Seriously, I’m getting a bit sick of the formalities. But still, I’ve been waiting to mention these guys for a long time, and yes… They’re pretty much underrated. And you know it’s the truth when you can barely find info on them because they’re (undeserving) so unknown. And of course there’s the downside that I’ve yet to hear they’re entire discography from both their bands and solo acts. That basically sucks, but I’ll try to do the best I can (as sung in the song “Magna-Fi” song save me).
First of all, read this;
I found that while snooping around. So basically, here’s how the story goes;
Mike and CJ Szuter are brothers and they’re from Ohio, if I’m not mistaken.
Apparently CJ was the front man in this case (I’m so use to Mike up front), and apparently he delivered.
So CJ was the singer as stated, and Mike was on lead guitar. Michael Heino was on bass, Dave Schieb on drums, and Jeff Johnston on keyboards (?). Some dates on different sites show 1987, but I guess I’ll find out when I finally meet them myself (God knows when).
But it’s near impossible to find music from these guys, and the recordings from Outta the Blue are even harder to find. Luckily, CJ himself has made life easier:
And of course there’s this:
At this point, the band was much more pop oriented, rather than the hard rock sound that would later be more defining for them, but as soon as the nineties came around, there were some significant changes.
At this point, they changed their name to a more fitting one: “The Szuters”. Mike and CJ were still side by side, but this time Mike was up front as lead vocals. CJ took to lead guitar, and John Fedevich took to the drums, and Craig Martini on bass. The band tried to combine pop with the increasingly popular alternative rock that was on the rise in popularity at that time in the nineties, but apparently Paul Gilbert (the legendary guitarist from Mr.Big and Racer X) heard one of their Demos, and helped out to bring forth the debut album in 1996. Mike would eventually help Paul Gilbert by playing bass on several albums and live tours. See for yourself:
I have to admit, if it weren’t for my interest in Mike, I would have never even known who Paul Gilbert was.
But I’m slightly jumping the gun. The album “The Szuters” was released by JVC records in Japan, so Americans outside on the Midwest still hadn’t heard them (sounds familiar). The Japanese loved them and so they got their next album American Pop (1998, by Victor Records if I’m correct). Paul had also convinced the band to relocate to Las Vegas.
Their first American released album was an EP called “Last Band Standing” (1998, Decompression Records). Despite having only 6 tracks, it was a real step up from the bands normal sound, and they started to mature at this point. I personally think this is when they started to embrace the hard rock sound a bit more. But then the band, the following year, came out with “Not Quite at Budokan” (1999, JVC). Again, another Japanese release.
In 2000, the band “Outta The Blue” did a reunion show:
But the band would reach full maturity in 2002, with the brand new name “Magna-Fi”.
The band had a new look as well. Mike remained on lead vocals, and CJ stuck to lead guitars, with Rob Kely on Bass and Charlie Smaldino on drums. In 2004, they released “Burn Out The Stars”, which, as far as I know, either caught attention of Aezra Records, or was produced through them (not sure). Here’s a music video from the album:
Not bad, right. The poppy sound was replaced with more Hard Rock related anthems. The band would go on to open up for Seven Dust, and even play at Ozzfest:
Here are some Live performances:
In 2005, their song “All Hail Shadow” Appeared on the video game “Shadow the Hedgehog”, later to be covered by (near video game exclusive’s) Crush 40, and Crush 40 guitarist (and Sega sound engineer) Jun Senoue would create a new mix with Mike for the album “True Colors: The Best of Sonic the Hedgehog Part 2”.
Unfortunately, Mike sacked CJ after a out-of-band dispute, replacing him with Christian Brady on lead guitar.
And then the worst, Magna-Fi was dropped from their label. That means that their next (and final) album “VerseChorusKillMe” was released by themselves. Around that time, Mike would also team up with a relatively newer group from the Las Vegas region called “Sin City Sinners”. Watch this:
Mike also popped up again in 2009 for…well, this:
Apparently this was 2009 too, but Mike has left since:
And THIS was 09 (Mike’s on Bass):
But then the worst finally happened. After nearly 20 full years of awesome years, Magna-Fi broke up. It really sucks. I love ALL of Mike Szuter’s songs, and I only used to listen to Paul Gilbert when he’s on bass (not anymore, but he’s that cool. I’ve come to like Paul a lot more now).
But WHY ARE THESE UNDERRATED? Simple.
Low album sales in the U.S are part of the reason. Japan knows and loves them, but if you aren’t known in the U.S, you’re treated like nobody (Unless you’re X Japan, I guess). Paul Gilbert, being one of the fastest [mainstream] speed metal guitarists on the planet, has been working with Mike since the first “Szuters” demo, and the latter has appeared on most of his DVDs and worldwide tours. Yet Paul never mentions Mike, and from the interviews I’ve seen on the DVD, Mike is usually never spoken too. Congrats Paul (although Paul DID play a heavy role in his mainstream success, and still invites him to shows, so I guess I can’t be so harsh).
“Outta the Blue” albums and even “Szuters” albums are near impossible to get a hold of (on THIS side of the world), and CJ, being the better guitarists of the two, remains virtually unknown despite his own share of mainstream contacts. He’s toured with Sevendust, played at G3, but CJ Szuter’s name being brought up around most of today’s quintessential band wagon jumpers will only lead to “Who’s that?” half the time.
Too bad I can’t really figure out why Magna-Fi officially broke up, but these guys really deserve much more fame, after all their dedication.
So… that leads to the next question…
Where are they now?
Geographically, I honestly can’t say, but I will put what I’ve learned:
Mike joined a group called “Guilty Pleasures”, hailing from Vegas, but they call themselves “yacht rock”. Yacht rock???
Here’s Footage of Mike Szuter… and this band [Vegas Limit] (with a terrible singer):
Such a awesome dude with the cigarette:
So Vegas Limit AND Guilty Pleasures. Also, he did (or IS doing) a gig with Rock N Roll Rebels, some random cover band fronted by Bianca Hernandez, the singer from the Scoundrels. For some reason, all these shows seem to be at Mandalay bay in Vegas… I’m not sure why…
This is my new alarm clock:
And this was uploaded 2012…
Bianca scares the crap outta me. Must be the pink hair…
Anyways… JIZZY PEARL! Mike’s on bass by the way…
Sorry for bad quality (even though I didn’t upload it).
Anyways, that’s the most of what I can find for Mike. If he’s really out there playing for cover bands, then the fact that he’s severely underrated speaks for itself. I salute you Mike.
Now on to CJ. Luckily, CJ has an active YouTube page and Twitter account, so it’s much easier to see what he’s up to. After leaving Magna-Fi, he teamed up with Jun Senoue in 2010, who created his first side project since “The Works”, with CJ as his singer in “Bubblicious Blvd”. See for yourself:
(TURN OFF THE VEST, CJ!)
I kinda looks like a young Steve Perry, minus the hair. Random thought. Here he sings “Don’t Stop Believin'”:
CJ did other work in 2010 as well, if the dates are correct. Here, he has some pseudonym called “Super Fly”. Probably just for parodies sake, but the band is called “Disco Inferno”:
When I did a YouTube search, I came across the “Spazmatics”. Nobody would sink that low.
Anyway, since 2009, CJ had been doing solo work:
And did work with George Lynch (Lynch Mob):
The most recent stuff is from 2012, in his native Cleveland Ohio:
He also has some cool stuff for sale on Reverbnation, and an EP called “Falling Grace” (Not to be confused with “Fall From Grace”, a Magna-Fi song from “VerseChorusKillMe”. Check it all out here:
As for Mike (Good Ol’ Mike). Let’s just say he’s like a solar eclipse. You’ll probably never see one, but when you do it’s special and you’d better not blink or it’ll be gone again.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU BOTH!