meaning for me. This project worked out great. It was a lot of fun, and I got a very good response from listeners. But there was one thing that bothered me. How could it have taken me almost 3 years to create/record enough material for an album? This is too long.
So I decided to begin a new project. I was going to force myself to write and record a song each and every month in the year 2001. This was going to be quite a task being that in the past, whenever I tried to force a song, it completely sucked. But it was something I had to try. I also decided to put the album together in order, so that it would take the listener on a journey through the year. Amazingly enough, I did it. I completed the disc and called it ‘12 Months‘. Thankfully, it turned out exactly the opposite of what I expected. Instead of ending up with 10 fair tunes and 2 good tunes, I ended up with mostly good tunes. Many people have stated that this is my best work to date. Thankfully, I agree. Not only are there 12 tunes on the disc, but it is interactive as well. If you put it in your computer, you will find two music videos.
In January of 2002 I released the disc, with the help of Harman/Kardon, under the name “Chin-Knee-See” (the phonetic spelling of my last name). Having moved to the Catskill Mountains with my wonderful wife Cyndie, thinking my playing days were over, I began playing more than ever. I began doing solo gigs as “Sum Guy”, playing in a band called “John Doe Smith” with long-time friend Brian Doherty, and playing in a cover band called “Down & Dirty” with fellow Catskill Mountaineers Joey Fulco and Mike Viola. I also renewed my musical relationship with Rick Juliano, the other guitarist from ‘Pipe Dreams’. Rick and I toured the country in October of 2002 performing the entire ‘12 Months‘ disc as an acoustic duo with a “storytellers” type of vibe, thanks to JBL Speakers decision to sponsor me.
In 2003, being that the first tour was such a success, we did another one in April, once again sponsored by JBL Speakers. But this time we did something different. We went with electric guitars and prerecorded drum and bass tracks. We also added in a bunch of cover tunes and turned each night into a party. It really was a lot of fun. So much fun that we did it again in October. But this time we extended it to 5 1/2 weeks and went as far west as Wyoming. During this tour I realized many things. First and foremost, the name ‘Chin-Knee-See’ did not work (the worst marketing idea I’ve ever had), so I changed it to my actual name ‘Joe Chinnici’. I also realized it was time to make some changes.
Here I Am / Touring / The Wankers
While Rick and I had a great time playing together, all good things must come to an end. Having a slightly increased budget, I was now be able to take an extra person on the road with me. So on the next tour (October, 2004) I would be able to bring a drummer and bass player with me. Rick, not being either, would not be joining me on the tour. Next, it dawned on me that I had not written or recorded anything since ‘12 Months‘, so I updated my studio by adding another 8 tracks (now 32-track digital). I also put in electricity, so I didn’t have to worry about running an extension cord across the road every time I wanted to write and/or record a new tune, and began cutting tracks for the next disc. The recording began in February of 2004 and I had to complete it by August in order to have it ready for the tour in October. I managed to pull it off. I wrote and recorded 8 new tunes and re-recorded 4 tunes from the old ‘Pipe Dreams’ days. These were 4 tunes that I felt were just too good to let go. On this new album I did two new things as well. First, I decided not to use any “synthesized” orchestration sounds. So, if I wanted to put a violin part in a song, this meant that I had to purchase a violin, learn how to play it, and then record the part. In the end I learned to play and recorded violin, cello, french horn, trumpet and pan flute, to go along with drums, bass, keyboards, guitar and voice. That was quite a project.
The second thing was to bring in some outside musicians. Remember “Down & Dirty”? Well that band, by this time, had quickly dissolved and became a five piece jam band called ‘The Wankers’, consisting of Mike Viola, Bob Douglass, Dave Mitchell, Mike Deichsel and myself. Joey Fulco disappeared for whatever reason. The jam band became the house band at “The Daily Grind”, the coolest club in all of New York. This was actually the most fun I’ve ever had playing. While it doesn’t always sound absolutely perfect (being that its a jam band with no rehearsing), it is always a lot of fun. If you’re ever up around Walton, NY, be sure to check us out. So anyway, while recording this album, I brought these guys in to record one of the tunes, “Soul (Carry On)”. They did a great job.
