Photo Gallery | Rock musician Larry Botto to release fifth album
PITTSFIELD — Lawrence "Larry" Botto, namesake of the hard rock outfit, "BOTTO," is set to launch at 11 a.m. Saturday, his fifth full-length album, at Wood Bros. Music Store. It's another post on his path to being a lifelong not-so-famous musician. And he's OK with that.
"I think at this point, I'm the world's oldest teenager," said Botto, 57, who started playing guitar at the age of 16 — one that he picked up, along with an amp, at a neighbor's tag sale. "You can be an old soul or a young soul, but I believe you should go for what you want."
As for his own musical goal, he says, "It would be nice to write that song that catches on. I'll never give up on that until I'm physically unable to play."
If the garages or basements of the Berkshires could talk, a lot of them would likely recall witnessing similar folks with comparable dreams of starting a rock band and making it big.
Botto remembers how he got bit by the rock 'n' roll bug. "I'd heard Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water," and of course that was my calling," he said. "I spent many hours in my garage teaching myself by listening to record and learning how to play songs."
He'd also take some more formal lessons with his aunt, Rita Keefe, and become proficient in playing guitar, bass and drums, in addition to practicing vocals and a bit on the electronic keyboard.
Botto still gets a kick out of remembering his first gig, with a band called, Matriarch.
"My first gig was at the Second Street jail, where a few of the inmates got up and jammed with us. Surreal to say the least, and of course we played "Jailbreak" by Thin Lizzy and "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd," he said.
Botto added, "I've had a lot of strange gigs, especially house parties, like a lot of kids today. But at least they're out there and honing their performance skills ... I appreciate anyone who can get up there and perform, and try to give them positive reinforcement."
Since that first gig, Botto's been a part of several regional rock bands: Hoax, Tawdry, Skylar Steele, Powerage, Mettaxa, Mr. Bone, Noise in the Attic.
Somewhere in between, he took a 10-year hiatus from music to explore other interests, ranging from spelunking and racing motocross, to working on cars and becoming a licensed paralegal, "my second and third life crises."
He returned to music when he fronted Crankenstein, and also ended up in an Alice Cooper tribute band, Alice's Nightmare. During his first gig with the latter group at The Webster Theatre in Hartford, Conn., he said he badly damaged his hearing.
He says the tinnitus affects him to this day and is why he no longer performs in bands. "I do miss performing live though, but it is what it is. I want to have some hearing left for my old age," he quips.
Botto recorded his first album, "Monster in My Head," in 2008, at Skyboro Sound studio in North Adams. He made the Alice Cooper-influenced record with musicians Dave Vittone, John Kiernan and Craig Simmons, engineer Brad Martin, and a little guidance from well-known heavy metal rock producer, Tom Werman — the guy behind Cheap Trick, Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Poison and Ted Nugent. (Werman's been enjoying a second-life career as co-innkeeper of Stoneover Farm in Lenox, with his wife, Suky.)
The second and third BOTTO albums were recorded with Bill Perkins (Mr. Bone and Live Wire), releasing "Tremors" in 2011, and "Give 'Em Hell" in 2013. He also recorded with Gary Burchard a rock-country album with the local group, Bandit, which was released in 2014.
Today, Botto continues to steer his avocation toward doing his own studio work, while also helping to groom and promote other bands in the region.
His latest album is a 12-track production called, "Black Sonja," co-produced with Tim Wager, and featuring John Kiernan and G.O.G. (George Lebarnes). The title of the album is a nod to his manager, Sonja Eriksson, of Staten Island, N.Y. Botto also works with Rick Bizzi of Phoenix, Ariz.
The concept cover art has a distinctly black metal look, created by Dave Cornellier of In Touch Printing. It features a raven haired woman with black angel wings, head down and leaned over knees, with a black scorpion on her left hand. Between the look and sound of BOTTO's albums, and titles like, "Burn," "Winter in Space," and "House of Misery," it's no wonder the band's found some popularity in the international black metal market; "Monster in My Head," for example, was distributed in New Zealand, Australia and Japan.
"It's kind of neat to have that," Botto said.
He mixed and mastered "Black Sonja" at his home studio, which he's dubbed Steelborn Studios, on a label he's produced on called Hot Zombie Records. The studio, like most home set-ups, is in a small room stacked to the gills with equipment, from two Tascam SX-1 16-track boards, playback speakers and monitors, reverb units, Yamaha equalizer components; amps, electric drum and keyboard units, vocoders, and various computer and software arrangements for mixing and editing and mics.
So when he's not working his day job as a sterilization technician at Fairview Hospital, he's often found tinkering in his studio or spending his Saturdays mingling with other music fanatics at Wood Bros. Botto said he's also working with two up and coming regional bands, Damsel in This Dress and Nationwide Revolt.
"I'm not making any money off of it — not that I ever will — but I love seeing local music grow," Botto said.
Even though it has more of an acoustic sound focus, he said he's a fan of the new music movement BOOM: Berkshire Organization for Original Music. "I hope they continue to add more rock and other genres," he said.
Eventually, Botto said he'd like to expand his recording studio and perhaps record with his oldest son, Justin Winn, 29, a drummer. Otherwise, he plans to keep listening, playing, recording music and keeping the company of other musicians.
"Musicians have been some of my best friends," he said. "There's a certain camaraderie here in music, which is especially comforting in this area. We know we're not all going to be rock stars, but we keep doing what we do."
If you go ...
What: A CD release party for "Black Sonja," by Berkshire rock band, BOTTO.
When: From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday.
Where: Wood Bros. Music, Allendale Shopping Center, 5 Cheshire Road. Pittsfield.