Music vs. Songs: Chris Ianuzzi Unleashed
“In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between them, there are doors.” William Blake, Life of William Blake with Selections from his Poems and Other Writings, MacMillan and Co., 1880.
There is music, and there are songs. Between them, the glowing conduit funneling the cosmic or planetary energy from one sphere to the next, or from the next sphere to this one, as might very well be the case, is none other than Chris Ianuzzi, artist extraordinaire, and daring voyager between the realms of sound—in its rawest, purest form, and as the shiny polished tunes that have topped Billboard charts, packed stadiums, pounded out of ghetto blasters, and even today, are distributed by Sony.
Counterbalancing the demands between the two, or simply shifting the assets between them at the appropriate time, in the right proportion, and with his infallible judgment, is almost always a work in progress—and one to which he gives deliberate, conscious thought.
“It’s going to be some songs, and some pieces of music, and some in between,” the singing producer promised for his forthcoming LP that’s currently untitled. “In August there is a piece called “Hunger” coming out. I wouldn’t necessarily call that a song, but it’s definitely dance oriented. I can definitely hear it in a club. And its got some vocals about hunger, because I think a lot of people are very hungry right now to get out.”
Getting out the music that seemingly flows through this man—as channeled between the foregoing planes—is something he’s been constantly refining since initially immersing himself within the realm of professional sound recordings in the 1980s. At present, Orchard (which was bought by Sony) is distributing his Satellite Symphonics imprint. But the sonic architect was privy to explore the full boundaries of sound in its electronic form during the maturation period of the keyboard synthesizer as the shimmering chords of disco were transitioning, as they were, to something much more grounded and, as the people say, real: street music, which is known today as rap music.
“I was lucky enough to be around all these people that were at the beginning of all that stuff,” Ianuzzi reflected.
Following a two-year tenure at a school for formal music training in Virginia, the keyboardist eventually sojourned to New York where he took up with none other than Suzanne Ciani, who had a music house of sorts frequented by many of the local and international bands at the time. Ciani played an integral role in designing synthesizers and, with her state of the art recording studio, enabled Ianuzzi to learn the finer points of both with a decided commercial appeal.
“In college I learned about the fundamentals and screwed around with the tape machine and the synthesizers,” Ianuzzi recalled. “When I went to New York I had access to Suzanne’s studio and I took every opportunity I had to learn about all that stuff. And then, the people I met through her were incredible. You learned just from breathing the same air as them.”
On the one hand, then, numerous artists and even corporate entities would pay him top dollar to make sounds on synthesizers, then either have him or someone else play them for advertisements, songs, and even live performances. “I made $14,000 in residual payments in one year off of making one sound for a Firestone commercial,” Ianuzzi remembered. “In the next year I made another $7,000 for making [this] one sound. And I just walked by the studio one day, walked in by chance, and they said ‘hey Chris, can you make a sound like this?’ I was like oh, yeah.”
Ianuzzi would go on to create and manipulate sounds for numerous commercials with what he affectionately termed “mini-scores”. But simultaneously, he was also writing songs, playing, and performing them to spectacular effect.
He manned the keys on The Puppets’ “Way of Life” which “went to No. 3 on the Billboard dance charts,” he said. He also performed on Freeez’s “IOU” which had similar Billboard success. “There was a studio called Vanguard in New York City, and a lot of the producers at that time of what they called street music, which became hip hop, was being done there,” Ianuzzi explained. “Arthur Baker was producing Freeez and he hired me to bring the Prophet [synthesizer] in and do some stuff.”
However, the music for which he’s likely best known (other than for the sonic landscapes he’s done for commercial consumption for companies like HBO) is the pop ditties he helped pen and play with the band Sluka, which also got its start in New York in the 80’s. “We recorded some demos and it was like whatever we did was like magic,” he disclosed. “Whatever we did was like golden. He [Christopher Sluka] got this single in Japan and they picked the song “Sunday’s Child” that I had written with him. There was the Olympics and next thing I knew we were going to Japan. We had a band and it was fun.”
The Sluka experience put Ianuzzi on a band on a major label (MELDAC, owned by Mitsubishi) and placed popular music—or rather, popular songs—front and center in his world as the 80’s transitioned into the 90’s. But he was always recording sounds, working on his mini-scoring projects (even overseas), and laying the groundwork for his own other-dimensional transitioning between pure sounds and song structure, dissonance and harmony.
He’s presently releasing new material every first Friday of the month until his new album drops around the end of the year. “Some of the newer stuff coming, there’s two songs, one that I did in two weeks and it’s a lot of fun,” Ianuzzi mentioned. “But there’s another one that’s like a really, really big chorus, and I have my synth parts in it.”