Interview: Michael Ludovici

I first met Michael Ludovici (pron lou d’oh vee chee) just over a year ago when I saw the band he plays bass for, Race to the Bottom do a live set at a local venue which is also a brewery.  I didn’t really get a chance to talk to him much that night, but have seen RTTB play a few times since and have seen another band, called Alien Jane, which he played drums in and am honored to call him a friend.

Michael and I both have a love for a wide range of music, which is one of the reasons we get along pretty well. Recently, he started another band with a young lady named Serena Rose called Dyadic.  He was kind enough to let me interview him and we talk about what he likes about music writing and performing live.  His influences and a few other topics.  Enjoy.

ml                  ml2                 ml3

Me:  First question, what instruments do you play and what is your favorite to play?

ML:  When I was 12, after years of begging my parents to buy me a guitar, my mom finally caved and bought me a white Squire Stratocaster. My dad found a blues guitarist he worked with to show me some scales and chords, but I spent most of my time just listening to records and trying to emulate as many songs as I could. Soon after, I met a young man who was looking for a drummer. He had a kit but no player. I told him I wanted to try it out.  Then after that, I figured playing bass would be a kind of synthesis of the two, so I bought a crappy five string Rouge at a pawn shop. Of course I realized soon after that the bass guitar really is a totally different type of beast on its own. After playing and growing up in a rock band, that would eventually be called Ensphere, I took a few music theory classes in collage. All of those classes were oriented around a keyboard, so I learned a little bit of that as well and began to experiment with it in song writing. To say I can play keys is a bit of a stretch, but I farted around with it for a long time after those classes… with all this said, I feel like I found my voice somewhere within the drums. I found a freedom there that I can’t really put into words. I tend to identify myself more as a drummer than anything else… a drummer who thinks like a guitarist perhaps lol

Me:  One thing I’ve appreciated about watching you play live, you always seem like you’re having fun; even when you will still recovering from being so sick last winter, I could tell you were having a good time.

What makes music so enjoyable to you?

ML:  I think playing and writing music is akin to that state of uninhibited self-expression and creativity that children seem to constantly be in… They can take any object or any environment, and completely transform it with nothing but their imagination and maybe one or more individuals to share their vision with. It’s completely magical, and art is really the only thing that brings me back to that state of joy and exploration… especially the older I get and the more responsibilities that seem to come along with all of that lol… whenever I get to create sound or perform, it’s like being able to become a kid again who, not only gets to play with a bunch of neat toys, but also gets to just be in the present moment and feel all of those human feelings that we sometimes forget to simply acknowledge because our shared reality is so distracting sometimes… no matter what feelings arise when I get to play in that state, I think it always makes me smile…. even if it’s painful, it’s always enjoyable because it’s real and it’s beautiful.

Me:  So now it’s time for the question that no interviewer ever asks musicians, what/who are your major influences?

ML:  What and who….. Some of earliest memories are of watching my dad paint in his studio. He would crank a whole lot of Led Zeppelin, the Doors, and [Jimi] Hendrix. He played lots of great music, but those three always stood out in a very profound way. With that said, I think a lot of painters found within art history have had an influence on me as well. Artists like van Gough and DaVinci specifically. DaVinci, for his intellect and innovative curiosity, and van Gough for his vulnerability and passion. However, there are two huge, huge musical influences I have to mention. So, when I first started playing music as a preteen and teenager, I was captivated by Nirvana. Besides the fact that those records taught me how to play drums, it was the music and scene that influenced me the most heavily. The spirit and attitude that still lives in the sound always reminds me of what’s important. The honesty, vulnerability, and just powerful genuineness of that music mean everything. Now, I am a huge fan of technique and always strive to be the best musician I can be, but Nirvana made me realize that it doesn’t really matter what or how you play, but perhaps more about the why and the how in a more expressionistic sense. Sort of like the essence of the song rather than all of the physical bits and pieces of the song. Like, almost anyone can play a power chord on a guitar, but Kurt Cobain tapped into something else when he did it. He tapped into something that everyone could relate with and finds some kind of catharsis through his honesty and pain. There are lots of technical geniuses that blow Cobain out of the water on guitar, but a very small demographic will really be able to connect with what’s going on musically and emotionally. The other major influence for me is a band called Tool. That was my first real intro to progressive rock and/or metal, and that is ultimately the genre that I connect deepest with. Plus the lyrics on the Laterals album are enlightening and life changing lol

Me:  I will say that I’ve not been much of a Nirvana fan, but you’re right. No matter what people say, he did have the ability to connect emotionally; it’s really a rare talent. The closest I’ve heard to it is Alex Lifeson’s guitar sound in the song, “The Pass”. Lifeson often will take what’s popular and make it his own, so perhaps he was channeling Cobain for that piece? Haha

You have a new project in the works, Dyadic. Can you talk a little about it, or is it still a bit under the wraps?

