Phone Interview:  Yasu Shiji - Spyn Reset

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Phone Interview: Yasu Shiji - Spyn Reset

Phone Interview:  Yasu Shiji - Spyn Reset

for The Lot Scene by Chris Kemp

TLS: Thanks for chatting. It was good to see you on tour again.

TLS: First off  let's get a rundown of what you guys have kind of been up to lately lately?

Yasu Shiji: We’re really focused on releasing our new album next year. That’s been mostly what we’ve been working on. Since it will be a full album we’re starting to plan a tour and some shows to support the new material. There will most likely be an album release party sometime between spring and summer.  We’re also really excited to tour with Marbin starting in February.

TLS: That’s awesome. Marbin will be a good fit for you guys. Can you talk a little more about what this new album will be like?

YS: This album will be a bit different for me because there are vocals on every track. I’m still using my vocoder but you can hear me actually sing on this album. You will hear my natural voice.

TLS: That’s a pretty big departure for you guys.

YS: Yeah we’re finally not just an instrumental band. We have lyrics and all that stuff. We definitely went way harder on this album. It’s a very heavy sound. I don’t want to say it’s metal but you kinda know what I mean.

TLS: What led you to create a more heavy sound on this album?

YS: This album is less prog and more straight forward. It’s more about creating a driving feeling with deeper lyrics. The lyrics are telling a story and using metaphors to create depth and meaning about today and what today means.

TLS: To me you’re trading complexities. The complexity used to be rooted in musical execution and now it’s more in lyricism. It’s the same idea you’ve been expressing but in another manner.  Who else have you been listening to for inspiration?

YS: TAUK, Animals as Leaders, Twiddle, Thundercat and Gorillaz

TLS: What other shows are in the works for Spyn Reset right now?

YS: We just wrapped up a show with Twiddle. We’re trying to get into the Upstream Music festival. We’re also excited for our first “Spread the Jam” event which happens this weekend, December 9th at Barboza. We’re hoping to bring the Jam and Prog communities together and that this will become an annual event. Expect something different in the future.   

TLS: Can you talk about some of your side projects and why those are important creatively?

YS: I pretty much compose music 24/7 and a lot of it isn’t getting written down or put anywhere. Sometimes when I write stuff it just doesn’t work for Spyn Reset. That’s why I started Kuroneko and Monokuro. I needed a space to utilize all of the music I’m making. I can express everything and not limit myself with these projects. I think I’m going to have a lot of gigs next year!

TLS: That’s awesome. I can’t wait to see you flush out some of these side projects. Maybe you can bring them to Colorado one day.

YS: I hope so!

 

You can find Spyn Reset and all of Yasu’s side projects online:

www.spynreset.com

www.monokuromusic.com

www.kuronekoband.com

 

Spread the Jam Event Info:  https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1582548?utm_medium=ampOfficialEvent&utm_source=fbTfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Live Interview:  Mimi Naja

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Live Interview: Mimi Naja

Live Interview - Mimi Naja

26 May 2016 - DelFest 9 - Cumberland, MD

 

TLS:  You just let me know when you’re ready, cause we’ve got time.

MN:  I’m ready to roll.

TLS:  Alright, well let’s kick it.  So straight out of the gate, love the new album — it’s obviously fresh and it’s certainly fresh for us, fresh on our minds…

MN:  Thank you.

TLS:  But we do have a little bone to pick with the band…there’s a particular song that we love that has been in our heads and hearts since Strings and Sol and Wondergrass and all over the place and that is “And There She Was”…

MN:  Oh yeah!

TLS:  So, true or false…you left it off Labor of Love because it’s going to be the title track of your upcoming funk album.

MN:  //laughter//  Man, I guess that’s not exclusively true or false…

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  Which is…you know…I’m just keeping you on the edge of your seat.  

TLS:  Oooo, I like that.

MN:  No, the first half is false because, the tracking and mixing and everything for Labor of Love was done before that song was written.

TLS:  Oh…

MN:  So, you know, there’s a little lag time for artwork and press and stuff…

TLS:  Right.

MN:  So…it’s always been like that it seems, like, by the time an album’s finished and out to the public we’re sittin’ on, like, two or three great new songs.  And, people are like, where are they?  And, that’s why.  But, you know, hopefully that’s just why we keep more albums coming.

TLS:  Well, it’s good that you guys have that kind of flow that we can always know that when an album drops there’s already another one in the works.  That’s good knowledge.

MN:  Yeah.  And, you know, I wouldn’t ever rule out a funk album.  There’s no reason to rule things out.  

TLS:  Right?  That’s the way to live life, right?

MN:  //laughter//  Exactly.  

TLS:  Right on.  Well, you obviously put a great deal of hard work and really fine effort into the new album and knowing that a studio album can be a ‘labor of love’ itself, are there any tracks that stand out in your mind as having been particularly difficult to get down or triumphant ones of that ‘nailed it’ variety?  You know what I am saying…like a peak moment?

MN:  Yeah.  Yeah, let’s see here…  I think the triumphant ones are the ones that are, like, the most unique studio setup, like the one mic acoustic version where we have Jeremy Garrett on the fiddle of “Death Comes Knockin’”, that was a particularly triumphant thing.  It was all live with no overdubs, so, you know, I think we only did, maybe, four takes of it at most…I think it was, like, third take was a “count it”…

TLS:  “Got it”.

MN:  And that is a major triumph, you know?  When it comes to studio stuff and tracking, it’s like, you can sit there and pick that shit apart forever.  That is the struggle.  We struggle with that since we all are…you know, it’s produced by Fruition.  Tyler, the drummer…T-Thom, Tyler Thompson, he’s the main engineer-minded, mixing kind of nerd wizard…

TLS:  Sure.

MN:  …but, he tends to take the reigns in that way, but, at the end of the day, it’s all of our voices that say, “No, I want that turned up right here, “ or “You used some of that reverb and I want it ‘dry’”.  So that stuff gets super tedious.  I’m trying to think of one that was, like, that we just picked apart.  //ponders for a moment//  I think “I Don’t Mind” that had Anders (Greensky Bluegrass) on it…he came in and just laid down shit forever and, like, to my ears it was always like, “Fuck yeah!  That was it!”  And they’re like “No, no, no!”  I think they chopped his shit to bits ‘cause it was, like, he wanted it, he’s like, “I’m rockin’ out on…it’s the last track of the Fruition album, like, it has to be perfect,” you know?  

TLS:  Right?

MN:  So, I think that one got picked apart, you know?  Oddly enough, that’s one that we’ve been playing live for years and years, so, you’d think we’d just be, like, “Count it!”  That was a labor of love for sure…  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, I imagine that the temptation, especially when you’re working on new album project, to chase perfection to the point of nit-picking like you said, you can just go track by track by track and you could sit there for the rest of your life.  You know, but the album’s gotta get out sometime…

MN:  Right.  And that’s become the thing, where it’s, like, you hear something and you are like “I don’t know,” and the rest of the room goes, “It’s awesome!”  And then the question becomes, “Are you going to hear that and it’s gonna drive you nut for the rest of your life?  No?  Then let’s move on…”

TLS:  Right, move forward.  Sure.  

MN:  That’s what a studio record is all about:  time capsule, you know?  Count it!

TLS:  Yeah, yeah.  Get it.  Get it done.  Get it out.  

MN:  Totally.

TLS:  Yeah, sure.  Well, I’ll echo again:  love it.  It’s great to hear a lot of songs that we’ve loved for years now come out on an album…it’s pretty cool.

MN:  Totally.  Thank you.  

TLS:  Yeah, definitely, Mimi.  And I know getting some radio play and everything’s been a lot of fun to hear.

MN:  It’s been awesome.  This has been the best tour.  The shows are popping off…

TLS:  The pictures have been great…all the buzz has been awesome.  You played Gypsy Sally’s last night, right?

MN:  It was great!

TLS:  Small, little venue…

MN:  Yeah, great, great crowd.  We opened for Lukas Nelson and, that band was just great.  

TLS:  That’s cool, that’s really cool.

MN:  Yeah, solid.  

TLS:  It’s a good little venue, too.

MN:  It is, I dug it.  Yeah, like you said, the buzz…the buzz is hot right now.  Like, people are streaming on Mixlr and taking lots of pics and posting on our Facebook fan page (add URL):  ‘Fruity Freaks of the Universe’ - we invite all freaks, far and wide to come get in on it!

TLS:  Big fans of the Fruity Freaks, in fact, there are a lot of key Freaks that we are friends with.  Good folk!

MN:  It’s a good group…it’s fun.

TLS:  Like your Max Berdes and your Jade Korbas…the big ones.

MN:  Yep!  Yeah, I’m glad they're onboard.

TLS:  Well, they’re going to be tickled to be in this, aren’t they?

MN:  Yes!  Give ‘em a little name drop!

TLS:  //laughter//  You know, really quickly, too…just about the recording process.  One of the things we enjoy about you most as a band is your stage presence, that energy.  It’s electric, it’s really bold and powerful and you take a lot away with you from it…

MN:  Mmmmhmmm.

TLS:  Trying to take that, though, and put it in an album format in the studio, are there things that you do as a band?  Rituals?  Ways to psych yourselves up?  Strategies?  Anything special that kind of went into some of these recording sessions?

MN:  Yeah, I guess, musically or instrument-wise, everybody’s different.  I feel like I can bring the good energy, like, I can sit down on a couch and rip a guitar solo or something and that’s no problem, but with vocals you’ve got to really get up, you’ve got to get your blood flowing…  If we’re doing three parts, especially, we like to do them all live together to keep that kind of live stage energy.  So, it takes all kinds of things whether it’s, like, doing push-ups or the perfect balance of coffee and whiskey.

TLS:  //laughter//  We were wondering about the whiskey…

MN:  I mean, yeah…usually the beer and the liquor doesn’t come out until, you know, 8PM or something.  Sometimes you go in at a 11AM and, by 2PM you are, like, ready for a drink but you know you shouldn’t yet.

TLS:  Mmmmhmmm.  Right.

MN:  It gets tricky, you know?  It’s alchemy.  You know?

TLS:  Studio time is valuable, right?

MN:  Exactly.  A lot of it is…well, if you’re doing a solo, like, vocal take on a rockin’ tune, I sometimes will ask…I don’t want anybody in the room and I don’t want anybody watching me do it.  ‘Cause I might want to make weird faces and get that perfect grit and, like, I don’t want to be watched.

TLS:  No photographers.

MN:  Yeah.  So, you find your little things.  

TLS:  That’s awesome.  We figured there had to be something good because that was the question for us:  how are we getting that same sound that we can get from the stage and how did they put that in there?

MN:  Yeah, if you saw some of the behind the scenes, you’d be pretty weirded out I think.

TLS:  //big laughter//

MN:  Some weird noises between takes like //utters something hilarious and purposefully unintelligible//, you know, whatever it is…

TLS:  You’ve gotta shake it out.

MN:  Shake your shit out.  Settle down.  Yeah.  It’s not all polished and glamorous back there.  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, that’s good to know, too.

MN:  Yeah, right.  We’re real.  Real fuckin’ goofballs.  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, that kind of actually segues into my next question.

MN:  Perfect.

TLS:  We see you guys out there on social media quite a lot.  And you’re interacting directly with your fan base.  And, being goofballs and having fun.  And it’s really cool to see that kind of closeness there because it’s not that way with every band.  So, is that the kind of thing, for you guys, that comes with the territory for a band these days, or it something you guys, like, super dig?  Something you connect with?

MN:  Yeah.  It’s completely natural for us.  We super dig it because, you know, it’s not like I didn’t think I would play music.  I always knew I’d be playing, but I didn’t think it would become an entity and a business and, like, all of these things.  And that’s a fine line as we get bigger, of how to keep that natural community.  We naturally want to reach out and naturally want to finish a set and then go to the campsites and hang out with our buddies…but as we get bigger, it’s becoming complicated.  

TLS:  I bet.  

MN:  Certain festivals that will remain nameless and certain venues or whatever, they kind of frown upon you getting out there and, like, getting drunk and stuff…

TLS:  Fraternizing with everyone…

MN:  We’re kind of done with those days, to be honest.  But, it used to be our shit.  We’d be, like, “Holy shit!  We’re MainStage at the ‘whatever’ at 1:30PM!  And then, it’s like, what do you expect me to do later?”  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  

MN:  But, you know, as things change, we’re trying to find that balance of being professionals and being mature and staying connected as real people but also not just, like, airing out our everything publicly.  It’s tricky.  

TLS:  You still want there to be an element of fun.

MN:  This festival [DelFest] is fun. 

TLS:  Yeah, the Leftover Salmon guys were out there until sunup last year.

MN:  Yes, I’ll follow Vince Herman anywhere.  I don’t care where, I’d follow…

TLS:  Yep…that man.  //laughter//

MN:  Yeah, he’s the Captain.

TLS:  Were you at his wedding?  At Strings & Sol?

MN:  Yeah, yeah, what a moment.

TLS:  It must have been.  That’s awesome.  We saw some great pictures from that event.  It’s like watching royalty get married.

MN:  Yeah, seriously.

TLS:  Our royalty.

MN:  Seriously.

TLS:  Sweet, well, we’ve got a couple of quick questions left for you and then we’ll release ourselves back into the wild.

MN:  //laughter//  Awesome.  //laughter//

TLS:  So, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing you guys a lot at different festivals and understand that this is your first DelFest.

MN:  Yeah!

TLS:  We do know that you are close with other bands who have played this special little festival many times before.  So what, if any, expectations do you have as a band or yourself when you play a fest like this for the first time?  You’ve heard the buzz, you’ve heard the hoopla…which is all true, you know?

MN:  I guess my hopes are that there will be some classic, like, old-timey, traditional type folks that will be like, “What in tarnation is this?”

TLS:  Right.

MN:  And then, by a few songs in, they’ll be like, “This is amazing.”

TLS:  And dancing their faces off, too…

MN:  You know?  That’s what you always hope for…breaking typical genre barriers.  You hope that, you might have a hundred people already getting down but if there’s one guy in the back going like, “What?” //makes face//  If you’ve won him over by the end then that was a win.  And that’s what I hope for here.

TLS:  That’s awesome.  I think you’ll have some opportunity for that.

MN:  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, at Strings & Sol there were some folks who hadn’t seen you guys and we had the chance to talk you guys up telling people, “You haven’t seen anything yet.”  And, then, a few songs in those folks were like, “There’s something special here.”  Your energy’s contagious for sure.

MN:  Awesome.  Well, we won’t be at Strings this year, but I’m trying to weasel my way in there just as a personal solo patron, so, if anybody has a spot in their room, you just tell me.  I’d be stoked.  Got that little piggy bank ready to go, so…  //laughter//  Yeah, I want in.  I’m gonna weasel in there.

TLS:  It’s one of the parties.

MN:  …I fell in love.  Never seen anything like that.  I’ve been to a lot of good parties, nothing like that, man.

TLS:  You guys were killing it, too…that late night set was definitely a super highlight.

