BTD Interviews John Tamilio III
Written by Matt Zin on June 28, 2022
BTD Interviews John Tamilio III
Hello John Tamilio, I am so excited to learn more about you. After reviewing your fabulous song, “Everything But Peace” it intrigues me to get to know you even more.
We will start off with a basic question. Where are you from? Born and raised?
I am from Beverly, Massachusetts. I was born and raised there. Between 1999 and 2012, I lived in other parts of the country — New Hampshire, Kansas City, and Cleveland, to be specific. I am now back in my hometown, right by the ocean. I love it here. It is such a beautiful and historic part of the country.
I did read you were a Professor at Salam University and a Rev. in Canton, OH. That is so cool, I know where Canton is, I used to live in Ohio. Can you tell our listeners about your journey as a Professor and Rev?
The Canton Church I serve is in Canton, Massachusetts: the Congregational Church of Canton, a member of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC). Having lived in Cleveland for over four years, I always think of Canton, Ohio as well! My journey is a long one. I am both a Pastor and a Professor of Philosophy at Salem State University. (Don’t ask me when I sleep!) I see both aspects of my life as intertwined, because both deal with analytical thinking and interpreting texts in search of the meaning of human existence. I am a voracious reader. I always have been. This life is one that almost seems carved-out for me.
So you are also a singer/songwriter and guitarist. What order would you put these in? Are you more singer then songwriter? More guitarist then singer? Oh and how do you find time to do all this?
This is a great question. I think of myself as a lead guitarist primarily. I get the job done as a singer, but that has always been a way of expressing the music within me — giving voice to the ideas that come through the songs I pen. I love writing songs, but it is a slow and painful experience. I love when I produce a final product, but the process is like giving birth, though not as painful. I also write poetry, though I have not put any of my poems to music. I go through stages as a writer that are somewhat tedious, somewhat life-giving. Sometimes the songs/poems just flow. Most times, though, inspiration is hard to conjure. I often feel like Homer at the beginning of The Odyssey, crying-out my invocation to the Muse for inspiration. She doesn’t always show up, but when she does it is thrilling.
When you write songs, are they mainly about your experiences or something else?
My songs are about a wide range of ideas, experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Most of my early material with 3D were love songs. Since then, I mostly write about ideas that marinate in mind and spirit for a while. The genesis varies: sometimes it begins with a story I saw on the news or a kernel from a book I read. Sometimes the music comes first. I will be practicing my guitar and a chord progression or riff will surface. I’ll try to work it into a more cohesive expression. Sometimes a lyric will come to me and I will write it down hoping to find the right music to phrase it. (I think I have a drawer filled with ideas that are still waiting for the right marriage of music.) The songwriting process is always new and different to me. It is something that controls me more than the converse.
When you write, do you need to find a quiet place, or can you write just about anywhere? What is your strategy that puts you in a comfy place to write?
I wish I knew! I wish I had more control over the process. It seems to call to me as if to say, “Hey, here’s an idea! See what you can do with it.” I do not like to have anyone else around when I write, unless I am collaborating with someone. I rarely do the latter anymore. I haven’t written a song with someone else since the 3D days, when I wrote many of our more popular tunes with Steve Madore (our original bass player).
When did you start playing guitar? What was your very first guitar? Do you still have it now? Have you grown a guitar family and obtained more guitars?
I wish I still had the first guitar I ever owned, but it is long gone. I do have my first “real” guitar: the black Fender Squire Stratocaster I played throughout the 1980s and ‘90s. Now, I have a huge collection of guitars. It sounds so pretentious, but I do not even know how many I have. It’s somewhere in the twenties. There are certain ones that I prefer to play regularly. My latest is the new Fender Acoustasonic Stratocaster. It is a beautiful instrument with exquisite tone and versatility. It has the ability to sound like an acoustic or electric guitar. However, when I want just a full acoustic sound, I turn to one of my Ovations. For a deep, clean electric sound I use my Fender Nitro Stratocaster. If I want a real crunch, I’ll grab my Gibson Les Paul (studio version), my Schecter Diamond Series axe, or SVK Les Paul. The latter is a rarity, producing one of the best distorted sounds I’ve ever heard.
Do you play other instruments?
I play piano (keyboards), bass, and drums.
How did you get into the music biz and where are you with it now?
My ex brother-in-law Gary Shane really got me started. I was an audiophile since I was a kid, but Gary made playing music more tangible. He was the first person to teach me open chords, and I sort of took it from there. Today, I play mostly acoustic shows. My set is comprised of an equal amount of originals and classic covers from artists who had the biggest influence on me: e.g. Pink Floyd, The Who, Thin Lizzy, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, and a host of others.
