We have a bit of a fixation with 1970s hard rock and particularly the Casablanca Records bands like KISS or Angel. Frank Dimino was the lead singer for Angel and is still singing actively today out in Las Vegas with a band called Vinyl Tattoo which features members of Stryper and Great White as well. Frank sings because he loves it, that has been clear ever since the Angel days and in subsequent years when he became a sought after vocal coach. He now has a new company called Dimino Enterprises which was set up to help acts with many different areas of the often complicated music business. We met up with Frank recently out in Las Vegas (yeah, he signed my On Earth As It Is in Heaven poster!!) and talked and got an update from him on everything new going on as wellin addition to conversations about those aforementioned Casablanca years (and the NEW Angel reissues). Read on….some photos courtesy of Tim Hollingsworth, Richard Galbraith and Frank Dimino and the Angel Fans page www.facebook.com/groups/338772986215919/
Legendary Rock Interviews: The first 3 Angel albums are being remastered and re-released by Rock Candy Records who are also including a special limited edition white vinyl record release….Were you, Punky or the guys involved in these reissues and how does it feel to see them get this kind of treatment?
Frank Dimino: No, none of us were involved, as least not to my knowledge. Of course you would like to be involved as much as possible but reissues are done all the time without artist approval. I was asked a while back to do a track by track breakdown on how we recorded the songs for the On Earth reissue a few years back but that’s about it. The good thing about a reissue is there is still interest and still a market out there for Angel.
LRI: Angel has been in the public eye a little more than usual with several mentions on That Metal Show and now the reissues. We interviewed former bassist Felix Robinson and he sounded upbeat positive about the band as well. How are Punky, Barry and Gregg doing and do you ever rule out the possibility of some type of reunion no matter how brief?
Frank: I would never rule out the possibility of a reunion because I know we all still love music and still enjoy playing it. That being said as time goes by it does get a little harder to put something like that back together. I would love to get back together with the guys no matter what capacity and I think that could happen.
LRI: We recently ran an interview with Steve Blaze who told us he is raring to go if asked and hinted that he thinks the band could have plenty of new music in their fortunes. Would you be interested in possibly a recording project if a full tour wasn’t possible or even a solo album with some of the guys making guest appearances?
Frank: Absolutely, Barry and I really had a great time playing with Steve (Blaze) and Randy (Gregg). Some of the stuff I wrote with Steve came to us very quickly and sometimes that’s the best way. There is also some songs that Barry and I have written as well. So there is material for a project of some kind.
LRI: You’re a very busy guy these days. I saw your new business web page and facebook page which actually have a lot of cool rare stuff for us Angel fanatics. Could you tell us a little more about how and why you developed Dimino Enterprises and what you’re doing on the business side of things?
Frank: It all started when I first began teaching vocals here in Vegas. I realized that there was very little guidance or instruction with regards to ones craft as a singer or songwriter. If your dream is to be on American Idol I can help you with the fundamentals of singing and breathing correctly. However if your dream is to be a great singer then I’m the one you want. I’m here to teach you to sing by building a strong and solid vocal foundation from the bottom up.
LRI: You have a LOT of experience in the entertainment world and have no doubt seen some of the not so wonderful sides of the business end of music. Does that kind of stuff cross your mind when working with new clients whether they are vocal students or people coming to get help with bookings or publishing?
Frank: All the time. The music business is a crazy business where just having talent is not always the measure of success. There are so many variable’s involved. That’s why the love and dedication to your craft becomes so important. In the final analysis you get back only what you give. Work hard to become great at what you do not to become popular at what you do.
LRI: Youre still enjoying that thrill of singing full throttle and playing out on a regular basis in Vegas with your band Vinyl Tattoo. How did you guys get to know each other and how much fun is it to play out these days?
Frank: I love to sing live. So I really enjoy it. We all got to know each other by playing around town here in Vegas. There is a great circle of musician friends out here like Jimmy Crespo, Tod Kearns, Brent Muscat, Ron Keel, and Paul Shortino etc….along with Oz Fox and myself. We’ve all sat in with each other on different projects as well as just for fun. But the most fun right now for me is doing the Vinyl Tattoo gigs. Oz Fox, JP Michaels and myself have been together for a while then adding Derrick Pontier on drums for Vinyl Tattoo really makes it pump. Also having 2 other guys that can sing makes it a lot of fun for me. I love having two and three-part harmonies with the heavy classic rock stuff that we do.
