Live At Tonic Live At The Triple Door (interview with Marco Benevento)

benevento interview

Organist/song-writer Marco Benevento first began recieving critical acclaim for his work with drummer Joe Russo as the other half of the Benevento/Russo Duo (commonly known as “The Duo” ). Since then, they have went on to release some of the greatest and most innovative instrumental Jazz music in recent years, in part by fusing it with rock and indie influences. Last summer they were invited to do a tour as the other half of a four piece with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon from Phish and did so successfully with only four days of practice prior to their first performance.

Benevento’s most recent project, “Live At The Tonic“, is a live album recorded over a month long period at the infamous, and now defunct, Tonic in New York, and features the likes of Dave Dreiwitz (WEEN), Mike Gordon, Steven Bernstein (Sex Mob), and 7 others.

On Aug. 7th, I was fortunate enough to meet up with Marco and interview him at The Triple Door, arguably the nicest upscale jazz club in Seattle, while he was on tour with his latest trio, consisting of bassist, Reed Mathis (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and drummer Matt Chamberlain, (Critters Buggin). After drinking gin and tonics in the bar, I was escorted through an elevator and up to a hotel suite above the club that I had never realized existed. When I entered the room, Marco was drinking a beer in an orange T-shirt with a tiger and stars on it and Reed Mathis was sitting down, intently focusing on his lap-top. Marco offered me a beer, I showed him that I already had a drink, and then we went to sit down at a large round table. I set up a mini-DV cam to tape the audio and I pressed record:

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DEAD C: Have you ever played here (the Triple Door) before

MARCO BENEVENTO: Yeah, with the DUO

Oh you did?

Yeah

‘cuz I know that Reed’s played here a lot

Uh huh. Okay, so you’ve seen Reed a bunch?

Yeah

Oh cool

I actually saw you guys at Bumbershoot the first time

Oh…Oh wow! That was cool

Yeah. So, that’s how I found out about you- is after their show (JFJO)

Oh right, at that stage. What years was that, 2005? But, yeah that was cool

It was actually before that I think.

Was it 2004, maybe? Wow.

Maybe. You should play this year because you could jam out with Fergie and be “doing it big”.

Ha! That’s right, who else is playing

It’s like, Panic At The Disco and all kinds of crazy shit like that

Oh cool

Well she was on Kids Incorporated, so she-

What’s that?

Fergie was on Kids Incorporated

What’s that?

That kids show

I don’t even know about it, what is it?

It’s an old ’80s kids show

Oh, cool

Where little kids sang and it was like, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Martika

*laughs* Oh really!?

Yeah

Dude, I gotta check that out *grabs his blackberry to start typing*

It’s pretty ridiculous

Oh. Well, what’s it called again

Kids Incorporated

Well, maybe I have heard of it and I just don’t know it by name

It was kind of like the later Mickey Mouse Club, the way they did that

Kids Incorporated *repeats to himself*
Is that like a Nickelodeon thing?

It’s some kind of Disney thing

Oh. Gotta check that out *to himself again while typing it in*
Anyway, yeah Bumbershoot that was a while ago

So… let’s see what I got here
(I grab my notes to get back on track)
So that album, that Tonic album, is that out now?

Mm hmm. Today’s the release date.

Oh, really?

Yeah. Although it’s been on iTunes for the last week, but today’s the official release date for stores.

I was looking at a lot of the promo stuff for that and it looks a lot like the Last Waltz, how you have all of those guests coming out.

Right

So you did that over 5 Wednesdays, is that right?

Mm hmm. It was every Wednesday in November (’06). There were 5 of them.

I know that you wanted a lot of your friends and other musicians to come out and play, but did you know who was gonna show up each night? Did you kind of plan out week to week?

Yeah. Yeah, I knew who was gonna come every night. The scheduling, it wasn’t that bad, but some people were available for some Wednesdays and some weren’t. So, before I decided on the line-ups, I sort of called up the people that I knew I wanted to play with, to see when they were free, y’know? And Mike (Gordon) was only available for the first Wednesday, so I had to do that. So, that was the first Wednesday… and then, Matt (Chamberlain) was only available for the last Wednesday, so I was like “Okay so I could put Matt” you know, just sort of did it like that. So just checked out everybody’s schedule and then, solidified it. I bought Reed (Mathis) and Matt plane tickets to come out to New York. You know what I mean? I just did it all. Called up my friends and flew them in and sometimes we made like a hundred bucks *laughs* or not even. It was just a great night. And I wanted to do this, but Andy (Hurwitz) at Rope-A-Dope was like, “I just have one request, that you do 1 night solo“. I was like “Yeah, I had a feeling I was gonna have to do that“. Not “dreading” it, but knowing “Whoa, I’ve never done a solo gig before

Is the stuff where you go to your website…its playing a lot of electronic music, is that on the album?

