Supersonic Blues Machine, a collaborative project of established musicians and a whole host of their superstar friends get set to release their debut album in February.
National Rock Review recently caught up with one of Supersonic Blues Machine’s founding members, bass player and producer Fabrizio Grossi to talk about their new album, the idea behind the band and their touring plans for 2016.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it. You are about to release your debut album with Supersonic Blues Machine which is titled West of Flushing, South of FriscoÂ and is set forÂ release on the 26th February. I believe it’s been a long time in the making.
Fabrizio: Yes and no, I mean actually if I really wanted to be honest, it’s probably something that’s taken my whole life to do it (laughing). As a producer i’ve worked on a lot of people’s records, with a lot of different artists and I would say that this is probably the simplest record i’ve ever done. I guess it took me all this time to work on complicated or somehow structured productions to be able to finally do something that was very simple.
As a musician it was actually quite simple and fast. Technically it was like a couple of years thing because obviously for everyone involved, you know schedules and all that, it’s not something that you could put together in a minute, but not necessarily because there were difficulties or anything like that. It’s just that’s the time that it took and we were still experimenting on stuff, but by the time we were done at the end of the day it was fairly painless. I’m pretty sure that now that we’ve got it under control, the next time will be way quicker (laughing).
NRR: What’s the general idea behind Supersonic Blues Machine?
Fabrizio: Late sixties and early seventies live situations ….those kind of realities back in the days where a band or an ensemble, a bunch of musicians would go out together, kind of like playing each others songs. Obviously changing every night because you know the setup was different. You start to bring back to the world of blues rock.
I mean blues rock might be diminutive because we have a lot of other elements in the music, we have a lot of soul, gospel, you know rock and funk whatever it is, but at the end of the day those are all at least for us just different shades of blues. It’s not that we are gonna go out and play Yes or Stravinksy, not that we have a problem with that music, it’s just that’s not us.
The main core of the band Lance, Kenny and myself Â …being able to take some of the guys that’s friends that recorded with us out on the road and enjoy the live performances with them and play each others tracks. It’s not necessarily for the whole big spectacle behind it. I think it would at least be an opportunity to go out and play and do other music free of mind and without worrying about our bosses. Â We always work with different artists as a session musician, or as a producer or writers whatever it is, but this time there is no boss, it’s just us so we will do pretty much whatever the hell we want (laughing).
NRR: I understand Billy Gibbons was instrumental in getting you and Lance Lopez to work together. Is that right?
Fabrizio: Well I would say his blessing was instrumental. I’ve known Billy for a while, we are very good friends and we ended up working together on a bunch of different projects and songs and stuff like that. Lance contacted me actually, so did his management because they wanted to do a new record and he heard some of the stuff that I did and he liked what I did and he wanted to know if we could do something.
He called me and he told me that he was actually coming to Los Angeles and I told him the best way to see if we could do something would be to come over to the studio and play some music. Lets see whats up, lets see what you have and everything and at that point then we will decide. He sent me in advance some samples of demos and some other music that I really liked and I had kind of put down some ideas.
So by the time he came to the studio for an hour meeting, that hour meeting pretty much stretched into two days and we ended up recording three or four songs. We were super happy, we became friends for life pretty much at this stage. So we decided to work together, and originally it was going to be to develop something for Lance, but not necessarily the record that he wanted to do for the record label he was signed to at the time, but to come up with a very particular dedicated blues/Americana/rock record. You know something that he had wanted to do all his life, but never really had the opportunity to do it.
A couple of months after that Billy Gibbons calls me and he asks me “Hey are you free tomorrow?” and I said “Well I’m at the studio.” He said “Well I have this idea, this will be a great song and I’m here talking to Tal Wilkenfeld, do you mind if we show up?” and I said “Hey come over.” So he showed up at the studio with Tal and we put down some ideas and there you go we wrote “Running Whiskey”.
At the end of the day during a conversation, Billy comes up with music and stuff and I show him some of the things i’ve been doing. I said “Hey, by the way i’ve got one of your Texas colleagues here a couple of months ago, you know doing some stuff with him” and I show him a track. He says “Hold on one second, this is Lance, you know Lance? Oh my god i’ve know him since he was very, very young …i’ve always wanted to help him, and we would cross paths on the Texas stages, he opened up for us several times but that’s somebody that you really should consider working with, I mean other than this you are talking.”
I was like woah, and that was it, that was it. Now we were just missing a drummer, so I had developed a very good friendship with Kenny Aronoff since we played together with Steve Lukather in his side band Goodfellas. You know that’s it, I called Kenny and I said Kenny, remember the talk we had about people and live jams and all that kind of stuff, how about this … and he was sold and that was it.
NRR: Obviously you’ve got a whole host of your friends on the album, with the likes of Billy Gibbons and Warren Haynes, Robben Ford and Walter Trout to name but a few. Did you have those particular artists in mind when you were writing those tracks?
Fabrizio: Yes. Actually Warren is a co-writer with me and my other co-writer Serge Simic for “Remedy”. Warren and I had started last winter writing some music together for some other projects, so finally when I knew we had an entity here, I mean obviously after Gibbons, he was the first one. “Today, Warren you know the thing that we were talking” …. “Yes” …”Well we are doing it” …”Really” …. “Yes” (mimics telephone conversation). Quoting the scene from The Godfather I need all the artistry and the skills of your trade to make this (laughing). We started toÂ exchange some files and stuff, and we ended up in writing “Remedy”. So it’s a part of us, it’s not only just me thinking about it.
Some of the other guys we got together, we tried some music and pretty much everybody pitched the ideas they liked to be developed and they fit really, really, really well musically and lyrically. Especially the song that we did with Walter Trout because you know the whole story behind Walter and the last few years, you know the health issues and stuff.
When he finally showed up at the studio, I mean I had been talking to Walter about this for a while because we had been wanting to do something together for a while, then obviously his sickness kicked in and it put a halt to everything else. We were already about to close the record and I said I wanted to give this a try and see if I can do this with Walter. I talked to his wife and she said “Well he’s getting better and better now, he’s getting back into shape and stuff like that, so let me tell him and lets see what he says and if he feels like it of course …”. It ended up after five minutes Walter calls me back and he says “Are you fucking kidding me, where’s the studio?” (laughing).
So after a couple of weeks we went up there. We spent the whole day talking about life, his experience, crying about music and the emotions and all that kind of stuff, and actually that particular song it’s just totally perfect. Again, even though some things were not necessarily planned, I mean we had such a great relationship with all the guys involved that it really worked well and we gave each other the voice that we didn’t have without each other. I think it just worked perfectly.
The only song that I really wasn’t part of the writing on the record which is “Let’s Call It A Day”. It was written by a very good friend of mine, a Los Angeles guy that did a lot of work for Nashville. It’s an Americana ballad and I wasn’t really considering doing a ballad per se, but the particularity of the song, it did feel like an Americana slow song, I don’t want to call it a ballad and the lyrics were pertaining to what we’re all about. I heard that song and I thought I need to show this to Robben. As soon as I showed it to Robben he started playing along with it.
So that’s it, that’s pretty much what it is. I mean I don’t know if we could of done anything better in terms of what we had to deal with, so we are like 110% satisfied.
NRR: Leading on from that, as you’ve worked with so many amazing artists over the years both as a bass player and a producer and as a mixer. Is there anyone that you wished you could of got on the album that you didn’t quite manage to bring this time around?
Fabrizio: Well yeah, but I don’t think we will be able to do anything with that because I’m talking about you know Jimi Hendrix and all of the other guys (laughing). There is some other people that we were talking to that we couldn’t do anything this time around and I don’t want to mention names because I don’t want to create oh it’s this and not the other one. Rest assured that we have a long list of people that we are talking to that are going to be with us, that are going to come out with us and play live with us, that are not part of this first record and are most likely going to end up being on the second one.
