An Interview with Frank DiMino of Angel

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

By Andrew DiCecco
adicecco@vinylwriter.com

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Donning an all-white wardrobe and often hiding behind his signature round sunglasses, Frank DiMino was one of the most identifiable and charismatic frontmen of the 1970s.

Prior to rising to prominence as the vocalist for renowned 70s rock act Angel, DiMino, a Boston native, spent his formative years playing in a variety of bands in New England before finding a niche in the Washington D.C. music scene.

Vocally inspired by the likes of Paul McCartney, Steve Marriott, and Steve Winwood, DiMino eventually broke into the talented local music scene with the band Max, which included future Angel bandmates Mickie Jones (bass) and Barry Brandt (drums).

Despite Max’s lack of longevity, it was the relationships forged within that band that ultimately led DiMino to his next opportunity.

Following what would later prove to be a pivotal career moment, DiMino received a phone call from Jones, who extended an invitation to sit in on a rehearsal session with himself, guitarist Punky Meadows, and drummer T.T. Tolliver. At the time, the multifaceted vocalist was still working with former Max guitarist David Namerdy, so joining forces was just an option. However, DiMino’s former drummer, Brandt, called a second time with an invitation to rehearse with the band, and they hit it off right away. It was at that moment that Angel was born.

I recently sat down with DiMino to discuss the past, present, and future of Angel.

Andrew:
Thanks for taking the time, Frank. To start, I’d like to rewind it back to your earliest days in music. What was your earliest introduction and what first kindled your passion for singing?

Frank:
When I was young, I took vocal lessons. At the time, it was something that my mom and dad probably tried to keep me off the streets, occupied and doing something. I used to sing with my cousin a lot; we did choir stuff. So, I took lessons for a while. And I ended up doing some radio stuff in Boston, where I grew up. I used to do Newspaper Boys of America Sunday broadcast, where you would take up your sheet music to the organist and he would play it, and you’d sing it on the show. It was pretty wild. You know, when I first started lessons, I thought, “I think I can do this. I feel comfortable doing it,” but it wasn’t something that I had a passion to do until it really started making more sense to me. And, of course, it started making more sense when the Beatles came out. So, obviously applying all of that stuff, I thought, “Oh, this makes sense now to me.” The other stuff was fun for me to do, and I thought, “I can do this pretty well,” and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t make sense until The Beatles came out and everyone started putting bands together and stuff. That’s when I really started to develop a passion for doing it.

I kept on taking lessons up through high school and I went to Berklee College of Music after high school for a couple of years. When I was going to Berklee is when I first met Barry [Brandt] and Mickie [Jones]; they were playing in a band in Boston at the time. They were from D.C. They came down to see me, and we talked and we tried to put something together, but it kind of fell apart. They went back to D.C., and when they put something together, Mickie gave me a call and said, “We have something together. Why don’t you come up and check it out?” I thought about it for a minute, and then I hopped on a train and went to D.C. and then started working in D.C. I never went back to Berklee; I just started working with bands in D.C. I had been in a lot of bands when I was growing up in Boston, as well. We put together bands when I was going to Berklee; we’d just take the top-30 hits and just learn all the songs. We had great players – we had sax players, great guitar players, drummers, and stuff – so it was an ongoing thing there. And there were obviously bands in high school that I had that did some stuff. A band that I had in high school, we did a show in New York with Duke Ellington – King Curtis was on the show – and that was fun, being able to do an actual television show when you were in high school. So, music has always been a part of my life, and it started growing to be more a part of my life once I got out of Boston and into D.C., where I was basically working to make a living as well.

Andrew:
Who were some of your early vocal influences, Frank?

Frank:
In rock music, I loved Paul McCartney’s voice; Steve Marriott is a big influence for me; Stevie Winwood; Paul Rodgers. There are so many of them, but those guys stand out to me from when I was starting out and stuff. I try to model some of the stuff that I do from those guys.

Andrew:
Was there a moment when you were young that convinced you that music was the path for you to follow?

Frank:
Probably seeing The Beatles. I saw them twice – the second time was outdoors at Suffolk Downs, which was a racetrack – and the memory of them walking to the stage is still embedded in my head. So, I would say that that was the moment. I had been in bands at that time, just, like growing up bands and garage bands and stuff, but when that happened, it kind of cemented what I wanted to do.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
You grew up in the Boston area, right? Walk me through the scene you were exposed to, and some of your earliest gigs.

Frank:
It was pretty cool. There was a pretty good music scene then. There were a lot of clubs in Boston and around the area, and the bands that I was in did a lot of colleges – and there were a lot of colleges in the New England area – so there was a place to play all the time. There were a lot of those frat party shows that we did. I think Aerosmith was around at the time when I was with one of the local bands that I played with, Dry Ice. Boston wasn’t around, Boston came later – they came out the same time [Angel] did – though I don’t think any of those guys were playing around that much. There was a big local scene happening out there, but the scene that was really a lot of fun was D.C.

