Interview with Frank Ferrara and Tony Diorio of Bang – one of the best kept diamonds of American rock
Michalis Limnios BLUES @ GREECE’s Blog
“I miss the innocence and all the great music of the 60’s and 70’s….they don’t make music like that anymore…”
Bang: The Big Bang of Rock n’ Roll
Philadelphia based Heavy Metal trio Bang have often been mistaken for a Florida band. The initial trio of vocalist/guitarist Frankie Glicken, bassist/vocalist Frank Ferrara and drummer/lyricist Tony Diorio first created the band whilst still teenagers. The band was originally titled the Magic Band and led by singer C.J. However, C.J. would depart (apparently for a mental hospital!) as the band became Bang. Journeying to Florida one of the band’s first gigs was performing as support to Deep Purple.
Bang did not start their career too well as despite signing to major label Capitol Records a recorded Ron and Albert Howie produced debut album, laid down in 1971 provisionally titled Death Of A Country never saw a release. It was to be 1972 before Bang set the scene. Bang replaced keyboard player Jeffrey Cheen with Pete Sears for the 1973 album Music. This album also saw the departure of drummer Duris Maxwell, who went on to guest on Heart’s ‘Dreamboat Annie’ debut album in 1975. Bruce Gary would take Maxwell’s position on the drum stool.
The group toured heavily with Rod Stewart, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Three Dog Night, Guess Who, Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad, Kinks, James Gang, Ike & Tina Turner, and Black Sabbath in their time and had Fleetwood Mac open on other occasions. In fact, Bruce Springsteen is also known to have played an acoustic set opening for Bang at a gig in Richmond, Virginia. Needless to say, Bang were also one of the first bands to use pyrotechnics as part of the show.
Amazingly the band was still operational in 1999, releasing a set of demos dubbed ‘RTZ’ with live work the following year saw Bang drawing new appreciation from the Stoner Rock crowd. In 2004 the band released the album The Maze, an ambitious affair utilizing full choir, orchestrations or epic keyboard arrangements, united Ferrara, Gilcken and Diorio. On January 2014 Bang announced their reunion. Frank Ferrara and Tony Diorio talks about the band and their experience on the Rock roads.
How do you describe band’s sound and progress, what characterize Bang philosophy?
Frank F: I would say that our sound is our own…Big and powerful… Guitar driven melodic and dynamic….we seem to be able to write different kinds of music… which to me…is refreshing…
Which is the most interesting period of Bang and which was the best and worst moment of bang over the years?
Frank F: The most “fun” moment was rehearsing and making our music a reality…the worst moment was Tony leaving the band…but it’s all good now cause we’re back and sounding better than ever…THIS will be the “best” moment…
What are the differences and similarities the 70s Bang and todays? What are the lines that connect the 70s and nowadays?
Frank F: It’s still the same…We still have Tony’s lyrics…Frankie’s guitar and my vocals…and with our new drummer Matt Calverese…the band sounds better than ever…
What experiences in your life have triggered your ideas for songs most frequently?
Tony: I was and still am into God, sci fi, time travel and writing songs from just a title handed to me by the Franks like RTZ or Eve of The End. I also love to write about love lost, love found, looking for love and I love you songs. I wanted a song with a number title so I wrote 413. 90% of my lyrics rhyme and have a meter and flow. Frank does an incredible job coming up with melodies. He molds my words.
Why did you think that the Blues Rock music continues to generate such a devoted following?
Frank F: Probably because BLUES is in part of every style of music…
Tony: I Have no idea, I’m not a blues listener but I write blues lyrics “Exactly who I Am “Feel the Hurt” and others.
What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you’ve had?
Frank F: We jammed at a show with BOB Seger,,,we were short on time and decided to jam to fill the void…we jammed with the Silver Bullet Band and did Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man…it was great…
Tony: When the crowd rushed the stage as our fireworks display went off. The night we smoked Black Sabbath.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?
Frank F: Wow…there’s so many…from Andy Williams telling us that “there’s room for everybody”…to Grand Funk…Give them more than just the music to Dr. John…when he was taking a nap 5 minutes before show time…telling us to relax…quit being so nervous…save it for the show…to the Doobie Bros…who bailed us out when the promoter didn’t pay us for our set…the Doobies were kind enough to give us some cash so we could get to the next show…
Tony: When I found out we’re the head and not the tail, and our gifts will make a place for us.
“I don’t think music will ever be as good as it once was….just like our planet falling to pieces….I feel music has fallen to pieces also…I hope I’m dead wrong…I hope some band comes along and makes a liar out of me.” (Photo: Bang with Vice President of Capitol Records)
Are there any memories from recording and show time which you’d like to share with us?
Frank F: Several shows stand out…but one of coolest was opening a show for Black Sabbath…a band we loved…and stealing the show from them…that’s when we realized we really belonged with the “big boys”…
Tony: As told in the BANG story playing at the Sportatorum in Miami seeing my 3 little kids off to the side of the stage watching me, wondering “what is daddy doing”?
What do you miss most nowadays from the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of music?
Frank F: I miss the innocence and all the great music of the 60’s and 70’s…they don’t make music like that anymore…future of music?…boy that’s a tuff one…you’re asking me…so I’ll tell you what I feel…I don’t think music will ever be as good as it once was…just like our planet falling to pieces…I feel music has fallen to pieces also…I hope I’m dead wrong…I hope some band comes along and makes a liar out of me.
Tony: The Three of us against the world and when music was my total life. No TV no news just playing, writing and recording. I’m still doing the last two. I’m hooked on music with a big guitar.
Which memory from Chuck Berry, Black Sabbath, J. Geils Band, Doobie Bros, Savoy Brown, and Buddy Miles makes you smile?
Frank F: CHUCK BERRY- he would show up at the show in a rental car with his stage clothes and guitar…In his rider the promoter has to furnish a band… as soon as the show was over he would…GET his money …jump in the car and go to the airport to go to the next show….lol…no overheard…
SABBATH- stealing the show from them in Fayetteville, NC made us realize just how good we could be…
BUDDY MILES- the show in Florida when a knock on our trailer and Buddy looking for “Chuck from 3 Dog”…something happened and he was ready to punch Chuck out…
DOOBIE BROS- Great Guys…when a promoter stiffed us out of our pay…we were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to get to the next gig…they stepped up and gave us the money we needed to move along…the musical circle is filled with some bad people…but the good musical circle is full of musicians who will do anything to help each other out…that’s pretty cool…
The most “fun” moment was rehearsing and making our music a reality…the worst moment was Tony leaving the band…but it’s all good now cause we’re back and sounding better than ever…THIS will be the “best” moment…
Which memory from Fleetwood Mac, Dr. John, The Byrds, Allman Bros, and B.B. King makes you smile?
Frank F: I think more than anything is the fact that 3 guys from a small little town were able to craft a destiny for ourselves….and the fact that we were contemporaries to all the great bands of that era makes us extremely proud and humble….
Tony: When we played with the Byrds in Virginia, my roommate from military school 10 years earlier (Staunton Military Academy) came to see me and he was bald and I had major hair. We laughed.
What’s been your experience from the Mar Y Sol Festival 1972 -Puerto Rico? Do you remember anything funny?
Frank F: The whole trip was BANGtastic…from taking 5 hours to get to a destination that’s less than 3 hours from Miami…get a flat tire when we landed…to chill with all the great bands that were all staying at the same hotel….you can get the whole story on the BANGsite…it was a very memorable trip….
Tony: It was so hot on the stage we had to cut our set short to keep me from passing out. I had one speed on drums. Petal to the metal. I actually burnt my fingers grabbing a cymbal. Also when the locals who had locked there truck with our equipment demanding more money to take it to the airport and our roadies hotwired their truck. I swear to God as we were taxing down the runway to take off looking out the window they were chasing us in a pickup truck swinging machetes.
Also on our way there our plane dropped 2000 ft. in the Bermuda Triangle and we thought it was over as we pealed ourselves from the ceiling. I wrote Humble on the plane. And lastly our plane had a flat tire when we landed and sat at the end of the runway and was a topic of jokes with the other bands.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine for the next 24 hours, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Frank F: Doing a worldwide webcast to all our fans around the world so we could all be ONE at the same time….that would be cool…
Tony: Write and record a song. There is nothing that compares to growing a song to completion from a word or a chord.
