An interview with Steve Molitz of Particle
Particle at The Cabooze on April 18
I recently caught up with Steve Molitz, keyboardist of Particle, as the band was winding through the mountains of northern California on their way to Arcata. This was a day after Particle launched their 2014 Spring tour, a continuation of the band’s first major coast-to-coast tour in six years; that finds them cruising across the midwest including a stop at The Cabooze in Minneapolis on Friday, April 18. “By the time we get to Minneapolis, we’ll definitely have all cylinders firing,” Molitz promised with a spark of excitement in his voice as we chatted on the phone.
Since 2000, Particle has made waves in the jamband and electro-rock scene, with a funky “livetronica” sound that hits with the power of Disco Biscuits, and the danceability of Daft Punk. The Los Angeles based band has done this with just one studio release, and one live album to date. Their second (currently untitled) studio release is due out late summer or early fall of this year. Over the years, the band has filled some of the best clubs and largest festival grounds in the US, and they are very excited to be on the road again. And as Molitz describes below, Particle wouldn’t be who they are without their fervent fanbase known as Particle People.
- Q: What do you attribute the band’s touring success to, when you’ve released only one studio album, and have had little radio exposure in fourteen years?
- A: “I really attribute it to the fans. They have such a strong network. And it’s been really cool over the years to have people to turn their friends on to music they love. In the early days, when Particle first started, this was before Facebook and all that stuff, if you wanted to turn someone on to a new band, you had to send them music. I feel that the fans on a grassroots level have a lot to do with that. We owe it to the fans. It’s such a great time for music, especially with technology making it so easy to share.”
- Q: So do you feel that studio albums are secondary to live music?
- A: “I wouldn’t call it secondary. Yes, we are primarily a live band, but we are putting the finishing touches on a new album right now. It will be out late summer or early fall. And, you know, we love doing that as much as the live show, they are just two completely different things. It was recorded recently in an old barn in Woodstock, New York, owned by one of the guys from The Band. And one exciting thing about working on a new album right now is that we definitely have a lot of new material we’ll be playing at The Cabooze. We are really really excited to share that with the fans. We can’t wait for them to hear our new stuff along with the classic Particle songs.”
- Q: Talking more about your live show, I see you’re bringing on Wil Simon to do lights again. Are you excited to add his brilliance to the tour?
- A: “Indeed! Yeah he’s definitely been in the Twin Cities’ scene for a long time, working with Atmosphere and others. Yeah he’s been doing a great job, and has some new lights being shipping out tomorrow actually. We’re excited for that new technology, and by the time we get to The Cabooze, we should have it all programmed and dialed in. It should be really cool.”
- Q: Particle is considered a pioneer of the livetronica genre. What do you think playing instruments live brings, that sequenced electronica music is missing when also played live?
- A: “Well, there is a connection that is visible and very apparent with a musician and their instrument. You know when you watch an electric guitar player take a solo, you can watch his fingers and see every note, and the way he is manipulating the sound. Audience members can tap into that immediate, raw power. It is possible for djs or producers, to totally tear the roof off of a place, but for me the difference is, processing what you’re watching. When you’re watching a dj, you’re not really sure what he’s doing. Is he just playing a song on his laptop? Is he creating and manipulating sound in real time? It’s hard to tell. But when you see a drummer crash a cymbal, or a guitar player bending a note at the peak of a solo, I feel there is a direct line of energy being created. I love both forms of music. I love going to see djs, and watching them. But it is nothing like watching live bands, and seeing them create music in real time.”
- Q: Speaking of djs, artists like Skrillex have blown up with mainstream popularity over the last few years. Has Particle seen an increase in its fanbase due to electronic dance music becoming more popular?
- A: “In a sense, but I think the fans are pretty keen, and they really have a good sense of all the different subdivisions of the genre. So I think electronic dance music as a whole is definitely thriving, absolutely. But Particle has been doing this since 2000, and I think our fans have been pretty steady throughout. Particle underneath it all, is a rock band at heart. We play a lot of funk, and psychedelic rock, and groove, and have world music influences. So we’re kind of all over the place. We’re not trying to just be an electronica band. But I feel like the same person who goes to see someone like Skrillex, is still going to get that same release of going to dance and party at a Particle show. But the colors in the palette are a little bit different, although the end result is the same. We are all trying to take people to the same place, where they lose themselves in the moment and forget their world for a while, and celebrate, and meet people.”
- Q: What current music are you feeling inspired by?
- A: “Haha, that’s such an easy answer, I don’t have to think about it at all. Prof. He’s a rapper from your neck of the woods and is in heavy rotation. Hopefully he’ll read this and come out to the show! I rock ’em all. All the KVP (Kaiser Von Powderhorn) stuff, King Gampo, they all sound so good. He’s really my favorite rapper out there right now. I love his beats, production and energy.”
- Q: Any last words before we go?
- A: “Yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to the show. The Cabooze has always been one of our favorite venues to play. We have a lot of history there that goes way back, and we’ve always had a lot of good friends out there on the scene helping. That’s definitely one of the places, that when we go there, feels like a home away from home. I can’t wait to see everybody at the show!”