Q&A with Tim Minneci, author of book on power ballads

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
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From the June 6, 2013 edition

Tim Minneci was a local musician with bands Stepford Five and Moving Parts for more than a decade. Even though he stepped away from the scene, his love for music never waned. So Minneci joined former bandmate Jason Dziak to start a weekly podcast called Dig Me Out, which focuses on ’90s records.

Around the same time, Minneci began writing about power ballads. Originally intended to be a blog about the genre, the material became enough for a book. Minneci released “Power Ballad: A Definitive Guide to Hard Rock’s Softer Side” in April and also started Power Ballad Podcast that serves as a companion to the book.

Dig Me Out is the ’90s-centric [podcast] with Jason Dziak, who was the guitar player in Stepford Five. [We] had always talked about music … sit around and just listen to records and B.S. We go back through all these records; ones we kind of remember from the ’90s, but are cool to listen to again because we haven’t in 10 years. There are also ones that we never bothered to get to and give them a shot. Maybe they’ll be unexpected gems that we think are worth listening to … or maybe the ones we really liked are terrible now, and we see the age of the recordings doesn’t hold up.

It’s nice to be able to find music that already existed [and] discover it for the first time. I think people get caught up wanting to listen to whatever is cool now, or whatever is new is what they want to listen to. I like that I discover a band and they’ve been around for 25 years, and I didn’t even know it.

We’ve done a lot of really fun interviews. We talked to Shawn Smith from the bands Brad and Satchel. Brad is the side project of Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam. [Smith] was one of those guys that we were always fascinated with because he was an outlier in the ’90s. He was basically singing soul music — he had this very soulful voice — but he was singing over heavy guitar riffs. It was sort of this Prince-meets-grunge mash-up that didn’t make any sense, but when he did it we were stunned. It was amazing.

Locally, we talked to Joe Oestreich from Watershed when they were releasing their new record last year and he was releasing his book. It was fortunate because I was able to pick his brain and get advice. He read it and gave me some really good suggestions on editing and the structure that helped form a better book.

Power Ballad Podcast started this year, and it’s monthly. I set [Power Ballad Podcast] as having an expiration date of 12 episodes. Basically it was going to preview the book and act as a companion. If you want to listen to Jeff Keith of Tesla or Eric Martin of Mr. Big talk about how they wrote their power ballads and songwriting, go to the podcast.

The book started as sort of a fluke. I was big into making iTunes playlists and … decided to make a power ballad playlist. It was 40 or 50 songs, but I thought there’s got to be more. So I went to Amazon and looked up “VH1 power ballad compilation.” I was looking at it and they weren’t all power ballads. “First of all that song is fast, how could it be a power ballad? That’s a Celine Dion song. What is going on here?!” I did more research because it sort of irked me this was out there. I realized there have been no criteria ever set — nobody ever said what a power ballad is. The first chapter explains why I did this — undertook this thing that no one was really asking for — and explaining what the actual criteria was for judging a power ballad.

[The book] is sort of a sarcastic, yet loving take on an obscure, forgotten genre of music. I can appreciate ’80s metal and hair bands both on the ridiculousness and truly appreciating the craftsmanship of the songwriting.