an innovative form of 21st century instrumental guitar music coming
through the airwaves now that breaks the rules and invents a new sound
in the process. Case in point is Theres Shag On Jupiter,
the 2013 CD from Field Trip. Guitarist Ryan Fleming is
fairly well known in the Boston area and, together with his band membersGraham
English (keyboards), Nadjim Kebir (drums) and Tim Paul
WeinerField Trip arrives on the scene with a sonically rewarding
CD. Ryan Flemings guitar work is solidly inventive and hes
written some challenging music that make good use of it. Displaying
a wide palate of electric guitar moves, Fleming comes across on record
as a cross between Pat Metheny and Bill Frisell. On this debut CD,
Fleming takes the Field Trip sound way out there, adding a host of
fab sounding studio effects in the mix. Theres Shag On Jupiter
is superbly recorded and the CD artworkas hilarious as it issomehow
suits the serious layers of sound. If you mixed progressive instrumental
rock with a shot of jazzy Booker T. type instro R&B soul, youd
come close to the wildly eclectic sound of Field Trip. Make no mistake
about it, Field Trip makes 21st century music and heads up a new generation
of instrumental jazz-rockers. www.FieldTripBand.com
mwe3.com presents an interview with
Ryan Fleming of FIELD TRIP
It sounds, at least to these vintage ears, like youre inventing
a new type of instrumental jazz-rock or fusion as we used to call
it with the Field Trip CD. What did you set out to achieve on the
CD and how did this first Field Trip album come together?
Ryan Fleming: This was the groups first album, and the
first original music project Ive done. I cant speak for
the album trying to establish a new musical genre. We want to have
our own voice, but its something that develops as we go. Its
easy to spend lots of time pondering, What can I do so that
Im one step ahead of what everyone else is doing? But
we all cant be iconoclasts striving to become one can
make you miserable and it gets in the way of the music. At some point
I simply said, Its time to make a document of where we
are musically, or, more accurately, Damn it, were
going to make a record! From my point of view the goal was pretty
simple - to record our music, have some fun, and see what happens.
mwe3: Where and when was the album written and recorded and
what were the recording sessions like? Was the album mostly recorded
live and were there any/many overdubs?
Ryan Fleming: I had little bits of music here and there marinating
in my cranium for a long time. Some of the songs were written before
Field Trip formed; others were written after we got together and I
was better able to create material with the group in mind. The basics
were recorded at 1867
Recording Studios in Chelsea, MA, in an old building that
at various points was a Masonic Temple and an old-style movie theater.
It has ultra high ceilings and its a great sounding room. During
the recording it was the dead of winter and very cold, and this added
a moody, dark sheen to a lot of the stuff which I liked.
McLaughlin, the owner/engineer, is an analog junkie - hes immersed
himself in 1960s and 70s technology and recording techniques,
plus hes got a great indie rock aesthetic. He blended a lot
of my favorite vintage sounds, plus modern ones by people like Beck
and the Beastie Boys in which certain elements might be compressed/squashed
to all hell or slightly overdriven. A lot of engineers like to record
everything completely dry, and add reverb and room noise later, but
for me the vibe of the room is crucial. There are many instrumental
albums that on the surface have all the critical elements - great
tunes, arrangements and playing - but often the productions are too
clean and leave me cold.
There were guitar and keyboard overdubs done after the fact, all in
Logic. I owe a huge debt to our keyboardist, Graham English, whos
a Logic Jedi master (and runs an outstanding Logic training website,
mwe3: Can you tell us whos playing in Field Trip these
days? Whats the chemistry like between you and the other Field
Trip players and how did you meet them?
Ryan Fleming: Graham
English is our keyboardist who I met through Berklee Online,
and is one of the most soulful players I know. Hes got great
ears, not just for the melody/rhythm/harmony, but also for vintage
keyboard textures. Ive played with our bassist Tim
Paul Weiner since we were both Berklee students. As a bassist
he can do just about anything - his pocket is fantastic, plus hes
a total pro, super nice guy, and is a fairly prolific songwriter himself.
Since our original drummer Nadjim
Kebir moved to Algeria, weve been fortunate to play with
a handful of equally great Boston-based drummers.
When choosing other musicians to play with, everybody has to bring
love and respect for the players and the music, which is how Id
define band chemistry. I dont blog often, but I did write a
post on my website about the
hang, which goes into some detail about this. Im
extremely lucky to play with these people.
mwe3: Why do you call your group Field Trip and tell us how
you came up with a title like Theres Shag On Jupiter (lol).
And how about that amazing CD cover art? You guys should win a Grammy
just for the cover art alone!
Ryan Fleming: The Field Trip moniker came from a brainstorm.
Other candidates included Captain Booty, The Rabbit Hole, and about
50 others. Maybe some of those will turn into song titles. Field Trip
seemed to imply something fun a journey or escape. The cover
art was done by Joe DellaGatta, an übertalented illustrator from
Rhode Island. He hadnt done anything like that before, and it
was a blast watching it come together. Theres Shag On Jupiter
suggested an outer-space bachelor pad of some sort. I give most
of my instrumental tunes throwaway titles. But a sense of humor and
a dollop of kitsch are always high on our priority list, so you end
up with a tune whose title is about there being shag carpet on Jupiter.
