Billy Amendola Part 2: The story of Modern Drummer Magazine and sharing the stage with Ringo Starr
In the last episode of this two-part series, Billy Amendola, musician and editor at large of Modern Drummer Magazine, tells us about how he became the editor of a magazine known as "the Bible of drummers, " the difficulties in his journey, as well as some crazy experiences he had along the way. "The map and the terrain will never match," he says while talking about his road to success. What was Billy's plan and what terrain did he face instead? How did he end up playing on stage with Ringo Starr and his All Starrs? The answers to all these questions are revealed in this episode, along with some valuable advice from a musician at the top of his field.
What you'll hear about in this episode:
- How Billy got involved with Modern Drummer Magazine (1:40)
- The sacrifices it took to become successful (10:50)
- Crazy stories about being Editor at Large (19:41)
- Who David Fishof is (35:57)
- Current Plans with and changes to Modern Drummer Magazine (37:02)
- David's museum and the Frangioni Foundation (44:43)
- The reunion of Mantus and their new album (48:48)
- Billy's favorite song from the record (54:14)
Mentioned in the show:
- Billy Amendola and Ringo Starr on stage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BV1t8pBuzJk
- Richard Marx at the Little Dreams Foundation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91CPhMwFCJo
- Mantus-Love Someone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7bFwmFbmog
Learn more about Billy Amendola:
- On LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/billyamendola/
- His band, Mantus: https://www.mantusonline.com/
Learn more about David Frangioni:
Learn more about Justin Leigh:
David Frangioni 0:32
Welcome back everybody to Billy Amendola part two, with David and Justin on LIFE - Luxury In Full Effect.
As you may recall on part one, we talked to Billy about his upbringing in Brooklyn and going through that whole scene, the music business, launching his band which has ended up being one of his first bands - Mantus. They had hits and a lot of popularity, on the verge of huge breakthrough success. Billy then transitioned into the studio world. When we left off, he was just coming on board with Modern Drummer, which is where we'll pick up today. Welcome back, Billy Amendola.
Billy Amendola 1:15
Hello everybody, how are you? Thank you for having me again. I guess I did okay, since you guys invited me back.
David Frangioni 1:21
There's too much Billy to go around for one show, so that's right to break it off into two. You have lived quite a life, my friend.
So let's jump into Modern Drummer. What happens when you come into Modern Drummer? Tell us the story there.
Billy Amendola 1:40
I think that we left off when the studio scene was starting to dry up. I was doing studio work and I started freelancing for Modern Drummer for the festivals as their artists liaison, because I knew a lot of the manufacturers and I knew a lot of the artists. I did that for almost 10 years, I did every festival - I think the festival went on for 25 years and I did all of them except the first one which I actually attended.
And I got to know the Spagnardis - Ron, Isabelle and Lori really well. Ron took me under his wing.
David Frangioni 2:13
Ron was the founder of the magazine.
Billy Amendola 2:15
Ron was the founder of the magazine publisher. He took me under his wing, we had a really close bond. After I worked at the festival, we developed a really close - he was almost a father figure to me at that point.
He told me at the festival that he was ill, that he had some health issues. I was devastated when he told me that because I loved him like a father and as a friend, and I was very close to him. When he told me that he was ill, my first thought was "what's going to happen to the magazine?"
David Frangioni 2:45
What year is it now? Where are we?
Billy Amendola 2:48
Officially I started working in '97. So this was probably in '96, after doing the festival, and my son was already 10 years old at that point. I wasn't going to go on the road anymore. So at this point I thought what am I going to do with my life and the band now? Mantus did get back together in '96 - we had a little reunion, and we played for that year, but it was not what we wanted to do. It just didn't work out. I was looking for something else to do.
So when I said to him, "What's going to happen to the magazine?" He said, "Well, the magazine will be fine". And I said to him, "If there's anything I can do, let me know and I'll do anything I can if you need help". He said, "Well, how are you going to do that? You're always on the road and busy all the time". And I said, "No, I'm not going to go on the road anymore. I'm going to be around". Just as a friend, I wanted to give my support. I was worried about what was going to happen to him and to the magazine.
So to make a long story short, that was a Saturday and he said, "Call me on Tuesday and let's talk about it". We always had Mondays off after the festival because that was a lot of hard work. I called him that Tuesday. I lived in Brooklyn at that time, and the office was in New Jersey. My commute was over an hour with no traffic each way. And he said to me, "I know you're not gonna be able to make the commute". Moreover, I had never worked in an office before, so I had no idea about working in an office. He said, "How would you like to work for me two days a week? Would you be able to come out to the office two days a week?", and I said, "Sure, but what am I going to do?", and he said, "When you get here, we'll figure it out".
I went there. I took a ride out there and it was a brutal commute. We spoke and he pretty much created a job for me. He wanted me there, which I really appreciated it, and he knew that I would be dedicated and loyal and do my best to do whatever I had to do.
I became an advertising assistant with Bob Berenson. I really didn't know anything about advertising, but I knew a lot of the manufacturers. I was able to get on the phone and help Bob make calls. At that time, we basically still had to film. So I just had to put the full colors together, the negatives, and make sure everything was right and put the Ads together. I did that for..
