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A Dirty Dozen with JOSEPH AZZOPARDI from UPPER LIP – April 2021

| 22 April 2021 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “German heavy metal/hard rock label PRIDE & JOY MUSIC is happy to announce the signing of the Maltese hard rock group UPPER LIP! Hailing from Gozo (the land of the Megalithic Temples in the heart of the Maltese Archipelago Islands), UPPER LIP spurs nostalgic, groovy hard rock music with a passion to its genre! Their main influences derive from the splendid nature surrounding the beautiful Island and Rock acts such as Rush, AC/DC, Rory Gallagher to the Smiths, Captain Beyond, and even Waylon Jennings! Since their inception in 2013, the band has played several gigs and festivals on the Islands to a very warm welcome from the rock music fans which swiftly translate to more gig invitations. Fast-forward to 2019, the band embarked on a massive project to work on their first studio album. The recordings took place at Temple Studios. UPPER LIP recorded 11 original tracks which portrays the groove and live energy that the band is so much noted for.” We get guitarist Joseph to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Deep Within our album is our latest and debut release! It brings to the fore a concoction of riffs, guitar solos, catchy vocals and emotive ballads. The album is addicting and the more you listen to it the more you want to listen to it again. I believe our fans will appreciate how varied this album is and that there is something for everyone in it. There is a surprise instrumental track right in the middle of the album with the same album title name. I’m sure it will go down nicely with our fans!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I have started playing guitar when I was sixteen years old, quite at a relatively old age. However, I remember when I very young, I must have been six or so, our local football team won the league and there was a big celebration in my village. My father took me there and I remember looking with a sense of awe towards a band that were booked to play during that particular night. Deep down I felt that when I grew up I had to be on a stage as well and that’s what made me become a musician.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

One particular song that has put me in the right direction if I may say so is “Thunderstruck.” The raw energy that this song emits is out of this world, it never gets old. We used to get drunk and go into discothèques waiting eagerly for the DJ to switch to some rock music and then when we used to hear that iconic intro riff and we used to go crazy. In addition, I had the opportunity of watching AC/DC playing it live, it was an experience that I can never forget!

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

My man five musical influences would be for sure Rory Gallagher, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, Ritchie Blackmore and Jimi Hendrix. I’m really fond of these guitar gods and how they managed to elevate the music we all love.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

I would love to collaborate with Dave Grohl. He is such a multi-talented artist and although I have never met him I feel that he is a very humble and down to earth guy. His musicianship is second to none feel, he is a musical genius. Really inspiring person.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Our music is derived from personal experiences and moments in life which people can relate to. Stylistically the album is influenced by the classic rock acts of the 70’s and 80’s. However, one can also experience certain elements coming from the alternative scene, folk and country. Well someone said that it kind of reminds him of Led Zeppelin, which is fine for me to be honest. Who wouldn’t like to be associated with such an esteemed band?

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Undoubtedly, it’s our rhythm guitar player Paul. He’s our jack of all traits and most of the time he puts his band mates before everything else. When we were recording at Temple Studios, I was really in dire need of some whiskey, without saying anything he went to the store and bought some Chivas Rigal for me. That’s what band mates are for. Right?

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

It happened four years ago in December in New York. My friends and I were eating at this fancy restaurant in Tribeca and my friend Matt was just talking about famous people who tend to dine in here and out of all these names he also mentioned the lead singer from Spin Doctors. The same night we had tickets for a show at this venue called Rock Wood and we ended up arriving late. The the act we supposedly saw was already finished, so we waited for the following act. There was this guy on the stage all by himself and his 1950’s Gibson acoustic. I love vintage guitars and we started talking. Jokingly this person said that he collects band names and I suggested one which he seemed to like. After a few minutes the show started and Chris Barron introduced himself as the lead singer from Spin Doctors. Can you belief this? We were just mentioning him an hour before. My friends and I started looking at each other in disbelief. After the show we hung out together with Chris, his wife and a friend of hers who had actually spent three months in Malta.  We went to see this grunge band that was playing at the same venue and after a couple of songs the water pipes broke, water started flooding the whole place. There was instant commotion, the band started removing the equipment as fast as they could.  We could see sparks and smoke and then after a few minutes the fire brigade eventually came. Together with Chris we went to another spot near the venue and we ended up chatting all night! Chris even jokingly smelled my hair and said that it smells really good! He even asked his wife to do the same!  It surely was a night to remember.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Apart from the joys of performing in front of an audience, I believe that that there is something spiritual in playing music. I find music really fulfilling and as cliché as it might sound playing is the best way to express yourself, to pour out your soul. Without music I would probably still continue to teach! I love teaching and I want to inspire kids to keep going and never lose hope.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

There isn’t any particular question which really bothers me, however I don’t really like to speak about how certain songs came about! I prefer the listener to interpret them in his/her own way. A question that I would like an interviewer to ask me is why the Gibson SG is my first preference when it comes to a gig! The answer would be very simple, it’s a very light guitar and for me it has the best Rock sound!

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

There is one particular moment, which might be interpreted as a misstep. I feel that during the recording of our latest album, we didn’t know what we’re getting into! Studio recording is fun but it’s damn hardwork. It was our first time in a professional studio and we never experienced anything of the sort. It took us a couple of days to adjust but we eventually pulled through. Our producer David really believed in us and pushed us to our limits. We’re really proud of this album.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

This is a tough question! There are so many records which I would have loved to be part of. However, if I have to choose one, I would choose Led Zeppelin IV. This record really left an imprint on me when I was younger and it made me appreciate the different dimension a guitar could take! There is a mystical aura surrounding this album and undeniably, every track is a masterpiece. Even making coffee for Jimmy Page during those sessions would have been enough!

BONUS QUESTION – Due to the current world situation with COVID-19 / quarantine / shelter in place, what have you discovered you miss the most from your life before the pandemic struck?

I know it might sound obvious but I actually really miss the stage. The energy you feel in front of a live audience is second to none. When you’re performing you are pouring your soul out in front of everyone and when the audience reciprocates you feel that sort of magical connection. Now it is as if we’re on an indefinite break. I miss also the constant rehearsals at the garage! So I’m really looking forward for the band to get back on track!




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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