Taking Percolator’s Pulse with Jim Weider
Part three: Percolating
BR: When did you start to work on your own solo projects? I know before Project Percolator, there was the Jim Weider Band …
JW: I was playing out, doing shows while I was still with The Band when we were between tours. My first album as “Jim Weider and the Honky Tonk Gurus” was released in 1998 – that was Big Foot, a mix of half instrumentals and half guest vocalists. We ended as The Band after Rick Danko died in 1999. My next solo album, Remedy in 2002, was more of the blues/rock thing, but more jammed out. Merl Saunders played keys on that one … Tony Levin on bass … Mavis Staples laid down some vocals … a bunch of great musicians. I did some touring with that group; we played the Montreal Jazz Fest and a bunch of blues festivals and shows in the US. The Percolator album in 2005 was next – and that was a complete change for me – focusing on guitar-driven grooves and jams. I basically went down into my studio at home by myself and just started writing songs, working with drum loops. After I’d written the basic album, I brought in a bunch of folks: John Medeski on keys, Tony Levin on bass again, and Rodney Holmes on drums.
BR: Ahh … so that’s when you first hooked up with Rodney?
JW: Yeah, I was friends with Steve Kimock – absolutely loved his songwriting and his guitar playing. And Steve had this great band at the time, which included Rodney on drums and Mitch Stein on guitar. I just happened to ask Rodney to come up and play some drum tracks on the album, which he did … and that’s when the Percolator album really came alive; Rodney did some fantastic stuff.
BR: But there still wasn’t a Project Percolator touring band as such, correct?
JW: No – when I first started touring behind the album, it was Tony Levin, Randy Ciarlante on drums, and Jesse Gress on guitar. When those guys left to go back to their own projects, I was like, “Where do I go with this from here?” At that point, someone told me, “You ought to call Mitch Stein, he’s free.” Which I did – and right from the beginning, it was just fantastic playing with Mitch. And after a while, Rodney freed up and was available, too … and they brought in Steve Lucas on bass –
BR: Who was their bandmate from the Hermanators, right?
JW: That’s right – and he was just a perfect fit for what we were trying do. With Steve aboard, we had the groove and we had the sound. [Note: When Stein, Holmes, and Lucas play as a trio these days, they call themselves “Ethereal Distortion”.] So that was it: we were off and running. We began touring Europe and the US as Project Percolator.
That’s when I began writing some new stuff – along with co-writing with Mitch and Rodney. Those are the songs that we went into the studio with that became Pulse.
BR: So you went from Percolator being a solo album –
JW: That’s right.
BR: – to Pulse, which is really a Project Percolator band album.
JW: Exactly. For Pulse, I wanted to capture the feel of the band on stage, so we went in and cut the basic album live. I think we got what we were looking for.
BR: I’d agree with that – there’s a basic, raw, right now feel to much of the album that sure doesn’t sound like “punch in/punch out” parts.
JW: Thanks – I appreciate hearing that. Of course, there’s stuff here and there that we had to add in after the fact –
BR: You only have so many hands …
JW: Right! (laughter) But the basic tracks – including the guitar solos – were all cut live to get that feeling of reacting to each other, playing off each other. From the beginning, what this band has been all about for me was the groove. When someone comes to see Project Percolator, I want them to come out saying, “Man, that band just starts to groove and doesn’t stop.” And at the same time, even though they’re instrumentals, these songs are meant to tell stories and create visuals in your head … if we’re doing it right, you’re going to feel like you’ve been on a journey after one of our shows.