Firework Magazine Interview
MUSIC IS OUT THERE 64 FREE WITH FIREWORKS ISSUE 95
Interview by Nicky Baldrian
Band: Black Valentine
Album: New Reality
Label: Independent Release
Genre: Hard Rock/Heavy Metal
City & Country: Los Angeles, CA USA
Description: Black Valentine’s album New Reality is a collection of songs that express the range of emotions we all felt in 2020 like isolation, loss of identity, change, Political divisiveness, attacks on our Democracy, manipulation fuelled by social media, riots, police reform, death,and more. Not only does New Reality perfectly describes life in the Pandemic, but it also describes the evolution of the band.
Influences: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Judas Priest, Foreigner, Journey, Deftones
Frankie Yanno - Lead and Harmony Vocals, Gang Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Jesse Wolff - Drums
Jose Ferro - Bass Guitar.
This Album also features Dustin Penrod
on Gang Vocals.
1. Ashes To Ashes
2. It’s Never Enough
3. Better The Devil You Know
4. Crown Of Thorns
5. Adverbs (Who Do You Think You Are?)
6. New Reality
7. Together Apart
8. Love Wasn’t Meant To Last
9. Baby Don’t You Cry
10. Brace For Impact
World Gone Wrong (2014)
Slingshot Rebels (2016)
Remaking History Part 1 (2018)
Already Here (2019)
Remaking History Parts 2 and 3 (2020)
New Reality (2021)
BLACK VALENTINE, are a fantastic killer hard rock/ heavy metal trio from Los Angeles, CA USA. They have a new twelve track album out now called 'New Reality' which runs in at just under forty-five minutes long and is the bands sixth album.
It’s another perfect afternoon in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles California where guitarist and lead vocalist Frankie Yanno lives. In his house there’s a Styrofoam food container containing half of a Rueben sandwich on the Kitchen counter that he picked up from Mort’s Deli on his way home from getting his first Pfizer vaccine. The large screen TV is barely audible in the background as Frankie sits in his living room populated by a plethora of guitars hanging on stands. Various finely detailed pieces of Frankie’s art hang on the walls. The curtains are drawn but the dimly lit room is offset by the bright blue couch that Frankie sits on while playing his Gibson Explorer.
Growing up Frankie was on course to go to Art School to become an Illustrator, own a house, white picket fence, 2.5 kids, etc. Then much to his father’s dismay, the trajectory of his life abruptly changed in ninth grade when he was introduced to Van Halen. He still graduated from Art School with an AS in Graphic Design and a BFA in Illustration, owns a house, has a daughter, etc. but the genie was forever let out of the bottle and visual art would no longer fulfill him the way music would. Now music, songwriting, playing, all of it is what gets him up in the morning. His songwriting influences can be traced back to bands like Foreigner and Journey. They taught him how to write hooks, structure songs, write melodies and lyrics.
"Whether it’s immediately apparent, singers like Lou Gramm and Steve Perry had a huge effect on my vocal style. As far as the music goes, I hear bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Judas Priest in my writing. Their grooves, sound, and attitude are definitely a big influence" he expresses. "My guitar playing is an amalgam of great players whose solos I learned note for note growing up. Players like Tony Iommi, Neal Schon (he writes
perfect solos!), Randy Rhodes, David Gilmore, Steve Morse, and George Lynch all had an
effect on me. However, my biggest influence would have to be Vivian Campbell. His playing on Dio’s Holy Diver and Last In Line albums really helped to shape my style. We recently opened up for his band Last In Line at The Whisky, and it was eerily familiar watching him play because he did things that I do without me even realizing it," he tells me.
Frankie draws upon everything that they all were feeling during the lockdown for his inspiration for the album. "Feelings of isolation, loss of identity, change, Political divisiveness, attacks on our Democracy, paranoia and manipulation fuelled by social media, riots and police reform, death and loss, and more."
When he is not writing or performing, he is big nerd at heart. "I love watching Science
Fiction, Comic Book, and Fantasy Movies and TV Shows. I’ve read The Hobbit, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and The Silmarillion at least ten times each. I have a pretty big Comic Book collection. I love Phillip K Dick’s short stories and the movies they’ve inspired. I also really love to cook," he chuckles.
Drummer Jesse Wolff was born into music,and he grew up in LA. His father Martin Wolff was the road manager and lighting production manager for the Doobie Brothers, so he grew up on the road.
"When other kids were listening to pop and new wave, I was deep into classic rock, jazz, and funk/fusion. On my twelfth birthday Keith Knudsen the drummer for the Doobie Brothers gave me his one-off Pearl maple kit from the 1979/1980 tour and recordings. I was hooked," he enthuses.
He played in various local bands as well as attending Hamilton Music Magnet High School in Los Angeles. "I was always interested in recording as well so I spent a couple years working for renowned studio Can-Am Recording in Tarzana Ca. Flash forward to Black Valentine where I’ve spent the last six years recording, playing hundreds of live gigs, and loving every second
Jesse's world changed when he listened to Billy Cobham’s 'Spectrum' album from the early seventies. From jazz to classic rock, thrash metal to Cuban rhythms, funk, and Hip Hop, he is influenced by the influencers. "Chick Corea, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Cobham, Slayer, Mongo Santamaria and the Beatles, to name a few. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always had the greats’ song’s playing in my head like my own life soundtrack," he marvels.
Jesse says inspiration for ‘New Reality’ came from deep within their souls. "Raw emotion fuelled this album like never before. We’ve always had our own ‘sound’ but this recording takes everything we’ve ever wanted an album to be to the next level. Working hard to get
isolated tracks and a huge recording sound was our goal. I’m very pleased with the results we’ve achieved. I’m also equally excited to have everyone out there in the rockin’ world hear our work," he expresses.
