Last month I was given the opportunity to sit with an artist that has been leaving his mark on the music industry for at least the last 30 years plus in one way or another. Whether it be a as a more than confident punk rock rockabilly rebel or as a dressed in black melancholy grass roots blues or folk rock artist, Michael Ubaldini has soldiered on. Some might look at Michael as a "throwback" in one sense and in another sense, see him as modern American poet and crusader of traditional values in life as well as rock n roll. I've known Michael since 1978, so I guess you could say "a while". But Michael has transformed himself so many times as an artist; since the early 80's that sometimes it might be hard to nail him down as to what kind of musician he might be. But as I found out during my time with Michael, Is that he never really transformed, he just added to the magic. A lot of people don't understand that a musician can be many things and do lots of different kinds of music. But once it is understood by the listener, you can't help but grasp how immensely talented this man is. So my mission was to dig into what makes him tick musically and possibly help him get the word out on his new album that will be released very shortly. Simply titled "Michael Ubaldini"
Ubaldini stands a slender and lanky 6 foot 2 inches and to his credit, looks and talks like he hasn't aged since puberty let go of its grasp on him some 30 years ago. He pretty much still has the same hair, same smile and still the same friendly pale blue eyes. Just add the black hair pompadour, with a young John Lennon's body attached to it and you have a pretty good description of Michael. He is probably one of the most compassionate and polite guys in the business and wears his love for the music he does not only on his sleeve but his leather jacket that I'm guessing has been with him for at least the last 15 plus years, if not longer. At the end of the day though, a true gentleman's, gentleman and a real pleasure to sit and talk music with. So I turned on the recorder and basically just asked Michael to let it rip and tell us what he has been up to the last year or so and then to talk about what he has coming up for the year 2015.
He went on to say that all he does is write songs. Whatever comes to mind, he puts the pen to the paper and the pick to the strings and just writes. He mentioned a few of his influences as Chuck Berry, to The Beatles, to The Buzzcocks and The Clash. And then he did a brief synopsis of what he has done since his original band The Earwigs parted ways early 80's. We delved into what he did with Mystery Train. A band he had in the 90's that included guest musician Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats on a few tracks. He was even fortunate enough to have had Joe Strummer from The Clash (RIP) show up for a couple of gigs he did in England supporting that project. And since the mid-90's to the present he has been entrenched in his own solo projects. One of them being Michael Ubaldini and The Lonesome Playboys that were a Honky Tonk / Blues outfit that he made a few albums with that did pretty well in England.
Albeit that Michael is not a "nostalgia" type person, he mentioned that beginning mid-year last year he was getting requests from a lot of younger high school kids who had stumbled on the single "She is so naive" that he recorded as a single with The Earwigs. These kids went on to look Michael up and asked him if he had a couple of extra copies of the single for sale. Michael was kind enough to oblige the kids who claimed to be record collectors and sold a few for $20.00. It wasn't a few weeks later and he was seeing those same 45's on eBay for $400+ a piece. Henceforth, with seemingly a resurgence of demand from fans wanting to see The Earwigs again, he decided to do a handful of shows not only for the old fans, but he even did a show at TKO Records in Huntington Beach so the High Schoolers could have a chance to see them live without having to invest in a fake ID to get into a bar to see them play. He played the last of these shows in January 2015 with the original band members from The Earwigs which went over in a big way. I was lucky enough to see the show they did at Gallagher's in Huntington Beach which was just a blast. It was awesome to literally be arms-length from those guys as they tore through that set. Which I think hosted at least 25 songs, if not more. If you missed any of those shows, you missed a great one.
Now that the reunion shows are done, Michael has decided to move headlong into his latest solo project that he is putting the final mix on right now.
antiMusic: So tell me a little bit about the content of the new album, what kind of record would you call it?
Michael: It's a goulash if you will of all the different types of music that influence me. There is straight up Rock, Blues and Honky Tonk and even a touch a little punk rock.
antiMusic: That being said, it sounds like the album will have a lot of guts to it. In the traditional sense, is this going to be a double album?
Michael: Well I definitely have enough for a double album and I am toying with that idea. Right now I have around 16 to 18 songs I want to put on the record so it will be interesting to see how it all pans out.
antiMusic: What are your 2 most favorite songs on the new album?
Michael: Well I have been playing "Politician Superstar" at the last few gigs I have done, I really like that one. But I think one of my most favorite is "The Ballad of Brian Jones"
antiMusic: Tell me what is that one about?
Michael: Well as you know Brian was the founder of The Rolling Stones and was a great guitar player. He was living the life of a Rolling Stone long before they were even famous. He was also one of the first guitar players to play the slide guitar in England. I love The Rolling Stones but they seemingly try to keep in him out of the picture at all times. I just think he deserves his just dues.
antiMusic: What kind of song would call it?
