By Katie Collins
News Eagle Reporter
As a musician, Billy Messinetti was looking for a distinctive kind of music venture when he formed "Island Head" an instrumental reggae band where all melodies are played by the musicians. Messinetti says the band’s album is a "grassroots thing" because the album was about being his legacy piece, nothing more, nothing less.
Messinetti says the concept of the band was to have instruments, replace the human voice. Citing movie producer, Dino De Laurentiis, Messinetti says he approached the project in April of 2011 from a listeners’ point of view where he wanted to make a record that he would want to listen to, with musicians jamming like Santana with his guitar or Dave Matthews performing with a saxophone. When the musicians are performing, Messinetti says there will be something new, because the musicians are creating music on the spot, which he calls "spontaneity" that he loves and wanted for his record.
As a drummer, Messinetti says rhythm is the most important thing to him, and because of reggae’s sound, he has always been intrigued by the genre. When Messinetti was younger, he enjoyed Bob Marley and what he called "Americanized reggae bands" like The Police and Elvis Costello who "combined reggae into rock rhythm." Twenty-four years ago, when he and his wife first went to Jamaica, Messinetti says it was being in Jamaica that "solidified what the music is really about." He explains that the reggae lyrics are about the struggles of Jamaican people and all African people in different countries. On that trip, Messinetti promised himself that he was going to make an album, someday, with Bob Marley’s music on it.
The band members, Messinetti says have track records that "are no joke" because of their successful careers and passion for the industry. Tim Cappello, is a saxophone player, who has acted in Miami Vice and performed with Tina Turner 14 years. As Messinetti approached each member, asking if they would be interested in playing in the band, he says each member was more enthused than the last. Bass player, Neil Jason performed with legends like John Lennon, Diana Ross, Billy Joel and more recently he has been subbing on David Letterman’s show.
Don Harris is a trumpet player in Messinetti’s other band, but also joined The Island Heads aside from being involved in the Central Park Orchestra and working for American Idol.
Keyboard player, David Frank performed with Messinetti in the 80’s and later went onto write and produce songs like Christina Aguilera’s Genie in the Bottle.
Andy Bassford is the lead and rhythm guitar from New York, but because he loved reggae so much, Messinetti says Bassford moved to Jamaica, where the Jamaican Federation of Musicians recognized Bassford as musician of the year in 2004.
Keyboardist, David Frank is a Grammy award winner and is one of the most "successful musicians" Messinetti says he has ever worked with.
Rhythm guitarist, Mikey "Mao" Chung is a legendary guitar player from Jamaica. Initially, Messinetti says he did not picture two guitar players, but together, Bassford and Chungs’ talents are "magical."
Originally, the musicians joined together to record the album, but now, Messinetti says the musicians are on board to have a definite band who will tour. The first album, "Punky Reggae Party" was released on ITunes in July, and the CD was released about three weeks ago. But, what Messinetti is very excited about now, is that the album is being played on Sirius XM stations like "The Joint" which he says is the "quintessential reggae station." Of the songs on the album, "Reggae Island" is the only song that Messinetti wrote. The others were written by Bob Marley.
A Lackawaxen resident, Messinetti moved to the area 21 years ago from New York City with his wife who was pregnant with the couple’s second child. He says he loves the area because it is beautiful.
The completion of "Punky Reggae Party," Messinetti says has "renewed my interest in music" because as a musician, he explains, he has gone through periods of excitement and melancholy because he is just doing his job. The album, Messinetti says, has renewed his love of playing the drums and now, he practices more than he has in years. "Every once and awhile it’s nice to throw yourself a curve ball in life and take a chance" Messinetti says. "I took a chance doing this. This was a tremendous undertaking, financially and otherwise, emotionally and everything. So far, I can’t ask for a better start out of the gate" he concludes.
Correction: When this article was first published Dec. 10, the band was referenced as the “Island Heads.” The band's name is “Island Head.”