DINNER WITH ULU

Before ulu hit the stage at The Living Room in Providence, RI on Wednesday, August 15th, we stopped for a bite to eat at a local restaurant where I had the chance to catch up with them and ask them a few questions. Present at the interview was all of ulu: Scott Chasolen/keyboards, Justin Wallace/bass, Aaron Gardner/sax, and David Hoffman/drums. Also present was ulu's road manager Todd Kaback, and myself, Thad Ayazides. This show was part of Wednesday Night jambands at The Living Room hosted by Grizzly Magic Entertainment.

Justin: Could you pass my seltzer please?

Thad: ulu is starting to become regulars at major festivals such as Berkfest, and they were also invited to Gathering of the Vibes for the first time this summer, and will be playing the moe.down soon. How has playing these festivals influenced you guys as a band, or the band's music?

Justin: Our road manager gets to go to the festivals for free.

Dave: I think that the exposure from fans of other bands has been great, it totally exposes us fully. [laughter] Being on the same bill as great musicians is always great. The backstage camaraderie, meeting all the people, getting all the connections. When we go out on tour, people always say they first saw us at Berkfest, they first saw us at Gathering of the Vibes, that's just the best thing for us right now.

Justin: One of my favorite things is when we are playing, and there is maybe a thousand people, or eight hundred people, how familiar so many faces are. I look over there and there is the Madison posse, there's the Champagne posse, and there's the Tallahassee posse. And you look at them and you kind of give them a nod, and it makes you feel good because you know they came there to see you. It makes them feel good because they are like wow, they actually remember us.

Scott: ulu, this is your life.

Justin: Yeah, that's what the All Good Festival was like.

Scott: It's really cool to play outdoors in the wide open, it changes the way we play for sure. It changes the way things sound, it changes the way things feel. So its definitely different than playing in a prison of a club.

Thad: How has your sound developed from when the band first started out, to where it is today?

Justin: I have a distortion pedal now.

Dave: First of all we had Luca when we first started, and so we had a guitarist when we first started. So when we stripped down, we learned how to use space more, and I think we have grown more comfortable with each other's playing, and our communication has become much stronger, as a result of playing many hundred's of gigs together. I think our influences are constantly changing.

Justin: I think we have certainly all grown as musicians and the level of communication is that much higher now because we all have better facility on our instruments then when we started, or at least I know that's true for me. Um, I was much younger then.

Scott: Now he is old and wise.

Thad: Anything else?

Scott: I think we have developed a musical trust in one another that couldn't possibly be there at the beginning stages of playing together, so that's really been building throughout the past four years.

At this point Uncle Sammy guitarist Max Delaney walks into the restaurant.

Justin: [loud] When we play with sucky bands like Uncle Sammy it screws everything up!! (Justin meant that as a joke, for those who can't tell the difference.)

The waitress at the restaurant comes by bearing an armful of salads.

Waitress: No dressing?

Scott: No dressing.

Thad: If you had to choose between opening up for Ozzy Osbourne or Barbara Streisand, who would it be and why?

ulu in unison: Ozzy!!!!

Justin: Barbara Streisand can lick my nuts, Ozzy would chew my nuts.

[laughter]

Scott: No further comment.

Thad: This question is for each of the band members. Name your biggest musical influences and how they have shaped the way that you play.

Justin: Max Delaney.

The waitress enters again with more salads.

Waitress: Bleu Cheese?

Dave: [quick] Bleu Cheese right here. Bleu Cheese right here.

The waitress was about to hand me a salad.

Thad: I didn't order a salad.

Waitress: You didn't have a salad?

Thad: No.

Scott: Herbie Hancock really exposed me to the sounds of analog keyboards. That's the main thing, but his playing is really well, so he was a huge influence on my keyboard playing. On a songwriting, and compositional level, I was really influenced by Steely Dan, which would be Walter Becker and Donald Fagan who are [in a British accent] the brains behind the madness. Then on more of a group improvisational level, it would be the Miles Davis electric bands of the late 60's.

Aaron: Tim Burns.

Justin: I'm gonna say that right now at this moment in time, I think I'm the most heavily influenced by Radiohead. Which doesn't necessarily fit the style of music that we play, but I can draw influence from their songwriting, from their energy, from their whole sonic conceptions. Its also great to take something thats kind of completely different from what you do on a regular basis and bring it to that, it kind of keeps it fresh. So although a lot of the time we are playing crazy funk, in my mind, I'm trying to make it a little more rock and roll...

