A Few Words With...cHaMs
Interview & photos by John A. Wilcox
I had the pleasure of seeing a new prog act hit the stage here in Connecticut. They call themselves doa2k and deliver hard rocking prog with a deceptively big sound for a trio. doa2k consists of Steve "cHaMs" Chameides (bass, synths, vocals), Tom Walsh (guitars, vocals), and Charlie Napolitano (drums). Hard at work on their debut CD, I decided to give ProgSheet readers a glimpse of an up and coming prog band, a glimpse into the future. cHaMs took some time out from recording to give us all a look into his psyche and that of the band's as well...
PS: What was the first album you remember listening to from end to end?
C: That would probably early Jackson-5. It was the early 70's and yes I was a fan. I can't remember which album it was. I just remember it was vinyl and the front cover was perfed so you could cut it out. Stevie Wonder's Songs In The Key Of Life was also a favorite.
PS: What was the first concert you ever attended?
C: Elton John, Thanksgiving night 1974, MSG-NYC. This was an historical show because John Lennon came out and performed with Reg. I was 8 y/o and had just started taking piano lessons. My parents took me and my older brother. I remember we had crappy seats and there was a funny smell once the music started ;-) Elton later pressed Here And There and side B is the first 40 minutes of that show. The concert also made MSG's top-50 list last year.
PS: Was there a specific moment or event where you realized you wanted to make a living as a musician?
C: Not really. I was never the 'do whatever it takes' to be a career musician type. I've been playing 100+ shows annually for over a decade with various groups and all the while worked a day job. I'm addicted to performing, so as long as I'm out there at least once a week, I'm happy.
PS: What drew you to progressive music as a listener & a player?
C: Ever since my early teens, I've always focused on being a better player, picking up new instruments and trying to improve my ability, especially as a keyboardist. But all the while, I've never lost touched with appreciating a great song! So growing up, I gravitated to the classic prog bands that also wrote memorable songs like Rush, Kansas, Styx & Yes.
PS: How did you meet Tom & Charlie?
C: Tom and I began playing together in the late 80's in an all-original act called Crystal Pistol. Pistol played a lot in Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and Manhattan from '89 to about '93. We signed a publishing deal with Famous Music (Paramount) but were never signed to a record deal. A few Pistol songs were released on MTM from a band called Raine. The album is called Peace. Dave Lindland and Rennie Xosa (from Pistol) started that band. Tom and I also played tracks on the record.
Charlie and I have known each other a little longer having grown up in the same town. We always talked about starting a project together and it happened around 1994 when we formed 'doa2000' a CT hard rock cover band. After a few personnel changes, Tom eventually came into the fold and Charlie's sister Lisa (now Tom's wife) sang lead for us. The band played the CT scene until 2000. The group revamped into a wedding band called Funky Business in 2000. Then the three of us decided to rock out again, all-original style, in 2005 when we "reformed" doa2000 as a trio called doa2k.
PS: Was there any specific performer or performers that drew you to wanting to play the bass?
C: Geddy Lee for sure. I first got turned on to Rush after Permanent Waves came out. It inspired me to pick up bass guitar. Here was a band writing music that showed off what great players they were, while writing memorable songs with sticky melodies. My current favorite bass player would have to be Dug Pinnick of King's X. I love his style and his sound rocks. I had the pleasure of meeting him when doa2k opened for King's X at the Webster in late 2005.
PS: As you work on the band's debut CD, what rig are you using in the studio?
C: My main axe is an Ibanez 705. It's a 5-string monster that's loud, heavy, bright and takes no prisoners! For the first batch a songs, we recorded basics at White House Productions in Shelton. Scott White runs the studio. He and I play together in Darik and the Funbags. He's a pleasure to work with, either gigging or recording. I have a set of Trace Elliot cabs to play live with, but Scott convinced me to record with an Ampeg 18" for the lows and an Eden 2X10" for the mids/high. We used my Ampeg SVT-4Pro bi-amped to power the cabs. We recorded each cab onto separate tracks, so I could dial in a different mix on each tune if need be. I also used my Sansamp RBI Bass Pre-amp, which totally defines my sound, giving it the grit and definition I'm looking for.
