An Interview with Rik De Luca of Spread Eagle

Feature image courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Image courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Rik DeLuca’s journey through Rock ‘N’ Roll hasn’t always been easy, but like the band for which he pounds the skins, Spread Eagle, Rik is nothing if not persistent, and resilient.

After cutting his teeth in a variety of bands, ranging through a myriad of different styles, DeLuca found himself without a permanent home. Time and time again, just as each band seemed poised to break, outcomes written in the stars would intervene, and the project would screech to a halt.

While there were times in which it seemed that perhaps DeLuca’s dream of a career in Rock music was out of reach, he never gave up, and with ties to the mighty Spread Eagle, a fierce Street Metal band, with an undying cult following, in retrospect, it seemed that fate would have its way and that DeLuca would eventually find himself behind the skins for the band.

As luck would have it, a revitalized Spread Eagle, now led by founding bassist, and Rik’s cousin, Rob DeLuca, as well as co-founder, long time friend, and sometimes cohort, Ray West on vocals, gave Rik the call of a lifetime, and finally, in 2010, Rob and Ray asked Rik if he would want to play drums for Spread Eagle.

Of course, Rik obliged, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Twelve years, and one monster of an album (Subway To The Stars) later, NYC’s nastiest Street Metal band, which is now also joined by modern-day-virtuoso, Ziv Shalev, on lead guitar, is going stronger than ever, and that’s in large part to the steady, hammer-of-the-god’s style of Rik DeLuca.

In this interview, I checked in with Rik, and among other things, we dig into his early origins, his subsequent musical journey, how he ended up with Spread Eagle, the recording of Subway To The Stars, his love for teaching, what’s next for Spread Eagle, and a whole lot more.

If you would like to learn more about Rik DeLuca, and his teaching career at East End Arts School, you can hit this link. If you would like to learn more about Spread Eagle, head over to the band’s official Facebook page, or their website, and dig in.

Andrew:
Rik, thank you for taking the time. How have you been holding up?

Rik:
It’s my pleasure. I’m doing well. I’ve had some ups and downs with this COVID stuff, just like everyone else. When I’m not working with Spread Eagle, I run monitors at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, NY, and having no shows there for all that time due to COVID was a drag, but things are getting better since we reopened on Aug 27th, 2021. I’m also just getting back to playing drums again. I had hernia surgery in the middle of December, but I’m feeling great now and pounding them like they owe me money.   

Andrew:
Before we dive into your professional career, let’s go back. What were some of your early leanings as an aspiring musician?

Rik:
It’s kind of funny because music has always been in my life as far back as I can remember. I started guitar when I was six because of a TV show called Hee Haa, a comedic Country variety show that had musical guests, and a cast member Roy Clark, who just ripped on the guitar. Those lessons only lasted about a year, but back then, I have these memories of any time I was in my mother’s station wagon, I would always ask for the radio to be on, and she would pan it to the back left speaker, and keep it so low that I would need to put my ear right on it to hear it.

There was always this one song that would come on, and something about it just sucked me in, and for a few years, I had no idea who it was until my stepbrother turned me on to this band, in 1976, on TV. It was the Paul Lynde Holloween Special, and the band was KISS. I was blown away. I was eight at that time and received my first album which was KISS Alive!, and from then on, it was all about KISS, and all things music. My mother took me to see them when I was ten years old, and at that point, something inside happened. I knew wanted to play drums and found out what my purpose on this planet is, to be a musician. Throughout those early years through high school, I just loved it all, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Hendrix, The Stones, Aerosmith, Van Halen, The Police, Dio, etc.

Andrew:
Which players do you directly attribute your style to?

Rik:
Oh my, there are so many but my main drumming influence comes from John Bonham, Neil Peart, Alex Van Halen, Stewart Copeland, Steve Gadd, Dave Weckl, and Buddy Rich. If you take a pinch of all those and put them in a blender, you have me.

