RICH KLEVGARD w/ THESE PEACHES

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?   I went in the studio with the point of releasing an EP. Kind of a bridge to carry over from the debut album, Almost Heard the Ocean to my second album. I was in the studio last week and tracked a brand new song. Then it seemed like maybe this should be its own album. So now, that is what I am pretty much working on. The band is on hiatus for the time being. We lost a few members to distraction and lack of focus.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  My parents were classical music people. So a lot of concerts that they attended, I did too. It was always on in the house. In my room there was a lot of Kiss, The Beatles, Boston, pretty much ‘70’s rock. When I went off to boarding school my range of music appreciation began to grow Dylan, Stones, Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and after heading to college I became exposed to the blues- Muddy, John Lee Hooker, Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Elizabeth Cotton, and also into jazz music as well — Art Blakey, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Willem Breuker Collektif. Classical performances were at the beginning but not without ironically Hank Williams, “Your Cheating Heart” around the time I was 3 or 4 years olds.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  I think seeing a Bob Dylan show seemed to really show how tight a band can be but at the same time so very loose, authentic and unscripted as well. Giving the sense of spontaneity always impressed me, that and the connection of the artist to the audience.

What was your first public performance?  A group of friends playing together on and off as Surf Jazz Kill and The Uninvited Guests showed up at a party and using the house bands instruments tore it up. Talk about loose, unscripted and spontaneous!

How do songs come about for you?  Certain cadences of words arrive. Sometimes with a melody, sometimes not. I write everyday but don’t always play guitar everyday. Basic song structure comes through exploration and discovery-one my talent on guitar isn’t that great, but I have taught myself to create moments where the melody embraces the lyrical direction pretty easily.

You’ve been around the Chicago music scene for nearly 30 years now, in different roles, what’s the (your) state of the union?  This is an extremely difficult business. That in of itself is an incredible detractor from the act of making music. The task of making yourself the center of attention is a guilty pleasure it seems. I don’t like being in the spotlight, but once I am there it feels unreal. I’m lucky to have my own songs to play and to not be spending time and energy covering everyone else’s stuff. In Chicago there is an incredible community of caring and generous artists without a doubt. In the land of performance there is a whole lot of hurt going on. It’s where most bands usually seem to fall apart trying to get from one gig to the next. The recording process is time-consuming and expensive. Manufacturing even with the return of vinyl is on the way out. Digital streaming and social media savvy is where it seems to be. Performing is the only way to make money but it is also an extremely arduous path to navigate. People like to hear bands and unless you are established with a fan base over 1000 people locally, you are not going to be actively sought after to headline someone’s club.

Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?

Miles Davis- spirit, creative genius, longevity

Bob Dylan- words, music, reinvention

Vivaldi- summer, fall, winter, spring

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?   Play anywhere and everywhere you can, surround yourself with people who are kind, generous and honest.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  In Chicago, The Flat Five, Cardinal Harbor is cool, Big Sadie is as solid as they come!

You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind?  I always thought it might be some sort of graphic design tome of visual delight that would be remarked on and celebrated for all time. Now, maybe one or two songs and a story about how we aren’t who we think we are — maybe something much more…

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HAMID SAMI w/ TELECRAZE

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?   I am working on Telecraze LP. i want to release it in late 2017 or early 2018 and, it is going to be the first time i release an LP officially. I am working on film music and instrumentals as well, mostly focused on my works with my friend Jon Meyer, a film director in Portland I have been friend with since 2009.he did this doc called “thanks for checking in” featuring one of my instrumentals, which is now mostly set for awards and festivals before being released.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  No, I grew up listening to music secretly, carrying my cassettes whenever I went out and listening to them before sleep. I received copies from friends. my cousin introduced me to a lot of music, Pink Floyd mostly notable, the Iranian 70’s era had some good music, and some of the more contemporary musicians did some good songs, but I think the darkness of the world kept me more towards western music. I grew up in nature, and then in 8 I had to relocate to town, right in the capital, and it was so rugged, so rough, I started to realize why did some of the songs I listened to when I was 4 were so dark, later I found out those songs were Kraftwerk.

