Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: March 27th, 2006
This interview is a first for me. Because I have never ever had an interview that the artist called me out of the blue the day before our interview just to introduce himself to me, and voice his appreciation about our site and give us some background. To me that shows class and not only do I appreciate that, but in return, this man has earned my respect. Thanks Vic.
Vic let me start off and ask you is Eddie Van Halen a relative of yours? Because you sure the hell look like him.
HA! The question I’ve answered a million and one times surfaces yet again… I guess that I should expect that query to pop up at least once a month or every other interview! No relation to him of course – but the physical comparison has been made more times than I can count…I suppose that’s better than having someone ask “Is Quasimodo a relative with yours?” So I can live with that. (Smiles).
But seriously – Eddie VH is DA MAN, my ultimate guitar hero and a big reason why I do what I do. He seems to be slipping into some self-destructive behavior; I hope he can snap out of it because it would be a shame if the man who single-handedly revolutionized rock guitar for everyone (from 1976 forward) just faded away the way he seems to be doing right now.
So were you originally a drummer or guitarist?
Drummer first, guitarist second. I wanted to be Angus Young when I was twelve years old but just couldn’t get a handle on the guitar and so I switched to an instrument that requires TOTAL limb independence – no big deal, piece of cake. (Yeah – right!) In truth, it did come very naturally to me and I was holding my own fairly quickly. When I turned 15, I picked up the guitar again, had a buddy show me some basic barre chords and simple finger exercises and I sort of just took it from there. A whole lot of trial and error that continues to this day (you never stop learning about the instrument), but I think that’s truly the only way you can find your own voice on that thing, rather than sitting around biting off someone else’s thing note for note, lick for lick. Of course, you may hear someone else’s phrasing or riffs and learn them but you then interpret it your own way - and that’s what gives you your own identity.
When you first started playing guitar what brand guitar did you learn on?
I basically learned on other people’s guitars, borrowing them here or there when I could or playing them while I was at their houses…the first guitar I actually owned was a Blue Charvette Stratocaster (the budget line of Charvel back in the late 80’s)… I’ve owned several other guitars along the way but for the last 7 years I have almost exclusively used the Music Man Axis model (formerly known as the Eddie Van Halen model – gee, I think I invite the EVH comparisons upon myself!). I’m looking to add, in short order, an Ibanez SZ Series guitar to supplement my collection and become my co-primary guitar along with the Axis. For an instrument priced so reasonably, it plays like a dream, sounds like a million dollars and is ABSOLUTELY beautiful, aesthetically….
What kind of child was Vic Rivera growing up?
Inquisitive, garrulous, friendly, nerdy, athletic. The last two seem to be in direct contradiction to each other but I got good grades and played baseball and basketball too. Go figure!
How were you in High School? Were you in the band, did you play sports, etc?
Pretty much the same as above, but I wasn’t playing baseball and basketball anymore, at least for the school (though I continued to play on my own with friends). I was the Principal Percussionist for my high school, which meant that I was required to supervise the percussion department and demanded a lot of time because it was mandatory for me to be involved with EVERYTHING that went on musically in the school. Pit orchestra for the school musicals, drummer for jazz band, marching band drum major….but all of this helped better me as a musician (I hope!) The nerd quotient dropped, I became one of the “rocker” outcast types though I managed to maintain a fair number of acquaintances. The brooding loner musician thing didn’t really hit until after high school….
Interesting sidebar…we were required as a part of the curriculum to take private drum and percussion lessons from a teacher designated by the school…the (brilliant and ultra-talented) gentleman’s name was Karl Schmitt – who just happens to be the older brother of Kasey Smith from Danger Danger. Just one of MANY long-standing associations I’ve had with people in the D2 organization…and now here I am, partners with Ted! Weird how the fates work, huh?
What was the name of your first garage band? What was the name of your first working band and a little bit about the history on that band?
YEEEESH. Do I have to tell? So generic that it will make ya puke but when you’re 14, a heavy-metal head and trying to impress everyone you think the name Vengeance is just the coolest thing around. Hindsight is 20-20! That band evolved into Bedlam…I eventually quit that band and then went on bouncing around in various projects until I found a home with a band called Shakespeare, for whom I was a contributing songwriter (though I played drums for them) and who had a LOT of hype and attention - and was in fact being groomed by Loud & Proud Management the same way that they broke White Lion… in the end it was deemed our similarities were TOO similar to that band (especially the singer – spitting image of Mike Tramp) for us to be picked up. But they were really good, some great players, the bass player was a great musician named Pete Ruello, who went on to play in Bone Machine with Ted. Yet another strange parallel between D2 and myself….
