Umphrey McGee: Interview with Vincent Iwinski

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean


What does the name of the band mean?

The name of the band is a derivative of a distant relative to our guitarist,Brendan. To some, the name "umphrey's mcgee" actually meanswhipped butter.

What about the influence of other artists to you?

My influences are all across the board from Mozart and Bach to more recentmusicians like John Cage, Miles Davis, Bruce Hornsby and David Hasselhoff,who incidentally went to the same high school as me.

Is there a mastermind inside of the band or are you more a "democratic" band?

We try to be as democratic as possible, I think every one of us has had someexcellent ideas. In some cases, one person steps up and leads for awhile,but we want our music to be our music, and not everyone playing one person'smusic.

How does the songwriting work in the band?

Brendan and I have done the majority of writing, with Brendan doing almostall of the lyrics. At this point, we are definitely trying to all contributeto songwriting, whether it be writing music outside of rehearsal orcomposing as we play during a rehearsal.

How are the reactions of the people in your neighborhood to your music?

Our neighborhood is actually very music friendly, we have musicians livingon either side of us in South Bend. A guy two doors down even has his ownrecording studio.

Strange idea to title an debut "Greatest Hits Vol III"....

Yes, it is. We wanted to start out big, ya know?

What about the idea to mention all the other (never released) albums on the tracklist and the chart positions?

Sometimes we take humor a little too far.

I think a lot of people will come in touch to order all the other releases...

Please inform them that the archives will unfortunately not be made open to the public, but that we encourage trading of live shows and have much available to download from the internet.

How would you like to develop in the future? Do you think about changing your style?

I think our style will be something that constantly evolves, it's notsomething you can fit into a box. We have only been playing together for twoyears and I believe our sound has already gone through a few changes. Wewant to become well rounded musicians, composers and balladeers.

Is there a most important event in the history of the band?

That's a good question, one that's hard to answer. I think a bigbreakthrough occurred the first time we played with a horn player, namelyRich Cohen. That was in April of '99 at a very intimate venue. We had agroup improvisation that stretched far beyond where we had gone before and Ihad as close to a musical epiphany as one can get from a live performance.

Your second CD is an life recording - this is not usual, but especially amazing is, that this release features only new material (you know, in many cases bands came up with live recordings of the same tracks they released in studio versions earlier)

It is a life recording, really about life and such. We considered two tracksfrom the previous disc for the new one, but neither turned out to be verygood performances. We had done a lot of songwriting the previous summer,which accounts for all of the new material. The live setting gave us anopportunity to do what we love best and get the recording aspect of it donevery quickly. I think our next album will be a much more intensely studioeffort.

What about the reactions to your music in different countries?

We had 3 rabid fans in Montreal that enjoyed us, and a few in Ontario aswell. I think the only other country we've broken into is Japan, where we have had many orders for T-shirts.

What kind if compromises would you make to push your career?

We just want to make music, our music. As long as we can put food on thetable for ourselves, and eventually for our families, we will not even haveto consider compromising what we do. Internally, however, we compromise allof the time. We have to keep 5 musicians happy with what we're doing, andthat takes a lot. That kind of compromise is the kind that we're interestedin.

Where did you get your inspiration?

I think mine came from God.

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual>reality, mp3...

We're very internet friendly as this is the way for us to get our musicaround the world without having to ever pay for the package and wait 7 days.We have our music downloadable from many sites and maintain our website withthe most flawless precision. The internet has connected the world, and weplan to use it.

So you could make a choice, with which band would you like to play live on stage, for example as support?

Definitely the Scorpions. I had the great fortune of being at Roger Waters'performance of The Wall in Berlin in 1990. The Scorpions opened with akiller version of 'In the Flesh' and I've been die-hard ever since.

Is each member of the band absolute satisfied with each song of the record?

Well, I could tell you where each of us made mistakes in the songs, but thatwouldn't be any fun now, would it? I think that as a musician, you areconstantly trying to top yourself. As a result, I don't think any of us canreally listen to our albums seriously, they are almost like time capsules tous. We feel that we've become a much better unit musically, and would muchrather examine our most recent performance than a version of a song on analbum.

Is it more difficult to write an 15 minute epic than an three minute radio hit?

It's more difficult to write a good song than a bad one.

© 07/2000 Renald Mienert
DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean