Kevin Julie interviews Phil Naro


© Kevin Julie

For those who don't recognize the name, Phil Naro has been well know in the Buffalo scene for years, especially after his association with local favorites TALAS in the mid 80s. A few years after Talas, Naro relocated to Toronto and has been on the scene in a number of outfits. In 1994 he was responsible for the the band of his own name NARO, and the critically favored "Press Play" album.

More recently he's been involved in a new outfit called BLOOD RED FLOWER. But most recently Phil has just put together and issued his own "10 Year Tour" CD, which chronicles his recordings with various bands since arriving in Toronto in '88. It's a well recommended release of 15 solid rock tunes, ranging from riff rockers, ballads, and more well-crafted songs, showcasing Phil as quite a singer / songwriter. 10 Year Tour is Phil Naro's finest release to date, with such stand out powerful rockers as "Epehemeral" and "Cashin In", to a very memorable commercial power-ballad in "Is This What Love's All About", and to the cool earthy acoustic ballad "Every Now And Then". Here Phil talks about his latest release, as well as looks back at the rest of his career and influences.

Q: What is time span of songs written and recorded?
PN: It's a "backwards retrospective", recorded between 1998 and 1988

Q: Where were most recorded?
PN: Phase One, Metalworks, Hit Zone, Empire Studio's & Wellesley Sound

Q: Are these demos, out-takes, - where did these songs and "10 Year" idea come from??
PN: Too many times a good musical project doesn't get off the ground for the wrong reasons - a lot of good songs get finished but never released. There are a variety of tapes circulating that have some of these songs and a few have been played live so some of them will be familiar to people.

Q: Who played on these songs? Who are some of these co-writers?
PN: The most recent tracks were recorded with a band called 'Distant Cry' - they were in between singers, so we cut three songs - two of mine and one of theirs'. Also Mladen from 'Von Groove' who played with me in '24K' helped me with the writing. Alex Masi also co-wrote a song with me on this CD.

Q: Are you still working with Distant Cry? Any info on that band? (Nice hammond on those tracks!)
PN: Yes-Steve Major (Distant Cry) & I will be doing more work together in the near future.

Q: How is the CD being distributed?
PN: You can order it directly over the internet from either of these two websites: OR

Q: Is it available yet?
PN: Yes, as of March 1st.

Q: "From The Bottom of My Heart" was co-written by guitarist muso Alex Masi. Did he also play on that one? And what else can you tell me about it? (Good song!)
PN: No, Alex didn't play guitar on this track, Steve Major did. Alex & I where managed by the same company. They put us together to write for his solo project which never was released.

Q: "Every Now & Then" is a great summertime-feel acoustic track. What inspired that? What else can you tell me about that one?
PN: I know this sounds crazy, but that song was written in the woods in back of my mom & dad's house. With a bottle of my dad's home made wine & my guitar; (it was one of those days where I just had to be alone). I was surprised I found my way out of there let alone remembering the song.

Q: A few words about a few of the songs on the new album? (ie your favorites?)
PN: Tracks that stand out for me include Ephemeral, Is this What Love's All About (nice commercial power ballad!), I Got A Line, and Cashin In (decent rocker!). I like, Ephemeral, From the Bottom Of My Heart, I Can't Win, Every Now & Then & Seachin'.

Q: Plans to promote? (i.e. Touring?)
PN: I hope so, It would be fun playing these songs live.

Q: Do you currently have a band together? (If so, who's in it?)
PN: Do you currently have a band together? (If so, who's in it?) Yes, Roger Banks-(Naro) Drums, John Rogers (Brighton Rock)-Guitar & Keyboards, Steve Major-(Distant Cry)- Guitar, Stan Miczek ( Blood Red Flower)-Bass

Q: First introduction to music?
PN: My Uncle Santo who played guitar & looked like Elvis inspired me.

Q: First album you ever bought?
PN: Magical Mystery Tour - Beatles.

Q: Musical Influences? Favorite singers? Songwriters?
PN: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Sting, Stevie Wonder, Lou Gramm (Foreigner), Jon Anderson (YES), Todd Rundgren, James Brown, Daniel Lanois & Trevor Horn.

Q: Personal Influences?
PN: My Mom & Dad

Q: Favorite all-time albums?
PN: Yes - Going For the One, Fragile, Tales from Topographic Oceans; Foreigner 1, Head Games, Foreigner 4, Lou Gramm - Ready or Not; Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight; Stevie Wonder - Songs In The Key Of Life.

Q: First bands and recordings? Instruments played?
PN: 'Chain Reaction' - on Attic Records I sang lead vocals; with Talas - on Relativity Records, I sang lead vocals; Naro - On Interplanet Music I sang and played guitar.

Q: Originally from Rochester? Why relocate to Toronto?
PN: I joined the band 24K and stayed up here ever since then.

Q: Recollections of Rochester scene then?
PN: The music scene was very fluent then, what I mean is there was all different kinds of bands, doing all different types of music. No one was trying to jump up on any kind of bandwagon.

Q: Association with Talas? Recordings? Tours? Break up?
PN: I was the lead singer in Talas and recorded Live "Speed On Ice". I sang on Live Speed On Ice, also I'm on "The Talas Years". There are tons of demos which were never released. Maybe some-day they will see the light of day, I will talk to Billy about this one. As for touring it was great going all over Canada & US in 1983/84, but as they say, all good things must come to an end. The break up was hard on me; I remember it so well - Billy sitting us down breaking the news about joining the DLR band, I just lost it. On the next day I just moved all my shit out of Buffalo and went back home to Rochester to get my shit together.