Since you lived in the New York, New Jersey area do you remember some of the club bands that never made it that molded your sense of music?
There were SO many good local bands….some of whom seriously flirted with fame, whose releases are in some cases now being heard for the first time by the melodic rock community. Some names: Hotshot, Tour De Force, Battalion, Roxx – and then there was this band called Surrender. Their CD is the stuff of legend, was bootlegged for ages before being officially released recently, but the personnel presented on the release, aside from the brilliant Frank Soccoli (lead vocals), was quite different from the longstanding live lineup that almost got signed to a major label and supported many of the big-name acts that came through town …
For the version of the band I’m referring to, I was the drum technician for their drummer, who happened to be my aforementioned instructor, Karl Schmitt; the guitarist was a gentleman named George Nastos, who, many will remember, later went on to play for the Glenn Hughes band; and the keyboard player was one particular Kasey Smith. They looked to be on the verge of stardom when a very talented friend of mine plucked him to be the keyboardist for his band that had just gotten a major label record deal. That man was Bruno Ravel, the band, of course, Danger Danger…
You can cue up the Twilight Zone theme here if you like – ANOTHER weird, Six-Degrees-of Separation type connection between D2 and myself….VERY strange how the fates work!!
What was the first concert you attended and the first record you ever bought?
First record? “The Star Wars Motion Picture soundtrack”. (NOT kidding – yes, I’m a geek. First rock record, though, was Billy Joel’s “Glass Houses”.) First concert? Anthrax at the infamous L’Amour in Brooklyn, NY on the “Spreading the Disease Tour” – where, pressed up against the stage, I got my head repeatedly and brutally kicked in by the stage divers…perhaps it was that facial rearranging that resulted in the Eddie Van Halen look. Or is it Quasimodo? Sh*t, I can’t tell…
Give us some history on Adriangale in the early stages of the band? Before the debut “Feel The Fire” in 2000.
The early stage of AdrianGale had me being brought on board to the band as it already existed, playing songs written by a very talented musician/singer/songwriter named AJ Fedz. That incarnation was not meant to be (but AJ has finally gotten his music out with the band SnakeRyder. Great material!) - Another incarnation was put together by the label that centered around Jamie Rowe and myself…the rest is recorded history, I suppose!
What was it like working with Jamie Rowe? One of the premiere vocalists in music?
You’ve got THAT right. The man truly has a gift like no other, and he is a brilliant songwriter in his own right, especially of more modern power-pop type songs. More importantly, he is one of the most humble, warm, funny people I’ve met in my life. I love him like a brother – and I miss him a heck of a lot, although we are in touch quite often!
You have five releases with AdrianGale which as looking at some of the past reviews the latest studio release “Crunch” is receiving the best reviews. Do you feel this is the strongest Adriangale release and why?
I like all of the studio releases, but “CRUNCH”, for me, stands head and shoulders above the other two records for SO many reasons. I think the music was absolutely the best I had written to that point; I had a whole lot to say with my lyrics, which were alternately uplifting/humorous/socially conscious/pointedly sarcastic/revealing – in no particular order! Personally, I also think that my best playing to date was represented on that release. I had a vision and concept for that record that brought to light a lot what I think life in general means, taking you from a positive happy place, through a quagmire of heavy (and sometimes depressing) thematic material, only to bring you to a lighter more hopeful conclusion. I do believe it is a record that, when you listen to it as a whole, makes you more closely examine a lot of important subjects you may not necessarily pay attention to. Finally, the production of that record is second to none, it really speaks for itself...all of those things made it a very special record for me that will always something I point to as one of my proudest achievements.
I have not heard any of the other AdrianGale releases and I am just going to pop “Crunch” in now…Some great harmonies, good background vocals great song writing and eighties style melodic guitar. “Crunch” is and AOR top rotation song and many others like “Without A Moments Notice”, “Long Gone” is a killer track. What is your favorite track on the release?
Thanks for the compliment, Brian! I like them all, most no more favorite that the other – but “Without a Moment’s Notice”, "Long Gone", “Last Call” and “Question” stand out to me as centerpieces of the record…representing various sides of the story that we call life…
You ever wonder why AdrianGale is not more popular then they are? Do you feel by being signed to a small independent label hurt your stride for success?
