CYM: Thanks for taking the time to hang out Jason! It’s good to meet you. Thank you for the opportunity your music is extremely inspirational to me. Lets just start off with where your love for music began. I know you had mentioned something about your father being a major influence; can you expand on that?
Jason Hann: Both me and my sister took music classes when we were kids. My dad’s a musician and my mom loved music – there was a very strong musical environment around me. I was okay at piano, but my sister was really good at it. So I didn’t necessarily think I would be doing music in the long run; I just thought it was a fun thing to take classes in. When I was 11 years old my dad got a gig a few blocks away from where we were living at the time, and it was at a marina. He would play from 5-9PM so I could go after school and finish all that there while seeing his band and hang out. It was still a bar, so I had to sit in a booth towards the back. The only person I could see was the drummer, and I think as I was doing my homework I kept sort of tapping my fingers and going along with it. My dad had a conga player that would sit in with him, and when they’d take breaks he would show me something on the conga drums.
I found out later he was using it to pick up chicks at the bar, and I was a pretty good wing man so I played it up for him a little bit. Then the drummer started showing me things on the kit. There was one time they were getting ready to play, and the drummer sat me down and my dad didn’t know it and I started playing and it was about 30 seconds before my dad turned around, and he was so shocked I was playing the drums; so then it was like ‘Oh lets get him some lessons.’ Seeing my dad and the people that played with him in Miami, they were some of the best players in town. There was just this high level of musicianship that I got to see. Those were the sparks for sure.
CYM: I had the chance to see your newest solo project, Prophet Massive, during Sonic Bloom last year, and loved it! It really showed another side of the styles you like to play.
Hann: I was psyched to get a chance to do the most updated version, and I tried to include a lot of me doing live vocals and live keyboard. The kind of music I was going for was a little more old school dub – like reggae dub with big, soothing bass lines instead of razor, sharp bass lines.
CYM: We’ve been getting pretty excited about your upcoming appearance at this year’s Summer Camp Music Festival! It’s one of our favorites that we’ve gone to year after year. What do you love about Scamp?
Hann: It’s so good! We loved our set last year on the outdoor stage. We were kind of worried because something was going at every other stage with pretty strong headliners, but we just had an amazing crowd – probably 15-16 thousand people that were just ready to get down, and I feel we put on a very strong set. Summer Camp is real special like that. Now that we have done Summer Camp a bunch of times, and each time we keep bumping up our presence. That whole area feels like home.
CYM: How does it feel performing with String Cheese Incident, EOTO, and Prophet Massive? Is it a different feel and energy with each project?
Hann: The thing I immediately like about each one is that they are all really different. For String Cheese, I get to be surrounded by percussion instruments from different parts of the world; congas, timbales, bongos, talking drums, and some electronic drums. I get to explore that whole range of instruments and style of music in one night. That feels really freeing to be in one zone and doing similar things in a song. I love percussion all around, so there’s a different technique with each drum. Espescially playing with all the guys, we just bounce off each other so well. It feels like we are hitting a particularly amazing point of chemistry these days, or this past year and a half.
With EOTO, its nuts how we pull off this completely improvisational things with two people. We will have a lot of other people from other bands ask us about what we are doing, and they’re like “You have tracks though,” and we are like “No we don’t have tracks we actually are making it up we are really doing it, nothing’s pre-recorded.” That’s pretty tricky for people to wrap their heads around. When we were touring with illGates he was asking about it, and he’s like an Ableton genius too, and he couldn’t believe it was actually from nothing.
With Prophet Massive I am usually the most scared because it’s just me by myself, and usually I’m behind a nice arsenal of drums that I can hide behind. I’ll take each song I play into ten different clips from the same song so I can start off from anywhere in the song and take it anywhere with it, or with two songs I can jump back and forth. If I feel like the crowd needs a little more pick up I can skip a few sections and go right to a bigger drop. I also added some keyboard so I can play live some affect on the textures of the music and I can feel more involved that way.
CYM: What inspired you to branch off and start doing EOTO after you started playing with Cheese?
