Feb. 9 in Costa Mesa and Feb. 10 in L.A. and they speak now with Good Foot DJ and Free Moral Agents’ bassist Dennis Owens. " /> L.A. Record


February 3rd, 2015 | Interviews

illustration by champoyhate

Jungle Fire is as much a community as it is a band—a family of funky Afro-Latin-influenced musicians who have collaborated with or supported top-rank performers like Celia Cruz, De La Soul, La Santa Cecilia, Myron & E and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien. Of course, anyone who’s heard (or danced to) their heavy-hitting 45s needs no further introduction. Now Jungle Fire has recently released their full-length debut Tropicoso, which draws from cumbia, salsa, Afrobeat and more to put together a relentless selection of floor-fillers. They play Feb. 9 in Costa Mesa and Feb. 10 in L.A. and they speak now with Good Foot DJ and Free Moral Agents’ bassist Dennis Owens.

What first inspired each of you to pick up your instruments?
Michael Duffy (timbales): My mother. She’s a dancer. She needed drummers for her dance class. They quit on her last minute and I ended up getting into it. That’s the path that started for me. The long path.
Joey Reina (bass): I think it was getting out of class. In fourth grade they had an orchestra and if you want to join, you get to get out of class for whatever that period was. All my friends are doing it, so I got into it playing the violin and I started to like it. When I started playing the upright bass, that was it. I loved it. But it was originally to get out of class.
Perfect rock and roll reason right there. What was the first piece of music you loved as a child?
JR: I’d be embarrassed to say that. Top Gun soundtrack. Kenny Loggins.
Nice. Right into the Danger Zone.
JR: It was the first band. I was so hyped. I remember I was like, six or seven when I saw that. I was first conscious of it, like, ‘Oh, that opening song was awesome.’ Yeah, that was the shit.
I remember being a little kid, seeing Top Gun. I was so stoked. Tom Cruise all looking bad ass—when you’re a little kid. He gets the woman at the end.
JR: Everything about that is, for a kid, is awesome. So, goddamn it—Kenny Loggins. Don’t print that.
MD: For me it was Saturday Night Fever. My mom was dancing and teaching disco lessons, so I was going with her to those classes. It was such a compulsive beat. I totally dug it. It got me started, and I’m still playing that beat.
What’s your current favorite music?
JR: Current, well—same with you, probably. There’s not a lot going on currently that I’m really into that would be our contemporaries. I do like listening to L.A. scene as far as—Boogaloo Assassins to me are doing really great things. It’s just the older music. That’s what I really dig into. I like all the New York stuff, all the Truth & Soul stuff. Obviously, Daptone is great. Anything on Stones Throw I pretty much eat up. Aside from that there isn’t much happening right now I’m really into. Just digging into the stuff from the past. We constantly find so much new stuff, and the past, you know—it inspires you so much.
MD: Especially nowadays. There’s so many labels and there’s so much stuff being re-released now. It’s unbelievable how much is being unearthed now. Stuff that even ten years ago you’d never, ever believe. You couldn’t even conceive of it.
JR: Guys like Numero Group. Even like Egon, those guys are constantly unearthing gems.
Even things like Analog Africa, Sublime Frequencies—Sublime Frequencies has been around for a while, but just the fact that stuff’s getting more popular now and there’s more of an audience for it is insane to me now. It’s been pulled up.
MD: A lot of good things, like Joey was saying, are in our own backyard. Boogaloo Assassins, I’d even say bands that are coming out of East L.A., like La Santa Cecilia and Quetzal. Those that are genre-mixing like us, but maybe more in a roots-Mexican way. I think that’s all feeding us equally. I share the same sentiment as Joey—when it comes to funk, and when it comes to Latin funk, I prefer the older stuff to what’s happening now personally. I think it’s why we have this band. Joey and Steve Haney and Jud and Patrick Bailey … all those guys that are record digger people inspired the rest of us in the band to go with that. I wasn’t a record digger—I wasn’t searching for anything. I grew up with a lot of different music, but through those guys, that’s been a really good portal to kind of see what happened before we got into this and be aware of it—so when we’re making the music, we’re kind of hyper aware of what we’re putting out to the people instead of randomly throwing stuff out there.