When I got to D.C., Georgetown was great back then. It had so many clubs to play in. Punky was with the Cherry People at The Keg. There was Mike Stern, the jazz player, he was with a band called the Dubenettes, they played in a club called the Apple Pie. The band Mickie, Barry, and myself were in, Max, we played all those clubs; The Silver Dollar; M Club. So, there were a lot of places to play in Georgetown.

Andrew:
You briefly touched on this at the top of our conversation, but are you able to expand on how you recall meeting Barry and Mickie for the first time?

Frank:
They were playing with a guitar player, and the guitar player, Greg, had a brother that I played with. He was a keyboard player. So, they were looking for a singer and they came down to see the band that I was with. Mickie said, “Why don’t you come down to rehearsal?” And that’s when we met. We just chatted that night, and I went down to their rehearsal and sat down and talked with them for a while. We jammed on a few songs, and I loved the way that Barry played immediately when I sat down and sang with them. So, we talked about it and said, “As soon as we can put something together, let’s get in touch with each other,” because they were going back to D.C., and that’s what happened. Mickie called me up and said, “Barry and I have got something happening out here if you wanna come out and take a listen.” I said, “Yeah,” and I did. And I stayed in D.C.; that was maybe ’71 or ’72.

Andrew:
Now, did Max build an instantaneous following around that flourishing D.C. scene?

Frank:
Each band had built its own little following by playing all those clubs. You know, when we were off, we would go to another club to see another band and stuff. So, it was a good following for the bands that were playing at that time. When we put Angel together, at the time, we all had different bands. Barry was playing with the Cherry People, Punky and Mickie were playing with BUX, and I was with the guitar player from Max. So, when we put Angel together, it was some of the good guys from different local bands putting one really, really good band together.

We had a great following at Bogie’s when we put Angel together. There was great anticipation for when we played there. We were able to rehearse and write upstairs before it opened – and actually, after it opened we were still rehearsing upstairs – and the owner said, “You tell me when you’re ready, and when you’re ready we’ll bring you down and we’ll make the announcement.” And we had a great following there. It was short because we did sign a management deal and moved out to L.A. after that, but it was a lot of fun playing there.

Image courtesy of Fine Art America

Andrew:
How did you receive word that Punky, Gregg, and Mickie were in need of a singer?

Frank:
Well, Mickie had called me. When you play with people, there are people you’re comfortable with, and immediately when there’s an opening there it’s, “Hey, I’ve played with that guy before.” So, Mickie had called me up and asked me to come down, and I went down to a rehearsal. The first time I went down there, I think T.C. [Tolliver] was playing drums, it wasn’t Barry, and I liked it. I thought it was really a good band, but I was still working with David [Namerdy], so I think we were talking and they were still looking. I hadn’t made any commitments or anything. They really hadn’t asked me – they asked me to come down, and that was great – but it wasn’t until Barry went down. Barry called me and said, “Hey, you gotta come down again, because the band’s sounding really, really good.” So, when I went down and rehearsed with them with Barry in the band, you know, you connect with people that you’ve played with before; there’s always a connection. So, when we started jamming with each other, it was just instant. I knew what I was gonna do. It was one of those things where the band sounded great, you know?

Andrew:
I know Bogie’s was owned by Mike Bakhtiar, who was instrumental to the band’s early success. As someone who is interested in the history behind classic venues where bands have honed their respective skills, what are your memories of the venue itself?

Frank:
Bogie’s was a club that was upstairs, it was like the second floor of a building, and we rehearsed upstairs from the club. So, there was a big space upstairs, and it was soundproofed enough so that it wouldn’t leak into the club. But when the club finally did open, we were still rehearsing upstairs. We would come down and hang out in the club, as well. I believe Mike owned The Silver Dollar and The M Club, so we knew Mike. And to have that opportunity to be able to rehearse upstairs until we were ready – and then when we came down into the club when we were ready, we told Mike, “Okay, let’s start doing it” – he was so supportive of us. We brought in a big PA for the club; we had flash pots back then. It was pretty crazy. We were able to do a lot of things that we would never ever have been able to do in any other club.

Andrew:
I’m trying to picture Angel with flash pots and that inherent energy relegated to a small space like that. How big was that rehearsal space!?

Frank:
It wasn’t very big. [Laughs]. In my head, every time I think about it, I think, “Oh, yeah, it was a huge rehearsal room,” but it wasn’t. I mean, there was enough room for us in there where we were able to do what we had to do. We were kind of close to each other, so it was easy to write and get the kind of impact that we wanted. But we would rehearse and then would talk about putting the show together and stuff. So, it was really a good starting point for us. And like I said, when we came downstairs, we were able to bring in the big PA, which most places, back then, clubs had their own PAs. But we were able to bring in a sound company that would do national acts. So, we brought in the sound company to do the shows. We would do two shows a night; Mike had a band open for us and then we’d play, and then the band would come on again, and then we’d come down and do another show. So, we did just two shows a night. It really was great. We were able to stay fresh and stay energetic without having to play five sets a night because we were rehearsing every day.