What was your first public performance?  It was in 2008, in Tehran Art university, we had a band called Font and the students had this ceremony to introduce contemporary music to the students of the university.it was ok.

How do songs come about for you and Telecraze?   Uh, sometimes I am playing an instrument, and then it resonates with a part of me, I just happen to let words come out and little by little they paint a picture of what this is pulling the strings on  ….in Telecraze, I worked with the members on my finished songs or just an intro I didn’t know what we were doing, it was mostly to let it work for everyone, we did one song we all worked on from beginning to the end, drummer was a bit hardcore so which ever direction we would take things would come out a bit aggressive.one time our bass player had a very bad experience in streets, he saw a man on a wheelchair came right in the middle of street and put himself on fire, and wouldn’t let anyone get close to him, Mehdy was traumatized, wanted to make a song about it, so I went working with our drummer and did it little by little. I made the vocals to the last part of the song in rehearsals. We called it Burning Alien, recorded it alongside 4 other songs to include in our EP, Knockout Mice. but the recording went bad , so when the finished work was in our hand it didn’t sound like what we wanted so it never came out. From all those songs I released only 4 of them on our SoundCloud.

How would you describe the new music / live scene for bands in Iran and how do you feel it’s different from what you know about the states?   The scene here is a pop, funk, rock and singer song writer on major scene, and noise, ambient, electronic on a very smaller scale. There is hip hop underground going on.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal fail-safe go-to’s?   I don’t cover much. I did a Grizzly Bear cover with Telecraze for our live show, the song “Yet again”.i did  Radiohead’s Creep and NIN’s Hurt for myself. And just recently played Kesson Delef of Aphex Twin on the piano, I don’t feel like doing covers on live shows, I go on places when doing covers which I won’t go naturally.some times it’s easier for me to do a cover than my own songs, I do them better  I can’t go fail-safe. there is no life in it when it is not to help you reach your deep subconscious areas, and subconscious is very chaotic.it could change everything upon reaching, the feelings may not lay a place for all elements one deals with in their world.

Who are your favorite songwriters / bands?   Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Sigur os, Boards of Canada, Nine inch Nails, The Doors, Autechre, Aphex Twin, Nick Drake, Loscil, Damien Rice, Kendrick Lamar, Farhad Mehrad, Brian Eno & Harold Budd, Zbignew Preisner,

Your instrumental music was in a documentary which is now being set for awards and festivals, what’s it about?   It’s about a man Ian Stout.who started filming himself and uploading these clips every day ,as a remedy to help himself reach tranquility and peace,face his insecurities every day and talk his heat out as much,Jon Meyer the director been following him and decided to do a documentary on him using the videos on the anniversary of the beginning of these uploads..

You’re time machine is set for the 70’s, what concert do you go to?  The Doors, that is the kind of world I have never experienced.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases over there that we should know about?   There are a couple of ambient and electronic musicians i enjoyed  listening, Siavash Amini, Umchunga, Tegh, Idlefon, singer/songwriter Soheil Nafisi, Iranian traditional music Kamanche Master, Keyhan Kalhor.

 

DAVID SAFRAN

What are you working on and why are you excited about it?  I finished a novella called “Fenichel” last October. I hope to get this published soon. Beyond that, I’m co-writing a musical, “The Hotwife of Hyde Park,” gruelingly in development since 2014.

Did you grow up with music in your family?  A bit, yes. My mother listened to sixties folk music. The genres my father admired are better left unsaid.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  In 2001, John Cale played a pub in Evanston. I had a ticket but, because I was underage, the pub (Tommy Nevin’s) wouldn’t let me into the showAnyway, I unhappily roamed downtown Evanston when, suddenly, I spotted Cale and his people leaving Pete Miller’s Steakhouse. I approached him, explained the Nevin’s issue, and mentioned I saw him live a few years earlier at the Knitting Factory—and no one at that venue cared I was a teenager. “Well, aren’t you a little recidivist,” he said, snobbishly dismissing me. His entourage chuckled. I felt incredibly stupid, but still asked Cale to sign a copy of “Fragments of a Rainy Season” I had with meUsing a needlepoint pen, instead of a signature, he drew various squiggles across the disc. After rigorously scratching my CD—making his music unplayable—the old Welsh rocker in the neon orange hoodie and baseball hat departed down Sherman Avenue.

