Mike Pinella, the keyboard player, from Symphony X took some time out to answer
a few questions for us. I like this Jersey boy. One of the greatest things about
having a magazine is that I am allowed to talk to all kinds of music people from
all over the country about whatever the fuck I want to. It is VERY interesting
to see how people broke into the business and what makes them tick. Read on:
MI-What is your birthday?
Mike-My birthday is August 29th, 1969. ( A gentleman
Virgo, right off the bat I know he is going to be a little quiet, and his answers
are going to be focused like a laser beam.)
MI-What has been the biggest influence on your life Mike?
Mike-Musically, I would say classical music is kind of what got
me into metal. (See music is his life-you have to ADMIRE the devotion here.)
MI-Who would you compare yourself musically to and why?
Mike-The band, I would have to say ELP-not so much musically,
just that taking chances thing, you know. Not doing what everybody else has done.
(Man, not everybody plays the keys like YOU either. That Virgo modesty.)
MI-Describe yourself musically to me.
Mike-Me, I love classical music. That is what I listen to mostly,
mixed with some DIO and some Deep Purple. Deep Purple is one of my favorite bands
of all time. (Ronnie James is one of my favorite people of all time too.)
MI-Tell me about an average day in the life of Mike Pinella.
Mike-Of MY Day? Oh my god. Well, let’s see. I get up. I
take my daughter to school. I come home, shower-and go into the studio. I do some
writing and recording. Play with the kids. Teach a couple students. By that time-it
is seven o’clock at night. I hang out with my wife a little while-she goes
back to bed, and I go back into the studio. ( I like a family type guy.)
MI-How did you guys come up with the band’s name?
Mike-We wanted something that encompassed everything we did-so
we came up with Symphony, because of all the symphonies-and then you have the
X back there. The unknown.
MI-What do you consider to be Symphony X’s first big break?
Mike-It is kind of weird, because we did everything backwards.
Usually bands play together first and then they get signed-we got signed first.
So I guess our big break was that. The first show that we ever played together
as a band was in front of two thousand people in Japan. ( Now isn’t that
MI-How did you guys get together?
Mike-Mike (Romero. Notice that there are three Mikes in this
band. Romero, Pinella, and Lepton. How do they ever keep it straight?) did a solo
album in his bedroom, just for fun. Somehow, it found its way into Japan. A Japanese
company called him up and said do you have a band, and he said yes even though
he didn’t. –I was teaching at a music store, and one of his friends
was also teaching, and he introduced me. I met him, and that’s it-we recorded
our first album.
MI-What is your favorite horror movie of all time?
Mike-I would have to say The Omen-the reason why is the music.
MI-If you could be a comic book hero, which one would it be and why?
Mike-I think I like Superman, because of the dual identity thing.
MI-Tell me a joke.
Mike-Oh shit, I don’t know any jokes-see I have got three
MI-Do you believe in psychics?
Mike-I believe they exist, yeah.
MI-Have you ever had a psychic experience?
Mike-No. (You are having one now darling.)
MI-Have you ever inhaled? (The Clinton question.)
Mike-Oh, you mean like I smoked pot-but I didn’t inhale?
Yes, I inhaled.
MI-What is your favorite track off of The Odyssey?
Mike-I have two favorite tracks. Obviously, I love The Odyssey
because of everything that’s in it. It is heavy; it is classical. It is
a story. The other song would have to be Awakenings because it is true. A lot
of stuff I write is made up stuff but that song is true.
is it based on?
Mike-Well, it is based on a guy that is searching for the right path
to walk down. He doesn’t know what he wants to do. It is the same for a
lot of people.
MI-So it is like a spirit journey?
Mike-Yeah, I would say it is one.
MI-Where do you see your band and your music in five years? Ten years?
Mike-Hopefully, we will be headlining a giant stadium. Our music
is going to continue to be the same, but we manage to change it up for every album.
It still has that thread that is Symphony X. I see the band just hopefully growing.
MI-Why did you become a musician?
Mike-Well I come from a musical family. My grandfather is a singer.
My mother played the piano. My older brother plays the piano. I was just around
it, constantly. I love it. I started playing the piano when I was four years old.
I just loved it-no one had to tell me to practice or any of that stuff. I always
did it on my own.
MI-Who are your influences as a musician?
Mike-One of biggest influences is Eddie Jolton. He is a keyboard
player and a violinist from a band called UK. He is just an awesome player. Keith
Emerson. I always looked up to people that were awesome at what they did-Ronnie
James Dio, awesome singer.
MI-Who is your favorite poet of all time?
Mike-On the poetry-I don’t read too much poetry, but I
am into the Ralph Waldo Emerson stuff.
MI-Other than Symphony X, who are your favorite current bands?
Mike-I am still listening to the stuff I listened to fifteen
years ago. So my favorite band is Deep Purple. Ozzy. ELP, UK, old Genesis, Boston,
Kansas, Rush, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden….
