ASKED & ANSWERED: Longtime P-Funk soldier Danny Bedrosian marches his Secret Army into Salem

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Lawrence, Massachusetts, native Danny Bedrosian decided at a young age—i.e., 10 or 11—that he wanted to be the keyboard player for funkmeister George Clinton’s band Parliament-Funkadelic, aka P-Funk. After that, there was never a plan B.

Bedrosian was classically trained as a child by his mother and father, each of whom were honors music graduates of Lowell State College (now UMass Lowell). As a teenager, he would travel throughout New England to see P-Funk perform, meeting Clinton and giving him recordings of his playing at every opportunity. He got his first paid assignment for the band at age 19, officially joined at age 22, and is now in his 13th year of service.

Coming from a family of Armenian extraction, Bedrosian studied Middle Eastern history at the University of New Hampshire and is something of an expert in Armenian history and ethnomusicology. In addition to his work with P-Funk and several other projects, he fronts the band Secret Army, which released a new album called The Clock this year. He is also the father of a four-month old daughter.

I spoke to Bedrosian by phone from his home studio in Tallahassee, Florida, before he travels to New England for a mini-tour that will include a stop at Opus Underground on Sunday, December 20. (Show up early to check out the spectacularly talented Sarah Seminski and her band The Wild Versitile.)

Q: How did you first meet George Clinton and was it in any way the first step toward your joining P-Funk?

A: There was a contest in ’97, ’98, back when George was wearing those big bedsheets. He’d cut a hole in a bedsheet and wear it over his head. That was like his costume. He was doing a contest where fans could make the bedsheet and the best ones would win a chance to meet him. I put together a bedsheet, made with all the different lyrics and stuff, pictures of different characters from the mythology of P-Funk. [It was] very carefully planned and executed, and he loved it and he wore it at the show in Providence, Rhode Island. And I got to meet him and the band, and that was when I first started dropping off my music. I thought that if I could just meet him, I was sure there was a chance I could let him hear something, and if he heard it, I knew he’d like it. That’s how I went about it.

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Q: Are you the youngest member of the line-up?

A: I’m the second-youngest musician in the band. The youngest is our first-line drummer Benzel [Benjamin “Benzel Baltimore” Cowan, Jr.], who’s also the drummer for my band Secret Army. He’s also the son of the longtime trumpet player for the band, who’s been playing for 37 years, Bennie Cowan. Other than him, I’m the youngest musician in the band, but I’ve been there for a longer time than a lot of guys that are even older than me.

Q: Does having studied the Middle East at the University of New Hampshire come in handy nowadays?

A: It comes in handy for my touring life in that P-Funk plays all six livable continents all year round. I meet people from the Middle East all over the world. It doesn’t matter if they’re Arab or Iranian or Armenian, if they’re Sunni or Christian or anything, there’s always a connection there. And that connection always helps me with reaching out to people, potential fans, also friends and just connections in general in this world of social networking.

Q: Did you take any music classes in college?

A: Yeah. At UNH, we studied directly under Clark Terry, the great jazz trumpet player. He was a very important honorary professor there. I took a number of American music classes on jazz and things like that. When I had first gone to college, I realized that a music major for me was not the move because I’d already done 18 years of fairly strict classical training under the tutelage of my parents in a very prestigious piano and music school. I knew that the music major for me was going to be review.

Q: How may shows would you say that you play in a typical year?

A: In a typical year, it’s anywhere between 240 and 320. It could be anywhere between 120 and 180 shows just with George. I play with about six to 10 different bands a year, give or take, but P-Funk is my main gig. I like to play. I like to work. I’ve got two of my own bands, plus my piano shows, plus I play in a ska band, I play in a jazz group, I play in an Armenian ensemble.

Q: What is your most recent musical project and what can people expect at your Opus show?