No that’s just stuff that I do at home for fun. A lot of the stuff on the cover of the website that’s playing, that little record player, is just lots of circuit bent sort of loops.

Yeah

You’re familiar with all that kind of stuff, I take it?

Yeah, I was gonna ask you about that actually

Yeah, so I just had a baby actually, about 5 months ago. So I’ve been home a lot. You know, just been creating a nice nest at home.

I know a lot of my friends don’t really like the noisy toys that people seem to give them. They always seem to give them the toys that just go crazy-

Right, right.

So…do you like those?

I love ’em, yeah. I’ve been at home with them for a while, like I was just saying, I’ve had some time off to sort of turn on the Pro-tools or something and record all these toy loops and then overdub all these toy things over the toy loops. Then, kind of create little wierd loops or, almost, like this atmospheric sort of song. It’s sort of low-fi and 8-bit, you know. Yeah I love that stuff.

I was wondering if you were thinking about doing something just kind of focused on the circuit bending and then I went to the site and heard all of that music. Are you kind of going in that direction, ‘cuz the last time I saw you guys was in Brooklyn after those Brooklyn Phish shows?

Oh, okay.

We actually walked through that bar (where the Duo Played). That’s how we got into the show (Phish)

Oh cool

That was a nice little back entrance

So that’s the last time you saw us?

I saw you playing with Bobby Previte

At… what’s that club, The Tractor? Is that it?

Yeah. So I noticed that since the last time that I saw you play with the duo, that you have a lot of the circuit bent stuff coming out.

Right, right

I just started kind of getting into that myself about a year ago. I haven’t really done any of it, but I found a diagram for the Speak & Spells and I noticed you have one of those.

And the Speak & Read

And they’ve got the Speak & Math?

Yeah, yeah

But then I saw that you had something that kind of looked like a driving game or something like that, with a steering wheel.

live at tonic

Yeah! I have that here, actually.  I don’t do the circuit bending and I wish that I had a little lab and, if I had more space in my apartment, I would definitely set up the toy land. Not the toy-land that’s together, the toy-lab that’s all torn apart with me trying to figure out the circuit bends. I haven’t done that.

My buddy Tom Stevenson in Chicago makes all of them and he shows up at any show that I’m at with like a duffle bag full of stuff and he’s like “Here check this stuff out” and I’m like “Oh my god!”

He normally hands me some stuff and I go home with it. So, I don’t do it myself but, for now at least, what i see with the circuit bent toys within music is to use them sort of sparingly and within maybe a sort of crazy freak out sort of section. It’s always nice to add those in there or a transitional section, but for now, I kind of don’t see them as, like… a tool to make an album but, I’m gettin’ pretty close ‘ cuz I’m starting to use them in, like I said… those songs on the record player are all just the toys. So I think I’ll eventually mess around with really just doing that, but that will be more like me at home. Just a solo sort of project.

Well, its becoming sort of a theme…for me, because I just set up to do an interview with Daedelus. You know Daedelus on Ninja Tune?

Oh, yeah, yeah.

One of my friends is gonna do that down in San Francico and I contacted him and he (Daedelus) is way into that also. I had no idea, until I started looking into more of your stuff, that I saw you had all these. ‘cuz I’m only really familiar with like the Speak & Read type one. That seems like kind of a basic starter for anyone, I think. And then the other ones look kind of insane a bit.

You know actually it’s not- I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that every toy is pretty much the same as far as, in these ways…it’s just a guessing game, first of all. You open it up and just sort of guess. You just look at, maybe, a connection and, instead of connecting whatever black dot to the other part of the soundboard, you just unhook that and connect it to another part and put like a little knob in between. So it is sort of a guessing game. I mean, yeah there are some keyboards and some wierd toys that would be harder to do, but I think that if you just started taking apart any toy you’ll figure it out.

I think that maybe just the Speak & Read and things like that, people have been doing for a while so its easier to find specific ways to-

You’re right, “to do specific things”

It’s like, “Here’s what you wanna do if you want to throw a toggle switch on it and just, you know, loop it

Mm hmm. But the best is definitely some random exploration. Like go to some random thrift store and buy a $2 toy and just open it up *claps* and be like “Alright what am I gonna fuckin’ do?” Whatever, it’s $2 who cares what I do to it, you know.

Let’s go back to your album, really quick. Did you have 16 hours total material when you were done with it, before you edited it down

I guess so. What is that 2 hrs510? I had about 2 hrs a night. So 2 times 510. I had about 10 hrs of music to look through.

And you chopped that all down by yourself, or….?

Um…

…and picked it through?

I guess that I did, yeah. I did do all that. At home I sort of chopped it all up, you know, as far as how I imagined it to be. Um…and then i gave the master to this guy Tom Biller who engineered Play Pause Stop, the Duo record. Really great guy, really good friend, and I sent the master cds out to him and then I sent him my edits and I was like “Just make it sound like this with the transitions and what not” and he then did what I had sort of fabricated.

Did you anticipated it being like 3 hrs or any certain time period? Was it longer or shorter than you expected?

I knew that I had 3 discs to fill and I thought an hour for each disc would probably be cool.

Was there any real question as far as what you came out with? Like, what you were gonna keep and what you didn’t?

There were some songs that I listen back to now and I’m like “Wow, that was cool! Why didn’t I put that on the album?” So there are even some extra songs or extra improvs that were happening but didn’t make it. I don’t know why. Just ‘cuz. I guess I liked the other ones better.
Did you hear any of it? Have you heard it?

I’ve just heard little clips of things

I have one, I can give you one.

Yeah I was hoping that I could do that.

Yeah. Let me get it-oh, it’s righ here.
*reaches into his duffle bag and pulls it out*

I was gonna probably do it for, like…a give-away you know.

Totally. You should look at it too.
*hands me the album*

Well, I was gonna at least burn it, and then do it as a give-away.

Of course, that’s what you gotta do.

You guys were playing a lot of shows. What did you play, like 200 shows as The Duo, at least, in a year? Something around that? A lot.

Yeah, one year we played like 280 shows, or something like that. Yeah, we were touring a lot.

Now that you’ve got a kid though, that’s kind of got to…

That’s definitely changed some things. I’m getting married in September. You know, that’s just personal stuff that sort of, like anybody in this world, would want to just take some time off and not work for a while. To be nurturing a little baby, it’s definitely an intense shift. So I’ve been very thankful that we could actually take some off. We flew out to some festivals this summer. We played some really nice festivals. One in Ashville, North Carolina that was really nice.

What was that one called?

Regeneration. It was really nice. Nice location, and uh…what else did we do this summer?…All Good (festival), that was pretty cool. We’re starting to mess around with some new songs/new song ideas ‘cuz we’re going to go out in the Fall and do a tour.
But, yeah, I’ve pretty much been home doing all circuit bent stuff and working on that Tonic record, it was kind of fun. I didn’t really intend to get that deeply into it. I just…I called up Andy at Rope-A-Dope in October, this was like a month before the November residency. I called him up, just because he’s a friend and he also did the Duo record “Best Reason to Buy the Sun“, and I was just like “Dude, I’m doing a residency at Tonic, you should come on down. You know, I’m just playing with Mike Gordon-” and I’m like, “All these Rope-A-Dope cats actually, it’s kind of funny” and then he’s like “Well, why don’t we make a record out of it“. So I didn’t even think that it was gonna be recorded, so I said, “Oh sure, let’s do it.” and he was like, “Yeah, whatever. I’ll just do the shows and I’ll just give you the music and…it’s live

From the clips I saw, man, it looks like you guys are having a good time.

Yeah, I didn’t really expect to get that far into editing and figuring out the song order and all that stuff, and I actually got really into it when I was working on it. It was really sort of surprising.

Was there any talk of Tonic closing down back when you were recording this album.

No, but there’s been talk about Tonic closing before because the rent’s really high and it’s just been getting jacked up and jacked up and finally they were like, “Fuck it” you know.

That’s kind of happening. I was just writing some articles about that out here and I was talking to a friend of mine in Atlanta today and, they’re just doing that everywhere. You know, they’re building up the condos and just pushing things out.

Yeah, um…..yeah. *sighs*
It’s sort of unfortunate because in New York …like… I feel like, when people think of New York, they think of like, “Cool creative place, there’s lots of musicians there and it’s an amazing city“. You know, and now you go there and that sort of magic of “There’s sort of just people playing here and people playing there, and then there’s that. We can go to a club here and whatever“…. You know, it’s definitely… New York’s more focused on building their condos and driving the older clubs out, than people sort of nurturing their creativity and stuff… I don’t know.


I know what they’re doing out in the area where I live, I live out in the Fremont area of Seattle

Oh cool

And there used to be a lot of shows like, The Septet (Skeriks Syncopated Taint Septet) used to play out there, a lot of like Kevin Sawka shows…a lot of Jazz shows.

Mm hmm.

And um….it seems like it’s kind of going the way of Haight St. where they’d rather get the actual culture out of there, so that they could market the culture that they pushed out.

Right, *chuckles*

Are they just trying to completely change everything in New York or are they still trying to market it as, like this bohemian and what not, area. You know, to make money?

Right… That’s an interesting point actually, I never thought of it like that. It’s cool. Yeah, you know-

It’s like they want the money that they can make from that…

From that area and what it’s known as.

They want the art there but they don’t want the people that make it

Right. *laughs*
They don’t want to be involved in the process…the ugly part.

*we both laugh*

Yeah, ‘cuz I first heard about the Tonic closing when I saw pictures of Marc Ribot being arrested *we laugh again* and I was just like, “What the hell is going on?”

*we laugh again*

It’s pretty amazing, he just went down there and set up, sat on the stage and played his guitar and, you know…they just kept on telling him to stop and he just didn’t stop. So… pretty bold move. It’s sort of symbolic. It’s like, “Yeah, Tonic was a great venue man, what are you doing?

You obviously made an album from there, you were willing to play there for a month-

Yeah, it’s nice enough to be there, I mean, yeah it is…well it’s great

Is it kind of like a big shot to a lot of people that…not a “shock” but just like….hit everybody when it disappeared. You know, is it a place that you expected to be able to go back to?

Yeah, but it wasn’t that much of a shock because, like I said, they weren’t paying… their rent was going higher and higher and like, about a year ago or year and a half ago, we heard that Tonic was gonna close, so…it was sort of…we already got that threat that it may close. So, it wasn’t out of the blue that it just closed. So, I mean, it was lingering for a while that feeling of, “Oh, I don’t know about this club. What’s gonna happen to it?

Their website says that they’re trying to transfer some shows to the Abrons Art Center. Like, Thurston Moore and what not, is gonna do a show there.

Oh cool. What’s the theatre that they’re gonna do that at?

It said Abrons I think..

Abrons? *types again on his blackberry*

Like, A-B-R-O-N-S art center. I was looking at that today

Cool. I didn’t know about that, I gotta check that out.
I actually am doing a show in New York on October 19th and was trying to figure out a place to do it and all I could think of was this club that, I always wanted to play at first of all, and its a nice sort of showcase room. It’s a nice room in New York called Joe’s PubJoe’s Public Theater. Do you know about that club?

Seems like I’ve heard of it

It’s a nice club. Definitely like… if it rains, the water doesn’t leak through the ceiling like it did at Tonic *laughs* but it’s a nicer club and….uh..you know, it’s not as great as a raw space like Tonic, but I’m doing sort of a cd release show there…on October 19th at Joe’s Public Theater for that album. Even though it’s out now, I’m gonna have a little show out there.

Let’s see…so I was gonna ask you some questions about the whole “Duo” thing and am probably gonna cover things that people have already covered

*we laugh*

So, you guys were… like in a Jazz band or something in Jr. High? Is that right?

Joe and I went to Junior High School together and we played in the jazz band 7th and 8th grade. So this is like ’90/’91. And, uh…sort of didn’t see eachother through high school, he went to a different high school, and then we just met up in New York …um…2001. And then we started playing at this Moroccan place called Tagine. It was Joe and I and a Tenor Saxaphonist and a percussionist. We just made up music all night, it was fun. And then we got offered this gig at The Knitting Factory in 2002…for a hundred bucks, and Joe was like “Well, just bring your organ down, maybe we don’t have to do it with the tenor-

You don’t have to split the money

Yeah!

*we both laugh again*

We get fifty bucks each and…you know, “Grocery money for the week, sweet“. To get a $50 gig in New York everyday, was sort of…like, the way to go around and…like…hustle and bustle and make your money for the week. So 50 dollars a week…you know, Wednesday…try to do some random gig on Thursday, like that Friday. You know, just doing all sorts of shit.

Is that when people just started showing up and playing and playing with you guys.

People started showing up….yeah, exactly. People were showing up and playing with us, in the beginning, and then people started showing up and taping us like a couple months in, and then we decided to go on tour to play some festivals out west.
We go way back.

You and Joe where doing your stuff when he met up with Robert Walters and all that, or was that before that he was hooked up with Robert Walters?

Nope, afterwards. Joe and I played at the Knitting Factory for, like…a year, and then he hooked up with Robert…I think, after that year. In 2003…somewhere around there.

So by that point to you guys were kind of like, “This is actually a main project for us“?

Right, right. Yeah, you know… we had a manager and we were playing, and then we started playing at Tribeca and other clubs. Joe and I got paid like $1,000 one night, back in the day, and we got $500 each and we were like, “Oh my god, dude!*laughs*That’s pretty cool“. But, yeah, we started playing bigger venues and people started showing up and paying. And then Joe got offered that Robert gig and Joe was like “Sure I’ll go on tour with you, if the Duo can open up“. So, Joe and I would open up and then Joe would play with Robert.
We did a bunch of tours like that and then Robert…I think he just sort of changed his vibe. He did that band for, like…a year and Joe was in it and we did shows together and it was awesome. And then Robert did something else and Joe and I played a lot more and started, sort of, transitioning from doing a lot of jazz odysseys to doing more tunes and stuff, and evolving into… we’ve completely evolved into a Rock Band. It’s really interesting.

This trio that’s playing tonight, this is one of the trios that did one of the nights right?

Yes. The last night.

Have you guys performed as a trio before that at all?



Did we play before the Tonic shows?

Well, I know you have all played with each other, but did you guys play as a trio before that, or were you just trying to form groups that would work and work on time schedules?

I always had it in the back of my mind. I always wanted to do a trio with Matt and Reed. Ever since a moment in time when we had played at the Knitting Factory, but it wasn’t just a trio. It was Matt, Reed, Mike Dillon, and Brad Houser (Critters Buggin’) actually played bass.

Oh, really?

Yeah, it’s actually the music on the more page of my website. It’s got a track with those guys on it. I loved that. That was just a great night and I got the tape of it just recently and I was like “Oh man, this is great music“.

So who’s idea was it to do a Quasi song?

My idea. I heard Quasi…I got turned onto Quasi by just surfing through the web and I went to John Brion’s website, because I like his stuff, and I saw him at Largo, and I was searching around and I saw that he had a recording of Elliot Smith playing a Quasi tune and I was like, “Well I love John Brian, I love Elliot Smith and who’s Quasi?” And then in parenthesis it was like “(CHECK THIS BAND OUT)“. So I immediately went on iTunes and I checked ’em out, and I was like, “Oh man, this is great“.
And then I found out that they were a keyboard and drum duo; I didn’t even know that. You know, he’s (Sam Coomes) playing a really cool keyboard and the drummer (Janet Weiss) moved on to play with Sleater Kinney…but, anyway, I just loved that tune and I think on his website Elliot Smith was covering that song “Clouds” by Quasi. I just heard the tune and I was hypnotized. It’s a really different tune on that album
(“R&B Transmogrification“)

That’s kind of interesting, because you guys are almost… foremost looked as like, “Here’s this kind of jazz duo that plays this rock/indie type stuff” and they’re kind of looked at in reverse, almost. I think its because she’s in Sleater Kinney and Sam Coomes is known as this guy who…I think they were married, or they are married-

They were- What IS Sam Coomes known as? I don’t even really know.

Have you ever heard of a group called Pink Mountain?

No

It’s another project of his. It’s this crazy..uh..abstract organ stuff. He has actually, a jazz background

Really?! That’s so funny!