Michael: Haunting Blues…
antiMusic: We are sitting in the studio where you are recording this album. Tell me about the recording process you are using for this record and your song writing process.
Michael: Well for this record I have been writing a lot of the words first and then fitting the music around the lyrics. Some of it has been done the other way where I come up with riff first, but for the most it has been the lyrics that have inspired the music. As far as recording the material goes, I like the live feel, kind of like the way the old Chess Records used to record their artists. Those old albums still sound good to this day. I like the chemistry that recording that way creates for the band. It puts an element of "tension" on the album, kind of like the way the first Clash album sounds. I like that kind of "tension" where there is a lot push and pull. I think that is very important.
antiMusic: Tell me your thoughts on recording with Analog vs Digital recording.
Michael: For this record I am using both. I like the warmth that you get from an analog recording. You can't really put your finger on it, but I don't think digital recording quite gives the listener that feel. Don't get me wrong though, digital has its purpose, but I am more partial to going analog in the studio.
antiMusic: Are you playing any other instruments besides the guitar on this album?
Michael: I'm using the Blues Harmonica on few tracks
antiMusic: Who all do have in the band?
Michael: Well what I have done is ask a lot of the musicians that I have played with in the past and that I like of course and know how I work. It's been a blast in that sense. We have a few of the Ex-Earwigs pals, one being Dave Reed on drums and Ashton Rands on rhythm guitar, Walter Clemenger helps out on rhythem guitar on a few tracks and also helps out on back-up vocals with Steven Bancroft. Both of those guys are in the band The Dairy Kings. Jerry Adomovitchz and Rob King are sharing Bass duties and Gary Brandon on pedal steel for a song and he also helped me out on three other tracks. I also have Jeremy Long playing keyboards & piano on a few tracks as well. So a great group of guys who have all been a HUGE help and have also made it really fun.
antiMusic: What is a typical day in the studio like for you?
Michael: The vibe is almost like a club house. A lot of times we just sit around shooting the sh*t talking about records and guitars and stuff like that. We do a lot of that before we even start playing music. It's a very relaxed atmosphere here. I think that helps breed a lot of creativity.
antiMusic: So what's going on with business part of this new endeavor?
Michael: Well I'm not signed to major label or any label at the moment but I have done really well with the underground circuit so that in itself has been really helpful for distribution in the UK. In England I've even done some touring on my own. I just brought along my guitar and harmonica and with little luck I have been able to play some really great gigs over there. But as you know it is much different here in the states.
antiMusic: I am seeing a little resurgence if you will in the Rock a Billy / Punk genre. I'm seeing renewed interest in bands like X, The Stray Cats, The DI's, The Gears & The Blasters for example. That being said, is there an opportunity for you to get on board and tour with a band like that?
Michael: Well I toured with Brian Setzer when he did his Big Band thing. And I did a ton of opening gigs for The Stray Cats when they did their reunion tour. But I don't have anything penned in at the moment. I'm really just focusing on the completion of this record.
antiMusic: So what's your calendar of events coming up in the next few months?
Michael: The album is in its final stage of completion and then I'm going to start booking some shows and hitting the road. Most likely locally here in SoCal and then we'll see where it goes from there.
antiMusic: Do you have anything you want to say to the fans?
Michael: To all of the old school fans, thank you for all of your support and to all the new fans, especially the young ones thank you too! I want to hope that I can influence the younger ones to start their own bands. I want to kick start em'. Get out there chase your dreams and express yourself through your music. There is something to be said about human beings that get together and play music vs the one or two people that try to put it together on a machine. Human interaction is vital for a creative process to be even remotely possible. Technology is great for some things like the medical field and such. But Michael Angelo's art came out of his brain and his hands. His masterpieces came from the human level. I think it's important that musicians do the same. There is something to be said for allowing the creativity that our minds will allow do its thing. To me, that makes it real.
May I say that hanging out with Michael and doing this interview was just awesome. It was really a pleasure to sit with him and basically just talk about music. Michael says he should be ready to get the new album released by late spring to early summer and then as mentioned, he's going to hit the circuit. At the end of the day, if any of you get a chance to see Michael Ubaldini live, do yourself a favor and go see him. He does not disappoint. And finally, keep one foot in the gutter and one fist in the gold. RnFnR!
Between the time this interview was conducted and its completion Michael did an interview with Kevin Ware on 93.5 FM out Laguna Beach, Ca - Micheal guest DJ's, answers questions and also spins some his favorite songs as well as some his own material. You can listen to that 1 hour segment here.
You can also check out more about Michael Ubaldini and hear some more of his music here.