A: I just put out a new album calledThe Clock this year. It just came out in September. Bedrosian_OpusSecret Army is going to do stuff from basically every album that we’ve put out. We’re working on our eighth album now and next year will be our tenth anniversary as a band. We definitely going to do a lot of stuff from all the different albums and were going to do a little Funkadelic stuff, too, and maybe even surprise ourselves and do some brand brand new stuff.

Q: How would the young you react to being told that he would one day be a permanent full-time member of P-Funk?

A: “I told you so!” (laughs)

 

Danny Bedrosian & Secret Army with Sarah & The Wild Versitile at Opus Underground (97 Washington St., Salem, MA). Sunday, December 20, 7 p.m./$15/21+.

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ASKED & ANSWERED: A BRIEF CHAT WITH DR. JOHN

Last February, I sent some questions via email to Dr. John‘s publicist in order to help promote his show at The Wilbur in Boston. Unfortunately, I did not get the answers back until the afternoon of the day of the concert. Since he is returning to the same venue tonight (Wednesday, 2/28) to promote his new album Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch, I figured that I would post the interview today.

Enjoy!

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Photo by Bruce Weber.

Q: If I were to have you as my guide on my first trip to New Orleans (I have never been
there), what would I see that the typical tourist would not?
A: I would take you too see Jaegers restaurant in Jefferson Parish as well
as Joseph Segereto’s restaurant Eleven 79 on Annunciation Street.

Q: Do you still have any of the Ivory Soap boxes that you were featured
on as a child?
A: No I do not.

Q: In 1971, Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton played on The Sun, Moon & Herbs.
In the early 90s, PM Dawn and Beck each sampled “I Walk On Gilded
Splinters.” In 2012, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys produced and played
on Locked Down. How does it feel to have fans with such cred and/or high
profiles?
A: It’s oaks. [i.e., “Oaks and Herbs, my Nerbs,” i.e., “okay,” as in “cool.”]

Q: Is the crawfish beignet the greatest food you have ever tasted?
A: There once was a time I could eat shellfish but now I can’t.

Q: What is some of the paraphernalia that you have on your cane and around
your neck?
A: A lot of spiritual things.

Q: How do you feel about the depiction of New Orleans and Louisiana on
television shows like True Blood, Treme, and American Horror Story: Coven?
A: I don’t watch TV but I did get to see the first Treme of the series and
I thought it was cool.

Q: How many credits did you have as Mac Rebennack before you became Dr. John?
A: A gang and a half of them.

Q: In putting together a setlist for a show, do you aim for continuity or a
theme, or do you just pick whatever you feel like playing on a given
night?
A: I pick what I feel.

Q: Is Hurricane Katrina something from which your beloved hometown will
forever be recovering?
A: New Orleans will always be recovering  from Katrina as well as the NO [New Orleans] oil spill.

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ASKED & ANSWERED: NATE WILSON OF GHOSTS OF JUPITER

This originally ran on DigBoston.com in early May 2014. Since Ghosts of Jupiter are currently doing a Thursday night residency at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, I figured that I would repost the interview that I did with lead singer Nate Wilson here on my blog.

ME: Was Homer Simpson correct when he said, “Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact”?

NATE WILSON: I’d say it was probably closer to 1972 but yeah, I think he was on the right track. At the same time I think it’s kind of closed-minded to be one of those people who always says “I don’t listen to anything that was recorded after 1972…..blah blah blah.” I like a lot of contemporary bands and I’m always searching around for new shit to get into. It just so happens that all the new stuff I’m into SOUNDS like it was recorded in the 70’s. So to clarify, I don’t listen to anything that SOUNDS like it was recorded after 1972.

ME: Whichever year it was, which albums, artists, and songs contributed to the molding of said perfection?

NATE WILSON: There are a ton. Big ones for me are Jethro Tull‘s Thick as a Brick, [Yes’s] The Yes Album, Captain Beyond [self-titled debut], Meddle [Pink Floyd], [Traffic’s] The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys….

