JOHN MACALUSO is perhaps best known as the drummer for acts such as: ARK, Riot, Yngwie Malmsteen, Powermad, TNT, Spread Eagle, Starbreaker, etc, etc. "Radio Waves Goodbye" is however his first real solo album and it's a very pleasant surprise in the dark and moody "Prog" genre of rock. Indeed, this is not just another album by a drummer with too many ideas about how to make his drums sound bigger and LOUDER. Nope, it's a complex CD with many different shapes and colours, it also features lead vocalists such as James LeBrie (Dream Theater), Mike Dimeo (Riot, Masterplan), Adrian Holts (ARK), and Don Chaffin (VOX). Read all about the CD and various stuff that John Mac shared with us in a small interview below:

I must confess being worried at first, expecting your CD to be all about drums and even more drums. Do you get this sort of reaction a lot

John: Yeah, this is exactly why I made a “song” album, I wanted people to listen to my record more than just one time through. I also didn't want to do a crazy guitar driven album with all fast double bass. I have done so many of these records and I don't even listen to them after I record them. I wanted to do an album that I would listen to years after. I wanted to show my song writing in a way like the style of music I listen to more Floyd like. I used more keys and vocals to do this and with my style of drumming ARK like. I think the mix works and is where ARK was actually headed.

I guess (many) people are sort of narrow-minded when it comes to drummers and solo albums???

John: I am!!! I think even the best drummers have usually come out with some corny solo records. I love drum stuff but I need cool music or the album is useless to me. I do love Billy Cobham Spectrum though, this album I grew up on. My record is drum madness with songs and is presented like a band and is because I am taking UNION RADIO on the road after my drum clinic tour. My dream!

Tell us about the story behind: "Pretzel". Suzy went to a concert and didn't fancy the drum-solo thing?

John: Yeah I grew up listening to Frank Zappa. He, his music and his comedy changed my life. The reason I learned to read music was because one day I wanted to play for Zappa, the school for brilliant drummers it was. He was also the influence on The Six Foot Under Happy Man. Pretzel came from when I was touring with Powermad in 1989. We just were in the David Lynch movie Wild At Heart, with Nicolas Cage. We were touring constantly and getting great exposure but I remember having a huge drum kit and playing like crazy and after the show going out to the audience and people I would talk to would ask me, “how did you like the band?” Wait, I was in the band. So it's kind of a joke on that nobody watching the drummer and going to get a hot dog or pretzel when the drum solo came. The last decade or so I made sure this didn't happen again; I scaled down the kit and play it like an animal, so they can't miss. I wanted to put a crazy solo similar to the one I do live, so I called my friends into the studio while I was recording Pretzel and recorded it. Then me, Suzy and bassist Randy Coven did the dialog.

Merely two out of thirteen tracks are instrumental though?

John: Yeah, I mean I have been writing lyrics for years. It started with ARK. Me and Jorn Lande collaborated and wrote the lyrics on the ‘Burn The Sun’ album. I wanted to do an album of songs. I mean, I worked with and was friends with some of the best singers in the world; I had to use them, right!!! LaBrie and me were talking when I was going to have him sing on ‘Soul In Your Mind’ and I was asking him if he wanted to collaborate on the lyrics. James said, “John, this is your story, you do the lyrics”. I thought about that and it was so true and real, music is one thing, but the lyrics are the story and I think I would of felt really weird about putting out a record with somebody singing something I thought was not cool or corny, in-fact I would of hid.

What's the story behind the title, "The Radio Waves Goodbye"?

John: The title is of course a play on words, a double meaning. It came from my perception of the music business and how the control of record company’s spoon feeding you songs on the radio that aren’t even good. The radio is fading and to be honest, I don't even listen to it any more, besides maybe overhearing somebody’s boom box at the beach. The radio is going away in the way it is now.

People are using the internet now to check out what they want to hear and satellite radio. There are other ways to get good music, I mean its music, its life, and it has to be good music. So I am ripping on the big machine and laughing as it falls because music is way too important to me. There will never be another Led Zeppelin or Zappa with the state of the radio and music business as we now know it. Maybe people having some control over listening to what they think is cool will open the door for some magical band to submerge again.

