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Episodes 31-60

April 4, 2017 - Special Guest: Don Zientara, Producer & Recording Engineer, Inner Ear Studio

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

MUSIC

  1. Popular Russians by Braddock Station Garrison (Rock/Power-Pop)
  2. Ophelia by Karen Jonas (Country/Americana)
  3. Meet Me in the Middle by Peter Maybarduk (Indie/Alternative)
  4. No Easy Way Out by Staunton (Rock/Folk)
  5. Tuesday Morning by Hayley Fahey (Rock/Indie Rock)
  6. Alien Drugs by Jackie and the Treehorns (Rock/Alternative Rock)
  7. In Retrospect by Lisa Said (Folk/Alternative)

NEWS & LINKS

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DON ZIENTARA

VIDEO - BIO - LINKS - TRANSCRIPT

Bio from Don:

Grew up in Rochester, NY.  Had several friends in school who knew quite a bit about electronics and taught me to build/design/repair that sort of equipment.

Had old tape recorders all my life.  Also wired them so that it was a sound reinforcement system.  Experimented with electronic design and function.

Studied art at Syracuse University.  BFA in 1970.

Attended graduate school at West Virginia University, majoring in painting and printmaking.  Studied paper construction and restoration.

Was drafted into the Army in 1971.  Lottery.  Number one.

don.jpg

Signed up for electronics training.  After basic training finished, was told there was a surplus of electronic trainees, but would I want to draw and paint portraits for the Army Recruiting Support Center (Cameron Station, Alexandria)?

Accepted the invitation to work there.

Applied for, and received a CO (Conscientious Objector) in 1973.

Went to work for the National Gallery of Art as an exhibits framer and paper conservator.

After about 5 years, became the NGA's audio engineer

Stayed there for another 4 years, then went on to work as studio manager, then on my own.  Have been running Inner Ear Studio ever since.

Have 2 daughters, 5 grandkids, and 1 great-grandkid.  I surf, cook, perform music, and speak to groups (this sounds like a singles ad!!!)

Thanks!  That's all, folks!

 

 Links:

http://innerearstudio.com

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Brian:    Don Zientara grew up in Rochester, New York. He studied at Syracuse University. In grad school at West Virginia, he majored in painting and printmaking. Don drafted into the Army in 1971. He signed up for electronics training, but after basic training finished, he was told there was a surplus of electronic trainees so instead, he was offered a position to draw and paint portraits for the Army recruiting support center, which he accepted. His career moved on to the National Gallery of Art as an exhibits framer and paper conservator, and then becoming an audio engineer, which is an amazing transition to me, and he then moved on to work as a recording studio manager, and then eventually, branching out on his own where Inner Ear Studios was born, which has been around for decades at this point.

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    He's got two daughters, five grandkids, and one great-grandkid, and he also surfs, cooks, performs music, and excels in public speaking, which listeners, I got to work with Don because Fellowcraft, my band, recorded our album at Inner Ear Studios, and it was such an honor to work with him in hallowed ground with all those musicians. It's with great pleasure that I introduce Don Zientara.

Don Z:    Aren't there some trumpets somewhere that need to [crosstalk 01:13]?

Brian:    Oh, the proper introduction for you, right?

Don Z:    Exactly.

Brian:    Yes, I need to look at a sound file for some trumpets or something. That would be a great-

Don Z:    Yeah, those English horns, right?

Brian:    Exactly. Now, the first thing right off the bat, as I introduced you, it talked about how you went from the exhibits framer and paper conservator to audio engineer.

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    How did that happen? Can you share that?

Don Z:    Sure. Let me back up a little bit. First of all, just to get in some of the history behind it all. I started off playing guitar because my parents wanted me to study some musical instrument.

Brian:    Nice.

Don Z:    I grew up in a Polish community and in the Polish community, there basically is one sacred instrument, which is the accordion.

Brian:    I guess that makes sense.

Don Z:    Of course.

Brian:    Polish music is kind of known for that.

Don Z:    Absolutely.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Yeah, get out and polka.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Luckily, I was born at a time when Elvis was coming into vogue.

Brian:    Got it.

Don Z:    I was 10 years old. They actually offered guitar lessons at the place I was at so I bailed on the accordion and I went into guitar.

Brian:    Guitar, got it, which that was more appealing?

Don Z:    Come on.

Brian:    If you're in a Polish community, it seems like accordion would be the hot thing to do.

Don Z:    You look at all the ladies and who do they flock around? The accordion player? No.

Brian:    I'd like to say the accordion player, but no, you're definitely right, it's the guitarist always. It's always the guitarist.

Don Z:    Yeah, or at least you'd like to think so, at least you'd like to think so.

Brian:    Yeah, right, exactly. Got it.

Don Z:    From there, basically, everybody joins a band if you play guitar, but we had no money for amplifiers or anything like that and so, we'd scrounge around on trash day going through and finding all these Magnavox consoles that were thrown out by the people at the time and we made speaker cabinets, a buddy of mine this is, and I had a tape recorder, a Webcor tape recorder-

Brian:    Where was this?

Don Z:    Yeah. This is in Rochester.

Brian:    You're talking about-

Don Z:    Rochester, New York.

Brian:    Rochester, New York.

Don Z:    That we turned into an actual amplifier.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    We played guitars through this tape recorder amplifier and sang through it. One little, probably about 2 watts, and coming out of these speakers from this cabinet we built out from these Magnavox consoles and it was exciting. We put all these things together and it was real interesting doing this. I had in electronics sort of, kind of dabbling in it to that degree.

      What happened was somehow I went into art school at Syracuse University. I don't know why because I was a mediocre artist, but I figured I was a mediocre artist, but I was failing in English, Math, Science, Chemistry, Biology so we'll take mediocre.

Brian:    It's the one you weren't failing in, is that-

Don Z:    Yeah, it was the one I wasn't failing in.

Brian:    Got it.

Don Z:    Then graduate there, went to West Virginia University like you said and then, I was caught up in the draft lottery.

Brian:    Oh, which was-

Don Z:    You don't remember that? You're too young.

Brian:    Full disclosure, I was not around for the draft lottery at that point, but what I'm curious about is, from everything I've heard, that's a hot topic at the time?

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    That was a contested thing. When you got caught up in that, was it incredibly traumatic? Did you just accept it? What ...

Don Z:    This is the Vietnam War going on and there were a lot of deferments and what was happening was because of all these deferments, some of the people in Congress were saying, "This is not fair. The inequality is all over the place. What we're going to do is we're just going to pick birth dates out of a container like a lottery and we're going to pick number one, number two, number ... " and I was number one in the whole thing.

Brian:    Oh, you were the big winner.

Don Z:    I was the big winner in the thing.

Brian:    Got it.

Don Z:    I was definitely going to go in and I checked upon it and they had some programs going on. I figured I'd keep that in the back of my mind, but I was drafted. I was selected for the draft and when you're selected for the draft, you basically have to have a physical. Everybody knows that, you have an army physical.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    I went to West Virginia University that year. I said, "I can't take a physical. I'm at West Virginia. I'm in Morgantown, West Virginia." They scrambled and they got things together and moved the physical around to Morgantown. I was back for Christmas vacation in Rochester. I said, "I can't take it. I'm in Rochester, New York." They scrambled around and they fixed it up for Rochester. I was back at West Virginia University again. Come summer time, they got me.

     I figured why don't I get some formal training in electronics? I went into that program, they guaranteed training electronics, went through basic training, went to the place where the school was and waited and then waited some more and waited some more and waited some more. Eventually, I was called into maybe the front office there and they said, "You have a guarantee and we will honor it for this electronic training, but at the moment, there's too many people doing it. We just happen to have a position open in Alexandria, Virginia for people to draw and paint. Would you want to do that?" I figured for about two seconds, would I want to draw and paint rather than shoot people with a gun?

Brian:    The answer was yes, clearly.

Don Z:    The answer was yes, yeah. I took a moment to think about that and so, I came to Alexandria, Virginia, like you said with the recruiting support center there. I got to work on exhibits. That gave me my first taste into presentations as a whole.

Brian:    Oh.

Don Z:    Whether it's audio or visual, I was into presentations and I loved it.

Brian:    Got it.

Don Z:    I went through that thing. As it was, I got out on a CO. I applied for a CO and got out. This was about 1973. Then, I went to the National Gallery of Art.

Don Z:    Worked there matting and framing and doing a little bit of conservation work for getting exhibits ready. Once again, we're in exhibits, we're into presentation.

Don Z:    Eventually, after about five years there, they were giving a tour around to some of the places in the gallery and they were building a recording studio and we toured that. They were hooking things up and wiring things up [inaudible 07:56]. They had problems with the power supply there. I said, "All you have to do is connect it up like this."

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    They said, "Hey, do you want to run this place?"

Brian:    Do you want do this? Yeah.

Don Z:    Yeah, exactly.

Brian:    That's how it happened?

Don Z:    That's how it happened.

Brian:    Just because you fixed ...

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    I love it. Wait, then fast-forward then, so that was how long? You were there for how long?

Don Z:    I was there five years in prints and drawings.

Brian:    Five years.

Don Z:    Then, I was there for about another four or five years in the electronics section, the audio recording section.

Brian:    How did that then become Inner Ear Studios? Was that ...

Don Z:    I went from there to managing a studio, which didn't work out because I couldn't get my hands dirty.

Brian:    Uh-oh, because you were fixing and you were recording-

Don Z:    Yeah, I was pushing papers all the time, administering it, manager.

Brian:    Right.

Don Z:    I didn't like that so, I just started doing stuff totally on my ... Now, I had been recording all this time already.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Because I record a lot of the early, Teen Idles, Minor Threat, all that stuff.

Brian:    Yeah, at that time, was that in your basement?

Don Z:    Yes.

Brian:    Was it at the location now?

Don Z:    In my basement.

Brian:    How did you get linked up with them? Just the underground network, they heard of you or how did that happen?

Don Z:    That's a every interesting thing. There's parallel universes going on. I was playing in bands all these times and one of the bands I was in had Robert Goldstein for a guitarist and he has since passed away, but he-

Brian:    For those who don't know, who's Robert Goldstein?

Don Z:    Robert Goldstein was the music librarian towards the end of his life for NPR.

Brian:    Oh. Got it.

Don Z:    He was also a very progressive guitarist and we were like a folk rock band. We played a lot of covers and stuff like that, but he had more talent than I think I had for sure.

Brian:    Right.

Don Z:    Eventually, the band broke up. He went into a band that was more to his taste and called me to record one time when they're playing at I think it was American University. Playing on the same bill were The Slickee Boys so they said, "Hey, you got an extra roll of tape?" I did so I recorded them. Their manager at the time was Skip Groff who was Yesterday and Today Records and he knew all the punk people. I didn't even know punk was around.

Brian:    Right.

Don Z:    I didn't know anything about it, but he came in and worked with the Slickee Boys to mix their tapes and everything and said, "I'd like to bring over some people. These guys, Teen Idles, they might have something to do here." So he came over with them and this, the relationship with a lot of the guys in that band and a little later on he said, "You know, there's a black punk band that I'd like to bring over there. Would you work with them if you don't mind?" I said, "Yeah, sure, sure."

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    They sound good and that was the Bad Brains.

Brian:    Wow.

Don Z:    I was immersed into all this because of just serendipity a lot, very much.

Brian:    I know people are curious because I know I'm curious, too, how did that evolve into ... There's an HBO special at your place, the Foo Fighters recorded at Inner Ear Studios. Did that network continue or how did you get linked up with Dave?

Don Z:    It continued. No, it continued and Scream and Dain Bramage, I did not record Dain Bramage, but I recorded Scream and they were ... Punk was evolving.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Punk was evolving more towards the ... It had a little bit of a pop feel to it. Kingface, there were some groups like that and Scream was one of them that had ... They could sing well and they put a really good melody behind songs.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Kingface was the same way. A lot of the punk groups were doing that. Basically, I recorded them so I knew Dave from back then.

Brian:    I see.

Don Z:    Then when he broke up ... Didn't break up with Nirvana. Nirvana sort of broke up.

Brian:    Dissolved, yeah.

Don Z:    Dissolved, right, that's a good word.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    Yes. He came over and he said, "We've got these demos I want to record. Do you want to record these things?" I recorded the demos for him and I actually asked him, "What's the band going to be called?" He said, "The Foo Fighters." I said, "That's a stupid name," yeah.

Brian:    You told him it was stupid?

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    What did he say? [Crosstalk 12:37]

Don Z:    I have struck out on names for bands. The Dismemberment Plan, I took Jason Caddell aside one time and said, "Jason, you've got to change the name of the band. Dismemberment Plan, no one's going to remember that. Come on. Let's get real. Let's get something in there."

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    I have not had a good track record with names of bands. They just haven't worked out with me.

Brian:    Man. Some of these are big personalities that are in the studio. What do you do? You were talking earlier about the conflict between people or we joked marital problems or stuff, when that stuff happens, do you get involved? Do you purposely not get involved?

Don Z:    First of all, usually, people will act on a professional basis and these could be local people, too.

Brian:    Yeah.

Don Z:    They know how to focus pretty well. They don't get involved in a lot of stuff. A lot of the times, it's the people who are, and I'll use the term loosely, amateurs that want to be all over the place. They want to pick their own microphones out. They want to pick the position of the [mount 13:41] in front of the amplifier and, "Why are you using this and why don't we use this? I've seen this being used on YouTube. We should try that," and all that.

     As an engineer I try different things at different points, but as a musician, you should ... I'm speaking for myself, you should not concern yourself with that in a way. You should concern yourself with the way it sounds. You are there to look at the sound of things and making sure that your instrument, whether it's a voice, a guitar amplifier or a base amplifier or a drum set sounds the way you want it to sound. At that point, you can say, "We need more snap in the snare or we need more bottom end to the kick drum."

Brian:    I see.

Don Z:    Not, "We need to use an AKG112 for the kick drum because I've heard that Def Leppard uses that when they record."

Brian:    I got it. Now, I'm with you. All right, and one more question because I want to make sure we place more of the music in here about your work with some of these other artists, but the one question that I love to offer that I'd love to know from you is if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don Z:    Focus.

Brian:    Focus.

Don Z:    Focus, rehearse. Focus on what you're doing. Focus on your job and what you're doing and be critical. Be critical. Make sure that everything is turning out the way you want it to turn out, but you need to remember that you have a certain job that you could do 100%. Everybody has their own job and everybody wears a different hat and we should keep it that way.

Brian:    Yeah. Got it. Profound. Now, for those folks who are interested in finding out more about you and what you've got going on, is there a website or where should they go to find that out?

Don Z:    I don't know. Wikipedia?

Brian:    You're just out there doing it. Look up Don Zientara on Wikipedia. That is one way to do it.

Don Z:    Yeah.

Brian:    Innerearstudio.com, check out the website.

Don Z:    Inner Ear Studio has some stuff, but I don't have a website myself. I just call and talk-

Brian:    Got it.

Don Z:    Hey, if anybody wants to call me, call the studio. I talk to them. If anybody's got ideas or wants answers to questions, I love talking about recording, microphones, tape recorders, anything along that line.

Brian:    Got it. All right. Give him a call.

March 28, 2017 - Special Guest: Daniel Hill of YellowTieGuy

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

Music

  1. Unhappy by Billy Winn (Pop. Dance, Electronic)
  2. First Move by YellowTieGuy (Rock)
  3. Surely Late by Matt Tarka (Rock)
  4. Summer Job by A Shrewdness of Apes (Hard Rock, Progressive)
  5. Spring Hill by Jason Mendelson (Rock)
  6. Good Enough by Alex Vans (Rock/Blues)

 

NEWS & LINKS

  • April 7th, Lionize, Drop Electric, Of Tomorrow - at Hellbender Brewery where all the money goes to AYUDA / ACLU to provide lawyers for immigrants in DC/MD/VA.  Tickets almost sold out.

  • Yellowtieguy hosts the Tuesday Night Open Mic Night at Villian and Saints in Bethesda.  Check him out every Tuesday

->Follow The Show's Spotify Playlist<-



Daniel Hill of YellowTieGuy

VIDEO - BIO - LINKS - TRANSCRIPT

Bio:

Daniel Hill DC Music Rocks

Yellow Tie Guy is the DC area's premier Alternative/Rock band with performers hailing from Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia. YTG released their second full length album "Play On Words", featuring singles "Anthem" and "First Move" on November 25, 2016 before taking a short break for the holidays. With plans to tour and expand their national reach in 2017, the band has already started securing dates through November of 2017, and will release singles with special guest artists throughout the year.

 

Daniel Warren Hill is the lead songwriter and vocalist for Yellow Tie Guy, and wears a number of other hats (and ties) as well. Daniel is owner of community based record label, Alchemical Records, which is working to grow more community with an online magazine and radio station. Daniel works with his father, Jim, to hand build custom tube guitar amps at VVT Amplifiers, is the host of the weekly open mic every Tuesday at Villain & Saint in Bethesda, MD, and is also a Sound Engineer and Producer with over 17 years of personal experience in the industry.

