Steve Molitz of Particle Talks About Revving Up for Their Next Tour

Karin McLaughlin
By Karin McLaughlin / October 18, 2018
Particle Accelerator Tour (Particle (Photo Credit: Particle)

​Karin McLaughlin:  Okay, without any further ado, we can get right into it. Now Particle itself has been around for quite a while, but it's gone through some changes. So can you give us a really brief overview of, for anyone who's not familiar with the band and the changes, the changes I guess, in personnel that you guys have gone in and out of and just an overview of the history of Particle as far as a band and the people involved with it?

Particle (Courtesy: Particle)
Particle (Courtesy: Particle)

​Steve Molitz: Sure, so Particle started in Los Angeles in 2000, and we've been touring consistently ever since. There were a number of years between that and now when we were on a sort of ​on an unspoken, semi-hiatus while band members were experimenting with different things in life and the music business.  I was keeping busy touring with guys like Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead, Robby Krieger from The Doors, Rich Robinson from the Black Crowes and got really involved in scoring video games.  Actually, a few recent highlights there would be NBA playgrounds, or World War, the current game I'm working on.  So life sort of takes it twists and turns.  There were some lineup changes, but I wouldn't really want to bore you with the details of all the personnel. The best thing I can really say is that ​we really have the right guys now and when this current lineup came together, I could just feel in my bones that this was the lineup to really revitalize the band and record a new album and really start touring again, and going big, and I just couldn't be happier. We are in this Goldilocks zone right now, where it's what a band should be, you know, we're all just great friends, on and off stage, we really have each other's backs and support each other as people creatively.  So there's just a lot of freedom and trust and that is really beneficial, if not necessary, when you're playing improvisational music. We're really looking forward to this upcoming tour.   We have the sort of the relationships as a foundation, and then we get to kind of explore that through the medium of the music, so it's a cool thing​!  I think fans will be able to tell when they're watching us play, in that we're really in the moment enjoying the material and enjoying playing with each other. There's nothing worse than seeing a band kind of going through the motion or giving a lackluster performance.  We really try to, you know​ kind of go hard​ - blood, sweat and tears every night.  For us, it's not a good show unless we walk off stage ​sweating, you know? (laughs)

KM: Now, this is the type of question that I would normally avoid, just because I feel like it's something that gets asked by every interviewer to every artist in every room, but I feel like you guys are kind of unique in this way.  When people you know, try to describe your sound, it's everything from jam band, progressive rock, jazz fusion, dance​ beats, disco, it kind of​ spans the whole map.  So I want to know who influences you personally, but also the sound as a band as far as music and ​- I have a couple follow up questions if we don't specifically get into what I'm going to ask after but -  just ​where you guys got your influences from especially being from ​California and ​how that certain area ​influenced your sound.

Particle Live (Courtesy: Particle)
Particle Live (Courtesy: Particle)

​SM: Okay, well I'll start with the second part first.  In the early days, being from Los Angeles definitely influenced our sound because we were in a really urban environment, so the energy of the city got into our early songwriting.  All of that b​uzz and the frequency, you know the the pace of a big urban center definitely worked its way in.  Maybe that ​meant faster tempos or louder solos or that we were taking​ a very high energy approach to our music as opposed to a band who maybe w​as up in the mountains in Colorado and​ found themselves playing sort of more relaxed or groovy​ tunes. ​ So I think in the early days our environment definitely helped shape our sound.  As far as influences, ​we're really all over the place and I think that's part of what helps ​us have a unique sound because we're not all influenced by the same handful of bands.  The drummer may be dropping some real heavy rhythms that are inspired by Rush or Tool or Metallica and I may be playing some lead synthesizer lines that are inspired by players like Bernie Worrell ​or the kind of stuff you here on the West Coast gangsta rap songs from the nineties. ​ So suddenly, now you have this gangster rap, Metallica ​mashup, you know, and it's an unspoken thing.  We never talked about it and say, 'How can we sound like that?' we just sort of each play ​what's in our hearts and we have enough overlap within our influences that we create a very unique sound.  Then there are obviously the things that we all love and we put on when we're cruising down the road and rock out to together.  It really does span from hard rock and metal to sort of more EDM and electronic ​grooves, rap, and hip hop - we're all over the place.

