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.


Who would you say is most to blame for your having come down with rock & roll pneumonia?  My folks were only 16 years old when I was born in 1970 so I had a pretty good record collection growing up. I would have to say Led Zeppelin was my first rock and roll love affair, but it was The Police who made me want to play guitar and be in a band.
What are your 5 favorite guitar solos of all-time?
Buddy Holly-“That’ll Be The Day” …Jimmy Page-“Whole Lotta Love”….Robert Quine-“Girlfriend” (Matthew Sweet …..Jim Babjak- “Girl Like You” (Smithereens)…..David Hidalgo/Cesar Rosas- “Mas y Mas”
What was your first guitar and what is your axe of choice these days? Do you collect at all?  My first guitar was my mom’s Yamaha FG acoustic, but I guess my first solely owned guitar was a Yamaha SBG200, kind of like an SG Special copy. Great guitar! My number one these days is a guitar built at our shop by Robert Daniel. it is a 1959 copy of a Les Paul Junior but with an ebony board, stainless steel frets and in cherry red. I don’t really collect guitars, I only have about 5 guitars that I play regularly and a few mutts lying around.
Outside of the household name brands, any new guitars on the market that have caught your eye at Third Coast Guitars?  My favorite right now are the Wild Custom Guitars. They are out of France and they have a really classic look with a twist and they are remarkably built.
Is the guitar ‘set-up’ still the life blood of the business or has that changed over the years? 
That has change a bit over the years. We’ve become more nationally known for our restorative work and for doing higher end repair. We do a ton more vintage restoration these days, but fret levels and set ups are still a big part of what we do every day.
What is the strangest client request (in terms of guitars) that you’ve ever had?   We get weird requests all the time! The most recent one is taking a Parker Fly guitar, putting in a Sustainiac, and acoustic Piezo pickup and a midi driver. It is going to look like an aircraft carrier inside! We have folks request to make their vintage guitars look like new a lot as well. I never have understood that but, as we say in the shop, “it ain’t my guitar”.
Music fills the air 24/7 there in the land of the cobbler: what 5 bands would you say have gotten the most shop air-time over the years?  With the advent of Internet Radio, we listen to all sorts of different stuff these days and rarely listen to stuff over and over again these days, but if you count the years of cassettes and CDs…
Yes (unfortunately for me, I hate prog rock)
The Darkness
Thin Lizzie
David Bowie
Gooey_DD-240Would you ever consider a Third Coast mobile app and, if so, what might it do?
I have thought about it! I think it would have a tuner, a few maps of guitar anatomy (like what each part of an electric and acoustic guitar are called, people get things like bridge and saddle mixed up a lot), maybe a chart of things to look for when buying a used or new guitar.
What Gooey record is the bands St. Pepper’s? …any plans to finish the White Album?
We are actually getting ready to release a new album called “Rodgers Park” We are going to release it for free on the interwebs and press vinyl for sale at gigs. Vinyl is cool again.
If you could smash any guitar what would it be and why? (have you ever smashed a guitar?)  We actually smash broken, useless guitars all the time! Manufacturers have us smash cheap guitars that have twisted necks and what not a good bit. There are some pretty good photos and a video of us playing “guitar baseball” on or Facebook page. We try to keep it light most of the time, it’s just guitars, it’s not like we are doctors in an ER. You have to be careful when you smash Ovation guitars since they are made out of that composite. It can bounce back at you and smack you in the head. It’s always nice to smash the Keith Urban guitars they sell on Home Shopping Network. Those guitars are such crap and they have Keith Urban’s Picture on them.
Can you provide a ‘state-of-the-union’ for the Floyd Rose tremolo?   The Floyd Rose is still strong! There is still no unit that really provides the tuning stability of a Floyd if you really want to get your whammy on. The Kahler is really good as well for that but Floyd Rose still reigns supreme. Coupled with the GraphTech saddles, there just isn’t anything that comes close.


RX at mutiny 1_0007
How did you become Rich Experience? was it a choice or just an occupational hazard?  I developed a love for the synthesizer listening to Emerson Lake & Palmer and Electric Light Orchestra as a kid.  Specifically Keith Emerson is my music hero.  I traded in my High School Band clarinet for my first synth a Korg Poly 61M when was 16 and started recording music with my friend Derek Wu (of Recent Photo) under the band name “Food”.  15 years later in 2002 we were roommates in Wicker Park, Chicago and I was bored out of my mind constantly watching him perform the Open Mic at Innertown Pub.  I started shooting my mouth off about performing the open mic on a keytar because I said that playing keyboard behind a stand would be “lame” and finally set a date to do it.  I wanted to do something that I would like to see and was completely different from the standard open mic fair.
Procrastinating until a few hours before the show, I ripped the guts out of an old electric guitar and velcroed a small keyboard to it creating a make-shift Keytar – connected to a massive Yamaha EX5 keyboard/synth for sound.  (I still to this day use the rack mount version, Yamaha EX5R as a sound source)
After hanging out at the Open Mics for so long, I knew that the best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  I also wanted songs to be short and to the point to avoid what I would consider being “boring”.  I quickly wrote “Happy Cheese” and “Skateboarding” then rushed to the open mic.  I signed in as “Rich X” which evolved into “Rich Experience” because I continued to write songs about my experiences.
What was your first concert experience and what about it is most vivid to you today?  I never went to see shows when I was young.  Most bands I liked were prog rock from the 70’s and no longer touring.  I saw Yes for the first time “in the round” at the Rosemont Horizon for the “Union” tour in 1991, that blew me away, they had 8 band members on stage.
I saw Midnight Oil in their final US tour at the House of Blues.  Peter Garrett was one of the greatest frontmen of Rock in my opinion.  The guy sweats profusely looking like he is covered in oil.  His stage energy was off the chart.
RICHexpWhat instrument did you start on and which one do you today feel most comfortable playing? I started playing clarinet in High School band, I never really liked that instrument.  I started playing keyboard specifically synthesizer when I was 16 and started writing songs with my long time friend Derek Wu in a 2 person band called “Food” which much later became “Mant”.  Mant played a few gigs, notably we had a great show at Lounge Ax in 2000 a week before it closed.  In Mant I had 3 keyboards, a drum machine and a sequencer on stage (very Keith Emerson like), with Derek on Bass and vocals.  We were playing electronic alternative before it became cool.
When I started playing Keytar and singing as Rich Experience I was done with sequencing and drums machines.  The additional electronics seemed to be more limiting than without.  If I could not play it with my fingers I did not want it on stage, I wanted to be a minimalist. Not locked into a drum machine or a band, I found I could use “time” to accentuate the songs.  Being able to slow, speed up, or pause on stage at will, was very freeing and connected me with the audience.
I love playing keytar.  Keytar has obvious disadvantages over a horizontal keyboard like stability, maximizing playing with both hands, and easily looking at the keys while playing.  Advantages of keytar are mobility, and easy access to pitch ribbon and modulation controls.  Mobility is huge for me.  When I perform in my other project “Lisa Lightning Band” I run all over the stage and even jump on a trampoline while playing.
Additionally in 2005 I saw the flute scene in the movie “Anchorman” and thought “I can do that!”  So I bought a flute and taught myself to play.  I dig the all metal construction and the fact I can put it in a backpack to bring to parties.  I play flute in the “Flabby Hoffman Trio” occasionally.
Lie detector test in play: where would you say your musical heart truly lies? BZZZZT  BZZZT  Ouch!  You would think from my music I was into “They Might Be Giants” or something similar.  But I’m a 70’s prog guy at heart which is kind of the opposite of minimalist.
What is your philosophy on life and how does inform your music? I performed gymnastics in college as a pommel horse specialist.  I trained for the olympics for a while, working out 8 hours a day.   I loved competing, but there were a lot a sacrifices.  After it ended, I never wanted to put that much of myself into anything ever again. I just wanted to take it easy and enjoy life with as little effort as possible and focus on my friends.  I’m currently re-evaluating “taking it easy”.
What advice would you give to a young artist struggling to pen their first song or two? The best songs come from deep in your soul, from truths you know and love.  Find and take that then distill it to its bare essence.  Add a catchy tune then smack the audience over the head with it relentlessly with no fear or mercy.
For me it’s cats, cheese, reptiles, science, crawl spaces, work and skateboarding.  I try to see myself from the audience’s point of view and don’t be boring.  ;)
Who are your 5 favorite ‘hard rock’ bands of all-time, and why? Emerson Lake & Palmer – 1970’s Keith Emerson, my keyboard hero, attacks the instrument without fear, literally with Knives and Fire.  I love his style and attitude.  My dad bought “Pictures at an Exhibition” on 8 track cassette at a garage sale.  That album scared the hell out of me.  I could not stop listening to it.
Electric Light Orchestra – Jeff Lynn songs with Richard Tandy on keyboard making some really out there sounds.
Yes – A collection of some of the best technical musicians ever.  Proof that there is no time travel that all their shows were not sold out.
Midnight Oil – Their early stuff was really hardcore in your face with Peter Garrett’s clean politically charged vocals.  Their later stuff became more melodic and pushed the envelope in many ways.  The local band “Depravos De La Mour” reminds me of them.
Underworld – Hey I dig techno also.
Your #50 on Reverb Nation for Chicago Artists; that’s saying something: Is that a function of effort, sheer staying power or the cream just naturally rising to the top? Ha!  It helps to be in the “Folk” category.  ;)  Although I did get a really cool letter from a cancer center that stumbled on my music by accident: “Dear Rich, I just wanted to Thank You for the experience. We are Case Managers at City of Hope National Research Cancer Center here in California. We work directly with Leukemia Cancer patients and arrange for their Bone Marrow Transplants and needs for when the come in and go home. Anyway, we just wanted to Thank You. One day, we were totally having a stressed out day, and for some reason, I typed in “Happy Cheese” into my URL. I don’t know if it is because we are a Research facility or what, but up you came, and off we listened. The rest is history. I forward your link to as many cancer patients as I can that I think can handle the humor of it all. My co-workers needed to have a bit of humor, , too. Thank you, Rich.
M’lissa Buckles RN”
If you had a slick agent working the illuminati fringes for the ‘big break’, what might their Rich X pitch be? “This guy is like nothing else.  I’ve had this “Happy Cheese” song stuck in my head for 3 months now.  I wake up in the middle of the night and I can still hear it.  I think I may be going insane.  The audience either love his music or their brains explode trying to figure out why he is allowed on stage.  This “Maybe I Step on You” song makes me giggle like a little school girl and I don’t even know why.  It’s not even really funny.  And that “Happy Cheese” is about him losing his job and turning to drugs to ease the pain.  Why are they laughing and singing along?
There must be some kind of mind control device hidden in that crazy keytar.  All I know is if we can tap into whatever this is for product sales we will make billions!  We have our best men working on it.”
In an alternate universe, you are oft portrayed as a beloved sub-plot character on the Jetsons, arriving in a shimmering hovercraft to great aplomb …what did the producers choose as your theme song? Dude, how much hobbit leaf did you smoke when you thought up this question? ;)


FeddermannHow did your love affair with rock & roll begin? As a kid listening to Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Elvis, Jerry Lee and more on 104.3 the oldies station in Chicago. My Dad was/is a big oldies fan and that radio station was all he ever listened to. “Smoke on the Water,” “Wild Thing” or “Iron Man” are the first songs most guitarists learn. Mine was “That’ll Be The Day” and “It’s So Easy”.

What were the first three albums you ever purchased and which of those holds up best today to you? Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Run DMC Raising Hell and Motley Crue’s Dr. Feelgood. Thriller holds up best to me, hands down.

When did you start writing songs and how do they ‘come together’ for you most often? 7th/8th grade with my very first band, Vertigo. Songs come in many ways. Sometimes I’ll be driving a melody with pop in my head, or, I’ll hear a phrase that I like and will write a song around it. Sometimes, I’ll be jamming with other musicians and we write the music and then lyrics will follow.

You’ve managed to carve out a nice niche on the north shore by being a respected ‘jack of all trades’, how has your business model evolved over the past few years ?  My business model hasn’t changed all that much. With the internet and all of the social media resources as my disposal, communicating with fans is much easier on one hand and on the other takes three times as long. I literally work all day to book shows, promote shows, create content to increase my brand awareness, etc..

What advice do you give to young bands trying to build a following and, in turn, get better gigs? A few thing. The BIGGEST thing is to be friendly and outgoing. I try to meet as many people at gigs as possible. Anytime someone gives me a tip, a compliment, a thumbs up, a high five, anything, I make sure to introduce myself and ask them their name. A 30 second engagement can mean a new long term fan. Your fans can be and are your biggest promoters. The more people that come to your shows, the better the bigger the gigs will grow, the more opportunities will open up along with making more money.

Do you have to become Facebook (say hey to Matt) exhibitionists to play the game?  If you are not on social media, you are at a severe disadvantage. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.. Ever walk into a bar to play a gig and everyone is staring at their phones and not you. Chances are they are on one of the previously mentioned sites. Get your “b(r)and” in front of as many eyeballs as possible. A large number of the population spends hours a day staring at their electronic device.

Years ago it seemed as if the Chicago music media shunned artists / bands that came out of the north shore as if they didn’t deserve the coverage; in fact many bands sought to hide the fact so they weren’t labeled as ‘rich brats: does this hold true at all today? Ya know, the scene is so much different these days. Music oriented local Chicago media has shrunk considerably in the last 10 years. Local Anesthetic on WXRT is only 30 minutes on Sunday nights (does anyone listen to terrestrial radio anymore?). Illinois Entertainer only seems to cover the south and western suburbs. Cover bands are a PLENTY these days.

In Chicago, much as in NYC, often musicians get put in one category or another: either your a working musician or an artist…. Is one the dream job and the other vehicle? I’ve been struggling with that for YEARS and I think I’ve finally found a balance. I have two very different song writing styles. One of very acoustic based and the other electric guitar/keys/synth based. I market them differently. I do my acoustic singer/songwriter originals and covers thing in the suburbs where you can make money and use some of that money to pay for my “original artist” project called Monsoons. I keep specific email and facebook lists that are geographically based. I rarely send updates regarding my acoustic covers thing to gatekeepers and decision makers in Chicago and abroad, I send them Monsoons updates. It’s not an easy thing to do and it takes a lot of time, but, it’s doable. My gigs at local restaurants and bars in the burbs has paid for the recording sessions & music video first few Monsoons songs. In fact, producer/mix wizard Sean O’Keefe (Fallout Boy, Plain White T’s) is mixing the first single. – Matt Feddermann


dorian_D.D._editHow did rock & roll reach you? 
As a city of Chicago toddler I had a brother and sister about 10 years older. They would baby sit me with a soundtrack of classic rock and the times were ripe for that type of consciousness. So I started licking S&H Green Stamps to fill enough books to get an acoustic guitar so I could feel a part of it.

Are songs more real than reality to you?  Well on the first Dorian Taj record The Puppet Record it could not get more real in terms of songs from a basis of what the realty was at that time in my life. If reality is truth then I was just copying it to songs for that release. Have been trying to get away from that since then but I do find that even so the songs still become more of you than what is actually happening and can shape you who are.

Is music still the best way to send a message?  Music can send a message still but on the most part I always though it was about sending a “feel” in total that all could understand. There could be no direct message but you know something is going on and you want to be part of it, against it, learn about it, discard it, it could give you an upset stomach or simply make you want to dance.

What is your favorite track on the new record Giant today and why?  Today it is “Rocket” because I want the energy feel. I’ve had days when it was “No Future” but you cant go on thinking those words for too long so then I will hate it for a bit. “Janitor Song” makes me feel “nice and sweet” and works for most days. 

How did you feel (this time) when the record was “in the can” and what did it take for you to reach that point comfortably?  Well we did the basic tracks at Pieholden in Chicago and then took a little time coming up with parts to add to the songs. At this point I was sure that we had the right 10 songs for “Giant” and felt it was “in the can” even though it was no where near done as something who could here (except for in my head). We then went to Austin to do the overdubs but at that point we were all comfortable with it.

For the kids and late bloomers: what’s the best way to write your first song?  Melody is the key. Forget about your computers and phones and take a walk, ride a bike, get on a train or bus and look at things around you. Then let a soundtrack happen in your mind. Put in words that happen to in your thoughts at the time to the melodies and you’re on your way. Then arrange what you got with your technology.

1430995072_11203129_863476210390242_8206459690216717649_nIf you could record a duet this Saturday with anyone whom would it be with, why, and what tune might you try together? I think it would be the best to do a duet with the Dalai Lama. I would love to grasp on to that energy of body, soul, and mind mixed with music. The song I hear in my head of us doing is “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

Take us behind the scenes with a producer: what makes your relationship w/ Alex Moore work on this record?  I have known Alex for some time. He actually played drums for me during the “Tobacco Record” time. His drumming was very essential to that record and his sense for music was very evident. Being a drummer makes one a great future producer because who learn to listen to everything and Alex became one. We worked well because he knew my stuff from the past and what I was about. We could bounce ideas and both play them quickly to see if they would work.

When are you happiest: on stage or in the studio? I definitely am a live animal. The live switch in me is always working at any spot in time. This is when I am at my best with a clear mind and a good feeling all around. That switch can turn on whether at noon or 3am.

Your guitar is entered in the ‘Indie Rock Legends’ section in a new wing at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and you are asked to contribute a single line quote for the exhibit….how does it read?  Sorry for pawning you that one time but you know without you I wouldn’t be me. ~ Dorian Taj


BradPeterson (2)
photo by KIM SOMMERS

How did you come to fix on the Fleur-de-lis as moniker / title for your new release? It seemed to same itself at the last-minute of the last recording, which is atypical from my previous works. Last autumn, I had a couple of songs that I had recently recorded before I came to California for a respite from the Chicago winters: Vale of Tears, and 45.  I played them for an old friend, Peter Bowers, who has been in the music and film world for decades and, in my opinion,  is someone with a unique perspective and proven good taste. After listening to them while we were winding through the serpentine roads near Topanga, he was clearly excited and asked if I had more new songs; I said yes, but they’re in a crude state. He tacitly gave me the go ahead and I proceeded to play for him: Rock Fight, and minor. Being a musician himself, and no stranger to hearing potential in a demo recording, he promptly suggested I finish the work for, at the very least, posterity (and for whatever opportunities that may bring). It was just the encouragement I needed to set up a barebones recording outpost in his garage/office in the beautiful canyons nestled betwixt the Santa Monica mountains, Los Angeles, and the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure at which point the idea developed to add an additional track, but I half-heartedly presented my least favorite and hardly developed of the bunch: Fluer-de-lis, for which the title lyric had yet to be written. I acquiesced in its procession but as the spirit moved me, and I reconnected to the moments of its inception, those words just came through: “Fluer-de-lis” – like they were always supposed to be. Ureka! The song finished itself. The counterpoint in the last verse was the very last thing recorded and almost has a feel of a reprise-medley trope at the end of an epic film from the late sixties. When I listened back to it, I felt that it was divinely gifted; I had just participated in its revelation as the title of this work.

What was the most difficult thing about making Fleur? The most difficult thing in anything, is the discipline or faith to work in the face of doubt and negativity that plague me every day. The ultimate goal is for me to share what I do and connect with other souls. The periods between such moments are long and dark in which I often wonder if what I do is folly and meaningless.
Do you see it as a continuation of your other releases, an update, or something unto itself? Depending on context, it could be any of those; it could even be a prequel, chapter, or a supplemental. In literary terms, I think of singles as anecdotes, albums as books, and EPs as short stories. But I think in most cases, to say: “the Fluer-de-lis EP” would refer to something unto itself.
Why did you decide to do a EP this time versus a full album? Albums take a while and I didn’t want to wait. Full disclosure, there’s a part of me that would be happy to just release singles from here out. If I had the resources, I think that’s the direction I’m heading.
fdl-tour (3)How does the song writing process work for you? The evolution of every song is different but the most rewarding songs come in the form of everything-at-once. Melody, lyrics, chords, feel, and arrangement pour over me in a torrent of inspiration. Those are also the songs that tend to get finished.
Describe your head space when playing live in front of an audience?
How the hell am I supposed to pull this off? Because I thrive off of the symbiosis of all who participate in a live performance, it’s quite vitalizing and I experience the joy of communion. However, there is always a delta between what I want it to sound like and what I’m able to produce. I’m figuring out that “not to try” is the trick for all involved.
Did you like to sing as a kid or did you begin playing guitar and start singing later on? I always sang for as long as I can remember; maybe before I could talk.  But, it was when my aspirations for being a drummer were squelched by mom (who didn’t want that sort of racket going on in the house) bought me my first acoustic guitar, that I became the defacto singer/rhythm guitarist at about age fifteen.
Many artists talk about ‘the album’ that changed their life, is there one for you? Yes. From all accounts, in the spring of 1971, my older brother and father were listening to music in the living room of our old farmhouse in Baltimore, Maryland. Mark was around thirteen and my father was a bit of an audiophile with an impressive sound system composed of mammoth Bozak speakers, Scott amplification, and Ampex reel-to-reels. They put on a store-bought reel of the Beatles’ Revolver and it boomed throughout the house. That was the moment I became sentient and aware. To describe the experience using my abilities in the English language that I have since learned, I’d say I was in awe and asked: “what is this wonderful thing?” as I crawled on the carpet. I don’t know what it was or who it was but I’m certain that it was a pivotal moment in my relationship with music and my development as a human being. A few years ago I wrote about this earliest memory of my life called “Crack and Boom”:
What was the first concert you ever attended and what strikes you about it today?  For my first large rock concert, it was either Billy Joel or Roger Waters with Eric Clapton. Both of them were at the Rosemont Horizon when I was around thirteen years old. My opinion then, is as it is now: that is sounded horrible and I would have maybe preferred to stay home and listen to the recordings. The highlights of each were the improvisational element where I gleaned variations of expression in the arrangements of the musicians. I do enjoy live music but I gravitate to smaller venues or living rooms.
If you could take a time machine to any one moment in history (rock or otherwise) what would it be and what would you do once you got there?  It would probably be to a moment that I’ve already experienced, perhaps one from my childhood when I was near my family who I love very much. And, it would be simply to live it again with greater appreciation and notice every little detail. –

Continue reading “BRAD PETERSON”


media_slider-39730022You started as a youngster busking on the streets of Chicago: is there a telling memory that still informs you today?  I just wrote a song that’s on my new CD called “When The Fat Lady Sings” about following ones heart and dream. There is this line:  “dudes in 3 piece suits telling me they wished they was me cause I was following my heart and living my dream”. That’s a true story. That and playing the mostly southbound Black el stops and having it feel like Baptist church. I learned to sing  Black music from Black Folks singing with me and playing Electric Blues every weekend in the summer with my band on State street in downtown chicago and the huge crowds! That spark and immediacy are rare and profound!!!

What is your favorite new Nicholas Baron song and why? “When the fat lady sings” is my new “I’m not superman” which is the song I’m known for. It’s a true story. I found a way to be honest and poetic at the same time. It’s got a direct feel from Van Morrisons “Domino” and Rickie Lee jones “Chuck E’s in love”. It finally expresses my truth and is like a quick bio. I love language and beat poetry and this has that feel.

How do songs manifest themselves to you? They happen either effortlessly like  they were waiting for me to catch them like butterflies or intellectual endeavors where the words are like math and science. It happens all possible ways. Words or chorus first or music first or just chords.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording?  All my records have been somewhat different.  I like it to be organic and sound and feel live but have a sheen to it as well. I have to have a relaxed and honest environment.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you? I heard Jimmy cliff when I was 10 with my hippie parents at an outdoor concert. I remember the sky and the feel of it being live and soulful and folks dancing up a storm.

What is your approach to playing live and what is your vibe pre-show? It has recently changed and evolved . I am working on total relaxation and letting the audience come to me. I’ve been trying not to be big the whole time or loud. I’m going for a range of emotions and dynamics even in one song. I have the ability to be mellow and soft and then rise up like Otis Redding or James Brown. I warm up a bit vocally but mostly everything’s changed because I’m relaxing my mind and body when I play. It’s magic!

IMG_1424-BW_filtered_FWhat are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks , John Martyn’s Solid Air, Joni Mitchell’s Blue

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist? My dear friend Wes John is insanely great and has great songs and his band destroys!

Out of nowhere the Empress of the Universe beams you on board her ship and demands you write a song for her on the spot — any ideas?  All my songs are about the same things disguised as different characters. Love in all its forms, integration, and working through suffering to find resolution. World peace through the microcosm which is self love. Relax yourself before you tax yourself. – Nicholas Barron


Madman MaddenYou have probably played more gigs in the last decade than anyone in Chicago: is that why your known as ‘Madman’?  The nickname Madman comes from my days in the Record Biz when cohorts liked to call me that instead of my last name, Madden. Now I have to live up to it.

You have worn a number of hats in the music business, what’s the state of the union?  I’ve gone back to my roots, playing live music. Folks don’t support recorded music like they used to or should.

If you could reset and meddle with history, what rock era would go by the way-side?  Is there a Rock Era today?

What was the first concert you ever attended and what impression did it have on you?  Badfinger played @ my high school field house. It was also the first time I saw people smoke the kind bud.

How do you feel deep down about smashing guitars and the like?  I did that twice in school but felt bad because that is somebody’s livelihood and sometimes a piece of art.

IM000324.JPGWhat are you listening to at home circa 2015?  Davie Allen & the Arrows, “Blues Theme”(60’s biker music)

If you could tour with any artist in a time machine who would it be?  Cream: they taught me how to jam and to sound full for a 3 piece.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time?  More of the Monkees, Sgt. Peppers, Wheels of Fire.

What’s the best live performance you have seen by a Chicago artist or band?  Heavy Manners ….

Jesus appears in front of you and graciously asks for a custom 5 song set, in what do you play him? “Porpoise Song” (The Monkees), “A F Wittek” (Madman), “Talk Talk” (Talk Talk), “Well Allright” (Buddy Holly), “I Need You” (Fab Four).


U2tUN19rQUtqTmsx_o_old-mother-logo---jonas-friddle-the-majorityAre you happy with how Use Your Voice turned out?  Absolutely. Working with John Abbey at King Size Sound Labs we were able to really capture the sound of our live show.

Do you have a philosophy when it comes to the recording? Philosophy is a strong word for it, but we definitely strive to maintain our personality in the recording process. It can be very easy to make decisions in the recording process that trim away character in the pursuit of perfection.

Do you still believe in the concept of an album or is it all about the single mp3?  I believe in the album. I love albums.  If songs are telling a story or expiring a feeling then it has to be true that the artist has more than one take on the same idea they want to present.  On the other hand…if you’ve got a great single there’s nothing wrong with letting it stand alone.

How does the songwriting process work for you?  I like routine.  Days in a row of uninterrupted time so when the ideas start coming then you can use them right in the moment.  I read an interview with Neil Young where he says that’s the only way to do it. If you store ideas for later you can forget why you had them in the first place.

Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?  It feels like they just happen, but I’m sure that’s because something has been stewing for a while.

What was the first real concert you ever attended and what impression did  it have on you?  I can’t say for sure what the first one was…might have been George Winston.  I saw Jackson Browne a couple of time solo and that was amazing.  He played for hours taking on request after another.

c927e37cd6502ca7ec57575619efe3eaWhat is your approach to playing live and what is your mind-set pre-show? Playing live is the pay-off so we try to enjoy it as much as we can.  As and independent band it takes a lot of work to book and prep all aspects of a show. So it’s important to press the reset button and lose the stress before playing.

If you could tour with any artist as support who would it be and why? Paul Simon.  I saw him perform with his band and I can only imagine how fun the dressing room jams must be.

What are your favorite 3 albums of all-time? Jackson Browne: Late for the Sky, Paul Simon: Rhythm of the Saints, John Prine: John Prine.

Earth is to be destroyed by an asteroid — you been instructed to put one song (any song ever recorded in a time capsule to represent mother earth, what would it be? Well with that prompt wouldn’t it have to be Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush”?

Please visit


JimCooperWhen did your first fall in love with vinyl and records?  Oh at an early age…. I can’t even remember; it’s part of my genetics I guess.

Do you recall the first records you bought or had as a kid?  It was probably some Disney or childrens records back when I was like 2 years old, that’s my earliest memory. and the album covers. I used to get a big kick out of….I was big on cars & trains.  So an album that had cars or trains on it I could spend hours just looking at the cover.

How has record sales going by & large over the last few years?   They are there, they could be better, they could be worse but I see a lot more young people getting into music via records which is a good thing. They have an enthusiasm for ‘the records’. They’re more consumer friendly. You don’t need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics like you do for the lyrics from the booklets for the little CD’s.

So how long has Hip Cat Records been in business?  We opened in November of 1987.

How did you come up with the name Hip Cat or is that all you?  I had a cat who I nicknamed  ‘hip cat’ but the name also comes from the Pink Floyd song named “Lucifer Sam” ….their  original guitar player and songwriter Syd Barrett wrote they lyrics “be a hip cat, be a ship’s cat, somewhere, anywhere”. I was a big Pink Floyd fan so I just ran with the name ‘hip cat’; it just seemed a natural name for a store.

When did you move to the new location (3540 Lake Ave, Wilmette) and how is it going? Well we moved to this location in June of 2006 and its been a good, plus it’s nearer to where I live so the commute is a lot shorter.

Do you guys have a website or is it all word-of-mouth?  No, it’s pretty much word of mouth or customers who have been coming here for a long time.  I’m not computerized. I’m old school. Somebody did set up a website at some point but i don’t what happened with it (laughs).

I imagine you’ve had some interesting Chicago musicians walk through the door? Well we’ve had Ben Weasel come in before. He probably didn’t know I recognized him. When a known musician comes in I never acknowledge that I know who they are. I just treat them like some regular customers,  I don’t give them any preferential treatment, they can just be a regular Joe looking through records. and they seem to like it that way.

What are the DMM stickers on some vinyl re-issues and what do we need to know about records today?  DMM stands for ‘direct metal mastering’  and it actually encodes more information from the original recording so it’s going to sound better. The recordings done with 1/2 speed mastering make the biggest impact improving sound. Another ingredient for better sound is the deeper grooves in (some) records. So they might be advertising different vinyl weights like 180 gram heavy weight vinyl or 200 gram audio file vinyl but the real jist of it is  the fact that the  grooves are deeper. The industry has decided to hype the weight; They aren’t going to tell you on the sticker that it has deeper grooves, they are going to tell you it weighs more.

You’ve been doing this a long time and you’ve seen a lot of records come through and leave the door, who are the top 5 that still move records?   Definitely Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and of course The Beatles. But we also do really well with Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. On the blues side it’s probably Muddy Waters and then Buddy Guy… he puts a new album out every year or so and they re-issue some of his older albums every now and then. He does great.



What was the first album you ever bought and how do you rate it today? 

It was either:

a)    Steely Dan, Can’t Buy a Thrill

b)   Kiss, Alive!

c)    Thin Lizzy, Nightlife

I was a very mixed up boy.  As for the rating part…

a)   Aaa  (Moody’s doesn’t go any higher, or I would, too.)

b)   C (Moody’s doesn’t go any lower…)

c)    A2

What does your 8-track collection look like?

It looks like a poltergeist taking a polygraph (as observed by seven blind pygmies from Paducah).  The only time I ever saw 8-track tapes in person was when we went to visit some distant cousins in Wisconsin – Sonny & Cher Live, Bobby Sherman, that kind of thing.

Was bass your first instrument or an evolution?

It happened all at once.  I awoke one morning to find myself transformed in my bed into a giant, grotesque, bass fiddle.  I couldn’t move.  I couldn’t speak.  My family and all the neighbors shunned me as the sickening vermin I’d become.  Those snooty violinists and cellists wouldn’t play with me.  All I could do was lay there, staring at the ceiling while sawing away on pithy quotes from Richard Strauss’ Ein Heldenleben.  Very weird.

Bass is my only real instrument, actually.  I often do “play” other instruments on my recordings, however the word “bad” has to be appended to the front (Badguitar, Badkeyboards, Badmelodica, etc.) to get an accurate description of the kinds of sounds I tend to make.

Does being the guy holding down the low end frequencies inform your personality in any way outside of music?

Hello, cowgirls.  I like being on the bottom.

What came easiest to you early on, playing or writing?

The only writing I did when I was young was in the sand traps of certain North Shore country clubs I won’t name.  We used to jump the fence late at night, run around wild on the fairways, throw all the patio furniture into the deep end of the pool and steal all eighteen flags from those immaculately manicured greens – but not before using them to write “ZZ TOP” really, really BIG in all the sand traps.  That’ll show ‘em, eh?

So…I guess the answer would be: Playing.

What’s Brahms’ 3rd Racket all about and is it true you have an affinity for concepts?

Brahms’ 3rd Rocket is all about the concept of having an affinity for calling all God’s creatures (inanimate or otherwise) by the name of which they truly, in fact, are, and should forever be, including (but not limited to) calling kettles Kettles, calling pots Pots, and calling my band by its correct name, which is Brahms’ 3rd Racket.

(Editors note: David was kind enough to catch my error…. “It’s RACKET not ROCKET!!  But don’t sweat it.  I hear even Yoko was in the habit of repeatedly referring to her husband’s band as “Beatles” (“Beatles this, Beatles that”- errantly omitting the “The” every time).  So “Rocket” I can understand.  Hell, I used to know this one guy who kept calling it “Brahms’ 3rd Reich.”  I’ll take “Rocket” any day”)

What’s more enjoyable for you, writing a good pop song or developing the picture music you create for tv n’ film?

I like it all.  I don’t distinguish.  Do I write pop songs?

Sometimes just a simple twist in the arrangement of a song can make a huge difference, is that tinkering part of why you enjoy the role of producer or is it a more technical fascination for you?

I’m an arranger, basically, a collage artist, making sound mosaics.  This inevitably encompasses many different sub-disciplines: composing, performing, scoring music, recording, setting up mics, pushing “Record,” buying beer, asking very nicely for the drummer to hit harder, etc., etc., etc.

That said, I couldn’t give a shit about “technique,” “technical”-anything, or any other derivation of that cold and lifeless word.  Ever try kissing a dead fish?  It’s a means to an end.  I’m not infatuated with methods or systems or techniques.  And I really don’t think of myself as a “Producer,” either.  I used to think it was cool to call myself that (“Yo, bro, didya check out that one young chick that I produced?  Man, did I produce her!”)  I used to like it.  Not anymore.  “Producer?”  Yuk.  Let Bob Rock have it.  Sounds like a guy with nice hair who sells insurance.

Since you aren’t famous drummer David Kemper, do you think this is a good time to challenge him to bass n’ drum throw down to stop all of the chatter between camps?

I don’t want to stop the chatter between camps.  Perish the thought.  I just sent off a four-page letter in response to some lawyer dude in San Francisco who mistakenly emailed me some kind of artist agreement (complete with royalty breakdowns) for the “live” Jerry Garcia Band album they’re going to be putting out soon.  Four pages.  Arguing for a better % (the drummer plays four times as many notes than the bass player, etc.)…PowerPoint charts and graphs in support of this theory…bogus legalese…more prissy rock star demands than Van Halen in the dressing room…in short, pure balderdash!  I had that lawyer dude doing figure eights around the page, revealing only in the last paragraph that he had sent his little agreement to the wrong David Kemper.  Stop the chatter?  Hell no!  If all the chatter were to suddenly stop – and I no longer had a reason to write goofy letters like that – whatever would I do with all the empty hours?

If you could be the first artist to perform a song on the moon, on behalf of mankind, what song would you choose?

I wouldn’t perform it myself.  Assuming – since I’d been selected for this great honor on behalf of all mankind – that I would then have the full financial and technical resources of Planet Earth at my disposal, I would graciously defer and instead use those combined resources to have Andrea True exhumed and resurrected so the Andrea True Connection could do “More, More, More” on the edge of the Aitken Basin while Evel Knievel (since money is no object, right?) jumps back and forth over it riding a giant neon dildo.

Get the action going…get the cameras rolling…holy, shit, can you imagine that on the fucking moon?  But…hey…realistically…if the resurrections didn’t work out?  In that case I’d just get Carl Douglas to do “Kung Fu Fighting” and be done with it.


MRB hi rez cropped1.0 – It’s quite an amazing accomplishment to be a leading live act in Chicago for 22 years now, what’s the secret to getting along well enough to stick together?

It’s definitely a trick keeping it together. The biggest part is that the members all have to share a dream. That way no matter what you are up against, it’s still worth it. It’s still worth fighting for. It’s us against all comers. Getting along is easy because even if you are arguing or pissed or disappointed and blaming each other etc, that moment comes when you hit the note and have a great live show or write a new song and you’re all back in. That’s the payoff, the battery re-charger. As long as we are creating, we hit a re-do or reset many times a month.

2.0 – A big part of your success has been your shrewd booking acumen and relationships with promoters, how has the festival scene changed over the years? 

Chicago is a easy hang. People here are very unpretentious including promoters (for the most part). So you don’t have to cow tow to them or “work” them, you can just be yourself and let it happen. We as a band are fairly organized so I think we had an advantage in that promoters knew early on that if we were headlining the gig, it would go off on time and with no glitches. The way the fest scene has changed is that it used to be a neighborhood contracted a promoter, gave them a budget and left it up to them. as a result you got great regional bands that weren’t the same at every fest. Now you have neighborhood committees all sitting in a room and all 7 people are starting their sentences with…”well i think we ought to……” So they all know off the same couple bands and that’s it. Better to have a promoter who knows hundreds of bands and chooses them according to the vibe the neighborhood wants. Also there was more nudity back in the day.

3.0 – What’s on tap for Blottopia 2013? 

Blottopia has become a phenomenon and we ride it like a crazy bull that our hand is cinched to with a rope. It’s the most fun weekend of the year and it’s always a surprise in one way or another. We always encore Saturday night with a surprise album so that’s really fun to do. Look for it the last weekend of July.

4.0 – When do discussions of the choice for encore begin and have you ever had to filibuster to get your way?

A filibuster won’t work in a band. If you win, it’s like convincing an unwilling lover. Not as fun as you had hoped. Music is very dependent on the vibe so you can’t destroy the vibe to get your way, and then hope it’s going to be magic. It’s like winning the battle but losing the war. We don’t always have a setlist and rarely call the encore until we’re in it.

5.0 – Any plans to record new material for a studio release, or is Mr. Blotto now a strictly live proposition?

We are mixing down our 6th album right now. It’ll be out by summer. And we should have done it long ago. It’s just such a pain in the ass to do. But we have sworn to each other to do an album a year from here on out.

6.0 – Of your personal gear, what is your favorite acoustic guitar and do you play it live? 

I’m fairly monogamous when it comes to my instruments. I have several acoustic and electrics. For 15 years I played a Martin Shenandoah with maple back and sides. It finally gave up the ghost and lost it’s tone. I now play my Martin D35 which I love love love. It was my spare before and now it’s my main axe. I use a Highlander pickup under the saddle.

B13 wide stage7.0 – As with your line-up, Mr. Blotto’s esteemed and well traveled PA system has evolved over the years: is it approaching perfection yet?

It’s virtually the same. We’ve only had to replace about a half dozen speakers in 20 years! It’s because Bob Georges designed it to have more headroom and power than it would ever need to use so the system is never stressed. It’s become a part of the band. We play it like it’s an instrument.

8.0 – What advice do you give to young musicians looking to make a living at playing music?

James Taylor said “play everyday and keep your overhead low”. That’s great advice. We haven’t kept our overhead particularly low but we all play all the time. I tell young cats to get their promotional ideas together and treat them with the same importance as the music. They aren’t as important as the music but they think they are. You need a place to gig. You need an audience. You need exposure. If that all works, then you can play music for a living. It’s a different promo game now. We had a 6000 name mailing list that we labelled and mailed once a month. That’s like the dark ages now but we did it because we wanted this life. Now there is a wide open field for promo that is just being discovered and actualized. It’s ideal for the creative minds that are in bands.

9.0 – What was the first record you bought as a kid and are you still listening to vinyl?  The first album I ever bought was Brick “Good High” because of the song “Dazz”. The rest of the album sucked! So I began buying 45’s from that moment on, with some exceptions. The first 45 I bought was “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate. Ha! That’s a little embarrassing. I still listen to vinyl and have about 4 crates and a Luxman. It sounds great through my Infinity RS6000 speakers (geeking out now sorry).

10.0 – If Jimi Hendrix miraculously appeared next to you on stage, what Blotto stand by would you launch into to bring Jimi back to life for one more extended jam?

I would love to hear Jimi go to town on something like “1977” or “Rattle My Cage”. He would just take off into the blues stratosphere. I just hope at the end he doesn’t trash all our gear. Maybe he could just hump a feedback drenched screaming amp which 9 months later would give birth to a full blown whopper of an hallucination that would explode into a rainbow of flowers and guitar picks… but then again we don’t need another mouth to feed. Got to keep that overhead low.


JoannaConnor1.0 – As a kid, was it the blues or rock & roll that grabbed your attention?

The first record I remember vividly was Louis Armstrong singing “Hello Dolly”… I can still remember trying to sing like him.  It was a hit on the radio.  The craziest thing is that I did the math and realized I was 2!  The first two albums to grab me between the ages of 4 and 7 were Taj Mahal’s Giant Step/The Ole Folks at Home and Sgt. Peppers.  I also loved Beethoven, Fiddler On The Roof, and James Brown.  Later came Hendrix, Zep the Rolling Stones. I saw Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells when I was 10 in 1972… . It blew me away.

2.0 – What was the first record you ever bought and how did it make you feel?

I don’t remember the first record I bought. I was poor growing up.  I remember the first one I stole… a 45 of Billy Preston… Nothing From Nothing… Ha! I loved the radio then. I loved soul and funk and Steely Dan and Joni Mitchell and jimmy Cliff and all kind of stuff.  Music was my escape, my world.  I spent hours every day dancing, singing, and playing air guitar in front of my parent’s Zenith stereo.

3.0 – What was your first guitar and do you still have it ?

My mom bought me a Sears classical guitar when I was 7.  I asked for ballet lessons. She gave me guitar lessons. Lord knows what happened to it.

4.0 – What was the first actual blues lead lick you learned, from what song?

I took blues guitar lessons from an amazing guy in Worcester named Ron Johnson when I was 14.  I played acoustic.  He turned me on to the early delta, piedmont, ragtime and slide stuff.  I think the first blues lick I learned was a Mississippi John Hurt tune.

5.0 – What’s the blues scene like today in Chicago versus when you originally moved here?

The blues scene now is still jamming in terms of the clubs being packed and bands performing but it is a pale 3rd string version of when I first moved here talent and skill wise.

6.0 – As a blue guitarist, are there still classic ‘showdowns’ that determine a pegging order among and between the players?

It’s a boys club. It’s like high school. The cool table in the cafe.  They are all peacocks.  The king in my opinion right now is Carl Weathersby.  There are always battles here.  Each guy thinks they are the champ!

7.0 – How do you retain vitality playing a form of music that is nearly a hundred years old, if not older?

I always played the blues in my own way when I went on my own, mixing all of my influences in what I did. I was never a purist. It always stays fresh for me that way.

JoannaConner8.0 – Which release of yours do you feel is most representative of what you are all about?

Big Girl Blues.

9.0 – Do you enjoy writing lyrics and titles or is that ‘work’ part of the song writing equation?

I almost always  hear the groove first. With Big Girl Blues I wrote the words first.  My second love in life is literature.  I have been a huge reader my whole life. I have written a lot of poetry. I find song writing a chore however and only write for projects… I don’t know why.

10.0 – What gets you off more live: when you know you are singing really well or playing guitar at your best?

Playing the guitar is my passion. It takes me out of myself and also drives me into my soul.  Singing can be cathartic but I have to sing 4 to 5 hours a night and it is physically very taxing, and more of a chore.

See Joanna Connor’s 2013 tour schedule at SongKick


phil_angotti-people_and_places1.0 – What’s your favorite thing about the new disc People And Places ?

The fact that I think it’s my best work yet and that each song has its’ own sound to it. I used 4 different drummers, and that makes a difference to the basic feel of the songs.

2.0 – So it’s not true you play all the instruments on it?

No…I do almost all of the guitars and singing. I love over-dubbing guitars and vocals! I played bass on 2 songs, and some percussion.
I play 3 different ukuleles on the song “Whatever Happened” and bass. Joel Patterson played pedal steel on “Same Ol We”
Jacky Dustin from the August sang harmony on that song. The drummers are Brad Elvis, Mike Zelenko, Jim Barclay and Tommi Zender. Carolyn Engelmann played piano and she sang on some backrounds with me. Chuck Bontrager played violin and violas – Martha Larson played cello on “My Old Records”.

3.0 – Are all the tracks new or some oldies looking for their 5 minutes?

These songs were all new songs written for this record, except for “Broken baby Doll House”– that one was around for awhile, 2 songs were written as I was wrapping the album up: the last song “Parting For Awhile” was a tribute to my dear friend Carlos Hernandez-Gomez ,who had recently passed away from cancer, He was a Political reporter for CLTV and a huge music fan. I also wrote “National 36” days before we recorded that – we barely knew it when we went in to do it-its a simple rocker so I like that its a bit loose.

4.0 – Did you have a sound in mind before you began recording or did it evolve?

I intended each track to sound different than the next- using different instruments and overall approach to the sound – I wanted this to stand out from my previous records. Its natural to fall into a comfort zone, and to stay with what you do best – or to keep “your sound’ going – I wanted to change that, and I think I succeeded.

5.0 – There are some cinematic feeling pop passages as per usual but also some Nashville twang creeping in too, yeah?

I have come a long way as a musician – and i did try to show that off a bit. The Nashville thing has always been a part of me, I grew up listening to country music, I just never really incorporated it in my own songs-so I really went for it with ‘Same Ol We”  Even the lyrics are country-like, and having Joel on pedal steel and Jacky on harmony vocals really pushed it all the way.  As for cinematic- I did a cd years ago called ‘Juliet Foster” which followed story-line (I called it a film soundtrack, though there wasnt a film) so I do write that way at times.  The songs “Whatever happened To” and “Sorry About the Accordian Jill” sound like movie songs, and I wanted it that way. They are also the 2 songs on the album without drums.

6.0 – What do you find most rewarding these days: writing, singing, or playing live?

I’d say singing first –  because though I always had a certain sound  ( poppy-and from the Beatle/60’s school) I never recorded with much soul and recklessness- which I do live pretty well.  I am very experienced and natural at singing and stacking harmonies-  but I still think my best singing is when I sing live. I have a richer voice now than I used to- and alot of years of doing it so I’m a very confident singer on stage and I think it comes through more these days. I‘m also a much better guitarist these days-so i love playing guitar live.  Writing is still fun, but I’ve been doing it since I was 17 years old and it feels like work sometimes, and kinda normal-so its nowhere near as fun for me as playing live.

Angotti7.0 – Is there a seminal moment in your life that got you officially hooked on rock & roll?

I loved music as a child- my mom bought me Beatles and Monkees records, and I listened to country music with my dad
and anything they listened to, and I was glued to the radio….one memory that got me really hooked to rock n roll was this:
2 doors away from my house (I was around 9 years old) there was a family whose oldest brother played bass in a band –
they’d practice in their basement and you could hear it from my backyard. I snuck over there one day, and actually walked in on their practice and just stood there watching as they jammed – it was loud and exciting and I knew I wanted to be in a band right there and then!

8.0 – If there is time for nostalgia…..what is your all-time favorite Chicago rock n roll moment?

I went to the Granada Theater in 1980 w my best friend and band mate (in my first band, the Fleas) to see Cheap Trick. The opener was Off Broadway. We had great seats and I remember that show really grabbed me – it was great and it really inspired me. It was cool to see that these new bands (at the time) were so 60’s influenced, it made me feel like we were on the right track, and I was always a huge fan of that eras  power pop bands. I hated all those hair bands and metal and guitarists who played as fast as they can – so this was refreshing and inspiring.

9.0 – what advice would I offer to young players who show promise?

To work hard. Improve your craft. Don’t be lazy.

10.0 – As the 2012 apocalypse approaches you tuck a few artifacts in an iron drum for posterity: what items have you included?

Maybe some lyric sheets I’d written down of an old song I wanted to do – handwritten, because now guys have ipods on their mic-stands, I still hand-write my notes and lyrics!  Some flat-wound guitar strings (nobody uses them anymore, I do!) and the guitar pick I caught from that Granada show flung at me by Rick Nielsen!!!!


1.0 – What’s the best thing about your latest release, the new The Pear Traps EP, Elsewhere

It’s different than our previous EPs.  The first 2 were home recordings that we did by ourselves which is mainly why they took on the lo-fi sound.  Elsewhere is our first “studio” recording and although we kept it uncomplicated, it’s easy to hear the difference.

2.0 – Did you have a sound in mind when you starting recording it or did it evolve?

We completed the songs before actually recording them and knew how we wanted them to sound through our amps/drums/etc, but did not have any idea how it was going to turn out after recording.

we did the recording and mixing ourselves on the early recordings, so we had total control of the sound.  This time we had someone else (Jamie from Carterco here in Chicago) do the recording, mixing and mastering on legitimate equipment (as opposed to our karaoke microphones) and it was definitely a change.

We finished recording in 2 days and then Jamie spent another day or so mixing. During the mixing process Jamie was definitely leaning towards a cleaner, more professional sound and then when we heard the early mixes, we were always like “put more effects on that, make it more lo-fi!”  I think in the end it actually did evolve into a very happy medium and we could’nt be happier with Jamie’s help and input to give Elsewhere its full sound.

3.0 – Do you consider branding & image as part of the artistic process? 

In my opinion branding and image are part of the business process, not artistic.  If you know us or have seen us play a show it’s pretty easy to see that we put zero effort or thought into branding and/or image.  We are 5 friends playing music together because it’s fun and we like playing.  Not to try and make money or get big or anything like that.  Probably because we’re old enough to realize that we do this to have fun at practice every week and play out.  If we ever decided to start focusing on our image or try to be anything other than what we are, I think the enjoyment of us being in this band would go down dramatically.

4.0 – When did you start writing songs and what was your first?

I started writing about 3 or 4 years ago, right before we became a band.  I’ve always been a guitar player and never really thought about singing or writing songs – I actually prefer just hanging out and playing guitar in the background.  But over the years I’d come up with ideas for songs that I thought were OK, run them by the singer and nothing would ever come of them.  After not playing in a band for a little while and not finding anything that I was very interested in I started trying to complete ideas for songs by myself and eventually started singing.  I figured out how to program drums, record/mix audio, and just started messing around with songs in my apartment.  My first finished song was called “Ways to Doubt.”  It’s actually not that terrible and the thought of giving it a shot with The Pear Traps comes up every once in a while.

5.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to writing? 

No, not really.  If I’m ever at home not doing anything I’m usually messing around on my guitar.  If something happens to sound all right I record it.  Or tell myself I’ll remember how it goes but then usually forget about it.  If I come across the recorded guitar parts again (sometimes days or weeks later after I’ve forgotten I recorded anything) and it sounds decent I’ll try to put lyrics to them.  Very little effort or thought goes into the lyrics.  To me vocals are primarily just another melodic part to the music.  Ideally the lyrics end up clever or interesting but as long as they don’t seem extremely contrived or cheesy I’m usually OK with what comes out.

6.0 – And what about the stage and playing live?

Stage presence is another thing we don’t really put too much effort into.  It’s kind of the same thing as image, if we ever had to try to act or be a certain way on stage that wasn’t natural to us, I don’t think we would want to play out.  We have fun playing shows together so I imagine that comes across to the audience, which is all I would really hope for.

7.0 – How did you catch the rock & roll bug originally? 

Possibly a little cliché but it was when I heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.  I think I was in 4th grade and had always really been into music but when I heard that guitar intro it just blew me away.  I think my actual logic was that if I learned how to play guitar I could learn those songs and then I could hear them whenever I wanted to instead of waiting for them to come on the radio.  My dad was very musical and supported my interest in learning an instrument but we didn’t have much money so he made a deal with me that for every chore I did I got a dollar saved towards my guitar and after 100 dollars were saved up he’d buy me one.  Couple months later I had myself a very cheap, used white electric guitar and I was ecstatic.

8.0 – Did you have to work at it or does it come naturally?

I was not natural at all, it took a lot of effort for me to be a passable guitar player.  I’m just very stubborn.

9.0 – What’s your favorite record of all-time? 

Possibly another cliché but I’ve honestly got to say The Beatles’ White Album.  It was kind of funny because when I was younger I literally went through my Beatles phase in chronological order.  At first I really liked the poppy mop top love songs even though it was completely dorky and my friends would give me shit for it.  Then heard Revolver and thought it was just amazing.  Then got my hands on an Abbey Road tape and would listen to it on repeat.  Then one year for Christmas my mom bought me the White Album.  I remember listening to it lying in bed and feeling disgusted at how perfect everything they did was- no matter what genre they played in.  I actually remember hearing Dear Prudence for the first time and wanting to quit guitar because I knew there was never any way I could play something that great.

10.0 – What was the first concert you attended and what do you remember most about it today

This one is not so cliché.  My dad liked country and about the time I was listening to Nevermind over and over he took me to a Randy Travis concert.  I actually had tears in my eyes because I hated it so much.


Are you happy with how your new release Hit Me Back (Rock Ridge Music) has turned out?  Couldn’t be happier. Took a wee bit of a different approach than the prior albums….for example….there were certain artists we couldn’t reference….it was out of bounds so to speak…to reference some of the artists that most singer songwriters. Mkight refer to …you know a  ” you know how on that Dylan record they did that thing with the keyboard?” Those types of statements were forbidden….. you know the line….”.if you always do what you always did, you will always get, what you always got .” That was kind of our launch pad.

Who is it for?  The whimsical, the unwanted, the mourners, the isolated, the desperate, the devilish, the defeated, the kick-starters, the matador’s, the penniless poets, the dogged, the lovers on morning trains, the searchers, the seekers, the outcast, the count, the clown, the mistress, the widowed, the forgotten.

Where did you record it? with whom?  CJ Eiriksson …who is fucking brilliant! I worked with him a few years back. Then on tour in Italy, I was in the back of a car and leafing through the U2 record liner notes and noticed CJ”s name all over the place…..I was thrilled for him. I figured he had graduated to a different level and would no longer work with low lifes like me…My wife Heather told me if i didn’t write him, she would…i still had his email address and i wrote him….and he was on the road with U2 for the 360 tour but it was wrapping up soon and I pitched him….

How does it relate in your mind to your previous record, Hey La Hey?  It’s quite a departure. Songwriting is songwriting…at least mine is……but it’s really just what colors you use from your palette. We approached that record (HLH) with a band in the studio……this one… was me and CJ for the most of it.

With so many records under your belt, does one develop a philosophy when it comes to going into the studio, or is that called ‘the budget’?  HA….well that certainly is a factor in the equation….truth be told it’s as confusing as ever…..we did this record with the help of Kickstarter so we did have it planned we had a certain amount of time and come hell or high water… had to be done….so our philosophy was…….work quickly !

michaelmcdermott_hitmeback_cover-2Did you have sound or general attack in mind going in for Hit Me Back or did it evolve as the material took shape?  I think the songs really dictate what you do. I had a batch of songs that I thought were ready and then I sent them to CJ and he started working on loops from Texas and we kind of molded the record over the internet……then he came to town and we did it in 8 days.

Is it all new material or did any older, previously unrecorded songs bubble up to the surface as well?  There was one song, ” She’s Gonna Kill Me “, that we recorded for Hey La Hey and weren’t quite happy with it……so that one kind of stuck around…..another song ” Scars From Another Life” was a few years older….and one we would play live…..but when I sent CJ 40 songs or so…..he gravitated to that one…..he rearranged it and it came out amazingly well……it’s really having trust in your producer that he knows what he’s doing…..and you gotta be willing to walk the plank with him.

Do you have a favorite track (or tracks) on the disc or should we assume that’s the ‘titled cut’?  That’s certainly one cuz it’s probably the most ” fun ” song I’ve ever done……we thought we could hide it on the record and start it with more serious stuff but, wanted to come out with a smile…..I wrote that song in the car on the way to and from the hospital to see my dying mother….worst time in my life… for the sheer sake of my sanity i wrote a pretty funny and light hearted tune.

Any new influences reflected on the disc that you hear as the author?  Being referential to an earlier question…….we tried to use female influences more than male references……we put to rest all the old ” Gods ” the old ” Legends” and would be more influenced by Sinead, Dido, Florence, Sarah, then say Dylan, Bruce, Waits, Van, U2

Is ‘Hit Me Back’ a threat? kinky chatter? the facts of life or just a text message? what does it mean to you?  Great question…..well it was strictly a lyric in relation to my hangover that my head was hurting so bad it felt as if the bottle literally hit me back. But just those three words have a very ambiguous connotation which i love……it’s the masochist the fighter, the lover, the loser……all things which I know quite well.

 Are your earliest musical influences the most pervasive or do others break through along the way?  The early ones in the formative years are still the Mount Rushmore for me of songwriting….but there certainly have been people that have shown up in recent years that can influence you. Things constantly influence me……the train outside my window, to the man at the counter in a diner…..songs are everywhere….you just sometimes go looking for them in different places.
Where do songs arts for you, with the lyrical content or the music?  Totally varies, sometimes it’s a riff on guitar or a piano melody. Otherwise you get a lyric idea and then try to meld that into a song or melody. They are just different colors, and you need all of it to make a great painting so it matters little which comes first.  You’re going to need all of it if you want the song to sing on it’s own.
What is the first song you ever wrote, do you still like it? did it resurface anywhere else down the line?  The first song I wrote was in high school, and we named the band after the song – “Missing In Action / MIA”.  Nothing of that song ever reappeared, for good reason LOL.
How does “Hey La Hey” differ from your past releases?  It’s a far more restrained album. Which i like. The songs breath in a completely different way. Part of me misses some of the frenetic energy of the past albums, but i think it was a big step with not getting in the way of the song too much. Sometimes you try and do too much with a song and you end up kind of choking the life out of it……this album each song breathes on its own.
How did you approach going into the studio for the record?  I never usually have an approach….i’ve learned whenever i go into the studio thinking its gonna sound like one thing….it ends up sounding nothing like i thought it would. i’ve learned to let the song take you….and i just go along for the ride.
What is your favorite song on it?  That’s a tough one……if i had to have Bob Dylan hear one song….i’d pick Forgotten…….its a song thats spooky and has elements that make me uncomfortable. Its a song i havne’t heard in quite sometime…..because of the way it makes me feel. There’ something other worldly about it…..and i’m not sure if its a world i’d wanna be in.
If you had to make an “Introducing Michael McDermott” EP, what 3 songs would be on it?  Forgotten, Charlie Boy, The Silent WIll Soon Be Singing (unreleased song).
What’s the best part about playing Europe?  The people are the best thing. Besides my fascination with Europe as a whole…..the people and how they listen to music is the most inspiring thing. Europe has taught me about myself, its taught me how to love and approach life in a different way. I love it.
What advice would you give to young artists getting ready to tour for the first time?  I had a blast as a young man on the road. But maybe too good of a time. I’d say be moderate on the partying. That time of my life nearly killed me and i still have the scars to prove it. Have a great time….but ” dyin’ ain’t no way to make a livin” ( Clint Eastwood)


When did your fascination with guitars begin and Is it curable? I recall as a kid having an interest in guitars long before I knew how to play one. I have a vivid memory of dragging my poor mom into a music store and gawking at a hanging row of shiny new Gibson Firebird’s. There is a disease associated with guitar lust. It’s commonly referred to as GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome). So far I have not heard of a cure.

Do you still listen to the same players that turned you on as a kid?  Absolutely! You never quit learning from your mentors. It’s like watching a favorite movie 100 times and every time catching something you didn’t notice before. To this day I’m always fascinated listening to Jimmy Page, Brian May, Freddie King, etc.

What was the first guitar you ever owned? do you still have it?  Ok, disregarding the plastic banjo (prop) I had for my first public performance at around age 4, my first guitar was a lovely Hohner dreadnought, you know, the $99 variety. It had a skinny neck and never would tune properly. The coolest thing about it was the faux denim chip board case it came in. After all, it was the early ’70’s, baby. I gave that guitar to a student sometime in the late ’80’s. I was trading guitar lessons for kick boxing training.

It seems as if your timing and location were right on the money: how is Wicker Park treating you guys today?  Wicker Park is still one of the most vibrant and artistic communities in Chicago. I think we fit in here well. It has a great central location relative to the rest of the city. Good public trans., etc. Close to some good clubs, too. We see a lot of local and touring musician’s. Our starting time could have been better (right at the beginning of the economy bubble burst), but we’ve made the best of it.

How do you feel Avenue N Guitars is different than other musical equipment retailers in Chicago?  Certainly there are other great ma and pa music stores in the Chicagoland area, but, and this may sound cliche, I think the one thing that sets us apart is at the heart of it, we really do care about music and the people that make it and play it. Our main goal is to support that. We don’t have any gimmicks here, no slick sales pitches. We stand by everything we do. It also doesn’t hurt that we have a long and intimate history with vintage guitars and that market not to mention our guitar and amp service dept’s are one of the best kept secrets in Chicago.

How do you turn a walk-in new customer into a repeat offender? Again, by expressing our concern, going that extra yardage and providing the best customer service we possibly can.

How has the internet, ebay and the like impacted the guitar biz over the last decade? Huge impact. eBay has made a big dent in competition for small retailers. On the other hand it is useful for sales and a handy price comparison tool. Having a website can also be a great sales tool even if only used as advertising. A lot of people have developed retail businesses solely on eBay and websites. The ones that hustle have done very well although ebay sales have slipped over the last few years with the economy the way it is. Overall, the internet has been a game changer and mostly for the best, however, it’s not without negatives for small retailers. For example, it’s nearly immpossible to compete with corporate giants such as GC who not only sell on their own websites at grossly discounted prices (because that can buy from vendors in bulk at great discounts), but also sell on other internet sites they own as well such as American Music Supply, Music 123 and Musician’s Friend to name just a few.

Who do you think are making the best new electrics on the market today? any hot tips? The best new electrics, of course, come from the hands of custom builders and generally with a premium price. If we’re talking the big dogs (Gibson, Fender, etc.) and mass production, it’s hard to say. There has been a lot of scrambling going on it recent years. All the big companies keep producing more and more new models in every possible price point. In doing so, I feel they keep slipping further and further away from their roots as quality guitar makers. They seem to have no clue about their own history. Integrity and quality has long ago taken a back seat to profit margin. My question is this: if you are going to spend $3000 of your hard earned money on that Les Paul Custom you always wanted, would you buy the brand new plastic looking CNC machine made one or the cool old vintage one?

What’s is the strangest request you have received from a customer?  As a tip for good service, I once had a customer ask if I wanted to ‘light one up’ right at the front counter of the store. It was about one in the afternoon and the store was full of customers.

Should smashing guitars be made legal too?  For some guitars it definitely should be legal!


1.0 – Your solo release, HolyGhost/GoldCoast feels incredibly organic, did making it without other’s input per se help accentuate the flow? There’s something about working alone, late at night, when the rest of the world is quiet that really works for me. When I can get into a zone working on a track and just take it from start to finish over the course of several hours and really develop an idea and experiment with any sound or color I want — I love that. When you work with others, there’s a process you have to go through. Often, it’s very healthy and productive. But sometimes it feels like you’re auditioning your ideas for other people. “What if we did this?” And then you have to sell your partners on the idea, or maybe it gets rejected outright. Again, these are not necessarily bad things. Lots of good work comes from collaboration. But it’s also very freeing to not have to audition. You just do whatever is on your mind and you are the only one you’re working for. I like that. In the end, you’re the only one responsible for what you’ve done, so there’s that risk involved, but I’m okay with that. If other people like what I’ve created and can relate to it, that’s the best thing ever. But at least I know, before anyone else gets to hear it, that I have created something that I can live with.

2.0 – Is this something you had wanted to do for some time?  It really wasn’t something that was premeditated. I write a lot of songs. Sometimes more than I know what to do with. The solo album idea really came up as a way to collect some new and different material that I wanted to share. The Stereo Addicts were busy working on a separate bunch of new songs, and I had these other songs that I knew wouldn’t fit in to the bigger rock sound that we were working on at the time. So I just held on to them till I felt the timing was right.

url3.0 – How did you record it?  Each song on the album was written, recorded and mixed in one day. Meaning: one day, one song. Actually, there may have been one or two exceptions to that, but, by and large, that’s how it came together. And they were all pretty much made in the same place. I was staying in this tiny one-bedroom apartment in Chicago’s Gold Coast neighborhood. Late at night, I’d stay up writing and recording songs while the neighbors were sleeping next door. I think that’s probably the reason the album has such a quite, mellow feel to it. I couldn’t make too much noise, and that lead to some interesting experiments. Instead of using real shakers for a percussion track, I’d rub together two pieces of paper and use the magic wand of studio wizardry to make them sound like they were shakers. Or I’d record the sound of my sandal lightly tapping on the floor and use it to create a kick drum effect. And obviously I couldn’t be blasting my amp, so I’d either play really quiet electric guitars or else just stick to acoustic. That’s why I love recording at home: the limitations of your space define what you’re able to create. I think those kinds of limits are absolutely essential to making any good or interesting piece of art.

4.0 – Did you have a sound in mind or did it evolve as it came together?  I didn’t. Like I said, I think the environment was fairly key to developing the sound of these songs and recordings. But I never had any specific idea about what kind of sound I was going for. All of these songs were composed as part of a project I’ve been involved with called the Song League. It’s like a virtual song circle that I started a couple years ago with a handful of songwriter friends. Each week everyone in the League has to write a song, record it and share it online before Monday morning of the following week. Basically, it’s a deadline: produce something now or else appear impotent before all of your friends and respected peers. And when you’re faced with a deadline like that, and you don’t exactly have something ready to go, it sometimes forces you to create things that you might not normally create, or more importantly, things that you might not normally share with others. At least that has been my experience, and it’s been the most healthy thing that’s happened for me creatively in years. So when I have to write a song for the Song League, I just let it come and whatever it is that takes shape, that’s what it is. I worry about where it fits in later. So for this record, I had produced a bunch of songs that I liked, I picked the ones that fit together best and that was the record.

5.0 – Are all the songs new or were there some left overs from The Stereo Addicts that just fit this project better?  All the songs were new. I was going through this very productive phase in which I was writing songs all the time (mostly because I had to for the Song League). And it was always fairly obvious to me which ones were right for the Stereo Addicts and which weren’t. So those other songs, the ones that weren’t exactly Stereo Addicts material, were kind of floating around in some sort of limbo. I had them recorded and I wanted to share them with people, but wasn’t sure how to best do that. Ultimately, I just decided to pick the ten songs that fit best together as one album and put it out as a solo release. There’s still a bunch of songs from that period (and the time since) that haven’t seen the light of day. But maybe someday soon…

6.0 – Are you going to perform the songs alone on tour or do you plan to have accompaniment?  I’ve been performing the songs with a trio and hope to continue doing it that way. I think there will probably be some solo shows here and there, but that’s not exactly my favorite way to play these songs. It’s a “solo record”, but many of the tunes are fairly layered with various instruments and sounds. For me, those extra colors and textures are as important to the song as the lyrics or guitar part. So playing them by myself doesn’t really convey the full picture I’d like to paint for the listener. I really enjoy having the ability to create a similar, or at least equally interesting, sound on stage as was created in the studio. It’s a very different challenge, but it’s a fun one. And as we’ve tried to play these songs live we’ve found some really cool new ways to approach the arrangements. In a lot of cases, I like now like the live versions even better than the recordings!

7.0 – What led you to pick up the guitar originally?  I grew up surrounded by music. My father is a musician, and he had (and still has) a huge collection of LPs, cassettes, and CDs. And he also had a nice collection of instruments too — mostly guitars — many of which I’m fortunate enough to use when I perform these days. So it was basically inevitable that I’d pick one up someday.Oddly enough though, I first gravitated towards drums and started learning how to play the kit when I was around the age of 12. A year later I started learning guitar at music class in school. We had a really incredible music teacher named Larry Theiss. He’s still around teaching and composing and recording. Just an incredible guy. He taught us how to play drums and guitar and bass and everything. My entire seventh grade class — almost every one of us learned how to play drums! It was amazing. So that’s where it started, and then my father helped me a lot along the way. There were guitars at home, so I was playing all the time. I fell in love as soon as I learned my first song: the bass line to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Kurt Cobain was still alive and everybody wanted to learn how to play those songs. Just learning that bass line was the coolest thing ever. The day I learned it, I came home from school and played it for hours until my parents asked me to stop. They’ve been extremely supportive and tolerant of my music and all the noise that accompanies it over the years, and I don’t blame them for needing a break from it every now and then!

8.0 – Who or what did you want be when you were a kid?  I distinctly remember being asked that question when I was in second grade. It was for some kind of presentation I was supposed to give about myself. I had no idea what to say. I said, “A fireman.” I don’t know where that came from. It wasn’t true. I just said it because I had no other answer. And when I went to college I still didn’t know. Even by the time I graduated I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I was going to do. But I do remember the first time I really saw a rock concert video when I was about 10 years old. It was called “Eric Clapton and Friends.” It was the Eighties. Phil Collins was the drummer. I thought he was amazing. They all were. From that point on, I always wanted to play music, but I never really believed it would be my job. Now that it is, it’s pretty surreal. But I’m very, very grateful to be able to play and write and produce and just share music with other people. I can’t think of anything nicer to be able to with my life.The funny thing is I’m about to turn thirty and I still ask myself that question: “What am I going to do when I grow up?” And I think I finally know the answer. I really want to grow as a producer and keep making records with other people. This past year, I’ve been very fortunate to work in that role with a handful of really fantastic artists. Musikanto, who I think you interviewed here a few months back; Julie Meckler, a rising star in the Chicago music scene; my friend Chris Anderson on his project, Old Fashioned War — which is basically a who’s who of Chicago’s best musicians — and the songs are beautiful. It’s been a dream come true to have these opportunities, and that’s what I’d really like to keep doing.

9.0 – Why did you leave Milwaukee for Chicago and how are you enjoying the windy city?  The Milwaukee area will always be my home, but I came down to Chicago to be with my girlfriend at the time. Now she’s my wife, so I think it was a good move! Anyways, I gradually started spending more and more time in Chicago (which coincided with the making of this album) and eventually I was just down here more than I was in Milwaukee. But I still make it up to Wisconsin all the time, so it kind of feels like a dual-citizenship, if you will. I like it that way. I’d miss my family and friends in Milwaukee too much if I wasn’t making the trips back and forth.And you asked if I’m enjoying it here. Yes, definitely. It’s a great city, and the people I’ve met down here, both in the music community and otherwise, have been extremely welcoming and kind and generous. I’ve made some really strong friendships and found a very solid group of musicians to work with and hang out with. It’s a very supportive and loving scene. People are playing together in a variety of different projects and sharing their talents. That’s something I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

10.0 – When did you become a ‘Stereo Addict’ and what would rehab be like?   Ha! Good question. That’s one I have not been asked before! I just like the ambiguity of that name. If you’re a Stereo Addict, you could be really into audiophile stereo gear, like speakers, receivers, equalizers and all that. Or maybe you just really love the aural illusion created by two channels of audio: as in stereo recordings versus mono. You know, the way sounds move from one ear to another when you’ve got headphones on, and it’s two in the morning and you’re listening to a Jimi Hendrix record. It’s magical. To me, it’s just all about the love of sound and what it does to you. We’ve got two ears, so we live in a stereo world, and I’m so glad the gods saw fit to give us the gift of music. If I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t want to live.

(photo portrait of Will Phalen by Kait Rathkamp)


How did your musical partnership with Chloe Orwell come about?

When putting together Big Hello (’96-’02) Chloe answered an ad I had in a local Chicago entertainment weekly. I was looking for a vocalist who played guitar, male or female, as long as they were good. I’m lucky she answered. We clicked immediately and have been together ever since.

Is the new The Handcuffs disc Waiting For The Robot, inspired social commentary or a space age fantasy?

Our newest album and our third is Waiting For The Robot. Thirteen rock songs with big nods to glam and pop. I sometimes call it “sarcastic glam rock” with titles like, “I’m So Happy That You’re Out Of My Life,” “The Scary Side Of Me,” “Kiss This Goodbye,” etc.. So if you need a feel good revenge song to make you feel better about breaking up with someone, these songs are for you. Of course there are other upbeat songs as well such as, Dirty Glitter and “Miss You On Tuesday” which have been getting lots of radio airplay. I’m proud of all of my releases in my lengthy career (Screams, The Elvis Brothers, Big Hello) but this third Handcuffs album is the best I’ve ever done. I’m really proud of this one.

Did you have specific goals for it in terms of sound or direction as it relates to your first two releases?

When starting on a new album, we (Chloe and I) select 15 or so that we think fit together for the sound of that album. Our first album, Model For a Revolution has a sound and a character but since it’s our first, it’s kind of a mixture of everything The Handcuffs were trying to convey. Rock songs with melody and hints of glam. It was a definite departure in sound from Big Hello (three albums) which was pretty much straight ahead pop/punk/rock. The Handcuffs mix retro inspiration with updated current production. We don’t want to be a retro time piece and, clearly, we’re not, which is probably why a number of current television shows have used our songs. Our second album, Electroluv is a step forward from our first and I think it’s the most pop of our releases. Our third and newest release, Waiting For The Robot, definitely was inspired by early Bowie, T. Rex, Mott The Hoople, etc. along with newer bands like Goldfrapp and the Ting Tings, etc.. Lots of underlying acoustic guitar and piano along with a Les Paul and Marshall bringing in the heavy. A good example of this is the song, “Eight Down”, about a friend who has used eight of his nine lives and needs to get it together before it’s too late. “Robot” is our most consistent yet and the response has been great.

