Category Archives: Tony LaSelva My Rock and Roll Journey
Written by TonyLaSelva (Ugly Melon)
In Chapter 1 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I shared the story of my musical inspiration, my first band (Reign), and mentioned my other passion – martial arts.
Reign only lasted for a few years. After that, I played in a couple of other bands, but nothing ever really took off. A few years later, I tried marketing some songs with a writing partner, but again, not much happened. All the while, I was still training and teaching martial arts. As every struggling musician knows, it’s tough to make a living doing what we do. I was always ambitious, and I knew that I wanted to do my own thing. I didn’t want to work for (or depend on) anyone else for my livelihood.
Right after school, I started working for some friends, and ended up with my own catering truck almost immediately. Lu Cachie (Ugly Melon guitarist) used to help me from time to time with my catering business, which is a crazy job. You’re out until 2am, grab a few hours of sleep, and get back at 4am. I sold that business, and went on to work some other menial jobs before a dear friend opened a karate school (where I began my career as a martial arts teacher). I worked for my close friend for about five years, before my wife (who I met while teaching a self-defense class) and I opened up our own dojo. It wasn’t easy, but it didn’t take too long before we would make a go of it and make ends meet.
With the help of an amazing team of mentors, teachers and the loyalty of so many outstanding students, we just celebrated 19 years in business. Teaching martial arts has afforded us so many opportunities. I have traveled all over the world teaching and training. The highlight of those travels was a trip to Okinawa, Japan.
Our group of schools (Northern Karate Schools of Canada) has cultivated many amazing friendships and relationships around the world, thanks to the leadership, guidance and dedication of our teacher and founder, Cezar Borkowski. As long as I can walk onto the dojo floor, I plan to continue teaching and training in this amazing art. My passion burns as bright as it did 36 years ago when I started.
I’ve always believed that there is a connection between martial arts and music. Many musicians study martial arts and vice versa. The two are inter-connected. I’m sure that there is some science that I wouldn’t understand that explains the connection.
Through the years, I never stopped singing. Desperate to keep my musical flame burning, I also started taking piano lessons. From time to time, I would run into musician friends from my youth, and we would reminisce about the old days. While I loved teaching martial arts, I really missed the musical part of my life. I knew that the time was right to get back into rock and roll.
Throughout the years of running our school, we have been fortunate to develop some very talented teachers. My son and daughter (who have both become extremely talented musicians in their own right) are among the teachers. This has afforded me the time to get back into pursuing a musical career.
A few years ago, I ran into an old friend who was looking for a singer for a project. I was thrilled at the opportunity to try out for it. I wrote a couple of tracks with them, and had a great time. Even though things didn’t work out, I knew that the time was right to get back into rock and roll. The project did lead me back to Lu after he heard one of the tracks.
Both of our daughters went to the same dance studio, so we would see each other occasionally while waiting for the girls. One of the days at dance, I asked Lu if he wanted to check out a demo track from that project. It ended up planting a seed in his head. Not long after, he got in touch with me to tell me that he was starting a new project, one that he could finally believe in with all his heart.
Lu had been quite successful with his projects over the years. During the last few years before we started working together, the direction of his band was changing. He wanted to get back to his roots (which were firmly planted in classic hard rock and heavy metal). He thought that I could possibly sing on one or two of the tracks with his new project. That project would quickly become Ugly Melon, rekindling a relationship that began before we even started high school. We were both so thrilled to be working together again. Though we didn’t know what was to come, we knew that we were onto something.
In Chapter 3 of “My Rock and Roll Journey,” I’ll dive into Ugly Melon, and where we see the band going musically in the future…
MORE “MY ROCK AND ROLL JOURNEY” STORIES
Written by Tony LaSelva (Ugly Melon)
“My Rock and Roll Journey” started off like most artists, with an inspiration. As a young child in the ‘70s, I discovered (and quickly became obsessed with) Elvis Presley. He was in the twilight of his short life and career, but none of that meant anything to me. I remember running home after school to watch his movies during ‘Elvis week.’ I’m not sure which network decided that would be a good idea, but I loved every minute of it.
Blue Hawaii and Fun in Acapulco were masterpieces in my mind. There was something about Elvis that just captivated me…his charisma, his looks, and of course, his voice. He truly was the king of rock and roll to me. I remember singing “Hound Dog” on a table in front of my grade 1 classmates. Elvis was my idol. I would wear out his records while singing along to the lyrics I had memorized. I still have a real fondness for him. Although the reality of his life has made my image of him less idealistic, in my eyes, he is (and always will be) “The King.”
From ‘50s and ‘60s Elvis tunes, I moved my obsession into classic rock and heavy metal. The first hard rock song that really moved me was “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas. Imagine my shock when my 18-year old son recently said to me…“Hey Dad, have you ever heard of this progressive rock band, Kansas?” I didn’t even know what prog rock was until he introduced me to the moniker. Rush, Yes, and even King Crimson were just great rock bands to me.
From there, I discovered Van Halen (my first concert was the Diver Down tour) Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. My friends and I were so enthralled with Dio-era Sabbath, Rainbow, and the Deep Purple family of musicians, that we would quiz each other on the history of every detail of that group of amazing players. We would ask questions like…
“Who sang backup on ‘Stormbringer’?”
“Name the lineup on Rainbow’s Rising record.”
“What was the first song Ronnie James Dio ever wrote with Sabbath?”
We were obsessed! And with good reason. Those were some truly historic recordings. I still have those tracks on my playlists. Timeless.
I joined my first real band while in junior high. A three-piece group performed Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” in our cafeteria. I was in awe! Months later, I was the lead singer of the band. The guitar player, Lu Cacioppo, is now my other half in Ugly Melon.
The band was originally called Reign, and then eventually changed to Frost. We played a bunch of gigs in the Toronto area. Our parents had to sign waivers in order for us to play some of the clubs in town. We had a blast! We were close friends that spent so much time together, and rehearsed every day.
An interesting side note…
The video for Ugly Melon’s “Leave it all behind” brings the original members of Reign back together. Franklyn Wyles is on drums and John Liberatore is on bass. We hope to perform with this lineup in the near future.
Back to the story…
Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Aerosmith, and all the great bands of that era were in our repertoire. We also played some original tunes. None of them were really fine-tuned or mature sounding, but Lu keeps threatening to revive one of those early songs.
During those formative years, I spent nearly all my waking hours on my two passions, music and martial arts. I consider myself so lucky to have found my lane(s) in life so early on. As the saying goes…“Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” So true!
Stay tuned for Chapter 2 of “My Rock and Roll Journey” where I share the path that I took in the metaphorical fork in the road, and the story of how Ugly Melon was formed.