Bang is a rock band from the Philadelphia area that produced three albums on Capitol Records in the early 1970's. In that time, Frank Ferrara, Frank Gilcken, and Tony Diorio rehearsed for approximately 18 months and decided to take a trip to Florida with their equipment and check out the music scene. While stopping in a record store for necessities, they found out that Rod Stewart and Deep Purple were performing very soon in Orlando. They headed to the show and drove right through the gates and talked their way into opening the concert. The concert promoter was very impressed and had them play other major shows. Before you know it, they were signed to Capitol records. After various music business issues, "Bang" eventually called it quits. On 1/6/2014 the band reunited. The two Franks and current drummer Jake Legar, will be performing at The Shop in Brooklyn, New York on May 10th 2015. I recently caught up with Bassman Frank Ferrara.
R.V.B. - Hello Frank
F.F. - Yes this is Frank, how are you?
R.V.B. - I'm doing pretty good. How are you?
F.F. - I am really good. I'm soaking up the sunshine from my picture window, so I'm doing good.
R.V.B. - Well I wish I could say the same because it's cold as heck up here.
F.F. - Where are you?
R.V.B. - I'm by Port Jefferson.
F.F. - Oh, that sounds cold. (Hahaha)
R.V.B. - I know that you're from the Philly area... where do you live now?
F.F. - Actually Rob, I'm still in my family home. I came here from Italy when I was a young boy, when I was about five. I live about fifteen miles south of Philly on the Pa/Delaware line.
R.V.B. - Oh I see, so you got a warmer day than we do, I guess.
F.F. - A little bit yeah. It's all good. Our guitar player Frankie moved to Virginia and our drummer Jake is from Pittsburgh. It's weird that we're separated. I remember as a kid, we all lived on the same block basically. It was pretty cool back then.
R.V.B. - After reading your bio, one thing that I admire is the go-gettiveness' of you guys. You guys set out for a dream, with not really a major plan other than practicing, and you went out and made it happen.
F.F. - You know Rob, I think back... the Bang story is so unique, in just what happened. The fact that it was in 1971... six years after The Beatles were on Ed Sullivan, when I think back on how far back it was... basically you're right, I think rehearsing every night for eighteen months got us so tight... not just musically, but as people and friends. I really believe that if you work hard enough for something, you can inflict your will and make things happen. The fact that we just decided on a whim to go to Florida and walk into a music at five minutes to nine because we needed rolling papers, and ended opening up for Rod Stewart and Deep Purple. Think about that... five minutes in either direction, the store would have been closed, we would of never heard about the show, we would have never went to Florida. I believe that break came to us because of the hard work and the eighteen months that we put into it.
R.V.B. - That, and the fact that you didn't wait around for things to happen. You made things happen. You went into the music store, albeit it was for rolling papers.
F.F. - (Hahaha)
R.V.B. - . I share a common thing with you... I'm a huge Sabbath fan myself. When you were rehearsing did they have an influence on you?
F.F. - Oh yeah, I think so. They were our favorite group back then too. You know what Robbie??? there's only eight notes in the scale. There's only so many ways you can bend strings. Yeah, we were fans of Black Sabbath and we were playing that genre pretty much with the "Death of a Country" album... which as our demo. It was never released by Capitol. That's when we just started. We were influenced by everybody, it wasn't just them. It was Led Zeppelin, it was Grand Funk. We got cluttered in the heavy metal genre but we were a rock band more than anything. We were a grove band. We were a boogie band. We were more rock than anything else. Everybody that you like influences you to a point. We couldn't sound like Black Sabbath, simply because we weren't. We sounded like Bang. People tell me all the time that I sound like Ozzy. I think I sound like Frank Ferrara. It's just my voice. Frankie's guitar playing... I think he should of been one of the top ten of all time. That's just my opinion. Today seems to be all about speed. How fast can I put 10,000 notes in three seconds. I would rather hear three notes that are bent the right way and say something melodic. Frankie was able to do that with his playing.
