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An interview with Chieli Minucci

By Patrik Andersson

A classic guitarist with the right groove

Which year were you born? Where do you live today?

Born 1958.....in NYC area.....still live here.

Tell me about your earliest music career? Are you self learned or have you gone to any school?

I studied classical piano as a child, ages 5-8, then switched to guitar for a few years. Mostly self-taught during my teen years. I also studied arranging, music theory, history, composition....all later on in my early 20s.

Was the choice of Guitar a natural decision or did you play any other instruments?

Guitar was always my dream, since I was a child. Piano is a good foundation, and I still play it.

What was the name of the first group that you played in?


What did you do before BB & Q band?

I played in many acts. Mostly local NYC groups. This was the 80s, and everyone had a group and was trying to get a deal. I also performed as a duo, called Gumbo...around NYC mostly.

Chieli Minucci 1983In 82 you appear for the first time on the cover of BB & Q band. How did you come in contact with Petrus Little Macho stable?

Bad memory here.... I think I met Steve Skinner (keyboardist), who I still work with a lot, and he introduced me to the folks at Northcott Studios, where the BB & Q/Change 'demos' were recorded (Matt Noble....engineer)

As I have learned most of Petrus projects were more or less studio groups and that people could come and go and be used by Petrus as he wished. Do you have any idea of what the most unclear band situation of BB & Q band was like before you entered?

I have no idea....I only recorded with them at the time. The Little Macho scene was all confusion to me....Steve Bogan, Mic Murphy.....all those guys... I didn't understand what was going on. I merely wanted to perform! I was a 'hired gun', nothing more.....

When you finally did enter the scene as one of the members of BB in 82 did you feel that Petrus thoughts really was to let this constellation continue, especially as he fired Peewee Ford and the gang after just one play in 81-82?

I didn't get to know Petrus till later, when we all traveled to Italy (Modena) to record. He struck me as an entrepeur....sort of....he didn't discuss his thoughts about the business at the dinner table those 2 weeks we were all living together...we were too busy eating the homemade pasta!

Can you describe Petrus' and Malavasi's procedures of creating the music? How did the procedure go when they recorded a new song?

Malavasi was very talented. He was the producer, in Italy. Petrus didn't say much about the music production, at least not when I was there. We tended to overdub the guitar parts, one by one.....

As Petrus and Malavasi worked much with smaller musical parts, later put together for the final result, how much did you actually know about where your efforts were going to be heard? As I understand it "Feelin' lucky lately" with High fashion for example, could very much been a track on BB & Q band's LP instead and a BB & Q bands song, likewise, on High fashion's LP.

Well, the music certainly could be interchangeable, since we were all the same musicians, except for the singers, naturally. When I recorded my original songs ("Don't Wait Another Night' & "You Satisfy My Needs"), they ended up exactly where I expected....Change & High Fashion. So there were no surprises. The tracks were often finished when I wasn't present, but they were really close to what I'd remembered as I recorded my parts....

On all the records with BB & Q band it says that Petrus was both producer and executive producer. Was Petrus actually the producer and did he participate in the studio work?

Chieli Minucci 1982He financed the projects. He was executive producer. The day by day grunt work was handled by others.....but he was very much present at the sessions.....

Where did the recordings take place in 82 and 83? Where the recordings of the musical and vocalist parts still separated to Italy and US as on many albums before?

The session I participated in were held in 2 studios.... In NYC we worked at Sorcerer Sound, in Greenwich Village. In Italy, we worked at a farmhouse studio (it was paradise!) in the countryside of Modena. I don't recall its name....

Did the band perform any tours after the releases in 82 and 83? If so, did you tour worldwide, or parts of the world? What was the feedback of that experience?

No touring for me......we never got to that stage by that time.

Your personal thoughts about BB & Q band's music in particular and Petrus music in general, any favorite song?

I loved their sound! It was during the reign of Chic, when it was all still considered "soul" music. I loved "Paradise" (Change)...."On the Beat" (BB & Q)....these songs were infectious, and really memorable. The music was funky!

