The discussion over whether rock n’ roll is dead has been debated endlessly. Do a Google search on the subject, and you will find numerous articles and online forum discussions where people state their case quite passionately.
Stevie D (full name Stephen DeAcutis) is a musician/producer/engineer with a long, distinguished bio. Credits include working with Andy Wallace (Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana), Kevin Shirley (Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith) and Max Norman (Ozzy Osbourne). After many years and many projects for other recording artists, DeAcutis has decided to release an album of his own work, Torn From The Pages, due to drop September 6. For the project, he teamed up with Corey Glover, best known for his work as the lead vocalist with the band Living Colour.
DeAcutis wrote all 13 tracks on the album, and although he is a stellar guitarist and does play multiple instruments, he says “For this project I played several instruments, but I also brought in quite a few other musicians. I treated this endeavor almost like I’m gonna bring in who I consider to be the top cats at certain instruments on this record. So when I needed something done, I thought, ‘Who do I want? If I could get anybody, who would I hire to do this?’ And that’s basically the approach I took on it.” Some of those top cats include drummer Richie Monica (who’s played with Uli Roth and Popa Chubby), Jack Daley (bass player for Lenny Kravitz), and Benny Harrison (keyboardist on songs by Joe Bonamassa and Joe Lynn Turner). As a side note of interest, the bass player in the video, Kenny Aaronson, did not play on the record but has worked with Billy Idol, Rick Derringer, Joan Jett and many others.
Arguably the most distinctive part of any song are the vocals. The human voice is like the fingerprints of a song…unique and immediately identifiable. Asked if he had Corey Glover specifically in mind when he was writing, he replies “I did not. When these songs were coming together, the initial vocal demos were me. I basically put up a mic in the studio and sometimes I’d actually document the vocal as I’m writing the lyrics. So I’d probably demoed every track vocally, but then I hired a friend of mine, his name is Doug Henthorn. Doug and I were signed to a label in a group called Pod, not to be confused with the successful band P.O.D.” he laughs. “My band Pod was signed to Sony in ’95. John Kalodner was our A&R gentleman. I basically got him on the whole record except for maybe two songs. And one of the songs that he didn’t sing, one day I just thought, ‘I wonder if Corey would be interested?’ I was probably sitting in my backyard having a coffee just thinking and it came to mind. So I reached out to Corey, I said, ‘Dude, would you be willing to sing a track on my record?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, man, no problem.’ So couple of weeks later, I got him in the studio and he started singing the song, started tracking him, and two verses in, I was like geez, I’m gonna have to ask him to sing the whole record.”
So Corey Glover is in, and Doug Henthorn is out. How did he break the news to his old friend? “Well, you know, that kind of thing is never…it’s always a difficult thought when anything like that comes into play in this business, especially when we become friends with just about everybody we work with. I don’t remember exactly how it went down but what I do remember is Doug was a complete gentleman about it and professional. We’ve remained high-level friends ever since and he is still on the record; his backing vocals are still on the record. But yeah, it was tough.”
Although DeAcutis’ resume of production and engineering credits reads like a who’s who of the recording industry, it’s a whole different ballgame releasing an album with your name on it. While only audiophiles and fans of the band might dig deep to see who produced and mixed a record, when your own name is front and center in large font it takes the emotional investment to a much higher level. “Excellent point,” says DeAcutis. “I have the opportunity here to tweak eternally, to make adjustments eternally. So it is a wonderful opportunity to be in that position where I have the say when this thing is done. But that being said, I did work on the record for quite some time. And the tricky part is when you make your living doing sessions and working with other artists and producing and mixing and such, if you’re working for the most part full-time you only have so many hours in the week and so much energy to devote to your own record. So that’s another challenge: How do I work this into the schedule and realistically get this thing done? That was tricky.”
“I pretty much mixed the record twice. Maybe five, six years ago I had what I might have considered to be a finished record. But then I put it away for quite some time and went back to it and I was able to upgrade the record immensely, not having listened to it for a while and not having dealt with it for a while. And I was able to go in and dig into some of these tracks and almost look at them as if I never heard them before and as if they weren’t my songs, so I was really objectively able to make some decisions that I feel brought the record to another level. At that point, it was time to get it done because there were no other levels to go from there except the other way, if you know what I mean.”
So this fine album, which has taken years to be fully realized, will finally see the light of day in September. Now what? For many studio projects this is both the beginning and the end. As opposed to a band that will almost always tour in support of a new album, studio projects are normally a loose coalition that gathers for the project, then quickly goes their separate ways upon completion.
However, DeAcutis has different ideas. “Been working in the studio quite a bit, but I’m rehearsing the band as we speak. I’m rehearsing the band to take this record out. I’ve definitely played live a lot more than I have the last couple years, and I do miss it. I’m looking forward to getting back on stage and playing more. Probably about four, six months ago, I did a fill-in for a guitar player with Vinnie & Carmine Appice. They do an act called ‘Drum Wars’ where they both play together and do different material from each of their bands that they’ve been with, and I had the opportunity to do a couple of shows there, so that was a lot of fun.”
Anticipating the next question, DeAcutis says “And yes, Corey will be singing with us. We don’t have the dates solid for September. Originally it was August 2nd but we’re going move it to September because the record is actually coming out in September, so I’m trying to nail that down. At that point, the reality of what we can do live will actually hit.”
In the “good old days” of major labels with major budgets, bands could count on financial tour support. Today only the biggest acts have that advantage. Most smaller groups are entirely self-financed which places strict limits on where they can go and what they can do. “My buddy actually, yeah…I have a friend here in Jersey, excellent guitar player and he literally just bought a tour bus,” says DeAcutis. “Bought a big old tour bus. I think he named it Edna, and he drives it, he books the shows. I asked him, ‘Matt, what are the odds of renting your tour bus every now and again when you’re not using it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, man, but I gotta drive it.’ So, that’s OK with me,” DeAcutis laughs.
Being based in New Jersey, the logical and logistical place to go on the road would be the East Coast, but DeAcutis says “Well, that would be the easiest scenario for the moment, but I’ll go anywhere. Wherever I can pull it off, I’ll take it, you know? This is a carte blanche traveling situation for me and a great gigging situation, so that’s not even a question. If there’s an opportunity to do a festival overseas–or wherever and I can pull it off, I’m all for it.”
So if one has a yearning for real, honest rock n’ roll that most definitely ain’t dead yet, download or pick up (yes, it will be released in old-school, CD format) Torn From The Pages. And look for Stevie D and friends on the road this fall. “I’ll take this act, this music, this record, I’ll take it anywhere live. I’m proud of what we’ve done, and wherever I can pull it off I’ll take it.”