LILO’S BLOG [EXCLUSIVE]
My Encounter With LISA DALBELLO
Somewhere in 1996, when I was still writing for the Dutch underground magazine Heavy Metal Explosion, I was invited by record label EMI to do a face-to-face interview with Canadian singer Lisa Dalbello, a.k.a. DALBELLO, who was in Europe to promote her new, long-awaited album `Whore’.
Official promo photo card I got from EMI
It was definitely one of those rare opportunities in my career as a music journalist and one I still cherish. I had listened to her LP’s [yes!] `Whomanfoursays’  and `She’  a zillion times and Lisa Dalbello was [and still is] a great inspiration to me as a singer and songwriter, along with Kate Bush and Siouxsie Sioux [of The Banshees]. Yes, I know, you can see the resemblance here: Very charismatic, visual outspoken looking female singers, who have unique sounding, strong voices, writing high quality songs and lyrics and do it with an artistic and slight rebellious signature.
But I have to say, if it wasn’t for one of my old time favourite bands Queensrÿche, I may have never had crossed path with DALBELLO’s music. Queensrÿche covered the song ,,Gonna Get Close To You’’ on their classic LP `Rage For Order’ , for which they also recorded this super cool video clip for TV [!]. Not only that album hit me like a hammer but also this particular song spoke to me in a very intriguing way. I immediately went on a hunt to find out who the original artist was and oh, yeah, that’s right, we didn’t have Internet, social media and definitely no Wikipedia. Anyway, when I finally got my hands on `Whomanfoursays’ via my local record store and heard DALBELLO’s original recording, I knew she was a keeper.
So you bet I accepted the invitation! And all of a sudden I found myself in a private suite of The American Hotel in Amsterdam [NL, and now called Hard Rock Hotel Amsterdam American], sitting across from this amazing artist. I remember DALBELLO was curled up on a sofa; she looked stunning, was super kind and showed a warm personality during the entire interview.
When I presented her various topics, she responded on each of them with great interest and meaningful answers, which gave an insight in who she was as an artist and as a private person. After the interview she took the time to strike a few poses for me as well. I can only think back of this encounter with a huge smile on my face. It also happened that `Whore’ became DALBELLO’s last studio album and eventually she even stepped out of the spotlights again as a solo artist, but she did continue [if I am correct] producing and writing for other artists, doing voice-overs and TV-commercials and such.
Since DALBELLO is seldom in the media ever since and knowing there are so many admirers like me still out there, including many musicians who respect her tremendously, I thought it might be a treat to translate my ever in Dutch written interview for you to read. Here you go…..
,,At the age of 17, in 1977, I tried to sell my first record in Canada. These gentlemen told me they already had a Pat Benatar.’’–Dalbello
DALBELLO IS BACK
Bryan Adams, Alice Cooper, Nena, Mötley Crüe have connected through a musical collaboration with the Canadian singer/songwriter Dalballo. Queensrÿche covered the song ,,Gonna Get Close To You’’ and Heart recorded ,,Wait For An Answer’’. Her solo work was a mix of pop, rock, wave and soul with almost poetic lyrics. After making 5 studio albums and two international hits [ ,,Tango’’ and ,,Talk To Me’’], early 1988 all of a sudden it became quiet around the remarkable singer. At the beginning of this year , after nine years of silence, Dalbello appears on the new solo CD `Victor’ of guitarist Alex Lifeson [Rush] and she also has her new CD `Whore’ in stores as well. This sympathetic woman willingly steps out of her shadow.
THE CD `WHORE’
,,It’s a combination of instinct, acknowledging my fears, the reflection of my heart, a lot of sweat and absolutely pure love for making this record.’’
,,Stefano awakened my interest to write music for myself again. It was really an extraordinary experience to work with my brother musically for the first time. He has brought many new insights and ideas for `Whore’ and I was especially fascinated by the use of an Eastern scale. In the beginning it was difficult to think in this new way, but it was certainly a challenge to find out how to sing comfortably in these notes. At some point it came naturally and I wrote ,,Revenge Of Sleeping Beauty’’. Stefano’s ideas about rhythm and drum parts were unique to me and have influenced songs like ,,O L’il Boy’’ and ,,Deep Dark Hole’’.’’
