MARC DOTY w/ AUTOMATIC-GAINSAY

How did you get hooked on Rock & Roll?   It’s interesting to be asked that, as people seem to have pretty much forgotten about Rock & Roll, but I still describe myself as a “rock keyboardist,” in regard to music.  As a synthesizer enthusiast, these days, the assumption is that I’m all about various electronic genres… and while I do enjoy a few, that’s not what I do.  I think initially, I liked pop.  But my brother was inclined towards heavier music, and played a lot more Rock-oriented music.  I think I connected with it intuitively, but it was that exposure that made it happen.

Do you have a favorite go-to album of all-time and how have your feelings about it changed at all over the years?  My favorite albums are too numerous to name, but I do have two albums that I would say are my favorite albums of all time… truly my “go-to” albums.

Out of the Blue– Electric Light Orchestra.  When I first heard this album in 1978, it was everything I wanted music to be.  It had a great Beatlesque vibe, but also explored a lot of different genres, production styles, instrumentation, and technology.  It was where I first saw the name “Moog.”  My perception of it has changed primarily in that as I have gotten older, had more education, more experience, etc., I’ve been better able to hear the instrumentation, recognize the production techniques, and understand everything “underneath the hood.”   My love of it has not wavered at all.

The Beatles– The Beatles.  I probably don’t need to say anything about this, but I will say that the weird combination of exquisite production and raw messy production along with the combination of amazing songcraft and unique musical exploration basically made me who I am today.  I think I love it more every time I hear it.

What was your first public live performance and how did it go?   If I exclude piano recitals, my first musical performance was in high school… in a band where we dressed up in punk clothes and performed Country music.  I was just plunking out chords on a piano, but it was incredibly exciting, and it pretty much set everything in motion.  My first “public” performance was probably this one time in a bar that I was too young to be in (but there were provisions for under-age musicians).  I felt confused and out-of-place, but very excited to be playing in public. And in a bar.

What you gives you the biggest high as a musician?  I have been obsessed with creating music since I was nine years old (the age I started writing music at).  I have been intent on learning to express myself and create compelling music.  So, I guess I’d say that… but I also enjoy performance, and have often chosen performance over writing.

How does the song writing process happen for you ? (Is there a Marc Doty riff graveyard?)  Initially, it was me sort of imitating the music of my idols.  Then, I went to college and got a degree in composition.  During that process, writing music became essentially an opening of the floodgate in my brain, and a desire to make every idea into something interesting.

It depends largely on what the intent is… what I’m writing for.  But in general, most of my music starts with either messing around on a piano, or having an intense emotion that I vent by spontaneously creating lyrics and melodies.

I do a lot of synthesizer demonstrations on YouTube, and when I’m writing the themes for these demonstrations, I often let the unique strengths of the synthesizer I’m writing with inspire me to create theme music.

And yes, if I never wrote anything new ever again for the rest of my life, I have enough ideas lying around to probably carry through the rest of my life!

What’s your philosophy on drums and getting the right drum take?  The most inspirational song for me in regard to drums was “Louie Louie,” if you can believe that.  Louie Louie had a drum sound that really reached me on an emotional level, and I realized early-on that it was because it is natural and expressive, and because the vibration of the drums in the room lead to the timbral aspect of the drums.  That is to say that drums sound best and most expressive as a person who is experiencing them there, and experiencing them there is an aural experience of how the vibration of the drums interact with the room they are in.

Recognizing this led me to recreate the drum production of some in the past… and I found that a great way to record drums was with a single mic sensing the vibration of the room.  I LOVE the sound of single-mic recorded drums.  And most of my songs feature acoustic drums captured with a single mic in a room.

I’ll admit that I do often boost the bass drum, or record it separately with a different mic arrangement simply because placement of a mic in order to capture snare, toms, and cymbals often results in a baseless bass drum… but still.

I loved drum machines when I was young, but I got tired of them.  Even when I do electronic stuff, I tend to sample live drums and create loops.

Will rock & roll continue to boast bands whose careers span decades or have folks attention spans shrunk too much for a new band to sustain such success?  It’s hard to imagine Rock surviving what is happening in music right now.  It has become a business first and foremost, and the music has been reduced to its most selling aspects.  It’s no longer about expressing what you personally feel and having another person identify with it, it’s about pandering directly to musical aspects and lyrics that invoke immediate feeling in the listener.  It’s not so much communication as it is manipulation at this point.  I wonder what the future will hold.

Your speaking at KnobCon here in Chicago this week, what sort of stuff do you plan to get in to?  Well, I have somehow generated a world-wide following in regard to my synthesizer demonstrations and education, and I look forward to any opportunity to teach people about how vast, deep, and long the history of synthesizers is.  At Knobcon, I’ll be doing a presentation on a synthesizer inventor that most people haven’t heard of… which is sad, because he created many of the aspects of synthesis we attribute to others!  It’s an awareness campaign.  It will also be fantastic to interact with synthesizer pioneer Tom Oberheim, and my friend Michael Boddicker, who, in addition to being an amazing keyboard player and synthesist, was responsible for SO many of the session keyboard parts for musicians like Michael Jackson.