Daniel Hill DC Music Rocks

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Brian:    Daniel Warren Hill is the lead singer and lead song-writer and vocalist for Yellow Tie Guy. The group has members from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and released their second full-length album "Play on Words" this past November. Daniel also wears a number of other hats as well. He is the owner of community-based record label Alchemical Records. He manages an online magazine and an online radio station. He works with his father Jim to hand-build custom two guitar amps at VVT Amplifiers. He hosts the weekly open mic night you heard about earlier, every Tuesday at Villain and Saint in Bethesda Maryland. He is also a sound engineer and producer with over 17 years of personal experience in the industry.

     I first saw Yellow Tie Guy and heard about them through the Capital City showcase. Shout-out to [Christian Hunt 00:53] at the Capital City Showcase because he does some cool things. He's been an artist on there and I saw this guy on stage with the Capital City showcase. Just cool sounds, as you heard from that sound. Listeners, it's with great pleasure that I introduce Daniel Hill.

Daniel:    Thank you. It's always humbling when somebody talks about you. I don't know how you feel when somebody does it for you but when somebody does it for me, I just want to crawl under a rock somewhere and then cover myself up with a blanket.

Brian:    Well, thank you for tolerating me there while I did that, because I want to set the stage for them. Now ell us, how did you get started in this music thing? Where did that come from?

Daniel:    The long story short is going to be that I've been singing my whole life and I've always had a passion for music and different instruments as I was growing up. I got into music as an opportunity for ... I guess you could say a career choice. I made a career choice when I found out I was going to be a dad. She inspired me to pursue my dreams and set a goal for her that whatever it is that she was interested in doing, that she could also find a way to make that successful and happen for her.

Brian:    Wow. What is her name?

Daniel:    Her name is Madison.

Brian:    Wow.

Daniel:    She's seven.

Brian:    Oh, Madison if you hear this, shout-out to you Madison.

Daniel:    She runs the playlist in the car when we're driving. She gets to pick the songs.

Brian:    Oh, yeah?

Daniel:    Yeah.

Brian:    Oh, that's awesome.

Daniel:    We're singing Ring of Fire together, that's a song we're learning to sing together. Also If I Had a Million Dollars, trying to get some two part things going on.

Brian:    Very cool, this is what happens when you're a seven year old in a family with musicians. I love it, that is cool. Well, now ... There's a lot of things going on. I listed a lot of things in that introduction, so why don't you ... Where did Yellow Tie Guy from and the idea for the Yellow Tie? Talk about.

Daniel:    When I was 11 I was visiting a camp, like a youth group thing in North Carolina at a pretty big church down there. They had brought up some of the young preacher speaker boys to come up on stage and I was one of those guys that came up, but the Pastor couldn't remember my name when he invited me up to actually come onto the stage. He goes, "You, the guy with the yellow tie. Come on up here." I'm 11 years old, and I go up and do my thing. Three years later I'm in Virginia visiting a church and they recognized me as the guy with the yellow tie, "Oh you were the guy with the yellow tie down in North Carolina." I was like, how do you remember that? I don't even remember what color tie I was wearing that day. Then it just kind of stuck with me that this was something that was memorable, and when I started playing solo shows ... When I started playing solo shows ... Oh, that's something for my school. Too many smart objects. Wrong button.

Brian:    So wait a minute, so Yellow Tie Guy actually come ... that is amazing. Somebody called you out as being the guy with the yellow tie and it stuck, all those years?

Daniel:    It stuck. I didn't make it up, somebody else made it up and-

Brian:    I love it. Oh my god.

Daniel:    When I started playing solo acoustic shows as a teenager it was just kind of a gimmick, "Oh, I'll just be the Yellow Tie Guy." Then as time went by ... the band, when I started playing with a band and we were going to record a record, it was like, "Well, do you want to be a different band name, because I'm totally cool with it." I was just using Yellow Tie Guy for funsies by myself, but I don't assume that it represents a group of people, per say. They were like, "No." I was like, "Okay, well you're just telling me you're too lazy to come up with a unique band name and so we're just going to run with this then and that will be fine."

Brian:    I'd like to think of it as they loved the idea so much that they wanted to do that one too. I don't know.

Daniel:    I just think everybody was skeptical about the project at first and so ... it'll be like, 30 years from now it will be like Kid Rock, "I wish we could have called ourselves something different."

Brian:    No, I hope that happens. Daniel, I hope we're talking about this 30 years from now, and I can talk about the fact that you were on the show and I found out that you wore a yellow tie to church and that's where the name came from.

Daniel:    That's right.

Brian:    I really hope that that happens. That would be amazing.

Daniel:    It stuck.

Brian:    Then you also ... Alchemical Records, what is that? Talk about that.

Daniel:    When we put out our first record Alchemical Records was already existing as kind of an email chain where people would just kind of hit me up and they would ask me for advice or ask me for a contact and I would go, "Well I don't have the answer to this, or I don't know how to do this for you, so let me forward you on to this person, maybe they can help you out." It was just kind of a long chain-mail email newsletter type situation. Nothing official.

       When we put out the first record we used Alchemical Records as a name to stick on the back of it. It was right at the height of DIY and do it all yourself. I was like, "I'll just put that out under my own label. All these other people are putting their music out on their own label, so I'll do it too." Then once people had listened to it and had seen the album art and things like that, everybody was really impressed and I started getting some interest in, "Well how do I get on the label? What does the label do?". It just kind of developed from there. It's still very community-based in that everybody we talk to is somebody we just have a genuine relationship with at some point, or run into and meet. It continues to grow but there's no specific set rate. It's really just about trying to help ... working with the artist individually. The artists that are on the label, they get the help that I can best provide for them based on their needs.

Brian:    Wow.

Daniel:    We mostly try to focus on providing marketing distribution. Anybody can distribute themselves, but marketing is something that you really have to work through from start to finish and it has to be a long-term goal for artists. Artist development is really what we specialize in.

Brian:    Got it. When you say artist development, does that mean helping them refine their sound or come up with/finish an album, or finish a piece of work? Say more on that.

Daniel:    I mean, from an engineering standpoint I might visit a show and then make recommendations to improve their stage sound from their perspective, not necessarily from what an engineer does. Then from a marketing perspective we might try to figure out how we can get them to supply me with tracks and artwork significantly before their set release date, so that way we can try to get some buzz built out about it, even if it's just from the underground or from those people that I can individually email, or share something with specifically and try to just grow it out that way.

      There's a lot of time ... it takes a long time to properly market and promote. I'm not saying we're always guilty of properly marketing or providing anything, but it takes a long time, and longer than people think. They go and they spend all this money or time recording a record and then when it's time to release it it's like, tomorrow, "Here you go guys, we just finished it, and here you go." There's not necessarily a lot of forethought to-

Brian:    Yeah, I heard it's a stat the other day that you should spend as much time and money on the PR for the release as you do on making the record.

Daniel:    Sure.

Brian:    That was a eye-opening ratio, because I thought it was more all about making the good music and then ... if you build it they will come does not work with music releases.

Daniel:    You have to tell people.

Brian:    Getting the word out there, you've got to tell people about it.

Daniel:    One way or another.

Brian:    Now then the VVT Amplifiers is the other thing we talked about in the intro. Talk about that.

Daniel:    Well, when I was a teenager and playing in a band with my brother we got what was called a real amp, a tube amp at the time. My dad had heard it and was like, "I think I could build something like that or better." He took my mom's cutting board and brown pan and took it in the basement and cut holes in it and bolting things together and put transformers and tubs into it and he made a little 5 watt amplifier out of a cookie sheet-

Brian:    Stop it. Out of a cookie sheet?

Daniel:    Out of a cutting board ... a cookie sheet and cutting board.

Brian:    Wow!

Daniel:    It wasn't as good. That amp was not as good as the amp that we owned at the time, but things improved and that's where the company developed. As I was continuing to just play music for funsies, my dad was building amplifiers. Then as things got more serious for me, things were becoming more serious for him and we started collaborating. I do not have his engineering wisdom. I've got a lot of catching up to do I come from a business mind and a marketing mind and also just trying to build that one fan at a time approach. I try to focus on web development, business development, and just working with artists, working with our continuing to outreach and find more artists locally to work with, and studios to work with.

Brian:    Why would they ... there's a lot of amplifier companies out there, so what makes VVT special?

Daniel:    Well I truly believe that we don't build anything ... none of our models of amplifiers are things that we are regurgitating. If you want a Marshall amplifier, you can call us and we can absolutely build you what would be a 1970-whatever vintage-hand Marshall, whatever. But those companies are already making great products that sound good that a lot of people love. We're not here to poo-poo on anybody's product. We're here to try to build something that's unique and original and really helps bring out the unique characteristic of the guitar player, rather than to try to focus on what we sound like as an amplifier company. Each amplifier meets a different need for a different style of player, and you're talking to the two guys that build the amps in their garage, literally. We've done our own R&D. We spent our money on R&D, we spend a lot of time before we release new products to work with artists to try to get it better. We've got a lot of talented players using our stuff.

       I think that the only thing I hope for is that we'll have more diversity in our artists, because I think that tube amps in general appeal to an older player. I also think that it appeals to sometimes certain styles of music. We'd like to expand the artists that we're working with as far as genres, but I think as far as quality and that unique, "Hey, I can drive to the place where I'm going to have my amp built or worked on and meet the people ..."

Brian:    Right, so you can actually see it in production, and see it in the DC area.

Daniel:    If you make us, yeah, you can come watch us build it if you make us-

Brian:    You can bring your own cutting board and then watch it become and amplifier.

Daniel:    I am tempted. I am tempted to try to put together some workshops where I would teach people how to build an amplifier like we did the first time, but I can't imagine what kind of legal concerns we might have to address or safety concerns.

Brian:    Probably, there's probably something. That might be a little complicated, you're right.

Daniel:    We're afraid to tell people how to do it on their own.

Brian:    I love that. All right, now tell us about you outside of ... we've got all these projects that you're working on, and then you as a guy outside of that. What do you do for fun? What's outside?

Daniel:    Aside from music, I really like to be outdoors. I like sunshine, I like hiking, camping. I'm actually a really country-bumpkin guy. Get me away from the city ...

Brian:    Country-bumpkin guy.

Daniel:    Country-bumpkin, yeah.

Brian:    Excellent, so that means what?

Daniel:    The further away from the city I am, the more comfortable I feel in my element. Like I'm an earth ... I wear earth tones, I just happen to be that reflection of my personality where I really do enjoy nature and the atmosphere. I'm actually a bit ... I'm a recluse by nature, because I believe that the work ethic that I have means that I have to kind of keep going, keep going, keep going and I work and work and work from home until I pass out, or until I just can't stand it anymore. People have to put up with me from that end, but personality-wise I like to go hiking and camping and skiing and paint-balling and laser-tagging. I try to stay active.

Brian:    Get out and do fun things-

Daniel:    That's right.

Brian:    -and away from the city, when you can.

Daniel:    Right. The city is more of the opportunity that I see to be able to share the music with more people in a condensed area. Or like, we go to visit a lot of small cities and try to perform to a specific audience that's very open-minded to what we're about to play. As far as like, living conditions, I think I'm more much at home getting eggs out of a chicken coop than I am having my butcher be my next door neighbor, per say. If that makes sense.

Brian:    Yeah, absolutely. Now, what do you have in your music collection that might surprise us?

Daniel:    Gosh, well it might surprise people to learn that ... the influences that I have aside from gospel growing up in church, I think that my music is influenced from everybody ranging from Frank Sinatra to Metallica or heavier ... Living Sacrifice or a band like that. We had recently opened up for a kind of big, kind of Christian circle band called Project 86, and that's a reflection of stuff that we were into growing up, and Living Sacrifice. There's another ... the Pennsylvania metal band that was young, we were really in to. I can't think of their name right now.

Brian:    Nice. All right, so some of that stuff. What about ... your earliest memory with music, where does that go?

Daniel:    I was on stage singing, I mean at four years old. I'm dressed up in suspenders and a bow tie, matching-the-person-standing-next-to-me kind of thing.

Brian:    Okay.

Daniel:    That's probably what I remember, is being young and in a barbershop quartet type situation at a young age, and wishing I stuck with that, because barbershop quartet is still one of the coolest things ever.

Brian:    I totally agree man. It really ... it's amazing what they're able to do with just four voices.

Daniel:    There's a certain integrity, like a pure authentic quality to having four people that have just found a way to be that cohesive. It's really intimidating.

Brian:    Yeah, intimidating and really impressive. I love it.

 All right, so if there's one piece of advice that you could offer, what would it be?

Daniel:    As far as a musician, maybe ...?

Brian:    In general. However you chose to answer the question. I love to ask it open-ended.

Daniel:    Relax. Take a deep breath and just relax, because we are so busy in this area. I feel like my work ethic comes from living in the area where there's high expectations set to achieve or to accomplish things. It's great to be driven like that, but at the same time there's so many people that are in such a hurry and they don't realize that ... whether it's by being an overly-aggressive driver or by cutting somebody off for that job opportunity to try to get ahead a little faster than somebody else, it really is nonsense because we're all on the same similar path as one another, and we're all headed to similar destinations. We all are just going to get there when we get there.

Brian:    Got it, so relax.

Daniel:    Relax, take a deep breath.

Brian:    All right. Chill out, you'll get there. You will get there.

Daniel:    That's right. All things in good time.

Brian:    Now if people are really interested in learning more about you and Yellow Tie Guy, where can they go online to find you?

Daniel:    Well, there's a website that is YellowTieGuy.com, or it used to be just ".us", ".U-S", but we got the ".com" from a life insurance agent that was formerly selling and sharing about himself under YellowTieGuy.com.

Brian:    Another Yellow Tie Guy? Dang it!

Daniel:    There was another Yellow Tie Guy.

Brian:    The scandal!

Daniel:    That's right. We managed to get that URL, and then we're also on pretty much any social media outlet that you can think of. I'm probably personally most active on Instagram because I take the picture and share it through Instagram and it goes to these other outlets automatically. I'm actively seeing things that are going on in Instagram and things like Facebook and Twitter are harder for me because there's so much information going on there at ... so much information for me to try to retain.

Brian:    Yeah.

Daniel:    I get a little overwhelmed.

Brian:    Got it. All right, so Instagram is a great place.

Daniel:    Instagram is great to stay in direct touch. Or send me a message through the website.

Brian:    Absolutely, yeah, definitely check out the website. It's really cool what you've been able to do and especially all- these projects too. Check out Alchemical Records, cool things they got going on over there, and the radio station, the streaming radio station. Just really cool stuff Daniel's got going on. Definitely do check him out online.

March 21, 2017 - Special Guest: Rachel Levitin

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

MUSIC

  1. Rabbit Hole by the Woodshedders (Indie/Americano)
  2. Lucky Penny Blues by Rachel Levitin (Pop/Rock)
  3. Tell Everyone by Derek Evry (Rock/Pop)
  4. Turn Away by Paul Santori's Random Opponent (Rock)
  5. As You See It by Taylor Carson (Indie/Pop)
  6. Lighter bones and eyes that see for miles by Ms. Fridrich (Rock/Indie-Pop)
  7. Art Acord by Zia Hassan (Folk)

NEWS & LINKS

  • Arlington's IOTA Club and Cafe is at risk of being redeveloped. The developer, Regency Centers, is holding public meetings to present their plans.  Join the facebook group to stay up to date and find out how you can support this local music icon.
    www.facebook.com/SaveIOTA/
  • Moral Hangover's 2nd Annual Latin Rock Tribute at Tropicalia
    2nd Annual Latin Rock show on Friday, March 31st, featuring local band Moral Hangover, Indigo, and Latin Velvet @ Tropicalia. 100% of the money we collect will be used to help fund a Startup in South America that will help get out-of-school children back to formal education, by teaching them math through music.
    https://www.facebook.com/events/1859104074345477/
  • DCMusicRocks.com has been updated so now one full page is dedicated to the DC Artists Database.  The incredible music and video playlists are broken out on their own page now.  Continuing to make DC's Music easier than ever to find and follow.
  • It's Rachel Levitin's Birthday!  Her Birthday party is Thursday 3/23 at Tortoise and Hare in Arlington, VA.  
    Ladies Night on Stage Presents: Rachel's Birthday Show
    https://www.facebook.com/events/207466589720255/

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Rachel Levitin

Video - Bio - Links - Transcript

Bio:

"Rachel Levitin embodies passion," or so its been said of her. 

Levitin's performance career started in middle school with chorus and expanded with school plays, school music festivals, and talent shows before picking up guitar and trumpet at the age of nine. 

A few years later, while home alone on a Saturday with her just her dog by her side, Rachel took her first stab at a original songwriting after finding inspiration while watching a Backstreet Boys special on ABC Family Channel at age twelve.

Solo performances of her original music started at age fourteen and she hasn't looked back since.

Known for her high-energy performances, thoughtful lyrics, and positive storytelling, Levitin released her debut EP "Nearly Broken" with great support. The five-song EP even reached number one on Amazon Music's Adult Alternative New Releases Charts in October 2015.

Levitin's most recent release -- "Get Back Up" -- made its world premiere on WERA 96.7 FM's DC Music Rocks and is the song that kicks off her next chain of events. Her hope is to have a new EP of motivational, feel-good songs ready for a release around this time next year.


INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT

Brian:     Rachel Levitin's performance career started in middle school with chorus. Solo performances of her original music started at age 14, and she hasn't looked back since. She's known for her high-energy performances, her thoughtful lyrics, and positive storytelling, which I can vouch for personally because I have seen her on stage many times. She released her debut EP Nearly Broken, which reached number one on Amazon's music adult alternative new releases chart in October of 2015. Then her most recent release, "Get Back Up," we actually did the world premiere here on DC Music Rocks. My favorite memory about that is that Rachel was, you were in an Uber-

Rachel:   I was.

Brian:     And she took video or Instagram Live or whatever it was.

Rachel:   Whatever it was.

Brian:     She did video. I got to see video of her sitting in the car with her Uber driver listening to her world premiere on the show, which was, as a host, that was one of my favorite memories that I have so far is seeing that. That was amazing. Thank you for sharing that and for letting me do the world premiere because that song, check out "Get Back Up" by Rachel Levitin because it's awesome. Now I've talked too much. Listeners, it's with great pleasure that I introduce Rachel Levitin.

Rachel:   Yes.

Brian:     Thank you for being here.

Rachel:   My pleasure.

Brian:     Tell us about now, the music started, there's trumpet and guitar, we talked about that. But I just said that it started with chorus.

Rachel:   Yes.

Brian:     How did the revolution happen to where you are now from then.

Rachel:   Basically, I was lucky I went to a bunch of good schools growing up. When I was in middle school, I went to the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School in Chicago, Illinois. It wasn't the biggest school, but they had a really good supportive community of teachers. I was into the arts, and in fourth grade, that was the year that you could sign up and start doing chorus or band, so I decided to join both, although band was my preferred choice just because I really enjoyed playing trumpet. What happened was, you know how when you're in school, you get to pick your instruments?

Brian:     Yeah.

Rachel:   I was trying out things. I tried the flute, couldn't get a peep out of it. Then I was trying to decide "Do I want to play drums or trumpet?" Looking back on it now, either one was going to be equally loud. Either one.

Brian:     It's so true. In different ways, yes.

Rachel:   In my mind, I decided "Oh, no, trumpet would be the better choice." So I tried that one, and I could play it right away. That, plus the other afterschool activities was the guitar class, and I just started within a few weeks of each other, and I've just been playing them ever since. I was nine then.

Brian:     Now do you still play trumpet often?

Rachel:   I do.

Brian:     Or guitar more frequently now?

Rachel:   Yes, guitar much more frequently. But from ages nine to eighteen, trumpet was really more my primary ... I started songwriting at 12, so high school was kind of like peak songwriting time, I guess. But trumpet was my big thing for middle school, high school, and did some in college at AU, American University, but really, my trumpeting days were more of a high school thing. I loved it, and now I get to ... You'll hear some trumpeting on a track we'll play later on in the show.

Brian:     Yeah, we got a sneak peek coming. You get to hear Rachel play trumpet on another artist's song, which is really cool. Tell us about you outside of the music then. Are you a homebody? Do you hang out a lot? What's life like for you out there?

Rachel:   I'm a definite extrovert, but I need time to sleep and recharge those batteries. I think it was a couple weeks ago I was either playing a show, going to a show, or helping with a show every single day in one week. I've learned that I can't do that. I got very tired, but I made it out okay. Extroverted definitely. Outside of music, I would say I'm a music fan, so I go to a lot of shows. You can find me at Jammin Java, or IOTA, or 9:30 Club, or DC9, or wherever more often than not.

Brian:     Which is, I can say, I have seen ... One of the great things about the DC music community is you start going to shows, and then you start seeing people you know. There's so many times where I've gone to shows, and I didn't know Rachel was going to be there, and there she is, and now I got another friend who's at the show. I love it. She is definitely a music connoisseur and an awesome support artist. By the way, she kills it on the trambo ... Tramboline, that's a trampoline and a tambourine together if you didn't know, it's called a tramboline.

Rachel:   Very fun.

Brian:     She actually played the tambourine, although you know we should have you play the tramboline.

Rachel:   Tramboline.

Brian:     Bring a trampoline on stage, that would be-

Rachel:   Let's do it.

Brian:     Anyway, I've spent enough time on that. All right. Tell us about a funniest moment that comes to mind from your performing memories that you've got.

Rachel:   Funniest moment. Well, this is pretty funny. In April a few years back, I forget what year, it's kind of irrelevant to the story, I saw a post on Facebook. One of my friends posted that her friend was organizing a pop-up chorus to sing with Damien Rice at the Lincoln Theatre as part of his sold out show.

Brian:     Whoa.

Rachel:   And we were the surprise to end the concert, to do his, what's it called, the encore. He surprised everyone with this chorus at the end of that specific tour. So me and my friend Jason Mendelson of the MetroSongs-

Brian:     Yes, he's been a guest on here, too. He's awesome, yup.

Rachel:   Yes, yes, yes. We ended up in that chorus together, but a day before I was supposed to do that, I was transported to the ER because I had a kidney stone.

Brian:     Oh my gosh.

Rachel:   I'm pretty young, so-

Brian:     Right.

Rachel:   Stress, it happens, folks. Hydrate. It's the most important thing you can do for yourself. When you're stressed and drink coffee like I do. Drink water. Don't Gilmore Girls it. Drink water.

Brian:     Public service announcement by Rachel Levitin.

Rachel:   Yes.

Brian:     Drink water. Okay, got it.

Rachel:   I drank a lot of water after that, but I did sing on stage with Damien Rice with a kidney stone in my body at a sold out show on a Friday night at D.C.'s historic Lincoln Theatre.

Brian:     That is amazing and hysterical at the same time. Wow.

Rachel:   And painful.

Brian:     There you go. Yeah, I can only imagine. I drink a lot of water, so I'm hoping-

Rachel:   Good man.

Brian:     I can't ever relate to that story actually, but we'll see what happens. All right. Tell us about what's something in your music collection that might surprise us.

Rachel:   Oh, I'm a big dixieland and big band jazz fan.

Brian:     Really?

Rachel:   Yes.

Brian:     Like what?

Rachel:   Benny Goodman, all that old school, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, anything that you would hear on the street in New Orleans with those marching bands for the weddings, that kind of stuff. The first reason I fell in love with trumpet was Louis Armstrong.

Brian:     Well, there we go. Yeah, and boy, he's got ... That's, wow, cool stuff. All right. So she's kind of a pop indie amazing performer herself, and yet, there's big band, dixieland jazz. I love it. All right. Your earliest memory with music, what comes to mind?

Rachel:   Oh, that's easy. My dad was a singer-songwriter and guitar player, although I don't think I ever heard any of his songs, so I don't know if he actually did that when we was an adult, but when he was younger. When I was a little kid, we had this tiny, mini red guitar that my grandma got me. I thought it was a real guitar. I thought I was playing it when I really wasn't. My dad would play guitar, and then we would write songs about like farm animals or something. I remember one was called Pink Flamingo. I don't remember how it went, but I remember that it happened. So I have that memory. So it goes back as far as my memory actually takes me.

Brian:     Wow. The Pink Flamingo memory with your dad. That is cool. I love it. All right. What about the first memory performing? What comes to mind?

Rachel:   Oh boy. Well, the first time I performed an original song, I don't remember where it was because there's a few different examples I can think of, but I know that my legs ... I'm pretty confident. Now, you would never know that I would ever be nervous. Every once in a while, I get a little stage excitement, I wouldn't call it stage fright, but excitement like-

Brian:     Stage excitement. I love it.

Rachel:   You're a little bit buzzed, all naturally and everything. But my legs used to shake underneath me. Mentally, I was good to go, but my body was saying "no, no, no." They would start tremble beneath me, and I had to learn how to push through that. The first few times, I definitely almost like fell to the ground because my legs were not going to hold out underneath me.

Brian:     Wow. Do you have like a tactic or something that you use to work through it? Or you just learned over time to work through it?

Rachel:   I just learned that I have nothing to worry about.

Brian:     Got it. That is pretty cool. Wow. What about a funniest moment on stage? What comes to mind?

Rachel:   Oh boy. I should've thought about it. I should've done my homework on this one. Funniest moment on stage? That's tough. I think recently, well, I don't know if it was funny, but my band and I have a good time. We only just formed this July, and every time we end up taking on-the-stage selfies or things like that. It's not exactly funny, so that's kind of not an A-game story, but we have a good time. We're a bunch of jokesters.

Brian:     Taking selfies on stage.

Rachel:   It's fun.

Brian:     I love it. Yeah.

Rachel:   I don't have a selfie stick or anything like that, but you know what, we like to goof off.

Brian:     There's still a chance. You can still make that happen, you know.

Rachel:   Well, I called them a bunch of goofs because you should see the Facebook message group that we have. It's basically just a bunch of emojis that we keep sending back and forth to each other. Shout out to Graham, Kendall, and Alex. You guys are hilarious.

Brian:     Oh my god. Have you stepped into the GIF game yet?

Rachel:   I feel like I need to, but we haven't gone that far. We've added some bitmoji to our game.

Brian:     I'm going to tell you a secret. If it's a Facebook group, there's a button that says GIF.

Rachel:   Oh, there is?

Brian:     Go in there. Try it.

Rachel:   I've just never pressed it. Oh boy.

Brian:     Your group will just one-up on the GIF situation.

Rachel:   Oh, they're going to love it.

Brian:     It's going to be amazing.

Rachel:   Get ready, fellas.

Brian:     Tell us about a time you tried and failed?

Rachel:   Tried and failed. Well, let's see. Good question. I feel like I'm using dead air. Tried and failed. I remember I really wanted to be a first chair trumpet at the jazz band. I went to Interlochen for two summers in Traverse City, Michigan to study jazz. Looking back on it now, yeah, did I want to want first chair or whatever? Yeah, I did, but I wasn't like the rest of the kids there. I was, but I wasn't. Whereas they all planned on being professional instrumentalists when they grew up, which I'm not opposed to it, I just at that point in my life wasn't so sure about my route in life. And being there as a trumpet major instead of a songwriting major, it kind of changed the game for me. But I love jazz. I auditioned, and I ended up, I think, getting fourth chair. At first, I was disappointed, but then I realized "You're not practicing. That's your fault. If you want to be a higher chair, you should probably practice."

Brian:     Yes, this is good.

Rachel:   So here I am at a world-renowned camp for instrumentalists, and I wasn't practicing. So, yeah, of course I would get fourth chair. Then I started practicing. That was just the ... I went back for two summers, so that was just the start of the first summer. Then I practiced it, and I think I got up to third chair, and maybe even sat in on some second at that point. But you have to remember, these are kids from all over the country, all over the world who-

Brian:     Right, in a really competitive thing.

Rachel:   This is what they want to do.

Brian:     [crosstalk 00:11:37] you're a fairly gifted trumpet player, too. We hear you on guitar on stage a lot, but you with a trumpet is also a really good thing it sounds like.

Rachel:   Yeah, I got to get my chops back, but I have a few concertos in my bedroom that I can probably still play if I practiced.

Brian:     I feel like that's a "That's what she said" thing. I don't know.

Rachel:   Right, work it in.

Brian:     Anyway. Concertos in the bedroom. I love it. Anyway.

Rachel:   Ba-dum-bum.

Brian:     All right. One of my favorite last questions to ask is what's one piece of advice that you would offer?

Rachel:   Just don't compromise yourself, and don't be afraid.

Brian:     Say more on that. Don't compromise yourself.

Rachel:   Know what you're capable of, and don't sell yourself short. Confidence is hard to come by. I know a lot of people who struggle with it, but I know a lot of people who don't, and I really just comes down to knowing that ... When I sing, I know that I'm supposed to be doing that, and it feels good to me. So if you're doing something that feels good to you, do it, and don't let anyone inside your head and make you think that you shouldn't be doing it or you're not good at it. Just do it.

Brian:     If folks want to follow or find out more about you or follow you, where are the best places for them to go?

Rachel:   Best place to go is I love Instagram the most just because I'm a, I would like to say, a novice photographer or something of that nature.

Brian:     Nice.

Rachel:   I do like to take photos of animals and concerts. So if you like cute animals or music, follow my Instagram. It's R-H-L-E-V-I-T-I-N. I'm also on Twitter, and I have a Facebook page for my music, and then just rachellevitin.com.

Brian:     Rachellevitin.com, that's the magic spot. You had mentioned earlier, and I want you to share with the listeners about Tony Lucca and the story that you were saying.

Rachel:   Oh, Tony Lucca. Yes.

Brian:     Yeah, talk about that real quick.

Rachel:   Tony Lucca. We go way back now. I became a fan of Tony Lucca in 1999 when the Disney Channel was airing a Mickey Mouse Club marathon because that was peak NSYNC years. Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, they were all on the show, but so was Tony Lucca, who was also on The Voice season two. I've been a big fan of his music for a long time. I first saw him open for NSYNC back in, I think it was 2001. We met back then. I have an autograph and picture from then. Fast forward to 2010, got to interview him for a website I was writing for at the time called We Love DC. Fast forward a few years, there was a chunk of time I think I saw him more throughout a year than I saw my own family just because he would come here for concerts, and I wouldn't go home that much. We just go way back, and he became a good influence on me.

                  This past weekend, I flew home to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, a milestone birthday, with my immediate family. We had Tony come, and we played a little house concert for everyone, then went out to dinner. For the first time, I got to play two original songs with someone who had a really big influence on me. I'll never forget it, and I'm really grateful. Tony's back here on April 9th, I believe, yes.

Brian:     Well, Tony, shout out to you. I love that story. That's amazing.

MARCH 14, 2017 - All-Music Episode

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

MUSIC

  1. Color to Your Gray by Albino Rhino (Funk/Rock)
  2. Folks on Medicine by Wanted Man (Rock/Blues)
  3. Bayhouse by Wylder (Indie/Indie Folk)
  4. Stand Alone by Native Deen (Hip Hop/R&B)
  5. Planes by Bells and Hunters (Rock/Blues Rock)
  6. Do you Know What Time It Is? by Rare Essence (R&B/GoGo)
  7. LTLA by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues Rock)
  8. Cumbia by Empresarios (Latin/Rap)
  9. Drunk On a Sunday by Cruzie Beaux (Rock/Post-Funk)
  10. Black Cat by Lionize (Rock/Blues Rock)
  11. The Margins by Shooting Down Asteroids (Hard Rock/Indie Rock)
  12. Travelling Minus Zero by Lisa Said (Folk/Rock)

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March 7, 2017 - Special Guests: Andy Cerutti & Steve Raskin of Fort Knox Recordings

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Andy Cerutti & Steve Raskin

Video - Bio - Photos - Links

BIO

Fort Knox Five and Fort Knox Recordings were launched in 2003 by Steve Raskin, Roby Myers, Sid Barcelona and john Horvath. These guys met together as part of Thunderball, the first artist signed to Thievery Corporation's label ESL music back in the mid-1990s, and decided to start their own label, a new group focused on funk for the dancefloor. The label has gone on to drop over 100 releases and widen the list of artiststo include See-I, Nappy Ridem, Ursula 1000, Qdup, Omegaman, Empresarios and Thunderball. With the tragic passing of John Horvath in the summer of 2015, Steve Raskin has carried the torch as the leading DJ of Fort Knox Five and regularly tours across the US and Canada. In addition to all the great music they released and shows played around the world, Fort Knox Five and Fort Knox Recordings have licensed a lot of music to movies, video games and more - including the 2010 Oscar Winning Best Documentary "The Cove", Fox TV's "The Fringe" and countless EA Sports and Disney video games. Andy Cerutti joined the team in 2008, and in addition to serving as Label Manager, he also manages the various bands and artists on the label.  

John Shore2.jpg
Andy Cerutti.jpg

Interview Transcript

Brian:     Fort Knox Five and Fort Knox Recordings were launched in 2003 by Steve Raskin, Rob Myers, Sid Barcelona, and Jon Horvath. Now these guys, their focus was funk for the dance floor. The label's gone on to drop over a hundred releases and many more artists, including some of D.C.'s greats. In addition to all the great music they have released and shows played around the world, Fort Knox Five and Fort Knox Recordings have licensed a lot of music to movies, video games, and other places as well, so it's really branched out. Andy joined the team in 2008 and in addition to serving as Label Manager, he also manages the various bands and artists on the label as well.