Promo box of `Whore’ I received after the interview
TOMMY LEE [drummer Mötley Crüe]
,,One of the “Heaviest Hitters” with a “Killer Kit”! L.A. is the largest Canadian community outside Canada, so when I moved back to L.A. for four years in 1990, I always knew someone as a Canadian. The producers and engineers who have worked with Mötley Crüe are of Canadian descent and through them I met Tommy Lee. He surprised me big time when he shouted enthusiastically at me: “Hey dude, if you ever re-record ,,Black On Black” let me play the drums!” Tommy knew the song from the soundtrack `9 Weeks’, although it was a demo version because the song wasn’t even ready for my own record then. In the end I asked him to play the song ,,Revenge Of Sleeping Beauty’’.’’
,,When I make a record then it better bloody well reflects who I am! Because of my experience, I can ensure that I absolutely never maneuver myself into a position, as unfortunately happens with many others, in which I am not satisfied with the production afterwards or whatever. It’s just not worth producing something that presents half of who you are and you have to make excuses for afterwards. Of course, compromise is not a bad word in itself and it is even good that you come together at a centre point.’’
,,On `Whomanfoursays’ I played all instruments together with producer Mick Ronson [r.i.p.]. On `She’ I pre-programmed and pre-arranged everything myself, something I always do because I just want to go into the studio well prepared. That’s why I also did the pre-production for `Whore ‘. In the studio I play live with the musicians so we can respond to each other. During the recordings I sometimes play the parts myself, not because I play better technically, but because I like my attitude better. Another musician can never play like I would do it myself. When I let someone else play, it is because I like their attitude better. The songs are recorded one by one, because I want to concentrate on finding the character of a song.’’
,,Both the lyrics and the music are a reflection of myself, but I am not aware of it when composing. I immediately document ideas for texts and words in my computer. I compose the music on various instruments, such as guitar, piano, synthesizers. But for example the song ,,Easy” was actually originated in my car. During a ride on the 10 Freeway in L.A., an idea for a guitar part came to mind. I immediately sang it on my answering machine via my car phone. A little later I got an idea for the bass part and called my answering machine again. Months later I listened to all the messages on my answering machine and heard all those ideas and I immediately started working on it. Sometimes I only have an idea for a rhythm or a groove. From there I suddenly hear a rhythm for a melody and that reminds me of a text or a title that I have kept in my computer. Sometimes it speaks for itself when you play pieces of music again. Arranging and refining the ideas into a complete song that you are satisfied with is actually the real job.’’
,,I can’t live without that damn thing! Purely for my daily work, registering production ideas and it is of course a storage space for my texts. At home I have a number of computers with different functions. The main one has a built-in sequencer and is linked to a multi track recorder. All my ideas are sequenced when I input them and they get recorded right away as well. I now live temporarily in Cologne, Germany, to be able to work intensively on my promotion tour, but I want to get back online as soon as possible and connect to my computer at home. It is difficult to get an online connection in Germany because it’s really expensive. I love to gather information and learn about other artists.’’
,,Discovering new things that are mainly outside the area I am in is very educational. Working with other musicians for the past five years is actually at odds with my own music. For example, I wrote and produced music for Patti Labelle. She is a great diva and a fantastic singer and I thought it would be great to try to compose music for her that stays true to her style, but I could add something.’’
,,My main task when working with other people is to find a way to reflect their feelings in a song. That means I have to open the other person’s emotional lock gates very gently and in a friendly way, so that they don’t feel like they’re exposed in the wrong way. I definitely don’t want to leave my fingerprints on anyone, so what the other person thinks is the most important in such a case. I usually meet these people through others, such as with Patti Labelle for example, but Branford Marsalis approached me; I don’t even like jazz, but I still really enjoyed working with him.’’