Who else was important during the making of the CD and who did the
mastering and mixing of the album?
Ryan Fleming: First, the band totally delivered on the recording.
Our budget was tight, and they came in and did all their basics in
two days. Chris McLaughlin did all the mixing with some input from
me and Graham. Discmakers did the mastering, plus the CD replication
and packaging. Of course our fans, friends and family (particularly
my wife Katrina) were hugely supportive and patient during the process.
Id be remiss if I didnt mention the appreciation I gained
for anyone whos released an album. When you do a first album,
you have to be prepared for it to be more work than you expected.
Writing charts, doing overdubs, coordinating schedules, figuring out
digital distribution and copyright it all adds up quickly.
Every step in the process is brand new so everythings on a conscious
level. While were very proud of our first effort, I know we
can build on every aspect of it for the next album because weve
already been through the process.
mwe3: When did you start studying guitar and what was your
early music training like? What is your practice routine like these
days and how do you push yourself to improve as a guitarist and composer?
Ryan Fleming: I started around seven or eight. I was initially
self-taught and had a pretty good ear, and I was able to get by on
that for quite a long time. After college I moved to Charlotte, North
Carolina, and got connected with the local music scene. Eventually
I realized I couldnt depend solely on my ear to take me further,
so I began studying in earnest, taking lessons, learning theory, teaching
myself to read, and transcribing. At 28, I moved to Boston to attend
Berklee College of Music, where I had the good fortune to learn with
some stellar people.
I still transcribe, sightread, work through chord changes, and practice
with a metronome, but not as much as I did when I was in school. Some
music school graduates psych themselves out: they disappoint themselves
because they can no longer shed for hours a day. Other things in their
life start happening, and musical duties pop up that dont involve
practicing per se. Since I play professionally with a variety of bands
around Boston, I spend a lot of time learning new material, writing
horn charts, and keeping up with the business side of what I do. I
know great players who shed constantly, but they shoot themselves
in the foot because they dont handle their business. They dont
return phone calls, dont seem to own a calendar or watch, or
theyre otherwise a drag to play with. You have to deliver on
that stuff or you wont get work.
Writing for me is often a process of fits and starts. Sometimes a
riff will sit in a corner for months before I find a way to build
it into a full song. Ive spent a lot of my career working on
my skills as a rhythm/groove player because thats what comes
most naturally to me and Ive gotten a lot of work because
of it but as a writer I often have to force myself out of that
comfort zone and focus on writing better melodies.
Song form/structure is often tricky. Though I break away from it when
I can, the head everyone solos head anatomy
often works for a reason. At my core I love a well-crafted pop tune.
I like choruses and verses. A lot of people try to dodge the issue
of form by writing long, through-composed songs that are hard for
either the musicians or the audience to follow, and the results sound
contrived. Whether theyll admit it or not, a lot of musicians
write material primarily to impress other musicians. Ive never
found it cool to try to throw a fellow player or audience just for
the hell of it. Playing to a roomful of people who, as a friend said,
are there to rank you on their artistic hierarchy isnt
Theres some excellent guitar work on Theres Shag On
Jupiter. Tell us about your guitars and what guitars and other
gear, amps, strings, effects, that you use on the new Field Trip CD
as well as what guitars you play when you perform live.
Ryan Fleming: For guitars, I employed mainly an Epiphone Les
Paul and a Fender Stratocaster. I also used a Paul Reed Smith David
Grissom model on the last track. All of the guitars were done in Logic
with its amp models (a Vox AC30 simulator and others) plus some of
its effects, including a great tape delay. I also used a Fulltone
Clyde Deluxe Wah, a Blackout Effectors Whetstone phaser, and a Leslie
speaker simulator called the Neo Ventilator. The Ventilator is so
legit sounding and fun to play that it was hard not to throw it on
everything. Its prominent on one of my favorites, The
Secrets Behind Your Mistakes, which was partly an attempt to
honor the harmonized guitar solos that peppered so many great pop
tunes of the 70s. Live I also use a Barber Direct Drive, Xotic
Effects SP compressor, and a Hardwire delay. My amp is a Fender Deluxe
Reverb Reissue, and for strings I usually use DAddario .010s.
mwe3: I know youre active in Berklee College of Music
in Boston, so tell us about your relation to the college these days.
Can you tell those who might not know, whats the significance
of Berklee and why is it so important to the American music scene?
Ryan Fleming: Before I started as an undergraduate student,
my first exposure to Berklee was when I attended the schools
summer guitar sessions program. It was a total game-changer. A few
years after graduating, I began working in the colleges fundraising/development
office, where I now raise money for scholarships, facility improvements,
new technology, and the like.
