We hope that you enjoy this conversation with the band BISHOP. In this interview, they give an excellent idea of what it is like to be a D.I.Y. (do it yourself) band. And, because they are true artists, they put in the hard work of learning how to do everything to the best of their ability when it came to writing, recording, mixing and producing their own CD. It’s been a long journey but their newest CD, “HATE WIDE OPEN,” is out and available. They also share with us some of the fun they’ve had along the way.
Bishop has been together since 1998. That’s a long time. What do you think has been the “glue” that kept you guys together – besides the music?
Vinny: Being brothers. We grew up together, and I grew up watching my older brothers playing music in our backyard shed since I was 5 years old. We are very tight. Not a day goes by where I don’t speak to either Rocky or Tom on the phone at least once. Bishop has been my primary musical endeavor since joining the band when I was 14 years old. We have been through a lot, learned many different things, and matured together. We have shared the stage with many bands in that time that have come and gone. Rocky and I have done a few “side projects” over the years, but it has always come back to the Bishop. It is just in our blood, and it doesn’t hurt that my both of my brothers are incredible musicians as well. I couldn’t imagine doing this with anyone else.
Rocky: Definitely being brothers, but we are also a tight knit family, so there really is ‘no escaping’ each other. We will have to see each other at some point at one family gathering or another. Then at those times casual chatter would inevitably turn to the music.
Tommy: May I add that we all have a tremendous amount of love for ziti and meatballs.
There are three members, Tom Semeraro (Guitars, Lead Vocals) Rocco Semeraro (Drums, Vocals), and you – Vinny Padula (Bass, Vocals). A question for you specifically: Does it ever present a challenge to work with two brothers? Do they sometimes side with each other because they’re brothers, or are they individual in opinions — or at this point are all three of you “brothers?”
Vinny: I should clear something up. Despite my different last name, we are all brothers (we have the same mother). I am Tommy and Rocky’s half-brother (there are actually 4 of us; we have a younger brother Dominic who is also our roadie/merch man/head of security lol). That being said, factions do arise at times, however I think we have all been working on cutting down that kind of bickering and have been a little more supportive of each other’s opinions. Believe me, we have had some downright nasty arguments and disagreements in the past; over things like what kind of ending a song should end, and of course how loud the bass should be in the mix!! I think we have realized time is short. We have a goal of putting out music, and most of all we are family and it is always the worst to be mad at those who are the closest to you over silly things. And we are usually not mad at each other for long anyways, so what’s the point?
Rocky: LOL – at any given time I think ‘factions’ arise within discussions (i.e. disputes) over any number of band related topics (direction of a song, album title, album art, etc…).
Tommy: There are a lot of familial groups out there but, few have a synergy and dynamic such as ours. At no single time is any one of us “stuck” in one way of being. We act and interact dynamically. That’s why we’ve been able to work together “FOR LIKE FOREVER”. HAHAHAHAHA.
The band has toured. Name some of the places that you’ve been to and tell us what was the most striking experience that you all had and where it was.
Rocky: Florida, Kansas, Detroit, Albuquerque, Las Vegas…..for me though, the Las Vegas gig was the best. It was at the Mandalay Bay and we played in a fenced in ‘cage’ in the middle of the convention center. Just having us surrounded by people on all sides, in a cage, with the ever-looming Las Vegas Police Dept. at the ready to shut us down should the show get out of hand was a big thrill for me!
Vinny: I have to agree with Rock about the Las Vegas gig. It was a part of a tour we did in 2006 dubbed “The Lady Luck Tour.” What was ironic about it was some of the incredibly bad luck we had on that trip!! Basically a good friend of ours, Mike Nick, who is an extreme ski boarder/entrepreneur had a company called Siver Cartel, and they were promoting their line of ski/snowboarding clothing and gear. They were appearing at a convention in Vegas and invited us to perform at their booth. They had a stage waiting for us, complete with kegs of beer for attendees and as Rock said, a stage with chain link fencing around it. I booked a cross country tour around the gig, figuring since we had to get there, we might as well book some shows on the way out from NY as well as coming back. I booked shows in Indianapolis, Columbus Ohio, Wichita, Phoenix, Albuquerque, and St Louis. One slight mistake I made was that I booked each night with 10-14 hours of driving in between. Oops! Well, about 20 miles outside of Amarillo Texas, we blew up the engine on our van….toasted. You have to realize that on many freeways out west the speed limit is 75, and we were averaging about 100 for many hours. So that might have done it!! Anyways, we only had a day or so before Vegas, and we had to be there; we had made a commitment to the guys at Siver and we were not going to let them down. After giving $1000+ dollars to some roadside mechanics who ultimately didn’t fix the van, we had to leave it on the side of the road and squeeze into a town and country minivan. We were a little on our wits end, however it’s times like this that you learn some powerful lessons on perseverance and coming together as a unit. Long story short, we threw our stuff in the minivan, grabbed a 12 pack of corona for good measure, and hustled our asses to Vegas. We made it just in time, and the reward was sweet. The show rocked, people were going nuts, and yes Vegas PD was on standby in the event of a riot at our booth. They were just dying to shut us down lol. But it went off awesomely. We partied for 2 days (which was a nice rest) and I won $250 bucks on slots (which was good since we were in the hole with the van). We ultimately made the return trip home and had some great shows on the way back as well. That was quite the trip and we learned some tough lessons on that one. I will concede it could have been worse and we thankfully made it back without any physical injuries (Ohh but Tommy did fall off of the roof of the minivan in St. Louis, but that’s a story for another time. He’s fine).