,,My song ,,Wait For An Answer” is on their CD `Bad Animals’. Ann Wilson has a such an amazing, killer voice and Nancy is an excellent guitarist and singer. When we met later, it turned out that we listen to the same music and have the same experiences as women `on the road’ and finding your own place in the rock business. At one point I already had plans to compose music for Ann and Nancy, but I wasn’t sure if I should ask them. During a dinner with them in Toronto, when they were on tour with Heart, they asked me to compose together. Great! During that dinner I was worrying about how to broach the subject, because I didn’t want to impose myself. In the end we were able to work very relaxed on Nancy’s farm. Barefoot in a T-shirt in the garden, eating fresh raspberries and working out melodies together. Amazing!’’
,,After the release of my previous record `She ‘(1987), I was 29 and already had quite a life; since I was 13 being in music and having a first record out at 17. A great time in which I learned a lot about composing, arranging, dealing with ideas and singing, so I certainly don’t want to be negative about that. But in the end I had more experience in the music business than as a person. At some point I therefore felt the need for privacy and a normal life. Discover what it is like to live in one place, develop a relationship with a man and maintain friendships, be a good friend and listen to others. My life has always moved from one place to another, living in hotels, eating through room services and getting bored in front of the TV. After nineteen years of music, it was absolutely no loss for me to say: “I stop to build a private life.’’
,,Hell yes! My career stop was not because I was afraid of the music, but of the business. When you make your first record at the age of 17 it is so easy to lose your innocence and just believe everyone. This made me very careful and at some point I became isolated. Now I do things differently. No longer from hotel to hotel, but temporarily renting an apartment in a central location and in this way lead a normal life, doing normal things like cooking and shopping. I brought my most important personal items to Europe, such as my bicycle and books. I also want to get recording equipment from my studio as soon as possible.’’
,,Hopefully the people here in Europe want to listen to my music, because at the moment it’s all dance and boy bands that are being played. My roots lie next to rock music in soul music, because my parents listened to that. My first record was actually very close to this style; funk and rhythmically oriented. After that I ended up in the heavy/alternative scene. Now with my latest record I have returned to my roots. I hope people can dance to it; I myself have that feeling. Just listen to ,,Deep Dark Hole’’ and ,,Heavy Boots’’.’’
,,That will probably only happen from January 1997. My promotional tour through Europe, USA and Canada lasts until the end of October. After that I need at least two months to work on the preparation of the performances, in which the old songs have to go together with the new material.’’
,,If someone shows their personality in a visual sense, it is a direct reflection of themselves, which is good. But reinventing yourself isn’t cool. By the way, I love fashion, although it is not really innovative anymore. There may be a revival of punk, but it will never be the same as back then, because we are living with a new generation in the 90s. I love it: this rediscovery in another decade!’’
,,When I was 17 my first record came out through MCA-Records. I lived in L.A., worked with great session musicians and everyone was my best friend. But soon MCA-Records dropped me and suddenly I heard nothing from anyone anymore. Still, I was nominated for the Canadian Grammy Award. The people at MCA-Records didn’t want to sit at a table with me. Imagine: my name is suddenly called and it turns out I won! Yes that was one of my happiest moments, when I could wave to that MCA-Records table with the idea: “Ha I do not belong to you anymore!’’’’
,,The last nine years were both my darkest and my best moments, otherwise I wouldn’t have got to where I am now. Very often I have pointed at others and blamed others and I did not learn at all from myself. The moment I realized I had to acknowledge my fears and point to myself, was the moment I took responsibility for my own actions and the moment I was able to forgive myself. And with that I was no longer immobile. I took action, progressed step by step and recognized my musical and personal fears.’’
,,I am now 38 years old and I would like to have a partner, a buddy, for life and I am ready to start a family. If I could no longer perform and make music from tomorrow, I would love to continue writing and producing for others and finding access to themselves. Finding the sense of music doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes you have to write quite a few horrible songs before you make really good songs and it is therefore important that you allow yourself that.’’