Joe Deninzon & musical friends Rachel Flowers (flute, piano) and Alex Skolnick (guitar) perform Chick Corea’s “Spain” on the upcoming Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius’ “Behind the Curtain: Live From ProgStock” via Four-Disc Box Set – Double CD, DVD & Blu-Ray to be released by Melodic Revolution Records.
“Spain” will premiere on YouTube on Friday, October 14 at 9 PM ET/6 PM PT/ 3 AM Amsterdam time (October 15, Saturday) Watch it here or on YouTube.
“Spain,” and how it came to be by Joe Deninzon
One of the perks of being a jazz musician is that you can walk into a room anywhere in the world, jump on stage with people you’ve never met who may or may not speak your language, and weave together a spontaneous concert based on a shared musical language.
On October 2nd, 2021, when the late great John Goodsall from Brand X fell ill, Stratospheerius was asked last minute to headline Progstock, the biggest prog rock festival in the Northeastern U.S. Preceding our set was the amazing multi-instrumentalist Rachel Flowers, who recently contributed her talents to our single, “Storm Surge.” Following us later that night was the bassist Percy Jones. Joining Percy on guitar was Alex Skolnick. Alex is an old friend who recorded and toured with our band in the early 2000s. I saw a great opportunity to reunite with Alex and include Rachel in a song. It was also nice to give the band a break and play something more stripped-down in the middle of our set. We decided to play Chick Corea’s “Spain,” a song we all knew well. There was no time to rehearse. Alex had heard of Rachel but had never met her. That night, Rachel and Alex met on stage, never having played together before. This performance was completely on the fly! Judging by the audience’s reaction, I think we created some magic that night and are excited to share it with everyone who couldn’t be there in person.
Discography Behind the Curtain: Live at ProgStock (2022) 4 Disc Box set Spain “Live at ProgStock” (2022) Digital Single The Prism “Live at ProgStock” (2022) Digital Single Game of Chicken (Live at ProgStock) (2021) Digital Single Cognitive Dissonance (2021) Digital Single Storm Surge (2020) Digital Single Frame by Frame (2020) Digital Single Impostor! (2019) Digital Single Guilty of Innocence (2018) LP/Vinyl Guilty of Innocence (2017) CD & Digital Album Hysteria (2017) Digital Single The Next World (2012) CD & Digital Headspace (2007) CD & Digital Live Wire (2004) CD & Digital The Adventures of Stratospheerius (2002) CD & Digital Electric / Blue (1998) CD & Digital
We are thrilled to announce the World Premiere of “Behind the Curtin” by Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius, the video will be available exclusively on Power of Progbetween Jan 2nd and Jan 4th after which it will be available worldwide via YouTube Staring Monday, February 5th.
Joe says, “The song is about the rise and downfall of celebrity and the primal fascination we have in building someone up and tearing them down, watching someone suffer. We love to chastise someone while we ourselves often lead double lives, hiding all kinds of skeletons in our closets while pretending we are faultless.”
“Behind the Curtain” features actor Max McGuire “Star-Crossed Lovers” playing different characters and Stratospheerius members Joe Deninzon (electric violin & vocals), Jamie Bishop (bass), Aurelien Budynek (guitar), and drummer Lucianna Padmore wearing neon-colored masks.
In the video, Max plays a tormented wretched old man stuck in an endless maze of corridors in his mind, his own personal hell. Through the video, he opens different doors and enters new worlds where he assumes a different identity in each, putting on a face and playing a role, always returning back into his hallway of hell and searching for a new doorway to open, doomed to do this for eternity. The band represents the demons who continue to hover around and haunt this man, with a nod to the Droogs from Clockwork Orange.
The video was co-produced by renowned MTV producer David P. Levin, Filner at Alpha Wave Studios in East Hanover, NJ, and edited by David Milone and David P. Levin.
The album GUILTY OF INNOCENCE is finding praise for its songwriting, musicianship, vocals, inventiveness, and sounds:
“Joe Deninzon has made a career…wielding his violin like a guitar. In that way, he has pioneered a new standard for rock violin, much the same way Ian Anderson did for flute.”
– PROGRESSION MAGAZINE
”When you put distorted guitars up against a violin you get magic. When you put a violin solo in a metal song, you get Fucking amazing shit! …pure magic!” – Act One Magazine
GUILTY OF INNOCENCE is a howl for justice delivered by virtuosos completely in synch with one another!“ writes – Strings Magazine, the “Bible” for the String music world.
