Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Joe Darone burst into the Jersey music scene as the ginger-haired teenaged drummer of The Fiendz back in the Eighties, but these days he's better known as the singer, songwriter, and keyboardist of the genre-defying Suit Of Lights, which blends elements of art-rock, 60’s pop, punk, metal, and baroque pop. With a new album Hide And Seek on the way, Jersey Beat's James Damion spoke to Joe about his approach to music, his long career in local bands, and his path away from the drums and toward the experimentalism of Suit of Lights.

Interview by James Damion

Q: Throughout Suit of Lights existence, you’ve put time between releases. With the new album, you’re continuing on this path. Is there a conscious intention in this or is it strictly coincidence?

Yeah, the cycle seems to take three-to-four years. After I finish a project, there’s usually a long period where I don’t do any music at all. Then, I’m like a blank slate and eventually ideas start to slowly trickle in. So I start to record little pieces, jot down lyrics, and even sketch cover art ideas. At some point, I’ll be sitting on a bunch of raw materials and have to sit down and organize. Certain ideas will gravitate towards one another and become songs.

Q: With this being a self-release, do you have any preconceived expectations as far as numbers and sales? How do you plan on distributing it and getting the word out?

The industry as it existed 15 years ago is gone. Streaming now makes up 80 percent of music sales. So the model of making a record and selling it changed into luring listeners to advertisers, using barely-paid artists as bait. And so, a whole ecosystem of distributors, record stores, magazines, and studios has disappeared.

That said, I’ve been working with Planetary Group for PR and college radio for the last 15 years and I think they do an incredible job. I also have worldwide digital distribution through The Orchard.

Physically It’s going to be released on black vinyl LP, limited-edition of 100 clear vinyl LP, and Digipak CD with 12-page booklet. The best way to support is to buy directly at

Q: In the past, Suit of Lights recordings have been augmented by some notable musicians who contributed to your sound and vision. Did you enlist anyone to perhaps, add another layer to the recording of “Hide and Seek”?

Yeah, I’ve been lucky to work with musicians who are much, much better than I am! Many of my connections came from working out of Big Blue Meenie Recording Studio in Jersey City. It all started when I met Arun (Venkatesh), who was a musician, producer, and engineer. Our musical tastes and sense of humor immediately clicked and he offered to produce my little collection of songs that didn’t even have a name yet. I never studied music, so Arun’s knowledge and abilities brought the project to a different level.

We were working on Goodbye Silk City and Streetlight Manifesto happened to be mixing in the next room, so I popped in and asked Jamie Egan if he would be interested in playing the horns on the intro. He’s a music teacher, so he gave us a lot of variations, and then added the harmonies. All done in one take. He then came back to record the second album, Bacteria, and added a lot of depth and color and mood. The guy is also super-nice.

I also knew the Thursday guys pretty well from the studio. I had played drums on Geoff’s high school band’s demo called ‘Useless’, and had done backing vocals on Thursday’s Full Collapse. Thursday were in the studio for months recording War All The Time and Steve heard what we were working on and offered to play some guitars, so that was a no-brainer. He brought a great heavy edge to the tracks he played on.

I had been listening to Trevor Dunn since I was a teenager. Mr Bungle really blew my mind and changed the way I looked at music, so having any kind of interaction, much less collaborating with him, was really something. He brought in hand-written scores for each song, which I kept.

The last two albums feature another amazing musician named Chris Connors on guitars. Chris is also a producer/engineer/multi-instrumentalist who I met through Tim Gilles and works out of his Brooklyn Studio called Concrete Sound. He’s worked with tons of artists including John Legend.

The young Joe Darone pre-Fiendz

Q: In regards to Chris Connors. You mentioned he contributed to the last two albums. Does that mean he’s present on “Hide and Seek”?

Yes, Chris played more than half of the guitars and we recorded those, plus Myles Crowner’s bass and Dave Levy’s trumpet at his studio in Brooklyn called Concrete Sound. Chris has worked with a ton of artists including Norah Jones and Deep Purple. Arun also returned on this album to play guitars on about half of the album. This is also the second album for Corey Colmey on drums. Evan Hooker from Ruby Roses sang backups on a few songs. Arun’s kids Ruby and Hugo made a special appearance singing on the last song.

Q: I remember us crossing paths at the time you were playing drums with the Rosenbergs. I was always curious as to what led you to join the band and what your contributions were. Can you fill me in?