*Tony here are the questions from Sea of Tranquility –
1) Though I’ve been a loyal follower of ’70s heavy rock sounds for the majority of my life, for some reason Bang was a band that escaped me. Chances are we have many readers here at SoT who also missed out on the band-can you talk a little bit about your history, how you came together, and got started in the music industry?
You can read the whole story on www.bangmusic.com…I’ll try to make a long story short….I’ve known Frankie since grade school…Tony answered our ad for a drummer 2 weeks after Woodstock…rehearsed 6 days a week for 18 months getting our sound together…took a trip to Florida with a station wagon and a u-haul…ended up talking our way into opening up for SMALL FACES & DEEP PURPLE….a couple months later signed with Capitol Records.
the the short story…the whole story is pretty amazing…
2) Death of a Country was the first record you recorded-why was it
initially never released, and only wound up coming out many years later?
Again thats a tricky question…Capitol signed us after we recorded DEATH OF A COUNTRY…we thought the plan was to release Death and at the last minute Capitol decided they didn’t want to relase it…telling us it was too heavy for a debut album…That was really disappointing because we believed in the Death album…after shelving Death…they gave us 2 weeks to write the next record…which turned out to be the BANG album…
3) Those first few albums, Death of a Country, Bang, and Mother/Bow to the King are essential heavy rock for any fan of the genre. I’ve often stated that Bang’s music is a like a strange mix of Black Sabbath, Budgie, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, and Wishbone Ash. How would you describe the band to someone who has never heard your music before?
One music critic described our music as a cross between Grand Funk-Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin…which is pretty close to the bands you listed.
that was a real compliment…only if we had sold as many albums a those three put together…wow…that would have been cool…as far as how I would describe BANG…I would say…we’re a 3 piece power trio with kick ass songs that tell a story…todays music is more about the beat than the lyric…and thats a shame…call me old school…the music from the 60’s and 70’s … especially the rock music…have a lotta soul…don’t hear that too much these days…
4) Bang toured and opened up for a lot of very popular acts on the early ’70s live circuit. Can you talk about some of the more memorable shows and bands you played with, and any stories you’d like to share?
I’ll give you three…stealing the show from our teen favorites Black Sabbath…solidified our belief that we belonged…Playing the Mar y Sol festival in Puerto Rico and partying with all the bands that played there and some who chose not to cause the promoter stiffed everyone. The cool thing all the bands stay at the same hotel…and we had 2 floors all to ourselves…and every room had something going on…another band we had a lot of fun with was Alice Cooper…we did a 3 city swing with them in Teaxas and tell were very cool kats….
5) With the album Music, the band saw it’s first line-up change. Can you talk a little bit about that and the album, and what led to Bang’s breakup in 1974?
After the BANG record came out and didn’t explode…Capitol started putting pressure on us to come up with a hit single…at the time the #1 record was “I AM Women” by Helen Reddy… who was also in the Capitol family. Think aboutt that…we were and are a ROCK band…not a top 40 hit machine…we were so disappointed in the way Capitol treated us…If they didn’t like the music then WHY THE HELL did they sign us…it made no sense..in hindsight we should have went with Atlantic a more progressive rock label…still under the gun to come up with a “hit” we decided to record “NO SUGAR TONITE” by the Guess Who..after the Mother album was done…and losing Tony in the process…we we’re unable to tour…we didn’t have a band and finding other players to join just didn’t work out…we still had another album to fulfill our contract so we recorded the MUSIC album again with the sensational Bruce Gary…but by that time…me and Frankie were so disappointed by what was going on decide to hang it up.
6) Many years went by before the reunion in 1997-what was everyone doing in that 23 year span?
I guess we were doing what everyone else was doing…working odd jobs and trying to pay the bills like everyone else…playing in different bands along the way and basically just trying to survive. You know…when I first started playing music I thought that It would be easy to get a band together and it would be hard to do music…the exact opposite is true…Music is easy its finding the right people…people who have the same goals and the same commitment…that the hard part. Its so hard to find…
7) Can you talk about the events that led up to the reunion? Was there a lot of fan interest at the time and did that spur the three of you to make new music together again?
Even though we went our separate ways we remained in touch…so when the stars lines up and Tony moved back to Philly from Dallas we just started writing like it was yesterday not 23 years ago. It goes to show that once you make magic with someone…it never goes away…within a month we had written all the songs for our RTZ record…which we recorded on Frankie little basement studio. We all had a great time putting RTZ together on a small 8 trace machine…not quite the studio that Criteria and the Sound Factory were…lol..still the final result was fantastic…efforts to put a band together again kept running into a brick wall…it just wasn’t time yet.
8) Return to Zero and The Maze are the two albums that have been
recorded sine Bang reconnected. What do you think about both of them, and what have the fans & critics had to say as well?
Both records proved that we still could write songs.I love both records …as I said RTZ was recorded a small equipment in a basement…but that just proved you don’t need a 500.00 dollar an hour studio to make a good record…the Maze was done in a more convenetial studio with a co-producer…but that turned into a hassle when the co-producer’s ego started getting in the way…and turning a fun time into a drag. Our next record will be our best…the pieces are in place. Both albums were received well but without a label and without promotion and distribution…I don’t think anyone even knew we had a new record. to this day a lot of people think we only did two records….BANG and MOTHER…go figure…lol
9) Tony Diorio dropped out before The Maze was recorded-can you talk about that and how you came upon Matt Calvarese?
Actually Tony stopped playing live after the BANG record… we used the drummer from Skylark…Duris Maxwell… for the 4 songs we recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami and when we got to LA we got together with BRUCE GARY…from the Knack fame…to finish Mother…Bruce also played drums on every song after that we did for Capitol Records…as far as Matt Calverese is concerned…I’ve known Matt for about 10 years and when me and Frankie started kicking around starting up again…we ran into Matt at a music store and asked if he would come and play…he did…it sounded great and now here we are. The band sounds the best its sounded since we played and recorded with Bruce…kick ass drummer and a good soul…perfect for what we needed….
10) We’ve heard that the band is interested in doing some live shows here in 2014-will this be a full scale tour, or just select US dates?
We’re trying to get our ducks in a row…finding management and a booking agent…our goal is to do this full scale…a world tour would be awesome cause we broke up before we got to go to Europe…we ready to go and we want to play everywhere we can.
11) Will the live shows be as a 3 piece, and what songs are you looking to add to the set list?
Yes it will be 3 piece..with a couple of background singers…an possibly some keys…the core will remain 3 piece…its stronger and more powerful that way…but after the Mother album…we started orchestrating our music more and more…so to be true to the newer material we’ll have to add some other musicians.
12) With so many classic heavy bands either making strong comebacks or still out rocking hard year after year (Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, just to name a few) how do you feel that Bang fits into that mix?
We’re right there with all of them…and we can hold our own with any of them…so I’d say we would fit in rather easily…just because other bands became more famous doesn’t necessarily mean they were better…they just got the breaks they needed to hit the top….
13) Any change of additional new music from Bang in the near future?
Oh hell yes…hopefully by the summer…we never stopped writing so we have plenty of material to record…that in itself is really cool. To be back and reloaded is a beautiful thing…it feels the same as it did all those years ago…or as a friend said…in the long ago…
14) If you look into your crystal ball, what does the next 1-5 years hold for Bang?
Hopefully we’ll be touring and playng our music to people who have never heard of BANG…with that MUSIC is what drives us and its what brought us back to were we are now…as Tony wrote….Finding a place thats right for me….falling thru space….RTZ…we also expect to keep writing and recording and hopefully in that time span we’ll have a few more records to add to the BANG file.
Thanks a lot!
Thanks Peter…if you need pictures or anything else…contact TonyD@bangmusic.com and he will hook you up. Thats for the opportunity to do this interview and I’m sure we’ll talk again down the road…—
Peter Pardo – Publisher
The Home of Progressive Rock, Heavy Metal, and Jazz-Fusion
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