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February 15, 2002

Third Eye Blind guitarist is a true visionary

By Kirk Baird



  • What: Third Eye Blind.


  • When: 8 p.m. Sunday.


  • Where: Palms' Rain in the Desert Nightclub.


  • Tickets: $35.


  • Information: 942-7777.


  • Tony Fredianelli has made many decisions about the direction of his musical career throughout his 33 years.

    But his career really comes down to two choices: the day he left Third Eye Blind and the day he rejoined the band.

    A Las Vegas resident since age 4, after Fredianelli graduated from Valley High School in 1987, the guitarist played in small clubs throughout the city and recorded four solo albums, all in the same shredding guitar style made popular by then-hip hair metal bands in the late-'80s/early '90s.

    Tiring of the fast-fingered playing, Fredianelli worked on mellowing his guitar style and further developing as a songwriter.

    In 1993, while playing in Northern California, he met Stephan Jenkins, a singer/guitarist who recruited Fredianelli to join a band he was forming: Third Eye Blind.

    Later known for the hits "Semi-Charmed Life" "Graduate" and "How's it Going to Be," Third Eye Blind, which performs Sunday night at the Palms' Rain in the Desert Nightclub, soon became popular as it played throughout California.

    It wasn't long before the band was close to signing a major-label recording contract, which was how Fredianelli justified the weekly commute back and forth to San Francisco from Las Vegas.

    Then the deal fell through and Third Eye Blind was just another unsigned band with no immediate prospects.

    "I made a decision: Should I keep playing in the band and work in coffee shops or go home and live on the couch and play my own music," Fredianelli said from his home in San Francisco.

    So he amicably split from Third Eye Blind around '95. Fredianelli was determined to find success on his own and started Las Vegas band Majik Alex. He also helped form local '80s cover band Love Shack, which still performs on weekends at Texas Station, with his sister Tiffany. Love Shack was a way to support his family, which included a new wife and child, and pay the bills.

    Meanwhile Fredianelli's former band hired a new guitarist, Kevin Cadogan, and kept playing, hoping to be noticed and land a record deal.

    The persistence for both parties paid off when Third Eye Blind signed with Elektra records and released its eponymous debut album in 1997, while Majik Alex, which had served as an opening act for Third Eye Blind, was close to signing a contract of its own with Virgin records.

    The label liked what it heard from Majik Alex, but wanted more songs to ensure the band would be more than a one-hit wonder. Suffering from a case of writer's block, Fredianelli found himself unable to comply with the record company's request for more singles.

    "I got locked into a freeze of creativity," he said. "It was the worst thing that could have happened."

    The interest from Virgin vanished, along with Fredianelli's songwriting ability. At that point Fredianelli said he believed dressing up and playing the part of Prince in Love Shack, as he had done for nearly three years, seemed to be his future.

    Then his old band called.

    The disc "Third Eye Blind" had been a huge hit. But the band's second album "Blue," release in late 1999, wasn't as well received. Also, there was considerable ongoing strife between the band and Cadogan.

    The quartet wanted to know if Fredianelli would join the group again as a "fifth" musician, playing keyboards and some guitar during concerts.

    Fredianelli quickly accepted the offer and flew to San Francisco to join the band. The reunion went very well, while the acrimony caused by Cadogan continued to grow, eventually resulting in the guitarist's dismissal from Third Eye Blind. Cadogan then filed a lawsuit against the band for his termination. The suit is still pending.

    "In the end it's cost the band $2 million in attorney's fees not to have him around anymore," Fredianelli said. "There are no winners in these things."

    While the timing of Fredianelli's return might seem suspicious, as if the band had planned to get rid of Cadogan once it had a replacement, he insists that's not the case.

    "I don't think when they invited me up they were aware they were going to to fire the guitar player," he said. "There was just so much chemistry between us and so much negative things he'd done to all the guys in the band, that they couldn't have fun anymore."

    For Fredianelli's part, the return was easy, "like coming home." And he's not concerned with being fired, saying he "chooses to create harmony around myself," unlike his predecessor.

    As proof of his lasting status with the band, Fredianelli officially became a full-time bandmember in January. For the first year after rejoining the band he was strictly salary.

    Now he receives a "cut-end," or royalites, from the songs he's helped write for the band's as-yet-untitled new album due in early summer, as well as cash from the band's shows: the occasional concerts Third Eye Blind is doing now to test its new songs, and the major tour the band will embark on after the album's release.

    He also brought his brother, Chris, also a Las Vegas resident, in to replace him as the fifth member of the band. While it may seem like a case of nepotism to cynics, Fredianelli said it's important for him to help those about whom he cares.

    "It's like a circle that comes back around," he said. "If you don't help people who are your friends, you'll stagger in a big way."