LRI: Goin back to Angel. There has been this recent state of limbo but for those of us who haven’t followed, what has the band technically been up to since the “In the Beginning” CD was released back in 1999/2000?….I realize that’s been a while!
Frank: Since then, we’ve done a few things, some stuff in Europe. We did the “Sweden Rock” Festival, we did the “Bang Your Head” festival which were both kinda, one-off big gigs. Some stuff up in Switzerland and Germany here and there. These past few years, I’ve been in contact a lot with Gregg (Guiffria, original keyboardist/co-founder) trying to get he and Punky (Meadows, Angel guitarist) together again to maybe work on some new material and do a new album but it’s been really difficult. It’s hard to get everyone together and it’s not that they DON’T wanna do it really, it’s just that it’s not a huge priority and they’re not really into the road and I understand that. We kind of have to just roll with it and see what everyone’s doing, fingers crossed. Everyone always says, “Well, if we can get you some big shows in Japan and whatever, could you all do it?” It’s like…”Well….everyone has their price I guess….shoot us a figure and I’ll go to them and we’ll see” I mean, if there was some situation where it was like 6 or 7 big shows that really were a big deal, who knows?? If it were just up to Barry and I we’d do it in a heartbeat.
LRI: What prompted you and Barry to fire it up again there in 99 and do the touring again?
Frank: Well, Barry (Brandt, Angel drummer) and I never wanted to stop touring at all. The both of us just really wanted to keep playing and Punky and Gregg just didn’t wanna go out. So…then we went back and forth, back and forth, do we put a new band together and call it something else or do we do the old Angel? So we decided to talk to the other guys and see if it’s okay with them to just round-up a couple new guys who are really good players and try to really do it justice and build it back up again. So, we talked to Punky and Gregg and they were both fine with it and said “Yeah, go ahead, we don’t wanna go back out so that’s fine”.
LRI: Barry and you are road dogs???
Frank: You know, I love recording in the studio. I still do a lot of studio work but I don’t wanna JUST be in the studio. I really like that live interaction, that atmosphere, performing in front of people.
LRI: There were some Frank sightings in the 80s though right….did some big soundtracks and you played with Paul Raymond from U.F.O. ?
Frank: Paul is a good friend. We’ve actually done lots of stuff together, we actually did some stuff back in the Angel days..we did some stuff with Mitch Perry and later on Jon Brant from Cheap Trick. Paul was gonna actually do Angel with us there for a while…..we worked on songs with myself, Punky and Barry. Paul is a great keyboardist and musician and we’ve worked together off and on for quite a while.
Frank: You just said the magic words Frank, we’re here in Rockford so we are contractually obligated to mention Cheap Trick in every interview….even though they won’t give us the time of day, they’re of course one of our favorite groups along with Angel and KISS. You guys had to have crossed paths with the guys on many occasions right?
Frank: Sure. (laughs….hard). Sure, in fact Gregg and Rick are real good friends. Actually the Trick guys were at the Record Plant at the same time as us when we were recording the WHITE HOT album…they were gonna do some work on the album, background vocals or something but it just didn’t come together. We know each other…I know all those guys (laughs). Richie Ranno of Starz and I did a song for the Cheap Trick tribute album actually with Danny Peyronel the first keyboard player from U.F.O.
LRI: How many bands had you guys been in before Angel?
Frank: Oh….man….a lot of different bands, a lot of different backgrounds. I had went to Berklee College of music in Boston. I was playing with a lot of different people out there. Even before that I had always been in bands as a kid, even did a Duke Ellington review with King Curtis.
LRI: I know Gregg had some pretty diverse musical beginnings as well…did all of that kind of lend itself to the “left of center” approach that Angel had from the start?
Frank: Yeah, probably. We all came from different backgrounds and styles of music and what happens with most bands, and especially a band like Angel…. is…you start writing and you start writing different things together as a group that you probably wouldn’t do by yourself or with a different group of writing partners. It really is all about the group of people, put together in the situation that results in things starting to flow out. It started out that I was writing a bunch of stuff and Punky and Gregg were too and then it became a situation where it was like, “Look, the three of us are coming in with all these songs let’s try to write stuff as the three of us” and then the three of us would stay after rehearsal and write as a three-piece, working on stuff and then the next day work it out as a full band together.
LRI: There were really and truly two different sides to Angel. There was the more prog-rock spacey elements and songs on the first two albums and the more rock and roll style of writing that played into the albums that followed. Was that difference in songwriting something that was intended or something you were aware of?