Images courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Andrew:
What were some of your earlier gigs leading up to you joining Spread Eagle?

Rik:
I did all the normal stuff bands in High school. I went to Berklee College of Music in Boston back in ’87 and played around with this band Shoot Shoot, which was a lot of fun. It was kind of a cross between Extreme and Journey. It had really good players, and we hit all the local spots — The Channel, Narcissus, etc. You know, the big Hair Metal clubs, and some light touring around the surrounding states. We had some label interest, but it fell through, and after that happened, I was done with school and needed something fresh, so I moved back to NY. I joined a Long Island band called Naked Faces, it’s kind of hard for me to explain the style except it was just really great Rock. This was one of my favorite bands, the songs were so good, and we toured a lot, demoed some great songs that I still listen to today, and it does not sound like 1991. [Laughs]. Things were moving the way they should, and we signed a production deal with Atlantic Records, and of course, the typical story, without going into details, the band self-destructed, and that was that.

The next band was this three-piece band called Ya Mutha, which was in the style of Metallica and Pantera, and being that Rob De Luca is my cousin, we use to do shows with Spread Eagle in and around the NY area and became really close to Ray West. That band didn’t last long for me. We did some recordings and tried to get a deal but got no interest, and to be honest, I got tired of that style of drumming, there was no groove. I made a left-hand turn and joined this band called Verb based out of the Bronx, which was a Dave Mathewsish type college jam band, where I could show off my Berklee chops, I know stupid, right? [Laughs]. It was all, “Look at me and what I can do,” and my young way of thinking back then. We toured across the states hitting the clubs and having fun. They were not really interested in taking it to the next level, and I need to get there, so it was time to move on.

I told myself I was going to take six months off, and regroup, and wouldn’t you have it, almost to the day the phone rings and it’s my boy Ray West. Spread Eagle, at this time, had not been together for several years. Ray and I have always kept in contact, and this conversation was a little different. He was in this band called Girls Of Porn (GOP,) and they were looking for a replacement drummer, and Ray said, “I know just the guy.” When he asked if I was interested, I jumped right on it. We started rehearsing, demoed some songs, and hit the road in a van pulling a trailer full of gear up and down the east coast. This lasted a couple of years, and we wrote some really cool songs together and created some amazing memories but unfortunately, Ray decided to move back down to FL. That band lasted several years with different singers along the way, finally changing its name to Eleven2Eleven, after pulling in my old singer, and guitarist from my old band Naked Faces, Craig Jordan, who is a great vocalist and songwriter, and Pete Testa, who was a great fit on guitar.

We signed a production deal with the one and only Ron Saint Germain, who’s produced, mixed, and recorded bands like 311, Living Colour, Creed, Soundgarden, just to name a few. So, we jumped in the studio and recorded with Saint, and while he was shopping us around, we jumped in the motorhome and hit the road, and again, being so close, the band self-destructed before getting there. At this point, I was getting really frustrated with the whole original music scene, so I retreated to my recording studio to write and record my own material, joined a wedding/corporate band, and was just going through the motions for a few years until once again, I got that phone call from Ray, and my cousin, Rob, stating we are putting Spread Eagle back together, and you would be the perfect fit.               

Andrew:
You joined a revitalized Spread Eagle in 2010. Take me a bit deeper through the events which led to you getting the gig.

Rik:
Ok, so if memory serves me correctly, a few years prior to me joining Spread Eagle, Ray and Rob put a version of the band together with John Macaluso on drums, who played drums on most of their Open To The Public album, and Chris Caffery on guitar (Savatage and Trans- Siberian Orchestra). I believe this was between 2006-2008 to tour and see if the fans wanted this band back or not. They did some touring and of course, when they came to Long Island, I had to go see my cousin and Ray just to say, “Hello.” I can’t remember the venue but it was packed, and they sounded really good, but to be perfectly honest, I was a little hurt, my cousin, Rob, never asked me to join, which I’ll explain later.

So, they went out, and did a run through the states, and had a blast, but later, they found out that even though the other two guys are fantastic musicians, it was missing the X factor, that certain thing that you just feel, and know its right when you play together. It’s hard to explain. It’s a feeling that makes you go, “Holy shit. This is unstoppable.” The fans wanted it though. I’m not sure how it ended with the other two, but I got that phone call saying, “Hey cuz, would you like to play in Spread Eagle?” I always looked up to my cousin and respected his work ethic, and Ray is like my brother, I’ve known him for so long, and worked with him before, so I just had this feeling this was meant to be.

If I can remember correctly, I think they already had a guitarist in place, or in mind in Dennis Kimmack, who is a sweetheart of a guy, and a really good player, but it was just missing that X factor. After doing many shows, it just felt wrong with him, and he felt the same, so he left on good terms, and it was back to looking for that right guitarist. I mean, you really have to be an amazing guitarist to pull off Paul DiBartolo’s playing on those first two albums. We started the audition process, and I forgot all about this guitarist whom I played with years ago, Ziv Shalev. I called him up, gave him the rundown on what I was up to, and that Spread Eagle was looking for an outstanding guitarist, and I knew he could cut it. I sent him some songs which he learned so quickly, and we all were a little unsure because he wanted to get in a room to play so quickly, but man, when he plugged in, and we finished the first song, I think it was “Revolution Maker,” we all kind of just look around with huge smiles on our faces, and new that X factor was just found. My god, it felt so so good. It was undeniable. We began rehearsing, and it kept feeling better and better. We did some shows and started to get things rolling again.

Images courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Andrew:
Spread Eagle released its long-awaited third album, Subway To The Stars, in 2019. Why did the band wait so long to finally release new music?

Rik:
Originally, it was just about touring here in the States, but in 2017, we were asked to do some festivals in Europe, and Spread Eagle originally never had the opportunity to get over to Europe, so of course, we jumped on it, the timing was right. It was a two-week run of England and Germany, and we connected as friends and as a band on a totally new level. Ironically, when we got home, we discussed doing a new record and started to write when we got approached by Frontiers, a label out of Italy that was signing a lot of bands from that era like Journey, Mr. Big, Whitesnake, Toto, and many more, so they offered us a deal, and Rob, being the smart business-minded musician he is, worked out all the fine details. We began preproduction, and into the studio, we went. It just happened that way. Sometimes, it takes a long time for things to come around full circle, and when it feels right, it’s time.

Andrew:
Spread Eagles’ first two records are retrospectively looked upon as two of the best of the era. This said, how do you feel Subway To The Stars holds up in relation to those older records?

Rik:
I think it holds up well. I think it has the same vibe, just a bit more refined. I’m very proud of it. Everyone put in a lot of work to make it what it is. When time goes by, and you put different two different but like-minded ingredients in the recipe, it’s going to taste just a little different, but you know, that dish might have needed its recipe to be adjusted, if that makes any sense.

Andrew:
What was the writing and recording process like for the album?

Rik:
What’s so great about this band is we all write, so we all bring in songs, and vote on the strongest ones. Then, Rob and I will get in a room, and start arranging a little, but mostly work on sections and segways between parts to really make sure they feel right, and that the kick drum and bass parts are working. I have a full recording studio in a small barn behind my house called Blood Orange Sound Studios that has a thirty-two-channel console, all the right mics, and outboard gear for tracking drums. So, after we lock in parts, I’ll demo drums, send them to Rob, and he’ll track bass to it. Then, Rob will hook up with Ziv, and write guitar parts. Then we can listen back make corrections in grooves, and let Ray hear the arrangements that need to be altered because of lyrics, and we’ll do that.

