Anyone with the skinny on what’s going down in Punk Rock n Roll will tell you that EF are one of THE most prolific and hard working bands on the planet. Now entering their 15th year of existence and with a new album - Burn Bright, Burn Fast - recently released by TKO records, Gravy got the low down from EF founder and guitarist Sal Canzonieri. ]
Interview by Conan Troutman
Gravy: So who's doing what in this incarnation of Electric Frankenstein?
EF: Well, on the new album, Steve Miller sings and plays lead guitar, I (Sal Canzonieri) play rhythm guitar, Bill Gill plays bass, and John Steele plays drums and also plays bass and guitar on extra tracks because we used a giant studio with many tracks. For the live version of EF, Rob Sefcik is back on drums to replace John. And my brother Dan alternates with Bill to do whichever shows that they can make it for.
Gravy: How has it worked out using 'guest' musicians to fulfil touring commitments?
EF: Well, during the month of March neither Dan nor Bill was available and so Johnny Sonic, who is also from NJ originally, played Bass. Also, John already had left and Rob wasn’t available yet so a friend of Johnny's, Joey, played drums for those shows. Johnny is from Ironhead, before that he was in the Runarounds. Of course he is a really good showman on stage and lots of fun to hang with. Joey was okay, but he kept playing the songs his own way and we didn't like that, luckily it was only temporary.
Gravy: Does it affect the momentum of the band to use different people for the live shows?
EF: No, we do that so as not to lose momentum. We make sure we always have people that already know how to play our songs, otherwise it would not be worth doing. If we stopped playing live every time someone in the band was not available, then we would really lose a lot of momentum, since we have been touring almost every other weekend for the past two years promoting first the Super Kool record and now the new album.
Gravy: I understand John (Steele) has hung up his sticks after this album? Does it feel strange working with a new drummer again after working with John for so long?
EF: Well, John has been sick with diabetes and it dragged him down, but mostly he wants to get married and settle down, he moved into a new apartment, got engaged, and got a new job and touring would interfere with his home life. But, other than the one month with Joey, it has not been strange at all working with a new drummer cause Rob Sefcik has been back on drums, we just did 3 weeks in Europe together, and he actually is the drummer most people now live and on records. He had been our drummer on everything except the first 4 records.
Gravy: You've just completed a month long European tour right?
EF: Yes, we did our annual Euro tour, we played
Gravy: How did that go?
Gravy: The tour is to promote the long awaited 13th EF album 'Burn Bright, Burn Fast' right?
EF: Yeah, all the shows for this year are to promote the new album and our 14th year. In October, we celebrate the beginning of our 15th year!
Gravy: So is the band happy with this one?
EF: Very much, it is gigantic sounding, very powerful, and smoothly brings together all the elements of what EF is all about musically into one new thing.
Gravy: Its obvious that EF have moved away somewhat from their original punk rock n roll roots, was this intentional or just a natural progression?
EF: Hmm, well our sound has always been one were the listener hears what they want to hear or can most connect to, that has been deliberate, and so that means each person thinks the songs sound a certain way and it is always totally different from what another person is hearing. So, just as many people say the new record is more punk as those that say the new stuff is more rock. Remember, these songs on the new record have been songs that we kept for a long time and then revised based on how we play now, so that is what you are really hearing. We all started out in high school playing since 1975, right before Punk Rock, but still during the years of the Alice Cooper, Stooges, MC5, NY Dolls, Aerosmith, Kiss, AC/DC, and so on and our music reflects what you grew up on. We were there and played a major part in the beginning of Punk Rock in our part of the
Gravy: The new album has a very full and polished sound, who did the production duties on this one?
EF: Well, I produced the new album; I have been producing most of our records, with input of course from people in the band, like John, and also with help from our engineer, Kevin Lacatina. I wanted the new record to go beyond what other people in our genre are doing right now, so I wanted the record to be devastatingly huge sounding, we have always been called "AC/DC meets the Dead Boys", so I pushed it up a notch on this record into "Led Zep meets the Ramones", to have that wall of sound with the drums and guitars and pumping bass. I didn't want to do anything typical; I wanted to do something that other bands aren’t capable of doing right now. We used the recording studio environment to its full effect.
