By Thomas S. Orwat Jr.
If you are looking for a new band to completely rock your world this summer, look no further than the Supersonic Blues Machine. This incredible trio of musicians, consisting of upcoming Texas blues guitar superstar Lance Lopez, notorious record producer/ bassist Fabrizio Grossi and legendary drummer Kenny Aronoff, have joined forces and created one of the most musically dynamic power trios of the decade. The Supersonic Blues Machine released their first record, 'West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco' earlier this year and received the highest praise from music critics and rock fans alike. In addition to the well crafted song writing and incredible musicianship, 'West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco' features guest performances from some amazing iconic musicians: Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top), Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Eric Gales, Walter Trout and Robben Ford all rip it up for a track on this record.
For more info on the Supersonic Blues Machine, check out the following exclusive RMS interview with guitar superstar - Lance Lopez.
Rock Music Star: Lance, I want to start of by discussing your new band, The Supersonic Blues Machine, which featuring Kenny Aronoff on drums and Fabrizio Grossi on bass. What led to the formation of this group?
Lance Lopez: Basically what happened, was I had been touring Europe, between 2009 and 2012. While I was touring, many people were approaching me and telling me that I needed to get in touch with Fabrizio Grossi, and that we need to work together. This just kept happening. It was funny, I didn't know who he was, and he didnt know who I was, either. So, I found him online and reached out to him, we talked and I send him some song ideas and he send me an album that he just finished with Leslie West. I was completely floored, blown away. Leslie had always been one of my big time heroes, and Fabrizio made this amazing album with him. So then, I had a couple of shows in L.A. wth my band, and I scheduled it so I would have as couple days off, so I could go to the studio, and meet up with Fabrizio. This turned into a three day recording session, we clicked right away and almost finished half an album in just one day, we really got along great, and had instant working chemistry together.
So, when I got back home, to Texas, Billy F, Gibbons had called Fabrizio, they were working on some ideas for Billy's projects, and Fabrizio told him that he was working with me. I've known Billy for years, since I was 16 years old, I've opened shows for ZZ Top. So, Billy was super excited that Fabrizio and I were working together and he suggested that we form a band. He also said, that he wanted to be involved in it as well in some form. So that was the catalyst, to forming the band. Originally, it was just going to be my solo album, produced by Fabrizio, but then Billy stepped in and said, that we had to form a band. So then we had to get a drummer, so Fabrizio got not just A drummer, but (he got) Kenny Aronoff! So he came into the studio, and after the first half of a track, Aronoff said that he wanted to be a part of this, and he was in.
So, the first song we did, was "Running Whiskey," with Billy Gibbons as the special guest on vocals and guitar. And then from there, it just snowballed.
RMS: Not only did Billy play on it, but you had some other great guests - Warren Haynes, Chris Duarte, Eric Gales, Walter Trout and Robben Ford. How were you able to get all those guests to record and play on the Supersonic Blues Machine's 'West Of Flushing, South Of Frisco' record?
LL: In this day and age of modern technology and pro tools, and with everyone's touring schedule, especially Warren's, it's not always feasible to get everyone in the same room together to record. So we had some tracks all ready finished, and we let our friends (special guests) pick the song that they wanted to perform on. Except for Billy, he had done his song, "Running Whiskey." So then we would send them the tracks, and let them play whatever they wanted on the song. And then Fabrizio would listen, and then pick what he thought were the best performances. It was pretty phenomenal to listen to all of the recordings. But the goal in putting this band together was, "let's do it big, or go home." We wanted this record to be a special document - a classic record and not just a Blues jam record.
RMS: The Supersonic Blues Machine just played at the Holland Blues Fest on June 4th. Billy F. Gibbons came onstage and performed with the band, and the crowd went insane. What was that experience like for you?
LL: Well, playing with Supersonic Blues Machine and be able to play with greats like Billy is like going back to school and getting your Masters degree. I grew up around Billy, he's always been a teacher of mine since I was 16. Whatever I need to ask him about, gear, amps, cars, he is there to help. I've played with ZZ Top before, but Billy and I performing together, in a live situation, has been a 20 years in the making. So performing with him was pretty monumental. But, it was a great first performance for the Supersonic Blues Machine and having Billy there was an extreme honor.
RMS: Are there any plans for the Supersonic Blues Machine to tour North America soon?
LL: Absolutely! We are working on that now, as a matter of fact. Realistically, we are looking at 2017 to be the break out year for us as far as live concerts in North America. We have another show in August in Norway. We will actually have Steve Lukather from Toto joining us. Billy will be there as well, as he will be doing as much as he possibly can with the Supersonic Blues Machine, as long as it doesn't conflict with ZZ Top. So we are trying to schedule our performances around that, because Billy wants to play with Supersonic Blues Machine as much as possible. We also want to bring some other artists as well. For the upcoming Norway show, we will have four guests: Billy, Walter Trout, Robben Ford and Steve Lukather. But for North America, next year will be our breakout year. We also are writing new material that we plan on releasing next year as well. But when we do a concert, we want it to be monumental.