What was your first public performance?  I can’t recall my first public performance. But I remember my last one: I performed with a friend who, in addition to songwriting, is a Chicago television journalist. Before soundcheck, he mentioned Rahm Emanuel would be at our show. This rumor swirled around the venue for an hour or two. In the end, of course, Rahm didn’t appear. I played to a small crowd utterly indifferent to my music, and a room smelling of calamari. A pretty typical David Safran gig.

How do songs come about for you?  At the moment, my songwriting process means fighting the urge to write songs.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal fail-safe go-to’s?  I’ve never really played covers before. It’s a beautiful skill I seem to lack. But a few years ago, for Valentine’s Day, I recorded Lou Reed’s “HookyWooky” and sent it to my girlfriend, Emma.

What songwriters are on your Mt. Rushmore?  After my John Cale encounter, I stopped carving human beings into a rock.

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?  My advice? Be sure that alongside your career path there is a revenue stream. The best advice, though, comes via my maternal grandmother, Hilda. Many years ago, my cousin was in the middle of his bar mitzvah, and flubbing it. He couldn’t remember the Hebrew bits. Aware her grandson was panicked, Hilda called out from her seat, “Just keep going—it’s not like we have any idea what you’re saying.” Really, that’s my only advice. Just keep going—it’s not like we have any idea what you’re saying.

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  Actually, I was about to ask you the same question. I’ve been listening to the same five songs for the last twenty years.

Your time machine is set for the 70’s, what recording session do you sit in on and what suggestions might you offer to slightly alter rock & roll history?  Recording is a horribly boring activity. A studio is the last place I’d send my time machine. That said, I own a Smithsonian Folkways record called, “Calypso Awakening from the Emory Cook Collection.” I wish I could travel back to, I think, the 1950s and watch Small Island Pride record a song called “Taxi Driver.” – David Safran

JOHNNY IGUANA w/ THE CLAUDETTES

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  Right now, I’m writing, writing, writing. The Claudettes already finished our third full-length album (our first two albums and EP are here), which will come out later this year. It was produced by Black Keys/Old 97’s producer Mark Neill. It’s something special, I can’t wait for people to hear it. But I’m so inspired by how the four-piece (two-singer) lineup of the Claudettes has come together over the past 12 months that I’m now really dialing in how to write for THIS assemblage. That’s the ticket to the best music right there: not just having songs and parts you write just to be writing, or because you have ideas that excite you, but also knowing the musical strengths and sweet spots of the musicians and singers who are actually in the band with you RIGHT NOW. I like to quote Duke Ellington, who said he scored all those hits because he always asked himself, “What do THESE guys do well?”

Did you grow up with music in your family?  My mother listened to a lot of classical music, but loved rock music, too. My uncle played and worked in music, and still does. I never stopped playing after I started classical lessons at age 8 (continuing to age 13, at which point I had bands for the rest of my life).

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  The aforementioned uncle was a road manager and significant creative influence for the Cars. I went to see them in Philly, where they opened for Foreigner. Seeing Ben Orr backstage with a feather boa, sunglasses and a woman on each arm…even at age eight, I said to myself, “That looks cool. I want that.” As of now, my personal record is one woman. But I’m working on better and better songs all the time.

What was your first public performance?  I remember playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” at a piano recital, and I messed it up badly. The demon in my head kept asking, “Hey, buddy boy? What’s the next chord? I bet you’ll forget it and blow the whole thing.” To this day, live performance for me is still a contest with that demon. As long as I don’t provoke him into asking me those questions, all goes beautifully…but it does happen sometimes, at which point I just smash all the keys and proceed with anger at myself as my primary motivation.

