Tommy Lugo
28th October '06
Here's an interview a long time in the making.... We've been trying to pin down Tommy Lugo, frontman & guitarist of cosmic rock band Stellarscope for awhile now, but Tommy is your archetypical indie musician whose life is a blur of band & solo project-orientated writing & CD recording, plus the man is heavily involved in organising popular multi-band festivals & tours as well as running an independent recording studio!! It was unfortunate that we were unable to pin Tommy down long enough for a "face to face", but instead we've got the next best thing in the way of a question & answer sheet - enjoy...

Q: So, first things first, what inspired the band name “Stellarscope”? Does it have any significance?

A: When I first started the project it was named “flow” but we started noticing that there were so many bands with “flow” in their names so we decided to change it. We came up with a composite name- Stellar (of or pertaining to the stars) and scope (to look at or investigate, as in order to evaluate or appreciate). Once we decided on the name we discovered that there was a hand-held portable planetarium that identifies stars and constellations, with which you can chart the night sky, called “Stellarscope” and it couldn’t have worked out better for us since we play spaced out blissrock.

Q: The Stellarscope line up is complete with the addition of Bob DeFlaviis on Bass/Keys, Paul Colleti on guitars/lap steel/sax/trumpet & Bob Forman on Drums – how’d you guys meet?

A: Bob Forman and I have been playing together since 1998, we met through an ad I put out when I was looking for members for the band. Bob DeFlaviss was referred to us by Peter Ohlert, who played bass with us for 2 years but had to leave the band since he was moving to Las Vegas. Paul Colleti played bass with Stellarscope a couple of years ago, left to pursue some other projects and returned this year- he recorded on some of the Living Under the Radar tracks, we initially met him through an ad.

Q: The music you play is pretty trippy stuff – how does it fit into the local music scene?

A: Initially we really didn’t fit in with anyone or anywhere for that matter. I started networking with similar minded artists and creating shows dedicated to left of dial sounding bands to create a “scene”, the result has been great and the community of both artists & fans keeps growing!

Q: If you can put together a “Fantasy league” backing band who would you select to play in “Tommy’s All-stars” and why?

A: I already have my fantasy league band…lol… but Keith Moon on drums (love his insane style of playing), Syd Barrett on guitar (the man was a genius), Kevin Shields on guitar (another guitar genius), and D'arcy Wretzky on bass (her lines are simple but there is so much power and emotion in her playing) would be a dream band like no other… so yeah, it would be total chaos…hahaha

Q: Stellarscope are heavily into “the complete package” in as much you guys have been involved with organising tours & festivals including many other indie bands – tell us a little about that…

A: Hey, we have to be completely self contained- no label out there gets what we do. It all started in 1998, when I moved to Philadelphia, we would go out to shows and we heard a lot of complaining going on about “how there was no scene” so I decided to take matters into my own hands. I had previous experience from organizing and promoting shows in Puerto Rico so, I started organizing shows called Flow of the Underground regionally and promoting it the grassroots DIY way… on the streets. People started showing up at shows and the audience grew bigger.

In 2003 I was approached by Alison Records (German shoegaze label we were signed to at the time) to organize a tour for the label and so I did and it was very successful. The tour brought together the international artists Malory (Berlin-Germany), Highspire (Philadelphia-USA), Skywave (Virginia-USA), Resplandor (Lima-Peru), and Stellarscope. We also had great bands like Project Skyward (NYC), Hollowphonic (Toronto), Hypnotech 3 (Hamilton) performing and tons of other bands that came out and supported the tour like Brasilia (NYC), Aerial Love Feed (NYC), Sonora (Canada),White Star Line (Canada), siblingnortwin (Canada), Alcian Blue (DC), Bedroom Set (NYC/VA), Scattered Planets (Philly), Nelson of Blisscent Records (USA), & all the others that I am forgetting.

Then in 2004 I decided to put together an annual festival showcasing the emerging artists of the scene and I called it the Popnoise Festival. So, it’s been 3 great years of awesome performances and we are planning on mobilize the concept abroad as well.

Q: You have your own recording studio plus video production company & record label – how do you find the time to produce your own material?!

A: I don’t sleep…lol… I guess I am good at managing my time and don’t waste much time in front of the tube (it is such a waste of valuable time- really), and I have to keep myself busy or I feel unproductive! We only live once and I wanted to as much as I possibly can before the end of my life.

Q: The band aren’t strangers to touring with many trips along the Eastern US coast, Canada & even Puerto Rico – any plans to jump the pond and visit the UK?

A: To be completely honest, we have been talking about it for years but we are too broke to finance the trip ourselves… we are accepting donations to get this done so people start sending us your money (we’ll put it to good use… I promise!)…lol… I would love to get the Popnoise Festival over to Europe (I am sure it would be a success over there since it is the birthplace of the style of music we are involved in), right now I am focusing On Puerto Rico for early 2007, Peru & Mexico for late 2007… we’ll see;-)

Q: What would you say was the best tour you’ve done to date?

A: The Alison Records tour - it was my first and it was a learning experience that I will never forget. It gave me a better understanding on what and what not do.

Q: What would you say was the weirdest gig / show you’ve played to date?

A: I must say it was a venue in New Jersey, we were invited to play and when we got there it was a biker bar and it was like being transported back in time to circa 1985 - big hair, tights and all… we were considering not playing because we though we would be chased off stage but to our surprise the audience loved it and we were invited to headline their Christmas party… weird, eh?

Q: 2006 saw the release of your forth (?) CD “Living Under The Radar” which has experienced some positive reviews – would you say this was your strongest album to date?

A: Actually, Living under the Radar is our 8th full length (we also have released 5 EPs) and it is by far our strongest album to date. We strayed away a little from our shoegaze/dreampop roots for this album and the final result was a fusion of styles. It seems to be getting more attention than any of our previous efforts… which is nice since we are not getting any younger, you know!?!!?

Q: Any new albums on the drawing board currently?

A: We are currently in the process of mixing and mastering a CD, that will come out this winter, which contains a lot of previously un-released material that were suppose to be on other albums as well as some live material. It’ll be called “Those left behind”. We are also recording our new material and we are really excited about it since it is taking us into other directions we have not explored yet - it should be ready by the spring of 2007.

Q: You’ve released a number of solo albums under the “Panophonic” banner what’s the feedback been like on those releases?

A: Panophonic is my outlet for sounds that that I don’t get to do with Stellarscope, it is a more linear, layered and experimental project with a pop twist to it. Pano- is latin for in every direction and Phonic is the nature of sound so, Panophonic means Omni-Directional Sound! Though I don’t spend that much time promoting it it seems to have a broader appeal across the board than Stellarscope does… it might be the pop elements in the music, I’m really not sure but I must be doing something right. lol

Q: With 2006 drawing to a close what does the rest of the year hold in store for Stellarscope?

A: Well, we’ll be recording for the rest of the year, maybe play out some shows in December, otherwise we are looking forward to Christmas (maybe Santa will bring us a large bag full of unmarked $100 bills to buy new equipment and fly over the pond to Europe and rock like there is no tomorrow).

Q: Do you have any targets set for 2007?

A: For 2007 we want to have the new album released, have a couple more Popnoise Festivals in addition to the one that happens here every year, get heard by a broader audience, and win a Grammy & a MTV video award… I am not overly ambitious…hahaha…

Many thanks Tommy for taking the time to fill out this questionnaire – good luck with the latest releases, the festival organising, the record label and all of the other excellent music-orientated projects that you’re involved in!

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Virtual Interview conducted by question & answer sheet 28-10-2006
SkidMark Multimedia Productions MMVI