                  I first came across these guys' music when I was first starting the show. I think it was Black Masala, was the first band where I ended up connecting with Andy and now it's such a treat, listeners, for me to be able to introduce these guys to you and have them here. So guys, thanks so much for being here.

Steve Raskin:      Thanks for having us.

Andy Cerutti:     Yeah, thanks a lot.

Brian:     This is really cool. Let's start with the track that we just played now. That was Fort Knox Five. Tell us about Fort Knox Five.

Steve Raskin:      Well, I think one of the interesting things you actually mentioned, Fort Knox Five has always been about funk at the root of it all. That track in particular was a collaboration that was destined to happen. We always celebrate D.C. music. We're very much supportive of the whole D.C. music scene. For us to be able to collaborate with a D.C. legend like Sir Joe Quarterman, who paved the way for what we're doing, really, right now, which is representing D.C. with some funky dance music. Actually, that was a great story. We actually got to meet ... I'm a long time fan of Sir Joe Quarterman. He did a project called the Free Soul back in the 70s and had a song called, "I Got So Much Trouble On My Mind." A fantastic funk song, one of those old school kind of funk 45 things. Actually, through Andy's connection with the Funk Parade, we had the privilege of actually getting introduced to Mr. Joe Quarterman.

Andy Cerutti:     Yeah, it was really cool to meet him. I mean, he's a D.C. legend and I go to the Funk Parade meetings and there's Joe Quarterman. We just kind of approached him and said, "Hey, are you interested in making some new music together?" The next thing you know, he comes into the studio and these guys made this great track, which is an instant classic, really.

Brian:     I love how those stories come together and how you just suddenly, magically end up with magical tracks like that.

Steve Raskin:      Absolutely.

Brian:     And the connections. It's getting to know folks around town. I love that. I'm dying to know the story behind the name. Fort Knox? Tell me. Tell me the story.

Steve Raskin:      Well, it's like all good stories. It starts with more of a legend than anything else. No. Fort Knox Five was always kind of an inside joke between us. Like you mentioned before with Rob Myers, Sid Barcelona, and Jon Horvath and myself, the four of us together were doing this project and I kept calling it the Fort Knox Five even though there was no fifth member, because none of us are really vocalists. The fifth member really became everyone that we collaborated with. From the get go, we always joked about how all our favorite bands came in fives. It was the Fort Knox Five just like Jurassic 5 and the MC5 and ...

Andy Cerutti:     Jackson 5.

Steve Raskin:      ... Jackson 5. I mean, there are so many. All the bands came in five. It was like, "Name a four band." There's no fours. The Fantastic Four, the Funky 4, there were very few. They were all in fives, and the five kind of really encapsulated what we wanted to do with music in general, which was about collaboration. As instrumentalists, the whole point of us doing Fort Knox Recordings as an extension of Fort Knox Five was to really celebrate the D.C. music scene. That's been, really, our ethos from the beginning. Fort Knox Five is the five is the four.

Brian:     That's amazing. Four of you guys together with a fifth member is the Fort Knox Five. I love it.

Steve Raskin:      It really completes the sound.

Brian:     Fort Knox Recordings then, was that just an extension of Fort Knox Five? Now it's going to be recordings, too?

Steve Raskin:      Yeah, well, no, and actually the Fort Knox Five, the name itself came as a joke. We used to call our recording studio just Fort Knox, because all we had was the music. The music was our gold. Fort Knox was sort of a tongue-in-cheek when our studio was in the hood. You were like, "Yeah, we got nothing to steal here except the music."

Brian:     Except the music, I get it now. Fort Knox, holding tight the music.

Steve Raskin:      Exactly.

Brian:     Oh, I love that. That's cool.

Andy Cerutti:     The classical ... The label compilation The New Gold Standard kind of sets that also apart. It's like the gold in Fort Knox ...

Steve Raskin:      ... is really just the tunes.

Brian:     There you go. So the name of the label that you guys have is ...

Steve Raskin:      I mean, the label is Fort Knox Recordings, too. Like you had mentioned in the intro, we launched the label and the group at the exact same time. The label was a vehicle for us to be able to do a collaboration with the idea of making funky dance music really celebrating D.C.

Brian:     That's amazing. Andy, how did you get linked up with these guys? What's the story there?

Andy Cerutti:     I've known a bunch of them since way back in the 90s from the music scene, and especially the co-founder Jon Horvath. Him and I were real tight. In the mid-2000s, when they were ready to sort of take the label to the next level, start releasing a bunch of other artists, Empresarios, See-I, Nappy Riddem, they were interested in bringing on somebody who could help them build the foundation and build the platform larger. That's where I came in. That's when we started really fleshing out the full identity and bringing in all these different artists and releasing so many great projects, which we continue to do.

Brian:     Holy smokes. I've featured a lot of those artists you just mentioned. They've got profiles on the site. Phenomenal music coming from those guys. Some of my favorite jams are from some of those guys.

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely.

Brian:     It is really cool to see what you guys have built here. That's amazing. Now go ahead, I want you to clarify, if someone comes to see a Fort Knox Five show, what can they expect to see?

Steve Raskin:      Actually, that's interesting that you say that, too, because given the name Fort Knox Five and the sort of mythical confusion behind it ... Are we a band? Is it a DJ? We make the dance music, inherently, but we've done so many different incarnations of it. We've done the full live band where we had horn sections, live drums, bass, all of us playing live instrumentation. But that's been few and far between. More often than not, Fort Knox Five has been I've been traveling representing Fort Knox Five playing eclectic DJ sets and mixing originals, instrumentals, remixes, collaborators, all into the sets. From the five becomes a single DJ set, and then as an extension of that, Jon and I ... the original founding member, Jon ... we've been doing a four turntable or a four deck set where we were doing live ... Everything that we were doing in the studio, this sort of mash-up kind of culture, but we were doing it live. We'd play instrumentals and acapellas and take our acapella and put it on top of a Biggie song, or taking all these things and sort of interchanging these things.

                  That's something that we've been doing really as a festival thing. The Fort Knox Five four deck set now includes our collaborator Jason, Qdup, who we're putting out his new single, and the two of us go out and do that same kind of four deck set.

Brian:     That's cool.

Steve Raskin:      It's Fort Knox Five solo, the four deck set, and then occasionally the live band.

Brian:     For listeners who don't know what a four deck set means, what is that?

Steve Raskin:      It's, like I was sort of saying, four turntables that we're syncing up live, not as a preplanned set. Almost as jamming, as a live mash-up, where we can take our songs and use other people's vocals on top of it or our instrumentals. It's sort of a jigsaw puzzle of live music.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Steve Raskin:      It's not just sequencing songs as a DJ set. It's creating the actual songs that are created on the spot.

Brian:     Got it. For you guys outside of the music scene now, do you have other hobbies? If they were to meet you outside of this stuff, what might they see you doing?

Steve Raskin:      Well, Andy? I don't know.

Andy Cerutti:     I'm a history professor.

Brian:     Really?

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely. I'm an adjunct professor out at NOVA Annandale.

Brian:     Wow. Shout out to the NOVA kids who might be listening. All right.

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely. Absolutely.

Steve Raskin:      You may have had Professor Cerutti.

Brian:     Cool. I love it. All right, also adjunct professor. I like that. Okay, what else you got?

Steve Raskin:      I'm actually a graphic designer by trade. When I first started in the D.C. music scene, even way back in, going back to the 90s, the punk rock days, I used to design a lot of album packaging for ... specializing in D.C. local music from ... I used to do from Jawbox to Girls Against Boys, a lot of the old D.C. punk stuff. Then from that I started doing national bands like Bad Religion. I designed some of their record covers. Then through that I actually met the Thievery Corporation guys and started designing their records. In terms of a little history ...

Brian:     Oh, okay. That's a lot of design, yeah.

Steve Raskin:      Design has sort of [crosstalk 00:09:35].

Brian:     Okay, that's design. Tell me, how did music come into both of your lives? What's the story there?

Steve Raskin:      For me, music has always been an integral part of it. I think as a visual artist and as a musical artist, I think they kind of go hand in hand. Watching old spy chase movies and Blaxploitation movies really, that inspired me more to make music than the actual music of the time, because it's more of a feeling. I tend to be more inspired creatively by visual things that put in ideas as opposed to sort of like imitating or emulating kind of things. But I think they go hand in hand.

Brian:     Hence the graphic designer thing you were talking about.

Steve Raskin:      Hence the graphic designer thing.

Brian:     But you also play an instrument. What instrument?

Steve Raskin:      I play bass guitar, keyboards. In the live setting I play bass, but in the studio it's one of the things that I love about making modern electronic music, or electronic bass music, is that as a multi-instrumentalist I can sit there and do this orchestration that I could never have done before. If I want a string section or a horn section I can kind of concoct it and structure it and we have such amazingly talented musicians here in D.C. that to be able to get Frank Mitchell or some of the other horn guys to come in and be able to do a horn section and replay these ideas that you can kind of get into your mind is one of the most amazing things about our collective group of friends.

Brian:     That's cool. Andy, what about you? How did music come into ... That's totally different from history professor.

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, it's actually pretty easy for me to explain it because in 1994 I started working at Tower Records.

Brian:     Oh, Tower Records. I remember those guys.

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, I still have a lot of friends from Tower.

Brian:     Nice.

Andy Cerutti:     It's still a big part of my life. I worked there for several years and I became a singles buyer. I got an office in the back. I'm dealing with the representatives and the sales charts and data and really, that's where it really began for me on the business side. I'm not a musician, so I do business and management side.

Brian:     I see.

Andy Cerutti:     Around that same time I linked up with a DJ, DJ Slant, from here in Washington, D.C. We formed a company, 2Tuff Productions. We threw countless events and concerts and tours and special shows promoting drum and bass music, which in a roundabout way is how I became linked up with these guys.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Andy Cerutti:     It's a true D.C. story through and through.

Steve Raskin:      Exactly.

Brian:     For both of you guys, one of the questions I love to ask is if you could offer one piece of advice, what would it be?

Steve Raskin:      I would always say when people ask me that kind of question, there's so many different things to say, but the truth of the matter is if you really want to do something just don't give up. Don't rely on someone else to do it. I think part of that is the D.C. ethos of growing up in the punk scene, which is if you wanted to do a show, put a show together. If you want to put out a record, you want to do a recording, go and do it. There's nothing really stopping you.

Andy Cerutti:     Absolutely. I'd say longevity, perseverance, you know?

Steve Raskin:      Yeah, don't give up.

Andy Cerutti:     Right when you think that it's time to quit, that's just when you're getting started. You got to stick in it. If you're not prepared for decades of commitment, you're not in the right field.

Brian:     Wow, okay. Stick with it. God, great messages, guys. I dig it. One other fun question. What's one thing in your music collection that might surprise us? Come on, Steve. Don't hold out on us, now. Andy started laughing because there's something there. What do you got?

Steve Raskin:      Well, yeah, in the same way that I like 60s and 70s car chases, I also like really cheesy music from the 60s and 70s, too. It's what would be considered light and fluffy, maybe like bossa nova light, more of the cha-cha kind of stuff.

Brian:     Okay. Really? So are we talking like "Girl From Ipanema," like the classic?

Steve Raskin:      Oh, yeah. "Girl From Ipanema," sure.

Brian:     Really?

Steve Raskin:      Yeah.

Brian:     Wow. Well, I guess that also makes sense because like Fort Knox Five ...

Steve Raskin:      It makes a little sense. Yeah, sure.

Brian:     It's still the big band and actual instruments and it's not just electronic. Not too much of a stretch, I've got you. What about you, Andy?

Andy Cerutti:     I've had so many musical phases it's hard to pinpoint one. I had a phase where I went through the Grateful Dead and some jam music, which is not something that's a big part of my life now, but I feel like it played a role in sort of shaping my musical development.

Brian:     That's amazing, guys. If listeners want to find out more about you guys or follow you guys online where do they go to find out more about you?

Andy Cerutti:     FortKnoxRecordings.com is an absolutely great spot. FortKnoxFive.com, because we have so much going on that we kind of have to parcel it out between the label and the artist.

Brian:     Sure. Right, which is great problems to have.

Steve Raskin:      Sure. Exactly.

Brian:     So much cool stuff happening. I love it.

Steve Raskin:      Find us on ... Especially, we have tons and tons of mixes. Go to SoundCloud.com, Fort Knox Five. We do a series called Funk the World, which is basically what it says, inspired funk from across the globe. Different types of genres, hours and hours and hours to be entertained too.

Andy Cerutti:     I mean, every platform. SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Twitter, you name it, you'll find us there. Fort Knox or Fort Knox Five.

February 28, 2017 - Special Guest: Chris Naoum of Listen Local First

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

NEWS

New Workout Music Playlist!  Visit our Find-Browse Music Page!

Washington City Paper’s “Best of DC” poll close this week!  Go vote for your favorite local original band.

Funk Parade Kick Off Party!  3/16, Tropicalia Lounge on U St, 7-10pm

MUSIC

  1. On and On - Run Come See (Folk/Americana) 
  2. Ctrl - My French Roommate (Indie/Dance-Punk)
  3. Untitled - Julie Outrage (Rock/Psychedelic Soul)
  4. Batonebo - Odetta Hartman (Indie/Folk)
  5. DC Touring Company - Turtle Recall (Rock)
  6. I See You - Aaron Abernathy (R&B/Soul)
  7. Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)

->Follow The Show's Spotify Playlist<-



Chris Naoum

Video - Bio - Photos - Links

Bio

DC Music Rocks Chris Naoum (3)

Chris Naoum is the Founder of Listen Local First. Listen Local First DC (LLF) is a local music initiative devoted to building awareness and creating opportunities for local musicians to raise the profile of DC’s local music scene. LLF was born out of a collaboration with Think Local First DC and seeks to partner with local musicians, arts organizations, venues, businesses and local government to create new avenues for local music exploration. LLF co organizes two of the district’s largest all local music festivals, Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Funk Parade.  LLF plans to launch the Fair Trade Music DC initiative in 2017 and has been working with a number of local government agencies and officials to establish a permanent DC Local Music Taskforce to advocate for musician specific interests within the broader Creative Economy. 

DC Music Rocks Chris Naoum (2)

Chris Naoum is a telecom attorney with background in copyright and media law and policy.  Chris has advocated on behalf of the independent music community for the past 7 years focusing on artist development and policy reform that benefits the local creative economy. 

 

Links

Listen Local First

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ListenLocalFirst/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/listenlocaldc

Funk Parade

Official Website: https://www.funkparade.com/

Facebook: ttps://www.facebook.com/thefunkparade/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FunkParade

DC Music Rocks Chris Naoum
 

Interview Transcript

Brian:     Chris Naoum is the founder of Listen Local First, it's a local music initiative devoted to building awareness and creating opportunities for local musicians to raise the profile of D.C.'s local music scene. I agree with this motivation so much. Apparently, Listen Local First was born out of a collaboration with Think Local First D.C., and it seeks to partner with local musicians, art organizations, venues, businesses, and local government to create new avenues for local music exploration. Listen Local First, it co-organizes to of the district's largest all music, all local music festivals, which you heard about both of these in the intro.

                  We've got Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival and the Funk Parade, which, by the way, if you're in D.C., I hope you've attended both of these, and if you haven't, put it on your bucket list, your D.C. bucket list. Incredible examples of awesome D.C. music. Listen Local First has been working with a number of local government agencies and officials to establish a permanent D.C. local music taskforce to advocate for musicians' specific interests within the broader creative economy. Chris Naoum, himself, is a telecom attorney with a background in copyright and media law and policy. He's advocated on behalf of the independent music community for the past seven years, focusing on artist development and policy reform that benefits the local creative economy. Having said all that, Chris, it's such a treat having you here, man. Thanks for being here.

Chris:     Thank you. I should've given you a shorter blurb.

Brian:     Why? It was such a good blurb, I didn't want to leave anything out. It's so good. Tell us about Listen Local First. How did this come about? What's that story?

Chris:     I was actually thinking about this on the way over here and it's something I rarely say is Listen Local First came out of the fact that I was new to D.C., nine years ago, and I loved sharing new experiences, sharing new music with people, with friends, and sort of, I guess, it really comes out of my need and interest to share. I had been working for an organization called the Future of Music Coalition, doing a lot of music policy work, a lot of advocacy on behalf of the independent music community and got to know so many D.C. artists and I knew about all their shows, I know about when they were playing, where they were playing, all sorts of genres of musicians.

                  I thought that if there's a way I can help get that word out or help create the connections that can help these artists make new fans, then I can do something to help out the local music community. I had all these young professionals and people in the city I knew at the time that were all potential fans that I felt that needed to know about these bands. Really, it was just the simple wanting to share, and then it's grown over the past five years.

