Exclusive Interview with Karl Denson

of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe

interview by Carly Shields

Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe comes to Pittsburgh at Mr. Smalls on Saturday 9.28, and we got to have a quick word with Karl D. himself about playing with Mike Dillion, the Tiny Universe’s “New Ammo” due out in January, and playing the West Coast.


AJ: How do you like Pittsburgh? Excited to play Mr. Small’s again?

KD: I love Mr. Small’s, it’s a great room. Probably gonna cook dinner for the guys, they have a kitchen there.


I saw you were looking for veggie sandwiches the other day, are you vegetarian?

I am generally vegetarian, yeah. I love meat but I’m getting too old to eat it so I try to make it count when I do.


Sure, that’s a good way to stay healthy. So Mike Dillion’s on the tour, how did that happen?

We frequent the same places and it was on the heels of him doing some recording for me on the new record that we decided to do a little run together. We did a day of percussion-ing, some of everything, except we didn’t get him on vibes [viberaphone], which was kind of a drag. But I got him on pretty much all his other toys.


Well that’s cool, he does have a lot of fun toys to play with. So the tour with him has been going well?

Yes, it’s going awesome. They crowds have been having fun, I’ve got a new drummer so I’ve been breaking him in but it’s been really easy and it’s getting really musical.


Who’s your new drummer?

Max MacVeedy. He started this tour, a week and a half ago. He’s fitting in great, it’s really awesome.


That’s always cool when you add a new member to the band and they just sort of melt right into everyone else’s vibe.

Yeah, it’s really nice.


So I guess he wasn’t on the new album, but how’s that going? All done and ready to go?

Yeah, it’s done, middle of January is the release date, it’s called “New Ammo.”


I like that, how’d you get to that name?

It’s one of the songs we included and we just decided to go with it to create an image of war and peace kind of thing.


Do you think you and the band have changed a lot since your last album in 2009?

Yeah, for sure. I mean, the band is very different now and I think we’re settling into a cool place right now. It was kind of a struggle figuring out exactly what we wanted to do with the band in the last couple years, but I think we’ve kind of gotten there now and the new record is kind of the first phase of what we’re doing now.


Cool, you feel like it’s much more defining now than it was before?

Yes, I feel like it’s much closer to what we are live.


Did you keep that great R&B feel or is it a completely new sound on this record?

No, I think it’s got a nice little bit of the R&B sound and little more of like a 60’s/70’s soundtrack vibe and I think we’re actually pointed more in a real soul, R&B direction right now, so I think it’s gonna be a good complement. I’m aiming at getting another record out really soon behind this one just to kind of codify where we’re going.

Definitely good to follow up with something just as strong. I saw that it will be released on Slightly Stoopid Records, were you in Slightly Stoopid or how did that relationship begin?

We’re both from San Diego and I’ve been a part of the band for the last 3 years, and they just kind of adopted me so, I run around with them when I’m not doing my thing.


That’s sort of been the same time that Tiny Universe has been kind of on the rise, how’s that been balancing two big projects?

Well it’s allowed me to take some time out of these markets, like we haven’t really done a big run like we’re doing this fall in a couple of years so it was a good kind of respite to gather our thoughts and get the new record ready and now we’ve got more focus and more energy to do the Tiny Universe. So that’s gonna be really the main focus for the next year.

Yeah, and there’s a ton coming up, you’ll be playing Mustang Music Festival in NC on October 11, and then Joshua Tree Music Festival in CA the next day, and a lot of California shows on the tour, do you see a difference at all in the music scenes between the east and west coast?

No, not really, it’s just a chance to go and see your friends, see who comes out. Have a nice party- it’s party season as we call it. There’s always a strange flux that you see when you do it as much as I do, but I find that it has a lot more to do with how we feel and how the audience feels, so we just try to stay positive and enjoy what we’re doing and hope it translates well.


Do you have a favorite venue in California or out west that you particularly love to play at?

Ya know, I really like the Fillmore in San Francisco, and the Belly Up in San Diego, it’s nice playing at home.


Cool, great choices, I love the Fillmore. So now out on the west coast you have Zach Deputy who’s great and The Cosmic Horns, which sounds like it should be a lot of fun. How did that come about? Are you excited for it?

Well we did this at Jazz Fest this past year, so it was kind of something we had so much fun with, we decided to revisit it and so it’s gonna be a blast.


“The Ray Charles Boogaloo Party?”

Yea, I discovered that Zach had a penchant for Ray Charles so I kind of made a big issue out of it and now we’re gonna see how far we can go with it.


That’s fun sounds like it’s gonna be really cool, and you sound excited. Think it’s gonna take off?

Yeah it’s gonna be really fun. Ya know normally we do these novelty little things, we only do a couple shows so you never get a chance to really settle into it where now we have 2 months of this thing with Zach so I’m really excited about actually doing 15-20 gigs and getting it tight and having it be something cool.


Totally, sounds like it’s gonna be really cool. I never really thought of the combination until I saw your tour schedule and the sound matches perfectly and the Ray Charles thing- you are totally right, it’s gonna be great. The couple times I’ve seen Zach it’s just been dance party beach vibe and I’m sure you guys will just turn the heat up.

Yeah, it’s gonna be fun.


And then you’re gonna be on Jam Cruise in January, you must be excited. You’ve been on most of the Jam Cruises, right?

I’ve been on ALL the Jam Cruises! It’s always super fun, my January vacation. I mean, we only have 2 shows in 6 days, so it’s a lot of chilling and hanging out with friends. I’m kind of a creature of the moment, but I’m really excited to see Bootsy.