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Kinetic Element

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Mike Visaggio and George DeCola II of Kinetic Element from 2012
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music – both individually and as a band?

Mike Visaggio: Sure! I started playing 51 years ago on the accordion ... I could empty out a room in a hurry back then. I got interested in rock and roll in the late 60s when some kids heard me playing accordion and asked me to join their band doing a bunch of 60s pop songs. But one day I heard Felix Cavaliere of the Rascals play the B-3, and I knew that's what I wanted to do. I've been in bands in the late 60s early 70s including what I now know was actually my first prog band, and in a rock and roll outfit with singer Billy Falcon in the late 70s that made four LPs. I was listening to Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, UK, Gentle Giant, and early progressive rock bands all that time. I was in Christian rock bands in the 80s, out of music for 15 years, back playing in 2000 here in Richmond, an album with The Strokers in 2003, a solo CD in 2006 that served to introduce me to the progressive rock world, and then Kinetic Element from 2006 to the present. Kinetic Element has managed to make a bit of a dent with Powered by Light in 2009, and is definitely a known name in that world. We're trying to take it a step higher working on a second CD. We were originally a trio based solely around me, but over time we have added a virtuoso guitarist, a terrific pure high range lead vocalist and gotten a new fretless bassist. With these new members our sound has been transformed, and we're adding more elements of pop and jazz fusion to our primary style of symphonic progressive rock. It's turning out to be a great blend.

MSJ:

If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

 George DeCola:  If I could do anything and had the full opportunity to do it, I would be a baseball player.  I've had two loves for occupations in my life singing and playing baseball. That's it really.  Being from Utica, New York, I'm a huge Yankee fan.  Saw my first live game when I was eight years old in 1978 and I've been hooked on the Yankees ever since.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate? 
Mike Visaggio:  Well, when we started as a keyboards, bass and drums trio, it was to promote the solo CD and I was going to take the act out as "Mike Visaggio" or "The Mike Visaggio Group," but Michael Murray wasn't having any of that, so I asked him to think of a name, and he came up with a few different Kinetics, of which I thought Kinetic Element was the best. So, I said, “That's it,” and he and founding bassist Matt Harris agreed.
MSJ:

 Who would you see as your musical influences?

Mike Vissagio:  I make no bones about it. It's the big three of prog bands in the 70s: Keith Emerson of ELP, Rick Wakeman of Yes, and Tony Banks of Genesis. I love the way Yes puts both short and long songs together. I also love stuff that's a little more bluesy, so I count Steve Winwood and Lee Michaels in there too.

MSJ:

What's ahead for you?

 Mike Visaggio: Just plan to keep at it as long I have a band that wants to keep it going with me. I mean, I'm 60. It's kind of now or never. We're now gearing up to record some new pieces that we have written and will be putting them out for listening when we get done with this. We're targeting the fall of 2013 for a CD release. We're playing around our hometown more with a great selection of "higher-grade" classic rock cover tunes and that's helping us tighten up as well as getting our name better known in our own city.

MSJ:

I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

George DeCola:  I've always wanted to make music that people couldn't pigeonhole and I finally found guys that can play almost anything which is super fantastic.  Although the band originated in prog rock roots, over the past two year since Len and  I have joined the band, we have given the band a more diverse feel.  Len comes from a formal background of study in classical and jazz; The Weather Report.  I come from a background of classic rock, power ballads and pop; The Beatles, REO, Journey, Boston and I loved Rush and Yes, as well.  I would say I was on the fringe of prog rock.  So the original music we are making currently, every song is very different.  “The War Song” (prog), “Wonderland” (progressive-jazz-fusion), and “Top of the World” (rock-pop), so I don't know where it's going but it's been a lot of fun seeing how the songs come out.

MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Mike Visaggio: I don't think much can be done about it so I look at it as another way to get higher name recognition and perhaps get doors opened that otherwise might not be. Obviously we are being cheated out of royalties but the old music business model was decimated by technology so we hope to sell as many downloads and CDs to people who want to do the right thing as we can, and keep working towards that festival spot. I just hope the people who illegally download our stuff will show up at our shows so we can make some money to put out another CD for them to download illegally. (laughter)

MSJ:

In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Mike Visaggio:  How I feel about it is irrelevant. They do it. So, as long as they pay to see the shows, if they circulate the bootlegs I figure it will motivate their friends to come see us live too.

MSJ:

If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Mike Visaggio: You gotta be kidding me, but okay. Us prog rock keyboardists wear capes and everything right? Wait…I don't have one. I'll use this towel. Okay. Now I'm Dynamikeys. That's a good pun, too. My arch nemesis is Gene Simmons - should be self explanatory.

MSJ:

If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

George DeCola:  I'm the vocalist so vocals are important to me.  I have to tip my hat to the musicians out there who can play and sing.  You can pick great players and they can solo all night but when someone sings they tend to grab the audience's attention and people start to sing pay attention, if they are good..  I'm sure with this group of musicians they could do anything and everything musically and vocally.  So I'm biased toward singing. Just keep that in mind. Drums-Phil Collins (always played some weird interesting beats “In The Air Tonight” and his early prog days), bass-Geddy Lee (great bass player and can sing higher than most girls). Keyboards-Billy Joel (what a terrific songwriter, piano playing and singing are next to none). I love the intro to “Angry Young Man.” You know he was listening to prog music to make something like that up/ Lead Guitar-Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme). I saw Extreme in the early 90s. Nuno did a solo for about 20 minutes. Now, I think most solos get boring after a minute or so, but not this one. He had an acoustic on a stand and his electric on his shoulder and he went back and forth on each playing classical pieces, rock pieces. It was the most entertaining guitar solo I have ever seen or heard.  And he sings the harmony on “Whole Hearted.”

MSJ:

What was the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Mike Vissagio:  I go to the Rites of Spring progressive rock festival every May. The highlight of the festival for me was English band IQ. I also went to the first day of the Prog Day festival this past Labor Day weekend. The best band for me on Prog Day was Italian group Accordi dei Contrari.
MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

Mike Vissagio:  Who doesn't? Give me Tom Petty and Grand Funk Railroad and I'm in classic rock heaven.
MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Mike Vissagio:  I don't know what a Spinal Tap moment even is ... I never saw that movie.  But there've been a few times when one or more of my keyboards went haywire onstage or shut down without warning. Then there was that girl who ran onstage with a wardrobe malfunction back in the day.
MSJ:

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

 George DeCola:  Jesus Christ and just say, "thank you." Abner Doubleday and ask how you came up with baseball.  What a game. My Grandpa and tell him, "thank you for giving me a name I can be proud of."

MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

 George DeCola:  Anything my wife is cooking.  My favorite meal my wife cooks and hopefully the dead people like it too, is filet with crab meat and a béarnaise sauce with grill asparagus and mashed potatoes - the meal is to die for.

MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Mike Visaggio: Hold your fire. Keep it burning bright. Hold your flame ‘til the dream ignites. A spirit with a vision is a dream with a mission. (Rush, "Mission")

George DeCola:  We are a fantastic band just waiting to be heard by someone who can help us in the music industry.  All we are asking for is a chance to put our music in front of music people and I guarantee they won't be disappointed.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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