You do a number off fun unorthodox things most drummers would never think of, who is your biggest influence as a player?

I am a self taught drummer. I’m lucky because I have natural timing and a good ear for music, and basically could just play drums from day one. Early on I thought I should find a role model to follow and I related to the drumming of “some drummer” named Keith Moon for a new band called The Who. Haha, who knew what they would turn into at the time?! They were just another 60s pop band at the time. As a kid, I liked to entertain, my family loved humor and so my personality and love for entertaining comes out in my drumming. Moon and I were a natural fit even before I saw him perform on television appearances. I always liked taking that surprise left turn in my drumming. I really think about and plan out my drum fills and intros on recordings. I try not to do the typical drum fills unless a song really calls for it. Another favorite drummer of mine was jazz musician Gene Krupa who was the first drummer to bring drums to the forefront as a lead instrument. Other influences for my drumming are guitar players and comedians where timing, dynamics and accents are very important. It all relates.

What were the first few records you bought as a kid?

I grew up in the single/45 era so a number of my first records were singles by Paul Revere and the Raiders (“Hungry”), The Who (“I Can See For Miles”), The Beatles (“Help,” though I mostly played the rocking b side, “I’m Down”), etc. It seems like the songs I was attracted to were songs with strong beats or heavier riffs. The first few albums I owned were by Paul Revere and The Raiders (Just Like Us), The Rolling Stones (High Tide and Green Grass), The Kinks (Greatest), The Beatles, (Magical Mystery Tour), Vanilla Fudge (first LP), etc.

You have been in a string of well regarded bands, how important do you think each band’s commitment to image was key in their ultimate success? (does this come from a love of British Invasion for you?)

Yes, I grew up in that overwhelmingly important era of 60s British Invasion so I wanted to be like my heroes. The excitement of Carnaby Street, mod haircuts, velvet and striped jackets seems so alien and other-worldly compared to the drab Midwest. The image just stuck of how a band should look and I’ve always been image conscious with all of my bands. Not that I try and dress everyone like Austin Powers, but a cohesive look of some sort is important. Example: If you have three or four band members wearing black straight legs, jackets and a boa or two, you don’t want a sloppy guy with a beard, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt. People will think he’s the gardener for the band. But, on the other hand’ four sloppy guys with beards works also and they don’t particularly want a guy in a jacket and boa standing next to them. So yes, I think image is important and having the band look like the band sounds is an important part of the whole package. And rock and roll didn’t invent the image thing, it goes all the way back to the big band era, country and western bands, folk groups, etc.

Playing with The Romantics seems like such a great fit for your drumming style, was it something you had thought about ever before it happened?(in any way?)

I never really thought about it or dreamed of one day playing in The Romantics. In fact my former band, Screams had a major album release on Infinity/MCA in 1979, about a year before they did, so I had been around. It’s a case of we all grew up in the same era and liked the same bands. The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, etc. I knew where they were coming from, I learned their songs and it works. Bottom line is that I’m a good drummer and it’s just an added plus that I fit in so well with the image. I got The Romantics gig through my friend and fellow drummer Clem Burke of Blondie, who had been playing with The Romantics and he suggested me as his replacement when Blondie got back together and became too busy with their own touring. Clem was a good fit with The Romantics and to this day I get people thinking I’m Clem because of our similar look and drumming style. We both were influenced by Keith Moon, The Beatles, etc. and, coincidentally, we are the two drummers that get identified stylistically with that. It’s not like we are influenced by each other thoughit seems that it would be that way. We were both playing in bands and releasing records before we even knew each other.

Which of their tunes are your favorites to play and which song did you find the most difficult to get down?

I enjoy playing all of The Romantics songs and I never really had any difficulty learning them. The original drummer Jimmy Marinos, plays left handed on a right handed kit so some of the original drum fills seemed a bit odd to me before I knew that – meaning that some of his fills start opposite or end opposite of what a right handed drummer like myself would naturally play. So, I had to change what comes naturally to me to get the same feel as the original.

Gene Simmons once said “when the drummer sucks, even the fat girls know,” what did he mean?

I have no idea what he meant, but I do know this: A good drummer can make a bad band sound good and a bad drummer can make a good band sound bad.

Can you give us side one of the seemingly reasonable sounding, Elvis Played Drums On This; Greatest Hits, including all your prior bands?

I have done quite a bit of session work for other bands with some nice stand out drumming bits. A few albums that I can recall: Jay Bennett and Edward Burch, The Palace at 4am album and The Spanic Boys, Sunshine album. I also played on Torture  and their latest, yet to be released and Three Hour Tour – 1st album, 1969, B Side Oblivion, Looking For Tomorrowall released on Parasol. A Brad Elvis drums greatest hits, side A:

Screams – “Angeline’s Toys”- from Screams, self-titled album (Infinity/MCA/Universal) – 1979

The Elvis Brothers -“Fire In The City” – from Movin’ Up (Portrait/Sony) – 1983

The Elvis Brothers – “Don’t Take My Guns Away” – from Adventure Time (Portrait/Sony) – 1985

The Elvis Brothers – “I’ve Got Skies For Her” – from Now Dig This (Recession Records) – 1992

Big Hello – “Sister Mary” – from The Apple Album (Parasol) 1998

Big Hello – “If You Don’t Stop Your Crying” – from The Orange Album (Break-Up Records) – 2000

Big Hello – “Slingerland Drums” – from Apples and Oranges (Break-Up Records) – 2001

The Handcuffs – “I’m Not Laughing” – from Model For a Revolution – (OOFL Records) 2006

The Handcuffs – “I Just Wanna’ be Free, Man” – from Electroluv (OOFL Records) – 2008

Three Hour Tour – “Heaven And Hell” (by The Who) – from Looking For Tomorrow (Parasol) – 2010

The Handcuffs – “Kiss This Goodbye” – from Waiting for the Robot (OOFL Records) – 2011


1. When did you start writing and what were your initial subjects? 

I started writing in notebooks when I was probably six or eight – it’s hard sometimes for me to discern reality from family myths. Anyway, by the time I was 10, reading and writing had become central to my daily life and very survival. My initial efforts, like now, involved trying to make sense of things and to savor the beauty of the world, the indifference, the chaos and drama. You know, pompous artsy whiny stuff (grin).

2. Who are your main literary influences? Do you emulate any of them? 

This is going to sound clichéd, but if I were to be stranded on a desert island and had only one author’s work, it would hands-down be Tolstoy. War and Peace and Anna Karenina are the best novels ever. By themselves they would be enough.

Another all-time favorite is JD Salinger; I have spent years reading and studying him. I also love Virginia Woolf; I treasure her prose, her lyrical and psychological depth. And Dostoevsky, Raymond Chandler, Adrienne Rich. The list goes on. In general, I love books, a lot of different kinds of books, and when I find ones I love, I carry them around for years and re-read them time and again.

Do I emulate my favorite authors? You bet I do – or at least I try to – just like guitarists and drummers and singers, I guess: borrow here, borrow there, add your own two cents.

3. OK, now you’ve done it – you are stranded on a desert island, one turntable, no booze, 5 albums….what are they? 

Ha, no booze, interesting! OK, I wish I could just have 5 mix tapes (REALLY, my musical tastes are MUCH broader than the question allows  (I’d like a Brandenburg Concerto, a piano piece by Keith Jarrett, blasts by Coltrane and Mingus and Monk, Satchmo’s It’s a Wonderful World, and the Exploited’s Sex and Violence)), but sticking to the spirit of your question, five albums as follows, followed by five back-ups in case of warping due to sun or saltwater:

First Five: The Clash’s The Clash (U.S. release w.  “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”), David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Leonard Cohen’s The Songs of Leonard Cohen, The Velvet Underground’s The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Husker Du’s Zen Arcade

Back Up Five: The Replacement’s Let It Be, Tom Waites Nighthawks at the Diner, Bob Marley Legend, Nirvana’s Nevermind and Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. 1

4. What is the status of your long toiled-over life’s work, the semi-fictional “Vicious Circles”

It is virtually done, except for my final confession in the last chapter and the epilogue. Or maybe that’s a gross misstatement; maybe I should just say it’s what it is and I am virtually getting ready to slay the beast one final time. I am working on it part-time now but I think about it all the time and hope to deliver it in-full next year. So, yeah….it’s been sixteen or seventeen or eighteen years, depending on the math.

5. What is it about? 

It’s about a sixteen-year-old Sarah, a girl who ran away in 1977 from the suburbs to the city of Chicago. It’s a true story based on nearly 100 hours of tapes Sarah and I made together. She was of course, like virtually all runaways, exploited. It recounts her adventures and misadventures as a girlfriend, a professional escort, a wife, a mother. It’s drugs, sex, power, survival, Chicago, the 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, and it’s about running away and, then again, not running away.

6. You are also a chef celebrating the opening of your first restaurant, Fusion Cafe;  is the name autobiographical? 

Well, celebrating is not exactly the word for it, if you know the restaurant business. It’s more like trading in your life and working and worrying all the time, but luckily I love it.

I hadn’t realized it exactly until I thought about your question: yeah, I guess the name is autobiographical. Fusion, the melting pot, my African father, my English mother, my art, my science, my cooking, and on and on and on…. It’s almost like a guiding principle for me, now that I think about it. (see Tristan’s ‘Cafe 101’ cooking blog)

7. You’ve always been an avid indie music purveyor and dabbling songwriter, does music have a nexus with cooking? 

Yes, I think so, very much.  Think in terms of a production, the mix, the balance, the quality of performance, the quality of equipment, and of course the composition itself, the melodies and harmonies, the tempo and rhythms, and of course the lyric…. These all have almost direct analogies to a successful (or unsuccessful) dinner service.

8. What are you listening to these days? 

I’m listening to Pandora a lot these days. I had been listening a lot to internet radio on iTunes a lot for a couple of years really, especially Coyote Radio out of UCal.-SanBernadino and Boot-Liquor, a SomaFM alternative countryish station with a alcohol sub-theme. But ever since I started Pandora when I got my iPhone, I’ve been listening to a lot of Superchunk Radio and stuff like that.

 9. As a writer, do you have to stay busy at your craft to keep your chops up like a musician, or do you have to walk away from time to time to keep things fresh? 

Well, I’m probably the last person to give advice about writing habits, but I’d say both have their place. Like with everything of course: practice, practice, practice is the way to get better and to get things done. Writing though especially takes place not only in the act of writing but in the act of living too.

10. What takes more courage for you, actually writing or reading what you have written?  

Wow, that’s a good question. I don’t know, probably the writing; as much as I love it, I am very afraid quite often and really, you know, it can be hard and it can hurt. I love the quote from Hemingway: “There’s nothing to writing, just sit at the keyboard and bleed.”

In terms of reading, the hard part is getting past the understandable but unreasonable loyalty to what one has written – that is, to approach and see it objectively. to be able to critically assess its virtues and weaknesses and to have the courage to re-write.


How’s the Townshend windmill these days?  I don’t deploy the windmill much these days. The stages I am playing are too crowded and the ceilings generally too low. I will bring it out if it feels right at some point, I suppose.

What was your first rock concert and what do you remember most about it? Jethro Tull, Chicago Stadium, October 1978. I remember the awe of being at my first giant rock show, the haze that hovered above the crowd, Frisbees and toilet paper rolls flying everywhere before the show. The tickets were $8.50, the bootleg t-shirts were five bucks, Uriah Heep opened, and my friend Al and I drove his family’s VW Bug to the show, taking Milwaukee Avenue from Park Ridge, for some reason. Someone threw an egg and hit Tull’s drummer in the face. The music was an indistinguishable, reverberating collision of sounds. The seats were in another county. It was great.

What’s the craziest thing that has ever happened to you on the road? I was driving a Sprinter Van full of Poi Dogs down the coast in California the day after a gig in Mendocino (where my ashes are to be scattered), and en route to San Francisco, where we had a gig that night at the incredible American Music Hall. We had a tire blowout the day before and were riding on a spare, that may or may not have been put on with care and precision. Anyway, I was driving and there came an agitated grumbling from the driver’s side rear wheel, the one that had been changed the day before. It was rather unsettling and began to grow more pronounced. I was beginning my move towards the exit ramp when the wheel pried itself loose and came off. I kept control and steered us off to the shoulder, riding on three wheels and a howling axle. It was a crazy seven seconds or so of chaos and odd personal clarity. We scraped safely to a stop on the shoulder, trying to figure out just what the hell had happened, and like the punchline frame in a cartoon, the wheel came rolling lazily and wobbily to a stop in the grassy median that separated both sides of the highway. There should have been some lazy banjo music accompanying the unhurried comical rolling wheel as it seemed to poke around, looking for a good spot to lie down. But we were all safe.

We got out of the van and called Triple A and started milling around on the side of the road. I shot some video for YouTube which is out there somewhere. The really unbelievable part of the trip started then. A couple who had seen us in Mendocino the night before recognized us as they passed us, then turned around and came back to see if they could help. They were driving a small pickup truck, and they called a local friend to see if they could borrow their van. They returned with their extra vehicle, and the Triple A tow truck driver defied all his rules and grabbed our van, and filled up his truck with band members (who knew tow trucks had back seats?) and took us as far as he could, which was to a gas station just outside the SF city limits. We then crammed all of the band members and our gear and suitcases in into the van and pickup truck and made it to the gig on time. We loaded in, and then sat down to eat our free meal and a much needed pint of beer, and I remember looking at Rick and Max and saying “What the fuck just happened?” (watch Dag Julin’s Tour Movies)

There was a brand new van waiting for us the next day, as the rental company was there in SF. It worked out, only through the most cosmically fortunate set of circumstances imaginable. I have forgotten the name of the couple, but they were amazing. It was one of the friendliest acts I’ve ever been the beneficiary of.

As a guitarist, how did you adapt from playing with a band like The Slugs to joining a much larger stage band like Poi Dog Pondering?  The main thing I had to do was listen and just not blast heavy chords through the whole tune. I still play too loudly, unfortunately, but I have learned to get out of the way and say more, musically, with less.

The stage seems a very comfortable place for you, do you have any advice for happy onstage trails?  Just be right there in the room at that moment.

Does being a copywriter-by-day make it harder or easier to write lyrics?  I don’t know if I’ve ever taken lessons from either side of my writing lives and integrated them. I know that there are times when I tend to write rhythmically or with rhyme in my copywriting gigs, but only if it works. I wrote a thing for a Perry Mason promo that went “A crime, a clue, a suspect or two…” which I suppose could be a result of songwriting.

Who is in Expo’76 and what tunes do you guys do?  Expo’76 is myself on guitar and vocals (and posters and master set list), Kenny Goodman on keys, John Carpender on drums and Ralph Baumel on bass. We are often augmented by at least two of the Total Pro Horns: Max Crawford, Dave Smith and Justin Amolsch. We cover a lot of ground, from Duke Ellington to Nick Lowe; from Oscar Brown Jr. to Neil Sedaka. It’s tremendous fun.

When the call about the Dag Juhlin All-Star Band World Tour comes in, what super-star legends, dead or alive, are backing you up?  Georgie Fame (organ), Toots Thielmans (harmonica), Tommy Ardolino & Joey Spampinato (NRBQ; on drums and bass), Scott MacCaughey (Minus 5, REM, Young Fresh Fellows, etc., guitar/bartender). I would just hold everyone’s coats while they played.

Your making a road trip…..what’s on the Juhlin playlist these days?  In the car it’s been the most recent Beastie Boys album; the Beatles first album Please Please Me, which is my favorite Beatles album; Bruce Springsteen’s The Promise, that 2CD set of ‘Darkness’ extras, and Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. At family dinner time it’s often Count Basie; when I am on the train it’s usually Segovia or a weird electronic thing; and when I am going to sleep it’s usually The Everly Brothers.

Upon arrival at the Pearly Gates you are surprised to learn old Saint Peter likes to rock, what say ye?  I just say “So, Pete. Any requests? Waddya wanna hear?”


1.0 – What songs or artists did you really connect with as a kid?

Jim (Drake) and I rocked out to David Bowie “Diamond Dogs”, Dire Straits “Tunnel of Love”, Queen “Bicycle Race”, Bruce Springsteen “I’m on Fire”, The Waterboys’ “Room to Roam” (the whole album) and our beloved The Might Be Giants’ “Flood” in its entirety.  That Waterboys record really struck a chord in me and is actually the inspiration behind that ad I put on craigslist when I set out to build this big scrappy band.  The Springsteen records were also an important piece of the puzzle.  The E Street Band, Blood Sweat and Tears, Dire Straits, and even Sly and the Family Stone were gigantic parts of my early musical education on account of my dad.  In the car on the way to the cabin, along with routine family squabbles and threats to stop the whole f***ing thing and turn around, we listened to The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and all the Motown hits you can think of.  “Put on your seat belt!” …I love my mom.

