to redefine the art of 21st century instrumental jazz-rock, the band
known as Essential Hazard features a number of fine musicians.
At the EH helm is guitarist Pericles Perry Bakalosassisted
here by Brian Koning (trumpet, flugelhorn), Patrick Christman
(electric bass) and Nadjim Kebir (drums, percussion). Also
guesting on electric piano is Keith Rutkiewicz. Perry Bakalos
is a fine guitarist and he mixes electric and acoustic guitars while
also adding in some special sonic effects to enhance the overall sound.
The Essential Hazard sound is structured but it also owes a lot to
the jam guitar jazz of masters such as John Scofield and Mike Stern.
Also conjured here is a kind of 21st century Miles Davis-inspired
free form jazz sound. Yet, as funk-blasted as they sometimes sound,
Essential Hazard excel in the more cinematic aspects of their sound.
Each member of the band possesses a wide range of sound skills that
implement the use of an abundance of special effects that sometimes
gives the music an other-worldly effect. The rhythm section is tight
and the CD often features a dazzling interplay between Perrys
fretboard work and Koningss sprite trumpet, which itself borders
on both Miles-size jazz and a more cinematic sound. Overall, Essential
Hazard arrives in style with an innovative album that is filled with
a wide jazz/rock crossover appeal. www.EssentialHazard.bandcamp.com
mwe3.com presents an interview
Perry Bakalos of ESSENTIAL HAZARD
Tell us where youre from, where you grew up and where you live
now. What do you like best about where you live?
Perry Bakalos: I grew up in Watertown Massachusetts, just outside
of Boston. Ive been living in this area my whole life. What
I like about this area is the diverse cultural mix, which applies
to the music scene also. My mother was born and raised in Greece,
so I grew up listening to Greek bouzouki music on the radio and live
at the church festivals, etc. Watertown borders Cambridge where you
had Harvard & Central Square, I used to ride my bike down in those
areas as a kid... there were a lot of used record stores. Not many
now I dont think
mwe3: What is the story behind the making of this first Essential
Hazard album? When was the music written and recorded and how did
the band come together both as a performing group as well as a recording
Perry Bakalos: I first was looking for a good bass player who
had the skills and aesthetic to play some of my ideas. Patrick Christman,
who I found through MySpace around 2010, sounded like the guy I was
looking for. He was doing this improvisational thing up in New Hampshire
with a couple of great musiciansguitarist Mikial Robertson &
drummer Dan Doremus. They called themselves The Podranauts.
They would record improvised jams with a strict 10 minute time limit.
I really like the sound of what they were doing. I contacted Pat and
we set up a session with Dan and a trumpet player Matt Dunkle who
Id been playing with. It sounded pretty cool.
We set up another session with Patrick, Matt, and this time the Algerian
drummer Nadjim Kebir who I met through a Craigslist ad for jazz/funk/improvisational
drummers. Matt got busy with his music studies at Berklee, so Patrick
suggested another trumpet player he had recently worked with named
Brian Koning. Brian joined us for a session in the studio, and it
all just clicked. There was a musical chemistry there between us.
We are all very different people in many respects. But musically our
different energies seemed to really mesh well.
Patrick has an uncommon creative energy on the bass and has a very
wide range interest musically in general. Brian has sort of a modern
jazz sensibility to his playing and writing. Nadjim has an excellent
feel on the drums, with a nice fusion of the funk/jazz/rock and his
North African roots music styles. He is versatile, one of my favorite
drummers. Nadjim and I played together in the North African World/Funk
group Atlas Soul as well. Im kind of coming from a general fusion
influence, like John McLaughlin's groups, Chick Coreas RTF
band, and maybe a little Mike Stern era Miles Davis influence. All
of us are influenced to varying extent by Miles music.
