In their little over a year together, The Amalgamators have been through some lineup changes and changes in their sound. I chatted with them to find out what effects the changes have had, and what their plans are for the future.
SCS: You guys have been through some lineup changes over the year or so youíve been playing, why donít you give us a brief history of the band, who was in it, who was out, and what the lineup is now
Hugh: Pat and me, me and Pat, that was the simple genius of the concept. But the snake done tempted us and we went out and got a bass player. He used a pseudonym, which we found suspicious initially. Actually we're still not sure what his real name was. Suffice it to say, we had our differences and parted ways, as happens from time to time in the music business. Anyway, we cut our hair short, bought some skanky clothes and went out on the prowl. And lucky us, we reeled in a couple of whoppers. Mark talked to us after playing our set at scenefest and offered his services up. Pat already knew him, and I liked him right off the bat. So we took him up post haste. We got Nick right about the same time. We work together at Dietze and he'd mentioned a few times that he was interested, and we knew he was a badass drummer, but we figured he was a bit young and there was probably a law against what
would happen if he followed us down our path of hedonist recklessness. After he covered the top half of his body with tattoos we weren't worried about that anymore and brought him aboard and that's where we're at now.
SCS: I think you guys are an interesting mix of traditional bluegrass and punk. Prior to the current lineup it was a bit more traditional bluegrass, but now with the bass & drums added, it defintely rocks a bit more. Jow would you describe your band to someone?
Hugh: I don't think we've figured it out yet ourselves, so I wouldn't want to color someone's expectations. Plus it's fun is seeing what people come up with when they describe us
Mark: I would say it's an Amalgamation of country, folk, hippie, and punker. A 4-way marriage made in Nebraska. Oh, you want the extreme version? Then it's like. . . (Markís extreme version was somewhat too extreme, but in short it spoke of; Headless chickens, chainsaws and a Judy Garland look a like contest. Thatís why we love him.)
SCS: How are you adjusting your sound to accommodate the introduction of drums for the first time, and switching from upright bass to electric? Is your sound going to get more ďrockĒ?
Hugh: Shit yeah it's going to get more rock!!!!! We practice with a PA now, which is the biggest difference I think. It could still work acoustic I think, but Nick would have to get polio or muscular dystrophy or something to make his arms and legs weaker.
Mark: The addition of drums is definitely driving the band more. The sound is going to get more "loud", but rock is a completely different arena in my book. My bass is fretless and dialed in to sound like an upright, and the beats Nick plays are not rock beats - more swing and 2 steppin'. As a group, we rock in our own ways, but let's call it country. Or country swing. Or folk jazz. Or if you're an "artiste", let's just say there's no way to really put a label on our creative freedoms. Wait! Let's call it American music. Like the Violent Femmes, Bill Monroe, The Dead Milkmen, Neil Young (he wants to be American anyway), and Cab Calloway.
Hugh and Patrick have been very tolerant about letting us come in and screw with their songs. In fact, both Nick and I were told to "Use whatever we've got". It makes for creative songwriting and rewriting. I intend to, at some point, buy an upright bass.
Would you like that?
Pat: No need to.
Mark: You know I'd have to steal or sell drugs to get the money to buy it, don't you?
Pat: You do that any way...Why you acting all prim?
SCS: Yeah, and why haven't you mentioned prostituion as an option?
Mark: You want me to do illegal things?
Pat: Well? . . . How is it benefiting ME?
Mark: Not cool, friend. Not cool, at all. (Sigh)
SCS: Do you think your writing will change to address the new instrumentation?
Pat: It already has, Adding two new members who have their own influences, ideas, personalities, and playing styles, it tends to move things around. I know when I play something for, Hugh, Nick, and Mark. Itís not going to sound like it does in my head. Itís going to sound better.
Mark: Hugh and Pat now have a bass/accordion/2nd backup singer and a drummer/guitarist/keyboardist in their arsenal.
Pat: And we will be taking advantage of that. This first album is going to be a little more traditional yet have some edge. Itís the second album, which we already have songs for, that is going to be the full four-piece amalgamation.
SCS: Mark, aside from the fact that youíre playing bass in this band, how is it different from being in The Gaws or The Black Dahlias?
Mark: The Gaws were only together for a few months and so there wasn't much of a dynamic developed. When I started playing with the Amalgamators, I was initially struck by the fact that everyone is, for the most part, on the level. This is a band that knows it's reality. In contrast to Black Dahlias, the drama levels are low in the Amalgamators. With Dahlias, I became pretty wrapped up in the periphery crap of other members' lives. Amalgamators feels like a more mature approach to playing well with others. Basically, the difference is that my perception of what it should be like to be in a band has matured.
SCS: Hmmm, I was expecting the answer to be "less drinking", but I guess that wors too. What types of music and which musicians/groups influenced the band members?
Hugh: We thought up everything on our own. Next question. . . .
Pat: No, No donít look at the record collection, has nothing to do with it. Thatís just there for looks. Who the hell is Johnny Cash?
SCS:Who writes the songs, and how do you work them from idea stage to finished product?
Hugh:Pat "the idea factory" Bradley comes up with songs like frat boys come up with the clap. They're usually bare bones sketches and he trusts us enough to open them up for expansion and revision. Sometimes they just come together on the spot, and sometimes they go back to the lab for tweaking and retweaking. Sometimes they just stay in the lab and hang out. Sometimes we play them for a while and then tweak em. We'll try anything three times.
SCS: When and where was your first local show, and how did it go?
Hugh: I think it was the Demagogues at the commonplace. I went with Ben Armstrong, and someone got carried away with their moshing and bit Ben right in the face, which frightened Ben and made him leery of marijuana activists.
Pat: Hugh and I played at the 49ír in Omaha, I believe that was the first show, it went ok the sound could have been better, but to their credit they just got a new PA that day and someone screwed up the wiring, but my first local show was Roosevelt Franklin at the Common Place. Other bands there were Slide, Sideshow and the Yardapeís. After that show my goal was to have a band and play the common place. I finally did. And Ben did confront his fears of marijuana activists by playing for them with Pabloís Triangle
Mark: My first show with the Amalgamators was this summer at Duggan's and it went great. After the first song jitters were through, I couldn't stop grinning. I was having so much fun it felt criminal, like there was a voice inside my head saying, "Surely this is against the laws of nature!"
SCS: What was your most memorable live performance and what made it that?
Hugh: We played at the Dark Room art gallery in Omaha and they thought we must be good if we're from out of town. So they whooped and hollered for the solos, paid attention to the words and didn't throw anything the whole time. Plus the artwork there still haunts me.
Pat: Mine would be the Dark Room gallery, and Scenefest 2. Dark Room cause well I think Hugh nailed it, and Scenefest 2 it was about one week after our first bass player left, we never thought once that we were not going to play the show, we started the band with just the two of us so the bulk of the music was there but we had such a fuck it attitude. It just made it all the more fun. It was also the show Mark volunteered his services, so truly we were only without a bass player for about two weeks
SCS: What do you like and dislike about the music scene in Lincoln?
Hugh: Like: It's small enough to give just about anybody a chance. Dislike: It's small enough to give just about anybody a chance.
Pat: Like itís a fun bunch folks who seem to get along pretty well. Dislike: Dance people Dance!
Mark: I enjoy feeling encouraged by other musicians I meet instead of being put off by the posturing games that are played in more musically competitive towns. It creates a community instead of some shark-infested pool. I mean, once in awhile you still get a band that thinks they are gonna make it national once they "conquer Lincoln", but that's just cute cute cute to me.
SCS: Have you learned anything in your experiences in a band that you feel newer local bands could learn from, or made any mistakes they should avoid?
SCS: Who are some local bands or musicians that you admire or feel should be recognized?
Hugh: Steve Hanson's influence on music in Lincoln can not be overstated. He's a giant in a land of midgets, and this town would be a feckless cess pit without him. Super nice guy too.
Mark: Anyone that gets up on stage and plays their own songs should be admired just for having the guts to do it.
Pat: You...Tery Daly...You the man. Your dedication is amazing. Thank you!
Mark: Hey Pat I think you have a little something on your nose there. . .No, right there. . you got it.
SCS: BAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, Hugh, I agree about Steve Hanson. Anyone needs only look at the Encyclopedia of bands to see his name all over it. So whoís your favorite local band to play with?
Hugh: Definitely the Amalgamators.
SCS: Youíve got a 3 song demo out, when do you plan to release a full length CD?
Pat: We plan to start recording in November once this weird prog rock metal band gets out of Markís basement and we can move our crap in. (scs: That band Pat is referencing is his other band, Tangelo) Once that happens we will begin recording. I would say hopefully by Jan, realistically Feb. If Hugh got his way, it would be the beginning of Dec.
SCS: Are there any local producers/engineers you'd like to work with who you think could help to develop your sound?
Hugh: Yeah, but they want us to pay them and well...
SCS: Who was the first person or band you saw that made you want to play music?
