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The Alberto Rigoni Interview: “My Rule is…There Is No Rule in Music”

alberto rigoniSo much to say about Italian bassist and composer, Alberto Rigoni and so little time!
Rigoni’s musical projects are as far as they are diverse in sound and composition. Rigoni is best known for his bass work with the progressive metal band, Twinspirits alongside singer Göran Nyström, drummer Darlo Ciccioni and guitar players Daniele Liverani and Tommy Ermolli.

 

Twinspirts have released 3 albums since 2010 including, The Music that Will Heal the World (2007), The Forbidden City (2009) and Legacy (2011).

A stark contrast from Rigoni’s work in progressive metal and rock he released an album under the name Lady and the Bass with singer, Irene Ermolli, the sister of Twinspirits guitar player, Tommy Ermolli. The album was titled Groovy (2012) and featured a turn towards pop, electronic and dance music.

But it doesn’t stop there!

Alberto has also released a slew of solo works and lent his bass duties to other musician’s projects.

His first solo album, Something Different released in 2010 followed by his much-anticipated second solo album, Rebirth in 2011 and his latest release, Three Wise Monkeys in 2012. Three Wise Monkeys featured an all-star list of musicians including:

  • Göran Edman (ex Yngwie Malmsteen, John Norum, Brazen Abbot),
  • Jonas Erixon (Alicate),
  • Kevin Moore (ex Dream Theater, OSI, Chroma Key),
  • Mark Cross (Outloud, ex Helloween, Firewind),
  • Federico Solazzo (Alexia), Alessandro Bertoni (Aphelion),
  • Mistheria (Bruce Dickinson, Rob Rock),
  • Tommy Ermolli (TwinSpirits),
  • Simone Mularoni (DGM, Empyrios),
  • Paolo Valli (session drummer),
  • Paco Barillà (Daniele Liverani) and
  • Sebastian Persini (Solo artist, session drummer)

(whew!)

Like Rigoni’s other two solo works, Three Wise Monkeys showcased Rigoni’s compositional strengths as well as bass guitar versatility as both someone who can lay back to a

And this year was a particularly special year for Mr. Rigoni. Dingwall Guitars has released the Dingwall AR5 the Alberto Rigoni Signature Bass, Rigoni’s first signature bass (keep reading for the details!)

Oh – and did I mention he does all of this while managing a successful career as a business lawyer?

 

I had a great opportunity to talk to Alberto via Skype about his new Dingwall signature bass guitar, his personal musical accomplishments and projects and balancing his work career and his musical career. So here it is: the Alberto Rigoni interview:

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Michael Emiliani (ME): Reading from past interviews, you were on the record as an avid Elrick user but then switched over to Dingwall. What caused that changeover to Dingwall versus another brand or maker?

Alberto Rigoni (AR): Well, I still like Elrick basses. They are great basses. Fully handmade and Robert [Elrick] is a great person. One day a fan of mine wrote me on Facebook, “Hey man, have you ever tried Dingwall basses”? I said, “What???” and I started checking out their website. To be honest I never saw fanned fret basses before so I was pretty surprised. You know the GAS…

ME: Absolutely!

AR: …so I made the decision and I ordered one [Dingwall] ABZ 5- string. As soon as I got it well…I was amazed. The low B was killer. Never heard something like that. A great balance between all the strings. Also it was so light and I loved the essential design.

ME: And just like that – at the suggestion of a fan, you were hooked it sounds like.

AR: Exactly.

ME: Did you ever follow up with that fan? Shoot him a thank you letter for turning you on to the brand or a shout out at a concert or something?

AR: Of course! We are great friends and we write very often. He owns a lot of Dingwall and he tried every model possible so he was like my Dingwall consultant. His name is Ed Farmakis.

ME: Very cool. Always good to have someone that can testify for a particular bass rather than going in on big purchases like that blind.

AR: Yep but… after the ABZ I started buying used Dingwall from all the world. A Z1 6 string, an ABI 6 string, a Z3, a Prima 6 string. I wanted to try all of them to have a clearer idea of the “perfect” bass. Of course I didn’t keep all of them but I resold them. I just kept the Z3 five string and the Dingwall Prima 6 string.

ME: Wow – that is certainly some exploration! And by the sounds of it the “perfect bass” could be found in Dingwall. Which brings me to my next question: how did the process begin on your signature bass? Did you approach Dingwall or did they reach out to you?

AR: I was already in touch with Sheldon [Dingwall] after trying the Z3 and the ABZ. I though, “what about a mix between the two?”

ME: Makes sense. How did you first come in contact with Sheldon?

AR: We were already in touch because sometimes I asked him technical questions. The first idea was to put on the ABZ 3 FD3 pickups, which are very punchy. I thought it was simple but it was not! Sheldon said it was not possible.

ME: Really? So how did you and Sheldon work the problem out? How were you able to make the 3 pickups work out?

AR: Regarding the problem of the pickups [an email from Barry Lamb from Dingwall Guitars said] “Due to the design of the Afterburner’s neck pocket, [pickup] routes, and headstock design there are a lot of problems with some of the ideas that we have discussed”. So then we discussed different solution, like for example putting a FD3 “p” tone in the bridge position to have a powerful sound full of mids but I was not convinced about that idea so I continued thinking about the project.

Another idea was to make a dual wood body on the ABZ initially with northern ash and alder but since I really love ash I though about northern ash and swamp ash. [The] ABZ is just swamp ash and it is very light. I prefer northern ash to be honest but all northern would be very heavy so we thought about a compromise. Still the pickup problem was not solved. In 2012 we met at Frankfurt Musikmesse and we discussed more at the end we came up that 3 FD3 would have been a possible solution and that was fine with me.

