An interview with Sal Canzonieri by Joey Germ
And now, making their first appearance in the Reglar Wiglar, please put your hands together for one of the most prolific garage rock bands on the circuit today. They're monsters of rock. They're from New Jersey. You know them, you love them, Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome...
RW: Sal, thanks for the interview. How you doin'?
SC: Fine, I've been busying getting ready for shows and our European tour coming up soon.
RW: Speaking of electricity, can I tell you what's electric, your discography is electric! Over two dozen records on 20 different labels! Do you ever get the urge to settle down with just one label?
SC: Well, right now we are mostly centered around Victory Records, but, being on all those labels has really helped us out a lot. We would either not exist right now or would be mostly unknown if we didn't make sure that we are on labels from all parts of the world. Each label has different distributors, so this way we make sure that at least one EF record is in any record store in the world.
RW: Electric Frankenstein, did you chose this name based on the freakish appearance of band members?
SC: Ha, no, people used to ask us that about our old lead guitarist, Jim, but he's been out of the band for over two years now. The name is from our music, the fact they we create a Frankenstein, an Electric Frankenstein, by mixing together the high energy and attitude of punk rock with the strong song writing impact of hard rock to make something new that is bigger and better than the sum of its parts.
RW: You are the mastermind behind the Victory Records compilation, A Fistful of Rock 'N' Roll, which is a series currently in it's 7th volume. Do you hand pick the featured bands yourself?
SC: Yes, I picked all the bands myself on each volume, I had to listen to about 1,000s cds and vinyl from about 800 bands. It was really torture many times since so many bands are just boring copies of other bands. When something great came through, it really stood out!
RW: Are these bands that EF have played with on past tours or have these bands sent you music or do you hear about them word of mouth? In short, how does the rock get to you, Sal Canzonieri?
SC: Well, all of those. Some bands like Cherry Valence, I found out about from touring. Some bands like Nutrajet, I found out about from friends. Some bands like Hotbox, Lambs, BlackStripSonic, and others I found from mp3.com.
RW: Judging from the liner notes on the Fistful compilation, you have quite a knowledge of rock history, you must have a mammoth record collection. Are you one of those collector types? A little compulsive, always on the hunt for that one ultra rare limited edition import, etc.?
SC: I have a big record collection, yes, about 10,000 plus records, but I only have records that I like and that have meaning to me. I don't really go all out to collect specific records. I'll buy a compilation record, if I can, to get all the songs all at once. I've studied music history for a long time and I have written articles for rock magazines here and there--I'm a writer for a living--so that's where all the knowledge comes from as well as from having all those records. I was lucky enough to have been there while all those old punk singles and things like that first came out, they were dirt cheap back then.
RW: Does this inspire EF to produce a higher volume of music?
SC: Of course, and it is the most severe judging we do because of it. We always compare the songs we are currently writing to the best there is and ask ourselves if the song holds up next to them or not. We are very tough on ourselves and always revise the songs many times until they get recorded finally. That's as far as quality goes, as far as quantity goes, of course we want to see our records out on our favorite labels and so that's one reason we have lots of records out.
RW: You've done a lot of your own cover art as well. Have you done any artwork for other bands our readers may have seen?
SC: No, I have only done artwork for our records and my old bands like The Thing, Doom Patrol, etc. I did some fanzine covers in the old days.
RW: Is Dan Canzonieri your brother, is that the relation there?
SC: Yes, he is my younger brother, twelve years younger in fact.
RW: Have you ever gotten into any knock-down, drag-out fights ala The Gallagher boys or the Davies or Robinson Brothers? Break a guitar over his head . . . anything?
SC: No, not really, we get mad at each other sometimes, about the band, but that's mostly because it is really hard to keep a band going for so long like we have. This summer is our tenth anniversary of Electric Frankenstein!
RW: Phil Caivano produced your last full-length, Annie's Grave, is he an old New Jersey buddy or did you guys meet when you toured with Monster Magnet?
SC: We know him from when he was in other bands way back, like Blitzspeer. We didn't tour with Monster Magnet, but we did a show with them in Sweden. He liked our music and wanted to try his hand at producing when he was in between tours with Monster Magnet. We got five songs together and recorded them with his help. He helped us discuss our focus and what we ultimately were going to do with our sound and style, to solidify it more.
RW: What is this I hear about The Frankenstein Society choosing Electric Frankenstein to be the representative band for their commemorative stamp? What does this entail exactly? Any chance you guys will get stamped yourself?
SC: They of course collect Frankenstein stuff and encountered our CDs and loved our artwork. They asked us to represent the stamp for them when it came out. It was also the two hundred-and-something anniversary of the book too.
RW: You obviously spend a lot of time and energy trying to resurrect the rotting corpse of rock 'n' roll, do you ever get a chance for some "me" time? What does Sal Canzonieri do to unwind when he's not rockin'?
SC: Well, I do a lot of things. I have a family. I practice Chinese martial arts (I have a black belt in Shuai Jiao and Chang Chuan), I write articles, I work on the Fistful comps, I do some artwork on the computer--I want to learn how to make great posters--I have over a dozen aquariums with fish from all over the world that I'm into taking care of as well. I try to read as much as I can too, watch DVDs, etc.
RW: You are a true torch bearer of rock 'n' roll, Sal, we salute you and Electric Frankenstein. Thank you.
SC: Thanks! It was a pleasure!