Fabulous Flip Sides – Interview with Fastball’s Tony Scalzo

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We celebrate the 20th anniversary of Fastball’s All the Pain Money Can Buy, with an expanded release containing nine bonus tracks, including the demo of “The Way.” We also hear from their Hollywood Records labelmate Lawrence Zubia of The Pistoleros.

By Warren Kurtz

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Left to Right: Miles Zuniga, Joey Shuffield and Tony Scalzo

GOLDMINE: Twenty years ago, I heard “The Way” on the radio and the verse melody reminded me of a Tom Jones song. The next time I heard it, my wife, Donna, was near me and I joked, “You’ve got to hear this new version of ‘Delilah’.” She listened around the corner, and thought it was a remake, until the chorus kicked in. The anniversary edition of All the Pain Money Can Buy contains nine bonus tracks including two versions of “The Way,” a demo and an acoustic version, where I hear guitars, a conga drum and a Latin flavor.

TONY SCALZO: It does sound like classics of old, like “Delilah” or “Besame Mucho,” with a minor to major key change in the song. The demo was with a Spanish guitar in my home studio with the resources available to take to the guys. I wanted to keep it similar to the demo, but Miles said, “No way,” feeling it needed a big sound for the band on the CD. For the actual recording that you heard on the radio, we used a mid- ‘90s Yamaha keyboard with a rhythm track and we tuned it to match the guitar, creating a loop. At the beginning of the recording, it is very lo-fi, with a real radio tuning in from left to right, like you were searching for a favorite station. The big production kicked in with the second verse. Our manager, Russell Carter, suggested it as a single. We thought Miles’ “Sooner or Later” would have been our first single with a straight ahead catchy rock sound, but the eeriness of “The Way” won out and interest kept building day by day on modern rock radio.

GM:By April, “The Way” entered the Top 40, peaking at No. 5 and lasting a lengthy 35 weeks. Miles’ “Fire Escape” followed later that year. I thought it was going to be big. Like your assessment of “Sooner or Later,” this one was catchy, straight ahead rock. So was its flip side, “The Hardest Part,” from your labelmates, The Pistoleros. I thought that was an interesting idea from Hollywood Records that I had only seen with oldies releases, having two bands on the same single. It reminded me of Blockbuster’s video rental strategy at the time, “If you like this movie, then you may also like these other movies.” It worked for me. I learned of The Pistoleros because of Fastball.

TS: While “Fire Escape” didn’t make the Top 40, it did OK on modern rock radio stations. The Pistoleros were great labelmates from Arizona.

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A side: Fire Escape – Fastball

Flip side: The Hardest Part – The Pistoleros

Top 100 debut: December 5, 1998

Peak position: 86

Hollywood Records Hot Hits A0001

GM:Our daughter, Brianna, played trumpet with the Cave Spring High School Marching Band in Roanoke, Virginia. She told me that “The Way” was on constant rotation in their band room. In the summer of 1999, while she was at band camp, you were back in the Top 40 with another song from the album, “Out of My Head,” a very relaxed song with keyboards, reminding me a bit of “Ride Captain Ride” by Blues Image and probably sounded a bit like Blues Traveler to Brianna and her friends.

TS: It certainly shows the diversity of songs on the album. That one is easy and simple to play. I never get sick of it or any of the songs.

GM:Another bonus track demo that I enjoy is “Slow Drag,” which shows an emotional vocal.

TS: Songs evolve as they get into the studio and this is another one that received a big treatment.

GM:“Freeloader Freddie” is another bonus track that caught my ear. It is amazing that one song can be edgy, yet loose and even harmonious.

TS: It didn’t make it on the album twenty years ago. We try to have some fun. Our recordings are vehicles to get to a state of mind. We draw from our influences of British bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s and we imitate artists that we’re into.

GM:A couple of favorites of mine from the original album are “Better Than It Was,” with its Byrds-like sound, and one, being the father of a trumpeter, with a big brass sound, “G.O.D. (Good Old Days).”

TS: “Better Than It Was” started out as a country song and became more pop. “G.O.D.” was given a Las Vegas production. When we play it live, it sounds more like a country song or the Americana genre.

GM:We’ve looked back twenty years, now let’s go back fifty years. It was Memorial Day Weekend of 1968. My father, an avid golfer, would go to the driving range to practice and I would tag along, enjoying being with him and the car radio. We got to the range and they were playing music over the speakers. He asked, “Are you sure you don’t want to hit a bucket of balls?” I declined. I was just happy to sit there, watch him and take in some more music. It was a cool Cleveland night as I sat there, hearing, for the first time, such a beautiful melody that just kept building. It was “This Guy’s in Love with You.” Thank you for the tribute you have given this song and including it among your bonus tracks.

TS: You are very welcome. It is one of the coolest things we ever did, all in one day in New York City at the recording studio, The Hit Factory. We were hanging out by a photo of John Lennon from the Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey recording sessions with little Sean Lennon sitting in the chair with him. We love the history of rock and roll and music in general. What an honor it was to do that Burt Bacharach song and to record it there, with a Beatle watching over us.

GM:Speaking of The Beatles, you spent time with what some call the fifth Beatle, due to his participation and credit on both sides of the Apple single “Get Back” / “Don’t Let Me Down,” with his electric piano featured. Billy Preston joined you for your lively 2000 single “You’re an Ocean.”

TS: I wanted a Billy Preston-style sound with an R&B piano and asked to get somebody like Billy. Sure enough, the producer, Julian Raymond, got Billy himself in the studio and he did the part, making it a perfect match for the recording.

GM:It was fun watching him play live in The Beatles’ Let It Be film and at George Harrison’s Concert for Bangla Desh. I imagine that it would also be fun watching the three of you play too.

TS: I hope so. In addition to me, Miles and Joey, we also have another guitar player and bass player on stage. We have been playing for years. In the early days of Fastball, we opened for Matthew Sweet and The Jayhawks. Over the years we have shared the stage with Everclear, Goo Goo Dolls, Smash Mouth, and Sugar Ray, acts from our era, and we have a new album coming out in 2019.

Fastball will be performing in Texas, Florida and South Carolina in the coming months.

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Tony, Miles and Joey, courtesy of FastballTheBand.com

http://www.fastballtheband.com/

We reached out to Lawrence Zubia of The Pistoleros about the song on the flip side of Fastball’s “Fire Escape,” his composition “The Hardest Part,” which was also included on the The Pistoleros’ album Hang on to Nothing.

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LAWRENCE ZUBIA: “The Hardest Part” is one of my favorite songs. It was written before we recorded Hang on to Nothing, The Pistoleros major label debut album for Hollywood Records. Although it masquerades as a relationship break up song, it’s far from that. It’s a song about reincarnation and the cycle of life. It’s an homage to my late great friend Doug Hopkins from Gin Blossoms. The Pistoleros are alive and well. We have celebrated 25 years together and have released our album, Silver, which might be our best record to date.

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Silver begins with the powerful “You’re Not Alone.” “Living in the Dark,” with equal power, may remind listeners of Hootie & The Blowfish. Catchy rockers “Lost “You Belong” and “Lost & Gone” are included, with the latter sounding like a tribute to fellow Arizona band Gin Blossoms. “Always You & Me” is bouncy, and keyboards nicely accent “Summertime.” Tenderness is found on the catchy “Parts of Yesterday,” the slower “Don’t Break My Heart” and on the gentle finale “Broken Man,” accented nicely with a violin and cello.

http://www.thepistoleros.com/

Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with giveaways, interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, as part of “Moments to Remember” at wvcr.com or iHeart Radio – search WVCR.

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