And it’s weird, because it’s one of those things, you know…like…I saw you guys because Jacob Fred was there and there’s this whole thing coming around again that’s kind of like…
The records that I buy…because I just buy vinyl records, for the most part, and so I’ll look at something and see, “Oh Bernard Purdie’s on this” or like, “Roy Ayers is on this” and everybody kind of played together and it seems like that’s the most exciting thing that’s kind of resurfacing, in a lot of ways. It’s that, everybody’s playing all of these different projects. Like, what’s Joe doing…American Babies?

American Babies. It’s like all country, sort of pop stuff. It’s great.

Yeah, so does this really give you guys a kind of freedom to just go out and experiment and come back with different material or different influences?

Yeah, exactly…all that. It does. It’s nice to have the intensity of a band like Joe and I had….we have still, but we had more of an intensity on the road and we were really around each other for a while, and it’s nice to dig into that sort of scene. Mentally and physically to go on tour for many days of the year for like, 3 0r 4 0r 5 years. And then it’s nice to have the space to explore music with other musicians.

Do you ever feel like if you are doing something by yourself or you’re doing something with the same people that you tend to, at some point, be a little more repetitious? That maybe these other influences kind of knock you around?

Of course. Yeah, totally. I actually went to Berklee College of Music. In there I learned…everybody just played with everybody. There weren’t many “bands” per se, everybody just played with everybody in that jazz tradition, like you were talking about earlier, and I sort of.. have come from that background of music of “everybody plays with everybody, everybody collaborates with everybody and writes songs with everybody“. So, now that I’ve had that intensity with Joe, it’s nice to just, sort of, branch out and be like, “Whoa! Hey dude, let’s write some music, let’s hang out“.

It seems like, now that you have something established, as opposed to earlier in your life, it’s easier to-

It’s easier to do it and travel and do a tour like this. The fact that we’re playing here…yeah…definitely. It’s all time and work put into doing what you love. I’m psyched that all this work that I’ve done in music, with performing it, with writing it, with being alone with it at home by myself, with…learning how to edit it…just learning music, it’s a life long process and it’s great ‘cuz it’s my job. It’s just…the more I do it with the more people , the better I can get at my job.

And the more open minded you are-

The more open, yeah.

Like with Quasi…I saw something where Joe said that he really liked Rufus Wainwright and that he would love to play with him. There’s all these influences out there. Is there anybody, now that you are in the position, instead of people asking you to play with them…strictly and you can kind of ask people to come in because you are a little bit more established…

Who would I want to ask in?

Yeah.

Reed and Matt! *we both laugh*
Seriously. They’re in. We were just in the studio yesterday recording and it was just awesome. I’m playing the piano, with Joe I’m playing the organ and the Wurlitzer and it’s a lot more electric. With this situation, I’m playing a piano. It’s a huge difference playing the piano.

Your set up’s a lot bigger.

Well, no. The piano’s just a 9 foot piano…you know, it’s a grand piano, it’s gigantic.

Well, in some of the pictures I’ve seen, you’re more surrounded, like the back of a Herbie Hancock album.

marcos-gear-full.jpg

Oh, but that’s the hammond thing…that’s with Joe when I have that. That’s what I mean. Now, I’m playing the piano, so it’s a whole other thing and it’s nice to be doing that.

And you’re also doing the T-Shirt thing too?

Yeah. Tubasunshine.

Yeah, I went to that page too and I saw that you had a Leonard Cohen and a Neil Diamond record and somebody laying on there.

Yeah, that’s my cousin laying on there. Those are all her records. Well I sort of was like, “Oh, Leonard Cohen, let’s put that one there.” ‘cuz I like his music. But, yeah…it’s cool. The T-Shirts were just kind of an after, side thought…I don’t know. Katie, my fiance, calls it my free business because I pretty much just give shirts away to people. I sell some online but..when ever I see somebody…

I used to have one of those silhouette shirts

Mm hmm. I used to stencil that onto people’s shirts.

Oh, really?

