Charlie Hitchcock: Particle Person Anew
Halloween 2003- photo by Robert Massie
Particle returned to the stage in October with a familiar face on guitar. Charlie Hitchcock joined the Los Angeles group as they celebrated their tenth anniversary on a run that continues next week in Colorado, and extends for a series of dates in November. Hitchcock had departed the band under decidedly unamicable terms back in 2005, but has since patched things up with the members of the group and played with them at various gigs. However, none of the shows comprised a full tour, like this current anniversary run.
Jambands.com caught up with Hitchcock on a tour break. The guitarist is considered and careful with his words, often pausing before delivering a ruminative response summing up his current frame of mine. He remains a deeply dedicated and committed musician, as well as being an amiable artist who has learned that the best way to grow as a musician is to play. And play he does—with Particle and other configurations, in wide-ranging locales, including Australia and China, as Hitchcock reveals in this candid conversation.
RR: How were the shows during the first part of the 10th Anniversary run?
CH: Yeah, all the shows were killer. It was great music, really fun, and everything went smoothly. No dramas, and I was really happy with everything. It was a good vibe.
RR: How did you get involved with playing with Particle again? I know it wasn’t a recent development, as you’ve played with them within the last year, but was it an ongoing conversation, or an ongoing process?
CH: Steve’s been talking to me for a while. We’ve gone out to dinner, and hung out a couple times. We hadn’t played. Then, unfortunately, two of our inner circle fans passed away, unrelated, but right in a row, and they wanted to do two tribute shows for them. Steve called me and asked me if I’d do it. And I said sure. So we played those two shows—St. Rocke in Hermosa [Beach] and Winston’s in San Diego. We just showed up and played. We did a rehearsal; it wasn’t like a big meeting. But that broke the ice, as there wasn’t much to talk about. Just show and do it for the cause. I’d already done those two shows, and then, Steve asked me if I wanted to do a 10th anniversary run, and I said sure. I’ve been living in China, so I came out and hanging out in L.A. and we’re doing these handful of shows through November.
RR: Our number one Jambands.com story for a few days was actually a YouTube link in The Loop section, which featured 10th Anniversary run rehearsal footage. What were those rehearsals like for you and the band?
CH: Pretty relaxed. It was in a beautiful spot by the water in Palos Verdes. Rehearsals were easy and short. We used to rehearse for eight to ten hours, five days a week, and it was way too much. It was too much time together, too much everything. This was quick and easy and relaxed and…yeah, it was fun. It was cool. For me, I hadn’t played the songs in a long time, so it wasn’t like I was getting old or whatever. It was new for me.
RR: Were there discussions ahead of time about how everything was going to be structured? How was different this time as opposed to your past experiences in Particle? And how do these differences impact your improvisation?
CH: No, there wasn’t much talk about it. Personally, that’s the way I like it. I like just things happening. I don’t like trying to plan out things. Whenever you try and plan things out, in my opinion, they usually just come out not quite right, or not real, or something is not right about it. Things that happen naturally have more of the magic to them, or the potential for the magic. They also have the potential for train wrecks and disasters. I like walking the tightrope. That kind of thing has more to be gained even though you can lose a little bit more on that.
RR: The shows have gone well thus far, and you’ve also got some Colorado dates.
CH: Pretty much go with the flow and see what happens. Colorado is always good to us, and it’ll be a good vibe out there. Yeah, it’s going to be awesome. I love Colorado.
RR: No difficulty getting back into the mindset of being back in the band, being back in Particle for these shows? Did it feel like only yesterday since you played?
CH: (pauses) Well…you know…I didn’t put a lot of thought to it. I showed up and we played, and it was, yeah, like the past. Everything was as it was when I left off. Nothing really…I hadn’t even really heard any of the music that came after me, so I can’t really judge that, but everything we’ve played was all the stuff that I had done. Everything was very similar to where I left off, but, I guess, there wasn’t any negativity. That was a positive note. Before, in the band, back in the day, there was a fair amount of negativity and battles and stuff that people hold on to and wounds and all that. I guess a lot of that has healed, so that’s a good thing.
RR: At that point of departure back then, you moved around a bit, right?
CH: I was in L.A., and then I went to Australia for a while. Recently, I’ve been in China for about four months. I’ve been playing music wherever I go and trying different things.
RR: What took you to places like Australia and China, and what did you gain from those experiences?
CH: I needed a change. Things had gotten stale. My brother lived in China, so that was probably the main thing that pulled me into China. Australia pulled me in, as well, a little bit. I went and tried it for about eight months and it was a great experience. The musicians out there are really great players. But I keep getting pulled back to L.A. for whatever reason, so now I’m back in L.A. (laughs) hanging out right now.
RR: How has the L.A. scene changed over the years?
CH: (pauses) I see a lot of musicians struggling with the economy. I mean…it’s really hard to be a touring band, unless you break a certain point at the level you’re at. At the lower, mid levels, it’s really hard to tour. Most guys I talk to aren’t making much money if anything, and if you’re just starting out, you’re going to be losing money to play. Yeah…it seems harder to be a musician right now. I hear a lot of guys getting day jobs, and doing other things besides music because it’s really hard. I’m stickin’ with it because I don’t know anything else to do, or what I’m good at. (laughter)
RR: Are musicians trying to get live gigs, or are they trying to get tracks on the net?
CH: Yeah. No one is really selling records anymore. That’s kind of on the out. I don’t know about downloads. That seems more of a marketing tool to get your music out there versus more of how to make income. So playing is very important for bands to survive.