I met Bill Lonero a number of years ago and have been an avid fan of his music ever since. His latest album, J.F.L., is the best I’ve heard from the band to date.
[ad#Google Adsense 300×250 in story]What I like most about Bill is that he is so humble about his abilities. I’ve never heard him brag about his guitar playing. Even though he is one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen pick up the instrument, for Bill, it’s not about speed, it’s about feeling every note.
During my latest trip to California, I stopped in to see Bill at his studio and talk about his latest album, which was just released on iTunes.
Jim: What have you learned from the previous two albums that helped you with this one?
Bill Lonero: The first album “Slather” was my solo CD and was a great experience for me. I got to work with Stu Hamm, Gigi Gonaway and Mike Mangini. I couldn’t ask for a better group of musicians to have on my first CD.
The second CD “Relentless” was the first album that LoNero did as a band, and was the first time we approached it with the idea of Guitarcore in mind. We went in with a clear idea of what we wanted the album to sound like and we had rehearsed and performed the songs live for about 6 months before we started the recording process. Once we got in the studio it was pretty easy for us to lay down tracks.
With the new album “J.F.L.” we realized that we could be more productive if we had our own recording studio. So we leased out a warehouse and converted it into our own rehearsal/recording studio. It’s basically a one-stop-shop for us to be as creative as we want without any outside interruptions or without having to watch a clock.
J: Do you feel you’ve expanded the music with this album?
BL: I feel like we’ve matured as a band with this album. This is my third album and LoNero’s second and instead of piling on the guitars and the odd time signatures and the masturbatory solos we’ve simplified things and made an album that has a cohesive sound that focuses on groove, rhythm and melody.
We’ve also introduced “Punkstrumental” on “J.F.L.”. I’m a big fan of bands like The Ramones and Social Distortion and the no bullshit attitude that they have. There is no pretentiousness about them. Their music is simple, catchy and straight to the point. So on “J.F.L.” we have “Fat Tat” which is a tribute to The Ramones and “Good Luck” which is a tribute to Social Distortion. It’s instrumental punk rock. You don’t need vocals to get your point across.
J: What is Guitarcore?
BL: Guitarcore is about attitude and playing what you want, when you want. And for this album what we wanted were songs that were not long, drawn out yawnfests like so many instrumental albums out there. We also wanted songs with real verses, choruses, groove and melody but in a non-vocal format.
Guitarcore is for people that love guitar but don’t want to sit though 15 minute guitar solos. It’s also for people that love vocal music but don’t want to sit through someone growling into the mic. Guitarcore is about integrity and honesty. It’s about playing any style of music you want and not having to apologize for it.
On the last CD “Relentless” I wrote a Hawaiian Slack Key song called “Lahaina Nights.” There is also a song on that CD called “Swamp Juice” and it was played on a 3 string strumstick.
On my first CD “Slather” I put a latin song, a blues song and 2 acoustic folk style songs. LoNero will put any style of music we want on our albums no matter what the style and make no apologies for it.
Music is about expression and if you want to express yourself with a banjo then you should be able to do so without being criticized for it. Period! I think my biggest issue with guitar players is no matter how good someone is, there is always someone that has to say “well he isn’t fast enough” or “his arpeggios aren’t clean enough” or “I can’t believe he just played that mode over that chord progression” etc, etc. WTF? Since when does playing guitar require you to be an Olympic contestant? I play guitar because I love it. I don’t care how fast someone is or how many arpeggios they know. If I listen to their music and I can hear that they put their heart and soul into it (no matter how sloppy or clean their playing is) then I am a fan.
I have no interest in being the fastest guitarist. I’m fast enough to get my point across. And when I go to YouTube and want to watch some guitar videos (it doesn’t matter who it is) there are always negative comments from some jackholes that probably would shit their pants if they had to actually play live on stage in front of people.
J: How is this music different than instrumental bands like Satriani?
BL: Because we’re a band in the truest sense of the word. Nothing against Satriani or Vai or any of the other fantastic instrumental musicians out there but 9 times out of 10 it is always about the lead guitarist and his ideas and vision. I don’t approach instrumental guitar like everyone else. I love vocal music and I’ve learned a lot by listening to vocal music. Vocalists let the music breathe. When a vocalist is singing he takes a breath. He doesn’t sing non-stop. That’s the way I approach instrumental. I want the guitar to breathe. I don’t need to fill every piece of silence with some fast lick or arpeggio. Also our solo sections aren’t 3 minutes long. I get in, say what I need to say and get out. I am more influenced by Angus Young then I am by any of the instrumental guitarists out there. In fact I can’t even listen to instrumental guitar honestly. It bores me to death.
J: Who is your target audience?
BL: Anyone that will listen. Anyone that doesn’t have preconceived notions of what instrumental is. Anyone that listens to music with an open mind. We’re an instrumental rock band for people that don’t generally like instrumental rock because 1) it’s all the same 2) because it’s mostly wanking guitars and 3) because even though we don’t have vocals we write the music as if a singer is going to sing over the top of the music.
J: What was it like working with Michael Rosen (Metallica, Testament, Joe Satriani, Santana, Papa Roach)?
BL: It was fantastic. He is a great guy/engineer/producer. I learned a lot from him. He has a great perception of music. He approaches music from a listener’s viewpoint, which for us is terrific. The last thing we wanted is someone to come in and tell us we need to complicate the songs.
J: Tell me about the gear you used on this album.
BL: We used everything from an all original 1953 Les Paul Goldtop to a Ken Lawrence “Hetfield,” Jerry Jones Baritone, Peavey Wolfgangs, Paul Reed Smith, Bolan Les Paul etc.
For amps we used a Wizard Modern Classic 50W, custom Dave Friedman EVH 50W, Roccaforte, Voodoo V-Rock 100W, Peavey Triple XXX and many other amps and guitars.
I’d like to thank Dr. Michael Burry for some fantastic gear. He’s a gear aficionado and has a great set of ears. The guy knows tone. So when we started the pre-production for the album he came to us with all this incredible equipment and it really made a huge difference on the tone and direction of this album.
J: Do you have tours/shows planned?
BL: Yes. We will be doing about 13 shows with Pat Travers starting in August. It’s mainly on the West Coast but talk of some mid-west dates have been tossed around. We are also doing some shows on our own and hope to get on a tour soon to get out as far as possible.
J: When you aren’t playing LoNero music, what do you like to play?
BL: If you’re talking about what I listen to when I’m not playing LoNero music then that would have to be AC/DC, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Metallica, (old) Exodus, Death Angel, Megadeth, Barry Manilow, Social Distortion, The Ramones, Todd Snider, Dream Theater, Jeff Beck, Johnny Cash, Marilyn Manson, and Waylon Jennings.
J: Where is the album available?