First off I talked to the busy as ever Jeff Babko. I asked him what he's been up to lately and he told me "Well, still doing the Kimmel show almost every weeknight, which has been especially fun as Jimmy’s been going hard topically. Also working with some composers on TV and films. I'm working on “The Good Place”, a really clever Ted Danson show, and also just finished working on Mike Andrews’ score for “Daddy’s Home 2”, which is really funny. The first one was fun to work on too, and this one was especially nice because I also got to work with my wife on the orchestral dates at the Warner Brothers Eastwood soundstage. Still doing weekends touring with Steve Martin and Martin Short, and also have a crazy project with Zach Danziger called “The 9:15 O’clock Movie”, where we reconstruct bad cinema and re-score movies live. It takes a lot of work but it’s some pretty incredible, and funny stuff. Finally, I guess I should probably mention this band I have with Keith Carlock, Jeff Coffin, Will Lee and Nir Felder, called “Band Of Other Brothers.” I hope people are digging our record “City Of Cranes”, which another Toto associate, the great Niko Bolas recorded and mixed for us. We just played 4 nights at the Iridium in New York that went great."
I told him it's very cool that not only are you doing the Baked Potato gigs you are playing 8 shows over in Japan too. Jeff told me "Well Jorgen kind of spearheaded the idea for this band, spawned from his LA hikes with Luke, I think. He got the ball rolling on the annual Baked Potato hits, and Lukey got some offers and we were able to put together this little Japan run. Always fun to go over there and play. This will be my third time playing in Japan with Luke, and also I believe my third over there with Toss". I said to Babko. You guys play all year long individually but as Nerve Bundle only once a year. How long does it take you guys take to get grooving together after a year apart? "I don’t know man- you have to ask them. I lived with Toss for a little while and played with him a ton throughout the 1990’s and early 2000’s, so we lock and begin laughing right away, I think. Even just at sound check. We’re brothers. I feel the same about Luke, having grown up as such a fan of his, studying his music and seeing him obsessively with Los Lobotomys in the late 80’s and early 90’s. And after my short stint with Toto and our Santamental album, we became very close and I think, understand one another very easily. I know his playing so well that I just love being there to support him. And Jorgen just loves to play bass and provide a solid rocking foundation, so that makes it easy."
I then asked Jeff about playing on onetime Toto bass player Nathan Easts' solo release. "It was the follow up to his first record, which we spent a ton of time making. We lost Ricky Lawson just after recording the first album, which was heartbreaking and so sudden. This one felt almost like Ricky’s spirit was in the room and we were doing it for him. Teddy Campbell did an extraordinary job on drums on this one- was our first time hitting together and was so deep. Also was the last time I got to spend time with the incredible Chuck Loeb, who composed another beautiful song for this project and played on it. Couldn’t believe we lost him this year. One of the great cats and such a deep musician. Nate always trusts me to be me, and I have to say sharing keyboard space with (David) Paich (Toto), Tim Carmon and Dave Delhomme is a dream!"
I then asked about the Kimmel gig. You guys did a week in New York City and that looked pretty cool. How was New York? "It’s always a blast hitting in New York. BAM, where we play there, is such a great venue. They take really great care of us. And in Brooklyn, it’s really special for me to walk to work! We don’t do that in LA. Unless it’s to my studio at home! Paul Shaffer sat in with us this time all week, and as a lifelong devotee of his work with Letterman, as well as the Blues Brothers, that’s always a “gas”, as he’d say. We’ve become very close over the years and I love to watch him work and learn from Paul’s years of experience."
I then said to Jeff Luke has been playing with Ringo for the last 5 years now all across the World. Now you play with him at such an intimate setting at the Baked Potato. What's that like for you and how lucky are the fans that get to see this up close? "The Baked Potato means a lot to me. Going there in high school and during college, as a young guy, I’d be first in line so I could get the front table. I’d see Lukey, (Michael) Landau, Joe Sample, (Neil) Stubenhaus, JR (Robinson), Vinnie (Colaiuta), Carlos Vega, Brandon Fields, Don Randi of course... one time I asked Mike Landau to sign my Crusaders “Life In A Modern World” cassette after a set at the Spud, and he did, but said, “I’m not, like, IN the band. I just did overdubs.” Anyway, being that close to your heroes is everything. I hope listeners get the same charge I did when I used to salivate watching and listening to the musicians that meant the world to me.
I then told Jeff Los Angeles is still a great music town as I run into you, Toshi Yanagi and Jimmy Earl across town at the Viper Room, the Troubadour, Malibu Guitar Festival or just wherever music is happening. What are your thoughts on the LA music scene? "It will always thrive. There’s still work and opportunity for musicians here. It’s not what it was, of course, as anyone that was working in the 60’s through 80’s would be happy to tell you. But I’m very busy. TV is here, motion pictures are based here, and there are still a few record companies poking around here. Tours often start here. And when USC implemented the Monk Institute, suddenly an influx of really creative young jazz players sprung onto the scene. The Blue Whale happened and forward thinking, open music thrived. There’s a whole jazz scene in Highland Park at ETA and the York. Players are better than ever, pushing things. Louis Cole has his whole army of incredible young monsters. It’s an exciting time; I can’t keep up."
Jorgen Carlsson was nice enough to squeeze in some time for me in the middle of a Gov't Mule European Tour. I asked what he was up to and he told me "Gov’t Mule released a new studio record in May this year (Revolution Come, Revolution Go). It’s been very busy before and after. I've been touring in Europe twice as well as 9 weeks in the US. In between. I’ve been writing and recording a project with my wife, more of a progressive pop thing. Toss Panos recorded three songs a while back, lots of fun!! I love to get all the “bundlers” on a track or two, everybody is so busy, damn it! (laughing) About the Japan gigs, he told me "Indeed it’s a special year, the shows in Japan are very exciting, to say the least. I think it’s eight shows."
I then asked for his feelings on his cover story on "Guitar World" magazine. Jorgen said "That was interesting, I thought I was shooting some inside pictures with Warren (Haynes) and that would be that. Then I got there (San Fransisco) they asked what bass I was gonna use for the cover and also a good time for a phone interview for the story inside etc. I was like, (laughing) how’s my fucking hair looking!!!" I said to the Nerve Bundle bass player I asked Babko this and he said to refer to the other guys. You guys all play a ton individually but only once a year as Nerve Bundle. How long does it take you guys to groove as a band once you get together? Carlsson said "Well, I think it grooves right off the bat, however, there’s another level of depth that occurs after a few hours or a few shows, especially with a band like this where there are so many strong personalities. It’s always a little bit scary, to be honest, where is it gonna go this time….."
Luke had a few moments during the Ringo Tour and told me "I guess this is a real band now. It's our 7th year if you count 'Sphinctersayswhat?'. Same band, new name. I like Nerve Bundle better. More subtle (laughing)! I love these guys and it has become a Christmas tradition at the Baked Potato jazz club we started a few years back. Jorgen started the band. I just think this, each and everyone one of those guys are brilliant musicians and also dear friends. Its the only time we get to see each other. I look forward to it!"