John began his studies with his friend and mentor, Joe Franco (Good Rats), who John says, "his playing and teaching changed my life". He later began instruction with under the wing of Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs), Dom Famularo and Tommy Aldridge (Ozzy Osbourne). At the ambitious age of 18, John leaves his hometown for California to attend the Percussion Institute of Technology. It was here that he studied under Ralph Humphrey (Frank Zappa), Casey Schuerelle, and Joey Heredia. This is where John says "My passion with odd times and rhythms and understanding them began." That same year, John was hired for his first tour as well as recording with guitarist Paul Hansen in Germany.
Soon after John’s first recording session, he would go on to meet guitarist, Alex Masi, who is now a long time friend. John and Alex have toured and recorded together since 1987 and are still at it to this day. John appears on several of Alex’s solo records, such as Vertical Invader and the writing collaboration Late Nights At Deserts Rim Rock. The two would then go on to record with bassist Randy Coven to form the trio MCM, Masi, Coven, Macaluso. MCM released the critically acclaimed album, Ritual Factory and its live counterpart, MCM Live 1900 Hard Times.
John joins Powermad in the late 1980’s and releases Absolute Power on Warner Bros. Records. Movie director David Lynch had come across Absolute Power while writing the Nicolas Cage film, Wild At Heart. Lynch enjoyed the album so much that he then decides to feature the track Slaughter House in one scene of the movie (watch video of John playing in the movie). Powermad was flown to California and John Macaluso makes his motion picture debut in two scenes with actors Nicolas Cage and Laura Dern. Wild At Heart went on to win the Cannes Film Festival First Place Prize. After touring for almost a year straight, John would end his tenure with Powermad and join the Norwegian based juggernaut, TNT.
John records three albums with TNT and tours around the globe until the band’s demise in 1992. Shortly thereafter, John returns to New York to join Riot, replacing Bobby Jarzombek (Rob Halford). Riot tours extensively, spanning Europe, Japan and the United States on several occasions. It was not long before Riot has John appear on Brethren of the Longhouse. It was at this point where John would close the book on his run with Riot while discovering a phenomenal Norwegian guitar player.
Influence on Progressive Metal
It was in Toten, Norway where John would cross paths with guitarist Tore Østby. Together, John and Tore had an immediate musical amalgamation of styles in the realm of a heavy groove, progressive rock mixed with a Latin feel. Blending flamenco guitars, double bass drumming and Pink Floyd like moods, this sound would go on to form the progressive metal force known as ARK. Exploding with incredible reviews on their two albums, ARK impresses fans from around the world with their originality and live performances. Consisting of the world renouned vocalist Jørn Lande, bassist Randy Coven (Mountain, Malmsteen), and Mats Oloussen (Malmsteen), the band’s short history has made history to some. John Macaluso played a vital role in the bands formation, writing and recording, having the two albums, ARK and Burn the Sun, under his belt.
John Macaluso would soon gain the attention and favor of guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, using the first ARK album as the platform to jump to his next project. Yngwie flipped over John’s playing and loved ARK so much that he instantly hired John to fly down to Florida to rehearse and record Alchemy. It was this album that proved be a benchmark for John, having a drum solo on the record and being the only drummer ever to record a drum solo on an Yngwie Malmsteen album. John spends three years recording four albums with Malmsteen, spanning multiple world tours. After his tenure with the Swedish guitar god, John reunited with former ARK members to write and record music until the band’s split in 2003.
Composing and Recording
The taste of songwriting, both lyrically and musically, was now inspiring John to do more than just drumming. His passion for recording drove him to record dozens of records after the demise of ARK. John says, "Playing with different musicians and people who play different styles of music thrills me. I learn something new every session and record a history for myself by doing so, I never get bored". John spent a short time touring with guitarist George Lynch of Dokken, travelling all over the United States.
After attending The NAMM Show in California, John learns from drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater that his singer, James LaBrie, was looking for a drummer to bring on tour for his solo record Elements Of Persuasion. With Mike’s recommendation, John receives the call from James and finds himself touring the world yet again. John claims, "This was one of my favorite tours ever, such a great time and great grooving band." He would later satisfy his taste for writing again and put out a solo record where he is joined by friends and fellow musicians James LaBrie and guitarist from the touring band, Marco Sfogli.
During his free time on and off the road John would write and record beats, fills and document the techniques and theories that he claims had given him a style and a sound like no other. He would later organize and publish his documentation in a drum method book entitled Repercussions. John says, "The book is not just a book of beats and fills but besides that, its a book on opening your creativity on the drum kit. I feel the most important thing a drummer could have is a personal signature. This book will show you ways to build on that, trough drum sound and tuning, hand techniques, recording tips and stories, learning when not to play, playing to a click and the three major ways to do it. This covers moments in time that have changed my life and the lives of drummers worldwide. It’s not drumming as a hobby, but drumming as a lifestyle. It’s stories and graphics including a CD that can also entertain even non-drummers." John’s book is endorsed by drummers Joe Franco, Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden) and Bobby Jarzombek (Rob Halford).
Now having a resume which includes records with artists such as Delmar Brown (Sting), KRS-One, Felicia Collins and Hernan Romero, John will soon find himself back with his old friend from TNT, singer Tony Harnell to form Starbreaker. Starbreaker was well received by music fans, journalists and criticts alike. John now continues to perform with friend and world renowned pianist, Vitalij Kuprij. The two have a duo that tours and performs. John has recorded two of Vitalij’s studio albums, namely Vitalij Kuprij’s Revenge and Glacial Inferno.
Having appeared on so many solo albums in his career, it was not long before John would decide to release one of his own. He would later be approached by Lion Music for publishing and distribution. This record, entitled John Macaluso & UNION RADIO, has got nothing but top reviews by journalists and music lovers worldwide - truly an album that has to be heard to be believed. It is a drummer’s solo album but the drumming is just a piece of its brilliance. The songwriting, sound, production and melodies are outstanding. The album has a very dark vibe but is also uplifting. It is closely resembling a "Pink Floyd meets Rush hanging out with Radio Head and Zeppelin". Macaluso says, "This album was like my National Geographic Adventure to make.
I knew who I wanted on the record and was going to go through any length to get them on the there and record and write, on the spot with them. This is why my album took a year and a half to write and record. I traveled to Italy to write and record with Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie Band), to France for Keys, Pennsylvania for piano with Vitalij Kuprij, James LaBrie recorded vocals in Canada. I went to California to do guitar with Alex Masi, England, New Jersey and of course New York where I did all my drums.
It was a trip and a half, but the result is bigger than I ever imagined. I told myself ‘if I am going to make a record, I am going to make A RECORD’, and so I did, despite the cost or time. I am very proud of UNION RADIO and everyone on it kicked as for me and delivered some of the best performances I have ever heard them do. I have recorded and been on tours, in hotels, bars, tour busses and all over with the musicians on my record so I have heard what they can do. They all raised the bar on this album and kicked, Mike DiMeo, Adrian Holtz, James LaBrie, Randy Coven, DiMuti who really kicked, Ze Gray, Vitalij Kuprij, Larry Meyer, Don Chaffin, Alex Rastopchin, Fabrizio Grossi, Donna and Laura Macaluso, Kristen Drewes, Suzi, Dina Cook, Jack Frost and many more, thanks!"