By BRUCE DENNILL
Gerry Mancuso is an instrumentalist and songwriter, producing and arranging a fusion of classic and contemporary instrumental guitar as well as progressive and metal rock music. His new album Propesy garnered international attention, receiving high praise all the way from Serbia with a review published in Time Machine Music. After working 20 years feeling like he was wasting his life working a day job that didn’t inspire him, he is creating and sharing music with renewed vigour. Recent releases include latest single Space Rock and a cover of On My Own Alone from the Bloodsport soundtrack, which has over 200,000 views on YouTube.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
I started listening to Guns & Roses at 10 years old in the early Nineties. Slash really inspired me with his ultra-emotional guitar solos and super-cool look. It was a wrap from then on in. The Nineties era was huge for me as I was absorbing so much music from so many different bands and artists.
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I’m currently exploring the creativity inside me – there seems to be a never-ending plethora of possibilities. Discovering new artists over the years has just added to my constant pursuit of innovation and appreciation of music. Buckethead has really changed the game for me. His creative talent and collection of recordings shows how many doors of exploration are possible. His imagination has really opened my eyes.
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
Buckethead’s Machete. This song absolutely blew my mind when I first heard it, and always will. The chills I get from it are insane. It captures the emotional circuitry and atmospheric plane of the human soul. These types of ballad are so much fun to improvise over and see where the magic will take you. I’ve since written plenty of ballads that give me great pleasure and satisfaction. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing progressive pieces that are intricate, emotional, and technical, but there’s something special about a ballad where you just let your imagination flow over a recurring melody that can’t be touched.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
I feel as though a catchy melody is crucial. Something people can hum along to, whether it be a lead guitar melody or a riff-based rhythm that keeps their heads bopping. I tend to write progressive songs that basically change from part to part as a progression, leading to the pinnacle of the song, which is the guitar solo. You want to take the listener on a journey in which they crave the next stage or phase of the track, until they hit the pinnacle. It’s important that the parts sound good together, in different respective keys, and that the changes are dramatic and cinematic for effect.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the most memorable parts of your songs?
I prioritise my phrasing, dynamics, rhythms, melodies, and subtle intricacies. I’m an instrumentalist at heart. In my opinion, vocals take the listener to a different thought pattern in their brains, where they start focusing on the meaning of the words and subconsciously negate the beauty of the actual music. As much as I love a great singer, when vocals are present in music, I only hear the ranges of notes and beauty of the sound of a human voice as opposed to the meaning they’re actually trying to convey with their words. As controversial as it might be, I believe the brilliance of instrumental music is that it takes the listener on a journey in their mind that only they can depict for themselves, immersing themselves in the breathtaking landscape of the music itself, unaltered by potential lyrical distractions.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
Lately, I’ve been recording using Neural DSP’s Archetype Abasi, which is Tosin Abasi’s signature amp/effects plug-in. I also love programming with drum sequencers, and writing keyboard synth parts for ambience. It’s incredible just how far technology has allowed us to come.
What is your most recent release? What is the story behind it – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
My latest release is a song called The 3rd Entry Wave. The story behind it is pretty amusing, actually. A buddy of mine gave me the inspiration to write it. Since he likes to smoke to relax, he suggested that I write a track that would take him to another level of consciousness during the last and most prominent phase of the high, in which we coined the phrase The 3rd Entry Wave. The song encompasses spirituality, uplifting progressive soundscapes, emotional solos, aggressive bite, bouncy rhythms and catchy melodies. I aimed to include as much diversity as possible, with the intention to take the listener on a mystical enchanting trip.