Steve Molitz is a man of many projects, and has recently become the driving force behind the resurgence of Particle. (For the uninitiated, check out this archive.org link.) The first show of their 2015 Spring tour kicks off at the Underground Arts in Philly on Wednesday, March 4th with Tweed and Greenhouse Lounge. We’ll see you there!
But before kicking off the Spring leg of what sounds like will be a packed touring season, Steve was kind enough to spend some time talking with us about the band, a couple of his projects, and touring in general.
You’re a busy guy, you’ve been scoring video games and movies, and you play with all these musicians. What is it that’s bringing you back to Particle and inspiring you to hit it full force?
SM: About a year ago, I was so busy doing all these other projects and I just felt a really strong pull back to the music and fans and energy of Particle where it all started. And things go in cycles, and there’s just been a really big resurgence of Particle energy recently both within the band and, you know, within the music and fans and everything. It all just sort of organically cycled back around and it was just the right time. And you can’t really predict these things, I didn’t even see it coming, it was something I just felt and I knew I had to do, and there’s just nothing I’d rather be doing. And we all sort of felt like that. I remember on our last tour we were on the road for a month together and usually at that time no matter how close a band is *laughs* people might be ready to go home and sleep in their own bed. But on the second to last show of our last tour, we had been out for a month and we were all sitting backstage before going on commenting like, you know I feel really good, I could keep going for another couple of weeks or another month. Everybody was just having so much fun and the music was really still fresh, we were trying new material, and really exploring the new improvisations and really trying to reach new ground musically every night. And that was a really good sign, we were on the road and nobody was burned out. We were having a lot of fun onstage and offstage, and although I’m doing a lot of things this is really my main focus now and as I was saying there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.
Seems like there’s something in the water with the jamtronica scene. The Biscuits have been touring more, STS9 revamped, The New Deal is back, Particle is touring more. What’s your feel on why this is all happening now?
SM: That’s a good question. There does seem to be a lot more activity with all of those bands. But I think in one way or another we’ve all been passionate about the music since the beginning, there may be busier years or slower years. I know for Particle, even in years where we weren’t playing as many shows, my excitement and passion and love for the band and the music were all still there. So I feel, yeah maybe there is something going there. *laughs* That’s an interesting way of looking at it, as if the tide is coming in and all the ships are rising at the same time.
From my perspective, EDM has really been dominating the live music scene for a handful of years and now it feels like that growth is slowing. Seems like the tide is turning back to bands with guitars and drums, and the actual physicality of a show.
SM: I personally have been feeling that way. I definitely wanted to go out on the road feeling that transfer of energy between the band members and the fans, where there’s that feedback loop where the band is creating with real instruments in their hands and the music can truly go anywhere because they’re not bound by a scrip or to backing tracks. And I don’t say that in a bad way, I just think technologically speaking and logistically speaking there’s just a certain thing that happens when you’ve got a bunch of guys getting on stage with blank pages and they’re sort of writing the story of that particular show as they go with the set list as the guidelines. But really where they take the jams is up to them. And I really just miss that feeling. And you can only get so much of that when you have a show that’s really produced, like some of the EDM laptop bands these days. Some of them do a really good job of allowing room for improvisation, but within the jam scene improvisation is the root of the whole scene and you lose an element of that improvisation when you’re following a laptop.
So it’s been a blast to be on the road with Particle and to find ourselves in totally uncharted territory on a nightly basis just using the songs as these springboard for improvisation, it’s such a thrill and so much fun.
It seems like there’s been a lot of new life breathed into the band as a whole. You guys seem as excited as the fans are.
SM: Yeah, we definitely feel that way. We’re all just feeling really inspired right now and we’re all working in different combinations. We’re putting the finishing touched on a batch of songs that were recorded last year that we’re just finishing up right now, but we’re already starting to record and write new songs for another new album. So we’re kind of working on two new albums simultaneously. One will come out in the next couple of month and another shortly thereafter. We’re really just… it’s just a big wave of inspiration we’re riding right now.
Are you guys sticking true to the original Particle sound, or do you feel like the sound is evolving in a new direction? What do you think older fans will think of the new music?
SM: I feel that we’re trying to find a way to find a way to do both of those things at the same time. That classic Particle sound is still there, but we’re also trying to let it evolve organically. So I feel like that same high energy, and a lot of the tones and the sounds. The energy and the feeling are still there, so it still feels like classic Particle to me, but we’ve also evolved just as writers and as a band, hopefully *laughs* because there is a new approach to some of the sounds. But the great part about being in a band like Particle is that we can write a song that maybe is a few a minutes shorter and maybe has vocals and a few catchy hooks, but the truth is even if the album version of that song is 5 minutes live it’ll probably end up being 15 minutes long anyway. So in that live setting it will always be Particle. That’s part of the fun, figuring out new tools for song writing and allowing the songs to really breathe live.
You guys have all this new stuff coming up, the custom lighting, the shows being taped and released, is there anything else that Particle fans can look forward to in the horizon?
SM: We’re adding more and more shows every day. Definitely some really exciting plans for the spring and the summer that we’re not quite ready to announce. Not yet, but stay tuned at particlepeople.com or find us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (@particlepeople) we’ll be making some big announcements soon.
You mentioned earlier that I do some scoring, and I’m actually scoring a game for Shaquille O’Neal right now called Shaq-Fu. It’s a really fun game, in fact I just had a meeting with the producer of the game a few days ago, and he revealed some really exciting stuff about the game. I don’t want to say too much but there’s a twist in the game that will make waves, and I suspect that Particle will make a couple of tracks for that. As the lead composer it’ll mostly be my score, but there are a couple of in-game scenarios where we need some songs that Particle would be great for so that’s something for fans to look out for.
Also you mentioned earlier the Disco biscuits, we actually have Allen Aucoin, the Bicuits’ drummer, on tour with Particle. He was with on the whole last tour as well, and it just worked out perfectly that there was a break with the Biscuits schedule. They’re doing a lot of weekends and festivals, but not as many big tours right now, so it worked out. Allen’s just someone I’ve always loved and respected musically and personally he’s also played a lot with our bass player Clay Parnell, they have an electronic duo called Dr. Diesel so it was just such a perfect fit, and we’ve just been having a great time playing together which is really cool.
A lot of people have sat in to play with Particle at some point or another. How do you feel about playing with all these different musicians?
SM: I mean, it’s something that keeps it fresh for everybody. For the musicians and for the fans. And you know, we they are just so many other musicians who we love playing with and if we’re ever in a city and someone else happens to be in town that same night, or if we’re at a festival and one of my favorite musicians is around it just seems like it would be too much fun to pass up. Like, “Hey man so great to see you you’ve gotta hop on a track.” So a perfect example is we played the Sundance film festival in Park City Utah on our last tour, and we pulled into town thinking it was just going to be a normal Particle show with the four of us playing, and John Popper, Matisyahu and Mickey Avalon all showed up to our show and ended up sitting in. So I look over my shoulder and there’s Mickey Avalon like, “Hey man, let’s do ‘Jane Fonda’” you know. We did that, and there’s Popper, so what song can we get Popper on? So we did Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar” with him. And we have a song called “W” that we actually recorded on a live album with Joe Satriani playing guitar with us that’s sort of like a dub reggae song so I saw Matisyahu backstage and was like, “OH let’s do ‘W’ get Matisyahu out.” So it’s just a fun thing, especially Popper and Matisyahu we all toured together, played together, we’ve sat in with each other’s bands over the years so it’s just one of those fun organic things where I just feel really fortunate that we got to cross paths on the road. It’s one of the reasons I love touring so much, actually I’m in Chicago playing a show right now with my friend Joe Marcinek, it’s a great band with Jen Hartswick on trumpet. When I was catching my flight at La Guardia, I got through security and heard this voice over my shoulder “MOLITZ” and I turned around and it was Ivan Neville.
So it’s just so fun, it’s just a cool thing to be on the road to see so many of your friends and of course the fans. It’s one of my favorite parts about touring, getting to travel to all these places and enjoying the local food and culture and see all of our friends we’ve made over the years so it’s just a natural extension to have our friends sit in with us and sharing in the love and just keeping the good times going.