Interview with Frank DiMino (Angel)

DIMINO - Old Habits Die Hard

After 40 years in the business former Angel lead singer Frank DiMino has released his first solo album Old Habits Die Hard Mick Burgess sat down for a chat about the album, his touring plans and the old days with Angel.

Your new album Old Habits Die Hard has just been released. How do you feel about it now that it’s out?

I feel great. I’m so excited that it’s out. It’s been a long time coming so now I’m so pleased that people will get the chance to hear my new record.

The album title, Old Habits Die Hard. What habits are you referring to?

Ha Ha!!! They could be any habits that you can think of. That’s a good question.

It’s been a while since we heard any new music from you. Why has it taken so long?

When you’re trying to put a band together, it’s a tough road these days. I have a local band over here in Vegas with Oz Fox from Stryper. We do Angel stuff and Stryper stuff and Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin stuff. It’s hard putting a band together as everyone is trying to make a living. Ken Ciancimino asked me why I hadn’t considered doing a solo record. I’ve always worked within a band before and the more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. I wasn’t stuck with doing a certain kind of music, I could do what I wanted to do. It didn’t have to sound like Angel. Ken called Serafino from Frontiers and he asked if I could send him a song. I sent him the song I did with Barry Brandt, “Even Now” and that was the only one on the album that was already written. All the other stuff was written for this album.

You’ve been releasing records for 40 years now but this is your first solo album. Why haven’t you done one before?

When Angel was finished I did a lot of things with Giorgio Moroder. I did a lot of backgrounds for music he was producing including the Metropolis project. I did a few things out here with Todd Curran and I also had a band called Sin City Sinners and did a few things with them. I’ve always been active. It’s just that I’ve never really had the opportunity to do my own album.

When did you first plan on putting out a new record?

It was probably last September when I was talking to my friend Ken Ciancimino. That’s when the idea was first brought up and he suggested that I did one and he put the feelers out to Serafino at Frontiers Records and that’s how it all started.

Did you write these songs alone or have you written with other people?

I started writing with Oz Fox and also contacted a friend of mine called Jeff Lebansky and we started writing material for the record. I’d written with Jeff in the past when I was in a band with Steven Riley from WASP. As soon as we sat down facing each other with guitars it came real quick.

Was it different for you writing outside of a band set up?

Absolutely, yes. When I was in Angel we geared ourselves towards a certain audience. We knew what people wanted to hear so we wrote a certain way. When we got to the fourth or fifth album we broke off a little more. We were still writing for the band though. With this album I was able to shed all of that and I was able to just concentrate on creating a good song.

Musically, it’s hard edged Rock that maintains your melodic roots but with a modern twist. What music have you been listening to over the last few years that’s influenced your musical direction?

I listen to all kinds of stuff. I took vocal lessons from the age of 9. I was doing show tours and opera from a young age and once The Beatles came out I was so intrigued by them but I listen to a whole range of music. I went to Berklee College of Music and that was very heavily Jazz oriented so I was used to different types of music and I’ve never tried to pigeon hole myself into anything. I think listening to my students that I teach has also helped remind me of things that I’ve forgotten.

How long did it take to record the album?

We started recording in December 2014 and got it recorded at a pretty good pace.

Where did the recording sessions take place?

We recorded the album at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp. I’d actually done a lot of work with them in the past. They had a room available and the set up there. That’s where we decided to do the recording.

“Tears Will Fall” is the album’s standout, a real epic. Did you want to bring something big and moody to the record?

That was an important track for me. I rewrote the lyrics to that four or five times as I just wanted to get it right. When we were recording the song I said to my Producer Paul Crook that I’d really like to have a slide guitar on there. Ken is really good friends with Rickey Medlocke and he suggested we get him to play on it. Rickey was really busy with the new Blackfoot thing and Lynyrd Skynyrd so he asked me to send him the track and said he’d see what he could do. He added his own solo to it and he did a great job.

“Rocking In the City” is another strong song with a real classic Hard Rock edge. There’s plenty of muscle but loads of melody. I think this song sums the album up to me.

That’s one thing I always try to do and I thank you for that, I’m always searching for the melody in a song. Trying to find the melody to go with that song was a bit of a challenge but it did come to me pretty quickly.

“The Quest” and “Mad As Hell” are two head down Rockers, they have a feel of Deep Purple with some great guitar/keyboard interplay. Were Purple one of those bands that influenced you growing up?

Absolutely, I loved Deep Purple when I was growing up. I got to see all of those great bands from The Beatles to Led Zeppelin. I was very lucky.

You have a load of great guests on your album but there is a core band of Danny Miranda (bass), John Miceli (drums) and Justin Avery (keyboards). Was the intention to start with the foundation of the rhythm section then add special guests in around that?

That’s exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want it to sound like a lot of different stuff from different areas. Even though I wanted different players to come in, I still wanted one band to do the backing tracks for everything so that we had a cohesive sound to everything. All of those guys had worked with Paul Crook in Meatloaf so it was basically Meatloaf’s band I was using. I’d worked with Danny and John before so I knew them so it was a pretty easy choice to make.

Did you have the core of the band in the studio together?

No, we went over everything together and they knew what I was after. When you know someone so well they just know what to do. We talked so much about it that they just knew what was going on. They would do something for me and send it back and ask me about it. It was a great process to go through and it worked so well.

You have some great names on your album including Pat Thrall. How did he get involved?

