Making music is all about the friendships born, no matter where you’re from. Supersonic Blues Machine exemplifies this in the Texan uber axe-slinger vocalist Lance Lopez, the passionate and always flamboyant bassist/producer Italian Fabrizio Grossi and hailing from Albany New York Kenny Aronoff who has played drums with just about every legend on the planet. Speaking of legends, there’s a fair few that feature on their sophomore album “Californiasoul” which was recently released on Mascot Records and has charted at number 7 in the US Billboard Blues Chart.
Fabrizio with his deep passion always forefront tells us; “There’s a peak of writing for some bands, you know with The Beatles it’s ‘The White Album’ and I see ‘Californiasoul’ as a producer, writer and bass player as our ‘black album’”, but you shouldn’t get confused with another band with an album of that moniker...
“If you check out the lyric content, the grooves, the blues, the darkness in places but with love and hope it goes back to the end of the summer of love and all the changes that were happening in America with the civil rights movement. It’s the music that moves me, makes me and the guys think - we went back to that, to our roots and there’s a lot of old school R&B, funk messing with the blues progressions and what was happening in America back then. It’s relevant, still happening as we speak.”
“Californiasoul”. That’s laying the cards out...sun kissed beaches, good times, a holiday destination for some...
“Well it’s not all like that! Hahaa! So, we as a band (more on the SBM definition of a band later) live in California, but it’s not only a state; it’s an attitude, it’s a mindset, it’s a legacy and I’ve always loved that you know! The music of 1969/1970 was so special, it’s stuck around. Back then in those summers you would of driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco and regardless of the radio station you would of found great freakin music like Janis, Jimi, Sly Stone, James Brown, Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Muddy Waters, The Stones...the list goes on and on over the horizon into the sunset! They were doing their own version of the blues and that’s what we’re doing. It’s our soundtrack for now, a homage to that era. You know in some ways, despite technology moving on from then as human beings some haven’t evolved a freakin bit. Some are still a bunch of sore ass losers, materialistic f***s with wars being fought all over the planet that no one has a real idea as to why or what’s going on. There’s still problems, there’s still racism, there’s social inequality so a lot hasn’t changed. Music being a beautiful art form is always better in time of challenge. So somehow, this is a good time to do this, to celebrate the music from then and bring it back to the fore. No tit’s and asses here like the 80’s, that was good for then but we’re past that moment and this one we are in is more similar to the late 60’s and ‘70’s.”
Some would say that there’s a political message...
“If there was, it’s that we are not left or right or anything. There’s problems in the world but they are from the top to the bottom. To be honest with you, we have so much material, probably 3 or 4 albums worth but we never sat down and said ‘we have to write an album like this or that’ but there were some ideas that we wanted to bring in. Some of these were from the first record, not that they weren’t any good, just not the right circumstance for them for ‘West of Flushing, South of Frisco’. There’s certainly continuity to the messages of love, hope, peace, good times and hard times and all that between the records. Some of its approached in a little bit of a different way stylistically like I said earlier, that’s just to do with personal preferences and where Lance, Kenny and I come from musically and personality wise. It’s also got a lot to do with the interaction we have with our friends that play shows with us in small places and then bigger places in Holland and like at your Ramblin Man Fair in the UK where we had so much fun with our brother Eric Gales joining us who blew everyone away!”
You mention Eric Gales, there’s also your friends in Walter Trout, Billy Gibbons, Robben Ford and this time Steve Lukather on the record. They don’t just email a performance in from their studio or whilst on tour surely…
“No, no, no, absolutely not! We all get together where diaries line up and get in the studio together! Things happen for a reason right? Supersonic Blues Machine is a musical community, a family as we all can learn from each other. We always focus on the performance mentality, not the commercial. Sure this record is a step forwards production wise, but that’s not what counts. It’s the songs and performances and that’s what you get from all of us. There’s a song on our first album ‘What’s wrong’ and we couldn’t be more honoured and humbled by it as it was the first one Walter played on after he came back to life, back from his illness so it was so cool to have him on this record again.”
“As for Steve Lukather and Eric Gales...well, they called me and said they’d never speak to me again if they weren’t on it! Steve is very special to me, I call him one of my guardian angels of which I have 2 and they’re both called Steve; Vai being the other. I’ve been blessed for all these years to work with them and all these great, soulful and beautiful people to share life and the stage with. Kenny Aronoff(drums) and I met when we were playing with a side band with Steve but it wasn’t the right time for anything for us, again, things happen for a reason as Steve was off with Toto so Billy came around and we wrote ‘Running Whisky’, he recommended Lance Lopez (vocals/guitar) and that was the start of Supersonic Blues Machine. All the guys on this record were with us over a few days, a weekend or so. It was incredible playing together, hanging out, eating together - just how it should be and you can hear that on the record. The intention of us being a band as ‘a band’ in its strictest form was never there. The Beatles were ‘The Fab Four’ and Metallica are ‘The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse’ - we were formed to continue the message of ‘music community’ to all.”
It’s like a revolving door with all these guys and especially live...
“Absolutely! People buy tickets for festivals like your Download and Ramblin Man, and here in Coachella, in France Hellfest without knowing the lineup...that’s great! Fans and community coming together knowing they’ll get surprises so that’s what we do. Every show of ours is different, we change the set, we change arrangements, you never know who’s gonna turn up! We have so much fun and are so blessed with when we play that we’ll always come back for more and importantly to give more.”
For those who haven’t heard “Californiasoul” as yet, what do you hope that they get out of their first listen?
“You know, being a producer as well as playing on an album it’s good to step back and then revisit once it’s all done. Do some other things for a while and then go in fresh. Sit back for a while and wait...I love listening to it and we’re super grateful for those that do and have bought the album. I love ‘Elevate’ as with Eric playing on it with what he has been through and is on a higher level now, it works so beautifully and ‘Hard Times’ is special to me - but I want everyone to take what they want from the record, it’s yours to enjoy and we’d love to hear what you feel about it. You ask me which tracks I can’t wait to play live? I really couldn’t pick just one - it’s really the sound of a 6/7 hour drive in California with friends that make it all matter.”
Any danger of a tour in the future? You guys are all pretty busy...
“We’re working on playing as many shows as we can in 2018, that is for sure and if you wanna see us play, let us know, we’d love to for you. Any chance where we can take the Supersonic Blues Machine trip out, we’re gonna do it and bring the circus around. This band is really like having a second youth for me, not that I’m old, but it feels like being a teenager, you know that feeling as you get older? The one that reminds you of what really kicked your ass and made you passionate? Then that’s it. That’s what we’re gonna do and keep doing.”
Read our review of “Californiasoul” here:
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