With the release of Steve’s new album, ‘Stargazer’, now seemed a great opportunity to have a catch-up, and discover a little more about his past and what the new album is all about.
Kev Rowland: What was it like growing up in a house with a professional singer and a professional actress for parents?
Steve Bonino: My mom and dad met in NYC while my dad was on tour as a professional crooner. She was dancing at the time. They had me and both moved to Italy for a brief time then broke up. My mom returned to NYC and raised me alone, so I never actually lived with my dad except as a new born. My mom worked very hard to raise me alone for which I am eternally grateful. She always encouraged me to be what I wanted to be. I got to spend a few summers with my dad, which I enjoyed very much. He always showered love and beautiful Italian clothes on me as well as teaching me all the Italian curse words which made him incredibly proud of me and gave my mom no shortage of heartburn. He passed a few years ago and I am so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him.
KR: What are your earliest musical memories, and what/who directly influenced you to start playing and singing yourself?
SB: I remember sitting on the floor in front of the couch watching The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show like it was yesterday. I was floored by their performance and charisma (and all the girls in love with them) and knew then and there that I had to be a musician. I remember the first album I purchased was Cheap Thrills by Janis Joplin and the Holding Company. What a voice she had and I loved the band’s performance as well. Through my early years I grew up on The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, The Turtles, Jimi Hendrix, Tomita, Cream, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Mountain, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath (and too many others to name) and of course the prog gods and early fusion; Weather Report, Miles Davis, Jean Luc Ponty, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Return To Forever. Truly inspiring music.
KR: How did you get the gig with the NBC TV series: "The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.", how old were you when you started on that?
SB: I was friends with an actor/musician named Craig Wasson. He auditioned for and got the role of P.T. on the show but I believe he turned it down at his agents’ behest. He suggested I read for the role to the show’s producers (thank you again, Craig) and the rest is history. It was 1975 when the process started, so I was 18.
KR: Do you view yourself as a musician who acts, an actor who plays, or an all-round entertainer, and why?
SB: I am solely a musician now. I acted for a decade from approximately 1973 to 1983. It was always my objective and desire to be a musician but I was side-tracked accidently into being an actor. My mom was an actress in NYC and I was in tow as she was auditioning for a commercial. I was being a rambunctious young man, jumping up and down on the couch in the waiting room. The director for another commercial in one of the adjoining rooms walked outside his audition room and saw me bouncing up and down uncontrollably. It just so happened he was casting a commercial about a kid jumping uncontrollably in a car. He asked me if I wanted to audition and I agreed. I got the part. I was allowed to work on a Screen Actors Guild waiver, but it opened the door for me to join the union and be a professional actor should I be cast again which did happen a bit later. My mom was influential in me being an actor for my brief acting period. I did enjoy the experience and learned quite a bit about character motivation which I believe has served me well in songwriting. The grind of auditions, wrangling with agents and hard luck took its toll and I stopped acting in the early 80’s.
KR: How did you first come across Peter Matuchniak, as you have worked together a great deal?
SB: Peter worked for Mazda in Orange County, CA as a programmer along with the guitarist in my cover band, Steve Fazio. I first met Peter when he came to see our cover band, The Trip perform and that started our musical relationship. I must say that my musical experiences with Peter have been nothing but joyous. He is a true gentleman and major talent. I must also say that the real reason I work with him is because he brews a mean cup of coffee. (Just kidding, sort of).
KR: You have recorded both under your own name and as part of groups. Can you describe their styles to people who may not have heard them?
SB: I am currently working in a number of bands:
Peter Matuchniak, guitar and vocals
Vance Gloster, keyboards and vocals
Steve Bonino, bass and vocals
Jimmy Keegan, guest drummer
Style: Progressive rock with a touch of jazz and pop influence.
Children Of The Moon:
Pascale Elia, vocals
Jimmy Keegan, drums, percussion, keyboards and vocals
Steve Bonino, bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals
Style: Pop rock with folk, prog and art rock influences.
Ted Zahn, guitar, keyboards, bass and drum programming
Steve Bonino, bass, guitar, keyboards and drum programming
Style: Americana with folk, pop and rock influences
The Steve Bonino Project:
Steve Bonino, bass, vocals, guitar, keyboards and drum programming
Bingo Brown: Drums
Steve Bonino, bass and vocals
Jimmy Keegan, drums and vocals
Peter Matuchniak. Guitar and vocals
Jonathan Sindelman, keyboards and vocals
Seth Romano: Guitar, keyboards, percussion and vocals
Style: Progressive rock with pop, jazz, classical and AOR influences.
KR: Your last release prior to this was Bomber Goggles’ ‘Gyreland’, which was yourself, Peter, Vance Gloster and guest Jimmy Keegan – how did that come about?
