I first encountered today’s featured artist, Andrea Sicco, only few years ago when I saw his band, TWIN GUNS, play at the Brooklyn Bazaar w/ Lydia Lunch. It was then that I got to see what an amazing guitar player and front man he is. They had it all down to a science. The sound. The look. They had it. It was a great show. My wife who has been friends with him for many years introduced us after the gig. He like me is a real guitar-head so we naturally hit it off. At some point, we ended up trading some of our music and I finally got to hear what his band sounded like on record. After getting to know him, I realized that Andrea is a truly prolific songwriter and he writes some great stuff. Sadly, TWIN GUNS, after more than 10 years as band, have taken an indefinite hiatus. He still plays with the Art Gray Noizz Quintet and has also moved on to other projects and is also writing music for TV and Films. I’ve also joined forces with Andrea in a newly formed band with George Jezel and Rob Rossi, called Doors of Portugal. Coming to a town near you! Be sure to check out all of Andrea’s stuff. He is an amazing musician and artist. See the links below to check some of his killer catalog of recorded material!
LT: You live in Brooklyn, NY, one of the areas in the United States most affected by the coronavirus. What has been like for the past 4+ months and what have you been up to?
AS: Despite the circumstances, I have found this phase of life to be a most productive one; not having any distractions such as going to or playing shows, or going to restaurants, I had all the time in the world to create… to draw, learning new computer programs, writing and recording music, and watch tons of movies and documentaries, which I love doing. I think that the overall feeling of uncertainty that we found ourselves in, has helped fueling my creativity, and keeps me focused to this day. Being alone (also with my gf and 3 cats), and finding time to think and reflect and feed my brain, is a state I often naturally long for. I am way past beyond my “let’s go back to the country, be isolated and create” phase, so I am careful that in my every day life (under any circumstances) there is always space for that, like a writer, or a painter would do. But I did miss traveling, and being able to see a few friends.. such as yourself. I wrote a new song though, as a result of the current state of the world, and should be up on Bandcamp by now.
LT: I know you grew up in Italy. When did you move to NYC and what kind of music stuff have you been doing since you moved here?
AS: I have spent the majority of my adult life in New York, and since I moved here in 1993 I had been involved in many musical activities, as well as carrying on a graphic design “career”, among other things. I started “singing” way before being able to play guitar… I’m a late bloomer, and it took me forever to feel comfortable with the instrument; let’s say that I have only gained a bit of confidence in my playing and songwriting in the last 15 years. When I first moved to NY I only played guitar in other people’s bands, and wasn’t interested in fronting a project; I loved being a sideman, a silent architect. It was during my years with the band Den of Thieves that my ambition grew; my friend (and singer/songwriter of the band) Harry, thought me a lot of guitar technique at the time, and my playing got more aggressive. It was then, that I started writing songs that would be occasionally featured (and sang by me) at shows, then on record, but I felt that I needed to take that party elsewhere, and so I formed my own band, Oscura. The name obviously means “obscure”, in that I was interested in exploring a darker sound, inspired by the current Britpop flavors of the day, as well as the British post-punk groups of the eighties. It was a typical “guitarist going solo” scenario, but I managed to stay good friends with all these guys, which are also great musicians. Oscura was my first great ambition, and that band has seen significant changes in lineup, as well as witnessing a change in the music industry; those were the years when the Internet was on the rise, and so the possibilities of what it could be done with it, which were intriguing, as well as overwhelming. But getting signed to a proper label was really what we hoped for, as naive as it sounds. So many other bands at the time were “making it”, and I seriously thought we had a chance. I admit, we got pretty close to being involved with some major labels at that point; we had executives and PR dudes from Capitol Records and Interscope coming to our rehearsals.. we almost got signed. We never did, and so we broke up in a dramatic and disillusioned way.
LT: What originally inspired you to start playing music?
