Musician, Producer, Manager
By: Ginger Coyote
Last month I was at Josie Cotton's Birthday party and was so happy to meet Michael. Especially after I found out he played with Ricky Martin... My band The White Trash Debutantes do a cover of Livin' Lavida Loca and I often introduce the song but tell the audience that Ricky was in the van passed out from drinking to much PBR.. He got a kick outta my lyrics so I begged to do an interview with him.. He agreed and the rest is in this interview. As you will read there is way more to Michael than having played drums for Ricky Martin.. Michael is multi- talented...
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Michael... Where were you born Michael? Did you come from a musical family?
Michael Licata:I'm originally from Buffalo, NY. Have lived in LA far too long but continue to stay and slug it out on a daily basis. I grew up in a musical household but neither my parents nor sister played an instrument. My Mom loved pop music and boogie: Johnny Mathis, The Turtles (Elenore), ZZ Top (weird combo, I know), etc. My Dad always had the home stereo playing and always had music on in the car. He liked Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Chicago. I'd love riding in the car and listen to him tap his wedding ring on the steering wheel in time with the music. That's probably where I first got it in my system. I loved that backbeat when he drove. I've never even put that together after all these years until you asked that question.
Punk Globe: How old were you when you decided you wanted to be a drummer? Tell us about your first drum set? Your browser may not support display of this image.
ML: The bug kicked in at 8 years old. After a year of beating on paint cans, my parents got me a white sparkle, Kent snare drum from a pawn shop. I also had a practice pad that was used as my "cymbal." I wanted to switch to guitar at 10 because I felt guitar players "got the chicks". As you can see at 10, I was a genius. My Italian mother said no. The first kit they bought me cost $150. It was a blue sparkle kit made by a company called Black Jack. Never forgot it. It was a great starter kit for a 10 year old. My dad would play Tom Jones records in the living room and I would do my best to keep up with it. Of course I sucked but the family danced around and patted me on the back. Very important to not let the 10 year old drummer think he has no sense of rhythm......
Punk Globe: What was the name of your first band?
ML: It was the same bunch of guys but we changed the name a few times. Not sure why. I had to be 13 years old. First we were called TIDE. Then we changed it to a more menacing GRIMACE. We played local junior high dances in the Buffalo area. The lead singer played drums on one track and forced me to come to the front of the stage to sing JOHNNY B. GOODE. I was terrified but pulled it off. I stood there; stared straight ahead and belted out the song. I was truly a brutal singer but the 8th grade girls were screaming so it made my lack of talent a minor setback. It seems to work for crappy talent selling records today. Insert Justin Bieber's name here.
Punk Globe: Who are some of your influences as far as drummers are concerned?
ML: Easy. Phil Rudd from AC/DC is my hero since childhood. No one hits a solid 2 and 4 like him. I met him a few years back and couldn't believe how normal he was. I expected the clouds to part every time he spoke.Your browser may not support display of this image. I also love the late, great Tony Thompson from Power Station. I've always liked the groove guys. I was more of a Gene Krupa fan than Buddy Rich. I chose rhythm and feel over the "quickest hands in the west." Drum solos always bored me. It's about the song. It's about the music as a whole. Also, I'm not much of a double bass drum guy. I certainly respect it but I never cared to learn it. If not used appropriately inside a song, it sounds like someone is falling down a flight of steps. Bottom line: John Bonham had one kick drum. Enough said.
Punk Globe: How about musical influences?
ML: I like pretty much everything, as long as it doesn't suck. My taste is pretty diverse. In one night, I could go from Beatles to Miles Davis to AC/DC to Earth Wind & Fire to Sex Pistols to Rascal Flatts to Josie Cotton to Judas Priest to Passion Pit to Radiohead to Gustav Mahler to my Holosync mediation tapes. The only thing I don't like is rap. Can't seem to get on that train.
Punk Globe: What brought you to Los Angeles?