2.0 – When did you start writing/singing songs and what is the first tune you ever wrote? 
Jim and I first wrote a killer punk rock song called “Idiots for Spring.” Jim was on drums and I was on a super distorted crunchy guitar my dad bought, running through an absurdly huge solid state amp.  We recorded it on a four track reel-to-reel recorder that our Uncle Walter gave us, through two shotgun condenser mics leftover from 1973, and we overdubbed the vocals with the speaker next to the mic which gave it the coolest slap back delay I’ve heard to date.  The lyrics were simply “Idiots for spring! Idiots for spring! I don’t know what I’m doing! Idiots for spring!”  I remember being shy when I did the vocals, so I faced the wall like a proper angsty teenager. We were 14 and 12.  The song has long since been lost in the shuffle of living, moving, and purging. Damn I wish I still had that reel-to-reel.
3.0 – Are you happy with how recording sessions for the new Jon Drake & The Shakes album turned out? 
The album will be called either “The Declaration of Ulysses” or “Dear Ulysses”. Which one do you like?  We packed up three cars with a studio, and engineer, four musicians and our gear, then hit the road for Galena, Illinois where the elusive and sometimes drunk Ulysses S. Grant retired.  Our gang of bandits included engineerer Joe Gac (Elephant Gun), drummist Dan Dorff, basser Matt Wilson, guitar and keyboarder Joseph Mietus, and myself on bathroom scratch vocals and booze consumption promoter. We set up our studio in a cabin in the hills and worked twelve hour days for five days straight.  Ellis Seiberling (tromboner and co-producer of “Ulysses”) showed up on the second day and worked through each night with us.  We layed down our music the best we know how fueled with booze, love, burritos, soup, pizza, and zero drugs.  We decided to forgo a click track long before we set foot in our cabin (with no running water) in the middle of the stark cold winter. I have dreams of buying out a week in a top notch studio in Nashville, but nothing will ever compare to our sessions in Galena.  We played ELO records, PJ Harvey records, Stacks records, Motown records, D’Angelo’s “Voodoo”, and a bunch of tunes from all our old bands we used to play with. Working with Joe Gac was a real pleasure.  He works hard, has a great ear, and most certainly “doesn’t give a f***.”When we got back to Chicago we went into Nick Broste’s studio Shape Shoppe to track horns, strings, vocals, and my guitars.  The horns and strings tracked live as sections, we did quite a bit of group vocals with hollers and hand claps, and I did a few versions of each tune on vocals before deciding on takes.  Working with Nick was a pleasure and we became great friends.  After tracking, we got into mixing. At this point in my life I had been pouring every ounce of my time and money into finishing the record. I lost my job, there were days I didn’t eat in order to afford transportation, we worked endless hours.  There was on night we were tweaking out over mixes at 6 in the morning. I hadn’t slept in maybe two days.  Nick stayed with me till the end.  The key to our mixing success was this: Nick and I mixed as best we could, then Ellis Seiberling would go in with a fresh ear (without me) and have free range to make any adjustments he saw fit to the songs.  I trust Ellis implicitly and his ear for music, sounds, and mixes is akin to non other.  He’s my brother.Making a record is hard.  It is not unlike climbing a mountain.  It ebbs and flows, and eventually you can see the summit in sight.  Once you finish, turn the page and get drunk.  When you wake up there’s 1000 more things to do.  Such is being a band.
4.0 – Do you record live as an 8-piece or do basic tracks first and then build it piecemeal?
Our next project is a low-fi live EP with all eight of us in a room.
5.0 – How do you guys approach writing as a band?
The reality: writing is hard.  Each time I write a song it is as if I’ve never done it before and I have absolutely no clue what the hell I’ve gotten myself into.  Writing is full of doubt.  It is a massive, unmovable stone slab.  It is not until the block gets chipped away that anything takes form.  It takes sweat and determination.  I get drunk.  I pour all my hopes and fears into a guitar, mandolin, or banjo.  I hit record on a tape deck.  Fingers to the fret board, pick to the strings, open mouth… something comes out.  It begins to take form.At this point I’ve usually finished a pint of whiskey and begin tracking the tune with garbly distorted bass parts, hilarious and swaying drum lines, and five or six vocal parts. Whatever, it’s a tune.  After a smoke break full of self doubt and fleeting melodies I listen to the monster and voila! It lives and breaths! It speaks!I toss it off to Ellis, he nods in approval, and arranges the horn and string parts.  We bring it to the band and as a whole, abandon most of what the demo had, and in the end deconstruct the thing and write our own parts together.  It’s wholly collaborative and very cool.
6.0 – You’re shooting a video for the new song “Charlie”, how did you decide on that one as the ‘single’ and will it be a concept video?

Isn’t every music video a concept video?

7.0 – You have been doing some touring, how does the audience reaction impact you in the moment?
It’s this great thing were we pour our love into our music, which makes the audience high and happy and in turn they pour love and applause onto us.  It makes us high for days.  It’s the best ever and I want to do this for the rest of my life with this group of amazing musicians.
8.0 – Is there a Jon Drake & The Shakes elevator pitch when promoting shows to ‘the man on the street’?
Cute girl at the counter who overheard a few Shakes talking: “What’s your band like?”
Jon or Shake: “We’re an eight piece folk/pop band from Logan Square (Chicago). We’ve got horns, strings, mandolin, keys, guitars, and the like.”
9.0 How do you like playing to strangers on the road versus your Chicago hometown fans?
Chicago is the best city on earth.  Our fans are our friends.  We love it here.  But let’s not forget that each show is separate and unique no matter where you play.  It’s a fragile existence that could fall apart at any moment.  We rely on our faith in each other to keep it together.  Strangers tend to be the most excited, not unlike the best first date ever, and Chicago fans seem to simply be happy that we’re doing what we’re doing.  Either way, both are entirely supportive and amazing.
10.0 – What are you guys listening to in the van?
Heartless Bastards “The Mountain”, lots of punk rock, lots of soul, Ben Folds, Ohtis, Elephant Gun’s new record, and countless others.  At some point Evan put on some cookie monster metal- to which Drew rocked out.


1.0 – What are your immediate plans for Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra?  Finishing our next record: For The Baby Doll. Best one we’ve ever recorded.

2.0 – Many musicians talk about the song that put a spell on them as a youngster, was there one for you as well?  So many songs over the years. But the first one was as a near toddler. My dad took me to a little diner called Ted G’s for a hamburger. In the booths were these little jukeboxes at each table you could toss a nickel in, punch a couple switches and hear a tune. I couldn’t read yet but pretended I could and hit a letter and a number I could figure out. Out came “Lucille” by Little Richard. Fixed my idea on the good life forever!

3.0 – What stuff got you off most when you first started playing guitar? Hendrix, Hendrix and more Hendrix.

4.0 – Are their triggers in your life today that lead you to write or is it more of an applied science of sorts? There’s little things, melodies and phases I collect for later. I only write when I feel it. Some come fast. Some sit around for years. Try not to push it out if I don’t have to.

5.0 – I imagine there were industry folks early on that wanted to put you in a tidy category or confine your direction, how did you deal with it? Never got into music to be pushed around. There was a time I thought people in the biz’s opinions were smarter than mine but it’s been proved wrong too many times to heed that anymore. As for changing things up record to record, NTO and I thrive on it. Probably wouldn’t have been able to hold the band together had we started repeating ourselves. These boys want an adventure.

6.0 – What artists do critics assume are the pillars of your musical influence? any they seem to often miss? As of late we’ve had some pretty accurate people writing about us. I think it’d be impossible to really nail down what influences anyone one of us, though. We listen to everything and it rolls around in our heads and hands and comes out the way it does. The list would be way to diverse and abstract to try and track down.

7.0 – As a Chicagoan, do you think the tradition of the Chicago blues has any role in your ethos or music? NTO is totally a regional band with Chi-town blues pocket. Our musical accent in our backbeat and have been told so by some really perceptive musicians from around the country. Do I hear it a lot in other bands in town outside of the blues? Not very often. Regional groove has begun to become a bit of an antique I guess.

8.0 – Is there a trick to reading an audience? No trick really. You can feel it though when you’re all in it at the same time. When the audience and the band all feel the moment together. It’s a pretty amazing thing and if there’s a trick to getting there, I don’t want to know what it is.

9.0 – With so much material to choose from, how do you approach writing set lists? We just try different things every time to keep it fun for ourselves. We try not to stick with one thing or another. I could probably be better at it. Some of my pals are the best set makers around. I try and learn from them.

10.0 – Suppose you are caught in a time-loop like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, what gig are you forced to re-live over and over again? Any of our shows with Alejandro Escovedo at Fitzgeralds. Best friend. Best club.

tafka VINCE

1.0 – It strikes me that the title to your latest CD, “On Display”, kinda sums up your approach; in your face. Is that fair? 

That’s fair. When we play or people here the music I want it to be noticed. Love it or hate it, but not background noise you can ignore.

2.0 – One may hear more New York or Detroit than Chicago in your rock, who are your musical heroes? 

Good ear you have. Big influences, The New York Dolls, The Ramones (70’s NYC punk in general), Stooges, MC5, Bowie, T Rex and coming back home the earliest influence is still Cheap Trick. The city of Chicago is a big influence. I love my hometown, the city and it’s music and people keep inspiring me.

3.0 – What track on the new disc are folks reacting to most? Is it your favorite too? 

“Laser Beam Precision” gets people dancing, always a good sign. “O” is another one of my favorites; it’s all drama and suited for the stage (like me).

4.0 – How do you write? does it start with a riff most often?

That varies. Sometimes I strum some chords or play a riff and build from there. Other times I have a phrase that is a great opening line or chorus hook and figure out how to build on that and add the music

5.0 – Who is playing and singing on the disc and what are your guys plans as a band?

On the record, Me-vocals & guitar, Lauren Kurtz-vocals, Brian Chinino-drums, Chris Geisler-bass with guests Ed Anderson(Backyard Tire Fire)-guitar, Aaron Lee Tasjan(Madison Square Gardeners)-guitar, Vee Sonnets(The Sonnets)-keys & guitar. Produced By Tony SanFilippo. Live we have Christopher Elam on lead guitar.

The record recently came out online and we should be receiving the LP’s soon, so we plan on playing as much as we can, wherever we can. Hoping to hit NYC again before the end of the year and possibly down to SXSW in the spring. Also trying to figure out how to get someone to pay for to go play in Europe.

6.0 – When did you settle on the moniker “The Artist Formally Known As Vince”? Do you feel it affords you more freedom to not be ‘Vince’?

I’ve had the name since the mid 90’s. I needed a name to put on a flyer for a solo show around the same time the other guy, whose name rhymes with mine, was using formerly and a symbol. Thought it would be funny yet a homage to one of my favorite musicians. I quickly made the adjustment to “Formally”, I liked the play on words, and it stuck. So I have actually stayed Vince all these years!

7.0 – What is the best guitar ever made for rock & roll and what is your favorite stage guitar?

I am partial to Les Paul’s especially Junior’s.

On stage I tend to play a Gibson Flying V that I had customized with a single vintage P-90 so it sounds like my Junior.

8.0 – Do you still believe in radio?

I do. I still listen to it in the van. I think you can still find new music on radio but you need to go to the college and community stations or listen to specialty shows on commercial radio to hear the interesting new music.

9.0 – Any new Chicago clubs or bars area rockers should check out?

LiveWire, is a cool new small rock club. It’s in my neighborhood, Avondale. A couple musician friends of mine run it. They like the Rock N Roll music. I love playing there. Late Bar is great for late night drinks. If out on a Tuesday night stop by Lucky Number, I sling the drinks and pick the tunes.

10.0 – It’s your ‘Dream Gig’…… who are you opening for? when? where and why? 

If I dream it would be going back in time to downtown NYC to open for The New York Dolls at Max’s Kansas City or The Ramones at CBGB’s, I think we would fit in the glam and early punk days, or close to home and open for Cheap Trick at The Brat Stop. Even these day I dream of opening for Cheap Trick or The Dolls anywhere anytime.


Was there a single artist you wanted to be growing up?

Yes, a single artist in March 1972 and another single artist in November 1972 and….does everyone answer your very reasonable questions with touchy-artiste evasions and sloppy stabs at comedy? Because this is the approach that comes to mind. Evasion and hair-splitting and up-yours ridicule. This is a terrible attitude that is rooted in, I’m pretty sure, teenage overemulation of Bob Dylan. He was my biggest single-artist man crush between the ages of about 15 and 19.

Are there triggers in your life that inspire you to sit down and write?

It’s either a semi-verbal, humming kind of vocalizing out of the blue or it’s deadline-inspired obligation. Obligation 90% of the time.

Keith Richards often says “it all starts with Charlie”, what do you think he means by this and what do you look for in a drummer?

That’s a nice question. Comedy portion of the show over! He means that a music performance that features a drummer is never any better than the drummer, which has been proven true in my experience many times over (and at considerable cost). I’ve been performing music for thirty years plus a couple. First ten years, I didn’t play with drums; I was a folkie strummer mainly. Second ten years I played with a variety of drummers, mostly around Chicago, and as long as they had time within a few miles of metronomic they sounded great to me – really I just loved making noise and getting people dancing. Next ten years I played with an amazing drummer, Gerald Dowd. These last couple years, Gerald spends most of his work hours with Justin Roberts, and I’m somewhat back to folkiedom but I also play with a variety of drummers, as before – but this time around I’m in a better position to be critical. I would say that a good drummer steers the ship, but with subtlety. A good drummer in a steady-pulse situation cues off the other players and off the ingrained direction of the song to allow some play into the metronomic frame, without making the resulting fluctuations in time stand out. Maybe this only reflects my prejudice, because I write mainly steady-pulse songs and I don’t like them to sound metronomic but humanly performed. A good drummer isn’t a monster of ego, doesn’t grandstand before the crowd or boss the band around overtly. I think drummers who are singers tend to play a little better, on the whole.

4You obviously love country as a form but often use its traditional context and conventions as built-in humor, how do you explain this to purists?

I’ve not had to! People who are country purists like my stuff, almost to a man. Country has a strong funny-song tradition. Nobody who sees me play thinks I’m making fun of music.

Is there a general profile for the Robbie Fulks fan?

Rapidly aging and easily amused.

What is the craziest thing you have done to win over an audience?

I did all the usual things while afflicted with youth – wounding myself and others during performance, breaking instruments, spitting blood, crowd-surfing, etc. I think the only time I went too far was when I sent my guitar crowd-surfing instead of my body. It was in Toronto opening for Ben Folds Five, and the guitar was my father’s, an irreplaceable Martin 00018. The moment I unplugged it and passed it out into the audience, watching it quickly disappear toward the back of the room, my heart sank and I thought, “What in the world just possessed me?” But it came back in status quo ante shape. Audiences are your friends.

Your website ( benefits from the personal touch of your personal blog updates, do you embrace this as another outlet for artistic expression or see it as an occupational hazard?


You have a history of covering seemingly unrelated songs live, what artists might fulks be surprised to find you count as key influences?

I’m a player who goes for emotion over adroitness most of the time, by instinct or personal limitation rather than philosophical conviction; and naturally a lot of the musicians I’ve looked up to are the same. So the handful of guys who rein in the extravagance and still make the emotion ring are special to me. Since those players watchfully guide me as I play instead of brazenly directing me or offering me phrases to rip off, maybe they’re surprising. Bill Frisell is one such, I feel him watching and trying to correct me pretty often. I was a New Grass Revival junkie during the 1980s, and Bela Fleck’s influence helps remind me, when I’m soloing, to stop thrashing and instead eye the fretboard coolly – just stay calm and make the brain work the fingers, let the listeners do some of the emoting. I mean, just every now and then.

Do you still enjoy the process of ‘a day in the life’ on the road?

For sure. What’s so great about sitting at home? There’s more to life than yardwork and housecleaning and kid-chauffeuring for Christ’s sweet sake.

What advice would you give to a young artist with something to say?

Spit it out, brash and bold! A normal life span offers many years for back-pedaling.


1.0  –  What records were you listening to in 8th grade? Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx, Bad Co..

2.0 – Was there an artist you wanted to be as a kid? a hero figure? Peter Criss, Billy Powell.

3.0 – When did you realize you could do music for a living?  1985.

4.0 – Is Darwin Records looking for new artists? Always.

5.0 – Is the Chicago music scene a focus for you? Absolutely.

6.0 – Turnstyles; Live In The Studio is a cool concept, were you happy with how it turned out?  Very, have gone through 4 pressings!!!  yay!

7.0 – Are you working on any new material right now?  Finishing new Turnstyles CD called Youthful Wisdom features nearly every great Chicago musician I’ve known –Matt Walker, Scott Bennett, Steve Gerlach, Tom Gerlach, Warren Beck, Chris Tomek, Dan Ponosky, John Schulte, Paul Mertens, Todd Sucherman, Clark Sommers and about 20 more! As the title suggests, maybe in some ways we’re smarter when we’re young and our priorities are more than money and world domination.

8.0 – What advice would you give to a young artist entering the studio for the first time?  Work out everything you want to do beforehand, practice with a metronome, but be flexible to the creative nature of recording so you can morph and grow with the process.

9.0 – How long do you think it will be before everything we do is broadcast 24/7 as standard artist branding?  Less than 10 years, maybe 5?

10.0 – You bump into Paul McCartney at The Lantern and he’s up for a late night jam, what Beatles song do you guys play together? “Blackbird”, “One After 909”, “Silly Love Songs” (but I get to play Bass  :-) )


Is the new one All Out Revolution next of kin to your debut, Sunflower Sessions, or are they birds of a different feather? All Out Revolution is certainly descended from Sunflower Sessions. Look at the nose. We’ve become better in the studio though, and I think we’ve all grown as individuals and musicians, so we’re bound to sound a bit different. It feels like evolution to me.

Which tracks from All Out Revolution are folks gravitating towards? One never knows about these things. Live, people have always responded well to Running on Empty and Star-Shaped Holes, probably because of all the vocal harmonies. Psych crowds seem to like King of the Underground and Waves. We’ve posted some things to various websites and Daisy Love is popular in India, of all places. It’s been fun for me because we’ve received great feedback on all the songs.

The Red Plastic Buddha has gone through a number of changes since forming in ’06, do you have it ‘together’ now? does that matter? Yeah, lots of changes. It’s weird, because we’re not a band that is at each other’s throat or anything like that. It’s just that life forces things. Careers, kids, stuff like that. Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on the idea of impermanence, and I think that it’s a good idea to just get comfortable with the concept of change. I’ve seen lots of bands break up since we originally formed, but we just keep going. We’re together, but together isn’t a static thing. It’s a process. BTW, our long time drummer Dav Kling will be getting a broken wrist operated on soon. Friends are already on board to fill the void, as always happens. We’re just people pulling together in every sense of the word and that seems to be our path. Dav will be back, but then something else will happen. The only thing certain in this life is change.

What is your favorite thing about RPB today? The people I play with. Despite all the personnel changes we’ve had, there’s been a consistency in the character of band members. Every person who has been part of this group has been intelligent, funny, committed and interesting. A lot of graduate levels, several black belts, business owners, writers, even a doctor. Not what you’d expect from a psychedelic rock band, are we? Everyone has given their all to the project and although the faces have changed, the people who make up this band keep it fun and fresh.

In terms of subject matter, do you see your stuff as light-hearted or serious? or both? Depends on the song, I guess. I try to be more open on the love songs and just write from a purely emotional/ impressionistic place. They don’t really make a lot of sense because I’m trying to write while riding a tilt-a-whirl. For me, those feel the most psychedelic of our songs, probably because I’m completely letting go. Mostly though, I’m pretty serious when it comes to writing lyrics. I can put myself through hell trying to get things right. I love language and try to insert multiple meanings into verses. Hopefully, that makes things interesting for the listener.

Bass parts were once so buoyant and such an integral element of the rock music of late 60’s and bluesy early 70’s, what happened? I still see lots of that style out there. I just don’t do much of it in this band. In the Chicago psych scene alone, bands like Great Society Mind Destroyers, Dark Fog, Rabble Rabble, Secret Colours, Plastic Crimewave Sound … the list goes on and on. All of these bands have excellent bass players that really hold down the bottom end and groove. But because my priority onstage is singing, I have to simplify things. But that leaves lots of room for the other Buddhas to play, so I guess that’s okay too.

