It is 6:00 p.m. and I am standing in the middle of downtown Manchester with three quarters of Particle. None of us have ever been to Manchester, and with two hours to go before the trio (minus guitarist Charlie Hitchcock) debut in the town, we decide to venture away from the venue towards a recommended Italian restaurant just down the street. Upon passing an extremely interesting and forward thinking music store, drummer Darren Pujalet and I begin breaking down the musical versatility of a four-thousand pound electronic drum set in the outside window.
"Do you think a kit like that could adequately replace an organic trap set?" I ask. "Well, while there is nothing organic about it, you can do almost anything with that kit," explains Pujalet. "It would definitely be a fun toy to play with," he concludes.
Darren Pujalet by Robert Massie
After walking past the expensive music store on downtown Piccadilly Street and finding the restaurant, I began to realize how that drum set is the perfect antithesis for Particle's sound. While the drum set is programmed, predictable and seemingly out of reach to most, Particle is surprising, spontaneous and as their recent popularity denotes, easily accessible. While both the kit and Particle produce similar sounds, the means to the end could not be any more contradictory. This contradiction is what has carried the band from the bars in and around Los Angeles to headlining in front of thousands of people at Bonnaroo, Austin City Limits and now a European tour while developing a die-hard contingent of fans both at home and abroad.
As we settled down to dinner, Pujalet, along with bassist Eric Gould and keyboardist Steve Molitz and I began to chat about home, the UK, an impending DVD and the underlying structures within the band's sound.
Pujalet: It felt so good to play last night (at the Borderline in London). It was anything but predictable. It was a long 48 hours in London before we got to play and it was just wonderful to get behind our instruments again.
Gould: Yeah, the audience really picked up on the music last night. The people that were there were really into it. When you go and play a small intimate venue, people are usually extremely excited to see you in that size of a venue, and that was definitely the feeling last night.
Eric Gould by Earl Gardner
Pujalet: Most people (on the UK tour) have never seen us. We have never personally been to any of these areas before, especially to play music. All of us have been to Europe but to come here and do what we do for a living is a real treat.
JamBase: When did the European tour become a reality?
Molitz: It had been getting knocked around for six months and there were many different ways to approach the dates. This trip, in its core, is about educating the band to the scene out here and vice-versa. We are out here to get to know the scene, introduce ourselves and say, "hey, we are Particle, check it out." We are coming back in March for two and a half weeks (for Amsterjam) and that will be a much more in depth experience.
JamBase: So you are planning on documenting all this for an upcoming DVD release?
Gould: Well, it is up in the air right now. We have a good friend I went to film school with and he has been a friend before Particle (CNN film maker Lawrence Shapiro). He has been expressing that he wants to film our first European experience. If it turns into a DVD, then cool. Maybe it will be something else. We felt it would be good to visually capture the first experience in Europe because we want to keep coming back here again and again, and it will be a hell of a lot of fun to put on film.
Pujalet and Molitz by Yuki Sekiya
There was a catchy, intertwining theme of excitement revolving around the trio throughout dinner. Having already dipped their toes in the UK's frosty waters last night, the small level of experience gained from London's impressively attended debut gig was a sign that the fish are biting on the other side of the pond. After an exhilarating train ride through the English countryside, one aspect of the tour that especially enthralled Molitz, the band seemed poised, focused and ready to spread their sound to Manchester, followed by Glasgow, Paris and Amsterdam later in the week. While waiting for our food to arrive and sipping on complimentary glasses of cheap wine, vocals proceeded to dominate the conversation.
Pujalet: I have heard the New Deal's new CD (2003's Gone, Gone Gone with vocal guests Feist and Ivana Santilli) and I think it adds a real nice touch to their music. This (addition of vocals) is something we are talking about and have thrown across the table. It is definitely a forward step within the conscious evolution of our music.
Particle by Casey Flanigan
Molitz: I do not listen to the kind of music I play. I do not own anything electronic. The music I listen to all has vocals. My favourite bands all have vocals. When I am driving out to the desert on some time off in California and I have two hours, I am putting on Paul Simon or the Talking Heads, not house and techno. Therefore, the reality of who we are will facilitate a natural evolution within the music in the future. On this past tour, John Popper opened a few shows. When we played his hometown, he came by and sang a bunch of songs with us. My highlight of the tour was playing Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" with Popper singing. So, vocals are an untapped dimension for us. It is weird that it is the last element for us to add because it is the most natural.
After a rushed dinner (soundcheck was fast approaching), we wandered back through the downtown core, past the aforementioned music store to The Roadhouse, a dimly lit basement that bares the soul of a classic English venue. Bruised but not broken, with enough stories to carry you through pints from lunch to last call, The Roadhouse is yet another blank slate for budding bands in the UK music scene; an opportunity to learn, impress, fuck up and enjoy the smoke, smell and sweat of the aspiring rock star. With its damaged fridge, graffiti in the back room and holes in the wall, The Roadhouse is the perfect venue for Particle's UK entrance; a space that is drenched with the nectar of the budding musician, dreaming of bigger stages while simultaneously thrilled to be playing at all.
