Category Archives: Interviews

John Ginty: They can’t take the organ away from me

John Ginty 8x10 Longtime sideman and session player John Ginty has long been known for his tasteful, adventurous work on the Hammond B3 organ.  Over the past fifteen years his soulful touch has graced over sixty albums, including albums by Bad Religion, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Santana, Matthew Sweet, Neal Casal, The Bridge, and Citizen Cope.  His keyboard skills are also in high demand for the inspired sound he can bring to any live setting.  He was an original member of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and has toured regularly with The Dixie Chicks, Santana, Jewel, Citizen Cope, and his own John Ginty Band.  Recently he has begun to play with the based Baltimore Band of Johns which is led by former Bridge guitarist/ singer Cris Jacobs and features Jake Leckie on upright bass, and John Thomakos on drums.  In addition to his work with the Band of Johns, Ginty has also maintained his usual busy session schedule as well as finding time to get out on the road with a number of bands.  In the midst of that typically full schedule Ginty found time to release his first solo album, Bad News Travels.

 

Born from an album he played on for blues-guitarist Albert Castigilia, Bad News Travels is a blast of gospel-tinged New Orleans flavored funk that can just as easily settle into a deep, bluesy groove as it can dive into a psychedelic-swirl of a Hammond B3 organ trip that can spin the off at any moment down some never before traveled musical path.  Ginty called on some of his musical friends, including Warren Haynes, Neal Casal, Martie Maguire, and Cris Jacobs among many others, to help out with the album. The addition of these guests helps each song develop a wholly unique personality that is all held together by the glue that is Ginty’s powerhouse playing.

 

While preparing to head out on a brief Canadian tour with the Dixie Chicks, Ginty checked in with Honest Tune to discuss the making of Bad News Travels.

 

Honest Tune: So how did the idea for Bad News Travels come about?

John Ginty:  It was kind of an accident really.  I have been a session guy my whole life.  I am on sixty or seventy records.  I spent a lot of time with Jewel, Robert Randolph and the Family band, and Citizen Cope.  I have always toyed around the idea of doing my own record, but it has just never been the right time, or it wasn’t the right material, and it was never the right situation.

Recently I did a record with a blues guy from Florida, Albert Castiglia at a recording studio in NJ (Showplace Recording Studios).  Ben Elliott the owner of the studio was like, “Man we got to do your record.  The timing is right now. We could get Albert to play on it.  You could use your session guy access to get some other players on it.”  And I thought the idea was really cool.  I had some Bad News Travelssongs I had written that really didn’t have a home and it all just came together.  We put together a list of demos and a list of special guests and I tried really hard to pair the piece with the right player.  It wasn’t necessarily about getting famous people, it wasn’t about any of that.  It was just a musical thing of like who would fit great on this and who would be great on that.

So I got Albert and he played on a bunch of songs and does a bunch of lead vocals.  I used Neal Casal from the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.  He is a great player.  I have played on all his records.  Cris Jacobs from Baltimore is on it.  Timing is everything.  He and I had just started doing the Band of Johns and it just seemed right to have him up.  I had a track that I thought would be perfect for him.  Warren Haynes has been a friend of mine for twenty-years and it was an honor to get him on the record.  And slightly difficult as he only had about 48 hours off of his schedule to come to the studio.  But we managed to jump through the hoops of fire we needed to get him on there.  It was just awesome.  Once again it was just a perfect track for him.  It took him out of his normal element a bit and I loved how he played on it.  Todd Wolfe is a label mate of mine, and a great blues guitar player.  I got Alecia Chakour a blues singer from Brooklyn.  I couldn’t be happier with all the guests on it.  Martie Maguire from the Dixie Chicks plays fiddle on one song.  I am actually playing keyboards with the Dixie Chicks right now.  We are leaving to go on tour next week, a tour of Canada.  I have been friends with Martie for a while now and I had a song that I thought fiddle would be great on.  So that is how all the guests showed up.

 

HT: How was it to go from being a sideman or session player to all of sudden being in charge?

JG:  It’s crazy man.  It’s so insane.   It’s an education that I wasn’t looking for and I didn’t necessarily want [laughs].  From the musical end it was a joy and I had a great producer leading the way.  Ben Elliot really led me through it.  I just gave up the control and worry to him.  Musically it was not a problem.  I would love to do it again.  But all the other end stuff, trying to get on the radio, and the press and selling it, all that stuff was never something I had to worry about.  But now it’s on my lap to get all that stuff done, so it has been a crazy education for me, especially with the music business on its ear right now.

 

HT:  It has to be a different feeling to go from being the guy on the side who just gets to play to the guy who has to be in charge and go do all the “other work” now.

JG:  It gave me a huge appreciation for what all these cats go through.  I also appreciate their help and advice.  You know Cris Jacobs has been up and back with this, first with The Bridge and now with his solo projects.  I have gotten a lot of great advice from these cats as well as their musical contributions.  I will say it is a lot of hard work, and it is kind of scary, and I don’t know all about this end of the music business, but it is also fun.  The record has been doing well.  It has been added to a lot of radio stations.  They play it on my local New Jersey big rock station.  I heard it the other day when I was I the truck.  To hear it on the radio is mind-blowing.  I have heard myself on the radio before, but it had always been someone else’s songs.

 

 

John GintyHT: You said lots of people gave you advice, was there one thing that really stuck out?

JG:  The one word that kept popping up was publicist.  I get that now.  It used to be we would be humping around for a record deal and things of that nature.  That’s not the case anymore.  The publicist can get you out there, and out there is the only place that happens because the record stores have closed.  You have to get out there and take it to the people, play the shows, go to the merch booth and sign your stuff and sell your records.  It’s kind of all on the artist right now.  The publicist was one thing everyone mentioned that would help.

 

HT:  Things have really changed with how you have to sell a record now.

JG:  We are kind of reinventing this thing as we are going along.  What every artist has to realize is that no matter how crazy the business side may get, you can always go to the town and play a show and sell your CD there.  You will always have that.  People kind of complain about ticket prices being high, but there is no place for a musician to go make money anymore.  I spend my days hunting down illegal downloads of my records, of which there are still many.  It has become a full-time job getting these things taken down from the internet.  It is stacked against the artist in this day and age.  So we just have to adapt and try and keep our chins up.  I can’t really complain though, this is what I picked to do.  They can’t take the organ away from me.  So as long as I have that I will get it done somehow.

 

HT:  Let’s talk about something fun then. You talked about taking it to the people. Do you have any plans to take these songs on the road?

JG:  Absolutely.  I got some commitments with the girls, the Dixie Chicks, so I got a hold up until the end of the year, but then we are talking about some different ideas and plans.  I have also been talking with all the cats on the record because I feel like there is safety in numbers and I feel it is really good idea for all of us to get together and do a multiple artist thing.  There are all types of idea.  The record has done so well it would just be crazy of me to not take it out to the people.  It’s on the radio in Hawaii!  Who am I to turn down Hawaii?

 

HT:  As the weather starts to get cold in the Northeast it only makes sense to go where it’s warm.

JG:  Exactly.  It would be irresponsible of me to not go to Hawaii [laughs].  Seriously though, next year I hope to have a tour together.

 

John Ginty & Cris JacobsHT:  Is there a track or song off the album that really stands out for you?

JG:  They all have their thing to it.  My personal favorite is one that is getting the least amount of attention, “Trinity.”  It’s the gospel song, the last one on the album, the one with Cris [Jacobs] on it.  I said to the band there is no way we can make Hammond B-3 record without putting a gospel song on it, it has to be there.  I had written this little thing and it was three different pieces and I couldn’t decide which one would be the song, so I glued all three together and it turned out to be this really cool thing and I love the way everybody played on it.  There is like a thousand tambourines going.  All the musicians picked up tambourines and we had a little church service in the studio.  It was the last track we cut.  It was the finish line.  That’s my personal favorite.  There is stuff about each song that is special and cool to me as well.  The sessions with Albert were totally live.  The way you hear it, it was just four guys looking at each other playing music.  I really love the way that came out.  Martie’s violin part is amazing.  Warren’s part is amazing.

