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THEN

From The Fire - 1990's
Deal signed, the band poses for its first official photos

FTF Studio shot
L to R: Tommy Lafferty, Paul St. James, J.D. Kelly,
Nadine Arel, Michael Sciotto. (Photos by Bob Gruen)

In September 1990, a band was formed to showcase the songwriting talents of New Jersey native Nadine Arel. Session and studio veteran Michael Sciotto was going to be the drummer; Paul St. James would play bass, and Arel would play keys.

Mike called Long Island singer J.D. Kelly to check out the material. Since he’d been a fan of Sciotto’s talents for a while, Kelly was anxious to meet the band – and it only took a few moments of listening to the songs to realize that the group’s potential was huge. Kelly joined “From The Fire” on the spot, and brought some songs of his own.

Only one piece was missing. Voodoo X Guitarist Tommy Lafferty – who had been in earlier bands with Kelly and Sciotto – was contacted to see if he knew of any guitar players looking for a gig. Tommy said, “Yeah… me!”, a reply that ultimately took the band from an unknown, unsigned act to a top-flight AOR outfit with a record deal – all in the space of a few days.

The next evening, Lafferty’s first rehearsal with the band led to a night of partying in NYC; it was while standing at the bar at Spodee Odee that Tommy was approached by a promoter who asked if he’d want to play at a tribute to the recently-deceased Stevie Ray Vaughan. The event would be at The Ritz, on 11th Street, the following week. Lafferty said yes – then called the band members (at 3AM) to tell them the news.

At that gig, From The Fire was noticed by independent label execs Mark Brian Levine and Steven Marder, who approached the group after their set and offered a contract with their label, Metropolis Records. The timing was right, the label offer was a great one, and the band members knew that opportunity was knocking… loudly.

 

IN THE STUDIO:

FTF in the studio
Mike at the drums.

What happened next was a blur of contract signings, packing, and flying out to Los Angeles to meet producer Jean Beauvoir and co-producer/Engineer Pat Regan at Fortress Sound. The band shared a rented ’90 Chrysler New Yorker, and the keys to a condo near Paramount Studios. The first week saw  intense rehearsal, and the choosing of nine songs for the album, including two covers: the Lafferty/Beauvoir composition “Same Song”, and a cover of Eric Carmen’s classic “Go All The Way”.

Engineer- proucers Pat Regan and Jean Beauvoir at the console
Engineer- proucers Pat Regan and Jean Beauvoir
at the consoles

The song choices had as much to do with available time as they did musical taste: the band had thirty days to get everything recorded, mixed, and mastered, working seven days a week, on a schedule of early days and late nights. Beauvoir’s expertise and organizational skills paid off; basic tracks and keyboards were laid in and finessed. Next, it was Lafferty’s turn to get the overdubbed guitars layered on and done. Then came the vocals – and the chance for Lafferty, Sciotto, and Kelly to blend their voices on backgrounds. A last minute decision brought in the formidable talent of Teresa Straley of Harlow as the female voice in a powerful duet called “Spark and Flame”. So perfectly were the voices matched that, though the song would ultimately sound like Kelly and Straley were facing each other, in reality, Straley’s schedule had mandated her recording her track one evening while the band was out doing publicity.

Jean directs Nadine on a keyboard passage
Jean directs Nadine on a keyboard passage

That part of the process – being seen at places like Spice, The Roxbury, and the L.A. China Club, were all part of the band’s schedule, set up by publicist Dineen Mancuso. During the days, it was the band who were paid visits, from the likes of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley from Kiss,  and the lovely Cynthia Brimhall – a redheaded stunner also known as Playboy Magazine’s Miss October 1985.

The band gets loose
The band gets loose after a long day at Fortress

WRAPPING THINGS UP:

J.D., Tommy, and Mike doing background vocals
J.D., Tommy, and Mike doing background vocals

By the time five of the six weeks had passed, it was apparent to everyone that the band had done something special. Rough mixes were promising a wall of sound and slick production. At the core, strong performances had set a great foundation for Beauvoir and Regan’s polish and finesse, and the combination gave the album a slick, top-class feel.

Bright future
Bright future

Christmas 1990 was approaching, and the group was tired, happy, and longing to be back home. While From The Fire prepared to return to the New York tri-state area, Beauvoir and Regan stayed behind at Fortress Sound to reset the studio and mix the album.

J.D. doing keys for "Tears Cried in the Rain"
J.D. doing keys for "Tears Cried in the Rain".

A late night session of a different kind had taken place back at the band’s condo a few nights before; there, Tommy revealed a piece of art work done by tattoo god Cuda Vendetta – a phoenix rising from a torch. Though the Vendetta artwork never appeared on any of the band’s releases, it inspired FTF to look ahead. They had another reason to be happy: after weeks of trying to title the upcoming collection of songs, those long days and even longer nights had inspired a simple name that said it all: “Thirty Days and Dirty Nights”.

As 1991 dawned, the band, like that phoenix, flew away home.


The band hangs with Pat Regan, Max Norman, and Jean Beauvoir at a "wrap" party in LA.

CHANGES;

Tommy at an upstate NY gig
Tommy at an upstate NY gig.

Record contracts, in and of themselves, aren’t a guarantee of success, and the contract that From The Fire had with Metropolis Records required the label to get distribution for “Thirty Days” within a year of the album’s completion. As the winter grit and slush of New York City became spring, then summer and fall, it became apparent that  nobody in the United States was interested, despite the fact that the album was already done. Grunge was in, glam was out, and the face of music was changing.

JD and Paul St. James
JD and Paul St. James

The band, who had retained a manager, went into a holding pattern, playing the occasional showcase for interested labels and investors – none of which ever followed through. The live performances proved a strain for Nadine, who decided to leave the group and pursue her growing songwriting career; shortly thereafter, Paul St. James also left. Paul Morris joined the band on keyboards, and Thaddeus Castanis took up the bass.

The Belgian magazine Rock Report
The Belgian magazine Rock Report

Then, a European label called Active Records grabbed the chance to sell the album across the Atlantic. Music for Nations pressed the release – replete with new photos of the lineup – and slated it for distribution throughout the continent after Christmas, 1991. Initial reviews were phenomenal;Raw, Kerrang, Metal Edge, and the Belgian magazineRock Report all praised the record – the latter, in Flemish. The band continued to rehearse and write songs, some of which were demo’d in a crude home studio in Kelly’s apartment. The recording gear was nothing special, but those songs – including a cover of Brett Smiley’s “Blame it on the Moon”, personally delivered to the band by legendary rock impresario Andrew Loog Oldham, were. 1992 promised to be interesting. And, it was.


Mike Sciotto's trap case

 


 

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