Who brought in the covers to the band? You do kind of a cover of a cover. You do the Phirpo Y Su Caribes version of Fela Kuti’s ‘Let’s Start’—‘Comencemos.’ Then that ‘Los Feligreses’ by Luis Santi y Su Conjunto. I didn’t know that was a cover when I first was hearing your new album. You guys made it into a new song. I loved your version, and when I heard the older version, I thought that was great, too.
JR: Miles Tackett can be credited for that. At the time Jud—one of our guitar player—was playing with Breakestra, and Miles was like, ‘Oh man, you should check out this tune.’ And he got us hip to that. I found out that was reissued by Egon on one of the Now-Again compilations of Florida Funk. That’s the Cuban cover and we heard it and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve got to do this.’ In the original cut, the drums are so far back. They weren’t the mainstay. It’s such a good tune we decided to put our spin on it. Beef it up, use the drums, get it like a little heavier for the hip-hop heads or B-boys. It turned out great. Got to thank Miles Tackett.
MD: He’s been saving that one for a while.
How did you guys find each other?
MD: It’s a great story. There was a practice space in North Hollywood called Third Encore. Joey was in [room] K, I was in I, he was in a band called Simple Citizens and their singer—or rapper—heard me practicing one day and knocked on my door. Relentlessly. Would not stop. I think I was practicing timbales. I was practicing loud as fuck. He kept knocking, and then I opened the door, like, ‘Who the hell is this?’ He’s like, ‘Hey, man. You sound really good in there. You should come hang out with my band. We could use some percussion.’ That introduced me to Joey and Jud and just over the years, we developed a friendship. I played on a couple of their side project cuts playing percussion. He called me one day and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this thing down in Chinatown and I want to put a Latin funk thing together’ and we had talked about it. Then it just came to fruition and I showed up and played. We didn’t rehearse, just jammed. Afterwards, I remember saying to him, ‘I got a couple friends. I think if we’re going to do this, you should include them.’
JR: Duffy was really instrumental in it. On the funk side, I knew the guys I wanted. Like: our drummer, Sam, my buddy Jud playing guitar, Pat Bailey, also on guitar. When it comes to the Latin, the percussion, especially the horns—that’s where Michael stepped in. He was deep in the salsa scene here in L.A. so he knew the percussionists, which really had to be on the plane with the horn players. When that all came together, that’s what formed us.
MD: We needed guys that weren’t just salseros—let me be very clear on that. There’s a lot of great salsa musicians that don’t know how to play with funk musicians. The guys that I chose to put in the mix, I knew they would be open to not being into the traditional situation, and be willing to maybe not play as much or not be super duper traditional. We brought Steve Haney in, who was the first guy to come in and play congas, and then we brought in Alberto Lopez and the three of us just jelled immediately. And we had Sean Billings on trumpet and Otto Granillo on trombone, and originally Sam Robles on saxophone, now replaced by David Moyer. The chemistry we have as nine people, or ten people, to me is unreal. It was a social experiment because Latin guys—or the guys up front—don’t really beat down Joey and the guys in the back. ‘Oh, you’re not playing in clave, or you’re not playing traditional.’ We just try to make it work. I think that’s why we’ve been successful. I think that’s why people really dig it. They get something they’ve never really seen. Three percussionists and a horn section up front, with this slamming backbeat and groove behind it that is relentless that doesn’t stop for forty five minutes. There isn’t anything I can see that’s current in the scene that’s comparable with it. It doesn’t happen.
Funny you mention that. The one thing that struck me about you guys, when I first heard your music, was how strong and assured the sound was right out of the gate. When I first heard ‘Comencemos,’ I was like, ‘… man.’ There’s a lot of good bands out there, but they don’t come together so fast. Even if you listen to early Daptone, during the Desco era. It was good, but it definitely morphed into something even better when it got into the whole Daptone thing. But with you guys, right off the bat with your first two singles—A and B side, totally strong. As a DJ, that’s a rare thing when I can play any of your songs and it’s equal. I don’t have to worry about it. As someone who’s out there throwing it down to try and make people dance, you guys came out strong right out of the gate.
MD: Credit has to go to the rhythm section on that one. To Joey, Jud, Sam and Pat, because they had been building a strong rhythmic base … what, ten years before we even started? They had worked very hard—diligently—in that practice room where I was, building this digger sound. They could quote stuff, they could call records out, they could repeat those records and play them very authentically. When we put the band together, that was such a force that everything else around it … we just attached to it. I think, as a DJ, that’s why people love our stuff. The bass and drums and guitar are everything you want. Everything else is icing on the cake.