Pat is a good friend and he was going to step in and produce at one point as just before we started it looked as though Paul had some commitments with Meatloaf that he had to fulfil and I talked to Pat about it and he said he’d love to do it. Unfortunately he couldn’t do it in the end due to other commitments with Beyoncé. Just at that moment Paul called me back and said he was free and could do it. Pat said that if I wanted him to play on anything just to let him know as he had time to play on stuff. He sent stuff backwards and forwards to us and we also used Pat as a pair of fresh ears every now and then as a second opinion every now and then. “Stones By The River” was just perfect for Pat, that solo man, he just rips it.

You have Dylan DiMino on there too. Is he your son by any chance?

He is indeed my son. He appears on a song that I wrote with Barry Brandt called “Even Now” from Angel. I asked if Dylan wanted to play on the album. He’d never recorded before but he was there when Barry and I wrote it. I recorded the song and told him to learn it. I said once he was in the studio he had to do it right. He could screw up before that but once in the studio he had to get it. He wasn’t nervous until he got to the studio but Paul made him really comfortable and he does all the finger picking on that song. I’m very proud of him.

Were there any guests you’d like to have had on the album that just couldn’t make it for one reason or another?

Gregg Guiffra was going to play on it but wasn’t able to this time but he has promised to play on the next one. He was going to play on “The Quest” but he couldn’t do it so we had Justin Avery do it instead.

You brought in Punky Meadows and Barry Brandt from your old band Angel. How was it working with them again?

It’s always great to work with those guys. Punky and Felix played on the last thing that I did with Barry, it wasn’t really an Angel album but we had to call it Angel to get a record deal. That was the In The Beginning album. I asked Punky if he was OK with calling it Angel and he was fine. He came in and played on 3 or 4 tracks and so did Felix.

Do you think this may spark some interest in writing and recording together as Angel in the future?

We will work on each other’s projects for sure. I think if we do decide to work as Angel again I really think it would have to be all 5 of us to call it Angel.

With your new solo album coming out, do you hope to take a band out on the road?

I love being on the road. I’ve always loved playing live which is why I have this local band out here with Oz, so I can play as much as I can. I’d love to get something together. I’m looking at next year’s festivals in Europe like Bang Your Head and Sweden Rock. I’d love to play the Rockingham Festival in England too.

Just a couple of questions about your old band Angel. 40 years on from your debut album how do you view your legacy?

I think it’s always really hard to do that. I’m proud of everything that we did. It was a great band and when we played it was a really powerful band. When we first toured with Ted Nugent he said he didn’t want a band like us on his tour, he thought we were like The Moody Blues but he loved us when he heard us and he loved us opening for him.

When you first put the band together were you originally just going to go out in your regular street clothes or did you always have a bigger concept to dress in a more dramatic way?

We always had that idea right from the beginning. The costumes and image just worked back then. MTV may have harmed music in a way as everything has become so image conscious. With us it was always the music first and image second. I think now it’s all distorted. I have students whose goal is to be on American Idol. How is that a goal? You want to work at your profession and be great at what you do. I suppose it’s good to get on there but it shouldn’t be your sole driving force.

Gene Simmons famously got you signed to the label but never took you out on tour despite taking the likes of Rush, Iron Maiden and Bon Jovi out over their career do you think he feared the competition from Angel as a live act?

Oh I don’t know about that but we did do a lot of shows with Rush and I think we toured more with them than anybody. We got on really well with Rush, it was a lot of fun. We toured a lot with Styx too.

Talking of live shows, your album Live Without A Net is one of the great ’70’s live albums but didn’t quite get the sales that it deserved. When you released that album were you hoping that it would take you to the next level?

We always hoped our next album would be the big one. I think our biggest disappointment was White Hot, we really thought that was going to do something. After that Neil Bogart started thinking about selling the label, Casablanca and it got all kind of crazy after that.

If you could go back and change one thing knowing what you know now, what would you do?

You know what? I have absolutely no idea…..maybe go back and hope for a different result.

Angel has the perhaps the greatest logo of all time. Who came up with the idea to design the logo like that?

That logo is pretty crazy. J R Smalling, who was our crew chief, came back stage one night and said that we had to take a look at this logo. We said we were busy and getting ready for the show and would look at it tomorrow but just as we said that he turned it upside down and we all went “What!!!” and he turned it again and went “WHAT!!!” We loved it and decided to use it on the albums and we love it and still do.

As a band Angel are still held in high regard and have a loyal fan base. Do you have any plans to release any live recordings, unreleased tracks or maybe DVD of vintage footage?

There wasn’t really much out there. I’ve looked but back then there were no phones to record shows and back then video recorders were huge and people we discouraged from bringing them in. Some people sneaked in 8mm recorders and I’ve seen some of that but there’s not a lot out there. Nowadays it drives me crazy when I go to see a show and everyone is holding their phones up.

As well as being an artist you also run a business as a vocal coach. How long have you been doing that now?

I’ve been teaching vocals since I moved down here in 2001. I get students of all abilities coming to me. I have a lot of young students but I also help professional singers too. It’s a very rewarding thing for me to do and to see them developing and performing on stage is incredible.

Is it possible for anyone, even those who are tone deaf, to be taught to sing to a decent standard or does there always have to be a degree of natural talent?

It’s very difficult if you’re tone deaf but most people’s singing ability can be improved with coaching.

Do you have any plans over the next year or so for any other projects?

I’m pretty busy at the moment with my coaching and now my new record is out. I do hope to get out and play some live shows and come over to Europe next year.

Frank DiMino’s new album Bad Habits is out now on Frontiers Records


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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