Category Archives: Michael Del Pizzo My Rock and Roll Journey

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead – Chapter 3

michael-del-pizzo-sunflower-dead-my-rock-and-roll-journey-chapter-3

Written by Michael Del Pizzo (Sunflower Dead)

Let’s Start A Death Metal Band!  What Do We Know?  We’re Gonna Learn…Quick!

What’s up rock fans?  Here I am, back for another installment of “My Rock and Roll Journey.”  So far, we have discussed key moments that led me to my path, unknowingly rocked out to Metallica in front of disapproving Catholic school girls, and even realized that I could scream like the guy in Death rather easily at a young age.  What we haven’t discussed yet is the actual moment playing in a band started.

And thus…We begin…Making mistakes…

When I was around 14, I went to lunch with my mother and her friend who noticed I was wearing a Metallica T-shirt.  She asked if I played in a band.  My mom immediately said “NO!”  I said that I didn’t, but quietly thought…“I am GONNA!”  Problem was, I didn’t play anything except the piano (not exactly a heavy metal instrument).  Worse than that, there was only one kid in my neighborhood to start a band with.

Some things are just meant to be in life, even if it’s just for a moment to set you on the right path.  This is one of those moments.  The kid in my neighborhood and I were getting into heavy metal at the same time.  Better than that, his father played guitar and was giving him lessons.  I figured…here we go!  He could teach me what he learns and we will both play guitar and start our band.  That lasted all of 20 seconds.

From the first time I picked up a guitar, I felt one thing… this instrument BLOWS!  I hated it.  The guitar still remains way too singular to keep me occupied.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I see all the things that can be done on it.  It’s just not for me.  That also meant (at the time) that the bass would not be for me.  I figured a bass would be just like a guitar.  Of course, I grew to learn the differences between the two.  The bass (had I picked one up) would have been great for me, but it wasn’t meant to be.  This left drums and vocals.  I thought…let me be a drummer.  Problem was, who had drums?  Who had the money for drums?  Who was gonna teach me to play drums?  And damn, they are loud!  So yeah, that was out too.

Just like that, within moments, I became a vocalist, who couldn’t sing…AT ALL!  What I could do was scream like the guy in Death.  I firmly believe limitations create opportunity (remember that my friends).  I figured that if I all I could do was scream, and all my friend could do was play basic power chords on guitar, since we both loved this super heavy death metal…LET’S START A DEATH METAL BAND!

We began immediately.  I specifically remember it being a cold Friday night.  My friend had this thing called a reel-to-reel recorder.  He said that he was going to record himself playing guitar and I could scream over it.  So, he started playing all these riffs that had nothing to do with each other, but sounded really heavy coming through his white Ibanez guitar and Peavey combo guitar amp.

When he was done he said…“It’s your turn.”  I was like…“What am I going to scream?”  He handed me a cassette j-card from the band Possessed and said…“Just scream their lyrics into the microphone over the guitar parts I just played.”  So, I did, and I’ll tell you what, it sounded really cool to hear myself recorded.  Man, I would love to have those reels today.  I’m sure it’s total dog shit, but what fun it would be to listen back.

We played like this for a little while but realized we weren’t getting anywhere.  I believe we were missing some key components to being in a band (like songs – haha).  This motivated me to go home and start writing lyrics and songs titles on my own like “Consuming Devastation” and “Monstrosity.”  I had no music of my own, and since my friend never really wrote songs, we were going to need members, specifically ones who could write songs with us.  And then…BOOM!  Destiny reared its head once again.

At the exact time my neighborhood friend and I were death metaling out, my other friend (Jim) was going through his own musical journey.  I hadn’t seen Jim all winter long, but when I did see him in the summer time, he had long hair, and started telling me he was into rock and heavy metal.  I was like… “No shit, me too!”  (BTW, Jim is affectionately known as “Jaboo”…you know, the lead guitarist in Sunflower Dead).

I’ve known Jim since we were about 5 years old.  What I didn’t know, was that while I was trying to start a band with my neighborhood friend, Jim had been taking guitar lessons from a guy who had played some guitar solos on Cinderella’s first album.  He told me he was learning to play songs by Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen.  I thought that was interesting…very interesting.

I said to him… “Why don’t you come over to my friend’s house this weekend?  We’re starting a death metal band.”    

He said…“What’s death metal?”

I said…“Don’t worry about it, just come over and play a few guitar solos over my friend’s riffs and I’ll scream.”  Jim agreed, but he still tells me to this day that it was the second biggest mistake of his life (the first being listening to his Mom when she suggested taking guitar lessons – haha).

