Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Cosmic Bull to perform Wednesday at Montrose Saloon following release of new EP, "27x2"



Let's hope that Mark Vickery doesn't wait another 20 years to release his next album.

And given the excitement that this album has been generating, no one will allow him to do that. Vickery, who releases music and performs under the stage name Cosmic Bull, recently released the 6-song EP "27x2," his first volume of new music that he has released in 20 years.

To mark the release of the EP, he will perform a 45-minute solo acoustic show at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Montrose Saloon, 2933 W. Montrose Ave., Chicago.  Discoveries of the American Scientific will follow at 8 p.m., with The Thin Cherries closing out the night at 9 p.m.

There is a $5 suggested donation at the door. I had the chance to interview Vickery about the new EP and his music career. 

Q – Great talking to you. "27x2" is your first volume of new music that you have released in 20 years. Was that by choice?

If you mean did I wait 20 years because it’s a nice, round number, absolutely not. When I stopped releasing new music back then, I felt I was done for good — I was never planning to return.
At the time, it was a matter of how relevant I saw myself and what I was writing about. Looking back, the full Mark Vickery CD I released 20 years ago was all about leaving the scene, even though I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.

The choice to come back felt more like being compelled emotionally than anything I consciously thought about. As I see it these few months later, I felt a sudden pang that what I had to say about what’s going on in this crazy world right now did have relevance, especially compared to what I was hearing coming out elsewhere. So I pulled the trigger.

Q – It seems like there is a meaning behind the album's name. Is there? Does it have anything to do with the meaning behind the number 54?

Very good — 54 is how old I am right now. So 27x2=54, with 27 being the number of rock star lore at the age so many people died, from Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix, etc. to Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. So it’s a joke, or at least it represents my sense of humor, to suggest that I’ve already lived the life of two dead rock stars.

Q – What is the meaning behind the name Cosmic Bull?

I like the fact that Cosmic Bull can mean so many things: heaven and earth — a variation on the "light" and "heavy" theme Jimmy Page talks about with the name Led Zeppelin, and he got the idea from Iron Butterfly (and whoever said the New Yardbirds would go over like a...).
The "bull in the cosmos" idea also suggests the Zodiac sign Taurus, which I am. And more than one person has told me "Cosmic Bull" translates into this intimidating mythological figure in Islam, which I was not aware of.

But the real answer behind the name came to me in a flash: the bull stands for my creative endeavors — not that they are "bull," but that they potentially represent an intemperate animal — and "cosmic" represents where I sense my ideas come from.
And it’s not easy to stay on a creative endeavor without getting thrown off. Despite how difficult it is — to gain people’s attention, or to even embark on something you still find worthwhile after working on it for a time — "Cosmic Bull" is a symbol and a motto for me: to always get back on that artistic pursuit. It’s what makes me me, and keeps me a happy camper.

Q – What were your goals for the album and do you think you accomplished them? Do you have any favorite tracks on the album?

I think the jury’s still out on the "fulfilling my goals" thing. Some of this has to do with how it’s received as a body of work, and as listenable music.
Right now I’m still in the "'atta boy" stage: where my friends and associates acknowledge I’ve accomplished something concrete and vaguely admirable. It’s making playlists around the country and, in some cases, internationally, which is great.
Now I’m waiting to see if any of these seeds grow into anything.

I wrote "27x2" as a song cycle with a general narrative, and four of the songs’ lyrics were written to establish and advance that narrative. However, two of the songs came from earlier, and one of those, "The Sweet Art of Holding On," I wrote a couple years ago.
It’s me offering advice to those feeling overwhelmed by the world, and my "secret" for dealing with it, which is to place your existence in a broader context. Joni Mitchell sang, "We are stardust."
This is sort of my take on that, and it’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written.

Q – I know you released a couple of songs last year, including the song "Holding My Breath 'Til The End Of Time." Did the pandemic provide you with the inspiration for that song? It seems like the song could take on even more significance these days, given that everybody is holding their breath to see what happens next in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Oh, that’s really great. And I don’t want to keep anyone from believing what they wish about this or any other song of mine. But I’m pretty sure that one was written a few months before the pandemic even materialized; it deals with my frustrations getting into political arguments on social media.
And just frustrations with trying to make a difference and not being heard in general. True story, too.

The bad thing about writing songs about current events is that they are necessarily reactive to the facts on the ground. One of the more recent songs I wrote is about the Jan. 6 insurrection, with a verse dedicated to Jeffrey Epstein.
I wrote it a few days after Ghislaine Maxwell got convicted — nothing else about what happened got any notice from that moment on — and the scumbags got away with it. So the song has a refrain: "Pins in your soul," because that’s how this injustice made me feel.
But now it feels like all this happened two years ago.

My Putin/Ukraine songs have yet to materialize. When they do, I’m sure there will be another as-yet-unforeseen atrocity beyond that that I don’t address in real time.
Those songs are still worth making, I think, because they stick a flag of outrage in them, regardless how many people hear them when the outrage is still fresh. I suppose it’s nice to know the emotional content of songs I’ve written previously might still have application beyond where I intended them to go.
It’s a sort of back-handed assertion that what I’m doing does have value.