ML: My first gig was with 80's pop star Jermaine Stewart. I came out here in the late 80's to shoot a video for his worldwide hit "We Don't Have To Take Our Clothes Off." Your browser may not support display of this image. If "Big Haired Hits Of The 80's" ever comes on VH1, I'm the drummer in the top right of the screen dancing around an electronic drum kit like a dork. I have a brutal John Taylor (Duran Duran) mullet. I stayed in Jermaine's band for 6 years and had the time of my life. He passed away in '97 and I still miss him every day. He was one of the best.
Punk Globe: When we met you were telling me about playing with Ricky Martin. Tell us how that came about?
ML: At the time I was playing with an Australian pop band called Savage Garden. They were pretty much like "Wham from Down Under." I got the call to audition for a video called "Livin La Vida Loca." Ricky just sold out the Anaheim Pond two nights in a row because he had a huge Latin following. His first English speaking album was about to be released two weeks later so he was still fairly unknown in the States to the masses. I'll never forget having dinner at the video shoot. We all sat around the table and ate together. I would say things to him like, "dude, pass the ketchup." He was very approachable and actually cool back then. Three days after we filmed the video, he performed on the Grammy's and just exploded around the world. It really was equivalent to Michael Jackson's Motown performance when he first did the Moonwalk. Four weeks later we were called to re-convene to shoot the video for "Shake Your Bon Bon." 18,000 crazy people watched us play the same song for over 7 hours at the Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore, California. It was Beatle-mania. At this point, I don't know if it was Ricky so much or the people around him that made the whole experience obnoxious. Hangers-on in his camp disguised as "management" were running out between takes wiping down his brow. They were bringing out water for the band and he'd take the tray and give it to the audience instead. The band is dehydrated and we're looking around at each other like "do you want to slap this bitch or should I?"
Punk Globe: Do you have any funny stories about playing with Ricky?
ML: There were a pack of fans in the first 10 rows at Blockbuster Pavilion that apparently liked what I was doing. They found out my name. In between takes, there would be an occasional lull in screaming. They would count down and all together scream my name. He kept looking back at me like I was stealing his thunder. After the third or fourth time, this pack of fans saw it was pissing him off and did it even louder. He looked back at me again. I'm thinking to myself, "Pal, you have three houses around the world; you're practically paying me in Sugar Frosted Flakes and out of the 18,000 psycho fans you have here, 17,993 still love you and only you. Take a pill and get out of my ass." After we finished shooting, I fought through his security and asked him to take a picture for my Mom, who was a fan. He said "sure." He asked the cameraman to count to three so "he could be ready". Once the cameraman was about to click the picture, Ricky (who had his arm around my shoulder) stuck his middle finger right across my face. I wanted to bitch slap him. I asked him to take it again and he turned around and walked away. He's a very sweet guy. My father took the picture to a photo place in Buffalo and actually had the finger airbrushed out of my face. My little cousins were so star struck that I knew this moron and they loved the photo regardless. It didn't even matter that my face looked like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre victim because of the brutal airbrush job. Here is the airbrushed picture: Your browser may not support display of this image. I only worked for a short time with him. We did a national Pepsi commercial. By "She Bangs", I was thankfully gone.You couldn't pay me enough to be around Ricky Martin for days on end. And I didn't like the novelty of his music.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your association with Rhianna and Chris Brown.. Was this during the time of their infamous fight" Any thoughts on that?
