JAMBASE: So let’s talk about selecting Brandon and Clay, and I’ll start with
Brandon. But to take a step back,
did you hold auditions? Was this a long process to select new rhythm section players?
[Photo By: Robert Chapman]
SM: No, it was a very organic process. Eric used to play in the Kansas City area
with Brandon. I’ve known
him for many years – Eric would tell me about him, and say, 'man, I know this amazing
drummer, you guys should
play with him at some point.' He thought if we hooked up we’d make some amazing music and
also get along
incredibly well, and he was right: I felt a connection to Brandon the first time I played
In live music like ours you’re really searching for uncharted territory – things where you
get to a point, and it’s new,
and the audience knows it’s cool, and it’s uncertain and mysterious and you’re looking for
buried treasure and you
hit gold. It’s one of the greatest feelings for a musician in the world, and the audience
knows that because it’s
something that’s genuine and happens in real time and that’s not preconceived.
The first time I played with Brandon, we got to that place during a show maybe three or
four times – the music was
there, the lights were right, the crowd knew it. We looked at each other and we knew we’d
gotten there. I can’t
remember when it was, I think he was sitting in with Headtronics. He’s incredible – he’s
well-studied in world music,
but he’s also a killer rock and electronic player, as well as a multi-instrumentalist.
So when we got into a situation where Darren couldn’t make all the shows and needed a sub,
Brandon was the
obvous choice. He stepped in and was a natural, right off the bat. He was a great fit so
when it did come time to pick
a new drummer, he was the first person I called. And now here we are, rehearsing together
for 14 hours a day.
JAMBASE: What about Clay?
SM: Clay and I have been crossing paths for like 13, 14 years now. I always loved
Brothers Past, so he’s
someone I knew about, and we’d come into contact at festivals. I moved from L.A. to New
York a few years ago, and
Clay lives in Philly, so we’d bump into each other even more often, and at very odd times
Around the time I was thinking about recording some new Particle tracks and thinking about
how to get back on the
road, I felt like I was bumping into Clay around every corner, you know? I feel like the
universe was sending me a
message. Every time I’d be thinking, I have to locate a bass player, Clay would show up
somewhere like at a jam
session or a festival I was also at, or something.
I love his playing – his tone and his style. I was also happy he became available. He’d
been doing work with Brothers
Past and especially BioDiesel but BioDiesel is on hiatus for 2014, so the timing for 2014
was going to work. And Clay
also did some recording with Ben and Brandon and me and the bass lines he laid down were
exactly what was needed
– the perfect parts. So when it came time to make a decision, I reached out to him, asked
if he was interested, and
here we are.
JAMBASE: And Ben was all-aboard too? I remember back in his earlier days with
Particle he had other
priorities that kept him from focusing on the band full-time, but he was ready to do a
SM: Ben is all cylinders firing and ready to roll. He’s jumped right into the deep
end, and he’s also taking
the opportunity to rework his own sound and tone a bit. He has a bunch of new effects and
amps and he’s
incorporating some MIDI technology into his rig, and some more modern stuff. He has a lot
of colors in his palette
now. I watch him and he’s so excited. Whenever you have a new piece of gear you haven’t
toured with, it’s like having
a new Ferrari in the garage and you’re just waiting to take it out.
JAMBASE: I have to ask the obligatory Charlie Hitchcock question. You guys played
shows with Charlie in 2010. Has he stayed connected to you and to Particle?
SM: Everyone we’ve ever played with is part of the Particle universe, and on a
technical level, Charlie was
one of the best I ever played with. We’ve actually been e-mailing a bunch over recent
months, and when we do see
each other, we always have a good time and get our laughs in.
He’s been living in China for a number of years now, and he is playing music over there
and is in a good place in the
scene over there. But people do ask me – still ask me – man, what’s up with Charlie? And I
get a kick out of that
because Charlie has his own life and a great groove.