JR: That was the purpose of the band originally, too. And it still is—we’re making music for DJs and for B-Boys and for dancers. That’s why everything is strong. We want everything to be as strong as possible, rhythmically.
That’s the thing. In a lot of groups there’s a lot of parts that are meandering. Sometimes you hear a lot of things you know, okay, maybe they could have done that better—cut that down in length, or whatever. Listening to your new album, it’s eleven songs, kind of two interludes … thirty five minutes, sure and to the point. That’s lost nowadays. Keeping it short and sweet. Getting on to another subject—I read the list of bands and performers that you guys have played and recorded with and Stevie Wonder was at the top of the list.
MD: That was Steve. Steve Haney did a Presidential Inauguration with Obama. And did a couple other shows with Stevie. Stevie expanded the band to add extra percussionists and Steve was chosen as the extra of the extra percussionists. It was a huge honor for him—a life changing experience for him.
Who played with Celia Cruz?
MD: That was Sean. Our trumpet player. He played with her right before she died. It was her last traveling American band.
Wow. That’s intense. Which one of you guys played with Del tha Funkee Homosapien?
JR: That was me. Like Duffy said, we had a hip hop group in late ‘90s, early 2000s that we were doing. We did a show in Tacoma, and there was a agent there that did a lot of work with Del and some other guys. They were doing a series at Yoshi, it’s in San Francisco, and they needed a backing band, and he was like, ‘If you want to do Del’s, all those classics live … ?’ Yeah, of course. We did all the classic Heiro joints. That was so fun. Del is so on point. It was a good show.
I consider your music very cinematic. If you could work with any director on a score, who would you choose?
MD: Tarantino would be perfect. Or Robert Rodriguez. We’d be perfect for both of them.JR: They have that gritty flavor—that’d be a dream. They would have to be them.
MD: Robert would be mine, just because I lived in Austin before I came back to California. He was around a lot, super nice guy, super talented. I respect him—his work ethic is like no one I’ve ever seen.
What is your favorite sound track?
MD: These guys turned me on to a lot of that stuff. Like we were on a van ride in England, we were playing DJ. That was the kind of thing to pass the time going between city to city. So everyone passed their [phones] around, plug it in, plug it in. I remember Sam plugged in all that David Axelrod stuff, which kind of, for me, ruined me. I love Earl Palmer, but I had no idea he played on a lot of that stuff as a drummer. I’ve been living with that since that trip. Man, you know, we were talking about … with soundtracks, back in the day, it was like the soundtracks really defined the movie. Now, it’s kind of in the background. As much as people hate him, I’ve got to say John Williams is one of the best.
He’s iconic.
MD: Yeah, you know—that kind of vibe. I even liked all the Stanley Kubrick stuff. Cape Fear—oh my God, that opening sequence is unbelievable. That’s up there. Some of the Kubrick stuff, it’s so good.
You guys recently played some shows in England. How’d that go?
MD: Unbelievable. Far beyond my expectations for a band with two 45s, no record deal, never toured … and to be having an opportunity like that to go over and play multiple cities and be so well received! Pretty much all the shows were well attended and people were ready to get down. It was hugely successful.
JR: Just the venues, all around—they ranged from sixteenth century farm houses that we played at to the oldest cathedrals in the U.K. to a modern venue. Every place. I’ve never been to Europe. This was my first time and it was a blast.
Europe’s the shit. I toured there a few years ago, and I didn’t ever want to tour the U.S. ever again.
JR: That’s a big part of Zach’s sentiments. It’s weird. They’re so accommodating. They helped us with all our gear. We never had to load anything most of the trip. The promoters, all the sound engineers, the stagehands, they all were so friendly and happy we were there.
MD: So were the DJs—the DJs that were in the major cities, like we got in Manchester with Craig Charles. Open arms. Come down the station. Hang out with us. Played his night. He was super onboard. Up top, with a mic the whole time, watching, commenting. Snowboy. Same percussionists, yeah, he was a percussionist. A huge fan. And as a DJ, he’s legendary in London. He sat in with us, and loved it and we ended up meeting, the percussion section, ended up meeting hero after hero—Karl Van den Bossche, who was Sade’s long time percussionist, Brand New Heavies’ long time percussionist, sat in with us at Bristol and just was tripping out over us. For me, it doesn’t get any better than when your heroes totally look at you and respect you. And say, ‘What you’re doing, I’ve always wanted to do. I wish we could do that here.’
