The AD ASTRA Interview

Hi Guitarz Forever readers, Scott here... I was surfin' the web looking for some new kool bands to grace the pages of our website and I was lucky enough to stumble across this instrumental rock-fusion band called AD ASTRA. And yes, there is a flair of progressiveness here. The tunes on their debut release are uplifting and inspirational to say the least. The music will have you flying through colorful soundscapes of joy and excitement wrapped in azure... The guitar playing on this CD is top shelf stuff. As you all know, I have worked with and promoted some of the best git-fiddlerz in this biz as well as working for a few well-known Guitar Record Labels as Shrapnel Records, Blues Bureau Records, Magna Carta Records, and Mike Varney's Tone Center Records. I know good guitar oriented music when I hear it... With that said, I would like to introduce y'awl to guitarist Joe Nardulli of the band AD ASTRA... ~Scott

The AD ASTRA Interview w/ Guitarist Joe Nardulli

Scott - Hi Joe, thank you for agreeing to do an interview w/ my website Guitarz Forever.com. Give our readers a short but descriptive label for your band's style of music.

Joe - For lack of a better term, Instrumental Progressive Rock is the genre that comes to mind.  What I feel sets us apart is that we have tone and melodic sensibilities, while focusing is on compositions that are tightly structured, eschewing the bombast and length that progressive rock is known for.   Smooth, thematic playing styles blend perfectly with soaring, uplifting melodies. Combined with odd and shifting time signatures, you have songs that always keep your interest and never sound monotonous. 

Scott - How did you come up with the name AD ASTRA...? Is this a phrase or something?

Joe - “Ad Astra” is Latin for “To the Stars”, which I feel aptly fits the band’s style of music.  Inspired by NASA’s motto: “Ad Astra Per Aspera”, which means “To the stars through difficulties”.  It’s actually a popular name amongst bands.  Something I didn’t find out until it was too late…lol!

Scott - What's going on in your music world these days? Any New news we should know about?

Joe - Well, we’ve suffered a few line-up changes over the last few years, so it’s slowed us down.  We now have a new drummer and bass player – I’ve been blessed to find guys that have a passion for the material and can play it really well, too.  We all have full-time jobs and families, so music is strictly a hobby for us.  It’s a labor of love and if we can get out there once a month and do a gig, we’re really happy.  We are encouraged to keep going by the reaction we get when playing in front of those who’ve never heard us before. We continue to hone the live set and work on new songs.

Scott - Introduce the band (who's who) and where y'awl's stomp'n ground is?

Joe - AD ASTRA hails from the NYC/Long Island area:

Eric Davis – Keyboards

Harold Skeete – Bass

Tony Savasta – Drums

Joe Nardulli – Guitar

Scott - I was checking out your tunes on your official website and got hooked. What was the inspiration behind your latest album.

Joe - I’ve always been really into “songs” and how they are arranged, melodies, etc. I like to engage the listener by writing good melodies over interesting parts; utilizing shifting odd-times and chord changes to create something different, yet accessible.  I find a lot of Progressive Rock sounds too forced and parts are just thrown together to say “look at me”.  When we write, I can honestly say that nothing is forced. We try not to think about what’s coming out and let it flow naturally, always maintaining a groove and melody to keep the listener interested, which distracts them from underlying odd-times and chord changes going on underneath.  That’s the goal, anyway!

Scott - By the way, I've got to ask; Who came up with the Cover Art? The artwork fits the music like a glove.

Joe - The main theme of the cover art is the Armillary Sphere.  It was on the cover of the first CD, with the sphere in a star-field in space.  I wanted to continue that theme on the second album with the sphere hovering over an ancient earth city, Ancient Rome or Greece.  Ya know, the typical proggy thing to do…lol!  A longtime friend of mine, Art Director Henry Alvarez, helped me to conceptualize it, and made the vision a reality.

Scott - Are there a lot of places to play your style of music in and around your area? If so, could you name some venues?

Joe - Cover bands are the most popular in our area so when you’re playing Instrumental Prog, it can be tough to get gigs.  However, we play some awesome venues in the NYC/Long Island area and are very grateful that they’re willing to host music like ours.  Our favorite spots are KJ Farrell’s in Bellmore, NY; 89 North in Patchogue, NY; Gussy’s in Astoria, NY; The Delancy in Manhattan, NY.

Scott - Do You Tour?

Joe - Nothing major - we did a very short three day tour in our immediate location on a long weekend back in October 2014.  We dream of doing a two week tour in each of the major US areas (East Coast, West Coast, Mid-West).  We’d probably go over better in Europe and Japan, that would be the coolest!  God willing, it will happen for us someday.

Scott - So please tell us of any new musical project that you are currently working on?

