Photo by Dmitry Baidrakov.

From “Electric Avenue” to KELTON’S DARK CORNER.

Catching Up With

“Fast” Freddy Rapillo

Where did the nickname “Fast” Freddy come from?

I was given the name when I was 14 years old by some friends because they thought that I played guitar fast…but I’ve always tried to play with melody, not technique. Besides, I probably have a student or two who can play faster than I can!

You have performed with Rick James. How did you come to work with him?

I had done many sessions at a particular recording studio, and the story goes that one day Rick walked into that studio and asked for “the phone number of the funkiest guitar player in town”- and it was my good fortune that the producer and engineer gave him mine!

Where have you played with him?

I mostly played in the studio with Rick. After we did his first album, there was a huge turnover of personel in the executive offices at Motown Records, as I was told, and everyone’s records were put on hold. So I left and did another tour with Spyro.

You have also played with the band Spyro Gyra. Tell us about that.

I was doing a lot of live gigs and sessions around my hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. ( which Rick dubbed “B-Lo”! ), and I met these two musicians on the scene who were attending the University of Buffalo. They were Jay Beckenstein and Jeremy Wall, and they were more from the straight-ahead jazz school, whereas I played more of the funk-blues thing. We started doing pickup gigs together, and they had a clear vision of what they wanted to do musically. From that it turned into Spyro. The band has had great success…they’re very talented guys.

Are there any particular musical influences that you’ve had?

Oh my god, tons…I don’t know where to begin! The Stones, The Beatles, The Animals, The Yardbirds, all the old Motown and Stax soul stuff…then the blues guys- B.B. King, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Junior Wells, Elmore James, Jimmy Reed, Buddy Guy, Muddy, ‘Wolf, Ray Charles…then the jazz guys- Wes, Benson, Jimmy Ponder, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Smith, Jack Mc Duff, Groove Holmes, Coltrane, Miles, Pres, Dexter Gordon, Joe Pass, Mcoy Tyner, Eddie Harris…you can see that this list could go on and on!

You have a huge guitar and amp collection. Are there any that are particularly interesting?

Yes, probably my dad’s old mandolin from the late 1800’s. Without him playing Italian songs on this instrument around the house when I was young…well, there’s probably no “Fast Freddy”!

How did your association with musician and KELTON’S DARK CORNER(KDC2) Director Vasily Shumov come about?

Shumov and I met playing ice hockey in the early ‘90’s. We’re huge fans of the game, and we’ve played on the same team for many years.

What was it like playing on the soundtrack of KDC Episode #2 and Episode #3?

Very enjoyable! Soundtrack work can expose another facet of one’s playing; you may be called on to create a part that conveys a certain emotion for a particular scene, and that type of playing may never show up or fit in a straight-ahead groove…it’s a different approach, but in the end it still falls under the category of “music”.

How would you describe your performance on it?

Sinister… mysterious…forboding… spaghetti western…dark and shadowy…but with a groove!

Are there any projects you are working on now, or will be in the near future?

Well, like most musicians, I’ve been talking about doing my own record for some time now; so I’m currently mining through my “archive of ideas” ( …pre-production, I guess! ) to see which ones I’d like to include. Oh, and I’m waiting for the next “Center” project!!!