Human Drama Ten Small Fractures
In 2019 we were invited to do a concert for the National University of Mexico UNAM. The offer was to perform an acoustic concert at Sala Nezahualcóyotl, a very famous theater on the campus of the university. When thinking about how best to do the presentation, myself and Mark Balderas discussed possibly doing a piano and acoustic guitar presentation, which we had done a few times over the years. But during those conversations we felt like we could really expand the idea and make it more special if we incorporated strings and flute, and did strategic new arrangements of all the material. So, we brought in our violinist Gerardo Pozos, and our flautist Claudia Gonzalez, and conferred with them about creating a new, exciting presentation of our songs.
The Sala Neza concert was one of our favorite performances as Human Drama, and with all of the work and preparation rearranging the songs for piano, violin, and flute, the concert felt very different and special. The old songs had a new life, a new “vibe” - a new way to express themselves 30 years later…
Upon returning home, Mark and I had another chat and I mentioned to him that “this should be our next album” - new presentations and arrangements of songs from our past albums. We agreed that Human Drama’s catalog was filled with acoustic guitar, so we should try to avoid that even though most of our songs have been written around the acoustic guitar. We felt this would sound too “normal” and possibly a bit lazy, which we as a band have never been. So we made the decision to limit the instrumentation to vocal, piano, flute, violin, muted bass, and add only a classical nylon string guitar that would play off of the other instruments. We also agreed to no double tracking or layering of tracks, with the goal being that the album should sound like six people playing together in a room, playing off of each other. That was the plan, and we stuck to it. This is as simple and pure of an album as we have ever made.
For me, the highlights of the album are the beautiful piano arrangements by Mark Balderas. This is the foundation of the album. We used as a loose blueprint the orchestration of a Human Drama track from 1995 called “The Waiting Hour (once again)”, a re-make of a song originally released on our first RCA album, FEEL. We had a couple of ideas for song selections from our Sala Neza concert set, but we intentionally stayed away from piano based-tracks from prior albums.
So we went to work choosing the songs and slowly getting the piano arrangements completed and recorded. We took our time choosing ten songs that we felt would translate well into this new musical configuration.
Over the course of a year and a half we recorded TEN SMALL FRACTURES. Mark and I were joined by Lynn Bertles and Gerardo Pozos on violin, Paul Pate and Claudia Gonzalez on flute, Steve Fuxan on muted bass, and Tim Grove, Steve Caton, and Richard Lo Guercio on nylon string guitar.
Regarding the title of the album. This came from many questions by interviewers over the years about the personal issues I discuss in my lyrics, and the honesty of my approach. “Is it difficult to expose yourself as you do? Are the songs painful to relive?” My answer to this in one interview was “No, not at all. I feel the story, write the story, record the story, and then let them go. The songs may be painful in the moment, but they are not like broken bones that stay broken. They are more like small fractures…”
- Johnny Indovina, 2023
Human Drama is a musical project that has stood the test of time. A passion project, if you will. A band of troubadour talent that through the decades have endured and endeavored to make the music uncompromising.
The latest example is Blurred Images. A collection of songs that were written and recorded as singles yet culminate into a family of songs set to be released April 16th on Los Angeles based Sunset Blvd. Records.
The album represents the evolution of music and life lessons of Johnny Indovina both as an artist and a person. Johnny's songs are reflective of his life and the world around him. Music can be as therapeutic to the artist as it is to the listener, lyrically and musically. Albums can be both a timestamp and a soundtrack to our lives depending on what we are going through at that particular moment. Where we find solace is that virtual companionship and comradeship that we get when we relate to such music and either find justification for our feelings or advice for our direction. Along with Johnny Indovina, Blurred Images features original members Mark Balderas on Keyboards and Steve Fuxan on Bass guitar, along with guitarist Timothy Grove and Drummer Greg Collister. Also appearing on the album is original Human Drama Guitarist Michael Ciravolo, Pinky Turzo on Backing vocals, Christie Guerrero on Backing vocals and Gerardo Pozos on Violin.
Blurred Images is another Human Drama concept album, created by a band and a songwriter that prefer to work in this manner. See “The World Inside”, “Songs of Betrayal”, “Broken Songs for Broken People”, and Johnny’s solo album “Trials of The Writer”.