Q – In addition to being a musician, you are senior editor at Zacks Investment Research. Is it hard switching between doing that and writing music?

I tend to find ways to play to my strengths, and I’ve been with the same firm a long time. My job fits me like a glove, although instead of writing about the stock market I’d prefer writing about various forms of artistic expression — particularly music, and its cultural and historic relevance.
But jobs that pay in those fields aren’t easy to come by — so many people are willing to offer their opinions on this kind of thing for free!

I’m obviously less free to say what I want there than I am in song. But it’s still writing, and writing is what I’ve always done, even before learning to play an instrument.

Q – As I understand, you also do voice over work. How did you get into that and what kind of projects have you worked on?

I’ve always had one of those voices that makes people think I do voice over. Eventually it dawned on me to try it. 
Actually, I made friends long ago with a woman named Cathy Schenkelberg, who at the time was a foremost VO talent in Chicago. I should have made a stronger effort at it back then, but I wasn’t very appreciative of the rigors. 
I was feckless and lazy. Even now I’m not very successful at winning VO jobs; this might have something to do with not being much of a salesman.

That said, I think I sound distinctive enough that if someone were looking for my peculiar bent on a VO read, I could knock it out of the park. And a little success there could lead to bigger things over time.

Q – You do have a very distinctive voice and a unique style. Who are your musical inspirations?

Back when I was younger, there were no — like, zero — low-voiced singers in popular music. Even guys who sang in their lower registers, like Dr John and David Bowie, sang higher than me.
I know why, too: singing low, especially in a live rock band setting, puts your frequencies in competition with bass notes, floor toms, kick drums, etc. It always makes more sense to have a high voice soaring over the rhythms and progressions. But such was not my lot.

So when I heard Gil Scott-Heron for the first time, and "Step Right Up" by Tom Waits — both on Chicago’s WXRT, by the way — they really arrested me. Although when I first started recording, I wasn’t getting the results I desired; my voice sounded thin compared to how I sounded in my head.
With the "27x2" EP, as well as the previous singles like the one you mentioned produced by Paul von Mertens, I have managed to correct this to a certain extent.

Now I get closer to the mic and let my throat and sinuses contribute to the sound. And when I want my voice to take up even more space, I like doing mults, including falsettos, whispers, etc.
People have compared this approach to Bowie and Matt Johnson from The The. I have no problem with those comparisons whatsoever.

Q – A few years ago, I had the honor of interviewing Mars Williams regarding Liquid Soul's 20th anniversary show. Of course, Liquid Soul helped pioneer the acid jazz movement in the '90s. What was it like being a live guest vocalist for the band and how did that experience shape your musical horizons?

I was flattered and surprised to be waved onstage by Mars Williams the first time — at Elbo Room in the mid-90s, when they’d play to packed houses every Sunday night. Liquid Soul’s keyboardist, Frankie Hill, had played some gigs on sax with the first band I enjoyed success with in Chicago, Word Bongo. 
He told me to come check out Liquid Soul early on, which I did, and it was already a sensation then.

It was months later when I finally got called up. I was playing with the big boys at last, and I was acutely aware of this. It was too long ago to recall how well I did, but I guess well enough to go back. 
And the improvised groove collective I was playing with at the time, Zo (later Sumo), was fortunate enough to take over that Sunday night residency at Elbo Room once Liquid Soul moved to Double Door.

If you ask me, Mars Williams is living the dream as much as any musician in Chicago I can name. He plays whatever he wants and gets booked wherever he wants, his CV is impeccable and he’s on some of the great New Wave recordings with the Psychedelic Furs, the Waitresses — that solo on "I Know What Boys Like" is still fire! 
And the best part is: he doesn’t put on airs. He’s a music dude, and if you can get with that, you can get with him. Is there a better representative of the local contemporary music scene?

Q – What plans do you have in the coming months? Will you be performing more this year?

It’s been a very fast realization. When I finished the "27x2" EP and put it out on all the streaming services, the most common inquiry I got was, "Are you playing any shows?" I mean, they hadn’t even heard the music yet and they’re asking what my gig schedule was.
Are they really so sure what I’m doing was worthwhile? Of course not. What they were really trying to find out — I later realized — was whether I was serious about promoting this music. And the answer to that is: of course I am.

But it wasn’t something I had planned for. So I’m doing a solo acoustic opening spot at Montrose Saloon here in Chicago at 8 p.m. March 30 for 45 minutes. It won’t sound the way the songs are on the recordings, but they should be pretty easy to discern. Plus, I’ll have a couple surprises, to make sure people are paying attention.

Beyond that, there are some things in the works. But it’s helpful to understand that these songs and recordings did not come from a band setting — they came from one guy who has friends in music production and decided to release onto streaming services the fruits of this labor.
I’m in discussions with a multi-instrumentalist currently who might help flesh out these sounds in a live setting in the near future, but we’re still a little early yet to announce a Cosmic Bull world tour. Sorry to disappoint anybody.


