Interview with Gino Foti
Published on 9/12/2006
Q. At what age did you realize you wanted to become a music artist and why?
A. I don't remember exactly, but I was probably ten or eleven. There were very few things that gave me as much pleasure as listening to music, so I obviously wanted to make a closer connection with that source of happiness. Even today, I would rather listen to music instead of practicing scales or mixing an arrangement.
Q. Most music artists have that special someone or thing that influenced their decision to do music. Did anyone or something in your life play a major role in influencing you to go into the music business?
A. Both, actually. I draw from myriad influences across a wide swath of the musical spectrum on my releases, but it was Geddy Lee - the bassist/keyboardist/vocalist from the Canadian rock band Rush, that made me fall in love with the timbre of the bass guitar. The "something" was a near-fatal auto accident about fifteen years ago that made me place less important things in my life aside to begin playing music.
Q. In terms of the music, which major artist(s) influenced your style and why?
A. I usually refer to Geddy Lee, Jonas Hellborg, and Anthony Jackson as my "major triad" for influencing my bass guitar playing, with other jazz fusion bassists like Jaco Pastorius, Ralphe Armstrong, Jeff Berlin, et al. as a secondary source of inspiration. On keyboards, I have used a lot of ideas from Chick Corea, Lyle Mays, and Joe Zawinul in my playing, and of course - Johann Sebastian Bach. Come to think of it, Bach has influenced my bass playing more than keyboards! Also, since I use guitaristic techniques on the bass, I am influenced by artists like: Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin, Shawn Lane, and other genre-bending guitarists.
The main reasons why these artists have influenced me so much over the years is that they have impeccable techniques on their instruments, they have furthered stylistic and idiomatic boundaries, and they are very honest musicians. Whether I'm listening or playing, I need to be connected on both intellectual and emotional levels, or it doesn't work for me, and these artists provide me with both.
Q. With so many independent artists trying to make it, what makes you stand out from the competition?
A. Well, I don't see myself in competition with other artists, even other jazz or world fusion bassists and keyboardists. If you meant the word as "peers", then I would have to say my eclecticism. I am as comfortable with listening or playing a speed metal tune as I am a Bulgarian folk song in 25/16 time signature, and most everything in between. Of course, this does not put me on a path to being a successful artist by current music business standards, but I am comfortable with that too.
Q. Music industry professionals are quick to say that being an artist means to gracefully fit a marketable niche in the industry. If you were offered an opportunity that asked you to be something you are not, would you do it to get your foot in the door?
A. Absolutely not. The old adage about 'sleeping with whores' quickly comes to mind. They actually used the word "gracefully"? That's kind of humorous!
Q. Making music is one thing, selling it is another. What types of strategies do you use in promoting your artistic work and getting it heard by the proper professionals?
A. Given that my work is out of favor with mainstream music and entertainment business trends, and that I am strictly a solo studio artist with no live entity, I don't spend a lot of time trying to get it heard by who I think you mean by "the proper professionals".
I deal primarily with niche retailers, reviewers, radio stations, etc. by contacting them through their websites, or by networking with other artists and sharing information about valuable contacts, and what has worked for us in the past in terms of increased exposure and sales. As a complementary strategy, I use the same tactics as above but in similar genres and styles to mine to find new contacts and discernable listeners who will also be interested in my music.
Q. In regards to wheeling and dealing, how important do you feel business knowledge is to making it in an industry filled with much heartache?
A. I think it is very important. An artist needs some business acumen in order to be successful. If they are able to understand the legalese in contracts, know the fundamentals of a double-entry accounting system, what form of business organization they should set up for their particular situation, etc. - it can only benefit their career.
Most independent musicians already have a history of self-education when it comes to playing their instruments, recording, mixing, and mastering their releases, and even marketing and promotion, so why would you not take it to the next logical level? Just like other aspects of life, if you make decisions from an informed position, you'll be better off.
Q. Let's fast forward to 5 years from now. What advice would you offer to struggling independent artists?
A. Keep creating music for the right reasons, and try not to let the current landscape of the music industry be a source of frustration. Be aggressive, adopt the DIY ethic whenever and wherever you can, and if and when the industry comes calling, try to maintain your personal vision by not making too many compromises. I guess it's the same advice that I would give any indie musician today.
Q. Most successful artists are involved in charitable organizations that stand for a cause that hits close to home. In that regard, once you reach success, what charitable cause(s) would you like to be involved in and why?
A. Having lost so many people close to me to cancer, including my father, that would be a high priority for me. I would like to help, maybe even start, a multi-faceted entity that deals with all aspects of the disease, from early prevention to survivor care - and by that I mean either the patient or the family of the deceased.
Also, as a world fusion artist, I would be remiss if I didn't include causes that deal with environmental concerns, and those focused on human rights and other issues that ensure that basic needs are provided for every person on the planet.
Well, we thank you for taking the time to interview with us and certainly wish you the best in your music career endeavors. There you have it ladies and gentlemen, an inside look into the mind of an independent artist struggling to bring their hard work to fruition in an industry where perseverance and thick skin means survival. No one said it would be easy.