Interview: Nipsey

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Nipsey puts the power in power trio. Whether it be the pure rock fury that blazes out their PA system or their dynamic live show which is a rock ‘n’ roll cross between a Southern soul revival and stand-up act — Nipsey is powerful. Their music grabs you from the first hum of the guitar, the first crash of the cymbal and doesn’t let you go till well after you listen to it.

The band, comprised of veteran musicians Bill “Beel” Hamilton, Dave Calamoneri and Frankie Dave Maggio has officially put their sound on record with As Seen on TV. The record captures the fun and freewheeling nature of Nipsey and earns the distinction as one of the most enjoyable (and let’s be blunt…awesome) local releases we’ve heard this year.

Pop-Break recently spoke with Nipsey frontman Bill Hamilton to talk about their new record, comedian John Oliver and their upcoming record release party at DC’s Tavern in Hoboken, NJ.

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Pop-Break: You, Dave Calamoneri and Frankie Dave Maggio have been playing around the Hoboken scene as Nipsey and in other bands like Davey & The Trainwreck but as Seen on TV marks your first record. Was it a conscious decision to take your time releasing the album and how does it feel to finally have the record out there?

Bill Hamilton: It feels GREAT to have this album come out. We’ve been fortunate to play to a friendly crowds in Hoboken, New York and Brooklyn for years now, while honing our sound. We got to the point where we were ready to go into the studio just as producer, John Seymour, was building his new studio. We’ve been friends for a long time and it worked out that we were able to “guinea pig” the studio for him. John’s a fantastic producer and has worked with U2, Alice in Chains, Dave Matthews and won a Grammy for the Santana album “Supernatural.” It was a great weekend and we cranked out the songs in one day – half of them are live studio takes with just vocals and rhythm guitar added.

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PB: For those who have not heard the record before or seen you play live, can you talk about your sound and how it came to be? Who are your influences? And is the sound your distinct musical vision or is it a collaborative effort with the rest of the band?

BH: We describe the band as a combination of blues rock, ’70s rock and punk rock. I’m the primary song writer, along with Deborah Pohl who co-wrote half the record. She’s not in the band, but we collaborate on songs regularly. I am a fan of a lot of different types of music, and when I put on the MP3 player, I tend to listen to bands like The Foo Fighters and the Hellacopters. I really like that style of rock and some of our early songs reflect that more. I’ve always been a bar-rocker playing blues rock songs, so that’s always been close at hand. In the early days I listened to a lot of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Cream (Cream era Clapton was his best period) as well as classic blues like my favorite, Howling Wolf. I love the southern-fried jams the Allman Bros crank out, and of course, ZZ-Top. Billy Gibbons is one of the greatest guitarists alive today. He can jam out on one chord for like an hour and you’ll never get bored. I draw a lot of inspiration from the Black Keys – they are one of my favorite modern bands. I’d say Frank Zappa was also a big influence on my guitar playing along with the other guys I mentioned. But at the end of the day, the sound of the band is defined equally by every member.

PB: Nipsey is playing at DC’s in Hoboken on February 20th for its official record release party. Can you talk about the live Nipsey experience — what is the audience getting themselves into by coming to check you out? Also, are you planning anything special for the night?

BH: We just try to play balls-out every time we get on stage and have some fun! Tell jokes, keep people laughing and entertained. It’s all about having a good time, right? Otherwise what are you doing? I usually dance in some weird off- time kind of way. I like to think of it – especially with the guitar – as walking a tightrope. A circus – pushing it to the point of mayhem. We got the opportunity to play as the house band on a TV quiz show last year, and that really tightened us up. I think it’s really up to the listener to say, but the words “controlled, but almost out of control, chaos” come to mind.

On both the DCs show Thursday and the Otto’s Shrunken Head show we’re planning on doing some giveaways – I’ll probably ad lib some trivia questions or something – something easy. We’ve got t-shirts and CDs we’ll giveaway.

I just posed this question to the other guys in the band, and here’s what Frankie had to say,
“Part soul revival. Part fire and brimstone country preaching’ part rock and roll… and getting the shit kicked out of you by guys that look like your dad…”

It’s true. I’ve been known to occasionally get into “preacher mode.” After all, Jesus’s first miracle was to make more wine for a party full of drunk people. Using the power of the Holy Spirit to “Keep the Party Going On!”

PB: One of the most unique songs on the record is “John Oliver” which is about The Daily Show host/correspondent. Can you talk about the origin of this song? Also I heard the song was in consideration for a show he was working on. Can you talk about how it got considered and if you heard anything from John himself about the song?

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BH: I work in television production and I just happen to know one of the producers of the John Oliver New York Stand Up Show. She asked me to submit a song for the theme song when it was first coming on the air. I wrote two songs and they really liked the one that ended up on our record. In the end, they went with a song by someone close to Oliver and his folks. I was going for something similar to the Daily Show theme – surfy and melodic. I haven’t had a chance to get the final track to the producer yet, and I do hope Mr Oliver gets to hear it – and appreciates it as a tribute it’s meant to be. I think he’s a GENIUS! Originally, it was an instrumental, but it needed something for the breakdown. When I thought back on some of his interviews, I came up with the line in the song. The interview referenced in the album art was off the chain!

PB: Pick one song from the album that you feel defines the sound and the essence of Nipsey and tell us why.

BH: “Busstation” is a great example of our sound. That song is supposed to sound like a V8 cruisin’ down the highway at 70mph. Bluesy and straight ahead rock. Gimme Back My Money as well. Blues, riff-rock with some jams and, lyrically, I think it reflects our sensibility very well.

PB: Nipsey is the house band for the The Big Quiz Thing. Can you talk about the show (What’s it about, where we can watch it) and your experience performing on the show.

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BH: The Big Quiz Thing was produced by the New York City Public Television station, NYCLife. Channel 25 over the air (check your local cable listings.) It airs on Sunday nights at 9, and multiple times throughout the week. It’s also available on line at nyc.gov/vod As the public TV station for NYC, all of their programming is required by mandate to be New York City-centric. So, it’s a quiz show all about New York City. It stars two gentlemen (Noah Tarnow and his associate, EDP) who do a phenomenal bar trivia show (The Big Quiz Thing), and the programming director for the station was at one of their events. She was so impressed she decided to turn it into a TV show. She further decided to add a band to play the theme song live and musical interludes between rounds. We were also tasked with playing a warm-up set for the audience, and used John Oliver for the moment when the contestants come out to start the game. (I wish that had been part of the cut!) It was an amazing experience! Each interlude was something like 20 seconds, so you have to really be on your game, play well, and move on. And we were playing the theme live to tape for the show – so, really, not a lot of room for error. I think it really tightened us up as a band. And, not for nothing, gave us the opportunity to play short versions of our song for the television audience, which I’m told is on the order of 25,000 households.

PB: Outside of the Hoboken record release party — what are the band’s plans for 2014?

PB: We have a show at Otto’s Shrunken Head on Feb 23rd at 7. From there I’ll be booking shows wherever we can get them. Love to come to Asbury and see y’all! I’ve started working on Boston and Portland, ME. We really need to make a video for our song “Too Much Snow.” Hopefully we’ll have something for that soon. A few years ago we produced a sketch comedy show that’s on YouTube. We hope to do another one of those this year.

Bill Bodkin is the Owner, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder of Pop-Break. Most importantly, however, he is the proud father of a beautiful daughter, Sophie. He is beyond excited that Pop-Break will be seven years old in 2016 as this site has come a long, long way from the day he launched in it in his bachelor pad at the Jersey Shore. He currently works as a project manager in the telecom world, and is a freelance writer for NJ.com. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites