John Taglieri - The AOR Mafia of New Jersey Lives On

AOR Europe's Bandi asks the questions...

John Taglieri, not only the newcomer of the year 2000 at one of AOR-E's ancestors Loud & Clear, several other webzines were having very positive critics of your debut "Leap of Faith" as well. What do you think the strength of the album is?

Well, Iíd like to think that the songwriting was as strong as everyone has said it is. Iíve struggled though the years as a songwriter and always waited and hesitated to really release an album because I never thought my writing was up to the standards that I thought it should be to really release an album. This album was my ďLeapĒ to see if I was finally at that level where I could be proud of my writing. The great responses that Iíve gotten from all the webmasters and press has totally blown me away and I could never thank them all enough for all theyíve done to help advance my career to where it is. All the positive press I got in the last year and a half has really helped me make that next step in my career. I also think that the production quality of the CD is really good, especially for the budget that I had to work with.

And the weaknesses? What is going to be different with the new record?

Well, for starters, there were some performance flaws on the CD that I look back now and wish I had done differently. Working all by myself, I sometimes didnít see things that an outside producer would have seen, so consequently, I missed some things that could and should have been done better. Plus doing it alone, I lost some of the flavors that a full time drummer or bass player would have brought to the mix. For the next record, for starters, Iím using co-writers for a good 50% of the album, so there will be a lot more flavor in that aspect. Iíll have a hand in writing or co-writing almost every song, but to have other writing influences in there will only help make the songs stronger. Iím also not recording it alone. Iím going to have a real producerÖ someone who everyone in the genre knows as a matter of factÖ but no names just yet until things are final!! [Bandi: Iím keeping my fingers crossed that ití NOT Gary Hughes, Ďcuz I wish you kept your songwriting/sound identity] Iím also going to have lots of musicians play on the album. My whole live band will be on there as well as a few other players who mostly everyone will recognize. I think that the next album is going to really turn some heads due to the fact that itís much harder than ďLeapĒ in many ways. Iíve let a few people listen to the new demos and the response has been really good.

Almost a year after the independent release A2 gave the album a proper US release. What does this mean to you? How is it different from your own release?

There is no difference on the US version from the independent or European release of ďLeapĒ. Itís the exact same CD. I didnít really have any bonus tracks to add to it, so we just left it as is.

Would you share sales figures with us? Approximate numbers of the indie release and the - assumable - increase after the A2 release.

Well, all totaled, we moved about 3,000 units so far. Thatís between the indie release that I did alone and the subsequent sales after signing to A2 Records. Iím really happy with that number considering a year and a half ago, no one even knew my name. So to sell that many units was flattering and again a testament to how valuable all the press and webmasters are who got my name out in front of the people who buy CDís.

You made very good use of the promotional possibilities the Internet is offering. Webcasts, mp3.com profile, chat services, mailing list, etc. Most of the artists are afraid of this, especially of sharing their music in mp3 format. What made you decide to use this media so strong?

Well, I figured, if no one knew who I was, I wasnít going to sell at all, so if I could get my name out there any way possible and it resulted in sales, then it was worth it. I gave away a lot of free tracks over the net, but it paid off. I know that a lot of artists donít like to do that promotion thing, but I love it. Itís very gratifying to see your hard work recognized, and when people start to see that you are getting consistently good reviews, they come looking for the product. Once they found me, Iíd give them a freebie to tease them with. If they liked it, they generally bought the whole album. Letís face it, nobody is really going to take a chance on a total unknown without sampling it first. So, all I can say is that the strategy worked for me. Iím very, very lucky that it did.

You play almost every week, some acoustic shows, some full band ones. Which one do you prefer?

You know, after touring last year as a solo acoustic act, I really gained an appreciation for that kind of a show. It was the hardest tour of my life. As a solo, you donít have a chance to catch your breath once the show starts. You have to be ďonĒ from start to finish, where as in a band situation, if you need a second or two you can always get one and let someone else take the spotlight. I love playing full band shows, especially because my band is so damn good. I have awesome players who really bring my songs to life and make them sound way better then they do on the CD!!! Which show do I like better?? Thatís tough. Each one has aspects that I love. The full band has some serious power, but the acoustic shows, I get to showcase songs that I could never do with the full band. I like them both, so I guess thatís why I keep booking both. Really though, any time Iím on stage is fine with me!! If Iím off stage for too long, I start to go through withdrawals!!

Recently there were some changes in the line-up of your band? Do you think you have found the right band by now or can we expect you to be Yngwie number 2? :-)

Bandi, if you ever compare me to him again, Iíll fly over there and beat you silly!! LOL!! The band lineup is finally set and it totally kicks ass. The only reason we had a line up change was because my former keyboard player, Sean Faust, has his own band and they started doing well. He wanted to dedicate his time to that and what could I say except good luck! His replacement is George Pegula and he not only can play his ass off, but heís got a great voice, so that adds a new aspect to the mix as we now have 4 part harmonies in the band. Stop by the Band Page on my website and you can see all the info about the guys. There are some interesting backgrounds and connections there.

Correct me if I'm wrong but listening to the album "Leap Of Faith" your songwriting method seems to begin with laying down the basis of the songs with an acoustic guitar and completing the arrangements afterwards. How about the recording? You recorded the first album alone. What was your method of doing so?

Well, I mainly write on my acoustic. My favorite one is my Ovation 6 stringÖsigned by Rik Emmett I might addÖ but thatís another storyÖ so yes, mostly everything starts from the acoustic for me. In the studio though, I had the songs in my head and laid the drum tracks first, then the bass, then guitars, then keys. Then I went in and did all my vocals, lead and background and lastly I overdubbed my lead guitar solos. Then I left everything alone for a few weeks and got away from it. Then I went back and tweaked anything that needed it and moved on to the mixing stage. It was a great learning experience for me to do it that way. I have such a new appreciation for producers and what they bring to a new recording.

What makes a former drummer step out of the shadows, quit sitting behind the kit and become a multitalented musician to record all the instruments and the vocals? Is it only because you were jealous of the singers? I'm asking this because I myself had started out as a singer, and walked down the same road you did in order to be able to get rid of the "burden" (endless compromises) the band meant.

Well, actually I was guitarist long before I was ever a drummer. Iíve been playing guitar since Iím 5 years old and have picked up all the other instruments as I went along. Iíve done gigs as a singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboard player, percussionist, just about everything you can imagine. So it really wonít make much of a change to go back to guitar and vocals. Iíve always been lucky enough to be able to play many instruments and always get a gig because of it. I went solo to avoid having anyone to blame if the album didnít do well, but that is a whole other issue! It was more a matter of me feeling that I was ready as a musician and a writer to make the step more then anything else.

In one of our Beast Side Stories we learned a bit about your previous musician life. Could you please list the milestones of your pre-solo release career?

WowÖ there are a few. Playing in front of 30,000 people at the Iowa State Fair was awesome. To be in front of a crowd that big is scary and inspiring at the same time. Playing on the same bills with Chuck Berry, Mitch Rider and Little Richard were also some great moments. Opening for Rick Derringer was another highlight. Playing the farewell concert at the old Capitol Theater in Passaic NJ was another highlight. I saw so many great bands there, that to play on that stage for itís final show was amazing. Iíve had a few good ones, and a lot of fond memories of the different bands and situations Iíve been in.

What do you consider to be your biggest musical success ever?

My CD. Hands down. Just getting it recorded and out was a goal that I set and achieved. And to see it grow and gain all the success that it has been nothing short of mind blowing for me. I was totally surprised by the response that Iíve received for it and it has by far been the most successful venture of my career!

Are you going to record the second album alone again or are you going to make use of the band you put together?

Like I said earlier, Iím using my whole band as well as some other names that youíll know and recognize. Iíve talked to a few player who have expressed interest in contributing to the next album and right now itís going to be a matter of scheduling, availability and budget to see who actually gets on the album. Iím hoping I can manage to have everyone Iíve spoken to. If I do, I think itís going to really turn some heads and get some real attention for the CD!!

Any chance we can see you live in Europe? Any negotiations of a tour around here?

Iíd absolutely LOVE to come to Europe, but right now, there are no plans to being me there. I was originally scheduled to be part of the Gods this year, but when the event was trimmed to one day, I got bumped, which is understandable. They had to worry about their own artists first. I was added as a courtesy to A2 since Frontiers is distributing my CD in parts of Europe. The connection was what got me on the bill originally. Weíll see what happens with the next album and if I come to Europe or not. I hope I can! Just so I can meet you in person, Bandi!! Thatís really the only reason I want to get there!! LOL!! [Bandi: Before anyone starts wondering: No, we are not two of those Vaseline guys, we are just good friends dealing with the same businessÖ lol]

You are running a promotional office "Leap Dog Music". Any hot, new artists you want to call our attention to?

Actually Iíve been so busy with other things right now that I havenít really been doing any promotion outside of my own. Iíd love to start doing some promo for other bands, but as we all know, bands are poor, so hiring out promotion is not an easy thing for most to do. My schedule right now is too crazy to really be able to do that properly for anyone anyway. But weíll see what the future holds. I love doing promotion, so maybe when the music stops doing wellÖ which I hope is never!!! Ö Iíll turn to promotion full time.

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. We'll keep an eye on you, so don't dare to disappoint us with the second release! :-)

Thanks! I appreciate you doing this interview with me. Itís always a pleasure dealing with you, my friend! Iím already feeling the pressure of the next release with all the success that ďLeapĒ has had. I donít want the good old sophomore jinx to get me!! I promise, Bandi, that Iíll do my best to kick everyoneís ass with the next record! (on my knees praying to GodÖoh please, oh please!!!) LOL!! Please tell everyone to stop by my website at LeapDogMusic.com and check out everything thatís going on. My webmaster and I recently revamped the site and itís been getting a great response! Look for some really big news by the end of June as far as my next album, and some other things are concerned!! I love to tease! Youíll be really surprised by whatís going to be happening though!