June 30, 2017 Interview – Tony Scalzo of Fastball
Very few stories follow a linear path from start to finish. In most cases, there are twists and turns, unexpected detours, and sometimes even pitfalls. Still writing their story, Texas based Rock band Fastball return in 2017 with their new album, Step into Light. Their first studio album since 2009’s Little White Lies, the platinum selling trio approach the latest chapter in their career humble and wiser, looking to show listeners they still have plenty of quality songs left to sing. Recently we caught up with Guitarist/Vocalist Tony Scalzo to talk the band’s unpredictable journey to Rock stardom with their 1998 album All the Pain Money Can Buy, the events which followed, their hopes for a bright future, plus much more.
CrypticRock.com – Fastball’s history dates back over two decades with platinum success in the late ’90s and a list of hits that are still heard today on Rock radio. Through the years, what has this journey been like for you?
Tony Scalzo – Well, we struggled for a couple of years as a three-piece Rock band trying to do our best to get stuff recorded and to get out in the country and play. We did that for a little while, but soon we got some label interest and we went for that and we got a deal with Hollywood Records. We managed to get our first record, Make Your Momma Proud (1996), which if you’ve ever heard it, it’s basically straightforward Pop Punk type Green Dayish fare. And we worked our asses off for a year and half out there on the road with that in a band and managed to get another recording done. So once we did that, we finally started getting some interest from radio in little spots around the country. Then the label really started working the record, and people starting coming from other labels to work at Hollywood to work on the Fastball record. We started getting good tours, TV stuff, and they thru all that money into us with big budget videos, and Grammy nominations sort of helped things a lot too. So what you got there is rags to riches in my opinion.
Even though we had been working really hard, we really didn’t see us being that far up on the charts and that kind of that thing. For us, we were all getting used to the idea of just being struggling and doing our best getting heard by people. I think we would have kept going, but you know that success happened, and that started to be the norm; started feeling like we were rockstars. We had a little bit of money, and little by little we start spending more money and start sort of feeling that ‘entitlement,’ where you feel like this is the way it’s gonna be forever. or even better, just that kind of psychology. Then things didn’t get any better and started weaning a little. We put out a third record in 2000, which was The Harsh Light of Day. It still sold quite a few copies, but nowhere near the million All the Pain Money Can Buy earned. So we stopped being a priority at the label. The band itself, we sort of got a little complacent, weren’t really interested in doing a ton of work; which probably would have helped if we had really double our efforts, tried to really kick ass, we might have made it over that hump. We started getting tired and then there was no momentum. That period is pretty long actually, it goes from I would say from around 2003 to just about 4 or 5 years ago.
Then there was really nothing but a bunch of going out and doing one offs here and there. Maybe lucky enough to get on a tour, we were on that tour back in 2013 with Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth, the Under the Sun Tour. That was the biggest tour we’ve done since, or before that, in around ten-year period. We did mainly one offs and traveling around where maybe we get a string for four gigs where we fly in, rent a car, get backlined, play up to a certain point and then fly home; four or five dates. We filled up our years with that.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like the band learned a lot in that time. What inspired Fastball to get fully back in the game?
Tony Scalzo – About three or four years ago, after Under the Sun, we really started the slow process of rethinking the band, and rethinking what we thought our future might look like. We made a couple of missteps in order to try and build that and try to build a team. We made a few mistakes and bad decisions and we tried to fix that. Only up and till about two years ago, when we started working on this record, did things start to really get proactive and we started finding different people to work with that we’re now settling in with very well. Now things are really happening because of us getting that team together.
CrypticRock.com – That is great to hear. For those who are less in the known about the band of recent, what has Fastball been doing since the epiphany?
Tony Scalzo – We got this record, it’s tracked, it’s mixed it’s mastered; it’s not manufactured yet. We are trying to figure out a way to put this record out so that people can actually access it, find it, and know that it exists. We just started working with a new management company and we all agreed to try and earn money thru pledgemusic.com site. We had pledge drive where people pre-order the album and we raised about $40,000 to promo. Now what we did, instead of it having to go thru a major label, whom is only going to work your record if they think it’s a priority; We can purchase the services of what record labels used to do from private agencies.
There are publicity companies that all you have to do is meet with them, agree to a certain rate per month, establish how long the project is going to be, come up with the money, and you’ve got yourself a promotional machine that is equal to that of a major label. They have all the same contacts and they have experience doing that; a lot of them are old school A&R reps, promotions reps, and radio people. We’ve managed to get added to radio stations with this new album, we’ve managed to get press and interviews. So now we’re a true indie band that we call the shots on what kind of work we do to make this band get out to the people.
It is just this sense of freedom and success, where it feels really successful. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be huge or anything like that, it’s not really about that, but it feels successful to me, it feels like we are doing something right. And I’ve got that same feeling in my heart that did back in 1998 when all that shit was going down and it was a big rush; and I haven’t had that feeling in along time. The shows are great, we are playing right now on tour with Everclear and Vertical Horizons, so they’re big audiences every night, and by the end of our set, everybody is singing along to the hits. It’s killer and it’s super fun!
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting. Seems like it has been a really long journey, one that has taught lessons obviously earned you experience. Following the band through the years, what has always been the center of Fastball is songwriting. As a songwriter, has your inspiration shifted thru the years through everything?
Tony Scalzo – I wouldn’t say so. Honestly I think I would still be writing songs and I have been writing songs the whole time. I really haven’t change as a songwriter, other than probably a little more experience, a little bit more language. I still write the same way; I get an idea I think would make a good song, sometimes it’s lyrical thing or sometimes it’s a musical idea. I haven’t really changed the way I write. Miles and I write a lot more than we did when we started, but we began collaborating on songs quite a few years ago, so it’s been something we’ve been able to develop over the years. I suppose that is a little different.
CrypticRock.com – Interesting, the new record, Step into Light, has been a long time coming. As mentioned, you did the crowd funding. What was the writing and recording process behind this album because it seems like it’s been a long time coming?
Tony Scalzo – Some of the songs are collaborations with Miles and I. We worked on some songs to get more material for it, some of them are called from older times a few years ago, some are solo stuff that didn’t make it to the solo records. It’s all different.
CrypticRock.com – Understood, now that the record has been out a little while, how has the reaction been from fans? A lot of fans were very excited to hear this record come out.
Tony Scalzo – Well unless people are just being overtly polite, I think everyone likes it that’s heard it. Nobody has said one negative thing about it actually, all the reviews seem positive and some are glowing. I hate to be all Donald Trump but it’s a huge success. I think that it’s one of our best for sure, if not the best that we’ve done. It feels that way cause it’s new.
CrypticRock.com – It really is a good record, really strong from start to finish. You started off as a three piece and you are still a three piece. That said, each one of you has something unique to offer; your own style, your own influences. Is it safe to say that everyone’s hands are on the songs on Step Into the Light?
Tony Scalzo – Well definitely they are on the recordings that’s for sure. We produced this record as a group with the aide of our buddy Frenchie. Everybody’s got a hand in it, it wouldn’t sound like does without Joey’s input and the two voices of Miles and myself working together. It’s got my bass playing on it, Miles’ guitar and my keyboards. There’s not a lot of extra musicians on there, which we have used in the past, but this was kind of a streamlined session. It was a two week session, we did it fast. Maybe that had something to do with the consistency of the sound throughout the record.
CrypticRock.com – That is pretty fast, after the long wait, once you had it all settled, you just got it done?
Tony Scalzo – Yeah! I mean after we tracked it we sent it off to Bob Clearmountain and he mixed it about five or six days and then he sent it off to mastering. It was probably a total of three weeks from start to finish, from downbeat to finished.
CrypticRock.com – Very cool, as you did mention, you are tour with Everclear and Vertical Horizons. It is the 20th anniversary of Everclear’s So Much For The Afterglow record. You are actually going to be celebrating a 20th anniversary of All the Pain Money Can Buy in 2018. Before we get to that, how is this current tour going?
Tony Scalzo – It’s going great! I hope to try and do something for that 20th anniversary of All the Pain Money Can Buy. Hopefully Hollywood Records will cooperate and think it’s a good idea too, but we have to basically go thru them as they own the masters. So if we want to re-release it it’s gonna have to go thru them and us jointly.
As far as the tour, like I said, playing for a lot of big audiences, people are really stoked to see this bill because all three bands aren’t really bands that go out on big production basis very often. I mean, Vertical Horizons plays a bit, but they haven’t done regular tours lately. Everclear does a tour like every maybe two years or something like that, so their fans are definitely excited. Plus they are playing So Much For The Afterglow from start to finish with a few extras of their hits. They play the whole record all the way thru and that is bringing out a lot of fans.
Since we got to tour with them back in the late ’90s quite a bit, a lot of their fans are our fans. It’s a little bit of nostalgia for that time, and all the people are a little older, but they are bringing their kids who are old enough to come. Everybody knows those songs that we do and that’s incredible for us. I think Fastball is a little bit anonymous as far as our personalities and our faces. People don’t really think of us, but they know the songs and they hear the songs all the time. So when they hear them and they see us playing, sometimes they think it’s a cover, and I’m like yeah we wrote that, it’s weird. I believe this tour is a super booming for us, it’s really helping us get to a lot of people showing them what we can do.
Our Rock-n-Roll has totally gotten better and better over the years. If it’s one thing we’ve been able to do over 20 years, it is total improve as players. Plus we’ve been playing together so long that there is a certain amount if ESP when we play. We kick ass, and we do it old school; we’re playing with amps and monitors and drums. There is no funky shit, were not tuning down to a couple of steps, we are doing everything the way we have always have, and we do it better then we did back then.
CrypticRock.com – Naturally from experience you get better at things. You had mentioned how you had gone out on the Under the Sun tour. That was something where you were allotted enough time to basically play 5 songs and then you came back around in 2017 for headlining club gigs. What are people going to get from this tour, do you get a longer set list for this tour?
Tony Scalzo – Absolute longer, it’s 45 minutes instead of 25 minutes which is good, but still not long enough for a lot of fans. It’s great for us because we get to kick ass and we don’t have to stretch it, there’s no filler. They need to come to see Fastball too, we play first. But I gotta say on this tour, we’ve managed to get a pretty full room when we start our set.
Under the Sun was a little different, people would still be looking for their seats and see them all sort of not really paying attention to what you’re doing. On this tour, so far, it’s been big crowds all the way thru from start to finish so we get to benefit from that. It’s way easier to kick ass if you’ve got a lot of people there. And even if they are yapping or whatever, we change their mind pretty quick. I think after 10 to 15 minutes everybody is watching and everybody is listening.
CrypticRock.com – Well Fastball does put on a great show. Are you mixing in some of the new songs?
Tony Scalzo – Oh yeah! Over half the set is the new album. We are doing a bunch of new songs, we are doing songs that we haven’t even recorded yet actually. We’ve got a couple of novelty sort of songs that make everybody sing and it’s cracking people up. I won’t give it away, no spoilers, but we’ve got little tricks when we do them to make people pay attention.
CrypticRock.com – Fantastic, well people will have to come out! Back in 2013, you actually did a solo record, My Favorite Year. Is there a possibility of more solo material or are you just concentrating on Fastball right now?
Tony Scalzo – Well frankly I’d like to put all that stuff aside for as long as I can and keep doing Fastball till the wheels fall off. I think Miles, Joey, and I are in agreement we really just wanna take this momentum, I don’t wanna let go until it’s over ya know. And I don’t know how long that’s gonna be and I’d be stoked if it’s 5 years, that’s what I’d really like to keep doing. Cause I know that is the best way for me to have a successful career, it is with these guys.
CrypticRock.com – Well it will great to see Fastball continue to be very active into the foreseeable future. My last question is pertaining to films. If you are a fan of Horror movies, do you have favorites?
Tony Scalzo – My definite favorites are super old school; The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Evil Dead II (1987). I turned my daughter on to those and she was eternally grateful. I mean I dig it, I’m not a crazy fan of it but I love The Omen (1976) and The Exorcist (1973). If you look at them now, they are so crazy, they go off on these little weird worm holes of story line that you didn’t think were there. Cause movies are so streamlined these days, and those old Horror movies are way more complex and more film-like in my opinion.