Brooklyn, NY’s Q*Ball is the long-running electronic rock project from vocalist/keyboardist Ron Scalzo with major contributions from guitar impresario and producer Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. Both Scalzo & Thal keep busy in other projects – Scalzo is the frontman for hard/prog rock act Return To Earth (Metal Blade Records) and one of the creative minds behind another electro project, NYC’s Hooper, while Thal plays guitar in the legendary Guns N’ Roses, not to mention a long career and impressive catalog as an independent solo artist, having toured the world over and sharing the stage with everyone from Joe Satriani to Nancy Sinatra.
After fronting one of NYC’s most interesting and irreverent electronic projects, Secret Army, in the late ‘90s, Scalzo took a break from samplers and loops for awhile and became a vital member of New Jersey’s The Substance as a keyboard player and backing vocalist. “I craved the opportunity to work with quality musicians – these guys were all a little older and more seasoned – they were a real band, whereas Secret Army was sort of a hodgepodge of ideas that never really came together on stage the way it should have. In The Substance, I got to spread my wings and improve my abilities as a musician.” Amongst the quality musicians Scalzo joined in The Substance was guitarist Brett Aveni, who would reunite with Scalzo years later in Return To Earth, along with influential drummer Chris Pennie (Coheed and Cambria, ex-Dillinger Escape Plan). Scalzo’s contributions to The Substance led to an independent record deal, a ton of A&R; showcases for major labels and some plum gigs performing with then-powerhouse acts Sugar Ray, Aimee Mann, and more.
However, the lure of electronic music remained a strong one for Scalzo. “I was a huge fan of 80's synthpop, bands like Depeche Mode & Tears For Fears, and 90's industrial…Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, White Zombie. Some of my favorite rock bands began experimenting with electronic production - U2 & Radiohead were breaking new ground and I wanted to get back to my roots.” Scalzo amicably parted ways with The Substance and approached Thal about playing guitar and producing some electronic tracks he had been working on, and Q*Ball was born, releasing a critically acclaimed underground debut album entitled Q*Ball In Space soon afterwards.
The debut album drew comparisons to the ethereal sounds of Moby, the vocal stylings of Bono & Mike Patton, the 80's funk of George Michael & Prince, and an eclectic array of more popular acts like Beck, the B-52's, & Duran Duran, and led to some memorable performances at Six Flags Great Adventure, Webster Hall, and headlining Rhode Island’s Block Island Music Festival.
Two more albums followed, Fortune Favors The Bald and This Is Serious Business, with Thal once again behind the board as a co-producer, co-writer and guitarist – a cost-effective partnership that eventually allowed Scalzo to take control of his own destiny. “I’ve always had the business side of the industry in mind - finding new ways to market & promote, creating a new style, & following the path of the true Do It Yourself artist,” said Scalzo. “So many great artists sell their soul and break the bank for the wrong reasons – laziness, lack of confidence. I didn’t want anyone screwing up what I had built besides me!”
And so, in defiance of the corporate, pre-packaged, American Idol-era of music, Scalzo started his own label in late 2005, Bald Freak Music, to release his own albums, as well as the Bumblefoot catalog, pledging to promote artists who would otherwise be ignored because they don't fit the major label mold & preconception of what a "pop band" or a "rock act" should look & sound like. Major licensing deals with MTV, Bunim-Murray, Red Bull & more followed, and Scalzo soon locked up deals with New Jersey pirate metal band Swasbuckle, and eventually with his musical comrades in Return To Earth.
In 2010, Q*Ball abandoned the traditional album release format and started releasing tracks digitally month-by-month, an opportunity, says Scalzo, that allowed him to branch out as a musician once again. “Bumblefoot was away with GnR for months at a time, and the best way for Q*Ball to remain an active, vital project was to collaborate, so I started asking others to get involved. Some of my favorite acts – Nine Inch Nails, Beck – employ a large cast of supporting characters, so why not me?” In addition to Bumblefoot, Scalzo recruited his Return To Earth bandmates Aveni & Pennie, ex-Secret Army bandmate Mike Bandolik, and other friends to release a slew of Q*Ball singles. “The times aren’t just changing, they’ve changed. Releasing a song every month allows me to keep the juices flowing and to better rein in the ever-shrinking attention span of the average music fan.”
In addition to finding like-minded bands and musicians to be part of the Bald Freak family, Scalzo has championed & organized events in which independent musicians have performed to raise money for worthy charities like Musicians on Call, the MS Research Foundation, & Children's Specialized Hospital of NJ, raising thousands of dollars for charity & giving great indie musicians the exposure they deserve.
Q*Ball's albums, This Is Serious Business, Fortune Favors The Bald, & Q*Ball In Space are available online at CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, and all digital retail outlets.