MICK CERVINO –
Interview By Ville Krannila / December 2006
We recently sat down with Mick Cervino, in town to play bass in Yngwie Malmsteen’s touring band. Cervino is also a former member of Blackmore’s Night and currently leading his own project Violent Storm. VS have released their excellent debut album “Storm Warning” and are set to tour next year.
Ville : Okay, how did you come up with the name “Violent Storm” and how did this project start in the first place?
Mick: Well, violent storms are obviously happening everywhere but it really didn’t have anything to do with the weather. K.K. (Downing) actually had some input on the name. I’ve always liked the colour violet for some reason, so the first version was “Violet Storm.” I asked K.K. what he thought about the name, he first said he wouldn’t be involved with anything called “Violet!” (laughs) He suggested we’d change it a bit and then it became Violent Storm.
So K.K. got involved, he came to see me play with Yngwie and we met couple of times in Florida where i live. I played him some of the songs, at first i was just showing him the material to get his opinion but later he got more into it, and agreed to play on two songs.
That was the first version of the album which was released in Japan. It was a bit premature to get a release but it got put out mainly because of contractual reasons. K.K. then asked if we could enhance it and at that point we called Roy Z and he came down to edit and re-mix the album. They did an amazing job and K.K. was really active in the production process.
Ville: So it sounds better now?
Mick: Yeah, it sounds way better. It’s more straightforward. You see, the initial version was more thought out for the stage show. It had some longer sections, that we would have played around live. However, the idea was to first release a studio album and get some radio playing so we made some of the songs more compact and more to the point.
Ville: I also noticed there’s 2 extra tracks on the Japanese version (” Maybe Next Time” and “Meaningless Life Of Misery” )?
Mick: Well, the album is very diverse. I like the idea of doing an album that’s not boring, personally i get bored very easily with most bands. You listen 2 or 3 songs and you’ve heard it , the rest of the album’s the same. So when i did my own album i would include diversity so the listener would stay with the record. “Meaningless Life Of Misery” was one of those that was a bit too off, too separate from the rest of the songs so we decided not to include it on this new release. “Maybe Next Time” on the other hand, was just an exclusive bonus track for Japan. There may be more things added to the American release, perhaps it’s just something visual. Not sure yet.
Ville: I was just listening to the record in car on my way here and one thing i noticed were the catchy melodies and guitar lines. Did you spend a lot of time writing those melodies & lyrics, trying to get the songs right? How was the creative process?
Mick: The process began many years ago. Many of the songs were written ages ago. Normally the way i write is with bass riffs and build the songs from that. But sometimes there are days when melody lines come out of nowhere and the riffs and lyrics come later. The best result is when you get melody and lyrics simultaneously. But it doesn’t always work out that way. You just have to let melody take its course, let it flow naturally. Also time pressure plays an effect; you have many ideas in your head but you don’t have time to mess with everything. You have to get it done. Many good ideas have come from being under pressure. So there’s not one particular set or process i have, it all depends.
Ville: You also have few outside contributors on the lyrics of “Storm Warning”? Your wife wrote one of the songs?
Mick: Yeah, it’s a song called “Pain.” It’s a depressing song but was actually written on a beach! (laughs) It’s a good song, i’m glad she brought that in.
Ville: Do the lyrics on the album come from your personal experiences, where do you draw the inspiration?
Mick: Well, the first song on the album is related to war, war being the stupidest thing ever and people who have their own agendas as far as wars are concerned. Rest of it just comes from all kinds of places, including my personal life experiences and vivid imagination.
Ville: Ok, let’s go right to the very beginning. You were born in Argentina, can you tell a little bit about your background? How did you get started on your career?
Mick: I was born in Argentina, grew up there. My mother asked me if i wanted to play guitar when i was seven, my brother already played piano by then and i tried to play piano as well but really hated it. But with guitar i was just taught three chords, Argentinean folk music which i never liked. At some point they took me to another teacher and he showed me more chords and songs i liked.
Then i discovered Ritchie Blackmore and Deep Purple. I thought: “I can try to be a good guitar player, but i’ll never be as good as this guy!” So i figured i’d better play some bass instead. I think i was 14 at the time and didn’t play professionally until i was 16. All the while i was listening to British metal & hard rock bands and thought that was what i wanted to do.