How do songs come about for you?  Very often, I have words in a notebook that develop from a single lyric to a full song. Sometimes, I then write music to accompany those words. Other times, I spontaneously come up with new music (often by just happening on one unusual or even accidental chord change), then go upstairs to flip through my notebook and see if I’ve got something that seems like a match.

Do you have any day-of-show (or pre-show) rituals that help you get in the right mindset to perform live?  Truth be told, I like a couple drinks. My drink is two drinks: a bourbon and a beer. It puts me just right. There is DEFINITELY such a thing as too much, and it turns me into a sloppy player. There’s good sloppy, as in the best blues, but then there’s just messy. I do like to remind my band mates to not worry about perfection…it’s much, much, much better to put your whole heart, soul, joy and sadness into this performance than it is to get all the parts and changes right. That kind of perfection without a wellspring of emotion is boring to the audience and it’s especially boring to me.

Who is on your musical Mount Rushmore?  My teenage musical heroes were Junior Wells (the blues band I was in at age 16 in Philly took 2/3 of our repertoire from Junior Wells’ “Hoodoo Man Blues”and “South Side Blues Jam” albums and his other recordings), Mike Watt (of Minutemen and fIREHOSE) and Joe Strummer (The Clash, of course). I managed to join the Junior Wells band soon after I finished college (I met him in NYC, then moved to Chicago when he asked me to join the band) and I got to tour with him for three years, and record with him, too. My band oh my god ended up opening for Mike Watt at the Double Door and his band mates told me that we were the best band they’d played with on that tour (which was probably around 70 dates). Mike and the band slept at my house once (on another occasion, when I just went to see them at Double Door). Mike stayed up late with me, talking about music, Minutemen and D. Boon. I gave him bad parking advice (I found out that night that the Ford Econoline is a bit taller than the Dodge RAM; as a result, they had to park on the street), and their van was ticketed and was just about to be towed when Mike walked over to the van to check on it. Great job impressing your heroes, dufus. And oh my god was on the short list to open up for Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros when I was driving home from the dentist and heard a Clash song. Then, I changed stations…and heard another! “Yes!” When the third station I flipped to was playing the Clash, my heart sunk…after the song, they announced that he had just died at age 50. I was so, so sad that he was gone, and that I didn’t get to complete my triumvirate of wished-for hero experiences.

What advice do you give to young musicians seeking their path?  I’m not qualified to offer advice, ’cause I’m not satisfied yet myself. Just practice a lot, record the practices and know that those practice recordings don’t lie. If the Jimi Hendrix Experience made a basement tape, guess what? They wouldn’t be saying, “Oh, you can’t really hear the bass, that’s why this doesn’t sound that good.” Nah, the best artists sound spectacular, no matter what the mix. To sing or play the best, you need to do it a lot. Ray Charles practiced scales when he was 65 years old…daily, so he said.

You are to perform at the Grammy’s but they want you to do a cover, what tune do you choose and why?  I don’t know. I feel like I’d promise a cover and then switch over to my most demented instrumental…you know, Elvis Costello SNL-style. I think this cover-song culture we’re in is weak and lame. People singing “Superstition” on “Vermont’s Got Talent.” “Oh, he’s WON-DA-FUL!” The world needs a new crop of songs and singers…get to work…

You and a friend are given to access to a time machine called ‘The Day Tripper’ in which you can attend any concert in history — what are your coordinates and who do you bring with for the ride?  I’d probably set the machine for ‘Pedro in the early ’80s and see the Reactionaires evolve into Minutemen, and talk to D. Boon a lot after the sets. I wouldn’t need to bring anyone with me, I’d just go talk to the band about tones and chord changes and influences and great records.

STEVE KARRAS

What are you working on right now and why are you excited about it?  Currently am involved with The Mourners, putting a 2017 spin on Chuck Berry and other beloved Blues and Soul artists and getting people to stop gazing at their navels. Also collaborating with Detroit-based muso and personal heroes Robert Crenshaw (Marshall Crenshaw band) and enlisting the great Don Dixon to produce and play on it. The two played on my 2015 demo Brady Lane.”

