Interview: Alan Evans of Soulive

Alan Evans
Alan Evans performing with Soulive at Revolution Hall in Troy, 10/23/09 (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)

Not only the drummer and driving force behind the big beat of the fab funkateers Soulive, Alan Evans is also the sound engineer and producer for Soulive and their record label, Royal Family Records. And, of course, along with his bandmates Eric Krasno and Neal Evans, he’s also been deeply involved with organizing the Royal Family Affair, a funky, three-day festival of music and more that will be taking over Stratton Mountain this weekend.

Yeah, he’s a mighty busy guy, but fortunately not too busy to take a few moments to chat with about the upcoming Royal Family Affair, Soulive and his other projects:

Q: Do you plan on making this a regular event?

A: Yes. We plan on making this an annual thing. We had a one-day event a few years ago at Look Park in Northampton, but it didn’t work out as a yearly thing, so we waited until the right time and everything fell into place. It was worth the wait, and we are really excited. We have been doing Bowlive at the Brooklyn Bowl and the Royal Family Ball and have built some momentum for our own “branded” events. This should be really fun.

We have the same production team who put on Wanderlust at Stratton a month back, and they did the Bear Creek Festival in Florida, so we partnered up with them. The pre-sales have been good. This is the biggest thing for us. It’s 100% our thing, and we have a lot riding on it. Neal, Eric, and I have put the time in choosing the bands, the entire nuts and bolts of it, we were very hands on. Musically, it’s just us and our side projects and the Royal Family, who bring with them a lot of diversity.

Q: What are you planning musically for the event? Anything new?

A: We will be doing several sets. We just worked with Karl Denson and are currently mixing the tunes, so we will do a few off of that album and some from the Beatles set from “Rubber Soulive.” And we are rehearsing for the All-Star Band, which will be everybody who is still at the festival on Sunday night, up on stage jamming together.

Q: Can you talk about the classes and workshops?

A: We had requests to teach in the past, and we just wanted to do something different. We have three days to hang out with the people who are paying to see us and give a little bit more. What we do is not a lot of magic, and we try to make ourselves very accessible to everyone. It’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors with us. We do what we do, and have done it for a long time. We took all of our experiences and wanted to give more than just being an entertainer on the stage. I’m really excited about the classes. My parents were educators. I didn’t go that route, but it is so much a part of me.

Q: Do you like the formula as a trio? Do you plan on adding vocals again?

A: We sound the best as a trio. Sometimes when we add on we miss playing together just the three of us, but we always have fun, no matter who we are playing with. Adding vocals sometimes takes away from what we do. We’re always doing something different. Each album is totally different.

Q: And your production thing?

A: I have been recording as an analogue engineer for a long time. Digitally, I treat it just like recording with tape. In terms of digital recording, the problems come in with the unlimited number of takes and mixes you can create. It’s frustrating just getting someone to finish a track. People never make final decisions since they can click and save it and go back to it later over and over again.

Every once and a while someone will say, “It’s not perfect,” and will want to take 50 or so takes and want to patch together numerous pieces, which is a nightmare. It doesn’t serve a purpose to record endless tracks. I have a multitude of recordings of Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell singing a song from beginning to end. They would sing it, and that was it. It goes back to rehearsing and knowing what you are doing in the studio. I learned before the digital age and take that knowledge and apply those principles to what I do now. I basically use the computer as a tape machine.

Q: Any special memories playing with Soulive for the past thirteen years?

A: There are so many special moments traveling all over the world. My stand-out memory would have to be when Stevie Wonder joined us on stage at a club in L.A. I’ve never even seen him perform live, and he was standing two feet next to me singing. I literally didn’t sleep for two days. It was incredible.

Q: How did adding the trio of Medeski, Skerik and Deitch to the festival line-up come about?

A: I don’t know what they are going to do. They don’t either, but it will probably be pretty wild. The last time I played with Skerik was at Jazz Fest in New Orleans. We played late into the night with Ivan Neville and members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The people wanted more and called us back on stage. Skerik was waiting all night for this, and he goes out first and starts playing this crazy heavy metal riff on sax, and we joined in. Skerik was awesome, and he was on fire.

Medeski is my one of my favorite keyboard players and a great guy – just so creative and an amazing player. Deitch is one of my favorite drummers. He’s like a brother, and I love his playing. Put those three together, and nothing good will come of it.

Q: Or everything good. The rest of the line-up is outstanding, I can’t wait to dance.

A: There is so much good music out there, and the line-up is nice. I’ll be psyched to just be able to relax and see other music and not have to rush off to travel to our next show. I have a very good feeling about this festival.

Review and Interview by Janet Kwiatkowski

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