So when i turned 18 i went to England and played with a jazz rock band over there. We had a little bit of success but i couldn’t reach Ritchie who was the one i really wanted to play with. But i knew he lived in Los Angeles so i thought i’d go and try to hook up with him. At that point i knew all their songs, Deep Purple, Rainbow, all of it. However, it wasn’t until Blackmore’s Night when we met so it took a long time..
Ville: So how did you wind up playing with Blackmore’s Night and what was the experience like?
Mick: Well, i had attempted to get in touch with Ritchie for years unsuccessfully. But through internet i found few postal addresses where i could send tapes for him. I knew he liked Classical music and at the time i was playing that stuff for keyboards on the bass just for my own amusement. So i recorded myself doing some of those Classical things on the bass. I put the video tape on the shelf to wait for the right time. Later i copied the tape and sent it over to each one of those addresses. Apparently one of them got through and video tape sat on his coffee table for weeks. His wife Candice asked him if he was ever going to watch the thing, and he said “Nah, it’s probably some psycho.” (laughs). Eventually he did watch it though, and then asked her to play it again and again. The next thing i knew, his manager called me and asked me some questions..
At the time Ritchie was reforming Rainbow and was doing a band project called Blackmore’s Night also. That’s what started the audition process. I was supposed to record myself playing Ritchie’s songs on cassette and send it to him over night. Then Ritchie would listen to it and through his manager told me “why don’t you do this like that” and i’d do another tape. So that went on for three weeks, it was time consuming but by the end of it i knew the whole Blackmore’s Night set. I went to audition in New York, rest of the band was there and we just clicked immediately. So it all lasted about three years and i had a good professional and personal relationship with Ritchie. It was a great experience.
Ritchie Blackmore is an amazing musician. He was great at hard rock stuff. Occasionally we did some of the older songs, when he picked up the Strat and turned up i was in heaven!
Ville: What did You think of the music? It was different than anything You had done before…
Mick: Yeah, I’d never heard that kind of music before. Classical, romantic yes but renaissance music, no. It was great because it was based on pure, simple melodies. But the funny thing is, that kind of music has some relationship with type of riffs that Ritchie used to do. You know, most people come up riffs with power chords, but Ritchie’s riffs were usually in fourths, which is what you hear in medieval music. So you could basically turn some of those renaissance songs into rock songs.
Ville: Ritchie was already doing some of that classical stuff with Rainbow, you can hear it is the same guy playing guitar there…
Mick: True, but i don’t think he was doing it consciously.
Ville: And of course you did a cover of Blackmore’s Night track “Storm” on the VS record. How did that come about?
Mick: Well, they recorded “Storm” after i had left the band but i had heard it played by Ritchie before. The way they did it was very nice, but I always knew it had a possibility to become a great rocking song. Plus the name “Storm” obviously had a lot to do with our band. That’s basically why it was included.
Ville: What’s your favourite track on “Storm Warning?” If a new fan came on board, what would be the ideal song to play that best describes your band?
Mick: It’s hard to tell because like i said earlier, i like the diversity of the album. It depends on your mood, whether you prefer a song like “Alimentary Fable” which is more melodic. Or something like “War No More” which is more aggressive. Or some other more depressing songs they can relate to. And people these days living in these rebellious states, where nobody understands them, they can listen to “You Don’t Care” for example. So there’s not one particular song that i think represents the band, they all do. Although you can tell from all of them it’s the same group of guys playing. But it’s not necessarily in the same formula.
Ville: One of the songs i really liked was “Screaming In Your Face,” good song and great melody on that one…
Mick: Oh, interesting. Usually it’s “War No More” or “Deceiver” or “Alimentary Fable” that people prefer. The live version of “Screaming” is going to be slightly longer actually.
Ville: So what are the touring plans for Violent Storm then?
Mick: We’ll hopefully do a tour in 2007. We are preparing the whole band for it. We got a new guitar player who’s going to be touring with us. His name is Martin Mickels. We’ll start as soon as we get the bookings. We are working on it as we speak. We may add a last minute keyboard player or another guitar player but not necessarily. We’ll see how it goes.
Ville: Do you think You’ll pull songs from your past or is it just Violent Storm?
Mick: It’s just Violent Storm, we won’t be doing any cover numbers.
Ville: Now on to reason why You are here in Finland, you will play three ates with Yngwie Malmsteen from tomorrow on. How did you start Your collaboration with him?
Mick: After playing with Ritchie i had already accomplished my lifetime goal. Sometimes things come to an end and once my touring with Ritchie ended i looked around for someone else to work with. Even though i enjoyed playing with Ritchie tremendously, it was a very quiet situation. There were acoustic guitars, acoustic basses, soft melodies and i was missing the reason i first got into music in the first place. Which was to play rock, loud! Since i liked the combination of classical and rock, the first person who came to my mind as Yngwie.
I sent information to his manager basically to offer my services, and having worked with Ritchie made it a little easier. You know Yngwie has worked with other ex-Blackmore players before, such as Joe Lynn Turner. Anyway i got a call just a few days later. He was putting together a new band and could use me. He asked me to send a tape, i did and we took off from there.
Ville: Yngwie plays all the bass guitars himself in the studio. Is it difficult to come to a live situation to play those parts? Do You put Your own tamp to them or play them just note for note?
Mick: Here and there i add my own things but that’s not a problem as long as i fill in the basic structure of the bass lines. As you know Yngwie is a very busy player so i don’t want to overdo what he’s doing.
I tend to play a supportive role. But i get busy anyway because he wants the bass to double many of his crazy, fast licks. So that keeps me occupied and it’s challenging.
Ville: I suppose it’s challenging also because Yngwie’s throwing his guitar and running around. If the bottom end, bass and drums aren’t there t’s going to show..?
Mick: Yeah. We have a solid, good rhythm section with drummer Patrick (Johansson). We have to make sure no one gets hit with Yngwie’s guitar. These days he looks before he flips it though! (laughs)
Ville: So when you are going out on tour with Violent Storm, is it going to have same elements visually compared to what You are doing now with Yngwie?
Mick: No, we have a lot of things in mind but we won’t be trying to copy anybody. We’ll try to make it an interesting show visually as well but there’s not going to be one flashy style that takes over. It’s just the band and i think everyone will be quite happy with that. Personally when i go see a band, that’s what i want to see. Not just one guy all the time, that’s my preference.
Ville: You have worked with two legendary guitarists during your career – Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore, any similarities and/or differences between the two characters?
Mick: They both can be difficult but they are also both amazing musicians. And at the end of the day i’m there because of the music. I enjoyed Ritchie’s music and his talent, same goes for Yngwie. That kind of takes over from the other businesses.
They are extremely different players. If you compare them, as players they have almost nothing in common. They don’t play in same scales, some minor stuff here and there but that’s about it. Ritchie is much more a perfectionist, everything has to be perfect. I remember we were doing a recording session and he wanted this specific drum beat set in 1-22. Afterwards we had to re-record the whole session because he wanted it in 1-21..
Yngwie can be meticulous too, but with him it’s much more about the energy. And you have to be on your toes with both of them really. You have to be prepared and ready in rehearsals..
Ville: And live too, they can start playing something and You have to catch up quick..
Mick: Yes, that’s something that they both do. You could expect them to start off with something that you know is not on the set list.
Ville: Ok, what’s up ahead for You and Yngwie after this point?
Mick: Well, this is just few dates here in Finland and that’s it as far as touring goes. After this Yngwie’s probably going to record a new album. I’m not going to be involved and that’s fine with me. Yngwie plays his own bass lines and that makes sense, you know. He’s an amazing bass player and rather than teaching me the parts he does it himself and saves a lot of time. So i’m definitely going to concentrate on Violent Storm in 2007.
Ville: I red on the website that You have also done a bass solo album called “Ostinato” Is it already available or coming out soon?
Mick : It has been out through many different outlets for many years now. But soon it’s going to be available only through my own website ( www.mickcervino.com ) It might be released through record company as well but at this point were working on it strictly for the site. It has been released on many territories before but those contracts have ended so we’re going to concentrate on just one outlet- which is the website.
Ville: Do You have plans for a follow-up? Do You think there’s a market out there for that kind of thing?
Mick : Not necessarily, no. There’s a very small group of people who are interested in that. But i enjoyed doing that and perhaps when i’m semi-retired i’ll do another one..
Ville: The last question. What are Your goals as a musician for the future, what do You want to achieve before retirement?
Mick: Well, I can focus on one goal at a time. My first goal for many years was to play with Ritchie and i did that. Then work with Yngwie, then to record my own album, i did those. So now i guess the next step is to take the band on the road, to reach success with Violent Storm – that’s my next goal. Things have gone quite well so far, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.