Although it started out as the baby of guitarist Paris Ortiz, Enemy Star soon morphed into a band.
And that's OK with Ortiz, who is a veteran of bands The Cocksmiths, Big Dumb Dick and Psychedelicasi. What changed everything for him was hearing Kassy Gruszkowski sing.
"This was supposed to be my solo album," recalls Ortiz of the band's debut disc, "Light It Up." A CD release party to launch the disc is set for Oct. 9 at G-Daddy's BBC. Fallout opens.
"I intended it to be a Santana-like album. I planed on recording all the music and ask certain singers that I really respect and enjoy to pick a tune and sing on it. When I heard Kassy's voice I knew immediately that I wanted her to be the voice for the whole thing.
"It's exciting for me to introduce a new voice and talent to Milwaukee's awesome music scene. In my heart I wanted it to be a band thing."
Dave Benton, recently of Chief and currently "on call" with Beatallica, plays bass for the band and former Cocksmiths bandmate and widely heard local drummer Dave Schoepke. Schoepke joined the band as the record neared completion and didn't perform on it.
Those familiar with Ortiz's past projects won't be surprised that Enemy Star makes heavy music. But perhaps in part to Gruszkowski's lyrical, melodic and vocal contributions, there is a poppier edge to "Light It Up."
Some of the melodies and guitar sounds may even remind some listeners of bands like Placebo and Muse.
"It is a different sound but really at the end of the day it's the music I enjoy most, says Ortiz, "heavy guitar-driven music. I've been recording my own music for a while so I stock piled a ton of riffs and songs. The Cocksmiths really challenged me and made me a better guitar player and this CD showcases another side of my guitar playing while at the same time showcasing my songwriting. I think (that) band gave me the experience and courage to release this material."
Ortiz says the songwriting was a collaborative effort. He would create a bed track and Gruszkowski would take over from there. There was no previous rehearsal or performance before the tracks were recorded he says.
"It was strictly a studio thing. I would recorded all the music, give her a CD and she would come back the following week with lyrics and vocal line ideas. We would track them and then at the end of the session I would give her a new song and she would spend that week writing lyrics and so forth. It was very productive. She had a ton of ideas and an incredible work ethic. I trusted her lyrically and melody wise and she trusted me musically."
And it wasn't long before Benton was added to the mix, too, completing the team that would make a collaborative record with an approach Ortiz had never before tried.
"Dave came on two months after we started tracking and he and I would record a song a week," recalls Ortiz. "We would just track and find the best way the bass would fit with all the guitars and vocals (previously) tracked. It has not been this way for me in the past two projects I have been associated with. ... It was very easy and fast for us."
"Light It Up" was recorded in a home studio that Ortiz built himself around a computer. And, thanks to that technology, he was able to do it all without disturbing the neighbors.
"I tracked this whole thing on my computer," he says. "I didn't plug in one amp for it. Dave would come in the studio at 10 p.m. and we would track till 1 or 2 a.m."
To create a finished product, Ortiz tapped former Lazer 103 engineer Rich Wagner to mix the 14 songs.
Now, in an unusual move for any Milwaukee band Enemy Star will make its stage debut with a completed CD already for sale at the door.
"It's amazing what a band can do these days," says Ortiz.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.