Michael Ciravolo has created what could be described as the super-group of dreams in his latest project Beauty in Chaos. The album Finding Beauty in Chaos, which has just been released, features members from The Cure, Ministry, Body Count, Cheap Trick, Van Halen, the Offspring, the Mission, and many many others. Each adding their own mark to create an incredibly exciting record!
Tomatrax caught up with Michael Ciravolo to talk about his latest project.
Your latest musical project is quite different to the norm, where did you get the idea for an “evolving entity” with a large group of contributors?
I wanted to do something really special with BIC and not just a standard ‘solo album’ by a guitarist that people wouldn’t know. And since I’m not a lead singer, I certainly count my blessings daily to be friends with some amazing singers and lyricists. Plus, having incredible ‘lyricists’ is very important to me. I wanted this to be a record that was cohesive and have a common thread … musically and lyrically, no matter how thin the thread was! The idea just sort of evolved as it went along as additional songs were recorded. I don’t think I really intended this to be a double album when we started, but it just blossomed into that. Adding some different bassists, drummers and in some cases, background singers was a blast with the added magic of mixing and matching players that had never been on the same record. I’m very excited to see where we can take this moving forward.
Where did the name Beauty in Chaos come from?
When I decided to do this record, I was certainly frustrated musically and the constant ‘blare’ of negativity, hate, political correctness, end-of-days, politics that seemed to seep into every aspect of my life … news, social media, movies and even music just pissed me off more. I wanted to find something to replace that noise. Finding my peace or ‘beauty’. I guess I found my beauty in the chaos with my own noise! Some dear friends of mine photograph abandoned buildings back East, really cool looking dilapidated structures that nature had begun to reclaim. Those photos were certainly an inspiration and my concept for the cover from day 1.
What made you decide to make the album (kind of) self titled?
Honestly, to me it’s not really ‘self-titled’. The album had to be titled ‘finding beauty in chaos’. I guess at one point I considered simply calling it ‘finding’, but I’m happy I stuck with my original vision which I tried to do throughout the whole process. The cover photo featuring my daughters representing the ‘beauty’ is perfect to me in my world. Exactly what I envisioned from the beginning. As we know, this doesn’t always happen in life!
The album has an all star line up, was it hard to round them all up?
Not at all. The featured artists are all friends and with today’s recording technology, most have home studios or came into SaintsLA Studio. It was amazing to see the heart, the soul and the amazing effort that everyone involved put into this record. This is why I strongly hammer the point that this is not simply my record. Making this record introduced me to two amazing singers that I didn’t know before starting. Ashton Nyte and Evi Vine, introduced to me by Mark Thwaite and Wayne Hussey, respectively contributed what I feel are amongst the strongest songs on the album. I hope both of these amazing talents will be part of the journey of Beauty In Chaos.
When you started writing the album did you have an idea of who you wanted to perform on each song?
Looking back now, I think we usually created the music and then tried to envision who I knew would be the best ‘fit’ for and forwarded the track to them. I think there was only two songs that were written in a ‘contrived’ manner. I was adamant about having a song that, at least to me, captured the ‘vibe’ of Human Drama of the ‘80s. The result was ‘Memory Of Love’. I also wanted my wife to sing a track on this record. I had just received the remastered vinyl of ‘Loveless’ by My Bloody Valentine and had been listening to it again. I sat with my guitar, a bottle of red wine and an exorbitant amount of delay and reverb (or was it an exorbitant amount of wine?) and wrote the track that she made into ‘Look Up’. It holds a special place to me as it the basic story of our life together. We will be shooting a video for this song in a few weeks too.
What was it like to play with the likes of Simon Gullup, Al Jourgensen, and ICE T?
It’s actually more than a bit surreal! Records by The Mission, The Cure, Cheap Trick and Ministry are a BIG part of my record collection. It was very hard not to ‘fan boy’ just a bit when Robin Zander was sitting in my studio asking me what I think of his vocal part … the same Robin that sings ‘Surrender’! It’s really a great feeling to be treated as an equal and contemporary by these artists. Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup are certainly goth icons, and to have ‘Man Of Faith’ be the first song that these two guys have ever been on together is really fucking cool. Calling them both friends is actually even more important to me. Then there’s Uncle Al! Ministry at Lollapalooza was the first real date my wife and I went on in 1992 … and now to have him singing and blowing hard in my studio is pretty crazy. Then there’s Ice!! Funny where life takes you!
