CHAOS THEORY – Guitar Supremo Michael Ciravolo On Beauty In Chaos – The All Star Musical Collaboration Which Spawned ‘Finding Beauty In Chaos’ And New Re-Mix Album ‘Beauty Re-Envisioned’

Born of frustration at the lack of space his guitar parts were getting on the last Human Drama record, Michael Ciravolo‘s Beauty In Chaos started as a solo project, but quickly developed into an all star collaboration.

Egged on by producer Michael Rozon, whom he credits with stitching the debut album together, Ciravolo began raiding his enviable contacts book for contributors to flesh out the dark soundscapes he was creating on guitar.

First on board were Robin Zander, of Cheap Trick, and Ministry frontman Al Jourgenson and they were soon followed by a whole host of big names, including Ice-TdUg Pinnick {King’s X), Zakk Wylde, Michael Aston (Jean Loves Jezebel) and Van Halen‘s  Michael Anthony.

Goth giants Wayne Hussey (The Mission, Sisters of Mercy) and The Cure‘s Simon Gallup recorded together for the first time and there were notable contributions from Evi Vine and The Awakening‘s Ashton Nyte.

The result was Finding Beauty In Chaos, a magnum opus encompassing multiple genres, goth, rock, industrial and shoegaze, which clocked in at just shy of 80 minutes,

But Ciravolo and Rozon weren’t finished there, enlisting an A-list roster of producers and engineers, including Tim Palmer (U2Ozzy OsbourneTin Machine) to work on a re-mix album.

The newly released Beauty Re-Envisioned also features a number of mouth-watering collaborations including Rolan Bolan hooking up with Hussey on a version of dad Marc‘s 20th Century Boy.

Not bad for a guy who also has a pretty high-powered day job as president of Schecter Guitars.

Ciravolo took time out from his hectic schedule to tell Matt Catchpole about the birth of Beauty in Chaos and the humbling experience of watching his heroes and friends not only performing, but interpreting and adding original lyrics to his music.

GUITARMAN – Michael Ciravolo – picture by Eloisa Limon

Beauty In Chaos is an amazing project – how long did it take you to put it all together?

Thank you for your kind words. It started as an ‘idea’ that I was initially unsure would happen, and it grew from there. When I first told Michael Rozon how I wanted to approach doing the record, of course he had reservations, as did I. It honestly was a Field Of Dreams moment … sort of ‘if you build it they will come’. The first two singers that said yes and actually came to our studio to do vocals were Robin Zander and Al Jourgensen. Not a bad duo to start with! The idea just evolved and ended up being 14 songs that barely fit on a CD. The entire process from the genesis of Finding Beauty In Chaos probably took 14 months.

You and producer Michael Rozon must have really put the hours in – was it difficult to fit around your day job?

I think we conservatively calculated we put in about 1,300 hours on the first record. That doesn’t include some of the ‘tech’ work Michael did, or the packaging, credits, promo, etc. that come along with an independent release. I’m not complaining since this is something I really wanted to do … but yeah, juggling my family and the ‘day job’ had its challenges. I would be in my office at 9am and not get home until after midnight. Thankfully I am blessed with a very understanding and supportive family!

Are you a studio animal? – you clearly seem to enjoy experimenting with different sounds?

I love being in the studio and creating. Michael and I had an absolute blast doing the record! We both love the idea of manipulating audio and really pushing the sonic boundaries. Having our own studio, without having to watch the clock allowed us to experiment to our hearts content!

Synths were banned on FBIC – did that throw up any creative challenges?

I really don’t hate synths, and we ‘allowed’ and encouraged them on our new Beauty Re-Envisioned record! It was just something I felt I had to do on our first album, not out of ego, but just to prove to myself I could do an album with the textures and sounds I heard in my head… without pressing a key on a synth. This was my fallout from recording the Broken Songs album with Human Drama. It felt like the electric guitar, at least the way I play, was always ‘competing’ for sonic space with keyboards, organs and real strings. Unfortunately, the guitar lost out more than I wanted. Thankfully, Michael Rozon is a sound alchemist, and I am an effect pedal junkie. This combination, also using E-bows and in a few cases, real bows, allowed us to create some amazing soundscapes and textures that became the building blocks of our debut record.

Why did you decide to do a solo record, rather than record the songs with Human Drama? Was it freeing to have total artistic control?

Well what maybe for a fleeting moment was a ‘solo’ record quickly evolved into something I feel is so much more. I look at Beauty In Chaos as an evolving/revolving entity with Michael and I as the constants. I’ve never been a fan of a solo record by most guitarists. I’m certainly not that type of player, and to me, I wanted this record to stand on the songs. As for Human Drama, it’s a band I co-founded almost 40 years ago. People grow apart musically. I half-jokingly say that ‘either they grew old or I didn’t grow up’! Probably a bit of truth in both. I did do 90% of the electric guitars on Broken Songs, but I certainly wanted and tried to push for the record to go into a slightly different direction. Over the years, Johnny {Indovina} has been the constant in the line-up and at the end of the day Human Drama has become his band. I’m proud of my guitar work on the record, and it did push me as a player to ‘fit’. That said, the process lit the fuse for me Beauty In Chaos. There are no real hard feelings and I wish them nothing but the best on their next record. Johnny was part of part of two tracks on FBIC; Memory Of Love and Beauty Lies Within. I do enjoy having the buck stop with me in Beauty In Chaos. There is something truly magical about seeing your vision … sonically and visually come to life. I only have to really please myself, but it is an honour that it seems to resonate with others.

KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY – Ciravolo’s daughters appear in the cover art

What was the inspiration behind the name Beauty In Chaos – did you explain the concept to the musicians, producers and promoters you’ve been working with on your two albums?

The name was inspired by some photos a friend of mine sent. Their ‘hobby’ was shooting abandoned, forgotten, out of the way buildings. I was intrigued by how nature seemed to take back these man-made structures. For some reason the terms ‘beauty’ and ‘chaos’ stuck in my head. The beauty of the foliage overtaking the chaos of twisted metal and rotting wood. That seemed to have led to me correlating it to real life. How we are bombarded everywhere with negativity … news, social media, even basic conversations. Politics, religion, hate, war … made me want to find the ‘good’ (i.e.: beauty) amongst the chaos. I think the cover of FBIC portrays that, at least to me. Tish and I’s daughters are our ‘beauty’ and placing them in the chaos photo is exactly what I envisioned. That doesn’t happen often, but good things do seem to follow BIC! I basically told each contributor this simple concept. Some took it more literally than others, but they had total freedom on their lyrics. Each singer certainly put their heart, soul and voices into this record, for which I am eternally grateful. As for getting the word out in this business, that is certainly way different than when I started. I think it comes down to having good, caring people on your ‘team’. For BIC, Shameless Promotion PR has been a godsend.

Did anyone come up with a contribution that really surprised you? Were there any conflicts or artistic differences you needed to resolve?

All of the singers had full rein on the lyrics and melodies. These songs are total collaborations. I really just gave each a quick synopsis of what ‘finding beauty in chaos’ meant to me … Surprises? Hmmm. I sort of knew what to expect from most collaborators, but I didn’t really know Ashton and Evi prior to this record. They both amazed me with what they delivered. No real conflicts, as I think all involved are very happy with the record we made. No one has ‘unfriended’ me yet on Facebook if that’s any indication!

The album feels quite cinematic, almost like a soundtrack – were you influenced by film at all in the making of the record?

I’m happy you visualised that from listening to the album. Since this isn’t a ‘live’ band, I felt it could find a home in TV and film. Bloodless And Fragile from FBIC was used in The Purge TV show. I am hopeful that we will do more. I think the instrumental versions do evoke a mood, and at some point, I would love to try my hand at scoring a film. I think the remixes on Beauty Re-Envisioned take these songs into different areas, while still retaining the original ‘feel’.

You’ve obviously friends with many of the artists, but you didn’t know all the contributors. Were you surprised when they all said yes? 

I am certainly blessed to have some amazingly talented friends! The only person I didn’t really know while making the record was ICE-T. Vince {Price} and Ernie C. from Body Count are long-time friends and made that happen. I met Ice recently and he was great. He was even involved in the Un-Natural Disaster video! I know my position at Schecter Guitars has put me in the position to meet most of these artists, but we became friends because of our love of family and music. None of these singers would have been part of BIC if they were not inspired. Most I approached said yes, the few that didn’t might be part of the next BIC in the future! I did learn that everyone who contributed to this record are amazingly talented and total pros. They did not gain their popularity by luck. This record also introduced me to Ashton and Evi, both I now consider dear friends and will certainly be part of future chaos.

What collaborations got you most excited? Were there moments when you felt like a fan as well as a collaborator?

Wow, that’s a tough one. Many of the artists on this record make up a big chunk of my album collection! The Mission, The Cure, Cheap Trick, Ministry … all very influential to me. So many surreal moments on this record. Having Wayne Hussey and Simon Gallup together on a record for the first time, on MY record is still a bit hard to digest. The only thing better is calling them both friends. Having Zakk Wylde on Beauty Re-envisioned is pretty special too, as is getting to work with Marc Bolan’s son, Rolan, on our new version of his dad’s classic 20th Century Boy. That’s pretty f’in cool! Even though Finding Beauty In Chaos is almost nine months old, I do not find myself tiring of it. This is probably due to the fact that I do listen to it as a ‘fan’ of each of the artists involved, as opposed to other records I am on, where I find myself focusing on the production or what I could have done differently.

Were there any artists you’d like to have seen on the record? Or would like to work with in the future?

Wow … you want my ‘wish list’! Probably too many to list, but here are the main singers that I would love to have involved (if any are reading this .. call me!)… Richard Butler {Psychedelic Furs}, Shirley Manson {Garbage}, Robert Smith {The Cure}, Leslie Rankine {Ruby} and Julianne Regan {All About Eve} would probably be by top five. Now that I’ve got the being the only guitarist on the record thing out of my system, I’ll probably enlist some friends that are amazing guitarists into the BIC family. I love the idea of putting them into a musical situation outside of what they normally do. It’s the BIC way!

TOWERS OF STRENGTH – Simon Gallup and Wayne Hussey

Were you thinking about who might sing on the tracks as you wrote them, or did that come later in the process?

It varied. As we started the process of the album, I only had a few tracks written, so that is what I sent to whoever agreed to be part of it. As we got further into the writing and I had a few songs started, Michael and I would listen and go ‘this could be really good with ‘XYZ’ singing’. Somehow this all just worked! And I think it came out as a very cohesive album that does not sound like a disjointed compilation.

What was Al Jourgensen like to work with – is he as terrifying as his stage persona?

Ha! I’m going to blow Al’s image by saying he is a nice, funny guy! We had a blast doing both the recording and video of 20th Century Boy. He and Michael Rozon also hit it off great, and Michael worked with Al on the last Ministry album and now on the new one. Here’s a funny story. Before Tish was my wife, our first ‘overnight date’ was going to see Ministry at Lollapalooza 1993. And yes, Ministry was terrifying and brutal. Fast-forward 25 years and Al is sitting in my studio drinking red wine and adding harp! Life is funny that way, and those surreal moments are part of BIC it seems.

MINISTRY OF CHAOS – Michael Ciravolo with Al Jourgensen, picture by Anabel Dflux

Your wife Tish features on the track Look Up on the album. Do you often write together?

We have written several songs in the past, as we used to do a studio ‘band’ called Stun Gun. We have a couple of songs on those late ‘90s Cleopatra compilations. I think she has a great voice, and I wanted to write a very shoegaze-esque song, as I had been listening to My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Lush. I was in the studio with some wine and a bunch of delay and reverb pedals and banged out the riff that became Look Up. It was one of the last songs written for the record and truly one of my favourites… wife or not! There are also several really cool and different versions of the song on Beauty Re-envisioned. Unless people read the liner notes, that might miss that Tish also played bass on The Long Goodbye and I Will Follow You. She has also added the ‘beauty’ to many of the Beauty In Chaos videos. You also should hear Ummagma’s remix of Look Up on Beauty Re-Envisioned. They’ve injected a kind of ’60s French cinematic pop element around Tish’s vocals.

FINDING BEAUTY – Tish Ciravolo, picture by Anabel Dflux

Were you never tempted to put your own vocals on on either FBIC or Beauty Re-Envisioned?