ML: I didn't play drums with Chris Brown or Rhianna. At the time, I was a partner in a production company that provided whatever a client would need. We designed and built Chris Brown's stage for his last big tour. My partner and I flew up to Fresno and met with Chris to discuss his vision. We mutually agreed on what would be practical and began the drawings. Then we built the stage. Once the band was rehearsed and the stage worked perfectly, we sent them on their way. It must be what it feels like to send your child off to kindergarten. I waved as the bus drove away and said prayers that a truss wouldn't fall on anyone's head. Attached is a photo of me directing a scene between Chris and Rhianna that would show on the Jumbo-tron screens during the show:Your browser may not support display of this image. We worked with Chris just before they started dating. He was pretty goofy around her. He had a harem of women at his fingertips (see: Facebook junkie) and it was funny to see him act like a typical 19 year old kid around one of his peers. He wanted this girl. In my opinion, his career is now essentially over. He could have been the next Michael Jackson but he blew it. He's actually a very nice kid and I enjoyed my time with their camp. Then again, he didn't try to kick the crap out of me in a car at 1AM. Your browser may not support display of this image. My company also created a reality show that sold to CMT (Country Music Television). Even though the network didn't pick up the episodic commitment, it was a great learning experience for me. I had my own office for a few months on the Universal lot and literally whistled every day when I walked through the lot to report to work. I loved it. I've since left that company and am now on my own. I like being my own boss without having to answer to anyone.
Punk Globe: Can you tell the readers who else you have played with?
ML: Played with rockers Bang Tango in the late 90's. Savage Garden, Ricky Martin in his heyday. I'm in the videos for Livin' La Vida Loca and Shake Your Bon Bon. Worked for a quick second with Ringo Starr (see picture). Your browser may not support display of this image. Then I quit music and worked in TV/Film for 7 years. After I sold my pilot to CMT, I decided it really shouldn't be the number one priority for me and went back to drumming. My heart wasn't in TV/Film as much as music.
Punk Globe: Who are you currently playing with?
ML: I'm having a great time playing with 80's pop band, Boys Don't Cry. They had a worldwide number one hit called "I Wanna Be A Cowboy." Leader Nick Richards is a joy to work with and we've become great friends. We've found a way to take the band on the road by billing our show "Boys Don't Cry & Friends." We bring along 80's stars and they perform their hits with us at our concerts. Fee Waybill (The Tubes),, Calvin Hayes (Johnny Hates Jazz), the great Roy Hay (Culture Club) and my new pal Deon Estus (Wham?George Michael) recently appeared at our show at Canyon Club. The crowd gets to hear 90 minutes worth of solid hits by the original artists. It's a fun show. We have dates coming up in Hawaii, Denver, possibly Haiti and more. We're waiting for solid news of a huge 2010 reunion tour of a very famous 80's band that is reforming for a "Reunion/Farewell" tour in the spring. We've been tapped to open the show. It'll play hockey arenas for a year in the US. Fingers are crossed all the politics work out. Your browser may not support display of this image. Nick and I have also partnered up on a new company called MICRORICH that is an 80's production house. Music publishing, Film, TV, live appearances and everything else under the sun that is 80's oriented. We're developing/filming a reality show based about The Richards Family; have a documentary being filmed as I type this regarding the band for VH1; and we're recording a brand new album with the group's current line-up. If anyone reading this has a great idea that is 80's oriented, contact me. We're listening to anything that comes our way.
Punk Globe: Do you have any endorsements?
ML: I proudly endorse and highly recommended all of my gear. GMS Drums, Paiste Cymbals, Ahead sticks and snare drum, Ultimate Ears in-ear monitors.
Punk Globe: You have also branched off into being a Producer and a Manager tell us about that?