...and I have a distortion pedal.

Dave: I'd say right now, who I have been listening to the most has been Ahmir "?uest Love" Thompson, and Leon Parker. Questlove teaches pocket. Parker teaches musicality.

Thad: Your last tour went down South, and also out to the Midwest. How was the experience of playing some new places than the ones you are used to?

Justin: I think it always does really good things to the morale of the band when we show up to a new town. Before each gig we always kind of go around, we guess how many people are going to show up, and when the number gets blown out of the water, and there are all these people, and were like, "How the hell do they know about us? This thing must be runnin out of control!" It kind of makes you feel good.

Scott: It's also great to be able to chart the growth, you see the same people, but different people.

Justin: You see how many friends they brought.

Scott: I always remember what we played as soon as we walk through the door. The whole show flashes back right through my head.

Aaron pokes Scott.

Scott: What do you want?!?!

Aaron: You took my fork.

Thad: Is there any place you would like to visit again or for the first time?

Justin: [loud and with a mouthful of food] The west coast!

Scott and Dave: Europe.

Dave: Brazil.

Scott: Madagascar.

Justin: Realistically, we all want to go to the west coast, we talk about it all the time.

Thad: If you had to choose between covering "Ice Ice Baby" or "Like a Virgin," which one would you choose and why?

ulu in unison: Like a Virgin!!

Dave: Even though we probably have covered "Ice Ice Baby."

Justin: I've actually, in Rochester, during "The Grape."

Scott: That's not "Ice Ice Baby," that was actually "Under Pressure".

Justin: Yeah, but I played it like it was "Ice Ice Baby." And once upon a time in Syracuse, we covered "Holiday."

Dave: We should cover "Like a Virgin" because Madonna will lick my nuts, but Vanilla Ice would chew my nuts.

[laughter]

Scott: We are all virgins.

Justin: Yes, I've actually never had sex so "Like a Virgin" is a wonderful proposition.

Scott: He is also a boy toy.

Justin: I wear a chastity belt.

Thad: Tell me about new songs or projects that are happening in the near future.

Dave: We have an album coming out, which we just heard the final mixes of today as a matter of fact. We are definitely proud of it. It is going to be released sometime soon on Catapult Records. It is going to contain a lot of songs that people are going to recognize because we have been playing them live for quite sometime. All of the songs were recorded live at a show we did at Lilli's in Boston. We are really excited about it.

Scott: One of the songs on the record, is actually on our last record. I think it is really interesting to see how that song has evolved. Another one of the tunes was recorded on our first album, and that's completely different. So I think its cool to...

Thad: ...show the public how the sound has developed.

Scott: Yeah.

Justin: And we also haven't had a representative piece of music in a really long time. Luca left the band at the turn of the century, and we haven't had a record since, and that was well over a year and a half ago. So we're happy.

Thad: Are there any other goals you would like to accomplish as a band in the near future?

Justin: Did you ever see "Soul Kiss" the Jane's Addiction movie? There's this one scene where the band is all making out. I want to do that in this band.

Dave: I would like to see our music featured on a film.

Scott: I'd like to write arrangements of ulu songs for a full orchestra.

Justin: I think we still need to grow a lot, both musically, and we need to develop different markets all over the country. Although, we have been doing this for four years, we are still very young and we have a long way to go. And its nice to know that we are all dedicated to attaining that goal.

Thad: Where does ulu get the most attention, and where would you like to get more exposure?

Scott: We get the most attention in Millidgeville, Georgia. And we would like to get more exposure in New Orleans.

Road Manager Todd Kaback chimes in.

Todd: I actually have something to say.

Thad: The road manager would like to add to this interview.

Todd: I think that ulu has been doing a great job at keeping their heads in the right place, and the music is just aiding what's been happening. It's bringing the people together, and judging by all of the festivals, and everything else, there is movement happening, and it's very beautiful.

That is the end of the interview. ulu went on to play a highly inspired set at The Living Room. If you would like to give feedback to this interview and let me know any comments you have feel more then welcome to contact me. Also check out Grizzly Magic Entertainment's site which hosts Wednesday nights at The Living Room in Providence, RI. This interview will also be posted there.

Thad Ayazides
JamBase | Providence
Go See Live Music!
Grizzly Magic Entertainment

[Published on: 8/28/01]

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