For the last fourteen years Particle has been touring the world, recording in the studio and partnering with every jam band out there. It wasn’t long before the band was opening up for bigger acts, getting asked to sit in with some of their heroes and becoming a household name in the industry. Particle has a very impressive tour history chronicled on their website and it is no mystery that the band has reached a height many strive for. The name Particle is synonymous with jam-band and goes hand in hand with every facet of a live performance: funky jams, long tight grooves and open ended songs to keep a dance floor moving all night long. Their music is perfect for that late night set or high-energy dance show. For me there seems to be a mystique about the band, one that shines a lot of merit on the guys as a nationally touring, and successful band that has a reputation for putting on a great performance. Recently at Aura Music and Arts Festival Axiom-Nation had a chance to sit down with Keyboardist/Synth player Steve Moltiz to talk about the bands future, past and aspirations.
Axiom-Nation: You have played multiple Phish After Party shows in New York, Massachusetts and California. Do you get to see the Phish shows often? What influence does the band hold for you?
Steve Moltiz: Whenever Particle plays a Phish after party, we all go see the Phish show together. It’s an inspiring way to start the night, and it really opens our mind up to taking a more expansive approach to our improvisation.
AX: What inspirations do you get when traveling and touring through Upstate New York that you can’t find anywhere else?
SM: Upstate NY is a very peaceful place to get away from the usual distractions of technology, and allow yourself to reconnect with some of the more subtle rhythms in life (your breath, heartbeat, etc.). We absolutely love playing up there.
AX: Through the years it seems like you have played with everyone. Is there anyone you haven’t played with that you would like to get onstage with?
SM: David Byrne for sure, I’ve met him a few times but never got to jam. He is one of the earliest and biggest influences; I just remember growing up and my dad playing Stop Making Sense hearing Bernie Worrell playing on that. The songs captured me, something about the percussion and rhythm, how alive and urgent the music felt.
AX: What about fears? You have had an amazing career. In a perfect world what are some of the fears you have with touring and playing.
SM: Consistency is a really tricky thing in show business. There are formulas but formula can sometimes mean routine, which can sometimes mean complacency. To me complacency is the enemy; sometimes I get afraid of getting stuck doing the same thing. If I were on the road doing thirty dates on a tour and found myself half way in doing something like the night before, that wouldn’t be good. Maybe I would be doing a similar lead for a few minutes during a solo section where I could improvise. Sometimes I would realize like on a Thursday that this was something that I played on Wednesday or the night before. This show is in Boston and I bet some of the people who might have seen us in New York might have heard this progression before. I really owe it to them and to myself to push a little harder. One of my early fears was that I would become complacent so I would have to try to keep it fresh. On a macro level, I can’t speak for the giants like The Rolling Stones but certainly for a mid level jam band there is a certain fear that times change and you have to recognize that although change is good you have to be willing to let go of the old and embrace the new. Fear of stagnating, you always want to be moving forward and taking leaps of faith. Because if you ever slowed down enough where you thought about what you were actually doing, you would think ‘what am I out of my mind’. You would get a day job and give the whole thing up. To be any kind of artist you either have to be ether crazy or stupid. Most people want stability in their lives, the artist has to be brave enough to say I have this desire and I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t just try. My only fear is the what if and sometimes having the courage to see my own ideas through. There are some songs that I wrote three or four years ago that have been never released. To me they are my best songs and for whatever reason these songs have never surfaced.
AX: See if you can reach way back right before Particle started, tell us what you were doing and if you had a vision for this band?
SM: I had a band in college called Vinyl Ritchie, we used to just set up and play. I had a house with two of the walls in the living room that were made of thick brick and so sound wouldn’t get out. On the other two there weren’t any neighbors so we could really make some noise. I had my living room just filled with instruments: bass, drums, keys, guitars, horns and turntables. We would come home from class at around nine at night and have this rotating cast of characters who we would jam with continuously until the early morning hours, all improvised. That paved the way for what my musical passion became. We were doing it to just learn and play. The bass and drums were locked in on these dance rhythms, which allowed the keyboards and guitar to create soundscapes and not always searing leads; it was ok to play texturally for an hour. So right before Particle, that’s how I was thinking; in terms of sonic exploration rather than three minute pop sounds.
AX: What about 2014, are you thinking ahead?
SM: To tell you the truth I have been writing and recording and going through these old songs I told you about. It’s funny how things shift, all the guys in Particle are really busy and aren’t touring as much as we used to. We do have a pretty extensive Spring tour of over 30 dates going cross-country coming up. Although touring is the best way to spread your sound, sitting back allows me more time to pursue other things and one of my goals for the next year is to release an album of my own and play some shows behind that.
AX: Word has it that a few years back you guys played a 5-hour set! How did you get away with this?
SM: We don’t always play that long. If we’re playing a club that closes at 2 a.m., well, we have to keep it short, obviously. Despite this, there’s something about Bonnaroo’s crowd that reinvigorates you and gets the particles all charged up, there was no stopping us that night.
AX: Lastly, do you see the band becoming more electronic based? In the sense that we will see you all have iPads and oscillators someday soon?
SM: Not me, but some of the other guys love listening to DJs, which is why a lot of the music sounds like electronica. Even if we stray to one direction or the next, our foundation will always be the classic rockers like Led Zeppelin, The Guess Who and The Talking Heads. No matter what we want to put out high-energy music, poetry you can dance to and the mood of the crowd determines how we play each night. It’s a reciprocal thing, a trade of energy from which we feed.
- Adam Epstein