Okay kiddos, get ready for a real treat. Recently we caught up with Tal Bergman (Rod Stewart, Chaka Khan, Billy Idol), the illustrious drummer and mind behind Rock Candy Funk Party. The supergroup is made up of Bergman, Ron DeJesus, Joe Bonamassa, Renato Neto, and Mike Merritt, and will absolutely blow your mind. Their new record, The Groove Cubed, dropped last week and is easily in our top ten albums of the year. Tal is easily one of the most welcoming, warm, and insightful people that we have ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Like we said, you’re in for a real treat!
Let’s start off with a taste of what they do.
Pretty incredible huh? Bet you couldn’t keep from laying down your best moves. Now that you’re hooked, let’s dig in.
GSLM: The new record is incredible. It’s literally like walking into a party that I am clearly not near cool enough to attend. “Drunk On Bourbon On Bourbon Street” is a prime example. You have really encapsulated the vibe and feel of a hot, sweaty dance club in the quarter. We can almost smell the stale beer from here. Where does it take you in your mind?
Bergman: It’s like being drunk on bourbon on Bourbon Street. The idea is that everybody is playing real loose and laid back. Definitely not taking it too seriously. Joe (Bonamassa) came up with the melody line with this weird guitar sound. And I was like, “that’s it man.” It’s got to be really quirky and left field, but still grooving. Like if you were over there late at night and you were hammered.
GSLM: Do you remember your first kit? What was it?
Bergman: I started playing drums when I was six. My father built me a kit for kindergarten. It was made out of tin drums. He was able to make a high hat and bass drum, and I would go and play it every Friday in kindergarten.
GSLM: That’s great! Drums are not an intimate instrument.
Bergman: (Laughing) I had lots of problems when I was a kid. We lived in an apartment building.
GSLM: Who was the first drummer that made you think, “I want to do that!”
Bergman: I grew up in Israel, so we did;t have a lot of outside influences. There was no internet, and everything that we got was almost six years later. My first cassette was Deep Purple Machinehead. (Laughing) I thought for years that the name of the band was Machinehead, and the name of the album was Deep Purple. My influences were all of the great jazz drummers like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Tony Williams, all of the James Brown stuff, and Led Zeppelin.
I also studied classical percussion for many years.
GSLM: As far as learning, what is the difference between drums and percussion?
Bergman: Because I studied classical percussion, and African, and Latin, I know when I am playing as a drummer, to leave a space for the percussionist because I know what they are going to be doing. And vice versa.
GSLM: It has been ten years since you and Ron (DeJesus) released your album, Grooove Vol.1. This became the foundation for Rock Candy Funk Party. Shortly after forming the band, you talked about the process by which songs came together for the band, saying “that the best ideas happened right in the moment.” Is this still try for the new record?
Bergman: Oh yeah! We came in with nothing, and came out with a record. The chemistry between the musicians is great. There are no egos in the room. My idea is that we would come in, and every day come out with a track. On this record we also said, Let’s have at least four parts on every tune, in whatever style. We have to be free from trying to put it in any certain frame. The only way to make something new is to try it.
GSLM: “Two Guys and Stanley Kubrick Walk Into A Bar” is an interesting title. And the music feels like something that could easily be the backing track for when the “Droogs” (Clockwork Orange) might be getting into something vile on one of their nights out.
Bergman: I had the main groove and the bass line. The idea was a West Coast groove, kind of slow and dark. I had two drum sets at the studio. One was my meat and potatoes and the other was a bee bop, 50’s/60’s drum set. Mike (Merritt) also had his upright bass. When we started playing, I had the idea to record this same thing as a jazz quartet. I merged those two tracks. You can hear it in the middle. It goes into a totally different era. We’re really taking you on a trip to a different place. So we said it was like “Two Guys and Stanley Kubrick Walk Into A Bar.” It was very cinematic.