You've mentioned that it's a dark and moody album with influences from Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath. I can't say that I personally found much or any of the latter act into your music?

John: Me either!!! I have obvious Pink Floyd influence all over the record. In fact Floyd ANIMALS was sort of a template for some of the album. When I wrote Sabbath, I had two songs extra that didn't make the record and I didn't end up using them. Sorry for the misinformation.

This is perhaps a kind of rude question, however, I must ask if you've heard the latest WINGER album?

John:No. I only heard the MTV shit. It's not a rude question because he has a great voice. It's only because he was the target band for Bevis and Butthead, that he got hacked. But no I never heard the stuff. I don't listen to a lot of other music when writing music. I don't want to think I wrote something and later on find out that I subliminally ripped it off. I just use life as the influence, its crazy enough to draw influence from.

Well, it's just that tracks like "Prayer Pill", "Shimmering Grey", "Yesterday I'll Understand", could just as easily have been sung by Kip Winger on the "IV" release. Well, in my humble and very personal opinion of course.

John: Wow Kip must have a cool new album than (Ha Ha). It's also those songs are sung mostly by Adrian Holtz, who is brilliant and he has this Bowie or Bono tone that I tried to pull out of him for these tracks. I recorded the songs with me first singing the song to the track and then the singers doing my phrasing and melody but doing it good. I love Adrian’s style he is the guy that was going to be the new ARK singer for the third album. He is from Switzerland and lives in New York, in my opinion, one or the best.

Seriously, you definitely need to check out 'IV' with Winger. It's dark, moody, and indeed very proggy and Pink Floyd-ish at times. What's it like to work with James LeBrie then?

John: James is real cool. I played drums live for him on the Elements Of Persuasion tour. This is where I met my great bro -and my favourite guitarist Marco Sfogli. But James and I are friends and he was great to tour with and as you hear, he recorded some amazing stuff for my record. Live, it was great to play with him. For recording, I was real psyched because James really dug the track ‘Soul In You Mind’. He really understood the vibe and story and sunk into it. He didn't just sing me something and send it to me without the soul. I don't think he is that type of guy anyway.

You don't ever feel like his voice is too connected to the sound of Dream Theater? You know, he'll simply turn your music into yet another "Dream Theater" song.

John: I don't listen to a lot of them, so don't really know. Obviously he is the singer of the band so it will connect but on my stuff I just hear an original collaboration between us. There a great band I have seen them live a couple of times and it was really good. Mike Portnoy is the one who recommended me to James for his solo tour. The songs I know of them, ‘Soul In Your Mind’ is nothing like it. We probably grew up listening to the same bands in the 70’s, which can do it.

Did Mike Dimeo have any say about material and which tunes to sing?

John: Well I had Mike in mind for the two tracks he recorded. I wrote and arranged the material with the musicians first. On these two songs, Dimuti and Rob Katrick. After the music was recorded I bought the songs to Mike, to make sure he liked the stuff and he did, very much. Me and Dimeo are great friends and have been through a lot together so in the studio was a blast and we have worked together for years so working on my songs was easy. I brought Mike into the studio in New York and wrote the lyrics down. I played the track and sung Mike my idea line by line. Mike did three passes of each line and we had magic. He is so pro and one of the best on the planet.

I wanted to use Mike on tunes with the style that he wouldn’t usually do. For example a drum and bass metal tune ‘Mother Illusion’ and a Radiohead meets Ozzy vibe on ‘Gates To Bridges’. I tried to take everybody a little out of their element on the record because I have worked with all of them and know what they can do besides what the audience is used to hearing them do. It's kind of like having the secret pass code to all these great musicians and being able to record them in ways they are never heard, how lucky is that?!!!

But this is still quite far from his home ground with Riot and Masterplan.

John: Mike is so versatile it's unreal. You have to hear his Ray Charles imitation.