ML:  Yeah, in short, it’s a two piece that consists of me and one of the most talented people I’ve ever had the honor to work with and call my best friend; Serena Rose. I met her roughly 8 years ago when she joined my band Ensphere. We’ve been friends and working together ever since and working as a two piece is something that we’ve talked about doing for a rather long time. I think we always just related to each other a lot and shared the same values and worldviews about creativity and life in general. We are both very process oriented and kind of feed off of spontaneity. We also just share an experimental spirit. We always talked about wanting to be able to play musical chairs with instruments, within a band. We never wanted to be stuck behind one specific instrument during a performance or the writing process. So, that’s essentially what this new project is. It’s an opportunity to explore writing and performing between the two of us. So far, I have spent more time behind the drum kit and her behind the bass, but that is our home and roots, so it only makes sense to start there. We recently started a song where I play bass and sing while she plays drums. It was pretty fun and it’s become a song rather quickly. But I think we are still trying to figure out a gear set up that allows us to play with more instruments and make the sound bigger. After all, there is only so much you can do with two people, but we just recently started to play around with a loop pedal in some of the songs that we’ve been writing. It’s pretty neat and exciting. In a lot of ways, having just a two piece with someone that I have established a strong chemistry with allows us to move faster than I’ve ever experienced before. Our main concern is finding a cohesive sound for us, so that no matter who’s playing with whatever, we’ll still sound like Dyadic. The other benefit of a project like this is that it just simplifies everything. This includes potential drama or misunderstandings that can arise in bands. The more people involved, in any endeavor, the more potential bullshit can accumulate as well. Communication is so important to a bands survival, but it’s hard to open people up sometimes. In this project, we both already know each other so well, and intuitively know when things need to be addressed or focused on. We’re just getting started, but are both soooooo excited and have a lot if ideas about what our next moves are. We’ll have some recordings available sooner than one would think along with other goodies

Me:  A few years ago I went the see 1349 and Behemoth and one of the opening acts was called Inquisition, from Columbia. They are also a two piece band, a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist. I don’t think I’d even seen a two piece band before (though I’ve heard of the White Stripes), but I was impressed with how they sounded; it worked quite well.

Are the two of you interested in releasing anything on a major label (assuming you’re offered, of course haha), or would you prefer to keep it on smaller labels/self-released?

ML:  For starters, I think every artists dream is to simply be able to sustain themselves with nothing but their art. Well, that’s every ones dream really. Just to pursue that which makes themselves happy in order to put food in their belly and a roof over their head. However, I think that I would have to get to that bridge before I could really understand what it means to consider crossing it. I would ideally be able to keep things in house as much as possible in regards to any creative project I’ll be involved in. Truthfully, I am not a business man and don’t really know 100% what types of compromises I would be asked to make in order to work with a major label…. and even more importantly, I don’t really know if I produce anything all that great (or important) to need major label aid lol. I am nobody special, and I’ve found a decent enough balance between being able to get by, and have time to develop myself more as a musician. It’s not easy, but I am content with my life. I would just like to put out a few records and to be able to travel and share some of this art. Labels can potentially be very helpful with that process. Sometimes… not so much. I’ve read about and seen plenty of situations where the music industry seriously took advantage of artists. I just hope that I’ve educated myself enough to know what I am doing if that scenario ever came to be.

Me:  I remember reading years ago how Billy Joel’s management had screwed him out of tons of money and lots of royalties, after the platinum album “House of Glasses” and number one single “Piano Mam”.

What are some other projects that you are involved in??

ML:  Well, you know about the experimental “proggy” punk band that I play bass for – Race to the Bottom… and that group is in the process of changing its name actually lol… right now, for once, I am only working with that band and Dyadic. I have a solo project called Heroes Reunion… I’ve been writing stuff for Heroes since I graduated high school. I’ve been in too many projects over the years; I kind of just want to take it easy right now lol. Some of the Heroes stuff will most likely transform into Dyadic stuff. I think a little down time is in order, but I know that won’t last very long lol. I already have a handful of people that I have been making plans with to put a few ideas together, but time will tell how serious that those potential projects will become.

Me:  “Down time” for a musician…hmmm…that’s like Eric Clapton “retiring” after every tour, haha.

This may sound like a silly question, but do you prefer to write new material or do you prefer to perform live?

ML:  Lol I know, I know. No, that’s a very good question to ask; hard, but good. In a lot of ways, they are both very different animals. Performing can take a lot of preparation and writing can be very therapeutic…. and vice versa lol. So, I’ve been reading a bit about The Grateful Dead because of the “last” tour and all. With that said, I really enjoy both equally and like to try and combine the two as much as possible. For example, we’ll have a rough blueprint for a live set, but I’ll leave a little room for improvisation. Sometimes you find new avenues within a song because of something that might not have happened without the audience or the show. I always have an overall structure in mind for a song, but I never really play the same thing over unless I really want to. I’ve never ever felt like a song is finished. I kind of feel like they always change and turn into other things while maintaining the same essence. Kind of like how people get older, the only real constant is change… right? See how I dodged the question and gave you a bizarre hippie flippy answer? Lol

Me:  “Hippie flippy” I like that. But that answer makes a lot of sense. I know that from World War 1 until he died in 1973, Tolkien was always working on the Middle-earth saga; the stories were never finished. I also know how that goes with many of my poems and stories I write.

And one final question. This one is a very personal, tabloid type question. When you aren’t musicing or doing your regular job, what are some of your hobbies?

ML:  I am a nerd… I write poetry and watch movies… a lot. I grew up painting and studying drawing/painting with my dad… therefore, that stuff always stuck with me, along with studying art history and the artists… but I really can’t get enough motion pictures in my life… name it and I’ve probably seen it and know all of the actors, producers, writers, and directors. I’ll watch movies with the commentary on at least five times, and then watch the movies again like five times… I am just really curious to hear what the people involved have to say about their work I suppose… I also read a lot…. a lot… non-fiction and fiction… I like Sci fi a lot… I started reading some Sam Harris (non-fiction)… pretty typical stuff right? I have a pretty eccentric personality, but I suppose I am the total introvert and end up spending a lot of time by myself at home. And truthfully I do work on a lot of music most of the time

Me:  You seem to be with movies, like I am when it comes to music. I eat encyclopedias for music for breakfast, lunch, but not dinner; that’s usually food, haha. But I love studying all of the things in the liner notes and reading about the thought process behind the development of the music, the production and so forth and stuff.

Thanks so much for doing this interview for my blog my friend. I’ll be seein’ ya live soon.

ML:  thank you for having me


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