Brian:     Wow, and I love what it's grown into, because I first heard about you, it was back in, I think, 2014, somebody was saying, "I became a part of the local music scene as a musician" and they were saying, "God, Listen Local First, this is where you find it all." Your name's definitely gotten out there in the community and it's a treat to have you here, especially with all the stuff you've been doing for the scene. Now, tell us about how did you ... Have you just always been a music fan? Are you a musician as well? What's your music connection in your life?

Chris:     Yeah, I've been a music fan. I love music. I had a brief stint one year when I sang acapella in high school, but don't hold that against me.

Brian:     An acapella? You heard it here first, guys. Acapella singer, I love it.

Chris:     That's the only musical thing I've ever done. I think I took piano lessons, I did take piano lessons as a little kid, but I wasn't very good. This was, it was my finding out ... It's really the joy that music brings to me, and love music was something that was so great and it's something that I feel you have all these amazing local artists here and I just wanted to get to know them, I wanted to know about their work, I wanted to know their story, I wanted to see their music, I wanted to see like the journey they took on their musical career. It's all this interesting story and I love hearing and learning stories and every band has their story and it's a business and it's just ...

Brian:     In the intro I talked about how you were getting into policy and stuff now, where did it go from really loving local music and connecting people to local music, where did it turn into the policy and working with the government, all that stuff? How did that happen?

Chris:     Right, so at the beginning what we were doing with Listen Local First, we were creating playlists, featuring artists each month or every two months, eight to 10 artists and new bands, new albums that were being released, and we were partnering with local businesses and creating playlists and signing waivers and having the business pay fees and we were basically operating as our own performance rights organization and sort of paying out artists from what these local businesses that were playing the music streams. We were doing something called Local Music Wednesdays, where all those businesses would stream those albums on those days and so we were doing that and having showcases every month and it was very, very time consuming. That lasted for about, at that pace, for about a year and a half and then I started working on larger festivals and larger events, because as a time commitment that was something that I can put more time in, I work after work, I can do that and I can do at night or on the weekends.

                  Then when festival season was off, I felt that the way, the right thing to fill the time was working on ways to help the local music community. What are the issues? I understand policy, I understand the different parts of the local government, how can I take that knowledge and help connect artists with the people that can make a change, that can make a difference? I met so many people that have done great work here in D.C. and across the country advocating for their local music community that I felt that this was something that if I can help and if I can give information and get people together to give them this information so they can make changes for themselves, that's something I wanted to do, when I had the free time.

Brian:     It's incredible what you've been able to accomplish in what seems like such a short time too. Now, when you think of accomplishments then, like the biggest success moment, what comes to mind?

Chris:     There are a lot of accomplishments that we still need to take, especially in the policy world. I'd say, personally, for me it's pulling off a funk parade.

Brian:     Talk about that actually. Pulling off a funk parade, say more on that.

Chris:     I worked for a couple large events and festivals and I started working with the Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival and helping book the bands, reach out to sponsors, bring in vendors, sort of working on the production side. I was approached by my co-founder, Justin Rood, and he said, "Hey, I have this dream, U Street is such a historic corridor, there's so much music, there's so much history, there's so much sound. I love to dance. I love all these bands, these local bands. I had this vision of this parade, with horns and George Clinton in front roaring down U Street. Then I woke up and I decided why is there not a funk parade?" Of course, he somehow got in touch with me and I said, "Oh yeah. Yeah, we can do a festival. Let's do a funk parade," and no one had any clue what a funk parade, and this is Justin's story too, the best thing about funk parade-

Brian:     I love that this came out of a dream, really?

Chris:     It totally came out of a dream.

Brian:     Oh man, I love it.

Chris:     No one had any clue and Justin says this all the time, the best thing about funk parade is no one knew what funk parade was, so we could've done anything.

Brian:     This sounds like something out of the Fight Club. The only rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club. Well, the only thing about funk parade is that nobody knows what funk parade is.

Chris:     No one knew what a funk parade was. I think that's the best line that Justin shares, and that's kind of what we need to keep on doing every year is as it, we're now in our fourth year and so people expect certain things, but kind of our goal is to just mix everything up, mess it all up, throw it up and try to do something that where they show up the day of it'll be different. I don't want them to expect this is going to happen here, this going to be here. Even though there's something to that when you do it over and over again, but how can we add more spectacle? What can we add that's new that people don't expect this year?

Brian:     The only thing that's in common is the funk? Everything else [crosstalk 00:09:24].

Chris:     It now has a structure, but, yes, there's new music, new activations, new themes every year, so, yeah.

Brian:     Well, now what about you outside of this stuff? We've got funk parade and you've got this Listen Local First Thing, so when you're not doing that stuff who's Chris? What does he do?

Chris:     I think it's all the same now. I don't know if there is a me outside of that. No, I have a day job. I work as a telecom attorney for a small telecom company. I do FCC regulatory work and spectrum management, which, is really, I mean to most of you that's extremely boring, but this is I've just been lucky and I've been blessed with the work that I do with my business and they allow me to work on these projects. I have flexible schedule. I mean I can work, take the evenings and thanks to my wife, too, obviously, she is the-

Brian:     All right, shout out to the amazing woman in your life by the way. To your wife, thank you for letting him come on the show and let me borrow him for about an hour or two, this is-

Chris:     And letting me work very late nights a couple of times a week to work on sending out emails and making sure lineups are set. Yeah, so this time of a year my life is the festivals, really, and specifically funk parade. I like to take long trips and travel and just, I don't know, relax, play tennis, who knows outside of that?

Brian:     Relax and play ... I love that. I love that collection: travel, relax, and play tennis. That's a great [crosstalk 00:10:56], it goes together.

Chris:     That makes me sound way too D.C. I haven't actually played tennis in two years, so if anyone out there wants to play.

Brian:     Traveling, are you like foreign travel, domestic travel? What does travel mean?

Chris:     Yeah, we took an awesome trip this past year. My whole family, I'm Romanian, and so we went with my brother and his wife and my wife and my parents and we took a trip to the motherland. Took a two week trip.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Chris:     It was our one year wedding anniversary. I slammed my wife in a van with her whole family and said, "Here you go, here's your anniversary. It's our one year wedding anniversary, let's go spend two weeks in a van with your in-laws."

Brian:     Is that what they do with the Romania heritage? Is that what it is? On your anniversary you get to lock her in the van with everybody.

Chris:     Yeah.

Brian:     Oh my God, Chris, I love it. That's amazing. I realize with all the music you do, what's something in your music collection that might surprise us?

Chris:     To my closest friends it's not a surprise, but I'm a kid that grew up on The Beatles and my parents' Beatles records, and I have all of their original records at my place. Obviously, I went through the period where I listened to all of the pop music growing up and it was the Nirvana and the Green Day at the time, which was what everyone was listening to throughout middle school, but then I had this realization about the Grateful Dead and the Grateful Dead was my gateway into music.

Brian:     Wow, the Grateful Dead.

Chris:     Yeah.

Brian:     All right.

Chris:     What they had done, and I'd listened to some from dad and through friends and so that was really such a big moment for me in getting into music and what they were able to do with their music. I hadn't heard anything like it at the time.

Brian:     Wow. All right. Well, I got two more for you, two more questions I'm curious about. One is you'd mentioned like music policy and the D.C. cultural plan, can you talk a little bit about that?

Chris:     Sure. What's going on right now is the city has been in the process of collecting data from the music community on how they're going to spend money and how they're going to direct policies over the next couple of year toward growing the cultural community. What we did, we had a conference back in October, and you were at that conference, the whole idea was to bring people from the music community together to talk in a one day panel or a one day conference focused on different aspects of music policy, everything from housing to media outlets and issues with different genres of music being lost and jazz and go-go and sort of how the city is addressing these different genres. The cultural plan is happening now. It's still happening, they're still collecting data.

                  My biggest interest, and what Listen Local First is trying to do, is find a way to sort of communicate to these different agencies. We want to put together this taskforce, like you mentioned before, it's a way for artists to go to get centralized information about the government to address concerns with different aspects of the government and how we can get all these different facets of the government communicating about music the correct way. The other day someone from some organization made some comment and it was published where it said D.C. used to be a sleepy music town and now we've got these amazing acts performing, these big headline festivals or headline these big festivals, and D.C. was never a sleepy music town.

Brian:     Thank you for correcting that.

Chris:     Yeah, and it's just communicating that to people within the different agencies. Let's say the Office of Planning, obviously, Arts and Humanities, getting the mayor's office onboard, talking to everyone from police to traffic, when they're working, when they're giving out permits for events, like how are we thinking about our music scene, because how we think about it is sort of what we project upon it. That's really a big part of the work I'm doing right now that's outside of the festival planning.

Brian:     Wow, and it's so good. It's encouraging for me, as a musician, to hear that there's folks in their advocating for this, because often times when you think about the government meetings there's a total void from actually listening to the community, even though I know that's not true and they allow comment and stuff, but it's reassuring to me that you're there, so thanks for doing what you're doing on that front.

Chris:     Well and it's not even me, it's you. It's bringing together the people that want to have a voice and that have a strong voice to give, to explain to these people. I had a number of events this summer where I brought people over to my house, from now on you're going on that list, you're going to be invited to all those.

Brian:     We'll keep in touch. Thank you, sir.

Chris:     It's really getting the musicians themselves and organizing them to sort of meet with the correct people, so if I'm that middleman then I'll take that.

Brian:     That's awesome. All right. If folks are interested in finding out more about you and Listen Local First, what are the resources, where do they go to find out what you're doing and what's going on with Listen Local First?

Chris:     You can think of Listen Local First as an umbrella. I mean I like to share stuff that's going on. On our Facebook page you can check out Listen Local First, on Facebook. You can check out Listen Local D.C. on Twitter, Listen Local D.C. on Instagram. Really, we're not doing regular shows as Listen Local First, we're not doing regular events or playlists, but we are posting about advocacy, we have a list there, we're trying to send information and distribute information to people. You can find out about the festivals by going to, you can go to funkparade.com, Funk Parade on Facebook, Funk Parade on Twitter, and I think it's D.C. Funk Parade on Instagram. That's really the main festival I work on now. I was working on the bluegrass festival, I'm not currently with them, though I did help book that festival and I think the festival's going to be awesome, so you guys should check it out. It's kingmanislandbluegrass.com, I think that's the website. Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival, you can Google that.

February 21, 2017 - Special Guests: Geoff Browning and Jon Modell from “Of Tomorrow”

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

NEWS

Washington City Paper's Best of DC Poll is out.  Go vote for your favorite local original band.  We've got 170+ Profiles of deserving bands on our Find-Browse Music page

MUSIC

  1. Live By The Sword - Lanternfish (Rock/Noise Rock) Album Release Show 2/25 @ DC9!  
  2. Drunk On The Power - Holly Montgomery (Rock/Adult Contemporary)
  3. The March - Of Tomorrow (Rock/Funk)
  4. That's Love - Oddisee (Hip Hop/Rap)
  5. Insight - Fort Knox Five, Asheru (Funk)
  6. I Love You Madly - Black Masala (Funk/Brass)
  7. Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)

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Of Tomorrow

Geoff Browning & Jon Modell

Video - Bio - Photos - Links

Bio

DC Music Rocks Of Tomorrow

At the core, Of Tomorrow’s music is authentic, technical and diverse – touching on the sounds of funk, Latin jazz, festival rock, samba, neo-soul, and hip-hop. Formed in late 2015, the band is comprised of core members Nick Soderstrom (bass), Jon Modell (drums) and Geoff Browning (guitar / vocals)--fixtures on the DC music scene who have toured extensively, performing at sold-out venues including DC's 9:30 Club and the All Good Music Festival. Together, these three form the rich backbeat, melodies and lyrical structure for other players to texture, improvise and compose over.

On a mission to energize its fans and empower both core and guest musicians to shine, of Tomorrow has released their self-titled album and continues to write, tour and record. They have performed with John Popper or Blues Traveler and regularly collaborate with Ralph Washington and DJ Unown of Oddisee and Good Compny, the Yellow Dubmarine horns, and a long list of well know, extremely talented regional players. Appearing in dozens of cities and festival venues this Summer, of Tomorrow is not a band you want to miss. Tomorrow is yours.

DC Music Rocks Of Tomorrow (2)
DC Music Rocks Of Tomorrow (3)
 

Interview Transcript

Brian:     That was Of Tomorrow, my guest for today and that was the track The March.

Goeff:         Yes it was.

Brian:     At the core, Of Tomorrow's music is authentic, technical, and diverse, touching on the sounds of funk, Latin, jazz, festival rock, Samba, neo soul, and hip hop. They bring it all together. They were formed in late 2015 and the band's comprised of their core members: Nick, Jon, and Geoff. Together these three formed the rich back beat melodies and lyrical structure for other players to texture, improvise, and compose over. Of Tomorrow's release, their self-titled album and continue to write, tour, and record all around the region.

                  I've known these guys and I've seen these guys around the scene for years and listeners, it is with great pleasure that I introduce Geoff and Jon from Of Tomorrow.

Geoff:         Hello, world.

Brian:     Say hi, fellas.

Jon:         What's up, guys? How's it going?

Brian:     It is such a treat having you hear. Now talk to us about where ... How Of Tomorrow came together. How did that happen?

Geoff:         Well, I played in a band around D.C. for a long. That's where I met Jon. Jon's actually toured pretty extensively and played with a lot of folks. Bands sometimes go the way of the dinosaurs. It's part of the industry, I suppose.

Brian:     True. All right.

Geoff:         I had recently left one project and I ran into Jon at this amazing meeting of the minds jam session out in Virginia and told him the story and he said, "Oh, well, actually that's interesting because I have a new project coming together with this bass player I met who is amazing." And Nick is amazing. He said, "We have a show next Friday. Would you like to play with us?"

                  I said, "Yes," and we practiced for about 30 minutes for a four-hour set and we had so much fun we said, "Wow, we should actually start writing songs and bringing in more people who we know, who are talented in the scene, teaching them the songs, and aggressively booking shows." It came together from there.

Brian:     That's amazing. Jon, I want to switch over to you. Where did music come into your life? Geoff just said that you've been playing for a while. Talk about that a bit.

Jon:         Yeah, I started beating on pots and pans as a baby. My mom really was all about that.

Brian:     Beating on pots and pans?

Jon:         Yeah.

Brian:     Yes!

Jon:         She just encouraged me to hit all kinds of stuff in the house and make sounds.

Brian:     All right.

Jon:         I had a little record player with five or six records. This Fisher-Price thing I'll never forget. I just loved music from the beginning, but I took some Suzuki piano early on. I just really didn't have that much interest in studying music until I saw a couple of local players around my early teen years. Like when I was 14, I saw this great jazz drummer and I went up to her ... Her name was Roberta Washington and asked her to give me lessons. Same with the pianist. Walked up to him and asked him to give me lessons. It came into my life that way.

Brian:     Whoa, so both piano and drums then?

Jon:         Yeah, and at the same time I was going to school at [Maret 00:03:04] in D.C. and me and a couple of guys there formed a punk band. We played a lot of Bad Brains covers and whatever.

Brian:     Nice.

Jon:         We eventually hooked up with a singer. Amanda [Makki 00:03:15] actually. Don Z was just in here. I played around the D.C. punk scene and in a hip hop band called 3LG back in the day. I came into music really playing a lot of different styles.

Brian:     Sure.

Jon:         I didn't really care. I loved hip hop. I loved early rap. I loved early electronic music. I loved jazz and I studied 'em all and have been looking for a band that I could just be me, which means I could do a lot of things, which is the impetus for forming this group for me.

Brian:     Yeah.

Jon:         In its early inception was just to really be a place that music's music and I think people are smart enough and open enough out there now to be able to love just good music.

Brian:     What about you, Geoff? How does music enter your life? What's that story there?

Geoff:         Well, I think everything I ever wanted in a band including things I didn't know I wanted, I've found in this band, but it was a long journey to get there.

Brian:     It sounds like the beginning of a sweet love story. It's such a sweet love story.

Geoff:         It is. It is.

Brian:     Tell us more.

Geoff:         Okay, so my grandfather was a musician. He actually played during World War II in the marine corps band. His band was actually weaponized and turned into a fighting unit. The whole band was shipped to the Pacific. It's a pretty crazy story. There's actually a lot of military history that's been written about it, but ...

Jon:         I was just going to say I really hope that doesn't happen to us.

Geoff:         I hope that doesn't happen to us. Not out of the question in these crazy times, Jon.

Jon:         I'm not looking forward to being weaponized.

Geoff:         Yeah. So he was a musician. My mother was a music teacher so growing up we had a big roomful of random noisemakers to play around with and she ... I always wanted to play guitar. She said that she played guitar. She was a music teacher from when I was negative nine months old all the way through birth so I listened to a lot of guitar in that period. My brain's wired around it.

Brian:     Okay, so guitar's your thing.

Geoff:         Yeah, so I picked that up until I was about 18. Wanted to be a professional musician. Got cold feet. Wandered around for a year. Wasn't sure what to do. Then found political passions and spent the better part of 10 years exclusively pursuing that passion using skillsets that actually aren't overall dissimilar to music in some ways like you and I talked about earlier. Now for the first time as an adult, I'm doing both.

