Earlier this year I had the fortune of obtaining a copy of keyboard virtuoso Alex Argento's first solo album titled Ego. I was amazed at his ability to write complex fusion that contained strong melody and phrasing. It has quickly become one of my favorite releases in the genre. I was fortunate enough to get some time out of Alex's schedual to ask him a few questions.
Chris: Hi Alex, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It would be great if you could start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
Alex: Hi Chris. It's a real pleasure to be interviewed by you. I have to say this is my first interview and I'm sure it will be too funny for me! Lol
Ok.. where to start...I'm a keyboardist from Palermo, Sicily (Italy). I've been always surrounded by music since my early ages. I loved to listen my parent's vinyls. They had (and still have) a great collection of music, from jazz to rock, pop, folk.. well, a little bit of everything! I remember I had a little 3-octave keyboard (I think it was a Bontempi) which I played sometime. Anyway, I was (at the beginning) more interested in listening to music more than playing it. At the age of 14, my father bought me a Yamaha keyboard-arranger, but in the same period I was attracted by classical guitar more than my new keyboard. So I started to study (as self-taught) guitar. After two/three years some friends of mine introduced me to rock, metal and especially prog music. I was really intrigued about how those keyboards were used in this musical context, so I focused my studies on it (always as self-taught). I think this was the first time I realised that keyboards had to be "my instrument".
I started to practice simply covering all the music I really liked (no classical exercises or boring scales lol). I remember I played about 8-10 hours a day, because I started to play really late and I felt the need to "recover the time lost" :) I also liked to improvise over some base tracks to develop my improvisational skills.
During this period of my life I did a lot of gigs with some local cover bands, because I loved to play live. So I finally came to the conclusion that music was my love, my passion and my full-time job too :)
In 2003 I had the idea to start writing some tunes because I wanted to realise my first solo album. So I did it. But first I had to find the musicians whom could help me for this project and I can tell you it wasn't easy (especially in my town!). That's why I started to search "through the net". I have to say that internet was (and still now is) the best way to promote myself, my music and even to find the musicians around the world who helped me to realize my dream!
I've also had the chance to record in some musical projects (as guest) together with some of the best musicians in the music business (like Virgil Donati, Simon Phillips, Gregg Bissonette and so on).
Anyway, after three years working on my project (during my spare time), the 1st of May (2007) my first solo album entitled "EGO" came to life and you cannot imagine how happy I was and still I am. It's a big dream come true for me and and maybe the most important goal in my musical life.
Chris: The music on "Ego" seems to be a mixture of different aspects of fusion. For example, the groove based structure of bands like Tribal Tech and the heavier, more syncopated influences of Virgil Donati's music. Did you have a pre-rendered formula for how you wanted the songs on "Ego" to sound?
Alex: Absolutely not. All the songs came out spontaneously. I simply put together all of my musical influences in a "natural" way while I compose. You mentioned Tribal Tech and, of course, they inspired me a lot. Their music, for me, is the right balance of technique, groove, songwriting, taste.. everything is top notch! About Virgil, well, I simply love his insane drumming!
Chris: "Ego" has actually stirred up quite a bit of attention in the jazz/fusion world. How would you say the reaction has been so far?
Alex: Well... I couldn't ask for more! I didn't expect all of this attention on my album, really! Thanks also to MySpace, I was contacted by a lot of musicians around the world and they really enjoyed my tunes so much. I've got a lot of amazing comments and messages and I saved them all!! I can say I'm satisfied 100%. For an unknown musician like me I think it's a great goal.
Chris: Do you have any plans for a future solo recording? If so, who do you have in mind to participate this time around?
Alex: Sure! I've started to write some new grooves for my next album. I have a lot of ideas in my mind and I cannot wait to working on it full-time! About the musicians, well, I can say I'll have my friends Marco Sfogli and Vittorio Falanga on guitars and Stefano Ruscica on drums (as always). This time I hope to find a nice bassist who can record all the tunes. I don't know if I'll have guest musicians on the next one, maybe just one, but I would prefer to have my own band with "my musicians". Anyway, I don't want to do any plan for the moment.
Chris: Are you planning on setting up any shows in the near future?
Alex: Well.. I'm planning to do some rehearsals with my band. I think I'll start to do some gigs in the first months of 2008 (hopefully!!) in Italy, then I'll try to play even in Europe. Anyway, nothing is confirmed yet.
Chris: Is there any direction that you have in mind for this new album?
Alex: Not really. Maybe it will be heavier than "Ego" and much more focused on groove... we could say it will be an "heavy-fusion" album ;)
Chris: I can't wait to hear it! Thank you for your time Alex.
Interview for DPRP by Chris Jackson
Alex Argento Official Website
Alex Argento MySpace Page
DPRP Review of Alex Argento's Ego Release