Joe - AD ASTRA is the only project I’m working on right now.  My daughters are both in their early teens and are quite the musicians in their own right.  My oldest plays piano, guitar and sax; she’s also adept at music software and composes her own songs.  My youngest has an incredible Broadway style voice, as well as stage acting experience.  I hope to write music with them someday, when they think I’m cool again…lol!

Scott - How do you come up with your songs? Is it one song writer or more of a collaboration?

Joe - I like to collaborate and write with the band as often as possible.  However, since most of my personal practice time is spent noodling around to come up with a new song idea, there are times when I’ve presented the band with a completed tune when the inspiration strikes.

Scott - How often when the band start an idea for song, does it actually get finished?

Joe - We’re very picky and critical about anything we present to the band, so unless we think it’s great and has potential, it won’t get introduced.  When we’re in the moment, the tune gets finished over the course of a number of rehearsals.  There’s nothing like the feeling of writing a new tune!

Scott - I was wondering if you ever hear music in your dreams and turn them into songs?

Joe - I have definitely woken up in the middle of the night with song ideas.  I usually sing them into my phone or answering machine so I won’t forget them.  If I’m really motivated, I’ll get out of bed and pick up the guitar to work them out!

Scott - Are you a schooled guitar player or a self-taught guitar player?

Joe - I took lessons for a few years as a teen.  But I am primarily self-taught, having really focused on playing after I graduated college.  Once I got school out of the way and got a full-time job, I was comfortable putting my energy into playing during my free time.

Scott - So, what type of guitars do you play and why?

Joe - I play Brian Moore guitars, the C-55P and C-55P.13 models.  These are Custom Shop guitars made by a small company in upstate NY.  They are high-end instruments, very consistent, with a comfortable Strat style body shape and a smooth playing neck.  I’ve been playing these for over ten years now.  The guitar I had before that was a Washburn that I played for 19 years!  So, I’m not gear crazed at all.  Even the amps I use, I’ve been playing for many years.  I find what I like, stick to it and make it work for me.  I feel that most of your sound comes from your fingers anyway. 

Scott - What type of amps do you use? Do you use different amps for the studio vs. live shows. If so, why?

Joe - I use MESA-Boogie amps: Mark II-C & Simul-295 to record and Formula Pre & Simul 2:90 for live shows.  The live rig is more compact than the recording rig.

Scott - Do you have any endorsement with instrument and gear companies?

Joe - I currently have no endorsements.

Scott - Joe, how did you first get into the music business?

Joe - Well, I really wouldn’t call what I do a “business”…lol!  There’s very little to no money to be made in the Instrumental Prog Rock genre.  This is the music I wish to play and write and I do so without compromise.  It’s really just a hobby.

Scott - Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

Joe - My main influences are great songwriters who happen to play kick-ass, positively uplifting guitar: Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, Shawn Lane, Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Allan Holdsworth, George Lynch.

Scott - How has your guitar playing evolved over the years?

Joe - I’ve spent a lot of time working on my phrasing over the years.  Since there is no vocalist in the band, I try to make my melody parts sound as if they’re being sung by a human.  There’s nothing quite like the sound of the human voice to carry a melody, but for some reason, I’ve gravitated towards instrumental music.

Scott - What are you listening to these days?

Joe - I really dig the new Flying Colors album “Second Nature”, which features some of my most favorite song-writers and musicians.  I’ve always got Allan Holdsworth on for sheer melodic and phrasing inspiration.  There’s a new Prog Band out of England called HAKEN – I think they’re really cool!

Scott - Do you have any thoughts in reference to record companies or the state of the music business today? Good or Bad?

Joe - I don’t know what to think.  It’s shameful that music is not thought of as a commodity worth anything anymore.  People have become so used to getting it for “free” that it’s almost impossible to make a living with it anymore.  There’s got to be a better business model, but I haven’t thought of it yet.

Scott - Do you have a dream car?

Joe - No, cars really don’t do it for me…lol!

Scott - I also don't want to forget this... Tell us about any other things you may be in involved in or any special interest besides music that is close to  your heart?

Joe - My faith is really important to me. As a Christian, I feel that a lot of my inspiration to write positive, uplifting music comes from that - trying to spread some goodness and happiness through music.  And the e-mails I’ve gotten from all over the world testifying to that faith, without lyrics even!  My family is also a huge inspiration.  Seeing my kids have more talent than I ever had at their age is a mind-blowing thing, and the support from my wife to indulge my hobby is a great gift.

Scott - I would like to thank you for your time and candor with our loyal readers and keep on fighting the good fight to bring us some awesome music.

Joe - Thanks so much Scott!  Glad you found us and it’s encouraging to know that people out there are listening!


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