©2011 Master Seven. All rights reserved.
Interview with Graham Czach
Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
Congratulations on releasing your Lucid CD. How is it progressing?

Pretty good. It has opened up some opportunities and it sold pretty well…. (At this point) I’m booking some tours, getting some agents lined up and working the industry aspect of it.

How has studying music in college and performing in theater prepared you for writing this CD?

It definitely came into play for the string compositions and arrangements…. Being classically trained rubbed off and was an influence on my music as well as some of the jazz harmonies….  Most of all I’m just trying to be myself. I’m not trying to sound like anyone else. Inevitably your influences come out in your playing anyway. On this (record) I found my voice and style. As I write the songs I hear the arrangement in my head…. I use my training to (write parts) so that other musicians can play them….
March 14, 2011
Graham Czach's website:
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Who were your musical influences growing up?

I grew up in a … musical family. My parents grew up in the 60s and 70s…. I was influenced by Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Hendrix. When I listen to that stuff it’s like going home…. (My parents) were hippies. They still go to tons of concerts…. I’m a professional musician. I play as a sideman in many bands and do session work. This is my first album as a solo artist in writing my own stuff. It’s interesting that my parents almost go to more concerts than I play. They have been a huge influence on me. They dabble in playing music themselves. I also like more modern music such as Jeff Buckley, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Radiohead, plus some Indie stuff….

Did you listen to classical music or jazz while growing up?

I started on electric bass when I was seven. I was in the school orchestras and jazz bands.

How has playing with Grammy Award winning musicians such as Paul Wertico (from Pat Methany), Howard Levy (from Bela Fleck and the Flectones) and Lupe Fiasco influenced your style?

There were really cool opportunities to play with them. I did that as either a session musician or as a live performance in different groups…. I play in the Chicago Afrobeat Project where I played with some of those musicians…. On my album I have Kris Myers from Umphrey’s McGee, and Matt Nelson from Lupe Fiasco. (I also have) Chris Siebold who is in a duo with Howard Levy and tours internationally with him…. They just released an album…. Surrounding yourself with musicians who you respect (can) … bring you up to that next level…. For me I’ll always be learning. It’s really important to humble yourself … and learn from how they approach music. On my album … I wanted to surround myself with musicians who can put their musical genius on it and bring it to the next level.
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By playing with these guys have you gotten new song ideas, chord progressions, and sounds that you could apply to your own music?

Musically, yes. There are ideas that they come up with that I wouldn’t have thought of…. Most of the content, themes and messages of the music comes from the musicians I grew up (listening to), like John Lennon and the Beatles. You can see the reference I quoted in (the song) “Gather Round.” Just about every song on Lucid has a universal or life message …
(or is) about society.
How is today’s music different from the 60s and 70s?

What happened is that the technology (changed)…. Back then it was very easy to weed out the true talent. It wasn’t a coincidence that (bands like) Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Hendrix and Pink Floyd happened at the same time. They didn’t have the technology to cover up their mistakes. They had 4-track recorders and you had to have true talent that carried over onto the recording. Now with Auto Tune and drum loops anyone can (make a CD)…. Anyone can buy a computer with a sound card and come up with music. It’s chopped up. It’s not organic and there is no real playing going on. Even some of the big acts hire the best musicians when they play live. I feel it’s a reflection of our society where everyone is masking or escaping (from what is real)…. Maybe I’m an idealist but I think you should put the effort in to make a good impression….

Has the ability to write good music and great songs changed?

Yeah. There are still bands that are doing it and using the technology in good ways. There were also messages in music (back then) … whereas today it’s superficial for the most part in mainstream music....

Graham, is music at the independent level as good as what we hear on the radio?

I think there are so many Indie bands that aren’t recognized. I’m optimistic about it…. The Internet, YouTube, and Facebook (are giving) these bands access (to big audiences)…. The band OK Go … made themselves huge (by posting) their video. It’s all about exposure. I believe you can have the best music in the world, but if you don’t have exposure, people aren’t going to hear it…. (However), it is a harder and longer road if you do it yourself. There’s not as much support from labels to do it.

It seems like you are suggesting that songwriters ought to be entrepreneurs. You have taken this concept to another level by selling your CD on your website in addition to having it fulfilled by CD Baby, Amazon, iTunes, and others.

I think the model that I have set up is the best way to go because the more outlets (you have) the better. I put it up on my site … because iTunes and all of these other places take a percentage of your income. iTunes gets 30 percent. It’s cool to get the exposure but it’ll get washed in the shuffle if it’s not backed up by a record label or you don’t have the right promotion or fan base. On my site it could be cheaper. I could throw in some free merchandise. (On the other hand) it is tough because not a lot of people are buying CDs.

What percentage of CDs versus downloads are you selling?

I’m selling more CDs from my website and at shows.