What made you decide to not have any keyboards on the album?
As we were making Human Drama’s “Broken Songs For Broken People’ record, it became obvious that layered, effect-laden guitars where not going to fit on the Human Drama album. There was way too much other instrumentation to ‘compete’ with. In many cases, guitars parts that I thought elevated a song, were downplayed or simply not used in lieu of organs, keys or in some instances, real strings. It was Michael Rozon, who was recording my guitar parts at the time for the Human Drama album that certainly sensed my frustration. Finally, he just said ‘why don’t you just do your own record’ and with that, BIC was essentially born. The limitation I placed on this record, and in essence myself of being the only guitarist on the BIC album while using no synthesizers was not about ego, but a challenge, again only to myself. Listening to the record as a whole now, I am extremely proud of the underlining cinematic quaintly many of the songs have … very soundscape. I certainly hope these become the backdrop in movies and television. The tag line on some of the early Queen albums from my teen years of ‘and no synthesizers used’ must have stuck with me! All of the textures heard on FBIC are guitars manipulated and sonically assaulted with various effects pedals, e-bows, violin bows, electric drills and more!
What made you pick ‘Storm’ as the album’s single?
This song encompasses all I wanted the album to be… musically and lyrically. What starts as something dark is resolved in the end with ‘the light’. The light can be many things to many people. Ashton and I are on the same page with what it means to us, but again, it can and should be something different to others. The first two songs we recorded for FBIC were ‘Drifting Away’ and ‘20th Century Boy’, and having Robin Zander and Al Jorgensen as the first in the studio certainly started the ball rolling with a BANG, but one track is a cover, and the other is a song I wrote years ago. So ‘Storm’ was the first song I actually wrote for this album and how easily it came together with Ashton, certainly, gave me the confidence that this record could and WOULD happen.
You’ve been playing guitar in Human Drama for the past 30 years, how does this project compare with playing in a band?
Well, over the course of 30 years, Human Drama became Johnny’s band, with multiple incarnations and line-ups which is not how we started out in New Orleans. While I certainly could not have done this record without Michael Rozon, who pushed and encouraged me through the entire process, BIC is ultimately just on me. As far as a comparison, it’s a different animal all together. I have 100% creative freedom with BIC, which I shared with the artists I co-wrote with.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Usually no, but this record is different. Hearing it now, I don’t focus on production and what I could have done different or better as I usually do on a song I’m involved in. Not to sound all cosmic, but I sort of lose myself in each song, almost like it is from a different band or something, if that makes sense?
What music do you listen to?
I can’t say I listen to a lot of new music. Not sure if this makes me old or if most new music is crap! Michael Rozon (Producer) played the new Muse record a lot in the studio, as he loved the production on it. I thought some of the tracks were quite good. I think the last record I bought, besides the MBV vinyl, was ‘Pussy’s Dead’ by a LA band Autolux. Love their use of electronics and brash guitars. I’m lucky to be able to hear some of the new music Ashton Nyte is doing with The Awakening, which is quite good, as well as what will be Evi Vine’s third album. The Mission’s ‘Another Fall From Grace’ was really, really good and I was blessed to be there when Tom Palmer mixed some of it. Hell, I heard there will be a new Psychedelic Furs record soon and that really excites me! I would love to have Richard Butler on the next BIC record… so Richard if you are reading this … call J
Now that the album is out what do you plan on doing next?
Being BIC was never intended to be a ‘live’ thing, and I am working towards getting some of these songs placed in film and tv. We are planning at least two additional videos from this album. We will follow ‘finding beauty in chaos’ with a remix record in March called ‘beauty re-envisioned’. We have at least half of the mixes done. Some really cool mixes by Tim Palmer, John Fryer, MGT, Kevin Kipnis, Ummagna and others. Besides remixes, there will be a couple of interesting and different versions of a couple of songs, including a piano version of ‘the long goodbye’, sung by Wayne Hussey and orchestrated by Tyler Bates. I really excited about this record too!
Then it’s on to BIC3, which will have a new set of self-imposed ‘limitations’, which Michael Rozon and I view as both exciting and creative. If the first rough sketch is any indication of where it will go I would see something between The Cure’s ‘Pornography’ and Ruby’s ‘Salt Peter’ J
Check of Beauty in Chaos’s website to find out more!