INTERVIEW WITH LAMONT CALDWELL OF MACH22
Date: August 11, 2015
Photos: Olivier (live shots) / Greg Styer GMS Photography (roof top photo) / Dan Williams (other photos)
IF YOU LIKE SOULFUL HARD ROCK WITH KILLER LEAD VOCALS, LOOK NO FURTHER THAN MACH 22 WHO HAVE JUST RELEASED A PHENOMENAL EP ENTITLED ‘LIKE MY CHANCES.’ SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH MACH22’S LEAD VOCALIST AND BAND FOUNDER, LAMONT CALDWELL, TO DISCUSS MANY TOPICS INCLUDING THE BAND’S NEW EP, WHICH SONG WILL BE CHOSEN FOR THE NEW VIDEO AND HOW MANY PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK THAT CALDWELL IS LENNY KRAVITZ.
Sleaze Roxx: You have a new record out called ‘Like My Chances.’ Is there a story behind the title and if so, what is it?
Lamont Caldwell: Well, the name of the record is actually one of the names of the songs from the record. ‘Sweet Talk Intervention’ was a line from our first track “Constant Denier” so it kind of works. But ‘Like My Chances’ — the song is you know about feeling lucky — and I like to think that I like my chances where we are musically as a band that is not on a major label or on any label or have major distribution through Warner Brothers, Universal or whatever. It’s like we are still making headway and we are still connecting with people. I have been getting e-mails from people saying “Hey. You know. I live in Budapest and would really love to get your recording. Can you send out your CD to me. I’ll pay for the shipping.” And I am like “Yeah! Of course!” The fact that we are reaching people in the country, outside of the country and across the planet is kind of a cool thing. And a lot of it is because of social media. And that has connected all of us musically so I like the fact that since we are an independent band, we have been able to connect with people in this way. It’s a great thing. I feel good about it and that is the whole thing about ‘Like My Chances’. I feel good about where we are at right now.
Lamont Caldwell: Well, just because we really just wanted to get music out to the people. I mean when we did ‘Sweet Talk [Intervention]’, it literally took a year — a year and a half — to make sure that we had all the right tunes, make sure that we had everything taken care of, and we did not want to wait that long. So we were like “We’ve got six songs. Let’s just put them out and let’s have a great time and record.” You know, let’s get music out to the people especially when you see that people actually like the record. You know, we don’t want to wait too long. We just want to get the next six songs that we got and let’s just put it out now as opposed to having to say “OK. We need to get another five or six songs to get it together” which would have been maybe another couple of months. Because we would have to spend more time in the studio, more time mixing, more time mastering, all that kind of stuff. We were just like “Let’s get these songs out now. Boom.” Get it to the people so people are not waiting. After about a year of an album being out, it’s pretty much over. Especially with social media, everything is like, you know, short attention span. You got to keep people going.
Sleaze Roxx: How does the songwriting process work within Mach22?
Lamont Caldwell: The funny thing is that we really have a good working ethic. It is like, whomever has something to bring to the table. Usually, a lot of songs, because I usually write the lyrics last, we come up with the song and the structure. Like Sebastian [LaBar] might have a lick and say “Alright man, I’ve got this lick that I’ve been working on.” Or he might have a whole song and he will bring it to us. And it will be like “Alright. Cool.” And we’ll start jamming on it in between. Let’s say we’re running a set for a show and he might just start jamming. I’ll be like “Yo. What’s that?” And he’ll be like “Oh. That is a song that I have been working on last night.” Alright, it will be like “Cool!” And then we’ll get sidetracked and start jamming on that.
Usually, what I will do — lyrically, it’s not easy to just come up with lyrics right off the spot so what I will usually do is like I will start like sort of a melody line and record it. And then what I’ll do is I’ll flip it to the guys, and just write lyrics or come up with an idea for a story. Because I usually try to write in a story context. And you know, try to keep things interesting from beginning to end lyrically. You know, you don’t want to just say “Ya! Ya! Party! Rock and roll all night.” unless it is a theme. Even with the great bands like KISS and “Detroit Rock City”, you look into the song, it’s like a story. You get that second verse. You’re like “OK. How does the second verse connect to the first verse?” So you want to build a story. It’s like “Chapter 2 begins here. Our hero is found here by the train tracks with kryptonite around.” You know, you kind of have to connect the dots so to speak and by the time that the song ends, you’re like “OK. That is the end.” That is kind of how we write. It is not limited to just Sebastian writing licks. If I wrote something and then I came out and said “Yo. Check out this thing”, they might be like “It sucks” or they might be like “It’s kind of cool” or they might be “It might not work for our style.” Whatever because I hear different styles of music so some things work, some things don’t and I think that is the case for any writer. Certain things work for a particular vibe. Or it might be that “Man. We already have two songs that kind of have that groove. Maybe we can change it up a little bit.” And then we workshop it. You know, you don’t want everything to sound the same.
Sleaze Roxx: Will there be a video that will come out for one of the songs on the new record?
Lamont Caldwell: Yeah. We are actually talking about that now. We have a good buddy that is a photographer and he approached us before about doing an actual video. He did the behind the scenes video where we are in the studio. So he put that together. That was our first time working with him and he was like “Well, I want to actually do like a full you know concept video for you guys. Let’s talk about it.” And I was like “Yeah. Lets talk about it. Let’s come up with different ideas.” I am not sure what song that we are thinking of doing. It might be — we were thinking of doing maybe “Less Than Perfect” just because you know that song is sort of a ballad kind of song but not too drawn out. That might be a really good concept to do a music video. I think that might be the next music video. Spoiler alert (laughs) but that might be the next music video!
Sleaze Roxx: For the first record, you had Sebastian LaBar’s dad Jeff LaBar produce it but this time around, he does not seem to have been involved in the second record. Why is that?
Lamont Caldwell: Well, just because at the time that we were able to get with him for ‘Sweet Talk [Intervention]’, we actually went down to Nashville because he lives there in Nashville. So we went down to Nashville. He set up the studio time. He was there to produce. But even at that point in time, he was working on his own projects so when we got done with ‘Sweet Talk [Intervention]’, he went forward with his projects so as much as we would have loved for him to come back and do some more work, he was really busy with touring and scheduling for his own solo project — the record that he just released. It was more of a timing thing. It wasn’t a difference in artistic similarities or anything like that because if anyone would get what we do, it would be Jeff LaBar. It was more just a conflict of time.
Sleaze Roxx: Mach 22 has had their share of change in band personnel and one of the key changes is that the group went from a five piece to a four piece with this new record. Why did Ted Merrill leave and has it been difficult transitioning to a four-member band?
Lamont Caldwell: Well, the four-member band — the way I have always looked at it — I have always looked at things from a systematic point of view. You know, I always like for a little guitar to be heard under a solo. Even bands that are four pieces — even like Led Zeppelin — Jimmy Page still recorded rhythm guitar underneath his solos but you don’t hear that live. You just hear him soloing. John Paul Jones is playing, [John] Bonham is playing and Robert Plant is doing his thing. There is no sound there sonically. I did not feel like that there would be anything missing. We were at a point where we kind of had to do a couple of shows because we had some shows that we committed to. When Ted left, you know, it was like “We can’t bail on these shows. Let’s just do these shows. We’re going in as a four piece. Let’s just do it.” But we were like “You know what. Fuck it. Let’s just go!” And you know what, it did not feel like anything was missing. It just felt natural. It felt really refreshed. It was like “OK. Cool! We can pull this off!”
It was a time when we were considering adding a second guitarist to kind of fill the rhythm guitar spot, whatever, maybe trade off with Sebastian solo wise. But then once we started rolling — and I think that at that point in time in a month, we had like three shows — we really did not have time to stop and get another guitarist. We didn’t really want to call in anybody. There was actually one show when we did call a buddy in and he was already in another project. We didn’t want to pull him from his other project because he was very passionate about it. Now if it was a situation where he was like “Yo guys. I’m not really happy with my band. I want to come in.”, then yes, we would probably still have a five piece band. But it kind of worked out and the four piece works really seamlessly in terms of the way we write, the way we rehearse, the way we gel. It is like nothing is missing. You don’t feel like there is a lack of anything. And a lot of people respond to the fact that we were a four piece. They were like “Oh my God. They are not going to sound as good.” But a lot of people are like “Man! This sounds better! That sounds a lot tighter! It sounds like more right on the money.” We were like “Good — cool!” And that was validation. We were like “Four piece – we just want to rock as a four piece from now.”
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of other bands, bassist Jaron Gulino — I hope that I am saying his name right — has a band called On Top. So how does Mach22 juggle this and are there any other band members playing in other bands as well?
Lamont Caldwell: Well, it is the nature of being a musician. I mean — I still do other gigs. I still do saxophone gigs when I get called for them. I think that Sebastian still does gigs here and there when he gets called. He actually did — I think he did — maybe two weeks with his dad down in Nashville through Indiana and I think Illinois. Jeff was like “C’mon. Do some shows with me.” And he was like “Yeah. Pops. Of course.” So he went out and did those shows. Damian [Montecarlo] has a couple of different projects that he works in. With Jaron, On Top was a project that he already had before he joined the band so the way I look at it, I think that it would be really unfair for him or for me or any other guy in the band to be like “You know what. You’re in our band. You got to stop this other band that you are doing.” Because the thing is it’s like a network. It’s just the way it is. No one sees it as a take away from what we are doing. In a way, it’s sort of like Myles Kennedy is with Slash but he also still has Alterbridge. You can balance it if it can be balanced. Now you can get a situation where both albums come out at the same time and you are going to have to juggle times and things like that. But you know, it’s not a problem at all and it is one of things that keeps him happy because it is part of his passion. Like I said, that group is something that he started before he joined the band so he is definitely passionate about that so it is a good thing that he has that and he can do what he does.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, you’ve been compared often to Corey Glover of Living Colour and I am not the only one that has compared you to him because I looked at the prior Sleaze Roxx review for your first record and the other reviewer also compared you to Glover.
Lamont Caldwell: [Laughs] That is interesting! That is interesting!
Sleaze Roxx: Do you agree with those comparisons and how do you feel about them?
Lamont Caldwell: [Laughs] Well, I mean, my thing is that if I am being compared to someone, and that someone has influenced me in some form, I don’t have a problem with that. Yeah! Living Colour has definitely influenced me. I remember seeing them on MTV when I was a kid. I was like “Wow! This is awesome!” MTV retro — you know, it was like “Living Colour! Oh my God! This is awesome! An all black metal rock band.” And then of course you have Jimi Hendrix and the ‘Band of Gypsys’. So yeah. I am surprised. If I am compared to — you know, a lot of the biggest comparisons I get are to Lenny Kravitz and I think that is just more because of the way I applied my visual look in a lot of ways. Maybe it’s my sideburns or maybe the glasses? There is a certain look. I get it walking down the streets of Philly. You know I hear “Yo! Lenny Kravitz!”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lamont Caldwell: And I am just like — it will be when I have my guitar on my back of course. It will be like “Yo Lenny! Yo! How come you ain’t giving me any love man?”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Lamont Caldwell: And I am just looking like “C’mon man!” Stop calling me Lenny Kravitz. I’m not Lenny. Lenny is a great guy and he has definitely opened up a lot of doors for how I view myself and a lot of bands. But I am not him and that’s cool. But you can’t get away from comparisons. That’s how people view. People view things as a comparison. I remember one of the pictures that we got a while ago. It was kind of “OK. You took Lenny Kravitz and put him in front of Led Zeppelin.” And I was like “Hmmm. OK. I never thought of it that way.” And I was like “That’s kind of cool!” I don’t think of it as a take away which is also cool. Any comparison that someone gives me — as long as it is someone that I view favourably — like I heard “You know what man. You and Mach22 remind of King’s X.” And I am just like “Wow! Cool!” I am like “Great! This cat is a badass!” So you know, Living Colour, Corey Glover, Lenny Kravitz, you know — whatever — it’s cool and I take it as a compliment rather than a take away in any way.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, how do you juggle parenthood with being in a rising rock band?
