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Interview with The Infection


Interview by Peter Arnett

Hailed by the many that have seen them perform around New York City, The Infection are starting to get noticed by the Hard Rock circuit. With the release of their debut album "Time To Heal" the quartet of vocalist Rick Dunn, guitarist Tommy Guarnieri, bassist Santiago Helman and drummer Vinnie LaRocca are hoping that The Infection will take over the world!

The Infection Interview

How did The Infection spread amongst you?

(VLR) It started like this, me, Rick and Santiago were playing with a previous band together and we decided that it was time to move on to something else and try some new avenues. We spent a longtime auditioning guitar players, probably more than we could count. Tommy came recommended to us through a mutual friend and when he came in, we knew he was the guy and we hit the ground running. Rick, myself and Santiago had some ideas down, nothing that I would say was complete, but Tommy came in and put his spin on them and we went from there. It's been really a lot of fun working together.

(RD) I think the key was when we started this new project, we just wanted to have fun doing it. We wanted to make songs that we wanted to make and that we thought were representative of us and our sound. We also like each other which helps ...

(TG)..Well that's questionable depending on what day of the week it is!

(RD) We also have a great time on stage, which translates well as I think that our stage show now has surpassed our album, which obviously means that the next one will have to be even better!

The Infection is one of those names that has great symmetry about, obviously there is the dark menacing side to it, but also happy infectious connotations. Who thought of the name and was there a meaning behind it?

(RD) We were talking about different names for the band and we had a few that came up such as 'Trophy For Trying', 'In My Defence' and a few others, but we couldn't get the songs we were doing out of our head and Vinnie was always saying "I hope they go viral" and we went "go viral .. like an infection" and so we went from therewith the name!

"Time To Heal" sounds like an album where you have really learnt to play with one another, studied each other's strengths and how to gel as a group. Was this a conscious decision by you before entering the studio, or did it just seem right to record from the off.

(VLR) Absolutely right, we spent a lot of time pre-studio just preparing with one another...

(TG) We didn't even play our first gig until after we had recorded the album.

(VLR) That's true, we spent a lot of time working out the album, working out the parts and we wanted everything to be perfect. We also know that when it comes to recording, time is money, so we don't want to waste it experimenting in the studio, so we made sure that everything was right and sounded like we wanted before we went in to record.

One thing that impresses is how well the album sounds, and it's definitely a case of all of the parts coming together to make the whole thing work. How important was the power of the sound that is heard by the listeners?

(TG) The songs are pretty much the way that we wrote them, the album is self-produced, so ultimately, we had the final decision on everything that you are hearing.Anthony is a great engineer and had a lot of great production suggestions and a lot of them we used and some of them we didn't, if we didn't feel it was right for the song. Everything you hear on the album was decided on by the four of us and if we didn't like it, it didn't go on there.

As far as the guitar tones, this is only going to sound trite and I apologise, but I really think that a guitar tone is really a big deciding factor on what a band sounds like. You're either going to go LedZepplin's route, a metal route, or somewhere in between. I was really happy with the way the guitars sounded on the album, it's what I envisaged the whole time we were writing the album and recording it.When I heard it back, I was like cool, this sounds good and it sounds like me and us. Everything on the album came out fantastic and to be honest, Rick and I took the longest to do our tracks, which is kind of the nature for guitarists and vocalists. Vinnie and Santiago did their tracks in one day, not one day each, one day! So, they went in prepared and they hammered it out, like it was minimal takes.

(VLR) That was the canvas

(TG) Yeah, that's what it gave us, but to go in and just bang it out, I was just like "Holy shit, they've done at the end of day one!" Meanwhile, when I went to record solos it was like 5 million and seventy-three takes of each solo and me screaming "Argh, I suck" in between each one. Finally, we got something that kinda of worked. Rick went in and hammered his vocals and it wasn't like sing one line here and then copy and paste that this modern bullshit way of doing an album, no he sang his ass off and there is harmony work and a couple of little production works, but it's him, it's not studio magic.

(RD) Rather than just doing this line and then this one and this one, I just sang the song multiple times and then we said this was the best take. It's what I think is a really organic album. Granted, its not all four of us playing with just one mike in the room and that's it, but regardless its really like old school playing, ability and talent meets new school with a couple of production tweaks here and there.

Sometimes the bass and drums can play second fiddle to the guitars and vocals. How determined were you that this wasn't going to happen on the album?

