Aldo Nova Shares Why He Disappeared After His Hit ‘Fantasy’
If you’re old enough to have watched MTV in 1982, you may recall this: A video featuring a shaggy-haired rocker in a leopard-print jumpsuit who emerges from a helicopter, grabs a laser-spewing electric guitar from a minion, then launches into the catchy pop-rock hit “Fantasy” on a stadium stage. The clip would have appeared between Billy Squier’s “Rock Me Tonight” [speaking of iconic if misguided outfits] and, say, Pat Benatar’s “Love Is a Battlefield.”
If you don’t remember, well, “Fantasy” has nearly seven million views on YouTube, proof of the song’s staying power. Also, Aldo Nova, the Canadian songwriter, frontman, guitarist and producer responsible for the tune, is only too happy refresh your memory about his self-titled breakthrough album, and work since. Nova—who won a 1997 Grammy for writing and producing on Celine Dion’s blockbuster Falling Into You, was also closely associated with Bon Jovi and has written for dozens of other artists—is frank, funny and only too happy to explain what his latest 2.0 release is all about.
I listened to the song “Fantasy” on 2.0 and the original back to back… why did you decide to “reinvent” the songs from this 1982 album?
On “Fantasy” 2.0 there are guitars added in the breaks, longer solo sections, breakdowns. The reason why I started doing 2.0 is because a fan on Facebook reminded me that April 1, 2017, it was going to be the 35th anniversary of my first album. Most bands just remaster and change the artwork, which is what I heard Sony was going to do with my album. April 1, 1982, is the day all my dreams came true from being a kid and learning how to play guitar. I wanted to do something special. I decided I was going to keep the innocence of the songs, but turbo-charge them, make something new. Hence 2.0. I loved “Fantasy” the way it was, but I wanted to show the evolution of where I’m at as an artist now.
Over the decades your voice and playing must have changed?
I think my voice got better. The beauty of it is: most guys they have to change keys, go lower, whereas “Fantasy” on the first record is in G-minor, and still is on 2.0. My voice has more of an identity now, and more intent. I sing like I really mean it now.
In short, back in the day, Sony Records were dicks to you and you got out of your deal. But they still did reissues...
They reissued the first album and Subject, and it was really badly done. They took pictures off my Facebook fan page and used an old interview that they said was new. I have unpaid royalties since 1984. When I turned 60, I was like, ‘I’ve had enough litigation, enough of everything;' let’s just turn the page, and that wasn’t enough. Then I decided I wanted to write a new book! The problem is it’s called the ‘music business.’ I’m an artist. I do music obviously not for the money—I put out a record every 30 years and you hardly see me; it’s not like I’m out doing photo ops. 2.0 wasn’t some record company exec going, ‘We have a great idea!’ It was my idea, and I paid for it myself. Lock, stock and barrel.
I was so sorry to read in your bio that your wife passed away. Did those surely overwhelming emotions inspire you to write, to try to get some catharsis?
No. I look at death as a new beginning; a door opening up rather than something to be sad about. My wife was with me the whole time; she was a very crucial part making this album, the arranging, the encouraging, the support. She was with me from the first note to the last note. She was really helpful. Her passing… the tragedy in somebody’s death, especially someone like my wife’s, is not the passing; the tragedy is the diagnosis. When you’re sitting in the office and the doctor comes in to say, ‘You’ve got inoperable pancreatic cancer, you have so long to live.' That’s what kills you. Don’t take this badly, but at the end, she was in so much pain, I literally prayed that God would come and take her by the hand.
When she passed away, I could have gone back to doing drugs and drinking, but what I did instead, it reinforced me, a million times stronger. I started working out six, seven days a week. I went on special diets. It really forced me to find somebody to distribute the album and get everything out.
Since 2.0 is sort of a reintroduction, how do you plan to reach new listeners? Is a re-intro how reach new fans?
I think the music sounds modern enough. It’s more a rebirth than a reintroduction. The record, I didn’t do a 180, I did a 360. Let’s put it in science fiction terms: The first album exists, I exist there. What I did, I shot it into the future, and have the same songs in the 21st century. People who hear those 2.0 versions who never heard the first ones will consider them new songs. A lot of my fans say they’re new songs with old lyrics. I’ll leave it up to listeners. If it does well, it does well. I’m proud of it. Music is music; it’s subjective.
When was last time you played “Fantasy” live?
I’m really intent on touring a lot this year. That’s probably why I’m in such good shape; the last thing people want to see onstage is a balding, 300-pound guy with no voice who can’t play guitar, using a walker. I consider that disrespectful to the audience. The touring, yes, I want to, but the logistics now, they just want to put you with the classic rock bands that are constantly on tour, criss-crossing the country, or playing scattered fairgrounds, where you make money, but don’t see a lot of people. I want to do the opposite, what I did in the ‘80s; get on a bus and tour and play as many towns and cities as I can. Like a Jehovah’s Witness of rock; instead of selling Watchtowers, I’m selliing 2.0.
Within a few years of “Fantasy,” you’d really disappeared. Over the years, was there anything you considered doing, you know, Dancing with the Stars or whatever they came after you for?
Not at all. This was a calculated move on my part, 27 years ago, to absolutely not be seen. It was by design. I refused it all, I wasn’t on any TV shows. I got offered tons of money to go on tour. I said, ‘No way, I’m going to do it when I have something I believe in to sell.’
Many musicians have such big egos, they need to chase fame.
A lot of people I know need their ego fed. I don’t have an ego. I didn’t need my ego fed. I’ll have dinner with one person and telling jokes, having them laugh, is as satisfying as being in front of 100,000 people. It doesn’t make a difference to me.
You won a Grammy for your work with Celine Dion. How meaningful is that?
Not as meaningful if it had been for my music. When you write for someone else you have to put yourself in their shoes. When I wrote for Celine, I had to put myself in the shoes of a woman who was expecting a child. I have to imagine that the child is a miracle and write it from her perspective. I always write from first-person, but in that case, that person was really far removed from me! If I’d won a Grammy for myself, my own style and guitar… I don’t live vicariously through other people. I write all different styles of music, and I really enjoy it. I love pop, all music and I can write all kinds, all the way to classical. But for another person, it’s not even close to satisfying.
Have there been time periods when you didn’t write a song for years, or didn’t play for years?
Yeah, it happened. I went through a lot of hard times. There were times when I was so low I saw a snake’s ass. The last thing you want to do is pick up a guitar. Now, I can’t get enough of playing guitar, where I didn’t touch it for almost four years before that.
What about new music?
From February 2008 to 2016 I was writing a rock opera. I wrote 142 songs. I’d scrap old ones, write new ones. I ended up with 32 songs with all different characters. I play the whole cast, I change my voice on every song. It’s called The Life and Times of Eddie Gage. It’s about light and dark. The rock opera, a new album; I also have a hard drive of like 287 songs, finished, just sitting there, that no one has ever heard. I may just bombard the airwaves with my music! They’ll get sick of me right away. They’ll go, ‘Can you please go away again?’
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