I doubt it. With little question, a bigger, better financed independent label would have raised our exposure that much more… but in this niche market we a re working in its hard to rise above a certain level of sales/recognition anyway so for what we did, the label was competent enough. I think (hope) the reputation of Jamie Rowe (and eventually my own reputation as a songwriter and musician) spoke for themselves…
Will there be another studio release by AdrianGale after the recently release Live EP called “Live Program”?
No. Neither Jamie or myself have the rights to the AdrianGale name so that’s that – but Jamie and I have definite plans to work together again in a similarly styled project when it is mutually convenient. The label will be releasing a “Best Of AdrianGale” - sometime this year, I think - and I do know that there are one or two tracks that were recorded but not released so when the best of comes out in addition to the compilation there will be those new songs for people to listen to. But as far as I see it unless we somehow got the right to use the name, AdrianGale, as the song goes, is “Over, Said and Done”.
You started working with Danger Danger frontman Ted Poley on a project called Out of Danger. How did you meet up with Ted and tell us a little bit about Out of Danger?
Actually, I was never in Out of Danger…Ted heard the “Crunch” record and got in contact with the label in 2004 to approach me about doing a record with him; the label first contacted me and then Ted and I had a three-hour long initial greeting conversation over the phone, which sealed the deal for me…
What was it like recording and writing material for a legend like Ted? Come on tell us your real feeling about tell and don’t be shy?
Well, before we get into that – let me posit that with all the weird connections between D2 and myself, the only thing left for me to do to close the circle is collaborate with Bruno and Steve at some point!! Ha ha…
Moving on…I thought my luck was amazing in that my first big break came working with one of rock’s best singers, Jamie Rowe…and then I’m approached by an icon like Ted Poley to work with him! What can I say about Ted Poley that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the most unique, instantly recognizable voices of the genre…two words into a song and you just know who it is, without question! Adding to that, he’s absolutely the sweetest guy around and is one of the funniest, nicest people you could ever hope to meet. He’s my bro, no doubt about it! As a musical foil, Ted is beyond easy to work with and for a person of his stature he’s got no airs about him. He totally puts you at ease in both studio and live environments.
I guess your rapport with Ted was a hit! You’re a major part of the new Ted Poley CD “Collateral Damage”. We just did an interview with Ted and he is ecstatic working with you. What songs did you write on “Collateral Damage”? You also did some leads, bass and drums. What songs did you play lead on? What was you favorite track on that CD?
I just read that interview tonight – good read! I played lead guitar for “Curtain Call”, “(Heads Up!) Look Out Below” and “Hero Falling”; the beginning, end and first half of the solo in “EndGame”; the lead guitar accents in “Let Go”; and the intro and outro solos in “Rise”.
Of the songs written for “Collateral Damage”, six of them were mine – “Curtain Call”, “Endgame”, “Hero Falling”, “(Heads Up!) Look Out Below!”, “Let Go” and “Rise”. Some of them I had written before my involvement with Ted (although there were two or three specifically written for this project) but I was able to have Ted work with me on some of the lyrics for a few in order for him to get some of his input in there – and then I of course sang to him the melodies I wrote for him and let them interpret them in his own inimitable fashion – needless to say, Ted OWNED on them!! It has been a real pleasure to be associated with Ted both professionally and personally and our partnership is going to continue for, I hope, the foreseeable future…
Well I guess what you tell us it must be true because there is a new project called Poley/Rivera. Ted said if he moves his ass it might be out by Christmas. Tell us some of the songs you’re working on? Can you give us any titles to the songs?
I don’t want to give away any of the song titles just yet but let it suffice to say that what “Crunch” was to Reprogram for AdrianGale, the Poley/Rivera record will be to the solo release. Humbly (and I believe Ted will back me on this), the material I’ve been coming up with is the best I have ever written and we are taking for the most part, a different, heavier approach to the songs, both thematically and musically (though Ted’s solo CD runs the gamut as far as topics) – but it will still have the trademark hooks and melody that Ted and myself have both come to be known for. It is going to be a real motherf’r of a release, I promise you …half the record is already in demo format and I’m now working on the rest of the demos for the balance.
Are you doing all the writing and music? Will you also be doing the entire guitar, bass and drum parts?
I’m writing most, if not all, of the music, as I would for any other CD for which I would be a direct party to (as with AdrianGale). Lyrically I’m writing the bigger portion of the stuff again but this one will be much more of a collaborative effort because for the “Collateral Damage” songs that Ted and I co-wrote lyrics, there was definitely something special going on and I’d really like to continue that and take it to the next level… In keeping with my former practice I will be playing all of the instruments again – it is very cost effective and is also much easier to do than it is to convey what I write (and the type of feel I want for it) to another person. That’s not to say there won’t be a guest guitar solo or two on the record but the bulk of this will truly be a showcase for what Ted and I can do together as a team for a whole record. I’m totally looking forward to recording it for real and releasing it.