Well, I guess the same could be said about your past as a hard rocker. You've mostly done basic and "normal" hardrock/metal albums and not as much "prog" or the dark and moody stuff (except for ARK, etc). I guess this is the kind of music that you've always wanted to do?

John: I am more into the ARK style than strait stuff. I love to play creative. I have done a ton of prog. Albums though, you probably have not heard them all. I also love to do the straight stuff, it depends where I am in life at the moment. Sometimes I like to go sick and sometimes just play it heavy and strait. I need good tunes though. I have been at least lucky enough to have been in great song bands. Drumming is sacred to me and I feel there is still so much that is open for experimentation. There are endless amounts of rhythms and patterns that are still undiscovered. I try to always create but it has to touch the listener or it is useless.

You're into the whole concept of a rather complex song structure and arrangements? Three chords and AC/DC rock just isn't enough to please ya' anymore?

John: AC/DC yes, they always please me but just three chords and straight arrangements, no, I started ARK for that reason alone, to get away from that. There are plenty of bands to do that, you don't need me to do it also. I want to do something different. Tore and I sat down in Norway in 1997 and planned to do something totally different and we did, ARK. I looked at it as more of an AC/DC playing prog. With Latin, blues and double bass, Check out the feels of the songs, they are not like typical prog bands. It's more down. Actually Joe Lynn Turner (one of the vocal kings), said that about ARK playing it like AC/DC.

The lyrics are indeed thought worthy and quite moody. Could you inform us a little bit what these tracks are all about really.

Mother Illusion

John: This song is about Mother Nature and how deceiving she can be. The power of nature and how it is so stunningly beautiful it is and in one second we can be wiped out. The song is a mental visual of Mother Nature being the literal mother of earth and she is fed up and about to save her child from destruction. And at the same time the human perspective and how we take advantage of the planet and don't realize the arsenal she has to destroy. Not a tree hugger song, more of a fantasy song visualizing the earth and nature as characters.

Prayers Pill

John: This song is one of my favourites. I wanted to do a Phil Collins/Peter Gabriel vibe here. The song is trippy. It's about a business man who is consumed with his job and religion. He has no time to really have any fun because he is busy slaving to the boss or plagued by religion and the fear of God. Every move is watched and just wants to let loose. He sees an ad in a magazine at the doctors’ office advertising a new drug that does all your praying for you.

You order the pill with your preferred religion and a man comes to deliver it. By taking this Prayer Pill all your prayers are done for you and you could have the time and the lack of guilt to do what you want. 39 to 49 millograms 6 or 7 hours till you finally land salvation running through you for about a week and you smile. For this earthy privilege you might have to answer to the man up in the sky in the end. In the end you'll burn or fly like a dove. To creep this track out even more, I had my three nieces sing a trippy children's playground song “Prayer in a pill” if you will. Dose all your sin to the wind. Now you feel peaceful and still. You might just fall down.

Yesterday I'll Understand

John: This one is sung by my great friend Don Chaffin. This is about your guardian angel or voice that travels with you. It's about getting a second chance in life, this time trying to do it differently. It's got kind of a Zeppelin feel from the Presence album and the chorus is very Soundgarden like.

You've recorded around 200 albums over the years. Any favourites and regrets?

John: Favourites: ARK "Burn The Sun". Starbreaker. Masterlast "Mastery Of Self". John Macaluso & UNION RADIO "The Radio Waves Goodbye" and Alex Masi "Late Nights At Desert's Rim Rock". Regrets: I love the guys but hate the records TNT "Realized Fantasies" and the live one. I really had no say here or couldn't play like myself. Also I love Yngwie Malmsteen "Alchemy" and I love the playing on "War To End All Wars" but the sound of this record, I can't understand how it sounded so great in the studio and the came to my mailbox sounding so bad.

If there's anything you'd like to say, add, or promote, please do:

John: Just check out my new solo record and thanks for listening. Thank you for the interview. I really appreciate the support. John MAC.

Interview by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom, (c) 2007