ME: That’s quite a story! Very cool that you guys were able to come up with a solution and make a fantastic sounding bass. I remember reading on No Treble the release of the AR5 and clicking the video of yourself demo playing it and thinking, “Wow – the sound on that is amazing!”

AR: Super versatile. Then we decided to add also my logo on the back, and Hipshot Bass Xtender because I use it a lot. There are some tunes where I drop from B to A. Also we put the 3band Glockenklang preampto have more versatility even if i generally keep it flat except for mids boost (500hz).

ME: I see, I see.That was going to be one of the other points I wanted to bring up about the electronics. According to the specs, you chose a Glockenlang preamp to go into the bass. Why did you choose Glockenlang?

AR: Well I like it! No particular reason. I also have Aguilar OPB3 on other basses and they are both very good. Sheldon is no more using Aguilar as far as I know.

Michael Emiliani: Were there multiple “draft” models of the AR5 sent to you?

AR: No just 1 and that was perfect! Sheldon is a true wizard!

ME: Sure sounds like it! 

ME: Your compositions are very thorough, very full and very complete sounding to my ears. They cover so many different techniques, sounds and show such a range whether it was your work with Lady and the Bass, Twinspirits and solo work with some outstanding tracks particularly of 3 Wise Monkeys that are much more laid back, spiritual, ethereal sounding like Kikazaru and Iwazaru.

Can you share your composition from start to finish? How do ideas turn into compositions for you? Where did the ideas come from?

AR: My rule is that…  there’s no rule in music! Sometimes I just take the bass in my hands and I play some riffs. If they sound interesting I work over them. Sometimes I have a melody in my mind and then I write it down. Sometimes I listen to some drum loops and then I play bass over them.

I never wanted to follow any given music genre, relying exclusively on an instinctive way of composing.

I think that the extreme variety of music genres inside my solo albums is my strength. This peculiarity could make people think of something inorganic and disconnected, but I believe that my albums have their own soul, given by the composition approach: simple and catchy. The songs are based on melody and not on virtuosity, of which I don’t think to be a displayer.

ME: How was the experience working with Irene Ermolli for Lady & the Bass? The sound of the project seemed like a big changeover from progressive metal and rock music.

AR: A big changeover? Yes, indeed! I have to say that I always loved pop music from the ’80 and ’90. Composing a different music than prog rock was pretty challenging! Irene, TwinSpirits guitar player’s sister, is a great singer and I love her voice. We really had fun producing Lady & THE BASS songs. The first song we released was Quirky Girl that received widespread airplay on Italian radio during the summer and it has also been selected for a compilation CD that Gruppo Coin/OVS (one of the leaders in Italian fashion retail) broadcasts in the numerous shops they own in Italy and abroad. After that single we released “Groovy” album, which is available for FREE download at http://www.ladyandthebass.com. Check out also the video of “Eclectic”! Pretty crazy!

ME: With most progressive rock projects, the music can very intricate and be very demanding on the musicians learning the parts. Have you ever had difficulties learning and memorizing parts for songs? If so, what were some of your methods for learning songs and remembering them?

AR: I started playing bass learning Dream Theater songs. I have to say that I never had big problems in memorizing parts, probably because I have a good memory (I’m lucky)! However sometimes I have more difficulties in learning simple pop songs because bass riffs are just a few while in prog music bass changes in each measure!

ME: I had read in a past interview that you began playing bass and becoming musically active at age 16. What initially got you into music? What were some of the bands and acts that got you going musically? 

AR: I started playing bass after a friend of mine introduced me to Dream Theater. I was so impressed.. the first song I listened to was “A Change of Seasons”. 23 minutes of song.. wow!!! My aim was to play DT songs.. and after a couple of months I was able to play Erotomania (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SP3X_mMLII)  which is one of my favorite instrumental prog songs. One year later I founded the band called Ascra.

I’ve grown up listening to bands like Dream Theater, Yes, Rush and Genesis that certainly have left their prints, but through the years my musical interest has developed to all music genres. From a pretty bass-oriented view I have been influenced by players such as Michael Manring, Doug Wimbish, Randy Coven, Yves Carbonne and others.

ME: How do you think your sound and approach to playing has changed since starting out on bass and going from different musical project to musical project?

AR: When I was younger I was much more into virtuoso stuff. Now I’m more into groove and melody. Fewer notes and possibly at the right moment! Sometimes “less is more” you know…

ME: I had also read that you’re a business lawyer. Did you keep up music through school while you were earning your degrees?

AR: Yes, that’s right. I while earning my degrees I never left music! I really can’t live without music.

ME: As a follow up question, have you had trouble managing your personal career with your music career? 

AR: I have to say that fortunately I never had trouble managing my personal carrier as a lawyer with my music career. I think it’s just a matter of organization.

ME: What does your practice routine look like these days? How has it changed for you over time?

AR: Well, I’m very busy so I probably practice less than when I was a student. Many things are going on… Not easy but I try to do my best to keep my musical projects alive.

ME: For people who are just starting out on bass, from your experience, do you have some advice for those people that you wish you had early on?

AR: I would suggest to start covering the songs you love but after that I think it’s important to find your own bass style!

ME: Do you have any new projects coming up that you’d like to share?

AR: I started composing my fourth solo album but there’s no deadline for the release. I think it will be fully instrumental. I’m also setting up a new band. We are going to compose original hard rock tunes. Let’s see what happens!

Check out www.albertorigoni.net or Facebook for updates on my activity!

Thanks for the interview and Happy XMAS (or XBASS?)!

Ciao!

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Don’t forget also to check out Alberto’s Bandcamp page!

 

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