MI-Who do you like currently?
Mike-I really don’t listen to new bands that much.
MI-If you were stuck on a desert island, and could bring one person, one book,
one cd, and one bottle of liquor-who and what would you bring?
Mike-The person would be my wife. The liquor-definitely a big
bottle of Stolis and ginger ale. The cd,
MI-I’ll let you bring four cd’s.
Mike-Four cd’s? I would have to bring some Bach. Holy Diver. Maybe
Led Zepplin One. The book-it is going to have to be a Stephen King. It would be
MI-What was the worst job you ever had?
Mike-The worst job I ever had was I worked for a well-drilling
company. It totally sucked because all I did all day was shovel mud. All day-from
seven in the morning until five o’clock I shoveled mud.
MI-Tell me how the music industry has treated you.
Mike-The music industry is pretty poor, just in general. It has
been pretty good to us. I wish it was a little bit better as far as promoting.
There are still a lot of people out there that haven’t heard us. It is definitely
a cool job. I can’t think of anything else I would rather do.
MI-What do you think about MTV?
Mike-MTV sucks. I don’t even watch it anymore.
MI-Who do you think the five greatest guitarists are of all time?
Mike-I would have to say Ronnie Dio again, because he has a wide
array of styles-not only styles that he can play, but style that he is comfortable
with. You have to be comfortable with a style to do it well. I would have to say
Yngwie Malmsteen because he introduced this whole thing of mixing metal with classical
music. He is really a pioneer for his just virtuoustic playing. John Roth for
his feel, his vibrato. Eddie Van Halen for being an innovator. Number five, I
would say Al Demeola-because of what he does on violin strings and steel strings.
MI-If a movie were made about your life, what would the theme song be?
Mike-It would have to be Beethoven’s fifth symphony.
MI-If you were god for a week, what would you change?
Mike-The music industry. I saw a show last night on how much
Britney Spears makes and all that stuff-and it is sickening. I think I would make
this whole metal scene come on the upswing. ( Me too. Maybe I should apply for
MI-If a genie came to you and granted you three wishes, what would they be?
Mike-I would ask him for a nine foot Steinway, a house to put
it in, and health. (May you get all three.)
MI-Where were you when 9-11 happened, and how did it affect you?
Mike-I was working at the time, and I remember this guy came
running in the back and he was like-the fucking plane blew up the World Trade
Center. It totally freaked me out. I think it freaked everybody out. I think everyone
thought this was it. That it was Armageddon time.
MI-What do you think about how the government is doing today?
Mike-I think they are doing pretty good.
MI-What about us attacking everybody?
Mike-That’s not good. That really sucks. For every ten terrorists
that are dead, you kill a hundred civilians that didn’t have anything to
do with it. That is just war.
MI-If you could design a memorial for 9-11, what would it be?
Mike-I think I would have to do some research, and find out a
little bit about each person’s life that was taken away from that, and have
a little piece of every person in a memorial somehow.
MI-Who is your hero and why?
Mike-I am going to say my wife. I love my wife. (Note-This is
a GOOD ANSWER BABY!) She stands up for what she believes, no matter what.
MI-She’s gotta be a Libra.
Mike-As a matter of fact she is, her birthday is October 17th.
(You were a WISE man to marry a Libra. Look at what marrying a Libra did for Ozzy.)
MI-If you could have lunch with ANYBODY who would it be?
Mike-Leopold Stakowski-who was a conductor. My grandfather, definitely,
because I was like thirteen or fourteen when he died and I never really got to
hang out with him as an adult.
MI-Who do you think the greatest rock and roll star of all time is?
Mike-I am going to say Jimi Hendrix, because he was only on the
scene for three years and he did so much in those three years.
MI-Who do you think THE GREATEST guitar player of all time is?
Mike-I think I’ll say Randy Rhoades, because again he was
such an innovator. He inspired so many people.
MI-Who are the members of the band?
Mike-We have Mike Romero, Jason Rullo-drums, Mike Lepond on bass,
and Russ Allen-vocals.
MI-If you had a million dollars to donate to any charity, which one would it be
Mike-It would definitely have to be for cancer research. My mother
has battled with it for ten years-bone cancer.
MI-Do you have a message for your fans?
Mike-I would just like to say thank you for being fans and for
being true to good music. It is hard to find, especially in this country.
MI-How did you end up on a German label?
Mike-We are not signed to a German label, we are only licensed
to them for that territory-for Germany and Scandinavia.
MI-Who are you actually with?
Mike-We are signed to JVC.
MI-What is your favorite quote of all time?
Mike-Live free or die.
Thanks Mike. I liked talking to you, and I can’t wait to catch Symphony
X when they come back around. I hope you get that nine foot Steinway and the house
to put it in, really soon.
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