Brian:     Wow, which makes for a pretty busy schedule, I would imagine.

Geoff:         Yeah, it's not good for things like sleep, but it is very good for overall having a balanced life where I do things I'm passionate about. Sometimes it's been very trying. Lately, especially, but the band has really been a great outlet.

Brian:     That's cool. Now you guys had said there was a start ... We just played that song, The March, from a ... There's a video that I'll post with the episode of these guys ... They did a live broadcast from a recording studio and it's just an amazing video and a lot of fun to watch the dynamics of everything that is happening. Tell us about that.

Jon:         Can I actually just tell a little bit about the musical side of it before, Geoff, you tell a little bit about the lyrical side of it?

Geoff:         Oh, please do. Absolutely. Yeah.

Jon:         Because that song represents what you read out of the bio, for me. It started as a formed bass drum/guitar back beat and then we brought two keyboardists and a trumpet player who aren't the core members of our band to come in and compose over it. The result is what I think, when you play that song back to back with others songs, I listen to, I'm really proud that it sounds fresh and it sounds different and it doesn't sound intentionally different because it's not.

                  What it is is just grabbing people from all different areas and saying, "You're not committed to performing some certain genre or certain sound. We've got the bass drums and guitar covered. You be you and we're going to come up with something we have no idea what it's going to be," and that's what The March ... And that's what that recording [crosstalk 00:07:08].

Brian:     And what we heard, was that really ... They had never played that with you before or they knew the basics?

Jon:         No, they've come up with it. They've helped us come up with that song, but not every note is supposed to be plotted out.

Brian:     Yeah.

Geoff:         Essentially the way that things have gone recently is we took a book out of the playbook of Everyone Orchestra who's a band who are good friends of ours from by Matt Butler out of Portland, Oregon. He invites people who he knows who are really talented to come and play with them. Well, Jon, Nick, and I write a lot of the songs and the songs have really ... We would like to think strong structures, lyrical content, things like that, but then we invite keyboard players and horn players and violin and rappers and anyone we want to come in over it. As a result, the result is always really creative and fresh and inspiring, at least to me.

                  With that particular song, the lyrical content's interesting. When we're not touring around, I live on Capitol Hill, about two blocks from the U.S. Capitol. I was walking on the plaza one day and there was this big rally going on behind the Capitol and everyone was singing, "Corporations aren't people." I started walking away and in my head I started thinking like, "[humming]."

                  The first two lyrics there are, "Corporations aren't people," but then the third time I say, "Corporations are made of people," because the thing about it is corporations ... It was interesting to hear that protest say that because they were frustrated with corporate personhood, obviously, but at the end of the day, corporations are made of people. They're just other people who are really good at exercising their political leverage very effectively. I think especially for our friends who care about things like economic fairness and basic rights, I think it's important to maintain that distinction and not see the other side in such monolithic adversarial terms in a way that is exculpatory and satisfying at times.

Brian:     Yeah, Jon, I'm curious now ...

Jon:         Those are big words.

Brian:     I was going to say those are amazingly big beautiful words and you just earn sexy points on the radio when you start talking big words like that.

Jon:         I hope I'm exculpatory at times.

Geoff:         I have the best words. All the best words.

Jon:         I think Exculpatory At Times is a good song title for something coming up. I'll have to find out what it means.

Brian:     Stay tuned for something like that. Jon, it sounds like ... Is it the same ... Clearly Geoff, brings a lot of political perspective and current events and stuff happening on the Hill. What do you bring to Of Tomorrow outside of ... Is it just the music for you or [crosstalk 00:09:39]?

Jon:         So really, when I met Nick at a jam session, I was playing in another local group, Nappy Riddem, great reggae band.

Geoff:         They're awesome.

Jon:         I had been with them for three and a half years, but when I met Nick ... As a drummer, you meet a bass player. His versatility and what it brought out of me made me think, "Wow, as a back beat, as the backbone of a band, we could enable amazing things to happen." I really created this in my mind, what I created, was a place that people could express themselves on top of and with the support of drums and bass that can pretty much do whatever is called for.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Jon:         When Geoff brings this passion and lyrical content to the song, that's exactly what my mission is, is not to control or say, "Hey, you come here and play this guitar or you come here and say these things," but to see him or anyone come in and really be enabled to make something that is really true to them, but also musically technically versatile and beautiful. That for me is the mission. I'm not the singer so I'm not about to tell you what to sing.

Brian:     Right. What about now outside of the music part now? Geoff, it sounds like a lot of your life is captured in political persuasion and such. Outside of work and outside of the work part, what's life like for you guys? Are you homebodies? What do you do in your downtime?

Geoff:         Every single second of downtime I have when I'm not sleeping, I'm generally mustering up all the energy I can to do things that are related to this band and its development.

Jon:         Getting a band to be actually playing out and have shows and get records done and all that ... As anyone out there knows, everyone knows, it takes an immense amount of work and Geoff definitely does an incredible amount of work.

Geoff:         Jon helps a lot. The thing is, you know, in some senses starting any new initiative and getting it off the ground, it can be ... It's sort of like a political campaign in a way. Running a band can be like a political campaign just with no election day, which can be exhausting. One difference is instead of having a VAN database where you have hundreds of thousands of voters and you put together root packets and send volunteers out to talk to them, you have a spreadsheet where you have 200 venues, festivals, and breweries and you basically need to look up contact or hire someone to go through that and look up contact information and do all the outreach.

For us, who's a band who does a lot of that ourselves, we don't quite have the volume yet to get a big production house but we've had a really amazing group of people who've really latched on to what we're doing and contributed their enthusiasm.

                  For anyone who's interested, I would definitely recommend they go to DCMusicRocks.com or to BandOfTomorrow.com and see the videos that we've had. We shot those at this big warehouse party in D.C. at a art space. It was this amazing night and we invested a lot in the video crew and we had Da Vinci Sound and Vision out to record it and [AudioBar 00:12:46] came out and [Pat Chen 00:12:48], [Sean Gokin 00:12:48]. It was great. Everyone walked away really excited, almost feeling like, "This must have been ..." I hear someone walk away and say, "This must have been what it was like to be in Haight-Ashbury in the 60's." That same kind of ... It was two weeks after the election. The whole art scene came together around it. People just had a lot of raw energy and in our song Order of the Red Banner, which is also on our website and social media channels, a lot of that came out in that as well.

Brian:     Check that out. Now what are you guys ... Talk to me about exciting things coming up for Of Tomorrow.

Jon:         Can I speak to that just for a second?

Brian:     By all means. Jump in.

Jon:         Because I think the D.C. music scene has something special, as that we're in D.C. and having grown up here and been in the underground scene and the art scene, there are certain parts of the scene here that are totally disconnected from what people think of Washington monuments, politics, all that. It's just people expressing themselves, making art. There's another part of the scene, which is very, very politically active. That was represented always by a lot of charity shows and Positive Force and groups that combine music with political action.

                  That's what makes this place special, but it's important in and out of the area to recognize, there's always been a part of the scene that's just about the music, just art.

Brian:     And the scene is wonderful for that in terms of being very supportive and I love that about the D.C. music scene, which is one of the reasons I love this show and we do this.

Jon:         We have a really good thing here. It's great. And it's growing too. It's awesome to see it grow.

Brian:     I want you to tell ... Well, first I want you to say if they're interested in finding out more about you guys, where do they find you guys online or to follow you guys?

Geoff:         BandOfTomorrow.com.

Brian:     Got it. It's all there?

Geoff:         Or @bandoftomorrow on Instagram, but BandOfTomorrow.com, actually our new album is up for free, just for an email address.

Brian:     Check it out.

Geoff:         There's also a link there to our very good friends at Void Life Records, who if you are willing to pay $8.88, they will send you a physical copy of the CD with one-of-a-kind drawings on the envelope and handwritten thank you note because they are amazing.

Jon:         Wow, those guys are super cool.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Geoff:         That's all at BandOfTomorrow.com.

Jon:         Talk about grassroots.

Brian:     I want you guys to speak to ... I'm going to put this little clip on because you said there's a DJ Unown. Is that what you said?

Geoff:         Yeah, [crosstalk 00:15:10] good company.

Brian:     Talk about this. Hold on. Let's listen for just a second here. Listen to what's happening in this audio clip here.

Geoff:         From the song we just heard, that sample ...

Brian:     It sounds like noise.

Jon:         Oh, put it back up for a second. He just deconstructs it the beginning and turns it into ...

Geoff:         And turns it into this.

Jon:         A crazy beat.

Geoff:         It's amazing.

Jon:         He did this at the show. He actually made this as we were playing.

Geoff:         It was that warehouse party I was talking about before.

Jon:         It was done when we were done. He just grabbed stuff out of the air and makes art. His name's actually Unown. Not really DJ Unown. He plays with Oddisee. He's their MPC sample player. He's extremely well known around here to anyone in the hip hop scene.

Brian:     Wow.

Geoff:         He basically came and he set up a microphone in the corner of the room and then when we were done, he went down and he plugged into a DI box on stage and he played back remixes of all the songs we had just played, none of which he had ever heard, using only samples that he recorded that night.

Jon:         Live.

Geoff:         He also plays with Oddisee, the rapper from D.C. who is about to go on a nine-month world tour making us all very, very proud and Ralph Real, who's our keyboard player is also going on tour with them.

February 14, 2017 - Special Guest: Miles Ryan of 7DrumCity

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

NEWS

THAT playlist - you read that right, for those moments when you're together with that someone special, it's THAT playlist!  DC artists have produced incredible music for just those types of love moments, and we're happy to have put them all together for you.  Check it out HERE, or on our Find-Browse Music Page!

MUSIC

  1. All Right - Carolyn Malachi (Jazz/R&B)
  2. Perfection - Kenny Sway (Pop/R&B)
  3. Favorite Girl - Aaron Abernathy (R&B/Soul)
  4. Set You Free - Aztec Sun (Funk/Soul)
  5. Sunflower Eyes - Lookout Gang (Rock/Soul)
  6. Freeze - Prinze George (Indie/Indie Electronic)
  7. You Get The Wiser - Menage a Garage (Punk/Punk Pop)
  8. Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)

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Miles Ryan

Video - Bio - Photos - Links

Bio

DC Music Rocks Miles Ryan

7DrumCity is a music studio on North Capitol Street NW that offers drum lessons band practice space, and community events. The synergy of these things has created a hub and community space for musicians to meet, hang, learn, and even perform in a cozy environment. Our 100 drum students and several dozen core bands that practice here have created a thriving place to grow! 

DC Music Rocks Miles Ryan (3)

 

We just opened our new studio at 1506 North Capitol Street NW featuring 3 floors and a 2-story carriage house in the back. 3800 square feet, 9 rooms, and enough space to host a music festival. We grew from just 2 students in the owner Miles’ living room in 2011 to our beloved music studio on U street for 3 years, and as of January 31st, our new North Cap studio! Come see what it’s all about at our Grand Opening Festival on February 25th from 2-10pm, featuring 22 bands, art display, short films, giveaways, food, and beer. 

 

 

Links

Official Website: http://www.7drumlessons.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/7DrumCity/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/7DrumCity

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/7drumcity

DC Music Rocks Miles Ryan (2)
 

Interview Transcript

Brian:     Miles Ryan is the creator and owner 7DrumCity. 7DrumCity, which opened in 2011, is a music studio on North Capitol Street Northwest that offers drum lessons, band practice space, and community events. It's become a hub for musicians to meet, hang, learn, and even perform in a cozy environment. Hosting more than a hundred drum students and several dozen core bands that practice at 7DrumCity regularly. They just opened their new studio at 1506 North Capitol Street, featuring three floors and a two story carriage house in the back. So it's 3,800 square feet total. Nine rooms in total and enough space to host a music festival.

                  So with that, listeners, I first met Miles through the Flash Band program and 7Drum, his studio ... I went and took lessons there, and I've gotten to know the guy. And I am so excited that I get to introduce him to you because he is such a cool member of the scene that it's a treat to have him on the show. So it's with great pleasure that I introduce Miles Ryan. Say hi man. Thanks for being here.

Miles:    It a treat to be here too. I [crosstalk 00:01:11] love you, just to get that out of the way.

Brian:     (Laughter) It is that special Valentines time of [crosstalk 00:01:15] the year so I love you too, man. Let's keep it going with the love. I love it. And speaking of love, you love drums. So how did 7DrumCity, or 7Drum Lessons ... It's had different names over the time, but how did this whole idea come about? How did it start?

Miles:    Well the idea ... Man, I thought this would be an easy question, but ... I originally just wanted to make some money on the side teaching drum lessons. I used to be in the solar energy industry and I was living in Boston. And I got laid off. And that was in May 2010. Around then I was hanging out with some entrepreneur friends and-

Brian:     Good friends, by the way. Entrepreneur friends are great friends to have.

Miles:    Yeah, good to hang out with those kind of people.

Brian:     Absolutely.

Miles:    But they were pretty influential for me. Also I was dating a woman who lived down here and she's a jazz singer. Another music entrepreneur herself.

Brian:     Awesome.

Miles:    Lena Seikaly(sp?), actually. But you should check out some of her music sometime.

Brian:     Okay.

Miles:    I came down to D.C. and then I basically started a website. Wanted to teach drum lessons. My friend Chris Williams, who went to Babson College, was sort of begging me for lessons. [crosstalk 00:02:43] And I was like, "All right, fine. I'll teach you a lesson." And I was like, "This is actually kind of awesome." I like teaching. I forgot I used to tutor Spanish and Italian in high school and college and that kind of thing.

Brian:     Now where did the name "7Drum" come from?

Miles:    Well, Seven ... It was originally called "7DrumLessons" because I wanted to show up more in the search engines because it was a clear name, drum lessons. [crosstalk 00:03:18] But something identity, maybe, of something ... I've thought a lot about it, but seven is about the chakras, the seven chakras of the human body.

Brian:     Really? No way. It comes from the chakras? [crosstalk 00:03:31] I love it. Miles, I had no idea, man. There you go. It's all about the chakras on Valentine's. But it's also all about the drums. There it is.

Miles:    So for those of you who don't know, there's seven ... The chakra system, which is basically an eastern based thing ... But it's now sort of just different energy centers of the body. They represent different emotions or energy that you can experience. And I though that it was kind of a cool way of categorizing the experience of being human and all that.

Brian:     Seven chakras. Love it. And is that a personal ... Are you big into the chakras or you familiar with it and you-

Miles:    I'm familiar with it. My mom talked to me about it. She's a reiki master which is where you ... I don't know. I don't really get it necessarily. [crosstalk 00:04:29] But you lie down and they clear your chakras of blockages or something. It's really cool. I don't know. Have you ever done that?

Brian:     I haven't tried before, but I've heard a lot of good things about it. So I'm a pretty open minded guy. I'd give it a shot. It sounds awesome. And I love the fact that that somehow stemmed into the name of this great thing. And so now tell us about this new location now. When did you move in? When did it open?

Miles:    Well let me just explain ... Maybe just get to that point first, I guess. I just started off ... Again I was just gonna do it on the side as I was looking for another job. And then people kept signing up. I realized that there wasn't anything else. So basically I brought my drum kit from high school into my living room. Somebody signed up. That was so amazing. It was like, I got an e-mail that someone signed up. I was like a stranger [crosstalk 00:05:25]

Brian:     That you didn't know. [inaudible 00:05:25] no longer was your friends. It was somebody else.

Miles:    Oh yeah.

Brian:     What a cool thing.

Miles:    Yeah, and he ended up taking lessons like four years, [crosstalk 00:05:32] which is awesome. Anyway, I was in my living room for three years, and then found a space on U Street. Got a three year lease there and that's where everything kind of blossomed. You made it sound like, the way you're describing it, that this is a new studio starting from zero. But we've actually already had about a hundred drum students and all these bands and stuff that preexisted. So our lease was up at the other spot so we moved to this new place. It was kind of tough to leave our beloved, yellow building. [crosstalk 00:06:09] But I--

Brian:     Where about in D.C. is this one located. You said on North Capitol Street.

Miles:    Yeah, North Capitol Street. So if you stand in the middle of North Capitol there is a ... Just watch for the cars, but-

Brian:     Don't stand in the middle of Capitol, for reference.

Miles:    Anyway, if you peak out you can see the Capitol Building It's kind of cool. It's like up on hill and then it's like right where North Capitol hits Florida Ave which goes straight over to U Street.

Brian:     Got it. Which is near ... What metro stop is that near?

Miles:    It's near the NoMa metro stop. So it's one block up from NoMa, basically.

Brian:     That's cool. So what about you outside of drums? We know that you ... We're pretty clear you've drums and you got a drum lesson place that's turned into a drum studio. What about you outside of those things?

Miles:    Well, it is Valentine's Day.