 

HT: How long did the whole process to record the album take?

JG:  It took a couple of months to get it down.  We were recording it very quickly.  We would go in for two or three days and get four or five songs.  We were moving at a good pace in the studio, but it was really just a matter of scheduling.  I had to go to Austin to record Martie’s part.  I had to go to Connecticut to get Warren’s part.  We had to book a couple different studios.  There was some running around.  That took the longest.  That was longer than recording it.  You know we probably could have got the whole thing done in about ten days if we had been able to line up all the stars.  But it was definitely worth waiting for Martie and worth waiting for Warren, and worth waiting for Cris.  Once we had the idea for who would play on what track, it was just a matter of it will take as long as it takes.

 

Band of Johns

 

 

HT:  Did the process scare you away from wanting to do this again or did it entice you to want to jump right in and start working on another album?

JG:  I am into it man.  I think as long as people want to hear records like this then I would love to keep making them.  I don’t think I will ever be able to stop being a session guy, playing organ for other people because that is what I do and what I love to do.  I love playing with the Dixie Chicks. I love playing on Charlie Mars’ records.  It keeps it interesting and fun.  But this was an incredible, unique experience that is worth a follow up.  I can at least guarantee there will be one more.  Also my list of guests was longer than my list of songs, so I got some people up my sleeve for the next one as well.  I think it will be really fun.

 

 

HT: Finally, looking back was there one moment that was the ultimate highlight of the whole process that will always stay with you?

JG:  I will never forget the first ten notes that Warren Haynes played [on “Mirrors”].  When we got our sound together and he had listened to the track and he made a couple of notes.  We turned the lights down and we went in and it was the first time we were going to play the song and I said, “Ok, you ready?” And he said, “Yeah, I’m ready.”   I said, “Can you just play something with the piano, can you just dance around the intro?”  The first ten notes he played are the first ten notes you hear him play on the record.  They went right on the record from that very first take.  Those are ten notes I will never ever forget.  I am still a music fan at heart. I have loved the Allman Brothers for twenty-five, thirty years and I always go see them at The Beacon Theatre and to see Warren standing in front of me playing those notes, to my song, that is as good as it gets.  There is nothing that can top that.  That is as good as gets for me.

 

Andy Hall from the Infamous Stringdusters: Crack Open a Beer, Hang Out, Check out Music

 

 

 

     Since first bursting onto the scene with 2007’s Fork in the Road, the Infamous Stringdusters have established themselves as one of the truly cutting edge bands of the of the rootsy, Americana movement that finds bands ranging from Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Justin Townes Earle, and Mumford and Sons all digging deep into the soul of old-time American string band music and reinventing it for the 21st century.  While the Infamous Stringdusters roots may start with bluegrass, they have developed a sound and style that is much more than that, incorporating hints of whatever the five Stringdusters (Travis Book – bass, Andy Falco – guitar, Jeremy Garrett – fiddle, Andy Hall – dobro, Chris Pandolfi – banjo) can get into their ears, creating music they call High Country.  Their latest album, Silver Sky, is the physical extension of this.

 

After a particular busy year, which saw the Stringdusters release  Silver Sky digitally in the spring, re-release a deluxe edition of the album in the fall on CD and vinyl, host their annual multi-day festival, The Festy, and continue to be the road-warriors they always are as they toured non-stop throughout the year, the band is already gearing up for their next album.  They show no signs of slowing down the rest of the year, as they  are still currently on the road and will close out 2012 with a New Year’s Eve run that will find them ringing in the New Year at the Jefferson Theatre in Charlottesville, VA.

 

Dobro-player extraordinaire Andy Hall took time out from all of this to chat with Honest Tune about their stellar new album, plans for the future, and the forgotten experience of really listening to music.

 

 

 

Honest Tune:  You guys are re-releasing your latest album Silver Sky as a deluxe edition.  It was originally released back in May, you have now had a couple of months to kind of live with the album.  How do you feel about it now a few months down the road?

 

Andy Falco: We feel great about it. We have teamed up with SCI now.  When we released Silver Sky we didn’t do any distribution on it at all. We didn’t put it any stores, so this is an opportunity to send it to independent retailers.  It is not going to be in a Wal-Mart and places like that. We want to encourage people to go to their small record stores in their town. We really feel good about it [the new album].  We combined it with the live record [We’ll Do It Live] and added the bonus track [The Grateful Dead’s] “He’s Gone”.

 

HT:  I love that track.

 

Andy: Thanks.  It wasn’t really intended as anything when we did it, we were just hanging out picking and Billy Hume [producer of Silver Sky] recorded it.  He video taped it. We were really just hanging out jamming and there was just a nice feeling to it and it was a way to pay homage to one of our heroes the Grateful Dead.

We feel great about the album, and are excited that people can go to their independent record stores and get it, and if its not there they should order it.

 

HT:  I am old-school and still love to have my albums on viny or CD.  It’s great to hear someone supporting independent local music stores.

 

Andy: Yeah in this day and age with digital music, you don’t have to buy our music if you don’t want to. We also have an archive with all of our live shows which you can access from our website and they go up pretty quickly after each show. So there is that experience with the digital thing, and that is great for getting music out there and into people’s ears.

Then there is the whole record buying experience which I think people, especially young people, are not experiencing music that way anymore. And I think they should.  When we got our test pressing of Silver Sky on vinyl that was the first time I had ever done an album that was on vinyl. I was checking the pressing to make sure everything sounded right, and it was the first time in years I had sat down with a vinyl record and had the whole listening experience, which is such a different thing than listening to tunes on your iPhone or computer. I am psyched that we are trying to get people to listen to music that way again.

 

HT: It is a whole different experience.  There is such an ease now to listen to music anyway you want, that the idea of making listening to an album an event gets lost.  The idea that I am not going to turn the on TV, I am instead going to grab a beer, sit in my chair, and really listen to this album is kind of forgotten.

 

Andy: Yeah exactly, you pour yourself a cocktail or crack open a beer with a buddy and you hang out and check out music. You experience it, rather than just having it on. Entertainment just moves so quickly and I think people forget to stop and smell the roses. Music almost becomes almost a background soundtrack to people’s lives – which it always was – but they are missing the experience of it, the social experience of it. 

 

HT:  That ease with which people can get new music also takes away that sense of searching out and discovering new music. You lose the thrill of finding something new.  There is no more build-up or anticipation for new music; you don’t have to wait until you can find some random copy or import of something at your local store. Or having to hope you see this small band you’ve just discovered open for someone so you can buy their album from their merch table.

 

Andy: {laughs} Do you remember the days when you actually had to take a chance on bands? I remember going to the record store with $10-$15 and browsing around and picking up a record and saying, “I heard this is good, but I don’t really know, I guess I will try it.”

 

HT: I have a large CD collection with some albums that I took a chance on that turned out to be not such a wise move.

 

Andy: {laughs} Yeah man, people have gotten really used to how easy it is to get new music.  I saw something on Facebook where people were freaking out because; someone young was on there just telling the truth by saying that she doesn’t buy music. Her attitude was why would anyone buy music these days?  And she was right. Younger people who weren’t there in the age of Tower Records and whatnot – when that is how you had to get your music – don’t know any other way to get their music.  So I think it is important to still provide an online way for them to get music, but still also have a physical copy in the record stores.

 

HT:  I think what people forget is that someone has to make this music, and if everyone goes and gets it for free, that band who worked their ass off to make that album isn’t getting any kind of reward and they may have to say, “We can’t afford to do this anymore we have to find real jobs.”

 

Andy: I fully support people who want to go out and use Spotify or YouTube or our archive and don’t pay a cent to listen to our music, I am fine with that.  But what I remind people is that if you do that with us or any other band, remember when that band comes to your town go to their shows, pick up a t-shirt or something. If you are not going to pay for the music, you can still support the band in someway. It’s important to always do that.  Just get a ticket to the show and be part of the scene. If you want to help a band out it doesn’t always have to be with money. If a band posts a video and you like it, share it with your friends.  Help them out, spread the word. That is all stuff that falls under supporting the band. That helps out bands a lot.

