Even for a veteran musician, one who has dedicated himself to his craft and to his instrument, a few well-deserved breaks and serendipitous events can go a long way in making one’s vocation and one’s creative passion more fulfilling and potentially rewarding.
In other works, breaks can come at any time – you just need to be ready for them when they do. For guitar whiz Lou DiBello, a seemingly innocuous friendship on social media has paid off in both artistic and practical terms, as the contacts he made and the advice he received led to the release of his most ambitious album yet – Heat Wave.
DiBello is a native of Champaign County, which is about two hours south of Chicago. A lifelong guitar player, he has primarily devoted himself to teaching as well as performing in a number of popular regional bands, both cover acts and original groups, including Mistress, Blanche Talley and ESP. With Blanche Talley in the 1990s, DiBello had the chance to open for the likes of The Black Crowes, Shotgun Messiah, Molly Hatchet and Foghat. Another of his projects, Electric Sky, shared the stage with Quiet Riot, 38 Special and L.A. Guns.
Heat Wave is DiBello’s fourth album, in his first in more than a decade. Like many independent artists, DiBello had to balance his creative impulses with the realities of family and work, meaning it took a little longer than expected for Heat Wave to get off the ground.
“I started a couple of the songs about six years ago but it was right at that time that my daughter was born and so I put the album aside. Although I had several of the songs written and I was actually playing them live, only a few of the bed tracks for the instrumentals had been recorded. Many of those instrumental tunes would turn into some of the stuff that is on the completed album now. Life just took over for a while, as it should when you’ve got a young family,” said DiBello.
“I got fully back into the swing of things a year or so ago because I was finally in a position where all the other stuff had kind of settled in and I was able to get back to business. I teach guitar for a living and I play in some different are bands – that’s what I do full time. And so with everything else, including moving to a new home, it took time. But once everything was settled down I got the itch to do some writing and recording again, although I didn’t know if I was finally going to finish Heat Wave or do something different.”
But timing is everything, and had there not been delays in the writing and recording process due to the vicissitudes of life, DiBello may never have cultivated a friendship with legendary metal guitarist/producer Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman (Manowar, The Dictators) as well as Symphony X bassist Mike Lepond, both of whom play significant roles in Heat Wave soundings as pulse-pounding and relevant as it does.
“I just had a Facebook friendship with Ross and there was a lady who works with him who saw some video of me. She contacted me and was asking whether I had an agent or a manager, because she liked what she saw. She really encouraged me to talk to Ross about what I wanted to do. But I didn’t think it was right to hit Ross up. We just kind of had a good rapport on Facebook but I never felt it was right to actually ask him to help me out with something. But she insisted, saying she would put me in touch with him by phone. The next thing I know I am communicating with him, and with agents and publicists and getting feedback from people much further up the industry ladder than I had been able to get to in more than 15 years of being a professional musician. So that set me off on the task of not only getting this CD together but making it as good, and as up to date sounding as possible,” DiBello said, adding that Friedman also brought Lepond into the mix, giving him practical advice as well as collaborating songwriting wise on some of the material.
“It is great to get that kind of validation, for sure. I am totally fortunate because getting some recognition in the industry, especially from a guy like Ross, who doesn’t have anything to gain by blowing smoke up my ass or anything like that. So, yeah, it’s been kind of a trip. Having the recognition and the support of so many new, wonderful people is very rewarding on a personal level and I would like to be able to use it all to continue the trajectory that I have been on for the last year and get to the point where I can get out and do some playing in front of some people. I would love to do some short-run tours or special shows where I am opening for a bigger act like Ross every night.
“I want to be able to do the original material and get a sense of how good it is from a live audience night after night. I think playing the stuff from Heat Wave live would be like winning a million bucks. I think it would be killer.”
DiBello had also got to know German vocalist Carsten Schulz and once he started working with the talented singer on a couple of tracks, he soon realized that vocal songs had to become a larger component to the Heat Wave project.
“Things were coming together really well when I got hooked up with Carsten. He has done a lot of work in Europe and it turns out that he previously worked with a guitar player that I studied with while I was at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, California. So there were all of these serendipitous connections that were popping up, which told me that I was really on to something,” he said.
“When I first started working with Carsten the stuff sounded so killer that I realized I was going to have to put together some more vocal tunes that I had planned. All of my previous stuff had been instrumental, partly because there was never anybody around here that I could really write that sort of vocal material for.”
Like many kids, DiBello was a fan of music from a very early age, getting turned onto Jimi Hendrix first, before moving on to admiration for a diverse array of players from both North America and Europe.
“I started listening to radio and my parents’ records nonstop when I was about six or seven years old. My parents had a pretty exotic record collection, and my uncle was a very good jazz guitar player and I remember seeing him play when I was about four years old. But as far as rock music and wanting to play rock guitar, the first time I saw some documentary footage of Jimi Hendrix when I was in my early teens, that was pretty much when the lightbulb went off, I suppose,” he explained.
“From Hendrix I got into Robin Trower, Frank Marino and Ted Nugent – stuff like that. And of course I got into Eddie Van Halen, but then I got into bands like The Scorpions and their early guitar players Michael Schenker and Uli Jon Roth. Those were two guitar players and groups that had a style of songwriting that really had a big impact on me. They really influenced my playing directly, and also just the way I started to think about what I wanted to play and what I wanted to write.”
As a local guitar legend, one who has helped infuse a passion for the guitar and for writing and performing music for thousands of students over the years, DiBello said he has amazed at the level of support he is receiving from music fans, former students and even just friends and neighbours with the release of Heat Wave and its first video/single Full Throttle.
“Especially over the mid-term I would love to get the songs from this record out on the road and get on some kind of touring situation where I don’t lose money and can play in front of a lot of people. And then I hope that might lead to some more collaboration opportunities or even picking up a gig at some point with a more established artist. I would certainly like to see this process end up with me getting my name out there a bit and getting into the mix of the music business at a higher level. I am confident I can deliver the good on my end, it’s just getting out there and getting the music heard,” he said.
“And people I know are definitely happy to see me taking this step up. I have a lot of support in this area as far as people coming out to see me play and most people are telling me that they are not surprised and that I deserve to have success with this record, which is nice to hear. People are really supportive and happy for me, and I am really grateful for that and I will keep doing what I can to keep the momentum going forward.”
DiBello said he is trying to encourage Schulz to come to North America, if he can string some dates together. If not, he said he has a line on a number of possible vocalists who can join him onstage. As well, he said he would love to come up to Canada, knowing that it is an excellent market for his kind of melodic, virtuosic metal music.
For more information on DiBello and Heat Wave, visit http://www.loudibello.com.
- Jim Barber is a veteran award-winning journalist and author based in Napanee, ON, who has been writing about music and musicians for a quarter of a century. Besides his journalistic endeavours, he now works as a communications and marketing specialist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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