JR: In London, we had the homie Shawn Lee.It was so fun. Every stop was something new and exciting.
I’ve seen you perform some shows with guest vocalist Jamie Allensworth. You guys have any plans to do recordings with him?
JR: Totally. Jungle Fire is instrumental, so our LPs will remain instrumental. But we definitely want to do 45 one-offs. Our big plan next is to cut some forty fives with guest vocalists and show that side. Do stuff that caters more toward the vocalists. More melodic, more cinematic, like you said. We have a couple lined up that we’re going to get on 45. Once Tropicoso is out for a while.
Now that you’re on Nacional, you’re label mates with Ana Tijoux, Los Amigos Invisibles, Manu Chao, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Bomba Estereo … How do you guys see yourself fitting in with these acts?
JR: It’s interesting, actually. We had a meeting about what we would do with them. Like with the Latin Alternative scene, they were really interested in what we could bring as being instrumental and being a cross pollination of funk and the Latin and the Afro stuff. What we’re hoping to learn is to cross pollinate that. Maybe do some collaborations with them. We are instrumental, so it’s perfect for pulling in other singers, or MCs. Have them bring a different flavor to the band.
MD: They open up roads for us to also get to Latin America. That’s a huge thing.
JR: Introduce a new audience. That was the whole point of what I just said. Introduce a new audience. We do appreciate the B-Boy support we had, and all the funk support, and the scene support. But it would be nice to get a whole new audience built out of being represented by them.
MD: You know—you’re a DJ, man. Hip hop is huge, that beat-driven culture is huge across the board. There’ s been tons and tons of great Latin rap artists that have borrowed from the American side of things. I think that same audience is in tune with the good stuff that’s on the label. Bomba Estereo is huge in South America. They’ve got that cumbia rap thing. The heart of what they have is this traditional cumbia thing, which is exactly what we have too, in some of our music. Some of those traditional rhythms turned a little bit on its ear. They can get us into that market and expose us to those people that would love that stuff.
You guys are rooted in an older style, but the way your sound coalesces seems contemporary. It doesn’t sound retro. Somebody can listen to it now, even though it doesn’t sound super clean and super polished and and sanitized or anything—but it sounds punchy. It’s raw.
JR: That was, again, a very intentional thing. A lot of old records, they weren’t made to bang on a stereo system. Drums were never really that present. They sounded great tonally, but they were never that present. We really wanted to beef the sound up. Which, modern days is a big thing nowadays, drums and … All the while still keeping it as gritty as possible. Yeah, the beat culture was a big influence on putting us together. The Beat Junkies and like … in the 90s, that’s what we listened to, so we wanted that influence in it. For sure.
MD: The version of ‘Comencemos’ that is on that record … when we were cutting that record, we put that break in there. Steve Haney said, ‘We need this break in here, so that DJs like Cut Chemist or Numark buy two copies, or we’ll give them two copies and that will be a thing that launches us as a band.’ I remember being in the studio and I remember him really fighting for that. In the version that’s on the record, we let it sit longer. We introduced the batá drums, which are Cuban folk drums. I play a little roll on the timbale and the beat drops, and that beat drops heavy—which always makes those hip-hop heads nod. We’re very conscious of that as a band. We know that a big part of our sound is this great rhythm section that can bang out those hip-hop beats, especially Sam, being that great of a drummer. And then, like Joey was saying earlier, those records in the past weren’t banging like that. On the percussion side of it too, it’s lost in the back. Congas were sometimes over on the left side of the speaker, you could barely hear them, they’re all jacked up. Not with us. We made all those rhythmic elements—we made that stew happen right in your face. You can hear them, you can grasp at them. They’re not polished. Too polished. We still want it gritty and rugged and you know that’s part of Sergio, who has been engineering our stuff and it is a great part of our sound. Sergio Rios.
JR: A guitar player from Orgone. They run a studio in North Hollywood called Killion Sound. They have it locked, tonally. They do all the Orgone stuff, they did the whole rhythm section for the Lions, they did the Boogaloo Assassins record, our stuff.
MD: Mexico 68.
JR: Ikebe Shakedown. Monophonics . He has a very distinct sound that’s just—
Basically that’s the Colemine catalog.
JR: Pretty much.
MD: I think that’s how we got introduced to Colemine—it was through Sergio, wasn’t it?
JR: It was through Monophonics. But he’s responsible for a bulk of L.A.’s sound, for sure.
Does he record analog?
JR: He does. He runs the tape, pretty much all rhythm section goes on tape, and then we balance digital like the horns and overdubs. But the majority is tape. You need that sound.
MD: That punch, especially for those drums.
The saturation. There’s more and more performers, producers and bands nowadays that are drawing from older styles of music—whether it be rock, funk, soul, various forms of Latin and South American music, African styles, even hip hop and electronic music. Why do you think that is?
JR: Because there’s a formula back then that was just so good. Like you said before in the beginning of the interview, there’s a formula of things being played with purpose. It’s also tonal. Back then they didn’t have fancy equipment or fancy instruments. They usually had pretty janky instruments that had this great tone that you don’t have any more. Things were made differently back then and they were preformed differently back then. Arrangements were much simpler, especially drummers. They didn’t play as much as they do nowadays. Everything is very purposely done and aware of what’s being played. That’s why nowadays we listen back, and you’re like, ‘Aw, it’s so good.’ There’s that time, that era, they really knew how to put out good songs. Good song writing. And good tones.
MD: Also they were crews. You had your Muscle Shoals, you had your Stax. You had your Philly sound. And that was way more than just about getting paid. You were a crew. You lived in that town, you ate the food in that town and you absorbed everything around that town. That was all an essence of your sound. That’s why all these certain areas had their moments. Like I said, Muscle Shoals had its moment. You never realize how many funky music came out of that scenario with four country white boys. Or the Philly sound, what developed there, or Stax, or even L.A. happened when Berry Gordy moved Motown out to Los Angeles. Everything had a sound, and I think why everyone goes back to that is those guys were making records seven days a week. Guys from Motown, they were showing up like a factory. They were assembling good stuff and they were playing well together. It wasn’t just about, ‘You sit in the booth cut a drum track.’ Everybody’s on the floor making music. Drummers, like Joey said, couldn’t play a lot because if they overplayed, it would ruin the arrangement of everybody who was sitting in the room. There was such a purpose to get a clean arrangement done because you had six sides to do that day before you went home. Everybody’s so individualized now. You got your computer, you’re in your little room and you can record one at a time. It’s hard to get that sound any more. Why do producers go to that and chop it up? Because again, all of the energy that was created with those crews—legendary crews. We’ve had so many good ones. They’re starting to come back. We’re seeing that stuff with Monophonics, they have their crew. Orgone crew and us. Guys who are really committed to sitting in a room and working out—making good music.
Do you see yourselves in that lineage? As maybe being able to be like a, dare I say, like a Wrecking Crew type of band, or what they did at Motown and …
JR: Yeah—I think there’s a very cool thing happening with the East Coast, West Coast, and even the Midwest right now is like … Obviously the East Coast having its roots in soul, and Daptone, those guys, they’re very much doing that with all the projects they’re doing, and they’re doing an amazing job at it. On the West Coast, too, it’s starting to revitalize. We have Breakestra, the front runners, for sure they started all in L.A., of bringing back the sound. You have us, you have the Lions, you have Orgone, Boogaloo Assassins, Ethio Cali too. We’re all resurrecting and adding new flavors to these old sounds.
I think what all the bands you mentioned are doing right now is all high quality stuff and I believe that … like the group that did the album with Mulatu, Heliocentrics. London. They’re a U.K. based band. That’s why I went back earlier and asked you about working with other vocalists. I don’t see why you guys couldn’t do the same thing and help these older artists put out stuff that sounds great now. That Mulatu [Astatke] record with Heliocentrics was great. Really good. I guess they just did an album with Orlando Julius too.
MD: For sure. I think everything will come to us now that we have this opportunity—a bigger opportunity—to showcase our stuff. Colemine was an amazing opportunity to get our music out to the world. We hope that with Nacional it’ll even be a bigger push. How it’s all worked out with this band, we’ve never pushed for anything. We just stay committed and on task to go on one day at a time and making things happen. If that opportunity comes—like Joe Bataan—we want to do it. I really want to do it with Joe. He’s a legend. He’s had a lot of bands come through the West Coast and they’re good. I think we would do better. We love his music and we love him.
With you, there’s a younger energy too.