KM: Metallica/hip-hop sounds pretty dreamy to me! (laughs)

SM: ​It's not even that I would say Metallica is one of our influences - I'm only using them to illustrate an extreme on the spectrum but​ yeah, ​​I think diversity is kind of our strength and then there's enough overlap within the Venn diagram that create the unified sounds.  It's cool, we all listen to a lot of different types of music, so we're reaching into ​ uncharted territory within our improvisation because it allows us to draw on a lot of musical styles so if the guitar player suddenly starts playing something that's a little jazzier, I find myself adjusting to match his sound.  Then suddenly, on a technical side, play more seven cord or something, ​but musically, ​even tonally, you can feel the whole band shifting in real time. ​That's something that I think we are all very tuned in to and that is as important as any of our actual musical influences as far as bands.  I think what may be more important, is our stylistic approach to playing together, especially improvising​.  There is sort of a core ethos where there's​ a sense of fluidity as we're all playing the music and and reacting in real time.  We try to listen to what the other guys are playing more than we try to force our own musical thoughts on each other. ​  Our best shows are when we're listening more than we're playing and what the other guys do informs what we play individually and then you end up with this, that really is greater than the parts and you know, no one guy couldn't have done that by himself.  He had to be playing that exact thing​ with those exact other guys in that moment to create that sound.  It wouldn't have worked with​ different guys on a different night​, so we're​ really trying to be tuned in to the moment and react in real time and and that has a lot to do with the ​fans as well.  We get the energy from the audience and you get this feedback loop created where can't really tell who's driving the bus - us or the fans.  All we know is we're all hanging on for dear life (laughs).

KM: Hoping the drivers not intoxicated (laughs).

SM: Yeah and usually he is (laughs).  And that goes both ways with the fans and the band. ​

KM: Granted there's not much of 2018 left, ​what has 2018 brought for you guys that you're exploring ​that's new ​?

SM: Even though the year is almost over, this is the biggest year the band has had in probably a decade.   We just completed our first new studio album in a very long time and that's coming out on September 21.   We actually just today released the trailer that you can find on our website and social ​media ​that ha​s samples of all nine songs on the album. ​  2018 ​has been a time of huge growth and change for us, it's really a rebirth and a revitalization.  ​You plant seeds, and they take time to ​blossom.  You can't rush the process as much as you may want to.  Sometimes things just need to marinate and we are so excited to share this new album and all these new songs with people. The new album kind of had the best part of the old school​,classic Particle from the Launchpad era, but it has​ updated and more modern songwriting and production, so it really does bridge the old with the new.  One really cool thing about the album is that we all collaborated on it together.  It's not like one guy came in and said, 'I'm Bruce Springsteen and ​you're the E Street Band and here's what we're playing tonight.'  We all know we all really worked together. ​ We all have a personal attachment to the music and to the songs so when we​ pick up our instruments on this upcoming October tour, when we play these songs, we're really going to be playing from the heart, music that was written and recorded 10 months ago, rather than 10 years ago.​  ​With a band like Particle, it's interesting, because for a long time, as much as I hate to admit it, we were coasting on legacy while they were lineup changes and we weren't playing as many shows.  I can only speak honestly about that now because I'm so excited to be passed that phase and really ​digging my feet in and swinging for the fences again with this band of brothers out there. So it's​ really this is a very special time for us - going big firing on all cylinders to close out 2018 with the studio album release and a big Fall tour and creating a lot of momentum to round ​in to 2019.

