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Saturday, June 1, 2024

Paul LaPlaca talks about his career and the resurrection of October Thorns


New Yorker Paul LaPlace is a one man media machine! Music, audio, video, production and DJ, podcaster he does it all!

Paul LaPlaca is a multi-instrumentalist from the Buffalo NY area. He is a two-time first place winner for the Western NY Hottest Guitarist competition and played with several award-winning bands before moving to NYC in 1994. 

His first professional gig was with noise guitar legend VON LMO who LaPlaca recorded tracks for his last studio album. They played the final days of New York City’s most important live venues - CBGBs, The Continental, and Max’s Kansas City.

LaPlaca moved on to front Brooklyn’s prog-metal juggernaut October Thorns which launched the career of late bass virtuoso David Z who went on to play with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Joan Jett, and ZO2. When ZO2 toured with KISS and Poison in 2004, Paul was invited to play keys as well. Divebomb records released a remix of the Thorns demo and it was named Transcending The Mundane’s, “Album Of The Year 2022”.

Chris Caffery from Savatage and Ted Poley both utilized LaPlaca as a utility keys/ guitar/ backing vocalist for several international tours.

Bass opportunities started opening up with Adriangale at the Melodic Rock Fest in Chicago, the reformed Carnivore in NYC, and Drift Into Black.

Paul is currently tracking for the debut release of Critical Consciousness.

Paul has also played with The Great Kat, THOR, Grey Skies Fallen, and Zandelle. As a touring tech he has worked for Testament, Living Colour, Metal Church, and DORO!

Besides his impressive musical career, however, Paul is equally impressive when it comes to his other projects:-

Stentor Productions (audio and video creation and scoring out of New York)

Host of radio show / podcast 6 Degrees

Melodorica Music (DJ, live music and custom song creators)

Paul and his band mates have also done something very cool... resurrected October Thorns!

More than two decades since forming, Brooklyn-based progressive rockers OCTOBER THORNS (featuring the late David Z on bass) have released “Circle Game”, the first single from the group’s long-awaited album, Circle Game. Out now on Divebomb Records.

“After all these years, we are excited to finally be able to share these remixed and remastered songs with fans around the world,” says vocalist Paul LaPlaca. “‘Circle Game’ was the first OCTOBER THORNS track I sang on, so it means a lot to me to have this particular song act as an introduction to the band for many people."

Formed in 1999, OCTOBER THORNSquickly became a mainstay at Brooklyn’s “Rock Capital of the World,” L’Amour, and found themselves trekking from state to state to take part in every metal festival on the continent. Despite numerous lineup changes, the group held strong and began receiving praise internationally from the likes of Holland’s Aardshock and Germany‘s Heavy Oder Vas? with the release of their one and only six-song demo.

By 2001, interpersonal problems, disagreements over musical direction, business decisions and presentation had taken their toll and OCTOBER THORNSdisbanded, playing just two reunion shows in New York City in the years that followed.

LaPlaca went on to play with Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Ted Poley (Danger Danger), Carnivore AD and currently plays with Drift Into Black, while David Z went on to make a name for himself with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Joan Jett, Jeff Scott Soto, and his own band, ZO2. On July 14, 2017, David Z was tragically killed in a vehicle crash while on tour with Adrenaline Mob. The news sent shockwaves through his extended community of friends and family, and the David Z Foundation was created in his memory to continue the work of music education through school programs and scholarships at the School of Rock and Brooklyn College.

Over the past 20 years, interest in releasing OCTOBER THORNS’ only official output has remained consistent. Now, with the assistance of Icefish keyboardist and engineer Alex Argento, these early recordings have been elevated to modern production standards and are ready for release. In addition to “Circle Game,” the full album will include unreleased mixes of the songs “Leviathan” and “Sounds of Life,” as well as unheard demo tracks.

“As much as we want this release to cement the legacy of OCTOBER THORNS, it is equally important that it serves as a tribute to Dave,” LaPlaca says. “He was an immeasurable talent that was taken far too soon, and this is a showcase of his remarkable skills and abilities.”

Circle Game Song-listing:

  1. Page One
  2. Circle Game 
  3. Soul Forge
  4. No Idle Phrase 
  5. Jihad 
  6. Exhausted Minds 
  7. Leviathan 
  8. Sounds of Life 
  9. Eyes of Suicide (demo)
  10. Sounds of Life (demo)
  11. Air (demo) 
  12. Tree (demo)

October Thorns Members:

  • Daze Z. (bass (R.I.P. 2017) ex-Trans-Siberian Orchestra))
  • Joe “JoFu” Cardillo (drums)
  • Dave Pamdo (guitars) 
  • Joe Chawki (guitars)
  • Norbert Sator (keyboards)
  • Paul LaPlaca (keyboards, vocals)
Check out the title track video!

But wait.... there's more....!

Paul also plays bass  in the band Drift Into Black. They have a new song out and album “ Voices Beneath The Rubble “ ( out June on Black Lion Records). 