Gravy: Is this the 'make or break' album for EF?
EF: Ha, well every new album is 'make or break' cause the word of mouth can either kill or grow it. Lots of our fans and the press have been saying that his record is a step up from our How to Make a Monster album, which most people consider to be one of our finest records.
Gravy: The cover art, as always, is a big part of the EF package; you had some pretty heavy hitters doing the artwork on 'Burn Bright, Burn Fast' in the shape of 'Famous Monster's artist Basil Gogos and 'Batman' artist Neal Adams; how did you get these guys on board for the project?
EF: Well, I wanted Basil Gogos to do it from the beginning, the cover art was conceived by me first before the songs were and when I was promoting the Electric Frankenstein book that Dark Horse published at various comic book conventions, I met Basil's agent, who also happened to be Neal Adams agent as well, so it all fell into place. Basil and I already knew each other from doing the Chiller Theatre Horror conventions all the time in NJ, I gave him all the directions in what I wanted the image to be like and he took it from there to make a masterpiece, it is one of his most wild paintings he ever did. I bought the original painting from him! Neal Adams was one of my favourite comic book artists from the 1960s and I was also thrilled to have an art piece by him on the new record! Also, the art of Johnny Ace, who was Big Daddy Roth's longest running assistants, rounds out the rest of the record, he did the layouts, the inside art for the CD booklet and also the art on the enhanced portion of the CD.
Gravy: Is this your favourite artwork on an EF release?
EF: Well, it is up there with the Coop, Alan Forbes, Kozik, and Johnny Ace covers!
Gravy: Let’s talk about the songs on BBBF; who wrote what? Do you tend to write individually or as a band?
EF: We tend to write as a band, we each sometimes come to practice with a song part and then want the other guys to add to it or modify it, cause we stick with the Frankenstein idea when we write, it's like a process that we follow to make the songs sound like part punk rock and part hard rock. Some songs are more one person's ideas than another's but each song still has some parts that came from the whole band being involved in the process. So, even though you can say one person came up with the part that started the song writing process for that song, the rest of the guys all added their own parts and ideas and flavours to the final version of the song. So, approximately this is the breakdown for the songs:
Burn Bright Burn Fast is my lyrics and most of my music. Everybody's Dead Again is also both words and music mine with input from the rest of the band. Fired up for Action is lyrics by Steve and most of the music is by Bill with input from the rest of the band. Gone to the other Room is both words and music mostly mine. Spit It Out is words by Steve and music by John. Just for You is words by Steve and the verse part of the music I wrote and the rest of the song he wrote the music. Hey! is words by Steve and music is John and Steve mostly with input from everyone. New World Whore is words by me and Steve wrote the music for that one with input from the rest of the band. Life in Rewind is words by Steve and most his music. Electric Misery is words by Steve and John has a major part of it, with one part from each person in the band as well included. Rock City Rocks is words by Steve and John and Steve did the music for the most part.
Gravy: How are the new songs going down live?
EF: Way beyond our expectations! People really love the new songs live, every time we play them, people scream and whistle and they tell us that they are our best songs. People that are in other bands always come over to tell us that they think the new stuff is our very best stuff we did.
Gravy: Do you get fed up playing older songs like 'Action High' or 'Demolition Joyride' live? Would you rather be playing the new stuff?
EF: Ha, well, those particular songs we love to play live. We are sick of Teenage Shutdown and some other songs just cause we played them so many times in 15 years! Of course I would rather add more new songs into the set, but with so many songs that people want to hear from each album, we have to struggle to balance out the set. EF is all about making the audience happy, so our sets really are made to accommodate our fans; we play mostly what they want to hear live.
Gravy: It’s impossible to miss the more obvious old Aerosmith/Alice Cooper influences on this album in addition to the more traditional AC/DC/Dead Boys style EF songs; are you guys mellowing out?
EF: I doubt that, especially since we don't consider those bands as mellow in any way. We added more of an Alice Cooper/Aerosmith influence to our sound to keep Rock alive and to make the songs more exciting, cause those bands wrote some wild stuff in their day that made us very happy when we were younger.
Gravy: You have been quoted as saying that this album contains 'the best songs from each recording sessions over the years', so why wait until now to release them?