You are the founder of the band 3D, how did that come about and what does 3D stand for?
When we started back in 1984, we were looking for a name. We threw several around, but none of them stuck. The late Jason DiDonato (our original drummer), Dan DeFazio (who is very much the Syd Barrett of the group), and I were in the record section of a local mall department store. Dan picked up a copy of Cheap Trick’s latest album at the time (Next Position Please, 1983) and saw a song entitled 3-D on the back cover. He thought, “That would be a great name for us,” seeing as we were a three-piece band at the time. It felt right, because we were also into U2 album War at the time and thought this was a sort of a parallel name. We took the dash out of it (so it simply read 3D), I came up with the logo, and the rest is history.
Can you tell our listeners about what your fabulous song “Everything But Peace” means? How long did it take to write? What is your favorite line of lyric out of the song?
The song sort of came to me out of the creative ether. I knew I had to write it. We were in our rehearsal room at the time. I was working with my solo band, JT & The Scream. I asked our bass player Kurt Overberg (who also had a short stint in 3D) to play a particular progression in E major that I came up with. As he played it, the words came pouring out. Kurt kept playing the progression as I scribbled the lyrics and told him the chord changes. The song has become a timeless expression of how I see the ongoing political reality in America: corporate greed controls both political parties making money off war and oppressing the poor for their own gain. I particularly like the line, “Prepubescents with weapons are fighting wars in the Middle East / A child fighting for democracy is killed by the club of a beast.” That line came from a few places. The most potent was a news report I saw on TV of a young, Kuwaiti teenager fighting in the Gulf War. It is also an allusion to a line in the song “Hope Lives Here” by Laurie Sargent (the ex-Face to Face lead singer). Her line was, “In the name of God we’ve got children shooting guns.” Unfortunately, this song never becomes archaic. My prayer is that it does someday.
What do you like to do to relax?
I love to read, watch the Boston Red Sox, fish, and go to restaurants with my wife, Cindy.
I did read that you are a big movie buff, what are some of your favorite movies? Do movies inspire your writing as well?
I love movies. My favorites range as much as my taste in music. I love certain classic movies, such as Citizen Kane and The Hustler. I am also a huge fan of David Lynch’s work (Eraserhead is one of my favorite movies of all time) and Stanley Kubrick. (I cannot tell you how many hours I have spent analyzing the hidden themes in The Shining.) A movie that has had a tremendous influence on me philosophically is the 1990 Adrian Lyne film Jacob’s Ladder. Maybe it is because of its development of Meister Eckhart’s understanding of the dying process, or because Tim Robbins’ main/title character, Jacob Singer, also holds a Ph.D. in philosophy. Although I cannot point specifically to how any movie influenced my songwriting, I know all of them have. Movies are the visual counterpoints to so much music — and both are part of my creative DNA.
I was watching your video “Holding Back”, great song. Can you tell us about that song?
Steve Madore and I wrote that song around 1986. Steve played the main riff to us at a rehearsal in his parents’ basement one day. I played along and, again, the lyrics just seemed to manifest themselves. I cannot remember if a verse or the chorus came first, but I think it was the latter. The song became a vehicle for Steve and I to express broken teenage romance. We were both experts when it came to that.
Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
I pray that I am still doing exactly what I am doing now. Lately, I have been booked for several shows. (I have about ten coming up!) I feel as if I am on tour again. I am in the process of putting a CD together. Some of the tracks are studio recordings 3D did with Greg Dann at his Rockpile Recording Studio in Rockport, Massachusetts. Others are solo cuts. Some are acoustic pieces I recorded with Chris Harvey and Paul Norman. The older I get, the more I feel the need to put such a collection together for posterity sake.
Well, we are coming to a close of this interview. It was fun exploring and learning more about you. One last question, where can our listeners find your music?
It is readily available on YouTube: several originals as well as covers. A new recording of 3D’s first single “A Bit Like You” and “Holding Back” — as well as “Everything But Peace” — are also on YouTube. We are in the process of uploading all of our material to Spotify. “Everything But Peace,” which is already on there, is also the opening track on Boston Rock ‘n’ Roll Anthology Volume #21. (An earlier version of “A Bit Like You” is on Volume #8.) Our label (Varulven) will release a new mix of “Holding Back” soon. A sort of Greatest Hits CD will be out soon as well. People can keep up with recordings and gigs on our Facebook page: Fans of 3D. We keep that updated daily.
Make sure you keep us up to date on your journey!
Thank you so much! This has been a blast!
T Dawn and the BTD Radio Team