Pat: Never saw them but I used to listen to Bad Brains version of MC5ís Kick out the Jams and Flail around crashing into walls and various stationary objects. I think thatís what did it.
Hugh: Didn't see him, but Jimi Hendrix made me want to play guitar.
SCS: What was the first album/CD you bought?
Hugh: Ahhh, my fist Columbia house rip off. I got eight for the price of zero!!! All hair bands. And nothing more to buy ever, suckas!!!
Pat: Aerosmith Permanent Vacation
Mark: I don't remember exactly. Early in my collection of self-procured tapes was Joe Satriani's "Surfing with the Alien", R.E.M. - "Green", ALL of The Cure albums and the Van Halen albums up to "5150" (suck after that) because I'm not admitting to buying "F.U.C.K." on CD the day it came out, Guadalcanal Diary - "2x4", U2 - "Joshua Tree". When I was 7 years old (legal album trading age) I traded albums with my Dad. Best one was my Jackson Browne for his Eagles - "Hotel California", ha, what a sucker. Or was it the other way around? Um, did you know if you play that Eagles album backwards on the song "Hotel California" you can hear the devil asking you to come home? Spooooky when yer alone in the
basement and only 7 years old.
SCS: Whose music are you listening to right now? -- What other bands would you recommend people check out?
Hugh: Right now, Sam Bush. Check out the Neon Violin Quartet, they're awesome.
Pat: Iíve been listening to Hot Club of Cowtown, Elvis Costello, De La Soul, and Brian Wilson. Check out Jolie Holland itís a little mellow but nice and dark, if you want something fast, the Eagles of Death Metal are a good time.
Mark: Guided By Voices, Comet Gain, Clinic, Astor Piazzola, The Zutons, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Shadow, The Unicorns, Eels, Eagles of Death Metal, Preston School of Industry, Sonic Youth, Ladytron. Oh yeah, Van Halen "Women and Children First" and "Fair Warning" (bought the "Nice Price" 2 album tape in Jr. High), lots and lots of Chopin at night, Goran Bregovic (go rent the foreign movie "Underground" and you'll see what I'm talking about), Aerial M, Smog.
SCS: List off your top five albums of all time.
Pat: That's a toughy. Paulís Boutique Ė Beastie Boys
Metallica - Master of Puppets
De La Soul - Bahloon mind state
Bob Dylan Free wheeling/Times are a Changing/Desire/and the 1st disk on the bootleg series
Elvis Costello Get Happy
NWA Straight outta Compton
Hugh: Grateful Dead, American Beauty
Sam Bush, Glamour and Grits
Guns and Roses, Appetite for Destruction
Steve Earle, Train a Comin
Dead Kennedy's, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death
Mark: Ah crap man, how am I supposed to pick 5? Everytime I do this sort of thing, I think for days and days about it, then I think I've got it, then I kick myself a few days later when I realize I've betrayed one of my favorite albums of all time by forgetting it. I'm not kicking that football, Lucy.
SCS: Yeah, I guess I should have known better than to ask you, Mr. Snap Decision, that question! What's the best gig you've ever seen, local or otherwise?
Pat: Slowdown Virginia @ the Warehouse, Flaming Lips @ Knickerbockers, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Sokol, Beck w/the Roots Omaha, Beastie Boyís in KC, Melvinís @ Mudslide slims. . .there are more. Just canít think right now.
Hugh: Jazz is Dead at the Beaumont Club in Kansas City, 1998.
Mark: Sonic Youth, Primus, Pavement at Red Rocks in '93. Crush the Clown, Fagatron at the Fagatron house. Fishbone at The Ranch Bowl in '91. The Melvins at Mudslide Slim's in '97. Wasteoid always has awesome shows. Wanda Jackson/Rosie Flores/Marcia Ball as Henhouse at SXSW in '00. The Rockateens at the Replay in Lawrence, KS '00. Sam the Butcher at The Red and Black. Urethra Franklin at what is now Spindle Records on 14th in '93. The Immortal Lee County Killers II in Chicago last year. The Rolling Stones on their '69 Altamont tour - those Hells' Angels were real scary-like.
SCS: What can we look forward to in the next year from the band?
Pat: Music, Merch, and our ransom demands.
SCS: Anything else you want to share with our readers?
Hugh: Check out the encyclopedia of local bands on this web site, it's staggering.
SCS: Cool, I'll do that sometime, sounds neat! Thanks for playing our game today, and now here's Johnny to tell you about all the fabulous parting gifts you've won!
- Tery Daly