Musician strikes personal chord with first solo album

Photo - Rich Antonelli
Rich Antonelli (Photo by Adam Kohut)

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Guitarist Rich Antonelli didn’t know much about Crohn’s Disease until his now 10-year-old daughter was diagnosed three years ago. While there is no cure, he aims to raise funds and awareness to combat the illness through his first solo album, Voiceless, a guitar-based instrumental CD.

“I’m not a doctor or someone in the medical field that can help her, but I can try to do something as a musician,” said Antonelli, who plans to donate 100 percent of the net proceeds to the Pediatric GI Department at Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, R.I., where his daughter is treated. “This is my way of contributing and saying thanks to the great staff at Hasbro.”

Crohn’s, an inflammatory bowel disease that impacts the gastrointestinal tract, causing pain, weight loss and other complications, affects more than 500,000 Americans. With treatment, as well as a restricted diet, Antonelli’s daughter is able to attend school regularly and take figure skating lessons a few times a week.

“She doesn’t make a big deal about it,” he said. “She likes the CD and knows I’m giving the money to Hasbro.”

The album was released April 23 and features 10 tracks, plus one bonus song. According to Antonelli, a guitarist for Bon Jersey, a Bon Jovi tribute band, it is influenced by 80s rock and infused with a few modern touches. He said it isn’t the prototypical guitar instrumental album.

“If you listen to Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, who I love, you know they’re playing to a certain audience and I wanted my music to reach all types of people,” Antonelli said. “I’m not playing one thousand miles an hour or a million notes a minute in one song; I tried to write a lot of melodic hooks.”

He began writing in August and started the recording process in October after launching a fundraiser campaign, collecting more than $1,000 in the form of donations from friends and fans, as well as pre-orders for the album.

A few friends also donated their time, including Chris Longo, who played drums on the album.

“He had a set up at his house and we ran his electronic drum kit into his computer and it triggered drum sounds from other different programs to get a good sound,” said Antonelli. “The drums ended up being the way I wanted them to be.”

Aside from help with drums, Antonelli recorded the entire album on his laptop, laying down guitar, bass and keyboard tracks at his Rhode Island home.  At one point, he propped his amplifier in the bathroom to create a better sound.

“I ran the cables from the bathroom to my office, shut all the doors and it gave it a nice, natural reverb sound,” he said.

But setting up and disassembling everyday became a hassle. For the rest of the album, he used a Kemper Profiling Amplifier, a gadget that allowed him to create and record samples, as opposed to a modular pre-programmed with guitar riffs.

“I wanted to do the whole thing myself,” said Antonelli. “This is a project that I’m doing for my daughter and Hasbro and I wanted it to be me.”

Since releasing the album, Antonelli has raised nearly $2,000. He’s been selling albums through his website, as well as at Bon Jersey shows. Signed CDs are also available.

Prior to joining Bon Jersey about seven years ago, Antonelli was a founding member of $kyhigh, an original rock band conceived in the 1990s. They opened for headliners like Warrant, Cinderella, Quiet Riot, Great White, Sebastian Bach and C.C. DeVille, and released an album that achieved international success.

Still, he views Voiceless as his biggest accomplishment.

“I’ve put out CDs in the past with my bands, shared the stage with a who’s who of 80s rock and played some pretty big venues,” Antonelli wrote in a guest blog published in May by Infectious Magazine. “But this CD is what I’m most proud of.”

Learn more about Antonelli and purchase Voiceless at http://www.richardantonelli.com. For a list of Bon Jersey shows, visit http://www.bon-jersey.com.

(This story was taken from the summer 2013 issue of Limelight Magazine.)

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