Itís not merely a matter of sex, drugs and rock n roll with JOHN TOKARCZYK and his musical project Ė the curiously titled - PEPPERDOME. Rather than screaming the joys of partying and getting a little ďnookieĒ, PEPPERDOMEís musical agenda consists of observations of a world gone mad and finding the good things about it all set to the frantically paced rhythm section and dual guitar sounds all of which are performed by TOKARCZYK. PEPPERDOMEís sophomore release ĎLETíS TRY THE OTHER SIDEí is the perfect summation of TOKARCZYKís thoughtful introspection meets bash-and-thrash sensibility. ďI guess the main theme is an understanding of self and that comes from the meditation that I practice.Ē says TOKARCZYK ďIím very much into body, mind and soul so a lot of it has to do with an understanding of yourself and your surroundings but it also has to do with observations of the world. [The songs] kind of have a political twist to them but I try to keep it light-hearted.Ē

ROCKWIRED spoke with JOHN TOKACZYK of PEPPERDOME over the phone. Here is how it went.

How do you feel about your latest offering?
Iím very proud of it. Itís the second album that Iíve written and on this one, Iíve let go of expectations and my fears of what people would think. I just kind of let it all out. Itís probably the most honest piece of work that Iíve ever written. The way it all came together was very smooth in terms of the process of writing and recording to the mastering and the artwork. It just felt right and it makes me feel proud that I was able to get it to this point.

Despite the name PEPPERDOME which would make people think that it is a band effort, the project seems like it has a very singular vision.
That is true. For the album, I wrote and recorded everything and performed all of the tracks but that is not to say that Iím not going to play the material out soon. Iím actually in the process of getting people together and start rehearsing the material for live shows. Although the writing process and everything that went into the CD is my vision - at this point - Iím pushing it further so we can get out there and start doing shows and go as far as we can with it.

Talk about the name PEPPERDOME. How did you settle on that moniker?
When people ask me that, I always wish that I had a very good story behind it but I donít. Ironically, I woke up one morning with a dream and the phrase Ďthat little man from the pepper domeí and the band name became PEPPERDOME and the first album was called ĎTHAT LITTLE MANí. It was exactly that silly.

What do you think is different on this album from your previous release?
I think the songwriting itself has matured to a bigger degree. Itís a little more hard-hitting and there is a little more angst and a little more passion. I think it rocks a little more whereas the first release was a little more quirky and odd. This one is a little more in your face. Some of the tracks like WAKE UP and GIVEAWAY ended up being really intense and I donít think we were able to capture that intensity on the first album, but when you listen to tracks like REALITY or HOPES AND DREAMS, the album really falls back into more subtle subject matter and I think that was what was able to help push this particular piece of work further.

One thing I noticed about the song WAKE UP is the irony of it. Itís a very direct song that tells people to read between the lines. There is nothing to read between because itís all there.
Iím a very positive person and that is very odd in the hard rock genre so I like to write with that positivity in mind but at the same time there is a little bit of irony and quirkiness and some direct point that come through. I really try to keep a positive spin in my music and my life in general. I really try to say things Ė lyrically Ė that I think need to be said, but I also want to keep things light-hearted and fun.

Talk about how music get started for you in the beginning.
It started way back in the fifth grade. I was given the option either sit in study hall and read or I could play instrument. I actually started on the trumpet and once that started, I pretty much played the trumpet for one year and then jumped to guitar for a couple of years and took piano lessons and I started playing drums when I was fourteen and that was the instrument that really stuck with me. Through that whole process, I picked up bass in college, and Iíve been playing that for about ten years now. As I was playing around in different bands I found some down time between each of the projects that was when I started writing the songs for the first album. I couldnít find anyone to work with at that point and that is why these two albums that Iíve written are my brain child because I could not find anyone that shared my vision. That was why I took to writing and doing things on my own. All of the songs start with a rhythm section before anything else is put in so at that point, I picked up the guitar to start laying down tracks and I took some vocal lessons.

In terms of influence, what people stood out for you?
My top influences were bands like RUSH, TOOL and PRIMUS but the amount of stuff that I listen to is extreme because I go al through the rock genre with stuff like PINK FLOYD, DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, METALLICA and GODSMACK and Iíll listen to jazz. Iíve got all of the old school jazz stuff like LOUIS ARMSTRONG and DUKE ELLINGTON. I listen to classical stuff like BEETHOVEN. I even listen to a lot of hip hop. I think having such a wide range of influences helped shape how this album sounds.

What kind of place are you coming from thematically as a songwriter?
I guess the main theme is an understanding of self and that comes from the meditation that I practice. Iím very much into body, mind and soul so a lot of it has to do with an understanding of yourself and your surroundings but it also has to do with observations of the world. I guess that is where songs like WAKE UP and SECURITY come from. They kind of have a political twist to them but I try to keep it light hearted.

Explain the creative process. How does songwriting happen for you?
It all starts with a bass line. I start writing all of my songs with the bass guitar. I will noodle around with it and when I find something that I like Iíll record it and start attaching the bridges , choruses, verses or whatever. I arrange the bass line first then Iíll lay down the drums and go back and forth with the rhythm section. I really try to get that part of it solid. I thin of guitar and vocals as painting across the top of the foundation which is the rhythm section. GOOD LUCK is a good example of that where there is not a whole lot that is double-tracked. There are two guitar tracks that are doing two different things and the bass is doing something else and the drums are doing something else. It is much more of an orchestrated piece rather than one thing being doubled.

Talk about the album cover.
When I came up with the title, LETíS TRY THE OTHER SIDE, I basically felt very yin-yang about it. The lyrics of that song talk about people looking at the negative side of life as opposed to the positive side of it. I was going back and forth in how to express that on an album cover and back and white is expressed as male and female. When you look at the cover, the woman is dressed in white and happy and the guy on the cover is dressed in black and strange.

From the album, what songs resonate for you the most and why?
First and foremost, it would have to be TIGERS IN BOXES. That one had resonated with me since I finished it and ironically it is the one that everyone says is a great tune. I think the main reason that one resonates with me is because of how easily it came together. It was one of those songs that wrote itself. The lyrics of the song came from what my wife does for a living. She actually takes care of wild animals and the title TIGER IN A BOX came from there. The song came out so naturally that itís ridiculous. Another song that stands out for me is the title track because of its intensity and its quirkiness. Itís very hard-hitting and I find it to be very memorable. Another song that I like is GIVEAWAY because of its intensity and how it all came together.

Earlier, you said you were looking for a band so that you could play these songs out live. How easy or difficult is it going to be to put these songs in other peopleís hands?
Itís quite a process actually. When I put out the first album I attempted to put a band together and it didnít come together as well as I was hoping. This time around Iím missing one person which is a bassist. So far, it has been working very well. People have been really receptive to the vision of the album and the music and getting to the point where what is on stage is going to sound like the album. Once the line up is complete Iím hoping that whoever I bring together will eventually be involved in the writing process as well.

What would you like someone to come away with after theyíve heard this CD?
A feeling of inspiration and excitement. If they read the lyrics while listening to the music, hopefully they can come away with a better understanding of themselves or make them look differently at something in the world. It would be great to get people to be a little more aware of themselves and their surroundings and hopefully the music would be able to do something like that. And if not, at least they can bop around to it.

Youíre too young to know what Ďbop aroundí means.
Iím really old school in case you couldnít tell.