Taking Percolator’s Pulse with Jim Weider
BR: You brought Danny Louis from Gov’t Mule in on keys …
JW: Oh, yeah – Danny’s a great keyboardist in his own right and was nice enough to play on that cut. His keyboard part was just perfect … he just hit the song. I think Richard would’ve loved it.
BR: That’s great – it sounds like everyone picked up on your vibe, your friendship with Richard …
BR: From there, you jump back into the funk on “Motivator,” which is another tune with Chris Cameron on organ and clavinet.
JW: Yeah, Chris played that funky clavinet part that really worked well against the riff I’d come up with. Again, our mission on that one was to come up with a groove tune to make people get up and boogie.
BR: The writing credits on “Green Zone” mention Rodney along with Mitch and yourself –
JW: It’s really mostly a Rodney tune.
BR: Well, that’s what I wanted to ask you: as a drummer, how does Rodney present a song idea to the band?
JW: On “Green Zone”, Rodney had that neat synthesizer riff and drum groove that the song is built around – it’s the backbone of the tune. In fact, when I cut my solo, I really hadn’t learned the rest of the song at that point … I just plugged in and did the solo live in the studio. You’re hearing it as it happened. (laughs)
BR: Rodney’s such a gas to watch live – a great mix of power and control. Even when he’s out there, he’s never reckless.
JW: Absolutely. Rodney’s such a powerful drummer, but he’s in total control of his abilities and technique at the same time. Another thing I love about Rodney is he always has the groove; on top of all this amazing technical ability, he’s got this great feel … it’s always so liquidy and the groove is so nice. I just can’t say enough about him.
Same thing with Mitch and Steve: Mitch has one of the greatest feels for rhythm I’ve ever been around – and then he’ll turn around and play these fantastic leads. Mitch is a master at building and improvising solos. I’ll tell you, I’ve really learned a lot about playing and stretching out in a jam situation from those guys.
And Steve is just this monster unsung hero on the 6-string bass. His playing is phenomenal: so supportive in the group setting, yet he can take you on a trip all by himself. Steve really is an amazing musician. His bass solo on “Man Cry” is just unbelievable.
BR: Cool – “Man Cry” was next on my list to talk about. That’s a lovely slide intro you do, by the way. Do you have a Tele that’s set up just for slide?
JW: Yeah I call that my “Ry Cooder guitar” – a Tele with one Teisco pickup, a Supro lap steel pickup, and the action set up for slide. “Man Cry” is a song that I wrote during the Percolator band days just for something to groove to. With this band, it’s the tune we end the shows with a lot – we tend to stretch it out. It really brings things to a high point. As I mentioned, Steve’s bass solo is a real highlight on the album cut.
BR: And then we have “Two Worlds”, which is just a beautiful piece of work. Are you doing an instructional video on electric sitar to go along with the Tele lessons? (laughter)
JW: You know a buddy of mine had the electric sitar and once I heard it, I just thought it would be the perfect thing to do the intro to “Two Worlds” with.
BR: Seriously, had you messed with one before?
JW: Well … no. (laughter) But it’s just like a regular guitar, except it has a sitar sound. Danelectro makes it.
BR: It does have a cool sound. I think my favorite moment in “Two Worlds” is Mitch’s acoustic solo …
JW: Isn’t that beautiful? It really, really is. I don’t think anyone could play a more perfect solo on that song. I had cut the basic song live in my home studio with John Holbrook, playing to a drum loop. When we were doing the album sessions, Mitch came in and overdubbed that acoustic solo – it was gorgeous.
BR: I guess if I was going to sum up Pulse as an album, I’d say this: if people think they have you figured out from all the things you’ve done in the past, they’re really going to be surprised.
JW: I think so – I really do. The album really is a band effort – a matter of playing with Rodney, Mitch, and Steve and what they contribute. It’s why the album sounds as good as it does. We’re all coming from different places, but there’s a certain chemistry to the group itself and I think that’s what makes it be what it is. If everyone approaches things exactly the same, then there’s no chemistry – that thing that makes it special.
BR: There’s nothing to seed anything …
JW: That’s right. Everybody in this band is very different personality-wise. There’s the chemistry of Mitch and Rodney having known each other a long time; there’s me being a blues rocker and I’m floating on top of those jazz/rock cats’ influences; it’s the combination of all those things. I’m very grateful to be playing with those guys. I count my blessings – I really do.
BR: So what’s on the docket in the coming months for both Project Percolator and your gigs with Levon’s band?
JW: As far as Project Percolator goes, we’ll be back out on the road right into next year doing some shows in support of the album. Plus, I have some things coming up with Levon, both shows on the road and the Rambles at his place. He’s right in the neighborhood – it makes it handy. (laughs) Levon’s such a strong being – he puts all of himself into everything he does, whether it’s a conversation, or singing or playing drums. He’s very inspirational to be around – a very strong core. It’s great to be back home in Woodstock and be part of what he’s doing, along with the great musicians that I’m in Project Percolator with.
Life is what it is; the whole thing is mapped out ahead of time, whether you know or not. I’m grateful to still be playing music and pushing myself as much as I can at this point. I’ve had wonderful people around me and I’m very lucky for that … very lucky.
Brian Robbins pines for the Telecaster he owned many moons ago (maple neck/black body/white pickguard with a hand-wound neck pickup from a little shop down in Texas).