Once we have the songs demoed, and they are feeling the way they should, then we go into Studio E, in Brooklyn, with the owner and engineer, Tom Camuso, to start laying down tracks through his awesome vintage Neve console and to two-inch tape, analog just sounds better. Once we have music done, then we’ll lay down vocals, and then backing vocals. After that point, we’ll listen to see if it needs anything, but mostly, we try not to add what we can’t pull off live. Then it’s time to mix and master the recordings.

Images courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Andrew:
What has the reception been like out on tour? How does the new material slot in with the older songs?

Rik:
Unfortunately, we had a two-month tour booked in April 2020, but COVID shut us down. When things became somewhat normal, Rob was booked with Baz, so we have not had a chance to perform the new songs out yet, but I can say from our rehearsing before our tour was canceled, the new songs work great with the old ones.

Andrew:
New or old — what are some of your favorite tracks to perform live?

Rik:
I love “Switchblade Serenade” because of the crowd’s reaction. I really love the pocket in the verse of “Broken City,” live it’s got such a powerful groove. “If I Can’t Have You,” and “Revolution Maker” are just so much fun to play on the drums, it’s like I’m a kid on a merry-go-round. I just can’t help but laugh when I play those.

Andrew:
You’ve also got a background in teaching. Can you dig more into that for us? Why is music education important to you?

Rik:
As I mentioned earlier, I attended Berklee College of Music. My major was music education to have something to fall back on if this Rock ‘N’ Roll thing never worked out. [Laughs]. I started teaching privately in my mid-twenties, and continue to do so, as well as teach at a school for performing arts called East End Arts, in Riverhead, NY, where I teach guitar bass, and percussion. There is nothing more rewarding than having a student that wants to learn an instrument and seeing their face become frustrated because they can’t do it. You explain it to them with a certain approach, to relax, and have fun with it, because music is fun. Then, give them something to practice, and then, you get to see how their face lights up when they can do it. Plus, passing on the gift and joy of music to another person, and watching them grow as an artist is so fulfilling. It’s truly beautiful.

Images courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Andrew:
What are some of your favorite albums, and why?

Rik:
KISS Alive! because it was my first record, and it makes me feel as if I’m right there in the audience. Any of Steve Vai’s albums for their production value, and musicality. Any Beatles record, because of their ability to incorporate so many styles of music, but still sound like themselves. And my last two are tied between Led Zeppelin’s first album, and Van Halen’s debut, because holy shit, the power, and feel of those albums are untouchable. 

Andrew:
What equipment do you use in the studio vs. the live setting?

Rik:
There’s not much difference. I use DW Drums, and Paiste Cymbals, just thicker cymbals and heads live, mostly.

Andrew:
What other passions do you have? How do those passions inform your music, if at all?

Rik:
Just my music, and my family. They both inspire me to become better than I am.

Andrew:
Last one. What’s next on your docket, Rik?

Rik:
Just to keep working on trying to be the best musician, engineer, songwriter, husband, brother, son, and friend I can be. Stay safe everyone. Follow your heart, and live your dream.

Image courtesy of Spread Eagle Facebook (Official)

Interested in learning more about Rik DeLuca and the music of Spread Eagle? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full catalog of VWMusic Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found VWMusic in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Idle Chatter. Over time, the column grew into a website that now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process. Some of Andrew’s favorite artists include KISS, Oasis, ACϟDC, Elvis Presley, Ace Frehley, The Rolling Stones, Rush, The Pretenders, Led Zeppelin, The Gaslight Anthem, Iron Maiden, John Lennon, The Melvins, Noel Gallagher, Regina Spektor, Rory Gallagher, The Stone Roses, The Strokes, Thin Lizzy, Elvis Costello, Van Halen, Neil Young, Blur, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and many more.
Happy
Happy
100 %
Sad
Sad
0 %
Excited
Excited
0 %
Sleepy
Sleepy
0 %
Angry
Angry
0 %
Surprise
Surprise
0 %

Average Rating

5 Star
0%
4 Star
0%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: