Interview: Eric Gould & Ben Combe (Particle & Pink Talking Fish)

Particle has taken some time off and a new project has emerged that should take folks on a journey through the catalogues of three of their favorite bands: Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads & Phish. At the helm of this new project is Eric Gould (Bass) who is also joined by Ben Combe (Guitar). I had a chance to speak with Eric and Ben about Pink Talking Fish and here is what they had to say.

J-man: Congratulations on recently becoming a father! How does that affect your role in Particle?

Eric: Thanks, J! Fatherhood is crazy in many amazing ways. It is already quite a ride. Our journey to parenthood brought us to adopt a little girl from China. It’s been an adventure and a different kind of process, teaching a seventeen month old the meaning of parents and taking the time for the family bond to attach properly. As a result, we’ve spent most of the year hiding out in our own world. I’m finally in a place now where I feel comfortable crawling out of our bubble and getting back out in the world. I’ve definitely got the itch to play!

As to Particle, there’s been some writing and recording in different variations and it will present itself exactly when it is meant to happen. Steve’s been on a nice creative flow. The great thing about Particle is that it is an ever evolving machine. We’ve gone through stages of playing two hundred shows a year and traveling all across the country. We’ve gone through stages where we play fifteen shows a year and people think we don’t exist anymore. We’ve persevered through lineup changes involving death, dissension and other challenges that try the spirit. Those changes have given us a unique and special privilege to invite class acts such as Robby Krieger, Michael Kang, Josh Clark & Dan Lebowitz to tour with as temporary members of Particle. We’ve explored life outside of the band, whether it be producing, recording, performing with other groups or being involved in activity outside the music industry. We’ve been an all instrumental band, we’ve added vocals, we’ve created tours entirely of thematic covers and we’ve taken the late night live performance to new levels like the five and a half hour set from 3:00 AM-8:30 AM or the multiple Jazzfest late night breakfast sets at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans that started at 4:00 AM and were sponsored by Krispy Kreme.

Through all the changes and challenges, we have remained true to one thing: Particle’s music is simply a blast to play and a great vehicle for people who love to let go of their daily grind, smile big and dance their asses off! We have always opened ourselves up to different versions of Particle and it has kept life interesting. Garrett Sayers filled in for me in Denver a couple years ago. The music was fantastic and it was true to the Particle brand. Other guest musicians have subbed in for original members and the music didn’t miss a beat. Our sound is about the exploration of groove in a trance and creating a platform to let the spirit of the participating players shine. It is welcoming to different flavors of musician in the mix. I am dedicated to music and also dedicated to being there for my daughter. Whatever happens, the music that I love and that puts a big smile on my face will go on and continue to make people very happy, whether I play in every Particle performance or a portion of the future journey.

J-man: Tell me about your new project, Pink Talking Fish, the concept behind it and the players involved.

Eric: I’ve had the idea for Pink Talking Fish for a little over a year now. I have a lot of music that I consider my favorite and it is scattered all across the universe of styles. Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads & Phish are the three bands who have entire catalogues of music that I put in the “favorite” category. I know I am not alone in this thinking. There are many great tribute bands out there. Creating a hybrid fusion around the tribute concept is something that is exciting to me because it is honoring great music while also making the experience something unique and fresh. Fusing the catalogues of these three bands is a great way to execute this idea.

Writing setlists is one of, if not, my favorite part of being in a band. I have written the majority of the setlists for Particle and Hydra. When this idea came to me, the first thing I did was write a show. Once I saw it on paper, it was obvious. This band had to happen! I knew that Ben Combe was the perfect fit for this. His voice fits these songs like a glove and his talent on the guitar is unprecedented. Getting Brandon Draper to join up raised the bar. He is, in my opinion, the best drummer on the scene and the world needs to experience more of him. Ben Hutchinson is a long time friend and bandmate who has a style and finesse that is perfect for this music. I’ve got great musicians who are great people and you just can’t go wrong with that!

J-man: What about the combination of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish music works so well?

Ben: Good question, let’s analyze it! Pink Floyd, to me, is all about mystery and melancholy, there is a brilliant darkness in the subject matter lyrically and harmonically, Pink Floyd raises questions. Pink Floyd is highly introspective. It’s heavy and vast and every instrument has an amazing vocal quality. David Gilmour’s solo’s are like a perfectly seasoned meal. Take any notes away and it’s bland, add too much spice and it totally overpowers the meal. The Talking Heads are angular, oblique, they take everyday-human interactions and put a mirror to it. Then they hook you with their illusions, it’s auditory satire. Playing Talking Heads music, at least the guitar parts, are very sharp rhythmically, very jagged. Then there is Phish. I remember vividly when and where I was when I heard Junta for the first time. It was 1991, I was on a mini tour with my schools barber shop quartet, this girl in the grade above me, Michelle Stevens (Thank you Michelle) let me borrow her Junta cassette. I had never been more intrigued, inspired or amazed. Led Zeppelin was the catalyst to start my guitar playing, but Phish is the band that inspired me to be a musician. I saw them in 1992 at The Boston Garden and it blew my mind. To me, Phish is a pure celebration of creativity, there were no limits or parameters harmonically or rhythmically, no molds they were trying to fill, if anything they broke the mold-making factory and built a new one. Phish music is such a wide spectrum, and within that infinity they managed to find a way to make anything and everything they play their own. Spending 10k hours plus on group improvisation proves that Newton’s second law also applies to bands. So how do these fit together? Come and find out!