Drawing inspiration from the likes of Candlemass, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, and Amorphis, Drift Into Black's sound is a fusion of gothic doom, traditional heavy metal, and some progressive elements, all imbued with emotional depth.
Check out the video 

With all this going on, Paul is a busy guy! But Roxie, ever determined to get the juice, strapped him down and threatened that if he didn't do an interview she would play Barry Manilow songs non stop. Needless to say he agreed.....

To say that you are an accomplished musician would be an understatement. Guitarist, bassist. Keyboard player and even filled the role of vocalist when needed with ease.  How did you become such a musical all-rounder?

When I started playing guitar in my first few bands, we would always swap instruments during breaks, Of course, we all fought over who would play the DRUMS but I loved trying out all the different instruments. In my high school marching band, we were required to play an instrument in the concert band and I taught myself how to play a bit of sax. I wish I could play everything! 

Were you from a musical family?

My father was our church organist for a time and we had a great organ at home that I started playing as soon as I could reach the keys.

Did you have a formal education in music? Where? When?

I would say, "semi-formal". I studied a lot of different classes outside of college, majoring in radio and television production, everything from sight-reading to audio recording. I couldn't afford regular private music lessons, but I got a lot out of the few that I had. The most important lesson was from Tony at Elmwood Music in Buffalo, where he showed me all the modes on guitar.

Were you in bands back then?

Absolutely, I played in a Rush cover band, a new wave band, a 50's band featuring Elivis Pressley Jr., and even a country/ metal band where we would start the night with Johnny Cash and end with Judas Priest!

You won first place in the Western New York hottest competition twice?!

Yes, then they said I had to be a judge and wouldn't let me compete anymore.

Over the years, you’ve racked up some serious playing experience with the likes of October Thorns, Chris Caffery from Savatage, VON Lmo, and recently Critical Consciousness. Which did you find most gratifying?

Definitely being the vocalist and frontman for October Thorns. I always struggled with my voice and Thorns was the first and only time someone allowed me to be the singer. Other high points were touring with our bassist in his new band, ZO2 when they opened for KISS/ Poison in 2004. I was able to play keys on one song but it was my first tour and with one of my childhood idols. Touring with Caffery was also amazing, my first international tour and my first time as a full band member on the road. 

You’ve also been the tech on tours for Metal Church and living legend Doro? You must have some great backstage memories?

YES! I've been out with so many great bands, Timo Tolki, Ripper Owens, Triosphere, Ellis, Serenity, Jon Oliva - I've never stopped being a fan so tours are just as much fun from that vantage point as it is for performing. I also had some great experiences teching for Testament and Living Colour. You could get a musical masters degree just watching those guys that close up.

“Circle Game” by October Thorns was released on 13 May 2024 over 20 years since the band began putting their debut album together. What the fuck happened?

That's a great question, I'm still asking myself that! Thorns was really complicated. I was in my early 30's and everyone else ranged from 16-21. I was really rigid and desperate to make something happen for the band professionally and didn't have enough patience to let the guys just develop at their own pace. The main songwriter was going through different stylistic interests and he lost interest in heavy prog-metal and things kind of fell apart. Our drummer and I played with our rehearsal space partners, Zandelle for a bit, then I ended up in Grey Skies Fallen shortly, did a one-off with THOR. Our bassist David Z was discovered at the Savatage Convention in 1999. Our bandleader, Dave Pando, helped put that together. Chris Caffery and Paul O'Neil picked Dave to play bass with the newly formed Trans-Siberian Orchestra and he was with the East Coast company up until the KISS tour when he took a hiatus but returned after a few years. He also played with Joan Jett and Jeff Scott Soto. Tragically, he was killed in a vehicle crash when his RV was struck by a truck while on tour with Adrenaline Mob. 

The release also includes 4 demos from 1999. ?

Yes, when the band started, they only had 3 songs so our first few shows had a handful of songs that I had written for a solo project and one from Pando's previous band. My songs were really proggy, more in line with King Crimson and Rush, while theirs were decidedly Dream Theater. As we developed, the sound got heavier, and we leaned more into Nevermore and Testament as influences and my songs got phased out. We recorded one of those songs, but it didn't make the original six-song demo, so we included it and the original demos that I presented to the band. Very raw but it shows our evolution.

You’re also a sound engineer & producer at Stentor Productions, as well as producer/host of 6 Degrees. Keeping ya busy?

#nevernotworking! I live by that, lol. My production company does music videos, post-production, sizzle reels, radio and TV spots, and my radio show.

What’s next for you? Any projects coming up?

I've been working pretty steadily playing bass, some keys, and guitar with Drift Into Black. Our 5th album, "Voices Beneath The Rubble" comes out June 28th and it is by far our best work. My solo project, Critical Consciousness hit some speed bumps with COVID but I hope to get back on track this summer.

What advice would you give to anyone starting out in the music business?

Honestly, the whole industry has been knocked on it's ass since the CD came out. The whole landscape keeps shifting radically from illegal downloads to the imbalance of streaming, and the influence of new social media platforms. I actually follow and listen to younger players and seek their advice most of the time. The only advice I can give is stay focused, practice consistently, and be kind to your bandmates.

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