I completed the album, decided to call it ‘Here I Am‘ and got to work on planning the next tour. This tour was just perfect. I got long time friends Mike Christian (drummer) and Rusty Homan (bass player) to join me and we had a complete blast. Not only did JBL sponsor the tour, but Harman/Kardon and Infinity released the album, and AKG supplied all of the mics for the entire tour. This was awesome. We also did a JBL Tattoo Contest. To be honest, I don’t think I could have asked for more. It was absolutely amazing.
One of the things that made this tour so amazing is that both Mike and Rusty also play every instrument, so we had lots of fun trading instruments throughout the show each night. The audience also really enjoyed this. Another great thing was my tour diary. Every day I updated my diary and gave as much detail as I could think of about what happened. I can’t tell you how many people came to me during the tour to thank me for the diary. They stated that they followed the tour every step of the way and felt like they were on tour with me. That was just great!!!
So the tour ended in my home town of Walton, New York where we had an absolute blast. After doing the complete ‘Joe Chinnici’ show, ‘The Wankers’ got up to do a set and finish off the night. It was an awesome welcome home party. As it turned out, that would be the last time that Mike Deichsel would play with us. Thankfully, someone new had come to town, Bill Foley, and it turned out that not only is he a great singer/songwriter/guitarist, but he also holds his own as a bass player, so he agreed to join ‘The Wankers’.
The Two Of Us / The Wankers / The Fab Faux / Cream & More
The year 2005 was absolutely intense. It started out with me approaching my great buddy, Bob Douglass with the idea of performing the entire Beatles catalog in chronological order with nothing more than two acoustic guitars and two voices. He accepted, we decided to call ourselves ‘The Two Of Us’, and off we went. It’s a lot to explain here, but go to www.AcousticBeatles.com (now defunct) to check it out, especially if you’re a Beatle fan. In a nutshell, we performed a new album every two months, and by the end of the year, we had performed exactly 100 of the first Beatle songs, all before a live audience at The Daily Grind. It has been an awesome experience to date. Sounds like quite a packed year doesn’t it? That’s just the beginning. Check this out.
I’ve been working with The Fab Faux for almost four years now, but this year things really picked up. I became their stage manager. Their schedule has really picked up, so we’ve been really busy. This band consists of such heavy hitters as Rich Pagano, Will Lee, Jimmy Vivino, Jack Petruzzelli, Frank Agnello and many others.
I also hooked up with Kate Pierson of the B-52’s, acting as her sound man. She is a sweet heart, and hopefully we will get to work together again in the future.
In the meantime, The Wankers, all I can say is WOW. We were booked to play the main stage at the Delaware County Fair, opening up for Sara Evans (a country singer). We were told that we would be playing to a crowd of roughly 5000 and that they were diehard country fans. This seemed like a bit of a mismatch being that we are a Classic Rock jam band that does some southern type stuff, but we certainly are not a country band. Even so, the county wanted us and we accepted. The band was convinced that we would do an awesome job and blow the audience away. I, being “experienced”, explained that as the opening act, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN. We will get the sympathy applause and it will be fun, but we should not expect an intense reaction. I couldn’t have been more wrong. What started out as sympathy applause ended with a standing ovation. It was certainly one of the musical highlights of my career. It felt incredible to have that many people screaming for you. Unfortunately, due to irreconcilable differences, Bill Foley left the band shortly after this show. But thankfully, Mike Deichsel jumped back in to join us again.
And if that isn’t enough, JBL sponsored the Cream reunion at Madison Square Garden in October. They chose ‘Psychotherapy‘ for a JBL/Cream Promo which aired at The Garden each night before the show. It was very nice to hear my music and see my name in lights at Madison Square Garden. A very cool experience. Click here to watch the video.
And in the meantime, I sold my ADAT’s and moved up to 48-track digital hard disc. I moved the studio into the house, building a beautiful new room, and am getting really psyched about getting back in to doing some recording.
How’s that for a year chock full of music? It was a great year, and I can only hope there is more to come.
Willie Nile / Soundman / Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp & More
The year 2006 brought some changes. This was the year that the balance started to shift. My “soundman” life started to pick up some speed and my music life began to slack a bit. First, I hooked up with Willie Nile, an amazing artist that I have had the honor of doing sound for. He is awesome.
Then, in June, I had the honor of doing a private gig as “The Bourbon Band” with Rich Pagano, John Conte & Jimmy Vivino. It was an awesome experience to be on the stage with these guys rather than being behind the console as their soundman.
And then in August, JBL sent me to Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp where I met, jammed and worked with some serious heavy hitters in the music industry. Okay, I’ll do some name dropping. Mark Farner (Grand Funk), Kelly Keagy (Night Ranger)…ah, the list is too long. Click here to check it out. It’s pretty intense.
As for The Fab Faux, this year was very eventful. I’ve come full circle and am now their Front Of House Soundman again, and in doing sound for them I’ve also found myself doing sound for their special guests,. And their special guest list is getting pretty long. In 2006 I got to work with Elvis Costello, Rob Thomas, Michael J. Fox, Sheryl Crow & Axl Rose, to name a few.
Unfortunately it seems that 2006 brought The Wanker mayhem to an end. Excessive baggage and personality conflict brought things to a bit of a halt. While I still believe and hope that things may come back together, I fear that things will never be quite the same as they were.
All in all, a good year.
Joe Chinnici Tour 2007 / Soundman & More
2007! Wow!! We are talkin’ one helluva rollercoaster ride. 2007 started out with the overnight deterioration of ‘The Two Of Us’ & ‘The Wankers’. I was cool with that, if that’s how it had to be, but I had a gig booked for January 7th, and The Loft was not letting me off the hook that easy. So I called James Pagano (my best friend), whom I hadn’t really played with since Pipe Dreams, and Sandy Gennaro (my new bud) who was currently on tour with Bo Diddley. They both agreed to do this off-the-cuff gig, and it paid off nicely. We had lots of fun.
In the meantime, Bob and I smoothed over our differences and agreed to continue with ‘The Two Of Us’ project. Thankfully all went well and we managed to complete the original plan. Yes, we performed the ENTIRE Beatles catalog in chronological order using nothing more than two acoustic guitars and two voices. Yes, we pulled it off. Yes, there were many witnesses. And YES, it was completely worth it.
And being that Bob and I cleared everything up, Dave and I were still cool, we added them to the James Pagano and Sandy Gennaro line up and ended up doing a Wanker gig. That was also fun.
During all of this my side career as a soundman continued to flourish to the point of chaos, but boy is it fun and worth it. In the year 2007 I was lucky enough to do sound for The Fab Faux, The Soul Ramblers, Prisoner’s Of 2nd Avenue (formerly Steaks & Chops), Al Cooper, Jorma Kaukonen (Jefferson Airplane & Hot Tuna), Willie Nile, John Mayer, Joan Osborne, Gavin DeGraw, Levon Helm & Michael J. Fox.
More importantly, while in Los Angeles with The Fab Faux, keep up with me here, as The Fab Faux was performing The Beatles ‘The White Album’ live on stage, Ken Scott (the man that engineered ‘The White Album’) was in the audience listening to the performance as I was mixing it. To drive it home, my job as a soundman is to reproduce what the engineer and producer did in the studio. So I was attempting to recreate what Ken Scott did, in front of Ken Scott. That was kind of freaky.
Now let’s take it one step further. Later on in the year we (The Fab Faux & me) did ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (the album) in it’s entirety, at The Beacon in Manhattan. This was a huge ordeal for me simply because it was the biggest room I had ever worked in. Now, to kick it in the teeth, Geoff Emerick (the man that engineered this album) was there observing the performance. That was too much. Twice in one year I found myself in this position. It was scary and thrilling at the same time. Thankfully, all worked out exactly as I would have hoped. It was a great experience.
Now, after all that it was time to think about the next ‘Joe Chinnici’ tour, to put my playing, my music, back in the forefront. So I contacted Rusty and he was totally into doing the tour as a Bass Player or Guitarist, whatever I needed. I was already aware that Mike Christian could not commit to a tour, so I had to do some digging as I wanted to do a four piece. A phone call to James Pagano was very satisfying. Some changes in his life finally made it possible for him to say yes to a tour. This was very exciting. This meant James was going to cover the duties of the Bass Player, and Rust was going to handle the Guitar and Sax work. All that was left was a drummer. I knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to call Mike Viola from The Wankers, but due to he funky situation we had at the end of last year I didn’t feel comfortable making the call. I began auditioning drummers, but nothing was working. I even spoke with Sandy Gennaro about it, but he was on tour with Bo Diddley. Still even so, my head kept saying CALL MIKE, so I did. We had a bunch of conversations and finally agreed to go for it.
Well that was it, the band was put together and it was time to put a rehearsal schedule and tour together. We planned for three rehearsals and then a whirlwind 3 week tour. It all came together and it was amazing. I gave these guys 48 tunes to learn, and learn they did. We pulled together 24 tunes on the first rehearsal, 24 tunes on the second, and then fine tuned all 48 on the final rehearsal, and off we went.
Musically, it was insane. There were no weak links. All four musicians were of equal quality and talent. We did a great tour and recorded the entire thing. It was good enough that it will be turned into a live album, something I’ve wanted to do my whole life. I will release an official live album from the ‘Joe Chinnici tour of 2007.
That pretty much wrapped up the ear as the tour ended on November 2nd. But there was one more thing that happened. Being that the tour was so successful and Mike Viola and I REALLY bonded, this enabled us to revive The Wankers with the complete original line up with the exception of now having James Pagano on bass. So basically, The Wankers are back where we started, but even better now because James is without a doubt the best Bass Player we’ve had in the band.
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2008 brings.
Behind The Board (lots of mixing & some playing)
2008 brought some fun things, but overall it was a fairly uneventful year.
‘The Wankers’ became a viable entity again. We do a gig every 6 weeks or so and a good time is always had.
‘The Two Of Us’ have continued to record The Beatles catalog. We managed to release ‘With The Beatles’ on June 21 and then went back into the studio to begin work on ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. The recordings are getting better and better as we go.
‘Joe Chinnici’; well that’s a tough one. There was not a single ‘Joe Chinnici’ gig all year. This was for two reasons. First, Rusty decided not to continue playing with me. It was sort of a mutual decision. Although I don’t know the whole truth as to why we’re not playing together anymore, I believe it has everything to do with different musical tastes. Rusty and I still talk and I believe we’ll be friends for life, and maybe we’ll even play together again some day, but right now it’s not in the cards. Second, I spent the majority of the year listening back to the entire tour of 2007, evaluating it, and then mixing it for the live album that I was hell bent on releasing. It was a very tedious process, but it ended up being completely worth it. I finally converted the studio over to a full blown Pro Tools facility too.
As for the Live Sound Engineering, of course I continue to work with The Fab Faux and it was pretty much a typical year. But there were two very big highlights. First, we did a show in Los Angeles at The Avalon. I was very happy with the sonic results of the evening, but the kicker came at the end of the night when this guy walks up to me and says “I have to tell you, this was the single best live mix I’ve ever heard in my life.” After doing the cordial “thank you” thing he introduced himself as Bob Clearmountain. You audio heads know who I’m talking about. For everyone else, Bob Clearmountain is my ‘audio idol”. He is a music producer that has produced/engineered every album that I’ve ever used as my point of reference when making my own music. He is an icon in the audio industry, and I am honored to have been in his presence. And the second HUGE highlight would have to be the performance at RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL. That was an awesome experience.
Okay, so the year is over and I’m wrapping up the mixing of the live album which I will call ‘When The Tree Fell‘ (you can figure out what it means). I’ve also committed to trying to do the ‘Joe Chinnici’ thing as a three-piece (just me, Mike & James). We have our first gig in February. If all goes well ‘Joe Chinnici’ will be doing many more gigs in ’09.
Oh, and one more thing, Cyndie and I went to Alaska in August. All I can say is if you’re planning a vacation, I highly recommend it. It was truly amazing.
Everything But The Music (lots of mixing & very little playing)
2009… What can I say about 2009? Not very much, and what I do have to say isn’t very good. I guess the picture to your left says it all. I could not come up with a single photo of me performing any time in the past year, so I chose this adorable picture of me hanging with a chicken that happened to appear on my doorstep one day. Anyway, I performed a total of nine times this past year, the slowest year I’ve EVER had. This was all my doing, but frustrating nonetheless.
For starters I ended The Wankers once and for all. It wasn’t intentional, but regardless, it was the final outcome. I simply realized, again, that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and decided to be the one to call UNCLE. When I announced to the band that I would be leaving after the gig we have booked in August, the band ultimately decided to just call it quits. It’s a shame, I would have like to see them continue without me. But I guess I wasn’t the only one feeling that it was time.
THE TWO OF US:
We completed ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ early in the year. We then immediately started on ‘Beatles For Sale’, but that stalled early into production and we are having a very hard time getting back into the swing of it.
THE FAB FAUX:
Doing live sound for The Fab Faux is still wonderful, but it doesn’t take the place of playing, so it is a bit frustrating at times.
The ‘Joe Chinnici’ thing is driving me crazy. Last year I mentioned that we had our first 3-piece gig booked for February and if it was successful we would be playing very often. Well it was very successful, but for some reason I just couldn’t motivate myself to get out there and book gigs. This really got me kind of worried. I actually found myself wondering; ‘Am I done? Do I simply have no interest in making music anymore? Has the well finally run dry?’ I think I finally found my answer. Well I didn’t actually find it, it’s more like I did a whole lot of soul searching, evaluating, and all around analyzing. Here’s what I think I figured out.
In January I finished mixing and released ‘When The Tree Fell‘, the live album from the tour of 2007. What was the live album, a compilation of my previous three studio albums along with some covers. I also spent a whole lot of time going through every track from EVERY previous tour, coming up with the best takes of each tune performed on each tour. I did this so that I could compile everything and put it all to bed. Also, as mentioned above, THE WANKERS are done an THE TWO OF US are pretty much at a standstill. I then realized that it has been FIVE YEARS since I’ve written or recorded any new material.
No wonder why I had no motivation to get out there and make music, I have nothing new to offer, and am apparently getting tired of playing the same old thing. I also gained a bunch of weight back, so I’m not feeling all that great about myself either.
I guess it comes down to this, without even realizing it I have spent the last 12 months tying up loose ends and wrapping my entire musical past into a nice little bow, including the creation of a new website that reflects everything I’ve done to date. I guess I needed to do this before moving forward.
So here’s the good news; As I am writing this, this is the completion of the brand new ‘Joe Chinnici’ website. As soon as this letter is completed, I will be posting the new site and sending out an email to announce it. This is all happening on January 09, 2010. Once it’s posted, I will begin writing and recording some new material. I really do hope that it feels good and that I get something out of it, otherwise next year’s post will be very depressing. I hope 2010 is a better year than 2009.
…as I think about this I find myself thinking; ‘HEY, quit your whining!!!. Think about it. You are a solo independent musician with no kind of record deal or anything like that. And yet in the past 10 years, the past decade, as a solo artist you’ve managed to release three full length studio albums and a double live album. You’ve also done several videos as well as four tours of the United States performing as far south as New Orleans, as far west as Wyoming, and as far north as North Dakota. So what if you’ve had a slow/unproductive year. You’ve had an amazingly productive decade. So shut the fuck up, get your ass out of your chair and get to work on the next decade!!!’
Okay, now I feel better. 2010 IS GONNA BE A KILLER YEAR!!!!
Lots Of Ups & Downs
This decade was chock full of ups & downs, floundering and trying to find my way, with little success. As a soundman goes, my audio life flourished. The Fab Faux averaged 30-40 weekend warrior shows per year, keeping me very busy. The other 12-22 weekends were spent doing other sound gigs and playing. Here’s how it all went down.
In January of 2010, after doing only 9 shows in all of 2009, I decided it was time to make a push with a new band. I created Joe Chinnici & The Groove, consisting of Mike Viola & James Pagano, still together since the tour of 2007, and we brought in Chris Dragon on guitar, a dear friend and supporter of ‘Joe Chinnici’ for many years. This was a lot of fun, but we were having trouble gaining traction and thought, maybe it’s the name. I spoke with my buddies from The Wankers, and they all agreed to let us continue using the name, so we became Joe Chinnici & The Wankers. Amazingly, things picked up a bit. We were right, it was the name. People recognized the name The Wankers, or they just liked it. Either way, it worked. We were having fun again and playing to decent sized audiences. Joining Facebook to promote shows didn’t hurt either, but I had done that prior to changing the name to The Wankers.
Before we could gain any real traction, Mike’s demons resurfaced. I just couldn’t do it anymore. It was time to cut ties once and for all. Without a drummer there is no band, so it was finally time to put this to bed.
During this time, I was intent on reviving The Two Of Us, but with a different partner. I had gotten to know Tom McCue, a member of James Pagano’s other band ‘Ridler’. Tom is an amazing talent. We got together and began recording The Beatles ‘Please Please Me’ album. Tom decided to go with a 7-string acoustic guitar and use it to play both kick & snare while playing bass lines and some chordal stuff, and I would take on the straight guitar parts. It sounded amazing. We recorded the entire album along with 2 of the 4 bonus (singles) tracks before it fell apart. I don’t know why, but it did. Tom and I are still friends. We even worked together on other failed projects of the decade, to be mentioned in a bit, but for some reason we just didn’t move forward on this. It truly is a shame because it was really impressive. As a matter of fact, I played some of these tracks as walk-in music at Faux shows, and people often inquired to find out who it was. The good news is that Tom and I have recently spoke about resurrecting this. I’m confident this will happen sometime in 2021. I’m hoping.
During all of this, in 2012, I reconnected with my band mates from Side Track, a band I was in, in 1982 when I was in high school consisting of Paul Biscardi, Mike DeMita, Russ Angrisani and myself. We began fantasizing about a 30 year reunion. The only problem was there was NO WAY I would work with the singer again. Jamie, the guy named as the singer of ‘Pipe Dreams’ on the early albums was the original singer of Side Track. This guy stole from me, and I would never work with him again. Therefore, we all agreed to do a reunion, but with a different singer. Enter Tom McCue. We got together, had two rehearsals and did a completely fun kick-ass reunion gig in our hometown of Valley Stream, New York. We all agreed to continue, being that we had so much fun. That lasted a few rehearsals and then fell apart.
Next up, King Dinosaur. I decided it was time to put together another serious band, you know, like in the Pipe Dreams days, where we would do intricate music with seriously crafted musicality and rehearsals to make it as perfect as it could be. This was to be a big undertaking with great musicians and dedication. The band easily fell into place. James Pagano & Chris Dragon from ‘Joe Chinnici & The Wankers’, Tom McCue from ‘The Two Of Us’, and Russ Angrisani from ‘Side Track’. We were all on the same page. We put together a song list and began practicing. I built an entire PA system around what was going to be. The first rehearsal went really well, and it went downhill from there until it fell apart before we ever got out of the basement, so to speak. I’ve never spent so much time and money on something that went NOWHERE!!! What a bummer.
Sometime during all of this I determined that I had to continue playing, even if only some bullshit gigs that don’t mean anything other than to have some fun playing, so I decided to create a new band called ‘Off The Cuff’. Enter Neil Nunziato. Neil is an amazing drummer and has also become a good friend. In 2014 we booked our first trio gig with Neil, James and myself, just playing some loose and juicy bluesy rock and roll without any rehearsals. The plan, just go out and play and have some fun. Amazingly, this little bullshit thing ended up being the glue throughout the rest of the decade. More to come on that later, but for now, this was a lot of fun. It was relaxed and creative, and there was no stress. YAY!!!
And then I met Danny Cavazzi, another great drummer. Wow, after all these years pining for great drummers that are not in some way psychologically challenged, two, TWO, I now know two of them. Both of these guys are great, and great friends. AWESOME!!!
Danny lives in Connecticut, amazingly in the town that I had to visit once every month. What were the chances of that? So we put together a new band called RetroVoid including Danny Cavazzi, Glenn Cavazzi, Mark Bridgman, Phil Lo Presti and myself. We have our first rehearsal and BAM, it’s awesome. This is going to be great. Sadly, as with King Dinosaur, the first rehearsal was the best, and it went downhill from there. Another new band that never had our first gig. UGH!!! Regardless though, I made 4 new friends. We all still communicate and play together in different variations, so all was not lost, and this is definitely a silver lining.
It’s always been a dream of mine to have a band with double drummers. I am a sucker for double drummers. So why not now? I have two drummers that I totally love playing with and they like each other. How can this possibly go wrong? So we all come together and create Off The Cuff 2.0, basically Off The Cuff with members of RetroVoid. Me, Danny, Glenn, James and Neil. We had a few rehearsals, did one show, and called it a day. I don’t even remember exactly why, only that it wasn’t working out quite the way any of us had hoped. BUMMER!!!
And while Off The Cuff was continuing, doing one-off gigs, Danny and I still felt it was important to continue playing, so we agreed to do a band called Double Espresso. The only constants in this band are me and Danny. Everyone else seems to come and go. We sometimes do duo gigs, but sometimes it becomes 3 or 4-piece gigs. I think my favorite incarnation is the one that includes me, Danny, Mark Bridgman & Phil Lo Presti. Lots of fun with great musicians.
And as mentioned earlier, more on Off The Cuff. This is the primo highlight of it all. While the three of us (me, Neil & James) continued Off The Cuff doing small gigs in local bars, we also began doing a yearly Off The Cuff gig at The Cutting Room with special guests.
- 2015: With Jack Petruzzelli & Carl Spataro
- 2016: With Jack Petruzzelli, Rich Pagano & Carl Spataro
- 2017: With Mark Rivera, one of the nicest and most talented people you’ll ever meet
- 2018: I got to live out the double drummer fantasy when we did one with both Neil Nunziato & Rich Pagano on drums, James Pagano on bass, Jack Petruzzelli on guitar, Mark Rivera on Sax, and super special guest, Amanda Kravat. You see, back in the 90’s Rich and Amanda were in a band called Marry Me Jane, that released 2 albums on the Sony Music label. I was a big fan. I wanted to surprise Rich, so I reached out to Amanda. She was totally up for it. We brought her up on stage in the middle of the show without Rich knowing it was about to happen, and we did the wonderful tune ‘Twenty-One’. That was great.
We intended to continue this yearly event, but sadly 2019 was not in the cards, and then you all know what happened in 2020, so no need to talk about that. But even so, I’m hoping to get back to this yearly event as it has proven to be most satisfying.
And finally, the Two Guys virtual reunion. When 2020 COVID-19 hit and everything went to shit, before everyone and their mother was shooting virtual music videos, in May of 2020, Bill McIntyre, my lifelong friend, and I got together, virtually, for a Two Guys reunion 23 years after our last gig. We did a fun cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘If I Don’t Be There By Morning’. So much fun. We’re hoping to do more in the future.
And then there was CMD (working title), consisting of me, Graham Maby and Brian Doherty. Brian & Graham were with The Silos at the same time I had been working with them back in 1990. Brian went onto They Might Be Giants, among others, and Graham has been with Joe Jackson since the beginning as well as many others (Natalie Merchant, etc.). We had gotten together and started an original project. We had to put that on hold because Graham was heading back out on the road with Joe Jackson, and then COVID-19 hit. Who knows, maybe we’ll pick this up again when things get back to normal. I hope so.
Okay, so was I lying? Talk about ups and downs, talk about floundering. I worked on so many things but didn’t accomplish a whole lot. And worst of it all, I went through this entire decade without writing or recording a single original song, and all of these band projects centered on covers, not originals. I don’t know. Am I done? Who knows? I closed out 2009 asking the same questions. That’s terrible. So I won’t make any predictions about the future other than to say we’ll see what happens. If I don’t play anymore, so be it. If I do, so be it. I have nothing to prove to anyone. I’m content when I’m playing, and also when I’m not playing, so all is good. Maybe I’ll see you at a gig.