Former Yngwie Malmsteen bassist Mick Cervino recently started his own band, Violent Storm. His debut record is a terrific hard rock record that contains some great songs reminiscent of Rainbow. He pretty much keeps his bass prowess in check until halfway through the set when on the song "Owning You", he shows why he was chosen to play with Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore. The vocalist Matt Reardon has a great set of pipes and he does justice to the material. As a bit of treat, two guest guitar players were brought in for some solos: Malmsteen and Judas Priest's KK Downing who eventually became the executive producer.
I spoke with Mick recently and got caught up with how Violent Storm got started.
antiMUSIC: Hi Mick. I really, really like this record and it's great to hear Rainbow-ish type music again. The bass lines in "Owning You" are just amazing and my favorite part of the record.
Mick: Oh cool. You know, it's a funny thing. I get different comments from different people that listened to the album and it's always different, you know? (laughs) I don't know if that's a good thing or not but you're the second person that praised that song. That's good. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: You're well known through playing with some famous friends of yours. Although it's not your first solo record, how did the band Violent Storm come about?
Mick: Well Violent Storm has been a project that I had in mind for a long time. I mean I've always written music since I was a kid but really I seldom had the opportunity to record it or play with band. You know playing with people like Ritchie Blackmore or Yngwie Malmsteen, you really don't have much of a chance to write. I kept writing on my own and just saving the songs for the right time. So a couple of years ago I decided to just do it once and for all. And that's when it started. You know, I contacted some people that I knew. And just asked around to see who would be interested and auditioned a few people. So little by little it took shape. And finally we recorded the album. We had some guess musicians as you know. And we'll be ready to go on tour in June.
antiMUSIC: Why did you decide to do a band format and not go under your name?
Mick: Yeah, I mean eventually I wanted to be a band you know, even though I'm obviously the leader of the band, and it's mostly my music and I call the shots. But you know initially it had to be like that because it's really my vision. My baby, (laughs) you know. But as time goes, you know, depending on how it works out on the road and everything else, I would like to make the band members, you know, more involved.
antiMUSIC: Who are the other guys and how did you know them?
Mick: Mike Sorrentino, I played with him when I was with Ritchie Blackmore for a couple of years. I kept in touch with him. He is a great drummer. And I get on with him really well, as a person as well. The guitar player that we have for the tour, his name is Martin Nichols. We discovered him through a friend. He's playing with a band called State Trooper over in Europe. He's fairly well known there, but he's an amazing guitar player. You'll see, you know hopefully you'll come and see us and you'll see what I'm talking about. (laughs)
Mick: And then Matt Reardon is an undiscovered talent. He's a great skier. (laughs) but I came across his demo tape in the early stages of the recording of this album and I just thought his voice is very distinctive you know, and I didn't want to fall back into the same ol type of metal voice, you know that everybody has these days. So I was looking for someone that sings melodic rock. What Matt normally does is very, very different from what this band does but, yeah, as soon as I heard his voice I thought, yeah, this could work. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that I did.
antiMUSIC: You've played with Yngwie who seems to approach songs more as a vehicle to solo. And your playing lends itself to that style. Why did you write the songs with more of a traditional format?
Mick: Well, see, I'm not sure. What I do is I write the songs based on the initial bass riffs. They come from there and everything else falls into place. I can't let this song follow its own, um, its own direction. And yeah obviously being a bass player, I enjoy playing busy bass lines. I mean I do enjoy at times a steady one-beat bass line, but I can't keep quite that long, you know. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: "Storm" is a bit of a departure, from the rest of the material, or at least part of the song. What was it about that song made you want to cover it?
Mick: Well a couple of things. One is obviously the name, because it has to do with the band's name and the label's name but I played that song with Ritchie Blackmore when I was with him. They recorded it after I left. But when I first heard the song I could hear the potential for it to be a great rock song. So I sort of did a rock version of that, perhaps the way Rainbow would have done it. You know there are some similarities between what Ritchie is doing these days and what he used to do, in as far as the guitar approach you know, he uses fourths on each riffs. And many of those songs could be turned into rock songs if you had a bit of imagination. So what they did was a great version of it, but in a very mellow way and I just thought it could be done in a rock way, and that's what I tried to do.
antiMUSIC: Some guys such as yourself who are so very proficient at an instrument, usually end up falling a bit short in the song category. You seem to seem to have the best of both worlds.
Mick: Thank you.
antiMUSIC: How long have you been writing songs and how many songs did you go through before you came up with this set?
Mick: Well, I've been writing since I was 12 I think, in the first band. But as I said it's not something that I really had much the opportunity to put into practice, you know. I just kept them in my head and also on little demos that I had made throughout the years and you know, the style has always been similar, it's always been on the aggressive side with easy bass lines so it wasn't difficult for me to just pick 10, 11 songs to put on the album first and I have a whole bunch waiting for the next one, you know.
antiMUSIC: You're listed here as well playing the guitars and leads and all that too. How hard was it to decide what to put in and when to bring in other people to do the other stuff?
Mick: Well, the guitars that I played initially, I wasn't going to be doing those, you know. I wasn't going to be a guitar player, we were looking for someone to join the band.. But since we couldn't find the right person, I said, you know, what the heck, I'll do it. The two songs that we had guest musicians, when I was recording the tracks and stuff I was just imagining who would be really good at this to invite. And obviously Yngwie came to mind for a couple of songs he did. And then when I met KK Downing I said, this is good for his style. But yeah for the other songs I just did what I had imagined the guitar doing on those songs, and eventually, I'm going to have Martin, the new guitar player, doing the guitar tracks. But no, I enjoyed doing what I felt was necessary for the songs at the time.
antiMUSIC: At which point did KK, Yngwie, and Roy Z get involved in the project?
Mick: Early on, I don't know if you know, but I'm Yngwie's brother in law now?
antiMUSIC: No I didn't know that…
Mick: Yeah, I joined his band in 2001, but in 2003 I married his wife's sister, who is my manager now. So, one day...we live near Miami, the both of us, and he has a tennis course in his house so we were just playing tennis and I just told him, look I'm doing these recordings, would you like listen to a couple of the songs, and if you like them enough, would you like to play on them. And he said, well, let's listen to it, and see what it is. Amazingly enough he like them. He praised the songs and stuff. (laughs) and so I couldn't believe it...from Yngwie, it was something else. So his part was done pretty quickly. He's a very spontaneous type of guy, we just sat in his studio and it just took a few hours and his parts were done. And then I met KK at several shows, you know, we went to see him with priest and he came to see us with Yngwie and we sort kept in touch. And one of those times I approached him and told him what I was doing and again asked him how would like to be a guest on a couple of these songs, and he said , well, maybe let me listen to them. And he liked what he heard, you know, so he was very pleased to be a part of it, you know, to the point that later on he became much more involved and he ended up executive producing the album.
antiMUSIC: And what about Roy Z?
Mick: And Roy Z? Well, he invited Roy Z towards the later stages of the recording to do the final mixing and engineering and Roy Z played on a couple of songs. He added a couple of lead guitars. And him and Stan Katayama did the final mixing under KK's directions. So yeah, that's how it worked out.
antiMUSIC: How much input did KK have in the studio? Did he just suggest things and then come back a week later or was he there for the lion's share of the time?
Mick: The way it worked, you know, we were kinda working long distance you know because we weren't at the same place at the same time. So we would exchange ideas on the phone and thru emails and then send files back and forth. And yeah, he had very distinctive ideas of how he wanted the album to sound. He had quite a bit of say on the arrangements of some of the songs. Initially, I had done the songs with the idea of how do be sounding live, but then he said well, you know, that's good, but for the studio you want to be more straightforward. So how about we do this and that and we change, and we put this part here and there and that kind of thing. So he was very active in the process and he did a wonderful job, I think.
antiMUSIC: Your wife wrote the lyrics to "Pain". It must be special for you to have that song on the record?
Mick: Well yeah, it was a very strange thing cause we were at the beach and she was just writing poems and I said, let me take a look at that. And I looked at that and immediately thought I could use it. And I adjusted it to fit the song. And yeah, but it's not the type of lyrics you expect to write at the beach. (laughs) It's a funny thing, you know (laughs) even Malmsteen writes his most, you know, heavy rock nasty lyrics in the kitchen in Miami. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Going back a bit, how did you develop such a fluid style? Were you holed up in your room as a kid doing scales or does it just come naturally?