His passions outside of music are food, sustainable organic garden building, and land development. "I’m professionally trained in the Culinary Arts. I went to chef school at Le Cordon Bleu and worked in the biz for fifteen years before deciding to jump into organic garden building. In this world climate, a live/work sustainable garden is ideal for individuals and families wanting to create income as well as a healthy organic
lifestyle," he says with spirit.
Typically Frankie would start writing and demoing off songs for their next album while touring to support their current album. "However, when the pandemic hit everything got shut down before we really had a chance to properly release our Remaking History Parts
2 and 3 double album. In fact, the CDC closed down the Whisky-A-Go-Go just two days before we were supposed to play our Headline Show and CD release party. With no gigs or rehearsals and a soft release on the new album I had nothing but time on my hands so I started writing," he explains to me. "What I ended up with was a catalogue of over sixty songs that I narrowed down to the twelve songs that fit together and would become the
'New Reality' album."
The biggest difference between 'New Reality' and their previous releases is that Frankie is handling all the vocal duties. "Because we had no shows or even rehearsals, our singer and our bass player ended up leaving the band. Jesse and I had to find our path forward so based on the strength of the demos we decided to track the album with me singing," he explains to me. "By all accounts it was the right choice because the overwhelming response is that this is our best album to date. What I will say is that this album is the closest to my original vision. When you’re working with other musicians, you have to let your songs change and evolve to fit their individual styles and give them a sense of belonging and expression. In most cases their perspective can be a good thing. Unfortunately giving them that ‘voice’ inevitably dilutes your point of view. That’s not the case with this album," he stresses.
Black Valentine is very direct, and one of their mottos is to never let the music come between the listener and the song. "The songwriting is very lean, mean and to the point. It’s deceptively simple to the listener, but when you actually learn a song, you realize there are tricky twists in the arrangements that give each songs flavour. I used to be in bands that were more prog. The problem was we fell into this weird middle ground of being too heavy and musical to be commercial and too light to be really heavy so finding an audience was difficult. While playing it was fun and challenging, I realized the only person who cared about this cool lick the bass player played was the bass player –him and the ten other bass players in the audience with their arms folded thinking they could play it better," he sighs. "I concluded that most people just want to see a band playing together like a unit kicking ass rather than a bunch of musicians showing off with their ‘look at me’ moments. So I took a leaf out of AC/DC’s book and built Black Valentine with a go for the throat mentality. We’re all about catchy hooks with clever music that rocks. We have a definite, unique sound but when you break it down all of our influences become apparent."
There are two things that immediately come to mind with this album for Frankie. First is the song ‘Adverbs (Who Do You Think You Are)”. People are immediately drawn to that song. Usually I’ll come up with the music, then begin to piece together vocal melodies, then the lyrics come after that. It’s a process that could take a few days to a month or longer. But ‘Adverbs’ is one of those rare occasions where the planets aligned and I sat down with the guitar and the song just poured out of me lyrics and music in three minutes. And the end result is basically the same as how I wrote it. Sometimes you just get lucky," he chuckles.
"The second thing that has really stayed withme to this day is a line from the title track ‘New Reality.’ The lyric goes ‘Love cannot save us. Love is the thing that we fight to save.’ I think that speaks volumes," he enthuses.
The Covid situation has decimated the live venue landscape here in Los Angeles. "Things are slowly starting to open up because of the efficacy of the vaccines but I’m not willing to put my loved ones at risk by going to places where people do not wear masks or observe social distancing. Jesse and I have started up rehearsals for the songs on the record. There’s a lot of ground to cover before we start putting a band together to bring it to the stage. I had my first vaccine today and will have my second in two weeks. Two weeks after that I will feel confident going to some of these venues. Then we’ll start looking at booking live shows. Ultimately, we’re looking to get our music in front of as many people as possible whether through live performances or airplay, placement in movies, TV, and commercials. We feel our songs can break thru that ceiling if enough people can hear them," he adds. "We lost band members, we lost shows, exposure, and
revenue because of Covid. But we also were able to rebuild the band to bring the most
authentic version of Black Valentine to the world. I’m not sure that would have ever
happened if we didn’t go thru the pandemic lockdown," he sighs.
'New Reality' was recorded at Gossamer Studios. It is a hybrid analog/digital recording studio that Frankie owns in Los Angeles, and he produced, engineered, mixed, and mastered the album. The album from start to finish took roughly six months for the guys to complete.
"Jesse started tracking his drums to a click with scratch guitar tracks on November eighth. We decided to track the drums to our next album at the same time. In the end with breaks during the holidays he finished the drum tracks to twenty-four songs on December thirtieth. I began tracking guitars to ‘New Reality’ on January third starting with rhythm guitars, clean electric guitars, any additional guitars, and then solos followed by acoustic guitars. Then I tracked the Vocals. All of my Tracks were finished on February 1st. Our friend Jose Ferro started tracking the bass on February thirteenth and finished his tracks on February twenty-seventh. Then I started the mixing process followed by mastering. During mixing I asked my friend Dustin Penrod to come record gang vocals with me on three songs. Production on the album wrapped on April twenty-fifth," he
explains to me. "After I created the graphic design and layout the album was submitted for digital distribution and manufacturing on April twenty-fifth"
Bringing the 'New Reality' album to the live stage is first on the agenda for the band, while trying to get it placed wherever they can.
"That involves finding musicians to play the record live. Along with that we’ll cherry pick the best of the best from our previous albums and start working them up to add to our live repertoire. And I’ll start tracking Guitars to our next album Remaking History Part four. We’ll also start looking at putting our next original album together from the remaining songs that I have written and demoed off throughout 2020," concludes Frankie, bringing an end to our conversation.
'New Reality' is available now on CD and from all the usual digital platforms.
Check Black Valentine out at