Dino Sorbello | Interview

February 9, 2021

Dino Sorbello | Interview

Dino Sorbello of The Laughing Sky, former member of Blacklight Chameleons, Mad Violets and occasional theremin player for Those American Girls talks about his career.

“When life and views of the universe and music and fate and magic all come together”

When did you begin playing music? What was your first band?

Dino Sorbello: I came late to playing music. I was 19 when I first tried actually playing the guitar. I got my first band together in 1979 in the Harrisburg PA area. We called ourselves The Kripples because everyone in the band had some sort of physical injury or another they always had to attend to, except me of course. We were already going for originals as well as the usual covers…when Three Mile Island happened. By then we were already driving into New York City to visit Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, seeing all the original punk era bands. So TMI became my excuse to get out of sleepy backward Harrisburg and move to NYC. Good move I’d say. It was very cheap to live there and very very exciting. I jammed with all kinds of folks. Learned a lot about the world. At one point I was working at a giant three floor night club called Privates, on the upper east side, when I became involved with the MC there, a girl named Wendy Wild, who did hilarious skits onstage between bands. She was working on a song called ‘Psilocybe’ (and handing out mushrooms from the stage at the downtown clubs where she also did performance art), and wanted me to throw in some guitar ideas. We started a band. We shared a rehearsal space with some other Harrisburg ex-pats called Tina Peel. When their guitarist Rudi Protrudi saw that we were covering songs from Pebbles and writing along those lines he said “Wow! You could do a whole set of those great songs and no one would ever know you didn’t write them!” The very next day he changed the name of his band to The Fuzztones, which we thought was impossibly generic, but the rest is history, isn’t it?

The name Mad Violets I had from a previous project so we re-instated that as our name. We did local gallery shows (Wendy doing the mushroom ritual to our song ‘Psilocybe’…) and started playing all the other downtown clubs, then started doing local tours, many to Boston, DC etc.

Blacklight Chameleons in 1985

What do you think about psychedelic rock music? What are some of the influences?

To me, that’s the only kind of music that makes me want to play in the first place. When life and views of the universe and music and fate and magic all come together, it’s life itself. Some music is influenced by psychedelic experience, some music is actually meant to be experienced while in that state, where it doesn’t open up and give you the full experience until you are opened up. My list of favorites would fill a page. The Doors, The Beatles, early Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, The Ventures, 13th Floor Elevators, on and on…surf psychedelic garage rock and roll.

Blacklight Chameleons | Vanity Fair march 1985

What’s the story behind collaborating on ‘Here To Eternity With The Godz’, a 2019 documentary. 

I was approached by the filmmaker, as he had seen me performing theremin with Jynx Lynx in our local East Village duo Jynx & Dino. I’ve been playing theremin for years, and everyone should hire me. Hear Me Sean? Haha. I followed along with a copy of the film and played along appropriately until I had recorded proper moments. These were then added in and jiggled about to perfection in the film-editing process. He went on to curate a fantastic psychedelic film festival, including his documentary, that I must say really did have psychedelic proper films to see. There were so many I never got to remember who made them of even their titles, but all were fairly recent and very inspiring, colorful and positive really.

The Third Half (1989) | A quick project featuring Abbey Lavine on vocals, Freddie Katz bass (top) Ken Anderson drums (right). “We did the Eye -In-The-Pyramid as tribute to Roky and to The Iluminatus! Trilogy book.”

What’s the story behind your 2013 EP ‘Dino’?

It is your classic ‘vanity press’ . I had some songs I was kicking around and a few different options for recording. Also I had some loose cash at that time. If I had a band going the song arrangements might have turned out different, maybe better, maybe not. Likely some of the tunes will resurface later as they are, or rewritten in some new project.

Most of this record was recorded and coproduced by Mike Musmanno, a devotee of the classic old school LA style let’s-make-a-record, and a fellow Pennsylvanian transplanted to NYC like myself. So you hear a different production in the songs when you get to the last one, ‘Happily I Live’, which was recorded entirely by myself at Excello Studios in glorious Brooklyn NY, place I visit at least once every two years. I particularly like that song, the openness of the sound worked well, and the lyrics spell out that good outlook in my life. A personal philosophy, autographical.

Then I went and fixed up the artwork itself for the second pressing, after the first one sold out, so hey kids, look for that white background cover for the most eBay max resale value ahem. It’s an ok record. In the words of punk rock praise: it doesn’t suck.

“Over the years [David] Peel and I hung out a lot”

Blacklight Chameleons in 1985
Blacklight Chameleons in 1987 | Now with Sharon on vocals, Marlyn Doherty on bass and Mark Wolf on drums

How did you meet Jynx Lynx?

I have to thank John Lennon and Janis Joplin for getting me introduced to Jynx Lynx. I met David Peel in Washington Sq. Park, like a trillion other kids, in 1978. I was interested in knowing him as he was so famously a friend of John Lennon, who himself was still popping up in the neighborhood a lot in those days. Over the years Peel and I hung out a lot, played some shows (one in Boston in front of 60,000, I thought “I could get used to this!”) and I recorded some songs with him. One day he says “hey come with me to see Sam Andrews Band, he’s playing at a local bar, you know, he’s the guitarist from Big Brother…?” So I went along to check out San Francisco rock royalty. Jynx was singing backup vocals and I was hooked at first sight. The rest is “herstory”. Dino Sorbello

John Wisniewski

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