Brian:     Excellent.

Miles:    I'll start with what I should start with which is my amazing girlfriend [inaudible 00:07:08][crosstalk 00:07:09] Just gotta shout it out.

Brian:     Shout out to the love. The lady in his life. Yup, I love it. Okay.

Miles:    Amazing woman.

Brian:     Awesome. Happy Valentine's Day.

Miles:    Spend time with her. That's number one thing.

Brian:     Got it. Okay. Time with her.

Miles:    Check that off the list.

Brian:     Oh no. There's no checking. That one's in there automatically 'cause she's that awesome. So props to the woman in you life, man. Awesome.

Miles:    Thanks to ... I'm just gonna shout out to Bumble. Bumble's awesome.

Brian:     (Laughter) Yes, shout out to Bumble. I love it.

Miles:    It's been-

Brian:     Yes.

Miles:    Five months since that story. So you know, Valentine's Day theme.

Brian:     Okay, I dig it. Absolutely.

Miles:    Miles' personal life.

Brian:     All right, so out side of your life now, is there there more? What else? There's a dog, right?

Miles:    Yeah, there is a dog. You must know me or something.

Brian:     Yeah, I do. It's like I've seen you before. I've been buggin' you. Whatever. So, then, who's the dog? Tell us about the dog.

Miles:    Well my dog, his name is Remo, which is also a brand of drum head.

Brian:     Ah, so that's where the name comes from. A dog named Remo. Remo drum heads. Very good heads, by the way.

Miles:    He's a black lab/pointer mix. And so he's really cute in my biased opinion. He usually can be found at the studio. Very chill, relaxed dog for a three year old.

Brian:     Cool man.

Miles:    Oh no, go ahead.

Brian:     I was just gonna ask, what about the personal life? And I'm just curious. And I'm gonna ask you another question which is biggest success moment that comes to mind when you think about 7Drum. What comes to mind?

Miles:    Well, I mean that first student, was honestly still like a very emotional moment. His name was Mitch. He's awesome.[inaudible 00:09:03]

Brian:     And you got ... This was when you were still in your living room or hadn't even got the drum set yet?

Miles:    Hadn't even moved to D.C. yet. That was in December.

Brian:     Wow.

Miles:    Made the website and everything.

Brian:     Awesome.

Miles:    But anyway, that was cool. And then I guess another big thing was hitting a hundred students. Active enrolled students, which was like I think last fall.

Miles:    I just sort of had that number. It's a nice number. But of course that number is always sort of going up and down if someone's away for the summer. Then you're like, "Well do you count that?"

Brian:     No, we're counting it. A hundred students, [crosstalk 00:09:48] that amazing. That's amazing. I love it. Now, one of my favorite questions to ask is, "If you had one piece of advice to offer, what would it be?"

Miles:    Well, I prepared for this question but it was hard to pick one.

Brian:     All right, we'll start with one. What d'you got?

Miles:    I mean, I'd say visualize what you want.

Brian:     Say more.

Miles:    Spend time-

Brian:     In your head? Is it a vision board?

Miles:    Yeah, in your head. Thinking about what it is that you want to see happen. And it will happen. You have to ... And this is what big thing that helped me get to where we're at is just trying to set goals, you know. Working backwards from where you decide you want to get to.

Brian:     Sure. So are you at your vision? This place on North Capitol? What's your vision like in your head?

Miles:    Well right now I just want to take over the world. But-

Brian:     Got it. Okay.

Miles:    No, no, no. That's exaggeration. But honestly, well right now, you're asking my goals right now?

Brian:     Well you said you have a vision. So what was your vision before you got to here? Were you envisioning where you're at now? Did it look different in your head?

Miles:    No, when I started I didn't start this studio, or community, or business because I was trying to have a big 4,000 square foot studio. I just wanted to ... My vision was I thought people were working too hard in general and too stressed out and not having balanced enough lives. So I wanted to try to help people live more balanced, fulfilling lives.

Brian:     Got it.

Miles:    And I think that music should be like sports. Everyone has some sort of exercise that they like. Everyone should have some kind of music or artistic thing that they like, which I think most people do. But I don't know if it's already unacceptable, or something to be like, "No, I don't do any exercise."

Brian:     Got it.

Miles:    But what about ... We gotta get everyone going on music and feeling those vibes and-

Brian:     I agree. Well all right. So we'll get people going. And now I want to get to the amazing tracks that you brought us, but I do want you to share with folks what's the website. If they want to find out more about 7DrumCity, where do they go?

Miles:    7DrumCity.com

February 07, 2017 - Special Guest: Alex Drewenskus of WAMU's Capital Soundtrack

^^Episode Is Live Now - Click Above (might take time to buffer/load, refresh page if issue)^^

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

NEWS

  • Clarendon Grill in Arlington, VA now features DC area original music.  They call it the Thursday Circus, and the evening generally features at least 2 original bands:  Our host, Brian Nelson-Palmer, will be there this Thursday with Fellowcraft, joined by The Forever Agos with Cathy Ditoro and Derek Evry.  Come say hi!  Next week is Pleasure Train and Escaper,  Following that is Olivia Mancini, VA Southpaws, and Nova-tones.  Linked bands we've featured on this show!

  • We're up to 20 videos from DC area talent who've shared their Tiny Desk videos for NPR with us!  Check them all out on the Find-Browse Artists Page!

  • DC Music Resources Page on this website, continuously updated list of: Venues, Festivals, Event Series, Media, Radio, Blogs, Podcasts, Organizations, Facebook Groups, Record Stores, Labels, Management, Studios.

MUSIC

  1. Aaron's Blues - Aaron Myers (Jazz/R&B)
  2. Serious - Roof Beams (Folk/Indie)
  3. Sensory Insensitivity - ShowPony (Indie/Instrumental)
  4. Cairo - Paperhaus (Indie/Alternative)
  5. Ashe - Nitemoves (Techno/Electronic)
  6. Hounds of Thoughts - The Sea Life (Rock/Shoegaze)
  7. Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)

->Follow The Show's Spotify Playlist<-



Alex Drewenskus

VIDEO-BIO-PHOTOS-LINKS

Bio:

Alex Drewenskus is a broadcast technician at WAMU 88.5, Washington, D.C.'s NPR member station, and currently engineers WAMU's 1A, a daily talk show that takes a deep and unflinching look at America to bring context and insight to stories unfolding across the country and the world. He has previously worked on The Diane Rehm ShowKen Rudin's Political Junkie, and has worked at the famed electronic music venue U Street Music Hall. In mid-2016, Alex helped launch WAMU's Capital Soundtrack project, an initiative that showcases local music on WAMU's airwaves in order to connect the station and its listeners to the music of the region. Since Capital Soundtrack's introduction, WAMU has played nearly 2,000 songs by artists from all over the D.C. area and encourages artists to submit their own music to become a part of the project. Alex graduated from American University with a degree in Audio Technology and is a native of Washington state.

Links:
http://wamu.org/music
http://bandwidth.fm
https://twitter.com/bandwidthDC
https://www.facebook.com/bandwidth.wamu

http://the1a.org
https://twitter.com/1A
https://www.facebook.com/the1ashow

Interview Transcript

Brian:     Alex Drewenskus from WAMU's Capital Soundtrack is a broadcast technician at WAMU 88.5 FM which is Washington DC's NPR member station. Currently engineers WAMU's 1A which is a daily talk show which brings context and insight to stories unfolding across the country and around the world. He previously worked on the Diane Rehm Show.

Alex:      Rehm Show.

Brian:     Rehm Show. Yes, please give me these pronunciations right. I got the Diane Rehm Show, Ken Rudin's Political Junkie, and at the famed electronic music venue, U Street Music Hall. In mid-2016 Alex helped launch WAMU's Capital Soundtrack Project which is an initiative that showcases local music on WAMU's air waves in order to connect the station and its listeners to the music of the DC region. Since Capital Soundtrack's introduction WAMU has played nearly 2,000 songs by artists from the DC region and encourages artists to submit their own music to become a part of the project.

                  I first came across Capital Soundtrack with my band, Fellowcraft. We were looking for ways to spread the ways about Fellowcraft and I heard that on 88.5 they played local music. We came across Capital Soundtrack and they've played Fellowcraft along with, like it said, several thousand songs. Listeners, it's with great pleasure that I introduce Alex.

Alex:      Thank you, Brian.

Brian:     Thanks so much for being here.

Alex:      That was an extensive introduction, thank you for that.

Brian:     Well, I want to give them the background so now you can tell us more. Now, tell us about the Capital Soundtrack, let's start there. Capital Soundtrack. Where did that come from? What's the story behind that?

Alex:      Yeah, so a team of us at WAMU have been working on Capital Soundtrack for about the last eight months, we launched it about six months ago. Essentially, what it is is an initiative that wants to play as much local music as possible so that we can ... Sorry, DC region music as possible so that we can further associate WAMU which is a public media station, it's a public radio station. We want to associate our station with the sound of the region so we don't want WAMU to just be a part of the region, we want it to sound like the region as well.

Brian:     That's ... And I really, I think it does, it's really ... I can't tell you how many times I've seen on Facebook somebody say, "Oh my God, my song was just on 88.5 FM." It really is, it's wonderful that you're making that connection with the region. Thank you guys and thank you WAMU for starting this initiative and for doing this.

Alex:      Well, you're welcome.

Brian:     Now, what's the ... You said it's an NPR affiliate. What's the MPR connection to you guys?

Alex:      Essentially the way NPR works is NPR produces shows and they distribute those shows to NPR member stations which are community radio stations, public radio stations throughout the country. Most major cities have an NPR member station in them. The one for the DC area is WAMU 88.5 FM. If you tune in each station might have different content and they might have shows that they create. Then they might also play the shows that are the flagship programs of MPR. Shows like All Things Considered, Morning Edition. Then, it's up to stations to determine how much of those programs they want to play and what they want to play when those programs are not playing, so they can make their own content.

Brian:     Got it. How much is the ... How much is you guys here locally, and then how much of the ... What's the proportion of, like, NPR and you guys here at 88.5?

Alex:      The majority of our programming is bought from several public media organizations. NPR, American Public Media is another large one, that they abbreviate their name to APM, so you may have heard of their stuff. Then, several other production companies. We pick a lot of shows for the weekend, that we only play an hour of that organization's programming a week because they only make maybe one show a week, that kind of thing. During the weekdays the majority of our programming is bought from NPR. We also have our main programs, the Kojo Nnamdi Show and 1A which is another program that I work on.

Brian:     Capital Soundtrack then, how will people ... Tell more about what that actually means? They're going to hear little clips of music behind what somebody's saying? What are they going to hear if they hear the Capital Soundtrack specifically?

Alex:      Each day we allocate 20 songs, 20 songs that are by DC area musicians. We allow our engineers and hosts to play those songs during our local breaks. During a show like Morning Edition they'll hear content made by NPR. Then during the break which we know comes at certain times, agreed upon times, during that time we have the ability to play that under our host talking. Say if the host wants to, really likes the track or something they can just fade it up and they can play that track for as long as they want.  If it's a one minute long break they might talk for 30 seconds and then you might hear 30 seconds of a local musician.

Brian:     Got it. This is in between the breaks in NPR, this is where you'll hear the Capital Soundtrack stuff.

Alex:      Exactly.

Brian:     During other times of the day too? Is it throughout the day?

Alex:      It's throughout the day. It's 24 hours a day. Even though we go into automation basically we allow our computer system to play our program shows overnight. We have basically programmed it so that it will take snippets of Capital Soundtrack songs and it will insert them into those breaks as well. It's all throughout the day. The Kojo Nnamdi Show, they use that music as their break music. They use it as not only a transition away from their host but the vocal host who's talking during that time might also use that music. It's a lot of different opportunities for people to hear local music, local DC area music.

Brian:     That is so cool. Now, talk about ... On 1A, you're working with that show now. What is 1A? Tell us about that?

Alex:      1A is the successor show to the Diane Rehm Show. Diane Rehm was a staple of public radio for almost four decades. She stepped away from the microphone, she's 80-years-old.

Brian:     Oh my goodness.

Alex:      She's been doing this for a really long time and she's become one of the flagship programs of NPR. She's really widely recognized as one of the greatest female hosts and hosts in general of NPR. 1A is the successor show to that. Our new host, Joshua Johnson, he's about half her age, half of Diane's age.

Brian:     Which makes him an incredibly young and handsome gentleman I'm sure.

Alex:      Yeah. Yeah, he's great. He came from California and he just joined us. We just launched our show on January 2nd of this year. Basically, we're a two hour talk show and we look at the issues of our time, the culture reporting, arts reporting, politics, news events, all different kinds of things. 1A essentially stands for the first amendment. We encourage free speech, free expression, and we want our listeners to engage with us on the show. We really call out for listeners and their input as much as possible.

Brian:     How would they provide their input?

Alex:      Basically, we have Twitter, we have Facebook, we have email. They can call us live. If you want to find us on Twitter we are at 1A. We're just the number 1, the numeral 1 and the letter A. It's just the two letter handle on Twitter, it's pretty rare.

Brian:     That's about as easy as it gets.

Alex:      We're very proud that we got that actually.

Brian:     That's amazing.

Alex:      Yeah. It's many, many different resources. You can go to the1a.org and you can also find more information about the show there.

Brian:     Find it all there, that's so cool. Now, Alex, tell us about you and your story with the DC music scene.

Alex:      I moved here about six years ago and I went to American Union University. I studied Audio Technology, essentially what is Audio Engineering. I was really interested in recorded music, live music, sound design. I found that DC actually had a great live music scene as you know, Brian, as well.

Brian:     It certainly does, good gracious, yeah.

Alex:      It's extensive. There are so many artists in this area and it's not just DC, it's Maryland, it's Virginia. It's up the river, down the river. It's an entire community of people that create what the sound of this area is. Yeah, that's how I got interested in music, I knew there was this big diversity there.

Brian:     You mentioned in your bio about U Street Music Hall. What's the ... There's a connection there? What's the ... ?

Alex:      Yeah. When I was in school I was lucky to get a job at U Street Music Hall. For those who don't know, it's a dance club and concert venue. It's on U Street of course, given the name. It's often voted as one of the greatest sound systems on the entire East Coast. It's a basement venue and it's about ... It can hold over a thousand people in there.

Brian:     Holy smokes.

Alex:      Yeah, it's a great venue.

Brian:     Check out U Street Music Hall, that's amazing. Now, one of my favorite questions that I love to ask is, what's one piece of advice that you would offer?

Alex:      One piece of advice that I would offer is go seek out live music. If you don't like live music go seek out recorded music. Go online. There are plenty of resources throughout the region. If you go to a place like Hometown Sounds they create a great radio show themselves. Shows like yours, DC Music Rocks. We have the DC Music Download. There's an incredible wealth of music and talent out there, you just have to find it. There are websites that aggregate all the venues in the area, all the events that are going on. Every night there's a possibility to see live music if you'd like.

Brian:     That's amazing. I'll check out the scene. Now, for those folks who are interested in finding out more, and I want you to share about the submission process for Capital Soundtrack. Talk about the show and where they find you and how they submit, an artist if they're listening with submit music.

Alex:      Yeah. If you go to wamu.org/music you can find all of our play lists. We post a daily play list of the songs that were heard that day.

Brian:     Oh, so you can find it on the website.

Alex:      Absolutely, yes.

Brian:     Awesome.

Alex:      On that page, wamu.org/music, you can also click our submit a track link. If you create music yourself or even if you've heard a track that you like you can recommend a song. You can submit those songs to us and we'll seek them out. If you provide a link to us that's even easier. We'll listen to it. We're looking for instrumental music or instrumental portions of songs at least 30 seconds in length. That's so that our hosts and our engineers can fade in and out of it, they can talk over it if they need to. It's tough with music with vocals because the vocals of the music can clash with a host talking over it sometimes. It's not the easiest so we look for instrumental music or instrumental portions of songs.

Brian:     So cool. Listener, it doesn't have to be the artist. Listeners, if you know of an amazing band that you love in town then share that with WAMU as well because they're playing that stuff as well. Are you guys, so I heard the1a.org. Wamu.org?

Alex:      Org/music. That'll send you to our bandwidth music site. Bandwidth is our music blog basically. It's our online music destination and it covers local and national music news.

Brian:     That's the bandwidth.fm, I've heard that name before. Okay, so bandwidth.fm, check that one out. You guys, social media? I assume you guys are doing that stuff too?

Alex:      Yes, of course.

January 31, 2017 - Special Guest: Jack Gregori of Human Country Jukebox & NBC's The Voice

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FROM TODAY'S SHOW

NEWS

  • Used the Easy Listening Jams Playlist at a small gathering at my house, was a huge hit!  Shout out to 70+ artists on the playlist for puttin out GREAT music! 

  • We're up to 17 videos from DC area talent who've shared their Tiny Desk videos for NPR with us!  Check them all out on the Find-Browse Artists Page!

MUSIC

  1. Mark Trail - Jelly Roll Mortals (Rock/Classic Country)
  2. Last Rights of a Living Leg End - Cartoon Weapons (Hard Rock/Math Rock)
  3. Cant Write No Songs - Human Country Jukebox (Country/Rock)
  4. You, Me, and the Tennessee Blues - Tom McBride (Country/Folk)
  5. Doing Time in Pennsylvania - The Highballers (Country/Punk)
  6. Prairie Rain - Justin Jones (Rock/Folk)
  7. Intro/Outro music by Fellowcraft (Hard Rock/Blues)

->Follow The Show's Spotify Playlist<-



Jack Gregori

Video-Bio-Photos-Links

Bio

DC Music Rocks Jack Gregori (3)

With over 750 shows under his belt, you might call Jack Gregori the man who brought country music to the buttoned-up bar scene of Washington, DC. And while Jack has now honed a well-deserved reputation for genuine Texas-influenced country and western musical style (and attitude), his musical path began far away from the cradle of country music in Texas and Nashville. 
 
In 2015, Gregori performed on NBC’s "The Voice" to an audience of over 15 million viewers and was selected by the judges to advance on the hit show, eventually ending-up on “Team Adam.” Working alongside the likes of Grammy Award-nominee Ellie Goulding and three-time Grammy Award-winner Adam Levine, Jack’s charismatic baritone put him firmly on the country music map as a rising star to watch. Gregori’s multiple performances on the international hit show resulted in the eventual recording and release of two singles: “Feeling Alright” - the legendary Dave Mason song made most famous by Joe Cocker’s 1969 rendition, as well as, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”, both of which were released in the fall of 2015 through Republic Records (a division of UMG Recording). The national exposure has not swelled the native New Hampshirite's head, however. When not touring, Jack can still be found each week performing at his long-running residency in Washington DC’s favorite local bar, Madam's Organ.

 
DC Music Rocks Jack Gregori
DC Music Rocks Jack Gregori (2)

Interview Transcript

Brian:     Jack Gregori with over 750 shows under his belt, you might call Jack the man who brought country music to the buttoned up bar scene of Washington, D.C. In 2015, Jack performed on NBC's The Voice to an audience of over 15 million viewers and was selected by the judges to advance on the hit show, eventually ending up on Team Adam. Working alongside the likes of Grammy Award nominee Ellie Goulding and three-time Grammy Award winner Adam Levine, Jack's charismatic baritone put him firmly on the country music map as a rising star to watch.

                  His multiple performances on the international hit show resulted in the eventual recording and release of two singles, Feeling All Right, the legendary Dave Mason song made most famous by Joe Cocker's 1969 rendition, as well as Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire. They were both released in the fall of 2015. When not touring, Jack can still be found each week performing with his band Human Country Jukebox at his long-running residency in Washington, D.C.'s favorite local bar, Madam's Organ.

                  I went to Madam's Organ and I have seen Jack play, and it is truly a sight to behold. All the shows are a little different. They're such a laid-back group, but yet they play such fun music and it's different every time. Listeners, it's with great pleasure that I introduce Jack Gregori.

Jack:       Thanks for having me, Brian.

Brian:     Thanks so much for being here, man. Rewind now and tell us how music came into your life. How did that start?

Jack:       It was always there really. From the earliest I can remember, it was all about the music.

Brian:     Does that mean you came out of the womb with a guitar in your hand?

Jack:       Pretty much. It was a difficult birth.

Brian:     Was it always guitar? Has there been more than one? 

Jack:       Now, I actually started playing saxophone when I was a kid.

Brian:     Wow.

Jack:       Yeah, and migrated to piano and played that for a little bit and got tired of that. Really, what happened is I got a car and the piano lessons went right out the window after that.

Brian:     That was it.

Jack:       Yeah, so around the same time I got a guitar, which that was crucial.

Brian:     Okay.

Jack:       That was the way to go. A lot more portable.

Brian:     Exactly. So then you stuck with it all the time? Was it on the side? Did you do it in school?

Jack:       Not really. We played some in school and did it in high school and that kind of thing, but it wasn't the kind of situation where I practiced as much as I should as far as the guitar went.

Brian:     Sure. I got it.

Jack:       But it's been there. Just varying degrees of intensity.

Brian:     Then Human Country Jukebox is the band. How did that come together?

Jack:       That came together fairly organically. A bunch of current friends of mine met at an open mic at Bobby Lou's. It was hosted by the inimitable Silky Dave of Gypsy Sally's fame currently. 

Brian:     Silky Dave. Hi, Silky Dave. 

Jack:       Silky Dave. Hi, Silky. He owns the Gypsy's with his lovely wife, Karen, who I will not fail to mention.

Brian:     Got it. Karen, you are such an important part of that dynamic duo. We appreciate you, too. 

Jack:       Absolutely. We all met doing open mic and it kind of just morphed into this thing. Getting back to the naming conventions here, we had the same experience where you just sit there and try to brainstorm for hours and hours, trying to figure out what's our name going to be. What's it going to be?

                  I have sort of come up with this name for myself as a joke, Human Country Jukebox, because I just love this kind of music and we'd have get togethers or parties or whatever and people would throw out songs and I'd play them and it would just be the thing, so it was the Human Country Jukebox. Then, we just got tired of trying to think of a name, so we just came up with that and then sort of that was the way it was.

Brian:     Human Country Jukebox. At what point, how did The Voice come about?

Jack:       Actually, Silky, on a whim, sent my name into them to see if they wanted to have me on or audition.

Brian:     Oh, sure.

Jack:       I get an email out of the blue, and he didn't tell me he did this, so ... 

Brian:     Oh, boy. Really?

Jack:       Yeah. I get an email out of the blue and I'm like, "All right. This is probably not real. Let me investigate this." I looked at it and it was real, so I sent them back a message and they said, "Hey, do you want to audition for The Voice?" I said, "Do I have to stand in line?" They said, "No," and I said, "Okay. I'm in."

Brian:     Wow.

Jack:       The line was a deal breaker for me.

Brian:     The line? Really?

Jack:       Oh, yeah.

Brian:     Yeah, because it is a pretty long line.

Jack:       I don't like standing in line. That's the thing. Yeah, so anyway, went in and arduous, arduous process. It was fun though and it took a long time.

Brian:     When you say a long time, does that mean it was days? Where was it? This was in D.C.? Was it in L.A.? Where was it?

Jack:       I auditioned here, so we were at Cue.

Brian:     Okay.

Jack:       I went down there and did the audition and then, you know, you have to go through a number of callbacks and it's a whole thing. It's not like you audition and then the next day you're in front of the judges.

Brian:     How long did it take?

Jack:       Oh, months. Yeah, months. Half a year, probably.

Brian:     Okay. Did you get to meet the judges beforehand?

Jack:       No, no.

Brian:     It really is completely blind? You get out there. You've never seen them before. They're in chairs, facing backwards like on the show?

Jack:       Yeah. There's no interaction on our end anyway. Maybe they were watching from afar, but ...

Brian:     Right. Cameras or something. Wow. When you walked out there, what were you thinking? Were you just, "I'm going to nail this song?"

Jack:       I was thinking, "Don't fall down." I'm serious, man.

Brian:     Stop. That's it? Really? Don't fall down?

Jack:       Oh, yeah. Don't fall down. Don't fall down. That was it. Yeah, it is nerve-wracking. You go up there and it's quiet as can be and they start the music and you go. That's it. You have one chance.

Brian:     Online now, you can pick up a copy of the song you did, Ring of Fire, for your audition. Is that actually the live recording that's online or do they bring you in and you record that?

Jack:       No. Yeah, it's separate. You can still watch the audition piece on YouTube or whatever.

Brian:     By the way, if you haven't seen it, check out ... He's got two awesome videos. Check out Jack on the YouTube channel because ... What a cool experience, man.

Jack:       It was a lot of fun.

Brian:     Holy smokes.

Jack:       Definitely.

Brian:     What did you take away from ... When you came back after that whole experience, what was that like? What did you take away from all of that?

Jack:       Oh, it was surreal. I mean you don't get that opportunity very often. Yeah, coming back, I got a lot of from people that I had seen and had seen me play 50, 100 times, that worked in the scene, all of a sudden, like, "Hey, man, you're really good. I had no idea."

Brian:     I've seen you 50 times at the bar and now you know?

Jack:       Sometimes it just takes somebody else telling a person that you're like good to make you good.

Brian:     Oh. Got it.

Jack:       I'll take it.

Brian:     When you got back, you came right back to playing with Human Country Jukebox?

Jack:       Oh, yeah. Yeah. Just got right back into it. That's the whole thing.

Brian:     Was it different afterward?

Jack:       Yeah, it was a pretty big bump right afterward. It was a lot of energy and good energy. Yeah.

Brian:     When you say bump, what is that? Just more people?

Jack:       More people, more energy, just more action. It was great. Yeah.

Brian:     Okay. How long did that last?

Jack:       Oh, maybe three months of solid push. Then, you kind of get back to the routine of getting your shows in and playing. You know, back to the grind.

Brian:     Yeah, so talk about the grind, then, for you. What is that? It's Human Country Jukebox. How many shows a week? What's life like for you now as a musician? 

Jack:       Playing quite a bit still. At one point, we were doing maybe 15 shows a month sometimes. That's pretty intense. That's a pretty intense schedule. Sometimes, we were doing three, four, five nights in a row.

Brian:     Wow.

Jack:       It's fun and you do it and it's good, but that gets tough sometimes. Now, we're probably down to two, three times a week sometimes and depending. I've been intentionally pulling back a bit so I can focus more on writing and rehearsing if possible. 

Brian:     Writing, so writing for a new album? 

Jack:       Writing for a new album. Yep. We're getting some songs together for ... Hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have something out. That's the goal.

Brian:     Rehearsal, what's rehearsal like for you guys? When I see you live, people call out songs ... 

Jack:       It doesn't happen often.

Brian:     ... and you play them. Is that how it works in rehearsal, too?

Jack:       No, we try and be slightly more focused if we have rehearsals, which is seldom.

Brian:     Which is rare.

Jack:       Yeah, very seldom. That's the good and bad thing about playing so much. The good thing is you keep pretty sharp with each other and you get that rapport with the other musicians and that's ... There's no substitute for that really.

                  The downside is everybody's so tired from gigging that you don't necessarily want to do it on your night off. You don't want to get into a rehearsal space and grind it out for four hours on a Monday night. That's the sort of double-edged sword.

                  For rehearsals, we try and be more focused because if we're going to be trapped together, it's better to have people there to listen.

Brian:     Right, and you've got to find time. In the rehearsals, you've got to find time to do the new songs, too, and put those together.

Jack:       Exactly.

Brian:     That's ... Wow. Now, when you think about you on the personal side, when you're not doing the music thing, what's life like for Jack?

Jack:       Well, you know work. A lot of work. Got the day job that I go to. Fortunately, it's flexible.

Brian:     Got it. Flexible schedule, that'd be handy. 

Jack:       Flexible schedule is good for a musician's life.

Brian:     Sure.

Jack:       You don't get out until three in the morning playing music and then you have to get up the next day and you don't want to get up at eight. Believe me. You know.

Brian:     I believe you. I know actually. Yes, absolutely. It's rough.

Jack:       It is rough. Fortunately, I've got the flexible schedule, but honestly, I try and do the music as much as possible. That's where a large chunk of my energy goes.

Brian:     Are you big into reading or you join a book club? Are you training for a marathon? Are there any other ... Life for you, you're a big foodie? You like going out on the town? What's life like?

Jack:       Oh, sure. Yeah, I mean if I can, I go catch shows. I go catch shows as much as I can in D.C. and sometimes out of D.C. Foodie, sure. The part of D.C. that's great is that the restaurants are amazing around here. I do smoke a lot of barbecue myself in the old backyard there.

Brian:     Excellent.

Jack:       Yeah.

Brian:     All right. A barbecue man, which explains why you love some of the ... Like I've seen, I know Hill Country Barbecue is a play that you play. 

Jack:       Oh, love it.

Brian:     That must be good eating that night.

Jack:       Love it.

Brian:     Shout out to the guys. If you haven't tried Hill Country Barbecue, you need to go try it. Go on a night Jack's playing and it's a combination. It's a heavenly combination of good music and good barbecue. That's everything.

Jack:       That's a great place. They have great artists that come through there as well.

Brian:     When you think back to Human Country Jukebox, what's the funniest moment that comes to mind as you think about the band?

Jack:       Well, we take a lot of risks with that band. Part of that is we're fortunate enough to play so much that we feel comfortable that if we take a risk and it doesn't go so well, we'll be okay.

Brian:     Take a risk meaning try a song and it didn't work out? [crosstalk 00:12:56]

Jack:       Try a song. It doesn't work out. My favorite is when we bring people up on stage and inevitably they insist that they know every word to every song and then we get them up and we say, "Okay, tip us and you can come up and sing it." They'll come up and it's just a train wreck a lot of the time.

Brian:     Is there one particular that try? What comes to mind? What song was it?

Jack:       I don't even remember what song it was, but there was a guy who came up and tried to make our bass player play two bass solos. Not just one. The first one went okay and it was fine. It was dragging on and after the second time, he said, "Bass solo," the bassist, Danny, stepped right in front of the guy and said, "This is over. Get this guy off stage. We're done." 

Brian:     Oh my God. All right.

Jack:       Sometimes you have to do that, but those are the kinds of things that I really like and that was one good example. [crosstalk 00:14:04] He threw some colorful language in there, too.

Brian:     Somebody told me there's a Jukebox story that there's certain songs that you don't want to play, but a good tip you'll do just about anything. Say more on that.

Jack:       That's generally how it works. I mean money talks. That's the bottom line with a bar band like that. Some stuff, we'll play for free and other things. Of course, everybody's down on Wagon Wheel and that's an expensive ... You're looking at 250 for that.

Brian:     Okay. All right.

Jack:       Occasionally, we'll make exceptions. [crosstalk 00:14:33]

Brian:     ... and you'll do it, but all right.

Jack:       Yeah, we'll do it. We won't like it, but we'll do it.

Brian:     Now, what's an example of songs that you do like? What comes to mind? We don't even need a tip. We'd love to play that.

Jack:       Oh, anything by Doug Sahm, who's just amazing, and if you don't know who he is, you're doing yourself a disservice. He's just ...

Brian:     Okay. Doug Sahm, check him out.

Jack:       ... one of those guys that transcends all. Yeah, Doug Sahm. William Jennings. Sure, Johnny Cash and those. Haggard, of course. Anything by The Band or Neil Young. We love that. All that stuff.

Brian:     Got it. 

Jack:       So those are pretty much free. If you're a good patron though, of course.

Brian:     If you come regularly, then you can request. 

Jack:       Yeah, sure, but I mean we don't turn down the tips of course. You want the tips. It's always nice.

Brian:     Yes. That's the [crosstalk 00:15:24] ... Musicians, man. Musicians love a little bit of cash. That's true. It's absolutely true. What do you have in your music collection that might surprise us?

Jack:       Oh, you know, Grease soundtrack probably.

Brian:     For real? The Grease soundtrack? Oh my God.

Jack:       Yeah. I know. You laugh, but they're great musicians playing on that soundtrack for real.

Brian:     Right. That's exactly what I think when I hear that soundtrack is, "Oh, listen to how good those musicians are." No, I'm joking.

Jack:       Right. I know. I know you don't.

Brian:     I'm glad that you do.

Jack:       Yeah. Totally. I like all kinds of stuff. Elton John, I get a lot of surprising looks about that for some reason and I don't understand. The same thing, I mean that ... Amazing artist, great musician.

Brian:     Yeah, he really is.

Jack:       I just ... Top notch. There are a lot of things like that, but I like it all. Judas Priest. 

Brian:     Oh, true. Judas Priest.

Jack:       That's one that I get ...

Brian:     My favorite question to ask ... The last one that I've got is what's one piece of advice that you would offer?

Jack:       Be nice.

Brian:     Be nice? Meaning when you're on stage? Say more.

Jack:       All the above. Well, not necessarily on stage. Part of our shtick when we do the Human Country Jukebox stuff is if you request a song we don't like, we might give you an earful and tell you where you can put that song.

Brian:     Oh, which contradicts the be nice concept.

Jack:       Right, but it's all in good fun. I'm talking about be nice to the people that work there. Be nice to your sound guy. Be nice to other musicians in the scene. Be helpful and be pleasant. That's how you get work to a large extent.

Brian:     Now, for folks who want to find out more about you, where do they find out more about you? Where can they go? 

Jack:       You can go to my website, which is JackGregori.com. That's G-R-E-G-O-R-I, or you can go to the Human Country Jukebox website, or you can go to either of those on Facebook or Twitter, if you like. It's @CountryJukebox or @JackGregori. Any of those ways. We have all the social media that you could ever want.

Brian:     Awesome.

Jack:       You can find it.