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Published: 2010/10/20
by Randy Ray

Charlie Hitchcock: Particle Person Anew

RR: When you left Particle, did you have your own issues with your identity as a musician? Did you take a while to switch artistic gears? How long did it take you to come around to what you wanted to do, and how you wanted to do it?

CH: That was really hard because I wasn’t expecting to not have my main band. It was hard, and I just went out with random, different bands. I was always trying different things. But I am always able to be like a hired gun. I have that. I am good at being in different situations and being able to float above water with them, and flow with different styles of music. And not just do jam music. I can play jazz and blues and be pretty believable in all of that stuff. It’s hard. It’s still hard. Being a musician is a hard life unless you make it super duper big. You can’t really expect that. All you’ve got to do is keep doin’ what you’re doin’ and believe in yourself. So far, everything’s been cool, and I’m still chugglin’ on, still cruisin’ on.

RR: Interesting what you said about flowing with different styles of music because I definitely hear that in your playing these days. Is there a different form of communication going on when you play with these specific musicians in Particle?

CH: Yeah, there’s got to be some subconscious stuff that goes on. My goal when I play music is to totally get out of the way, let the music flow, and try not to think about the music. I want to play music, and, then, basically be listening. I want to be in the audience listening to what’s going on. That’s my goal—somewhere in the audience listening to what’s happening versus me trying to make something happen, and me trying to do this or that. Whenever I try, say if there’s someone in the audience I want to impress, or I want to sound good, that’s when I sound bad because I’m trying to do something. If I don’t try and sound good, if I don’t try and impress anybody, and I just do what’s natural, and relax, that’s when the best stuff happens—when I’m at my optimum. That’s what I try and do.

RR: How do you play, listen to the other musicians, and then put yourself out into the audience and listen, as well? Are you listening to yourself integrate with the band, or are you listening to the whole band?

CH: Everything, yeah. I listen to everything. I listen to everything, and try and find a space. If there’s a space for me to do something, I’ll fill it up. Or, if there’s a space that I fill up that should be left open, maybe it should just be an open space where people can take a breath because Particle doesn’t have a lot of that. Definitely need that. I’m probably blending myself where I’m half just as a listener and half of me is thinking about the music and what other people are playing. You get tranced out; I do. I get in this weird space, a weird feeling, where…I don’t know…I don’t know how to explain it. You get in a trance, I guess, and you come out of it at some point. It depends. If it’s me doing my improv thing by myself, maybe I’ll be more tranced out. If it’s me more like complementing what Steve’s doing, then maybe I’ll be more conscious and aware and thinking more, more right brain.

RR: Speaking of listening, after leaving Particle, you sat in with a number of groups, including Umphrey’s McGee at a gig I covered a few years back. It makes me think of not only collaborations, but also your influences over the years. Who were some of those musicians that captured your imagination and influenced you?

CH: My favorite guitar players are Miles Davis’s ex-guitar players—Mike Stern, Robben Ford, John Scofield. Robert Cray is one of my favorite blues players. Stevie Ray Vaughan. I’m always listening to DJ music, too. There’s always that side of it. I’m taking in all of the music from the scene, too—Gov’t Mule, Umphrey’s, of course, and all of that stuff gets taken in just by being there and being around all that.

RR: Absolutely. That scene includes you, as well. When you look back over the first part of the decade when you played and toured with Particle, are there moments that stand out during that time for you?

CH: I remember our fifth anniversary show at the House of Blues as being really great. All the guests we’ve had, every single guest we’ve had are always…there’s been a ton of guests…I can’t go through a list of names, but every time we had a guest, it’s so much fun and so interesting. The coolest part for me is when people come and sit in and add something different and totally change everything because it mixes it up and makes it fun. For me, when you’re playing that many shows—150 or whatever it was, 200 shows a year—it’s cool when something new and different comes in and changes everything.

RR: And here you are now, back with the band, and playing a 10th anniversary run. The Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger has, obviously, played with Particle before, but what was it like to have his vibe on stage at the Roxy on October 7?

CH: It’s great, man. He’s a really nice guy, a really mellow guy, and he’s a really good player, an excellent player. He’s probably playing his best in his lifetime right now. He’s definitely on it, definitely on it. Yeah, it was great playing with him.

RR: That has to be inspiring, too—to see Krieger play. You’re a working musician, you’re pushing ahead, continuing to improve, taking in new influences, and it has to inspire you like “ you know—I’m going to be doing that, too, in 20 to 25 years.”

CH: Yeah. Definitely. That would be cool. I definitely want to always be playing. I think it keeps you young, too.

RR: Why do you think staying young is important?

CH: Everything—health, your mind, being happy.

RR: Growing old impacts you in a negative way? Impacts everything you do?

CH: Yeah…I mean…I don’t want to get old. Ever. I feel like, in my mind, I’m a lot younger than my age, but I’m not old yet. I’m in my 30s, and I feel like I’m in my late 20s in my mind. (laughs) It’s probably my lifestyle, too; I’m in bands playing music.

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