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A Dirty Dozen with INK TO SPILL – January 2020

| 30 January 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Quick to follow their bluesy rock hit “Raging Hormones,” Virtual Alternative Rock band Ink To Spill is ready to release their next hit “Keys Awaiting” on December 12th. The track gives listeners the story that started it all, chronicling the journey of band members Ryan and C’Quil to Gus’s Music Box on Vashon Island where they had their first ever demo session. “Keys Awaiting” reflects the synergy of instant friendship and brotherly love that now gets channeled into unforgettable conceptualized tracks. During the songs creation, Ryan came armed with the opening lyric line, sharing it with the band on day one. C’Quil woke up in the middle of the night that night just after three a.m. and finished it off within the hour.”  We get the band to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release. What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Gus: I like the key change and the tempo change.  It’s fun incorporating elements like that, especially when they come about naturally and don’t feel forced.

Ernie: The song “Keys Awaiting” tells the story of a keyboard longing to be played by it’s owner.  I think many artists can relate to this notion that there is a symbiotic relationship between a being and it’s means of expression and freedom.  I believe that over time, instruments are shaped by touch, feel and expression and thus, respond differently to different artists.  “Keys Awaiting” represents this idea from the instrument’s perspective.  After a few listens, I think the audience will begin to notice the relationship between Gus and Ryan as vocalists.  I’m knocked out by how their highly distinct singing abilities compliment each other so well.  I love hearing these catz sing together.  A lot of listeners may not know that “Keys Awaiting” was written on an island during the group’s first demo session.  Lyrics were inspired and written at 3am that next morning.  This song also reflects the instant friendship and brotherly love that this project created.  I’m honored to join these three creative forces on this project.

Bob: Ryan got the opening lines and I wrote the rest halfway through the night while on Vashon.  So, the next day I’m relaying my phone notes to Gus and he’s got a ripped up scrap of paper and he’s writing the lines down circularly, because the piece of paper is so small.  Wish we’d filmed that moment and wish I had that piece of paper to frame.  I’ll never forget that moment!

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

Gus: My mom sang and played guitar and that sort of normalized the idea for me but I think the moment I realized I wanted to be a musician was when I was eleven and my folks were watching the Woodstock documentary… my brother and I were running around the house being little hooligans and I remember running into the living room and being shocked into stillness and awe by Richie Havens’ performance.  He has such a unique voice and guitar style.  I still love his work and got the chance to see him at the Tibetan Freedom Concert in SF and later got to meet him at a book signing.

Ernie: I don’t believe that there was an exact moment when I realized that I wanted to be a musician.  From the beginning when I played pots and pans as my drum set, to my father buying a small Ludwig drum set for me when I was three years old, to taking drum lessons and playing in concert bands in grade school to playing in jazz band in high school, I just went along with the idea that music is a big part of my life.  Having my first professional gig at 15 with the older catz at a Blues and Jazz club in Milwaukee made me realize that I was already a musician.  I’ve had no regrets and have never looked back.

Bob: Like too many things in life for a guy who grew up with older friends, it was on a dare.  I went to my first song writing session and Ernie was there – I was hooked immediately.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Ernie: Seeing Buddy Rich and his band on TV when I was in my single digits stopped me in my tracks.  In terms of a specific song, album or performer that guided my musical tastes, drummer Tony Williams’ recordings and live performances have had a lifelong influence on my musical tastes.  I believe that hearing and seeing the many musicians who have expressed their true selves from their soul with an unapologetic soulfulness has guided me as a musician.

Gus: Dejavu by CSNY is an album that has had a profound effect on me since I was very young.

Bob:  I was 13 riding in the back of ‘The Boat’ (station wagon) stuck in traffic on the way to Long Island.  Ray Manzarek was re-telling the story of how The Doors came to be.  I never listened to music or overlooked lyrics the same way again.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Gus: Hard to narrow it down to five but here goes: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, CSNY, Richie Havens.

