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Friday, July 27, 2007

10 Q's with ERIC RAGNO (VOX TEMPUS/TAKARA)

Keyboard player to the stars, Eric will soon be heard on new albums from David Readman (Pink Cream 69), Steve Grimmett (ex-Grim Reaper/Onsluaght) and Ted Poley (Danger Danger) to name but a few!

1. What are you currently up to?

I’ve been working late nights this month to beat the deadlines for the new Ted Poley CD! It’s an awesome disc and JK Northrup is doing a killer production. After that I start writing for Tony Mills (TNT) new disc. I’ve been writing a lot for other artists lately, it’s been one crazy summer!

2. How is the album with Josh Ramos shaping up? Will this be similar in sound/style to the Ramos album released a couple of years ago on Frontiers?

That record is now being called the Ramos/Hugo album. The music is completely finished. We’re just waiting on Hugo Valenti (Valentine, Open Skyz) to finish his vocals. He’s writing everything some scratch and taking great care in the process – so it takes some time. He sang some ideas to me over the phone and it sounds AWESOME. Josh & I co-wrote the album with a classic AOR vibe in mind, so it’s in that same vein. We’ve also folded in some of the classic elements that you would associate with Josh’s legacy and his work with The Storm, The Vu, etc. I’m very proud of it.


3. The David Readman album is superb. How did you get involved with this one and what tracks do you appear on?

I met David at the Prog Power Festival in 2005. I was performing D.C. Cooper, and David was singing with Pink Cream 69 the following night. David’s a great guy and it was a thrill to work with him – he’s got a unique voice that I’ve always admired. I recorded keyboards for Long Way to Heaven, Take These Tears and Evil Combination. I also arranged an additional acoustic version of Take These Tears with a lush string/piano arrangement for a bonus track. The album ships on August 31.

4. What is happening with Vox Tempus? Will Z records still be releasing the album?

Sadly, no. We fell victim to the typical Z Records trap that so many bands have fallen into before us. I knew they had financial problems in the past – Jeff Scott Soto had warned me about this at length, as did others. I was told that Mark Alger would do anything to avoid paying a band, and the net is full of stories like this.

Once the contract was signed and faxed over, Z began a great press campaign announcing our new partnership. Mark asked for my bank info and set a date that we would be paid in exchange for our masters. We provided this twice actually, but the money never arrived. He then requested an original contract with wet signature, so I sent that also. Still no word, and no money. Finally he tells us he hasn’t’ received it, and we have 3 days before the deadline. So of course I send another package overnight to the U.K. Still no response, and he finally tells me he never received it and the deadline is past, so he can’t release the album.

I suppose I could have sued, I mean we did have a signed, exclusive contract. But I didn’t expect much and I kept us protected so we wouldn’t lose anything financially. So sadly the album never got an overseas release, which is unfortunate as people seem to really love it! It has gotten a great afterlife on iTunes! Our website is still working (at www.vox-tempus.com), but we are pretty much on hiatus. Everyone lost a lot of heart in this process, and outside of Gregg (Bissonette) I’m the only one still making music now.

5. How do you think your style of playing has developed down the years? When you start working with other artists are you given free reign on the musical direction or do you tailor your ideas/playing to meet a particular artist's style?

My style has always revolved around the piano, with synth highlights. As time went on I started bringing in more string orchestrations – cellos and stuff I learned about in the school band as a kid. It adds a timeless quality in the right context.

Most folks who usually know my previous work or have checked out my site, and know what aspects they like. When I work with someone new I get as much input as possible – I talk to them, I listen to their previous work and I read everything I possibly can find on them! It gives me an idea of what they are looking for and what their fans expect. I’ve been at this awhile so I know how to capture the vibe someone is looking for. I also have a great respect for an artist’s legacy and their fan base. Once we’ve established that rapport, they usually give me free reign – but it’s still their project, and I’m always open to new ideas.

6. Your working on the upcoming Steve Grimmett Band CD. How did you hook-up with him and what direction is the music taking?

I got a call from Pete Newdeck, who plays drums with Steve and is producing the disc. Pete found me through Paul Logue (Eden’s Curse) who was also instrumental in the new David Readman release. The Steve Grimmett disc was one of the quickest and easiest CD’s I’ve ever done. The guys knew exactly what they wanted, and I gave it a little sparkle. Again, here is a guy with a legacy (with Grim Reaper) that is respected by metalheads everywhere. The new album is definitely metal, but it’s got these great melodic lines and harmonies also. The band is bringing me to the U.K. for Firefest in October and I am VERY excited to be playing the songs live with these guys!

7. Are Takara still going? What was it like working with Jeff Scott Soto? What is your take on the recent news that Journey have dispensed with him and are now looking for a Steve Perry sound-alike?

Takara has been on hiatus, and we’ve all been busy doing other things. Bjorn Englen (bassist) was playing with Robin McAuley until Robin recently joined Survivor. Now he does gigs with Yngwie Malmsteen. But I’ve actually heard from (guitarist and Takara mainman) Neal Grusky this week, and he’s got a new set of songs he would like to start demo’ing for the next Takara record. And of course we need to find a new vocalist. We’re all great friends –I’ve been in the Takara family for over 10 years.

Jeff Scott Soto is an amazing guy…a great singer and a kind soul. He dropped everything to breathe new life into Journey, a band we both revered since childhood…and when they changed their mind, he was the last to know. And now they’re looking to Journey tribute bands to find their new singer. It’s almost exactly like the plot of the Rock Star movie, which is ironic as Jeff sang in that film.

8. What has been the best career decision you have made and why?

Probably moving to Los Angeles. I mean with the Internet today you can make music anywhere – but everyone is here, the musicians, the films, everything is right here. My dad is a rock guitarist, and he told me that if I wanted to get better I’d have to surround myself with the best. Out here you’re still a small fish in a big pond…but fish grow according to their tank size, right? And you can’t give up!

9. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?

I try to spend more time with my family, watching sci-fi with the kids and playing basketball. And I meditate every day. Other than that, it’s all about the music.

10. Message for your fans...

Thanks for reading through this page! I’m always looking to work with new people, so come visit me at www.keyboardplayer.net!

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