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Published: 2004/04/28
by Mike Greenhaus

Keeping Time with Particle

Particle is known to play around with time. While most bands consider playing past midnight a special treat, Particle often starts its shows a few hours before dawn, regularly playing sets until long after sunrise. Adjusting their clocks to keep their own time, the band members spent three years writing and touring before settling down to record their studio debut Launchpad last Fall. Earning a nod from the New York Times, who used the Los Angeles based quartet as a symbol of jam-nation’s unorthodox touring approach, Particle has taken its self-described "space-porn" to a national audience. A buzz band since a late-night jam session at the inaugural Bonnaroo, Particle has been perceived as primarily a live unit until Launchpad's release. Next month, Particle will also issue another studio project: a collection of remixes by London's Groove Armada.

Not that the quartet has let their time in the studio detract from their roadwork. Having sold out large clubs throughout the country, Particle is gearing up for spots at festivals like Wakarusa, High Sierra, Summer Camp and 10,000 Lakes, as well as Philadelphia’s Jam on the River. The group also recently invited former Guns and Roses guitarist Buckethead on tour as their opener, making the oddball musician the latest in a long line of onstage collaborators. Jambands.com recently caught up with Particle bassist Eric Gould and talked about Particle's summer plans and unique sleeping patterns.

MG- After primarily touring for three years, why did Particle now decide to make a studio album?

EG- Well, we wanted to do a studio project for a long time, but the tour opportunities just kept coming and we felt it was the right thing to do to keep touring. There was a question of, "Why don't you guys just do a live album?" Actually, there were a few times we even multi-tracked a few shows, but we decided that as a band we really wanted to utilize every medium we can. We felt like it was important to take some of our songs and see what we could do in the studio and try that art form out. It was a lot of fun being in the studio and we are looking forward to doing it again, for sure.

MG- What was the greatest challenge of interpreting weathered live songs in the studio?

EG- You know, it was more about looking at them in a new lighttaking things out of the moment and creating things that were planned out. There were also new ideas that would come after a few takes. For instance, I was with Charlie [Hitchcock] when he was recording his solo on "The Elevator." At one point, he played this solo that was so relaxedevery note was just perfect and that was the solo that made it on the record. It was completely different than doing it live—trying it out a few times and then just hitting the mark.

MG- The New York Times recently cited Particle as an exemplar of a legion of bands that made their name on the road, rather than in the studio. Do you feel you’re being rightfully pegged as a live band?

EG- It wasn't something we meant to do, or something we had planned. It just kind of happened. But that article was awesome—we were so psyched. We are really fortunate that we were able to get out there for a bunch of years and actually gain national attention without an album. It's not something that many bands are doing.

MG- What track on Launchpad are you most proud of?

EG- I would say the last track on the album, "Sun Mar 11." It's got the spirit of who we are live, as well as what we can put into the studio. It starts off with this really patient song and then it moves into this energetic jam that is just something else. It was the perfect way to end our album. There were a lot of things we did to tweak it in the studio, between extra synthesizers and drum bits and stuff. We just really had a lot of fun making that song larger then life. There was actually another section of "Sun Mar 11" that we do live and our producer recommended taking it out. He tried something new and it and it worked out really, really well.

MG- For Launchpad’s liner notes, you worked with photographer Henry Diltz. He definitely has a unique approach for capturing a band’s essence.

EG- The day before we had the shoot he came over and we sort of just hung out at our manager's apartment in Venice. We ended up taking a walk along the canals and stuff and did an impromptu shoot before the real shoot. We were just hanging out and talking life and stuff—he is a really great guy. He is all about the moment. It's interesting because he wasn't used to coming in with a band and doing a photo shoot. He is used to going off with someone like Crosby, Stills, and Nash to the desert and camping for the weekend and having an experience. It was cool though. We took him up to this area in the Malibu Hills that is a personal favorite of mine. Living in LA, it's a great place to get away. We ended up going out on these rocks and taking some shots and, actually, one of those shots ended up on the album.

MG- How did you tap Buckethead as an opener for your Launchpad release tour?

EG- He has been in the LA scene for a while, so his people kind of knew some of our people. Having him on the road added something special to [our tour.] He sat in with us a bunch, which was so much fun. A couple of times he sat in with us, he didn't even play guitar. He was just break dancing, dancing the robot, karate kicking or what not.

MG- Did you rehearse with Buckethead at all before he joined you on stage?

EG- We talked about things and had all these ideas, but in the end whatever happened, happened. That's the way we like it when we have people sit with us. We talk and plan all these cool things, but the purest way is to have them on stage and see what happens.
We definitely provide an open forum for people when they sit in. We have this loose, open jam – anything goes kind of quality about us. We also had him in on a bunch of different songs and kept the variation going. It was the same thing that happened with Rob Wasserman the tour before that. He opened up our tour solo bass. That was a really interactive tour. During his set I would get up with him almost every night and our drummer, Darren [Pujalet] would as well. So it would be double bass and drum. With us, Rob would sit in on different songs and different vibes every night. It was really fun and the same thing with Buckethead. But, no Guns and Roses covers. [laughs]

MG- Of all Particle’s collaborations, which was has been the most enjoyable?

EG- It was a real trip doing that thing at the Jammys last year with the B-52s. That was a blast because we actually got a rehearsal in with them the day before and stuff. That was something very different that we did. I'll put Buckethead right up there too. It was such an honor and such a great experience to have him up there with us. The other one would be Robbie Krieger when he sat in with us. We did one of his songs, "Light My Fire," but, before he did that, he came up in the middle of a jam of ours and just took it over. He took the lead and we just knew the right place where he was going. We had rehearsed his song, but the pre-jam was just pure improv. He came out and what happened, happened.

MG- Have you ever felt pressure to find bigger and bigger bands to jam with?

