Marco Benevento is a man of many talents but his specialty is the piano. He has worked with countless famous names in the jam band and jazz scene but we are mostly excited about his work on his latest album- Tigerface.He recently chatted with Breanne at Asheville Jams about his upcoming show at The Grey Eagle.AVJ- What do you think about Asheville?
Marco- I think it’s a great little town. I played a handful of different venues like The Grey Eagle, Pisgah Brewery, and a long time ago I played at that big arena with Joe Russo and Mike Gordon. We opened up for Phil Lesh and Friends which was a bigger deal. I’ve played all over. I also played at The Orange Peel.
AVJ- Your album Tiger Face has been out for a while now. Has it connected with an audience that may have not listened to your music before since it’s so different.
Marco- Totally. It definitely reached out to a larger audience which is really good.
AVJ- What was your creative process with this album? Did you go into it having a certain idea?
Marco- I had some ideas for how a lot of the vocal parts would turn out. I had some ideas for how I felt it should go. I wasn’t too prepared for the recording process. I kinda left it open to make some quick decisions in the studio. Adding the vocals was at the end of the creative process. I was just kinda like, “Oh I wonder how this song would sound with vocals”. Instead of just having me be the melody with the piano, I was like “Why don’t I have a girl try singing it?” And I saw Rubblebucket and I fell in love with Kal’s (Kalmia Traver) voice and decided to see if she could do it and it was really a sort of pleasant surprise adding the vocals to the songs.
AVJ- Is it true that you were going to release it under the name Human Assembly?
Marco- I was! I was thinking about doing that to recreate or rename the band something else because it really felt like it was something different from the norm. I decided against it because it’s still me and it’s still my band. I didn’t wanna confuse people. It was so different that I felt like I should rename the band but the whole record isn’t filled with vocal tunes. There’s a lot of similar sounding stuff on there- it’s not all completely different.
AVJ- Speaking of the band- on that album you collaborated with a bunch of awesome musicians. Who were they?
Marco- The drummer from Tortoise, John Mcintyre is a great drummer and has a great studio in Chicago and it was a pleasure and dream come true to be able to sit down in the studio with that dude. That was really cool. That song is called “Soma” on Tigerface. Mike Gordon from Phish stopped by my house after his tour and wound up recording his parts for “Escape Horse”. Matt Chamberlain who has toured with just about everyone, is a great drummer and is on all my other records- he had a lot to do with the whole tribal drum parts. My bass player who I am touring a lot with now- Dave Dreiwitz who is in Ween.
AVJ- Were you guys already musical mutual friends? How did the collaboration happen?
Marco- The majority of them were just friends. John Mcintyre was the one I reached out to, out of the blue. He didn’t know who I was until then. All the other guys I’ve played or tour with, here and there. I have been on tour with Mike Gordon and Trey (Anastasio) before and that was a lot of fun. Matt Chamberlain, we’ve hit the road and has done CD release shows with me and Dave is currently in my band so we play all the time. Just living in NYC and doing shows really.
AVJ- What is circuit bending and how does technology play a role in your music making process?
Marco- Well, circuit bending is basically the process of modifying a little children’s toy. Like little keyboards or battery operated simple toys. You basically modify it and tweek it out. You can use it for interesting sounds live or background noise or a way to end or start a song. I use those frequently. I like to call them “ear candy”. I like the weird sounds and letting it play, like walking away from stage and letting it play itself. You can kinda hear ya know, “Like hey! That’s a G or an A minor. That’s music!” It’s just a roundabout way to write music and it’s a lot of fun. And live, really it makes a little layer of weirdness or something different to your song. I use synthesizers, and loopers with pre recorded tracks and various other sounds. There’s three of us on stage but there’s a lot of other sounds. I think technology like using synthesizers and stuff- it’s possible to do the show without them- easily but there’s just like an added bonus, interesting sound that we play along to or with and makes for a cool way to begin or end a song.
AVJ- What kind of toys are talking about?
Marco- Well there’s a Casio keyboard that I use a lot. And I like those things, and they are frequently circuitbended. They have a familiar sound that I remember from being a kid. Those little keyboards- I like using a lot. The way circuitbending came into my life was really pretty random. A guy came to one of my shows and had a duffel bag filled with toys and was like “Hey! Check this out.” And I totally fell in love with it. Since then, he’s mailed me different toys and if I see him at a show he’ll have a different toy for me. It’s just random. I’m not like picking up toys at toys stores and messing with them (laughs). It’s just stuff I get from people who are passionate about the weird world of sounds. They know I’m into so they bring me stuff.
AVJ- You should totally start some kind of mailing club where people send you different toys. You’d probably gather a massive amount of toys in like a week that you could play with.
Marco- (laughs) That would be awesome. The same reason- I mean I gave a lot of them away- I just felt like it was time to move on and get some news ones and give the old ones to people who may wanna write music with them.
AVJ- Well now, I’m going to be walking through stores and thinking, “Marco could totally play this.”
Marco- (laughs) Well send it my way!
AVJ- Who are some of your favorite musicians to play with? Are there any you would really like to hook up with?
Marco- Well I guess my favorite, quite honestly, is my current band with Dave, and Andy Border who is a drummer and has played with a handful of people but what he is known for recording with Norah Jones and Tom Waits. But Dave and Andy are my favorite. I’m looking forward to our collaboration with Richard Swift. He’s an engineer and multi-instrumentalist, who is the current keyboardist in The Shins. He produced and played drums on the latest Foxygen record. We are recording a new album in the studio within the next month so I’m excited about that. As far as who I’d want to collaborate with? Paul Mccartney- (laughs) that would be fun.
AVJ- What are the pros and cons of running your own record label- The Royal Potato Family?
Marco- Well the pros are that you see everything really clearly. You see all the expenses and where all the money is going out and how the record is being paid for. It’s all really clear to you. You don’t have to guess what someone is going to tell you about the expenses and all that stuff. The con is that you personally have to pay for it all. You reap what you sow and you actually work a little harder because it’s your own stuff and obviously you want your stuff to get out there. When you get fronted the money to do it normally, you wouldn’t be thinking as hard about how you can make your money back as much as you would when you’re putting it out there yourself.
AVJ- Can we expect a lot of Tigerface at The Grey Eagle on Tuesday?
Marco- Absolutely! Tigerface is our fourth record so we have a bunch of other songs to pull from too. We definitely do a mixture of older tunes with Tigerface. We also have a bunch of new tunes that we are testing on the particular tour since we record in the next month. We are checking out some new ideas.
AVJ- What do you listen to when you’re not making music?
MArco- I’m all over the place. I collect a lot of records and vinyl. I like a lot of classical stuff. I like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, ya know? And I like a lot of the newer contemporary rock like My Morning Jacket and The Shins and LCD Soundsystem. I like the new Foxygen album a lot too. I like hearing modern- the newer stuff. Some of the newer stuff I don’t really like so much though. I like going back and listening to someone I’ve never heard of from the 70’s and stuff. I also like searching for the newer bands who put things out in the past year that are touring and all.
AVJ- Do you have anything in the making for 2014?
Marco- We are putting out a new record in the fall. So we are recording it in the month and we are going to be releasing it toward the end of the summer and put out a new record in the fall which is produced by Richard Swift and Dave and Andy will be on the whole record. Get it soon!
AVJ- Thank you for your time Marco! I’ll see you at The Grey Eagle on Tuesday!
Marco- Thank you so much Breanne! I’ll see ya then! Bye!