 

HT:  That’s a really good point, I think people do not always remember the different ways they can support a band they like besides just buying their albums.  Swinging back to the new album, what did you do differently or the same this time around when writing and recording Silver Sky?

 

Andy: You know what seems to be the same on every record is that we always have a little bit different of an approach. You are always trying to grow as an artist, band, and as songwriters.  In this instance we had a producer Billy Hume, who is amazing, who we met through our manager. He is just an amazingly creative guy. He doesn’t make bluegrass records. He is more known for his work on hit rap records, but he has a folk background and he is just a really creative energy that brought a whole other thing to our table. I feel his mark on the record is that he was able to match the energy of our live shows and bring it to the record.  It was an amazing experience to work with Billy and I expect to work with him many more times in the future.

 

HT: Since The Stringdusters and Billy kind of come from different musical worlds, was there every a time when there was a “language” issue when trying to describe or explain something to each other?

 

Andy: I think when you bring two different worlds like that together you are always learning from each other, finding that “that’s cool how you do that” moment.  But the end product is making a record, and whether its bluegrass, or rap, or rock, it is all the same thing.  You go in trying to make the best album you can, with the best songs you have, get the performance you can, and make the best statement you can with the record.  So there is definitely a universal language there we relied on.

 

HT: I think what you said about the album capturing your live energy is true. Your live show is one of your many strengths and Silver Sky really captures the energy of what you guys do on stage.  Do you find you write  songs for the stage and try and take them into the studio or you write songs in the studio and then try and work them out for your live performance?

 

Andy: You know that’s the big question what to do with that {laughs}.  I think it is different for each song. Sometimes you have songs that never make it on an album, but become a regular part of your live rotation for the show. I think the next time around for the next studio album we are going to try and road test a few more of the songs than we normally do.  I think back in the day, when you had a record label, the label would frown upon tunes being played from the record before the record dropped.  That is an old school style of thinking.  But really does it matter? We don’t have a record label; we are our own record label so we can make our own decisions about that. So it’s like, “shoot yeah man, we want to play these tunes.”
 

It’s interesting to play something in front of an audience and see their reaction to it. That’s really cool to see your audience and see how they react to songs. It is a great way to get perspective on those songs. Because ultimately when we go back to the studio – we are a five piece band on stage - but when we go to the studio we can add other things and other elements. When you play a live show there is an energy transfer from audience to band that happens.  You don’t get that energy transfer when you make a studio recording. So one of the ways to simulate that is by adding certain things, like a little bit of piano or an organ, or percussion, or stuff like that.  Like we were talking about, listening to a studio album is a different experience; it should be a different experience than a live show where you are performing the songs and you have that energy transfer going on to fill in those gaps.  I think road testing the songs on the next record is going to be something we do, and we are just always trying to be growing as artists and songwriters.

 

HT:  Where do you find inspiration from for the next record?  What kinds of things are you listening to – something older, something newer?

 

Andy: Different guys in the band listen to all kinds of music – from rock music to electronic music to everything. I think what is interesting is the similarities between trancey-electronic music and what we do with a kind of jammy music. It is this very similar kind of thing, just with different instruments. 

 I find inspiration myself in a lot of different things, by observing what’s going on in the world, or in my own personal life, or in my family.  I went to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame a few days ago for the first time and it was inspiring. I thought it would be cool, but I didn’t realize how inspiring it would be. Holy cow, just to walk through there, it was so inspiring to see the cream of the crop of rock ‘n’ roll music. And it is really an interactive kind of exhibit the way they do it. They had a great Grateful Dead exhibit and a great Beatles exhibit. So that is where I draw inspiration from, and also from our peers.  We are fortunate enough in the summer months to play a lot of festivals and you get to see a lot of music you wouldn’t maybe get to see otherwise.  It all sort of gets in there and influences somehow.

 

HT:  Do you still draw inspiration from any of the older more traditional names in bluegrass?

 Andy: I think these days my exploration into classic bluegrass is not quite as common now as say me going and listening closely to a Beatles record or something like that.  Right now most of the classic stuff I am listening to is like Hendrix and The Beatles.  I am huge Mike Bloomfield fan – he is one of my favorite guitar players – and he is not a bluegrass player by any means.  We lost Doc Watson recently and that inspired me to go back to some Doc records and check that out again.  I have a tendency to kind of just listen to stuff that I really like, and try and put it into the context of what we are doing.

 

 HT:  What are your plans going forward the rest of the year and beyond?  Have you started writing new songs for the next album?

 

Andy:?We have our New Year’s Run which is always fun and I am looking forward to that.  We are going toTulum,Mexico in December with [Leftover] Salmon, Yonder [Mountain String Band], and Railroad Earth.

 Generally we have already started putting new songs together.  On this tour right now in particular – because we all live kind of scattered across the country – since we are all together we are really trying to maximize our time together and work on some new material. We have been working out some new songs and have been writing together. I am looking forward to getting back into the studio maybe in the spring. I think we should be ready by then.  We will be sprinkling in new material over the course of the next several months. You can count on some new Dusters material.  I want to encourage people to go to our archive and check out our shows.  Our man Drew Becker who does our front house sound and records the shows does a great job getting them up on there, so you can probably find some of the new material on there as well.

                                                       

 

Silver Sky Deluxe Edition is out now. 

To see more live photos of the Infamous Stringdusters by Jordan August please visit here.

“Bene Being Bene”: Marco Benevento’s Sonically Swirling & Fearless TigerFace

Marco Benevento has been called a “sound sculptor.”  With his new album TigerFace (out now on Royal  Potato Family) this assertion may never be more evident then it is with this adventurous, mystical masterpiece.  While Benevento’s albums always are humbly structured, this album is his most intellectual and sophisticated to date, yet manages to retain the risk taking, almost childish, playful charm he has always enamored his fans with present, showcasing it on songs like “Atari” and “Real Morning Party.” 

 

 

 

 

 Honest Tune checked in with Benevento, as he gears up for an extensive Fall Tour that will keep him on the road through the Thanksgiving holiday.

 

 

Honest Tune: While the blood, sweat, and tears won’t be really be done until you finish this heavy workload of tour dates, how are you feeling now that the album is complete and ready for an audience?

 Marco Benevento: The entire process for making this record took two years, so it actually feels particularly good to finally have this record done and out there for people to hear. Of course having the two songs with Kalmia Traver (Rubblebucket) is also a very exciting part of the record for me because I’ve never written words to my tunes. It’s a new door opened and I’m thrilled at the end result. Having John McEntire (Tortoise and The Sea and Cake) on a tune is also pretty exciting for me too.  I’m a huge fan of the record Standards that Tortoise released back in 2001 and working with him at his studio in Chicago (Soma) was mind blowing. I’m looking forward to hitting the road with my band (Dave Dreiwitz and Andy Borger) and playing a bunch of the new tunes in the fall.

 

 

HT: The overall feeling of this album seems to be much more direct than previous works.  As an avid listener and fan, I have always felt that you had a “Thelonious” approach to your playing.  A sort of delayed precision, where you are just taking a melody to the edge before you keep it going by hitting just one simple note.  Is that a correct assumption, and if so is this piece of work intentionally a bit of an antithesis  approach? 

MB: I really didn’t intentionally do anything different for Tigerface than the other records I’ve made. I think just having more time allowed for me to exhaust anything and everything that came to mind for every tune.  I almost had too much music to work with after tracking with so many folks. By adding so many musicians to the mix and with all of the layered ideas that arose I wound up taking away more stuff in the end. I was looking for some simpler ideas and concepts for this record, but I think that’s what I’ve been searching for on stage too. Compositionally speaking I feel like a lot of the tunes are very much in the style of what I’ve been up to lately, so I feel like it’s a more modern representation of the music in my head.  We’ve been playing the tunes live a bunch over the last year and they fit in nicely with the other tunes from the other records so I’m digging the freshness of the new tunes live.

