CAM MAMMINA w/ SLIM GYPSY BAGGAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PAUL BOLGER w/ MR. BLOTTO

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.

JOANNA CONNOR

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

RICHIE SCARLET

When did you first fall in love with the guitar?

The day I heard “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.

Who did you first try and emulate when you picked up the guitar?

Jimi Hendrix and Jeff Beck.

What are your favorite five guitar solos of all-time? 

1) “Child in Time”, Richie Blackmore- Deep Purple

2) “Theme for An Imaginary Western”, Leslie West – Mountain

3) “Machine Gun”- Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsies

4) “Dazed and Confused”, Jimmy Page – Led Zeppelin

5) “Shapes of Things”, Jeff Beck – Yard Birds

How has 2012 been treating ‘The Emperor of Rock & Roll”?

2012 has been an extraordinary year. Between playing out in the North East with my show. Playing lead guitar on Rockabilly Legend Charlie Gracie‘s new single, “Baby Doll” which went to umber one. Appearing in Dee Sniders latest video “Mack The Knife”, Producing Dez Cadena of the Legendary Horror/Punk/Cult Band The Misfits. Playing all guitars on legendary Rock and Roll Chubby Checker’s newest single. Started to record my new CD. Due out October 2012. Also, I have been doing many other studio projects. It has been very creative year. The icing on the cake was joining Ace Frehley on stage in NYC with Anton Fig, after 10 years.

How did that come about?                               

Ace invited me down and my wife Joann spoke with his people. The next thing was Ace asked me to join him on stage. It all happened very quickly….”AND IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL THING”.

Did you read Ace’s book, “No Regrets”?

Yes I did…. I enjoyed the first 3 chapters the most, before Ace was in KISS. Overall, I enjoyed the entire book.

You’ve been working with Dez Cadena w/ Black Flag and The Misfits, how’s that going?

It was a blast with Dez. We are still working together.

Which track on your recent disc “Fever” is your fav and which ones do fans gravitate to? 

My favorite track is “Radio Dreams”. Fans seem to be drawn to “I’m No Good” and “Standing in the Rain”.

What was it like playing with Leslie West? learn any new licks from him? 

I was able to tour the world for 8 years with Leslie West & Corky Laing of Mountain. I already knew the Licks (LOL)

Is there anyone you haven’t jammed with that you would like to someday? 

Jeff Beck …..and many more.

ADAM LEVY w/ THE HONEYDOGS

What do you feel is the high point of your new release, The Honeydogs; What Comes After?

This whole record feels like a solid offering to me. Hard to pick faves, just like your own children. The ending of “Devil We Do,”  “Broke it, Buy It,” The string arrangements on “Everything in its Place” and “Turned Around.”

What other Honeydogs release would you say is closest kin to the newbie?  

Hmmmmmm.  The record feels like a synthesis of our older roots records with some of the more elaborately arranged records of the last decade.   It has elements of our first two, and a few moments of 10,000 Years or Amygdala.

Now ten albums on, has the process of choosing the album title changed at all and how does “What Comes After” sum up what this record is bout to you? 

Album titles are in some ways like song titles.  They have some significance.  “What Comes After” has a bit of a spiritual ring to it–i was thinking about life and death matters quite a bit in the last year.  it’s also self-referential as an artist–I always like to keep moving forward artistically.  I have a number of projects percolating, and feel in a more creatively productive period than at any point in my career.  I hope to continue to always ask the question, “what comes after?”

How do you work as a band when it comes to new material; has it changed over the years? 

As the band has gotten more adept at learning songs the unit has become accomplished in the art of learning tunes on the spot; this record I brought a lot of songs the band had never heard.  They learned the songs and we tracked them immediately, sometimes in one or two takes.  That said, the band and my songwriting, while having a signature style, has always tried to not be predictable.  We don’t want to retread previous charted territory.  The band as players have developed some great antennae and abilities to learn quickly and fashion parts that feel new. This record was the easiest one we’ve ever made.  We worked with young engineers.  The band didn’t labor over details and we tried to retain as many of basic tracks and vocals as possible.

When is it time to get into the studio for The Honeydogs? Is it an organic process or does it take a lot of pre-production at this point?  

its time to go in the studio when I feel like I’ve got enough songs to work with.  The band loves being in the studio.  We grow a great deal every time we do this.  As I mentioned, little or no pre-production happened on songs for this record.  It is a very collective process of giving shape to a new body of work.  I always have ideas and make suggestions about parts.  But the more we work together, the more I trust everyone’s amazing instincts in this band.

Did you have any personal goals for this record? 

Sometimes not having expectations has some interesting results.  We didn’t have big plans tracking this record.  I felt like the songs were very personal and felt very comfortable in the studio with results happening quickly.  Not having any expectations always leaves you pleasantly surprised.

How did you gravitate toward ‘folk’ as the framework for your expression as a young artist?  

I grew up with the 1970’s pop folk landscape of radio. All of those bands listened to blues and folk and country.  My early favorites were all bands that merged older American musical styles with various other musical traditions.  I studied cultural anthropology in college and managed to soak up a lot of early American music in my studies.  I played in country VFW bands, old school honkytonk, and woodshedded to old blues and jazz records.  My early songwriting leaned heavily on Merle Haggard, Gram Parsons, Richard Thompson, Dylan…I never wanted to be a museum piece simply curating old musics and always had it in my mind to refer to these musics while offering something different.  My favorite artists have used the past as a touchstone to produce inspired hybrids and fresh interpretations.

What was the first song you ever learned to play and sing at the same time? 

Ha ha ha ha ha.  Badly or well?  KISS’s “Detroit Rock City”  badly.  “Sweet Black Angel” from the Stones’ Exile on MainStreet.

Who was your favorite guitarist growing up? 

I loved Mick Jones from The Clash.  Jimi Hendrix taught me the most.  I studied him hard.  Keith Richards and Pete Townsend taught me the importance of riffs and funky minimalism.  George Harrison taught me the importance of composing parts sometimes to create memorable music.

What advice do you give young artists looking to hit the road?  

Do it while you have time and freedom.  Create a great band.  Make everyone feel invested, loved, appreciated, and hope they areb equally driven.  It takes time to build a good team.  Be patient but be relentless and learn from failures…over and over and over.  Don’t listen to your parents.  I say that as a parent!

NICHOLAS TREMULIS

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.