We liked how the sessions were sounding so we collectively decided
to begin an official group recording project in the winter
of 2011. Everyone brought some compositions to the sessions and we
played. Although all but one track on the record are compositions,
these sessions originally started off as pure improvisation. The very
first improvised jam track we did together is the last track on the
album, which we named "Recon". We thought this was fitting,
since it's where we came from and was the original spark for this
group. The album was completed and released in late 2012.
Theres a wealth of musical influences on the Essential Hazard
album. How do you blend your diverse musical influences into your
writing styles and in what ways is the Essential Hazard sound unique
in the world of 2014?
Perry Bakalos: Well, I think its kind of unique in that
we are not afraid to mix these diverse influences. We dont consciously
try to sound like a certain style throughout. Definite
styles like hip-hop, pop rock, blues, country-rock, retro-jazz, etc.
are what you hear on traditional radio stations which unfortunately
dont play Essential Hazards general class of music.
Everybody brings the stuff they love to the table and we blend. It
ends up sounding somewhat cohesive because of the production and the
fact that its all the same members playing on each track. I
dont recall a time with this group where we said thats
not going to work with respect to someones musical idea.
I think its just a chemistry thing. Not that we have not had
our share of arguments and disagreements, etc. but I dont think
they were ever about the music. Brian, Pat and Nadjim are highly intelligent
and creative individuals... we work things out.
mwe3: Is Essential Hazard based in the Boston area? There seems
to be some great new jazz-fusion bands coming out the Boston area
these days. Whats the music scene there like these days? I imagine
Berklee school of music alone must have a music scene of its own.
Perry Bakalos: Yes, we are based in the Boston area. Boston
is a rich town for music in the sense that you have a huge number
of musicians from all around the world coming to study here at places
like the New England Conservatory, Longy School of Music, Berklee
College, Boston University, etc. There are hundreds of good players
around here. And the bar is set pretty high in Boston when it comes
to playing jazz or really any style due to the very high number of
exceptional players in the area.
But, not as many venues for live music as there was many years ago.
I believe these things make it tougher than the national average when
it comes to earning a living for most musicians in Boston due to the
competition for gigs, teaching, etc. Nightclubs and bars have also
figured out for some time now that they dont really need to
pay very much because the supply of bands/musicians is so high and
demand is not. Its basic economics really, but you hear so many
musicians bitching about it all the time around here! I am fortunate
to not need relying on music as my primary source of income. Its
simply an artistic and creative outlet for me, a lifelong love. I'm
not sure if others do, but I dont feel pressure to do certain
types of music that may be more profitable if that word
can be used.
mwe3: Can you tell us about your gear as far as guitars, amps
and various pedals and things that you flavor your guitar sound with?
Theres a bunch of quite unique sounds on the Essential Hazard
Perry Bakalos: Mainly I play an American Deluxe Standard Stratocaster
electric, and used a Variax 700 for some non-Strat guitar sounds on
the record. The acoustic guitar used is a Taylor 114CE which I really
love, the neck feels great. For amplifiers I used combinations of
a Fender Super Champ 25SE with a modified drive channel, a Hughes
& Kettner 30W combo, an old Marshal Plexi 45W head and a custom
2x12 Celestion cab. For effects, I have a whole bunch that I
used, including the Boss DD-20 delay, Electro-Harmonix Ring Thing,
Digitech EX7 expression factory, Adrenalinn II pedal, Boss OC-2 octave
pedal, MXR D+, and probably some other stuff I cant remember
right now... we also used some of these effects on the trumpet which
I think came out sounding cool.
How would you compare your music writing style with the other members
of the band and how did you and trumpeter Brian Koning share the production
chores on the album?
Perry Bakalos: Id say my writing style can be a little
more aggressive. I like stuff that is very rhythmic. I like odd time
signatures like 5/8 and 7/8. The odd times are natural in a lot of
Greek folk music, so maybe thats where it comes from. Also I
can say that my arrangements are not typical AABA either. The other
guys, I cant really speak for their styles except to say that
I like them! Brian was interested in the mixing so we worked a lot
together on that. Brian also conceived of and designed the artwork
for the record.
mwe3: What are the bands live shows like and are you
planning to tour or spread the word of Essential Hazard far and wide?
