Progressive rock band Stratospheerius is back with a new album Sept. 29. Named Guilty of Innocence, the recording effort finds lead singer and violinist Joe Deninzon doing what he does best: playing with catchy sounds, trying out different lyrics and finding unique avenues to showcase his electrified instrument playing.
Deninzon has collaborated with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crow and Phoebe Snow. He recently played on the last U.S. gig for Peter Criss, drummer for KISS, and he’ll be playing with Renaissance on an upcoming tour and album as well.
He’s a busy man who recently exchanged emails with Hollywood Soapbox about his new music. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.
What inspired you to record the album Guilty of Innocence?
I’m constantly writing music, both vocal and instrumental. A lot of these songs are either inspired by events in my life or social commentary. The title track was inspired by a stint I did in jury duty a few years ago, which was a gut-wrenching experience. ‘Parallel Reality’ came out of a sleepless night being homesick in the middle of a long tour. ‘Behind the Curtain’ and ‘Game of Chicken’ are observational songs about politics and the media. These songs were strung together over the past three years, and as we kept writing and recording a few songs at a time, the album took shape. And they all seemed to fit together.
What is your main goal with the album? What do you hope your fans take away from the recording?
The goal is to get into people’s heads. I try to write music that stays with the listener. You can never underestimate the power of a good hook, and I am always on the hunt for one. I feel this is our most focused, heaviest album yet. I love the journey a good album takes you on and the stories it can tell. In this day and age, with everyone downloading individual tracks, many people miss out on that experience, and I want preserve that and hope people hear these songs in sequence.
The goal is to continue to spread the music and build our audience worldwide, and always build on what we did before.
What was it like to play with Peter Criss on his last American gig ever?
He was a very gracious, humble guy and really appreciates good musicianship.
Having been a KISS fan since I was 13, I always connected with Peter because I sensed that his influences went deeper than just the hard rock that KISS played. I liked that he was into jazz, soul and R&B, and thought it was a shame that so many KISS fans didn’t appreciate that. He confirmed those influences to us when we met him and played with him, and it was an amazing experience to play with a living legend!
When did you first start playing the violin? Does it go back to when you were a child?
My parents are both strictly classical musicians. I started violin and piano at age 5 and stayed with the violin. My father has been a violinist with the Cleveland Orchestra for 38 years. There was no getting around it: You had to play an instrument in our house!
Musically, I went in a polar opposite direction from my parents, but they were always supportive.
What can your fans expect for the rest of 2017 and 2018? You’ll be collaborating with Renaissance?
Stratospheerius is perpetually touring. We will go out a few days at a time, so keep checking our website and social media for concert announcements!
We are looking forward to playing at Progtoberfest in Chicago on Oct. 21 along with many other incredible bands! Also have shows coming up in Indiana; New York City; Madison, [Wisconsin]; Cleveland and more.
I am also touring the South with my string quartet, Sweet Plantain (www.sweetplantain.com). We are honored to be collaborating with Renaissance on some East Coast dates at the end of October in New York; [Philadelphia]; Albany, [New York]; and Connecticut. These shows will be part of a concert DVD that they are recording.
In addition, Ludwig Masters will be publishing sheet music of some of my original compositions, so keep an eye out for that! All the info is on my websites: www.joedeninzon.com and www.stratospheerius.com.
By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com