AS: Memory fails me, but I must have had a red electric toy guitar when I was very little, because it had been in my dreams all along; the rock’n’roll gods were speaking to me on a subconscious level, haha. Thing is, there had always been music and a guitar (a Sigma) laying around in my house, while growing up, but it was so hard to play! I didn’t realize that I could just get a better guitar, and the learning curve would be a bit easier (!)… It wasn’t until later (I was about 15/16 years old by then) that I was able to get a better one, an EKO brand 12-String beauty. For me it was mostly the Blues, and American Country & Western. I wasn’t interested in the Italian songwriters (there’s a long, great tradition of them in Italy), and was mostly attracted by English guitar bands of the 60’s, and American electric Chicago Blues. When a friend of my mom gifted me with an original sixties VOX Wah-Wah pedal, which he’d used in his own garage band as a kid, my life changed, and had to get a proper electric guitar. The choice fell on a black Squier Stratocaster (the poor-man Fender), similar to what Eric Clapton, Richie Blackmoore, David Gilmour, and Mark Knopfler had. All early heroes of mine. My musical influences were many; even if Blues and Country Music were easier to play, I was inspired by the electronic movie soundtracks of John Carpenter, Giorgio Moroder, and John Williams’ symphonic extravaganzas for Star Wars (and Close Encounters, and Raiders of the Lost Ark), John Barry’s TV series themes and James Bond 007 music… and The Cramps! They all had a huge influence on me early on. As far as singing and playing guitar, though, I can’t forget the importance of John Denver, whose music my dear aunt Anna introduced me to. Also, Spaghetti Westerns were always on TV, so I have absorbed a lot of that stuff, like the Ennio Morricone scores.
LT: I have recently been lucky enough to put together a new band with you. I found it very interesting that neither one of us know how to to read music or have any formal training. When did you start playing guitar and how did you manage get so good at playing by ear?
AS: There was this guy that played guitar really well in Art School (actually a few guys), and the girls were really into it… It was then that I realized I had to learn it all better. I had some basic knowledge of the notes and music history by learning it at a school class, but never really managed to understand it properly. It was like math to me, and I hated math. I think my anger and frustration for not feeling “gifted” or being technically “capable”, nor knowing what a damn scale was, ignited my creativity, and some kind of magic started to happen. It was all simple chords for me… there was an energy, a punk rock element early on, but I never acknowledge it until later. I was sort of punk-blues. I think It was my mom’s friend (the same with the VOX pedal) that taught me some basic chords in the beginning, but I am very much self-taught otherwise, and as I said, I only feel that I’ve gotten better much later in life.. and obviously still learning! I am a naturally distracted person, but I have learned that by “paying attention” a lot can be learned, haha… and so I started playing along with some favorite records later on, and found that some of the best stuff is actually very simple. Very inspiring. An old friend of mine once said he was amazed how I could play about a hundred different songs with the same exact three chords.
LT: Are there any recordings that you have released, that stand out in your mind, that you feel have completely captured the true essence of what you are trying to do?
AS: Tricky question. I feel that I have changed perspectives through the years, and went on so many phases, so whatever I’ve done in the beginning (my early recordings) were merely seeds of what was boiling up in me creatively. On all the stages of my musical endeavors, I admit, there was something interesting happening, but never fully realized. As I got better, I learned to have more control on what I was doing, so I’d say the music I did in the last 15 years represents me pretty well. By the time I started playing with the band Rockethouse (in 2006), I had finally found “my sound” (something I felt comfortable expressing myself with), thanks to a Fender Jaguar, fuzz, and lots of reverb. The work I have done with TWIN GUNS is probably what captured that essence, even if partially; trying to combine a sixties garage-rock aesthetic, with the cinematic feel of a horror movie soundtrack, through the lens of deranged 50’s rock’n’roll and surf, distilled through Goth and Post Punk sensibility. It was fun to see what people and music critics had to say about it, as I’m sure we’ve confused many, which were trying to pigeonhole the band into one genre. And I’m ok with it! There are recordings of TWIN GUNS (one CD EP, and 3 albums on vinyl), even though I feel that (typically) it was hard to capture the true essence of the band on record, but it’s a good approximation. Also, my work with the project ARPALICE (with my friend Dalila) exposes some of my songwriting style. An album is on its way. My noisier side instead finds room to roam as guitarist for the Art Gray Noizz Quintet, which also collaborated with No-Wave legend Lydia Lunch for an upcoming EP. But really, I think the best of what I’m trying to do is yet to come.
