Worcester T&G

Burning up the stage

‘Rescue Me’s’ Michael Lombardi brings band to Ralph’s

By Nancy Sheehan Telegram & Gazette Staff

Apache Stone

You don’t have to tell actor and singer Michael Lombardi how lucky he is. He knows it. After all, how many people can say “My band has been written into my TV show.” A band or a TV show would be good, but both?

Yes, things are good for Lombardi, who plays firefighter/heartthrob Mike Silleti on the FX network’s extreme firehouse dramedy “Rescue Me.” The show stars Worcester’s own acerbic comic-turned-powerful-actor Denis Leary who, with longtime collaborator Peter Tolan, also produces and writes the show. “Rescue Me” kicks off its fifth season in March. They have written Lombardi’s real-life band, Apache Stone, into the script for two episodes.

But you don’t have to wait until March to see this five-member group of hard rockers. Apache Stone will play at Ralph’s Chadwick Square Diner in Worcester tomorrow night. It will be the first road trip for the year-old New York City-based band, although they have played many a shakedown gig in Manhattan.

We spoke with Lombardi, best known as “Probie,” his nickname because of his probationary firefighter status on the show’s first few seasons, by phone recently. He was in a recording studio in his native Connecticut, putting down tracks for the as-yet unsigned group’s first album. Lombardi, 32, fronts the band and writes the lyrics for its all-original songs. He has assembled a top-notch band of session players and rock-band veterans who give the fledgling group a full, polished sound.

Q: Worcester is your first away gig. How did that happen?

A: That’s Denis Leary’s hometown and I was playing a gig in New Haven, Connecticut, and Denis’ brother, John Leary, came to it and he was pretty blown away by it so he started talking to me about maybe doing a gig in Worcester or at some point definitely doing a charity in Worcester for the Fire Department or something, and we are going to do that down the line. But, for now, he just kind of set this up. We have a product now so we’re kind of getting this show on the road. We’ve been playing around the city (New York) and we’re going to be touring by April, so we so we just decided to get something going now.

Q: What’s the focus of the album?

A: It’s basically a rock ‘n’ roll album and very much my influences in music are Pearl Jam, Audioslave, Stone Temple Pilot, Guns N’ Roses, Alice in Chains. It’s definitely influenced by all that heavy rock of the ’90s. It’s not cookie-cutter music. It’s real rock ‘n’ roll.

Q: How does being in the band compare with acting?

A: I find it very similar. I was actually a drummer first. I went to the Drummers Collective in New York City, which is how that sort of opened my whole acting thing. So I was in music school in New York and then I started getting involved with the acting a little bit and I started taking some classes and then fully immersed myself in that and started to get some gigs. … but I’ve always been a musician first and foremost.

I’m filming a ton on `Rescue Me.’ We’re doing 22 hour episodes this season but it’s the kind of thing where if I don’t have really heavy scenes that day or I’m not in every single day that week, that allows me plenty of time to rehearse with the guys and on the weekends do gigs … And actually my band has been written into my TV show.

With “Rescue Me” so many things are pulled from our real lives then, of course, put into Hollywood-land so it’s like it’s not exactly how it goes down. There’s always some sort of comedic element involved. So the band has been written in. We come out I think in episode 9 and then we come on again in episode 17. Of course it’s pretty funny. The name of our band is Apache Stone and it’s sort of made fun of by the other guys. They kind of don’t expect how good the music turns out to be because we are able to play a couple of our original songs and all of my real band members are in the show and it’s been amazing.

Q: So Denis and Peter came and talked to you about getting the band written in?

A: Oh, no. They don’t ask stuff like that. You just read the episode and you’re like `Oh, man.’ As soon as they find out anything about you, you never know where it’s going to go with those guys. But I’ll tell you one thing: it’s always good. You always trust it. It’s always really funny. You’re always constantly taking a leap with those guys. You just trust them and you dive right it.

Q: It sounds like a lot of fun working on that show.

A: It’s an absolute blast. It’s such a great group of guys. Denis and Peter are amazing. Denis wears so many hats in that show. he’s producing, starring, writing, the whole thing. But as soon as we get into work we all sort of fall into character and it’s a lot like being in the Fire Department. It’s that fraternal relationship and that brotherhood, and I have that with all my cast mates so it’s something really special. We have a lot of fun.

All of this, and everything actually that I’ve built my career on, it’s all been a risk and a gamble. And it’s all from having a creative outlet and that’s how I’ve always dealt with tough things in life and things you come up against.

It’s even harder because you’re never really certain in this career path, so things are great today but who knows about tomorrow?

I came from nothing, too. It’s not like I have anything to fall back on. Sometimes when you become successful to a certain degree it becomes even scarier because you really want to hold onto what you’ve accomplished. You buy a nice apartment or a nice house or whatever, there’s more of a fear of losing it. There’s a bigger fall, you know?

I’m fully aware of how tough things are out there. I’ve just been really fortunate. Even with my band and everything, it’s a financial commitment and a risk and all that. But that’s what I’ve based my whole life on. I’ve just worked really hard and hope for the good to come out of things and if it doesn’t it’s a hell of an experience and I learned a lot along the way and enjoyed every bit of it.