Tommy: There have been some strange and curious moments in our touring career. I agree with the bro’s about “Lady Luck” but, there was this one gig in West Virginia…..very strange. The culmination of that night was witnessing a full chest tattoo of “The Transformer’s” logo on this dude from one of the bands. Hmmmm, a robot head tattoo on your chest. I don’t know.
We love your statement on your new CD, “Hate Wide Open:” “No fake drums or instruments were used in the making of this album.” That says a lot of about what you think about some of today’s music with loops and beats. (We appreciate real instrumentation here at ISP.) Would you just share a little more about your position on this?
Vinny: It is not so much loops and beats that bother me, but it depends on the context. We all are big fans of older (and some newer) hip hop, industrial, and electronic music. That is cool. It is more specifically this trend of doing drum replacement on live drums in the studio. Drummers are not using the sounds of their own drums, or sometimes playing for that matter. Many are simply playing the track, and then the studio engineer is using some program such as drumagog or whatever to map out their hits and replace them with perfectly sampled sounds (sometimes they blend some of the real sound and some of the sampled sound also). They are also putting the drums into perfect, almost too perfect time. This is a problem for several reasons. A, you can hear the difference. Especially in a lot of current rock and metal music, all of the drums sound the same, and it comes off very uninspired and cold…not what music is meant to be. B, many of these drummers can’t play what they put on the record live without some sort of electronic or software aid. C, it’s lazy. How did we get all of the incredible records and sounds from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s? Yes I understand the technology has changed and for many reasons, including cost and time, 98 percent of us are recording digitally, including us. Digital or not, you can still take the time to be a good drummer, and use good engineering practices to mic up the drums and figure out how to get a good, real sound. And I’m sorry, but I have to say, I think some people have gotten too dependent on these technological tools and need to go back into their basement and PRACTICE. Nothing for nothing my brother Rock is an incredible drummer both in the studio and live, and my brother Tommy is a fantastic singer and guitar player. Growing up around these guys has taught me a lot about practice and discipline when it comes to playing music.
Tom: I agree with Vinny about crafting your art. I do understand that with technological advancements in so many areas, people are inclined to want to be great at everything. Photography, Music, digital drawing, you name it but, it’s a false sense of achievement and empty. You still have to have the fundamentals down and you still have to craft your art. It takes time. Taking time is something that we are missing in today’s society. It’s so rewarding to master your craft after putting in the work.
Is “Hate Wide Open” the band’s first cd?
Rocky: No – Tommy and I had a few releases in the 1990’s as ‘Dead Bishop’, then three other releases as just ‘Bishop’.
Vinny: When I joined the band it went from “Dead Bishop” to “Bishop.” Our first full length as Bishop was “Centipede” released in 2001. I was only 16 or 17. We had some good songs on that one, it had a more “nu-metal” vibe to it, if you could even call it that, but it was really our own twist on the music of the time. We then released “Rock On” in 2005, which was a very different album for us as it was more classic rock sounding you could say. “Steel Gods” was way back in 2007 and I think that was the stepping stone into what we have created today with Hate Wide Open. I feel like we have come full circle, back to our roots of heavy rock that has a groove. “Groove” is very important to us. We want people to want to move when they hear our music.
We notice that you take pride in the fact that it is entirely self-produced by the band – even down to the mixing of the music. How long did you take you guys from inception of the idea to completion of the last bit of mastering to finish this work?
Rocky: Wow—it took TOO LONG!!! We started writing the music for hate wide open around 2008… tracking began around 2011. The mixing is what we spent the most time on — we were basically learning the process of actually using the tools to mix the album, as well as acting as ‘producers’ of the album. I feel we are pretty good at this now and the next release will come much quicker!