David Frangioni 5:24
Hold on a second. As that's going on, that transitioned to your editor at large position, or how did that segue into what I call even a bigger...
Billy Amendola 5:34
Well, what happened was that I was then working two days a week doing that and then, after about a year, he asked me to come in three days a week, and I accepted. In that period he would invite me to attend the editorial meetings, which was really unheard of, as he never crossed advertising with editorial. But I knew so many of the artists, so he started inviting me to the editorial meetings.
He started to take me under his wing and pretty much teach me the magazine business and what his job was like. So I started working three days and I became an advertising assistant/editorial assistant, and I was training on the job.
Like I said, I had never worked in an office before. There were things I was not used to, for example, everybody was used to calling each other on an intercom whereas I would just get up and walk over to somebody's office and I realized that some people didn't like that. I had to learn the etiquette of working in an office, but I had a very good rapport with Ron. He involved me in a lot of things, he would ask my opinion about things and this went on for a good five years, he took me under his wing.
So I was working three days and commuting. And fortunately, four years later, he made me an editor, because at that point I started doing interviews. What happened is that it gradually morphed into its own thing because I would be at the Edit meeting and I would listen to what would go on, and someone would say, "Well, we would like to get so and so on the cover, but we don't know how to get in touch. We have to contact his manager or his publicist." And I would say, "Oh, that's a really good friend of mine. I could call him right now if you'd like."
That's how it evolved. I started calling a lot of my friends whereas Modern Drummer had to go through channels to get to them, but I could just pick up the phone and call them and say "Hey, would you like to do an interview for Modern Drummer?" And then Ron started saying to me, "You just have to turn the tape recorder on now when you are speaking to these guys". In fact they called me at home, I was friends with a lot of people. I saw people all the time. But I kept saying I'm not an editor, I'm not a journalist. That's not me! He was like, "All you have to do is get these guys, have a conversation and get it on tape." At the time Sue Haring was transcribing for us. I would give her a tape to transcribe and I would put my story together, and that would be it.
So he made me an editor - Associate Editor. But then unfortunately, right after that, he passed away. It totally blew my mind. I'll give you a little insight of the type of person that Ron was like. I was on a cruise in Alaska, and he was going for chemo and suffering a lot. But he would not let me know how bad it was because he did not want to ruin my vacation.
David Frangioni 8:36
Oh my gosh. Wow. What a guy.
Billy Amendola 8:40
Then when I got home and saw how bad it was - it just bothers me to this day.
David Frangioni 8:50
Wow, that's crazy. Huge trauma. I mean, the loss of a friend, a mentor, an industry icon, and all of those things combined.
Billy Amendola 9:00
Right. It was more than I was losing my boss. I was losing my father figure.
David Frangioni 9:15
He obviously had the foresight in you though, which was so incredible, to nurture you and to put you in that position. So when the time came, you were ready to fill those shoes and this was something amazing for you to be a part of.
Billy Amendola 9:31
It was an opportunity that just worked out for me unbelievably and it gave me that feeling - I always felt like I was blessed in life - and that made me really feel like someone's watching out for me, things will always fall into place and things will always happen.
David Frangioni 9:53
Amazing. That's a big, I mean, that's in real time. You know? That's not a story we're reading, that's what happened in your life. That's huge faith!
Billy Amendola 10:05
Then at that point, Tracy, who became the associate publisher, came to me and said, "We need you here five days a week. Can you work five days a week?" That was a stretch. But I did it! And I did that commute for 15 years, up until five years ago, when the offices moved even a little bit further. I spent more time in the car sometimes than I did at the office, but I paid my dues. I dedicated myself to my job.
I didn't play as much at that point, and it worked out well because there were not many opportunities to play as much: the studios were closing down, everybody had home studios, they weren't hiring people to play anymore records. So everything fell into place at the right time.
David Frangioni 10:50
Before we go into the Modern Drummer responsibilities and all the amazing artists that you've worked with - kind of the the glamorous part of the job, if you will - I want to say something.
When you talk about paying your dues, if we understand your story and know it the way that we you've shared with us over these two parts, this is the third time at least that you've done what you needed to do in paying your dues in a specific situation, giving it everything you had, sacrificing tremendously, giving your heart and soul.
I just want to speak to that - and I can speak for myself and I can speak for my good friend and partner Justin, because I know him so well, and I've watched what he's been through - and that's what it's really like. You see the fruits of someone's labor, you see them drive a nice car, live in a nice house or hang out with cool people or eat at nice restaurants - the luxury side of life, if you will - but what it takes to get there is so much bigger and more difficult than what most people ever realize. To the point where I've had people tell me, and I felt like this as well some days, "If I actually knew what it was going to take before I did it, I might not have done it". It's so extreme, what sacrifices have to be made to get somewhere.
And here you are, telling your story. It's so clear, we know that you are already successful, but you had to sacrifice and start from the beginning with Mantus. Then you had to do the same thing in the studio world, because you only bring so much credibility from the Mantus world into the studio world. Most of it is starting over again, at least in the eyes of people who hire you. Then you do it a third time with Modern Drummer. That's what it looks like on your path to a luxury life and to accomplishing your goals and your dreams.
What do you think about that, Justin?
Justin Leigh 12:48
I think you are absolutely right. What it goes to show it's you can't map it out - it's one foot in front of the other and one day at a time. One thing leads you to another and you never know what door is gonna open up from where you came from.
We have some special news to share today on the show, some good news. But your journey, David, and your journey, Billy, I mean from where you guys came from, to where you know you are now, you never could have written that in a million years. It was literally life opening the doors and just taking the opportunity.
I think that the most important thing is to look at that and say, "You have to be very clear of who you are and what you're good at and of the world you want to surround yourself in", and you just keep moving in that direction and take those opportunities when the doors open.
David Frangioni 13:40
That's brilliant. Absolutely right. Speaking to that, I heard something when I went to a great seminar - there's a self help guru named Mastin Kip. He's genius. - I was at the seminar listening to him and I got a lot from it. But one of the things I'll never forget - you know you love when you hear these things you never forget - he said, "The map and the terrain never match". What would it be like if the Marines that have a map in Afghanistan land with the map in the terrain, and they go, "Oh, wait, there's no bridge here. It showed it on the map. We're outta here. Forget this". What would the world look like if that's how the leaders and the winners of the world reacted to the map and the terrain not matching. That was so profoundly true. You need the map. And you need to put one step in front of the other and never stop going forward. But the strategy to doing that is having the understanding and the belief system that the map and the terrain never will match.
Billy's life story is a perfect example of that: whatever he had mapped out the terrain was far different.
As you were telling your story, Billy, I was thinking of that and I had a slew of questions in my brain, from you going from being a rock star, performing in the studio and living that lifestyle, to then going into an office two days a week, then three days a week and then five days a week, all the transition and, as you said, you had to learn the etiquette. It's a whole different ball game, to learn how to be in those different settings.
But I was still thinking, when you were telling your story, about how cool it was for you that at least you got to stay in the same lane as you were before. It's always music, music was always the camaraderie.
Billy Amendola 15:36
Right, and drumming.
David Frangioni 15:38
A lot of people don't get the opportunity. They make shifts, and they go from one career to another. Even though you know from what you're doing now - you still are in the studio, you're still writing, you're still performing, you're doing all that stuff - but to have this as well, and have such a profound impact and deliver so much information through the magazine, it is so integral what you're bringing to the magazine. I just think it's a very cool thing and it's inspiring for other people to find out what you love to do and to stay in that lane as much as you can. Just one foot in front of the other. There's only so much planning that you can do. And be open minded.
It also reminds me that you participated in the first festival without a role, without any attachments or obligations on anybody's behalf. You just wanted to be there because you loved drumming, you loved Ron, you love Modern Drummer, you loved drummers.
Billy Amendola 16:40
I used to be in Modern Drummer - they used to write about me when I played on a new record. I would be in the news and they did a little story on me, Rick Van Horn would always include me in the magazine when I was playing rock star. So before working for the magazine, that was a different thing in itself.
David Frangioni 16:59
Full circle, totally. So in your role as editor at large - you're grinding away with the crazy commute, and your role at Modern Drummer is pretty clear - can you share some cool stories about being the editor at large? You deal with a lot of rock stars, and I'm sure a lot of people would like to hear some cool stories about them and things you've learned along the way.
Billy Amendola 17:20
The cool stories - they just happen. There's just so many positions. A lot of the time, as I would work and go on with Modern Drummer, I would be the one that would get invited to a lot of shows as, like I said, I was friends with a lot of these people.
David Frangioni 17:39
But it's almost like an artist relations person for MD as much as anything. Right?
Billy Amendola 17:44
Exactly. And that's how it started with me as being artists liaison at the festival. That's a good way to put it. If I was working at a record company, I would be the a&r person and pretty much that's what I was.
A lot of the artists would (even if they were complaining about something) call me at home because they had my phone number, we were friends, and sometimes they would forget that I worked for Modern Drummer and they would be complaining about Modern Drummer, for example if they didn't like the writer that did the story on them, or if he misinterpreted what they said, they took something out of context. They would just call me and confide in me.
The book that I can't write has got all these great stories, and I know where all the bodies are buried because the tape recorder stays on sometimes, even if it's off the record. What I did was cool, but a lot of it sometimes blended because many things had nothing to do with Modern Drummer. I was still representing Modern Drummer, but the lines were a little blurred. But Modern Drummer benefited a little bit by what I was doing because I was the one who was out, and I was at all the shows and I knew so many people.
I became like what some people say "the face of Modern Drummer", which wasn't my intent. We have a great team from day one, a lot of the same people are still there - I've been there 20 years - they've been there even longer. We have a great team. I couldn't do it without them and there's some things that they know that they couldn't do without me. So, balance works. But many times I did a lot of things that had nothing to do with Modern Drummer, but Modern Drummer still was there in presence because of my relationship with the artist or whoever.
David Frangioni 19:39
Tell us a story.
Billy Amendola 19:41
Well, the best story is that I got to meet Ringo. If I wasn't working - Actually, I met Ringo before. I was working for Modern Drummer when he hosted Saturday Night Live. But that was just to say hello to him. I happened to be backstage.