Berklee is known as a leader in contemporary music education. Jazz,
rock, classical, hip-hop, film scoring, bluegrass - its all
there. Many of its alumni are renowned performers, songwriters, engineers,
educators and music therapists. The college has attracted some of
the brightest students and faculty from all over the globe. Its
a world-class laboratory of musical ideas, and the caliber of talent
is almost overwhelming. In addition to the undergraduate and summer
programs, Berklee also has an award-winning online school (Berklee
Online), and there are even free courses on Coursera.
offers great instructional books and DVDs.
mwe3: What artists and other influences do you cite as being
important to your development as a musician and a music fan too and
what other artists and groups do you feel are making inroads for jazz-rock
Fleming: Like everyone, Im a product of what Ive listened
to. My parents were the first people to turn me onto music. My dad
played cassettes in the car constantly - the Eagles, Toto, Boston,
Supertramp - all that stuff still has a profound effect on me and
people tell me it shows on the Field Trip album. The second lightswitch
was my stepbrother Eric, whos a fantastic guitar player, totally
schooled musician, career role model, and a great hang. He got me
into hard rock/heavy metal when we were kids; then Clapton, Hendrix
and the Beatles; jazz guys like Charlie Christian, Wes Montgomery
and Pat Metheny; and hes still turning me onto new music and
ways of thinking about music, usually over a glass of bourbon. Guitarists
like Robben Ford, Wayne Krantz, Keith Richards, John Scofield and
countless others have also been influences.
As much as I identify myself as a guitarist, Im most moved by
a great song. If throw on some music on a whim, whatever I grab might
feature a guitar, but its not necessarily the center of the
action. Though a melody might initially snare me, my ear will quickly
latch onto a rhythm part - the drum groove, the keys comping, or even
the tambourine. The rhythm/pulse is the sauce that holds it together.
Jamiroquais guitarist Rob Harris is a perfect example of this:
hes a great soloist, but his rhythm playing is what makes him
a rock star. He knows thats what makes asses shake. James Browns
guitarist Jimmy Nolen knew this; so do Leo Nocentelli from The Meters,
Al McKay from Earth Wind & Fire, and session players like Steve
Lukather and Paul Jackson, Jr. Eddie Van Halens solos made the
headlines, but his grooves on tunes like Beautiful Girls
or Mean Streets are what made them so awesome in the first
Theres a difference between treating things with sincerity,
and taking things too seriously. There has to be joy in the playing,
and it must be shared with the audience and the people on the bandstand.
When I go to see a show, I want to see a show. I can smell onstage
apathy a mile away. Once I saw a trumpet player finish his solo, then
stand there and check his smartphone in the middle of someone elses
solo and he did this twice! No matter where Im playing,
Im committed to those musicians and that audience. I love to
entertain people and share a laugh with them. If youre not engaging
the audience, youre not doing right by them. Performing musically
rewarding material doesnt have to be at odds with entertaining
are great bands all over the world, at all levels of popularity, making
the inroads youre talking about. Even if theyre not on
my radar, theyre connecting with an audience somewhere, and
that moves the dial for all musicians. Snarky Puppy is doing some
great things, as are the musicians on the Daptone label (who play
as Sharon Jones backup band). Guitarists like Jonathan Kreisberg,
Julian Lage, Oz Noy, and Kurt Rosenwinkel are all groundbreakers.
mwe3: Is the new Field Trip CD coming out in other countries
and how are you planning to spread the word about the new Field Trip
Ryan Fleming: The album is available physically or electronically
on the bands website, CDBaby, and electronically on Amazon &
iTunes. One of our fans (and terrific musician) Carlos De Rada, is
a music educator from Sweden. He organized a fantastic series of concerts
and clinics for the band around Stockholm. Two of our songs were aired
on an Israeli podcast called The Jackass-Penguin Show. We do some
social media of course, but some of the most meaningful connections
we make are with audiences at the shows, and thats where I want
to focus efforts right now.
mwe3: Every track on the new CD is great but one of the tracks
that really stands out for me is the album closing track Love
At The Steering Wheel. Can you tell us about that track? Its
sort of the perfect mix of jazz-rock and Americana instrumental.
Ryan Fleming: We threw a few things in there: gospel, pop,
Americana, psychedelia, etc. I told the engineer to have fun with
it, and he did, especially toward the end of the song. I used the
Neo Ventilator on this one as well - the thick, churning sound of
that speaker along with the production added kind of a mercurial element
So what does the future hold for Field Trip and tell us its
the start of a great career with a lot more Field Trip CDs.
Ryan Fleming: Perhaps I dont know any better, but I think
the best way to move the Trip forward is to play as often as we can,
and build our sound and audience naturally. Its easy to sit
back, over conceptualize, and mull over what the next creative step
is going to be. The next Field Trip album might have horns and some
other textures. I might do a project with vocals, which would include
the guys from Field Trip and other musicians as well. I also play
in an acoustic duo called The Two-Timers. Maybe it will include elements
of that plus Field Trip - well call it Two Trips Through the
Thanks to Ryan Fleming @ www.FieldTripBand.com