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Progressive Rock Interviews

Ian Narcisi

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Ian Narcisi from 2011

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music?

My mom started me out with piano lessons at age ten. I really wasn't too into it ("The Bear Went Over the Mountain" was about as much as I could handle). I stayed out of playing music entirely until my brother brought me over to his friend's house to watch his friend play. He was a damn good drummer! I was blown away by his amazing talent and was immediately into getting my meat hooks on a pair of drum sticks and a kit to wail on. By age 14 I had my own rental kit and practiced religiously. I took lessons at Roselle Music in Roselle, Illinois for eight solid years with one of my favorite music teachers Mark Anderson. During this time I was playing in small, half-a**ed bands that never played out, but thought we were the best thing since Jiffy Pop Popcorn. Mark Anderson was an alum from The American Conservatory of Music that was, at the time, in the heart of downtown Chicago. Mark thought I should audition for the conservatory.

I auditioned and was accepted into the conservatory in 1989. I went there for three years (jazz drums, steel drums, vibes and theory) until I realized that I really never had the urge to teach. All my teachers there were amazing musicians who played out constantly. I really wanted to play out and not teach. I joined several bands after the conservatory playing gigs in Chicago and the surrounding states as a drummer and backup singer. The clubs went from s***-mo to the main stage of The House of Blues in a matter of ten years. I began writing my own songs in 1998. I took piano at the conservatory, but I decided to take piano to another level. I taught myself to sing and play piano.

That same year I took voice lessons with Janice Pantazelos at the Chicago Studio of Professional Singers in downtown Chicago. I sang opera and some pop stuff. I performed solo at several recitals around Chicago. After a year and a half I decided to focus entirely on my songs. By 2005, seven years later, I had enough material to record a full - length entitled "Off Purpose" (piano and voice). I recorded at Studio Ballistico in Chicago with a studio engineer whom I met when I was in a band with Chicago slap-guitarist, singer, songwriter Scottish McMillan. Tim Sandusky became the sound engineer and co-producer for all my albums from that point forth.

In the spring of 2006 I recorded a three-song EP entitled "Off Purpose" (full band version). Scottish played guitar and bass on this release. I played drums, keyboards, sang all the vocals and wrote all the songs/lyrics. In the summer of 2007 I recorded a four-song EP entitled "Niche in Time.” I had several musicians play on this EP: Andreas Kapsalis (guitars, bauzoki), Dave Kav: 12-string guitar, electric guitar, double bass, mandolin and harmonica and Erik Swanson on bass. Tim engineered and co-produced (Studio Ballistico).

In the winter of 2008 I combined both EP's and added six new songs to form "Weight of the Words.” This thirteen-song full length album introduced Dave Bowers on guitar, Erik Swanson again on bass and Tim Sandusky. I wrote, sang, played key and drums on all the songs. 2009 introduced "Feel No Evil.” This pretty much solidified the players for the remainder of my recordings: Erik on bass, Dave on guitar and Tim doing sound and co-production. Tim also played the Maui Xaphoon on "Stargazer.”

In the late fall of 2010 I recorded a three-song EP entitled "Phone Call to Infinity.” This is my most recent work consisting of the same group of musicians and sound engineer/co-producer. During the recording of "Five Below Nothing" Gavin Gantner from Mad Butler Productions recorded the entire recording process in HD. In July of 2011 I edited and unveiled "In the Studio with Ian Narcisi. The Making of Phone Call to Infinity" sneak peek which is basically a trailer for my full-length video release (same name) that I should have done by October 2011. I will be recording a new single in October 2011 and will be releasing it some time in November 2011.


If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

I would be a storm chaser/television meteorologist and visiting a massive refracting telescope to view the planets, galaxies and stars.


Who would you see as your musical influences?

Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Neil Finn, Porcupine Tree, Elbow, Fleet Foxes, The Smiths, U2, Muse, Radiohead, Cold Play, Rush, Yes, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Living Colour, Elton John, Billy Joel, Howard Jones, Robyn Hitchcock, The Beatles, Neil Young, The Killers, Rachmaninoff,  Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Berlioz, Debussy, Ravel, Phillip Glass, Howard Shore, John Williams.


What's ahead for you?

More recordings, possible shows (need to hire a drummer). I would like to do a music video.


I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but how would you describe your music?

Non religious-based spiritual progressive rock that transcends the unconscious state of being.


Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?

No, honestly. But if Muse asked me to sit in on piano, or drums I certainly wouldn't say “no!”


Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

It depends entirely at what level of success the musician is. Super successful with money oozing from there pores - no big deal. Independent musician who is wiping his a** with 220 grit sandpaper because he can't afford the latest cotton-in-a-cloud wrapped with a fragrant scent toilet paper...well...I would consider this a hindrance. However, this also could benefit the struggling indie by spreading his or her name across the universe.


In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

I think it's fine. I wouldn't mind if they did it at my shows. To each his/her own.


If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch nemesis and why?

Really? Uh...Yoko Ono and the regurgitated "Plastic Ono Band.” Really? She'd whip her fancy-a** top hat at me and I would deflect it with my 24" pin striped Remo Weather King bass drum head shield.


If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

Thom York on sharing lead, Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree) on drums,  Matthew Bellamy on keys and lead vocals,  George Harrison would write most of the songs, but Thom and Matthew would get their opportunities as well. Chris Squire on bass and Johnny Marr (The Smiths) on guitar.


If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

Muse, Rush (1977), Genesis (1974), Pink Floyd (1978), Yes, (1977), Radiohead, The Dave Matthews Band, The Silver Platters (The Brady Bunch). Just to watch how much s*** was thrown on stage [ice breaker]), Led Zeppelin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Police, Robyn Hitchcock, Peter Gabriel, U2 and Queen (1985).


What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues.


Have you read any good books lately?

I am trying to conquer the Bhagavad-Gita


What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Jon Anderson at some joint in St. Charles, Illinois. His voice defies logic.


Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”

"Family Guy?"


What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

..wasn't a cucumber wrapped in foil at O'Hare's security if that's what you mean.  I think I did experience getting lost in some dark-a** warehouse looking for the stage to perform on. Not sure if that was a dream or not.


If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

George Harrison, Mahatma Ghandi, and Neil Peart.


What would be on the menu?

Coconut shrimp with sweet and sour sauce, Gnocchi in marinara sauce, Ginger beer, Coconut water with no lime, and a side of mutter paneer.  Desert: Eclairs, pumpkin pie (the good sh**, not the processed, in-a-can crap) and an iced americano, no water, with two pumps of white mocha.


Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Wake up! Get out of your unconscious, bull-s***-laden minds and see the friggin' world for what it truly is! We are all accidents that need to become conscious of ourselves and others. Turn off the head-tube (thoughts) and listen to what really is going on inside...what you really feel...who you really are.

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 5 at
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