|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS SWAMPHOUSE
UNLEASHED!In the beginning, DAN KUSHNIR was a white boy who certainly didn’t mind playing that funky music. It was a sound that propelled him from his sweltering basement studio in Colorado and into some of the hottest clubs in LA after he nicked himself PAUSE and let the spotlight shine proudly on his charismatic band SWAMPHOUSE. In speaking with KUSHNIR, one learns that this ain’t some MARK WAHLBERG film that comically yet earnestly demonstrates how one becomes successful without really having to try. It is the story of entirely different musical backgrounds coming together to make some of the funkiest music this side of FISHBONE. The band’s blood, sweat, and tears in the studio (not a big one reminds KUSHNIR) results in their EP THE FADE which kicks off with the BREAK DOWN – an explosive single that touches on almost every genre within the last twenty years of music effortlessly.
DAN KUSHNiR (PAUSE) OF SWAMPHOUSE
TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT THE BAND'S EP THE FADE
THEiR UNDENiABLE CHEMiSTRY
AND MAKiNG iT HAPPEN iN THE STUDiO
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with DAN KUSHNIR over the phone. Here is how it went.
Now that all of the work is behind you guys in terms of getting the E.P. out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the work?
You know, I was nervous at first but the longer it’s been out there, I feel a lot better about it. We’ve taken great pains to spread the word out and every single review comes out sounding more positive than anything I could imagine. So, I’m getting increasingly more happy with it.
What made you nervous in the first place?
Well, it’s like having a baby. This was a project that took some time to put together. It took the band a while to get to this place and so when we finally put something out with our name on it, of course things were going to be a little nerve wracking. That just comes with the territory in putting your name out there.
How long has this project been in existence?
SWAMPHOUSE originated as an idea that I had back in 2001 when I was living in Colorado and I brought it out here to Los Angeles. What I planned on doing when moving out to California was doing a solo thing with a DJ and I had a couple of cats that sang with me. I moved out here on my own and I had been out here for a year and I couldn’t get any gigs. It was really odd because I was in Colorado performing everywhere and I couldn’t get any gigs here. So I called my buddies from Colorado and asked them to come out and do a show with me and they did and it went really well. After that gig, we got a manager and everyone else moved out here. Officially, the band started in 2005 and after that, the band has been together since later that year. We had decided that there weren’t going to be any gigs unless we had a band put together.
Why the name?
The studio that I used to record in – which was the basement of my house in Colorado – had this heater gong and it would just get really swampy in there. It would just get really muggy and hot and there would be no way to cool it down as we were in there recording. As the air around us got swampy we just got into this whole vibe out of it and that was how we came up with the name SWAMPHOUSE.
What drew you to music specifically?
My mom played bass and my dad was an avid music fan who just recently started taking up piano. My mom played bass and was a singer. I always did theater and my mom always wanted me to get into playing an instrument. I told her that I didn’t want to. I was a kid at the time and had no interest in learning an instrument. Then one day, I really, really wanted this new pair of shoes and my mom said that it wasn’t going to happen. She was like ‘You don’t need to buy another pair of sneakers’ and I was like ‘Mom, I really need them.’ And with that my mom came up with an ultimatum. I could get the shoes if I took three years of piano. That was what got me into music actually. The more I played, the more I began to love it.
Was there a specific artist or a group of artists that pushed you in the direction that you are in now?
No, there really isn’t. My whole life people have been asking me ‘what’s you favorite type of music?’ and my answer is ‘something that people put passion into’. I’m attracted to things that you can hear the musicality in. I like all types of music and I always have. There is no one artist that I could say inspired me. MICHAEL JACKSON was one of the people that made me want to do what I do now, but there is such a wide variety of artists. I wouldn’t know where to begin.
Talk about the current members of SWAMPHOUSE and what you think each of them brings to the table both musically and personality-wise?
There is a ton of personality in this band! The drummer is a cat that we call BLEWFOOT. He’s from New York but he’s lived in South Central for the past twenty years. He is super into funk and he was the one that got SWAMPHOUSE on that funk tip. He is funk drummer. It’s what he does and it’s what he listens to. He’s turned us onto all kinds of music. He is the heart and soul of the band when it comes to the funk. He is a guy that has led a very trying life and because of t he has the most incredible personality. He’s happy-go-lucky and he lives life day-to-day, purely for music. The bass player is the newest member of the band and is also a very good friend of mine. His name is MIKE NAVARETTE but we call him DJ NAV and he’s suck with it. He doesn’t DJ but we call him that anyway. He is the perfect fit for this band. We play funky music, which can get kind of technical at times. He’s trained at CSUN at the jazz program but he just plays funky soulful stuff. He’s there to play. The keyboard player TIMOTHY ARMSTRONG goes by TUNA BUTTER. We call him that because he is funky like tuna and smooth like butter. He is an incredibly talented piano player. He is a great songwriter too. He and I did a lot of the early collaborations on the songs. I used to write all of the songs in the band before I got with TUNA. Lately, he and I will start things off and work it out and then the band will add their own thing to it. He is a great songwriter and a great producer and he’s the reason that the EP sounds so good. It wasn’t like we were recording in some crazy, big studio. He helped us to make this thing sound really tight. Both horn players are graduates of the CSUN JAZZ PROGRAM. FOREST is the trumpet player and is one of the most talented trumpet players that I know. Although he has done a lot of classical stuff, he does great solo stuff and some great improv stuff. When we are jamming live, he really gets into these crazy licks. Both of our horn players like each other and that’s important that the two of them get along. There are so many frickin’ members in the band. Last but not least, we have DEVIN who has got an incredible voice. He’s got an incredible range. He can growl and he can get really sweet at the same time. He’s a very energetic person and when you get him onstage or in the studio that is when the passion in his voice really gets unleashed.
Describe how songwriting gets accomplished in this band?
Right now, we’ve just finished a song called SLOW DOWN and it started with me driving on my way to the studio for rehearsal. I got his good lick in my head and I instantly had words to it and when I got into the studio I got TUNA BUTTER to lay down some chords for it on the piano and then the bass player MIKE joined in with a few licks and then came the guitar player. As it was all coming together, I was like ‘This is perfect!’
From THE FADE, what songs stand out for you the most and why?
I would have to say BREAKDOWN because everyone played their asses off on that song and it was the first song that we all wrote together. Nobody came up with any ideas for it. We were in the middle of practicing another songs and we were trying to figure out some stuff with the horns and MIKE the bass player was going crazy on his bass and started doing this little lick and TUNA BUTTER was like ‘what was that?’ MIKE started playing it again, TUNA BUTTER added something to it and before you knew it, everybody added something to it. It is a complete, 100% written SWAMPHOUSE song. And it’s funky as hell and it’s fun to listen to.
How are live shows going at the moment?
The shows right now are incredible. They are the best that they have been. We are playing the best we’ve played live ever. We’re gigging quite a bit right now. We had held off a bit while we were recording but right now we’ll be heading off to Chicago for an event up there and we’re heading back to LA for another show and I’m working on finalizing a tour of the West Coast with another band but I don’t want to talk about it because it’s not done yet.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this EP?
I’d like for people to think ‘Wow! That was something I’ve never heard before! I don’t quite know how to place it but I like it!’