SpiralArms Guitarist Craig Locicero Talks 'Freedom,' European Tour, Gear and the Recording Process
When a band releases what they call a "rock and roll” album in 2013, it’s easy to dismiss it before giving it a fair listen.
SpiralArms' second release, Freedom, is worth that listen.
Although the California-based up-and-comers released their debut album, Highest Society, in 2010, all the members had been making music individually long before then. It just took a while for their paths to cross before forming as SpiralArms in 2004.
Since then, the band has gone through a few minor personnel changes. SpiralArms now consists of Tim Narducci (vocals/guitar), Craig Locicero (guitar), Anthony Traslavina (guitar), Cornbread (bass/vocal), Brad Barth (keyboards) and Ron Redeen (drums).
The band's new album, Freedom, has classic rock coursing through its veins, but that’s not to say there aren’t elements of modernity scattered throughout. “Hold Me to The Sky” features a killer keyboard part that ascends into an equally impressive guitar solo full of bends, slides and squeals.
Locicero has been playing in bands since 1985, when he started with the thrash metal band Forbidden. Now he's fully prepared to put a dent in what he refers to as “this vast musical world.”
GUITAR WORLD: Freedom has been out for roughly a month. How has the response been so far?
If you would have asked me what was going to happen before the reviews started coming back, I would have never guessed how well Freedom is being responded to. It's a little shocking to have so many positive responses from different countries and music fans. The rock, metal, blues, classic rock, stoner rock and even some country folks seem to be enjoying it. So I suppose the response has been pretty damn good!
You recently left for Europe. Are you guys excited for that leg of the tour?
Every show had a great vibe to it. The first show was Milton Keynes in the U.K. It was awesome! During the majority of the gigs after that, most people in the room had either just barely heard of us or knew nothing about SpiralArms. From the concert goers to the promoters, we won them over. I think we did our job.
When was the last time you played over there?
I have been to Europe numerous times with Forbidden. The last time was in 2011 at the Brutal Assault Festival in the Czech Republic. SpiralArms was invited to play the Graspop Festival in Belgium in 2007. I suppose that was a glimpse of our future.
What separates SpiralArms the studio band from SpiralArms the live band?
Not that much, actually. The energy and stage show would be it. We pretty much nail Freedom in a live setting. However, Tim plays some guitar on the record and he hasn't played guitar live with SpiralArms in several years. We will start introducing him in some songs live from time to time. But that's allowed him to become an even better frontman.
What was the recording process like for Freedom? Where did you record it?
We recorded the drums at the Bomb Shelter Studious in Los Angeles. Eric Kretz from Stone Temple Pilots built the place from the ground up. Amazing drum room! 2,000 square feet with 18-foot ceilings and brick walls. The rest was recorded here in the Bay Area across from the Lawrence Livermore Labs. Brad owns a studio called Audio Voyage that we use as our HQ. Tim also records a lot of bands records there. When he's using it, it's called The Sonic Room. It's a great vibe for us to get everything done and feel comfortable doing it.
The album features lots of fuzz, wah, guitar solos, keys solos, vocal distortion, etc. Can you walk us through the gear you used to put this album together?
Tim's vision for the record was to make it the correct balance of vintage and modern. I think he accomplished that. The amps we used were basically a blend of Orange, Fender EVH 5150's and a '72 Marshall Plexi, also some Vox for the clean parts. As far as the pedals, that was sparse. We mostly used the gain of the amps. When we did use pedals, I used a Green Rhino and Tim used an old Big Muff. Cornbread used an Orange for bass as well.
Most all of the keyboards were recorded at the Bomb Shelter. The Wallflowers had all of their gear sitting in the studio, so Eric made a call to see if we could use it. They said, "Go for it!" Brad was on fire down there, got it all done very quickly. He had a baby grand piano, Rhodes a real B3 and Leslie to work with. I think he sounds amazing! That's pretty much how it was done.
When recording with three guitars, do you strive to give each guitar its own sound?
Each player had a completely different tone that fits into their own shelves. Again, that is where Tim's vision comes in. There are not three guitars playing all of the time, but when there are it's quite a wall of sound!
The album was released on vinyl. What does vinyl mean to you?
Vinyl is huge these days. To me, it brings us back to the essence of recording music. The warmth is untouchable. Freedom was intended for vinyl from its conception. Even the artwork had the imprint of a record on the front and back cover to give the illusion that it's been sitting in your collection for dozens of years.
You had mentioned this album was modeled similarly to Led Zeppelin IV in the sense that you wanted it to flow and sound a particular way. How did this impact song writing?
This record was written differently than our past one. I was on tour with Forbidden while Tim started riffing initially. When I returned and started listening to the demos, I got very excited. Tim really grew as a songwriter, and I think the flow was figured out along the process.
One thing I have never had before was a frontman with a complete vision. It's something the listener can relate to on a deeper, more subconscious level. The lyrics mean all that much more. I am a big fan of that.
In the past with Forbidden, I had to do almost all of the writing, including lyrics. It was nice to just compliment most of the material. I helped a bit in the writing, but not nearly as much as before. That being said, Tim and I are already working together on new material. But he will take what I do and conform it into his inspiration. It's pretty fucking cool!
Speaking of Zeppelin, are any particular influences you’d care to mention? I noticed you included a Black Sabbath cover on the album.
Yes, Zeppelin is important to us, as is Sabbath. But when we chose "Tomorrow's Dream," it was for good reason. It represented the simplicity of the hook, riff and song. It also states that we are a more Vol. 4 to Never Say Die-era kind of band then a Paranoid-influenced band. We like the obscure cool stuff, not necessarily the most popular.
How do you feel going forward? What does the future look like for SpiralArms?
I can only speak for myself, but I feel great about our future. I temper the enthusiasm with a hard dose of experience. I've been in a great position a few times. But not with five other guys with their heads on this straight. Everyone gets it. Everyone is willing to work and make the sacrifices necessary. It's the only way to assure we can make even a small dent in this vast musical world.