Exclusive Q&A with Jimmy Gnecco

By: @brentXmendoza

One of the most powerfully emotive voices in rock, Jimmy Gnecco returns to On The Rox for an exclusive showcase Thursday, December 8.

Touring on his newly released, full band version of his solo record The Heart, Gnecco will once again bring his soaring vocals to fans lucky enough to secure a ticket for this intimate engagement.

In preparations for the big show, Gnecco phoned in to The Roxy to bring us up to speed on his deeply personal songs, talk about touring troubles with Marilyn Manson, and address those ever-present Velvet Revolver rumors.

So tell us about the new record The Heart X – Edition

Well it’s basically version of songs from The Heart, the original record, which was mostly acoustic… Some of the songs, when I was first writing them, I could really hear them with production like this, being played with a full band, and really “done up” like we normally do with Ours records; but the original intention (of The Heart) was always to keep things minimal, for it to be just my voice and my guitar, and be really raw.

So as I wrote some of the songs, I felt like some of them could really exist in another environment; but at the same time I didn’t want to change the original intention of the record. So then I just thought well, if some of them work out on the road, I’ll do “full” versions of them… I mean normally people kind of do the opposite; but it’s just the way it went this time.

Last year, we played arenas across Europe with the band a-ha, and that’s when a lot of these songs really came to life; so after the tour, we went back in the studio to sort of capture the way the original songs sounded when touring with a full band.

I was reading that the song “Bells” has a special significance for you and the band…

Yeah, the thing about “Bells” is that- from the time I can remember, four or five years old, I was having these strange nightmares… I’ve always dreamt a lot, very vividly at night, but I could never really place what they were about; it wasn’t anything specific, it was just a feeling, and I was trying to put that feeling into music my whole life basically.

It’s maybe sort of a combination of the emotions I felt from those dreams, with maybe songs from the 70’s that I heard growing up, or just something I heard in my head…

I started to write “Bells” a while ago… pieces of it were in a song off my first record called “Here Is The Light.” So I’d been working on it since 97’-98’ and I’d always find myself going back to it, trying to figure out where the chorus was…

I wanted to do this record, where we weren’t sitting on the songs too long; ‘ya know, sometimes you write a song, and if you sit on it too long before you get a chance to record it, it loses that original intent that it had when it was being written. I really wanted to do as much current material as possible.

So “Bells” is kind of that one song that captures that feeling that I’ve been trying to aspire to since I’ve been making music.

The songs you chose for this record seem to be your most vulnerable, deeply personal… and having the intimate relationship that you do with your fans… are there any particularly memorable stories that have been conveyed, that stick out in your mind, about how these songs have affected people?

This record for myself, and a lot of people really meant a lot… people who knew that my mom was sick and dying during the time that I was recording; and other people who were close to people with cancer or sickness felt a certain connection to this record.

It definitely wasn’t for everybody, meaning the first edition of The Heart that I put out. It is a really sad record, and I never had any intention of it being part of the commercial world or getting play on the radio. I wanted to make something that was really from the heart without any filters, or any influence/interference from anybody- management, record labels, even other band members; and so my intention was to put something out that was completely, and solely from my heart; and I hoped that the record would serve as a comfort to some people, even though it would bring emotions up, and stir things in people. So I feel like that happened on the first round of the release…

I also felt like there was a lot of hope, and excitement in these songs as well; and I felt if people liked the first record, maybe they’d appreciate this one too. And again, I didn’t necessarily do this for anybody else, it was just that I could hear the songs existing in both forms; and still, now listening to them, I’m not sure if I like any one version more than the other; it’s just a different kind of experience.

If you want to put a record on by yourself, and really emotionally get deep into something, and kind of cry your eyes out, then I would maybe lean towards the first release; but if you want to listen to something loud, like in your car, or go for a run, or workout, I would probably put the second one on.

You’ve toured with a number of very diverse artists from a-ha to Marilyn Manson, and it sort of seems like it has always been a challenge pairing you with “likeminded” headliners. Have you found it difficult playing to these different audiences that maybe aren’t as receptive to your style of music?

Yeah, I mean that’s not necessarily anyone’s fault or bad reasoning… A lot of tours come up over the years, and some things make more sense than others; but I’ve always tried to not have any genre boundaries for the type of music that we make, and not necessarily categorize it. I mean, who wants to see the same band over and over?

But there is something to be said for mindset or like-mindedness… I like to be around likeminded people, but I also like to be around people who think completely different, who approach things completely different, so Manson was one of those cases.

It’s kind of interesting, when our first record Distorted Lullabies came out, there was kind of this thing going around that we were a Christian band… I guess because of some of the references and the lyrics; but ‘ya know, I was raised Catholic, and it’s certainly a part of my life; and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to any one religion, I guess there are hints of that in the music, but again, I just like the idea of throwing people for a loop.

…just as long as we’re not touring with someone who’s just completely filled with hate and malintent. Manson is a smart guy, and I don’t think he means any harm, but a lot of his fan base is just completely filled with hate, and unfortunately that didn’t work out for us. But Manson himself I have a lot of respect for, he’s an entertainer ‘ya know…

I like all kinds of music, and I always have my opinions about what would make sense as far as touring, but it often just comes down to whether I like the person in the band. Jakob Dylan came up to me and talked to me, and naturally I love Bob Dylan, and I can appreciate Jakob’s talent, but I was just struck by what a sweet guy he was, and I just thought, “yeah, let’s go play some music together.” So sometimes a tour gets picked just like that, and you hope that the music is going to translate.

You just got on stage recently in New York with The Velvet Revolver guys; do you want to address any frontman rumors?

I did… we’ve been talking back and forth about doing something for years. I’ve always been a big fan of those guys, and Guns N’ Roses. Before Weiland joined the band, we had been talking, and the timing just didn’t work out; and then after he left the band, we sort of resumed talking, and maybe again it just wasn’t the right time, or the right set of circumstances… So finally, all the talking stopped, and we got a chance to just play- which is what I wanted to happen- and so I jumped up on stage and played a few songs. I had a really good time, and felt really comfortable, and I just enjoyed it.

Again, at certain points in your life, you just get completely tired of your own point of view. I just made this deeply personal record, entirely on my own, and I think I was just starting to get this feeling that I really want the experience of a different perspective, and a different point of view, and just being around some other people. So it was really exciting for me to get up and play with them, so we did that, and I felt at home.

So we’re talking about getting together some more, and playing some more music, and writing some songs, and seeing what becomes of it, see if we can make something happen. It really comes down to- we have to make great music. So we have to get together, and see if it works…

I’m really looking forward to finally spending some time with them. I can’t say Velvet Revolver will or won’t continue as a band, I don’t think any of us know, but I’m excited to get into that process.

You’re coming back to L.A. and playing On The Rox, a room you’ve played a number of times before; do you have any special attachment to that place or something about in particular that you really love about the space?

Yeah, I love the whole feeling of The Roxy. I love a good rock club, and it’s got to be dingy enough to feel like you’re in a rock n’ roll club, but still feel like a real show, and The Roxy has always been that sort of premiere venue.

There’s no bad seat in the house, it sounds great; so when I go out there, and do these really tiny personal shows, it just feels like home to me. Whether it’s upstairs or downstairs, it’s just always felt comfortable, and I feel a connection to the place.


Jimmy Gnecco performs at On The Rox on December 8. This show is 21+ and tickets are available via Ticketweb now.