…Johnny Indovina speaking about Blurred Images:
“It was a section of my life that I tried to forget. Then one day I heard a piece of music. I started to speak over this music. I dreamed of the mountains...I said. Two minutes later I realized I had said goodbye to something that I hardly ever (maybe never) consciously let surface. So, I brought something to a final resting place? No… I finally fully admitted that it had been lying beside every moment of my life since 1996. It kind of sat there adjusting things, so to speak. So, I looked it in the eye, and said “Farewell”. But it couldn’t simply end there. It was now time to let every aspect of that time in my life, all the little moments that contributed to the monumental event that would guide my life from far beneath the surface, to the surface.
So, I strategically next sang about a beautiful night on Delaney Street in 1993. Beautiful. Look what I found. Something beautiful and miles away from my ability to feel now. Then it got dark. No surprise. I was ready for it, and the conversation was more easy this time. I guess this story may make a cohesive piece of music...another concept album. So, I continued the story. King of Kings, One More Time Around the Lake, Into Our Escape, Another Crash, Let the Memories Live Here, Sometimes, I’m Looking, and February 10th. All pieces of a whole. There are many layers in responsibility in most situations, and layers of responsibility to the damages suffered. My goal was that this album be an examination of a relationship on all levels”.
Blurred Images is an examination and acknowledgement of an impacting few years from an artist that, like all of us, is finding his own way in life.
A great frame of reference for this artists journey is the 2020 release of a documentary film titled 'Seven Days in Mexico'. The film follows Johnny's journey into rediscovering his musical purpose after years of slowly feeling creatively drained within the music industry. A special bonus disc containing music from the film will be released along with Blurred Images as a 2 CD set on April 16th 2021.
Human Drama From Then To Now:
Human Drama grew out of the new wave/rock band The Models featuring Indovina, Michael Ciravolo (Guitar), Steve Fuxan (Bass) and Charlie Bouis (Drums), which formed in 1980 in New Orleans. Eventually relocating to Los Angeles in 1985 and adding Keyboardist Mark Balderas, Human Drama became an integral part of the “Scream Scene” of bands that played regularly at the famed nightclub Scream, Human Drama signed to RCA Records and released their debut EP, “Hopes, Prayers, Dreams, Heart, Soul, Mind, Love, Life, Death” followed by “Feel” in 1989. Both produced by Ian Broudie (Echo and the Bunnymen, The Fall, The Lightning Seeds and many others), “Feel” is an edgy, viscerally emotional collection of alternative rock with strong melodic hooks, deeply introspective lyrics, sweltering guitar and vocals by Indovina equally convincing as a tortured whisper or a throat-shredding howl. Unfortunately, “Feel” was a victim of label mishandling and ultimately did not approach its commercial potential. Tracks like “Death of An Angel,” “Heaven on Earth” and “I Could Be a Killer” should have been major hits on alternative radio, but the album went largely unnoticed. Undeterred by their disappointing experience with a major label, Human Drama went the independent route with their second album, and despite working with a fraction of the budget the result was their masterpiece, 1992’s “The World Inside.” Human Drama set aside the searing rock of “Feel“ for a more acoustic-based sound made magic by dazzling strings and Indovina’s powerfully resonant voice. Brilliant from start to finish, standouts include the single “Fascination and Fear,” the melodic folk-rock gem “Tears” and the propulsive rocker “Look into a Stranger’s Eyes.” The album won plaudits and critical acclaim, and although commercial success remained elusive, Indovina and his collaborators found the path that would lead them to several more outstanding releases.
The 1993 covers album “Pin Ups,” homage to David Bowie’s 1973 classic of the same name, includes a breathtaking reimagining of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” roiling with tension and passion. Indovina takes on songs by Bowie himself as well as Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits and others. A year later, after a particularly prolific period for Indovina, Human Drama released the Human Drama EP featuring the newly arranged version of the classic epic “The Waiting Hour” reduced to piano, strings and flute. In 1995 Human Drama unleashed the 25-song behemoth “Songs of Betrayal,” a master class in songwriting that ranges from tense and raucous electric-guitar driven tracks like “Another Fifty Miles” and “It Is Fear” to piercingly beautiful ballads like “Blue” and “This Forgotten Love.” The album was reissued four years later in two separate parts with the addition of several bonus tracks.
Human Drama’s blistering 1996 live album “Fourteen Thousand Three Hundred Eighty Four Days Later,” which refers to the exact number of days Indovina had been alive up to the date of the recording, presents the full power of the band’s electrifying live performances. Particular highlights are a white-hot rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire” and a fervid take on their early gem “Wave of Darkness.” Another epic studio album followed, 1999’s “Solemn Sun Setting,” a deep collection of passionate performances. The album’s long and diverse, from the exquisite ballads “Single White Rose” and “Love’s Way” to the expansive and dramatic “March On” to the deliciously eerie psychedelia of “My Denial.” Human Drama’s final album (until now) came with “Cause and Effect” in 2002. After the largely downbeat and mellow “Solemn Sun Setting,” Human Drama set the strings aside and came out guitars blazing on feverish rockers like “Goodbye Sweetheart” and “I Am Not Here.” Indovina did not abandon his gift for stunning balladry though, as “Lonely,” swirling with sumptuous piano is one of the finest of his career.
Human Drama disbanded and Indovina pursued a side project, Sound of the Blue Heart, with whom he released two solid albums: “Beauty?...” and “Wind of Change.” Indovina finally released his first solo album in 2014 with “Trials of the Writer,” an intimate and deeply personal reflection on the intense emotional connection between the songwriter and the soul-bearing compositions that document his life with honesty, poignancy, and sometimes rage and heartbreak.
Human Drama was not quite finished, though. The encouragement of their fans brought them together for two landmark shows. The band reunited in August 2012 for a triumphant performance at El Plaza Condesa in Mexico City, where Human Drama has amassed a sizable fan base. Three years later, in a 2015 show marking Human Drama’s 30th anniversary, they delivered a marathon performance at the Circo Volador in Mexico City on Halloween night. They played 42 songs in all, ending with the first new Human Drama track in 13 years, “The Liar Inside.”
The enthusiasm of the fans and the successful first experiment in resurrecting Human Drama in the studio with “The Liar Inside” led to Indovina diving into an intense journey of songwriting, the result being “Broken Songs for Broken People.” The album delivers the essence of what Human Drama has always been about: emotional songs that veer between those brimming with delicate beauty and those that are piercingly fraught with tension and pain.
“Broken Songs for Broken People” included many familiar collaborators from albums past back into the fold for the new project. He’s joined by original member’s bassist Steve Fuxan, guitarist Michael Ciravolo and Charlie Bouis (who contributed some engineering and mixing on the album), all veterans of a substantial portion of Human Drama’s output. On drums is Rob Cournoyer (another native of New Orleans) who also appeared on “Cause and Effect” and Sound of the Blue Heart “Beauty?”. And of course, original member keyboardist Mark Balderas, who has been such a pivotal part of the band’s sound through all their best work, provides stunning work on the piano, Hammond B3, Mellotron and Wurlitzer. Also featured are Curt Harding, who appeared on both “The World Inside” and “Pin-ups,” contributes bass on “Trying to Make Sense of It All.” Vocalist Shea Alexander nails a stunning vocal on her duet with Indovina, “Love Lies Still,” which also features bassist Chris Severin a talented New Orleans-based musician who’s worked with the likes of the Neville Brothers and Dr. John plus veteran ace Carlo Nuccio, a New Orleans-based drummer who’s worked on an impressive string of landmark albums including Emmylou Harris’ “Red Dirt Girl” and Tori Amos’ “Under the Pink.” Sound of the Blue Heart members Timothy Grove who plays guitar on “A Long Time Ago”, “Love Lies Still” and “Trying to Make Sense of It All” which also includes drummer Peter Straub. The strings have returned, exquisitely performed on various tracks by Emmanuel Lauren, Guierrmo Gutierrez, Lyn Bertles, and Alicia Enstrom. Indovina leads the charge as always, and from the chill-inducing opening chords of the title song, it was clear that Human Drama was back, and in full creative force.
Ryan Martin-Jammerzine 2021