(VLR) Yes, excellent question. It was very important in the sense that we gotgood sounding drums on the album. Forget about all the fancy flash and dash, the average person that listens to music doesn't give a shit about what my talent level is as long as it sounds good and that was my goal personally. I know that some other drummers may disagree with that, but my goal was to make sure that the drums were driving the songs and weren't stepping on anybody, especially Rick's vocals or Tommy during his solos as I didn't want it to be the Vinnie drum show, it wasn't about that, it was about the songs.

(SH) I don't think that we purposefully went in to make everything equal, it's just how we are. This is how we work and I think it just happened naturally. There are times in the songs that call for different areas to take the lead, but we did what the song needed.

Reading from your album notes, you mention that you use Social Media to get your ideas and what with everything going on in America and The UK at the moment, you must have enough material for about twenty albums?

(VLR) (Laughing) Yeah you could say that, I think that we have to sit on the fence about a lot of it,there are certain things that we will take and certain things that we wont!

(RD) I'm very choosy about what I will write about. As a band, it's a very interesting dynamic, we have different political views that we don't really talk about. There are times when I might have a great idea for a song but I think "that's not a good representation of the whole band", so we might not use it or I might change it.

(VLR) I'm the grumpy cat of the band, I hate everything. Any ideas that these guys come in with, I tell them that it sucks, I mean literally. Tommy takes the brunt of everything, I tell him it sucks, it's a shitty idea, it sounds too metal or sounds too this and then I'll critique everybody and then they come back and critique me on something and I'll like "Yeah that's great, now help me make a great song" I always want to come out with a great sone at the end of it. I know that people have their opinions, but ...

(TG) ... mines always right!

(VLR) I'm the ultimate pessimist, I don't think anything is good until like the end of the day and we've finished it and then I'm like "Yeah, we've created a really good album." I've still got my one song on there that I'm not a fan of, but I have to say that Rick is a master at writing lyrics, he really has a gift for it.

(TG) Not only that, I don't think that I've heard him say that he has writers block or anything like that. I don't think that we've yet to write a song where we start with a lyric or a vocal line. The way we usually write is that Santiago will bring in an idea on the bass, sometimes it remains the bass riff, or sometimes it will become the guitar riff and just because of our schedules, it's the bass and drums that get worked out first and then I'll come on top of it and Rick will write afterwards, but as we are going through the songs, it can't just be the trio of us with Rick sitting on the couch going "oh this sucks", no, he's got the mike in his hand and the whole time he's just singing and the lyrics just come out constantly and it's coherent thoughts and melodies and maybe it won't wind up being on the final cut, but at the same time I'm think "Holy shit, he just spews this shit out like it's nothing!" There is no shortage of ideas with this guy.

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(VLR) We can come up with a riff tonight and he will have a melody as we're going through it. He might not have the words, but the melody will be there to write the song around it. It's really something that when you have played with as many singers and artists as we have, you know the guys that have it. You might have a singer that has an incredible range but can't write a song, then you have Rick who's got the range and the gift to write, which is the hard part really. He can phrase words together that form in to a story and then a song.

(RD) I've never heard you guys say any of this shit before!

(VLR) To be fair it's credit well deserved and where it needs to be.

The lead track Consequences is a song that gets you right into the mind of a really conflicted protagonist,seeing and trying to understand his side of things and reasoning before doing something massive. What made you approach from this point of view?

(RD) It's funny really, in the news constantly there are things happening like Anthony Weiner (America politician who was caught in a sexting scandal) and all these different scandals where people are doing things and not really thinking about what might happen if they get caught. They're stuck in the moment and being selfish. At the beginning of the song the character is saying it's a selfish yearning and he's going to do something that he knows he shouldn't do it, it's morally wrong, but he's going to do it anyway. I kinda took that vibe and then thought about the vampire movies I've watched and thought "how cool would it be to be a vampire!" They go out at night and have super powers, but the only thing is that they've got to kill people which is the selfish yearning, the consequences being you can never go out into the sunlight or be with the ones you love in the light, so I sort of blended all these together to get that vibe!

So it's a serial killer crossed over with Twilight!

(RD) exactly (laughing)

(TG) Yeah, like a sparkly Jefferey Dalmier!! (20:52)

Looking at the video to the song "Consequences" it does come across that you look like you have been doing this kind of thing for ages. You looked so composed in front of the camera, rather then it being your first as a band.

