Seattle rockers The Bitter Roots
Q: How did the Bitter Roots begin?
A: The Bitter Roots really started as the set of songs I wrote for the first album in 2007-2008. My band old manSaveman had come to a close and I was looking to change direction a bit away from the hard rock/metal
material I had been doing. Ben Koostra (drums) had gotten in touch with me to let me know he was moving to Seattle. He had been in New York and California playing and recording for various people. We knew each other well from way back. We played in different bands many years ago in Missoula, Ben with Silkworm and Ein Heit, and I with my band Into the March, and we had managed to stay in touch over the years. When he got into to town I played him the set and we just went from there. I wrote a blog about the origins of name that you can read here:
Q: The Seattle music scene has changed dramatically since the grunge revolution of the '90s. How does the Bitter Roots fit in with it currently?
A: Good question. The Seattle music scene nowadays is very eclectic; there are many Seattle music scenes. The hip-hop and indie scenes garner most of the attention these days. There has always been strong rock, jazz, and
blues support here as well as punk and thrash and all the rest. Our band is a hard one to define, label and insert into this or that genre box. Our influences are wide and varied and our songs are as well, but I am sure we can fit in here somewhere.
Q: Has the group received much support locally?
A: Yes, yes we do. We have been a 99.9 KISW Loud and Local Band of the Week; Hollow Earth Radio has played our music; and we have had write-ups in The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly and The Stranger, as well as on our
neighborhood blog MyBallard.com several times. We have played some good shows on good nights at most of the venues in town, too. However, Seattle is a completely different city than it was 20 years ago, and music is not
necessarily the focus it once was, at least in terms of local support for local live shows. There are far fewer rooms to play and far less people out on the town going to local shows than back in the day. The competition is from the national touring acts is fierce; it is not easy to draw a crowd here.
Q: How long have you been a musician and what triggered the interest?
A: Thanks to my mom and dad I would say I have been a musician all my life. Both my mom and my Gram played piano in the house growing up and my dad was a huge jazz fan always spinning vinyl at home as well. I would sit
with them at the piano and listen to jazz with my dad all the time. I am a terrible piano player, though, so I started playing guitar when I was 10. I graduated from a tennis racket I used to mime Elvis Presley. Elvis was a huge influence on me when I was a little kid in the '70s. The first real rock record I ever got into was Cheap Trick at Budokan. My brother brought that home one day and we played that one constantly.
Q: How would you say the Bitter Roots have evolved creatively over the years?
A: The songwriting philosophy for the Bitter Roots has stayed pretty consistent. I have a pair of Guild jumbo body acoustic guitars that I have written all the songs on. The overriding principal has always been can I break this song down to just me singing and playing on this guitar and still have it come off as something interesting. I am always trying to balance my hard aggressive rock tendencies with the prettier bits. Chiaroscuro, the light and the dark. With that method to my madness in place I think we have evolved by making better and better albums each time, greater dynamics, tastier hooks, better delivery and greater cohesion between Ben and me. Music is the great communicator. The goal is always to bring people together and show through words and music how
similar all our experiences are by relating to a good song that moves you to whatever aim. I would also say I think our new album that we are recording right now is our best material yet, and I cannot wait to share
Q: Whatever happened to your previous band manSaveman?
A: manSaveman was a very good band. We made some really good albums. We had the third album Posse Comitatus in front of Sony A&R at one point, but they told us we were too old, in our 30s at the time, and that we didn't fit into one of their genre boxes nicely enough. We did one more record anyway, Consigliere, and then... Mike and Mike went back to Montana. Jeremy, our singer, moved to SF, and Brian and I went our separate ways. It was a good run. I am very proud of what we did with that band.
Q: What artists influenced you the most and why?
A: There are so many. I am most influenced by artists that I think are true originals that played like no one had played before, artists that really made people go, wow, like Miles or Jimi, The Beatles and Led Zep, Bad Brains, Janes Addiction, Soundgarden, The Cure. I also hold dear to the ideal that music is still a positive force in this world that can act as an agent of change. So, I am also heavily influenced by artists with socially conscious lyrics and message like Fishbone, The Dead Kennedys, and Fugazi.