“GUILTY OF INNOCENCE is not only great but one of the most hectic and heart-stopping albums I’ve listened to,” states – Music From the Other Side of the Room Zachary Nathanson.
Stratospheerius has showcased their “frenzied melange of progressive rock, jazz fusion and funkabilly” throughout the world at colleges, festivals, and clubs. They have opened for artists including Alex Skolnick, Gary Hoey, Martin Barre, Tim Reynolds, Mickey Hart, Mike Stern, and John Scofield. The group has played festivals including The Detroit International Jazz Festival, Great South Bay, Chattanooga RiverFest, Harmony Fest a number of times through the years. The band was a winner of the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition the Musicians Atlas Independent Music Awards. They have been featured in Progression, Relix, Downbeat, and Jazziz… Known as the “Jimi Hendrix of violin,” Joe is the author of Mel Bay’s electric violin technique book, “Plugging In: A Guide to Gear and Technique for the 21st Century String Player,” and has recently worked with Bruce Springsteen, Phoebe Snow, Everclear, Peter Criss from KISS, Renaissance, and as a soloist with Jazz at Lincoln Center, the New York City Ballet, and The Muncie Symphony Orchestra on his concerto!
Joe is a keynote speaker at the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) Annual Conference.
Clinic: Joe Deninzon 3D ROCK! on March 9 and 10, and performing with Sycamore High School’s Rock Youth Choir on February 16 in Montgomery, Ohio.
April 19, 2018, Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius and the band Edensong join forces with legendary radio stations WNYU and WUSB for a live progressive rock summit in New York City.
February 10th, at Sellersville, opening for John 5 (White Zombie)
April, 19th, at Drom, NYC with 2Birds and Edensong
April, 20th, at Olive’s, Nyack with Thrilldriver and Edensong
April, 27th, Mojo’s, Jamestown with Eric Brewer Band.
April, 8yh, TBA with Eric Brewer.
Power of Prog are thrilled to announce that on Friday 2.2.2018 we will premiere the latest video Behind the Curtain by Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius
Behind the Curtain is the second video form the bands latest release Guilty of Innocence released September 29, 2017, via Melodic Revolution Records.
Guilty of Innocence is the 5th studio CD by electric violinist Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius. The album features guest appearances by guitarist Alex Skolnick (Testament), keyboardist Rave Tesar (Renaissance), and guitarist/vocalist Randy McStine(The Fringe).
“We are all guilty of innocence. We are all blissful with ignorance.”
“Guilty of Innocence” Is my 8th studio album, and the 5th by my band, Stratospheerius. Unlike previous projects, we did not go into the studio and knock out all the songs in a few days. The first 4 songs, “Behind the Curtain,” “Take Your Medicine,” “Face,” and “Guilty of Innocence” were tracked in January of 2014. Each of those except “Face” was released as singles over the course of the next two years, and later remixed and remastered for this album. In 2015, we tracked “Parallel Reality” and “Affluenza.” “Hysteria” and “Game of Chicken” were recorded in 2016, and “Soul Food” as well as “Dream Diary Cadenza” in 2017. This approach was beneficial for a number of reasons:
1) It gave us a chance to really focus on the production and quality of each song.
2) Releasing singles every few months enabled us to always have something new to promote and share with our fans.
3) From a budgetary standpoint, it was easier to write and record a few songs at a time rather than try to lump everything into one recording session. This shit’s expensive!
Many of these songs are snapshots of my personal life; others address themes like politics, social media echo chambers, income inequality, injustice, and the psychology of celebrity and mass media. I write in the abstract and try to strike balance where you know what the lyrics are referring to, but there is plenty of room for personal interpretation. Here are detailed descriptions about the songs, how they were written and recorded, and what inspired them:
1) Behind the Curtain
Our society relishes watching people go down in flames. It traces back to public executions. In our psychology lies a deep, dark fascination with observing the demise of someone else, as long as it’s not us. There is a primal fascination with watching someone suffer. We love to chastise someone while we ourselves often lead a double life, hiding all kinds of skeletons in our closets while pretending we are faultless. One verse says: “Wear the mask so righteous, quick to judge the careless, those who fear the monster, living in glass houses.” There is also a line about the trappings of celebrity: “Everybody knows your name…you feel so alone.”
