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Eric Ragno is the talented keyboard player with upcoming melodic rock band Vox Tempus. He is also a member of Takara.

1. What are you currently up to?

I have recorded Right now I'm up to my shoulders in promotion for the new Vox Tempus disc. We have been working on this for a long time now, and we want to make sure the whole world knows about it! But it has been seriously busy. I was supposed to fly to New Jersey this month and work with Jack Frost on the next Seven Witches record, but my schedule suddenly got so crazy.

I recorded Takara's contribution to the upcoming Ritchie Blackmore tribute album, Blackmore's Castle, and have been touring with the Dre Allen Project, an urban rock band that also features Dawn Robinson of En Vogue. Amidst all this I've been shopping Vox Tempus around to various record labels and management companies. Jack (Frost) is playing festivals in Europe right now, so I'm hoping we can synch up before the fall to put my demo's down for posterity. Needless to say, it's been a pretty wild summer for all of us. : )

2. What has been the highlight(s) and low point(s) of your career to date?

Wow...that's a tough one. I've had so many dramatic ups and downs over the years. The loss of Ty Longley, who died onstage with Great White in Rhode Island, was a horrible low point. It was so devastating, I thought I would never get through it. Thank god I had some amazing friends and family who were there to help pull me through it, especially in VT. For Every Life (from the new Vox Tempus disc) was written during this time, and ultimately became a song about losing a loved one, having no regrets in life, and the afterlife.

The flip side of that tragedy was seeing how many people were there to support me during this process. I was asked to play the Baby Longley Benefit in Beverly Hills, alongside my friend Tony Franklin, members of Bang Tango, Poison, Enuff Znuff and others who put the time in to help out. It was a real bonding experience, and I was so proud to be a part of that night. It was touching to see Jack Russell and Mark Kendall out in public again for the first time, consoling others and also being consoled. Besides raising money for Ty's unborn son, the event was the first step on the long road to recovery - and we were all doing it together. That was a real moment for me.

Other high points have been playing onstage with heroes like Tony MacAlpine, writing songs in my living room with Richard Black (Shark (Island), working out drum parts with Gregg Bissonette...when you can watch one of your idols pull out an amazing performance, and you are a part of it - that rocks. I have been so blessed man.

3. Could you give us some background to the CD and the band's style?

We've been asked a lot recently about what genre the Vox Tempus album falls into, what audience we are shooting for, etc. It's so tough - the record labels need to classify you in order to come up with a marketing strategy, and we start getting pressured to fall into one category or another. The best way to put it, is that we all fans of the landmark prog and rock albums over the last 15 years. What would you give for Rush to record another Moving Pictures, or for Queensryche to record another Mindcrime? Those albums aren't just a collection of great songs, but represent classic moments in rock history, volumes of power that make you feel.

That was a common thread when we first came together in Equinox, and we still feel it today. We are all big fans of Dream Theater's landmark album Images and Words, and other prog classics by bands like Fates Warning and Rush...we don't believe in shredding just for the sake of showing how many scales we can play. We want to paint a tapestry if you will, to take you on a journey with moving musical passages and prophetic lyrics by Ray Mantor (guitars) and Dan Reed (vocals). And some amazing guitar/keyboard passages, running over some crazy-ass rhythms that only a guy like Jim Turba (bassist for VT) could mastermind.

A Rush fan will always be a Rush fan, but people still can't classify them into a specific genre. Think about the music that was out in1981 when Moving Pictures came out, and imagine trying to describe their style! We're a rock band, we're a prog band, we're also a metal band - but in short, we wanted to make the best record we could make. The reaction so far is that we seem to have hit upon something that moves people.

4. How did Vox Tempus come together?

Ray Mantor (guitars) and Jim Turba (bass) were members of Equinox back when they were touring behind Color of the Time. The band splintered while recording tracks for the next album, and they needed a new keyboard player. I had two albums out that year, one with Takara & Jeff Scott Soto, and one with Damir Simic-Shime featuring Tony MacAlpine. I was looking for something fresh and challenging, and this is when Equinox asked me to jump onboard. During recording we later lost our singer, so the band did a national singer search and brought in the amazing Dan Reed. There is so much talent in this band, sometimes it's scary.

