Joe Bergamini has been a staple of the New Jersey and New York music scenes since his days manning the drum set for the renowned Rush tribute band Power Windows. He also has spent time with a number of other cover and original groups that played throughout the area over the years. More recently, Joe has kept busy filling in on a number of Broadway shows, including Jersey Boys, Rock Of Ages, Spider-Man, Movin’ Out and Jesus Christ Superstar, which has enabled him to work with artists such as Billy Joel, Dennis DeYoung, Deborah Gibson, Dee Snider and Jordin Sparks.
But Joe’s latest endeavor has brought him into a collaborative effort with one of rock music’s most iconic drummers, Neil Peart. Joe has co-authored the new book Taking Center Stage, which is the definitive tome chronicling Neil’s recordings and tours with Rush. There is also an accompanying DVD. I sat down with Joe to ask him about that experience, as well as his current musical projects.
How cool was it to spend so much time working with one of your idols?
Actually, I never expected to meet Neil, much less work with him. Most everyone knows how private he is and that he doesn’t attend many of the industry events where I’ve met most of my other favorite drummers. The fact that I got to work on a DVD and a book with Neil is certainly one of the highlights of my career, and a big childhood dream come true. I also have to say that Neil is a great guy: hard-working, creative, driven, smart, and very nice as well. It’s a privilege to call him a friend.
What has the reaction been from other drummers about the book?
The feedback has been almost universally positive, I am happy to report. I did get a couple of emails questioning some of the instrument descriptions of Neil’s old drum sets, and admittedly those were very difficult things to research. Other than that, however, I get several emails a month from drummers and Rush fans who are just loving the book. I wanted to create the ultimate Rush/Neil fan’s coffee-table book about him, and have it be colorful, interesting, and exciting to look at, and so many readers have written me to say that they love the book. That makes me very happy, because it has allowed me to share my experience in working with Neil with the reader, in a small way. An unexpected thrill was how excited I was to see the book on sale in the merchandise kiosks on the Rush tour!
Did you learn anything about any of the drum parts from Rush songs you’d played in the past that you weren’t aware of?
Definitely. Even when I was in a Rush tribute band, I would occasionally revisit songs that I have been playing since childhood and find new things in them, because your ear develops as you gain experience on your instrument. When you transcribe a drum part, this goes to a whole other level, where you hear tiny details and nuances that you never noticed before. So there were a lot of things I never noticed before in these transcriptions, especially a lot of the left-foot hi-hat parts.
What are some of the other musical projects you’ve been involved in over the years?
The first band I was in that really had an individual voice and a big following was Eternal Vision. We played all the big clubs in New York City, like CBGB and Limelight. You can actually get some of the music on iTunes. I am still proud of those recordings.
The band that I am most proud of, and I consider to be really my voice as a drummer and musician, is my current band, 4Front, which features Zak Rizvi on guitar and Frank LaPlaca on bass. We have a new album out called Malice In Wonderland, and it is absolutely the best thing I have ever played on. It is aggressive and technically difficult music, but also very melodic and listenable. We had the honor of having Rush artist Hugh Syme do the cover artwork for this record, and it has been given a great reception by Rush fans, as well as our own loyal following.
Two other recordings I am proud of are The Muse Awakens with Happy The Man. I was the drummer for the legendary prog group for this reunion album in 2004. And the recent, 2013 self-titled debut from Flaud Logic.
Besides Neil, what other artists or drummers have influenced you?
A short list of bands would be Rush, Led Zeppelin, The Police, Toto, Yes, Kansas, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Black Sabbath, Tower Of Power, Billy Joel and just about all of the popular rock and metal bands of the 1980s. I played along to a lot of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Ozzy, Dio, Triumph, Asia, ZZ Top and dozens of other bands as a kid.
I also have a long list of favorite drummers, who I will seek out on records from many different artists. Simon Phillips, Jeff Porcaro, Steve Gadd, Vinnie Colaiuta and guys like that. I also really love classic R&B and funk music, listen to a lot of it and love the drummers, especially Zigaboo Modeliste from The Meters, and all the drummers of Earth, Wind & Fire. There are literally dozens of other drummers besides these that have influenced me.
Where can people get the book?
It would be cool if people went to my website to get it. You can visit me at joebergamini.com. There is a link where you can email me, and I try to respond to everyone personally and in a timely fashion. You can also get it at hudsonmusic.com, many Barnes & Noble locations, and of course on Amazon.