INTERVIEW: Joe Jermano
Hi Joe, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’ve been surviving the long winter and avoiding all the sickness that’s been plaguing us all this year, what a year it has been. I returned from a retreat in the Adirondack Mountains where I attended Camp Dweezilla in the summer: a great experience, I highly recommend. Upon returning, I got really ill for about 10 days with some mystery illness. Lately I have been back in the cave, playing with new gear, writing and recording for the next project.
Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Reaching For Clouds”?
Sure, Reaching is an observation of watching other people sleep and at the same time, trying to analyze my own habits. What the heck could that person be dreaming about while legs are kicking and blankets are being stolen? What could I possibly be reaching for? Funny how your conscious mind tries to make sense of your subconscious by drawing conclusions about impossible scenarios and then sum it all up in some rational explanation.
Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
A lot of kicking, blanket stealing and being pushed out of bed, literally! I wouldn’t try to paint myself as an innocent bystander in all the fisticuffs though. But like a lot of my writing, the process starts in front of my computer, recording loops, guitar phrases, sounds, etc. Then as the layers start to build up the song starts to take shape. More guitars, a bass track, a synth pad. The lyrics are usually (but not always) the last in the process.
Any plans to release a video for the single?
No plans as of yet but I’d entertain that as a possibility if approached by someone who is inclined to do so. Funny how modern musicians are expected to cover so much ground beyond music: I wrote it, directed it, coreographed the dancers, made the T-shirts, booked the show, painted the artwork, printed the posters, etc. I’m just a one man show and hire the professionals as necessary. I love to make music and the further I am required to get away from that process, the less rewarding it becomes.
The single comes off your new album Dreaming In Color – what’s the story behind the title?
A misinterpretation that came from the mouth of my esteemed colleague and producer/engineer/brother-from-another-mother, Mr. Chuck Alkazian. I have learned that if Chuck has an idea then it is more than likely a gem and you should grab it and run with it! Thank you Chuck! I had the general title “Dreams” that was consistent with the main theme but Chuck asked me during a pre-production meeting “What do you wanna call this thing? Dreaming In Color?” I said “Yes!” I went home that evening and wrote the title track.
How was the recording and writing process?
Recording and writing at home in my cave in front of my computer and surrounded by my gear is all I could ask for to be happy as a writer. I give a lot of credit to my friend and music making companion Dr. Steve Joslin. While helping him record and perform his thesis at the University Of Michigan, Steve, aka Dr. J. armed me with the knowledge of manipulating MIDI and software to create everything. Without Steve I would still be fumbling around in Garage Band with a dumb look on my face.
Taking all that to the studio, handing it over to Chuck and watching him tear it apart, reassemble it and bring it to a whole new level is magical. Recording the vocals, Chuck often says: “Annunciation!” or “watch your timing!” and those are the signposts I use to take the song from something that is cool to something that really rocks and sounds like it belongs on the radio. I love the process, somehow it lights my path on a journey that would otherwise be dimly lit if I had to do it all myself.
What was it like to work with Chuck Alkazian and how did that relationship develop?
Chuck is a wealth of energy and enthusiasm who stays focused and is a relentless straight shooter who stays tirelessly on track until the project reaches fruition. Chuck is a blast to work with and always eager to chip in his many talents beyond the board like pitching me ideas on piano, organ or drums. Chuck started out someone who offered to mix my 2nd EP and after working with him for just a short while it just made sense to work with him from the onset of my 3rd EP “My Every Move”. Chuck is also giver. I have met so many gifted people because of Chuck including but not limited to people who have helped me with various aspects of my projects.
How much did he influence the album?
Chuck influences by making you feel at home, a home that is a part of something much bigger than what you realize. I didn’t know what kind of potential my music had in terms of where it could go and how desirable it could become. Chuck has that vision to see where it needs to go, what he needs to do to pull it out of you and see it through until it becomes that “thing” that he was searching for all along. There is a moment when you realize what you did, how he helped you see it through and knowing that was something magical that happened without really knowing it until it is coming out of the speakers. Then there is that moment when Chuck just looks at you and you know that something great just happened.
How do you normally tend to balance your Jazz and Rock influences together?
Ha! Take guitar lessons from a guy like Len Braunling at 13 years old and it quickly becomes shamefully apparent how terrible you are and how much jazz guitar will (pardon my French) kick your ass. To call me a jazz musician is a severe discredit to all the real jazz musicians who have paved a very bold path for guys like me to fumble around on. All the same, I can’t help but to draw from the many hours of practicing the voicing drills, scales, arpeggios, reading standard notation and interpreting the hundreds of tunes from various fake books that I was introduced to so many years ago. Thank you Len, you are the real deal.
The rock influences are where I draw the most inspiration from. How many times can you actually listen to 2112 by Rush on vinyl before the needle goes completely through the recording? Fortunately I never found out because music was on the cusp of a revolutionary phase called “digital” at the time shortly after I started collecting music. My sister brought home a record sometime around 1980 called Permanent Waves by a band called Rush and that was it, that’s what I had to pursue for the rest of my life even if it meant starving to death. Thanks Jill!
What aspect of love and loss did you get to explore on this record?
Re-evaluation of my most important partnership with one of my best friends, my former wife. Unfortunately we parted paths as husband and wife but remain best friends on a quest to see that the road ahead for our daughter stays a clear path of happiness, hope and independence. We are committed to see our daughter prosper in spite of her spinal disability and continue to show her we are there for her as an unwavering team and source of good parenting.
Any plans to hit the road?
I am a caregiver who technically clocks in to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week for my daughter. I find that any time I get away from my every day responsibilities mostly leads me to selfishly pay my self in moments of leisure. As I am writing this, my thoughts are on this weekend. I am visiting the Chicago suburbs and reuniting with old friends for a jam session/hang with a few beers and probably a lot of laughs.
I really would love to hit the road and support the music but time and prior commitments are a major obstacle to making that happen right now.
What else is happening next in Joe Jermano’s world?
I have had a lot of recent interest in my music after launching a radio campaign to get my music out to the masses. I recently signed on with a couple cable networks for Sync licenses and hope that this avenue will help me recoup what I need to begin the next project.
Thank you Vents for kindly hearing my story, best wishes in reaching for your own clouds in 2018.