STEVE KARRAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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DAVE SLOMIN w/ WAITING FOR HENRY

SlominPunchInWhat earlier Mr. Henry record has the most in common with your new project Waiting For Henry, Ghosts & Compromise?

Man, I hope it’s not a cop out to pick two… but I think Ghosts falls somewhere between the first couple of Mr. Henry albums.  It has the grit and new-band-energy of As Good as the Ground, but I feel like it also has the song strength of Jackhammer.

You took a brief-to-longer-than-expected hiatus from playing live, recording and touring until now: does the material and lyrics on the disc tell any part of that story?

Yeah I did and yeah it does.  Story’s in the title song…  “Let’s raise a toast, to everybody’s ghost.”  For me, so much of this album is about coming to terms with the reality that a lot my life is now to be looked back on.  But it’s also about not being scared of the related ghosts – in my case, musical – that won’t disappear.  Doing the ‘band-thing’ once more is really like a born-again experience.  Like I had this phantom muse, packed into the closet with all the backup guitars and broken amps… and somehow it came back to life.  Musicians are like wolfmen… once you’re bitten it’s in you.

Elevator pitch, in one sentence: what’s your favorite thing about how the disc it turned out?

I always feel like a it’s a success if I come up with a recording that sounds like something I would buy myself… and I think I’d buy this one.  Or at least bootleg it.

Why did you record down in Freehold, NJ when you live so close to so many great studio’s in New York? 

Definitely the food.  They have awesome take-out Chinese in Freehold.  No, actually it’s kind of a cool story… for me at least.  We set out trying to work with Josh Jakubowski, who recorded the first Gaslight Anthem album “Sink or Swim”.  It’s the best and best sounding punk album of the past decade.  The tracks are beautiful, but bombastic.  Kinda like The Replacements’ “Tim.”  Anyway, our schedules couldn’t connect, but through the Josh search, we connected with one of his old partners in crime, Joe Dell’Aquila at Exeter Recording in Freehold.  First off, we were blown away by Joe’s sounds and mixes on his website samples.  We knew, even before seeing the studio that he was the guy.  Went in sight unseen and Joe rocked it.  Then, to ice the cake, we thought the whole ‘ghost’ thing of recording in the same town where Springsteen grew up, couldn’t hurt the vibe.  And it didn’t.  Was great.

Man, Hurricane Sandy …..what a nightmare.  Jersey’s known for bad hair and really bad McMansions, but not  hurricanes.  And it wasn’t just Sandy, in the 18 months we were recording down by the Shore we also got hit with Irene.  Thankfully, the studio – and our tracks – survived.  My house just lost some roof, although I have friend whose roof lost its house!

Anyway, a coupla weeks ago, I was with a group doing volunteer clean up work in Lavallette, a town that got mauled, and came up with the idea of turning “Here Comes the Rain” into a video fundraiser.  Working on that now.  We’re gonna donate all the proceeds from related downloads of “Here Comes the Rain” to Restore the Shore related charities.  Hope to have it up on the website this summer.  There’s a lot of folks who still need help and will for a long time.

You have amassed a nice guitar and amp collection over the years, what did you play on the new record?

Yeah, a nice collection of beaters from the guitar shop on the Island of the Misfit Toys.  Main electrics were a ’67 Epiphone Riviera 12-string, run as a six and an old Gibson SG Junior.  They’re always my go-tos, gritty but super warm.  Acoustic was a rebuilt Gibson dinosaur from the 50’s that I adopted from Texas.  Sounds amazing.  Ampwise, the main criminals were an ’82 JCM800, ’65 Fender Vibrolux, a Goodsell and a Samamp.  The Marshall saw the most action, since we were trying to put a big Buffalo Tom guitar sound into an Americana setting.  I think it worked.

Any rules you try to follow when writing a song or are they all ‘works in progress’?

Main rule is, when it comes grab it.  Otherwise you’ll be haunted for years.  Most of the songs on the album were one-shot deals.  Something sparks at 11pm and by 3am there’s a song.  Then there was Here Comes the Rain, which I started 15 years ago and never grabbed it.  Took a recession and Hurricane Irene to reignite the muse and find the lyric on that one.

Is a return to the road or the drive to play events like SXSW again on your radar or ‘in the rear view’? 

Would love to, but you’ll have to talk to my wife about that.

What is your fondest single memory from touring with Mr. Henry?

Too many to pick one.  But up there would be opening for Iggy Pop at Birmingham, AL’s City Stages, playing with Counting Crows at the Beacon in NYC, our first SXSW and of course all those nights humping gear into a motel room at 4am.  Then there was the day we couldn’t get out of the motel parking lot in Jackson, MS, cuz the innkeepers were cooking nan bread on the hot asphalt.

What’s the first record you ever bought and what’s the best cut on it? 

Elton John’s Greatest Hits.  Best cut, definitely “Border Song.”  “Holy Moses, I have been removed.”  It’s the song no one knows.  Have no idea how it made it to his Greatest Hits album, but thank God it did.

What’s the best concert you ever attended and what strikes you most about it now? 

There’s two.  As a kid I got into see The Clash at one of the famous Bond’s Casino shows in NYC.  One of the dates was an all-ages matinée.  Me and my friend Dan pushed our way to the front and were getting crushed against the stage.  The roadies pulled us up before we got killed, and rather than throwing us out, they left us onstage and we got to sing into the mic with Joe Strummer.  Even have one of Joe’s broken guitar strings from that gig.  Was magic.  The other was The Replacements at the old Ritz in NYC in ’85.  Was one of Bob Stinson’s last shows.  I never heard them before that show, but my buddy got tix.  Was totally awestruck.  Left knowing I had just seen the greatest rock band ever.