You worked with great musicians like Malavasi, Romani, Gianolio, Trevisi, Allen as well as vocalists like Tawatha, Thornton, Grody and many more. How was it? It must have been an outstanding and uplifting environment! How was the working climate?

The climate was excellent. We had fun, and the talent was everywhere.....Bernard Davis, Jeff Bova, Steve Skinner, Mike Campbell...so many great players! I was often used as the typical NY-Italian "lead" guitarist!

Malavasi and Romani, the two much to underrated actual producers of most of Little macho's music must have been a heavy influence on the musicians and on you. What are you thoughts about these giants as persons and as musicians/producers?

I only met Malavasi. He was like family.....since I'm a first generation Italian-American....I felt at home with him. He was organized, and precise in the studio. Otherwise I didn't get to know him much.

Why did you left BB & Q band? Kevin (Robinson) left for an important role in the super rare group of Network.

I don't recall leaving.....there wasn't anything else going on at a point, and my career shifted to other areas.... In truth, Petrus made a bad business decision towards me at one point, so I lost interest in that relationship. Anyway, there were no gigs, so the only thing to do was record, and I wouldn't do that any longer because of what happened....

How have you musical life been since 85 and today?

Amazing! I am always working!

What are you doing today?

I have 21 CDs out which I produced and composed..... Special EFX, and Chieli Minucci solo CDs...I'm very fortuntate and blessed! I have my own studio in Manhattan. I also am writing for TV (CBS....Guiding Light), scoring for Nickolodeon/Clear Channel (Dora the Explorer...Live), as well as a primary composer/producer for a NYC-based music library company (Gotham Music)....very busy......also have been working a session guitarist for Celine Dion, Mark Anthony, Jewel, Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie, Anastacia.....

How do you look up on today's black r&b music?

In general there is a great variety of styles nowadays....some of it is very nice.....rooted in R & B, but dressed up as HipHop....very cool! and....some of it is horrible as well, with no sense of traditional melody, but instead based on 'riffs' as melodies.... regurgitated hooks and bytes...over and over... many artists are too similar sounding to each other....(but that's always been a problem)

Compare the musical industry, way of working during production, salaries, overall climate, now and then? What is your point of view on music today on a whole? Are you open minded for new waves and constellations? Can the music really find new and fresh melodies in a time when everything seems to be taken and used?

Difficult question to answer. I'm positive about things. Today is a golden opportunity to find ANY kind of music imaginable. A great variety for all tastes.....There are so many styles joined together as well, so that if you can imagine it, it probably already exists. My experience in the 'business' has been positive, although I've had my share of charlatans to deal with. But this exists in any business, doesn't it? The people are still genuine and want to be creative, and communicate. So really, things are still good!

What do you like to listen to yourself?

My tastes vary greatly. Genesis, Pat Metheny, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Radiohead, Mushroomhead, Gustav Mahler, John Williams, Return to Forever, Jaco Pastorius....

Are you sometime missing the old times with BB & Q band?


Do you know anything about Petrus background, his age, interests outside the music, believes, wife or kids etc.?

He was from the Caribbean...Guadeloupe, I think. I don't know about his family. He was a bit strange and removed.....but I was only 24 at the time, so what could I perceive? I didn't pay much attention. He seemed like a big kid to me...harmless...

So much have been told about Petrus, bad and good. He seemed to have been a double nature. What was your personal experience of Petrus character, as a person and as a music man?

Like I said, he didn't treat me right in the end. He was dishonest with the money, so I bailed out...he almost stranded me in Italy, tried to bribe me to stay longer...it was awful....

As no picture of him is available after years of searching, do you have any? If not can you tell me about his looks. Was he short or tall and so on?

No photos....sorry. He was medium complexion, probably Mulatto. About 5' 10"...?.... I think? Chubby, not too buffed at all! He looked like he ate a lot...typical success story! (haha)

Ciao! It's been my pleasure!


A great thanks to Chieli for his open minded attitude and informative answers!