Warren Cuccurullo is the son of Jerry and Ellen Cuccurullo, the oldest child of four. His Italian American family has its roots in Nocera Inferiore in Campania, Italy. He grew up in the Canarsie neighborhood of Brooklyn, and began playing drums and guitar as a young child. He graduated from Canarsie High School in 1974. He is engaged to Donna Nguyen, a Vietnamese woman living with him in the Los Angeles area. He has one adopted child, Mayko Cuccurullo (born 1983) who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with his mother, Claudia Bueno (Warren’s former long-term girlfriend). Mayko is featured in the Duran Duran video Breath After Breath, filmed in 1994.
The Zappa years
In his teen years, Cuccurullo became a devoted fan of Frank Zappa and began travelling to every show within 500 miles of his Brooklyn home. During the mid-1970s, he befriended several members of Zappa’s band, including Terry Bozzio and Patrick O’Hearn. Over the next three years, he appeared with the band on stage at a couple of shows as well as in the 1979 Zappa film Baby Snakes (filmed October, 1977). He impressed Frank Zappa by knowing the guitar parts to every Zappa song in the catalog, including the strangest sounds and most bizarre time signatures.
In December of 1978, at the age of 22, Cuccurullo was invited to audition as a guitarist for Zappa’s new road band, in which many members were replaced (including Terry and Patrick). Several shows on the Spring 1979 “Human Jukebox” European/Asian tour were recorded for Zappa’s live albums. After the tour, Warren returned to the studio with Zappa to work on the Joe’s Garage albums, for which he provided rhythm guitar and several vocal parts. Terry Bozzio’s wife Dale, also contributed vocal parts to the album. Warren and Dale began writing songs together, and eventually they convinced Terry that the three of them should launch their own band.
Zappa asked Cuccurullo to play on his 1988 tour, but the latter’s involvement with Duran Duran had begun by then and so he declined.
The Missing Persons years
In 1980, Cuccurullo and the two Bozzios formed Missing Persons, added Patrick O’Hearn and Chuck Wild, recorded a 4-song EP entitled Missing Persons, toured, promoted the EP, and appeared in the movie Lunch Wagon. Two years of hard work led up to a signing with Capitol Records in 1982, the release of the album Spring Session M, and the subsequent success of Missing Persons on radio and MTV. The singles “Mental Hopscotch”, “Destination Unknown,” “Walking in L.A.,” “Words,” and “Windows” all met with success. They appeared at the three-day Southern California concert, the US Festival in May 1983. Cuccurullo received accolades as a powerful and innovative guitarist, although playing straightforward pop used only a fraction of his abilities.
In 1984, Cuccurullo invented a new type of guitar he called the “Missing Link”, and used it on the experimental album Rhyme and Reason (1984). The band followed up with the more conventional Color In Your Life in June 1986, but during the short-lived promotional tour, increasing tensions between then-husband and wife, Terry and Dale Bozzio, led to the end of the tour and the band.
On his own again, Cuccurullo began recording some music in his bedroom that would eventually be released on his solo album Machine Language.
The Duran Duran years
Missing Persons shared their label Capitol Records with British band Duran Duran. As Missing Persons fell apart, Bozzio and O’Hearn were approached by Duran guitarist Andy Taylor in Los Angeles for work on a solo album. In this way, Cuccurullo learned that Taylor didn’t intend to rejoin Duran in England to work on their next album, even before the rest of Duran Duran knew. Cuccurullo sent a tape and a request for an audition, but was turned down, with some puzzlement.
As it became clear that neither enticements nor lawsuits would get Taylor back in the studio, Duran Duran did hire Cuccurullo as a session guitarist to complete the album Notorious. He went on to tour with the band, and returned to contribute his increasingly experimental guitar work to the album Big Thing. At the end of the grueling ten-month Big Thing world tour (in June 1989), Cuccurullo was made an official member of the band, and moved to London. Shifting record label politics and the unsuccessful album Liberty almost derailed the band, but after Cuccurullo offered them the use of his home studio (“Privacy“) in Battersea, Duran Duran was able to shift to a more comfortable and controlled music-making style.