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Bad Daddy to celebrate release of new CD with show Sunday at Rosa's Lounge in Chicago

  Photo courtesy of Chris Monaghan Photography


By Eric Schelkopf

Maine-based Bad Daddy (aka Paul Waring) is married to the blues.

That should be evident by anyone listening to his latest CD, “It’s A Mad Mad Bad Dad World,” set for release on March 11 on PieHole Records. Waring goes by the stage name Bad Daddy.

To celebrate the release of the CD, Waring and his band will perform at 7 p.m. March 13 at Rosa’s Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $20, available at rosaslounge-com.seatengine.com.

Pete Galanis on guitars, Ari Seder on bass guitar and Jason “Jroc” Edwards on drums backed Waring‘s vocals and guitar on all 10 tracks, recorded at Chicago’s JoyRide Studio and Galanis’ Studio 3036 in Chicago.

Waring developed a love for the blues as a teenager hanging out in blues clubs in Chicago and seeing the likes of Buddy Guy, Magic Slim and Otis Rush.

“I arrived here in Chicago for my senior year in high school,” Waring said. “I can remember back in my senior year in high school basically faking my way into Rosa’s, actually. Magic Slim just blew me away.

The first time I saw the guy I was like, holy cow. I was playing guitar at that point, but I wasn’t focused. And once I was exposed to live Chicago blues, I had the bug at that stage. And I really found myself wanting to mimic what I was hearing on those records and in the clubs.”

Q – I know that you are buddies with Pete from the band Howard and the White Boys. I’ve actually been writing about them for years.

A – Yeah, I’ve been friends with Pete since 2014 or 2015, when we first met. He would perform on Tuesday nights at Rosa’s.

I discovered those guys just kind of in my nightly prowls and I just loved what they were doing.

Q – I know that Pete also remastered your first album. What did you respect about his musical talents? What did you like about what he had to offer?

A – I just found him really approachable. He’s a really talented guitar player but he also is a great engineer.

I was never quite happy with the mastering of my first album. It just had too much low end for my ear.

He managed to take it and keep that bass down a little bit and kind of create a slightly newer sound to it, which I thought was really great.

Q – And you decided the time was right to work on a new album.

A – Yeah, being stuck in the pandemic was definitely part of the push. My wife was all behind me and told me that she could see where I was going with this.

When I felt ready with my material, I felt so compelled and comfortable approaching Pete, Ari and Jroc about the album. They already run with a rep for being a top-notch supporting band, and with the right mix of people fronting, there’s some real magic.

I hope that comes through in the work we did on the record. That’s what I look for and is something most of us try to aspire towards.

My heart is full of love for these guys and Ari and Jroc are one hell of a rhythm section – they each brought so much to the project and really helped lay a foundation for me to finish weaving together all my thoughts and inspirations. Working with these guys was truly fantastic.  

Jroc is a goddamn monster and Ari is a master technician and artist.. I really enjoyed Ari’s organizational help and all his thoughts/ideas to help shape my arrangements to bring out the best.

Lots of love for all these gentlemen.          

Q – As far as the name Bad Daddy, where did that come from?

A – In the early days of this, I was mostly jamming with a group of friends on Tuesday nights. We would jam in my living room or my buddy’s living room.

Eventually, that got a little more serious. And we all had families, we all had kids.

I had a five-year-old and a 10-year-old. As soon as we started working a little harder, that took us away of helping mom out at home.

Q – Like you’re the bad daddy because you’re not at home.

A – Early on, we were called the bad daddies, because we were all daddies.

Q – It is interesting that your day job is building yachts and then you are a musician at night. Does that fulfill both your needs?

A – I’ve just got a lot of energy and I just make time for it all. It’s also a little bit out of necessity, just because of my choice of living in rural Maine. Operating there as a full-time musician is a real challenge more so than it is here in Chicago.

You don’t have the venues and the critical mass to kind of really make it work. I’ve been running my Bad Daddy brand since 2005 and put my first album out in 2008.

It’s been a fun run, but you have to sort of be willing to sacrifice a little. I grew up around boats and the ocean and so it sort of came naturally as an occupation, I guess.

It allows me to fund my music pursuits. It kind of works hand in hand. You just have to make the time for it.

Q – I know there are blues cruises. You could have a cruise on a yacht that you designed.

A – That would be cool. I think the largest boat that we’ve been involved with designing is around 95 feet long.

It was a pretty cool project. And we’ve designed a number of other boats up and around that length.

For that size range, you could definitely have a pretty decent party on board.

Q – Are there any songs on the new album that you are particularly proud of?

A – If I were to have a favorite, it would probably be “Pork Pie Hat.” It just came together in such an exciting way.

And Pete does an absolutely blazing fiery solo on it that sounds a lot like Robben Ford. It just kind of reminds me of cruising around Chicago and catching live music.

But I think the most interesting song I can point to is called “These Times.” It’s definitely kind of out of my normal blues rock zone.

But also, it kind of came to me really quickly and really easily. The riffs and the lyrics kind of fell right together.

It does feel like a social movement song, although I didn’t intend it to have a particular message. It has that inspirational tone and feel.

I think it was maybe inspired by the day to day political news that we experienced these last few years.