Exclusive Interview with American Guitarist, Composer & Producer Lou DiBello!

Lou DiBello is an experienced professional guitarist, composer, and producer based south of Chicago, IL. He began his musical studies with piano and saxophone as a youth, and by age 15 began playing guitar. Soon thereafter, he had his first gig with a rock band at age 17.

Lou has been a professional guitarist and instructor for nearly 30 years, played over 2500 gigs and has instructed over 25,000 private lessons. In 1989, Lou graduated with honors from Musicians Institute in Hollywood, CA.

Lou DiBello has performed over 2000 paying performances and has shared the stage with many nationally and internationally known acts such as Black Crowes, Quiet Riot, Blue Oyster Cult, and many more.

“Heat Wave”, the new album by Lou DiBello, is complete and will soon be released! Showcasing Lou’s guitar and writing chops, the 8 song disc features both great instrumental tracks and killer hard rock/heavy metal vocal tunes with German singer Carsten “Lizard” Schulz.

Additional appearances include Mike LePond, internationally known bassist for Symphony X, and legendary guitarist and Hall Of Heavy Metal History member Ross “The Boss” Friedman trading leads and harmonies with Lou on the epic track “Blood On The Cross”. Mixed and mastered by Rolf Munkes/Empire Studio in Germany.

Today we’d like to bring to your attention this interview with Mr. Lou DiBello! The following interview is taken exclusively for Rock Arena. Enjoy it!

– INTERVIEW –

Hello, Lou and welcome to Rock Arena! Of all the glory times, bands, metal friends and rocking live gigs – which is the band that made you feel like home and sounded like the inner Lou DiBello self?

♦Lou DiBello: Thanks, Toni, appreciate the opportunity to talk with you! I have performed a lot of original material over the years, and also a lot of covers. I have always felt the most in my element when playing my original material.

However, I have been fortunate to play with a lot of great players in my area, and if I have the chance to really dig in with some great soloing with an attentive audience, it’s always good and high energy, original or otherwise! I have played many larger shows opening for touring acts and those are some of the more memorable shows for sure.

– You have studied piano and saxophone but what motivated you to start learning the guitar? Were you playing metal music when you were younger, and what was your first band like?

♦Lou DiBello: I did not begin guitar until age 15, after learning piano and sax. Two main influences the led to my interest in guitar were Jimi Hendrix, and my Uncle Dave, who to this day is a world class jazz player, as well as a great classical player. When he was 18, and I was around 9, he already played flawlessly and I remember watching him all the time, and although I didn’t really understand the significance, he never played a bad note.

So my early experience with the guitar was always someone playing it extremely well. I also had very eclectic experiences with listening to music at home due to my parents’ wide record collection. But it was seeing the Jimi Hendrix movie that was the spark no doubt. I was attracted to a hard rock/heavy metal sound early on, although my first influences as I understood and began to study Hendrix were Chuck Berry, Blues like BB King, Albert Collins and others, then Led Zep, AC/DC, Scorpions, and more. I was also very into Pat Travers, Frank Mariono, and Robin Trower (the post-Hendrix trio!) and then Michael Schenker and Uli Roth.

My earliest recordings and originals, such as they were, were definitely in the hard rock and heavy metal style. My first band that did some public gigs was a senior year in high school, we were called “17” because we were all 17, haha! Brilliant right? My first band of my own that did originals was Anvil Chorus. It was pretty heavy!

– You’ve been a professional guitarist and instructor for nearly 30 years… Were there challenges for you personally as a guitar player? How do you approach teaching an adult beginner, and how do you help someone who really struggles to learn?

♦Lou DiBello: Although many aspects of playing music came very naturally to me, I always had to practice a lot to play really well. Some people have a more natural physical affinity, some a more natural ear, songwriting ability, strong rhythmic sense, ear what have you. The mechanical aspects of playing the instrument were always the most challenging for me.

