From the very get-go, VOLTO! was an oddity. Here is a band comprised of some of the most accomplished musicians in Los Angeles (including the drummer of Grammy Award-winning, multi-platinum-selling band TOOL) who were down right excited about playing cover tunes in a tiny jazz club in the Valley. This at a time when dyed-in-the-wool rockers were paying Hollywood club owners to play their originals in hope of inking a record deal and being catapulted to fame.
Then there were the fusion numbers — staggeringly complex arrangements by WEATHER REPORT, Jeff Beck and Tony Williams that, more so than the hard rock favorites, gave carte blanche for spirited improvisation. And if you have a drummer of the notoriety of TOOL‘s Danny Carey, fans with purple Sharpies in their pockets (hoping to get an autograph) might just get a drum solo or two delivered with calm intensity and lightning fast accuracy by the native Kansan wearing a Jayhawks basketball jersey.
VOLTO! also features one hell of a bass guitarist and the pride of Corpus Christi named Lance Morrison (session and tour bassist for Don Henley). During each show, the quiet, steady fixture wearing a golf cap would get a chance to “show off” his technical expertise with a solo or two dedicated (sarcastically) to all the ladies in the club.
Applauding these solos as much as anyone in the packed room was PIGMY LOVE CIRCUS guitarist John “Volto” Ziegler (another Texas transplant) who would once again take the reins, cueing his band mates to intros, outros, imminent changes or take blistering leads, dexterous arpeggios with delicate, effects-laden phrasing.
When it came time for last call and the band played their final cover tune, the party would continue either at TOOL‘s rehearsal loft or at Danny‘s Hollywood manse. Over Shiner Bocks, vodka and tequila, eventually the conversation would turn to VOLTO! writing and performing original music. Hell, maybe even doing a record.
Rather than book time in one of the countless studios in L.A., it was decided that they would track the songs “live” — onto tape! — utilizing the recording equipment at the loft’s modest studio. When he had a small window of time between projects, veteran recording engineer “Evil” Joe Barresi (TOOL, QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, BAD RELIGION) was summoned to sit at Danny‘s API 2448 console. To get the performance and overdubs onto tape, they dusted off an old Studer A827 gold 24-track machine. It might have taken nearly a decade to get to this point, but once the ball was rolling (and custom Neve faders set), things proceeded at a rather quick pace. Much to everyone’s delight, songs with names like “Grillz”, “BHP” and “Grip It” were even given a boost in intensity by keyboard wizard Jeff Babko (“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” house band, Butch Walker, Larry Carlton).
Once the recording and mixing process was completed, “Incitare” was delivered to Gateway Mastering and left to the very capable ears of Bob Ludwig. For the artwork, Danny had the idea to use a piece in his collection by the famous underground psychedelic artist Rick Griffin. Originally, this was to be used as cover art for a STEPPENWOLF record, but for whatever reasons, didn’t happen. With the other members equally enthusiastic by the piece, together with art contributions by TOOL guitarist Adam Jones, the packaging was complete. With management in place and a record deal with Concord struck, a release date was set — July 23.
In the meantime, you can get the VOLTO! experience when they next perform live. And while you shouldn’t expect to hear a 20-minute rendition of “Whipping Post”, and can’t say with absolute certainty what keyboardist will be sitting in to augment the music, but the sheer precision with which VOLTO! plays will leave you stunned.
A free download of the song “Grip It” is available via the widget below.