We’ve got your feet to the fire, what is your personal, all-time favorite bass-line? Argh! Just one?!?! Boys and Girls by Blur, Damaged Goods by Gang of Four, Monday by The Jam. That’s probably not Bruce Foxton’s best, but he’s my bass hero and it’s really

What music were you listening to in high school, anything that surprises you as you look back?liked psych even then, but I was a big prog rocker too. I remember trying desperately to turn people on to bands like Van Der Graaf Generator and Eloy. I also had a fascination for what was called ‘space’ music, which later morphed into New Age (ahem). Then punk came along and it was good music for an angry young man. I think all those influences are still there, bubbling away below the surface.

What’s more fun for RPB, crafting tunes, recording, or playing live? They can all be wonderful, they can all be torture. Just depends. Some songs write themselves, some sit on your chest and punch you in the face. We had a BLAST recording All Out Revolution. Working with Brian Leach at Joyride was so much fun (such a kindred spirit). I’m not surprised he won a Grammy recently. Playing live can be a gas if you’re sharing a bill with people you dig and you’re in front of a cool crowd. This is the only job where people scream and shout for you when you have a good day.

You guys ever tempted to, ya know…..tune-in, tune-up, drop acid, play and press record? There’s this romanticized view of drugs in the world of music, but the idea that drugs make you more creative or open your mind to some inner truth is nonsense. If creativity or truth came in pill form, everyone would do it. There’s no easy path. If you’re creating as part of a group, you really need to communicate effectively, on many levels. Adding drugs to the mix only debilitates communication. You spend months or years developing a spiritual chemistry with other musicians, and it’s frightening just how quickly the other chemistry can destroy that.


1.0 – What (or who) got you hooked on rock & roll?

I discovered mom and dad’s record collection at an early age. They had at least 100 or more albums. I wore out my first Sears black and white suitcase turntable since I figured out how to use it .I must have been at least 5 years old when I was using it on a regular basis. I am pretty sure I fell in love with rock and roll when I heard Elvis Presley for the first time. I think it was “Love Me Tender” or “Jailhouse Rock”. I listened to a really wide variety of music. Elvis, Nat King Cole, The Monkees, The Godfather Soundtrack. I discovered The Beatles on my own. My Mom ,Dad and Grandma bought all my music when I was growing up. Every Sunday we would do the family thing and kill the afternoon at the shopping mall. The family would split up and I would get lost in the record store checking out all the music in the store until they dragged me out. Fortunately ,with another Beatles album under my arm.

2.0 – Does the inspiration come from the same place today as it did then?

A lot  of my inspiration has come in random creative spurts of twenty minutes to a few hours at a time. My biggest fear is to dry up creatively. I have always thought of my musical gift as an antenna. I keep my mind open to receiving the melody that finds me.

3.0 – What records did you play along with as a kid?  My favorite records to play along with were Elvis, The Beatles, The Monkees and lots of top forty radio hits of the day. I still go through phases of listening to songs over and over again to pick apart arrangements,lyrics and production value. I am still a student of hit songs.

4.0 – How has the Chicago rock scene changed since you and Zac started Gidgets Gaga in 1999?

The Chicago rock scene is has gotten better and worse in diffferent aspects. There are better venues to play in the city than ever before. Great sound systems and good sounding rooms, but with that gain their are more clubs that do not want to pay the talent. Couple that with cover bands and the sheer number of original bands and it can make it much more difficult to ferret out the cream of the crop. Great music can get buried by those factors. We have learned to branch out more now. We constantly create multiple income streams to make a living via music licensing,merchandise and the occasional ponzi scheme.

5.0 – Any new recordings in the works?

Ah, yes we are working on a new ep titled “The Night Is Young”. We are making a major label quality recording on our own without major label financial backing. And it is taking a long long time. I am really pleased with the results thus far. The end result will definitely be worth the wait for our fans.

6.0 – How do you guys approach writing? (has it changed from when you started?) Songwriting is the most fun of the process.I am a stickler on the arrangements of our songs. Our arrangements sound decievingly simple but there is quite a bit of musicianship in them. I ‘d like to think we are getting better at writing.performing and recording.Some songs come really quickly while others need love and tweaking.

7.0 – What usually triggers a tune for you? a riff, a melody, a subject, a situation, a phrase someone says? Usually, it is all of the above. And most of the time the inspiration comes at the oddest times like when I’m on the can or in the shower. Sometimes Zac or Leslie will say something and I’ll end up using it as a lyric.

8.0 – Is there a quintessential gig story that is dear to the band’s lore? 
Best gig story ever! So we get a gig at a club on the southside of Chicago on a Wednesday night.I won’t mention the club. The important thing here is it could have happened at any club. I sort the details for the gig with (let’s call him) ‘Big Bird’ and score the band a great guarantee. The gig is set. We shake hands and speak a week before gig on the telephone. Handshakes still mean something to me, but as you will find out , it didn’t mean a thing to the booking agent. So far so good. We get to the gig with our gear and take an elevator up to the second floor  with all our gear. It’s decided right then and there we need roadies! We set up and rock the joint. This is the best part of the gig. We do what we do best for the 30-40 people who are at the club that night. What I did notice was a lot of drinking. This was a professional drinking crowd. All in all, its not a bad night but its not a great night. I’m talking more about the vibe of the club. The vibe doesn’t feel right to me. We play pretty well. I slip in some dirty jokes and we hit a few clinkers but no one seems to notice nor does anyone seem to care. I ‘m thinking the band may very well be winning the crowd over. Every club date is an adventure with bar staff, patrons and lets face it some outta hand drunks. Tonight, there are no tomatoes, no hecklers, no cuts and no bruises. Our four hour gig is over without incident. We do a little after the gig shot. Think we even did a little dance. Time to get paid for the night. The guarantee was a righteous booty, a real score for indie rockers writing and singing their own tunes. At least we didn’t have to play any covers! We’ve managed to avoid playing any covers by playing acoustic versions of all the songs as well as full on electric versions. But for, the record, we butcher other artists material at rehearsal for shits and kicks.

‘Big Bird’ is not at the club tonight. It’s his night off. I speak to the bar maid working behind the bar. She informs me the gig isn’t up! As in, we have to play till closing time if we wanna get paid. I am a bit tired but more irritated by this, but I put on an instant poker face. I think on my feet and have the bar maid call ‘Big Bird’ at home….feathers are ruffled as he was fast asleep, he informs the bar maid not to pay us unless we play till closing time. The problem with that was that is not what we agreed upon. The only two people who know the details of the gig are BB and myself. The bar maid hands me her cell phone and I hear  him rant – his redneck accent is straight out of the movie Deliverance. We’re all a little tired and my bandmates are restless and want to split . I catch the last thing ‘Bird’ hollers at me “Boy!.. you best let a dead dog lie! Or you’ll never play in this town again!” He slams the phone and hangs up on yours truly. So in a split second I think of what Joilet Jake (Belushi’s character from The Blues Brothers) would do at that very moment. What would JJ do? I pretend I’m still on the phone with him. The barmaid is 10 feet away she has no clue what I’m doing. I pull out my best Joilet Jake impersonation on BB: “We are so sorry about the misunderstanding about how long we were supposed to play.” Throw in some dramatic pauses for effect and continue a non existent conversation. I go on and thank him for letting us play such a cool club and  how everyone was so friendly. We have to book another gig. I catch the bar maids eye. I want to reel her in a bit to watch me work BB. I go on to say we’d love to come back and play and I m glad we sorted out the misunderstanding. I walk slowly toward the bar maid still on the phone and say “Big Bird, thanks again!” I hold my hand over the mouthpiece and tell the barmaid “Big Bird” says to go ahead and pay the band. I hang up the cell phone. She turns to the register and counts the money and hands it over to me. I put it in my pocket . I give the bar maid a wink , a smile and a thank you. Walk over to the guys and without missing a beat, I  smile and say “Lets get the hell outta here”! They know somethings up but I don’t have the time to fill’em in on what happened. My new problem is the bouncer standing at the elevator door. We have to get past him. Luckily, we’re a power trio,we travel light and I’m Mexican. We were packed and ready to head out in less than 5 minutes. “Big Bird” calls back – we’re at the elevator with all of our gear. The bouncer has to operate the elevator so we’re stuck. The bar maid is having a full on conniption fit. She knows she has been had. The bouncer has a little sidebar conversation with the bar maid. It felt like forever. The bouncer walks to me with the biggest grin on his face. It’s fight or flight and there is nowhere to run. He tells us he liked the band set and doesn’t care for “Big Bird.” He holds the elevator and helps us load out. The bouncer goes on to tell us BB has had a reputation of ripping off bands for years. I’m pretty sure the  bouncer was watching me the whole time on the phone but never let on. The bouncer was a pretty rough biker type and we made his night. He was happier than we were that someone finally got over on ‘Bird’ and I’ m sure the fact I was not a caucasion male made it even a bit sweeter. We unloaded the gear back home and called it a night.

In the wee of the night I heard the answering machine go off . The next morning I hear a drunk dialing angry ‘Bird’ try to form a sentence but all I can hear is some muttering about how we’ll never play in this town again. He was really drunk, totally pissed off and feeling a bit out smarted. You could hear it in his pained redneck voice and that, my friends, was priceless! We played that message over and over for weeks until it was accidentally erased. I think I peed myself it was so hilarious. The only regret I had was the message was accidentally deleted. We wanted to open the EP we were working on at the time with the voicemail. Note to indie musicians everywhere: Let my cautionary tale be a reminder to keep emails, voicemails and any other records when making gig arrangements. And as always, for those about to rock, we salute you!

9.0 – Westerberg stops by for smokes; what Gidgets Ga Ga tune do you pop on?

I ‘d let Westerberg pick between three songs:Dreamer, The Sorry Song and Forever and a Day. It would be great if he really did stop by to listen he is a hero of mine.

10.0 – Branding infringement aside, does Lady Gaga get kicked out for snoring? Musicians with Ga Ga in their moniker are most likely to be talented! Lady Ga Ga has written songs for some of the biggest names in the biz. She is the most talented in her genre of music for sure. I have to admit it I listen to all of her stuff my favorite song is  “Speechless.”


1.0 – How is the new The Cathy Santonies record coming along? 

We’re writing songs and arranging things pretty steadily. It’s coming along well, I really like all of our new songs. We’re trying them out in front of people and all that.

2.0 – Do you have any specific goals for it?

This will be our first full-length record ever. So for me the first goal is “make a full-length record.” We’ve gone through a lot of lineup changes in the past couple of years, and when you’re often in a state where you’re teaching your old songs to new drummers so that you can play shows, it’s hard to find time to work together on all new stuff. We have also just been in kind of a songwriting funk lately for some reason (who knows). So I think for us we’re using the record as a way to motivate ourselves to write a bunch of new songs. That’s my personal goal, and we’re meeting that so I’m cool with it.

3.0 – Is it hard to capture your aggressive live sound and attitude in a studio? 

Hmm, I don’t think it’s too hard to catch our live sound. We record live, all at the same time in the same room, usually in one or two takes. Then we typically take 1-2 takes for vocals and 1 take for backup vox. Actually tracking each song will take less than 30 minutes, all things considered. I think that helps our recordings sound fresher and more realistic and energetic than if we took forever over-dubbing and making it “perfect.” Obviously in recordings you can hear each part better–we’re not quite as loud overall. I like that though.

4.0 – Is playing heavy a choice or just what you became as a group naturally?

I think it’s just something that naturally happens. We never say like oh this song should sound like this or that or blahblahblah, we usually just let it emerge. We might start with a mood or feeling we want the song to have (this should be creepy, this should be dancey, this part should be really tight, and then this part explosive etc), but we don’t have a certain musical “sound” we’re going for.

5.0 – How did the band come together?

Well Mojo and I grew up together, and when we were in high school we wrote a bunch of super awesome bedroom rock that we never let other people hear. We decided to start an actual band about five years ago because it was something we had always wanted to do and we finally got up the nerve to do it.  We met Jane through Girls Rock! Chicago and she started playing with us about two or three years ago.  We had to lose our original drummer a couple of years ago, and so over the past couple of years we’ve had a few different drummers. Now we finally have a permanent drummer in Chip. And now here we are.

6.0 – What sort of stuff do you guys like to sing about or is that secondary to the rock? 

Like any songwriter, we write about things that are on our mind or that we need to express. Typically we’ll have some music and a vague idea of what a song is about and then we’ll go forward from there together. We have a tendency to often write kind of like optimistic lyrics. But then again sometimes we are angry or hurt. Sometimes sarcastic or funny. It just depends really. Since we have a pretty collaborative songwriting style, there are usually multiple points of view involved in each song.

7.0 – Is part of the apparently unbridled fun proving that chicks can rock? 

Hmmmmm welllllllllll okay this question….Speaking for myself personally, I’m only one person so I don’t see how my doing anything in particular is going to prove anything about ~50% of the world’s adult population (I’m assuming by “chicks” you meant adult human women, not baby birds). I don’t speak for or represent all women ever. I do feel involved in a struggle to help show that, contrary to what we have all been raised to believe, rock n roll doesn’t belong to one type of person or group of people. It belongs to everyone who wants it. Like every other person in the world, I grew up being taught that a woman’s place in rock n roll is as an object of desire for men who play the music, a trophy for them to parade around as the prize they’ve won for being good at rock n roll (these are of course just a few ways women have been portrayed in the context of rnr–but these are the main ones that stuck with me when i was a kid). I have spent a lot of time feeling hurt by rock n roll and a lot of time feeling saved by it–I’ve got my own role models and heroes. Any ‘outsider’ who loves rock n roll might recognize the feelings I’m talking about, I’m sure. It’s complicated and confusing.

8.0 – Do you think having stage names frees you up to be more creative or behave differently than you might otherwise? 

Personally, I like having a stage name because I have a profession where I’m not sure “being in a badass punk rock band” is something that all my colleagues would be super cool with. For me, it’s a way to keep my worlds from colliding. For others in the band, it could be that you can do things as an alter-ego that you can’t as yourself.

9.0 – Are you ladies as rowdy off stage as on?

Yes. Wait, no. Wait, yes. Definitely. Yes.

10.0 – Would you have to sell out musically to have a mainstream hit?  

To me, i guess “selling out” means that you’re playing something you don’t personally like b/c you think other people will like it.  None of us wants to do that, and I actually don’t think we are capable of playing something we don’t like or can’t feel. I can’t imagine why a person would do that.


1.0  Are you happy overall with how the new CD Get Back To The Land turned out?

Yes. I’m very proud of the record and I think it is my best one yet. I feel like with each record I have been becoming a better songwriter and singer, and I am getting better at arranging the band and getting tones in the studio. I’ve been producing records more and more for other bands and artists and those experience have definitely helped me see my own stuff differently.

2.0  First songs always set a tone, why did you choose to kick off the record with “California Wildflower” for instance?

I like starting records off with something uptempo and this one I think sets a real sunny California style tone. It is a pretty eclectic album but I am glad that the starting point is this one with some Byrds influenced 12 string guitar and big harmonies – and it always goes over really well live.

3.0 – Did you feel the reception of your last release Poor Man’s Paradise raised the bar for this record at all?

Yes. My last two records, Divisadero and Poor Man’s Paradise, have gotten more and more good press and have both opened up doors for me to tour. With Divisadero I was able to get to tour in Europe for the first time. I did some shows with Rosie Flores and then with Gary Louris and Marc Olson. So with each year and each record I have been to more cities and more countries. I have a pretty high standard for myself to be happy and proud of what I’m working on. And when you know other people are listening it becomes a factor too.

4.0 – How do songs start for you – with subject matter? a melody? chords? 

Each song is different. Some songs start with a single line or an idea. Some songs are born from a chord progression or a melody. Aces and Eights started as a talking blues Jerry Reed country tune and then as I started thinking about recording it, I felt that making it funkier would help the bounciness of the rhythm in the lyrics and make it more playful. I have been a huge Delbert McClinton fan for a long time. He has been a real inspiration to me in the way he can walk the line and really be both country and soul at the same time. So I took that inspiration and ran. The icing on the cake was having Angelo Moore from Fishbone play saxes on it. I was a huge Fishbone fan in high school and college and meeting him and having him play on my record was a truly great experience. (Down at the) Seventh Heaven was one that actually started as a short story. As it evolved into a song, it had really long verses and I got excited about having a song where the drums drop out in the verses and come back in the choruses to keep it moving and interesting. I have never done that before on a record. So I combined it with my love of the horns on The Last Waltz, then I added pedal steel to it to keep it a little more country. The story of the song just led the way.

5.0 – Are all the songs on Back To The Land new or are there some old riffs that became newbies? 

Most are new. But I tend to record 4 or 5 songs at a time rather than wait to record a whole record at one time so there are different songs from 3 or 4 different session. “Time Is a Joker” and “Bottles On The Table” were actually recorded for the last record, Poor man’s Paradise. I really loved them as songs but they didn’t fit with the other songs on that record in terms of their mood, so I really wanted to build this next record around them to help get them out into the world. “(Down at the) Seventh Heaven” was another of the first songs done for this record so it really became a centerpiece as I was planning the record in my head. Then I got on a real Dwight Yoakam kick so I wrote and recorded a bunch of more classic country sounding songs. That brought me back to living in L.A. – and one of the reasons I moved here is because of all the music I love that was made here. Then with “California Wildflower” and the song “Get Back To The Land,” which is about the L.A. music scene, I had the idea to go with a real sunny Southern California image and the palm trees on the album cover.

6.0 – Is song writing something one needs to practice to get good at?

Yes. Hopefully with every batch of songs you get a little better. I am a real believer in editing and I think a lot of people stop when a song is simply good: reworking, rewriting and experimenting simply helps make a song deeper.

7.0 – Do you have a philosophy when it comes to touring? 

I try to do 2 weeks of touring a month and then be home for 2 weeks a month. Then I can keep playing locally and producing. And now that we are taking an extended break with Shooter Jennings, I am out playing in different regions every month. It feels good to be spreading the word. When you make the choice to play original music, you simply have to tour. Thankfully I have a pretty bohemian spirit and I love the traveling and exploring.

8.0 – How is the spring tour going? how was Martyr’s in Chicago? 