ME: When did it reach its nadir, or are we still awaiting it?

NATE WILSON: I have to admit that I had to Google nadir. I thought it was a Spanish verb.

But it’s really tough to pick out some low-point in music. Again, it’s easy to complain that there’s no good music and everything was better way back when. But there’s always been some good music out there, and there’s always been a ton of garbage, too. I remember that time period just before the Internet changed everything as being particularly shitty. It just seemed like major labels and MTV had so much power and control over the pipeline and it was basically musical fast food. Now, at least as a music fan, there’s a whole new universe available to discover things you never would have heard of in the past.

ME: Fill in the blank: “I wish that I were half the singer-songwriter/musician that _______________ is?”

NATE WILSON: Gustav Ejstes (Dungen)

ME: What is your favorite rock ‘n’ roll documentary?

NATE WILSON: Off the top of my head probably Dig! about the Brian Jonestown Massacre. I like their music but I love the train wreck even more! Honorable mentions are Last Days Here and that newish one about Ginger Baker [Beware of Mr. Baker]. OK—those are all train wreck movies I guess!

ME: Did transitioning from the Nate Wilson Group to Ghosts of Jupiter consist of anything other than a change in name (e.g., line-up changes, relocation)?

NATE WILSON: We had a few different bassists when we were Nate Wilson Group, and when we solidified the line-up and added our second guitarist I think we figured it was time to have a proper name. I did move to Worcester, but that’s incidental.

ME: How do you draw on your training at the New England Conservatory when composing music? Which field is your University of New Hampshire degree in?

NATE WILSON: My degree from UNH is in music performance. I always draw on my musical training, although the stuff I studied in school is fairly different from what the band sounds like. But studying music in an academic setting I think just broadens your awareness of sound in general. You don’t always use everything you learned in classical music or jazz within the setting of a rock band, but that awareness helps your creative process.

ME: How did the Museum of Science show come about and how long did that run?

NATE WILSON: It ran for over a year which was pretty amazing. The idea came from our friend Phil Stepanian, who has helped us with a bunch of management stuff over the years. He just beat some doors down for us over there and they thought it was an interesting enough idea to give us a shot at it.

ME: If Ghosts of Jupiter were to do an album of covers, what would you offer (2 or 3 songs/artists) and what would you expect each of your bandmates to propose?

NATE WILSON: Man, that’s a tough one. I’d love to cover a bunch of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, but I don’t know if recording it would make much sense. My take on it would be to re-create it EXACTLY the way it sounded on those records ‘cause its fucking awesome. So what would be the point of that really I guess…..

ME: How widely has the band toured and what is the largest audience for which you have performed?

NATE WILSON: We’ve stayed pretty close to the Northeast for the most part. We did a tour out to the Midwest with our friends the Buffalo Killers a few years back, and we did a few tours in the US Virgin Islands, but those were really just glorified vacations. The biggest crowd we’ve played for was probably at the Hatch Shell in Boston where we opened for Blue Oyster Cult.

ME: What is the plan for the next Ghosts of Jupiter recording?

NATE WILSON: We’re already recording it. We’ve cobbled together our own little recording rig and lately have been of the mind to forgo recording in studios. It’s freed us up financially to experiment a whole lot more. We recently rented a house in Vermont and did some tracking there. We recorded most of the keyboards at my home. I don’t know if we’ll do the entire project on our own, but so far it’s been a lot more fruitful to be off the clock.

Ghosts of Jupiter are at the Lizard Lounge (1667 Mass Ave, Cambridge) on February 12, 19, and 26. Two sets: 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Tickets for the February 12 show may be purchased here for $12.

ASKED & ANSWERED: Franky Kelly of The Hot Sprockets

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Franky Kelly

Franky Kelly — aka, Franky Sprocket, Franky Curveball, Franky the Lips, Franky Pants, Franky Poodles, Franky Spotlight — handles the harmonica, mandolin, and keyboards duties for the smokin’ Irish band The Hot Sprockets.

