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Progressive Rock Interviews

Liquid Casing

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Alvaro Rodriguez and Okikiolu Olufokunbi of Liquid Casing from 2013
MSJ:

Can you catch the readers up on the history of your involvement in music - both individually and as a band?

Alvaro Rodriguez: I learned how to play guitar when I was a teenager by listening to metal albums and reading magazines that had guitar tabs for songs I liked. I think if you're passionate about something, be it music or anything else, you'll run into like-minded people along the way. So, I've been lucky to make music and grow as an artist with my band mates.  I started playing with Okiki in 2003 and we started to combine punk-ish guitars with his sax playing into something unique. Jim joined us in 2008 and expanded our sound and made it fuller. When John joined in 2010, we evolved our style further, leaning more towards progressive rock.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  I have been very aware of music since I was a kid, growing up in Nigeria. My Dad was a great lover of music, and actually got his kids involved in church choir and taking music lessons when I was around seven years old. But, it was a parent induced thing, and so, naturally, we dropped out within three weeks. But I always admired the musicians that came out with something that was totally different from the norm. A vivid example is the awesome musician Lagbaja, when he released the album Coolu Temper. Fast forward about eleven years later, and I found myself in engineering school at the University of Texas at Austin. I had saved up some money to buy a saxophone, and started taking lessons and listening to live music with my friends and colleagues during my last two semesters. That was the beginning of it all. Ironically, about two years before I joined Liquid Casing, I bought a saxophone, and asked Alvaro and Phyllis to help get it across from Houston to Austin for me, and they did.

MSJ:

If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Probably finishing a PhD and focusing on my career in the aerospace industry. In other words, I'm glad music is in my life!

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Would be a "mad scientist,” or doing something creative with my hands, like tearing down or building stuff.

MSJ: How did the name of the group originate?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Our original drummer in the band came up with the idea, and I thought it fit the sound we were striving for. It presents this surreal quality of being imprisoned by something that really shouldn't be able to hold you down. 

MSJ: Who would you see as your musical influences?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Some of the bands that made a mark on me are Mogwai, Antibalas, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, John Coltrane, The Mars Volta, Red Sparowes, and Cursive.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  This question has an evolving answer , but John Coltrane, Branford Marsalis, Lagbaja, Antibalas, Chris Potter, Jane Ira Bloom , Jane Bunnett, Dave Holland, and many others. I can't name them all.

MSJ: What's ahead for you?

Alvaro Rodriguez: We are collaborating with an electronic punk band in Ontario called “ti.gerve nom” on remixing a couple of our songs and in turn we are remaking one of their songs into our style. We are in the middle of shooting a video for our song “A Path of Footprints Forged in the Midnight Sun.” We are booking shows and will eventually set aside some time to finish up an EP called “Kontrollpunkt,” which includes additional songs and sounds that were also written during the A Separate|Divide sessions. 

MSJ: I know artists hate to have their music pigeonholed or labeled, but  how would you describe your music?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Progressive rock and. . . with saxophones!

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Highly Interactive music with substance.

MSJ:

Are there musicians with whom you would like to play in the future?

Alvaro Rodriguez: We love playing shows with great bands and collaborating  with exciting musicians. We've already been collaborating with ti.gerve nom and helping out a cool band Kill You for Looking with some of their music. Musicians that we haven't played with, but would be a lot of fun include Beijing, Sunrise and Ammunition, and EndAnd.

MSJ:

Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Obviously, it hurts the bottom lines for financially successful bands and record labels. For the rest of us, our main concern is reaching out to people who love music. If people want to help spread their enthusiasm for our record, it only helps. In general, I think it is an intriguing time for capitalism when the concepts of open-source communities are clashing with the traditional systems for monetizing music and art. I think our culture is pushing for an open-ness with music and art and now has the technology to do it, and our current economic system is incapable of answering that in any healthy sustainable way.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  It’s a dichotomy. It hurts the bottom line financially, but sometimes helps spread one's music to a wider audience faster. But I think there is an injustice there in doing it; if someone can pay an average of 45 dollars per month for cellphone/internet service, I could consider it not too much of a burden to pay one dollar to download a tune that may resonate in one's life for a long time.

MSJ:

In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Love it, do it, share it . . . except that one song where I completely screwed up the guitar part.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Agree with Alvaro.

MSJ:

If you were a superhero, what music person would be your arch-nemesis and why?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Wayne Coyne would be the ultimate arch-nemesis. Not because we don't like him, but because he would be our biggest threat. His theatricality, artistic flair, and awesome musical superpowers would be seemingly impossible to match.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Chris Potter; because dude just operates on the fringes of "wow-ness.” The stuff that emanates from his horns, to my ears, are priceless. So, not a nemesis really, but I will like to get to his level of musicianship someday.

MSJ:

If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to  hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?

Alvaro Rodriguez: The ultimate band for me would be an instrumental act: Gretta Cohn on cello (she knows how to infuse the cello into a rock song), Steven Drozd on keyboards (he can orchestrate for days), Jon Theodore on drums (because he's as solid, creative, and energetic as they come), Mike Sullivan on guitar (he's is a wizard at looping and layering intense guitars).

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Hmmmm, lets see. For now, Chris Potter on sax, Joey Calderazzo on keys, Brian Blade on drums, Dave Holland on bass. I think these guys are awesome because each person has "mad skills,” and are so versatile because they have played in so many varieties of settings. Their coming together will be more like a band, versus a group of talented individuals.

MSJ:

If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to  be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?

Alvaro Rodriguez: I think I would dig deep into the ol' music library and pick out bands like Red Sparowes, Battles, Antibalas, Animals as Leaders, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Them Crooked Vultures, Femi Kuti, Sigur Ros, Gogol Bordello, Mogwai, El Ten Eleven, Cursive, The Evens, Russian Circles, Mastodon, The Flaming Lips, Red Sparowes, Apparat Organ Quartet, Desaparecidos, Sufjan Stevens, Clutch, Zechs Marquise

MSJ:

What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Terresact by Sunrise and Ammunition

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  4MFs playing tunes by the Branford Marsalis Quartet.

MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi. Eye opening with regards to the tactics used to squeeze a people out of existence and also, that unity is a stronger solution than apartheid.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Keys to a successful Marriage by my Aunt: Chief Mrs Oke. And also You are Coming out Better by my friend, Pastor Joel Uzoma. Like any non-fiction, these present ideas that are supposed to enhance one's life and being, and I do not shy away from reading such.

MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Rodrigo y Gabriela. They are amazing and very inspiring. Wanted to run home and get better at making music after that show.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  Antibalas. Hearing "Sare Konko" live blew me away. Those guys are just all around awesome.

MSJ:

Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure”?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Frank Sinatra – “Fly Me to the Moon”.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi ; Kathleen Battle and Branford Marsalis's rendition of “Come Sunday.”

MSJ:

What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?

Alvaro Rodriguez: None. We dimension everything appropriately and limit our amps to ten in an effort to preserve our hearing.

Okikiolu Olufokunbi:  We never want to crank up to eleven.

MSJ:

If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead,  for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Nelson Mandela, Ian MacKaye, and Tom Morello. I think an interesting discussion could be had about music and politics and awesome stories! I don't think I would say a word.

MSJ:

What would be on the menu?

Alvaro Rodriguez: Whatever they want, I will make it happen!

MSJ:

Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?

Alvaro Rodriguez: We’ve got to reach out and break down barriers at every level to improve this society. As a band, we are trying to do our small part. We are a multi-cultural band where music serves as a unifying force to bring us together and we've spent countless hours to make our individual musical styles coalesce together to make for some exciting rock music.

 

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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