David Frangioni 20:00
And this is your inspiration because at the beginning of the story on part one, you were saying that you saw the Beatles, your friends saw the Beatles, and you started the band.
Billy Amendola 20:08
Yes, it all comes down to Ringo, which is kind of funny because everything went full circle. The girl that I was living with at the time, Maria, was a pretty big shot at MTV. So we had got invited to go to Saturday Night Live. She surprised me by taking me because Ringo was the host at night, and I got to meet him backstage. Actually, I was more excited because Jamie Lee Curtis was backstage because I didn't realize she was dating Christopher Guest, who she's still married to now. But anyway, I said hello to Ringo, I shook his hand. He was with Barbara, he just shook my hand and walked away, that was it.
David Frangioni 20:42
This is before cell phone, cameras and everything.
Billy Amendola 20:45
Oh, yes, and it was backstage, being introduced and just saying hello. But I got to meet Ringo. I got to shake his hand and say, "Great show", because he was hysterical on the show, it was really funny. Billy Crystal was on it, it was in the 80s. It was before I was at Modern Drummer.
Then, when I started working at Modern Drummer, I became friends.
I was assigned to go to one of Ringo's press conferences. I took Bob with me, because I was still doing advertising with Bob, so we were close and we were always together. I said to him, "Well, I'm going to do an editor's thing today. I was invited to go to a Ringo's press conference". And this was when the All-Starrs were starting.
We went to the press conference and we friended David Fishof, who had invented and at the time was running Ringo and the All-Starr. We met David and I took pictures, you know, I did my job. Ringo knew that somebody from Modern Drummer was there and he didn't know anybody at Modern Drummer. He knew Robyn Flans, who had interviewed him but it was a job and she had done what she had to do to interview him - I think she made two cover stories because at that point he was already on a cover twice.
Anyway, I met David Fishof and for some reason we really hit it off that day. He loved the magazine - his brother played drums, so he knew about the magazine. We kind of just hit it off. Then he invited me. He said, "Next time Ringo comes to town, I want you to come to the show". Of course, us being Modern Drummer, the number one drum magazine in the world, and Ringo being probably the most famous drummer in the world, we kind of built a relationship.
So David would invite me to shows, and of course, if I wanted to interview Ringo or if I needed a quote from Ringo, I would get it through David. I got to know Ringo little by little by being invited to the shows. For the longest time, probably for a good 10 years, Ringo didn't know my name, but he knew my face. He used to call me Mr. Rock and Roll. I would say hello to him and we would take a photo that would go into the magazine, and would talk about the tour - basically, I was doing my job.
But as years went on I got closer and closer to Ringo and - the way things work in life, things just happen - I started meeting everybody in the Beatles world. I became really good friends with May Pang a long time ago. All of a sudden I was in a Beatle world, I was meeting everybody that had something to do with the Beatles.
And as that was going on, I was getting closer and closer to Ringo. I would see him quite often, little by little he would recognize me and then we got to know each other. It took a lot of years. He basically knew that I was the drummer guy from the magazine, and he happened to be a fan of the magazine, which was a pretty cool thing.
Anyway, the coolest thing was now I'm friends with Ringo. Sometimes he actually gets a little excited to see me, and we fool around now and he knows my name and we have a great time when we're together.
I still respect him, I never pushed the limit. Whenever people see me with him or they know he's in town, I get a thousand phone calls. People want me to introduce them. Can I get them tickets for the show? Can I give this to Ringo? Or can I do that to Ringo? Of course, no! I even made a joke with Ringo one time. I said, "Can I get a bus load of people and bring all my friends and everybody who wants to meet you to get it over with? And you could get on the bus and say hello to everybody". He looked at me in a way and said "No", and that was the end of that.
David Frangioni 24:32
Ok, Justin, ignore those texts I was sending you asking you when he's going to introduce us!
Billy Amendola 24:38
He knew I was half joking, but it would have been nice to do that.
So we just got closer and closer and the best thing happened a couple of years ago - I think it's three years now - when he invited me to play on stage for With a Little Help From My Friends. I played percussion. He invited me on stage to actually play!
David Frangioni 24:59
You gotta be kidding! You're announcing on this show that you have credit, playing on the stage with a Beatle. And nonetheless, your childhood and lifelong hero and drum inspiration, Ringo Starr. Is that what you're saying?
Billy Amendola 25:15
Yeah. I've done interviews before since then, so it's out there that I did it, but I never really super promoted it or made a big thing out of it. I didn't want to.
But then I told Ringo about it. He made a little joke and I said, "It was great being on stage with you, but I was just as happy to be on stage with Steve Lukather, Todd Rundgren, Gregg Rolie and Gregg Bissonette", I was there with the All-Starr and it was great. It was unbelievable to be on stage with Ringo, but it was also even better that all these other guys were there.
I always looked up to them, Steve Lukather is my favorite guitar player. I love Toto - Jeff Porcaro - Toto is one of my favorite bands, and Santana, going back to the Santana. And then Gregg Rolie, and Todd Rundgren, of course.
It was just a magical night and I was able to breathe after that and say, "Well, maybe I did good. Maybe I do belong here", and I do feel blessed. It happened. It wasn't planned.
David Frangioni 26:27
What an incredible story! Again, the steps that you took from starting off in music to getting there - I mean, do you think you would ever had been in that situation if you weren't at the magazine? You would have been a mutual musician alongside, but to be able to have this relationship and to to get to that point, that is really inspirational, for sure.
Billy Amendola 26:56
I might have met them somewhere along the line, who knows. I really don't know. I mean, I met John Lennon when I was a kid. But that had nothing to do with anything, just that I was a fan and I happened to meet him. And I'm friends with Yoko to this day, that's over 40 years.
David Frangioni 27:18
It's amazing. I don't think there's a lot of happenstance in all this. Of course, we can all say it might have happened anyway, during another situation, or maybe I would have met him another time. But really, it all happens the way it's supposed to happen, or it wouldn't happen that way.
Billy Amendola 27:36
You can't plan it. You can't think in your head. As soon as you start thinking in your head about what's going to happen, it's never going to happen.
David Frangioni 27:42
When you went to the show that night, did you already know that you were going to sit in and play?
Billy Amendola 27:48
No, no! I was invited to the show. It had nothing to do with Modern Drummer at all. The show was in Staten Island. It was really funny because when I get invited to the show, his publicist, Elizabeth Freud (she is amazing. I love her. I've know her a very long time from back in the days with David Fishof)...
I was invited to the show, and I was hanging out with Jeff Jonas, his longtime drum tech, and we were all talking and we were backstage.
We knew Ringo would come and would say hello. He was waiting at the top of the stairs for us as we were walking up the stairs. He always pushes me to the side now and he hugs and kisses my wife first, then he hugs me and I give him a kiss on the cheek. He doesn't really shake hands, he just bumps with people elbows, but we do hug each other. And I don't take that for granted. He knows I love him.
We were hanging out and we were talking about a couple of things. It was Father's Day, so I was saying goodbye to him before going back to our seats, and I gave him a hug and wished him Happy Father's Day. Then I said to him, "You know if you really wanted me to come out and play, I would have, but maybe another time", and he said "Oh, Kasam beat you to it". Kasam is Kasam Sultan because he played with Todd so he was at the show. I said, "All right, no problem. I'll get you next time". And he went, "Ha, Kasam beat you to it".
I hugged him goodbye and we went back and while I was saying goodbye to Jeff on the side of the stage - it wasn't even three minutes - somebody came over to me and said, "The boss said that Kasam is going to play acoustic guitar and sing, and you're going to play percussion. So be stage right when you hear Photograph and be ready to come up for a With a Little Help From My Friends", and he walked away.
I really thought Ringo was teasing and pumpkin me and I turned around to look to see if there were cameras around as I really thought I was being pumped. I said to Jeff, "Is that true?" And he goes, "If that's what the boss said, that's what the boss wants". I turned around to my wife and I just went, "Holy shit". But I said, "Don't say anything", because I still couldn't believe that it was going to happen. I still didn't think it was going to happen and I didn't know what was going to happen.
Since the show was in Staten Island, and 75 percent of my family lives there, as we walked to our seats I was seeing all relatives in the lobby, and of course I did not say anything to anyone about it at all.
When we got to our seats Chris, my wife, said, "You should tell Maddie". She texts Maddie and says, "Daddy's gonna play with Ringo tonight" and he just wrote back, "Holy shit". He had the same reaction as I did!
I sat there. We watched the whole show. I tried not to think about it. Then they started playing Photograph and I walked to the side of the stage, went to the backstage area, and I said, "Ringo told me to come backstage because I'm going to sit in for With a Little Help From My Friends" and they said, "Well, who are you? What's your name?". I told them, they went to the back, they came back after 30 seconds and opened the curtain for me. Next thing I know is that I'm on the side of the stage and he's finishing Photograph. There it was!
David Frangioni 31:12
I didn't know the part of the story that you waited the whole show knowing you were going to go up there. I'm sure at this point you don't get nervous about much, but that's so surreal.
Billy Amendola 31:24
I was hoping that my anxiety wasn't going to get the best of me at that point, because I didn't think about it. I didn't know if it was really going to happen. So by the time it did happen and I was on the stage, I felt pretty relaxed and comfortable. I just went with the moment thinking this is going to happen, and it's happening. And here it is.
The best part is - you can see it on YouTube somewhere - I did it and then I wasn't going to come down to take the bow because it was the last song.
When Ringo finished, after With a Little Help From My Friends, he came back out and he did a little bit of Give Peace a Chance. Then, as the band was still playing, he was already in the car and he was gone. He doesn't see anybody after the show. If you don't see him before, you're not going to see him.
I did what I had to do, and then the band came upfront in a row to do their bow and they invited me to come down and do the bow with them. As I'm doing the bow with them - and I'm saying myself, "Oh my god, this is insane. This is incredible". - I have all my family members and friends who live in Staten Island screaming out my name. I think Steve Lukather looked at me at one point and asked, "How do all these people know you?" And I was like, "It's a long story".
David Frangioni 32:51
Does he know how Italian Staten Island is? Amendola. I love it.
Billy Amendola 32:56
Then - you want a cool story - this is the funniest part. We leave the venue and as I'm walking to the car people have started to recognize me, so they're talking to me but I just want to get to the car, because my adrenaline was flowing.