MN:  I was spent.  My voice was barely hanging on.  Knock the cigs off this year.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  Right on.  Well, final question…and this is a nice and simple one.  So, if you could pick any song in your catalogue to play here with Del sitting in…

MN:  //small gasp//  Hmmm…

TLS:  …what song would you pick?

MN:  //thinking//  Man.  Let me scroll through my songs real quick…because that’s a great question.  That’s a really good question.  A really good question.  Let me just scroll through some tracks really quick.

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  I’m trying to figure out, like…  //sings Del impression//

TLS:  Yeah, that’s some classic Del for you.

MN:   So far, I’m leaning towards “The Way That I Do” just because Jay [Cobb Anderson] kind of does a little yodel thing on that one…

TLS:  I can see that.

MN:  Jay, you know?  //singing// “This is truuuuuuuue…”  Wait, let me just make sure that I’m not missing the winner.

TLS:  That would be a cool one for Del to do with you.  //laughter//

MN:  Hmmm…that’s the winner so far.  Let me just scroll one more off of this record.  Oooo, man, he would do “Just One of Them Nights” really well.  Like a couple of keys higher?  You know?  //sings a few lines a la Del//

TLS:  Yeah.  Right?

MN:  I can hear it now.  Yeah, I would vote for that one.  

TLS:  I like it.  

MN:  Ding ding ding!!  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

MN:  And we have a winner!  That’d be the winner if it happens…

TLS:  Well, you’re a winner in our book.

MN:  Hey, man, I’m winning just being here…that’s a great question!

TLS:  Well, thank you!  And thank you so much for sitting down with us today.  Really, really amazing.  

MN:  You bet.  

TLS:  We hope you enjoy your first DelFest, Mimi!

MN:  Thank you so much!

Mimi Naja and Parker Otwell Roe

Mimi Naja and Parker Otwell Roe

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Phone Interview:  Chris Powers - The Hip Abduction

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Phone Interview:  Chris Powers - The Hip Abduction

Phone Interview:  Chris Powers - The Hip Abduction

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Last Monday I had the fantastic opportunity of interviewing Chris Powers, the bassist for Florida’s own The Hip Abduction.  We had a really great chat over the phone ranging from the band’s sound and influences to their own influence in this day and age.  Needless to say, I am very excited to see The Hip Abduction at the Fox Theatre tonight and to soak in some of their legendary positivity and West Africa-meets-roots reggae sound.  

TLS:  We are very interested in the background of the band when it comes to your musical sound and I know that your influences are pretty well known as a group.  You’ve got West Africa,  reggae, even some funk and, at this point, you’ve all come in with varied backgrounds.  So, I understand that one of your earlier connections to Dave (New) came when he listened to a Cheikh-Lo CD you loaned a mutual friend.  Is that right?

CP:  Absolutely.  That was actually PK (Pat Klemawesch), one of the kamale ngoni, and guitar players in the band.  That was absolutely one of the beginnings of the idea of blending sort of the reggae and western song aesthetics like Paul Simon with West African music.

TLS:  Excellent.  You mentioned that Paul Simon sound and I remember listening to you guys and, from the very outset, hearing that connection to some of his projects like Graceland and some of the songs from that.  And, knowing those influences, I thought that there’s a connection with this band and instantly liked what you guys were doing as a result.  

CP:  Thank you, man, I really appreciate it, Parker.  

TLS:  Of course!  So, just a question for you personally, what’s your own experience or connection with West African music?  Where was your beginning with it?

CP:  Well, you know, I really got connected with the West African music through playing with Dave a bunch, actually.  I started playing with Dave, the lead singer of the band, about ten years ago.  We were playing a lot of roots reggae.  When that connection happened with PK and with having a kora, kamale ngoni, and running music and sitting down learning traditional West African songs and listening to lots of that music and its connection with the Blues, that’s really when some of my bass lines in the songs sort of developed.  And, the unique sound that we started I think probably One Less Sound, that first album that came out in 2011.   

TLS:  Sure.  Fantastic, man, it’s pretty fascinating to us because we listen to a lot of bands and come in contact with a lot of musicians, and to hear an influence coming from another part of the world that we’re not really used to hearing certainly within our circles or our community.  You are obviously bringing something special and a sound that’s unique to the front and from what I understand and everything that I’ve read and everything that I’ve seen from you guys so far, people really respond to it.  There’s something special about it, especially through the eyes and lenses of The Hip Abduction.

CP:  The kamale ngoni is…think about it, it’s a West African harp but it has similarities to the banjo and it’s a predecessor to a lot of instruments that we listen to, so no wonder we are connecting with people because it’s really roots music.  So, it’s cool to have that jam and it’s challenging because you can really only play in one key, the harp.  So, having those constraints in song writing and developing, actually makes for more interesting song writing, I think.  So, it’s a fun instrument to play with, for sure.  

TLS:  Interesting.  I hadn’t really noticed that before, but it kind of makes sense.  Playing in a single key is just yet another interesting aspect of your music that isn’t going to be found with anybody else.  

CP:  Absolutely, you’ve got the relative minor and you can do a quick tune and play in a couple of different keys, but it’s definitely a cool instrument to play with and it’s also something that is handmade.  You know, it’s not just fishing line and a bowl from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and a drum head from a conga.

TLS:  //laughter//

CP:  //laughter//  You know, it’s an interesting instrument that you simply can’t get at Guitar Center.

TLS:  Exactly, and I am sure there’s no Kamale Ngoni Center, either.

CP:  Absolutely.  //laughter//  Not yet.

TLS:  Right.  Maybe one day, with you guys, who knows?  //laughter//

CP:  //laughter//  That’s the next idea.  But, the blend of music and the concept of latest album of the band, Gold Under the Glow, had much more of a synth-pop element to the music, mixed in with some West African aesthetics…you know, it was definitely a step in that direction and then, the stuff that we’re writing right now is going to be something different.  So, the band is just constantly consuming music and creating music and, you know, we’re just really thankful and blessed that this is what we get to do now with our time.  It’s pretty amazing, so…

TLS:  Fantastic.  I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t be to be honest.  

CP:  It’s just a wonderful thing to go around the country and share.  We did over 100 dates last year…we’re hoping to do many more this coming year.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.

TLS:  Perfect.  That actually leads right into my next question seamlessly.  So, thank you.  

CP:  Yeah sure.  //laughter//

TLS:  So you guys are coming from the ocean back to the mountains again, you’re spreading your message of uplifting and unique positive dance music, things that people really respond to, and, it’s always cool having bands from other states and other subcultures of the United States, other music communities, come through Colorado and share and combine, etc.  So, what are you guys hoping to bring to these Colorado crowds from Florida this time?

CP:  There’s a commonality, I think between people who love the beach and people who love the mountains.  And that’s just sort of an awe that happens when you’re looking around at the Gulf or looking up at the Rockies.  A common feeling.  And we like to spend a lot of time out in nature, be connected with that, and because of that, we connect well with people in Colorado.  Our last run was amazing…the response so far from people reaching out to the people we met on Jam Cruise from Colorado, it was just absolutely awesome.  So, we’re hoping to bring you guys some sunshine and a little bit of time to escape and maybe imagine your toes in the sand, but we’re really excited just to tour back through and play the Fox again, too.  That’s going to be outstanding.  It was a really great experience last time so we’re really excited to get in that room again.  

TLS:  So, would you say your experience at the Fox last time lived up to your expectations?  I know that in an interview you said for your last tour through here that you were most looking forward to that venue.  And, that’s one of my home venues, so I love going there and seeing music there…how did it fare for you?

CP:  It was great, man.  The low end was killer.  Playing my bass and the bass end in that room was outstanding.  It was all just super pro.  Which is great…to roll up into a venue and know that it’s going to be a good show.  It definitely lived up to whatever expectation I had of it.  I remember it was definitely a great experience.  And I’m excited to go do it again.  

TLS:  Fantastic, man.  Well, we’re certainly excited here in Boulder to have you guys coming through.  I know that we’re always excited to get a band like you coming through on our schedule.  Like you said, bringing some sunshine, bringing some happy…bringing some of that joy to us from Florida.  We’ll take all we can get and hopefully we can share a little of it back with you.  

CP:  Absolutely, I appreciate it.  And we’re looking forward to it, too.    

TLS:  Awesome, well you guys have certainly made a splash here, I know you’re definitely on the minds of a lot of folks and I know a lot of people are looking forward to this run coming up…and thanks to the likes of JamOn and social media you guys have got a great presence, you know, and you’ve made quite the footprint so far…so is there anything I can clue some folks into for this Boulder show coming up?  Anything special we should know about?  Or is going to have to be a ‘wait and see’ or just show up?

CP:  Well, we’re going to play a new cover that we haven’t ever played before.  And we’re also going to be playing a new song that’s probably going to be…we’ll see how the response is and how things go.  It’s going to be a fun run and I’m excited to see what the response is going to be for these new tunes, for sure.

TLS:  Excellent.  I always love hearing new music, I always love knowing that there’s a debut coming out — it’s always something fun to look forward to in a show, so I appreciate that, thank you.   

CP:  You know it, man.  It’s going to be fun.

TLS:  Awesome.  That’s definitely going to whet some appetites for Friday night, I know that for sure.  

CP:  You know, a song, we can’t tell if it’s done until we see how that happens, between the audience and us.  

TLS:  Oh sure.

CP:  That’s the testing ground, you know?  //laughter//

TLS:  Absolutely.  Well, that’s the second half of a piece of music…it’s what you write and what you play and then it’s also how it’s consumed and how it’s received.  

CP:  Yeah, absolutely.  The feeling of playing in rooms, playing a new song and seeing how it’s connecting…definitely an amazing experience.  More often than not, by the time we get there we know that it’s written.

TLS:  Awesome.  That’s fantastic.  It’s cool that you guys have that as a part of your process.

CP:  I think it’s an important part of being able to perform, you know, and being able to perform our songs like they are on the records.  

TLS:  And I do love that about the videos I’ve seen of you guys — they certainly showed that you have a really great sound in concert.  It makes me super excited for Friday for sure on a personal level.  

CP:  Yeah, man.  It’s going to sound good.  Excited to drop the low end at the Fox Theatre again.  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, we’ll look forward to that for sure, my friend.  //laughter//

CP:  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, Chris, this has been great.  I’ve got one last question for you.  Like I had said, we’re going to skew a little bit on a wider scale here.  It’s, no doubt, an interesting and uncertain time for us in our world.  With the music of The Hip Abduction seeming to always have focused on such a positive sound and message, things like hope, love, light, do you and maybe even the band as well feel any sort of calling to deliver your message even stronger and maybe even more joyfully than before, you know, because of what is going on?

CP:  Absolutely, and we just want people not to disengage.  Yeah, don’t give up.  Just stay positive…it’s very easy to get into your own world, your own thing, and be surround by all the people who agree with you.  But, it’s really important to stay engaged and fight important battles and just stay positive.  We absolutely feel invigorated to be playing and doing what we’re doing.  

TLS:  Excellent.  That’s wonderful, man.  That’s fantastic.  I think, personally again, in my opinion, we can use as much positivity and hope as possible right now…

CP:  Absolutely, absolutely.

TLS:  Keeping the hope alive, like you say, and keeping people from disengaging, that’s a perfect way of putting it.  

CP:  Very cool, man.  Well, it’s definitely something that we feel here in St. Petersburg, Florida, and I’m sure it’s something that’s happening up in Boulder, Colorado.  

TLS:  Most definitely.  And I think having you guys come here, you know, to reaffirm and bolster our resolve here…we need as much goodness as any other folk so we can do good works with it.  

CP:  You bet, man.  You know, that’s why we love coming to Colorado.  We go there and we feel like we’re already home.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  Well, you guys are certainly very welcome here, always for your music, for yourselves, for your good works, and everything that you are.  So, we just want to say thank you in advance — very much looking forward to Friday and the rest of the run.

CP:  Well, thanks.  It’s been great talking with you.  

TLS:  Thanks very much, Chris.  Have a great rest of your evening and see you on Friday!

CP:  Alright, see you Friday!

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Live Interview:  Turkuaz

Comment

Live Interview: Turkuaz

Live Interview:  Turkuaz

05 May 2016 - The Bluebird Theater - Denver, CO

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Dave Brandwein - guitar, vocals; Taylor Shell - bass; Craig Brodhead - guitar, keyboards; Michelangelo Carubba - drums; Chris Brouwers - trumpet, keyboards; Greg Sanderson - tenor saxophone; Josh Schwartz - baritone saxophone, vocals; Sammi Garrett - vocals, tambourine; Shira Elias - vocals

The Lot Scene sat down for a fantastic interview with Brooklyn-based power funk band Turkuaz on Thursday, 05 May 2016, at The Bluebird Theater in Denver, CO.  Covering topics as recent as their new album, Digitonium, and latest tour of the same name as well as reaching back into the band’s past, the interview yielded some fascinating and oftentimes funny results.  The whole process was a joy from start to finish and we’d like to extend our thanks to the band and the gracious folks who support them in an official capacity for agreeing to this interview.

Additionally, this is the first interview we've been able to offer in an audio format for you, our readers.  Just click on the YouTube video below for the full audio of the interview.

Please enjoy… 


Turkuaz at The Bluebird Theater

Turkuaz at The Bluebird Theater

(Administrative note:  Speakers have been identified where possible.  “TKZ” stands for a response from an unspecified band member.)

TLS:  Really, all these questions stem from our interest in the band and your projects.  And, really, we did spend a lot of time so, hopefully, these questions are going to be of interest to you guys and may be of interest to answer.  So, let’s go ahead and get started.  Um…  //laughter//  We’d like to start things out on a little bit of a light note because, unfortunately or maybe fortunately depending on how you look at it, Will and I are a little late to the Turkuaz party.  So, we’ve become fans as of late and done a quick study.  We saw you guys for the first time last year at All Good and, since then, have followed your progress on JamOn, various places like that, and really have fallen in love with the band.  Well, one of the things that we came to understand was that, back in 2012, there was a Kickstarter campaign.  And we missed that and we’re kinda bummed about that.  But we know that there was a project of that Kickstarter campaign as something that came about.  And that was the “Taylor Shell Sings the Hits” album…

Turkuaz:  You guys did do your homework, didn’t you?

Brandwein - This hasn’t gotten enough press.

Shell - I mean, frankly, I don’t know why we’re pushing any of these other records. //laughter//

TLS:  Tell me about it!  Well, that’s where our question really lies.

Turkuaz:  Shell - It’s all dog shit compared to that album. 

TLS:  When is the public release?

Turkuaz:  It’s gonna be called “Bridge Under Troubled Waters”.  //laughter//  

Brandwein - Is it not out?  Is it not publicly released in any way?  Other than the video stuff?  I guess not.

TLS:  I could only find, like, the commercial that was put together.

Turkuaz:  Oh ok.  It exists.  It’s a real thing.  We should put it out tomorrow.  

TKZ - Tomorrow?

Shell - And it’s like 11 songs, or something.

TKZ - It’s 11, yeah.

Shell - It’s an 11 song…it’s a full-length.    

