Wednesday, February 2, 2011

10 Questions With...Greg Burgess and Jack Hanlon of The Throttles

Greg Burgess on guitar and Jack Hanlon on double bass

This is the second interview in the new series, 10 Questions With...  Which as you all know from the first one, is much more than just ten questions.  These interviews go hand in hand with the reviews of the CDs I get.  It's a mixer of sorts, a get to know the performers type of thing.  

This particular interview was with both Greg Burgess and Jack Hanlon of The Throttles.  They took some time out of their busy days and read their email.  We'll (I'll) have to figure out how to interview two people using the same questions.  There were a couple of the same answers, but that's my mistake, it's bound to happen.

Derek Johnson : What made each of you start playing your respective instruments?  Who are your earliest and current influences?  Talk about your background in music.

Greg Burgess: I started playing guitar in high school.  It seemed like a fun thing to do when I was high on pot.  I thought the coolest thing about the guitar was that they “didn’t,” teach it in school.  

Jack Hanlon: Growing up, two of my friends were starting to play. One played drums, the other played guitar, so I ended up buying a bass. I wouldn't switch to double bass until I started playing in The Crowns. Influences, let's see, guys like Willie Dixon, Big Crawford, Wellman Braud. The old blues guys mainly. I've been playing music for over twenty years. I've had very little formal training.

My earliest influence was Angus Young.  I was in the sixth grade and I went to see my first concert: AC/DC at the Boston Garden.  None of my friends were allowed to go so my Old Man had to take me.  I was absolutely blown away.  It was AC/DC in their prime with Brian Johnson, anyways.  Also, the first time I saw footage of Jimi Hendrix, (it was some special or something and he was doing a version of ‘Voodoo Child) it had the same impact as that AC/DC concert.  I’m all about the Gypsy jazz players now, starting with Django Reinhardt, the inventor of the Gypsy Jazz guitar to the current Gypsy guitar players in Europe

When I got half proficient on the guitar I had the need to play with people, so I started going to blues jams in Boston, waiting around all night to get up at the end of the night to play the three songs that you were allowed.  It took a little while and then I started getting better. 
Here’s my only question about the “old” band.  It’s not if there will be a reunion.  I know everyone is off doing other things.  It’s been about 10 years or so since, The Amazing Royal Crowns ended.  Knowing what you know now, is there anything you guys wish happened or did differently?  I don’t mean more success or anything like that, but are you happy with how that part of your career turned out?  I can’t even figure out a good way to word it.

Nothing overly apparent. I wish we could have been on one label as opposed to having to bounce around like we did but that was not our fault. Both labels we were on went belly up. Let's just say, I'm at peace with how thing turned out.

Maybe because it’s been so long, but when I think back to the Crowns’ days, all I can remember is the total good times.  It was the best time of my life playing in that band!

Do you think the Providence scene has rebounded?  There was a couple of years where it didn’t seem like much was going on.  Currently, it looks like there are a lot of really good diverse bands and performers around.  

I think there are some great bands in town.  I love Joe Fletcher and the Wrong Reasons and not just because I played a little guitar in the band at one point.  I really think the band has grown into it’s own.  Joe’s a great songwriter and their new record “White Lighter” is one I listen to often.  I love Brown Bird, another group of great players and great songs.  I think they’re fantastic.  Also, one of my favorite bands is Alec K. Redfearn & the Eyesores.  Our drummer Matt plays in that band and it is some far out World Music stuff.  Their music is incredibly inspiring!

Right now there are lots of great bands around. The Wrong Reasons, Brown Bird, Girl Haggard. Lots of great rootsy stuff, you know?  

Talk about the new band, The Throttles.  I know both of you play or fill in, for a variety of bands in the New England area.  What made you want to do another band together?  What made you want to have it be a trio?  What does Matt McLaren bring to the lineup?

The Throttles is a mix of a lot of styles. Latin, Swing, Bluesy stuff, a little bit of Country at times. We cover a lot of ground but really try to make it a cohesive sound. We like a lot of different kinds of music and it comes out in the song writing. Greg and I had been talking about doing our own band for quite some time. It just took awhile to get it off the ground. Matt really holds the whole band together. He's so knowledgeable when it comes to drums and percussion. I don't think there are many drummers as versatile as he is. A lot of guys would have trouble fitting in with us because they would have to be just as comfortable playing Punk beats as they would with Bosa Nova rhythms.

Matt is just a phenomenal drummer, totally versatile in a number of styles, different time signatures, and all sorts of crazy stuff.  He can do anything and completely pushes me to want to play better all of the time.

How does the song writing process work for the band?  Is it more jamming with each other or do you come in with ideas worked out?  Who is the lyricist?

Greg writes almost everything. He usually has a lot of it worked out but we'll usually practice things a bit before we play it live and sometimes Matt and I will contribute in those situations. The more difficult song with more parts are done this way. Sometimes Greg just has a few parts that he shows us and we'll just start playing them live and let the jamming take the song where it wants to go. We write lyrics for our own songs although we're open to working on collaborating in the future.

We hardly rehearse at all so the songs are forced to take shape live.  Sometimes it’s magic, sometimes it’s not.

How do you describe The Throttles musically?  There are so many different types of music going on in the CD.

I guess it would be kind of a ‘World-Music-Meets-Americana’.  There’s just so much music out there to be into.  It’s hard just sticking to one thing.

I guess at the end of the day we're a Rock band with a lot of different influences. I think our sound is definitely rhythm oriented. As long as it has a good beat. Slow or fast. Doesn't matter..

You guys have a show coming up with Los Straitjackets in New Haven, CT on Feb.17th at Cafe Nine.  They are also a favorite band of mine and are really fun to watch live.  After all the years of touring, are there any bands that you haven’t played with yet, that you’d like to?  Who? 

I would LOVE to play with Heavy Trash.  God, I love that band and would kill to be on the same bill with them.  There are so many others, but that band sticks out.

Will The Throttles tour?  If so, would it be the New England circuit (if there is such a thing anymore) or more than that?  

I’d love to tour with the Throttles, I just don’t know.  It’s a day-by-day thing with us and we’re trying to play as much as we can right now.  We’re still in the process of developing our sound at every gig. 

We've talked about it. I know Matt would like to get us over to Europe. He thinks we'd do real well over there.

What does the future hold for The Throttles?  Another album, maybe some festival shows (Hootenanny), anything else?

Just trying to play as much as possible to support this record. I think we'll do more recording in the future as well.

Right now we’ve just been writing songs and playing out.  I would absolutely love and hope we do another record way sooner than later.  That’s the goal, anyway. 
Here is now the hardest question ever:  Who are your All-Time 5 Favorite bands for each of you?

The Clash
Bob Dylan
The Beatles
Jimi Hendrix Experience

Husker Du/Bob Mould
Yo La Tengo  
Howlin' Wolf
The Ramones 

Thank you to Greg and Jack for their time. 

Visit their site to find out where to see them live and listen to some songs.
Purchase their music here and here.

For any other bands/artists out there that are interested in being reviewed and interviewed, please contact me.  Thanks again.

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