We called Maddie to tell him everything that went on. We wind up, me and my wife, going to get something to eat - It was an amazing night. We were both on a little high, natural high - and then get home.
As we come home, I pull the car into the garage and I walk out. We notice everybody's garbage is out as the next day was garbage day. And my wife goes, "Oh, it's garbage day. You got to take the garbage out". As she walks into the house, I am pulling out the garbage cans for garbage the next day, and I turn around and say, "Hey, why don't you film this? This is what you should be filming". She's like, "Yeah, just put out the garbage cans back to life now". I pulled out the garbage cans and then I came in and that was it. It was like, "Okay, get up!"
David Frangioni 34:07
Back to the real world. I love it. What a moment though, of all the artists in the world...
Justin Leigh 34:17
If we want to look for that YouTube clip, what do we type in?
Billy Amendola 34:20
I guess if you put "Billy Amendola with Ringo Starr", I think it comes up, because I had posted it. My page is not public, so I never really publicize.
David Frangioni 34:31
I've never seen it, I gotta check it out. I remember seeing a picture of you playing the percussion on stage with them. But I didn't know the rest of the story and I've never seen the video, so I'm going to check it out, because that's just awesome.
Billy Amendola 34:44
Well, it was great. Like you the other day, when we were talking about Richard Marx and you sent me you playing with Richard Marx. That was impressive. That was great!
David Frangioni 34:57
Thank you. Yep, that was a very memorable evening, to say the least. It was the Phil Collins Little Dreams Foundation where I was musical Director and CEO for a few years, and that was our inaugural gala concert that Phil was supposed to headline.
Richard was one of the stars performing and, as musical director and drummer, I played that night with him. There were Alejandra Guzmàn, Laura Pausini, Gigi D'Alessio and Anna Tatangelo from Italy, and then Phil was supposed to perform but got sick and couldn't perform. It was quite the night but the Richard Marx set was... thank you for saying that.
Billy Amendola 35:40
Yeah, Richard is one of my favorite singer songwriters, and he was an All-Starr at one time.
David Frangioni 35:47
Well, I think I might have missed that one.
And you've mentioned David Fishof a few times in this interview. Tell everybody who he is.
Billy Amendola 35:57
David Fishof, besides starting Ringo and the All-Starrs - he put that whole thing together and manages all their tours - he runs the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, that is celebrating its 20th year now. There is a documentary coming out on David, and of course the Fantasy Camp is a big part of it.
But David's been involved a lot with monkey tours and he does a lot of things with Roger Daltrey, he's the boss of the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, and Modern Drummer has been involved with with the Fantasy Camp for most of the 20 years, actually.
David Frangioni 36:35
Do you know where the documentary can be seen when it's coming off?
Billy Amendola 36:38
It's still being filmed. Actually, a couple of weeks ago, I was interviewed for it. So it's in the midst. People that are doing 20 feet from stardom, that's the company that will be putting it out so it will be a regular documentary, it should be on Netflix and Amazon when it does come out.
David Frangioni 36:58
That's awesome. So you're still with Modern Drummer.
Billy Amendola 37:02
Yeah, these days, I'm still with Modern Drummer. I think we're going to have some great new opportunities and some changes coming up and we have some plans to show people how important and valuable the brand of Modern Drummer is.
Print people think in general that there's a problem with print. You know, the way the world is going - there's a little something about print. It's a different ballgame nowadays, but I don't see print disappearing overnight.
David Frangioni 37:38
I don't either. Look, Justin, we know you live in Beverly Hills. There's that cool newsstand on Beverly, just out Wilshire, right. I love that stand.
You've seen all the transformations of the different mediums that we have, CD, obviously, for the most part went away. Although there are still artists that sell a lot of CDs and LPs back. I agree with Billy that obviously print is on a decline overall and we probably won't see that reversed.
But the death of it, and the lack of interest in it, is greatly exaggerated. I love print. I love bringing a magazine with me. Of course, it's more efficient to have a Kindle or to have it on an iPad. But there are certain magazines, just like there are certain LPs and CDs, that I want to be able to hand around. I want to be able to rip pages out or take pictures of the pages and that's my way of digitizing it. Or carry it around, show it to people, bring it to a rehearsal or a show, or get it autographed. What do you think, Justin?
Justin Leigh 38:48
I agree. You know, I'm always about moving along with the times as things change and shift, but it's a whole different experience having it on your iPad, having it on your Kindle and actually holding the magazine.
I definitely think that a magazine is something that - books may be a little bit sometimes easier to do it on the Kindle. But there's something about a magazine - it's fresh, it's new, it's weekly, it's monthly - that I do believe stands on its own and I think that they both can survive.
David, I know you are very technological, so you like everything computerized, but there's still a few of those things that we do like to hold and to look through and there are many different reasons why we like it in different ways.
David Frangioni 39:47
Well, I am computerized, but I have a museum full of magazines and books. So how ironic is that! I think it's the combo, I don't think you can take print away and have the same outcome, even though it ends up in a digital archive, and you can reference it later on.
