POSTED:: February 25, 2021

FILED UNDER:: Interviews, Short And Sweet (Q&A's)

Dr. Sushi hosted thrash-jazz pianist Cameron Graves for an interview on the Free Jazz BBQ in honor of his new release on Mack Avenue, Seven this past Tuesday, February 23rd. Graves’ unique style adheres to his upbringing in metal-rich Los Angeles, headbanging to Living Colour as a kid and, after immersing himself in jazz and classical studies for years, reigniting his love for hard rock through records by Pantera, Slipknot and his most profound metal influence, Swedish titans Meshuggah.

As a young musician, Graves met his musical comrades in the famous West Coast Get Down (including Kamasi Washington) as a freshman in high school. The group nurtured their musical chemistry at places like Doboy’s Dozens, 5th St. Dick’s and the Piano Bar in Hollywood, gaining more notoriety with each performance.

After the release of Kamasi Washington’s 2015 debut, The Epic, the collective (and Graves along with it) became even more well-known. Graves’ second album features ten originals performed by his quartet — Max Gerl on bass; Mike Mitchell on drums, and Colin Cook on guitar) and Washington also appears on two songs – “Seven” and “Paradise Trinity.”

interview by WMSE DJ Dr. Sushi

You, yourself, have described your music as (and actually three of my favorite artists-slash-bands, believe it or not) Allen Holdsworth-meets-Frank-Zappa-meets-Pantera. Did you actually say that? You might’ve.

(laughs) Well, Meshuggah, mostly. But, yeah. Those are my three biggest influences…I have so many influences, but those are definitely the influences for this record.

System of a Down, Slipknot…

Of course, yeah. Big time.

You know, not the traditional stuff we usually talk about on the Free Jazz BBQ, here.

(laughs) Ah, yeah. It’s a little outside, but let me tell you, man – I grew up in the 90s and into the 2000’s and between hip hop and metal, those were the big influencers back then, so.

Yeah, they sure were. I understand that you actually come from a musical family….

Yeah, absolutely. My father [Carl] is a soul singer from the 70s. [Carl Graves and] Soul Unlimited and Skylark. And he was in Oingo Boingo for the longest time. And you know, I was a kid going to Oingo Boingo concerts…[seeing] Danny Elfman and all of them from an early age. Me and my brother – both of us – are musicians, composers and producers and we both grew up listening and going to those concerts and stuff like that.

Well, I was thinking of playing “Deadman’s Party” before we brought you on, but I thought Frank Zappa, we’d go with that. But, I just knew that you’d been to Oingo Boingo shows…how long was your dad actually in Oingo Boingo?

From about ’87 to…I don’t know…maybe seven or eight years? Like ’93, ’94? Somewhere around there.

I think I saw them during that period.

Absolutely! They used to perform a lot at the Irvine Meadows and they would always do their Halloween special. For Halloween, they would always do big concerts.

Did you go on the road with your dad when he was in the band?

No, I never went on the road. One time, though, Danny had this performance at Irvine where he had a children’s choir sing the song that he wrote and so it was kinda like my first time being up there. Me and my brother, we were part of the children’s choir and we sang the little chorus that he had the kids sing. It was cool, man, because that was my first time really seeing out into a huge audience. That was pretty trippy.

It had to be, I can imagine. I understand that you went to Hamilton High School in Culver City and there’s a gentleman that I think many of our listeners are familiar with that you happened to meet in 9th grade. As I understand, you actually played on (at least) his first record? I actually got to interview him when he was here in Milwaukee, playing.


Quite a great guy and I’ll let you tell everybody who exactly we are talking about.

(laughs) We’re talking about one of my best friends, Kamasi Washington!

Kamasi Washington…right! And you were on The Epic!

Yes. Actually, I’m on all of his records. You know…Harmony of Difference and all the ones that he came out with. The last soundtrack that he did for the TV show Becoming, with Michelle Obama – we did that at the Hollywood Bowl. That was really fun.

I’m going to ask you a little bit about Kamasi in a minute (and your playing together), but I wanted to tell you this – I had two concerts that night that I was going to, and I think you’ll appreciate this (and they were right across the street from each other). The first concert was Guns N’ Roses and I stayed for part of that one and then I went across the street, interviewed Kamasi and saw him. It was quite a night!

Wow – that definitely sounds like a good night!

Oh, yeah! Hopefully we can get back to those days where we can hit two concerts in one night like that.

Yeah, man, that’s definitely the goal – to get back to that. We’re just waiting this whole thing out, man.

That’s right and I know you were going to tour behind the new record, Seven. That’s what we’re really here to talk about is the new record that you’ve got. Obviously, you were going to tour behind the new record and that got delayed…have you got anything lined up as far as a tour? Anything tentatively planned, at least?

I mean, we’re looking towards the October/November. It all really depends on COVID restrictions and when venues can open up. Bigger venues will probably open before smaller venues like club types of venues, but yeah, like October/November, going into 2022, it will start to ramp up. The whole touring thing, the whole performance thing will probably be in full-force by the springtime into the summer of next year. Definitely, shows here in the States and International may open up by next year.

Let’s hope so.

Yeah, absolutely. Because, honestly, International’s where it’s at, man! Like Germany and France and Japan…they just go crazy for music.

Much more so than the United States?

The United States is very hard. It’s very hard to get people into your stuff and to get the audience to come out to your concerts and things like that. It takes a lot of promotion, a lot of effort.

Do you have any theories as to why that is?

You know, I kind of do. I really do liken it to the music education in the country. A lot of music programs were slashed in the 80s from public schools. Before the 80s, it was mandatory to actually take a music class. What happens is, is that regular people might not have the same recognition or relationship towards music because of that. They never really experienced it, firsthand or were able to put their hands on an instrument, try to play, see how hard it is. The appreciation kinda goes away because the distance between people’s knowledge and knowledge of music, itself, goes farther and farther when you’re not so close up to it as back in the day when everybody was required to take that mandatory music class. So, it’s really hands-on, so even though you don’t become a musician, the music appreciation is really high. I think that’s why you had some of the greatest groups and music during the 60s and 70s, because it also comes from the audience members really appreciating that level of music. Want to hear the complete interview? This is only a snippet! Listen to the full interview on Dr. Sushi’s program archive for February 23, 2021 at about the 1:58 mark.Find Cameron Graves’ new album, Seven, at the Mack Avenue web site and standalone singles on YouTube.

POSTED BY:: Erin Wolf

TAGGED::Cameron Graves, Dr. Sushi, Mack Avenue, Seven, The Free Jazz BBQ