A few things about the recording:
I have always wanted to put an electric violin through a talk box, which I have never heard done before, so this song seemed like a perfect opportunity. The talk box represents the “man behind the curtain.” I also got inspired by the riff from “My Sharona” by The Knack and “The World Around Me” by Kings X. The time signature fluctuates between 4/4, 6/4, and 3⁄4. I love alternating between different time signatures without ruining the flow of the song. You can just bob your head to the song or dig deeper into all the intricate rhythmic stuff going on below the surface.
2) Take Your Medicine
This was the first song I wrote for the album. Inspired by an incident years ago where my family didn’t get our damage deposit back after renting a condo (first world problems) and were accused of a bunch of damage we didn’t make. We called a lawyer and resolved the issue, but turned my anger and frustration into a song. The beauty of rock n roll is that you can take one of life’s little injustices, write a song, and blow it out of proportion into an apocalyptic battle between good and evil.
Instead of paying a therapist, this is what I do.
3) Guilty of Innocence
The title track. In 2012, I served on jury duty for a rape trial. It was a gut-wrenching experience. The prosecution presented a weak case and the accused was found not guilty. A bunch of us believed he was guilty, but couldn’t convince anyone else on the jury. Definitely an intense and emotional experience for everyone involved. Most people try to avoid jury duty. For me, it was fascinating to observe how the system works, plus I got a good song out of it. This song drew its inspiration from late 70’s punk and early 80’s new wave. I wanted to draw from The Ramones, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello, and The Police, while still keeping it under the umbrella of the Stratospheerius sound.
A snapshot of a bad moment in an otherwise good relationship…or an ongoing dysfunctional relationship… or an example of miscommunication and differences in outlook in any relationship. A slow, brooding riff that keeps haunting the listener and grows to heights of angst!
We choose our covers very carefully. I have been a huge fan of the band Muse for many years and this song really spoke to me. We would perform it on our live shows over the past few years, and I felt it suited us and fit in with our set next to our originals. I wanted to record a version similar to the original, but the band refused, saying why re-create something that was so perfect, to begin with? They forced me to re-imagine the song entirely. Thank you, guys! This is one of my favorite tracks on the album and the first official single. I was having a very good day vocally and channeled my inner Matt Bellamy, hitting the E’s! Rocking the Viper through a whammy pedal and an Earthquake Arpenoid in the solo. This recording also features the vocal contributions of soprano Melanie Mitrano. We wanted a really over-the-top, operatic Queen-esque vibe in the intro since Muse was also influenced by Queen, as were we, this song is a tip of the hat to both bands. We pulled out all the stops!
This is the first song penned entirely by our drummer, Lucianna Padmore, who grew up in the Bronx. The lyrics talk about income inequality and could be about anyone stuck in an ivory tower, unaware of how their decisions affect the lives of common people who are struggling. A certain recently elected orange guy with a weird haircut comes to mind. Our music is not blatantly political, but allusions are made, and we have to write what we are passionate about. It’s hard to stay neutral. Lucy’s roots are in jazz, funk, and R&B, and her performance on the drums and congas really brings the funk on this track! Also, features the funky clavinet stylings of Rave Tesar from Renaissance. For the violin solo, I play through a bass synth wah. I am a stompbox addict and am always searching for new sounds. One never knows what will work on an electric fiddle, sometimes an effect meant for bass can sound killing!
7. Parallel Reality
In 2014, I was on a month-long tour of Europe. Halfway through the tour, I had a restless night where I couldn’t sleep. I kept thinking about my family and was homesick. Finally, at around 4 A.M, I gave up trying to sleep and decided to write some music. I had a “visitation.” This song just poured out of me in a flash! I pictured my morning walks to school with my son and the conversations we would have. The song deals with the fact that tour life is a parallel reality. Your only daily responsibility is kicking ass on stage, you get a lot of love from people….and then it’s over. It’s an existence free of most daily responsibilities and it’s easy to get sucked into the “kaleidoscopic cornucopia”. “A fleeting kiss is all this is..” Musically, I wanted the song to feel restless, as life on the road is, as I was feeling at the moment I wrote it. Hence, the constant changing time signatures and feels. I also wanted to change the texture from the previous songs, incorporating my mandolin into the arrangement.
8. Game of Chicken
Probably the most political song on the album. The “game of chicken” has its origins in a game in which two drivers drive towards each other on a collision course: one must swerve, or both may die in the crash, but if one driver swerves and the other does not, the one who swerved will be called a “chicken”, or a coward.
