Ryan Stasik Talks Performing Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’ With Turbo Suit
Ever since forming in 1998 Umphrey’s McGee have been known for their road warrior ways. The band always plays more than 100 shows a year and often spends most of the fall on tour. This year, however, is different. Outside of a visit to Athens as well as Halloween and New Year’s runs and their annual co-headlining slot at Dominican Holidaze, Umphrey’s is taking the fall off from the road to spend time with their ever-growing families. The break gives band members a chance to dip their toes into other projects and one said project is bassist Ryan Stasik partnering with Indianapolis electro-funk trio Turbo Suit to pay tribute to Nirvana at The Hall At MP in Brooklyn on October 22.
Stasik and Turbo Suit – which consists of David Embry on production and vocals, Nicholas Gerlach on tenor saxophone and EWI and Jeff Peterson on drums – will put on a special, one-time-only performance of the Seattle rockers’ famed Nevermind LP at the recently-opened venue. The show will even feature an opening set from The Nevermind Orchestra, a Nirvana Brass Band Tribute. We chatted with Stasik about what’s in store for the 22nd, his musical relationship with Nirvana and what lies ahead for Umphrey’s McGee in 2016.
JamBase: How big of a role did Nirvana play in your musical development?
Ryan Stasik: Nirvana was one of my favorite bands while I was in high school as well as G’N’R, Pearl Jam & Alice In Chains. You could say the grunge era had sunk deep into my veins by then. I remember being grounded from a Nirvana concert during the In Utero tour, but my parents had to leave town and I told my neighbors I was attending a study group. Needless to say it was the best study group ever! I was also trying to become a guitar player at that time so I was all about power chords and distortion.
JamBase: What have you learned about Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic as you’ve been prepping for this show?
RS: Although I was not a bass player during my deep Nirvana phase, I always appreciated the aspect of a power trio. Krist and Dave were raw and solid and played hard, they didn’t play like pussies. But the best lesson I have learned from Krist is to make sure you catch your bass after you toss it high in the air.
JamBase: How did the idea for this show come together?
RS: I was having a few beers with my good buddy and “Summer Camp Kickball MVP” Eric Onesto watching Future Rock. They busted out a badass version of “Breed” that had the crowd going crazy. Initially I had wanted to put together a quartet with my drummer friend Ilya Stemkovsky, Jake and myself along with a guy from Chicago who is in a Nirvana cover band to perform Nevermind in its entirety for the 25th anniversary next year. I believe Dan Rucinski asked me a few weeks later if I would be into doing an instrumental version with Turbo Suit. I obviously said yes since I know those guys pretty well and thought this would be a legit idea to collaborate on. Nevermind is a classic record, a little polished and glossy for a grunge band in the 90’s but a classic nonetheless. I was excited to see how Turbo Suit would approach this idea with a guest bass player.
JamBase: How much rehearsal goes into a performance like this?
RS: Well, Turbo Suit is on tour and I’m dodging flood water in Charleston, so no rehearsal as of yet. I know the songs and have played through the album a shit ton. They have sent me some tracks and we have discussed a few ideas about overall vibe, song arrangements and the setlist. We plan on having a group rehearsal when I fly up to NYC before the gig. As Allen Iverson would say, “It’s a Jamband man, we’re talking about practice?”
JamBase: Will you change your rig/setup at all for this show versus a regular Umphrey’s performance?
RS: Yes. I packed a bass, some dirty ass pedals, a toothbrush and my rock boots! My regular rig is way too big to fly with and stays on our truck. Backline baby! I think a few distortion pedals and an octave pedal should be fine. Krist would hopefully approve. Nick requested I bring a tuner as well, a real nice super sweet tuner, so i can stay in tune man!
JamBase: What are a few of the songs from ‘Nevermind’ you’re most looking forward to playing?
RS: Always been a huge fan of “Territorial Pissings” and “Breed” as well as “Drain You” and “Lounge Act.”
JamBase: What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of performing ‘Nevermind?’
RS: Knowing when the changes occur without having a vocalist.
JamBase: Can we expect you to handle any of the vocal duties?
RS: Bass, no vocals.
JamBase: Can you tell us the origins of Umphrey’s deciding to cover “In Bloom?”
RS: Pretty sure Bayliss picked that one. Looks like we have plenty more to choose from for the future now don’t we? Our cover list is pretty lengthy and it probably seemed empty without a Nirvana tune to go with the Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden covers we already do.
JamBase: What will 2016 hold for Umphrey’s McGee?
RS: We will be touring heavily again in the new year leading up to UMBowl VII in May. You may see more gigs with TAUK, maybe a tour with a special guest or two. Most likely more babies, the Umphrey’s seed is potent. Hoping to put on another event like The Chucktown Ball in another city in February as well. Lastly, Umphrey’s plans on doing more multiple night stands in our favorite cities. \mm/
Tickets for Turbo Suit and Stasik’s Nirvana tribute are available via Eventbrite. Head here to enter for a chance to win two VIP tickets to the show as well as a Turbo Suit prize pack. The Hall at MP is a brand new outpost of award-winning celebrity chef Michael Psilakis’ newest venture, Williamsburg hotspot MP Taverna. The new venue is said to feature state-of-the-art acoustics, a cozy interior with exposed brick walls and leather couches, signature cocktails and serious eats.