Interview: Beauty In Chaos

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Guitarist Michael Ciravolo is no stranger to the rock music community. From his work as president of Schecter Guitar Research, to his time spent playing in Human Drama and Gene Loves Jezebel, he’s made a tremendous mark. His project Beauty In Chaos has recently released The Storm Before The Calm, the new album that features collaborations with members of The Mission, Hate Dept, Pigface, and more. We had the incredible opportunity to check in with Michael and talk about the new album, working with the collaborators, recording with Michael Rozon, the influence his time with Human Drama and Gene Loves Jezebel played on Beauty in Chaos, and more!

Photo by: Anabel DFlux

Album Review: The Storm Before The Calm

1.You recently released you brand new album The Storm Before The Calm. Tell us a little bit about the album and what people can expect from it?

I hope they will hear our evolution, and probably some ‘de-evolution’ or a throwback to the mid-80s! We set out to do a darker, starker album. A bit more linear. What was originally planned to be a 4-song EP, in typical BIC fashion, expanded and expounded a lot. I think it is obvious as to what the original 4 songs were and then the 2 slight curve balls we threw in, which I think, do fit in a weird way and round out the vinyl version quite well. When we were doing the running sequence for ‘finding beauty in chaos’, I had wanted to do some short music ‘interludes’ to bridge some of the songs together. But once we did the math on the times, we saw we were pushing the 79-minute max boundary for compact discs. So, with the new record being only six songs, I saw a good 30 minutes of sonic space still available and then we created the title track, which is sort of a soundscape/soundtrack piece that, at least to me evokes a mix of David Lynch, Pink Floyd and Trent Reznor. It also contains a gorgeous goth-operatic section sung by Adrienne LaVey. Maybe it’s a bit self-indulgent on my part, but I think it’s the perfect late-night listen with a lit candle and some red wine.

2. For your longtime fans, what are the major differences they will hear when comparing this new body of work with that of your acclaimed debut Finding Beauty in Chaos? But also, what similarities will they find in the music as well?

I think there are similarities for sure. For better or worse, I have a guitar sound and style that runs thru all BIC songs. This record was conceived and written over a shorter period of time with a ‘concept’ in my head. This record took less work to make it cohesive, if that makes sense? To me, ‘Temple of Desire’ and ‘Stranger’ pushes our songwriting and sonic boundaries much like ‘I Will Follow You’ and ‘Look Up’ did on our debut album.

3. Like with your previous albums, The Storm Before The Calm includes several collaborators; members of The Mission, Hate Dept, Pigface, etc. How do you go about choosing the best collaborators for your project?

Since I have been in this ‘business’, and I do use this term rather loosely, for the better part of my life I am blessed and fortunate to call a lot of amazingly talented people friends. Where ‘FBIC’ was viewed as a ‘Who’s Who’ record, our new record features some lesser known, but in no way lesser talented, singers.  With the positive press and critical acclaim our debut record received, I think it makes it a bit easier to expand our ‘family’. I don’t have an exact process as to who sounds or sings what song, it just sort of happens … which is a common thread in BIC. Wayne Hussey and Ashton Nyte are such a big part of the first record and do cast a big shadow. Showing my New Orleans roots a bit here - I look at BIC as sort of a ‘musical gumbo’… with all the parts making the end result special. The only singer I did not know going into this record was Rafe Pearlman. When Michael and I completed the music for what would become ‘Temple of Desire’, Michael and our mutual friend, film composer Tyler Bates, said this song would be perfect for Rafe. This track is a bit more complex than what we usually do … a strange alternating of major and minor chords, but Rafe delivered an amazing performance that is probably the ‘surprise’ song on this album to many.

4. As the mastermind behind the project, what type of creative control do you let the collaborators have that helps bring their unique touch to the shape of the album’s overall sound?

From the beginning, I wanted BIC to be a revolving evolving musical entity. The songs are always collaborations with the singers. They write their own lyrics and melodies. I view the music as a soundscape that sets each singer on a path, allowing them to channel both beauty and a bit of chaos into their lyrics and performance. Every singer on this record has a very talented past and I urge everyone to google and delve into their musical works …. you won’t be disappointed!

5. Ahead of the album’s release, you gave us a taste of it with “A Kind Cruelty” and “The Delicate Balance of All Things.” What did you feel about those songs that made them best candidates to give people the overall feel of the album as a whole?

