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Progressive Rock Interviews


Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with John Novello of Niacin From 2006

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

It's been quite some time since we chatted. Can you catch us up on what you've been up to over the last couple years, both with Niacin and outside the band?
Well Niacin-wise, not much other than finishing and releasing this new CD. We've all been busy with other projects but we plan on touring in June as we're playing the NearFest Festival June 25th and so we'll do a few US dates around that like the Blue Note in NYC, Birchmeyere in DC area etc. Then we'll probably tour Japan etc. I've been working on many things myself: I'm producing a new talented vocalist Carmel currently. She is a very gifted singer/songwriter in the soulful rock category. See more about her on my site at and hers at I also have my solo quintet project The John Novello Band up and running. I just toured the US in 2005 and released a new CD called Threshold. I'm also starting a new Acoustic Piano Trio (piano, upright bass and drums) in 2006 playing mostly jazz standards as I have always wanted to do that. I built a new recording studio called Studio 2B3 where we recorded the entire last Niacin CD Organik at and am getting into film scoring.

MSJ: It seems to me that the last couple albums - the most recent one is brilliant, by the way - have taken a bit more of a mainstream progressive rock approach. Was this a conscious decision on the part of the band, or just part of the growing process (both individually and as a group) or a little of both?
We never plan anything in this band as that's the whole idea of this project is to be free from all restrictions so now, it just evolved and who knows where it will keep going. We're just happy that it's still alive in today's God awful market of commercialism and smooth jazz and other nonsense.
MSJ: Do you feel that you guys are gelling more as a unit now, or has it always been there?
Well the chemistry was there from the get go but musically, I think we're find a nice unique concept. I don't think there's anyone else doing what we do but then again I'm a bit of a hermit so who knows!
MSJ: Your live video was released, the same movie, under two different names. It seems a little confusing for the fans. How did that come about - was that a label thing, a band decision or a bit of both?
This was all business. We simply played way back when and they filmed it and the business guys released it whenever. I'd love to do a new video as that is extremely old, I believe. But it's interesting as it still really holds up well I think.
MSJ: Are there musicians out there with whom you would like to work in the future?
I'm always into working with other great musicians. I'd love to work with Eric Clapton, The Stones as I really like great old rock. Any great bands like that would be fun! That said, I'm happy though with what I'm doing as I'm more into being a leader and doing my own projects these twilight years.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
Well it may be a contributor but the real "why" is the majors have dropped out their A&R departments. What I mean by that is in the '80's, they became greedy and into selling mega records, you know records that sold 8 to 20 million instead of signing quality real talent artists with something to say and give and developing those artists long term. Today's charts are a shame. I mean there's a few talented artists and then a bunch of clones of those and then a whole plethora of wannabe's (definitely not artists) that in my day (I'm showing my age and preaching, sorry) could never get out of their garage. I mean like would you watch an NBA game very long if the cats couldn't even dribble the basketball let alone shoot? I mean real musicians and singers are hard to find these days. I haven't been able to watch the Grammys for the last 15 years other than a few exceptions it has been absolutely embarrassing! When corporate America took over the Entertainment record Industry, it went down hill from there. I mean look at the top 100 of the late 60's early 70's and compare it to now. Every act was unbelievably talented and unique example - Hendrix, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Traffic, Cream, Stones, ELP, Genesis, Vanilla Fudge, Chicago, James Brown, Tower Of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire, Led Zeppelin, Traffic, Aretha, Rufus, Sly Stone… I mean it was a golden age of music. Now, it's pathetic and so people are spending their money on other things like video games and other crap because there's no real art and excitement etc. I mean, I'm not saying there ain't tons of talent still, but why untalented artists are being signed and promoted is beyond me other than corporate America wanting to just make a quick buck and look at the long term "health" of the industry. It's kind of like taking a drug to stop some pain but not wanting to really handle the cause. It's a short term fix with long term unhealthy consequences and we're in those consequences right now. There are tons of talented artists around that can't even get arrested because their art and talent can't be forced into somebody's formula idea of success. The Internet and indie labels seems to be changing this slowly and I think in the future, this will all autocorrect.
MSJ: What's ahead for Niacin? Touring, more recording?
Just touring for a while although that said, it's easier said than done given all three of our busy schedules. We won't do another CD until next year but I'm already writing some sketches to be developed later. Niacin is still the world's best kept secret but one of these days, I think this band will explode in the marketplace but it's tough as our music seems to not fit any radio format other than progressive college and internet stations who we appreciate supporting us and of course our fans.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?
Paseo - Gonzalo Rubalcabal who is probably the most amazing pianist/composer I have ever heard - period. Also another great new prodigious talent Eldar who is an 18 year old Russian kid who is like a modern version of Oscar Peterson and Art Tatum. His first CD is self titled Eldar and is amazing. Then Billy Childs who is also a great pianist and composer. His new CD entitled Lyric has already been nominated I believe for 4 Grammys and he really deserves it as he is a brilliant composer and pianist. I've known him for years and it always gives me great pleasure to see somebody that talented finally be recognized by the Industry. There's still hope I believe that we could have another Golden Age of Music and Art if we'd just quit being selfish, dishonest and greedy.
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
Gonzalo at Catalina's Bar & Grill
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to get out there?
Yes… Always go after your dreams or why bother?
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
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