We have a lot of friends in this industry that are part of the blues rock world or the blues world and the rock world that are going to be joining us and we are just keeping the door open. Of course there’s a lot of people that I love but you know again we are really, really good with what we have so far. Just keep an eye on us and you will see what’s coming up (laughing).
NRR: I have to ask you about your rendition of “Aint No Love In The Heart of the City”, which is fantastic. what made you chose that song in particular to cover on the album?
Fabrizio: Yeah, there is a reason for that. It goes back to the UK believe it or not. I was there studying English in the summer of 1983 and I was a really young kid, definitely not at the age to be able to wander around alone in Europe, but back then I guess it was safer. I ended up at Castle Donington … on the bill there was ZZ Top and that was actually their first appearance in Europe. So that was the first time I saw ZZ Top.
Besides ZZ Top the headliner that night was Whitesnake. The original Whitesnake, I’m not talking about the hair deprivation of the late eighties. I’m talking about Cozy Powell on drums, Neil Murray, Jon Lord, Bernie Marsden, you know the original lineup. When they played that song, I mean I heard it on the record but that was the first time that I heard that song in its full extent and I was shocked and I said wow, I want to do this.
I wanted to play a song like this because I had always been into black music regardless of the rock and metal and all that kind of stuff. I mean in the end on my own time, that’s what I was listening to, I always had that passion. So that really fit in perfectly, it was the missing link between the hard rock, the blues and the Motown, it was perfect. To see the kind of response that Coverdale was getting from the crowd I was like wow, it really means something.
I’ve always had the idea of wanting to do that particular piece and actually I was talking with Lance during a break I said “You know what, I’m not really up to covers or anything like that, but if you will ever have to do a cover there’s a song that i’ve always wanted to play that means the world to me” and once I told him the song he’s like “Woah, you are joking right” and I said “No why” and he said “Well you don’t know maybe, but I started off my first professional gig with Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland” and I was like “You’ve got to be kidding” and he said “No and I’m actually really close to the kids, the wife, absolutely we will talk with them, they will love listening to this and I will definitely get their blessing, it will be fantastic.”
So that’s it, we didn’t have to say nothing. That’s why the piece started off with the guitar, it was actually something that he used to do live with Bobby Blue. Actually you know Lance can be quite a shredder if he wants to, but he doesn’t. The intro of that song is actually fairly simple because I wanted to not mimic but kind of like play it in a way that he was playing when he was playing Bobby. So its kind of like a trip to recreate that moment in our own little world. We are pretty happy about it, I love the way that song came out. I hope that Bobby from up there likes it too.
NRR: It’s fantastic, like I said I really enjoyed that song on the album. That’s a great story, especially with the link in with Lance. It was meant to be obviously.
What are the plans for 2016. What are you guys going to get up to?
Fabrizio: Well we are working right now on tour possibilities, that definitely is going to happen. I can not tell you dates yet or what the final lineup, but we have two different dedicated agencies that are working on it. Obviously, again we don’t want to go out just ourselves but we want to bring some of our friends which is fantastic for the public is a little bit more of a cluster fuck type situation on the organisation end of it.
You know it’s taking a little bit more time because again everybody is really, really busy but we are all committed to bringing a very, very good show out to the fans. Most likely by the late spring or something you are going to see our ugly faces on that side of the pond. Just keep an eye on our social media and on the webpage and we are definitely going to post all of the updates as soon as we have some confirmation.
Other than that we are looking forward to keep on doing this. This is just the beginning of the mission, we have material for another three or four records and friends to fill them up for another at least ten records. So as long as nothing like an act of god happens that stops us, I mean we are in this for the long haul, we will be around for a while definitely with more records and a lot of live shows.
NRR: Thanks for taking the time to speak to us Fabrizio it was really great to hear from you and we are looking forward to more of what’s to come from the band. Good luck with the album and the touring and we hope you have a great year.
Fabrizio: Thanks a million, thanks for your time.
Supersonic Blues Machine will release their debut album West of Flushing, South of Frisco via Provogue/Mascot Label Group on the 26th February.