That initial release to me is like - I just think it's significant. As you said, Justin, I don't think we can fight the times. There's fewer newsstands and outlets, just like record stores. It's following a similar trajectory to music, but it's doing it in a much more natural way because it hasn't been cannibalized and stolen. So like music was, where it had to pivot very differently. This is just taking a much more gradual approach, as movies are, we could say, where they'll shift with the times.
So what's going on with Modern Drummer that you were saying?
Billy Amendola 40:53
Well, Modern Drummer is a brand, no matter what, we're coming up with 40 something years. In a few more years, it'll be 50 years.
The brand of Modern Drummer and the wealth of information over the course of all those years, that's never going to go away. We always have exclusives, we always have the first to pretty much break a new drummer, hopefully we know we get it right nine out of 10 times when we introduce a drummer to the world. The brand is never going to go away. Modern Drummer is pretty powerful. For drummers, of course, it's always been called the Bible of drumming. But even for musicians, because nowadays you got so many multi instrumentalist.
So there's different things now that I think I'll let David announce this big news.
David Frangioni 41:54
Well, we're gonna draw straws.
Billy Amendola 41:57
I'll announce it this way. Let me introduce you to David Frangioni, my new boss.
David Frangioni 42:06
Oh my God, well, thank you very much. I'm honored and privileged to say that I am the publisher of Modern Drummer now appointed by the Spagnardi family, to whom I'm very grateful for their belief in me and for the staff of Modern Drummer belief in me.
Of course, your support really goes without saying, Tracy and Kevin and the whole team is just outstanding and it's very aligned. You know, for me, Modern Drummer is definitely and will always be the Bible for drumming, and it is a brand that is much bigger than just a magazine. It transcends just a magazine. It really stands for drummers united. It really represents all things all drummers all the time.
So for me to be at the helm, to take all that I've learned in business and music and rock and roll and drumming and life and technology, and fuse those into the brand is an incredible challenge and honor, I feel really good about it because so much of what Modern Drummer stands for will just be evolved and elevated and not touched in any way other than just making it better.
But there's going to be a lot of incremental changes that in the outcome will be really a brand new Modern Drummer, but only in the sense that we're taking it into today. We're taking everything that's been built, and everything It stands for, and we're expanding it as could never previously be done. And at all times in the spirit of Ron Spagnardi, the founder, your mentor, the publisher. And the reason that we're all here talking about Modern Drummer, it's the spirit and the vision he had - one that is viable and important and relevant today as it was in 1977, when he started the magazine. And if he were here today, he would be expanding it in the way that we're going to, so I'm excited about it.
And I think the ultimate winners will be all the drummers because that's what we're doing it for.
Billy Amendola 44:21
Yeah, I hundred percent.
Justin Leigh 44:23
This is like such an incredible thing. And so integral for where you come from David and what you've done. David, will you talk a little bit about the museum? I just want our listeners to understand what you've done and how integral this move is right now.
David Frangioni 44:43
The museum is part of Frangioni Foundation, and it's also the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame Museum, which was something we concocted a couple of years ago before I was on board in any capacity. I've just always been very passionate about the magazine and thought that the Hall of Fame should be represented in an actual building with actual drums. So I thought that that was a great collaboration along with my non-profit Frangioni Foundation, so I put them together.
Now we're here to serve mostly children, you know what people who we can inspire, and who we can help, create the next generation of drummers, whether they have the means to do it or not. We're helping them and giving them the means.
There are people out there whose life circumstances are such that affording a pair of sticks and a practice pad and lessons is a very big challenge. I don't want that to be a reason why somebody can't be a drummer or can explore how passionate they are about the drums. So we're offering this possibility to everybody. 2019-2020 will be big years to grow in the foundation. It's already been in existence for several years. The museum's a private museum, but we're looking at ways to open up those channels as well. But we're helping a lot of kids.
My only question is when the hell are you guys coming down to see it? What's going on here?
Justin Leigh 46:11
All right, Billy. It's on. We got it. We got it. Yeah.
Billy Amendola 46:16
The other day I was in the office and Dave - you know, I go to the office one day a week now, which is a great thing. I am fortunate now that I don't have to make that commute anymore for the last five or six years. I work from home and I go to the office one day a week for meetings.
So on Tuesday, I was driving to work and David called me, then I get to work and David was on the phone and he was calling me. So I made a joke and said, "You know I have to take this call now because you're my boss, but do you want me to work? Because now is the one day I'm at the office, I'm supposed to be working". But he was calling about work related things. So I was teasing him a little bit. Then he said, "Well, if you were in Florida, we could be doing this face to face" and I said, "Are you going to be like Prince now where we all have to have a bag ready to go?" because that's what Prince used to do. He always had to have a bag ready to go at all times because he would call at 2 in the morning and say, "Okay, everybody, I need you to be down in the lobby at 8:30. We're getting on the jet and we're going" and then you'd have to be down there with your bag and get on that jet. Sometimes he wouldn't even tell the band where they were going until they got there.
David Frangioni 47:31
I could let Justin answer how real that could be. Exactly that, get the bag packed! I want both of you guys to move to South Florida, or as Billy and I talked about, we'll all move to Beverly Hills and follow Justin, but we all need to be in the same place. That's one of the reasons we're doing this podcast, so we can stay aligned as there's so much to accomplish and so many great things.
