A life in music is a full-time job to be sure. However, for many performers, it’s a multi-faceted existence, with performance just one part of their schedule. Such is the case with guitarist Mike Ruggirello of rock trio, Fusebox. Performing at Winston’s on August 29, in addition to his role as frontman for the band, he is also a respected music teacher and hosts the web series, Theory Thursday Live. “You have to wear a lot of hats these days” Ruggirello said good naturedly. “But it’s different sides of the same coin. In the end it’s all about making music.”
Ruggirello is a San Diego native. “Born and raised,” he remarked. “I have lived up and down the eight freeway, from South Mission Alderwood to Mount Helix.” He can pinpoint the moment his career choice was made, attributing his choice of careers to a particular classic album. “It was when I heard Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti the first time,” he recalled. “I fell in love with Jimmy Page and wanted to learn how to play guitar like that forever and ever.” Today Ruggirello is a virtuoso on guitar, bass, ukulele, & drums and even has his own line of signature guitar strings, via Curt Mangan Strings.
Fusebox has been playing area clubs since 1992, with Ruggirello a slightly later addition. “We started out as a side project of a band that (drummer) Dustin Norberg and I were in called, MORBIS,” he explained. “After a short stint we dissolved because our guitar player went off to college. Then Jason Thomas came in and picked up the pieces, which enabled him and Dustin to start Fusebox, inspired by Frank Zappa and Steely Dan.” Ruggirello joined in 1995.
Although Fusebox is often categorized as a hard rock band with prog leanings, Ruggirello considers their sound to be more expansive. “We have a new single coming out called “Lust,” he said. “It’s a nice three-minute, heavy pop song, that’s got a very 90s/Duran Duran sound.”
“The band is quite eclectic and a lot of fun to play guitar in,” Ruggirello said. “The band has been together for 27 years, for the last four we have been a power trio. Between the three of us we overplay all of our old songs now and they have taken a new identity to us and the crowd. Our influences are probably all a little different between the three of us but collectively you can hear quite a bit of Van Halen and then Devo in our songs. I have also noticed that we are getting bluesier, like Cream or Hendrix.”
Meanwhile in addition to playing with Fusebox, he has now hosted, alongside co-host and bandmate, Thomas, over 120 episodes of Theory Thursday, featuring a who’s who of San Diego’s musicians in discussion and performance. Artists featured to date include blues guitarist Johnny Vernazza, violinist Alicia Previn, and former Zeros bassist Hector Penalosa. “After two steady years and surviving net neutrality we still are consistent every Thursday at 7 p.m.,” he said. The program is currently in the midst of an update. “We have a new video media technician, Alex Eubanks, aboard, so the show is getting a major facelift with spacing of new camera angles and upgrading the quality to 1080 with some 4K snippets.”
Ruggirello does see some crossover between projects. “We have been getting a lot of practice hosting Theory Thursday, so the three of us are really comfortable acting candid and being very loose, asking questions on the microphone and engaging our audience. Especially over exaggerating your typical rock arena stage antics.”
With his nights pretty much spoken for, Ruggirello gives music lessons during the day, with a new website, MR Guitar Lessons. “Of course, a student could always take in person lessons in our North Park Studio, but there is also the option of Skype instruction.”
In the meantime, Fusebox continues work on a new album. While new recordings are right around the corner, don’t expect Fusebox to tour. “No touring is scheduled, but we will be open minded about it,” Ruggirello said. Past experiences on the road nay have soured him on the subject. “I did do a tour as a guitar tech for (hard rock band) Sprung Monkey in 1999,” he recalled. “That was supposed to be a three week tour. However, after two weeks I got food poisoning and had to fly home. And then the band nicknamed me “rigatoni,” joked Ruggirello.
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