5. How did Gregg Bissonette (ex-ELO/Dave Lee Roth) get involved and is he a full-time member of the band?

We needed a powerhouse behind the drums to help get these songs across, and Gregg came highly recommended. I met with him a few times, and we clicked right away. He is such an amazing guy! He took the album to a totally new level, and we gave him the freedom to go nuts on the record, to do whatever he wanted. Gregg is an icon in rock drum circles, but you rarely get to hear the guy solo and just go off - so we invited Gregg to really open up on this record, to play the kind of crazy rock patterns he's always wanted to do. There are actually two classic Gregg solos on this record, which will blow folks away.

We're exploring some touring packages for once the record is done. Gregg wants to work with us when he can, and if he can make the gig, he's there. But Gregg is a seriously busy professional, so we may need to bring in an outside guy for some shows. But as far as the studio goes, Gregg is our man.

Eric Ragno
Photograph © Website

6. You've worked with Takara - what were the highlights of your time in the band? What are Takara's plans for the coming year or so?

I joined Takara in '96, and Neal Grusky (guitars) and I have been very close friends since we first met. Takara gets some flack for going through some lineup changes over the years, as groups often do. The band had a successful run with Jeff Scott Soto and the magic that he brings, and after the Eternity album we all took some time to pursue other projects and just relax. When it was time to record 2001's Perceptions of Reality album, Jeff was working on the next Talisman record, I was working with Vox, and we didn't make it back for those sessions. I felt really bad about this, and have been back with the band since the release of Perceptions.

The lineup right now is very strong. Bjorn Englen is a phenomenal bassist, and had a successful run with Quiet Riot among others. Right now he's out doing gigs with Robin McAuley. Michael Flatters is a phenomenal singer, who also does records with James Byrd of Fifth Angel. As work wraps up on our track for the Rainbow album, Neal is demo'ing Takara tracks in his studio, and I am demo'ing tracks in mine. With any luck we'll be back in the studio by the Fall to lay down album #6 - but it's all up to Neal.

7. Which piece(s) of music you've appeared on/composed still gives you the most pleasure to listen to and why?

Sadly, the stuff I am most proud of still hasn't been released! Over the years I've recorded almost a full album of piano music, which I've never quite finished. (You can download clips of these here.) I'm extremely proud of my work on the new Vox Tempus album, especially on What About, which features two keyboard solos. But as of this writing, that's not out yet either.

I guess the piece I'm most proud of that you CAN get is an instrumental track I recorded for a Dutch guitarist named Michael Riesenbeck. His album Shouting Silence features special guests like Jeff Pilson and Phil Vincent, and he asked me to record the title track and another titled Toto's Giant Journey*. He let me go wild on this one, and what started out as a 5 minute track soon turned into an 8 minute shred fest - the solos are intense! Especially the last 5 minutes man. You can hear a clip of this on my site, but you really have to hear the whole thing to appreciate piece.

8. Much of the line-up of Vox Tempus have appeared before in Equinox - why didn't the band continue with the Equinox name?

Over the years there have been a lot of changes. The music has evolved, the lineup has evolved, as we have evolved as people. Also, right now there are now no less than 4 bands out there recording or touring as Equinox! And the very first band I was in was called Equinox! The last two years have been about starting a new page, and finding a new identity - so we let go of the past and are embracing the future as Vox Tempus.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Spare time? HAHAHAH I like to check my e-mail and wash dishes and's been seriously hectic this summer!

I try to see my friends when they are playing in town, or just hang out with the people who are important in my life - why don't people do that more? Losing Ty taught me that you really can't really have to reach out to the people that are important to you, and make sure they know.

10. Message for your fans...

Stay tuned to my website at for all the latest news! I update my website every week, so you can always know the latest of what is going on with me and the guys I have worked with.

People tell me the site is addictive, like reality TV - everyone wants to see what's gonna happen next! And so do I. : )

Eric Ragno audio

*Eric Ragno MP3 clip

CD review

Band website


Interview © 2004 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

All rights reserved.

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