Issue:          5/10/01 
Page:         na

Sight for sore eyes

Guitartist Tony Fredianelli welcomes second stint with Third Eye Blind

By John Beck
Press Democrat Staff Writer

Who: Third Eye Blind

When: Saturday, May 12

Where: Konocti Harbor Resort

Tickets 1-800-660-5253

More than a year ago Tony Fredianelli was playing the Las Vegas circuit in a glam-curiosity band called Love Shack.

His sister mugged as B-52s singer Kate Pierson alongside an all-star cover band cast that featured Billy Idol, Adam Ant, and Devo front man Mark Mothersbaugh. Fredianelli was the white guy in the curly wig dressed up as Prince.

Remember that nasty lick in "When Doves Cry"? Fredianelli will never forget it.

At the age of 16, the child guitar prodigy was busy fronting the speed metal band Apocrypha for several Shrapnel records that never went anywhere. He had started out as a guitarist with Third Eye Blind in the early '90s, even laying down the wah-wah guitar track on "Semi-Charmed Life," but parted ways before the San Francisco band hijacked radio stations with their self-titled 1997 debut.

A little bummed by his luck, he tried to make a go of it with his own band, Majik Alex. When it fell through, the Strip beckoned.

It's not like he was starving in Vegas. Three gigs a week amounted to about $70,000 a year.

Then at the start of 2000 he got a call delivering his winning lottery numbers.

Acting more like a corporation than a rock band, Third Eye Blind had fired guitarist Kevin Cadogan. And Stephan Jenkins was calling to see if he wanted to rejoin the band.

The next day, Fredianelli played "The Tonight Show," before taking off for the largest road shows of his life, the "Dragons and Astronauts" and the "Red Summer Sun" tours. "At that point, it was a major high because I just sort of came out of the shadows," said Fredianelli, talking on the phone while taking a break in a downtown San Francisco studio while working on a song for the soundtrack to "American Pie 2."

Now, more than a year after the shake-up, he's working on preproduction on the next Third Eye Blind CD. The band starts recording in June in New York. After being mixed in England, the CD should come out early next year.

When Third Eye Blind kicks off Konocti Harbor's summer amphitheater series May 12, look for two new songs "Eye Conqueror" and "Forgetting Myself" that they've been playing live.

After playing another guitarist's riffs for the past year, Fredianelli says "I'm definitely looking forward to playing my own stuff."

Given last year's touring and recent appearances with Run-DMC on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and at the Oakland Coliseum, Fredianelli has had plenty of time to figure out the inner politics in the band.

"Stephan basically has that 'I am Mick Jagger' thing. Even though he doesn't say that he carries himself with that sort of bravado that's hard to miss," Fredianelli said.

"He definitely has the final word on everything and I think that keeps everything from getting into too much havoc," he said. "But for the most part he's pretty open to whatever ideas flow onto the table."

Coming from a band where he wrote all the lyrics and music, Fredianelli would rather be more than just a hired slow hand.

"I bring to the table a lot of songs and different ideas, but I think I'm only going to see a few of those get to fruition only because of the obvious -- my place so far or that I'm the new guy or whatever -- but I think that at some point I'll do something where I can really stretch out on my own."

Considering the fate of his predecessor, does he ever worry about job security?

"I don't see Stephan as this overlord who's going to fire me for anything I say. We can get pretty heated, but at the end of the day we all need each other, especially at this crucial juncture."

The crossroads he's talking about is the much-anticipated follow-up to "Blue," a more experimental CD that sold much less than its popped-up predecessor, never coughing up hits like "Semi-charmed Life," "How's It Going To Be" and "Graduate." The next CD could determine whether Third Eye Blind has legs or winds up another fast-track rock-pop outfit on the skids.

It's also important for Fredianelli if he ever wants to rack up major royalties and flex his wallet like his multimillionaire band mates.

"I'll catch up," he says. "That's why it's so crucial to me to see the next record just fly, because then that puts more life and more years into this thing."

His nickname, "Monkey," an inside joke that goes back to his Love Shack shenanigans, fits perfectly with his habit of jumping around on stage. In many ways, live Third Eye shows, which have been known to include a few strip-tease dancers, are not that far removed from his hometown Vegas stage shows.

"It's a little bit of theater because Stephan really wants to create a place for us to play and have fun and feel a part of it," he says. "There's something J.R.R. Tolkien and magic that goes on at some of these, with the moon setting off to the side and there's this thing that rises up over here during one song -- it's all thought out very well."

If there's one thing he picked up from his new role, it's learning how to cope with the circus hysteria that has a way of following the band.

"Everybody's creating hype," he says. "Once you start believing your own hype and the image it's creating, I think you nail yourself up on a cross. For me, I think I just want to stay off the cross as much as possible."