Cuccurullo’s songwriting, guitar skills and driving personality contributed to the band’s return to fame with 1993’s Wedding Album. He was the primary composer of the hit singles “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone”, although the lyrics were written by Simon Le Bon. He created new arrangements for many of the band’s old hits for the acoustic-flavoured tour that followed, as well as arranging full acoustic pieces for the piano and six-piece string section that performed with them on the MTV Unplugged show. After Frank Zappa’s untimely death in December of 1993, Cuccurullo performed the instrumental guitar piece “Watermelon in Easter Hay” (from the Joe’s Garage album) in his honor at several Duran Duran shows.
Tentative plans for a Missing Persons reunion in 1994 were shelved over remaining tensions between former band members.
Cuccurullo and Rhodes continued to hold Duran Duran together during the band’s lean times in the 1990s. The covers album Thank You (1995) was an attempt to keep the peace among band members who had increasing trouble writing music together. Medazzaland (1997) and Pop Trash (2000)—written after the departure of bassist John Taylor and Duran Duran’s separation from Capitol Records—featured mostly new Cuccurullo/Rhodes songs and reworked TV Mania material, but failed to dent the charts even though the band sold out multiple nights in most cities on the 2000/2001 tour.
In the spring of 2001, Cuccurullo was asked to leave the band so that the original members of Duran Duran could reunite. At first the split was amicable, hinging on a financial settlement which granted him compensation from the band’s forthcoming reunion album (to which he was not expected to contribute). Two years later, relations soured considerably during the reunited band’s American tour, and Warren began confirming some of the rumors that had spread about the 2001 split.
Cuccurullo was largely responsible for Duran Duran’s change of image. The band had once been regarded solely as a pop band; however, Cuccurullo helped to move them into a more serious image, and helped to create some very powerful alternative rock and synth-pop.
Solo and collaborative work
During breaks in Duran Duran’s schedule, Cuccurullo worked with Tetsuya Komuro, Shankar and Patrick O’Hearn. In 1994, the preparations for a solo show near his hometown led to a burst of creativity; he recorded and mixed the Thanks 2 Frank album in less than ten days, with bassists Pino Palladino and Nick Beggs and ex-Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. The album was finally released on Imago Records in 1996.
Cuccurullo also collaborated with Duran bandmate Nick Rhodes on a large scale vanity project they called TV Mania, an experimental rock opera (not yet released except for a few songs on Warren’s website and in the movie Trollywood). The two of them also wrote and recorded a song called “Tomorrow Never Dies” with vocalist Tessa Niles for the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. The song wasn’t chosen, so Duran Duran re-recorded it for the Pop Trash album with new lyrics under the title “Last Day On Earth”. In December 1996, Rhodes and Cuccurullo wrote and produced two songs for a never-completed Blondie project (“Pop Trash Movie” and “Studio 54”); the re-recording of the former gave the Pop Trash album its name.
In 1997 Cuccurullo completed Machine Language, an ambient instrumental guitar album, also released on Imago. He followed up with a live album, Roadrage in 1998 (on Bandai Records). The Blue (recorded with Shankar in 1992) was self-released in 2000. Another ambient album, Trance Formed, was released on One Way Records in 2003.
Missing Persons Redux
Spring Session M, was released on CD in 1995, followed by Rhyme and Reason and Color In Your Life in 2000. Each of the three studio CDs were newly augmented by six rare B-sides or live tracks. Classic Remasters is a compilation of remastered tracks and dance mixes issued by Capitol Records with no band involvement.