Ernie: Anyone who is soulful, funky, creative, unafraid and swings musically influences me.  In terms of what each artist stood for as an artist, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley had all of the above qualities and blazed their own trails by creating from the soul/soil up.

Bob: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Harvey Danger (Yeah, it’s only one song, but I love it!), Old Johnny Lang (Wander This World), Hot House Flowers.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Ernie: This would most likely be Herbie Hancock.  He’s done it all.  He was a child prodigy having performed Mozart with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra at age 11.  He redefined the role of a jazz rhythm section with Miles Davis and was at the forefront of electric keyboards and electric music in the late ‘60s.  He recorded the first jazz hip-hop song and won the 2008 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.  And he is still a major influence on jazz, funk, hiphop,  jazz fusion, pop and electro styles.

Gus: Jacob Collier maybe?  He can play anything and it would be such a learning experience to work on anything with him.

Bob: Billy Mercury.  He’s a relatively local Eastern Virginia lead vocalist who I had to the opportunity to see in ’18 at the opening of the East Coast Music Conference in Norfolk.  He covers challenging subjects and works the stage like no one I’ve ever seen.  I caught him coming out of the elevator the next day and said, ‘You’re the most infectious entertainer I’ve ever seen live!’.  He was gracious and gave me a big embrace.  I have songs written with him in mind to partner with us, should he ever have the time and interest.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Gus: We consider ourselves an alt rock band but our influence are extremely broad and varied.  I’ve not yet heard a cringe-worthy comparison.

Ernie: Avoiding labels, I like to describe Ink To Spill’s music as a reflection of each of our varied life experiences.  It’s real poparockafunkajazzy.  With Ink To Spill, I have yet to hear any negative responses to our music.  I don’t cringe or disagree with anyone about my music.  First, that’s their opinion.  Secondly, if they have a point, I appreciate the wake up call and attack my shortcomings.

Bob: I like Ernie’s word mash up – mine is ‘Eclecticity’.  INXS really defined this approach in the 80’s and it was a big influence on me that not everything needed to sound like remnants of the British Invasion and you didn’t necessarily need a signature sound.  I love that Gus really lets the lyrics drive the song feel and its extremely liberating knowing, as a writer, how many degrees of freedom you have going into it. Ernie’s been getting into the act too with some of the lead writing for a few of our newer tunes.

7. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Gus: Bob has made us some amazing food.  I’d definitely be the first to break out the guitar for a singalong.  Lol

Ernie: Gus definitely has that innate ability to break out the guitar and sing the perfect song at the right moment.  When it comes to cooking our crack and drinking it, we haven’t gotten there yet. 😂

Bob: All I really qualify for is food prep…and the drinks….more importantly, we all have a ready repertoire of jokes ready and we’re all pretty good with the one-liner comebacks.

8. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

Ernie: In 2002, I was in a Miami studio preparing to record a composition with Al DiMeola, Anthony Jackson and Gonzalo Rubalcaba on Lenny White’s drums with legendary, eight time Grammy-winning recording engineer Roger Nichols.  It didn’t get much bigger than that.  A moment that inspires me today and one that I’ll never forget.

Gus: I had the chance to go to Lollapalooza a couple years ago and saw Bruno Mars.  I knew I liked his music a lot and was excited to see him perform but when he came out and started playing 24k Magic I totally lost it and immediately turned into a teenage girl at a Beatles concert.

Bob: I’m from the Robert Pirsig school when it comes to celebrity…That said, I was nervous as hell when Ernie convinced me to sing the chorus vocals to a song I had written called “Terminate Me’’ while he was holding my just re-written chorus.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Gus: Music is magical.  Playing with sounds is a very dreamy occupation.  If I could no longer be a musician I would write poetry and novels.

Ernie: Music is meditation and affords me the opportunity to be in the moment while being within myself.  I’ve met the most incredible human beings from all over the world.  I feel that I’ve touched some people with my music.  If I wasn’t a musician, I’d be a mentor.