The one thing about Angel is, even when we went to L.A., rehearsal was what we did. We woke up, got ready for the day, and either Punky would pick me up or I would drive there, but we rehearsed every single day. There’s always something positive happening at a rehearsal.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
What are you able to recall from some early gigs around D.C., where Angel cut its teeth?

Frank:
We played Bogie’s. That was it. Bogie’s was it. From that point on, we went to L.A., rehearsed in L.A, and wrote more. Our manager, David Joseph, he brought in Jim Sullivan and Derek Lawrence to produce the album, and at the same time, went out and got a record deal. He said, “We’re gonna get a record deal, but I’m not gonna wait.” He said, “I’m gonna finance the record.” And we went ahead and did the record – started the record at Wally Heider Studios back then – and David worked on a deal.

The first deal was with Capitol. We were pretty much gonna go with Capitol, we had the deal on the table, the record had been finished – we had a meeting with Rupert Perry – and Rupert started talking about different things that he wanted to hear from the songs. We said, “Well, the album is done.”“Well, I think you should do this…” We left that meeting a little dejected, thinking, “This is the album. Why would you wanna change stuff on this?” So, David said, “Let’s not get dejected.” He said, “Let’s go back to Neil [Bogart],” because we had been talking to Neil at Casablanca. Casablanca was still in the floundering stages; KISS hadn’t broken yet – I think Dress to Kill was out – so they hadn’t broken yet. You know, a lot of people were saying, “I don’t think Casablanca is gonna make it. They’re gonna fall. You shouldn’t go with Casablanca…” But all of us really loved Neil, so David said, “Let’s go back to him one more time. Let’s see what happens.” So, David set up a meeting with Neil, and told him that we had finished the album, Neil brought us in, and it was great. He brought us into his office, and he had these huge speakers in his office, he called everyone in the company down – he lit up a big joint – and he said, “We’re all gonna listen to the brand-new Angel album, and I’m hoping it will be out on Casablanca Records.” So, he passes the joint around, puts the album on, and no one said anything through the whole album. We listened to the whole album, and after that, he said, “I love this album, I love you guys, I want you to come to this company.” And that’s how we went to Casablanca.

Andrew:
“The Tower” remains one of my favorite songs in the Angel catalog and, to me, best represents the band’s blueprint sonically and bears significance, as it was the first song you collaborated on as a band. Do you recall how that one came together?

Frank:
I think when we first wrote that song, we all felt the same: “This is gonna be a signature song for us.” And it was. With the original band, we opened every, single show with “The Tower.” That’s where we drew all our energy from. It started that way when we put the band together, and it never wavered through the whole time we were together. So, every show that we did, we started with “The Tower.” And everyone would say, “Why are you starting with that song? That song should be the last song of the set or the encore!” For us, it made so much more sense to open the show because that’s where we all drew our energy from, is that song. And writing the song and putting it together, it was one of those things where we all felt a lot of energy happening.

Andrew:
What do you remember about Angel’s first meeting with KISS, which I believe took place at the Capital Center in D.C.?

Frank:
That was when we were at Bogie’s. Gordon Fletcher used to come down every night. Gordon Fletcher was a writer; he used to do album reviews for Rolling Stone and Circus; he did a lot of stuff for both magazines. He used to come down there every night; he loved the band and used to talk to us all the time. One night he was sitting with us, and he said, “You know, I go see bands and national acts that come here at the Capital Center all the time. The next time I do that, I’m gonna try and bring some national acts to come down and hear you guys, because I want some bands to hear you guys.” Of course, we said, “Yeah, that would be great!” And it just so happens that the next time he came down, he came down with the guys in KISS. They played the Capital Center, and I don’t know how Gordon got them to come down, but he brought them down there. They saw the band, and then we talked, and then, of course, Gene wanted us to sign with Aucoin, and we had just signed our management deal with David Joseph so that was off the table. And Gene was great – he was his usual self – encouraging us to keep moving forward. Never thinking we were gonna be on the same label, but I know that the first time that we had talked with Neil about coming to Casablanca, Neil wanted to see the band, and David said, “The guys from KISS wanna see the band. They know about the band.” So, Neil said, “I’d still like to see them.” So, David said, “Why don’t you put them on the show with KISS when they come.” And Neil said, “I don’t wanna do that, but I’ll make a call.” I don’t know what happened with that call, and I assume the conversation with Gene was, “Those guys were very good when we saw them, and you should sign them.” So, I think that was encouraging for us and helped us. But really, when we came back down the second time and played the album for Neil, that’s when it all came together and he said, “I want the band.”

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
I don’t know how much you can say about the inner workings of the band’s legendary stage show and visual effects without giving away too much of the mystique, but where did the idea originate?

