Sergio Michel’s interview
Written by Kevin Tanza on March 5, 2020
Thank you for being here, Sergio. For those readers that might not be familiar about you, what can you tell them about your career?
I’m an American national level headliner, ready to start a co-headline tour with Soulfly and Toxic Holocaust; supporting Soulfly’s North American dates on the Eastern leg. Starting in Buffalo, NY in February, and ending in Dallas, TX in March. Most of the dates are sold out and we are all ready to provide a great experience for hard rock/metal fans.
You have a double album which came out on February. Tell us a bit about it.
Tropical Depression is a work that has taken me years to complete. It’s the sum of my experiences as a man with a great vision and big dream fighting tooth and nail to fulfill them. I have experienced quite a lot of strange and unusual things in my time working my way up the levels in the music industry. Also, as a scientist and person interested in the many reasons why things work, or why people are the way they are; I have noticed some really incredibly weird and sometimes evil behavior in people over the years, and felt I must express these observations in a way that is edifying to the listener; because most likely, everyone has observed and experienced such things in their own lives. I have monitored these things from a positive perspective, so it’s not “cursing the darkness”, but bringing to light the fact that there is something seriously wrong with society as a whole today; yet still remaining upbeat and optimistic through it all.
I feel there are too many artists out there moping around and being downers out there, so I prefer to provide music people can really be impressed by technically and still get a laugh or be able to ponder positive notions from lyrically. Since my compiling of these experiences started in Miami, Tropical Depression seemed fitting, as it alludes to a Hurricane or Tropical Cyclone that comes to destroy and wipe things out; and also expresses the notion, that just because someone “has it all” and lives in a tropical “paradise”, it doesn’t mean they are actually happy. Furthermore, moving to Hollywood, CA and operating out of Los Angeles, a different kind of evil and weirdness was evident in that culture and basically completed my research on what’s wrong with modern Western society. Thus, summing all of these things up, Tropical Depression finally came to be as usual in the Sergio Michel style, a satirical take on very serious matters expressed through well executed rock music.
The release will be 19 songs, and is intended to be a double vinyl format release; which means it will be released also as in dual CD format, and of-course available on all digital streaming and download options.
What influences do you have as a musician?
I am more influenced by concepts musically more than other artists. The sound I wanted to create on the guitar was a wall of roaring power rhythm-wise, and the lead an electric violin going far beyond it’s own limits in articulation and speed. With that in mind, someone like Yngwie Malmsteen was an artist I liked listening to, as his concept is similar, except he was chasing Paganini and Baroque. However, it kind of takes you to the same place, but with varying flavors. Eddie Van Halen is without question someone I learned a lot from as well. As far as who I most resemble in approach and application, it would be my friend, and recent Heavy Metal Hall Of Fame inductee, Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth & OHM). I have also always liked 80s dance and pop music and grew up in an urban community near New York City, so I always had a grasp on things like Hip Hop and Electronica, even though I never was a fan of either; and also was around a lot of Merengue music, so I do have a very different swing and timing than most heavy metal-ers that is evident most in my rhythmic picking technique.
What do you think are the biggest challenges of being a musician that perhaps are not mentioned enough?
Due to the internet being abused, the market is way too flooded with ‘musicians’ that in other eras would never make it out of their grandma’s basement to be honest. For a serious artist who is talented, has good presence and has the potential to be a real world class artist or band, it’s difficult to find a way to attract the attention of managers, booking agents and labels because there is just far too much nonsense in the way. My advice to anyone who knows they are world level and trying to get there, is figure out who you are immediately; do as much as you can image-wise, goal-wise, etc., and solely do the things that will get you there. Avoid “jam nights”, “cover bands”, etc., and just work on your original product. Be ready to suffer. There may be years of inactivity. You may have to move to a new city or country to do what you have to do to make it. Don’t compromise, don’t hurt others, don’t be dishonest. Just find a way to distinguish yourself from the clutter and if it was meant for you to be a real rock star, it will happen in time if you never quit and make the right decisions.
You also have a career as an actor. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve had the privilege to appear in #1 rated prime time TV shows regularly since the early 2010s. Both on English language and Spanish language networks. I am focusing on my music exclusively now because that is my main thing. However, eventually I will resume acting and am focusing on working in action and martial arts feature films as a lead all over the world, regardless of language.
Do you have any interesting anecdote about that career of yours?