This spring tour is going very well. It is the cd release tour too. I am just finishing up a Midwest run that started in Nashville and worked it’s way north to Minneapolis – 12 shows in 12 days. Tonight is my last show of the trip. I have toured this part of the country with Shooter numerous times but never on my own. It is definitely a step down in terms of smaller venues and no tour bus, but I am really proud to be out on my own and getting my music out there. I am constantly amazed by the music lovers in this world. It seems we are a minority but people really are looking for good music and when they find something they love, they really do spread the word. It has been really inspiring to see the support I have been getting, and fans and friends who really loved some of my older records that are very excited to see me live for the first time and get my new record. And Martyrs’ was a great show. It’s a great club. I did that night with an old friend of mine Ted Wulfers from Chicago. We have written a bunch of songs together and have played and sung on each others’ records so it was great to do some shows together finally. We called those shows the “Ted and Ted” tour. I have also wanted to play Martyrs’ for years because there’s a great Chris Whitley record ‘live at Martyrs’ and he is a musician and artist who is one of my favorites.

9.0 – What tracks from the new disc are you doing live, does it vary?

It changes from night to night, but I am doing a bunch of the new ones. California Wildflower is one. If I Had A Dollar, which has an old school Bakersfield sound, goes great acoustically or with the full band so I have been doing that a lot. I have been doing Lonelytown, which I wrote with Ted. It is a classic California country rock tune with a real strummy Byrds influence. We were both playing at the Sturgis Motercycle Festival a few years ago so we started writing that one about small town life. Aces and Eights is another. It’s a real southern soul tune on the record and live it has taken on a J.J. Cale kind of vibe. It’s been nice to add the new songs to the set gradually to keep the set list changing so people are not seeing the same songs every time they come to see me play. Changing up the set also keep me on my toes.

10.0 – You are allowed to send one TRK tune in a capsule to the far reaches of outer space, which song makes the trip?

From this record it would be “(Down at the) Seventh Heaven.” I am a real sucker for the Guy Clark style short-story-within-a-song type of song and that is mine for this new record. I love the rockers and the southern soul tunes, but the storytelling and talking about living is really what moves me in songwriting. From the Poor Man’s Paradise record, it would be “Let Love Do The Rest.” It really captures a mood and has an honesty and vulnerabitliy to it. That is one of the only songs I do at literally every gig I do.


1.0  What’s your vision for Michael Lux & The Bad Sons? I’m concerned at the moment with the city I live in.  There are very few ‘front’ people.  Most of the good ones are women, which is fantastic. Everyone really loves meandering at the moment. And I’m at times hard pressed to find anyone that gives a shit or two about lyrical content. None of this is really a problem for me, though. I try and do the opposite of those things. Though there is a chance I could be persuaded by some monitary sum to try being a woman for a short time.  The vision for me is my songs settling in people’s conscience for the long haul, the way the songs i love do in mine, i suppose.

2.0  What’s more important to you, the tunes or kicking ass live? The most important thing is the songs. with good songs you will always kick ass live. why do you think the modern ‘pop punk’ and ‘nu metal’ genres were as short lived as they were?  My guess is that once people got home from diving around like lunatics, they realized they were listening to essentially the same terrible song over and over again by countless bands trying to be the other one.  But they could do that cool thing where they flip the guitar round their head or maybe vomit on stage!  yep, songs win for me.

3.0 Were the songs all really “written in 30 minutes” or are you trying to say that a song either happens or it doesn’t? It sounds awfully pretentious, but the songs actually were written in 30 minutes.  It honestly wasn’t me showing off or some bullshit holier than though stunt i was trying to pull. In Hollus, I was always used to taking days, weeks to sort of, “perfect” tunes. I had a hard time writing material for myself in the past few years because I couldn’t decide what it should sound like. Finally I sat down with a bottle of pinot and once i had a riff, that was it. I just went stream of consciousness and said ‘done.’ Put it down on pro tools because i didn’t want any time to start rethinking.  And then a few days later, another bottle, another song, etc.  This must be working for me, because I’ve just written a few more tracks the same way in the last few weeks.

4.0  Since your name is on the door, did you write all the songs or were they collaborative efforts? All the songs on “Neat Repeater” were written and recorded before I had a band.  I wasn’t even planning on forming a band for it. Just releasing it for folks that sort of cared about what I was doing in Hollus.  I’ve always been a pretty singluar songwriter.  I’m never opposed to writing with others, but I know how I work, obviously. The live group really works within the ranks to bend and perfect things, and the licks and riffs are all interpretted by the players I have, which are sometimes different from show to show, which makes the shows varied and spontaneous.

5.0 What is your favorite song of your FREE EP “Neat Repeater”? “So Loud.”  It’s the song that kicked off this whole mess. It’s when I said, “ahhh, so that’s what it sounds like..” and made perfect sense.  The song itself is very much about Chicago and embracing life, even if it’s shit, fuck it, let’s fuck it out kind of thing.  I feel like a lot of people in the city, if they’re writing about it directly, write about escaping it, or they just avoid it all together and write about some place else for some reason.  I’ve done it as well, in the other band.  I was feeling like Chicago was giving me a giant wine kiss and it needed to be recipricated.

6.0  When did you fall in love with the idea of playing music? When I was 6 I was very in to Cypress Hill and I think MC Hammer. I had the fucking pants, man. Green and Black tiger striped if you care. I had a kid move in two doors down that tried for 4 months to play me a record that I refused every time.  It turned out to be The Beatles doing “Rock n’ Roll Music” – how fucking cornball of a story is that! It’s true though!  I flipped my pudding. I got a guitar and drum kit at the next christmas, though I broke into the attic about a month into November and started learning when my parents were at work. I had a fake band with that kid for the next 6 years, that ended in 3 original records we wrote before the age of 13. I was always completely bonkers for music.

7.0  Does the stage come naturally to you? People say I’m very natural on the stage.  I do feel very at ease.  Many times I feel like my life off the stage is spent waiting to be back on one, yeah. But going back to what I said before, I started playing in live bands when I was 14 and playing drums in church congregations before that, so I was always pretty used to it i suppose.

8.0  Do you guys do any covers live? Yeah, I always try to play a new cover every show.  I think it’s fun for everyone, as long as fucking Live Nation or the RIAA or whatever doesn’t sue me for it.  We’ve done “Moonage Daydream” by Bowie, “Crimson and Clover” and “Motor Away” by Guided By Voices.  WE’re always entertaining new ones, post one on the fuckbook if you have a suggestion.

9.0  Paul Stanley of KISS said that “most people listen with their eyes”, do you agree? God love him, He must have said that in the years he was wearing makeup right?  Like pre 1995 unplugged or whatever? Because after that, “Love Gun” only sounds good with the eyes closed. I do agree, actually, and I think it’s a good thing.  We need to have something to weed out groups, right? It’s incredible how many bands get away with looking like complete baffoons.  If the singer’s wearing shorts, I don’t care if it’s fucking Elvis Presley, i’m walking out. In fact, if anyone besides the drummer is wearing shorts, i’m throwing something at the stage.  New rule.

10.0  You’ve got one ‘ticket to ride’ in a time machine to a moment in rock history, what are your coordinates? Does in between Debbie Harry’s legs circa 1977 count as ‘coordinates’??  That’s dirty, forgive me.


1.0  How does your upcoming, 2nd album Sky Of Dresses differ from the debut Ghost Pain?

They are definitely both very different records. “sky of dresses” was recorded at a friend’s home studio over a period of several months and “Ghost pain was done in a large Chicago studio in a couple weeks. I loved recording the new record because I was able to take time and reflect on the work we had done while we were still recording.  With the last record it was done so fast I didn’t have much time to absorb anything until we were finished.  The freedom of no time restrictions was a huge asset in making this record.  I also experimented with different instrumentation like accordions and vintage organs.

2.0  Did you have any specific goals for the new recordings?

I think my main goal in recording “Sky of Dresses” was to keep the songs as pure as possible.  Every song has its own intrinsic ambiace and I wanted to stay true to that. Some songs were done live with the  backing band and have very few overdubs.  Some songs worked better with a lot of layered instruments on top.  I wanted the record to feel complete and whole even if the songs were recorded with a different approach.

3.0  Are all the songs on it new to fans?

A few tunes developed during the recording process.  When you’re playing the guitar or piano all day at the studio something new is bound to develop.  “Awful mind” was like that.  I just started jamming it at the end of another song and it kind of developed on its own.  Many of the songs I have been playing live for sometime though.

4.0  Did putting your name ‘on-the-door’ raise the stakes for you as an artist?

Performing under my own name has ultimately given me more self-confidence as a performer.  I love the freedom of being able to play solo or with a band.. When I first stared playing in bands I wrote all the songs but the members would keep changing.  When someone new was replaced the songs would kind of mutate and take on a new identity.  I loved that but I felt like I wasn’t really in a band and decided to be a solo artist.

5.0  Is there anything quintessentially Midwestern about your music?

That’s a great question.  I think that I’m definitely influenced by the Midwest in a lot of ways.  You don’t always realize how your roots shape you until you start touring and meeting the rest of the world. It’s hard to say, I guess there isn’t quite a “Midwest sound” the way they  people throw around Portland or Seattle but I think there is something here that’s unique.

6.0  What comes first for you, the narrative or the chords?

I almost always start with the chords and melody before the lyrics.  I have a ton  of unfinished songs with no lyrics just bouncing around my head. For me, its worth it to be patient because if the words don’t resonate with me then I cant sing them.   I have older songs that I love the tune of but I sing the words and I feel nothing.  I made it a rule to never match a good melody to meaningless words even If it takes years to pair the right ones up.  Which has happened! There are those songs though when your consciousness is turned off and everything writes itself at once.  It’s an amazing feeling but I stopped trying to figure out how it happens years ago.

7.0  Dylan used to joke that he was really “a song & dance man,” was he just being ‘folksy’ or do you think he meant something by it?

Theirs nothing I love more then Dylan irony.

8.0  Is creating a context for the listener what appeals to you most about folk sensibility; a story in every song?

I think creating a mood is the most important thing to me.   I love telling a story but without the melody to compliment the lyrics the mood is undetermined.  Most of my songs do have a strong narrative to them but if I were to place them in a different context with a different tune, the words would be interpreted differently.  So in that sense I think finding the harmony and balance between the two is what appeals most to me about folk sensibility.

9.0  Are there any triggers in your life that cause you to sit down and write something, or does it just happen?

I think all songwriters respond to triggers in some way or another. Songwriting is like therapy.  It gives me a chance to obsess about thoughts and feelings in a way that’s constructive.   I figure if I’m gonna go crazy with all of this shit in my head I might as well put it to music and at least be able to enjoy listening to myself belly ache.  But yeah, I guess you could say the many facets of love and loss mostly trigger me.

10.0  Your video for “Blues For Momma” has you wandering streets and seems to suggests a detached sorrow, do you have the blues?

Ha.  I guess you could say I have the blues.


1.0  Who were your musical heroes growing up? This is kind of hard to narrow down, but Elvis Presley was my first musical obsession. I was about six years old when I decided I pretty much wanted to be him. But some of the other big ones would be Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner, Marvin Gaye.

2.0  How were you exposed to them? I grew up in a house that was constantly filled with music, if I wasn’t sitting by the piano while my dad was playing, I was listening to the radio or watching MTV (back when they still played music). Once the internet came along, I just started downloading everything I could get my hands on.

3.0  Who would be your dream duet partner? I wish I could resurrect Marvin Gaye or Donny Hathaway. But as far as an actual possibility, Stevie Wonder or Al Green. John Legend would be pretty awesome too.

4.0  You describe The Congregation as “bluesy garage soul,” is this a new genre? No, not really. I think you can hear a lot of different influences in our music, but what I love about about The Congregation, and what I think other people love about it, is that we have such a classic sound. It’s the same music my aforementioned heroes made…or at least I’d like to think it’s something close to that.

5.0  Is this synthesis just a function of all the parts or a concerted effort to be unique? When you bring eight people together with very different backgrounds, both musically and in life, you’re going to end up with a sound that encompasses a lot of different things. I think we all came in with an idea of what soul music meant to each of us, but when we put it together I don’t think any of us really anticipated what it was going to end up sounding like. I know the soul band I had in my mind didn’t sound like The Congregation, but I think what I got was something better.

6.0  Were you happy with how your debut EP Not For Sleepin‘ has been received? Definitely. Not for Sleepin’ was a passion project for me, and I was really proud of how it turned out, so it’s been great to hear the positive feedback we’ve been getting. 

7.0  Are their plans to do a full length cd as a follow-up? Yes, we’ve been thinking about doing full length album since before we even finished Not for Sleepin’. We’re hoping to get back into the studio by September of this year.

8.0  Many bands first recordings are their best, do you think your new material is as strong as the tracks on Not For Sleepin’? The tracks we put on Not for Sleepin’ were great, but the next album will definitely be stronger, both on a performance level and as far as the material we will include. We’d only been together a matter of months at the time we started working our first EP, so everyone was still figuring things out. We’re all more settled in now, so no one’s holding anything back. There’s also been a lot more collaboration on the songwriting and the arrangements for our newer songs, so I think they’re more reflective of the band that we’ve become.

9.0  Do you guys play any covers live and, if so, does this help ‘set the table’ with a context for the audience? When we played our first show in January of 2010, we only had six or seven original songs, and they were all really short. So, we had to play a lot of covers just to be able to play a 45-minute set. We drew a lot of them from the catalogues of Stax and Chess Records, which did set the context for what we do in general. We don’t play covers out of necessity anymore, but we still play one or two at every show just for fun. Not for Sleepin’ includes “I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges and “Little Sister”, which is an Elvis tune, so we play those two fairly often.

10.0  If you got the call to play Letterman next Friday what Congregation tune would you guys play? We’d have a hard time picking, but would probably go with “He’s Gone”.


1.0 How did Secret Colours come together as a band? We all grew up in the same town, pretty much.  I had a hand full of songs I had recorded but didn’t have a band to play them out, so I asked my friends if they would play them with me. Dylan and I had been jamming together since early high school. We met Dave and Justin later on in high school. Dave had played in other local bands and Justin hung around the crowd affiliated with Dave’s bands.  Once Dave left his previous band, he decided to start the band with me. About a month after the band started we brought Margaret in to play keys and sing backing vocals, to fill out our sound. – Tommy

2.0 How does the writing process work for you guys? Tommy usually brings in the structure and vocals of a new song. Earlier on in the band he wrote all of the songs, but now sometimes he’ll bring in just a chord progression and lyrics and we jam on it, as a group, until we get it where we like it.  We’ve progressed into a much more collaborative effort now.  We’re all finding our place in the band, and know how to compliment each other in the right ways. – Dave

3.0  If you had to pick a seminal influence for the band, who would it be? The Beatles.

4.0  What were your favorite bands growing up? The Beatles, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Blur, Gorillaz, Dandy Warhols, Spacemen 3, Stone Roses, Oasis.

5.0  Is Chicago a part of the bands sensibility? We love Chicago, we grew up with it, its our home. – Tommy

I think you can hear in our sound that we’re from Chicago, or at least not from the typical areas you’d find this style of music.  I think it’s evident we’re not from the West-Coast, or from Austin, or even from across the pond.  We’ve lived here our entire lives so I think there’s a certain quality to our music that reflects that Midwestern, dreary or droney sound. – Dave

6.0  How do Secret Colours approach playing live? We are pretty conventional as far as instrumentation. We are open to trying new things but we just can’t really afford to get theatrical, yet. – Tommy

7.0  How do you feel before shows? Depends on the show but for the most part exited. Its the most fun thing to do in the world. I used to vomit before every show but not so much any more. – Tommy

Drunk. – Dave

8.0  You have been singled-out as “a band to watch in 2011,” what are your plans for the new year? We have tons of shows to play as well as a few festivals. We are going to record a new full length album in the summer. – Tommy

Yea, we got invited to officially showcase SXSW this year, so we’ll be down there, and we’ll be playing a couple really exciting day parties as well.  This summer we’ll be bumming around Chicago recording, so we’ll probably stick close to home, but we’ve got some exciting shows already lined up for the summer time. – Dave

9.0  What’s your favorite SC song? Im not sure…it varies. I would have to say Love because it was the most collaborative song we did from our record. Plus its fun as hell to play live. – Tommy

You haven’t heard it yet! – Dave

10.0  Does a band have to get along well to succeed? Yes, unless you’re Oasis. When a band doesn’t get along it makes you feel like its pointless to keep going.


1.0 How long have you been ON-WE? Officially its been almost 3 years.  We just passed our 3-year anniversary as a band.  I remember the date because our first show was 07-07-07….oh yeah, jackpot!
2.0  How did it start? How did it become a band? I had been in and out of bands/projects since the late 90’s for a while and I met Bridget back in 2003 at an open mic while in BBMT. After listening to a self-produced demo she had done, I thought “I have to be involved in a band with her.” She was quite unique, had an amazing voice/sound and had recorded everything on her own.  We wrote and jammed from our first days together but never had organized the music enough to create a band around it because we were seriously involved in other bands at the time.  I went to an O’Callaghan Christmas party with Bridget and met her brother, Brian O’Callaghan, in 2006.  He played bass and I thought this was a great opportunity to start “the band.”  We played several shows before we had a drummer or a complete line up.  Once we had enough material, we recruited the rest the band and, in a matter of months, began playing out.  Sometimes you just have to go for it instead of waiting for the right line up or moment.
3.0 How has the Chicago scene changed since your days in BBMT? The scene hasn’t changed much but my fans have; they’ve grown up.  There is this new demographic that we are trying to capture while enticing the old at the same time.  Chicago has always been a great launching ground for local music if you have the right material, vibe and look.4.0 Why do you do this? I do it because I am addicted to making music – it is an instinctive part of me.
5.0  What are ON-WE’s immediate plans? We are working on incorporating more of an electro vibe with a rock & roll edge because I write on the guitar and so hear guitar in our compositions. I like pretty melodies and ambient sounds but like a bit of grit too.  Its a signature dynamic that I like and strive for no matter what I’m involved in. I like walking that tight-rope of tension in my arrangements; it mimics life which has no constants and can change on a dime.6.0  Are you guys planning on releasing a proper ON-WE record?  We are and will soon. I think our aim is to release something we have no regrets about.
7.0  Does a band need a shared philosophy beyond the music to stay together? I’m not sure that the a shared philosphy keeps a band together.  I know that you have to keep things fun, creative and be mindful and respectful of others involved. That will give a band the staying power they need to persevere.
8.0  Why do you always wear black, Sam? I am a big fan of Johnny Cash and of the path not taken, could be part of black allure.
9.0  When you think about artistic purity, is there any room for pop music? Not unless you are creating the music that becomes popular.
10.0  Will robots ever conquer rock music? They just may if they can tap into what makes us human.  Humans can be as predictable as they are unpredictable. The path we choose is decided by what some call ” the human factor.” Maybe there will be a mathematical preset in the future for this but I doubt it will make great music ~