Did you grow up with music in your family? There was always good music playing throughout my childhood. Between the 50’s-era fare and a steady flow of great country music – everything from Eddy Arnold to the New Riders of the Purple Sage – my dad liked a lot. Then there my brother’s own evolving musical tastes that included Weather Report, Stanley Clarke, Bob Marley, The Grateful Dead, which really made an impact. My love of new wave and SKA came from my best friend’s older brother Rick Goldman.

Was there a live concert experience that impacted you early on?  Going to Blues Fest in Chicago exposed me to Dr John, Robert Cray, Willie Dixon, Lurie Bell, Lonnie Brooks was terribly important. There’s a toss-up between Los Lobos/Dave Alvin and the 1986 UIC Pavilion show featuring REM and Camper Van Beethoven as my life’s seminal show going experiences. After hearing REM’s first four releases, including the EP “Chronic Town,” I felt part of a movement of indie-minded youth. If you met an REM fan, circa 84, there was an instant mutual admiration society in the making. I was also blown-away by Elvis Costello’s Spike Tour I got to see at Poplar Creek, outside Chicago.

What was your first public performance?  Aside from playing open mics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, my first professional show (where I got paid) occurred in Chicago at a club called At the Tracks. It went ok but I was far from where I wanted to be. My first bon-a-fide show in a band was with my group Sourball, opening for Living Colour’s front-man Corey Glover.

How do songs come about for you?  For me they come SLOW but they always start with some kind of hook and melody in my head. Thanks to iPhones I quickly record the idea with the voice memo app. The lyrics either come quickly or I go to a note-pad and mine words from the stream of consciousness drivel I regularly jot down.

How do you feel about playing covers and what are your personal go-to’s?  I love covers but ones most would call “deep-cuts” (I hate that phrase almost as much as the word “iconic”). There are amazing tunes out there to snag.

Who are your favorite 3 artists of all-time?  This is tough but I never stray too far from Elvis Costello for his clever word-play and infectious melodies. The same goes for Richard Thompson who is not only my favorite guitarist but tunesmith. Sam Cooke (with or without the Soul Stirrers) hits an emotional place, deep down in my soul. Shit, only 3 artists? There’s a lot more. The Band is probably number 4.

What advice would you give to a young musician seeking a path?  In the words of famed Texas football coach Darrell Royal, “Dance with the one that brung you.”

Are you jazzed about any new artists or releases we should know about?  I really like the Irish artist Hozier. The song “Someone New” has all the great qualities you’d find in Paul Weller and Graham Parker. There’s something about Europeans and the way they can infuse R&B with pop.

You are to put something personal in a time capsule headed for the outer reaches of space — what is your offering for mankind?   Probably Duke Ellington’s Jazz take on the Nutcracker Suite just to show the universe what mankind was capable of creatively and how a descendent of slaves could transcend race with genius.

JEREMY STEWART

img_166188012454254-1When did you first discover you could sing?  I began singing at a very early age. I was in several talent shows in grade school, as well as being part of the school choir in junior high.  It was after discovering my parents record collection in the basement, and finding such bands as Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Electric Light Orchestra, etc. I began learning all the classic rock stuff and singing along was part of the deal.
What was your favorite band or album growing up?   Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado 1974.  My mother purchased the album at a garage sale and played it frequently while I was growing up. It is still my favorite, and can sing every song by memory.
Who are your favorite 3 singers of all-time?   David Byron, Uriah Heep.
Ian Gillian, Deep Purple.  Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin.  Although this list could go on indefinitely.
How long have you been holding down the Karaoke fort at Sidekicks and how did the relationship begin?  Going on 4 and a half years. I had just moved to Chicago and a friend took me there to sing and it turned out that I was in need of a job, so however more perfect could it be.I had the job that following week.
You’re also a musician with a rich rock & roll history — can you take us down the long & winding road?  Been playing various instruments since I was 14, started to get serious at 16 with my first electric guitar. Formed my first band shortly after, Fantasy Kitchen, and went on to play with various formations of the band until 1992. FK sadly came to an end after endless member changes and lack of interest in the project. I went into a time of nothingness for a while afterwards until my younger brother,  who at the time played in a band of his own called Thinner, who had just lost a bass player, asked if I could join the fold.
Stage 2 had begun. I bought a used bass guitar, hung up the 6 string, and joined up as a bass player to a new unit which was re-named from Thinner to Full Cast Crown.  I played with this outfit in various forms and names until 2007. Recorded in several different places, but ultimately ended up releasing a first album with a stable lineup known as Wish. Cd’s are still for sale on CDbaby reviewed as “a very progressive and heavy album”… I still have hundreds of copies for sale personally. It really is a great album. Get one! Wish sadly dissolved with the departure of a key member in 2006.  After Wish I floated around from band to band, released 3 more albums, privately pressed of course, but 3 nonetheless.
1146482_678656012177806_1538213147_n-1On top of all this I decided to go to college at the same time. Eventually college took over and I graduated etc.. Shortly after I joined a Waterloo Iowa based band called Burning Eve. We eventually hired a female vocalist from Chicago, Ania Tarnowska, I Ya Toyah and hit it off on a 4 year escapade of ups and downs until finally moving to Chicago, playing many prestigious shows including The House of Blues, The Abbey, etc.. Unfortunately like many others. Burning Eve came to an end in 2011, just around the time I started working at Sidekicks…About 6 months later I was approached by another band, which after listening to their music and getting a feel for their sound, Phaedra was born. I had become fairly progressive at this point playing in bands, utilizing more of a vast array of prog rock instruments including: Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, Mellotron, Bass Guitar and Bass Effects, as well as being no slouch on backup vocals and harmonies.  Phaedra ended up being one of the most unique sounds coming out of the Chicago music scene in a long time.  Unfortunately due to inner member turmoil, the band ended abruptly after the release if the first EP.
After Phaedra’s demise, I decided to take a break from bands due to my recent rapid development of psoriasis arthritis. It makes it hard to play for long periods of time anymore. No more bands for me, unless the unthinkable happens and Mick Box from Uriah Heep asks me to play bass or be lead vocalist for them someday… haha.. These days I just do the Karaoke gig, and run an open jam on Wednesday nights. It’s the only day I play anymore after my illness. But, I try not to let it get in my way too much. I still play my heart out and do my best to entertain people.  I’ve been focusing on my vocal skills. Granted, I have been singing for most of my life, but fine tuning and honing the art is challenging and rewarding. I have a feeling that my voice could grant me access to more options in the future,  such as voice overs, studio vocals, cartoon characters etc.. Even though I am now disabled physically, I still have the voice. Karaoke is a good thing for me.
What’s so great about progressive rock that many of us just don’t get?  Good question. There are so many facets and sub genres of prog rock that it makes this question difficult. My personal favorite seems to be symphonic  prog rock due to its primary use of the legendary Mellotron.  To answer your question, typically my response is that most folks these days have very short attention spans and just can’t handle 20 minutes of epic complexity in one sitting, let alone a whole album. I learned that from experience.
What is the % of ringers verses amateurs on the weekend and can you tell the difference even before they hit the stage?  It’s roughly 50/50. And no, you really can’t tell until they get up there. That is why I love the job. The total randomness of it all. It keeps things interesting.
Are there any songs that keep getting picked that you wish were perhaps never written? 
Oh of course, hmm, this shouldn’t be too difficult..
Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
Love Shack, B52’s.
Paradise by the Dashboard Lights, Meatloaf.
Picture, Sheryl Crow & Kid Rock,
Among many others, too many to mention.
What are your go to tunes when it’s time for you to show folks how its done? I tend to gravitate towards difficult songs with lots of high notes. Kansas, Styx, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, etc..  It’s a pretty rowdy scene in there sometimes and great fun —
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened on stage there?  That would give away too much censored information haha.. i call it the best unknown secret in Chicago (but) as far as rowdiness, it has gotten much calmer in there.  I am also now running an open jam on every Wednesday night where musicians come in and play. I have a full back-line of instruments, guitar, bass, keyboards and drums are all supplied. All musicians and vocalists of any caliber are most welcome.
Only you can answer this question – what are the Top 10 Karaoke cuts for the Chicagoan? 
All That Jazz, Catherine Zeta Jones.
Come Together,  Beatles.
Killing Me Softly, Fugees.
Wannabe, Spice Girls.
Uptown Funk, Bruno Mars.
Shake it off, Taylor Swift
I will survive, Gloria Gaynor.
F#*k You, Cee Lo Green.
Creep, Radiohead.
Don’t Stop Believin’, Journey.

CAM MAMMINA w/ SLIM GYPSY BAGGAGE

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What got you hooked on rock & roll?  I would have to say my dad and mom were really influential on me musically starting from a really young age. My parents had an awesome record collection and there was always music in the house. Besides the stand-bys of  Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, The Eagles, Jimi Hendrix, etc. I really loved listening to The Stray Cats. Brian Setzer is definitely one of the reasons I was drawn to play guitar (even though I play nothing like him!) At a young age, my parents would also take me to see shows. My dad took me to New Orleans Jazz Fest when I was 10 and I got to see Counting Crows who were one of my favorite bands at the time. My aunt Jenna (Mammina) also was hugely influential. She’s a very accomplished jazz singer and always was playing with great guitarists beyond the music my parents were listening to and the shows we went to, my dad also played guitar and got me started with that from a young age, I think he got me my first guitar when I was 7 or 8. From there, I was exposed to a lot of different styles of music and bands by my guitar teacher who I started taking lessons from around age 10.

Do you recall what bands you were you listening to at 16 when you first got your driver’s license?   My favorite band at 16 was definitely Brand New and they’re still my favorite band to this day. About that time was when my favorite album of theirs came out and I literally listened to it non-stop. It was on when I was driving, sleeping, eating, doing homework… I also listened to a ton of Modest Mouse, Manchester Orchestra, and Minus the Bear which I still listen to often. At that age I was going to a bunch of metal shows and listened to quite a bit of that; my favorite metal bands at the time were probably Mastodon and Between The Buried And Me, they still get a bit of rotation too.

How did Slim Gypsy Baggage come together?  I first met Morgan (our singer) when I was around 16. Her Fiancé (now husband) Dirk and I became really close friends and hung out all the time at his tattoo shop so I met her through him. She was playing out a bit at that point and sometimes would play with our bass player Matt. I ended up meeting Matt when I was 18. Dirk was officiating his wedding and Morgan was one of his wife’s bridesmaids. They wanted someone to play some light music before the wedding and Dirk and Morgan recommended me to them. After the reception the three of us (Matt, Morgan, and myself) sat around and played Grateful Dead tunes. A couple of years later I saw Morgan and Matt playing at a bar in town and we started playing together shortly after that.  After going through a couple of drummers, I met Scott (our drummer) through surfing on Lake Michigan. He quickly became one of our best friends and started playing with us.

How do you guys approach songwriting?   We take a pretty collaborative approach to writing. Normally it starts with a riff or chord progression I’m messing around with and then between Scott, Matt and I we flesh out an entire song. Then Morgan normally starts working on a vocal melody. Sometimes Morgan will come to us with a skeleton of a song with all the lyrics done and we’ll work out the music from there. Recently, we’ve been writing out all the vocal parts together as well as the music with some great results. We’ve been really excited about the songs we’ve been coming out with.

What is your go-to onstage guitar and what amps are you playing live?  My primary stage guitars are a Collings 360 LT-M, a 1961 Fender Jazzmaster that’s been re-finished in a kind of ugly Daphne Blue, and a National Resolectric. The Jazzmaster was my main guitar for the last few years and then I played the Collings and had to buy it. Recently, the Jazzmaster has taken a bit of a back seat to the Collings but it still gets taken out from time to time. The Resonator is used on a handful of songs, normally the ones with a bit more of a country or deep bluesy vibe. For a couple of years it was the only guitar I’d play live but the lack of a tremolo makes it a bit less appealing.  I’m pretty effect-driven in some of the songs we play and I love playing with pedals (possibly more than playing guitar). My pedal set-up has been:

Guitar > ABC Switcher (for ease of changing guitars)>Moog Ring Modulator>Matchless Hot box Preamp/Vibrato> Clean boost> Overdrive> a tube overdrive that my friend made>Wah>Fuzz> Stereo harmonizer> Stereo Delay> another Stereo Delay> reverb> amps. My amps have changed around a bit for the last few years but I pretty much always have an Orange Rockerverb 50 on one side with a rotating cast of amps on the other. Recently, it’s been either a Matchless DC30 or a Vox AC15 HW but I’ve used a couple different Fenders there as well. As long as my amp has two channels and preferably a reverb, I’m pretty happy.

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Does SGB spend any time crafting a live show as such or do you guys prefer to change it up night to night?   We try to pick our sets based on the type of crowd we’re going to play for as well as the length of our show. We play a wide range of venues and try to stay busy playing as much as possible so sometimes we’re not going to play for crowds that know our music well. In those instances, we try to do a slightly mellower set and maybe throw in some covers to keep everyone happy and interested. In a perfect world, we’d be playing for hundreds of screaming fans every night and be able to play whatever but we try to be conscientious of who’s in our crowd and make sure they’re having a good time and liking what they’re hearing. We’ve been known to do totally stripped down acoustic shows to fit the venue or be super loud and raw… Just whatever makes sense that day.

Do you, or the band, have a routine pre-show to help get in the right head space for the gig?  I can’t say we have any specific pre-show ritual but we normally all get a drink and walk through the crowd if we’re not playing first. It’s cool to see how an audience is at a show and you never know who you’ll meet or run in to.

What was it like to jam on stage with blues legend Buddy Guy?  Playing with Buddy was a crazy experience. We had Just played the BBQ, Blues, And Bluegrass festival in our hometown and Buddy Guy was set to headline the event. After we got done playing, we were all hanging out backstage having a couple drinks and watching the band that was after us. I ended up getting invited in to Buddy’s trailer and met him and then he offered me to possibly play. I kind of freaked out at that point. It’s not something I had really ever thought of to do and I was really intimidated by the whole thing but I was down to do it. So I watch him play for an hour or so and he calls me up and I am literally shaking. There’s about 10,000 people in the crowd with another 10-15,000 sitting on top of the bluff in St. Joseph, MI watching. I just kind of zoned out the whole time and tried to not mess up. Afterwards, I listened to a recording of it and I played pretty well through the whole thing although I don’t really remember it, it was just that huge of an adrenalin rush. It’s a pretty cool experience and the fact that I got to have that happen in front of my friends, family, and band was so amazing.

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If you we’re to do a 5-song-EP that was in essence a ‘best of’ of your first two discs, DiveBomb and UnderCurrents, what cuts would be on it and what’s the track order?  Interestingly enough, we actually have two more discs we recorded during each of those sessions that we haven’t released; there’s a bunch of songs on those that I really like. Also, we haven’t gotten into the studio this year so there’s quite a couple new songs that I would put in our “best of” over some of these. but If I had to do it based on what we have out and as a concise 5 song that follows a certain feel, I think it would go: “Underwater”, “Wheels”, “Rewind”, “Break Through It” & “Witch Pill”

It’s crazy how much those songs have changed over time, a lot of the songs on both of those CD’s rarely get played live anymore and the ones that are have so many things changed. Hopefully we’ll be getting back in the studio soon to record some of our newer stuff and we’ll probably be releasing one of the other records that we’ve been holding back sometime soon.

What advice would you give to a kid just picking up the guitar?  Keep practicing and try not to get frustrated! It can be difficult at times starting out but just keep at it. Practice your scales religiously to get your dexterity up and try to get some basic understanding of music theory. It will definitely help you out in the long run and make you a better player. Most importantly though, have fun!    —- visit SlimGypsyBaggage.com