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Published: 2004/04/28
by Mike Greenhaus

Brian Stoltz Likes his Family ‘Deep Fried’

Deep Fried is a second marriage. Growing out of an informal Colorado jam session, Deep Fried has united members of two musical dynasties, the Allman Brothers and the Meters, into one, compact funk quartet. Featuring funky Meters bassist George Porter and guitarist Brian Stolz, former Allman Brothers keyboardist Johnny Neel, and Gov't Mule drummer Matt Abts, Deep Fried works from a small repertoire of funky originals, which have grown into a tour's worth of jams over the past few weeks.

Already packing venues across the country, Deep Fried will hit the summer touring circuit this July and August, playing festivals likes Gathering of the Vibes and Smilefest. Traveling in a small RV, the four noted musicians have also pulled a Brady Bunch move, merging their musical legacies into one, funky family.

As he was preparing for a busy weekend at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Brian Stolz clued into how Deep Fried defines the term family.

MG-Deep Fried grew out of a chance jam session. Tell us about that initial gig.

BS- Originally, Todd Bogart, at Full Circle Productions, put together a show out in Colorado. He did two nights: one night was called Power Jam and one night was called Cajun Power Jam – or something like thateven though there wasn't any Cajuns on the show [laughs]. The lineup was Johnny Neel, Matt Abts, [George] Porter, June Yamaguchi, and I was the special guest the first night and Audley Freed was the special guest the second night, although I ended up playing both nights. So it just kind of came out of that. We got together and had a two-hour rehearsal scheduled that afternoon and we ended up sitting around eating the whole time. We actually didn't even make it through the sound check, so we did zero rehearsal, but, come show time, we ended up playing almost four hours straight. It was so awesome we decided to do some other things. Actually, before the gig, we intuitively knew something special was going to happen and I hadn't even met Johnny Neel before that night. I had known Matt Abts and jammed with the Mule before, but never done a whole gig with him. But, we kind of intuitively knew something special was happening, even to the point where we had a photographer come to take some photos of the four of us. When we saw how good the gig was, we said, "let's keep this going."

MG- Did you rehearse for Deep Fried’s spring tour?

BS- There really weren't any rehearsals. But we got together for two evenings at Johnny Neel's studio in Nashville to start working on a record. We recorded about six tracks at Johnny Neel's in two evenings and that is like the basis of the set. I brought a couple things to the table—"Stone Cold Funky" and a couple of other things—and we all just kind of jammed. If you notice on the Deep Fried set list, the songs that we start out with and establish the set with are the tunes that we wrote at Johnny Neel's place.

MG- Did you continue writing on the road?

BS- Oh yeah, another five or six came out of this last tour. We were just writing on stage, you know? There were a couple of Johnny Neel things we did on this last trip that really came out good like, "Ain't No Law."

MG- When Deep Fried heads out this summer are you going to work any funky Meters’ material into your set?

BS- No, I don't think so. I think this is going to be strictly Deep Fried. I like to keep things separated. In Deep Fried, I think we have such a strong "Deep Fried" identity that I don't see it happening and, the funky Meters don't do new material, so that's not going to happen anyway. I might do a couple of Deep Fried songs with my [solo] set or something, but I don't see it going anywhere else.

MG- How familiar have you been with the Allman Brothers’ catalogue over the years?

BS- A little bit. I was familiar with old Allman Brothers and some of the Mule stuff. I had jammed with the Mule a few timesI've known Warren for years. A lot of times Warren would come out and jam with the funky Meters and, whenever he'd come to town, he'd invite me to come and play at his show. I played with him on Louisiana Jukebox, which is a local television showthat's when I really first got to know him years ago. Whenever they come to town, Warren always calls me up to do something.

MG- How structured are Deep Fried’s sets?

BS- We rarely talk about what we are going to do. As for structuring things, the only thing we might do is say, "Ok let's start out with this." But, we don't even write a set list. We might put the first two, three, or four things together and then we take it from there. In that respect, it's like a funky Meters show. Until we're standing on the stage, we don't know what we are going to do. [laughs]

MG- Does George Porter Jr. play differently in the Deep Fried verses The funky Meters?

BS- It is different. You know, Johnny Neel is such a dominant force in this band. He is a really intense player. He doesn't leave many holes, so it starts out at a level where most bands are ending a show [laughs]. It really is that intense. So Porter is playing more intense and he is playing with less holes. Everything is more filled up and aggressive.

MG- What was your favorite show on the recent Deep Fried tour?

BS- The Funk Box in Baltimore, Maryland, Mexicali Blues in Teaneck, New Jersey and BB King's in New York, New York are the three shows that stick out in my mind right now. The Funk Box and Mexicali Blues are just two clubs that are designed for music, especially Funk Box. It's designed for music and really caters to musiciansthey make sure that you are very comfortable and taken care of. When you can walk out on stage and feel secure and comfortable, it always makes for a great show. When you are at some shitty club or theater and you have to walk through the crowd to get to the bathroom right before the show there is this nervous edge that you carry onto the stage [laughs].

MG- Warren Haynes sat in with Deep Fried at your recent BB King’s gig. How would you compare that appearance to your previous collaborations?

BS- It was wild [laughs]. It was wild [laughs]. Really loud! It was great though. But, jamming with Warren there isn't a whole lot of differenceWarren is such a fantastic, established player. When him and I get together, there are little things that we trade back and forth. But it was not that musically different jamming than jamming with him in, say, the funky Meters. When it is different jamming with Warren is when, like, I go play with the Allman Brothers. When you go jam with the Allman Brothers, they bring you up for one song and then you get off. They do that with Mule, too. We're a lot looser. When we invite him up, he is allowed to stay up for as long as he wants. It's a lot looser and not as structured or formal as the Allman Brothers and Govt Mule.

MG- What’s the status of the Deep Fried studio project?

BS- Right now that's all up in the air. We are trying to get it finished and get it out, but at the same time, we recorded the entire tour and multi-tracked it. We are trying to get those shows mixed and have them available for download on the Internet. So we are trying to get that going too, but right now we are not sure if we want to get the live thing going or get the studio record finished. The problem with the studio record is finding everybody's availabilityfinding time to finish it. Everyone is doing so many thingsJazz Fest is here now and I am in the middle of that. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, we can get some more done.

MG- Are you planning to write some new material for future studio sessions?

BS- Oh, absolutely. With us, new material just flows. So to get new material all we have to do is play a show [laughs] and something is going to come out of it. We actually have enough to finish a record right now, but, by the time it is finished, we'll have a lot more. We are producing it jointlythe four of us.

MG- Your studio album East of Rampart Street came out last year. Do you sense that Deep Fried audiences are familiar with that material?

BS- It's been out a little over a year, but it's just starting to catch on. People are just starting to find out about it because, when it initially came out, it didn't have any real distribution. I was selling it off of my website and out of three stores in New Orleans. But it started doing really wellit's already in its third pressing. I already have some distributors interested in it now and I got it out to about 100 radio stations that started playing it – plus Sirius Satellite radio picked up a song and put it in daily rotation. That helped a whole lot too.

MG- Do you feel satellite radio is the future of improvisational music?

BS- Yeah, I think it's great. Last year I was up in DC and I did an interview at XM. I couldn't believe that place – it was like this serious complex. It was so massive and so big, I was like, "How do they do this?" So it's definitely the future. This is where things are going. I never had much exposure to it until we did the Deep Fried tour. We were traveling in an RV and had Sirius Satellite. Man, it was great. It's just awesome to able to tune into basically anything you want.

MG- What is your favorite stream on Sirius?

BS- You know, I like listening to a lot of news, CNN and stuff [laughs]. Although we were mostly listening to the blues station until Warren Haynes' wife Stefani told me that they were playing my song on Jam On. So, we started listening to Jam On and started hearing the song.

MG- Speaking of CNN, you seem to be pretty outspoken against the war?

BS- You know, I am really upset right now because I have a younger brother who is in Iraq. He is a crew chief on a Black Hawk in the National Guard. He got sent to Baghdad and it's just really got me upset. I just think we are being fed a lot of bullshit and I am just really upset about having my little brother up there.

MG- Have you ever thought about using your music to organize an anti-war rally?

BS- You know, I thought about it. Right now, I am still in this place where I am voicing my opinion, but, god, the country is so divided, I am not sure what to say and what not to say. I don't want to isolate fans and offend people. People have really strong feelings about this. It's not that I am afraid of losing a fan base over this. I just don't want to offend people. At the same time, I feel so strongly about it because I feel we are over there supporting big business. I talk to people, and surprisingly, I run across young people who are very conservative and who are backing Bush and it shocks me. I was doing an interview about the song "Our Own Tears." In the song I have a line that says, "At the Republican Party/they are swinging high on a chandelier/landing in a punch bowl/filled with our own tears." This guy wanted to debate me on it because he was real hardcore conservative and I was like "man, do I really have to debate this?" But. I guess I have to because I put it out there.

MG- Deep Fried brings together two musical "families." Were you initially drawn to Johnny and Matt’s connection?

BS-Yeah, that was one thing that really enticed me about Deep Fried. Johnny Neel and Matt had X2 and we are also using their tour manager and crew. So Porter and I just, really, walked into a serious family situation. I found it greatit was charming that these guys are family and very gentle with each other. They are very giving of each other and it works. I gravitate to those kinds of things. Family wise, Deep Fried is the most family situation I have been in. Those guys are really tightthere is a real bond amongst those guys.

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