Michael Ciravolo is known professionally in the music industry as the President of Schecter Guitar Research. But, not only is Michael Ciravolo the President of Schecter Guitars, he is also an accomplished musician in his own right.
Hailing from New Orleans and relocating to Los Angeles in the 80’s with his band The Models, he found minor
success. Then, Michael and former Models band member, Johnny Indovina formed Human Drama which found them both rising to the top of the music scene.
Michael Ciravolo expanded his Musical plate with producing and mixing other bands during this time. He is best known for his guitar playing in Gene Loves Jezebel, the reunion tour and which he still performs with on occasions.
Over a year ago, Michael got the urge to create something for himself and record a new guitar album, “Finding Beauty In Chaos.” This album is not your run of the mill shedder/wank fest album but rather a soundscape of multi layered guitar album using nothing but guitar effects, real drums and bass. We sat down with Michael Ciravolo to talk with him about the birth and creation of Beauty in Chaos.
1. Tell us how this project came about, what was the driving force behind Beauty in Chaos?
As we were recording the Human Drama album “Broken Songs”, I was really into experimenting with a lot of layered guitar sounds and parts, but with Human Drama there is other instrumentation to sonically compete with: acoustic guitar, Hammond organ and in many cases, real violin. My friend, Michael Rozon who was engineering my guitar tracks during these sessions, sensed my frustration and bluntly said ‘why don’t you just do your own album’. I certainly wanted the freedom to play what I loved which ended up being a different direction from “Broken Songs”.
2. You are a very different kind of guitar player, your style is unique, how would you describe your playing?
I never played in cover bands so I learned any guitar parts, note for note. Most of the guitarists that were my ‘heroes’ growing up are certainly not shredder type players or even technically great. Johnny Thunders and Mick Ronson are two that I felt had the most impact on my early stages of learning guitar. Later in life, I became intrigued by guitarists that played ‘sounds’ as opposed to a lot of notes like The Edge, The Cure’s Robert Smith and Porl Thompson, and Kevin Shields of My Bloodly Valentine. I guess looking back at my early influences, I could have permanently stunted my own musical growth; which might have been a bad thing, but also a good thing! I think it helped me to develop my own style and my own sound. But, I admit for the first time, I did push myself and learn new chord voicings and different tunings to expand my writing style on ‘finding beauty in chaos’.
3. I have visited your studio and it looks like you have every effect pedal under the sun and then some. Tell us a little about your obsession with pedals.
Pedals are all just‘crutches’! I’ve always relied on delay and chorus as part of my sound, but going into this record I really wanted to create ‘ethereal soundscapes’ as the “beauty” in the record, but also mixed in with dissonant “chaos.” I started this journey by researching late into the night YouTubing weird pedals and sounds. I received some cool sounding pedals from Robert Keely, JHS, EH, Recovery and many others. Many of these pedals had a brief moment to shine. I also had my main pedal board from the Human Drama session which includes my trusty Gurus EchoSex. The EchoSex is featured on almost every track, along with my Eventide H9 and Vintage Electric Mistress.
4. I was told some songs have up to 30+ track of layered guitars. What is the method to your madness in so many guitar layers?
That’s more Michael Rozon’s (BIC producer) madness than mine! He certainly is responsible for helping me achieve the sounds I heard in my head. He basically unplugged the Kemper the first day we started and made me really listen to the sound of a real amp. We brought in a bunch of the new Supro Amps and a Roland Blues Cube. We mic’d these through small speaker cabs, doubled and triple-tracking the parts. Most guitar tracks were recorded with the effects on. Sometimes ProTools can be an ‘enabler’ … giving you more and more tracks…
5. Why did you decide on not using synth or keys on this album?
That certainly was the fallout from the Human Drama sessions. I began to see what we could do with the vast array of effect pedals .. manipulated with Ebows, Sustainiacs, a real viola bow and even a Gizmotron. I remember that great line on the early Queen albums …
“and no synthesizers used.” So I said “why the fuck not, no synths on this album”. I think you will hear parts on this that are very synthesque sounding… but it is all guitar. We had the new Roland Guitar Synth in the studio… but I felt that was cheating so back in the box it went. I will say the Electro Harmonix Mel9 got a lot of air time on this record. The “no-synths” was a limitation that I placed on the making of this record from day one. Limitations drive creativity and the next album will have a new set of limitations!
6. You also have many special guests on this Album like dUg Pennick, Ice-T, Simon Gallup, Wayne Hussey and Robin Zander as well as new comer Ashton Nyte. Explain to us your writing process and how you picked the players on your album.
From the very beginning, the plan for “finding beauty in chaos” was to have vastly different singers and players. Having Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Al Jourgensen (Ministry) as the first two artists in our studio certainly launched the record with a BANG! Some songs were written with a certain voice in mind, but most tracks were musically created first. Then Michael and I sat back and listened to each track and discussed what vocalist we should present it to. I want to be very clear, these songs are collaborations with each singer involved and mostly, they wrote the lyrics for each song. This record produced several ‘firsts’ which I am extremely proud of. It’s no secret that The Cure and The Mission are among my favorite bands … and having Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup... two icons in the ‘goth rock’ world – perform on ‘Man of Faith’ for the first time ever - is pretty fucking cool, in my book. Also having two of the most recognizable voices in American rock n’ roll … Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) and Michael Anthony (Van Halen) for the first time, sing together on ‘Drifting Away’, is pretty surreal . And then there’s Ice T.
