Since first hearing LoNero back in 2011, I knew I was listening to something really special. LoNero delivers their own brand of instrumental progressive hard rock/metal that they lovingly refer to as Guitarcore. Now before you go rolling your eyes, you need to understand that in these days, you have to give yourself a label that separates you from the herd but even without the genre tag, LoNero stands on their own with influences ranging from the old Shrapnel days mixed with elements of thrash and punk.
LoNero is about to release their third album, The Defiant Machine and founder/lead guitarist Bill Lonero took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with me. We caught up on everything from the new album, his passion for putting out a physical product in a downloading/streaming age, to his feelings about AC/DC moving forward without Brian Johnson. This was a great chat with Bill (as usual) and I hope you’ll enjoy this one.
Bill Lonero! It’s so great to talk to you again my friend.
Of course, Don. It’s always my pleasure.
LoNero is about to release The Defiant Machine and there’s a concept to it. Tell me a little about that.
The concept of the album is about war throughout the last hundred years and how war is the ultimate defiant machine. It doesn’t matter how many protests are out there, it doesn’t matter how many laws are passed, how many people put bumper stickers on their cars, there always has been war, there always will be war and there’s nothing we can do about it. That makes war the ultimate defiant machine. During the recording of the album, I had one song that was an absolute pain in the ass. The song was called “Perception”. I never liked the title of it and I couldn’t come up with a melody for it. So one day I texted Joe Satriani and asked him if I could borrow a guitar. I figured it would help with some mojo or something [laughs]. So I went over to his house and he had 4 guitars laying on a table. He told me I can choose any of them. So I played each of them and picked one of his orange ones. I took it home and the next day I was able to finish the song. I still didn’t like the title though. I had sent the songs to my friend Michael Burry (The Big Short) and he said he loved the album however he wasn’t sure how the song title “Perception” fit into the album. The next day he emailed me a list of song titles that he had come up with. There were about 90 song titles on there. I looked through them all and one of them stood out…”Tuesday’s for Killing”. I loved that title. So I went online and researched to see if any major battles happened in WWI (because that’s where the song fits in the theme of the album), and it turns out that WWI started on Tuesday, July 28th, 1914. It was just meant to be I guess.
You are very involved with the U.S.S Hornet out there in California. Does that have anything to do with the concept at all?
Well, the title is not just about war. I incorporated the U.S.S. Hornet into this whole concept because the U.S.S Hornet, which is in Alameda, California is a defiant machine. It’s been through three major wars and was never hit by any bomb, torpedo, or kamikaze. It’s an aircraft carrier and it’s also the ship that picked up the Apollo 11 crew after their walk on the moon. All the photos the album were shot on the Hornet. I’ve been volunteering there for a while and their staff has been so generous to us. We’ve used it for video shoots and it’s just an incredible ship. I just wanted to tie it into the concept as a tribute to the Hornet and the people that served on it as well.
For the Defiant Machine, did you work the music around the concept you already had or was it vice versa?
It was a little of both actually. Once we shot the album cover with Neil Zlowzower (legendary rock photographer) on the Hornet, I knew instantly that I wanted it to be war themed but I wasn’t sure how to make an instrumental album themed. It’s easy to do when you’ve got lyrics, you can do that all day long, but when you don’t have lyrics, you have to figure out another way to do that and do it.
The Defiant Machine really floored me and there’s such a flow to it and I really loved all the sound bites that tied all the songs together.
Originally, I had 24 songs written for this album. Then I wrote the song “Defiant” and because it was so different from anything I had ever done before, I trashed the other 24 songs and started from scratch. The next song I wrote was called “The Machine” so it just made sense to call the album The Defiant Machine. When we were mixing the album, we got this guy name Eric Pederson and during the process of mixing he called me and asked me what I felt about using this Winston Churchill speech at the beginning of “A New Dark Age.” He did a rough mix and I loved the concept of it because now we could tie in the concept of war in more consistent fashion.
You also used the family Roosevelt speech and I was floored at how that worked with the song “The Burning of Ideals.”
Yes. What was so cool about that is that we downloaded that speech, we dropped it into that section of the song and we didn’t have to adjust it one millisecond. That cadence of his speech fits so perfectly with the riffs that it was like it was meant to be. Also, by doing things like this, the song titles changed as well.
Well, the song “Beneath the Moon” became “A New Dark Age” because that is what Winston Churchill says in that speech. As you progress through the album you have Kennedy, Bush, and other sound bits that tie in everything from WWI all the way to the last war. Most instrumental albums are just a collection of songs that are thrown together and there’s no thought put into the order of the songs or anything like that. This album, every single song, every song title is carefully placed exactly where it is to create that flow that you mentioned and to create that theme.
As I listened to this album, the thing that really blew my mind is your lineup. The LoNero lineup has had a significant change. What brought that one on?
We did two US tours with Tony MacAlpine. We had our drummer at the time who had been with us for five years and was a great drummer. The real problem arose when we added a third guitar player. I’m not even going to say his name because his name doesn’t deserve to be said in this interview. We added him and he was a really cool guy but what happened was, between the two tours we did with Tony MacAlpine, he got some endorsements with Ernie Ball, Musicman, and Mesa Boogie. His ego went through the fucking roof. It even got to the point where he was trying to push our bass player off the stage so he could have more room. There was an issue with him in Cambridge, MA on the last night of the tour so I got rid of him. He also poisoned the well. He got to our drummer, Marco, and turned him against us so we got rid of him as well.
So how did you end up with your new drummer, Will Sharman?
After that last tour, I got an email from a booking agent in San Francisco telling me that we were suggested to open for Marty Friedman’s show here. I accepted it of course as I’ve known Marty for years. I didn’t want to pass an opportunity like that up but then I was like, “Shit. Now we’ve got to find a drummer [laughs].” A good friend of ours put us in touch with Will. He came down, auditioned, and two weeks later he had the set down and when we opened up for Marty, Will was flawless. So now we’re back to those four guys who all get along, we absolutely love each other, and there’s zero animosity and zero ego. It’s definitely been a good thing.
All of this line up drama really pushed the release of this album back a good bit though.
Yeah, but it was definitely a good thing because we were able to get a new engineer, we were able to get the theme of the album down the way we wanted it, and it really created this unity . It was something that was definitely a blessing in disguise. Everything happens for reason.
It’s so great to hear you in such a happy place with this band.
I’m in a very happy place right now because I know that when I go to rehearsal, I’m going there with three guys that I know can hold their own and that there’s not going to be any drama.
That Tony MacAlpine tour was your first extensive US tour. What kind of things did you take away from that experience?
I really saw how friendships develop. Not only are all those guys nice guys, I look at them as friends and that’s the biggest thing. Knowing that you’re on the road with friends as opposed to buying onto a tour something like that. We were invited to tour with them and then invited again so that was amazing. Watching Tony play guitar every night and sitting backstage with him and talking every night. He’s such a nice guy and growing up, he was my hero. Being able to be the main support for him on all those shows was just phenomenal. I also remember it very clearly. We were playing in Denton, TX and we had one song left in our set and he was standing on the side of the stage with his fist in the air. It was so validating to me because he was a guy that I looked up to watching us play. It was so cool that he was there and I love that support.
One of the things I love about the LoNero releases is that there is always great packaging.
Thanks, Don. I put just as much effort into the artwork for the albums as I do for the music. It’s not just some crappy little album cover that I threw together in Corel Paint. I take a lot of time with it and I make sure that the listener has a visual representation of the album as much as they do when they listen to it. We’ve talked about this before, Don. I love liner notes. I love reading thank yous and reading who did what.
Bill, you are also very outspoken about how much you favor a physical produce versus downloadable tracks.
Yes. I feel like this album is meant to be listened to one after the other. If you go on iTunes and you download Track 4, well, that’s fine but you’re not going to get the context of what this album is about. People don’t realize the amount of work that musicians go through for a finished product and that’s the problem I think with iTunes. They don’t see a finished product. They see one little song on iTunes. Music has become completely disposable and that feeling that we’d have when we’d buy an album, run home, rip it open, put it on, and read those liner notes and look at those amazing photos… where is that now? It barely exists anymore. There are always going to be people out there who want a physical CD in their hand and I will always put out physical albums. I will never put out just downloads.
So I know that you’re a HUGE AC/DC fan so I have to ask what you think about all the shit that has gone down.
It fucking sucks, dude. It really angers me. As a true AC/DC fan, I think that this is blasphemy to have Axl Rose fronting that band. It’s disgusting to me. AC/DC, to me, has always been about integrity. Cliff Williams (bassist) just announced that after this tour he’s done with AC/DC. The way they turned their back on Brian Johnson makes me sick because he’s been in that band for 35, 36 years. They should’ve just postponed the tour until Brian could get better and if he can’t get better, refund the money and bow out gracefully. What are you trying to prove? I though they should’ve quit when Malcolm was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He was the songwriter, the riff guy, the business guy. I’m sure it’s all management and business but man, it’s just really sad.
Last but not least, does LoNero have any tour plans to go out and support The Defiant Machine?
We’re working on setting one up right. I can’t give you any more details than that because I don’t know any more details [laughs]. We are working on a tour though and we’re very excited to get back out there. I think this is our best album. I know that every band says that but for us, I never ever want to put out the same album over and over. AC/DC can do that all day long but for me, I can’t do that.
Bill, thank you so much for catching up with me again. It was great as always.
It’s always great to talk to you, Don. Thanks again for everything!
To pre-order LoNero’s The Defiant Machine, go to http://www.thedefiantmachine.com