Frank: Yeah, I think it was. I think the first two albums were more a result of the three of us writing together like I described before, after rehearsals and stuff. As we went on the road and did the 3rd, 4th and 5th albums it was more of a situation of us coming up with things more individually and bringing them to the band to work out. Though to be honest there was also the issue of the record company coming to us and asking us for material that they thought they could sell easier….more commercial material, specifically to get a hit with because radio was beginning to change. Back when we made that first album in 1975 there was no top 40 FM radio that you had to worry about. All FM stations at that time were still doing album oriented stuff where the Djs would actually play large portions of the album or at least pick the tracks they wanted to pull for airplay regardless of length. The program directors would think about what tracks would play the best for their particular market. Not at all like it is now, now FM is more like what AM was back in the day. In that era, that 1975 era, they would play our song “Long Time” which was like an eight minute song, they didn’t worry about that stuff whereas as time went on it became clear that the more commercial radio was starting to dominate.
LRI: Was it a forcing of your hand or did the band start to just slowly move away from the progressive style anyway?
Frank: We just sort of evolved….and still maintained some of that style a bit, I think that the third album began the process of us opening our heads to some different ideas, styles and techniques as far as recording. Eddie Kramer did that album with us and we recorded it in a castle and started to really play around with sounds and things. Like, there was this room, like a tall, circular little room, we called a “Rapunzel” room I guess (laughs) and we set up in that room to get some really different sounds. With that third album we were starting to really hone in and go for it and by the time we got to the “White Hot” album we were sort of firing on all cylinders, we were really polished as far as writing better and figuring out recording techniques and stuff.
LRI:: Do you have a preference between the earlier more “far-out” progressive stuff and the later stuff?
Frank: No, I agree the first two albums, the self-titled and “Helluva Band” are much more progressive and much more interesting. I enjoy playing the earlier stuff live a little bit more but I like them both, I really like the “On Earth” and “White Hot” albums too, that was when we were really getting known as a band and I think that a lot of that material still holds up really well. Some days I like the first two albums more and then there are other times (laughs) where I like the other two albums more. By the time we got to the fifth album….ugh…I don’t know what happened there. It was more like a situation of “here are some songs we have” and them just throwing them on there….I think that fifth album, Sinful was the ONLY one where we sound sort of disconnected and disjointed as a band. We had a lot more invested in the first four albums.
LRI: I have been watching a lot of these great Angel promo clips on youtube….what do remember about making these early “videos”?
Frank: At that point we were doing everything through touring. The money went into the touring, and we did some little promotional videos and things but the budget really wasn’t for that because there really wasn’t anywhere to play the videos. It was of course pre-MTV and everything. But we did do these little promo videos and things really just to be used on a lot of the T.V. Shows. They sounded so much better. We didn’t get to do Don Kirchner’s show for a while because of that. We just thought that all of those performance shows tended to sound like shit because they wouldn’t let you use your crew or your sound. They always, always had to use the T.V. Production crew that did sound for their own show, you couldn’t use your own stuff, that’s just the way it was. The T.V. Crews would a lot of times really get it wrong, like you’d see the guitar player doing a solo but the mix wouldn’t get the lead or the background vocals would be miked way louder than the lead vocals, just all these issues. We didn’t wanna chance getting all that exposure and sounding shitty just because some guy who’s never met us is mixing it. Finally, Don Kirchner gave in and used the videos but that was why we did them for shows like that or Top of the Pops, American Bandstand type of things. It’s too bad that the big jumbotrons in a lot of those arenas were just used to feed the video because that would be great footage to have. I actually contacted them to find out and came to find out there was no tape or anything running from the feed. Of course, there were no cellphone sized video cameras back then, people would try to get in with these humongous 1970s videocameras and they would always be stopped at the door. (laughs).
LRI: Well, there’s always your appearance in the movie “FOXES”….
Frank: Yeah, unfortunately that’s it. (laughs)
LRI: When you think about a lot of the bands that really had a tremendous following over in Japan in the seventies, whether it was Angel or Cheap Trick or KISS, they were all really interesting visually. There was something about the visual appearance or cartoonish element of Rick Nielsen that really appealed to them. Do you think that appealing to the Japanese fans with a strong image was important? (Check out the amazing ticket stub from the far east tour above)
Frank: Hmmm….That’s a really good question. I don’t know….I really don’t know. We had a great relationship with the Japanese fans, the tour that we did for “On Earth, As it Is In Heaven” was great. We had to get a whole floor of the hotel for ourselves…..it was insane, just crazy….we each had our own bodyguard (laughs). We were just looking at each other like, “Why isn’t this happening at home” (laughs). Really great people, really great reaction from the fans. We did two nights at Budokan, two nights at Osaka and everything……it was great. We really weren’t expecting all that. At that point we had just finished the third album and at home just starting to headline smaller places for the first time. Before that, we had been an opening act for many, many bands and things were starting to come together with the stage show. We got the major elements of the stage show, the rising logo that would smile and talk to the audience and the opening “effect” where we would appear onstage. When the Japan thing happened, we had just got all that in place and had finished rehearsals for that stage show which we were excited about because it was gonna be for the bigger places, the three thousand seaters, you know. Then to go to Japan and play these REALLY big places….wow, it was a great thing for us at the time for sure.