R.V.B. - I totally agree with you. There's such a thing as over playing.
F.F. - Oh big time. It's about a song... your setting a mood... your telling a story. Now it's "How fast can I get through this." To me there's no heart in it anymore. We found this out on the Pentagram tour... there was twenty and thirty year olds who came out to see us. That was our first tour in forty-some years. To twenty and thirty year olds with our Bang album... singing with me... knowing the words... I tell you what buddy, "I'm hung like a peanut but I felt like I had a ten foot dick." (Hahaha)
F.F. - Yeah, we were seventeen... just turning eighteen. We decided not to finish high school. It was either go back to twelfth grade or sign with Capitol Records. We made a hard choice.
R.V.B. - Now you say you were hung like a peanut but you sure had a lot of balls to go into that stadium and talking your way into opening up.
F.F. - Hey Rob. They don't call me the elephant man because of my trunk, ok.
R.V.B. - (Hahaha)
F.F. - The peanut was an exaggeration. You know Rob, when that guy pretty much challenged us in that music store... he was putting it in our face. We saw the sign and it said "Concert in the part on Saturday." It was kind of a battle of the bands. That was in Daytona. When we saw that poster we asked "Is that show tomorrow?" He said "No, that's an old poster." We told him where we were staying and that we were from Philly... "We have our equipment in the U-Haul to play for people in Florida." He goes "Oh, you got a band? Rod Stewart and Deep Purple are playing in Orlando. Why don't you go there, maybe they'll let you play?" He was being a smart ass.
F.F. - We got the papers and went back to our tent in the campground. We were drinking a little bit and we were smoking joints... the good Florida pot that we had back them. We just started talking "WTF, we're just going to Florida on a whim... we're just taking a vacation... let's just go there and see what happens." Robbie check this out, when we got there, there was nobody there. we pulled the fucking U-Haul and station wagon right backstage. Right through the metal fences, and there was nobody there. We got out of the car and we were a little nervous. We could have got arrested... we were crashing a show. We walked in and they were setting up the PA... we kept walking until we saw a door and knocked. That's when we saw a guy and we said "We're Bang and we're from Philly and we're the best fucking band in the world and we want to play." We were expecting to be arrested but we couldn't have found a better guy. We ran into Rick Bowen, who happened to be the promoter of the show. He was the right guy to see. After that, we set up our equipment and played a couple of songs he said "You guys have balls the size of boulders. I have to let you play. You guys sound really good." Seventy two hours after we left Claymont Delaware with no idea where we were going, we're playing to 8,000 people, opening up for Rod Stewart and Deep Purple in Orlando.
R.V.B. - That's an amazing story. It obviously didn't stop there. How did you eventually get hooked up with Capitol?
F.F. - What happened was, East Coast Concerts was part of a company out of Dallas called Concerts West. They were the ones who did all the shows back then, Robbie... Zeppelin, The Who and everybody and their brother. Rick had the southeast portion of that. When we got our publishing deal... Jimmy Ienner had a publishing company in New York. He was the guy who put The Raspberries together. He had connections with Capitol. In fact, it was between Capitol and Atlantic. When we went into Criteria and did what turned out to be our demo "Death of a Country", Capitol was one of the labels that was interested.
R.V.B. - So you went in and did a demo of eight or ten songs?