TLS:  So, of those tracks, like of the band, there had to have been a clear favorite or two, like what was noteworthy?  We have our own in the office, we won’t tell you…

Turkuaz:  “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” is one of my favorites.

TKZ - “Jingle Bell Rock”.

TKZ - “Jingle Bell Rock” is also very sweet.  

Carubba - If you knew the chronology of, like, how we recorded it…we just kept bringing shots of tequila.  //laughter//  …drunk, so the later it gets…

Shell - The premise was that I couldn’t read any of the lyrics before the take or listen to the song and I had to do a shot between each song.  We did, like, 11 songs.  //laughter//  I think I did about four shots before we started.  

TKZ - And they also trimmed his beard…we shaved your beard…

TKZ - We shaved you down by the end.

TKZ - Yeah, yeah.

TLS:  Yeah the video was pretty interesting in that because you got to see your evolution or devolution.

Turkuaz:  It was a six hour delay.

TKZ - It was a good six hour session.

Shell - We were in there for, like, six hours.

Brodhead - We really needed money at the time. 

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Shell - Please, I’ll do whatever.

TLS:  Fantastic.  

Turkuaz:  So, yeah, maybe tomorrow we’ll put it out.

TKZ - Beautiful.

TLS:  Well, you know what?  In the spirit of that, guys, we’d like to contribute something to the band. (Hands TLS flask to Dave Brandwein.)

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Oh yeah?  Look at that.

TLS:  And that’s filled with Ireland’s finest.

Turkuaz:  Whoa, alright!

Brandwein - I was gonna say that felt a little heavy.

TLS:  We figured, just in the spirit…’cause we kinda knew shots were a part of it and everything, you know.  

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Awww, that’s so nice.

TLS:  You seem like a nice band.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Awww, thank you.  Pass it around?

TKZ - Volume Two.  That’s “Taylor Shell Volume Two” right there.

TKZ - That’s what I’m talking about.

TLS:  You know, you kind of want to grease the wheels of good journalism. 

Turkuaz:  Shell - //laughter// … “Volume Two ‘parentheses’  Up to No Good” //laughter//

TKZ - I like that.

TLS:  Perfect.  Know what?  We’ll go ahead and grant you that. //laughter//

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  Oh man, right on.  Well, here, in the spirit of brevity, let’s go ahead and keep going here.

Turkuaz:  Cool.

TLS:  So, we’ve read a lot of other interviews with you guys with various members and stuff…about, it’s a big band, we realize that, a lot of personalities and everything and, from everything we’ve read, things seem to go pretty well for you.  So, we’re not as interested in that as we are really kind of interested in some of the more nitpicky?  So, like, logistics:  you’ve got a ton of instruments, a ton of people…I mean, this is no four person band.  This is no string band.  There’s a lot of electronics, a lot of stuff to set up, so, it’s got to get a little crazy with that kind of hectic, like, scheduling and everything… 

Turkuaz:  What do you mean?  //laughter//

TLS:  So, what has happened as a result of that, being such a big band there’s got to be some story from the road, some particular little thing where it’s like where the stage was too small or, you know, the green room was a little cramped.  Or something like that…

Turkuaz:  Too many too count.  

TKZ - That’s kind of normal.

Carubba - I think everyone’s gotten to know their rig, like, up and down.  Everyone knows exactly the limits they can take it in terms of stretching out and having space.

TLS:  Sure.

Turkuaz:  Carubba - Everyone knows how to do the job to the best of their ability with the most limited amount of space.  So, I think we’ve gotten to know our instruments and how they work in this band really well, by virtue of the fact that we don’t have that much room to do it.  

TLS:  Sure.

Turkuaz:  Elias - Space is the exception so when you have it, it’s a luxury.

TLS:  I bet, like when you play festivals, you know, with a big stage…

Turkuaz:  You saw us at All Good.

TLS:  Yeah, you guys really had, like, tons of room…it was a really cool show as a result.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - More and more we’re getting more room and better stages.  But certainly, our first few years of touring, almost every night was like this much space…

TKZ - Comically small.

Shell - Comically.

TKZ - And we’ve gotten more and more gear as the years have gone by.  //laughter//   

TLS:  More toys.  Absolutely.  

Turkuaz:  Schwartz - I used to have to stand, like, on the floor off the stage sometimes because I’m the same height as everyone when I do that.

TKZ - //laughter//

Schwartz - Not anymore man.  Old days.

TLS:  Back in the dark times.

Turkuaz:  Yeah, we’ve also understood each others’ set-ups a lot better, too, so that helps us work, actually, everything together on stage…my elbow radius, what moves I can do in certain…I guess it’s because it’s always been like this, you know, you just still kind of accept it.  Not that it isn’t very frustrating sometimes.  Some of it just gets to you.  Because it’s always been like this, it’s not like a new problem.  

TLS:  Right, it’s just a new venue.

Turkuaz:  It’s just the way it is.

Brandwein - We usually show up, we allot two-and-a-half hours just for set up not even including sound check and then, for example, yesterday we had to do…so we have that much time but we know how to do it in, like, 20 minutes.  When we’re forced to we seem to do it.

Shell - Yeah, we can flip it however fast that we have to, but to do it at a comfortable enough pace and have the show really be set up as best it can, it takes about two hours.  

Brandwein - The lights are sacrificed.

TLS:  That’s a lot.  Yeah, sure.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Although, I do feel, like, when we do play on big stages it’s nice to have a lot of space, but then being, like, so close together, like, I miss everyone.  You’re so far away from me. 

TKZ - //laughter//

Garrett - It’s like, I want you closer.

Shell - It does create sometimes more of a unity, or just like an intensity of connection.

TLS:  You’re like a big family band.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Definitely.

TLS:  Absolutely.  That makes perfect sense because your energies are so interconnected.

Turkuaz:  Garrett - Yeah.

TKZ - Yeah.

TLS:  Right on.  (Chris Brouwers joined the interview in progress at this point.) Yeah, come on in!  Absolutely, the more the merrier.  Yeah, Chris.  Welcome, welcome.  

Turkuaz:  Brouwers - Hello.

TLS:  Parker, good to meet you.

Turkuaz:  Chris loves logistics…

TKZ - Chris is the logistics guy.

TKZ - He would have been the guy back there..

Shell - Logistics is easy!  We just look at this thing on our phone… //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

Shell - It all just magically appears there.

TLS:  Just like that!  What do you know?  Amazing!  And with no work from anyone, right?  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  Well, we’d like to turn, um, real quick to talk about the latest studio album, Digitonium.  Obviously this is the Digitonium Tour.  Um, and, so we really enjoy the album.  We’ve fallen in love with the album; there’s so much depth, so much breadth.  And we put it up there as one of the best concept albums that we’ve heard. 

Turkuaz:  Awesome.  

TLS:  So, kind of start to finish, that’s our opinion.  And we know that you’ve created this new universe, this place called ‘Computer World’ — you know it’s got a unique cast of characters like Murderface and Doktor Jazz and Percy Thrills, the Moondog.  So there’s all these really cool people and experiences that we get to meet.  Um, can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for that world and, like, some of those characters?  ‘Cause it’s this new thing, this new body of work, and it’s so rich and there’s obviously a lot to it.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - If I remember correctly, I think it started with the word.  

Brandwein -Yeah.

TKZ - Yeah.

Brodhead - It was like Dave knew that he wanted the album to be called that a long time ago.  

TLS:  Right.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And we basically just tried to examine the word.  And then we were like into trying to do something really different from our last album, you know, just to do something more electronic.  And, you know, in that world more and then it all just kind of became from the word, we took it from there and then…  

Brandwein - And the word is borrowed from the song “Higitus Figitus” in The Sword in the Stone…

TLS:  Sure.  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - …um, they say ‘prestidigitonium’ and I was always like, man that’s so funny that that word worked its way into, like, this old movie from the 60s that’s about Medieval Arthurian Legend.  You know, it sounds like such a futuristic word to me. So, then that song came first, writing-wise and then, from there, it was just like, yeah, I think this should be the name of the album and just kind of explored that concept a little further.

TLS:  Cool.  Well, it’s an incredible concept, like I said, we’ve been having so much fun exploring it ourselves and getting to know these people, getting to know these facets of this album.  Very incredible.  Deep guys, like really deep, powerful stuff.  

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - If we ran out of ideas, we would just say the word ‘digitonium’… //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  So that’s why!  Oh…the secret’s out, huh?  //laughter//  Well, keeping along the album, we wanted to light on one song in particular which is a song that we really particularly enjoy because it’s been the catchiest, the one we come back to the most, the one that was kind of a sleeper that caught us and that’s “European Festivity Nightmare”.  Um, and, it seems a bit more focused.  Like it’s possibly based around a personal experience?  Or something of those lines?  And, so for us, the song sticks out ‘cause it’s a little different.  You know, it’s first-person; there’s very few first-person songs on the album.  This is one that is very first-person, like this is happening to me.  Or happened to me.  So, are we right?  Are we close?

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Yeah, yeah.  It was just a dream.  I woke up one morning from a dream where I was over in Europe…  We had gone there after we graduated school and just partied in, like, Berlin and a bunch of other cool places — certainly rooted in some of those memories.  But, I was over there and found out we were supposed to be on some tour over here, but I was, like, partying and having a great time, but super stressed out.  It was like a nightmare where I was partying and I had never had that mix of…  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter// 

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - And I woke up and I had this sort of, like, “Beat It” style groove kinda going and I was, like, man we don’t have any songs that sound like that, this would just be a weird concept.  I actually…up until the last minute I kept wanting to rewrite the lyrics to not be that, but…maybe a couple of you were there for the conversation, but we ended up keeping it which…  But it was directly from an actual dream.  And, like, even some of the specific details like the 900 dollars that it cost to get back and all these different, like, some of the visual stuff in there it definitely exactly from the dream, too.  

TLS:  Does that happen pretty often for you?  When it comes to writing new songs?  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Uh, in dreams?  No, no.  //laughter//  That was a rarity.  

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - All his songs are dreams!  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - No, that was a rare occurrence.  Definitely.  

TLS:  Right on, man.  That’s pretty cool.  Not what I was expecting.  //laughter//

Turkuaz: //laughter//

TLS:  Finally, and this is our last question.  About the album, I’d like to turn to the sync.  That’s pretty fascinating as a project.  

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - What do you mean?  //laughter//

Shell - No one’s ever asked us…

Brandwein - The is the first time someone’s actually asked us…

TKZ - Apparently, word’s out.

TLS:  Oh really?  Well, so, we were on the fence about asking you, too.  Like, well maybe they don’t want to talk about it because of, like, whatever considerations or whatever.  But, we’ve got to know.  And people we know want to know.  There’s a lot of questions out there about this because people have seen it, you know.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - The real thing was that, when the album came out we didn’t want to promote that in any way.

TKZ - We didn’t want it to be like a gimmick.

Brandwein - It would completely overshadow it.  Also, curiosity of, like, are people going to figure this out?

TLS:  Totally.  Well, you left all those clues!

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - ‘Cause if you know the movie pretty, like…I was of the mentality that people definitely would figure it out.  If they knew the movie well enough, I mean just looking at the album art and titles of things…

TKZ - Lyrics.

TKZ - Lyrics.

TKZ - Turns out there’s large leaps of logic that you have to do to actually get to it.  Like when we actually had to make it ourselves just to put it out there…

Brandwein - No, people did catch on.  There was stuff early on, like, on Phantasy Tour or something…

Shell - Yeah, before we said anything, yeah.

TKZ - But we haven’t officially said anything.

TKZ - Right now.

TKZ - Let’s do it.

TKZ - You can talk about it now, officially say something.

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - On the record.

TLS:  No, I mean…

Turkuaz:  We fucking did it!  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Shell - You should check that shit out — it’s pretty tight!!  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - I’ll share a story with you of just how crazy detailed we got about it.

TLS:  Please.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - So we did all the tracks and, you know, I mean it was really complex and Dave can talk about it more, actually how it…the process is a very weird thing.  Trying to line up two things and make it all fit.  And, like, at the end, to get all the little motions and stuff to make it work we had to, like, do with a layer of sound effects.  Dave and I spent a lot of time doing these layered sound effects and we were done at the main studio and I was working in my brother’s basement ‘cause he has a little studio right there.

TLS:  Nice.

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And he has, like, a regular job and we was, like, going to work one day and I was down there just turning synthesizers to try to make the sound of a squirrel jumping…

TKZ - //sound effect noises//

TLS:  Right, yeah.  Sure. 

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - And he, like, literally walked in on me and was like, “dude, are you OK?” 

TKZ - //laughter//

Brandwein - We were joking that he calls us and we’re like, “Craig hasn’t been in the band for awhile.

TKZ - //laughter//

Brandwein - I don’t know what he told you he’s doing in there, but…  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  So, you assured him that you were OK.

Brodhead - No, this is…we’re really doing this.  It was that point of insanity, of actual attention to detail that we did it so…

TKZ - But we sat in, like, the…when we were doing, like, edits when we were sitting in the control room, like, “is this bubbly enough?”

TKZ - “Does that sound like bubbles?  We need more ‘room’ sound bubbly.”  It’s like everything little thing, like…

TLS:  That’s fantastic.  So, did you always know that you wanted to do that when it came to writing…?

Turkuaz:  It was a joke.

Brandwein - It was kind of a joke…I mean…

Shell - We started talking about it really early on.

Brandwein - What it was…was that song was based on the film and I was like, maybe…and it talks about, in the song “Digitonium” like, you know, Sir Ector and some specific stuff from the movie.  

TLS:  Right, totally.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - Help me remove the sword. Man, maybe though, it should just be a theme album about, like, surrounding that movie.  And then it was, like, man, what if we could make it go along with the movie?  Which, kind of, it was said and then forgotten for a little bit.  But then you had the demo for the first, what ended up being the first song, the “Introduction” and, for shits, I was like alright this sounds like a cool first track to Digitonium, let me just see what happens.  And I put the DVD on manually and I was, like, I see how lyrically you could make stuff work over this and, like, timing-wise where the pieces kind of lined up, but then you’d have to shift where things go to find the right timing.  And that was really the first one that got locked in and then the second track was, like…so those two were kind of written to the film where some other stuff we had to, like, massage it a little.  

TKZ - I feel like I remember being in the studio and we even had a couple of tracks recorded and we were still talking about it, like, are we going to go through with this?

TKZ - //laughter//

TKZ - Can we actually make this happen?

Brodhead - Well, we got to, I mean…very close a bunch of times and, like, completely scrapped it, because we were going to have to do the vinyl, get that on time, and, like, that has to get pressed…those orders need to go in, like, way early.  And, we’re like, we’re not done.

Brandwein - So then the vinyl wouldn’t have the sound effects, there were a bunch of logistical issues that’s, like, man is this really worth it?

Brodhead - And then we even got it all finished and were like, we’re 15 minutes short.  

TLS:  Oh really?

Turkuaz:  Brodhead - Yeah.  And then we had to, like, just make…that’s where some of the interludes and stuff came from.  To fill in those gaps.  

TLS:  Sure.  Yeah, totally.

Turkuaz:  Shell - And I remember for me the moment that is was, like, alright we should actually do this versus us joking about it…yeah, Dave lined up, he started looking at some of that stuff…

TKZ - That fucking ‘ribbit’.

Shell - And the line “ribbit” in “Doktor Jazz” like lines up exactly, yeah…

Brandwein - I literally was lining up randomly…

Shell - Totally random and it was like:  now we have to do that!

Brandwein - It goes:  “your heart it beating ‘ribbit, ribbit’ like a froggy.”   And then a frog comes on the screen.  Then, goes “yeah!”  And then the frog, like, says “yeah.”  

TKZ - And the bubble comes out!

Brandwein - I was, like, “Dude!  What the fuck was that?!?”  //laughter//

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - I was just, like, moving around, seeing where it worked.  I didn’t even think about the frog thing and it just, like, came on the screen and, was like, alright we’re definitely doing this now.

Shell - It just, like, happened…was like, “oh, we have to do this.  That’s serendipitous.  Let’s do it.”

Brandwein - Yeah, that’s true.  That was the quote, I’m sure.

Brodhead - The other thing about it, too, is we went in, when we went into the studio, we had been touring just absolutely relentlessly, like had no time to do anything.  And then we got there and, like, alright, well what are we doing here?  And just had, like, the name and had all this stuff, so once had decided on this concept it helped it to come together a lot faster.  ‘Cause now we are focused on…we have constraints that we can work around to try to just create a world.  You know…

Brandwein - And we hadn’t written so much which ended up being advantageous.  It gave us the ability to write to the…we only had, like, five songs…

Shell - Five songs going into 24 tracks…ended up.

Brandwein - Yeah, of course, you know.

TKZ - Yeah.

Shell - Nine of them are in…

TKZ - Exactly.

Brandwein - But even the interludes gave us a cool opportunity to play with the film stuff more and some of the dialogue and things like that so…

TKZ - And it’s kind of neat some of the interludes that we did specifically for that we’ve now turned into songs that we play as a live band.

TKZ - And kind of use that as a building block… 

TLS:  Cool, like just a framework.

Turkuaz:  A framework to go…

TLS:  Yeah, and just go somewhere else with it.  That’s awesome.

Turkuaz:  Yeah.

TKS - Yeah.

TLS:  Well, on behalf of music nerds and appreciative fans everywhere, let me say thank you so much…

Turkuaz:  //laughter//

TLS:  For sticking to it, we really appreciate the end result there.

Yeah.  We watch it a lot.  Because it’s very, very cool and it’s very worthy.  And it’s very fun, yeah.  

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - We kind of wished at the end that, we were, like, man we could keep working on this forever.  You know, some parts are way more on point than others, but it’s a cool ‘audio companion’ I feel like, to the film all the way through.  But, yeah, we were down to the wire.  I think we were recording voiceovers and sound effects until, like, the day before we sent it for mastering.  To try to get it done in time.

TKZ - And one of the hardest things about it was when we finally wanted to share it with people, the copyright shit is so huge.  

TLS:  Yeah, we were wondering how big of a concern that was. 

Turkuaz:  Yeah, so that took a lot of, like, just in the little back alleys of the Internet, like, figuring we can be here and it won’t get too much attention.  So…    

Brandwein - Yeah, it is crazy in terms of posting it, they take it down.  They tend to take it down pretty quickly.  

TLS:  I’ve seen them take it down pretty quickly.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - But it is, in general, in the legal world kind of unexplored territory.  There’s nothing technically wrong with making something that goes with something.  

TKZ - Once you share the content, though, it’s different.

TKZ - Yeah, right.

TLS:  Absolutely.  

Turkuaz:  Shell - But that one link has stayed strong still.

TKZ - I hope so.

Brandwein - Yeah, that’s probably where you saw it.

TLS:  Yeah, I got it, I guess, from the Live for Live Music thing or the JamBase one…

Turkuaz:  Yeah, from that link.  As long as that’s still up. 

TLS: Yeah, it’s still up and you can still download the mp4.  Which is great.

Turkuaz:  Shell - Oh, OK, cool.

TKZ - There you go.  Now it’s out there.  

Shell - That’s a really crucial way for it to spread ‘cause that’s, like, hard…

Branwein - And I do think that headphones is the best way. 

TLS:  OK.  For the record, haven’t done that yet.  OK.

Turkuaz:  Brandwein - I think just sitting, watching with headphones is…you’ll catch the most stuff that way.  

Shell - There’s a lot of little subtle stuff.

Brodhead - Hear that nerds?!?  Put on your headphones!

Brandwein - Put your headphones on!

TKZ - //laughter//

TLS:  That’s awesome, guys.  That’s all I’ve got.  That’s all we’ve got.  Yeah guys, thank you so much.

Turkuaz:  Yeah, thank you.

//closing pleasantries//

I cannot stress enough how enjoyable and informative this interview was.  We certainly hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.  We are so grateful to have had this opportunity and look forward to a long and lasting friendship with this incredible band of merry music-makers.  Best of luck in all your endeavors, Turkuaz, and we hope to see you again mighty soon!  Bravi!

Turkuaz at The Fox Theatre

Turkuaz at The Fox Theatre

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Live Interview: Billy Strings

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Live Interview: Billy Strings

Live Interview: Billy Strings

06 Feb 2016 - Big Sky Big Grass - Big Sky, MT

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Big Sky, MT, boasts world-class skiing in a close-knit community atmosphere nestled in stunningly gorgeous mountains surrounding on all sides.  In short, it is a winter paradise that has the privilege of hosting the Big Sky Big Grass bluegrass festival every year, this year being the 10th.  The fest attracted many big names this time around including the illustrious one and only Billy Strings.  And we were just lucky enough to grab a piece of his free time on Saturday to sit down and converse about a few things.  Here is precisely how that conversation went:

TLS:  So, we were at the Saturday night show of the Denver Bluegrass Generals.

BS:  Oh yeah.

TLS:  Simply awesome show.  Really, really fun.  Can you give us a little insight about what it’s like to be a part of a supergroup with musicians of that level?  You obviously had different generations of string band musicians represented there — everybody incredible on their instrument and you’re there wailing away with them.  That’s got to be a particularly cool feeling.

BS:  So, I felt like I was going into battle with Yoda and Gandalf and Rambo…you know, these guys are my heroes, man.  And, yeah Panda and Andy invited me out to come play and I was just completely honored to play with those guys.  It was incredible.  You know, I listen to those guys’ records, like I said, they’re my heroes and to be able to go onstage and then not only jam like Dusters tunes or String Cheese tunes, but to make up jams and just play music and jam and have fun with those guys…it was unreal.  There were definitely some moments.  Playing in the Bluegrass Generals was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of, so if I seem like I was a little excited on stage, I was fucking stoked.  

TLS:  For good reason.

BS:  Yeah, it was awesome.  But, yeah, the music went great and we just got together early each day and rehearsed and it was just so much fun so huge kudos to Panda and Andy for pulling that thing off, too.  There were good crowds both nights.  I mean, of course, you’ve got Nershi and Dusters and String Cheese, dude, there’s gonna be crowd out there in Colorado.  Those guys are heavyweights, man, those guys are masters at this genre and this music…

TLS:  Well, they’ve been doing it a long time.

BS:  Yeah, for sure.  

TLS:  And they definitely have the chops.  That’s awesome, man.  I bet it was fun, too, just good fun.

BS:  It was amazing…I just had so much fun.  After the second night we were pretty much just like jumping up and down like children.  Like, “dude, we did it!!” You know?  It was so fun.  And yeah, it was also a little bit of a challenge for me playing mandolin was kinda…you know, I’m not really a mandolin player, man.

TLS:  You wouldn’t know it.  

BS:  We had Bill Nershi on the gig and we thought screw it, man, I’ll try to do a little bit of that.

TLS:  You were tearing it up, man.

BS:  So, yeah, I just did my homework at home.  When I got this gig, I went out and bought an iPod and I just downloaded all the Strindusters’ tunes and all the stuff.  I had listened to that stuff before but didn’t own all the albums, so, I got all the stuff I needed to learn and I just sat there with my mandolin and just one headphone in to, like, learn the chords and chart it out for myself.  So then when we got to rehearsal I felt like I knew what was going on because I had done my homework.  Going into it I was a little bit nervous, but once we all got together in the same room, the music just came automatically.  It was like as soon as we started playing together we were all like, “Wow!  This a cool band.  It sounds good!”

TLS:  Any talk of future gigs with the Generals?

BS:  Well, who knows?  When duty calls, I show up.

TLS:  Very patriotic of you.

BS:  Yeah, it’s my duty to the people and to the music.  You get drafted, you gotta go, buddy.  I ain’t no dang draft-dodger.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  I love it.  Well, let’s talk about some Big Sky since we’re all here now.  So, obviously, it’s a pretty different festival from other music festivals:  it’s at a ski resort.  And most aren’t…at least not during the winter.  So you mentioned during your set yesterday that Big Sky Big Grass last year was your first time skiing.  On the personal side of things, have you skied anyplace else since then?

BS:  No, no.  I’ve only been skiing two times in my entire life and I’ve only skied at Big Sky Big Grass.  And that’s because they hook us up with rentals, you know, and stuff.  I can’t afford to go skiing.  //laughter//

TLS:  It is pricey.

BS:  Yeah.  Drew Emmitt took me out earlier and gave me a little lesson to teach me how to turn and stuff, you know, and how to slow down.  We had fun — it was great skiing with those guys.  Alwyn Robinson got out there and got on his feet, too, and it was fun.  But, Drew said, “yeah, man.  This is ‘work-cation’.”  That’s what he said.  We’re here to play our gigs and to deliver some awesome music to the people and the people who come to this festival want to hear good music so that’s why we’re here.  But, during the day before all the music starts, if they’re going to hook us up…I mean, I’m in a bathrobe.  Hot tubbing.  Skiing.  Just hanging out, pickin’.  We play music ’til five in the morning at this festival and everybody’s hanging out from the McCourysKeller, you know, everybody’s just here, man.  It’s like a vacation for us, too. 

TLS:  It seems like it.  I really does.

BS:  And as far as this whole festival and Steve and Jason and everybody and how this thing is run…they take care of their artists, man.  We’ve got good food, we’ve got fresh powder on the slopes, and we’ve got all the refreshments we need.  Everything’s great — we’re just taken care of.  We’re all just having a great time, you know?  Like I said, it doesn't really feel like work.  I feel like I should pay to have been a part of this.

TLS:  Don’t tell them that. //laughter//

BS:  /laughter// Yeah right.  It’s things like this that make me sit back and realize just how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing and playing music.  Enjoying myself and being young, you know?  My feathers are fluffed, man, I’m out here to have fun.  And that’s what’s going on — everybody else is, too.  We’re having a good time out here at Big Sky, man.

TLS:  Do you find it difficult to balance skiing all day and partying all night and going to pickin’ parties?

BS:  Yeah, it’s hard.  Last night I went to bed at two in the morning and I am the most responsible person here.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

BS:  I mean, usually it’s not until six AM I finally put my guitar away, I go back, you know, and then I’m just feeling like total crap because I’ve just been up all night singing, partying, and hanging out.  And then I try to get up at 11 or 12 to go skiing…ski all day, go to sound check, do it all over again.  By Sunday I’m toast, man but it’s all worth it.  It’s all worth it.  

TLS:  This is really the only place that I know of where you can do what happens here.  To have that kind of day.  

BS:  Yeah, I’m not going to go to sleep when Drew Emmitt’s just rippin’ it up down in the lobby and he’s like, “come pick, man!”  Dude, I’m gonna go pick.  I have to.

TLS:  Sometimes you just have to say yes.

BS:  I tried to go to sleep last night even earlier, but then I ended up going back down and getting my guitar back out for a little bit.  But then I finally called it and said I’ve got to get some sleep.  So, you live and you learn.  The more I do this stuff, sadly I am partying less and working more, but I’m still having a great time.  You just can’t party all the time and everything, you’ve gotta get some sleep, drink lots of water…otherwise I’ll lose my voice.  And if I’m losing my voice and stuff like that then I’m not being a professional.  To me it’s all about the show — I’m here to deliver the goods.  And that’s what I plan on doing.  

TLS:  It’s awesome to hear that kind of commitment.  I think from a crowd standpoint that everybody loves to hear good music.  That’s what we come to hear.  And, so, to know that kind of commitment on behalf of the musicians that you are seeing, it’s a great affirmation.

BS:  Well, man, like I said I am so lucky to get to do what I do.  If I didn’t do the best that I could do then I wouldn’t be doing very well at all, man.  

TLS:  It’s so good that you know that.  That’s awesome.  Good for you, brother.

BS:  A couple of years ago it wasn’t always so easy, you know, I’d get to a festival and start hanging out with the Greensky boys or whomever and we…I…I don’t know how those guys do it.  They still do it.  Those guys are freakin’ rock stars and they still somehow pull it off.  It’s crazy.  But, yeah, I’ve just been trying to work on the music and just be myself.  

TLS:  Right on, man.  Well, I mentioned pickin’ parties just a second ago and I know that’s a big part of what goes on here.  We sat down with Pappy Biondo recently and talked with him…

BS:  Pappy!

TLS:  Yeah, it was great.  We had a really great interview with him and talked a little bit with him about pickin’ parties and their significance for him and it was really interesting, the stories that he told.  So, we’ve obviously seen you playing here at the pickin’ parties…do you have a long history with that culture?  I mean, is that something that as soon as you started playing people were like, “hey, come on!  Let’s go to the pickin’ party!”?

BS:  Dude, when I was five years old, you know, four or five years old, my parents would have people over.  You know, there’d be people over at my house in the kitchen, pickin’…having some beers.  And my dad and my uncle and everybody…bass player, fiddle player, banjo player, everybody gets together and they’re all pickin’.  That’s how I was brought into this world, man.  I cut my teeth doing that.  And it’s amazing.  And the more cool parties like this I get invited to, the more I get to pick with Sam Bush and you get to pick with David Grisman and, you know, people like that.  And for me, that’s just more inspirational than anything.  Just hearing those guys in person.  When David Grisman plays the mandolin, it’s the truth.    

TLS:  //laughter//  That’s a good way of putting it.  

BS:  I mean, geez.  And all those guys.  Man, last night Sam Bush and Ronnie McCoury and Drew Emmitt… 

TLS:  That was a mando showcase.

BS:  It was “mando mania”.

TLS:  That was intense.

BS:  But yeah, so, being able to just play music in a more laid back setting because, for me, a lot of the times performing is a lot different than that, you know?  Because, then if I mess up or something or we all crash and burn then it’s OK because we’re just having fun.  Now I’m always having fun on stage, don’t get me wrong, but I still get stage fright, you know.  Before I walk on stage I’m a little bit nervous and I’m just hoping everything goes well and I’m really into it.  I’m really just into it, it’s a different thing.  It’s a mental kind of thing.  And when we have a really good show it’s like cloud nine, man.  You’re living it up.  And as stuff kind of goes wrong, it’s really easy for me to turn it on myself.  Just through like man you could have done so much better.  So, I’m always trying my hardest and I realize I’ve done the best that I could, but there’s always better and I’m always learning and, so performing, it’s just a different thing.  So being able to just get together with everybody and just have fun is really awesome.  Calling out tunes…we’re playing tunes that maybe we don’t all know, but then you learn tunes that way and it’s amazing.  Yeah, I’m always wherever the pickers are.

TLS:  That’s fantastic.  So, would you say that sometimes you prefer and nice, good pickin’ party to big ol’ stage show?

BS:  They both have, you know, their benefits.  You’re not going to sell any fucking merch at the VFW Hall…  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

BS:  Nah, I’m just kidding.  Like I said, there are highs and lows and there’s lefts and rights and ups and downs about everything.  I do love just pickin’ with friends and getting together and having a good time.  But then there’s something about performing, too, that I just really get off on.

TLS:  Absolutely.  I understand completely.  Right on, man.  Well, we’ve got one more question for you and then we’re off the record.  This one is about your recent move…you moved to Nashville from Michigan.  First of all, it must be pretty cool to transition to a city that is just steeped in music culture.

BS:  Yeah.

TLS:  So, just out of curiosity, what motivated you to make that move?  Is it just the obvious that it’s Nashville and it’s where all the music is at, all the producers are at, all the musicians…?

BS:  To me it was that I just want to pick with people, man.  I like to play bluegrass music, you know?  And, I like to play other music, all sorts of stuff, too.  I love Traverse City and Ionia, those are the places that I came from.  You know, I was born in Lansing, MI.  Michigan is my home.  I hope to be buried there someday.  But, sometimes I would look out the window and almost feel sad for myself because there’s nobody to pick with.  You know, I could get together with some folks up there and it’s got a great music scene, Michigan’s music scene is on fire.  As far as people showing up to the shows and the support from the community and everything.  But there’s not necessarily a lot of bluegrass musicians up there, you know, banjo players, fiddle players, stuff like that.  So I just wanted to get somewhere where there’s people my age playing the music that I’m interested in, so I can mingle with people musically, and grow.  I’ve got a lot of work to do.  Playing, like you said, at pickin’ parties.  I live in East Nashville.  Dude, I’m over at someone’s house or I’m going down to the Legion and watchin’ David Grier, pickin’ with him.  Or there’s always these house parties.  It’s almost like grad school or something where there’s like house parties but everybody’s not getting all wasted.  We actually get together, cook a nice little dinner, and then we’ll pick.  And maybe sometimes we’ll just work on original music or whatever or just play bluegrass, but we’re always playing music. 

TLS:  That’s very special.

BS:  Yeah, Lindsay Lou and Josh Rilko of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys, they’re my next-door neighbors.  And those guys are just really creative and some of my best friends in the world — I love them to death.  So it’s really good to get together and pick with Josh all the time…

TLS:  Yeah, right next door…

BS:  Yeah, it’s great man.  And Del and the boys are all up in Hendersonville…me and Jason are talking about grillin’ out and pickin’ some tunes and stuff like that.  So, there’s everybody around, you know?  Crooner’s back in Nashville, John Mailander, Nick Disebastian, and you’ve got Molly Tuttle, there’s just so many great musicians.  And a lot of people that are my age, around my age, so it’s really fun to hang out with people that are my age that are into the same thing because, I mean, it’s just fun.

TLS:  Well, fun’s fun.

BS:  Yup.  And, yeah, I mean, no brainer.  I just wanted to move…I’ve lived in Michigan my whole life and just wanna try something else.  And I was half damn tempted to move to Denver, man, I’m telling you.  It was a toss up.

TLS:  That’s a good toss up.

BS:  And…I almost moved to Denver, but then this house came up and it was right next door to Lindsay and Josh, like I said, and I was like, man, perfect location, perfect price range, perfect house…I was like, “I gotta go.”  So Nashville it is.  But I might end up in Denver some day.

TLS:  It’s always going to be there…you know.

BS:  I looooove it.  I love the atmosphere, I love the people and the mountains and everything.  But, yeah man.  Nashville’s great.  There’s tons of great music there and everybody’s pickin’ and having a good time.  It’s a great scene right now — it’s really thriving I think.  And I’m just honored to be a part of it.  Love playin’ music, man.  I just love playin’ music.  

TLS:  So, now that you’re there, what do the next few years look like?  Are you thinking of trying to put a band together?  

BS:  Yeah, absolutely.  For the last few weeks I’ve just been putting together kind of pick-me-up bands or just putting little bands together for these certain shows and that’s OK, but I need to get together with some guys so we can really focus on the music and put some hard time into it and make it tight.  So it’s fun, you know, but, like I said, I’ve got a lot of work to do.  

TLS:  I’m sure building a band can’t be easy.

BS:  No, so I’m just trying to hang on, man.  To a new life. //laughter//

TLS:  Good for you.  //laughter//  That’s awesome.  Right on, brother, well that’s all we have today.

BS:  Hey man, thank you.

TLS:  We really, really appreciate it.

We had a simply splendid time sitting down with our new friend Billy Strings for this interview.  Definitely one of the all-stars of the entire Big Sky Big Grass festival he also is one all-star individual and a great amount of fun to chat with.  We are looking forward to so many amazing things from this uber-talented and supremely skilled young gentleman.  Thanks for all the good times, Billy!!  See you at WinterWonderGrass!!

Billy Strings and Parker Otwell Roe

Billy Strings and Parker Otwell Roe

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Live Interview: Pappy Biondo

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Live Interview: Pappy Biondo

Live Interview: Pappy Biondo

10 Jan 2016 - Jam Cruise - MSC Divina

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Jam Cruise provided the perfect opportunity for us to catch up with a couple of musicians whom we respect and whose music we certainly love.  And Sunday Funday is always a good time for a nice chat about music don’t you think?  We certainly thought so as we sat down with Pappy Biondo of the Pennsylvania-based string band, Cabinet.  Chilling with him in his stateroom we got a great deal of time to discuss all sorts of things with this supremely skilled banjo player.  As you’ll see, the first question came from Pappy himself about “the Spot”, that now infamous place outside on Deck 7 where Nathan Scott Moore hosts the ad hoc bluegrass pick every night right on through until morning.

PB:  Did you make some of that late night deck pickin’ there?

TLS:  Yeah, we were there at least until about 7am.

PB:  Yeah. I’m gonna get out there tonight.

TLS:  We’ll be out there again for sure…that was a lot of fun.  A lot of good people drifted through.  Jay and Nathan were killing it.

PB:  So much fun.

TLS:  The Spot’s good to go.  You were aware of all that before you got on the boat, yeah?

PB:  Oh no, I wasn’t.  I had no idea.  But I knew some of those guys, I knew some of those players.  Everybody was talking about it.  I met Nicki Bluhm’s guitar player, Darren, and he said, “you know about the Spot?”  And I said, “know about the Spot? What are you talking about?”  And he said, “down on the deck of the Boat.”  And I found him and then it turns out I know Nathan Leith, the fiddle player, and I know Jay Cobb from Fruition and all the other guys I met and I just fell in love with them.  And I hung tight with them.  

TLS:  Where is Willy T. from, do you know?

PB:  Willy’s from California.  Holy shit!  That guy’s the best!

TLS:  That guy is a beast but I didn’t know before.  

PB:  Aw, me neither, man.  He blew me away.

TLS:  Is he in a band that you know of?

PB:  He does his own thing.  His lyrics are great.  Him and Nathan both.  And they’re writing songs here…they’ve probably written three or four songs on the ship.  Crazy.  Write shit down and record it.  I’ve learned a lot from that.  I’m like a four song a year guy.  These guys are like five every hour.

TLS:  Just churning them out.  It’s a different world.

PB:  Well that’s all it is…expressing yourself in lyrics and all that.  It’s inspiring for me to hang out with those guys for a couple of days.

TLS:  Very cool stuff.  So, this is number one Jam Cruise for you, correct?  

PB:  Yes, for sure.  Number one cruise in general.  I’ve never been on a cruise ship.

TLS:  Nice, man.  What do you think, so far?

PB:  Jam Cruise is a great way to start off your cruisin’.  I’ve been thinking, I don’t have the wife and kids with me, but, any kind of cruise would be a good vacation for us.  Now that I see what it’s all about and that it’s relaxing.

TLS:  Most of them are not like Jam Cruise, just so you know.  //laughter//

PB:  //laughter// Really?  So maybe it’s a bad thing that this is my first one.

TLS:  Well, in terms of entertainment, it might ruin you for other cruises.

PB:  I’m sure.  But, yeah, this is the first one, for sure.

TLS:  I guess you realize, it’s pretty chaotic and special at this point…

PB:  /laughter// Chaotic and special.  For sure.

TLS:  //laughter//  …so have you gotten any sleep…at all this week?

PB:  Yeah, I actually got a lot of sleep…it seems like you gotta take a day…I talked to a lot of the musicians and they were saying, “pace yourself, pace yourself, pace yourself.”  ‘Cause it is, man, it’s just a non-stop party.

TLS:  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

PB:  Yeah, but I did, I got some sleep.

TLS:  What about any wild stories, any crazy yarns you’ve got so far?

PB:  From the cruise?

TLS:  Yeah, from Jam Cruisin’.

PB:  Well, I had a very cool moment probably around six in the morning a couple of mornings ago down on the lower deck of the ship and you could hear the hum of the engines.  //humming//  You know?  And it was me and Jami, the drummer of Cabinet, and Nathan was playing fiddle, and we were just droning this note.  //humming//  You know?  And then we went into different shit outside of it, but that was like our base.  The motors going.  So that was pretty cool that night.  We were down there for like half an hour watching the sun come up.  //humming//  Yeah, that was really cool.  I mean I’ve seen some crazy shit of course, it’s Jam Cruise, but as far as experience to take home with you, that was one of them.  You know, all the sit ins and stuff and getting to mingle with all the musicians I mean, that’s great, it’s incredible.

TLS:  Excellent.  The average Jam Cruise attendee, they explore new bands, see bands they already love…there’s a reason everybody comes on the ship.  And it’s for the music offerings — you just get so much.  It’s so great to have Cabinet and the Dusters and Paul and Anders on board for all things bluegrass.  Outside of string band music, for what you’ve seen so far as an attendee like the rest of us, who has caught your attention?  Who’s been a standout for you?

PB:  On the ship?  You know, when we started our first record, I think, we were looking for an agency or something to put out a record we came across Ropeadope Records out of Philly and one of their other artists was Snarky Puppy.  And this is 2009 or something.  So we went down there and had a meeting and they gave us a bunch of CDs and stuff and Snarky Puppy was in there and I didn’t really pay much attention to it.  But I knew the name from just that, from 2009.  And our guitar player, Mickey, got super into the band, started spinning the records in the van on drives and stuff.  And, I’d never seen them live, I only listened to the records that our guitar player was playing in the car drivin’.  But I always knew the name.  And then, getting here Snarky Puppy absolutely blew me away.  The arrangements and the amount of time the musicians themselves in the band put into them, it’s just completely…  I mean, we’re lucky if we get two rehearsals in a year.  //laughter//  Those guys probably rehearse all the time, you know, and that’s what it is, getting it right.  You have to put the time in to get it right and it shows.  It pays off if that’s what you wanna do.  And Snarky Puppy definitely blew me away.  Cris Jacobs, his ability to get up with anybody and just hang.

TLS:  He’s like a chameleon.

PB:  Oh, he’s great, man.  We were at the poker table together, too, which was fun.  You know I always like the funk stuff.  I can appreciate anything, really.  And being on the Boat…  The only thing different from doing these and festivals is that, at the festivals maybe you get a day or an afternoon to hang out and mingle, to get conversation with this guy, that guy.  Here, it’s like you’re in that mode of I’m only gonna see this guy if I wanna have a music chat with him and I’m only gonna get like 20 minutes with him or something.  And here, really, it’s like, you can start a conversation and keep it going the next day and the next day, you know what I mean?  It’s like, over the course of the week that the ship’s on the water, it’s just incredible bumping into people.  You think you’re done…you think you’re like that’s all I needed.  I had a great conversation with that person and I’m done.  And it keeps going.  It’s crazy.   Besides musicians, I’ve met some incredible people, some great people.  Especially at those late night picks, the ones who can last that long, you know, in spite of whatever they took to stay up that late or just drinking and we’re still having great conversation.

TLS:  I was blown away just how many people were still up to watch the sunrise, you know?

PB:  It’s beautiful.  I’ve seen two sunrises here and I’m glad I did.  You know some people are all like, “I stayed up till the sun came up, it was crazy!”  I enjoyed all that.  You know, I’ve got the wife at home, the kids at home…

TLS:  Would they enjoy Jam Cruise?

PB:  They would most definitely.  It’d be different.  Here I’m musically driven, without them.  Naturally, with them here, I’m family driven.  You know, with them here it would be a family affair, a family vacation.  Without them here my drive is still with them being an artist but 100% music driven.

TLS:  Do they get to many of the festivals with you?

PB:  Last year I had my wife and two kids with me at five or six of the bigger festivals that we did in the summer.  It was the first year that they were there for a bunch of them and it felt great, it was awesome.  It’s like little goals like maybe one year or one day we’ll be able to have them come with us.  My wife works hard to support what I do.  But the idea is to get to a point where I can provide for that side of it.  Pay her back for the 10 years that I put her through.  //laughter//  

TLS:  It’s got to be extremely important for a man like you to have a partner like that.

PB:  Oh yeah, for sure.

TLS:  To really support you.  That’s incredible.  Especially for your kids, too.

PB:  She’s my rock, man.  She’s a rock.  For sure.

TLS:  We’ve been lucky enough to fill our calendar with a lot of the bigger festivals.  Are there any of the smaller ones, more family bluegrass ones that you guys go to regularly?

PB:  Yeah, that’s my jam.  Man, I love that shit.

TLS:  We want to do more.  Any ones you’d suggest?

PB:  Here’s a good one.  Spring Pickin’ in PA.  My friend Nate, Monkeyline Productions, puts one on there.  And it’s always an incredible time.  There’s Ossippee Bluegrass up in Maine which is great.  I just moved to Vermont three years ago so I’m starting to tap into that.  You know, it’s not about how much money can we generate.  It’s not about how much beer can we sell or how much merchandise can we sell.  It’s about a good space, some good people, and some good music.  And in Vermont, there’s a little organization of local pickers…it’s not even an organization.  I’ve tapped into these players up there that all they wanna do is throw potlucks and fucking pick.  That’s it.  Let’s just have people over, have some dinner, and play some music.

TLS:  Sounds great.

PB:  You know?  Even with the deck pickin’, you know, sometimes I like that shit more than getting on a big stage.  At festivals I like the late night pickin’ circles more than, like, going up and doing the ‘rock star thing’…

TLS:  This is a perfect dovetail into our next question.  We are interested in pickin’ party culture.  So, whether you are at a festival or someone’s house, we know how important that it seems to be for everyone:  people that want to listen, people that want to play, and everyone in between.  So, for you and your experience as you’ve come up through music, what space has that occupied for you, that pickin’ party culture?  How early did you get started into it?

PB:  I had some great conversation about this topic last night, actually.  I grew up in the ghetto of Cleveland, OH, and banjo was the furthest thing from my mind until I actually saw one.  Which was at the age of 19.  I can speak for the band, too…none of us were raised on bluegrass music.  Maybe hints of it here and there.  But the whole pickin’ party thing blew me away.  Even when I moved from Scranton to Vermont.  In Scranton I got clued in through some of the festivals that we played and the late night pickin’ and just fell in love with it.  And that’s probably after five years playing the banjo.  So the band’s been together 10 years now, we’ve got a solid chunk of 5 years that we thought we were the only band with drums in our instrumentation.  We thought we were the only ones.  We were like we’re changing…nobody’s doing this.  Turns out, once we dug in this has been going on for awhile.  Newgrass Revival, you know, Leftover.  All these bands…Railroad was a big eye opener for us at a young age.  But, so we had the bluegrass instrumentation so we were thinking bluegrass early on, we were thinking alright we have these instruments.  The instruments kind of stumbled upon us in a weird way, too.  I never thought I’d be a banjo player; J.P. had one under his bed and I picked it up.  I said, “what’s this thing?  I’ll try this out.”  He was playing mandolin…he never knew what a mandolin was, but he wanted one.  So we were very ill-informed when it came to the history of folk and bluegrass music.

TLS:  You guys both grew up in Cleveland together?

PB:  J.P. actually grew up in PA.  Northeastern PA.  But we’re cousins and we linked up after high school, we were like let’s get together.

TLS:  Is the rest of the band still in PA?  I know you said you’re in Vermont now.

PB:  Mickey, our guitar player, is in Maryland.  And I’m up in Vermont and the rest of the guys are in Northeast PA.

TLS:  Has that been a stress on you, traveling more?

PB:  Yes.  Most definitely.

TLS:  But worth it for the Vermont life?

PB:  Yeah, worth it on both sides.  It’s worth it traveling home, after hours in the car, pulling into my driveway is a great feeling.  You know, pulling out of my driveway is great feeling.  Somebody recently asked me, said, “Pappy, how’s life out on the road?”  I said, “Man, it’s better when I’m home.”  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//

PB:  You know if someone would say, “Pappy, how’s life at home?”  I’d probably say, “it’s better on the road.”  //laughter//

TLS:  Right?  //laughter//  That grass is greener, isn’t it?

PB:  But as far as the pickin’ party stuff goes, even just pickin’ in general, when I moved to Vermont and went to a bakery in Richmond, VT, it was their annual Bluegrass Scramble.  And I had been friends with Gordon Stone, who is a great banjo, peddle steel player out of Vermont for awhile so when I moved up there I kinda linked up with him.  He said, “hey man, gimme a ride to this Scramble.”  And I had to jump right into it.  I said, “alright, sure.”  And it’s where you get in, you write your instrument down you write your name down.  You put your instrument in a hat, you put your name in and they pull bands from the hat.  Alright, Pappy’s on banjo, Jim’s on fiddle, this guy’s on bass, you know?  And that was how I met a lot of local guys in Vermont.  And, after that, they were all like, “you’re a great banjo player.  You should come around more often.  We do these pickin’ potlucks.”  Just totally inviting and, on that scale, I can bring the wife and kids to a potluck.  You know we can go out and we can eat and we can pick and we can hang.  So it wasn't until three or four years ago that I was introduced to that whole kind of lifestyle.  Which has been going on for years, man.  After researching Bill Monroe, you know, that was his thing.  People would come and eat, pick, sleep, get up, and do it again.

TLS:  Yeah, you know it’s been going on for a really long time, but, for me, Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon seems to embody that whole late night campfire pickin’ session culture.  Better than anybody he seems to live for it.

PB:  I’ve heard stories.  And I’m sure if you asked him which he liked better, the stage time or that pickin’ time I am sure he would say, “pickin’ time.”

TLS:  Community is what it is all about anyways, right?  Music builds community and community supports music.

PB:  Yeah, they go hand in hand.  When you’re doing those little gatherings, those little celebrations there’s plenty of people who aren’t musicians.  You know, you could be that musician who flies from wherever to wherever and gets in a bus, gets on the road, gets on stage, gets back in the bus, flies home and doesn’t see a damn person.  You can go that route.  //laughter//

TLS:  There’s plenty who do.

PB:  There’s plenty who do.  Or, you know, you can choose to hang with the people, man…

TLS:  And it means a lot to the people observing.  There’s something inherently unique and special about the way you’re able to approach music after you get to know your musician a little better.  It’s one thing to interface with them purely from the audience up on the stage, it’s another thing to get to know them as a person.  Whether it’s through a bio you read or actually getting to talk to them or meet with them, because afterwards there is something a lot more personable about it.  You know, I think because there has been a sharing.  At that point, it’s just the sharing of music.

PB:  Believe it or not, our fan base originally was built off those kinds of ideas.  Early on, before we had anybody working for us it was just the six of us.  Like I remember getting paid from those early gigs and I was like, “what?”  And they were like, “you can keep that!”  “Wait, are you really paying me right now?”  ‘Cause I had so much fun doing it.  I remember getting weirded out by getting paid to do what I did that night.  I don’t think I ever said, “you can keep it.”  For the record. //laughter//

TLS:  For the record.  //laughter//

PB:  And our second record, Leap, was cut with a live audience.  We did a Kickstarter thing where the fans could come into the studio and actually be in the studio to experience the recording with us.  Which helped us because we play best with that energy.  With the fans being a part of it…  And with the Kickstarter thing, we did a Chili Cookoff and we got to do this kind of thing.  And with our holiday shows we did a big dinner, a huge table, I think it was 35 people who paid a little bit extra to have dinner with us.  And a few relationships grew out of that.

TLS:  As much as I hate to say it, that is all we had for you today, Pappy.  Thanks again so much for taking the time out of your Jam Cruise schedule to chat with us.

PB:  You bet, my pleasure fellas.

Many thanks to our new friend Pappy for his time and this fantastic interview!  Many thanks as well to Carrie, Alex, and the rest of the Jam Cruise staff who helped facilitate all this for us!!

Pappy Biondo and Parker Otwell Roe

Pappy Biondo and Parker Otwell Roe

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Live Interview: Keller Williams

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Live Interview: Keller Williams

Live Interview: Keller Williams

10 Jan 2016 - Jam Cruise - MSC Divina

for The Lot Scene by Parker

In addition to all the incredible photography opportunities and review material we were exposed to during Jam Cruise 14, we also had the distinct privilege of sitting down with Virginia’s own Keller Williams for a short, but very sweet interview.  We had a super enjoyable time discussing several different topics with Keller which we’d like to bring you now:

TLS: First of all, thanks for sitting down with us today.

KW:  My pleasure.

TLS:  We heard Annabel mention that you were on the first Jam Cruise, which is pretty cool, and now you are on your sixth at this point?

KW:  I think so, yeah.  I don’t really know exactly how many I’ve been on, but I think it’s less than half.  I think six is a good number.

TLS:  Well, six is definitely more than a little…

KW:  //laughter//

TLS:  Couldn’t resist.

KW:  It worked.  //laughter//

TLS:  So, what is it about those past Boat experiences, things that happened to you and things that you did, that made you say “yes” to coming back this year?

KW:  Oh, man.  Well, this thing that’s happening on this boat is…not normal.  It’s a very unrealistic utopian type of thing that’s going on.  And, just to be a part of it, just to be invited is an honor.  To be able just to come on it without playing is an amazing, amazing thing.  But there have definitely been some amazing moments musically that I’ve witnessed, you know, as a fan.  Probably a little more memorable than my own sets, so to speak, you know?  When I am doing my sets, I am in the zone.

TLS:  Focused.  

KW:  Seeing so many of my favorite musicians play with others of my favorite musicians at the same time, it’s really surreal.  And, just the walls between fan and musician are dropped.  It’s exciting to feel people’s excitement.  It rubs off on me and I could go on but I think…

TLS:  It’s a special kind of special.

KW:  It’s a special kind of special, yeah.  Mmm-hmm.  

TLS:  Thank you.

KW:  You bet.

TLS:  This one goes a little towards your process in general.  You’ve obviously got a lot of musical irons in the fire, a lot of projects going on, studio recordings, tours — there’s a lot of stuff, you’re a busy man.

KW:  Mmm-hmm.

TLS:  With those moving parts, what does your strategic planning look like?  Are you looking five years out?  Is it something that happens more organically from the hip?

KW:  As far as the projects go?

TLS:  How does that stack up for you?

KW:  Well, it just starts with loving music and certain types of music and surrounding myself with people that I respect and want to work with.  And them allowing me into their world.  And, the bluegrass thing is so easy compared to the whole full band thing.  The guys come over with their instruments and they sit around in a circle and we put together a set.  No problem.  There’s no drums or bass rig or anything, everything is acoustic and that’s really, really exciting for me because my solo thing is so much signal path with the looping and stuff.  But, once a connection is made with different musicians and a project is formed and recordings are made, then, as far as presenting them live, it’s kind of what people want to see from me as far as different festivals…  Say I played a festival 10 times, we try to work a little solo thing in there somehow and then maybe bring a different project each year.  And I’ve been building towards that and to give people an option like More Than A Little, my funk band, is a perfect party band for the deck.

TLS:  Amazing set by the way.

KW:  Thank you.

TLS:  It was my first More Than A Little, I don’t mind saying, and it was unbelievably good.

KW:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  It worked, you know?  I always find with that band the rehearsals go much better than the shows.  So I made a point of it not to rehearse and it all worked out.  //laughter//

TLS:  //laughter//  It worked out really well.  So, to us, as fans knowing you and your music for awhile now, there seems to be no limits on the music you can or are willing to play…which is one of the things we love about you as a musician.  So when you come to a unique festival situation like Jam Cruise and you know there is a plethora of incredible musicians on board, when you start thinking possible guests, when you start thinking “I might want to guest”, what’s going on in your head with that?  Are you like a kid in a candy store thinking “I wanna guest with that band and that person and that band”?

KW:  It starts with the connections that have already been made.  Even possibly something that we’ve done before.  I mean, there’s not going to be any rehearsal or anything like that and it starts with confidence and a comfort level of a person that I know would be able to pull this off.  And it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to do a couple of these songs in this kind of situation.  And it’s very laid back, you know?  And it just goes from there.  If you look on the website of Jam Cruise and scroll down one after the other of musicians at large here to jam, it’s like, let’s get him and her and them.  Things like a possible trio with Reed Mathis and Roosevelt Collier.  Now, the three of us haven’t done anything but I trust both of them so that I could say “let’s try this” and I think they both would be on it.  Now I put that out in the Universe and I’m not really sure that that’s going to happen, but hopefully it will.  I’m hoping that that goes down.  So with that mentality you try to think of something that they can latch onto that’s not too difficult.  Like “do you know this song?”  If they don’t know it then maybe you can play something that’s got some chords that repeat and those guys can just take it further.  And then the improv can happen and kind of bring it back.  And both of those guys are super pro.  But then there’s other folks like Nicki Bluhm…  We’ve also been talking about other songs today during our signing and Anders and Paul from Greensky, you know, we’ve been been threatening a ‘Phish Grass thing’ — I don’t think it’s going to happen, but we’ve been threatening it.  And I think there’s a couple of songs that we all three know that we could probably grass up and people would appreciate it.  And then there’s the Stringdusters — we’ve done 20 shows together.  And then, of course, More Than A Little will be a big part of this friend parade that comes through on this ‘solo’ set tonight.

TLS:  Not really solo. //laughter//

KW:  //laughter// No, not really solo, yeah.

TLS:  That’s at what time?

KW:  10:30 in the atrium…you know lights are on…like a living room.

TLS:  Nice and cozy.  Well, that’s all we have for you today, Keller.  Thanks again so much for taking the time to sit down and chat with us.

KW:  My pleasure, my pleasure.

Many thanks to Mr. Williams for this lovely interview.  Many thanks as well to Carrie, Alex, and the rest of the Jam Cruise staff who helped put this all together!!

Parker Otwell Roe and Keller Williams

Parker Otwell Roe and Keller Williams

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Live Interview:  Ricky Skaggs

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Live Interview: Ricky Skaggs

Live Interview: Ricky Skaggs

10 Nov 2015 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA

for The Lot Scene by Parker

 

It’s not everyday that you score an exclusive interview with Bluegrass royalty.  But that is precisely what happened for us in Alexandria, VA at the historic Birchmere.  Ricky Skaggs’ tour with Sharon White and Ry Cooder was making a two night stop and provided the perfect opportunity and privilege of sitting down with Mr. Skaggs for a truly fantastic interview.  We all enjoyed ourselves greatly and it was certainly a treat to hear what Ricky had to say on a wealth of subjects…a treat which we will share with you now:

TLS: So, we wanted to start with a little bit of a walk down memory lane and to a fateful day for you that we know through videos that we’ve seen:  the day of Flatt and Scruggs.

RS: Mm-hmm.

TLS:  And, really, where we wanted to focus, since I am sure this question has come up a lot or at least about that day, for us, we are more interested in whether or not at that age you really had an understanding or appreciation for kind of the gravity of where you were and what you were doing at the time.

RS:  You know, I really didn’t.  I mean, I knew they were famous.  I knew they were big stars.  But I didn’t necessarily know what a big star was.  I mean, I knew they were on the Grand Ole Opry and I knew that they had a television show and that was pretty dang big to me, you know, as a seven-year-old.  But, looking back at it now, good gracious, that was huge.  And the door that was opened for me in that.  But, you know, to me they were Lester and Earl and the people that we watched on TV as a kid, living in Kentucky.  If I was out playing, my mother would holler out you know, because I didn’t have a watch or an iPhone so I never knew what time it was.  My mother would holler out the door, “Lester and Earl’s on!  Come on home!”  I’d run as hard as I could from wherever I was at to the living room, to the television and sit down.  You know, I loved their music.  I don’t know if you’ve ever watched any of the whole shows together, but just the kind of way that Lester would kind of “in and out”, would M.C. and host and it was really something to watch.

TLS:  Something special.

RS:  Yeah, it really was.  Boy, I look back at it now and I see how huge it was, but how innocent I was to the surroundings and all that was going on.  And, really, how pure-hearted that I was.  I didn’t know I was…well, I knew I was going to do a television show because they asked to do it, you know?  My dad had me backstage at the Ryman, where the Grand Ole Opry was in those days…it was 1960, probably, or ’61.  And I just happened to get backstage and my dad had made friends with the backstage guard, Mr. Bell, sweet guy, and he’d made friends with him so he would let us come backstage from time to time if we wouldn’t mess up or bother somebody or, “don’t touch anybody’s instruments, you know.” “Oh, we’ll be fine.”  Finally I got to where I could bring my mandolin back there, he didn’t mind.  And so, one night, I was kind of just leaning up against a wall, you know, playing my mandolin.  My daddy would have his guitar and we’d just be down there playing.  And Earl Scruggs just walked by that night and I’m sure he was a little bit sympathetic to that since he had sons that were learning to play, too, Gary and Randy — his two boys, Randy might be a year younger than me and Gary was older, but, anyway they were learning to play and so I think Earl was like, “there’s another playing boy, a young kid.”  And, anyway, he just asked my dad and said, “that boy’s good!  Why don’t you bring him down for an audition for the television show?”  So, man, we jumped up and down and went down to the audition and did it.  I’ll tell you a quick tidbit to go with this…to show how backward and how untarnished from the world that I was as a child.  Being from the hills of Kentucky, when we’d moved to Tennessee, we were already living in Tennessee before all this took place. But my dad, in his heart, his whole move for us coming to Tennessee was he wanted to get me on the Grand Ole Opry.  He just really wanted me to get on there.  It would’ve been the big straw in the hat.  But, I guess, child labor laws at that time and just being too young, you know, all that.  But, anyway, so we did the show and they call, oh, they didn’t call my mama.  I don’t even know if we had a phone at the time.  I guess maybe we did have one, probably did, but anyway they sent a little card through the mail and it was addressed “Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs Show” at Channel 4.  They let us know when the show was going to be aired so, man, we looked forward to that date, put it on the calendar.  My dad got home early from work and we got home from school.  Mom had dinner ready and there was no waiting.  It was like, “we’re going to eat now, going to get these dishes put up, and we’re going to sit and watch this show.”  So, that was the deal — we sat down to watch the show.  So, I watched the first two or three songs or so and then, Lester had it made up that, when I walked out, I would walk out and kind of, while he was emceeing and talking about Martha White or something, that I would come out and kind of interrupt him, you know?  And my mother…I remember the day that we did it, I didn’t have a chance to tell mom that I was doing to go out and interrupt him.  Being the South, you didn’t interrupt anybody, you didn’t interrupt a grown-up especially.

TLS:  Bad manners.

RS:  I know, it was, it’s disrespectful.  And so, I didn't have a chance to tell mom, they just told me right before we went out there.  They said, “now you come out and kind of, kind of interrupt him.”  //unsure voice// “OK.”  So, we’re sitting there, watching this on TV, and as soon as I saw myself walk out on the screen…I mean, my God, there I am on television!  I flip out.  I mean, I was so shy I couldn't handle it.  I couldn’t.  I ran into my bedroom and got under my bed.  Couldn’t watch it.

TLS:  Too many emotions?

RS:  Yeah, I couldn’t stand to watch myself.  And that was that.  That’s how shy and backwards I was.  So, for years, since they didn’t re-run those shows, they ran them one time, they sent them out on syndication, they went to Louisville and from Louisville to Chicago, Chicago out to St. Louis, just wherever.  And, when it got back to Nashville, after a month or two, they would take those tapes and re-record over them just to save money.  Martha White didn’t want to spent a lot of money on production costs so they didn’t want to buy a reel of tape.  And so, it’s amazing that this show ever survived.  This old man that used to work at WSM, when there was a special show of some kind that he wanted to keep, he would take the master home and would make a dub and bring it back.  So it still had the numbers on it when I finally saw it some 30 years later.  I finally saw it.  So, that’s kind of the complete story.  A friend of mine went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and was down there looking at tapes and for information and someone said that they had just gotten in some new Flatt and Scruggs things.  And he said, “I’ll go through them.”  So, he went through them, and lo and behold, there was a tape with me on it!  And so he had a dub made for me and saw Sharon at the Opry one night and he said, “here is something for Ricky and I want you guys to watch this.  He’s especially going to love this tape.”  She said, “what is it?”  He said, “I’m not even going to tell, but you’re going to love it.”  So Sharon knew…as soon as we moved to Nashville in the ‘80s, when I came down there to get my country music career going, some of the first people I made real close friends with were Earl and Louise because he’d have pickin’s over at his house.  So, anyway, I asked them if they had a copy of that and they said, “no.”  They remembered me doing the show, especially Earl, but they didn’t have a copy of it then.  Then that thing surfaced, you know.  Sorry for such a long story.

TLS:  No, no.  Thank you.  It’s fascinating.  We really appreciate it.  We really do.  

RS:  Well, thank you.

TLS:  We’ve heard you talk about music, it is so central to your life, that if you had been born in New York you might have been a jazz musician, might have had an accordion if it wasn't the mandolin.  For us, there is a wonder whether there was maybe a Ricky that had aspirations towards something different.  So, if it hadn’t been music, is there somewhere else you could see yourself?  Another career, another vocation?  Or is it just music, through and through?

RS:  I’ll tell you, it’s all I’ve ever done.  All my life.  Since I was three-years-old I’ve been singing.  Since I was five I’ve been playing.  I’m 61…  Hmmm, I’d probably be on the street.  I don’t know what I would do!  You know, I would have worked at something.  My dad, was a welder and taught me how to weld.  And, it’s very possible if I hadn’t have taken music I might have done something like that, been a construction worker of some sort.  Now, I love photography and I am a photographer so I go out and do quite a bit of photography work — I take my cameras with me all the time.  And so, I love doing that.  I’ve about got my website up where I can share my photographs with people.  I’ve had some opportunities to set up exhibits when we go out and play at performing arts centers or places like that.  I’ll come in at five o’clock in the afternoon, show starts at eight, and I invite people to come and meet me and look through the art and buy if they want to.  It’s great fun and I love doing it and it’s another part of the creative gift.  It kind of involves music but doesn’t necessarily have to be through that.  But, it’s taught me how to see.  Music teaches me how to listen; this teaches me how to see.  And how to understand.  Of course, I’m always looking for the light, where’s the light?  And that represents Jesus, to me, you know, the “Light of the World”, Jesus said.  So it’s spiritual for me, as well, because I always want to see what God sees in something.  If I can capture what He sees, then it will bless somebody.  If I can capture in pictures what He sees…so I am always asking, “Lord, help to see what you see in this picture” or “show me something to shoot that would touch somebody.”  You never know when someone’s in a hospital room with cancer or some illness, and one of my pictures may end up somewhere.

TLS:  Helping someone in some way you don’t even know.

RS:  Yeah, it’s just like music.  They may hear one of my songs or something like that playing in their room in a place like that, like “Somebody’s Praying” or something like that?  One of the songs that I’ve done…and really be touched in a good way.

TLS:  So, Chet Atkins, a name that would be familiar to you, notably credited you with “single-handedly saving Country Music” many years ago, back in the ‘80s.  Obviously things had moved from their roots and your style and your energy brought things back to center.  Recently in 2013 there was a PBS interview, in a small quote from you talking about Europeans and how they really appreciate traditional country and bluegrass and don’t like being spoon-fed the “new crap being coined as Country music”.  So, in your opinion, is the state of popular Country Music today back to where it was before you saved it, and if so, what do we need to do to save it again?

RS:  Well, it certainly has gotten away from any semblance of traditional Country that we grew up playing and listening to in my day.  But, you know, my heart has really softened so much toward music and toward people that want to play.  My hope is that whoever is playing whatever they’re playing will get young kids engaged in the music, engaged in Country Music.  And then maybe they’ll start doing some searches and they’ll go back and they’ll start discovering traditional Country Music and Bluegrass and that kind of stuff.  I always tell people I think Chet was off his meds that day when he said that.

TLS:  //laughter//

RS:  It was a sweet thing to say, especially for someone like him who was such a pop…he brought a real Nashville sound to Country Music that was not in any way traditional.  Chet knew good singers and knew good music, people like The Everly’s, my God, the stuff he did with them was just amazing.  He kept it in the vein of where it was original and gave it room to grow and morph.  And that’s what I love about him.  But, I don’t know…I look out there and I listen to new artists.  There’s a kid, Mo Pitney, from around Knoxville, this kid is really, really great.  He sings a lot like Keith Whitley and George Jones — he really cares about the old stuff.  And so, I’d love to see him have a chance to swing at the fence.  He’s a really good artist.  Look him up on YouTube.  I’m sure you’d love the guy singing — he’s aggressive and he sounds really good.  Good ol’ tall, skinny kid and he’s been at the Opry a few times and I really love his singing a lot.  I’m not gonna rag on the young kids anymore.  I have ranted and raved.  And I know my brother Vince has.  And Marty.  And different ones of us that really have authority.   I think we have to be careful with that authority and keep it wise and speak when we need to speak.  I want to speak for and not against.  Speak up and not down.  I’m really trying to learn that in my elder years.

TLS:  I’d like to end our interview with some breaking news, some good news, at least we view it as good and we wanted to hear your weigh in…

RS:  We’re sold out the next two nights!!

TLS:  //laughter//  That is great.  Well, it was announced, just this morning that Mr. Cody Kilby has a permanent position with The Travelin’ McCoury’s.

RS:  That he does.

TLS:  The first question that sprang to our mind was:  is his space in Kentucky Thunder safe?

RS:  Oh no, he’s gone.  No he’s definitely gone and I gave him my blessing.  And it was really…it wasn’t bittersweet, it’s just “sweet sweet”.  It’s kind of bittersweet that I won’t be playing with him, but he’s not leaving town and I’ll see him a lot.  He came with me when he was 19 and so he stayed 14 years — that’s a long time.  But I just hired a kid today:  Jake Workman.  Go check him out on YouTube.  He is a bad mammajamma.  He plays mandolin, he plays banjo.  But, his guitar playing is just stupid; just incredible.  He plays electric, too.  I said, “man I saw you playing electric.”  He said, “aw, that’s when I was a teenager.”  It was a shred video too — he was playing Eddie Van Halen with these little taps and stuff like that.  I told him, “don’t forget that stuff.  We may incorporate that stuff in the music.”  But, he’s a great kid…he and his wife.  He’ll be with me in January when I come back [to the Birchmere].  Going to have a couple of good hard days of rehearsal and we’re work him hard, like a rented mule.

TLS:  //laughter//  I’m sure he’s looking forward to every minute of it.

RS:  He is.  He really is.  He’s wanted this job for a long time.  Bryan Sutton, another great musician that was in my band for awhile.

TLS:  Hot Rize now.

RS.  Yeah.  He highly recommended Jake and so did Cody.  Cody said, “man this guy can walk in without any trouble and take this over, so don’t worry about it.”

TLS:  Filling some big shoes to be sure.  Good to know you have such high aspirations for him.

RS:  Well, I do.  I think he’s going to be great. 

TLS:  Thank you so much for your time today, sir.  It’s been a true honor.

Many thanks to Mr. Skaggs for agreeing to sit down with us for such a superb interview and special experience.  We look forward to more of this dynamic man and his music soon and always.

Ricky Skaggs and Parker Roe

Ricky Skaggs and Parker Roe


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Virtual Interview:  Chris Houser of The Werks

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Virtual Interview: Chris Houser of The Werks

VIRTUAL INTERVIEW:  CHRIS HOUSER OF THE WERKS

06 Nov 2015

for The Lot Scene by Parker

The Lot Scene has been looking forward to the TWERK TOUR hitting up Colorado for many weeks now.  As part of the preparation and promotion of the tour, we were able to snag a bit of Chris Houser's time out on the road to answer a few questions for us.  There's some great stuff in here so let's get to it, shall we?

TLS:  Please tell us a little about how the Twerks Tour came to be. Do the bands have a history playing together?  Was it something that the band members decided they wanted to do or is was it more of a management idea?

CH:  The "Twerks" is a fun little name mashup that we came up with the first time I sat in with Twiddle for their Grassroots acoustic set at Wakarusa two years ago. We didn't have too many opportunities to play together before that but immediately after that we started mixing it up with each other any chance we got. The Twerk Tour was started as a band idea but we all teamed up (bands and management) to make it happen and to be as equal as possible throughout the entire journey. It has worked out wonderfully, and I think this is each band's favorite tour that we've done to date. 

TLS:  How exciting is it to bring a tour like this in for a nice Colorado run, playing venues like the Boulder Theater?  

CH:  We're always so excited to play Colorado any time of the year, whether it be by ourselves or with a local opener or even with friends on a tour. This time is especially exciting because we'll be here with our best friends Twiddle. The chemistry between the two bands is so electric, combine that with the energy that Colorado fans always bring to the shows and this is going to be an explosive Colorado run. Both bands are incredibly excited to play the Boulder Theater and intend to pull out every stop imaginable.

TLS:  What has been one of your favorite aspects of this tour collaboration thus far, both on and off stage?

CH:  The camaraderie between the bands and crew is the best I've ever seen. That is what really stands out to me. The willingness to help a situation whether it has one's own interest in mind or not. "What's best for the whole?" is the most commonly asked question in this group and it couldn't be working out better. As far as the on-stage aspect, all of the sit-ins and special encores we've been doing (such as the all-acoustic "The Weight" that we did in Baltimore thanks to Martin Guitars) have been a chance to step out of the box and play songs that we ordinarily would not play in our own respective projects. 

TLS:  Obviously this isn’t your typical tour for many reasons and all tours have their difficulties — what has been one of the biggest challenges for a two-band tour like this?

CH:  The biggest problem we've come across is The Werks tour bus broke down and we also lost a trailer tire. The thing is, we're all in this together, all for one and one for all. We think of this tour as our collective baby and we're all doing what we can to nurture it. These problems that would ordinarily be big dilemmas on a tour like this have ended up being small speed bumps and we have overcome them together. Aside from that, we all get along famously and we're very happy and grateful to be in each other's company.

TLS:  Assuming you guys haven't completely gotten on each others' nerves already, are you excited that both of you will be playing Jam Cruise 14 this January?

CH:  We are all family at this point, if anyone has gotten on anyone's nerves, we got over it real quick. As far as we're all concerned, Jam Cruise will be an extension of this amazing experience.

TLS:  Have you had a chance to look at the other bands/musicians that will be on the Boat?  Disregarding how likely it is to happen, who on Jam Cruise this year would you most like to join you on stage for a song or two?  Is there anyone you would really like to sit in and jam with?

CH:  With all of the all-stars on this lineup it's hard to say who will be sitting in or who we will end up jamming with. We'll have to wait and see who we end up rubbing elbows with and who our new friends will be. We're very excited to say the least!

Many thanks to Chris for sharing his time and getting some really great answers back to us.  Sounds like the tour is going extremely well, all logistical difficulties aside.  Really making us look forward to seeing these two dynamic bands tomorrow night at The Boulder Theater as well as catching up with them once again on Jam Cruise.  Thanks for reading, as always, Friends of the Scene!!  Hope to see you in Boulder tomorrow night!!

COLORADO SHOW INFO

Aggie Theatre - Ft. Collins, CO - Friday, November 6th, 2015

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Boulder Theater - Boulder, CO - Saturday, November 7th, 2015

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

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Virtual Interview: Timothy Carbone of Railroad Earth

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Virtual Interview: Timothy Carbone of Railroad Earth

Virtual Interview: Timothy Carbone of Railroad Earth

31 May 2015

for The Lot Scene by Parker

We were fortunate enough to run into Timothy Carbone, fiddler for Railroad Earth, this past weekend at DelFest 8 in Cumberland, MD.  During our brief conversation we arranged for this virtual interview which we will bring to you now:

TLS: The late, great B.B. King just passed and it is widely known all his guitars were named “Lucille” throughout his life to help remind him: never fight over a woman.  Does your fiddle happen to have a name and, if so, is there a story behind it?  If not, what do you think of the practice of naming one’s instrument?

TC: No, I don't name my instruments but the BB King story's a good one. I saw BB in NYC in 1972 and he had TBone Walker come out and do the encores. He gave TBone Lucille to play and stood back and watched!

TLS: What is a completely inner-child worshipping, hysterical laughter-causing, completely soul-restoring thing you’ve done purely for fun recently?

TC: Well welcome to my life! I love making music with my friends Jeff Miller, Phil Ferlino, Keith Mosely and Duane Trucks, otherwise known as the Contribution. We recently tracked 3 songs for our next album and it was beautiful, hysterical and totally soul restoring.

TLS: We had the chance of seeing you at Bluegrass Underground — amazing show.  So, are you going to go all caveman now for the experience?  Ready to move underground and fiddle for your fellow troglodytes?

TC: Ha! Glad I'm not claustrophobic. That was an amazing experience!

TLS: Turning our thoughts to Merriweather and all that it was and all that it wasn’t.  We were there (we actually saw you down in the pavilion seats before we were aware of the scheduling issues). You read my review of it. We read RRE's statement the following day. Now that the dust has settled a bit and you have a few shows between you and that fateful night, what are your thoughts or feelings about the way things went down?

TC: Well it was unfortunate to say the least. We worked really hard on Terrapin and we felt what we were going to present would honor Jerry Garcia in highest way possible. At least it was a great hang!

TLS: So, then, how does it feel to go from an event that had such glaring planning/production issues to one like DelFest, a clear example of a well-run, well-executed festival experience?

TC: That’s like comparing pomegranates to apples. Mostly because they're 2 very different events. One can only imagine the monumental task of presenting the amount of artists that were put on at Dear Jerry. Scheduling at Delfest (and most festivals) is a much simpler,,routine situation. I think it's fair to say the producers of Dear Jerry were a bit overambitious. 

We couldn’t agree more with you there, Mr. Carbone.  Overambitious is a good word to use.  Many thanks to you, Tim, for taking the time to share a little with us about a few various subjects.  You candor is very much appreciated good sir!  There were some really great answers in there.  Already looking forward to our next chat!

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LIVE INTERVIEW: PAUL HOFFMAN OF GREENSKY BLUEGRASS

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LIVE INTERVIEW: PAUL HOFFMAN OF GREENSKY BLUEGRASS

Live Interview: Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass

22 May 2015 - DelFest 8 - Cumberland, MD

for The Lot Scene by Parker

 

Parker and Will had the opportunity and privilege of sitting down with Mr. Paul Hoffman of Greensky Bluegrass during DelFest 8 this year for a quick interview.  Coming from a recent run of shows that included Merriweather’s Dear Jerry debacle, Richmond’s cathartic River Rock show, and then their mighty DelFest MainStage performance, Paul was able to provide very valuable insights regarding the band’s navigation of these intense and active musical waters.  It was a very enjoyable chat with this incredibly talented mandolin player and singer which we bring to you now:

 

TLS: How much power now, either in percentage or fractionally speaking, would you say that you derive from your beard?

PH: //laughter// Oh, I don’t know. Tons, tons.

TLS: I like tons.

PH: That’s a good amount, right?

TLS: It seems an appropriate amount.

PH: You know, it’s like the song from the play, Hair, “it’s not for lack of bread” or something like that. It’s more like just a grooming thing, I’m just not really into it as you can tell.

TLS: I understand. Yeah. Once you stop you don't really want to go back.

PH: One time when I cut it off for a Halloween costume, Anders got really mad at me. He said //whispering//, “you’re ruining our look, man!” I’m like, “it’s my beard…”

TLS: So, has the band claimed ownership of the beard?

PH: Yeah, yeah. I should insure it.

TLS: A collective beard.

PH: Yeah, exactly.

TLS: Fantastic. That’s really pretty funny.  Alright man. So, for you personally, you know since you guys formed the band, you’ve played for years, obviously getting incrementally bigger and bigger and bigger. So, from where I sit, that recent upswing has gotten all the larger, exponentially. What was a really significant, but unexpected lifestyle change for you that comes of an upswing like that?

PH: There hasn’t been anything that’s really drastic I’d say on that front. You know as you mentioned, it’s been one step at a time for us. You know we often really observe that and appreciate it. I think a lot of bands, or a lot of businesses, all things probably, that gain a lot of momentum too quickly maybe aren’t ready for it or maybe it’s like disingenuous like if there is some great pop success that has some media buzz behind it, you gain a lot of interest from people who aren’t able to sustain it. And you know, we’ve gotten fans 1 at a time, and then 5 at a time, and then 10 at a time, and etc, but people come on board and they stay on board. So, there’s that and I don’t know as far as lifestyle. We’re having a ton of fun, so, you know, success was obviously the goal, but to enjoy playing was really the purpose. It’s nice to do it for people who are really into it and appreciate it and totally embrace us.

TLS: I can imagine.

PH: So, maybe in some ways that’s changed. You know, there used to be this need to, like, impress and to get the people on board and now when we play there’s the fandom and the support and the appreciation is already there so we’re really free to do a lot of things. So, we’re just being really creative, I guess.

TLS: Love it. That’s awesome.  This next question I’m going to enjoy because Colorado is near and dear to my heart: I grew up there, I live there now, and I don’t think I’ll live anywhere else for long before coming back again. You’ve recently moved to Colorado, yes? 

PH: That’s correct.

TLS: Colorado is great, especially in our circles, in our communities for bits o’ weirdness, like odd-but-fun little corners. So, have you found anything yet in Colorado that’s kinda cool, something that makes you go, “man, I am glad I moved here for this reason”?

PH: //laughter// Dave, Anders, and I really like going to the 1-Up [in Denver] and playing Pac-Man.

TLS: Good answer. //laughter// That’s fantastic That’s a cool place.

PH: It’s fun. It’s just a cool vibe. It’s exciting being in that city — there’s a lot going on. Kalamazoo’s a city, but it’s a pretty small town. Even with a couple of colleges, it’s not really a metropolis, you know, per se. So, it’s just exciting for me to be in a city. Just everything about it: events, food, music, sports. There’s just so much going on, it’s so overwhelming. It’s awesome.

TLS: I agree with you. From the music standpoint, too, the phrase “too much music” comes up all the time.

PH: Yeah.

TLS: Just because there is so much — you couldn’t possibly go to everything. So, you’re looking at your calendar going, “damn, it’s not going to be Larry Keel tonight…”

PH: …because it will be something else tomorrow.

TLS: There have been some great collaborations lately at the 1-Up, too.

PH: Yeah, he does a really cool thing there, you know, there’s so much going on in town that to have another small venue that’s trying to do shows is a lot to compete with. AEG and LiveNation and then the Cervantes team is so successful, so to do something unique and different is really cool.

TLS: We have a special connection with Justin Picard over there and with MusicMarauders, too. They’ve been good friends to The Lot Scene as we’ve grown up.

PH: That tabletop PacMan, man. Competitive — four-way. So fun.

TLS: I don’t think I’ve tried it.

PH: Oh, it’s the best. It’s pretty funny: Anders and Bruzza and I write the setlists, so we have a setlist thread that’s the three of us, and occasionally things would come up that involved the three of us and not everyone else, but now that Anders and I both moved to Denver, that setlist thread took on a whole new life and we call it the “1-Up Thread” now. We’ll be like: “PacMan?” //laughter//

TLS: //laughter// So, I guess it’s probably pretty cool being in Denver now with everybody.

PH: It’s great. Bruzza moved out here years ago, so, it’s been awhile since Dave and I just hung out. And it’s really nice.

TLS: Well, Colorado welcomes you. Very much so.

PH: Lovin’ it.

TLS: Is Merriweather on the table for this interview? There are a lot of questions circling around in the fandom and I figured you would be the man to ask.

PH: Sure. We can talk about it.

TLS: One big question that shocked all of us when we realized it was happening was that neither you nor Railroad nor Bruce were out for “Ripple” and, as that dawned on us, it was kind of like a double slap in the face, from the experience that we really wanted to have. You know, a lot of us were there for the entire event, but those of us that were there were also there for you guys.

PH: Right.

TLS: So, what was up with that? If you don’t mind talking about it.

PH: You know, Bruce wasn’t there at all, because he was sick.

TLS: OK, that’s a good confirmation.

PH: I don’t know. It’s unfortunate that there was no plan and that the fans were really in the dark, so when things didn’t go as planned, there wasn’t really a need to excuse them in any way or to make an explanation. Um, as far as “Ripple”, just for myself personally, I just didn’t want to go out. We were, like, heartbroken, and it was just too emotional, so, I watched it from the crowd, you know?

TLS: That’s what we figured, I mean, to be honest. All the logic spoke to that, but it was one of those things where we didn’t really quite know.

PH: It’s unfortunate. And nobody was happy about it. I mean, clearly things could have been done differently and planned better, but, nobody was stoked. The other bands felt bad, you know. 

TLS: Yeah, especially because there was a lot of grousing about…there was the original bill that was already set and then people were added, you know, and that kind of expanded things a little too much, etc. So, speculation, but…

PH: Overzealous. 

TLS: And I’m no show organizer, I don’t organize shows…

PH: //laughter// You know, the easy elephant in the room to ignore is it was freakin’ Grateful Dead music. Like, of course it’s going to take longer than you planned. Right?

TLS: Yeah, if it’s going to be worth it’s salt, right?

PH: Yeah. People were like, “how are you even going to do ‘Eyes of the World’ in 10 minutes?” And I was like, “we were going to do it in 8:05, actually.” You know, it worked out for the best, because I think last night it was like 14:00 or something and it was nice. It was like, there was no pressure to do it any specific way, just play it. And it felt good.

TLS: It was awesome. It really was, thank you. Very special. Thanks for talking about Merriweather. It wasn’t something I wanted to delve too deeply into because we all know how rough it was. Would you be willing to talk about Dominion River Rock? And how cool a show that was?

PH: That was fun. That was a great show.

TLS: And how wild it was from where we stood. It was one of the most unique shows I’ve ever seen.

PH: Yeah, you know, Merriweather put us in a weird place. And that was really therapeutic. I wanted to do the “Black Muddy” opener and they [the band] were like “are you serious?” And I was, like, “let’s just do it, man. Everybody knows where we’re at right now, so let’s go for it.”

TLS: That’s fantastic.

PH: What a fun place, too. We haven’t really played in Richmond — we played at the Canal Club, like five years ago, and did probably really terribly. Maybe 30 people came or something. And that thing [Dominion River Rock] was huge. And now, apparently, we get to go back and play the real venue there, so now we’ve got a new city to play in.

TLS: Which venue?

PH: The National.

TLS: Good venue. 

PH: We recently just started playing Charlottesville, VA, too. The Jefferson there is awesome — it’s one of my favorite venues. And it sounds so good, too.

TLS: The floor has this great, kind of gradual slope so that you can always see really well. It’s a great, great place.

PH: I dig that venue a lot.

TLS: Virginia has quite a few really great venues. We’re lucky to have a VA connection to The Lot Scene.

PH: You know there aren’t a lot of smaller venues in Virginia. We like never played in VA when we were touring, like at all. And then I guess that both of these venues, the National and the Jefferson, they’re kind of big venues so…

TLS: Check out The State Theater in Falls Church, VA, if you haven’t played there before.

PH: I’m familiar with it, but I haven’t played it.

TLS: Another great venue. Pretty cool area, too.

PH: Yeah, the dudes on BMX bikes while we were playing? That was so cool.

TLS: That was wild, man.

PH: Quite a view. It was like: river, train, sunset, 8000 people, bikes flipping.

TLS: Did anyone tell you about the protesters while you were playing?

PH: You know, I noticed, I saw after the fact, I saw photos.

TLS: Pretty crazy, right?

PH: I noticed it happening, though, while we were on stage; people started looking up and waving and stuff. And then I asked the band on stage what was going on and no one else on stage was aware of it. Later, I was like, “remember when I told you guys that the Martians were coming and you all thought I was crazy? Check this picture out.”

TLS: //laughter// That [the protesters] was really cool. Because they just kind of appeared out of nowhere and then, boom.

PH: And then they held them up for awhile, right?

TLS: And then they changed it to a hashtag afterwards.

PH: Oh, they changed the words? Whoa.

TLS: Yeah, it was wild. And then they were gone.

PH: “Frack is wack!”

TLS: Right on, man. Well, I’ve got one final question, and this is just to settle a matter of ignorance out here in the fandom. Some people call you “p-hoff” and there are rumors that you don’t like “p-hoff”…

PH: //laughter//

TLS: …and that may be. I’ve had nicknames I didn;t like. So, is that true? And, if so, is there a nickname you dig more than that so we can get that out there?

PH: //laughter// Well, the “phoffman” (pronounced “FOFFMAN”) thing, what I refer to myself as? Right, so when some people say “p-hoffman” they don’t understand. The game is that the first initial and the last name create a new word. And, being a Phish fan for all my life, people were like “oh like Phish, huh? Phoffman?” But it was actually born…I was opening for a band and there wasn’t enough room for my name on the marquee, so they abbreviated my name to “PHOFFMAN” and it was smooshed together because there wasn’t enough room. And I thought it was funny that I had never thought of it. And I was like, “wow that’s really funny: PHOFFMAN.” And then I started trying to do it to other people’s names, too. You can’t do it with a lot of names. My mom’s name is Paula, so she’s a “Phoffman”. And then Paul Hoffman, the lighting designer for Panic. He didn’t like it at first when I called him “phoff” (“FOFF”) — he was, like, “I don’t like that.” And I was all, “whatever, ‘phoff’.”

TLS: How often are you guys confused online?

PH: //laughter// I’ve checked into his hotel room by accident before. It’s funny.

TLS: Really?

PH: Or, like, I was checking into Strings & Sol and all his address and phone number and all his stuff was on my sheet. Because he’s in their database, too. His brother’s name is Preston, Preston Hoffman, so he’s a “phoffman”, too.

TLS: There’s a lot of them out there. A small army.

PH: Yeah. It just seemed funny to me and now tradition has kind of gone with it. And whatnot.

TLS: Quick parting question for you: you have to choose one or the other — Strings & Sol or JamCruise? Which one are you going on?

PH: Well, both. I wouldn’t pick. I think Strings & Sol is better for our band, but they’re both so fun. Strings & Sol is so much more relaxing. They’re both intense, but, JamCruise is just really intense.

TLS: It’s a marathon of sprints.

PH: Yeah, a marathon of sprinting. 

TLS: It can be so tough, but it’s worth it.

PH: Yeah, I like being on JamCruise as the Artist at Large, too, because it’s less pressure and more fun.

TLS: That should be fun again — we’re looking forward to that. Belize this time.

PH: Yeah Belize!

TLS: Yeah, man.

Many thanks to Paul for his time and his friendship to The Lot Scene.  

We are grateful for both, good sirI


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