Vinny: It was quite a bit of time from conception and completion. After Steel Gods in 2007, I think we started a transformational period with our songwriting and how we were going to approach executing it. Also some personal and life events came to be in our families and we had to give some of those things priority. But I have to agree with Rock – it was (and still is) a learning process. We stopped recording at local studios a long time ago because we didn’t want to have the constraint of an hourly rate hanging over our heads. The technology is now readily available and more affordable, and we always have had our own vision as to what we want on the record. It did take a long time, but again, I think that whole period was a time to learn and hone skills, so I don’t look at it as wasted time. We had to learn how to record and mix this stuff ourselves. We also had to learn to produce, which is a tough thing to do. Especially during the mixing stage, it was a lot of trial and error. We would cut a mix of a song, burn it to an mp3 as well as a cd, and live with it in different stereos for a week or so to see how it translated. Rocky and I did the mixing. We each had our specialty. I was more of the “EQ” guy who would figure out how to sonically place each instrument into the mix. That was also a lot of trial and error, and it was also a lot of searching on google!! (There is so much knowledge from other mixers and engineers on the web, and I have learned a lot from these people). Rocky was what we called “ the Mix Mouse” due to his eyes looking beady on those long nights editing in front of the computer screen!! He did a lot of the cleaning up of the tracks, and he was also good with adjusting the levels of each track. I am sure he developed advanced Carpal Tunnel on this album. Tommy wasn’t involved in too much of the mixing, however he would come in and give us his feedback on what Rock and I were doing, which is valuable because we needed that other set of ears from time to time also. We did not want to rush the album either. I think the biggest skill we have developed from this album is patience. The discipline to take your time and put yourself into the listener’s shoes was something that we developed during this process, and I am very grateful that we have.
Tom: This project took us some time that’s for sure. We are very active in other areas of our lives so, it was difficult to at times to make the album a priority. Mix that with creative plateaus and peeks and you get a project that takes time. Again, there is that “Taking Time” also. The end result is awesome!!! Don’t you think?
Was it an easy undertaking or did components of it present challenges that you guys had to work to overcome?
Rocky: It wasn’t easy – the main drawback is wearing many hats during the process – acting as recording engineer, producer, musician, angry brother making fun of the other guys in the band for not playing something right–lol!! BUT artistically, we are very happy with what we put out – each one of us wanted it to be the best that we could do and feel satisfied with the fact that our entire artistic vision (message, look, sound) was exactly what we intended it to be.
Vinny: There are only 3 of us and sometimes you don’t realize how much work it truly takes to put out an album until you get into it. The biggest challenge I felt was just putting in the time, and as I had mentioned earlier much of that time was spent just trying things and learning what works and what doesn’t. However when we would have some of those little “breakthroughs” during the recording and mixing process where we would discover something that works well with the music, it would be an awesome epiphany. And yes, late nights with me and Rock at the helm of the mixing controls can have its difficulties also! You start to really nit-pick at the playing and the sounds that were recorded. Sometimes it’s good to do that and sometimes it can be overkill. That is a challenge in itself; when to nit-pick and when to leave things alone. After all we didn’t want everything to sound “too perfect” as I had mentioned earlier with the drums, and it can be tempting to fix every little thing with some plugin or auto correct tool.
The title of your CD, as we’ve mentioned a few times, is Hate Wide Open. Recognizing that the world is fairly hateful in many instances, was there one specific area that hit you guys and maybe was the straw that broke the camels’ back to inspire the creation of the song?
Rocky: I would say the overall divide of people & society today-one side versus the other….Don’t get me wrong, there always has been disagreement – and there should be, but there should be a healthy debate that ultimately spawns progress for people. The past 8-10 years, it seems that rift is being helped along to grow wider (by outside forces–media, corporations?)….We want our music to make the listener think, step back and ultimately accept others in the goal of progress.
Vinny: Maybe I am just getting older, but I feel like people are getting more and more selfish. Believe me, I’m not perfect, but the human behavior that I see just in normal day to day life (driving, going to the mall, at the supermarket) can be downright disturbing. Everyone also has to have a side, and it is usually either red or blue. Not just in politics, but everyone’s total way of being seems to be divided down some imaginary color line. Moderation just doesn’t exist.
Tom: Through all of time there has been a struggle that exists between dark and light, positive and negative. At some points we move toward “positive or light” and have a general, thrust forward in our development. Currently, we are in the dark which stalls growth. The egoic self-centered behavior we witness around us is running amuck. This behavior is being further propagated in the media. It’s like a giant megaphone magnifying the “wrong”. As this occurs, it drives many of us in to a false sense of self preservation, competition and truly barbaric behavior you are witnessing. Thoughts of being stronger, richer, more powerful give us this false sense of safety. In any split second, you can be stripped of all that you own, all that you are. The only saving power, the only “light” that you have, and are is “faith”. I feel, that using our music and lyrics, we hope to paint a picture of what we witness around us. I must also add that, this project is still, not actually done. It will be done when the visual aspect, the video content we are working on to complete each chapter and tie the message together is delivered to the world.