ML: As a producer, the TV show I sold to CMT is called "H2Overdrive." It's a high-energy reality show wrapped around the world of offshore power boating in Florida. We follow the lives of three teams who appear to be the best of friends for the 72 hours leading up the actual race. Once the flag drops, it's a different story. These people put their lives on the line in the world's most dangerous sport at 200mph on water. People die. The reality is they are not as close as they seem to be. Go to You Tube and search "H2Overdrive". The three minute promo trailer is there. I'm very proud of it. Maybe one day it'll resurface for the masses. As far as management goes, for the last 6 months I've been having a great time co-managing "Louis Prima Jr. & the Witnesses featuring Sarah Spiegel" out of Vegas ( I was a huge Louis Prima Sr. fan as a kid. Louis Jr. is a down to earth guy who has a fabulous band around him. His partner up front is Sarah Spiegel, who is a star. The best part about our organization is we all really like each other. After a few bad business experiences I've had in the last few years, I made a pact with myself. No matter how much money was at stake... A) I'd never work on something I didn't believe in or B) never again deal with assholes. Plain and simple. Life is too short to kick it with blood suckers who drain you daily. Louis and company are getting ready to perform Sunday, July 25th at the Montalban Theatre. I'm very happy to report that Louis Prima Sr. (who would have been 100 years old this year) is finally receiving his long, overdue star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. We just found this out a few days ago and our entire team is ecstatic. Louis and his Mom have been trying to get this star for 12 years and now it's a reality. Everyone needs to come down to the Montalban for the star unveiling at 11:30AM. Full concert that night inside the theatre. If you like Brian Setzer and that type of "Jump, Jive & Wail" swing music (which Louis Sr. composed), come by the Montalban. This 9 piece horn band will rock your socks off. Your browser may not support display of this image.
Punk Globe: Do you have your own studio or do you have a studio that you work closely with?
ML: Don't have my own recording studio. I have a rehearsal studio in North Hollywood where my drums live. I can bang it out there whenever I need to. I pretty much free lance when it comes to producing anything musical. I've co-produced a few songs for Sarah Spiegel. We did it with Eddie Hedges (Blessed Union Of Souls) at his studio in the Valley. I'm not the most technical guy so I don't have a studio. I'm not up on the gear that is cool and current. But I know exactly what I need to hear in a session. I can't cut, copy and paste inside a Pro Tools rig but I will tell you where things need to be placed for it to become a great record. I've always had a great ear for 4 minute pop songs. After all these years, my favorite song is still "Everybody Want To Rule The World" by Tears For Fears. It's 4 minutes of pop perfection. The guitar tones, the simple guitar solo, the brilliant syncopated, drum track, the keyboard pads. I could go on for days about it. Must have heard it over 1,000 times and still love it.
Punk Globe: Who are you currently managing?
ML: Only have time for Louis Prima Jr. right now and I'm not looking for anything else.
Punk Globe: Do you have any websites that you would like to give our readers so they can get more information?
ML: For more info on me, check out or you can find me on Facebook.
Punk Globe: If you could play drums with anyone who would it be?
ML: AC/DC. No further explanation. That's it. One of my dreams came true last weekend playing "Talk To Ya Later" with Fee Waybill (The Tubes) at our Boys Don't Cry & Friends" show. There is something about meeting and/or performing with the heroes you grew up with that is especially exciting. Your browser may not support display of this image. I enjoy a few things in the marketplace today {Kings of Leon, Passion Pit, Them Crooked Vultures, The Jim Jones Revue} but the majority of what's being force fed down our throats by Clear Channel is utter crap. You have to search high and low but there are a few bright spots out there in the musical marketplace. For me, it always comes back to the stuff I listened to growing up.
Punk Globe: What is in store for Michael Licata for 2010?
ML: World domination. I won't happy with anything less. Maybe a personal sponsorship with Newcastle Brown Ale?
Punk Globe: Any parting words of advice for Punk Globe readers?
ML: Ginger, thanks very much for giving me the opportunity to do this. My parting words of advice would be for all of us to find a way to keep "rock and roll alive." Too many disposable, compressed, poppy, crappy mp3's out there available via itunes for 99 cents a song. I want concept albums to come back. I want entire pieces of art to make sense again for my money.. Marvin Gaye/What's Going On; The Beatles/Sgt. Pepper; Miles Davis/Sketches Of Spain; John Coltrane/A Love Supreme; David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust; The Who/Quadrophenia. Even My Chemical Romance had a great concept album with The Black Parade. Real music is where it's at and I don't want to look too hard to find it anymore.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for a great interview Michael..