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Let’s look at physical CDs a different way. You hired Jeff Jordan to create original artwork for your project. You’ve also included a booklet with lyrics and information. Doesn’t this create a more valuable experience versus downloads? 

Absolutely…. That’s what is going to make a person buy a CD over a download.

Obviously it takes more effort and money to have a booklet with good artwork. Additionally, many songwriters put a lot of time into crafting their lyrics, yet often regret not including them with the CD.

The artist’s vibe, feel, and image is important. Few people could do (this type of work) and make it look pro…. You also want to have a professional website. It should be easy, clear, and simple to navigate with everything there that you need…. The presentation of the music and the artwork is the key. Image is important….
That’s good advice for everyone especially people that are just starting out. What type of art direction did you give Jeff for this project?

He’s done work for The Mars Volta. Basically I sent him the music (and lyrics)…. (Some of his work) reminded me of Mati Klarwein who did (Miles Davis’s) Bitches Brew and the Santana Abraxas album covers. We negotiated on a price and became best friends over the phone. He came up with this concept that incorporated the messages in the album. He gave me some sketches. We went back and forth a bit, talked through it, and he just went to work with it.

He did a nice job. I find it interesting to look at good artwork while listening to the music. You can discover new things each time you look at it. Together you guys did a nice job.


How were responsibilities divided among Executive Producer Avery Brown, Co-Producer Matt Nischan, and yourself?

I brought the musicians to the (table)…. I didn’t want this to be a solo project. I wanted to humble myself and bring the music to the next level…. I wanted to bounce ideas off of other people…. Avery is a close family friend … who was interested … and wanted to get involved…. He basically funded the project. He didn’t really have too much involvement in the musical aspect of it … but I bounced stuff off of him. Matt Nischan is a good friend, engineer and producer. He co-produced it with me. I bounced engineering ideas off of him. (We worked on) vocal takes, with what I should do here and there, with layers, textures, arrangements, and orchestrations…. I’ve learned so much by doing this project and working with these people. (It’s one thing to be a) session man and work in someone else’s band…. (It’s another thing) to do your own project with all of your own music. I’ve learned … what to do and what not to do for the next time.
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Did you do any recording or was it all done at both The I.V. Lab and Fullerton Recording?

There were a couple of things … that I did at my home studio. They were mostly samples and effects…. Most of it was done at I.V. Lab with Manny Sanchez or over at Fullerton with Matt Nischan…. Kris Myers laid down the foundation by playing the drums while I played either bass or guitar. I wanted to get that live feel in the room.

You can hear that live sound on the record. Did you use drum triggers or mics?

It’s all organic (with mics). There’s no electronic stuff except for one sequence … in the beginning of “Nightmare.” I did some percussion here and there.
How did you record your bass guitar?

For most of the bass tracks we used my favorite recording amp, an old Ampeg tube amp that was over at I.V. Lab. It has that fat, punchy and (slightly) dirty 1970s sound….  I used my Fender Jazz Deluxe bass for most parts. I used my 5-string custom Carvin bass for the stuff with chords. It is crystal clear for chords – the frequencies don’t rumble against each other. There were a few overdubs that I plugged straight in through an Avalon pre and into the board.

How many song ideas will you be starting with on your next record? 

(I’d like to have) from 20 to 25 new songs and pick the cream of the crop…. I’m still recouping the expenses from this album. I’ll be touring, selling CDs (at) live (shows) and promoting it. It’s a full-time job. So for the next one, I’ll … take my time with it. I’ll try to get some funding … (maybe) through an independent label…. I’d like to develop my style even more….

There are stories of artists who sold millions of records yet made very little money because they either did not pay attention to the details or knew little about the business. Working on your project must have given you some valuable insight into the business.

I agree. I’ve been approached with a couple of opportunities … that were a little shady. I’ve been in the industry long enough to have a (sense of) what is real as opposed to people that are just vultures. But I’m not giving up. I’ve been playing professionally since I was 14. There’s no possible way that I can do anything else. I’m (glad) that I can support myself doing this.

Graham, I hope that you inspire people who read this. Thanks for your time today.

Thanks, man.

You can purchase Graham Czach's Lucid CD at:
CD Baby - http://www.cdbaby.com/Artist/GrahamCzach
iTunes - http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/lucid/id372782632

Click here for our June 30, 2012 update to Graham's interview
Graham Czach keeps himself busy. An accomplished musician, composer, upright/electric bassist, vocalist and guitarist, Graham has toured the United States as well as other parts of the world. He is an active writing and performing member of the Chicago Afrobeat Project which recently won a 2010 Chicago Music Award. Graham has had opportunities to perform with Grammy Award winners Paul Wertico, Howard Levy, and Lupe Fiasco. He recently released his solo CD, Lucid.
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