KM: Well, you kind of answered a couple of my next questions already ​in ​what's different about this album, which you kind of already touched on​.  ​You said that you've been working on it for most of 2018, how long has this been in the making? Or in the works kind of headlong? Have you guys been talking about it, as opposed to actually finally sitting down and getting it all done?

SM: We've been talking about it for a long time, but it's been challenging to find the time to get it all recorded and mixed. ​ We've been so busy with shows, ​​other work within the music business, ​ other shows that we're all playing together, because we all we all play together in a variety of settings.  So, you know, it was just challenging on on the scheduling in to find out to make it all happen. But once we put the dates on the calendar, and all got together, it was amazing how quickly ​everything started to gel and how quickly we finished the album. We we actually got together at ​a place called Saber Interactive Studios in Maplewood, New Jersey​ - Saber is a video game developer who I work with.  We all (the band) got together at this studio and basically locked ourselves in this four story house and had three studios going simultaneously and we just worked around the clock until the album was done.   You could walk downstairs and here's Mike (Daum) shredding a guitar solo or walk upstairs to one of the other rooms and find me with headphones, ​programming keyboard parts and walk across the hall, there's Clay (Parnell) playing with his monitor setup, recording baselines.  So it was a really special time. ​  Although it took us a while to put the recording sessions on the calendar just based on how busy we all are, once we finally got together, the process was just so incredible and inspiring and we had such a good time that we've already started working on the next album.  So yeah, as I was saying, this really is a rebirth, a time of rebirth for us.  Just last night actually, Clay sent something he was working on - it was only about eight ​bars - he sent it around to the rest of the band.  I was so inspired by it, I wrote back with some ideas for vocals and ​melodies and I just said, 'Man, that sounds amazing! We should definitely develop this ​and play it on the upcoming tour.'   So there's some piece of material that will be playing in October, that is currently only an eight bar demo that was created last night, but somehow in the next month, it's going to become a new song now (laughs).  ​Then when we get off that tour, we'll take ​it into the studio and record it and that'll be, you know, the humble foundations of follow up album to Accelerator.  There's, a sense of excitement and there's a little bit of wanting to make up for lost time, you know?   It's kind of like now that we are, you know, -pardon the accelerator analogy- but now that we have the right vehicle within the band, we really want to hit the gas.

KM: ​Now you said that you guys have been doing still a lot of live gigs, have you guys been sampling some of this new stuff together live already? Or are you kind of waiting for the tour to kick off t​o do that?

Particle (Photo Credit: Particle)
Particle (Photo Credit: Particle)

SM:  No, no, we we haven't played all the material live, but we have - especially recently - been playing a bunch of it and we've been so thrilled to see how well it's been received.  The title track from the album Accelerator, went over ​especially well on this last tour and changed the way we've thought of the tune. We​ sort of had one perception of it based on the way it was recorded on the album​ and once we started playing in front of live audiences and you start getting that energy transfer, we realized that this was really a great platform and opportunity for the band to dig in and explore some unique dynamics. So there are parts of the song that are the minimal sprawling, psychedelic waves and then there are other parts that you know are just cranked up to 11 and full force high energy dance party (laughs).   ​It's definitely been cool to play some of the new material on tour, but we're getting together for some rehearsals before the next tour and I suspect the songs will evolve more and ​be even more polished by the time we get out on tour. 

KM: Another way that I noticed people have described your music is something that made me literally laugh out loud, which is Space Porn (laughs).

SM: (laughs)I knew you were going to say that and I'm glad you did your homework because not everybody finds that out and we might need to start bringing that back. That was something that a fan created. Yeah, you know, if memory serves - and it might not, I've had a lot of adventures in my day - it was actually be a fan of ours that coined that phrase, literally, after our first gig that we ever played.  He came up to us in the year 2000 after our first gig ever and said, 'I don't know how to describe your music, I don't even know what genre ​​it is, it's like​ space porn!'  We all loved it ​and it just kind of stuck.  There are still people to this day, ​before I'm coming to town, they'll hit me up online​ and say they are and ​ready for ​some space porn and I know exactly what they mean (laughs).

KM: And you get a lot of visuals with that.  I think that all all band graphics should be based within that realm -they have to fit into the ​space porn category.  (laughs) Yeah, that was actually a friend of mine, Jesse that I was talking to ​and told him I was interviewing you and he was like, 'Oh, space ​porn'. ​  That's really funny that that kind of came from your first show, it's like OG

SM: Exactly.

KM: That's your that's your hip hop name. ​ Now that I brought up the, you know, hip hop, ​OG, name - I know you guys ​have some influences from the hip hop world and I do ask one question that I'm saving for later on. And I this kind of ties into it but I wanted to definitely get this out there and, not just in the hip hop category but​ for this one we'll do just the hip hop category. Are there any dream collaboration that you guys would like to get to happen?  I like to ask a question that doesn't this specify one genre, but I feel like​ we can talk about this now that we touched on ​the Metallica/hip-hop thing - I just can't can't get off of that one. ​So are there any dream collaboration in that department that you guys might want to pursue?

​SM: Very good question. Wow. The hard part is trying to narrow it down you know when it comes to dream collaboration I find myself turning to artists who I've been listening to for a long time because those are some of my earliest and biggest influences. Guys like DJ Shadow and ​Cut Chemist.

KM: Oh wow, yeah.

​​SM: Yeah, maybe following in those footsteps Run the Jewels.  Actually, here's one that just popped into my head only because I I know I'm gonna see him​ soon but, I play handful of shows every now and then with Alex Lifeson from Rush​ and I really love his playing and I think his style would work really well within the Particle framework.  I'd love to invite him out to a show next time we're playing Toronto, where he lives and have him jam with us.  Yeah, that's one that just popped into my mind.​ 

KM: You guys also have kind of run the gamut as far as people that you've, you know, featured in shows or toured with - I know you mentioned  Phil Lesh - you also did some stuff with one of the other Dead members, I can't remember who it was.

SM:  Yeah, I had a band called Hydro with Mickey Hart and we we wrote a bunch of original tunes and went out on a 30 city coast to coast tour back in, I think 2005.  Particle has be very fortunate to play with a lot of our heroes in the jam scene I mean Trey (Anastacio) and Page McConnell from Phish have both sat in with us on different occasions. ​Guys from the Grateful Dead, The Doors, Dave Matthews Band, really a pretty wide spectrum.  I'm actually having ​a hard time thinking of a band in our ​scene that we haven't collaborated with​.  That's one of the cool parts about this scene, especially when you're at a festivals and you cross paths with everybody.  That's one of my favorite parts about the jam scene, ​is all the different collaborations and that type of stuff.  That's why when I think of collaborations. my answers are kind of outside of the ​jam realm. 

KM: Yeah, I don't know if you're familiar at all, but ​Lockn festival​ - I just attended that one and the collaborations that came out of that festival were mind blowing! 

SM: I saw that.  Yeah, ​I was actually just​ hanging out with Peter Shapiro last night and he was telling me all about that ​and how amazing it was.  From what I saw online streaming some of it, ​it looks like some of the collaborations stole the show. ​

KM: Oh yeah, 100%!

SM:​ Yeah, everybody seemed to love those more than the original sets, which is kind of cool. ​ You can only get that at a festival so it's a special​ thing.

​KM: So that also leads us right into my next question. If there's going to be some hopeful festivals on the Particle tour, obviously not for this first leg, we know that's pretty much East Coast and singles shows, but are you guys going to look to get back on the festival circuit in 2019, and ​get some of these collaborations on stage again? 