Steve Molitz by Robert Massie
8:30 p.m. rolls around and the trio (guitarist Charlie Hitchcock had immigration issues and had to begin the tour in Paris) is on stage, emphatically smiling at the eighty or so fans in the bar. Rolling through five lengthy, heavily spirited originals, the band's melting pot of all things electronic ignited the fires of every fan in the room. Gould could not stop dancing throughout the entire show, nearly tripping on his own patch cord while he wailed through the trance inducing "Sun Mar 11" or the heavy funkified dub of "DubYa." Molitz, who was exhausting himself by singularly covering the melodic side of the band, was jumping off his stool, almost in an attempt to coordinate his own dance moves with the audience. The ninety minute performance flew by as both the audience and the band were left visibly shaken by the experience.
Eric Gould by Casey Flanigan
Another story etched on the walls of The Roadhouse, and one that impressively left a mark on the eighty exultant new Particle People recruits.
After basking in the positivism of their successful Manchester debut, the band and crew packed up the gear and video equipment, loaded it in several taxis and went back to the hotel for some relaxing before the four hour train ride to Glasgow the following morning.
The sensation of controlled excitement has now heightened after The Roadhouse gig. All sides were content with the outcome and the band has once again reignited their energy for Glasgow. In addition, recent word of Hitchcock joining the band in Paris has further excited the cast and crew and a rush of anticipation has refueled the traveling circus. To celebrate, rounds of drinks and sandwich platters dot the hotel common area, and the overall feeling that Europe was the right decision hovers over the party atmosphere. With Grateful Dead Red Rocks '78 blaring from an IPOD stereo system in the corner, there is a strong euphoric jump in Particle's trousers, and everyone is simply savouring the moment. Gould and I reconvene at an empty table to chat over a few of Manchester's own Bodington draft pints.
Charlie Hitchcock by Casey Flanigan
Gould: We had a great show tonight. I personally had a lot of fun and really enjoyed it. I know that there were not that many people there, but the ones who came out were feeling it. We knew that the crowds would not be huge under the circumstances (of touring Europe) but we wanted to come and see what was out here. See the response and come back.
JamBase: Has it been worth it?
Gould: Definitely. We feel like Particle could really make a lot of people happy in Europe and have faith in the music scene to support those claims.
Particle with Rob Wasserman by Casey Flanigan
JamBase: Tell me about March and Amsterjam.
Gould: I am very excited. It just kinda came up and we welcomed the idea because we were already planning this tour when we heard about it. We were like, "we can do this all over again in March now." All those bands (Umphrey's McGee, The Disco Biscuits, Keller Williams) are really good friends of ours and it is going to be a circus hanging out with them. A totally intimate experience where everyone, from fan to band is going to make some good friends.
JamBase: So will Particle make it to the studio shortly instead of waiting another three years for the next record?
Gould: Laughs. We were not purposely holding out for an album. The real reason was that playing live was just so much fun, especially in a new region. We will be in the studio sometime in 2005. Nothing is booked because we will be touring a lot next year, so we will figure out the best time to do it after hammering down the touring schedule.
JamBase: One thing that interests me personally about Particle is the openness to sharing the stage with varied styles and genres of bands and musicians. Is this a conscious decision from the four of you?
Gould: We sit around and brainstorm all the time. That is one thing I love about the past; that we have been able to share the stage with some amazing players. We have (recently) played with Buckethead and Rob Wasserman. When Rob opened for us, Darren and I got up with him and jammed with him every night. It was total groovy stuff.
Particle and their People by Yuki Sekiya
JamBase: Tell me about your fans.
Gould: Our fans have such amazing energy. They bring us to another level. Whether it is large or small, we really, really vibe off the fans. What they give elevates what we give. We open up on stage and we simply do not hide anything. We put out what we are feeling and most of the time; we are feeling pretty damn good.
THE TRAIN HOME:
After sharing a cab and saying goodbye at the train station, I was on my way home back to Leeds and Particle was on their way to leave their indelible mark in yet another new UK market. Glasgow has a thriving alternative music scene, and headlining at the city's most popular club (King Tuts) on a Friday night will be the perfect first impression. While yet another positive experience awaits the controlled chaos that is Particle's traveling circus, I am left to reflect during my less exciting train ride home.
The dominant theme entwining my thoughts is that Particle not only welcomes the unknown, they thrive in it. In essence, their off stage demeanor has been crafted into a mirror image of their artistic product. This is a band that seeks out the mysterious, both professionally and musically. After spending the night with them, it is evident that as their electronic funk music jumps off into uncharted wilderness on stage, the business machine chugs along next to it, embodying the same morals and dedication to chance taking as the music. And why not think like that? It seems to have worked so far.
JamBase | United Kingdom
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