Peter Prince Calls in the Trauma Unit
Peter Prince is one of the most colorful characters in music today. Anyone who has seen him perform either fronting Moon Boot Lover, the band that carries his fictional comic book character’s name, or as a solo acoustic act, knows that his performances are unique. Prince combines soul, with outer space funk, all the while stirring his musical pot with a great sense of humor. This has been a busy year for Prince, along with touring with Moon Boot Lover, and doing his acoustic act along side Tim Reynolds, Prince has found time to put together an all star band, Peter Prince and the Trauma Unit. The band consists of Prince on guitar and vocals, Johnny Trama (Moon Boot Lover, the Rocket Band, Ron Levy’s Wild Kingdom) on guitar, Erik Kalb (Deep Banana Blackout) on drums, Paul Wolstencroft (Jiggle the Handle, Knockout) on keyboards, and Gary Wicks (The Daddies, the Rocket Band) on bass. The band is toped off with a revolving group of horn players.
The band made its debut performance on October 17th, at Savannah’s in Albany New York. I spoke with Prince, Trama, Kalb, and Wolstencroft, in the band’s van prior to that debut performance. In talking to the band, I got the feeling of a band that is excited and anxious to finally show their stuff. All the members seemed to be really excited to be playing together. I also got the feeling one gets on the first day of summer camp. I sensed that the band was still slightly taken aback by the newness of the project, and the feeling that comes when people are still getting to know each other. However it seemed to me that all involved seemed to be looking forward to this project with a real adventurous spirit, and look forward to doing something different then what they have been best known for.
The Trauma Unit will perform at the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH on December 17 & 18. For all things Peter Prince, visit www.moonbootlover.com.
Matthew Shapiro: Lets start by talking about the basics of Trauma Unit, how did this project come about?
Peter Prince: Johnny was really the catalyst for the whole thing.
Johnny Trama: I had written a whole bunch of music, but couldn’t get lyrics down for the songs, so I gave it all to Peter and let him run with it.
PP: You see it’s like Johnny’s my Geddy Lee, and I’m Neil Peart, but with a guitar. After we got everything on paper we started getting the group together, this was about nine months ago. We started working as a unit and recording, we have an albums worth of material already. Now we’re recutting and adding the horns to it. Let me tell you we’ve got some sick horn players.
Erik Kalb: These guys are truly nuts man. The Three Wally’s Club Horns, they are in the house band at this club Wally’s in Connecticut. It’s one of those places where if you’re not playing well, the people there will fuck you up. So you know these guys are always on. They’re a blast man, wait till you hear them.
MS: Who went about putting this line up together?
PP: Again this was all Johnny, he made all the phone calls and everything. It’s really his unit, the Trauma Unit.
JT: It was pretty easy, there are a lot of connections here.
EK: Actually Johnny and I know each other since we were in high school in Long Island.
JT: Yeah, and obviously I have my own history with Peter, and with Gary, playing in past bands, so like I said it was pretty easy. Everyone was real excited about coming on board.
EK: And still excited, this is going to be a lot of fun.
PP: It’s all just beginning now, this is just our maiden voyage.
MS: One of the criticisms of so-called ‘super groups’, especially one as large as Trauma Unit, is that the musicians have difficulty giving each other enough space, kind of like the saying too many chefs ruining the soup, is this something that worries you about the band?
PP: No not at all, these guys are too good to let that happen. These are all top musicians here, but the key is that there is so much respect for each other that I don’t see that happening.
EK: When you’re working with Peter it’s smooth sailing, besides there’s so much experience here, and there’s experience with each other. Like I said, I’ve known and have played with Johnny for years now. Peter has sat in with Deep Banana, so we know each other real well.
Paul Wolstencroft: A lot of times with something like this you hear someone say "everyone checked their egos at the door". What’s great about this project is that we don’t need to say that, again everyone is professional, so there was none of that type of nonsense. It’s been easy.
PP: Again you’ve got to remember that this is not an overnight, spur of the moment kind of deal. We’ve been working on this for nine months now. While what you’re going to see tonight is the maiden voyage as far as presenting it to live audience, we have this stuff down. Now we’re just excited about having it seen and getting the people’s reaction to it. *MS: What type of sound are you guys going for with this band? *
PP: Well it’s kind of a tribute, a throw back to real good R&B, the Stax, Motown, Muscle Shoals, type of sound.
JT: I see it as the Rolling Stones fronted by Otis Redding.
EK: It’s definitely different than you might expect. It’s less jammy, oh I probably shouldn’t be saying that to jambands, right? But what I’m really trying to say is that the jams are there, but the emphasis is on the soul, and on song structure. Johnny and Peter have written some great songs here. They’re real soulful, and sexy.
JT: You know the panties on the head type of thing.
