Interview: Salvo Vecchio

Guglielmo Malusardi: Salvo, please introduce yourself to the G9 readers.

Salvo Vecchio: I was born in Torino, Italy, in 1978 and I started playing guitar when I was about 14 years old. It's been my passion since day one; I studied with some teachers in my neighborhood, and on my own with books of theory and harmony, technique, styles, plenty of videos and, of course, listening to a lot of music (always buying the original CD!)

I remember that a friend introduced me to some guitar gods giving me a cassette tape (do you remember cassette tapes?) with Satriani's "Surfing With The Alien" on side A, and Vai's "Passion And Warfare" on side B. I was totally blown away.

During those years I graduated from law school and started a regular daily job, but I never stopped practicing on guitar and it came time to release some serious music, which included different CDs with band projects like Attitude (with special guest the great Richard Hallebeek) and Ivory, and also in session work for other artists.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Then 2010, the year of "The Warm LIght Of Night".

Salvo Vecchio: Finally, in January 2010 I slowly started with various instrumental ideas, and as I put those ideas together the iindividual tracks came to life. I composed all the pieces of the CD, co-producing and arranging the album with keyboardist Andrea Marincola.

During the recording sessions we considered inviting some very skilled musicians to join us, and I'm very happy about the performances of Cristiano Bertocchi (Vision Divine, Labyrinth) on bass, Alessio Lucatti (Vision Divine) on keys, Gilbert Pot (Elegy) on guitar, Sted (Highlord) on guitar, Luca Chiappara on bass, and of course, my bandmates with Ivory, Luca Bernazzi on bass and Andrea which as I mentioned, co-produced the album with me.

Then, I had to find a good artwork, so I contacted Davide Nadalin of Nerve Design (Labyrinth, Extrema, Vision Divine) in order to have a great front cover. After the mastering, performed by Simone Mularoni, I got in contact with SG Records and New LM Records for the official release of the CD, which is sold also on Guitar 9 site and on my MySpace page.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Your first release with a band was "Stessa Cosa Di Sopra".

Salvo Vecchio: As a band, with Ivory we released our debut CD exactly a year before my solo album. Ivory is a vocal-oriented metal band, compared to my solo project, which is totally instrumental.

Right now we are talking about a second CD; it probably will be nearer to the hard rock style than the previous power metal stuff, but let's see what will happen.

Guglielmo Malusardi: After just one listen, I got the sensation that you really "ride your wild horses" in the tunes.

Salvo Vecchio: I totally agree Guglielmo, for my instrumental CD, "The Warm Light Of Night", I felt free to play just what I wanted to play, and also because in the beginning I wasn't really thinking to record a complete album; it took form month to month. As you said, I ride my wild horse from the pure rock territories, to metal lands, crossing from some country blues places to melodic hard prog... name one! But there's a common denominator: the melody!

Melody is the most important thing, especially in instrumental music, that's because I think the classic instrumental CD with millions of notes and nothing more is very boring. I like shredding, there's shredding stuff also on my CD, especially in the solos, but I think every track has a song style structure, with verse, bridge, chorus and of course the solos... you just can't hear any vocal!

Guglielmo Malusardi: It would be great to have a comment from you track by track

Salvo Vecchio: "Solar Impulse" is a kind of intro, a short atmospheric track, very melodic with a lot of work on the tone, especially about with delays and reverbs. I think it should remind people of some Jason Becker tracks - well that was the intention, with a minor mood melody and some quick shredding passages.

"Salvation": This track contains a lot of different elements. It starts with an harmonized scale played on three octaves, supported by drums on the accents close to the style of Mr. Big's "Colorado Bulldog", but suddenly changes to a heavy, progressive riff, some shredding solos over double bass drums and a bluesy ending with duel solos between guitar and Hammond - very Seventies!

"Seaward" is a classic rock tune. I think I've been influenced by some Satriani/Chickenfoot music here. There's a lot of wah wah, and Sted from Highlord is the guest in the solo section.

"Rodeo Over-Drive": Oooh this is been a lot of fun for all, really! It started from a crazy country lick and then it becomes a speed rock song with double bass drums like a train, Cristiano Bertocchi on bass and Gilbert Pot, a special guest, with a great smoking solo! There is a lot of irony in this track, I would like to convey happiness here.

"My Old Wine" is a funky rock fusion tune, Cristiano Bertocchi is again guest on bass, and he also plays a great funky bass solo, great slap parts and has amazing tone. This was the first track recorded.