Beginning in 1997, Cuccurullo began work on his “Missing Persons Archival Trilogy” project. The first CD to be released was Late Nights Early Days in 1998, a live concert recorded in 1981 with the added 1980 studio track “Action/Reaction.” This was followed up by a compilation of modern remixes of classic MP tracks, Missing Persons Remixed Hits (1999) which included the TV Mania remix of “Destination Unknown.” In 2002 Lost Tracks was released, a collection of extremely rare Missing Persons live tracks from five different eras of the band.
Meanwhile, in late 2000, Cuccurullo and Dale Bozzio again began discussing a Missing Persons reunion to feature original members Warren, Dale Bozzio and Terry Bozzio, with new keyboardist Ron Poster (of Dale Bozzio’s band) and bassist Wes Wehmiller (formerly in Cuccurullo’s solo band and Duran Duran’s tour bassist from 1997-2001). The short-lived, official reunion consisted of promotional activities and three live performances in July 2001. Late 2002/early 2003 brought us “Missing Persons Featuring Dale Bozzio and Warren Cuccurullo.” Filling in were keyboardist Ron Poster, bassist Wes Wehmiller and drummer Joe Travers (formerly in Cuccurullo’s solo band and Duran Duran’s tour drummer from 1999-2001). This version of Missing Persons was featured on Access Hollywood (performing “Words”) and did three live performances in February 2003. Following this, Dale Bozzio returned to touring as “Missing Persons” with hired musicians, and in 2005, Terry Bozzio and Cuccurullo collaborated on an as-yet-unreleased CD titled Playing in Tongues.
Cuccurullo took the plunge into adult print in 2000, appearing in a nude photo spread in Brazilian gay publication, G magazine, in which he appeared with a full erection in many photographs.
In July of 2001, he relaunched his fan club website, adding additional members-only sections that included sexually explicit material of himself having sexual relations, music downloads, a chat room, Q&A section, and message board. Despite his rapidly enlarging fanbase among gay males (and despite persistent rumors and requests), his adult material is all heterosexual in nature. Later that year, he created the “Rock Rod,” a self-modeled dildo that sold through the manufacturer’s website and in adult stores.
In 2004, all adult material was removed from his website. Many clips of his porn work are regularly circulated on the web.
Veganism and spiritual beliefs
For many years Cuccurullo was a vegan, and also shunned alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sugar. Cuccurullo was very health-conscious, taking extremely good care of his body, and encouraging others to do so as well. Beginning in 1998, Cuccurullo began eating a low-fat diet that included meat and wine, along with adopting a complicated regimen of bodybuilding, vitamins and supplements.
Warren was raised with a strong Italian-Catholic background and attended a Catholic elementary school in Brooklyn. During most of his adult life, he had a strong disdain for religion of any sort but believed in reincarnation. After a life-threatening illness in 2003, he experienced a spiritual epiphany that he wanted to share with his fans as well as the rest of the world. These new views, which include a somewhat Universalist belief in God’s existence inside everything and everyone, were not connected with any organized denomination or religion, for which he still retains a strong antipathy.
In the summer of 2002, Warren purchased a Santa Monica, California, Italian restaurant called Via Veneto. It has become a Los Angeles-area hotspot and a favorite with celebrities. Around this same time, he became engaged to new girlfriend Donna Nguyen. Soon afterward, he experienced a spiritual epiphany after a life-threatening illness and returned to focusing on music full time.
His recent projects, while still mostly guitar-based, are designed to be a trip through diverse musical styles and his new views on life. Collaborating with a variety of partners, he has three as-yet-unreleased projects: a concept album titled N’Liten Up, Chicanery (with vocalist Neil Carlill), and Playing in Tongues, a musical reunion with ex-Zappa drummer Terry Bozzio. Playing in Tongues will include more spiritually driven music (and a previously unrecorded Zappa track).
In September 2007, the Warren Cuccurullo Band took part in a concert event in New York City, supporting the 9/11 Truth group WeAreCHANGE, followed by a Sept. 17 appearance on the Alex Jones talk-radio show. He’s also opened several new restaurants. Meanwhile, new music is occasionally released on his Myspace page.