Yes, the funny part is I’m the guy everybody knows but nobody can name. My portrait is on display on the wall of The Whisky A Go Go’s dressing room; next to the Lemmy portrait at The Rainbow Bar & Grill;on the walls of restaurants in Beverly Hills,on TV regularly worldwide, etc; and people will say “Hey! I know you! You’re that great guitar player,… uh… ‘Michael something?’; or, “Hey! Are’nt you that actor that plays all the bad guys and mafia people on soap operas? ‘Mitchell,….Mitch, Michaels,….something like that?” or “Hey! I’ve seen that guy on YouTube! The guitar guy… Michael something?!?!” Happens everywhere I go. Also, on the other end of the spectrum, this past season of NBC’s The Voice, Gwen Stefani did a segment at a venue I was headlining that night and ‘Sergio Michel’ was seen by millions of people worldwide at the top of that marquee. A pleasant surprise. Basically, I am the most famously recognizable unknown entertainer I have ever known. LOL.
Have you ever had problems balancing those two careers or is it something that comes natural to you?
No, it comes natural. I actually see them all as part of one big thing and set out to build my career in a Frank Sinatra-esque way. Which, by the way is from the town I was born in.
A release of yours that gathered a lot of attention on the internet was 2013’s single I Close My Eyes. How was the experience of recording that song?
That song was a nod to my amateur years before I was a professional recording artist. I grew up sneaking into CBGBs, playing at L’Amour, all over New York and New Jersey going to concerts, etc. I was all thrash all the time. So fast metal, fast punk was it or nothing at all. That song encompassed everything that era was, and it went over very very well. Got hundreds and thousands of streams and that album Marry Me, Cindy also had another song Bow Down that went viral/trending twelve times well into years after its initial release.
Considering the impact that the internet had on the success of that track, what do you think of that platform as a way to promote your music?
I dislike the internet and social media very much. I just know how to maximize it as a tool for my own purposes. I see the internet as a tool in its original intent as a bulletin board system. I use it as a place to report news and facts about my career and that’s it. I put very little, in fact no importance on followers or likes. I go for the impressions. To me, if 100,000 people listen to my song from one post and I get zero likes, zero follows and zero re-tweets, it’s far better than getting thousands of likes, hundreds of re-tweets and a hundred new follows, and no one listens to the song. The song plays are palpable gain that can lead to song purchases and actual concert ticket purchases; which are far better than likes, which in reality serves nothing but vanity. I don’t know any other artist as of yet that sees the internet the way I do. So, to answer the question, it was very important, because I used the internet as the delivery system for that product.
After so many years in the music business, how much do you think you have changed as a musician? How different are you to the Sergio that started years ago?
I am far less naive. Tropical Depression is a testament of that and showcases these sentiments lyrically. I have really had to change the way I viewed myself and others. Today, I am a far better person and far better professional. I understand how the world and how people work and truly know myself now, and I’m way better off for it.
One thing a lot of musicians tend to struggle with is the business side of things. How do you carry yourself on that area?
I am a consummate professional and very, very corporate in the back end. I always see the business and PR sense of things from the perspective of a big label or big-time lawyer. This sets me apart from a lot of my contemporaries who want to emulate the behavior of the personalities they see on TV ‘acting like rock-stars” and simply never getting further due to poor decision making. I on the other hand stay away from all of that, and have been better off for it. I treat each show like a boxing match; and I treat my career like a fine tuned machine that is out to win first prize every time. No time to horse around with my career.
What shows do you have in store for the coming months?
In February, I begin my co-headline with the legendary Max Cavaleras and my hometown pal Marc Rizzo of Soulfly, and Pacific Northwest legends Toxic Holocaust, who are already on tour by joining them mid-tour in Buffalo, New York on February 25th. We are visiting Buffalo, NY; Chicopee, MA; Boston,MA; Brooklyn,NY; Raleigh,NC; Johnson City,TN; Atlanta,GA; Orlando,FL; Fort Lauderdale,FL; New Orleans,LA; Dallas,TX and ending in Houston,TX.
Thank you for taking the time to do this, Sergio. Any last message for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media?
Thank you for the interview! I’d like your readers to know, that my main goal for my live performances is to give them a performance that they can talk about on the way home. I want them to get more than their money’s worth and I never phone in a performance. Remember, as an independent artist with no label support, your support by purchasing swag, music and concert tickets goes a really long way. My Facebook, Instagram and Youtube is @sergiomichelmusic ; Twitter and Periscope is @SMichelMusic ; and my music is available on all major retailers like Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Amazon MP3, Google Play, Anghami, KKBox and stramable on iHeart Radio, Spotify and Youtube Music. Also, I do enjoy meeting fans and talking to you about music and whatever else, so don’t be shy and say hi.
Thanks again, and be sure to get a copy of Tropical Depression out within the next few weeks!
You can find Sergio on the links below!!