Five Quick Q’s with Eric Ragno

What have you got planned for the next few months?

 

This year has been intense!  I popped up on a lot of new CD’s this year, including the all-star Pushking CD, Far Cry, Fergie Frederiksen, Talon & Mecca! I’m beat man…I’m looking forward to taking it easy through the holidays.  Terry Ilous (Great White, XYZ) invited me to perform at the Red Cross benefit he is putting together in December, which I’m really looking forward to.  It’s a great cause – it helps humanitarian efforts the world over.  You can find more information by visiting http://www.unitedrockers4u.org/.

 

Right now I’am  helping Jeremy Hunsicker (ex-Journey singer) finish his first solo CD, which should be out in January.  I’m also writing songs for the new Mecca disc – really trying to get back to writing music that moves me, and Joe Vana really brings it out of me.  Other new releases in development include discs from Dante Fox, Bonrud, Faithsedge and Trixter. 

 

How was Firefest? Which bands/artists were the highlights for you?

 

Firefest is always an amazing event, and this year was no different!  I performed with Talon on Saturday, and we Talon also served as Kane Roberts’ backing band on Sunday.  We had rehearsals during that weekend so I missed some of the good stuff!  But I loved watching Terry Brock -he’s such a great guy, and his voice really moves me.  My son got hurt back in LA and Terry was there for me, asking how my boy was doing and giving all kinds of support throughout the weekend.  Jimi Jamison was amazing, and Tommy Denander always blows me away.  Jimi & Talon rehearsed next door from one another the night before, and we shared a lot of laughs!  JSS & WET was much anticipated and delivered in spades!  Silent Rage are buddies of mine and killed it also.  I was bummed to miss Steve Augeri, but I got to see one of my favorite new bands – Vega!  I love their energy and how they implement synths into their songs.  I got to speak to the Martin brothers a few times over the weekend, and we got on really well.  The FF crew do an amazing job this year, and I hope they have me back again soon! 

 

How did you hook-up with the Talon guys? Also what was it like recording with Fergie Frederiksen?

John Parker (Talon’s drummer & CEO) & I met at the first Melodic Rock Fest.  We stayed in touch, and they planned on having me over for their first Firefest appearance in 2008 but things didn’t pan out.  They were kind enough to invite me to play at the second Melodic Rock Fest last year, which was really amazing!  We recorded a live DVD which is in production, and I worked on their new album which is out on Escape Music.  I was thrilled that they invited me to join them at Firefest this year – we all know each other really well now.  When you travel the world with a bunch of guys it really brings everyone together.

Working on the Fergie record was a real privilege.  It started fairly routine, and then one day all work stopped.  I had no idea what was going on – I was afraid maybe I’d done something wrong, or maybe the guys didn’t like my ideas!  Then the announcement came that Fergie was fighting this awful disease.  We were all pretty devastated – Fergie is a legend and a kind man, and as a fan it was a scary notion that this mighty voice might be abruptly silenced.  I prayed for him a lot.  Three months later, I got the call that we were going to push forward to make this record happen.  Fergie began some new treatments, and I guess working on the CD was a therapeutic diversion for him.  I listen to the album a lot now, and you can really hear it in his voice.  This wasn’t a session-performance – the man is singing from the bottom of his heart, and you can hear the weight in every word.  Listen to Follow Your Heart – it’s seriously moving.  Thank god Fergie it’s doing much better now, so it’s a real victory all around.

In both cases do you record with the artist or record at your own place and send you music over to them?

I do almost all of my recording in my home studio.  I’ve got all kinds of keyboards plugged into a monster computer here, so it’s a lot easier when you have everything at your fingertips.  I always ask for input when working with artists, but people pretty much know what I do now, and trust that I’m going to do my thing and raise the songs up a few notches.  I break down each song and record a lot of different ideas, and encourage the producer to choose what parts they feel is best for the song.  Sometimes bands are surprised at how many ideas I send them!   I don’t believe in doing the bare minimum.  I’ve learned that producers would rather have too many options than to be mixing at 2 AM and find they need more parts to a song.  So most of the time 95% of my ideas get used.  I take a lot of pride in that.

How do you see the music business panning out over the next few years? Is the CD on its way out and will the music scene become much more of a cottage industry with small specialist labels and bands releasing their own material with the major labels no longer around?

Oh man…I think we talk about this question each year, and I just don’t know anymore.  Eventually all releases will go through iTunes, and it makes me sad.   But that’s what people do today.  I gave a journalist a copy of the Far Cry CD, and she asked me today to send her the iTunes link so she could buy some of the songs for her iPhone.  It’s just easier that way I know, but I miss the packaging and the artwork, etc. It must have been the same for the 70’s acts who had to watch the turntable disappear.  Although that’s a getting a resurgence now, isn’t it?  It’s been a tough year for the industry, although there have been a LOT of great new releases this year so who knows?  We might just win this thing yet. 

Anything else to add…

Thanks to everyone who has stuck by me – I know it’s been a crazy time for our brand of rock & roll, and it means a lot when folks mention my work and recommend me to other artists.  I really do this for the love of the music – I want to help make these releases as good as they can be.  Be sure to swing by http://www.keyboardplayer.net/, or to follow live as it happens you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/rockkeyboards.  Be well & rock on!!!

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