Mick: Well, no it was a lot of work to be honest, you know. I initially started playing guitar but then I switched to bass after Ritchie Blackmore for the first time. I figured this is not going to work; I'm not going to be better than this guy. (laughs) so I figured I'd just learn the bass and get really good and maybe some day I'd get to play with him. And of course everybody around me were going, yeah, sure, sure. (laughs) Originally in Argentina where I grew up, you know, the odds are, they're all against you, you know. And it got to a point when I started playing the bass, I was going to take lessons a couple times a week. Then I was practicing hours and hours everyday. Everybody, you know, all my friends were going to play football or going to the pool, whatever, in the summer and I was just held practicing in a room, you know. And then it was the persistence and challenging myself to do more and more difficult things, like that classical thing that I did just playing Bach and Mozart things on the electric bass. It was something that got me learning and so I didn't really get bored in the process. And to be honest with you I continued doing that because I don't think you ever really stop learning.
antiMUSIC: As a fan of Ritchie Blackmore's, what events led you to eventually become part of the band?
Mick: Well, I had been trying to get in touch with him for a long time. I moved to England when I was 18 with the idea of meeting him some day cause I thought, well, they're from England, he must be there. Well I went there. I met Ian Gillan but I didn't get to meet Ritchie. I heard he was living in California so I figured well I better move to California then. So you know I was really focused on some day meeting him. It got to the point that I gave up because he wasn't happening. But one day, thanks to the internet I found a few addresses where I could send him a videotape I had made with the idea of him watching it, which was me playing some of those Bach things. One of the copies I made to send to him got through and that's how the whole thing began, you know, he liked what he saw. He had his manager contact me and then he auditioned me by mail, by me recording some of his Blackmore's Night things and sending him copies overnight for two or three weeks, you know. Then he asked me to come to an audition in person in New York and of course I said yes, you know. (laughs) And it worked out really well, you know. I got on with him very, very well. And I became very close friends with him when I was in the band, you know. I would stay at his house. We'd play football together, I mean soccer and you know, it was a dream come true for me.
antiMUSIC: What was Ritchie like to play and tour with? He apparently has a very playful sense of humor at times and also is quite well known to be kind of demanding when playing.
Mick: Well, you know, I knew what to expect. I had been reading everything about him since I was a kid, so I knew he was going to be very demanding. So I tried to just do my homework and come really well prepared for the rehearsals but you know he also pushes everybody to the limit, you know, he wants to get 100 per cent out of you, you know. He's also very spontaneous. He tries to have you come up with stuff on the spot, so you have to be ready for that. I think I pulled it off. And yet on the road he's got a very unique sense of humor. He doesn't play as much of the practical jokes as he used to from what I've heard, but he's still very playful. You know, he and I used to go to castles in Germany and just try to go to the forbidden areas, and see what we could discover and stuff like that. You know, very, very childish things, if you will, but it was great. It was part of the magic of being around Ritchie.
antiMUSIC: How did you come to work with Yngwie and later the G3 tour?
Mick: With Yngwie, when I was finished playing with Ritchie, I questioned myself, well who would I like to play with next, you know? I had played with my hero already so, I like classical music, I like heavy metal, so the first person that came to mind was Yngwie. So I send an email to his management offering my services and sent him the copy of my classical CD and a few days later I got the call, you know, apparently they were reforming the band to go on a tour of South America and so I got the job fairly quickly. And then Yngwie was invited to play on the G3 tour and I was in the band so that's how that came about. I mean G3 is a guitar thing so I was just lucky enough to be in the band.
antiMUSIC: What's the game plan with this record. Where all are you taking it?
What are you doing for the rest of the year?
Mick: Well we're planning on taking it as far as we can. You know, we're going on tour this June. We're going to start in Europe. The album has been released there already in October and if all goes well it'll be released in the states and the rest of the world in may. So then we're hoping to be touring the states right after Europe or soon after. And we'll see how that goes. We'll just go as far as we can, you know.
antiMUSIC: Anything else I should know about the record that I didn't ask?
Mick: Well, know I think you pretty much covered everything. I would just suggest that everybody comes see us play, because the band promises to be very energetic and this show should be a memorable one. So people should check it out and check our website for the updates on the tour; violentstorm.net. And we just hope to see everybody on the road.
antiMUSIC: Excellent I'm very much looking forward to it. Thank you so much for all your time, Mick. It was a pleasure speaking with you and I wish you all the luck with the record
Mick: Thank you very much. Take care. Bye.
Morley and antiMUSIC thank Mick for doing this interview.