Interview with the Diva Icon


Electronic Press Kit

The Diva Icon is the well-known logo for the band Velvet Chain. She was initially drawn by illustrator Chris Hertrich from the photograph you see on the back of the band's "Warm" CD. She originally entered the Cyberworld via a scanner into a Mac Quadra and has been enhanced by the finest, most advanced graphics programs known today.

By nature, the Diva Icon is available for interviews only via the internet, and can be e-mailed at: Unfortunately, she cannot return all the e-mails, but does get to quite a few.


Interview with the Diva Icon:

Q: So what's it like to be a logo for an up-and-coming band like Velvet Chain?

Diva Icon: It's a lot of fun, really. They put me on stickers and T-shirts and CD's and all kinds of stuff. It's really quite a flattering position to be in. And all I have to do is be myself.

Q: Do you ever feel left out because you can't play anything or contribute anything musically?

Diva Icon: Well, I have my role in the band, and it's really quite important when you think about it. People take one look at me and they think "Velvet Chain." Nobody else can do that, except maybe Erika herself.

Q: What about the confusion between you and Erika, since you are modeled directly from her image?

Diva Icon: This kind of thing comes with the territory, and is completely understandable. Erika is part of me, but I am, after all, the Diva Icon. I have something special to offer that is unique. For example, a picture of Erika on a bumper sticker would be nice and all, but it wouldn't be like me. I'm a really good drawing, and you can recognize me from real far away. Even when they make me really tiny, you can still spot me.

Q: Speaking of being a drawing, how do you feel about the artist who drew you?

Diva Icon: Chris Hertrich? Well, let me tell you, Chris is a very talented illustrator and I couldn't be more pleased that I was drawn by a fine artist like him. He's a very nice looking guy too, by the way. You can check him out in the "Links" section. There's also a "history of the Diva Icon" there.

Q: Would you mind answering a few questions about the band?

Diva Icon: Not at all.

Q: How was Velvet Chain formed?

Diva Icon: Velvet Chain was formed in Los Angeles by Jeff Stacy and Erika Amato in 1994. It was Jeff Stacy's third band, and final incarnation of several years of musical and song writing development. The original Velvet Chain lineup included the drummer and guitarist from Jeff's previous band, with Erika as the lead singer, and new members on keyboards and horns.

Q: That sounds like a rehearsed answer.

Diva Icon: Well, they kind of tell me what to say on that one.

Q: I see. Can you tell us about the philosophy of the band?

Diva Icon: What do you mean, the philosophy of the band?

Q: Well, what is the band about, musically·things like that?

Diva Icon: It seems to me they don't really try to be about anything. I think the most important thing to them is that whatever they are about, it's authentic.

Q: What do you mean by that?

Diva Icon: It means you assume you are your own audience. Musically, you always do exactly what you think is the coolest thing you could possibly do. You ignore all other considerations.

Q: Don't you consider the audience at all? Don't you need a hit song in order to succeed?

Diva Icon: The way Velvet Chain sees it, as soon as you start trying to figure out what people will like, you end up being a follower rather than a leader. That's not what an artist is supposed to be.

Q: But you still need a hit song·

Diva Icon: Yea, well that's true, but if you think about it that way, you end up going in the wrong direction, because you're thinking about it. Do you think Picasso was thinking about what people liked when he painted? No. He thought about what he liked. Velvet Chain is more interested in operating at its highest possible artistic level than in trying to figure out how to sell the most records.

Q: How is Velvet Chain's music written?

Diva Icon: Well, they think it up, then they play it.

Q: Well what's the typical process? Who writes the songs and all that?

Diva Icon: Jeff Stacy writes most of the music, but not all of it. Erika contributes quite a bit, and sometimes there are other collaborators inside and outside the band.

Q: What about lyrics?

Diva Icon: Jeff Stacy writes all the lyrics. Or at least 99% of them.

Q: When Jeff comes in with a new song, what happens next?

Diva Icon: Well·he says, "Here's a new song and it goes like this·" and then they start playing it.

Q: Well, what I mean is·what's the process? get to the finished product.

Diva Icon: The process·..the process·. Hmmm, well, basically it's pretty open·They like to experiment a lot·. Ok, usually it's like this: before Jeff brings a song into the band, he will already have it all laid out in his computer. While he's figuring out the arrangement, he's usually writing the words too. He'll also find samples, and noises and tones and loops and all kind of things in the computer which he thinks fits with the song. He'll usually have a scratch vocal track going too. Once it gets to a certain point, he will then take the song into the band. But he won't tell the band hardly any of his ideas about the song, so he can see what the other musicians will come up with. What they do usually alters a lot of his original ideas, including the arrangement, and Jeff will go back for another round with the computer. In the end, the very best elements are kept, and the rest is discarded, regardless of who thought up what.

Q: Who decides what stays and what goes?

Diva Icon: Everybody does, but if there are conflicting opinions about something, Jeff usually makes the call. He's like the built-in producer.

Q: A lot of bands have problems in this area. Does Velvet Chain ever get into any musical battles?

Diva Icon: Not really. There is a tremendous amount of musical respect among the band members, and usually, the best way to go is pretty obvious to everybody. It's an open-minded atmosphere, and everybody is willing to try anything, anytime. Also, the band has total confidence in Jeff's abilities -- just like on stage, they have total confidence in Erika's leadership.

Q: Yes, I see·. Why do you think Velvet Chain songs are so different from each other?

