Dean Madonia Unleashes His Inner Monster

by Freddie Watson

dean-madonia_frankensteinYou get the feeling that Dean Madonia is going to achieve his goal of creating a rock opera for Halloween that will rival Christmas’ TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. He’s being methodical and working within his means; this year he’s performing two concerts of his rock opera SHADOW TO SHADOW: DEAN MADONIA’S FRANKENSTEIN in Nashville.

In Dean’s FRANKENSTEIN,  Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein shows that “The Monster” is still alive after over 200 years, and telling his cautionary tale to a genetic researcher about to make the first human clone. Recently MUSIC NEWS NASHVILLE caught up with Dean at his home in Music City.

Growing up, were there ever inklings that you would become this obsessed with a project of this magnitude? Did you believe you’d finish this project?

Yes! When I was quite young I saw Disney’s “Fantasia,” with my parents. At the time, I was blown away by what I felt was a perfect fusion of music and art. Since that day I have wanted to create something amazing on that grand of a scale. My original plan was to compose music (not necessarily classical) and art that followed a story. When I started “Shadow To Shadow,” I thought of it as a fun diversion and something that might bring that old dream to fruition. I even bought a light table so I could experiment with animation. I am nothing if not ambitious… I have released many albums so I thought it would be easy.

Silly rabbit! When STS took over my life for four years, I realized that I had taken a very big bite.  I was asking a lot from the muse, my family, the band and myself. I worked on this in my “spare” time while still playing 3 – 4 out-of-town gigs a week. This schedule ran me down so badly that I had to get a personal trainer for awhile, just to get myself in better shape to handle the strain…

During the editing and mixing, I began to worry that I might die and leave it unfinished (like the epic Kevin Gilbert CD, “The Shaming Of the True”). In fact, STS was supposed to be released along with a companion graphic novel, so in a sense, this project has NOT been completed, but I am still working on the novel.

You say you want to get this to be the next TSO; this Halloween you’ll be doing two shows in Nashville.  What do you think you’ll be getting from those shows?

I had planned a big show for Halloween back in 2012 at The Darkhorse Theater. I had dancers, original video that would be projected during the show, a small choir and string section ready to go and I planned to record video and the live audio as well.

Unfortunately, the mixes I had sent out for the CD were not ready so I wouldn’t have had any product at the show. While I waited for the mixes, I realized that I probably needed to write a few more songs to finish telling the story. At that point I cancelled the show. I was very upset about it at the time but I can see now that it was the right thing to do. I decided to try to just take my time and finish the album first and see how people like it and if there is any interest in the songs and in me playing them live.

The CD is better for it and I realize now that if I do a show of that size, even once, I will need a backer to pull it off the way I feel I need to. These stripped-down Nashville shows are baby steps, hopefully leading towards bigger shows and eventually my “Big Show.”

Your version of Frankenstein has the Monster communicating a cautionary tale to man against messing with DNA.  What do you supposed helped the Monster become a great communicator?

In the Mary Shelley novel, the monster learns to speak words while spying on the “cottagers,” a family who lives in the building attached to the “low hovel’ where the monster hides. He makes the connection between the sounds they make when communicating and the sounds they make when reading to the old blind man who lives there.  When a foreigner conveniently comes to stay with the family, he learns, “…the science of letters,” as they teach her from the book, “Ruins of Empires,” by Volney.

Another Deus Ex Machina in the plot occurs when the monster coincidentally finds a satchel of books including Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” a volume of Plutarch’s “Lives,” and the Johan Wolfgang von Goeth’s, “Sorrows of Werter.”

Now in my version, the monster still lives after over 200 years. I personally read at least 1 book per week. If the monster were to read as much as me, he would be well over 10,000 books by now. That would produce a very well-read and articulate monster!

What does SHADOW TO SHADOW mean?

The Monster must always remain in hiding, his countenance is hideous and bright light is not his friend. He lives in the cracks and shadows of society.

Describe the whole Dean Madonia’s FRANKENSTEIN empire.

“Shadow To Shadow, Dean Madonia’s Frankenstein,” is a 29 track CD, an upcoming graphic novel of the same name and hopefully, someday, a multi-media road-show similar to a Halloween season TSO type show or the maybe the recent “War Of the Worlds,” tour… You know – world domination…

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