J-man: It looks like you'll be debuting PTF in Colroado. Why Colorado and what other dates do you have in the works?

Eric: One of my favorite people in Colorado is Jay Bianchi. He is a live music renegade! Jay is always there when one of us crazy musicians gets a hairbrained idea for a new project and wants a place to try it out. Sometimes it is amazing. Sometimes it falls flat. The important thing is that Jay gets it and has created a place that lives for the possibility of something amazing to happen. On top of that, the music lovers of Denver come out and support this renegade spirit because they get that, in Jay’s house, something new and fresh is happening and the love of music is alive. Every musician loves to perform for the Colorado music scene. Never am I more excited to play music than when I know that the Colorado spirit is in the air.

So last year, when this was all just an idea, I told Jay about the concept. He loved it and asked when we should book the show. He kept on me about it every time we touched base so I give Jay credit for helping me get this off the ground faster than expected. I love the fact that the debut weekend of the band involves a two night run at Quixotes True Blue. We are kicking off the tour in the mountains at Three 20 South in Breckenridge. This has always been one of my favorite mountain town stops. I know that the excitement level for the band is going to be high and I can’t wait to feel the Breck energy when we take that stage!

We’ve gotten a tremendous response from people around the country about this project and I look forward to bringing it to as many places as possible. The first weekend of October, we are playing in Boston at great venue called South Shore Music Hall. Ben Combe and I live in Massachusetts so this is a hometown show for us and we are pumped for it. We are also performing a special late night set at The Fall Down Music Festival in Connecticut. I love the late night energy and it is going to be a blast performing this music in that setting. The Fall Down Festival has incorporated tribute groups from both Talking Heads and Phish in the past so Pink Talking Fish is going to fit the theme of this fest in a great way.

J-man: Are you guys seeing any Phish this summer/fall?

Eric: I’ll be in Hartford.

Ben: I wish. I'm sure when they come back to my neck of the woods I'll be there.

J-man: What have you guys been listening to recently?

Ben: It’s safe to say that most of the music I listen to currently and actively is from 1967-1989. I like the oldies, what can I say? I think I was born twenty years late. Besides Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish (obviously), Yes is a big one for me. I love old school progressive rock, Led Zeppelin, Stereolab, Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown and so on and so on.

I guess I divide music up a little in my head, to me certain music has an appropriate time and place. Some I like because I like to sing them at full volume in rush hour traffic, The Tourist by Radiohead fits into that slot nicely. There is nothing like belting out “IDIOT SLOW DOWN, slow down” at a traffic light with your windows down... a classic Combe moment. Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel and The Beatles are my favorites to sing with reckless abandon. Then there is my cerebral music, for the last two years I have been obsessed with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Pat Martino and The Gateway Trio artists (Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland and John Abercrombie). For anyone that wants to hear some insane guitar work you can not go wrong with Gateway Trio How’s Never and Pat Martino’s albums, Consciousness and Baiyina. These guys continue to amaze me and have fascinated me since being exposed to them in college. Listen to Pat Martino’s early stuff for the burning gems (Israfel was the one that lured me into Pat Martino.) To me, Pat Martino is like the ‘Spock’ of jazz guitar. Sometimes I really enjoy silence.

On the lighter side, I like Sade, for my money it doesn’t get much better than when she sings "Smooth Operator" and "No Ordinary Love" and I celebrate them often in my Karaoke catalog. I also think that the use of The Carpenter’s song “We’ve Only Just Begun” in Stephen King’s 1408 was a brilliant way of turning something innocent into something twisted and evil. Now I kind of hear it more like a death metal song rather than a song about the tender love of early relationships. Speaking of relationship and love songs, if you asked me today what my favorite love song is I would not hesitate to say "I Only Have Eyes for You" by the Flamingo’s and we all know Flamingo’s are pink.

Eric: With a newly adopted toddler I’m listening to a lot of ridiculous children’s music but let’s not go there!

I’ve been really enjoying Dawes and Of Monsters And Men. There’s a great band in Boston called Caspian that I’ve been diggin’. I went and saw The Black Crowes, Tedeschi Trucks Band and London Souls play and loved all of them live. And, of course, in preparation for the upcoming shows I’ve been listening to a bunch of Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads & Phish!

J-man: Thanks, Gentleman! Looking forward to the Pink Talking Fish Colorado shows!

Pink Talking Fish Tour Dates:

-9.26.13 MusicMarauders Presents: Pink Talking Fish at Three20South in Breckenridge, CO

-9.27 & 9.28.13 MusicMarauders Presents: Two Nights of Pink Talking Fish at Quixote's True Blue in Denver, CO

-10.4.13 Pink Talking Fish at South Shore Music Hall in Quincy, MA

10.5.13 Pink Talking Fish at The Fall Down Festival in Durham, CT


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