RMS: With everything going on with the Supersonic Blues Machine, will you still have time to record and tour with your solo band, as well?
LL: Oh, I absolutely will continue with my own band as well. I've been working on a new record for quite some time. But, I'm at the point in my career where I want to wait until it's the right time. I've had a couple false starts, but I've cut tracks between NYC, Austin and Texas over the last few years. But, it will be out when it's right, I'm not rushing to put something out just so I can play some gigs.
RMS: Your last release, 'Live from NYC' was an incredible introduction to your band and your amazing guitar talents. What was that particular performance like for you?
LL: Well, to be honest with you, I didn't even know that performance was being recorded on that night. It was Johnny Winter's birthday party and Johnny had asked me to play. Johnny and I had been on tour together, towards the end of his life, and we were very close friends. For us here in Texas, Johnny was the first guitar hero. He was number one, top of the pyramid, it was Johnny and then everybody else. I was a big Blues music historian as a kid. When I first got into Blues music at 12 years old, I went on this big quest and researched all types and different styles of Blues music, and Blues history. When I first met Johhny, he was blown away by my knowledge and saw that he had someone that he could talk to about this stuff. He could rarely could find people he could have a deep conversation with about all the history of Blues. So we had a very strong connection.
But this performance was a big milestone, there were a lot of great musicians there. I knew that I had to go out on stage and really play. Johnny and I always talked about that, If you go out onstage, play with everything you got. When you listen to Johnny's playing, you hear that. So, that's what I did. It was an epic night. Then a few months later, Johnny was gone. That was a difficult time for me, I'm still getting over it. Johnny and I were very close, he was a dear friend. It was a very dark time for me.
I then got a call from Paul Nelson, who was Johnny's manager/producer/guitarist. I was already working with him at the time. Anyways, he called me and told me he was just listening to my show at a studio in Brooklyn. I didn't know what show he was even referring to. But, he was blown away by it. He told me it was my show that I played at BB Kings for Johnny's birthday party. I had no idea it was even recorded. So, that really cheered me up, on the wake of Johnny's passing. But, then I didn't feel right about releasing it too close to Johnny's passing. So we waited about a year, then we put it out this year.
RMS: I'm glad that you did, it really is an incredible live performance. I want to finish the interview by discussing the time that you jammed with Prince in 2002. What was that experience like?
LL: Yeah, that was very amazing. When I was around him, he was the most upright, good guys I've ever met. I didn't see any issues what so ever. He was just a true gentleman. We were given a lecture before we met up with him, we weren't allowed to use swear words or smoke. It was like we were going to met with a preacher with all of these rules and regulations. I was thinking, "I hope I can pull this off and not go too crazy." (Laughs) He was on his 'Rainbow Children' tour, which was a great record, very jazz and funk influenced. His band was just incredible and I knew some of the musicians that were in his band. Also Buddy Miles, who I worked with years before that, told me that when Prince comes to town, we are going to hang with him. I really didn't think anything of it, Buddy was always saying things like that. But it turns out, that Buddy and his father performed with Prince's dad years back, when Buddy was 13 years old. So the Miles family had some strong family connections with Prince's family. I wasn't aware of any of this. So when Prince came to Dallas, we went down very early to see him. I thought, "Wow, this is going to be epic." When I met him, he acted like he was a lifelong friend of mine. He walked Buddy and me over to the stage and showed me all his guitars and amps. He also allowed me to play his guitars. And then he said, "C'mon, lets jam." So Buddy got on drums, and Prince got on the keyboards. So, it was just the three of us. Prince was playing keys and also playing bass lines on the keyboards and singing. It really was like the greatest jam session of my life. I was looking around for the bass player, but it was all Prince, playing left handed bass on the keyboards. Afterwards, we had a meal together and he spent time with me, giving me all this advice on dealing with the things in the music industry. I did nothing but listen and learn. It was just a great day. And then after his show that evening, Buddy and I went to the after party and had another jam session, but this time with him and his entire band. It was pretty monumental.
Then one of the crazy things, was that a year or two later, Prince was in a rehearsing for a tour at the Dallas Sound lab, which I had recorded in before, and I was told that he was looking for me. The studio had my number, but I had just changed my phone. Then a few weeks later, I ran into one of the engineers from the studio and he told me that Prince was looking for me, and couldn't get in contact with me, and everyone was trying to find my number. I was like, "Oh my god." It was a total drag that I didnt get in touch with him. But he was an amazing and great guy. And now to see all this stuff coming out about him is realy sad to me. The Prince I knew, was one of the best guys that I've ever met in my life. He was defineltly the greatest performer that I was ever on stage with, or even saw perform. Absolutely unbelievable.
He gave me a gift, a golden eagle studded with diamonds as a token of our friendship. He said always think about me, and I will always think about you. I will always have that piece of jewelry and I will pass it on to my children. But it really was an unbelievable and epic experience.
For more on Supersonic Blues Machine, visit www.supersonicbluesmachine.com
For Lance Lopez solo, go to www.lancelopeztx.com
Special thanks to John Lappen for setting up this interview!