 

HT:  Not that the other albums lacked structure, but this album feels a bit more tightly coiled where other albums are softer and more open-knitted in structure.

 MB: Yeah the tunes without words almost seem like they could have words.  They also have more of a concise simple pop quality about them, especially the song “Fireworks.”  A lot of the tunes have smaller solo sections or no solo section at all, so we wound up focusing a bit more on the arrangement and dynamics of the tune as well as the song as a whole. A handful of songs were actually written in the studio rather than written before hand, so I wasn’t married to any specific way a particular song should go.  “Escape Horse” was actually tracked in the opposite order than it began on the record.  We tracked it and the intro was called “A” the middle called “B” and the ending section was “C” however in the final edited finally version of the song I changed it to go like this backwards: C B A.

 

 

HT:  What are you using most to overdub on this work compared to past pieces, Moog, Optigan, Mellotron or Farfisa?

 MB:  I’m using a lot of the same stuff that I’d normally use. There is a lot of Optigan, specifically on the intro of “Going West.” Farfisa is heavy on that one too.  I used a VCS3 on Limbs of a Pine, that’s the synth intro and background you here throughout the tune. I’ve never used one of those before they’re pretty hard to find.  Luckily John McEntire had one at his place. [John] Medeski had his Mellotron and Wurlitzer 7300 at Applehead Studio in Woodstock where I did a bunch of mixing and overdubbing, so I used that “Do What She Told You.”  I used a Stylophone and a Clavioline at the end of “Soma.” I never recorded with those freaky keys before. So, yes there are a handful of keyboards that I’ve never used before on this record. I’m happy I got to use them!

 

 

 HT:  Working with producer Tom Biller…interesting as I feel as though I could find some of these tracks on ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I see correlations to Tom Biller that seem fitting, but Bryce Goggin has worked mainly with punk-ish indie bands (aside from Phish) like Pavement and The Morning Glories.  This is your second album working with him, what do you think he adds?  Did Mike Gordon recommend him?

 MB:  Joe Russo and I worked with Tom Biller out in LA to make Play Pause Stop back in 2005, so I’ve know him and his wife for a while.  He’s just a great guy to work with in the studio. He’s super chill, gets amazing sounds, knows how to work quickly and really focuses on each tune to help bring out what will help the life of the tune. My band stayed at his house while we tracked, so we really got deep into it. 

 Working with Bryce in Brooklyn is such a blast.  He’s so quick on the draw too.  Basically if you are messing with an idea on another keyboard somewhere else in the room as you’re listening back to a take, before you know it one of his assistants has an amazing mic out there ready to record your spontaneous idea.  His studio was also real close to my apartment when I lived in Brooklyn, so that was a plus.  Not to mention the first time I recorded with Trey, Mike and Joe was at Trout.  That’s when I first met Bryce.  We just hit it off, talking about gear and slappin’ the grand ham slapper, two geeks in a studio style. Bryce really is a professional capturist – he’s there, but not there, you’re recording, but it’s not a slow paced sterile environment, it’s buzzing with abundant musical directions and he’ll be there to get it for you. I also call his place “The House Of Closure” because I’ve mixed songs from three records there so Trout is where I have to make the final decisions on the mixes.

 

 HT:  You seldom play with guitarists, but you have worked with some of the most heralded axe players.  Notably Trey Anastasio and Steve Kimock.  Particularly what is it like to play with someone like Kimock who is known to really stretch things out?  Can they adapt and follow well to works off of Invisible Baby, and the like? 

 MB:  Well I definitely come from a stretch it out background.  Jazz, free jazz and spontaneous music making is how I learned my instrument so traveling with Steve down that path is super fun.  He’s easy to get along with and damn, he can play his ass off!  We’ve done a handful of shows together. Whether it’s sitting in with my band or playing with The Everyone Orchestra, Steve and I can hang. We get along well and ultimately have a good time feeding off each other onstage and listening to each other.

 

 

 HT:  Various musicians absolutely rave about you, especially bass players and drummers.  Give yourself a pat on the back here for a minute.  What is it about your style that seems to get these guys like Andrew Barr, Matt Chamberlein, and bassist Reed Mathis off so much? 

 MB:  Well all three of those guys are superb musicians and can do the right thing at the right time always. They are definitely in that category of musicians who have reached their ten thousandth hour and are on their way to being a master, Reed might already be a master.  We all can listen and respond well enough to each other that sometimes it makes us crack up. Sometimes I look at Matt and he looks like an eight year old playing his first beat on his first kit, smiling and bashing away, in total awe at what he’s doing, and what he’s doing is ridiculous!  Andrew and I go way back to 1995 Boston days, so we have a deep respect for each other as well as a serious love for the Fringe (George Garzone, John Lockwood and Bob Gullotti), so that says it all.  We would wind up playing a lot at his house in Boston into the late hours of the night. Just piano and drums. Those were some good ol’ days.

 

 

HT:  You are a big proponent of “Circuit Bending.”  For those who may not know the gritty details, would you care to explain, and give some examples of songs where this is a most prominent feature?

 MB:  Generally circuit bending involves a battery operated kids toy (Speak N Spell, or Casio keyboard) and a soldering iron.  Of course you need a screw driver to take it apart, but that’s basically all you need.  I’ve never actually done any circuit bending myself, but my friend who does (Tom Stephenson of Roth Mobot) basically described it like that. You can modify the toys with a switch or a turnable knob that effects the pitch and then put quarter inch outs on them so you can run them into amps and pedals.  I’d just recommend checking it out online, or buying a bent toy on ebay.  They are basically noise boxes or glitch boxes that make electronic tweaked sounds. I like them because when you put them behind a piano track or behind a band it really adds this David Lynch-esque quality to your tune. It’s a tweaked out layer of sound mingling with a timeless old piano sound that really sparked my interest in using them live. “This Is How It Goes” was written around that toy loop during the chorus on a kids toy Yamaha small keyboard. “Now They’re Writing Music” also has a lot of toys on it.

 

 

 HT:  Between the Needle and Nightfall comes off as much more deliberate, where as TigerFace comes off tremendously versatile, and Invisible Baby, comes off much more groove based.  This album seems to have the structure and intellectual strength of Needle and Nightfall, but with a lot more willingness to let go and play different tones and really layered and patient.  What were the key differences & elements in approach to this album?

 MB:  I took all the time in the world to make TigerFace and live with it and so naturally more sounds and approaches found their way onto the final record over those two years.

 

 

HT:  For those at home not keeping score, how many of these songs have you played live already?

 MB:  Escape Horse, This Is How It Goes, Limbs Of A Pine, Fireworks, Eagle Rock and Going West have been played in some shape or form out there.

 

 

HT:  The first two tracks (“Limbs of a Pine” & “This is How it Goes”)  feature vocalist Kalmia Traver of Rubblebucket.  How did you come to the conclusion of adding vocals to this album, how did you hook up with her, and will these songs find a way of making it to the stage? 

 MB:  Oh man, Kal is amazing. I saw her totally rock a crowd in Burlington with Rubblebucket. I was floored. And prior to that we played a gig together in Denver with The Everyone Orchestra, so we knew each other a little bit.  While I was editing “This Is How It Goes” and thinking of what it might need I honestly, intuitively felt that I wanted a high vocal part; sort of a cross between Debbie Harry and Satomi Matsuzaki (singer in Deerhoof), something high and thin and cute but super badass too. My wife and I with reckless abandon wrote lyrics syllabically (ooooohs and ahhhhs and eeeeees) to the piano melody. We really didn’t want to think to much about the words because we just wanted to hear what the vocals would actually sound like on the tune. Our friends and me and my wife (during a pretty late night of eating and drinking) recorded a version of the song with all of us singing. It sounded like a big chorus and we loved it and had a real fun time doing it. I almost released that version of the song! The original chorus is on the record however we’re just in the background. 

