Interviews

Blues Traveler Interview Chan Kinchla

Chan Kinchla has been a member of the blues rock band “Blues Traveler” since its inception back in the mid 1980’s, 30 years ago. Kinchla, John Popper, Brenden Hill and Bobby Sheehan, formed the band as “Blues Traveler” in 1987, in Princeton, New Jersey. In 1994, Blues Traveler released its fourth album titled Four and it sold six million copies, produced hits, “Run-Around,” which won a Grammy and “Hook.” Chan’s brother Tad replaced Sheehan in 1999, after he died from an accidental drug overdose and Ben Wilson was added as a keyboard player. The band continued to perform and appear in major film productions and television shows. Today in 2017, after releasing 12 albums they are as popular as ever and sell out shows as they continue their 30th anniversary tour, which doesn’t end until Christmas. Blues Rock Review’s Bob Gersztyn caught up with Kinchla before a recent gig.

Let me ask you a few questions pertinent to the group. You formed in 1987 and you gigged around a lot. What was it like when you first started and were doing open mics in New York City. Were you scared?

All those 30 years ago, because this is our 30 year celebration tour. It was great, because we got together in ’87 in high school. In ’86 we actually got together, but Bobby the bass player didn’t join till ’87. John in ’87 had already gone to New York and was in the new school. He was cruising around at night and he played these open mic nights in various clubs, so when the whole band came in ’87, we just started showing up as a whole band for open mic (chuckles). Right at that time the scene on the lower East side was great because they had just lifted what was called the cabaret law, which up until that point needed a special license to have more than three musicians on stage. They repealed that, so every bar, no matter what size, just started having bands, even if they weren’t necessarily having business, started doing it. So all of a sudden there were all these little dive bars that were playing live music. So we just kind of immersed ourselves in that and eventually found a couple of the skankiest ones where we were going to throw these parties with dollar draft and free nitrous oxide. We’d just hand out thousands of flyers at NYU, Parsons and all the different schools in the Lower East Side and the Village. When we started doing that at those skanky little bars, that’s where our crowd really got started. At the time that there were these open mic nights, Joan Osborne was playing and the “Spin Doctors” got started in that same area. Chris Whitley was in that whole scene and there were a ton of other great bands in this whole Lower East Side learning scene that was a great learning crowd for us. We played every night so we learned more than we ever could in a studio.

So was it because of all that you finally connected with Bill Graham?

We had this great little scene on the Lower East Side and we would pack these 200 seat clubs and we thought that it was pretty hot. Eventually we got a gig up at Columbia, at a frat party up there. So it happened to be Bill Graham’s son David’s frat and him and his buddies saw us play and that’s how we met them and they really liked us, so he got his dad involved. So by getting the gig in the Lower East Side we got the gig up in Columbia. That’s when we met Deej, that’s David Graham and we ended up meeting Bill and he got involved, which was a huge asset for us, because he got us on shows with Santana, we traveled all over the country with Santana and the Allman Brothers and really saw how to do it on a bigger level eventually. That was still a couple of years after our humble Lower East Side beginnings, but that was how we got involved.

How did you originally get into music yourself, what age were you?

My parents always had a dope record collection. My dad always listened to jazz and they were kind of hippies, so there was always a lot of rock & roll, so I always loved music and then at around 10, my best friend, who I played with every day, across the street, got a guitar and I came over and he said, “look at this, I got a guitar.” I said great, and I picked it up and started playing it and it was kind of like one of those things where I knew that I liked it. I used to just go over to his house every day just to play his guitar, instead of with him. Eventually after a couple of weeks he just gave me the guitar, so I have to give him credit for getting me started, which he always reminds me of. We’re still in touch.

Chan Kinchla

Did you just pick it up on your own or did you take lessons?

At first I just tried to do anything, but eventually I found a little music store across town that gave lessons, so I would just walk across town and get cool lessons from Steve Omdorf my first guitar teacher in the back of the little shop. So it’s just one of those things, that to get proficient on any instrument you really have to want to practice, and I wasn’t very naturally talented. My dad gave me lots of support, because it was one of the first things that I was self motivated to do. It was kind of like the first thing that was all mine, so my parents always thought that it was really cool, so they gave me a lot of backup on that, but I was the one, they didn’t have to tell me to practice. I liked sitting in my room running scales.

Who were some of your earliest guitar influences?

That was like generation X, the early ’80s, so I was into punk rock and new wave and all that stuff, which is pretty good for learning guitar, because a lot of that stuff is pretty simple. So I learned the “Clash” and the “Police” the “Specials,” the “Jam,” all those kind of cool punk and new wave bands. Then when I got a little better guitar, I started getting into David Bowie and then Led Zeppelin all through high school. That’s kind of where I began improvising a lot more and getting into a little more serious music, but it all started playing punk rock. So I really love all that kind of aggressive, simple energy. That’s where I come from that’s my generation.

When I googled your name to find more information it listed you as an actor as well as a musician. Is that because of your appearances in movies like Kingpin and Ghostbusters?

Exactly! We also did Blues Brothers and the band has appeared in several movies for various reasons. It’s always a great kick, we love that kind of stuff, so that must be it, because I’ve never said a line in any film production.

So you never got serious about trying to act?

No, but my ex-wife was an actress for some time, but otherwise no.

What current project is the band working on now? The last album you came out with was Blow Up The Moon in 2015?

As it turns out we just recorded a brand new one, cause we kinda did that collaboration project, Blow Up The Moon, which was a gas to do and helped give us a breath of fresh air in our songwriting and all that. We went back this Spring to Nashville and recorded a Blues Traveler old school rock album, so we’re feeling pretty gassed about that. So that’s coming out this January. So we’ll finish up our 30th anniversary year and then next year, boom, new album. Let’s have some fun!

Do you have a title for it yet?

No we don’t. We’re in the process. We’ve got about eight people involved and I think about 10 options apiece, so we’ve got 80, 80 titles right now. We’re working it out, but we recorded it in Nashville and it’s all written by Blues Traveler, performed by Blues Traveler and was a lot of fun to make. Even the album before that, Suzie Cracks The Whip, we worked with a lot of outside songwriters, just to try something different on some of it. So, I think that we were really kind of due to kind of just come back and do everything in house again. I think that we learned a lot working with all these other songwriters as well. So, it was a very fertile time. Everyone had a bunch of good ideas and it all came together very organically and it was a blast to make, so we’re pretty excited about it.

Are you currently married and do you have any kids?

I am not, but the other four guys are. I have two kids, a 19-year-old and a-13-year old, but I am really close to my ex, so we’re one big modern family. I live in Los Angeles.

Do your kids play any music?

My oldest son, Ayden, no he’s more of a nerd, he loves music, though. My younger son, Rowan, who is 13, is actually…he plays ukulele and sings, he’s also quite the Thespian and does a lot of plays, so he’s actually quite talented in the arts and acting, so there’s a little bit of it in there. He’s more talented than I ever was, that’s for sure.

I read that you like to read a lot. Who are some of your favorite authors and books?

Oh, gosh, so many. I was just up in the wilderness in a cabin with my two boys and we were all reading Stephen King books. Stephen King is great, but more on the literary side I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Naguib Mahfouz and all the classics. Hemingway is amazing, I love all that stuff, so it’s hard to say who is my favorite, because they’re all so different when you get to a certain level. If I had to guess maybe Gabriel Garcia Marquez, if I was forced to make a pick, I really like F. Scott Fitzgerald, too.

In a couple of the articles that I was reading it talked about smoking a lot of pot during practice.

I really don’t smoke much pot at all. We might have a couple of drinks around showtime. I know that John puffs a little more than the rest of us, but…when I was younger maybe, in my 20s I might have smoked a little more pot.

There were only two articles that I was reading that talked about it, like in a 4 hour jam session where you made a tape.

That was when I was in high school. That was long ago.

It’s legal now up and down the entire West Coast.

To be honest though, the medical thing has been around in L.A. for so long, everyone who wants a license has one and there are corner stores for medical marijuana all over, so it’s not very different now, but I’m sure there will be mom and pop stores opening up and it’ll probably be a little easier.

There are 63 stores here in Salem alone.

Well, it’s great. Marijuana is great, but I’ve got a feeling that in a year or two a lot of them will be closed and just the good ones will stay open. So back then when you smoked a little pot it was a grand experiment. I think that it helps you look at music a little different, but we’ve been playing now so long now that we’re already brain dead, so it works pretty well. We’re already there.

You don’t want to follow the Grateful Dead’s path.

It’s rough out here, I mean Bobby, our first bass player passed away. I’ve got tons of friends who passed away for various drug related situations, so it’s kind of a strange atmosphere. I always say that it’s funny, we show up for work and people give us a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer, so we’ve learned now and everyone is in a good place.

Interview by Bob Gersztyn

Source: Blues Rock Review

Southern Revolution Warren Haynes of Govt Mule

With the imminent release of new Gov’t Mule record Revolution Come… Revolution Go (Spinefarm), Ghost Cult popped down to London to chat to Warren Haynes about the new album, the inspirations behind it, his upcoming UK tour and the unfortunate passing of his friend and fellow bandmate Gregg Allman

Ghost Cult: Congratulations on the new album, what was your aim for the record?

Warren Haynes: This was the first Gov’t Mule record since we celebrated our 20th anniversary as a band, so our goal was to look at it like we’re embarking on a new chapter. I kept telling people in interviews before we starting recording that that meant we were gonna visit our earliest roots but also go some places we have never gone before. The response would always be “Well, what do you mean?” “Well, I won’t know until we get there”. I think we were able to achieve that, about half the record sounds like old school Gov’t Mule, and the other half is exploring our other influences and utilising the chemistry we all have playing music.

There’s quite a healthy amount of funk and soul in there, which works quite well.

Yeah, which we all love and is a big of what our live performances are. It’s important for us to bring to the studio all the different things that come up on stage.

As this album was recorded on election day (November 8th 2016), did it affect it in any way?

It influenced it in the way it influenced the way we felt and the overall attitude. It didn’t really change the songs as they were written before we started recording. The only song that was written after election day was ‘Sarah Surrender’ which in no way is political. The biggest effect that it had on me was that I didn’t pick up a newspaper or watch the news for two weeks; I just buried my head in the music. The fact that we were making a recording. helped because I had something to lose myself in. It did help fire everybody up.

The title track and ‘Stone Cold Rage’ seem quite political in theme.

Yeah. Both of those songs, and a couple others. Most of the political statements on the record are mostly from an observant point of view, I’m not one for preaching or getting on a soapbox. I’ve always written about what’s going on in the world, going back to myself first solo record in ‘93 and the first Mule record in ‘95. This is a little different as more of the audience has focused on it, and the title being Revolution Come… Revolution Go has caused people to think. It’s unavoidable with the way things are right now, you can either examine the elephant in the room or not.

As you say, not all are political, there’s quite a few that are reflective and philosophical like ‘Travelling Tune’ and ‘Dreams and Songs’. Are they homages to anyone in particular or just general reflections on life?

‘Dreams and Songs’ is very autobiographical and very personal to me. ‘Travelling Tune’ is about the connection between the band and our audience and it pays tribute to the people that came before us and people we’ve lost.

Life on the road and all it entails?

Yeah, but more specifically our life on the road. We have a unique relationship with our audience because a lot of them come to multiple shows – in the way that the Grateful Dead starting this whole trend of fans following you around, a large part of our audience does that. I’ll meet people that have seen 200 Gov’t Mule shows, it still freaks me out when that happens but I never expected to be playing hundreds and hundreds of shows and seeing some of the same people every night – it’s very bizarre! A lot of them you wind up meeting, talking to and getting to know and releasing that, it’s a family atmosphere for them as well

You’re doing a UK tour in October, are you looking forward to it? When was the last time you came to these shores?

Yeah, absolutely. We feel like we need to start cultivating the UK audience more because it’s a very important market to us and we want to keep building that. It’s going to be the first time we’ve been to Ireland, Scotland or Wales so we’re excited about that.

Are European audiences different to American ones?

For sure, they’re different from country to country and from city to city in the States – the West Coast is way different from the east coast in the states. Culturally speaking some bands are more popular certain places and some are more popular in other places in the states, it’s very strange that way. European audiences are more similar to American audiences now than when we first started coming here. I’ve always been impressed by how seriously European audiences take the music, how appreciative they are and well informed of the band’s history they are.

Sorry to hear about Gregg’s passing, where were you when you heard the news?

We were in Illinois and we’d played a festival that night. I got the news that he’d passed about 5 hours before we had to be on stage.