Billy Amendola 48:00
And this is one of the greatest things about technology. We can afford to do things like this by being in three different locations. And three of the coolest locations probably in the world.
David Frangioni 48:14
I agree, I love all three cities very much and for all different reasons.
So, in wrapping up, you have Mantus news. We're going to play a Mantus song at the outro and you're going to tell us which one you'd like us to play.
But tell everybody what's going on with Mantus, where they can find your new music, what's happening. I love your new album, which Billy's going to tell everybody about now. Mantus is reunited and come out with a new album, which is absolutely fantastic. So let's close on that, share the news.
Billy Amendola 48:48
We did the album. It's exactly one year old as we speak. We got back together. We wanted to go back to pop-rock roots. We had a lot of song as we all continue to write and we all continue to see each other. We said, Let's get together. Let's write a couple of songs and go back to our pop rock roots. Last year was our 40th anniversary.
I asked Maddie if he wanted to produce it. And he was, "I don't know. Yeah, dad's getting the band back together. What you guys get together? Let's, let's see what happens". Then we got together and on that first day, I think we wrote 12 songs together. We came down and who had little bits and pieces and who had a couple of ideas, and we wind up with 12 songs.
That first day, I guess, Maddie saw that we were serious about it. He was popping in and out listening. I guess he heard some stuff, some potential, something that he liked, and we were going in a direction that he liked. The next day he was down with us, and he was writing some pots and arranging stuff and saying, "This song is not really you guys, this is more like the oldest stuff, the dance stuff". Because we just wrote whatever we felt, so we were writing dance songs, we were writing pop songs, we were writing rock songs, but we wanted the album to be pop-rock.
So Maddie took an interest and then he said that he would produce this if we gave him full control because it's a little hard to control the four of us together. Butch Jones was our original engineer, he engineered this record with Maddie and he knows that when the four of us are together, like most bands, we could be a little hard to handle.
As soon as we gave Maddie the okay that he was going to have full control and we were going to listen to him and he was going to be involved with it. We really wanted that because we wanted that young element and we all know how talented Maddie was. We knew that it was only going to make what we did 10 times better, so he got on board.
Then we took five songs from those 12 that we wrote - those were going to be on the album. And then we got together with him and we wrote another 10 songs. Then we picked it in the nine best ones and that's what went on the album. Maddie produced it, he played guitar, did arranging and percussion. He did whatever had to be done, and he did a great job on the production. He also kept us up to date with all the new technology, as we never had a record out before that was going to go on iTunes - the old stuff is out on iTunes - but we never had social media. We were curious to see what was going to happen. And of course, we weren't doing it for money because there's no money to be made in records and we weren't going to talk. That was a question everybody was asking when we were going to play and that wasn't our goal either. We did a record and we put it out and we got a lot of respect. I don't think there was one person who didn't like the record, got a couple of great reviews.
David Frangioni 52:06
You can not like the record. And I'm not saying that because you're on the show and that we're friends. I mean, I'm putting my mouth where my taste stars what was really going on the records great sex symbol.
Billy Amendola 52:19
Thank you. And for me, it was like, just to remind people that this is the real deal. This is like pretty much back up my whole life by saying, "Yes, I'm a drummer. Yes, I'm a songwriter. This is what I do".
And the four of us, we really all like brothers, so we were happy to be together. We just had a blast having Maddie and Butch, Bob, it was just a great thing. So we're happy with the...
David Frangioni 52:48
But wait, are you the same Members? Is this all original?
Billy Amendola 52:50
Yeah, all original members, we had a good time. It was fun to do and record. I'm not going to drop names, but it was called Mantus and then it's established Est.1976 and Mantus Est.1976 is our Facebook page.
We really wanted to put it out just to just to do it because we love it. We were proud of every song that's on here. Hearing back from a lot of people in the industry and not just drummers, just hearing back from some major people sincerely calling me to tell me how much they love the record, and some of them genuinely surprised at how good it was, because I used to play the drums, but now I'm known as an editor of Modern Drummer magazine. So when I interview people from younger generations, I don't even tell them that I play, they find out on their own and then they go, "I heard you play in this record, I heard you played on that record", and I'm like, "Yeah, I did that back in the 70s" and they'll go "Wow". To me that means "Wow, you're old".
David Frangioni 54:14
Well, now you're in a band that has a record out in 2018 and 2019, Mantus established Est.1976. What song should we play as we bid goodbye to our audience for this segment, Billy Amendola part two, what's your favorite song?
Billy Amendola 54:30
It's hard because there's so many different types of songs. The song that is really special to us, is a song called Love Someone because it's very Beatles - influenced - and we were all influenced by The Beatles It's also an anthem kind of song of our way of wanting to change the world.
David Frangioni 54:53
Well, let's let everybody hear it. Love Someone by Mantus EST 1976 coming right up. I'm David Frangioni
Justin Leigh 55:02
I'm Justin Leigh.
Billy Amendola 55:03
I'm Billy Amendola.
David Frangioni 55:05
And you've been listening to LIFE Luxury In Full Effect. Thank you again Billy, my brother, Justin, my brother. Thank you guys, amazing! And here's Love Someone by Mantus...