Bob: I’ll let the musicians handle this one…;>

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Gus: What were you wearing the first time you took the stage at a rock venue?  My friend’s sheer panties. I’m not yet tired of any questions… Still grateful anyone’s asking us anything.  Lol

Ernie: “Now that you’ve reached the pinnacle of success as a musical artist, what are your plans for the near future?”  I plan on going back to the life I lived at the start of 2020. 😉 The question I am tired about answering is the one about when did I start playing the drums, because what one does to progress when one starts a journey is more important than when one started it.

Bob: Like Gus, I haven’t yet tired of the interest. I’ll do a shameless plug for this week’s release Robes on Fire which launched on the 28th of January.  It’s a pivot for us to cover a subject this provocative and the guys did an amazing job with the samples, the feel and the vocals to present a very different side of ITS while shining a light on the injustice of institutions, while respecting their members.  It’s a fine line to walk and I hope we pulled it off just right.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Gus: There was an instance long before Ink To Spill where I didn’t put my foot down about the producer I wanted to work with.  I’ve always wondered what that record would have sounded like if I had done so.  But it worked out for the best in the long run.  The producer I did end up working with introduced me to some of the best musicians I’ve ever worked with (I still work with them in fact) and one of my best friends.  So, yeah.  Life is funny that way.

Ernie: Everything that I’ve done in the past has led me to where I am today.  I’m very cool with my current situation.  Occasions that I thought were missteps turned out to be a change for good.  So, I don’t believe that I’ve had any major missteps.  At times, I’ve wondered what would have happened if I had moved to NYC right after college.  I don’t know if my current situation would be better or worse.  I do know for certain that it would be very different.  But again, I don’t have the time, energy or desire to wonder, “What if…?”

Bob: I’m only grateful every day that I accepted ‘the dare’…and then of course the phone call that started ‘Ink To Spill’.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

Gus: Gosh, great question.  I guess it would either be The Band’s self titled record or Songs In The Key Of Life.  The former because of the scene and atmosphere and camaraderie, the latter because of the profound creative output mixed with outrageous musicianship.  Both records are touchstones for me.

Ernie: Hmm…  Interesting question.  I’m approaching this question as if you’re talking about attending the session as opposed to having been on the recording itself.  As an artist, when it comes to recording music, my mind starts to think about what I would bring musically to the session, how would I approach what the other artists were musically bringing to the session and what personas would I be dealing with during the actual recording.  These are all very important issues that come up during high powered recording sessions.  So that question is too heavy.  I’ll stick with what recording would I have liked to have been at in attendance.  It would have been unbelievably incredible to have been at any of James Brown’s funkiest recording dates from 1967 to the mid 70’s during his development of funk music. However, if I could be at any recording session it would have been between these two.  Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies recording brought together a perfect unbridled and unapologetic blending of rock, R&B, funk, blues and jazz.  No matter where and/or how far out the music went, it still had that funky, bluesy, even jazzy sense to it that kept one grooving.  It still has it’s influence in today’s music and it still touches me to the core whenever I listen to this recording.  My head would have exploded if I was at that concert on January 1, 1970 in NYC. Lol Second, John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is awe inspiring as a work of deep spirituality.  The music covers so many beautiful genres from modern jazz to avant-garde to blues to contemporary classical.  It’s hymn-like quality permeates funk and even rock music.  I included rock music in it’s best sense of the word because the musicians on this recording play with a soulful aggression that can’t be denied.  But, with all of this hard hitting interaction and soloing, there is never a sense of self-aggrandizing.  There’s almost a sense of mysticism in the band’s search to connect with A Love Supreme.  I would have just sat in quiet awe, humbled by each musician’s selfless sacrifice to capture what it must be like to musically speak on a higher plane.

Bob:  Pink Floyd’s’ The Wall.  I didn’t catch onto it so much when it launched, but it inspires me to this day to attack subject matter that might be uncomfortable outside of music.  Robes On Fire is very much inspired by “We Don’t Need No Education.”




Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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