Nov
09

JEFF KOSSACK

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JEFF KOSSACK EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH

AFRESH ENTERTAINMENT MAGAZINE

Afresh: What is your name, and name your group/band/act?

Jeff Kossack and the OtherHand

Afresh: Where are the artists from?  What is their talent in the group?

I , and most all the others members of the OtherHand, over 20 in all, live around L.A.

Afresh: How did the artist/band get their name?

The band used to the ‘the Open Hand’, but after playing a set at the Gig, in Hollywood in the new millenium, a lawyer approached the
Band and and let us know that another band ‘openhand’, O.C. metal rockers, had a CD just coming out, and that I need to stop using the name. I referred him to my 1998 record, released as the Open Hand, and told him ratchet down his legal thing… The band could have the name… No biggie…. Then, for the next project, I tongue-in-cheekedly
referred to us as the‘Other’ Hand….   And it just stuck.

Afresh: What instrument do you play now?

Guitar, piano, and percussion

Afresh: What (who) does your act/art consist of?

The OtherHand is really a studio band, consisting of more than 25 of the most talented players I’ve ever met, and the circle is ever-
expanding. When gigging about, I usually invite a handful of this group to play. Every show’s a bit different, with regard to vibe…

Core members of the Other Hand are me, Jeff Kossack, along with bassist Leo Valenzuela, drummers Mark Schulman, and Chase
Kossack (my son),  guitarist Bruce Watson, violinist Julie Pusch, and Terry Smith, who extracts the best vocals from me, and then
adds his own soulfulness to the backing tracks.  There are many others…

Afresh: How would you describe your music/art/entertainment for the public audience if they have never seen you before?

I’d offer that we make very accessible-yet -moody hook laden music, Very rhythmic, and with evocative lyrics…

Afresh:  What can people expect to see at your live performance?

Our audience can expect well played, melodic tunes, accompanied by a short story of what I was thinking when I wrote the track… The
players always have fun when we’re recording and the energy translates well to the live scene…

Afresh:  If you had to describe your music in three or four words, what would you call it?

Melodic,  hooky, thought-provoking…

Afresh: How long have you been performing live or making art?

All my life, really, but I began multi-tracking in the 70’s in college…

Afresh: Where did you meet your group and how long have you been together now?

The OtherHand is made up of people whose considerable talents I observed around L.A. playing in a million other bands… And I count
them all as good, good friends… After all, they’ve helped make my  music as unique as it is….  I owe them everything… I have the best
time making records, and have the best people play…

Afresh:  Before you perform live for an audience, is there anything special you like to do first, right before the show to prepare you for the event?

Nothing special, BUT if I’ve heard another player earlier in the Evening, even a stranger,  I often ask them to sit in…  Generally, they always come through.   disappointed.

Afresh: What has been the biggest challenge for you or the group?

When a band has 20+ players, it’s hard to coordinate rehearsals, etc., but it DOES force me to re-arrange tunes for each show.  Plus, the
payroll for a crew like ours would be huge… So I make BIG records,
but play out mostly in singer-songwriter mode…

Afresh: You’ve heard of the term “starving artists” before, how do you cope with major obstacles?

I had a great day gig that has afforded me this time in my life to make music, but I do MISS my friends from business…  Life goes on, but I’ve never forgotten them, nor how grateful and lucky I am for this opportunity to make my music at my own pace…

Afresh:  Do you feel the economic crunch has hurt the industry, or do you have some other promotional tips to help support your music?

I urge everyone to attend at least a couple of indie music seminars…

Afresh:  If you had the opportunity to change something about the music industry what would it be?

I wish there were more industry professionals that would accept UNSOLICITED MATERIAL.  You never know from where a great  song or performance is going to come… So why not listen to everything, or hire some trusted ears to screen stuff…

Afresh:  Do you have any fan comments of how your music has affected or changed them?

I’m often told that when I’m  ‘in-the-moment’ in one of my songs that they are there with me…  I love hearing that… I’m reaching
them… They are hearing me, and feeling my music…

Afresh:  Where is your favorite place to play? Do you have a favorite city/venue?

I play around L.A. quite a bit, but audiences out of town come at the beginning of an evening and stay for the entire night, hearing everyone, and then want to meet and greet.  Los Angeles music fans show up to hear their friends, and then head for the after-party.  L.A.’s home but I always feel more special just about anywhere else, whether at Mo’s in Salt Lake, or the Influence Gallery in Hillsboro, OR….

Afresh:  Other than a t-shirt, sticker, or CD, what do you hope people leave with from one of your shows?

I hope they have one of song hooks absolutely stuck in their head…

Afresh: Art & Music has an impact on both young and old.  Everyone loves a celebrity, so what advice do you have for the youth of today?

Be famous for something…  And not be famous for just being a celebrity, like so many faces currently gracing the tabs.

Afresh: What does your family think of your performance and do they support you?

They are fans… My sons, both twenty-somethings, love my music and share it with their friends. They GET me…

Afresh: What is your stance on how to get the public to support “live music” and see the shows?  Any ideas???

That’s a very tall mountain… I have been an active fundraiser for a songwriters’ venue, Kulak’s, in North Hollywood and we are always
dealing with this…

Afresh: Thinking back, did your family carry on the same musical/artistic interests?

Both my parents were artists… a very creative family…

Afresh: Do you have your own favorite type of music and is it any different from what you play now?

I listen to everything

Afresh:  If you weren’t doing music, what do you think you would be doing instead?

Just living my life, taking care of those I love and who love me back…

Afresh: Who does most of the song writing/art/literature? (Discuss the songwriting process in detail.)

I do my own songwriting…  I usually just noodle around on guitar or piano until something musically strikes me…   Or I’ll think of a great line and start to write lyrics…  There’ are no rules about what comes first…

Afresh: Tell us about your most embarrassing moment if you care to share it with us?

Detuning a guitar that I’ve borrowed then handing it back to the artist still detuned…

Afresh: If you could perform with anyone in the world, either dead, alive, or broke-up who would it be? Why? (Name up to three)

Dave Edmunds, Justin Currie of Del Amitri, and Van Morrison

Afresh:  If you had only five minutes on earth to perform one song that could leave a great impact on the world today, what song would you perform and why did you choose this particular piece?

A song that I’m re-recording for my next record… Fool’s Paradise… A song that basically says that you don’t have to be foolishly over-idealistic to be hopeful…

Afresh:  What did you do before you got into the music industry?

I was a packaging designer, responsible for the look of  many products at retail, such as vitamins, cosmetics, and computer
Software…

Afresh:  What do you attribute to your “drive as an artist”?

A burning creative ethic.. I’ve always got be creating something, and it isn’t always music… Sometimes, it can be as abstract as an ‘opportunity’…

Afresh:  What do you think makes you and your type of music unique from other artists?

Interesting melodies, and a variety in my instrumentation… I try an awful lot of unusual sound toys….

Afresh:  As an artist, how would you define SUCCESS?

When my music is as a transformative agent… Making people feel strong emotions with my music, more so than if it weren’t
there…

Afresh:  Do you have much time to check out other artists’ music? What are you listening to right now?

I always listen to the current music of those around me… my songwriting friends.. I am given tons of  music to listen to, and
I love satellite radio…

Afresh:  Have you performed outside the USA before, and if so how did the live shows differ?
Have done some pick up stuff, but no actual scheduled gigs outside the US…

Afresh:  For on-line purposes, what is your favorite place for your fans to find your music for purchase and/or downloads?

www.cdbaby.com and of course, iTunes…

Just for fun…..simply fill in the blanks!

Without music, I would be  up a very long, dark and lonely creek with no paddle.

Music is a fickle mistress at times…..

My music makes me feel  like the heartbeak or the happiness that inspired the song is happening all over again in that moment.  Painfully true…

I write the songs because  it’s now a chronic habit…

Support music because someone holding a musical instrument isn’t holding a weapon, tho’ I’ve been menaced by a cello before…..

If I wasn’t doing music, I would be  a shrink….   Same diff….

If I had to share a dream with you, it would be my grammy speech in which I profusely thank my wife for so much of my inspiration…

If I could be anywhere right now, I would want to be anywhere that she is…

I love to perform in front of a live audience because I think at times I actually am helping put others in touch with feelings of their own that may be unresolved….

MORE ABOUT JEFF KOSSACK AND OTHERHAND

JEFF KOSSACK & THEOTHERHAND THE POPULAR L.A. CLUB VETERAN DITCHES THE DAY JOB AT LAST AND DIGS INTO ‘HALFLIFE’ WITH A POWERHOUSE ROCK-SOUL BAND FEATURING TOP SESSION PLAYERS BRUCE WATSON (CHRISTINA AGUILERA, SARA BAREILLES) AND MARK SCHULMAN (PINK, CHER)

Story by CFM MUSIC SCENE & ENTERTAINMENT NEWS (Founded in 2005) Losillë USA

One great thing about having a cool, well-paying day job for 30 years—when it comes time to get down to business and start pursuing those long-held musical dreams full time, you don’t have to scrimp and save to make the recording of your life.

If you’re singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Kossack, you’ll have built an incredible, fully digital studio—Otherhand Recording in Canoga Park, California, named after his band, theOtherHand—to create halflife, an infectious soul and rock influenced collection made the classic “old school” way in the tradition of his favorite artists, including The Beatles, Van Morrison, Marc Cohn and the Scottish group Del Amitri.

A longtime veteran of the Los Angeles club scene, Kossack began gearing up for his full-time dedication to music in the late 90s with regular gigs at the hotspots on every indie musician’s radar: The Roxy, The Gig, Largo, Genghis Cohen, Highland Grounds, Iguana Cafe and 8121 Club. While building his own song arsenal, developing his high energy performance chops and learning how to engage crowds of different sizes, Kossack also became the ultimate behind the scenes guy, producing and playing (everything from acoustic guitar to keyboards and percussion) on a wide variety of projects.

Many of his musician friends were happy to return the favor when he formed his own band, a group of rotating members (depending on the venue) which was originally called OpenHand. Kossack draws on these renowned studio musicians to achieve a classic vibe on halflife, a 12-track set that harkens back to the days when albums had creative productions featuring instruments like Hammond Organ (Paul Katz), viola and violin (Julie Pusch), cello (Ro Rowan) and sizzling, simmering horn sections (trombonist Steven Bent, multi-saxman Walter Davis, trumpeter and flugelhornist Joe Bebiak).

One of the band’s electric guitarists, Bruce Watson, has played with everyone from Christina Aguilera, Adam Lambert and Jewel to Leonard Cohen, Sara Bareilles, Elton John, Jewel, Rod Stewart and B.B. King. The drums are shared by Kossack’s son Chase and Mark Schulman, who has toured with Pink, Cher, Billy Idol and Foreigner.

Becoming more prolific as a writer all the time, Kossack quickly followed the official release of halflife with a midtempo, brassy new single called “If I Have You”—which like many of his songs, was inspired by a casual turn of phrase by his wife. With his catalog growing all the time, he is eager to begin licensing his music for film and TV—and can envision a day when one of his songs plays behind a powerful emotional scene in a major motion picture.

Kossack is also excited about his ongoing development, diversity and depth as a vocalist. He credits writer/producer Terry “T-Smidi” Smith, who raps and does backing vocals on halflife, for helping him “get to my soulful self and get it onto my tracks.” The two met randomly while playing golf one day and have been connected by music ever since.

“For a long time, I wasn’t just working on a career as an artist, I was equally interested in selling my songs and licensing them,” Kossack says. “Then I realized, well, someone has to sing them in order to sell them and people started telling me they liked the way I sang. The way I like to put it is, I know how to perform my material and Rod Stewart knows how to perform his, and we are who we are, distinctive vocals and all.

“The album began with the title track,” he adds, “which I wrote for the wife of my songwriter friend Jimmy “Muffin“ Yessian, who contributes vocals to the album. His beautiful wife had terminal cancer and I wanted to write a song about their relationship. The concept of the project took shape as a journey of love. I began looking at certain life experiences from different angles and realized there were many ways to express the upside and downside of love in my songs. Putting those lyrics into a contemporary version of a classic rock soul vibe was a great experience for everyone who participated. It’s a sound that never goes out of style.”

Kossack achieved this sonic magic using digital technology, a way of recording he would have probably considered a bit blasphemous just a few years ago. He recorded his first album The Power Of One (1998) on a Fostex G-16, a reel to reel, half-inch 16 track, a machine that was big in the 80s and 90s; he considers the quality to be more compatible with that of a songwriter’s demo. He resisted going to digital for a long time because he always believed that analog gave off a bigger, warmer sound, but eventually began working on a Mac with a Pro Tools LE system. “I like the fact that you turn on your computer and are back in your session in five minutes,” he says, “whereas with analog, you have to realign your tape machine with your console every couple of times you shut them both down.” Making the switch in 2005, he digitally recorded his second album, a project called This Boy’s Life, another collection of melodic rockers and sensitive ballads.

While the multi-talented performer doesn’t play the mainstream L.A. clubs as often as he used to, he has a unique musical home away from home in the friendly confines of Kulak’s Woodshed, an intimate space in North Hollywood, dedicated to fostering the development of local songwriters and allowing them to share their work in an appreciative, judgment free atmosphere. Owner Paul Kulak’s website (www.kulakswoodshed.com) gives people all over the world a chance to experience this fascinating creative process—and the opportunity to make donations to keep the club running. Kossack “sheds” new material there about once a month and participates in occasional special event nights, like a recent Bob Dylan tribute. “Kulak’s is a place where substance matters and you don’t have to look like a rock star,” he says. “If songs are ever going to get better, there has to be a place in the L.A. songwriter community where we can come to try things out and get feedback and have fun doing it.”

Even though Kossack is still working on his longtime goal of making a full living as a singer and musician, he has led a very blessed life and always makes time to give to important causes. Aside from participating in fundraisers at Kulak’s, he performs every month at The Talking Stick in Venice for GrassRoots Acoustica, a unique organization launched by his friend Mark Islam that donates proceeds from the show and the participating artists’ CDs to a wide variety of charities. These include Children of the Night, Shoes That Fit, Leeza Gibbons’ organization, Leeza’s Place (dedicated to caregivers of ill loved ones) and the ALS Foundation. Thus far, GrassRoots Acoustica has raised over $30,000.

“Being charitable in this day and age is a luxury,” says Kossack, “and it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do something good while doing something you love. I write and sing my music to move people and at the end of the day, that’s what my life is dedicated to. It’s a very organic process, which begins on an acoustic guitar plugged directly into a good quality mic-pre. I create a scratch vocal and guitar part and then my friends come in and begin to play and soon we have a song to share with the world. But as rewarding as working in the studio is, nothing is more fun than sharing this gift with people in a live setting. In my other business, I made deals where I did nicely, but sometimes, the sweetest money can be the few bucks from a small venue where I’m playing and touching people with my music.”

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Comments

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