SB:Peter was debating whether to work on a follow up to Gekko Projekts’ wonderful ‘Reya Of Titan’ release or to try something new. Something new was decided and he and Vance invited me to join as bassist co-songwriter in this new venture which was a blast to write and record. We did it the old fashioned way, facing each other in a rehearsal room throwing out ideas. I’ve always loved that process.
KR: As with your most recent release, ‘Stargazer’, it is a concept album – what interests you about this art form?
SB: Ever since I heard ‘Tommy’ by The Who I’ve been a big fan of the genre. I always wanted to try working on a concept of my own but never quite had a story that fuelled the fire. Zabocus is currently completing the third album in a trilogy titled ‘Trouble Town’ based on the death and rebirth of an American town. Bomber Goggles continued my learning curve of following a story line from inception to conclusion with the album ‘Gyreland’. I followed this up with my own concept album inspired by my dear friend, Linda Kay. She originally designed what was to become the Stargazer album cover for the Children Of The Moon debut. It wasn’t chosen for that release, but the cover stayed in my mind. One day I sat down to write the title track ‘Stargazer’, inspired by the cover. My mind began to put together a story in which Stargazer, the hero, travels to Alpha Centauri to carry on the human race after we hit the point of no return due to neglect here on Earth. The songs came together rather quickly once the idea came.
KR: Why have you released this under the name ‘The Steve Bonino Project’?
SB: I was on the phone with Nick Katona, the owner of Melodic Revolution Records. As we were discussing details for the release of ‘Stargazer’ I mentioned that I’d read, in general, that bands were more popular than solo artists. He suggested I release the album as ‘The Steve Bonino Project’ as opposed to being a Steve Bonino solo release. I agreed that was a good idea. Besides, I like working in a band context as I’ve grown up being in bands.
KR: Who plays on the album?
SB: Two of my neighbourhood musician friends helped me out. Böhn has played guitar for years and offered to play some parts on the album which I gladly agreed to. It was pretty much the same for drummer, Bingo Brown who used his electronic kit to record some drum parts for the album.
KR: What is the story behind ‘Stargazer’?
SB: In the not too distant future, man’s neglect has brought the Earth to the point of no return. Our hero, Stargazer works for the Hubble Space Station and is a leader in the scientific community. A starship named ‘Phoenix’ has been constructed to take a select group of people with enough genetic diversity to carry on the human race on the planet Proxima b in the Alpha Centauri galaxy. Stargazer is chosen. He and his fellow passengers make the most terrifying and hopeful voyage in mankind’s history to their new world.
The Stargazer saga will carry on in Stargazer 2 and 3 whose story lines are inspired by Linda Kay. I will not divulge too much information at this point, but I do believe the entire story would make a good sci fi movie. Certainly one I would enjoy seeing. She and I are discussing writing a book as well. Large ambitions that I hope will come to fruition. I’m certainly loving the journey, wherever it leads.
KR: Which science fiction authors do you believe influenced you most, and why?
SB: I love the super hero mythos. To this day I dream I have the ability to do exceptional things. I gravitate to those stories, such as the Quizat Haderach in Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’. Of course Arthur C. Clarke’s ‘A Space Odyssey’ was an influence on a generation and helped me fall in love with space. I loved ‘The Martian Chronicles’ by Ray Bradbury. I’m sure it inspired the humans fleeing to another planet to save the human race story line I borrowed for ‘Stargazer’. George Orwell’s ‘1984’ and Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ are brilliant and symptomatic of the human traits and desires too many of us possess that can lead to making ‘Stargazer’ a reality. I am also a tremendous fan of the dark works of Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.
KR: What do you believe has musically influenced you most with this?
SB: I am a hodge podge of influences. I don’t know where my Beatles intersects with my Bach, where my Who morphs into Mahavishnu, where my Rundgren meets Joni Mitchell. It’s all a beautiful mess in there and I just see what comes out. I have been enjoying revisiting the albums of the prog gods; Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, ELP, King Crimson, etc. as well as enjoying the newer generation; Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Spock’s Beard, Snarky Puppy, Frost, The Neal Morse Band, Big Big Train, etc. I do not know which of these influenced me most but it is in there somewhere.
KR: What is next?
SB: I’m already half way finished with ‘Stargazer 2’ which carries the story on to life on Proxima b and an amazing, life altering discovery on the planet. My objective is to release it April 2019. Ted Zahn and I have the final instalment in the Zabocus ‘Trouble Town’ trilogy titled ‘Dream Machine’ scheduled for release in 2019 as well. I am writing songs for the second Children Of The Moon album and I know Peter and Vance are planning Bomber Goggles’ second album as well. Whew, maybe I actually need to become a super hero to get all this done. My super power could be: Not Needing Sleep.