(VLR) Yeah, I think that we were all quite comfortable. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun and we had a good time doing it. The one thing that we seem to hear a lot is people coming up to us after a show and saying "You seem to be having a good time up there" and the answer is honestly "Yeah, we are. We're not just doing it for the sake of it, but we're really enjoying it as well..."

(TG) We have to cause we're sure as shit not making any money from it!

(VLR) That's true! We think that we might as well have a good time whilst doing it and also put on the best performances that we can, which is something we strive to do regardless of it's a live gig or a video for a song.

(TG) The other thing is that we had scoped out Eric De Carlo's (Director) work beforehand, so we were comfortable with what the outcome was most likely to be with regards to the quality of his work which really helped, but for me personally it was a lot easier to be on set as I'm really comfortable with the band. When I played gigs in the past with other bands I used to get paralysing stage fright, since being with these guys, I've not had one ounce of stage fright apart from a few weeks ago when I looked up and saw John Petrucci from Dream Theater in the audience and I lost my mind and my hands started shaking for a minute or two. Fortunately, I managed to get it back together!

The lyrics to a lot of your songs seem to be multi-layered, such as multiple lines from the track 'Vagrant' which goes "You all want forgiveness, not willing to give it", but along with this underlying critique on society, there also seems to be a touch of a personal nuance?

(RD) That song kinda wrote itself. As I put the lyrics together, I started with the homeless guy that you see on the streets all the time, but then decided to tell a story on how he became homeless in my mind. We see them all the time here in New Yorkand it's a really hard thing to see every day. A lot of the lyrics just fell out and when I looked back at them, they gave me chills. There is actually another verse to the song that we didn't record as it was getting too long that also goes into it.

(SH) I think that the sound of it helped the subject matter as well as its dark but brings it to life, which was important. It definitely relates to this city but also everywhere as well and the debate around the homeless is always there so we wanted to create something that brought it all together.

(VLR) I'm not going to give the video away, as I want people to see and make their own minds up, but when I saw it, it made me like the song even more and I got excited about it which can be difficult over your own body of work as you've written it and watched it grow and it can be a long process, but this kind of thing makes you feel it and if we feel it, then hopefully the audience will as well.

With the world in the various political states that it is, the title "Time To Heal" is one of those that transcends everything that is happening out there and sends a simple, yet powerful message, was this your intention?

(TG) Yeah, it is and it isn't. It's a diverse album subject wise and we try not to get political or religious as they are two topics that can really divide, but honesty there is a lot of shit in the world and within societies of all cultures, we all have our problems, you have yours with Brexit, so it's a gut check. Time to stop, look around and time to heal!

It's a message, without being over the top preachy, that it's time to put all our shit and differences aside and try and move on with our lives and humanity.

Is what the audience see on stage really you, or are there some personas that appear once the music kicks in?

(VLR): What you see is what you get. We go up there with no gimmicks. You always need good songs, no matter what gimmicks you may have and you can be easily found out if this isn't the case. We know we're not for everybody, but we are what you see and I hope that reaches people in the audience.

(RD) We're all nice guys and I hope we give off a fun vibe that people can relate to.

(VLR) You have to be natural, there is too much out there on social media to be fake, you always get caught out and that can be a problem. We keep it real in the band, we fight like family but we keep each other straight. I can honestly say that there are no other three guys that I would rather be with (cue eye rolls and affectionate noises from the other three). I have to say this as I'm in the doghouse with these guys (laughter) as I pissed over something that they have been working on as I wasn't in the mood and I sent a text out, which the guys ignored, apart from Tommy who fired back a three paragraph none repeatable response, which got us all going again. I really couldn't be without these three.

All bands can relate a story whilst on stage of that perfect moment where everything just went right, have you guys experienced this or do you believe it's still to come?

(SH) No I don't think that we have yet, we've been close, but if we can do a really big show to a lot of people, I think that we could get that. We've all played in previous bands so we know what you mean, but it's still out there for us. We're working hard to have that happen to us. In some respects, though I hope that we never peak and keep on going to try and get better.

(TG) We played a lot of good shows, even fantastic ones and the guys will point to different ones as being a favourite at the moment, but I think as a band we have yet to reach that perfect one. I'm sure it will be awesome however when it comes.

(VLR) I'm kinda with Santi on this one, I hope it doesn't happen, maybe when we have countless albums under our belts and about six live ones then it can happen but I just want to keep playing, keep learning and produce the best music that we can.

Pete Arnett

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