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Karina Rykman Lends the "Pepper" to Marco Benevento

Photo by Paul Piazza

In this tense political climate, it’s important to focus on principles that we care about: rock n roll. It’s also important to realize the trickle-down economics of modern rock music have rarely given us as many gifts as Ween’s reunion.

Not only are Ween on fire musically, touring nationally, selling out Red Rocks, and busting out first-time rarities each show that keep even the longest-running fans in pursuit of more, but through the caterpillar-shedding that was their hiatus we are all getting to know the charismatic gifts of Karina Rykman. In a role formerly flushed by Ween’s Dave Dreiwitz, Karina was scouted and recruited to play bass for Marco Benevento after years working the NYC home-circuits with Dreiwitz in his band Crescent Moon.

So much has changed since then, and most may say, for the better. She’s played two tours with Marco, one on each coast, and is heading into a huge Summer that kicks off in the middle of the country and takes her to some major festivals, and both coasts. Never seen without a smile and with a joke on hand, it’s fair to say: she is killing it.

It seems like you’ve really gotten into a groove with Marco and Andy (Borger, drummer). Is it safe to say that you’re officially in the band now?

Yes! It’s my gig now. The last time we spoke, I honestly don’t think I knew at that point. I was just so thrilled to fill in whenever I could, and to be a help to both Dave and Marco. To be available whenever I could sub in and help out. But now, it’s full-blown! Dave has passed the torch. Last summer it was about half him, and half me. Whenever Ween was off the road, he’d play, or if they were busy, I’d jump in.

But now, it’s all me, baby! And I couldn’t be more humbled. It is completely surreal to me. Dave is THE messiah, and my guru. The finest caliber of person that exists on this planet is Dave Dreiwitz. So, it’s just completely an honor and completely humbling for me. I can’t imagine someone doing anything kinder than what Dave did for me, and I think about it every day. I’m just so grateful to know somebody like him.

So, when it became clear that you were a permanent member of the band, did Marco just give you a suit… or did you have to do some sort of hazing ritual to earn it?

That’s a very good question. [Laughs] Well you know, when I first started wearing those striped pants that matched Marco’s suit, it was before my very first gig in April 2016. We were about to leave for Boston, and Katie, Marco’s wife, gave me the pants! She explained that they were going to shoot a music video where everyone dressed like Marco, so they had lots of these extra pants [Laughs]

What’s funny is, they started as just black and white stripes the first night. But the following night in Kingston, NY, right by where Marco lives in Woodstock, we had a “pants-coloring-in-party” before the show. Marco’s kids, the band and crew , and some of our friends, all gathered around as I stood up and they drew and painted on my pants that were… directly on my body [Laughs]

But, I gotta tell ya, those pants have been RETIRED! We switched it up a little bit. We’re now wearing all white. We have these white shirts that Marco makes that say different things. You’ve probably seen them, they say “Using Time for Fun,” and “Shooting Up at The Office,” and “Remote Control Cars.”

Is there one that’s your favorite?

I’d say now I’ve kinda shifted into using the “We’re Using Time for Fun” shirt, but on the East Coast tour I think every night I wore “Shootin Up at the Office.” Andy will usually wear the same shirt as me, and Marco is wearing a beautiful, new striped blazer. It’s a little more subtle, and a little less Beetlejuice [Laughs]

I didn’t realize Marco makes the shirts! Even better. And do you guys find time to train for all the jumping you do on stage?

We actually get our pole vaulting on every night before the show and hope for the best! Well, you know, Marco does his jump during “Limbs of a Pine” into “Jump into the Fire,” which we tend to do most nights. I guess we could call it his “scheduled jump.” [Laughs]

Then, he does a cover by the band called The Knife called “Heartbeats,” literally from the first gig doing this, I don’t know why it felt so natural to me, but I would stop playing during a segment with no bass part, walk to the opposite side of the stage and wait for Marco to call me back in basically. From the first time we did it, I felt like I had to jump in. Not just walk back in, but JUMP back in.

Now it’s become kind of a thing, where people will ask me, “Gonna jump during ‘Heartbeats’ tonight?” It came so naturally, and now it’s kind of subconscious. It doesn’t feel like an act to me, it just is what feels like it suits the music, and that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do!

So, yes, it’s a very rigorous training process. [Laughs]

It was crazy on the West Coast tour because I had fractured my foot! I was just walking around Williamsburg with my old band, Youth Posse, and I heard a pop. My friends helped me get to a drug store where I grabbed Epsom Salts, but the doctor told me the next day I would need much more than that [Laughs]. It was FRACTURED!

I was supposed to be wearing this walking boot per my doctor, on stage. That’s just such a bad look, I couldn’t do it! God forbid. So, you know, for the first few shows of that tour I was a bit immobile too. I couldn’t do my “Heartbeats” jump, but I just wore my normal shoes and timidly stood there. It was awkward…or, I guess, more awkward than normal (laughing). So that was a little bizarre, but I feel what you’re saying. It was weird to just stand there for me. Then, you know, by halfway through the tour I was jumping off subs and monitors at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland. I pulled through!

A definitive trooper! And can we expect any new music from camp Marco Benevento anytime soon?

Yes! Marco has a ton of demos and we’ve been playing a bunch of his brand new tunes at soundchecks. You know, working out the forms and stuff. They’re fucking awesome. I believe he’s going to record later this summer, with a producer who I’m not allowed to divulge at this point. But I think it’s going to be cool as Hell. It’s unclear if I’m going to be playing on the record or if he and the producer are basically gonna do it all themselves, but either way I’m psyched to hear how the tunes end up, and am super excited to play them live!

When he’s off tour, he goes into his studio at his house (which he calls Fred Short) and just cranks ‘em out. I’m excited for everyone to hear where his brain is going and to share in the music. It’s great for me because it’s just basslines GALORE!

Can we expect any of these new tunes on the upcoming Dispatch/Guster tour?

You know, probably not since they’re short sets. We’ll get about 45 minutes, so I think we’ll probably be hittin ‘em with the shit, if you will. “Shut up and play the hits” if you will. But that’s all up to Marco, he calls the shots. If he says we’re gonna, then we’re gonna! But I bet we won’t.

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