That must have been tough.

Yeah, it was a really hard show to do. One minute I’m thinking ‘What am I doing here’ and the next minute I’m thinking ‘Well, music is the best way to deal with it’ – I was a bit numb that day, so I’m not sure how it went.

Would you do what you did for Allen Woody, do a tribute album with musicians he liked (The Deep End Vol 1 & 2)?

We’ve thought about doing a concert maybe, that’s more likely I think. There’s already a live DVD/CD of a tribute show including myself, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and others covering Gregg Allman songs. So I could see us doing some sort of show, but there’s nothing in the works yet.

Thank you very much for having me.

My pleasure, it was nice to meet you.

Revolution Come… Revolution Go was released by Spinefarm on Friday 9th June.

THOMAS THROWER

Source: Ghost Cult Magazine

Laura Nyro Remembered A Musical Force of Nature

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There is an abiding image of Laura Nyro as the black sheep at the crowning of the counterculture. On June 17, 1967, the 19-year-old played Monterey. According to cousin and confidant Alan Merrill, the moment producer Lou Adler called and asked Nyro to play, “Her lips went blue from the shock.” Once she recovered, she started sketching costumes. Her outfit was a black dress that hung off one shoulder, forming a batwing beneath the other arm. A decade later, Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks would take this look mainstream. In ’67, Nyro came off as an earnest East Coaster in a field of flower children.

Onstage at Monterey, Nyro would have preferred to perform at the piano, but there was little precedent for a young female artist playing her own songs, and the house band struggled with her complex charts. Certain she had heard the crowd booing, Nyro demanded that DA Pennebaker omit her performance from his documentary. When he reviewed the footage in 1997, he discovered these were cries of “beautiful!” and invited her to see for herself, but Nyro died from ovarian cancer before she could resolve her fear. The film shows the Russian Jewish/Italian Catholic girl from the Bronx to be the greatest white female soul singer until Amy Winehouse emerged four decades later. “Wedding Bell Blues” sparkles with festive harmonies, while on “Poverty Train”, Nyro searches the sky as she details a bad trip. She’s vulnerable and dramatic, and appears daunted by her own power.

Contrast this tentative performance with a solo appearance at LA’s Troubadour in 1969. In attendance was Jackson Browne, songwriter, admirer and aspiring artist. (Joni Mitchell was also allegedly there, taking notes. “She was the only female singer-songwriter at the time that I knew,” she would tell PBS.) “She had brought in a grand piano,” Browne recalls. “Her fans were so crazy about her that, in between each song, she’d walk out to the edge of the stage and pace the front to rolling applause. Then she’d compose herself, and go into another song. I’d never seen anything like it. She wore a red velvet dress – she was not like the freaks, the hippies she was playing to. Her audience was just wilding for her. But she was a diva; she took this in her stride.” Browne laughs. “There was no false modesty in Laura! Never any, ‘Oh, you’re too kind’, she just expected it.”

“From the moment that I met her, she had a presumption of her own power,” says friend Ellen Sander, who met Nyro in the office of her first manager, Artie Mogull. “She sensed that what she was doing was important and should be popular.” Alan Merrill, who played on Nyro’s teenage demos, says her confidence was inbuilt. “Nobody could touch her in terms of musical strength, at least as a writer,” he says. “She was inimitable. She knew it. She was a musical force of nature, more than a talent.”

Contrary to the image of Nyro as a fragile failure, 50 years since the release of her debut, More Than A New Discovery, it’s apparent that Nyro was a confident, gentle visionary who thrived when she got to create her own terms. She upset the archetypes for female musicians, fashioning new aesthetic moulds and poetic expressiveness, and made a case for authorship as autonomy. She inspired Joni Mitchell to take up piano, and Carole King’s push to be taken seriously as an artist. With her natural producer’s touch, Nyro co-pioneered the LP’s transition from pop vending machine to studio-crafted statement, and found on the streets of New York analogues for the cyclical violence of war, poverty, and injustice plaguing the US at the end of the ’60s: “The Bronx Brontë”, as one writer described her. “She was inexorably the way she was,” says Browne. “A person who could focus her feeling, and summoned the song in a way that was real every time. That was a great example of how to conduct yourself as a performer. Someone who’s gonna get up there to represent their work.”

Source: Uncut Home