Now what would you liked to be remembered for in music and in what order and why? Writing lyrics, Writing music, Drumming, Guitar playing or Bassist? or something else?
This is a GREAT question, one I’ve never been asked before! I guess I’d like to be remembered first as a good songwriter, then second as a good jack-of-all-trades musician. Reasons? While everyone may remember a great musician, no matter what instrument - all the musical chops I the world mean exactly squat if you can’t pen a good song that people will remember and relate to. There have been many virtuosos in our field who have faded into anonymity but the good songwriters are still hanging around and communicating with people. If people down the line say “Hey, that guy could play” then that’s great too! - but there are so many talented players out there who absolutely run circles around me that I’d much rather make my mark with the songs I write.
I see you have a son Jesse. Is he following in dad’s footsteps?
HA! Jesse is more into more modern stuff (read: Hip Hop) and sports than anything else but the kid does have a guitar that his old man bought him for his birthday last year and he does know his way around it a little. When he spends time with me I’m always showing him things so perhaps he’ll find the beauty of it all on his own…can’t force them, the more you try to do that the more they run away. But the fact that he IS interested in it, even marginally, is enough for me.
Do you worry about the future of your son the way this world is headed? Because I have three kids and I see how things are going and I worry what the world will be for them in their later years.
All you need to do is read the lyrics to most of the songs on “Crunch”…some of the songs I wrote on “Collateral Damage”…and the Poley/Rivera record, when it is released, will show an even darker side of my perspective on the direction that humankind is headed (and some of my demons, too) than I have ever presented to anyone in any format. Thank goodness I’m working with a singer like Ted who can effortlessly convey any emotion I seek of him…because this record will have as much (if not more) emotional scope than even the “Crunch” did.
I have one question and it might be unusual. But Jamie Rowe just did a project called Liberty N Justice which is a Christian based CD and on your Myspace.com site, it says you’re an Atheist. Do you and Jamie ever sit down and discuss that subject?
That very subject came up one night when Jamie was staying with me during the “Crunch” Sessions. We had a heartfelt, long discussion about each other’s views with neither person judging the other for their beliefs. In the end, while nobody’s position was swayed, we each had a deeper respect for each other as people, as human beings, regardless of our diametrically opposed beliefs.
Let’s do some word association...
I doubt I can keep my responses to one word but I’ll keep them as short as possible!
God - I stopped believing in imaginary friends a long time ago.
Religion - Oftentimes a very flawed, distorted premise – in any faith - but if it works for you and you’re not causing harm to another human being on account of your beliefs then, respectfully, all the power in the world to you!
Family - By FAR the most important thing anyone should be concerned with – unless you’re a member of the Manson or Jackson families, then you’re up the creek!
War - The ugliest word in the human language – actually, the words that precipitate this one are far uglier….hate, greed, ignorance, hubris.
Woman - The stronger, fairer and smarter of the two sexes, no doubt about that.
Downloading - Sampling tracks to see if you like the band enough to buy their CD? Good. Illegally appropriating entire music libraries? FUBAR!!
Record label - Necessary evil – but perhaps not always.
Vision - Literal or figurative? I’ll hit both: Literal vision? Important but not crucial to being a decent human being. Figurative vision? As long as its good: absolutely crucial to the advancement of humanity.
United States - Sadly, like a wonderful toy that was everything you ever wanted but now sadly broken, distorted and barely recognizable on account of abuse by ignorant, shortsighted and self-serving bullies who appropriated the toy and smashed it almost beyond recognition.
Music - Essential
Son - My whole reason for being…
Ted Poley - My brother, my friend, my musical partner – All Hail Ted!
Jamie Rowe - My other brother, the mighty Stratosphere - a true human being!
Future - Uncertain and troubling
Vic Rivera - Enigmatic but hopefully will be remembered as a good person!
Vic it has been great talking with you and I am excited to see what some of the answers will be. Would you like to add anything in conclusion?
Just to say thanks to my fans past, present and (hopefully) future for your amazing support – thanks to Ted and Jamie for being the best buddies and partners I have ever had in my life – thanks to my son for being the absolute love of my life, I don’t know what I would be without you – thanks to my wonderful family (especially my parents) for their undying love and support – thanks to my good friends (you know who you are!) for being so understanding of who I am, faults and all - and thanks to you for taking enough interest in me to hit me up with these questions!