I thought about how dysfunctional our government is, how we continue to kick the can down the road for future generations to clean up our mess, how we scream over each other in our online media echo chambers and refuse to listen to differing opinions. Our planet is on the verge of destruction and we are too busy trying to destroy each other instead of coming together to try to solve our problems. Basically, the premise of the song is that we are all speeding towards the edge of a giant cliff screaming at each other and that we are all fucked. Have a nice day!
9. Dream Diary Cadenza
In all the albums Stratospheerius has put out, I have never recorded a ripping solo violin piece in the spirit of Van Halen’s “Eruption.” In 2015, I had the opportunity to write and perform a concerto for Electric 7-String violin and orchestra. The piece was titled “Dream Diary,” and was based on the cycles of sleep:
1. Falling and Flying (sensation of periodic flight when first falling asleep)
2. Delta Waves (shape of waves on heart monitor when first entering deep sleep).
3. Rapideye Movement (first dreams occur)
4. Waking Dream (the climax of your dreams, the most vivid and intense moments, interrupted by fits of wakefulness)
The “Cadenza” is a breakdown section in the 3rd movement where the electric violin plays solo and the orchestra stops. I hope to record this concerto and release it in the coming years, but I thought it would be cool to include this excerpt on this album since it works as a stand-alone piece of music. Every sound you hear was created by the Mark Wood “Viper” 7-string electric violin.
10. Soul Food
While on tour in Sweden a few years ago with my string quartet, “Sweet Plantain” (who plays on this track), we found ourselves in a small town in the north called Östersund.
The concert was over. It was freezing outside, we were hungry and the town looked like they had rolled up their sidewalks and there was nowhere to go.
All of a sudden, someone at the hotel told us about a place down the street called the “Jazzkoket” (Jazz Kitchen). They said to bring our instruments.
Sure enough, in the middle of nowhere, we happened upon an incredible farm-to-table restaurant owned by a Norwegian woman who befriended us.
The music that night was phenomenal and some of the best musicians I have ever heard who happened to be local to that area and were jamming there. Needless to say, we stayed at the Jazz Kitchen all night, had a feast and jammed with the local musicians.
The next day was free so we came back to the Jazz Kitchen, hung out there all day, and they fed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner free of charge! To show our gratitude, we gave a free concert that night to the locals.
When writing this song, I thought about all the people I have played for in different bands have traveled with who expressed their gratitude and generosity. In remote places like Alaska, where we ate fresh haddock and home-cooked moose meat that people had caught in their backyard, or the Navajo deserts in the Southwest, or remote parts of Northern Sweden. Östersund became a symbol for me of that mysterious building in the middle of nowhere where a warm fire, a jam session, and a good meal awaits you. When you travel outside of the big cities like NY or LA where people are oversaturated with good entertainment and can get a bit jaded sometimes, and you travel to remote places where people show you their heart and remind you why you became a musician.
Recording of this track was made possible by a generous grant from the Robert and Qin Ryan foundation through the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp, where I have the honor to teach every year.
I have always wanted to write a 12-minute prog epic. I went into the studio and went crazy! It’s basically 12-min song about feeding the band! We were honored to have many special guests on this song, including:
Alex Skolnick (Testament, Trans Siberian Orchestra)-guitar Randy McStine (The Fringe, Sound of Contact, Stu Hamm, LoFi Resistance)-guitar/background vocals
Rave Tesar (Renaissance)-keyboards
Patrice Jackson Thieman (Stevie Wonder, Mark O’Connor)-cello Leo Grinhauz-cello
Earl Maneein (Seven Suns)-viola
Eddie Venegas (Marc Anthony)-violin
For the intro, I wanted the sound of someone trudging through the show. There were plenty of sound effects available of wind, but finding some good trudging was the hard part. One night I was taking the garbage out after a big snowstorm where the snow had turned to ice. The sound of my feet breaking through the ice provided the perfect sound effect I wanted for the intro, so I recorded it in my iPhone and that’s what we ended up using.
We tracked part 3 first in January 2017 at Tedesco Studios in Paramus, NJ with members of Sweet Plantain.
One week later, we did the foundation rhythm section tracks for parts 1, 2, and 4 at Rave Tesar’s studio in Warwick, NY.
I tracked down Alex Skolnick on the one day he was in town between tours and recorded at his place in Brooklyn.
The song, and most of the album was mixed by our friend Alex Salzman, best known for his work with Ace Frehley.
In this age where people consume music in bite-size portions as individual downloads, we still strongly believe in the journey that a great album can take you on. We fight to preserve and create this experience for the listener. We hope this album gets in your head and you enjoy the ride! -Joe Deninzon September 2017
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