“My whole life I was surrounded by Rock n’ Roll. Whether it was 60’s Italian, British or American. Being a rocker gives me a sense of freedom and individuality. Rebel without a cause. Sex, drugs and rock n’ Roll. All this stems from, Blues, Jazz which brought the Elvis era and later 70’s rock”.
It is through these words that Charles V. Rox Vaccaro entered our conversation about rock n’ roll, the contemporary music scene and its future. The 51-year-old native Montrealer guitar player/singer-songwriter just came from a nomination at the HMMA (Hollywood Music in Media Award for the singer-songwriter category) alongside names like that of Shelly Peiken, who took home the prize, the success of his latest single “Can’t Stop Running” and the news of a brand-new EP ready to be dropped soon.
These are important and noteworthy achievements for an artist that has been writing songs for himself and for other musicians for years, something that in Charles’ words seems quite easy though
“Songwriting is a lot like writing a book, except with a melody. Sometimes I sit and within minutes a story comes to mind and everything just gels with the music. Other days I reach halfway and the magic is not there. A great songwriter is one who has the world singing their song. Back in the day, people wrote for Elvis and today people write for Celine. Songwriters before social media were ghosts. Today we can see what they have brought to our musical library which we thought belonged to the artist. Like one of my idols, Desmond Child. Creator of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, Alice Cooper’s Poison, Kiss’ I was Made For Loving You, Ricky Martin’s La Vida Loca and many more.”
Charles V. Rox Vaccaro is also an artist with a strong voice. Recognized as a spokesman within the music community for many charitable causes, he has tight connections in the US, Great Britain and Italy too. Indeed, he has a compelling past, that led him to tread the boards of many national and international stages, delivering pure rock as lead guitar and co-founder of the band Lipstik. “Lipstik is who I am. What defines me and how its outcome symbolized the end of an era”.
There were the 80s indeed, a great decade for rock: Born in the USA, Slippery When Wet, Pyromania, Thriller, The Joshua Tree, Full Moon Fever, Purple Rain, Freedom are just some of the great LPs that came out shaping our perception of rock and raising our expectation…then the 90s came, and things changed with grunge; bands like Charles’ were wiped out by a new taste in music, a new sound…that’s what time does…it makes you feel melancholic, and probably a bit old too. Nevertheless, when we asked Charles the “fateful question”: is rock dead today he replied, “I absolutely believe that rock is far from being dead. From what I have been seeing lately, mostly on Instagram and Tik Tok all the youngsters, and some are super young and actually females…they are ripping their instruments at alien levels. Although it is not the culture of today, kids love this stuff too. Also, our very own The Damn Truth and many other talents are impacting the inevitable revival of rock music”.
And I cannot agree more. Many talented bands remind us that rock and roll is very much alive, although other things took a different turn. “Technology has changed music very much. What we are missing now are artists with their own characters and songs that came from their hearts to paper. Like, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and so many more”. New technologies have reinvented and rebranded the way in which we do music, thus modifying its consumption also subjected to a different fashion in which some artists have painted themselves.
“This year Grammy’s for me was not good at all,’ he started, and I followed, both dragged into an in-depth conversation. “Mostly the live performances. Everything has become over-sexualized and almost pornographic. For it to exist is fine, but to introduce it to primetime television is in poor taste. My opinion!” A point of view that could easily fire up an interesting debate toward ratings vs music, performance vs show, and so on.
The music scene has changed a lot compared to what it was, as has the industry; a good thing about talking with a true rocker is that you always get that straight face, that bravery within, that “hell yeah” face and no middle ground when addressing thorny topics. “The record industry was a machine of people searching for talent. Scouts, A&R, producers, labels…etc. Today it’s more of a DIY. If you are not ready or have social media numbers or big Spotify activity, no one is there to help you or discover you in that way. There certainly lacks artist development programs.”
“For the average aspiring artist, streaming is the equivalent to having 10k followers but only 100 of them interact. Feels good but the results are just a smoke show. Touring, selling merch and having a solid fan base is where it’s at…but you still need the streaming”. And that’s the truth even more now through these unexpected times that leave us with nothing but our screen…
However, Charles has also that sensitive gut that characterizes the best songwriters. His latest single Can’t Stop Running merges together rock and country, and not by chance it became a hit single. When asked about this choice of tangling together these two genres, he easily replied that “Blues is the creator of Rock n’ Roll. Country is also Rock n’ Roll and has always been and it is actually the influence of some of the biggest hair metal ballads of all times. From Bon Jovi’s Dead or Alive, Poison’s Every Rose Has It’s Thorn, Aerosmith’s Crazy and Cinderella’s Last Train. Since my background is 80’s rock, the transition has been super easy”.
“Country is so cool. It’s fun, romantic, the stories are beautiful and super melodic. I have been asked lately, how will I pull it off? Well for one I am just having some fun with the songs I wrote. Also, in hindsight, just for conversational purposes. Shania Twain, who is Canadian from Ontario, hooks up with Mutt Lang, one of the most famous rock producers of all time and he turns her into a superstar. It is more culturally convincing to be from Nashville maybe, but great music is great music. For example, one of the most popular Holiday songs, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire, was written in the month of July by Robert Wells and Mel Tormé in Los Angeles. Go figure!”.
In an era where music genres reinvent and redefine themselves, and yet good classic rock/country pieces stand still strong, where the rules of digital streaming restructure the architecture of the whole music business, thinking about the future is hard, nonetheless, we did it with Charles.
“Once all the industry moguls are gone, it will probably be a digital universe. The future will have more technology-based music composed by artificial intelligence that will be programed in the recording software. I mean we are already having conversations with Siri, Alexa and Google so imagine 10 years from now when they can interact by introducing specific algorithms to create ideas”.
And when asked for a cure he laughed and said, “It is nice to see more young people playing rock guitar on social media. Maybe a new rock era is in the works. I hope I am alive to see it happen”. In the meantime, stay tuned for the upcoming releases of Charles V.Rox Vaccaro.
Interview – Francesca Sacerdoti
Photo credit – @photomarc.Photography – www.photmarc.caShare this :