Moody Masterpiece: Textural Master Michael Ciravolo Discusses 'Finding Beauty in Chaos'

Beauty in Chaos' Michael Ciravolo with a Schecter TSH-1

Beauty in Chaos' Michael Ciravolo with a Schecter TSH-1 (Image credit: Eloisa Limon)

Over the years, L.A.-based musician Michael Ciravolo has played guitar with bands like Human Drama and Gene Loves Jezebel. But when it came to his new project, Beauty in Chaos, he had a particular goal in mind — to see if he could conjure in the studio all the sounds and textures he’d been hearing in his head.

The result of this ambition is the new Finding Beauty in Chaos, a record of stunning musical and, in particular, six-string intricacy that mixes Ciravolo’s love of rock, pop, post-punk, goth, new wave and other styles and wraps it all in layers of lush, ringing, occasionally grimy and often heavily effected guitars. Ciravolo was assisted on the album’s 14 tracks by a veritable who’s who of music luminaries, from Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander (“Drifting Away”) and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen (a cover of T. Rex’s “20th Century Boy”) to the Cure’s Simon Gallup (“Man of Faith”) and the Mission’s Wayne Hussey (“Man of Faith,” “The Long Goodbye”). Additionally, artists like King’s X’s Doug Pinnick, Ice-T, Van Halen legend Michael Anthony and Gene Loves Jezebel’s Michael Aston, among many others, lent a hand.

“There were definitely some surreal moments,” Ciravolo says about playing with some of his childhood idols and musical inspirations. “But I think one of the greatest things about it was we were able to get all these different people together and still have the album sound like a cohesive statement.”

What truly makes that statement cohesive is Ciravolo’s guitar work, which binds the diverse sounds and styles together in a singular cinematic soundscape. Regarding the dizzying array of tones he conjures, Ciravolo notes proudly that “there are no keyboards on the record. Every texture is a guitar or a guitar manipulated through some sort of pedal or effect.”

Ciravolo primarily played Schecter instruments on Finding Beauty in Chaos (which is to be expected, given that he’s also the president of Schecter Guitar Research) and ran his various six-strings though small combo amps. Pedals, however, were hardly so streamlined. “I’m kind of an effects junkie,” Ciravolo says, pointing out that not only did he use various pedals on the album, he also used various pedal boards, which he christened with names like “Dirt” and “Noise.” Additionally, he says, “I employed a lot of different chord voicings and variations in order to give the music that orchestrated feel.”

Despite the intense studio work and long roster of guest artists that went into creating Finding Beauty in Chaos, Ciravolo hopes to take the music to the stage. “With so many musicians, I’m not sure logistically how to pull it off,” he says. “Everyone seems to be pretty happy and proud to have been a part of this record. So it’s certainly a possibility.”

GUITARS Schecter Corsair and Schecter TSH-1 models (all with Bigsby tremolo) 

AMPS Supro Tremo-Verb and Supro Black Magick combos 

EFFECTS Gurus EchoSex, Electro-Harmonix Mel9, Eventide H9, Keeley Dark Side, JHS Muffuletta, Pigtronix Rototron, Dwarf-craft Happiness

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.