On the heels of the second Cosmik Playground Superjam featuring members of Frank Zappa, Umphrey’s McGee, and Digital Tape Machine, LiveList was able to speak with internationally acclaimed live and studio guitarist, composer, artist-at-large, and musical director Marcus Rezak. In the interview below, we talk about his musical influences, the variety of musical projects he’s involved with, live streaming, and the formation of Cosmik Playground.
How long have you been playing guitar?
I’ve been playing for 20 years strong. I have loved music since an early age playing piano with my great grandmother.
Over the years, what musicians have had an extreme impact on you?
Early on, it was Jimi Hendrix, a lot of various metal groups, and then Jerry Garcia, Wayne Krantz, John Scofield, Frank Zappa, Phish – bands like that. Then I got heavy into jazz and funk in college, while electronic and jam scenes all have found their way into my DNA overtime as well.
What musical projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently working with a lot of formations of different groups and a countless number of conglomerations. I’m in the process of writing an entire new album worth of music with some familiar friends, in addition to on-going projects like the pre-Phish show in Chicago with Supernatural Beings that features Todd Stoops (RAQ), Joel Cummins (Umphrey’s McGee), Kris Myers (Umphrey’s McGee), Clay Parnell (Particle), Emily Nichols (Woo Park) and Christian Rogala (Fluid Minds).
I’ve also orchestrated the next Cosmik Playground lineup that will perform on the East Coast at SPAC after Phish which includes Ed Mann (Frank Zappa), Todd Stoops (RAQ), Scotty Zwang (Dopapod) and Dan Lotito, in addition to working on many other musical collaborations, film scores, and the continuation of future Cosmik Playground superjams. Plenty of recording sessions keeping my time, as well as recently recording guitar for a film called Miles that was featured at the 2016 Seattle Film Festival.
How did Cosmik Playground form?
We formed when I was working at Arthur Barrow’s studio in Venice, CA on a different project earlier this year. We began talking and quickly befriended one another, started jamming a bit and decided we wanted to put on a show in one weeks time, and that we wanted to do it with Joel (Cummins) and Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident).
Joel Cummins and I have been friends for over 10 years and when we were working at Arthur’s studio, we all decided to do a show together and contacted the local venue (TrIp) and promoter (Spin Cycle) and did it, having fun doing some Umphrey’s songs and classic Zappa jams. I’ve always been a fan of Arthur and what he has contributed to the music of Frank Zappa, and what Arthur continues to create. It’s truly an honor to work with him, and all these guys, whom I also consider to be my friends.
With this being the second installment of Cosmik Playground, and one coming up, who are the constant members?
So far I’m the constant, but I feel like a co-musical director to Arthur Barrow, but Joel and Arthur are certainly co-founders of the band with me. With Joel being busy on the road with Umphrey’s McGee and Arthur releasing his book, Of Course I Said Yes, it’s important for us to have flexibility, and to be versatile as a band and as individuals.
How did you choose this lineup of musicians specifically for the June 8 show?
We collectively asked that Joel and Kris play for this one because we’d all be in town in LA, we all have played together in Digital Tape Machine for five years, we’re all in touch, and I know that Umphrey’s music pays homage to Zappa. I respect and have been a fan of those groups over the years, so it just seemed like a natural fit for this show especially.
With summer kicking into high gear and bands having heavy tour schedules, how difficult is it for you to organize a superjam like this?
It can be very difficult when people are in different places, but for the most part people are generally pretty responsive to the calls. It also helps that I’ve been getting contacted by people that are still very busy, musicians in high demand, but very interested in what we’re doing – which is great, because the talent and desire people have to play with different groups outside of their regular bands is there. It’s nice because it shows their trust in me as a musician and musical director, and vice versa.
How’s it feel to come into small rooms like Saint Rocke and play to an intimate crowd on your (current) home turf of Los Angeles?
It feels great! We’re looking forward to the show. It’s great to have built friendships and a fanbase here. It truly feels like home now, even though Chicago will always be home to me. LA is a great place for me to be working out of right now. It’s nice to put on a Wednesday night show and have a packed room full of friends, fans, and the musician community coming out to show their continued support.
As a musician, what do you think about the concept of live streaming?
I think it’s really great because not everyone has the ability to make it to the shows. Whether it’s physical disability, financial inability, or other responsibilities – it’s great that music fans have the option to watch live and can enjoy as close to a live music experience as possible. I think it’s important for people to be able to have access to live music and live streaming enables more people to be reached by the music.
Will you live stream more in the future?
Absolutely. I’m definitely going to do some more live streaming in the future, whether it’s from on stage or snippets from being in the studio. There’s something different about being live and watching it later, because it makes you feel part of the experience as it happens. It’s very valuable and inspiring. It makes you feel much more connected to the artist and other fans watching live as opposed to watching something after it’s happened. There is no energy like a crowd in front of you, but knowing people are watching all over the world as a little extra kick.
What’s your favorite musical memory?
Oh man! Digital Tape Machine set at All Good Festival in 2013 in front of 15,000 people. We basically were the last show before Primus played and the crowd was off the wall. It was epic! Our Summer Camp set in the barn a few years back, as well as the Jagermeister stage, those are always really fun and always bring an energy that’s one-of-a-kind.
Anything else you’d like to leave the readers with?
I’m just really grateful and motivated to be doing everything I’m doing at this point in my life. Getting to learn and perform with people and musicians that I truly respect who have proven themselves through hard work over the years. I’m looking forward to all the new projects I have brewing, the shows and festivals coming up, and the unforgettable experiences that are right around the bend.
The Cosmik Playground Superjam featuring Arthur Barrow, Joel Cummins, and Kris Myers is on Wednesday, June 8 at Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, CA.
If 500 people sign up for a webcast, LiveList will offer a free live stream of the Cosmik Playground Superjam.
Sign up here, share with your friends, and stay tuned for the official webcast announcement.
Interview by Charles Walker, LiveList Head of Content