Written By Elise Olmstead
Photo by Nick Sonsini
The jam music scene is one of friends, family, and group cooperation. Fans are all-inclusive, eager to make new friends and discover new sounds. Musicians love to collaborate, sitting in with other bands they admire or working together to make new music. Much magic is made because of the strong bonds that are weaved throughout the entire community, so all-star “jams” and unique projects among members of different bands are a no-brainer. A new ground-breaking project, Bob’s Mob, is the brainchild of next-level music fan Nicole Mase, and just a small part of her vision for how our far we can lift our music community when we work together.
Bob’s Mob is a band comprised of some of the biggest names in the jam scene, coming together to compile an entirely new entity (similar to projects such as Everyone Orchestra). The band members are chosen by founder Nicole Mase and consists of mainly keyboardists, some who she has gifted Moog instruments to. Since discovering her love for all things Moog and purchasing a Little Phatty of her own, Nicole was struck by an unshakeable sense of destiny. She said the sound of the synth “was the sound of my soul”, and became completely infatuated, especially inspired by Josh Cavinder from Deja Fuze and the synth solo in UV Hippo’s “Bob the WonderCat”. Though she originally played the guitar and owned a custom Taylor and custom Schecter Hellraiser, when her beautiful equipment was stolen she saw it as the universe guiding her to take on a new endeavor and new instrument. Thus “The Journey of the Final Phatty” began, where she left the music store with her Little Phatty, and then gave that fated Moog to Todd Stoops of Kung Fu to play and make patches on, and get signed by all the most epic keyboardists of the scene. “After he returns it to me, I plan to play it for a couple of years, and then gift it to somebody [who is a surprise and someone] who has changed music, as a token of appreciation from all of us.”
Nicole’s impeccable sense of synchronicity and fate has guided her throughout her whole life, since her first Dead show with Warren Haynes when she was 17. “I saw oneness for the very first time…it was something so strangely familiar, like my life had finally merged with my dreams.” So it is only appropriate that Nicole chose the members completely by instinct for Bob’s Mob. First and foremost, she considers Steve Molitz (Particle), Joel Cummins (Umphrey’s McGee) and Todd Stoops (Kung Fu) to be her mentors, but the idea started with her dear friend Jay Bird Beverly of Electric Soul Pandemic. Calling him a “legend” for his technical talent, she decided to gift him a Voyager instead of a sub37, “because he is the master of Moog. He is my teacher.” Steve Molitz was made a co-founder of Bob’s Mob “for all he’s done to help me. He also helped create the Little Phatty, yet never owned one, so I have the honor of gifting him his first blue Little Phatty.” She will be giving him this gift on the first night of Particle’s Fall Tour in Raleigh, NC on October 28th, so be sure to check out its debut on the stage. “What an amazing way to start a tour,” says Steve. “It still feels like a dream, and it’s all very surreal. Nicole is a reminder that we are all the imaginations of ourselves, and that we can create wondrous and inspiring realities for ourselves if we pursue our passion.”
Nicole mentions that Scott Hannay of Mister F and Ryan Dempsey of Twiddle were also “powerful forces in [the] shaping of Bob’s Mob”, and she has since also recruited enthusiastic members such as Billy and Sam Brouse (Papadosio), Dan Shaw (The Werks), Eli Winderman (Dopapod), Scott Flynn (Pretty Lights), and more.
Joel Cummins was an obvious choice for Nicole, since Umphrey’s McGee was the first band she saw at Mountain Jam and years later, her first friends in the scene. They met when she attending sUMmer School, a weeklong camp in Upstate New York dealing with everything Umphrey’s McGee, from their writing, performing, to practices and business elements. “[Nicole] definitely impressed us with her ability to lyricize and come up with some pretty amazing stuff on the spot,” Joel says. She continued to impress him with her love of music and eagerness to help musicians. The very first Moog that Nicole gifted, Joel took part in helping decide the recipient. “She was telling me that she got an extra one, and that she wanted to give it to somebody, so I helped her think of somebody who really needed it. I thought about it a little bit, and someone that came to mind was named Joe Hettinga, and he was formerly in a band called Strange Arrangement, and is now part of Digital Tape Machine. He came to mind because he has this synth that has gradually been breaking, and he is in desperate need for a new lead. So I think he was one of the first people to have gotten something, and I hear she has gone on to do that for plenty of other people, which is really amazing.”
Besides the forming of Bob’s Mob and the Moog gifting, Nicole intends to spread positivity within the music industry and fan community in many different ways. She recently formed two companies, the first being Paddywack Productions, a non-profit which Bob’s Mob will be run under, and NacAttack Promotions, which will sponsor events. Paddywack will gather proceeds from the Mob into a trust which will go towards struggling musicians, as well as a percentage being donated to the Bob Moog Foundation. Starting out as a band can be incredibly difficult, especially getting the ball rolling on touring and building fan base in multiple areas. Paddywack plans to help bands repair broken down vans and equipment, as well as donating musical instruments. When asking Joel Cummins what some struggles bands could use help with, he states that besides tour support, “having good instruments [that have] a quality sound is huge because you only sound as good as whatever’s coming out of your instrument.” Though Paddywack and NacAttack are her newest ventures, Nicole has been passionate about charity work for years is also chairman of the board of Marsha Mase Foundation that donates wheelchairs and other medical necessities to those in need.
In her mission to inspire positive change, Nicole is known to spout great ideas almost effortlessly. Steve Molitz talks of the first time they met at Catskill Chill: “I heard about her in the same way you hear about a big weather system that’s quickly approaching your area. All the musicians at the festival were talking about this amazing girl with boundless energy and big ideas.” Her ideas center around creating movements within the scene to lift our potential for greatness. Nicole is the pioneer of The Moderation Movement, which encourages us to take care of ourselves and each other. You can read about the Moderation Movement here. While not invented by Nicole, “peaking” has become a huge inspiration to her. You might have seen pictures on Facebook of musicians like members of The Werks and Papadosio creating triangles over their heads with their hands. Known as “peaking,” this represents taking yourself to the next level, raising your potential, and also wholly enjoying all of the peak moments in your life. The “peaking” message and gesture was invented by Spencer Frank, spread widely by the band Twiddle, and given a big boost in notoriety by Nicole.
The debut of Bob’s Mob is a secret, but expect it to be an explosion of keyboard talent and wild synth noises. Bob’s Mob is also slated to appear at Mad Tea Party Jam 4. While this list is not complete and more artists are being added, here are some musicians that will be taking part in future Bob’s Mob performances:
Ben Smiley Silverstein (The Main Squeeze), Brian Guy Tyndall (The Mantras) Al Ingram (Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band), John Schmizzle (FiKus), Ben Cooper (Backup Planet) , Joel Cummins (Umphrey’s McGee), Steve Molitz (Particle), Todd Stoops (Kung Fu/RAQ), Eli Winderman (Dopapod), Jay Bird Beverly (ESP), Ryan Dempsey (Twiddle), Scott Hannay (Mister F), Matt McDonald (Ghost Owl/Perpetual Groove), Shaun Martin (Snarky Puppy), Scott Flynn (Pretty Lights), Joey Porter (The Motet/Juno What?!), Dan Shaw (The Werks), Norman Dimitrouleas (The Werks), Sam Brouse (Papadosio), Billy Brouse (Papadosio), Justin Powell (The Mantras), Julian Sizemore (The Mantras), Simon Thomas George (Makayan), Joshua Cavinder (Deja Fuze), Josh Loffer (Jahman Brahman), Joe Harley (I.R.E., TreeHouse!, and Sun-Dried Vibes), Joe Hettinga (Digital Tape Machine, Strange Arrangement), Jamar Woods (The Fritz), Chris Lee (Moogatu), Evan Bost (Nautilus), Paul Gaeta (Panther God), Brennan Fowler (Imperial Blend), Jim Wuest (The Heavy Pets), Jordan Adams (Rims & Keys), Travis Paparoski (FiKus), Adam Gold (Sophistafunk), Taylor James Frederick (Yamn), Mike Gardener (Cocktail Party Phenomenon), Jordan Giangreco (The Breakfast), Luke Bemand (Lespecial), Lee Turley (Remix Master), Doug Appling (Emancipator), John Brady (ELM), Sara McDang (Elektras), Ryan Hodson(Broccoli Samurai), Ben Silverstein(The Main Squeeze), Frank Bloom (Thunderdrums), Rob Madore (Electric Soul Train), Jared Raphel (SOLARiS), Mike Rabito (Manifested), Greg Marek(Formula 5), Alfonso Graceffo (Asian Teacher Factory), Brock Bowling (Zoogma), Ben Carrey (Pigeons Playing Ping Pong).
Full Exclusive Interview with Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee
Conducted by Taco Olmstead
When did you discover your passion for playing keyboards?
I started out taking lessons when I was 8 years old when my parents had said that I need to learn an instrument. Once I got started I realized that I might as well stick with it because I had invested all this time. My teacher and parents told me, “Look, you’re going to have to put in some work in the beginning, but you’ll come to a point where it will be more fun.” It was probably about when I was in seventh or eighth grade when I got to the point where I was able to hear things and play them just by listening to them. So I started to make things up and sort of faking my mom out into thinking these were things I was supposed to be practicing. As it turned out, it was a good thing in the beginning because I was learning to sight read classical music, and some rag time, and stuff like that. Then, trying to figuring things out by listening to them and figuring out the relationships with the chords on the piano…I’d say, yeah, it was about seventh or eighth grade that that feeling started where I was like, “Wow, this could be something cool,” and I felt like I was speaking this language that I speak with other musicians. I’d say around age 20 or 25 I saw things starting to come together for me, as far as knowing how everything works together and being able to listen to what someone was playing and know what it is right off the bat, and not have to guess. It’s still a gradual learning process that started when I was eight years old and is still a learning process right now.
How did you meet Nicole Mase?
Nicole attended one of our sUMmer School weeks that we did up in New York, and what that is a music camp, and basically it’s everything Umphrey’s McGee. We talked about, very specifically, how we started as a band, how we musically challenged each other, and still do, how we write, perform, practice, and some business elements of it, too. It was this full-on week-long camp that we did in upstate New York. Nicole was one of the participants that was there. She definitely impressed us with her ability to lyricize and come up with some pretty amazing stuff on the spot.
Did she gift you a Moog?
She has not yet, but I think she might be. It’s obviously a pretty amazing gesture on her part, and I’ve never known anybody to do something like this. It says a lot about a person and how much they love music. But more of the way that it kind of got started is that she was telling me that she got an extra one, and that she wanted to give it to somebody, so I helped her think of somebody who really needed it. I thought about it a little bit, and someone that came to mind was named Joe Hettinga, and he was formerly in a band called Strange Arrangement, and is now part of Digital Tape Machine, a part of the LCD Soundsystem tribute, which a couple of the guys that Cosby Sweater in are in, too, called North American Sound, based after one of the LCD songs, so he’s part of both of those groups now. He came to mind because he has this synth that has gradually been breaking, and he is in desperate need for a new lead. So I think he was one of the first people to have gotten something, and I hear she has gone on to do that for plenty of other people, which is really amazing.
What was it that made you want to participate in Bob’s Mob?
I’ve done some things sort of similar to this nature, one of them being Everyone Orchestra, which is an all-improvisation group of members of different bands, who for the most part have never played together before. So that’s sort of a similar thing as what she has envisioned for Bob’s Mob. I’ve also done a couple of Super Jam things with moog instruments before, Moog is one of my endorsers. Both Moog and Moog Foundation has been huge supporters of our band for a number of years now, they’ve been on Jam Cruise a number of times. So one of my favorite musical things is that I got to be part of a group of musicians on Jam Cruise that went to a school in Cocaos, an elementary school. There were two groups of kids, one that was kindergarten to fifth grade, and the next group of kids was sixth to eighth grade. So I went there with Bernie Worrel from P-Funk, and Rich Vogel from Galactic, and a couple other people that joined in that are key people from the Moog Foundation. So we went there and we brought a few synthesizers and some theremins, and we had the two different classes that the kid’s traded off in, which was one was more informative and historical about keyboards, and the second one was showing the kids and working with them, showing them how to operate the instruments and showing them how to play them on their own. So, Bernie Worrel is here, and Bernie gets up there and invites some kids up to play and is like “Wow, they really know what they’re doing,” We had some good musicians there. So Bernie’s like, “Ok, I’m going to play this little tune called Flashlight.” A couple kids recognize it and their faces light up. Then Rich says, “Bernie, play ‘We Want the Funk,” and he says “Oh, okay, okay” and he says “Okay, this is another one of my P-Funk songs it’s called ‘We Want the Funk,'” and he rips right into it, and like every kid knew it! The kids were like, Oh my god, we’ve got somebody here that has made an awesome contribution to music. So that was a really awesome moment. I think that was two years ago on Jam Cruise.
It’s always a good time on Jam Cruise, this year is going to be great with Umphrey’s on the boat, I’m really sad that I’m missing it.
Well, fortunately, there’s always next year.
Yeah that’s true. For us, we’ve always been big fans, I guess for 13 years now, and I really enjoyed watching your band grow. That’s something that we enjoy about doing the magazine, is watching small bands grow into bigger bands. That was one of the reasons we started as a magazine was to help smaller bands out, because it’s tough as a small band to get any real press. It generally goes to all the bigger guys.
Well, we still feel pretty small so you’re welcome to help us out with that!
I would…I would (stammers) love to do that Joel, would love to pick your brain in the future and try to give you guys more of our press!
What’s your publication again?
Appalachian Jamwich. We’re pretty small, we’ve only been around for 3 years. It started out as a joke, actually, while we were down in Asheville for Christmas Jam, and after that my friends called me out on it, and I’m not one to be called on a bluff, so I followed through. My wife was an insurance agent and I told her to quit her job because she had an art background, and she learned how to do layout for a magazine, and sure enough, here we are.
That’s pretty cool, man!
Yeah! Now we have a music festival, and it’s something that’s steadily growing, and something that we are helping artists with, and really the whole jam scene culture.
We’re really trying to make an impact and get some messages out there that don’t get out there. One of those things is the Moderation Movement, where we’re trying to get kids to sleep more at festivals, party a little bit less, and take care of their health.
That’s cool. Yeah, Nicole mentioned that me, too.
This past summer I saw the culture really slipping into a bad place, because kids just aren’t sleeping anymore. It’s a really bizarre thing. You can see it on musician’s faces when they’re watching EMTs go into the crowd, it’s something that, instead of being in your happy place of creativity, suddenly you’re dealing with this..
You’re worried about somebody, yeah.
Yeah. I couldn’t imagine being on stage and seeing that one of your fans is being rushed to the hospital right now. So that really kind of stuck with me throughout this summer because I kept seeing it over and over again. When I talked to Nicole about it, I said “We need to start talking about this.” We can’t keep turning a blind eye to it.
Something Nicole and I talked about…you know we rock the logo “Rage, Rest, Repeat,” and we don’t mean for people to do that literally all the time. It’s more kind of an invitation to come on our tour and do multiple shows in a row, that’s kind of what we mean by that. So maybe you can help us clear up that misunderstanding of that message.
Oh I completely get it! (Laughter). You know since Elise and I started this magazine, we kind of put the bigger bands to the side in order to promote the smaller bands, and you guys are the only bigger band that we still get to see, and seeing Umphrey’s McGee is always the Valentine’s Day gift that we give to each other. We look at the schedule and are like, “Valentine’s Day, you know what we get to do!”
I think we’re going to be in Raleigh this Valentine’s Day I think. I think there’s an Asheville show the week before, then the Raleigh show the week after.
Well, you can count on us being in your crowd, acting like fools. (Laughter) I only have two more questions for you before you have to go. Have you played with any of the other members of Bob’s Mob, like Steve Molitz, Todd Stoops, or Matt McDonald?
Actually I have played with all three of those guys. I have played Steve for a number of years back when he was in Particle, and recently he sat in with us when we had Biz Markie come out and play. He really insisted on it, and was like “man, I really want to play with you,” and I said, “Okay, let’s do it, but I’m going to introduce you as Kenny Loggins.” (Laughter) Yeah, we let him come play and we didn’t do that. (Laughter) But doesn’t he look like him? That’s like a compliment, he’s not a bad looking guy.
Yeah, he was like the shit back in the day, for like, a decade!
Yeah, one of my favorite practical jokes we ever did, was we got my boy Sloppy, who bears a striking resemblance to Steve Molitz back in the day, we brought him out on keys and introduced him as Steve Molitz and had him play these dance notes to make it more convincing. So we even had some publications making note that Steve Molitz sat in with Umphrey’s McGee, even though he was playing a show like in California that night. So it was like, “Wait a minute, that never happened.” We’ve played a couple good jokes over the years, but Steve is great, he’s a good guy. I’ve gotten to play with Matt before, I think I’ve sat in with P-Groove probably the last time we played Jam Cruise. I had played with them before that. And Stoops, I’ve known Stoops for years, too. Back in the RAQ days, he was with them when we played some shows together. I think he wins the award for the most notes played in a short amount of time. He played with Umphrey’s and I was like, “Dude, damn!” He was just firing them off! Also, two summers ago we were playing a festival, The Big Up in upstate NY, and Stoops was sleeping in the bed that I was supposed to crash in, so I literally had to come up and kick him out of bed. That was kind of a funny one. You don’t usually have to kick a musician out of bed so you can sleep in that bed (Laughter).
Another aspect of Bob’s Mob under Paddywack Productions is helping bands in need, what were some struggles when Umphrey’s first started, and what are some needs that all bands could use help with?
That’s a great question. I think the hardest thing in the beginning is to figure out how you can be a band full time and not have to have other jobs. So part of doing that means that you can’t just keep playing the same town that you’re playing. So something like a tour support grant would be a really cool idea to help bands. You have to eventually go play New York, you have to eventually play Colorado. We were really lucky because we were in a time when we were able to send tapes and CDs to people that they gave out for free, and the first time we played Boulder it was actually a sold out show because we had been giving stuff away to people. It takes a lot of effort, though. Especially now with gas prices being so high. When we started touring gas was 99 cents a gallon, you know? So I think that’s a big thing, is figuring out how to be able to tour and be a full time band, to get that little snowball rolling. Getting together a mailing list is important, having good instruments…having quality sound is huge because you only sound as good as whatever’s coming out of your instrument or PA. Starting up in Indiana there were no clubs that had PAs, so we had to buy one at the music store and bring it around with us everywhere. So for the first six months of shows we didn’t have monitors, I have no idea how we played. Trying to be an improvisational band, and you can’t hear what everyone else is doing? That’s a problem. There’s a definitely lots of means a young band to hit the ground running, even getting good recordings down of original music so you can get it out there and get people into it. I think Nicole’s heart is in the right place and she’s doing a lot of great things for bands, sometimes you need a little boost. It’s hard to make money out there and do it for a living. Another aspect is that you need to get a van and trailer, so you need to figure out ways of saving money so that you can do all this stuff. It’s a big investment. I wish we had someone like Nicole around when we started, so these bands are really lucky to have her help.
Exclusive Interview with Steve Molitz of Particle
When did you discover your passion for playing keyboards?
I began taking piano lessons when I was seven, but it wasn’t until I was ten and I got my first Casio synthesizer that I really discovered my passion for keyboards. I used to just sit and improvise songs for hours on end, and I just couldn’t get enough of the crazy sounds that were coming out of the speakers. Here I am decades later, and not much has changed! Music is a life-long journey, and I hope top continue to discover new sounds, rhythms and melodies every day…
How did you meet Nicole Mase, and when did she gift you the moog?
I met Nicole at The Catskill Chill Music Festival in Hancock, NY earlier this year, and she appeared out of the blue as a brilliant force of nature. In fact, I heard about her in the same way you hear about a big weather system that’s quickly approaching your area. All the musicians at the festival were talking about this amazing girl with boundless energy and big ideas, and telling me that I needed to meet her. They were right. We hit it off instantly, and we’ve been friends ever since…
As for the Moog…Particle’s Fall Tour starts in Raleigh, NC on 10/28, and I’m SO unbelievably excited and thankful that Nicole is gifting me a Little Phatty that night. What an amazing way to start a tour!! It still feels like a dream, and it’s all very surreal. Nicole is a reminder that we are all the imaginations of ourselves, and that we can create wondrous and inspiring realities for ourselves if we pursue our passion…
What made you want to participate in Bob’s Mob?
I’ve been playing Moogs onstage with Particle since 2000, so I already feel like I’ve been a part of Bob’s Mob for almost 15 years now! Nicole has such an awesome concept here, but it’s really her infectious positive energy that makes me want to participate…
Have you played with some of the other members before like Todd Stoops, Jay Beverly, or Matt McDonald?
I’ve had the great pleasure of getting to play with many of the amazing Bob’s Mob musicians, but there are also several who I haven’t jammed with, and I’m really looking forward to meeting them. That’s one of the coolest parts about this unique project. It’s bringing so many different people together, and I’m certain that it will lead to some incredible and unexpected musical moments…
Another aspect of Bob’s Mob, under Paddywack Productions, is helping bands in need. What were some of your struggles when Particle first started as a band, and what are some needs all bands could use help with?
Every developing band struggles when they first start out. It takes a lot of money just to get out on the road (van, trailer, instruments, gas, hotels, food, etc.), so I’d say that offering tour support to a young band would be a real game-changer. I think it’s wonderful that Nicole has a vision to help cultivate the music scene by giving back to the community and helping developing artists.
Definitely keep your eye on Bob’s Mob and Paddywack…I think we’re going to see some BIG things happening very soon!!