F.F. - No Robbie, we actually had a concept album called "Death of a Country." It was about eight songs and it was a psychedelic metal record. Frankie was taking jazz lessons at the time. He would come to rehearsal with the augmented 19th chords. We were just having fun, and we came up with a style. We're talking about all this music Robbie, but Tony's lyrics were A+. The songs were written around the lyrics more than anything. To make a long story short we went with Capitol because The Beatles were on Capitol... The Band was on Capitol... Grand Funk was on Capitol, but in hindsight... From the minute we signed with them Robbie... I think they signed us because we were in front of 50,000 people and not for the music. We didn't do tours. We didn't go on the road for a month with one band. We'll do a gig with Three Dog Night one night and jump over to Cactus... or do Mountain. Our manager was basically guaranteeing Capitol that we could be in front of 50,000 people a week. That was a lot of money that Capitol was saving as far as promoting the band. It was a bad label for us the minute they decided not to release "Death of a Country" and their reasoning was, we were a groove band and people wouldn't understand a concept album. They're idiots of course. In my mind they challenged us when they sent a producer down and said "You got two weeks to write a record." In nine days we wrote the Bang album... which was technically just inducted into the heavy metal hall of fame. That was really nice... Forty three years after it's release. I don't care if it's the "Tom and Jerry Hall of Fame". The fact that people remember it after all these years and that it inspired a bunch of people, is a pretty humbling thing for us.
F.F. - You know what Robbie? We had bits and pieces of riffs. None of the songs were complete. Me and Frankie just sat in a room and put on a cassette player every riff we could. We said alright, this one is in the key of E... this one's in the key of A... let's put these two together. It was kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. We wrote the full album in two weeks. Me and Frankie were in one room and Tony was in the other room writing "The Last Will and Testament" and "Questions" and "Future Shock".
R.V.B. - He did most of the lyrics right?
F.F. - 99% of the lyrics were written from Tony Diorio, our original drummer. He still does lyrics to this day. To me, I always go back to the lyrics, because you know what? I've lived through the disco era, I'm living through the rap era, where it's how many words can you rhyme with bitch. Back in the day songs were about something, they told us a story... there was a chorus... there was a solo. Good music stopped in 1979. then we got into the big hair syndrome. Before 1979 everybody had their own style and brand. There was The Who, The Stones.
R.V.B. - But you also had to go out there and make it... kinda through the underground. You had to build your audience. It's not like today where you put a video on Youtube and you see how many hits you get.
F.F. - Yeah Robbie, you hit it right on the head. That's what happened with the whole Capitol thing. They didn't know how to promote us. Atlantic was a more aggressive rock label. In hindsight, I feel we should of went with Atlantic but coulda', woulda', shoulda'. Capitol records is... believe it or not, one of the few record labels still standing to this day. There might be three of them. Atlantic doesn't exist anymore. They got soaked in by Sony or somebody. Back then everything was so commercial. FM was so deep underground. Helen Ready was number one "I Am Woman." It's about timing, and we were on the cusp. We would show up at gigs and there would be no records in the stores... no promotion and I blame that on Capitol. Within six months after we signed our deal, everyone that was involved at Capitol after signing us, moved on to another label. The president went to Motown. The producer took off and went to Epic. Everyone was gone within six months. You realize at that point, it's not the music business, it's the business of music. It's like selling shoes. In a business like music where it's all about heart and emotion, it's a hard lesson to learn.
R.V.B. - It also must have been disconcerting for them to tell you to use a different drummer.
F.F. - That happened after the first album. Tony had only been playing for four or five years at that point. He was ten years older than me and Frankie. He was the guy that had the wife and the kids and the job and the money. Frankie was sixteen years old when we met Tony.
Was it an issue with Tony leaving his family to go to Florida?
F.F. - No, it was never a problem with his family. We were just taking a week to go down there. We didn't know what would happen. We had rehearsed for eighteen months and we had played at this local club in Kennett Square... this local town. We did our "Death of a Country" set. A guy from the other band said "Look, I know some people in Miami who are looking for bands." Tony got the itch, and at the time Frankie - our guitar player was deeply into drugs. He was doing some bad drugs and fighting a demon back then. We thought getting away... getting out of town was a chance for him to clean up and chill out. There was a combination of reasons why we went down. Tony had the station wagon and a friend had the U-Haul van and it was June. It was just time to go somewhere. Tony wasn't actually forced out of the band or asked to leave until we did the Mother sessions, which was our second album. Back then Rob, you did two albums a year. One every six months. Now they have one every five years maybe.
R.V.B. - I found something kind of funny. Was it true that you got jaywalking tickets the day before your big party?
F.F. - Yes it's true. That's the thing about this whole Bang story Rob...
F.F. - It is Spinal Tapish', but it's true.
F.F. - It's not fiction. I got lucky because we recorded the Bang album in Miami at Criteria. We wanted to do some vocal tracks over, so I got to fly to LA... I was eighteen years old. Michael Sunday... our producer who did the Blue Cheer album right before our record... picked me up at the airport on a fucking motorcycle. I don't know if you've been to LA but it's like freeway city. He took me to his place in Hollywood Hills and then I went and re-recorded the vocals. The second time we went to Hollywood, Frankie stayed back at the room for some reason, and me and Tony wanted to go to Hollywood Boulevard. So we went out... it was late in the evening, and we're walking down Hollywood Boulevard for about six or seven blocks and we turned around to go back to the Holiday Inn, and we cross over the street, and about halfway across it turned red. The next thing you know, this cop car came up. He asked for our ID's and we said "We're from Delaware." They said "It doesn't matter." So they put handcuffs on us and put us in the back seat and took us to Hollywood's police station. Tony, the poor guy was in the cell, (hahaha) I was outside the cell and I was talking to everybody. In about two or three hours our manager bailed us out. Later that morning Robbie, was "Bang Day" at Capitol Records. That was our day to meet and greet everybody at Capitol. So the night before we get busted for jaywalking... we get bailed out at five... and at 10 o'clock we're at the Capitol. and they're playing Bang music in the elevator and showing porno films.
R.V.B. - That's funny
F.F. - These stories, I'll tell you what... I hooked up with a friend who has a publishing company and he's a writer. We had been thinking about the Bang story, and as much as we love the music and the fact that it still stands up after all this time. The Bang story itself is just an incredible assortment of shit that happened to us. It's Spinal Tapish', but it's real. This writer emailed me "Is this Frank Ferrara from Bang?" and I said "Yeah". He said "Man, I bought your fucking record when I was fourteen years old." He was ecstatic about doing a book. This could be a movie... this could be a lot of things. The story itself is fascinating... it's documented. With the book, we've touched base with our producers and engineers. They're gonna be a part of the book obviously. Criteria studio was Atlantic records home studio. They all went to vacation in Key West so they needed a studio down there. Criteria became one of the biggest studios in the 70's. The Allman Brothers, Hotel California...
R.V.B. - I think even Sabbath recorded an album there.
F.F. - Oh Yeah, Sabbath did. Our engineer Karl Richardson went on to be the producer for the Bee Gees, that ushered in the entire disco phase. We've crossed paths with people who were involved with the whole evolution of music. Having these talks with old producers really enforces the fact... you know every band has a story. I'm not gonna say that our story is better than anyone else's story, but to talk our way into opening for Deep Purple, you just can't make it up. The biggest thing I'm excited about is after all this time, at age 62 after doing this when I was twenty. I feel like I'm the most blessed man in the world.
R.V.B. - Well it's a good feeling when people appreciate your music. That's why you're in the business. When somebody says "That was great man", it's a whole lot better than someone saying "Here's fifty bucks."
F.F. - Oh stop it. If it wasn't for the sheer joy... 99.9% of the business is about dealing with bullshit. For that hour and a half when you get on stage... the things that you have to go through to get there. They're soul crushers... it's negative shit. It's hard to stay enthused but you know what, when you get up on stage and make a connection with somebody... I always tell people, it's better than sex... it's better than any drug I've ever had. It's mental, it's physical, it's psychological, you feel like a lava lamp... you're just undulating. People know the fucking words to my songs better than I do... that's sobering.
F.F. - We kicked it around for a long time. I stayed single... I never had any kids. My guitar player had three kids from three different women. He had like forty years of paying alimony and hanging up his guitar. After things calmed down, now it was his time. I've tried to have other bands and do other things over the years. I had always thought putting a band together would be easy...music would be hard....music is easy finding the right musicians is what's hard. It's just finding the right people with the same chemistry. Over the fifty years that I've been playing, he's one of the only players that I've spiritually connected with. It's a very easy thing for me and him to sit down and write, and put Bang music to Tony's words. No matter how much time goes by Rob... if you make magic with somebody, it never goes away.
R.V.B. - Is Tony still involved?
F.F. - Yes, Tony's still involved. He still writes lyrics. He maintains the website and does some graphics for us. He stopped physically playing drums, right at the beginning of the Mother sessions... right after the "Bang" album. All he played on was "The Death of a Country" demo and the original "Bang" album. Later in the year, we went in to do "Mother" and they decided to make a change. That's water under the bridge. He's still an integral part of the band. That's why I admire bands like Aerosmith, the Stones, all the same guys stayed together.
R.V.B. - It's not easy either.
F.F. - No it's not, but if you make the effort... we just love to play and we have fun with each other... it's natural. To me, I think that we can be more valid than before. Because at eighteen, you think that it's never going to end. Not having it in our lives for forty years makes this whole experience genuine. This is God's way of saying "Hey guys, finish your legacy." That's inspiring.
R.V.B. - I got a quick question. Why did you go with the bass?
F.F. - Frankie was the guitar player, and I met him when he was about ten or eleven years old. He said he needed a bass player. I didn't even know what it was, but I went and bought a bass. I became the bass player. When I was sixteen we had a band, and we were lucky enough to open up for The Young Rascals at The Spectrum in Philadelphia in 1968. The bass was a need. We needed a bass player and I just decided to play it. I never played the guitar or anything else. That was my first instrument. We were having problems. We were only three piece because we couldn't find a fourth member. We couldn't find anyone else who could sacrifice and do what it took to be in a band. Frankie, our guitar player was the singer, and when we signed with Capitol, Michael Sunday came down and he looked at me and said "You're the singer."
R.V.B. - In the early songs, did you guys share the singing?
F.F. - We always did a lot of two part harmony on most of the songs. Later on, I started doing them all by myself. When we did the "Bang" album, we had the harmonies which was part of our signature.
R.V.B. - Was it a pain in the neck to get a copy of "Death of a Country" after they shelved it for so long?
F.F. - We had to do it ourselves. When Tony first put up the website, we were thinking that it would be great to have our records on CD. All we had was vinyl. We contacted Capitol and said "We're "Bang" and we used to be on your label." and they had no record of us. They had no idea who the fuck we were. (Hahaha) "You were never on Capitol Records." I've got newspaper articles, and I have pictures of us standing on your roof with helicopters going overhead. If you pull up Wikipedia, we're in there. Frankie's brother Bobby is attached with Brian Setzer from The Stray Cats. He was in Frisco and he was able to find the "Bang" record, the "Mother" album and the "Music" record, still hermetically sealed. The promotional copies of vinyl. We had them re-mastered and put them on CD's. .
R.V.B. - That's kink of what they did with the old 78's
F.F. - Yeah exactly. People all over the world have been bootlegging Bang albums for thirty years. As a musician, selling records is your pension. You count on your royalty checks. Since the internet took over, everything is stolen. The minute one song is out once, it's all over the world. You can't control it. These days you have to sell merchandise, sell some CD's or vinyl...
R.V.B. - And do a lot of touring.
F.F. - And do a lot of touring. We're hoping to do a lot of that real soon. We're looking forward to the New York show on the 10th on May. Then we're flying out to LA to do Psycho shows, which I'm excited about. This will be the first time that we're "Bangin' Cali." There will be a lot of music business people that will hopefully open up some other opportunities.
R.V.B. - I'm really happy for you that you're back together and doing what you love to do. I'm glad you're coming to New York. I understand you had an Experience with Hendrix. No. one, just seeing him must have been awesome.
F.F. - In 1968 before we hooked up with Tony, Temple University did a show with Steve Miller, The Grateful Dead, The Ides of March and Jimi Hendrix. We were part of the crew. We had to go to the airport and pick up the Dead. What was happening with Hendrix was, He had to have guys help him to walk to the stage. Whatever he was doing... it looked like heroin. He couldn't physically stand up and I'll never forget when he got on stage, he was playing with his right and while on his knees, fucking with his pedals, to try and get the sound that he wanted. It was really hurtful to see him that fucked up. I also saw him at the original Electric Factory in Philly. I also saw Cream there. When Three Dog Night first came out they weren't top 40. They were considered a pretty heavy rock band. To see those bands in their prime in a great venue... I really think I lived in the best generation of music. The 60's and the 70's. I'm still grateful to do at whatever age to do today that I love, and for it to be as real today as it ever was. I couldn't be happier. Knock on wood... I could die tomorrow a happy man. If you follow your passion and do what your heart tells you... that's all you can expect out of life.
R.V.B. - You have a great attitude. Like I said "You have drive and you're a go getter, and you make things happen." With that combination, things are going to happen.
F.F. - I always tell people "Just step outside the box. Take a chance. Do something different." Friends that I grew up from her were like: going to Atlantic City, going away, running on the beach... there's so much to see in this world. Give yourself a chance and go places and experience other lifestyles. You can be gone a week, two months, two years, but when you come back home, it's still the same. It's "Groundhog day" all the time. You have to do something different and you have to give yourself a chance. I believe in a positive attitude and a strong work ethic. The other thing is to be humble. A lot of people come up to me and say "Frank, it's an honor to meet you." It's like wait a minute "Time out." You honor the Lord and you honor your parents. I'm just a musician who writes some music. Honor is too strong of a word. You can say "It's real nice to meet you" but there's a fine line between full of yourself and being humble. No matter how good you are, you need to stay humble. People don't like egotists.
R.V.B. - One more question. How come the Phillies stink so bad.
R.V.B. - The Mets are kicking ass but it's still early.
F.F. - Don't rub it in. We had 60 years of nothing but I'll tell you what... I've always been a Philly fan and on 07 and 08 when we had that great team and we were just kicking everybody's ass. It's amazing everyone becomes your friend when the team wins. When you're getting coffee in the morning... depending on whether you won or lost your either slapping everybody's hand and if they lose it's like the world just ended. I don't like the GM. They just handed out monster contracts to guys who had their glory years. The Mets always had the money and they always spend it. The first baseball game I saw was at Shea Stadium in 1965 with Tony Taylor and Cookie Rojas.
R.V.B. - Those names are Philly royalty. I had their baseball cards. Don't forget about Richie Allen. Smoking cigarettes in the dugout
F.F. - Yeah Richie Allen. I remember him hitting a ball out of Connie Mack Stadium off the scoreboard. When we were kids everything was a lot more exciting. These days when you go to a stadium where a team doesn't have a lot of talent. I'd rather watch grass grow. (Hahaha) Hey Rob, now that we broke bread, we gotta stay in touch. Look me up on facebook.
R.V.B. - I will. We'll friend each other on Facebook. How many Frank Ferrara's are there?
F.F. - Just look for the Italian guy who looks like Carmine Appice. I'm from Italy and there are a lot of Ferrara's. I'm the last one in our blood line. When I went to Italy to visit my old hometown... if you die, they put a big poster up on the street. I must have passed about ten death notices of Frank Ferrara.
R.V.B. - (Hahaha) That's hilarious.
F.F. - Thank you you're interest in doing this story, I appreciate it.
R.V.B. - No problem. It's my pleasure and we'll talk soon.
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz 4/24/15
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