Frank:
Rehearsal was always a jumping point for us. We would sit, talk, and figure out what we wanted to do and how we wanted to present things. We wanted to do something that was different than anyone else was doing, so there were a lot of different ideas thrown around. Our manager, David, was really open to all that stuff. He brought down someone to help us with the logo. The first logo, the ‘A’ with the wings, it started off with a piece of jewelry that Barry had, and we had someone take the image and kind of draw different images from that. And we would say, “Well, can we do this? Can we do that?” So, it was always a creative process going on at rehearsal with that stuff, as well as the show itself.

We came up with the idea of having the big logo – “How could we have that big ‘A’ up there? What could we do?” And of course, all of us were big Disneyland freaks because we were all from the east coast … “Well, now we can go to Disneyland, we’re in L.A.!” So, we asked Jeremy Railton, who put the first logo together, if could we make something like what they had at the haunted mansion in Disneyland. So, that’s how we got the idea of the talking logo rising up. So, I mean, all that stuff just came about by having people around us that could help us make our ideas come out. Instead of being stifled, we were encouraged by the people around us. No one ever said, “No, you can’t do that.” It was always like, “How can we do that? How can we make this happen? How can we make that better?” That kind of stuff.

Andrew:
Is that something we can expect to see on the upcoming slate of shows?

Frank:
Those kinds of shows are shows that you could only do in larger places. [Laughs]. Right now, we’re getting the band back together, we’re getting our feet wet with doing these shows and stuff. I think maybe as we move forward, that will definitely be something that we’ll probably be trying to reintroduce. I don’t know if we would do the same kind of thing, but maybe we can come up with something better or maybe something different. I’m not sure. That definitely is part of the image of Angel, and we would definitely like to embellish on that.

Andrew:
Jim Sullivan wore the production hat for the band’s first two albums. Punky told me he wasn’t a big fan of the guitar sound on those two early records, feeling that it was buried, which was interesting to me because Sullivan was a guitar player as well. What are your thoughts on the overall sound of Angel and Helluva Band?

Frank:
I think every guitar player probably feels the same way; every singer feels the same way; I’m sure every keyboard player feels the same way. When I listen back to that stuff, it has its own sound to it, which I think is what makes Angel what it is. Especially now, when you’re into so many different things, you listen back to stuff like that and you go, “I wish I could have done that again. I know we could do that better.” And that’s normal. Even back then, when we were doing it, you listen to it, and you go, “That’s great, but only if I could get back and do that differently.” But you know, whatever thoughts anyone has about them, the overall presence of the band is pretty well represented on both those albums. Both those albums we were the five of us really applying ourselves, and the three of us – Gregg, Punky, and myself – writing a lot of the stuff at rehearsals and having that energy. You kind of lose a little bit of that energy as you grow older.

By the time we got to the White Hot album, everyone was kind of writing a little bit more on their own and coming down with songs that were closer to being done and stuff. So, that’s how changes happen. And that was a good thing, too. By the time we got to White Hot, I think we were a little bit more accomplished as songwriters. So, the songs are a little bit different. And another thing about each one of those albums, we never wanted to be pigeonholed musically into anything; we were always trying to do something a little bit different so that it expanded our musical horizons to a lot of stuff. I think each one of those albums had its own personality.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
For the On Earth as It Is in Heaven album, the band enlisted acclaimed producer Eddie Kramer to oversee things. From your vantage point, Frank, how did the sound differ from the first two albums?

Frank:
The On Earth album was us now learning our craft a little bit more and trying to work it. Where before, we were just kind of like kids in a studio. By the time we got to our third album with Eddie Kramer, it was more like getting sounds; we used The Castle – the castle was owned by Gary Kellgren, who owned the Record Plant – and we used the mobile trunk up at The Castle. At the time, we wanted to use the Record Plant mobile truck, but it was being used by Stevie Wonder; that’s when he was putting his studio together and he had it booked for like a year, I think. So, we had to find another mobile truck, which ended up being Todd Fisher, Debbie Reynolds’ son; he had a mobile truck, and he brought it down and we looked it over. Eddie liked it, so we ended up using that at The Castle. In each room in The Castle, we used different sounds; we had monitors, so we could see each other when we were in different rooms and Eddie could see us inside the mobile truck. It was a lot of fun working on that third album. It was a great learning process for us, getting different sounds.

It’s easy for people to say, “No, you can’t do that.” But we were lucky enough to be surrounded by people that never said, “No, you can’t.” So, that was a good thing for us on the third album.

Andrew:
In what measurable way did you observe the band’s songwriting prowess evolve during the songwriting sessions for White Hot?

Frank:
You know, it’s like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it. The writing of the lyrics and the melodies became important – and they always were – but they become more important, and you try to refine that and work at it. That was the other good thing about Angel, we allowed each other to grow; they left a lot of the responsibility of the melodies and writing the lyrics to me. And it’s not like they didn’t have ideas; we worked together, and it was a good working process that we had. And you can tell on the albums with how the songs came out. There were songs that we all had contributed to.

Andrew:
Interestingly, Sinful was originally to be called Bad Publicity. What exactly prompted the pivot in a different direction?

