After having taken several years off from band life to spend more time with my kid, I was feeling the itch again and decided to dip my toe back in the water. The band Initial Kick got itís start in January of 2012. Frank Schaffer (ex-Sweden Has The Bomb guitarist) and I had a general idea of putting a band together that would include our original music. During the first year or so, we also played cover tunes and went through several singers. In time, we started refining our idea of what we wanted to do with the band.
Frank Schaffer in the studio.
Part of the band's evolution was deciding that I would sing and we would find someone else to play bass. Although Iím not a particularly skilled vocalist, we decided I would sing for several reasons. Although some of the singers that we had come in and play with us were certainly talented vocalists, more talented than myself, none of them really gave the material the right delivery and attitude we were looking for. Although these singers undeniably had some great vocal chops, they pretty much sounded like they were reading lyrics off a lyric sheet and put very little passion into their performances. We were looking for a certain theatricality and sense of humor that the songs called for. We would have some singers come to rehearsal maybe three times, and if it wasnít sounding right or we werenít feeling any magic by the third time, we cut them loose. One female singer played with us for about a half a year and it still didnít sound right. (We knew she had to go when she told us that the lyrics to one of our songs triggered her PTSD. ;-)) I had my own PTSD issues to contend with. My particular trauma was brought on by singers in past bands having the power and ability to completely kill a band when they got LSD (Lead Singer Disease) and decided to quit and/or join another band, effectively pulling the rug out from under the band we were in. This had happened to me a few too many times in the past, so I felt a simple solution would be for me to sing lead. I knew I would show up, and I knew I wouldnít break up the band. I would never let someone else have that power over my musical destiny again. Frank felt I sang reasonably well on the demos, so he gave his blessing for us to move forward with me singing lead.
We could now also move forward with a more definitive focus and direction. I knew I wasnít a particularly great vocalist, but I do have pretty good theatrical stage presence, and I had the right attitude and expression in my delivery to do the material justice. I figured (or hoped) that what I brought to the table in entertainment value would make up for for any lack in my vocal ability.†(The jury is still out on that point. ;-)) Before we had a full band, Frank and I recorded a video for the Christmas song "Silver Bells" just for fun.
Things started taking shape as we began recording our songs in Frank's studio and fleshing out the band. Much like Spinal Tap, we ran through a series of drummers. Johnny Zabo, Steve Yosko (ex Sweden Has The Bomb) and Ken Mondillo were the drummers for our live performances, and there were a handful of others that played on the studio tracks, including our good friend Damian MonteCarlo and Angel drummer Billy Orrico. Ray Ray D (White Trash Stars, Primadonnas) played rhythm guitar for us, and we rounded out the band with Alexx Reckless on bass.
We got busy right away and shot a video for our song "Big in Singapore" at Mitchell Hall and the Trocadero.
Things got off to a great start as our opening show was headlining the Trocadero in Philadelphia on 3/5/16. Other shows in 2016 included the M3 Pre-Party at Sonoma's in Maryland on 4/28/16, McStew's in Philly on 6/3/16, and a return to the Trocadero, opening for Punky Meadows of Angel on 8/6/16.
Through pure coincidence and happenstance, this last Trocadero gig turned out to be an auspicious one for me. I had set up a video camera to record our performance that evening, but being preoccupied and somewhat nervous before going on, I had forgotten to turn the camera on! (I'm still kicking myself for that oversight to this day, since by this time we were really firing on all eight cylinders and hitting our stride as a performing band. It was a great show but sadly there is very little documentation of it and we didn't know at the time that it would be our last for quite a while.) The silver lining to this video mishap was that Punky had seen me setting up the camera earlier in the day and asked if I would record his performance. After the show, I had to contact Danny Farrow (Punky's rhythm guitar player and manager) to arrange getting the video to him, which sparked an interesting conversation in which I told him I wasn't just a singer, I was really a bass player. As coincidence would have it, Punky was looking for a bass player at that time, which put into motion a lengthy process of me auditioning for the band remotely through video. To backtrack a bit, I should mention that I was a huge Angel fan, had all the albums, had the posters on my walls when I was young. I saw Angel perform several times when I was in my early teens. I was loving what I was doing with Initial Kick, but the opportunity to play with one of my childhood heroes was something I couldn't pass up. The next move was a sort of live audition as I like to think of it. The guys asked me to jump on stage for a few songs at a performance at The Chance in Poughkeepsie, NY (my home town) on April 21 of 2017. That was a magic moment for me.
My first time on stage with Punky Meadows in 2017.
At this point, they officially asked me to join the band and, with some mixed emotions, I had to put Initial Kick on the back burner for a while. It can be a long and arduous process building a following with a new band, and there's definitely something to be said for joining a fairly well known act with a built-in following. I already loved Angel's music and had the arrangements of the songs burned into my memory. All I had to do was learn the songs and I was good to go!
In the mean time, I recorded a video for this great old tune from Johnette Napolitano while in my beloved southwest. This is a sweet song called "Side of the Road."
I played my first full show with Punky and the band on November 10th, 2017. It would also be the last show with singer Chandler Mogul. As the band moved into 2018, Punky brought in Angel's original singer Frank DiMino, who had also just come off promoting his own solo album. The other band members include Danny Farrow on rhythm guitar, Billy Orrico on drums, and Charlie Calv on keyboards. We toured the states and the U.K. in 2018.
One of the magic moments with the band was when Gregg Giuffria joined us on stage for a show in Vegas and I got to perform The Tower with him. Playing the classic tune with three original members of Angel was a truly thrilling experience that I'll never forget.
By 2019, we grew tired of introducing the band as "Punky Meadows and Frank DiMino of Angel" and, with much consideration, decided to go with the more obvious and much simpler name of Angel. We put on the white outfits and toured through 2019, once again playing the states and the U.K. and also Belgium.
We recorded and released a new Angel album in 2019 entitled Risen. It was well received by fans and critics and made it onto the Billboard rock album charts.
We played on the Rock Legends Cruise at the beginning of 2020 but everything ground to a halt immediately after with the onset of the pandemic, as it did with most live entertainers.
During the lockdown, Initial Kick had the chance to revisit the album we had begun work on a while back. We continued to edit and mix songs that would flesh out the debut release. In the process, one of our songs - "Tranquilizer" was chosen for the soundtrack to the award-winning film Boxanne, directed by Brian Wild.
We decided to put our stamp on the ultimate bubblegum song - Sugar Sugar. We had a blast making this video in late 2022.
During the lockdown, Angel took the time to write and record the new album Once Upon A Time, which was released on April 21st of 2023.
Steve's disclaimer: I apologize to anyone who might feel offended by my descriptions. I wanted to tell an accurate history from my perspective and this is simply the way I remembered things. Everyone mentioned added something special to the overall experience and made it that much more memorable and I have mostly positive recollections of everyone. All the band members, the road crew, the fans, the club owners, the family and friends and everyone else that added to the experience will live on in my memory until the day I die, and for these great memories, I am truly grateful. With a little luck and determination, I may be able to add on a few more chapters before I cop that eternal nod.
Thanks for reading, I hope everyone is healthy and happy and taking the time to dream.