April , 1985
By David Huff
Greg Guiffria’s ‘Angel’ Still Looking Out for Him
I have met and interviewed countless musicians over the years, but never have I been able to identify so readily with an artist I just met whose viewpoints about destiny and fate parallel my own. Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, some people are just born lucky.
Gregg Guiffria is one of the chosen few. Though he tasted brief success with the band Angel in the last ‘70s, the road became to bumpy to traverse and he struck out on his own. Through a series of unusual events that would leave anyone's head spinning, Guiffria succeeded in not only putting a band together, but releasing a debut recording that has skyrocketed all the way to the number two position on the Billboard charts. On top of that, somehow the artist managed to get an unheard of eight-album deal with MCA Records. It’s hard to believe any record company would commit themselves to an unproven commodity like Guiffria, but so far the relationship is paying off. Then again, when you have the spirits of luck and fate looking out for you, you find out quickly it’s the only way to rock.
JAM: You are one of those rare individuals that has gotten a rare second chance on their musical career on a national stage. How many times do you tempt fate?
Greg Guiffria – They say a cat has nine lives, so I guess that I have got a few more.
JAM: In today's video music world, your former band Angel would have fit in perfectly with is whimsical look and all-white mystique that characterized the band.
Angel was a little ahead of its time. In fact, the group was five years ahead of its time. We were the perfect video band and the perfect visual road show. But I am an optimist. I have to think that the end of Angel was done for a reason.
JAM: In putting this band together, did you rely on your Angel experience as a foundation for the type of band you wanted?
That and not what to incorporate from the past. This band talks to one another and we bounce ideas off everyone. That was the big lacking point in Angel. There were alter egos to deal with as well. Here, this is a real band thing despite the fact the band carries my last name. All I did was put all the parts together.
JAM: In the past, have you ever felt like a chemist frantically searching for that right formula that would enable everything to fall into place?
Well, it’s interesting that you should say that. I certainly thought this thing was going to take place a lot sooner than it has. For a time, I was in a band with Rudy Sarzo that didn't come together. Then I had this thing with Ricky Phillips of The Babys that didn't come together. Finally this thing just clicked.
JAM: A number of roadblocks have stood in your way. I’m surprised the frustration levels you experience didn’t cause you to throw up your arms and say, “That’s it! I’m doing something else!”
When I was talking to my mother the other day, she said I was always like this when it came to not giving up. It happened with my first band in high school and has continued through today. I think it's an aura that gives off an attitude backed up by determination. I have stayed the same. It Is the people around me that have changed.
JAM: Have you completely forgotten your past?
No and I wouldn't want to. I am not ashamed of my involvement with Angel. I have no qualms about it. There was always something going on with that band. We did sell three million albums and it wasn't uncommon to find us on the road 200 days out of the year.
JAM: It seems rather ironic that with your hit single, "Call to the Heart," you accomplished more on a professional level than did in your entire career with Angel?
In a sense yes. With this first album, I was very conscious, we all were, of making sure the music had a certain degree of awakening to it. When you heard it the first time, you could detect that certain skill level behind it. Each song represents a door that we went through. There are no filler tunes on this album.
JAM: Was there any sort of compromise on your part to insure you came out with commercially viable material on the record?
No. I wouldn't even let the record company hear "Call to the Heart." They didn't even know it existed until one night by accident they came into the studio and I said, 'Okay, can we hear something?'' I put the song on and waited to see their reaction. They flipped out over it. They had already devised a campaign for another song they wanted to release first from the album, but when they heard “Call to the Heart” they scrapped everything. To me that was as commercially viable as the album went. I still think the best song on the album is "Lonely in Love."
JAM: You have skirted around the rim of stardom off and on for nearly a decade. You seem to be remarkably composed despite the enormous ups and downs you have experienced?
First off, the difference between those who make it in this business and those who don't is not based on where you grow up. I’m from Gulfport, Mississippi. That’s where I grew up. I was always accused of being weird or different because of my interests in music. One day, I just said to myself, “What does Mick Jagger have that I don't? I can play. I look alright and I'm cool.” That question drove me crazy until one day this guy told me, “Hey man! It’s all up here.” He was pointing to his head when he said it. “Determination and believing are the keys.” We talked for a long while. He went on to tell me that some people believe 99 percent and some people believe 100 percent. That one percent difference separates the men from the boys in this business. I know a million of those 99 percent types who are good, but they lack that one percent to go all the way. You have to be willing to take that one extra step. If you believe 100 percent in what you are doing, and I don't care what it is, it will come true for you. You can never pinpoint when it will happen, but if you believe in yourself, it will.
JAM: It seems as though every band I’ve done an interview with has a bizarre story as to how everything came about for their group. The stories always defy explanation, yet it happened and aided the band tremendously to get to where they are at today. Does that sound crazy to you?
You want to hear a story? My fiancé April, she financed $60,000 of her own cash, and some of mine, for this recording project I was working on. We then ran out of money. We didn't have any free flowing cash to stick into the project because it was going to cost another $30-40,000 to get everything together and get the demo off the ground. So, I said to myself, 'God, man I am broke.' This was in November of '83. What was I going to do? Well, April and I went down and bought a small yacht.
JAM: Your flat broke and you bought a yacht?
I still had good credit, and I said to myself that if I am going to go down in Hollywood, I was going to go down in style. I was going to go out on the yacht and toast myself to a good try. Well, I was travelling down this one road heading towards this one spot I knew of to launch the boat. This guy pulls up next to me pulling an even bigger yacht. Suddenly he yells over at me, “Man, what do you do? Where do you get your financing?” He said, “Man, you are happening. Whatever you are doing, I want to be involved in it.” I told him I was involved in music and that I was looking for a backer. He asked me how much I needed and I told him $40,000. He said “Okay!” Three days later it was deposited in a bank account.
JAM: You have got to be kidding me?
This is a true story. I got this checkbook in the mail three days after I ran into that guy with my name on it and I called the bank to see if the money was really in there and it was. When that guy had pulled up next to me, I was flat broke. He thought I was the coolest guy he had ever seen and, you know, what do you do?
JAM: Let me see if I have this story straight. You are currently sitting here talking to me, with an eight-album deal under your belt from MCA Records, a hit single climbing the charts, and in the midst of a nationwide tour with the red hot Foreigner. None of this would have been possible if Gregg Guiffria had not decided to go broke in style by purchasing a small yacht he couldn’t afford and go cruising through Hollywood in style. A gentleman, pulling an even bigger boat that your own, just happens to pull up next to you, starts a conversation, thinks your cool and decides to back you on the spot to the tune of $40,000.
That is exactly what I am saying. The guy told me that he was a psychic and could tell if people are going to make it or not. He could tell by looking at me and decided in a matter of seconds he wanted to be part of anything I was going to do. It was the only conversation that I ever had with him. Of course we have talked subsequently after that, but honest to God, it is a true story.
JAM: I thought stuff like that only happened in the movies?
So did I!