PS: How many of the 6 songs on the band's promo EP will be on the album, if any?
C: Likely all of them. We only pressed a couple of hundred promo EP's to give out at shows and on myspace. I still have maybe 75 left. We have 3 new tunes ready to record and we're working on a few more. It's still undecided how many tunes we're gonna record in the 2nd batch. Somewhere between 3 and 6 and those will be added to the first 6. I also plan on remixing the first 6, while we record the 2nd batch of tunes. Once the full recording is done, we're going to shop it around to see if any progressive labels would be interested in releasing it. Otherwise, we'll release it ourselves.
PS: Is the writing for the album done as a band, or do you each bring in songs?
C: I demoed the first 6 tunes, but once the band started working on them, a lot of the song structures changed. Some a lot, others not so much. Charlie's got a keen ear for song structure and has a lot of input as to where a song should go as it evolves. The latest songs were working on are definitely more collaborative, whereas Tom or I will bring in an idea and we'll all expand on it. I think the 2nd batch of tunes are going to be a more accurate reflection of what the band is about.
PS: Tell me about the song Internicity. What's the story behind it?
C: Lyrically, I tend to write with a lot of ambiguity. I tend to put more emphasis on phonetics then literal meaning. If a line flows off the tongue smoothly, has a nice rhythmic feel by using the right combination of consonants, I tend to go with it. After that, it's a challenge to group lines together to form a coherent meaning at the song level. But for some reason, it seems to come together and each song can have a variety of interpretations based on the listeners perceptions and experiences. I like the openness of that. When I listen to Internicity, I always think of self-conflict. We all have internal voices telling us what is right and wrong and whether or not we choose to listen to them, ultimately a decision is made. Internicity is about that conflict and how we handle it. In some cases that conflict can force us to becoming a stronger person, in other cases, it can destroy us.
PS: How about On The Edge?
C: On The Edge is about facing your fears. Fear of failure, fear of the unknown, whatever it may be. It's about having the guts to believe in yourself and move forward in a world that's ready to knock you down, chew you up and spit you out.
PS: doa2k had a great gig opening for Spock's Beard. What, if anything, did you learn from seeing them perform?
C: Spock's Beard blew me away. The musicianship was nothing short of stellar. Their songwriting is so dynamic and player-oriented without being over the top. You can tell they love what they do and its an entirely honest effort. The other guys and myself in doa2k felt rejuvenated after seeing them thinking 'we gotta follow these guys' lead" so to speak. We want to challenge ourselves to write accessable prog that we can be proud of. Their response from the crowd was inspiring as well. What a great feeling that must be. Doing your music, without a thought of catering to the marketable masses and gaining such a loyal following. That's what it's all about.
PS: Sound-wise & "vibe"-wise, what are doa2k trying to achieve with the new album?
C: It's difficult to surmise what we're trying to create. We're all established musicians, but have been friends for nearly 20 years. We want to create a sound/vibe that encompasses all our influences and stir the pot to the point where we have virtually all the lumps out of the gravy. When you distill it all down, we're a progressive-oriented hard rock trio with influences that range from classic prog to 90's grunge, so its an interesting mix. One moment we sound like King Crimson, the next moment we sound like Nirvana - lol. Sonically, we definitely want a modern sound, with little artificial ambience. There's very little reverb on the overall mix on the EP and we like that up-front in your face kind of sound, as if the guitars and basses and plugged right into your stereo. Vibe-wise, if you go back to the late 70's/early 80's a lot of prog rock veterans ruled the airwaves when they started generating more accessible material, like ASIA for example. I think we partly a throwback to that formula, combined with the organic grunge vibe of the 90's like Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. I love grunge music and its my belief that there was a progressive element infused into grunge that many people don't realize. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice all wrote songs involving odd-time signatures. When everyone in the 90's was saying prog-rock is dead. I was like 'No it's not!', its out there, you just have to listen closely.
PS: Please name 6 CDs you never get tired of listening to.
Elton John - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
King's X - Dogman
Rush - Moving Pictures
Soundgarden - Super Unknown
Our Lady Peace - Happiness...
Yes - Fragile
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