Brother Nature, this year’s independently released follow-up to their 2010 debut album Honey Skippin’, peaked at #11 back home, kept from the Top 10 by stiff competition from Coldplay, Imelda May, One Direction, and First Aid Kit.

Their first tour of the United States brings them to Brighton Music Hall tomorrow night, where they will be co-headlining with fellow Dubliners Cold Comfort.

I asked Franky Kelly some questions via email, and he kindly (and enthusiastically) answered them.

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How frequently have you toured the United States?
We have never toured the USA before so we’re really looking forward to it!

So you have never played Boston before?
Nope, we have never played in Boston but we can’t wait to play at the Brighton Music Hall, we’ve been hearing great things about the music seen there!

Did you feel as though there was anything disappointing about the first album that the second album was an opportunity to correct?
On our first album we won a competition to recorded the album in Portugal with Boz Borer (The Polecats, Morrissey) and only had a week to record it, so we hadn’t much time to work on each track! On Brother Nature (album 2) we took are time making sure each track sounded the way we wanted and we weren’t restricted with time! I think that was the only difference for us but in saying that we are immensely proud of both records!

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What experience did you gain from having recorded one album that you applied to the recording of the second?
Recording a record is always a learning experience for any band. We learned the easiest way for us as a band to record and the most time efficient, time equals money in the studio haha! But we’re constantly evolving as a band every time we record something!!

What do you have to say to those who tell me that flutes don’t belong in rock ‘n’ roll? They sound pretty good to me in “Heavy On My Mind.”
Well that’s a silly statement, really, because any instrument belongs in rock ‘n’ roll once the love and the ethos is there 100%. Wayne [Soper] wrote the song “Heavy on My Mind” with the flute in mind from the get-go! He just wanted to write a sweet flute song with a groove which I think we achieved!

Are more of the band’s influences from Europe or the United States?
I’d say the band has definitely more American based influences than European. It is the birth place of the Blues after all. 🙂

Where would you rank Dublin among currently hot music scenes?
Dublin has a huge music scene with a lot of amazing talented musicians for such a small country! So much so that it’s hard to get recognised and in order to progress as an artist you need to venture out and beyond via Europe/America!!!

The band is offering an interesting reward to those who donate €1,000 to your Fundit project. How many donations in that amount have you received?
We got no €1,000 donations for the campaign, which was upsetting for us because we were all dying to get naked, haha!

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The Hot Sprockets: Tim Cullen, Franky Kelly, Wayne Soper, Andrew Sutton, Joey Lynch (Photo by Rob Benson Photography)

Recording a documentary seems like an ambitious project for such a young band. Whose idea was it to do so and what is the goal?
When we first started the band 8 years ago, one of our best friends Matt Nicastle started documenting us! He wanted to make a documentary of us over a long period of time. Sadly, Matt passed and the documentary was left unfinished. A few years later a friend of ours (Niall O’Byrne) had an idea to document us for a year or two. He’s aim is to document what happens behind the scenes of being in a band and show a different side of a band’s life! It’s going to be awesome when it’s complete!

Are there any hugely popular or highly respected rock ‘n’ roll bands or artists who you think are complete rubbish and whom you like to knock of their respective pedestals?
We don’t really diss any artists as long as they are hard-working and believe in what they are doing!!

How does a Hot Sprocket differ from a Wet Sprocket? (As in the American band Toad the Wet Sprocket.)
I’m not familiar with that band, but the main reason we are HOT is because we rock with such high energy, raw power and give each gig 100%. And above all else we KICK ASS!!!

 

ATLANTIC SOUND 2014: THE HOT SPROCKETS AND COLD COMFORT W/ PALM GHOSTS. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, 158 BRIGHTON AVE. TUESDAY, AUGUST 26. $15/18+/8PM