Teaching is something that is in my blood, as I come from a family with many many teachers. Each student is unique and I enjoy finding out what makes a person tick, so to speak, and using that as a way to help them learn. An adult beginner student can often understand an aspect of learning the instrument when compared to learning an activity they may already know, such as golf, martial arts, or photography. Most often when a student really struggles, it is more about a lack of mental focus or preparation than a real physical limitation. So it is important to try to get them to understand and think about the mental part of playing, just as much as, or sometimes more than, the mechanical side.

– Let’s talk about your new album, ‘Heat Wave’… What’s the story behind the album title? Who writes the music and the lyrics and who is on the album (the line-up)?

♦Lou DiBello: ‘Heat Wave’ is my 4th full-length solo effort. My second solo release, in 2005, was called ‘The Axeman Cometh’, a bit of a play on the title of a Book/Movie/Broadway play ‘The Iceman Cometh’. I once saw a picture for the play of a dreary scene showing the legs of the Iceman, and he is carrying a large block of ice with tongs. The Axeman Cometh cover shows me carrying an icy guitar through flames, with the guitar maintaining it’s cool despite the heat. ‘Heat Wave’ is a bit of a reversal, with my red-hot guitar ready to melt the frozen streets and bring some hot licks to the masses!

I wrote all the music (except for the great Michael Schenker tune ‘Into The Arena’) and lyrics for two of the vocal tunes. Singer Cartsen Schulz wrote lyrics for the other two vocal tunes, with an inspiration or title from me. I also have bassist extraordinary Mike LePond of the great band Symphony X (on three tunes), and the legendary guitarist (and Manowar founder) Ross The Boss Friedman, plays some lead and harmonies with me on “Blood On The Cross”. My friend and local drummer Bobby Whiles is on all 8 tracks, with keyboards/synth by Tim Rixstine on a few tracks as well. I play bass on the tunes that Mike is not on. The music is all a very natural part of me, I can always hear it clearly in my head long before it is played ad recorded.

– How did you meet them and how everything started?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

♦Lou DiBello: Like so much of the business these days, social media was a big part. My friendship with Ross started this way, on Facebook. I was always a fan in general of his Dictators and Manowar stuff, and on a whim years ago looked him up on FB. We developed a bit of a rapport over time, but it was his friend and associate Loree Hunt who saw a video of me playing, and knowing I was friends on FB with Ross, asked me if he had seen it, and if I had an agent lol! Anyhow she encouraged me to reach out to Ross and we got in touch by phone.

At this point, I had not yet thought to ask him to play on my record. He was very helpful with advice and supportive of my playing and style, and along with another connection or two, this was the push toward this CD I needed. Loree is also friends with Mike LePond, so she introduced us after he agreed to listen to some of my earlier stuff, and he was really enthusiastic about helping me out. Having the support of these great people with much more industry experience than I have was invaluable. 

Meeting Carsten was also a true example of serendipity. Carsten is a super talented and experienced rock vocalist. Among many other bands and artists, he had previously worked with a guitarist, the late Iain Ashley Hersey, with whom I had studied in Los Angeles in 1989. I checked in with Iain a few times over the years, and sadly, after looking up his FB page early last year I learned he had passed. It turned out to be Carsten administering his page and when he responded to my message, we ended up chatting a bit and he agreed to listen to some of my music as I was looking for a singer for what I planned to be one or two songs. He was very complimentary of my playing and we agreed to do the first song “Let me Hear You Scream – Rock&Roll!”. I was thrilled with the result and ended up doing half the record with vocals. My previous solo efforts were all instrumental.

Working with Carsten was great, he is a tough but fair critic, and we have many similar ideas of what we like as far as sound and style, so he really pushed me. And he also hooked me up with the fantastic engineer/producer Rolf Munkes, of Empire Studios in Germany. Rolf’s experience with so many top pros really was the final touch this record needed, and the final mix and master are fantastic!

– Are you considering working with a certain label or are you going to produce your music by yourself?