After sitting with it for a while I thought I should try one with a singer who could possibly nail that Debbie Harry/Satomi Matsuzaki vibe and well of course Debbie Harry was the first person I thought of to call, but it seemed like a pipe dream. A couple months before I had just seen Kal and Rubblebucket and was totally blown away by the sound of her band and her voice so I reached out to her.  We pulled it together for a day of overdubbing in Brooklyn at Trout. Kal had so many ideas and her enthusiasm actually made me feel like the song needed vocals all along. Adding a singer to my music didn’t feel awkward at all, it was my first time trying it so you never know, but it wasn’t strange to me actually it felt very natural. She sang harmonies with the melody and overdubbed herself to create these thick moving vocal lines.  I was totally impressed with her natural ability to come up with real great supportive ideas for the tune and of course floored by the quality of her voice and how well it worked with the tune.

 

 

HT:  One last thing, did Panda Bear from Animal Collective help you design your new album cover?

 MB:  Nope. I used my friend Baptiste Ibar.  He also did Invisible Baby, he’s an incredibly talented painter, guitar player and singer.

 

All roads lead to Vermont: An interview with Toubab’s David Pransky

 

Ten years ago, David Pransky was meandering around the western portion of the globe, mandolin in hand and surfboard nearby, seemingly without direction and with little care. He was a guy without sense of direction who was thinking about anything but a destination and enjoying the journey to the fullest. It was through a chance meeting with a well-established musician that David’s path was given a direct course, but just as the case had been with everything else that preceded it, he definitely didn’t use a map.

That same year, Pransky hosted some friends in his family’s “backyard,” a sprawling few-hundred acre farm in the rolling hills of Vermont. The event would soon grow into what is known today as The Manifestivus, annually hosted by the band that Pransky has called home for the past six years, Toubab Krewe. The Manifestivus is not your father’s festival, but the best part is that lots of dads attend. Boasting something for everyone, the event brings in talent from around the world, exposing its patrons to music that they may have never experienced otherwise and has a petting zoo to boot.

 

The Manifestivus will officially turn ten this weekend, with the ceremonies mastered by none other that Luis Guzman, the gentleman that many know as the guy who played Maurice TT Rodriguez, the guy who finally got his claim-to-fame club in the closing reel of Boogie Nights.

Yep, it looks like it is going to be another awesome weekend in Cabot and in the preceding days we figured that we would hop on the horn with the festival’s founder and the guy that chicks at Toubab shows can’t get enough of, David Pransky.

 


 

All roads lead to Vermont:

An interview with Toubab’s David Pransky

(to download or stream the audio only, see below for the Archive.org link)

Click HERE to download or stream the audio from this interview.

For more on The Manifestivus, head over to www.Manifestivus.com

For more on Toubab Krewe, head to www.toubabkrewe.com

 

 

 

 

Anders Osborne: “Same Track, Not the Same Train”

 

 

Having released the perfect follow-up to 2010’s masterful, American Patchwork, with this year’s stunningly intimate, Black Eye Galaxy, an album that is an open book to a man’s soul, Anders Osborne took some time to check in with Honest Tune the day after a particular “rowdy” show in Baltimore which saw Osborne joined by friends John Gros (Papa Grows Funk) and Cris Jacobs (Cris Jacobs Band, formerly from The Bridge) for an evening that saw him deviate from his planned set list into adventurous musical journey that showcased both Osborne’s electrifying guitar work and his unparalleled song-writing ability.

 

[To check out Honest Tune’s review of Black Eye Galaxy, please visit here.]

 

 

 

HT:  How was the process of putting together Black Eye Galaxy different than American Patchwork?

 

Anders Osborne: It was a little bit more simplified this time. On American Patchwork I had a bunch of random songs, and Stanton [Moore] helped me select and go through them, and sort amongst literally maybe a 100 songs. This time I just started writing in July [2011]. I had an idea for the title Black Eye Galaxy. I wrote one song and then the next, and then just compiled fourteen songs, and that was what I brought in. I wanted it to be a little bit simpler. I worked out some arrangements, and recorded with a four piece band, and worked a little less on big guitar parts and instead just have one or two guitars playing at the same time.

 

 

HT: You still have Billy [Iuso] playing guitar with you?

 

AO: Yes Billy was with me. It felt more like a band record this time.

 

HT: Did those guys [Iuso, bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar] have input towards the new album?

 

AO: Once you get to the studio, everybody has some input. It is not like I have it logged out. Between the producers – Stanton, Me, and Warren Riker – you always talk and let everyone be creative. I guess ultimately I am guiding and overlooking the process until I am satisfied with it. Everybody has some kind of input into how the record is shaped for sure.

 

HT: There is a very personal narrative through out the album, was that a conscious thing on your part or just how it turned out as you wrote these songs?

 

AO: Lately I think have just been real comfortable writing like that.  I don’t think I aim to do it, but that is just how it is coming out lately. I do go back to a little bit of storytelling like I used too do, but these songs are also all very self-reflective.  “Louisiana Gold” is taking parts from my history and what I have gone through and then making up a little bit of stories and I mixed that up with a friend of mine’s story, because he and I have a very similar journey together.  So I just mixed a couple of things together.

 

HT: There is a definite theme through out the album that really binds it together. I even think the sequencing of the songs works great in helping to create a very specific mood and feeling through out the album.

 

AO: I thought it was important to do like an A and B side with a middle, and then it would be like you were turning it over like you used to do on a record.  Then you could have a slightly different mood on the second half.

 

HT:  Well since you had such a specific thought with the sequence and you had to trim songs from your original batch you wrote for this album, do you have any plans for the others that you had to get rid of?

 

AO:   Usually they just get forgotten. When you make a record you always want that nice sequence of songs that fit together, and every once and while when you make a record you go back and find a nice little gem among those forgotten songs, and its like, “Hey, we should do that again. Maybe we could try it this way on this record.”  There is always a use for songs even if they don’t end up on the record you are working on.

 

 

 

HT: Did any of the songs on Black Eye Galaxy come from any of those long lost gems?

 

AO: Not on this one, on American Patchwork there were definitely two really old songs on there.

 

HT: “Darkness at the Bottom”?

 

AO: Yes, “Darkness” and “Love is Taking its Toll”. Those are songs I think I wrote in the early 90s.

 

HT: How is it taking these songs to the stage this time around?

AO:  It really depends on the venue and stuff. A place like Baltimore we had bunch of guests and it just turned into a little bit more rowdier of a night, and in that case we just kind of bypassed some of those songs we usually do. We usually try and do “Louisiana Gold” and “Tracking My Roots” most nights so we can break it down and give the night a little bit more dynamic.  So we can go up and down.  In Baltimore we had to change a little bit of what I had planned, but that was ok. It was fun to see John Gros on guitar.

HT: How did working with Paul Barrere [from Little Feat] on the new album come about?

 

AO: I have known Paul for some time, more of an acquaintance, but in the last couple of years we started to keep in touch more, emailing and talking on the phone. We have done a few shows here and there, so I thought it was appropriate. I had some ideas where I wanted him to help me out on a couple of things.  He flew down toNew Orleans and worked with me for a few days.

 

HT:  Did you guys start from scratch, or did you have some songs already in the works for him to work on?

AO: We did some stuff from scratch. Of the two songs that made it on the record, the one, “Black Tar” was an idea I had. I had a lick that I was pretty hip. He just sussed out the details and helped work on the lyrics for it. For “Dancing in the Wind”, he had a guitar lick. It was kind of the initial spark. It was a chord progression that was really beautiful. We worked on the lyrics together. Then I kind of simplified that. His was an open G tuning, and it had some slide stuff and I just made it more into a songwriter’s song. We both brought something to the table and then finished then finished them off together.

 

HT: You said there were some other songs you worked on together?

 

AO: Yes, we have a couple more.

 

HT: Any plans for those?  Is he going to do something with them?

 

A: Hopefully so, that would be great. He was planning on putting “Black Tar” on a Little Feat record, but since I put it on he passed on it

 

HT:  Last time we spoke right after American Patchwork came out, you said, ‘A good record inspires you to start writing the next one.’ Did this one do that for you?

 

AO: Absolutely. I’m looking at the next one already.

 

HT: Have you started working on it already?

 

AO: I have started the next record a little bit. I have been strumming along a little. Usually it starts by just scratching a little bit of the surface whenever you get some down time. I don’t have a specific idea for it yet, but I would like to get this one out sooner, maybe in a year, year and half instead of two years.  I am hoping to get it out by next summer.

 

 

 

HT: What is the process for you when you start creating these new songs?

 

AO: It varies. First I would like it to connect to this record. I would like people to feel comfortable with this record. I look at it a little bit like an extension, so if I bought this record what would I like to hear on the next record. I try and put myself in that frame mind.  Then you just strum at the house, I play a little piano at the house, mess with different tunings on different guitars. Then topically I am trying to figure out something I find interesting. You just start putting everything into the pot and the usually what happens is I start to get a specific flavor and I stick with that and I start writing.

 

I think if you bought American Patchwork, then when you buy the next one you want it to be on the same track, but not the same train. I assuming my listeners like music the way I like music. I want to be taken on a journey. Something needs to change, but I still feel need to like we are still traveling together. It doesn’t need to change drastically. I used to change drastically in the past, but I am trying to more gently steer the whole thing in smaller increments now.

 

HT:  What are your plans for the rest of the year?

 

AO:  I think we are going to stay on the road as much as possible, and when I have a week or two off in between I’ll probably start working on some new tunes.  Maybe by January I can go into the studio.

 

Black Eye Galaxy was released May 1, 2012 on Alligator Records.

 

 
To see all of Jordan August’ s photos from Osborne’s “rowdy” Baltimore show please visit here. To see all of Jordan’s work, visit www.jordanaugust.com

 

 

 

 

Looking toward 2012: Gathering of the Vibes founder talks history, legacy & present

Each year, the topic comes up at least ten times: there are so many festivals. It’s true, there are a lot. Many go just as easily as they came, some barely missed in so doing. All of this begs the question: “What separates the winners from the losers?”

Certainly there is nobody who has the absolute answer to the quandary. Some might say “they didn’t book the right bands.” Tell that to Langerado who had headliners including Widespread Panic, My Morning Jacket, Trey Anastasio, Beastie Boys, Phil Lesh and R.E.M. amidst the top of its final two years’ billings. Others might note location. To those, 10KLF would say, “Really? How much better can it get when attendees have to decide between camping locations that boast being nestled in a rolling forest with many hills, dales and hidden lakes vs. camping right on the shores of Lake Sallie or on the hills overlooking the water?” As an added bonus, all of the pristine locations had permanent bathroom and shower facilities with running water.  

Nope, there is no “secret formula.” But if there was, Ken Hays, founder of Gathering of the Vibes, would be the cat to look to for it.Each year, 20,000+ fans, both old and new, flock to the Vibes, Bridgeport, CT’s seminal event that turns 17 this year. Obviously this is quite the milestone, but to hear Ken talk about it, staying genuine and true to the original mission, rolling with the punches, planning well and a pinch of luck is all it takes. 

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————–

 

With the event less than a month away, Honest Tune‘s Pete Mason sat down with Ken to hit the high points by discussing the evolution of the Vibes from being an event that drew 2,000 patrons in its first year to being one that has clocked in at 20,000+ for the past few years, what factors into keeping such a successful track record, and what makes festivals in general such an increasingly prevalent part of the music scene.

 

Pete Mason: Your festival started in 1996 with Deadhead Heaven and has grown for the past 16 years into one of the largest festivals in the country and the largest in the northeast. Looking back, how has the growth of festival scene in past decade affected the music scene and industry?

 

Ken Hays: Certainly, when we started back in 1996, there were many fewer festivals than there are today. It seems like every weekend throughout the United States there is a music/camping festival. I think festivals in general are good, not only for up and coming bands because they are exposed to tens of thousands of people, but festivals are good for the attendee, because when you look at the dollar value and the number of artists, when you break it down per artist, it’s a great value. Festivals are a great financial value for the quantity and quality of musicianship that one can experience over a weekend.

 

PM: In the June issue of Relix, Mike Greenhaus mentions that festivals, rather than Phish, Widespread Panic, moe., etc… are the true heir to the legacy of the Grateful Dead. Do you agree with that assessment?

 

KH: Mostly, as it pertains to community and friends and family and gathering, which absolutely parallels myself and my friends who were out touring and having a whole lot of fun with The Grateful Dead.

 

PM: How have the emergence of families and their kids as a market for an audience contributed to the evolution of Vibes?

 

KH: Starting right from the beginning with Deadhead Heaven, we had a family camping area and children’s activities, then it got to a pointwhen our Kids Corner grew up, and the kids are now in their early/late teens and they don’t want to get their faces painted and hair wrappedand such, so about 4-5 years ago, we incorporated a Teen Scene with a stage that was really tailored to kids that are incredibly talented performers. It’s a great opportunity. Last year we had just under 2,000 kids under the age of 15 come with their parents, and the year before that it was 1,600 kids, out of the 20,000 people a day who come to Vibes. It’s great to see these kids grow and flourish and love the Vibes. I remember last year around 9-10pm on Saturday, a dad with his two kids hand in hand came up to me and said “I asked my kids, for a family vacation if they wanted to go to The Vibes or Disneyland, and they said Vibes”, and that really hit home. That’s the essence of what we started many years ago. So many of the Vibe Tribe come every year and it’s incredibly humbling and I am incredibly appreciative of the support and allowing me to do what I love doing for so many years.

 

PM: What improvements have you brought to Vibes in the past few years and how did they come about? Is there anything specifically new for this year that fans can look forward to experiencing?

 

KH: There’s nothing radical from last year’s setup to this year’s other than a much larger enhanced School of Rock/Teen Vibes stage, the music [is scheduled to go] later or earlier (laughs); main stage with STS9 will end at 2am, then Silent Disco on the beach and the late night stage will continue until the sun comes up. For those that aren’t ready to crash at 2am, there’s plenty of killer musical and artistic forms that they can experience.

 

(Referring to Silent Disco): I always wanted to do Vibes on the water- The Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Lake Champlain. To offer people the ability to go swimming and dancing in the Long Island Sound while listening to a band is a beautiful thing to watch and experience.

 

PM: With members of the Grateful Dead nearly every year, fans know what to expect at Vibes. How do you keep the lineup fresh and inviting for fans who have come in the past as well as new fans who need to be sold on a lineup to make the weekend?

 

KH: Myself and the people closest to me, right after Vibes, we get together over drinks and do some brainstorming and throw out some ideas and contact booking agents and see if the bands are planning on touring and if  the tour routes into Connecticut. Then hopefully we can come to terms on finances and if the stars align, we’ll get them on board for next year.

 

This year, having Primus return with us, having The Avett Brothers with us for the first time along with Steel Pulse and (the original lineup of) Strangefolk… its been 12 years since STS9 was with us last, latenight with Conspirator and Big Gigantic Underground Conspiracy and all the Dead members and their various side project, I think we have a really well rounded lineup that, based on Facebook fans and message boards and emails, people are digging the lineup so I’m pleased with how it all came together. It’s a puzzle – always has been and always will be.

 

PM: Bonnaroo started out as a jam band festival and has morphed into the largest festival in the country, combining acts of all kinds, major names and a few jambands still. How has Vibes been similar or different in that respect?

 

KH: Bonnaroo came out right out of the box with a mind blowing lineup and took the jamband scene by storm and it was spectacular. Vibes is a little more grassroots, starting out with Deadhead Heaven (1996 – 3,500 people in attendance) and in 1997 when the name changed to Gathering of the Vibes, we had about 7,000 people. There was never a business plan or a marketing strategy, we were winging it and we were never shy about that. We did the best job we could throwing a party for all of our friends, that’s how we kind of approached it, and it’s a little different 17 years later.

 

PM: How did a festival like Vibes grow to be what it is today, having had to compete with the expansive and competitive nature of festivals in the Northeast? How did Vibes rise to the top among these many festivals?

 

KH: I think, going back to the community aspect, we are a family; this is how Vibes Tribe has been and always will be. It is an opportunity for the Deadhead community to gather with friends and family as we once all did on Grateful Dead tour, when the Dead would come to Chicago or North Carolina or California – that was when I would see all my friends on those few occasions, when the Dead were on tour. That was the opportunity we had together over a couple day run to hang out and then get back on the road again. It really has become an annual tradition for thousands of people in a beautiful waterfront setting in a user friendly environment.

 

PM: In what ways can the festival scene throughout the country continue the success heralded over the past decade without turning into a corporate behemoth supporting dying labels and nostalgia acts?

 

KH: In the words of Phil Lesh, “Searching for the sound” – keeping your eyes and ears open for a new, innovative, distinctively creative musical entity; there’s some amazingly talented bands and musicians that don’t get the recognition they deserve and I think of myself as a promoter that it is my responsibility to search out those bands and do everything I can to expose them to the Vibe Tribe and hopefully they’ll be as excited to see them live.

 


In 2010, Honest Tune‘s Jeffrey Dupuis gave the advice to “Buy the ticket, take the trip.” after his experience in Seaside.

It’s still not too late to take the ride to Vibes, 2012.

 

For more information including lineup & single day or weekend tickets

(we are told that there are very few VIP packages remaining), head over to

 www.GatheringoftheVibes.com. 

 

For more about and from writer, Pete Mason, follow him on Twitter or check out his site, www.phanart.net

 

 


 

 

Wakarusa: Live, Backstage & Unplugged, part I with ALO & SOJA

Closing out May in style, Wakarusa once again descended upon Mulberry Mountain, transforming the remote location into a musical heaven of sorts. By possessing a lineup that was fit for kings (and queens), there was music to be heard from morning to morning, providing weekend residents the option to dance under the blended azure skies of the days all the way through the crystal starry skies of night (that can only be found in an area as “untouched” as Mulberry) and the wee morning.

 

With so many bands on the bill and the vast genre representation found therein, we drooled at the prospect of lugging audio and video gear into the backstage area to capture some special moments. Fortunately for us, Wakarusa was game. So were a handful of carefully selected artists. As a result, we are now able to exclusively & proudly present Live, Backstage & Unplugged at Wakarusa, part I — with ALO & SOJA.

 

ALO: “Blew Out the Walls”

Album: Sounds Like This

 

For more on ALO, check out www.ALOmusic.com

 

SOJA: “Strength to Survive

Album: Strength to Survive

For more on SOJA, head over to: www.SOJAmusic.com

 

 

 

With Friends Like These: An Interview with Dave Brogan and Steve Adams from ALO

Self-described by Zach Gill in 2008 as “Bohemian Jam Pop,” ALO (American Liberation Orchestra) is unique among most modern bands. They have known each other since age 7, have played together since they were 12, and have been in bands together since high school. The band congeals on records in somewhat abstract connectivity, only understood once you realize how long they have known each other and played together.

Honest Tune spoke with Dave Brogan (drums/vocals) and Steve  Adams (bass/vocals) individually on a cool Monday night about their latest album, Sounds Like This. Dave was in New Orleans between gigs enjoying Jazzfest and Steve was in San Francisco, taking a break from their schedule with some rest and relaxation with family and friends.

Speaking with Steve and Dave individually provided insight on how close they are and how they communicate in the studio. Their answers to the same questions were similar but had unique syntax. Like jazz musicians communicating through the trumpet and the snare, Steve was more talkative, filling any pause in the conversation with thoughts about the album or anecdotes about the band; Dave was straight forward, yet cautious in what he divulged. The dual conversations provided a glimpse into a band’s communication process – how  different voices add to the artistic process.

HT:  The press release indicates that this recording process was very different from before, in that it was a collective process. Did you all write and arrange in an overlapping process? Why was it different than before?

Steve:  Part of it yes…. We have been slowly creeping towards this [new] process. [Before] we may have written part of it at home; we always arranged together and then picked it apart to make it “ALO.” But this album was more free jamming and recording in the moment…so this album, more than any, is a collaboration. We have been trying to get to that more and more each time.

The biggest difference was that we had the live show in mind on this album, but the last few were more introspective and more studio produced. We wanted to capture our live shows well. [For inspiration] we kept picking up pictures of the fans and holding it up, reminding us who we were making the record for.

Another difference on this the record was that we recorded in San Francisco. The last one was in Hawaii, so I was only able to bring my electric bass, but I couldn’t bring the little things from home. There were three check-ins to get to Hawaii, so we couldn’t ship a whole lot and used whatever Jack [Johnson] had in his studio.

This time we were a couple blocks from Dave’s house, so we were in such close range we could fill up the car. I think this made the sound on the album broader.

Dave:  We were trying to capture the essence of the live band on the record. In the past, there are people that knew us from the live shows and people that knew us from a record. But we are a very reactive band, and we react in the environment, which affects the set list and the way we play live, [while] in the studio it’s more introspective music. The shows are more of a party, and in the new album there was intent to get the live vibe, ‘now lets picture it with the live sold-out Filmore shows.”

HT:  What was it like to record at Mission Bell?

Steve:  Lots of records have been made there lately. It was so cool! The studio had cement walls and I think it was an old bank. The studio was upstairs, and [was located] in the Mission [neighborhood in San Francisco].

Dave:  It was great! We were around good friends [who own the recording studio], and we actually used the same tape machine that Phil Lesh and The Grateful Dead used on In the Dark. The history of it was kind of inspiring in its own right. We used some modern techniques, so sometimes we would record on tape, but then maybe add something later by computer.

HT:  Was there any moment or note that sticks out in your mind, that inspired you or was an “aha” moment?

Steve:  For me, there was one jam that we came up with on the spot, and it turned into a song, “Falling Dominoes,” and Zach helped me write the lyrics. I had song writing sessions, which was something I had never done before. Zach is the most prolific writer in the band, and he encouraged me and gave me exercises for writing lyrics. It was kind of uncomfortable but kind of exciting for me.

Another that I remember was when Zach kept pursuing an alternate ending to a song, “Blew out the Walls.” Zach had an alternate way of playing it, and we had to choose one way or the other, so we recorded both. [The alternative version is available on Itunes only] It was a cool, standout track and the alternate version kind of reminded me of Talking Heads. It was a transient jam. Because we had been playing for a half hour, we were playing different [musical] interests, and then Dan showed up. Then we went back to the original and played for a half hour again, and then they reeled it in and made it into a song. It was definitely stand out moment for me.

Dave:  The first thing that pops in my mind was “Falling Dominoes.” I loved the way it got created. This was so cool, literally, we were using the tape to record for about a half hour, and then rewind it, then we just started playing few chords and suddenly the song appeared. The tape finished, and the music just came out of thin air. The song was capturing the band. It happened from such a pure space. There are so many cool moments when you record an album.

It was a pretty intense moment and we uncovered a cool piece of music. There is good composition on this album. Nobody brought in their own music, and a lot of the versions that are on the album were recorded before there were lyrics to the song. That discovery is captured on the album. One of the cool things was hearing the songs develop on the tape.

HT:  Do you struggle with the internal pull between making money and keeping true to your integrity and authenticity as a musician?

Steve:  There is definitely a universal struggle of trying to make money. There is the infrastructure that could sell a song, and then on the other hand we are aware of the opportunity we have.

The first record was written for ourselves, with no label in mind. The two records after that, we felt a little pressure so we had to record something we could sell. This record, the conversation came up a lot, and we thought, let’s just forget about it, make the record we want to make for our fans and not over-edit it. Not over think it.

It’s a conversation we have a lot and it’s difficult. It’s a challenge, it’s a balancing act while we are trying to be proud of the music. This album is more whimsical and we let our own voice be what it is. It actually took the pressure off.

Dave:  The one thing with ALO is that it is not in our nature to focus on the business side. On the other albums we spent more time trimming things down, and we purposefully did not do that on this album. Sure, the trimming down bogs you down. It’s always the roughest thing.

We wanted to keep the live spirit. We were not setting out to make longer songs, and we didn’t want to fit the songs in the box. And we have a record label that allows us to create albums we want to. We are not trying to sell records based on the album cover, with a cookie-cutter image.

HT:  Full disclosure, I have had “Reviews (From Here to Zed)” on repeat for the past 2 days. Can you tell me about the song?

Steve:  That one was a composition groove vibe. Zach had words from another song, and the song gravitated through them and then fell into place in a cool way.

We all feel that there is always change, and with art, and sure, the reason you release it is for a little bit of validation. There are people who love us for what we do, and there are people that want us to do something they want us to do. But we wanted to have humor with it.

We did a lot more takes on the song and then we went back to an earlier one. We were throwing things to the wall and culling through things. We realized that the earlier recording was the best. Which goes back to the point of the album: to record what was part of our live shows.

Dave:  We did a bunch of takes, but the first take was the best one, the energy was so good on the first. An inspired recording is way better than precision.

HT:  You just played at Tulane University for the Crawfest [on April 21.] How did it feel to be playing in New Orleans, home to such a rich history of music?

Steve:  It was awesome! We have never played there before, but we have played Jazz Fest before. Last year was our first trip back to New Orleans in four years.

At one point Zach was talking to the crowd, and I felt like we were these California ambassadors, relating to college students, bridging the gap between USCB and Tulane. I can still relate to them because they were excited about the music, like when we played at Santa Barbara.

Dave:  Tulane was great! It was a full day of music. It was fun because we did a shoot for an ALO video for “Sweetest Dreams,” and then the show kicked off the Jazzfest.

HT:  That being said, how pumped are you to be playing at First Annual Nolafunk Jazzfest Series? [At the Republic April 27th first weekend of Jazzfest with Anders Osborne, members of the Grateful Dead & Little Feat, plus Marco Benevento]

Steve: Dave stayed in New Orleans for the whole week; good to go home, Zach and Dan flew back for their family. So much of the music that we love comes from there…Dr. John, old Jazz, Cajun music, and you go there, music all day all night for two weeks. Threaded into their cultures, live music.

Dave:  I’ve been here the whole week. I am intrigued by regional music. It is interesting these days that the lines are so blurred because everyone has access to so much music. You can see different combinations [online], but I like to find the guys that are doing the sound of the region, a pure form of the region’s music, and every region still has that, and as we travel I seek that out.

HT:  Dave, back in a 2008 interview [with HT&E] you said that you’d like to work with Amos Lee. Has that happened?

Dave:  It hasn’t happened yet! I had just gotten the new album and I love his music but we have never even met. I would stand by that! I caught him last year at Jazz Fest on my day off, and he was doing a set with the expanded band that he has now, and the band was such a bonus.

 

Sounds Like This was released May 8, 2012 on Brushfire Records.

Col. Bruce update: Reads Sling Blade script, talks Basically Frightened and ABB Beacon

It is always a pleasure to sit down for a chat with Col. Bruce, but on the rare occasion when he gives the “go ahead” to hit record on a video camera, it is extra special because it allows others in on the conversations.

On this particular night, after many months (or even a year) of promising to bring him one of Robert Duvall’s original Sling Blade scripts for his perusing, memory served on the way out the door and the Colonel was overjoyed to the point that he took to portraying his role in the film, Morris.

Morris was Doyle Hargrave’s (played by Dwight Yoakam) band manager in the film and though his time on the film was unfortunately brief, the role was as memorable as any and the lines that Bruce reads in the video below (for the first time in 17 years) were some of the most memorable in the entire film.

While camera ready, he goes on to talk Basically Frightened, the biopic that features footage from throughout Hampton’s life and interviews with virtually every living notable who has come into contact with their hero and was released to the masses at the Atlanta Film Festival and will be shown next in Marietta, GA on 7/21/12 at The Strand Theatre.

Fiinally, he talked briefly about stepping in at the Beacon during the recent Allman Brothers run. Ever humble, he turned the camera to his latest prodigy, the incredible A.J. Ghent, who blew our mind in Gadsden and in Atlanta with Leftover Salmon.

 

 

Col. Bruce Hampton: Video Update (Honest Tune Exclusive)

 For more on Col. Bruce, head to www.ColBruce.com

 

 

360° with Leftover Salmon on 4/20: Live, Backstage, Photographed, Interviewed & Unplugged

Every genre and subset thereof has a particular person or group that is pointed to as a founding partner of that particular sound. Though the one of whom most credit is almost never universally accepted (with Elvis being the most prolific example) and the credited person or group was certainly influenced by someone who trudged the road before them.

There is no denying the fact that, in spite of their lack of willingness to adopt the role, Leftover Salmon falls into this category. Obviously there was the Nugrass Revival and many more that came before them, but since the Leftover collective rose to prominence, so many bands have followed in their wake, not hesitating to cite the Colorado natives influence on their career.

But in Leftover Salmon’s case, their brand of intensely unique “poly-ethnic Cajun slamgrass” — that was chock full of improvisation vehicles — did more than inspire musicians that would follow. It officially brought the string music based sound into a “jam band” scene that was evolving out of (and thanks to) its Grateful Dead roots, courtesy of avenues such as H.O.R.D.E. and unfortunately, the untimely passing of Jerry Garcia.

Since those days, much has changed. The Leftover Salmon of 2012 only has two remaining original members. They faced the ultimate loss when driving force banjoist, Mark Vann, passed on in 2002. However, the core element remains: commitment to a sound that is as playful as it is sonically sound, driven by stellar musicianship and passion for creativity.

Last week, on what most deem to be a musical holiday, 4/20, Leftover made a stop at Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse. It was the first time that the beloved band had trekked through the South in many moons and they were approaching being one month away from releasing their first studio album in eight years, the forthcoming Aquatic Hitchhiker. As though this wasn’t enough, the evening at the Variety was billed with “special guest, Col. Bruce Hampton.”

Simply put, there was no way that we were not going to go all out with covering an event of this magnitude. Fortunately, the band was gracious enough to have us and as a result, we can present 360° with Leftover Salmon on 4/20: Live, Backstage, Photographed, Interviewed & Unplugged.


 

First up: Live, Backstage & Unplugged…

(Scroll down for an interview and show coverage: photos, setlist & a download link)


Second, a chat with the non-percussive section

(Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt & Andy Thorn)…

(Scroll down for show coverage: photos, setlist & a download link)


Finally, here are some details from the show…

(Bonus: Preview next week on “Salmonlandia” below)

 

Setlist:

Leftover Salmon, 4/20/12 at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, GA

 

I: Hollerwood, Carnival Time, Aquatic Hitchhiker, On the Other Side, Sing Up to the Moon, Whispering Waters, 4:20, Soul Shakedown Party, 4:20 Polka, Here Comes the Night, Liza, Whippin’ Post,

II: Ask the Fish, Doin’ My Time^, Yield Not to Temptation^*, Fixin’ to Die^*, Light Behind the Rain^, Gulf of Mexico^,
Euphoria^, Dirty Alabama Road^@, Everything Money Can’t Buy^@, Breakin’ Through^, Nobody’s Fault But Mine^, I’m So Glad^*, Up on Cripple Creek^*@

Encore: Just When You Think it Can’t Get No Better^ > God Save the Queen^

Notes: ^ w/ A.J. (J. Wunder) Ghent on 8 string lap steel, * w/ Col. Bruce Hampton on guitar/vocals, @ w/ Donna Hopkins guitar/vocals

Download an audience recording of this show HERE.

Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by David Shehi & Michael Podrid