Particle (Courtesy: Particle)
Particle (Courtesy: Particle)

SM: Absolutely.   I think the album is the key to that because we finally have some new music to share with people that we're really excited about. ​You know, we've been touring, but we haven't been touring as much and we haven't been doing as many of the big festival because we wanted to really recalibrate and make sure that we were pr​esenting the the most modern and cutting edge version of the band.  We really have that now so we'll definitely be looking to play more festivals in 2019.   The truth is, by the time that festival season rolls around, I wouldn't be surprised if we have yet another album completed.   That's sort of where our that's where our collective consciousness that is at.  Really just expanding and moving forward in all directions right now.  Things g​o in waves and it's very hard to force them and it's very hard to predict them, but we can all feel that the stars have aligned and we're all really ready to hit the gas on this. We've been talking about it for a long time but for whatever reason, things ​take time.  (laughs) We're just very grateful that all the elements have fallen into place and we find ourselves in this situation where we have this album that work extremely proud of - really can't wait for people to hear the new stuff.   Not only the songwriting, but also just a lot of the sound design and the way it was mixed.  We worked a lot out of this amazing studio Apple Head Recording up in Woodstock, New York.  I discovered that place and I recorded two albums with ​Rich Robinson there and I just fell in love with the room - this old barn up in this scenic, rustic environment, 30 foot ceilings, incredible vintage and analog gear in there so you're really getting authentic sound and just ingenious engineer, Chris Bittner that works up there.  He just knows his microphones and his gear and knows how to get down. So we we really had a great time recording and mixing up there, we were able to get some really big sound.  Even though ​fans might not be able to pinpoint exactly what it is they're hearing, I think the album has this overall feeling that was brought to life by the recording environment.  An example of that would be on the song 'Bravo Delta', the engineer Chris, had the idea to pipe his guitar solo through these huge PA speakers in the live room. ​  He was really blasting it, like arena, rock concert caliber.  Then he put a variety of ​mics in the room and he captured the sound of this massive guitar solo reverberating off the walls in this big space,​ 30 foot ceilings.  He created a balance between that larger-than-life sound ​which has an epic feeling to it, and he mixed that with the sort of close ​mic on the guitar amp, and also a natural spring reverb that he had. So when you hear the guitar solo, you're ​sort of getting, even though you're listening to it, there's a tactile sensation that's subconsciously associated with it.  Like I said, people might not actively perceive it, but​ when you hear a great record, you can just feel that there is some energy there. You can also hear it when it's not there in an album that just sounds a little bit sterile or flat, and you can't really even put your finger on and ​point to something that's missing.  When I listen back to the masters, which I actually just got yesterday from this incredibly brilliant gentleman, Fred Kevorkian in New York City,  got the masters from him yesterday.  It was such a pleasure to write back​ one thing say,  'No,​ it's approved,​this is brilliant!'  So yeah, ​I was just so happy with the way everything sounds and we're just really proud of the work we did. ​ Of course art is subjective, and you make this stuff and you release it into the ether, and you hope people like it.   At the end of the day, how people perceive it is their choice, you know?   Our choice was the motivation to write and record all this new, original material and we're just so proud to have done that.   I think that feeling has carried over and as I said earlier, we've already started working on a new album, because we want to chase that high and get back into the studio and expand our repertoire so the next time we come to town, we've got twice as many new songs for people and can really keep things fresh for the fans. ​ I think that's a big part of what, as a band, Particle is interested in, you know, where ​complacency is the enemy.  We're not interested in playing the same songs in the same way night after night.​  We want to constantly re-invent and keep things fresh, because I think the fans can tell when they're getting an authentic experience that's happening in real time.  It's kind of like how a dog smells fear, fans can and can sniff out bullshit (laughs). I know I can. I can just I can tell when I'm listening to a band, I can tell if they're phoning it in.  It's this weird thing you can't really put your finger on why or how you​ know, it's just an underlying feeling.​  I'm just so grateful to be surrounded by three other guys who are who all feel the same way and we're all motivated and passionate about the band and the music. ​ It's a cliche, but we really are firing on all cylinders right now and it just feels so great. 