Is Bishop where you guys planned for it to be at this point in time? If not, what were some of the pitfalls that blocked the road and if so, how so?
Vinny: I don’t know if we ever had a plan for where Bishop was going. We always wanted to put out good music that people enjoy and have doing it. I believe everything happens for a reason. If we had put out this album 4 years ago it probably would not be what it is today. Which isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it is just a reflection of where we are at now. I honestly can’t say there were any pitfalls. Challenges? Yes. But those only make you stronger.
Tommy: I Agree.
If each of you guys could tell your younger selves one thing, what would it be?
Rocky: Not to worry about everything around the music, but to focus SOLELY on the music!
Vinny: The music is #1. Don’t worry about the peripheral stuff. Facebook and Twitter and all of these wonderful technological tools we now have are only as good as the music you put out. Is a tweet a tweet if no one is reading your tweets?
Tom: Hahahaha. The answer just hit me hard! Eat more ziti and meatballs.
You guys are doing a heavy promotional campaign for your CD. What do you hope will come from this push? What’s your goal?
Rocky: Spread the word on what BISHOP is trying to put out there to as many listeners as possible!
Vinny: Yes, spread the word! We want to build up our fan base in as many places as we can so that we can come to your town, and put on a great show for you!
What are your top three favorite bands and why? What do they give you or represent to you?
Rocky: That is the toughest question of all!! So many bands, but it would be: Led Zeppelin, Helmet, Anthrax. If I happen to hear one of these bands’ songs, I just CAN’T NOT LISTEN to the entire song! With Zeppelin – it’s the storytelling, the overall dynamic sound of the band. Helmet to me represents the urban environment – which is what I remember as a young kid, and Anthrax, the energy, the speed, and the fun that they had while playing.
Vinny: At the risk of sounding like a clone of my brothers, I’d have to say Helmet, Anthrax, and Faith No More. I grew up stealing their tapes and listening to them when I was like 5. I remember riding the bus in 4th grade listening to “Persistence of Time” by Anthrax on my Walkman. Helmet because the music sounds like the truth, if that makes any sense at all. Anthrax, because they combined heaviness with speed and melody in a way that I could relate to, And Faith No More due to the fact that they broke all boundaries and norms when it came to heavy music.
Tommy: My musical tastes shift and change all the time. I am more of a “mood listener”. Music is a place that I like to live in so I use it to either lift myself up, ground myself, reflect, reminisce, and envision. Currently I’ve been a bit more into Jazz. It’s been opening up my cerebral pathways and I find that within that music scape, I’m able to create my sound….then I just turn my amp up to 1000!
Besides these bands, who inspired each of you individually or jointly, the most in your lives and how did they do that?
Rocky: Jimi Hendrix – for me, I remember getting my hands on the Are You Experienced LP — I was about 7, or 8 I think, and once I heard the insane drumming of Mitch Mitchell, I knew I just had to play drums!
Vinny: I have to be honest, my brothers. I probably wouldn’t be playing music if it wasn’t for their influence. I got to, (at a very young age) go to their shows (when they were Dead Bishop) and experience what the live music scene was like in the mid to late 90’s, which was really the tail end of an era. I was exposed to the electricity and excitement of shows and I was hooked. When I was 11 I would go on stage as an encore at Dead Bishop shows and sing “In the Meantime” by Helmet at a club called the QE2 in Albany (now closed). It was probably hilarious to see this chunky little kid on stage singing and swearing lol. I loved it, and I knew I had to be in the band.
We always like people to project into the future and reflect. What will you guys tell your grand kids about Bishop?
Rocky: That we were able to do something creative and meaningful with my brothers – and have a ton of fun doing it!
Vinny: That Uncle Rocky and Tommy always told me to turn my bass down!!
Tommy: I’d tell them, “Did you know your grampy is a head bangin’, guitar slingin’, vocal octave maniac”? Then they would give me that look and I’d respond with a super high pitched, “YYYYEEEEAAAAHHHHH! Hopefully I’ll have some teeth then.
BISHOP “HATE WIDE OPEN” On sale now at www.bishopmusic.com
and all major online music retailers
www.bishopmusic.com – you can purchase Hate Wide Open Direct from us
Promo Video: http://youtu.be/v466FcHhtUw
SoundCloud (stream Hate Wide Open): https://soundcloud.com/bishop-tm-1/sets/hate-wide-open
Hate Wide Open also available on Itunes, Google Play, Amazon
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Vincent Padula / BISHOP™