Q: Relations with Billy Sheehan and any Talas guys in recent years?
PN: We all went our separate ways and lost contact with each other. Till now I gave Billy a call and asked him if he would play a track on the 24K CD that Mladen (Von Groove) & I are doing, he said he would love to. He played amazing on the song "Black Sheep of Society". It was nice talking to him once again.

Q: Naro CD from 5 years ago - thoughts? Response?
PN: That CD I will always be proud of. It didn't get the push that it deserved. But I was fortunate enough to have Eric Wilson of (Interplanet Music) to put the money behind me to do the CD.

Q: What happened with that project?
PN: I needed a break from it. It was emotionally & financially draining on me, plus on top of that there were just a little too much personal problems within the band, trying to keep everybody happy except myself. So I decided to let it go and come back to it some other time. Then I met up with Silvio Simone and he wanted to start up a band, which became Blood Red Flower. It's very different and I love it - personally I feel it's the best work I've ever done. The songs are well written, and Silvio Simone guitar playing, Randy Cooke drumming & Stan Miczek bass playing are awesome. The music has real vitality, and the vocal sound is so clear with terrific harmonies. It's more intricate and complex, and a bit more chaotic than the NARO stuff.

Q: What happened with Blood Red Flower?
PN: Were still writing & pushing units of "LAST LINK TO THE WORLD" & playing gigs around town. We will be back in the studio in June or July to record another CD.

Q: Writing process & influences?
PN: I usually write the melody first then I take the guitar and put the chords or riffs around it, as for lyrics that's the last thing I write cause everyday my life is changing and I have more new and better things to say about my everyday experiences & life in general.

Q: Happenings until recently, and - sessions? Offers? Tours?
PN: 10-Year Tour is out, and making headway for me, Blood Red Flower will be in the studio in June or July. Long Tom & the Dusty Danglers CD (Country Girl) is doing quite well for me, It's became a huge hit in Calgary. Mark St John from (ex KISS) is doing a solo project that I will sing 3 songs on. That will be interesting because we're using songs that we co-wrote with Peter Criss on Mark's CD. There's no working title for the CD yet but I'll keep you posted. Mladan from (Von Groove) & I are doing a CD together of a band we had together in 1987 Called 24K.

Q: Thoughts on current music scene and industry? Favorite artists currently?
PN: I find these bands very interesting - Radiohead, Oasis, Jellyfish & Soundgarden, Rob Zombie, Korn, Nine Inch Nails & Beck. I really like the techno thing, Free Bird would be a neat techno cover.

Q: Thoughts on Canadian scene? Favorite Canuck bands (new & old)?
PN: It is still as big a struggle for bands today as it has ever been, but fads pass and real quality will always endure. Now that recording technology is more affordable than ever, combined with the broadcasting possibilities provided by the internet, it should become easier for music to be made, heard and sold without the need for major backing they are still scared of rock music - which has got to be a good thing. This is why I carry on making the music that I want to, rather than doing it simply for the money. My favorite Canadian acts are Tea Party, Kim Mitchell, Rush & Alanis Morrisette.

Q: Any singers you've been compared to?
PN: Jon Anderson-Yes, Foreigner-Lou Gramm, & Sting.

Q: Career highlight(s) - biggest gig? Favorite songs written & recorded?
PN: My biggest gig was the Milwaukee Fest 45 000 people at the Talas & Yngwie Malmsteen show. My favorite song has to be "Cautionary Tale" (Blood Red Flower-Last Link To The World CD).

Q: Interests outside of music? Hobbies?
PN: I love football. The Cleveland Browns are back!!!!!!!! Also Hockey - which I play almost every single day with my boys John & James. We're also gonna start a band together it's called 'Pop's A Rocker', the CD should be out in the year 2002. John is the drummer & sharing lead vocals with James on guitar & I'm playing bass guitar & doing backgrounds vocals. I definitely lost the role of lead voice in this band. I love Reading - I'm reading this cool book on conversations with the other side, it's by George Anderson; "The Greatest Salesman In the World" by Og Mandino & Druids; "Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology" by Anne Ross.

Q: Future plans?
PN: Keep putting out music I like, producing bands, & Movies.

Q: Favorite Heep songs? (a standard question with me!)
PN: "July Morning" ROCKS!

Q: Favorite songs?
PN: Every Beatles song expect "Why don't we do in the road?", "Hello It's Me" - Todd Rundgren, "Going for The One" - Yes, "Stick Around" - Black Sheep (Lou Gramm), "Baby I'm Amazed" - Paul McCartney, "Feels Like The First Time" - Foreigner, "Hey Hey What Can I Do" - Led Zeppelin, "Morning Glory" - Oasis, "Honaloochie Boogie" - Mott The Hoople, "I'm Going Slightly Mad" - Queen, "It Ain't' Easy" - David Bowie & the list goes on...If you like.

Q: Any classic rock songs you'd like to cover or musicians you'd like to work with, & Do You Have A Dream Band?
PN: "Baby I'm Amazed" by Paul McCartney. and have Paul McCartney produced it. As for my dream band it would have to be - Jeff Beck - guitar, Terry Bozzio - drums, Paul McCartney - bass, the back up singers would be Lou Gramm, Jon Anderson, Sting & Keyboards - Rick Wakeman or Elton John who's ever available at the time.

Interview Conducted by Kevin J. Julie; Copyright April 1999