Perry Bakalos: Im not so confident about doing shows
with this music right now. Wed love to do more concerts and
shows, but find it quite difficult for a few reasons. This style of
music is not in demand it seems, at least around this
area for the moment. Anything thats kind of eclectic and different
compared to the usual popular music is by definition not popular with
the people in the middle of the Gaussian distribution. The kind of
gigs one can do around here with this music are typically one
shots. Unfortunately most live music venues in Boston are currently
being booked, monopolized actually, by one or two booking agencies,
whose goal is to make as much money as they can. They dont care
about the music. How they do this is they put all of the burden on
the bands to advertise and bring in as many people as they can. They
also try to pack the clubs with 4 or 5 bands in one night. If you
dont bring in more than 25 people, you get nothing of the door
sales. Anything more than 25 people you get 80 percent of the door
sale. So if 21 people come and pay to see your band, you get nothing.
Even in a small bar in Somerville for instance, you need to bring
in excess of 20 people to get a dime. Its crazy.
These agencies are basically pimps, taking advantage of and abusing
the artists/bands who agree to be abused. Nothing you can do about
it except work around it any way you can. It takes a lot of energy
to self promote and hustle to try and get even some mediocre local
shows through these agencies. We all have families now as well, and
that certainly decreases the free energy we have for nonmusical activities
in this respect. Im learning more. Right now I like to focus
on working on my playing skills and continuing to write and record
the kind of music I like, and play gigs with local groups that do
the usual styles: R&B/soul, blues/rock covers, and jazz standards.
One exception to that is a North African/World music band called Atlas
Soul who I play with. The leader Jacques Pardo is very good in terms
of music business sense. We do gigs at higher profile venues such
as The Regattabar, Paradise Lounge, Brighton Music Hall, Colleges
and summer festivals such as Bastille Day in Boston, etc. which are
not booked by the agencies I mentioned previously. Incidentally, I
wrote a tune for Atlas Soul which won the 2013 Independent Music Awards
Vox Populi vote for best funk/fusion/jam tune, called This Wont
Take Long (with lyrics/vocals by the poet Regie Gibson) as part
of Atlas Souls Gypsy Wind EP, which also won in the best World
Music EP category. It wasrecorded and mixed in my studio, produced
along with Jacques Pardo. Its nice to hit on an award
every once in a while for your work, although thats not what
drives me in music.
mwe3: Being that your music is kind of cinematic, what are
your favorite movies and soundtracks and have you thought of doing
Perry Bakalos: Yes, I think we all bring some of that kind
of sound to this group. As far as my favorite soundtracks, there are
several that stick in my head from my formative years. I always loved
Bernard Hermanns soundtracks. He did a lot of Alfred Hitchcock
movies, The Twilight Zone, and Taxi Driver which was
a very haunting soundtrack for me. Lalo Schifrin was a great one,
his work in Clint Eastwoods Dirty Harry movies which
were quite haunting. The themes from Mission Impossible and
Cool Hand Luke were a couple of my favorites from him as well.
I also loved the soundtrack to The Deer Hunter by Stanley Myers,
his classical guitar piece Cavatina. I like the modern
classical approach in movie soundtracks. It would be cool to do some
of that kind of work, sure.
What are you planning next as far as writing, recording and performing
new music in 2014 and beyond?
Perry Bakalos: Currently Im continuing to perform in
the area with a few different groups whenever the opportunities arise,
and Im working on a fusion trio record. Im very excited
about the new record, as the material is very rhythmic with funk/latin/rock/jazz/ethnic
mix and Ive got my fix of odd time signatures in there as well.
It takes a lot of work to do a record, as I have found through my
past experiences. But if you have the ideas and desires, I think you
have to do it. As far as we know, we only live once! You know that
to Perry Bakalos @ Essential
Perry via: email@example.com