Charlie Bagarozza
70’s rockers, Starz who released four albums from 1976-1978 on Capitol Records and were managed by former KISS manager Bill Aucoin are preparing to release a brand new studio album.  Although having a major hit single, “Cherry Baby,” in 1977 and their first two studio albums produced by Jack Douglas of Aerosmith fame, Starz have proven to be a major influence although extreme commercial success somehow eluded them.
Charlie Bagarozza sat down with founder and lead guitarist Richie Ranno to discuss his band Starz getting a new record contract, recording and releasing a new studio album in 2015 and a little Starz history.
A new deal with Italian label, Frontiers in hand and their upcoming album produced by Danger Danger’s Bruno Ravel, the as yet to be titled disc is a very welcome return for those of us who have been diehard fans of Starz since the band’s debut album in 1976
HA: How did the deal with Frontiers come about?
Richie:  Derek Oliver, writer for Kerrang & Raw magazines, among others & former Atco A&R man, saw us perform in London last December. He got in touch with us a couple of months ago & asked us if we would be interested in recording new songs for Frontiers. Naturally, we were happy to hear from him. We’re really excited about doing this.
HA: What is your opinion about today’s music climate towards hard rock music?
 Richie:  My opinion about today’s climate on hard rock is that it is absolutely terrible in the U.S. but European fans are still very much supportive of it. I don’t know what’s wrong with the country I live in but everything from lifestyle to music seems a bit out of whack on this side of the pond.
HA: Who makes up the current line-up of Starz besides yourself and original members Michael Lee Smith (lead vocals) and Joe X. Dube (drums)?
Richie: Okay, so joining Michael Lee, Joe Dube & I are George DiAna on bass (since 2003) and Alex Kane on guitar. Alex was in Life, Sex & Death, Anti-Product and tours with Richie Ramone.
HA: Who is writing the new songs and what is the writing process to create the new songs?
Richie: Well, Michael & I always wrote the bulk of Starz songs so we’ll continue in that direction but Alex is a prolific rock songwriter so I expect he’ll contribute quite a bit. We’re sending MP3s back & forth right now and will get together at some point in the near future and work the songs out.
HA: There are so many “bells and whistles” in the studio today, how do you think the new record will translate versus your last studio record from 1978, ‘Violation’?
Richie: Our last album was actually ‘Coliseum Rock.’ These days recording techniques are totally different so I really have no idea how they will compare. It’s disappointing that everyone listens to MP3s, a very low quality musical format. Sometimes technology can actually go backwards.
HA: How did you acquire the services of Bruno Ravel to produce the new Starz record?
Richie:  Bruno has been a good friend of mine since the mid-80s. He’s a big Starz fan and has a lot of experience producing/engineering albums. He mixed the live album ‘Extended Versions’ on Sony for us a few years back which was also released as a double album/CD in Europe through the now defunct Sanctuary label.
HA: What do you think will be your biggest challenge releasing a new studio record in 2015?
Richie: Biggest challenge for Starz? Finishing it!!
HA: So many rock and metal bands say that Starz were a major influence on their music, such as Poison and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue while a major rock magazine, Kerrang!, voted your 1978 record ‘Violation’ #84 and your debut from 1976 ‘Starz’ #94 on their 1989 list of the “Top 100 Metal Records Released.” To what do you attribute the accolades from these artists?
Richie: Gee, I don’t know what to say but it’s certainly flattering & gratifying to hear high praise from such major rock stars as Jon Bon Jovi, Poison, Motley Crue, Lars Ulrich and so many more.
HA: Being a huge KISS fan, I have to ask, what was it like being managed by Bill Aucoin, former KISS manager, and what involvement did Sean Delany have with Starz if any?
Richie: Bill was a great guy who we all miss very much. It was great in some ways to be managed by Aucoin management but it also had its downside. Having to be part of a management that had the biggest band in the world, Kiss, was a bit difficult. They weren’t very successful when we first signed with Bill in 1975 but that all changed quickly by the end of that year. Sean Delaney played a big part in Starz – he came up with the name, for one, and we really liked it so we used it. He also sat with us when we were writing our first album. If he heard something that he didn’t feel worked, he had no problem stopping us and letting us know. We took his criticism seriously and respected him greatly. I think he influenced our music from the early days on. We miss both Bill & Sean who left us at too young an age, as well as our bassist, Peter Sweval.
HA: Is there a working title for the new record and is there a scheduled release date yet?
Richie: We have a few titles we’re throwing around. I’m thinking it won’t be released until September but I’m hoping sooner.
HA: Last question, what do you see for the future of Starz?
Richie:  To be honest, I never look ahead or plan ahead. Just opens me up for disappointment. I take it a day at a time and try to enjoy it.
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