Lamont Caldwell: Being a parent just gives me a lot of drive. I think that it gives me more drive now than it ever has. Before you know, I had the drive because I wanted to do it for myself and I wanted people to pat me on the back or say “Man! You guys are really doing it! Look what you’ve done.” And bla bla bla bla bla. It does become an ego thing but when you are a parent, you want the child to be proud of what they are connected to. You want them to be like “That’s my dad!” or “That’s my mom”. And when career day happens, they will be like “Oh well. Logan’s dad came in” or whatever or “Logan’s dad send a poster or got everybody backstage tickets to a show”. That kind of thing, I would love to be able to do something like that. You know just to share the experience. And to let him know that if you keep working hard, you know, and keep being persistent about what you do and you believe in yourself, you can make it happen. And that is the kind f example that I have to set for him because that was the kind of example that was set for me by my mother and father in a lot of ways and I want my son to feel the same way. I don’t want my son to give up. I want him to be like “Wow. You know what. My dad did all this stuff and he tells me that I can do the same thing. I just got to practice, stay committed and believe in myself and not doubt my ability and just keeping working hard and I’ll be able to get whatever I want to in life.” As a parent, that is kind of what you want to teach your children.
Sleaze Roxx: So what’s next for Mach22?
Lamont Caldwell: We got a show in Kentucky this month [on August 15th]. And we are going to start plotting out the music video scene and sequences, locations and things like that. So we have to work on that. We are starting to write more songs now. We’ve got some more songs that did not make it onto ‘Like My Chances’ so we are going to workshop those and we have some other songs that we have not even touched yet that we are going to start working on so we can get ready for the next recording. Whether that will be an EP — it probably won’t be an EP. It will probably be a full length because we already did an EP. You know, you don’t want to keep following up with EPs (laughs). You know, sometimes, bands do like EP demos first. But we just look at the ‘Like My Chances’ EP as a demo which is like “Alright. Cool. We’ve got some new music going. Let’s put it out there. You guys get prepared for it. And we’ll have some more music coming up soon.”
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! Last question — what are your three favorite records of all-time and why?
Lamont Caldwell: Ah man — three favorite records! Hmmm. Let me think about that. Well, one of my favorite records I have to say is Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Band Of Gypsys’ live in Fillmore East. That is definitely one of my favorite records basically because I love Jimi and always felt for anything that he does. I like that the fact that he took a different approach with that band. And it wasn’t necessarily a strategic thing. It just happens that he would jam with two other brothers and they were like “Yo. You know what. We’ve got this record to put out. Let’s help him record it and let’s tour behind it.” — because it was all a contractual thing that he had to put out an album on Capitol. So they put it out and it was a really good statement — especially during the time of civil right movements and you know, the Black Panther party and equal rights just in general because after Martin Luther King and it was also during the Woodstock era — there was a lot of music that just connected. And it wasn’t about race. It was about great music. That’s why you had bands like the Allman Brothers that had like — Lynyrd Skynyrd, or the Allman Brothers that had like a black guy in the band. Or the Doobie Brothers that were it’s not about race. It’s just about everybody just connecting together so that was great album for me.
Number two, I probably have to say is Myles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’. As a jazz record, as an experimental record, I like it because it shows that music should not have any boundaries. And you should be free to explore those options musically and not feel like you have to do “quote unquote” do a record for the label even though everyone does, you know. You have to do a record for the label. You have to do a record for yourself. But there were artists that were just able to do whatever they did like Prince. And he can always think of commercially but it just sort of worked out that it worked commercially. Let’s see, the number three record — hmmm, let me think. I have my one two. Third record, I would say Buddy Guy. There is a Buddy Guy record that I have on my iTunes. I forget the title of the album. I think it is called ‘Sweet Tea’ and came out in 1999 but it is a rather darker blues album. I just love Buddy Guy and I love his singing and I love his playing. Obviously, as a guitarist, he is a great guitarist! And it just has more of a darker edge. It’s not like your traditional blues. There is a difference in listening to like a B.B. King record and listening to this particular ‘Sweet Tea’ album, which is like, you know, a great record! So I probably have to say that one.