LRI: You guys have this never-ending association, whether you like it or not,with KISS, mainly because you shared a record label with them at that time. We just talked to Larry Harris the co-founder…that label was a crazy place eh?
Frank: I keep telling myself I have to get that book. They contacted me for it and I talked to Larry for it. I will get it, I will. We were there from the beginning. 1975, was when our first album was actually released and KISS hadn’t broken wide open at all yet at that point. When we first signed on with Casablanca it was just a little place and it didn’t matter because Neil Bogart was just one of those guys in the industry that you felt CONFIDENT with. I can’t explain it but I felt a strong sense from him that he had a vision for the label and he knew what he was doing. We all felt really, really comfortable with Neil and in the beginning we were really all in the same boat. We were all trying to do our thing and make it as bands, all of us were on the same page as far as trying to make our mark. Kiss didn’t really get huge until Alive.
LRI: Gene, god bless him, tells lots of stories of discovering bands. Larry had mentioned that they weren’t even really in a position of power at the point that he claims he discovered Angel. What really happened?
Frank: With the Gene thing, it was really through Gordon Fletcher, who was one of these 70s music journalist guys who wrote for like Creem and Rolling Stone as a freelance writer kind of thing. He would come down and see us all the time and we played a lot in the early days. We got to know him and we’d talk about music and stuff he was doing. He told us in conversation, “You know, you guys need to be seen by more people, I’m gonna bring some people down.” We were just playing out in D.C. We didn’t have management just yet but he would go see these bands and review shows at Largo Arena all the time and he brought back people to see us. Now Kiss’s album hadn’t broke yet but they were already firmly established as a live act, an arena act. One night he brought Gene, Paul and Ace. I think Gene really wanted us to sign with his management, Bill Aucoin. We had actually JUST signed with our manager David Josephs and Toby Management the week before. We had been going back and forth between signing with David Josephs or Leber and Krebs (Ed. Note. Leber and Krebs attempted to steal Punky and Mickie Jones over to the N.Y. Dolls). We had just signed the management papers and David was gonna bring us out to L.A. From D.C. When Gene came down, it was in that little window that we had where we had a month before we were supposed to leave for L.A. He really was pushing hard for Aucoin and we said “Well, we just signed with David Josephs” (laughs). Also, oddly enough at the time, David had already been talking to Neil and Casablanca about us because he already had known Bill and had a working relationship with him. Our manager had told us that he’d heard from Casablanca that they were looking for artists at that point. They had KISS and a few other things but were actively looking for more artists. The whole process went by very quickly for us with Angel. The process of getting off the ground with record label and management went really smooth compared to all the other bands we had been in previous to that. Everything went very efficiently and lined up perfectly as it hadn’t before in terms of getting off the ground.
LRI: When we interviewed Richie from Starz he indicated that it wasn’t always easy sharing management with KISS when they really broke wide open. He said that they demanded so much attention when they got huge that it affected management just enough for them to suffer a bit. Was that an issue with sharing a label with KISS?
Frank: Yeah….I talk to Richie a lot and that’s one of those things we have talked about yeah, it happened to them management wise with Aucoin and KISS and it happened to us on the record company side with Casablanca. Whenever we wanted an album released it was a situation of KISS having one come out at the same time to promote or just before us. It wasn’t the best of situations to ask for but……
LRI: Well, maybe if the Casablanca staff wasn’t so busy partying and doing coke off of girls’ tits like this book says…….(laughs)
Frank: (laughs)….Lots of coke, who knows (laughs) who knows, obviously at the time we were more concerned with what was happening with us as a band but I don’t know….I look back nowadays and think about it and wonder if some of that may have been an issue and everything but on the other hand, those reasons weren’t the only factors keeping us from where we should’ve been as a band.