LT: Your music seems to be evolving and now you have started making music for TV and Film. Is your process for songwriting different when you are writing for TV and Film?
AS: I come up with all sorts of musical ideas all the time; it could be instrumentals, experimental and noisy, cut ups and samples, music concrete, psychedelic ballads or garage rock, and so on… let’s say I have a whole hidden repertoire, some stuff see the light of day, some doesn’t, other mutates or gets forgotten. It’s a spontaneous process. Luckily, TWIN GUNS was featured twice on TV series such as Riverdale (Netflix), and Dare Me (USA Network), so my desire of writing cinematic music that could stand on its own, and that could actually work in the context of a story, had been partly fulfilled. In 2016 my musician and filmmaker friend Derek Davidson called me in to participate in his short movie “Moving Pictures” (as an actor!), and I ended up also contributing to the soundtrack. I had written and recorded some soundtrack music some time before, that I was planning on releasing under the title “Nothingness”, but then I thought it would be perfect for his movie, and it worked out really well (the acting? Not so much… ugh). I am currently working on more soundtrack music, as well as proper “songs” for a solo album.
LT: I almost forgot to mention that you are a graphic designer and do some killer illustrations! How long you been doing that and how’d you get into it?
AS: Thank you! Glad you like my stuff. I have an Art background; after 4 years of Art School, I went to the Fine Arts Academy in Rome for two years, then started a 3-years Graphic Design and Advertising course, which taught me a lot of the basics and a lot of the work ethic. I started working as a designer straight away after that. My dream was really to become a comic book artist/painter, but never pursued any of it. When I first got to New York I even interviewed with Mort Todd at Marvel Comics, but at that point I had very little to show, so never got the job. I picked up doing Illustrations and Comic Book-inspired drawings much later, thanks to my musical activities, drawing posters, flyers, and album covers (The Rats of New York, The Electric Mess, TWIN GUNS). My friend and horror aficionados, Mike Lewi, also gave me the opportunity to participate as a cartoonist with a story he wrote for his PLAYGHOUL magazine, a tribute to Vampira (Maila Nurmi), the 50’s late night horror host icon. I am equally inspired by the work of Caravaggio, Andy Warhol, the artists from the EC Horror Comics of the 40’s and 50’s, and the great Italian comic book artist Magnus, and a few others.
LT: Any new upcoming events, music, online stuff that you would like to tell our readers to keep an eye out for?
AS: I wrote this new song while quarantined called “Unprecedented Times”, as part of a concept that would include an instrumental piece named “Unprecedented Evil”; I am releasing the track on Bandcamp, accompanied by a video. I played all the instruments and mixed the track by myself, but my engineer friend Michael Jung (guitarist of the band UM) offered to fix (make it better) and master it. It’s a dark, melodic psychedelic dirge. Both ARPALICE and the Art Gray Noizz Quintet will hopefully get to release their albums this year…. I also started collaborating (long-distance) on some songs with Marco Butcher… And hopefully we’ll get to continue our Doors of Portugal project as well!
MUSIC ACTIVITY TIMELINE (APPROXIMATED)
Starts playing an old Sigma acoustic guitar; the action was very high so he uses an open tuning. First song (barely) learned was “Red River Valley”. Blood and blisters start forming on his fingertips. Buys a black EKO 12-string guitar, which later he would sell to a friend. Buys a Yamaha 6-Strings guitar. An older family friend gives him a VOX Wah-Wah pedal from the 60’s.
Finally acquires his first electric guitar, a black Squier Stratocaster (graduating from playing the old Sigma acoustic guitar with a small microphone stuck in the hole, and played through the naturally distorting stereo speakers). Spends time jamming in friends’ garages, then forming his own early bands (The White Shirts, The Fireballs, I Percussionisti dell’Utero (Uterus Percussionists), etc.), playing (and singing in mock-English) mostly garage, rock’n’roll, and Rythm’n’Blues classics at friends parties, then in local discotheques, clubs, camping sites, Communist Party parties. Buys an Epiphone Sheraton semi-hollowbody guitar. Befriends a male-model drummer-wannabe in Art School and forms the band Uvistra, which disbands after only 3 rehearsals, following their “poet-not-quite-singer-heroin-addict” defection/disappearance.
While working his first job at a graphic design studio in Rome, a co-worker sells him a towering 60s/70s Carvin amplifier, and a Shin-ei 60’s Japanese fuzz box (which he uses to this day) for only $50. Andrea starts experimenting with a 4-Track tape recorder, and records 3 cassettes of original music (“Fragments from a Motion Picture”, “Moods”, “Night Time”). Buys a Fender Telecaster guitar. Inspired by Booker T & The MG’s (and upon seeing the movie “The Commitments”) starts assembling his own ambitious Rythm’n’Blues group (nameless) in Rome, comprising of a second guitarist, a bassist, old friend Andrea on drums, and a horn section. Very short lived… The band never played a show, and disbanded as soon as it was assembled.
Visits New York for the first time.
Moves to New York with his Telecaster. Now bandless, he participates in blues jams in clubs around Greenwich Village. Answers several Village Voice musicians ads, and auditions for a few groups. Finally joins the band Station Road, rehearsing in Forest Hills (Queens) and Long Island. Plays My Father’s Place in Queens, and a few other bars in Long Island and the East Village. While attending a show at the Stone Poney in Asbury Park N.J. meets and chats with Bruce Springsteen. A good year.
Station Road breaks up, and upon meeting singer/guitarist Harry Johnston through drummer Glenn, Den of Thieves forms, Inspired by a mutual appreciation for Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes, Lenny Kravitz, and the Blaxploitation soundtracks of the 70’s. Glenn leaves the band after the first couple of shows, due to “drummer” reasons. Andrea purchase his Fender Jaguar guitar.
Den of Thieves plays countless shows around NY, tour the East Coast, and records 3 albums (self-released on CD): “Den of Thieves”, “Blue Light”, “What it Is!”. While still in Den of Thieves, inspired by the Britpop bands of the decade he forms a new project, SHY, with keyboard player girlfriend. While involved in songwriting for SHY, he and the girlfriend also join the band Crave, playing shows and recording one album on CD and an EP. Den of Thieves breaks up.
Upon breakup with the girlfriend, he carries on, finds new band members through Village Voice ads, and changes the name of the band to Oscura. Old drummer friend, Glenn, joins the band. The band records 3 albums on CD (“Oscura”, “Revolution” (EP), “The Batcave Sessions”). The 1st album gets recorded at Empire View Studio, co-owned by Jim Sclavunos (Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Bad Seeds, Tav Falco, Cramps) and engineered by Peter Mavrogeorgis (Bellmer Dolls, Twisty Cats); the 2nd album is recorded at Tin Pan Alley studio, by friend (and Den of Thieves drummer) Giovanni Fusco. The band undergoes changes in lineup through the years, auditions for Capitol Records and Interscope, then disbands under stressful circumstances.
Meets future wife, and gets married within the year. Conceived during a car trip on the West Coast with friend songwriter Scott, forms a two-piece band, On Holidays. The band featured a drum machine, and occasional live drummer, Lee.
On Holidays breaks up, and a whole year of non-playing and depression will follow.
Records several songs, and assembles an album of solo material under the name The Disappearing Act (yet unreleased); plays a handful of solo acoustic shows. Friend and former On Holidays drummer, Lee, introduces him to the band he currently plays in, Rockethouse (formerly a popular local shoegaze band known as Aerial Love Feed) and gets hired for the job. Lee gets fired from the band, following a “pissing on drums” episode. Rockethouse tours the West Coast, plays CBGB, Don Hills, Luna Lounge, and other prominent NYC clubs, and records the album “Rising Sun” in Providence (RI) for Fabtone record label (Japan). Rockethouse breaks up.
Forms power-trio My Happy Gun with bassist Robert Goldsmith, and former Fuzztones drummer, Michael Phillips, soon replaced by John Coakley, and finally by Jim Chandler (former hired gun for The Cramps, and The Makers). John appears on the band self-titled EP, recorded by old friend Peter Mavrogeorgis at Dollhouse Studio. Andrea’s marriage ends.
