Tony Scalzo [Interview]

The 90’s were an amazing time for music in so many ways.  Catchy, thought filled songs by “alternative” bands were all the rage, weren’t they?  Yes, there was a time before the girl and boy groups came around to kick of a shit storm that hasn’t quite subsided (fuck you very much reality TV), but is definitely getting better.  But, as time goes by, and we all get a bit older, those of us who spent the 90’s actually enjoying those video things they used to show on MTV are beginning to realize that the days that once felt like yesterday, are slowly being swallowed by time.  It’s our turn to feel the grunt of pain when millions of “those damned kids” who were too young to remember when Gin Blossoms ruled the airwaves, and even they shitty music wasn’t that bad (i.e. Hootie & The Blowfish).  But, thankfully, many of the finest acts that formed during that time are still alive and well, and touring the world.

One group that epitomizes the awesomeness of that time is definitely Fastball.  They ruled the charts for a period of time with their #1 single, “The Way”.  And while they may not be all over MTV (what musician really is anymore, right?), the crew is still very much alive and thriving in their own right.  Fastball continues to be one of the striving forces in the world of actually talented musicians.  They continue to record, tour, and be merry.  And frontman and ring leader Tony Scalzo has been kind enough to inform us on what they have been up to these days.  So without further ado, a legend in his own right, Tony Scalzo!

You began your musical career in a punk group.  How did you manage to make the transition from punk rock to a group like Fastball?  What was that transition like?

 I think it’s a stretch to say I was ever in an actual “punk” group. I have played with guys like Jack Grisham from TSOL and Mike Ness from Social Distortion. I was in a band for about ten seconds called the Flower Leppards which featured Tony Brandenberg from the Adolescents on lead vocals. Also Naked Soul with the late Mike Conley from M.I.A. I would say that while all these guys were pioneers of SoCal punk/hardcore, none of these bands was playing what you could call punk at the time. More like mid-80’s alternative rock, especially with Naked Soul; that was like the Replacements or Soul Asylum. So the transition was more one of geography than music when I move to Austin in 1993. I feel like I brought a bit of the SoCal thing with me to Texas and in Fastball it’s been that combination of elements that’s made it work.You have collaborated with some of pretty amazing artists both in the studio and on the stage.  Who has been your favorite artist to work with in any setting?  Why? 
 I have been super lucky. Right place-right time you might say. The late Billy Preston played some piano on “You’re An Ocean” back in 2000, Brian Setzer played guitar on “Love Is Expensive and Free” on that same album. We played in Amsterdam in 2001 and Steve Earle got up with us do a Stones song. Texas rock legend, Joe Ely has played with us onstage as well as super genius, Al Anderson from NRBQ. I did just recently have my friend Ian McLagan from Small Faces/Faces/Rolling Stones fame play some organ on my upcoming solo album. It’s all good, I couldn’t name a favorite because we’ve never jammed with Elvis Costello….yet!
Your hit single “The Way” is pretty straight forward lyrically.  But, is the track specific towards somebody you know?  How did the character development come to life?
 It’s a long, true story that’s been told many, many times. I had heard that an elderly couple from nearby Salado, TX had been missing for a week or so. I didn’t know the people involved but I got the story from the newspaper and speculated what may have happened to them. I’ve since met members of the family, they are nice people.
What is it like to have SXSW right in your back yard?  Do you still enjoy playing and attending the festival? 
 SXSW has been a blessing and a curse. The blessing is that it’s made Austin a major music industry player, the curse is that it’s made Austin a major music industry player! The place turns into a sort of theme park for music. But it attracts a lot of marketers and opportunists which sort of spoils it a little. I got nothing against ambitious hipsters, live and let live!
What do you think it is about Austin that makes it such a musical city?  Aside from having more bars in one area than anywhere else in the world.  Is there an influence or certain element that you believe creates the obvious diversity?
More bars in one area makes for a lot of bullshit, btw….More violence, more bad smells, more hit and run traffic accidents, etc. There is always something good to hear, any night of the week here, but it’s not necessarily happening on Sixth St. There’s Antones for Blues and Rock, The Continental for everything from Rockabilly to Alternative rock. Emo’s for alternative/Punk and Metal. Stubb’s, The White Horse, Beauty Bar, Hole In The Wall, ACL live at Moody Theater, the Paramount.  There’s Jazz, Hip-hop, classical, latin… I could go on and on.
I always have to ask this question:  Where do you keep your platinum record?  Any sentiment involved with its placement?  Why or why not?
I have a few of them, gold and platinum made by one of those trophy companies out of LA. One is hanging in my studio out back. One is in a guest room at our house. A few others are sitting in some corner of the studio. I see no reason to put up a shrine to myself!
Can we expect a new album, solo or with Fastball, in the near future?
New solo album is in mix process right now, should be available for download soon. Not sure when it will be formally released as an actual product…Fastball may record at some point in the near future yet no plans. We continue to play live on a regular basis. We actually have a busy fall coming up. See you all out there!
What was the last thing that made you smile?
My 8 mo. old son, Henry, rolling down the hotel hallway in his walker yesterday; we took him to our Fastball gig in Houston.
Keep up with Fastball at their Official Website, and be on the look out for Tony’s solo work at his own Website, currently under construction.  Cheers!
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About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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