Frank:
Neil didn’t like the idea of us out of costume. [Laughs]. That’s one of our first times – you know, I was saying, “No one ever said no,” – but was one of the times when Neil didn’t want us to do that. Bad Publicity was, if you’ve ever seen the album cover, we took all the bad reviews that we could find and we kind of plastered them all over the album. The front picture is us out of costume up at the Hyatt House, in a hotel room, and the police busting in, kind of raiding the room. Neil said, “I don’t want you guys to do that,” but we went back and forth and back and forth, and finally, we almost got it out there. I don’t know how many copies were made; maybe 3,000 were made and then they were pulled back. I think some of the labels on the album – if you peel back the Sinful label – sometimes some of them still have the Bad Publicity label underneath.

So, we went in and re-worked the cover with Barry Levine; Barry Levine did the second album cover for us. Barry did a lot of the studio photos for us. Barry Levine and Barry Brandt lived together for a while, and Barry’s brother Allen, he and I lived together for a while. So, Barry was always around us and we always had fun doing photo sessions with him.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
The Sinful album adopted a distinctively more pop-oriented sound compared to its predecessors. What influenced that decision?

Frank:
You know, I don’t know if that was our intention. I’ve said this before, looking back on that album, it was a little bit disjointed because first Neil wanted the half of the side live and the other half studio stuff. So, we went about trying to do that, and then that wasn’t really working out for us; we didn’t wanna write new songs and then present them live. It just didn’t make sense to us, so we went back on that idea. It wasn’t as focused; I don’t think we were as focused on it as we were on the other albums. And I don’t think it suffered that much for it, [but] it was just a little bit disjointed for us. I think it was a trend that everyone was moving towards. I think Sinful is kind of like the intro to the 80s music. So, I think music was trending in that way. With Angel, I always felt like we were kind of ahead of the curve, and I think the same can be said for Sinful, where I think we were ahead of the curve with the 80s that was coming in. I think that’s what Sinful was gearing towards.

Andrew:
You make a great point in that Angel consistently remained ahead of the curve. Obviously, Angel never had a hit single, but the band should have been huge back in those days, Frank. You had the songs, the musicianship, the captivating stage show, charisma, everything. In your opinion, why do you think the band never broke big as it should have? Was it because it lacked that hit single, was it due to a lack of support from the label or was it something else?

Frank:
That’s a good question. I don’t dwell on it too much because you’ll make yourself crazy trying to figure that whole thing out. I’ve seen so many great musicians that are still playing at home and so many lousy musicians that are succeeding. And vice versa. So, I don’t know what the magic thing is for that kind of stuff to happen. All I know is that with what we did, we have a great legacy. I still go back and listen to that stuff. For a while, it was a little painful to go back and listen to that stuff, because you’re always moving forward. You don’t wanna listen to the stuff you did before. But the past ten years, it’s been a little bit easier because you kind of grow up to the point where you’re saying, “Okay, this is what I did. So, either I listen to it and be proud or I don’t.” So, when I listen to that stuff, I do feel really good about it and so proud of what we accomplished. So, I don’t dwell on it too much about the reasons for us not reaching the success of certain other bands. I don’t know. Sure, I would have loved for the band to have stayed together longer and played bigger places and stuff, but I think we made a really good impression on everybody for what we did.

Andrew:
Absolutely. Angel certainly has a cult following and a loyal fanbase, but sometimes I can’t help wondering where this unwavering support and adoration was when the band needed it most.

Frank:
[Laughs]. Yeah, I know. I don’t know. Maybe Facebook, when Facebook came about, I think that brought the fans back out again. So, a lot of people are connected with that kind of stuff. The funny thing about Angel – and I used to talk about this with Richie Ranno from Starz – it’s the same thing with Starz, either people know and love the band or they’ve never heard of the band. [Laughs]. It’s like one or the other. It’s not like, “Oh, yeah, I know that band…” If you know the band, you love the band or you don’t know the band at all. I know that our fanbase is a very loyal fanbase and it’s a really strong fanbase. So, that’s a good thing.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

Andrew:
Although Angel operated as a tight-knit unit, it was particularly apparent that you and Punky were so innately cohesive as a pair. What do you attribute that to?

Frank:
I think playing live. You know, when you’re out there doing shows and stuff, you’re always looking for the guy next to you to give you the support to do what you’re doing and make you feel comfortable doing that. The dynamic to me, in the live setting, was always myself, Punky, and Barry. The three of us always kind of fed off each other. I think being supportive of each other on stage and making each other feel comfortable with what we were doing. I think that’s the thing that we had together.

Andrew:
Prior to Angel’s demise, the band made a memorable appearance in the movie Foxes, alongside the likes of Jodie Foster and Scott Baio. What was the connection there? Were there other opportunities on the table at the time?

Frank:
Well, we had been looking for a movie. A lot of people were sending us scripts to be in a movie, and we thought that was a great idea. We kept giving a couple of different scripts that we had, that we thought were good ideas, to Neil. And Neil was just in the process of putting together Casablanca Film Works with Peter Lake. At the time, I think [Neil] kept saying, “We’re gonna find a vehicle for you guys.” We ended up doing filming for this project that was gonna become a film for Casablanca Film Works, Angel Live. They recorded the show in Cleveland, and the audience, they had been told that we were playing in Cleveland and gonna do the show for a movie, and we wanted all the fans to come to the show dressed in white. So, the whole audience was dressed in white. They filmed the show, and then we did pickups after that tour was over. We went back to the Gala Lot, where we had our sound stage, and we did pickups of the band playing live and stuff. But it somehow got lost in the whole fray, and the script for this movie Foxes came out, and Neil said, “I wanna put you guys in this movie. You’ll just be playing live in it, they’ll be some shots to do after with Adam Faith, who’s gonna play your manager. Jodie Foster’s in the movie…” We went, “Oh, Jodie Foster’s in the movie? Great. Scott Baio? Oh, great! Yeah, we’ll do that.

It was a little different from what we wanted. Of course, we thought, “Okay, well we have this other one in the books from Cleveland…” I think Phil Silvers’ daughter [Candy] was gonna be in the movie. She had done some scenes and stuff, so we thought, “Well, that’s gonna be there. So, yeah, we’d love to do this other one.” So, that’s how Foxes came about. We did a couple of songs at the Shrine Auditorium where they shot. Adrian Lyne was the director; great director. We did a few pickup stuff down in the dressing rooms. I don’t think it was ever used, but I’m sure that film is somewhere on the floor somewhere in some director’s office.

Andrew:
And that wasn’t the only movie you’re affiliated with, Frank, as you also sang “Seduce Me Tonight,” which appeared on the Flashdance soundtrack. What led to this opportunity?

Frank:
That came about because, after Angel kind of disintegrated, I always did studio stuff. I had a really good relationship with Giorgio [Moroder]. At that time, the guy he was using as a songwriter, this guy Harold – I’m sorry, I can’t remember Harold’s last name – but I did a lot of studio stuff with him. I did the backgrounds to a Sparks album because I think Giorgio produced two of those albums, and I did some backgrounds on both of those albums. I can’t remember which songs they were. But I had done a lot of stuff with [Giorgio]. After Angel kind of disintegrated, I started doing a lot more studio stuff; I was doing a lot of made-for-television movies. But I did do this thing with Giorgio; he had this project and called me up and asked me to come to the house. He had this project he was doing with Metropolis, and he wanted to get a bigger budget for it, so he said, “I’d like you to go do a few songs. We’ll do maybe four songs and then go down to Paramount and have a screening session so that I can get a bigger budget and you’ll be on the soundtrack.” So, I said, “Yeah, sure.” He paid me for all those sessions and stuff, so I said, “Yeah, absolutely.”

So, while we were doing that, Giorgio was one of the producers on this movie and there were three or four different producers on it. And it was a little movie called Flashdance. At the time, I think “Staying Alive” was gonna be the big hit – that was the one with John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone – so everyone thought that was going to be the big movie. This movie Flashdance was kinda like, they had these little vignettes. Oddly enough, when we were working on the Metropolis stuff, Giorgio would bring these little vignettes to his house that we would watch. Keith Forsey was there as well, and I believe he wrote part of Flashdance as well. But I remember when we did “Seduce Me,” we had been done for the day, doing the Metropolis stuff, and I was sitting with Keith having a drink in Giorgio’s other room. Giorgio said, “I’ve got this song. They want this song for that new movie with all the vignettes. That Flashdance movie.” And everyone thought, “That little movie? What do you want to do?” He said, “Well, we wanted to use the song ‘Brown Sugar,’ but they don’t wanna pay for it because they don’t think the movie is gonna warrant paying the Rolling Stones for a song like that.” So, they asked me to write a song and put it in this little part of the movie. So, I went in and did it that night – it was one of the quickest things I think I’ve ever done – and just forgot about it until the movie exploded. A month after that, when it came out, the movie just exploded. So, it was a very memorable thing, but it happened so quickly. It was one of those where you didn’t think about it until after it exploded.

Image credit: Fin Costello

Andrew:
Before we transition, I wanted to hear your recount of a story Punky shared with me regarding a certain west coast riot during an Angel show in San Diego, involving a security guard and a microphone stand.

Frank:
[Laughs]. It was kind of a crazy thing. For some reason, there was hostility going on. You know, I used to go over this thing with security at all the places we played, that I was gonna ask everyone to stand up and come close to the stage. At the time, it wasn’t a big deal – I mean, today it would be because the situation is different – but back then, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. But if it was, security would have said to me, “Don’t do that,” and I would have worked out something different. But they knew I was gonna have them stand up; I think it was during “Anyway You Want It.” And when I did that in San Diego, all of a sudden these security guards start – well, mainly this one guy – start pushing and picking up kids and trying to get them back in their seats. And I saw that he grabbed this one girl and kind of picked her up and threw her. So, I started to yell over the microphone for him to stop. And then he looked at me and started coming towards me, saying, “Come off the stage!” He wanted me to come down and fight him. I went, “Wait a minute, what are you talking about?” So, when he went up to grab me, I hit him with my mic stand, and that’s when everything went crazy. Of course, we had good guys on a crew, and everything kind of fell apart. We still were playing; you know, it was odd, the band was still kind of like playing. Barry was still up on his drum platform still playing, and I ran back up on the stage, and I grabbed the microphone and I said, “We’re gonna play all night long. We’re not gonna let them stop us from playing.” It just led to a total free-for-all. That’s when the guards and their crew and our crew made a line for me to escape after we stopped playing so that they couldn’t get me. Security wanted a piece of me, I guess. The police wanted to come in and arrest me for something, so I was like, “This is getting crazy. I’m not gonna hide in a case and be pushed out in a case and then come out just to get away from you.” I said, “Just get the guy that I hit with the mic stand, get the head of security, get the head of the police department that was there” – they had off-duty police there and they had fire marshals – I said, “Just put them all in a room and we’ll talk it out.” And that’s what we did. It all worked itself out, but it was a pretty crazy situation.

Andrew:
You and Barry collaborated on the In the Beginning album in 1999, which was a departure from the classic Angel sound and showcased you both in a different light. How did that particular vehicle come together?

Frank:
When Barry and I put the In The Beginning thing together, that was about us wanting to go back out and play. The rest of the guys really didn’t want to go back out and play. We went back and forth trying to figure out, “Should we do this as an Angel album? Should we do this as a DiMino/Brandt album?” We battled with it going back and forth and we just came to the point where the guy that put the album out said, “Just put it out as an Angel album. It’s easier for me to market this album. If the other guys wanna play on it and guest, play on it.” And that’s how it started when I did the solo album, asking Punky to play on it or asking Gregg to play on it because of the relationship we had. When I asked Punky to play on it, I didn’t ask him because I wanted to get a better deal – we had already had a record deal – so it was one of those things where you want guys to play on it because they’re the guys you played with for a long time. Felix [Robinson] was eager to play on it; he played on a few tracks. I think Gregg was the only one who really didn’t contribute to anything on that album. I ended up playing some of the keyboards on that album. Like I said, it was one of those things where we wanted to get back out and play again. So, that’s why we put that thing together and went out and did the tour. And when we did the tour as Angel, we talked to the guys. We talked to Punky, we talked to Felix, and they said, “Go ahead, use the name. We don’t mind.” So, we had their blessing to use the name, it’s not like we went out there and decided to use the name. We were still in contact with each other and talking all the time. So, that’s how that whole thing came about and why it came about. And I think from that, still keeping it alive. We did a lot of shows in Europe; we did the Sweden Rock Festival there; I think we did the Bang Your Head Festival in Germany. So, we at least tried to keep the name alive. Paul Raymond played with us for a while. I did a lot of stuff with Paul when Angel was off. I met Paul during the, I think it was the On Earth album, and we did a lot of recordings and writing together when both bands were off and weren’t touring. So, when we did some of the In the Beginning stuff, we had Paul play on some of the stuff, and at that time he went back out with Michael Schenker.

Andrew:
I wanted to take a moment to talk about your first solo effort, Old Habits Die Hard. I think it’s fantastic, Frank. What inspired you to pursue that avenue?

Frank:
Well, my good friend, Ken Ciancimino, who was the executive producer on the album, kept saying, “You should do a solo album.” So, he kept saying it and kept saying it until I finally thought, “You know, I do have some songs that I have that maybe would work.” So, I said, “Well, see what kind of deal you could get.” [Ken] has a good relationship with Serafino at Frontiers, so he talked to Serafino, and they said, “Yeah. Let me hear something.” The only thing I had was a song called “Even Now,” that Barry and I had written and it was originally gonna be on that In the Beginning album. I gave that to Kevin Serafino to hear and he heard it and he liked it and said, “Yeah, let’s go ahead. Let’s do a deal.” So, that’s how that deal came about. What happened after that was, that I decided to go ahead and not use any of that stuff except for “Even Now,” and write all new stuff for the album instead. I thought, “Why put rehashed stuff out there? I’m gonna write new stuff for the solo project,” because I wanted it to be fresh and different. So, the idea was just to kind of write good songs and not have to worry about whether it was a heavy song or prog. However it came about, if we felt it was a good song, we put it on the album.

