Greg Stukey is the drummer from Raq. He's a tasty player that not only delivers the groove that keeps the whole room moving‚ but also has an ear for the intricate subtleties of the instrument. In addition to his natural talent‚ he works extremely hard at his passion for making music.
It was great talking with Greg. Be sure to check Raq out in a town near you and pick up their latest release‚ Carbohydrates.
Mike McKinley: First‚ let's talk about the album‚ Carbohydrates. Let me commend you on it‚ I think it's a great album. After seeing you guys play live several times‚ it was interesting to hear you in that environment where the complexities of the compositions come alive and the music is really concise. So now that it's out and you can look at the end product‚ what are some of your thoughts on it?
Greg Stukey: I think it's a great base for people to be exposed to our music; it's a really solid foundation of the songs that are currently in heavy rotation at our live shows. I think we were really lucky that it came out as good as it did‚ and hopefully we'll ride a little success from it. It's still early in the game to forecast what this album will do or what it has done already‚ but the overall consensus thus far is that people seem really psyched about it and think it's a good album. We could have gone two directions with this album. The first is doing the jamband thing where we go into the studio and record a twenty minute song and put it on the album. We could have gone that direction‚ but it felt more natural to keep everything buttoned up and straight to the point. We were concerned with what really needed to happen and what to get across with those songs. The ideas about what to cut‚ what melodies to leave in or out‚ where to layer harmonies‚ and all of those elements that we thought about in preproduction‚ really come out on the album. It was great experience doing it.
MM: Listening to the album I think it's not only concise‚ but everyone's playing on it is fantastic. Considering that it's fifty minutes‚ there's so much that is really captivating. For instance‚ right off the bat‚ the first solo that Chris (Michetti) takes is really tasty. But your playing throughout the album I think there's so many great moments where the listener can zone out on what the drums are doing. That might be something that in the live setting maybe hasn't been recognized yet - the depth of the compositions and the underlying subtleties in the playing.
GS: Yeah‚ you know‚ my whole philosophy is about all the subtle intricacies. Not that I don't love the big exhausting drum solo‚ but I really get off on trying to really benefit the music‚ and to know what to do at the right time is a crucial element for me. I've read so many articles in drum magazines about playing in the studio and what is necessary and right for the tune. Whereas in the live setting it's about playing in the moment and being responsive to something that Chris is doing or what Stoops is doing or what all of us are doing. In the studio I just wanted to lay it down as solid as possible and let the tunes speak for themselves. I didn't feel the need to put all of my chops and all of my skills on the line - that album will be there when it's time to make‚ but this one was different.
MM: It's going to interesting to see how people react to it the more you guys keep touring.
GS: Yeah‚ like what you said earlier‚ the idea was to make it as concise and solid as possible and to keep people captivated in the music. I think the longest songs on there are either "Carbohydrates" or "Hannah Can‚" and everything else is just a flash of what we do live. The difference between a tune like "Down Low" and a tune like "Barometric Weather" is a big - a real big difference. I think holding people's attention had a lot to do with how we shaped the songs; if you're not a musician then maybe certain sections we would lose people or not retain their attention. I think "Carbohydrates" is the only song in which we let go and played it live all the way through. All the other tracks were layered in which we laid down the drums‚ the bass‚ then added overdubs. But "Carbohydrates" was played totally live.
MM: Right‚ the one you let the tape roll and play the song…
GS: Yes‚ that's the moment on the album that we're a live band or gives a glimpse of what our live show sounds like. With that song‚ when we play it live it builds up and it gets so heavy and we wanted to capture that on the album. I think we did...I don't know‚ maybe I'm wrong (laughs).
MM: Yeah‚ perhaps someone else would disagree‚ but I think it's there. I really look at that song as the glue of the album. I don't know if other people have taken it in the same way‚ but I think the first part of the album is real punchy with short songs one right after another. Then the "Circumstance‚" "Carbohydrates‚" and "Sweet Cream Butter" section of the album is really the glue. The beginning of the album is really strong and the ending is really strong‚ but that section of the album I feel is the centerpiece‚ and it's a really interesting mood switch. You have the serious (Circumstance)‚ the epic (Carbohydrates)‚ and the silly (Sweet Cream Butter). I think from a production point of view it really works and holds the album together.
GS: Yeah‚ I think our approach was to design it as a one set show. That wouldn't be unusual for us to pick those songs if we were to play one set. Mark Johnson (producer) suggested just writing a set and going from there. The order and arrangement of that really stressed us out (laughs). The big thing he steered us into doing was breaking "Beauregard" into three sections. But other than that‚ it's really like a set of Raq with different moods and moments.
MM: I thought chopping "Beauregard" into three different sections was really interesting and unexpected.
GS: I know it's different for me because I play the song straight through on a nightly basis. But I think it's really cool how it's broken into different sections on the album. And I think it gives a lot of form to the piece as a whole. If you don't like "The Hunter Becomes the Hunted" than you can get up and get a drink‚ take a break‚ and come back for the rest (laughs).
MM: What was the discussion like among the band in coming to conclusion that breaking up "Beauregard" would work on the album?
GS: We just tried it. The tune itself is split up into different sections‚ so it was self-explanatory where to start it and when to stop. There were some minor changes in the process of recording it; for instance‚ one of the guitar melodies was placed differently than it is when we play the song live. But it was easy enough to do with that song so we tried it. After all the production was done we listened to the album three or four times through and just liked the way it flowed and decided to keep it. We were definitely hesitant about splitting that song up - where it comes across as a half-assed attempt to make some thematic concept to the album. It was just something totally random that was suggested‚ so we tried it and thought it sounded cool in the context of the album.
MM: I agree. I don't think it comes across as the theme of the album or alluding to a broader concept‚ I think it works more to keep the album cohesive and flowing. But maybe someone else wouldn't perceive it that way.
GS: Definitely. I'm sure people will have different takes on it.