My Happy Gun breaks up (discarding an album-worth of original material), and Andrea carries on with Jim Chandler (Jungle Jim), forming TWIN GUNS (originally named LAST NIGHT KNIFE FIGHT), debuting as a two-piece at a Cramps tribute show. Andrea also joins friend Josh Nagel and Jessica Melain in The Headless Hookers, records a full length album, including a track engineered and mixed by Jerry Teel, but never release it. The Headless Hookers also undergoes several lineup changes, most notably 3 or 4 different drummers. Because… drummers.
TWIN GUNS records a debut EP, recorded in an abandoned Brooklyn church, opens for Dick Dale and Lyres at Brooklyn Bowl, and years of touring both in the U.S. and Europe will follow, including playing opening slots for artists and bands such as The Chrome Cranks, Cheater Slicks, Kid Congo Powers, The Fuzztones, The Cynics, David J of Bauhaus, and many more. Around the same time, plays a show under the name Gold Room Music, with friends Celeste and Mat.
TWIN GUNS records 2nd LP (the self-financed “Sweet Dreams”) at Excello Studio in Brooklyn, by bluesman extraordinaire Hugh Pool, and then completed by Matt Verta-Ray. Joins Andy Animal’s Cannibal Tribe for a few shows, led by Andy Animal of The Stalkers, along drummer David Lindsay, and Alec Morton of Raging Slabs. Plays a show as Otto’s Kansas City (’77 Punk tribute), a one-time band comprised of friends from The Electric Mess, The Rats, and Back Cc’s.
Bassist Kristin Fayne-Mulroy joins TWIN GUNS, and the band records 3rd LP (“The Last Picture Show”) with Matt Verta-Ray (of Heavy Trash, Speedball Baby) at N.Y. Hed Studio. Album gets released by German label HoundGawd! At the same time Andrea and Australian underground legend Stu Spasm (formerly of Lubricated Goat, Beasts of Bourbon, Crunt, Lovestruck) form guitar duo The Duelists, and later the Art Gray Noizz Quintet, with the addition of two-string bass wonder Ryan Skeleton Boy (of WOMAN), and Rich Hutchins (Live Skull, Shilpa Ray, Isolation Society, Vestments, Lovestruck, and many others).
Andrea stars in Derek Davidson’s movie “Moving Pictures”, providing also the music soundtrack. TWIN GUNS records 4th LP (“Imaginary World”) with friend/engineer David Horowitz, for Big Neck Records. The album is mastered by well known Detroit engineer Jim Diamond. The Art Gray Noizz Quintet begins a years-long process of recordings for a debut album, with legendary producer Martin Bisi at BC Studios (http://www.martinbisi.com/disco.html)
Participates at an Alan Vega and Suicide tribute at Bowery Electric, featuring most notable NY musicians, including Martin Rev, and later, singing at a Cramps tribute, with other underground personalities. Andrea and songwriter/artist friend Dalila Pasotti form Arpalice, and begin working together. The Art Gray Noizz Quintet plays few high-profile shows, and opens for Mudhoney, The Scientists, tours the west coast, and later collaborates with Lydia Lunch for an EP, as well as headlining a show with Lydia Lunch fronting the band, playing original songs and covers by Lou Reed, Rowland S. Howard and others. Arpalice starts recording a full length album with Martin Bisi at BC Studio. TWIN GUNS tours Spain for the 2nd and last time. TWIN GUNS breaks up.
Joins the annual Lou Reed Birthday Celebration at Bowery Electric singing “White Light White Heat” (featuring L. Reed’s guitarist Mike Rathke). He then joins friend Tom on guitar for Doors of Portugal practices and enjoys the experience, looking forward to more. Quarantine starts. Arpalice album mixes get completed by Martin Bisi. While quarantined, he starts recording new music for a possible solo album, and more soundtrack instrumental music. First single “Unprecedented Times” comes out (on Bandcamp).
My Happy Gun
Moving Pictures Soundtrack
Art Gray Noizz Quintet