A Pocketful of Soul with Eric Krasno
Guitarist Eric Krasno is no stranger to diverse and varied sounds on his myriad of projects, ranging from his stints as a co-founder of two seminal jambands, Lettuce and Soulive, and his numerous production and guest artist work, whether it is for other acts, or those under his large Royal Family Records umbrella. However, in his decade-and-a-half length career, Krasno has never released a solo record. Until now. Coming on the heels of the winning 11-track Beatles’ instrumental cover album, the inspired Rubber Soulive, his debut solo work is a winning collection of songs inspired by, and advanced upon, a foundation of influences which has enriched Kraz’s music since his youth. His artistic development has “happened in a few different plateaus” according to the guitarist/producer/songwriter, and it is evidenced to a very fine degree on Reminisce.
Setup like scenes to a soundtrack to a film yet to be made, the guitarist and his collaborators, including occasional Kraz bandmates Adam Deitch and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Nigel Hall, keyboardist Neal Evans and drummer Alan Evans (indeed, Evans also mixed the album), Lettuce horn player Ryan Zoidis, and sax/flutist Cochemea Gastelum to help the musician realize a fully-formed visionary statement. Krasno is current working in both of his longtime bands, and a new outfit, Chapter 2, which includes the core team from Reminisce, as well as producing several projects, and appearing as a guest musician on upcoming releases like the new Derek Trucks/Susan Tedeschi collaboration. One wonders when the man sleeps as does Kraz himself as Jambands.com sits down with the talented musician on the eve of a New York charity gig for Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, a special place where children with illnesses—life threatening, or otherwise—can enjoy the great camp experience for free.
RR: When was the decision made to create a solo project, and how did you gather the players necessary to execute it, eventually becoming a band called Chapter 2?
EK: I guess it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. This project is interesting because it’s kind of taken a journey itself. (laughs) When I first started, I was writing a lot of lyrics, and writing a lot of songs. I wanted to do an album, and it’s kind of like a hybrid of that with a few instrumentals. I went into the studio, and originally recorded a bunch of stuff with Adam Deitch [drums] and Stu Brooks [bass]. He is in Dub Trio, and later became the bass player with Matisyahu, so he became really busy after the sessions.
I had been looking for the right singer. I sang on some of the tunes, and, well, live, I really wanted a great singer for this group, and Ryan Zoidis introduced me to Nigel Hall, who had been living up in Portland, Maine, and mostly singing up there. I called him, and he came down to record some of this stuff. I heard him sing, and I said, “Man—these songs are yours.” (laughter)
Then, the project split into two. We said, “Some of these tunes are going to go on Nigel’s album.” O.K.—I’m giving you the short version. (laughs) Over months of time we said, “Nigel needs to make a record. We’re starting a record label [Royal Family Records]. Let’s make him our first artist outside of the bands that we already have going.” That’s when I took more of the instrumentals—my record is going to be more about the guitar, more instrumentals, have a couple of vocal tunes on there, and it split into two projects. Since then, we’ve been working on Nigel’s record. As my record, also, came together, I met Louis Cato, who is a bass player. He played on the last few tracks. There are a few with Stu Brooks, and I played bass on a few before Louis came into the picture. When we finished my album, I said, “This is one thing, and now we’re working on Nigel’s record.”
The last piece of the puzzle is now that that band, Chapter 2, has been playing around, now, we want to make a record, too. (laughs) It has a rock-kind of sound. We’ve been writing a lot of stuff with that band, and writing some more lyrics. Really, (laughs) it started out as one thing, and three different projects sprung out of it.
But it was cool because my record was recorded over a few years; although, very sporadically. When I wasn’t on tour, I’d say, “O.K.—let’s get back to this album here. How do I want it to sound?” The reason I called it Reminisce at the very end after I thought of that end because it was like going through a journey of different sounds. You can hear throughout the album that I am inspired by so many guitar players, or just different sounds, and different styles that I grew up around from Jeff Beck to Hendrix to George Benson to anywhere in between.
RR: I’m glad you brought that up. You’ve been at this for a while, and the new album celebrates your skills as a musician and your influences. What was some of the music that kicked you in the ass, and told you “this is what I want to do”?
EK: It happened in a few different plateaus. When I was a kid, Hendrix was huge. Hendrix and Led Zeppelin is what made me really want to pick up the guitar. I guess the first thing really was Led Zeppelin. Hearing that stuff just had a huge impact on me. My brother is a guitarist, he’s older by about 5, 6 years, and he had a band, so they were playing, and I always wanted to be hanging out. My dad used to jam with his friends. Really, it was like a social thing. I wanted to play was what it was. (laughs) They didn’t want me to play at first. They’d say, “O.K., go practice, and when you come back, we’ll let you play.” That was my inspiration.
Back to the music. It was Zeppelin and Hendrix, and my dad was a big Rolling Stones and Beatles fan. Over time, I got into jazz—like Herbie Hancock. The Headhunters blew my mind. That’s when I really got into funk jazz. Obviously, James Brown—I used to cop all the guitar parts from that, and that was just a huge part of it. I had a long section of it when I listened to Grant Green and Wes Montgomery in high school. That turned on a whole different side of my brain when I heard that stuff. Wow—these guys had so much soul, so much pocket, and such a huge vocabulary to play over all these chord changes. I always wanted to try to combine all that together in some way. I guess I’m still on that journey. (laughs)