Passafire is based out of Savannah, Georgia, but their home has been the highway for the past two months. Starting out on the east coast, after 40 concerts since September 14th, Passafire brought their “Start From Scratch” tour to the valley of the sun. We were also in attendance for this show and you can read the Concert Article by clicking HERE.
Stopping off in Phoenix for the first ever reggae concert at a new venue, Passafire sat down with The Pier to discuss the band’s success with their latest release “Start From Scratch,” the recording process with producer Paul Leary, as well as life on the road with Angelo Moore of Fishbone and must have nutritional items. Enjoy!
The Pier: It is great to catch up with you guys again. Just to kick-start the interview, can you give us a rundown on how the fall tour has unfolded with Tatanka?
Passafire: Seriously, you guys are everywhere! We love the support on the road, and all that you do for the music we play. It’s so great that we have had multiple talks with The Pier on this one tour. But, the tour has been great so far. We have been on national tours before with some headlining dates, but we left the east coast a month ago, headed up north, and now came to the west coast. The shows have been great so far, and now we are on the final leg of the tour heading back to Savannah, Georgia. There are a few more dates in the south before arriving home, so we are on the final stretch. Unfortunately, tonight is the last show with Tatanka, but it has been a thrill to tour with them.
The Pier: When you guys formed back in 2003, did you ever picture the band touring from coast to coast, headlining national tours?
Passafire: We didn’t even think of it in terms of that. I (Nick) think it was something we all wanted to do. In the beginning, we were just happy to get money to play music. Free beer and chicks, girls and beer were the ticket. We were all in college, so we basically became the house band in the college town. But we actually played locally way too much. People realized they could see our show a couple nights a week. Two days later, everyone knew they could come see us at the next show. Then we started playing outside of Savannah, and came back for one show, and it was just huge. So, we knew that was exactly what we had to do.
The Pier: Your first big break in the music scene came by way of Pepper and the owners of LAW Records. There are some wild stories about how you met the guys in Pepper, including breaking down a fence and nearly trampling the band, are any of them true?
Passafire: Well, the truth isn’t as entertaining or comical as Brett Bollinger (Pepper) describes it, but it was really key to taking the next step for us. We were asked to play a tailgate party for 99X in Atlanta, and 311-people were chosen to come out and see us play before a huge show with 311, The Wailers and Pepper. We played outside at a concession area, before you enter the main venue. We actually had backstage passes for playing the show earlier in the day. So, we approached Yesod (Pepper’s drummer) with our first Passafire CD. Nothing really happened until Yesod emailed us one day and loved our music. They wanted to know how much touring we already were doing and how much we could handle. They took us under their wings and showed us the way. It’s been great ride ever since!
The Pier: Do you guys classify yourself as one genre? Within your musical styles the influences of reggae and rock are evident, but you also add some synthesizers and banjos, etc to your sound. What do you guys classify yourself as?
Passafire: We really don’t know either. It’s the Passafire sound. We were reggae-rock, and now I feel we are just rock. We are a rock band. We play a lot of different styles of music, but they all fall into the rock category. If you think about Sublime, 311, and The Police, they are all considered rock bands. They all played more than just reggae. Those bands are mostly noted for their reggae style, as they should. But we have a lot more than just reggae, too.
The Pier: Along with playing all different genres of music, you guys were on the Warped Tour this past summer. How was it to play along side The Expendables, Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds, The Aggrolites, Pour Habit, and even Angelo Moore from Fishbone?
Passafire: Angelo was on our bus! He is a really cool and interesting dude. Fishbone is awesome. I (Ted) had a relationship with Norwood Fisher before I met Angelo. I helped Norwood record an acoustic album at his house. Norwood introduced me to Angelo one day at his house, and I still don’t know if he remembered me from that day. We were all kind of like, “Holy shit, Angelo from Fishbone is on our bus!” When he actually came on our bus, he was a very reserved person inside the bus. He stayed in contact with his girl, or his daughter, and stuff like that all the time. But he is a legend. To have him in close quarters, have a conversation and bounce ideas off of him was awesome. He played with us everyday on “Kilo” and it was just amazing to be a part of.
