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Exploring the many faces of rock – Interview with Giovanni Spano

Interview and live photos (C) Adrian Hextall \ Mindhex Media 

With more stage appearances than many artists, having played to thousands of fans singing the words to numerous hits back to you, vocalist Giovanni Spano is used to being in the spotlight. Following successful runs in the West End in Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical, rediscovering the pop and rock classics of the 70s with the Let It Rip Tour around the country and the hard hitting shows with his own band deVience, Gio has performed in front of thousands of people with hugely diverse tastes in music.

His mission though, remains as clear as the day he first set foot on the stage. Raised on rock, Gio’s desire is to see music not only return to the days when the Ozone layer was threatened with nothing more than hairspray clouds originating in the hedonistic Sunset Strip area of Hollywood.  It was then that people would wear their favourite band proudly on their chest to indicate their allegiance rather than as a fashion accessory because a Kardashian had been seen wearing it. The music excited, energised and most importantly allowed you to enjoy yourself and have a good time. With everything going on in the world right now from wars to terrorism to global pandemics, never has Poison’s ‘Nothin’ But A Good Time’, seemed more necessary.

With that in mind, the artist who grew up, as his latest single attests to, on a diet of Bowie, Queen, Guns ‘n’ Roses, ZZ Top, Ozzy, KISS and more, spoke to us about the reason ‘Reinstate The Rock’, could in fact be one of the most excellent singles of 2020.

Working with Frankie Torpey (in the production chair), Gio has managed to create a sound that crosses genres and will appeal to fans across the board. A quick look at Frankie’s other projects sees him working with acts like Vendettas whose style differs completely to that of Gio. As such, when the pair work together, they’re able to bring different thoughts, styles and more together to create something rather special.

Those different styles of music matter a lot to Gio who cites The Hunna as one band that “I’m really digging at the moment. I think they are so good, their sound is really strong. I’m even pulling inspiration from the EDM genre as opposed to straight forward rock acts. I want to be able to integrate all of these styles into the rock world and create great songs. I was listening to Autograph the other day, some Aerosmith as well and at the heart of the music, they’re just great melodic pop songs. And we’re missing that in music at the moment.”

If you’re wondering who can put a smile 10 miles wide on Gio’s face as we discuss their music, check out this classic from Autograph:

“Now that’s a great tune”, confirms Gio but the one that really got me was…. now what was it… it was about a girl”, laughing he then adds, “of course it was about a girl. Ah yes, She Never Looked That Good for Me.” It’s another slice of perfect 80s pop rock produced en-masse by bands that should’ve, could’ve, would’ve been much much bigger if they’d just managed to get the breaks. Autograph were one such band:

 As we are treated to a rendition of the latter song over the Skype call we are on… the topic of conversation moves back to Gio’s own material and the reason we are speaking, namely ‘Reinstate the Rock’, the song that will hopefully make people appreciate just how much fun music can be one more. To emphasise the fun element, the 4 track E.P. cover sees Gio in a variety of outfits, representing a hint of what is to come in the music and at the same time paying homage to his own musical heroes.

It doesn’t take a musical genius to recognise all of the people on the cover of the E.P. Gio’s Billy Gibbons is perhaps a little more Bill & Ted than ZZ Top but given the most excellent duo from San Dimas, California have just returned in ‘Bill & Ted Face The Music’, 2020 and beyond is clearly the right time for ‘Reinstate the Rock’ to come out.

“It’s an anthem I’ve wanted to put out for ages. No one around me could quite get what I was trying to do and I’m just sitting there thinking, ‘How do I get that stupidly huge chorus in at the beginning so that everyone knows what they are getting from the start?’ Do you know what I mean?”

When we listen to that title track, it immediately becomes obvious that we do. The song launches straight in from the off.. there’s no denying Gio’s intentions here to create a radio friendly rock anthem that will see people reaching for the volume dial when driving down Route 66 / The A1 near Hemel Hempstead (Delete as appropriate) and turning it up to 11.

