FeddermannHow did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.

What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.

When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.

You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ?  My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..

What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.

Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game?  If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.

Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.

In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann


phil_angotti-people_and_places1.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the new disc People And Places ?

The fact that I think it’s my best work yet and that each song has its’ own sound to it. I used 4 different drummers, and that makes a difference to the basic feel of the songs.

2.0 – So it’s not true you play all the instruments on it?

No…I do almost all of the guitars and singing. I love over-dubbing guitars and vocals! I played bass on 2 songs, and some percussion.
I play 3 different ukuleles on the song “Whatever Happened” and bass. Joel Patterson played pedal steel on “Same Ol We”
Jacky Dustin from the August sang harmony on that song. The drummers are Brad Elvis, Mike Zelenko, Jim Barclay and Tommi Zender. Carolyn Engelmann played piano and she sang on some backrounds with me. Chuck Bontrager played violin and violas – Martha Larson played cello on “My Old Records”.

3.0 – Are all the tracks new or some oldies looking for their 5 minutes?

These songs were all new songs written for this record, except for “Broken baby Doll House”– that one was around for awhile, 2 songs were written as I was wrapping the album up: the last song “Parting For Awhile” was a tribute to my dear friend Carlos Hernandez-Gomez ,who had recently passed away from cancer, He was a Political reporter for CLTV and a huge music fan. I also wrote “National 36” days before we recorded that – we barely knew it when we went in to do it-its a simple rocker so I like that its a bit loose.

4.0 – Did you have a sound in mind before you began recording or did it evolve?

I intended each track to sound different than the next- using different instruments and overall approach to the sound – I wanted this to stand out from my previous records. Its natural to fall into a comfort zone, and to stay with what you do best – or to keep “your sound’ going – I wanted to change that, and I think I succeeded.

5.0 – There are some cinematic feeling pop passages as per usual but also some Nashville twang creeping in too, yeah?

I have come a long way as a musician – and i did try to show that off a bit. The Nashville thing has always been a part of me, I grew up listening to country music, I just never really incorporated it in my own songs-so I really went for it with ‘Same Ol We”  Even the lyrics are country-like, and having Joel on pedal steel and Jacky on harmony vocals really pushed it all the way.  As for cinematic- I did a cd years ago called ‘Juliet Foster” which followed story-line (I called it a film soundtrack, though there wasnt a film) so I do write that way at times.  The songs “Whatever happened To” and “Sorry About the Accordian Jill” sound like movie songs, and I wanted it that way. They are also the 2 songs on the album without drums.

6.0 – What do you find most rewarding these days: writing, singing, or playing live?

I’d say singing first –  because though I always had a certain sound  ( poppy-and from the Beatle/60’s school) I never recorded with much soul and recklessness- which I do live pretty well.  I am very experienced and natural at singing and stacking harmonies-  but I still think my best singing is when I sing live. I have a richer voice now than I used to- and alot of years of doing it so I’m a very confident singer on stage and I think it comes through more these days. I‘m also a much better guitarist these days-so i love playing guitar live.  Writing is still fun, but I’ve been doing it since I was 17 years old and it feels like work sometimes, and kinda normal-so its nowhere near as fun for me as playing live.

Angotti7.0 – Is there a seminal moment in your life that got you officially hooked on rock & roll?

I loved music as a child- my mom bought me Beatles and Monkees records, and I listened to country music with my dad
and anything they listened to, and I was glued to the radio….one memory that got me really hooked to rock n roll was this:
2 doors away from my house (I was around 9 years old) there was a family whose oldest brother played bass in a band –
they’d practice in their basement and you could hear it from my backyard. I snuck over there one day, and actually walked in on their practice and just stood there watching as they jammed – it was loud and exciting and I knew I wanted to be in a band right there and then!

8.0 – If there is time for nostalgia…..what is your all-time favorite Chicago rock n roll moment?

I went to the Granada Theater in 1980 w my best friend and band mate (in my first band, the Fleas) to see Cheap Trick. The opener was Off Broadway. We had great seats and I remember that show really grabbed me – it was great and it really inspired me. It was cool to see that these new bands (at the time) were so 60’s influenced, it made me feel like we were on the right track, and I was always a huge fan of that eras  power pop bands. I hated all those hair bands and metal and guitarists who played as fast as they can – so this was refreshing and inspiring.

