Love Pearl Jam? Then you will love this band as they perform Pearl Jam cover songs all over the San Francisco Bay Area. They've performed at one of my favorite haunts, Santana Row, as well as numerous other venues. Their lead singer, Michael Vigil, is the guy in pink. He just performed at the Aloha Jam, singing a song dedicated to Andy Irons, and the song was very well received. Several famed surfing legends are now enjoying a copy of his CD.
Like all great stories, let's start from the beginning. When did you first start performing?
Hmm, does that question include air jamming? Seriously, probably back in the 7th grade after I got my first drum kit. I grew up a drummer because I loved Stewart Copeland and the Police and I was terribly shy to be on stage, but I loved bashing the drums… I used to play with my twin brothers Mario and Maurice. Both of them were keyboardist at the time. My parents sacrificed their living room for our instruments for years. We would rehearse songs for hours together like, OMD, Police, Tears For Fears, U2 and Duran Duran…
Nice! Love those bands. So every former 90's high school gal would like to know if there were any Battle of The Bands contests or competitions in your past?
Funny you ask, yes, we did one in High School, my brothers and I including a Church friend of ours, Dan. He was older and we used to play weddings to parties and finally entered a High School battle. We were a lot more seasoned then some of the kids, but we did covers and they did originals, plus we had a phat PA system. We won, playing songs from Depeche Mode and U2. Even though we won, it felt weird because I remember all the other kids trying really hard to create that good sound with their early instruments and songwriting skills. Looking back, we should have not entered, so in hindsight, they won in my eyes for putting themselves out there like that.
There are a lot of stellar bands from the 90's, like Metallica, Nirvana, Alice in Chains... How did you settle on Pearl Jam? Why not cover a host of bands or go with a different one?
Well, today I’ve covered a ton from Creedance to Elvis to Frank over the years. Why PJ for the tribute? Because I’ve played in originals and there’s that pressure to make good sounding music and the song writing has to be there for crowds to show up. PJ was just easy because I dig all their songs . I was thinking about doing a Deftones group, but it might be too Metal for some audiences and clubs. I enjoy singing and playing with people and creating mood on stage. Extending the feeling of emotions, that’s my drug of choice.
Nice to hear someone doing a healthy drug for a change! If we only had a laugh track I'd insert it here. I'm high on Twix right now. Halloween is a trigger for me. Which song by Pearl Jam inspires you the most?
It would have to be the first ever performance of “Jeremy” at the 92 VMA’s at UCLA. I was still drumming for the most part and dabbling with singing, but when I first saw that performance, my world changed completely. I know that sounds funny, but I was 21 years old, and really grasping at music for a sense of difference. At that time a lot of people were raving and taking E. I was looking for that same fix and I found it in music… so that performance, if you watch it again today, was really mind blowing. This guy’s singing with his guts hanging out about a kid who is so abused by his classmates and has the balls to pull out a gun and get them all back by erasing himself in front of them all and Eddie’s channeling that… now that was powerful and moving on a visceral level. I was all in after that.
Tell us about your original songs. Where can we hear some airplay?
I have not pushed anything to a Major yet so the airplay thing is not possible now. That would involve a full album followed up by more touring and I’m not ready for that again.
I’m weird when it comes to song writing. I love ROCK and Metal, but I just picked up a Ukulele so what the hell? I just enjoy learning new songs and instruments and hearing how my voice sounds against different sound space. I love screaming against rock guitars, and enjoy keeping whispering melodies against keyboards and phat beats. For example I did a remake of The Killers – Mr. Brightside. I was a total fluke, I was rehearsing for a show and had come across that song, I was humming the melodie and my guitarist had this odd tuning and on the guitar and well it just ached out of me. I take the negative of the song, slow it down and really make it melancholy. I love beats and making them. I use a ROLAND R-8 and came up with a simple beat with the 808 kick and just played it against the guitars… loved it. Went to the studio and recorded it in the studio. I have some pretty talented musical friends and they all added to the song… you can hear it on Youtube for now.
I have some Rock stuff I did from a band called, GRATIS. That was with my brothers and brother in law. Experimental, we did some shows, but never toured on that project.
From that band, I have some songs called, “L.A. Novia” about a girl somebody hooked me up with, but she lived in Los Angeles and I was up here in San Ffancisco. We would talk all the time and I just remember her having the softest most relaxing voice. I think I told her that if I were a blind man, and the world was on fire, it’s her voice I’d want to be my guide, and that ended up being the opening lyric to the song.
I have another one called “Oxygen.” It’s about the trials and tribulations of life and the need to keep climbing the proverbial mountain of life. When you’re knocked down, you got to get back up and keep marching upward . I think that came out after climbing Mission Peak for the first time and watching Sir Edmond Hillary and his Sherpa Norgen Tengay.
Somebody asked me about a song I wrote when I was 18, called “Freedom through the cracks.” I just pulled it last week for him, still love that song. I have Martin Luther King opening that one up for me. Yeah, crazy. I’m a big MLK Jr. fan. That one’s about illegals coming into America looking for a new life. I had a cousin cross the bored illegally, not sure why? He could have called my mom, his aunt. Weirdo, but I think at that time I was seeing this girl from Coronado CA and well, she was the first to take me to TJ. We were supposed to party for New Years, but what I saw was pretty poor stuff and well, I was not used to seeing that when I would visit Mexico, my mom’s parents had money, so this was a hard shock for me.
I have more, I’ll be post some of them up in the following days… just busy writing these days and trying to sound clever in songs.
Where can fans obtain a CD of your music? Right now I only have a few going up on itunes but
if you want some music, hit me up on FB or come out to the shows.
The less than a minute gigs on FB probably leave most viewers wanting more. Why are the videos so short? That’s because it’s usually me on the camera. I can’t sing and hold a camera very well. I have to hire a professional for the camera or something.
I'd suggest having sober friends do it for you, but there's probably no such a thing at Santana Row.
Why did you guys decide to play there?
I like to celebrate my birthdays at Santa Row and one birthday I was walking to Maggiano’s, a little tipsy from my room and ran into this guy setting up his drums and noticed it was a party out there. A perfect place for people to meet and hang out and listen to music so, it just started like that.
I‘ve played there a few times in different projects. Great place to have all your friends come out without charging a door cover. So it works
When you write your originals, what themes are the most inspirational for you? Romance? People? Places? Things?
Oh man, that’s a good one. I think Life in general. People are a trip. We have people who hate, love, have sex for a living, rob, make funny videos, kill, surf, and just trippy people, so life.
People who inspire me are? My parents, still married, still carrying on, getting old together. Growing older really gives you perspective on where you came from. Some people don’t like knowing where they came from. I love where I came from. My blood line survived Vietnam, traveled from Mexico, France and Spain. It has heavy religious seeds in it which I think really guided me in times where I needed it. I respect all who give respect and make small contributions with their time here on this planet. MLK JR, Armstong, Chavez, Vox, Vedder, Moreno, Teresa, to name a few.
There is this one High school friend I knew from Newark who has really blown me away in her character growth. She started this “Compassion Network” Organization that helps others live better lives, if you’re hungry, she’s there. If you’re homeless, she’s there. Who does that today? People like that are amazing to me. I lead such a selfish life at times. It’s all about me baby!! I’m kidding. I do a lot of charity and volunteer work on my own. Karma baby. “Do not with-hold good from those who deserve it, when it’s in your power to act.” is a motto I saw on a fence when I was working in New Orleans for a Katrina trip.
I'd venture to say all artists are philanthropists in a sense. Or they should be. As an artist, what or who would you say is your greatest inspiration and why?
Growing, in character, because without that you stay stupid. Personal growth was never something I thought about until I met a man by the name of Brad Wolgmott.
After this interview we all must google Brad Wolgmott! If you could advise someone with a lot of talent who's young and just starting out of the music industry, what would you say to them?
Youtube baby, let the world know you exist. Look at Beiber.
Keep growing in your craft, drums, guitar, and learn to treat others well. Being professional is important but being a team player gets you gigs. Too many average players with above average egos are like comedy to me. Plus nobody wants to play with them…any questions? I will be happy to answer them online on my Facebook page. I think children are the future for sure so teach them young how to be GREAT!
When and where is Five Against One having their next gig and do you plan to play some originals there?
5 vs 1 is on hiatus for now because the lead singer is obsessed with a frigg’n ukulele and recording, ha ha.
I will definitely be playing some originals. I’m looking forward to playing some shows in Hawaii at the Rell Sunn menhune and the Quiksilver Eddie. I have some places here in the Bay Area I’m targeting, maybe another Santana Row gig, and some out in Santa Cruz.
Please do keep us posted! Thanks for visiting The Visionary Lounge! Bar is open...
Thanks for having me, I appreciate your time, Liz.
Find out more about Michael and his upcoming projects at www.Facebook.com/michaelvigiljr