Scalera? I hardly knew her.
Sometimes you watch a musician and you think “Man, he’s good he must get laid all the time.” And sometimes you find a musician where you think “Man he’s good. Too good. He must never get laid.”. Gianni Scalera is part of the latter category.
I first met Gianni 10 years ago when we were put together for a school band. Like most teenage bands we played only one gig. Personally I fumbled my way through it with a terrible riff, no singer and thinking because Kurt Cobain ruined solos I could play anything I wanted to. I was told later that Gianni would be playing a solo piece afterwards. Being 3 years older and full of youthful egocentrism, I thought that was unfair, but with no pieces of my own to perform I made less fuss about it. Still wondering if I was the band leader (due to age and misplaced confidence) why he deserved to get the spotlight. Then I heard Gianni play an acoustic version of Sweet Child of Mine and I quickly felt shame. Ashamed of my selfishness and how stunted my skills were in comparison.
Now a decade later I have had many opportunities to watch Gianni again, solo and with his band Troubled Heritage (currently disbanded). And watching him I am still in awe of his technical prowess and powerful singing voice. And now he has songwriter to add to his long list of musical abilities. With obvious influence from heavy rock bands such as Black Stone Cherry (who he had travelled to wales to see) and Soundgarden; Gianni has the ability to write absurdly catchy songs that follow you to the smoking area. Dropping the filter from your mouth as you try to roll and singing to yourself Troubled Heritage’s song Pleasure “What does it take to feel happy” (available for free on band camp).
I caught up with Gianni at an event at Poco Loco in Chatham headlined by The Good’s Gone (whose article should be completed shortly) for an interview that has been due to publish for nearly a month now. It may be late, but a journalist always pays his debts. Debts that seem to accumulate every time one drinks.
Acoustically, Gianni plays a Fender T-Bucket 400ce electro acoustic that he acquired at the age of 12 for £250, looking to upgrade from the Argos Ashton starter pack he started with. It’s rare to find a guitarist who isn’t amassing a collection of guitars like a Republican stockpiling guns for a Purge night. So to be using the same guitar all this time is quite some feat in self-control. He remarks proudly that he often receives compliments on the guitar from others who have tried it and that it was certainly worth the price.
Though tonight he had played an acoustic it is more common to find him playing something electrical and loud. Gianni’s solo work is simply a side project. He likes to stay active as his “Mind withers with musical ideas” in his down time, so he likes to play solo whenever he gets the chance. As mentioned, he was previously prolific around Medway at the very least for his work with his band Troubled Heritage, but more recently he can be found playing Bass and providing backing vocals for his main musical priority Crybaby Special. A Post-Ska band who boast none too modest 5.5k followers on facebook and accomplishments such as opening for Pete Doherty and Maximo Park. The band are currently getting material together for a second album to follow their debut “No Excuses”. It may be speculated that singer Jason Stafford has taken Gianni under his wing. With a more established career in music Jason has built his own studio in a shipping container in Ashford, which he has used to help Gianni record several as of yet unreleased tracks, currently in need of mixing and mastering. And had in fact given Gianni the gig this night.
To coin a common and overused phrase what Gianni lacks in age he more than makes up for in ability. His covers in particularly tonight had been more than impressive. My personal song of note was his cover of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. Though Gianni admits that whilst he is a fan of Tears for Fears it was youtuber Andy Mckee’s cover with acoustic tapping that inspired him to play it. Particularly it was the finger picking aspect of the song that pricked his interest, one of Gianni’s preferred styles of playing. Gianni admits that his cover of the song does not quite reach the realms of Andy’s modestly explaining that he is not a musical maestro. I statement I would contest and did so when he said it.
His second cover was The Allman Brothers “The Whipping Post”. When asked why he chose this track Gianni stated that while he doesn’t mind covering popular tracks, he prefers to cover songs that aren’t as well known. That way he is able to introduce the audience to songs he enjoys and help them discover something new.
If you’re a musician, you may be familiar with the well-meaning, aged drunkard who doesn’t know the reasonably popular song you just played, saying that you should play something that everyone knows and can enjoy. Despite all your friends who turned up and the other bands waiting to play singing along to your alt-rock cover of “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang. This egocentric philosophy comes to clash with the once punk now common place ethic that you should never cover a bands most popular song. An ethic I discovered reading a My Chemical Romance article where the band lambaste Placebo for covering The Pixie’s “Where is my Mind”, whilst I listened to their cover of Pulp’s “Common People”. Though this seems like a catch 22 situation I feel that Gianni has instead found a way to balance this hypocritical state, by mixing both by at least finding new ways to cover the more popular tracks.
Among Gianni’s inspirations he names Myles Kennedy and Chris Cornell. After hearing his work with Troubled Heritage you could probably have guessed these with a half basic understanding of heavy rock bands. But more surprisingly he also mentions Cat Stevens, a Folk musician with a long career better placed in my dad’s glove box than a young man’s head. He admits that this is almost entirely his partner Gracie’s fault. Gianni also has a big fondness for Blues and Folk music, though this is better interpreted from his style especially his fedora, which I drunkenly called a hat for Bronies several times throughout the interview.
When asked what advice Gianni has for new musicians he immediately responds that you should: “Make sure you know your craft. If your nervous remember how good you really are and that you can really do it and go for it”. Just as he starts a heart-warming “follow your heart speech”, I ask “what if your shit”. This leads to several seconds of silence as Gianni switches tracks for his train of thought and suggests that “If someone gives you feedback take some criticism, but Follow your instinct. Go with what feels right to you.” He also states that when song writing he “Tries to write songs from the heart and tries to be different from other acoustic players”. He achieves this by finding unique stuff to play in regards to chord progressions and riffs. However, he realises that it is rather difficult to be different nowadays, but he doesn’t think it’s impossible. Quite often you find a new musician you never knew about and it’ll be something completely different from anything you’ve ever heard before.
With a previous article in mind I ask Gianni what his opinion was on artists using gimmicks. After several seconds pondering time he confirms that he doesn’t mind gimmicks if they don’t distract from the music. It has been done successfully with shock artists such as Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne, but it should be tastefully done. When asked if he had a gimmick he replied earnestly that if he does then he doesn’t know what it is. Behind him however, Gracie had at this point joined us for the interview and started pointing at his rather large hat. Which me and her agreed was to curry support from bronies. Gianni got protective and started defending his hat by comparing it to Ryan Sams of The Good’s Gone and some of his heroes including Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn to which Gracie tauntingly remarks “The Ego on him”. The three of us Laugh and through the laughing Gianni says with a smile “I don’t think I have an ego. But…” and the recording stops there.
You can find Gianni playing around Medway and at the time of writing this article has recently released a video with Seaside Sessions of his song “Just Be You”.
by Coor Brow-Obles