Not really on FBIC, but I think I would like to in the future. Maybe on the next release, which will be an EP that we hope to have out before the end of the year. I am an okay singer, but not in the league with any on this record. However, I can do a mean Stiv Bators {Dead Boys/The Lords Of The New Church}.

How did you choose the producers to re-mix FBIC for Beauty Re-Envisioned? Were they given free rein to do what they want with the tracks?

The concept of Beauty Re-Envisioned started totally by accident. I had met Tim Palmer, who is one of my favourite all time producers, while he was mixing The Mission’s Another Fall From Grace record. Wayne, Tim and myself went out for dinner and, after a few drinks, I got up the nerve to ask him if he would mix a few of the tracks. Amazingly he said yes, and when Wayne finished his vocals on what became The Long Goodbye and Man Of Faith, we sent the tracks to him. In my excitement, I failed to fill him in on my ‘no synths or additional guitar’ rule. Well, Tim added both and there was no way I was going to tell him to delete! So, the idea of doing a remix record was born! Every producer, artist or DJ that did the remixes had total freedom. I basically turned over the keys to the car. They also picked the tracks they wanted to remix. As with FBIC, it sort of grew. I never intended this to be 25 tracks, but great people kept asking to be involved. I think we have a record that has some very unique and varied ‘re-envisions’ of many of the FBIC tracks. It is not the typical 4-on-the-floor dance club remix record. There’s a lot of various approaches, which I found enjoyable to see happen. I really love the re-recorded tracks like Storm and 20th Century Boy.

Who are your major influences musically? Who are your favourite guitarists?

I knew I wanted to be in a band after watching T. Rex, Slade, New York Dolls, Kiss and David Bowie on late night music shows on my parent’s little TV. Football was no more … girls liked guys in bands!! As I got into the mid ‘80s, The Cure, Sister, Mission, Lords of The New Church all became faves to me. As for guitarists … Mick Ronson, Ace Frehley and Johnny Thunders are paramount. Robert Smith, Wayne Hussey, The Edge, Porl Thompson and MBV’s Kevin Shields are also brilliant and underrated guitarists in my book. While recording the Human Drama record, Johnny kept referring to David Gilmour. I was never a big Pink Floyd fan, but I did start to listen and quickly realised just how good Gilmour is.

What first attracted you to the guitar as an instrument?

Watching Marc Bolan strut and pout through Bang A Gong {Get It On} on TV and seeing the girls go crazy! My desire to play pro football stopped then, though I am still a huge New Orleans Saints fan … hence the ‘fleur de lis’ everywhere!

Here’s your chance to make a sales pitch – what’s so special about Schecter Guitars?

Ahh, time to switch hats! Seriously, it’s the people that make up the company that make us special. 95% of the staff are still actively involved in making music. I think that’s really important. It’s easy to throw out catchy phrases like ‘built by musicians for musicians’, but with Schecter, it’s the God’s honest truth. We also have some of the coolest and innovative designs on the planet! We are big in the rock/metal world, but our retro guitars are simply fantastic. I would play Schecter even if I didn’t work here. 99% of the 100s of guitar tracks on Finding Beauty In Chaos are recorded with my Schecter guitars. We also have one of the best and most diverse artist rosters in the guitar industry. The Cure, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed, Ministry, Morris Day and The Time, Abbath, Papa Roach, In This Moment, The Mission …. I can go on. Hell, what’s cooler than making the guitar that Prince played during Purple Rain at the Super Bowl?

Any ideas or collaborations you can reveal for the BIC follow-up?

Honestly, I am not sure yet. I do know I am going to limit the next record to a five-song max EP. That idea alone is refreshing, and we are looking forward to releasing it before the end of the year. It will be dark, that I do know. We are planning at least two more videos from Beauty Re-Envisioned too, so there is no rest here.

  • Beauty Re-Envisioned is available on deluxe CD and limited-edition heavy-weight coloured vinyl. It is also being released digitally, with a Spotify version to appear later. 
  • Both Beauty Re-Envisioned and Finding Beauty In Chaos CDs and vinyl can be ordered directly from the BIC website here.
  • To find out more about Schecter Guitar Research visit the website on this link.

About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch

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