John Macaluso – Mannen med stikkene

Noen intervjuer går ikke helt etter planen, og dette er et av de. Det over to timer lange intervjuet ble tatt opp i sin helhet, men å sy sammen dette til et lesbart intervju bød på noen utfordringer. Et intervju skal være et intervju, og det intervjuobjektet sier skal gjengis riktig. Dessverre opplevde John Macaluso at dette ikke var tilfellet, og etter en god dialog med han så ble det bestemt at han skal få gjengi sine svar med hans egne ord. Totalt usensurert og uten mistolkninger eller faktafeil. Undertegnede beklager naturligvis at Macaluso mener at intervjuet overhodet ikke gjenspeiler de svarene han faktisk ga, og derfor er det ingen bedre måte å løse dette på enn å publisere intervjuet på nytt med de samme spørsmålene, men med hans egne ord helt og holdent uten oversettelse. Så på bakgrunn av dette kommer intervjuet helt uten journalistisk innblanding og omskrivning fra engelsk til norsk. Macaluso fikk også mulighet til å legge til informasjon og utdype svarene sine. Så dette er ene og alene hans intervju og historie. Intervjuet fant sted i Sigdal 13.08.2018 og John Macaluso fikk gjøre sine endringer den 09.12.2018.
Pål J.Silihagen
Hello All and thanks for reading this!!! Unfortunately sometimes interviews are not accurate to what was actually said by the the person being interviewed for many reasons. Sometimes an interviewer doesn’t record an interview and tries to remember everything the artist said and then writes what he remembers when he gets home or gets off the phone, which usually turns out very wrong or an interviewer does not understand the language of the artist and misinterperates the meaning of the answers and that also turns out wrong and many other mishaps can happen in interviews. Here unfortunately for whatever reason, I DON’T KNOW, this interview is NOT MY WORDS, Or at least THE WAY I SAID THEM. I feel that it is wrong and 85 Percent off from what I said. There is wrong info here I never said, comments I would never say, wishes I would never wish for and it is not the interview I gave at ALL!!! I have always had a good relationship with NORWAY ROCK MAGAZINE and thank them for having me in the Mag. and also Pal. Silihagen for the interview and for contacting me to do it. For whatever reason it was not done right and I thank both for the opportunity to have my REAL words printed and DO IT RIGHT! It is an honor to be in this Mag. I have a long history with Norway and Norwegian music and am a fan or Norway Rock Magazine, so Tusen Takk to Alt. Oh also Pal put in his own humor and jokes and it is obvious it is not me saying them because my jokes are way better than his and you all know that! Got ya Pal, you are a great guy. Here we go……again.
John Mac


Some musicians are more active than others and we talked to one of the most merited drummers in modern times. Very few people have over 200 albums to their name and played with artists like Yngwie Malmsteen, ARK, TNT, Symphony X, James Labrie, Michael Romeo, Jennifer Batten, Labyrinth to name a few. We thought that this man would have some good stories, so we took a trip to Sigdal of all places, to talk to John Macaluso…

Text: John Macaluso
Photos: Courtesy of John Macaluso
So, what’s the reason for you being in Sigdal? We’re guessing it’s not because of the statue of Ole Einar Bjørndalen just down the road…I
– I skied my whole life, so I am very interested in this dude. Lars gave me the history of Ole and so cool to hear it all started here for him, I love this kind of history. I just took a photo with the statue. But the real reason I am here is to record the second album with my good buddy Lars Lind. I met Lars when I played for Tore Moren, another great friend and great guitarist. I came to Norway to record Lars’s 1st solo album “Soul Kicker” in 2015. After we got together to do some gigs here in Norway. Now we are here in Lars new studio and recording the new album. This album is much heavier and actually has a little bit of a Judas Priest “Painkiller” vibe mixed with some live played jungle drum and bass drumming! Ha ha, the cool thing about Lars is, he is always into experimentation. Lars has a style and I love it! His melody playing I always say, has like an American Indian mood to it, very very cool tasty stuff and it is all his, he has A Style!
– Yes, you have obviously been drawn to Norway since the TNT-days. What’s the reason for this?
– I loved Norway since my first days here when me and Le Tekro were climbing Jotunheimen mountain in the Summer of 1990. Moon on my right and Sun on my left like a Star Trek episode, magic Norway. Loved it from the beginning! Had many experiences here and spent many years here in Norway, some great and some really bad! That is life but this country is special to me. I started my band ARK here also which to this day is one of my proudest achievements. The TNT days had their ups and downs. I don’t talk to those guys anymore, actually haven’t in a long time, don’t really know much of what is happening with them anymore but there were some real TRIPS we had and that’s for sure!  You asked about the TNT album «Realized Fantasies», Well like I told you I recorded over 200 albums in my career and I have to tell you the truth, that is THE WORST album I have EVER played on!!! Why? Because many reasons but mainly because at that time I think TNT should of kept the machine the way it was, with same producer and studio etc. There was a different drummer me but let it go and blend and let the music breathe but it was like a road map and play this and play that etc. so nothing special happened. It ended up shit, like production, studio, songs, album cover (my God what a cover), sound and overall vibe. Some people love the album and tell me I am crazy for saying that but to me it was just a dark dark experience. I was ready to explode at that time and ready for something great but it didn’t turn out that way. BUT, with every bad, there is a good. Due to the frustration of having that album out as one of my first major album releases in life, freaked me out and I went right into starting a new band after I left. A band where I can show and express and write. A band with No Rules at all! ARK. ARK was started because of the frustration of the TNT experience. That’s the truth so for whatever the fuck happened thanks to all because we made some classic albums….. or at least 2 CLASSIC BABIES.
– Ok, let’s move on and talk about other Norwegian musicians you played with. Or actually, it’s more interesting to talk about the one and only Yngwie Malmsteen. You played in his band for a long time, and contributed on four albums.
– I recorded 3 albums with Malmsteen. An amazing experience. I used to play to his records in my basement when I was in High School and then one day he called me and said, «This is Yngwie J. Malmsteen, I heard you on that ARK album, is it you playing?» I said of course. He said he loved it and flew me down to Florida and we started right away working on the “Alchemy” album. We did it in the same studio where Black Sabbath recorded “Heaven and Hell” so I went in and asked the owner, where did Vinnie Appice set the drums up??? They showed me and I put them in the same spot. The producer was my friend and legendary producer Chris Tsangarides R.I.P. I learned a lot in those sessions from Chris and Yngwie and we did it Old School, the best school, Malmsteen playing live with me to get the feel and energy and playing start to finish without edits etc. I still love that way of recording but now we live in a different world. Unfortunately the albums were never mixed good but there is some great playing and songs on all 3. The ABBA song “Gimme Gimme Gimme” was actually from that session in 1999 in Florida, that song made it on the “Anthology” album, good cover. Malmsteen liked the way I played so it was great on stage. He said, bigger fills, longer drum solos and PLAY FUCKING LOUD!!! A Drummer’s dream. There were crazy bad moments too but usually not on stage. For all those who ask, I just tell them, “NOBODY EVER SAID ROCK & ROLL WAS PRETTY”.
– You played with a lot of artists, and you probably experienced some strange situations. Is there a special happening or experience you can share with us?
– Of course! A good one is in 2014 I got a call from my now great friend Michael Romeo (guitarist Symphony X). Mike said, Can I do a tour of South America and Europe for the Symphony X Iconoclast tour, drummer Jason had a health problem. I said Of Course, without hearing the songs first. Mike said, Are you sure, you can learn 15 songs in a couple of weeks and do the gigs? Again I said yeah man, send them. That night I got the songs and freaked!!! It was like 9/8, 7/16, 2/4 and 5/4 and that was the first minute of the first song ha ha. I know prog and odd times very well but this was heavy and had to be learned quick and also the songs were long and involved and of course heavy with double kick patterns that had to be played exact etc. AHHHHH! I almost cried! But I had to do it. There was another little problem though, I was never expecting to live in Europe, I came over and did gigs and clinics and came to Italy to do a clinic and met people and played and then met my Wife and I am still here. I came to do a clinic and never left, it’s the truth. So I was playing house kits in clubs and still never brought my drum kit from New York so…….I didn’t have a drum set. So now I had to learn all the stuff without a kit, playing on my knees with my hands. I would never go on stage playing metal and reading so I had to remember all the parts. I had a system I devised years before to remember songs quickly from getting calls like this. I use codes like for a fill or groove that has the rhythm of the famous Phil Collins fill from the song “In The Air Tonight”, I write PHIL. For a sidestick snare sound like The Police song vibe, I write Copeland. I wrote these on a piece of paper and kept on the floor next to my kit and we rocked! Love that band and the members. They are some of my favorite people in the world all of them. SYMPHONY X RULES!