Synths almost killed rock in the 70’s with prog, tried again with new wave in 80’s and today seems to have found a new host in EDM: Is this just another occupational hazard or will it have longer legs the ‘keyboardist’ as it were?  Ha ha, yeah… it’s hard to beat keyboards back, sometimes.  But the fact is, there is a balance that can be had with the synthesizer and Rock… it’s just that it’s easy to go too far.

What advice would you give to a talented young artist wondering how the fuck to get from A to B and make a real go of it?   Well, I spent 12 years desperately trying to get a record contract back in the 80s and 90s.  I worked my ass off trying to do what was expected.  I tried to write songs that would appeal to audiences and A&R people.  I tried to get that stuff heard.  I had a manager in L.A., and interest from labels like Geffen and Interscope… but it all failed.  And I think largely, that was because I was shooting for an idea as opposed to doing what I loved.

Conversely, I started demonstrating synths on YouTube, and suddenly, my work was spread all over the world, synthesizer companies started asking me to demonstrate their products, I got hired at a historical synthesizer foundation, met all of my idols, and have tens of thousands of people hearing my music every month.

I really think the key isn’t to try to be something you want to be, but to try to show people what you are.  Don’t make your art some sort of bartering for something that has nothing to do with art, delve deeper into your art and live it, and opportunities will come to you.

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GREGG YDE w/ BLACK LAUREL

How did you get hooked on rock and roll?  It was unavoidable in the house I grew up in. I had four older siblings who were all into music. My brother Mike played drums and my brother Mark played guitar. We had the jam room in the basement with tapestry covered walls with Mateus bottles everywhere. Illegal ashtrays. This was the 70’s and everybody who came into my orbit had long hair and KISS or UFO shirts on. I was baptized into Rock and Roll and have been a devout follower ever since.
What was your first public/live performance like?  It was probably sometime around sophomore year in high school at our local community center in Libertyville Illinois. They hosted a weekly open mike. I don’t remember much about it except I played solo acoustic. I don’t remember being nervous. I rarely get stage fright and when I do it is usually for smaller crowds. The intimacy of playing to a handful of people can be intimidating. Throw me up in front of a packed room and I’m ready to go.
Favorite albums growing up?  The first truly great record that entered my world was the Jackson 5’s Greatest Hits. The J5 were still a young outfit and pre puberty Michael. Such a great album when Motown was still on top. Around the same time my Sister brought home the Beach Boys Greatest Hits and that really struck a chord with me. The first album I bought with my own money was around 4th or 5th grade. The Beatles Revolver. My brother Matt who was a couple years older bought the Rolling Stones Black and Blue on the same outing. By the time I was in 7th grade you could find most Beatle albums, some ELO, Chicago, Queen and the Who in my young collection. I also had that Steve Martin album with King Tut on it…..but don’t tell anybody.;)
 
Do you hear their influences still in your new stuff?  Sure, it’s all rolling around in there. I’m trying to push out the pre Jackson 5 / Osmand Brother period and I think I’ve been successful.
How did Black Laurel come about?  I was new to New Orleans and looking to get back in the game after a long sabbatical as a family man. I just started asking around for like-minded musicians. My buddy and co worker at the hardware store I worked at in the Quarter played, so we got together, wrote some songs. When we felt we had a set, we went to Craigslist to find a rhythm section. The rest will hopefully be history. Of course, I’m the only original guy left. It has been addition by subtraction ever since.
Did you have specific goals for the recording sessions for debut EP?  We just wanted to capture our sound as economically as possible. The EP is just us playing live with a quick overdub session for vocals and some doubling of rhythm guitar and solo’s. It was produced by Rick Nelson of Afghan Whigs at Marigny Recording Studio, just down the street from my house. The next one we hope will be more relaxed, but money for diy bands is always tight.

Were the songs all new or were there some that you had been sitting on for a while?   Two of the songs were written by our bass player, Rade Pejic and I’m assuming are current. Of my five songs, all were newer, with the exception of ‘Set Your City Free’ which was written awhile ago. The line “were gonna march into your town. Knock all your statues down” was about the invasion of Iraq but in New Orleans, everyone thinks it’s about the removal of Confederate monuments.

How would you compare Chicago and New Orleans in terms influence to Black Laurel’s music?  New Orleans references are sprinkled  throughout our lyrics. Not so much musically. Chicago had a great rock scene when I was active there. Jesus Lizard, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Boom Hank, Veruca Salt, Red Red Meat. New Orleans is a Jazz and R&B town. There is a nice underground rock scene starting to bubble to the surface, but the tourists don’t want anything to do with it. I will say that living in New Orleans has been great for my playing as there are so many unbelievable musicians everywhere. Shake a tree and a great musician will fall out……along with some beads and discarded crawfish shells.
Songwriters often say they think of their songs as almost like their children — how do you feel about the old Nurv material when you hear it now?  Some need to go to their rooms without supper. Some deserve to go to College.
You go down to the crossroads, your rider by your side and come across the Devil  listening to “Judy Brown. He wants to strike a deal — he wants your guitar; what do you ask of him? 
Depends on the guitar and what Trump…..er…Lucifer is offering in return.

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…

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.