Boasting one of the most talented lineups in modern music, Galactic are a band everyone should go and check out. And this isn’t some payola campaign…. If you find yourself sitting still while listening to one of their releases or at one of their shows, there is something seriously wrong with you and you should seek help. These guys wail!
Whether laying down some of the funkiest grooves this side of a James Brown concert, or bringing up such legends as Corey Glover from Living Colour to belt out a healthy dose of soulfully melodic lyrics, Galactic’s onstage performances demand attention… It’s just that good. Here… Check out the track “Ash Wednesday Sunrise” and tell me it ain’t gold?! That first drop is INSANE!
I caught up with keyboardist Rich Vogel prior to their performance in Syracuse, NY to discuss the group’s vicious blending of musical influences, monster back catalogue, upcoming collaborations, and what he thinks about stateside/international performances.
G- Hi Rich and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today! How is everything going with Galactic?
R- It’s going great! We’re here in Minneapolis watching some snow flurries fall on our third day of this run, and we’re on our way to see y’all in Syracuse!
G- Beautiful! How have the past couple of shows been? How are the crowds and how are you sounding?
R- They’ve been great, and I think the band sounds good, man. We’re warmed up and we cut our tetth on having David Shaw out here singing with us. He sounds great and is bringing a great energy to the stage, so you know, all systems go!
G- Love it! So, you are currently touring in support of your 2012 release, Carnivale Electricos, on ANTI- Records, correct?
G- I saw you perform last time you were up in Syracuse and the songs all sounded great! How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record?
R- Yeah definitely “Hey Na Na” is a favorite. And of course we have David Shaw with us on this run and that’s the song he sang on the record and we wrote it with him, so people are getting to hear the original voice on that one, and it’s been fun and interesting to hear Dave interpret the other tunes that he didn’t sing on the record, both on Carnivale and on Ya-Ka-May, and he sounds great on all of them.
G- That’s great, man… Right on! Now, you are not only excellent musicians, but you also bring up a host of world class talent with you with Nigel Hall, David Shaw, Corey Glover… Any upcoming collaborations that you’re planning on? You seem to bring somebody new out every time, and it’s always a rager… Anything up your sleeve you can tell us about?
R- Yeah. Well, we still have Corey Henry on trombone with us, and he’s a ringer and we like to keep that deck stacked in the horn section, so Corey is back with us.
And, of course, Dave Shaw. These are the first dates he’s ever done with us, singing with us, and that vocalist chair, you know, is one that we rotate out a little bit, and we try to keep it to a really short list of people that we think are really great and can help us represent the vocal aspect of Galactic and what we’ve got going on on previous records vocally. And I have to say, man, Dave Shaw stepped up and, you know, is doing a great job!
I mean, he’s got big shows to fill. We’ve had Corey Glover and Cyril Neville with us over the last few years, so I have to say I’m very impressed with how hard he’s brought it. He sure doesn’t seem like he was intimidated by the people he had to follow. He’s doing it his way and it works… It’s great! It’s a different sound for us, and like I said, a new energy he’s bringing.
G- That’s excellent! Now, if I could… You guys have toured all over the place and you’ve toured internationally.
G- What I was going to ask is as a band that has toured internationally, obviously you’re from the states and play the states a lot, but I wanted to ask you about how your reception in the states compare with your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play, the hospitality, and the audience reaction that you find?
R- You know, it’s different, but it’s not really that different I’d have to say. Internationally, we’ve probably played in Japan the most…
R- Even more so than Europe. We’ve been to South America a little bit for the first time… It’s been 3-4 years ago now. But you know, it’s really the same drill. It’s the same job, and everywhere we go, people understand that we’re bringing this New Orleans party, and the energy level is usually high and received and sent back to us on stage.
It doesn’t matter if we’re in Japan or in Syracuse, NY or in Minneapolis… It’s another day at the office, but it’s not routine once we finally get up there to play. Because, I mean, we’re out here 24/7 and the days are long and there’s a lot that goes into every show… Just getting there logistically and loading in, the crew is working hard all day to get ready for us to play. So, by the time we finally get up there, for those 2 hours of the day, when we actually get to do what we’re out here to do, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we do and that’s why we’re out here… We walked around random parts of the world figuring out what we’re going to eat today, or we walk somewhere we don’t want to be, in this neighborhood or that, you know. It’s fun! We come here and live out of our suitcases for weeks on end, so wherever you go, it’s still, by the time it’s gig time, it feels suddenly that we’re home. Once we’re all up there, it’s very comfortable and also still exciting every night, you know? That’s why we still do it.
G- That’s great! Great answer, by the way.
R- Glad you like it.
G- Now, what I’d like to ask is, obviously you have a very strong back catalogue and a lot of releases. It might be a tough one, but do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard Galactic before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
R- Oh man… that’s tough! Why do you have to ask me that?!
It was going so well, this interview, I thought, all easy-breezy and nothing to it and now you’ve got to challenge me actually.
G- I wanted to jumpstart you brain a little bit!
R- No, I’m just kidding. It’s a great question, and one that very hard to answer, of course, because we have this very strong instrumental background, and we play a lot of instrumental music and that aren’t that any bands that are out here doing this sort of thing as long as we have and play as much instrumental music like we do. It’s something we’ve been able to, I shouldn’t say get away with it, but we’ve gotten away with it.
R- And the reason, I think, is because of the energy we try to bring to the shows and to people, you know, just out there on the dance floor with music that compels you to want to move your body. And on top of that, we’ve always tried, on the vocal element, to work with the cream of the crop and do vocal collaborations with people we thought we’re really special, and therefore we’ve kinda gotten away with having a smattering of vocals (laughs) while playing instrumental music and still having a long, fruitful career.
It’s hard to pick because do I pick a vocal song, or do I pick something more recent, like “Heart Of Steel” or something like that, which is a really interesting and rewarding collaboration for us with Irma Thomas, because we took her beautiful soul voice and she allowed us to mess around with it a little bit and do something a little more contemporary and out of the box than she’s done, but the result was kinda, you know, startling to all involved… That’s one I’d mention.
But, in the more instrumental core of the band, it makes me think of older tunes like “Go Go” or “”Crazyhorse Mongoose” or even something like “Quiet Please” or, you had mentioned, “Ash Wednesday…,” which is in the spirit of “Quiet Please, off a more recent record. But, you know… I’ve already blown it (laughs)!
G- That’s ok.
R- I’ve already named 4-5 tunes (laughs)!
G- That’s cool. I was going to say go see the band live regardless, because it’s necessary and a lot of fun!
R- There you go!
G- Now, I have one last question for you today and don’t want to take up too much of your time. As a professional musician and somebody who has been doing this for a while and making a living doing this, you’re working very hard and are an inspiration to a lot of up and coming bands and young kids that want to play music and take it to the next level.
What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands out here who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
R- You know, put your heart in it every time you get up on stage. No matter where you’re playing or what the circumstances of the day are, or the agony of being on the road sometimes. When you get up on stage, whether you’re in front of 5 people or 500 people, let all that B.S. go and put your heart into it, because that’s what it’s about and that’s what people pick up on, and that’s what allows you to develop an audience.
And you never know who’s in that audience, and you never know, when you play a show right, 5 can lead to 50 and then to 500 the next time, or 2 times, or 3 times. But, you can build it if you believe in what you’re doing and really have something.
And it’s hard to quantify when you find guys that can really make a band that works… It’s something that is more than the sum of it’s parts, and it’s not who’s the biggest hotshot on their instrument in your community or scene in music. It’s about finding the right people and like-mindedness, I would say. That’s what Galactic has had… We had like-mindedness in the early years, both in the music we want to learn about, explore, and play together and about just wanting to get out here and do it and see what happens. I’m gonna go with that!
G- That sounds good. Those are very good points and a very good answer!
Look, I just want to say again, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today and we will see you on April 9th in Syracuse, NY! Travel safe, play well, and can’t wait for the show!
R- Alright man Thank you. I appreciate it!