GREGG YDE w/ BLACK LAUREL

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

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

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

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

RICH EXPERIENCE

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”
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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? ;)