I wrote a lot of stuff with Oz Fox from Stryper because Oz is a good friend of mine. And Jeff Labansky, who was a friend of mine that I knew from working with Jeff up in Portland. I knew Jeff was a good songwriter, so that’s how I went about it. I went about writing new songs for the solo album. Oddly enough, there’s different guitar players on the album, and I wanted all the bed tracks to have the same band so it wouldn’t sound really disjointed. So, those bed tracks were all the same musicians. When Paul Crook came into the picture to produce the album, we talked about using the guys from the Meatloaf band. I had played with John Miceli before when they first moved out there when they were doing the Queen thing, We Will Rock You. I thought he was a great player. And I knew the bass player, Danny Miranda; he was also part of the We Will Rock You thing. So, we kept the same guys. I used those guys from the Meatloaf band, at the time, to do all the bed tracks.

Even recording the album was great because we were doing it and for a while, the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp was out here in Vegas and I did a lot of stuff with them here, and Paul Cook did some stuff with them. Because of that, we were able to use one of their rooms for a studio. So, that’s where we recorded some of the vocals that we did for that album.

Image credit: Joe Schaeffer Photography

Andrew:
Additionally, you had Punky guest on a track at the time he was reentering the music world. How were you able to engage him?

Punky:
Yeah. It’s not like we were in contact with each other every day, but all five of us are always in contact with each other. When I had different players all of a sudden playing on this, I thought about Punky, and then Oz came up with the idea for one of the songs that we wrote. He said, “You know, I had Angel in mind when we were writing that song. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get Punky to play on that?” One of the things about Oz that’s great, too, is it wasn’t like, “Hey, I wrote this song with you. I wanna play on that.” Everyone was trying to put forth their best effort in making this album happen right. I said, “Yeah, you know, that’s a great idea. Let me call him up.” I called Punky and said, “Listen, I’ve got a track and I’d love for you to play on it if you want. I’ll send it to you for you to listen to. See what you think and let me know.” I sent it to him and he said, “Yeah, I can do the guitars out here in North Carolina. I have a guy I work with who does most of the stuff that I did for my solo album.” He didn’t really wanna break up his momentum, but he found the time to do it and sent it back over and it was great. So, I put it on my solo album.

Andrew:
With Risen, you and Punky reunited for a full-length album and haven’t looked back. How was that partnership ultimately reestablished?

Frank:
Well, obviously I was going out and doing the solo stuff. I did some shows and Punky was doing shows as well. I think that what happened was, that we were both on a break at home and Punky had some shows coming up and his singer, at the time, couldn’t do the shows. I don’t know if it was Danny [Farrow] or Punky that called me up and asked me what I thought of maybe doing a show. I think there were like three or four shows like that that they had and they didn’t wanna lose them. I didn’t think too long about it, I was like, “Yeah, sure.” Since we were both doing Angel stuff, so I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” They learned a couple off my solo album and I learned a couple off his solo album, and we obviously worked on the Angel ones that we knew and were comfortable with and did the shows. I sat in with Punky when they played out here in Vegas when he was doing one of those tours. It felt so good. When you’re back with someone you played with a long time, you get that energy again. When I did those two shows with him, it only made sense to stay together and try to do something together as well.

Andrew:
I thought Risen was brilliant. The band that accompanied you and Punky were seamless fits and complimented you both well. But bringing all of this up to date, there is a lot for Angel fans to be excited about in the months ahead. I’m not sure how much you’re able to say on this topic, but there is a new album that’s in the works. What can you share with us about that?

Frank:
Again, like I said, with Angel, we’re always artistically trying to do something interesting and not get ourselves pigeonholed in anything. Danny and I are writing the stuff that’s a little bit heavier, and Punky is coming up with stuff that’s more his style of songwriting. But I think the three of us together writing, there’s no holds barred; no one is saying, “Well, you can’t do that. You shouldn’t do that.” So, I think there’s evidence of another Angel album that has no boundaries. It should be interesting and great, just like the Risen album. I think that’s one of the things that’s the most important part about any album that Punky and I have done together or any of our solo albums; the songwriting always has to be something that really gets our energy and our juices flowing. So, we’re at a point now where we’re finishing up the mastering of it and working on the artwork with it. So, hopefully, it’ll be out soon.

All images courtesy of Frank DiMino/Angel

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Be sure to check out the full archives of Shredful Compositions, by Andrew DiCecco, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/shredful-compositions-archives/

About Post Author

Andrew DiCecco

Predominantly known for his NFL coverage, Andrew DiCecco is a Pennsylvania-based journalist with a profound passion for Rock music and its illustrious history. What initially began as a childhood hobby collecting CDs eventually evolved into a full-blown absorption into the world of Rock and Roll. An aspiring rock historian, Andrew seeks out every autobiography and documentary on Rock artists imaginable to further his knowledge to go along with a growing collection of vintage albums and magazines. Andrew’s musical preferences include, but are not limited to, Def Leppard, Van Halen, AC/DC, Guns N Roses, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, Foreigner, and Journey. An innate appreciation for guitar heroes, Andrew cites Vito Bratta, Eddie Van Halen, John Sykes, George Lynch, Dave Meniketti, and Neal Schon as some of his personal favorite players. Andrew is also a regular listener to SiriusXM’s <i>Trunk Nation</i> with Eddie Trunk, his primary source of inspiration.
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