♦Lou DiBello: I will be self-releasing, it is difficult as a band to get any label deal these days, and as a solo artist it is even harder. That being said I have a good local fan-base if you will, and I am working the social media aspect including some legit marketing so we will see how it goes! Having the support of people like you and websites like Rock Arena is really great!

– “Blood On The Cross” is an amazing epic song with killer solos and impressive style! Who wrote that song? Tell us more about the work behind the scenes and the story of the script?

♦Lou DiBello: I wrote the music and lyrics. The lyrics are both a more literal reference to the image of The Knights Templar as they battled with the red cross on their shields or armor, as well as a metaphor for the daily struggles we all face, both large and small. Many people use their religion as a way to maintain strength and perseverance in daily life, and those who are of Christian faiths and might wear a cross are pushing through with literally their faith in the blood on the cross.

It was really great having both Ross and Mike play on this one with me, Mike is such a pro that even though he was half way across the country it was effortless to get an amazing performance from him. And I really enjoyed collaborating with Ross! First of all, he was just getting started with his international tour for Ross The Boss band. They had already done South America and he squeezed in the sessions for Blood before leaving for their epic 34 shows in 37 days tour of Europe. We spoke on the phone a few times and talked about the tune, I sent him tracks and all that. But it was a real honor to have him play with me, and I think his parts, as well as the guitar teamwork, came out just great.

– Is everything already invented in Metal? What is the musical style in Rock and Metal that you have always wanted to hear, but it still does not exist?

♦Lou DiBello: I am just into really great playing and singing, with good catchy songs. When you can make this happen with a legit hard rock/heavy metal feel it’s just magic. I would like to see a bit more emphasis on melodic, hooky tunes with great vocal and instrumental performances you can easily hear and understand, than on being the “heaviest” or “most brutal” lol!

– How do you feel about merging Heavy Metal with other genres? Are you willing to make music/remix your own music/collaborate with artists outside of your genre?

♦Lou DiBello: I actually play a wide range of styles regularly with my cover gigs, as well as original music in a more arena rock style with my band ESP, and more pop Americana singer-songwriter style with my variety duo partner David Howie. I produced and played on David’s CD last year at my studio. I have a knack for adding a rock edge to a song without overdoing it. Years ago I was the guitarist for a Chicago-style blues band, so I have done a lot of different things.

– As a musician, composer, and producer what advice would you give to any newbies trying to break into the worldwide music industry?

♦Lou DiBello: For sure get to where you can succeed in your local area. I have played professionally my entire adult life, and the experience and skills developed there are critical. You can’t just play in your bedroom and record everything yourself. Collaboration, networking, playing gigs, those are all super important. And study music! At least basic theory, as well as the styles and techniques of players you like. Hopefully, expose yourself to styles you don’t normally play yourself as well.

– Your first guitar? And which was the first rock/metal (CD, cassette, vinyl) album you bought?

♦Lou DiBello: After my first cheapy, I had a decent Strat copy, a Cortez that was like a Goya. A decent guitar! Sold it to a friend who destroyed it, I was bummed. First rock/metal I was really into (after Hendrix and Led Zep) might be the first Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow album. Also the first Montrose album, and AC/DC Highway To Hell, Van Halen I. Then Scorpions Animal Magnetism and I was off to the races!

– What is your main musical focus today… Where can we hear Lou DiBello live, I mean globally?

♦Lou DiBello: Well I am doing more live gigs locally/regionally in a 3 piece format with some instrumental tunes and a focus on the guitar. With a great bass player who sings perfectly! Nothing international this year probably, but my intent is to try and get this music out there and maybe we can create some interest and opportunities! Also working on material for the next album, hope to do another complete CD by early summer 2018.

– Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview, Lou! Final words…?

♦Lou DiBello: You are welcome of course, and thank you, Toni, for this opportunity! I really hope people will check out the CD!

More information at:
http://www.loudibello.com
www.facebook.com/Lou.DiBello

Interviewed by Toni Rock