Hann: Travis and I had been doing this thing at his place where I would be out in Colorado for SCI practice, and I would stay over and we’d sesh. While I was there, we would jam on his instruments from like 10PM- 4AM, all night long, just the two of us for fun. We started wondering, if String Cheese were to take a break, or the band wanted to break up, me and Travis weren’t sure what we would do for a next project since we don’t sing lead on any songs or write a lot of the String Cheese material. We started wondering As a rhythm section, what could we do to make our own thing? Then we thought, “We’re trying to do this thing, maybe we can try and make this happen.” So we booked a bunch of shows during one of the breaks to see if anybody liked it, because we knew we did, and the two of us packed it into a tiny RV with my kick drum in the RV closet. We felt at that time we were getting better.
At first, it was like we sorta based it on a lot of String Cheese Incident fans loving it. But tons of SCI fans at that time hated it because they were pissed there were more electronic influences creeping into the band. Then they would come see us and I’m playing drums while Travis is playing bass and keyboard and guitar and there’s a computer on stage and its 2006. It wasn’t that well received. Kids who came to the show and had no idea who we were loved it.
CYM: Do you see more of that influence bleeding into sets with String Cheese?
Hann: In a different way, it’s all sort of come around. Before I was even in String Cheese, Kang, Travis, and Kyle wanted to incorporate more electronics into the group, too. I think Sound Tribe was a pretty big influence from 1999, you know, they were kind of starting their own genre. Then Kang and Travis had also been to Burning Man a lot. Kang was really good friends with Lorin [Bassnectar] and he actually introduced him to the festival scene by having at that time DJ Lorin open up for Cheese back for 2003. In 2005, it was the first time they were going to have a DJ on Jam Cruise and they had billed it as Micheal Kang and DJ Lorin. It was in a disco room at like three in the morning, and there were thirty people there.
CYM: Tell me about the transition into becoming a member in Cheese? What was it like when they asked you to be a part of String Cheese Incident?
Hann: There wasn’t anything ceremonial about it. I had only sat in previously with them two times in 1999. I first met Travis back in 1996 at High Sierra Music Festival, and we had kept in contact about two phone calls a year. I was transitioning from being in a band that was a jam band kind of like The Allmann Brothers or Steely Dan. They had broken up and I was doing mostly studio stuff in LA at this time. I think we were like two phone calls a year up to 2000 and then we weren’t in touch. In 2004, he calls and says, “I saw you online and remembered you. We’re going to come through Los Angeles, and were wondering if you’d want to come sit in with us.”
CYM: That’s awesome! How was that moment?
Hann: It was really cool, and mostly just surreal. Because at that time, I wasn’t home a lot. I normally wouldn’t have picked up that call, and it was just nice to get back in touch. Since I was in a different scene I was more in an R&B world music and pop scene, so I didn’t really think of String Cheese that much I just knew they were doing well. I was like “Yeah, that sounds like a really fun sit in,” and I had the night off, which I rarely did back then. It just kind of worked out. So I asked Travis what I should bring, and he goes, “Maybe everything you’ve got, because we’re thinking of adding someone to the band.” They asked me to do the 2004 fall tour, which I did, and somewhere in the middle of the tour, Billy asks “Hey this is Jason, do you think we should keep him?” and they cheered!
There was still really nothing official at that point, and at that point it kind of just felt more and more comfortable until it was a point until it was like “Yeah, he’s an official member.” It was so gradual. It wasn’t like, ‘We’re knighting you as a String Cheese member,’ It was more just like ‘Keep playing music and keep the vibe going.’ For the first few years, I was still trying to learn some of their songs because they would play them so infrequently. In any other band you are playing a very similar set any night. So it took me awhile to get all the intricacies of the String Cheese songs.
CYM: How would you describe your sound as far as EOTO goes?
Hann: Alien disco party. We could be wherever as long as everyone is ready to take off to another place. We are game. Since we do it in our own way it becomes our own thing.
Make sure you catch Jason Hann with EOTO at this year’s Summer Camp Music Festival in Three Sisters Park! Festival passes are available here if you haven’t purchased yours already. See you in the crowd!