LOU DIBELLO – Causing A Heatwave
October 24, 2017, a year ago
How does a Musicians Institute graduate and an accomplished guitarist such as Lou DiBello fly under the radar for so long? The Champaign, Illinois native has played over hundreds of shows, recorded several solo albums and has been writing and playing original material for nearly 30 years. Yet, he’s only marginally known outside of the Illinois area. His fourth full-length independently-released solo album, Heatwave, is creating a decent buzz within many rock and heavy metal circles. The half instrumental/half vocal album is loaded with tons of smooth licks, incredible hooks, anthemic choruses and fiery guitar solos. DiBello has enlisted a couple of prominent guests to play on a few tracks too, including Ross the Boss (Dictators, ex-Manowar, Death Dealer), Mike LePond (Symphony X) and a mostly unknown powerhouse German vocalist named Carsten “Lizard” Schulz. In the following interview, DiBello spoke with BraveWords writer Kelley Simms about his career, his new album and more.
BraveWords: Although you’ve had a pretty successful career, you’ve sort of flown under the radar outside of the Illinois area. Why is that?
Lou DiBello: “That is the case, as far as being on a bigger level. I’ve been playing and doing originals going on for 30 years in this area. Of course bands REO Speedwagon, Head East and Starcastle came out of this area, so there’s a pretty good history down here. Heatwave is my fourth solo release. I’ve done a couple other releases independently with my previous band ESP. The three previous releases under my name as solo stuff are all instrumental. This is the first album I’ve done that’s featured that much vocal music as far as under my solo name goes. I’m doing some stuff I’ve always wanted to do and I ended up having the opportunity to do it now.”
BraveWords: Every track on Heatwave has a familiar quality that stands the test of time. It’s a great mix of ’80s metal, ’70s rock and the blues.
Lou DiBello: “That’s kind of how I think about it. I’ve been involved in playing and writing different kinds of music. I also teach guitar, so I think of myself as a student of hard rock and songwriting. Even my other stuff that’s all instrumental, I’ve always approached with more of a songwriting format as opposed to shredding for the sake of shredding. Getting hooked up with Carsten, who sang vocals on Heatwave, allowed me to write for that vocal style, that classic, hard rock, heavy metal sound. It has influences of a lot of those bands; it’s a little Saxon-y, a little like Accept, but I think it does fall into its own territory at the same time.”
BraveWords: How did you get Ross the Boss to play on the track “Blood On The Cross”?
Lou DiBello: “Last year, early in the spring, a lady named Loree Hunt introduced me to Ross the Boss. I was Facebook friends with him, we had a bit of a rapport, but I never thought I was going to ask him to play on my record or anything. Then Loree had seen a video of me and we had some conversations and she had mentioned the video about me to him and thought it was good. I thought, ‘Wow, Ross the Boss likes my stuff!’ She was real encouraging to get in touch with Ross. But even at that point I was maybe just looking for any kind of feedback or advice, I didn’t even know what exactly I was looking for. But one thing led to another and I ended up asking him and he was really grateful. The stuff he played on came out great and we became friends and somebody I could get some advice from.”
BraveWords: How did you get bassist Mike LePond and German singer Carsten “Lizard” Schulz?
Lou DiBello: “She also introduced me to Mike LePond who plays bass on three tunes. It was more of a coincidence how I got hooked up with Carsten in Germany. He had worked with a guitar player who I studied with when I went to the Musicians Institute in L.A. 20 years ago. I had e-mailed him on Facebook but got a message back saying he had passed away last year. Well, the one who I was corresponding with was Carsten, a killer singer. He was pretty well known in Europe. I sent him some instrumental stuff and we developed a great working relationship pretty easily. It really came together and fell into place pretty easily.
BraveWords: How did you divvy up the guitar solos between you and Ross on “Blood On The Cross”? Did you have to give him any instructions or did you just let him loose?
Lou DiBello: “We had some conversations about what it was going to be. When I sent him the initial track to him, I played and added kind of a framework and he played his parts in the spaces. When his parts were done, we did harmonies on the way he did his part and I fit what I was going to do his way.”
BraveWords: What do you like about teaching guitar? Did being a student at Musicians Institute give you the desire to become a guitar instructor?
Lou DiBello: “Definitely. I have a lot of teachers in my family, so it kind of runs in my blood. There were some instructors along the way who had an impact on me. Then after I finished MI, I found that teaching keeps me focused on different elements of playing that I might not have noticed otherwise. It comes very naturally to me and I definitely enjoy it.”
BraveWords: Did you know which songs would be strictly instrumental and which songs to put vocals on?
Lou DiBello: “With ‘Blood On The Cross’ and ‘Let Me Hear You Scream,’ those were for sure vocal tunes that I came up with the hook first. If I have a vocal hook, typically the title of the song, then it’s usually pretty easy for me to write the rest of the tune. That’s what happened with Blood, same for Scream. After it was done and mastered, it was virtually identical of what I was hearing in my head when I was putting the tune together. ‘The Meeting’ and ‘When All Is Lost,’ I had them in instrumental form. But because the first two tunes had gone so well with Carsten, I wanted to do some more vocal tunes. Carsten wrote all the lyrics too and that worked well with the collaborative process.”
BraveWords: Was it important to have that shift in dynamics and transition from faster to slower tracks? I think it makes the album as a whole more interesting.
Lou DiBello: “That was definitely something I thought about. I was happy when it was put together that way. I got a lot of good feedback from Carsten and I had a (song) order and he thought the sequence was perfect. Once I finished up with all the basic elements of all the tunes, I was pretty sure of the order I had it in.”
BraveWords: What’s next? What do you hope to achieve or accomplish in the future?
Lou DiBello: “I’m looking to get some live dates to play some new material from the new CD. I have most of the lineup in place but I’m checking out local vocalists. But if we can generate a little bit more interest, then maybe we can get Carsten to come over from Germany. If not by the end of the year, by the first of the year. I also have various cover band projects where I end up playing 120 dates a year. Here or there, I’ll play some gigs. I have probably half an album’s worth of material already written and it’s just about for sure I’ll be working with Carsten on that too.”
(Photo by: Candie Kates)