When that weekend came around, Jim (Jaboo) came over with his red G&L Invader guitar and little combo amp.  He plugged in and started ripping it up.  I was like…“DAMN!  This dude can play!” Within minutes, we recorded a demo with my neighborhood friend playing rhythm guitar and Jim playing a ripping solo.  I mean it was awesome, and I know it’s awesome because I still have it on cassette.  We asked Jim to be in the band right there and said… “You help us write songs and play those solos.  We’ll get a drummer and bassist and come up with a name.”

Later that night, Jim and I wrote our first song in my parent’s basement (the first of many songs together).  The song was called “Questions.”  It was a death metal ballad (haha).  I still have the piece of paper that we wrote the lyrics and the actual music notes on.  Truth is, it wasn’t really a ballad, but it was slow and grindy instead of lightning fast.  We realized then and there that groove would always be an important part of our songwriting.

I believe (within a few weeks) that we had a few songs written and a band name.  We started with Eliminator (because I was a huge Overkill fan).  That didn’t work, so we moved on to Nemesis (only to find out it was taken).  We then settled on Thanatos and thought it was so cool.  Of course, that was taken too, but what did we know?  That is the main thing…WHAT DID WE KNOW?!

The answer to that question is…NOT MUCH!   I learned that very quickly, as Thanatos would only last like 5 months.  All major problems in bands seem to happen when you start adding people into the fold.  Why?  Because people suck ass!  Seriously though, it’s because we were very young and stupid.

The first major mistake we made was choosing a “cool” guy who wanted to play drums instead of choosing a trained drummer who was into the vision of the band.  The truth was, the drummer we chose was very early on in his drumming, and he wasn’t up to par.  Not that I was any good either, but all I was doing was screaming.  You HAVE TO have a good drummer…ALWAYS!  Anyways, that drummer wasn’t into death metal (and neither was Jim to be honest).  At first, this wasn’t an issue, but it very quickly became one.

Remember, chose people who are capable and down with your vision or it won’t work.  The second major mistake was allowing someone to join the band who really knew nothing, but acted as if he did, and we listened to him.  In our case, we added a bassist who had a good “look,” but not much else (except bad vibes).  His bad vibes created a division in the band.

The third major mistake we made was choosing sides because of the division that was created.  The result was us deciding to kick out my neighborhood friend that I started the band with.  Think about that, my friend and I were the two guys in the band who actually liked death metal.  Once we kicked him out, it was only a matter of weeks before I was told that we needed to change the musical style of the band or I was out.  Guess what…I was kicked out! (haha)

Just like that, what had begun with a conversation with my mother’s friend, came to fruition and ended in a matter of a year.  Would this be the end?  Obviously not… there are many, many, many more mistakes to make in bands before I could do music at an only 50% retardation rate in SFD (haha).  Till the next chapter…Stay Weird!!!

RELATED ARTICLES:

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead– Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead – Chapter 2

MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES

TONY HOUSH – Seasons After

SAL COSTA – Smashing Satellites

JOEY “CHICAGO” WALSER – Devour The Day

ADAM TROY – Sonic X

SHAUN SOHO – Crash Midnight

TONY LA SELVA – Ugly Melon

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead – Chapter 2

my-rock-and-roll-journey-michael-del-pizzo-sunflower-dead-chapter-2

Written by Michael Del Pizzo (Sunflower Dead)

“People Suck! Guns n Roses? Metallica? Death Metal… Hell, I Can Do That!”

Hello there again rock n roll world! This is the second installment of “My Rock and Roll Journey.”  In Chapter 1, I let you know about my Twisted Sister Moment (along with some inappropriate relationships).  If you missed that story, go back and check it out.

In this chapter, I’ll be discussing how I started my journey of actually being in a band…

As with anything I do, it’s different, antisocial and the worst possible way to go about things.  Yeah, if there is a right way to do things, I will pick the “almost” right way, and screw myself up while constantly having to redirect the ship.  Oh Boy!!!

After I had that fateful Twisted Sister phase at such a young age, I can remember music pretty much dying for me until I was about 12.  Really though, what does one know about music from the ages of 6 – 12 anyway?  Transformers, climbing trees and watching Rocky movies were all the rage back then (at least for me).

I was taking piano lessons (which was a catastrophe).  I would never learn the notes on the page.  Instead, I would just sit there and memorize the teacher’s hands and play the song back the way she played it.  Smart little kid, huh?  Or maybe, once again, I was not doing things the right way.  You decide!

The important (or messed up) thing about those formative years is that I did learn one important lesson that would lead me back to a desire for rock stardom.  This lesson was very simple…I really, truly, honestly, 100%, just don’t like people, AT ALL!

Sitting in a corner by myself and staring at a cricket is more desirable to me than be surrounded by people and their bullshit.  To learn this at such a young age is kind of preposterous, but hey, what rock star has a normal way of thinking? Definitely not this guy…and it has never changed.  Well, I like some people (like you readers), but don’t get comfortable, I can switch on a dime!

Having decided that I don’t like people before becoming a teenager, I thought…“man, those teenage years are gonna be tough.  You’re gonna need an outlet.”  Lo and behold, like a gift from God, my outlet got primed on my 12th birthday (I think).

I remember having a party.  My friend came over and handed me a wrapped cassette.  (For those that don’t know what a cassette is, GOOGLE IT!).  Remember, I am not really into music much at this point, so this was an odd gift.

I took off the wrapping paper and looked at the cassette cover.  It was a cross with five skulls on it…Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction.  I looked at my friend and asked…

“What is this?”

He said…“Oh, it’s this new band.  I like them a lot.” 

I was like…“Umm, ok, glad you got me a gift that YOU liked!”

I’ll tell you what though, I played that cassette and, I swear, I listened to it for the next two years straight.  I was consumed by it.  I thought it was the best album I had ever heard.  Even though I had not heard that many albums at that point, I was on point, because (front-to-back) it is one of the greatest albums ever!  This alone didn’t give me the urge to be in a band, but if put me on the path.

That path would open up a little more a year later when I was talking about GnR on the school bus, and a kid who was a few years younger than me goes…“You need to listen to Metallica.”  I remember being reluctant at first.  Who knows why?  Maybe I felt like I would be betraying GnR.  Stupid, right?

One day, I gave in at the school lunch table and popped Metallica’s And Justice For All into my Sony Walkman.  About 10 minutes later, I remember all the girls at the girl’s lunch table looking at me and laughing.  (Yes, the boy’s and girl’s lunch tables were separated…Catholic School, I tell you).  I thought (like I do with all people)…“what is their problem?”

Then I realized that I was sitting alone at my table, blaring Metallica in my headphones and unknowingly banging my head while engrossed in this sound.  I am pretty sure I gave the girls the finger, and was like, “whatever, whores” (haha).

I know that it was so mean; it was more fuel to the fire of me not liking people.  Anyways, from that point on, Metallica was GOD!  The thing is, the guys in Metallica and GnR were so good.  I couldn’t do that, so the thought of being in a band still hadn’t crossed my mind.  Well, it had, but I didn’t feel I had any skill.

For the next year, I immersed myself in every metal band I could get my hands on.  You name it…Megadeth, Overkill, Nuclear Assualt, etc., etc.  But, I could not do what these guys were doing.  I didn’t play an instrument, and I couldn’t sing, but I was happy being a fan of the music.  Then, BOOM, it happened!  The moment that decidedly put me on the path to say…“I wanna start a band.”

The same friend who bought me the GnR cassette, bought a new record called Scream Bloody Gore by the band Death.  I mean, what is more heavy metal and antisocial than calling your band Death?  We popped it in, and I was blown away by what I heard.  This guy wasn’t singing, he was screaming (or growling as we called it back then).  I could understand him perfectly, and the songs were very catchy for being so heavy.  What was crazier is that I just knew I could make that sound with my voice, and I was right!

The first thing I could do with my voice was scream like the singer in Death, exactly like him (with ease).  I thought to myself…“hmm, maybe I should start a band.”  One problem though.  I only knew one guy (my friend) who liked this kind of music.  Everyone else was all Vanilla Iced out and wanted to go dance.  PUKE!

For a short moment, I put being in a band aside.  Remember how in Chapter 1 I said that each time I listened to a band, all I saw was myself performing the songs?  Well, imagine what my mind was doing now, after a few years of engrossing myself in heavy metal and realizing that I can scream like those death metal guys.

Yep, it wouldn’t be too long before being in a band would actually start for me.  First though, I needed to find someone who played guitar.  It just so happened that two of my friends (one that I still play with to this day) had both started taking guitar lessons.  Oh snap, here we go!

In Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I join my first band.  You’ll see how far down the bottom is when you first start.  If there is a mistake to be made, I made it (as you will find out)…

Stay Weird my friends,

Michael – SFD

RELATED ARTICLES:

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead– Chapter 1

MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES

TONY HOUSH – Seasons After

SAL COSTA – Smashing Satellites

JOEY “CHICAGO” WALSER – Devour The Day

ADAM TROY – Sonic X

SHAUN SOHO – Crash Midnight

TONY LA SELVA – Ugly Melon

NATHAN COLUCCI – The BallRoom Babies

My Rock and Roll Journey: Michael Del Pizzo – Sunflower Dead – Chapter 1

my-rock-and-roll-journey-michael-del-pizzo-sunflower-dead-chapter-1

Written by Michael Del Pizzo (Sunflower Dead)

 

What  Made Me Wanna Be A Rockstar?!?!