7. Yes Ice-T, dUg Pennick and Al Jourgensen are definatly different vocal monsters then say Wayne Hussey or Robin Zander. Tell us how working with these three pioneers was?
Well, the two songs that Al (Ministry) and dUg (Kings-X) did with me are definitely the two ‘heaviest’ tracks on the record. Working with each singer is very different .. but in 100% honesty, everyone that was part of this record wanted to be involved and really put their heart and soul into it. Al came into our studio and sang, which was a complete riot! He also suggested and added a real cool harp part to ‘20th Century Boy.’ Fans of Ministry should love this track, as its impossible to have Al sing anything that doesn't sound just like him! dUg sang ‘Un-Natural Disaster’ at his home studio but did come into our studio to track his bass, which was so great to witness! As for Ice T; I need to give a big shout out to Body Count’s Vince and Ernie C. for playing him the song and coordinating with him to sing it while they were recording in Arizona.
8. What guitars did you use on this album?
Schecter Guitars, of course! Most of the tracks were recorded with my stage guitars … an assortment of Corsairs and TSH-1s. Also, a modified Stargazer with a Sustainiac added and a Solo Special also was used. In fact, I think the only non-Schecter guitars on the album are a Jerry Jones Sitar (Bloodless and Fragile), a Veillette Baritone 12st, and an Ovation Acoustic 12. All of the bass parts we recorded in our studio were from a Schecter CV-4 and an old Baron-H. Schecter Guitars are absolutely the best on the planet!
9. Do you feel being an active guitar player yourself has helped steer the Schecter boat in a more direct course for other working musicians?
Most definitely. If you are not playing the guitars you design and put into the market, I call bullshit. Then the instrument is simply a widget to you. I’ve used our guitars in the studio and live for the past 25 years. If anyone has seen me play live then you know they can ‘take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ ! Because I am surrounded by a great team who also play and record with the guitars we build and sell - THAT is our secret weapon here.
10. Your wife, Tish Ciravolo also appears on this album, how did that come about?
How do you do a record and NOT have your wife on it??? Seriously, she is a really good bass player and is on two great songs on the album, ‘The Long Goodbye’ and ‘I Will Follow You’. One of the last songs I wrote for the record is the very shoegaze-inspired ‘Look Up’, which her voice is perfect for. We plan to shoot a video for this one in October. I also pursuaded our two daughters (who are pictured on the ablum’s cover) to do handclaps on two tracks!
11. The album seems to stay in the darker-goth atmosphere, will this be an ongoing style choice in the future?
I know many of the singers on this album are well known in the ‘goth’ world… Wayne Hussey, Ashton Nyte and Johnny Indovina are no stranger to the darkwave world. Several of my favorite tracks, ‘Bloodless and Fragile’ and the title track are certainly dark but also very cinematic. I think this records soundscape is varied but emits common threads. The dug Pinnick/ Ice T song ‘Un-Natural Disaster’ is certainly not goth…but I do think it all works together.
12. Will there be live shows or a tour, and if there is, will it be with your all-star line up?
No real plans for a live show or a tour, at least that was never my intention with BIC. I feel this record is very cinematic and it would be at home in film and tv. That said, the idea of putting this together for a live presentation is intriguing. There are 10 different singers on this album, so the logistics are not in my favor, but possible in an abbreviated format. Who knows… I will never say never, at least where BEAUTY IN CHAOS is concerned.
13. What was the most challenging aspect of this project?
Probably the time contraints of working a “day job” and also being a parent. Those responsibilities fill up your plate several times over. And then throw in recording a 14 song album with just a few seconds under 80 minutes of music to your mix! I am not complaining, Michael and I had a blast creating and manipulating sounds while drinking a lot of red wine over this 14 month, 1000+ hour journey!! The new “challenge” now is getting the record out with my own frustration of how listeners ‘consume’ music now with how little value seems to be placed on the art of creating music.
14. Can you tell us about those challenges and how it differs from releasing albums in the past?
The music business is certainly a completely different animal than in the past. Going the semi-DIY route has both advantages and disadvantages, that’s for sure. Having “artistic control”, which I think was the phrase the record labels used to throw around, but didn’t always want to give the artist, is certainly a positive. Beyond the massive amount of what is really clerical work in releasing an album… writing copy for the booklets, web and all of the social media is a bit mind-numbing. Then you need to figure out just how to get your music to the listener & hoping they put enough ‘value’ on what you created to purchase it. Strange days indeed.
15. What would you like to see happen with Beauty In Chaos in the future?
Well, this first record will be available on both a limited edition double vinyl and CD. I hope there are still enough listeners out there that do want to own physical copies of music and will listen to this record as a whole. As for the future, we have already begun a remix album called “beauty re-envisioned”, which will feature remixes by Tim Palmer, John Fryer, Mark Gemini Thwaite, Tyler Bates and more. We hope to release this in early March 2019. Then there’s BIC3, which will have its own wonderful self-imposed limitations and twists!
For more info. on Beauty In Chaos go to the website: www.beautyinchaosmusic.com
Pre-order "Finding Beauty in Chaos Here: Finding Beauty in Chaos Pre-Order
Watch the video for the first single Storm featuring Ashton Nyte: