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If Rocks Could Talk: An Exclusive Interview With TONY M. VINCI Of SPEAKING TO STONES

By Jason 'JRock' Houston, Contributor
Thursday, September 15, 2022 @ 7:56 AM

"I love the intellectual adventures of guitar just as much as the actual playing of it."

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I recently interviewed Guitarist/Founding member Tony M. Vinci of the band SPEAKING TO STONES and in doing so it was very clear that Tony was very much influenced by the guitar heroes of the 1980's and he spoke to me about the HUGE influence that players like Eddie Van Halen, Vito Bratta, Reb Beach and Yngwie. I am a HUGE VAN HALEN fan myself and while I am a fan of both the David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar eras of VAN HALEN I found it really interesting to learn that it was VAN HALEN's 1986 album 5150 that first introduced Tony to the playing of Eddie Van Halen, that was of course the very first album to feature singer Sammy Hagar.

I recently wrote a review of the new SPEAKING TO STONES CD for KNAC.COM and in listening to the CD I was very impressed with Tony's guitar playing, the unique sounds that are featured throughout the entire album and as I mentioned to Tony in this very interview my description of the overall sound of the album is "Heavy/intense/haunting/progressive metal w/melody". Check the album out and Judge for yourself but as you'll read in the following interview Tony thought that was a very, good descrption of the band's overall sound! Please read this interview and ENJOY!

KNAC.COM: Hello Tony and thanks for taking time out of your very, busy schedule to do this interview with KNAC.COM. We really do appreciate it. Tony, how old were you when you first started playing the guitar? Did you take lessons or would you consider yourself to be more of a self-taught player?

VINCI: I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 13, but when I heard Eddie Van Halen play the solo to “Love Walks In” when I was like 10, it seared into my imagination. I was absolutely obsessed by the sound of the instrument, the expressivity. I took lessons from the amazing Steve Cunningham (look him up!), and he walked me through technique and theory. I love the intellectual adventures of guitar just as much as the actual playing of it.

KNAC.COM: Could you share with us why you chose the guitar as your instrument of choice?

VINCI: I cannot sing! If I could sing, I probably would have just done that instead. I try to use the guitar to express thoughts and feelings and melodies that I cannot express any other way. And there’s nothing like playing a 7 or 8 string or a crazy detuned guitar and just chugging away. It’s just so intense. And there’s also nothing like just pushing yourself as hard as you can to learn a new technique or to take this musical idea in your head that just seems impossible and trying to find a way to get it out on the instrument.

KNAC.COM: Who were your guitar heroes who influenced you when you were growing up?

VINCI: I loved melodic and technical players. Joe Satriani is pretty much my hero. The dude can do more with a single note than I can do with a thousand. But I’m pretty typical—Satriani, Vai, Petrucci, Gilbert, Yngwie, Holdsworth, Gambali all influenced me. I also kinda loved the solos to all those ‘80s ballads by SKID ROW and WARRANT. I know that’s probably blasphemous to many folks out there, but there was some amazing guitar playing in all of these really popular tunes. Vito Bratta from WHITE LIONReb Beach from WINGER shaped my entire musical vocabulary back then. And let’s not even talk about Nuno Bettencourt or George Lynch! Have you seen Lynch lately—the dude’s become a fucking wizard from Lord of the Rings, long white hair flowing magically as he rips heads off in KXM. Absolutely inspiring. Nowadays, I’d say Marco Sfogli is the perfect player. Truly. I love Jason Richardson and Rich Graham and all those absolutely insane new-ish players who are taking the instrument into new technical territories, too, but Marco—I guess he’s who I want to be able to be on guitar.

KNAC.COM: Do you remember what was the very, first song you learned to play on the guitar?

VINCI: VAN HALEN’s "5150". It’s a pretty difficult tune to play, and I played it terribly. It pissed me off because I could never get it to sound right, but it was fun and challenging. I guess I loved the quest, ya know? “I will get this to sound like Eddie Van Halen!” That was thirty years ago, and I still cannot play it the way Eddie did!

KNAC.COM: What was the point in your life when you knew you wanted to take a shot at becoming a professional musician?

VINCI: I started playing out in clubs almost immediately as a young teenager and started teaching when I was 15, so I’ve been a professional musician almost my whole life. Despite the fact that I’m now an English professor, I never once thought about going to college or even pursuing any sort of career. Music was life, and I never really considered not doing it.

KNAC.COM: Could you please share with us what year SPEAKING TO STONESwas first formed and how the band first got together?

VINCI: Around 2005 I wrote and recorded some demos with an old friend. The goal was just to have some fun and play around with shorter tunes while my “real band” worked on touring and such. That set of demoes became the first SPEAKING TO STONES CD.

KNAC.COM: How did you come to name the band SPEAKING TO STONES?

VINCI: There’s a line from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus: “I tell my sorrows to the stones.” That always resonated with me—having thoughts and feeling that others won’t accept or won’t hear, especially when it comes to pain or depression or despair. We are horrible at letting folks talk about their pain. And, in a way, that’s what music always did for me, it turned pain into power, into beauty, into hope. So, I think of writing music as speaking to stones.

KNAC.COM: In listening to the latest CD (In)Human Error, I noticed different sounds and I'd say it was a wide, range of sounds that could be best described as heavy, intense, haunting, progressive metal w/melody. Do you think that's a fair description in regards to the overall sound of the band?

VINCI: I love that description, thanks!

KNAC.COM: How many albums has SPEAKING TO STONES released to date?

VINCI: (In)Human Error is my third release, and I hope to have another CD out in a year or two.

KNAC.COM: Where is the band based out of? Is there much of a music scene there and how do you think your band fits in with the music scene there?

VINCI: That’s the cool thing for me, SPEAKING TO STONES isn’t really a band. Each CD is a new project. I write the material and record bass, keys, drums, and guitar, and then I work with different musicians to bring the songs to life. I’m currently in Ohio, but Maxi and Mike (the singer and drummer on this CD) live in the UK. There’s isn’t really a metal scene here. There’s lots of cool folks and rock stuff, but there aren’t even any venues that play metal.

KNAC.COM: Has the band toured outside of your local area?

VINCI: No. SPEAKING TO STONES has never played a single show! Hopefully, that will change in the coming months!

KNAC.COM: What do you remember most from the recording of (In)Human Error?

VINCI: Great question. There were certain moment of magic, ya know? The first time I heard Maxi’s melodies for a song called “The Drowned And The Saved” I kinda lost it. I was sitting in my kitchen at my laptop, responding to work emails, and I got this message from him saying that he thought he captured something special. Man, he definitely did. I also remember recording the solos to “The Human Stain”. I was in a tiny bedroom with headphones, and my cat was jumping all over the place as I was trying to play these really challenging passages. I tend not to write solos; I just keep improving until I find something I like. So, those solos are a little out of time, a little wonky because Walter the cat was fucking with me. At the end of the day, I liked that the timing was a little off, so I left them like that.

KNAC.COM: Was everybody in the same recording studio during the recording?

VINCI: Nope. I recorded guitars, bass, and keys here in Ohio, and the drums and vox were recorded in London.

KNAC.COM: Do you have a preference when it comes to the recording studio vs. performing live?

VINCI: I miss playing live. Nowadays, it’s just not part of my life. Maybe that will change.

KNAC.COM: Another thing I noticed on the new album is how beautiful your guitar playing mixes so well with the vocals. Is that something you set out to do or does that have more to do with the production of the album?

VINCI: Thanks! I want to give Maxi Curnow credit for that. He was writing vocal melodies to songs that were almost fully finished, and he just did a beautiful job. He was such a joy to collaborate with, and he really seemed to get what I was doing with all the guitar parts and the melodies.

KNAC.COM: Can people get physical copies of (In)Human Error as well as purchase it digitally?

VINCI: At this moment, it is exclusively available in physical CD format, but it will be available to stream by September.

KNAC.COM: Where can people find you and the band online?

VINCI: Our Facebook page.

KNAC.COM: Anything else you'd like to say to all your fans out there?

VINCI: I’m just so grateful that I still get to write and record music. I’m an English professor at Ohio University, and I do not have a lot of time to spend on music. My life is spent creating classes on apocalyptic novels and fantasy films, meeting with students, going to committee meetings, researching and writing scholarship—so the fact that there are enough fans out there who find my musical voice inspiring or relevant is just so amazing. Thank you to everyone out there who listens to SPEAKING TO STONES!

KNAC.COM: What are the band plans for the next year ahead?

VINCI: I’m already at work on the follow-up to (In)Human Error. The next CD will be called Returning To The Eleventh Hour and it is going to be pretty special. The songs are all pretty long and crazy progressive, and my hope is to get Richard IV, Andy Engberg, and Maxi Curnow—all the vocalists from SPEAKING TO STONES CDs—to sing on a few tracks. So, keep an ear out because it’s going to be pretty amazing!

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