What made me, a little kid (at the time) from just outside Philadelphia, PA take the road to rock stardom and turn into a guy who now wears a bunch of makeup, sings and plays the accordion in Sunflower Dead?  Well, I am a weirdo!  Really though, it’s an interesting question.  I mean, for a long time, being a “rockstar” was a negative thing.  Remember the ‘90s?  Loved the music, but hated the whole ‘we are trying to be regular people’ thing.

In my humble opinion, it all starts with the music, but when you have something special, that “it factor,” that is when you become a rockstar.  It can happen in different ways with different looks, but once you have “it,” you are a rockstar whether you want it or not.

I can easily narrow down my desire for rock stardom into three events, like the three ghosts that visited Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.  Yep, it was these three events that led me to this whole rockstar thing (with a side of WEIRDNESS).

Event one started back in the day when there was this little thing called MTV, you know…Music Television.  Yeah, I know, it sounds crazy, but there was actually a time when this thing was HOT and really, truly played music videos.  When I was a kid, I didn’t have cable, so I didn’t have MTV.  I would go to my friend’s house and watch the music videos like they were crack though.  I mean, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  One day, this video came on the screen with this guy screaming at a kid…“WHAT DO YOU WANNA DO WITH YOUR LIFE?!”  The response, which EVERYONE should know, was…“I WANNA ROCK!”  Just like that, the kid in the video transformed into a big-haired, makeup-wearing thing known as Dee Snider.  I looked at my friend and said…“What is THAT?”  He was like, “THAT is Twisted Sister.”  I responded…“I have no idea what a Twisted Sister is, but THAT is what I wanna be when I grow up.”  Looking back on it now, those are some mighty big words coming from a little boy.  But hey, I guess I always knew what I wanted.

That Christmas, my Aunt and Uncle ended up buying me Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry album, and there I was, immersed in songs like “Burn In Hell” and “Captain Howdy.”  I would stare at the pictures of the band for hours while reading the lyrics and seeing myself perform the songs.  Remember that last statement… “SEEING MYSELF PERFORM THE SONGS,” it is an important one that we will talk about at a later time.

Event two happened around the same time as my whole Twisted Sister extravaganza.  I had a neighbor who was much older than me (he was in high school at the time).  He would sit on his porch, play his guitar and read heavy metal magazines all day.  One day, I walked over to his house, and all I remember is him telling me about this guy who had died named Randy Rhoads (the guitar player in Ozzy Osborne’s band).  My neighbor knew I liked horror movies, so he started telling me that Ozzy’s next album would be him dressed like a werewolf.  Of course, I thought that was so cool.  So, I started walking across the street everyday to hang out with Bobby, and we began this very inappropriate relationship…HAHA got ya.  Get your minds out of the gutter you sickos!  Actually, he would tell me all about heavy metal…Motley Crue, Ozzy, Judas Priest, etc.  He laughed that I liked Twisted Sister, but he did gave me their You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll album on vinyl.  He said the album was lame, but I loved it (and still do), and still have it to this day.

I remember sitting there and drawing pictures of stage sets and rockstars performing.  Lo and behold, I was actually drawing pictures of me performing as I was getting my first class in heavy metal and rockstar education.  Remember, I never saw rockstars performing to me.  I always saw me as them.

Event three happened a few years later.  I must have been in middle school.  I was sitting in the back of my parent’s car on a Sunday, and a radio countdown was on.  The number one song came on the air, and I remember my Mom saying…“that’s the number one song in the country?”  Haha, the song was U2’s “With Or Without You.”  To me, it is one of the greatest songs ever written, but that is a different topic altogether.  Back to the point…as the song was playing, all I could see was me performing in front of 20,000 people.  Now, I had yet to be a singer, so it was odd to me that I had a vision of me singing in front of all those people, but hey, that’s where my mind was going, and I went with it.  Down the line, I really went with it!

Realistically, it was quite a few years later before I started my journey of playing in bands (and believe me, it’s an interesting one).

It was these three events that let me know what I was put on earth to do.  They fueled my desire at a very young age to be a musician.  Not just a musician, but a songwriter, an entertainer, a businessman and a ROCKSTAR.  Unfortunately, all rockstars have to start somewhere, and for this guy, it was the BOTTOM, and man it was bad.  We will talk about that later as the chapters of my story unfold…

Stay Weird,

Michael – SFD

RELATED ARTICLES:

My Rock and Roll Journey: Tony Housh – Seasons After – Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Sal Costa – Smashing Satellites – Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Joey “Chicago” Walser – Devour The Day – Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Adam Troy – Sonic X – Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Shaun Soho – Crash Midnight – Chapter 1

My Rock and Roll Journey: Tony LaSelva – Ugly Melon – Chapter 1