9.0 – what advice would I offer to young players who show promise?

To work hard. Improve your craft. Don’t be lazy.

10.0 – As the 2012 apocalypse approaches you tuck a few artifacts in an iron drum for posterity: what items have you included?

Maybe some lyric sheets I’d written down of an old song I wanted to do – handwritten, because now guys have ipods on their mic-stands, I still hand-write my notes and lyrics!  Some flat-wound guitar strings (nobody uses them anymore, I do!) and the guitar pick I caught from that Granada show flung at me by Rick Nielsen!!!!


How did your musical partnership with Chloe Orwell come about?

When putting together Big Hello (’96-’02) Chloe answered an ad I had in a local Chicago entertainment weekly. I was looking for a vocalist who played guitar, male or female, as long as they were good. I’m lucky she answered. We clicked immediately and have been together ever since.

Is the new The Handcuffs disc Waiting For The Robot, inspired social commentary or a space age fantasy?

Our newest album and our third is Waiting For The Robot. Thirteen rock songs with big nods to glam and pop. I sometimes call it “sarcastic glam rock” with titles like, “I’m So Happy That You’re Out Of My Life,” “The Scary Side Of Me,” “Kiss This Goodbye,” etc.. So if you need a feel good revenge song to make you feel better about breaking up with someone, these songs are for you. Of course there are other upbeat songs as well such as, Dirty Glitter and “Miss You On Tuesday” which have been getting lots of radio airplay. I’m proud of all of my releases in my lengthy career (Screams, The Elvis Brothers, Big Hello) but this third Handcuffs album is the best I’ve ever done. I’m really proud of this one.

Did you have specific goals for it in terms of sound or direction as it relates to your first two releases?

When starting on a new album, we (Chloe and I) select 15 or so that we think fit together for the sound of that album. Our first album, Model For a Revolution has a sound and a character but since it’s our first, it’s kind of a mixture of everything The Handcuffs were trying to convey. Rock songs with melody and hints of glam. It was a definite departure in sound from Big Hello (three albums) which was pretty much straight ahead pop/punk/rock. The Handcuffs mix retro inspiration with updated current production. We don’t want to be a retro time piece and, clearly, we’re not, which is probably why a number of current television shows have used our songs. Our second album, Electroluv is a step forward from our first and I think it’s the most pop of our releases. Our third and newest release, Waiting For The Robot, definitely was inspired by early Bowie, T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, etc. along with newer bands like Goldfrapp and the Ting Tings, etc.. Lots of underlying acoustic guitar and piano along with a Les Paul and Marshall bringing in the heavy. A good example of this is the song, “Eight Down”, about a friend who has used eight of his nine lives and needs to get it together before it’s too late. “Robot” is our most consistent yet and the response has been great.

You do a number off fun unorthodox things most drummers would never think of, who is your biggest influence as a player?

I am a self taught drummer. I’m lucky because I have natural timing and a good ear for music, and basically could just play drums from day one. Early on I thought I should find a role model to follow and I related to the drumming of “some drummer” named Keith Moon for a new band called The Who. Haha, who knew what they would turn into at the time?! They were just another 60s pop band at the time. As a kid, I liked to entertain, my family loved humor and so my personality and love for entertaining comes out in my drumming. Moon and I were a natural fit even before I saw him perform on television appearances. I always liked taking that surprise left turn in my drumming. I really think about and plan out my drum fills and intros on recordings. I try not to do the typical drum fills unless a song really calls for it. Another favorite drummer of mine was jazz musician Gene Krupa who was the first drummer to bring drums to the forefront as a lead instrument. Other influences for my drumming are guitar players and comedians where timing, dynamics and accents are very important. It all relates.

What were the first few records you bought as a kid?

I grew up in the single/45 era so a number of my first records were singles by Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Hungry”), The Who (“I Can See For Miles”), The Beatles (“Help,” though I mostly played the rocking b side, “I’m Down”), etc. It seems like the songs I was attracted to were songs with strong beats or heavier riffs. The first few albums I owned were by Paul Revere and The Raiders (Just Like Us), The Rolling Stones (High Tide and Green Grass), The Kinks (Greatest), The Beatles, (Magical Mystery Tour), Vanilla Fudge (first LP), etc.