The Pier: Now, in terms of lineup changes, being based out of Georgia, how did you team up with Mike DeGuzman from Chicago?
Passafire: We met Mike on the Winter Blackout Tour with The Expendables. He had sat in with them in Chicago for a show. We then met up with him after the show. But in the meantime, he had already been sending us stuff on YouTube, covering Passafire songs just on the piano, and he already knew our songs. So, when the time came to get a new keys player, we knew exactly who to call. He was the first phone call we made. The transition has been nearly nonexistent with Mike playing with us.
The Pier: Going all the way back to your first self-titled album until your most recent release “Start From Scratch,” how do you guys manage to record a full-length album while touring nearly non stop?
Passafire: Well, for the latest release, we were really working against the clock. There wasn’t too much time to record. We had just finished one tour in the spring and got the call that we were going to play all summer on the Warped Tour. Most people might think working with minimal time would add pressure and produce a lesser final product, but we used it almost as fuel. We took it like a typical 9 to 5 day job, and many times longer. We all got together and started writing and sending what we had to Mike in Chicago, to add in some keys, and kept the process going like that. It was about a two or three month grind, but the final product is all that we hoped for.
The Pier: After three previous studio albums, what prompted Passafire to link up with Paul Leary to record in Texas?
Passafire: We didn’t plan on it, but through The Expendables, actually, we got in contact with Paul Leary and sent him the tracks we were working on. His response was amazing. We were on the phone with Paul, and he was so excited that he wanted us to come in instantly and record. He didn’t want to change much, if anything. He gave us freedom while he controlled the soundboard. He really worked as a master engineer for us. The sound we were trying to create, he brought it out of us as soon as we were in the studio. The way the recording process worked was ideal. Working with Leary was a dream come true and “Start From Scratch” was the end result. We couldn’t be happier with it.
The Pier: After the album was released in September and performing songs live on this tour, have there been any fan favorites already?
Passafire: During our live shows, we have played a good mix of the new songs. “Start From Scratch” is fresh, so, we have been playing a lot of songs from that album like “Trainwreck” and “Dimming Sky,” but the response at each stop has been great so far. The crowd has been singing along already. And we still play tons of the old songs, and really old songs, too! So, when people show up they get what they want.
The Pier: Now, it is coming up to Christmas time and New Years. Do you guys have any wish lists for touring next year? Or do you have one band that you would drop everything to go on tour with?
Passafire: We are not sure what the plans are for our next tour, but in terms of a band we would love to go on tour with, at the top of the list has to be Umphrey’s McGee. They are an amazing band and their sound is similar to what we play live. They are huge. So, to tour with them would be pretty awesome. Off the top of my head, that would be the one band.
The Pier: Now, just to wrap this up with a nice bow on top, how is life on the road? I saw that you guys love your food on the road, especially reaching the west coast to grab some In-N-Out burgers. Do you guys map out your food destinations, or spot a restaurant and chow down?
Passafire: Touring is fun, coming down to the final few dates, we are excited to get back home and see all of our girls and family. It terms of food, In-N-Out was amazing! It was actually our breakfast/lunch today as we came into Arizona in Yuma. We had to go animal style, all the way! To be honest, we will eat anything featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives or Rachel Ray’s picks. We try to hit new establishments in different cities, but if the experts suggest them, we will definitely try the food out.
The Pier: Thank you for your time! We always appreciate talking with Passafire!
Passafire: Without a doubt, thank you for coming out and seeing us play. We always love the support!
Passafire Show Locator
You can read The Pier’s official Album Review for Start From Scratch by clicking HERE
Interview by: Kris Siuta
Photos by: Bill Colbridge