Alberto Rigoni – Bass Musician Magazine Interview, January 2015 Issue…
Transcribed from a Skype interview
(Ty) How did you get your start playing bass?
(Alberto) I started playing bass when I was 16 years old after a friend of mine introduced me to Dream Theater and the first song I listened to was “A Change of Seasons”, a 23 minute prog song that really shocked me. I wanted to cover Dream Theater so I started playing drums, which was a total failure! I tried bass and I felt really comfortable with it. So in the beginning I started learning Dream Theater songs such as and “Ytse Jam”, “Erotomania”:
After three to four months I was able to play them. Then I started a band called “Ascra” and we had several shows in Italy. We reached second place as best Italian cover band (judges were Dream Theater themselves!) and I have to say I really studied a lot to reach that goal. I was playing Dream Theater for five to six hours every day and it was pretty challenging. I learned a lot from them (Dream Theater), it is so progressive. I also had other bands doing original music from pop to rock. Then I was hired by TwinSpirits, a progressive band led by multi-instrumentalist Daniele Liverani. We released three albums but unfortunately the band is no longer active. I really miss them, great band, we had a lot of fun! While I was in TwinSpirits, back in 2005, I started composing my first album “Something Different”. I was on my own and felt it necessary to make something extremely personal. From the very beginning I didn’t want to follow any given music genre, relying exclusively on an instinctive way of composing.
The extreme variety of music genres (from rock to funk, prog and ambient) inside the album was the real strength of Something Different. This peculiarity could make people think of something inorganic and disconnected, but I believe that the album has its own soul, given the way it was written: simple and catchy.
The songs are based on melody and not on virtuosity, which is not something I think I possess. On the other hand, on most of the tracks, the bass has mainly three roles (rhythm, solos and arrangements) that ensure a kind of homogeneous style. The album contains aggressiveness and sweetness but everything rotates around melody.
In the following years, my direction turned more towards progressive sounds and composition. “Overloaded” is my latest (fourth) album, and I think it is my best so far. I like the mix between the progressive rock, metal and ambient songs. I think there is a nice balance between these two styles. I am quite happy with it and it seems that people and the press are really liking it. Now the problem is to make a better one! I always try to do a better album, but it’s not always easy. It’s a matter of inspiration. I think I have to rest a bit now since the album has just been released. I always say that I’ll release another album in four years and I end up releasing a new one in two years. That happens every time, so probably in the next two years I will release another one. I already have some ideas in mind. I just got a new Warwick Alien Rockbass…
…and I have some inspiration to make something different. That happens also with effect pedals, every time I try something new I get an inspiration for a new riff and record it immediately. I leave it for some time, then I come back to it and start working on it. That’s the process, there are no rules, but that’s generally how it works.
(Ty) Who are some of your influences?
(Alberto) Dream Theater, at the beginning but then I started listening to all kind of progressive rock bands like Genesis, Yes, Rush and more modern bands such as Symphony X, ARK, and a lot of other bands. I like listening to every style of music. I love the dance and rock music from the 80’s as well as bands like Nickelback. From a “bassist” point of view, John Myung influenced me, Billy Sheehan from Mr. Big, Stu Hamm, Michael Manring, Randy Coven, who suddenly passed away in May and was a great bass player. Randy really changed my way of playing bass. He was playing funk on progressive metal (and not just that!) and it’s really a big loss. My latest album is dedicated to him, Randy really changed my life in terms of playing bass. Then we have these other great players like Doug Wimbish from Living Colour, Tim Commderford from Rage Against The Machine, who played simple but catchy riffs, and that’s what I am trying to do with my bass playing. I also listen to classical music from Vivaldi to Schoenberg, but my main background is in progressive rock, metal, and instrumental rock.
(Ty) Tell us about your new album “Overloaded”
(Alberto) Overloaded is comprised of nine songs, all instrumental.
I decided to avoid using vocals which I used on my previous albums Rebirth:
…and Three Wise Monkeys because I think I can express myself much better with just instrumental music.
It’s not always easy to write good lyrics. It’s always easy to write quite simple lyrics but people may not understand what you are trying to say in the way you are trying to communicate with instrumental music. After the release of Three Wise Monkeys in October 2012, I already had some ideas in mind and I recorded them immediately and started working on those ideas last year. The concept of the album is based on my vision of our contemporary society: I think that everything is going too fast today and one of the reasons is technology: hyper fast communications (mostly through social networks), multitasking activities, tons of information as well as misinformation, products, services… In a word – we are OVERLOADED! The Internet has changed our lives, and even though it is indeed a great tool we have to be careful to use it judiciously. Excessive use may cause several diseases such as stress, depression, and social isolation. I tried to use music to communicate this vision of society now and so there are some crazy and chaotic tunes, like”Ubick”:
…and “Chron”, which is the most complex song I’ve ever written and it has an acid sound (I use the fuzz effect with the bass, the Darkglass Duality pedal which has really inspired me with some experimental tones) and more quiet songs like Floating Capsule or Multitasking. Overloaded is more heavy and progressive compared to my previous albums.