Diva Icon: Well, some are and some aren't.

Q: Yes, but the diversity within the band's repertoire is quite high.

Diva Icon: That's true. I guess it's because they make no effort to make them similar.

Q: Most bands tend to have a more cohesive style than Velvet Chain, don't you think?

Diva Icon: Yeah, so what?

Q: Well, don't you think people like to know what to expect?

Diva Icon: The way we figure it, people expect you not to suck. That's the bottom line. If you have something good, that's all that matters. Forget about the rest of it.

Q: Well, what if someone hears a song like "Warm" and decides they like Velvet Chain because the band really rocks, and then they hear a song like "Treason." What will they make of that?

Diva Icon: Hopefully, they'll think, "Wow, what a cool band, everything doesn't sound the same." Besides, there's an inherent continuity within the band's sound anyway. You can always tell it's Velvet Chain. The band could play a Van Halen song and you could tell it was Velvet Chain.

Q: What does the band think about the popular music of the day?

Diva Icon: Well, everybody has different opinions, but generally, I think they would vote that it's pretty weak.

Q: Why do you think that is?

Diva Icon: It has a lot to do with corporate influence on the music. It seems like it's all about mass marketing, and what's selling hot this week. Bands come and go more quickly now. They can't seem to get beyond the latest trend.

Q: Isn't Velvet Chain a "trendy" band?

Diva Icon: Yes and no. Velvet Chain has elements that are currently happening -- like using a lot of samples and incorporating the DJ element. But the band is not dependent on these things. Plus, being "trendy" implies being similar, and Velvet Chain clearly has it's own sound.

Q: What would you call Velvet Chain's "style"?

Diva Icon: That's a hard one·maybe "trip-pop," but that leaves out the rock element, which is a critical component.

Q: So where would one find Velvet Chain in the record store?

Diva Icon: Probably under Rock Music. Velvet Chain isn't the only band out there that doesn't quite fit anywhere. I think they just throw everybody into Rock Music that doesn't clearly fall into another category like Jazz or something. Just go to the "V" Section.

Q: Do you consider yourself a "Pop" band?

Diva Icon: I would say the answer to that is yes.

Q: Why do you think Velvet Chain music has such strong appeal?

Diva Icon: Why do people like anything?

Q: What elements do you think attract people the most?

Diva Icon: Well, from a practical standpoint, it's probably derived from the fact that we create some very high quality and interesting music. It also has everything to do with our vocalist, Erika Amato, in terms of both voice and stage presence. But on a more psychological level, our appeal probably has a lot to do with the unique combination of underlying influences within the music that gives everybody something to like. It's like hearing blues, jazz, pop, trip-hop, rock, new-age, new wave, funk and soul all at the same time.

Q: What is the best thing about Velvet Chain musically?

Diva Icon: The best thing·well, I would have to say Erika -- but, I'm biased, of course. I guess, as a band, it's really the combination of Erika and the music· I mean, they go together. They're complimentary. When the singer and the song fit together so well· and they become one· the music elevates to a higher level.

Q: Why do you think this is?

Diva Icon: Jeeze, I don't know, it just is.

Q: Why do you think that's so?

Diva Icon. Well, hmm· Ok·. Let's see·. How about this: The enduring quality of any artform has to do with what makes it deeper than simply being "great." A beautiful singer over a powerful melody can make for great music, but so what? Great music comes and goes. Without a natural, deep chemistry between the singer and the song the real magic cannot happen. And it's that magic quality that makes some great music endure over time, while other great music just seems to fade away. How's that? Can we move on now?

Q: Yes. Only a few more questions.

Diva Icon: How many?

Q: How about three?

Diva Icon: Ok, shoot.

Q: What do you think is the most important musical instrument in Velvet Chain?

Diva Icon: The most important musical instrument? Are you kidding?· Well, I guess I'd say the bass, since it's the most fundamental element of most Velvet Chain songs. A lot of them are written from the bass. Besides, Jeff Stacy is the bass player, and he's my boss. 2 more questions.

Q: Okay·can you tell us any inside information about how the band gets its sound?

Diva Icon: What are you talking about· inside information?

Q: Well· like things the band might do musically that are unique or consistent within Velvet Chain music. Perhaps something that comes up in rehearsals a lot.

Diva Icon: Well·.let's see·.this is a hard one··how about "Flowage."

Q: Flowage?

Diva Icon: Yeah, "Flowage·" That comes up a lot. It's an arrangement term that has mostly to do with the way parts transition into each other, and how different parts of a song set up other parts of a song. Sometimes, parts that are very different from each other will give the impression that they don't fit together, yet, because they are so different, they will actually serve to set each other up -- if you are clever about the "flowage" necessary to get from one to the other.

"Left turn," is another one. This term is used to describe the idea that a song needs to have surprises. Wherever you would expect the song normally to go is usually where you should not go. This applies to arrangement, rhythm, and melody. Set up the ear to expect something, then take a "left turn." The key here, however, is that the left turn absolutely has to be cooler than what would have otherwise been there, or you might as well do what will predictably work.

Q: You sure seem to know a lot about the band.

Diva Icon: That's right. I'm the goddam Diva Icon. That was a two for one answer by the way. What's your last question?

Q: As the Diva Icon, what is your biggest goal?

Diva Icon: My biggest goal is to get on the side of a big building like one of those giant movie promos in Hollywood. I would look great up there. I'd knock your eyes out.


Email the Diva Icon at: