But first, here is a little more about Rick:
Guitarist/producer Rick Iantosca found his way into the music industry through a hard-earned spot as an assistant engineer at a recording studio. He had grown up in South Orange, New Jersey, where he quickly mastered several instruments and became an obsessive musician. After college, he found his chance to become an engineer and quickly started to learn the way albums are recorded. Suddenly, after a year of working at the studio, he was asked to take over some Jimmy Cliff sessions after the producer left the project. Kool and the Gang also tapped him for his production skills around the same time, and both their In the Heart and Cliff's Power & the Glory were recorded at the same time. Iantosca was poorly credited for both, but the gigs led to more production work with Cliff (earning him a Grammy nomination for Cliff Hanger) among others. His work throughout the 80's and 90's secured him a job with DeLite Records, as well as a staff writing position with Delightful Music. While the chart above attempts to summarize Rick's genres, styles and abilities, these barely scratch the surface of Rick's talents.
Enjoy our chat with Rick:
On February 9th, 1964, the Beatles, with their Edwardian suits and mop top haircuts, made their first American television appearance—LIVE—on The Ed Sullivan Show. I was 11 years old and became obsessed with rock and roll and the Beatles. I immediately got a guitar and played it at every free moment. Music became a part of my existence. As soon as possible, I put a band together and practiced incessantly.
Whatever the Beatles played, I had to play it also. From studying them, I learned harmony, drums, Guitar riffs and eventually keyboards. I was learning new things to play every day. Consequently, I never became bored with music. While everyone else was outside playing games, I was inside learning songs.
Somehow, some way I was going to get involved in making records. Although my songwriting was mediocre (at best), I continued to write. I spent a small fortune in small recording studios. I enjoyed playing all of the instruments myself. Writing became easier in time as did my recording skills. I failed miserably in attempting to “break in” to the industry, but I could not find any assistance along the way. This was frustrating.
Finally, at about 28 years old I quit my day job and played in the local clubs full time with a friend of mine. The powers that be were not interested in him but they asked me if I would work there. That idea never occurred to me. The next day I went back, got interviewed and took the job which was at the very bottom of the barrel. The studio trained me in the mornings and I worked an exorbitant amount of hours every day.
Finally, a window of opportunity came my way.
They knew I played several instruments and asked me if I could produce a Reggae artist (Jimmy Cliff). It seems the producers were too busy to work with him and he was bored. I never knew anything about Reggae music but I told them “no problem”. Obviously, I jumped on it. Before anyone knew it, I arranged the songs, programmed the drums, put background vocalists on it and over-dubbed my head off. All of a sudden, all kinds of opportunities came my way and I jumped on every one of them. Finally…hit records with my name attached came out. I was all over the air waves with different groups. It was a long wait, but it finally just happened. The string of opportunities just kept coming my way.
Even my earlier Nashville connections were beginning to happen.The funny thing about all of this is that I am basically a “rock & roller” but my records were mostly R&B and Reggae to Country Pop. I was fortunate to be involved in several genre’s of music. This is because I would never say “no” to any major project. I do not believe in luck. However, I do believe in “Windows Of Opportunity” and the ability to recognize one when it comes along. I was fortunate but I would NEVER try this again. There are simply too many variables.
2. Many in our city are musically gifted and finding a place in the music scene. What advice might you have for those trying to succeed in the industry either as a band who is playing out and/or an act aspiring to be
That’s an easy question. The answer is simply: “persistence”.
3. Technology has transformed the way music is recorded, with the advent such as digital recording using computer technology. In the face of all this new technology, how do you ensure you are using it to support music making as opposed to making computer music?
There have been advances in recording equipment for years. In the end, all that really matters is the song and the performance. Today it’s Pro Tools but what will be next? Chances are there will be another “NEXT”.
4. How important is writing your own songs, or using original material, to a band or performer's chances at success?
The answer is “VERY IMPORTANT”. Providing that are capable of writing commercially viable songs, there is a lot of money in writing your own songs. However, if you’re not quite ready, then you are better off using a professional songwriter to assist you.
5. What do you look for in a vocalist?
I personally look for a pleasant but “distinct” sound. If you want to sound like every other club singer, then you might as well play clubs.
6. What do you look for in a musician?
Playing ability, humility, personality, someone who is open minded and has the ability to be “team” player.
7. There are many who emulate or aspire to be like the current trending stars or artists. Do you think it is wise to model your efforts after a current star? Why or why not?
I think that most musicians emulate several artists. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless the musician loses their own personality. For example…the guitar player aspires to play just like (let’s say), Van Halen. In the pop rock market, Van Halen basically defined the very quick hammering of notes. If one were to incorporate this type of thing in their music just to sound like him, it would probably result in a great loss of integrity as a player. It’s already been over-done as it is. It’s probably a good thing to incorporate various styles in one’s playing from several different sources. In general it’s probably better to develop your own style.
Also, bear in mind that the music of tomorrow, is being recorded today in a studio. If you are trying to imitate the music that is currently popular, you would be lagging behind those who are making tomorrow's music by not imitating today's music.
8. What are common mistakes people make in the studio?
Some common mistakes people make in the studio are bad drum tuning, unnecessarily loud amplifiers, high chord inversions on the keyboards, bad arrangements of good songs, bad song titles, overly “clever” lyrics which make no sense to the average listener and finally too much ego and/or negative attitudes which affect the “spirit” of everyone else in the session.
9. American Idol, The Voice and The X factor are all popular programs that seek out talent. Are you a fan of this style of finding and promoting people? Please explain.
I am absolutely no fan of these types of programs. The panel usually looks for the “crooner” who sounds like every other good wedding singer. Actually, I believe that they should be looking for “distinct” voices. I mean to convey is that when you listen to songs, you should be able to immediately tell who the artist is. Otherwise these singers might just as well be out in Karaoke clubs with wonderfully smooth but non distinctive voices.
My guess is that if a singer, like Mick Jagger were being judged, they would be quickly eliminated. From the moment you hear a Rolling Stone song, you know who it is. This is to say that although Jagger may not have the smoothest voice in the world, he has a distinctive and memorable “sound”.
10. What are the elements of a hit song in the mainstream commercial market?
11. What musical accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
ALL accomplishments! This is an industry which is incredibly difficult to become successful in. Contributing to hitting the “Top 100” is probably what I am most proud of. I have been fortunate to have reached that point many times. It is nearly impossible to do. We’re talking about world famous songs which have now become a part of musical history. Who would think that I (from a small village in New Jersey), could accomplish such a thing. The best answer I can give is that “I” thought it was possible…and it came to
fruition. I suppose that you have to first believe in yourself. There are so many rungs on this ladder that I can’t possibly name just one single accomplishment to be proud of. The competition is extremely severe to
say the least.
Thanks Rick for your time and expertise.