"The Stream of the River": With this track I tried to walk around orchestral arrangements, a touch of neo-classical style, a totally improvised guitar solo (I'm really happy with it) and a lot of keyboards (arrangements by Andrea).

"Intense Horizons": Here comes my romantic side! It's a ballad; we worked a lot on sound and presets on this tune. You really can hear a different tone on every section of the tune. I think I used three different guitars for just the first two minutes of the song! Andrea also did some great keyboard and piano parts here.

"Dusty Road" is the storm after the calm! Here I played the heaviest riff of the album, ashredding solo with two hand tapping in the beginning and a totally improvised second solo, before the keyboard solo of Alessio Lucatti, a special guest on this track. Here my MXR booster was always on; there are a lot of rhythm guitars, dropped down tuning, and heavy drums, but also some good melodic hooks.

"Apophis 2036": Here I worked a lot on different tones. This is a prog rock track, with touch of Latin after the solo section and a strange gypsy part that I tried to mix with the rest of the song! This track required a lot of work!

"Strada Panoramica": I was doing a sound check looking for a good clean tone. Andrea recorded me without any click or drums. This is just a chord progression with some sounds of nature in the background (which resulted in the title of the track). I started with sus4 chords, then 7th dominants, open strings and again sus4 arpeggios - just melody!

Guglielmo Malusardi: You worked hard on presets, creating and recalling certain sounds. Please talk about them, since a lot of "young gunners" would certainly learn a lot from you.

Salvo Vecchio: Yes, this time I decided to find the time to work as much as possible on the tones. When you don't have a voice on a track, and the guitar plays every melody, your sound must be fine, expressive - in one word, interesting. I don't know if I have succeeded in this, but really I worked a lot on my gear this time. Also because recording on my own I was able to play around with a single riff for hours, using different presets on my amps, different tuning on my guitars, different kinds of digital effects from my Line 6 software, even different batteries for my pedals, and it worked out for me!

I did not had a huge budget, but in the end I'm happy with this album's production, realizing it is always possible to do better and better and better, of course. The greatest satisfaction would be knowing that people have appreciated my efforts.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Where did you record?

Salvo Vecchio: Well, it was mostly recorded in my house (thanks to my girlfriend that tolerated some chaos in our kitchen) and mixed at Andrea's place, than we sent all the material to Simone Mularoni's (DGM, Empyrios) studio for mastering.

For my guitar parts I used Line 6 TonePort and Line 6 XT for recording most of the leads, and Marshall and Laney amps for the rhythm parts. The software was common stuff like Cubase and Logic Audio. Bud beer and... nothing else!

Guglielmo Malusardi: In life, experience helps a lot in achieving improvement. What did you improve over the years in your playing?

Salvo Vecchio: I think that every day is a good day to learn something new. I try to develop my playing and my phrasing so I'm sure that as a musician (but not only) you always can get better and better.
Never think you have arrived; that's the biggest mistake a person can make.

If I look at my beginning I see a different person, even if it's always me, but it would be a shame if I always played in the same way, so with every record, and even with every song I compose, my goal is trying to do something different taking my boundaries always a step ahead.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And what did you improve the most in recording?

Salvo Vecchio: I finally found a good compromise between time and recording technology. This because I wasn't that happy with Ivory's album production. This time, working on my own, I found the sound I was looking for, even if it's not perfect. Of course we can always do better, and of course I'm sure next time I will do something different, but after some years and some mistakes(!) I think that this CD has quite a good sound!

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Guglielmo Malusardi: Describe your approach to soloing.

Salvo Vecchio: Usually I work around melodic licks that slowly become complete solos and I write them for about the first three or four songs. Than the rest of the ideas come day by day and I discover that the best one are improvised. Maybe I'll write the first part of the solo and then I try to find the best way to improve the rest of it.

Many solos on my record are half written, half improvised and one complete song is totally improvised! I'm talking about "Strada Panoramica", which came about because I was looking for a good clean sound. I heard that chord progression and well, that was it!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Let's imagine having an unlimited budget, and you could set up your dream band for "The Warm Light Of Night" world tour. Who would you like with you on stage?

Salvo Vecchio: Ooooh, let's dream! OK, I would call in Mike Portnoy on drums (a powerful engine is always what you need), Billy Sheenan on bass, Jordan Rudess on keys and, well, I should sit in front of them to learn something!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Tell us your favorite guitar players.