Yeah. My fiance Katie, like I just mentioned…I was staying with her, before we were even together, in California and I was like, “I wish we had T-shirts! We don’t have any T-shirts!” This is like, when Joe and I were travelling in the Subaru without T-shirts. We, in no way, could afford T-shirts. We weren’t really there yet, but close. So I was like, “I wish we could afford T-shirts. What do we do?” and she was like, “Just…what do you want on it?
I was like. “Just, just outline it
and she’s like “Well just get a stencil and cut it out and spray-paint the thing on it“. I was like, “Totally“. And then we went out and got a stencil and I stenciled it out and spray-painted it on there and I was like, “Oh my god, a shirt! I could just do that to anybody“.
Johnny Vidocavich , in New Orleans, we were hanging out at the Telluride Jazz Festival, and I was like, “Give me your shirt! “. He took off his shirt and I spray-painted the Duo stencil on his shirt. You know, I used to just do that do girls skirts and stuff.
*makes a spraying motion*

I was wearing one of those shirts at Deer Creek and this kid comes up to me, and he goes- this is when you guys, were started to take off and become a little bit more Nation Wide.

Mm hmm

He just looked sad and he came up to me. He was handing out these flyers for his band and he goes, “W-w-what is that? What’s with that shirt? What’s that shirt from?” and I told him and he goes, “Are they kinda big?” and I said, “Well yeah, they’re getting a little bit bigger. Like, I heard that they might start playing with Mike Gordon or something“. He had his flyer for his band and it was almost identical…

Oooohhh!

*we laugh*

Yeah, but he had guitarist I think and maybe a bass player and he was just like, “DAMMIT!

Well that silhouette idea is not…I mean, a lot of people have those. It’s not very original.

It almost looked identical though.

Yeah

I just had one more question that…I know you’ve also talked about this probably before, but….So you guys played a show together at a Madonna’s Birthday Bash, is that right?

Joe and I played at the Wetlands for a party on Madonna’s birthday. She had nothing to do with it, that would’ve been cool *laughs*
So it was just bands playing random Madonna tunes in the style that they wanted to perform in. Some bands got really creative with it and opened up a Madonna tune and really stretched over it and did some jazz improvizations over ’em. Joe and I just….I brought the Hammond down and he played drums and we just straight up covered ’em, but we didn’t sing ’em. So, it actually worked out to where the audience just sang every tune and they were psyched!
*I laugh* We played three tunes. We played Borderline, Open Your Heart, and Cherish, or something, and it was really fun. I mean, because we were just playing and so laughing.
This guy Jake Szufnarowski, he runs Rocks Off Boats Cruise. He used to work at the Wetlands and he’s just a great dude in New York who puts shows on and stuff. He loves Joe…you know, forever and would hook him up with whatever. So, anytime that there was a time to make money at the Wetlands or the Knitting factory, Jake would be like, “Hey Joe, you wanna put a band together and play Madonna songs? I’ll give you 250 bucks” and Joe’s like, “Yeah!“. So, he hired me and I was like, “Fuck, 250 bucks, yeah, I’ll do it“.

I read that someone tried to interview you for a documentary . Were they serious? Was it like a serious documentary about Madonna?

It was something…and I wish I knew how to find them because I would LOVE to see that video. ‘cuz it’s on video somewhere and they were from Austrailia or some…They weren’t from the states, they were from…somewhere.

But they were like gung-ho Madonna fans?

Yeah, they were definitely gung-ho Madonna fans and they were trying to do something with… I don’t know what they were trying to do to connect to the Madonna fans ‘cuz I don’t think that they would be like, “What, it’s the wetlands and we’ve got a drum duo playing Madonna!

 


The interview, more or less, stopped there. I figure that, if you’re going to start the interview off with Fergie, then you might is well end it off on Madonna.
I stayed for the show that night, it was great, and I listened to Marco’s new album, it’s definitely something that you should pick up. Along with the array of brilliant improvs, which fill the majority of the album, there is a random sprinkling of cover songs by artists that range from Thelonious Monk to Pink Floyd.

Remember to check back to win a copy of Live At Tonic autographed by Marco Benevento

Dead C

Located in Seattle, Dead C is the founder/editor, as well as the principal writer and photographer, of Monster Fresh. Creating the site in 2007, he did so with a specific dream in mind. Unfortunately, being a muscle relaxer-fueled fever dream, it’s hard to recall all of the details.

I remember that my mom was there, but it wasn’t actually her in the dream, it was actually 70s heart throb, Jan Michael Vincent. And everything took place here, in this room… but it wasn’t actually here… it was different. The colors were washed out and, for some reason, there was a raccoon kicking it with us and it was wearing a holographic monocle.

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