LRI: I have to ask….as a fan of both bands, we always hear this story of there being this yin and yang thing between the two bands. That Angel was the anti-KISS……. and it’s been repeated so many times in the press it has just become accepted; hell, Larry from Casablanca says it in his interview with us. To me, it sorta sounds like a made up story…how much of that story is at least partially hogwash or bullshit coming from them?
Frank: It’s all hogwash. It’s just repeated BECAUSE we were on Casablanca. I promise you, no matter what anyone else tells you; none of us sat us down and said “Hey….I got an idea…since KISS all wear black…..let’s all wear white and be the anti-KISS….that would really be a great way to present ourselves”. That never happened and it was not our intention in any way…it just sorta happened and fit from the beginning. I know (laughs) that Freddie Mercury was kinda pissed off at us because we wore white and he thought that Queen had kind of established that image first…he was mad, which came as a surprise to me (laughs). We had been trying to develop as a band and just write cool music and perform….we didn’t sit there and think about “let’s take this from Queen and let’s be the anti-KISS”. We were trying to get our own show off the ground and be Angel. We had basically all the time in the world to think about our concept and costumes and staging when we were coming up in the clubs. We played 4 or 5 nights a week in that D.C. Club scene. I had my own little thing, which was no shirt and suspenders. Of course, mostly because it was super hot in those little clubs. Everyone started to come up with their own signature look, and that was back before we were signed. It just happened naturally and of course fit with the name, but it was very organic, the ideas we had for the band, the concepts for the show and stuff. Then it developed……. we finally started to get the money and backing which gave us the ability to make some of that stuff we dreamed up actually happen so the ideas started to get a little bigger. When we got a little money to play with we could actually pitch some of the concepts around and make them work because we had the management and label machine behind us. Before that, I remember Gregg and I going down to the public library and getting the music for Ben Hur….we had all these ideas of what would sound best for the opening music for our show. We decided on that section of the soundtrack for Ben Hur and that’s what we actually USED. It was no big secret or conspiracy for how we did things, we just tried to make decisions for what we thought would be good for the show. Like with the costumes, we had our manager bring down someone who worked with each one of us for what we thought would work and it was trial and error. We started out for the first couple tours using all this satin and stuff and it just wasn’t working. It was like gross, …it wouldn’t stay durable, it wouldn’t stay white and clean. When we were on the second tour she came to us with this new fabric. It looked like what we wanted but had never been used before and the wardrobe lady was like “just try this, it will stay clean and it’s kinda stretchy”….and it was spandex….there wasn’t a name for it at that point because no one had worn it but it was spandex material.
LRI: The speaking logo, the “Archangel Gabriel” thing was amazing but equally groundbreaking was the appearance of Angel onstage while the he was summoning you in the recorded intro. Who came up with the idea of having the band individually appear out of the clear boxes?
Frank: That was ALL of us. We were all sitting around thinking of things and came up with that one. Like I said, by that time we finally had something going with our management and our manager David Josephs helped us make that happen. He brought down this guy, Johnny Gaughn who built all these illusions for Doug Henning and other magicians and people like that. We told him our ideas and concepts and he showed us all these different options. He’d show us everything from every angle and of course take into account that it was all something that was going to have to be able to come out on the road with us. Everything we did had to be something that was road worthy.
LRI: Angel is a band that was name checked by many as being VERY influential on the whole 80s metal or some call it, “hair metal” scene. On the other hand, Billy Corgan told us that the band was a huge part of his growing up as a teenager. How does it make you feel when artists from different eras say things like that?
Frank: Well, no matter what it’s great to hear. I love Billy’s stuff. Anytime anyone appreciates what you’ve done it is fantastic. That’s why you do what you do as an artist, to reach people. It’s really great when another musician says that you’ve inspired them.
LRI: I love looking at the old vinyls. The album inserts and merchandise inserts, all of it made buying music so much more special….I wanna send away for a glitter Angel logo shirt. I’d like to finish by asking you about each album, the artwork, and a couple of key tracks. Starting with the self-titled and the cuts “On and On” and one of my favorite songs period…“The Tower”, how did that take shape?
Frank: Sure….well the first album cover was the Gabriel logo of course, Jeremy Realton helped us with that first logo and the logo came from Barry’s antique jewelry. He used to like wearing this necklace and it was kind of this weird sort of letter “A” and it wasn’t really an “A” but we sort of made it into an A for the logo and built the face into there. Jeremy worked with us to really refine the Angel face to sort of fit within that necklace design. So, it was tweaked a bit and that became the original logo for the band and the debut album cover on Casablanca. “The Tower”….wow….man that was the first song that we wrote and really tied ourselves to when we first got together. That was the first song that we really, truly put together as a band, first cut on the first album and the ONLY song we have EVER opened with as a band….(laughs) so yeah, “The Tower” is pretty important to this band still to this day. It’s our signature song and it’s the sound that we decided we wanted, that we were looking for. It merged that sound of the rock guitars and the synthesizers together, and that became the sound of ANGEL. We knew that the synth was going to be a part of the band and we wanted to find a way to put the two together and make it really fit….at that time, it was not really that common. There were keyboard players but it was always more of a Booker T or Deep Purple kind of organ thing, and this was different because it wasn’t like that, it was synthesizers being used beyond just that type of background thing. Lyrically, I get asked about it a lot and it was just a whole bunch of different sci-fi elements that I kind of used from those old sci-fi books. I read a lot of those kind of books and sort of took ideas and concepts from a bunch of different ones. Mostly a lot of those books that really moved me when I read them, trying to build a sort of atmosphere that would match the music we came up with. I was trying to take what I was feeling and seeing in my mind from the books.
“On and On” was a song that, at that point, was about as close as we were willing to go as far as writing a commercial type song (laughs). That was how we felt…of course we weren’t thinking in terms of singles or anything yet but it was more of a move towards what would later become something we did more commonly. “On and On” had that kind of catchy hook, the hook part was what sort of started it and I kind of worked around that hook for a while, trying to come up with verses and things.
LRI: Moving on to the second album, “HELLUVA BAND” and the songs “The Fortune” and “Mirrors” Helluva Album cover by the way, with a tweak of the first logo, adding the devil horns to the Gabriel logo and the female devil holding the band in chains, no less!
Frank: (laughs) Yeah, that was a Barry Levine (famed rock photographer) idea for that cover! Barry did a lot, a lot of our photography and he came up with some REALLY great ideas, some worked some didn’t but that one I kinda liked.
LRI: Of course the devil is a woman right? (laughs)
Frank: Well, yeah, of course….that’s the best way to lure you in to hell (laughs). It was supposed to be “Helluva Band” as in, like, the band from hell, bound by chains…(laughs). The song “The Fortune”, oh man, that song was an album unto itself. I think we took more time working on that cut than on any other song on that album. We decided that we wanted to do another sort of signature, progressive type song with lots of different ideas in it. We worked on the arrangement, we worked on the sonics of it and eventually we really got it. We got what we wanted for the end result but it took up a lotta, lotta time in the studio working on it. When we did the song “Mirrors” it was a case of going back into the rehearsal space with Punky and just knocking that song out very quickly. I love that song, it’s one of my favorite songs on that album but I just remember it as something he and I kind of did very quickly and said, “Here’s another song for the album”. Again, lyrically was one of those songs that I came to again be influenced by those sci-fi books that I was reading a lot of at that time. Michael Moorcock, was this British fantasy-sci-fi writer and I read all that stuff, trying to tap into that imagery. It wasn’t like one thing in particular but just sort of trying to relate something atmospherically, some of what I was reading to the audience in the form of the music.
LRI: Which brings us to “On Earth As it Is In Heaven” the third album and the debut of the world-famous and AMAZING upside down, right side up ANGEL logo and the upside down mirror image of the band on the front. That new logo had to be a pivotal moment for the band, how do you remember that?
Frank: Yeah, that album cover concept was easy after we got the logo. What happened was, we were on the road, our tour manager J.R. Smalling came to us backstage. I don’t even remember where the hell we were but a fan sent something back for us to look at. We used to get that kind of stuff happening all the time with J.R., he’d come back while we were getting ready for the show and putting stuff on backstage and be like “oh you guys gotta check this out”. So we were like, “Comon, J.R., we’re trying to get ready, get outta here” and all that, and he’s like “No, guys seriously, you HAVE to see this”. So he gets this Angel logo out and we’re like “Yeah?” and he is going “Keep looking, keep lookin” and he starts turning it, you know, upside down. Everyone in the room just stopped. We said “Whoa, do that again” so he does it again and we were just “Wow….that is SO COOL, who did that”. So we had this guy, Bob Petrick, come back and talked to him, we paid him to use it and credited him on the cover which was easy to come up with of course with the mirror image of us upside down. We figured if we put the upside down image of us on the front then people would figure out the logo!
LRI: What was the back story on the songs “Telephone Exchange” and “That Magic Touch” on that album?