You have been in a string of well regarded bands, how important do you think each band’s commitment to image was key in their ultimate success? (does this come from a love of British Invasion for you?)

Yes, I grew up in that overwhelmingly important era of 60s British Invasion so I wanted to be like my heroes. The excitement of Carnaby Street, mod haircuts, velvet and striped jackets seems so alien and other-worldly compared to the drab Midwest. The image just stuck of how a band should look and I’ve always been image conscious with all of my bands. Not that I try and dress everyone like Austin Powers, but a cohesive look of some sort is important. Example: If you have three or four band members wearing black straight legs, jackets and a boa or two, you don’t want a sloppy guy with a beard, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt. People will think he’s the gardener for the band. But, on the other hand’ four sloppy guys with beards works also and they don’t particularly want a guy in a jacket and boa standing next to them. So yes, I think image is important and having the band look like the band sounds is an important part of the whole package. And rock and roll didn’t invent the image thing, it goes all the way back to the big band era, country and western bands, folk groups, etc.

Playing with The Romantics seems like such a great fit for your drumming style, was it something you had thought about ever before it happened?(in any way?)

I never really thought about it or dreamed of one day playing in The Romantics. In fact my former band, Screams had a major album release on Infinity/MCA in 1979, about a year before they did, so I had been around. It’s a case of we all grew up in the same era and liked the same bands. The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, etc. I knew where they were coming from, I learned their songs and it works. Bottom line is that I’m a good drummer and it’s just an added plus that I fit in so well with the image. I got The Romantics gig through my friend and fellow drummer Clem Burke of Blondie, who had been playing with The Romantics and he suggested me as his replacement when Blondie got back together and became too busy with their own touring. Clem was a good fit with The Romantics and to this day I get people thinking I’m Clem because of our similar look and drumming style. We both were influenced by Keith Moon, The Beatles, etc. and, coincidentally, we are the two drummers that get identified stylistically with that. It’s not like we are influenced by each other thoughit seems that it would be that way. We were both playing in bands and releasing records before we even knew each other.

Which of their tunes are your favorites to play and which song did you find the most difficult to get down?

I enjoy playing all of The Romantics songs and I never really had any difficulty learning them. The original drummer Jimmy Marinos, plays left handed on a right handed kit so some of the original drum fills seemed a bit odd to me before I knew that – meaning that some of his fills start opposite or end opposite of what a right handed drummer like myself would naturally play. So, I had to change what comes naturally to me to get the same feel as the original.

Gene Simmons once said “when the drummer sucks, even the fat girls know,” what did he mean?

I have no idea what he meant, but I do know this: A good drummer can make a bad band sound good and a bad drummer can make a good band sound bad.

Can you give us side one of the seemingly reasonable sounding, Elvis Played Drums On This; Greatest Hits, including all your prior bands?

I have done quite a bit of session work for other bands with some nice stand out drumming bits. A few albums that I can recall: Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, The Palace at 4am album and The Spanic Boys, Sunshine album. I also played on Torture  and their latest, yet to be released and Three Hour Tour – 1st album, 1969, B Side Oblivion, Looking For Tomorrowall released on Parasol. A Brad Elvis drums greatest hits, side A:

Screams – “Angeline’s Toys”- from Screams, self-titled album (Infinity/MCA/Universal) – 1979

The Elvis Brothers -“Fire In The City” – from Movin’ Up (Portrait/Sony) – 1983

The Elvis Brothers – “Don’t Take My Guns Away” – from Adventure Time (Portrait/Sony) – 1985

The Elvis Brothers – “I’ve Got Skies For Her” – from Now Dig This (Recession Records) – 1992

Big Hello – “Sister Mary” – from The Apple Album (Parasol) 1998

Big Hello – “If You Don’t Stop Your Crying” – from The Orange Album (Break-Up Records) – 2000

Big Hello – “Slingerland Drums” – from Apples and Oranges (Break-Up Records) – 2001

The Handcuffs – “I’m Not Laughing” – from Model For a Revolution – (OOFL Records) 2006

The Handcuffs – “I Just Wanna’ be Free, Man” – from Electroluv (OOFL Records) – 2008

Three Hour Tour – “Heaven And Hell” (by The Who) – from Looking For Tomorrow (Parasol) – 2010

The Handcuffs – “Kiss This Goodbye” – from Waiting for the Robot (OOFL Records) – 2011