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Eric Ragno (Vox Tempus)

Interview with Eric Ragno from Vox Tempus
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 29 July 2004, 12:35 AM

Despite the unbearable mid-summer heat (killing the poor birdies on my terrace) here I am pumping interviews out of music's endless sack. This time I got the chance to interview a very skilled keyboard player, Eric Ragno, whose band's (Vox Tempus) promotional demo got reviewed at Metal-Temple.Com Magazine a couple of months ago and well it really impressed me. Eric's from Los Angeles and well, he's no newcomer in the genre of progressive rock. Check out what he had to say about Vox Tempus, about his long collaboration with Takara, about music in general (old L.A. 'hair metal' was one of our topics) and of course about himself (his influences and more). \[Interview done via e-mail]

First of all welcome to Metal-Temple.Com Interviews! Even though we (at the Magazine) know about your band, would you mind making an introduction to all our readers?

Hey I’m Eric, and I play keyboards for Vox Tempus. We’ve been around a long time now, but we’re actually releasing our first album together as Vox Tempus. We’ve been working towards this for a long time now, and we’ve been getting some great feedback from the fans.  Obviously we’re very excited!

How did the band become reality for you guys? Is there a short (or a long) story you’d like to share with us? How’d the band’s name come up?

Ray Mantor (guitars) and Jim Turba (bass) were members of Equinox while they were touring behind Color of the Time.  The lineup splintered while recording tracks for the second album, and the band eventually conducted nationwide searches that found Dan Reed (vocals) and myself. When the record was finally completed, the band and its sound had shifted to the point that it truly was a new band. We didn’t want to confuse the fans any further, so we just started over.

Eric, you’ve been on Takara’s third album. Why didn’t you continue working with them? Was it a one-album deal or did it not just work out fine in terms of collaboration with them?

I first joined Takara in 1996, and Neal Grusky (guitars) and I have been close friends ever since.  I’ve worked with the band steadily since that time, although our scheduling prevented me from finishing 2001’s Perceptions of Reality album.  That was really unfortunate - but since then Neal & I have been making up for lost time! We just completed Takara’s contribution to the upcoming Ritchie Blackmore tribute album, Blackmore’s Castle, and we’re working on songs for album #6 as we speak. :)

Did you know Gregg Bissonette (drums) all along or was he introduced to you by someone else?

We needed a powerhouse behind the drums to help get these songs across, and Gregg came highly recommended.  I met with him a few times and we clicked right away.  He is such an amazing guy! He took the album to a totally new level, and we gave him the freedom to go nuts on this record and do whatever he wanted. Gregg is an icon in the rock drum world, but you rarely get to hear the guy do a drum solo and just go off. So we invited him to really open up on this record, and do the kind of crazy rock patterns he’s always wanted to do. There are two classic Gregg solos on this record, which will blow folks away.  

Tell us about Revelations, which is going to be your first album release. When is it due for release, through which record label will it be released (in Europe and the USA) and how is the recording process going?

The new album is titled In the Eye of Time. We’re still shopping it around, and the labels have been very positive. We’re shooting for a fall release date, but the labels ultimately decide this. Recording is just about finished (just a few guitars here and there), and then it’s off to them.

Are you planning to launch any promotional tours for your debut album? Are you going to support any bands on their tour? What are your plans in general, with the band?

We’ve had so many false starts with this album, including some lineup changes that forced us to start over - so we’ve learned not to make any plans until the album is DONE. This gets a little frustrating for us, as we’ve offered some great tour packages, and some awesome festival dates. People hear the songs and they want us out there RIGHT NOW - but this would take us away from completing the album, which is our primary goal. Once this is done, it’s gonna get hectic.  

That being said, we just booked a tentative festival date for September as I write this. :)

Which progressive bands do you consider them to be major influences? Really, which are your favorite bands?

We’re huge fans of the classic bands in the rock and prog genres, old school groups like Yes and Pink Floyd, more recent ones like Queensryche and Dream Theater, and some more obscure groups like Crises and Lemur Voice. Vox Tempus is like a sponge, and we soak up anything with melody, balls and feel.  :)

Do you read online Metal Magazines? Have you ever read Metal-Temple.Com before?

I read more of the online zines than the other guys, and recently started reading Metal Temple. You guys  compile all the latest news out there, so I don’t have to go to 5 different sites to see what is going on this week!  And I love the girl at the top of the screen!  If you put a Vox Tempus t-shirt on her, we’ll post it on our site. :)

What’s your point of view on Metal nowadays?

We’ve been encouraged by the recent trends in music, and they all point towards putting the melody and musicianship back in rock. Today’s nu-metal out there features more harmonies in their choruses, alternative music has more guitar solos, teen pop is featuring edgier guitars, and so is country music.  There are hosts of rock fans out there who love melody, who are soaking up any music that has a great hook, a strong chorus and loud rock guitars!  The more these new acts integrate these elements, the better they do.  The end result won’t be like anything we’ve ever heard before, but it’s gonna be something we all can all enjoy. :)

Since you’re from L.A. (correct me if I’m wrong) how do you feel about Hair Metal (or glam metal if you prefer) which is kind of re-surfacing again (in a way)?

The phenomena of 80’s hair metal was like the hard rock gold rush, where artists came in from around the world to pump up their hair and glam their way on to MTV success - regardless of what genre they came from!  Everyone thought it would all last forever, so our rock stars started showing up drunk for shows and record companies cranked out half-assed records. Of course the fans were gonna go seek out something new - what did they think was gonna happen?  

Now a new wave of bands are slowly working their way back to the rock sounds we are all waiting for.  There is some great stuff out there and some real crap too!  But it takes awhile to get the music back to where it is supposed to be, and we’re gonna have to sit through a lot of trial and error!  But it’s an exciting time to be in the music industry, and I’m always anxious to see what happens next.

Name your favorite keyboard player!

Hhmmm…my top three in no particular order would be Kevin Moore, Jonathan Cain and Geoff Downes. I admire the work of some of the other great guys out there, there are a lot of them - but stylistically those are my top three.  

Your favorite quote is…

You snooze, you lose!!!

What was the best concert you ever attended?

Probably Queensryche on the Mindcrime tour, opening for Def Leppard. They took rock to a whole other level, and it really blew me away.  After that, Operation Mindcrime became the ruler by which concept albums were measured by.

Do you do anything else for a living apart from music?

I do some session work from my home studio here in Los Angeles, and I tour sometimes with other groups - but right now, music is it.  You can always check out the latest at http://www.ericragno.com.

What’s your dream and how easily do you think you’ll manage to reach it?

I’d like to see melodic rock music come back to the center stage!  I’d like to see great bands like ours go out on the road with some of the bands we looked up to as kids.  I’d like to see the music business finally sober up and start making sense again.  These are goals that most of us share, and if the rock community can start coming together and helping one another make this happen, I really think we’ve got half a chance.

The end of this interview belongs to you. Your words, their eyes…shoot!

Is everyone still awake?  HAHAHA!!!  Okay, how’s this - stop downloading music illegally!  If you like an album, go order it online.  Put on your favorite band’s t-shirt, go see them live and make some new friends at the show! E-mail your radio stations, join a street team…we’re all in this together, ya know?  There’s a huge underground of great rock fans out there, that are just screaming for a revolution.  And we can all make that happen. ;)

The fans have been great to us, and the rock community has welcomed us back with open arms.  We’re looking forward to jumping back into the fight to reclaim rock music.  Come visit us at http://www.vox-tempus.com and see what all the fuss is about. ;)



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