EG- It's funny. There was a time when we used to have that. We were like, "we got to get a bigger one, a bigger one." But, that was really short lived. Now, we're like "if guests come great, if not that's fine too." We used to try to have as many guests as possible sit in with us. It was fun—-we get such a rush out of it. But these days, we enjoy just playing as the four of us. We reached a good height at what we do and look forward to breaking some new ground and reaching some new levels in the future. We are looking to have this band be many phases in its existence and we are just scratching the surface of what we are doing.

MG- What’s your dream collaboration?

EG- One of my favorite bands it U2-I love that band with all my heart. It would be great to do some grooves with those guys for sure. Another band I'd love to sit in with Spiritualized. They have the most serene, peaceful songs, but then they can also go to the outer bounds of chaos.

MG- At times, Spiritualized seems to be a big influence on Particle.

EG- There is an element of what we do, which we only break out on special occasions – when we can bring it out to those chaotic boundaries that Spiritualized has. I love playing that kind of music. There is a lot in Particle that hasn't been surfaced yetit's underneath, kind of waiting for the right time to come up. We are definitely a band that believes everything happens within its own time. We are not in a rush, we know that in a cycle with a band, there are lots of different levels and phases and we just kind of like going with the flow and letting things rise.

MG- How has Particle adjusted to playing increasingly larger venues?

EG- We have definitely all been enhancing our gear as we have moved into bigger venues. I just got a whole new rig that sounds so sweet. I am so psyched. Charlie, our guitar player, built his own amps and stuff, so he definitely modifies. We have a great crew that helps enhance the production as well.

MG- Particle has a reputation for playing late-night shows. What is the latest/earliest you’ve ever started a show?

EG- The first "breakfast show" we did at Jazz Fest. We have these breakfast shows where the average start time is 5 in the morning. We're doing it at Howlin' Wolf this year at 2, but it's still going to be late. But the first breakfast show we played started at 7:30 in the morning. The sun was already blazing. I think we played a two and a half hour set, so that was a late, late night. I think we had a gig at something like 1 or 2 in the morning earlier that day. It was our first gig at Jazz Fest and the breakfast set was truly a breakfast set. People were getting up to work and we were still playing. [laughs]

MG- It seems your late-night playing inspired the song "Roads a Breeze @ 3AM."

EG- Actually, that song is about Los Angeles. Our keyboard player Steve [Molitz] named that. Basically LA, as ever body knows, has traffic. It takes so long to get places. It will take you a half hour to go a half-mile sometimes. But the one great thing is that at 3 in the morning in Los Angeles you can cruise. It's so much fun to cruise in LA with no traffic.

MG- As the only member of Particle raised in the Northeast, how do you feel jamband culture differs on each coast?

EG- Well, there are a lot more jambands on the east coast, but there is also a lot more places to play on the east coast. The west coast is so spread out. It's tough to play a west coast tour because places are, generally, two to six hours apart from each other. So it makes it a little bit tougher for bands to exist locally out in the west coast. On the east coast, I see a lot of family connections—-like there is that Philly connection: the Disco Biscuits, Brothers Past and that whole crew. We have crossed paths with those guys and you can tell that they are all friends with each otherit's a cool thing. For us, there are very few bands in southern California that we get to meet up with a lot. There are bunch of bands in San Diego, but we are in LA, so it's a little tough. There is more of a community of bands in the Northeast, than the Southwest. San Fran is a different story, of course.

MG- With festival season approaching, what show are you most excited to play?

EG- Wakarusa seems like it is going to be a good time. I think it's in Kansas or something. I am also psyched to go to High Sierra too. We did it two years ago and then we went to 10,000 Lakes instead last year. This year, we're doing both because they are on different weekend, but High Sierra definitely has a special quality to itwe missed it last year.

MG- In college you studied film. Do you feel Particle has a cinematic quality?

EG- Yeah, for me my whole philosophy on it is story telling with different mediums. Our music does tell a story. Even though we have no vocals, we are saying something with out music and melodies. We were also touring with a projectionist for a long time and that was a blast because we got to make some visual statements as well.

MG- Would you ever consider adding lyrics to your music?

EG- Yeah. That is one of those things that is all a matter of doing it at the right time. We are very open to adding vocals and new styles, but we are not in a rush to do anything. We are really just going with the natural flow with what Particle is.

MG- How did you prepare for Particle’s Studio 54 Halloween celebration?

We engulfed ourselves in the world of disco. For the month before that I wasn't listening to anything besides disco. It was one of the many things you can do in a bandyou could put on a costume for a while and you can eat, sleep, and breath a style of music in order to perform this experience. When all was said and done, I was happy not to listen to disco for a while [laughs]. But during the whole time it was a blast-there are so many fun bass lines going on in that genre of music. We turned Irving Plaza into something it's never been before. We had all these disco balls and a huge "54" logo up. We had all the walls decorated and Go-Go dancers on a platform on stage.

The other thing we did like that was in December in Miami, only we went into the world of Pink Floyd. We did a two-hour set of Pink Floyd. What was cool with that is we weren't trying to recreate Pink Floyd verbatim. There were few songs we did that, but, in general, we were trying to integrate the word of Particle with the world of Pink Floyd. We brought a lot of what we are about into that. So things like "Money" and "Time" were just verbatim Pink Floyd, but we really reinvented "Set the Controls into the Heart of the Sun" and "Young Lust." It was a mix between getting into what Pink Floyd is about and adding our spice to it.

MG- What other tricks does Particle have up its sleeve?

EG- We have Groove Armada doing a remix for us, which should be coming out next month. We basically wanted to do a remix and sent some packages down and Groove Armada was really responsive. They are doing a few different remixes of one of our songs and that is going to be really fun. I can't wait to hear them.

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