PP: It’s fun, a real big sound, very sonic. Which is great, it’s just so big, you’ll know when you hear it. *MS: Peter, right now you are juggling three different projects, Moon Boot Lover, the Trauma Unit, and your solo acoustic act. How difficult is it for you to shift gears between the three? *
PP: It’s easier than you might think. First with the acoustic tour, that’s easy, I just go up there and do my thing, you know? I don’t have to worry about anyone else, I just do it, it’s simple. Moon Boot Lover has it’s own group it’s established, it’s got it’s groove down. Now this is still in its baby stage, so it’s real exciting. We’re just ready to unleash the big bang boom. *MS: So how is your role different here, then with Moon Boot Lover? *
PP: In a way it’s not real different. I’m still fronting, but it’s such a big sound, sonically huge, so I’m just a small part of that. It’s more about collaboration, it’s influenced by everyone. *MS: Let me shift gears for a minute and talk about Moon Boot Lover. First I’ve always been curious about how you came up with the character of Moon Boot Lover, and can you describe him to me, who he is and what he’s all about? *
PP: Well at first I really liked the comic book idea of editions. Something that is continuing. I wanted to have that carry over to the albums and the cover art. You know that if someone had the fourth edition, they would feel the need to get the first three editions. A collector needs the entire collection. So that’s where the idea first came from. I’ve always liked superheroes, so I created my own, to fight evil such as broken down vans and club owners… *MS: One of the highlights from this years Gathering of the Vibes was the jam you did with your former band mates Neal and Alan Evans (now of Soulive). This was something that old school Boot fans have waited to see for quite some time, how did it all come about? *
PP: That was real natural, I talk to those guys a lot, and we’re all hoping to do more together. But back to the Vibes when we saw the bill and that we were back to back, we just knew that we would do something, there was never a question in any of our minds. There is such a shared history there. Those guys are my brothers, and they’re some talented siblings, seriously. It was a lot of fun, I love playing with those guys. And like I said hopefully there will be more to come. We want to do more recordings.
MS: Which leads me to my next question. I know that many people are curious about the status of the Catskill Martian Dogs album that you first recorded with the Evans brothers in 1996, what is the status of that project, and should fans expect it’s release any time soon?
PP: The album’s done, Alan is mastering it now.
EK: Wait a second, you have another album with those guys?
PP: Yeah, from when we were an organ trio for like six months. But the album’s real good, a star. It’s funny because when we released Back on Earth, it said edition four, so naturally everyone wanted to know where edition three was. So it’s like Star Wars in a way. The way they’re released makes them better. If it was released back then who knows what might have happened, but now it’s something special. So it worked out for the best. All the final mixes are done, and like I said Alan is going to master it. But he’s a busy guy so it could take a while, but trust me when I say it’s well worth the wait. It’s coming I swear. *MS: Sifting gears again, I wanted to talk a little Deep Banana Blackout with you Erik. You guys are currently embarking on your last tour, going on hiatus at the end of the year. Can you tell me what this tour has been like? *
EK: It’s been real cool. We’re all having a lot fun with it. You know there’s been a lot of reminiscing, of course. Now looking back we realize that we’ve done so much. We’ve got to play with so many respected musicians. We got the opportunity to open and sit in with the Allman Brothers Band. Which was an incredible experience. Just to open for them was huge, but to have them sit in on our set, then getting to sit in with them, that was unbelievable. Getting to play in Japan and Europe, that another thing you just don’t expect to do. What’s also interesting to me is that there were really two different versions of the band, which led us down different roads. But there comes a time when you want to do different things. It’s amazing that we were able to keep such a large band together for seven years. But now we all want to explore new avenues and grow. Hope has got her thing going on with the Motet. Fuzz has got so many projects he’s working on. I see only good things for everyone, different things. But as far as this tour, everyone’s real cool with each other. We’re having fun with it. New Year’s Eve is going to be out of control. We’ve been pulling out old tunes and dusting them off, and that’s always fun. We really want to give our old fans some treats. They’re our bread and butter, we’re doing the whole thing for them. We owe it all to them, now we just want to make sure we give something back, so everyone can walk away happy with it. *MS: Getting back to Trauma Unit, all you guys have separate fans from your previous bands, what would you tell them to expect with this band? *
PP: A boot to the head, watch out.
JT: This is going to be a rocking good time man. But it’s music that’s good for the soul. The old time hand clapping, toe tapping kind of thing. Lets be honest you need that type of thing. It’s good for you. It’s the type of music that will make you get down.
EK: Yeah it’s definitely the type of show that you walk away from just feeling good.
PW: A good time will be had by all.
MS: What future do you see for this band?
PP: You know that’s tough right now. Tonight’s just the maiden voyage, we want to see how people will react, and take it from there. We’ll see.
EK: I’ll tell you though, this band is real good and very promising.