 For me though, the impact is delivered with a crushing solo from new deVience band mate, Sawyer [We say new but given we have been denied live music since March and Sawyer only replaced Jim in the band that same month, we’ll call him ‘The new guy’]. It gives the song another element that’s been missing from mainstream music for too long, the ‘memorable’ guitar solo.

“I want to recreate that atmosphere, the feeling, the vibe, the whole experience into the 21st Century. I want to be able to tell people that it’s OK to enjoy a rock band and their music. I know what the boys (from deVience) bring as far as musicality and technical capabilities are concerned. I know what I bring to the table in regards to songwriter, vocalist and front man and when it’s combined we just want to give an audience the best possible show they can have. And you know what…. we’ll have fun on stage as well.”

These days, with so much having to be done and managed online, the stress of managing the websites, posting on social media, launching a single digitally, it requires bands, artists, to do things differently. Gio accepts that most bands dislike social media, it goes against the getting out and playing live for a crowd ethos that members will have assumed they would be doing as they grew up. It is one of a set of tools though that, as Gio points out, “allows us to interact very closely with the fans. It’s the one saving grace on social media. It allows me to keep in touch with those fans that have followed everything I’ve done since Year Dot. I don’t care about how many followers are there and how many likes a post will get. What matters is that interaction with the people that keep you going.

You only have to look at some of these reality show media stars with 1.5-2.0 million followers online who then turn up for the obligatory ‘My Story’ book signing to find that only 45-50 people have turned up. It says everything to me. We need to change that and I honestly think that the tide is turning now as well.”

The way in which music is consumed these days has also changed and, thanks to streaming giants like Spotify, Apple and Deezer, artists are having to be smart about how they get music to those fans that continue to interact with the band. Gone are the days when an album every 1-2 years will suffice to keep people hooked. An album can lose its impact within weeks of release, thanks in part to the volume of releases and the ease of which they can be accessed by individuals. How then do you manage to keep the fan base on the hook, all year round?

“Well, I’ve been talking to the boys and we’re considering seasonal releases. An e.p.’s worth of material as each season changes with the themes suited to whatever season we are in,” says an animated Gio. “We’ve already got five tracks sorted out, we’re recording those with Frankie as well so things are moving in the right direction.”

Three or four tracks every 3 or 4 months sounds like exactly the right approach at the moment. As the seasons change, so the impact from the previous release drops away slightly and fans look to new music just around the corner and a fresh fix from their favourite artist. Whether we get a darker release in the autumn before winter sets in or whether we get ‘Christmas With Gio’ (perhaps not eh?) remains to be seen. The difference between desire and reality, again thanks to what needs to happen behind the scenes, is often an unknown, even to people in the band.

“All of the boys… they keep saying ‘Oh let’s get this out at the end of October… that’ll be great.’ I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Woah! hold on, do you have any idea what’s needed to get a release out these days?’. I love their passion and their drive but actually writing the music is perhaps just 20% of the picture. You’re dealing with so many aspects, the media, the press, the question around the look of the album cover. These things all matter and need to be handled.”

The inspiration for providing the complete package to the fans comes not only from Gio’s wide ranging love of all styles of music but also from his time on both stage and screen. A quick look at his IMDB profile will show experience gained from movies like The Professional where he played a drug dealer called Napoleon and a stint in Jesus Christ Superstar as Simon Zealotes, He’s also starred in movie shorts and also bagged a slot on popular BBC drama Holby City at one point. When you combine all of that material together and mix it with his time in the West End in Jim Steinman’s ‘Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical’, his star turn in Rip It Up – 70s where his performance was so strong he was added to the main headline casting, you start to appreciate that the world is ready for Giovanni Spano. Now sit back and let him entertain you!

Source: https://www.ripituptheshow.com/gallery

If you need a live fix from Gio, then he’ll be out next with Aljaž and Janette of ‘Strictly’ in ‘Remembering the Oscars’. Details for this can be found here:

https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/remembering-the-oscars-tickets/artist/5315340

Reinstate the Rock is available now: Click The Picture Below to Purchase: 

 

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