Frank: “Telephone Exchange” was one of those songs that took on a special tone based on the environment of the castle. We cut the vocal in that round, Rapunzel-ish room. It was a cylinder type room that went all the way to the top of the castle and Eddie Kramer’s production idea was to hang a microphone up high in the room and then also down low where I was singing. It kind of captured this “phasing” kind of sound that was going on in there. “That Magic Touch” was something that Gregg, Punky and I actually wrote while we were screwing around in the castle. We were really just messing around but I really like the way it was sounding so we decided to work on it and finish it. Gregg had been messing around on this huge grand piano that was there in the castle and Punky and I heard him screwing around with that galloping piano part and we said “Hey, what’s that, let’s do something with that” and we took it from there. There were a few other songs that DIDN’T end up making it on there but that was one that we ended up finishing..
LRI: The fourth album “White Hot” is a lot of people’s favorite, and a lot of people’s favorite album cover. It is a different kind of design in that it’s truly a painting but in a very sinister style. The evil, burning people and the background really remind me of the Dio’s album “Last in Line”, especially the back cover. Aside from that, the music itself was starting to get even more slick though, correct?
Frank: Yeah. “White Hot” was when we started to come into our own also and like I said, really get confident and polished as far as writing and recording. We had done the “On Earth” album with Eddie and started to really make the transition and then by “White Hot” we knew even more how to get what we wanted. The Dio, thing, that’s about ten years later…so I guess we were first (laughs). We knew Ronnie of course, great singer with Rainbow who rehearsed next to us and toured with us. We played a lot of shows with them and Richie Blackmore was very, very kind to us. That cover for the fourth album was just another one of those ideas that we had. We had gotten tired of the whole “Put a photo of the band” thing for the front covers so we thought we’d like to so something a little more Cartoon-ish and more artistic rather than just a photograph of us on the front.
We had this idea to find someone who could paint something that was in our heads which was this city burning and all these people watching us getting burned at the stake, all dressed in white.
You know, to be as sacrilegious as possible (laughs).
LRI: What do you recall about “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” and “Flying With Broken Wings”?
Frank: Well, “Flying With Broken Wings” was my attempt at a Beatles song. All of us were really influenced by the Beatles as was everyone back then. That’s where your roots are so that’s where you grow from. Punky and I set out to do that with that song and you can hear it with that little George Harrison type thing at the end of every verse. The end of the song was sort of my Paul McCartney, “Hey Jude” thing there at the end. Which is why we dedicated that song to J.P.G. And R on the back cover. “Don’t Leave Me Lonely” was a song actually that our drummer Barry came over to my house with. He had some ideas for the verses and stuff that were great and but wasn’t sure what to do with it from there. I just thought that the chorus wasn’t working out right. So we kept working with the verses and decided to have that sort of “break” part kick in the chorus. As soon as we had figured out how to go from the verses portion to the chorus, as soon as we figured out the snap, break in part to the chorus I thought “Man, this is really gonna be a great song”. That should have been the first single but they wanted us to cram in the “Winter Song” thing for that which wasn’t even supposed to BE on the album.
That song was written as “Christmas Song” and was only recorded to be issued to radio stations and only as a thank you kind of gesture to the fans, sort of like the Beatles used to do early in their career. The DJ’s were supposed to play it as a thank you to the fans and alert them that, as Christmas was on its way, a new Angel album was on its way because it was almost finished. We took another song OFF the album called “Better Days” to put that on (laughs). It was one of my biggest disagreements with Casablanca….I didn’t want to take that song off the album and I really didn’t want to change the words to “Christmas Song” and make it “Winter Song”. I was like, “Look guys, this wasn’t written to be a Winter song, it makes no sense, as a Christmas song it makes sense and I’m gonna have to go back in and redo the vocals and change the words” and they were like “We don’t care, we want it on the album”
I really thought it was a terrific idea to put out “The Christmas Song” because at that time, nobody was doing that type of thing. Back in the day it was a cool thing to do every year with the Phil Spector groups, the Beatles and all these bands would do those kind of “message to the fans” type of thing. I thought it had been a while so let’s try it again in 1978, my feeling was that it was perfect timing. We had the California Boys Choir there and it was recorded and built as this GREAT idea for Christmas which is where it should have been left..
LRI: Did you have similar apprehension about them putting out “Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” as a single since it was a cover?
Frank: No, not really because that was one of those songs that we always did at rehearsal, just messing around. It was a song that we were real familiar with and basically just screwed with all the time at rehearsal. We had a huge repertoire of songs like that which we knew because we played so many club nights over the years individually in all these bands. We had other ideas that we kicked around as far as that goes, at one point we considered “Got To Get You Into My Life” and I think our producer had wanted us to do“You Better Run”.
