Here it is folks! My interview with Jason Hann of EOTO and the String Cheese Incident, transcribed for your reading pleasure. WARNING: It is NOT transcribed in full. These are partial answers to partial questions that I could type as we had a regular speed conversation. For the FULL LENGTH INTERVIEW, check back tomorrow under The Weekend Trip tag and I’ll have it up for you, PLUS a few great bands for you to check out and new tracks from your favorite artists. ENJOII
Jason Hann behind his kit and congas.
When did you start playing drums?
I started playing about 30 years ago and my dad is a musician too from Miami. He got a gig 5 days a week starting at 3 pm at a marina, so I could come home from school and go check it out. I did some choir and piano lessons, but it wasn’t to be a musician, but I just had access to it. When my dad started playing close to me that’s when I started thinking I would want to be like these famous musicians he was playing with. I had my first conga drums when I was 11 and about a year later I had learned all his songs and his drummer was out so he asked me to do it. He wasn’t sure if I could do it but I was, so I went for it and it was pretty amazing. That became my summer job for junior high and high school, which in Miami at the time probably wasn’t the best influence, ya know Miami in the 80’s.
Who did you first play with professionally?
Some of the more high profile name, Herbie Hancock is one of the most amazing musicians of all time, another singer Vinx I heard of when I was in high school, he did a lot of concerts just voice and drums and he did two years opening for Sting and being in Stings band and when I moved to LA I ran across him and he had me play at his concerts, that was huge for me because I listened to him a lot. I met a lot of players when I moved to LA which was awesome, if its one off shoot gig, or in the studio.
For a full explanation of artists that Jason has worked with, listen to the interview.
When did your interest turn to house and live electronic beats?
As far as groups that I was in or wanted to be in, I never leaned towards electronic beats. I got my first drum machine at 13 and a guy in Miami who produced many great records learned how to program a Limb drum machine. It sounded so realistic that a lot of drummers lost their studio gigs. He was a good friend of my dads before he made that jump and when he did a session with my dad I was blown away with how to program these drum beats, and then later on I was playing with professionals, DJs would ask me to play on records for them, more house music and hip hop, I would be hired to play live percussion but at that time I was into traditional percussion I wanted to travel the world and learn, but EOTO was the first group where I really ventured to do dance music.
The music in traditional settings is not separated from the ceremony or the lyrics or the singing or the dancing, so I learned a lot of songs when I learned the drumming of those cultures. Not necessarily the language but doing it so I could participate and not sound out of place, and now in EOTO there’s enough syllable and rhythmic ideas that I can make my own language and people are intrigued, that’s been fun. And then in general playing electronic dance music is not really the opposite of traditional drum music. Mostly you’re setting up a style of music that is sort of in the same vein, sort of trance-y vibes, and in an indigenous setting it’s the same thing, just a different way. As far as playing wise, I definitely draw from that and watching the dancers move, I get influenced by watching body language and getting people going, not necessarily the intensity of the tradition. Watching people and asking how can I make you dance harder?
How long have you been working with Michael Travis on EOTO?
We’re both in the String Cheese Incident, which I joined in 2004. I sat in with them in 1994 and again in 1996, then he called me out of the blue in 2004 and asked me if I wanted to possibly join the band so I tried that and it worked out. All these guys worked out in Colorado, so when I went out there, I stayed with him and during those times is when we set up and just played around with stuff, and during down time we would listen to internet radio and heard down tempo, fun stuff that we wanted to replicate, all around 2005 and ’06. During that period we got our own set up together and in the beginning of 2006 was the first time something was going to happen, and we were asked to basically open for SCI at one of their shows. We did that few times and it took off from there.
Jason Hann, Michael Travis, and the String Cheese Indicent
How would you describe your partnership?
Well, when we first started we had hand signals, and we could mouth things to one another trying to figure out how to communicate, but as the years have gone by- and we’ve probably played over 700 shows, we’ve just gotten comfortable in the groove. We barely look at each other, and now you can hear when something needs to change or slows down. But if it doesn’t happen naturally, we’re both in such a mode that it just works.
It’s been a mixed thing, we have so many dates, and when we originally started we were so ambitious and people didn’t really think it was a serious project but we wanted to go for it. It took a couple years to get our own crowd and people who didn’t necessarily know who SCI was and were just going for an electronic show and we were doing this right at the time when this whole thing was growing, so we were hungry to keep going and at the time, SCI was broken up as well, so now that SCI is back together and doing more shows, we’re not gonna have time to practice, but like this tour is only 6 weeks, then Halloween no days off, but we have a good solid thing going and we want to see where it takes us.
Why do you think your sound resonates with the jam band scene and has so many crossovers with the jam band fans?
Believe me, there was a time when we didn’t think we could do it. Then all of a sudden you see a few DJs at festivals, like Bassnectar or STS9 and bringing other DJs to showcase late night, now it feels like more of a bridge and there’s all sorts of kids who have never been to a Cheese show, but have been to 12 EOTO shows. Now it feels like it’s come full circle, we have al sorts of new faces and people coming out to the show.
Does EOTO mean anything?
Sure, originally the name was End Of Time Observatory, but we came up with 20 other names that didn’t really work, we were excited about that being our name and a name that long gets shortened always, so our fans actually starting calling it EOTO, and then some Japanese kids came up and told us EOTO means “good sound” in Japanese, in the Philippine language it means good love or something like that, so that feels right, that feels like destiny.
For someone who has never seen your live show, what would you tell them to expect?
Well we’re live musicians playing electronic dance music and its gonna have a DJ set feel where the music never stops and we’ll take you on a journey, we keep the vibe going, it’s a full on dance party. You’re gonna hear house, you’re gonna hear jam but its all about getting down as hard as you can and if you watch us, all the music every sound you hear comes from us, its sounds prerecorded it sounds like one guy with records but its just us two, we want a fully realized live electronic set and that’s what were hoping to deliver.