Former Escanaba resident Kevin Chown
plays bass in a new jazz-oriented band dubbed
Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats. Pictured from
left are: Chown, Ed Roth, Jeff Kollman and Smith.
©Autumn Lee Photo
By STEVE SEYMOUR
"Jazz should be fun," contends Kevin Chown.
The former Escanaba resident makes that statement as the bass player in a new band with a debut CD aimed at jazz aficionados.
Credited to Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats, the album is distributed by Universal Music Group, a subsidiary of the world's largest record company.
Although their name is a bit unwieldy, the band's namesake and leader is the drummer for the hugely successful Red Hot Chili Peppers and the supergroup, Chickenfoot.
About the album, Chown says: "It's in the 'jazz' category on I-Tunes, but we are not the stereotypical jazz guys. We have too many influences to say we are one thing. Funk, rock, comedy, metal, psychedelic, we don't think about it. We just play."
Chown stopped by the Record Rack a few weeks ago and updated me on his recent musical activities.
His new band also includes Chown's friend and musical cohort Jeff Kollman on guitar, Ed Roth on keyboards, and of course, Smith, who looks strikingly like comedian Will Ferrell, on the skins.
"When we started this, we had no intention of anything other than recording some cool music," Chown said.
Based in Los Angeles, the group recorded "Meet the Meatbats" at Word of Mouth Recording in Woodland Hills, CA.
The album's ten instrumental selections are group compositions, although Chown is the main force behind a track titled "Pig Feet." "That song in particular I did arrange and bring in," Chown explained.
"Our 'writing' sessions are really just jam sessions. We record everything and sort out the details later; then develop songs out of things that happen organically."
Fans of David Gilmour will appreciate the album's closing number, "Into the Floyd," which contains a spacey vibe reminiscent of the legendary British rockers, Pink Floyd.
Concerning the band's moniker, Chown said: "We wanted a name where we could play instrumental music and not have people take us too seriously.
"Jazz somewhere along the line lost its sense of humor and became music that was put in a box and placed in a museum. I don't think that was Louis Armstrong's intent. He wanted to make people laugh.
"I guess subconsciously, it's our intent to smash the box and free the music," Chown said.
Chown grew up in Escanaba, the son of John and Ruth Chown. His father was a high school band teacher and his mother gave private piano lessons.
The young musician began performing professionally at age 15. He started on drums, but soon switched to bass.
After a year at Bay College, Chown moved to Detroit to attend Wayne State University where he earned a bachelor's degree in jazz studies.
He has performed with Uncle Kracker, among others.
The bassist currently resides in Sherman Oaks, CA, not far from where "Meet the Meatbats" was recorded.
Chown's favorite track on the new album is "Oh! I Spilled My Beer."
The song title comes from near the end of the track when Smith spilled his beverage and his verbal comment was left in as a homage.
Band humor is also evident in their use of nicknames. Smith is tagged "the Big Galute," Kollman is known as "the Worker Bee" and Roth is called "the Wrench." Chown's nickname is "Bubbles."
Kevin "Bubbles" Chown
"The names of the songs are extensions of our own lives or about people we know. Chad likes to say that since we don't have lyrics in the songs, we have to have titles that paint a picture and tell a tale all by themselves.
"In the Meatbat inner circle, there is also the Dragon, the Jockey, Boots, the Closer, T-Rex, and our latest is Kenny Aronoff, who is known as the Pinch."
"Basically, our nicknames, band name and song names are all part of a larger scheme of overall madness," Chown said.
The disc itself features a silk-screened photograph of a cake made for the group by a Japanese fan.
Issued by Warrior Records, the album clearly shows four masterful musicians enjoying themselves while making funky jazz just for the fun of it.
Nearly an hour long, the album was recorded and mixed by Jono Brown and produced by the Meatbats.
To promote "Meet the Meatbats," the group will tour Japan in October and November with some U. S. dates to follow.
"Chad's a busy guy. The Chili Peppers are starting work on a new record, so he will need to be in L. A. during the week, but we will be popping out to do some weekend dates as much as we can. Maybe some festival dates next year, but it's really wide open," Chown commented.
The Meatbats have already toured the Far East. "The first Japan tour, considering we didn't have any music out there and were for the most part touring on Chad's fame and name, went great. The tour really was the first time we played 'live,' as we evolved out of the studio, and it took the band to the next level."
Things are moving rapidly for the Meatbats. "We have already recorded the follow-up to our debut, and have a live CD ready to roll as well," Chown revealed.
Whatever musical endeavor the Meatbats try next, you know they'll have fun doing it.
If you are a member of Facebook: Everyone becoming a fan of Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats (www.facebook.com/bombasticmeatbats) between now and Nov. 1 will be placed in a drawing for a free CD. Be sure to add the words "from the U. P." with your friend request.
Ed "The Wrench" Roth
Jeff "Worker Bee" Kollman