How did music play a role in your life growing up?
My mom was a huge musical influence on me. I started playing drums when I was 10. Mom struggled and still does suffer from mental illness. She likes old, classic Rock… Lynyrd Skynyrd kinds of stuff. She raised me on that music. We were dirt poor and moved around a lot. I came from nothing. With all her problems, there was a lot of tension in the house, but the music was something that we could bond over when I was younger.
Who was one of your biggest musical influences growing up?
I loved John Lennon. I didn’t know my real dad. I know who he is, and I’ve met him twice, but I never got a phone call or a birthday card from him when I was a kid. But, John Lennon... his lyrics were positive and had a good message, and because I didn’t have a father, John Lennon became a father when I didn’t have one in a way. I feel like his music was full of good advice for me when I needed it.
You were heading down a dangerous path. What caused you to change?
The life and death of Layne Staley influenced me. He was a lot like me during a time when I was trying to find people like me. I look like him and have been told that I sound like him. It’s like we have the same DNA in a way. We both went through very similar emotional things in our lives. I guess you could say that his personal life drew me into his music. I was partying, doing dope… and when Layne died from an overdose, it helped me walk away from addiction. His death saved my life in a way.
What’s it like being in a band with musicians that represent four different decades?
It’s an amazing collaborative experience! Mars Hill is a collaborative effort. Kenny is more old school Rock-n-Roll, with a lot of influence from the 60s-80s, and mine is more modern (90s-early 2000s). Alex is a master on the bass; playing everything from Jazz to Progressive Rock. We all have different styles and influences we bring to the stage, so we have to work together and be open to each other’s ideas. I hope other musicians see that as encouraging too. It’s okay to jam with people with different musical backgrounds and people in different age brackets. It’s okay to be accepting of other musicians who may not necessarily be your “peers”. You make some unique sh*t that way! I also think that’s why Mars Hill’s music appeals to so many different people. We merge a little bit of everything.
Can you explain your creative writing process?
I see music as colors! The colors represent feelings and emotions, and I see music as being just as much visual as auditory. The melody paints a picture in my mind, so if I close my eyes I should see it. If I do my job right as a musician, other people will hopefully see those same colors as well. Some colors symbolize different moods. For example, pinks have a tense and unsettling feeling to me.
I write about life and real experiences. I write about the frustrations I have with ignorance – mine and others, or I should say, the lack of knowledge or awareness we have about things. I’m not usually big on writing “love songs.” Anything that’s done well and has soul in it speaks to me. I don’t like anything dark and negative, so I think its got to be positive or enlightening for the listener and make you feel something emotionally or psychologically.
What are the top five albums in your collection?
Eric Johnson- “Tones”
Jeff Beck- “Live at the Hollywood Bowl”
Tony MacAlpine- “Maximum Security”
Jimi Hendrix- “Are you Experienced”
Rush- “Moving Pictures”
What’s your number one downloaded song?
“Heart of the Matter” by Don Henley! It’s the main one I can think of off the top of my head! It’s an amazing song. It’s just so powerful and real and of course it’s about “forgiveness”. It’s just a song that speaks to my heart and my soul every day.
What kinds of music do you like to listen to?
I enjoy Instrumental, Classical, Jazz, Ambient, Math Rock, Post Rock and Progressive stylings. A passion of mine are bands with only a few members preforming in a way that you could have sworn there were more people on stage. I am not a big fan of "shredding" or "heavy" music, more so emotionally heavy music I like to feel the weight of the message and musical tone. Just as bass needs to have a direction lyrics should tell a story. I like the idea of a begining, middle and end.
Who are your musical Influences?
When I was younger, I had my come up learning a lot of Les Claypools music he was absolutely doing things different than most bass players I was hip to but as we know Primus sucks. I soon found other creative bassists to study. You can't really hear about a bassists influences without hearing about Victor Wooten, Stu Hamm and Jaco Pastorius, I actually use a small excerpt from Jaco's "Chromatic Fantasy" as a finger exercise to warm up. Stanley Clark, John Entwistle are some monster players. Nathan East has such a clean refined approach to playing. Of course I'd have to throw home for Detroit Motowns own James Jamerson and his tone from that Ampeg fliptop. A larger rounding of my influences came from solo bassists, Michael Manring, Jean Baudin, Jeff Schmidt, Yves Carbonne and Steve Lawson. Heck I'm also influenced by acoustic guitarists like Andy McKee and even pianists.
What kind of music do you write?
I have a somber yet optimistic sound when writing music. Playing bass became a coping mechanism for me, A way to speak from my heart without using words. I have had a lot of loss in my life starting at a young age and most recently my mother passed away December of 2019. Playing bass has always been very grounding for me and can be described as pretty, uplifting and calming even through the emptiness and vulnerability.
I think I just reveal my soul through my music. I hope people can feel what I feel. Maybe it’s reflective. Like holding a mirror up and confronting the sad or dark or worst thing about yourself. I think everyone can appreciate that to some level. And with Mars Hill, I think our stuff is like that to a degree, it’s got this hopefulness in there too which attracts listeners.
What’s something about you that people misunderstand?
The summer after I graduated from high school a change manifested in me bringing about a diagnosis of Manic Depressive Bipolar Disorder. After an arduous journey through multiple therapists, psychiatrists and inpatient hospitalizations, my psychiatrist and I have found a mixture of medication that works really well for me. Personally, I experience more of the depression side of things, hitting mania is my sign that things have gotten bad but with a keen eye my psychiatrist keeps me in check. People lack understanding of mental disorders and that is why I am bringing this up. People like us can sometimes cycle through being quiet, monotone, or seemingly uninterested to being very boisterous, loud, excited and energetic. Sometimes, when the former is happening, people tend to think they have upset me in some way, when they haven't. Other times, when the latter is happening, they may think I am using drugs - I don't drink or use drugs. There are many more intricacies to this disease that just cant be reasonably discussed in this format, but I hope that we can move away from all of the stigmas and work to understand and accept everyone.
What does “successful” mean to you?
Being successful is real happiness. they say if you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. Music is what I love and if in doing so, I can provide for my family it would be a dream come true. Outside of a career/lifestyle lookout I'd say success is always moving forward, always bettering oneself. The world is both huge and incredibly small and I don't think we enter this life just to accumulate wealth or inflate a name.
What things make you the happiest?
2) Large bodies of water. Nature in all forms really, I love the forest, I love the quietness of the winter. Rain is a big one for me. Really the only thing in nature that I don't enjoy is hotter weather.
3) My pets! I have a 2 year old Caique (bird) whose name is Juno and I have three cats, Sugar, Slinky and George. It’s actually funny, because I’ll let Juno walk around on the floor (I think it’s funny to see a bird walk around on the ground), and the cats don’t do anything, Maybe they’ll come up and sniff, but then they’ll walk away. Really if anything Juno is more aggressive towards the cats but she is in her terrible twos so its to be expected.
4) My brother Joey.
5) My friend group. I have never had a friend group until recently, you know the same group of people you do everything with. chill, go on adventures play table top games with, whatever, and now that I have one I am thankful everyday. These people have probably saved my life and they have absolutely made me a better person.
Top 5 Favorite Albums:
Songs About Jane - Maroon 5
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
Gorillaz - The Now Now
MGMT - Little Dark Age
Childish Gambino- Awaken My Love
Who is one of the most influential people in your life?
My Dad, Clifford. He’s got the grit! He just keeps going; stopping is not an option for him! He’s always doing whatever he needs to do to take care of his family. He’s kind and compassionate and all around a solid dude.
Why did you pick the drums?
You could say the drums picked me. When I was in junior high, I wanted to take band as an elective. The band instructor had me blow on all the different brass and woodwinds to see which one was a good fit. He basically said none of them were going work for me! So, he had me do a tapping test to see if I could follow a basic rhythm. I didn’t know what he was doing, but he told me I was playing drums. It’s a funny story, but it really was all because of my dad and guidance counselor encouraging me to try it.
What is your favorite food?
I have a sensitive stomach, so there are a lot of foods I love, but I just can’t eat anymore. I am a meal prepper, and I have to prep everything I eat. It’s time consuming, and I basically can’t eat out in social setting unless I bring my own food. I do, however, tolerate meat well, so I really like making tacos. Tacos are good! I like carne tacos, but I can’t handle the spice.
How do you view the world?
I see a lot of things that are broken in the world that I can’t fix, so I just have to figure out how to co-exist with them. I’m a Pisces, so I’m quiet and stay in my own head a lot. I have a neutral energy level. I tend to be inwardly more negativity or pessimistic you could say, but I don’t believe in projecting that on other people. I don’t think it’s good to project negative energy into the world. I’m pretty sensitive to that kind of energy, and I like to be around people who are optimistic and positive.