Marco Minnemann A Singer on a Random Place and a Good Drummer to Boot!

By Jeb Wright

Marco Minnemann is a world class drummer.  He is currently on the road with a guy named Joe Satriani…you may know of him.  In fact, Joe plays on Marco’s new album…as does another somewhat famous dude named Alex Lifeson.  Yes…THAT guy! 

Suffice it to say Marco is the real deal.  His newest solo effort was inspired by a place called Borrego Springs.  Where you may say?  I say ‘Borrego.’  Marco explains it all in the interview that follows.

Read on to learn more about this talented drummer and the eclectic music he creates.  When done…check out his album.  It is wild stuff…full of talent and originality.

Jeb:  First up…tell me why you chose the place that inspired this…Borrego Springs.  Did you just hang out there and write while taking in the scenery? 

Marco: Well, why Borrego…The first time I went there was about eight years ago with my then-girlfriend Shiloh. And we got there by accident, while exploring the areas around San Diego. We went to a town called Julian at first, where they make apple pies…insiders and the locals know.  Then we decided to see what would happen if we would drive down into the valley. And voila, all of a sudden we hit this sleepy, totally cinematic looking desert town.

We got there right at sunset and explored the desert state park where we were the only people it seemed as far as the eye can see. So, that was actually also, ehmmm, very romantic and it kind of stuck with me. I've decided to make this my destination a few more times and I started to read up on it and talk to the locals.  Eventually, music popped into my head that sounded like a theme to the drive and the Anza Borrego surroundings. Then the ideas happened automatically and the stories almost wrote themselves about the founders of the city, the landscape, the ghost stories and also the talks of the town and the question 'why would somebody have the desire to move here?’ 

Jeb:  The album has songs with Joe Satriani…yowza!  I am a guitar player.  How did you get Joe on the record and what did he bring to the songs he played on?

Marco: Well, I've been playing with Joe for almost five years and we’ve become dear friends. And he always was very generous and advertised my albums and all that. Then when I filled him on about the Borrego album, he listened to the songs and made some really valuable comments and said he ready liked it. So, then I just asked whether he would be up for playing on some of the songs. And he did, and delivered some amazing contributions on four of the songs. 

Jeb:  Alex Lifeson appears on the album too…DOUBLE yowza!  Alex is a god.  What was he like?  Give me the inside scoop of getting the Rush axe player on your album. 

Marco: Yeah, working with Alex was so lovely. He's just so musical and the tones and ideas he brought to the table were so inspiring that we even wrote another song together for the album. It was like a snowball effect: I brought an idea, he brought the next one and extended the previous part, then I added a whole new part and so on and so forth. 

Alex and I had indirectly already been introduced to each other about five years ago, or actually even longer. But we've never met and collaborated until now. The record label that released this record really liked the idea of having Alex on this album and contacted him. Obviously, I was delighted as well once Alex confirmed and came onboard. And here we are. Hopefully all you lovely listeners appreciate the results. 

Jeb:  Drummers are NOT supposed to be this creative.  Well…other than Terry Bozzio!  Tell me about the creation of this collection of musical statements.  

Marco: The thing is I started playing organ and guitar before I started playing the drums. So to me, playing and approaching the instruments was always in favor of creating and composing, rather than just for technical usage. So, when I write, well, yes, technicality can happen, but mainly it's always in favor of the vibe and musical direction of the song. 

Jeb:  This is like Frank Zappa meets weird Beatles meets Men at Work… Not sure anyone can make sense of that description.  Even you have to realize this is some trippy stuff.  I love it…but dude…wow!  Where did this come from?

Marco: [Laughter] Thanks so much. You know, I don't know.  I just really let the ideas fall from the sky and then wrote and let out of what I was hearing inside of my head, so to say.  I never really consciously compare parts or songs to other artists. Actually quite the opposite is the case, as soon as something sounds familiar, I would actually even let go of the idea or make something different out of it. On the other hand, I guess we can never deny our roots and what we grew up with listening. In my case, Queen, Zeppelin, Frank Zappa, Ryuichi Sakamoto, The Police…to name a few.

Jeb:  One of my fav tracks is “Singer on A Random Place.”  Brigitte Roka sings on this…what is her story?

Marco: Thanks for noticing her. That means a lot as I was concerned that the other wonderful guest artists are getting overshadowed by name dropping the 'legendary' house hold name artists on the album. 

The song is called “A Random Place” and tells the story about someone being disappointed by friends and relationships so they drive into the desert to chill and reset. And I liked Brigitte's vibe and voice and thought it might fit perfect for that song. She's a young and talented artist and I'm happy that she can be heard here as well.

Jeb:  Don Henley, Phil Collins and you are singing drummers!  You play many different time signatures than they do…does this make playing and vocals a challenge?

Marco: First of all, I don't really sing all that great. But I guess I can bring the message across [laughter]. To me, voice is always more about telling a story. But you know, I don't often sing and play drums at the same time. Sometimes, maybe live for background vocals, but that's that. In the studio I separate that anyhow, as one should, I think, in favor of the sound.

Jeb:  We gotta talk “Horsepower.”  Tell me about the birth and life of this magnificent tune.  

Marco: Thanks for liking it.  It is an energetic and strange instrumental tune! That one totally came randomly together. I was originally planning to have that one as an Aristocrats tune, but then I had this idea of inserting all the car noises and make it about the desert salt tracks races. 

Jeb:  Since we mentioned Brigitte we have to mention Elizabeth Carey on violin and Donna Zed.  Sadly, I am not familiar with them.  How did you meet and get them involved? 

Marco: Once again, thanks for asking, as they all deserve to be mentioned. To me an album is only as good as the songs and performances are. And Joe and Alex are very musical. As are Elizabeth, Donna and Brigitte. Elizabeth Carlson (formerly Carey) for example used to play violin in Richie Blackmore’s band Blackmore's Night. And I've played with her at the Zappanale festival along with Eddie Jobson, Ike Willis, Robert Martin and Tom Fowler. 

Jeb:  Tony Levin is a bass god.  You have known him some time.  He seems so damn nice.  What can you tell me about your friendship and working relationship with him? 

Marco: Tony and I go back quite a long time. We first started playing and working together in Eddie Jobson's UK and UKZ project. Later we did two albums together with Jordan Rudess under the very original, insert sarcasm here, name LMR.  Those albums definitely came out better and more original I hope than the name promises. All joking aside now, I'm actually quite happy with these albums. Tony is a sweetheart and very unique in his style of playing.

Jeb:  Any plans to play this sucker start to finish live?  That would be such a Zappa-esque thing to do!

Marco: Maybe a few songs here and there. You would need quite a cast on stage for that, including rock band, orchestration and pianos and multiple singers. But I have something planned...... let's seeeeeeee. Wait until my trio India tour I'm doing in September.