PHIL ALLOCCO INTERVIEW:
December 23, 2004
Readers may remember Phil Allocco as the guitarist for the critically acclaimed New York band Law And Order. The band only released two albums before drifting apart, but Phil resurfaced in Dogma and became very busy outside the world of music. Chances are you’ve seen a website he has designed or watched a television show he was involved in without even realizing. With Law And Order’s long lost album The Glass House due for release early next year, Phil agreed to talk about his past and bright future.
SR: Law And Order has a new release coming out titled The Glass House. Give us some history on the recording of this album.
PA: The record was recorded in our house. We all lived together on one floor and the second floor was a loft that we turned into a recorded and rehearsal studio. The record was all written and recorded at the same time.
SR: How does the music compare to the other Law And Order albums?
PA: I think we really found our sound on this record. If we continued we probably would have hooked up with a name producer and re-recorded the record. I really like the fact that the record is being released the way we produced it without the influence of the label or a producer trying to make it more whatever.
SR: Will there be any tour dates to promote the album?
PA: We have no plans right now, but you never know.
SR: How did Law And Order come together?
PA: Sean and I were trying to form a band and Shane and Rob were trying to form a band. We all knew Scott Koenig who became our manager back then and he brought us together.
SR: Famed producer Daniel Rey handled the recording of your demo, how did a young up-start band manage that?
PA: It was fun. Daniel was really cool. It was still very early for us and I don’t think we had a real grasp of our direction. It was a step toward finding that out.
SR: Why was the decision made to head from New York to Memphis for the recording of the debut? What was that atmosphere like?
PA: I think it was suggested by our A&R person Bruce Dickenson (Not from Iron Maiden). There was a strong blues influence especially on the first record “Guilty of Innocence.” We all felt that getting out of NY and going to a place where we could be surrounded by great blues musicians would be a positive influence. We also thought we would be able to focus more, being away from the NY scene. I don’t know if it helped us focus more or not – I think we went out and got wasted much more there than NY.
SR: Why was Rob Steele unable to record the second album?
PA: There were lots of problems for all of us after the first record. MCA really screwed up our record and had trouble breaking any band at the time. We had so much press and such a buzz – Our first US tour was co-headlining with Mother Love Bone, but a few days before the first date Andrew Wood died. We were going to continue but the label pulled our tour support and we stayed home, unable to promote our record but very able to get into trouble. Some of that trouble led to differences with Rob. Rob did come back during the recording of the second record and played on one of the unreleased songs.
SR: Law And Order was always lumped in with the hair metal scene, yet your music often transcended genres. Did this help or hurt the band’s ability to sell records?
PA: I don’t know how the band got lumped in like that. I think it’s because we broke up right before the grunge scene really took over and we had not established our own career. I think what really hurt the band was lack of touring and horrible support by MCA. The funny part is that they didn’t even want to let us go. They wouldn’t support us, but they wouldn’t let us go. By the time we went bankrupt to break our contract and record “The Glass House,” we were already looked at by other labels as part of the past scene.
SR: You toured with Pearl Jam and Blind Melon, and while I hear elements of both in your music, how did grunge audiences react to Law And Order?
PA: There wasn’t a separate Grunge only scene yet and I don’t think there was two separate scenes as much as one evolved into the other. I remember the shows going over well. Law and Order didn’t fit in with the hair bands at that time – we weren’t into make up or hairspray and I remember an article saying we weren’t good looking or pretty enough, like Poison or something. We weren’t into that Glam stuff at all. As far as image we were into Zeppelin mostly.
SR: What were the circumstances behind the group filing for bankruptcy, was the breakup inevitable at that time?
PA: Under the advice of our management and Lawyer, we went bankrupt to break our contract with MCA.
SR: You and Sean Carmody later formed Dogma. How did that band come to be, and how would you describe the music?
PA: We just continued to do what we loved to do and started Dogma as soon as Law and Order was over. The music was honest and confessional. To me Dogma was a continuation of everything I was trying to do in Law and Order. Sean and I worked the same way. The only difference was I was fronting it.
SR: Is Dogma still together? Is any new material being worked on?
PA: No, Dogma is not together. To me our second record was the best thing I had done musically. I was very proud of it and felt it was the best I could do. When Island and Def Jam merged they brought in a new head of A&R, Jeff Fenster. He dropped the band before the record was released. So I still have an unreleased Dogma record that no one will hear. It was and is very depressing. There is always new material in the sense that I pop out a new song every now and then.
SR: You have also branched out into web design, writing, directing and producing. Was music no longer paying the bills, or was it just time to try something new?
PA: I think I was so heartbroken about the second Dogma record and the very hard time I had being signed for ten years but not ever being in a position to get past a certain point – that I just had it. I got into we design for money which I needed badly – then I got into writing, directing and producing because I just love to make stuff and if its not music I have to make something. Actually I have always been fascinated by film and TV and have found it creatively more challenging and more satisfying.
SR: A short film you created called Delivered has gotten some critical acclaim. Tell us about it and what it is like to work on such a project.
PA: Its fun! I love it. Film is in some ways like a band, you’re working with a team of people to try to create something and capture some magic. You make it and then you put it out there and hope it connects.
SR: You have written several scripts, how does the process differ from that of writing songs?
PA: A song can be written in a few moments of inspiration. A script takes time, a lot of time. Like a song you are still waiting and trying to keep yourself open for something to hit you from nowhere – but it feels much more like sculpture to me. You are working at it, first with broad strokes then refining it and solving problems along the way.
SR: You work on TLC’s Repo Man which stars Vincent Pastore. What is it like watching the repo men work? Do you ever worry that if you had to run for your lives Vincent would get left behind?
PA: I never had it happen with Vincent but in Hawaii, of all places, my crew and I were attacked by a debtor after a car chase. He tried to trash all our gear and wanted to kill us. Pretty crazy.
SR: Between music, directing, producing and all of your other artistic endeavors, does any one give you more satisfaction than the others?
PA: I would say writing and directing. To have a story you create and then to turn it into a film, it’s just amazing.
SR: What are the biggest differences you see from the music industry of today as compared to the late 80s?
PA: I think in the late 80’s we all thought we could have lifetime careers making music, where today, I think, a lot of the kids making do not. The record industry has become less and less about the artist. When I was first signed they had a position at the labels called Artist Development, they we’re there to help you refine your career. They used to say it took three records for an artist to really find their sound. That is all gone now. It’s all about a hit record right away or you’re dropped. Sometimes you can even have a hit record and the second doesn’t do as well and you’re dropped. It’s much harder now for artists.
SR: After the Dimebag Darrell tragedy, will accessibility to the fans worry you?
PA: I don’t know what to think of that. It is so bizarre and tragic. I don’t think it changes the way I think or act, there are always crazy people out there who do things like that, you can’t change that and its nothing new. Remember John Lennon in 1980?
SR: Do you think Law And Order will ever enter the studio to record new material?
PA: I really don’t know. Maybe, if there was a good reason for it.
SR: Looking back on your career, what stands out as the high points and biggest disappointments?
PA: I had a lot of disappointments, the high point for me was probably when we went to Memphis and received the keys to the city at the same time we were having a listening party for all the people from the press we flew down to hear record.
Thanks to Phil Allocco