Salvo Vecchio: It's a long list... what time is it?! OK, Steve Vai, Satriani, Lukather, Timmons, Steve Morse, Kiko Loureiro, Brett Garsed, Greg Howe, Kee Marcello, Yngwie, Mike Romeo, Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, Vinnie Moore, Al di Meola, Richie Kotzen, Nuno Bettencourt Dave Martone, just to name a few, and than many Italian talents like William Stravato, Matt Cafissi and Fabrizio "Bicio" Leo.

Guglielmo Malusardi: How about bands?

Salvo Vecchio: Dream Theater, Deep Purple, Mr. Big, Extreme, Angra, Europe, Van Halen, Toto, Whitesnake, Alter Bridge, Shadow Gallery and many many others.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And in which band you would most like to replace the lead guitarist?

Salvo Vecchio: OK, always dreaming I would rip off the place of Joe "Maestro" Satriani in Chickenfoot, it must be a lot of fun, that band really rocks and Sammy Hagar is my favorite singer!

Guglielmo Malusardi: I know you are a big fan of music, and actually we met at some gig. Tell us the greatest three concerts of your life.

Salvo Vecchio: The first Gods of Metal show in 1997. I was very young and it was awesome seeing for the first time a lot of great bands during the same day: Angra, Eldritch, Rage, Manowar (I was a metal head at that time). Dream Theater and Fates Warning in 1996 - what a great experience, really a music lesson, and than I can tell you every gig I saw of Deep Purple and Toto.

It happened that I attended a Steve Morse clinic in the afternoon, and I met him after the clinic to talk about guitar; the same night he played with Deep Purple, and of course I was there. When he saw me in the audience he saluted me and everyone around looked at me. A great moment with so many eyes on me afterwards.

Guglielmo Malusardi: And about your own concerts?

Salvo Vecchio: Well, my best memories are about a kind of festival I did with Ivory, it was the Power Fest, and there were some great italian acts like Labyrinth, White Skull and Secret Sphere on the same bill. It was a real professional gig, with some of my favorite Italian bands playing. Also, the first concert after Ivory's debut CD release was a very special night.

Guglielmo Malusardi: Being a guitar player in the third millennium as a real paradox. With the advent of the internet, everybody can easily promote and release their music, but in the meantime the constant file sharing and illegal downloading is dramatically killing the business. Sales figures are tragically down, and the icing on the cake is those big downloaders. This results in the fact that on a CD like yours, there aren't live drums.

Salvo Vecchio: What can I say my friend? Sales figures are nothing compared with the personal satisfaction of doing just what you like and what you dream. I can't understand people that steal music online; as a music fan I buy only actual CDs and if I want to download an mp3, I buy it on iTunes (for example).

I wait for the release of a CD and I still feel a lot of emotions reading the booklet notes and discovering the credits. Well, the internet is a great thing, everyone now can have their own spot and sell their music. But it is becoming a jungle where everyone just thinks about themselves. There is too much quantity, and too little quality; too much competition instead of collaboration.

I know guys that today started playing an instrument and tomorrow are on every social network with horrible mp3s recorded maybe on a mobile phone. Well while these people stole space from the professional products, the professional products get fewer and fewer in this jungle - I hope they will not disappear! What I said is that the internet is a great starting point, but then a real musician should take his instrument out of his bedroom. Take your music on stage, that's the real thing!

Guglielmo Malusardi: Finally, what's next for you in 2011?

Salvo Vecchio: Having some fun and good feedback from my solo CD is already a great beginning for 2011! I'd like to play live as much as possible, and would also be great to do a second album with Ivory.

By the way, thanks a lot Guglielmo and Guitar Nine for this interview, rock on!

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It's a fact, at the top of the rock guitar scene, Italian surnames rule. Satriani, Vai, Petrucci, Romeo, Pitrelli, Balducci, Cuccurullo and many more. Their passports are not Italiean anymore, their surnames still are. In the same country from which their fathers or grand fathers emigrated ("The Old Boot", due to the unique shape), hoards of young kids followed their musical path, learning and practicing doggedly. The result is that Italy offers dozens of great guitarists than can proudly wave the green, white and red flag in front of the whole world. One of those Italian axemen is none other than Salvo Vecchio.

Guglielmo Malusardi recently connected with Vecchio, who has just released an all-instrumental CD "The Warm LIght Of Night".