When Big Blue Meenie moved to Jersey City, I had already quit drumming and thought I’d focus on trying to make some money doing graphic design. Tim let me use an office above the studio in exchange for answering the phones, and I wound up doing a lot of album covers for the bands that came through.

One day, a guy named Dan Iannuzzelli showed up at the studio, and pretty soon started working there. He had produced the first Rosenbergs album, and one day asked me if I’d be interested in playing on their next record. We started rehearsing together, it was sounding good and they asked me to join full-time. What’s The Godfather quote? “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

One day this camera crew shows up to film the band, ‘cuz we were selected to be on the Farm Club TV show which gave the band a huge industry buzz and that led to the band being signed. Coming from playing in an underground band for 12 years, it was surreal to be in these situations where we’re meeting with Jimmy Iovine and Green Day’s manager Elliot Cahn. Eventually, we turned down two major label offers and signed with Robert Fripp’s label, which was amazing for me because I’m a huge King Crimson fan.

My musical contributions to the Rosenbergs were mostly in backing vocals and arrangements.

Q: I recall a theory of yours regarding drummers and how banging and hitting things all the time contributed to many drummers losing their minds and/or going insane. I was curious as to the reasons you stopped. Were you starting to feel the effects of years as a percussionist? Was there considerable hearing loss involved? Or were you hearing voices in your head? Did you sell your drum set? Any regrets or thoughts about getting back to the kit?

I gave my drum set to Joe Pedulla from We’re All Broken around 2003-ish. They lost all of their gear when their rehearsal space flooded. I do miss the physical workout of playing drums, but that’s about it. I was never that ‘drummer-guy’ type of drummer. A producer used to call me the ‘Anti-drummer’ because I didn’t care about gear and all that stuff that real drummers like to talk about. Regarding hearing loss, this past year I got a case of tinnitus from going to a concert without earplugs, at the same time I was mixing the new album for like 10 hours a day but it went away eventually.

Q: Getting back to the album. Considering these are all your songs. I’d assume that they are all personal. That said, is there one or are there others that are particularly introspective?

Since ‘games’ is the theme of the album, I decided to treat it like a game. A puzzle to put together. Just for the fun of it. All of the previous albums had a lot of personal stuff in them, and I thought it’d be good to lighten up a little. Still, I used each song as a vehicle to give my thoughts on everything from spirituality to socio-political topics.

Q: You had been an active musician for decades before you decided to take the singer / songwriter path. Was there anything specific that made you decide to focus on songwriting?

I took guitar lessons at around age 10, took the few chords I knew and started a band in middle school called ‘Bullet’ where I was the lead singer and guitarist. Around this time, I started hanging out with Jerry Jones and we wanted to start a band. It was clear that he was a much better singer and guitarist than I was, so I decided to switch to drums. In high school, we started a band called Static that eventually became The Fiendz, which Jerry wrote most of the songs for - but I did contribute a few songs like “Runaway with Me”, “What We Believe”, and “Weight of the World” before we started to collaborate regularly on the later albums.

I didn’t write anything in the Rosenbergs, but I contributed to arrangements and it was a learning experience in many ways. On the side, I was recording my own little demos for the future.

After years of touring, I decided it was time to make a home for the orphaned songs that I had socked away. I thought it would be a one-off release and I could put it to rest. But, the opposite happened. And here we are 15 years later!

Joe in The Fiendz

Q: “Hide and Seek” is both the album title and name of the lead track. Can you tell me about the meaning behind the title and how the idea behind it came to you?

It was the first song I wrote for this project, and it sparked the idea to write a whole game-themed record. I think of the music as kind of action-music or a theme song to introduce the album. The inspiration came from something Alan Watts had written in his book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are, and it just completely rang true for me: your self is cleverly hidden because it is God hiding.

Q: How does the approach to songwriting change over time? I ask this because we all go through changes that influence us to think and approach things differently.

I treat every Suit of Lights record as though I might be making my last. So, I really try to say something meaningful. It’s also important to keep pushing the musical ideas and not stagnate. I think the complexity of the music has grown over time, which is leading me to think that it might be refreshing to make a very simple record next time.

It’s interesting to look back at an older record, it’s like a snapshot of who you were at the time. Some of your ideas hold up well, and others might make you cringe a little, but you can go right back to where you were, and notice how far you’ve come.

Q: Do you have any plans to perform the album live?

There aren’t any current plans, but now that there’s five records worth of material to draw from, I think it could be really fun to put together a live show. I don’t know how soon people are gonna want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a sweaty club, though.
Definitely something to think about!

