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Published: 2012/12/05
by Dean Budnick

Scrapomatic: All Ideas Welcome at Mike and Paul’s Dojo

I want to mention one other song. I’m curious about “Malibu.” What prompted that one?

I don’t know if I should really say where that song comes from, but…sure I will. It’s about California, but it’s also based on a strain of marijuana called “Malibu.” I don’t really smoke it, but some people in our band do occasionally, and it ended up being an exploration of California, and what is California? Again, being a Midwestern going out to California and Los Angeles, Malibu, even San Francisco, it’s like visiting another country. And in popular music right now, probably starting back with the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers in the 90’s there were all these odes to California, and how people can’t understand how wonderful California is, and I just never got it. So we wanted to write a somewhat anti-California song, so that’s what that is.

Do your songs become Scrapomatic songs from the moment of inception or do you sit with them after they’re completed and try to formulate what might work best with Scrapomatic?

I think that’s why Scrapomatic exists. Again, I like to say that Paul and I have been having this conversation musically and otherwise for years and years and years. It’s where all these things that don’t quite fit, with artists Paul happens to be working with or me just musing around and thinking about music and knowing that an idea might not be appropriate for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. It’s like the island of lost boys: any idea is just welcome at the Scrapomatic table. Or as Dave Yoke likes to say, “Everyone is welcome at Paul and Mike’s dojo.” There are just no rules, as long as it’s quality, it’s acceptable.

So that’s kind of why we have this thing that we have. It’s so we can work stuff out and take our time and throw it back and forth and it’s ours and we don’t have to worry about what people are going to think about it. As long as we agree on it, it’s a place to go. So, it’s kind of an old school collective and it’s a good feeling to have that artistically. I think a lot of people are out there second-guessing themselves quite a bit, in terms of “Where am I going to place this?” or “Who’s going to like this, how can I craft this to make it palatable?” And we don’t have to worry about that in Scrapomatic. If we can crack each other up and if we can get each other in agreement then that’s all we need. It’s a rare thing to have. I don’t think a lot of artists have that and we’re very lucky.

Scrapomatic has opened a number of dates for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. How have those audiences responded?

Well, I think it’s interesting. Especially now that Susan’s crowd and Derek’s crowd have been combined, have been forced to combine, whether they like it or not—they’ve heard a bit of shit about that—it tends to be people who are very open-minded, people who are very much in love with the blues. There are a lot of classic rock people from the Allman Brothers area, a lot of jam type people. It’s not just older people either. It’s people across the board, finally equal amounts of men and women, and I think they really like what we’re putting down.

We find that we’re very well received, and maybe they’re just tolerating us but it’s a really interesting audience. Really a credit to Derek and Susan and the Tedeschi Trucks Band that they’re drawing an interesting cross-section of people who just aren’t getting what they want, I think, out of music in general. And I think they’re coming to this band and I think word is spreading. I think it’s a word of mouth thing. I don’t think it’s a top down phenomenon at all, I really think the word’s just getting out. If you really like music and you like the history of music, and you like American roots music, then this is a place you can come to and have a good time. And I think Scrapomatic benefits from that.

In terms of Tedeschi Trucks Band, were you surprised when Derek and Susan committed to such a large band and have maintained the numbers of the group on the road?

I’m surprised they’re maintained it, I am. It’s a hell of a commitment, organizationally, financially, etc. If you want to go out and make a lot of money, don’t have a twelve-person band. But, I think creatively, having that palette and having this group of talented people that you can lean on and rely on and turn to and be inspired by, I think it has energized Derek and Susan. It’s taken a while to find the right people, but everybody to a person in this group is just astonishing in what they bring to the table. It’s an amazing group of talent but also a credit to Derek and Susan for being able to kind of guide it. It’s an unwieldy creature and they’re been able to define it and really make it something. So it’s just a pleasure to be a part of it, it’s really fun. Every night something different happens, it’s unbelievable, it really it, it’s a hell of a group.

I have to say, I have a deep respect for what they’ve decided to do.

Oh my god, even if you’ve watched the Mad Dogs & Englishmen movie with Joe Cocker, and you’re like “Oh, that looks like fun and the music they’re putting out is amazing,” the offstage stuff, like how do you herd around twenty people is insane. I don’t even want to make a metaphor because I’ll insult somebody, but it’s a lot of work.

At the Beacon where a number of artists sat in with the group did you rehearse in advance? It seems like it would be a challenge for someone to fit in with that much sound. Or are those mostly done on the fly?

At the Beacon actually we did rehearse. We went to SIR on the West Side of Manhattan there, and did a day. And some people came in, like Eric Krasno, and people who happened to be in town stopped by and we worked some stuff out because there are so many elements and you can’t really wing it. And of course we also had the stage every day, so we had some folks who would come in during sound check, and we’d make that work. You have to be pretty deliberate about it, you can’t really go seat of your pants with so many folks.

Thinking back on your time with the Tedeschi Trucks Band, is there a moment, either with a guest, or another moment on stage with the group that really stands out for you?

For me some of those moments have been, not necessarily having somebody sit in, but just being on stage with this group of people that you love and that you respect. And being at a venue, like Red Rocks for example, and saying to yourself, “Wow. We got over, people get it. We did it. We did what we set out to do.” And you see people in the audience who are singing words, maybe that you’ve wrote, and they know them, and it’s just very moving. It’s very humbling when you hit those sweet spots and you’re like “Hey, this thing that we’ve all given up so much to do is really working.” It’s a hell of a feeling. Like I said, it’s quite humbling.

You mention that you’d like to go to in and record again with Scrapomatic. What other plans do you have for the group?

Again, it’s hard to get anything done with Scrapomatic. We’re going to do a series of New York shows in December, and we’ll keep doing little bits and starts here, but especially when Derek amps it up again with the Allman Brothers, we really want to have Paul down to Atlanta and just start laying down songs. There’s so many, and if you don’t record a song it sort of ends up drifting into the ether; you forget about it. Recording a song kind of makes it real to a band, and there’s so many we need to get real, so we’re just going to kind of start that process, of getting our catalogue down and getting it to the people.

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