LRI: Then you guys did “Sinful” and there was a whole floodgate of crap over the cover right?
Frank: Yeah that album cover was nothing more than damage control. The original cover and title, “Bad Publicity” was what we wanted as a band. The controversy over the album was that Neil Bogart did not want us to release the cover of us in street clothes. There was a big argument over the costumes. We felt like the costumes were just a part of the stage show and that we weren’t TIED to the costumes the same way that KISS was tied to the characters and the costumes. It just wasn’t the same thing. We weren’t trying, like KISS to avoid being seen out of the makeup or the stage costumes, we were just a rock and roll band. We said, “We’re not like KISS, that’s not what ANGEL is defined by, that’s just a small part of the show, we are not tied to it as individual comic- book type characters, they’re just stage clothes”. And our concept was just that, we were wearing street clothes, OFFSTAGE in the original cover art, at the Hyatt House (famous Rock and Roll Hotel…a.k.a. The “Riot House) and we were gambling, and there was a midget pouring champagne in a top hat (laughs) and had all these women laying all over and the cops were busting into the room. That was it. Then surrounding the photo and all over the back cover was a collection of all the horrible reviews we had gotten that past year, hence the title, “Bad Publicity”. We loved the idea. Casablanca hated it.
LRI: Ironically it finally got Angel some good reviews (laughs)….but I can tell from hearing you talk that you don’t really like it that much.
Frank: Well, some of the songs. It just sounds disconnected and less of a band effort. The cover art of the retitled, “Sinful” I have no feeling toward whatsoever. It was just damage control with them at that point. Just pick a photo from Barry Levine’s bank and get on with it, slap a few songs on it and put it out. Fine, whatever. We would have been much happier as a band had they let us continue with our vision of the album rather than make all this fuss about the cover, so the end result was that we were less invested as a band.
LRI: I was gonna ask you about “Bad Time” and “Wild and Hot” but…..
Frank: Well, John, I think those are a couple of the better ones along with “Waited a Long Time” but as a whole it’s not one of my favorite albums or memories. There are a few songs that do stand out for different reasons but I……I just don’t have as much feeling for that album Sinful.
LRI: Finally there was the live album before you took the extended, massive hiatus and reformed. Do you think the timing was perfect for the “Live Without a Net” album?
Frank: Yeah, I think so. That was after Felix had already been playing bass with us for a while so we were pretty tight as a band and the performances that we had to work with were solid to begin with. I don’t mind the album that much, I think it’s a decent representation of the live show at that point, with the counter play between Punky and Gregg and the set list being developed, my stuff with the audience was there and Barry’s drumming which was great. The set list really tended to change. Still, to this day…I think Barry and I know what songs work live the best and we have to include those songs and then we let Randy (Gregg, bassist) and Stevie (Blaze, ex-Lillian Axe) pick the rest of the set (laughs). Which actually, believe it or not works because they’re both such big fans of the band and now they’re in it so they know (laughs). They know what people really wanna hear, outside of the staple Angel songs. What we did back in the 70s is what we still do now, for every new addition we take out a song that we might be getting burned out on, again, aside from those few staples like “The Tower” and things like that. We change up the set a lot, which is great for us.
LRI: Thanks for doing such a great, in-depth interview, we really, truly appreciate it….LAST QUESTION…….and you might think it’s kind of trivial but I assure you to those who are big fans of the band…..it is NOT!
All over all the Angel fan pages and facebook pages what everyone wants to know aside from pining for another studio album with Gregg and Punky is where can people get a T-Shirt? (laughs). Don’t make us send away for the Angel Earth Force order form inside the Casablanca album inserts. I’m pretty sure nothing good will come of that.
Frank: (laughing….hard) God, I guess I need to get ahold of Richie from Starz and put them up on his page Starzcental.com. I was supposed to send him a bunch of autographed CDs and stuff so I will have to throw in a ream of shirts I guess.
LRI: I know who has all those necklaces and posters and Angel merch…..Gene Simmons. That guy has friggin everything. He’s acquired rights to the Boutwell Warehouse hasn’t he Frank? (laughs)
Frank: (laughs) Maybe….I will tell you I bet there’s someone out there somewhere who has our original talking Gabriel logo in their bedroom. (laughs). I just know it….and by the way send our regards to Rockford and Rick and Bun E.
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Sites That Link to this Post
- Angel: Where Are They Now? | 9 Years Of Rock Blog | December 17, 2012