JR: It really helps these guys out. That’s what they had back then, but they don’t have that now. There’s a lot more young players now who really understand the style. Which is a really interesting thing about this era. Which I think is awesome. And the younger listeners also understand that, too. I’m sure when Syl Johnson had Breakestra back him up not too long ago—same exact thing. You heard all these records and these samples, but to hear him being backed up by a band like Breakestra, it had that punch—Miles knew how to bring that music to life again, and it was so cool to hear. It’s great. We would love to do that.
MD: You got to have someone who’s going to spearhead that, and we’re lucky we have Joey and Steve Haney to spearhead those projects and be conscious how to play with those artists and play the right way with those artists. You need to have that in your band. It’s a democracy to a point, but you need to have someone, and they’re kind of the yin and yang of this band, for me personally.
When you guys started Jungle Fire, was this considered a side project?
JR: Oh, totally. When it first started, it wasn’t even a side project. It was a one-off project. We did it for Soul Sessions. It was fun, it was cool. We played like two and a half songs, maybe. That was it. Then I just hear from people after the show, ‘That’d be fun if you did it again.’ So we played a couple more shows, and it was still a very loose project. It got to a point where it became a focal point for all of us. We saw the potential in it. But it was a side project, for sure.
Is this your main band now?
JR: That’s the thing too—we all have other things going on. It is a focal point for all of us. We enjoy it, but there’s just so much to be played. We’re all involved in different projects. We do come together and we come together for Jungle Fire. It is a main idea for all of us.
MD: It was putting out that first 45. That’s what kind of sealed the deal. Seeing the relationship of Steve and Joey coming together and working together to organize it. Organize it from him, on the rhythm section side, and Steve with horn ideas and percussion ideas—once he got in the band it was a unifying element to take it to the next place.
You have songs with names like ‘Chalupa,’ ‘Tokuta,’ ‘Culebro’ and ‘Snake Pit.’ What’s your process for naming instrumentals?
MD: For ‘Tokuta,’ it’s two rhythms that came together. ‘Chalupa’ is a Columbian rhythm, that’s what it’s called. Those names came from the drums. ‘Snake Pit’ was what—Patty B?
JR: Right. That’s our guitar player, Pat Bailey, they call him Snake. The song, when we wrote it, had the guitar in the forefront. And plus his rehearsal space, we call it the ‘Snake Pit’ because that’s his thing. Just an inside gag thing.
Maybe Slash will have something to say about that. ‘Rompecuero’—
MD: It means to break the skin. In salsa terminology, especially in the sixties and seventies, when the conga player or timbale player or bongo player would take a solo, you would hear banter in the back. ‘Rompecuero, rompecuero,’ like, ‘Play so hard you’re going to break the skin.’ That’s where that came from. We’re all—in the percussion section—have a lineage, a history, in the salsa music scene here in Los Angeles. There’s always going to be that element of that coming through, that energy of rompecuero coming through the back. Especially when we solo. Especially when it’s so absolutely hundred percent.
JR: It comes through when these guys solo—it’s a force, man, when the percussion starts.
Anything the public doesn’t know already? Any secrets? Are there any musical skeletons in anybody’s closet?
MD: I was the drummer in K-Fed’s band when he went out solo.
So you have a very intimate knowledge of ‘Popozao’ or what?
MD: I did. I was in his band when he came out. My ex-wife, at the time, was Britney Spears’ manager, and still is, and he wanted to put a band together. He had a budget. I wasn’t working at the time, and she said, we need to pay the rent and I said, we need to pay the rent. I did the Ellen DeGeneres Show and The Tonight Show with him.
What songs did you do? ‘Popozao’?
MD: No, we didn’t do ‘Popozao.’ I don’t even remember the name of the song. I do remember this. I never got paid so much to rehearse one song in my entire life. We did the one song on both TV shows, and we locked out Center Staging for a week to rehearse one song. The band was killer. The band was actually very, very good. At the end of the day, I’ve had some crazy gigs in my time, as we all have. A lot of the guys who’ve been side men, but that’s my main skeleton.
JR: You know, I got to say, luckily I don’t have one because I haven’t played a lot. I’ve never really played music professionally, so I’ve always just had our bands. As you know, having your own bands, you just love them.
MD: But that’s the important thing with those guys—they grew up together. Jud, Sam and Joey, so they had that innate thing. When we put this together, you can’t build that with individual sidemen. The front ensemble, percussion and horns are sidemen to the core. But the backbone of this band is guys that grew up playing together. That, to me, is the most important thing in this band—is those dudes grew up together. We would not sound as good as we sound without that. Absolutely. A hundred percent.