EF: For the sheer audacity of it, we laughed about doing that years and ago and then we really did it to dare ourselves. It was a daring idea and I think it paid off well. How many bands do you know that would dare to do it, or even be able to do it at all? We didn't leave them as is, that would have sounded weird, but we worked on them to bring them up to where we were now in our song craftsmanship.
Gravy: Why did you decide to include 3 covers this time around?
EF: Well, we wanted a song from the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s. Talk Talk by the Music Machine was always a really powerful song so we want to hear what it would sound like with a heavy metal feeling to it. Moving Targets by Flo & Eddie we covered for the lyrics, which are about being screwed in the music biz and also we love Flo & Eddie for having produced the amazing DMZ album that came out on Sire records in 1977.The Cars song "Candy-O" we did just for fun really, but we hot rodded it!
Gravy: The album was funded using the independent film business model; can you explain that for us?
EF: What I did was to use the same process that people who make non-major studio films use to get a film produced. We first sought out sponsors who invested in the recording of the record; we sold them advertising space on our record and website and on the poster for the record. We used this money to record the music and to fund our tours. We then got the poster made and used that to promote the record instead of the radio. We released early demo versions of some of the songs to generate interest and word of mouth reviews from our fans. We hired people to work for commission money to secure more sponsors for us as well. We then went out and secured distribution for the record. and then with all that we went to a label that we could trust to do the manufacturing and promotion of the record. We didn't ask for an advance or have the label pay for the recording costs so that the record would recoup much faster. We made a strong deal for royalties per record (50%) and we get 30% of each print run for ourselves to sell at shows. This is exactly how people that I know get their deals made for independent horror films to be released. From being part of that world from helping to run the Chiller Theatre Horror Conventions, I got to meet many film people and learned how they do business. They go around the majors and have very successful films without major help and we did the exact same thing and it worked out great. So, goodbye to the old fashioned 1940s major label rip off system that even most of the indie labels in the
Gravy: But TKO has released it?
EF: Yes, they are the manufacturers and promoters of the record.
Gravy: There are a couple of split 7"s coming out in the near future with VA' Ironhead and the
EF: Well as always, we have a few singles coming out to promote the songs on the albums, so we are doing splits to help out other bands that we like.
Gravy: Do you ever worry that you might be saturating the market with EF releases?
EF: No, cause almost all of our records are now out of print. And the music world is such that if you don't have something out, even a single, at least once every 3 months people think that you have broken up and disappeared. Mostly our new stuff is out in the record stores, I have bought back the rights to almost all our old albums and I have kept them off the market. I also bought back most of the actual cds that were left of these albums, so only I have them to sell. Only the last two albums are not out of print. So, there is little chance of saturating the market, plus having a lot of different product out ensures that every record store in the world has at least one EF record there (which is actually true).
Gravy: You're also behind the 'Fistful of Rock and Roll' series of compilation albums; is there any news on the 13th and final album of this series?
EF: I want to make the grand finale Vol 13 a triple CD set of great bands. As such, I am being very picky about which label releases it. So, it is take a long-time to do so, I have changed my mind about who to work with a few times and hopefully it will be settled down very soon.
Gravy: And you're looking at setting up 'Fistful' tours, featuring bands from the series?
EF: Yeah, I am very keen on doing a series of festivals and tours and special shows all over the world in the next year and after. I set up a special Fistful night for our next NYC show soon.
Gravy: So what next for Electric Frankenstein after 13 years?
EF: Actually October begins our 15th year! When we started working on our new Album is was our 13th year and also we did the EF book that year as well. What's next: a DVD compiling live and studio videos from all over the world; a Best of DVD which features animated cartoon illustrating the lyrics to our songs; an EF videogame; tours in
Gravy: Final comments and parting shots?
EF: Hmm, well AMP (American Music Press, a national newsstand magazine) and Loud Fast Rules magazines have asked me to do a column for the magazines on whatever I want. My AMP column is called Ranting, Raving, and Rocking and is part political, it is mostly about what bothers me, what I like, andwhat bands people should check out? My Loud Fast Rules column will be about what a band needs to know about the music biz to survive on their own.