(Ty) Tell us more, especially about “Multitasking” and “Glory of Life”
(Alberto) That song in particular is quite short. I used the Whammy pedal with harmonics, which makes up the rhythm section. Then I used the Sonuus Wahoo pedal for the chords, but most of the song is based on harmonics. I really like to play harmonics on the bass and with the whammy you can reach the octave from a lower one to a higher one, and I think it makes it quite interesting in terms of sound. “Glory of life” was a tune that was originally featured on my first album “Something Different”. On that album I had a complete lineup with drums, keyboards and guitars. There were many bass parts; rhythm, arrangement and solos. I removed all the other instruments and I decided to use that “bass only” song as a bonus track for this album. It is a very progressive song, there are some odd time signatures but with a lot of focus on the melody. What I find interesting with that song is that if you listen to the first bass riff, and count it, the time signature is quite crazy. Even on “Chron”, the main riff is in 15/16, but if you don’t count it and just feel it, it’s “easy-listening”. There are some very complex parts but if they sound catchy… well that’s ok! 🙂 .
(Ty) Can you tell us about some of the musicians you have worked with?
(Alberto) On my solo albums, I’ve had musicians from all around the world. Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree), Kevin Moore (Dream Theater), Göran Edman (Y. Malmsteen), John Macaluso (ARK, Malmsteen), Michael Manring, Yves Carbonne, and many others. On this album, the lineup is Denis Novello, Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie), Simone Mularoni (DGM), Federico Solazzo and FabrizioLeo. The whole album is “made in Italy” this time and I am quite proud of that because I think there are many great musicians in my country. Maybe not so famous, but very talented. I think this will be the lineup of the new album. Maybe not with three guitar players but definitely with Denis Novello on drums and probably Simone Mularoni on guitars. I feel this is the right lineup for me.
(Ty) What current gear are you using?
(Alberto) I’m using Alusonic basses, made by an Italian company. Their instruments use aluminum for the body, and they are quite modern and very nice. They also have a hybrid one, which is the one I have. It features an alder body with an aluminum top. The aluminum top gives great clarity and attack on the notes. I have released a review on Youtube:
I have my Dingwall bass, which is a 5 string with 3 pickups, very versatile! I really like the fanned fret system. I’m always looking for innovation with instruments.
I just got an F Bass VF5 fretless which has a celestial tone and a Warwick Rockbass Alien 6 string, electric/acoustic which is very inspiring.
I have Fender jazz bass from the 70’s, which is original except for a new neck.. I also have a Peavey 4 string David Ellefson signature bass and a Micro Bass by Liuteria 3G. I’m not a collector of basses, I just keep what I use. As for amplification, I am using the Aguilar 500 Tone Hammer which is small, light, and powerful. I have two SL 112 cabs, the new cabs with the neodymium speakers.
In terms of pedals I use: the Darkglass for distortion (BK3, Duality and Vintage Microtubes), the Sonuus Wahoo, which has many effects from LFO, envelope filters, and many other effects.
I’m also using “Manta” pedal and HotHand3 by SourceAudio and some other pedals by SubDecay. For my live shows my pedal board includes the Peterson Tuners Stomp Classic (in the studio I also use the StroboRack, StroboSoft andStroboPlus) and two Darkglass pedals. I generally just use clean sound or distorted sound for bass and that’s enough for me. When I record my albums, sometimes I use some chorus, reverb and delay but just on the studio projects. I use Fretwraps from Gruvgear, Sansone bass strings which are stainless strings made in Italy, and Dingwall strings. I’m using Mono bags and straps. I use a old preamp made by TC Electronic and an Avalon U5. I also have a GrooveTubes preamp. I use the Empirical Lab Distressor for compression, which is the best for bass in my opinion. RME audio cards are what I use for recording. I’ve worked on my setup for many years and have finally found the tone I like. I’m quite satisfied.
(Ty) Suggestions for readers and final thoughts?
(Alberto) I always try to be myself, despite being influenced by many bass players. What I would suggest is to try to find your own style and tone. That’s more important than trying to emulate someone else. In terms of practice, try to be natural when working with the metronome, don’t try to be a “MIDI machine”. Focus on groove and melody, not just on chops. What I see today is that many bass players focus on chops. It’s really important for me to make a catchy groovy riff and it’s not important to have two thousand notes. A few notes at the right moment…. you know….sometimes less is more! It’s important to have the right concentration. Practice yoga. Many musicians are quite anxious before a gig, and I used to be, but since I started practicing yoga, I am more relaxed and feel much better on stage. Don’t look for success. Many artists and musicians are just focused on success. I think that you have to try to do the best music possible for you… success is just a consequence! First of all play and compose good music: enjoy your music for yourself! Hopefully, then success will come.
I’m currently working on three new projects: a new studio album together with two amazing bassists (I can’t tell you their names yet), a new solo electro-experimental album and a new band called BADASS (we just released a video):
Thank you very much for this interview, which I hope readers will enjoy! Have a great 2015!