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HardRockChick Interviews Carl Restivo aka The Wizard from Street Sweeper Social Club

August 25, 2009

Carl Restivo might think I’m stalking him. First, I saw him play in Satellite Party. Then, The Justice Tour. And then, I went to one or two or six NIN/JA(SSSC) shows. And then there’s Outside Lands this weekend….

Carl was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to let me ask him a few questions about all of the amazing things he’s involved in.


HardRockChick: So, Carl- you have your hands in so many things, I feel like the appropriate question to start off with is what do you NOT do?

Carl Restivo: I don’t play any horns (at least not well). I don’t eat pine nuts ’cause I’m allergic.

HRC: How did you get involved with Perry Farrell and join Satellite Party?

” This was a chance to meet Perry Farrell for the first time. I worshiped that man since I was 13!”

CR: Through Nuno Bettencourt, who had been collaborating with Perry for about a year or so. I had met Nuno through Wyclef Jean in NYC, and we hit it off (as I was a big Extreme fan) and we kept in touch. I moved to LA a year or so later and the first night I was there he took me to a club with Paul Geary and showed me what LA had to offer. HA! One month later he called me and said “do you want to come with me to the studio?” This was a chance to meet Perry Farrell for the first time. I worshiped that man since I was 13! I had every Jane’s album, bootlegs, live shit, VHS tapes, Porno for Pyros albums, singles, maxi singles, etc. Perry was a major influence on me, and on top of all that, I truly believed that Song Yet To Be Sung was his best work to date. I met Perry in the studio, told him I have been admiring his work for a number of years. Nuno said to him, “this is Carl, he plays all instruments and has a great voice and also played the guitars on “Hips Don’t Lie” by Shakira and Wyclef” (true). He was impressed. I listened to a rough mix of his new songs Dogstar and Awesome; I was blown away at how amazing and clear and focused his vocals were, and I was digging the beats of ‘Dogstar’. Truth be told, I had heard that Nuno and Perry had started a new project called Satellite Party the year before I moved out to LA. I found a bootleg video from their surprise show at the Key Club and was like WOW this shit is awesome! The thought I had in late ’05 was, ‘what happens when No Doubt goes on tour again???’ Meaning (what happens to) Tony Kanal who had played with them for that show? Then I never thought about it again. Later that night after leaving the studio (it was at Henson studios, where Audioslave were recording their last album), we got in to the car, and Nuno said ‘Tom just texted ‘let’s get some lobster tail at the Rainbow”. Sounds good! But Tom who? ‘Morello’. Cool, let’s do it. So in the same night, Nuno introduced me to Perry and Tom.

HRC: I saw the Justice Tour and am always enamored with the spontaneous feeling from those performances. Can you tell me a bit about how you prep for a show, considering you are dealing with new performers almost every night?

CR: Well, it starts with a text or a phone call from Tom, usually the day before the benefit show. “Songs for Axis Show tomorrow: Kick out the Jams, Wake Up, Feel Like Making Love, Vertigo, Get Up Stand Up, Dr. Feelgood, Brand New Cadillac, This Land is Your Land, and about 4 Cypress Hill Jams”. Usually I already know half, if not most, of the songs, so I learn the tunes and am basically responsible for not only being able to perform and sing either lead or background on any song, but teach all the performers the songs 1 hour before show time in the ol’ smoking piano room at Hotel Cafe in Hollywood, CA.

For the Justice ‘tour’ that is becoming an amazing yearly thing that we do, a gaggle of songs are learned prior to leaving for the tour (usually about 4 -8 dates across the country). And more often than not, half the set is comprised of brand new songs ‘learned that day’ because of special guests added either the night before or the day of…such as: Joe Satriani, Sammy Hagar, Lemmy from Motorhead, Stewart Copeland, Steve Vai…just to name a few.


HRC: I had the pleasure of following around the NIN/JA tour featuring Street Sweeper Social Club earlier this summer. What’s your favorite memory from the tour?

“One time I jammed with Stephen on drums while I played Eric’s bass and we did Porno for Pyros songs”

CR: There are a couple: Watching Jane’s Addiction every night (out of about 30 shows I think I missed 2), the catering department Jake and Ali (whom we all had middle school-like crushes on), Trent joining us for Kick Out The Jams in San Diego – that was truly INSANE! And probably watching Jane’s soundcheck – towards the very end of the tour when Jane’s would opt out of a full soundcheck, Stevo (Stephen’s tech), Tracey (Eric’s tech) and Dan (Dave’s tech) and me on lead vocals (i’m actually mainly a singer!) rocked Jane’s songs for soundcheck, usually Mountain Song or sometimes a Cult song. One time I jammed with Stephen on drums while I played Eric’s bass and we did Porno for Pyros songs: Packin’ 25, Porno for Pyros (the song), Cursed Male, Tahitian Moon, and Black Girlfriend were rocked. Boy does he kick ass on drums. Hmmm what else…oh yeah, we (SSSC) would try every night to have a dance party in our dressing room. It worked 50 percent of the time. Etty was our partner in crime and sometimes members of NIN (not Trent) and occasionally Stephen. Members of the crew (when they were done working) would come and drink, and me and Tom would trade ipods and basically put on our own mixes of Dirty Hip Hop to GTBITM… I’ll let you figure out what that stands for.

HRC: As you mentioned, one of my favorite moments was SSSC doing ‘Kick Out the Jams’ with Trent…how did that come about?

CR: Basically Tom and Trent had been texting about doing something. He (Trent) was either going to perform on one of our songs that we hadn’t played yet, or a cover. I suggested a bunch of things, like War Pigs, Get Down Make Love (’cause he covered that back in the dizzay), and more really show-stopping songs but it was agreed that KOTJ would slay, and boy, it did.

HRC: How did you get your name ‘The Wizard’?

CR: It is an inherited nickname. My Great-Grandfather was a professional accordion player back in the early, early 1900’s through the 60’s. Mostly vaudeville places…he died in 1980. He was billed as Carlo Restivo, Wizard of the Accordion.

HRC: You’ve been involved in so many collaborations: Wyclef Jean, 50 Cent, Shakira…is there anyone who is on your wishlist of people to work with?

CR: Wishlist? Hmmm…Jay-Z, Stephin Merritt, Britney Spears, Rick Rubin

HRC: Tell me about your work with the School of Rock.

“I love working with kids and inspiring them to get really good and take it seriously while having a ton of fun.”

CR: I am the Music Director of the Paul Green School Of Rock in Los Angeles, CA. Currently, the school is in Hollywood and I opened it in 2006 when I moved out here. I love working with kids and inspiring them to get really good and take it seriously while having a ton of fun. We opened with 12 kids, and the first show was Pink Floyd: The Wall. Out of those first 12, six are still in the school and we are up to about 100 kids. This season, we are doing a Jimi Hendrix Tribute (Aug 29/30 in Hollywood), Metallica in September, Funk in September, and Women Who Rock at the end of September. Next season we are doing Aerosmith, Best of 80’s, Prog Rock, and Alice In Chains vs Soundgarden.

HRC: What can we expect to see in the future from you?

CR: A new album that I have been working on for a while – either a solo or band project. Not sure which yet, but sooner than you think.


Read Carl’s touching piece he wrote regarding Les Paul’s death.

See Carl in Street Sweeper Social Club with Boots Riley and Tom Morello this Friday at The Independent, and Saturday at Outside Lands.

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