– Sorry John. We have to stop you. If you had a gun to our heads it wouldn’t sink in. We would like to hear a little bit about your movie career…
– Ha ha yeah, David Lynch’s movie “Wild At Heart” Brilliant to be in one of the sickest and craziest movies I have ever seen. To work on that was such a great experience and I actually got to work with that genius David Lynch and also Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. The movie was done and called “Hearts Are Wild” but David Lynch who lives by It’s Not Over Till It’s Over, heard the song from the band I was playing with on Warner Bros. Records called Powermad. He loved the song “Slaughterhouse” and actually wrote us into the movie and flew us to California and we shot the bar scene where we performed “Slaughterhouse” and also did Elvis’s “Love Me” with Nicolas Cage singing. The movie name was changed to “Wild At Heart” and won Cannes Film Festival 1st place prize in 1990 may be due to my Poodle hair doo ha ha. What an experience!
– We know that one of your proudest achievements is ARK, a band you formed together with Tore Østby. Will there ever be a new ARK-album?
– ARK was ARK and still to this day out of all the records I have made «Burn The Sun» is my favorite and best album I have done. It was the only band I have ever started besides when I was a kid with little basement bands. Me and Tore made some magic and had a telepathy when we played, we knew where to go and where the other guy was going. Jorn was brilliant and of course my two amazing buddies Randy Coven and Mats Olaussen R.I.P. BROS! I tried many times to put ARK back together but the same stupid stuff kept happening and breaking it up. I really don’t know if it ever will happen again. To do it again there would have to be us 3 like when we started, just playing music and having a blast. Never say Never I know and it would be Huge I think but only the future knows.
– Besides being in the dark forest of Sigdal playing drums with Lars Lind, you are also contributing on Michael Romeos last solo project. You have a lot in the works, how do you manage to keep up with the pace?
– Yeah, playing drums and recording keeps me out of trouble ha ha. I just recorded a brilliant album with Michael Romeo called “War Of The Worlds part 1” Mike is one of my favorite guitarists and I took this one very seriously. He wrote the songs with my drumming in mind so it was kind of easy to be me, he wanted that. Mike programmed a drum machine and sent the tracks to me in Italy and I went in the studio with a great engineer and friend Simone Mularoni who I did the last Labyrinth album with also. His studio is called Domination Studio in San Marino. So Mike said, just do your thing, play MACALUSO but keep my song structure and try to stay close to the kick patterns. I did and added my vibe my “Chilli Sauce”. It is one of my favorite albums I have ever done. All classical with a Metal Star Wars theme. He is a great composer. Rick Castellano on vocals and JD from Black Label Society on bass. What a great album. Actually we recorded 2 albums in the one big session and the other one “War Of The Worlds part 2” will hopefully be out next year.
– We understand you’re a busy man, not only with Michael Romeo, but also with Labyrinth. Do you have some projects of your own in the making? It’s been a while since you released your solo album…
– I am in the process of shooting my first drum DVD called “PROGTOWN” and it is almost done. It is like all my style put into one DVD. “Linear Drumming”, “Double Bass”, “Odd Time”, “Spaghetti Arm”, intros from albums I have recorded, grooves etc. jam packed with all my stuff. I am so psyched for this baby to come out!
– I guess we can’t count on a reunion with TNT and a performance of “Realized Fantasies” in it’s entirety, if we understand you correctly?
– Ha ha, No man, that is not going to happen. But give them my phone number so may be we can do it the way it should have been recorded on the record. Would have been sick if it was recorded like the demo and rehearsals.