Photo: Taken at Harmonie Park Studios in Detroit during the “Super Bowl” in 2006 (Back row from left) were: Drummer Steve Jordan, Brian Pastoria, unknown individual, Aaron Neville (The Neville Brothers). (Front): Brian’s sons Anton and Dante Pastoria with Aretha Franklin and Mark Pastoria. Photo courtesy of Andrea Pastoria.
MAKING A SOUND LIVING – The Beat Goes On With Detroit’s Brian Pastoria
A drummer’s job is to be the engine of the band. Not only does he (or she) control where the music goes, more often than not, band members look to the drummer for that musical leadership.
For Brian Pastoria, former drummer for the band Adrenalin, the steady beat of his faith kept him going long past the music. If ever there was a local band in the Detroit area destined for the big time, it was Adrenalin. Their journey had taken them in many directions, from presenting sold out shows with thunderous standing ovations, to unforeseen circumstances like the tragic suicide of their lead singer, involvement with drugs by other members of the band, and numerous false starts.
One thing was for certain though — the band’s personal likability. They had audiences ranging from all spectrums of life, whether that was high profile radio personalities like Arthur Penhallow, Doug Podell and Steve Kostan from rock station WRIF Detroit, or Jonathan Cain from Journey, who caught a set before he played at Joe Louis Arena. Filmmakers and the wealthy movers and shakers, from New York and in the Metro Detroit area, all came to see them perform.
They had it all — musicianship, insider industry connections, and radio success (when radio drove the hits). Unfortunately, it seemed no matter how close they got — and they were close — they were derailed again and again.
Opening for Aerosmith, Bob Seger, Mark Farner (Grand Funk Railroad) and other name acts, touring on the strength of their own music, and even scoring a hit (“Road of the Gypsy”) with a major motion picture (“Iron Eagle”), didn’t propel them to a solid place on a touring schedule or the charts.
Thorough the years they had acquired many musical and influential friends in the industry.
So, when personnel changes began to happen within the band again, Brian and his brother Mark Pastoria, had a realization. They decided that if their time playing in the music industry was over, then recording behind the soundboard was where they could make a living and still have their hand in creating music.
Out of this decision, Harmonie Park Studios was born in the heart of downtown Detroit, with the Pastoria brothers manning the controls. Through their studio came a steady stream of famous artists including Aretha Franklin. In fact, Mark won a Grammy Award for his work on the Bryan Adams song “Never Gonna Break My Faith” for the movie “Bobby.”
I caught up with Brian, who, for the first time in many years, is sitting behind a drum kit at his local church. We talked about working with the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin.Biz X: With all the false starts over and over, how did you keep your momentum going?
Brian Pastoria (BP): Faith. Growing up, all of us went to a Catholic school. It was always a big part of everything we did. We were always doing charity shows and helping people. There was always a bigger purpose of what we did. With all we went through with the drug situation with band members, we had to resort to bringing the faith and bringing the prayer to get us through. Had we not had that faith, who knows? We might have ended up with the drugs ourselves. We believed in the higher power and it helped with all the negative things that were going on.
Biz X: Let’s talk about Harmonie Park and the call from Aretha Franklin.
BP: We were blessed to be around so many great industry people: Vini Poncia (Ringo Starr and KISS) was huge, [and] Maurice King (Motown) was a big influence. Michael Powel, who worked with (R&B vocalist) Anita Baker and did her first record that exploded, became a good friend. Michael said, “I got a call from Aretha, and she wants to do some recording,” and asked my brother Mark if he was interested in doing it. Mark was like, “are you kidding me?” When I heard that too I thought, “Oh my god, working with Aretha Franklin!”
The Beat Goes On With Detroit’s Brian Pastoria continues on PAGE 72