Since BIC is not a typical live band, our videos are the ‘face’ of this thing. A lot of times, it is ‘timing’ that selects what video we shoot, meaning that since many of the singers involved don’t live in Los Angeles I have to work around their availability.  That said, I think both of those songs do represent the darker vibe of this album. As with most things BIC, things work out just the way they are supposed to. I would love to do a video for each of the songs on this record if possible … as we strive to make each one unique. We are shooting ‘Stranger’ next weekend, which should itself be different and very cinematic. 

6. Now that the album is released, and we know this is like asking you to choose your favorite child, but which two songs stand out as your personal favorites from it and why?

Yeah, that’s a tough question, as it usually changes and evolves over time. I do find myself listening to BIC differently than I did with albums I’ve done prior. I seem to be able to listen as a ‘fan’ of each of the singers as opposed to my guitar playing.  To answer your question, I guess I am going to have to say ‘Stranger’ and ‘Almost Pure’ … since we are in the planning stage for videos for both.

7. You recorded the album at your own studio but tapped Grammy-nominated producer Michael Rozon for production. Why did you feel that Rozon was the perfect fit for your vision and in what ways did he elevate it most?

Besides being one of my oldest and dearest friends, he is nothing short of a world-class producer and musician. He pushes me (sometimes to the point of insanity!) to be a better artist. He was also the catalyst for me to do Beauty In Chaos when he intuitively sensed my frustration during the recording of Human Drama’s ‘Broken Songs’ album. He is more than just the producer ... he is a sonic alchemist.  His bass line on ‘A Kind Cruelty’ propels and drives that song to the dance-club anthem I have been told it has become.

8. Outside of Beauty in Chaos, you’ve also played guitar in Human Drama and with Gene Loves Jezebel. How did playing with these two projects influence the sound you’re wanting to give out with Beauty in Chaos?

Since I wrote the music on the two GLJ albums I was involved with, I would say that is more indicative of my sound and style. Human Drama has become much more of Johnny’s band over the past two decades and my role was to fit into that. ‘Broken Songs’ was certainly a challenging album for me to work on. I think Johnny and I clashed a bit on what we wanted the album to be. I had pushed for it to be more guitar-driven, like the band’s sound of the mid-‘80s. I had also become really into guitar effects pedals and the sounds I could conjure from those boxes. I was trying to fit all of that into the songs he wrote, all the while he was telling me to think ‘David Gilmour’. I was never a big Pink Floyd fan, but I did listen and try to capture that. I think songs like ‘Liar Inside’, ‘A Ghost’ and ‘Rain on Me’ capture that as best I could. I did learn and carry that into ‘Beauty Lies Within’ (from ‘FBIC’) with a bit of Mick Ronson’s ‘Slaughter On 10th Avenue’ thrown in for good measure. The clash of styles during that recording session was the spark created for me to do Beauty In Chaos. It also led me to my own self-imposed ‘no keyboards’ rule on that record. Not out of ego, but to prove to myself I could do it. 

9. You’re also the president of Schecter Guitar Research. Tell us a little bit about that.

It’s a good ‘day’ job! Honestly, I have had a love/hate relationship with the guitar because of the job.  When something you love becomes something you sell for your living, it can sometimes become a ‘widget’. I do know doing these records has, thankfully, rekindled my love of guitar in a big way. It also has put me in a position to know and become friends with a lot of very talented people. It is a bit surreal to think back to being that kid in New Orleans who is now able to call Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Wayne Hussey, Peter Murphy, Robin Zander, Al Jourgensen and many others … all whose bands make up a big part of my record collection... friends.

10. We’re all about helping the next generation at, so we always end all our Q&A’s with this question. What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is just starting out with thei music today?

 If you have chosen to make ‘music’ … do it. Jump in with both feet. There are far more ‘distractions’ now than when I first picked up the guitar. I think in a way, it might be too easy to make music; which means you don’t fully ‘invest’ yourself in it … thus making it easier to move on to another ‘hobby’.  Leave yourself no other option if this is something you really want to do. Listen and learn. If there is a band or guitarist that really inspires you, go deeper. Check out who influenced them. Play live, record, collaborate …  and don’t lose sight of WHY you want to do this.


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