Q: For as long as we’ve known one another (going back thirty plus years,) you’ve always been involved with art and music. Does one fuel the other? How do you balance the two?

On the one hand, I’m lucky enough to earn a living in a creative field, and that it pays enough to fund my own creative endeavors. On the other, sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy because I have creative ideas that I want to pursue, and no time to do them. One of the reasons why it takes me four years to get a new record out. But hey, I can’t complain.

Q: Just out of my own curiosity, where does the name “Zeckle” come from? What does it mean to you?

The singer of our pre-Fiendz high school band Static was this kid Andy Sama, aka “Zomby”. One day, he said that I had one big Zeckle, which equals a zillion freckles. When I told Tim Gilles that story, he just started calling me Zeckle all the time and then everybody did - so when I started my graphic company, it was Zeckle Graphics.

This logo is one of many pieces of art that Joe has contributed to Jersey Beat.

Q: I’m reminded that you created the Jersey logo. How far back do you go as a reader of Jersey Beat and were there any contributions you made to the fanzine over the years?

Around 1988, The Fiendz met up with Jim at Maxwell’s in Hoboken to do an interview. We stayed in touch and I began drawing some cartoons to fill up the margins of the ‘zine. I remember doing one where it’s a skinhead kid whose wearing suspenders and Mickey Mouse shorts. I also drew that caricature of Jim that he still uses.At one point, we were featured on a Jersey Beat compilation cassette with Ween and other bands who were contributors to the magazine.

Q: On each of the occasions where we got to sit down and talk, the topic of aliens and extraterrestrials came up. A belief I’ve become more open minded through the years but have been convinced since moving to Seattle. How have your beliefs or lack thereof changed over the years? What do you make of the recent exodus of believers to Area 51?

It’s an endless rabbit-hole. I had read Project Blue Book as a kid and was immediately hooked on the subject. Then I read Whitley Strieber and he scared the hell outta me.
Then I found out about Harvard professor John E. Mack, who interviewed something like 60 abductees and found them to be credible. Did you ever hear the recording of Betty & Barney Hill under hypnosis? It’s terrifying.

The Disclosure Project and the testimonies of high-level military, NASA, and government personnel really cemented my opinion on the issue, and now we have the Pentagon officially releasing UFO videos. The question is: why now? What’s the game plan?

Q: I remember when we first met at Tim’s. We were each heavily into The Descendents, The Doughboys and ALL. What do you listen to these days?

Name a time period, and I’ll tell you some artists that I like.

Classical composers like Bach, Chopin and Shostakovich. I’ve been listening to Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations records a lot.

30’s jazz artists like Raymond Scott, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday,

50’s jazz like Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Chet Baker and Miles Davis, and rock-n-rollers like Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and singing groups like The Four Freshmen. I recently discovered a really talented singer/songwriter from this period named Connie Converse.

60’s artists like Scott Walker, Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, Four Seasons, Bee Gees, The Zombies, Hendrix, Chicago, Sly & The Family Stone, Joni Mitchell, Dusty Springfield. All the Motown and Stax stuff and Italian singers like Mina and Adriano Celentano. And The Beatles, of course.

Tons of great music in the 70’s. Everything ranging from LA bands like Sparks and TheQuick to songwriters like Todd Rundgren and Randy Newman, English punk groups like the Jam and Clash. Hard rock like Thin Lizzy & Van Halen. Proggy stuff like King Crimson, Zappa, Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator. Pink Floyd. Metal like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath. Can’t forget Bowie. His 70’s records are my favorite.

80’s “New Wave” acts like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, Pretenders, Madness and pretty much everything on Stiff or Two/Tone Records, Blondie, Devo and Oingo Boingo and “Punk” like Misfits, Bad Brains, Bad Religion, Descendents, ALL, Dickies, Toy Dolls, and Buzzcocks. Beastie Boys. Metal like Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Danzig and Mercyful Fate.

90’s bands like Cardiacs, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fishbone, Stump, Flaming Lips, Primus, Futureheads, Of Montreal, That Dog, Radiohead, and next-wave punk like NOFX, Lagwagon, Smoking Popes, and singer/songwriters like Elliot Smith, Ron Sexsmith, RufusWainwright and Joan as Police Woman.

Noughties acts like Muse, Amy Winehouse, The Shins, Deerhoof, Secret Chiefs. I like newer groups like The Lemon Twigs, Weyes Blood, and Fleet Foxes.


To celebrate Suit of Lights' 15th Anniversary, the band is offering every album in its discography for download at $1.50 each at The website will also be the best place to purchase the new album Hide And Seek.


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