By Daniel Kohn
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Wingers With Altitude
Air Force band Arrival flight the power
Singer Michael Badagliacco of classic-rock band Arrival rocked the globe as part of one of the world's most well-armed touring bands.
When did you start singing?
I started when I was in high school. I'd looked at going into the Air Force band. There was one that would come to my high school every year; I actually auditioned for them when I decided I wanted to go into the military. I was stationed at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs for about six years. I was the lead vocalist for Blue Steel, which is the Air Force's premier rock band. We supported the cadet wing there and did a lot of recruiting missions throughout the world, playing concerts and recruiting for them.
The Air Force has a sanctioned rock band?
My Air Force specialty code was "vocalist." So that was my full-time job in the Air Force. It was very difficult to get in. There are bands in each branch of the military. We spent a lot of time on the road—three weeks out of every month. Blue Steel would come out in Air Force flight suits to perform. It's a great way to be able to serve your country and do what you love doing. It's an absolute class-A organization—best-kept secret in the Air Force, high-caliber musicians. A lot of the players in the Air Force band have doctorates in music. They just want to play. It was a real pleasure and an honor to be a part of that.
What did you do when you left the Air Force?
I started negotiating with this little label out of Nashville. My songwriting partner—who played bass in the Air Force band—he and I both got out to pursue this record contract in 1991. About two weeks after what's called terminal leave was up, the deal fell through. He ended up going back into the Air Force. I stayed out. I met up with Ric Podmore, who was the producer and main songwriter in Arrival. We felt that there was a real meeting of the minds and styles of music; it seemed like the right fit. That was around February 1992. I started recording with Arrival at that point. The Delayed CD was released in the late '90s; it was very well-received in Europe and Asia. In 2000, I moved my family out here to California. After about a year of commuting between here and Colorado, I told the band I had to go. I left Arrival at that point. In 2006, I was out here selling cellular phones, and I got a call from Ric. He said there was some interest in resurrecting Arrival. We started talking about putting together a CD out of the archives—we had a lot of recorded material we never released. There were a lot of contractual issues that had gone on with labels previously. Now we're in the process of recording the record we started before I left.
So you live in Orange County, but the rest of the band is in Colorado?
Yes. It takes a lot of planning. The band will rehearse, then I'll go out there a week before we play, and we'll stage everything and tighten up. The distance between us in miles isn't as much of a hindrance as it used to be. Especially with technology today, you can send complete files of rough mixes, and I can work through vocals in the comfort of my house. The days of the 2-inch tape are gone. It's good and bad.
On your own and with Arrival, it sounds like you had some record-company horror stories.
They're in business to make money. Unfortunately, a lot of times, the artists are the ones who suffer. Until you've made enough of a name for yourself that you can dictate the conditions, you're always going to be subject to that type of thing. One of the greatest things that has happened is iTunes. But you can't get discouraged. I've never given up on music. I've set it aside because I had to make a living and support my family, but I never put it away. And I'm back full-time doing music now.