KM: Yeah, you guys are really, really using that album title. You know, you've got the right vehicle. You're hitting the gas, you're firing on all cylinders.  It's Accelerator to the max (laughs)

SM: It wasn't intentional at all but....

KM: Sure, sure (laughs).

SM: ​(laughs) No, no, no, these patterns, they arrived for a reason, right? ​ Very true for a reason. It's like, you know, it's pattern recognition. And the truth is the, you know, the concept of this album being an accelerator for the band (laughs) yeah, it's a bit on the nose but it was too perfect not to run with it.  So we're, ​running with it and let me squeeze one more in and tell you that our gas tank is filled up and we can't wait to hit the open road (laughs).

KM: That's hilarious. Well, that's going to take me into my last question, which I kind of ​alluded to it in the beginning, nothing too challenging and​ we kind of covered a little bit of it with the collaboration thing, but I always like to ask what a bucket list item is that you're trying to accomplish. ​ Now that we're kind of towards the tail end of 2018, it's a little bit harder to stay within 2018, but let's just say within the next ​year.  For Particle, is there a bucket list item that you guys have, it could be anything from incorporating a new sound or collaborating with someone or even playing on a certain stage, ​or a certain venue.  Anything that you guys have really said, 'All right, we're putting out Accelerator, we're working on ​another new album, but we really want to try and and check this one off the list.​'?  Is there anything like that that you guys have thought about?

SM: I would say it isn't one specific thing, it's just a general approach to art and media. ​ We want to share as much music with people as possible moving forward. ​ The crazy part is we're constantly sharing new music with each other, it just doesn't get all released.  I would say our biggest goal is to keep writing, keep recording, keep sharing new music with people​, hit the festivals and really connect with the community because art like this doesn't exist in a vacuum. ​ The songs only exists once they reach the listeners. You know, most musicians have hard drives filled with dozens, if not hundreds of unreleased demos and if​ fans knew the sheer volume of unreleased songs that we all have, they would strangle us (laughs).​  They would say, 'Why are you sitting on all of this music, we want to hear it!'  ​ My parents shared a thought with me when I was working on the album, I think it was my dad who said, 'Perfection is the enemy of good'. ​Being a perfectionist in the studio, it was really challenging for me to take his words to heart, but I finally did.   I think that freedom is really helping me personally ​write and release all this new music because I've given myself permission to.  A lot of times artists, especially musicians​, are their harshest critic, and they don't love the way a melody is or the way they sang that one lyric, they may shelf the song and it may never see the light of day​ -but as I said earlier, art these objectives, the fans may have loved what the artists chose not to release. So moving forward, it's not really a bucket list thing, it's more of just a general approach to how we want to exist as a band.  We really want to constantly be pushing ourselves to improve and try new things within different musical genres and just recording techniques. We have three producers in the band, so everybody is kind of operating on a high level ​when it comes to demos and remixes and production.  It's really an exciting time right now, because we're able to kind of collaborate and make a lot of things happen in a short amount of time.  My hope would be that you call me at the same time next year and we can look back and marvel at the fact that we released multiple albums, a bunch of single remixes, did some collaborations and, did a bunch of festivals and went on a bunch of tours. 

KM: ​ Well I'll mark my calendar for then (laughs).  Steve, I appreciate the time, thank you so much. This was really enjoyable interview.

SM: My pleasure.

KM: ​I look forward to hopefully catching you guys when you are in DC.

SM: Awesome. Thanks so much. Have a great day.

Performance Details

Performance Details

Performance

Details


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Doors: 7:00PM

Show: 8:30PM


Gypsy Sally's

https://www.gypsysallys.com

3401 K Street NW (Water St.) Washington, DC 20007

(Google Maps Link)


$14 + Fees - In Advance

$16 + Fees- Day of Performance


About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.